When I saw a promo that popped up in my email for North Jersey’s Oblivion I about shit my pants. I remembered these guys from way back when in the 80’s and had no idea they had released 6 demos! Well with Divebomb Records putting them all out on 2 discs I sent off a novel of an interview with bass player Bob Petrosino.
Where were you born and where did you grow up? Did you come from a big or small family? What sort of kid were you growing up?
I was born in Hoboken, NJ and grew up in Toms River, NJ; luckily I was able to live in Lahaina, HI on Maui when I was a kid for a couple of years too. I was the youngest of three with two older sisters, one was a Deadhead and the other was a huge Springsteen fan. I had three older stepbrothers as well.
What did you want to be when you were growing up? What were some things you did for fun back then? Did you have a lot of friends?
I wanted to be in a metal band and tour the world as long as I can remember. My walls were plastered with KISS posters since I was five or six. I think I was like every other kid growing up in the 70's, skateboarding, dirt bike riding, building BMX ramps, playing baseball and soccer. I learned how to surf in Hawaii. One thing about me is that I always independent. My mom was single so we never had a lot and I learned how to take care of myself early in life. As for friends, yeah I guess I had a lot of friends or people I hung out with throughout my life and few close friends over the years. I'm a little guarded yet still social. I've known my best friend since I'm 14. He plays guitar and was in United Blood, a NJ hardcore band for years and we finally played together in a stoner rock band called RagStew (www.reverbnation.com/RagStew ) in the 90's. His son, Dom actually played drums in OBLIVION when we reformed in 2011. That kid is an incredible musician; check out his band Nemora.
Were you big time into music at a young age or did that come later on? What were some of the early bands that you listened to?
I've been into music for as long as I can remember. My sister took me to see KISS on the Dynasty Tour in 1979 with Judas Priest opening at the Spectrum in Philadelphia, PA when I was nine year's old and I was in disbelief that I was breathing the same air as them. Me and a few kids from the neighborhood put on a KISS concert when I was nine too and we could not play at all. I was the youngest so I got stuck being Paul Stanley. I still have a picture of us doing the show. I got the Aerosmith Bootleg Live album for my ninth birthday too and I wore that album out. I listened to Led Zeppelin, Neil Young, Lynyrd Synyrd, Nazareth, Yes, The Outlaws, The Doors, Rush, Judas Priest, Thin Lizzy, The Kinks, etc.
When did you discover rock n roll? What did you think of this music when you heard it and what were some early bands that you got into?
I discovered Rock 'n Roll early, I mean at like four or five. My mom was a huge Elvis fan and was anti-Beatles. That being said, I remember spinning those Paul McCartney and Wings Apple Records 45s when I was reading Captain America comics. I still like those Wings songs like Band on the Run, Jet, Listen to What the Man Says, Let 'Em In and Silly Little Love Songs. I would listen to my sisters' eight tracks too. I did not care what it was but the ones that stick out to me are Starz, Pat Travers, Jethro Tull, The Allman Brothers, Cream and Dead Boys.
Now when did you discover heavy metal? When you heard metal did you sort of say oh fuck rock n roll I want metal or did you like both forms of music? What were some of the early metal bands that you heard and are you a fan of any of these metal bands and have you ever got to meet any of them?
IRON MAIDEN! Steve Harris is the only famous person I want to meet because he has been such a huge influence on me and what is he 60 (?), and he is still the ultimate in cool. When I heard Maiden I put down the guitar forever and picked up the bass. I'd say for a little while I was like "fuck" rock, not because I did not like it anymore, only because the older guys I knew would always put down Metallica, Slayer, Exodus, etc. and say it was all talentless noise. I unfortunately got on a kick of saying The Who sucks, the Stones suck, Pink Floyd sucks just because they said my music sucked. It was childish but I was a child, what do you expect?
I met Hetfield and Ulrich at the Roseland Ballroom show with Raven and Anthrax (Scott Ian came to see OBLIVION at CBGBs and talked to the band), which was very cool for me because I was taller than Lars and I was 14. I met a bunch of guys over the years. My friend Chrissie hung with Metal Maria all of the time and would always have us hanging out with tons of bands. I mean I hung out with Kerry King in her bedroom in Toms River (circa Haunting The Chapel) then hung with Danny Lilker at her house when he just finished recording the Nuclear Assault Live Suffer Die demo and Glen Evans was from the next town over. She dated Billy Milano for a while and he did not drink at the time. He would drive us to shows every weekend, it was cool as shit because he was a bull and just charged everywhere. I went to High School with Jimmy Southworth (Rachel Bolan from Skid Row) and he went to see the original line up play at Lamour with Exciter. He was older though and was really into glam and I was into thrash. He was in a band called Phantasm that played out a lot. Happily he found true metal later in life and really tried to help our friends in Godspeed. I really liked Bill Kelliher from Mastodon because I can relate to him. All of the guys in Mastodon are awesome but I never met Brent.
Now how did you come to discover underground metal? What was the 1st band that you heard and what did you think of them? Were you into them right away or did it take a few listens to get into this form of music seeing as it was so different?
VENOM! When I heard Venom I was scared, really. It took me awhile because I was so young and they were so heavy and evil, it made me feel like I was going to hell if I liked them. That fear struck such and emotional chord that I could not stay away. I went to Catholic School and would say Hail Mary’s for liking it. Then when I heard Metallica, I was like "this is awesome, I can actually do this." It took me three or so listens to Metallica when they came out to really grasp it as a 13 year old. Then I found myself wanting to listen to it over and over and over. I could not get enough of Kill 'em All!
Now did you watch MTV a lot back in the day? I did and found some bands via that lovely music channel. Did you at all?
Hell yeah, it was "MUSIC" Television and I LOVED music. I'd watch in hopes that they would least play Maiden or Priest and when they did I got excited and cranked it. I was really into Headbanger's Ball. I recorded it every week on VHS then transferred the videos I liked to another VHS tape. I still have all of the VHS tapes; there must be 100 hours of videos on it. I found a lot of bands on there but in typical mainstream form they did not play a lot of the bands that I liked. You would get a gem every once in a while but if it was on MTV chances are I already bought the album before the video if it was something I liked. Plus, they played A LOT of CRAP. Some was just awful attempts at metal.
Now what made you pick up the bass? Did you ever toy with playing the guitar or play the drums? Did your parents buy you a bass or did you have to go get it with your money? Did you ever take lessons or learn to play on your own? What are some of your favorite bass players?
Iron Maiden and Steve Harris was the singular reason I picked up the bass and put down the guitar. I started playing a black knockoff, no name black Les Paul guitar because it looked like Ace Frehley's guitar when I was nine. I made a lot of noise on it and learned how to rip out some bar chords until I switched to bass when I heard Iron Maiden in 1982. That is when I wanted to learn how to actually play and started taking lessons from a jazz teacher. He would make me learn jazz and blues progressions and was anti-metal; he hated Geezer and did not think there was any talent in metal. When I brought in Too Tame a Land by Maiden, my teacher said "OK, this guy can play" and taught it to me. Favorite bassists: Steve Harris, Cliff Burton, Justin Chancellor, Troy Sanders, Scott Reeder, Dave Ellefson, Danny Lilker, Blackie, Mike Dean, Dan Maines and Greg Christian.
How would you rate yourself as a bass player and do you think that over the years being in the band that you got better and better? Did you ever try and sing in the band over the years that the band was around back then?
Early on I was definitely learning and made mistakes along the way. I know the instrument fairly well and cannot think of a song that I cannot play today. I do not practice enough and when I do I get my timing better. I play with my fingers and can keep up with the guys that play with picks. I posted a jam of just me and Dom Petrocelli on YouTube playing something I wrote and the main riff is hard to play. I watched Some Kind of Monster where they are trying out the bass players. I was like really? I could shred through those tunes. They actually ask the guys trying out "what songs do you know (?)." If I had that shot, I'd know every song from the three first discs inside and out. I guess it's all subjective but I can play almost anything. Some of the new math metal stuff might mess me up.
Now did you go to many record stores back in the day as I know NJ had a bunch of them that are sadly now closed. Did you ever get a chance to visit Rock N Roll Heaven while it was open? How about Bleeker Bob’s in the city?
Hell yes. We would to Rock 'n Roll Heaven twice a month, that place was the best. I went to Bleeker Bob's a bunch too and it was a little overrated because I wanted metal and no place was better than R n R Heaven. R n R started out in the flea market on Route 1 in New Brunswick, which was a great collection of material. I still go to Vintage Vinyl in Fords, NJ to thumb through discs. That's the best store that I go to.
Now back then when you brought a release was looking at the album cover a big deal to you? Was there anything that you brought back then that you absolutely hated after you brought it?
Of course, I'd study the cover and say this has to be awesome in some cases you win and others you lose. When I saw Show No Mercy and Jeff Hannemen was playing guitar with an upside down cross on the back cover, there was no way I was not buying it and that was a huge win. Nuns Have No Fun was another huge win.
How did you discover fanzines and tape trading? Did you do any tape trading? If so around how many people and was there any demos that you were looking for? Now about fanzines what were some of the early ones that you checked out? How close were you with John Kraus (rip my friend) and his Speedzine and how did you found out about him killing himself?
I found the fanzines at the old record stores along with the demos then I started writing people like Gene Khoury, who was an underground metal encyclopedia. When he sent us that Death demo, it blew us away. I cannot believe that they never put Corpse Grinder onto a CD. To this day, I like the Death demo better than any disc they released; same goes for the Love You to Deth Megadeth demo and Power In Black by Overkill. I was huge into the tape-trading scene and enjoyed writing people all over. Demos were better than most of the label releases. I go to Reverbnation today and there are some good bands on there too, again some better than what is on a label.
I still have a box of the old zines in my basement. The Wild Rag was good one and magazine quality. Metal Curse, AAARRGHHH!!, Violent Noise, Metal Mania, Dethrip, Maximum Rock n Roll, Metal Forces, Disorderly, Future Thrash, etc. there were so many great fanzines that were totally organic and written without financial gain being the goal, music was the goal-period! As for John Kraus and Speedzine, I found out after we reformed. Dave Fesette told me and I was in disbelief. He was always a genuinely good guy. He semi managed us for a while and he is the one who filmed us during the very few live shows that were filmed. He always watched out for Debbie whenever we were playing. She was my girlfriend and we are still together to this day with two children. I always appreciated how he took care of her at some of those clubs. Typing this now and can still hear him saying, "Debbie..." I think he said her name 100 times a night. It is so fucking tragic that he was driven to that point and he will be missed. He has a special place in my life and I hope he is at peace.
Now were you in any bands before Oblivion? If so did they record any stuff? Looking back what do you think of Oblivion’s debut demo and the “Intention to Kill” demos which you do not play on? How did you end up being the bass player in the band?
I was in a band that never played out other than basements and never recorded called Infernal Noise. It was very Helhammer meets Slayer. It was not anything serious. It was me and my two longest friends in life (Tony Petrocelli-United Blood, RagStew, Minus-Us, Hate Wagon, Deaf Horn) and Todd Walsh-United Blood and Chronic Death) with various drummers. I did some vocals and it was totally a learning experience. A lot of time hanging in Todd's bedroom and riffing.
In regard to the first two demos - I LOVED THEM! I was blown away the first time I heard it and I said to myself "I will be in that band" when I found out they were from Toms River. I thought they were going to break big as soon as Intention to Kill came out. It was at the forefront of thrash and it kicked ass. That demo was never produced. They went in recorded it live and never mixed it. It's as raw and menacing as anything that has ever come from the NJ underground scene. They recorded it just to get Roadracer a copy because they were very interested along with Combat. I was surprised that they broke up then we met Mike through work at a land surveying company (me, Mike and George were all surveyors). He formed Cyprus and I do not know why he did not keep pursing Oblivion with the intense interest it was getting. I do know that Mike likes change and creating new projects. I really wanted to do Oblivion so Mike agreed and he quit Cyprus and we tried to build the name again.
Were you friends with any of the band members prior to joining them and did you ever see them live?
I did not know anyone in the original band when they were in the band but we had a lot of mutual friends. I never saw the original line up live. I was younger than they were and I could not head to some of the places they were playing when I was 14. George and I were friends and roommates then Mike approached George about singing.
So now at the end of 1986 after releasing 2 demos and playing a showcase show at CBGB’s for Roadracer Records and having a few other labels interested, but nothing working out and things not working out Oblivion broke up and Cyprus was formed with Oblivion band members Mike and Santo. This lasted until 1987 when Mike decided to reform Oblivion and you ended up joining the band along with a new singer named George Machuga. How did you end up joining the band as well as George?
I was always jamming with Todd and Tony in Todd's basement when Mike started hanging out with our crowd through George. He brought Rich Pryztula down to play drums and drink beers, so were just having fun. Basically we had three guitarists, a bassist, a drummer and two singers George and Paul Rudd all hanging at the same house every night drinking. I really wanted to do Oblivion because I always thought it got lost and did not deserve it. So, George, Mike and I recruited Joe Farley (RIP) and decided to focus on it and get serious. Tony, Todd, Paul and Rich then formed United Blood with Steve Porter picking up the bass, even though he played guitar. It all worked out and we got busy. I never knew why we just did not ask Santo. He might have joined Delirium Tremens already?
Now I when I was doing my print version of Metal Core, I got several demos from you. When the band reformed did you take over doing the mail? Did during the course of the bands existence did the mail ever get out of control and how much longer did mail come in after the band broke up?
When I joined, Mike was still the main man in almost every capacity. He was writing all of the music, the lyrics, booking shows through his mother's management, corresponding with radio, writing to 'zines and George and I just started to do more. We began reaching out clubs, writing 'zines and using our contacts from our network. George hung out with the Old Bridge Militia a lot and going to Metal Joe's and Rockin' Ray's house. They'd have Metallica, Slayer, etc. stay there back in the day. It made sense to broaden our reach instead of having Mike do all of the work. Yes, mail was out of control. It was too much for Mike to take it all on himself. We were getting letters everyday from around the globe. Mike liked it and never complained, he just always did it and now he had help.
Tell me all about your experience about being on the “Uncle Floyd” show and for those who don’t know tell readers what the show is about. Do you still have a copy of your appearance to put up on say You Tube or is it already up there?
I was not expecting to get appearance on Uncle Floyd; he was a NJ icon and acts like Cyndi Lauper on, not Oblivion. Mike's mother booked his aunt on the show then told the producers about her son's metal band. They heard Back to Maim and said "yes, this is a good NJ band, when can they play (?)." We had to lip sync and we did not know that was the case and I was all messed up. If you go to our YouTube channel :
Oblivion USA - https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCpxW_DPr5wdrqHeIEsryzkg
the two songs (Germ Warfare and Domination) are posted as Oblivion TV appearance. It's a little cheesy but we were learning and only together for a few months.
Now with the “Back To Maim” release that came out in 1987. How did you come with the name for this demo? How was it for you going into the studio for the 1st time? Were you nervous at all? Looking back how satisfied as a band were you when it got released? Where did you end up going to record it and how much money did you spend on recording it? Around how many copies did you sell?
Mike came up with the title Back to Maim because he wanted everyone to Oblivion is back and ready to pick up where the original line up left off. I think George, Joe and I gave Mike that little extra kick to focus on heavy thrash and be what we love. We did not need to play anything that we did not like or to please anyone other than us. George is a great lyricist and he began writing the lyrics after BTM with songs based on real misery and personal tragedy, which makes the mind enter into a state of Oblivion to protect itself. We became more cerebral and real lyrically and less fantasy or horror driven.
My first time in the studio was fine. I was never nervous. I knew Mike was a pro and would direct us threw it. I never got nervous playing shows or recording; I thrived off of it. The studio allows you to fix a mistake, not like today where you can Pro-tool every millisecond of the song to perfection but we had a razor and a reel. We left a few mistakes on all of our recordings to give it something of a human element. It's music, it's art, you do not need perfection, you need to hit an emotion. The production was not great so I was surprised at some of the really good ones. We always had the Slayer comparisons and this was our first attempt to grow and create our own sound. BTM is still a heavy Slayer influence just like the first two demos but it let us begin our quest for originality, so it is a great stepping stone demo for the band.
It was recorded at Subterranean Studios in Long Branch, NJ by for about $600 in two days. We did not have much money and ran right through recording and production. It was a learning experience with some mistakes that we should have fixed. We sold out of the original recordings but we sent a lot out to record companies, 'zines, radio stations, clubs, etc. too. If I had to put a number on it, I'd say about 500-750 as with all of our demos. We had three people turning out the product without a real process for it.
Did you get to play many live shows at this time? What clubs did you get to play and who did you play with? Did you send this demo out to many 'zines and what were the reviews like? Did you also manage to sell the demo at the many record stores that were around in the NJ/NY area at the time?
We were playing live shows, not at the clip that we did during Why Did Johnny Kill and Contents Under Pressure era. We did not focus on shows with this demo other than playing bars and the TV appearance. We wanted to get the name out there again, especially with so many other Oblivions starting to pop up. This line up of Oblivion played bars like the Loop Lounge, Olson's, and I can't remember most of the other names because it was not a lot. Mike did this before but the rest of us were working on it. We had decent reviews of BTM, some were amazing and others were midland. We sold about 25 copies at Vintage Vinyl and that was the only record store I went to on consignment.
Now with your 4th demo called “Intoxicated With Agony” did you feel the band was on its way so to speak. Did you feel you had found the Oblivion sound so to speak? Where did you record this demo at? Did this release open the doors so to speak to playing more shows and building a bigger fan base in the NJ/NY area?
YES! This demo really began to move us away from the extreme Slayer sound and we were finding our Oblivion sound. We were not totally where we wanted to be but we were heading in the right direction. I chalk this one up to a mix of the direction Mike wanted to go with Cyprus and the key thrash element of Oblivion. We re-recorded Intention to Kill along with two Cyprus songs where George began changing the lyrics to focus on real life elements. Waste of Like and Trapped & Refrained were Cyprus, Intention to Kill was original Oblivion then Rot in Perdition (RIP) and Bitch were our newfound sound and direction. The lyrics are simply angry and depressing. There is not a lot of fantasy, it's about being pissed off and those were the two songs that were written with Chris Kelly on board too. We were being asked to play on more bills, people were buying shirts and we were hitting onto something that people could relate to on a personal level lyrical. Read the lyrics for Bitch, if you were ever dumped or cheated on, you'll get these words tattooed on your back. When crowds started chanting "Bitch" when we played out, I knew we were finally resonating on a larger level.
Do you feel you were a good live band and are there any live clips of the band on sites like You Tube and stuff like that? Do you have much merchandise for sale back then? With these demos, were they professionally made or did you have you dub them one by one?
The original line up was a great live band. It took the BTM line up about a half dozen shows to catch up. Mike always has his stage presence and knows how to command his leads, Chris is a crazy good drummer, so he was a shown in his own right and I like to run around, slide, jump and move all over stage. My first few shows, I almost mimicked Mike and took my spot to bang my head. That did not last long. I never liked to stand still then just did what was comfortable for me instead of trying to be someone else. George was the front man and his rants between songs became infamous during our sets. He said some fucked up shit over the years that would cause fights with the later lineups. We were doing good with selling shirts and that was about our only merchandise other than some stickers that we sold. As for the demos, we were broke. We dubbed our own tapes and had friends help us copy demo covers at work. It was very lowbrow, done on the cheap and high speed dubbing from one good tape to cheap crappy tapes. I was always jealous of those professional looking demos like Power In Black but I was a tape trader and thought what is the difference; this is all that tape traders want - the music and the demo cover.
Were you getting a lot mail at this point? About how many hours in a particular week was spent doing band related stuff? Around how many nights per week did you rehearse? Were you doing many interviews for fanzines as well? Did you send your newest demo to bigger mags like Metal Forces and Kerrang and if so what were the reviews like?
It seems like we were getting mail every day. It all went to Mike so he did all of the correspondence. Since we worked together, he would let us know that he was writing people constantly. I know in the post-Sica era, I was spending two to four hours a night four to five nights per week, writing people back, filling orders, sending promotional material, booking shows and communicating with radio stations. This was on top of practicing three to four days per week at Chris' house.
Mike was handling 75% of the fanzine interviews and I do not know if he was submitting to Kerrang and Metal Forces any longer. I am unaware of any reviews in Metal Forces outside of the first demo.
Now how did the coming of a song come together? Which band members ended up writing the music? How about the lyrics and what were some of the things you ended up writing about?
Oblivion with Mike was simply learning the catalog of material Mike already had written other than RIP, Bitch, Death of a Martyr, Domination and Germ Warfare. I wrote one riff in Death of a Martyr and Mike wrote all of the music otherwise on the first five demos. He is a writing machine and it let me focus on getting better on bass and Chris learning how to be in a band. I really liked the move of George taking over the lyrics because of the angry reality based themes. I think Mike liked handing the lyric duties over to George as well. It made the band more unique and allowed him to craft the melody. Bitch was our most popular song and it's because of the lyrics and his melody.
In 1988 you released a 2nd demo called “War Gives Me Piece of Mind”. How did you come up with the title of this demo? Also you became a 5 piece as you added a 2nd guitar player. What led to this decision and how did you find your new guitar players Dave Fesette and Charlie Alamo. Do you feel that the sound of your band changed much with addition of now having 2 guitar players in the band? What was it like losing the last original member in the band that being Mike Sica?
I do not know how that demo name came about. Mike named it Back to Maim; I named it Intoxicated With Agony!! and War Gives Me Peace of Mind? might have come from one of George's lyrics that inspired Dave's artwork. It's odd; I did not want to change the logo. Dave just showed up with the demo cover drawn with the new logo and we just went with it. I did all of the lettering on the covers and we just said "cool, let's get something out fast, since the founding member quit."
Losing Sica was a deathblow because he never really told us he was quitting. He started Fallacy with Chris, Jeff Payne and his good friend Mike Marshall. It was like we just stopped and were in limbo. We asked Mike and he wanted to do something else, so we asked do you mind if we keep the name go forward. He said no problem and no hard feelings. Mike just likes change and multiple projects. He leaves stuff quickly and I obviously stick it out for far too long.
When George and I decided to keep the band moving forward, we got the OK from Mike, Chris and the original vocalist, Dave Gutierrez, who found Dave Fesette for us; it was an easy decision to move to being a dual guitar band. We wanted more leads and heaviness but more importantly, we were seeking originality. We did not want to sound like this band or that band and we wanted to keep the basic Oblivion sound that was developed up to this point.
Now in 1988 thrash metal was going in a new direction. Bands were getting signed to major labels and bands were popping all over the place as were fanzines and even bigger magazines were featuring them. Did you as a band have high hopes for the band and how was it even playing the older stuff live with having 2 guitar players in the band?
I was unsure after losing Mike until we tried out Dave and Charlie. Dave had a ton of riffs, Charlie had a ton of riffs and I had a ton of riffs. It just worked. We also grabbed John Proveaux to play drums and to give us a different sound from all of the other thrash bands. We began to notice a bit of monotony with thrash so we recruited a drummer, who did not even listen to Metallica. Proveaux listened to Aerosmith and Led Zeppelin. We wanted a groove that incorporated hardcore, thrash and Oblivion. I did not have high hopes but I had hopes. I thought we could be good and if we really do not sound any other band than it does not matter if we were successful. In my mind, when you create music that does not sound like another band or today's case where there are bands that are indistinguishable then the band is a success.
Did you ever get a chance to play outside the NJ/NY area at all during this period? Did you ever have management at all over the band’s career? I am sure you went and saw shows at Lamour’s in Brooklyn, NY during this time. Did you ever inquire about playing this lovely establishment?
We stayed in the Mid Atlantic region and never went on tour. We were broke and could not leave the jobs we had without a decent label deal. We did play a lot during this time within the region. We played at minimum two shows per week and practice three nights per week. Oblivion needed management and we never had anything official. We got help from John Kraus and Missi Collazzo then had some guys contact us, who seemed slimy so we did not use them. Not getting a real manager was probably one of the biggest mistakes we made at this point because everything began taking off - unexpectedly. We were always busy with the band, all of the time and it was a lot of work.
As for Lamour, the original line up played there. It is a sore topic for me because I was talking to Biohazard's manager all of the time. The deal was get Biohazard some shore shows and he would have us open for them at Lamour. We played with Biohazard a lot at the shows I booked in NJ and we did three radio promotions with them on 89.5 FM WSOU Seton Hall Pirate Radio but he never got us on the Biohazard Lamour show. That would have been huge for us. Biohazard always liked us and we liked them, I just wish we could have done one of those crazy Brooklyn shows with them.
What are some live shows that you got to play that stick out in your mind? Did you ever play any cover tunes live? Have you ever heard of a band doing an Oblivion song live or on a record?
Playing the Stone Pony with Cyclone Temple was a lot of fun because the sound system was so damn good, plus the place is a part of music history. My favorite show ever was at Club Bene with Gothic Slam. The backstage was top notch. The sound system and lighting were second to none. Plus that is the best we ever played or sounded. Oblivion was perfect that night, I wish I had it recorded. It was one of those shows where the headliner stopped in their tracks and came out to watch us perform the perfect set. It was so damn satisfying. Our last show ever was opening for Brutal Truth. That was a personal favorite because one of the reasons I wanted to do this was from hanging with Dan Lilker when I was 15 or so and having him play the Nuclear Assault demo for me. So, to open for him six years later in my own original band was a good feeling. I really enjoyed playing with Blood Feast, Ripping Corpse, Faith or Fear, Lethal Aggression, United Blood, Psychosis and so many other bands regularly because it became a decent scene.
I saw in the CD inlay card that you played a show at CBGB’s for Roadracer Records. How did this come about and what was it like playing that unholy venue? At what point in the band’s career did you do this show? So after the show was over how close did you come to actually signing with the label?
I did not play the show. We found the old VHS and are cleaning it up. We are posting it to the OBLIVION USA YouTube Channel soon. Damage and Mayhem were on the bill too. Roadracer really wanted to sign Oblivion and the show was sick from what the other members told me. Scott Ian even came down to check out Oblivion because of the buzz and talked to the band. The Intention to Kill demo was rushed just so the label could have new material and unfortunately, it was rushed because they were still in High School, so the band rushed it and the label was fine with waiting until everyone got out of High School. Plus it's not Oblivion unless there is tension and line up problems. The bass player, Rich was leaving the band and the label talks fell apart as the band fell apart. Dave was going to play bass and sing, which took some time then they thought about finding another bass play (if I only knew, I would have jumped on it when I was 15 or 16) then Dave quit and it all disintegrated. It was just Santo and Mike, so they just started Cyprus and stopped. They did not realize how lucky they were to have a big tape trader following and landing on charts at radio stations around the globe. They thought, it will just happen again but they could not catch lightning in a bottle again. It should have happened; it just did not work out. Dave went on to playing bass for Social Decay, which was a local hardcore band that was the foundation for Godspeed and Solace.
Toms River/Jackson had a glam scene and a hardcore thrash scene; we stayed away from the glam guys. The glam guys were more successful. Phantasm became Skid Row and Zach Wylant (Zakk Wylde) was in Zyris then Ozzy plucked him up. Dave Gutierrez and Dave Fesette went to High School with Zach and George Machuga and I went to High School with Rachel Bolan. Oblivion, Social Decay and Lethal Aggression were the big thrash/hardcore bands locally with United Blood too. Dave Gutierrez played in all three – singer for Oblivion, bassist for Social Decay and guitarist for Lethal Aggression. We joke around that we should do an evening with Dave Gutierrez.
Now back in the day what were some of the great clubs you went to, to see shows? What were some of your favorite bands that you got to see live back in the day?
I was always at a show somewhere. I loved the Ritz, City Gardens, The Dover Showplace, Lamours, Faces, Murphy's Law, The Fast Lane, The Stone Pony, and The Brighton Bar. Seeing Raven, Metallica and Anthrax at the Roseland was amazing and so was COC, DRI and Discharge at the Ritz but the most insane show I ever went to was Slayer and Danzig at the Felt Forum, seats cushions were flying, there was a police barricade and the show ended early because of the mayhem. Slayer never disappoints. My other two favorite Slayer shows were with Overkill at the Rio Theater in Valley Stream, NY and the Dover Showplace with Carnivore and Bodies in Panic. The best City Gardens shows were Circle Jerks, Bad Brains, Venom & Black Flag on the same bill, the Crumbsuckers, and Voivod & Vio-lence on the same show.
Did you ever get to play City Gardens in Trenton, NJ? Were there any places that you didn’t really like to play at? How were the crowds for the shows that you did play at?
We never played City Gardens and I do not know why. I think Master Fury was trying to book a show with us there and it did not pan out. That is a great question, we should have played there. I remember the Suicidal Tendencies show when their bus was attacked. It was nuts. I think we were supposed to play with the Cro-mags there but I think that was right after Charlie and Proveaux left the band. I hated playing Sneakers in North Jersey, crappy sound system and poorly promoted shows. I could not stand driving all the way to up there then the club owner expect Oblivion, Ripping Corpse and Lethal Aggression from the shore to be able to fill the club. You need a national headliner or a couple of local bands on the bill. There were like 30 people there every time we played there. I like the crowds in Asbury Park, Long Branch, Keansburg and Monmouth County. We always had good turnouts there. We played in Seaside Heights, NJ, which is like our hometown and the first time the clubs let a thrash or hardcore band play. That was great. The club was packed. It just got too crazy for them and they cut our set short - not the first time that happened.
Now what was the morale like of the band at this time? Around how many hours were spent on the band at this point? Were you the only one doing mail? Were you at all jealous or a bit mad seeing all these bands on labels yet you were still unsigned?
The morale went from a low to very high, quickly. Life After Death Row was the first song we wrote after Mike left and that is a very catchy tune. That got us pumped up; we liked what we were doing while keeping the Oblivion song structuring. We were becoming more original every day. George and I got home from work at 4:00 PM every day and spent all of our time focusing on Oblivion. We lived together in Seaside Heights, NJ and out apartment became a thrash metal home base. People were over all of the time and we were high speed dubbing tapes, nonstop for 4-5 five hours at night 5 days per week and writing everywhere. I watched Born in the Basement and that was how I was living during this time of the band. I did most of the mailing and writing. George would help with some interviews and correspondence. I was booking all of the shows and practices and 100% driven to succeed.
I was never jealous of a band signing to a label. I wanted to see the bands we know be successful and make it. We could have signed too and we kept looking for a good deal. I am happy for their success. The only thing that bothered me was that I am a big believer in promoting other bands in the same scene. When we played with them I wanted to blow them away but when they signed I wanted them to sell a million records and tour the globe. Unfortunately, I learned later that I was in the minority. A lot of bands did not want the other bands to succeed, which did not help us create our own “San Francisco.” It’s petty to not wish someone well in pursuit of their dream and it hurt our scene. Some bands genuinely wanted others to succeed and a lot did not.
Now there are 2 live tracks on this demo at least that are on the CD version. Where did they come from?
Those were the last two songs that we wrote and were never recorded on a demo or record. We added No Code and Mind Ripper from our last show ever. We opened for Brutal Truth at G’Willikers and wanted people to hear those songs, so we added them to the CD. Those were the two songs we were going to record with MCA and have them pay for the production cost and go from there. The two live songs are the end of the band.