Troy, how and when did the whole SINDROME story start? How did you get together?
We formed in late 1986. Shaun Glass came from Terminal Death, Chris Mittelbrun came from Death Strike / Master and I came from Devastation. All three were Chicago based death metal bands that had gained popularity in the underground. We recorded two releases, the first Into the Halls of Extermination in 1987, and the second Vault of Inner Conscience in 1991. The band broke up in 1993.
The Chicago underground scene started with bands such as TROUBLE, ZOETROPE, WITCHSLAYER, WAR CRY, THRUST etc., but at the mid ’80s a lot of bands started popping up such as DEATH STRIKE/MASTER, MAYHEM INC, DEVASTATION, TERMINAL DEATH etc., can you tell us more about it?
The 80s and 90s were a great time for metal in Chicago. We had a wide variety of bands with a unique sound. Back in those days we didn’t have the Internet so our social lives revolved around going to shows and discovering new bands.
Would you say, that the thrash metal boom influenced the musical style of the mid ’80s Chicago based bands?
I think it was a combination of classic heavy metal bands, hardcore/crossover, NWOBHM, thrash and death metal. Every band had their own personal influences and there were so many bands back during those times that to try and put a list of specific bands names out there would be very long.
What can you say about the rehearsals of SINDROME? Did you start writing originals or were you jamming mostly on covers?
We never played any covers as Sindrome. We started writing original songs from our very first rehearsals as a band.
At which point did you start recording the first demo called „Into The Halls Of Extermination” (1987)? What about the recording sessions?
We recorded Into the Halls of Extermination at a Tanglewood Recording Studios in the Chicago area. Back then it was very expensive to record in a 24-track studio so we all pitched in money to get it done. Halls sold close to 10,000 copies and that was done purely through the underground with a lot of shipping envelopes as well as relationships with stores that specialized in metal that ordered directly from us. It was never officially released on a label until now.
Do you agree with, that the violence is always high and the influences come from bands like DARK ANGEL, SLAYER and INFERNAL MAJESTY? The speed is almost always high and the title track or the following „Rapture in Blood” manage to be also truly dark and evil, how do you view it?
It varies from band to band. Some metal bands write about violence and others write about politics and everything in between. The song „Rapture in Blood” was about a fight to death but there were two songs on „Into the Halls of Extermination” that were about World War II.
I think so, the slowest track is „Cathedral Of Ice” with a dark atmosphere and doom influenced rhythms and riffs, correct?
The timing of „Cathedral of Ice” is in 6/8 so it has a different feel from the rest of the songs on „Into the Halls of Extermination”. As far direct influence on any of our songs it’s really hard to say because we wrote those songs together organically and did not have any specific other band or sound in mind.
Back in the day, what kind of reviews did you get on the demo? Were the fans and the band satisfied with the end result?
Sindrome always had great support from the underground. We were very satisfied with both releases at the time we put the material out.
Was it spread through the tapetrading/fanzine network? Did the demo open some doors for SINDROME?
We did a lot of work to promote Sindrome back in those days and it was not like it is today. Every magazine interview had to be answered and sent back with actual mail vs. Today with the Internet you can send and receive in real-time electronically. While it was a lot more work it also meant that those bands that did the work would see a lot of promotion by fans that really lived for the scene. The underground was where Sindrome came out from. It just so happened with all of our lineup changes we never took it to the next level by signing to a label and getting out to the rest of the world.
The second demo „Vault Of Inner Conscience” came ou in 1991, why did four years pass between the two demos? Was it in rapport with the member changes?
Chris Mittelbrun and I worked together writing the material on "Into the Halls of Extermination". He would take input from Shaun Glass and work close with me around my vocal style in building the songs. Chris left Sindrome around 1989 and it took us a considerable amount of time to replace him with Rob Welsh and Mick Vega who were the guitar players on "Vault of Inner Conscience". Rob stepped up and took Chris's position writing and arranging the songs on Vault with me. Rob's writing style was very different from Chis which is obvious when you listen to the two releases.
Why and when did Chris Mittelbrun leave the band and how did Mick Vega and Ken Savich get in the picture exactly? Were they the first choices or were there auditioned other guitarists as well?
At the time Chris was a few years older than the rest of us and he had a few kids and a stable job. We were focused on really trying to put Sindrome as the priority in our lives. After we did the first two tours it was clear that Chris wasn’t going to be able to tour and pay his bills as we weren’t making enough money. Shortly after we parted ways. It took us a few years to replace Chris as he was the main songwriter with me on „Into the Halls of Extermination”. We knew Mick from the local Chicago metal scene and were introduced to Rob Welsh through a mutal friend who saw us when we played in Cleveland, Ohio. We auditioned quite a few guitar players before we arrived at the lineup that recorded „Vault of Inner Conscience”
Did they also take part in the songcomposing considering the second demo or were the material already written when they joined the band?
All the material on „Vault of Inner Conscience” was written when Mick and Rob were in the band.
So, the second demo was recorded at the Morrisound Studios, how did the recording sessions go with this effort? What made you to record the tape at the Morrisound?
We had matured quite a bit as musicians since we recorded the first time around and we knew there weren’t many studios in the Chicago area that had engineers that were aware of the sound that we were after. In the early 90s Morrisound Studios in Tampa, Florida was getting a lot of bands recording there so after talking with them over the phone it seemed it would be a great place for us to record and get the best sound we could for the „Vault of Inner Conscience” release.
Do you agree with, tha the atmosphere of the tracks is dark and hellish and the group’s skills are displayed?
All of Sindrome’s music is a combination of aggressive thrash and death metal so those are good words to describe our sound.
The brutality is always present but this time is filtered through the technique acquired in the years and also the vocals are different, what do you think about it?
As I mentioned above Rob Welsh’s writing style was very different from Chris Mittelbrun where my vocals tie the two Sindrome releases together that kept the brutality you mention. You know at the time our influences were changing and our musical direction changed with the introduction of the new members.
The use of some keyboards parts between few songs is very good to recreate a ritualistic, space intro and atmosphere, I would say, the influence of NOCTURNUS can be heard on the tracks….
With all the songs we wrote in Sindrome there wasn’t any specific bands that influenced our writing. Sindrome was a band before Nocturnus was formed. The keyboard atomsphere was created when we were at Morrisound as we were trying to tie the concept we were after with „Vault of Inner Conscience” together.
The demo has an interesting apocalyptic theme, the concept is about a man who starts seeing visions of the apocalypse, is that correct?
Yes, the story on Vault of Inner Conscience appears on the layout. As you probably know there were many bands that put out concept releases at those times. It was all meant to build on a theme and tie the songs together.
Did you develope a lot compared to the first demo?
I think Sindrome matured quite a bit between releases. We were older and smarter as far as song writing and recording and the maturity of the musicianship shows, but there are many fans that still prefer Into the Halls of Extermination as it had a raw heavy feel to it and still had a lot of hooks in the songs that people still love.
You released the fantastic demos, that became cult ones in the underground, but how happened that you never got a record deal? Were there any labels interests in the band, by the way?
We had multiple labels interested in signing Sindrome. Over the years the story has been said that we were holding out for a major label but the truth was we suffered a serious line-up change in 1988 when Chris Mittelbrun decided to leave the band. At that time Chris and I co-wrote Into the Halls of Extermination together and him leaving the band put us in a tough spot. We couldn’t sign to a label without a guitar player let alone replacing our main song writer. History repeated itself after we released „Vault of Inner Conscience” and we parted ways with Rob Welsh.
How much did you promote this second effort?
We promoted „Vault of Inner Conscience” a lot in the underground. At the time we were ready to finally take Sindrome to the next level only to suffer the exact same situation that happened to us after our first release after we parted ways with Rob Welsh. We tried to replace him with Ken Savich who relocated from San Francisco, CA to join us but ultimately we never wrote any material when Ken was in the band and that caused us to split up for good.
What about live situation? What do you remember about the SINDROME gigs?
We all loved peforming on stage. We did the two tours after the „Into the Halls of Extermination” release, one opening for Death on the „Scream Bloody Gore” tour and the second supporting Whiplash on „Ticket to Mayhem”. Back in those days there were a lot of bootlegs made so a lot of those live shows were tape traded between fans.
What kind of reasons did lead to the split up of the band in 1993? Were you still involved in the underground scene after SINDROME’s split or did you stop playing music?
That’s really part of the untold story of Sindrome. The short story is that it all had to do with lineup changes. After we recorded Into the Halls of Extermination and did a few tours, Chris Mittelbrun decided to leave the band. At that time, Chris and I were the main song writing team. He would take input from Shaun and work closely with me on the song structure and how I was envisioning my vocal lines. After Chris left us, we continued to promote Halls but we weren’t playing shows for the obvious fact we didn’t have a guitar player. It was not easy to replace him and took a few years. This led to many people asking when/why we weren’t playing shows. We tried to keep a positive spin on it all the while trying to replace Chris. By 1991 we had a new set of guitar players when we recorded Vault of Inner Conscience. By that time, our style had changed considerably and Rob Welsh ended up taking the place of Chris as the song writer working closely with me on my vocal style and it took some time to get our styles to merge together. He would incorporate input from Mick and Shaun and together we wrote those songs. History repeated itself and before we even released Vault. We ended up parting ways with Rob. We attempted to replace him with Ken Savich who relocated to join us from San Francisco, but in the end Ken never ended up writing/recording or playing live with Sindrome during his time in the band. At that point the writing was on the wall that we ended up breaking up. It’s difficult enough to replace one of your key song writers once, but twice proved to be too difficult.
This year Century Media released a double disc set titled „Resurrection: The Complete Collection”, from where did come the idea to release the SINDROME demos? Is it correct, that a lot of bootleg copies were circulated in the underground scene?
It’s funny, none of us realized just how bootlegged we were until we did this release. Now that we are reconnecting with our old friends and fans on Facebook, people continue to upload an insane number of bootlegs. The truth is a lot of them are amazing from the layouts to the picture discs. Even with the few bootlegs that I knew about over the years, I never was pissed off because I knew that it was done by fans who just wanted the music on vinyl or CD. I can’t say I like the idea of someone making money off of our music when we were opting to give it away for free but any attempt to try and find the people doing it would have been impossible.
„Brought to the end” was recorded during the „Into The Halls Of Extermination” sessions, how happened, that this tune wasn’t released on the demo? Did you have more material written, that never saw the light, that never made up on any SINDROME releases?
At the time we had just written „Brought to the End” when we went in the studio. We started to record it and knew that we still needed work to get it complete. Back in those days recording studios were very expensive so we couldn’t afford to try completing the song while in the studio so we never finished recording it. When we transferred the tracks from the original analog tape we forgot we even recorded it. It’s one of those moments where we knew the Resurrection release would be great by putting out the unreleased song.
On the second disc are six live tracks, that were recorded at The Iron Rail, Chicago, January 21st 1988, but „Surround the prisoner” and „Psychic warfare” weren’t on the demos, what about these tunes? When were they written and why didn’t they appear on the demos?
The only other two songs we wrote during the time between Halls and Vault were those two tracks. We wrote them while Chris Mittlebrun was still in the band. Because we replaced Chris with Rob and Mick and our musicial direction changed considerably we never went back and recorded those songs in the studio.
How would you sum up the entire stoy of SINDROME? Didn’t you think to reunite doing some gigs or recording a new full length album?
There’s no plans to reunite the band. We are releasing “Resurrection – The Complete Collection” release out through Century Media in 2016 because there still is a lot of interest in the band all these years later. I stay in contact with most of the members. Everyone looks back on the hard work and dedication and are proud of Sindrome.
Nowadays drummer Tony Ochoa is in SPEED KILL HATE, but what about you and the former SINDROME members? Are you still in touch with each other?
Shaun Glass and I are very close friends. He has been in bands since Sindrome split up including Broken Hope, Soil, Dirge Within and now currently The Bloodline. Mick Vega lives in Florida and is in „Rising Up Angry” where the rest of the members are no longer playing in bands. We are all still in touch with each other.
Do you follow what’s going on in the undergound these days, by the way? What kind of music do you listen to mostly? Are you interested in newer, younger band or do you rather prefer the old, classic ones?
I am a huge fan of all styles of music. I still listen to all the classic metal bands but I’m always looking to listen to new bands. I have to admit some of these new metal bands who sound like they are blending death metal with dance music I can’t get into but for the most part there will always be great new bands coming out.
Troy, thanks a lot fot the interview, anything to add, that I forgott to mention?
Thanks so much for giving us the opportunity to help spread the news. Please visit our Sindrome Facebook page and invite your friends, share our announcement about the Century Media release of Resurrection – the Complete Collection on your walls, groups, web forums with your friends because that is the only way we are going to get it known.
Century Media Records released a teaser track of the remastered version of "Cathedral of Ice": www.youtube.com/watch?v=sX-HXdu0E4s
Century Media European Webstore has the CD and LP: smarturl.it/tccCMDISTRO
Century Media US Webstore has the CD, LP and new T-Shirts if you choose North America as your location: www.cmdistro.com/b/sindrome
European T-Shirts are available here: www.heavymetalonline.co.uk/sindrome
There is a limited edition silver vinyl pressing through Century Media US: www.cmdistro.com/item/39186
There is a limited edition clear vinyl pressing through High Roller Records in Germany: www.hrrshop.de/navi.php?suchausdruck=sindrome&JTLSHOP=94b4hfq6utkqmejala7ge7gpm3
Interview by Leslie David