(continuation of the Apparition interview - http://pestwebzine.com/index/apparition/0-1523 - from last month)
What kind of contract did Roadrunner offer you? Did they offer you good conditions, support etc.?
Mike: The contract from Roadrunner was a standard contract. No better or worse than any others. In other words, it sucked. But, to be fair, they paid for us to record an album and distributed our music worldwide (We even got royalty statements from Australia). Those were the 2 things we wanted and we got them.
The label was on its peak at this point, a lot of cool, extreme bands were signed, such as SUFFOCATION, OBITUARY, SEPULTURA, EXHORDER, PESTILENCE etc., how did you view this? Was Roadrunner supportive of its bands?
Mike: There were a lot of great bands on Roadrunner at that point. Roadrunner’s philosophy was not to support anyone...at first. They would release 5 or 6 albums and wait to see who did the best with no support. Then, when one band emerged from the pack, that band would get support. So it might be Immolation, Suffocation, Sorrow, Gorguts and Skin Chamber all coming out in a 2 month period. Then, as Suffocation did better and better (just because they already had a pretty big fanbase) they would be selected by Roadrunner to push harder. As much as we were victims of this philosophy, it did seem to work for the label.
Did you get on well with the staff? If I’m correct Ed Farshtey (editor of the The Book of Armageddon fanzine) worked by the label too…
Mike: Yeah, we were all friendly with Ed Farhstey, Mark Abramson (radio guy) and Sophie Diamantis (press gal). Most of the people who worked there loved underground music. There were some people I thought were dicks at the label, but it’s too early in the interview to talk about Monte.
In 1991 you released the „Forgotten Sunrise” ep, including the songs of the 7” ep and two newer tracks, how were they written? How was the ep recorded as a whole?
Mike: We recorded a 4 song demo in 1990. Local studio-our own money-maybe 600 dollars. 2 days. 1 to record and 1 to mix. That demo eventually became the FS e.p.
Did you re-record the songs of the single or the original versons can be heard on the ep?
Mike: We recorded the demo. Relapse agreed to put out 2 songs as a 7 inch. That demo got us signed to Roadrunner. Then Roadrunner gave us some money to remix it. The remixed version came out as FS.
The ep was dedicated to the memory of Lisa Thompsen, who suffered an accident with Andy Marchione, what happened exactly?
Mike: This is the only part of the interview I won’t be joking around during. It’s too sad and horrible. Andy went out on a date with Lisa. We all knew Lisa and Barbara (her best friend) from the NYC/Long Island/Upstate NY underground metal scene. Andy went out with Lisa, then they sat in his car in a parking lot. Andy had an old muscle car that was held together by duct tape, paper clips and dreams of stardom. It was a real shitbox. So, unbeknownst to them, carbon monoxide was leaking into the car and after a while they both passed out. It was winter out and the windows were rolled up. Andy’s window was open a little bit, but Lisa’s was not. So they were there overnight. The next morning someone found them and they were taken to the hospital. Andy was in a coma for days, but came out of it. Lisa wasn’t as lucky and she died.
Is it true, that Andy was unable to go into the studio to record additional tracks?
Mike: Yeah, Andy had to do physical rehab to regain the ability to walk and play after being in a coma. It was a crazy time for all of us. The highs of getting signed to Relapse and Roadrunner. Then the lows of Lisa’s death and Andy’s coma.
When did second guitarist Bill Rogan join the band? Did it happen after the release of the ep? What about his musical past? Did you perhaps audition other guitarists as well? When did you start writing the material to your first album „Hatred and disgust”? Did Bill also take part in the songwriting process?
Mike: We chose Bill Rogan to be our new guitarist because of his beautiful Marsha Brady hair. Andy, Brett and myself all had fucked up hair. Shit, mine even fell out. But Bill, jesus christ, the guy could have gotten a Pantene endorsement. We knew Bill for years. Great guy and a great guitarist. He was the only person that could have successfully dealt with all our weirdo personalities. Bill didn’t write any of the songs that wound up on HAD. Each Sorrow song was either an Andy song or a Brett song. They wrote their songs alone and then brought them to the band. It was an interesting way of doing things. I think it preserved the songwriting identity of each.
You entered the Speed Of Sound Studios, were you prepared to record the material? What about the recording sessions?
Mike: We recorded with our buddy, Steve Koslowski. He knew what we were going for. He played guitar in a local thrash band named Kronin, so he wasn’t going to try and ’clean us up’ for our record. Back then, there were engineers who thought a heavy production was Ratt, so you couldn’t just record with any jerkoff who had a studio. The band was very well rehearsed and everything went smoothly. We played the songs live and I think that was how the drums, bass and rhythm guitars were recorded. There might have been a few minor overdubs, but not much. The vocals and solos were recorded separately of course. It was done as quickly and cheaply as we could do it. But it went well and came out great so fuck it. We had no desire to go to Scott Burns and then have Dan Seagrave do our album cover. We loved death metal but we didn’t really fit in with that ’imitate what Deicide and Obituary did’ mentality than a lot of bands embraced during that era.
How do you view, that the album came out at a time, when slowly played music was becoming mixed with extreme metal as a justifiable mode and not just at an experimental standpoint?
Mike: I thought the album was great; heavy and unique. Lots of bands from our generation were putting out great albums. I didn’t have that bullshit, macho ’we crush everyone else’ attitude. But I thought our album was as good as Suffocation, Immolation, Incantation, Ripping Corpse and Deceased. Those were our peers from the East Coast death metal scene and I thought we were all putting out quality stuff in that 1991-1992 era.
Do you agree with, that SORROW were yet another solid contribution to the death-doom scene and „Hatred and Disgust”, is among the most evil in the genre?
Mike: I’ll put it this way, if you like the first Autopsy record, you should like HAD. Sometimes I still meet people who want to hear Sorrow-just out of curiosity. I don’t waste their time or mine. I put on the song Human Error from HAD. And that’s not meant as an insult to Andy because he wrote great songs too; and his voice is a big part of Sorrow’s sound. But Human Error is the ultimate 6 minute test. If you like that song, you’re a Sorrow fan. If you don’t like that song, we’re not your cup of tea.
Did you focus much more on the doom aspect than some of your peers?
Mike: Brett liked Black Sabbath and Trouble. Andy liked Candlemass. I thought of us as a death/doom band-not the other way around. We still had fast parts that were inspired by Slayer, Death and Possessed. But we were certainly more doom oriented than Suffocation and Immolaton. We never wanted to go full doom. We lived 30 minutes from Winter and no one was ever going to ’out doom’ those guys.
What do you think about, that most of the strengths of the album lie in when it reaches a suitable groove and tempo which isn’t too slow?
Mike: Yeah, we wanted mid tempo parts too. And we wanted to make it groove oriented, but not quite upbeat enough to be a ’mosh part.’ The middle section of ‘Forced Repression’ is a good example of this. After the total doom part, Brett comes in with that riff that’s like a ‘fuck shit up’ part-played by a bunch of guys on Xanax. Haha. As for other bands, I think Crowbar is really good at that kind of vibe and tempo. That feeling of, ’If this was 15% faster, the pit would be going crazy. But this plane isn’t getting off the runway.’ We wanted to be a band that had thrash tempos, doom tempos and the heavy mid tempo stuff too-with a decent amount of groove thrown in. Many bands during that time were choosing one extreme over the other. You had Cathedral/Paradise Lost and you had Deicide/Suffocation. We wanted to play a full spectrum of tempos-except for blast beat stuff of course. Hey, Brett and I could barely play as fast as we were playing. No way we were going to start a Terrorizer cover band.
The production of the album is gritty and crushing, were all of you satisfied with the end result?
Brett - Yes, we were all happy. We did spend time trying to get a sound that we thought fit our music. Andy, Bill and I worked on our guitar sounds way before we got into the studio (actually from the start) so that the tones would comliment each other. Andy and Bill's guitar had more presence (high and low tones) and less mid tones and I had more mid tones. During that era, a lot of bands had all guitars missing the mid tones and it sounded like someone frying an egg. Melody was really important to me so I made sure that you could hear that by adding mid tones to my sound.
Would you say, that the crushing atmosphere made the band so extreme and mind blowing for its time?
Brett - I'd like to think we were mind blowing! But I am not sure many people thought that. But I think most people got the mood we were trying to create. As Mike said, we were a death metal band first with a lot of doom mixed in. The recordings I think did a good job of that.
Did the extremely evil atmosphere and varied tempos of this album help to keep it in league with its similarly excellent brethren, such as ASPHYX, AUTOPSY or WINTER?
Brett - Of course I think we were in league with these bands! But our sales did not not always reflect that. Honestly, it was a source of frustration for the band that we never got the recognition that other bands like those you mentioned and some others got. Ultimately this did lead to the end of the band.
Is it correct, that you had your own totally unique sound and you dealt with social matters way back, while the rest of the death metal bands were obsessed with horror/gore issues?
Brett - I do think our music was fairly unique, bands like Autopsy and Paradise Lost were similar but not exactly the same. And we difintely stood out in contrast to the more speed oriented bands like Suffocation, Deicide, Immolation, etc. As for the lyrics, I do think we were very unique. I grew up listedning to hardcore and the lyrics were always very important to me and I am never at a loss for opinions (and Mike is the same!) The lyrics just came natuarally, I had a lot to say and I think it added to the atmoshpere of our music. I had no desire to write about zombies.
How do you view, that the slow, depressing riffs, lack of solos and sheer weight of the music combined with death metal vocals created a new genre, that many would follow with pride?
Brett - I do think we co-started a genre at a the time, with bands like Autopsy and Paradise Lost, but I am not sure mane others followed us. I don't recall any bands ever mentioning Sorrow as an influence LOL
According to the thanks list Brett would like to thank – no one. Everyone sucks. What did it mean?
Brett - It was half joke, half serious. Plenty of zines and other bands were suportive of the band. But on a personal level, I have two ways of viewing the world. I want to be happy, and I try to be nice and considerate to everyone I meet, but people are generally assholes and selfish. So I weave in and out of being nice to being hateful. The lyrics of Forced Repression are a good reflection of that.
Were there any shows or tours in support of the record?
Brett - Unfortunately very little in the way of shows and tours. In fact, we never did a tour at all. We never plaved more than a few hours away from home and I do not think we ever played more than two shows in a week (and maybe a month). We did try to get RoadRunner to hook us up on a tour but they weren't interested. Mike and I were in college so we could only tour in the summer and it just never happened. I do regret that we never get on the road for more than a weekend. But honestly, not many people showed up at our shows and it did get disheartening.
When and why did the band split up? What kind of reasons did lead to the demise of SORROW?
Brett - After RoadRunner put out HAD they dropped us almost immediately. In fact, we had to push them to put out the album. They were so shitty to us that we did not find out from them directly that they dropped us, we had to find out through Suffocation about two months after they did it. We sent out letters to a few other labels (sorry I can't remember which - see Mike's answer below) but no one was interested. At that point, Mike was playing drums in another band Dystopia1 (not metal) and decided he had enough and said he was quiting. At this point, we were all very frustrated, after 5 years and 2 records we couldn't find another label, we couldn't get on a tour, very few people came to our shows and we got very little recognition in the 'scene', the rest of us decided to call it quits in 1993 (I forgot the month). We did have enough material for a new record and it happens that we did record our very last rehearsal which was a play though of that would be record. I posted it up on Soundcloud, there is a link on our Facebook page if anyone wants to hear it (bad quality though)
Mike - The 2 labels that I tried to get us signed to in 1992/93 were Relapse Records and Hellhound Records (a doom label from Germany that was putting out St Vitus and others). Actually, Kim August from Ultimatum Zine was selling Hellhound merch in the US. She was friendly with whoever ran the label and tried to hook it up. Big thanks to her. I sent him the rehearsal tape and he passed. To be fair, he didn't have anything with death metal vocals or even fast parts on his label. The Relapse dick in the ass was way more painful. Matt had money, had dealt with us before and was doing full lengths with Incantation, Deceased and Mortician. I sent him the rehearsal tape and he passed. At that point, Sorrow was truly the Rodney Dangerfield of the death metal scene...no respect.
What did all of you do after it? I mean, did you play in several groups or did all of you get out of the music business?
Brett - Andy did go off and play in some other bands, mostly Soundgarden type stuff but nothing too serious. Bill played in some other bands but nothing serious either. I started writing music using midi, it was a combination of synths, classical and death/doom metal called Journey Into Darkness (sought of like the intros and interludes on death metal records). I released one CD (Near Death Experience), also on Soundcloud, link on Facebook. Mike played drums in a band called Dystopia1, which was like a combination of Mr. Bungle meets Depeche Mode. Hard to describe, but very original and fun to listen to. They released several records. Their first record and my own record were released on a label I started called None of the Above. Oh, I fogot to mention that after Sorrow I opened a record store also called None of the Above! I released some industrial bands and some hardcore bands, but then sold the store and closed the record label. I was going to start putting out metal records too, but I ran out of money LOL. The only person putting music out still is Mike, he puts out CDs under the name TFG (Totally Fucking Gay), I am not sure what it is, I guess I would call it 'electronic fag grind' LOL, you can Youtube it, but I warn you, it is nothing like Sorrow or anything you would expect. Mike has a unique sense of humor but worthy of cult status (it's not unlike the musical equivalent of Bruno the movie, sought of early John Waters meets the Residents, only more fucked up and gay).
Did you remain in touch with each other after all those years?
Brett - Mike and I are still good friends. I speak with Bill though Facebook occasionally. But little to no contact with Andy.
In 2010 Metal Mind Productions released both the album and the ep on digipak, remastered edition, how did it happen? How much were you involved in the re-releasing process? Was it easy to get together the material? I mean, all of you agreed considering the re-releasing of the materials?
Brett - I have no idea how it happened, we were not involved at all. In fact, I don't think Roadrunner knew or cared at all. I found out from a friend, the label did send me a few copies though, so we were happy. (I even contacted Monte at RR and he said he didn't really have contact with MM. He didn't even know where the orignal cover painting of HAD was nor had any info on the artist unfortunately.)
Why was it only to 2000 copies limited? Were all of the copies sold out?
Brett - ONLY 2000 copies! LOL I am surprised he put it out at all! I have no idea how many he sold. I hope he made his money back.
Is SORROW’s history a perfect example of a band who had genuine talent, but just weren’t lucky enough to survive the avalanche of metal releases in the early 90’s?
Brett - I'd agree with that. But also, at the time, we were playing something not many people were interested in.
Do you still follow/do you still keep an eye on what’s going on in the metal scene these days?
Brett - Yes, I do like to check out new bands as well as keep up with the older ones too. There are so many great bands out there now, and the musicianship is incredible. I am blow away how good everyone is at their instrument, Mike and I would never survive today!! LOL I keep a huge list of bands on Youtube that I check out and when I like it, I BUY IT! Too many bands to list, but I am still 100% into death, doom and black metal.
How would you sum up the history of APPARITION/SORROW? What were the best moments (highpoints) and the worst ones (lowpoints)?
Brett - The high point caused the low point, being signed to RoadRunner and then being dropped. Some other high points were playing with Death, Cronos and the Buffalo death fest. Other lowpoints were empty shows, driving 8 hours to Pittsburgh in the winter and crashing, driving 3 hours to Philadelphia and playing accross from a crack house to 5 people.
So guys, thanks a lot for your answers, any closing words?
Brett - Thanks for the interview and appreiciating our music after all these years!
Interview by Leslie David