Nick, do you still remember, at which point did you start showing an interest in hard rock/heavy metal? How did you discover this type of music?
I think it would go back to my earliest memories and AM radio in my mom’s car, then discovering rock radio around 9 years old listening to ACDC, pink floyd, kiss… my mom bought me a portable cassette player with AM/Fm radio, I used to tape songs off the radio I liked… then from there got into the iron maiden and judas priest styles… around that time, videos helped to be the main way to expose bands, and we were lucky enough to have local tv stations play them and even have a metal hour so we got to see and hear some of these bands that ween’t on the radio at the time… then just progressed heavier… my cousins, my brother and myself, when we were around 9 years old, used to put on little shows, pretend we were Kiss, it was pretty funny…
Were you into established, known outfits or did you prefer the underground?
I guess at that time, it was mostly what was being played on the radio or on tv through music videos… it wasn’t until later picking up magazines (like Blackthorn) and going to local record stores or the indie radio shows… at that point i was more exposed to the underground, probably around 15 or 16… there wasn’t anything in Scarborough so we had to travel downtown to Toronto and go to the Record Peddlar… was really the only place, that’s where I discovered fanzines and more underground metal and punk, they sold imports and demos, it was pretty exciting… also there was Brian Taylor’s radio show on the college station 88.1 CKLN, he had a weekly one hour show that exposed us to new underground metal bands we wouldn’t normally hear about… he also worked at the Record Peddler to show you how small a scene it was and influenced by one guy… the plus side was being able to hear the pricey imports before buying them
When did you decide to become a musician?
hmmm… somewhere between Number of the Beast and Piece of Mind ;) I was always influenced by the bass players for some reason… like I was noticing they wrote the lyrics and sometimes sang… like Geddy Lee, Gene Simmons, Steve Harris, Roger Waters… these were my main influences that started me on my way… I guess jumping around miming to Kiss was when it first started around 9 years old ;)
How about your experiences prior to Overthrow?
Before we got serious and did Overthrow there were some guys in the neighbourhood and we did a thrashy type thing and around the same time we also did this kinda punky type thing.. It was also our first time using a 4 track and we did one song for each band and the punky one got on the radio, then just as quickly both those bands broke up and out of those two groups we started Overthrow, I didn’t like the main writers riffs in the thrashy band so that’s when I started writing a lot more stuff in a more aggressive death thrash style…
Being based in Scarborough/Toronto, tell us please detailed, how did the whole metal scene take shape and develope during the years?
I don’t know anything about scenes, people talk about scenes but these people never support anything… I never thought to be influenced locally too much and always found influence in the global undergound scene… I wanted to tour and play other countries… not just play a show downtown once in a while… so, at various times there were bands we could play with but that was never a problem because we started setting up our own shows with bands we wanted to play with… for example, around the time our CD was going to come out there was going to be a show set up with all the bands from Epidemic records… this would have been our CD release show at a bigger venue that would be half empty that we would have shared the night with the egos of an industrial techno band and a rock band in a funky identity crisis… so instead we set up our own show with Baphomet and a couple other bands in our style and the place was packed…
What were the clubs, that started opening their doors for metalheads? How about fanzines?
I guess there was Larry’s, one of the first, I was too young… then there was the Siboney and Ildoko’s/the bridge and the Apocalypse club…The Diamond/Phoenix for bigger shows… there was the Concert Hall for bigger shows as well and then the Opera House came in around 91/92… there were a couple local zines at the time, nothing major, just lasting an issue or two… The guys who had zines didn’t like death metal… it was weird, I used to read Blackthorn and other better zines… there was Wasted Effort and Cheesegrinder, they lasted an issue or two. The others hated death metal so it didn’t matter… DRI’s Thrash Zone was edgy to them.
Besides the mtal scene, in Toronto was a big hardcore one as well, wasn’t it?
Well, that’s what they try and say but i don’t recall any hardcore bands from toronto in the 80’s it was all emo or jokey punk rock… I guess the first Sudden Impact would be the only real legit “punk” band that put out an album… the rest was kinda soft and weak compared to what a real hardcore scene was… for example, we didn’t have any good hardcore like Poison Idea, nothing that was fast and heavy like that.
Would you say, that there was a healthy scene or was a kind of rivalry between the bands?
I think there were a couple bands that liked to play shows with each other and we used to set up our own shows with out of town bands and locals on the bill… I was the first to bring Cannibal Corpse and Baphomet to Canada… I think when we first started playing shows and put the demo out, there were a few bands in the area who felt a bit threatened at the time, due to their complete inability to actually produce anything, so our presence fired up the stale scene at the time… prior to our demo being released, some of the shows I attended with the reigning bands at the time were poor turnouts and lacklustre in energy… our shows were always great amounts of energy and lots of circle pit action.
How and when did Overthrow get together? Was it the first outfit for all of you or did you have any musical experiences prior to it?
Well, I guess this is from that other question, we were all living in the neighbourhood, when Derek moved into the area, I got along with him really well, we had similar humor and similar music tastes and we started jamming with him and we were trading ideas and basically forming the foundation of Overthrow. Derek seemed to have a bit more experience on the guitar and that helped me take it up a step… when we started writing for Overthrow we were heavily into Dark Angel, Destruction and Kreator… Ian joined sometime later … I guess before Overthrow we just jammed with whoever had an instrument, so we were in those two other bands which was our first experiences recording on 4 track and having music played on the radio… so from there when we started Overthrow we had a better vision for the style we wanted for the band.
Did you start writing originals or were you mostly jamming on covers?
If I recall I started writing originals right away but we did start with a couple covers so we could warm up and just have more songs to practice… we did Dark Angel’s Merciless Death, Slayer’s Black Magic, there was a Celtic Frost song from Morbid Tales and I think that Death Angel instrumental from the first album … but mostly, I just started writing and we had a set pretty quick… I’m not a big fan of wasting time learning cover songs.
In 1989 you released the Bodily Domination demo, could you tell us everything about it?
Most of those songs were written before Ian had joined but by the time they were recorded. Ian ended up adding a part in a couple of those songs where we added solos. We were so adamant about doing it properly, getting a good sound that when we got Brian Taylor on board to produce the demo, we actually went to his house that morning to pick him up to bring him to the studio with us, which was way out of the way, but we had heard so many horror stories about him flaking and not showing up to the studio… since this was our first time in a real studio (Umbrella Sound) we knew we would be lost without someone there who understood metal… We heard a couple other demos from Umbrella Studios that we knew what we were getting into… it was a 16 track studio back then… the cover of the was drawn by my brother, John Sagias, and the color was airbrushed by Ron Sumners who released the demo on his new label Epidemic Records. The image was redrawn from an anatomy book. It was our first time in a real studio and we were pretty happy with the outcome for the time. With such a great sounding product complete with professional packaging, we started sending it out and it definitely caught everyone’s attention…
Was it shopped around to attract labels interests? Did you heavily spread it around through the tapetrading/fanzine network?
We sent it out to magazines and fanzines to get reviewed.. I traded with tons of bands around that time to build some network and possibly trade shows with bands from other cities we wanted to play in… around this time Ron was advertising in MEAT magazine which was free across Canada and put in every HMV … that was a huge push for getting the name out there, both the label and band… Like I said the production of the demo was of a higher quality than people were used to for demos and I really have no clue why most demos sound like garbage? It doesn’t take much money or effort to make it listenable and it’s something that is representing you… this demo represented the hard work and vision paying off so of course I wasn’t shy about sending it out to people
How were you got signed by Epidemic Records? Were they a tiny, independent Scarborough based label?
We were rehearsing in pickering (Toronto suburb) at Ian’s father’s house and a mutual friend brought Ron Sumners to one of our reheaersals check us out… He sat there and watched us rehearse our songs and then afterwards he told us his plan about starting a record label and he wanted to release our demo as his first release… He showed us the quality he wanted for the look and we told him the quality we wanted for the sound and from there we had a mutual respect and understanding about releasing the best product we could. So when he first came to us it was just an idea and we were the first band to be released on Epidemic Records… then it built up from there to the point were he needed worldwide distribution for the demand of the product which was nice to see… By the time he got worldwide distribution (with Metal Blade Records), Overthrow had broken up and Epidemic were just about to release the debut Soulstorm CD which ended up being part of the licensing deal with Metal Blade worldwide and since Overthrow was not an active band, Metal Blade wasn’t interested in releasing it.
Did you get any offers from bigger companies, such as Roadrunner, Metal Blade, Nuclear Blast etc. by the way?
No, there were no offers for Overthrow that I know of, we didn’t reach out to any of them, that was something beyond our thinking at the time, we never even thought about it. We were loyal to Epidemic Records and Ron at the time. Everything was building great, there was no reason to think anything else… Of course Epidemic ended up signing a licensing deal with Metal Blade Records for worldwide distribution but as I mentioned this was about 2 years after Overthrow had broken up and Epidemic had just released the debut Soulstorm album Darkness Visible. Then Metal Blade released the Soulstorm album worldwide about 4 months later, going through Music For Nations in Europe.
When did you enter the Morrisound Studios in Florida to record your full length Within Suffering?
We went to record within Suffering in June/July 1990.
How did your choice fall on that studio? Was it your own decision or…?
Well, after the success of the demo, we wanted to work with Brian again but he kept changing the studio and we weren’t too happy with the choices. Originally we wanted to go to Phase One to record, but then the studio options kept changing… and then I got us to open for Death and Devastation in Montreal and Toronto, which were the first two dates of the Spiritual Healing tour and at the Montreal show we met Borivoj Krgin who liked our demo and was still writing for Metal Forces at the time… We got to talking and he said „why don’t you record it at Morrisound with Scott Burns”? So calls were made and the plan was set in motion to record at Morrisound with Scott Burns.. We never looked back and regretted that decision, ever. It was definitely the right choice for so many reasons.
Is it correct, that Overthrow was the first Canadian metal band of any kind to record at the famous Morrisound Studios in Florida?
Yes sir, absolutely correct… Overthrow was the first Canadian band to record at Morrisound Studios - summer of 1990… would also like to note that there are no triggers on this album and this was before Morrisound blew up and was used by a ton of bands… When we went there we only had a couple releases to referrance Scott’s work but it was obviously enough… Remember, at this point, Obituary’s Cause of Death and Napalm Death’s Harmony Corruption had not come out yet… even Sepultura hadn’t recorded at Morrisound at that time (Scott went to Brazil to record Beneath The Remains), but I loved Slowly We Rot and Beneath The Remains and Death and Morbid Angel ’s Altars of Madness so we would have been idiots to not go to Morrisound to record.
How did the recording sessions go? Did you get on well Scott Burns with?
The recording sessions went really well… Luckily we used to rehearse 3 times a week plus we were playing a lot of shows around that time so we banged it out pretty quick, much like our aggressive style was… Scott was awesome, we also got to work with Tom Morris, he recorded the drums and the bass, he was cool too and they were both telling us stories about all the bands that came through there… I got to hear Cause of Death and Harmony Corruption that weren’t even out yet. I think Obituary was in just before us to record it so that was cool, Morrisound hadn’t blown up yet it was pretty exciting times.
Do you think, that he have had a good reference, with bands, such as Sepultura, Death, Morbid Angel, Obituary etc.?
Oh yeah definitely. You listen to those early Morrisound recordings and you can finally hear the kick drums and the whole thing sounded great, when death metal started understanding how to be produced… Those albums are not only classics for the music which were game changers but also for the production at the time which was also a huge game changer that those techniques and mixing styles are still used today in all metal genres.
Were you prepared to record the material?
We were extremely prepared. As I mentioned we rehearsed 3 times a week and were playing so many out of town shows at the time pretty much every weekend… We took it seriously of course.. Even though we were on an independent label we knew that this was gonna be our debut album… From there I had hoped we could get signed… I wanted to establish our sound first and then if we got signed they knew what to expect… and if we ended up doing the 2nd CD with Epidemic Records it still would have been the most important thing we would have done… I took a lot of time going over the arrangements and lyrics… I only regret not recording the song Corrupted Faith on the CD.
Do you agree with, that songs like Infection, Chemically Exposed, and Under the Skin showed the extreme Death/Thrash side of the band?
I never really broke it down like that but I think you are right and I also have to point out that those are my songs that i wrote so you may be on to something there ;) Of course Infection and Under the Skin especially were some of the earlier songs written and that was a completely unbridled style… I wanted to set the pace with the first songs to show people what we were about, and it came from a place like Pleasure to Kill and Eternal Devastation and Darkness Descends… That’s the style that i was falling in love with and it got faster and more technical as we went along.
Did you easily match Exhorder, Sadus, Kreator and Dark Angel?
If iI recall the timeline it was around 86 when the real fast savage thrash albums were coming out (Pleasure to Kill and Eternal Devastation and Darkness Descends) and that directly influenced us. So then about a year or two later of writing faster and more technical music, and rehearsing relentlessly, by the time we did the demo in 89, we were extremely on point with both… Matching speeds of Dark Angel and Kreator, even surpassing them (listen to Under the Skin, especially the live version).
Infection was inspired by Ray Bradbury’s story „Fever Dream”, can you tell us more about it?
I discovered Ray Bradbury in school, english class… I always had fun in english class and I read this story called Fever Dream and it was about the disease taking over the persons body and changing them. Well this idea appealed to me for a concept… then I wrote the lyrics … we had an assignment in class to continue the story and come up with our own ending and i got 100% on my story and was pretty proud.
In your opinion, did the longer, more complex, and at time semi-technical songs, such as Within Suffering, Repressed Hostility or Supression do add some variation to the music, keeping it from being too formulaic?
Hmm, no, not formulaic… nothing was ever formulaic in Overthrow if you listen… but when we wrote those longer songs for the album, yes it was more of a conscious decision to balance out the intense bursts of aggression and speed that i was writing… We did want to add slower parts by the time we recorded the album, which was fine but I think we should have stayed fast like the demo… That was the Overthrow style… Nobody else locally was playing fast like us, the other bands were all that mid tempo weak thrash style.
Did the band have a very good sense of direction when it comes to songwriting? Were you on the same wavelength both personally and musically?
I think at the beginning Derek and I were for sure… and when Ian joined he had a different style so he added smaller parts, mostly for parts for his solos… After Derek left there was nothing cohesive between the members and it wasn’t moving anywhere… so there was a time when it worked until it didn’t basically… In the beginning I started writing a lot and would usually write with Derek at first. He didn’t come up with a lot of riffs but when he did they were good so I would end up arranging them into songs… We pretty much wrote the demo like that… Then Ian’s style was way different and since we did have a solid idea for the direction we didn’t use a lot of his riffs due to it would have drastically changed the style… He was more of a Black Sabbath/Metallica guy so he wasn’t a huge fan of the death metal style… Neither was the drummer… That was a huge factor in the end coming sooner… Even Ian told me, years later, that he had a 2nd album planned or written that was jazz metal… so I definitely ended that at the right time.
Did each song have great flow with riffs flawlessly entering and exiting?
I’m not sure what that means but each song was written and finished, there were no left over songs or riffs lying around. Each song was constructed like the way you hear it…. I took a lot of time and care when I was arranging the music, like I always do… The way I write is that I like to have riffs flow nice and smooth into each other to keep the flow going… Especially when it comes to the aggressive faster stuff… weird tempo changes and offbeat drums for the sake of different isn’t my style and messes with the feel of the song.
The band showed a great amount of talent in the short time of their existance, but sadly they remained very obscure, and were not able to acheive the recogntion that they rightfully deserved, how would you explain this?
I don’t know… We were on Epidemic Records and that was it… All I did was write music and for the whole time in Overthrow and Soulstorm, I was always the one setting up all the shows, merchandise, artwork, booking studios/producers, photographers, artists, radio interviews, fanzine interviews… writing all the lyrics, most of the music and arranging… The whole look and concept of the band was from my lyrics and titles that I wrote and artwork I found or commissioned… I was getting the name out there and networking, so that kept me busy and I didn’t think of shopping to labels much, because that is truly a different mindset of people to deal with and I just wanted to be in contact with people who are supportive.
Were there any shows/tours in support of the record?
There were shows yes, of course, how do you think we got our reputation for being a savage live band? By the time the CD was ready to come out which was december of 1990 btw, like 5 months after we recorded it… Things went from bad to worse within the band and the whole thing pretty much imploded… We played the CD release show in December 1990 with Baphomet and it was awesome, a week later I was trying out for Pestilence… and then we set up our last show and brought Cannibal Corpse up to play with us in March 1991… That was at the end when we were big enough to be setting up our own shows and calling the shots instead of being lumped in with others at the label… So we started working with bands we wanted to work with… Like I mentioned earlier, we also played the first two nights of Death’s Spiritual Healing tour with Devastation, we played in Montreal and then Toronto… we opened for Violence, DBC… there were a few others.
Why and when did the band split up? Did you remain in touch with each other after the dissolving of Overthrow?
We split up because the whole dynamic in the band changed when Derek left and I didn’t want to work with the people I was left with… It was an unmanageable situation alone… Derek was the one who used to keep the drummer in check from getting slack and sloppy which happened very easily and very often… So I just said, „I’m done too and tried out for Pestilence”. The writing was about to change, with the addition of Ken and I didn’t like where it was going… so on every level Overthrow pretty much disintegrated… We weren’t getting along personally or musically so I left to do something else… I thought being a bass player in a successful band would be better than trying to write everything, but then I was left at the mercy of Mameli’s anti-metal ideas so I left that too and started my own band… Anyway, it was obviously the right choice because the guys who were left in Overthrow (Ian, drummer Ken) have done literally nothing in music since then.