Suffocation isn’t new to the Death Metal scene. Having been around for nearly 20 years, they’re one of the bands that pioneered and helped blaze the trail with countless other bands to help create the scene of today. Even after releasing amazing album after amazing album, they just never seemed to get their big break like some other death metal bands. They’re still big and they still have a huge, mainly underground following but they just don’t get the attention they deserve. Perhaps their next release, Blood Oath will change all that.
On St. Patrick’s day I had a chance to sit down with frontman Frank Mullen for about 15 minutes and run a few questions his way.
MM: Last time you guys were here you almost started the place on fire.
FM: Yeah, we had a little fan accident there, so…
MM: I thought it was just the speed of Mike [Smith's] blast-beats that ignited it.
FM: [laughing] Yeah it was crazy.
(when they toured with Carcass last year there was a lot of electrical conversion going on with the gear on tour. During Suffocation’s set, the motor in a small fan that was behind the drum kit burned up halfway through a song. Frank smelled it and stopped the song. I don’t think he wanted another Station nightclub incident)
MM: You guys just signed to Nuclear Blast records a little less than a year ago, what kind of opportunities has that maybe afforded you that you may not have had in the past?
FM: You know, I don’t think it really changes anything as far as opportunities go. Pretty much every label we’ve been on have been good labels with Roadrunner and Relapse. We signed a two year deal with Relapse and we just wanted to see how things worked out. After we were done with Relapse we figured we’d start looking around for a new label and Nuclear Blast has been around forever and they’ve wanted to talk to us in the past about coming aboard and we talked to them and they came up with a nice package and it’s pretty much like a one album deal and we’ll take it from there and see how it goes.
MM: You a Yankees or a Mets fan?
(As a Yankees fan, this is where I was going to ask him what he thought about the whole Clemens/A-Rod performance enhancing drugs thing. Not a metal question, but sometimes it’s nice to ask about other things besides the music.)
FM: Ahhh, I don’t like baseball.
MM: What’s this game concept that we’ve heard about?
FM: Yeah, someone came up with the concept of doing like a first person shooter perspective type game and it’s in the works and stuff and you know it’s supposed to be comin’ out soon, you know. I think it’s just going to be a pc based game. That will be coming out, I’m not exactly sure when but they’re working on it now. You know, it’s just something that’s going to revolve around all the different albums and concepts.
MM: You guys toured with Carcass last year and have a couple more dates this year, right?
FM: We toured with Carcass before, a long time ago. It was a nice opportunity, the shows were great, really great and packed out.
MM: Any particular bands that you’d like to tour with in the future?
FM: I don’t know, I’d like to get on something kind of big, you know, like um, Slipknot, Slayer, Mudvayne, Lamb Of God, you know something like that or whatever. I’d like to try to get on something bigger where we’d be playing something like arenas, halls, whatever. That’s something that we’ve never had the chance to do, so I think that would be really cool.
MM: Coming up in the NYC death metal scene it didn’t break out as much as let’s say the Florida Death Metal scene with the exception of Cannibal Corpse, who came out of Buffalo and I don’t mean to compare you guys to them but do you think if you guys came out of the Florida scene, do you think you’d be bigger than what you are today, not saying that you guys aren’t big, you have a huge following and I wouldn’t be here if I wasn’t a fan.
FM: I don’t think so. I think what made it unique about coming out of the NY scene was that we had a different sound and approach to the music. I think that’s what made us unique. I think what hurt us at the beginning was, you know, I was newly married and had a child and I couldn’t tour the way that those bands could. Death metal at that point didn’t make any money. You went out on tour and you might only make like $2000 on tour for an entire month, so it’s like, and I had good job at home and you just can’t do that when you have a family to support. I think that more or less what hurt us as far as going to the next level like the bands coming out of Florida, because you know, they had the opportunity to tour like crazy and it really blew up in the scene.
MM: Are you kind of surprised that um, well I’m sure it was the same way for you, back when I was in high school, metal wasn’t cool. You wouldn’t see too many kids wearing metal shirts and these days it has exploded and it’s a lot bigger, maybe with more scene kids…
FM: Yeah, metal, different forms of metal will always be around around. I can remember when I was in high school it was Slayer and Ozzy and things like that. That was the real heavy stuff, Celtic Frost, Destruction. I just think people will always be looking for something heavy no matter what generation and how it passes down and translates through death metal or extreme music, kids are always looking for it. I think the only thing you’ll never really see again is the hair metal or glam metal, I don’t think that’s going to come back where you see guys teasing their hair and wearing the spandex. That’s not going to happen…
MM: That’s not a bad thing. They try, they really try…
FM: no, no, no…they’re always going to have their old fans, their old school fans but they’re not going to get new fans. Kids aren’t in to that…
MM: No, even with new albums. Motley Crue made a good effort with their new album, but I thought it was garbage. The older fans ate it up and love it.
FM: I didn’t hear the album, so I don’t know, but it’s just a different mind-set. The kids aren’t in to that anymore. So you know, your old fans will buy it and they come out and see you and you can continue to play music but you aren’t really going to get any new fans.
MM: Do you think nu-metal might have brought the metal scene to a more mainstream level during it’s run?
FM: Yeah, in a way. They were able to play songs on the radio and play bigger venues and stuff like that and basically give it an opportunity to grow, where as like death metal and extreme metal was just too crazy for the radio and the mainstream.
MM: What are some of your guilty pleasures, music that people wouldn’t expect to find Frank Mullen listening too?
FM: [Laughing] I don’t know, I mean I listen to a little bit of everything, I’m a big fan of like Stevie Ray Vaughan, old hard rock, The Who, The Doors, Zeppelin. You know.
(I was hoping Frank would open the floodgates and just unload some of the most unexpected bands, because this is always a fun question. Unfortunately Frank didn’t want to tell me about his huge Abba collection. Not that he really has one, but sometimes you find that some people are fans of music that you would never expect them to listen to.)
MM: Blood Oath. There’s a lot of buzz about that. We’re hearing that it’s going to be a bit different than past albums. What’s going to be different about it?
FM: I wouldn’t categorize it as different. The production on it’s going to be very good, best production we had so far and I think the last album came out really, really good but I think this album, production wise, you’ll be happy with it. As far as different, not anything has really changed differently. It still has the basic structure and formula that Suffocation has always used.
MM: Some say from album to album they can see a progression of slowing down, is that true?
FM: No, no, no. There’s speed on it and its pretty much the same. I wouldn’t look at is necessarily as slowing down.
MM: I was listening to the old three album on the way here and you know, they have fast parts and then it slows to a chugging breakdown and then it speeds right back up. Then I listened to the self titled and it’s the same way, just cleaner. After Effigy and Breeding and then Pierced From Within there was a big difference after breeding, Pierced From Within was much better as far as production. I don’t know where I’m going with this, I guess I’m just sayin…
FM: Yeah, definitely there was a progression of just recording and technology, you know.
MM: That about covers everything. I know you have family in town, so I don’t want to waste anymore of your time. I appreciate your time and I’ll see you guys tonight.
Frank was a great interview, even though I’m a lousy interviewer. The show was great. I think the Veil Of Maya and Whitechapel fans that stuck around for Suffocation have a new found respect for the band and hopefully it will spur their interest in to the bands that made it all possible for the Deathcore bands to do what they do today.
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