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Broken Hope

Broken Hope
Being Pissed Off Gives You Inspiration


Архив интервью | Русская версия

This year seems to be pretty cool for death metal fans with lots of exciting releases coming out from various unheard of underground acts and well known bands of elite pedigree. Legendary Chicago-based old school death metallers Broken Hope surely belong to the latter kind, and I was pretty excited when one fine hot summer day their mastermind and guitar player Jeremy Wagner called me via Skype to talk about the latest album “Mutilated And Assimilated”, death metal scene, life, literature, environment and animal protection. Read, listen, prepare to see them live!

Hey Jeremy, what’s going on?

Ah, we are just doing a lot of rehearsing and waiting for the new album to come out in about a week or so…

So, you know, there is a Cephalic Carnage song called “Counting The Days”. Are you counting the days?

Sure we are counting the days. I just said the same thing to someone about five minutes ago. (laughs) It’s coming soon.

You said you’d never been so inspired before like you were when working on this one. What was the inspiration?

I think, part of the inspiration has to do with being really into the music with a real band of five brothers, and what I mean by that is I now have a band that has five guys… Since 2014 we’ve had a line-up change, we have a new bassist (Diego Soria) and a new lead guitarist (Matt Szlachta) and now I really feel Broken Hope is a band of five guys that are really passionate about death metal and their musicianship, their instruments. And that’s really inspiring, because with the new line-up for the last three years we’ve done a lot of touring here in the States, over in Europe and elsewhere. And it’s kinda like we all feed off each other. Everybody in the band is very enthusiastic and hungry and just very much into doing what Broken Hope does. So that alone is inspiring. And between that, I guess, I have a fighter inside of me, I could say, like I always feel like I did when I started Broken Hope a long time ago, and I’m still excited about writing new Broken Hope music, I’m excited about recording new albums for Broken Hope. All of that really does inspire me to write new music, to keep doing what I love to do, to keep my passion for death metal. So between the band members and my internal fighter, if you will, those are all factors that inspired me really more than ever when doing this album. It’s really a cool time to be in Broken Hope.

In what way will the new album be different from the previous records?

I think, for starters, almost on one level the music might be a little catchier and a little angrier than some of the previous efforts. I used to think our second album “The Bowels of Repugnance” (1993) was maybe our angriest, most aggressive album, but on the new album when I hear songs like “The Bunker” and “The Carrion Eaters” and “Blast Frozen” I really think we might be even a little more pissed off than before, you know. There is just some real angry energy and it’s a positive energy, not negative, it just really made the songs more ferocious with that pissed off attitude. And the production – we really spent more time in the studio on this album than in the past.

Part of it has to do with the fact that this time we had the opportunity to work at my house. I built a natural recording studio, so over the last four years since our last album “Omen Of Disease” (2013) came out I built this state of the art studio and I tried to assemble some of the best possible recording gear that’s available and exceptional microphones… So we really put together a nice studio and in this place with this album we could feel more relaxed and comfortable because we were not on a time restraint watching the clock and paying by the hour like in a normal studio. We had the luxury of not worrying about time and making the best possible album. We were actually able to hammer out even more ideas for the songs we wrote and we even rearranged some songs and different parts of them and it really helped to get all our ideas out in the recording studio. And I think, again, the high quality production – all of that helped to make the new album really exceptional, you know. So it’s just that a lot of factors went into why, in my opinion, I feel so strongly that this new album is one of the best, if not the best records that we’ve done. So I’m just really proud of it and I’m really excited like a kid.

Right. But if everything was so great, what were you so pissed off about?

Well, I’ll give you some examples. With me there is a couple of things. I’ve always got, no matter how long the history of Broken Hope continues – we are in 2017 and I started the band in 1988 with Joe Ptacek (ex-vocalist, R.I.P.) and Ryan Stanek (ex-drummer, R.I.P.) – and I always believed strongly in the death metal underground – that’s where we came from – and I’ve always had a connection, we’ve been out for 29 years, and I’m still connected to the underground. I like to tell people, no matter how far we go, I always have one foot in the underground. That’s one of the things I believe in and I tell people… And when I say that basically I mean that I don’t forget where I came from and remember the struggle to make a band, to make a band name for ourselves and to get signed to a record deal. To this day we still struggle to do things and to get recognition and whatever. And that’s a part of the hunger, I’m still hungry to do new great things with the band. Now, the pissed off part, the anger, the all backwards stuff… (laughs) There are things in life that piss me off and the first song on the album called “The Meek Shall Inherit Shit”… Have you heard the whole album?

No, I just listened to the songs published on YouTube…

Ok. Well, I’ll tell you this: tomorrow, actually, the song I’m talking about – “The Meek Shall Inherit Shit” – that song is gonna be available as a 360° video and a single, so you’ll be able to actually hear the song I’m talking about. I’ll explain why this song represents that pissed off anger and energy that we put into the album. “The Meek Shall Inherit Shit” is the first track on “Mutilated And Assimilated” and it’s actually more of an environmental type related song. Now, you know, most of my lyrics are horror based, but this song is really about pollution and how human beings continue to spoil and foul up the planet. Every year there is like 2,000 species on Planet Earth that go extinct because of humans. Now, to be clear, I’m not the type who does protests or gets political or anything, but this was a subject that really was close to my heart cause it really bothers me a lot just to see the natural environment go to hell. And, basically, I believe as an environmentalist – that means I have a natural love for the natural world – I believe that it’s the impact… The environment on the planet will affect future generations rather than heredity affecting future generations, if that makes sense to you… So anyway, I get pissed off with the current situation that we are in with everything. And it’s not just trash, there is nuclear waste, oil spills, there is so much, I could go on and on about it. So anyway, that subject, that pisses me off – just thinking about it and seeing… You know, I travel the world between Broken Hope and just for personal reasons, I travel all over the globe and I see it. Anyway, that’s just one example of things that piss me off. (laughs) And trust me, I’m actually a very happy positive person, and it’s not always a bad thing to be pissed off as it gives you inspiration and energy do things, whether it’s writing an album or, perhaps, going out and trying to better the world somehow. So that’s kinda where my head’s out.

Are you an environmental pessimist or optimist? Do you think it can be changed for the better?

I think, I am an optimist, and I’ll tell you why. I’ll give you an example. You know, you can be pissed off about something and maybe you do a protest and what not, and that’s fine to voice, to vent a voice to something that’s very troubling, whether it’s, say, a political leader you are protesting against as you don’t like their policies, or an oil company who’s putting a pipeline through some part of the world that’s going to destroy the environment. That’s all fine – being pissed off, protesting, but what I found is that I’m like a, quote unquote, “doer” – I like to do something about it somehow. Like, I donate money and do, like, charitable contributions to groups who actually work full time to clean up the planet and to educate people on the importance of… whether it’s recycling or caring for mother nature in one way shape or form. I try to do something to aid those groups that are really working full time to do stuff… There is also some stuff I’ve done with National Geographic, I’ve helped them out, I’ve even gone on a National Geographic expedition to see some different parts of the world where stuff’s going on… And also recently – this has nothing to do with me or any of my contributions – but I did see there is a young man who invented this fucking awesome oceanic machinery that collapses oceanic waste, cause there’s fucking trillions of tons of oceanic garbage out there right now… And this guy is collecting this stuff… He actually got some huge companies to put the money into the creation of this and he was on TV here in the U.S. recently… That made me happy to see a young person who has the initiative to get something like that going and successful. To that end with all my blabbermouthing – I would say I’m more of an optimist… I still hold – despite the band name Broken Hope (laughs) – hope that we can better the planet and we CAN turn it into a place that’s cleaner and the natural environment can grow and can get bigger and better. With that I’m being an optimist for now about the future, despite my lyrics and everything.

Cool. So there is a lot of things that are wrong with the environment, but do you think there is anything wrong with death metal today?

You know, I think death metal is very healthy right now. I think it’s really big now. For example, two things I see for my reasoning for where death metal is right now and how big it is. Death metal I see mentioned in mainstream media more than ever. I see it mentioned in the biggest – at least in North America – music trade magazines, they recognize death metal. Some bands hit Billboard sales charts. I’ve seen death metal mentioned on late night talk shows, popular television shows here, and even in books, like in the recent novel that came out in the United States and was a bestseller. It is called “Proving Ground” by an author called Peter Blauner. In that book the character talks about listening to death metal and stuff… So the genre is mentioned in such huge bestselling novels and that’s pretty cool. So things like that have been more common in recent years. Death metal has really been acknowledged, I think, recognized and taken more seriously by all kinds of epic media entities. That’s one thing. And then…

Excuse me, but isn’t it intrinsically wrong with death metal? Shouldn’t it be underground?

In a way it should be and in a way I think… The old death metal bands – we all know the underground, but the new bands – I don’t think they know what that is. And there are genres of metal, like deathcore, that have borrowed heavily from death metal, but I don’t feel those bands understand or appreciate the importance of… Well I guess to your point – of the underground integrity. And appreciating that alone – that underground scene… Again, I think, the older bands – if you got Broken Hope, Immolation, Carcass – we all like came from the underground. So we know what the fuck that means. So on the one hand I’ll tell you this: I know the importance of the underground, like I told you earlier in the interview, I always have one foot in the underground. That’s part of exactly what you’re talking about – it’s important to me to have an underground element woven into the Broken Hope’s fabric at all times. And whether other people get it or not – I don’t care. I don’t care if Broken Hope someday opens for Metallica on tour – we are still a death metal band, we are still a sick brutal death metal band with one foot in the underground. But back to what I was saying before – this more mainstream acceptance and acknowledgement of death metal – I don’t necessarily think it’s a bad thing. Only because I’m so passionate about the genre that – I don’t care if people get it or not, I was never concerned about that, but I always wanted to shove death metal in people’s faces (laughs) and say: “Listen, this is the fucking heaviest music you are ever going to fucking hear – it’s fucking death metal music, all right? Here’s Morbid Angel, here’s Carcass, here’s Obituary, Dying Fetus, blah blah blah – listen to this!” I wanna turn people into death metal and blow their fucking heads off.

The other thing I wanted to tell you about the current state of death metal: have you noticed this year how many amazing albums have come out and are coming out this year from, like, old band and new. You’ve got Immolation, Incantation, Dying Fetus… Ah, who else? Obituary, I think Carcass is coming out maybe at the end of the year, Suffocation is releasing an album I think right around the same time as we are, or they already did, I don’t remember, but… There is like ten what you could call old school death metal bands collectively releasing new albums in 2017, and then here is a shitload more and many other independent labels and what not were releasing albums… So it’s almost like a tsunami wave of death metal releases this year. And that’s pretty fucking cool, man, I can’t remember seeing something like this on this scale with old school and new school death metal bands literally releasing like thousands and thousands of albums. I think with that my point is that all these releases really tip the scale for the death metal genre and really shows how healthy and strong it is. I think, this is a great year for death metal.

What about the U.S. Disgorge? You have Diego Soria from there in your current line-up – have you asked him about that one?

I have. I can tell you this. I’m only telling you exactly what I’ve been told and Diego could explain more… I know that Disgorge’s drummer Ricky (Myers) was singing for Suffocation… Do you remember that at all? Did you hear this at all?

Yeah, I’ve probably heard that.

So he was singing for Suffocation, and then him and Suffocation had a problem or something and they broke up, he is not singing for Suffocation anymore. And the last thing I heard was that Ricky didn’t want to drum for Disgorge – he wanted to sing with Disgorge’s singer and have two singers or something along those lines. So it sounds like they are having some internal changes and I know that their guitar player Ed (Talorda) recently had a baby this past year, so I don’t think… He might not tour anymore, so we’ll see… I think again it sounds like they are going through some line-up changes and they are not sure what’s gonna happen yet. We’ll have to wait and see. That’s what Diego told me, so right now he’s just focused on Broken Hope. With Broken Hope we have Diego who has Disgorge and Damien (Leski), the singer, who still does Gorgasm. And Broken Hope is very cool about anybody doing other bands, there is no problem there. It’s all the matter of making it work, so for example, Gorgasm will do stuff around Broken Hope’s schedule and then with Disgorge – whatever they do next – usually Diego will come to me and say “Hey, Disgorge… We got our shit together and we are going to do a tour or a show”… So we just work everything out ahead of time. And hopefully everything will work out with Disgorge’s plans for the future. They are really a great band… I think, they were writing music not so long ago…

Right. Was it difficult to arrange for all musicians to come to you, to your studio in Chicago?

No, it wasn’t too bad, because everybody… Broken Hope is based in Chicago. I live here and everybody lives in or near Chicago, so they are in the city or in the suburbs of Chicago. The only member who is not in Chicago is actually Diego. What’s cool is Diego lives in Tijuana, Mexico, and he has his own little recording studio. So what we did when we were writing music and everything for the new album – we were able to send him files of the songs and have him start writing his bass lines for each song. Even though he wasn’t with us in person to write the album he was able to get the new songs as we finished them and be part of the songwriting process fairly quickly. By the time he came here to record – we had him stay here for a couple of weeks to record his bass – he was already very prepared and ready to go. So that worked out really good. And actually, I’m going to see Diego tomorrow – he’s flying in to be with Broken Hope for about a week. We are rehearsing for a record release show which is coming up next Sunday, June 25. We are doing a record release concert in Los Angeles, California, so we’ve got Diego coming here tomorrow to rehearse and get back into the concert mode, I guess, and we are going to do that show, and then in September we’ll go out and tour in Europe. Anyway he’s the only guy that doesn’t live here with us, but thanks to modern technology he’s always a part of what we are doing out here.

And what was the role of Scott Creekmore?

Oh, Scott! Scott’s awesome! I worked with Scott for years and he’s one of my best friends too. And Scott always had his own recording studio called Mercenary Digital, so on “Omen Of Disease” Broken Hope recorded guitar tracks, bass and vocals at his studio. Then we went to a couple of other studios and finished up the rest of the album and everything. We wanted Scott to actually mix the last album, but we couldn’t get everybody in the band to agree on his mix, so we went with a different guy (that was actually James Murphy, ex-Obituary, Death - ed.). This time around, the studio that I built here at my home – Scott Creekmore actually helped me build it. He is very educated about recording gear. He’s a studio gear expert and he’s also a great producer and studio engineer. He helped me make the studio with all the components and gear and microphones we needed, and then it was only natural since we worked with him last time and he helped build the studio that we hired him to do this album. This time there was no argument, we wanted Scott to mix the album, master and produce it with Broken Hope. So his role in Broken Hope is definitely major, in fact, we refer to him as the sixth member of Broken Hope.

So you were doing the engineering in the studio and then he mixed and mastered it, right?

He actually did all the engineering, like all the tracking of every instrument and the vocals and everything, so… He really did everything. I just… The guys and I – we just kinda stood there and would offer ideas, like what we would rearrange in the studio. Even sometimes Matt Szlachta, our lead guitarist, and Damian, our singer – they actually - with Scott – they rearranged a couple of songs and added some more layers to stuff. So it was kinda co-produced, but Scott really did all the labor and the hard work to make our ideas come to life, if you will. He really did record pretty much everything, you know.

Right. How did you get the idea to buy Jeff Hanneman’s guitars?

Well, I got an opportunity some years back… Jeff Hanneman’s guitars – some of them were gonna go up at an auction at Ebay and I was able to step in through ESP Guitars who did all of Jeff Hanneman’s signature guitars for the ESP line. I was able to get involved and I basically said, “I’ll buy these guitars and I’ll buy all the other guitars and anything else available”. Basically I got connected with Jeff Hanneman’s widow Kathryn Hanneman, and from there her and I developed a dialogue and became friends and I bought a whole bunch of his guitars and gear and what not…

You know, Jeff Hanneman was one of the reasons why I became a metal guitar player. And between Jeff being a real amazing lyricist and an amazing guitarist – those are two things that really connected with me. For example, Jeff wrote the lyrics to my favorite Slayer songs and he wrote the music to my favorite Slayer songs. And that really had a big impact and influence on me as a teenager. Even my own personal Broken Hope guitars are basically modeled after Jeff Hanneman’s ESP guitar models. They are almost identical in certain ways. Anyway, I knew that if I get these guitars, one, I could play them and I’d be very comfortable with them and, two, Jeff Hanneman is so important to me I thought this was a very cool and unique way to carry on his legacy and to respect him and keep his spirit alive. The first thing I did in that attitude to try to keep Jeff’s spirit alive and respect his legacy was using his guitars to write and record the new Broken Hope album and to use those guitars live… I don’t know if I’ll use them on tour, probably for some major festival, but I will use them at some point live…

Those are all ways of really honoring Jeff. And we also dedicated the new album to Jeff Hanneman as well. And his widow Kathryn was very clear in telling me that Jeff would have wanted his guitars to continue to be used and played. She felt very strongly that those instruments were made to be played forever, not to be locked in a storage case and put away. I respect that and I also believe that any instrument, whether it’s Jeff Hanneman’s guitar or a Stradivarius violin or any other instrument – they should be played and used and respected. That’s kinda how that all happened, and that’s where I’m now at. I look forward to sharing more of these amazing and legendary instruments with people in the years to come.

Did you meet Jeff in person?

Yes, I met Jeff a few times. I was very fortunate to have met him. I’d been following Slayer live since the 80s, and he was definitely really a different person. He was definitely someone I’d say – and this is my personal impression – he’s a guy who just didn’t have any time to fuck around, there was no bullshit with him. He was just like, “What you see is what you get, and if you don’t like it, you know, fuck off”. (laughs) That was his attitude, you know. Fortunately, I got to meet him a few times.

What’s your favorite Slayer album?

Without a doubt “Reign In Blood” is my favorite album and there is a lot of favorite Slayer songs on different albums. I especially love “Altar Of Sacrifice” and going into “Jesus Saves”, and “Angel Of Death”, “Raining Blood”, “Hell Awaits”, “Chemical Warfare”… God! On and on, man! “Reign In Blood” – without a doubt, that’s my favorite, that’s the one that changed my life. (laughs)

What is that thing on the cover of the new Broken Hope album?

That is supposed to be the nightmarish alien creature from John Carpenter’s movie “The Thing” from 1982. Cause the song “Mutilated And Assimilated”, the title track, is a real tribute to that movie. And my lyrics for that song really tell the story of the Thing. If you’ve ever seen the movie, you’ll know how this horrific alien creature is able to assimilate and mimic other living creatures and also to protect itself it’ll… When you see it when it’s not looking like a human or a dog or anything it will take a form of all kinds of different things that it’s imitated. The cover of the album really depicts that part of the thing. When you see the album cover, you are looking at the Thing, the alien creature as it’s in the midst of transforming into thousands of different creatures that it’s imitated from around the Universe and I think it’s pretty fucking scary. (laughs) I personally love that album cover, I think that artist Wes Benscotter really captured what the Thing – that alien – is. I think that’s a great cover.

So you told that to Wes and he drew the cover, right?

That is correct, I did. I gave Wes the song title, I explained what the song was about, I think I asked him to go rewatch the movie to get ideas, and then I gave him the lyrics to the song. Wes took all of that and – boom – he made the cover based on everything we discussed.

The album will have footage from the Obscene Extreme festival as a bonus DVD. What was so special about that gig?

Well, we played in the Czech Republic a number of times, whether on tour or doing festivals, and Obscene Extreme was really special because, for one, we’d never played Obscene Extreme before in our whole career, so doing it for the first time was very special, and then the festival itself – for years I’d heard how it’s a special festival, because they embrace and promote this freak lifestyle. You see all kinds of extreme metal fans just doing whatever the fuck they want. (laughs) It’s kinda crazy, I mean, people are dressed in crazy costumes, some people are completely naked with no clothes on or anything on their bodies… It’s a very free festival environment and it’s also very cool and everybody is just having the best fucking time and losing their minds. It was really fucking awesome. So we had heard this about the festival for years, so when we played, sure enough, we had people jumping off… When you see the concert, the DVD, you can see it – there is like a woman dressed as a nun jumping on stage and stage-diving, and there is some guy wearing a rubber smack like you wear in a butcher shop and he’s got no clothes on other than that… He got his arm around my neck… (laughs) People are just going crazy, man! Fuck, it was a really cool festival. And what happened is when we played that festival we were fortunate that there was a professional camera crew there. They filmed us, and then I had an opportunity to purchase the original video files and the audio, so I did. When I got everything here in the United States I gave it to my director – his name’s Tommy Jones, he has done a number of Broken Hope videos and many Nuclear Blast fan videos for Slayer, Testament, Suffocation and many more. He’s very talented. So he took all the footage and made the DVD for us.

Now when “Grot…” God, I almost said the wrong album! (laughs) When “Mutilated And Assimilated” was finished and we were putting the packaging together I asked Century Media, “Hey, would you possibly put this Obscene Extreme concert in with our album as a bonus concert DVD for the fans for free?” And Century Media were totally cool and said, “Yeah, that’s a great idea! The concert footage looks amazing, we are gonna do it”. That’s how the DVD was made. I’m really happy because… I’ll tell you a few things quick… As quick as I can – I am more of a mouth… One - the DVD shows the new Broken Hope line up that’s on “Mutilated And Assimilated”. That’s very cool, because all fans who buy the album are gonna see what we are like live in this line up in case they have never seen us yet. Two – everyone is gonna get a great concert DVD for free with the new album, so… You know, I really love to give back to the fans as much as possible, so it’s just great to have this bonus for everyone. And three – it’s just cool to capture a very unique festival from Europe. You don’t always see a festival like this and we were able to capture it. And it was – again – the first time we’ve ever played there. So it’s a very special cool and high quality concert DVD and I hope everybody enjoys it.

What’s going on in your other band, Earthburner?

Well, I’ve got about an album worth of material written. I really wanna do a full length Earthburner album. I just need to get a record deal for it. We've got a three song EP, and I need to shop that around. Hopefully, if I can get any kind of record deal, then I wanna do a full length album and release it. I’ve got to tell you, one of my favourite bands of all time and one of my favorite albums is Terrorizer’s “World Downfall”. That’s like really up there for me, man. You know, I told you that “Reign In Blood” was a huge influence on me as an album. Terrorizer's “World Downfall” is probably up there too. It’s in the top five most influential metal albums that inspired me as a guitar player. With that, Earthburner was created as a pure extreme grindcore band that is like a tribute to Terrorizer. I just love “World Downfall” so much and I love the great Jesse Pintado. Earthburner was formed and made to really express an even more extreme grindcore side of my guitar riffing and song writing versus Broken Hope. I love grindcore and crust and punk music too outside of death metal. Earthburner was created for that, for those types of music. Anyway, again, I’ve got about an album’s worth of material and I hope that at some point I can get that album recorded. Obviously I can do it here at my studio and get it put out with some decent record label. It’s still somewhat active, I just need to do something with it, you know.

You have also tried to be a writer – I heard about “The Armageddon Chord”. What do you like more – writing music or writing books?

I’d say I love both the same. I’ll give you an idea – I actually write books full time and I do Broken Hope full time. Usually I write in the morning, and then Broken Hope music, rehearsals, anything is later in the evening. And writing fiction and writing music and lyrics – those are my biggest passions creatively, period. So they are both equal for me. Now since “The Armageddon Chord” came out 2011 and became a bestselling novel I’ve published some short stories and essays throughout the last five or six years. And I’ve also written – and these are unpublished right now – but I’ve written two new novels and I’m working – I’m about halfway through another novel. What I wanna do is finish this new novel I’m writing and then my plan is to edit my three new books and I hope to see them published worldwide over the next year or so. So I’ve been definitely busy writing, I just haven’t put out another novel yet since 2011. I’m hoping to have that changed and get that out sometime between now and 2018. I just love writing, just like writing lyrics, just like writing little micro-horror-stories. The only thing is making everything work, cause I’ll tell you, being a novelist and writing books and being a guitar player and writing Broken Hope – both take a lot of time. To make everything work just involves a lot of time management and scheduling. So far I’ve made it work.

So you have a strict daily routine – every day you write something in the morning and then you write some more on the guitar in the evening, correct?

Exactly, yeah. In the morning I write my fiction, my stories and books, and at night is when Broken Hope will come together and either we rehearse as a band, or if we are not rehearsing, I’m still going into the studio at night to play. When we have shows or tours coming up I make a playlist on my iPod of all the songs in order that we are gonna play, I plug that into our PA system in our rehearsal studio. The songs play through the PA and I play along with the songs through my guitar equipment. I do that so I’m always on top, keeping up on the Broken Hope music for the touring. Aside from that I’ll go down and do riffs and record my new riffs and all that stuff. So far it’s been working out good. I just got to make sure I get out of bed early enough to make shit done. (laughs)

This discipline – is it the recipe to become a good writer?

Yeah. Because the more you stay active… And also as a writer you need to read a lot, you should always read, keep reading, cause to write a lot means to read a lot, and to read a lot helps you write a lot. It’s good to try to read different authors and read different voices from authors as you work on your craft of writing. I’m speaking at least for myself. To write everyday – it keeps your writing skills up and it keeps you sharp. I think, for me personally, it keeps me more prolific. I’m always writing something new. It’s great to do that as a writer. And musically too. As a guitar player – even if I’m just, say, rehearsing guitar scales, arpeggios and guitar modes and stuff like that – it keeps my hand coordination. It’s almost like a workout in the gym. It keeps my coordination good, my skills on guitar sharp. And again – when I’m playing guitar, sometimes I just out of nowhere start writing a new riff, and that riff can become a new song. Then I quickly try to record any new riffs that I write so I don’t forget them. Whether it’s writing riffs, doing guitar exercises, or rehearsing – I try to do something like that every day, as a musician to be better and to always be on my game at any time, so, say, Broken Hope gets an offer to drop everything and play a concert in Russia – we can do it, cause we are ready. That’s important too. It’s all about staying in shape mentally and physically, for guitar and for writing.

Has being a death metal musician helped you in any way in your writing efforts?

Yeah, it has. In one respect which really helped me is being the main lyric writer for Broken Hope – it has really helped. See, every album we do has 10 to 12 songs or more, that’s like 10 to 12 or more little tiny short stories that I’m writing for every song. Writing lyrics is a great writing exercise. With everything I write I do research on the subject that I’m writing about, just like I would do research when writing a book. And I’m trying to tell a story with every piece, no matter what lyrics I write, I’m always trying to tell a story from beginning to end. And coming up with new ideas for the lyrics – all of those things really benefitted me and helped me to become a better writer. Being a lyricist – and a guitarist to some extent… Because as a guitarist I write the majority of Broken Hope’s music – it helps discipline. Once I start writing – I record my ideas down just like I would write an idea down for a story. Oh, yeah, the two work together great – lyric writing, music writing definitely goes hand in hand with writing stories and books. It all works together and it made me a better writer for sure.

With that much to do, do you still find any time for family?

Oh, absolutely. Family comes first. I have an awesome wife and I have two step kids, and my family always comes first. Fortunately in my daily schedule that I was telling you about – my step kids are in college now, they are not at home a lot. But when they are home we hang out and spend some time together. My wife is with me full time day and night usually. She’s usually reading a book or working – she is an artist too, she works with metals and jewelry and she has her own little shop and studio, if you will, a workshop. She has her own artistic passions that she follows. But no matter what at the end of the day we definitely spend family time together and hang out. You know, simple things like having dinner together, going on trips together, maybe after the day is done, even after the band practice in the studio my wife and I will watch a movie or some TV show or whatever, so we are always hanging out. So family first, and I’m very fortunate that the family part of my life works out well with all this other stuff, I guess. It all comes together.

Do they like your music and/or your books?

My stepson definitely loves Broken Hope’s music. He plays guitar and bass, and he is in a grindcore band called Gloryhole Guillotine (just like the song by the Russian band Perverse Dependence – ed.), and he loves grindcore, punk, death metal, black metal, doom metal… Pretty much every form of metal. He’s definitely into Broken Hope. My stepdaughter – she is more like… I don’t know what you call this type of music… Her favorite band is called Twenty One Pilots – I don’t know what genre that is… Maybe pop music or stuff… That’s her style, not too much death metal by any means. And then my wife – she appreciates Broken Hope, she’s not a death metal fan, by any means. She’s more into bands like Ghost – that type of stuff.

OK. What are your Top 3 favorite books?

Gosh. Man, there’s a lot. Off the top of my head, ok? I love the Stephen King book “The Stand” – that’s one of my favorite Stephen King novels, and I love all of Stephen King short story collections. He’s got a book called “Skeleton Crew”, “Nightmares & Dreamscapes”, “Night Shift” is another one, “Four Past Midnight” is another one… also the book “It” by Stephen King – that’s really good… And then… If you know the author Thomas Harris – he’s one of my favorite authors. He wrote a book called “Black Friday” (actually called “Black Sunday” – ed.), and then you’ll know “Red Dragon”, “The Silence of the Lambs”, “Hannibal” – all of those books are some of my favorite books. There’s the author Cormac McCarthy – he wrote the book “The Road”, and then “No Country for Old Men”, “Blood Meridian” and many others – very dark fiction, I really love him. And then the author Peter Blauner – every book by him I absolutely love, he’s definitely one of my favorite authors… And then there’s this author Nic Pizzolatto. He wrote a book called “Galveston”. If you ever saw… Are you in Russia?

Right now I’m in Atlanta, Georgia. But I’m from Russia.

Oh, welcome to Atlanta, my friend. So here in the U.S., I don’t know if you’ve ever seen the TV show called “True Detective”…


Ok, so Nic Pizzolatto, the author of “Galveston”, he created “True Detective”. Anyway, he’s one of my favorite authors… Shit. Man, I could keep going, there is so many author I love, but those… Oh, I’ll give you one more – it’s a classic book – “The Godfather” by Mario Puzo – that’s one of my favourite books.

Right. Do you like “Catch 22”?

Oh, I read that book, that was a good one, I read that like in junior high school, haha. Do you like “Catch 22”?

That’s my favorite one.

Oh, cool, man! That’s awesome, bro!

Right. Do you do any sports?

Sports… The only sport, if it counts as a sport, I would like is motocross. Other than that… I’ve got people in my family that are football fans, baseball fans, hockey fans, specially of the Chicago teams, you know. But me – not so much. I guess I love more what you call “X-sports”. Motocross – that’s probably my favorite.

But do you do any sports yourself?

No, not really. I work out in a gym and I swim and that’s about it. I don’t do any real sports or anything.

Ok. What’s your favourite food and drink?

Well, can I give you a few favorite foods? I love Mexican food, I love sushi and I love steak. I’ll tell you this: I’m not a really good cook, however I can make – and I’m not bragging, man – I can make the best steak you’ve ever had in your life. I dunno if you eat meat or not… Steak – that’s my specialty.
And my favorite drink is actually Pinot Noir wine, and my favorite Pinot Noir wine label is called “Flowers”. For me that’s the best tasting wine in the world. That’s definitely my favorite. And then, if I drink beer I’m kinda like Jeff Hanneman, man. “Heineken” has always been my favorite beer.

Do you like animals?

Oh, I love animals. I don’t know if you read that, but… A few years ago I donated a farm that I owned, I donated it to an animal rescue group. I’m all about rescuing animals. I donate and my family donates money every year to non-profit animal rescues and shelters around the United States.

Right now I’ve got two houses, and I’ll explain about the animals. At my main house with my wife and my step kids we have two dogs, and one of the dogs is a rescue shelter dog, and at my other house where my mom lives I have cats. I have two cats that I rescued and adopted last year and now they just had five kittens, like 3 weeks ago. So now I’ve got seven cats. (laughs) I love all animals very much. And like I said, every year we donate a lot of money to benefit animals whether it’s rescued dogs or cats or even like animal adoption groups who need money to keep their business going and to help animals. So yeah, I love animals, they are in my heart big time.

So let me get this clear: you had a farm with cows, sheep and what not and you donated it?

Correct. I had a farm with five acres of land in the country here in Illinois. There is a dog rescue group who saved a lot of… They primarily saved the pit-bull breed of dogs, but the lady who ran that organization did a lot to rescue and rehab… Even wild animals, like raccoons, skunks… Any animal that was in need. And also bigger animals. I decided at one point after working with this gal for many years that I would give her the farm as a gift to help more animals. She now owns the farm with her organization and they’ve got barns and other buildings there so now they are able to actually help horses and cows. You know, there is a lot of horses in Illinois and a lot of them unfortunately get old and people just shoot them. She’s been able to rescue some horses that were going to be put down and just to let them live the rest of their lives somewhere where they won’t be hurt and killed. This lady does amazing work. It’s unbelievable with the time and effort she does to help animals. I’m very happy to have given her a place to continue her work. Yeah, it makes me feel good.

Cool. What’s her name again? Or the group?

The name of the group is “Recycled Pits”.

Ok. Did you vote for president last year?

Not this time, no. I did in the past, but this year… I don’t know, man, I just didn’t think there were really any good candidates. It’s been crazy here, you know. (laughs) This year, no, I’m just shaking my head, I don’t know what’s going on anymore in the country, it’s crazy right now. I wish there was someone else as president, but that’s my personal opinion and… I just feel that the country could be better represented. More in a dignified manner, professionally and really working to build better relationships with other countries. Anyway, we’ll see what happens, man. We have four years with the current president and in four years maybe somebody will come along and I’ll vote again. I don’t always vote. It just depends on who’s running and what not. You know what though, I will say this: I regret not voting, and I’ll tell you why. Because I think by not voting, which didn’t help anything either… I guess I could have saved the lesser of two evils… I should have at least cast a vote for something I believe in. Anyway, lesson learnt. Next time… It’s my right as a U.S. citizen to vote and I should exercise that right. No matter what, next time it’ll be a different story. Honestly, I don’t really like politics anyway, it’s always like… I don’t trust politicians for the most part. In the state of Illinois here corruption has always been a very constant thing, whether it’s the governor of Illinois, the mayor of Chicago, mayors and politicians of all kinds of different cities and towns throughout the state – corruption has always been an issue in Illinois and it’s an issue, I think, across the country. So for me personally I don’t trust politicians, most of them, really, I just don’t believe when they say something that they are gonna do to benefit the people… Once they are elected, you don’t see it most of the time. And I’m just talking and that’s my personal opinion, but that’s another reason that this time with the vote for president I just kinda threw my hands in the air and said, “You know what? Fuck it! Fuck ‘em! (laughs) I’m not voting for anyone…” We’ll see what happens next time.

Right. To round it up: you said you are always ready to go on tour with Broken Hope. Are you ready to come to Russia?

Yeah. Actually, I’ll tell you something that I haven’t told anyone yet. In March 2018, next year, we are supposed to come over to Europe and do some European dates, and we just learned recently that our booking agent, who actually recently booked Napalm Death in Russia – we have the same agent as Napalm Death… Now I just found out that we have an offer to come to Russia so it looks like for the first time Broken Hope will play Russia, Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania, I believe. And that should happen in March. So if we do this tour for the first time in Russia and those other countries, we’ve never played any of those countries, and a lot of fans have been waiting for Broken Hope to come there. I hope everything gets confirmed. It will be very exciting and very special for sure.

Are you coming to Atlanta this year?

I hope so, my friend. We are trying to do some dates in the United States maybe at the end of the year, in December. We love Atlanta, we always play in the club “The Masquerade”… I don’t know if it’s still there or not. It’s been always very good to us and of course all of the fans in Atlanta have always been fantastic. So yeah, we can’t wait to come back to Atlanta and hopefully it will happen this year.

That’s cool. Do you have any final words?

I just want to thank you very much for this interview. And thanks to all the fans and I hope everybody likes our new album “Mutilated And Assimilated” and we are looking forward to coming to Russia and Atlanta. We hope everyone will see us everywhere next year.

Broken Hope on the Internet: http://www.brokenhope.com/

Special thanks to Birgit Luhmeyer (Century Media Records) for arranging this interview

June 15, 2017
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