KELLY SCHAEFER - ATHEIST interview by Lazlo David STYGIAN SHADOWS ZINE HUNGARY...
Greetings from Hungary Kelly! How are you? What did you do, before you answered to my questions?
Just chillin waiting for the neurotica record to come out, hanging at my tattoo/smoke shop!
Let we begin the interview with an sad event. On the 13th 12. Of 2001 has Chuck Shuldiner died. How should you comment the tragedy? Did you know Chuck personally? Did he make an impression on your music?
I have known chuck for a very long time, we sort of came up right about the same time as death, so i would say that we were very different bands, but any one who played death metal was inspired at least indirectly by Chuck!
Even though its widely known that we did not always see eye to eye on some things over the years, i had a huge respect for him and what he accomplished, we met up when cynic was working with him on the human album and we smoked out and kind of buried the hatchet so to speak, i had not seen him since! we have much respect for him!!!
He was the Godfather of death metal, he was an true warrior of the metal scene. Do you agree with this statement?
Did you like Death? Which Death album or Death song is your favorite?
Human is the very best Death album in my opinion, the playing is top notch!!!!
Kelly, when did you begin, to play on guitar? Who are your favorite guitarplayers? Why? Do you play already on other instruments?
i started playing when i was 14, my influences would have to include include kk downing, Glenn tipton, Adrian smith, Dave Murray, rik emmit from triumph, then as i progressed i got into many others like john mclaughlin, frank gambale, Alan holdsworth.
In my opinion, the hungarian readers aren't knowing too much about the band. Please, introduce us into the history of Atheist. When was Atheist established, how were your rehearsals, how many demotapes did you record? Which bands did your music inspirate?
well its a very long story that is best explained on the website www.atheist-music.com
Your first album was the fascinating "Piece of time", which is one of the best death metal albums of all time. For me is this album is a milestone in the history of death metal. Tell me something about the circumstances of the recordings! How were the songs born?
those songs were born on a lot of weed, and a lot of arguments hahaha, we went through what most bands go through i am sure, just our bickering was very intense, but then so was the music we created out of it!, we had only 7 days to record the record so there are things on there that did not get "fixed" up, so its a very raw album. it was just a taste of technicality that would follow, but i will always be very proud of that record, and its my only way to hear roger patterson shred the planet!
Tell me please about the songs and the lyrics!
well that's like trying to explain the operation of computers hahaha,its very complex shit both musically and lyrically, i like to write about abstract things, things that can be interpreted differently by whoever is reading them. musically we always tried to not keep it the same for very long, we always had a number of different sections to each song, but all the songs were short, about 3-4 minutes, but its packed full of killer riffs!!
Your music is an excellent mix of thrash metal, death metal, progressive rock and jazz. On the songs is the impression of Celtic Frost palpable. Do you agree with me?
uhh no not at all, i am a fan of some of there tunes, but i would not say that we were "influenced " by them, i was more influenced by mercyful fate, slayer etc as far as heavy influences go!
Who was or who is jazz fan? I think, jazz is a crazy music.
**all of us,steve flynn sort of got us all into the more progressive stuff , we were all big fans of RUSH so we just combined the brutality of slayer with the finesse of rush!!
"Piece of time" came out in 1989. In the same year were released albums, like "Altars of madness" (Morbid Angel), "Slowly we rot" (Obituary) etc. How do you remember about 1989? How would you comment these albums? What kind of reactions did produce your album about the fans?
those were really great times death metal was growing in popularity, and we were all enjoying a great deal of success, especially over seas, morrisound studios in tampa was the place we all recorded, scott burns was the producer we all loved, he was a really great guy!we were just really happy to be a part of it all!
In 1989 ensued the great death metal burst. The hotbed (hothouse) of the american death metal scene was in Florida. In your opinion, why did start the death metal movement from Florida?
just a collection of really heavy ass bands all in the same town, who knows why these things happen, but it was blooming in florida during those times.borivoj krgin was instrumental in
getting obituary and atheist signed with his "RAGING DEATH" compilation album, and of course morbid angel had a deal , so it was just a bursting scene in that period!
In Europe the death metal was determined by the swedish bands, one of the most important death metal albums was "Left hand path" of Entombed. Do you know swedish or european death metal bands? In your opinion, what was the difference and the similarity between the american and the european death metal bands?
yes of course i am familiar with entombed and others, we actually played together in 89 in sweden, at the time we were really very in touch with everything underground, roger was very into like napalm death and really hardcore shit, we were all very influenced by different music i think that's why we were so different as a band!
"Piece of time" was released by Active Records. How did you get to Active? What must we know about this label? How were you supported by Active?
active record was a fucking joke of a label, we were ripped off in many different ways, never received statements, they recouped $$ they were not supposed to recoup etc. they still owe us $$ after all this time, i have NOTHING good to say about Dave constable and all involved with active records, it was a fucking mailbox in Europe they never had a staff of people working the record, rarely gave tour support!did i mention that active records sucks hahahahah!
This label had an another very good band Anacrusis. Did you know the members of the band? Did you like their music? What's with Anacrusis nowadays?
i have no idea actually but yes they were a victim ooops i mean and artist on active records!
In 1990 you have lost your bassplayer Roger Patterson. How did the tragedy happen? Didn't endanger your career Roger's death? As I as know, he was the main compser.
well no he was not the main composer although he was an important writer in the band many great riffs came from him, but we all wrote the music of atheist, it was very scrutinized and thought out by all of us, everyone was always playing a different part throughout the songs, so it was very orquestrated, we miss roger terribly, the accounts of the accident have been well documented bro, i would rather not go through the whole story again, but i will say that it was a tragic car accident when we were finishing the tour with candlemass of the u.s. we were on our way home and our van flipped over and we lost one of the greatest bass players EVER!!
On your second album "Unquestionable presence" did play Tony Choy. How did you find Tony? Was he a session-musician or was he the member of Atheist?
well he was our friend along with the rest of the guys in cynic they lived in Miami and were like our sister band, very technical bunch of cats for sure, and roger was very fond of Tony so when it all went down the record had been written and Tony was really one of the only guys that could have pulled it off!!!
I think, Tony substituted for Roger excellent. Were you satisfied with Tony's achievement? What's your opinion about "Unquestionable presence"? How much did you develop compared to the first album? Did you dedicate "Unquestionable presence" in memory of Roger?
oh yeah Tony did a great job i think, he had only 8 weeks before we rolled tape, his attack was not like rogers attack, roger played sooo hard it was incomparable, the development in the material of unquestionable compared to piece was 5 fold, i mean it was way harder stuff to play then the piece of time stuff, so we were very lucky to be able to pull it off!!!
The cover of the album was wonderful. What did represent the cover?
For unquestionable???** that was basically the little girl believing in the alternate life form, and praying to space and all of its inhabitants that we constantly question.
In 1992/1993 went death metal into decay, the grunge was popular. I think, this period wasn't favorable to you and to the other death metal bands.
that's why i bailed out, and started a new band it was becoming a stagnant scene, there were a bunch of shitty record deals set up to where you could never make a living with your music, and i wanted to have a career in music, so i started NEUROTICA and have been very very happy in the process, it also opened up the avenues of melody that were closed to me in the death metal scene, plus it allowed me to actually sing instead of screaming all of the time!!!
In 1993 released the your third album "Elements". This album was the most complex, the most heavier Atheist album. What was your purpose with this album?
this record was made after we had sort of broken up, i had already started neurotica, but we had to do another record and so i gathered up a new drummer and Tony choy, rand and a new guitar guy i had met named frank emmi, and we started writing together and 40 days later the album was written, recorded and mixed, it was an incredible time for us, we were in such a zone i cannot believe the album came out as great as it did, we also had an agenda to make a really heavy record with NO DOUBLE BASS, and with the exception of one little part, we were very proud of that, everyone had double bass flying around everywhere, so we really wanted to show that its not about double bass, its not always needed to make things heavy. i really love all the textures in the guitar work, very cool record!!
Do the title refer to the natural elements? Who did play on this album?
yes of course rand came up with the idea of calling all of the songs something to do with the elements and so i took it from there and it was really a challenge to write from the eyes of the earth, and what the earth had to say about how it is treated, and what the wind would say if given a voice, it was really a very interesting approach to a lyrical idea!! the line up was myself on guitar and vox, frank emmi and rand burley on guitars, Tony choy on bass and josh greenbaum on drums!
In 1993 came out the "Focus" album from Cynic too. Do you know this album? What's your opinion about Cynic? Was an difference or similarity between Atheist and Cynic?
Like i said we were all very good friends and we talked a lot of the phone, cynic had claimed atheist as an early influence, we met became friends and played shows together, i actually sang and helped produce there demo that got them signed,l sang backups on a song called "cruel gentility", i sent it to roadrunners Monte Conner and he originally did not like it he said it was too technical, but he soon came around about a year later and signed the band. those guys are as talented as they come, very good players!!!
Please tell me something about your tours, gigs! How many gigs did you give? With which bands were you on tour?
we toured with cannibal corpse,candlemass, gorguts, cemetery, benediction, 2 u.s. tours, and 2 Euro tours, and one trip to Norway and Sweden where we played with entombed and morogoth. we played many shows here in Florida with just about every band you could think of.
What did happen with you after "Elements"? Was Atheist disbanded? Were you in connection with the other Atheist members?
yes we disbanded after the elements tour in 1993 and we all kept in touch over the years. like i said i have had neurotica together and we have just signed a huge deal with the WWF'S smackdown records here in the states so our record will be hitting June 11th all over the place, watch for it!! www.neurotica.net
You had/have an another band Neurotica. Do you take part in Neurotica nowadays too? What kind of music does Neurotica play? Who are the members of the band?
the members are myself on vocals, Shawn Bowen and Chris rollo on guitars, migwell pryzbyl on bass and Jason west on drums, its an amazing band, really good songs, heavy but very melodic, we are about to take over the world, hahahaha we will be on this years OZZFEST 2002 tour this summer!!!
How many albums did you release? Please, introduce the albums and songs of Neurotica!
we did 2 Indy records and now this will be our first major label release, the first single on this record is a tribute to all the people that have helped me over the years, its called ALL MY FRIENDS CRUSH YOU! its fucking great , it will be hitting American radio in April.
Is an something difference or similarity between Atheist and Neurotica?
nothing alike at all 2 totally different sounds!! but both well played of course hehehe
I saw on your website, your skin is full of tattoos. What does the tattoo express? Is the tattoo an symbol for you?
well in the last 8 years i have tattooed myself up quite a bit, some people like to have art on there walls i choose to have it on my skin, they each represent a different period of my life, they are somewhat symbolic of my struggles and travels!
Why did you cut your hair?
cause i fucking hated it and it looked so TIRED!!!! People stay stuck in these ruts of fashion that are just so beat up, i think that i needed to cut my hair, that's pretty much why, follicles do not make the man or the band.
"Piece of time" was re-released with demo- and livesongs. Whose idea was to re-release this classic album? Will the other Atheist albums re-release?
that's was my idea, but i really wanted to get them all out again but i have not been able to strike a "FAIR DEAL" with any labels so i will wait till i do before re- issuing the others with bonus tracks. hopefully sometime in 2003
Did you play any shows? With which label did you enter into a contract? When will release a brandnew Atheist album?
we negotiated for about a year with many labels but like i said no one came with the right deal and we are not about to get fucked again, so when someone comes with a "real" deal we will talk about it, but until then we will have to wait!!!
What's your future plans? What do you want to say for the Hungarian Atheist fans? Thank you for the interview!
we hope to give you all another atheist record that will take 10 more years to figure out and we hope to get out and see you all again one last time on tour with the original guys, and then its all about neurotica from that point on for me at least!!! i say many cheers to the hungarian fans, we had a great time playing in Budapest in 1993 you guys were a great crowd!!!!!!!! check out NEUROTICA w ith an open mind, and thanks for all the good times!! cheers -Kelly.
Thanks for the interview leslie!! cheeers brother!!!