DATE OF INTERVIEW: 30th April 2019
I AM MORBID
Alongside their Floridian peers Death and Obituary, Morbid Angel were undoubtedly a seminal band within the death genre, helping to both shape and push its parameters through all kinds of pioneering creativity and stylistic innovation. Hugely influential in their day, their music arguably remains a source of inspiration within today's extreme metal scene. Fronted by vocalist/bassist David Vincent from 1986 - 1996, and again from 2004-2015, just a year after his second tenure came to an unexpectedly abrupt end and the formation of I Am Morbid was announced; a touring venture that would be performing only songs he composed from the first four Morbid Angel albums. This saw him reunite with ex-Morbid Angel drummer Tim Yeung, alongside guitarists Bill Hudson and Ira Black (albeit the latter has now been replaced by Pessimist's Kelly McLaughlin earlier this year).
Following successful tours in 2017 and 2018, 2019 has seen the inaugural Morbidfest come to be, a touring package headlined by I Am Morbid, with some serious old school death talent in tow - namely Vital Remains, Atrocity and Sadist. Metal Discovery met up with David in Manchester, a short while before Morbidfest kicked off in Rebellion, to learn more about his post-Morbid Angel activities, including exercising his Texas Country Outlaw chops and the recently released Vltimas album, 'Something Wicked Marches In’. Before the interview begins good and proper, we seem to slip into a natter about the good old days of vinyl and the aural bliss of analogue...
METAL DISCOVERY: Back in the vinyl heyday, people seemed to cherish and value albums more. You had all the nice, big artwork, and all the lyrics, and… even the filler. You listened to the filler and you grew to love that for what it was. You spent some quality time with an album. Now, in the digital age, if people hear something they don’t quite like at first, they skip on to the next thing.
DAVID: Everyone can almost do that, but you have a choice. You know, my thought has always been… I feel that the way I grew up listening to music, taking an album, and I’d literally be reading along the lyrics and looking at the photos while playing the album from the first song on side A to the last song on side B. And having some quality time with it, and trying to understand it, and probably did that several times in a row and then, at a point, I’d go, “Okay, well”, and start determining, “These are my favourite tracks”, and maybe that would change over time. There’s an experience that people are short-changing themselves with.
(David Vincent on the I Am Morbid moniker)
"It’s a hundred per cent attitude. I mean, that doesn’t mean I have to be dishonourable or disrespectful, but... I define things as I define them. It’s being a warrior; paving your own path... Frankly, there’s nothing negative about it, other than it’s a bit pompous."
David Vincent at Rebellion, Manchester, 30th April 2019
Photograph copyright © 2019 Mark Holmes - www.metal-discovery.com
Interview & Photography by Mark Holmes
MD: I think people seem to value art more when it’s tangible and you have something to hold, rather than a load of digital files.
DAVID: Yeah, CDs have just become a beer mug coaster, you know what I mean?
MD: Yeah, it’s a shame, but vinyl’s coming back bigtime, though.
DAVID: Yeah, it is.
MD: Are you a vinyl man?
DAVID: I do like vinyl. Like many, my collection sort of got depleted over the years and I’m rebuilding it. It does take a lot of space but that’s the commitment that you put into things that you love.
MD: Exactly. It is quite expensive at the moment, because it’s not mass produced like it used to be.
DAVID: Well, believe it or not, what I’ve learned from the various labels that I work with, there’s been a resurgence in it, and it’s actually outselling CDs.
MD: It is now. I heard that in terms of UK sales, but it’s a global thing, I presume, then?
DAVID: That’s what I’m hearing, which is cool because, you know, it’s not so much… I know that vinyl’s not always convenient - you can’t play it in your car. I use iTunes on my phone just as much as anyone else does, so I can literally carry around my collection virtually, but, in terms of… there’s something about analogue. There’s something about it.
MD: Yeah, you can’t emulate that.
DAVID: When CDs first came out, I didn’t like the sound of ‘em; I found ‘em very harsh. Probably a lot of people did.
MD: Talking of analogue, do you choose to record in analogue these days? Quality analogue recording gear must be getting quite rare now.
DAVID: Well, here’s the thing - I’m beyond tape. I’m beyond 2” tape, although the first four Morbid Angel records were recorded on 2” tape. I’ve done a lot of work on tape over the years. But I’m feeling now that the technology is such where you have really good analogue front-end gear - pre-amps and such; your signal changers are high quality. And, then, when you get into a digital environment, obviously it’s easier to do edits and other things. You normally go in and record a song five times and then, maybe, one version, there’ll be a fill that just… there’s a sweet spot; a flaw; a mistake… so, you take the chorus from another and put it in. You know, it’s much easier to do that than it is to sit there with a razor blade and cut 2” tape!
MD: I think Pro Tools and the like can be used wisely to preserve the analogue essence of something, but I think too many people get overzealous with Pro Tools and polish it too much and everything ends up sounding the same.
DAVID: Sure, yep. Well, I’m not in that school. I don’t care for that; my ears don’t like that. I like stuff that sounds…
MD: …like people are playing it.
DAVID: Yep, exactly.
MD: So, then, Morbidfest - what a lineup!
DAVID: It’s open arms, yeah, we’re having a good time.
MD: Was that purely Flaming Arts who’ve put this together, or did you have any input into what bands made it onto the tour?
DAVID: We were asked and, I mean, apart from the Italians… I mean, they’re not brand new, but they’re newer than Atrocity or Vital [Remains]. But it’s been a good tour where everyone’s been getting along well. And that’s what it’s all about, man… old school death metal.
MD: I gather the idea of doing I Am Morbid was contemplated for a fair old while before it become a reality, so did it all come together quite quickly once you’d decided to go ahead with the band?
DAVID: Well, it’s actually a song I wrote on the last Morbid Angel record, and I was thinking about that and, at that time, there was a lot of angst in the band. There were some things that weren’t going in a direction that I was super happy about, so it was almost like the writing was on the wall. It was like, it is what it is. Anyhow, I have a catalogue of music that I’ve done, forever, and I love it. And, if I didn’t love it, I wouldn’t do it.
MD: I Am Morbid seems to be 100% personal to you, as I gather your setlist is comprised solely of songs you composed while in Morbid Angel, so was it important for you to maintain that kind of integrity when starting I Am Morbid?
DAVID: Well, it is personal to me and that’s the whole thing. There’s a lot of differences over the years, you grow and stuff, but they’re all children. You love each one of them for their uniqueness and individuality.
MD: And you have different memories attached to each of those tracks?
DAVID: I sure do. More than I can even recall, being honest with you! Do I have memories? Yes, I do, but I don’t remember some of them!
MD: It must feel quite emancipating and gratifying, being able to perform your songs again, but with precisely the people you want to perform them with, out of the context of Morbid Angel…
DAVID: Again, it’s a celebration about music. I make music and I do a lot of stuff… I mean, I’ve just finished a new record with a new band that’s doing quite well, and I’ll be back over on the continent…
MD: This is the Vltimas one out on Seasons of Mist… ‘Something Wicked Marches In’?
DAVID: Yeah. So that’s doing well, and that’s a new thing where everything’s fresh. I’m somebody who does things because I feel compelled to do them from the inside, not from the outside.
MD: Has it been a bit of a nostalgic trip, as well, as I gather you’ve revisited some tracks that you rarely played live while in Morbid Angel?
DAVID: Sure, sure, to a degree. We’re always mixing it up. We were having some chats, actually, earlier today, about, “Maybe it would be cool to do this track or that track”. I’m thinking about it but I also like a flow. So, if you put something in, what are you gonna take out; where’s it gonna go so there’s some nice flow to the overall set?... which we have pretty well worked out now. My players are great; everybody gets along great; there’s never any hostility. There shouldn’t be that. There shouldn’t be.
MD: The band name is obviously taken from a Morbid Angel song that you wrote, as you’ve already said, but you seem far from morbid as a person, so is there supposed to be a little irony in there?
DAVID: [Laughs] Oh, no, no. It’s a hundred per cent attitude. I mean, that doesn’t mean I have to be dishonourable or disrespectful, but I’ve always viewed that as… you know, I define things as I define them. It’s being a warrior; paving your own path. That was the direction that it went in, so I’ve assigned that as a meaning to it. Frankly, there’s nothing negative about it, other than it’s a bit pompous.
MD: So, “I Am Morbid” in the context of the music?
DAVID: Well, no, in general. And the fans, as well. In fact, the funny thing is, that song was inspired… We were filming a show - my sound guy… sometimes, would record a show so we could review it and see if anything needed to be done - and we were in Switzerland, and when we left the stage for a minute, the audience started, “Morbid”… they started chanting this. I was backstage and whatever, and it was towards the end of the tour, and my sound guy said, “Hey, listen to this.” And I heard that and I’m like - there’s a song right there! I literally took that chant from the fans.
MD: Inspired by the fans.
DAVID: Yeah, exactly. They sang to me and I sang right back! So that was really cool for me.
MD: Band/fan reciprocation personified right there.
DAVID: Yeah, exactly.