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15th March 2012
METAL DISCOVERY: Frank Mullen’s sitting out this latest run of shows but I gather you have Bill Robinson from Decrepit Birth standing in…
(Derek Boyer on the recent departure of longtime drummer Mike Smith)
"It was more we wanted to go full steam ahead and he kind of wanted to do it a different way. And nothing wrong with his way but his way didn’t work with the way we were trying to move."
Interview & Photography by Mark Holmes
Official Suffocation website:
Official Suffocation Facebook:
Effigy of the Forgotten (1991)
Thanks to Jaap Wagemaker for arranging the interview
Veterans of the extreme metal scene, Suffocation recently parted ways with longtime drummer Mike Smith. Coupled with the fact founding member and frontman Frank Mullen was forced into missing the majority of their early 2012 run of shows around Europe, some have erroneously speculated the band's imminent demise. However, that's far from the truth as swiftly recruiting former sticksman Dave Culross and Decrepit Birth growler Bill Robinson as temporary frontman, it's business as usual for the American deathsters. Bassist Derek Boyer explains all to Metal Discovery in an interview a couple of hours before show time at the Academy in Liverpool mid-March...
Derek Boyer in his dressing room at the Academy, Liverpool, UK, 15th March 2012
Photograph copyright © 2012 Mark Holmes - www.metal-discovery.com
Breeding the Spawn (1993)
Pierced from Within (1995)
Souls to Deny (2004)
Suffocation (2006)
Blood Oath (2009)
MD: How’s that been working out?
DEREK: It’s been working out great. Bill’s a fucking great friend of ours, a really brutal vocalist, he’s not a shy person, he’s a perfect stand-in.
MD: Marvellous!
DEREK: Yeah, we’re happy!
MD: How have the crowds been taking to him?
DEREK: A hundred per cent…I’d say 99.9999%. Maybe I heard one guy go, “you’re not Frank” and he goes, “that’s right, I’m not!” It’s like, what can you say?! He’s not trying to be Frank; he’s being Bill from Decrepit and it’s totally cool.
MD: Did you have much rehearsal time with Bill before hitting the road?
DEREK: Four rehearsals. So he had about two weeks’ notice and so he learned the material and got up there and busted his ass. It’s great.
MD: So Mike Smith left recently, of course, and he’s already spoken out in an interview I’ve read to say his departure was “inevitable”. Did the rest of the band feel that was inevitable as well?
DEREK: You know, deep down we love the guy and we just kind of had a different direction in mind and it was nothing personal…I mean, for me personally, nothing personal. It was more we wanted to go full steam ahead and he kind of wanted to do it a different way. And nothing wrong with his way but his way didn’t work with the way we were trying to move. We wanted to do more work and it just wasn’t the right time today. But still respect for him; a lot of respect and that’s that.
MD: Dave Culross came back in pretty quickly after Mike left so presumably Dave was your first choice?
DEREK: Yeah, because he’s a former member and also a really good friend and a really solid drummer.
MD: So he fit back in immediately.
DEREK: He fell right back in.
MD: Mike’s been quite critical of the band in the interview I read after he left – was his departure amicable from your point of view?
DEREK: We’re really not trying to defame anyone. He’s speaking his perspective and we’re just trying to be professional and move forward and that’s pretty much the deal.
MD: There have been a few rumours on the internet lately about Suffocation splitting up – were you surprised by that kind of overreaction based on just one lineup change?
DEREK: It’s not over!
MD: But were you surprised about people overreacting in that way?
DEREK: Er, yeah, some people, you know, let’s say you’re a diehard Mike Smith fan – if Mike Smith’s not in the band then maybe your feelings are hurt and maybe it’s not Suffocation if you’re a diehard Mike Smith fan.
MD: But he’s just one person in the band.
DEREK: Yeah, exactly and, you know, again, we love the guy but just a different direction.
MD: I gather a new album’s set to be released later this year but nothing’s actually been recorded yet?
DEREK: Well, we have all the pre-production done. We’re recording the record ourselves and so now we’ve gotta get everybody up to speed, teach everybody all the parts, make sure everybody feels comfortable with the tempos, and write the harmonies. There’s still some lyrical content that needs to be done but that’s the fun part, you know, like putting the icing on the cake.
MD: So you have demos done already?
DEREK: Done, yeah.
MD: Is the new material much in the same vein as ‘Blood Oath’ or has there been any progression in your sound?
DEREK: I feel like it’s a little more…I don’t want to say aggressive if that’s the only word because ‘Blood Oath’ is pretty aggressive too. It’s really chaotic, it’s really fast and it’s got a lot of really heavy slams and twists. You know, it’s the Suffocation you know and love but also some new feel.
MD: Cool.
DEREK: Yeah, we’re really happy.
MD: And that’s due for release in the Fall?
DEREK: Yeah, we’re looking at a September release.
MD: Suffocation have often been credited with engendering the whole deathcore subgenre because you popularised breakdowns in death metal but you’ve never actually been called deathcore yourselves; you’ve always been labelled as technical death metal. What’s your whole take on that subgenre of a subgenre thing?
DEREK: Well, it’s interesting because any band has inspirations and it’s interesting that the slam beats, those groove parts, inspired a pretty big generation of musicians and you take what you like from one band and you take what you like from another band, and then you build your band. It’s become quite a trend to do the breakdown parts and the blast beat parts, and kind of mix ‘em up.
MD: It made the metal news headlines that you had a female fan jump up on stage in Moscow recently and flash her boobs – is that a regular occurrence at a Suffocation gig?
DEREK: You see it from time to time. You get the frisky one that likes to jump up there and show it off, and…
MD: Was that just to yourself or the band in general?
DEREK: It was just, you know, a flattering thing. The girl jumped up and had a good time and so did we!
MD: Did it put you off playing temporarily…did you miss a note or anything?!
DEREK: I did miss a note! I did! I was like, “oooo, what the fuck?!”
MD: You’d be dishonest if you said otherwise!
DEREK: Right, and I got right back on track, a short pickup.
MD: So death metal…death metal…sudden boobs…then death metal…death metal.
DEREK: Exactly!
MD: So you get that quite often then did you say?
DEREK: You see it from time to time. I wouldn’t say every show by any means.
MD: Does it make the show that little bit better when that happens?
DEREK: I think the fans flip out when they see it, you know, they’re like, “whoah, shit, we thought we were having fun…now we’re having fun!”
MD: You had your first ever cruise ship performance in January this year on 70,000 Tons of Metal…
DEREK: That was amazing; just amazing. You get three thousand metal heads on a boat and it’s fucking crazy! A lot of really good bands, good friends, and just all in all, a really good time.
MD: Nobody got seasick or anything?
DEREK: Just some vomit once in a while…
MD: …just the beer though maybe...
DEREK: I think so yeah, add some alcohol and some waves and see what you get!
MD: So my final question – what would you want Suffocation to be best remembered for in fifty years’ time when people are discovering your music long after you’ve stopped making music?
DEREK: Just that we did what felt right to us and we love what we do. It’s a blast and an honour that people like what we do, and we love what we do, so I guess it’s just one of those things that, in time, will be recognised for what it really is.
MD: Good answer. Well, thank you so much for your time.
DEREK: Absolutely, thanks.
MD: And good luck for the show tonight.
DEREK: Thank you so much.
MD: Hope you get some boobs on stage!
DEREK: Perhaps! [laughs]