I owned a Morbid Angel t-shirt when I was younger, I believe that I still have it. If and when you wore said t-shirt it was as if you joined some secret club that only others with Morbid Angel shirts would understand. Their music is one of the blueprints for death metal and the band has put out numerous brutally heavy records that has since cemented that claim. Vocalist Steve Tucker has recorded with the band during three separate incarnations including on the newest, and maybe meanest Morbid Angel record, Kingdoms Disdained. We were lucky enough to sit down with Tucker and discuss the new record and how he keeps his voice together while veering a little into the philosophy of the state of the world in which we live in.
How did the band come together to write and record the new record Kingdoms Disdained?
Steve Tucker – Trey Azagthoth and I started talking, and I pretty much felt it building up. He seemed like he was getting to something. And he finally got around to asking me if I was interested in making some music? I didn’t say yes right away, I thought about some things, but in the end it was pretty simple… Do I want to write music with Trey? Of course I do, so we gave it a go. Trey started writing immediately and I told him I wanted to wait a little bit, at least until I got some of his stuff and wanted to see where he was going musically, and I really just wanted to work on my vocals. I wanted to get in the vibe of being back in Morbid Angel, and working on Morbid Angel songs, and then contribute something musically as well. Trey ended up doing something like seven demos, and he basically had those songs going into the recording sessions. I decided I wanted to write some music in the rehearsal room and we ended up writing four more songs. We had a couple of months just jamming. Scott Fuller and I would get together before Trey came in and we would work on the songs that we were writing together and we would show Trey, and sometimes me, Scotty, and Trey would work on some things that we wrote in the room. It was just very cool cause it split up the vibe. We had songs that we developed over time, and then we had songs that were written right there on the spot in the studio, very old school, like the way we used to do it when I first started playing music. I ended up telling Scotty in the studio that when we used to jam, we didn’t have a quitting time, we went until the police made us quit, and it wasn’t bullshit. We jammed as long as we could until we were told to stop. That’s kind of the way we did things on this record. The cops never did show up because we were in a soundproof room, but we went until we were exhausted. And in a way it gave the songs a rawness that I hadn’t felt in a while, they were just mean and it was really fun. When you’re doing something spur of the moment and it just clicks, that’s something that can’t be duplicated, like the first time you got high… I really think you can hear that come through on the album too. I mean it’s not lacking in originality or any sort of fluidness. With Morbid Angel there was always something around it that was unexplainable and I really felt it on this album.”
Morbid Angel has been around for almost 40 years and has a huge, iconic, aura in the metal community. What is it like being the lead singer for such an iconic band and what keeps you coming back to record with the band?
Steve Tucker – “To be honest, it’s not something I really think about. I’m sitting here now with vinyls on the wall that I had to go out and get. It’s a little overwhelming for me as well. There are a lot of years on my walls. First off, I would have never guessed that I would be back in Morbid Angel. If you would have asked me two months before it happened I wouldn’t have guessed it. It’s just one of those things where the timing was right and everything fell in order. And that’s the way it’s happened all three times I’ve played with the band. There is some sort of magnetic pull. The one thing that is obvious is writing with Trey and it’s something I really enjoy. I enjoy it far more than something I write myself. It’s more interesting working with that dude. He just sees things in a different light, and the discussions we’ve had about different things that have influenced it. I really enjoy that process. But… when you meet people, and they are like… ‘I met you in 1997, and this is my 17 year old son’ and the kid is wearing the shirt from the Gateways to Annihilation tour, and he’s telling you shit about yourself that you forgot, it’s all pretty interesting. And I have to say that it hasn’t passed me by whatsoever, I’m thrilled to get to play music at all. It’s just something that when I was a kid that I dreamed about, it’s what got me through school every day. And now I get to go on stage and play for people and see them go nuts and to see them as excited as I am is incredible. The worst day of playing music is still better than normal life.”
In order for you to be in a band like Morbid Angel, you have to be a pretty damn good musician. What prompted you to pick up the bass?
Steve Tucker – “Necessity…. Just a total lack of bass players. That is really one of the sole reason I started playing the bass. When I was 17 years old I played guitar and I had a band that I was the guitar player and the lead vocalist. We tried to be a complete band, but I kept meeting guitar players and no bass players. It was inevitable that I met a couple guitar players that were way better than me. Honestly, I said…. I love Slayer… and if Tom Araya can do it then so can I. So why the fuck not… Cronos from Venom too… and Blackie Lawless, there were always badass bass players. I love playing bass… I play guitar too, but honestly I approach the bass very differently. It’s so much meaner, I beat the shit out of that bass. I really make it growl, I don’t like a clean bass tone, the tone I use is snarling and I fucking love it. My whole goal with the bass is to have it blend in and be apart of the overall meanness of the sound. And I have to say that on the new record it is by far the best bass tone I have ever had in the recording studio.”
The themes and the lyrics of Kingdoms Disdain seem to be a direct reflection on the current tension in the world right now.
Steve Tucker – “Ironically it’s a little different this time because… it’s always how I spiritually see things. I just feel that with this album it became much more real. It became less metaphysical and much more physical. The events that are going on in the world cause peoples reactions. People are just snapping and doing unheard of crazy shit.. People are leaning towards extremism. There are a lot of sections of the world that are driven towards it, from all sides, extreme liberalism, extreme conservatism, extreme religion, and extreme anti-religion. I think that it has started to affect everyone’s souls. It has started to affect those people that are normally calm and has driven them to act irrationally, and become nasty people. There is just an overall negative vibe… It really got fed on during the election. I was down in Florida working on the album during the 2016 election, and some of the things I would hear people say was some of the most far-fetched, fairytale bullshit… and these people were literally ready to fight over it. It was absolutely crazy. It definitely led into what I was writing about. Especially how the gods would see these petty little arguments and petty little blow ups. For example: I saw this dude go off on this 72 year old guy at a gas station because he was taking too long at the gas pump…. And maybe what I’m saying doesn’t do it justice here, but I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. A little respect across the board wouldn’t be such a bad thing. It’s just gone below zero. There is very little compassion for anything… And don’t get me wrong I am no tree-hugger… I don’t live with the fantasy that we can all get along because people are different, and if you don’t allow those differences that’s when things get a little crazy. That’s when emotions and feelings deep down inside are getting stomped on. Once that happens, people snap.. They start picking up guns and shooting people at Walmart and shit like that. What I seen around the elections was the world of George Orwell’s 1984 and Stephen King’s The Running Man, these post-apocalyptic government controlled societies aren’t as far away as we think. The whole controlled, showing only pieces of the story to get your point across, is so prevalent in the media that it is just damn ridiculous. The election showed that no one trusted anyone. And the news media just perpetuates that cycle. They really did their best to make sure that the mass population stayed against each other and it spread like wildfire. And then we had a few hurricanes and the flooding in Houston…all this negativity feeds into itself, it’s all related. And people know more now.. Because of the internet people can call you out on your bullshit. But it also makes them a little crazy in the head. People lost their damn minds… What’s wrong with a little debate. That’s part of the reactions you get on the album. This album relates to the chaos we are surrounded with at the moment.”
You did some production work in the past as well. What is it like going from musician to producer?
Steve Tucker – “I think my strengths are making sense of songs and arrangements and putting things together. What I found out through my experiences was the kind of people that I wanted to be involved with were the kind of musicians in the Nader Sadek project. I love to be the guy that works the board and says ‘bring this up, lower this, make this louder’, close to an engineer. If i’m able to give my opinion and people are listening, than it’s fun. On the other hand it is very frustrating. Sometimes you are dealing with people that don’t even understand what they are trying to do. It can become extremely difficult. Then it becomes what I want to do and I try to draw a line in the sand from what I want to do and what the band wants to do. The level of musicians we had with Nader Sadek was top notch, it would have to be a project like that to get me to do it again.”
What do you do to keep your deathly growl of a voice in mint condition?
Steve Tucker – “I’ve gotten used to it over the years, I do some warm ups now that I never did when i was younger. I made a big mistake a few years ago and began smoking cigarettes and did that for a couple of years. It made me realize just how much more I needed to respect my voice and building a routine to keep it where it needs to be. Now I warm up for about 20 minutes before I sing, just real low level stuff to make sure everything’s working. You can literally pull a muscle and not be able to sing for months, and nobody wants that when you see Morbid Angel.”