Exclusive Interviews Only Found Here at MetalCore!
When I saw a promo that popped up in my email for North Jersey’s Oblivion I about shit my pants. I remembered these guys from way back when in the 80’s and had no idea they had released 6 demos! Well with Divebomb Records putting them all out on 2 discs I sent off a novel of an interview with bass player Bob Petrosino
CF: Where were you born and where did you grow up? Did you come from a big or small family? What sort of kid were you growing up?
Bob Petrosino (BP): I was born in Hoboken, NJ and grew up in Toms River, NJ; luckily I was able to live in Lahaina, HI on Maui when I was a kid for a couple of years too. I was the youngest of three with two older sisters, one was a Deadhead and the other was a huge Springsteen fan. I had three older stepbrothers as well.
CF: What did you want to be when you were growing up? What were some things you did for fun back then? Did you have a lot of friends?
BP: I wanted to be in a metal band and tour the world as long as I can remember. My walls were plastered with KISS posters since I was five or six. I think I was like every other kid growing up in the 70's, skateboarding, dirt bike riding, building BMX ramps, playing baseball and soccer. I learned how to surf in Hawaii. One thing about me is that I always independent. My mom was single so we never had a lot and I learned how to take care of myself early in life. As for friends, yeah I guess I had a lot of friends or people I hung out with throughout my life and few close friends over the years. I'm a little guarded yet still social. I've known my best friend since I'm 14. He plays guitar and was in United Blood, a NJ hardcore band for years and we finally played together in a stoner rock band called RagStew (www.reverbnation.com/RagStew ) in the 90's. His son, Dom actually played drums in OBLIVION when we reformed in 2011. That kid is an incredible musician; check out his band Nemora.
CF: Were you big time into music at a young age or did that come later on? What were some of the early bands that you listened to?
BP: I've been into music for as long as I can remember. My sister took me to see KISS on the Dynasty Tour in 1979 with Judas Priest opening at the Spectrum in Philadelphia, PA when I was nine year's old and I was in disbelief that I was breathing the same air as them. Me and a few kids from the neighborhood put on a KISS concert when I was nine too and we could not play at all. I was the youngest so I got stuck being Paul Stanley. I still have a picture of us doing the show. I got the Aerosmith Bootleg Live album for my ninth birthday too and I wore that album out. I listened to Led Zeppelin, Neil Young, Lynyrd Synyrd, Nazareth, Yes, The Outlaws, The Doors, Rush, Judas Priest, Thin Lizzy, The Kinks, etc.
CF: When did you discover rock n roll? What did you think of this music when you heard it and what were some early bands that you got into?
BP: I discovered Rock 'n Roll early, I mean at like four or five. My mom was a huge Elvis fan and was anti-Beatles. That being said, I remember spinning those Paul McCartney and Wings Apple Records 45s when I was reading Captain America comics. I still like those Wings songs like Band on the Run, Jet, Listen to What the Man Says, Let 'Em In and Silly Little Love Songs. I would listen to my sisters' eight tracks too. I did not care what it was but the ones that stick out to me are Starz, Pat Travers, Jethro Tull, The Allman Brothers, Cream and Dead Boys.
CF: Now when did you discover heavy metal? When you heard metal did you sort of say oh fuck rock n roll I want metal or did you like both forms of music? What were some of the early metal bands that you heard and are you a fan of any of these metal bands and have you ever got to meet any of them?
BP: IRON MAIDEN! Steve Harris is the only famous person I want to meet because he has been such a huge influence on me and what is he 60 (?), and he is still the ultimate in cool. When I heard Maiden I put down the guitar forever and picked up the bass. I'd say for a little while I was like "fuck" rock, not because I did not like it anymore, only because the older guys I knew would always put down Metallica, Slayer, Exodus, etc. and say it was all talentless noise. I unfortunately got on a kick of saying The Who sucks, the Stones suck, Pink Floyd sucks just because they said my music sucked. It was childish but I was a child, what do you expect?
I met Hetfield and Ulrich at the Roseland Ballroom show with Raven and Anthrax (Scott Ian came to see OBLIVION at CBGBs and talked to the band), which was very cool for me because I was taller than Lars and I was 14. I met a bunch of guys over the years. My friend Chrissie hung with Metal Maria all of the time and would always have us hanging out with tons of bands. I mean I hung out with Kerry King in her bedroom in Toms River (circa Haunting The Chapel) then hung with Danny Lilker at her house when he just finished recording the Nuclear Assault Live Suffer Die demo and Glen Evans was from the next town over. She dated Billy Milano for a while and he did not drink at the time. He would drive us to shows every weekend, it was cool as shit because he was a bull and just charged everywhere. I went to High School with Jimmy Southworth (Rachel Bolan from Skid Row) and he went to see the original line up play at Lamour with Exciter. He was older though and was really into glam and I was into thrash. He was in a band called Phantasm that played out a lot. Happily he found true metal later in life and really tried to help our friends in Godspeed. I really liked Bill Kelliher from Mastodon because I can relate to him. All of the guys in Mastodon are awesome but I never met Brent.
CF: Now how did you come to discover underground metal? What was the 1st band that you heard and what did you think of them? Were you into them right away or did it take a few listens to get into this form of music seeing as it was so different?
BP: VENOM! When I heard Venom I was scared, really. It took me awhile because I was so young and they were so heavy and evil, it made me feel like I was going to hell if I liked them. That fear struck such and emotional chord that I could not stay away. I went to Catholic School and would say Hail Mary’s for liking it. Then when I heard Metallica, I was like "this is awesome, I can actually do this." It took me three or so listens to Metallica when they came out to really grasp it as a 13 year old. Then I found myself wanting to listen to it over and over and over. I could not get enough of Kill 'em All!
CF: Now did you watch MTV a lot back in the day? I did and found some bands via that lovely music channel. Did you at all?
BP: Hell yeah, it was "MUSIC" Television and I LOVED music. I'd watch in hopes that they would least play Maiden or Priest and when they did I got excited and cranked it. I was really into Headbanger's Ball. I recorded it every week on VHS then transferred the videos I liked to another VHS tape. I still have all of the VHS tapes; there must be 100 hours of videos on it. I found a lot of bands on there but in typical mainstream form they did not play a lot of the bands that I liked. You would get a gem every once in a while but if it was on MTV chances are I already bought the album before the video if it was something I liked. Plus, they played A LOT of CRAP. Some was just awful attempts at metal.
CF: Now what made you pick up the bass? Did you ever toy with playing the guitar or play the drums? Did your parents buy you a bass or did you have to go get it with your money? Did you ever take lessons or learn to play on your own? What are some of your favorite bass players?
BP: Iron Maiden and Steve Harris was the singular reason I picked up the bass and put down the guitar. I started playing a black knockoff, no name black Les Paul guitar because it looked like Ace Frehley's guitar when I was nine. I made a lot of noise on it and learned how to rip out some bar chords until I switched to bass when I heard Iron Maiden in 1982. That is when I wanted to learn how to actually play and started taking lessons from a jazz teacher. He would make me learn jazz and blues progressions and was anti-metal; he hated Geezer and did not think there was any talent in metal. When I brought in Too Tame a Land by Maiden, my teacher said "OK, this guy can play" and taught it to me. Favorite bassists: Steve Harris, Cliff Burton, Justin Chancellor, Troy Sanders, Scott Reeder, Dave Ellefson, Danny Lilker, Blackie, Mike Dean, Dan Maines and Greg Christian.
CF: How would you rate yourself as a bass player and do you think that over the years being in the band that you got better and better? Did you ever try and sing in the band over the years that the band was around back then?
BP: Early on I was definitely learning and made mistakes along the way. I know the instrument fairly well and cannot think of a song that I cannot play today. I do not practice enough and when I do I get my timing better. I play with my fingers and can keep up with the guys that play with picks. I posted a jam of just me and Dom Petrocelli on YouTube playing something I wrote and the main riff is hard to play. I watched Some Kind of Monster where they are trying out the bass players. I was like really? I could shred through those tunes. They actually ask the guys trying out "what songs do you know (?)." If I had that shot, I'd know every song from the three first discs inside and out. I guess it's all subjective but I can play almost anything. Some of the new math metal stuff might mess me up.
CF: Now did you go to many record stores back in the day as I know NJ had a bunch of them that are sadly now closed. Did you ever get a chance to visit Rock N Roll Heaven while it was open? How about Bleeker Bob’s in the city?
BP: Hell yes. We would to Rock 'n Roll Heaven twice a month, that place was the best. I went to Bleeker Bob's a bunch too and it was a little overrated because I wanted metal and no place was better than R n R Heaven. R n R started out in the flea market on Route 1 in New Brunswick, which was a great collection of material. I still go to Vintage Vinyl in Fords, NJ to thumb through discs. That's the best store that I go to.
CF: Now back then when you brought a release was looking at the album cover a big deal to you? Was there anything that you brought back then that you absolutely hated after you brought it?
BP: Of course, I'd study the cover and say this has to be awesome in some cases you win and others you lose. When I saw Show No Mercy and Jeff Hannemen was playing guitar with an upside down cross on the back cover, there was no way I was not buying it and that was a huge win. Nuns Have No Fun was another huge win.
CF: How did you discover fanzines and tape trading? Did you do any tape trading? If so around how many people and was there any demos that you were looking for? Now about fanzines what were some of the early ones that you checked out? How close were you with John Kraus (rip my friend) and his Speedzine and how did you found out about him killing himself?
BP: I found the fanzines at the old record stores along with the demos then I started writing people like Gene Khoury, who was an underground metal encyclopedia. When he sent us that Death demo, it blew us away. I cannot believe that they never put Corpse Grinder onto a CD. To this day, I like the Death demo better than any disc they released; same goes for the Love You to Deth Megadeth demo and Power In Black by Overkill. I was huge into the tape-trading scene and enjoyed writing people all over. Demos were better than most of the label releases. I go to Reverbnation today and there are some good bands on there too, again some better than what is on a label.
I still have a box of the old zines in my basement. The Wild Rag was good one and magazine quality. Metal Curse, AAARRGHHH!!, Violent Noise, Metal Mania, Dethrip, Maximum Rock n Roll, Metal Forces, Disorderly, Future Thrash, etc. there were so many great fanzines that were totally organic and written without financial gain being the goal, music was the goal-period! As for John Kraus and Speedzine, I found out after we reformed. Dave Fesette told me and I was in disbelief. He was always a genuinely good guy. He semi managed us for a while and he is the one who filmed us during the very few live shows that were filmed. He always watched out for Debbie whenever we were playing. She was my girlfriend and we are still together to this day with two children. I always appreciated how he took care of her at some of those clubs. Typing this now and can still hear him saying, "Debbie..." I think he said her name 100 times a night. It is so fucking tragic that he was driven to that point and he will be missed. He has a special place in my life and I hope he is at peace.
CF: Now were you in any bands before Oblivion? If so did they record any stuff? Looking back what do you think of Oblivion’s debut demo and the “Intention to Kill” demos which you do not play on? How did you end up being the bass player in the band?
BP: I was in a band that never played out other than basements and never recorded called Infernal Noise. It was very Helhammer meets Slayer. It was not anything serious. It was me and my two longest friends in life (Tony Petrocelli-United Blood, RagStew, Minus-Us, Hate Wagon, Deaf Horn) and Todd Walsh-United Blood and Chronic Death) with various drummers. I did some vocals and it was totally a learning experience. A lot of time hanging in Todd's bedroom and riffing.
In regard to the first two demos - I LOVED THEM! I was blown away the first time I heard it and I said to myself "I will be in that band" when I found out they were from Toms River. I thought they were going to break big as soon as Intention to Kill came out. It was at the forefront of thrash and it kicked ass. That demo was never produced. They went in recorded it live and never mixed it. It's as raw and menacing as anything that has ever come from the NJ underground scene. They recorded it just to get Roadracer a copy because they were very interested along with Combat. I was surprised that they broke up then we met Mike through work at a land surveying company (me, Mike and George were all surveyors). He formed Cyprus and I do not know why he did not keep pursing Oblivion with the intense interest it was getting. I do know that Mike likes change and creating new projects. I really wanted to do Oblivion so Mike agreed and he quit Cyprus and we tried to build the name again.
CF: Were you friends with any of the band members prior to joining them and did you ever see them live?
BP: I did not know anyone in the original band when they were in the band but we had a lot of mutual friends. I never saw the original line up live. I was younger than they were and I could not head to some of the places they were playing when I was 14. George and I were friends and roommates then Mike approached George about singing.
CF: So now at the end of 1986 after releasing 2 demos and playing a showcase show at CBGB’s for Roadracer Records and having a few other labels interested, but nothing working out and things not working out Oblivion broke up and Cyprus was formed with Oblivion band members Mike and Santo. This lasted until 1987 when Mike decided to reform Oblivion and you ended up joining the band along with a new singer named George Machuga. How did you end up joining the band as well as George?
BP: I was always jamming with Todd and Tony in Todd's basement when Mike started hanging out with our crowd through George. He brought Rich Pryztula down to play drums and drink beers, so were just having fun. Basically we had three guitarists, a bassist, a drummer and two singers George and Paul Rudd all hanging at the same house every night drinking. I really wanted to do Oblivion because I always thought it got lost and did not deserve it. So, George, Mike and I recruited Joe Farley (RIP) and decided to focus on it and get serious. Tony, Todd, Paul and Rich then formed United Blood with Steve Porter picking up the bass, even though he played guitar. It all worked out and we got busy. I never knew why we just did not ask Santo. He might have joined Delirium Tremens already?
CF: Now I when I was doing my print version of Metal Core, I got several demos from you. When the band reformed did you take over doing the mail? Did during the course of the bands existence did the mail ever get out of control and how much longer did mail come in after the band broke up?
BP: When I joined, Mike was still the main man in almost every capacity. He was writing all of the music, the lyrics, booking shows through his mother's management, corresponding with radio, writing to 'zines and George and I just started to do more. We began reaching out clubs, writing 'zines and using our contacts from our network. George hung out with the Old Bridge Militia a lot and going to Metal Joe's and Rockin' Ray's house. They'd have Metallica, Slayer, etc. stay there back in the day. It made sense to broaden our reach instead of having Mike do all of the work. Yes, mail was out of control. It was too much for Mike to take it all on himself. We were getting letters everyday from around the globe. Mike liked it and never complained, he just always did it and now he had help.
CF: Tell me all about your experience about being on the “Uncle Floyd” show and for those who don’t know tell readers what the show is about. Do you still have a copy of your appearance to put up on say You Tube or is it already up there?
BP: I was not expecting to get appearance on Uncle Floyd; he was a NJ icon and acts like Cyndi Lauper on, not Oblivion. Mike's mother booked his aunt on the show then told the producers about her son's metal band. They heard Back to Maim and said "yes, this is a good NJ band, when can they play (?)." We had to lip sync and we did not know that was the case and I was all messed up. If you go to our YouTube channel :
the two songs (Germ Warfare and Domination) are posted as Oblivion TV appearance. It's a little cheesy but we were learning and only together for a few months.
CF: Now with the “Back To Maim” release that came out in 1987. How did you come with the name for this demo? How was it for you going into the studio for the 1st time? Were you nervous at all? Looking back how satisfied as a band were you when it got released? Where did you end up going to record it and how much money did you spend on recording it? Around how many copies did you sell?
BP: Mike came up with the title Back to Maim because he wanted everyone to Oblivion is back and ready to pick up where the original line up left off. I think George, Joe and I gave Mike that little extra kick to focus on heavy thrash and be what we love. We did not need to play anything that we did not like or to please anyone other than us. George is a great lyricist and he began writing the lyrics after BTM with songs based on real misery and personal tragedy, which makes the mind enter into a state of Oblivion to protect itself. We became more cerebral and real lyrically and less fantasy or horror driven.
My first time in the studio was fine. I was never nervous. I knew Mike was a pro and would direct us threw it. I never got nervous playing shows or recording; I thrived off of it. The studio allows you to fix a mistake, not like today where you can Pro-tool every millisecond of the song to perfection but we had a razor and a reel. We left a few mistakes on all of our recordings to give it something of a human element. It's music, it's art, you do not need perfection, you need to hit an emotion. The production was not great so I was surprised at some of the really good ones. We always had the Slayer comparisons and this was our first attempt to grow and create our own sound. BTM is still a heavy Slayer influence just like the first two demos but it let us begin our quest for originality, so it is a great stepping stone demo for the band.
It was recorded at Subterranean Studios in Long Branch, NJ by for about $600 in two days. We did not have much money and ran right through recording and production. It was a learning experience with some mistakes that we should have fixed. We sold out of the original recordings but we sent a lot out to record companies, 'zines, radio stations, clubs, etc. too. If I had to put a number on it, I'd say about 500-750 as with all of our demos. We had three people turning out the product without a real process for it.
CF: Did you get to play many live shows at this time? What clubs did you get to play and who did you play with? Did you send this demo out to many 'zines and what were the reviews like? Did you also manage to sell the demo at the many record stores that were around in the NJ/NY area at the time?
BP: We were playing live shows, not at the clip that we did during Why Did Johnny Kill and Contents Under Pressure era. We did not focus on shows with this demo other than playing bars and the TV appearance. We wanted to get the name out there again, especially with so many other Oblivions starting to pop up. This line up of Oblivion played bars like the Loop Lounge, Olson's, and I can't remember most of the other names because it was not a lot. Mike did this before but the rest of us were working on it. We had decent reviews of BTM, some were amazing and others were midland. We sold about 25 copies at Vintage Vinyl and that was the only record store I went to on consignment.
CF: Now with your 4th demo called “Intoxicated With Agony” did you feel the band was on its way so to speak. Did you feel you had found the Oblivion sound so to speak? Where did you record this demo at? Did this release open the doors so to speak to playing more shows and building a bigger fan base in the NJ/NY area?
BP: YES! This demo really began to move us away from the extreme Slayer sound and we were finding our Oblivion sound. We were not totally where we wanted to be but we were heading in the right direction. I chalk this one up to a mix of the direction Mike wanted to go with Cyprus and the key thrash element of Oblivion. We re-recorded Intention to Kill along with two Cyprus songs where George began changing the lyrics to focus on real life elements. Waste of Like and Trapped & Refrained were Cyprus, Intention to Kill was original Oblivion then Rot in Perdition (RIP) and Bitch were our newfound sound and direction. The lyrics are simply angry and depressing. There is not a lot of fantasy, it's about being pissed off and those were the two songs that were written with Chris Kelly on board too. We were being asked to play on more bills, people were buying shirts and we were hitting onto something that people could relate to on a personal level lyrical. Read the lyrics for Bitch, if you were ever dumped or cheated on, you'll get these words tattooed on your back. When crowds started chanting "Bitch" when we played out, I knew we were finally resonating on a larger level.
CF: Do you feel you were a good live band and are there any live clips of the band on sites like You Tube and stuff like that? Do you have much merchandise for sale back then? With these demos, were they professionally made or did you have you dub them one by one?
BP: The original line up was a great live band. It took the BTM line up about a half dozen shows to catch up. Mike always has his stage presence and knows how to command his leads, Chris is a crazy good drummer, so he was a shown in his own right and I like to run around, slide, jump and move all over stage. My first few shows, I almost mimicked Mike and took my spot to bang my head. That did not last long. I never liked to stand still then just did what was comfortable for me instead of trying to be someone else. George was the front man and his rants between songs became infamous during our sets. He said some fucked up shit over the years that would cause fights with the later lineups. We were doing good with selling shirts and that was about our only merchandise other than some stickers that we sold. As for the demos, we were broke. We dubbed our own tapes and had friends help us copy demo covers at work. It was very lowbrow, done on the cheap and high speed dubbing from one good tape to cheap crappy tapes. I was always jealous of those professional looking demos like Power In Black but I was a tape trader and thought what is the difference; this is all that tape traders want - the music and the demo cover.
CF: Were you getting a lot mail at this point? About how many hours in a particular week was spent doing band related stuff? Around how many nights per week did you rehearse? Were you doing many interviews for fanzines as well? Did you send your newest demo to bigger mags like Metal Forces and Kerrang and if so what were the reviews like?
BP: It seems like we were getting mail every day. It all went to Mike so he did all of the correspondence. Since we worked together, he would let us know that he was writing people constantly. I know in the post-Sica era, I was spending two to four hours a night four to five nights per week, writing people back, filling orders, sending promotional material, booking shows and communicating with radio stations. This was on top of practicing three to four days per week at Chris' house.
Mike was handling 75% of the fanzine interviews and I do not know if he was submitting to Kerrang and Metal Forces any longer. I am unaware of any reviews in Metal Forces outside of the first demo.
CF: Now how did the coming of a song come together? Which band members ended up writing the music? How about the lyrics and what were some of the things you ended up writing about?
BP: Oblivion with Mike was simply learning the catalog of material Mike already had written other than RIP, Bitch, Death of a Martyr, Domination and Germ Warfare. I wrote one riff in Death of a Martyr and Mike wrote all of the music otherwise on the first five demos. He is a writing machine and it let me focus on getting better on bass and Chris learning how to be in a band. I really liked the move of George taking over the lyrics because of the angry reality based themes. I think Mike liked handing the lyric duties over to George as well. It made the band more unique and allowed him to craft the melody. Bitch was our most popular song and it's because of the lyrics and his melody.
CF: In 1988 you released a 2nd demo called “War Gives Me Piece of Mind”. How did you come up with the title of this demo? Also you became a 5 piece as you added a 2nd guitar player. What led to this decision and how did you find your new guitar players Dave Fesette and Charlie Alamo. Do you feel that the sound of your band changed much with addition of now having 2 guitar players in the band? What was it like losing the last original member in the band that being Mike Sica?
BP: I do not know how that demo name came about. Mike named it Back to Maim; I named it Intoxicated With Agony!! and War Gives Me Peace of Mind? might have come from one of George's lyrics that inspired Dave's artwork. It's odd; I did not want to change the logo. Dave just showed up with the demo cover drawn with the new logo and we just went with it. I did all of the lettering on the covers and we just said "cool, let's get something out fast, since the founding member quit."
Losing Sica was a deathblow because he never really told us he was quitting. He started Fallacy with Chris, Jeff Payne and his good friend Mike Marshall. It was like we just stopped and were in limbo. We asked Mike and he wanted to do something else, so we asked do you mind if we keep the name go forward. He said no problem and no hard feelings. Mike just likes change and multiple projects. He leaves stuff quickly and I obviously stick it out for far too long.
When George and I decided to keep the band moving forward, we got the OK from Mike, Chris and the original vocalist, Dave Gutierrez, who found Dave Fesette for us; it was an easy decision to move to being a dual guitar band. We wanted more leads and heaviness but more importantly, we were seeking originality. We did not want to sound like this band or that band and we wanted to keep the basic Oblivion sound that was developed up to this point.
CF: Now in 1988 thrash metal was going in a new direction. Bands were getting signed to major labels and bands were popping all over the place as were fanzines and even bigger magazines were featuring them. Did you as a band have high hopes for the band and how was it even playing the older stuff live with having 2 guitar players in the band?
BP: I was unsure after losing Mike until we tried out Dave and Charlie. Dave had a ton of riffs, Charlie had a ton of riffs and I had a ton of riffs. It just worked. We also grabbed John Proveaux to play drums and to give us a different sound from all of the other thrash bands. We began to notice a bit of monotony with thrash so we recruited a drummer, who did not even listen to Metallica. Proveaux listened to Aerosmith and Led Zeppelin. We wanted a groove that incorporated hardcore, thrash and Oblivion. I did not have high hopes but I had hopes. I thought we could be good and if we really do not sound any other band than it does not matter if we were successful. In my mind, when you create music that does not sound like another band or today's case where there are bands that are indistinguishable then the band is a success.
CF: Did you ever get a chance to play outside the NJ/NY area at all during this period? Did you ever have management at all over the band’s career? I am sure you went and saw shows at Lamour’s in Brooklyn, NY during this time. Did you ever inquire about playing this lovely establishment?
BP: We stayed in the Mid Atlantic region and never went on tour. We were broke and could not leave the jobs we had without a decent label deal. We did play a lot during this time within the region. We played at minimum two shows per week and practice three nights per week. Oblivion needed management and we never had anything official. We got help from John Kraus and Missi Collazzo then had some guys contact us, who seemed slimy so we did not use them. Not getting a real manager was probably one of the biggest mistakes we made at this point because everything began taking off - unexpectedly. We were always busy with the band, all of the time and it was a lot of work.
As for Lamour, the original line up played there. It is a sore topic for me because I was talking to Biohazard's manager all of the time. The deal was get Biohazard some shore shows and he would have us open for them at Lamour. We played with Biohazard a lot at the shows I booked in NJ and we did three radio promotions with them on 89.5 FM WSOU Seton Hall Pirate Radio but he never got us on the Biohazard Lamour show. That would have been huge for us. Biohazard always liked us and we liked them, I just wish we could have done one of those crazy Brooklyn shows with them.
CF: What are some live shows that you got to play that stick out in your mind? Did you ever play any cover tunes live? Have you ever heard of a band doing an Oblivion song live or on a record?
BP: Playing the Stone Pony with Cyclone Temple was a lot of fun because the sound system was so damn good, plus the place is a part of music history. My favorite show ever was at Club Bene with Gothic Slam. The backstage was top notch. The sound system and lighting were second to none. Plus that is the best we ever played or sounded. Oblivion was perfect that night, I wish I had it recorded. It was one of those shows where the headliner stopped in their tracks and came out to watch us perform the perfect set. It was so damn satisfying. Our last show ever was opening for Brutal Truth. That was a personal favorite because one of the reasons I wanted to do this was from hanging with Dan Lilker when I was 15 or so and having him play the Nuclear Assault demo for me. So, to open for him six years later in my own original band was a good feeling. I really enjoyed playing with Blood Feast, Ripping Corpse, Faith or Fear, Lethal Aggression, United Blood, Psychosis and so many other bands regularly because it became a decent scene.
CF: I saw in the CD inlay card that you played a show at CBGB’s for Roadracer Records. How did this come about and what was it like playing that unholy venue? At what point in the band’s career did you do this show? So after the show was over how close did you come to actually signing with the label?
BP: I did not play the show. We found the old VHS and are cleaning it up. We are posting it to the OBLIVION USA YouTube Channel soon. Damage and Mayhem were on the bill too. Roadracer really wanted to sign Oblivion and the show was sick from what the other members told me. Scott Ian even came down to check out Oblivion because of the buzz and talked to the band. The Intention to Kill demo was rushed just so the label could have new material and unfortunately, it was rushed because they were still in High School, so the band rushed it and the label was fine with waiting until everyone got out of High School. Plus it's not Oblivion unless there is tension and line up problems. The bass player, Rich was leaving the band and the label talks fell apart as the band fell apart. Dave was going to play bass and sing, which took some time then they thought about finding another bass play (if I only knew, I would have jumped on it when I was 15 or 16) then Dave quit and it all disintegrated. It was just Santo and Mike, so they just started Cyprus and stopped. They did not realize how lucky they were to have a big tape trader following and landing on charts at radio stations around the globe. They thought, it will just happen again but they could not catch lightning in a bottle again. It should have happened; it just did not work out. Dave went on to playing bass for Social Decay, which was a local hardcore band that was the foundation for Godspeed and Solace.
Toms River/Jackson had a glam scene and a hardcore thrash scene; we stayed away from the glam guys. The glam guys were more successful. Phantasm became Skid Row and Zach Wylant (Zakk Wylde) was in Zyris then Ozzy plucked him up. Dave Gutierrez and Dave Fesette went to High School with Zach and George Machuga and I went to High School with Rachel Bolan. Oblivion, Social Decay and Lethal Aggression were the big thrash/hardcore bands locally with United Blood too. Dave Gutierrez played in all three – singer for Oblivion, bassist for Social Decay and guitarist for Lethal Aggression. We joke around that we should do an evening with Dave Gutierrez.
CF: Now back in the day what were some of the great clubs you went to, to see shows? What were some of your favorite bands that you got to see live back in the day?
BP: I was always at a show somewhere. I loved the Ritz, City Gardens, The Dover Showplace, Lamours, Faces, Murphy's Law, The Fast Lane, The Stone Pony, and The Brighton Bar. Seeing Raven, Metallica and Anthrax at the Roseland was amazing and so was COC, DRI and Discharge at the Ritz but the most insane show I ever went to was Slayer and Danzig at the Felt Forum, seats cushions were flying, there was a police barricade and the show ended early because of the mayhem. Slayer never disappoints. My other two favorite Slayer shows were with Overkill at the Rio Theater in Valley Stream, NY and the Dover Showplace with Carnivore and Bodies in Panic. The best City Gardens shows were Circle Jerks, Bad Brains, Venom & Black Flag on the same bill, the Crumbsuckers, and Voivod & Vio-lence on the same show.
CF: Did you ever get to play City Gardens in Trenton, NJ? Were there any places that you didn’t really like to play at? How were the crowds for the shows that you did play at?
BP: We never played City Gardens and I do not know why. I think Master Fury was trying to book a show with us there and it did not pan out. That is a great question, we should have played there. I remember the Suicidal Tendencies show when their bus was attacked. It was nuts. I think we were supposed to play with the Cro-mags there but I think that was right after Charlie and Proveaux left the band. I hated playing Sneakers in North Jersey, crappy sound system and poorly promoted shows. I could not stand driving all the way to up there then the club owner expect Oblivion, Ripping Corpse and Lethal Aggression from the shore to be able to fill the club. You need a national headliner or a couple of local bands on the bill. There were like 30 people there every time we played there. I like the crowds in Asbury Park, Long Branch, Keansburg and Monmouth County. We always had good turnouts there. We played in Seaside Heights, NJ, which is like our hometown and the first time the clubs let a thrash or hardcore band play. That was great. The club was packed. It just got too crazy for them and they cut our set short - not the first time that happened.
CF: Now what was the morale like of the band at this time? Around how many hours were spent on the band at this point? Were you the only one doing mail? Were you at all jealous or a bit mad seeing all these bands on labels yet you were still unsigned?
BP: The morale went from a low to very high, quickly. Life After Death Row was the first song we wrote after Mike left and that is a very catchy tune. That got us pumped up; we liked what we were doing while keeping the Oblivion song structuring. We were becoming more original every day. George and I got home from work at 4:00 PM every day and spent all of our time focusing on Oblivion. We lived together in Seaside Heights, NJ and out apartment became a thrash metal home base. People were over all of the time and we were high speed dubbing tapes, nonstop for 4-5 five hours at night 5 days per week and writing everywhere. I watched Born in the Basement and that was how I was living during this time of the band. I did most of the mailing and writing. George would help with some interviews and correspondence. I was booking all of the shows and practices and 100% driven to succeed.
I was never jealous of a band signing to a label. I wanted to see the bands we know be successful and make it. We could have signed too and we kept looking for a good deal. I am happy for their success. The only thing that bothered me was that I am a big believer in promoting other bands in the same scene. When we played with them I wanted to blow them away but when they signed I wanted them to sell a million records and tour the globe. Unfortunately, I learned later that I was in the minority. A lot of bands did not want the other bands to succeed, which did not help us create our own “San Francisco.” It’s petty to not wish someone well in pursuit of their dream and it hurt our scene. Some bands genuinely wanted others to succeed and a lot did not.
CF: Now there are 2 live tracks on this demo at least that are on the CD version. Where did they come from?
BP: Those were the last two songs that we wrote and were never recorded on a demo or record. We added No Code and Mind Ripper from our last show ever. We opened for Brutal Truth at G’Willikers and wanted people to hear those songs, so we added them to the CD. Those were the two songs we were going to record with MCA and have them pay for the production cost and go from there. The two live songs are the end of the band.
CF: Now in 1989, with the line-up, you recorded the “Why Did Johnny Kill” demo. How did you come up with the title for this demo? How easy was it to come up with the 6 songs that are on this demo? Where did you record this demo at?
BP: I came up with the concept and title of Why Did Johnny Kill after watching a documentary on HBO. I showed it to George and let him know that I thought it would be a good idea for a song. It’s about kids that kill their parents and their imaginary friends telling that they need to do it. He was always open to ideas and thought it was a great idea. That song became our signature song too. It’s very easy to play but it’s catchy. Redjack was George’s idea. He was a huge Star Trek fan and Redjack is a Star Trek episode where the spirit of Jack the Ripper never dies and it possesses people throughout time and cannot be controlled. I wrote the music for Carnage when we were jamming with Sica, so I wanted to finally bring it to Oblivion. Charlie and Proveaux clicked with each other and had a lot in common, so had the skeleton for Contents Under Pressure laid out from jamming with each other. Read the lyrics for Contents Under Pressure. To this day, those are my favorite lyrics of all time from any band. George created a depressing circle of failure and giving up. Necrocide was a concept about killing zombies and came together fast then we re-recorded Life After Death Row because we wanted better production. It was no better than the first one thought. That demo came together very easily and it’s when we defined our sound.
Damian Cordisco (RIP) recorded it for us at his DAC Studios. He was a drummer and really good friends with Jimmy Southworth (Rachel Bolan). He played drums in a band called The Flu with Jimmy and we were going for a rock oriented drum sound with Proveaux. It made a lot of sense to record with Damian and expand our sound. We recorded Contents Under Pressure with him and I recorded the RagStew stuff with him too. He loved our material and always thought we were going to be a big band. When we recorded Contents, he told me “dude that is the best thing he ever recorded and that we are onto something and not to forget about him when we are playing arenas around the world.” He let me know that he cannot think of one band that we sound like after Contents and that was the goal all along – DO NOT SOUND LIKE ANY OTHER BAND!
CF: Now were any of your demos, even including the last one professionally done or did you have to dub them all? How many shows did you get to play during the 1989 era? How easy was it to come up with a set list? How much merchandise were you selling?
BP: We never did the professional demo release. It was all dubbed. The furthest we ever ventured into professional is that we had the Contents Under Pressure demo covers printed onto Yellow cardboard for more professional quality. We started printing yellow shirts and using yellow and black on everything. We wanted this Yellow Oblivion (Yell-Oblivion) connection, so when people saw yellow and black they would associate it to us.
I cannot count how many shows we were playing at the time. There was never a week that we did not play at least one night. It was usually two shows a week for 18 months. Metal was becoming categorized – thrash, hardcore, death, black, speed, punk, crossover, etc. – and we were lucky enough to cross all genres so we could play a hardcore bill one night and a death metal bill the next night. We were the only band that was our style in our area. We were heavy and technical with a groove. There were a lot of fights at our shows because the crowds mixed but I don’t ever remember getting booed. When every band became an extreme death metal band, there were shows where the crowd did not want thrash and they would stare and clap politely. To me the scene was becoming monotonous and I could not distinguish one band from the next on many nights. I still think there should be a melody and originality when it comes to heavy music and at that time I was witnessing the death of it. A lot of bands seemed like they stopped caring about originality and just wanted to be faster and heavier with a disdain for clean vocals.
CF: During this time in 1989 how many shows did you get to see? Did you think with the popularity of thrash metal and more labels popping up that it was just a matter of time until you finally were signed?
BP: My life was Oblivion in 1989 and if I was not playing a show, I was at a show. I am not married but I am still with the same girl from back then and she tells everyone how I dragged her every dive from DC to Albany for three years and made her sit through 1000 bands. I don’t think I missed many shows between 1988 and 1990.
I did not think it was a matter of time. I knew we were going to get signed to a good deal. I looked at it as fact. We had offers; unfortunately they all sucked over the years. I was not in a band for the money but I needed to eat and I was not going to take any offer from any label. I do not know how these other bands did it. They must have had better offers than us because the stuff I read was basically, Oblivion will not make money unless every expense was covered. If we signed us then they promote us and pay us, don’t put all of the risk on us. I wanted to share some of the risk and reward. It felt like we were taking all of the risk and the labels were getting all of the rewards. I am a long-term thinker and let George know, “what happens in five years, what do we do?, bands don’t last and we will be losers cleaning lunch rooms forever.” He did not care, he thought we should take any offer. Plus, I pursued MCA because they were not signing every metal band under the sun and we could stand out on MCA.
CF: Now in 1990 you released your last demo called “Contents Under Pressure” and that also brought back the return of drummer Chris Kelly and also guitar player Frank Bonanno. How did you find Frank how did this come about with Chis and what did he bring to the band the 2nd time around? Did you do a lot of shows or promote this demo a lot before the band broke up?
BP: The Contents Under Pressure era was our peak. We were playing a ton of shows, getting regular play on WSOU; I was talking to labels about "real" deals not some crap deal where you go broke after one tour. We were on top of our game and we played so many shows that we were basically professional, even though we were still self-releasing. After Charlie and Proveaux left the band a mutual friend had us contact Frank. She told us, “I know an exceptional guitarist, you guys should try him out.” Holy cow, she was right. Frank blew our doors off and he brought a technical ability and focus on precision that George, Dave and I never focused on. Proveaux played with us until we could find a replacement then Chris heard that we were looking again. He was surprised about how good the Why Did Johnny Kill songs were and I do not think he thought we would make it without Mike. We reconnected and he was all over it, especially after he heard Frank play. Frank is a phenomenal guitarist and he only listens to metal; basically the prototypical perfectionist. He was the perfect balance to our focus on groove and melody, which help us truly become original. I ask this all of the time – WHO DOES OBLIVION SOUND LIKE (Contents Under Pressure era)? That originality and ability to play our instruments is what made MCA want us.
CF: So what led to the band breaking up? Was it a bad break up or a mutual one?
BP: I did not realize it at the time. Bands need every member to have the same goal, drive and dedication from every member. I assumed everyone wanted what I wanted but we never created a Mission Statement, we should have made sure we were all on the same page. I had a plan that if I did not make it by 21 then go to college, so I did that. Frank already left the band before we officially broke up and Tom Picciotti played on the two live songs. Frank started a band called Technikill and wrote all of the songs and Chris played in both bands. You cannot have members playing in other bands because then there is no commitment. It was the beginning of the end because we all had different goals and commitment levels. It was time for it to end.
CF: I also saw you had interest from New Renaissance Records and also MCA Records. Obviously you sent them demos and stuff so how much farther did the interest go? Did they actually offer you a record contract at any time? Were any other labels interested at the time? Looking back would you change any things about the way things went with the band?
BP: MCA loved Contents and the band and they wanted us to record a demo for them at their studio with their producer. Like anything that sounds too good, it was too good to be true. Before we could even begin negotiating, they began wanting input on the creative output and I was not going to be Grim Reaper. So, when I walked away from the MCA discussions, I never explained it great and they thought I was being too picky with the labels. Anne Boleyn was running New Renaissance and she would have signed us on the spot. It came in around the same time as MCA and I went running for MCA. She was great, she told me that she was just a small label and was not sure she could offer us what we want but was willing to work with us mutually if we had interest. Now that I look at it, she really sold herself short. Looking back at it, New Renaissance should have been our home because she was open to doing what is best for Oblivion and the label. After telling MCA “no” it was when it all started to splinter and we were going to quit. So, would I have done anything different, I guess the right answer is to always say “no” but we should have pursued New Renaissance and just not have followed up with MCA.
After the MCA debacle, we did a showcase for Atlantic Records and we played great, even though our hearts were not in it anymore. I forgot the A&R guy’s name but we could have worked with them because they were stock piling metal bands; we were just done. We might have been able to something with Megaforce but I did not know what direction they were going. They were signing bands like Sweaty Nipples and seemed to want to hit the Seattle thing. I guess I can say “what if” we just signed with New Renaissance what would have happened? I don’t think it would have worked regardless because we all had different goals. I think we would have made an album went on a tour then would break up anyway.
CF: So what did you do with yourself after the band broke up? How sad were you when the band broke up? Did you stay in contact with many of the former members? Did you continue to stay in touch with the underground scene with the rise of death and black metal in the 90’s and through the grunge scene, which broke big in 1994?
BP: I went to college and went work for Megaforce for a few months and maybe we could have signed there but the band was over at that point. I went to college to pursue a new life outside of music. I stayed in touch with everyone from the band and the scene after we broke up. I was really bummed because I know the band was as good or better than a lot of the other bands that got bigger than us. Those bands also had complete dedication from all of the members with a common goal. Even after Sica left Oblivion, he still hung out at our apartment in Seaside when he was not in Oblivion, so did Joe Farley, Dave Gutierrez, Proveaux, Charlie, etc. We all remained friends. Proveaux moved in with me and Debbie when I bought my first house in 1994. There was never animosity, just different goals.
I liked Death (the band) and a lot of death/black metal bands that sound original. I do not like all of the bands that indistinguishable from the other. I just don’t like bands that do not try to be original or simply can’t play their instruments. I could not follow a scene where a bunch of bands sound exactly the same. I liked a lot of the grunge stuff because it was different and original. Nirvana, Mudhoney, Soundgarden, Alice In Chains, Sixty Watt Shaman, Tool, etc. were all amazing. I never like Pearl Jam because to me they came after the other bands and were not as good or original. I grew up on 70’s rock, so to me grunge was kind of mix of that punk and thrash and I like all of that stuff. I’ll always be a fan of good musicianship in heavy music that comes across as real and authentic.
CF: Now with 6 demos out were you getting a lot of requests from people who say wanted to hear the 1st and 2nd demos and stuff? If they were did you dub tapes for them or no?
BP: Actually, no we did not get requests for the old stuff. If we did I probably asked Mike to send it to them. We just kind of moved on. When a new demo was out that was our only focus, I don’t think I even sent much of Johnny after Contents was done.
CF: Now give me your opinion on each of your demos starting with:
This demo kicked my ass. I was heavy into tape trading and when I heard this one, I think I got it from a trader in Belgium. I think I was 15 and I said, “holy shit, these guys are from Toms River, they are going to be huge.” I think this might be the best metal demo to come out of NJ ever. I think Raised By Fire is a great song. All four songs – Rabid Bestial, Aggressive Assault, Raised By Fire and Life After Death were and are my kind of songs. The Slayer influence is pronounced and to me that is a good thing.
Intention to Kill:
I heard this one after Oblivion broke up and we already recorded Back To Maim. I still cannot believe that it is not mixed. All three songs are brutal and I would be happy to play all of them now. The song Intention To Kill is by far the best song from the first two demos. If Oblivion would have secured a deal and did it like a lot of other bands, I think Intention To Kill would have been one of those songs that resonates with a lot of people and would have gone into heavy rotation on Headbanger’s Ball and metal stations everywhere. Listen to that song, it is so fucking good.
Back To Maim:
You can still hear the Slayer influence but it’s not as strong as the first two demos. I like this demo because it set the stage for our sound as Oblivion. Germ Warfare is the standout track, unfortunately the snare disappears during the fast part. It’s got a great chorus and set the stage for an Oblivion song structure that lasts throughout Contents Under Pressure. The Unknown was a Cyprus remake with an Oblivion touch and is my personal favorite. We cut this version of Death of a Martyr from the actual demo release and have it on Cyclogenesis. Domination could be part of the first two demos, it is straight up Oblivion thrash.
Intoxicated With Agony!!:
I LOVE this release because all six songs are so damn strong and it builds from BTM. This became our sound in our quest to sound original. R.I.P. is heavy, simple, melodic and good. The standout track is Bitch. I really like Mike’s acoustic intro, he did that in one take in the studio. That was a departure for the band. The lyrics in Bitch are so fucking strong and guys can relate to it. Bitch was always a song the crowd would chant for us to play. It sucked when we stopped playing it. I always wanted to bring it back because it’s a Top 5 Oblivion sound. Trapped and Refrained has a good groove and I like my bass line in it. Death of a Martyr is our departure and trying to get more creative. Had Mike stayed in the band I think we would have followed this direction. Waste of Life is another version of another Cyprus tune, it’s OK but nothing stands out to me. Redoing Intention To Kill was so great for me. I really liked adding the bass lick to the beginning since it was not on the original version.
War Gives Me Peace of Mind?:
I think this is our weakest effort. We were trying to find a new direction after Mike left the band and there were three of us writing the music now along with George handling all of the lyrics. I think the song structures are good but we rushed the recording. Life After Death Row is another Top 5 Oblivion track, plus it was our first song after Mike. It added to our new direction. Simple and catchy song. Portrait of a Maggot was the first time I wrote music with another composer so there are a ton of parts. It’s got a great intro with awesome lyrics; the recording is weak though. Portrait is probably some of George’s best lyrics and to this day, he will not sing the song because of how dark it is for him. Scales of Injustice is decent. The guitar intro was something Dave had for a while and if you listen to Lamb of God’s Embers from VII: Sturm Und Drang you will hear a very similar riff. I like that a song as huge as Embers has an Oblivion sounding riff, it almost makes me feel justified. Coup D’état was our attempt to really try something different. It’s probably our weakest song but it’s important because it helped us open the door and explore musically.
Why Did Johnny Kill:
What can you say about this one? I wish it was recorded better is the only blemish. All six songs are catchy and came together quick. The writing was split up evenly and we had a strong hard rock drummer, who went on to Solace manning the kit. The lyrics are great and there is a great mix of hardcore and metal. This is when our sound became our sound. Oblivion was truly original and did not sound like other bands. We needed to do War first so we could write these songs. Why Did Johnny Kill is our most popular song even though it’s simple and easy. It’s kind of the song that gave us our identity. Redjack is another Top 5 Oblivion track and I love playing my bass line during the intro. Again, it’s just another catchy song with good hooks that resonate with people and I like the lyrics. Carnage is one of my personal favorites because I wrote it when we were playing with Sica. It has the hardcore influence and some catchy hooks, plus song kicks your ass. It was also the tipping point for Contents where it was becoming a little more technical. In my opinion, Contents Under Pressure are the best lyrics of all time by any band and the song is strong too. It brings out that rock element a little more and has the hardcore edge. Necrocide is OK, it’s got good lyrics again and the song is pretty good, it’s just got a lot of competition on this demo. A good song, just the weakest on this release.
Contents Under Pressure:
I know I’m partial because I am playing on it but what a way to go out. This is such a great release. I do not think there is a weak note on it. Every song stands on its own and god damnit we do not sound like another band on planet earth. This is uniquely our Oblivion sound and identity. You can hear all five of the previous demos influence on these songs. We took the best and saved it for last. Scarred for Life’s guitar layers and speed rifle through you plus we do not have a chorus (a tip of the hat to our Prog influences). The song is about the victim of rape, who gets her revenge through castrating her attacker, not for the faint of heart. Blind Faith is the first music Frank brought to the band and it has a little Messhugah feel but there was not a Messhugah yet. The entire song is strong and made us better musicians. The lyrics focus on religion but it is also inspired by the tragic murder of Toms River resident, Maria Marshall, whose husband hired someone to kill her at a rest stop on the Garden State Parkway, not a happy song in anyway. The “new” Germ Warfare uses almost the same lyrics from the BTM version but with all new music. There was nothing wrong with the original music, the lyrics just fit a song I wrote and George plagiarized himself. Killer track and another Top 5 Oblivion song. D.O.A. is about an abortion and very dark. I think this is the one song that might sound like another band, I can hear the Testament influence but it is still a great song with a lot of riffs. Involuntary Bio-Conflagration (IBC) was Frank’s second track and our most technical song. It is my favorite one on the demo and really set the stage for our direction. I wrote No Code and Dave wrote Mind Ripper (the two live) and you can hear the IBC influence on those songs. Plus, it’s a song about spontaneous combustion, how can you go wrong. Product of the Environment simply kicks your ass from the first note to the last and is heavy. It’s a song about getting lost in your own space in your mind and succumbing to all of the bad influences of society for the worst. Another dark song with great riffs, we were building on a theme. Overall, Chris Kelly’s drumming is bloody amazing on these six songs too.
CF: Out of all the demos do you have a particular favorite and a least favorite of the ones you played on?
BP: Contents Under Pressure is without a doubt my favorite and the one that I am most proud of creating. Again, I think it only sounds like Oblivion, it does not sound like any other band and that is really hard to do. It is intentional and it took a lot of hard work. My least favorite is War Gives Me Peace of Mind? because we rushed it and the production is not great. If we spent more time crafting the songs I would have liked it better. We wanted to do something different but we did not put enough time and effort into it. It was a learning experience with the new members.
CF: Tell the readers in 2011 about this Remixed release which I actually have a copy of and reformation of the band. Which line-of the band was in this and how long did it last and did you play many shows and all?
BP: The Remixed release contained all of the post-Mike Sica era songs. I had the old reels and kept some flyers and had some videos. Dave contacted me and had the idea to digitize it and remix it. He took the reels to a studio and had it baked then he remixed it with the engineer. We both paid for it Dave did all of the artwork and packaging. It sounded better than the original demos but it was still a low mix and a little muddy. We were happy to have it out regardless. He also released a live DVD that I wish I had. Oh the shows, we actually only played once. Every other show had a natural disaster or band member disagreement cancel it. Hurricane Sandy canceled one of the shows, so we had that going for us. The one show we played was a last minute request from the promoter. We knew two days prior to playing and we were way too loud for the club. I think we literally blew the doors off of the place. It was very loud and we had a great turn out.
CF: Now I see in the CD booklet in 2013 you were working on a new release. Now far did this actually go? Did you have songs ready to go and record? Was anything actually recorded? If so will ever see the light the day?
BP: This one hurts. We were going to self-release four new songs on an EP titled Mankind Becomes Inhuman.” It was becoming a concept album. All of the music is recorded and complete. We just need vocals. George left prior to finishing so Dave and I tried to do the vocals and it’s just not the same without George. George is willing to finish it then we can mix it. Unfortunately, not all of the members want to finish it. We just need one member to give us the green light to finish it and George will do it. He just is not willing to agree to it. I doubt it will see the light of day, unless he has a change of heart. I hope he does but I do not see it happening. It’s been finished for so long I hope the studio still has the files. All four songs are really strong and it deserves a release…oh well.
CF: So now is the band still together. What is the current line-up?
BP: Yes we are together but are on hiatus until other projects are complete. Mike Sica is playing bass in Lethal Aggression and Dave Gutierrez is playing guitar. They are recording new Lethal material, so check it out. When he is done, we are hoping to play select shows and see where it goes. Dave Gutierrez might even be willing to sing and/or play some rhythm guitar. The current line-up is George Machuga-Vocals, Mike Sica-Guitar, Frank Bonanno-Guitar, Santo DiBenedetto and Chris Kelly-splitting time on drums and me on bass. We are discussing how we want to do it and it should be soon. A tentative set list is in place.
CF: So how did this whole thing with Divebomb Records come together? Did any other labels approach you during the years to put out your stuff on CD? Did you get many people over the years asking you to dub stuff onto CD for them? Did you ever give any thought of posting the demos on-line or on You Tube for people to hear?
BP: A few people asked Matt Rudzinski at Divebomb to look at Oblivion and a few people told me to reach out to Divebomb. I checked out the website and it looked like it would be a good fit. I like their slogan, “for the fans, by the fans.” We all have personal lives and none of us are looking to make money in the band. We did want a remix of all of the material, where the listener does not need to turn the volume to 10 just to hear it. Matt and everyone at Divebomb know their shit and are complete professionals. We send MP4s downloaded directly from the analog audio cassettes and sent it to them. Jamie King at the Basement Studios is a magician. I cannot believe how great the songs sound from the original analog sources. The mix is amazing and a huge improvement over Remixed. I have to acknowledge Steven Cobb too because I had the concept for the CD cover of earth depicted as a skull then being destroyed by a gamma ray from WR105, which is a star in Sagittarius. He completely nailed the artwork on Cyclogenesis: Songs for Armageddon.
The songs are posted on www.Reverbnation.com/oblivionband and on
Tribunal Records Bandcamp page
and we have the YouTube Channel – Oblivion USA. So, we have songs out there. I hope people still buy the CD because the packaging is incredible. I did not go to any other labels, only Divebomb. This is done out of my passion for Oblivion and they are doing it for their passion for the music, so I don’t care if someone is paying me. I just want people to enjoy our music.
CF: How did you end up on an episode of Metal Evolution, which was a weekly metal show of sorts or like the history of metal on VH-1?
BP: I have no fucking clue. I assume Sam Dunn had Back To Maim and used it. I was lying in bed, listening to Lars Ulrich blabber about the organic nature of tape-trading and I saw our demo cover. That was cool, especially because I was part of the tape-trading underground. Plus, how many bands put out seven demos without releasing an album? I bet it’s just us, so we are THE demo band.
CF: Do you personally have all original copies of all the demos that you played on? Do you have a lot of the old flyers and reviews on the band and is one of the reviews you used is that one from Metal Core or no? If it is not I won’t be mad haha. Do you ever go through some of your old stuff at times and say to yourself “wow those were some great times?”
BP: Yes, except I lost Why Did Johnny Kill. I went through everything when we were sourcing material for Cyclogenesis, so I scanned all of the flyers, almost all of the band photos, reviews and charts along with Mike and Santo. Our wives wanted to kill us because of the time we put into this CD. The really cool stuff was some of the old charts where Oblivion is charting higher than Metallica. And yes, we use the Metal Core reviews in our Press Kit and on the www.Reverbnation.com/oblivionband page.
We even thank you in the CD for what you and Metal Core has meant to the scene for 30 years. That is commendable. (my pleasure-chris)
Putting all of this material together for the CD really brought back great memories and rekindled long time friendships. Unfortunately, Joe Farley, Damian Cordisco and John Kraus all passed away. There is still one member that is remaining distant since the Mankind Becomes Inhuman recording session and looking through all of the old stuff, I just hope he can come back to being friends because life is too short to hold onto bitterness.
CF: I personally miss the old days cause the scene is not close knit like it used to be when we would all write letters, send flyers out and anticipate the mail every day waiting for a new demo or release in the mail and you don’t get that these days. I imagine you mailed out tons of flyers on your own band as well as other zines and other bands back in the day. Am I right?
BP: A-Fucking-men! You are on spot. We all put in so much time and effort back then and it was all “done by hand.” You put your heart and soul into fanzines, music, flyers and everything else. There was a personal part of us in everything from that scene. A lot of the art sucked but even the crappy art is better than a perfected computer generated logo or CD cover. I know a lot of young and talented musicians, who are way better players than I am but they strive for this perfection that is almost robotic and emotionless. Hell, most drummers do not even play live on CDs anymore they just program the drum machine for perfection then the bass and guitars get pro-tooled to death. Yeah the production is great but the heart and soul is missing. Now I just sound like an old man. Everything is just instant satisfaction and perfection today and to me that is Mankind Becoming Inhuman. We are all connected but more disconnected than ever.
I think this is why I like GOJIRA so much. It’s the best produced music on the market, they do it themselves in their own studio and let it breathe. They could be just another incoherent death metal band, except their music is art and expressive. It’s by humans for humans.
CF: Have you ever gone on sites like eBay and seen your demo tape or demo tapes for sale or has any bootlegged any of your stuff that you know of?
BP: Holy shit, yes. I think it was in 2012 and someone was selling an original Why Did Johnny Kill demo cassette tape for $200. I was like, we dubbed everyone one of them and the actual tape had me or George’s handwriting on it. Very obscure. It’s cool and if anyone wants to bootleg, go ahead, I appreciate you getting our music out there, just do not bootleg the Cyclogenesis CD until Divebomb sells out of the pressing because they already made the investment and it’s only $15 if you want it.
CF: Now the band was based out of Toms River, NJ. I imagine you have been to Seaside Heights, NJ as I have many times. What are some memories you have of this place? Do you ever play any of the games on the boardwalk?
BP: Seaside Heights was where me and George lived and George still lives there. If you ever go to Lucky Leo’s he still works there. Stop by and say “Hi.” Tell him you like Oblivion and you will make his day. We played at Razzles in the 80’s and they made us stop early because of the rowdy crowd. We were going to play JRs on the Boardwalk but Sandy hit right before the show when we reunited. It’s a shame that Fun Town pier burned down too. I take my kids up there still and my 11 year old son is a fisherman so we fish there too. You should have looked us up back in the day, we had some great parties on Franklin Ave.
CF: Now what are some good and bad times you have of the band overall? What are some things you would do differently?
BP: Good times mostly; I loved playing shows especially when there was a good sound system and crowd. I did not mind all of the fights. I think it almost added to our shows. There was always someone getting thrown out for fighting. I miss writing songs and crafting tunes because it allows you to be creative and hopefully resonate with someone. The bad times were always about petty and self-centered bullshit. Leave the ego at the door and be part of something better than the individual. I think a band is a sum of its parts and nobody is better than anybody because music is subjective. It was never “my” band, it was only “our” band. I hate it when people say come see “my” band because they sound like a narcissist.
If I were going to do anything different, I would write a Mission Statement and Business Plan to make sure all of the members had the same goal. If someone had individual goals then I would have liked to know ahead of time. I wanted to make this a career and when I look back at it, I can see where my dream got shit on just because we never had a mission statement. I wish I could take back a few mean comments from over the years and maybe treat a few people better by understanding them.
CF: Now who had a hand in making this whole re-release possibly besides yourself? Do all the other ex-members know about this CD release and if so what are their thoughts on it?
BP: Mike Sica and Santo DiBenedetto put a ton of effort into making this happen. Chris Kelly helped a lot too. Outside of us, everyone just let us do our thing and did not do too much. Charlie sent me some old pictures to use. Every member is aware of the project and everyone has copies of the CD. We broke it up evenly, other than Joe Farley (RIP). We dedicated the release to Joe too. I’ve heard from everyone except two members and they all love the final product. They cannot believe how good it sounds and how amazing the packaging came out. (it is too-chris)
CF: Now we are almost into 2017. Do you see the band putting out any new material and playing any live shows?
BP: I see us playing some shows and if that goes well, we all of a ton of songs and riffs that we could probably turn into 10 songs quickly. I hope so, I just do not know about the new songs yet. We will be playing shows but at a snail’s pace.
CF: Are you amazed in some way that bands like Metallica, Exodus, Anthrax, Slayer, Death Angel, and others are still even around these days?
BP: Not really. If I were in their shoes I’d be doing it too. I think I have the same mindset as them and I commit to things, especially when I love doing it. Hell, I’m out here promoting Oblivion and I’m still committed to it. They are lucky to be able to do it for a living and all of them have lineup changes. I only wish I could be in their shoes. I mean, what else are they going to do? It’s so much fun writing songs and people still want it. Good music is good music and other than Metallica the others probably need the paycheck. Even Metallica started writing good music again.
CF: Please plug any websites or sites the band has these days?
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCpxW_DPr5wdrqHeIEsryzkg or search Oblivion USA
CF: Bob I am out of questions. Horns up for doing this novel of an interview and any last words to wrap this up?
BP: Holy cow that was the biggest interview in history. Are you really using all of this? It took me a goof eight hours to complete. You are a madman. Thank you for always supporting heavy music and doing what you do. You helped so many good bands over the years and are a huge part of keeping underground music alive. Metal Core and Divebomb Records are very similar in that regard – you are both purists and do it for all of the right reasons.
Please listen to the double CD, Cyclogenesis: Songs for Armageddon and help spread the word. If your readers give it a listen, I know they will not be disappointed regardless of hearing it 25 years ago or for the first time. Good music is good music and it does not matter if it was released on MCA or independently. And, one last thing, if you are in a band using the name OBLIVION, stop using our band name. We were the first ones using it and we are still using it. Shame on anyone using our band name, especially for the ones using it that know they are using it and know who we are…WE ARE OBLIVION and no other band is, that really pisses me off!