Exclusive Interviews Only Found Here at MetalCore!
Prime Evil is back. This band was around back in the 80’s and was criminally overlooked by record labels at the time and broke up, but now they are back with a new release on Inferno Records and here is an interview with original member and guitar player Mike Usifer about the old days and what led the band to getting back together:
MC: Have you always lived in NY? What sort of kid were you growing up? Did you come from a big or small family?
MIKE: Yeah, I'm a born and bred New Yorker. As a kid, I pretty much did my own thing. I never hung out at home much. I was usually out in the streets hanging out and doing whatever. I come from a large Italian family. My grandparents were immigrants to the U.S., so I'm the first one of only the second generation born in the U.S.
MC: Was music always a big part of your life say from when you were a teenager onward? What were some of the 1st bands that you heard that you liked?
MIKE: Music has always been a big part of my life, even as a young kid. My grandfather, mother, and uncle would sit around playing songs together on guitar, and I always wanted to be a part of that. A lot of my relatives are musicians, including my great-uncle Paul Lavalle and my brother Brian Usifer.
As a young kid, I would listen to my parent’s albums of The Beatles, Rolling Stones, etc. When I was 10, I grabbed my aunt's Black Sabbath 'Paranoid' album, and it was all over for me. That sound grabbed me like no other music had ever before, and I've been a metalhead ever since!
MC: Was there a single thing or a number of things that made you want to pick up the guitar? How would you rate yourself as a guitar player?
MIKE: Like I said, there was always music around when I was young, but I think the defining moment for me was when I was around 6 or 7 years old, and I saw an old performance of The Beatles on TV. I was more interested in watching George Harrison playing the guitar than I was in watching the front men. I knew at that moment, I wanted to play guitar in a rock band.
I consider myself to be a guitarist in constant training. I am always trying to improve my skills, and learn new things.
MC: What thing or things led to you getting into heavy metal as a whole? What were some of the 1st bands that you liked and are you still into any of those bands these days?
MIKE: It was definitely the guitar sound that first attracted me to metal. It was just so thick and heavy. Also, the speed, the time changes, and the intricacy of metal compared to other music. I was never into pop or Top 40 - I hated anything popular. Metal was exactly what I was looking for. The first bands I got into were Black Sabbath, early Rush, early Van Halen, and early Iron Maiden. I still listen to the older stuff occasionally, but I've always been into discovering new bands and music, graduating into different genres of Metal as they evolve. From Sabbath and Maiden, I moved on to Motörhead and Slayer, then Dark Angel, Atheist, Carcass, Napalm Death, etc. There are also a lot of good young Metal bands out there today like Malignancy, BrainDead, Hypoxia, Castrator, Drakaris, and Blast Furnace .
MC: How did you come to discover the underground? What did you think of this music when you 1st heard it? What were some of the 1st bands that you heard?
MIKE: I hung out with metalheads, so we all would be grabbing the newest albums and turning each other on to them. The Metal Massacre compilations were the first things I heard - then came the first Slayer album, Exciter, Razor, Hellhammer, Venom, and of course being in NY there was Overkill and Anthrax. I never got into the Bay area thrash though. It was too "happy" sounding to me. I like my metal dark.
MC: Now was this music like a drug that you sought out and wanted more and more of? Were there any record stores that sold underground releases? Did you ever do any tape trading back in the day?
MIKE: I could never get enough metal! There were a lot more record stores around then selling all the "import" Metal releases. There was Bleeker Bobs in the Bowery, Slipped Disc in Valley Stream, Record City in Poughkeepsie, and Rock Fantasy in Middletown. I believe Rock Fantasy is the only store still open.
Tape trading was huge for me. I discovered most of my favorite bands that way. I still have hundreds of demos from bands like Cannibal Corpse, Death, Malevolent Creation, Atheist, Watchtower, Cynic, Morbid Angel, Macabre, etc. those are some of my favorite.
MC: Was Prime Evil the 1st band that you joined or formed or was their other bands prior to them? How did you come to join the band? Did you go through many line-up changes before coming to a core line-up?
MIKE: I jammed in a couple of garage bands when I first started, but I guess you could say Prime Evil was the first band I formed, even though we went under numerous name changes the first year and a half (Mutilator, Aggressor, Betrayer, etc.). I was friends with Andy's (vocals) brother Chris, and he recommended jamming with a drummer, Guy Ferdico, in June of 1984. Guy had a friend who sang, Phil Familio, who we taught to play bass, and we played Sabbath, Ozzy, and Maiden covers. I was really into the two guitars of Iron Maiden, so, we added a second guitarist 2 weeks before our first gig. Right about that time is when I decided to add Slayer and Motörhead songs to our set, and Phil was unable to sing them. We went through a couple of vocalists before Chris recommended his brother Andy. None of us had a PA, so he just screamed along with us, and totally blew us away! We played our first show with Andy in December of 1985, opening for his brother Chris' band Savage Choir. Guy and Phil both quit after that show, stating that we were getting too fast for their tastes. In January of 1986, Andy penned the name Prime Evil. Between 1986 and 1992 we had MANY line-up changes. Andy and I were the only 2 members that remained with the band during that entire time. From '87 - '92 Mary Ciullo was our only bassist. We appeared to have a revolving door policy when it came to drummers and 2nd guitarists. We disbanded in July of '92 as a four-piece, which is where we are at today.
MC: How did you end up finding the other band members? What were the early practices like and did you play any over tunes in the early days of like practices and stuff like that? What are some of the good memories you have of those early days?
MIKE: In 1986 we put an ad in a local music paper and Alex Landolina (drums) and Steve Hanson (bass) responded and joined the band. Later that year, the second guitarist we had at that time quit, so Steve (who was a guitarist playing bass) moved to second guitar, and a friend took over the bass duties.
In '87, Andy and I needed to replace the rhythm section. We had a friend who knew a really good bassist, but thought we wouldn't be interested because she was a girl. Andy wound up meeting Mary Ciullo at a Slayer concert, and the rest is history! Mary liked the same heavy music and wore jeans, tour shirts, and leather jackets like we did. She was not only an amazing bass player and musician, but she was the same type of person we all were. Mary knew a drummer, Tad Leger, and he accepted an invitation to try out for the band. Tad was an amazing drummer, and he joined Prime Evil in early '87.
The previous guitarist who quit wound up rejoining the band. Tad joined the band Toxic shortly after recording our first demo, and the drummer from a hardcore band called Leprosy joined us in late '87, quit in early '88, and rejoined a few months later and we recorded 'The Manifestation' demo. We went through a few different drummers in '89 and in '90 the drummer who recorded 'The Manifestation' demo came back and we recorded the 'Industry Demo'. That drummer and the second guitarist quit again in '91, and a good friend of mine, who I had jammed a lot with, Matt Mayfield, joined the band and we remained a four-piece until we disbanded in July of 1992. When we reformed in 2010, it was with the same line-up that we recorded 2 of our 3 demos with. That lasted until the end of 2011, when Andy and I found ourselves looking for replacements again.
Here's where it gets interesting. I was interviewing a young band called In Darkest Days for the NY Metal website (which I never finished cause the band broke-up!) and after the interview they asked me about Prime Evil. I mentioned that we had a show coming up for the release of our Ep 'Evilution', and we were talking to some drummers about playing the show with us. That's when they offered for their drummer, Billy Wassweiler, to play the show. 3 days later, Billy was jamming with us, and he's been with us ever since. The ironic thing is that Billy's father (also named Billy) was the drummer in Andy's brother's Chris' band, Black Witch. Finding Rob was kind of funny too. He actually came along with his friend, who was trying out for the band, and somehow, by the end of the night, it was Rob jamming with us and his friend was watching.
In the early days, we used to do covers of Motörhead, Venom, Celtic Frost, S.O.D., and Slayer to fill in for lack of original songs. But, by 1988, we were strictly an original band.
MC: How long had the band been together before you started to write original songs and did things click rather quickly with the other band members? Looking back did it feel weird at all in any way with having a female in the band?
MIKE: The first song I ever wrote was "Random Violence", which I wrote before I was even in a band. During the first leg of our career, Andy and I wrote all of our songs, with the exception of one. Now, in our second run, we all contribute to the writing of every song...which I feel is much more creative and more of a band accomplishment than an individual one. Everything clicked with Andy and me immediately, but it wasn't until Mary and Tad joined the band that it clicked with anyone else. Billy and Rob fit in immediately; it was a natural fit with both of them - that was a first. None of us struggle to play together, it all comes naturally. That's when you know you have something special.
Mary is like a sister to us, so it was no different than hanging out with a close family member. We had the same musical taste and love for the underground. It was never weird...quite the opposite. Plus she was way cooler than any of us! We were very happy to have her do most of the band representation.
MC: Did you get to see many classic shows back then and if you did what were some of the shows that you attended back in the mid 80’s that you saw?
MIKE: That was an awesome time to see shows! There was basically a show every weekend at L'amours, The Ritz, The Marquee, CBGB's, Sundance in Long Island, Streets in New Rochelle, or The Chance in Poughkeepsie.
Two shows that stand out the most from back then for me was Slayer and DRI in '84 at L'amour for the Hell Awaits tour (was there for that-cf) and Possessed and Testament in '85 or '86 at L'amour for Beyond the Gates tour when Slayer came out on stage and played songs from their unreleased 'Reign in Blood' on Possessed's gear. (I was there too-cf) I do have to mention also my two favorite tours of the early '90's were 'The Ultimate Revenge 2' tour with Death and Dark Angel, and the Sepultura/Obituary/Sadus tour. I was able to see multiple shows of both tours and they were amazing!
MC: Who came up with the band name and the awesome logo for the band?
MIKE: Andy penned the name in January of 1986. He heard the word "primeval" and thought it sounded cool; so he broke it down into two words; 'Prime' (meaning "the ultimate") and 'Evil', for the meaning of "the ultimate evil"; which of course, is mankind. The logo was incorporated in 1988 and was drawn by one of our former drummers.
MC: So long was the band together before you started to play live shows? Do you remember the 1st show that the band played and who you played with? Was it a mix of cover and original tunes? Were you nervous at all before the show?
MIKE: I guess it all depends on how you look at it, but we had a lot of firsts. The first band I formed in June of '84 that would become Prime Evil, played our first show on Labor Day of '84 at a concert in the park. We played all covers of Sabbath, Ozzy, Dio, and Maiden. I've never gotten stage fright. I've always felt at home on stage, and I miss it when I'm not.
MC: What were some of the other early shows like? Did you get a decent turnout as far as people goes for these bands and did you play with any other name bands at all at any of these shows? What was the crowd reaction like for you guys?
MIKE: Our first show with Andy on vocals was in December of 1985, opening for Andy's brother Chris' band Savage Choir at the American Legion Post 666 in Beacon, NY. There were about 250 people there, and we received a great response from the crowd. We usually always got a good reaction, with the exception of the first time we played CBGB's in '87 with PMS (all girl band) and Dirge (who got signed that night before any of us left the club). We were put right in the middle of 2 other openers who were hardcore, and with the exception of about 5 or 6 metalheads that were there for us, the hardcore crowd just stood there with their arms folded during our entire set. That was definitely NOT the reaction we were hoping for ha ha!
MC: Now in 1987 you released you self-titled demo. Where was this recorded at and how many songs were on it? How was it going into the studio for the 1st time and looking back at it now, what are your thoughts on this demo?
MIKE: Andy was in college at the time, majoring in communications, so we first went in to the campus studio and recorded a live 5 song demo on 8 analog tracks. Those songs were Random Violence, Kill For Me, Prime Evil, The Manifestation, and Darkfall.
Andy later got an internship at Electric Reels Studio where we recorded Random Violence, Kill For Me, Living in Fear, and Prime Evil on 16 analog tracks and released it as our self-titled first demo. That was our first time in a professional recording studio with a professional engineer. He heard our college demo, and he told us he was gonna make us sound like AC/DC! (Which I think was the heaviest band he had heard before us)! He made us record without any distortion - which we hated - and when it was done, I'd have to say we definitely sounded more like AC/DC than Prime Evil ha ha! Back then we hated the sound of it, but over the years it bothers me less.
MC: Now did you send this demo out to many fanzines at the time and if you did what were the reviews like and feedback overall? Did you make many copies to sell at shows at all and if so around how many copies did you make and was these copies done from tape to blank tape and do you have your personal master copy he he?
MIKE: We did send the demo out to a lot of fanzines, and quite honestly, I was pretty surprised at the positive response we got from it. At the time, I really thought it sucked! I just didn't feel that it was a good representation of the band. I think we sold somewhere around 700 copies of the first tape through mail orders and shows. They made a master cassette tape in the studio for us, and Mary dubbed all of the copies at normal speed herself! As for the original tape reels, I believe Andy has those.
MC: Did you send the demo out to any record companies or did you think it was too soon for that? If you sent them out to any, what was the response like?
MIKE: No, we did not send the first demo to any labels. Like I said, we didn't feel it was a good representation of the band at the time. In hindsight, we probably should have sent it to labels.
MC: Now the next year, 1988, you released “The Manifestation” demo. How was the response to this overall? Did you send this out to every fanzine on planet earth? Did this help with getting shows and stuff and what were some of the shows you played back then and some of the bands you shared the stage with?
MIKE: I guess you could say that 'The Manifestation' demo kind of put us on the map, so to speak. We did send it out to every fanzine that we knew of, and it definitely helped us to get a lot more shows. We recorded 'The Manifestation' demo at Northlake Sound in White Plains, NY on 24 analog tracks with Eddie Solan engineering. He did a tremendous job really capturing our true sound, and gave it a professional quality. From '88 - '90 we played non-stop. We were fortunate enough to play with some great bands, including Immolation, Demolition Hammer, Cannibal Corpse, Deicide, Malevolent Creation, Cynic, Deceased, Revenant, and Death, Sepultura, Obituary, Morbid Angel, Napalm Death, Carcass, and later on new-comers like Incantation, Mortician, Suffocation, Morpheus Descends. We also played with hardcore bands like the Cro-Mags and Murphy's Law, the Functional Idiots, and Violent Plague.
MC: In your career did you ever get to play Lamour’s or CBGB’S or The Bottom Line? If you played any of the 3, what was that like especially Lamour’s? Did you go to Lamour’s and if you did what were some of the shows that you saw back then?
MIKE: I already mentioned our first show at CBGB's, and two great shows I saw at L'amour. We played at L'amour in 1990 with Cannibal Corpse and Revenant. That was a killer show! The place was packed and all the bands crushed! It was cool because I had been going there for years, and saw just about every heavy show they did. Besides Slayer and DRI, Possessed and Testament; there were the NY mainstays like Carnivore, Cro-Mags, Overkill, Anthrax, SOD, MOD, and Nuclear Assault.
MC: Now “TheManifestation ” demo. Were these professionally done or were they blank tapes with the songs recorded on it? Did you have any kind of following over in Europe and was the demo ever reviewed in Metal Forces or any of the bigger mags over there?
MIKE: The labels were professionally printed this time, but once again, Mary Ciullo did all of the dubbing herself. It was a demo tape in a nice package. Since putting out our first demo, we gained a decent following in South America and Europe thanks to fanzines and tape trading. 'The Manifestation' demo did get fair reviews in both Metal Forces and Kerrang.
MC; Did you play out of town much at all? I know you got to play G Wilker’s in NJ. What was that like any were there any other places you got to play at and do you feel you were a good live band? If there any live videos of you guys from back then on say You Tube?
MIKE: Yeah man, road trips were the best! G Wilikers was a blast! Annie booked a shitload of great shows there. We even played their reunion show in 2013. We played up in Buffalo with Cannibal Corpse a few times and got to be good friends with them. Buffalo had a huge scene back then. Some of the sickest shows we ever played were in Buffalo. We played in Pittsburgh a couple of times with Immolation and Ripping Corpse. We played the Safari Club in Washington DC with Deceased - that was another sick show! We also played a really cool Metal FEST in Boston with Suffocation....
I have tons of video on VHS that I haven't had a chance to transfer yet. I know there's a video of us playing "Terminal Dementia" at Streets in New Rochelle opening for Immolation and Death with Josh and Terrance from Suffocation stage diving! That was a another sick show! We made a lot of life-long friends that night as well. We always gave it our all at every show. Let's face it, if you're not getting into the music you're playing, how do you expect the audience to get into it?
MC: Would you say you were an original band and when do you think you found the “Prime Evil” sound so to speak? Speaking of, if nobody has heard the band, what would you say your music sounds like?
MIKE: Great question. To me, an original band creates a sound that no one else has at that time, or any time before. I think that's pretty hard to do nowadays, especially in metal. Bands like Black Sabbath, Rush, Iron Maiden, Watchtower, Death, Atheist, Cynic....they brought Metal to different levels than anyone else had at that time or before, so I consider them to be original. All of those bands have influenced me, so I can't honestly consider us to be original. In fact, I probably have more influences than most. Besides the bands I just mentioned, Dark Angel is one of my biggest influences. But I would have to also include Carcass, Napalm Death, Goatwhore, and some newer bands like Job For A Cowboy, Whitechapel, and Cattle Decapitation. Those guys aren't just brutal, they're talented musicians. I was also heavily influenced by the early hardcore scene before crossover became popular. I love almost every genre of Metal; but I guess you could say I only like what I think are the best bands in each genre. Prime Evil has never set out to be the most original or avant-Garde band; we merely strive to be a good, solid, all-around metal band with good songs that aren't boring and that we enjoy playing.
As for finding the "Prime Evil" sound; I think we have an identifiable sound, but we intend to constantly grow and develop our sound. I couldn't imagine re-hashing the same old stuff. That would be boring to me and defeat the creativity and excitement that drives me to play and write music.
MC: Now how much time back then was spent doing band related stuff? Who did the mail and the interviews? How many times did the band practice a week? How did a song come together and who wrote the lyrics?
MIKE: Prime Evil was every day of our life for us, as it is now. We've always been a DIY band, and before the internet, it was a lot more work and spending time at the post office! Mary and Andy handled all the mail back then. I was constantly moving from place to place and never really had a permanent address. Mary and Andy would usually split whatever interviews they received with me.
We've always practiced three times a week. It’s that consistency that not only makes you tighter musically, but during bad live situations, we all know how to adapt. Like I mentioned earlier, I wrote the music to all of the songs but one, and both Andy and I wrote the lyrics to all of the songs but the one. As time went on, I was more into writing music and Andy wrote all the lyrics from 1990 on with the exception of one of our new songs which I wrote.
MC: Now in 1990 you did an industry only demo. How was the morale of the band back then? What is the same line-up as when the 1st demo came out? Were you at the time pretty confident that this demo was going to get you signed? Was this demo done for a handful of labels or just all labels in general?
MIKE: That's very insightful Chris! We were coming off of our biggest 2 years, where almost everyone in the underground was saying that we were going to be the next big band, and we opened up for every national tour that came through NY. We did get a few offers from labels, but some weren't much better than what we were already doing ourselves, or they wanted to hold the copyrights and publishing to our music. I know that's standard for a lot of the so-called "big" indie labels, but that was not something I was ever going to give up.
I think it's fair to say that by 1990, the morale of the band was in decline. I mean, Gene Hoglan of Dark Angel used to fly to NY and bring Jim Welch, A & R at Combat Records to our shows and beg him to sign us! All we ever got from that was "I love you guys, but we're not signing anybody right now". Plus Steve Reynolds of Demolition Hammer had the owners of Century Media Records fly to NY from Germany for a personal showcase, and they thought our newest songs were too technical, and they didn't like the direction we were heading in. So, the industry only demo was sort of a last ditch effort to secure a proper record deal, and it was only sent to a few select labels. (those labels were fools back then-cf)
MC: Where did you record this demo and was it ever available to the public at all? Do you remember how many labels you sent it to and were there any label at the time interested in the band at all?
MIKE: We really wanted to work with Eddie Solan at Northlake Sound again, but we just couldn't afford it. Rob from Morpheus Descends recommended a studio he used with his previous band because it was less expensive, but still 24 tracks. I honestly can't remember the name of the studio, but I think the owner/engineer's name was Elliot. He was a nice guy and all, and he had some really cool ideas, but we wound up spending so much time with him showing us stuff that we didn't want to do. We spent just as much money anyway. Once we got the final mix, we weren't satisfied, so we brought the tapes to Northlake and had Eddie remix it, as well as re-recording the vocals and bass.
I think we sent it out to about 7 labels or so. We received a second offer from Kraze Records - who had our mates Ripping Corpse, and who our first offer from wound up going to Bio-Hazard. We spent 6 months negotiating the contracts back and forth (we used Suffocation's lawyer), and on the day we were to sign the contract of a life-time with them, they informed us they were going bankrupt and rescinded the contract! (holy shit-chris)
We wound up releasing the first 2 songs of that demo, "Terminal Dementia" and "Global Degredation" on a 7 inch red vinyl with Rage Records in 1992. The other 2 songs, "Redemption" and "Artificial Intelligence" were released on a compilation CD 'History of Things to Come' on Growing Deaf Entertainment in 1994.
MC: What was the morale of the band like in 1991? Was the band as a whole getting frustrated as bands were getting signed right and left and that the death metal scene was totally starting to explode at this time and here you were with no label?
MIKE: The drummer and second guitarist we had at the time got discouraged and both eventually quit for the second time. Matt Mayfield joined the band on drums, and we never added another guitarist. We kind of knew where we stood then. We weren't total death metal, but we were too heavy for thrash. We weren't about to change either way just for a record deal. Besides, most of those bands signed away the rights to their songs, which is something we have always refused to do.
MC: Did you still manage to play out a lot? Did you hope you were just one break or 2 from getting signed?
MIKE: Yeah, I think we played more than ever! There was the NY Deathfest (birth place of NYDM), and countless tours coming through that we were able to get on. I think we always hoped to have a proper record deal, no matter what year it was!
MC: Now in 1992 you released a single called “Terminal Dementia”. Who put this out and how many copies were made? Did this release sell out rather quickly?
MIKE: Ed Farshtey, who did 'The Book of Armageddon' fanzine, and Joe Pupo, who did the 'Rage of Violence' fanzine, started Rage Records. We were one of their first releases, along with Exmortis. It was a limited edition, on blood red vinyl. They pressed 1,000 which sold out pretty quick. "Terminal Dementia" even landed on the CMJ Loud 100 chart for a while in the Summer of '92.
MC: At this point I have no idea why a label would not sign you. Looking back do you have any idea why? Did you ever get any rejection letters or anything in writing that was saying why?
MIKE: The only responses we ever received either said "we are not accepting unsolicited material at this time", or "we are not signing any acts at this time." All I can say is that either they didn't like us personally, or they didn't think we would sell any records. Who knows for sure? Maybe we pissed off too many people along the way ha ha!
MC: At what point did the band decide to break up? Was it more of a band decision or did band members start to leave then everybody decided to just go their own way?
MIKE: Losing band members was never really a concern. We've always dealt with that. It comes down to loyalty and belief in what you're doing. If a member loses that, than they no longer belong here. Those of us that stuck it out to the end were no longer in school or living with parents. We all had full time jobs, our own places, and plenty of bills. Without any backing, it was getting harder for us to afford to keep going at the level we were at back then. Our next step was to record and release a full length album, but we couldn't do that on our own. We had a show in July of 1992 at The Marquee in NYC with Brutal Truth, Incantation, and Pungent Stench. We knew that there were going to be record label's A & R at the show, and we decided that if we didn't get any interest, that would be our last show. We didn't make any announcements, and we didn't get any offers....It was just over.
MC: At the time were you sorry to see the band go? Did you feel pissed off as the band had worked hard and all and no label was willing to sign you, but yet a lot of shitty bands were getting signed and not a quality band like you?
MIKE: Thank you for saying we're a quality band. I truly appreciate that. We always strove for improvement, and we always pushed ourselves to be better. The hard work was worth it to us because we were able to do what we loved to do. Of course I was saddened to have to end it, but realistically, it was the only thing we could do. We surely weren't going to change our sound to get signed. That's never what we were about. The only thing that ever pissed me off was when so-called A & R reps would offer you something, then tell you it was no longer available.
MC: Now long were you out of Prime Evil before you got asked to join Demolition Hammer? How long were you in that band for? Did you record any of their records or do any touring with them?
MIKE: I think it was about 2 weeks after the Marquee show when Steve from Demo Hammer called me. I already had their CD's and demos, so I learned all the songs in 2 weeks and started rehearsing with them. We had a month of rehearsal before we went out on their North American Epidemic of Violence tour with Deicide and Cancer.
MC: Now if you did any touring or recording, what was that like? Did you ever get to go overseas at all? Was touring like you thought it was going to be? Did anybody mention Prime Evil to you at any shows?
MIKE: They had already finished up their European tour just before I joined the band. I kind of already knew about touring from spending time with Death and Dark Angel and Sepultura during their tours; but it was definitely cooler being in the touring band.
It was pretty amazing the response I got from people while on tour. I did a ton of interviews strictly about Prime Evil, and a lot of people said they came out just because of Prime Evil. That was pretty cool. I never expected that. Plus, I got to meet up with a lot of people I knew in other bands that Prime Evil were friends with.
MC: What were some of the big differences in the 2 bands, besides the music of course? Were you actually able to make a living being in that band and how hard or easy was it to learn their material and how well did you get along with the other band members?
MIKE: We already knew each other from playing shows together, and they really made me feel like part of the band. They're such great guys, I still feel lucky to have been part of it. The music was actually pretty easy for me to learn. It was surprisingly similar to Prime Evil, especially the 'Epidemic of Violence' songs, so I felt very comfortable playing their music. I truly enjoyed it.
Everybody in Demolition Hammer worked full time jobs. Even back then, bands didn't make any money on album sales because the record companies owned all the rights, and only the tour headliners would make any money. Demo Hammer made some money on merch, but that went to help pay for tour costs not covered by Century Media.
MC: Now you left the band in 1994. Did the band break up or did you just leave the band? What are some memories you have of that time period?
MIKE: I actually had some legal issues that prevented me from doing anything. I led a pretty reckless life that eventually caught up with me. DH finished up as a 3 piece, recording 'Time Bomb' with Alex Marquez on drums and played one or 2 shows before calling it quits.
There are so many great memories from playing with them, I value them all. They taught me how to appreciate the cities we were in when touring, and I'm really glad I did. I was able to see every landmark in this country, and discover cool cities like Montreal and Toronto. I also learned a lot about the business end from Steve, and Derek taught me a lot about guitar gear and how do get the sound I really wanted. Vinny and I pretty much just partied and tattooed, and Alex is one of the coolest, most genuine person I've had the pleasure to jam with and share a stage.
MC: Now did you still stay in touch with the other band members during this time? From time to time did you think of what Prime Evil could have been?
MIKE: I talked to Mary from time to time, and I remained good friends and still jammed with our last drummer Matt. I never thought about what "could have been." I've always been proud of my time with Prime Evil, and what we were able to accomplish all on our own.
MC: Now I know Ed Farshety (I know its spelled wrong ha ha) is a huge fan of the band. When he contacted you around 2001 to put together a release of all your material what was your reaction? What did the other members of the band think at the time? Who had masters of all the material and how fun was it putting together all your material?
MIKE: Hahaha! I was never involved with, or did I even know about it. We had originally gotten all the masters together for a vinyl release in 1999, but that wound up falling through (typical, lol).
MC: Now the ‘Unearthed” release came out in 2002. What did you think of the finished product? What was the response to the release like and was it a shock to you or any of the other band members?
MIKE: Yeah, we were all pretty shocked actually. Mary did it secretly on her own as a surprise for the rest of us, except for drummer Tad who did the layout. Obviously, I was pretty impressed, although I wouldn't have put the rehearsal songs on there.
MC: Was there any talk at this time of the band getting back together and did you end up doing any live shows at all at the time for this release?
MIKE: Well, it was the 10 year anniversary of our dis-banding, and we were asked to do some shows, but I was still unavailable at the time.
MC: Now the internet was around at this time, but not as big as it is now. Do you think if you had stuff like Facebook, Twitter, Reverbnation, etc that the band could have gotten bigger than they did back in the day?
MIKE: I don't think so. We did everything possible to promote ourselves back then, and we still do. The internet has leveled the playing field for everyone. Now Johnny's garage band can have just as many internet fans as a national act. Every band now has the same tools to work with.
MC: So after the compilation cd came out what did you end up doing with yourself? Did you ever go on sites like Ebay to see if anybody was selling any of your stuff and if so was anybody and what was the price?
MIKE: Ha ha! No, I never did any of that. At that point Prime Evil was just a part of my past. It wasn't until later on, when my kids started telling me that their friends listened to Prime Evil that I really started thinking about it again. I was never into doing Myspace or Facebook. I'm a very private person. The only reason why I have Facebook now is to promote Prime Evil.
MC: So what did you do with yourself from 2003 till 2011? Did you join any bands or see many shows? If so what bands and shows? Did you still play guitar much or did you end up getting married and stuff?
MIKE: Well, I did get married. I actually had to change my lifestyle. I led a pretty reckless life - hence my aforementioned legal issues. In 2006 I was involved in a car accident which required me to undergo a few spinal surgeries. I was unable to play guitar for a couple of years. I spent 2009-2010 re-learning and re-teaching myself how to play guitar.
MC: Now what led to the band getting back together? Were all the core members of the band asked and what is the line-up these days and what did the former members of the band think about the band being put back together?
MIKE: There were two catalysts that led the band to get back together. The first one is what started the line of communication between us. In 2010, a band of famous musicians who were fans of ours back in the day, decided that they were going to call themselves Prime Evil. Now, we may have not been famous, but Prime Evil was OUR legacy. We asked them not to use the name, but they told us that their fans voted for them to use that name, and they were doing it for their fans. Now, that's sweet and all, but they also told their fans that we were a cover band that took our name from their 1989 album. Funny how we released two demos the two previous years before their release. (This story actually goes back a lot farther and deeper personally, but that's a whole separate interview.) During that time, we were getting threats from their friends and fans to change OUR name! So, we got together to discuss how to handle it legally. Andy had trademarked the name, so we sent them a Cease and Desist, and that was the end of it.
The catalyst that got us from communicating with each other again, to actually reforming, was the release of the documentary publication "Glorious Times" about a month later. Andy had copies for everyone, and we met up at my place for him to give them out. We read through all of it, and talked about jamming again. I had been writing new songs, and we had enough former members available to give it a go. I had asked Matt Mayfield earlier if he wanted to jam on something else with me, but he was unavailable. Truthfully, I had always envisioned our last line-up of me, Andy, Mary, and Matt getting back together, because we were the only ones who never gave up on each other. But, since other former members were willing to do it, I agreed.
Apparently, things really hadn't changed, and those members who quit in the past, wound up quitting again. Mary was the only one who legitimately couldn't do it any longer. The others just weren't really serious about it, so that left Andy and I to find replacements. We jammed with a drummer from Allentown, PA named Greg Guarini for a few months, and he really helped us to get to the next level and to record the 'Evilution' Ep, but he lived too far away for us to rehearse enough. We were lucky enough to have Billy join the band and solidify the drumming, but it took a while to find the right replacement for Mary. We went through some session players and members of other bands until we finally found Rob. Now the line-up is the most solid it has ever been, with 4 equal members for the first time in our history. I think the only former member that is happy about us reforming is Tad, who has always been extremely supportive. Unfortunately, jealousy and insecurities plague some of our other former members and they shall remain forever in the past.
MC: Now in 2012 you released on Ep called “Evilution”. Was this done so the underground music scene would know that the band was back together? Who released this and how many songs are on it and what was the response like to it?
MIKE: Exactly. We didn't reform just to play a bunch of old songs. We reformed because we had new music to offer, and the quickest way for us to get that out was with an Ep. We recorded 3 songs: "Crucifixion Aftermath" - which is a rewrite of the song "Crucifixion D'Amour", one of the rehearsal songs on 'Unearthed'; "Barbaric Rites" - a rewrite of "Barbaric Diplomacy", another rehearsal song from 'Unearthed'; and "Evilution Decree" - a brand new song that Andy and I wrote together. The concept of 'Evilition' was to show how the band had evolved from 1992 to present day. We planned on releasing it ourselves, but when I did an interview for Metal Heart magazine in France discussing the Ep, INFERNO Records asked us if they could release it. All we wanted was to keep ownership of our songs, and all of the digital rights. INFERNO agreed, so we signed with them. They did an amazing job with the packaging and promoting of the Ep. We're extremely happy to have been able to release it with them.
MC: How easy did the songs come together and what was it like going into the studio to record some new music as Prime Evil after all these years?
MIKE: I already had rewritten "Crucifixion" before we reformed, and writing "Evilition" with Andy was a lot of fun. We had previously written "Kill For Me" and "Living in Fear" in the same manner, based on the vocal lines. "Barbaric" was only half written, and I had to finish writing it in the studio.
It felt better than ever to be in the studio recording again. The engineer, Dave Powers, made it a great experience for us. He really helped us out a lot recording the Ep, even programming the drums for us. You see, we walked into the studio as a 5 piece band, and only Andy and I were left when we were finished.
MC: How does it feel not having to write actual letters ha ha and having Facebook pages and just being able to take advantage of all the technology of today?
MIKE: It's much easier ha ha! I'm definitely glad I didn't have to write out this interview lol! But seriously, it's much easier and faster to communicate with people all over the world now. It's very beneficial.
MC: Now has this new line-up has it played live yet? If so how has that gone over and has there been many fans from the golden oldie days in the crowd? What venues have you played at so far?
MIKE: Yeah man, we've played out plenty with this line-up. Billy's been with us since June of 2012 and Robs been with us since February of 2013. I feel that we're tighter and more energetic now than we ever have been. We had to go through some line-up changes to get where we are today, but this is the only line-up that matters.
In 2011 we played The Webster Underground in Hartford, CT and 'The Metal Suckfest' at The Gramercy in NYC. In 2012 we played at The Loft in Poughkeepsie, NY; Saint Vitus in Brooklyn; did a small Northeast Coast tour through Philly, the Jersey Shore, Worcester, MA, and New York; and we played 'A Day of Death' at The Forum in Buffalo, NY. In 2013 we again played at Saint Vitus; a benefit show in Poughkeepsie; the G. Wilikers reunion in NJ; Sounds Asylum in Middletown, NY; Gussy's in Queens; the NYDM 10th Annual FEST in Long Island; the 'Rage of Armageddon FEST' in Brooklyn; and the final 'A Day of Death' in Buffalo. The crowd has been pretty well mixed, with lots of golden oldies and old friends (you were at 2 of those shows) and tons of new faces. All in all, we've gotten a nice response from everyone.
MC: Now you have a new release on Inferno Records. How did you hook up with them and were any other labels interested in the band? Do you think having a label from overseas is going to make things a bit tougher as far as promotion goes?
MIKE: We hooked up with INFERNO with the 'EVILUTION' Ep. As for other interest, we never shopped anything to any other labels. We were going to shop the new album, but we already had a standing offer from INFERNO, and we've been very happy with them. The fact that INFERNO believed in us enough to want to re-sign us was all we needed.
As for promotion, they can do a lot more than we can ourselves, so it's actually beneficial for us. Comparatively to a U.S. label...well, there is no comparison because we didn't receive any other offers. (idiots-cf)
MC: How do you as a band plan on promoting this release? Are you going to try and play a bunch of live shows or is that not possible at this time? Is your set list going to be a mix of old and new tunes?
MIKE: We are currently trying to work out getting on a tour as a supporting act. We have some friends who are also releasing albums this year, so we are working on putting some things together. We have solid people behind us who will make it happen. We'll also try to get on as many good festivals as possible. The set list will be both new and old tunes, and we are planning on recording a majority of the old demo songs with the new line-up before we tour.
MC: Do you feel there are way too many bands and labels these days with way too many shitty bands that bands such as yourselves might get lost in the mix?
MIKE: I think it's easy for ANY band to "get lost in the mix" nowadays; but that doesn't pertain to only metal. The same can be said for any modern genre of music. It's really all about longevity. The music fans will decide who they want to listen to and I think that will be the determining factor. The only way to stand out is to put out good, quality music with excellent musicianship.
MC: How easy was it for the songs for this new release to come together? Speaking of how does a song come together and who writes the music and the lyrics these days?
MIKE: The songwriting has been a lot more creative this time around for us. We basically write one song at a time, and once we have it down, we'll move on to the next. We would have writing sessions in between rehearsals. We would record it, and then all have it down for the next rehearsal. The more we play a song, the more ideas we get and the more we change it. We took the 2 months prior to recording 'Blood Curse Resurrection' to strictly write and get each song to where we thought it sounded best. That was the first time we ever did anything like that, and it was the best writing experience I ever had. All four of us contributed to the music writing of each song, and Andy wrote all of the lyrics himself, with the exception of "Homicidal Assault", which I wrote.
MC: Does the band as a whole have any goals for yourselves and around how much time in any given week is spent doing band related stuff?
MIKE: Our main goal has always been to record and release a proper full-length album. Now that we've done that, our next goals are to tour the States, Europe, and the rest of the world. We also want to re-record a number of our demo songs with this line-up, because the songs have so much more energy now, and with a good production we think they would sound great. Following that, we'll be ready to record our follow-up full-length. Right now, for me, Prime Evil is 24/7. Just ask my wife ha ha!
MC: Who designed the album cover and how did you come up the name for the release, which is “Blood Curse Resurrection”?
MIKE: Andy came up with both the design and the title of the album. I really can't explain the title as well as Andy, it's kind of complicated, so I won't even try ha ha! But for the cover, we decided it was time for the Prime Evil demon to have a full body, instead of just being a skull all these years, and it's a depiction of Hell on Earth.
MC: Does it amaze you sometimes all these sites like You Tube, where people have uploaded shows from the 80’s old demos, you have Facebook with 100’s of metal groups, Twitter and just all these sites in general?
MIKE: It used to amaze me; I guess I have gotten used to it, and I've just accepted it as normal now.
MC: Please plug any websites you have currently.
MIKE3: Okay thanks!
Our Official web site is www.primeevil.net.
Our Facebook page is /real.prime.evil ...
YouTube is /primeevilmu ...
Twitter is /PRIME_EVIL_ny ...
Instagram is /primeevilband
and don't forget www.inferno-records.net
MC: Does it blow your mind in some ways that here in 2015 the band is back and I am sure in 1987 when you released your 1st demo you had no idea in 2015 the band would still be around.
MIKE: Truthfully, back then I don't think we ever thought that far ahead. I didn't really see myself as being alive that long. Like I said, I was pretty reckless. But back in 2002, I actually thought that we would never do Prime Evil again, that it would remain in the past forever. So, I guess the fact that we're releasing our debut full-length studio album 28 years after our first demo is kind of mind blowing!
MC: What are some of the memories of the band that you will never forget? What are some underground memories you will never forget?
MIKE: I haven't really forgotten anything. The good memories highly outweigh any bad ones, which we actually laugh about now. But I'll always remember mostly our studio sessions, the friends we made along the way, some of the great shows we played and great bands we played with, but most especially would be the road trips - they were always a blast!
I guess underground memories would be of some of the clubs and promoters who would put on the shows like at G. Wiliker's, Streets, CBGB's, L'amour, and The Grunge Club in Middletown, NY; but especially the excitement at shows back then. That's something today's scene lacks. Back then, nobody missed a show. Nowadays more people watch the YouTube video of the show instead of actually going.
MC: Back in the day where did you go to buy your metal stuff? Was it Bleeker Bob’s or any other record stores? What bands were you close with back then?
MIKE: Yeah, Bleeker's was a haven. But, we would go to Slipped Disc in Valley Stream, Record City in Poughkeepsie, but mostly I would go to Rock Fantasy in Middletown. I would go in and hang out with the owner, Steve Keeler and talk music all the time. Steve is the coolest; and he's the only one of them still open!
The scene was a lot tighter then. We became friends with almost everyone we played with. On a local level, there was Demo Hammer, Immolation, Suffocation, Mortician, Incantation, Revenant, Ripping Corpse, Violent Plague, Thorazine, Functional Idiots, Murphy's Law, and Morpheus Descends. We also became life-long friends with Cannibal Corpse, Malevolent Creation, and King Fowley of Deceased. On a National level, we were good friends with Cynic; Chuck, Terry, Bill and James Murphy of Death; Gene Hoglan of Dark Angel; Sepultura; Troy from Sindrome out of Chicago; ...I'm probably forgetting a few people
MC: Any last words to wrap up this novel of an interview?
MIKE: EPIC novel ha ha! Thank you Chris for giving underground bands a place to promote themselves and thank you for always being honest. I appreciate your undying support of the Metal scene; you've been keeping it real for over 2 decades now! If anyone wants to hear what we sound like, check out our Official web site; and if you like what you hear, please buy an album from INFERNO Records so that they will be able to keep putting out Metal bands. Hail!