Kam Lee Interview continued from Sick Drummer Magazine Issue 19.
By: Noel Smart
SDM: What was it like doing back up vocals on Nocturnus “The Key”? Is it true that you just dropped by the studio one day to talk to David Stubnig “Vincent” about signing Massacre to his label “Goreque” and just jumped in and did it "in the spirit of the moment"?
Kam: That's NOT really how it happened or how I remember it. Actaully, I was at Morrisound Studios talking about recording more MASSACRE stuff there and Nocturnus was finishing up some vocal sessions. Mike Browning asked if I would like to do some backing vocals and I said sure. I don't think David was there at all. I talked to him at a NAPALM DEATH show because NAPALM DEATH had just finished recording the 'Harmony Corruption' album at Morris sound, and they played a show in Tampa. It was at that show I was talking to David and he was talking to me about reforming MASSACRE with him on bass (this was when all the band members were in DEATH – so around 1989/1990) sometime. He had just finished up with the TERRORIZER album, and was in MORBID ANGEL at the time already, so I wasn't fully shure about it at the time. Now when I reflect back on it, I should have gone with him – instead of getting the older members back. Shit! just imagine what could have happened with that line up instead.
SDM: Can you tell us about some of your previous outfits: Kauldron, Beware, Cadaverizer, Urizen, Abhorrent Existence and Soul Skinner? What happened to all of these projects?
Kam: Well KAULDRON was a band I was doing with Pete Slate and the members of his band EQUINOX. It was meant to be pretty much what his band DRUID LORD is now, but things really didn't work out, as the members all wanted the band to go into different directions than what Pete and I wanted. The band sort of fell apart after a short year or so being together. We only did one recording: a cover version of the song BESTAIL INVASION from DESTRUCTION. It was released on a DESTRUCTION tribute album off of Dwell Records years ago. It's pretty rare.
BEWARE was something I was to do with STEVO of IMPETIGO, however I had a falling out with the label in which it was going to be released on and so BEWARE went on to become STEVO's TOMBSTONES band.
CADAVERIZER was a band I was going to do with Matt Harvey of the band EXHUMED back around 2000. We got to the starting stages of working on the band, but for some reason Matt just stopped contacting me, and so the band just never got finished.
URIZEN is what is now AKATHARTA… it's a band I've been trying to put together for years.
ABHORRENT EXISTENCE was the band I did back in 1987… the first band I played in with Pete Slate. It was right after all the members of MASSACRE quit to join DEATH, so I continued on – moved to a place called Lake County, FL and got the band ABHORRENT EXISTENCE going. It was more or less Death/Thrash style of music. We never did get around to recording any material.
SOUL SKINNER was also later named chaged to CATEGORY III. I started this band back around 2001 – 2002. It was meant to be a grind-core/death band, but we could never find a drummer in our area who could play the style. So basically the band broke up after only a few short months together. I got a new guitarist and re-named the band CAT. III, but still we couldn't find a drummer. So we worked on a few songs using a drum machine, but things never panned out and the band just sort of disolved. A few years later, two of those songs eventually ended up on the DENIAL FIEND album "THEY RISE". Both songs I wrote: "LET THE BLOOD FLOW" and "RIPP YOU INSIDE OUT" – both were originally SOUL SKINNER/CATEGORY III tunes.
SDM: Tell us about the Massacre-Tyrants of Death album that you personally endorse? What are your thoughts and feelings towards the Massacre release “The Second Coming”?
Kam: I luv the 'Tyrants Of Death' release. I think it's some of the BEST of MASSACRE. I think IRON PEGASUS did an outstanding job on the packaging too, and the whole layout of the album looks sweet! Very very proud of this release! BUT, I hate 'The Second Coming' release, not the songs so much, but the quality of the recording and the whole thing was an un-offical live studio demo from back in 1990, so it was never meant to ever be released to the public. It was just something done for the label to hear the tracks, to get their opinion on them. I remember that I was even sick with the flu when we recorded it and the vocals are just pretty much scratch vocal tracks. So it's not really my best work… as a matter of fact I think my vocals on it suck! I remember Don of NUNSLAUGHTER contacted me via e-mail one day and said to me he wanted to release it. I was kind'a avoiding him for a long time because I honestly didn't want it to ever get released, but he was pretty damned insistent. One day I was like "Whatever, sure go ahead – do it." And he put it out! I have so many damned copies of it on CD! I just usually give them away for FREE to whoever wants one. The only cool thing about it was that Don used the cover art for my old fanzine COMATOSE as the cover art for this release. So in a way, it's actually cool to have an album out with my artwork on it!
SDM: Do you have any correspondence with any of the members of Massacre etc.? Do you keep track of any of their projects and bands when they are in the spotlight?
Kam: NO. Those dudes pretty much hate me!
SDM: What happened with Massacre’s “Promise” which supposedly had you walk out on the recording while doing the vocals tracks only for the vocals to be finished by others in the studio?
Kam: I HATE that album… it sucks! The material is just crap and the songs suck. The style of writing on that album is NOT death metal – and NOT worthy to be called MASSACRE. I'll just say this much, for me personally it was a mistake! A huge mistake to be a part of it! It's the biggest regret I have in my music career and I have several regrets in my music career over the years! "Promise" is by far the biggest! It was a combination of bad timing, doing something I really didn't want to do and listening to what "other people's" ideas were, rather than myself.
SDM: With The Grotesquery and your release “Tales of the Coffin Born” how are your fans responding to the material and will we see a second release from “The Grotesquery”? How are Cyclone Empire Records treating this release?
Kam: I think the fans like it a lot more than my previous release with Rogga, which was BONE GNAWER. THE GROTESQUERY seemed to get a lot of good reviews. It was something done on the back flames of BONE GNAWER, so I still had a lot of my focus and energy in BG at the time. Although I did put a lot of thought and work into THE GROTESQUERY and I'm proud of how it came together. Yes, we have plans for a new release from THE GROTESQUERY and we still plan to retain the style and sound, as well as the Lovecraftian influences in the material. Cyclone Empire so far has been a good label, they seem to care for their bands a lot more than most labels. BUUUT – I'm always weary of labels, so it's hard to ask me about my true feelings about them. I've been so fucked over by labels that it's made me bitter when dealing with any label.
SDM: What was it like on Denial Fiend’s “They Rise” to re-work the Mantas cover song of “Legions of Doom” from Chuck Schuldiner’s Mantas' Death by Metal demo?
Kam: It was fun to re-work on the song and give it new life again, but it was just done as a filler track. We needed more material for the album and it was last moment decision to do it. Actually it was meant to be a hidden track on the CD, not even going to be listed on the albums track list. However… in the last minute during post production I got out voted on that idea, so it ended up being listed.
SDM: What kind of drums and cymbals did you use playing with Mantas/Death?
Kam: Ludwig set – Paiste cymbals
SDM: How do you feel knowing that you influenced Mark “Barney” Greenway of Napalm Death and Benediction, and he pretty much owes all his success to your vocal influence! Does that piss you off knowing that you’re the primal originator of the “death grunt” and here someone else is getting rich off your idea?
Kam: I'm not in envy of his success by any means. I'm glad to know he could take my influence and make a career out of it. I only get pissed when some "newbee" says to me: "You sound like the Napalm Death singer". I think Mark lets people know where his influence and style come from. On his first NAPALM DEATH album "HARMONY CORRUPTION" he does credit me as an influence in his thanks list. On BENEDICTION's first album SUBCONSCIOUS TERROR, there was a sticker on it that said: "AT LAST THE U.K.'s answer to MASSACRE. DEATH METAL from the Cryptic Realms. Rock is Dead! Pop is Dead! THHHRRAASSHH!!" I actaully have a copy of that album with that sticker. Of course I would like to get more 'mainstream' recognition for my influences, but if it comes from my direction, it seems too self-absorbed and arrogant. If I make a stand and say "HEY – you people need to recognize it was me who started death metal growling" or say something equally as arrogant. Well, that would come off in the wrong way – it would seem like an asshole thing to say. Not that I mind being called an asshole mind you, I just don't go OUT OF MY WAY to be one. But as far as my influences on certain people, it really needs to come from those who I have influenced, rather than come from me.
SDM: Do you think the Death metal community on a whole owes you anything, for creating the Death Metal growl?
Kam: No one owes me anything… other than some respect is all I ask for. I know that's like asking for a fucking kidney donation to some people in this scene. Basically, 90% of the people in it are a bunch a selfish, greedy oppertunists, with no respect and no integrity at all!
Bonus Questions – Broken Gravestones
SDM: How did you manage to hook up with a band that are located in Spain?
Kam: I met Noel pretty much the same way I’ve met everyone overseas, over the internet. Thru MySpace & Facebook. I am a fan of GRUESOME STUFF RELISH, you can kind ‘a say I relished in their sound. As well as ALTAR OF GIALLO which is another band that Noel is a part of. Noel’s band have this certain sound and style I feel really captures that old school feeling. He really “feels” his music, rather than just attempts to write that way. You can always tell the difference when an artist is working from “feeling” when writing music, rather than just trying to imitate a style. That was what really I found great about his material. Noel and I originally planned to work on a project called BEWARE together, along with Stevo of the band IMPETIGO, but because Noel and I both had a falling out with the record label behind that band – we decided best to just leave that project all together. However we still wanted to work together, so we decided to go forwards with BROKEN GRAVESTONES instead. Noel had BROKEN GRAVESTONES 2 song promo/demo already finished up, and was releasing it as a 7”. He had done the vocals on those two tracks , but felt I could come in on the EP and redo the vox on those tracks, as well as ad a brand new track which became the title track “LET SLEEPING CORPSES LIE”.
SDM: What is it like recording and working with Noel Kemper of Gruesome Stuff relish, Repugnance (Esp) and your drummer David Arias?
Kam: It was great because NOEL had everything already arranged and worked out before I had to get involved. Like I said above, he had the two tracks already from the demo – and he had all the music arranged for the title track. With the two demo songs, already the lyrics were written, so the only track I had to work out the lyrics for was “LET SLEEPING CORPSES LIE”. We had this vision already that the band was going to be conceptually about zombies. However, we didn’t want the band to be just another ‘zombie worship’ type band, our favorite zombies are from the original ‘old school’ Romero, Fulci type of undead creatures. The originators of the genre, and we wanted our style of song writing and the lyrical content to reflect that sort of nostalgic feeling. We wanted to give worship to those types of films and to praise that particular horror movie genre.
SDM: How did you write the material for the EP? Please take us through the process?
Kam: Well, as I said above, Noel had the music arranged already. So a big part of the style – the sound – and the feeling of the songs really is all NOEL. I just came in and pretty much just added my own unique style to it. I don’t like to mess with an artist true intention when they are on the right track. I won’t make suggestions when really there is nothing I could suggest to make it better. However, ONLY when the artists I have worked with in the past begin the veer off the path – do I ever question their writing style. With Noel there was no questioning his intentions or his writing technique. I felt 100% confident in his ability to make great songs and write fantastic outstanding material in the traditional old school way.
SDM: Is the EP “Let Sleeping Corpse Lie” 2011 and Promo Demo still available for purchase?
Kam: Yes. Fans can purchase directly from me or Noel, or any of the distros that Comatose/Severed records use. Also, it will be available on “limited vinyl” release as well with an alternate cover art coming soon from THRONE RECORDS.
SDM: How are Comatose/Sevared Records treating “Broken Gravestones”?
Kam: So far so good!
SDM: In your opinion, do you think this is some of your best work in the Death metal genre? How proud are you of this release?
Kam: I’m really pleased with it. I went with a deeper more nostalgic style to my vocals. More growling, but yet still retains the clarity in my voice. I also did some vocal over layers tracks – with a gurgling style. I had a bunch of mucus and spit in the back of my throat to make this sound. It was funny to do as I grossed out the engineer all the time when I do this. With my vocal style I try NOT to sound muffled and indistinguishable like so many ‘death metal’ vocalist do now-a-days. I tend to be clear and pronounced in all of my projects. I DO NOT use techniques such as mic muffling or cranking up the input levels during recording to boost my vocals. When I record, I stand about a foot away from the mic and do my vocals that way. I know a lot of jaded death metal fans may not prefer this, as they are so familiar with the typical style of death metal vocalist out there that have been using such ‘cheater techniques’ for so many years. I’m aware that my style tends to differ in a way they are not comfortable with. And so many people become accustomed to a certain style and sound and feel that it must follow a certain set pattern. I always intend to break down these walls – these misconceived notions that everything must be done in a certain way. I have my style and my techniques, and do the things I’ve always done. There’s no way I should follow what others are doing. I also try to be a bit different on everything I do, yet to retain that sound that is me. I’ll do different little style changes on each project, just enough to differentiate the bands apart from one another. What I do in BROKEN GRAVESTONES, will differ than what I do with THE GROTESQUERY. As what I may do with THE GROTESQUERY will differ slightly with what I may do with BONE GNAWER or THE SKELETAL. Each band has a certain sound musically that differs slightly from each other, and so I make slightly different changes with my voice for each. However, I still try to retain a certain feeling and recognizable technique that someone who first hears anyone of these bands for the first time can still recognize it’s me on vocals.
SDM: Will we see a Broken Gravestone tour anytime in the near future?
Kam: Well, like all of my “recording projects” this band is just that – a recording project. It wasn’t meant to be a touring band.
SDM: Is “Let Sleeping Corpse Lie” based on the cult classic zombie movie from 1974 by director Jorge Grau? Why did you select this title and how much of influence does the movie have on the lyrics? Are you a huge fan of Spanish Horror movies?
Kam: Yes. Loosely based and not a direct interpretation. But yes, the title track is indeed based off of that film. The lyrics in any of my songs based on horror films are always just loosely based lyrics anyways. I only take influences from them and I do not feel I should have to give complete frame by frame synapses of the film in my lyrics. The movie is already made, why try and re-tell the story again in song? I never understood that concept. It’s like when you are watching a horror flick; most people don’t remember every little detail frame by frame shot of the film. However – it’s those certain scenes that stick with them. That certain scare or certain gore scene. That’s what I take influences from. What made the audience jump or turn their head? Those are the most important parts for me in a film that I retain in my lyrics. Sure it’s ONLY the thrill part of the film… only the 3 second scare, but it’s the most shocking parts that people remember. It’s the raw emotion of the thrill and that’s what I try and put into my lyrics.
I’m a huge fan of a lot of Horror, not just Spanish horror. But to me foreign horror movies retain something classic about them that many American films just can’t touch. Whether it’s a Spanish horror film, an Italian horror film, a French horror film, a Korean horror film, a Greek Horror film, a British Horror film, or even a Japanese horror film, these films retain a certain quality and sense of tradition about them that American film makers just cannot bring to the scene. Everything in the US has always been about fast cuts, fast edits, and fast takes… everything is like an MTV music video. Foreign film makers rely on atmosphere and feelings of dread as much as they do the scare. And each countries director has their own unique techniques. I could write an entire chapter on the slight differences each country represents in their film style. But I don’t think we have room for that here. Haha!
SDM: Who did the artwork for the Broken Gravestones EP?
Kam: Noel designed the cover for the EP, however the vinyl release artwork was done by the underground artist and good friend of mine NEV.
SDM: When can we expect a new full length release of Broken Gravestones?
Kam: I would like to do a full length. I think Noel has some work to finish up on his band’s first. And perhaps the sales of the EP will dictate whether or not we do a full length. I had fun doing the EP, and really for me – that’s WHY I do music. Not to be some egomaniacal rock star, but to have FUN. And I just hope those who do get into the bands that I do have fun as well listening to them. I don’t take life too serious; too many of my former band mates live life in this 24-7 mindset of being too serious all the time. And I’ve come across a lot of people and musicians in death and black metal bands that don’t have an ounce of a sense of humor in their bitter bodies. I just don’t get it. Sure – I myself am an angry guy, but I try and balance that out with a sense of humor. A twisted sick sense of humor yeah, but a sense of humor none the less. BROKEN GRAVESTONES is a fun project, and I really hope to do more in the future.