Interview with Kam Lee
Interview conducted by Luxi Lahtinen
Date online: January 28, 2012
Kam Lee first became known for his involvement with Mantas in 1983-84 as drummer and vocalist for the band. Mantas was Kam's first real band as a teenager together with Rick Rozz (also later on both in Massacre and Death) and no less than "Evil" Chuck Schuldiner almost thirty years ago. After both Kam and Rick parted ways with Chuck, they joined another local band called Massacre that Allen West (in Obituary nowadays) and Bill Andrews formed in 1984.
Massacre's "From Beyond" was released on Earache Records in 1991 and is hailed as one of the best Death Metal records of all times, which unfortunately cannot be said about the band's follow-up, 1996's "Promise". Since those days Kam Lee has been involved with many other bands and projects – and even got a tip of his nose into the film industry although there still may be a long way for him to gain his own star on Hollywood's "Walk of Fame".
Let this following interview reveal more about Kam's own career since his days in Massacre are completely over now. In this interview, Kam proved to be a very interesting character who not only confessed to be a big fan of all things horror and gore but also loves doing extreme and brutal music from the bottom of his heart.
Luxi: During your lifetime, you've been involved in many kinds of activities as a musician – definitely way more than many other musicians could ever even dream of getting involved with so many different projects and/or bands. One of your latest projects involved a role in an independent horror film called "Deep Seeded", in which you play a serial killer. Would you tell us how you got involved with this film project, and how much influence you had on the actual movie script, and how you wanted to play your role as that gruesome and blood-covered serial killer?
Kam: I am friends with a special FX / make-up company called CS Studios here in Orlando FL. They got contracted to work the special effects and gore effects on this movie being filmed called "Deep Seeded". They heard the director was looking for someone to play the lead character, as a psychotic serial killer type. They let me know about the role, and suggested I try out for the part. I met with the director Brian Troxell, and he knew of me from my 'horror punk band' Cryptidz, as we played a few local shows he had come to. Anyhow, the director Brian wanted someone who could pull off certain creepiness, but yet keep it somewhat realistic. The director didn't want a lumbering silent killer like a Jason Voorhees character from the Friday the 13th films, and he didn't really want a sarcastic goofy character like Freddy Krueger from Nightmare on Elm Street either, but he was looking for someone who could do a role and play a character that could be someone who could be your next door neighbor - yet had a certain personality and psychological disposition that could just switch into a raging lunatic without it seeming forced or out of character; someone who could play a lowlife seedy type person - someone who wasn't a fiendish looking person and yet, not be the pretty boy type like Christian Bales character from American Psycho. Ironically the role was meant to be portrayed by a Caucasian / white person, as when the time I got involved... already some key scenes of the movie's flashback scenes with the character as a teenager were already filmed. And they used a young white kid to do these scenes. Although I impressed the director with my audition... and he was more than pleased to have me take the role. So when I auditioned for the role... and got it - I think mainly because this character's personality was one I could identify with and I felt I could play with ease... ha-ha!! I didn't have much influence with the script. The script was already written and pretty much set in place before I got involved. So the character was already set in place. Although I did suggest a scene, which the director did take into consideration - and they used it at the beginning of the film. I felt that the film... had no blood in it for the first 20 minutes... and felt that it needed to show just how psychotic this character really is... and so I suggested them to add a scene where the character is standing over a grave of his teenage love interest... and as he goes into a monologue he squeezes a rose he is holding... and the thorns of the rose stabs his flesh and he drips blood upon the grave. This was the only scene I had any direct influence in... The rest of it was pretty much the way the script was written.
Luxi: Did your experience in this movie encourage you to find similar types of roles in some horror movies, knowing that you have always had this long-lasting fascination towards horror, gore and overall all very morbid things?
Kam: I've had some other offers to be in some other films come my way. And yeah... I turned them down for the simple fact - those roles put the character in roles of being a victim. I will NOT play a role of a victim. I'm not going to play those roles. So unless I'm the killer or the monster... it's NOT a role I'm interested in playing. And yes... I am a horrorphiliac. I love horror - I love it in all its genres. Movies, books, comics, music, video games... I just enjoy the dark side - and all the things that go bump in the night.
Luxi: The director and writer of this movie Brian Troxell said about this film: "I wanted to make a film where I was able to take off the gloves and stop sugar coating everything...". In other words, is "Deep Seeded" as brutal, sick and grotesque film as Brian makes it sound like? Would you kindly enlighten us more about the movie script itself?
Kam: I'm NOT judging Troxell's experience in gore films... but I've seen a lot worse scenes of gore in some other films. I think Troxell was basically going against the PG13 films out there calling themselves horror. Now there are some pretty intense scenes of torture. I won't spoil it... but I can tell you this... my character cuts a girls eye out with a blunt knife... rips her nipples off... burns her face with a hot curling iron and then shoves it up her inside her - burning and sealing her vagina closed, then finally he puts a drill into her skull to finish her off. And yes... it's all shown... at least shown enough for an R rating. Basically the script deals with a guy who is a bit of a mystery... we don't learn too much about this guy's past... other than when he was 15 he was attacked by a group of girls and his face is slashed when one of the girls breaks a camera and uses the pieces to slash his face. The film NEVER does tell you what he's been doing for the past 20 years... or even hints to what he's been doing. My take is he was in an asylum - and was only recently released. What happens is... the girl who cut his face... later as an adult dies in a traffic accident... (it's NEVER exposed if the character had anything to do with it, but it hints to it.) He then starts to target the daughters of the girls who tormented him as a teenager. And he systematically starts to capture and torture them out one by one.
Luxi: Can "Deep Seeded" be shown at some underground movie theatres, or has it only been put available for a DVD circulation in some countries?
Kam: I'm not sure what is going on with the release. I heard it was shown here in the US at a few horror festivals, but as far as the release... I have no clue. That's not something the company really talks about with the actors... once the actors are done with a film... we really don't have too much control over what happens with it. As far as I know the company Caisson Films was trying to find a distribution company to release it, but that was last I heard.
Luxi: Now let's change the subject slightly but still staying on a more gory side or reality. You have done some brutal shit with a lesser known extreme Metal act called Broken Gravestones; so far out are one demo (2009) and one EP (2011) "titled "Let Sleeping Corpses Lie" that both represent down-tuned, old school Death Metal, sort of early ‘90s Swedish style. However, all band members of Broken Gravestones are located in Spain, so would you briefly tell us how you ended up putting your fingers into this project?
Kam: I was introduced to Noel of Gruesome Stuff Relish / Altar of Giallo through another project we were to do together called Beware. However, we both had a falling out with the record label which was involved in that project and so we decided to work together on another project. Noel had mentioned he had just done a demo for a project called Broken Gravestones, and asked if instead I would like to step in to do the vocals. I love the music that Noel creates for his bands... and as soon as I heard what he had planned for B.G. - of course I said I was in.
Luxi: Do you still have any intentions to make some new brutal shit with this unholy union, or are your days already numbered with Broken Gravestones?
Kam: I would like to do a full-length release for Broken Gravestones. I however need to wait and see what Noel will do. He is after all the mastermind madman behind the music - so until he has enough material written for a full-length, I sort of have to wait - to see what he comes to the table with. I'm always open to work with great musicians that do the type of horror filled Death Metal I like, but I too understand that they have their own bands and projects to work on. So I never pressure musicians to be "only loyal" to me... that would NOT be fair of me to do. I respect and honor these musicians to work outside of our working relationship, and encourage them to do their own music as well.
Luxi: I also noticed recently that your other musical incarnation of all things gory and evil, Grave Wax, has also released a split EP titled "Pestilent Formation" on Relapse Records, together with the Finnish death mongers Claws; one-man band commanded by Lasse Pyykkö exclusively. How did this cooperation get started with Lasse's band, resulting in this split EP with his band Claws?
Kam: I put together Grave Wax with artist / musician Mark Riddick, again because I love the music he does for his band Fetid Zombie. I approached Mark and asked if he would like to do a project together, and he agreed. The split came - because at first Mark was working together with a label to release a series of splits from a bunch of bands but the label that was to release that fell through, and they decided to NOT do it. However, we as Grave Wax had already recorded the song for it... and we didn't want those songs to go to waste. Honestly, it was Mark who got it all together and released. If it wasn't for his hard work and determination... it may have never gotten a proper release. I was to also work with Lasse at one time on a project, and so I know Lasse thru those avenues, so when Mark told me it was to be done as a split with Lasse's project Claws, I was more than pleased.
Luxi: Musically Grave Wax plays just like Broken Gravestones – grunty, old school-ish Death Metal, and as it's relatively logical thinking, you also handle vocals in this act. I'd like to know whether you guys already have any further plans to record a full-length studio album with Grave Wax, or was this just one-time triumph to get this split EP recorded and out on some label?
Kam: Once more, like the Broken Gravestones, I would like to do a full-length release for Grave Wax... and the same as above with Noel, I must wait until Mark is ready and has the material written. As I said too, I do not ever like to pressure these musicians with a release. I'll ask them a few times in e-mails if they are working on material, but I will not 'hound' them. I just don't feel it's right to 'ride their asses' or pressure them into doing it. I feel if musicians and artist are any way forced to produce something... then they will not do their best work. I would rather let them work at their own pace, and come to me with finished music that they feel proud and happy with, rather than they be forced to write half assed material because they felt pressured into doing it. This way... I know they are pleased and proud of it, and then I can work together with them on the lyrical ideas - and express what I would do to add to their material with my own vocals.
Luxi: Some thoughts about The Grotesquery, featuring three somewhat known and experienced Swedish musicians and you naturally on vocals. "Tales of the Coffin Born", which is this incarnation's debut studio record – and fuckin' kick-ass release IMHO as well, will perhaps more than obviously get some continuation in the future, so what are the latest news regarding this gory bunch of old geezers?
Kam: The Grotesquery has already begun recording our second album which will be called "The Facts and Terrifying Testament of Mason Hamilton: Tsathoggua Tales".
Luxi: How did you find these guys to form The Grotesquery in the first place?
Kam: I worked with Rogga Johansson with Bone Gnawer, and he was the one who organized the musicians for The Grotesquery.
Luxi: Do you have any intentions to play some gigs with The Grotesquery, or would you rather see this band as a studio project only?
Kam: I am always up and willing to tour with ANY of my projects - however, the problem stems from the distance of the other musicians from one another... as well as their own personal matters concerning touring. Some of the members can NOT tour because of their obligations elsewhere, either their jobs, or personal home life... or perhaps their other bands and projects do not allow for the freedom for this. Also - we are now well into 30 years of this "scene", and many many musicians now know the 'ugly truths' behind touring. And the fact that many musicians lose money, and cannot afford to pay their rent - is also another factor that prevents us from touring. We love to do music, but the sad fact is... if we go out on the road to perform for a few months, and come home to an eviction notice and no place to sleep. This is not something many people are willing to risk. Many of us... many musicians, need to maintain a steady job and work in order to pay bills. A lot of us do NOT have the luxury of having a paid-for home to come back to, and / or someone to take care of the bills while we are away. Many musicians might not have a person at home (family / friend) that would be able to attend to these things. And many (like myself) are estranged from their relatives... so no help from their either. So it all depends on how favorable 'outside' conditions are. Before any sort of long term touring could be committed to.
Luxi: One of your very latest musical incarnations that has crawled out from its dark cave into the daylight, comes in the form of The Skeletal, and an independent underground label Metal Inquisition Records from Germany released your debut album in March this year, titled "The Plague Rituals". Again, since nobody can follow your steps that closely, I need to ask from you what's the story behind The Skeletal; how did you actually find guitarists Kjell and Lasse, bassist Ulgnor and drummer Tapir, to complete your troops in The Skeletal line-up?
Kam: Well, Lasse is from the band Hooded Menace (and many other projects) - he did all the leads on The Skeletal. The other members are musicians that I have worked with before - and are using 'pseudonyms' on this album. I guess... it's been long enough... but really the truth is... it's all the musicians from The Grotesquery - with Lasse from Hooded Menace on lead guitars.
Luxi: There are nine songs on "The Plague Rituals" and I suppose each of you in the band got involved somehow with the songwriting of this record. My main question however is, did you all share the same vision of what you guys wanted this band to be all about, and there were no compromises whatsoever made regarding this?
Kam: Basically The Skeletal was a fun project we all wanted to do... to just do something more Thrash-sounding... like old school 80's early 90's Death-Thrash. I actually did not write most of the lyrics, as the lyrics were already pre-written. I was given the challenge to put the lyrics to the music that was also already written. However, the lyrics were done in a very 'horror genre'; a genre of which I have a passion for, so it was easy for me to do.
Luxi: Are there any plans to bring this band on road someday, like trying to get The Skeletal booked for a Metal festival or two, let's say, in 2012?
Kam: NO... this band is strictly a studio project - and nothing more.
Luxi: I wouldn't like to go too much as far back to your early past days with Massacre, but in Oct-Nov 2007 Massacre did their (so far?) final sort of ‘farewell, or fan appreciation' tour, playing several shows in Germany, Sweden, Denmark, Switzerland, Holland, Belgium, UK and Ireland. Did this tour bring some old memories back to your mind, seeing there were still a good bunch of old Massacre fans in the audience that have been probably been following the band since the demo days of the band?
Kam: For me personally... it was something I did as a farewell. I never intended to resurrect the band in the first place anyways... that was all the dirty politics and other members involved doings. It was never my intention to try and re-live the past. Thus my reasons to finally just leave it all behind. Let those others who are now trying to keep the band going... let them ruin it. I feel the band had its day... and its legacy was placed. Anything else is just a farce and a sad mockery of what it once was.
Luxi: Since that somewhat successful tour, have you been asked whether you might get Massacre back together and on the road again, because obviously the demand is there for more Massacre shows?
Kam: As I said above... I AM NOT INVOLVED IN MASSACRE anymore. So whatever, the band does now... it will NOT have me involved in it anyway.
Luxi: Okay, your statement's clear enough – and let's leave Massacre for now, and move on to talk about a couple of your other bands: Denial Fiend and Bone Gnawer. First off, some words about the latter mentioned band, Bone Gnawer. Again, this foursome has already created some fuss among the underground Metal community. There are three Swedes and you in the band. What's so special in these Swedish people that you always end up teaming up with them? Aren't you afraid of getting totally ‘swedenized' eventually, ha-ha-hah!?
Kam: For me... going back to the late 80's and early 90's of Death Metal, I always preferred the Swedish Death Metal bands. They have a way of playing and written music that really fits what Death Metal was meant to be... raw, unhinged, and just brutal chainsaw guitar riffing. Rogga Johansson just so happens to be one of the BEST guitarist from Sweden - his riffs are always just mind melting and brutal in that old school traditional way.
Luxi: It's been like two years since Bone Gnawer's debut album, "Feast of Flesh", was released on Singaporean Pulverised Records, I guess there's a fairly good chance that we'll get some continuation to Bone Gnawer in the future album-wise, correct?
Kam: For now Bone Gnawer is on hiatus... Rogga and I would like to do another album, but for now we are working on The Grotesquery at the moment.
Luxi: Bone Gnawer is pretty much all about flesh eating cannibals and other ‘juicy topics' concept-wise, but you guys also have this humorous take on it, which obviously separates you from many other gore feast-oozing Death Metal bands. Are you trying to maintain this humor aspect in Bone Gnawer in the future too, or can you see any reasons why you guys should rip this more humorous aspect out of the band?
Kam: It was always my intentions from the start for Bone Gnawer to have that black comedy and complete camp vibe. I only intended the band to be this way because of the dark subject matter it holds. I like gore... I like gore bands, but I think it's even more so idiotic to take this stuff too seriously. If you live your life thinking about cutting someone up every day... then you seriously need to seek psychiatric help. I know it may be all cool to try and be shocking... and to make people fear you, but that's just a sad person way of seeking attention. Teenagers cry for help... or to say... "Hey - notice me... I'm sick and vile and disgusting and all gore ridden, and you are just a victim." - Yeah... "whatever." I took a complete black comedy approach to the gore... and made it silly and ridiculous on purpose. I'm a fan of Japanese's ultra-gory films like "Tokyo Gore Police" and "Machine Girl". I took that same sort of sensibility of complete over the top goofy gore, and applied that to the lyrics of Bone Gnawer.
Luxi: You also did vocals for Denial Fiend's debut studio record, "They Rise" that came out in 2007 on Ibex Moon Records, owned by John McEntee from Incantation. What kind of things made you to leave this band eventually?
Kam: The other remaining members... Curt Beeson (drummer) and I decided to both quit the same day, because we didn't appreciate being used and lied to by those guys. Also, I didn't agree with the way the music was being written or the format the band wanted to go in... I wanted to go back to doing Death Metal, but they wanted to keep doing a more Thrash-related type of sound. When I first joined the band... it was meant to be a crossover of Death Metal with horror punk type of lyrics... like Massacre meets The Misfits. That was always my intentions... to be sort of heavy, but have these catchy horror punk type chorus and vibe. Bad thing - with any band, is when the other members do not agree with you on the same level but pretend to do so - just in order to get a release out, but then turn on you and attempt to blame you for any negativity the band gets from critics. I've been on both sides of it - with Denial Fiend knowing what I had always intended from day one with the lyrical approach, and also from the other side with Massacre during the awful hated "Promise" album. Where I was approached, and demanded by Rick to change the lyrical theme of the band because he no longer wished to do 'Death Metal'. So I was forced to go against "myself" and what I felt was right for the band... and did what was asked in order to appease someone who obviously does not support - nor wanted to be associated with the type of 'horror and gore' lyrics that I like to write about. And you see what happened... the worst release I've ever done. All because Rick decided to get involved in the lyrical writing process, and NOT allow me to do what I do best. He suggested I change - to write a different type of lyric. I wrote the lyrics for that album in three days. And I wasn't ever happy with the results... and even some lines were made up on the fly... it was just something I was not into doing... and I felt it was shit! I quit the band - before it was completed... and I should have stayed away from Massacre from that point onwards because it has been nothing but a bane ever since.
Luxi: Are there any other new bands or projects coming up from Mr. Lee's direction which we should get more informed about?
Kam: I am finally going to do something I've been attempting to do for years... I kept trying to work with other musicians on this, but nothing ever worked. Mainly because others had different ideas, and directions they wanted to go with it. I've done many many bands and projects... with others writing the material and music, but never have had the chance to make the music myself... the way I envision it. Finally - with my band Akatharta, which I will be writing all the music myself... I will be able to do this.
Luxi: Alright Kam, I guess that's all for now, so I want to sincerely thank you for your time by going through this conversation with me, and let's even hope it was all worth your time. Finally, all the best to you and your future endeavors Kam. If there's still something you'd like add to this interview, feel free to vomit the rest out from your guts...
Kam:THANKS FOR THE SUPPORT! \m/ Cheers, beers and fears!!!
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