Interview with Mike Browning (drums, vocals)
Interview conducted by Luxi Lahtinen
Date online: March 27, 2012
(Band photo by Jorgen Saeger)
After Death, this occult Death Metal band from Tampa, FL, was formed in 1999 as Nocturnus A.D. by Mike Browning on drums and vocals, Richard Bateman on bass and Gino Marino on guitar (who also happened to appear in the original Nocturnus line-up in 1987), but the name was soon changed to After Death for not getting associated with the Nocturnus name.
Since those days After Death's lineup has been changing constantly, only having Mike Browning (ex-Morbid Angel, ex-Incubus, ex-Acheron, etc.) left from the first line-up. Rather surprisingly, After Death have only managed to record some demos during the band's existence under the After Death moniker, plus one split-CD together with brutal Chilean Death Metallers Unaussprechlichen Kulten, titled "Dwellers of the Deep / the Madness from the Sea" (which was just recently released on the independent Chilean label Proselytism).
But there's more to come: After Death has been in the studio to record a Venom cover song for an upcoming Venom tribute album, to be released on German Iron Pegasus Records later this year. Being a very ambitious group as After Death truly is what overall comes to their complex and unique Death Metal, the band chose to record "At War with Satan" for the forthcoming Venom tribute album, which the guys have expanded from about 20 minutes to 21 and 1/2 minutes. Read more about this - and much more under the guidance of Mike Browning next. The Metal Crypt is proud to be the first to present this piece of news first to the world.
Luxi: How's life Mike? Feeling good and doing just great, I hope?
Mike: Yes doing good lately, I have been staying really busy with the band, side projects and just life in general.
Luxi: Let's get this interview started by talking a bit about After Death's latest offering, which is this pretty luxurious looking split digipack-CD with Chilean brutal Death Metal band Unaussprechlichen Kulten. Your part of this split actually contains After Death's 2009 demo in its entirety but as a remixed and mastered version. Would you mind by continue telling a bit more about this release for the readers of The Metal Crypt?
Mike: Yes definitely, it started as a split CD but it has actually become a 2 CD split where both bands have their own disc and cover and we also added an extra song and a cover song as well as remixing and remastering the whole thing. The packaging is a giant digipak that is the size of a 7" record sleeve so the covers look great and it will also contain a mini poster as well, so it is well worth the price because you can always find and download the music for free somewhere on the internet, but with packaging like this it makes it a more special collectible kind of thing.
Luxi: This split-CD is limited to 500 copies only. Don't you think that the edition of it should be a bit bigger - like 1000 copies at least? I mean, 500 copies shouldn't last that long, I believe...
Mike: That part is up to the record company, but I do totally agree with you on that, it should have been maybe 1000 at first, but I think they will go quite fast and maybe there will be another pressing or vinyl next.
Luxi: I was just wondering why you chose to do this split-CD thing in the very first place? Do you think it's better and way easier to have something a little bit more professional looking than trying to promote After Death for labels with just a CD-R, as it seems like a neat and pro packaging may even do partly the trick - and get bands signed to record labels?
Mike: Exactly what I think as well, it is one thing to hand a label a CD-R but quite another for them to know that another label has invested money in your demo, enough to change that demo into a really cool release. This is the second time our demos have been turned into a real CD and released by an actual label, so in fact we still have yet to release a full debut album as After Death.
Luxi: Once you mentioned to me that many labels seem to only hunt down those bands whose music is kind of more accessible, more mainstream sounding and easier to get adopted by the masses - and hence it's been a tough road for a band like After Death to gain attention among the label people. Does your opinion still stand the same?
Mike: Probably even more so today, the labels are only interested in a guaranteed sale now and don't really want to get behind a band that they have to put a lot of money or advertisement into. Because I only do what I want, a band like After Death may never be huge, but at least I can say that you can't even come close to comparing us to anyone else and to me that is real success.
Luxi: Have you had any talks within the band whether you should even compromise a bit little music-wise and sort of simplify your song structures in order to follow this more mainstream sounding road - and that way possibly gain some more serious attention in the music biz? Then again, that would be like selling your own soul for some amount of cheap money, right?
Mike: We have never even once thought or talked about why or what we should be doing as far as when it comes to the way other people will pay attention to us, so for us we just get together and bring in song ideas and put them all together and see where that takes us from there.
Luxi: I also gotta believe since your 2009 promotional demo, you have also written some new After Death songs. Is that so, or have some other things in your life unfortunately prevented you from writing new songs for the band?
Mike: Yes we do have some new songs, one we have been playing out already and three more with the music finished, plus we are working on more new ideas too right at the moment.
Luxi: On that 2009 promo, you still had Zach Elder playing bass in the band but since then he has been replaced by Daniel Tucker. Daniel used to play bass in Xecutioner and the early Obituary lineup too. How much do you think he has brought his own musical experience into After Death, knowing Daniel ain't in his twenties any more and surely has a strong view and opinion of his own about how certain things should be done?
Mike: Actually Daniel is one of the most laid back people I have ever met, he has been a great addition to the band because people already know him from playing on Obituary's Slowly We Rot album and the fact that he plays like a real bass player, more than a guitar player playing bass, if you know what I mean by that! Up till now he has been learning all our older (and newer) stuff and all the old Nocturnus and Morbid Angel stuff we sometimes play live. So since he joined he has stayed pretty busy just learning everything we already have!
Luxi: As you Mike have been living in the Florida area for your entire life (I assume), I was just wondering whether you also managed to see Daniel's first band Xecutioner play live, when the guys were just starting out?
Mike: Of course!!! We played some shows together back in the mid 80's, so having Daniel in the band has been a really cool thing for me!
Luxi: Obviously Daniel also gave his own contribution to this cover song of Venom, "At War with Satan", which you did for a forthcoming Venom tribute on German Iron Pegasus Records, to be released later this year strictly as a vinyl release at first. You already told me it's gonna be very close to the original version, only having the keyboards to add this After Death vibe into it. Would you mind shedding some more light on this subject?
Mike: Well when Iron Pegasus first asked us about doing a Venom cover we didn't have Daniel in the band and in fact we didn't have a bass player at all at that time and Demian was really busy with his other band too, so really it was just Belial and I that were gonna work on it and he did all the guitar and bass and I the drums and vocals and so we got Nocturnal our keyboard player to fill in some cool stuff and the extended version intro and now we are done with all the recording and most of the mixing, so it won't be too much longer and it will be finished, all 21 1/2 minutes of it!!!
Luxi: When you decided to choose to cover "At War with Satan", weren't you afraid whether you could do justice for this massive and epic Venom song? I think no other band has ever covered that Venom song thus far yet, obviously knowing it's not one of those easiest Venom songs to try to make a cover for, so now that you have done it, you must feel kinda proud of what you did with it, am I right?
Mike: Well it has always been my favorite Venom song and when I first mentioned it to Belial about doing a cover song for the tribute he said how about At War With Satan and we both just laughed and said how cool that would be, but by using the original version of theirs as a "template" we were able to actually pull it off, so it is very similar to the original but with our style added. As far as I know even Venom has never played this whole song live, much less anyone ever attempt to do a cover of it, but this is what we do, things that people haven't done before!
Luxi: What other bands will be featured for this forthcoming Venom tribute, by the way?
Mike: Not really sure about that, we have been pretty concentrated on just making our song the way we want it, that I haven't even talked to him about the other bands that will be on it. I do know that since at first it will be a vinyl only release and that our one song will take up one whole side of the vinyl!
Luxi: What are some of those key things in any new After Death song that need to be there to make it sound like After Death?
Mike: Probably mostly the themes and ideas, then the atmosphere. The only real control I have in the band is that I do all the lyrics so that the real idea of After Death does not get lost like it did in my previous bands.
Luxi: How important are the lyrics for you personally, as a part of After Death? I mean, without any question the lyrics I have read from you, they are far from being just your average and ordinary lyrics but have much more philosophical thoughts and views in them than just containing "let's rape the priests and kill the nuns" type of stuff?
Mike: Of course I will still always have some blasphemous lyrics, like our song "christWas", but for me starting After Death and learning from all my previous mistakes makes the lyrics very important to me. Especially because I am the one singing them, I have to have the real feeling and meaning to them to be able to do that. A lot of my lyrics are multileveled and have a lot of hidden things in them, so for people who actually want to take the time, there is a lot more going on in our songs than it seems.
Luxi: Is After Death a democratic unit when it comes to sharing your personal musical ideas with each other?
Mike: As far as the music itself, I try to make sure that everyone is as involved as they want to be.
Luxi: Many people that have actually heard After Death's music have compared that sound to your previous band Nocturnus. Does this type of comparison bother you at all, or do you accept some of these Nocturnus comparisons without any reservations - kind of understanding and accepting your own musical background the way it is; as a member of many of your previous bands, this naturally including Nocturnus?
Mike: I think After Death has a lot of everything I have done in it with a lot of new elements added in as well. Those bands that I came from have shaped me into who I am today, so it is only a natural progression that those elements be in there.
Luxi: Talking about Nocturnus, some years ago (October 2008 precisely) you came to Europe as Nocturnus with the After Death lineup and did a set of shows in England, Italy, Switzerland, Holland, Germany, Austria and Denmark, performing many old Nocturnus songs off of "The Key" record, in addition of some old Morbid Angel songs. Have you been thinking of doing something similar in the future, or have those types of plans totally been buried already by you?
Mike: We are always open to doing things like that, I think that without a major label and release behind us that it makes it very hard for promoters to put that much money into bringing us to other countries, especially with the economy the way it is these days. But I still really enjoy playing those old songs live since I did have a big part in writing and creating them. The only songs we play live are ones that I actually wrote parts in and helped create.
Luxi: What about gigging plans for After Death; any new gigs in sight within the following 2-3 months or so?
Mike: We have been doing a lot of shows locally already this year; we just played last Friday and have another show in about three weeks. Hopefully we can do some small touring to this year.
Luxi: Ultimately, your goal hasn't changed a bit regarding After Death: you still want to ink a deal with some label that's gonna be 100% behind the band; reliable, trustworthy and doing its job the way it takes to keep both parties happy and satisfied - correct?
Mike: Of course! I know that with proper push and backing and a nice big budget and video that we could come out with some mind blowing stuff, with that kind of backing behind us the Universe would be the limit!
Luxi: So, will there be any life after death when Mr. Browning eventually has walked through the road of his mortal life? Will you be reborn in some other universe after this life? What are your philosophical views about these matters?
Mike: I have belonged to a few Magickal Organizations in my life and have gone through and performed in some very intense Magickal Rituals and have learned many things. In the "Thelemic" type organizations I was Initiated into the 93 Current where I discovered some of my past life connections to an actual Pharaoh named AHA and the Egyptian Culture in general, so for me I believe that your soul energy or whatever you want to call it, does in fact continue on. For how long is unknown to me, but I can say that I feel that not only have I been here for a long time, but that I still have a long way to go left. Maybe not in this life, but another after, after death!
Luxi: I guess that was it for now. Thank you Mike for finding some time to answer my questions once again - and all the best for you and After Death in the future. If there's anything you'd like say either to your fans or the readers of The Metal Crypt, then let the last words be yours...
Mike: As always I have to THANK people like you Luxi and all the great people out there that continue to support my work and help bring it into the world!!!!
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