Interview with guitarist Mike Morrison
Interview conducted by Luxi Lahtinen
Date online: June 2, 2013
False Prophet, from Greensboro, North Carolina, was formed in 1988 and under that moniker the band recorded a couple of well-received demos; the 4-track Sign of the Cross, in 1989 and, two years later, came the The Second Coming, a demo that almost got the band signed to Mausoleum Records.
They played quite a bit around their home area, even securing opening slots for bands like Danzig and Dark Angel. One of the odd things about the band's live set was "In Satan's Name," a song that was over 10 minutes in length. No Thrash or Death Metal band played songs that long back in the day so, in that sense, False Prophet was a pretty unique act.
In 1993 the band was forced to change their name to Infernal Hierarchy because an art-Punk band from NY had the name False Prophets. Under their new name they recorded one more 2-song EP, for Rage Records, before splitting up for good.
Now, in 2013, False Prophet is jamming again and time will tell what that may bring. Guitarist Mike Morrison fills us in about False Prophet via the following interview...
Luxi: First off, it must feel good to finally have all of the past False Prophet recordings out in one package. Where did the idea for this release come from?
Mike Morrison: That's a good question. We owe it all to the Internet. For a while, I have been seeing our songs posted on Youtube and sites like that by fans of the band. I thought it was pretty awesome that people were still interested in the music and the band. I hooked up with a few old friends on Facebook and they suggested that I try and find a label to re-release the old material. Around that time Jeremy Golden at Heaven and Hell Records and Matt at Divebomb Records got in touch in touch with me about re-releasing the stuff. After talking with Jeremy and seeing his interest and commitment to putting this out, I got in touch with Paul Ray about doing it, and after he had a conversation with Jeremy we decided now was the time to do this. We felt that Heaven and Hell was our best option. We are excited to see this being put out for people to enjoy, and with Jamie King re-mastering the songs, we know that it's going to be something great, not only for the older crowd that was into us back in the day but also the newer metalheads that have never heard of us.
Luxi: Could you enlighten us about the entire package and what kind of things it will contain? I am also wondering if there might be some decent quality False Prophet live footage available that you would consider using for this package; maybe a whole show from those past days of the band.
M. Morrison: Well, we're still in the planning stages as far as the cover design and layout, but the re-mastering has begun. The CD will be an enhanced disc, so we've dug through all our old flyers and photos to give everyone a nostalgic look back into the early era of the band. As for live content, we do have a live DVD that was recorded back in 1993, right when we were at our peak. However, at this time there are no plans to release it with the CD, but it might be something that we look to put out down the road, if people want to see it. I know there are a couple of clips that are floating around on the Internet from the show, but from what I've watched, it's just a teaser. There are a couple of songs on there that we have never released, so we'll have to see what comes of it.
There is also the possibility of a vinyl release. H&H has gotten some interest from a couple of labels in Europe to license for a vinyl pressing.
Luxi: If we go way back in time to when False Prophet first came into being, was it easy to find suitable and motivated musicians in 1988? I assume Thrash Metal was a big thing in Greensboro, North Carolina?
M. Morrison: In the area of North Carolina where we are from, there really wasn't a "Metal" scene like there was in Charlotte or Raleigh. We were from more of an artsy, college town. There was a very diverse music scene, but no real Thrash or Metal bands. Everybody knew everybody, so there was a lot of respect among musicians. I met Paul Ray, who was already playing with the guys that would become False Prophet, through our mutual guitar teacher, Stephen Harris. Stephen played with a band called Messiah, which had a pretty decent underground following back then. Paul and I hit it off pretty well and the band invited me down to audition, just to see if the two guitar player thing would work. We all shared a lot of the same influences, and after that first day, I stayed until '94.
Luxi: When you guys started making music, were bands like Slayer, Dark Angel, Possessed, Death, Destruction and such some of the big influences for False Prophet? There's a lot of evil vibe in your Thrash and even the letter "t" in the band name forms an upside down cross...
M. Morrison: Yeah, all of the bands that you mentioned, with the exception of Destruction, were really big influences early on. Paul and the bass player, Chris Lyndon, were really into underground stuff like Possessed and Venom, real raw sounding bands, and I was more into bands like Malevolent Creation and Forbidden, a little more polished sound. The two worlds made for a good mix. We were young, just out of high school really and just soaking up any music that we could find. We were also into bands like W.A.S.P. and Lizzy Borden; a little of everything.
As for the logo, when I was drawing it up, I was thinking back to the bands that I really followed, like Priest and Maiden, bands with iconic logos. I wanted something that would attract people's attention, and something that you could instantly recognize. I added that upside down cross in the T just to see what kind of attention it would get. Being from the bible belt, it worked.
Luxi: False Prophet's first 4-track demo was titled Sign of the Cross and it came out in 1989. How much of a fuss did it create? Did it bring you more gigs? How much did the worldwide tape trading scene help the band back then?
M. Morrison: It did really well, considering we were new to this world of underground Metal. We really had to push to get any kind of recognition, and it didn't happen in a short period of time. As for attracting more gigs, we didn't really concentrate on that too much around that time. I mean, we did play local shows just to get the name out, which landed us slots opening for Danzig and Dark Angel, but we really just wanted to get together, practice and work on new music. When I joined the band, 3 of the 4 songs on the demo were already written, and "False Prophecy" was in its beginning stages. We just woodshedded and tried to become better musicians and write better songs. As for tape trading, man I was mailing more tapes out than we were selling... and it worked. I met a lot of great people who I'm still in touch with to this day.
Luxi: Did you try to get False Prophet signed back then? Did you believe that the Sign of the Cross had the potential to attract the attention of Music for Nations, Combat, New Renaissance, Roadrunner, etc.?
M. Morrison: Honestly, we didn't really try to push to get signed on the strength of the Sign demo, because we knew that the production wasn't very good and the new songs we were writing were much better and on a different level. We did get a little interest. I think New Renaissance Records wanted to use one of the songs on a compilation, but they said the sound quality wasn't good enough.
Luxi: A year after Sign of the Cross, False Prophet released a second demo, which seemed to be more like a full-length album than just a demo. The Second Death contained of six songs and over 45 minutes of music. I guess this release was the one that started the big wheel rolling for the band. You started getting more gig opportunities, people started contacting you from all over the world and eventually, False Prophet signed to Belgium's Mausoleum Records around 1992-93. What happened between the band and Mausoleum Records?
M. Morrison: That's what I was talking about where we knew we had much better music to come. We practiced four nights a week, 2-3 hours a night, just like a full time job. None of us partied, or at least not that much, and we took the music real serious. We wrote songs that we wanted to hear, and really weren't concerned with anyone else's opinion. We approached The Second Death more like a full-length release from the recording to the packaging to the promotion. We were borrowing a lot from some of the Hardcore / Punk attitude of DIY, not depending on anyone but ourselves. By the time we released The Second Death, we had started making a few waves in the underground and local scenes and really believed that we had created the best that we could. Due to all of the hard work and promotion, we were on the radar, and a few labels expressed interest. Peaceville contacted us, but it never really led to anything. Mausoleum Records was opening up a new office in NY, and were interested in making us one of their first releases, but the contracts took forever to get straightened out to where we thought we wouldn't get too screwed. Remember, we really weren't too worried about getting signed at the time, so we were in no hurry to just ink anything. Once both parties came to an agreement on terms, which took a long time, we sent them a copy of the master so that they could do a trial pressing to check for sound quality. They contacted us and said that the sound didn't transfer well, and wanted us to go back and redo the songs, plus write and record a couple of new songs, on our dime. We refused and eventually we were let go. We learned a lot of what to do and what not to do by trial and error.
Luxi: On The Second Death demo the band's playing was much tighter, the songs were better, the production was better and so forth. I suppose the band had learned at least one lesson; without hard work and motivation, it is very difficult to open the right doors in the music business. Would you share some of your thoughts and memories with the readers of The Metal Crypt about this demo?
M. Morrison: Well, to start, Paul had a game plan going into the writing session for this release. We approached songwriting from what would seem like a backwards method. Paul would actually write the lyrics first, and we would write the music around them. That's what made our sound a little unconventional and different from the intro, verse, bridge, chorus, songs that people were used to hearing. This is also the reason that some of the songs came out to be 10:00 to 13:00 minutes long. We wouldn't settle for something that did not fit into what he was hearing in his head, and we didn't care how long it took us to write it. Some songs came pretty quick, like "Forgotten Souls," while others, like "In Satan's Name" or "The Second Death," took up to a month or so to write. We got some good advice when we were starting out, that to be taken seriously at your profession; you had to look the part all the way from your gear to your playing to your performance to the marketing. We adapted that philosophy and kept it.
Luxi: It was very unusual for a Thrash or Death Metal band to record a 10-minute song, but you did it with "In Satan's Name." Did it happen by accident, or was it an experiment to push your songwriting limits?
M. Morrison: It wasn't really intentional, but it was just the way that we were writing at the time. Paul's lyrics were written like a book or a story, so we just thought that the music should be the same way. He was doing a lot of reading back then, so it was just a natural progression. It is the same with the song "The Second Death." That song is actually the book of Revelations from the Bible, broken down into a song. We had to make that into a musical journey to reflect the different emotions. We were just really pushing ourselves to write as well as we could. We basically recorded the drum tracks live and back then you didn't have Pro-Tools to punch things in, so if the drummer made a mistake, he had to go back and redo the tracks. I think those two songs about killed him in the studio... (laughing).
Luxi: Can you remember how well "In Satan's Name" was received? Undoubtedly it wasn't the easiest thing to write, was it?
M. Morrison: It took a lot of people by surprise, especially when we first started playing it live. Most people didn't know what to think, because no one was doing these types of songs. The song title definitely took people by surprise, but that was the reaction that we wanted. Once the release started circulating around the local scene, we would have people with bibles out in front of the clubs trying to convince people that we worshipped the Devil. I would go out there and give them a cassette and a T-shirt with the cover design on it and ask them to go and read the lyrics, then see what they think. That usually ran them off.
The songwriting process took, I think, around two months to get it where we wanted it. We had changed drummers and bassists while we were writing/recording and they came in with a different perspective, so it took a little longer to finish than the other songs. We probably threw out more riffs than most people would write in a career.
Luxi: Why the name change from False Prophet to Infernal Hierarchy in 1993? Did you feel False Prophet was somehow a misleading name, as some people possibly thought you were a Satanic band?
M. Morrison: This is something that came out of left field for us. You know, there was no Internet, no Google search or anything like that, so you really had no idea if there was another band out there with the same name as you. Evidently our name was getting around, and we got a letter from a band in New York called the False Prophets. They were an "art-punk band," at least that's what they called themselves. They sent us a cease and desist order to stop using the name, or they were going to take legal action. Now us being kids from North Carolina, we really didn't know how to fight this. We had the attorney that worked out the Mausoleum contracts check into it, and he said that it would be a good idea for us to change the name, as the other band had been around longer, and had a couple of albums out. We really didn't want to because we had worked so hard to get the name out. We did eventually agree and Paul came up with the name Infernal Hierarchy. We thought it was cool, and if someone else had that name, we figured we should give up. It honestly had nothing to do with the people thinking we were Satanic at all, it was just a business decision.
Luxi: Infernal Hierarchy released only two songs, on Ed Farshtey's Rage Records, as a self-titled 7-inch EP. The songs were "First Born" and "False Prophecy" (which was misspelled as "Final Prophecy" on the EP). How did you end up signing to his label?
M. Morrison: We had written "Firstborn" after recording The Second Death, and thought we were headed in a good direction. We decided to redo "False Prophecy" because we always thought it was a great song, but it had gotten so much better over years of playing it that we thought we should re-record it. We really didn't record these two songs for any other reason than just to get them on record. Ed had been a really good friend of the band, and I just decided to send him a copy to see what he thought of the new direction we were going in. He contacted me saying that he was starting up Rage Records and was going to release a few bands on 7", and asked if we would be interested. Knowing that he would put his heart into releasing it and getting it to where it needed to go, it was really a no-brainer.
Luxi: Were there other labels in 1993 that showed some interest in Infernal Hierarchy?
M. Morrison: It was really just Ed at that time. Like I said, we really hadn't planned on releasing it at all. We just recorded it for ourselves. We all had our personal things going on at the time, so we didn't push it.
Luxi: Ed also ran a fanzine called The Book of Armageddon and released four issues all in all. Did he cover Infernal Hierarchy for the unpublished fifth issue, one that was also supposed to have a 13-page Dark Angel interview?
M. Morrison: I really liked Ed's 'zine. As far as covering us in the fifth issue, I'm not really sure. I'm going to have to give him a call and see if he has a copy of it. I'd love to check that out after all of these years, and would definitely love to read the Dark Angel interview. Those were the coolest guys to hang out and play with.
Luxi: How was it working with Ed?
M. Morrison: Ed was awesome. He's such a great guy and such a metal soldier, much like Jeremy at Heaven and Hell Records. It's the same thing with Chris Forbes from Metal-core 'zine. These guys just love music, and you can tell by the passion that they put into the bands that they work with.
Luxi: How about the misspelling of the song name "False Prophecy" as "Final Prophecy" on Infernal Hierarchy's only 7-inch EP; whose fault was it that such an unfortunate mistake happened in the first place?
M. Morrison: We didn't notice it until we received our copies of the 7". By then it was too late to do anything about it. People who were familiar with the band knew it was the same song from Sign of the Cross. It didn't really matter too much to us by that time. We had started winding down the band.
Luxi: What issues spelled the end for Infernal Hierarchy? Was it a lack of motivation to continue the band due to bad luck with labels, or was it more or less your day jobs, studies and families that made it impossible to carry on?
M. Morrison: It was just life itself. We were getting into our 20's by that time, and everyone was growing up in different directions. I think Paul was getting a little stifled with the band and started dedicating his time in to different hobbies. I had gotten into the whole "being in a band" thing and started drinking. We were going through drummers and bass players and eventually we just all grew apart. I think some didn't want to pursue this as a career, and we were getting bigger faster than some wanted. I really cannot speak for others. We started right out of high school, still living with our parents, and here we were growing up and having to work jobs and make a living for ourselves. Paul actually kept the Infernal band going, with different members and into a much heavier realm, for a couple of years.
Luxi: Do you have regrets that False Prophet/Infernal Hierarchy ended way too soon?
M. Morrison: I do and I don't. At the time, I was devastated and that's when I turned to drinking like crazy. I know that had a lot to do with my departure, but I kept playing. I always played heavy music, but had really grown tired of the Death Metal stuff. I think everything happens for a reason, and looking back, I really don't think that we would have lasted much longer.
When music gets to be a chore and a hassle, there's no point in doing it.
Luxi: Have you ever considered bringing False Prophet back, to start making new stuff again, or at least to do a couple of shows?
M. Morrison: Funny you should ask that question. With Jeremy and Heaven and Hell Records coming on board, it has brought a new energy back into the scene as well as interest from people in the band. It has also brought my friendship with Paul back, close to where we were when we were younger. The stars kind of started lining up recently and we are about to start rehearsals, or jam sessions, and start playing together again. We haven't played these songs in 20 years, so I'm interested in seeing how long it takes us to get things right....ha-ha-ha!!! We are talking about writing and I can't wait to see what that will be like. We have also discussed doing a few shows, when the time is right. We've had a couple of offers, so we're real interested in getting the jam room and thrashing it out again.
Luxi: I guess that is all. I sincerely want to thank you for taking some time with my questions and, in the very same breath, I wish you all the best with your future endeavors. Be well, stay healthy and let the last words be yours...
M. Morrison: Luxi, I would personally like to sincerely thank you for this great interview. You have made me remember some things that I haven't relived in a long time. Those were great times. Thank you for taking the time out to really dig into the past of the band. I hope we will be able to do this again soon, hopefully talking about the next False Prophet release on Heaven and Hell Records. Everyone can follow us on our Facebook page for now on details about any upcoming events, and I'm sure Jeremy will have all the info people need to hear on the Heaven and Hell website. Also, anyone interested can look me up personally on Facebook and shoot me a line. Thanks again my friend and take care. Stay Metal!!!
|Other information about False Prophet on this site|
|Review: Second Death|
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