Interview with bassist Mike Borders
Interview conducted by Luxi Lahtinen
Date online: October 10, 2020
Floridian death metal veterans Massacre reformed in 2019 with two original members, Kam Lee on vocals and Mike Borders on bass who were backed by two hard-boiled and experienced metal musicians, Taylor Nordberg on guitar and Jeramie King on drums. On paper, the lineup looked like a well-oiled machine.
The band has been on and off many times during their lifespan due to lineup changes caused by personal issues, the wrong chemistry, etc. but that's not anything new for many other bands.
This lineup seemed to be functioning well and recording their as-yet-untitled fourth studio album when inner conflict hit the band hard and forced them to go separate ways with both Taylor and Jeramie. Kam and Mike didn't want to let their fans down and started searching for replacements and before long, the band was back in recording mode.We here in the death tower of The Metal Crypt wanted to find out what's been going on in the Massacre camp and contacted the band's original bass man Mike, who shared a lot of information about the band's current state, the new Massacre members and also revealed some of the band's past.
How's life in the Florida heat right now? According to the news, Florida is one of the most coronavirus-ridden areas in the United States, so I am curious to ask this for starters...
Mike: Swampy. Summer has been here the last 9 months and steam comes off the ground. It can be miserable. And that news is not true. South Florida (Miami), which is basically a third-world country now, is really the only place where it's a problem. Where I live is pretty much what most would consider "the country" with farms, ranches, small-town things. Very few people have caught it around here.
How restricted has your personal life become since the virus hit your area? Are you any afraid of getting the virus?
Mike: Not too badly. Except for having to wear a mask in public, which is hard with the beard, I still work, I go to the gym. I'm careful, but I am more concerned with being a carrier and spreading the virus to my father or other older family member than catching it myself.
Ok, let's change the subject drastically and talk about Massacre. That's why we're here, right? You mentioned that the next Massacre record was written and recorded remotely, each of you doing our own thing at your homes. How tough was it for all of you to get the entire album done that way?
Mike: Honestly, I wasn't that hard. You have to adapt to your situation. All of us had studio experience so it wasn't totally foreign, we just had to buy a couple things to make it sound better than the standard home studio noise. But we took advantage of the down time and made it work. We bounced files back and forth until we were happy. Honestly, it probably took less time than if we were in the room together.
I heard from an old friend of mine, Chris Reifert of Autopsy, just last week that in Berkeley, CA. where he lives, many studios have closed their doors due to this virus. Was this the main reason you guys ended up recording the album at your own homes?
Mike: No, it just made sense to do it this way, and financially it makes sense if you can. Honestly, with the way music is purchased these days, you will never recoup studio time, expenses, so DIY worked out for us.
Obviously, when you were doing your own parts at your homes, it demanded some extra scheduling to make it work within a time frame (if you had one). Did you feel comfortable recording that way or was it tougher than working as a whole unit?
Mike: Way easier to work at your own pace. I recorded all my parts with my dog next to me, he kind of liked it haha!! And it's a bit more relaxed, not worrying about the studio clock ticking.
You decided to join the Massacre lineup in 2019. How did Kam convince you it would be a cool move to join the band?
Mike: I hadn't spoken to Rick or Kam in 30 years and they called. I asked them, "will it be fun?" because if not, I have no interest in it. Sadly, the fun part didn't last that long. Problems reared their heads and things happened. I'm glad I did this again, not many guys my age get a chance to do this sort of thing.
Did you know Taylor (Nordberg) or Jeramie (King) before you joined the ranks of the band? Did you feel your personal chemistry clicked right away?
Mike: Well, Taylor and Jeramie are no longer part of Massacre as of this past week. It was working in some ways and in some ways it wasn't. Conflicts, headbutting, communication in all directions. I try to get along with everyone the best I can, I'm pretty laid back. I worked really hard to keep the peace, but in the end, it wasn't meant to be I suppose. To be blunt, we were overwhelmed with the amount of offers we received within hours of the news breaking. We are now working with Rogga Johannson (Paganizer, etc.), Jonny Petersson (Gods Forsaken, Wombbath), and Brynjar Helgeton. Plus Scott Fairfax from Memoriam and As the World Dies is also stepping in to do solos on a few songs for now. We literally shitcanned all the songs we had with recorded with Taylor and Jeramie and are still on track to have the new album done around Halloween!! In the end I think the fans will like this round of songs better. They just sound more like "MASSACRE" should, if that makes sense to you. Kam had worked with three out of four of these guys before. It was an easy transition.
How many band rehearsals did you have before the virus changed everything?
Mike: We all lived a few hours away from each other so honestly, most rehearsals were literally on ProTools. We would practice our parts, then play together maybe 2-3 times before we would perform. We all did our homework and it worked well.
Would you say these new Massacre songs sound closer to the material on the band's debut album From Beyond than the band's album from 2014, Back from Beyond?
Mike: That is part of what happened with Taylor and Jeramie. They came on board with a whole bunch of songs, ideas, etc. These songs were cool and had some heavy parts, but for the most part they just didn't sound like Massacre. Not bad-mouthing the work by any means, but the more you listened, the less it seemed right. Now, we've already started recording and writing new songs, but we can't really say which label we're working with yet, but I think people will hear which one and be pumped about it. We already have three songs in the can, ready for mixing and they sound WAY more like Massacre should sound. None of us had anything to do with Back from Beyond so really not anything to mention.
You and Kam have a lot of history together and you got to know each other in the early demo days of the band, especially 1984-1986. Did you try to find the same vibe and primitive feeling of those early days when Massacre was still a pretty raw and unpolished sounding band for this new material?
Mike: That sound is SO important to what we want to do, and in all sincerity, I think it is why we are getting "rediscovered" after so many years. All these bands with their perfect studio polished and over-produced and sampled recordings. It all sounds fake, it doesn't produce the same visceral response as real, ugly aggressive death metal does. I think that is why we are getting attention. We bring that real deal, raw sound and fans realize it.
Is there something more that you are allowed to reveal about this new Massacre album? The album title? Some song titles? Something about the album's cover artwork, etc.?
Mike: I so wish I could. We just signed the contracts last week, but have to wait until the lawyers (fucking lawyers, really?) approve everything. We can't even announce who the label is (it doesn't suck).
How stoked are you personally to get this new album released? Obviously, you have had negotiations with labels that might be interested in working with the band. Is there something more that you could reveal about subject matter yet, or do you still want to keep this as a 'hush-hush' thing for the time being?
Mike: First, yes, very stoked. Like I said, I consider it a privilege to be doing this again. It's very abstract, to put it mildly. Kam is sticking with the H.P. Lovecraft themes for lyric subject matter, so it won't be too far from From Beyond.
As we are all aware, playing gigs is not possible in many countries (with a few exceptions, of course). It may take several months until bands are allowed to play gigs and tour normally again, so my question is do you have any interest in doing a live streaming record release show if the virus doesn't give up in the next several months?
Mike: Personally, I think the live stream thing is pretty lame. It is not even close to a real show in so many ways, and you can see it in the eyes of the guys on stage. It's all just fake. Would I be shocked if the label made us do it, no, you have to do what you can to stay in the audience's face. I get it. But for now we are planning on just recording music as much as we can.
If we go back to the very early days of the band for a couple of questions, do you remember the circumstances under which you and Kam originally met in the first half of the eighties and what bands were the biggest influences that sparked you to become a musician?
Mike: That's easy to remember. Kam had been kicked out of his mom's house in Orlando, and was staying with an uncle in the town we were in. We had just fired our singer (really, not a singer, but you know). We found out he was around and asked if he wanted to come over and hang out. Well, as things were those days, our guitarist Allen didn't show up, so just Billy and I were there in our practice room with Kam. We started playing "Black Magic", just bass, drums and Kam, then we did "Piranha". Sounded heavy. He was in. Three months later we made the first demo tape.
My BIGGEST influence growing up was Geezer Butler. He just made it all sound so thick and massive. He never forsook the low end to play some clanky bass line. I still try to do the same thing. So many guys wanted to "cut thru the mix" or show some bass chops. If that's your thing, fine, but for me, it's making the ground shake.
In April 1986, the band recorded the 3-song Aggressive Tyrant demo, which is considered the official debut demo of the band. What was it like to record with Allen West, Bill Andrews, and Kam Lee? Undoubtedly you were all full of sheer enthusiasm and very excited about getting it recorded and out for the masses, although times were very different back then because there was no internet in 1986...
Mike: None of us had ever been in a studio before, so it was a wreck. And we had limited cash that I had to borrow from my father to make happen. We decided on a Monday that we would go into the studio that Saturday. We practiced those three songs over and over, got one take and it was done. And of course, the engineer, who was older, he had never done metal mixing before, let alone what we were doing, but we were glad to have an actual demo to hand out, so it was cool.
I remember this particular demo was widely circulated in the worldwide tape-trading network. Were you surprised by the number of letters that started to pour in from all over the world from people asking if they could buy a copy? Is there any particular fan letter that you can still remember?
Mike: We had a post office box. Billy would go check the mail every few days. One day, he calls up and says there were like 50 people who had sent cash to get a copy of the tape. It was crazy for the time. People all over the world sending us three dollars for a self-produced demo. Young guys now, with the Internet, Facebook, etc. they have no idea what it was like.
We would get fan letters and we would occasionally get Polaroid-photos of fans, and trashy metal female fans sending us naked pics of themselves. This was the '80s, girls with big hair, shit tons of makeup, all of them tried to look "metal". I am sure they all look like shit now haha!!
The sophomore 4-track studio demo, Chamber of Ages, also released in April 1986, is what sort of blew the bank for the band and got you guys on the road to play many gigs in 1986-87, especially in the Florida area. Venues like Fort Homer Hesterly Armory, The Cuban Club, Side Streets, etc., became familiar places. Can you tell us about those wild and crazy times like how well you were received among the crowds when Massacre was just a demoing band but had still earned its place in the underground Metal scene?
Mike: We were still just, at least as Tampa was concerned, a local band. Four local guys. The metal scene was still mostly Maiden and Priest fans, and the guys in other bands. Once we started playing shows with hardcore bands like D.R.I., then we started building an audience. It was fun playing some of those shows, like with Morbid Angel, all of us pulling our gear together, doing whatever we could to get the word out that we had shows coming up.
This is a more personal question for you, so don't get mad at me or crush my skull, OK? Why did you leave the band in 1986? Were there some fights or some other negative events going on within the band back then?
Mike: One day I get a call from Billy Andrews. I was out. No explanation. Bill decided he wanted his best friend Terry Butler to play bass. Funny though, Butler didn't really play bass yet. He played the first few shows with Massacre with the volume off. At the time we were still kids and Massacre was just a metal band in a Florida garage. We had no idea those songs we wrote would end up on an album one day...
Back to the present. What do you expect from next year? Do you see the band touring in the first half of 2021, or do we still need suffer a bit more until the world has got more stabilized due to this worldwide virus pandemic?
Mike: No idea. We have a few fests scheduled for next year, but honestly, unless this virus thing goes away, it won't happen. I have resigned myself to the possibility that the run we had in South America last March may be our last live shows. If we do get to play live again, it's just gravy at that point and we will enjoy the hell out of it.
Thank you so much for your time getting this interview done Mike, and I want to wish you all the best with your future endeavors, both with Massacre and your private life as well. Stay healthy! Any last comments to wrap up this conversation properly?
Mike: Just thanks to all the fans who have stuck with us throughout the years, all the up and downs, lineup changes, etc. There is a lot of you have been fans since day one!! I hope the new music lives up to your expectations of what old school metal should sound like!
|Other information about Massacre on this site|
|Interview with bassist Terry Butler on April 16, 2014 (Interviewed by Luxi Lahtinen)|
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