Interview with Derek Hoffman (drums)
Interview conducted by Barbara Williams (Crowley)
Date online: July 4, 2003
How are you guys doing in the Chicago area and what's going on?
Everything has been going really well. We have been in the studio for the last few days. The recording is finally finished and we are getting everything mastered tonight.
Fleshgrind has become a name in the metal scene and you have been around since 1993. What made you survive as a band for such a long time and achieve this success?
Fleshgrind has always had Rich and Steve. These two would survive a nuclear holocaust like a couple of cockroaches. They really went through some terrible times but they always managed to pull things together. Fleshgrind has had member changes in the past. I'm the third drummer and James is the third bassist.
I like your website and noticed that it is now maintained by the band itself. Is this working better for you?
Totally!! We always put different pictures and update at least once a month depending on what we have going on. We try to get people to come back and check up on us. Nothing worse than a website that hasnít been updated in years!.
You got signed on fairly quickly after your demo came out and you are about to re-release your '97 album, Destined for Defilement. That's great. Is the original album still available?
Actually we just got the rights back from Pulverizer Records. So Destined for Defilement has been mastered and itís finally out on Richís label United Guttural Records. Mastering made it a lot louder and sounds a hell of a lot better.
I checked out your new album cover for Murder Without End. Who designs your CD artwork and who has the final word on what actually goes on the album cover?
Mike Bohatch designed the cover art from some ideas we gave him. I had no idea of how it was going to look. I donít think any of us did. It was cool to see the artwork before we even started recording. That was a first for me. It inspired us to get everything together. We were really behind schedule in the writing department. The cd art came and out of nowhere and things started falling into place. I think the last 2 songs we wrote turned out to be my favorite ones. "Sycophantic" and "Display my Decay".
How soon can we expect to see the new album on the market?
Century Media has it scheduled for release August 26th, so hopefully everything goes as planned.
How important would you say is the CD art?
It has to draw the person that never heard the band before into buying it. To me itís crucial. Back in the old days I would go into the local record store and flip through their tiny metal section. Iíd find a cool looking cover and a catchy band name; Iíd flip it over, read the song titles, then make sure they arenít a bunch of trans-gender glam queens, and if all checked out, I bought it. Iíve been wrong few times. Not many!
How do you write your music? Is there a set guideline or do you write what you feel as you go along?
Fleshgrind was totally different than anything I have ever done. I joined the band in August of 2002. I started learning the set so we could do some shows. The first two months were rough. I played like crap and everyone was rusty. Eventually we clicked. Every week end in November and December we played shows out of state. That kept us busy for a while. So busy, we neglected writing for a few months. We werenít sure what was happening with Olympic/Century Records. We didnít hear much from them. I didnít think they were going to keep us on the label. I mean, The Seeds of Abysmal Torment didnít do as well as it should have. That was due to not touring for the album. I honestly thought we were getting dropped before we even got started. Months went by and the deal between Olympic and Century Media was never finalized. Then one day Century Media got a hold of us and sent us a contract. I was nervous. We only had 5 songs ready. They gave us like 2 months to write, record, mix, master a minimum of 35 minutes worth of music, art work, layout, pictures, everything!!!!! I never wrote like this before. We just rolled up the sleeves and tried our best. The studio recording was tough. I was unprepared. I improvised way more than desired. I had no clue on what fills to use and where I should place them. I had many ideas and actually arranged them in the studio. I just closed my eyes in the studio and played what felt right at the time. I like the natural feeling it has. Nothing sounds like it was forced out. It just flowed. It is not nearly as mechanical sounding as everything else I ever did. Gorgasm had a script. They would come to practice and say "here you go, "Horrifico." Learn this new tune we have. Blast this, grind that, double bass that. If I did a roll or some cymbal work I got shot down. Fleshgrind was great to work with, not that Gorgasm wasn't, but I had total freedom and I am glad they gave me a chance to show what I can really do. I am really proud of Rich, Steve, and Jimmy Do. They worked their asses off to make everything happen.
How do you get the inspiration for writing lyrics?
We wrote lyrics on things that happen in everyday life. Too many sick things are happening in the world and most people choose to ignore these things. All of us wrote lyrics. It worked out way better than I thought it would. Rich, Jimmy, Steve and I agreed on everything lyrically.
You really haven't had the kind of change in members as I have seen many other bands go through, but you have had some uncontrollable obstacles to overcome in terms of health and bad timing of losing a band member. (Sorry to hear about Rich' accident and glad you are doing better again.) How did you deal with this and what made you push forward?
Actually, I wasn't in the band at the time Rich broke his leg. I know it really screwed things up for a while. It happened right after the Seeds of Abysmal Torment Cd came out. Fleshgrind was unable to tour for that album because of Rich's accident. I'm sure they were freaking out there for a while, especially after the departure of drummer Alan Collado. That's when I saw a great opportunity to join Fleshgrind. I have known these guys for years. I played lots of shows opening for Fleshgrind and now I'm up there with them.
Do you consciously think about staying in the Fleshgrind style or music? As a musician, do you play other sorts of music on the side or is this your 100% musical taste?
Oh ya!!!!!! Fleshgrind will always be my number one band. They have way more to offer me at this point. They kept me busier and I've accomplished more with them than any other band I've ever jammed with. personally. I like other styles of music but not nearly as much as death metal. I play along with my Iron Maiden CDS and I wish I could find some guitarists that can play like Forbidden, Agent Steel, Fates Warning type stuff. I'd really like to record something like that some day. Other than that, I'm sticking with grind and death metal.
One of the elements of your heaviness derives from the drumming. Is meter the more important component for you or do you just get into the music itself and play what you feel?
A little bit of both actually. Most of my drumming follows a good meter, but there are parts that go against the grain. I definitely like both.
How would you describe your style of vocals? Who have been your role models?
Actually Rich has a lot of different voices. He used many different ones on Murder Without End. I think he sang a lot different on this last Cd. Definitely guttural!
The music scene really changed between the 70's, 80's and 90's. What would you say has been your strongest influence?
The scene definitely changed! When I started back in 1988, there was no internet. Everything was done through the mail. I miss those old paper zines I used to get in the mailbox. Everyone used to support each other. I miss those days!!!!!! I used to have stacks of different bands' ads. I'd put one of each one in an envelope and try to help others out. Now it's every man for himself. A lot of shit talkers on the message boards, too. It seems like every asshole in the world has a computer and an opinion.
Any plans to go on tour?
Century Media is getting us a booking agent. Once that happens I'm sure we will get something rolling this fall. I cant wait! I've never toured.
What has been one of the most memorable experiences when on tour or playing with other bands?
I have so many awesome memories, it's hard to pinpoint just one. I also have had so many bad experiences. I'd have to say the most recent memorable experience was the last show we played in Chicago. It was at The Metro with Macabre. 783 people paid to get in. I'd have to say that was cool. The metro is a hard club to get into. I always dreamed of playing there when I was younger. It was great! There were three times as many people than at the Ohio Deathfest with 50 bands. Definitely a great time.
Which songs do you like most playing Live?
I like "Monarch of Misery," "Sordid Degradation," and all the new stuff we have. I really want to add "Hatred Embodied" and "Cum on my Stump" to the set list.
When did you start playing and how old were you when you became interested in metal?
I've been listening to metal since I was in eighth grade. I didn't start playing until I was 16. I started off as a guitarist. I recorded two demos and hated the band I was in. I had an awesome drummer, but he was a head case. One day he wanted to jam; next week he wanted to quit for good. I couldn't take it anymore and I knew I'd never find the kind of drummer I wanted, so I decided I was going to play drums and sell all my guitar gear. Everyone laughed at me. It motivated me to play as hard as I could. I think I did ok for myself. I am glad I made the switch. Now I get drummers hating me and comparing themselves to me. They wait for me to make mistakes [when I play] live just to say, " ha, ha!." What they don't realize is that I'm really a guitarist that could probably play just as good as their guitarists or better. One day I'm gonna do an entire project myself just to show the haters what's up! I have guttural vox too. I might just be singing back up vox for Fleshgrind.
Besides Metal, what other types of music do you listen to?
I guess, I'm more into metal to tell you the truth. I listen to all sorts of drummers. I get a lot of cool ideas from other styles but hate the rest of the band. For example, Dave Matthews Band has an amazing drummer but I hate their music. Mike Portnoy from Dream Theatre is amazing, but I can't stand the keyboards or vocals. It sounds retarded, but I can ignore the things I hate about a band and just focus on things I like.
Do you keep up with Metal Magazines? Which ones do you read or like the best?
I really don't read metal magazines too much. Between work, Fleshgrind, Putrid Pile, and my Pro Street Nova I've been building, I don't have much time. When I read, I read Hot Rod magazines or engine building books or even drum magazines. I get to hear all the latest CDs from United Guttural. Rich gets new stuff every day. I also write to my friends around the world. I usually hear about everything going on in the scene.
Have you gotten any gifts from fans? Which would you say would be the coolest or weirdest?
Actually, I did. When I was in Gorgasm I met these people in Davenport, Iowa. We were waiting to play when the club owner came up to us and said we have a phone call. It was this lady. She said her son loved Gorgasm and he was sick. We told her to bring him and we would get him in. He was underage and we got him in. They brought us back to their huge house and had steaks and ribs waiting for us. I kept in contact with them, and for Christmas they invited us out. Well, I was the only one who wanted to go and see these people. They must have bought over a thousand dollars worth of stuff for us. They were disappointed the rest of the band didn't show up. They gave it all to me and I felt terrible. It seemed like they were trying to buy my friendship. I hated that. I felt uncomfortable taking their gifts. I tried not accepting, but they were insulted and upset, so I left with so many things in my car, my girlfriend, at the time, and I couldn't even see out our windows. It turned into a disaster when the guys saw all the stuff I got from them. Then they wanted to go and hang out with these people. I'm not sure what happened, but we went out there for a weekend and somehow the kid's Deicide shirt came up missing, and it landed up in Tom's bag. I called the kid to tell him we accidentally grabbed his shirt and he was totally screaming and yelling at me. He left rude messages on my phone and Tom's answering machine calling us thieves and assholes. I felt terrible and tried to smooth things over. After I sent the shirt back, I never heard from them again. I'll never accept gifts like that again. I hope they read this 'cause it was an accident and a misunderstanding.
I have just recently read an article (on anus.com) about boycotting Christian metal. What are your feelings about that?
I never heard a christian metal band I liked, so it wouldn't bother me at all.
What does "Metal" actually mean to you?
It's a lifestyle not just a form of music!
A little time ago, I heard some heavy criticism from a metal fan who finds that Black metal is no longer acceptable because the satanic content most albums have. As an atheist he sees this as a form of religion. What's your take on this?
I hate fanatics, no matter what they are preaching about. I learned many valuable lessons over the years. Religion, politics and racism are limiting factors. I keep my dark views private and I think if I spoke what is really on my mind, I'd piss a lot of people off. Some things are better not said.
How is the music and being Fleshgrind connected with the person you are? Is your band image a reflection of you or completely separate?
It's totally separate. It's for entertainment only. We sing about raping, murdering, and chopping people up, but would never go and commit such acts. Well, at least I'd never tell anyone and I'd never admit it.
How do you pick your instruments? Do you have or hope to have endorsements?
We would love to be endorsed. I know, I would. I go through a ton of sticks and drum heads. I think we pick gear by the way it sounds. I have Sabian, Zildjian, and Paiste cymbals .I use what sounds good and what I can afford at the time. Sometimes you just can't pass up a deal.
Are you self-taught or had you taken formal lessons?
I started out self-taught, but now I am taking lessons.
Outside of playing metal, what kinds of things do you enjoy doing?
I build high performance engines and love drag racing. Some day I hope to build a motor and a car than will do a quarter mile in 7 seconds.
Which bands are on your list of favorites? If I were to look through your CD collection, what would I find?
99.9% brutal death metal. I have about 450 CDs and 425 of them are death metal. Some of my favorites are Necrophagist, Zyklon, Panzerchrist, Aborted, Disavowed, Severe Torture, Absemia, Anata, Fleshtized, Twelfth Gate, Behemoth, Belphegor, Anasarca, Angel Corpse, Hate Eternal, Devourment, Vomit Remnants, Morgue, Autopsy, and Forbidden.
How old were you when you became interested in metal?
When I was about 16, I seriously started buying records and tape traded.
What was the first metal concert you ever attended?
D.R.I.. and Nasty Savage at the Cubby Bear in Chicago.
Did you have to twist your parents' arms or were they pretty cool about your taste in music?
Haha! My mom has never heard me even play. She just hears what I listen to and hates it with a passion. To her it all sounds the same. She always tells me to change my name if I ever make it. She thinks I'm playing the devil's music. :) I am definitely the black sheep in my family.
Any good books, movies, munchies or drinks you might want to recommend?
Ya! Actually the blood sucking freaks is an awesome flick!
Any collectors among you?
Just Rich. He has over 5,000 CDs in his personal collection.
What do you hope for the future of Fleshgrind?
A long European Tour!!!!!! And hopefully a music video some day.
As an established band, what advice could you give young bands just starting out?
Keep religion and politics to yourself. People all over the world have different cultures and beliefs. Practice hard, kill them with kindness!
Any last words, greetings or curses to fans or anyone else?
Thanks, Barbara for the interview. You really asked some great questions. For everyone else out there, check out Fleshgrind's Murder Without End coming out on Olympic/Century Media Records, August 23rd. Check out www.fleshgrind.com for the latest Fleshgrind news, and hopefully we will have an mp3 of a new song updated soon. Thanks for reading this and I hope you get a chance to hear the new Cd. See you soon! D.
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