Interview with guitarist and vocalist Michel "Nonos" Dumas
Interview conducted by Luxi Lahtinen
Date online: January 3, 2013
During the tape-trading times, from the mid '80s to the mid '90s, the underground metal scene was flourishing. Many talented Metal bands managed to garner massive attention and some were lucky enough to land record deals.
France was a fertile ground for Metal bands during the heydays of tape trading. Loudblast, Massacra, Agressor, Killers, ADX, No Return and others were just some of those French bands that managed to create quite a bit of fuss back then, and even managed to record some albums.
France's Mutilator, or Mutilated, which it was later named, hailing from Bourg-en-Bresse, Rhône-Alpes, never put their music on vinyl though the band's name was on the lips every underground tape trader back in those days. Mutilated's 2 demos, Psychodeath Lunatics (1988) and Resurrected (1990), were spread around the world by tape traders. They soon became some of the most traded extreme Metal demos by a French band. Sadly, the story of Mutilated ended way too soon but the Mutilated name was eternally locked into the hearts of the ones who cared.
Michel "Nonos" Dumas, who originally formed Mutilator in 1986, reveals bits and pieces of the history of this semi-legendary and long defunct French Death Metal act for The Metal Crypt via the following interview. He lets us to know what good rose out of the dust after Mutilated decided to call it quits in 1993. Read on...
Luxi: It feels like yesterday when I last interviewed you, for the Finnish Isten magazine, eh? about 25 years ago or so. Time really flies, doesn't it? So, where have you been hiding for all these years, Michel?
Michel: Well, "hiding" may not be the exact word, I guess! I've done many things on my side, both as a band member and personally.
Luxi: Let's talk about Mutilator (not the Brazilian band) first, which was the band's name before Mutilated. Under the Mutilator moniker you recorded one 6-track demo, Omens of Dark Fate, in 1987. It had more of a Thrash Metal approach to it, musically. Can you still recall those particular recording sessions?
Michel: Those are good memories indeed, Luxi! This was our first time ever recording with a band and we really didn't know how it was going to be. We went down to the south of France to meet Alex from Agressor, who had a very cool rehearsal place in the basement of his parents' house, and the whole thing was recorded there. I remember thinking "the natural sound at his place is damn good!" There was no comparison to be made with our small, cold and noisy rehearsal room! It was almost destabilizing at first. The songs really didn't sound the way they did when we were playing them at home.
Luxi: Which bands influenced you back in those days? The usual mob perhaps, from Slayer to Kreator to Metallica to Destruction and the like?
Michel: Well, you pretty much summed it up, mate! Yes, we were big Metal fans! I still am. Back then there were only few bands playing that kind of "extreme music" and you can say we were influenced by anything we loved and listened to in this era. I would say, Possessed, Slayer, Kreator, Bathory, Repulsion, etc.
Luxi: Quite soon after the name change to Mutilated, you recorded your first 3-song demo in 1988, Psychodeath Lunatics. You adopted more influences from Death Metal, just proving you were getting your kicks from the more extreme type of Metal, correct?
Michel: Yes Sir. What I love in Metal music is the extreme side of it, always pushing the imagination into deeper abysses, creating sonic torment and embodying nightmares with only notes. Ain't that sheer magic? As a kid, I started to listen to AC/DC, Black Sabbath, Motörhead, Iron Maiden, etc. because I couldn't believe what I heard was labeled "music," especially the crap we could hear on the radio. Before this, I really wasn't interested in music at all. All my family members and friends were listening to mainstream stuff, and I really couldn't find anything in it. Then, I discovered Hard Rock, then Heavy Metal, then Speed Metal, Thrash Metal, Death Metal, etc. Shock after shock... ha-ha!!
So yes, you can say that it was our influences that drove us to write and play more brutal material. Also, we had gained a little experience playing our own instruments (actually when we recorded the Mutilator's demo, I had only been playing guitar for two years or so), thus it was getting easier to get our music going to the point where we wanted it to go.
Luxi: As far as I can remember, Psychodeath Lunatics received lots of rave reviews everywhere around the globe. Undoubtedly you must have been overwhelmed by the all-positive responses that you received based on that demo? Was there ever a bad review or comment?
Michel: Yes, there were! Ha-ha! Of course!! You can't please everyone, I guess, but it's okay because that was never the goal. I'm rather egocentric, as far as music goes, and the only person I try to please is myself. So it was a good surprise indeed when we started to have some positive feedback about the Psychodeath Lunatics tape.
Luxi: What about label interest during those days; did you receive any serious offers to get Mutilated signed?
Michel: Not really. We were supposed to appear on a compilation that should have been made by the guy from Mordid Mag from Sweden. We recorded a fourth track on purpose, "Cabalistic Cryptograms" (originally a Mutilator song), when we were in the studio recording Psychodeath Lunatics. But, for some reason, this project never saw the light of day.
Luxi: Mutilated's second 2-song demo (w/intro), Resurrected, was unleashed 3 years later, in 1991, and once again, Mutilated had mutated their musical approach into almost 100% Death Metal. Do you believe that it was a natural musical development for Mutilated to incorporate more and more brutal and extreme elements into the band's sound?
Michel: Well, keep in mind it was three years later, so we individually went through lots of changes and just got better at playing our instruments. It was a long time since the first demo's material was written and all the Resurrected songs were composed when the new line-up came together. And again, yes I wanted to write and perform much more brutal and dark sounding Death Metal, though it was never in order to be on the top of the trend, but only because this is what inspires me most as a musician.
Luxi: Did this demo raise any interest among the labels?
Michel: Yes it did. I was contacted by Osmose Records and Peaceville Records. But I felt the band wasn't ready to release an album. There were too many things I didn't like about Mutilated back then, and I wanted us to improve and get better before recording something that would go down in posterity. I didn't want to have anything to regret afterwards.
Luxi: Before Mutilated called it quits, you also recorded songs like "Evil Scriptures" and "Tormented Creation" that were supposed to come out on a 7-inch EP but that never happened. What's the accurate story behind this one?
Michel: Well, we got ourselves a deal with a management agency, then signed to Adipocere Records and entered the studio to record those two tracks. Sadly, this studio session turned out to be a complete failure, and the results were far from what we expected them to be. So, Eric and I decided we would not use the tapes.
Luxi: There is a Mutilated double album coming out as a joint venture between Triumph ov Death and OPN Records titled In Memoriam. It is going to contain basically everything Mutilated, even that unreleased 2-track 7" EP from 1993. I guess that official release will pretty much turn the last page in Mutilated's history and replace the bootleg that was released by Foreign Legion Records in 2004. I imagine you weren't too happy about that unofficial Mutilated release, were you?
Michel: That's never a pleasant thing to see something you've made released by someone else without any permission, for sure! I'm glad the In Memoriam album will come out soon. For me, it will be like "closing the chapter" once and for all, with all the respect I owe to my ancient band.
Luxi: Do you regret the fact that Mutilated never actually got a full-length album out?
Michel: Honestly said, not really. Because I never felt the band was professional enough to record a decent album. This is the only reason, contrary to the stupid rumor, written in the notes of one of the bootlegs, that I was obsessed with getting a deal with Earache Records. Back then, we did argue quite often about the fact that some members lacked professionalism and it used to drive me insane, ha-ha!!
Luxi: After Mutilated split up, around 1993, a new embodiment of evilness arose out of this called Abyssals. It included 2 ex-Mutilated members, you on vocals, guitar and bass and François Dauvergne on drums, with Sebastian on 2nd guitar. Was it a logical step to form Abyssals and start playing Death Metal since Mutilated's Resurrected was so heavily Death Metal-influenced? I am wondering why you didn't continue under the Mutilated name since so many underground Metal fans knew the band? Why did you end Mutilated?
Michel: Hmm, it was like I was tired of things going wrong with the band. I mean really, really tired!! Tired of repeatedly asking members for musical involvement, endlessly dealing with personal issues, etc. So ending the band was a relief to me, and starting something "new" allowed me to get back some "freshness" and energy. It was a good era, starting up something I felt was new. Very exciting feeling if you ask me! And I don't think I was conscious of Mutilated's strong reputation, to tell the truth. It wouldn't have mattered anyway; I'm not a calculating person about what I love to do. Which may be a flaw by the way, but I don't care.
Luxi: Abyssals recorded just one very vicious and brutal-sounding, self-titled 3-track demo in 1994, which had a great resemble of Morbid Angel's early sound pounding through the songs. Should we take that to imply that Morbid Angel was the best fuckin' Death Metal band, in your opinion? One that gave you a lot of inspiration...?
Michel: Well, I've always been (and I am still) a big Metal fan in general, and most particularly Death Metal, so I guess I may have taken influences from anything I loved to listen to. And yes, Morbid Angel is definitely a major band in this scene, with an identity and sound all their own. I think the common point with them is actually the density of the songs, but I feel this is an essential point as far as true Death Metal goes.
Luxi: Why did Abyssals end so soon? It was kind of a "one-demo miracle," so to speak...
Michel: There were a few reasons and we couldn't rehearse as easily as we used to. Also, I had to move for job purposes which made gathering the band together even more difficult. Then, after a while, the drummer left and at this time, I was too busy dealing with personal things to involve myself in finding another one, getting a new rehearsal place, etc. That's why. It is a pity, I loved playing in Abyssals.
Luxi: What kind relationship did you have with other French Thrash/Death Metal bands at that time? I have to assume everyone knew each other and there existed a network of friendship between bands, in which everybody tried to help each other the best they could; spreading flyers at concerts, mailing them out around the world and just telling basically everyone to check this and that band because their music ruled. Was it like this back in those days?
Michel: Errrr... No. Definitely not! Ha-ha! Well, the thing is, I was never really into the French scene back then. I was feeling most of the bands were lacking guts, playing more what I called "speeded-up Heavy Metal" rather than raw Death Metal. And there was also lots of hypocrisy between the bands, which I disliked a lot. So basically, we were openly giving our opinions on everyone's music and were soon hated by the whole scene here! Ha-ha-ha!! Except for maybe two or three of them. But you know, generally, people don't like to hear an opinion that doesn't flatter their ego.
The funny point is that I recently had the opportunity to talk about this era with a guy playing in one of the bands I disliked and we're quite good friends now. He knows that I'm not a fan of his band. But we both have grown up and don't give a shit nowadays, so that's pretty cool.
Luxi: I have to assume you played live quite a bit, both with Mutilated and Abyssals, between 1987 and1994. What can you tell us about your live experiences? Did you like playing live, by the way?
Michel: Oh yes dude, playing live is a real blast! I love it! We played very few shows, actually, because the band split up just when we were beginning to be given more and more opportunities to play.
Luxi: After those bands, you got involved with a band called Winds of Sirius, which was a Gothic Metal band, and an album was recorded in 2000 (Beyond All Temples and Myths). That was quite a drastic musical change for you, knowing your history. Did you get totally fed up with playing Death Metal at that time?
Michel: Well, Abyssals had just disbanded and I knew of no musicians who would fit in a Death Metal project. So when I was asked to give a hand in that band, I just said yes. But indeed, this wasn't my cup of tea.
Luxi: Moving on to your next serious band, The Seven Gates, a Death Metal band that - surprise! surprise! - has got a strong post-Domination Morbid Angel vibe to it. First off, what's up with the band? Are there any new The Seven Gates tracks in the works?
Michel: We just finished recording a two tracks demo, and we all love it! We're working with Thibault Bernard from Convulsound Productions who's doing a hell of a good job! And yes, we do almost have enough songs to record a full-length album.
Luxi: Angel of Suffering was the title of The Seven Gates' debut album that US-based Heavy Artillery Records put out in 2009. It received a mix of reviews (both negative and positive). How pleased are you with that record, and would you say that it represents the style of Death Metal that you are hoping to continue in the future?
Michel: The songs are good; it's simply awesome to play them live! The album could have sounded better. And that's exactly what we're busy at with the new tracks. If you want to know my true personal feeling, this is the first recording I'm really deeply proud of since Abyssals.
Luxi: What about the new line-up in The Seven Gates? Does the band possess the kind of chemistry to open wide the Death Metal palette and rip people's head off with your new material?
Michel: As I said, we're all enthusiastic about the new songs, and the ones we just recorded sound just like I always wanted a Death Metal band to sound like. We have a real good team now, and it has become a pleasure to work together and write some new songs. Kevin Foley from Benighted is helping us out with the drumming, which is great. This guy rocks, ha-ha! This is the best line-up to play with and to hang out with. We're friends besides being in the band.
Luxi: It's been pretty much you and another guitarist, Adrien Madrignac, who have taken care of band-related issues (press, bookings for concerts, etc.). Has this situation changed at all over the past months with the rest of your band mates getting more involved with the band activities? Maybe allowing you and Adrian to concentrate on some other things in your personal lives...?
Michel: Its fine with me. I do have time to work, to play guitar, to write songs, to get busy with personal stuff, and to take care of the band, along with Adrien and David. But I'm talking with a guy about his taking care of the management thing in the next months. The guy is a die-hard metalhead, and he's a friend of mine, so it would be awesome! I've come to the point where I just want to work with nice and clever people.
Luxi: Are The Seven Gates still aiming to play live, even hoping to go on tour?
Michel: No tour scheduled yet. We just have one show planned for December, and Simon from the French band Mithridatic will play drums for us. We're still looking for a permanent drummer as Kevin is playing in several other bands (Benighted, Nervecell, Disavowed) and isn't available all the time. We're in touch with some good drummers though, who we have to meet with very soon.
Luxi: Since I know you have been a huge Morbid Angel fan for years, I am curious to know your unbiased opinion about Illud Divinum Insanum? Did that record destroy your faith in Morbid Angel for good, or do you still have some hope left that they might return back to Death Metal full time?
Michel: Well, I guess they have the right to do what they want, as by doing so they became the legend we all know, so I don't blame them for this, at least. Ha-ha! I'd not talk about "faith," this is just an excellent band that made excellent records, and that, in my opinion, failed on this last one. That's all. I'm tired of hearing people talking shit about them. Despite a bad last album they nevertheless deserve respect for having changed the face of the Death Metal scene forever, and I guess it is everyone's right to do as he wants, even if the rest of the world has to suffer diarrhea because of this.
Luxi: Well, I just ran out of all of my questions, so I guess we have reached the end of the interview. Thank you, Michel, for your time and for sharing your latest news with The Metal Crypt. It was a real pleasure to get back in touch with you, and know you are still involved with the sometimes difficult music biz. If there's anything you'd like to say to conclude this session, then be my guest... ;o)
Michel: Thank you for the interview Luxi! Check out the Mutilated release by Triumph Ov Death Records, and come and see us live when The Seven Gates is playing!
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