Interview with bassist Chris "Pito" Petersen
Interview conducted by Luxi Lahtinen
Date online: August 30, 2014
Legion Of Death, from Denver, Colorado, played raw and filthy Hardcore-tinged Thrash/Death Metal during their first incarnation back in 1985-89 and enjoying some of the spotlight during the heyday of underground tape trading scene. They released a handful of demos and one 8-track album, managing to build up a solid and loyal fan base during those wild and crazy days.
Legion Of Death were an active live band and secured slots opening up for bands like M.O.D., Slayer, D.R.I., etc., which undoubtedly helped spread their name.
Mr. Fate hit many bands hard in those days and, unfortunately, Legion Of Death was on his list. The band broke up in 1989 then returned in 2010 with a new lineup. Legion Of Death bassist Chris Petersen was kind enough to talk to The Metal Crypt about what Legion Of Death have been up to lately and their plans for the fall of 2014/beginning of 2015. Read on...
Luxi: How's life in Denver, Colorado?
Chris: Life is amazing! Great weather, great people, great brews and great music. Colorado is a great place to live.
Luxi: You are a new face in the Legion Of Death camp. How did you join this semi-legendary Denver, Colorado-based group?
Chris: I became a fan of the band after I was introduced to the local scene in '86 by a friend from high school. Legion Of Death was pretty big at the time, along with a few other bands. I saw them live and, in all honesty, I was hooked. I became a big fan and went to a lot of shows that featured L.O.D. After L.O.D. broke up, Jeff and Mike went on to form another band called Asystole. By that time, I was already in a band and playing shows. I was playing bass for a band called Decimation and I actually formed my sound from L.O.D. and Iron Maiden. So I had this light fuzzy distinctive distortion tone. I kind of fused those two sounds to make my own.
Anyway, we eventually became friends, and we featured our bands together on several gigs. Years went by and we remained friends and the idea came up to have L.O.D. do one more show featuring the original members. For whatever reason, two of the original members couldn't make the commitment, so I was asked to play bass. Since I knew those songs by heart I figured it wouldn't be much of a task to learn them. I just fit right into place and we've been jamming together for almost three years now as Legion Of Death.
Luxi: Was it easy to adopt your sound in Legion of Death?
Chris: Yea, like I said before, they already knew the sound I had from my previous band. They already knew I could hit the ground running. So I fit right into the mold nicely.
Luxi: Before you joined Legion Of Death, how high did this bunch rate in your eyes? It goes without saying that L.O.D. have a strong reputation as one of the truest underground Metal forces from your area, right?
Chris: Yea, L.O.D. was the most popular band but we had Violent Degenerates and Defamator, as well. But L.O.D. stuck out from the pack with their originality, the Crossover-Death Metal thing. To this day L.O.D. is still talked about. I still hold those old albums, with the original lineup, in high regard. They were the first local band I was turned onto when I moved from Minnesota to Colorado in 1983. The LP is still one of my all time favorite albums.
Luxi: You have a strong history of playing in bands behind you and undoubtedly you are a very experienced musician. Do you believe all this experience made it easy for you to adjust to L.O.D.'s musical style, attitude, lifestyle and so on?
Chris: It definitely gave me the experience of the local scene being in other projects. It was an easy role to adjust to. We were all friends before this incarnation of L.O.D. and we all knew each other pretty well. Getting to know each other was not a challenge. Mike and Jeff were from the old L.O.D. and Asystole, Len is from Cephalic Carnage and Joe is from Scalafrea. I am also the vocalist for a Death/Grind band called Zombie Hate Brigade.
Luxi: Can you remember your first rehearsal with these guys? Instead of the guys telling you right of the bat "you suck - leave the room," they welcomed you to the band because they knew you were a man who could really shred your 4-string axe and add the final piece to the band's vicious and uncompromising sound. That's how it all happened, right? Feel free correct me if I am wrong about this... ;o)
Chris: Ha hah haa... well, thankfully, they never came right out told me I sucked. I'm a pretty fast learner so adapting wasn't hard at all. And L.O.D.'s music is nothing tricky but the bass had to sound right. That was my mission when they asked me to play with them. I had to make the bass sound distinctive yet distorted, and it needed to stick out like the old bassist Andy did in the 80's. I think I achieved that goal, honestly, but it took me a while to find the right equipment to do so.
We started with just Jeff, Joe and me rehearsing all the music. Then Len and Mike joined a month later, after we had everything down solid.
Luxi: In the mid/late eighties, Legion Of Death's name became pretty familiar in the tape-trading scene, as their demos and rehearsal tapes were heavily circulated. It was actually Legion Of Death's first demo, from 1985, Have a Nice Death, that I personally remember best. I remember thinking how on earth any band can this vicious, raw, aggressive and filthy, sounding a bit like Venom but with a more Hardcore vibe incorporated into their sound. Headfuck quality, indeed. Anyways, what was your first impression of Legion Of Death when you heard them for the very first time in your life?
Chris: I was totally blown away by John's rough yet sometimes distinguishable vocals and Andy's bass, to be honest. I never heard distortion through the bass before. The band's simplistic Hardcore riffing with the distortion and the rough, yelling vocal style of John was great. We were all still listening to Venom and Slayer so, when we all heard L.O.D., it was something new, something refreshing. The same thing happens today when you hear that new band and you finally say "FUCK YES!" Right when things were getting stale a band comes out and rejuvenates the genre for ya.
Luxi: What about the band's self-titled 8-track debut that was released in 1988? Did it have the same impressively lethal quality for you, like their earlier stuff?
Chris: I still hold that album close to me. It's still in my collection and is one of those pieces that will never leave my vinyl collection. To be involved in the band but coming from a fan side is really cool.
Luxi: Did you manage to see Legion Of Death live when the guys were opening up for bands like D.R.I., Crumbsuckers, Slayer, M.O.D., etc.? How were they back then? Did you see any crazy things happening when L.O.D. conquered the stage and invited people in the audience to join their Hardcore thrashing madness?
Chris: I did see the M.O.D. show and the Slayer show. I remember the day of the M.O.D. show; I was standing in line, and Andy comes running up out of no where (he knew some blokes that happened to be standing next to me and my friend in line) and he says "we just got added to the show because Exodus cancelled, someone get me high." Ha ha ha ha ha...and I thought to myself, "that sucks Exodus cancelled, but fuck yea I get to see L.O.D.!!!"
I remember being stoked when I saw the flyer for Slayer and that L.O.D. was opening. Slayer crowds are hard and L.O.D. actually got booed and I was yelling at folks in the crowd to shut up, ha ha ha!!! In my eyes, they were the perfect opener for the band and they had earned that spot as a damn good local band. I always thought they could have gone further. Fate decided otherwise but I always thought they could've been the next signed band.
Luxi: What can you tell us about the chemistry inside the band nowadays? Do you guys get along with each other, not only when playing, but outside of Legion Of Death?
Chris: Oh yea, we support each other's bands when L.O.D. is not playing. I'll go see Scalafrea, they'll come see Zombie Hate Brigade, etc, etc. Were friends outside the band, ya know? Len has a t-shirt printing shop, so we always make sure to give him our business when doing shirts for any of our projects. It's what friends do. We work well with each other. No one is really shy about offering constructive criticism, so if someone is doing something they don't like when rehearsing or writing material, he speaks up and says he doesn't like it. There are no hurt feelings. We just move onto the next idea.
Luxi: The last time Legion of Death played live was on April 20th, 2014, when you were a part of the Vapor Fest lineup, which was hosted by Cephalic Carnage. How was that experience? Do you believe you got a bunch of new fans for Legion Of Death?
Chris: I think we capture a few new people at each show. We still are able to bring out tons of the old L.O.D. fans who have accepted the new lineup and we capture a few new people too. This show had some bigger bands on it, Cephalic Carnage, as you mentioned, and Dead Horse. So, of course, the crowd is much larger than a normal local show. We sold a lot of merch and that always shows were are something correct, ha ha ha!!! We have a couple of shows coming up soon including one with Macabre, Ringworm and Panzerfaust on October 9th.
Luxi: After all these years there's a new Legion Of Death release out called Condemned to Hell. What can you tell the readers of The Metal Crypt about this album where you re-recorded some of the band's older songs?
Chris: I think we did a great job re-recording those old songs. We worked at a great local studio called Firestorm Studios and the producer, Jeff Alexis, does a really great job! We kept the arrangements the same as they were in the 80's, but with Len's vocals. Len has a more Death Metal vocal style. John had such an original sound there was no sense trying to match what he had already done. Also, this is the L.O.D. of today so we didn't want Len to try and duplicate anything that John had already done. The songs are much heavier. The tempos are the same, except for a few blasts here and there. The production is better than what was on the original LP from the 80's. I think this is really well recorded album and we're mighty proud of it.
Luxi: Playing live is a very important way of promoting a band so are you aiming to play as much as possible? How much do day jobs and families restrict your touring plans?
Chris: We pick and choose. We don't say "yes" to every show; if we did the local scene here would get tired of us. And, as you mentioned, our work schedules play a role. I'm a father, a husband and I work 50+ hours a week. I also play in another band. Needless to say, I'm very busy, and I would wear myself thin if we took every show offer tossed at us. But playing out is important, so we just have to be picky with what shows we decide to take. So saying "no" is not hard, ha ha ha ha!!!! It's saying "yes" to the right shows.
Luxi: Many things have changed since the tape trading days and now, with the whole Internet thing, you can make great band discoveries daily, depending on how active you are online. Has the Internet helped L.O.D. get the word out that the band is alive and kicking again and have you found good bands on the Internet?
Chris: Oh yea! The Internet has helped us in many ways, especially promoting the band. When we have shows, we still hit the streets, though, passing out flyers at shows and record stores. We can't expect social media to do the work for us, so there is work behind the scenes of a Facebook account, at least from our end. And trading is even easier, but it's not the same. I loved coming home back in the 80's/90's and seeing that new package on the front steps of my home. Opening the package like a Christmas gift and seeing who sent me what this time (*LOL*), those were great days. And you always got an original demo or a recording of a demo, not MP3s.
I have found some great bands on the Internet. BruceXcampbell and Eat The Turnbuckle, just to name a couple. I might not have found them if it wasn't for the internet.
Luxi: What are some of the downsides of all this modern age technology? Piracy, on top of everything else, perhaps? People just love downloading music for free, as you already know...
Chris: Well, of course, the piracy thing is not cool. You don't get paid, but beggars can't be choosers, either. We really want people to hear the music, so if it is illegally downloaded then what are we to do? We're not Metallica, we can't take on the music industry. You can't take on the illegal prospect of it when you're not a signed band. We just let it happen. And if someone digs our tunes, hopefully they'll go to our website and buy the original CD or a t-shirt and support us. It's all we can ask for.
Luxi: What things do you miss from the tape trading days; the individually hand-written letters, all that excitement when you got a demo from a certain band in the mail, etc.?
Chris: Oh yea, like I said before, getting that package and seeing what new surprises it contained after ripping it open like a Christmas present. All the ads you would get from labels or magazines. And everyone would put their stamp on the back of it, and pass things along and you would see how those ads and flyers went through several hands before landing in yours. The trading scene is a nostalgic era I miss.
Luxi: I imagine you collected a nice pile of killer demos during the heydays of the tape-trading scene. What are some of the gems that you have kept in your collection or have you sold all of your original demos?
Chris: I still have quite a few old demos from bands like Exhumed, Deterioration, Jungle Rot, Macabre, Jesus Fucking Christ, Anal Blast, Devourment, etc. I have quite a bit saved. Those are just a few of the bands. I can't think of them all off the top of my head. I still have so many cassette tapes. Incantation, Mortician, Disharmonic Orchestra...here we go, some of the stuff is coming back to me, ha ha ha ha!!!!
Luxi: What about your local underground Metal scene? How much has it changed, for better or worse, during the last couple of decades? Do you see it somehow less interesting or exciting now that you are older and have seen everything already or do you still get your kicks whenever you hear a new band that still has "it''?
Chris: Our scene is great. The upside is there are too many bands; the down side, there are too many bands, ha ha ha ha!!!! On any given night there is a band playing in Denver. There are so many shows, we can't make 'em all so, just like playing a show, we have to pick shows we can attend. I'd be broke and probably divorced if I went to every show, ha ha haa!!!
Luxi: I suppose Legion Of Death has plans to continue releasing new stuff until the end of the world, so what do you guys have in store for us? Have you been able to compose some new Legion Of Death songs that are waiting to be recorded?
Chris: We are actually re-teaching ourselves a couple more old songs and we have two new songs in the works. One is almost complete. We will hopefully debut the new material at the next show we play in September, so we are definitely not slowing down.
Luxi: Many bands are releasing live DVDs to give the fans an opportunity to see their favorite artists/bands visually. Have you had any discussions about releasing a good quality Legion Of Death live DVD some day?
Chris: We are always looking for new ways to merchandise ourselves and I think a DVD might be a good idea. I hadn't thought of that but it might be worth a try. But it would have to be loaded with extras, you know? Nowadays, you can simply do a search on Youtube and see the last show from your favorite band so ours would have to be something different. Loaded with extra junk most people don't see like the behind the scenes jokes, rehearsals and that kind of stuff.
Luxi: So, as the final question of this chat, what can your fans expect from L.O.D. in the fall of 2014/beginning of 2015?
Chris: We do plan on releasing a 5-song EP. We should be hitting the studio after Christmas and plan a release by February of 2015. As far as 2014 goes, there will be some more local shows, but the majority will be writing for the new EP. Until then, fans can go to our Facebook page and also buy merchandise from www.legionofdeath.bigcartel.com.
Luxi: Thank you so much for your time to do this interview, Chris, and thanks for breathing some new life into Legion Of Death. May the force be with all of you, or something like that, ha ha! If you have any closing comments for the fans and readers of this site, then just spit 'em out to wrap this conversation up properly...
Chris: Thank you, Luxi, for the interview; we really do appreciate the support. Perhaps we'll see you on your side of the world some day. Until then, cheers to you and all our fans. Thank you for the support. Rock 'n' Roll!
|Other information about Legion of Death on this site|
|Review: Condemned to Hell|
Copyright © 1999-2018, Michel Renaud / The Metal Crypt. All Rights Reserved.