Interview with vocalist Eddie Santiago
Interview conducted by Luxi Lahtinen
Date online: October 28, 2020
The eighties were a great time to discover cool bands, especially if you were a tape trader like myself. The tape-trading scene was huge and it seemed like every metalhead was involved, one way or the other. Being fully involved in the underground was time-consuming and needed nerve, patience and 100% devotion but it was fun and rewarding while it lasted. Finding early demos from bands like Slayer, Metallica, Whiplash, Megadeth, Death Angel, Cyclone, Kreator, Vio-lence, Celtic Frost, Agressor was thrilling and you always wanted more. There was never enough new music.
Back in 1987 I came across this band from Boyle Heights, California called Necrophagia. They played speed/thrash metal like many of their contemporaries and being a part of this genre was the shit back in those days. I had just gotten ahold of a copy of their self-titled 5-track vinyl (on Wild Rags Records) which made me instantly follow them. The same year, I ordered a 3-track demo from a band called Necrophagia LA and was titled It Began with a Twisted Dream... and noticed some familiar names in this lineup. That demo blew my mind with a strong Dark Angel/Slayer vibe shining through the songs and as of today, it is still one of my favorite demos ever released!! I soon noticed the connection between the bands but did not know the details of why there was a "Necrophagia" one with the letters "LA" at the end of the band name. Sadly, the life cycle of Necrophagia LA ended after that one brilliant demo, which is a pity. I didn't hear from these guys for many years until Nekroholocaust's name popped up somewhere and some years later, Nekroseizure's...
Let's find out what was going on with this once ferocious, buttkicking act and what these guys have been up to lately, working under the Nekroseizure name. Ready? Well, you'd better be...
How's life in LA, California at the moment? The news is all about coronavirus, wildfires, "Black Lives Matter" riots, etc. from your part of the world, so it seems like you are living some crazy times over there, correct?
Eddie: California is reaping what it has sowed for the past 20 years of horrific policy, voter fraud, broken promises, and open borders of mass destruction. It is now closer to resembling a third-world country than the "Golden State" it once was. What the virus allowed these Mussolini Bureaucrats to do was to instill fear among the masses and a lust for power and control that they have always craved. I saw this bullshit many moons ago and now the chickens are truly coming home to roost. BLM is a fascist/Marxist organization of death worshippers who want to make California one of the most influential states in the union, a communist state, hoping the rest will follow. That is my opinion, one man's opinion only. I am not a politician or anything close to that. I am just an observant citizen who has his eyes and ears open and have so for over 20 years. What we want as citizens is to be left the fuck alone and to let us determine our own fates with our own hard work and aspirations. We do not want handouts.
THE RISE OF NEKROSEIZURE
Let's talk about Nekroseizure, which is why we are here. You released your debut 4-track EP, Death of the Ball Turret Gunner, last year. It's a pretty badass, old-school mix of Thrash and Death Metal and I would like to hear how the response has been for it so far.
Eddie: Nekroseizure has received good responses for Death of the Ball Turret Gunner. We haven't released it en masse as of yet. We have trickled it out in increments of 200 CDs at a time (I don't know why? Maybe procrastination/laziness? The so-called pandemic? I don't know) However, we are in the midst of doing some decent promotion for it in lieu of our next release titled Silence Is Health.
How much new material have you guys composed since the EP? Do you have enough material ready for a full-length and how do these new songs compare to the EP material?
Eddie: Our new material is excellent! At least I believe so. We definitely have enough material to do a powerful album, no doubt about it! One new song in particular takes over where "Confessions of Sin/Chapter Agnostic" leave off and that's "Foxholes Become Frozen Tombs". It has all the elements that tell the listener who Nekroseizure really is. It's an epic tune. We also are working on two other songs plus material that did not appear on the EP, which will be on our next release. We are looking forward to recording all those songs.
Are you concerned about gathering together for band practices amid the coronavirus pandemic?
Eddie: We stayed dormant for four months while COVID-19 was in full effect. We assessed what was really going on and once we were comfortable with the situation, we commenced practicing in July. Nekroseizure has had many productive practices since then and if a gig that interests us materializes, we would not hesitate to perform.
CONGESTED AND EXTREMELY COMPETITIVE LA UNDERGROUND METAL SCENE
Doing gigs is, of course, a major headache for all bands and artists nowadays. How badly did it hit your band? Did you have to cancel or postpone gigs and were there some financial losses involved?
Eddie: We were lucky in that we played three excellent shows in early 2020 (many, many good bands weren't as fortunate). We haven't experienced any financial losses per the band, only some personal financial loss from work and being able to be around family. We would like to say that we make money doing Nekroseizure but the reality is, most bands don't get paid or at least don't get paid what they deserve. We are in a good place right now and we feel very confident in who we are, and we will continue to play what we like with zero influence from current trends. Oh, and playing live is great and fun whatever the hassles. It's all worth it if you play a smoking set of meta!
You played your latest show, for the time being, at the Banquet Hall in Vernon, CA, this February. How was it? Did it go the way you planned, or did you face any technical difficulties?
Eddie: That show was excellent aside from some pre-music loss of some equipment. The set went unscathed and we probably made a few new fans. LA crowds are notoriously picky, and they won't usually praise you much, but I received some good words from the people and that was cool and encouraging. Funny story, after that show we played a midnight gig at the 5 Star in downtown LA (a very last-minute deal) and far as I can remember, we did well. We had a few beverages and don't deny being a little buzzed, lol! Long night!
How much do you enjoy playing live? Is it what gives you the needed elixir to keep the band running or do you see shows a "necessary evil" so to speak?
Eddie: We enjoy playing live and would actually like to do more in the future. Thing is, LA is very congested and extremely competitive when it comes to open slots and so forth. Back in the '80s there was only a handful of bands in the Thrash/Death Metal scene and if you were one of the better outfits, you could call the shots on shows. Not anymore. Tons of young cats are out there playing extreme music, and many are paying homage to the underground legends of the '80s. We don't really sound like anyone out here and we did not set out to be different. We relied on our true old school roots because we were there in the beginning and helped establish the scene. We went with what we knew and what we enjoyed playing. We have written a handful of catchy and fun songs to jam on. We are different and like I said before, we aren't influenced by anyone of today. We made our chops a long time ago and can't lose that old school soul now. It is in us for good.
Can you tell how you guys hooked up back in the day with the intention of forming Nekroseizure? Was it easy to find like-minded musicians for the band?
Eddie: I quit the true Necrophagia LA in early 1989 for a few reasons. From 1989-2014 I was completely out of the scene (musician-wise). In 2013 Willie Mims told me about this guitarist he was jamming with named Steve Madrid. What piqued my interest in returning to the scene is when Willie mentioned how Steve reminded him of our original founding member of Necrophagia Joey Gonzalez. Joey's style of play was so enjoyable to listen to and Thrash as hell and authentic I thought, "No way, another Joey"? Well, when I finally started jamming with these two guys in November of 2014, I heard that sound again. We have something here. "Let's do this shit..." I came up with the name Nekroseizure for two simple reasons; one, Wally Mims was our original bass player and he had been the founding member of Black Metal underground legends Seizure and two, to hold true to our roots of the Nekro Boyle Heights, CA style. Wally left the band soon after and was replaced by Robert Becerra. For his own reasons which he never really divulged to me, but I have a good idea, Robert lasted only four shows and then he was gone. I picked up the bass for a few shows, but we soon were introduced to veteran bass man Johnny Cardenas in September of 2015 and he has been with us ever since. I believe we all share the same vision and goals for the band, however, it would be great if Johnny jumped in with some of his own songwriting since I know he has some good ideas.
LA is known for its strong underground Metal scene, although many bands have come and gone over the years. What are some of the hottest names in LA's underground scene (besides Nekroseizure, of course!) that people should keep their eyes on in the future?
Eddie: Some of the bands that have stood out to me are Sakrificer, Deciples of Death, Dark As Death etc. These bands all have different styles and I do like variety in that regard. They stand out to me as far as bands we have played with.
ARE PEOPLE AWARE OF THE BAND AROUND THE WORLD?
How well do people know Nekroseizure outside of your home country? Do you have any plans to make some sort of a promotional campaign to make the band known better both in the States as well as everywhere else in the world?
Eddie: I think that initially people knew about the band due to my time with Necrophagia LA/Nekroholocaust as the vocalist and, of course, Willie Mims time with Necrophagia during the early years. I believe many expected us to play music from that era and continue with the legacy. Other people just thought we were some old washed up thrashers from a time long ago. I believe with our more recent performances, the release of our EP and with all the new material to come, people will know that Nekroseizure is its own animal and a ferocious one at that. No, we aren't known as much as we should be and that falls on me. I haven't been as diligent getting the promotion out. I will say that we are beginning to get a little buzz just from word of mouth (like back in the day). We will never reinvent the wheel but what we will do is play raw and real Thrash/Death Metal, always. I think that Europe would embrace us, and I want to make more of a concerted effort to get the word out there and maybe even get invited to play there. I believe the European crowd would respect what we do. We have a growing appreciation of our band in the states but it's slower here in the sense that every other band feels the same way and like I said, props are harder to earn out here. It's just the way it is. It's how I see it and I could very well be wrong. I don't know.
Promotional videos are a big part of band promotion. Do you have any plans to make a video in near future?
Eddie: I don't know how soon we will do a promo video, but I am hoping before the end of this year. Most likely it would be for the new song "Foxholes Become Frozen Tombs". Along with that we will take a few more updated promo pictures of the band. We are very interested in playing in Europe and experiencing all of that, so if more promo things work the way we just discussed to get us over there, then why not? It's the only thing left on my bucket list as far as my goals as a musician. Money is always an issue when it comes to fully funding the band but where there is a will there is a way.
THE RISE AND FALL OF BOTH NECROPHAGIAS
Willie Sims and you have some recording history with Necrophagia and Jerry Battle and you went on to form Necrophagia LA; the latter which became quite a cult name in the underground Metal scene back in the day with just one demo. Could you tell what events killed both of these bands eventually?
Eddie: I first need to clarify a few things. Necrophagia and Necrophagia LA were two completely different bands other than I was in both. Necrophagia was in its original form from 1984-1986. Necrophagia LA went from 1987-1989. Many people are very confused by this and lump both bands together, but it just isn't true. After the Wild Rags Records release of the Necrophagia EP in 1986, the band began to splinter in two directions. The original members wanted to stay on the same path and I and newly added member Jerry Battle wanted to explore other terrain. Since I came up with the name Necrophagia in early 1984, I took it and we added the "LA" to differentiate the new path we were on. Necrophagia LA is solely responsible for the demo, It Began with a Twisted Dream, and for the brutal live rehearsal recordings we did in 1988-1989 that became In Memories of Fire under the pseudonym of Nekroholocaust and was released by Jerry Battle on his Mercenary Musik label in 2005. Once again, confusing but 100% accurate. I quit the band in March 1989 for both personal and personnel reasons that I felt at the time could not be resolved.
Of course, now I look back and realize that those issues could have easily been fixed but at the time at the age of 19, they seemed insurmountable. The remaining guys in Necrophagia LA decided not to continue shortly after I left the group and thus, ended the group permanently in 1989.
The band's 1987 It Began with a Twisted Dream 3-track demo, which you did with both Jerry Battle on guitar and Piercy on drums, was heavily inspired by bands like Dark Angel and Slayer. What are your personal thoughts of that demo these days? How proud are you with this accomplishment personally?
Eddie: First of all, it was recorded just in eight hours on an 8-track recorder with almost zero overdubs other than my scream on "Deny the Cross", Jerry's solos and the acoustic ending, period. So, considering the budget we had (we were 16-17 years old respectively) and what little time was put into it, I thought it was outstanding! Once the public heard it and we saw and heard the reaction, we knew we had a winner. It has stood the test of time. 33 plus years since its release and it still sounds fresh and fast and thrash as fuck.
This demo was one of the strongest and most impressive demos recorded back in those days and obviously brought you a lot of recognition around the world. Would you say you were impressed with the amount of attention you received due to this 3-track thrash metal monster?
Eddie: We released this recording as fast as we could because we wanted to set the record straight and let the world know who we really were. We also just wanted all the B-Town heads to have a band that they would be proud to back up and support. When we sent out our demo we had little expectations for it other than to get the word out about us as fast as we could since Wild Rags (our old record label) was smearing us and writing us off as dead. We just wanted to show that we were as legit as anyone. When the reviews started coming in and almost all were very favorable, we felt relieved. Once Bernard Doe of Metal Forces gave us his seal of approval, we really started to receive instant notice. Sales of the demo were brisk, and we were definitely on our way.
Since the demo, have you been in touch with either Jerry or Piercy? What's your relationship with them nowadays?
Eddie: I got back in touch with Jerry Battle in early 2005 once I came across the Nekroholocaust recordings (and I go into detail in this interview about that). We emailed each other for a few months then our conversations went south. I have recently been in touch with Jerry again and I am hoping to form a friendship once again and bury all things old. Piercy just recently reached out to me on YouTube. I have not spoken with him since 1987. I would like to communicate with him again as he was a big part of that recording. He had a great style of drumming and superfast feet.
THE CASE OF BLEEDING INCUBUS
What's the story behind Necrophagia LA's unreleased album titled Bleeding Incubus that you were supposed to release on Alchemy Records? Why didn't it ever see the light of day? Did it have to do with all those financial reasons on the band's half, or is there a different story behind this that hasn't been told yet?
Eddie: Bleeding Incubus as the album was to be titled did see the light of day as Nekroholocaust's In Memories of Fire (I also covered it in this interview). Let me elaborate...
We, meaning Necrophagia LA, recorded a live rehearsal of the tracks that were going to be on our record in 1988 and a separate track in early 1989. Our style and my voice had morphed over time and we sort of recreated ourselves as we matured and added vital members Memo Mora and Jimmy Sotelo, who were very prominent members of the scene in their own right and had both been in well-known bands prior to joining us. There had been talk of changing the name of the group by members of the band since we were different than even the demo just one year prior. Our sound had evolved to a completely different monster. I remember being against a name change purely for sentimental reasons, but I definitely believe that the other guys had a valid point. Anyway, once the band officially broke up in mid-1989, Jerry held onto the recordings which are very, very raw sounding but are the only ones of their kind displaying our whole new arsenal of sounds plus the overall concept and feel for what the full-length LP would have sounded like. I well-engineered and performed version of these songs would have been insane given the year it would have been released and how freaking brutal the subject matter was not to mention my new vocal approach. So, I guess in 2005 Jerry decided to release the music under the name Nekroholocaust on his Mercenary Musik Label. Under a veil of mystery and secrecy as to the members of the band only to say that these were rare recording done from 1988-1989 featuring prominent members of the underground, which was entirely true, Necrophagia LA's LP came to be. So, if you want to hear a raw as fuck version and template for what would have been in our debut LP, then listen to Nekroholocaust's In Memories of Fire. Our deal with Alchemy ran out and we just couldn't deliver the goods at that time because of lineup instability and money. We didn't get our ultimate Necrophagia LA lineup until late 1987 and the songs didn't fully materialize until mid-1988. We just ran out of time with the label and they unfortunately had to move on even though they loved our concepts and the album cover and sleeve and so on. They were really looking forward to releasing it for us, but we just had too many obstacles at the time. It's my biggest disappointment and regret not having the LP released. With a recording budget and that material to work with, forget about it, man! It would have been a classic for the genre. No doubt in my mind. None..!!!
How proud are you of the 4-track EP that you did for Wild Rags Records in 1987, as Necrophagia? Did the release of it bring you some cool gig opportunities back in those days? Can you name a couple of the coolest and most memorable gig experiences from back then?
Eddie: I didn't like the finished product. Guitarist and cofounder Joey Gonzalez who had left the group right before we were set to record wasn't on this release and it tremendously hampered the effort. I believe his guitar work would have led to a great debut record instead of a mediocre effort. We also didn't include some of our best songs on the release because of Joey's absence. Ruben Alvarez did the best he could and even wrote two songs on the fly to make it a 4-song EP instead of a 2-song. He didn't have the chops to perform Joey's guitar work on the songs that we did not include and instead "Tear off Your Face" and "The Final Solution" were created during the time we were at the studio doing the EP. Not the best formula for releasing a representative effort. Obviously, It Began with a Twisted Dream redeemed Necrophagia and garnered worldwide acclaim.
... AND, THE FUTURE?
Back to Nekroseizure for the last couple of questions. What are some of the band's short- and long-term plans regarding doing new stuff, playing gigs, etc.?
Eddie: Recording our new full-length album, Silence Is Health. Writing and performing songs that we love and doing a gig here and there. That is the short term, at least for me.
Long term? Playing in Europe and staying heavy and original as can be. As long as my mind stays fertile with concepts and I can execute them vocally and, of course, decent health for sure. Then I do see more years ahead for Nekroseizure music. A lot of credit needs to go to our guitarist Steve who seems to have many ideas and great riffs and a knack for churning out songs that people can remember while always maintaining a heaviness. We are happy and fortunate to have had him in the band since the beginning.
What do you personally hope to achieve with this band during the next 2-3 years, beside lots of fame and fortunate, of course? ;o)
Eddie: I want to maintain our credibility and never forget the roots. Continue to improve and push the envelope and our abilities to the limit. The thing I really like about our band is our willingness to be honest with ourselves and to fully understand that we can always do better. If we continue to do these things, then the songs will reflect it all. And in the end Luxi, it is all about the music.
That was it from my part anyway. I sincerely want to thank you for taking your time to make this interview happen and wish you all the best with all of your future endeavors with the band. If you have anything else in your mind, feel free to spit it out...
Eddie: Thank you for the interview and for your lifetime of work you have put into the scene. Appreciate you very much.
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