Interview with vocalist and bassist Nick Sagias
Interview conducted by Luxi Lahtinen
Date online: March 10, 2022
Canadian thrashers Overthrow (1987-91) were among the better thrash metal bands to come out of the Canadian underground scene in the late eighties/early nineties. The band's 6-track demo, Bodily Domination, released by Epidemic Productions in 1989, really got the ball rolling for the band, reaching many corners in the world through the tape-trading scene, which was the way to spread your stuff during the pre-Internet times. It brought them opportunities to share stages with bands like Cannibal Corpse, Sindrome, Baphomet, etc.
One thing led to another and, in June 1990, the band found themselves recording their debut album at the famous Morrisound Studios, Florida, with producer Scott Burns at the helm.
Within Suffering, the 9-song debut album, again on Epidemic Productions, helped them gain even more notoriety. The guys even managed a couple of opening slots on Death's "Spiritual Healing" tour in 1990, along with Texas-based thrashers Devastation, in Montreal and Toronto. They played many other shows with bands like Vio-lence, DBC, Cannibal Corpse and so on until the band's engine started to make some weird noises of dysfunctionality.
What happened after that? We can let Nick Sagias (bass and vocals in Overthrow, in Tribe of Pazuzu nowadays) open the lid of the coffin for us a little bit via this interview that we had the pleasure to conduct with him.
How's life, Nick? Are you dead-tired of the restrictions due to the pandemic? (NOTE! This interview was done before the Russian army's invasion of Ukraine)
Nick: Life is good. I can do without the fascist totalitarian measures that have been destructive to people's lives and well-being.
HOW THE BALL STARTED ROLLING...
We are here to talk about Overthrow and I am glad that you are open to discussing those, may I say, sentimental times, so thank you. To get things started, could you tell about your musical background, like what bands and albums did you look up to and what made you dedicate your soul to thrash metal?
Nick: I suppose it started when I was around nine years old, listening to Kiss and AC/DC and then it moved to Iron Maiden around '82 or '83 when I started playing bass. At this point the people in the neighborhood were all just beginners, so there was nothing really serious going on and it was pretty directionless for the most part. We were just having fun with it and getting the hang of our instruments and jamming. It was around '84/'85 that music tastes started getting heavier with Celtic Frost, Possessed and the whole German thrash scene (Destruction, Sodom, Kreator). By '86 when all those groundbreaking albums came out (Eternal Devastation, Pleasure to Kill, Darkness Descends), that's what really grabbed me and inspired me to write that fast and relentless style which I still maintain to this day with Tribe of Pazuzu. At around fifteen we had a punk band and we recorded two demo songs and got on the local metal radio show, which was the best around for underground music at the time. From there, I knew I wanted to write and start playing thrash, and not the mid-paced crap like the majority of the Bay Area, either. That stuff wasn't my thing, never was. That was probably the first clue that Overthrow wouldn't last (musical differences). So, after '86 we started Overthrow.
How did you meet Derek Rockhall, Ian Mumble and Wayne Powell, and did you all share the same vision of what Overthrow should be all about musically?
Nick: When I was around fourteen or fifteen, I remember Derek moved into our neighborhood and he would always borrow tapes or albums from me. We would go back and forth to one another's houses and listen to music and write riffs. Eventually the time was right to start a new band with a thrash direction. Before that there were about 3-4 bands all doing something but different styles. I sang in the thrash band and I guess it went from there to sing as well as play bass. By this time, I was writing more lyrics as well. My cousin told me he knew this great guitarist out where he lived whose name was Ian. I went to Pickering (Ontario) to meet Ian and then he came down to try out for us and it clicked right away. If I go further into my memory, it was at the Pickering Mall and we were all going to see the movie "Trick or Treat". That's when I met and talked to Ian, sharing some of our influences and direction and about coming down to jam.
How easy was it to find like-minded musicians in the Scarborough area in the late eighties? Toronto was undoubtedly the biggest hotbed for metal bands and musicians and Scarborough is located next to Toronto, so it was a no-brainer to meet and become friends with many metalheads in Scarborough, right?
Nick: It was extremely hard. There was no scene how everyone thinks, not in Scarborough and not in Pickering. There was a bit of a scene in downtown Toronto, but finding the right musicians is a constant struggle in most scenes, let alone Toronto, where everyone liked slow or mid-paced metal. My goal was to always write fast and play fast so it was never easy to find musicians, even in '91 when I started Soulstorm, and even more recently when I was starting Tribe of Pazuzu. Of course, putting together Tribe I was more fortunate with respect to the caliber of musicians I would be involved with. It has been such a great experience that has paid off, waiting and then finding the exact musicians you need.
How did you become the band's vocalist and bassist? Were all the other instruments reserved for your buddies (haha... just kidding, of course!) Seriously speaking, playing bass and singing were obviously things you felt pretty comfortable with, right?
Nick: I started with the bass at thirteen. It started from watching Gene Simmons, Steve Harris and Geddy Lee. These guys wrote music, lyrics, and sang (except Steve Harris of course). It inspired me to write and move forward instead of waiting for others to write. Writing on bass or guitar isn't any different and only a simple-minded person that doesn't write music would think that.
How much were you involved with the tape-trading scene back in the day and did you find it helpful to get the band's name out around the globe?
Nick: I was involved for a few years. I would network to find bands to play shows with. I used to send packages of other friends' bands or zines. It just grew from there. It helped when trying to find bands in certain cities and to set up shows. It was a lot of fun. I met a lot of people through that. That's how I met bands like Cynic, Baphomet, Cannibal Corpse, Obliveon, Gorguts and many others.
1989 - BODILY DOMINATION
When you recorded your first 6-song demo, Bodily Domination, back in 1989, did you all feel like you had composed a killer package of songs that could hardly be ignored by metalheads at that time? Did you feel confident enough that it might even establish your place right off the bat as one of the hottest names among Canadian thrash metal bands (Sacrifice, Razor, Infernäl Mäjesty, Voïvod, Slaughter, Exciter, Annihilator, etc.)?
Nick: Actually, when I really break it down and look back, Overthrow was very insular in the Scarborough/Pickering (Ontario) area in the beginning. There were no outside influences at all at that time, other than the quality metal I was buying. I used to go downtown to the Record Peddler and buy tons of new albums every week. So much metal was coming out and they had tons of imports. I remember thinking the six songs we had for the demo were pretty fast and relentless and showcased our best qualities up to that point. Honestly, we should have stayed like that. I just wanted to record music and start playing shows. There was no big plan really and there was no real interest outside of Epidemic Records, so it was never really pursued. We were writing and playing relentless thrash. It's a very niche market to be playing with stars in your eyes.
The demo was recorded at Umbrella Sound, and it was produced by a guy named Brian Taylor. How did you end up using Umbrella Sound and how was Brian to work with? Was he suggested to you by friends that you knew at that time?
Nick: He was chosen because of the quality of his previous production work. I knew we needed someone to go into the studio with us that understood thrash metal. It was a great session, and the demo was a great introduction to Overthrow. Brian had a history of not showing up to recording sessions, so we specifically went and picked him up and brought him to the studio... we weren't fucking around, haha!!
As all of you supposedly were a bunch of "rookies" in the studio environment, how much did you learn while you were there to record your debut demo?
Nick: Using the word "rookie" would imply that none of us had recorded before. By the time we went in to do the Overthrow Bodily Domination demo, we had been using 4-track machines. We recorded a couple of bands we were in and got those songs on the radio at the time, as well we recorded the first Overthrow tape ourselves. The studio was great and went very smooth, pretty much like we expected it to.
How much guidance did Brian give you in the studio on how to achieve the best results and avoid some half-assed result coming out the other end of the pipe?
Nick: I don't recall him giving us any tips at all. We did everything pretty straightforward. There was no direction really, just a sequence of events; record the drums, record the guitars, record the bass, record the vocals, and mix. We used to rehearse a lot, at least two or three times a week, depending on if we had something coming up. It all paid off in the end. Also, when working with great producers, if you pay attention there is always something to learn. Some people are interested, and some aren't.
Once Epidemic Productions had released the Bodily Domination demo in April 1989, did you notice an increased amount attention with people telling you how much they loved the demo and wanted to see you guys play live in their cities?
Nick: Well, yeah, I would say so. Prior to the demo being released, nobody knew who we were. The demo allowed us to finally show people what we were about and start playing shows. I sent it out to a lot of zines at the time, as well as tape trading with other cool bands and 'zines. This is exactly how we became friends/played shows with Baphomet, Cannibal Corpse, Cynic, Obliveon, Gorguts, and Sindrome.
Can you still remember the politest comment that someone expressed to you regarding the Bodily Domination demo? I bet you received quite a few of them back in those days...
Nick: The best compliment of all was when all the Toronto soy boys started complaining that the demo was too fast. In hindsight, I should have known straight away that that was the perfect compliment. I regret abandoning that attitude and approach to playing at that time, and now it's back so I won't be letting up. Also, there was a friend of one of my aunts who apparently was a teacher. She read the lyrics to "Suppression" and concluded that they were pro-drugs, and that's when I became even more disillusioned with what it takes to be a teacher and how they spread their ignorance to impressionable young minds. She was no doubt letting the "scary" images of the band dictate her reasoning. This has always been a problem and misconception of metal culture by simple people.
I read that you only played three shows in 1989. What were the main reasons for the lack of gigs that year? Didn't you have anyone who could have booked more gigs for you guys, or were there some other reasons behind the lack of gigs?
Nick: It was definitely not our most active year for playing shows, but we had to get our feet wet. We didn't really know any promoters prior to releasing the demo. As a result, we couldn't play as much as we might have liked. I would ask; should a local band play more than three shows a year? Is that recommended? Besides, playing more than three times in one year in the same area wasn't what we were about. I wanted to make all the shows special. Playing every month would be counter-intuitive to this. On top of that, picking quality bands to play with was always important to me. We always had control of who played with us. By the end, it got easier, particularly the last couple of shows. For those two shows I brought Cannibal Corpse up for the first, and then Baphomet came up for our final show. But in 1989 we opened for Sacrilege BC in March, then we recorded and released the Bodily Domination demo in April. After that, we did our own show with Beyond and Dark Legion in June. We finished the year off opening a metal fest at the Concert Hall with Death Angel, Razor, and Ludichrist. Once the demo was out, we started playing shows all over Ontario as well as Montreal and in Buffalo, New York.
TRIP TO THE FAMOUS MORRISOUND STUDIOS
One thing led to another and in 1990 things really took off for Overthrow and with the help of Epidemic Productions' (generous) recording budget, you flew to Florida to record your debut album at the famous Morrisound Studios. I assume you were thrilled about this chance to record your debut album, Within Suffering, at the mecca of death metal at that time. What was this experience like?
Nick: At that time, it wasn't quite the "mecca" it would become. There were only a handful of bands that Scott had done by then, but it was enough for us to want to go there. There was no question about who we would record the album with. Essentially, once we started playing more shows, it opened up a lot of doors for us. We met lots of people, which led us to working with Scott Burns on the Overthrow album. It was a great experience. We were at Morrisound in June '90. In fact, this was before Obituary's Cause of Death and Napalm Death's Harmony Corruption came out. Scott had already worked on Sepultura's Beneath the Remains, Obituary's Slowly We Rot and Terrorizer's World Downfall. So, it was a no-brainer that it was going to sound great.
Scott Burns was a highly respected producer in those days, and every death metal band in the States wanted to go to Morrisound to record their albums with Scott being the main man in charge. How demanding was he for you guys and did he let his whip "sing" when trying to get the best out of you guys?
Nick: We went in and belted it all out in about six or seven days, which also included the mix. Like I mentioned previously, we were quite rehearsed by that time, and I don't recall too much direction being given by Scott. We did the bass and drums with Tom Morris. Once that was done, Scott came in and did the guitars, vocals, and mix. We ripped through everything so fast it's now all a blur.
Did you feel a that you were a little like strangers in a strange land while you were there, laying down your own parts for the album?
Nick: No, not me. I love being in the studio, it's my element. In fact, when we hit the studio with Tribe of Pazuzu, we barely have time to go and enjoy the sites in Montreal. We are there with one thing on our minds; to record the best version of what we do. That has to be the focus, especially if you want the work to come out top-notch. Some people like to rush through their parts so they can go to the strip club or hit the dive bars or whatever. I'm focused on the studio. It's expensive and a lot of work. In the end, it reflects who you are, so why rush it? Just like playing live, the process of recording also needs that energy and fire. Too many people don't get that aspect of it. The worst phrase I've ever heard in the studio is "good enough", when it's nowhere near how you want it.
Did you make any important contacts during your Florida trip that helped you to get more gigs later on?
Nick: We were friends with Cynic at the time. In fact, we even went to Miami on that Morrisound trip to play a show and hang out with our friends. The studio, even though it was booked, wasn't busy. People weren't dropping by. Nobody even knew who we were in Tampa at the time. As a result, I became super-focused on the recording process. While there, I got to hear the unreleased and unmastered versions of Obituary's Cause of Death and Napalm Death's Harmony Corruption straight off the DAT tape way before they were released. That was a memorable experience.
ON THE SPIRITUAL HEALING TOUR IN 1990
Overthrow opened for Devastation and Death on the "Spiritual Healing" tour in both Montreal and Toronto in 1990. I assume this was the result of visiting Morrisound Studios and all of the new connections that you made during that trip? Undoubtedly it was a big deal for you to get those two slots on that tour, wasn't it?
Nick: To clarify, the Morrisound connections were not at all responsible for the Death/Devastation shows. In fact, those shows came from me talking to the promoters and setting up the shows. While in Montreal, on the first night of the "Spiritual Healing" tour with Death and Devastation, I met Borivoj Krgin (Metal Forces/Metal Maniacs magazines) and he told me he loved the Bodily Domination demo and asked what our plans were for recording the album. He then suggested Scott and Morrisound. At that suggestion, we never looked back. I was on the phone with Scott the very next day after we played those Death and Devastation shows in Montreal and Toronto.
How was your show with Death? Did you get to meet the guys, especially Chuck Schuldiner? What was he like? Was he polite or more like a reserved person?
Nick: Playing with Death and Devastation was really great for Overthrow. I was already friends with a couple guys from Devastation. All cool guys, and those were some fun shows. We continued to be in contact for a while.
What other meaningful and important shows did you get to play during the period of 1990-1991 that have stuck in your mind?
Nick: There were tons of shows. Some of the best were the "smaller" out-of-town shows which weren't "small" at all, but might have been considered so, as they had local bands on the bill. We played all over Ontario, everywhere we could. We also played with DBC and Vio-lence. Those were very memorable shows. Playing in Buffalo with Baphomet was a highlight. Another highlight was when I brought Baphomet and Cannibal Corpse up to Toronto. Those were their very first Canadian shows. They were amazing shows. I am very proud of those shows.
WHAT KILLED THE BAND?
It's a real pity that Overthrow existed for such a short period of time, 1987-1991. What were those unfortunate events that killed Overthrow eventually?
Nick: All the typical problems, such as musical and personal differences. It became clear that we couldn't work together. In the end, Ian wanted to go more progressive, and I was no longer interested in sticking to thrash and I definitely didn't want to go into that progressive/jazz metal style. Once death metal took over, that was it for me, with all the death metal influences from around '89 like Morbid Angel and Obituary.
Is there something that you would like to bring to light about your short stint with Dutch death metal stalwarts, Pestilence? You replaced Martin van Drunen in 1990 but were a part of the lineup only about two months. What happened?
Nick: To clarify, when I tried out for Pestilence, I sent them a cover of "Out of the Body" that I did in December '90. By the time January rolled around, I was in the band as the bassist. I then flew over to Holland in March '91. When May hit, we played a festival in Belgium with Morbid Angel and Obituary. By June or July, we flew to Tampa to record Testimony of the Ancients at Morrisound with Scott. After that, we went back to Holland in July. I went back to Toronto from there. Immediately upon returning, I started a new band, Soulstorm.
NO REASON TO BEAT A DEAD HORSE
As of today, have you ever tried to beat a dead horse and bring Overthrow back?
Nick: Yes, I did feel it was like beating a dead horse, especially after nearly thirty years. I mean, it's not like people were knocking our door down asking us to return. That said, we did try. Unfortunately, the drumming was too weak and as usual, behind the beat. In the end, it seemed like a huge waste of time for something nobody was asking for. On top of that, a lesser-known fact is that the drummer has always been an abusive, lying bully. As a result, I needed to distance myself from that toxic situation. Anyone who knows me, knows that I will not tolerate any lying or abuse or bullying from anyone, including those who support the abuse, lies and bullying. This is where it all began, with this drummer. To this day, he continually tries to make up lies about me. I have all his harassing posts, texts, messages and phone messages. In reality, he makes it up for attention. To me, it is obvious that he struggles with jealousy, perhaps that I moved on from his abusive lies and bullying. He has also stolen 40% of the music publishing and he never wrote any music at all.
That was all I had in my mind for this conversation. Thanks so much for your time, Nick, for letting me talk with you about the old days when Overthrow was the shit! Stay strong, stay healthy, and I wish you all the best with all of your future endeavors in your life!
Nick: Thanks for the interview. The good thing about these things is that the truth can finally come out. Currently, I have two bands going, both outlets are relentless and uncompromising, brutal music. In fact, with both bands I have strived to incorporate the music that I love; the hardcore punk/crossover music with Nihilist Death Cult (with my brother on drums and Ethan from Abyss/Jaww on guitar). NDC has been a lot of fun. In fact, we just finished recording nine songs for our very first release. Apart from that, the main focus is the brutal and relentless Tribe of Pazuzu. This is an outlet for my love of true death metal, while incorporating influences from black metal and early thrash. After two highly successful EPs, Heretical Uprising and King of All Demons, we will be hitting the studio once again to record our first full-length album... Hail Pazuzu! Hail the Tribe! Make Metal Hate Again!
|Other information about Overthrow on this site|
|Review: Within Suffering|
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