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Interview: Steve Asheim (Deicide)

Pure metal...interviews

When it comes to Death Metal legends Deicide, problems are always part of the general equation. This band has survived bomb threats from Christian Organisations, police arrests and changes in their original line up, and as drummer Steve Asheim told me in the dining area of the London ULU, not even the absence of frontman Glenn Benton is capable of stopping the Deicide machine from spewing its lethal melodies to the unsuspected listener. Well, I was indeed really looking forward to talk to Glenn that evening, but Steve's friendly manner and general attitude made it all worth while.

Welcome again. What's this thing about Deicide being on the road and having to face all these problems? I've seen you guys the last three times, you've been going through all these changes in the band, but today you're not with your frontman here. That's kind of unusual isn't it?

Steve: Yeah, it's unusual and it's definitely not our choice position to be in but it's the position we're in right now and we're just trying to do the best we can and make sure the tour doesn't cancel. You know, all these people that have got a lot at stake don't loose their assets and just to keep the tour alive, just for the sake of the tour itself. And Glen is working on coming out, you know that's the kind of thing where we've just been left hanging with this information about when he's going to be able to show up, and even to this point we're still kind of up in the air. But we've been doing what we can and it's been working out. The tour's still going, the shows have been good you know? And people have been satisfied, we're doing what we can and they understand it. Like I said, it's not our ideal situation but it's a situation where we will do the best we can.


And who's filling in for him today then?

Steve: Today we have Garbaty 'Yaha' from Dissenter, they're from Poland , and I think this is almost his first tour as a matter of fact. But he filled in at about two day's notice, and he's up to about thirteen songs or something like that. Learning new stuff, old stuff, middle stuff. He's doing a great job I think with the pressure he's under, and the time constraints and the stress levels, and all that kind of stuff. He's doing a great job. And we've got Jason (Peppiat – Psycroptic) and Martin (Pedersen – Visceral Bleeding) filling in on some vocals for a couple of songs, and some help just from people who are ready to stand up and do whatever they can to help. It's been a great atmosphere around the whole situation, with everyone pitching in. Making as much of the situation as we can. It's been going surprisingly better than I had ever hoped it would.

What I find amazing about this is that with some bands they have standard line-up, you think that if one of them isn't there something's going to go wrong. But with you guys it seems like there's a healing process going on. If one of you is not there, you always come up with a solution.

Steve: That's just been luck you know? I was explaining to someone how these situations almost seem to fix themselves. It's bigger than any one member. Once the whole Deicide thing takes over, it's like there's no stopping it. With the one tour, we were short of people, and with one phone call there was a line of people ready to fill in. And the same this time. We found that out in Germany and Holland. We showed up that afternoon not knowing what we were going to do, and then we heard 'some kid knows all the songs', and it's like 'bring him down', and he toured with us for four days, saved the tour.

Do you think it also helps that all the music on the new album was written by you, that kind of helps get things going?

Steve: Well I must say I'm pretty resourceful under pressure sometimes and so maybe it's got a lot to do with this thing staying afloat as long as it has. I know a lot of the music, I can teach the guys the bass lines, I know the drums – obviously. I'm one of the last guys who can kind of rally support and stuff. Although people are definitely fans of Jack Owen, he's no stranger to the metal scene, people are coming out to see him. It's not easy to keep together but with a little hard work from everyone, the promoters down on their end not cancelling on us, the agent for trying to keep everything going, us for showing up and trying to keep it going. And I think when Glen shows up, hopefully he'll get out here when he's able. But I'm surprised we're able to go this long, so we're ready to do the rest of the tour without him if it came to it. Then again I could be wrong. I'm going day by day and playing the hand I'm dealt and seeing how long I can last. Hey, fu*k it, whatever you've got to do. I'd rather try everything possible than to just say 'fu*k it'. It's easy enough to just say 'fu*k it'. A little bit of effort, a little time […] you can make stuff happen.

Obviously the album has been out for quite some time now, and it's kind of out of date for me to come and say how much I really loved the last release. But I seriously find it - obviously after the debut album and I think the whole metal world was kind of blown away by that release – I think it's the second best effort that Deicide ever made. So things look promising now for the band. Do you feel that you will be able to produce more albums like that in the future?

Steve: I think so, yeah. I enjoyed writing and recording and all that. And I'm definitely looking forward to the next one we can do. We've kind of started with riffs, not really arranging them into songs quite yet. But yeah, you know, I've already started creating material and stuff, so it's on the way kind of. Hopefully in a timely enough fashion we can have another record out, in another couple of years maybe.

And will you expect Jack [Owen] to be part of the picture? Because everybody's kind of worried about that, whether he's going to remain part of the line-up?

Steve: Oh yeah. I certainly hope so. He's not told me any different. He's ready to do another record I think, yeah. We are too. So I'm looking forward to it, it's going to be great.

And tonight, in terms of material, what should we expect to listen to?

Steve: We're going to do old stuff, we're going to do a lot from the new record, stuff in between, you know, some guest singers. Really, we're going to hit it all, we're going to hit first album stuff, 'Once Upon The Cross'stuff, 'Serpents of the Light' stuff. It's going to be a pretty good night. At the end of the night, everyone's going to say 'good show'. It's going to be good.

What about your drumming? Listening to the last album, I kind of felt that because there's so much nice melodic stuff going on, with the guitars and all these passages that bring all the compositions together, I kind of felt that it made you relax a little bit more and show a side of yourself that I haven't quite listened to in the last Deicide album. Is that the case?

Steve: I think that maybe they're album to bring what was lacking in previous albums, there's more of a melodic feel, and more of a flowing rhythmic feel maybe, into the guitar playing and writing. And I think that definitely accentuates what was already there, you know combining that melodicness with the already proved heaviness that we had and mixing that up. Definitely for a more mature feel to the writing. The songs are just better written I think. There was a time and the proper thing for the perfect place and we were able to utilise it. Like you say, certain passages we were able to expand on like they should be, not just cut short into whatever – lack of ideas to deal with them or something like that. So making that change has made us sound that way, it couldn't have sounded this way with a bunch of other guitarists I don't think.

This is a question I always like to ask musicians. Do you feel that you have reached a level of understanding your instrument when you perform where you think that this is as far as you can reach in terms of technicality, in terms of emotion, in terms of feeling, or do you still feel that within that very specific genre that you play there is still room for improvement and giving something new?

Steve: Sure. I think there is always room to improve. Technically people are capable of amazing playing. So there's always going to be room for me to improve my playing. And I practice a lot, I've improved a lot since I first started, since our first record. Even just from a couple of records ago. It's slow, you make strides. But if you play long enough you can actually track your progress and stuff. I hope to improve obviously. But in all the aspects, even in the song writing, the riff writing, arranging and drumming, in all things.

Have you ever found yourself having an idea in your head and realise that it can't actually be put in a Deicide song because it won't really fit?

Steve: I've got ideas that don't really fit with Deicide. And then there's some times I can just tweak them a little bit and make it work. I've done that plenty of times. Usually once you get an idea there's many things you can do with it. So that's kind of what I do. An idea can come in any form and then you can just make it heavy so I do that a lot. That's why writing is kind of easy for me, I just come up with ideas all the time, just by accident sometimes. I save them, and then when you go through them you can fix them. Once you get out there with the band it just becomes alive, it just becomes heavy. Writing has never really been a problem for me, so I enjoy it. The riffs themselves are easy, it's just like not quite a formula but in a way a strategy. I mean, I've written enough songs so I know what to look for and what to do with the ideas etc. So yeah I enjoy it.

Talking about the band's future now. Obviously there's a tour still in progress. I've already heard that you guys are going to release a second DVD soon. Do you want to tell us a few things about that?

Steve: Well that should be out pretty soon here, within a month or so. We recorded it on the US leg of the tour back in October, recorded it in California and LA. It's got a lot of the new songs - a lot like tonight's set, a lot of new, a lot of old, a lot of in-between. Ha ha! The footage of the show itself is pretty far-out and crazy. I mean in LA people were just going nuts. So it's entertaining to watch and the sound is just an aural assault for an hour and fifteen minutes. People wonder why we're putting out a DVD since we just put one out two years ago. It's to support the new record, we've got new songs on there, and for the new line-up with Ralph in the band now, you know get him out there on DVD also. It never hurts to put stuff out so why not?

And the difference in the way people in Europe have reacted to the band's music than in the States because you've just mentioned that the US crowd was quite mental: are you disappointed by us then?

Steve: No not at all, not at all. I just appreciate people showing up. Because that's the ultimate show of support, buying a ticket and what-not. And then I know just from myself going to shows, I used to thrash and get into the pit when I was a kid, but now I go to shows and I don't do that anymore. I want to watch the band and listen to the band. That's critical, just to enjoy what's happening. And so when I see people out there that aren't moving or singing or whatever, that's fine, because they're just doing their thing.

Drinking beer!

Steve: Yeah, yeah that's fine, drink a beer, pick up a chick, whatever you want. Just have a good time and enjoy the tour. That's cool. So yeah, it's a question of appreciation in whatever way. Some more than others.

I have to say I didn't really expect you to be so happy about doing this interview. You've had kind of a mixed reaction from the press. You've had some people saying good stuff and some people saying bad stuff. Which I guess is part of the whole process isn't it really? I would understand why you would feel slightly uneasy about doing interviews. You're not jumping up and down with excitement, which is normal - but you're not negative either.

Steve: (laughs) Well I understand people usually want to talk to Glen and that's fine. People were even supposed to show up here and didn't just because they know he wasn't here. But I'm happy to talk to anyone who's got something to ask or what have you, and when it's time I do what I can. I don't want to not talk to people for whatever reason. No matter what the circumstances are, no matter what the press has said, that's their job, to rip on people or do whatever. You've got to write something. As long as no-one says anything about my mother I won't have to bust their head open, you know what I mean?

Ha ha! You don't have to be in a band for that.

Steve: It's just people's opinions about music and that's fine, that's all cool.

How do you perceive the future, I mean you're in this band, you release quite a lot of albums, you have a standard following of people who are going to come no matter what to watch the band, quite a good name in the circle and all that stuff. What is your motive for being in the band now that you have done all that stuff?

Steve: Just to keep it going. Just the enjoyment of the thing itself, I'm really starting to enjoy the touring part of it, and getting used to it. And I certainly enjoy creating and recording, I want to keep that. I just want to keep doing it.


You're seriously not tired of going from one plane to another plane, from one country to another?

Steve: No, no - the travelling has been getting easier. We've been back and forth to South America, to Australia, driving around America and I don't care any more.


Steve: Yeah, I'd be sitting on my ass somewhere, it might as well be on a plane or on a couch here. So I'm good with it. I have no problem with it. I look forward to it, I'm not tired of it. I've spent twenty years making connections and finally getting good at it. Why would I want to give it up now?

That's fair enough. Any regrets? Anything you would have made different throughout your career if you had a magic wand?

Steve: Yeah I'd just try to handle things a little more professionally along the way. But in the end, what I've learned also is that the power of the music and the fan base overcomes any kind of band fu*k-up you know? That you make managerially - it's like in any other kind of job, the amount of chances you get before you're fired are minimal. But with a band like Deicide with a fanbase you just keep fu*king up and someone down the road will book you a tour. No matter how many people got fu*ked before. And some label will sign you. If there's something new someone can publish they are going to do it. So I think that's the amazing thing, the amount of chances you can get being in a band like Deicide and you just keep trying. And that's cool, not a lot of jobs and lines of work are like that. But it's that part of the business, that they come and go so fast. Labels and all the agents and tour operators come and go so fast, there's always some guy who's never dealt with us yet…ha ha! So that's one of the reasons why it can keep going, there's no shortage of people out there willing to give it a try.

What are your favourite moments from being in Deicide and perhaps a few songs you always enjoy playing or even listening to if that applies?

Steve: I enjoy a lot of the new record, I enjoy playing that live that's for sure. Every one of those songs. 'Desecration', that just feels good live. 'Homage For Satan' is fun live of the new stuff. The old stuff I like playing? My old favourites, 'Serpents Of The Light' I like playing, 'Children Of The Underworld', 'When Satan Rules His World', that type of stuff. You know, those are like the favourites off of those albums. So it's good to give the fans those and I like to play them, I think they're cool songs. So yeah, you know. Like I said, I'm just not tired of it.

I'm not tired of listening to it! Last question for you and then I'll let you get some rest. Where in the crowd do I have to sit in order to catch your drumstick?

Steve: Ha ha! I'll save one for you.

That's cool. Okay well thank you very much for the interview and any last message for the people who are going to read the interview and our subscribers?

Steve: Yeah, just know Deicide has had plenty of weird times and we're still different but I personally will do whatever I can to keep making the metal. That's what I do, I love to do it so whatever circumstances are thrown my way, I'll do what I can to deliver metal the best I can. That's what I do. Just that. Thanks.

Interview © January 2007 John Stefanis

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