Italian Black/Thrash terror bands GHOSTRIDER and NECRODEATH have one common denominator, Peso, the drummer and the founder of these two bands. Saturday, March 5 on the backstage of Bulldog in Genoa, I had a long talk, around a round table, with Peso (Necrodeath, Ghostrider), Helvete (Ghostrider), Claudio (ex-Necrodeath), GL (Necrodeath) and Pier Gonella (Necrodeath). Here are the topics of our marathon interview …
Hi Guys, so where do we start … hmmm, chronologically we start with Ghostrider (pre-Necrodeath). It was formed in 1984, but after just one year you have renamed it to Necrodeath. Why this name change? And what was the initial impetus to form Ghostrider?
HELVETE: The band was formed by Peso and Claudio and with two other guys, influenced by bands like Venom, and other historical bands of that period. The guys were driven to this enthusiasm for this type of extreme music, you know, they were young and lived in the underground metal environment of Genoa, with this adventure. Then after a year from the birth of Ghostrider, they decided to change the name to Necrodeath, especially for a moniker that speaks of a more extreme band. In the first year of life, Ghostrider, composed songs, to leave them “in the ashes” to wait …. but then after the name change, the band has taken a bit different kind of path that leads to our days … after 25 years, in 2010, Ghostrider made a come-back with a new lineup that includes me too.
What are your craziest memories from the years ’84-’85?
CLAUDIO: oh yes, those times were very different, and to be able to do a gig was already a fairly rare event, so I remember all the concerts we’ve done, as memorable events. The trip to Sicily was glamorous. We went there by train, and we played with a local thrash metal band Schizo. The venue was full of people at least 600-700 persons, you know, at that time there were very few thrash concerts around. Then we started to play, and on the third song, people had already demolished the theater and several rows of chairs. So the Police arrived and stopped the concert. hahahah…
So, Necrodeath has made right away a cult-demo ‘The Shining Pentagram’ and two legendary albums ‘Into The Macabre’ (1987) and ‘Fragments Of Insanity’ (1989). Before going further, tell us a bit of those years … how the Italian metal scene welcomed you as pioneers of extreme metal?
CLAUDIO: Very well, I’d say … yes, we were pioneers, certainly in Italy, but also in the international scenes. At those years, there weren’t too many extreme metal bands around..
PIER: Yeah, it’s true, here in Italy there were very few thrash bands. In Germany the situation was already different, but in Italy there was really nothing, Bulldozer and us, Necrodeath. We played together a few times.
But then you had some problems with the lineup and with your label back then, and you have suspended the band. Do you want to tell us something about those times?
CLAUDIO: yes, there was a bit of regret for not having tried to take a quantum leap. But it was really difficult at those years. Already doing a record was a success, without talking about other things. And then to try to make a leap into a higher stage, definitely we would have needed to go abroad, trying engage us with a German record label and distribution. But we had suspended the band a bit for personal problems, you know, I was still studying, we didn’t feel to proceed, so we stopped. Anyhow, Peso continued with his other plans, but then 10 years later we put the band back together, with some more satisfactions.
So, Peso, you went on with your projects, and you formed a new band Necrosadist, (better known as Sadist), releasing two albums. Do you have something to say about this?
PESO: That’s right, I never stopped going on!! Yes, those 5 years were great… to the first album of Sadist ‘Above The Light’ I added the old riffs of Necrodeath, and with that album we found a Dutch management, who made us to tour for three years throughout Europe, from 93 to 96, and I enjoyed it very much, because it was new to me, and also because, with Necrodeath we had very few concerts, there were no venues around. So I remember well that period. Then, Sadist, came up to its road … at the end of 96 we didn’t go along anymore, as members, so we quitted. And then, Claudio, contacted me, wanting to play again …. so, the second phase of Necrodeath started…
Precisely! … the winds of the comeback of Necrodeath were already in the air, then in ’98 you and Claudio, parched from the ashes, and soon after you signed with Scarlet Records. … after a year you released the album ‘Mater Of All Evil’, which is described as “the most frightening and extreme of all times”, it was also your third album to come out after 10 years of silence … Was it a product of anger and frustration of the previous years? how do you think about it today?
CLAUDIO: haha, no, maybe not anger. Anyway in the meantime, we had made our individual lives, each one in a different way. As said, Peso continued to play with Sadist, I worked and I had moved to another city. And then we met again, with the desire to play. So, after 10 years came out the album, and it was certainly a surprise to everybody… the album was so violent and modern, with the right sound, unlike previous ones that were really underground. So, putting us in a position to do something a bit more serious, we have got, at least on a personal level, a satisfaction to show that we can do it. Of course, already 10 years before we were able to do it, but there were too many technical problems of sounds and so on. Even now I often listen to that album and I still think is a really good album.
PESO: When we, me and Claudio, stayed in the game, we’ve practically closed ourselves, for a year in the rehearsal room, without telling anyone, because we had to figure out if we could make it again … in the lineup, with me, there were Claudio on guitar, John on bass (who currently plays with Raza De Odio) and Flegias on vocals. …and I repeat, we were indeed more than a year to compose and re-learn the old songs… Then we signed with Scarlet Records, we went to Sweden, we recorded, and at the return from Sweden, we started to fix the dates. So the first gig of the reunion was in 2000, but we, actually, were already been working “in silence” for 2 years. … anger or rage, whatever you want, but this is the music we do. We resumed a broken path, with the same consistency we started it. Clearly, the time changes, changes also the way we played, and the fact that the half of the lineup had changed, was not relevant because we, Claudio and me, were the composers, as before. Since then, it has been a continuous evolution, wanting to explore new territories, while remaining still Necrodeath, but without too many blinkers.
PIER: …even if I wasn’t yet a part of the band, not even in contact with Peso, but when I heard the album, I was impressed by the production of those years, and I must say that it didn’t even sound an Italian band. You know, in those years the italian bands were automatically in B- Serie. But Necrodeath, with that album, had surpassed that claim.
Listening to your songs, you can hear the influences of Slayer, Possessed, Kreator, Destruction, Sodom, Bathory, Dark Angel … but how has your sound changed over the years?
PIER: I personally think that today there is more rationality while composing. From the technical point of view there’s evolution for different atmospheres. Concerning the past, we surely have more desire to go a bit further, however staying on Necrodeath matrix, that is still the same as before.
GL: Of course, over the years, the recording techniques have developed a lot. The sounds are increasingly pushed to excess … But as Pier said, what is important is that the spirit and pure sound that characterizes the band remains intact. It’s our brand. We want to interpret but maintaining our own style and be satisfied with what we propose as a band, without making compromises and everything else comes in consequence. If it will be understood from the audience and critics, that’s all right, if not, amen!
How your song sees a daylight?
PIER: It usually starts with an idea of Peso, which is the only true historic member. He has his ideas, even from the perspective of guitar parts. Almost always he gives the input, both for the music and for the lyrics, and while I play the guitar, he gives me ideas which I translate directly into music. Peso gives also the initial ideas to the topics and then Flegias works on the lyrics. So the first structure is created by Peso and then we all together are working on the song. But there is no regulation, anyone can bring their own ideas on the table. The arrangements we do all together, and each one perfects his own part.
I guess you like to be on stage and kick ass, haha … but what has been the best concert/event, so far, that’s still there in your mind? and why?
PESO: My best memory is, at the Gods Of Metal in 2000 in Monza, when we played together with Slayer, that day has remained to me as an indelible memory. You know, Gods of Metal in those days, was pulling more than 20 000 people. We have played just after the midday, and there were already more than 7000 people. Unthinkable today for a Gods Of Metal. Our dressing rooms were next to Slayer and I got my Reign in Blood autographed, haha … We spent that day as heroes, and it remains my strongest memory of all these 25 past years.
GL: I would say also the European tour we did in 2006 with Marduk, especially for the spirit on the road for the whole band. We, 6 persons, going around with a camper, for about a month, in several European capitals. It was an adventure that has scored us for the later concerts and tours. Because from then on, for us to do 500-600 km has become a walk. It has also strengthened us on a personal level and united us more. But I remember, when we came back home from that tour, we didn’t want to see each others for a while, hahaha …
PIER: For me it was Gods Of Metal 2006 in Milan and then a few years later, the Evolution Festival, anyhow in those years it was the biggest event in Italy. And then of course I remember many of those concerts that we have done abroad.
Cover-album “Old Scull was released on 2010, an album that celebrates you 25th anniversary. Tell us about it?
GL: Perhaps the word “celebrate” is not the right one, but the album wants somehow to make a point about what has been in these 25-years of career of Necrodeath. And the choice to do a cover album is because we wanted to do a tribute for bands that have always inspired us … Slayer, Black Sabbath, Sodom, Venom, Kreator and so on. Let’s say the album was a small gift that we have made to ourselves, to play these historic songs, in our own way.
The CD-cover is awesome, and there is a real gem in it … what is its story?
GL: oh yes, the album title “Old Skull” is a pun for “Old School” and then on the cover there are 25 skulls symbolizing our 25 years. The artwork was done by Davide Nadalin, he is an Italian graphic designer who creates artworks for bands. The cover is actually a recitation of the first demo of Necrodeath ‘The Shining Pentagram’, there’s this character in a creepy situation, and we wanted to present it again here, in a more current way. The album’s opened with the new version of “Mater Tenebrarum”, while it closed with the version of 25 years ago, taken from our demo. So even the listener sees how we were then and how we’re today.
… what is the main difference to the previous albums?
PIER: Already for the fact that this new is a cover album, makes it different, but it has a certain kind of evolution, including the sounds. In the first place we’ve tried to sound a bit different. You know, I have personally experienced the 7- and 8-string guitars, and we put things a bit strange there. On the other hand, the album has been very judged by many, as a return in the past. But you know, the fans are very strict if there’s something different as what they expect from us. In a sense, the album is more aggressive than the previous ones. And since the album is a tribute, we return to origins also in that way.
What are the next projects of Necrodeath?
GL: Well, to begin, we play tonight ahaha … ok, we start recording the new album, via Scarlet, I think, after the summer. It will be a very special album, we prefer not to reveal much more right now. But I can say that people will like it or not, there’s no middle ground. Just wait and see…
PIER: …but before this record, on which we are already working, there’ll be a collection album, which is the brainchild of Scarlet who collaborates with an American label, this collection will be for the American markets to introduce the band then we’ll see the response.
PESO: Yes, this collection CD will be called “The Best of …”, wanted by Scarlet who has just started a new distribution relationship with the American “Belmondo Entertainment”, this management distributes with Scarlet licenses, A few days ago, we delivered already the master-copy for this “The Best of…”, it will contain a few bonus tracks, and will be released in May, and as Pier said, it will be a new business card for us, for the United States. … but in the meantime, as already said, we are working on the new album, for autumn release.
…and now we go back to Ghostrider … In 2010 you made an infernal comeback. What was the reason for the rebirth of the “Phantom”?
HELVETE: Look, there were several reasons. You know, Peso, Zarathos and I are longtime friends, we’ve always played together, for many years, in different bands. To rewake Ghostrider has been proposed by Giulio The Bastard (the lead singer of Cripple Bastards) who has the indipendent label FOAD Records. He publishes and distributes, especially in the foreign underground markets, the albums which are highly sought after, for several years. …and he had intention to reprint the old Ghostrider demo from ’84 “Mayhemic Destruction”, and as Peso is the only founding member, he decided to give this permission to publish it. After approx. 6 months, the first print was sold out, and we were a bit surprised, you know, anyhow we are talking about a demo recorded in ’84 where the technique was very raw, and if you listen to it today, the sound is very underground! So Giulio, who is also our current producter, has proposed to reprint it and asked if we had also some new material available to publish also an unreleased album. Then, we got a proposal for Ghostrider, from Finland, in fact, already a year earlier …
Exactly, now let’s talk about ‘Finland …
In October 2010 you made a mini-tour in my country of origin, of which we also published the Live Report … but why in Finland? How did the finnish audience welcomed you?
HELVETE: First of all, I must say that personally I love Finland because the Finnish population is really heavy metal. And there you see metal bands also in the official charts, which here in Italy would be impossible. But there you have the metal already in the DNA. Finland welcomed us very well! So as I said, they called us already a year earlier, before our comeback, to do two concerts in Helsinki and Tampere in one festival. We were quite surprised when the promoter contacted us … but, let’s say, thanks to the thrust of our producer, Giulio, and I repeat, thanks to the requests to do live shows in Finland, but also thanks to ourselves, for this need to riform a band that discovers the sounds of the ’80 … the sum of these 3 factors together have given us a good reason to riform Ghostrider and we realize that probably Ghostrider is still felt by underground lovers.
You perform in masks and white dresses … Everyone knows who is Peso in the italian black/thrash scenes, but the other members of Ghostrider, would you like to reveal your identities?
HELVETE: ahahaha, a part of Peso, who is the founder and the moniker of Ghostrider, I would prefer we others, me and Zarathos, remain “two ghosts” and that’s it …
hahaha, Ok, let’s keep it secret…
January 2011 was released your “The Return of the Ghost” via Foad Records. The album includes several tracks originating from the period 1984-1985. Tell me about this album …
HELVETE: Yes, in the 84-85 Ghostrider has published only demos, and this CD concludes what Ghostrider was in the past, plus some new songs. We chose to take all the tracks of “Mayhemic Destruction” -demo and some songs from other demos as well, and we rearranged and replayed them for this official debut album, …doing so, we created a connection between Ghostrider of ’84 and of 2010. You know, if we had released an album with unpublished songs, it would have been disconnected from the past and from the history of the band. And you know, we still like to play and hear our old songs, arranged and echoed them in more modern way.
And now … what are you gonna do? a tour, I suppose, and then, what are the plans of Ghostrider?
HELVETE: Well, we plan to do several dates this year to promote this album. And as already mentioned, our comeback debut was in October last year, in Finland (together with Vulcano of Brazil). And we’ll hope to return there someday. To be honest, we didn’t expect to see people to dive there, the atmosphere was very “Perkele666″ (a track from the album “The Return of the Ghost”). So this year we tour a lot to get us known to new generations. Then next year we will see what to do, it is still too early to say what will happen. However, we have a great desire to bring Ghostrider forward …
Peso, what about you? I know that you have some other projects as well, how will you divide your time for them all?
PESO: No, currently I have closed all the other projects that I had, it was a good time, but right now Necrodeath is my priority, and all my so-called free time, is dedicated to Ghostrider. I try to maximize my energy, not to disperse them, trying to do WELL two things. All other projects can wait, there’s always time for them later on …
By the way, Peso, when did you realize that the battery and you make a good couple?
PESO: aaah, we must go back a lot, I was maybe 10 years when I hit the pots at home and my mother, to resolve the situation, she bought me a tambourine from a stationery store, you know, a toy-stuff… but then I amplified “the problem “, haha, but we can say that with the pots I started to have “the feelings”… at 12 years and I had my first drum kit and started to practise. I started as a total self-taught, but then I got to a point that I realized that I needed to grow and understand what I was doing. It was not enough for me to watch and copy what the others were doing. You know, the instinct of a self-taught drummer is the sense of rhythm, etc. etc.. which takes you to a certain point. So I started study, I spent three years at a school in Genoa with Ignazio De Caro, he’s great, like a brother to me. First six months he really hurted me, to be honest ahah, because he overturned me. But then after the first 6 months of battle, it started to go better and I studied all the most advanced basics. And then I developed my study mode and method, and now it’s me to teach the others…
Exactly, you give also the drum lessons … What is your advice to those who would like to start with this instrument?
PESO: Study, study, study all the time, also comparing between different teachers and styles …
Ok Guys, now the last question… … what are your greetings to your fans and readers of Metal Shock?
ALL: I want to greet and thank the Metal Shock, and invite everybody to participate in our shows and do some mess up while listening to some good old school thrash metal. Thank you Tarja for the support and the attention you’re giving us. See you soon! Ciaoooo \m/
Thanks guys for this very interesting interview! See you soon on stage to kick ass, as Necrodeath and as Ghostrider. Stay … Extreme! \ m /
Interview by Tarja Virmakari
Necrodeath “Mater Tenebrarum” (2010)