Interview with Death Mask's Steve Michaels
Cult power metal band Death Mask have just released their new album Sitting In the Dark (their first album in over twenty years). A serious contender for comeback album of the year Sitting In the Dark is both a throwback album to American power metal and a bold statement that Death Mask can still play as intense and heavy as any modern metal band . Recently Heavy Metal Time Machine sat down to do an exclusive interview with Death Mask vocalist Steve Michaels in which we talk about the new album and the band's future plans. For those of you who haven't checked out Sitting In the Dark I encourage you to pick up a copy of the album. You will not be disappointed!
Andy: It's been over 20 years between albums for Death Mask. Has the fire been burning all these years for you and Benny? Did it feel like you left too much unsaid?
Steve: The way DeathMask ended in 1987 has always been a sad thing for me and Benny ....parting ways back then sucked. It took a while, but we eventually restored our friendship, and finally decided to see if we still had chops musically. We always felt that we ended it too early, and we couldn't be happier to have a chance to work together again.
Andy: Sitting In the Dark not only picks up where Split the Album left off but seems much more dark and intense. Whats the story behind the album?
Steve: We had re-released “Split The Atom” on Retrospect, we were getting a good response, and we simply got the “bug” again…We decided to do a new album, and just went about doing it. We are good friends, but Benny and I hadn’t played together for 22 years. We had no songs, no idea what we would sound like…both of us had been involved in other bands and projects over the years, but for both of us it had been a long while since doing any at all, musically. But we said fuck it, let’s try, and right from the start we were focused on writing and completing an album….we absolutely did not take a “let’s see how it goes” approach. It was full new album or bust! Musically, “Split the Atom” is probably the more aggressive of the two albums….it’s definitely the “faster” of the two…but for me, “Sitting in the Dark” is the heavier album. The guitar riffs are heavier. I’m flattered that you describe the album as “dark and intense”…that was the mood when it was being written, and what we hoped to capture in our sound….
Andy: How much has the scene changed for you guys? Are you surprised by the change in the musical landscape of heavy metal?
Steve: The thing I am most surprised by is the sheer volume of it….there are an incredible amount of bands! Plus they are getting airplay….I can listen to Sirius Radio and hear hundreds of metal bands. I gotta admit that my tastes lean more towards the old-school side of it, but what’s great about Metal is that there are so many ways to skin a cat…never has a music genre been delivered in so many different ways and styles as Heavy Metal
Andy: Sitting In the Dark was a self-release correct? Will you be able to tour for it?
Steve: I hope so. Our original plan was to release this with Retrospect, but we decided instead to explore other things. The album is out now and available with all the major on-line retailers, but ultimately we are planning to find a label that’s a good fit for us. Our goal is to reach as many people as we can…we’re hoping for the best!
Andy: What were your influences and how would you describe Death Mask's sound?
Steve: Benny’s main influence is Tony Iommi and Sabbath, a badge he wears with great fucking honor…we grew up with Sabbath, Deep Purple, Blackmore’s Rainbow, Priest, Maiden, Budgie, old Scorpions….and when we started playing together in the 80’s, we were right in the middle of the speed/thrash era, which had it’s influence too. I would describe our sound as “LOUD”!
Andy: What are some of the albums your listening to these days?
Steve: Well, the disc currently living in my car CD player is Ride the Lightning, but old-school stuff aside, I like the new Crowbar album, the Kingdom of Sorrow album...Even the “new” stuff I like comes with old roots.
Andy: Are you surprised by how much of a cult favorite Split The Atom has become?
Steve: I’m very happy about it! We were a great live act back then…very loud, very headbanging. The production and overall sound of Split the Atom just did not capture that, but it seems that over the years listeners have been able to hear past the thin production and have come to appreciate the heavy stuff we were doing. Thanks to the Internet (and sites like this one), Split the Atom is more popular than ever.
Andy: What are the future plans for the band? Is this a full time gig again?
Steve: We are hoping. It all comes down to how well the new album is received, and the opportunities it brings. This is something we do because we love it. We got our fingers crossed!
Andy: I loved the album Steve. For me it's a huge step forward from Split the Atom. How has fan re-action been?
Steve: Thanks Andy. So far the reaction has been tremendous. The feedback and reviews we are getting have been flattering and incredible. It’s a great, great feeling. We are reaching people who consider us a new act, and we are reaching people like yourself who followed us already, and we’re honored that you are digging what we are doing now. Fucking Awesome!
Andy: Thanks for taking time to do this interview. Any last thoughts or words you want to share with readers?
Steve: DeathMask in 2011 are me and Benny, along with Mike Poplees and Rob McDonough on Bass and Drums…these guys did a great job on “Sitting in the Dark”, and I’m proud to call them band mates… To everyone out there who enjoys our music, watches our videos, turns us on to their friends….because of you, we are back together creating new METAL and having a blast….thanks for letting us come back home!!