BOBBY GUSTAFSON Talks SATANS TAINT, Relationship With OVERKILL – “They Have To Lay In The Mess They Made”
September 18, 2019, a year ago
“It just seems silly to have this super intense, heavy metal name at 54 years old,” justifies Bobby Gustafson about the crude name of his band Satans Taint. The guitarist, most known for his work on the first four Overkill albums, doesn’t see the big deal about the bursting moniker and saw it as attention grabbing. “It was just something that was said between me and some coworkers and it was funny; it’s always one of those things where it’s like, you say something silly or whatever and it’s like ‘oh, that’s a cool band name.’ It always stuck with me and then the more I thought about it, I was like, ‘there’s a new band out just about every day and you need to stand out. I said it was kind of scary, kind of funny, you definitely don’t forget it.’ And I said, ‘you know what, when everybody’s making a left turn, sometimes I make the right turn,’” he explains.
Destruction Ritual is the second effort from Gustafson’s group, released on Megaforce Records and is the follow-up to the 2017 debut Axe To The Head Of My Enemies. Gustafson had been mighty quiet in the music scene prior to the formation of the group and reveals what he’s been up to.
“I really wanted to get myself together and I always wanted to live in Florida. So I basically said, ‘let me put the music aside for a little bit, get a roof over my head, do all the adult stuff you’re supposed to do and get comfortable with not sleeping on the floors and couches anymore and actually have a home.’”
After settling in Florida and meeting up with the guys in Response Negative, the itch to make music returned and after discovering the ability to send music files over the internet to put songs together, he knew had something to work with.
This realization came after being asked to do guest solo work for Italy’s Satanika on 2012 album Infection and then for New Jersey’s Paralysis on their You Can’t Win EP (2016).
“That just opened up a whole new can of worms”, he assures. “I was like, ‘I’m kind of interested in this again.’ And I took it from there.”
This brings us to Destruction Ritual with Gustafson handling guitar and bass duties while again utilizing Response Negative drummer Jim McCourt and the two vocalists – Dan Ortega and Paolo Velazquez. The record features the trademark thrash metal Gustafson is known for while also utilizing elements of groove and doom and the unique essence of Satans Taint is using the two singers. The guitarist explains the rationale behind using Ortega and Velazquez.
“I just wanted to keep a little bit of that feel [from the first record]”, he says. “I liked both of their styles. They’re so different from each other, but it kind of works. I don’t really that, like you know, [AC/DC’s] Back In Black where everything kind of sounds similar and you would have one singer. All the songs are varied in tempos and feelings and I thought it would be cool since they’re both complete opposites. Dan is a little bit heavier and Paolo is more melodic. He’s got the highs and he’s more of the singer type. They fit the songs that they picked, so it just worked out great. I don’t really recall anybody else doing that, so that was another little thing I thought that was different.”
The song that will likely garner the most attention is “Skullkrusher II”, which is an obvious nod and sequel song to the classic “Skullkrusher” track from Overkill’s The Years Of Decay. The guitarist reveals he tried to get his former ‘Kill bandmate Sid Falck to drum on the track, but some unfortunate health issues prevented it from happening.
“I just had another riff that just sounded like ‘Skullkrusher’ and thought it would be really cool to do a continuation of that song because it really took off back in the day. I mean there’s clubs in Germany that call themselves the Skullkrushers. That definitely came out as one of my favorites.”
First single “Desecration” sets the tone for Destruction Ritual.
“Everyone just loved the lyrics. They loved the story and we worked it into the video because that was probably the easiest to portray and basically was the first Viking raid on England at the monastery on Lindisfarne. I used that as my basis, which we tried to portray in the video as well, you know, the Vikings coming over to England for that first time stealing the riches, raiding, and going crazy.”
Meanwhile, the track “Thorn On My Side” seems very personal and sounds very pissed off. While the song may not be directly associated to anybody, although it is tied to the band he used to be in.
“There’s definitely something in my life I can’t seem to shake, even though it’s been like 30 years now. It’s just a thorn in my side. That’s one of my favorites too,” reveals Gustafson.
Conversation then shifts to his former band Overkill, whom with he created those four classic albums – Feel The Fire, Taking Over, Under The Influence, and The Years Of Decay. Some resentment still lingers within Gustafson over how some situations were handled, especially on the business side of things.
Gustafson explains, “I don’t follow them at all. I don’t really care what they do, but there’s been instances here and there I’ve come across some doings on their behalf like monetary wise that, you know, I find out stuff that I really should’ve been just getting compensated on over these years and I haven’t been and you know, they probably feel the same way about me from what I hear. They don’t even speak my name supposedly in certain circles, which is fine with me, but you know what, they made their bed so they have to lay in the mess they made. I’m not too concerned about it, but that’s just something I’m ever going to shake now. It’s always going to be there.”
With that said, it’s been 30 years since the monumental The Years Of Decay record and the album holds a special place in his heart.
“That’s still probably my favorite record,” Gustafson admits. “I didn’t even explain it, but coincidentally ‘Skullkrusher II’ was exactly 30 years from that album. I didn’t even know. I didn’t even think about it! Recording, that was a great experience using [producer] Terry Date. That was the first time we used him. He listened to what I wanted on guitar and we got it. He basically did guitar first and just put the other stuff around it and made it fit. That’s what I think made that one really stand out because you know, we just shifted things to fit around what I wanted after four albums. I finally got it with that outcome and people still love that tone today, which is crazy to think about it because you think of the technology and how much stuff was changed from 30 years ago. I think about guitars from the ‘60s and I would never want that now,” he laughs.
The Years Of Decay was a huge step up sonically from the previous album, Under The Influence.
Gustafson agrees, “Yeah I don’t know what happened with the tone of Under The Influence. For me, each album we kind of overdid the next one. Like the first album [Feel The Fire] was a little weak on guitar. It really wasn’t the sound I was going for, actually my equipment blew up in the studio and I think we overdid it with Taking Over where it was too much. And then we tried to get it back in your face again with Under The Influence and it was little too dry. I mean we had Michael Wagener, and you know he did [Metallica’s] Master Of Puppets and can’t get any better than that, but it just didn’t come out right either. In comes Terry Date and he nailed it.”
Does he ever think about re-recording the older material? Turns out the former ‘Kill guitarist had discussions with his former bandmates about redoing Feel The Fire.
“Actually, back when I was talking to the guys, I approached them about Feel The Fire, which at that time was turning 25 years old,” he confesses. “[Bobby, Overkill vocalist] Blitz was into it. We had talked about a little bit and just all of a sudden they came back and it was ‘no, we want to leave it as it is’, and they didn’t want to change anything. But here you are two years ago and they go rerecord the whole album live with the new band.”
What Gustafson is referring to is Overkill’s Live In Overhausen release, a special live show where they played the whole albums of Horrorscope and Feel The Fire.
“Yeah, the put out a DVD with it,” he confirms. He goes on to say, “That would be the one album that I would really like to redo because people still love Taking Over as it is. I think that could also be better, but I just think if the sound of Feel The Fire was better, it could have propelled us a little bit faster. You know people love that sound as it is though because I have people on the first CD saying ‘you need a little more disturbed distortion on your guitar tone.’ So I put more distortion on this one and then I got people writing all ‘oh, you need to roll back on the game.’ It’s like you can’t please everyone. You got to do what makes you happy and then at the end of the day you don’t really have to answer to anyone.”
Back to the game at hand with Destruction Ritual; Gustafson loves the variety on the record and that it doesn’t maintain the same formula throughout.
“I try to cover the different tempos and different fields on each song,” he says. “Some are straight thrash, some are heavy, some are doom. I always liked the fact that Led Zeppelin always had different songs, different vibes.”
The title Destruction Ritual stuck out as a title and fit the Viking motif of the album cover. “I already had the cover idea in my with the Viking funeral. Basically the boat gets destroyed as a ritual. Everybody liked the name off the bat, so I’m not going to fight it, just use it,” he imparts.
The guitarist would like to take Satans Taint on the road, but the “market is very flooded right now” and that “it’s a lot of work to make it profitable because I don’t want to go out and just lose money,” he confesses.
This is in no way deterring him from planning on to release more music though.
“I’ve got so much material,” he enthuses. “I think a lot of people just on this album, they’re just discovering us so they don’t really know the history. The first album we really just advertised on Facebook so we’re pretty much a brand now band regardless of how long I played. I’d love to get on and just be on a big festival. This way I can hit as many people as I can in one shot as opposed to play a Tuesday night in Cleveland. I’m just trying to get us on something bigger first and then we can branch off after.”
Before letting him go, I had to ask him about the time he was asked to join Megadeth in the mid-‘80s.
Gustafson recalls the story, “We were on tour with them. I think we had done Taking Over and they were on Peace Sells… I had known both Dave’s [Mustaine, vocalist and Ellefson, bassist] for a long time and on that tour; it was like the beginning of them being dysfunctional I think. There was like fighting between Dave [Mustaine] and the drummer Gar [Samuelson] and Chris Poland [guitarist] and you know, we were close. He had a blowout one night, Philadelphia, and you know, I thought the tour was going to be over. So I said, ‘let me go back and talk to him.’ I sat with him in the back of the bus I think and he’s just like ‘I can’t take this anymore and I don’t want to play with these guys. You know, why don’t you come play for us?’ I thought about it and I’m just like ‘I just don’t see me staying here for a long time.’ Just from the way I saw things going, and I guess that started their sort of drug era and I’m like not into that at all. I looked at my future and I saw maybe doing one album with them, which seems like would have been the case. I think I made the right decision, I mean I would love to play with them now maybe. I just don’t think I would have stayed around for more than one album and I would have blown doing the Under The Influence and The Years Of Decay, which wound up being my swansong album. I think I made the right move.”