Stevo, tell us about your projects, such as Twist Ending and Tombstones. Especially the second one, since there’s no news about it for a long time((
Stevo: TWIST ENDING is a project that started up in early 2014…maybe a little bit sooner…when Billy and I were discussing putting together a project that glorified the real Italian ‘giallo’ films of the seventies and early 80s…lots of folks touch on that material from time to time, but we wanted to come up with something that went all the way with the concept. The name was something Billy had been working on for a while, and when we were going over the ‘giallo’ concept, the name came up and it completely fit what we were working out. My old and beloved friend Gregg, who was in one of my favorite bands of all time (LINCOLN LOVE LOG), recorded some raw drum tracks, and over the course of a few months, Billy’s wife Vanessa wrote and recorded some bass/guitar riffs to accompany Gregg’s bizarre garage tribal compositions…Vanessa and I collaborated on most of the lyrics, got some help from our Italian friend Michele Toscan to translate some of them in Italian, and I spec’d the film soundtrack samples and finished the vocals in the fall of 2014…the 4-song demo “Musica di Morte” was released in October of that year and on cassette a few months later on No Visible Scars. The response has been really great, most folks who heard it were totally dialed into what we were up to!! We will probably record another demo in the future!
TOMBSTONES was a project that originally started as BEWARE!, which featured myself and the legendary Kam Lee on vocals, along with Patrick Bruss (bass/guitar) and Wayne Sarantopolous (drums)…we recorded a couple of demo tracks for BEWARE! but soon after, Kam backed out to focus on other projects. We couldn’t call it BEWARE! anymore, out of respect, so we changed the name to TOMBSTONES and through the course of the year, recorded our debut album “Not For The Squeamish” which was released in 2010 on Razorback. This album features what I consider to be my best vocal performance ever; you may disagree but my ears still can’t believe it, to this day! A year or so later, we started to write our second album “Return Of The Undertaker,” that featured all lyrics by Doc Holocausto and based on a theme/outline I had developed since 1987 (!!!) but suddenly, Wayne moved on to work on his other projects, and work on the recording stagnated as Patrick became busy with some stuff he was doing (mostly, CRYPTICUS)…the second album is still a ‘thing’ that is on the shelf, ready to jump back into the hopper when the time is right, but as I’m only the vocalist, it’s kind of hard to get it going without the ‘rest of the band,’ so to speak…Doc’s lyrics are fantastic, and I have made a solemn vow to get this album done someday, sooner rather than later, and I think in 2016 I’m going to give it another go, so don’t sleep on TOMBSTONES cause we ain’t dead yet!!
For the last few years your music was re-released by a lot of labels in different formats and designs. Do you have a good share from it at all?
Stevo: If by “share” you mean “money,” no we sure haven’t!! BUT, the reissues have kept our festering mission alive, even though our band is long dead, and that’s been a wonderful thing!! It means that even over 20 years after we split up, there are still folks who think our musick means something, and that’s way better than money!
Mark: All the version and stuff is authorized but we usually only get copies of the merch to sell and trade ourselves, a lot of it is traded and given to friends. We are given fair deals but for us it was never about the money. It’s great to know that people are still so interested to release the stuff and it can still always sell out. We still gain new listeners to this day which is what is the most amazing part. We have kids listening to us and freaking out that weren’t even born when we were active. It’s nice to know that some noise you made 20+ years ago is still enjoyed today and still deemed relevant and influential. We never imagined that when we made it, that is for sure. We thought we’d just be a small shit stain on the deep underground. We like to work with labels that are into us and that are cool people or friends, not for the business side of it.
I heard a lot of cover tracks on your songs and even a whole tribute album just on a Boneyard song. So here’s the question: which band’s cover on Impetigo’s song was the best in your opinion?
Stevo: I think everybody knows by now that I never listen to IMPETIGO stuff; I’ve always avoided it when we were together and still do many years later. However, I’ve always felt that “Staph Terrorist” was the best song I ever wrote, musically and lyrically, and the recorded performance on “HOTZ” is the best thing we ever pulled off. Recently, I’ve come to appreciate “Cannibal Apocalypse” a great deal; I just can’t believe I wrote that, it’s insane!! Even more special, I suppose, because it only appeared on “Antefatto” and we decided not to re-produce it for another release…a decision that had no basis or reason at the time, but now it cemented the song into its current kVlt status!
Mark: Wow it’s hard to really nail one down for sure and it’s be awhile since I really heard all the covers to pick one. We had the “Wizards of Gore” tribute CD and then the tribute to just the song “Boneyard” which is one of the only tribute CD’s i know of to just one song… crazy. I think having bands cover you songs is the biggest honor you can have. I mean someone likes one of your songs enough to play it themselves, that is pretty cool. I know the first IMPETIGO cover i think i ever heard was the Canadian band TUMULT doing a “Boneyard” cover on their demo. I was like whoa…. very cool. I think HAEMORRHAGE always does killer versions of our songs, they have done a few. LORD GORE did a killer version of “Breakfast at the Manchester Morgue”, INGROWING did a great cover. Huge honor for us was old friends like DECEASED, MORTICIAN, BLOOD, BLOOD DUSTER taking part in it too. There were so many good covers on that i can’t really pick one. RAZORBACK RECORDS did an amazing job putting that tribute together and we thank any band that took part.
What can you say about Impetigo being truly legendary band? ‘Cause, you know, Impetigo inspired a whole lot of other different bands, and even today there’re still guys that draw inspiration from your music.
Stevo: As I mentioned earlier, part of me is still shocked that people still listen to us nowadays, let alone admit that our insanity influenced them in some way…really, all I think Mark and I ever wanted to do was make music that we could stand to share with our friends, and that adhered to the precepts of the underground that we believed in…even if a band hates our music, and was only influenced by our attitude alone, then I’m always proud of that. I think through the combination of Mark’s intense work in being the spearhead of our contact and self-promotion machine, and my work in guiding our development into a band that stood behind the musickal and theological premise we established early on, with the musick and lyrics to back it up. The tribute albums really proved that, for sure. There were a lot of bands who were active at the same time we were, who were much better than us in hundreds of ways…but they aren’t remembered much now, and with all the respect to them that they are due, I think it’s mostly because they never fully understood our attitude, and the work behind the scenes we did just to enable others to hear our stuff in the first place.
Mark: It’s a bit hard to believe really, it’s not something we ever thought would be said about us and not what we were trying to do. I still don’t consider us a legendary band that is for sure. We were just some knuckle heads in a garage in the wastelands of Central Illinois trying to make music that we wanted to hear as well as play. We drew influences from a wide range of bands but somehow managed not to sound like those bands too much and have our own sound and style. I attribute that mainly to Stevo’s vocals and his amazing song writing and vision of how the song should feel and his intense lyrics. He was the creative force for sure behind the band and i was so thankful he asked me to do a band with him. Also I think Dan’s unique drumming set us apart do. He was not a metal or grind drummer at all, coming from the hardcore punk side but with very eclectic tastes he never wanted to play a boring drum beat and he took Stevo’s guidance on what to do but the made it all his own throwing in this and that here and there. I love his drumming! I think in the end it’s the songs that have made the band stand the test of time, they were fairly simple and catchy and we weren’t afraid to use a good riff a lot in the song. It made the songs memorable. Also our attitude and the hours and hours of mail we did answering everyone really spread the name far and wide. Back in those days people in Easter Europe or South America really couldn’t order stuff so much or get U.S. dollars but i bought blank tapes and made tapes and sent everyone that wrote a tape. So if we have a bit of legendary status we did work very hard for it, but also enjoyed it all. We love the underground.
Continue the phrase: a zombie walk into the bar, and the bartender says:…
Stevo: “Fuck it all, mate…we are fresh out of Dead Guy Ale!!”
Mark: “We don’t serve your kind here…”
Let’s get back to the past and take a ride in the early 90’s. You recorded two awesome albums, also very different from each other. How did it happened that you changed sound so quickly?
Stevo: It’s hard to explain, but the simple truth is that our sound really hadn’t changed so quickly at all, it had developed slowly (and painfully at times, just ask Mark about “Help, I’m A Rock” and watch him cringe!). “Ultimo” was a concept, in theory, that was comprised of material that was written, arranged, and deranged from 1987 (“Scabby Man” and “My Lai,” for instance) through the end of 1989 (“Dis-Organ-Ized,” and “Red Wigglers” come to mind) and during all points in between. Therefore, you’re hearing basically 3 years of material that span from our early thrashcore/grind days all the way to our proto-goregrinding death material…quite a few changes along the way during that period, to say the least. “HOTZ” was written in 1990 and early 1991, a much more concise period of time (roughly 14 months, as compared to about 30 months). We were still developing somewhat during the “HOTZ” period, but that phase is where we mostly developed and honed where we left off at the end of 1989…you could argue that “DOI” and “Wigglers” are both songs that would have fit well on “HOTZ,” but they were just the starting point of where we would go next, and the song “Boneyard” is kind of the hinge between those two periods. I like to believe that this is the reason the song has been so popular, but that’s not really the case. Like most bands, we went through such change in our early years; it just so happens that those changes are collected en masse on “Ultimo,” where “HOTZ” represents another phase, but a more mature and focused one.
Mark: Well i don’t completely see the albums as VERY different but yes they are different. I like to, for the sake of simplicity, say “Ultimo Mondo Cannibale”(UMC) is a more grind core record where “Horror of the Zombies” (HOTZ) is a darker more death metal record. The change didn’t come quickly though. You have to consider UMC was our first record after about 3 years of existence so that record pretty much incorporated most all of the songs we had ever wrote since day one in the band. That makes it more simple, more grindy, and more varied. But if you look at the later written songs such as “Red Wigglers” or “Intense Mortification” they fit more with HOTZ. So the progression was actually over the few years.. then the time in between if you listen to “Sinister Urge/Facelss” that is getting more into the HOTZ sound too. Over time we became better as our band and death metal exploded so our influences changed too. We really didn’t have as much direction on UMC but by the time we started writing for HOTZ we had a much better grasp of what we were trying to do and as our horror and gore collections grew too that became a stronger and stronger influence on the lyrics and mood and tone of the album. I think we reached the sound we wanted to be at with HOTZ.
I know that you like horror movies and took them as inspiration for your songs. I was pleasantly surprised to see Ruggero Deodato holding your vinyl in his hands. What about new movies? What do you think about modern horror movies?
Stevo: I don’t really like modern horror films much, and I do take some heat for that, but it’s just the way I am. The moldy classics are so dear to me, and such an integral part of my childhood and adolescence…now I’m old and stuck in my ways, I guess you could say. I’d rather sit on the porch in my underwear clutching a rancid copy of “Disciple of Death” than ever leave my box and go see a new horror film. There was a charm ever present in the way the art used to be executed, and it’s just gone. I recently caught some flak from a friend of mine for responding to his suggestion to see “It Follows” with “I’LL PASS!” I’m not saying all of the new stuff is crap (and I’m not saying “It Follows” is crap either, I’m sure it’s pretty good)…I’m just not interested in any of it, it’s as simple as that. I’m a die hard “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” kind of person, and that kinda goes for musick in some ways too… I really like some new musick just as much as bands I liked in the old days, but a lot of it is crap. Movies, that’s different…for some reason, movies is where I really draw the line.
Mark: Yes my friend in Brazil took his IMPETIGO “GIallo” pic LP to a horror fest there and got a picture of Ruggero Deodato holding it. He told me he really liked the artwork haha, that was very cool indeed to see that as CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST is pretty much the iconic jungle cannibal movie! New horror films are much more hit and miss i think some can be really bad, some are pretty decent. One new one i really liked was THE GREEN INFERNO, that one actually got me to the cinema for the first time in 3 years. It’s not every day you can see a jungle cannibal movie on the big screen. While it was not fantastic it was good and the gore was good so thumbs up to Eli Roth for getting that one made and distributed!! I am a sucker for horror movies and it seems not matter how many new ones let me down i still come back for more just so i can at least have my own opinion. I did like IT FOLLOWS for the most part and i liked BABBADOK too, thought that was cool. I’ve heard THE GALLOWS wasn’t very good but i will watch it anyway. Not crazy on all these remakes but i did like the HILLS HAVE EYES ones and the I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE one was OK too. I still prefer classic horror, Hammer horror and all the gore and sleaze of the 70’s and 80’s. They just don’t make them like that anymore. But i haven’t given up on the genre and i am still willing to check things out. HERE COMES THE DEVIL was pretty cool, BLUE RUIN (more a revenge flick.. also a fave genre of mine) and ALMOST HUMAN were pretty good too.
What about children? Stevo, as far as I know, your kids don’t know about your youth. Would you eventually tell them about these crazy years in your life?)
Stevo: Ha ha, well…they know I was in a band, and that’s about it, but I do intend to let them know someday…that is, if they don’t find out on their own. I was at a baseball game here in town last week with my youngest daughter, and out of the blue a guy walks to my seat (I’m there for half of the season, it seems, so I’m not that hard to find if you know I’m there), shakes my hand and says “Hey Stevo, I’ve always been a fan of your music, I just wanted to come up and say hello” and my daughter was like “what the hell is he talking about???” The difficult part, for me, is that both of my children are girls, and they didn’t grow up in the same world I did, so their frame of reference is a little bit different. They’re not really tuned into the world of horror and exploitation like I was, and the way things are today (particularly in the realm of folks going out of their way to be ‘politically correct’ in one way or another) it’s hard to explain artwork that depicts acts of rape and mutilation, or lyrics that glorify torture and cuisinal terrorism, to a girl who is fighting like mad to maintain her self-esteem in a world where the shit internet dominates their consciousness. When their maturity is at a point where they can “handle the truth,” so to speak, I will most certainly expose them to my deeds of the past…I laughed with glee at satanic cannibal dwarves when I was 7 years old, they have a long way to go before they could ever consider that entertainment, and they may never consider it at all, but they will be able to understand what I did and what it meant to be and that’s when I’ll let them in on it. My youngest daughter has the most promise; she’s into the zombie thing (albeit the “Walking Dead” zombie thing…aiiieeee) and her taste for ‘harder’ music is more profound.
Mark: I’ve never had children so it’s not something i have ever given much thought to. I guess if i did i would try to steer them a bit in my direction but of course not force them that is not fun. It’s just if you expose kids to more extreme stuff it should be a bit older age and of course with a lot of talking and explaining. Ha ha maybe i would have been a terrible parent but it’s not something i ever had to deal with and that was by choice on my part too.
Stevo, you’re a baseball fan, right? What baseball team do you support? Mark, what kind of sports do you like?
Stevo: I usually have 4 or 5 Major League teams I’m fond of, and they are usually the Cubs, the Astros, the Royals, and the Padres…funny thing is, I also pay close attention to about 9-10 Minor League teams and not necessarily the affiliates of the Major League teams I like so much…
Mark: I’m not massive on sports but i watch American football if it’s a team i like. I have three i watch in the NFL but since they are not from this area they are not on much and i have one college team i watch. I’m also a fan of mixed martial arts so I watch a lot of UFC fights as long as it’s not the pay-per-views i’m not crazy enough to pay that much for it but i do like to watch those two sports. I used to play American Football and Basketball in High School but those days are long gone now haha.
Well, this is it, I’m not gonna torture you anymore with my questions)
Stevo: Thank you so much for doing this interview, guys! smile emoticon
Thank YOU for the interest, STAY SICK!!!
Mark: A big thanks to you brother for taking the time to put it together and for wanting to include long dead fossils in your issue! haha We appreciate it and thanks for the support, the lesions are still festering, they will never heal!!