Interview with ex-Revenant drummer Will Corcoran (1st part)
The late 80’s/early 90”s were the heydays of extreme metal, but a lot of records were released, that were overlooked and never got the recognition, that they would have deserved. One of them was Prophecies of a Dying World by New Jersey based band Revenant. Ex-drummer Will Corcoran was so kind to share us his thoughts about those times.
Laszlo David: Will, you joined Revenant along with guitarist Dave Jengo in 1990. What were the bands/projects that you were involved in prior to Revenant? What about your musical background as a whole?
Will Corcoran: I actually come from a long line of drummers. My grandfather was a drummer as well as my father. My father listened to the Stones, Hendrix and Led Zeppelin, while my mother was into softer stuff like Elton John, Billy Joel and Beach Boys. I was always a Beatles fan, and I picked up my parents influences as well. As I got older and met people through school and other activities, I was introduced to other bands like Kiss, Van Halen and Iron Maiden. But I think the biggest influence on me was Rush. Once I heard Neil Peart’s play that was it. I really wasn’t in too many bands when I was younger. I started a band while in high school called Lacerated, and we played together for 2-3 years, then I left to join Revenant.
L. D.: To which extent were you familiar with the music of the band?
W. C.: I knew of some of their music from playing some shows with them while I was in Lacerated. We were mostly a thrash band and Revenant were a little more extreme than we were. But I took notice of a few songs: I liked Asphyxiated Time and Degeneration.
L. D.: Revenant came from Bergenfield (New Jersey). Was the New Jersey underground scene independent from the New York one or was it chained to it?
W. C.: It was separate. From what I can remember, there weren’t too many NYC based bands around at the time. I remember mostly the bands being from New Jersey, or outside of New York City.
L. D.: In mid 80’s a lot of bands started popping up trying to make a name for themselves, such as Deathcorps, Caligula, Deathrash, Prime Evil, Ripping Corpse, Sorrow, Winter, Suffocation etc. What were your views on the scene at this point?
W. C.: It was starting to get saturated at this point, but there were some good bands coming out as well. Ripping Corpse, Prime Evil and Immolation were three examples of the bands I felt rose above everyone else.
L. D.: You played on Revenant’s 7” titled Distant Eyes. Were the tracks ready and written when you joined them or did you also take part in the song-composing?
W. C.: They were partially written. Once David and I joined, then we finished them off.
L. D.: Could you tell us detailed about the material?
W. C.: When I first joined, the material was mostly just a large pile of guitar riffs that we started creating drum beats for and assembling songs from the heap of riffs we had.
L. D.: Was it a better representation of the band compared to their previous materials?
W. C.: I think it was more “understandable” than it was previously. I mean no disrespect to former Revenant members, and in no way am I saying that David and I came in and then everything was perfect, but at least to me, when I listened to recordings of the band prior to our joining, the music seemed a little chaotic and without direction. I think once David and I joined, the 4 of us worked together to restructure the existing songs, and write more streamlined, focused music.
L. D.: The EP was released by French label Thrash Records. Is it correct that the EP was their second effort? How did you get in touch with them at all? Did they perhaps offer you a record deal, too?
W. C.: I can’t remember exactly, but I think they contacted us with an offer to press up about 500 copies in different colors, put them out and see how it sold. They were a young, startup label at the time, so I don’t think they had the resources to offer us a full recording contract at the time, but we were young too, and I think we needed a little more time to play together and get the feel for playing together before worrying about recording an album at that point, even though that was the ultimate goal.
L. D.: To how many items was it limited?
W. C.: I believe it was 500, with a “let’s see how it sells” kind of clause. If they sold out (which I think they did) they would do 500 more.
L. D.: Then you signed to German based Nuclear Blast. How did that happen? Were there any other labels’ interests in the band by the way?
W. C.: I think we used that 7” record as our demo to send to established record labels, in hopes of securing a record deal. So we sent out about 15-20 packages to the typical record labels you would send these things to, and I think we got 3 or 4 responses. One from Nuclear Blast, one from Century Media, I think, and two others.
L. D.: At which point did you enter the Quantum Sound Studios to record your debut Prophecies of a Dying World? Were you prepared to record the material?
W. C.: Once we signed the contract with Nuclear Blast, things moved very quickly. It was only a matter of a few months between putting the pen to paper to sign the contracts, to being in the studio recording the album. Were we prepared to record? In hindsight, I wish we would have waited a few months to trim and polish the songs a little more, but I think any artist will say that about their debut album, right?
L. D.: How did the recording sessions go?
W. C.: Pretty smooth for 4 guys in the studio recording their first album together. The one thing I will say is we rehearsed like crazy to be as prepared for the recording as we could have been, and that helped. But we were inexperienced, and the expected hurdles came upon us, and some minor frustration crept in, but overall, I recall making that album a very positive experience, and for all its warts and flaws, I’m still proud of the album. It was the best we could do at the time we were at. I still get positive reactions from people around the world whenever my wife (Kristine) is on Facebook.
L. D.: Would you say that in its ferocity and aggression, as well as its darkness, a lot of parallels to death/thrash pioneers Possessed come to mind?
W. C.: Sure I can certainly see that. A lot of the albums coming out at the time had the same goal in mind. You have to remember, were not listening to the Carpenters here!
L. D.: Is the character and sound at work here definitely a throwback to that of the early Florida scene? Is the tone a bit more ferocious and forbidding than what Death was up to circa Spiritual Healing, but there is definitely some noteworthy similarities in the musicality department?
W. C.: Yes, the complexity and speed all have the hallmarks of being influenced by Death (which was one of our favorite bands).
L. D.: Do you think that the musicianship on the album is perfect for the songs: not too technical, not too simplistic – just the right amount of technique and sloppiness to give the album the raw energy it needs? Is this rawness at the same time refined by the unconventional song structures in place?
W. C.: The album was recorded without the aid of a “click track” or any metronomic assistance, which gives it a push and pull in the tempo department, which I like. It may have been a shortcoming of mine at the time, but at the same time, it kept the album from having the polished, note perfect sound that a lot of the albums that were coming out of Florida, Morrisound Studios to be precise. Please don’t get me wrong, I love the Obituary, Deicide, Death and Morbid Angel albums that were all being made down there, but if we did that too, we would have compromised our hallmark sound, and that, to me, was a price too high to pay. The label actually wanted us to record down there, but for that exact reason I just explained, we refused.
L. D.: Do the songs vary quite a lot, with a lot of tempo changes, breaks, lots of riffs and ideas?
W. C.: Yes, I think there’s enough going on in each song, and quite differently, to keep the listener entertained for some time!
L. D.: The CD and cassette versions of the album have two additional tracks, In the Dark of the Psychic Unknown and Degeneration. Why didn’t appear them on the original version? Did you have more written material, that didn’t make it on the album?
W. C.: Time constraints. We couldn’t put all 9 songs on the vinyl without running it into a double album, and the record label just wouldn’t go for that, especially on our debut album. But the album is being reissued next month by a label called Cosmic Key Creations (I believe) on vinyl as a double LP with a gatefold package along with colored vinyl discs. Looks pretty cool!
L. D.: Does each song on this album has its unique imprint?
W. C.: I think there’s an individuality to each song! There better be! We spent enough time writing them!!! LOL!!!
L. D.: Do you mind that the songs tend to be on the longer side for death metal with the shortest song coming in at just under 5 minutes and the longest one approaching the 8 minute mark and this would spell certain doom for most death metal bands, but Revenant never runs out of steam or ideas?
W. C.: We took great care in the construction of the songs. We all have great influences, as far as songwriting influences go, and we tried to pair up economy and power, and we tried to get our point across in a reasonable amount of time. We didn’t want to bore the listener, but it feels like we had a lot to say back then musically. So instead of throwing riffs away, we fit them in where they made the most sense, and that meant the listener basically was getting, what feels like, a new guitar riff, every few seconds (haha!).
L. D.: Do you agree with, that the production is not polished, but neither is it too raw; it matches the music perfectly?
W. C.: Well, my personal feeling is, it could have been a little heavier. You have to remember, the studio we used, was a mainstay for R&B recordings back then. I’m told the place was owned by the guy who wrote Borderline for Madonna, and I remember getting to the studio for the first day and seeing all the photos on the wall of these great R&B acts along the hallway. The first thing I said to myself was “We don’t belong here”. But the end product came out pretty damn good, so I stopped thinking that after I had the finished product in my hands.
L. D.: Is Prophecies… an album that was original back in ‘91, but which over the past decades has gained something of a legendary reputation, and the reason is simply because the nine songs on this album take all these influences and mixes them into a somewhat distinct and progressive journey?
W. C.: Yes, it’s almost like it’s a concept album, without a solid concept in place. The songs can, and do, stand well on their own, or could be loosely tied together thematically and lyrically.
L. D.: Was Prophecies… one of the underground highlights of 1991?
W. C.: For me personally? Yes, my experiences creating that album, that whole time, playing the shows with dozens of great bands and super cool fans and friends. I would have to say it may be one of the highlights of my life.
L. D.: If we look back, in 1991 were released a lot of classics, such as Mental Funeral (Autopsy), Human (Death), Blessed Are the Sick (Morbid Angel), Dreaming with the Dead (Ripping Corpse), Effigy of the Forgotten (Suffocation) to name a few. It was a fertile period for death metal, wasn’t it?
W. C.: Extremely. I think that’s when the scene was really strong and hitting its stride. Some incredible albums were being released at the time, and great tours were beginning to happen, so yes, I feel kinda sorry for those of us who weren’t either old enough to know what they missed, or were doing something else and missed out!!! LOL
L. D.: It’s sad that the early 90’s metal scene left so many great albums out of the spotlights, leaving them either forgotten or underrated, such as Prophecies… How do you explain this?
W. C.: Just like when grunge wiped hair metal off the face of the earth in a grand total of, what, 9 months? I think the same thing happened to death metal/extreme metal. At this point, the market was getting way too saturated. This was the time when I can remember that there were at least 10 bands on the bill at any gig you go to. Everyone and their brother had a band, and this is when it became all about “outgrossing” each other out, or having the most offensive lyrics. That’s when it started to lose its luster.
L. D.: In your opinion, did Prophecies… stand the test of time?
W. C.: As I said before, I think it did. I still get the odd e-mail telling me how much the album meant to someone, or that their kid is now enjoying it (that certainly makes me feel old). But that makes me feel better that it just didn’t disappear into oblivion.
L. D.: Were there any shows, tours in support of the record? Can you speak about your gigs?
W. C.: Yes we toured the USA and Europe to support the album, and both tours were successful and a lot of fun!
L. D.: How much support did you get from the label? Were you satisfied with the promotional activities of Nuclear Blast?
W. C.: None, and no. They gave us almost no support whatsoever. We played something like 4 blocks away from the owner of the label’s home, and he didn’t even come see us, that’s when I kind a knew something was wrong.
(to be continued)