Guitarist Mike Bogush is about first days of Nuclear Assault
Nuclear Assault belonged to the first wave of East Coast thrash metal, they emerged along with Anthrax and Overkill from New York and played an important role to create crossover. Their early releases (first three albums, singles and EPs) are thrash metal classics, but at the early 90’s I lost my interest in them. But, this time you can read a special feature about the band with former guitarist Mike Bogush, who played only on the first Nuclear Assault demo.
Mike, Nuclear Assault was formed in 1984. After performing on Anthrax’s debut album Fistful of Metal, bass player Dan Lilker was sacked from the group and decided to pursue a more aggressive style of music. He and former Anthrax vocalist and guitarist John Connelly formed Nuclear Assault and they were joined by you, and by drummer Derek Lord, is that correct?
Derek had been in the band before I joined not sure how long. A few weeks in he stopped showing up for rehearsals so we then put an ad out for a drummer.
Did you like Fistful of Metal by the way? Was it a kind of answer to Kill ’Em All and Show No Mercy? Were there any similarities or differences between the style/approach of the West Coast and East Coast thrash bands?
Fistful… was a great album their best in my opinion although it did not quite stand up to Kill ’Em All and Show No Mercy, but the East Coast answer most definitely I believe there were similarities just different production.
Derek was only for a short period in the band. How did you end up Scott DuBoys becoming the drummer? Was he the first choice or were there auditioned other drummers as well?
We auditioned a few. Some were good, others tried too hard and were much too technical for what John and Dan were looking for. So along came Scott Duboys whom just flowed right in great double bass and thrash techniques he blew me away! Right there and then he was in the band.
How about his musical background?
I can’t speak for Scott’s musical background but we would sometimes mess around with MSG, AC/DC, Metallica riffs. Before I joined I was listening to Exciter, Mercyful Fate, Venom, anything underground and heavy thanx to college radio WSOU Montclair and friends.
What the metal scene in N.Y. was like back in those days? Obviously the hardcore-punk scene in New York was very strong when you started the band?
John and Dan were heavily involved in the hardcore scene at CBGB’s. I would go to those shows sometimes but my heart was more with the metal scene. I had seen Prime Evil a couple times had their demo. I thought they were really heavy. I tried out for Deathrash after Nuke but decided to form my own thing. I had liked the direction these bands were taking making the scene stronger for underground metal.
How did you view the mid 80’s scene, when younger outfits started popping up such as Toxik, Caligula, Deathrash, Deathcorps, Prime Evil etc.? How deeply were all of you involved in the underground?
The metal and hardcore scene was much stronger in N.Y. than in N.J. we had Lamour’s in Brooklyn and the hardcore matinee at CBGB’s on sundays in New York City bands and people alike were from N.Y. & N.J. We had Leeway, Agnostic Front, Adrenaline OD, etc. Anthrax, M.O.D. members and most hardcore band members would all be at the shows there was a time the Crumbsuckers were at CBGB’s and brought up Kirk Hammett to jam, the skins started spitting on him and grabbed the guitar out of his hands. Kirk was pissed ready to fight but luckily Billy Milano was there to break things up. Then at Lamour’s we had Carnivore, Blessed Death, Whiplash all doing shows there that’s what I remember from back in 1984-85. Sure I forgot some.
There was also the New Jersey scene. Was it independent of the New York one or did it belong to it? I think about Blessed Death, Whiplash, Revenant, Ripping Corpse, Lethal Aggression etc.
I believe the N.J. hardcore punk and thrash scene belonged to N.Y.. Most of the N.J. bands gigged on the other side of the river where original bands could draw a better crowd. N.J. was just a weaker scene more commercial, glam and poseur. Hard to draw if you were underground and original bands would have a hard time getting booked unless you knew someone.
Did all of you perhaps take part in the fanzine/tapetrading network? Do you remember fanzines such as The Book of Armageddon or Metal Core?
I never had too many fanzines come my way till I was out of the band but I did do an interview with some fanzine at coast to coast in canton, md outside of Baltimore. My last gig with the band where Overkill was on the same bill second show with them the other in Staten Island, N.Y. at Octobers. I wasn’t much of a tape trader I would just pick up demos at shows if I got into the band I did have a big stack of Metal Forces mags.
What about your early rehearsals? Did you start writing originals or were you jamming mostly on covers?
From day one all rehearsals were Lilker/Connelly compositions they did all the writing. We worked on all originals, no covers at all. Maybe one of us would just pull up a Metallica, Slayer, Venom riff but never really jammed on a cover. I think the Nuclear Assault featuring ex-Anthrax member spoke for itself but overall a pretty decent turnout for a debut with a metal cover band opening up. I think they were called Double Cross, a local N.J. band Central and more South Jersey seemed to have a better metal following like the Old Bridge Militia and Woodbridge area. We opened up with Stranded in Hell and the show went over pretty well.
The group’s first live performance was at the Union Jack in South River, New Jersey in late 1984. Does it mean that you played your first gig before your first demo came out? Wasn’t it risky to introduce a band for the fans without any material recorded?
Yes that is right and I think we relyed on the Anthrax/Dan Lilker name as it seemed to have worked as at another gig. I had these girls run up and ask if I was Dan from Anthrax and pointed to him they went running toward Dan.
What do you recall of that particular gig? How was your setlist like?
The gig went well. We opened with Stranded in Hell and some songs that were not on the demo like Hate, Meteors, Pure Energy, Final Flight. Dan and John were writing machines we never had to use covers as fillers.
During early 1985 you recorded your first demo Back with Vengeance. Please, provide details on this stuff: the studio you used, songs that were recorded, how the process went and what were the final results?
We first recorded at this place called RBI Studios in Brooklyn. We would start around midnight. Scott had a friend come down that worked at Electric Ladyland studios and had negative stuff to say about John and my guitar sounds saying too much distortion. John was basically like fuck that I’m happy with the sound while I gave in and let them set my sound up turned out to be on the clean side. I sorta lacked sustain so I wasn’t too happy with the sound. I should have stuck with John. Then the mix was horrible, mind you this is my first recording experience so all of us not thrilled with the turnout, so decided to take it to Merlin studios in Whippany, N.J. have it remixed and record two more songs Stranded in Hell and Vengeance. There was an improvement but a few things beyond repair like Nightmares. And other songs were recorded there: Cross of Iron, The Plague, Cold Steel, Hang the Pope.
Was the demo spread around to arouse any labels interests to draw the fan’s attention to the band etc.? Through which channels did you spread/distribute it?
Dan and John along with Scott had a lot to do with handling the demo and dealing with labels. We had interest when I was in the band but they were cautious and waiting for the right label to come along with better deals.
All of the demo songs were added to the band’s releases later on, correct?
All the songs did end up on Game Over and the EP. We did have a few more songs we played live that never made it onto any album. And believe it or not I have a rehearsal tape with some of those songs and the recording is good as well as a live show in Staten Island that recording not great.
Do you think that the sound of Nuclear Assault proved much more aggressive, however, merging the styles of hardcore and thrash with socially aware lyrics? How did you opt for that style? Was it a conscious decision?
With some of the new songs we were heading to a much more aggressive style from the songs recorded faster, heavier, more of a hardcore feel. Dan and John were always looking to get faster they would listen to Discharge, Inferno the band that did ram it up they were from Germany and S.O.D. covered it. Then Venom and Slayer of course a lot of underground thrash and hardcore I think they wanted to outspeed these bands.
You were later replaced by Anthony Bramante. Why did you leave the band? Did perhaps any musical and personal differences emerge among you and other band members?
I was on the hunt for a more heavier aggressive band an original band as I had weak writing skills back then. I just had to adjust to the speed of Nuclear Assault as some of these songs were the fastest I ever played. I always had a heavy right hand which would lead to broken picks and strings. I was doing covers with other bands before this Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath, Scorpions, Riot, Saxon what I thought was heavy for it’s time. Funny, couple years prior I was jamming with Tony Scaglione later of Whiplash also had auditioned for Overkill but between Bobby Gustafson and myself our guitars did not click and they never did get another guitarist.
Leaving the band was a mutual decision. I wasn’t ready to give up my day job. I needed a guaranteed income and did not see that anytime soon. There really was no personal differences that I was aware of we got along fine maybe I partied much more than the others. Musically, I was leaning more towards a Celtic Frost, Slayer, Trouble, Bathory type of sound where they had a much more hardcore influence with more speed. But overall I think Nuclear would have been much heavier if Scott and I remained and on a last note being in the band gave me ability to write my own stuff and they did release the next demo with Scott and myself on the Atomic Waste CD and thank you for the opportunity Dave, it’s been a pleasure!
Sum up, please, your musical career after Nuclear Assault, including Majestic Blood, Trails Of Blood and Sanguinary!
After I left Nuclear Assault I started writing originals. A song Victim of Death was my first and by the end of 1985 I met a drummer John „Doe” Seuss whom recently passed and I knew another guitarist from work Art Petersen who played bass for us. He would later go on to form Chaotic Realm which is still active today.
In 1986 we came up with Jack The Ripper as a name did two demos. First one good, second one sucked as we just partied beyond oblivion. As a few line-ups that band self destructed it was thrash metal. After that I went into hiatus from 1988 till 1992 then ran into an old friend Bart Traylor a bassist/vocalist with Tom Wetter on drums and Doug Kase on guitar who left after a few gigs. We opened for Immolation in NYC, Obituary, Fear Factory, Suffocation and old Nuclear Assault bandmate Dan Lilker’s band Brutal Truth. We were a death metal band. I wanted to be in a brutal heavy band. We did two demos shedding blood a little disastrous the guy messed the mixdown on the drums and the mix period so in 1998 we did a second demo which turned out great summoned from below. We done gigs with Insatanity and Pessimist also ended up on two Mortal Coil Records compilations Eat the Evidence 2. and 3. with songs Summoned from Below and Rack of Skulls.
Sanguinary was fairly successful from 1992-98. When I left to try and form a band leaning towards black metal and wearing corpsepaint shortly after Sanguinary disinigrated. Then in 2000 Majestic Blood was born with Pete Demon on bass/vocals, John Pecoraro on guitarand Budha on drums. A demo and gigs. Two years. Later a break-up not quite the black metal direction I expected so in 2002 Glen Davis (brother of M.O.D. drummer Keith) and myself formed Trails of Blood. Two demos, a couple of gigs between 2003-2006. We went thru a few bassists from Cesar Nallon to Bart Traylor from Sanguinary. After Bart left I called it quits. I gave up on people total frustration. I just play guitar and mess with the home recorder these days. No bands, maybe one day if the right people come along.
How do you find Nuclear Assault as a whole ? What are their best and worst albums?
Nuclear is more powerful as a live band more so than the studio stuff just my opinion. I actually like Nuclear Assault’s next demo and Live Suffer Die demo more so than the production on the albums. My fave is probably Game Over and The Plague EP. I can’t think of their worst, but a lot of people dislike Something Wicked and some weren’t to keen on New World Genocide. I have to give another listen.
Do you still keep an eye on what’s going on in the present music scene?
Somewhat I just don’t care much for many newer bands but I’ll check out newer releases from bands like Pestilence, Ancient, releases from old school black, death, thrash or NWOBHM bands. I do like Airbourne, Kadaver, Orchid, Sagh.
Mike, thanks a lot for your answers! Anything to add to mention for the Hungarian readers?
Thank you for the interest and support for something I was part of and in case nobody knows the Nuclear Assault release Atomic Waste demos and rehearsals includes Nuclear Assaults next demo tracks 7-13 which has Scott Duboys on drums and myself on guitar. Songs include Stranded in Hell, Nightmare, Cold Steel, The Plague, Cross of Iron, Vengeance and Hang the Pope which you can find on YouTube. Also you can find some stuff from my other bands Sanguinary – Rack of Skulls and Majestic Blood’s Victim of Death, cover of Outbreak of Evil and a few more. Hopefully I’ll get some Trails of Blood put on soon. And thank you for the opportunity, David!