„We had a bunch of cool songs back then”

Drummer Greg Seymour is about the band Purgatory – Part II

Is it correct that Purgatory was formed originally as The Rose in 1984?

The Rose was a name that Jon had come up with for a band when he was 15 or 16 years old. Each of the letters in the name represented another word (Release Of Satan’s Evil) = The Rose. At the time The Rose was more of a concept than an actual band, Jon was just learning how to play the guitar, and I did not even have a drum set.

At which point did you change your name to Purgatory? Were you aware of the existence of the Cleveland-based Purgatory that were forming also around this time?

We changed the name from Purgatory to Iced Earth after Tom Morris (owner of Morrisound studio) told us about another band from Cleveland, Ohio who had the same name and they already had an album out. We were pissed off because we all love the name and we were starting to have a good following in the Tampa area. Changing the name was kind of a setback, but looking back, I think that it was a good thing because we had already changed two of the original members of the band (Bill and Richard).

Jon had thought of the name Purgatory in 1984. It was inspired by Iron Maiden. I had moved to Augusta, Georgia and Jon and I were staying in touch on the phone, but mostly writing letters to each other. He told me that he was changing the name of his future band from The Rose to Purgatory. Again, at the time he still did not have any other people in the band, and I was living 500 miles from him. In late 1984/early 1985 Jon had met another guitarist (Gary Custard) and they began to work on some of the songs that Jon had been writing. Gary was a perfect fit, and his lead guitar style worked with Jon’s songs. Gary also helped with the arrangements of the songs. In late March of 1985, I moved back to Indiana to live with Jon and his parents. By that time Jon and Gary had 6 or 7 songs that they had written. I was impressed with what I heard.

In June of that year I borrowed a drum set from a guy that Jon had jammed with a couple of times and Jon, Gary, and myself started rehearsing the songs so that we could play a party. We practiced the songs for about 1 week and then played the party. It was a disaster! The older kids at the party wanted to listen to Led Zeppelin and they turned off the electricity to the amplifiers several times. We were pissed off and finally gave up. A couple of the songs that we played back then were, Young Rebels and Gangland. (Gangland would later become Colors, the first song on the Iced Earth’s Enter the Realm EP.)

How did you get together and what about your musical past?

In the early summer of 1983 Jon and I were introduced to each other by a mutual friend Shawn O’Dell. We quickly discovered that we had a lot of things in common with each other, our taste in music, the way that we dressed. We were both 15 years old and had big dreams of making a name for ourselves in music. At the time that we met, neither Jon nor myself had ever been in a band.

Jon and Greg

Was Purgatory established by you on the drums, Jon Schaffer and Gary Custard on guitars, Richard Bateman on bass (R.I.P.) and Gene Adam on vocals by the way? Please, make us clear everything, because I read that Scott Mullins (drums), Larry Sapp (guitars) and Jason Lacey (vocals) were involving in the band, too…

In July of 1985 Jon and I moved to Tampa, Florida. We were getting into too much trouble in Indiana and his mother told us that we had to move out of her home. One of my sisters was living in Tampa and she said that we could stay with her for a little while. About 4 months after moving to Tampa, where Jon and I were able to get our own apartment, and in October 1985 Gary moved to Florida to join us. Things were pretty tough for us back then and after about 3 months Gary left. He went back to Indiana one day when Jon and I were at work. He went to the bus station and left. I don’t think that we ever saw him again. I recently became friends with him on Facebook.

In February 1986 we met Scott Mullins. Scott was a nice guy that had the look, the equipment, everything but the talent to play the bass. He told us that he knew a guitar player so we decided to give them a try. The guitarist was Larry Sapp. The four of us made plans to jam, and we also invited our good friend Jason Lacey to come. Jon and I rented and apartment from Jason and his father, Jason lived next door to us. When the five of us got together we tried to play a few of the songs that Jon and I had written. Jason was familiar with the songs because he had jammed with Jon and I a few times before and had helped us with lyric arrangements and ideas. We quickly found out that Scott could not play the bass very good, and that Larry was more into Black Metal and Speed Metal, and his style did not really match ours. Jason Lacey had the talent to become a vocalist, but he did not have the confidence in himself at the time. The five of us only jammed 2 or 3 times and had a photo session. I would not consider that to be the first Purgatory line up.

Was it easy to find engaged musicians for a metal band in Tampa those times?

In the mid 80’s it was not very hard to find other musicians. However, it was hard to find other musicians that had a similar determination and drive to succeed. But, Tampa Bay had no shortage of determined musicians.

The band’s logo was designed by Jon, wasn’t it?

Yes, both the Purgatory and Iced Earth logo were designed by Jon. He was a pretty good artist, and probably still is.

When did guitarist Bill Owen join the band?

Bill Owen joined the band in July or August of 1986. He was the last piece of the Purgatory puzzle. A couple of girls that we knew told Bill about us and we set up a meeting with him. A couple of days later we met and went over to Richard’s house and jammed. We knew right away that Bill fit into what we were doing. About 3 weeks later we started to play live.

Seymour and Bill Owen

You recorded three demos, please, give us some details regarding those materials: how those tapes were recorded exactly, how the songs on those demos were written, what kind of response you got from all over the world back then due to the coverage you had in the fanzine and the tape trading network etc.?

Our first demo was recorded about 8 weeks after the band was formed. It was not a very good attempt and we soon realized that we needed to go to a professional studio. We had heard of Morrisound from bands like Savatage and Nasty Savage recording there. We knew from listening to their records that Morrisound could make us sound more professional. Before we all got together, Jon and I were writing original material, and so were Gene and Richard. When we decided to be in a band together, we already had about 8 or 9 songs written. Bill joined the band about a week or two after the rest of us got together, and from the start we all had ideas and suggestions for the songs. Originally it was a real group effort in putting the songs together.

Have you shopped them around back then? Did you manage to make a name for the band, to draw the fans attention and stuff? Were there perhaps labels interests in the band?

When we had finally recorded a decent demo at Morrisound, we started sending our tapes to record companies, magazines, and radio stations. At first we did not get very many responses. After we recorded the second demo we did receive letters from people from South America and Europe who said that they had heard us on their local radio programs. That was really cool to hear that people in other countries had heard our music, and this was long before the internet.

It was in early 1987, after Richard left the band and Dave Abell had joined, that we started to get a little bit of response from some smaller record labels. Nothing ever came out of it, and it wasn’t until we had changed the name to Iced Earth that we received any real offers.

When Purgatory became Iced Earth, you played on the band’s demo Enter the Realm, and you parted ways with them shortly after. What kind of reasons did lead to your departure?

A few months after we recorded Enter the Realm things were looking good for the band. We were starting to make a name for ourselves and were getting some reviews in magazines and getting some airplay (especially in Europe). It was at about that time that I was becoming a bit discouraged with some of the decisions that were being made and I also did not like some of the people who were starting to become involved with the band. Also, after three years of Jon and I living together, working together, and being in a band together, we were starting to get on each other’s nerves a little bit. All of us were drinking a lot and I know that I was overdoing it and I was not in the best shape at the time.

When we started to get interest from Century Media Records, I knew that we would soon have a record deal. I could tell that I was not in the best shape at the time and I made up my mind to leave the band. Looking back I think that if I had stayed in the band I probably would have been dead within a year or two. I was partying too hard and I also did not want to let the other guy’s in the band down because I was not playing as good as was needed.

How could you sum up your musical involvements after Iced Earth?

After leaving Iced Earth I have had 3 different bands, Inner Sanctum (with Bill Owen), Incite (a band that Dave Abell joined for a few months after he left Iced Earth), and Sanctum (with guitarist John DeMille and vocalist Vince Meyer). I have recorded and released music with all three of those bands.

Last year Century Media released a Purgatory EP that was dedicated to the late Richard Bateman. Where did come the idea to do this material from? Were you perhaps asked by Jon Schaffer to contribute on it?

The Purgatory EP was something that Jon thought would be fun to do after he had reunited with Gene and Bill. When the three of them had got together and talked about old times, Jon suggested that they could record a few songs and release them. They picked out a few of the old songs and recorded them. I was not involved in the project until near the end. Jon and I had not spoken to each other for about 25 years and we finally reconnected with each other shortly after the EP had been started. I was asked by Jon to contribute some of my thoughts about the Purgatory days, and my thoughts were included in the booklet that comes with the EP.

How do you see the release as a whole?

As far as my thoughts on the Purgatory EP, I think that it turned out really good. The songs were arranged a little bit different from the original versions, but the end result is killer. I am very happy for Gene and especially Bill. Bill Owen was given a raw deal 30 years ago when he was fired from Purgatory. Looking back to that time, I was glad that the name was changed to Iced Earth shortly after Bill’s departure from the band, because after he was gone it wasn’t really the same band anymore. The EP is a little bit of redemption for him. I hope that a lot of people get to hear it, because we had a bunch of cool songs back then.

Do you still follow what’s going on in the metal scene these days? Do you show any interest in the present scene?

As far as today’s metal scene, I do follow what is going on as much as I can. I do not listen to many of the newer bands from the past 10 or 15 years. I don’t care for much of what I have heard. I still prefer the older bands. I feel that there was much more creativity and individuality back then.

Greg, thanks a lot for your answers! Any final words for the Hungarian readers?

Thank you for the opportunity to do this interview! I am sorry that it has taken me so long to finish it. I hope that the Hungarian Iced Earth fans have a chance to hear the remastered vinyl 30th Anniversary Edition of Enter the Realm. That was a very important time for the band when it was released. If anyone would like to contact me they can find me on Facebook. Thank you, and stay Metal!!!!!

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