Interview with ex-Necrophagia singer Eddie Santiago – Part 2
L. D.: Do you agree with that the L.A. scene was divided into two parts? There were the glam/hair outfits, such as W.A.S.P., Dokken, Ratt, Mötley Crüe etc. and the brutal thrash ones, such as Slayer, Megadeth, Dark Angel etc.? Would you say, that the thrash outfits were overshadowed by the mainstream, hair ones and they got less attention from the fans, press etc.?
E. S.: Not really. I know that sounds weird but we were happy to have our own thing our own Cosa Nostra. We weren’t in it for the fame or money. I was in it to be the best I could be at the genre and to kick the asses of the other bands. If these glam outfits wanted to just have all the groupies and wear makeup and look like girls? Then that was their lot in life. Fuck them and their music! I didn’t care! I wanted to play fast and ferocious real thrash metal and I felt that we were one of the best at it. If in the end it didn’t come with the brass ring? Then that is just how shit goes.
No one was forcing the major labels to sign all these glam bands! That was where they wanted to allocate their money and time. They didn’t see thrash and death metal as posing much of a threat. They thought it was just a fad and it would die out. Well, glam rock died hard and thrash and death metal still live and have huge audiences worldwide to this very day.
L. D.: Was there a healthy club/underground scene?
E. S.: Yes! We used to promote shows independently! Teenagers booking big halls and drawing over 1,000 thrashers! We did that! All these other desperate acts were doing the “pay to play Hollywood” thing back then but I was promoting underground shows with FCDN Tormentor, Archenemy, Sadistic Intent, Terrorizer, Bloodcum and paying the bands to play instead of them paying to play. What a concept huh? Paying the artist to perform! To this very day, most of these bottom feeding promoters want you to pay. Most are just a bunch of no talented scumbags. Once again, I said most, not all! There are a few decent people out there but rare.
L. D.: How about your rehearsals? Were you playing mostly covers or did you start writing own material right from the start?
E. S.: Necrophagia from the very beginning was an original music group. Sure, when I first started before we were called Necrophagia we played covers from Metallica and Omen and Abattoir and Armored Saint. That period however did not last long at all.
L. D.: Is it correct, that your first demo was Murder in the First Degree in 1985? Can you tell us more about it?
E. S.: That demo consisted of 3 tracks that were our first songs we ever created: Murder in the First Degree, Killer Instinct and Figure Four. Those songs made the rounds in 1985 during the hey day of the underground tape trading movement and became well known enough that the fans would show up at our gigs and request these songs.
L. D.: Was this material spread around in the tape trading circuit? Did you try to make a name for the band with this demo?
E. S.: As a matter of fact I did and it got us signed with Wild Rags Records. I hate to take credit for leading us to getting some well needed exposure through a new label however, the rest of the members never showed the initiative or drive to ever do anything that would advance the band in notoriety. Never!
L. D.: Around ’86 drummer Peiroy and guitarist Jerry Battle joined the band. How did they get in the picture exactly?
E. S.: Jerry Battle was a high school friend and he was very well known in underground circles and he seemed to have his pulse on what I was trying to really do with Necrophagia. When the band started having all these issues with Joey and his spiraling downhill lifestyle and the fact that I wasn’t really happy with the EP, I decided to take the Necro name and join ranks with Battle. The other remaining members were somewhat caught off guard but it shouldn’t have come as a surprise.
Jerry was the perfect band member and guitarist for Necro and his ideas and song writing ability fit perfect with my style. We wrote 3 songs quickly without a drummer, just Jerry and I and when we had them complete, we knew exactly who to ask to play drums. Pearcy was drumming with Seizure who by the way now had Wally Blazer Mims doing the vocals and bass. He decided to help us record the demo. We practiced literally twice with Pearcy and then just headed into the studio. We had put some funds together and had just enough money for 8 hours of studio time.
We used Joe Romersa who was the same guy who was the engineer for the Wild Rags EP. He gave us the ultimate bang for our buck and made our 3 song demo sound polished and mature and raw and awesome. We knew we had just done something very unique and we knew that it was the perfect interpretation of the true Necrophagia sound. He captured that for us all in 8 hours with all songs basically done in one take.
L. D.: At which point did drummer Willie Mims, guitarist Ruben Alvarez and bassist Tom Mukai get in the band? What about their musical past?
E. S.: Well, like I mentioned before, they were all in the band in 1984. They were all competent musicians but they weren’t going to be a part of the next phase of Necrophagia which became Necrophagia LA.
L. D.: Did it mean that you could concentrate only on the vocals and you don’t need to handle the bass duties?
E. S.: I am a strange guy in that I never really practice playing instruments or in this case, bass. I could just wing it and pick it up quickly and naturally at times. So, I was always a back up plan in that sense. In no way was I am accomplished player though. With practice? Absolutely. I just liked creating songs and taking the vocals to crazy places and experiment with big lyrical concepts and get out of my comfort zone while still keeping it brutal and heavy.
L. D.: How were the songs penned, that made up on the It Began with a Twisted Dream demo and the Necrophagia EP?
E. S.: On the EP, I wrote all the lyrics during school time when I would get inspired to think. The Final Solution and Tear Off Your Face on the EP for example, I wrote those in the studio while we were actually creating them on the fly on the day the song was going to be recorded. Jerry Battle wrote all the lyrics and music on It Began with a Twisted Dream. I didn’t mind that at all. He was bursting with creativity and I just rode along with him.
L. D.: How did the recording sessions go with these materials? Tell us please everything about those!
E. S.: Well, the EP was 50% on the fly because Joey was no longer with the group and he was the creator and master of the songs that we did not use (such as Murder in the First Degree, Figure Four, Killer Instinct). Those 3 songs were way better than the material we wound up using because we were down one guitarist and Ruben unfortunately could not play those songs properly in a studio setting that would detect all the nuances of the proper picking and solo work that Joey had mastered.
That was a big disappointment and a shame that we weren’t able to use our A* material and instead, settled for B- C* stuff! If that. The sessions for It Began with a Twisted Dream were smooth because Jerry was the sole guitarist and also the creator of all the riffs. All I had to do was just concentrate on vocals and proper delivery and that was it. That is how the EP should have been done. We were proud of every song on the demo and I hated all but one song on the EP.
Fans who heard both have almost unanimously been in favor of the demo as the far superior work. I know it was confusing for most to know which came first. The EP WAS FIRST AND THE DEMO WAS SECOND, odd I know but very necessary in order to set the record straight as to what we really sounded like. And it worked because it got us a record deal with Alchemy.
L. D.: Would you say that the tracks on the EP are pleasingly catchy while remaining on the more chaotic and frantic side of thrash’s tracks?
E. S.: Frantic? Yes. As far as the chaotic side? Well that is because we wrote 2 songs on the actual day that we were to record in the studio. They were done like I said on the spot! Everything was done on the fly. We only went into the studio with 2 songs Bloodshed and Feel My Knife. Those were original songs that we had rehearsed and played live many times. Tear Off Your Face and The Final Solution were concocted in the studio so that we would have enough material for an EP.
Like I said, it was unfortunate that we lost Joey as our main guitarist just prior to the sessions. He would have made our sound 100% better in every way. It would have been a great debut release instead of an obscure, mediocre effort.
L. D.: Were they a good representation of the band?
E. S.: The EP was not a good representation of the band. The demo was and the following release was the finished product of what we truly were meant to become.
L. D.: In your opinion, did these materials help the band to increase a fan base or getting new fans, to draw the fans attention to the band?
E. S.: It Began with a Twisted Dream to this day still gets great responses and many, many have said that it is one of the best true thrash demos ever! That has come from the fans voices. Obviously I agree. It was a bit of redemption after the disappointing EP release on Wild Rags.
L. D.: While a lot of L.A. bands appeared on compilations, such as Metal Massacre, Speed Metal Hell, Thrash Metal Attack etc. why didn’t you get the opportunity being featured on one of those compilations?
E. S.: First of all, we never had management. The scene even in those days was geared more to who you knew and not how good your band was. We were every bit as good as any of the bands that appeared on Metal Massacre on other compilations. Sure Slayer was once on Metal Massacre and I am in no way saying we were ever better than them and maybe a few others. What I am saying is that there were many bands on these compilations who sucked but they had connections or money or kissed ass. Whatever the case may be.
We were poor, teenage kids from the hood of Boyle Heights and we were street and hardcore and spoke our minds and we never kissed ass or asked for favors. Sure we knew people but we never begged to be featured in anything unless they came to us and asked us to be a part of something. To us or should I say to me? I preferred the mutual respect and earning it with the music and nothing more. That is why we never made it to be quite honest with you. We just never had the representation to go to bat for us and to help payroll what we needed, NEVER! We spent every scarce penny we had into the band and did the best we could.
Unfortunately, history doesn’t remember the woulda, coulda, shoulda! Many bands released records during this time and most of them sucked balls. Sure the legends who came out during this time such as Sepultura, Dark Angel, Possessed, Kreator, Destruction, Exodus, Morbid Angel, Terrorizer etc… They deserved everything they got and we bow down to them all but there were some crappy bands also releasing records that never cut the mustard or measure up.
L. D.: In your opinion is the name of Necrophagia still in the fans’ minds?
E. S.: Absolutely. If I could get back together with the 3 other guys (of course that is no longer possible) but if I could we would come back with a great triumph. I would have loved to have gone head to head with Killjoy and his set and see who could rule the stage and see who really is the best Necro! That day however will never come and that is too bad. Too much time has passed and I am no longer interested in performing live. I am interested in recording and sending out some old obscure songs of mine and getting it out to the world, just for fun and I guess a little pride.
L. D.: How about your early bandmates such as Willie Mims, Joey Alvarez, Jerry Battle etc. these days? Are you still friends and in touch with them?
E. S.: I am in touch with Willie but the other guys are dead to me now.
L. D.: Do you still follow what’s going on in the metal underground? How much did the scene develope/change compared to the 80’s?
E. S.: Sure I am. I even made a short comeback with my project band Nekroseizure. It was fun but the scene has really changed a lot and I no longer have interest in it. The 80’s were a time for ideas and risk taking and pioneering. Today, I think most of the older bands/old school bands to me, do it more for the love of it, like playing semi pro baseball over the weekend or shit like that. Like a weekend warrior. That is what I see anyway, my opinion and nothing more…
L. D.: Ed, thanks a lot for your answers! Anything to add, that I forgot to cover or to mention?
E. S.: Well, I definitely said a lot but I don’t regret a single word. It is my interpretation of what I lived and breathed. A time in my life when I believed I could conquer the world! We were just some guys from Boyle Heights who had some big dreams. Thank you for the platform, I appreciate your interest and I hope I gave an insight to the tumultuous times of the 1980’s when all hell broke loose.