A Conversation With Indestructible Noise Command Guitarist Erik Barath
Band Photo: Indestructible Noise Command (?)
Over the past few years, it seems like ‘80s thrash bands reuniting has become a hot topic. Heathen, Rotting Corpse, and Sentinel Beast are just a few that have gotten back together after an extended break.
Indestructible Noise Command released two underground favorites, “Razorback” and “The Visitor,” before breaking up in 1990. Last year, the band decided to get back together to work on new material. An EP, “Bleed The Line,” came out of it and now the band is prepping a first full-length album in 23 years, “Heaven Sent, Hellbound.”
Live shows are in the future and this restarted thrash act looks to capture a new audience with an aggressive, groove-infused sound. I had the chance to speak to guitarist Erik Barath to discuss the band's journey back to the spotlight.
Heavytothebone2: The band broke up about two decades ago, but recently reunited about a year ago. What made the band want to reunite after such a long stint away?
Dennis Gergely, the vocalist, and myself have been best friends since we were ten years old. I live in Europe now and he still lives in Connecticut. We’re basically online everyday on instant message; we’re chatting all the time. Last February or so, we started talking about back in the day when we were playing and all the bands that opened up for us and that we used to play with. We started googling all those bands. It turns out that most of those bands are still around playing, making demos, putting some albums out locally.
We were like, ‘These guys are our age. Why aren’t we doing this?’ So I was like, ‘Let me write one song and see how it feels. I don’t want to force it. If we are going to come back, we want to come back strong.’ I got a little studio set up here. I wrote “Full Metal Jacket” and that was the first song I wrote for I.N.C. after the 20-year vacation, I guess you could call it. It flowed; it took like an hour to write it. Dennis was stoked, Anthony (Fabrizi, guitarist) was stoked. We were like, ‘Okay, let’s do it.’ From there, it just really took off.
Heavytothebone2: Before you wrote “Full Metal Jacket,” in the two decades between the band breaking up and reuniting, did you have any urge to get the band back together?
We had spoken about getting together for more or less a reunion just to play some shows and do a 20-year reunion, play a few clubs. I was never really into that. Basically what you do is you have to relearn all your old songs, you have to rehearse, you play one or two shows, and then that’s it. You go back into hibernation mode. I wanted to come back and do something bigger, make a little history, put out an actual record, and start the career all over again. This was the opportunity. Once the song started flowing, it definitely felt right. It all just kind of clicked together.
Heavytothebone2: How did the time away affect the band’s sound, in your opinion?
It affected it a ton. When you have 23 years between albums, you’re definitely going to have a different style and sound. There’s a natural progression. You like something today, you might not like it in 10 years or 20 years. Our original sound and style was a bit quirkier, a little more melancholy, a little weird. Nowadays, we’re a little more serious. Definitely more aggressive; the sound is more brutal. If we were to put out an album every two years from 1987 until today, people would have heard that natural progression. Because it’s almost like a time warp, almost like a quarter century has passed, it’s going to be a little bit of a shock to hear the new I.N.C. sound. That’s just what happens when you’re away for so long.
Heavytothebone2: The new sound is lot more groove-infused. When you wrote “Full Metal Jacket,” did that come naturally to you?
Well, “Full Metal Jacket” is one of our thrashier tunes. It was the song that came out on the time. I really don’t sit down and think, ‘I should write something maybe a little more groove-oriented or I feel like writing a thrash song.’ I have my own studio here; I use Riffworks and I program my own drums. It’s really whatever I’m feeling that day is what comes out.
The album as a whole is a mish-mash of different paces and different moods. “Full Metal Jacket” is one of the speedier songs, one of the few fast songs. The original I.N.C. was the same back in the ‘80s. People called us a thrash metal band, but we really were a lot more than that. We had speed, we had slow songs, fused with a little punk, a little jazz. We wanted to experiment at all times and we’re still sort of doing that.
Heavytothebone2: Do you feel like the earlier albums, “Razorback” and “The Visitor,” never got the recognition they deserved?
As an artist and a musician, you always think that you can’t get enough respect. I guess, in a sense, sure. We kind of wish we could have done bigger and better things, but we did do pretty good. We were number one on the CMJ hard rock charts and we had a really good following. We were playing in front of a thousand people every show. We were doing well.
It just unfortunately came to an abrupt ending in 1990. If we could have kept the whole thing rolling, who knows? Maybe we would be playing in the Big Four tour (Megadeth, Metallica, Anthrax and Slayer) now. It’s one of those things you always said would of, should of, could of, but it didn’t happen. Now it’s kind of cool. We have a second shot at this. We’ll see where it goes.
Heavytothebone2: Tell me what it was like to get together to record the EP, “Bleed The Line,” which is the first collection of new material the band has written in over 20 years.
We figured the best thing to do is to come up with five or six songs and do a nice, polished production of those five or six songs and put them out for the industry, more or less; let them know that we are back. We went into the studio last summer and we just put out the six song EP, which we always knew would be on the full-length album as well. We figured we’ll put out the EP first, we put it out for radio, we put it out for the press, and for the record companies.
It did its job. We ended up number 11 on CMJ hard rock charts this time with an EP that we released ourselves, not even on a label. We got a record contract out of it. Everything moved pretty smoothly and pretty quickly. Now we’re set up nicely for the full-length coming out in May.
Heavytothebone2: The band has a whole new line-up for this album. I want to talk about the band bringing in a bass player. Dennis used to play bass. What led to the decision of him not playing bass?
Dennis hasn’t played bass for quite some years. His last gig was as a vocalist for a hardcore band called Payback and he was the frontman. It was just him and the microphone. He loves that. He still likes to play bass, but separately. He really likes the freedom of being a frontman. When we got back together, he asked me, ‘Dude, do you mind if I don’t play bass? I really just like singing.’ I said, ‘I’ll be honest with you. I would rather you sing.’
He’s a great frontman. He’s very animated and he’s in great shape. He is really able to command the stage. It was a mutual agreement. We both agreed it would be the best for the band. We happened to run into Sam (Roon, bassist) and Sam loved the material. He’s a cool dude, good thrasher. I think the line-up now is more suited for the stage.
Heavytothebone2: Was the EP a good tool to get the creative juices flowing for the full-length album?
Once I started writing at the end of February, and the decision was made to do this, I’ve been writing since then. By the time we went into the studio in the summer, basically the whole full-length album was written. The only song I wrote after the summer was “Swallowed.” That was the last song for the album. We were thinking about putting that on the next record, but it was such a cool song; it was something very different. It was a departure for us. We ended up putting that on this album. I have been writing ever since. I got 18 songs written for the next record. Who knows where that’s going to go? Once we got things rolling, the songs just started flowing. Everything just came together quickly.
Heavytothebone2: When it came to writing the new album, “Heaven Sent, Hellbound,” what did the band want to accomplish?
The writing has always been up to me. So whatever came out of me was the style of the band. I always presented it to the guys and asked what they think. They really love the direction of the band now. It’s a little more polished and sophisticated, but still very heavy. It’s heavier than the old stuff. The quirk is gone. That’s just who we are now. We listen back to the old stuff from the ‘80s. No regrets or anything, but we’re like, ‘Man, that was some goofy shit we had over there.’ We kind of laugh at it a little bit now. It’s definitely a more aggressive direction. That’s where we want to go.
Heavytothebone2: Is there any issues with the fact that you’re over in Europe and the rest of the band is in the states?
No. Actually, you always adapt to your surroundings. We knew from day one that it was going to be like this. The cool thing is with technology and the Internet, I write the songs here, I compose them, I produce them in my little studio, and then I send the songs to the other guys. We get on instant message, we do video chat, and we kind of discuss how this should go and how that should go. They rehearse on their own. Dennis will sing his version of a new song and he’ll send me a copy of that through e-mail or Sendspace.
We did everything through the Internet. We were able to do everything 5,000 miles apart. Even recording was basically spread out. I did a lot of my leads here. I just sent the files in via e-mail and Fredrik Nordström just had all the pieces and put them all together. In the old days, you have to play in the same garage together or the same basement together. Then the whole band would get in a van together and drive to the studio. Today, you can just mail it in.
Heavytothebone2: Do you think doing that loses a bit of the charm of being in a garage and performing together, compared to sending pieces of music to each other over the Internet?
Actually, it’s easier for me. In the old days, I had to explain what I was thinking, and it wouldn’t be quite right for a while. I had to keep re-explaining notes, the accents on this part of the songs, the drums are off, etc. It would be weeks and weeks of work just to get one song together. Now, I can compose it complete, the way I feel it should be, and give it basically a finish product and they can just take it from there. It’s definitely easier now. Everything’s almost an assembly line, where I have the vision of where the song should be, I make it, and they complete it.
Heavytothebone2: What song really represents to you Indestructible Noise Command in 2011?
I want to say “Swallowed,” even though “Swallowed” is the departure song. It’s a song that we really like because of that fact. It was a little bit different than the rest of the songs. We really like “Swallowed” a lot. If I could pick two, I would say “Swallowed” and “God Loves Violence.” They are polar opposites, and that’s sort of what we wanted on the album. We wanted a real good mix, so people don’t get used to one style. Every time a new song would start, they would be surprised, because it sounds different than the previous song.
Heavytothebone2: I want to talk for a minute about “Swallowed.” When you’re listening to the album, the song is right in the middle of the album, and it starts slow before going into an orchestral break. Where did the idea come from for something as experimental as that?
For decades, I always wanted to write that kind of music; that sort of epic, long song, but a song that told a story with the music unfolding and going into acoustic/orchestral parts. I.N.C. broke up when we were young and I wasn’t mature enough to get to that point. Now I’m really into that stuff. To be honest with you, a band like Avenged Sevenfold made it cool to write ten minute songs. Their albums have songs that like seven, eight minutes long. These guys are really popular and really cool. All their songs are really long and they tell a story. I was like, ‘You know what? I really always wanted to do that.’
Heavytothebone2: With the new material you’re writing, do you see it leaning towards that epic style?
I would say definitely. The next album is already in the works. There are several songs that are like that, that have breakdowns and cool strings. We’re definitely into experimenting more and bringing in new instruments that blend and make the style stand out a little bit. I don’t want to sound like another power metal band or thrash metal band. I always think just don’t box yourself in, leave your mind open, and try as many different things as you can.
Heavytothebone2: How do you see this album, compared to “Razorback” and “The Visitor”? Where does it fit into the band’s timeline?
It’s a bit of a time warp, like I said. It’s like if you fell into a coma and 23 years later, you woke up. You would be like, ‘This band sounds really different.’ It’s hard to compare. Music is a snapshot of who the creators are at that stage. Metallica has changed a lot through the years. A lot of bands go through changes based on what they’re feeling and what affects them. Lyrically, we take things a little more seriously these days. We sing about a lot of things happening in the news. It’s definitely different, but I think it has a shot of standing on its own.
Heavytothebone2: Is the band anticipating a return to doing more live shows?
Yeah, for sure. I had a conversation with the record company. We’re trying to get strategy here. For the next two or three months, we’re going to do tons of PR, do a lot of press, we’re sort of reintroducing the band to people. There are still a lot of old fans that don’t even know we’re together. We’re pushing radio a lot and print and the Internet.
Once the buzz is moving, we’re going to hit up Europe because our record company is situated in Europe and they have a lot of big connections. They are going to get us on tour in the UK and throughout Europe probably mid to end of summer. Unfortunately, we missed out on the festivals, so that will be next year. Then probably in the fall hit the states. Right now, we’re just going to push the record and do PR for the next couple of months; then after that, start planning the tour.
Heavytothebone2: Has the band played any live shows since they reunited?
Nope, not at all. The guys are starting to rehearse now and I’m coming to New York in May. I’ll be in the states for a little bit. Everyone in the band is a professional player. It’s not that much of an issue. They are going to get it together and I’m just going to basically slip in as the fifth member because unfortunately, I live in Europe, so I can’t rehearse with them every week like they will be. I’ll have all my parts ready and I’ll just fly in. We’ll rehearse a few times and we’ll be ready to go.
Heavytothebone2: How will the setlist look like? Heavier on the new material or a balance of old and recent songs?
We’ll probably not going to play much of the old stuff. That’s not my decision. It’s really the other guys in the band. It’s not really who we are anymore. We might play one or two old songs if we have time. Right now, as the situation stands, even though we started 25 years ago, it’s like we’re a new band again. We’ll probably go out as an opening act. We’ll probably have a half-an-hour, 35 minutes to do a set. Of course, you want to do all your new stuff, because you want people to buy the new album. We’ll probably play mostly new stuff, but if we do get a situation where we can play 45, 50 minutes, maybe an hour, then we’ll probably pull out a couple of old songs from the first two albums.
Heavytothebone2: Is there any song in particular from the older albums that you would actually want to play?
Yeah, I really like “War Not Words.” That’s a song that stands up really well. I’ve always liked that song. Actually, that’s probably a song I would like to reproduce and remake with today’s style and aggression that we have. I’ve always liked “Dry Heave.” “The Visitor” is pretty cool. Those three probably the most. “Bed Time Stories” is okay too, but I would say the first three I mentioned are songs I would consider playing.
Heavytothebone2: If you could tour with one band, past or present, who would it be and why?
The band I probably most respect these days - and I think they are the band doing the great things that Metallica and Megadeth were doing back in the day - is Lamb Of God. I probably would love to tour with them. They are huge, they draw great crowds, and I love the guitar playing. The riffs are great. They play exciting music.
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