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Interview

Exhorder States Frankie Sparcello’s Memory Gives Band New Resolve

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Band Photo: Exhorder (?)

New Orleans natives, Exhorder emerged on the worldwide metal scene with their 1990 Roadrunner Records debut, “Slaughter in the Vatican.” Said recording combined groove, down tempo measures and break-neck speed. While not forsaking the speed picking of the previous album, Exhorder further emphasized churning, swampy grooves on their 1992 follow up “The Law.”

Along with Meshuggah’s “Contradictions Collapse” (1991) and Pantera’s, “Vulgar Display of Power” (1992), “The Law” was part of a new breed that would permanently change the face of metal. Machine Head and White Zombie tapped into this groove as did the forthcoming nu metal and metalcore scenes. While Pantera and Meshuggah enjoyed the fruits of their labors, Exhorder broke up shortly after releasing their prize recording.

Since their disbanding, Exhorder members have participated in various projects, and even reformed to play select shows in 2008. Now, the group is writing new material, gigging more frequently, and ready to make its big comeback. The recent death of bassist and long-time friend Frankie Sparcello served as a set back, but the group is determined to carry on in his memory.

During a stop in Austin as part of a mini-tour through Texas and Louisiana with Rigor Mortis, Exhorder front man Kyle Thomas spoke with Metal Underground. He commented on past mistakes, Sparcello’s demoralizing death and how the group rebounded from this sordid event. Follow the link below to read what he said.

Darren Cowan (Rex_84): How did you mentally prepare yourself for this mini-tour when Frankie [Sparcello] died?

Kyle Thomas: Our first instinct was pretty low; we didn’t want to play the shows at first. Then, we got together and talked with Frankie’s wife, Bobbi. Frankie was so pumped—he was very excited about this tour. After the shock and sadness of losing him subsided a little bit, we got together and talked about the tour. It seems like something he would want us to go on and do. It got to the point where we figured going on and doing these shows in his memory would be the direction we’d take. It’s been tough. We played the first show last night. It was odd stepping up there without him, but we brought a giant picture to sit on an easel, so he is on stage with us. The guy we have filling in on bass for him is Jorge Caicedo. He’s a very good bass player and a friend. He busted his butt and crammed everything in three days. There are only two songs he didn’t play, but Vinnie [LaBella] and Jay [Ceravolo] are taking duty on that. We’re just grateful to have him right now. Last night, everyone in the venue was very supportive. We had a friend do a collection for him. We’ve been doing a lot of collections to help pay for a lot of the expenses. He hadn’t been up for his wife’s benefits yet because they were newly married. It’s awful, just terrible! We miss him!

DC: Was Jorge a big fan of your music? Can he play a lot of your music just from being a fan and knowing the band?

Thomas: Absolutely, we’ve known Jorge since the late ‘80s. He’s a little bit younger than us, so he was a kid in the front, basically since the beginning. He’s been following us for a long time. Back when Frankie was still incarcerated, we had gotten back together. We had to see how that was going to pan out. We didn’t know when he was getting out and how everything was going to work out, so we were trying to figure out what our base options were going to be. He was someone who came up out of consideration. His talent level is there, so his familiarity with the music transcends his abilities. He’s an absolute die-hard fan, and has been for a long time!

DC: How do you feel about his memorial ?

Thomas: We were the ones that hosted it. My wife and Holly, who is Vinnie’s girlfriend, got together and started talking about it. Holly knocked her self out. She really did an outstanding job! She got all the pictures done. We had taken a collection on my birthday, which was the day after Frankie passed, and we raised a bunch of money, so we could pay for his obituary. I had to write the obituary. That wasn’t an easy thing to do. It was a finality I didn’t really expect when I went to the newspaper, paid for it and submitted the writing, but it was nice. His family appreciated it. We just decided that we knew him well enough that he would have preferred a party. It was almost like a going away party. That is what we did. We set up his urn on a pedestal, a flower arraignment, pictures all over the place, candles and we brought tons of food. We had about 200 people show up—friends, fans and family. We welcomed any one to come out and pay their respects, whether you knew him or not. It was great! The ladies did a bang up job on it. We did what we could.

DC: Has the cause of death been determined?

Thomas: It still hasn’t come back from the coroner’s report, which was the last I heard a couple weeks ago. Everyone has been asking, but I don’t know the actual cause of death. Until that report comes back, we don’t know for sure. Hopefully, when it comes back we can give everyone an answer because people will want to know.

DC: Did you have to set this aside, even though you still have him in your memory?

Thomas: Frankie wouldn’t have it any other way. He’s another one who was a fan of the band before he joined, so obviously he would have wanted us to continue on. We’ve been “out of service” for quite a few years, to say the least. We started this in the mid-‘80s. There are so many good things in our future. The writing is really accelerating and with recording instruments of today, we have the opportunity to knock one out of the park. This actually inspired us more. If we didn’t have a purpose to do this before, we’ve got that much more to do now.

DC: What led to your break up in 1992?

Thomas: There are a lot of reasons. We had been together about six years. We had a lot of good things happen to us, but we had a lot of misses. At the time, death metal was really getting big, and thrash was fading out. It had a place in death metal, but some people say we were ahead of our time. Others say we just missed it. I think when things got steamrolling for us with labels, it just wasn’t happening. We probably could have worked a little harder, toured a little more, but maybe those growing frustrations over time caused so much dissent within that we just imploded. By the time we finished our European tour for “The Law” we had a hard time just being around each other. It was kind of getting bad. We were edgy around each other. I had an itch to do something on my own, something different. That ended up being Floodgate. Jay went off and did Fall from Grace. I guess, overtime people just settled into their things. We had a few reunion shows and small appearances in between. This last time around, everybody really wanted it and everyone was getting along good, so the table is set for us. All we have to do is deliver.

DC: Is Alabama Thunderpussy no longer together?

Thomas: I’m afraid so. That had more to do with some internal struggles through the tenure of their career. It was said that I left the band. I didn’t leave the band. I would have gladly kept going. The problem was we were doing so much touring and coming home broke. I have a family to feed, so I got to the point where I could no longer do long runs. I could do short runs, and keep recording. I’ve talked to just about everybody in that band, and everyone is pretty much on the same page with everything. I don’t see anything happening with that band until the core members are able to eye-to-eye on some things. If they called me tomorrow, I’d say “shit yeah!”

DC: Are you re-recording material?

Thomas: That has been discussed a lot. We’d like to do it. We’ve really had a tough time being satisfied. With all due respect to Scott Burns (“Slaughter in the Vatican”) and Rob Beaton (“The Law”)—they are great producers and worked magic with the budgets and set backs we had. Back then, it was much tougher to get a quality recording. Now, a teenage kid can buy a program, put it on his computer, get a descent guitar tone that’s already preset, preset the drum sounds and he’s got a great-sounding song of album quality. Whether or not the song is good, that’s a different story. That’s how easy it is to make a nice, album-quality recording. That being said, we have endless opportunities to do what we feel we should have done many years ago. We had limited opportunity, I suppose.

DC: When you released “The Law,” there wasn’t really anything like that at the time. From 1993 to at least ‘97 or ’98 was the period that “groove metal” really took off. Considering, you were one of the first bands to do that, do you think if you put another album out; it will be much bigger than past recordings?

Thomas: I sure hope so. You’d like to think that will you get older the wine ages well (laughs), but we know what didn’t work for us before. We’ll try to shy away from that and evolve into better song writers. Maybe we’ll be a little more stripped down. Obviously, those songs are what most people would refer to as epic-type songs. I’m not adverse to doing a few more, but my quest in life is to write the quality song, the good song, and we’re on the same page with that. The new material will sound like old Exhorder. There will be some thrash moments. There will be some slow and heavy moments. It’s really hard for us to shake that groove out of our minds. It’s always been there, and it’s just gonna be. That’s what we grew up on. In a nutshell, we have all agreed that it will be worthy of the name Exhorder, but better than anything we’ve ever done, more refined and polished.

DC: How far along are you on the new material? Are you close to having enough material for an album?

Thomas: We have enough structure for an album. We have about nine or ten songs. Jay has stuff that is really good, as he’s giving them to me in little files when he gets together with our drummer Seth. They’ve got a few songs that they’ve knocked around in the practice room. They’ve submitted them to me, and I’ve started arraigning the songs and developing my vocal patterns. It’s really good! I’m very excited about it! We intended to have a new song to play on these shows, but when Frankie died, it took the wind out of our sails for writing. We had to make sure to take care of our friend and his family. It definitely set us back in that mindset. At this point, everyone had to wait so long; what’s a little bit longer? I think that once we get something in hand to deliver to people, everyone will forget how long it took to come out. We’re excited!

DC: On the older material, you wrote themes of anti-religion and politics. Will we see more of these themes in the new material?

Thomas: We were angry young men, for sure. It will probably be less thematic towards those things. I’m not going to say that I won’t touch on them because metal will always have a special place in its heart for religion and politics. The way I feel about politicians is you have two types: You have honest politicians and you have successful politicians. I don’t trust too many of them. The honest ones don’t get work (laughs). Unfortunately, they don’t get too far. I don’t pay much attention to it, maybe I should, but I just don’t trust them. Otherwise, as we’ve gotten old we’ve softened up on that stuff. People change over time. Not to say that I would excuse hypocrisy, but we’ve come to a point in life where we see our fight with man, not with God or Satan. Our gripe is truly with the idiocy that lives in everyone (laughs).

DC: Did your viewpoint of politicians sour even more after Hurricane Katrina?

Thomas: That whole thing was ugly all the way around. There were a lot of politicians in the area that did the best they could with what they had. Some of them dropped the ball. The Feds dropped the ball. They came in and worked on the areas that are visible and important, put a big band-aid on it and said, “Ok, we’re fixed now.” There are still complete sub-divisions, neighborhoods and sub-cities that are just rotten. It’s horrible, it’s awful. It is what it is, and everyone did the best that they could. What else can you do? You can’t make them fix it. There is still a lot of rebuilding that has to be done. I don’t know if it will ever come back quite the way it was before. It has evolved and changed, dramatically. The city has gotten a face-lift in a lot of ways. They have taken a lot of the stuff that has been damaged and tried to recreate it as it was. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to tear myself completely away from it, but if it happens again, I might have a different spin on it. It was tough; my home flooded. It was terrible. It really set everything in my life back a lot, but I’m alive. My kids are alive. Everything is fine. We will survive.

DC: Based on what you saw last night in Fort Worth, do you see a bigger tour in the future?

Thomas: We’re going to cross the bridges as they come. Right now, I think a big tour doesn’t sound very enticing because they’re extensive, they’re tough to endure and some of us have family. At this point, we’re thinking we need to take baby steps. We go out and do the festivals. This is the first short run of multiple shows that we’ve tried since the ‘90s, so as long as Vinnie keeps taking showers, everything will be fine.

Rex_84's avatar

An avid metal head for over twenty years, Darren Cowan has written for several metal publications and attended concerts throughout various regions of the U.S.

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