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Interview

Massacre Vocalist Kam Lee Discusses New Album "Resurgence," Putting A New Lineup Together And The Influence Of H.P. Lovecraft

Florida is known for so many things; Oranges, sunshine, beaches, Lisa Simpson's geography pageant costume, but to metal fans, it will always be the home of American death metal. It's easy to point to the likes of Obituary, Morbid Angel, Deicide and Death, but one of the best albums of this time, "From Beyond," was given to the world by Tampa's own, Massacre.

Though Massacre followed "From Beyond" with the stellar EP, "Inhuman Condition," things would soon take a disasterous turn with the sophomore album, "Promise," which led to vocalist Kam Lee quitting, extremely negative reviews and ultimately, the band's demise. Several attempts were made over the years to restart the band, including a somewhat successful run from 2011 to 2014, which saw the group perform at the 70000 Tons Of Metal cruise and a new album, "Back From Beyond" being released in 2014, before they disbanded again a few months later.

Two years later, Massacre were back, this time with Kam Lee on the mic once more, but legal issues forced them to use the names Massacre X and Gods Of Death, before a lengthy court process awarded the rights to the Massacre name to Kam Lee. Now, Massacre are just a few days away from unleashing their fourth album, "Resurgence," which they claim is the follow up to "From Beyond" and thus far, fans have been very happy with what they've been offered. To find out more about "Resurgence" and the story behind it, Metal Underground caught up with Kam Lee, who revealed all the details about the record, the legal process, the influence of H.P. Lovecraft and much more. You can listen to the interview in full below.

Diamond Oz: On October 22nd the new Massacre album, “Resurgence” will finally be out. It’s been a long time since Massacre fans have heard you fronting the band, unless they’ve been to a live show, of course. So first of all, how does it feel to finally put out a new Massacre album?

Kam Lee: Actually, it feels justified. I guess that’s a good way to say it. It took a long time to finally do the album that the band deserve after “From Beyond,” because pretty much everything after “From Beyond,” not counting “Inhuman Condition” because it’s an EP and the majority of “Inhuman Condition” was recorded during the “From Beyond” session anyway. A lot of people don’t realise that that’s how it goes sometimes with EPs, but the only thing recorded for the EP that was new would have been the title track and “Warhead.” The other two songs were recorded prior, during the “From Beyond” sessions.

So, I never felt that the band had a proper follow up to “From Beyond” because after that, the band was pretty much out of my hands. Other characters took over, I’ll put it that way and then the albums that followed and all the problems that followed… Everyone can see the result of thirty five years in between and what happened. But yeah, it feels justifiable, like I finally got a chance to redeem the band and myself in the band because of it.

Oz: You’ve mentioned before that the current Massacre lineup is a little bit different to how a lot of bands are, in that you’ve recruited international musicians and it’s kind of like a digital band.

Kam: Yeah, we were trying to work with some local guys. We actually tried to work with Rick at the end of 2016/beginning of 2017. Rick was back after his version with Terry failed and then he contacted me. There were a couple of years in between then and now where there were a lot of legal things going on. One of things was the name, there was a lot of fighting going on with the name. I finally got my lawyer involved and I said, “Look, we’ve got to figure out the truth behind this. What’s the facts?” and my lawyer got in contact with me four days later and said, “It’s a bluff. They don’t own the name. They don’t own the trademark.” So I said, “OK, let’s do the legal thing and let me get it.”

It took a year and eight months, because it’s a process, it has to go through the courts and of course, it’s the government. The US government is going to sit on their ass until the last minute. The first process is, it has to go before a judge and that took almost seven months before one even looked at it and then you have the contestant period, where someone can come in and say, “Hey, I want to own that name” and stuff like that, which takes four to five months. And then after that, it has to be handed over to the court system where it goes through a bunch of signing and stuff, then finally at the end I get my paperwork to sign and pay the court fees. Finally after thousands of dollars and almost two years, in November 2018, I got an email from my lawyer saying, “Celebrate. You’ve got it. You can call yourselves Massacre, the trademark belongs solely to you.”

So that’s what was going on for two years and then he went out in 2019 and after a couple of live shows, to me personally, I don’t know what’s in his mind, Rick seemed like he just didn’t care. We were going out as a band and trying to be professional and I approached him and said, “Look man,” in the most congenial way, “You’ve got to take other people's lives into consideration. It isn’t all about Rick Rozz and the party. I mean, you have other people here who are involved. You have me and Mike Borders involved, who we got back in the band, you’ve got the other drummer involved. There’s a lot of people whose lives depend on this because it’s something that we’re putting our other jobs and whatever aside to do and you’re not taking it seriously enough.” After that conversation, he just said, “OK, I quit.” He didn’t want to be in the band anymore, called me a dictator, which I guess I am if it means I want to do things right.

At that time we had shows coming up so we brought a couple of local guys in to finish those, they came into the band and thought they were in a better position than they were offered. They came in thinking that they were writing the whole album and I said, “No, that’s not how it works. It’s a group effort” and they got mad and ended up quitting. Eventually I decided that I had to work with some people that I know. I’d worked with Rogga Johansson, Jonny Pettersson and everybody that’s in the band now, on other projects. I said, “I’ve got to think about the album first and the band secondary” and this was during COVID also, so I thought right now, the album is more important than thinking about how the band’s going to be later in the year, so let me put together the best guys I know, that can make the best album and that’s what I did.

Oz: You can really hear the talent of everyone involved in the songs released so far. Going ahead, are you hoping that they’ll be able to come over to the US and perform as Massacre?

Kam: Actually what’s going on right now is that I knew going in, especially with Rogga Johansson, who never tours unless it’s with his own band, we’re starting to think outside the box, so I thought, “Why don’t I just hire some guys in the US that can come in and be the performing line up?” Other bands have done this before. My good friend Killjoy, who’s no longer with us, was the first person I thought of when I said, “Let me put an international band together,” because Killjoy did it and he made it work. Necrophagia made it work and every album after that, he had a different lineup.

Even Paul Speckmann did something like that. Paul had the lineup that recorded, but then when he went to Europe he had a completely different lineup. So I looked at guys in my past that I’d known as inspiration to do this and that gave me the encouragement to say, “If these guys can do it, I can do something similar.” So right now, we have local guys from the band Druid Lord that are helping us out with the shows in the US.

Oz: Very nice. It’s also a nice plug for Druid Lord as well!

Kam: Yeah, and we’d already talked to Scott (Fairfax) and he said if we come to the UK and he’s not doing anything with any of his bands, like he’s now in Benediction, he’ll come and join for shows in the UK and Johnny has already said that anything over in Europe, he’s open to. The main band is always gonna be me and Mike Borders, we’re the core band, kind of like how Darkthrone is Fenriz and Nocturno Culto. We’re always going to be the main two guys and then you never know who’s going to join us.

Oz: Yeah, I think fans are happy as long as they have a distinctive member of the band in the lineup and obviously, because “From Beyond” was such a classic album, if they can hear your voice then they’re happy really.

Kam: I think so. I’ve seen a couple of the reviews for the new album and I’m like, “At least they’re getting it.” I’m not ripping on somebody for what happened in the past with Massacre, because it’s all part of Massacre, it’s part of the history so if there’s fans that liked the last album, I don’t discourage them from listening to it, they should go and listen to it. But I’ve had a lot of people say that it’s better than the last album that came out and I appreciate that a lot.

Oz: It’s pure, old school death metal, which I think a lot of people have been missing. Obviously there’s bands that still do it, either from that era that are still around, or newer bands like Crypta and Frozen Soul and it’s so invigorating to hear again.

Kam: I really stuck to a formula and that was always my intention when I came back to Massacre, because I really felt that Massacre got off of formula. I don’t know if that’s because I left or not. Like I said, there’s two albums after I left, or one album after I left and one album that I left while it was being made. I was like, “What is this? This isn’t death metal.” so I left. But we won’t mention that album. That’s the most hated album. I guess you could say it’s Massacre’s “Cold Lake.” So I felt, like I said earlier, this is a chance to redeem myself and redeem the band.

Oz: One of the things that’s most notable is the artwork. The artwork is really, really cool and it’s fitting for a Massacre album. It kind of ties in with some of the themes on the album and it does seem to have a similar theme to the music video, “Whisperer In Darkness.” They both have that Lovecraft vibe. Would you agree that the artwork accurately represents the music?

Kam: Actually, yes. I knew first off that I wanted to work with Wes, because I saw what Wes did with Autopsy and I said, “Wow. I like this guy’s style.” I kind of asked myself before I got with the label, when I was talking with them, they asked about who I was thinking of for the album art and I said, “Well, I can tell you it’s not going to be Ed Repka!” Not that there’s anything wrong with Ed Repka, but I just don’t think it’s going to fit this time. So they asked me who I like and I mentioned Wes Benscoter and the label said, “Oh, we know him!”

So that worked out really good and I was hooked up with him the next day in an email and I remember just talking back and forth and saying, “Hey man. I really like what you do. Especially the stuff with Autopsy” and he wrote back thanking me and asking what I was looking for. I said, “Well, I like your style and you’re very surreal. I like the way you incorporate a human skull, or part of a human body into your artwork, but have you ever thought about Lovecraft?” I left it at that and he wrote back, “YEEEEEAAAH! I’ve always wanted to do Lovecraft, I’ve just never had a chance to do it!” So, he was really excited to be able to do that.

He asked me what I was looking for and I explained that I don’t like to coach anybody that I work with, same thing with the video, I only had a short conversation with the director because I don’t want to take away somebody’s freedom of expression. I don’t want my two cents to be too much, so with Wes I just said, “I want the colour to feel like it’s underwater, kind of muted colours but under the sea and Lovecraftian in any way.” I encouraged him to do whatever he wanted and I really thought it was going to be something simple, like just the skull with tentacles. When he sent back the sketch and it had all these other creatures on it that were very Lovecraftian and I was like, “Wow! You’ve done even more!”

Then when he sent the painting, it had even more to it than the sketch and he told me he was having too much fun doing it! It looks great and I can name all the different creatures in it. He really nailed it as far as a Lovecraft fan goes and without even knowing that it’s a Lovecraft album, fans of his are going to pick it up and go, “Oh this is a Lovecraft thing.”

Oz: Absolutely. I’ll be honest, I’ve never read any H.P. Lovecraft. I know of him, I know Cthulu, because so many metal bands have referenced them, but even with the tiny bit I know, I got it straight away from looking at the art and seeing the video.

Kam: Yeah and that was like I said, people who watched the video who do read Lovecraft were like, “The video has nothing to do with the story!” The title is based off of a Lovecraft story, but I’m thinking, “Well, you guys haven’t even read the lyrics, because the lyrics really aren’t based on the story either.” I don’t base everything directly, I don’t make a movie adaption of a Lovecraft story. I take a little bit of an influence from it and kind of add my flavour to it. Actually, “Whisperer In Darkness” was the very first song we wrote as a band and I had the title just bouncing around.

The main part of the story is that there’s this bunch of aliens who take this guy’s brains out and put it in a jar, and I didn’t know if I really wanted to write lyrics about that, so I kind of took a small part of the story, which is that these aliens worship this god and I thought it would be kind of cool if it came from the alien’s point of view, or the cult point of view. So it was the same thing when Jeffery asked me what I wanted the video to be about, I said, “Here’s the lyrics and you just write it about what you write about.” He plays a lot of these tabletop role playing games and I do too, like Call Of Cthulu and Arkham Horror. He asked, “What if we did it from a point of view where it’s an investigator investigating a mystery and he runs into one of the cults?” I said, “That’s perfect. You run with that.”

Oz: That is perfect. It’s really cool. I also like that the video is age restricted because it fits so well with the Massacre ethos, or the Massacre image.

Kam: I think it’s funny. People were like, “It’s not gory. Why is it getting an 18 or above?” What I was told from the label, believe it or not, is that the only reason it’s age restricted is because it has a gun in it. I’m cool with the 18 or above tag, It just makes it more mysterious to me. It’s like back in the eighties when they put the Parental Advisory stickers on records, it just made us go back and buy it more. But wait until the next video. The next video is probably going to be pretty extreme. I told the same director that in the next video, we’ve gotta go all out. We’ve gotta make it something we get in trouble for!

Oz: Very nice. Not to distract from Massacre too much, but what is it about H.P. Lovecraft’s work that makes it such a common influence among metal bands?

Kam: I think it has to do with the fact that Lovecraft is mysterious. It’s different. It’s not just straight out horror, like slasher stuff, which a lot of death metal bands do. It’s not that kind of horror. It’s a different kind of horror that can be something more ambiguous and more in the darkness, something that’s bigger than we are on a human level. I use it more or less to express my misanthropy. Even going back to “From Beyond,” I used Lovecraft as a vehicle to express my complete hatred of mankind. So I can kind of relate to the alien beings or the monstrosities of Lovecraft’s fiction.

Lovecraft wrote in a way that us as humans are so minute in the universe that we don’t really matter to these great beings out there. We’re less than molecules to them, so whatever their purpose is, we could never truly understand it on a human level and it kind of goes two ways because I think that humans think that we’re the centre of the universe and everything revolves around us. I’ve never thought that way, even back when I was a kid. I thought, “Man, there’s a vast universe out there. We can’t be IT.” Look at people like my neighbour, washing his car with his guts and his fat ass hanging out, he can’t be at the top of the intellectual chain here, there’s gotta be something more.

I remember thinking that when I was younger so when I read Lovecraft, I found a way to express my misanthropy. Just because you’re a misanthrope, doesn’t mean you hate people as such, there’s individual people I get along with, but people as a whole, I’m disgusted by them. Especially now, in 2021. This thing going on with COVID has really proven that I was right the entire time, with regards to how selfish people are. That’s what I use Lovecraft for, but I think it really is because you can go with so much that’s not jus direct. It’s got a lot of mystery, so you can convey a lot of different feelings and points of view by using Lovecraft as sort of a foundation to build upon.

Oz: I think that makes it so much scarier. The most common complaint about horror movies now is the jump scare and it’s a similar kind of thing with the slashers, there’s a place for it, especially in death metal but an over reliance on it is the same as when the horror movie genre got too reliant on jump scares. It just became old and sterile. Whereas when you have a more cerebral approach, it sticks with you, like when you’re a kid and you first hear “Hell Awaits” by Slayer because it’s not “Murder murder, death kill.”

Kam: Yeah. I was trying to say stuff without saying it’s an intellectual kind of horror, but I guess you’re right. It is more of a thinking man’s horror. If you read Lovecraft and you know Lovecraft’s stories, that’s how they come across. They build an atmosphere and they build a mood. A lot of it has to do with the narrator itself and I can tell you this, to a person who’s never read Lovecraft, when you read Lovecraft, the one thing that you’re gonna come across is that the narrators usually don’t have a name, or if they do they talk about themselves in third person and by the end of the story, they either die or go crazy.

There’s never a happy ending in Lovecraft’s stories. You get to the end and you’re relieved, “Ah! They made it through! The character’s made it!” No, you get to the Lovecraft story and you’re like, “Yeah… Fuck. That’s what happens when you open that box you’re not supposed to open. That’s what happens when you go past that sign that says ‘Do not enter,’” A lot of it is like that, that’s what Lovecraft is. It builds you up to that “Aww shit!” moment and the “Aww shit” moment is, you’re fucking dead! There’s a lot of Lovecraft characters that die at the very end of the story and of course, it can get ridiculous, like someone saying, “I hear it coming! I’m going to jump out the window!” and then you figure he just jumped out the window.

Oz: That’s OK. I’m English, I’m used to disappointment and misery! Well, getting back to Massacre, obviously now you’re signed with Nuclear Blast, which is probably one of the biggest labels in metal right now. How well do you feel Nuclear Blast understands Massacre and its legacy?

Kam: I actually felt very comfortable. At first I thought, “No. There’s no way that this label’s gonna get me. They’re not going to understand,” especially me personally, because I’m not one of the typical rock star guys that do death metal today. I don’t go for that whole thing, I’ve never done that in forty years of my career, I’m pretty much still underground. Then I talked to Gerardo, who is kind of like the head of all of Nuclear Blast now, but at the time, he was just head of the U.S. division and he said, “You know, ‘From Beyond’ is one of my favourite albums? Me and my brother grew up listening to this.”

Then talking to him, getting to know him personally, before I even decided to sign, I thought, “This kid’s got it. He knows.” He’s twenty years younger than me but he’s coming from a point of view where he’s not just a Kam Lee fan, or a Massacre fan, he’s a fan of old school death metal and when you talk to somebody and you get away from talking about yourself and what he’s a fan of and I’m a fan of, then I realised that he’s not bullshitting. Especially some geeky stuff. I’m into comic books and all kinds of other stuff like that and we were hitting it off on that level, as well as toy collecting and stuff like that. I thought, he’s just like me. He’s another nerd. It really started off as just kind of building a friendship and getting advice. He knows a lot of the old school guys that I know like Jeff from Possessed and then I asked Jeff how Nuclear Blast treats them and he said, “Oh man, they treat us great.” So I did some research, because I really wanted a label that I felt was going to represent us just as well, so it wasn’t like a knee jerk response. Once I felt comfortable and I knew that these are guys that are gonna know how to treat Massacre, then I decided to sign.

Oz: Excellent. It’s such a relief to know that they really get the band. It’s funny that you mentioned interests and geeky stuff, because I actually found Massacre through pro-wrestling. There’s a wrestler from California called Viva Van and she often wears a “From Beyond” shirt which led me to check out the album and I thought, “This is amazing! Why aren’t these guys up there with the other stalwarts of Florida death metal?” and now that you’ve got this album and this label, it’s such a relief to know that finally Massacre will be seen this way.

Kam: I hope so and I hope that interviews like this with someone that gets it like yourself, helps that because I’ve really appreciated everyone that’s come aboard and likes this album. You’re not going to please everybody and I get that. And “From Beyond” is going to be hard to follow. My favourite saying about the whole thing is “You’re never going to get lightning to strike twice, or catch lightning in a bottle.” That was never my intention when I created this lineup and wrote this album, it was never my intention to better “From Beyond,” but we all came from that mindset of “We’re not going to beat ‘From Beyond,’ but let’s try to continue ‘From Beyond.’ Let’s try to write an album that sounds like it should have been the proper second album.”

Diamond Oz's avatar

Ollie Hynes has been a writer for Metal Underground.com since 2007 and a metal fan since 2001, going as far as to travel to other countries and continents for metal gigs.

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