Hello dudes. What’s up there in Singapore? What’s the weather like? How is life these days?
Mike Priest: Hi Kev! Well, Singapore is an average Asian metropolis, with the expected skyscrapers and crowded public transportation. Since Singapore is along the Malayan peninsula, the weather is humid and hot, with bouts of rain that comes along occasionally. Life here is basically a 9-to-9 routine for most, but there are the ones who do not conform to this system, such as our clique. Living in Singapore gets tiresome due to how miniscule our country is in comparison with the rest of the world, especially when you have a growing population of 4.5 million people. Claustrophobia and agoraphobia are common symptoms of which I feel are developing on a subconscious (and unhealthy) level in many Singaporeans, symptoms of which are the result of the inevitable.
Hans: Greetings dude! Well, just the same old stuff basically. It’s pretty much a rat race here, everyone is just busy with their own stuffs. It can get pretty suffocating at times. I’ll be wrapping up my Bachelor’s this year so some changes in life are bound to happen, for the better I hope. Haha! The band’s moving forward as well the way I see it, which is really good! Weather is pretty random currently. It was raining mad just before I did this.
Can you give us a little history of A.O.T.S. from its beginning to now? How much stuff did you release? And what about the line up? Have you always kept the same one or some changes occured?
Mike Priest: The inception of A.O.T.S. started with myself (vocals/guitars), after the dissolution of my old band DISDAIN in 2002. I sourced for a line-up for three years, and I finally found Hans (drummer/keyboardist), who was recommended to me by a mutual friend. We started jamming together in January 2005 with two songs of which I wrote. The songlist started increasing as we constantly practiced. We never played covers because A.O.T.S. was never meant to be a cover band…it wasn’t our thing.
We had a bass player named Tommy, whom we played our first few shows with in 2005, but he developed major attitude problems and we ended our professional relationship with him in early 2006 before the recording of our debut album “Atrocities That Birthed Abominations”. Hans brought our second bass player into the band, Justin, who recorded on “Atrocities…” and our “Promo 2007” EP release. He played numerous shows with us from early 2006 to late 2007, but we mutually agreed to end our professional relationship with him as he lacked the commitment necessary to bring A.O.T.S. to the next level.
I brought Darren (guitars) into the band in early 2007 as I found that he would be a great asset to the band, not to mention our musical chemistry as I did vocals for his band DISINTERIUM and watched him grow as a great guitar player. Due to the absence of a bass player, our sound engineer/co-producer for our upcoming sophomore full-length CD, Mike K, volunteered to join A.O.T.S. as a full-time bassist. Mike K is originally from Milwaukee, Wisconsin and a graduate from Berkley. He has gained much experience through the years from playing live (ex-Raven Bitch, a thrash metal band in the 1980’s) and working with bands. Mike K recorded the bass on our upcoming sophomore release “Era of the Apostate”, and I find his playing and experience extremely valuable to the band. For now, A.O.T.S. comprises of Hans, Darren, Mike K and myself, and things are going extremely well.
How was your first album perceived in your country? And abroad?
Hans: Fair enough I think. We did not really do anything large-scale with local promotions whatsoever, but posters were all up at the right places where they should be seen, so it did get the necessary attention and triggered the right responses. The local response to this album in general was more of a gradual one. So towards the end of 2006, months after we released the album, we then started seeing the increasing sales and restock requests from the various distros that were distributing our CDs. Honestly though, we do not really care much about the local response to this one. The local scene is one as such that people do not really support their own scene, except for bands in which they own friends are playing. Even that, they expect freebies. We know that very well, and hence right from the beginning we have always set our minds to focus on establishing ourselves overseas.
As we expected it to be, the overseas response was way better and far more positive than that of the local one. People like yourself, for example. Hahaha! Within the first couple of weeks of the album release we have received more than 4 requests from various online radios from Australia, US, Belgium, and a few others from other countries, to airplay our song. That was really fascinating. Bands from all over the world, originating from different countries, have also offered doing trades with us. Overseas distros such as Asian Rock Rising from Japan has also been very supportive of us, and we really appreciate it. And then we get to participate in a couple of compilations under Poetry of The Dead promotions shortly after the release as well. So as you can see, the world outside has been far more welcoming and are more appreciative towards our music. We will not waste our time on people who don’t matter. We’d rather cater to those truly deserving ones!
Concerning Singapore’s scene, can you tell us a bit more to us Europeans who only know Impiety for example? What are the main bands there? And what about labels/zines there?
Mike Priest: The Singapore scene is still in its infancy, compared to the scene in Europe, the United States or even Japan and Indonesia. The scene here is mostly segregated, and there are many newcomers who claim to listen to or know the metal genre, but most of them are just full of horseshit! Not knowing their roots (from classic rock to NWOBHM to thrash) and wearing cheap bootlegged band t-shirts without listening to the bands at all. I’m sure that there are posers such as these in every scene in the world…I just hope that they either realize what Metal is truly about, or quit this current phase they are in!
There are, of course, real full-on metalheads here who contribute to the Singapore scene and give their support. Besides the mighty Impiety, there are bands like OSHIEGO, DRACONIS INFERNUM, DEUS EX MACHINA, BHELLIOM, SUICIDE SOLUTION, ARBITRARY ELEMENT, MEZA VIRS, VRYKOLAKAS, HELVETTE, ZUSHAKON, DISINTERIUM, CELESTIAL SERENITY and newer bands like PSYCHOTHERAPY, CRUCIFIXION and XANADOO who really show potential and show how the Asian scene in general is rising, slowly but surely.
The main labels in Singapore would be Pulverised Records, Vrykoblast Productions and Konqueror Records. There are other active metal labels here, however they are not worth mentioning due to their underhanded and disrespectful methods of dealing with bands. For zines, the main one is Dark Legions, which does an excellent job for a local zine.
How is metal considered in your country? I mean is metal seen as “forbidden” or does mentality change? Is it hard for bands to play live there? What are the main poles where bands can play?
Hans: It’s pretty much a grey area over here. No one really discuss it openly in publications or whatever. Neither did the religious hypocrites who’re against it. They don’t display their attitudes publicly. CDs are available at big record stores like HMV, but at the same time they do not promote any of the titles available. They don’t airplay any of it, only commercial bands. But ever since Dark Funeral came here back in 2002, I must say things have started to change gradually. And that change has developed even more rapidly when we have Slipknot came in 2005 (I know what you’re thinking man...but it’s true!). Ever since then bands after bands have started coming in, and people are opening up to it. We had Dream Theater, Mayhem and Slayer in 2006, Megadeth and Heaven and Hell in 2007, and earlier before those two AOTS had the honour to share the stage with the mighty Japanese Kult legend SABBAT! As for this year, Anthelion (awesome sympho-BM from Taiwan) just played here last night, that show was really awesome! Helloween will be coming next month, and many more to come! So it seems that the general attitude has changed, slightly for the better if I may say.
However, this opening up is still more towards overseas bands and as far as the local arena is concerned, there has yet been any more positive development coming along, except for bands making better releases which is, well, better than nothing. Hopefully with our new upcoming release (which has been mentioned in UK’s Metal Hammer mag), we will be able to bring about some changes that will make people here look at us local bands in a different light.
It’s easy for local bands to play, there are clubs that do such shows but most of the time the bands don’t get paid, and the attendance could get pretty bad. Overseas bands hardly come here due to some organisers being afraid of making loses should the bands not be in high demand or are not popular enough. But this is slowly changing as I mentioned above that more and more acts are coming every year.
What are your influences for A.O.T.S.?(on a musical point of view?). Listening to your first album, I noticed old school elements. You seem to be fans of old school stuff, am I right?
Mike Priest: You are correct on that, Kev! As the main songwriter for A.O.T.S, my influences are bands such as Atheist, Sepultura, Carcass, Slayer, Death, Dark Angel, Metallica, Testament, Sodom, Entombed, Hypocrisy, Dismember, Sinister, Massacra, Morbid Angel, Deicide, Disincarnate, Mayhem, Darkthrone, Marduk, Nifelheim, Bewitched, Necrophobic, Monstrosity, etc. I’m also influenced by the “newer” generation of bands such as The Haunted, Soilwork, At the Gates, The Forsaken, Dew-Scented, Dark Tranquillity, Insomnium and Opeth. Hans is mainly into morbid and obscure Black Metal, whereas Darren is mainly into symphonic and neo-classical Metal. Mike K is mainly into early Thrash Metal and Jazz Fusion. All these influences play a factor in their creative contributions to their parts in the songs, and definitely to my utmost satisfaction.
I heard some tracks from your second album. You play now on a more violent way. Can you tell us about the main differences between both releases? How did it come to you that you had to bring more brutality in your style? Was it because you are now listening to more brutal bands or else?
Mike Priest: Our “Promo 2007” EP songs (the violent songs) are not in our second album actually…they are meant for our third release.This upcoming second album is more of our old material transformed and adapted to continue where “Atrocities…” left off. You can expect Melodic Death Metal with a touch of Black and Thrash Metal. We also did a cover of “Unholy War” by Atheist, which Kelly Shaefer (Atheist) himself gave his stamp of approval.
Our third release will be more in the veins of technical and ferocious Death/Thrash like Massacra, and it is a natural progression from where we started from. As you keep writing songs and playing with the band, you naturally feel the tendency, as a musician, to keep progressing and writing more elaborate and complex song structures. This has nothing to do with listening to more brutal bands, but more of taking your current musical sensibilities to the next level and develop yourself as a better songwriter and musician.
And what about your lyrics? What influences you when you write them?
Mike Priest: A.O.T.S. albums are generally concept albums from a lyrical standpoint. “Atrocities…” was written about the degenerate nature of mankind and the fallacies of which we commit but deny through blatant lies. From exposing the abhorrent side of human nature (‘The Malignant Strain’) to the horrors of war (‘Our Glorious Dead’) to the culmination of everything inexplicable (‘Atrocities That Birthed Abominations’).
Our upcoming CD, “Era of the Apostate” was written about the decline of civilisation, not only in the Western Hemisphere, but civilisation as a whole. It is a global event; a slow-motion apocalypse. What we see on the news and what we experience in the world today are obvious signs of extreme social decay and how we have grown apathetic towards others. We have religious extremists running around with bombs strapped to themselves, governments laundering dirty money stained with the blood of innocent lives, increasing taxes and suicide rates, global industrialisation, blatant irregularities in the weather, etc. This CD is about all of that, how we are living in the Era of the Apostate. The apostate would be a religious extremist in this case, and if you transfer that literally, we are living in a time of chaos and the corruption of virtues, from a religious and/or moral standpoint.
Except music, do you have other cultural interest? Cinema? Literature? Can you tell us more about cinema and literature in Singapore?
Mike Priest: I enjoy reading books on all kinds of topics, both fictional and non-fiction. My current reading list comprises of Max Brooks “World War Z”, William Gibson “All Tomorrow’s Parties” and Natsuo Kirino “Out”. For cinema, I enjoy provocative and surreal films, such as films by Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese, Darren Aronofsky, Charlie Kaufman, George Romero, Harmony Korine, Danny Boyle and Richard Linklater.
Unfortunately, cinema and literature in Singapore is nothing but a sad joke. Due to censorship and creative restraints, the ‘artists’ in Singapore can only produce mediocre work or complete rubbish. The school system here also conditions a mentality that does not exercise creativity, but rather conditions their students to adhere to strict guidelines and commit text by memory, only to spit it back out during the exam period. These ‘data processors’ are championed for their academic abilities. Even art students are subjected to such conditioning, and thus I believe that they have already set a limit to their creative potential on a subconscious level. However, there are always exceptions to the majority. There are creative artists here who aren’t recognised by the government, nor funded by them due to the nature of their work. These are the ones who think outside the box, and I applaud them for it.
I can’t blame the system for this because the republic of Singapore has been in existence for only 43 years. For Singapore to even try to rival the arts and culture in Europe or Central Asia is basically like an ant trying to lift a tow truck. Our culture here is a mish-mash of Malayan, Chinese, Hindu and European cultures, and it is this exact reason why true Singaporean culture is non-existent, just borrowed from others and thrown into the blender.
With which bands would you like to share the stage? Every dream is permitted for this question...
Mike Priest: Death, Carcass, Atheist, Emperor, Celtic Frost, Judas Priest, Mercyful Fate, At the Gates and Slayer.
Hans: This is tough man, there’s far too many bands in my head! Hahaha! I’ll try: Immortal, Amoral, Marduk, Nile, Iron Maiden, Destruction, Sodom, Yyrkoon, Suffocation, Vader, Deicide, any more and I’ll end up not stopping at all!
How did you come up with metal? How old were you when you first started? Who were the first bands you listened to?
Mike Priest: I grew uplistening to country and evergreen songs, but I got into Seattle grunge and Bay Area Thrash bands when I was around 12 years old, bands like Nirvana, Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, Metallica, Slayer and Dark Angel. I also discovered NWOBHM bands like Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Venom, Raven and Samson while exploring the world of heavy music. I craved something heavier in my teenage years, and I started making a few friends who were into the same music that I was. They recommended bands like Morbid Angel, Deicide, Acheron, Zyklon-B, Bathory, Emperor, Necrophobic, Mayhem and Immortal. From there I explored and ventured into the fathomless depths of the extreme metal world on my own. I had my first band when I was 16, a Death Metal band by the name of Tomb Butcher. And the rest, like they say, is history.
Hans: My journey is pretty unique and is slightly different from other metalheads, I must say. You’ll know why later as you read on. The first time I ever came across Metal was when I saw Metallica on TV. I was only 4 and I was very inspired to pick up drums. But I was too young then so instead I picked up keyboards first. Later on I picked up drums for real when I was 10, along with classical guitar, and by then I was listening to the stuffs like Bon Jovi, Skid Row, Def Leppard, RHCP, etc. It wasn’t till I was 13 that I started listening to early Thrash Metal like Testament, Flotsam and Jetsam, Annihilator, etc. and at that same period of time I was very into game music and soundtracks, especially those of Squaresoft games (now known as Square-Enix). The defining moment came to me when I was playing Final Fantasy X, and had my first encounter with Death Metal. If you’ve played the game you would have known which song I’m talking about! Haha! And that was it, from then on it’s a journey of no return. Death, Deicide, Suffocation, Grave, Unleashed, Malevolent Creation, early Sepultura, and many more. And then came Emperor and Marduk. That fully transformed me to become the Black Metaller that I am now.
Is A.O.T.S. your only band or do you have other ones? If you do, can you tell us more about them?
Mike Priest: I’m also playing lead guitars and live backing vocals for Impiety. I recorded on “Formidonis Nex Cultus” and was on the Storm of the Antichrist Tour with Watain last year. I do vocals for Darren’s band Disinterium and I have my solo black metal project Sect Insanabilis, which will be releasing a three-way split with Helvette (Singapore) and Exetheris (Greece) this year.
Hans: Right now I’m also involved in a Black Metal band called DRACONIS INFERNUM with whom I’ve just completed the recording process for the new upcoming debut release. I’ve also recently joined ZUSHAKON as their new drummer. I’m also working on a solo Black Metal project known as EQUILIBRATUM for which I’m planning to put out a record sometime mid-year.
Besides those, I’m also actively involved as a sessionist. So far I’ve had the honour of doing session keyboards for a couple of truly great local bands such as ARBITRARY ELEMENT who released their debut album called “Process of Extremination” end of last year, as well as ROUGHCAST who will be releasing their debut full-length, known as “Astarothic Disaster Masterpiece”, later this year. In the past I’ve also played with Darren’s band DISINTERIUM as session Bassist. But despite all these, AOTS will still be the main priority for me, and for this year that shall be my main focus as well.
What is your favourite beer?
Mike Priest: Brewerkz Indian Pale Ale and Boddingtons.
Hans: Sapporo, Asahi, Yebisu, Brewerkz IPA, Heineken.
Do you know some French bands?
Mike Priest: Massacra, Agressor, Loudblast, Yyrkoon and Benighted are my favourite bands from France! Bezukry is good too! ;)
Hans: Now that you’ve asked, I just realized that actually my listening staple these days have been full of French bands. Hahaha! Some of them are: Vociferian, Vlad Tepes, Black Horizon, Deathspell Omega, Benighted, Eternal Majesty, Bloodlust, Bloodsoaked, Yyrkoon, Merrimack, Carnal Lust, Handful of Hate, Arkhon Infaustus, Anorexia Nervosa (technically speaking they’re still a French band right?) And not to forget this really awesome and under-rated band who are among the first few bands who traded with us: Malevolentia!
What do you think of Myspace? Is it helpful for the band?
Hans: As far as we’re concerned, it has been a useful tool of maintaining a great relationship with other bands who’re miles apart from us, getting our music across the globe more conveniently and effectively, getting in touch with labels, distros, and show organisers as well. I mean lets’ face it. Even true underground black metal bands today, a lot of them stay in touch with one another through MySpace. The thing about MySpace is that you have the control. You choose who you want to associate yourself with. And upon viewing people’s profiles, one should be able to tell pretty easily if that person is a true Metal warrior worth knowing, or just another cocksucking poser or trendwhore. So those who claim that MySpace and bands who’re on MySpace are sellouts, they are just too stubborn to think rationally. If bands on MySpace are sellouts, then what are those “true” people doing still wearing their Mayhem/Infernal War/Blasphemy/whatever-band-you-consider-kvlt t-shirt? These bands are all on MySpace. They should be discarding their Vinyls already! The fact that even bands like those are on MySpace already shows us how helpful MySpace as a tool of communication has been. In this information age, such things are inevitable and if we can make it work for the better of us, then why not? In the first place, we wouldn’t have known each other had it not been for MySpace, and I wouldn’t be answering this question right now! Hahahaha!
And what do you think about tapes? As far as I am concerned, I think that it is pitiful that tapes are dying but I may be too much old school minded though I am making a webzine and not a zine on paper ha-ha.
Hans: Honestly I really miss those days, and sometimes I do reminisce about those times when tapes were still widely in use. But we have to admit that tapes have its own limitation, especially where longeivity is concerned. Unfortunately it cannot outlast CDs or vinyls even for that matter, and it is indeed a great waste for me. So I do share your thoughts to a certain extent. But I guess we gotta face up to reality, and it would be a much bigger waste if we let our music be lost forever as those tapes get mouldy and can no longer be played. To me the music has to come first, formats are secondary. And whichever format could preserve the music it contains for as long as possible, that would be the better option. Metal music is timeless, so we’ll need a matching format that could last till our next few generations.
What are your projects to come with A.O.T.S.? Shows? New release?
Mike Priest: We have a music video coming out soon for “Dawn of a Dead Aeon” from our Promo 2007 EP. This video was done professionally by our friends at Lux-Solis.Net (who are also our photographers) with added assistance from our other friends. Without these people, this video would not have been possible.
We are currently looking for a label home and licensing deals to release “Era of the Apostate” in Asia, Europe and the US. We will be planning a regional tour sometime this year, but it depends strictly on the schedule of show dates around the S.E. Asian region. We definitely would love to play in Europe in the near future.
Well, this interview is now ending. Let me thank you for the answers and for now you have the last words.
Mike Priest: Thank you for all your support Kev! We would like to thank A.O.T.S. supporters from all around the world, andwatch out for the upcoming release of ERA OF THE APOSTATE.The Apocalypse Awaits!
Hans: It’s been an honour, Kev! Thanks for this great interview, and your neverending support for the Death Squad. Infernal Hails to all our supporters globally! The Era shall approach unhindered! See you at the pit real soon!