October 31 – The Hatchet Returns Part I

Monday, 22nd September 2014

I’ve been fortunate to have many conversations with October 31/Deceased main man King Fowley for a few decades. During the years of the Powermad and Classic Metal Festivals, he was a regular staple as his bands would play and he would also be selling many classic, out of print albums through Old Metal Records (Griffin, Wild Dogs, Sound Barrier, Q5, etc.). The man bleeds for the cause, and doesn’t mince any words when asked to expound on the music scene as well as all things related to heavy metal.

Bury the Hatchet is the latest October 31 album, so I felt it was a great time to catch up on whatever was on King’s mind. As you’ll notice in this talk, we probably covered a hundred different things, and often the discussion veered into non-October 31 or Deceased talk. You’ll probably hear about bands you’ve never heard of, or maybe hadn’t heard talked about in forever. He likes what he likes, and isn’t afraid to speak out about topics he thinks need to be talked about, and doesn’t care if it’s popular or not. We need more people like that in the scene, so enjoy this hour long discussion about all things metal: old, new, tried, and true.

Dead Rhetoric: The latest October 31 studio album Bury the Hatchet comes 9 years after your last one. Explain to the readers some of the health issues and turbulent life events that happened that caused such a long period to lapse between full lengths?

King Fowley: There were really no health issues for this, I guess a little bit. I had my blood clot in my lung in 2002, and that slowed things down for Deceased at the time because October 31 was not all that active – we had done Meet They Maker in 2000 anyway, and we were between albums. I had a stroke right before we were ready to record No Survivors, that was in 2005 I had to record that about 6 weeks after the stroke and I can hear a little bit of that struggle in my voice, raw and beat up from my health issues. I was out of sync with what was going on in the world. Moving on we started working on more material for another record then, but at the time a lot of things were happening. Jim (Hunter, bass) was doing a lot of stuff with Revelation, Twisted Tower Dire, and he moved down to North Carolina. I started seeing a girl in Philadelphia, so I moved there and we were spread out because as you know Brian (Williams, guitar) lived down in North Carolina, he’s in Elkin and that’s another whole part of NC. That’s what slowed that down, Brian started his Hell on Earth solo project, so we left a lot of things sitting on hold.

The Deceased camp slowed it down more than anything, (guitarist) Mike Smith stopped playing live in 2006 and (guitarist) Mark Adams stopped in 2007, I was dealing with those issues and that was taking up most of my free time. By the time we settled in 2010, we started getting into talks about new stuff and that’s when we started putting together the Defenders of the Old, the annual thing we set up in Baltimore, Maryland for a couple of years and those were our only shows for a long time. I don’t think we played live in October 31 for about 4 or 5 years. Jason (Tedder, guitar) wanted to do other things, he was into a lot of newer metal bands – then we brought in Matt Ibach, and Dave (Castillo, drums) played one show with us at the Maryland Deathfest. Finally Matt recommended Sean Wilhide on drums, us five all got together. I’ll never just toss anything out there – we get to know each other, these guys are a little younger and they grew up on stuff like Iced Earth, Testament, so they aren’t knowledgeable about Demon Flight or Griffin, but they are learning. Sean loves rock n’ roll as well as grind. We got the single out there “Gone to the Devil”, and went out with the same formula to write Bury the Hatchet.

Dead Rhetoric: What made Hells Headbangers attractive as the new label for not only October 31, but also Deceased? You’ve always preferred the smaller, hands on record labels through the years versus bigger metal independents, any specific reasons behind this?

Fowley: That’s a weird thing, as a back note when Metal Blade came to Stan at R.I.P. Records to put out Meet Thy Maker and Visions of the End as a 2 on 1 CD, it was great because they licensed the material from him and put it out. Then they wanted to sign us directly, and I said let’s sign… but as soon as I started to dig into the details of the contract and talk to people over there, I thought it was too much corporate b.s. and not what I’m about, so I ripped the contract up. The same thing happened with Deceased when things fell apart on Relapse. I know Metal Blade is about making money, some of the angles you have to do things for is not something I can be a part of: kissing ass and cliques, I can’t do that. With Hells’ Headbangers they’ve known Deceased for years, I see them every time I go up to that part of Ohio and I love all those guys. They came up to me and I sat down with Justin, he wanted to grab both Deceased and October 31 so we worked out good deals to make that happen. Their product is second to none, they release excellent stuff, the vinyl and limited edition CD’s are cool products, their prices are fair, they are good guys and I have no problems or attitudes.

Dead Rhetoric: If we were to look at your October 31 discography, which albums stand up well for you today and what would do you think you would like to improve upon if you had the time/money to do so?

Fowley: I like all the albums for different reasons. The first one was interesting because it was new to me to ever sing clean. When I was a kid of 14-15 I used to sing my ass off. Most kids did, their dreams to be in a band, so I would sit in my room and sing Fistful of Metal from Anthrax or Queensryche’s EP, or Battle Hymns from Manowar, I would go for the soaring Halford type of vocals, and back then the voice was fresh and I didn’t sound like a partied out, 40 year old man. It was really cool, I actually tried out for a band called Maniacs, they did some originals and covers. I didn’t have a car, we did 5 songs – “Queen of the Reich”, “Battle Hymns”, “Dynamite” from The Scorpions, high end, soaring songs. They wanted me in the band until I told them I was 15, they were all 24, 25 years old, they thought I was at least 22 from my size at that age. When Deceased came into the picture, I started getting into Sodom, Kreator, and Voivod, got into drugs and partying so my voice got messed up. When Brian and I put this together, I thought I could still sing. I was full of myself back then. The first album was done on no budget, I put down the vocals in about 3 hours total. That one looking back, I love the songs – “The Warlock”, “Salem’s Curse” – but looking back the vocals are flat, kinda monotone, the production sucks, it is what it is.

So for Visions of the End I put more of this raspy thing to my voice, and I really like that EP. One thing that helped was it was only an EP, I like the production on that. Then we get to Meet Thy Maker, Kevin Lewis the guitarist was writing a lot of melodies at the time, I wanted to sing more. Some of it was still flat, but I wish I could sing like Rik Emmett or Dave Meniketti, but I can’t. So that album I like the songs. Getting to No Survivors we were in a mode where we were playing a little more aggressive, angrier at the time. That’s my personality, that’s what I do. Again it was rushed, and the production is a little muddy, very cheap money to record this. For an actual vinyl release that album still stands up well. Getting to the new record, I haven’t touched beer or any alcohol since 2002, I think this new record is the best production to date, I love the songwriting and I think my vocals are good for what I do. I like what you said, I’m not a singer but I’m a presentation guy with the delivery and stuff like that. I love the leads, the riffs, I really like where we are at. The songs are catchy and instant.

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