Suffocation – More Brutal Than YouMonday, 22nd May 2017
If Terrance Hobbs wasn’t playing guitar in Suffocation, he could probably be a motivational speaker. Enthusiasm seemingly oozes from the man’s voice when talking about his band, so much so, you’d think Suffocation was a bunch of youngsters on their first album rather than a band approaching three decades with ten studio albums to their credit. Suffocation album number eight, of the Dark Light…pulls no punches, emerging as a taut, highly fluid, dexterous display of brutal death metal, a term Hobbs has no issues throwing around. Under the gun to get our chat wrapped up in 12 minutes, Hobbs was more than willing to subject himself to DR’s queries…
Dead Rhetoric: You’re coming up on 30 years as a band. When you started, did you ever think Suffocation would last this long?
Terrance Hobbs: Hell no. [Laughs] There was never a thought in my mind that we would last this long. You can look at it like any other band or any other young group of kids getting together trying to play music…you’re thinking you’ll be lucky if you play in a wedding band somewhere down the road. Now it’s almost 30 years and I’m still playing the same death metal. It’s crazy.
Dead Rhetoric: Perhaps this is a cliché, but does playing death metal, or at least death metal of this type, keep you young?
Hobbs: Absolutely. I think so. You go out and play all the time, you’re on the stage, you’re seeing your friends, which is a happy thing. You’re getting to see a lot of the world when you’re traveling. I think those things keep you young. Who the hell wants to sit behind a desk all the time at a job you hate? Or working at a labor job which you really hate when you could be doing something you like to do, which is music?
Dead Rhetoric: You and Frank [Mullen, vocals] have been together since the beginning. How would you describe your current relationship these days?
Hobbs: We’re great friends. We’ve always been friends since high school. Nothing like that, nothing has ever changed. In fact, I was hanging with him yesterday. As we get older, things get a little bit more difficult when you have real life issues. That’s the way it is, more for Frank than for me as far as the band is concerned. We’re great friends. We’re always going to be friends. We have no issues with each other at all. I’m glad to have Frank. We’ve stood the test of time. Not many people do.
Dead Rhetoric: Will Frank have to sit out some tour dates during this cycle?
Hobbs: Absolutely. Frank, he’s more working his way toward retirement than anything. We’re getting older and pushing 50. He’s got a lot of responsibilities with his job, his kids. Just everything else. It’s not really something he can do more full-time than the rest of the band can, in particular. He knows it. We know it, so we just get by doing what we do, the best we can for what we have.
Dead Rhetoric: Do you have anyone in mind to step in for Frank?
Hobbs: We’re going to have Kevin Muller filling in for Frank. If you’ve listened to anything off …of the Dark Light, he’s on there as well. It’s very hard to tell them apart. They’re both really super-brutal singers. I think Kevin’s really the best fit we can get for somebody like Frank while being out on the road while coming out with a new record. The future looks bright. We’re just going to do the best we can possibly do. We’re still going to bring out the heavy metal music, obviously. That’s what we do. I’m looking forward to it, to be honest with you.
Dead Rhetoric: You have a new drummer in Eric Morotti. He’s the new guy and has a tough job, but, his work on the new album is fantastic. For you as the primary songwriter, what was it like working with him?
Hobbs: Actually, it wasn’t bad at all. Eric is just really technically proficient. He gets it. He gets what we’re doing. It’s not like we’re having to show him the ropes on how to play the drums or anything like that. He’s a very good, technically proficient drummer and once he started working with us, everything fell into place. And it went rather quickly with Eric, so that was a good thing. Sometimes, like me, I give lessons and stuff for guitar, you see certain students who just don’t pick up as quickly as others. Eric, it wasn’t even a matter of that. It was a matter of “What are we going to do here?” “Okay, let’s do it!” And that was that. When we went to rehearsals for this record, it was actually a lot of fun. I didn’t have any issues with him. You know, we always fine-tune everything else that we do. When we’re in the rehearsal room, it’s like “Maybe we should try something here?” Or Derek [Boyer, bass] will throw something into the mix. Just for us, as having some type of chemistry together, it actually worked out well. I couldn’t be more happy.
Dead Rhetoric: He’s turned loose right away on “Clarity Through Deprivation.”
Hobbs: Yeah, it’s a brutal record. That’s what he looks to do. For me, that’s a bonus because as opposed to trying to find somebody who isn’t so lazy, Eric is on the opposite end of that. It’s like, “I don’t want to try to play that there. It’s too rough.” Eric’s like, “No, I’m going to lay it on right here right now!” I’m like “Really? Okay! Cool!” It’s always a bonus to have people who push the limits of the musical creation and can be in on the writing and execution of the songs. Eric has a pretty good head on his shoulders for that kind of stuff.
Dead Rhetoric: One of my first thoughts about the album was how tight it is. Nine songs, right to the point. Was that the idea?
Hobbs: Exactly. We’re not the kind of band that has a lot of intros and things like that. We’ve never been like that. We’re just really sticking to that formula Suffocation has always used, but still in the same way, this is a pretty brutal record. The songs are pretty relentless. In that aspect, it’s a little bit more demanding physically than the other records I would have to say, but it’s still in the same breath, we’re still looking to push the limits. Everybody in the band wants to push the limits. It really gives it much more of an organic type of feeling with everybody who is involved.
Dead Rhetoric: Dipping back in time, I had Despise the Sun  on a bit ago. That’s the “lost” period of Suffocation, right before you broke up. What do you remember most?
Hobbs: We got done with Pierced from Within and found Roadrunner were looking to drop all the bands they had. Of course, we were one of them. That made things difficult for the band as a whole. At the time, there wasn’t as much of a market. There wasn’t as many promoters or booking agents or record labels that were dealing with underground music the way we were doing it. There was some there, but they didn’t have the same outlets. That caused the band to start to decline. After we got dropped from Roadrunner, we were like, “Alright, we’re probably not going to be doing any more shows. We’re probably not going to be playing. Let’s just do something that goes for the gusto.” It was just an EP, obviously. It only had five songs on it, but that particular point in time, it was like “Okay, the band is in this area where we’re not planning on going on any further.”
When you look at it like that, we were burned out. Everybody was like, “Alright, let’s just lay into it and make a super-aggressive type of EP and maybe somebody will pick us up and it will be a new day for the band.” But for the most part, everybody was like, “Yo, we’re going to go back to work. We’re going to do our own thing.” With the morale being struck down after Pierced, the only saving grace was the fact we were able to get [producer] Scott Burns to do the recording up here in Long Island. After that, that’s when things started to go to the wayside and we broke up. At that point in time, our mentality was “Yo, we want to make something completely brutal. Fuck it. Let’s go with it.” That’s how it went down. It was a difficult time for Suffocation. Suffocation always goes through hardship and that’s the fact of the matter since we play death metal.