Immolation – 25 Years Of Terror

Tuesday, 4th June 2013
"Bob Vigna, live in Toronto 5/31/13" by Charnelle Stöhrer

A long time pillar of New York’s death metal sector, Immolation continue their legacy of extreme, no bullshit metal with the release of Kingdom of Conspiracy. The latest album sees the band at their best, leaving their peers in the dust and scoring an 8.5/10 on Dead Rhetoric (read all about it here). Their addition to the esteemed “Decibel Magazine Tour” seemed all too fitting as all three bands on the bill have been attacking the masses for at least 25 years. Having reached other notable milestones and two weeks subsequent to their latest effort, it was a no brainer to get together with Immolation’s founding member/guitarist Bob Vigna before their performance in Toronto. Read on and find out how the down to earth, death metal veteran responded…

Dead Rhetoric: Immolation is part of a kickass tour right now featuring three bands that have all been around for over 20 years. How is the tour going?

Bob Vigna: Phenomenal! I mean it’s amazing like every show has either been sold out or just about up to capacity like tonight, I know we sold out pretty much. It’s crazy, it’s been great – the crowds have been really, really amped too, a lot of emotion, you know, a lot of energy. We’ve done a number of shows where people are just going nuts, out in California we had some crazy shows, you would think it was like 1985 again. It was really cool, so yeah, we’re just happy to be a part of it. Decibel has been really cool in having us be a part of it and they really put a lot into making us a part of that. Obviously Cannibal and Napalm are more well-known than we are so the fact that they [Decibel] went out of their way to kinda not only to make us part of the tour but make us part of the three main bands was pretty cool for us. We’ve known both these bands for almost twenty five years, Cannibal and Immolation started at the same time, Napalm probably started a few years before but we’ve known them since the demo days, early days.

Dead Rhetoric: Before we talk about the new album, I’d like to congratulate you as Immolation has hit an impressive milestone, 25 years of creating extreme music – what do you attribute to your success?

Vigna: Well, I don’t know if I’d call it exactly success [laughs] but we still have the passion for it, we still enjoy it. I think it’s the fact that we haven’t been super successful that maybe keeps us striving and going further, you know? It’s the fans, it’s the music, it’s the fact that we’ve had that this particular lineup now – another anniversary this year for us is ten years with this particular line up. Steve’s [Shalaty] been in the band for ten years, Bill’s [Taylor] been in the band for 13 years so this is pretty much the lineup we needed to really move things forward. I think it’s that love of the music and the fact of having four individuals that are 110% into it now and just striving to do better and better every time and that’s what keeps us going. With each release, we kinda step it up a bit more just musically and we get better as time goes because we just have more experience under our belt with every record. We love the music so that’s really the bottom line of what keeps us going I think.

Dead Rhetoric: So do you feel any pressure after 25 years to keep a balance between evolving as musicians yet maintaining that integral Immolation sound?

Vigna: For us, it’s more natural. It’s just like alright we have a new record to do, let me start writing and you know that’s it, you just start writing. Obviously, you want it to be the best thing you’ve done – you want it to be more heavier, more interesting and you just naturally write the stuff and then hope it comes out the way you really want it to [laughs]. You know, all you can do is your best. With everything that we do that’s our aim, let’s just make the best songs we can. We did the Scion A/V EP release [Providence] toward the middle of 2011. We could have done cover songs, we could have redid a couple of tracks but we said no it’s a cool opportunity, you know? We’ll get some music out to the fans, see what’s up, we’re going to make five new songs and that’s what we did. So everything that we do, we go into with that 110% and we want it to be the best thing we can do at that time.

Every record kind of reflects where we are at that time. We don’t have songs written left over for the next record, we don’t do it that way. We’re like, we need ten songs for this record, we’re going to write ten songs and we’ll write them until they are right and ready to go. The pressure is maybe in the studio and in making sure it gets done right and all that but I mean you’re always under a little pressure. As far as the 25 years, we don’t even think about it, it’s just what’s next. We just keep moving forward.

Dead Rhetoric: What do you consider to be some of the highlights in the 25 years with Immolation?

Vigna: We’ve had a lot of great tours, had a lot of good times, met a lot of cool people. It just goes with the friends we have now around the world and people that we know. I can’t really specifically pick any particular thing, I’d just say that we have been lucky enough to have been doing this for this long and being able to meet the people, know the people through the music. It’s taken on a whole life of its own, a lot of good friends, good times, good people, cool places it’s just great and it’s all because of the band and music. That’s priceless. It’s the experience, it’s the ride that you are taking throughout the 25 years that makes it. The highlight now is the fact that we are on one of the coolest tours we’ve been on in a long time with really good friends, great bands that have been around and the new record. This is our highlight now so that’s how we look at it.

Dead Rhetoric: Yeah, I’d say it’s a tremendous success in a sense to be on a tour with your friends…

Vigna: Oh, absolutely.

Dead Rhetoric: You guys have known Napalm Death since the late 1980’s.

Vigna: Definitely, it’s really cool. The fact we just did a tour with them at the end of 2010 in Europe, was cool so now it’s like oh we are meeting up again. And then Cannibal, we toured four times back in 1996/1997 when George [Fisher] just joined the band with the Vile record and we were long overdue to go out with them again. Alex Webster and the guys were always like, hey we gotta take you out and do something together again and it just never happened. So this was perfect, it actually happened now.

Dead Rhetoric: Immolation has been labeled as the pioneers of death metal by so many people. How would you describe yourselves to someone who has never heard Immolation before?

Vigna: I would describe it, it’s heavy metal but it’s dark, it’s aggressive, it’s death metal. Sometimes they don’t know what that means so… [laughs]

Dead Rhetoric: [laughs]

Vigna: If you are talking to someone who doesn’t have a clue, it’s just metal, it’s extreme, it’s heavy, it’s dark but it’s also somewhat melodic in a lot of ways. There’s definitely melody to it and you gotta get used to the vocals. That’s what I tell people all the time, once you get past the vocals then everything else is easy. That’s the hardest thing when people that are not into death metal,  the vocals are always the hardest hurdle for them but once then get past that, you know, they kinda always listen to the music and say “Wow I can kind of appreciate the music but the vocals always get me.” At least with Ross [Dolan] anyway, you can pretty make out what he is saying sometimes without the lyrics. We just try to be as creative as possible when we write and just make things as unique to our style as we can. But yeah, it’s dark, heavy and aggressive.

Dead Rhetoric: You guys just released Kingdom of Conspiracy two weeks ago through Nuclear Blast and it’s a killer record to say the least.

Vigna: Oh, thank you! Thank you!

Dead Rhetoric: Was there anything different that occurred during the writing and recording process for this release compared to previous releases?

Vigna: Not really, as of Majesty and Decay our last record, I’ve been writing stuff on the computer which has really helped everything. I can write songs complete with drums, solos and overlays and it sounds like a complete song now. So I can write the songs, send it out to the guys and then you know we’ll maybe tweak stuff maybe sometimes we don’t. And then Steve, of course will take the drum beats and add his own stuff to it or sometimes he changes it up a bit. At any rate, we all practice separately and then we get together in the studio. We never play the songs together, we just get together in the studio, and we all know the songs. He plays to the pre-production track with the guitars and the metronome, then we play to his drums and the metronome and then there we have it. The album is done. Then when it comes to playing the songs live, “Alright what songs are we playing? We’re playing this one and that one. Okay.”

We meet each other on stage for the first show and we play the songs [laughs] and that’s it. We never rehearse anymore because Steve lives in Ohio, Bill lives in Tampa, me and Ross live in New York. It just doesn’t make sense to get together, it’s just a pain in the ass honestly and costs too much. You know, to leave work for a week to go and practice songs that I know when we practice on our own, we’ll get it. Nothing really different in that sense, the past three releases have been done that way and it actually works really good for us. Thanks to the technology that we have today as opposed to when we first started out, it makes it much easier. I wrote a majority of the record at home but then when we went down to Brazil, I had my computer and was still writing stuff. So by the time we got back, I used some of that stuff, finished up the last three songs and then we went right into the studio. It’s interesting the way it works sometimes [laughs] cause when we got a goal, we gotta do it. It’s like a race until we get it done but once it’s done, it works out. We don’t even write the lyrics until we are in the studio for the two weeks. Ross will write stuff and then I’ll add to it and go back and forth. I’ll have ideas, he’s got ideas, we put it together and Steve had some ideas this time. Once we have that small amount of time in the studio, that’s when we get it done. We’re good under pressure [laughs].

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