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December 1999 - PENANCE

The roots of PENACE go back to the mid-80's, and they belong to one of the best US-Doom Metal bands. Since the band was formed, they've released two full-lengths for Rise Above Records and Century Media. Each of them with a different vocalist. This year, the band released their third full-length 'Proving Ground' with Brian 'Butch' Balich on vocals. Once again, this album is a masterpiece and so I get in contact with Butch to do an interview about the past and present of PENANCE.


Please, give us an insight the history of PENANCE and the forerunner DREAM DEATH.

DREAM DEATH was formed in the mid 80's by Mike Smail and Brian Goodbread. They were joined by bassist Ted Williams and guitarist Terry Weston. After a couple of demos they were picked up by Ann Boleyn's NEW RENAISSANCE RECORDS label and realesed 'JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY'. As someone who has only joined PENANCE within the last few years and who was a fan of DREAM DEATH I think I can say that they were a band ahead of their time - plowing people with a death/doom style... definitely one of the first if not THE first doom death bands. Around '89 or '90 bassist Ted Williams was out and Rich Freund was in but then the band broke up.

Mike and Terry carried on with Rich, taking on the name PENANCE and recording the 'LIVING TRUTH' demo with former DD vocalist Brian Goodbread aboard as a guest. Brian then joined on a permanent basis. In 1991, after signing with RISE ABOVE RECORDS, PENANCE released 'THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED'. In 1993 Brian quit just as the band were set to tour Europe with CATHEDRAL and SLEEP. Enter English singer Lee Smith. Lee recorded the 'PARALLEL CORNERS' CD with Mike, Terry, and new bassist Frank Miller - released in 1994. A few bad breaks in the form os deportation problems with Lee and then being dropped by CENTURY MEDIA led two a few years of inactivity. I auditioned for the band initially in '96 but it took another year before we really got things rolling again. Of course in the meantime Frank quit and we were bassistless... So Brian Goodbread aided us on our 98 demo 'BRIDGES TO BURN'. In August of '98 Ron 'OZZY' Leard joined and the line-up has been stable since. We released the third PENANCE CD 'PROVING GROUND' on our own in August. That brings us up to date.....

What do you think about the development of Doom Metal and Heavy Rock during the 1990's?

Well - I for one am happy to see the so called "stoner/doom" scene getting a higher profile... I do feel that doom has split into sveral styles... There's doom/death, stoner rock, gothic doom, plain old doom hahahaha.... It's almost hard to say what doom is anymore because the word means something different to everyone. And these days fans of one form of doom may not even dig another. I think there are some fantastic bands out there - SPIRIT CARAVAN, ORANGE GOBLIN, THE SPIRITUAL BEGGARS, PENTAGRAM's new album is certainly awesome, SOLARIZED, SOLACE, FIREBALL MINISTRY, INTERNAL VOID, SIXTY WATT SHAMAN, BOTTOM.... the list goes on and on... newer bands like PALE DIVINE... They are all doing great stuff... And none of them really sound the same... People outside the scene don't even realize the diversity within the genre. Doom is as vital as ever I think - and I think more quality releases are being released than at many points in the history of this style... It's exciting. I just hope the scene doesn't begin to get glutted with half-talent bandwagon jumpers....

How is the situation for PENANCE in the USA? Do you play a lot og shows and are there interested labels?

It's tough for a band like us to gig often. This is not a form af music where a band will make a living from... We all needed to hold down jobs to support the band, our families, etc.... So that being said we try to gig when we can, where we can. We have a few big things coming up in the big doom fest in Texas being organized by LAS CRUCES (May 13th, 14th) and also a heavy/stoner rock fest in Youngstown, Ohio on April 15th. We've been in Cleveland, the Baltimore area.... I'm hoping we get a chance to get to Europe in 2000... We'll see what happens... As for labels - well, we didn't fell like waiting for a label to tell us our music was cool enough to be released so we did it ourselves. 'PROVING GROUND' is a CD we all believe in 150%... We knew we had a good one on our hands so why wait??? We did the label rounds with the 'BRIDGES TO BURN' demo at a time when power metal and black metal bands were being signed left and right.... Seems anymore that a band like us that really is an unabashed heavy metal/doom band has to establish what they have to offer - so here we are not stoney enough for some of the stoner labels, too metal.... Not heavy enough for the more extreme labels...So ...we'll see. We are about to begin the record label rounds for a follow up to 'PROVING GROUND' and if someone picks us up who can give us a chance to be succesful great... If not, we'll do it ourselves again.

What do you think about descriptions like "stoner" and Doom. Aren't this are only terms (like maybe Grunge) for a kind of music that is much older?

Labels are just a way to sell music to people who may not have heard a band before. In a way it shortchanges all the bands in the scene because the creativity and diversity of most bands is amazing and they shouldn't be pigeonholed... but marketing is important so it is easier for labels, stores, etc... to market a band as being "stoner" rather than 'heavy metal' or 'hardrock2'. We call PENANCE a heavy metal band - we don't care what people call us. If they wanna file us under doom; that's fine, "stoner rock"fine...

Can you live from the money you earn with the band or do you have any nice/shitty jobs?

If we trying to live off the band it would be very hard. This is not a style of music where a band is going to sell tons of CD's or pack arenas. Right now we all hold down steady jobs - we have family to support, bills to pay. I work for a medical records outsourcing corporation. Mike and Terry work in a music store.. I'm not sure what 'OZZY' does hahahaha.... Who knows maybe someday we will be able to spend more time on the bans but for now we have to work.

Do you have a good relation to other heavy bands in the USA? Are there more festivals like the SHoD?

I think there is a mutual respect among bands in the scene... to a point. I think being that we all come from many of the same influences it gives us a common ground and yeah, there don't seem to be too many wankers out there hahahaha. There are a couple of cool festivals like SHoD coming up. In April there will be a fest in Youngstown, Ohio and then in May (13 and 14) there is a biggie planned in Texas. SHoD was great - between that and the BLACK SABBATH tribute gig back in the Spring I met a bunch of great people... the guys in INTERNAL VOID, SIXTY WATT SHAMAN, PALE DIVINE, the girls in BOTTOM.... we just played with SOLARIZED and ALABAMA THUNDER PUSSY - two more awesome bands of great people.

What kind of music does each of the PENANCE members like (old/new stuff)?

Damn - we listen to so much stuff between us... I'am a big KISS fan, SABBATH fan. Old stuff? BANG, DEEP PURPLE, PRIEST, ANGEL, TROUBLE, PENTAGRAM, THE BEATLES, MARVIN GAYE - I mix it up... shit I grew up in the 80's... I could go from heavy stuff like CELTIC FROST, TROUBLE, IRON MAIDEN, SLAYER but I also listened to some more commercial stuff like Y&T, CHEAP TRICK... As for more current bands/artists - I love SPIRIT CARAVAN, SPIRITUAL BEGGARS, FU MANCHU, SOLARIZED, LAS CRUCES, TYPE O NEGATIVE, FIREBALL MINISTRY, CONTROL DENIED, THE HELLACOPTERS are brilliant..... I also dig non-heavy stuff like MAXWELL, the new BRENDAN PERRY album is just amazing....

I never have ever pigeonhold myself as to what I listen to. Good music is good music be it metal, R&B, southern rock, classical... Why limit myself just to heavy stuff? I figure the more I listen to the more diverse of an singer I can be - there is something to be lerned fromm all good music. As a band we are all over the map from SABBATH to PENTAGRAM to TROUBLE to AC/DC to BUDGIE to BANG to SHERYL CROW to DEAD CAN DANCE to MOTORHEAD to JAMES BROWN... We each have varied tastes

Please, what are the news about your future plans (tour, new album)? It would be awesome, if you would have the possibility to come back to Germany again!!!

We have three new songs just about finished - 'LOVE DIES', 'MISERY SONG' and 'COLD'. One of those will show up on a split double 7" we are doing with LAS CRUCES, WICKERMAN, and NOVEMBER'S DOOM. That should be out in the late Spring. The other two songs will end up as part of the follow up to 'PROVING GROUND'. We have a bunch of ideas, songs ready to go, we just need to start really pulling them together. Hopefully we'll have that CD out sometime the latter half of 2000. As for touring - I hope we get to Europe. I for one am dying to get over there. We know how much people love heavy rock in Europe so we have our fingers crossed !

What do you think about the debut of Sally (featuring Lee Smith) on Rise Above Records or haven't you had to hear it?

None of us have heard it yet. I am looking forward to hearing it. We all wish Lee the best with SALLY - hopefully if we get to Europe we can gig with them. I'd love to have Lee come up and sing one with us!

What can you tell me about Mike Smail's Rollercoaster. Are there any demos etc.?

I have never heard of this! LOL! I am going to ask Mike about it. Nope - nothing was ever released if Mike did indeed ever have a project by that name.

Ok, Brian, here's the final question! Is there a distribution for your new album here in Germany?

The album is am independent release available through BRAINTICKET, METEOR CITY, BLACK TEARS, uhmmm I think CENTURY MEDIA is going to carry it in their catalog... Or you can order it from us! I want to thank PENANCE fans old and new being supportive of us and thank you for including us in your E-Zine!!! Keep it Heavy !!!

Thank you very much. Hope to see you soon here in Europe!!!