August 2011 - BLOOD FARMERS
It is good to know that the BLOOD FARMERS finally get the credit that they deserve. About 12 years ago, it seemed as if New York's finest doom metal band was in danger of dying out completely. One reason for this was that the band broke up in 1996 and their only self-titled album for Hellhound Records was out of print shortly afterwards. Furthermore, there was no big interest in doom metal in the late 1990's. But I am glad to say, however, that times have changed. The days are over when the BLOOD FARMERS have been a well kept secret and that is a good thing.
One contributing factor was the band's first European tour in 2011 and I can well imagine that I was not the only one who thought that this would happen, but it did. Furthermore the band is working on their second album and I can only hope that it will see the light of day next year. As we can see, there's a lot of fresh blood running through their veins and the BLOOD FARMERS are ploughing in the field again. Needless to say that I look forward to the harvest. So, Cosmic Lava took the chance to send a couple of questions to vocalist/bassist Eli Brown to ask him about the state of affairs. Incidentally, that is not my first interview with Eli. The last time was in 2003 when he was in the line-up of M-SQUAD, but that is another story. In conclusion, I would like to thank Mike Wiener (the operator of the German Doom Metal Forum DoomedSouls) for the great photos.
2011 will be a memorable year for me, because the BLOOD FARMERS have been on tour in Europe for the first time. I never thought that this would happen, but it did. Before we talk about the tour I would like to know how it happened. When did you have the idea of that and why is it that it took so long to visit Europe? I certainly never thought it would happen either!
I'm still amazed that we were able to do this 22 years later! It really happened because of Walter and Roadburn. I have written to him off and on for a few years about possibly doing Roadburn but the timing never seemed right between the band and the festival. Even though we had done a few shows starting in 2007, we never were able to rehearse regularly until Tad joined and Dave was able to spend more time on the East Coast. The whole thing happened because Walter was kind enough to offer us a slot on Roadburn but said we really should tour around the festival. He introduced us to Klaus at Vibra and they were willing to put us on a tour! We started putting this together in the fall of 2010. I guess it took so long because there wasn't a working band until this year!
How does your result precipitate to your first European tour? What were the highlights and what were the lowlights?
The highlights were the shows for us. Roadburn was just an incredible experience. I only wish I could have spent more time just enjoying the festival. I also really enjoyed meeting all the fans that I didn't know we had too! Even the small shows were awesome. It was great playing for even 20 people in Cologne, or 30 people in Slovenia! I'm still amazed that anyone came to those shows - I know we never had more than 30 people coming to see us at any show we played before 2007. Other highlights were playing with Electric Wizard in Vienna. It was so great to finally share the stage with them after all these years. Playing with Pentagram in Finland was another major joy. Everything in Finland was great. After slogging it out for ten days in the van, the people at Blow Up That Gramophone really treated us so well, as did Pentagram. At the end of it all, just the fact that we did it and survived and were able to kick out some jams is really all matters.
You've played a great cover version of 'Wicked World' in Cologne. Does it originate from the times when you only played Black Sabbath covers?
We did do 'Wicked World' in the very beginning when we were only doing Sabbath covers, but I don't think we had played it live since 1990! We figured we should have a cover or two ready for certain shows. We have always done 'Electric Funeral' since the beginning and also when we did the other reunion shows. We figured it would be good to try another one. We tried a few and that seemed like a good one. It felt really great to do it... Sabbath is something you always go back to.
There's a new drummer named Tad Leger in the band. When did he join the BLOOD FARMERS?
We have jammed with Tad off and on since 2005. Dave had told him then that he would be the next drummer. We had ended up playing with Ross and Will at the first reunion show and the Japan tour. Some time in late 2009, Dave called me and said he was coming to NY for the holidays, he had a bunch of riffs and wanted to record them. Tad was around so he came over and we had a lot of fun. I hadn't touched my bass in a year so I just engineered while Dave played bass. After the tour in Japan I kind of thought it was all over- we did a little tour, re-issued our recordings, now it's time to approach middle age! The stuff he played was so great and so Blood Farmers, I knew then we'd be making a new record, which I've always hoped to do since we broke up in 1996.
About three years ago, you've been on tour in Japan together with Ogre and Church Of Misery. How did this tour come about?
This all happened because of Toreno Kobayashi. He came to Baltimore in 2007 for the Doom or Be Doomed Festival . After he saw us he said he would bring us to Japan.
What was it like for you to tour in Japan?
It was so amazing. To be able to go halfway across the world and play music is just incredible, especially when you're a little older and think that those opportunities were missed in your youth. Suddenly you get this chance to do it! It was kind of a small-scale Spinal Tap moment seeing a sold-out crowd in a club in Tokyo!
I can totally understand it. But let's talk about the origins of the BLOOD FARMERS. You and Dave formed the band at a time when NYC hardcore was very popular. That was at the end of the 1980's. I can well imagine that you must have felt like musical aliens in the big apple....what memories do you have of that time?
We always felt very much alone in what we were doing. I never really understood the scene at the time and definitely did feel like a musical alien. Dave was actually around for the original hardcore scene in Boston in the early 80's, when I was mostly listening to my Beatles records. I would have liked to have seen Jerry's Kids! I just couldn't relate to anyone in our generation because nobody then was interested in where heavy music really came from. It seemed like Dave was the only person my age around NY that got the seventies heaviness. We definitely cleared a few rooms in those early shows!
The funny thing is, the song that we were sure was the most alienating, the biggest room-clearer, 'Behind The Brown Door', has ended up being one of the most-requested! It seemed Sabbath was actually kind of uncool at the time. The seventies sound was DEFINITELY uncool and NOBODY was doing it. It seemed really novel to try and combine the Sabbath, Mountain, Grand Funk and Blue Cheer sounds into something horrific. It was not appreciated at the time.
When grunge started breaking I kind of thought the world might be getting closer to where we might have an audience but I was wrong. I remember when the first Pearl Jam album came out they billed it as a cross between ZZ Top and Black Sabbath or something like that. Then I heard it and was just scratching my head - I guess you could say we were between born too early and born too late! The only band I really thought was on a similar wavelength to us from our generation were Electric Wizard. I remember we got a letter from Jus in like 1991 because we had this feature in Ultimatum Magazine and we were trying to lie and tell people we were in our forties. I dummied up ads and had us playing with Sabbath and Sir Lord Baltimore!
Hahahaha....that's really funny! Have you played in any other band before BLOOD FARMERS?
No. This was the first band I ever played in. I played in a few bands after we broke up in 1996. The first was obviously M-Squad with Mike and Matt. I also sang in a bar band with Vinnie Martell of the Vanilla Fudge, played bass with Randy Holden for many years, and occasionally play in a version of the Vagrants with the original singer, Peter Sabatino, who is the nicest person I have met in the entire rock world, and I've met a lot of rock musicians over the years.
BLOOD FARMERS are well-known for their exploitation/horror-based lyrics and cover artworks. Who came up with the idea of that?
That was Dave's concept originally. He's kind of a horror and sleaze cinema scholar. I helped flesh out the concept a bit, so to speak. Having Tad in the band increases this as well because he's really knowledgeable about this stuff too. He put together all the video footage we used at Roadburn.
Nowadays, your self-titled debut album has been elevated to legendary status among doom metal fans. Please, tell us something about your relation to Hellhound Records. How did you get in contact with Mike and Tom? What do you think about the album today?
Some time around 1991 Dave decided to write a Saint Vitus newsletter. (I copied the idea and did a Cactus newsletter!) There were probably like 20 people who got it - possibly all the Vitus fans in the country at the time! I guess Dave sent it to Hellhound and he got in touch with Chandler. He stayed in touch with Mike and Tom and we sent them 'Permanent Brain Damage' in 1991 which they turned down. A few years later we did the second demo, 'Bury The Living, Harvest the Dead' and they signed us.
I only met Michael once in NY, I remember him telling us that Scott Reagers was re-joining Vitus. We were so happy, and he couldn't believe that we actually preferred him to Wino. He said we were the only people who felt that way. They were fine to deal with. I was really happy to have them release the CD. Of course they went bankrupt before we ever had a chance to complain about not getting our royalties like everyone else! It really makes me feel great to know that people still care about what we made. I spent a lot of time re-mastering the CD in 2007 and hopefully corrected the sound problems on the original as much as possible. I'm very proud that we were able to pull it off the first time, because making that record was an extremely arduous process.
I'm even more proud that I was able to go back in and re-master it for Leafhound. Whatever legendary status we have is completely created by fans, which is probably the thing that makes me happiest about the band. The fact that we were beyond obscure ten years ago, and now we're sort of getting a little recognition, entirely on the strength of the music, and entirely by word of mouth. I guess we also have the internet to thank for this
I remember very well that you received good reviews from popular German metal magazines at that time and there was also an interview in Rock Hard. How was the response in the USA?
We got a few (like two or three) reviews if that in America. We only had 60 copies of the CD in the first place, no distribution, and really no interest in doom metal at the time. I never read any bad reviews of it though, so I guess that's good. Mostly no response though.
Speaking of record labels, your debut album has been re-released by Leaf Hound Records in 2007. Not to forget about 'Permanent Brain Damage'. But it seems as if you don't have much luck with record labels, because in the meantime Leaf Hound mysteriously disappeared from the picture. Do you know what happened to label owner Toreno and how was the collaboration with him?
Toreno was so great, so nice, so cool, I'm so sad that he wasn't able to keep the label going and really wish I were still in contact with him. I just hope he's OK and happy wherever he is. I think it was his belief in us that got the word out about the band to the next generation, and gave us the confidence to try and come back and play more, because the band really has unfinished business.
As far as I remember, you've played two shows with Saint Vitus and Internal Void in the early 1990's. Have you ever been on a longer tour in the USA?
No. Two shows in a week in was the closest thing we ever got to touring. I think the original band only played like 35 shows in seven years. There was no one to play for.
The band broke up in 1996, after Dave Depraved left New York. When did you realize that you want to re-animate the band?
I never wanted to break up and was always hoping Dave would want to do it again. I've sort of had this long-running master plan to re-animate the band that somehow worked. The first step towards that was fixing the 'Permanent Brain Damage' vocals, then re-mixing it, re-mastering it, re-releasing it. It was really cool that it seemed to find a new audience in the next generations and that people really seemed to care about us. I'm not sure why Dave finally decided to do it again.
I guess it was really John Brenner asking us to do the Doom or Be Doomed show in 2007. Just having someone else other than me wanting us to do it. It was amazing doing that show and meeting all these people that told us they flew in from all over the country to see us. I was totally blown away to find out we actually have fans and always am whenever I meet someone who is really into the music. Then I re-mastered the Hellhound album for a few months in 2007 and it finally got re-issued in 2008 in time for the Japan tour.
Is it true that BLOOD FARMERS start working on a new album? If so, how is it? Please give me an update on the process.
We've done a bunch of recording, sort of working our way through deciding what we want to use. Hopefully we'll have it finished this summer... The hardest part about writing new songs is really staying on top of Dave's creativity. It's amazing, but if you give him a guitar and an amp, he can just throw out riff after riff and not remember any of them. I'm constantly listening to rehearsals and spotting killer riffs that he played once and moved on. I don't know anyone else that still has that kind of ability. If we were able to do this all day long we'd have enough for a few albums in a week.
Thanks a lot for your time, Eli! Hope to see you again in Germany. Any last words?
Thanks to you Klaus! Maybe we'll get lucky again and come back to Europe when the album is finished. Also please check out my other project - a DVD of killer unseen TV footage from 1970- featuring Alice Cooper, Bob Seger System, Humble Pie and others. The website is barryrichardsshows.com... It will be out really shortly. I want to start a re-issue label for my favorite early heavy heroes!
That are very good news! Good luck!