HHH: Could you recap the history all of you have together for our readers at home (i.e. the formation of previous band adomasochism, how that fell apart, and how Flesh for the Beast formed in the aftermath) in as much detail as possible?
John Rios: Me and Jason Kandea (drummer) met through a hard rock cover band---KISS, Judas Priest, Motley Crue, etc. We never actually even played any shows together. He was showing off one day on the drums, and the second I saw how well he could play, I knew right then and there I had found somebody who liked my kind of music, and from then we went straight into death metal.
His brother Ray joined on bass, and as for the guitarists, Ed Ryan of Summon joined and Salmer used to jam with Kandea so he was brought in as well. Jason came up with the name Sadomasochism, just out of the blue.
As for the end, we had kind of gotten frustrated with each other as the material was so technical that no one was ever pleased with the new material. I've always wanted to have good, headbanging songs rather than the world's most technical ya know? Eventually, no one could find anything to top the old material and still sound interesting, so I pulled the plug. We also had some problems with a few of the members partying too hard, so that didn't help either. We were eventually hacking apart songs on stage, with all the drinking and such catching up to us and the songs we had played for years sounding like s***.
Slowly but surely, I started to distance myself from practices and stuff like that. After a while, (bassist) Ray got kicked out, and people were really wearing on the last nerve. At about this time, me and an old friend (Steve, now a guitarist in F4TB) started jamming a lot. I woke up one day and just realized I wanted to start with a new band. We got together, and formed the act. We actually wrote most of "Devouring," before anyone else joined.
Sadomasochism briefly tried to get back together without me, but it never panned out and as me and the guys were still friends, we decided to try it one more time just for the hell of it. At first we were out in the cold with it, but once everyone realized that it was a new entity, we came up with the name (from an old horror B-movie) and never looked back twice.
HHH: Musically, you guys sound to me like a cross between Suffocation, Cannibal Corpse, Death and the like. What kind of bands do you listen to and how have they altered your current sound?
John Rios: Salmer is really big into Ozzy, Slayer and Morbid Angel. Actually, we all like Cannibal Corpse and Morbid Angel. Steve likes all the Devin Townshend stuff, and both of us guys dig old-school rock like WASP, KISS, etc. I love all the 1980's hard rock actually. I've also been a big Mercyful Fate/King Diamond fan since I was a kid.
HHH: A lot of death metal bands use tons of blastbeats nowadays... how difficult is it writing in the old-school Floridian death metal style, where the majority of drumming is fills? Is this a conscious effort, or something that just happens when you write? How do you feel about bands whose percussion relies too much on blastbeating and wall-of-sound percussion?
John Rios: Jason writes his death metal naturally in this style, he just likes lots of variety, and breakdowns, and blastbeats. He makes it a point to avoid the whole trackrace blastbeating bulls***. He hates 1980's stuff, but he is from that era and he likes laying down some rock grooves every now and then. We don't try to groove or blast or trudge really slow but we DO make what sounds natural and it's basically just what comes out of us.
HHH: For those of you reading at home, West Michigan is a very Christian conservative area, with traditional values and very strict upbringings for all. How does this affect a band who plays death metal, especially brutal death metal with tons of sex, gore, and anti Judeo-Christian blasphemy?
John Rios: I think when we were just starting off, no one around here was into death metal as a genre, let alone lyrically. The bands around here at the time weren't really in our style, and as such, no one really know what to do with us. As for people here, we don't really try to shock anyone and for the most part they leave us alone. The craziest thing I've done is rip a bible somebody threw onstage to shreds. Despite that, the more we play here the more success we seem to have. I'm definitely anti-Jesus though (haha).
HHH: How hard is it for a straight-up death metal band to get a break in today's music landscape?
John Rios: It's obviously hard...I mean we have a decade of playing now! We landed the deal with All or Nothing Records, but their distro wasn't big enough and we didn't get much support as the label simply couldn't afford it. Things are going a lot better recently, in fact, out of the three bands I've played with I'm much happier and content now with things than I ever have been actually.
HHH: Some could call your music exploitive violence, outright heresy, or filthy trash. How do you soldier on and continue to come up with fresh death metal material in spite of these criticisms?
John Rios: I feed off of it. I invite Jehovah's witnesses in and let me see my life and how things are. I look at these people and think they're insane! Despite that, they come every two weeks or so and I'm never rude....we talk for like half an hour every time actually. It's just stuff like that kind of thinking that gets me pissed off, and the way I was raised religion just wasn't discussed seriously in my family. Be it people liking it or hating it, I use that to make more lyrics and find the drive to overcome. I guess I'm just attracted to dark s***! I don't really practice traditional Satanism even, I just think everyone has a little evil to them and I'm not afraid to bring mine to light. These days I think you just can't judge people on clothing or looks or anything, besides actions.
HHH: How do you manage to growl so low, and is there any kind of practices/rituals/methods you use that you could share with aspiring death metal grunters at home?
John Rios: I just straight up growl from my diaphram. I used to be in choir back in highschool for three or four years, and through that I just kind of doing what comes naturally. As far as clean singing, I don't practice it anymore and I'd probably just hit nothing but sour notes (haha). As for putting clean vocals in death metal, I'm pretty against it and I just like the oldschool growls. I don't like that singing s*** at all (haha)!
HHH: Like most unsigned bands, you tend to tour a lot. Who would be your ideal lineup to tour with, if you could have your wish fulfilled? You get four slots!
John Rios: D.S.I., Krisiun, Six Feet Under, and Morbid Angel. I'd say KISS but we're simply not worthy...we could never play with them. All the guys love those bands though so that would just be a natural fit.
HHH: Your live shows have garnered pretty rave reviews. Could you tell some of our out-of-state readers what goes on at your concerts and what people coming to them should expect?
John Rios: It's death! We have lights, fog, shrunken heads....we try to put on a show, that comes from KISS and all the other 1980's stuff. I'm into stuff that looks professional, and I like bands that look like bands, ya know? We just try to impress, be it the stage stuff or me climbing rafters or ripping bibles. We just do what we can on a budget, as we feel it is important to give the fans a good experience.
HHH: Despite the fact your band has remained unsigned since its inception, you have gained quite a lot of awards as both Sadomasochism and Flesh for the Beast. Could you describe the events you've participated in, what awards/accolades you've won, and how it felt to earn them?
John Rios: The first thing we won was the 94.5 WKLQ battle of the bands contest, which gave us a measly $300. We also won some 8-track recorders, which we actually sold to buy T-shirts!!! The dude we sold it to actually used it to make a really kickass solo album, so it was probably a bad idea. After that, we've basically just been in locals papers and s*** and that's it. We've also re-entered the WLKQ contest three times, and made the finals every time.
HHH: As a music junkie, I really dig the depth the drums have to them, and the slicing cuts inflicted by the crystal clear guitars. Could you tell us about the equipment your band uses, the instruments, and how you recorded both the Sadomasochism/F4TB albums?
John Rios: We use Line-Six and Marshall cabinets. As far as recording, we work really hard on mic placement and recording in my basement. People seem to think you need an actual studio to record, but you can lay tracks down anywhere man! "Back in Black" is a classic and that was recorded in a f**king beach shack! We try not to be picky and let things go once they're down.
HHH: Having toured a lot, you guys have probably seen some really crazy stuff on the road. Got any horror stories for us?
John Rios: When we played in Ionia, some people down there petitioned the mayor to try to get us banned from playing the show. We ended up playing it anyways, with an awful turnout (haha). It was probably like 15 f**king people! Another time, we played this show and a guy stopped our set to tell us the building next door had caught on fire, and people eventually starting breaking into all the cars on the block. Mine actually ended up unscathed, while everyone else in the band lost their s***!
HHH: As a matter of personal opinion, I feel the Sadomasochism period was full of more technical death metal, whereas the recent Flesh for the Beast album was full of more straightforward, brutal death. Was that something Flesh for the Beast were aiming for, a more basic necksnapper of an album that didn't rely so much on complicated music?
John Rios: That's almost all me... it's like all the tech stuff has to be topped constantly, and as great guitarists or drummers or whatever, we have those things come into our sound anyways. Right now we're just trying to balance our talent with just straightforward rocking out. I think that is going to be just headbanging s***, fast, slow, technical, or basic. That's really what we are aiming for.
HHH: Considering the anti-religious undertones to some of your music, I was wondering how you all feel about religion in general, and how it affects our planet? Do you think it is a good or a bad thing?
John Rios: It's just a big pain in the balls. The world can never, will never, be in peace. How many wars have been fought over heavy-duty belief sets spawned from religion? Look at the Middle East right now! None of the guys are religious, and so my Christ-bashing is pretty much agreed upon (laughs). Either way, it is something we can do without, or at least in my book.
HHH: West Michigan has a particularly booming hardcore scene, having even spawned big acts like Still Remains for example. How does a band like yours fit into such a scene?
John Rios: The whole hardcore thing is kind of out of my generation, though I think it's f**king stupid. It just sucks sometimes seeing bands who are maybe a little more simplistic than us get such good luck. At this level we just take whatever we can get and try to get some recognition.
HHH: Last question! What is Flesh for the Beast planning on doing in the future? Has any work began on a second album, and if so, what can we fans expect from that? Any touring schedules? How about closing thoughts or mission statements you'd like to make? This is your chance to say whatever you like!
John Rios: We have ten songs that we need to rehearse and tighten up for the next album, which we'll hopefully release sometime this year. We've got a good structure going....we write material pretty fast but it is usually just a matter of finding time to record it. I just want to play death metal and keep up some consistency in the music. I intend to do this for a very long time...for the record Flesh for the Beast will have me in it forever, and this is something we're going to do for a long time.
Be sure to check out Mark's review of Flesh of the Beast's Devouring