Speaking to Terrorizer frontman Anthony "Wolf" Rezhawk just before comeback LP Hordes of Zombies dropped, there was a lot that needed thrashing out. Firstly, there was the prospect of the Californian grind crew getting back together again after founding member Jesse Pintado's death in 2006. Also, drummer Pete "Commando" Sandoval's well-publicized back trouble, which has kept him off the Morbid Angel drum stool in recent years, was sure to be a problem. Hiring Rezhawk's Resistant Culture bandmate, Katina Culture, on guitar, Terrorizer reformed in 2009. This is the unabridged story of how they pieced the band back together, and why they used the undead for a muse.
Putting Terrorizer back together must have taken a long time, and a lot of consideration, how did it come about? “Yeah, after Jesse passed away it was really a time to just mourn his death and put aside any ideas for the future. To be honest, I wasn’t sure what was gonna happen, but in 2008, at the end of 2008, I got a phonecall from Pete and he asked me if I was interested in doing a demo and it was at that time that we had the conversation whether we should do this and continue with the legacy, or not. He said that he still had that fire burning in him. He said, ‘Hey, I’m the last original member here and I feel that I want to continue’. Also, he felt that Jesse would have wanted it to be that way, so after talking about this for a little while we agreed to get together and record a five-song demo, which ended up being a full album. That’s pretty much how it happened. It was one of those things where you just jump into it and see what’s going to come out of it.”
At first, I guess it would have been more important how it felt rather than how it sounded? “That was one of the reasons why we got Katina; she had already played with Jesse in my other band, Resistant Culture. They had spent countless hours playing together, and he really enjoyed playing with her so it was a natural thing, it just felt like that would be a good way to continue because there were some connections there, some family-type connections as far as the music was concerned. Personally I wasn’t that worried that the music wasn’t going to be all there it was more of the spirit, getting to that point to see how it was going to feel, but gladly it just all worked out super-smooth, y’know.” Were you always set on getting Katina or were there other guitarists considered? “I would have to go back to the part where Pete asked me if I was up for doing this. Pete also asked me who could we get to play the guitar, and at that point I said I could ask Kat, because for one we’ve been playing together for more than a decade so it would be natural as far as writing, rather than getting to know someone. I told him that I would write five songs and I would send them to him. He was going to be here in January 2009 for a NAMM show so we figured by having five songs ready for when he got here for a drum clinic he was doing, we could take that opportunity to record the five-song demo. When Kat and I got together, on a Friday night, y’know, we started writing material and it just came so easy that we wrote the whole thing in a weekend. By Sunday night we were pretty much done with 13 songs. When I sent these songs to Pete he really liked the material and was like, ‘Let’s do it!’ Even at that point we still thought it would be five songs but, of course, he was practicing all the songs. I told him to go ahead and practice everything ‘cos you never know how it’s gonna go. He was going to spend two days here and we had to record as many songs as possible in two days. That time came, he came to the NAMM show and we took the opportunity when he was done with the show to track drums in two days, which at that time, everything was natural and smooth: everything just worked out. We tracked all the drums for about 13 songs plus we had a ton of riffs that we still have on the side. That’s how it went; it was pretty smooth.”
Getting more than you needed out of the writing process must have been all the confirmation you needed that you could carry on as Terrorizer. “For me it was more of a spirit thing: is that fire still there? Is it still really burning? But when we came up with the stuff and Pete really liked it, and so did we, we felt like we had something. At that point it was like, let’s just keep going. There was another factor there that determined everything: Pete was about to get back surgery about that time, so we decided to track as much as possible because he wasn’t going to be available for a while. We never really anticipated this recording to take so long to be released. But sometimes that’s what happens.”
So this material has been sitting around since the beginning of 2009? “Since 2009, man. We tracked all the drums in January 2009, when Pete was here for the NAMM show, before he had the surgery. Yeah, we kept it under wraps for a long time. When we made the demo we only sent one demo out, and we sent it to Leif Jensen at Clandestine Music; we asked him if he could help us out finding a home for it, and he liked it and said he’d do what he can. He hooked us up with Season of Mist.”
Is that not really frustrating, waiting so long to get your songs out? “Yeah it kinda is and it isn’t. I am already used to it; I think all of us are, including Pete, because he had to change the way he is used to doing things. For me, it was more like I understand the process and sometimes the process involves a lot of different elements and sometimes it’s way beyond your control, I mean, that’s the way it is. That’s the way it’s always been, no matter what I do. I gotta be patient, just work, put in work and do whatever you gotta do but don’t kill yourself trying to get something that’s really not there, that’s not ready. I knew that we had something that we knew we wanted to put out, that we were very proud about but it just seemed that the time wasn’t right. We just waited. But we’re happy now that it’s finally going to see the daylight as they say.”
How is Pete? “Pete’s doing really well, actually. We just spent three weeks, right before the holidays, he came over and we spent three weeks doing a photoshoot, we rehearsed, we recorded a video that we would like to release on the day of the Hordes of Zombies release. We played a few times and he says he’s ready to go: I mean, I saw him in action! He’s really happy about this, and he’d like to see this take off and do something.”
So, conceptually, this is all about zombies. But I take it you’re using the undead as a metaphor for social comment, right? “I’m glad that you get that: that’s really the message we wanted to put out there. We didn’t want to be spooky or gory or anything like that, it’s just that we believe that life today is a bit scary. It’s very unpredictable. So many things are changing. Humanity is on the verge of a rude awakening because, for us, where we live, in all the big cities we don’t have clean water, we don’t have healthy food. There are a ton of chemicals in these elements that we need to survive. And people just keep ignoring this reality, and Hordes of Zombies is our view of modern society. And this will affect all walks of life. Everybody’s on the same boat, including ourselves—we’re all part of it. We wanted to emphasize these facts; the fact that things are getting out of hand and we’re still not doing anything about changing the way we live. We’ll get to the point where our skin is going to be decaying and we’re still going to be alive because we’re all trying to live forever, but we might not be able to be healthy. There are so many different things within this album that embrace that whole concept; apathy and ignorance are a big part of the concept.”
It’s like a disease. “At this point, it’s a mental, sometimes spiritual but a mental illness and we are all victims of it. We are all perpetrators or however you want to see it. But we’re all part of it because we live in this modern society that depletes the Earth of all of its elements. All these different things that are inside the Earth are needed for us to exist; the Earth provides food for us: it provides shelter; it provides life, but if we deplete the Earth, deplete everything, deplete minerals, and chop down all the trees…. The Earth is not going to go anywhere but we are. We’re contaminating everything. We’re contaminating the water. We’re contaminating the food, mostly through farming, with regards to meats and so forth; they are all contaminated now and need to be treated with radiation and stuff before they can be consumed. All of those things—even if we’re conscious of it—there’s nothing we can do about it because we are within that web, within that way of life. I mean, we try to do everything we can; we have a garden, we try eat as healthily as we can, try to eat organic as much as possible, but all that is expensive. Only some people get to do that, and it goes on and on and on…
The zombie is truly a beast of our times—little wonder they’re everywhere in pop culture. This whole zombie concept is pretty big right now but when we wrote this whole concept it wasn’t like how it is today. Like, I went to a store the other day and they’re selling anti-zombie kits! And I’m like, ‘OK, it’s become like a marketing phenomenon, because it’s an anti-zombie kit but really it’s a kit to keep people out of your house, possibly because people are expecting things to actually happen. Like people are storing water, fuel, food, whatever, and they need to protect themselves, claiming that the zombies are gonna come after your food because the zombie would be that guy who didn’t get ready, the guy who did not prepare, so if something does happen, the zombie is going to come after all your goods. It’s pretty crazy, like I say, just how it is becoming so popular and it’s being used in so many different ways but at the end of the day it means the same thing. That whole science fiction movie that people knew about takes a real twist in our reality. I am not sure if we’ll live long enough to see this but it doesn’t hurt me to prepare, be ready, stock up some food, whatever, have it somewhere hidden where the zombies don’t know! Ha ha!”
The zombie has always been a convenient political stooge in the movies. “If you look at it, a lot of these zombie movies have got something to do with some experiment that the governments were doing but just happened to misplace some of the chemicals and somebody ends up ingesting them, and then it goes on and on. It always has some kind of political perspective, and the fact that no one else knows about it except for there, in that particular place. The difference is, though, that civilization has got to the point where it’s on the verge of a major change, who knows whether it’ll be one where we will all be holding hands and singing a song together, or the other way round. Who knows? That’s the unknown, right there.
Do you see much evidence for a positive change? Civilization is depleting all these resources it’s gonna cost, eventually, a major change… Like the fuel we use, all these things we use that are polluting the air, polluting us! It’s polluting the Earth and the environment but that can be reborn, that can return. If you chop down all the trees they will come back eventually, even if it takes 200, 300 years. But humans: if we destroy our environment we are not going to be able to exist.
What will happen then? It might be like Total Recall, life on Mars. Most likely, who knows, maybe we’ll go through some kind of metamorphoses and we can survive the pollution that we are creating today, which, by the way, I think will be the future generations that will suffer the consequences, not so much us. We’ve enjoyed this instant gratification—I’d lie if I said this totally sucks, and wished that we never did this/that because there are so many things that are enjoyable in this modern society. That’s what makes us guilty, too. It’s kinda hard, though, it’s not like you can be like, ‘Oh, I’m going to live up there on a mountain and try not to participate with this madness.’ There have been people who have done it but there have been people who have gone crazy too.”
Yeah, we’re all to blame to varying degrees. “A lot of people are making money from the resources but it’s partly our fault because we’re not educated on these facts. It’s easy for us to do something if someone says it’s good for us, like, ‘You can go faster in this car!’ Or, ‘We can time travel!’ Whatever: we believe everything we read, if it’s on TV or whatever, the web, the radio—it must be true. A lot of the marketing campaigns that support these philosophies are very strong so it’s pretty hard to blame people, because it’s so easy to believe, and like you said, we are a social animal; we wanna be accepted, included, and it’s easy when you have these images that lure you towards a certain behavior that’s accepted, and even if you know inside that it’s really not that good, really not that healthy, you may still even want to be a part of it because you want to be included. Those are some of the issues that come with the fact that we are very uneducated on issues of nature, survival really. It’s a very complex reality, a very complex world.”
The thing about city living is that we become pretty much divorced from the land, which is hilarious in City Slickers but kind of scary too. “If you look back at time, most people lived closer to the land. You woke up when the sun came up and you went to sleep when the sun went down, and we didn’t have the electricity, the tools of instant gratification. But at that time we had a healthier life in some aspects. Of course there is no such thing as anything being perfect, 100 per cent, but there are some things that can be better than others. We separated ourselves from nature; we were very close to the sun, believed it to be a very powerful energy source: when we separated from that belief it’s like at that point everything started to change, how to make everything easier for us as humans. We created the disease right there.”
Do you think that’s the root of it all, an easy life? “When you look at the whole picture, part of the problem, is not that we wanted everything to be easier but at the same time we got to the point where we wanted more for the same time, for the same labor. And that’s where the chemicals and these other things come in. We’re getting into a whole new set of rules of existence, and we accept them as humans, like, ‘Wow! These tomatoes are really large; they must be good!’ Or, ‘This cow’s got two heads!’
It’s not much easier if your tap water is not fit to drink. Where I live, you can’t really drink the water from the faucet. There are places where you can still do that but for the most part you gotta go buy the water, ‘cos it’s so polluted. Even if it is just a small area of the city, regardless it is already a bad thing, y’know, because it’s spreading. The beaches are pretty filthy now too. If you remember how things used to be and the quality of life is going downhill. Even though they are finding new ways to keep you alive for a long time, a lot of people are still alive but sick—they can keep you alive for a long time, even if you have terminal cancer. But the fact is you are very ill. We are always looking for cures for all those things because they are really affecting our lives, I mean I have two friends and one is 23 and the other is 25 and they’ve both been diagnosed with cancer about six months ago, both at pretty much the same time. ”
It’s a simple equation: if we poison everything around us, we’re next. “Like I said, if the air is polluted, the water’s polluted, the food’s polluted, and even if it’s like low levels of radiation or whatever, I mean after a while it’s going to be in your system. The future generations will pay the price and we got to see all this awesome stuff, all this awesome, cool technology. And by the way I am not anti-technology, not at all, I just think that it could be used in a better way. It’s the same thing with fuels; I am sure there are ways to do the same things we are doing but with better energy. Like that’s what it is, it’s what do you want to do to make that money versus what’s in your heart. I think someone said, there is too much money invested in society that it is too hard to let it go for the people who have that ability, who own these corporations. There is so much money invested that it is hard for them to get rid of those machines and get new ones. I’m sure they are very expensive, but that’s what we’re up against, this reality. You never know, though, anything could happen. We might make a U-turn. You gotta stay positive.”