How and when did Order of the Dead form?
The band officially formed in May of 2008. I got a phone call one night while I was watching hockey playoffs. The guy was very persistent that I come down and try out for vocals for his band. I had no idea who he was, or how he got a hold of me. My old band had broken up a few months earlier, and they knew I wasn’t jamming with anyone. I finally went down there a few days later, and I was digging what they had going on, so I started jamming with them. When I joined, there was no band name or set goal. Once we got a few tunes ironed out and I started seeing the potential, I made a list of ten band names that I knew weren’t being used. One of the names on the list was Order Of Death but Dino, the drummer at the time, didn’t like the word ‘Death,’ so we compromised at Order Of The Dead.
The band went through a major transformation in summer of 2009. That’s when Jody Roberts joined us on guitar. He made an immediate impact. He originally was going to try out on drums, since he’s a pretty good drummer as well as a guitarist, but I knew he was a killer guitarist, since he used to play for local grind legends Kalibas. So anyway, long story short, Jody ended up on guitar and right away wrote a couple of really good tunes that had a great structure to them. It was a new beginning for us. The rest of the lineup came as follows: John Malone (bass) joined May of 2011; Mike Adams (drums) joined March 2013; and Sam Cuevas (guitar) recently joined in February 2016. Chad Chudyke (guitar), who is on our last EP and in the video for Sucking The Marrow, quit last summer, due to no longer being able to fully commit to the band. We’ve had many lineup changes over the years, and I’m the only remaining original member. Holding a band together is a really tough thing. Those that are in one know what I’m talking about.
How would you describe your music? Has that changed at all since you’ve started?
I don’t think we fall into one category. We have elements of death, thrash, traditional, and a bit of tech. We even have some newer stuff that has some blackened riffs. We’re not exactly all over the place but we’re not just sticking to one genre, either. We wear our influences on our sleeves. Our music has evolved quite a bit since the beginning. Originally, our stuff was a lot simpler and lacked a traditional structure. Since then, we’ve written stuff that is subtly complex with an actual structure to it—verse, bridge, chorus—and the lead work has gotten much better. When Jody first joined, he didn’t do leads at all, but he wrote a couple tunes with leads and has gotten so much better since. Sam can do some pretty sweet shredding too. We also like to implement some harmony here and there, and have a slight catchiness to it, so everything isn’t all brutal all the time. Nothing wrong with brutal, but we like for our stuff to seep in a bit . . .
Do you play out a lot? Tell us about a few shows you’ve done.
We’ve played many shows over the years, locally and out of town. We’ve gotten lucky and played with many great touring bands such as Goatwhore, Dying Fetus, Incantation, Deicide, Nile, Fear Factory, Immolation, Onslaught, Revocation, Hate Eternal, Shadows Fall, Soulfly, and Riot. I’m sure there’s some I’m forgetting, too. We love doing 2-3 day mini-tours. Anywhere within a day’s drive is fair game to us. Pittsburgh, Detroit, and Cleveland are places we’ve played several times, and other small towns in PA and OH. Buffalo is only an hour away, so we’ve played there a bunch. Haven’t played NYC yet, maybe someday, if the right gig pops up. We’re not going to be playing locally so much for a while. We’ve played here a ton and don’t want people to get tired of us, so we’ll concentrate more on the road. We would love to do a full US and beyond tour, but it’s really tough these days. Plus, I own a painting business and Mike works for a large payroll company. It’s just not feasible for us to take off for a month or more right now.
Who does the songwriting? How does that work?
Jody does the bulk of the songwriting. He’s come up with whole tunes and riff ideas that eventually become songs. Sometimes our writing process can be slow and agonizing, though. Jody will have a song that John and Mike will dismantle and rearrange. That can be a real snooze-fest for me, haha, but that’s what it takes sometimes. Lately we’ve been churning them out a lot quicker, despite the fact that we’ve also been teaching Sam some of the old stuff at the same time. We all contribute, though. John has come up with parts and helps arrange; Mike writes most of his drum parts and arranges; I write 90% of the lyrics and song titles/ideas; and, even though Sam is new, he’s already contributed some stuff. Most of the time, I wait ‘til a song is done to start writing the lyrics. I like to have an idea of what the song is going to be about first. I’ll try and get a melody going, or at least have an idea as to the singing pattern. The beauty of brutal music for me is that no one really knows what the hell I’m saying half the time anyway, so I can just mutter whatever ‘til I’ve gotten it right. Many times, I’ll change words and phrases as I’m working through the process. I’m always jotting stuff down: words, sentences, song titles, etc. Sometimes, I get lucky and have words written that fit right into a song without much fussing.
What are your influences and favorite albums and why?
We all have varied tastes in music and I think that’s what makes this thing work so well. I’m from the old school: classic rock and early heavy metal mostly, and 80’s thrash and early death metal. Of course, I listen to new stuff and try to keep up with what’s going on, but I always find myself going back to the old stuff: Judas Priest, Scorpions, Uriah Heep, anything Michael Schenker. I have a real hard time picking a favorite album, but I will say Judas Priest Screaming For Vengeance. Rob Halford is one of my all-time faves. Even though I don’t sound a damn thing like him, he influenced me to just scream my balls off for vengeance! Jody and I probably have the most similar tastes. He’s into classic rock, thrash, early death metal and oldies. His faves are Paw-Dragline and Quicksand-Slip, because “that shit is genius.” Mike has a wide range of influences and likes everything from Deftones, Suffocation, early Morbid Angel to jazz. His favorite is Deftones self-titled. John . . . John hates everything, hates what we listen to, hates what we play, because “it’s not fast enough” and is just a grumpy grizzly bear, ha! (Actually, he does like Ozzy-era Black Sabbath. One time he even said WASP wasn’t bad.) Sam likes his metal black and evil, blacker than a thousand midnights. Sam’s favorite is Abigor Factual Possession.
You recently released a demo. Talk about the recording process a bit.
We recorded A Black Curse Comes with Micah Etzel at his Arrythmia Studios (now called The Live Room). He engineered, co-produced, mixed, and mastered. The decision was easy for us. He was literally right across the hall from our old practice spot, so moving equipment was a breeze! We basically did it in chunks, drums-scratch guitar first, guitars, bass, leads, then vocals. We set it up that way because we couldn’t all be there at the same time, and it worked out fine. I really don’t like the studio much myself. I move around a lot, and move the mic around for different sounds and inflections. In the studio, I have to stand still for the most part. I’ve also recorded live and didn’t like that so much because it’s really hard to stay consistent when you’re under pressure. I tend to think too far ahead and flub the present. So, I’ve learned to try and get the same sounds while just standing there, but it’s tough. In the future, I would love for us to do some analog stuff for a vinyl release. I’m not a big fan of digital but it’s much easier and is what everyone is doing, so . . .
What is coming up next for you guys?
We just recently recorded two songs again with Micah for a couple compilations. The first song, Pit Of Snakes, is already out. The comp is called Scenes Of Brutality Vol 2, put out by the guys in Post Mortal Possession from Pittsburgh. Check it out, there’s some killer bands on there! The second tune, Into Nothing, will be on a local clothing company comp, American Villain Life Vol 2. That comes out in June. We hope to record the rest of the new tunes we’re writing, and have them out by year’s end. And, we have a bunch of US east coast shows we’re lining up for late summer/fall, so we’re staying pretty busy.
When did you first start playing and why?
The first instrument I played was the trumpet at the age of nine, haha! I really liked it and was starting to be able to read sheet music and actually play. But, being a kid, my short attention span got the best of me, and I gave it up after a year. Then I took up guitar at age 11. I’d had enough of rocking out with a tennis racket and wanted to rock for real. They actually had guitar class at my school and the very first whole tune I learned how to play was Neil Young’s Heart Of Gold. I went on to learn Kiss, Priest, Scorps (this was the late 70’s early 80’s, mind you) and whatever else at the time. But, like with the trumpet, I lacked the discipline to practice regularly, and got kicked out of my first band for being too sloppy. My dreams of being a guitar god were crushed after that. Plus, I watched some of my friends who were only playing for 6 months surpass me, so … I never planned to be a singer. I would belt out vocals and screams whilst hanging with friends or drunk at a party. Eventually, I got asked to try out for a band and here I am. I honestly don’t like being the front man, but I’ve learned to accept it. Definitely not doing it for attention. I’d rather be churning out riffs, banging my head. Being a singer/vocalist in this type of music is very demanding physically. At my age, I have to be careful not to run out of gas out or catch a cold. Mike started playing drums very early, growing up with his father being a sound engineer. Jody actually started out on the bass, and is a damn good bassist at that. He also plays drum in a band called Burndwiller, so he’s an all-around great musician.
What do you love most about metal?
First and foremost, I’ve met some really cool people along the way and have lifelong friends because of metal and music in general. I feel very lucky that I was born when I was. I got into music at a very early age, thanks to my father, and I came up from metal’s infancy stage to now being a worldwide way of life! Heavy metal is the greatest form of music in that there is nothing else like it on earth. It is so vast and varied, and has so many different genres, it could make a newbie’s head spin! Metal isn’t just aggression and rage all the time, but that’s the underlying theme. It’s aggressive, and I like that. I’m 49 years old, and my closets and drawers are full of band shirts from Judas Priest to Immolation and everything in between. I feel weird when I have to wear a nice button-down shirt and slacks. I’m far more comfortable in a black concert shirt and jeans. Hails to metal!!!
I had just got done performing and I said, “I almost fell over a couple times,” and my friend Erik Burke said, “Ahh, metal will do that to you sometimes.”
(c) Morgan Sylvia