Introducing the Cali Death Blog

Welcome to the Cali Death blog! This blog is associated with the Cali Death Podcast, hosted by Anthony Trapani, Joel Horner, KC Howard, and myself, Josef Kay.

As a musician-writer, I’ve wanted to embark on a writing project that builds upon the content that we create with the Cali Death podcast. Ultimately, I’m interested in a book project that documents the history of the California Death Metal scene. This blog serves as a space to share some writing as I work towards the book project.

Let me begin by introducing myself and describing some of the background behind Cali Death. I am an academic by training, and I currently work as a university lecturer. I am also a musician that plays drums in several bands. Right now I am behind the kit playing for Transcend the Realm (OC Progressive Tech Death), To Violently Vomit (Disgorge continuation project with Diego Sanchez), and Dreamer (LA Extreme Prog Metal). Finally, I am a music teacher, giving guitar and drum lessons to local students.

The Cali Death Podcast is originally a collaboration between myself and my friend KC Howard. Back in the day, KC used to be my drum & guitar teacher; later on, I taught as part of his music school, Visions Music Academy. With the Cali Death Podcast, we wanted to start an ongoing discussion within the California Death Metal music scene that would allow us to talk to some of our musical peers and icons and document the scene’s stories and history. As we launched the podcast, we were joined by KC’s musical collaborators Anthony Trapani and Joel Horner, who became co-hosts and drew upon their extensive social networks to help bring guests to the show. KC handles most of the logistical and technical aspects of podcasting, while I’ve been creating the show flyers and sourcing fan questions.

When we started, we quickly identified four bands that represented the classic “California Death Metal” sound: Deeds of Flesh, Disgorge, Severed Savior, and Decrepit Birth. We were able to bring core members of each of these bands on to talk about their musical careers for our first four episodes, which laid the groundwork for the podcast’s focus and scope.

From the comments and feedback we received from listeners, it became clear that we had hit on something important. The “classic” 2000’s era of California Death Metal has a large fan base who were stoked to hear from these guys, most of whom hadn’t given interviews in many years. Our listeners shared stories of going to concerts, meeting bands and hanging out, and we got to interact with people around the world who had some connection to this scene.

As the podcast continued, with subsequent episodes featuring more musical guests from the CA death metal scene, it struck me over and over again that the musical history we were documenting through verbal account could be chronicled in a variety of additional forms. And as an avid reader and writer, I had the nagging feeling that someone should write a book about all this – a book that tells the history of California Death Metal.

From our very first episode, it struck me that a central figure of this story is Erik Lindmark, co-founder of Deeds of Flesh and Unique Leader Records, who sadly passed away in 2018. I never met Erik, but his influence on the scene was legendary, as he inspired scores of musicians to follow in the footsteps of Deeds and create the most twisted and brutal forms of music possible, while also providing them a platform to record and perform.

From the early albums of the late 1990s, moving into the classic era of the mid-2000s, it is apparent that musicians like Erik Lindmark, Jacoby Kingston, Mike Hamilton, Matt Sotelo, Bill Robinson, Diego Sanchez, Ben Marlin (RIP), Mike Gilbert and Troy Fullerton made major innovations that evolved death metal from the early “old school” sound of Florida and New York into a matured style that featured novel riffing styles, song structures, lyrical themes, and rhythmic forms. At its heart, the Cali Death Project attempts to understand how a scattered group of musicians managed to come together and create a distinctive musical art, weaving together the personal narratives and creative connections that right now exist in scattered form.

So, that’s the idea behind the book project. There are a few books out there about death metal’s history, including Albert Mudrian’s Choosing Death and Daniel Ekeroth’s Swedish Death Metal; I intend the Cali Death book to be similar in kind, though as far as I know, no existing book details CDM in any detail.

This blog exists not just to support the book project, but also as a space for writing related to the Cali Death Podcast and the other projects that we hosts are working on. Stay tuned!

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