Cali Death Podcast kicked off 2021 by welcoming on the champions of modern death metal: Defeated Sanity, who assimilated Cali Death influence into their multifaceted and ultimately unique style. Together with drummer & founder Lille Gruber, bassist Jacob Schmidt, and vocalist Josh Welshman, we covered all kinds of topics, including:
How Odious Mortem used to listen to 2004’s Prelude to the Tragedy on the way to practice;
Wolfgang Teske’s guitar style and how it shines through on 2007’s Psalms of the Moribund;
Recruiting A.J. Magaña for 2010’s Chapters of Repugnance;
How the band’s songwriting changed with 2013’s Passages into Deformity;
Bringing the progressive material from 2016’s Dharmata on the road;
How The Police inspired the vocal patterns on 2020’s The Sanguinary Impetus; and many more!
In this excerpt from Ep. 1, Jacoby Kingston recalls his first band, meeting Erik Lindmark, forming Deeds of Flesh, and recording their 1995 EP, Gradually Melted.
Jacoby Kingston (4:36): All right, I’ll go first.
I was like 14, and we were listening to Bay Area thrash metal, and that’s what we wanted to do: me and my buddies, we wanted to start a band doing thrash metal. So, four of us got together [and] we wrote a few riffs.
None of us knew any music; none of us knew any notes or anything like that. We just, you know: one friend grabbed a guitar, the other friend played some drums, and i grabbed the easiest thing i could find, which was the bass because i was just lazy. And we started writing tunes; we were just kids and we started a garage band…
We played a ton of shows, but they were just, like parties and stuff and it was fun. And we were almost leaning towards death metal, but it was thrashy death metal really; it wasn’t even really death metal, but we had a few blast beats in it…
And then, one day this guy, Greg Gard, he’s like this infamous drummer from where i live, he was always a super death metal guy. He gave me Obituary, Slowly We Rot, and that’s when my mind just kind of turned…
I was like, “Dude, that’s some sick stuff right there – that’s what i want to do right there.” And ever since I heard that album, my musical taste kind of darkened…
And I kind of looked at that first band as kind of a, “Well you know, this is fun, but it’s not really what i want to do.” And then i met Eric, because he was in another band called Charlie Christ.
And they weren’t really death metal either; they were kind of thrashy as well. They were more like Kreator, I would say. And then he and I just started hanging out and listening to stuff…
He would show me Gorguts, and then i showed up with like Suffocation or something. And we would just be like geeking out on these old bands that were just super sick at the time. And we were just sitting around going, “Dude, this is what i want to play.” [Eric] looks at me one day, he’s like, “Well dude, you got a fast drummer – let’s get him over and let’s jam. I’m like, “Yeah totally, let’s do that.”
And so we got… all our stuff together, got in his garage, and wrote Three Minute Crawl Space in one session, which is crazy.
Anthony T: …Sick…
Jacoby K (6:52): And right then we knew: “Okay, we got to do this, we got to quit what we’re doing. We can’t make this a side project, we got to go all in.” And that’s kind of how it happened: one song [in] the first rehearsal. I think we jammed for like four hours straight, and it felt like an hour, you know what i mean?
(8:00): We wrote the four songs [on] Gradually Melted; I think there [were] actually six songs, but we ended up tossing two of them out and just recorded the four songs, because the label that was kind of interested in us, Wild Rags down in East LA, they were telling us, ”No, just four songs, that’s all we want.” And so we went into this place called Ed Sandor’s studio, and recorded the four songs, one take, all the way through. There was no splicing back then. And, it came out on Wild Rags as a cassette tape.
We were doing the whole snail mail thing with Internal Bleeding, Dying Fetus, and all the guys that were around at that time, doing the snail mail thing. And we just started getting our name out through the snail mail channels, and started playing shows down in LA. And it just grew from there.
I remember playing our first show with Disgorge, and i was outside of the Showcase Theater, just sitting out there, smoking a cigarette or something. And i heard this – I heard them come on. I was like, ”Holy crap what is that?” and i just turned around and saw Matty’s whirlwind going. I was like, “Dang dude, those guys are sick!” And I immediately went in and watched their whole set. And at the end I ran right up to Matty. I was like, “Dude here’s our demo tape,” you know, and he’s like ”Oh dude I know who you guys are, you guys are sick!” And it was like instant friendship after that. I’d even go down to San Diego and hang out with them dudes and stuff, it was pretty cool, but..
It’s just weird, it’s almost like a brotherhood, you know, when you get into this. It’s like, death metal dudes are the coolest dudes i know because they get all their aggression out in the music…
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!