A Pale Horse Named Death’s Sal Abruscato: ‘I Am Finally Happy’ With This Band
A Pale Horse Named Death drummer Sal Abruscato was the latest guest on Full Metal Jackie's weekend radio show. The musician was on hand to talk about the band's latest release, When the World Becomes Undone, and he discusses with Jackie the threads that connect his projects, where exactly that album title came from and shares some insight on the band's upcoming touring plans. Check out the chat below.
Great to chat, we're talking about A Pale Horse Named Death and the new record, When the World Becomes Undone. Your career is a lineage from Type O Negative to Life of Agony and now, of course, A Pale Horse Named Death. What's the connecting thread in terms of what appeals to you musically?
I love just the dark side of the coin. I love the dark side of anything. I see the yin and yang, and I love dark tones and melodies combined with beautiful melodies. I guess the common thread is that I existed in all three projects, and I just carried the core roots that I have had since the beginning when I was a teenager based on the influences I had musically. So I haven't changed much. I'm kind of like a neanderthal.
The title can mean society as a whole, the existence of an individual or both. What's reflected from your world in these songs?
This album is a very personal album. Probably the most personal record and at the same time the concept and the title has existed since 2014 and I kept it quiet, kept working on it once in a while, making mental notes. As the world progressed it seemed like the title fit better and better because it doesn't seem like we are at a better position at all right now versus 2014.
At the same time, it doesn't reflect globally, but, it reflected personally. In 2013, our second daughter for me and my wife was born disabled, and she was born blind as well, and that was a dark change for the family to live through and handle and it has kind of changed things for me schedule-wise. That angst and pain that is fueled into this record and I sat on these thoughts for years before I wrote things down and then I could touch on other types of things, manic depression, which is what I am diagnosed, and the betrayal from former colleagues and friends.
I think it touches on a lot of different subjects, and I put it in such a way that is spoken to perception and be perceived openly where people are like, 'Wow, this sounds like my life.' I try not to get too specific. I try to leave it open-ended so people can adapt it to their situation and get some kind of feeling from it, which is what it does for me.
The first two albums established the style and sound of A Pale Horse Named Death. What were you able to do with the new album with that familiarity fully in place?
We changed the same kind of attitude for writing. We are not writing for anyone but it was what I like and what we like. There were also some changes that made the record progress a little bit, but also where we had a member lineup change and a production change, where Matt Brown—who is my partner—we used to make the records together. The first two albums he was an engineer and co-producer. He took a different turn in life, he no longer wanted to be involved when we decided to become active and one nice golden ingredient we brought into the band was a guitarist named Joe William Taylor. He was Lita Ford's guitarist and Doro's guitarist for eight years, and this guy is a phenomenal, well-rounded musician. He brought such a chill attitude into the band, and his solos are just amazing and you put him together with Eddie Heedles who is more of metal guitarist and then there is Joe, who is more of a soulful, kind of Hendrix style guitarist and you got these two contrasts that mix so well. I feel so fortunate to have such great musicians in the band along with Eric Morgan and Johnny Kelly.
The core values of the band have remained the same, and where it comes from is really the same. I think it's a matter of experimenting, and we wanted to delve deeper and not worry about making three-minute songs. We just wanted to do what we did, express more instrumentation with piano and more harmonies and push myself more and touch more taboo subjects that would hit people in the gut and in the heart.
So, the band is just an improved version of what it always was. We will always be that band that retains its sound. We are not hoping to change drastically, throw people a curveball, I think that is always a bad idea. We just like to keep fine tuning ourselves to be better and better at what we do and retain that value. That same value we had from day one.
Most of your career you were a drummer. Now being at the forefront, singing and playing guitar, what changed most about your understanding of song structure?
It changed when it comes to song structure. It works to my advantage of being a professional drummer. It is how I can rhythmically lay down the drums, with the syllables and the syntax. I think I had an upper hand versus most guitars and vocalist in that way. At the same time, it taught me to have the utmost respect, which I always did, but until you do it yourself and you have to do it night after night or the pressure of singing on an album and nailing literally tons of tracks and embellishing, it is an incredible experience.
I am kind of floored at all the responsive reception that we have gotten with these songs that we just put out with the last single "When the World Becomes Undone" online streaming. We have had two others come out, and I didn't know what to expect after so long being deactivated and it just feels like it was a blessing. I waited this long to do this record. In music there is nothing like this at all anymore. I might be going off topic here, but it just seems like everyone is so ready for this sound again and missed it so much even while we were gone for five years—let alone the Type O sound that everybody misses.
We're in an era where heavy music really relies on being played live to be heard. What's the schedule for taking A Pale Horse Named Death on the road to support When the World Becomes Undone?
We fly out March 20 to Europe. We're over there for three weeks and we gotta break the ice over there, because the band hasn't been there since 2014 and it's just one of the small legs of the touring we're doing. As far as I know, I come back, there's Canada—there's like four shows in Canada and we're building around that for May in the Northeast and then we're hopefully ... we just cleaned out our closet and hired two new agents, one for this side of the hemisphere and one for the rest of the world, and we are focusing on some festivals in Europe in the summer and go to Europe in the fall as well as the southern United States may be the end of June into July. We are going to try to cover the States in multiple chunks two-three weeks at a time, instead of being out for a really, really long time at once.
So we are hoping to do at least six months of work out of the year, this year, if you were to add it all up. We are definitely psyched. We have been doing some warm-up shows. We have done a couple of shows over the summer and fall just to kind of shake everything up, and we have been having such a blast and in fact, I leave this afternoon for rehearsal to see the guys and we just have so much fun.
I am finally happy, to be honest with you. I am in a great band that makes me laugh and we are so chill and musically exceptional. The musicianship is exceptional in this band and it is something I have always prided myself on. So, to go out on tour is an honor to be with my friends and my bros and be able to still do this to this day. Even on any level because the business has changed so much.
Thanks to Sal Abruscato for the interview. Grab your copy of 'When the World Becomes Undone' here and follow A Pale Horse Named Death on Facebook. Find out where you can hear Full Metal Jackie’s weekend show here.
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