Death Angel’s Mark Osegueda Talks ‘The Evil Divide,’ Early Thrash Scene, Vocal Technique + More
Death Angel frontman Mark Osegueda was the guest on Full Metal Jackie’s weekend radio show. Jackie discussed the band's new album 'The Evil Divide,' the differences between now and the old days when they were just kids and the thrash scene in the '80s. Check out the chat below.
What's happening, man?
The Evil Divide is the third album with the same lineup and same producer. What effect did that familiarity have on the process of making this album?
I think with this one, you know, other ones we had... we were still kind of, you know, how would I say this, just kind of familiarizing ourselves with each other. Especially the first one, Relentless [Retribution], we were definitely, with writing the music. It was the first record that me and Rob [Cavestany, guitar] were writing just as principle songwriters and it was kind of a statement just to let people know that Death Angel wasn't done because we had a new band line up. And people accepted it hook, line and sinker which was great! And we garnered ourselves a lot of new fans from that as well. And then the second one we were much more comfortable and stayed in that kind of direction.
I think with this one it's just we're very, very, very comfortable in the songwriting process and everyone's performance and I think this one's probably the most cohesive of the three. Yeah, and by that I don't mean it's any less vicious. It's just more refined. [laughs]
I think if you work with the same producer for a few records you get that much more comfortable and it helps things move a little quicker in the studio.
Absolutely. I mean we love Jason [Suecof] and we are very comfortable working with him. He's an absolutely nut case but it doesn't - [laughs] It just worked out great, you know, basically the vision we want, he has the ability to make it happen. You know, what we hear in our heads and what we say, 'we want this,' he brings that out of the speaker.
Mark, what dictates the balance between aggression and a sense of melody with Death Angel?
Wow, you know it's hard because I think what does is, we are suckers for melody. We love melody and always have and we're getting better at writing melodic stuff, but we're just at the same time... we can't deny the fact that we are pissed off about the state of the world, you know, at any given time and right now it seems like it's about to burst. You know what I mean, and that's going to always dictate the aggressiveness of our music no matter what and we love aggressive music ‘cause it's one of the greatest releases on the planet to get to play it, to get to watch it, to get to be a part of it. You know, and melody it's just ingrained in us from being little kids and the music we grew up on.
Mark, there's an exuberance that comes from making music when you're a kid. What's different and the same when you're doing it as an adult with a whole catalog of albums under your belt?
I guess the difference would be, wow, the difference would be... mornings [laughs]. No. Again. No. I think just now the song selection, what we choose and making set lists, you know. Whereas, when we were younger we just kind of went for the most aggressive things possible. Now we actually look at what will take the audience through a good ride and give them their moments of aggression, give them breathing space, and you know, make it a good adventure for everyone. Man, what's still the same is just the sheer love for that release. I mean that's just — it's undeniable the love for that release I think is what keeps us all young.
The cover art is a deathly moth and the first track is called "The Moth." What's the significance of moths on this album?
There's a positive aspect to it and there's a negative aspect to it, wholeheartedly. Positive aspect is, there's a poem, I forget by... the poet's name escapes me now, but it's just how a moth's life is so short and how they tend to, in a sense, live life to the fullest and how you should live life to the fullest and sure they're drawn to flames and they'll fly right into the fire with exuberance none the less.
So I mean it's kind of like there's the positive aspect. Your life's too short to be predicted. Go for what you love, even if it kills you, you know. The negative aspect obviously is it's the whole kind of a moth is also like a sheep just following, just another, whether it be social media or whatever is kind of pushed in your face, and being a follower and not a leader basically. And right now it seems like the world is in a state of a bunch of moth-like brained individuals so to speak.
What's the biggest difference in your vocal technique in the studio now compared to recording the Ultra Violence, when you were starting out?
For one, I know what I'm doing now. [laughs]
You were just winging it to begin with?
Pretty much! I've actually really been working on my voice extremely hard in the last six years for sure. I've always been working on it but really in the last six years have really really honed in on it and trying to improve constantly. Unfortunately, what inspired me is online critics [laughs] now that everyone's a critic and due to social media, everyone can write their own editorials and people take their words for gospel sometimes. I'm not immune, I read what people say and for years there were people that hated my voice and rather than cowering and putting my head in a hole, I took it as fuel to the fire.
A lot of those people who hated my voice before actually are converts now. I'm not gonna quit — my goal is to convert everyone. I know that's impossible, but that's my goal. You might as well set your goals high. I've been working on it very hard and I have different techniques and what not and I think my clean singing voice has gotten a lot more powerful. I don't rely just on screaming if I can't do something. Going back to the classic people that inspired me to sing and trying to take little bits from them and adding my own little nuances.
Mark, let's talk about Los Angeles for a second. L.A. was viewed as the antithesis of the thrash scene happening in San Francisco. What did you like about L.A. and its bands that you never would have admitted back then?
There's definitely things I would have admitted for sure. I admit, from the get go, I loved Slayer. That I would admit. What wouldn't I admit? The guitarists from the whole "poof rock" scene, what we'd call it, they were phenomenal, undeniable.
But as a band of your genre at that time you had to automatically hate those bands, right?
Oh of course, George Lynch [Dokken], Warren DeMartini [Ratt] — those guys were, God, Tracii [Guns, L.A. Guns] — insane. Insane guitarists. The stuff they were doing was mind blowing that pretty much every thrash metal lead guitarist from Gary Holt [Exodus, Slayer] to everyone admits, goddamn those guys were ridiculously good and how we just took little nuances of their solos and threw them into thrash solos. They were undeniably phenomenal. They all wrote some really catchy s--t, they really did. [Sings Ratt's "Lack of Communication"] [laughs]
Talk about the camaraderie of that time coming up in the scene. I mean, you guys came up during such an amazing and historic time in the metal scene. Talk about what it was like for all those bands you guys you were around.
It was really spectacular. I was really fortunate to be a part of it, or have been a part of it. There was a camaraderie that was undeniable, but there was also friendly competition, which inspired everyone to get better and to develop their own sound because if you didn't someone would immediately call you out on it. 'Oh, you just don't want to be this!' That scene was so tight knit. It was just spectacular.
Shows up in San Francisco, if any given band wasn't on tour they were in the crowd. It would be very common for us to be playing and see the guys from Exodus, Legacy at the moment which was pre-Testament, Metallica, just in the crowd. Heathen, Sacrilege at the time, Forbidden. Everyone would go to each other's shows as well and watch each other play so every night you had to be on fire. You were being judged every time you played and you had to have your chops up.
But at the same time, it was a spectacular thing to be a part of. One of my greatest memories ever was the first time we were ever playing and I looked over and I saw Cliff Burton headbanging to us. I was 15 years old, god! My life could end now! I'm glad it didn't, but it was just, a dream come true. Even though they were our local heroes, case in point, they were our heroes.
You guys were kids at that time. Did you ever in a million years think that this many years later, you guys would be doing another record and still touring? Or there would be this resurgence of this genre of people just rediscovering it.
Absolutely not, [laughs] but I'm glad! I see my friends I grew up with and I'm like, g--damn, I'm glad I play metal [laughs].
It does keep you young.
If any of my friends I grew up are listening, I don't mean you! [laughs]
Pick up the new album, The Evil Divide, it will be out on May 27. I know you have tour dates coming up, what else is to come for Death Angel for 2016?
We're extremely proud of this record and the goal is just to tour as much as possible and to have this music and the music off this record reach as many people as possible.
Thanks to Mark Osegueda for the interview. Death Angel's 'The Evil Divide' is out now and is available to purchase via Amazon and iTunes. The thrash veterans will be hitting the road supporting Slayer and Anthrax and a list of dates can be found here. Find out where you can hear Full Metal Jackie’s weekend show at this location.
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