You can't say brutal death metal without thinking of New York's Suffocation. I've been a fan of the band since forever. There's something about their music that appeals immensely to me, and their most recent effort Suffocation has been on almost non-stop playing for quite some time now. It's been more than 12 years since I've had the opportunity to see the New Yorkers live. That was back when they supported Deicide in Aarhus, Denmark, so when I learned that Suffocation would play in Aalborg, I just had to be present. Two hours before the start of the concert, I had a longer conversation with Frank Mullen. The vocalist was very talkative and seemed eager to discuss the current state of death metal, the selftitled CD among a bunch of other things.

Frank Mullen interviewed by PSL

You've toured quite a bit so far this year. Is it a necessary evil or do you enjoy it?
The touring is it necessary? I think it is. It's not so long since the new album came out, so we're trying to tour as much as we can. We've toured in the States and Australia so far. We're coming over to Europe twice this year. We'll be back in May and in October we'll do a US tour.

Is it different touring today than it was around Effigy of the Forgotten?
I think the only difference now is that you're so used to it. When you're young, you have no idea what to expect. I think now you have an idea of what to expect and learned from what you did wrong back then and try not to do it this time. It becomes a little easier.

Do you think death metal is getting more recognition these days?
Oh yeah, definitely. I mean back when we first started, it was very underground with tape trading and things like that, and nowadays it's internet and MTV's Headbanger's Ball and things like that. There are a lot of bands out there that grew up listening to death metal and now they are finally taking those bands out on the road with them. Like Slipknot, Sworn Enemy, Hatebreed and bands like that or whatever. They grew up listening to death metal and now they can finally bring it out to the audience, so yeah it's getting a lot more recognition than it ever did.

Okay, I noticed that bands like Nile and Behemoth have been added to the Ozzfest. Do you think it's possible to find Suffocation on that bill someday?
I think so, yeah. At some point definitely, yeah.

Do you find it more interesting to play in front of a crowd who you don't necessary find at a regular Suffocation show?
You know what? I do because what I like about playing in front of a crowd that necessarily won't be at a show is that they get the chance to see something they've never seen before and you have a chance to bring in new fans. We've done some of those tours with Shadows Fall, Poison The Well and bands like that. A lot of their fans don't know anything about death metal. We left that tour with five to 10 fans a night who came up said: 'Hey I've never seen or heard you, but now I have to go buy every album because that was just the most insane thing I've ever seen'. So to me it's cool to play in front of these kids. We're not going to change our style, change who we are, but it give these kids a chance to see something that they might not have had interest of before.

I read somewhere around the time of the release Suffocation that you were very confident about the album. Did it surprise you how positive response has been?
Not necessarily because we felt very good about it. Usually if we feel that strong about something, then the response to it typically is quite good. I would expect it to be pretty positive because we've done this a long time and we pretty much know with the fans how they will look at it. When we did this album and we finished it up and when we all sat back and heard, it we was like: 'it sounds amazing'. The songs were very well put together and tightened up. We spent more time on it then we did on Souls to Deny. Like Souls to Deny were pushed a little bit only because when we got back together the fans were like: 'Where is the new album? Is there going to be a new album?' So we felt a bit of pressure and said: 'Okay we'll do a few shows, get some material together and record and get something out there'. On this album we just spent more time in the studio ourselves.

A thing that is noticeable on Suffocation is that the production is different. Weren't you happy with the result on Souls to Deny?
I like the production on Souls to Deny, and actually it's the same guy who did Souls to Deny who did the new album - Joe Cincotta. We bring him out on the road. He does our sound. This time around he had new equipment. He always tries to put the best into the studio, and like I said we spent more time to actually sit down and work with it. The hardest thing in the studio is being able to put a product in the studio, listen to it and then go home and then come back and then listen to it again and make the necessary changes. If you don't have the timespan to do that like on this album that we had. We had an entire week where we said: 'Okay we recorded it and here's the final mix. Lets go home a week and then come back and listen to it again and see if there's something to pick up on'. On Souls to Deny there was a timeline and a deadline, and it was like: 'Get it finished, get it finished'. A timeline like that is not easy to work with. On this album we had more time and it came out great.

Do you see limitations to how much you can evolve within the musical framework of the band?
You can do whatever you want. That's the best thing about death metal, you can do what you want. You can express what you feel, you can say what you want, you can do what you want and continue doing that when you put albums together and then see where it goes [laughs].

Just like on Pierced From Within you've included a rerecording of a track from Breeding the Spawn. Have you considered rerecording Breeding the Spawn in its entirety?
We talked about the possibilities of recording the whole album, but to do the whole album would take a lot of time and you have to have enough time to sit back and do it and usually with all the touring, new albums and things like that you just don't have the time to sit back and say: 'Okay, we'll record the whole album' especially because we have two members who weren't there from the beginning. To have complete leverage from the beginning would be to have Doug Cerrito and Chris Richards and then we probably could go and do it real, real quick. It's a little different with Guy and Derek as they would have to learn the songs and practice and then it becomes more of a process which we don't necessarily has the time for right now. That's why we try to do one on each album because it's a lot easier to put together one song and say: 'Okay we'll work on this song. We'll get it done and put it on'. So who knows probably by the time we're done with our career each album will have one song on it and you'll have the entire album the way it was supposed to sound [laughs].

Over the years people have been in and out of Suffocation. Do you think you've found the best possible line-up by now?
I think so. I think right now it's a very comfortable line-up. There's something really at each other. We have all matured and evolved as bandmates and stuff so right now it's very comfortable and I don't see that changing.

Do you think changes like these are unavoidable?
Sometimes they are. Sometimes it just gets to a point where so many things can happen. It can be a personal thing, a family problem and things like that too where a member may have to leave and you say: 'Okay now we have to move forward and do something'. But as far as just saying: Okay, you're not in this ones not, this ones I don't see that happening

I'm aware that your latest CD is still fairly new, but what about a DVD?
Yeah, I know we have talked about it before and stuff, but there is someone working on it as we speak. We have guy going through everything and putting together stuff. The will be some surprises, just different things, but there's a lot of footage to go through. The band has been around for almost 20 years and you try and say: 'Okay, I want to take things from here when the band first started, things from here and put it all together and make a really sick DVD'. It takes time, but we're all working on it and it will be done [laughs].

So will you include the promo clips as well?
Yeah, they'll be on it as well as a bunch of really good stuff so there's a lot to look forward to [laughs].

You've released a live CD by yourselves. Are there plans about an official live CD put out via Relapse?

Probably not. I mean maybe at some point we may license it out to somebody, but right now as it stands we bring it out with us on the road where we sell it at the live shows and through the website. It's kind of something we've talked about for a long time and we finally had a really good recording up in Quebec City in Canada. It sounds better than some albums I've heard so it was like when we finally felt it was right and this what the fans was asking for we threw it together ourselves instead of not necessarily putting it out on a label or giving it to a label.

Unlike many other bands that have reformed you've been very successful. Is it a cocktail of coincidences and hard work?
I think it's definitely the hard work we put into it and I think the fans have respect for what we did. We didn't try to change our style. We went out and when we stopped playing we were doing the same thing. We were brutal, we were heavy and I think the fans respected that and also the music I think was maybe a little bit ahead of its time back then so as things went on it kind of fits in now with what's going on. So when the fans look at they don't think it's old or outdated and then especially putting together new albums and stuff like that it shows that we can still do this in the scene and bring in new music and not sound old and like: 'Yeah, these guys are washed up' [laughs].

My next question was actually that your impact on the scene is unquestionable. It must make you proud that you've inspired so many bands?
Oh, yeah, yeah of course. That's the greatest honour you can get when someone comes up to you and say: 'Hey man, I've listened to you since I've been five years old. You're the greatest band ever, You inspired me to move on and write music, sing' or do whatever. There's no other feeling that's better than that one what someone says: 'Wauv, your music had such an impact'. When growing up the impact on me was Slayer. Before that I listening to other things and when Slayer came out I was like: 'Oh shit' - it was so crazy, fast and that just changed the way how I looked at music so when some kid tells me that the band did the same thing for him that's great [laughs].

Yeah, there are literally thousands of Suffocation clones out there.
It's good, I think it's good [laughs].

How is the New York death metal scene doing nowadays?
There are still the bands that are around like Immolation, Internal Bleeding. I think Pyrexia is still doing some stuff and there's things like that and there's also some new bands coming out of New York that are old, but different. A little crazier, heavy and spastic you know like Dillinger Escape Plan and there's a band like Carbomb that comes out of New York. They are really good and really sick. There's different things going on, but the death metal scene is not what it used to be. They are changing it up the bands.

Anything you wish to add to conclude this interview?
I just want to thank the fans for sticking around for all these years. Stay brutal and we'll continue to bring you crazy music [laughs].

After this conversation I went down to get a beer, see Dawn Of Demise play. It was a very good gig and the band finished it off by playing a few lines from the Suffocation classic "Infecting the Crypts" and the response from the audience to that gimmick was of course great. After that Suffocation came, saw and destroyed. It's unbelievable how utterly brutal and tight the New Yorkers play. The sound was perfect, the setlist was great and the performance was flawless. It was a perfect evening and honestly I find the gig to be among the best three shows I've ever seen. If Suffocation hit Danish soil again I'm there. This band is not to be missed.

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