Monday, July 13, 2015

From The Dark Past: An Interview With Hexlust, January 2011

In January of 2011, I drove up to Killeen to spend a weekend with one of my favorite Texas metal bands - the mighty HEXLUST! I crashed there and watched a practice that ended in a bass-off that resulted in me getting my ass handed to me by Tarzan. After this humiliating display of four-string tomfoolery, the entire band sat with me and conducted a massive interview. Due to the length, it will not be included in any UtS issues, but I did want to share it as a glimpse to the past. I kept current commentary to a minimum but offered a few updates that were relevant.

This interview was originally published in an online publication I wrote for in college and is completely intact.

1. JH: Tony, this question was already answered by Dartanion in a recent interview with Aaron Goregrowler, but could you just give us a brief summary to how Hexlust formed and how the current lineup came to be solidified?

Tony: Well, it started back around 2005 with Dartanion and [me]. We met together and we wanted to form a thrash metal band and not just a generic metal band at all. We just wanted to play what we love. A couple of years later, after several guitarists going through our lineup we met JT at Guitar Center, and the rest is history. We had another bass player who unfortunately quit, and JT and Keith were actually in another band called Nautilus. They broke up and we asked Keith to hop in, so it's just been the four of us since 2008.

2. JH: Now, first things first, Hexlust has a new logo, how did that come about?

JT: Well, our good friend from [Austin crossover band] Birth A.D., Jeff, he's a good friend of ours and he's also a good friend of renowned tattoo and metal artist Jon Zig, and [Jeff] gave him out old logo...

Dartanion: That I drew! *Laughs*

JT: ...That Dartanion drew, and the rest is pretty much history.

JH: That's the second question in a row you've answered with "...and the rest is history"! [Everyone laughs]

JT: [When finished laughing] And yeah, Jeff actually sent us an e-mail with a logo that Jon Zig did for us, he sent us an old logo, it was a metallic-looking logo that we all didn't really like that much, and then he had him do it again, and that's the current logo we have now, and that's pretty much it there. We all like it. It took us years to decide a band logo - I mean, you don't understand how long it took us to come up with a logo - so we're really glad we have this one.

3. JH: Now, since this is the first full-band interview Hexlust has ever done, I'm gonna ask everyone to go around and cite some of their individual influences. Tarzan, you're closest, we'll start with you.

Keith: Cliff Burton [of Metallica], of course. The first song I ever learned was "Anesthesia (Pulling Teeth)"...well, the first one was "Smoke on the Water", then it was "Anesthesia". Then, Steve Harris [of Iron Maiden], 'cause his fills are great. I pretty much just mock his fills every chance I can. Well, I wouldn't say "mock", copy [is what I'd say]. And Alex Webster [of Cannibal Corpse], because he's blond and awesome [laughs], and probably like eight-hundred other bassists that I can't think of, but those three are always together.

Dartanion: For me, on top of everything, is Tommy Lee [of Motley Crue] and Dave Grohl [of Nirvana/Foo Fighters]. Then, as far as my direct influences for Hexlust, it's Igor Cavalera [of Sepultura], and...what's his name?

Tony: Dave Lombardo?

Dartanion: Pete Sandoval! [Everyone laughs] Igor Cavalera and Pete Sandoval [of Morbid Angel] are the main ones. I've been playing a lot of Sepultura songs, and that's mainly it in terms of direct influences for Hexlust.

JT: Me, well the reason I picked up a guitar in the first place, love him or hate him, is because of Dave Mustaine of Megadeth. I mean, I know a lot of people think he's an asshole, and he kinda is most of the time, but [he's a] great guitarist regardless. As far as a direct influence on Hexlust, definitely Trey Azagthoth from Morbid Angel, I worship the ground that he walks on for his guitar playing. Who else? Kreator, love Kreator, "Pleasure to Kill", pretty much everything up to "Coma of Souls". I love Finnish death metal, Antti Boman [of Demilich] is really good, pretty much any old-school death metal band you could think of that isn't Cannibal Corpse. [Everyone laughs]

Tony: As far as influences for playing guitar, it would have to be Eddie Van Halen, I really liked his stuff from the first three or four albums. Piggy from Voivod and Daisy Berkowitz from Marilyn Manson & The Spooky Kids. I really like his stuff because of his tones. Now, as far as the band is concerned, I guess you could say rhythm-wise, Max Cavalera from Sepultura. I really like his complex rhythms, especially on the album "Schizophrenia", "Beneath the Remains", "Arise", all those great albums [JT nods in agreement]. Also, I forgot the guitarist's name for Sarcofago...

JH: Wagner?

JT: Wagner?

Dartanion: After "INRI", Wagner took over on guitar.

Tony: Wagner "Antichrist", "The Laws of Scourge", on that album his tones are amazing. I try to mimic those tones very, very closely, that's why I have that chorus sound. That's pretty much for the band.

4. JH: How is a typical Hexlust song written and arranged?

Tony: I come up with the skeleton riffs, just whatever comes across my mind. I'll start playing and if I really like it, we'll unfortunately come across cryptonesia, which Dart will explain in a second. It's something that's plagued our band recently, so Dart, I'll let you take care of the rest.

Dartanion: Well, basically...[a puppy wanders into the rehearsal space]...Puppy! [Pets dog]

JH: I'm including that. [Everyone laughs]

Dartanion: Basically, cryptonesia is when you unwittingly rip somebody off thanks to your subconscious memory. You think you've invented something new and awesome-tastic when in fact somebody has already done it before, and that has happened to us a couple of times and it's one of our biggest obstacles when writing songs.

Keith: Like, JT wrote "Leprosy" [by Death], something from "Blessed Are The Sick" [by Morbid Angel], and just recently, "Gorgoroth" by Gorgoroth.

JT: I wrote "Antichrist", by Gorgoroth from the "Antichrist" album.

Tony: What was something you and I wrote? Bass-wise, I remember you were playing it and was like...

Keith: Sarcofago? "Nightmare"? Yeah, but it's a little different, though, and I'm going to use that riff somewhere. [Everyone laughs]

JT: Eventually, Tony writes a lot of the main chunks of riffs, and Keith and Dart usually figure out how to get it all going. I suck at writing riffs, I aLways have, apparently [laughs], but, I mean, I'm known in the band as usually giving the one or two riffs in a song where it just meshes it together and it completes the song. That's usually how it goes.

Keith: I'm trying to write a little more to help Tony come up with awesome riffs and songs.

JT: And I'm trying to come up with more riffs.


5. JH: The Hexlust tunes that are available online and on the demo are very gritty and raw, and very reminiscent of "Morbid Visions" in terms of production...

JT: [Fist pumps] Yes!

JH: That is a compliment.

Dartanion: That is exactly what we were trying to be back then.

JH: [Returning to original question] Would you ever think to re-record those songs with cleaner production, or stick with the old, grimy goodness?

Dartanion: Yeah, [we would] absolutely re-record them. If not just to get a cleaner sound, or whatever, not just because of that, but because we can play them better now.

JT: And faster!

Keith: We play them faster. The old recordings, when I listen to them...when we recorded them, we were like "Wow, this is the fastest we've ever played", and now I listen to it and think, "Wow, we were [in falsetto] slow!"

Tony: Like [Sepultura's] "Troops of Doom 1990" versus "Troops of Doom 1985".

Dartanion: Exactly.

JT: That's kind of our philosophy in this band, we like to slow things down, but we pretty much play fast, all the time, as much as possible.

Keith: King Fowley [of Deceased] told us that, he shook our hands and said "You're fast!"

JT: King Fowley from Deceased, that was awesome.

6. JH: And on that note, are there any plans for any future recordings? [Looks at JT, everyone laughs]

Keith: JT's been promising somebody! So what have you been promising, JT? [Laughs]

JT: I've just been promising the people that new songs are being written - which they are...

Dartanion: They are.

JH: I've heard them!

JT: ...And as soon as we polish them up we'll record them as soon as we can. I told people, and I'm teling you this now [looks at camera, everyone laughs], the reason why we're not rushing to record is, as a band, we're not worried about how many records we sell, we're not worried about being signed, we're worried about writing the best possible music we can, and however long that takes, that's just the time it'll take. If it's going to be eight songs of fantastic music we would rather have that than have eight songs of garbage. So, I'm sorry, but I'm really not [everyone laughs].

7. JH: Hexlust have quite a few songs written that haven't been recorded, and I'm going to list them and whoever wants to say some of their thoughts on them, can.

JT: I think that's going to be all of us.

JH: "Baphomet Dawn"

Tony: When we first started recording the demos back in 2008, we had like, two riffs that [were] going to be "Baphomet Dawn", and before "Fucked by Fire", that was the longest song we took, it took us a year and a half to write that song. So now, I'm more than happy to record this song, of course it's eventually going to be recorded. I think it doesn't need any further polishing, I like it the way it is.

Dartanion: Pretty much, it's our long, slow, epic song.

JT: I remember when we first started jamming on that song, we couldn't find a middle part, and one day at practice I was just dicking around, and came up with the middle part.

Dartanion: Yes, perfect example of JT being the riff-saver.

Keith: None of us can figure out how the hell it's supposed to be played...

JT: I know how it's supposed to be played! [Laughs]

Keith: Like, we tried, and we were supposed to be jamming with somebody, and he was like "Hey, why don't you hop in on this?" and we tried showing him it and couldn't.

Dartanion: We can't think about it, we just have to play it.

JT: It's one of those things. It's definitely our slowest song, and I love it.

Dartanion: [It's] very heavy.

JH: Next up, "Fucked by Fire".

Dartanion: That song has gone through a lot of different incarnations, Tony had that written back in 2008 and we thought we had a completed version of it. Then, we hated it and tried to change it up, then we got stuck. Almost two years later, Tony finally completed it and Tony added lyrics. That's the first step for Hexlust into more...I don't want to say "technical" because we're not that good [laughs]...just wackier songs. There we go, wackier songwriting with wackier riffs.

Tony: It's not linear thrash with [just] open-A...

JT: It's not shitty new Bay Area thrash metal! [Everyone laughs]

Keith: Now we'll never play the Bay Area! [Laughs]

JT: Sorry, someone had to say it. [Laughs]

Dartanion: Next song.

JH: "Meganecropolis".

Keith: "Meganecropolis" is my second brainchild for Hexlust...After jamming on [the first song] for a month...we just decided to ditch that song and move on to "Meganecropolis", I had one riff that I jammed with Tony on, and then a year later I started forming other riffs around it, then I jammed with Dart, he helped me and we showed it to Tony and JT and Tony learned the riffs and then JT came up with that melodic middle part. Dart wrote the lyrics and it is completed, or at least near-completed. I originally wrote lyrics for it, but Dart decided he could do a better job and he did do a better job, and we're deciding to go with his.

JH: Well done, Dart!

Dartanion: Thanks.

JH: Next, "Hellhammer".

Dartanion: Little backstory, after "Baphomet Dawn", which at that point was our most complex, most technical song, Tony decided to jump in the opposite direction and write the most primitive song he could think of.

Tony: I locked myself in your room to write that one! [Laughs]

Dartanion: It started off [as] he was supposed to write riffs that kinda were inspired by Hellhammer and old Celtic Frost and it ended up being just a massive tribute.

Tony: And it is not a cover!

Entire band: It's not a cover!

JT: People think it's a cover, and that leads me to believe that none of you who say it's a cover have ever listened to Hellhammer. [Laughs]

Dartanion: Thanks, JT, now we're gonna get out asses kicked! [Everyone laughs]

Keith: [As if transcribing] "Omit JT's thoughts".

JT: Again, someone had to say it! [Everyone laughs again]

JH: Next one, "Imminent Retardation".

Tony: That one was originally supposed to be an instrumental...we actually played it back in 2009. There's actually a video on YouTube of us...

Dartanion: Our "Fuck Austin" video? [Everyone laughs]

JH: That one?

Tony: [Laughs] I said that because I was [mad] at the traffic!

JH: "This Scene Sucks" [Everyone laughs]

Tony: Yeah, then Keith and Dartanion approached me and said "We need to write lyrics" and I said "You're crazy, no lyrics would fit there!" Dart came to me with this idea of lyrics. He gave me them, and I hated them! [Everyone laughs] Except for Keith's parts, I loved Keith's parts, so I wrote around that part and it came out pretty good. It's kind of something like "Idiocracy", like the musical version of "Idiocracy".

Dartanion: It's kind of our only "social commentary" song where we're just talking about our dissatisfaction with the world.

Tony: It's a warning - cherish your brain, 'cause it could go away!

Dartanion: That's why I wanted lyrics to be in it, because I feel like we actually had something to say and to not actually say something would be a waste.

JT: I think out of all our Hexlust songs, that one is probably our most technical song.

Dartanion: It doesn't help that it's non-stop fast.

Keith: That's the hardest song, I think, to play for me.

Tony: The sad thing is, we added lyrics to it, and I sang it, and was like "We sound like Birth A.D." [Laughs]

JT: But that's a good thing!

Entire band: Hi, Jeff!

Tony: We love your stuff! [Laughs]

JH: Last, but not least, "They Conjure".

Tony: That's another song I wrote, it's based off the movie "Hocus Pocus", but instead of sucking the kid's souls, it's ripping the children's hearts out and eating them, lyric-wise. When I first played the riffs, JT thought it sounded like...ah, what's that Death song?

JT: "Lack of Comprehension". [Everyone laughs]

Tony: I was thinking it sounded more like the opening to the first King Diamond song from "Fatal Portrait", "Jonah", I believe that's what it's called. Dart helped a lot and Keith helped a lot. They re-wrote some of the beginning to fit the odd timings and it just came out, and we're very proud of it.


9. JH: All right, completely shifting away from that question, the songs that have been recorded were recorded in 2008. Do you have any notable stories from whenever you were recording?

Keith: Oh God, "Sodomy and Lust"! [Entire band laughs] See, I was never good at that song and I would follow the guitar, which I was not supposed to do, apparently, I did not know that at the time.

Dartanion: In the middle part, or are you talking about the song overall?

Keith: The whole song, that's what I was doing, and when we were recording, it was just drums and bass, so I had no idea where I was so I struggled for a couple of takes. And then, the middle part...[makes guitar onomatopoeia]...that part I could not get right. We spent an hour or an hour-and-a-half, twelve, eight-hundred takes on it, and then Dart commented on it and said "Well, you know we could get the old bass player to come in and do that"...

JH: Ouch! [Laughs]

Keith: ...And I was like [in death metal growl] "NO!" I held up my sword and shield on that like I was preparing for battle, I told him "No, we're just gonna stop here, I'm gonna go home, practice the shit out of this riff, and we're gonna come back tomorrow and do it on the first take." Came back tomorrow, did it on the second take.

Tony: This was also the song that revealed JT's Achilles Heel...

JT: Oh yeah, let me tell you this story! I was playing "Sodomy and Lust" for what, six, seven months before we recorded the song? But the [bad] thing about that was, I was playing it wrong the entire time! So instead of [sings riff], I was going [sings different riff]. I was playing it wrong the entire time and it took me many tries? Twenty, thirty?

Dartanion: A bunch.

JT: Maybe thirty or forty tries before I finally had to do the Keith method and say "fuck it, I'm just gonna go home and practice."

Tony: I think my most memorable parts of the recording is when we were doing our solos, I did all my solos in one take, and JT many takes? [Laughs]

JT: It was like, twenty. Another moment: When I was doing my solo for "Toxic High", Dart was [in the bathroom] and he came out and was like, "DUDE! That was amazing!"

[Everyone laughs]

Tony: I think all three of them would agree that the defining moment was when I did vocals, and that was the first time I ever did a falsetto scream, and they didn't think I could do that. You can just imagine a guy standing in a hallway with just headphones on and all of a sudden you just hear [makes falsetto scream].

JT: It sounded terrible when he was recording it!

Keith: Like, he did that the first time, just the vocals, and I hung my head down and was like "Oh no, are we really going to put that on this song?" And we played it back and were like "that is amazing!"

Tony: So many Slayer comments when we posted that...

10. JH: JT, you've been living in San Antonio for the last few months, how has that affected the band?

JT: I've been living in San Antonio since August of 2010, and I'm not gonna lie, it's been brutal. It's been really hard, 'cause I mean, I've been with this band over three years now and these guys are like my family, so it's like...I don't get to play music that much anymore, I only play guitar by myself, and I mean...these guys are the best musicians I've ever played with or will play with, 'cause I'm going to be with this band as long as I can be. But it's been tough and I only get to go down [to Killeen] every two or three months. And like you saw tonight, when we all practice together, it's like we're playing a show. So that high energy we have during shows [is also there] when we get together and practice. And I y'all do the same thing when I'm not here? What is practicing like when I'm not here?

Keith: Sometimes we get into it, but...

Dartanion: For the most part it's very relaxed.

Keith: Yeah, 'cause that's when we're crunching out the hard stuff and we're concentrating on whatever new material we're doing.

JT: But thanks to [software] Guitar Pro, and Keith's recording equipment, they can send me the new stuff that we've been writing and I learn it.

Tony: It's pretty hard, though, having a guitarist who's two hours're playing and you look back [in the practice space] and there's no sound coming from that corner, you're not seeing anything.

Keith: I feel ya.

JT: It really sucks, man.

Tony: We miss him.

JT: I'm just glad I'm in the band still. [Laughs]

Keith: The only good news is that now, when we play in San Antonio, we have somewhere to crash and we don't have to drive back at four in the morning to crawl in bed and die.

11. JH: Now, you're from a town that, historically, is not rooted in thrash metal. What are some advantages or disadvantages to this?

Dartanion: Advantages: No real competition! [Laughs] Everything's really laid-back, and of course, when we do play shows around here, it ends up being kind of a mixed bag in a good way. Another advantage is that it bonds us, it keeps us together, like sometimes I wonder if we were in a big metal and thrash scene would one or two of us have strayed long ago when they got tired of all the humd-kery with writing songs? [Everyone laughs] Not being in a good thrash scene, the glue that holds us together is; we're all we've got. Disadvantages...

JH: You're all you've got!

JT: If someone were to quit the band, we'd be fucked.

Dartanion: That's pretty much it. I mean, it was hard putting the band together in the first place, but if someone were quit, or move to Sweden, or die, it would be bad.

Keith: And no one knows our covers. When we play "Open Casket" [by Death"] or "Agent Orange" [by Sodom], no one's heard those songs.

Dartanion: Dear Cyanide knew "Agent Orange".

Keith: That's true, there are a couple, but not a lot of people who have heard of that.

Tony: You can replace people in this band, but you can't replace the chemistry in the band.

Dartanion: Exactly.

Tony: If we lose JT to another guitarist, he wouldn't have JT's antics, he wouldn't know JT's jokes...

Dartanion: He'd be boring!

Keith: Or if we got some bearded guy to play bass!

Tony: It's just stuff like...we grew up as musicians, and that's a really strong chemistry, and I would hate for that to fall apart.


12. JH: Coming up on the end here, are there any Texas bands that you really like? Playing with, listening to, basically anyone you'd like to give a shout-out to?

Keith: Hoood! Hod, the Holy Hod! Birth A.D...who else do we play with, guys?

JT: Are you saying people we would love to play with or have played with?

JH: Both.

JT: Oh, I would kill to play with Absu. I would die if we played with Absu. I would want to play with Imprecation from Houston, Divine Eve is really good, too. Jeff A.D. from Birth A.D. got me into that band. P.L.F. is amazing, we've only played with them once but I would really like to play with them again. Aaron Goregrowler's band, Engaged in Mutilating, they're awesome! I saw them at Rites of Darkness, and I would love to play with them. And if Pyrosis ever gets going...[7/13/2015 - gee, I wonder who was in that band - Ed.]

Tony: Apart from all the bands that he just mentioned, I'd love to play with dead horse. They're probably one of the best bands. Gammacide, one of those bands who came from Texas.

JT: Oh yeah, I don't know what happened to them.

Keith: We played with Ripping Corpse.

Dartanion: No, you're thinking of Rotting Corpse.

JH: Ripping Corpse is from New Jersey, I think.

JT: Militia, I want to play with Militia from Austin again, they were really cool.

Tony: Or Watchtower, if they still play.

Dartanion: I guess as long as we're on the thing of Texas and referencing the whole "not being from a thrash scene", I would like to say "thank you" to bands around here like Painfilled Silent, Dear Cyanide, and Downsiid, who are probably the kings of the Killeen scene.

Tony: Hands Down, too.

Dartanion: And Hands Down!

Tony: Zero and Falling.

Dartanion: We've played shows with them, and they were always really nice to us and really accommodating and supportive, so even if we aren't necessarily cut from the same cloth...just, thanks to you guys for being so supportive.

Keith: Shfux are always a blast!

Dartanion: Big old thanks to Walter from Shfux.

Keith: And anyone else we may have forgotten.

13. JH: Now what about non-Texan bands? Do you have any recommendations for our readers?

Entire band: Exmortus!

Keith: Vektor! Vektor, Vektor, Vektor!

JH: What's the vector, Victor?

JT: Deceased! I would play with Deceased any day of the week. King Fowley's always been a pleasure, we've played with him three times.

Keith: Always fun, always fun.

JT: Witchaven! [Entire band echoes]

Dartanion: Those are pretty much our favorites.

Keith: There are others, I know there are others...

Tony: Shout-out to any of the Fort Worth bands, really. Insinnerator, those other black metal bands we played with...

Dartanion: Live by the Sword...

Keith: Live by the Sword! Oh my God they were so fun! [7/13/2015 - They are now the mighty Steel Bearing Hand - Ed.]

Dartanion: Preacher.

Tony: Yeah, Preacher were good.

Keith: And Amoricide, I think that's what they're called.

Tony: I wish we could play with Irony, but they unfortunately broke up.

Dartanion: Oh, and Sacrificial Blood!

Tony: They got back together and want to come to Texas! Big shout-out to Mike from Sacrificial Blood.

14. JH: Any last words, gents?

Tony: Thrash 'till Alzheimer's!

JT: And remember to keep it Hexcellent!

Tony: Come to our show, have fun!

JT: And I'm not gonna promise merch any time soon!

Tony: And when Dartanion is setting up his drums, do not talk to him! [Laughs] You don't come up to him and say [in high-pitched voice] "Dude, can I have your autograph?"

JT: He's not antisocial...

Tony: He's just really focused on his job.

Keith: Also, don't try to punch us in the face.

JH: That's good advice.

Tony: And if you want to feed us after the show, we love Lunchables!

JT: If you want to book a show, get into contact with us, because we're looking for more shows.

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