Morpheus Descends Interview at From Blackened Crypts Release Party
May 10, 2015
From St. Vitus Bar in Brooklyn, NY
Interview by Joe Sullivan, Photos by Joy Sullivan
New York Death Metal killing machine Morpheus Descends has been busy lately. Since re-forming in 2013, the band signed with Dark Descent Records and released their career spanning boxed set FROM BLACKENED CRYPTS earlier this year. I was lucky enough to attend the boxed set release party in Brooklyn at the St. Vitus Bar and interview the entire band about their history, the boxed set, and what they have planned for the future.
Morpheus Descends is:
Robert Yench: Guitars
Sam Inzerra: Drums
Craig Campbell: Vocals
Ken Faggio: Bass
Ed Winner: Guitars
How did Morpheus Descends form?
Sam: It was the summer of ’90. We played in two different bands, Volitile Zylog and Infectious Waste. Rob and Ken played in Volitile. Craig, myself, and our bass player Steve (Hanson) who was the first guitar player for Morpheus, were in Infectious Waste. A week afterwards we decided to hook up with each other’s bands, wanted to do something a little bit heavier than what we were working on already. It came together quick after that. I think even the next week after that show we got together, smoked.
Ken: You guys did a Pestilence cover, and we were like, hey let’s talk to those guys.
Sam: And there it was. Onwards.
Rob: We all knew that we couldn’t do that with the dudes in our other bands.
Craig: Yeah, it was a perfect match.
Rob: Yeah, that day, that one show, it was kind of like already decided.
Sam: We were all looking for something a little heavier, I think.
Craig: Yeah, we definitely were. No doubt about it. It was a good combo. Obviously it has lasted throughout the years. It has done pretty good for itself.
Who were your major influences?
Rob: It’s still really too many to list but I’d say at that time it was getting turned on to early Bolt Thrower, IN BATTLE THERE IS NO LAW, and early Morbid Angel, ABOMINATIONS and ALTARS OF MADNESS. It’s all of that stuff. All of those Earache bands, Nuclear Blast bands. Everything those labels put out was something we looked forward to. Definitely more adventurous than most labels. The label had a reputation itself for putting out good stuff.
How did you get the record deal with JL America? Did the label help Morpheus Descends get more exposure?
Rob: The way the JL thing came together, the dude kind of reached out to us and told us that he had Relativity for a distributor, which meant Camelots, FYE’s and shit like that. Even though he didn’t really have a budget to hook us up for recording, he could give us some and I think we did a couple of the songs with some money he had sent. We basically just had to compile the recordings we had done already and hoped that maybe that would give us traction and be able to afford a full length. Going back to the second part of that question and being able to help, absolutely. It may not be the ideal album that we wanted to put out, but we knew that exposure would help the band.
Sam: The distribution and the markets that we weren’t even able to hit.
Rob: Nationally, even though we were doing tape traders and trading demos with everybody and running distros and stuff like that. To have it back in the day when it still mattered to be in a record store, it was something good. Now that we are back together we run into people and they’re like, yeah man when I was 14 years old I bought RITUAL OF INFINITY at Camelot Music. We would have never reached those people just doing it the way we were doing it on our own.
In 1993 I got to see Morpheus Descends open for Obituary / Fear Factory, Dismember / Suffocation / Vader, and Death / Gorefest. How did you end up opening for these well-known Death Metal bands? Did you play the whole tour or were you local support?
Rob: At the Cell Block. John Finberg shows.
Sam: Just local. John Finberg, the guy who booked most of the bands, we were one of the first two bands that he picked up managing, before he really got into booking. So the connection’s there and he worked with the tour packages that were coming through so we dabbled in getting in on some of those bills as well.
Rob: It’s funny to see who he works with now. He works with a lot of big bands. He does like Nightwish and he’s booked for Cannibal Corpse and Morbid Angel. We still kind of remember him as a dude where we were throwing his bookbag around and playing like monkey in the middle.
That was the first time I saw you guys, at the Cell Block in Bensalem, PA. I loved the Cell Block.
Sam: We did too.
Rob: Those were some fun shows. The Suffocation show was a little crazy.
Oh yeah that’s when they kicked the skinheads out.
Rob: They were jumping on stage and holding up banners and stuff.
It was wild! But it was one of the best shows I’ve ever seen in my whole life.
In the early 90s JL America had a stable of quality Death Metal like Morpheus Descends, Deteriorate, Nokturnel, and Killing Addiction. Then they disappeared from the scene. What happened to JL America?
Rob: Basically lost funding. He had a relationship with the distributors and pressing plants, getting a lot of returns and records not selling as well as he had hoped. He got locked into a lot of quantity and not quality, and I think that had come back to bite him just like any other record company. Now it’s time to pay the bills and the stuff you put out didn’t sell.
Sam: And being independent was a little tougher back then.
Ken: No internet.
Rob: When you think about it and go back he was putting out all the Osmose stuff, Beherit, and fucking Impaled Nazarene, and fucking Immortal.
And Disastrous Murmur.
Rob: Yeah exactly. All the Osmose licensing and stuff. The Spinefarm stuff, like Beherit, he put out DRAWING DOWN THE MOON. A lot of classic releases lined up in there too. It’s the first label to be putting out that kind of black metal.
Yeah I remember they had Acheron too.
When did Morpheus Descends stop touring and putting out albums?
Rob: Touring was always self-financed and put together through our relationships with the bands that we knew like Incantation and Anal Cunt.
Sam: There was a couple of good tour runs. But mostly it was spot weekends, or a group of shows together, 2 or 3 shows with bands that we associated with would bring us out, we’d bring them out. That’s how we used to do it.
Rob: We did do some cool stuff. We got to play with Absu and Enslaved. And Incantation. We did a little mini run with them. What was that like in ’95?
Sam: ’94 we did Incantation and Anal Cunt and went around the States and Mexico.
Rob: Gutted and Afterlife too.
Gutted from Ohio?
Rob: Yeah. So there were some interesting tours. Especially even something like playing with Enslaved in ’95 was one of the first underground bands from Norway to actually come here. Incantation brought them over to do that tour.
Sam: The stop touring thing. I think we slowed back to just spot shows and short trips here or there.
Rob: Let’s face it the mid-90s were a pretty piss poor time for death metal. Shows weren’t as regularly abundant. The same reasons that hundreds of other bands slow down. Not as much life in it at that time.
Sadly, former singer Jeff Reimer passed away in 2005. Even though he wasn’t a band member anymore, how did his death affect the band?
Sam: Greatly. I was very close with him at the end. It’s still tough. I think about him a lot. It was very difficult. But even getting back together I think there was a good spirit of him approving of this monster. He comes up often. We speak about him a lot.
Rob: A lot of good memories.
Craig: Even beforehand, before I left as well, he was friends all of us. We used to jam with Decomposed. He’s definitely missed.
Morpheus Descends re-formed in 2013 with your original lineup of Craig Campbell on vox, Robert Yench on guitar, Ken Faggio on bass, and Sam Inzerra on drums. How did you all get back together?
Sam: It was a long process. It was probably just a year of getting together. Rob and I met first initially, just to work out some stuff that wasn’t really worked out at the end. Clearing the air, freshening the slate, and from there it poked out the idea of finally turning this machine back on. Got in touch with all of the original cast of characters and everybody approved.
Ken: Sam and I, with Ed, had another band for a few years called Deadspeak. Kind of the bastard son of Morpheus. We kept in touch through the years and then when the two of them got together, and Vinnie from Signature Riff was putting together that Marduk thing, it was kind of the catalyst for all of us.
Sam: Yes Vinnie had a lot to do with it.
Ken: It was kind of like the spark that got us all together and got us really seriously thinking about getting back together. It was kind of like where we left off. The chemistry was still there.
Rob: In 2012 Sam and I got together for a couple of hours. I picked up a guitar and he got behind the drums. We played like seven songs and it was amazing that we could just pull it out of our asses that quickly and play that stuff.
Sam: It felt great after that long to just light it up again.
Rob: It’s kind of like wow, there is something really there.
Sam: It just came spewing out. We played like fucking five or six songs. It was great.
Craig: We missed the core group too. I think there is a certain sound that us four have together that is true to what Morpheus is as well. That makes the difference too. That’s why it was easy to come back for us.
Tell me about the awesome boxed set, FROM BLACKENED CRYPTS. How did this come to be? What does it include?
Sam: Something long in the making. I met Matt (Calvert) from Dark Descent Records through the scene of course. We thought of doing the vinyls and some sort of CD compilation in some form or other, and it just sort of grew through the thoughts of actually putting it out. It includes everything we’ve ever recorded. A few extras, a live track, and a two hour video DVD of many years of shows. One song from each show, and there’s a ton of stuff we didn’t get a chance to put on there. I think it’s a good collection of some old school footage.
Rob: It was fun sifting through all the old footage.
Sam: It was.
Ken: It’s all original VHS tapes. Some of the stuff we hadn’t seen in years. Especially all of the stuff with Jeff. To see all of the stuff we shot with him doing his thing. It brought back a lot of good memories.
Sam: Matt did a bang up job putting it out too. We’re real happy about it.
It’s outstanding. The old footage made me feel like I was in my early 20s again. It sounded exactly like I remember.
Sam: I’m glad you enjoyed it, man. I wish some of this stuff was a little clearer but I think the VHS grain just adds to the character on it. It was fun to do.
Rob: That’s how it looked then.
The boxed set does a great job showing how Morpheus Descends evolved and changed over time. Tell me about the different phases the band went through.
Sam: It’s a tough one to sum up. It did happen naturally. I think we were looking for more epic kind of sounds later on.
Rob: But bands progress ya know.
Sam: But I think it was natural where all our heads were at with every turn that we took.
Rob: The early stuff was a lot of rushing and hurrying to get in the studio and do your parts. Later in our evolution of recording and stuff it became less time demanding, where we start to have more time to put into developing sounds. When we did CHRONICLES OF THE SHADOWED ONES we spent weeks of time, whereas earlier stuff we’d have like two or three days to get in and get our work done. I think that also comes into play with how the sound changes. Also changing where you recorded and who you recorded with.
Sam: That’s a big influence on the sound too.
Rob: Different approaches.
Sam: I think the two songs that did come out of the 40-50 minutes of material that we have, the new stuff, really shine on a couple of good time eras of Morpheus too. That came natural too. We didn’t really try to reproduce it. When the pieces of music were documented, it just felt natural to put it a CHRONICLES era with the old RITUAL style.
Rob: Same dudes from 25 years ago. 25 years of wisdom and writing riffs.
Craig: We were just sending stuff back and forth, and we knew what felt good, and it sounded like what we wanted it to sound like too. That was really important doing that for a while too. We did that together and it made a big difference as far as the two new songs go.
From watching the DVD, I can see you have a lot of great unrecorded material that you used to play live. Songs like “Flesh Doll” and “The Signal”. Are there any plans to record this killer material?
Rob: I wouldn’t say there is any active plan to record it. We are aware that those are songs we wrote and never recorded. I think that we are more about moving forward right now and not having to dip back into that legacy, which is why we had to insist on those making it to the DVD.
Sam: The thought has crossed our table though. There’s a couple of the tracks that we talk about often but you never know. I’m always hungry to record songs.
Rob: The thing is doing all the new stuff right now; it’s all this great stuff just popping up. That’s really exciting right now too.
Ken: When we were putting together the two newest songs, we’ve got forty minutes of music that we haven’t really structured or put together yet. We’re sifting through that for a full length album. Plus everybody writes and Sam plays guitar too. I wouldn’t say it’s totally out of the question for some of the old stuff. But like Rob said, we’ve got so much new shit we’re moving more towards that direction.
Sam: And we are slowly working a new face into the batch here, Mr. Ed Winner on guitar, who is going to be joining us for the next few big shows and into the future.
Ed: Thanks so much. I’m glad to be part of this well established beast here. I’m having a great time. I’m having a lot of fun playing the songs. This stuff is legendary sounding music to me and I’m proud to be part of it. I couldn’t ask for more. These are my hometown buddies. We were high school friends for years. I’ve been asked into the fray here. I feel honored. If these guys want to ever do anymore writing, I hope to be part of that too. I think I have a lot of offer and a lot of riffs.
Sam: And he’s cut from the same cloth. Like Ken said before, having to do Deadspeak years before Morpheus decided to get back together. There’s new elements kicking around on all angles.
You guys are playing the legendary Maryland DeathFest (MDF) later this month. How do you feel about that?
Sam: How do you feel, Craig?
Craig: I feel fuckin…there it is right there. That’s all I have to say. I’m honored to play. I really am honored to play Maryland DeathFest. I lived down there for quite a few years myself so it’s cool to go back there and almost jam with the home crowd. It’s pretty cool.
Rob: It’s the premier festival in the states. For the boxed set to be out right now and coming back together it’s perfect timing.
Craig: The guys that we’re sharing the stage with too, it’s quite an honor.
Sam: A lot of great bands on that festival. As usual. Tough on the feet, but it’s a blast.
What are Morpheus Descends plans for the rest of 2015? Is a new album in the works?
Rob: The current plans are a string of dates after MDF, regional ones. In August we got Obscene Extreme in Montreal, another big North American festival. We already got a lot of new songs in the hopper, like we kind of talked about. Rather than be in different modes, we are just going to kind of take on the shows. The shows that make sense. Good shows that we want to do. Also be recording through that process too and creating new stuff. We’re no spring chickens. We better do it now.
Sam: No time like the present..
Rob: Well I can still remember the riffs.
Sam: And it’s feeling great too. It feels right. It does. And we are hoping to do Obscene Extreme in Czech Republic
Rob: We have European aspirations for sure. To bring Morpheus over there for the first time.
Thanks very much for the interview guys. That was awesome.
All: Thanks for doing it with us. It was really cool.