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Morbid Honesty: An Exclusive Interview With STEVE TUCKER Of MORBID ANGEL

By Brian Davis, Contributor
Monday, July 16, 2018 @ 8:49 AM

"IRON MAIDEN overall was more influential to me realizing that Metal was legit, that you can be smart and play Metal."

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Although many old school Metalheads stubbornly hold that MORBID ANGEL’s greatest glory lies in their early albums with vocalist David Vincent, no fan worth their salt can argue that Formulas Fatal To The Flesh wasn’t a prolific follow-up to the Domination album and a Death Metal masterpiece in its own right, and there’s no denying that Steve Tucker not only sustained the band’s wicked brilliance but also proved himself to be an equally proficient vocalist & bassist. With the release of Kingdoms Disdained Tucker marks a triumphant return to the fold with a scorching performance that delivers a truly worthy return to greatness for the band, picking up right where he left off with Heretic. In this exclusive interview Steve Tucker wields brutal honesty, intelligence and to deliver a variety of insights and perspectives into topics such as MAIDEN vs PRIEST, collaborating again with the legendary Trey Azagthoth, social ineptitude and more…

KNAC.COM: It’s a real honor to talk to you - Formulas Fatal To The Flesh is easily one of my top 10 classic Death Metal albums of all time. I still listen to it passionately every year it always comes out of the collection.

TUCKER: Right on, thank you man.

KNAC.COM: Your material in general – Gateways to Annihilation, all of that stuff – to me that was the peak of MORBID ANGEL, and as soon you got back into the band and brought us Kingdoms Disdained you guys were right back on top just the way I remembered it. I think you’re the secret equation of what makes MORBID ANGEL really tick.

TUCKER: Man, I think Trey [Azagthoth] is the secret equation of what makes me tick! Earlier on I did some albums without Trey but I gotta be honest man – as soon as me & Trey start writing songs together the chemistry is just undeniable, I just know where he wants to go with it; we don’t even talk about it, I just kinda go where the dude wants to go. And honestly to just be on the same page – there’s a lot to be said for that, man. When you have two very separate ideas of what you’re trying to be or what you actually are it really can be confusing, and dude there’s None of that shit.

KNAC.COM: That’s great, and that’s something most bands strive for but I think it’s pretty rare to find that connection where it’s so strong it’s just automatic and ever-present.

TUCKER: Yeah man it’s one of those things…I’ve been playing music since my early teens and to be honest with you it’s only happened a couple of times. There have only been a couple people throughout all those years where I felt that click was just there; and two of those guys were from MORBID ANGEL, so… (laughs) I don’t know man, it’s a weird scenario when I look back and think, “Dude, I actually replaced someone in [MORBID ANGEL]…” because then when we’re jamming or writing music it’s just the most natural thing that I can do. It’s the most comfortable, at-home feeling that I get when I’m playing with MORBID ANGEL.

KNAC.COM: So, of course you know you can always trust everything you find on the internet and it never lies…

TUCKER: I don’t trust anything (laughs)

KNAC.COM: (laughs) I Googled your name and you know how there’s all this information along the side, it gives little stats of people and whatever – So you were born in Cincinnati, OH is that correct?

TUCKER: Yes sir, that is correct.

KNAC.COM: It also says your primary genre of music is Reggae…

TUCKER: Oh yeah, that’s 100% accurate. (laughs) No man, I’m far from Reggae. I have to honestly say that the only time I’ve ever even enjoyed Reggae was hanging out and having a few beers and it was in the distant background. And I don’t mean any disrespect to anyone out there who likes it whatsoever, it’s just too mellow and not for me.

KNAC.COM: I had a feeling that wasn’t the truest of statistics. So what were your influences, what really sparked your passion to play?

TUCKER: Man, I have to say I think I was almost born into being a Metalhead. I was lucky enough to have an older step-sister who very early on was turning me onto things like AC/DC, etc. – and I’m talking about being 6-7 years old at the time, so pretty much from the get-go. And I had young parents that listened to similar music, so I’ve just always loved me some Metal. I’d have to say the first one that truly grabbed me and just made me 100% addicted was IRON MAIDEN, around Piece Of Mind or Number Of The Beast; I can’t ever quite remember which one I first discovered but that for me made me want to act like I was playing guitar, made me want to act like I was singing. It brought out a sort of emotional thing and it also brought out a power; not only that but there was something about the band at that time, dude they were…I come from a background where I tested at a high IQ really early on in school & took all these special classes, and then I discovered IRON MAIDEN and find they’re big history buffs and the music has all these different elements instead of just a bunch of…hogwash, you know what I mean? There are meaningful lyrics and meaningful…like “Run To The Hills” – you break it down and it’s a really tragic story about Natives getting slaughtered, yet it has this uplifting power. You know what else – no other band, not even JUDAS PRIEST and I Love JUDAS PRIEST, they had just as much influence just not on certain levels – IRON MAIDEN always had this way of writing music that somehow separated from what everyone else was doing and that was something I really, really admired. Everything from the subject matter to the actual riffing and song structures - Steve Harris changed the way people play bass, man. I mean he literally started a new kind of bass player. And it has continued – I see guys like Mike Flores from ORIGIN

KNAC.COM: Oh hell yes, oh my god (laughs)

TUCKER: He isn’t influenced by SLAYER, he’s influenced by Alex Webster [CANNIBAL CORPSE] who’s influenced by Steve Harris; so IRON MAIDEN to this day is still so fucking important. I mean here I am bro in my 40s and I’m talking about when I was listening to these guys at 12 years old and they’re still making albums and selling out arenas worldwide. That’s amazing.

KNAC.COM: I completely agree, and you also mentioned JUDAS PRIEST who are an equally big influence for me.

TUCKER: Musically JUDAS PRIEST was more of an influence – musically. They were more musically influential to my playing, but IRON MAIDEN overall was more influential to me realizing that Metal was legit, that you can be smart and play Metal.

KNAC.COM: I recently got to interview [JUDAS PRIEST bass player] Ian Hill and we talked about how for a band to be…they formed in 1970, released their first album in ’73 and they’re still just packing them in and selling records – that’s so hard to do.

TUCKER: Their new album [Firepower] could have been shit but it’s beautiful.

KNAC.COM: Yeah it’s great.

TUCKER: You know what I mean? It is not shit, whenever I get asked about it I’m like, “Dude, I feel like I’m 13 again!” They somehow recaptured for me that old…I wanna bang my head dude; I wanna bang my head and man that is just awesome. (laughs)

KNAC.COM: (laughs) Yeah it really blew me away and I’m glad to see them still out there.

TUCKER: I agree. And [Rob] Halford, man – Halford has done a lot for the Metal community. He’s just been Halford for all these years and made even the hardest headed motherfuckers in the world accept that someone can be gay and still be a bad ass, you know what I mean? It shows the irrelevance of someone’s sexuality – who cares? Why do people even care about that shit?

KNAC.COM: I agree, what does it matter? And why were people surprised to find out after all the leather he wore the whole time? I can’t see how somebody saw that news as a shock.

TUCKER: And you know what dude, the great thing about it is all the real “hardcore” people who were up in arms about it – it fell away. (laughs) They fought it for a year or two but ultimately they couldn’t deny the fact of what Halford & JUDAS PRIEST had given them throughout the years. So what someone does with their private life is irrelevant – who gives a shit? It doesn’t matter. Music does something that talking doesn’t seem to have the ability to do in our world, music actually makes people forget their silly national lusts and their silly fucking superiorities; it totally makes that shit disappear. Metalheads are perfect proof of how music can make people of all different crazy backgrounds come together and be bros, everyone is bros. You’ve been to a Metal show – yeah, sometimes there’s a fight, but not so much anymore and for the most part everyone is really brothers just happy to be at that show, you know? That’s all the power of music, man.

KNAC.COM: It’s an instant connection anywhere, you walk into Wal-Mart and see a guy wearing a SUFFOCATION t-shirt and you’re like, “oh holy shit” – you don’t approach random people in public but you do if they’re wearing a Metal shirt because it’s an instant connection with somebody.

TUCKER: That’s why we do the head nods – we don’t know each other but we acknowledge that we’re the same sort. And the thing is you don’t know anything about that dude. (laughs) Metal is a phenomenal form of music, it’s the only music I think that exists in our world besides Classical that has the only sort of legacy respect, you know – well maybe a little bit in American Country music there might be a little bit of respect for the forefathers but not so much I don’t think, they only care about selling records…but in Metal, man? We all love the forefathers, we all love them because we all come from the same – what? – five or six bands.

KNAC.COM: And the integrity is the most important, you know? I mean if [MORBID ANGEL] wanted a paycheck you guys have the caliber of musicianship that certainly you could find an easier path in some other genre, but that’s not what it’s about.

TUCKER: Yeah, that was never…I mean I could have played any kind of music like you said, I’m a good enough musician that I could have played any kind – now I don’t know if handsome enough to play some of the kinds (laughs) – but a lot of people don’t do it to try to be trendy or try to be successful so usually when that happens it’s an accident that some Metal band has become big. Like BEHEMOTH is a perfect example – you would think a band like BEHEMOTH has spent all these years trying to get people to stop paying attention to them, yet it just grew; it just grew and they became more respected & more powerful in a sense, and it’s because they hit that thing where they became BEHEMOTH and they just stuck to it, dude. And it’s a legitimate thing, somehow this beautiful accident happened so now these guys get to go out and tour with SLAYER and shit like that. The thing is I remember being 15 – 16 years old getting into fistfights with people because I listened to SLAYER; I’d be called a Satanist and whatever but the thing is I didn’t care about religion, it was the music that I loved. I mean if someone wanted to fight me because of what kind of music I listened to then I could see they were ignorant enough that I was going to have to defend myself.

KNAC.COM: It’s worth defending too, you know?

TUCKER: Yeah and the thing about it is 20 years later they all fucking listen to SLAYER. (laughs)

KNAC.COM: (laughs) I love the thing that Trey does with the album titles: since the beginning with Altars Of Madness the first letter of each album title moves through the alphabet, now you’re on “K” with Kingdoms Disdained. We’re hoping to get 15 more albums from you guys, but do you and Trey ever have conversations about other album titles? Like have you figured out what you would do if you make it to “X”?

TUCKER: Man, you know what – honestly, no. It isn’t something we’ve ever discussed and I can honestly tell you that with Kingdoms Disdained we were in the studio and we knew kind of - like we had already talked about it – but Trey just walks in and is like, “Dude – what about Kingdoms Disdained? Plural so it means all of the kingdoms.” And I just said, “Man, I love it”; that’s just how it happens. And I assume for the next album Trey will come up and do something similar with “L”. I don’t think it’s something that’s ever going to change, we’re not going to jump ship and suddenly start naming them out of order, but the thing is I don’t know how far we’ll make it. We’re not kids now, you know? (laughs) But yeah I wonder what the “Z” album would be called…it could get weird. (laughs)

KNAC.COM: (laughs) It’s been 15 years since your last MORBID ANGEL album, Heretic; what brought you back to the fold?

TUCKER: Trey approached me; I mean Trey and I have never lost contact, he’s never gone without my cell # and my e-mail, so we’ve remained in contact from a distance the entire time. I’ve said before that when I left MORBID it wasn’t because of MORBID, it was because of what was going on in my life; it was just one of those things where it was like, “Hey man, these two things don’t work together right now”. So when Trey contacted me the first thing he said was, “Hey man, what’s your situation? Is this something you’d be interested in? I’d love to make music with you.” And I decided, “Hey I love to make music with you too”, I think Trey pushes and challenges me. I have another band, WARFATHER, which is now pretty much asleep, and I’m the one that pushes people, nobody pushes me in that band; I make all the final decisions so it’s mine, you know? Trey actually challenges me and pushes me, which is something I really enjoy – I love a good challenge, man.

KNAC.COM: And he obviously knows how to get the best out of his musicians, that’s the caliber of the music pushing everybody to push their own limits.

TUCKER: Yeah, I think of it like…think of Trey and the original band, that chemistry worked really well, you know what I mean? It went great; the first four or five albums are tremendous albums, then I think at some point those guys’ chemistry started not to work anymore. And I’m not ragging on anyone here, bro – I’m just saying that sometimes the chemical make-up doesn’t work; sometimes you put the chemicals together and they explode, other times you mix them together and you make something miraculous. So it is what it is and all I can say is luckily as soon as Trey & I started working together it felt right. If it hadn’t no one would have ever even known that this had happened; if it just didn’t work and if Trey or I just wasn’t feeling it we would have trashed it. But once we started working it was like jumping on a bike, like we never missed a beat.

KNAC.COM: And that’s what this album feels like – it just flows right from Heretic and I don’t think that just by listening people would know that 15 years had passed between albums.

TUCKER: I have to agree with you, on tour it is just really amazing how well the new songs fit into the set. I can’t even explain it, I’ve always had respect for Trey and he’s always shown me great respect as well, and somehow the chemical makeup with us mixed together you get this mean, pissed off, aggressive yet somehow seething kind of sound going on and it’s just…I love it.

KNAC.COM: I’m glad you’re back, man; it has definitely made my year.

TUCKER: I appreciate that, brother thank you.

KNAC.COM: The concept of Kingdoms Disdained is the idea of gods getting fed up with humanity’s pettiness and kind of shaking the Etch-A-Sketch and wiping the slate clean. It reminds me of the movie Cabin In The Woods, have you seen it?

TUCKER: No actually, I haven’t.

KNAC.COM: ****SPOILER ALERT**** Ah well it’s pretty awesome, it’s a really unique take on the Horror genre and it’s about the Ancient Ones [from Sumerian Mythos] and a concept that the world is making these sacrifices in order to keep them asleep & pacified, but ultimately they just want to wake up and bust up the world.

TUCKER: The whole idea is now that people have quit pacifying them, that’s the concept of [Kingdoms Disdained]; people have forgotten the gods – I’m not talking God, I’m not talking Jesus or Allah – I’m talking the ancient gods, the gods of creation. To me people have become so petty they’ll sit and argue about something so petty as, “Oh this color offends them” or…I mean honestly bro, it’s my thought that anybody that is so easily offended has no confidence whatsoever, they are literally just someone going through life looking for something to have an emotional reaction to. I mean if you can come up to someone and call them a name that makes them suddenly break down in tears then that’s a weak human, and to be honest with you any god that created that person should just be disgusted! I’m disgusted and I’m nowhere near a god; I’m disgusted by these weak, pathetic people that expect other people to make their life good, you know what I mean? If you’re not willing to make your own life good end it. That’s my honest opinion; it’s brutal and I know people are gonna be like, “Oh, Steve’s such a hater blah blah blah” but I’m not a hater, that’s the difference, I love life. I come from a shit-ass neighborhood wearing sweaty gym shoes and having to fight just to keep them on my feet, man. And yet I’ve gotten to travel around, visit places, play music and meet people – there’s only one reason I’ve gotten to do all of this and it’s because of desire and not expecting other people to do anything for me. When I got the MORBID ANGEL tryout nobody else tried out for me and got me the fucking gig, I stepped up in front of Trey [Azagthoth] and Pete [Sandoval], I did my thing and they decided they wanted me to be their new representative. I mean honestly that’s how it went down, it was me showing up and doing my thing; nobody patted my back or wiped my butt, those guys weren’t really nice to me – they were pretty skeptical, to be honest. Next thing you know here I am in MORBID ANGEL four albums later. So it’s all about desire, it’s all about your willingness to do and achieve something. It’s a thing – at least in America – that really seems to have become a thing of the past: “Bust your ass and you’ll do well.” There’s something with our younger generations where that doesn’t even cross their minds – “Only fools work hard”, that’s the way they see it.

KNAC.COM: There’s a complete sense of entitlement.

TUCKER: It is entitlement that someone else has to degrade themselves for their sake – it’s absolutely entitlement because I don’t even know what else it could be. Someone who thinks, “Oh the only people that can do landscaping come from below the Mexican border” – If you really think that way you are a pathetic person. The world has become all about what you’re wearing, what song you’re listening to, let’s forget about the week and all these things; it’s all short term consumerism, you know what I mean? The only way to keep people consuming is to keep delivering new things, that’s what the Pop world does. Then you have bands like MORBID ANGEL who have existed for over 30 years in the so-called underground and who would have even guessed that this kind of music would have lasted this long? I mean we had the discussion about IRON MAIDEN – they’re far more successful than MORBID ANGEL – but again who would have guessed they’d still be around after so long? 30 years later OBITUARY will be touring; DEICIDE, CANNIBAL CORPSE, MORBID ANGEL – still touring. I mean who’d guess that shit??

KNAC.COM: Yeah it’s amazing. And what it boils down to me and what pisses me off is that whatever side of the coin you’re on, you’re making a choice; and whereas someone like you is aware of that fact, aware that you have to make this effort and actively choose to pursue something, the majority of people just convince themselves that, “Oh this is just the way that life is, this is the way it has to be” and they’re reinforcing their own limitations just by refusing to acknowledge the fact that they’re choosing that – it’s not “God’s Will”, it’s not fuckin’ whatever – it’s their own mind being unable to take responsibility for their actions.

TUCKER: The big problem with it is that the world is reactionary; in other words, after so many years we have this political party then what do we do? We switch sides; it happens every goddamn decade! It’s like, “We’ll do eight years of Republican but then let’s switch and do four to eight years of Democrat”. It’s always flipping back & forth and it’s always reactionary. If we get too far right people are like, “Fuck that”; if we get too far left people are like, “Fuck that”. I really wish that as a people the world would become more forward-thinking and much less reactionary, that’s probably the biggest problem facing humanity: If you can’t sit back and see where we’re going then you need to slow down.

KNAC.COM: And we’ve been on this pendulum for so long a major part of me wonders if we’re actually gonna stop and take an honest look at where we are.

TUCKER: We’re not.

KNAC.COM: Yeah, I don’t think so.

TUCKER: We’re not. It may not be a popular opinion, but that’s my opinion.

KNAC.COM: And I think that speaking the truth is more important than ever now.

TUCKER: Has it not become irrelevant these days? People don’t care, you can tell them the same truth 10 times and they’ll just say it’s not their truth. You’re a parent, I’m a parent – I didn’t baby my kids and I refuse to baby someone else’s kids because they didn’t tell them the truth. We’re pretty upside down as a world right now and that’s where the lyrics of [Kingdoms Disdained] are coming from, just disgusted; the overall tone for me is disgust. Any god – any god – would be disgusted with how petty we are as a people, “I don’t care about that guy, and it’s only about me, me, me.” Here’s the thing – it’s the first time in our existence (that we know of) – where we reached a point that people don’t have to do anything; and by anything I mean people don’t have to go out & chop wood tonight to stay warm, they don’t have to hunt in order to eat tonight, people don’t have to grow a garden; no, all you need to have now is money.

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