|Sal Abruscato - A Pale Horse Named Death - Interview Exclusive|
|Written by Rich Hobson|
|Sunday, 19 February 2012 04:45|
Sal Abruscato is no stranger to the darker sides of life; musically and personally. A founding member of seminal Doom/Goth/Thrash (and just a little bit of synth pop) outfit Type O Negative, as well as being the skins-man for Brooklyn's other Doom/Goth band Life of Agony, Abruscato's presence has always been like the hidden gear powering the genre, providing the beat to some of the genre's greatest albums including Type O's breakthrough record 'Bloody Kisses' and Life of Agony's debut release 'River Runs Red'.
But that's all in the past. Shifting from behind the kit to centre stage, Abruscato is back with a new band, a new record and a new outlook on life. With '...And Hell Will Follow Me', A Pale Horse Named Death's debut record Abruscato takes all the accumulated darkness that has befallen him and turns it into powerful, doom-laden fuel for his musical output, creating an album which boasts both the gloomy, murky depths of sound that any record associated with Type O Negative is known to have, as well as an air of tragic elegance that won't think twice about kicking your ass and breaking your heart.
Hi Sal firstly thanks for taking the time to talk with Uber Rock. So how did the whole A Pale Horse Named Death thing come about?
I was in a really dark place in my life, and one day I was lying on the couch watching a TV programme about the bible; Revelations, The 4 Horsemen, and death rode a pale horse. I was lay there and I started fucking around with the words in my head and it just hit me, like "oh shit!" A Pale Horse Named Death! And you know what? You might think that sounds crazy but there's something to it and there's something that's familiar to people but with an original twist, so boom!
That was the beginning of the darkness, the wicked shit, and I started writing aggressively for this new idea and then it just escalated more and more; I started going through a divorce, and that created more persistence and motivation to make it happen, adding more aggression and depression and that was kinda the beginning.
How has the project been for you so far, and how has moving from being a drummer to frontman been?
Well, y'know what? It's a hard job. Back as a drummer I could be tired or sick and still be able to play the show, but now... I have to be careful; I can't get sick, I can't stay up too late, I can't party... I can't do anything because I've gotta worry about the next show and not losing my voice. At the same time I'm having a lot of fun living out this alter ego of mine.
A Pale Horse Named Death's not for everybody; some people don't like it, some people like it, but it's showing the world a little bit more of me, wearing my heart on my sleeve and just showing the kind of music I enjoy writing and I hope the world enjoys it as well.
Brooklyn seems to have had its fair share of Gothic/Doom bands over the years - why do you believe this is?
I think it's just our influences, our headspace. The influences of where we come from, and yeah a lot of the influence for A Pale Horse Named Death comes from Type O Negative; I enjoyed playing that music and I'm very proud of the albums I played on. I learned a lot from Peter [Steele, the much missed late vocalist of Type O Negative who passed away in 2010 due to heart failure] as a musician. I don't know if it's Brooklyn itself that creates the whole Goth/Doom thing but I think it's just who we are... We're just miserable bastards!
Having played in several of the genre's prolific would you say that the approach for each band is different, and has a different part of you musically or does it all stem from the same place ultimately?
It all comes from the same family tree, but I'm not trying to intentionally replicate anything from the past. It does have its own mind and its own thing going on, but there is those elements incorporated into what we're doing, but it's just who we are.
What sorts of bands were influential on you when it came to writing for 'And Hell Will Follow Me'?
I wasn't listening to anybody, really. And I still don't listen to anybody really; my influences are a lot of 70's music, a lot of late 80's and early 90's music. Of course Black Sabbath, The Beatles and Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix... but at the same time I like a lot of the 80's Goth sound; the dance music from when I was growing up.
The whole Sisters of Mercy thing, I love those kind of vocals. I'll admit; I'm not gonna go around calling myself some kind of amazing singer, but I just like to do lower, deeper sounding vocals and I just like that kind of tone too, and a lot of that is going on in the 80's. That's the kind of stuff that influenced Peter too. When I was writing the songs I just basically barricaded myself up and was just pushing forward, pushing forward, and whatever has touched me in my life I would reach in and use those influences.
There seems to be heavy involvement in absolutely every aspect of the music with A Pale Horse Named Death, is this something you hope to continue for future albums?
Yeah, I'd like to keep the same theme; the same vibe, the same artwork style; even the same tones and approach. I don't wanna stray away too far - I think there's bands that make that mistake. They do a first album that's well received and then they're so hungry to make it further on the second album that they come out with an album that's just so different from the first record, and a lot of the fans get upset. And that's because, if the fan's liked the first album it's because they liked what you were doing, and I think you could jeopardize losing those fans who're like "the first album's great but the 2nd album blows!"
The band seems to have an open policy on collaborators for this first album, with [Life of Agony vocalist] Keith Caputo and Biohazard's Bobby Hamill making appearances - is this something you would like to continue or will the next project have much more of a sole contributor feel?
I think it'll just be last minute decisions. What we did with Keith and Bobby, we had them come down and told them where and what we wanted to happen. I don't have any ideas for the next album, but you never know.
Other than yourself and Matt, the other members of the band are credited as live members - is this open to a revolving door policy or is the line-up fixed from here on in?
I'm happy with everyone, and we have a very nice chemistry. As far as I'm concerned I would like good people to stick around and not go anywhere and I'm okay with that. It's a pretty cool thing that me and Johnny [Kelly, oddly enough he filled the drum spot for Type O Negative in Sal's absence, and now drums for A Pale Horse Named Death] can come together in this way. People are like "wow! Two drummers from Type O Negative, what's that all about?" and I think it's just our kind of way to continue. Everyone that is in the band currently, unless they're unhappy or something comes up I don't see any need to change things.
Do you feel you have more creative freedom with A Pale Horse Named Death than with previous bands?
Oh yeah! I didn't have this kind of creative freedom in Life Of Agony. I'm very into this, it's basically my baby. This is basically going to be the last thing I do, if I were to quit it I would be happy to quit on this note. I'm not interested in going to play with other bands, playing drums again. I would like to see this through and hope and only hope to see it become successful, and become somewhat close like the other bands did and work very hard at it - it took years just to get to this point.
What does A Pale Horse Named Death mean to you on both a personal and creative level?
It just means a new chapter in my life, like I said we had commenced on divorce proceedings, when I started recording on this record and before I even had the record done or I recorded anything I believed in the name so much I went and got the name tattooed. It meant to me more than just a band, it means a change in my life. Later on I met my current wife, and I have a beautiful daughter from our marriage, I am very proud of this and all the work with the guys in the band. It means a whole new beautiful chapter in music. Its basically me saying goodbye to... Well, Peter passed away whilst I was doing the album so it's me saying goodbye to Peter, saying goodbye to Life of Agony, it's me saying goodbye to a lot of things and turning a new leaf and try something new.
Has it been a long-standing ambition to move from drums to being a frontman?
It was. It took a long time for me to muster up the courage, and the time had to be right for me to say "now is the time for me to do this". I've always kinda been in the closet about it, I was writing songs at home and I was always in the closet about singing, I'm very shy. The timing of it, 2009 was the time for me to give this a shot.
Do you have any tips for any musicians who are starting out, or those who may already be in bands but wish to break from their established roles?
Be prepared to change a lot of things in your life, especially if you wanna be a vocalist and sing. Be prepared for a lot of work, a lot of dedication and a lot of rejection.
Do you expect to make it back to European shores this summer for the festival season?
We're trying to work on it. I know that we've been offered to come and do Download, Donington, but I don't know if we can make that feasible and we'll have to see what happens. It's very complicated putting a tour together, the routing and the agents and stuff, so the ultimate goal would be to come back in June, and hopefully do London, some UK stuff - maybe Download. This is our first run as a new band in the UK, some shows have been really great and some shows have been really light. We're a new band with a new record and we still need to win people over. Even when we perform in front of 50 people, and they're gonna talk about us and next time maybe it'll be 100, 150. Word of mouth is the best advertisement. Hopefully all goes well, in the meantime I'm writing for the 2nd record, we wanna put out a 2nd album fairly quickly, we don't want people to wait too long and we don't wanna lose any of the interest or the hype behind it, we wanna keep the momentum.
'...And Death Will Follow Me' is now available to purchase from all great musical outlets via SPV, and it's highly recommended for fans of Type O Negative, Life Of Agony and Alice In Chains.
Photo Kudos; Guenther Dobrauz and Fabian Von Unwerth