Interview with John Sorrell of Morgue Rot Magazine
You are currently working on the debut issue of Morgue Rot Magazine. The title of the zine has an old school death metal feel. Was this the angle you were looking for while choosing a name?
As a huge fan of 80/90's death metal, I wanted a name that screamed death and gore. At the time, I was listening to Morgue’s “Eroded Thoughts” quite a bit. So there's an obvious influence on the name. Morgue Rot was the first thing that popped into my skull. And it was available.
When did you first get the idea of publishing a zine? Were you inspired by any zines you were reading at the time or was it from a desire to support extreme music?
Originally, the idea was to release a small art book, showcasing my artwork alone. But, after discussing the idea with my wife, the suggestion of additional content arose. In the beginning, I planned to write a few album/film reviews myself. I really had no intentions of working with anyone on this. After I decided on the name, Morgue Rot, I posted on social media what my intentions were. I just wanted to create a little hype for my project. Almost instantly I was receiving messages from friends who wanted to help out. Shortly after, the bands started sending me their works for review. It quickly started to take its own form, and over the course of a week, a rough version of issue 1 had been planned. Promoting my artwork was the only real inspiration I had at the time of conception. Everything else just fell into place.
How long have you listened to eighties and nineties death metal, and what attracted you to it?
I discovered death metal around 1995, I would have been fourteen. I always had an interest in metal, I had been listening to Megadeth and Metallica for a few years. I think I was eleven when I picked up my first Metallica cassette, “Master of Puppets”. And it was life changing to say the least. Anyways, I found a metal mag at a local book store one day. I don't remember the names of either. But, the mag came with a sampler cd which included the likes of Dismember, Sinister, Six Feet Under and others. Needless to say, this was a game changer, and so my quest for death metal began. As for what attracts me to this music... death itself. I've always had a fascination with the morbid and macabre. Death Metal is the perfect soundtrack to my life.
What fascinates you about the morbid and the macabre? How and why do you relate to the subject matter of death and black metal, etc? What bands would you cite as examples?
It's something that I have no control over. The darkness called to me at a very young age, five or six years old. I clearly remember the first time I saw an image of the grim reaper; I was mesmerized. I couldn't look away from it. It's hollow, lifeless eyes spoke to me on some level. By age eight, I was watching every horror movie I could find. I began trying to recreate these monsters, killers and demons on paper. I was obsessed. “The Gate” was a very influential film for me. It triggered an interest in Satanism and the Occult. This presented a bit of a problem as my parents were devout Pentecostals.
And while my love of horror was supported, that is where it would end. Keeping my new found “faith”, or lack thereof, a secret was challenging at times. There was no internet for me back then, I was left at the mercy of the church library. I managed to find a few books that touched briefly on the subject, but always in a negative light.
It wasn't until my 18th birthday, that I finally acquired a copy of the Satanic Bible. After reading it cover to cover, multiple times, I knew the path that was before me. I'm thirty-nine now, and nothing has changed. I still find comfort in the darkness, peace in death and power in the Devil.
I wouldn't say I relate to the lyrics of death metal really. I think that's reserved for serial killers and the like. Ha ha. Black metal, however, is very spiritual in nature and so for obvious reasons, I can relate to the content. As for bands/albums that I can identify with... I don't know, Bathory’s “The Return of Darkness and Evil” comes to mind first.
What spoke to you about The Satanic Bible when you read it? Did you look for other published works by Anton LaVey and/or other occult authors afterward?
From the beginning of the bible, with the Nine Satanic Statements, everything that Satan represented rang true with me. This was the person I was struggling to accept due to my religious upbringing. Through those few words, I found liberation. And after reading “The Book of Satan”, I found my fire. I knew who I was now and I embraced it.
I soon became aware of LaVey's other works but never had any luck finding them. Today, copies are readily available, but at that point in time, I was limited to the "religion" section at the local book store. In that book store, I learned of other occult philosophers. Crowley, Nietzsche and others. But none of these held my attention the way the Satanic Bible did. You have to remember, I was only eighteen at the time. And "real" Satanism was new to me. So I was content with LaVey's teachings.
As an adult I have read all of LaVey's works and a few by Michael W. Ford. Most of what I read is on the history of the occult, by various authors, covering a wide range of topics.
When did Michael W. Ford live and what books on occultism did he write in his lifetime?
Michael W. Ford is alive and well. He's a Luciferian author and the master mind behind the U.S. black metal band, Black Funeral. Some of his works include “The Bible of the Adversary” and “Apotheosis”, among others.
What is the difference between Satanism and Luciferianism? How much of an understanding of Luciferianism do “The Bible of the Adversary” and “Apotheosis” provide for interested readers? Also, is Black Funeral still active?
Satanists are mainly focused on the physical nature of man. They are content to explore and enjoy that nature and typically reject endeavors to rise beyond it. Satan is an emblem of carnality and materiality.
Luciferians view Lucifer as a spiritual and enlightened being. And while Luciferians do embrace the enjoyment of one's life, they accept that there are greater and more spiritual goals to be had.
Many do see Satan and Lucifer as being different aspects of the same being, the carnal, rebellious and material Satan vs. the enlightened and spiritual Lucifer. The Apotheosis is a beginners’ guide and may be more ideal for someone that's interested in Luciferianism. Both books are essential reads and offer a great understanding and direction down the left hand path.
Black Funeral I believe is still active. Their latest offering, “Ankou and the Death Fire” was released in 2016.
In what ways was “The Gate” influential? Did it make you interested in watching more occult based horror movies? If so, were most of them at least partially accurate or Hollywood schlock?
Seven year old me thought the one kid Terry, played by Louis Tripp, was just the coolest. Ha ha. I watched this film not long ago and I was like, what the fuck? These kids are fucking nerds, ha ha. But back then I wanted to be one of these guys. I wanted to play records backwards and summon demons through a hell pit in my backyard. That sounded great to me. Of course everything turns to literal shit in the film, but I never focused on that part ha ha.
I definitely wanted to see more occult themed horror after watching “The Gate”. One of my favorites from 1993 is “Warlock: The Armageddon”. It's a cheesy flick, but I love it. I've seen it countless times. I feel the subject matter was handled well in the film. This would also be the first time I heard the band Nuclear Assault. Their track “Something Wicked” plays during the credits. It's really hit and miss, some films get it and others don't so much. A prime example of an occult film done properly is Polanski's “The Ninth Gate.” The film coupled with the score, is a work of dark art in my opinion. Probably one of my favorite films of all time.
I didn’t see “Warlock: The Armageddon” but I saw the first “Warlock” on cable TV many years ago. I thought it leaned more towards shlock but was entertaining, especially where Julian Sands’ performance was concerned. Did you ever catch it? How about “Rosemary’s Baby” and “The Devil’s Advocate”?
I've seen the film a few times. Overall, I don't care for it much. It is shlock. Maybe the second is too, but it's much better in my opinion. The remainder of the series, without Julian Sands, is utter garbage.
“Rosemary's Baby” is an occult classic for sure. The only other Polanski film I've seen is “Frantic”, with Harrison Ford. I can't say any of his other films really interest me. I first became aware of Roman Polanski after reading “Helter Skelter”. He was married to the late Sharon Tate, victim of the Manson murders.
“The Devil's Advocate” is a good film, overall. Al Pacino's portrayal of the Devil is perfect. Animalistic and powerful.
Since you have been a fan of underground music from your teens into your adulthood, how do you respond to people who say the music is an adolescent fad to grow out of? Do you think the genres have grown with you over the years?
I think that if you “grow out of” metal music, then it was never really meant for you to begin with. I've heard that shit my entire life and it's never happened to me. Never will. I think my musical tastes have grown over the years, I don't know about the genres. I guess there have been a few groundbreaking albums but none come to mind. The number of bands in the underground scene have grown for sure.
In your opinion is extreme music as valid as classic rock from the sixties and seventies, in spite of preconceptions about the talent required for the music, lyric writing and vocals?
I think extreme music is just as valid, if not more so. There's no denying that we wouldn't have the bands of today without the bands of that era. But, I feel the influence is not as great as it was previously. Extreme music from the 90's seems to be the formula that today's bands try to emulate. As far as talent goes, if you think that extreme music takes no talent, then I wouldn't even waste my time on you. I know people think that, and it's fucking ridiculous. I think maybe these kids playing one chord in their mom's basement are giving hard working bands a bad name.
While most bands today are emulating the 90s sound, have you heard of any taking extreme music in different directions? Is it still possible for underground bands to do something original?
I haven't heard many. The most recent would probably be Craft’s “White Noise and Black Metal”. I think it's a good example of keeping extreme music fresh. I love that the bass is audible in the mix, which is rare for black metal. As for originality, I think so, it's just about finding a new approach to old ideas.
Judging by your correspondence with people, are there more or fewer print zines these days? What do you think are the pros and cons of running print zines, web zines and video channels?
I couldn't tell you for certain. I know there are not many physical zines, that I'm aware of, that interest me. Most of them are strictly reviews and a little boring. I'm trying to do something different with Morgue Rot.
I'm going to have stellar content and be aesthetically pleasing at the same time. Some of these zines are lazy when it comes to the visuals. I can promise that with Morgue Rot, that will not be the case.
Any time you’re doing a physical release, the cons are many. There's no guarantee that you will recoup the funds invested. And if you consider the amount of time spent, there is virtually no profit to be made.
It is a labor of love. Web Zines and Video channels are a much safer route. You've nothing to lose but your own personal time. I chose print because I'm a physical media junkie, not because it was the smart thing to do.
Who do you plan to interview for the zine, and what genres will it support? Do you have a staff or are you publishing it on your own?
I already have a few interviews done for issue 1. Most recognizable would probably be Voltaire, the front man for black metal titans, Deiphago. Morgue Rot will primarily cover black/death/grind acts, however, I'm a fan of all metal so nothing is off the table.
I don't have a staff really, but a very small group of content contributors. Sarah McKellar and Devin Joseph Meaney are both supplying reviews and interviews. Artist Alaric Barca (Goat Metal Comics) will be a regular contributor as well. The design and layout is being done by myself. And of course, I have the final say as to what sees print.
Did you contact Deiphago when you first sought out bands to interview? How many bands had you contacted by then and what made them want to do an interview with you?
I've been Facebook friends with Voltaire for several years. Never talked to him before though. Initially, I was looking for bands to appear on the compilation CD I'm releasing with Morgue Rot. I had four or five bands already, and was feeling brave, so I reached out to him and asked if Deiphago would be interested. He responded with great enthusiasm. Originally, we discussed an obscure Deiphago track being on the comp, but Voltaire decided to talk to the label, Hell's Headbangers, and got permission to use a track from their latest offering, "I, The Devil ". He volunteered for an interview without me asking, which I thought was pretty cool of him. As to why anyone wants to be associated with me or Morgue Rot...I don't know. I must be doing something right.
Who are the other bands you have interviewed this far? Is there enough information about them so readers first hearing of them will get to know them?
Other than Deiphago, I have a short Q & A with Cody Black of Throne and an interview with black metal musician, Cernunnous. I believe there are two or three more that are still being finalized. I would say the interviews are fairly personal and should give a look into the artist's mind. They are short, but insightful.
What other genres would you consider featuring in Morgue Rot? What would you say is your purpose in publishing a fanzine of an exclusively underground format?
I love all sub genres of metal and also listen to a lot of goth rock and industrial/ebm. I would be open to covering any type of music that I feel embraces the dark side of human nature. As for my purpose, it's fueled by an undying passion for underground art and music. The mainstream gets plenty of attention and while I do enjoy some popular bands, it's just not what I spend my time listening to. I'm not trying to get famous here, this is a representation of what I love.
I noticed a few artists posting on your profile on Facebook. Are you searching for artists to do the zine’s cover and possibly some art for the pages?
I'll always be searching for artists, however, issue 1 is nearly full in that department. The great Silvano Calligari will be illustrating the cover and I have a handful of artists that will be featured in the "gallery". But yes, I am currently looking for artists for issue 2. So if anyone is interested....
How did you hook up with Sarah and Devin for interviews and reviews in the zine, and Alaric Barca for art contributions? Are you still looking for writers to submit material?
I've known Sarah for several years. She friended me on Facebook because she enjoyed my artwork and has always been very supportive. When I announced I would be doing Morgue Rot, Sarah was the first to volunteer. I met Devin through Sarah not long ago. He's a great guy with a lot of talent and we hit if off immediately. In addition to reviews and interviews, Devin is contributing a few short stories, and his band Nosebleed Section has a track on the comp. Alaric and I have known each other for a long time. I don't even remember what year we met. We've been supporters of each other’s art and I've done some graphic design work for his comic company, Goat Metal Comics. And yes, I'm always looking for writers to contribute their works. I plan on doing this for a long time.
Do you contact labels for physical or digital promos for review, or do you search social media and streaming websites?
Yes to all of the above. Although I have to say that 90% of the artists and bands that will be in issue 1, contacted me first. Same applies to the bands on the compilation CD.
Tell the readers about this compilation CD you have been hinting at. Will it be released to coincide with the first issue of Morgue Rot? Are you at liberty to name the other bands you’re including?
The compilation will be included for free with Morgue Rot issue 1.It's entitled “The Coroner's Playlist Vol.1”. I fully intend on releasing a new comp. with every issue. I do have ten bands / tracks confirmed at this time. With three more up in the air. So far the lineup is: Throne, Deiphago, Sun Descends Black, Hate Doctrine, Tanatos Mundi, Process of Suffocation, Cernunnous, Nosebleed Section, Teratos, Sebum Excess Production.
What was your basis for selecting the bands to appear on the compilation? How do you plan to print it as well as the zine?
Well, I wanted a decent mix of black and death metal. I know several local bands, so I knew I wanted them on the comp. for sure. Other than the Deiphago track, the rest were submitted for approval. If I liked it, they were in. I'll be printing the compilation CD myself. Initially, I planned to print the zine in house, but changed my mind and will now have a printing company handle the task. I don't really feel like printing and assembling fifty copies to save a couple of bucks. And in the end, the quality will be better than what I planned to do.
How many printing companies did you search for before settling on one? What format will the first issue be printed in?
I looked into several companies before making a decision. The format will be standard magazine style. I wanted something with quality, while still having a zine feel. There's not a publication out there that I'm trying to emulate. I want to do something different with Morgue Rot.
Would you consider doing the zine online, or will you publish it exclusively in print? What response do you hope for the first issue?
I'm actually looking into an online version as well, but I'm not certain if it's something I will do. Print is my preferred format. Obviously, I hope Issue 1 sells out and generates a great response. So far there has been a lot of interest, so hopes are high.
Will you consider live, book and/or movie reviews in future issues of the zine? Anything else you would consider adding?
I very much want concert reviews to be included in the zine, and after live shows resume, I'll be working that section in. Book and movie reviews are something I would like, but honestly don't have the time to do. I would definitely be open to contributions in that department. Beyond that, I'm not really sure. I'd be open to any ideas.
About how many copies are you printing for this issue? How will you price the zine so it makes up for printing costs while making it affordable for zine readers?
The first issue will be limited to only fifty copies and will be $5.99 + shipping USD. At that price point, I can stay in business and still have an affordable product.
What are the things you most want to accomplish with Morgue Rot Magazine? Do you want to see it succeed in the mainstream?
Exposure for underground artist is the main focus. So as long as I'm doing that, I'll be happy. As far as "mainstream " attention, I'd rather avoid it, but if the opportunity presents itself it will be on my terms.
Tell the readers about your artwork and graphic design company Fallen Asylum. Do you provide artwork for bands and zine editors, and if so in what formats? How long has this company been active and how many clients have you had so far?
I started Fallen Asylum in 2015. In the beginning, I mainly did flyers and album layouts for local bands. In the last year I have started doing custom stickers and that has been going fairly well. I've made over 1000 stickers for multiple clients. The future for Fallen Asylum is custom screen printing, which should be up and running this summer. I've only worked with a handful of bands, and that is something I hope will change. It's been a challenge to find new clients as the market is oversaturated. Everyone is an artist these days haha.