Vorzug is described as being “four old guys playing old-school style death metal in a newer sort of way.” What effort does the band channel into reinventing death metal?
Our perspective on that is to look at our influences and put together an idea that mixes genres from each influence, not just death metal, which adds elements both fresh and nostalgic to the listener. The vocals will keep our sound death metal while we experiment with different elements in our music. Or at least that's what we like to tell ourselves.
Who named the band? Is there any special significance to the name Vorzug?
Drummer Daniel Beck suggested the name. We were looking for a name that described the band. We’re all music veterans that were looking at the current state of what was being released and sold and we thought we had something better to offer. Vorzug is a German word meaning precedence, preference or virtue... so we wanted to come out with a single word name with a strong meaning that is easy to find in online searches.
Are you all from Arizona? For as long as you and the other band members have been involved in the underground scene there, how many changes have you seen as far as there being local clubs to perform?
We all come from different places originally but have lived in Arizona for long periods of time, though our bass player Rock left Arizona back in 2010 and he currently lives in Maryland. We do our own thing and rarely concern ourselves with local events and politics. That being said the Phoenix metro valley is fairly diverse with a lot of venues in the area some better than others.
How does the band view extreme music these days? Do you see too many bands doing the same thing, or do you see a few heading in new directions? With twenty to thirty years’ experience, how do you think Vorzug will change things?
It's hard to say really. No one is reinventing the wheel when it comes to extreme music. Everyone tries to incorporate new or recycled things but it doesn't always work. When it does some people really like it but others aren't ready for it. I think as long as bands get out and work hard and put an honest effort into it, extreme music will be around to stay for a while.
Have the band long been extreme music fans? Does each member contribute his perception to your sound? Does anyone have previous band experience?
We all have our own influences but we've all been listening to extreme metal for twenty to thirty-plus years. Each member brings their own style into the music. One of the things we discussed when putting the band together was that we would put it together with the intention of showcasing each other. Everything will be done as “us” and never “I did this” or “I did that”. So it's definitely a team effort. We've all been in other bands, going back thirty years. Some were pretty well known while others were just local projects.
What genres and subgenres of music does everyone in the band listen to?
We listen to a bit of everything. Obviously metal, death, black, doom, thrash. Dan is big on thrash and classic metal stuff. I know Jayare likes that stuff and a lot of progressive stuff. Rollain is in a lot of cover bands so he listens to everything. I actually don't listen to music much outside of the label stuff. I’m more of a casual fan, when it’s on in the car or in the background. but I don't seek it out. When I do listen I normally listen to more goth/doom metal.
Name some of the goth and doom metal bands you’ve been listening to of late?
Nothing new really; mostly old Theatre of Tragedy, Tristania, Desire, Fall Of Empyrean, Mortemia.
Has the band’s present lineup been working together since the beginning? Which of your previous bands were most well-known before you gathered to found Vorzug?
We were in a band called The Mord. It was something we had been doing for several years together. We also worked together in Green Jelly. Those were the two best known groups we did. The lineup of Daniel, Rock, Ivan and I started Vorzug. Ivan is still a member but is taking time off. We also have Jayare Leos as our guitarist.
What amount of input does each member of the band have when it comes to writing and composing material?
Each member is responsible for their instrument. We either start with a riff or a drumbeat then build on it. While we're building the actual parts we all make suggestions about tempo, the number of times something should repeat and the arrangement. Once we jab the tangible basic song format I start up with the lyrics and pacing and that arrangement. Then we all as a group make suggestions on what we would like in each section of the song.
How do you go about writing lyrics so they fit the song structure and musicianship?
I try not to write any lyrics until the music is done. Once the guys have music finished I'll listen and start to write lyrics or if I have lyrics already written I try to rework them to the song structure.
With all the differing elements channeled into your material, how much does Vorzug stand out from your local scene?
Vorzug isn't a part of our "local scene"; we think globally not locally. That being said I don't think we stand out too much to the average Arizona metal fan. We don't market locally too often. We don't perform locally. We don't involve ourselves with anything that doesn't move us towards our goal. So locally we have little presence, but that is by design. Now on a larger scale we stand out quite a bit. We have our material for sale everywhere. We are known all over. When we perform in other markets we get money offers and good crowds. So it depends on each person’s perspective. In Arizona you're a cool band if you play at Joe's Grotto or Club Red every month. We don't do that. So we're not a cool band here.
On what outlets does Vorzug most actively advertise and sell their merchandise?
We use a lot of Facebook ads. I've also done Twitter ads. Those seem to really work for us. A lot of people are against advertising with them for whatever reason but I've been happy with the results we've received from those ads. We've done magazine ads and ads on metal websites and stuff like that and those have done very little business. We have a domain set up (http://www.vorzug.info) that goes right to our Amazon store page.
When was The Mord active, and what style of music were they? How many albums were released during that time?
The Mord was started technically in 1999, however we didn’t start using the name until 2000. Our genres were varied as we started as a death/doom style and visited various others like gore, thrash, speed, and so forth. We released ten total albums split between EPs, demos, splits and full lengths. Our last full length was called Trapped In Purgatory. We appeared on the Alice Cooper compilation album A Taste Of Christmas Pudding. It was an honor working with Alice; the proceeds went to a good cause and still do as that track is actually the only track still available for sale under that name.
How significantly did The Mord progress as a band over those ten albums? Do any of those albums stand out in particular?
The thing about The Mord was each album was a little different. When we first started we were sixteen/seventeen year old kids trying to make death metal. Then we tried to make doom and mix it with death and grind, then we tried to put black or thrash in. So each album changed genres; we never really found our stride until the end when we first touched on the old school blackened death metal sound that Vorzug stuck with when we changed things. A lot of The Mord's albums were kind of shitty looking compared to what we're doing now. But at the time we thought they were good songs. I don't believe in failing, just learning how to do something a different way. Those albums taught us how to be successful by teaching us different ways of doing things correctly. The first album Blutverlust was actually pretty good I always thought. That one is special to me personally, but also Trapped In Purgatory as much of a nightmare as that was. Overall it was special because it was a lot of hard work and years of lineup changes and delays and finally getting something out that we were proud of.
Which song by The Mord was included on A Taste Of Christmas Pudding? To which cause were the proceeds donated?
It was our version of the Christmas classic Carol Of The Bells. The proceeds went to Alice's teen center The Solid Rock Foundation which is a place here in Phoenix.
What can you tell the readers about The Solid Rock Foundation? Was your submission of Carol Of The Bells your first time supporting them? Who else appeared on the compilation album?
What I know about it is that it's a Christian nonprofit that helps troubled teens and kids. They've changed things a bit and now only teen bands are doing the release, the same teens that go to the rec center. They also do battle of the bands with the winning band playing at Alice's annual Christmas show. It was the first time we did a song for them and they used it two years in a row. Our producer Michael Beck from Soundvision Studios produces that album every year so he got us involved. A bunch of bands from Phoenix are on it. I couldn't say who off the top of my head but it's community driven.
Which of the songs from Blutverlust do you still especially like today?
It was called Beauty. I actually incorporated that song in The Mord's track Blood Flows Red. It's a song about an old friend of mine that killed herself.
In what way did Trapped In Purgatory culminate The Mord’s development up to its release? Are you satisfied with it?
It was actually a nightmare. We had signed a deal with the label Itchy Metal Records. We had a few older songs recorded but had never released them, so the plan was to release six older tracks as our first release with them as they wanted a release within thirty days of signing the contract. We always had lineup issues and went through eight or nine guitarists a year for a while. The guitarist we had at that time (before Ivan joined) was inexperienced and never had any kind of release. He demanded that we record a new track with him for the release or he would quit because he wanted his name out there. So we wrote a song and initially it turned out pretty good. We had to record it at a studio we wouldn't normally use as our preferred studio wasn't available during our time frame. The guitarist forgot the arrangements and played the song wrong during recording. We had already recorded the drums so the track was set. That along with a poor recording the song was subpar. Before getting the music to the label they ended up having financial issues so we left the label before they closed down. We had more time, so long story short we got rid of that guitarist and brought Ivan in. We then recorded another song and released it. As the album was only out for about a month, we had our legal issues and had to change the name. So it was the end of Mord and beginning of Vorzug.
What was Mord’s preferred recording studio at that time? Are you still working at that studio these days?
We recorded our last album with Michael Beck at Soundvision Recording Studios which is where we record Vorzug now. Before that The Mord was based in California and we recorded at different studios never using the same place twice. So Soundvision is the place we prefer.
Are any of the albums released by The Mord still available for trade or purchase today? Where can they be found?
To my knowledge all digital versions have been removed under the DMCA. There are physical CDs out there but I can't encourage the sale of those albums as that is in violation of trademark laws.
I remember Green Jelly from 1992-97 or so. I had a copy of their video collection with Three Little Pigs and House Me Teenage Rave, etc. What was it like to work with them?
It was pretty fantastic. I don't want to ruin Bill's rep as being a punk rocker that doesn't care about anything but he's one of the most professional people I’ve ever met in music. He shows up fresh from a nap wearing his underwear and takes a moment to take in the situation at hand then like the leader he is, he gets everyone in line within minutes and gets the ball rolling. While live he has total control over that crowd, he commands the audience with minimal effort, people want to be entertained and he has tapped into the mindset. Bill Manspeaker is a genius.
I also read that Green Jelly were friends with Gwar. Were you acquainted with anyone in that band?
I knew Dave Brockie over the years and he was always friendly towards me when our paths crossed but I wouldn't say that I knew him on a personal level. I met him back in 2001 for the first time; I had no idea who he was but the lady I was spending time with knew him and told me. We spent a couple of hours talking music and business, and we found that we had some stuff in common. We had exchanged information and kept in touch from time to time, aside from that I couldn't make a claim that I know anything or have any friendship with the other members of Gwar. As a teenager I liked their music and found their antics hilarious. As far as the friendship with Green Jelly our bass player Rock Rollain grew up with Bill Manspeaker and were childhood friends. They have kept in touch and have played together over the years so when Bill needed people, Rock secured that arrangement for us. Rock is also childhood friends with Rob Barrett from Cannibal Corpse so it was cool of Rob to wear the Vorzug shirt on stage when they played in Phoenix recently. THANK YOU ROB!
Do you think Vorzug and Cannibal Corpse would ever collaborate on a project or two, considering how long Rock and Rob have been friends?
The bands on the same project is highly doubtful. However we have reached out to Rob to guest on an upcoming recording if his schedule allows it. We're on different labels and he has to get clearances to appear on other recordings, on top of that his schedule is pretty busy. But we would love for something like that to work out. Now in terms of us going on a tour with them... those talks have happened as well. That is far more manageable.
What label is Vorzug currently signed to? How long has the band been with them to date?
Vorzug is signed with The Apollyon Group/Apollyon Entertainment. It's a label I started with drummer Daniel Beck. We already had the label set up with Universal Music Group as a distribution partner. We released our single I Am In Hell in 2014 that track was very successful getting up to #1 on Amazon and hanging onto that spot for over two months straight. We were outselling a lot of bigger bands, so that got us some other label interest and even though some labels offered some interesting deals financially it made more sense for us to continue to release it through Apollyon, as our distribution was better than what was being offered and obviously our royalties would be better. Essentially self releasing with our own label was somewhat of a risk but we were confident with our product and we got a good PR team in place and took it to market and it worked very well for us.
How much did the addition of Ivan help Vorzug’s sound, besides helping the band develop their own style?
Ivan's addition helped tremendously. It's hard to put into words exactly but from what we were (a glorified garage band) to a complete total professional sounding band. Ivan has a work ethic I’ve not seen in too many musicians. And Jayare has that same work ethic. But with Ivan you could tell him ‘let’s write a song that sounds like something random a band would put out’ and he would sit there for a second then start playing and working through different ideas. It would sound like the band you said no matter how obscure. He is a knowledgeable guy when it comes to his craft. Jayare has a similar approach and it is easy to work with them. I’m thankful to have them involved.
For what reasons is Ivan taking some time off? What led to Jayare hooking up with you to participate in Vorzug?
Ivan was in another band called Element A440, which is a pretty popular band. They do a lot of tours and what have you. He was in that band when he came in with us originally. They had three to four months of touring set so after our recording Ivan went to do that tour. After he got back we were going to do some touring but that fell through and Element got another tour offer so he went back out with them. While that tour was going on there were some issues which are not my place to discuss. When he came back from that he did a couple of shows with us but needed to take some time off to get his side of things in order. As for Jayare, we were going to bring him in anyway as a second guitarist. He is in an Accept tribute band AZCEPT with Dan, so they know each other. We wanted to round out our sound and make it a bit fuller. He came in and wrote some high quality stuff with us.
How many songs has Jayare contributed to, and how does his songwriting enhance the band’s sound?
He has worked on about 15-20 songs with Dan. The three songs we recorded for our upcoming EP "THREE" were songs he wrote. It gives us a fresh perspective with a different talent. For all the positive things I've said about Ivan they can all be mirrored to praise Jayare. He looks at things from a more technical standpoint. He tabs it out and does all of the work on his own, so when he brings it in he is bringing close to a final product. I like his work ethic a lot.
How many demos have been released by Vorzug to date? How would you describe the sound quality of each?
Never put out any demos. We released a single called I Am In Hell which was on our debut album, we put that single out in 2014, then released another single In One-hundred Years in 2015 shortly before our debut album. That single wasn't on the album. We released our debut album Call Of The Vultures in July 2015. I think our sound quality has been top of line since day one.
Describe the songs on Call Of The Vultures and explain why you consider the sound quality top of the line.
As for why we consider the sound top of the line, we have a great producer Michael Beck. He is a former A&R with Warner Music and Hollywood Music and has worked with a ton of top names in the industry. He knows what he's doing. So when we go to him we know exactly what we're getting. A producer that knows his business and someone that won’t allow a poor sounding project to leave his studio. We think we wrote quality songs that were only made better under his direction.
A quick story about the songs off Call of the Vultures. The tracks Slumber Party Massacre and Broken Dreams were written quickly as add ons. We had recorded six tracks to begin with and were going to release it as a six track EP. We then decided we wanted a full length so we recorded the two above mentioned songs as throw away tracks to fill time. We spent all of maybe an hour writing the songs. We took that raw product into Michael and in the course of a day we churned out two of the best tracks on the album. While recording Broken Dreams one of his interns was sitting in the corner weeping because of the emotion of the song.
As for the description we tried to make an Old School Death Metal album with black metal overtures. Originally it was going to be a concept album telling the story about a man that suffers a great loss and that turns him slowly into demented serial killer. We ended up not going that way but kept some of those songs on the album. If you listen to some of them you will see what we were originally going to do with it. A lot of those lyrics are personal to me and have some tie to my life, even the more deranged murderous ones though naturally I will say I took an artistic license to get that representation of the more extreme nature of things... But the album is about love and loss and grief and torture (both physical and mental).
What were the reasons you decided to scrap the original concept fro Call Of The Vultures?
There wasn't really a reason exactly. I hadn't planned on doing a concept album but once I noticed it and pointed it out I started to write other types of lyrics and it sort of went in a different direction organically. I don't like to force anything so I went with the newer songs and it just sort of ran its course that way. I'd say six of the nine songs on there are tied together.
Would you and the band consider a conceptual theme on any future releases?
I think we would consider it. I think the idea behind it would work and I like to tell stories so it's something we can always revisit in the future. We're doing our EP release but after that there is a while for us to write something new.
How did you and Michael Beck hook up? How much work does he put into the band production wise?
Of all places Craigslist. He was running a recording special in 2009 and that is when we found his ad. We got in touch and loved how he worked and his knowledge of the business and of the metal genre. He's a vocalist as well by trade; he was in a Manilla Thrills, Leatherwolf, Scary Hairy and most recently did vocals for Jake E Lee's Red Dragon Cartel. I think after the sixteen-plus years I've been a metal vocalist I'm pretty well versed on how to do my job, but when Michael Beck tells me something I listen to him and do my best to do what he tells me to do. There's maybe only three to four other people I would listen to like that so I have a lot of respect for his thoughts on the product. We will go in with a raw product, just the basics really, and he works on producing each song with us and it can be as simple as mentioning tempos or trying something in a different place or suggesting a vocal at a certain spot in the song or something as complex as pretty much re-working the entire arrangement if need be. We work well with him so for the most part we go in and get a finished product three to nine tracks over three to four days.
What gave you and Daniel Beck the idea to start a label? How did you choose the name Apollyon Entertainment?
I've worked with labels for years. Being from a small town I wanted to have an outlet for my projects back then before I moved out of the sticks. That opened doors to other music companies and industry professionals and after a few years I had a lot of contacts in the industry and ended up working with Sony as an A&R rep. That led to a meeting with some people at Universal and to the distribution deal we have through them. The label morphed from a way to release my own projects and hose of close friends to something that could be an end game in terms of getting out of being in bands and working behind the scenes which is my preference to be honest. My mind is meant for those types of pursuits I'm inquisitive and business minded. So that is the goal in the long term is to build the label slowly until the catalogue is strong and when I'm ready to hang up doing vocals I can transition into the label full time. But we're still a way from that. I'm having a great time with Vorzug. As for Dan’s motivations perhaps that's something you guys can discuss in a future interview. Apollyon Entertainment is a desolate sounding name. I had used Apollyon in a song lyric, the meaning is a place of destruction in Greek and in Hebrew it's biblical reference is to an angel of death the general of an army of locusts the bringer of famine.
How many labels did you work with before founding Apollyon Entertainment? How many contacts were you making?
I had founded five other labels, worked with four or five others over the years at various titles. I had done a few promotion and management companies as well. Music and A&R Consulting and so forth. Even after Apollyon I've busied myself with helping out with a couple other labels for distro and branding consulting. As for contacts, I've met thousands of people in various aspects of the business from talent to production, media, executives and so forth. Some are passing contacts, but the majority are people I interact with on a frequent basis.
Which labels were you involved with and at which titles, and what sort of a learning experience was it each time?
I don't recall the names of all the ones I've worked with as most were underground things that didn't last too long but each one taught me something. I'm one of those people that think that you never really fail you just learn a new way of doing or not doing something. But some labels that I do recall were Death Rape Records, Icee Records, Carnage Productions, Putrescent Records, Symphonic Blast Productions, Sony Music, RCA. That covered 2000-2011.
Talk about the labels you founded and the target audiences of each. Who were the bands they were supporting?
I founded Death Rape Records in 1999-2000. It was just a way originally to get my own projects out and stuff my friends were doing. That label was something mostly underground goregrind and death metal. Quality wasn't a focus; it was aimed at just getting projects out no matter how raw or unprofessional it may have sounded to get experience. After a while that changed to wanting only quality projects. I ran that label til 2004 and did releases for Joe Rabbit & the Sodomy Turtles, Lustmord/The Mord, Axe Murder Boys, Embalmed, Hardcore Henry, 1428 Elm, De Kinderlokkers, Womb Raiders and a couple others. I stopped that label when I met an English fella named Dave Ramsey. He put in an offer to purchase the rights to the label and to have me run the U.S. office for his label For The Fallen Productions. I only did that briefly as he ended up not following through with his end on a lot of things. So we dissolved that arrangement bit that did open doors to international distribution partners. From there I took a little break from running a label, started to really get into how to run a label the right way and set up distribution and promotion companies, and learned about PR. By the time it was all said and done I ended up starting Lustmord Entertainment and started doing A&R consulting and various label services which led to Apollyon.
How much promotion did you undertake for Death Rape Records while it was active? Were most of the CD and merch orders conducted online? Which of the label’s bands received the highest amount of orders?
Everything back then was word of mouth and mostly in-person sales. The interest was just starting to be used for promoting in chat rooms and mp3.com and that was even before Napster but right around when that first hit. Back then there wasn't much promotion; it was run on a shoestring budget with no real business plan or understanding of the industry. But that certainly taught me a few lessons. The first Mord album did over 2,000 sales so that was our biggest release back then.
How much label experience did you accumulate while in charge of For The Fallen Productions’ Stateside office? How many bands were signed to the label at the time?
There were seven or eight bands signed. I had nothing to do with any of them as they were already there. At that time I was brought on because they were wanting The Mord to do releases and I had some other projects they were interested in. The experience I got from them was mostly distribution, publishing/licensing stuff. And I got some distribution contacts out of that. Never did any releases with them as they had misrepresented some stuff. I got out of that deal but gained some more knowledge before I left.
What responsibilities do you and Daniel Beck handle? How many bands are signed at present?
The company is actually more than just a label. The Apollyon Group is the parent company. We're a whole Entertainment Group. We have a film division set up with production and distribution set for music and industry related videos as well as films. We haven't done much of this yet as it's expensive, but we've produced a couple of adult titles thus far and are looking to get into doing other genres when there is more time and budget for those endeavors. We have separate divisions for Distribution, A&R Consulting, Branding/PR, and Management services. All of that is separate from the actual label which is Apollyon Entertainment. We haven't really gone into genre specific divisions, as a label we want to focus on metal. The other services we offer are for all genres. Daniel and I don't do set things, one day he will do A&R another day he will handle management stuff. Though we are partners with Inner Phoenix Entertainment’ that is more of a management and label services development company. James McComas runs that. He's a long time music industry insider, one of my mentors in the business for sure.
How long have you known James McComas and in how many ways was he a mentor to you?
I met James in 2006 or so. He was running a management company and had signed The Mord to a booking deal. The friendship went from there and he had built lots of labels and industry businesses. He showed me how to do a lot of things I didn't already know about and opened some doors to other contacts that I ran with and expanded my network.
Who are some of the bands currently signed to Apollyon Entertainment? How much promotion are these bands getting?
Right now the signed acts are Vorzug, Luciferian Insectus, and Crucible Steel. There is a doom band that we have in development; as of right now we're rebuilding everything including the name. We have a few bands in negotiations and are doing some A&R consulting for a couple of rappers and a country artist. The business model I like to set forth is simple. Quality talent with the best distribution and a solid promotional campaign = success. So if like to think that when it comes times for promotion the bands are all heavily promoted and are happy with their PR. We use in house and outside PR to maximize the effort and we like to tailor each campaign to the specific band. We have the bands’ input on any ideas they have for marketing.
Tell of the signing of Luciferian Insectus and Crucible Steel. Where are they from and how much material do they have?
I heard Luciferian Insectus on Metal Devastation Radio then later heard him interviewed on that station. He was looking for a label so the DJ got me in contact. It's a one man band. Same with Crucible Steel it's a one man band. He had done a cover of my bass player Rock Rollains other band Southwicked. I listened to a lot of his material before then, but I wanted to work with him as well. Both have single tracks on various social sites and Luciferian Insectus has a video out right now.
For what song did Luciferian Insectus produce a promotional video, and where on the net can it be viewed?
The track is called Deliver Me In the Name Ov Satan off the Godless full length album, which will be out October 7th 2016. It is available on Youtube and Heavy Metal Television. There will be more places shortly; the album was the priority to release first, then we will distribute the video to Vevo, Dailymotion, and it will make its rounds. http://youtu.be/v0gyOY1EnQc is the link to the video.
How actively are you seeking new bands to support through Apollyon Entertainment?
We're actively seeking bands, but we are more interested in quality rather than quantity. So we have certain criteria that bands need to meet before we will deal with them, even in the Artist Development stage. However if bands want to submit to us we always welcome their submission.
Where would you like to see Apollyon Entertainment in the years to come?
It’s growing and moving forward, what I'd like to see. In business as it is in life perception is reality. I'm looking forward to the Luciferian Insectus release on October 7th. Crucible Steel is coming out in November, and "Three" from Vorzug comes out in December. 2017 has a couple of albums being negotiated so we're moving in the right direction.