Interview with Harley Wooton of DEATHKIDS
Having been active for most of the 1990s, Deathkids reformed this year to release a new full length. What led to the band getting back together to record new material?
Deathkids existed before Youtube and documenting stuff online, so we wanted to upload some content. Then I went a step further and did a re-boot. I wasn’t sure if I should use that name but my friend Frankie encouraged me to go in that direction. It has been fun.
Do you still have any live recordings from 1993 to 1999? Would you consider posting them on social media for people to view?
We'll be uploading some mid-90's recordings to our YouTube channel and articles, zines, and other images on our Facebook and Instagram soon. Most of the early stuff is from Long Island.
Where on Long Island are most of your early shows from? Does the visual and sound quality still hold up since they were filmed?
Most of our early shows were at The Roxy. We opened for amazing legends like Six Feet Under and Death there. There's an image on our Facebook that has clippings from the graphics of those shows. It was an honor. I have great memories from that venue as a fan too. I think my first concert was seeing Mercyful Fate there. That was amazing.
What recollections do you have of the Long Island death metal scene around the time you were performing at the Roxy?
The venue brought in my favorite bands. I remember getting to see lots of legends perform up close. We crossed paths with Internal Bleeding and Pyrexia a lot, and they always treated us really cool even though we were little kids. And it made seeing them perform a lot that much cooler. Glen Benton was really cool to us as well. I am so thankful to everyone that made those times so fun for us. They easily could have disregarded us or treated us poorly but they never did.
Do you still see the camaraderie you experienced in the local death metal scene in those days? Later on in the 90s there was a lot of competition and backbiting in the scene. Had Deathkids ever had to tolerate it?
I just remember lots of fun. Maybe I was too naive to notice what was really going on. Nowadays I see camaraderie on video game speed running Discord servers but I'm not sure about music.
Which Deathkids songs from your first decade still resonate in your memories?
The most important Deathkids song is Doomsday, as that was the first one we ever made. There is an early 1994 version of the song with clean vocals and a music video that I made with our original bassist Gregg Cook. We used our Halloween props and had shots of cutting off Gregg's legs and stuff. I hope to get that uploaded at some point. That song started it all.
How would you rate the quality of the video for Doomsday, compared to today’s independently produced band videos?
Haha. They are kind of similar, actually. Both involved standing in front of a sheet in the basement and having fun getting the shots. Today we have After Effects and phones with nicer cameras than Hollywood had back then.
Do you remember the reasons the Deathkids parted company around the late 1990s? You appeared to be doing well playing many shows, fest appearances and doing many zine interviews.
Sometimes an act only exists for a certain amount of time. You can always re-discover what has already been recorded, so Deathkids never disappeared. It just wasn't an act that would tour and release forever. It makes what we did more special, more important for everyone that was involved. We didn't stop making music, but in 2003 we started a new band.
Are you still in touch with Dean “Lord Slayer” Adams who contributed lyrics to your CD Bleeding and Praying? What is the possibility of another collaboration?
We had some really good songs with his lyrics that were never recorded. We played them live a few times, I think once in New Jersey. Hopefully I can find that footage. One of them was really heavy and was going to be the first track of the third album. It would be interesting to collaborate again. For now I'm getting all of my ideas out for the Forest Of Wires follow-up.
Describe the making of Bleeding and Praying. How well was the CD received locally and nationally?
In 1997 we returned to Pyramid Sound Studios in Ithaca, New York with the legendary genius of audio Alex Perialis. My first favorite album was "Foul Taste Of Freedom" by Pro-Pain, which he did, so I was always psyched to go there. Alex made the process fast and fun as hell. I think that album had heavier songs. It seems like people who enjoy our music enjoy that one more and casual fans seeking novelty are drawn to Born In Hell.
In the late 1990s your father Ken Wooton Sr. was the band’s studio and live bassist. How was that working out for you?
I'm glad that we have so many videos documenting the shows that we played. The road trips were fun too, like a family vacation.
One of the zines that quite often featured Deathkids when they were active was Bill Zebub’s Grimoire Of Exalted Deeds. What was your opinion of that zine when it was in publication?
Looking back, it's easy to focus on highlights like opening for legends like Death or Deicide, but at the time the highlight for me was arriving at a venue and finding a new issue of The Grimoire. Bill Zebub is a genius. The Grimoire is hilarious and has great interviews. His movies are great too. The articles, the distorted pictures, the graphics, and the good taste of bands covered... Amazing.
Which of Bill Zebub’s movies have you and the band watched recently? What do you appreciate about their social satire?
I gravitate toward his documentaries as those are my favorite type of film and I make documentaries as well. If someone is on a YouTube adventure looking through stories about black metal or death metal, I'd say videos like his Pagan Metal Documentary are must-see.
What about the Pagan Metal documentary did you most like? Was it Bill’s approach to interviewing or the information the bands offered, or some of both?
I like documentaries made by authentic people because the edit that they release is a glimpse into reality instead of their narrative. Bill Zebub is an authentic participant in the world of people that subscribe to heavy music and has compiled essential documentaries for metal fans.
Tell the readers about your involvement in the film short Chikara: Wrestling Equality, about gender equality in professional wrestling. What inspired you to make this movie, and how did you arrange the interviews and whatnot?
I was at the event and captured the story that was there. That video was made while women's wrestling was topical and has since had changes with people like Ronda Rousey getting involved. I never had an issue with Katana being a competitive character in Mortal Kombat or Chun Li in Street Fighter. It's a fantasy world, a fun show. I've always had a relationship with wrestling and WWF, especially when I was in the original version of Deathkids. It's interesting to contribute to that world in some way.
A new documentary is coming out toward the end of 2018. What is the subject matter and how did you arrange and film it?
Dreamchasers is a documentary time capsule video about music, video games, and wrestling shot in New York, 2011. It was a fun adventure filming it all back then. I hope someday that people will watch it and see what I did with it.
What equipment do you usually use when making documentaries? Are you generally satisfied with the results?
Equipment is always evolving and I'm trying to learn more about it. It seems like technology is becoming more accessible and user-friendly. I'm excited to see what's possible next.
In the 2000s you were involved in the local band inRed who released four full lengths and an EP up until 2011. Did you get to promote those releases by performing locally and/or out of state?
inRed was a much different project. I had the honor of working on that project with great friends and bassists like Jay Rosario as well as Jesse McGunnigle, who went on to do the great band Yonder Realm. I got to play guitar alongside Derek Ratz, who sadly passed away a few years ago but would've been psyched to hear the new music. He always wanted to do a heavier style. He left behind his own crazy musical legacy in recordings and projects that are still online.
In what ways was inRed different from Deathkids? Your abilities as musicians had improved since the 90s; how much did it show in the material?
I see inRed as existing in a different universe. inRed had a lot of different styles and was like a musical journal. I would learn new things and apply them to songs that were being cranked out daily. There are a lot of songs, over a hundred. Some are great. If someone enjoys our new album Forest of Wires, they would probably enjoy the inRed releases between 2009 and 2011.
Is the band reforming long term or was it a one shot reunion to record Forest Of Wires, the full length you released this October? What is your lineup at the time of this writing?
Deathkids played a show on Halloween 2018 which was uploaded today to our YouTube and Facebook channels. The video reveals that our line-up is my brother Ken Wooton and I, so there is no disconnect between the creation aspect and the live performance.
I'm writing the continuation of the Forest Of Wires story now. It's going to be better, darker, and more bizarre than the first. I'm really excited to release it. I'd love to talk about it but it's so early, it will probably change a lot by the time that anyone sees it. It will make Forest Of Wires less confusing, while creating lots of new confusion.
Forest Of Wires is about sixteen minutes in length. You have said the album is both a film and musical, as well as a challenge to how people consume music in this day and age. In what ways is it a challenge?
I guess Forest of Wires isn't much of a challenge, as it's not really that ground-breaking compared to the most extreme examples of releases. I guess "challenge" was a way for me to say that it's not a real album. Albums grew out of necessities of the past, which were awesome but we weren't bound to anything. We're completely independent and had no expectations, so we didn't consider them. We created whatever we wanted, which turned out to be eight songs with connected videos and a supplementary guide book. We could have padded out the songs or included the lesser songs that were cut, just to make it more like a typical album, but instead I went in the direction of making the whole thing as consumable as possible. If anything, I was thinking of cutting more, not adding anything.
What are the ideas the band wished to convey through Forest Of Wires, such as technology’s impact on the human race?
Technology has given us a way to capture memories that can be easily copied and will last forever. You can find videos of Morbid Angel in their prime or footage of me when I was ten. I'm thankful for people who remembered us and uploaded our history and for the fact that we can access so much, so quickly. It's great that people around the world can so easily hear our new music.
Forest Of Wires is over-stuffed with messages and ideas. I think a big one is that we can be our own worst enemies and people can change drastically over time. Another big theme is abortion. The videos, lyrics, and comic books have lots of ideas to discover and decipher. For better or worse, I haven't had any two people give me the same interpretation of Forest of Wires.
What kind of a process was it to translate your thoughts into the songs on Forest Of Wires?
If someone reading this is dealing with writer's block, my recommendation is to start with a lot of ideas. I started with an outline and a loose script based off of it. Once I had an abundance of ideas and themes, the songs and lyrics were easily shitted out. Maybe that's why Iron Maiden bases a lot of songs on books. If you have a book of ideas, a few poems are easy. And the musical score, the songs themselves, are easy to put behind words that you find potent. For everything I do creatively, I stick to the story, story, story. If there were words or sounds or songs that didn't tell the story, I cut them. I also enjoy recording random riffs or just jamming out, but top-down, story-first creating is the key to creation for me right now.
How long did it take you to develop your approach to writing the lyrics on Forest Of Wires?
It kind of just happened. Even the very first Deathkids lyrics were some kind of attempt at story-telling. When I was a little kid I liked songs like “Stripped, Raped, and Strangled" by Cannibal Corpse because it felt like a first-person story. Lately I've been inspired by the writing on projects like the first Wintersun album, which has a lot of first-person story-telling. It feels like going on an adventure with the character that you see on the cover. That plus it's one of the best albums ever.
How many videos has the band released to promote Forest Of Wires? How well do the videos represent the album?
The album can be watched as one video or as eight individual songs. The videos and the comic book all tie the story together.
Are live shows being scheduled to help support the new album? If you’ve already been playing out, how have the turnouts been?
We performed the album on Halloween, it was a great party. It was a small crowd of cool people who watched an obscure, underground project.
Describe the comic and how it enhances the storyline of Forest Of Wires. Who designed the front cover and the artwork inside?
The script was turned into music videos and a comic book at the same time. Final forms of each were done around the same time, a month or two before they were released. The artwork was done by Estanislao Maruga and Sayoud Slimane.
2018 is drawing to a close; can fans expect new material from inRed and Deathkids in 2019? If so, how soon do you expect to begin writing, recording and coming up with conceptual ideas?
I've been making up the sequel to Forest of Wires and some of the music is tracked. It's going to be a productive year! If anyone is interested in what we do, I would say it's a good time to start following.
How do you want Deathkids and inRed to be remembered for their impact on extreme music in the future?
I hope people will know that I had a shit ton of fun making everything that I have and I'm so thankful for everyone that contributes and helps along the way. If someone is ever looking this up to research how a young kid could've come up with a death metal band, I'd say it happened because my dad exposed me to music like King Diamond and Pantera, and I really enjoyed playing music. I couldn't get into playing classical or major scales when I was young, but I really enjoyed playing riffs that were evil and almost atonal like Deicide, Morbid Angel, or Slayer. I wasn't learning music in a proper way but that enjoyment of what I was actually doing propelled me to get good at coming up with my own riffs and screaming ideas quickly. When I later focused on chords and scales, I had so much to work with. Ultimately, Deathkids was formed because death metal is awesome. Good music is awesome. I have to contribute!