by Niklas Göransson
Vomitor frontman and founder, Rob Death Dealer, reminisces his past whilst a new album looms in the future. A retrospective glimpse into three decades of stalwart and uncompromising devotion to Australian death metal banditry.
– A few riffs on the new album came from a broken old cassette I found at home, says guitarist and vocalist Rob Death Dealer, I fixed it up with some sticky tape and started listening. Some of the stuff on there made the “Bleeding the Priest” (2002) album, but the rest just wasn’t what I was feeling in my brain at the time.
Having found more resonance with the material this time around, Rob used some of it for VOMITOR‘s upcoming fourth album, “Pestilent Death”, scheduled for release in December 2017. Also present in the conversation and kindly contributing his extensive knowledge on the subject matter is Darragh O’Laoghaire of Invictus Productions and VIRCOLAC.
– Rob’s house is full of tapes like that, Darragh notes, some of them dating as far back as 1991 when he and Chris Volcano had a band called VULGAR.
In 1993, following two years of hard living in Melbourne, he relocated to Brisbane and joined black/thrash pioneers GOSPEL OF THE HORNS. The band was founded earlier the same year by drummer Mark ‘Coz’ Howitzer who, like Rob as well as KK Warslut from DESTRÖYER 666, originally hails from Whyalla – a notorious outlaw town in South Australia. Rob continues:
– At first, Cozzy and I shared house with a few others – but following all the drama that started when I got there, we had to get our own joint. So, we found a place and moved in with Belinda and another Whyalla mate of ours that had moved up; Galvin. If you thought there was trouble before he got there, fucking hell… love the fucking guy but Jesus Christ, he knows how to stir the hornet’s nest and bring the madness and violence.
As Rob commenced song-writing for GOSPEL OF THE HORNS, he initially revisited and updated some old VULGAR material. However, he’d already decided that he wanted to do something entirely different from the usual BLASPHEMY–BEHERIT–SODOM approach of his musical past.
– I was listening to a lot of ORDER FROM CHAOS at the time, and I really liked fucking OFC – still do. Nothing any ex-member does could ever change my mind on that score. I won’t say anything more about this matter.
– Indeed, Darragh agrees, the council says no.
Rob explains that this compositional change of course was the reason why GOSPEL OF THE HORNS’ 1994 demo “The Satanist’s Dream” featured more of the – and I quote – ‘rock ‘n’ rolly kind of stuff’, compared to most other extreme metal coming out of Australia at the time.
– And Cozzy has his MOTÖRHEAD beat going, right – we can fucking do this. Just a dirty fucking guitar sound. Entering the studio, you never know how it’s going to turn out. Sure, you might have a basic idea for your sound and shit – but when you’re not in full control over the studio, you go there and whatever the producer produces; that’s what you fucking get. You’re not saying; ’Nah. Change that guitar sound, change the drum sound.’ Nobody does that on their first recording. So, what we ended up with was something that sounded like ORDER FROM CHAOS mixed with the first CELTIC FROST record. The production was fucking mega, really fucking heavy and good. But then we ended up having problems with the singer…
– Whom you punched.
– Oh, Rob chuckles, I did more than that; kicked him in the face with steelcaps, actually bruised me toes. I was a bit fucking pissed off. The cunt put a fucking hole in my wall after a whole night of being a drunken dickhead. I put him across the pool table at the party we were at, told him to stop being a twat or I’d punch his face in. We left in a cab and headed back to my place, and he’s still fucking raging. The car stops for some reason – he jumps out, fucking carrying on so we got out, gave him a couple of digs and then dragged him back into the cab.
They hauled the vocalist back to their house, where he was dumped in the spare room with strict instructions of sleeping it off.
– My girlfriend at the time … I think she was my wife actually, she came out; ’Man, this fucking cunt is destroying the joint.’ So I went in there and punched the fuck out of him, kneed him in the head, kicked him the face – that was pretty much the end of him. Obviously, he was out of the band right then and there. He was still hanging around in the morning while we were eating leftover pizza, sitting there in the corner… he’s going to fucking hate this when he reads it. Fuck him anyway, he’s a twat.
In 1996, Coz relocated to Melbourne in order to join DESTRÖYER 666 as they prepared for their “Unchain the Wolves” album. Rob stayed in Brisbane, instead ending up recruited to SPEAR OF LONGINUS.
– Glenn (guitars, vocals) and Big Lee (drums) came ’round to my house. We’d been talking and shit like that but hadn’t really been good friends at all so I was surprised to see them at my front doorstep. When GOSPEL played our first gig, they were there and liked what I was doing or whatever. They asked if I’d heard their demo, which I had, and then asked if I wanted to play. ’Yeah, I’ve got nothing else to do’. And pretty much from then on it was a drunken fucking alcoholic ride for a couple of years. Still on the dole, doing fucking nothing. Glenn made sure I had alcohol for rehearsals, otherwise I probably wouldn’t have turned up.
Rob played guitar on SPEAR OF LONGINUS’ 1997 debut album “Domni Satnasi” as well as the 1999 mini-LP “Nada Brahma” before parting ways, citing creative differences.
– It came down to a bit more than that. Glenn, Lee and I were all pretty much best friends at the time, there were no arguments or shit like that. Then it just started getting towards this … Glenn, or Camazotz, was talking about his vision for the band, what he wanted to do and how no one was going to stand in his way. I had my own vision and was deadly fucking serious about it, like I always am. People think I don’t give a fuck about anything, but I give a fuck about every fucking millimetre of everything – down to the most minute detail on a record cover, I give a fuck about every single thing. I wasn’t going to give, he wasn’t going to give.
At this point, the pair were hanging out regularly – going to the gym together almost every day, until one night when their musical differences came to a head.
– I’d drank four litres of wine or something like that and Glenn had downed a litre of whiskey, it came down to almost punching each other’s heads off – simply over music direction. Sounds like a stupid fucking cliché. It escalated from being nothing to, ’No way … I’m not doing it.’ And he said, ’I’m going to call a song Yahweh Penis Abominator!’, to which I replied; ’There’s no way I’m playing a song with the fucking word penis in it’.
Rob recalls counter-attacking with equally ’stupid and satanic’ song titles, setting tempers flaring even further.
– I didn’t hear from him the next day. Glenn would regularly come around, pick me up from bed, lift me into his red van and I’d be drinking a bottle of wine while he drove to fucking rehearsal. So when the red van didn’t turn up any more, I went: ’I think I might not be in the band anymore.’ I had my own ideas anyway and was already drawing logos and stuff like that. The first one I drew up that I really liked was ‘Death Scythe’, fucking glad I didn’t call it that.
– So am I, adds Darragh – who released VOMITOR’s 2012 album, “The Escalation”.
– Sounds like something a band would call themselves now, you know, retro-thrash shit. The second logo I did up was Tornado. And I thought, ‘This is fucking unreal, Tornado!’
The Irishman remains unconvinced.
– That’s pretty gay.
– Nah, it’s killer man. There’s a fucking zine called Tornado Magazine! But the logo was great, I still have it. Then I drew one that said VOMITOR, because I always liked the logo of a Greek band called VOMIT. Their demo from ‘89 has a VOIVOD-like logo, which I thought was cool. I don’t know why that band stuck in my head, I haven’t even fucking heard them. Never got hold of that demo.
While the demo in question would be easier to get hold of now thanks to the internet, Rob has concluded that if he’s lived well for this long without hearing it – he might as well not bother.
– So I thought, Vomitorrr … because I always liked the Brazilian extra fucking thing on the end … MUTILATOR, PENETRATOR, fucking any other ‘tor. Alright, fucking VOMITOR, that’s what it’s gonna be. So I drew up a shitty logo with bullet-belts and ’death metal’ written on it, the one that ends up making most of the back covers. I was like, ’Right, yeah, Glenn would never use that on the front cover of a record.’
Shortly following the first logo came VOMITOR’s maiden composition; “Midnight Madness”
– I wanted a kind of heavy metal rocky tune, so in the future – say, ten years down the road – if I wanted to do a slow song, no dickhead was gonna go; ’They slowed fucking down.’ The remaining songs on the demo were all fast as fuck but I wanted one with this rockin’ kind-of-vibe, a style I now have the freedom of returning to without someone like myself slagging me off. Because I’m that type of guy. ’Fuckin’ slowed down, didn’t they, fucking poofter cunts’, you know. You’ll never hear anyone saying that about me, which is why this was done purposely.
Darragh mentions finding it interesting how the prime incentive behind Rob’s music composition is his great fondness for listening to it himself.
– There are not a lot of musicians who can truthfully say that their motivation is playing something they themselves want to hear, and how everyone else who likes it is a bonus.
– Maybe they just don’t want to admit it, says Rob, maybe they find liking their own music a bit embarrassing. No idea why though – I don’t, I fuckin’ love it. That’s why I fucking make it. Depending on what mood I’m in, I’ll listen to “Bleeding the Priest”. When I get really fucking pissed and want to hear the craziest thing I can think of, I’ll put on “Abominations of Desolation” (MORBID ANGEL) or “Obsessed by Cruelty”(SODOM) because they are fucking mental. But I’ll occasionally get a craving for that little extra crazy and even if those albums contain virtually everything I ever wanted, there’s something more; I’ll put the fucking “Devil’s Poison” (VOMITOR) record on. It’s sonically beyond what most people would consider music, it goes to the point of horridness. But that’s what I want; this screeching, ripping, horrible fucking noise.
Rob says he composes the songs he’d want to hear himself, and is completely honest about loving his own band.
– What’s the point of playing music if you don’t want to listen to it yourself? VOMITOR is my favourite band. If somebody doesn’t say that about the music they’re putting out on record, they should go back to the rehearsal room and write different songs. Make the music you want to hear, if you feel like writing a song that just goes …
He bursts out his best HELLHAMMER imitation.
– If you want to write something like that and reckon it sounds killer… it’s only two fucking notes – Tom G thought it was good and I think it’s fucking amazing. We listened to an old HELLHAMMER rehearsal earlier tonight and that blows your fucking mind. And it’s just two fucking chords. It’s not even that, it’s one open chord and then a fucking note. It’s all about the sound as well, the sonic noise of it.
– That’s another unique feature of VOMITOR, says Darragh, Rob has a particular way of looking at sound. He knows what he wants, which certainly isn’t everything being clearly audible in a nice kind of way.
– I want it all to be one noise, Rob continues, I don’t want to hear the kick-drum separately. If it was up to me, I’d never hear another kick-drum in me fuckin’ life – unless it was ZZ TOP. I never want to hear a fucking double-kick. I’d rather hear the fucking snare, the toms and the cymbals. I don’t even want to hear the snare drum, unless it’s doing some fancy little MERCYFUL FATE trick. I want to hear the guitars, it’s all about the guitars and guitar sound.
– Says the guitar player, Darragh observes drily.
– Says a heavy metal fan, Rob protests, heavy metal is about guitar! As was rock‘n’roll, listen to fucking Chuck Berry, man – his guitar sound is amazing. It might not be the electric fucking dream that some metalhead will think, but if you listen to it; raw as fuck. And they recorded everything through one microphone, their mixing was done by standing at various distances from the recording equipment – the loudest instrument furthest from the mic. That was their mixing. One tape rolling, there weren’t even two tracks.
– I remember ordering the “Roar of War” demo in 1999, says Darragh, it was so primal and pure. All done in, what, an hour?
– Forty-five minutes. It was recorded in a rehearsal space where most of the Brisbane bands were jamming, I think even PORTAL were rehearsing there at that stage. SPEAR used to practice there as well, it was cheap enough and pretty good. The guy running the place offered his services for fifteen bucks; he’d wheel in this stereo, it wasn’t like a regular tape player but had a couple of channels you could plug in, like a tape-deck with a few thingies on it. I think we only used two mics – a vocal mic and a little wall-room mic. We set it up where the drums sounded alright. It took us about two hours or something to get it right, but the actual recording of the demo … straight through in forty-five minutes. I think the sound is pretty good.
– It’s one of my favourite demos from that period, says Darragh. Another thing concerning VOMITOR is this innate spontaneity – there’s nothing … Rob doesn’t over-think anything, he’s like; ‘Right, I want to do that.’ He doesn’t sit around over-thinking concepts and riffs – this is how he wants it to be, and it’s a very pure expression.
– It’s an expression of whatever I’m feeling right then and there. Some of the songs on “Bleeding the Priest” were written a fucken week before it went down. Didn’t change from that, wouldn’t change it either. I think the track “Weeper’s Carrion” was written a couple of days prior to recording, we could hardly play it properly. And Brad (drums) was so fucking drunk – he’d been up all night driving around, speeding off his fucking head.
Brad, or BC, is yet another one of Whyalla’s wayward sons, he had previously been in CORPSE MOLESTATION and RAZOR OF OCCAM.
– We rang his missus at 08:30 because he was supposed to come pick me and Tony (bass) up from the VOMITOR house. ’We gotta be in the fucking studio at 10, where is he?’ … ’Fuckin’ left here at one o’clock.’ For fucks sake.
BC eventually turned up, ‘pissed as fuck’.
– He could barely play the songs sober and had never even practiced them on a full drum-kit in rehearsal, he was always pawning stuff. He’d be pawning cymbals one week, then the next week; ’Look at this, lads, I got me cymbals back!’ … ’Okay, but where are your toms man? What about the kick-drum?’ The only thing he never pawned was his snare. The guy is a fucking killer drummer though, amazing guy as well unless you give him booze – you’d rather give him drugs. Six beers later and he’s everybody’s enemy; he’d even try to fight us, fuck.
Rob reminiscences how pub rounds with the pugilistic percussionist would more often than not result in having to do battle with local security.
-We once had a stand-off with these bouncers where they surrounded him while we followed them out of the pub, walking like crabs. Outside the front, we told them to let him go and nothing would happen; they did and he immediately tried to fucking fight ‘em again so we had to drag him up the street into another pub. Then the cops came roaring in while me and another mate of ours – Polish Pete, one of our road crew at the time – went in to the pisser.
Having heard a sudden ruckus from outside, they opened the door and peered out as the constabulary came charging into the establishment.
– ’Let me just close the door for a while, we know why they’re here and I’m not fighting cops for that cunt today.’ Anyway, we opened the door again and saw all these coppers stumbling about, carrying each other and fucking weeping out of their eyes. They’d tried getting him with pepper spray, but he held on to the fucking cannister so the whole pub ended up sprayed. That was just like every night you went out with him, so when he picks us up drunk as fuck and speeding off his dial to go to the studio for our first fucking record … Yeah, he did a fucking amazing job though.
– His drumming is totally unique on that record, Darragh adds.
– We got there, and he was already way ahead of us on the drunk-factor. We got a case of piss and went in, ’Alright, let’s fucken do this’, you know. Didn’t even think about staying sober. Consequently, I don’t remember much of it except that we had some problems getting a few of the songs down. Brad can play the drums like ringing a bell but when he’s drunk and speeding, it’s like; ’I don’t know what the fuck I’m doing’. You can see it in his eyes, he didn’t know what the fuck he was doing.
”Bleeding the Priest” came out in 2002, and was followed by a long stretch of silence
– After Brad left, our original drummer – Lee from SPEAR OF LONGINUS – re-joined for a while. We did a few shows with NUNSLAUGHTER when they were in Australia, but nothing else happened afterwards. Then we just didn’t have a drummer. I could have gone and got somebody local, but I don’t want those kinds of people in the band. I need individuals I know I’m not going to have a problem with. Also, I started doing corporate jobs and got real busy earning tons of cash.
VOMITOR went for several years without a drummer – until Marcus Hellcunt, at the time in GOSPEL OF THE HORNS, visited Brisbane for a May 2007 SODOM gig.
– Me and Cozzy were there, and Marcus goes; ’Man, I’m fucking moving to Brisbane.’ I grabbed him right then and there and said, ’Welcome to the band mate, you’re in.’ … ’I’m fucking what?’ And that was it, as soon as he moved to Brisbane – bang, it was back on again. I knew and trusted him, I’ve known that guy since BESTIAL WARLUST. I was there when he first got hired for the band. That’s when we started again, and haven’t stopped since.
The new line-up recorded “Devil’s Poison” in 2010, following which VOMITOR did a European tour and played a few festivals. Shortly thereafter, Rob relocated to Dublin – where he still resides and runs his own tattoo parlour; The Devil’s Den.
– Makes it a hassle to do anything, since the rest of the guys are all in Brisbane. It doesn’t change the writing factor or anything like that – only structural aspects, because I don’t have anybody to bounce ideas off of while composing. Putting together full songs without the drums to give me the timing is especially difficult for me.
Rob says that sitting at home sometimes, he’ll get half a track in his head but the rest just doesn’t come together.
– I mainly just write riffs. I’ll hardly ever fucking touch a guitar until I have something that’s been stuck in my head for a day or two. And then it’s like, right – that’s going on tape. And even then, it’s not guaranteed to be used on anything.
This is why it took him more than five years to follow up “The Escalation”, but he got here in the end.
– I just wanted a new album to listen to, I’m desperate for something to blow my mind and the rest of the world is currently not blowing my fucking mind. I have the guitar sound I want, I’m able to do that. I want certain riff-changes, I can do that. Style of singing; no problem. I can do whatever I want to hear so why shouldn’t I go and fucking do it? Instead of going through five hundred new releases per year to find one I like a bit of this and a bit of that of, I’ll put all the shit I enjoy in one fucking record and listen to it meself. It’s a good thing we’re lucky enough that other people appreciate it as well – but if I they didn’t, as long as I get my copy of the record, I don’t give a fuck.
You’ve reached the end of the first part of this conversation. The second feature is an entirely separate article scheduled for Bardo Methodology #3 – it’s significantly longer and chronicles Rob’s coming of age in Whyalla as well as his subsequent adventures and misfortunes in the outside world.