Metal Blast recently conducted an interview with guitarist Terrance Hobbs of New York death metal veterans SUFFOCATION. A couple of excerpts from the chat follow below.
Metal Blast: SUFFOCATION has always been pushing the boundaries of death metal, and “Pinnacle Of Bedlam”, your new album, shows that this trend is nowhere close to being done. After so many years of being together, what continues to be the inspiration for all of this?
Terrance Hobbs: I think that, for the most part, the guys and me just wanna keep to the same standards that we had back when we were kids. Even though the band is a little bit different now, because [drummer] Mike [Smith] is not in the band and we have Dave [Culross] back in the band, etc. But each of us still really feels that we wanna make the best death metal records that we can possibly make and still stick to the same standpoint that SUFFOCATION has always had. It’s still an evolving process, but we’re still trying to keep our integrity exactly the same, and I think that this is what keeps us driven enough to make the new products.
Metal Blast: Last year we, once again, saw Mike Smith parting ways with SUFFOCATION and being replaced by Dave Culross (who has been doing a great job, by the way). What caused this new separation from Mike?
Terrance Hobbs: Mike is a great drummer, don’t get me wrong, he’s a very talented individual, but for us in SUFFOCATION, it started to get to the point where Mike wanted to be more of a leader of something as opposed to an actual member of a group. He has his own way about him, and it was getting more difficult for us, as a band, to function as such with someone overshadowing everything that you do. I think that it was in his best interest that he ended up leaving the band, since now he can do the things that he wants to do and he doesn’t have to feel jaded towards things. At the same time, it was also a breath of fresh air for everybody else in the band when he left, because now we don’t have such an adversarial type of relationship in the band, but quite the opposite. Everybody is trying to be more supportive of each other, and I think that will make a difference in the longevity of the band as well. It’s a sad thing to say, since I don’t like to say goodbye to anybody, but I think this was the best choice for him to make, and also for us. So, in lieu of that now we’ve got Dave Culross, who played in the band before, is super awesome and plays at 200bpm with a smile on his face. We’re having a great time jamming together, making this record, and I think that we’re all in a much better situation with him. We’re super happy! I wish Mike the best of luck, but I think that in the long run this was the best choice.
Metal Blast: Was there any skepticism, or did perceive some skepticism, about Mike leaving the band, or was this something that had been agreed upon by everyone?
Terrance Hobbs: I think that between the label and everybody outside, nobody wants to see anybody go, especially from this band, which has gone through so much. We’ve had a lot of hardships throughout the years, that’s just part of the game. The label had some concerns, wondering if SUFFOCATION was still going to be the same… but I assure you that if any member of the band does change, including myself, I’ll be the first one to be training someone to take my spot, just to keep SUFFOCATION strong, healthy, moving and being the kind of band that people want to pay attention to. In the long run, however, it’s not about what everybody else thinks, the outside world is not the person that has to work with this type of musicians and to make things work; so for us to take Dave was a really good call, because he works well with us, while letting Mike go was also a good call, even though Nuclear Blast was a bit skeptic as to what we were going to do. We just did what we felt was natural and went with someone that we really thought would fit the bill, who lived down here in New York (he’s a native New Yorker, just like the band) and just went for it.
Metal Blast: Speaking of Frank [Mullen, vocals], he might not be able to tour with you this time?
Terrance Hobbs: For the most part we are not planning on touring as a whole band. We would all love to tour all year long if we could, but unfortunately we really can’t. Frank has kids at home, he has a full-time job, he has been out for 20 years, he’s had to make a lot of hard choices, and the band supports his choices; basically, we just work around his schedule. He can come out as much as he can possibly do. Sometimes we might have to be out longer than he can, so in that case we just ask him, “Hey, do you know anybody who wants to be a fill-in singer?”, and he’ll probably have one already. This is not nice, but at least gives me the opportunity to work with different musicians sometimes, which is really kind of cool. It’s a win-win. Even though we’re not going to be out as much as we would all like to be out. We’re still coming out to play for you guys, Frank will be with us as much as possible (he is a founding member of our band) and we’ll just work around it, doing as much as we possibly can.
Read the entire interview from Metal Blast.
“As Grace Descends” video: