Suffocation is a name that certainly needs no introduction. Since their debut, 1991 releases “Effigy of the Forgotten” and the “Human Waste” EP, bands all around the globe have aspired to growl as low, beat their drums as fast and groove as hard as Suffo. If you see a sprawled out, illegible logo on a name befitting brutality, most likely said group has a Suffocation poster in its practice space.
In 1990, Suffocation recruited drummer Mike Smith and guitarists Doug Cerrito and Terrance Hobbs from the disbanded local group, Mortuary. Both Smith and Cerrito later left the group (Smith later returned and is their current drummer), but Hobbs has stayed with the group since their inception. Along with Frank Mullen’s trademark bowel-bursting vocals, Hobbs trademark style has become synonymous with the Suffocation brand. He has the ability to quickly changes gears from slow, slam-stomping rhythms to screaming solos and blurring speed, all the while hooking the listener.
Terrance Hobbs is truly a living legend in the realm of death metal, and the guitar industry is finally recognizing his greatness. Hobbs recently signed an endorsement with B.C. Rich guitars. The guitar-making titan is honoring him with a signature-series, Warlock guitar.
Hobbs spoke with Metal Underground via the InterWebs on a number of topics, including his love for guitars and his forthcoming product.
Darren Cowan (Rex_84) Suffocation has beaten, bound and bombed large sections of humanity with its trademark brand of death metal since 1988. How has the band persisted, not only musically but also socially (keeping the boys together)?
Terrance Hobbs: The band has been fortunate, I guess, when it comes down to it! It’s always been something that we actually love to do, and playing death metal has been in our blood since the beginning in ‘88. We strive to keep our music along the same lines as we always have. In turn, it seems that the people we play in front of worldwide like our brand of death metal, so it’s our job by choice to not disappoint our fans. Musically, we are always trying to improve our playing, and as a band so we can stay on top of our game!
DC: You and Frank are the only members whom have stayed with the band since the beginning. However, Mike Smith (drums) and Guy Marchais (guitars) both played during Suffocation’s early years and returned for the band’s latter period. Does the band keep its relationships strong with members when they leave?
Hobbs: As far as past and present members, we do try to keep in contact with Doug Cerrito, Chris Richards, Dave Culross, Doug Bohns and so on. We were all a part of the music scene out here so even if the band didn’t get along at the time, that’s all been past history, and we still continue to go to shows together and have a good time to boot.
DC: You have a new signature guitar from BC Rich. Tell us about this endorsement.
Hobbs: I actually have a signature series guitar coming out later this year from B.C. Rich. I’ve been playing B.C. Rich for nearly 20 odd years and finally after all that time, someone recognized it. I am actually honored that they have been so supportive of the style of music we play as well as giving me the opportunity to represent such a classic guitar company. You guys should see my signature model later this year, which should come out around November.
DC: What was your first guitar? How did you obtain and learn how to play it?
Hobbs: My first guitar was a very old acoustic I grabbed from my great grandfather when I was about five-years old. I never really learned how to play it, back then. I was very young and impressionable and my focus wasn’t on making music at the time so I smashed it (laughs). My first, real guitar was a white B.C. Rich Warlock and I guess B.C. Richs have always been the coolest gits I’ve ever played. At the time I got it, I was thirteen and I’ve been hooked every since.
DC: What bands were you into before death metal, and how did you make the transition into death metal?
Hobbs: When I turned thirteen, the bands I loved were Jimmy Hendrix, Led Zep, Black Sabbath, Ozzy and so on. It was a natural progression from there. Of course, Metallica and the aggressiveness of their early material caught my attention! Of course, the guitars were prevalent so it gave me the inspiration to peruse playing heavy and fast.
DC: This coming November, Suffocation is scheduled to play the Metal Underground-sponsored event Goregrowler’s Ball in San Antonio, Texas? Texas has a massive death metal scene with many of the bands using Suffocation as a template. Are you familiar with the TXDM scene, and what are your thoughts?
Hobbs: The Texas death metal scene is second to none. I’ve been out there many times and played many gigs out there. The brutalness of the area out there just makes it a prime time place for death metal. In fact, I’m very excited to be out there seeing friends and tearing the stage up with many of the awesome TX. death metal bands.
DC: Speaking of festivals, Suffocation will play Maryland Death Fest in 2012. Will that performance be your first on that stage?
Hobbs: No, we actually played the 1st annual Maryland Death Fest years ago. It’s good to see the festival prospering and bringing to light death metal for all the people on the east coast.
DC: Are you going to do it up big, considering the world is prophesied to end a few months after the festival?
Hobbs: If I really thought the end of the world was coming, I’d probably just go apeshit. My singer might bug out. However, I believe it is just going to be another day…
DC: Considering all the bands that site Suffocation as an influence—especially the slamming, chugging “brutal” death metal bands, Suffocation had definitely found a winning formula. However, you can’t play the same riffs for nearly a quarter century. How have you progressed as a guitar player and thrown in new elements to keep your sound fresh?
Hobbs: As I said earlier, we are always trying to improve in our playing techniques individually, so I suppose that in learning and experimenting we incorporate what is new into our music, as well as try to keep our integrity from the past materials.
DC: In 2007, Suffocation appeared in a History Channel commercial for “The Dark Ages.” What do you recall about making that commercial and how do you feel about its endorsement for your music?
Hobbs: To be honest the history channel commercial was a long shot. I guess we were at the right place at the right time. I’d have to say it was one of the most pro- video shoots I have ever been a part of. It’s really nice to know that companies such as the History Channel and Discover Channel made a point to find a heavy band like us and give us some props.
DC: When death metal started, people simply called it “death metal.” Now, there are several adjectives, “brutal, technical, melodic…” preceding the terms death metal. Do you think we need these terms to differentiate the types of sounds heard from band to band?
Hobbs: I don’t think we need to take the whole genre of death metal and categorize it. Once a singer goes total growl, it all falls into the death metal category. I guess that’s why people don’t get the hint at MTV Music Awards, but it would be nice to see a death metal category. I would think melodic black and so on would fall under the death metal genre.
DC: What’s the future of Suffocation? Are you working on new material? If so, what details can you give us?
Hobbs: Suffo isn’t going anywhere but up! We are working on new material. It’s actually almost done, but we’re not slated for a release until next year. It will be just as brutal as our past materials, plus a little more. So on that note, keep a look out for us! Keep your eyes out for the signature series guitars. Stay super heavy! I hope to see all of you out there on the road!!!
Darren Cowan has written for several heavy metal publications. He has been a metal head for twenty years and has attended concerts throughout several regions of the U.S.