Last month, Louisiana death metallers Excommunicated released their second full length Death Devout via Satanath Records and its quite the old school force to be reckoned with. I’m getting a strong tie in with Death due to their highly progressive song structures and similar vocal stylings but also a strong tie to classic, old school death metal with the Swedeath feel of it all. Sure that’s a mouth full but with merely one listen you’ll be fully on board with it as well. The band has taken amazing growth steps since 2011’s Skeleton Key in the sense of letting the songs go where they will in lieu of forcing them into a set structure. It’s a whole different animal and one that will leave you wanting more. We recently had the opportunity to sit down with vocalist Chad Kelly to answer our set of Profile questions and as you will see, he was more than generous with his answers. Head inside to see what he had to say.
How did you first get into playing music, and have you achieved the level of success that you hoped for?
To answer the second part first, I haven’t achieved any real success in this industry but I also never really intended to. I wanted to do it when I wanted, and the way I wanted, without concern for making money. I always knew it would be a ‘side hobby’ in my life and career; but that also affords me the ability to do whatever I want without worry.
I began doing a fanzine and an underground ‘tape trade’ record label around 1991 or 1992. I began composing eerie intros and demos at home on a 4-track using samples, keyboards, and synthesizers around 1993. I accepted the spot as vocalist for a black/death metal band called Catholicon that was being put together in 1994, and in the late 90’s I stepped back from vocal duties when we got a full time vocalist, and resumed my preferred role of doing the keyboards and production. When Catholicon ended, I started Excommunicated with my friends Jason McIntyre and Jonathan Joubert. Because this was harder death metal with minimal keyboard elements, I resumed the role of vocalist once again. I’ve been at this for a while…
What’s the most you have ever debased yourself to get your band onto a show, into a magazine or otherwise promoted, covered, and praised? (If you don’t have a story, please tell us any funny/embarrassing story.)
Well, I don’t know about funny or embarrassing; but I think when we were younger we definitely put ourselves out there more so and sooner than we probably should have. We played a show in front of zero people once (that took 4.5 hours to get to). We played shows for seven dollars or no money before, and we sent out demos for review (and made an album) that probably should not have been made or anyone allowed to hear. But that is all part of growing up. I also know people who never play a show and never finish their recordings, and I think I’d rather have done too much than not enough, at the end of the day. People are either going to listen or they won’t; they’ll either laugh or they won’t. It doesn’t much matter what others think. With Excom we try to be more professional and err on the side of quality over quantity because we are older now.
What do you see as some of the great things happening in metal and what are some of the worst things happening inside the scene right now?
For me personally, one of the best things that happened in Metal over the last decade has honestly been Ghost. They managed to take a slew of old old influences (Blue Oyster Cult, The Beach Boys, Pentagram, Black Sabbath, Mercyful Fate, Venom) and make something fresh and new out of it that brought in a huge new young following. Metal needs those kinds of Renaissance artists. I don’t see it happening enough, and it’s scary to me that the ‘big 4 or 5’ bands in metal have been the same bands for 30+ years.
It seems that now everyone has a passion for some cause and that those people are very open about displaying their passions. This is probably a very, very good (and progressive) thing socially. What are some of the most important issues (social/political/humorous/etc.) for you and how do you insert those issues into your music?
Well, that’s a good question… and to be honest, Excommunicated is not a political band or a band that is about social causes. Myself personally, I am a social progressive and a futurist. I’m a vegan and I support The Venus Project, which aims at re-inventing how basic human society works. None of that is represented in the music of Excommunicated because our members range in their views across the board. My views on things also shift over time as I have time to think about issues more. I wouldn’t want to be in a band that was just a soapbox for what I feel. Rage Against the Machine made that work; but to me it comes off as arrogant and pretentious. We’re a death metal band. The way I feel about it, if you want to know what I think you can ask me and I’ll tell you, but I’m actually really proud of the fact that you won’t find any hint of my ‘personal feelings or struggles’ in any of Excom’s lyrics or in any from my previous band, Catholicon, for that matter. I keep those things to myself; a metal band should be hard and aggressive, strong and stoic, not overly ‘emo’ or pitiful. I’ve always felt that way and I still do. Excom’s lyrics, as well as those from my previous band, have alot of consistency in terms of relating the truth of the human casualty and misery brought upon us by our collective history of religious fundamentalism, which itself is just a tool of a deeper issue (authoritarianism/greed/the need to control and systems of control). I’ve used the subject more as a muse out of habit because it’s what I’ve always written about now for over a quarter century, and I do like pointing out the hypocrisy and the horror of something that was until recent history considered sacrosanct… but as I’ve gotten older I’ve also realized it’s just a symptom of something bigger. Human nature has inherent problems, and those are the things we need to work on. Also, it’s interesting at least when you are in our position that you sort of have to deal with ‘problem of winning’, in a sense. When I was a kid, religion here in the Southern US was still a real thing and big business. You were going to Hell and were going to be given hell if you didn’t play along. Well, things have changed and we’ve, in alot of ways, won the cultural war and broken through alot of that. It’s no longer that much of a stigma to be non religious or of a minority religion, and people who still think the way people commonly thought 40 years ago are considered fringe or sectarian by today’s standards. I think this is a really good thing, and what we’ve done as artists in response to that is to sort of retreat into the past and talk about the times when this was not the case, in the hopes that it never becomes that way again.
What, or who, got you into metal and how old were you? How did your family take the news?
Haha, that’s a good one. I was about 14 or 15 and I discovered it accidentally because I was one of the first kids in the 80’s to have a ‘high speed dubbing’ deck and was copying tapes for alot of my friends. That’s how I discovered Iron Maiden first, then Metallica, then Megadeth, and Slayer and on from there. I discovered death metal shortly thereafter on college radio and was instantly hooked. My parents thought I was losing my mind and did everything they could to discourage it. Haha. I get along well with my family today. I’m nearly 44 and I think they realized it was not a trend after nearly 30 years, and it also didn’t in any way stop me from being the person I grew up to be. I think parents want what is best for their children and are sometimes over-protective. It comes with the job. But one of the things about adulthood, to me, is accepting the higher level of responsibility that comes with that but also not forgetting what my inspirations are and making time to still enjoy the things I like doing. I think when you stop doing that, that’s when you truly ‘get old’. I don’t want to get old quite yet… really never, in that sense.
What advice do you have for aspiring music critics and outlets out there? How can we all better serve the genre in the eyes of a hard-working musician?
Oh, well be open minded I suppose but one of the things I’ve found in some of the best music producers out there is the ability to get an artist to reconnect with what got them first inspired to play or to write, and getting them to come back to that fountain and make something great again. I think that’s something that journalists and reviewers could also do, to help artists in their craft. When we put out our first original album in 2011, there was one reviewer who said we were writing ‘music for death metal teenagers’, which I had no idea what that meant and still don’t… but it did make me realize that we didn’t do a good job of explaining where we were coming from and what our influences were. That’s why we have this new covers album out now. It does exactly that. That’s something good (I think) that came from one bad review.
What’s your goal? You guys thinking world domination? Maybe saving a continent? Maybe invading one? Any interest in starting a cult? Do you guys have day jobs or hobbies you want to share? Whatever it is, please let us know.
Goal wise, I like to think in the short term. Let’s get a new original album written and recorded this year and take it from there. The success of that will probably determine how much longer we can keep at it. We are all in our 40’s now and have families, careers, etc. We also all live in different cities now, which is the biggest problem. Practice is impossible. I think society itself, particularly American society and social media and news, is a cult in and of itself… and I’m trying to get out of that cult and spend more time in the wilderness honestly. Haha. Nature is more important to me now than people or things. I work in the audio industry and have worked for a few different audio companies, now in the works of starting a new one myself. It’s been tough but it is also what I love doing.
When you’re not obsessing over your own material, what are some of your favorite albums to listen to currently? (Feel free to include non-metal)
I listen to alot of weird non-metal stuff you would not expect, from Tegan & Sara to Depeche Mode and The Cure to William Shatner’s albums… my tastes are notoriously bad and undefined. As far as metal, I have been a fan of Mercyful Fate and King Diamond, Samhain and the Misfits my whole life just about, and my favorite black metal bands are Samael, Tiamat, early Cradle of Filth, Moonspell. Death metal favorites are Napalm Death, Paradise Lost, early Grave and Entombed and Dismember, I LOVE Goreaphobia, Incantation, Septic Flesh (every album) and Rotting Christ (every album).
What is the 12-month outlook for you or your band? Any specific events on the horizon that the masses should be aware of?
Get the next record done. It’s going to be called The Exterminating Angel. New songs, about 8 to 10 tracks. There are a few other irons in the fire but that’s the main one. We have a few more cover songs that were left off the covers LP that may be released as a digital EP or we may tack on some more and make a second covers record. Not sure yet. We recorded a Death, Pestilence, AC/DC, and Danzig song that no one has heard yet.
Summarize your band in exactly one word. (Disclosure: If you include additional words, we will select our favorite for the final publication.)
Many thanks to Chad and Excommunicated for their time!