Interview with Steve DiGiorgio [Death, Sadus, Testament, ex-Control Denied, ex-Autopsy (guest), ex-Obituary (live)]
Interview by Estelle on the 25th of June 2014
Hello Steve, first of all thank you very much for doing this interview with me! Firstly I would like to ask, what is or what was your greatest fear in connection with your career?
Greatest fear? ‘Fear’ is kind of a strong word, I guess we are always concerned with being able to live, make a living from being a musician. And metal music is underground, so it is a struggle. But it’s not so much of a fear, because I do it anyway.
What was the worst thing that happened to you in any of your current or previous bands, and if you could do anything differently, what would it be?
I guess I’ve been kinda lucky, I didn’t have many bad experiences. I guess I would really just try to encourage other people just to be more different. It’s not really something which is the worst that happened, but the worst thing I’ve seen is just so much reputation and non-originality. I’ve been trying to keep myself as different from everybody as I can. Once again ‘worst’ is kind of a strong word, but if I could change something I would focus more on just being unique.
You are practised and proficient in many styles of metal – you tried yourself in different styles such as thrash, death, progressive metal or rock, power metal, also some jazz – what’s the most joyful and the hardest genre for you to play?
The stuff I tend to play is stuff that has melodic basslines, maybe some technical involved stuff. That’s what I favor, so the hardest stuff is sometimes playing some of the simple or more basic songs and staying focused on that. Sometimes I tend to wonder, lose the purpose of the songs. I had to really train myself to ‘put on the hat’ of that specific style that calls for it. That’s probably the biggest difficulty. Like you pointed it out, I really love to keep variety in life, so playing all those styles to me is just different branches of the same tree. It’s just music. When we look at it all together, it’s not that different.
It’s already 8 years since your last album with Sadus, Out for Blood – are you planning to release a new Sadus album? I read somewhere that you said that Sadus is really good at taking breaks and doing nothing, is this going on right now, or will something happen in the future?
I hope you noticed that it’s kind of a sarcastic comment (laughs), I mean it’s true, we’ve been a band for so many years but I’ve done so little compared to other bands that have the same amount of time to work together. But I’ve learned with Sadus either way, because in the past we thought we were done and we would never do another album, and then we got together and made a new album. So if I say ‘no’, or ‘we might’, or if I say ‘yes, definitely’, maybe it will never happen, I don’t know. I just know I can’t do it alone. I would love to do a new Sadus album, but it takes a group effort and I don’t know if everybody in the group is on the same page about doing it. Maybe it comes around in the future, we’ll leave it open.
You are one of the few bands who did not have any member changes (besides the leaving of Rob Moore). Did you guys have any massive misunderstanding or argument through the years since high school?
Yes, of course, we’re humans, we’re normal people. But the fortunate thing is that the three of us – Darren, Jon and myself – that stuck together, we never had really big disagreements. It seems like the big problems were with Rob. And when he decided to leave, it seemed like any potential of a big problem just went away with him. So we’re pretty lucky, and I think the reason why we stayed as a band without doing any new song is because we are mainly friends, and then a band. Sometimes band members don’t ever hang out after the tour is over, they just know each other musically – we’d say it’s the opposite, we are like a family that just happened to have some music to do once in a while. I think the thing that helped us to exist as a band is that we knew that when we were going home we would see each other the next day, and everyday, because we are so close. We are pretty lucky.
Would you mind saying a few words about why Rob Moore isn’t with the band since 1994?
Well, he was in the band for ten years. We did three albums with him, and those three albums are important to the band’s history because they helped us to ‘get on the road’, they helped to find things. But as those years went on, we felt something was wrong, and by the end it turned out that Rob just couldn’t do it anymore. I don’t have any dirt to say, I mean it happened really fast, we felt it gradually over the years, but when it came to the time for him to leave, one day he was like ‘that’s it, I’m done’.
We tried to replace him because we used to be in four piece, but after being so close friends for so long, inviting someone in was just not right. Darren decided to do the guitar by himself, that made the bass a more important part of the music, and we just carried on in three piece. It seemed to work pretty good, we definitely got a lot better without him.
Do you have any really good memory, maybe some stories about Chuck Schuldiner? I would love to hear some.
I met Chuck because he came out to California when he was a teenager. He discovered the Sadus demo, D.T.P. (Death to Posers), he was a fan so he contacted us. He lived really close to us, so we just started hanging out with him – this was the time when he was doing the Mutilation demo. So I’ve known him from those days, until his last days.
I have a million stories, it’s always hard to pick one, we had many good times when we hung out. He was really ‘into the outdoors’, we would go to the river and go canoeing, we barbecued a lot in his backyard. He loved animals and he loved his sisters, his little nephew, he was a warm, family guy. He was kind of a nerd in his private life and when he would do an interview on TV or when we would go out and play, he put on a public persona, a little more serious persona. He really liked to convey a message with his music but when we were doing the music, he was a pretty goofy guy; we laughed so much. He loved ridiculous and funny things and he was always making silly stuff, he was on a really young level of humour (laughs). He was really young at heart, silly guy. A lot of serious stuff happened in his life, and I think he just felt more at home when we were being complete idiots. Laughing and making each other laugh, we did some crazy stuff together.
How did you get to know about his death?
His sister called me. Like I said me and Chuck stayed in contact since he was seventeen or eighteen until he died, so I knew his family. We kinda knew it was coming, he was very very sick. He fought his disease for two and a half years and it was inevitable, we knew it was coming. So when his sister called and said he passed, it felt something like ‘okay, it was time’ – he knew he wasn’t get any better. It sucks but it’s a part of life, you know. He was so young, he was 33 years old. I would love to sit here with him now because we were born in the same year, we were virtually the same exact age, it would be cool to see how he would look like in his mid-fourties. He’s frozen in time at 33. I miss him as a buddy, but it’s cool doing this touring because he’s not here, but… close. We have the guys together, all knew him in the past, we sit down and tell stories all the time, he is talked about so much. And during our show we play a little bit of a movie, it’s about five minutes long, I think it’s great, I think it’s close to having him here as we can get because people see him and they hear his voice.
Did you stop working with Death after Individual Thought Patterns?
I didn’t. I worked on basically every album with Chuck except for Leprosy and Spiritual Healing. I went to Florida and he was there for the finalization of the songwriting process, Gene was there and we recorded really early versions of the Symbolic songs, it’s called pre-production. It’s like you do a practise recording and it helps you decide that if it’s good and you keep it or maybe make some changes. So we worked on this recording, but then I went back to California because I was having my first child. The timing to go and stay in Florida and work on music just wasn’t right for me because I had to go and stay with my family. So we didn’t continue working on the album. But we always stayed in contact and for the next album, The Sound of Perseverance, he called me again to come and do the album, and I went several times and worked on the songs and did practise recordings and demos, but when the band was getting ready to go to the studio to record the album, they had a lot of tour offers, big tour plans. And I couldn’t commit to all that. I told Chuck I could do some of it but not all of it, and he said he wanted somebody to just be there the whole time. You know, we talked on the phone all the time, he wanted me there and it felt great but I just couldn’t do it. Luckily after the Sound of Perseverance tour was over he called me back again to go to do the Control Denied record.
So we stayed in touch and we worked on music together for all over the years. And to verify that, like you asked if I was there after Individual, the re-release of Symbolic has bonus tracks of those recordings I told you about that we did at his house, and you’ll see my name there, you’ll see I’m not lying! (laughs)
Back then we would have a conversation and I would say ‘okay, well that’s not gonna work out this time’, but now in the future it’s like ‘what an idiot’, I mean I should have found a way because those albums are classics. I know Chuck always knew that I was a part of it and it felt great to be that close to him, but I wish I found a way to make this happen too. But well, now it sounds like I’m talking down about the guys that played on the records, no no, they deserve to be there too. I had the chance, it was my choice first.
On the albums Human and Individual, how big role did the others besides Chuck have? As far as I’m concerned Chuck did almost everything in connection with the albums, he wrote the songs, he wrote the lyrics, he was also the producer – could you guys do anything like that?
Yeah, he had the songs written for guitar. But it’s maybe like an art class in school – the teacher tells you: ‘We’re gonna paint a bridge’, but he wants you to paint a bridge in your own way. And that’s what it was like when we played the songs, we could play what we wanted, what we felt, what enhanced the song. He brought us there for our personality in music, but obviously everybody had to be consistent with his vision for the song. So everybody had a big role in the sound of the songs – Chuck was the ultimate quality control, like ‘yes that’s great’ or ‘no, change that’ – but everybody was called upon to bring something to the band that made it better.
As some kind of a veteran of the metal scene, what’s your opinion about this new school thrash metal madness going on in the past few years, these young people who all start a band and try to live like people in the eighties?
Kinda like a retro thing, well that happens all the time, with every style of music. I think it’s getting harder and harder to find good music and good bands, because there’s just so much to look through. It’s like too many. It’s too easy to make a band and get your music out there. There’s a lot of bad quality stuff, and getting away a lot of good stuff that exists out there. But I guess it’s cool to some people because everybody finds something that they like. It’s not my call to say if it’s good or bad for somebody else but I just know that when I was young, we had to go find the music, and now it’s instantly available for everybody. I would like to see bands trying to be a little more original, not playing the same thing all the time.
A little different subject now: Paul and Sean are both admittedly homosexual. Did YOU ever have a problem with that? How did this fact affect your work together through the years, in the sense of how the crowd welcomed your music etc.?
I’ve known those two guys since they were nineteen years old, they’re only about four years younger than me. Until you know somebody, you always think you’re gonna react a certain way, but when it happens to you, it’s different. In this case it’s so easy because they’re my friends. What they do is their business, it’s kind of sad to see people that have something negative to say because it’s really not their business.
You don’t know this about me – okay actually I told you I had my first child in the ’90s (laughs) – but if you didn’t know, maybe you would never find it out because I’m not telling you. But like you said when homosexuals come out, they’re putting themselves in the line of fire for negative criticism. Because they’re telling everybody. But I think in the homosexual community it’s important for those people to let it be known, so that they feel comfortable about themselves, I don’t know, I don’t understand it because it’s not who I am, I would never understand what they’re going through, but this is what I think. I understand as their friend but not from their point of view. It’s easy for me because they’ve always been my friends. It seems normal, it fits their personality. I never had a problem with it.
The fans that come to our shows are overwhelmingly positive and supportive because they’re buying the ticket and coming to enjoy themselves. We don’t really put ourselves in places to hear too much negativity, though I’m sure there are people that have negative things to say about it. Rob Halford from Judas Priest, he was a big part of standing on the ground and saying who he was; but it goes back even farther than that, how many people can you think of? Elton John, Freddie Mercury… it’s more common than you think. And if people just stop and think about that, you could release all your worries about that, just let people be who they are. Also, it doesn’t affect the music at all. Paul’s a vegetarian and Sean eats meat every day – does that affect the music? No, not at all. So you know, they can be different in that regard. No big deal is what I’m saying, right?
For the end: Is there any question that you have never been asked about, and you would like someone to ask it from you?
Yes! I always wanted to share my recipe for the perfect Carbonara. And nobody asked me how to make the special DiGiorgio Carbonara! I also make a very very nice Braciola Involtini, it’s like a flat steak with ingredients, a stuff that’s rolled, and you cook it in the sauce all day long. It’s excellent. Remember the key to a good Carbonara: use five eggs, no ham, no bacon, spaghetti – or even better: it’s called guanciale, salty flavoured meat, you cut it in tiny cubes and cook it in the oil. That’s beautiful. So thank you for letting me say that! I’ve been waiting for my whole life to tell people about my Carbonara. (laughs)
Okay Steve, thank you very much for this honour and for taking some time of yours and doing this interview, I’m looking forward to the amazing show!
Thanks, it was really nice talking to you. Thank you so much for the support!