Packed with the most unadulterated aggression and concrete-constructed tracks from start to finish, it’s kind of hard to believe that even a whiff of material like this could have been gathering dust for the last 27 years.
But that was the case and Exhorder/Trouble/Heavy as Texas font-man, Kyle Thomas brings us up to speed on the creation of this modern masterpiece.
OD – Never in my lifetime would I have imagined a new Exhorder album, but here we are in 2019 and ‘Mourn The Southern Skies’ was finally released on September 20th. At what point did you say: ‘Fuck it, let’s do another album?”
KYLE – Well, the band has a history of ugly break-up’s and the last one was pretty ugly. I believe that I went on record saying; “Never again!”, but I think it’s not fair to say “never” anymore because I look like a damn idiot! [Laughing]
About 2 years ago, Vinnie (La Bella – Guitars, original member) started being friends again after the last break-up and he came to me and said; “Hey Kyle, there’s this management company that came to me asking would we be interested in doing some live shows” and then that got us thinking. I didn’t hesitate! I just said; “Let’s just do this!”
The worst thing that went down with the last break-up was that everybody felt like we didn’t get to complete the job. Do you know what I mean?
So, now we have this opportunity with this management company (AISA Management) that totally believes in us, which we’ve never had before. But to be honest, that’s probably our fault because we were a bunch of assholes in the past. I’m now thinking, had we had been a little more mature and behaved a little differently, things could have worked out a little differently.
We could have possibly achieved a lot more back in those days, but right now… to have another chance to do this…I just feel so grateful for the opportunity.
OD – This album is just a huge statement and is stacked with quality from start to finish. When did the writing properly begin, and was there a huge pot of riffs/ideas that didn’t make the album?
KYLE – There are two tracks on the album that were in existence before we began the writing process for the album. Obviously ‘Ripping Flesh‘ which was on the ‘Get Rude‘ demo (1986), that’s a legacy song for us. The other is the title track, ‘Mourn the Southern Skies‘ which Vinnie started writing back in 1999/2000 and he presented that to me shortly after and I started putting lyrics to it.
The big gospel chorus on the outro to that track, and the acoustic intro, that was all written back in the day. That’s the oldest track on the album. He (Vinnie) had a couple of other tracks that he had written over the years and just stashed them away, and then there’s a few others that he wrote more recently just prior to the recording of the album.
Apart form ‘Mourn the Southern Skies‘, everything else I wrote was over the last two years.
OD – You’ve said that in so many words that this album is not a sequel to ‘Slaughter in the Vatican’ (1990) or ‘The Law’ (1992) and I agree, but because of the bands hiatus, do you find that people just get hung up on the bands last release and refuse to believe that they can evolve?
KYLE – This album is where we were heading musically back just before we broke-up. People might think we went out of our way to create a sound that may be considered ‘classic‘ for this genre, but this was the vibe of what we were thinking about for the next album.
I think the fans were expecting a predictable follow-on from ‘The Law” and my guess is these are people that have never seen us live. If you see Exhorder live, you totally get what we’re about. If all you have to measure us with is either one of the first two albums, well of course that’s what you’re gonna think this band is all about. But there’s so much more to us than that.
We started from a more ‘metal/punk‘ background, but we were first embraced by the punk scene here in New Orleans and we’re forever grateful for them for giving us that platform to do out thing. They truly welcomed us as family and we adopted that whole mindset at a very early age in this band; and we carry that on to the stage with us when we play.
We’re not this black and silver, leather and hell band that is all about being more metal than the devil. We’re just a bunch of idiots that play instruments [Laughing].
The only difference between us and the audience is that we happen to be on stage playing music.
OD – Would you agree with the statement of Exhorder being one of the definite groove metal/thrash bands that helped mould the sound of that very movement during the 90’s and 00’s?
KYLE – It’s nothing that we think about to be honest. I was 16 years old when I wrote most of the songs that ended up on “Slaughter in the Vatican“. What is a 16-year-old thinking about?; ‘Where is my next beer coming from and what’s the next album I’m gonna listen to today?‘ [Laughing]
We never thought in a million years that we were doing anything that was ‘trend-setting‘ or ‘genre-defining‘, that’s for the fans and the critics to decide. If that’s what people feel and that’s what they want to say, then let the people speak. We just keep doing what we’re doing and if it’s different, that’s how it’s always been for us.
When we wrote ‘(Cadence of) The Dirge‘ from ‘The Law‘ (1992) there were a lot of people that were saying; “That’s not Exhorder! It’s not supposed to sound like that!” and today, that song is one of our staple tracks when we perform live. It’s now considered a ‘classic‘ Exhorder song. Keep in mind, this is what you were gonna get back in 1994; had we recorded another album.
OD – Prior to entering the studio, and bearing in mind the fact that it’s been nearly three decades since the last album, was there any apprehension at all?
KYLE – Before we got in the studio, there was a realisation of; “Holy shit! Okay, we’ve agreed to do this, what the fuck do we do now?” [Laughing]
Vinnie and I had stepped away from playing thrash/extreme type metal for so long, and there was a process that we needed to get back into again. That mindset of, getting back on the bike again and just going for it. We had to approach things differently this time around. I used to look at the world in a very different way back then. I was a young angry man and today I’m an angry old man. [Laughing]
OD – Of course you’ve been involved with Floodgate (split up), Alabama Thunderpussy and Trouble over the years, what’s the situation with both of those bands right now or are you very much concentrating on Exhorder indefinitely for the foreseeable future?
KYLE – At the moment, Trouble is in pre-production for a new album and we’re hoping to start recording in the Autumn and if all goes to plan, we’re looking at a new Trouble album next year (2020).
There is a natural process with each project and I’ll have my full attention focused on each one as the time requires. Right now, it’s all about Exhorder.
OD – Having formed back in ’85, do you find that things have changed for the better or for worse when it comes to Heavy Music? Bearing in mind we have no mainstream support, no MTV and most radio stations are gone and magazines are on the way out.
KYLE – I think that it’s way harder for start-up bands today. For instance Marzi (Montazeri , Guitar, ex-Superjoint Ritual, ex-Phil Anselmo & the Illegals) have a new project called ‘Heavy as Texas‘, which we recorded and released our first album earlier this year.
We just went out and did our first tour and to compare that to Exhorder, it’s totally different because Exhorder is considered to be a ‘legacy‘ band and there’s a demand for it.
Fortunately, Marzi and I have reputations and we’ve had a pretty positive start to the project, but honestly, I’d hate to be a start-up band right now; purely because the way the industry has evolved.
I’ve read some articles and I’ve also seen it with my own two eyes on tours, especially during the festival season that Heavy Metal is the fastest growing genre of music in the world right now, so that bodes well for the future I think.
OD – Exhorder will be making their way over to EU/UK this coming Autumn with a show in Dublin, which will mark the first time you’ve played here. When you get to play new territories, do you feel that it’s kind of like a bucket-list of sorts; and if so, do you approach these shows any different?
KYLE – Absolutely! We’ve always wanted to perform in all the ‘markets’. We were set on becoming one of the bigger bands of the late 90’s and we just knew that we had something about us that made it a possibility to attain that global status. The fact that we never did, has never really sat well with us and bearing that in mind, we don’t really approach shows with any other mindset than just do the best that we can and try to have the most fun while doing it.
Regardless of us performing in front of 8 people or 8 thousand people, you’re gonna get same intensity from Exhorder. The object of the show is for everybody to leave the venue having had the best show, the best experience with some great memories later down the line. We don’t like short-changing anyone and you’ll see that when we get this tour underway next month.
OD – Are there any artist/band’s that have emerged in recent times that has caught your attention for one reason or another?
KYLE – There’s a few here and there that we come across, mostly from touring, but the honest truth is you’re most likely to hear us listening to the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack on the bus. [Laughing]
People seem to think that metal bands listen to metal all-day long when in actual fact, you might find…for example say, the guys from Obituary chilling out to Willie Nelson before they get on stage.
I can’t say that we don’t enjoy a lot of new artists, to be fair, we don’t sit around exploring new heavy music. If we come across something naturally, then that’s cool but we all just listen to a pretty eclectic mix of stuff. We have a lot of love for old-school funk, especially the New Orleans style old funk. It’s where we’re from, it’s what we all grew-up listening to and it’s in the water here.
To be honest, I think it has a huge influence on what they call ‘groove metal‘; which critics have stated we helped pioneer. For the average metal head that doesn’t appreciate anything else but ‘METAL’, I guess we’re that band that’s trying to open your mind a little and try new things. If it wasn’t for the old-school New Orleans funk, we wouldn’t exist.
OD – Finally, do you have a direct message for anyone coming to see Exhorder in Ireland/UK in October?
KYLE – Everyone, and I mean EVERYONE is welcome at our show and if you cause problems at the show and have a different agenda other than enjoying the music and atmosphere, you’re gonna be heading out that door sooner than you think.
Exhorder will be performing in Dublin for the very first time on October 1oth as part of their UK/Ire tour. Tickets are on sale NOW via Ticketmaster. Check out this link for details on all dates.
‘Mourn The Southern Skies’ is out NOW via Nuclear Blast. Order your copy here.