Death metal legend Terry Butler is running out of room in the ol' closet for those band shirts and LPs. From backstopping Florida death metal pioneers Massacre and (FUCKING!!) Death, to nearly two decades spent with Six Feet Under, to linking up with fellow Florida death metal legends Obituary, Butler is a tireless practitioner of metal of the highest no fuck factor.
Butler sat down with Metal Injection for a deep dive into his latest death metal project Inhuman Condition – whose second studio album Fearsick drops this summer – a walk through time to the rise of Florida death metal, his at times turbulent years in Massacre, changing the game alongside Death and the new tribute supergroup Left To Die, his years in Six Feet Under, Obituary's upcoming record and much more!
Man, you have to be one of the busiest artists in metal. Does it take a certain amount of juggling or delegating at this point where you're balancing touring, playing or recording in Obituary, Left To Die, Inhuman Condition or whatever else you may be working on?
Oh yeah, absolutely. You know, sometimes it gets a little monotonous and my head starts spinning. We have a couple different calendars I have to look at constantly to make sure nothing is overlapping. But I guess it's kind of a good problem, but it is definitely hectic.
Starting off with Inhuman Condition, I know the project was kind of birthed from the three of you having this familiarity having been in Massacre. Those guys (Taylor Nordberg, Jeramie Kling) had songs that weren't utilized during their time in Massacre. They turned to you and here we have this whole new band and we're on album number two, all from this connection to Massacre.
It just came about really quick, you know? We all have had some scars from the time we were in Massacre, so to speak. I heard that those dudes quit and so I contacted them and said, "hey my condolences." And they're like, "hey, we got a bunch of songs we wrote for Massacre that never got used. We wrote them, so they're ours 100%. Would you be interested in putting bass on them?" And I said, "absolutely!"
So I recorded the bass on it and it just took off. And once I heard the songs I was like, "this is awesome stuff right here. I think people need to hear this." You want to throw the old school label on it immediately. But to me it's just killer death thrash kind of stuff. We were happy that it was accepted and a lot of people liked it. We had five songs left over, so we knew we had a second album in the can sitting there. We recorded four more songs and then Fearsick, the second album, was ready to go.
How has that chemistry been early on with the three of you? You knew you guys had the songs, but whether it be getting in the studio or making that work in a live there are obvious unknowns.
Those guys, they just live and breathe music. The studios in their house where they live and they're constantly doing musical things. It's amazing. They're great musicians and they've always got something in the works, which I think is awesome.
Well, the first initial stages of doing Rat°God, it kind of felt like 100% it was just kind of a project thing. But once we recorded it and started thinking about how we were going to release it, we thought about doing it ourselves and making some deals with distributors throughout the world. Then we made a couple of videos and it just felt like a total band at that point, you know?
Like you said, there's kind of a throwback label being attached to this band. To me Rat°God was one of the most pure death/thrash records that came out last year. If it ain't broke, don't fix it, and I feel like we're getting much the same with Fearsick.
Yeah, it's kind of the same wheelhouse, so to speak. And yeah, I love that kind of music. That's my favorite kind of music. I grew up on that, Death, Massacre, that's my forte type of death metal. I love that stuff. And this is right there in that. It's always moving and groovin 'and I love that.
Talking about Massacre for a minute, you've had several different periods with the band. From Beyond is such an important death metal record. From your perspective, what do you think it is about Massacre that has made them such an enduring band, but combing through their lineup history and it's obvious there's a huge amount of turnover. You have Kam Lee as the constant, but there's been a bit of tribulation involved over the years.
Well, [tribulation] sounds like a perfect word for this. From my point of view, it always felt like Massacre had unfinished business. When me and Bill [Andrews] got back with Rick [Rozz] and Kam in like 1990 or 1991 and put out From Beyond and the Inhuman Condition EP, it's a shame that we didn't stay together long enough to put out three or four more records, you know? I think there was always that underlying I wish there was more that we should have done. So that's the reason it got resurrected so many other times, I think.
And I thought we had it kind of on track again in 2013 and '14 when we put out the Back From Beyond record. I thought it was a pretty good record in the vein of Massacre, but that fell apart as well. So to me the enduring part is because those songs are so killer from that From Beyond era and some of the demo songs before that. But also it's that underlying kind of missed the boat kind of thing so we're trying to recapture some past glory. I think that's also the reason it's had so many incarnations.
With your own experience coming up in Florida, and if we think back to the mid-eighties, did you guys realize at the time that there was something special happening in the scene? We think back to the bands that came from the area; Massacre, Obituary, Morbid Angel, Death, so many incredible death metal bands.
Not really. I just remember we would go to see Nasty Savage play like in '83 and Avatar, who turned into Savatage. Those were the bands we would go see when we were like '14 and '15, and we wanted to be like them. But then some records started coming out like Show No Mercy, Morbid Tales, Possessed's Seven Churches, that kind of thing. And music got even darker and more dangerous, so to speak. All of us kids were in that crowd, everyone from Morbid Angel to some Brutality people, Monstrosity guys, Death, Massacre, Xecutioner. I mean, we were all in the crowd watching Nasty Savage and Savatage and a couple of other local bands, and that's what we wanted to be like.
So I think the seed was kind of planted there. And then when we started putting out demos and when the bands around here started putting out demos and doing their own live shows, that's when I thought, Wow, something's kind of going on here and it's really cool. And then you start tape trading with people throughout the world and stuff and then it just took off.
Did it feel like Death was ready to break out of the pack at the time? There are so many bands from the Florida death metal scene that have gone on to have legendary status. I feel like maybe worldwide Death had the biggest reach the earliest. And now to think Scream Bloody Gore turns 35 this year.
Yeah, it came out in '87. You know, Death opened up for Nasty Savage in '85 … and we all kept track of Chuck and stuff because we were into Death. When he put out the demo stuff, when he's out in California and then when they got signed, I think they were probably the first death metal band in this area that got signed. And then when Scream Bloody Gore came out we shortly joined the band right after that. We started playing shows locally here. Yeah, I think we were the top dog at that point. That's just kind of the way we looked at it, you know? And then within a couple of years there were like 10 other bands signed. But I thought so. I felt like we were kind of leading the way for a bunch of people.
Thinking back on that era now, Scream Bloody Gore heading into Leprosy and Spiritual Healing, what are some of your big takeaways with the benefit of hindsight?
Well, it was cool because it was all fresh and new. I mean, death metal was just kind of getting started and heavy metal in general and thrash metal was all kind of just getting going. And it was really exciting because a lot of the records that were coming out or were new and they sounded cool and killer and it was just a great time. It was like a movement was starting, the underground. You could feel it. And then when we started, we did the first tour and I think it was like January '88. We had played a few shows in '87 like Milwaukee Metal Fest, and we played a handful of shows up around the Great Lakes around that time.
At the time we didn't think, oh, we're paving the way. We're one of the first bands in death metal to kind of tour and we were just excited young kids to be out there playing metal and death metal. Chuck was just pouring riffs out left and right, and Rick wrote a bunch of cool stuff on Leprosy and I joined in on Spiritual Healing. And it just felt great to know that we were doing some cool stuff and a lot of bands looked up to us.
35 years later and there's all these Death tributes. You had Living Monstrosity and you have Left to Die coming up with Rick and Matt Harvey and Gus Rios. And it's like the legacy of Death has really only grown over time. Do you feel that, as someone who was there in those seminal record eras and going and playing these tribute shows, that the appreciation for Death has only grown stronger?
Yeah, it's still there. That fire is still there for Death. It's one of the first couple bands that I feel kind of really kind of started death metal as far as the more extreme versions of it. When we were touring back in '87, '88, '89, putting these records out, Chuck was a dude that we were in a band with and we were all kind of friends and everything was cool. It wasn't like "oh my God, you're doing something amazing." It was like "hey, we're in a band," you know?
And obviously the way it is with a lot of artists, so and so after he passed, then you immediately start looking back at what he had created, and it was such an amazing discography and so many killer tunes that it's just stood the test of time and I think it always will. A classic death metal band that's always going to be there. And you know, it started a lot of bands. It made a lot of people want to play death metal. Looking back on it, I'm very proud to have been part of it.
Looking back through your history, you've been involved in so many important bands in heavy metal, moving from Death and then Massacre. And then you had 18 years in Six Feet Under, which I think people kind of forget because you're so prolific right now with Obituary. But you literally had 18 years with Chris Barnes with these really kind of groundbreaking records at the time; Haunted, Warpath, Maximum Violence. Any prevailing feelings from your time in Six Feet Under and those early records?
Yeah, I like those three records, definitely. I mean, when the band first formed people thought, oh it's someone from Cannibal Corpse, Death, and Obituary. It's going to be insane. But what we wanted to do was just be kind of dark, heavy groove. And I think that's what we accomplished 100% on Haunted. To me, that's what Six Feet Under were. And it was a cool time. I think it's a great record.
And we did a bunch of touring for those first three records and the band was pretty much on fire at that point, clicking. Even when Allen [West] left and Steve Swanson came in we still were running on all cylinders. I think Six Feet Under kind of lost their way for various reasons. When I left Greg [Gall], the drummer, we left at the same time. It was time for us to jump ship. Thank God I was already helping out Obituary, so I kind of just landed right on my feet perfectly.
You mentioned Obituary, and obviously you guys have been teasing a new record, which I believe will be your third as a full-time member of the band?
Yeah, It's done and has been done for quite a while, but it's going to see the light of day real soon, either towards the end of this year or right at the beginning of next year. We got a lot of cool stuff coming up. There's a huge tour at the end of the year. We're trying to get the record released at that time. If it kind of doesn't happen then we have another huge tour right at the beginning of 2023.
The record will be out within three months time, basically towards the end of the year, beginning of the next year. And it's a great record. It's very aggressive. It's amazing, in my opinion. John [Tardy] sounds really evil on it. Ken [Andrews] did an amazing job, so did Donald [Tardy]. I mean, everyone, it just sounds great. Because we had time because of COVID to really make sure we wanted to do what we put out there, you know?
I kind of feel like this is like the second dawn of this band. Obviously you had that Slowly We Rot era and there was the hiatus. But even with the self-titled record in 2017, Obituary is putting out some of their best stuff in decades.
Yeah, I'm very happy with everything that's come out since I've been in the band. And we all get along great. We're a perfect unit. I mean, we all know what we want to achieve and we all pull in the same direction. John's taking care of his voice all these years. Donald is an amazing drummer. It just works. And I think when we got Ken Andrews in the band it was perfect. I mean, he's a perfect mix of the James Murphy style with Allen West style. And I think it blends well.
Not that you had much rest with all the projects you're involved in, but you've been such a road warrior for three decades now. Having that break in the beginning COVID-days, what were those early feelings getting back on stage? Was there any nerves at all?
It was kind of weird being at home all that time because that was the first time since I ever started playing music that I was home for that long of a stretch. When we first got back we did a couple of live streams. You're playing live, but it's just to a camera. But the first official show we did that I've done it was like, Wow, this feels great. It was in Inhuman Condition and we opened for Deicide here in Florida. And it was like, I missed this. This is awesome. I just love the feel. You can feel the music pumping on stage. You can see the crowd getting into the songs that you wrote, and it's just a great feeling.
Inhuman Condition's Fearsick is available worldwide July 15! Catch the band on tour this summer with Deicide and Kataklysm across North America. Obituary hits the road for select festival dates this summer across Europe and Left To Die trek across the U.S. this summer with Skeletal Remains and Mortuous performing Leprosy in its entirety!
Obituary European Festival Dates
6/10-11 Oldehoofsterkerkhof, Leeuwarden, Netherlands
6/19 Graspop Metal Meeting, Dessel, Belgium
Left To Die w/ Skeletal Remains & Mortuous
7/7 Orlando, FL – the Haven
7/8 Miami, FL – Gramps
7/9 Tampa, FL – The Brass Mug
7/10 Atlanta, GA – Boggs
7/13 Boston, MA – Middle East downstairs
7/14 Philadelphia, PA – Underground Arts
7/15 Brooklyn, NY – Market Hotel
7/16 Baltimore, MD – Ottobar
7/17 Cleveland, OH – No Class
7/19 Columbus, OH – Ace of Cups
7/20 Detroit, MI – Sanctuary
7/21 Cincinnati, OH – Legends
7/22 Chicago, IL – Reggie's
7/23 Madison, WI – The Crucible
7/24 Des Moines, IA – Leftys
7/25 Omaha, NE – Reverb Lounge
7/27 Dallas, TX – Amplified (inside)
7/28 Austin, TX – Come and Take It Live
7/29 Houston, TX – Warehouse Live
7/30 San Antonio, TX – Rock Box
7/31 Laredo, TX – The Cold Brew
Inhuman Condition w/ Deicide & Kataklysm
8/11 Baton Rouge, LA Chelsea's Live
8/12 Houston, TX Scout Bar
8/13 San Antonio, TX The Rock Box
8/14 Dallas, TX Trees
8/15 Albuquerque, NM Sunshine Theater
8/16 Mesa, AZ Nile Theater
8/17 Santa Ana, CA The Observatory
8/18 Los Angeles, CA The Regent
8/19 Sacramento, CA Goldfield Trading Post
8/20 Portland, OR Bossanova Ballroom
8/21 Seattle, WA El Corazon
8/23 Denver, CO Summit Music Hall
8/24 Lawrence, KS The Bottleneck
8/25 Minneapolis, MN The Cabooze
8/26 Chicago, IL Bottom Lounge
8/27 Columbus, OH King of Clubs
8/28 Indianapolis, IN Irving Theater
8/29 Pontiac, MI Crofoot Ballroom
8/30 Cleveland, OH Odeon Concert Club
8/31 Toronto, ON Lee's Palace
9/1 Quebec City, QC Impérial Bell
9/2 Montreal, QC Théâtre Corona
9/3 Hartford, CT Webster Theater
9/4 New York NY Gramercy Theater
9/6 Reading, PA Reverb
9/7 Richmond, VA Canal Club
9/8 Greensboro, NC The Blind Tiger
9/9 Atlanta, GA Center Stage
9/10 Tampa, FL The Orpheum