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Birth AD | Interview


Jeff Tandy used to be a black metaller.

As a member of US band Averse Safira, he toured with Rotting Christ and lived the black metal aesthetic to the full.

But he’s swapped the corpsepaint for a more authentic form of metal with his new band Birth A.D. – pure thrash.

He talks to Anthony McGee about old thrash, new thrash and even… Irish thrash.

***

It’s been roughly one year since ‘I Blame You’ was first released. Are you happy with how it has been received? Have you been able to take your band around Europe or beyond?

Jeff: The response has been excellent, and I am really pleased at how it was received. It proved to be more inspirational to a lot of people than I would have expected.

I guess part of that is because everyone is so used to bands and labels hustling and pandering to their audiences, and this album is the complete opposite of all that.

I simply wanted to put out the best album I could under genuine intentions, and I feel that mission was accomplished. We haven’t been to Europe yet, but we’re actually working with Metal Arts Productions, who are affiliated with the venerable Rock Hard Magazine, so hopefully that will change soon!

Unspeakable Axe Records are making small but noticeable waves in the underground. Birth A.D. were their first signing. Did they court you or did you seek them out? I presume you are happy with the effort they’ve put in?

Jeff: It all started when Dark Descent approached us about releasing the album, though Matt felt to avoid brand confusion we should have an imprint of our own for the release.

I had 7 Billion Graves Productions all ready to go, but then Matt partnered up with Eric and his new Unspeakable Axe imprint and everything fell into place perfectly. Both those guys are honest and great to work with, and I’m happy for the way they’ve handled the release.

They’re open to ideas and have let me do whatever I want in terms of self-promotion or alternate formats. They aren’t a big operation, but their priority is to support worthy underground bands, which is a hell of a lot more than I can say for most of the more established “metal” labels out there.

You were involved with Averse Sefira for 15 – 16 years. You’ve done time with Krieg, too.

Black metal has gone through constant changes since the second wave of European bands first took off. This is true for the USA, too.

Judas Iscariot and GBK toiled in the underground before bands like WITTR and Xasthur gained mainstream recognition.

Now you’ve got Hunter Hunt Hendrix (Liturgy) holding lectures on BM around Europe. How do feel about the changing face of USBM? Are you still involved? Are there any bands you believe are doing it right?

Jeff: I wouldn’t say the face of USBM has changed as much as it has been burned beyond recognition. Yes, all the bands worth talking about – Judas Iscariot, Krieg, GBK, Demoncy, and even Absu, put in their time and worked hard at their craft.

Averse Sefira was the same story. My sense of it is that the bands people know as USBM now only garnered mainstream attention because of their unashamed rock music trappings and self-pitying postures.

It was good timing – music for millennials by millennials. It was black metal that didn’t do scary and yucky things like talk about hatred (unless it was self-hatred), heroism, or triumph.

People with low self-esteem can’t handle messages like that; it hurts their feelings and makes them feel excluded, and that isn’t very nice or a way to make people like you. It’s very important for everyone to like you, of course.

Aside from the bad music, the thing I really hate about all those bands is the fact that they are uniformly ungrateful.

They act like they finally figured out what black metal was really supposed to be, which apparently means completely neutered. No paint, no spikes, no leather (we’re vegans!), and no troubling messages about elitism or exclusivity.

So if you’re asking about US bands doing it right, I’d offer fellow Texans Plutonian Shore as a current example of the traditional BM model. There’s not much to talk about past that, though Absu, Demoncy, and Profanatica are still making releases.

I’d also like to add that two of the best current black metal releases out there are from Quebec. Gevurah’s Necheshirion is stellar, as well as Sorcier Des Glaces’ Ritual of the End, which is the closest thing we’ll get to a black metal time machine anytime soon.

Aosoth’s IV: Arrow in Heart, is damn good as well. As Orson Welles once said, “Ahhh-hahhh… the French!”

Birth A.D. began when Averse Sefira were still a going concern. What prompted you to get another, stylistically different band going? Were you creatively frustrated in AS?

Jeff: I had written versions of the Birth A.D material in the late 90s (and some early versions in the late 80s, when had my first band, Afterbirth), but I didn’t want to pursue it as Averse Sefira was a full-time consideration.

Our guitarist, who was the heart of the band, started to lose interest around 2009, and even canceled a couple of tours, so I asked Mark to help me flesh out what became Birth A.D while we tried to regroup.

Averse ceased to be productive despite our best efforts, and after recruiting Brian and recording the first EP, the writing was on the wall.

I didn’t want to create another black metal band, in part because I didn’t like how the US scene was going (see above), and also because as you pointed out I poured 16 years worth of my soul into Averse Sefira.

We had accomplished everything I had hoped to do, so it felt like anything else would have been nothing more than an afterthought. Thrash was what got me into metal in the first place, and it feels good to be back where it all began.

Stillbirth of a Nation was Birth A.D.’s first EP. The front cover shows a crucified George Bush alongside angelic forms of Osama Bin Laden and Saddam Hussein.

What was the concept behind that? How do feel about his time in command? Have things improved or declined with Obama?

Jeff: It was just a state of the world snapshot at the time. The funny thing was that Bin Laden wasn’t dead yet, though now the cover is even more timely.

Bush was always so pleased with himself and playing up his idiotic religious beliefs (the kind one acquires when battling severe addiction), that having him up on the cross struck me as a perfect snapshot of his presidency and the problems that came with it.

I am non-partisan, a true moderate. Both parties in this country are about money and nothing more. We’ve remained in the same malaise under Obama, and he’s added a few of his own horrible mandates just to push us a little further towards the bottom.

Nothing short of a total governmental housecleaning will fix this cycle, though we all know that’s not going to happen.

There’s a song on that EP called ‘Kill Everybody’. Isn’t that what Bush tried to do when he was Governor of Texas?

Jeff: No, he really didn’t get any momentum on that until he became President.

What, if any, are the redeeming features of metal and metal culture in Texas?

Jeff: The Texas scene has a proud, if understated, history. We’ve had a lot of great bands come out of here, and we’re known worldwide as a great place to play.

We have a lot of veterans who are still around, and despite the size of our state most of us know each other. There’s a lot of solidarity and dedication, and we produced both Rigor Mortis and Necrovore!

Since discovering Birth A.D. I’ve checked out and enjoyed Fearless Iranians From Hell, whom you covered. I get the metal angles of your music, but my knowledge of hardcore is very limited. For an enthusiastic noob, who else would you recommend aside from FIFH?

Jeff: That’s a completely different interview’s worth of content! Short roundup, get Cro Mags “Age of Quarrel”, Dr. Know “Plug in Jesus”, Prong “Primitive Origins”, Agnostic Front “Victim in Pain”, Bad Brains “s/t”, Black Flag “Damaged”, and throw in Misfits “Earth AD” for good measure.

In my review I stated that you play music that sounds like the 90s never happened. Was it a conscious decision to block out everything post ’89 or is that just the way the joker cards fell?

Jeff: The reference points are definitely 80s, because crossover thrash was long gone by the 90s. DRI had a couple of albums, SOD tried again and failed, and that was about it.

Let’s talk about “I Blame You”. It took you, Mark, and Brian, a long time to get back in the studio after the EP. Is that why you re-recorded all of the “Stillbirth…” songs for the album? They sound a little tougher and battle hardened in their current incarnations.

Jeff: Averse Sefira was still in its death throes when we put the EP together, so I wasn’t sure if we should proceed or not. The EP was actually really intended as a deluxe demo, as we had only been together three months when we recorded it.

The whole thing was captured on laptops, and I hadn’t had any opportunity to grind my voice in since I’d never done lead vocals in a band before.

Once we had the chance to record with Alex Perialas and the potential of larger exposure in the process, it made no sense to just scrap all those songs that had already come to define us.

I figured DRI did the same thing between the “Dirty Rotten LP” and “Dealin’ With It”, so it wouldn’t be out of line. And I agree, the old songs sound the way they were intended on the full-length, tougher and meaner.

Mission Statement is a great way to open an album. In Ireland the retro-thrash revival has all but died out.

Is it still a going concern in your neck of the woods? To me, the song viciously puts the boot into Municipal Waste. Were they a prime target? What is it about ‘party thrash’ that disgusts you so?

Jeff: The tryhard bands are mostly gone here as well, but Municipal Waste seems bigger than ever, which is just nauseating. Thrash was at its best when it had something to say, DRI being the prime example.

I always wanted it violent and cynical, not grinning and jokey while espousing the virtues of doing the toxic waltz.

Municipal Waste is about flat fucking nothing other than weak attempts at humor, directionless songs about thrash, and poorly-related movie synopses. It’s thrash for little kids, training wheels and all.

More than anything, I wanted Birth A.D to be topical and rooted in the here and now, instead of cruising on nostalgia. Municipal Waste is like one of those dinosaur skeletons that was reassembled the wrong way, where the point of reference is out of date and accordingly muddled.

I preferred to create a crossover band that was a product of the current era while maintaining everything that made the style great.

Have you ever come across the bands Mass Extinction or Gama Bomb? What’s your opinion on them?

Jeff: I checked out Mass Extinction for the first time just now. They’re not bad. Gama Bomb, however, are exactly the kind of thing I detest. They’re goofy and cutesy, a thrash version of Hello Kitty if ever there was one. I know they’re your countrymen, sorry!

Equal Opportunity and No Jobs (Don’t Work) rage against the rat race that many of us are trapped in. Have you succeeded in removing yourself from it?

Jeff: A fair amount, yes. I try to work mostly on the tour circuit for other bands as a tech and stage manager, but I also prefer to work short contract jobs in the meantime.

No commitment, no indoctrination, just pay me for a couple of months and I’ll be on my way. I actually do pretty well that way, as it allows for a lot of personal freedom.

A line in No, Man claims that dictators are usually right. If you had absolute power over your home country, what three laws would you create?

Jeff:
1) No more welfare. Everyone has a job, no matter how menial. If you want the State to care for you, then you pick up garbage on the highway or repaint the local playscape. See you at 8am.

2) Licenses are required to have children – and before anyone cries racist, that would go for everybody. Hillbillies and rednecks are in need of some serious population control.

A battery of IQ and behavioral tests would be included. Economics are a secondary factor, as inherent potential would be the primary decider. You don’t pass, you don’t have kids. Now get back to painting that playscape.

3) Death penalty for capital crimes is a same-day process. No appeals. You get convicted, you get a bullet. A handful of wrongfully accused will die, but you can’t make an omelet without breaking eggs.

The lyrics in Short Bus Society are quite provocative. It’s seems that you feel people in general are too coddled? What’s the solution?

Jeff: The West has excelled in egalitarianism over the last 30 years, where now you get a trophy just for showing up at the game, and grades in school have to be curved since it could hurt someone’s self-esteem.

The message is that we’re all special little snowflakes but somehow equal at the same time. I still can’t figure out the math on that. The solution is to get back to merit-based rewards, like any sane society would.

You make the grade or win the game, and you get the award. If you can’t, try harder and enjoy the thrill of achievement through hard work. Can’t do that? Well, we have a playscape that needs painting…

The relationship drama described in Wrong Again struck me as bizarre. Was it based on truth? Why didn’t you just and run?

Jeff: It wasn’t really based as much on my experience, but more on things I saw around me. I’ve never personally had an argument like the one portrayed in the song, but I know plenty of guys who have.

Cut and run is great advice, but people who are readily able to do that don’t usually get into those kinds of dysfunctional situations.

People in America seem to be scared shitless to be alone these days, even for a day. I guess between their co-dependency issues and fragile egos, the idea of being autonomous is terrifying.

Anyway, it’s pretty commonplace, and I took my own more rarefied complaints about relationships and grafted them onto what I perceived to be the more universal experience.

You advocate the destruction of Los Angeles in Burn LA. Why?

Jeff: Like everything I write, the message is multifaceted. Averse Sefira toured through LA a number of times and rarely had a good experience (our last visit broke the streak, but the damage was done).

I actually have plenty of friends out there, and the metal scene is pretty good overall, but the city itself is a hellscape. It’s dirty and miserable, the culture is pure plastic, and I have no idea why anyone would enjoy living there.

I had built up a grudge against the place, and then I read an ancient interview (circa 1983) with Jeff Hanneman and Kerry King where they talked about how much they hated LA and wanted to leave.

That pushed me over the edge and I decided to make the song a reality. The whole thing is really a tribute to Hanneman, even though he was still alive at the time.

You can hear his sound all over it, and kept envisioning him playing along while we were demoing the track. Maybe that’s more than you asked, but there it is.

‘‘Compton and Watts showed the power of the mob, but they weren’t prepared to finish the job’’ is a great line. There seems to be empathy with the participants of the 92 riots. Or am I mistaken?

Jeff: I wouldn’t call it empathy, as I can’t relate to people who thought it was a good idea to burn down their own neighborhoods. I was primarily calling out the fact that the idea of the city being razed isn’t fantastical, since people there have attempted it before. The Watts riots were in the 1965, for the record. LA has a rich history of being on fire.

If there was a counter strike from LA residents on Texas and your home was burning, what five records would you save and why?

Deicide – S/T
Morbid Angel – Altars of Madness
SOD – Speak English or Die
Slayer – South of Heaven
Slayer- Reign in Blood

These albums are the ones that I have listened to my entire adolescence and adult life. They were the ones that shaped me musically.

What exactly do these lines from Fill in the Blank mean to you “Liberty pushed over rational thought/Creating a climate of cultural rot?”

Jeff: That was a swipe at the cultural forces in our country on both sides of the fence who think liberty means being able to do whatever you want, no matter how much it costs society as a whole.

America was a successful country when we had semblance of consensus. People used to look at the big picture more often, and those who came here from elsewhere wanted to be included.

Now it’s every man for himself, mindless indulgence and excess, endless special interests, all under the justifcation of “MUH RIGHTS”.

What is ‘the blank’?

Jeff: The blank is whoever the listener thinks should be there. Who do you think can’t be trusted with the responsibilities of things like voting or driving? Criminals? Bankers? The poor? Conservatives? The ignorant?

The suggestion is that no matter who you are, there’s someone out there you’d like to see neutralized and removed from the so-called democratic process. Anyone who claims they don’t ever feel that way is either a liar or an idiot.

You’ve shot videos for Parasites Die and Burn LA. In the former, you appear a little uncomfortable during the brief acting scenes. You directed both, right? Are you more relaxed behind the camera? Is directing (video or otherwise) an area you’d like to pursue further?

Jeff: I directed both, and I think what you’re seeing is a hell of a lot of concentration in that one scene. What you saw was done in two takes flat in a sequence that I had mapped out in my head but never had an opportunity to rehearse before we actually did it.

So I’d say that between having to sing the song with no playback reference while making my way through the crowd and making sure the camera was still tracking, it came out pretty damn good.

I’m totally comfortable in front of and behind the camera, the only problem is that I don’t yet have the budget to make the kind of video I really want where professional camera men make sure the bases are covered.

I actually have filmmaking training, as media was my major in college. I’d love to direct more videos, and I come up with concepts for other bands all the time. The problem is that I rarely imagine anything that would be cheap and easy to execute.

The title of your first EP is an obvious play on the title of DW Griffith’s influential masterpiece. Are you a fan? What filmmakers, if any, do you follow?

Jeff: Good catch on that, though admittedly I’ve never actually seen the film. I probably should. I’m big into Ridley Scott’s early work, particularly “Blade Runner”.

I also like David Fincher, though I’m not into all of his films. Steven Soderburgh has done some great stuff (“The Limey” is fucking excellent), though he screws around too much. Terry Gilliam is a mad genius, as is Alejandro Jodorowsky, and the early works of David Lynch are great for the most part.

I also love Martin Scorsese, his films are operatically violent, and Nicolas Winding Refn, even though “Only God Forgives” was a stinker.

Rotting Christ are a perennial favourite on the forums of this website. How did you get Sakis in the vocal booth for Kill Everybody?

Jeff: Sakis and I have known each other for years. Rotting Christ and Averse Sefira toured together, and then later on I became their stage manager for a US tour.

Sakis is also a fan of Birth AD, and when I told him about the plans to record the full-length, he surprised me by asking if there was something he could perform on the record.

I was of course very honored, and to have his seal of approval on my efforts is validating.

The artwork for the album is stunning. How did the collaboration with Cliff Robinson come about? Are you a comic book reader?

Jeff: I don’t read many comics now, but I did voraciously when I was younger. Judge Dredd was a huge favorite of mine. I was actually looking into the possibility of getting Brian Bolland to do the art, and discovered that Cliff was available for commission.

His version of Dredd is second only to Bolland in my opinion, and I was thrilled at the idea of getting an artist I had actually grown up reading, and as you can see it turned out perfectly.

Cliff really went all out on the concept and let me update and push the ideas along the way. He was just fantastic about it, despite the demanding scale of the piece.

His contribution was the final piece of the puzzle in creating the album I had waited my whole life to make, and it was a huge honor to have him involved.

You’re trapped in an (admittedly impossibly large) elevator with the archetypal characters depicted on the cover. You’ve only got 6 bullets. Choose wisely. Who gets it and why?

The bum – just how do these people contribute? Give me one good reason and I’ll hold my fire.

The Evangelical Christian – nearly every stupid, restrictive law that spits in the face of personal freedom and common sense are their fault. Bang.

The old lady – I think we should employ “Logan’s Run” rules for humanity, but just up it to 70. That’s enough time on the planet for anyone. Make it count!

The redneck patriot – this guy is in deep denial about where this nation is headed. Let’s put him out of his misery.
The goth kid – that’s an easy one. They don’t even like themselves or each other.

The cop(s) – Now, more than ever, they’re just here to process us and leech money out of us in equal measures. Uniformed officers are basically America’s largest gang at this point. Let’s thin them out.

Take this as a compliment, but my nephew has just turned 13. I think he’d be thrilled with the vitriol on display. I’m going to buy him the MP3’s when I next see him. What demographic is your music aimed at?

Jeff: I’d say it’s pretty wide. It’s from 18-45, mostly, starting with the newcomers but extending to the old guard guys who still remember the sound from its inception. It’s fun to have a band with such wide appeal.

There’s a Youtube video of a 6-year-old girl singing one of our songs, which is just fantastic.

Our time is coming to a close. When and what can we expect from your next album?

Jeff: More of the same kind of thing, just further down into the depths of the complaints at hand.

We’re not going to “progress” – that’s why most crossover bands only have one truly good album! My goal is to keep delivering good and memorable material the way our fans would expect. No compromises.


25 Comments
  1. Euh… wut? Apart from the music itself doing nothing but dishing up cold what was happening around ’90-’92:

    Waxes lyrical about demise of black metal… drummer wears 1349 t-shirt.

    Says Gama Bomb are goofy and cutesy, then expects his 13 year old style lyrics to be taken seriously… or else he doesn’t… in which case it’s goofy and cutesy, in which case… oh just shut him up already!

    And, of the five records that apparently “shaped” him musically, unfortunately SOD did the lion’s share of the sculpting.

    If it’s not to be taken seriously, then he should stop spouting serious opinions, especially about music. If it’s to be taken seriously, then… ohdearohdearohdear.

  2. Anonymous Says:

    Pretty much the above. Songs are fuckin shite, lyrics are DESPERATE!

  3. Nasgul_Brian Says:

    They have another song called Kill Everybody which is the exact same song as the one linked up there with minor tweaks. The overall sound and themes to me sounds like a crap, more juvenile version of D.R.I, Discharge and Suicdal T.

  4. Ahhh the wrath of scorned Gama Bomb fans haha… great stuff here.

  5. GAMA Bomb is lame.

  6. Agreed, absolutely. This band aren’t much better though.

  7. Black Shepherd Says:

    I can’t stand Gama Bomb… this is still terrible: nothing on offer at all.

  8. Tiberius Nyarlethotep Says:

    actually,i quite like it.stick a fork in me.

  9. Nasgul_Brian Says:

    I don’t like Gama Bomb either. These lads are still shite too!

  10. Hahaha, I dunno lads. I think Birth AD are class. Since discovering them earlier this year I’ve been playing both of the records to death.

    Gas that the Gama Bomb quote is the one with the most heat. I really, really enjoyed interviewing Jeff. It’s cool to get properly opinionated answers to the questions you might throw out.

  11. Black Shepherd Says:

    It’s only because there’s always some spa like whoever Roland G is to come on and squeeze some idiotic deduction out of their sphincter, like if you think someone’s opinion is non-sensical then you automatically think the opposite. No, what I think is that Birth AD are guilty of absolutely everything their angsty mook singer accuse Gama Bomb of… or else they’re guilty of worse, and I fear it is probably the latter.

    Fair enough if you enjoy getting properly opinionated answers, though I doubt you’d be saying the same were it Zakk Wylde supplying the equally immature responses.

  12. Eh? If I were interviewing Zakk Wylde and he was talkin’ straight, then, well, I’d be thrilled. Not a fan of his output, mind, but same rules apply.

  13. Nasgul_Brian Says:

    That answer to the ‘elevator with 6 bullets’ question makes me dislike him even more .

  14. Eoin McLove Says:

    I enjoyed the read. Haven’t listened to the band yet.

  15. open face sugery Says:

    Didn’t enjoy the read or the music, and for the record, not a Gama Bomb fan either.

  16. Nasgul_Brian – just wondering, what exactly didn’t you like about the elevator question? It made sense to me. And do you think he’s dead serious? I detect plenty of tongue in cheek with all this.

  17. Black Shepherd Says:

    Shit tongue-in-cheek. Steel Panther, or whatever they’re called, are tongue-in-cheek too… and also shit at it. That’s the point that’s being made: they’re either incredibly serious, and in that case extremely stupid, or else they’re tongue-in-cheek, in which case they’re extremely banal, unfunny, worn-out, goofy and pathetic, and certainly the kind of band that will have hordes of ‘Murrrka fans who definitely do take them seriously.

    Take your pick!

  18. King Hostile Says:

    Love the look we wear shades pic! hahahahaha quick stand close together! don’t fart!

  19. Cool interview. Out there parts. Don’t know em but the song wasn’t bad. On Gama Bomb well, I expected more once. I got comics, sci fi and zombies which is fun okay.

  20. In 2014 a thrash band member says:
    “More than anything, I wanted Birth A.D to be topical and rooted in the here and now, instead of cruising on nostalgia.”

  21. Well this guy did a great job of making himself out to be a complete twat.

    In addition, the tune is ok, it is thrash, it just isn’t anything special or different from the hundreds of long dead thrash bands of the past.

  22. King Hostile Says:

    This is cat…… flushes toilet!

  23. Larl Keavey Says:

    Whats all this about a toilet-flushing cat??

  24. really! Says:

    I must say this site attracts some mega-turds!! bitter little gimps sitting on their cloud of judgement and I bet not able to play any instruments or even have any legitimate talent at all. bitching about everything, even bands from your own country. pretty pathetic lads

  25. Larl Keavey Says:

    oh hey there Jeff Tandy whatsup?

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