Penetration have graced Contaminated Tones before. I was surprised with how awesome Return To Sodom was when I first heard it and Victory or Death afterwards. Guitarist and main man Black Bart was kind enough to grant me an ear when I told him I was excited about the new EP, Hell Wants More Souls. Breakneck riffs, wild guitar solos, brutal thrash blasts... it should be everything a metal fan could possibly want in their metal.
CT: Hey! What's going on man?
BB: Nothing! I got you on speaker phone, can you hear me ok?
CT: Yeah. I got you on speaker phone too because, uh, that's how I do my recordings, I can hear you fine!
BB: Alright, cool!
CT: Alright, good. How's everything going? How was your fourth of July? I know that you're...
BB: Ahhh, I was mowing the lawn, you know... I didn't have to work and uh.. chilled out at home, played some x-box. That kind of thing.
BB: How was yours?
CT: It was alright. Just hung out in the backyard and drank some beers, and relaxed. Pretty much the same old stuff, you know?
BB: Yeah. It's good to be in America!
CT: So, I'm going to start off with getting some of the historical stuff out of the way. Give me a little idea of how Penetration came together and how did you meet up with the original band members and stuff?
BB: Ok, this is always a cool question I think, because we... I... have a pretty cool story to tell. I live in the sticks pretty much... it's the middle of nowhere... I'm like ten minutes from Canada maybe, up here in the Thousand Islands - but I don't actually live in the river or the touristy areas - I live kind of inland in the woods. So anyway, you know... not a whole lot of heavy music is played on the radio up here and stuff but when I was starting with Penetration maybe twelve years ago or something... umm, it was hard to find anywhere to play or anything like that. There's not a lot of places for bands to play period up here. Even now, especially though back then with heavy bands and stuff like that so, I had this big old farm house in the middle of nowhere that I live in and I actually started throwing keg parties because we couldn't find anywhere to play so I started teaming up with my buddy Adam Netto, who plays bass now with us and has for quite a many years, and... umm... he plays solo a lot and has a lot of bar experience and stuff like that so... he had a whole lights set up with a fog machine, little spinners down by the PAs, he had all that stuff too. So we started throwing parties in my living room at this place we called the Thrash Barn and it's in the middle of nowhere so people would show up and sometimes there would be like, one hundred people there and of course, you know, we'd have kegs and stuff and we'd play with a full light show. That's how we started. That was on Halloween or Halloween weekend 2005, and... um... by our fifth gig in April, or May - excuse me - 2006, we were opening in Cleveland and then over the years we just ended up touring Europe three times plus I played in another band so I toured Europe with them once and... uh... ended up with Marc from Destruction, who plays in Morgoth now and recording with Andy LaRocque in Sweden. So it's pretty exciting! Sorry to be so long-winded about that!
CT: That's awesome. So up in that area of New York, I know it's pretty... there's not a lot of people up there. It's spread out. I guess that was a difficulty starting, trying to get people. I guess there's probably not a lot of... you know, musicians up there in that area.
BB: That's why... it kind of added to delay our start a little bit because... I've been playing guitar since I was eight and I'd always wanted to be in a band and some point I decided to form my own band, but then I had to find musicians, you know, which was next to impossible, especially in the day. You know, because I was really into guitar, and playing fast, with lots of fast changes and solo breaks and all sorts of stuff. You know I was really inspired by bands like Morbid Angel, and Deicide or Amon, and... you know a lot of black metal stuff too and thrash bands and Mercyful Fate and all sorts of stuff. I wanted a really good drummer, I wasn't just going to settle for somebody so. You know the first good drummer - real good drummer - we ever had was Dave Tedesco out of New Jersey and umm... then we ended up with Marc Reign, who's in Morgoth now, so I've been really lucky and fortunate. We don't do much right now, you know. We released the album and I'm kind of just doing the home/domestic thing and stuff but it won't be too much longer and we'll set up with a tour or something. So I'm pretty excited. Really lucky, you know?
CT: With Marc, is he also going to be doing live stuff with you? Or is he...
BB: Yeah we toured with Marc twice. And he's... umm... he's our official drummer right now at this point and umm, basically every time I come up with a tour plan I just gotta make sure he can clear it with Morgoth and clear it with, like, his guy from Century Media, maybe - I might be wrong about that, but I think he's with Century Media. And if he is he's good to go to play with us. He's a wicked cool guy, man. You know, he could have been like Axl Rose or somebody and been a complete ass but he's the coolest guy, and you know, I've had him to my home in New York and stuff like that for the last tour or two, you know. It's just really awesome. I can't wait to tour again and we want to record another album with Andy as soon as we can.
CT: Yeah, so tell me about how you came to work with Andy LaRoqcue on this album? I know that he's probably a really busy dude. I mean, did you know him personally or is that something that just sort of came together?
BB: No I don't - well I do now. I mean, now that we recorded with him I know him a little bit personally. I mean, I of course, you know, don't know him super personally but I recorded with him and I, uh, you know, would drive me around in his car a little bit to go get beers and stuff like that with him, or go eat or whatever so... It's really cool, but to answer your question... umm... basically he has his studio - Sonic Train Studio - and the only thing I really did was write to him in email because I'm a huge King Diamond fan and I'm a huge Mercyful Fate fan and I have been for so long; to meet your inspiration and influences to my music... so you know at some point I was like 'you know I want to record an album that has like pristine sound and just, you know, have a state of the art album and "who am I going to do it with?" The first person I could think of off the top of my head was like Peter from Hypocrisy or somebody that I don't really know if he does that now or what but, at the time I just started writing Andy and getting in touch with him and then he mastered the Return To Sodom album - that still has a pretty rough mix and stuff. You know it's a cool album. I love it. I'm proud of it, but it's a little bit of a rough mix and Andy cleaned it up and mastered it pretty good and then, he actually recorded the new album in Sweden, Hell Wants More Souls, which is actually just a four song... like... EP, but... so it was... I think he took a gamble that... you know... that we were going to be able to pull it off, just by listening to our older material and I had the money, you know, to pay the studio fees and stuff and... umm... yeah, man! It just... It could have been a disaster. You know, I felt like I wasn't rehearsed enough. "Metalheads Forever", which is like maybe the best song I ever wrote - I dunno - or one of the best...
BB: I mean, that didn't even have the lyrics finished when I got into the studio, you know, it was so close to being finished, you know I just had to figure out some solo parts and finish up the lyrics and that kind of thing and... umm... I was worried about that being sloppy sounding? Umm... which like - you know I'm not trying to rip on myself; cut myself down, but - you know... uh... I'm pretty critical of myself a little bit and whatever and like, I like the past couple albums like, but some things could... you know Return To Sodom was really rushed. Umm.. that album, some of the songs didn't come out really as tight as they should have and like they were supposed to and... the new one... I was worried that was going to happen and it just... I mean, it blew my mind, it was like one of those miracle moments in my history or someone's history. I mean, I wish the world could hear - well more of the world - could hear this music, like, it's just so incredible to me as a Metal fan, I'm just so impressed with this EP. I just love it. I love the sound, I love the songs, everything about it.
CT: I think it's, I mean, I'm familiar, I know your other two albums also - well I guess Victory or Death is more of a demo, I guess you would call it... but uh... I thought Return To Sodom sounded awesome... That was my first...
BB: Thank you.
CT: ...impression with the band.
BB: It has a better sound and as far as the songs, are cooler than Victory or Death or something... so... sorry to interupt you.
CT: No, no.
BB: That's just my opinion.
CT: That's fine. Haha. Umm.. so that was... Return to Sodom, I guess because that was my first introduction to Penetration , that really kind of sold me on the band. I first saw you guys at St. Vitus. I think you played with Evoken or something like that...
BB: Yeah I remember.
CT: Yup. So getting to actual new EP, as you call it. Umm, did you have a different writing process for these songs or from say, the other songs? What kind of writing process do you have in putting together your material?
BB: Good question. Uhh.. as far as writing process goes, when I started when I was twenty-nine or whatever when the band started... umm.. I had a lot of trouble writing songs, like I was still new to the band thing so I ended up with songs that I just kind of threw together out of... uh... frustration or something. Umm... The first songs that we wrote - we actually released a demo - like you said Victory or Death is kind of a demo - and a lot of people think that - but we have a demo from before Victory or Death with four songs... it was "Air Penetration Raid", "Ritual Decapitation",... um... "Neverending Relentless and Paralyzing Slow and Agonizing Merciless Painful Death", and a song that, uh, it's only on that demo still. It's called "Penetrated." It was our theme song at the time. And... umm... then you know we recorded Victory or Death and umm... by then I was getting better at songwriting, I think. Just coming up with ideas and structures and time changes and stuff, Like, off that album the song "Iraq" really stands out as a song that, I think, has really cool songwriting. Umm... it's a really well written song. "Eaten By Wolves" is just shredding and has two cool solos. Umm.. "Victory or Death" is catchy. "Bishop Slayer" has cool solos; you know, I was kind of working my way out at that point of how to write better songs but, ah.. by the time I got into... well we got Return To Sodom then, and that was actually, I wanted to re-record the original demo songs from the self-titled Demo.
CT: Mmm hmm.
BB: "Penetrated" got lost somehow at the studio, which I'm not going to even get into but, uh, that's why you end up with "Air Penetration Raid", umm... "Ritual Decapitation", and the "Neverending..." song. And uh, then we added some new songs like "Forced March", "Women Are Cunts", "Return to Sodom", and at this point like "Metalheads Forever", really into lucid dreaming and stuff like that and that like all the solos and stuff in "Metalheads Forever", I actually had lucid dreams, worked the whole solos out while asleep on my couch. Most of this happened in one nap. I mean it was so weird. It was like time stood still and I just went over the solos over and over and over... you know... while I was asleep, but I was really aware in my dreams and, uh, I wrote "Metalheads Forever." You know, I came up with the main riff, like, just playing guitar but I ended up writing the song dreaming. And I've done that with a few other songs too. That's just really cool. And, I am curious... like... you're into the band enough where you wanted to call and ask me questions so I want to ask you a question, if that's cool?
CT: Ok, Go ahead?
BB: If I return to Sweden, which - hopefully I intend to - umm, to record some new material, is there any songs that you could think of off the top of your head from the older albums that you would like to hear re-recorded with Marc Reign on drums, with Andy LaRoqcue, you know, doing the sound?
CT: Well, you know, it's kind of funny that you mentioned "Bishop Slayer" 'cause that's one song that I would probably say stood out to me when I first heard it. So that might be a cool one. Maybe... I feel like... that song, in some ways is kind of like a... uh... maybe one your best known tracks because I remember when you played it live everyone seemed to recognize that song that knew of the band. So I was thinking that might be a good one to re-record.
BB: Yeah, that's a good thought, man. Thank you. Umm... it's just got such a cool and epic solo and it's kind of, uh, I like to think of it as, um, an instrumental with lyrics - which doesn't make sense but..
BB: ...you know I've always liked "Bishop Slayer" and I think I say "die" only once.
BB: But yeah, that's cool. Thank you. I would like to re-record "Air Penetration Raid." On the original demo it had a lot of cool samples and we sampled from the movie We Were Soldiers with Mel Gibson and so the whole song, the whole way through you would hear... uh... aerial warfare and, uh, bombing and stuff and it really complemented the music but... ummm... I lost that when we did Return To Sodom. Because there was some goof with the studio sampling. I don't know.
CT: So yeah, like I said I would say "Bishop Slayer" and even, I thought "Iraq" always stood out to me as one of those, you know... just awesome song because like you described it it's really epic and it's a really memorable track as well. So that might be one of my choices.
BB: Thank You. That's awesome. I've always loved that song. I just think it's really well written. I would really like to re-record "Eaten By Wolves." That's just one of those brutal song and I just love that too. Or "Women are Cunts" - clean that up, or "Forced March" came out rough... I don't know, there's just some songs I'd like to do over but, you know, then there comes the question, and this one that I can never answer, is do I - I mean there's a budget, you know, I can only spend so much money on recording the albums because we're not signed to a label... umm... so - do I re-record the whole Return To Sodom album or Victory or Death album you know and call it Victory To Death. And put it out as an EP or do I select a few tracks off each one and throw them on as bonus tracks, that kind of thing, but then if ever down the road and we have the money and we want to redo more songs it's... that's the question. Do I do the whole album over or just a few songs. Leaving just a few songs, I think...
CT: Yeah, I guess it really depends on how many new songs you have. If you have enough new songs where doing only one or two old ones would be a nice addition to it.. umm... I would rather hear new stuff than a lot of older stuff, but to take one or two tracks would be cool. Especially if it's older and it fits in with the new material, you know, it's uh... when I listen to an album I always seem to hear a song that sticks out to me... so... and it helps me get into the rest of the album so having an older song which is familiar might really help people that are familiar get into the new material that you are recording too.
BB: Yeah, I mean... and here's another thing. I mean, you know I've been inspired by bands like Mercyful Fate and Scorpions and all sorts of bands in Death Metal, Black Metal, Thrash... I don't really try to stick with a genre which pisses off some people some times. Some people are die-hard into like... Suffocation or something don't want to hear anything but.
BB: Brutal death, you know? Or people who are strickly into Black Metal or strickly into Thrash... I mean most of the time we appeal to the general metal crowd but then you have the other people who only want to hear one style and then they cross the new EP, Hell Wants More Souls. I feel like the first two songs are really brutal. I mean, they're really inspired by like Vader - who's one of my favorite, biggest inspirations, for example - but then the second two songs that are really thrashy... I mean, "See You In Guantanamo" is almost punky, you know?
CT: Yeah, Definitely.
BB: And that's kind of my Motorhead influence coming out. Motorhead is my favorite band. You know I love early Bathory. And, I mean... I love all Bathory but that's, (inaudible)... Stuff like that so, uh, what do you think? Do you think the mix of the styles is cool, you know? Throughout the CDs or, or do you prefer to hear more brutal stuff or more thrash stuff? Just curious, you know?
CT: Yeah, I mean... I think... When I think of Agent Orange, and how Sodom, on that album, you have a lot of thrash stuff but you have a couple tracks that really stand out like "Ausgebombt" and "Magic Dragon" also and those songs are a little bit different than some of the other stuff on that album. And I kind of like that, because, like I said, if you hear a track that's a little bit different it always seems to stand out and it helps... it gives you a focal point to kind of enjoy the other material on also, so it kind of makes you want to keep listening over and over for new stuff if you have a couple of those tracks which have a little bit of a difference to them. It gives you that variety, because I think a lot of times there's not a lot of variety when I'm hearing an album. Like you said "See You In Guantanamo" is a little punkier, "Metalheads Forever" has a more Heavy Metal style to it and you have the opening two tracks which are... brutal...
BB: Don't get me wrong, I don't want to be like... umm... like uh, what do they call it like - ahh I can't think - but you know what I'm saying, I don't want to like... be like Dream Theater who's all over the place or like...
CT: Well, I hate Dream Theater so...
BB: What's that?
CT: I hate Dream Theater so...
BB: Do ya?
BB: Well, what's the style of music they call that? I'm having a mental block... not fusion...
CT: Progressive metal?
BB: Progressive! Thank you very much. Uh, You know, we're not trying to be Progressive or fusion. I just write what comes to mind like. I mean, like "Metalheads Forever" we busted out some riffs on guitar the next thing I know I'm dreaming about it, like... that's how I write... I'm not going to say 'Oohhh maybe I should put this on a thrashier album' or on a different band. I just put it out. I just do it man.
CT: That's awesome. I think - like I said - it gives a little variety but I think... nothing sounds like something... everything song, even if it is a little different still sounds like Penetration, to me. I think it's a really awesome stand out think about the band, really. Because you have a little bit of that variety in there. So... What Um... A lot of the material, I mean, as far as, like, lyrics and stuff like that, a lot of it is about war or military related things and stuff like that... tell me a little bit about what you write about lyrically and, umm, what some of your favorite lyrics on the new album are specifically.
BB: Well yeah, great question. Ahh... well when I started writing I was struggling to come up with some songs and put a band together for the first time and write songs for the first time... and, uh, that's when I came up with those original songs like "Ritual Decapitation." Our old artist and drummer Matt Detmer, who died actually a few years ago, he... I remember at the time I said to him, 'I'm going to write a song, you come up with the name.' and he says in his best death voice like Suffocation 'RITUALISTIC DECAPITATION' and I'm like 'well... how about "Ritual Decapitation"?' which I think he was kind of pissed about but that's how I ended up writing it. And uh, anyway, he just kind of gave me a subject and like... someone was just getting their head cut off in the name of Satan. That worked. You know? Then at some point it kind of developed more towards war because thats the reality we live in. I mean, I've never actually met anyone who's cut someone's head off in a Satanic ritual, I mean, maybe I have and I don't know, right? But I've never done that personally and I'm not knocking killing or Satanism, Its just that I wanted a more reality based lyrical... based or whatever and uh, war is with all of us and, I have the type of job where, I help train the military. I'm not in the military but a civilian job, through a contractor - like a military contractor - but I do range operations. I was just in Texas, Fort Hood doing it and, you know I'm out there just stranded like, doing maintenance and stuff and they're firing tanks off right... real close to me... like one-hundred yards away... just awesome, you know? Very inspiring. come home with a bunch of (inaudible) that kind of thing. And uh... and uh... the devil and the occult. At this point I just want to write music that, uh, is based on my experiences, like "Hell Wants More Souls," from the new album, is based on my own experiences. "War Never Ends" that's a subject we can all relate to, I think, and uh, a lot of hate towards religion in it, and society, and uh... you know like a raging type song, you know? And it seems like I'm almost just inspired by the corruption, the political state, and the bankers that rule the world or whoever you want to call them. You know? And um, the One-Percent. Umm.. "Metalheads Forever" that was just my salute to Heavy Metal and Thrash and Death and Black Metal... I mean I couldn't tribute half the bands I wanted to so I still got to write another song to pay tribute to bands like Slayer but, I dedicated "Return To Sodom" to Sodom, "Ritual Decapitation" is dedicated to Exodus, and "Metalheads Forever" has all sorts of references in it from King Diamond to Metallica, who I just saw, by the way.
CT: How were they?
BB: Well, Here's the deal. I saw them in 1994 on the black album in Poughkipsie. No, Middletown... with Suicidal Tendencies and Danzig. They were killer, umm, there's some stuff off the black album I don't like so much but its... I like it at this point. Now, all the albums after that, I really don't like... until the new one, which was refreshing. I mean, these songs are fucking killer. And umm, so I saw them in Texas... I was kind like 'ohh they're going to play a bunch of songs from Load or whatever, and between the black album and the new album, they only played one song: "Fuel." They played "Fight Fire with Fire", and "Master of Puppets" and, umm, "Four Horsemen." Robert Trujilio played "Anesthesia..." and I'm telling you man, they renewed my faith in them. The new album renewed my faith in them. Super impressed, it was one of the best shows I've ever seen. Incredible.
BB: And that was in San Antonio, Texas. And, umm, when I was down helping the military, I had to schedule my off-site; it was actually my first day, I went to Metallica and... umm... if you Youtube Metallica San Antonio 2017, they have a professionally recorded clip of "Sad But True," and it's pretty killer. I was there.
CT: So you have a... I guess you would call it a nice little dedication inside the album, to Lemmy and uh, your first drummer also. Tell me how that came about and how you decided to put that dedication in the album.
BB: Well... even in 2005 when we started we were going to have a Lemmy birthday party but they lost their drummer and uh... so that didn't happen but uh... but Motorhead's been my favorite band for like fifteen years or something, I don't know, and um, my friend Matt, who did a lot of our artwork he did the artwork for Return to Sodom, he did all the artwork on that. He did the artwork on Hell Wants More Souls... he died from drinking, actually, and umm... killed his liver, and uh, I went to his... he had all this art, he was a fan to us too, and I went to his memorial where they had all his art on sale and I bought as much as I could and he had this Lemmy picture there, that he did. This was the kind of stuff that he would do for fun. And I guarantee you he was drunk as fuck when he painted every one of these pictures but uh. He died - my friend died - and then Lemmy died right after and umm, I just thought it was really fitting for the album. I wanted the picture of Matt Detmer and Motorhead too.
CT: Yeah I thought that was really nice. I didn't see that when I first bought, got, the album. I kind of just noticed it, like, last night, as I was looking at it. I was like, 'Oh wow, I didn't see this behind the disc in there'. I thought that was cool. It was a nice little surprise, and I like that kind of stuff.
BB: Yeah, Matt did a fantastic job, painting it and its just... Probably the most legendary figure I could think of next to anyone else who is legendary like Jim Morrison or whoever, you know?
BB: I saw them like... six or seven times... I think? And they were just incredible. I think the last time I saw them was in Toronto and I think it was one of the loudest shows I ever saw. There were thousands of people there. It was crazy and I couldn't hear all for like the next and stuff. Everything louder than everything else, you know?
CT: Yep! I know that the night... when I found out he died I drank half a bottle of Jack and just spun Motorhead records all night until three in the night or something like that.
BB: Yeah. I respect that man. Hey, I got a leave soon, umm, you can either wrap it up or if you want I can do a part two or whatever...
CT: Yeah, yeah! I was just about to say I don't really have any other questions to ask you, I just... It was awesome talking to you and doing the interview and uh, hopefully I'll catch you when you're in the New York area. Hopefully you come down and play pretty soon. I can definitely look forward to seeing some of these songs live.
BB: Thank you, man. The only other thing I could say if anyone writes to you and is interested you can give them my contact information or whatever. My stuff is downloadable online and I don't pay much attention to having a website these days but if anyone wants to see me or hear stuff online they can find me on facebook... I go under the alias Bart Tepes, like Vlad, II, like the Roman numeral. Bart Tepes II. Bart Tepes is my band profile one but if someone wants to connect with me or whatever just hit me up. Or on youtube... you can just youtube Penetration - Hell Wants More Souls or whatever.
CT: All right! Thank you!
BB: Thank you!
CT: Hopefully we'll see you in the Tri-state area soon.
BB: Yes sir! Thank you. Bye bye.