Jeff Becerra of Possessed Interviewed
Few bands have done more to push the boundaries of extreme metal than the legendary Possessed. Even fewer can create a unique style which continues to set them apart from all others by being the very first in a genre they laid the foundation for. Possessed are by definition, the creators of Death Metal. Founder and lead vocalist Jeff Becerra took some time out of his busy gaming schedule to talk with Iron Serbian recently.
Iron Serbian: This is the Iron Serbian with Capital Chaos TV and we have Jeff Becerra of Possessed on the phone. How are you doing Jeff?
Jeff Becerra: I’m good. I’m happy to be here and happy to talk to you.
Have you been cursed by Satan today at all?
Satan’s curse is always prevalent but one man’s curse is another man’s blessing.
Do you recall ever going out and killing posers with Paul Baloff?
Yes. I do but I’m not at liberty to talk about the actually killings, but we can go into the Slay Team and kicking posers in the head.
Was this in Berkeley, San Francisco or all throughout California?
Yes. Everywhere. Always. Paul was very fun to hang around and he was very vocal about how he felt about posers. He didn’t like them.
Paul could fight from what I understand. Did you ever see him get into any fights?
I’ve always thought of Paul as a really nice guy and at the same time I never fucked with him because I was very young and skinny then and he was a Russian hairy man compared to our little bald hippy asses.
I read somewhere recently that he could fight and had some martial arts training.
I’m sure he could, he lived with a fucking wolf. Did you ever go to his house he had a toaster oven as a heater.
Are you talking about hell house in Berkeley?
No, one time I went to Paul’s house and it was in like a dilapidated high rise or something that was blown up before they build something else. It was like a wooden shack in the corner. But it was a wooden shack that must have been a tool shed or something like that and you could see out of the slots in the walls and he lived in there and there was a bunch of garbage and he had like a toaster oven left open to warm shit. I remember not judging or anything it was just we were over at Paul’s.
You came together playing music in 1983. Is that correct?
Yeah. The first band was in 1979. I got in Marauder and then soon to be Blizzard, it was only a Marauder for a second. So I actually wrote “Burning in Hell” a Possessed song in 1979. My first band was called Hellrazor and that was my first metal song. And then Possessed got together in early ’83. We were gigging by late ’83 so it might have been late ’82, I don’t really recall.
How big of an impact was Judas Priest?
Me personally, I don’t think there was. The way we wrote back then we weren’t really trained none of us were. We just wanted to make super heavy shit. We heard Merciful Fate, Motorhead, and Exodus. Exodus was really inspiring because that was a whole new type of music. They were more of an influence because they were the only band that I wasn’t trying to outdo or compete with. I knew they were fucking awesome and they were more of an inspiration. So we just wanted to be super-fast and heavy. We wanted to be the fastest heaviest most satanic band in the world that was our main goal.
You did accomplish that for sure. Seven Churches.
At the time we were definitely the fastest. I mean the first cookie monster vocals, with the popcorn machine drums, before then you never really heard that except for maybe punk, not to the extent that we were doing.
Because you came out of that era you came out of the whole crossover era. You played with hard-core bands, and metal bands. I remember seeing you at the Farm once with Discharge.
Yeah I think we were still mad at Discharge then, because they changed their style for a while.
They weren’t well received.
That hurt our feelings.
I think I recall seeing the singer leave the stage in tears.
I feel so bad about how I acted toward them now, just in feelings, because all they were trying to do was entertain but its weird how we take it so damn personaly.
Did you ever think about trying out for Metallica when Cliff died?
I thought about it. I did. I really thought about it, but to be honest I was pretty wild and not in good shape and I knew it. I was partying hard and I could never got into it. As much as I love Metallica and have respect for everybody, I’ve always been kind of my own guy. It wouldn’t be the same. I’d rather be the guy. I’d rather have my own band.
Like you are now with Possessed?
Yeah even if it’s thunder going out or whatever. At least it’s mine.
What’s possessed Possessed to get in the studio and write songs? You reformed in ’06. I know you have a re release on Redrum records. Is that a recent re release?
J: That’s fairly recent. You mean “Resurrection” which we did the demo and some other stuff and it also came out on Falogo Records. Good to get that out. Could you repeat the question?
What possessed you to get back into song writing?
J: I’d always been into it. It’s just that after I got shot it took me a while to recover. I always had the intention to get Possessed back together but then I got shot and that took 17 ½ years to get my head back screwed on right. And in the process, I had to do the things I needed to do to feel complete that included going to college for further education and having my kids. I worked for a while at the hospital. I just did the things I needed to do to feel complete, but I’d always have been driven by the fact that I wanted to play with Possessed again and to be honest 23 members later, it took me a long time to find a group of guys that I would want to call Possessed.
Can we expect an updated version of Possessed with possibly blast beats?
I’m not opposed to blast beats. We’ve always tried to be heavy and I don’t think we are a blast beat type of band. But I’d be open to any possibility if it sounds good. I’ve written 3 songs on the new album and one of them is about as close to blast beats as you can in one part but I’m not going to be contingent on blast beats. I’m going to do whatever fits the song if it’s heavy. It’s Possessed man, we’re a satanic death metal band, we don’t have rules.
Great. Larry went off to jam with Mark Biedermann in Blind Illusion. Did you ever get a chance to jam with Mark?
I did but I was still going through a lot of issues in my life and I wasn’t up to par I couldn’t think right. I didn’t have my head screwed on right. It took me a while to get my shit together. Sometimes the heart will be willing but the mind is not. I don’t mind saying I had a really difficult time after I got shot.
I can imagine that there had to be quite a load of depression.
I don’t know about depression but it’s kind of like being handcuffed for 5 years. It’s fucking really hard to do anything and it’s painful and it’s frustrating and you have to learn how to deal with that. Eventually you get used to it and evolve through it and now I’m happier than I’ve ever been in my life. But you have to go through the transition.
On the Seven Churches album who put the collage of photos on the inner sleeve.
Oh My God, I remember doing that.
Were you all involved in the collage?
I remember it being a project where we were cutting shit out and gluing it down. I think the girls might have been involved. I don’t remember I’d have to ask Julie about that. Julie Abono. But I think it was something we all did, somebody from the Debbie’s family I think up at the Possessed practice house. I could be wrong, does it say on the album?
No it doesn’t say who put it together. But I would imagine that everything is not always a group effort on everything.
I was only 16 and Larry was 15 on that album. We were only together for just 4 years. So that was a flash in the pan. I always think of that as the start of Possessed but that’s not the real Possessed. The real Possessed is the last decade plus we put into it. It’s a different animal now. We were kids and there wasn’t a lot of talent going on. It shocks me know hearing today’s Possessed. I needed to make changes in the band in order to step forward. So in a way it was kind of like a Satan’s curse and it was kind of a blessing that we broke up because sometimes you get reorganized before you can go forward. People are playing real music, it’s not enough to just be the heaviest most satanic any more you have to play real music because our audience is intelligent. Being heavy is a novelty and I just want to put out the very best quality death metal album.
Do you have a release date?
Summer 2018, per contract with Nuclear Blast Records. Or sometime in 2018 and only reason it’s not sooner is because there’s record release schedules within the company and we want to fit the schedule that we can put the most time and effort into the publicity and the campaign. And it’s better for me, it gave me and the guys to put the album together.
You’ve got a hell of a guitar player there in Scooby (Claudeous Creamer).
Yeah, Scooby was a god send for lack of a better word. Being in a satanic death metal band that tours a lot is not a life for everybody it’s very difficult. You’ve been on tour before right?
Absolutely, there’s a lot of traveling and bent knees.
Yeah, you know it’s not an easy thing to do, not an easy life style. You have to really love it or it’s not going to work. You’re not guaranteed money, you’re not guaranteed fame, you’re not guaranteed even a good sound, not guaranteed sleep, not guaranteed food. You have to really love playing music and that has to be your driving force. That’s exactly what drives me I don’t give a fuck about money. I don’t give a fuck about anything except having people enjoy themselves at my shows.
How did you hook up with Nuclear Blast?
You have to know the backstory. Since I was a little kid. I’ve been getting help from bands, from like Gary Holt, Tom Hunting and the Exodus guys. Help with getting our first shows with Blind Illusion at Alvarado Park with Outrage. We were playing gay parties before all that and Gary of Exodus just kind of took us under his wing and introduced us to the whole Ruthie’s Inn scene and this is before we had Debbie or anybody this was just when we were kids. I’d like to say that Gary managed my band since I was like 11 or 12. Anyway throughout the time we all just kind of looked out for each other and whatever. But I sent out two demo tapes to two record companies and almost immediately Nuclear Blast got back to me and said we’ll meet you at your show in Berlin. I met up with Jaap Wagemaker, head of production, He’s a scion in the industry in Europe. He met us and saw the show and he was nice enough to talk. He talked to me and had a meeting with these hot chicks and beer, smoking and music blasting. It was really cool. He’d said he bought his first Possessed album when he was 16. He’s one of us. he’s so fucking cool and he’s so with it. It was the way he talked and how excited he was. He said they wouldn’t ask you to play anything but what you want to play. They don’t step on your creativity or ask you to do things you wouldn’t normally do. They would support you fully and I love that about them and of course this is Nuclear Blast. Whenever you read a magazine in ads you see it’s always Nuclear Blast. It’s prevalent in everything. It’s a dream come to me with them. He had said that for the last four years, people like Kirk Hammett of Metallica would ask “what about Possessed”, and put in good words for us. I guess that when he heard the demo he just really really liked it and he said he got this email from Nuclear Blast Records USA general manager, Gerardo Martinez and it said the 8th church. And he like “you told me the story” he was like the 8th church, like Possessed “Seven Churches or is it this other band, so then he played it and he sent it to Markus Staiger, the owner for Nuclear Blast and he said immediately that Markus was like “fuckin sign them”. Then he got another email that Christmas came early and he approached me right after that with a really strong desire to sign Possessed, from there we worked it out and he hashed out a deal, over the next several months and we signed it just recently which is awesome. So far it’s been the best thing that’s ever happened to us.
Nice. We are all looking forward to it all us old and young metal heads are really looking forward to some new Possessed. Are you doing some tours or festivals in Europe in the next month or two?
Yeah we’re going to do. We’re starting with Wacken August 5. Then we go to the 20th with Motocultor and then there’s Party San. A lot of the big festivals. I think we have 14 days out there and then from there I really want to concentrate on the U.S. for a while because Possessed is an American death metal band. It makes sense that we’re in America for awhile.
The demand for metal bands seems to be higher over there. But it’s nice to be able to play your home country.
J: Well I’m American, I think of Cheap Trick, when Cheap Trick went to Japan and never came back. I don’t want to be like that. I love Europe don’t get me wrong but I love America, America’s my country. We brought death metal once in the United States let’s do it again. Of course there’s a lot of great bands touring the states but I’d like to see a lot more. At least I put my efforts in to tying to rejuvenate the scene here, because American’s do it right. I’d like to see more people come out to shows.
Do you want to talk about NYDM at all?
You’re the Wild West regional president for the California Chapter of New York Death Militia. Is that correct?
The California President of the West Coast which is over 6 states. Washington, Oregon, Utah, California, Arizona, and Nevada. I’m the regional president over those and the president of California I’m in the international counsel and I’m an international captain and the Savage Counsel so that means I’m a ranking member of any chapter in the world. I’m very involved in it and it’s something I love and it’s like my safe place. It’s like my rock. My family away from my family.
For those unaware. What is it and how does one become a member?
It’s a club. We have our colors and we have vests with our patches. It’s the largest metal club of our kind. We’re all over the world. We support the local underground scene and underground music. Hardcore and metal. It’s not limited to just metal it’s more like music in your local scene and underground music. Not like an MC or biker club it’s a metal club. It’s cool it’s where we get together have gatherings and bar-b-ques and fucking hang out. We have a whole structure of ranking members and we support each other, we hold our own shows and organize personal fund raiser shows. We have several bands that belong to the club. You don’t join it to promote your band but we do support each other and promote each other and go to each other’s shows. Kind of like a music union in a lot of ways but we are just kind of starting out and have a long way to go. It’s something that we are really into. I enjoy it very much.
Do you have to have good credit to join? How does one go about joining?
You have to know someone and hang out with us at shows and be invited into the club. It’ doesn’t hurt to ask. If you show an interest we can push you in the right direction. I’m not going to lie it’s kind of exclusive but you have to become a prospect and see if you fit well with the group. If you make it through your prospect period then you become a member.
OK well that’s all the questions I have for you. Is there anything you’d like to add?
No just that I really appreciate your reaching out and I’m glad we are friends.