ZT INTERROGATION: ORGAN DEALER LOOK TO SPREAD THE INFECTION
New Jersey grind outfit Organ Dealer talk medical ailments with ZT’s Paul Castles, and in particular the unpleasant diseases and conditions that have provided much of the background for debut album Visceral Infection.
ZT: Thanks for taking time out to talk with Zero Tolerance readers. Congratulations on your debut release, Visceral Infection. How pleased are you with it?
Eric Schnee (drums): Thanks very much! I’m really pleased with the outcome of the record. I feel like we accomplished what we set out to do musically and production wise, which was to do the best record we could at the time.
Scot Moriarty (vox): I’m proud of it. I’ll be honest here and say that there are a couple of things here and there Iwish I could’ve done just slightly differently. Overall though, I’m happy with it. I just hope people like it!
James Stivaly (vox/guitar): The tones for all the instruments on this album are pretty much perfect to me. Regardless of the project your always gonna feel like something in the mix could be tweaked a certain way, or the pocket for a section here or there could be a little tighter, but being comfortable with the idea that everything can always be better is what makes a good, practical musician in my opinion.
Jeff Knoblauch (guitar): Thank you! I’m pretty stoked. We worked hard on it.
Trevor (bass): Thanks duders! I’m stoked on the album and how it turned out. The recording/mixing/mastering came out great thanks to our boy Kevin at Backroom Studios and I’m really happy with the album art work our boy Alex Eckman-Lawn did for us, they were both rad dudes to work with.
ZT: Who was responsible for the songwriting or is it a collective process involving all five band members?
Eric: It is a collective effort for the most part. The songs usually start with the guitars and drums. Someone will bring in a riff or I will bring in a drum beat and we’ll jam and flush the structures out. We spend a lot of time on the arrangements of the songs. From the skeleton structures we add bass and vocals which really give it life.
James:As far as writing goes we all come in and write the instrumentation together, sometimes someone may have an idea for the bulk of the song but just generally it’s based off of bouncing ideas off each other. For the lyrics, so far me and Scott pretty much split it except for one song where we wrote the lyrics as a group. However, I feel like experimenting with different ways to write songs is what keeps a band interesting and helps their sound evolve without diverging from the original direction of the project.
ZT: The album was recorded at Backroom Studios. Is that a good set-up and how did things fall into place there?
Eric: Backroom is a great set-up in my opinion! It is a rehearsal space and recording studio that is located right in the middle of North Jersey. I have been going to Backroom to practice drums for over 10 years now so it’s really a second home for me and a jump off point where most of my projects have started. I think we were all pretty surprised as to how smooth things went in the studio. Kevin Antreassian is a great engineer and we were all very well prepared to record so everything went according to plan. Our singer Scot is also an engineer at Backroom so he helped with the mixes on the record as well.
Scot: Like Eric said, I work with Kevin so I’m glad I finally got to do a record with him for my own band. It was a nice change of pace having worked on so many other records with him. I’m very particular about things when it comes to recording so working with him was easy because I trust his judgement.
James: Yeah it was cool, they definitely have what you need in there. Kevin is great to work with and a dope musician himself. I was really fucking stoked on how all the tracking sounded after only being in there a week.
Jeff: Kevin is the man and Backroom is the shit. Kit the dog was also present and an important part of the set-up (especially that time someone slipped their rent under the door and she ate it… we came back one day to find shredded money everywhere but we fixed it with tape). We also ended up inheriting Eric’s practice room there so the choice was only natural. Kevin made sure I played to the best of my abilities and kept things fun and relaxed by hiding sound clips in the mixes while we were tracking.
Trevor: Like I mentioned before it was fucking rad working with Kevin! He’s an all round awesome dude, rad musician as well as recording dude. He’s got a rad set-up down there, real comfy place to spend ten days straight in.
ZT: Your album is released via Horror Pain Gore Death Productions, who have some great bands at the moment – how did you hitch up with them?
Eric: We were contacted by Mike Juliano who runs HPGD and he expressed interest in releasing our material. Mike also works with a friend of mine who turned him on to us. They both work for Relapse as their day job so we were obviously very excited to be involved!
Jeff: Yeah Mike has been very down to earth and everything has been super straight forward from the get go. No B.S. from day one so it’s been great. Eric and I had the opportunity to meet up with him at MDF this last year and it was a pleasure! A true blue metal head doing it for the sake of music.
ZT: Do you think you’ve achieved what you set out to with this debut release?
Eric: I definitely think we did. I feel like we did the best we could have done during that period of time and that’s really the best you can hope for. I hope people enjoy it and I’m excited to see how our newer material will come together.
Scot: I think so, yes. I hope the next one comes together as smoothly as this one.
James: Yea dude, grind n stuff
Jeff: I agree, I just want to play fun music that sounds good to me. A relief from all the stress life can throw your way. I think this record does a fine job at that and I can’t wait to write some more tunes on top of it.
Trevor: Fuggin grind man.
ZT: Is there any central theme running through the album?
Eric: The album is loosely about the idea of things that prevent free thought or free will as told through medical imagery as a metaphor. We thought that would be an interesting way to explore the topic. There are also some more personal things that are address on the record as well but it is not a concept record or anything like that.
Scot: There are for James and his lyrics, definitely. I suppose my lyrics aren’t necessarily linked in any direct way, but they definitely try to evoke emotion. Honestly, I hate talking about what I write. Take what you want from it.
James: Well the general theme is centered on the brainwashing that occurs from blindly accepting societal banalities forced upon you by previous generation’s personal agendas and the destruction it causes the world. Or to be more blunt, the things around you in life that prevent free and rational thought, represented through the metaphor of infection and disease. The topics on the album include prisons, disease, psychosis. With that being general theme of Visceral Infection, a lot of lyrics are painting the picture of a mind that’s trapped in a constant void of cognition. For example ‘KPC-Oxa48’ is about the first guy they found with a completely antibiotic-resistant strain of bacteria in his system. Apparently as he was dying all he wanted was to see the sun and be outside one more time but they kept him in quarantine until he was dead, presumably staring at white walls. ‘Anencephaly’ is about a birth defect where babies are born without brains. ‘Black Dolphin’ is about a prison in Russia where any time the prisoners are moved from their cells they’re handcuffed and forced to bend over and face the ground as they walk, and basically only see concrete until they die.
Trevor: Losing your F’ing mind.
ZT: Is there a socio-politico axe to grind with Organ Dealer or is pure fantasy gore?
Eric: I don’t think we are really a political band. I think we definitely have some social and personal views in common but we don’t push that in the music. There is an element of gore in there I suppose given some of the imagery and lyrics but I don’t see us as a gore/grind band either. We prefer to focus on the music rather than being political.
James: Over the past two years the name of the band has come to represent more and more to me, but I would rather let those ideas grow along with the songs, albums, and general sound of the band before I try and paraphrase everything I’m pissed off about in the world. If lyrics are gory I try to keep it metaphorical, or it will exist to help paint a bigger image, the focus won’t be gore for no reason.
Jeff: Yeah I don’t think there’s a concrete sway in either direction. If something brutal needs to be said then say it otherwise a cool song is a cool song too. I just want to riff and play music.
ZT: I believe the band’s name actually stemmed from a genuine medical problem one of the guys had?
Eric: That is true! The name stems from a ski injury our guitarist Jeff had. He hurt his knees and had to get surgery. They were going to put a cadaver ligament into his knees so he thought up the name ‘Organ Donor’. The donor part evolved into organ dealer after he found out that moniker had already been used. I think that’s a pretty interesting place for inspiration to come from. It also ties in with the medical themes.
James: Yeah, I guess the ‘organ’ part totally. Once our friend suggested the second half should be tweaked to ‘dealer’ we were good to go. The name of the band was way more relatable to both of us, and I feel like being able to relate with the band name makes the writing process extremely straight-forward. More so I think ‘Organ Dealer’ is a good representation of what metal lyricism means to me. Which is writing about the important (or at least thought provoking), but fucked up things in the world that people try to ignore, for their own agendas and/or need for comfort.
Jeff: Yeah ha ha. I was just trying to make light of an otherwise shitty situation. I’ve put my knees through the grinder so they didn’t want to take another graft from my own body unless they saw that my hamstring was healthy enough when they opened me up… which it was! So hooray!
ZT: Any plans for a special album celebration launch?
Eric: For sure, we are going to be playing our record release show on July 30th at Saint Vitus Bar in Brooklyn, NY alongside our friends Artificial Brain, Cognitive and Skullshitter. After that we are doing an east coast tour in August in support of the release with The Drip from Washington state. That tour includes a stopover at Obscene Extreme America in Montreal that The Drip will be playing. I’m personally really excited for that.
Scot: I am also really excited for this.
James: It’s been a little while since I’ve been on a solid tour so once everything is said and done my special album celebration will be getting wasted like it’s my fucking job.
Jeff: I’ve never been on tour before so I’m very stoked. Also the actual release show is gonna be a rager!
ZT: You’ve only been together a year or so. Had you been friends for a while?
Eric: The band came from two different areas of North Jersey so the guys from each of those areas have known each other a long time. Jeff, James and Trevor are all from Montclair and spent time growing up together. Our singer Scot and myself are from Morris County so we have known each other for quite a few years now from that area. When Jeff and James were looking for a drummer a mutual friend of ours recommended me so we kind of bridged the gap right there.
Scot: I once saw Eric vomit on himself while playing a set. it was over 10 years ago now. That is all I’ll say.
Jeff: ha haaaa
Trevor: I grew up with Jeff and James in Montclair and started jamming with James in a band called Cartoon Violence! Eventually he and Jeff got together and started Organ Dealer and I was brought on after they found Eric passed out in a urinal somewhere. Later we added Scot to the line-up when he and Eric were matched on Growler.
ZT: I’m assuming some of you were performing with other bands before forming Organ Dealer?
Eric: We’ve all been in bands to different degrees. I think I have the longest rap sheet of past bands. I played in The Binding, Paria and Birth Screams. Most notably I played in a band called Hayaino Daisuki with members of Discordance Axis, GridLink, Burnt by the Sun, Human Remains and Mortalized. Scot played in a band called Levels, Jeff was in a band called Cordyceps. Before Organ Dealer, I took a five year absence from playing in bands but I never stopped drumming. So this band is a return to form of sorts.
James: I’ve been in a shit-ton of projects but the most recent two were called Dutchguts and then Cartoon Violence! with Trevor. Before that pretty much just sludge/doom metal stuff.
Jeff: I was in and out of the music scene since high school I guess. Various bands here and there and things that never really got off the ground. Organ Dealer’s been the one thing where everything just kind of fell into place very naturally.
Trevor: I played guitar in a band called Mouth Off! with some friends from the area before James and I started jamming in Cartoon Violence!
ZT: The album is a great grind record? What kind of bands have you all been admirers of?
Eric: Thanks very much! We have a very long list of underground death metal and grind bands that have influenced us. It’s kind of a subconscious thing as we just write and try to do our own thing. Some bands that have been big influences are Napalm Death, Lock Up, Birdflesh, Rotten Sound, Nasum, Death, Carcass, Ulcerate, Gorguts, Dead Congregation.
James: My Influences for this project are mainly Soilent Green, Insect Warfare, Pig Destroyer, Circle of Dead Children, Punch, Gorguts, Eyehategod. Sometimes chord progressions or just general ideas from other genres will seep in and get all fucked up and brutal in the process.
Jeff: I’d like to add Morbid Angel, P.L.F., Captain Cleanoff, and Origin to that list but it’s really never ending.
Trevor: Fucking Birdflesh, Death, Gorguts, pretty much grind and death metal.
ZT: How hot is the current hardcore/grind scene in the Jersey area?
Eric: It’s shit hot! When I came back to playing in bands I really started to notice that the local scene is strong. It’s a very small scene but there’s a steady active group of people and bands who keep it going and I feel that is very important. It’s important because the local scene helps support the bands and all the great bands we listen to have all come from somewhere, from their small scene back home. I really hope that the scene blows up and a lot more people discover it so it benefits the bands that work hard for little recognition. Some notable local bands are Sentience, Toxicology, Pink Mass, Huldra, Thera Roya.
Scot: Like Eric said, it’s actually doing really well. I hear lots of people complain about it, but I can’t say that I agree. The only complaint I DO have is the lack of all-age venues. It’s really unfortunate that so many shows are 21+.
James: It’s honestly the best it’s been in a little while I’d have to say. There’s great shows every other night and everyone’s extremely supportive of each other and what they’re doing musically. We’re so stoked on it all, that it made me decide to put together a Grind Core/Death Metal compilation through a new company with my friend we’ve been calling Guerrilla Recording. We`re really excited put together something with a shit-ton of bands we think everyone would love to hear.
Jeff: Yeah haha, shit hot! It’s just great to hang out with so many good friends all the time that are influenced by so many different genres and styles. My homie CSI Steve (drummer of Dutchguts & 96) likes to point out that if it wasn’t for music we probably wouldn’t have so many great friends hanging all the time. Sometimes scenes can ruin music too but I guess at the end of the day it’s all about not putting individuals before the music itself. Just come together to have a good time. We even have some friends in Upstate New York who make their way down here quite often like Triple Cripple, Hellkeeper and Lethal Entity. Don’t forget Cognitive from South Jersey, Artificial Brain from Long Island and Die Choking from Philly. Or Sunrot from right here as well. It’s all about squad.
Trevor: It’s awesome dude, so many gnarly bands emerging from here, there’s way too many to name.
ZT: The album sleeve is really interesting. I see it was drawn by Alex Eckman-lawn – what can you tell us about him?
Eric: Alex is a great artist and great overall dude from Philly. I contacted him because I was really into the work he did for Maruta and Nero Di Marte and I was curious to see what he could do for us. He first did a shirt design and It came out great so we asked him to take on the album artwork. We gave him the overall ideas of the record and he ran with it. We were all really blown away with the packing when it was delivered to us. I highly recommend checking out his work online.
James: That dude is the absolute shit. Love his style, great artist in general, fun and easy to work. Also the album art reminds of old anatomy book drawings, and i grew up learning how to draw by copying images out of books like that.
Jeff: Yeah it was an absolute pleasure working with him. Also a very straightforward and chill experience. He sent us a few options after hearing a theme and just ran with the one we liked the best.
Trevor: Dude man’s the fucking man. He did our shirt design as well. Dude kills it at what he does.
ZT: I know you’ve done a lot of shows around New York – are you looking to get on the road a little further afield?
Eric: We have an east coast tour coming up in support of Visceral Infection that I mentioned above. Beyond that we are kind of taking it one day at a time and we want to see how the record is received. We do have a very loose idea for a west coast run but nothing is planned at this stage. My dream would be to tour Europe. I would definitely like to get back into touring more when our schedules permit.
ZT: Is fitting in gigs and tours always a headache due to band member’s 9-5 work commitments?
Eric: It is definitely difficult. At five members we are pretty large for a grind band and we all have very different day jobs and schedules so it can get hectic and stressful. We try to plan out gigs as far in advance as we can. As long as there’s advanced notice it’s not a huge problem.
Scot: I thought it would be much harder, honestly. We aren’t perfect, but we do a fairly decent job of staying on top of each other to book shows and make sure we’re all ready for them. These guys all actually give a shit so we all seem to pull our own weight. Except Schnee, he doesn’t do SHIT!
James: Pretty much every one of my days for the past 10 years has been like four hours sleep and the rest music so maybe it’s a headache, but i must be used to it or insane by now.
Jeff: It can be a huge headache at times but if we stay on top of it and plan things out enough in advanced it’s totally cool. I probably get bummed the most when we can’t do certain things but it’s all good! I also hate telling people sorry we can’t do that month because we already have something else at the same venue or same area that week or we simply can’t request anymore time off work. We love playing music but at the end of the day you gotta eat.
Trevor: It is what it is, not too difficult. Of course conflicting schedules are a minor problem but that’s easily manageable. Except when Eric goes on his benders and we can’t find him for however long!
ZT: What tour plans have you got for the new album? Any European dates?
Eric: We just have the east coast run with The Drip in mid August for now and a few festivals around that time. I would absolutely love to get over to Europe and I hope we can do it sooner than later. Do you have any contacts? haha
Scot: yea, hook us up!
Jeff: Wouldn’t that be the most stoked trip ever? I would just love to experience some of the European festivals from any perspective period. But the opportunity to play for anyone in another country in general would be a huge honour.
ZT: Many thanks to all you guys for speaking so openly with Zero Tolerance, really hope the album does well for you dudes!
Eric: Thank you so much for your time, we really appreciate it! Cheers!
Scott: Yeah! We really appreciate it. Cheers!
Jeff: Thanks to Zero Tolerance for taking time out to say hello! Hope we didn’t waste too much of it!