A Pale Horse Named Death
Sal Abruscato | A Pale Horse Named Death
Station manager Anthony Saia had some time to sit down with A Pale Horse Named Death lyricist and mastermind Sal Abruscato to chat with him about the new record, artwork and some of his favorite horror flicks. Check it:
Anthony Saia: You had a couple of side projects and musical endeavors over the years, some of which came to fruition (Type O Negative, Life Of Agony). How does it feel to be able to share your voice more literally than ever before?
Sal Abruscato: It’s an amazing experience. You know, especially singing your lyrics and conveying what’s in your head – you’re wearing your heart on your sleeve and to be doing that and getting such a wonderful response from everyone is actually pretty exhilarating. It’s a pretty high feeling. This is probably the most important thing for myself that I’ve ever done because I finally mustered up the courage to just say I’m tired of everybody’s stuff and I’m just going to take everything into my own hands and do them my way. I’m doing this for myself first and foremost and if people like it, great, if not I still did something cool for myself, as far as I’m concerned, and it just kind of spun out from there and to have the album actually come out world wide and be on the radio, y’know – the positive feedback from the fans and the press is really really – it feels good after being in this business for so long.
AS: Right on man. So, when you are writing your music, what inspires you musically? I mean, did you write all the parts yourself or did you collaborate with Matt Brown (Seventh Void, Supermassiv)?
SA: I had all the music written and arranged prior to anyone getting involved. I had it all recorded in my home and then me and Matt discussed it. Then we re-recorded it and basically I played all the instruments on the album and then me and Matt co-produced it and engineered it. Matt did some guitar solos on the record and I asked Bobby – Bobby Hambel from Biohazard – he did some guitar solos. I asked Keith Caputo (Life Of Agony) to do some background vocals with me, Ulrich Krieger from Lou Reed did a saxophone piece for the song “Die Alone” and basically it was a musical challenge to myself to do something that a lot of musicians don’t do or can’t do and I’ve always wanted to do an album completely myself without the concern of collaborating with anyone. I wanted to execute the music that I wrote the way I heard it and the way I saw it without any interference. The only way to do that was to do it all myself and not sit there teaching people songs and things like that. Then, basically, when it came time to put the live band together, me and Bobby were already talking. He loved the music, he wanted to be a part of it and Johnny Kelly approached me and said, ‘Hey, if you need someone to do this stuff live, let me know” and so I took him up on that call and I got Eric Morgan on bass and put the live band together to be able to execute all of this, live and basically everyone plays it like it is on the record, live and it’s been good so far.
AS: Sweet man. The way it should be. You guys have those three songs posted on Facebook from your performance at Dingbatz in Jersey. Solid work, man. Alright, so, you mention Matt and there was a quote I wanted to ask you about. You said once that you an Matt were like the “murdering evil versions of Lennon and McCartney” which one do you think of yourself as? [laughs]
SA: [laughs] I was just trying to piss people off cuz all the Beatles fans would get upset at that. Um, me and Matt have been friends for twenty years. We had a band in 2002 and we always enjoyed working together. He always believed in me as a writer. He always admired what I would write and when I had the bulk of the album written, I would turn him onto it. I’d be like, ‘Matt, check this out’ and he was at a point where he was like, ‘Dude, we gotta do this. Let’s re-record everything for actual album production quality and we gotta do this. This is awesome.’ We have such a good, open, working relationship and we respect each other and that’s where that quote came from was really me saying just how, at one time, Lennon and McCartney were great partners in a great band. I just compared me and Matt because we have a special relationship and it was more of a compliment towards our relationship. But at the same time, I might be pushing someone’s buttons by comparing ourselves to Lennon and McCartney [laughs]. I figured someone would get a laugh out of it.
AS: Well, you definitely got a chuckle out of me. Speaking of things on the horizon and this new record, you guys are getting ready to do some festivals in Europe. You’re playing with a couple of shows with Seventh Void-
SA: Yes. We’re gonna do a tour together and Johnny Kelly are going to be pulling double duty playing in both bands. We figured, logistically it would be a lot of fun because we’re all old friends but at the same time it is both bands helping each other out to make things work.
AS: Definitely. I was wondering if those guys were going to have to be pulling double sets.
SA: Yeah, exactly. It will be double duty for those guys but they love playing so it’s good for them.
AS: For sure. That’s respectable. You mentioned working with Matt Brown before. That was with the band Supermassiv, yeah?
SA: Yeah. Exactly. Supermassiv didn’t last very long though because our singer at the time overdosed on heroin so we just kinda called it quits. He passed away in 2004 and its experiences like that influenced my song ‘’Heroin Train”. You know, knowing and having friends that have OD’d and stuff like that.
AS: Understandable. Speaking of songs on the album, which ones are your favorites?
SA: Well, they are all my favorites and all are my babies. They are all connected to me in a very sentimental way. I poured my heart and everything into these songs so it’s hard to say that one is my favorite but the one that seems to stand out is the song “Die Alone”, the closure to the album. That was – I wrote that song and I was really depressed. I was going through a lot of stuff during this album process. I wrote this song and completed it all but didn’t do the vocals yet when Peter [Steele, Type O Negative] passed away and y’know me and Peter – it was crazy because we were talking three months prior to his death. I was talking to him up to three weeks and I was even bugging him to do a guest appearance on the record and when he passed away, then I had to do the vocals – finish the vocals on the record since most of them weren’t vocally finished and that song took on a new emotion after he died and it kind of connected with him and affiliated itself with him and so, I would say “Die Alone” is a pretty deep, but simple song. I mean, because lyrically its simple but it seems to hit the mark. Everyone has those real lousy days where something bad is happening to them and they are really depressed, y’know and people find a connection because it lends itself, y’know? It could mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people. You know, I’m just trying to tell it like it is.
AS: For sure, when I heard it I was like, ‘This guy knows what’s up!” After hearing the record there were some themes that I kind of found within the lyrics and things that made me think you might be into horror flicks and slasher films?
SA: You know, I have. A lot of times there is “Investigation Discovery” on over here. I watch a lot of stories about serial killers here and there. You know, there are those favorite horror movies that we watch now and then but we have an eight month old daughter here so we kind of stopped watching a lot of graphic stuff but I like all kinds of good old horror movies. To be honest I don’t think there has been a good horror movie in a long time. I do like the psychological, twisted movies as well. It’s funny because “When Crows Descend Upon You” is influenced by Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds. I had finally watched that movie in its entirety. The next day I was coming up with these themes in my head. You know, there’s that whole scene with the birds coming down on the woman when she’s running for the phone booth and I just twisted it into something like the crows were coming down to take some bad person’s soul away. It just influenced that kind of thing. Same thing with “Serial Killer”: It was inspired by the fascination with A) watching these stories about these guys that did it for real and B) my fascination with what makes these guys tick and the type of mental state they are in to actually follow through with murdering someone, dispose of them – just all of that. It blows me away to talk about it now. What makes a guy follow through with murdering someone and then cutting them up and hiding them under a house or something, y’know? Its nuts but it blows me away. So I kind of took that kind of movie in my head and I put it down into words and into the melody and it came out like that. But yeah, I like good horror movies. The Shining, Pet Sematary, The Excorcist, Day of the Living Dead, Night of the Living Dead – all those old ones. Even the movies from the ‘40s and ‘50s with Bela Lugosi, Nosferatu – those are cool.
AS: For sure man. I’m sure listeners will agree with me in saying that when I hear your record, I can envision the whole situation in my head and the album artwork for this record is just spot on with all the songs and lyrical themes. Who ended up designing the artwork for this record?
SA: An artist named Sam Shearon. He’s based in London. We were talking for about four years and he always been a big fan and he was saying, “I really want to do something for you, Sal” and when this all came into play – and his style is that dark, y’know, very dark content. So, his style just fit perfectly and when I told him the name of the band we started going back in forth with ideas. Then, I sent him all the lyrics and rough tracks of the music just to kind of see the whole vision and he came back with the art and there were very few corrections to be done because he nailed it on the head. He related to the whole thing so well that the artwork – which I knew would have to play an important part and role in tying everything together because a lot of bands don’t really go all out when it comes to having some sort of conceptual artwork that ties in the songs and each song having almost it’s own album cover in a way. You look through the booklet, y’know, it’s like every song has its own piece of artwork that goes with that song. I think that comes from my roots from when I was growing up in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s buying records and looking forward to looking at all the artwork that tied into the music. It played an important role in this whole image that was created and we’ve already spoke about him doing the second album and definitely going to kind of continue this kind of theme – almost like what Maiden did for so many years keeping the same artist with the same theme, the same vibe. Y’know, like sometimes bands will put out a great album or a great album cover then all of a sudden the next album they come out with is just – its like a picture of something abstract or its some building or something that made no sense with the prior look of the band. I think that if people like it for what it is, don’t fix something that is not broken. Retain that integrity that drew those people in in the first place and that’s what I’m looking to do with the second record. I’m not looking to do some crazy 180 and come out as like Ziggy Stardust or something, y’know? [laughs]
AS: [laughs] For sure man. Well, let me thank you very much for taking the time out of your schedule to talk with us. It means a lot to myself and the fans I’m sure that you are so accessible. Thanks a lot.
A Pale Horse Named Death will be taking off for their European tour this summer with Seventh Void. No word on a full United States tour yet but we’re sure it will happen soon.