It’s not too difficult to find a band in Metal Underground under the name DEVASTATION. This one is from Chicago, and it was formed in the middle of the ’80s. Their music was great Thrash Metal with some touches from Death Metal, but unfortunately the didn’t become famous, allthough they recorded great demo-songs (just check out their MySpace!). Their first album „Dispensable bloodshed” (1987) was out first time before some weeks on Marquee Records (Brasil) in form of 3-CD-box-set(as bonus you’ll find all of their demos, songs etc.). Our interview was answered by Duane Rasussen (vocalist) and Pat Buckley (drumer).
So guys, I would start the interview with your musical background, when did you discover metal music? What did you find so exciting in this untrendy music back at the time?
(Pat) Growing up in the 70’s, my older brother & sister turned me on to bands like the Scorpions, Black Sabbath, Ted Nugent, Cheap Trick, Kiss, Van Halen, Foghat, etc.. I still love 70’s rock to this day. Back in maybe 1978, I remember buying my first Heavy Metal album, a Judas Priest title. The cover looked so badass, I took a chance and picked it up. I was in love! Crunching guitars, killer drums, screaming vocals, I knew this was for me. By the time the 80’s came around, my record collection was mostly early Metal & Punk. (Duane) Well my route was a little bit different. I was stuck listening to crap like the BeeGee’s and Beatles and shit like that because i was the oldest in my family, and only had my parents as musical models. Then in 7th grade I was turned onto Rush, The Who, and Kiss. Once I got into High School, then I was Turned onto Venom, Metallica and the much better heavier stuff. So much for Catholic High School huh?
At which point did you start playing instrument and how did your choice fall on them?
(Pat) I started playing drums & guitar in my basement in Chicago back in maybe 1979. My father was a Chicago policeman, so I could never practice regularly, he was usually sleeping during the day. I always had this basic knack for playing drums & guitar. To this day I really don’t practice the drums, I only play when practicing with a band. Looking back, I guess if I had practiced regularly, I could have been great! (haha..) But I knew as a child that I needed to play the drums, I was always tapping a beat on things around the house. It drove my family crazy! (Duane) I stared playing Bass in High School, and really liked it. Soon after, I began getting more interested in Vocals.
What were your influences to become a metal musician?
(Pat) So many. On drums it would have to be the Scorpions, UFO, Kiss, the Ramones, Cheap Trick, Judas Priest, Maiden.
(Duane) To rebel against the Catholics was my main reason.
Were all of you self taught at that time or…?
(Pat) I think we all were. Erv would take lessons here & there to pick up ideas from other people. I remember that for awhile he was taking lessons from the guitarist from DAMIEN THORNE, a killer early 80’s Chicago-based Metal band. But Erv was always just a natural at playing guitar. I first started playing with him when he was maybe 14, and the kid could just shred like no one else.
(Duane) Yeah I was too, and not very well.
The band was formed in January of 1986 by Drummer Pat Buckley and Guitarist Erv Brautigam, who started playing together in 1984 in the band SOLEMN, what about this act as a whole? Did you record any demos, rehearsals etc.?
(Pat) Solemn recorded maybe 2 or 3 rehersal demos, but I’ll be damned if I can find them anywhere! The band was led by Ed Baltizar (Bassist), and man, did we have fun back then. That was my first REAL band. We used to play originals and covers like Priest, Slayer, GBH & Hellhammer.
Did you gig a lot with it?
(Pat) Solemn I think only played one or two shows with Erv & I, I think they might have been at parties.
What do you recall the Chicago scene these times? Were you familiar with bands, such as TROUBLE, ZOETROPE, MASTER etc.?
(Pat) The metal scene was intense here in the Windy City. My favorites back then included Witchslayer, Mayhem, Assault, & Genocide for Metal, and Life Sentence, the Effigies and Naked Raygun for Punk. I remember going to shows, getting drunk and stoned, getting in fights & hitting on chicks. It was a great time to be a teenager in Chicago. The bands were the best here, I don’t think we really appreciated it at the time. There was a killer band on every block. I remember the Aftermath guys lived in my hood, as well.
How was your friendship with bands that have started at the same time as you? Did it succeed to build up a good relation with them?
(Pat) Some. Many bands here seemed stuck-up. We hung with bands like Terminal Death, Aftermath, Righteous Pigs, DSB & Orsis. They were always down to earth & super cool.
At which point did SOLEMN break up?
(Pat) Erv & I wanted to go a different direction than Ed, maybe more Death metal. It was sad, as I always Loved Ed. He’s an awesome guy.
What made you to form DEVASTATION? Was it easy to find the suitable members for the band?
(Pat) It wasn’t. Not many people knew what Death Metal was in 1985. We found Frank Ciampi (Bass) after leaving a wanted ad in a local Guitar Center. We were introduced to Troy Dixler (First Vocalist) by our friend Shawn Glass (Terminal Death/Broken Hope/Soil). Troy wanted to sing for a Thrash band, but had never been in a band before. He was a natural, as well. When the four of us got together, it was magic. We played well from the first practice. But we were all so different as people, and all so strong willed, I guess I knew deep inside that it could never last. It was too good to be true, so to speak.
Would you say, that you wanted to take your unique style of Death Metal to the next level and left SOLEMN to form a new, more groundbreaking band, which became DEVASTATION?
(Pat) Absolutely! Well said.
Who came up with the name of the band? Did you know that in Texas existed a band under the name of DEVASTATION?
Either Erv or I. I can’t remember.
Didn’t confuse the fans the bands with each other?
When we started Devastation in 1985, we thought we were the only band that was using that name. We still run into some fans on Myspace that think we might be the other band from Texas. Very rare, though. Chuck from Death (RIP) always thought that the name Devastation fit us better. We were more brutal, and from the streets!
At which point did singer Troy Dixler, other guitarist Shaun Glass and bassist Frank Ciampi get in the picture exactly? Were there auditioned other musicians as well beside them? (Pat) Not really.
(Duane) Shaun wasn’t in the band. Ricky Aguaio was.
What about their musical past?
They (We) had none! Frank had been in some local Metal & Punk garage bands, but their names escape me. I think one was DSB.
What about your rehearsals? Did you start writing originals right from the start or were you jamming mostly on covers?
(Pat) We started with originals that we wrote, and maybe two covers. I remember playing „Die by the Sword” by Slayer at practice.
Your first effort was the „A creation of ripping death” demo in 1986, what about the recordings sessions of the demo which was probably your first studio experience?
(Pat) So much fun! We went to Seagrape studios in Chicago, as they did a great job with bands like Terminal Death & Genocide. The first demo was recorded 16-track, and in maybe an afternoon or so. We had a blast. I remember Troy bringing in a scuba-diving breathing tank for the begining of the son, Devastation. We really laughed at him, but it did sound cool!
Were you satisfied with result or could it have been better?
(Pat) We loved it! It was naturally just so warm, and heavy, and totally captured our sound. 16 trank was the was to go for heaviness.
Did you finance the recordings cost for yourselves or…?
(Pat) Yeah, we scraped together some cash, & went in. We had to finish quick, because we were broke!
Was the demo shopped around to attract label interests? Did you spread it in the tapetrading scene as well?
(Pat) Not really. We did it to get gigs, mostly. Clubs weren’t booking Death Metal bands back then. We had to show how good we were, and the demo did that for us. As for the scene, we traded it everywhere! All the biggest traders had it (them) back then.
Do you still remember, which labels did get in the picture signing the band?
I remember we were talking to New Renaissance for a bit, as we had played and were buddies with At War.
The line up was stable until October 12th 1986, which was the last show with Troy, what do you recall of that gig?
(Pat) I can’t remember that well. I know that Troy & Frank weren’t getting along too well, and it came down to chosing between the two of them.
Due to musical differences, you decided to part ways with him, what happened exactly? Was his departure unavoidable?
It was. Erv & Frank were so good playing together, we thought it would be easier to find a new singer than to replace Frank.
Not long after, Troy and Shawn started the truly amazing band, SINDROME, were you close to this outfit? What would you say about them as a whole?
We weren’t, there was still some bad blood I guess. I do remember that they started out with Chris (Death Strike/Master) on guitar, and after we lost Duane (our later vocalist), recruited Erv on 2nd guitar, as Devastation wasn’t doing anything at the time. Sindrome was groundbreaking, though. I saw them live once, & they blew me away.
Instead of Troy came Duane Rasmussen in the band, how did you find him? Did you try out maybe other singers as well?
(Pat) Duane was our good friend, and photographer, and could always sing. He fit right in, and had more of a Thrash-type voice we were looking for to complete or newer sound. We didn’t want to remain just a Death Metal-type band, as Erv wanted to expand to maybe a more Testament/Slayer type vibe.
Duane, what about your musical background? What were your influences to become musician?
Well my muscial background was not too extensive before Devastation. I’d have to say that my influences were really sparked by not wanting to be like all of the other kids in the neighborhood. Everybody was into BMX and stuff like that, and I wanted to get into music.
Were you always into thrash metal or…?
No, not at first as I said earlier. I remember when I was about 12 or 13 and I was watching SNL with my Dad late one night and the musical guest was DEVO. At that point, i knew I didn’t want to hear anymore crap like that, and was soon turned onto Metal.
You played earlier with Pat and Erv so you knew each other for a while, what about those acts which you were involved in?
Yeah, there was this band Inkursion that I had tried out for. Pat and Erv were on Guitar, Ed was playing Bass, and my friend Brett was the Drummer. Well before Solemn. We did stuff like Sabbath, Riot, and Maiden. That was a blast.
Were the new material already written when you joined the band or did you write some songs, vocal parts as well?
Well, some of the vocal parts were already there from with Troy, but weren’t written down anywhere. So I had to try and figure them out. As a fan of the band, Cranial Hemorrhage was my favorite song. So since I had no clue what Troy’s lyrics were, I decided to change everything and make it my own.
„A re-creation of the ripping death” became your second demo (in 1986 as well), how was this demo recorded?
At the time, cash was low, so in order for us to get the word out about me, we basically went in the studio and re-recorded the vocals on Beyond Fear and Devastation with me, and added Cranial Hemorrhage and The Nuclear Winter to change it up a bit.
Why did „Devastation” and „Beyond fear” make it on the demo prior to that they were on the first demo as well? Would you say, that the new versions of these tunes became more brutal and impressive with your vocals?
No, it was timing and as I previous mentioned.
Was it a better representation of the band? Did you develope compared to the first demo?
(Pat) I love both demos equally, but the first demo might be my favorite, as it was my first ever studio experience. I wasn’t too happy with the 2nd demo. I really didn’t like how it sounded.
How did it sound compared to the first effort?
(Pat) The first for it’s shear heaviness.
What kind of reviews did you get on it?
Good, for the most part! Some reviews back then put it down for the „Cookie-Monster”-type vocals. They were wrong, obviously.
Did you never have the opportunity, the chance being featured on several compilations, such as „Speed metal hell”, „Metal massacre” or „Chicago Metal Works”?
(Pat) No, we were never asked. At least I can’t remember!
When did you start writing the material for the debut record?
It was titled „Dispensable bloodshed” (1987), how did the recordings sessions go with this record? Were you prepared to enter the studio and to record the material?
(Pat) We were. The record was never finished due to lack of proper funding. It is missing much tracking, & was never mixed. What you hear is from the cassettes we went home with after maybe the second day of recording. It’s sad, really, as I beleive it could have been a pivitol Thrash record.
Did you have a decent budget to record the album?
It contained only four new songs, „Genetic poisoning”, „Instrumental”, the title track and „Psychopathic”, didn’t you have more material or…?
(Pat) We did, we just didn’t have the chance to lay down any more tracks.
Were there songs, that you didn’t put or at least didn’t want to put on the record?
We had a slew of songs written, some not yet named. I can’t remember most of them.
Could you do us a song to song description both lyricswise and musicwise?
(Pat) Not really!
It was supposed to be released by New Renaissance Records, but the album never saw the light, what happened exactly?
(Pat) I can’t quite remember (Insert drugs & alcohol here). We broke up in 1988 while the recordings gathered dust in the studio.
Does it mean, that the label didn’t pay any dollars for distribution, advertising, promotion etc.?
(Pat) We never actually signed with any label.
(Duane) We had just started talking to them at the time we were in the studio.
Didn’t you think about to release it as a self financed record?
(Pat) It was recorded with the intention of being the 3rd & final demo, the one that we would shop to labels.
As far as the label, they seemed to be one of the best thrash metal labels, with acts, such as INDESTROY, WEHRMACHT, AT WAR, BLOODFEAST, what do you think about it?
(Pat) I thought they were very up-and-coming, for sure. But now we are signed to Marquee (Brazil), and they are the best!
Would you say, if the record could have released, would it have been an influential, classic thrash record?
(Pat) As I stated before, I think it could have been one of the greats.
When and why did the band split up? Did you follow what’s going on in the underground scene after the band’s demise?
(Pat) As Erv left to join Sindrome, we jammed with Mark Piotrowski from EXPERIMENT for a bit. Duane left to get married, so we tried a couple new singers, including our old friend, Mike Jayko. Frank was jamming on the side with the local punk band Generation Waste (which later in 1988 I joined, as well). Frank & I were also playing on the side in a ”side-project” band called NECRO VOMIT, which featured Mike Shaeffer (ABOMINATION/EXPERIMENT) on vocals/guitar. As for DEVASTATION, the new singers really didn’t work out,and i suppose interest in the band was fading, especially after all the ups & downs.
Did you remain in touch with each other?
(Pat) Frank and I did, but I lost touch with Duane for 20 years, give or take. I ran into Troy a couple of times, but Erv I haven’t seen sine the late 80’s. I (we) miss him alot.
(Duane) It wasn’t 20 years. You were at my 30th Birthday party, then it was only 8 years until we started hanging out again.
How did you view the musical changes in metal during the ’90s?
(Pat) I’m actually guilty of that, as well. I played with punk bands like Gear & the Vindictives in the early 90’s. Metal just wasn’t that exciting anymore, it lost it’s edge to me. At least playing it, anyway.
Last year released Marquee Records the album, how did you come to an agreement as far as the releasing of the album? Whose idea was to release the record after 20 years of its originally release date?
(Pat) Marquee contacted us. And why not release it!? It’s better late than never, & many new people like to Old School Death Metal now! I have to say, I have only a bootleg version from it…
(Duane) That isn’t the Marquee Release. It hasn’t been released yet. Total Fucking Ripping Death is a bootleg.
You have both an official and a myspace site, do you consider important to have the bands official and myspace sites?
(Pat) We do. Go where the fans are!
All of your tracks can be downloaded from your website, why do you offer this opportunity for the fans? What do you think about the mp3 files as a whole?
(Pat) We have changed the website so you can listen only now. This shows more respect for our label, as they (we) are going to trying to sell this thing soon!
Do the fans often visit your sites?
(Pat) Yes! So many fans, old & new it’s hard to count.
Did you never think about to reform the band and playing some shows around or recording a new album?
At the Gates contacted us about playing together recently, and were considering reforming. We still may, if we can contact Erv. He was a driving force for us.
How do you view all of those reformations what happened in the last 5-6 years, such as DEATH ANGEL, TROUBLE, HEATHEN, AGENT STEEL etc.?
(Pat) I love it, as long as they’re reforming for the love of the music, not just the money. Then they would become the Posers we used to hate. (Duane) What do you mean used to hate!!!
How do you view the present scene compared to the mid ’80s? How much did it change or develope during those years?
(Pat) Chicago’s always had a good music scene in general. But for Metal, bands like Cianide, Usurper & Jungle Rot are leading the way now. They all kick major ass, I’d like to say. But my heart always will remain a 80’s Metal fan.
Is it good to have a lot of outfits these days, that are doing nothing but copy each other, all of them have the same sound instead of striving being original, as it was back then when one easily could distinguish most of the bands?
(Pat) As long as it’s not that „Nu-Metal” shit, Rap-Metal or „Screamo” I have no problem with it. Some bands rip-off the old stuff, but that’s a compliment, I guess!
(Duane) I would have to say 78%of all metal out today is total shit. It is true that it all sounds the same. But, when they are in it for only the money, that’s what all the 12 year olds like i guess.
Do you like listening the present bands or does your heart still beat for the old school ones?
(Pat) I still listen to the old stuff, and clssic rock & punk, but I do like many present Blackened Thrash bands like Behemoth, Vader, Unleashed, Nifelhiem, Dismember, Toxic Holocaust, etc...
What do you think lacked to DEVASTATION to become the huge band that you possibly could have been?
(Pat) We partied too much. That, plus money problems, & girlfriend issues = a dead band. (Duane) Yep!!!
So guys, thanks a lot for your answers, any closing words?
(Pat) Thanks for your interest in DEVASTATION! We appreciate your good work in the Metal scene. Cheers!!
(Duane) Don’t worry, you will see us live someday!!!