A setback occured when drummer Carl Stokes was involved in an accident, his motorbike hitting a British Teelcom van and he suffered multiple injuries necessitating the entlistment of Monolith’s Nick Barker on a temporary basis, how did it happen exactly? Did you recruit Carl, because you didn’t want to cancel the shows?
We knew Nick as a friend from the days when we used to play gigs promoting “To The Gory End”. We had also played gigs with his group Monolith. Nick learnt the complete Cancer set including material from “The Sins Of Mankind” in two rehearsals, and from the first gig we played, to the last gig we played on that tour, his drumming was exceptional. I actually met up with Nick a few months ago, here in Madrid. He was drumming for Exodus, whilst Tom was on holiday.
Before your last album happened a lot of changes, both musical and labelwise, what made you to sign a major label East/West and why did you leave Vinyl Solution? How much support, promotion did you get from Vinyl Solution at all?
After the European Tour, Cancer went back to America and did a tour with James Murphy’s band Disincarnate. Then a gig at the London Astoria with Poison Idea and various concerts across the UK. We were writing material for the fourth Cancer Album when Rob Tennants left Vinyl Solution. This meant we didn’t have the same team anymore. Anyway after writing four songs we recorded them with Simon Efemey and started to get interest from East/West. They boasted better budgets and we signed at the same time we went into the studio to record “Black Faith”.
Why did you turn back on death metal?
I don’t think we turned our backs on “Death Metal”. We had progressed musically and we felt good about our direction. Yes “Black faith” wasn’t a straight-forward Death Metal album, but there still were elements of the Death Metal sound within it…Obviously it wasn’t for the few Death Metal purists out there.
How did you view the metal scene as a whole at this point? Was the scene killed by grunge and pop/punk and a lot of bands either broke up or changed their sound to somewhat that hadn’t to do with their original approach?
The metal scene during these years I think was very interesting. Metal was more popular than ever with TV programs like Headbangers ball. Grunge and pop/punk I think perhaps helped the Metal scene in general, how could we ever forget Tool and Alice In Chains, Machine Head and Sepultura? What’s so bad about bringing all the different styles of music into the homes of everyone lucky enough to have a TV?. The question is, when Metal becomes super fashionable, how does a Metal purist deal or manage the choice of either supporting or criticizing this incredibly amusing situation?
How do you view „Black faith” these days? Was it a natural progression, a conscious step after „The sins of mankind” record or did you work hard on it?
Now if asked, “Black Faith” is my favourite Cancer album and still is the only one I listen to. I don’t know if it’s a conscious step after “The Sins Of Mankind”. A natural progression, yes, but also with so much more in terms of production, mixing and writing. When the group entered the recording studio, everybody worked incredibly hard until it was finished and the same went for the mix also, Sank worked all the hours he could.
Did you cause a great disappointment for the Cancer fans?
It’s funny, I’ve had musicians and fans tell me they were so obsessed with “Black faith” that it ruined their lives for years and I’ve had other fans tell me they didn’t see any value in it whatsoever. This shows I think what an interesting album it is.
Who came up with the Deep Purple cover?
I can’t remember whose idea it was to do Deep Purple’s “Space Trucking”, probably Simon’s.
Following the release of the album you toured in Britain with support act Meshuggah, what do you recall of this tour?
Following the release of the album, the only gigs Cancer did was a Headline show in Candem (London) and a tour of Germany, Holland and Austria with pagan metallers Skyclad.
Is it true that Barry Savage sessioned for Cradle Of Filth in 1996?
I think Barry did session for Cradle Of Filth. I don’t remember if it was 1996 or not! I know Nick Barker was playing in Cradle Of Filth during this period.
At which point did the band break up? What kind of reasons did lead to the band’s demise?
The group broke up shortly after the London show. During the time that “Black Faith” was released, the band changed its management and then changed it again after the London show. It was a sad end but also it had a sense of relief. For seven years we’d worked, through many different experiences, and it felt necessary to stop.
Cancer’s early materials was pure death metal, then you progressed to a thrashier sound on „The Sins Of Mankind” and finally an attempt at going mainstream on „Black Faith”. Due to unconcern of fans you split-up, how do you explain this?
It’s very easy for the people to see the band splitting up because of the idea “black Faith” was some sort of major label failure but there were other reasons involved that were instrumental in the group’s demise. Some of those reasons were out of the band’s control but influenced the group all the same in a negative way.
Did you remain in touch with each other after Cancer’s break by the way?
After the group split up. Barry moved to Switzerland and I didn’t see Ian or Carl as often as I had during the band’s life.
After the band’s split Carl Stokes was involved in Nothing But Contempt with Barney and Danny Herrera from Napalm Death and Rob Engvikson from Sacrifical Altar, Asatru, were you known of the existence of this short lived act? Have they ever recorded some materials?
During this activity, I was actually travelling through India, I don’t recall them recording anything.
In 2000 Carl also filled in for Telford Hardcore mongers Assert, and he busied himself with a new project titled Remission with you, can you tell us more about it?
Remission was a very short lived Stoner Rock band that never happened. A demo was recorded which contained the song Solar Prophecy which ended up on the “Spirit In Flames” CD.
What about Ian Buchanan at this point? Was he also involved in several acts or…?
Ian was doing electronic music during these years, working mostly on his own.
Cancer made a return during 2003 with you, Carl Stokes, Rob Engvikson and Adders, how did that happen exactly? Whose idea was to reform the band at all?
Cancer basically reformed to play live and with a few new ideas we recorded the “Corporations” EP. It was Carl’s idea to reform the band. We both knew Rob and Carl knew Adders from his time with Assert.
You released an EP called „Corporations” and a full length titled „Spirit in flames” (both of them by Copro Records), can you give us details about these materials since I never listened to them? Was it distributed worldwide or…?
Both “Corporations” and “Spirit In Flames” were released by Copro Records. I don’t remember what the distribution was, I know that it was released in the UK but that’s all, I have no other details.
Were these materials written in the early Cancer vein? How did they sound like?
The “Corporations” EP was diverse and the song “Oil” was relevant to the time of release as the 2nd Gulf War had started. The EP also included a cover of Celtic Frost’s “Dethroned Emperor” (for Saddam Hussein) and a revamped version of “Witchunt”, with an “Oil Remix” contributed by Ian Buchanan. “Spirit In Flames” had material which was perhaps similar to some of the earlier recordings. It featured the lead guitarist David Leach who was from the band Pulverized.
Cancer broke up again, according to you Cancer is no more, but Carl Stokes revealed plans for a new band billed Hail Of Fire featuring Dave Leitch and Barry Savage on guitars, Ian Buchanan on bass and Rob Lucas on vocals, they released a demo in 2006, have you ever listened to their material? Are they still active?
Yes, Cancer broke up again, but it wasn’t my decision to end it, just like it wasn’t my decision to end it in 1996. I never quoted “Cancer is no more”. Perhaps my move to Spain might have influenced whoever it was, to make the decision to end the band. As for Hail Of Fire, I didn’t listen to their demo so I can’t comment about it. I don’t think they’ve managed to stay active.
You are involving these days in Liquid Graveyard and Absolute Power, what can you tell us about these bands?
I recorded some guitars for Absolute Power before Cancer reformed in 2003. It’s basically Simon Efemey and Shane Embury’s Power Metal project, including a few other special guests such as Ripper Owen. Liquid Graveyard is my new band and for me this is the correct musical direction and as I’m not doing the lead vocals, I’m able to concentrate my energies on the guitar. My wife encouraged me to keep playing metal after Cancer’s split and since I’ve moved to Madrid, the metal fraternity here have received me with open arms. On bass we have Adrian de Buitléar from Mourning Beloveth, on drums we have Acaymo D. and my wife Raquel Walker handles the vocal duties. The concept of the band is principally songwriting using the metal sound. So far we’ve played some gigs here in Spain and recorded a demo which led to us getting signed by Italian Record Label “My Kingdom Music”.
Did you always keep an eye on what’s going on in the underground? Are you the dude that rather prefer the old school stuffs or do you consider yourself an open minded musician?
Back in 1988-1994 I did keep an interest in what was happening on the underground Metal Scene. As a musician I’ve explored a few avenues but now I mostly write music without caring or noticing what’s happening with other groups or with scenes. My main influence now is life itself and with Liquid Graveyard I have the vehicle and freedom to write in this way.
Any plans with Liquid Graveyard and Absolute Power?
I don’t know about any future plans with Absolute Power, but Liquid Graveyard has recorded a full length CD titled “On Evil Days” and this is due out on the 16th of October. You can check out a sample of it on the Liquid Graveyard myspace site. After the release of the CD, our intention is to promote it by playing some shows across Europe.
Would you say, that Cancer left its mark on the scene and the band’s name is still big and in people’s minds?
Some people from the scene probably remember, but I don’t know if the band’s name is still big in some people’s minds. Still without re-releases, or re-issues, there are people who haven’t forgotten.
Are there any plans to re-release „To the gory end” and „Death shall rise”?
I don’t think there are any plans at the moment to re-release “To the Gory End” or “Death Shall Rise”. I’ve had some interest from record companies so maybe in the future those plans could change.
How would you sum up Cancer’s career? The best and the worst memories? Would you something change on it?
Cancer’s career I think is best summed up as a Death Metal band that progressed beyond its original sentiment and intention. Rather than sticking with the same formula, Cancer were brave enough to diversify and take risks. The best memories? Recording the CD’s and playing interesting places like Mexico, Portugal and Spain. The worst memories, too many to mention, but probably for me the last Cancer gig.
John, thanks a lot for the chat, anything to add what I forgot to cover?
Ok. Thanks for the interview, I hope the information has been of some use to you. Don’t forget to check out Liquid Graveyard’s myspace site for future information regarding my musical activities. Hasta luego.