|INTERVIEW with JEFF BECERRA
|Possessed needs no introduction so I'm not gonna dick about going on and on about how influential they were/still are. It's safe to say that the likes of Trey Azagthoth and Morbid Angel based what they were doing in their formative years on the Possessed blueprint laid down on the legendary 'Seven Churches' recording. Possessed arguably did more to further the cause of 'Death Metal' than any of the early acts on the scene back in the mid-late 80's. Primeval, gritty and extremely complex sounding, Possessed took the underground by the scruff of the neck and left a stamp that even do this day sees its influence repeated and regurgitated. Possessed are the shit. Thanks to Thierry at Violent Solutions we're able to bring you this chat with the affable Jeff Becerra.
|Here we go Mr Becerra.
I'm afraid you've already heard this question a lot of times before. Mike, Larry and you left POSSESSED after 'The Eyes of Horror' release. Could you remind us of the main reason for these departures? Did you have any other musical projects in mind when you left?
I guess it's the same for everybody. People are turning older and one day or another you realised you've lost some friends. That's a sad but natural process. It would be so easy to take the phone sometimes, don't you think? Do you remember some particular events with the band? Something good or bad you'll never forget. Do you think this musical experience has changed something inside you?
|Well, the way that I saw it was that Larry really wanted to join Blind Illusion and change the type of music he was playing. We had already did what we set out to accomplish and jointly decided that it was time to call it a day. As far as I know, no one but me (regarding the members of Possessed) is at this time even interested in Metal. Larry is still playing but Mike Sus and Mike Torreo are lost in action. I will always consider them brothers if not friends. We do not speak any longer.
Not in touch anymore? Do you have some regrets about this ?
What do you think about Larry's carrer ?
I do regret the friendships and the good times that we had. I guess we all just got older and moved on with our lives. These are the best days of my life, but I still remember the band and all of the great times we had. I am *really* impressed with Larry. He is such a great guy. He has always been extremely driven in his music and it doesn't suprise me that he has found so much success in life.
Actually what I think happened was that as Mike and Mike grew older they forgot about music. I called Mike Sus the other day and asked him if he wanted to jam and he was like, "Jeff I think that too much water has passed under the bridge and I would appreciate it if you didn't call me anymore". I have always thought that music can and is an extremely adult thing. I will always play/sing and listen to Metal as it is a very big part of who I am. Another reason that I think that the rest of the band no longer speaks with me is that I am still extremely crazy and wild at times.
I have a cool young wife who likes to party, a fast car and a big d*ck and bass amp. I definitely love to party and have a good time. Of course it is natural to grow apart, but it seems like sometimes friendship should last forever. My current guitarist (Ken Bertoncini) and I have been great friends for 20 yrs + and I believe that he has a truer understanding of friendship. We have our families and our music and don't have to sacrifice one for the other. I'm like, "SEX, BOOZE, AND METAL" and despise anyone who rejects that.
About particular events, well now that I am married I have to refrain from most of the stories. But I can remember playing some great shows. Shows like Venom, Slayer, Possessed at the San Francisco Kabuki. Or the two tours with Slayer. To tell you the truth Possessed was always a crazy time. A lot of broken bones, parties and thousands of girls!
If music has changed something inside me? Yes, my hearing!
||Thousands ? There's three women for one man on earth, now I know who took my part !!! Dammit !!!
I'm sad to learn Mike Sus has turned into boring guy with a stone inside his heart. I'm always surprised by the way people can change. When you're really into Metal, it's in your blood...
You said you had some crazy times and you're a wild guy. Do you the think these facts have got something to do with all the rumors around POSSESSED ? I've heard you were very bad boys and there was also this strange story: people said you turned crazy after you left the band. Is there something true in this rubbish?
I never went 'crazy' but I did have a big adjustment to make.
As you know I was paralyzed by two gunshots in a robbery and that was a hard thing to take. But after much too much drinking and drugs I got it together and went to college and received two degrees. I now am married with 2 children and am doing well.
Yes I knew about this. I guess you've crossed some very dark times. Fortunately you're still 'crazy' enough to party and to listen some Metal and that?s a nice disease....
Well I try!
Do you listen to some POSSESSED at home sometimes? Sorry if I sound too curious but did you introduce POSSESSED or Metal music to your children ? I tried to introduce my baby girl to CARCASS when she was two and had some great responses - she was good at headbanging!
Actually my son knows all the words to my new band 'Side Effect'! And he plays guitar and drums a bit already (he is only 4 years old)! He headbangs like a maniac!! My daughter Sonny is the same way, she loves music (she is 9 months old).
Do you think the worst nightmare for a Metalhead father is to have some kids into R'N'B or Rap? Ha ha
Actually I think my kids should listen to whatever kind of music that they like personally. Music is good for kids, no matter what style. As long as they are not posers!
You were one of the first singer to use growling vocals? How did you get this idea? Did Cronos' vocals influence you in one way or another?
Actually it was really an organic thing. I had always been a big fan of Lemmy K. from Motorhead and he definitely was a big influence. Also I liked Exodus and Paul was always screaming about something or another. And for sure the SF punk scene was a huge influence. Especially when Punk and Metal bands started playing together at shows.
n. So far it has worked and I hope that people will listen to and play our music for ever.
A lot of people (I'm one of them) think POSSESSED is/was the first Death Métal band? Are you in agreement with that? Can you imagine the fact that you have influenced thousands of bands from all over the world? Don?t you feel some kind of vertigo when you?re thinking about this?
||When we first started out we intentionally set out to be all original. We didn't want anyone to say, "They sound like, or they are just copying this or that band." I actually wrote 'Death Metal' the song in my high school English class. All I really remember about that class was writing that song and the instructors hairy legs (female instructors should NOT have hairy legs!). I am truly honored at the fact that many feel that I have had so much influence in the scene. Back in the day, no one was playing our type of music. We were sick of a lot of the terribly commercial music in the world and we wanted to make a lasting impressio
That's difficult to imagine you wrote one of the most famous extreme Metal songs during English class with the vision of your instructor's hairy legs, ha ha ha !!!
Yes, it was death for sure...(laughing out loud!) I was extremely rebellious back then, I eventually got kicked out of that class for fighting.
How can you explain the fact that POSSESSED's music has crossed the ages that easily? Metalheads are still listening to and loving your music. Did you ever have the feeling at one moment or another you would become 'legendary' when you started the band ?
Actually no. When we first started playing gigs people hated us. They didn't understand what we were trying to do and most of them just laughed at us. After a while we started getting more and more of a following and then it became the 'thing to do.' After a while we were playing huge shows. As far as being a legend...I'll take that! I mean who wouldn't want to be recognized for their work and efforts? Metal demands a lot from your life and the rewards do make it all worth while.
|What did you think when Mike decided to keep it up with other musicians under the POSSESSED name?
I liked what he did. But he told me that it just wasn't the same without me and he decided to call it quits instead of starting all over again. They had some good tunes but I guess Mike had too many problems with the new line-up.
There's actually a lot of old bands which are back (NUCLEAR ASSAULT, EXODUS, NASTY SAVAGE and the list goes on). What view do you have about this? Don't you think some dead bands should stay dead?
I think that as long as they can still play they should continue as long as they want! Look at the Rolling Stones...they have staying power (all though I don't like the Stones at all!). I know that Exodus' new stuff is some of the best stuff that they have ever done!! My friend just went to their concert in Texas and said that they were still the best band around. Like wine some bands grow better and better with age.
There's been a lot of different editions of your albums. Do you have an idea how many copies have been sold ?
I haven't the slightest idea. I do know that we were the largest seller at the time for Combat Records. There are people from all over the globe that have contacted me and are listening to my music. I'd like to think hundreds of thousands...but I really don't know.
||There's something I've always been curious about. How did you get Joe Satriani as your producer for 'The Eyes of Horror'? I know he was the guitar teacher for Larry or Mike but that's incredible to imagine this guy producing some extreme Metal. Do you remember how it was to work with him?
Actually it was as easy as just asking him. He was Larry's guitar teacher and I guess that they had become friends so we just asked him and he said, "yes". Joe is a really great guy and a wicked producer. He came up with much of the ideas for effects and production. It was a true honor because as far as I am concerned, Joe is the best guitarist alive.
|That's totally crazy to imagine someone like him producing a Death Metal band. Wonder if this kindda thing would be possible now?
I have no idea. I do hear about Joe doing radio spots and playing gigs though.
Nuclear Blast has recently released a 'Seven Churches' 7" boxset but this limited edition doesn't inclued any additional tracks or information about POSSESSED. Have you been consulted for this release and more generally do you still have a full control on POSSESSED's music?
Actually I was not consulted about this album but it is pretty cool. You will always find people stealing my music and making money off of it. But hey, it's better than not having anyone listening at all ;-).
Let's talk about more recent things now. What about this tribute album ?
Yes, it's called 'The Seven Gates Of Horror'. It was put out by Karmageddon Records recently. It is a bunch of bands that are playing my songs. To me this is truly an honor that other bands are still interested in playing Possessed material. Among other bands it has Cannibal Corpse playing 'Confessions'. I think this album turned out great, I was truly impressed when I heard it.
What was your reaction when the guys from SADISTIC INTENT asked you to sing on their POSSESSED cover? Are you completely satisfied with the final result? How do you manage to keep your voice as it was 15 years ago?
Me and Rick Cortez, Bay and Emilio have become great friends over the years. When they asked me I jumped at the chance! They are great guys and I feel really comfortable jamming with them. Actually this Saturday we are playing a Metal festival in Hollywood with about seven other bands. I am going to sing 'The Exorcist' as a cameo. Dark Funeral (from Sweden) will be playing as well.
Well, I'm not surprised you're friends with SADISTIC INTENT's members because it seems POSSESSED had a huge influence on their music. I'm sure you'll crush several brains during this show. I would sell my soul to see this for real. You'll have to drop me a line about it.
I will definitely tell you how it goes. I am a bit nervous as I haven't played a show in over 10 years!!
||To go back to the tribute, how do you explain 'The Seven Gates of Horror' is the first POSSESSED tribute? I?ve heard about this project a couple of years ago, so do you know why it took so much time before its release ?
Actually it was supposed to be realeased by Sadistic Intent's label but was kind of usurped by the guys at Karmageddon. It is a rough business out there and it is hard to trust anyone for sure.
By the way, which bands surprised you the most? Which one, in your opinion, has perfectly caught the POSSESSED vibe ? (except S.I.)
I loved all the bands and their take on the Possesed materials! I especially liked Cannibal Corpse's version of 'Confessions', they did that song better than I did!!
Yeah this tribute is quite cool but if you ask my opinion I would say there's no better covers than originals versions. (Yes I know I'm talking like an old dickhead)
Yes, but it is always fun to hear songs played differently and in the styles of the different bands
You said you've got a new band now. Lets talk about it. Could you introduce your new project to our readers ?
Actually it is really more of a side project. It is really all in fun. It's called Side Effect and it is kind of a Motorhead-type sounding band. We do not know if and when we will release any more new material, but we have a single out on Agonia Records.
Oh Really? Do you have enough stuff to record an album? Have you started searching a deal? Maybe you should ask to Roadrunner =).
Right now we are just messing around. We are not shopping for a label. We have four songs but really we are just messing around and have no plans for the future.
Is it that easy to play some Metal nowadays while the earth seems to be into nu metal? What kind of look do you have on this nu-wave and on the actual current Death Metal scene?
I think that the scene is making a strong come-back. This I believe is due to the strong committment and dedication of all of the harcore metal fans/musicians and magazines that stuck with it even when the mainstream didn't.
If there was something you could change after all these years in Metal, what would it be ?
I wouldn't change a thing! I have had some great times and still am. These are the best days of my life. I have a great family, great friends, a bit of money and a cool wife. Metal will always be a mainstay in my life.
Do you have some regrets ?
How do you see your musical future ?
I have no idea!! I had a great time out in Hollywood playing with Sadistic Intent (Rick, Bay and Emilio are great guys in a great band!). What the future holds I don't know but I hope that it is good.
What's your actual playlist ? What kind of stuff are you listening to these days ?
To tell you the truth I still listen to all old school stuff. Also I love any Death/Black/Speed Metal that is heavy and fast and real.
Thanks for your time Jeff, good luck with SIDE EFFECT.
Last comments are yours......
As always I would like to send my love to my wife Sheila, my son Jeffrey Jr, and my daughter Sonya (Sonny) Becerra. Also thanks to all the loyal fans that have stuck with me throughout all of the years. And lastly thanks to Sadistic Intent for all of the continued support and friendships.