Interview: Gregadeth

If you’ve followed this blog for any length of time, you know that Greg DiPasquale is a regular contributor here. We’ve talked about a full length/focused interview with him for about two years and it’s finally time unveil it. In a time when we all need a little distraction from the heartache of the past month, let’s get dirty with one of Buffalo metal’s best and brightest:

Mike Marlinski: How old were you when you started playing guitar?

Greg DiPasquale: I was 11. My first lesson was in July of 1993.

MM: What/Who prompted you to pick up the guitar?

GD: Eddie Van Halen, Bill S. Preston Esq., Ted “Theodore” Logan.

MM: What make/model was your first guitar?

GD: It was an Omni 6 string acoustic.

MM: How many guitars do you own now?

GD: I have 6. 7 if you count the ukulele as being guitarish enough.

MM: Which one is your favorite?

GD: I have 3 favorites: A Washburn acoustic that was a high school
graduation gift from my aunt, a Gibson Flying V, and an ESP Labatt.

MM: Do you play any other instruments?

GD: I can mess around on bass, ukulele, and if you let me hit a keyboard
or piano long enough I’ll come up with something pseudo listenable.

MM: If Seplophile could open a 4-5 band dream show, who would be on that show?

GD: Well, I’m big on context, so the dream gig for Seplophile might not be
my overall dream gig, but I think Seplophile opening for a tour
package of Dark Angel/Napalm Death/Cannibal Corpse would be pretty
swell.

MM: Name your first band and talk about a few of your songs.

GD: My first band was called Bottomless Pit. I only remember two song
titles: “War”, and “Peace of Mind.” I was in the band during 7th grade
and got kicked out because I didn’t want to play Nirvana covers. The
’90s were rough for metal kids haha.

MM: Talk about a few bands that first got you into metal.

GD: Well, I can’t dismiss stuff like hardcore or grindcore as they’ve been
fairly important as well, but since you’re asking ’bout metal, I’ll
just address that. Considering the year I was born (1982), I guess my
falling in love with metal was kind of unorthodox simply because it
was more akin to the way a generation before me would have done it. I
kind of evolved with the genre years after it already had. I started
with hard rock stuff like Van Halen, Def Leppard, Kiss, then gradually
went to stuff like Black Sabbath, Ozzy, Dio, Maiden, Priest, Savatage.
Then from there “The Big 4”, Testament, Overkill, Exodus, Dark Angel,
and other thrash stuff, then after that the dark doors of death and
black metal opened up and there you have it, pretty much up to speed.
That all took place from about 1992-2003. After that, it was all about
catching up on everything I missed out on in each, peeling away each
layer of each onion.

MM: Which is your preferred subgenre of metal now and what is your reason for it?

Tough to narrow down to just one, but I’d say you’re most likely to
catch me listening to either: classic metal, thrash/speed metal, or
death metal at any given time. There’s just something about the hustle
that the best of all three of those subgenres tend to share, an
attitude that’s timelessly defiant and fearless. It’s something that
gets in your blood and becomes a part of you before you even have a
chance to know what you’re listening to.

MM: Talk about your favorite shows/moments in Herod and Sons of Azrael.

Well, we’d been discussing having this discussion for at least a month
or two so I was looking forward to reminiscing a little, but with the
events of the last couple weeks in the rearview, lots of these memories
have taken on an even more profound importance in my life, so i’m glad
you still asked. These bands meant, and mean, a lot to me. They were
the bands that I was most active with, and thus probably have the most
memories from. It’s tough to separate the show from the moment though,
I consider them pretty much one in the same, so I’ll just segment my
thoughts on the two groups:

1. Joining Herod was huge because it was a badly needed boost to my
confidence, and ability, as a guitarist. This was a band that: A) I
really liked. B) had a record deal. C) toured. B, and C aren’t important
to me if A isn’t part of the equation, but if it is, it’s a big time
bonus. Playing guitar with Jesse (Benker) was/is really like riding a
roller coaster that goes upside down, with no harness. He plays in the
most unorthodox way and it forced me to constantly up my game. There
was also a kind of outcast vibe with Herod that I enjoyed. Playing
’80s styled metal in 2004-2006 wasn’t sexy then like it is now, and
thus we weren’t very popular in North America. However, when someone
did get it, you knew that you were probably of a like mind, so you had
an instant connection, which was cool. Also big with Herod was I got
to hit the road and make an album (Rich Man’s War, Poor Man’s Fight).
I kind of joined the band in process of writing the album so I really
didn’t figure to be in the equation too much, but to my surprise I
wrote probably half the record, Jesse writing the other half
obviously. It was a lot of fun, a lot of work, and a lot of
disappointment when it ended right after it came out haha. I was in
Herod with 6 other people during my stints of 04-06 and 08-11, and I
still talk to all of them, but the chemistry and friendship with Mike
(Jeffers), Jesse and Matt (Backlas) is something incredibly special
that I’m very thankful for.

2. One door closes, another opens. I wasn’t a free agent for long after
Herod split in June 2006, Sons of Azrael picked me up in August 2006.
These memories I hold even closer now since half the people I share
them with are no longer alive. I knew the guys, to varying degrees,
before I joined, and it was apparent that there was a bond between the
four of them that was pretty deep. They had cut their band teeth
together and that’s something that really brings people together, and
it’s tough to wedge into that mid process, but those guys really made
me feel part of the family relatively quick. As you know we did quite
a bit during my tenure. Tons of shows, an album, and another ton of
shows. I always thought we could’ve accomplished more, but there’s
1,000 bands that would’ve killed for what we had so I can’t really
bitch. I’m happy and proud of what we did. There’s a bunch of great
moments I can refer to but the one that sticks out the most as one of
my favorites would be the 2007 New England Metal/Hardcore Fest. As a
Metal Blade affiliated band, we were scheduled to play the day of the
fest strictly for Metal Blade bands, headlined by Cannibal Corpse. We
played, and although we were relatively unknown, we went down alright.
After our slot we kind of milled around the rest of the day nursing
our absolutely brutal hangovers from the night before (that’s another
story), but we knew where we would be at the end of the night. The
time came for Cannibal Corpse to go on and we assumed our spots on the
floor. 5 Buffalo kids in an upstart metal band that had just played
the same fest, standing in a row seeing the ultimate Buffalo metal
band, the dream, right in front of us on stage. I just remember
thinking it was an awesome moment.

MM: Which is your favorite Herod album and why?

GD: For Whom The Gods Would Destroy. It was unique at the time for both
Buffalo, and the U.S.A, and is really underrated in the grand scheme
of things. It was familiar without being overtly derivative, but it
was fresh sounding, primarily because of Judah’s vocals. I joined the
band because of that album. It’s aged real well and I still listen to
it.

MM: What’s going on with the new Seplophile record?

GD: Right now we have like 4 songs. I really miss the prevalence of 8 or 9
song albums in metal, so I’m hoping to get at most, 5 more songs done
and then we’ll be good to record.

MM: Do you have any other projects waiting in the wings?

GD: Maybe….

MM: Awhile back, there was a rumor you were going to step away from Seplophile.

GD: Yeah, I was gonna jet at the end of last year. Around the summer of
2014, I just started to lose the fire a little bit. And by “a little
bit”, I mean “a ton”. I was about to have my first kid and I’m sure
some of the anxiety/anticipation/excitement involved in that played a
part, but overall the riff/song reservoir just dried up for me. Then
in early 2015, the wheels just came off. Colin quit, Matt wasn’t far
behind him, and I wasn’t really in the right headspace to pick up the
slack that I needed to get us back on track. I had some other personal
stuff going on in the summer of 2015 that just made my attitude even
more apathetic, and I just couldn’t find the desire to care about band
happenings. So we limped into 2016, and though I wasn’t feeling the
band really, I hate unfinished business, so I spoke to Al (Malkiewicz)
and Shawn (Gomez) about a plan to do an EP, and at the end of the year
I would leave and they’d continue on with someone else. Colin was
interested in coming back for vocals and Joe Leising was into joining
the ranks on guitar as well ,so we had a lineup, and a plan in place.

MM: Now, you’re focused and kicking the Sep into overdrive. Why the change of heart?

Well, what’s that they say about the best laid plans? I can remember
the exact moment I changed my mind, it was late October 2016 and at
practice the guys were throwing around ideas of people to try out, and
someone was mentioned that is a very good guitarist, but their style
of music is just, ughh, awful. It would’ve ruined the band to even
remotely flirt with anything like that stylistically. I don’t know if
that conversation ate at my subconscious all night or what, but I woke
up the next day with new riffs IMMEDIATELY in my head. I’m suspicious
if the guys knew what to say to get me to stick around and just made
something up, but it worked haha. I found something else to say and
Seplophle is the vehicle best suited to drive those points home. So,
onward we go until I run out of things for good.

MM: What is your ultimate goal for Seplophile, in terms of juggling family
and music?

Obviously, family comes first. We all have jobs, wives/girlfriends,
other bands, kids etc. so it can get a little tricky for us to align
the stars at times as far as scheduling goes, so we do the best we can
to make it happen. As of right now, our goal is to play out every now
and then and keep making music we think is good for as long as we can.
Whether that’s one more album or five, I don’t know. The goal is
quality, not quantity.

MM: You obviously love death metal with a fierce passion. Name your first
death metal loves, those that fell off the wagon and those who stuck
with you. Then, talk about death metal bands you feel are
overrated/underrated.

GD: Well, I first got into death metal when I was 19, though I had flirted
with it a little bit before that by way of some of the stuff Testament
was doing at that point. And like I said before, I started with death
metal like someone that got into it once it became a thing. Death,
Celtic Frost, Possessed, Pestilence, Obituary, Carcass, Napalm Death,
Cannibal Corpse, Malevolent Creation, Suffocation, Immolation,
Deicide, the essentials, the “starter kit” if you will. From there I
dug deeper and found LOTS more awesomeness too numerous to all name
here. I can’t really say any death metal band I’ve ever liked has ever
“fallen off the wagon” with me in a general sense, but I will say some
bands I just don’t really need to hear new music from anymore. I guess
that’s a way of falling of the wagon haha, but none have to the point
where it became a “fuck that band even when they were cool” scenario.
That said, I’m very much in favor of those bands continuing to make
new albums because one of them could easily end up being someone
else’s “first death metal album” and blow their respective genitalia
off like mine was when I was younger. It helps circulate some new
blood and that’s essential to the survival of any scene, it helps push
it forward for generations to come. As far as being underrated, I’m
sure I’ll think of more as soon as I send this off to you, but off the
top of my head I’d have to say: Exhumed, Baphomet, Embalmer, Internal
Bleeding, Monstrosity, Dismember (yes, I do think they’re underrated),
Sadistic Intent, Rottrevore, Edge Of Sanity, Morpheus Descends all
come to mind.

Now, these are bands that lots of people in the underground are aware of but maybe not so much to those that dance with the genre at only the surface level. Also, I’d like to throw in
Immolation. They’re highly touted, but they can never be touted high
enough for me. They are truly unique, and even to this day their new records still
sound fresh and vital. They are true giants.

As far as overrated bands are concerned, even ones that are probably considered overrated are ones I like. I’ve always wondered why a band like Sorrow was signed to Roadrunner and
bands that were way better like Eternal Torment only did a demo and
two 7 inches, but I still own Sorrow albums because they’re still
alright. I guess the best one I can think of, and it’s kind of a no
brainer, but I absolutely don’t see the appeal of Six Feet Under.
First record just sounded like Obituary with Chris Barnes and it went
downhill from there. Apparently they sell records, but I
don’t know anyone that has them. Maybe they’re sold in bulk to South
America where they sent all the Sabres and Bills championship shirts
after they lost? I don’t know. Anyway, I love death metal, you have to
be really bad at it for me to not find something even remotely
endearing about it, and to me it’s the underground subgenre with the
most creative possibilities. It’s not for everyone, it’s not supposed
to be, and I hope it never is.

MM: When it comes to the local scene, who do you have your eye on? What
would you like to see/hear more/less of in local Buffalo metal?

GD: Was VERY excited once Nethergrave got going, we were getting kind of
thin on the death metal side of things and they’ve given it a solid
kick in the ass. As far as who else I’m looking at, well as always the
bands that’ve been kicking around for most of the last 7 years (Cain,
Hellcannon, Hubris, Enthauptung). Also the last few years have brought
about the more melodic stuff like Orius & The Last Reign, which is
cool to have around. Kenny & Gus Brand have a couple cool bands too.
We have a pretty broad palate here, so there’s always something cool
musically going on. I would like to hear some classic ’80s metal at
some point in the future though, who knows…

I’m sure everyone could do with less drama. It seems like 98% of the
time it’s social media based, and it’s completely embarrassing. We’re
not a particularly young scene, like everyone’s between the ages of
24-50, so I think that makes it worse because no one’s young enough to
really have an excuse for it. No scene, no drama, know drama, know
scene. You can’t have one without it, so I’ll take the occasional speed
bump if it means we’ll still have sick bands here to enjoy.

MM: Talk about The Conjuration of Vengeance vs Scouting the Boneyard.
Which you prefer, stronger points, weaker points, etc.

GD: “Scouting” is much better, in my opinion. “Conjuration” was largely
written by Tony from the ages 16-20 and while the songs are good on
that album, by the time he had gotten to “Scouting” he had matured
into his style as a writer and found his true voice for Sons Of
Azrael. Like almost everyone when you’re a young songwriter,
influences are worn brightly on the sleeves, and the older and better
you get the sleeves inevitably fade a little. Frankly, I think
“Conjuration” could’ve been a little better if we had a little more
time to write before we hit the studio. When I joined in August 2006,
everything that was on the debut album was already written except for
“Scent of a Dead Whore”, “Sweet Blasphemy”, and “Turn That Crown
Upside Down”. “Scent” was a tune I wrote, and Tony and I worked on the
music for the other two together, more so on “Crown” than “Blasphemy”.
I think if we had written one more song it would’ve been a better fit
for the album than a song like “The Wrath” which was kind of out of
favor in the band by that point. We played that song at maybe my first
few shows, then as far as I know, the band never played it live ever
again.

So, now fast forward two years- I remember when Tony was
working on “Scouting” you could tell he was hitting his stride. He was
also excited to have some new blood in the 2nd guitar and drum
position, as he was getting some new & different inspiration from it.
When Tony played me rough mixes of the album, I was blown away. As I
was listening I was thinking that I maybe fucked up by quitting, but
then I realized it never would’ve been that good if I had stuck
around. He was in the zone for that album. He didn’t really need help,
it was all in his head and he knew how to transfer it to his fingers
now. The sad thing is the album never really got a chance to breathe,
because the band broke up I think the week it came out.  But yeah, you
can’t have a 2nd album without a 1st and  The Conjuration of Vengeance
was the foundation for the tower of power that is  Scouting The
Boneyard.

MM: Going back to Threebelow/From This Day, talk about your favorite
moments with those guys. Favorite songs/shows/parties, etc.

GD: It’s weird to even think of myself being in those bands because I was
in one for only the very end, and the other one for only the very
beginning. It’s like I crossed paths with them at that specific moment
to help bridge them into a new band/sound and once that was done, we
didn’t really need each other anymore haha. As you know it was the
same band in personnel, just with a different name and style.
Honestly, it was a tough but beneficial experience for me because it
was my first “serious” band. I had never heard of Threebelow before I
had tried out, and by that time they were more of a hardcore/metalcore
band. It was a little out of my wheelhouse but not by much. I figured
my style could work into it. It wasn’t until a few months in that I
was made aware that they had a nu metal-ish kind of phase a few years
before and that’s when I started to see that no matter what we were
doing, the band was marked and people couldn’t, or wouldn’t, look passed
that. I didn’t care about what they were before me, Fred, Al, and Dave
were all fans of the same death metal I was listening to, but I was
definitely trying to push them in a more aggressive direction and they
were not ready to give me the reins and give up the Threebelow ghost
yet, and I couldn’t blame them one bit. It was frustrating for me to
not really be able to contribute, but they had 5 years under their
belts with that brand and were reticent to just throw it all away to
start over. I wanted to be able to succeed under that name as well,
more for their sake, but it was obvious that it wasn’t going to
happen.

The year I was in Threebelow was a complete disaster, ask any
of those guys and they’ll tell you the same. It was just one mistake
after another, it was almost comical. Looking back, I’m glad it was so
awful because any good that came afterwards I appreciated much more. I
shouldn’t say it was 100% shitty, because I did have fun with the guys
generally. There were also some fun shows & parties (almost all of them
involved the band Phaetasm), and it allowed me to pretty much meet
lifelong friends and everyone I would end up being in a band with over
the next 15 years, so it’s hard to truly chalk it up as a total loss,
but boy is it close… haha.

Anyway, so eventually the writing on the
wall became a blinking neon sign and we had to change. Enter a new
name, blast beats all the time, heavier breakdowns, & just a faster,
more aggressive band in general. It was legit, it was pure. We were so
truly angry and naturally full of “fuck you” from the year before that
I think people felt it and our fortunes changed almost instantly. I
wrote a lot of the initial From This Day stuff and thus what
ultimately ended up being like half of the “Proverbs of Ashes” album.
Eventually though, a few members started putting the creative shackles
back on, and I just couldn’t deal with that again. That timed itself
with interest in me from Herod, so I quit. I was young, and I probably
didn’t do it in the most “professional” way, so they were pretty
pissed, but it was another good learning experience for sure.

MM: That’s about all I can think of now. If you’re up to it, for shits and giggles, try and write out a “band timeline” for yourself.

GD: Bottomless Pit: 1995
Threebelow: 2003
From This Day: 2004
Herod: 2004-2006
Sons Of Azrael: 2006-2008
Herod: 2008-2011
Seplophile: 2010- current

MM: Finally, How does your family feel about your “metal habit”?

GD: amily has always been cool with it. They just wanted to see me be
happy. I think they were concerned in that classic parental way a
little bit once I started leaving for days and weeks at a time, and
especially when one of those trips ended up with law enforcement
getting involved, but that’s a story for another time haha. Other than
that though, I think that while it might not have been their ideal
choice of lifestyle for me as an adult, they supported that I had a
dream and a goal and that I was busting my ass to chase it.

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