More than thirty years into your career as a metal musician, what is the thing that keeps you going these days, that motivates you to outdo yourself with every new release? Do you still play metal because you feel an irresistible urge to do so, or do you do it because you feel you should do it, given that you’ve been doing it for the last thirty years?
Gene Palubicki: Not so much has changed with my motivations for continuance in this genre of music since the early times until now. With each new album, project, or song I try to bring something new to the music, while at the same time I want to keep a uniformity of sound from past albums to not utterly alienate anyone who has followed my bands’ works over time. Enough new elements in each new work to keep myself and ideally the listeners interested in it all. I also don’t force myself to be current or hip with what modern things are happening in the genre. It may make what my bands do sometimes seem dated, but it is the most honest way for me to work and attempt to deliver quality material.
There are countless musicians who, despite their best efforts, never develop their unique signature style of playing and find their sound. How difficult it was for you to successfully do both of those things?
Gene Palubicki: I think that my longevity in this genre, or sustained relevance, might be attributed to my openness to employ all influences from music over the years. I am not stubbornly devoted to being identified as specifically death or black with my writing. I just put together what I feel appeals to my ears from all the way back to when I was a young teenager. To me it is not possible to manufacture a successful sound that endures. You can endure if you do not stray from your goals to create what you intend. It is the listeners over time that determine if anything you’ve done is a success.
As far as your personal growth as a human being is concerned, how much of who you are today and what you stand for has been influenced by the fact that you spent the last thirty years of your life playing in death metal bands? What are some of the most important things you learned about yourself during that time?
Gene Palubicki: Ha! It might be the other way around. Over the years to now, I’ve developed leaving notes to myself to remember things and keep things in order. In the last few years, finally, I’ve made it a habit to write down literally everything that comes to mind musically or lyrically. It amazes me that I never practiced this in years past. This practice has enabled me to have surges of creativity that are not lost in the fog of a few days of forgetfulness. I wonder from years past how many riffs and songs were lost from just trying to keep things in memory, and the gone days later in the rush of other things. Over the course of my life this music has been the artistic expression that appeals to me. It is not some sort of rebellion or reaction to elements in my life that keeps me at it, so I am able to maneuver in my regular life activity and musical endeavors in a common way that is not forced.
Is the moniker Malefic Throne a tribute to the pedigree of the band members, in a sense that you see yourselves as some kind of death metal royalties?
Gene Palubicki: We wanted a name that fit the concept of prevailing chaotic darkness and wild wickedness. It did not take long to settle on Malefic Throne as a moniker.
Do you see Malefic Throne as a supergroup whose pedigree was established even before the first riff was written, or a young, hungry band with a chip on its shoulder, that has yet to prove a point?
Gene Palubicki: When we first seriously talked about it amongst ourselves, we knew that whatever it was going to be would somewhat reflect elements known from any of the three other bands in our history. You can never assume something to be a supergroup. The press release liked to use that wording, but surely would not be mine. So we knew we could not ride on any laurels of our past legacy. For my part, I tried to write in a fashion that would maybe favor known things from all three of our members’ pasts, and maybe do some things that are not the sort of things you would immediately expect from songs and riffs that I do. I guess all three of us have been able to take some liberties in Malefic Throne music that is in some way apart from our other active bands. Nothing that would alienate fans of any of our other works, but enough for it to surely be its own thing.
What exactly is the purpose of Malefic Throne, given that all three of you are established musicians with so much on the plate already? What is the thing this band gives you, that others you’re involved with don’t?
Gene Palubicki: For me, it is a great chance to work within a dynamic of an entirely different set of musicians, and to figure out what can make us work in harmony to create as quality a product as we can. It has nothing to do with anything lacking from my other bands. Malefic Throne, and I guess also now Demonized from Mexico, are opportunities for me to operate among musicians with maybe not always the same perspective that I have, and I am able to develop myself further by working with some new people. Just as it is working with my bandmates in Perdition Temple, there are things learned from each other. So never about lacking, more like increasing.
Is Malefic Throne a band with ambition and long term perspective, that could eventually become your main priority? Do you see that as a possibility?
Gene Palubicki: I’ve got every intention for Malefic Throne and Perdition Temple to continue into the long term. A new Perdition Temple release is expected to be out by this summer, and for Malefic Throne I’ve got music written for five new songs already, and expect to develop more so that when we get around to the production of the next release it will be in full-length form. And of course other new beginnings for me, such as my involvement with Demonized, I have intentions to see this grow into the long term as well. Time will reveal where all of this will go.
As a three-headed beast, is Malefic Throne a group of equally important individuals, and would the inner dynamics within the band be considerably altered if one of the members was to leave and be replaced with some other outstanding musician? Would Malefic Throne be the same band with a different line-up?
Gene Palubicki: The three of us in Malefic Throne are in agreement that if any one of us goes, the band would be done. It is the synthesis of the three of us collaborating that dictates the existence of the band’s continuance.
Is there anything about this EP that still keeps you up at night, or do you feel that no stone was left unturned and that you did absolutely everything you could to make it the best it could be?
Gene Palubicki: Ha! There is no demo or album I’ve ever done where in 20/20 crystal clear hindsight there are not many things that make me think oh, I could have done that better as an artist. It is a true thing that any work is never really finished but abandoned, once you’ve reached the most you feel you are capable of with the work at the time. It is only after that time, as you develop artistically and in ability that all of the if I could have, I should have, why didn’t I sort of things come to you. Anyone that does an artistic work and is settled and does not have this feeling sometime after has likely truly given up and does not seek to advance any further.
All your bands past and present are known for their prominent anti-religious sentiments and the underlying message of self-affirmation beneath the layers of impiety. That said, are your preferred narratives a matter of honesty in a way, a metaphorical portrayal of reality, as you see it?
Gene Palubicki: For lyrics, I can only really say that for my own bands’ works where I write them, in Perdition Temple, Blasphemic Cruelty, and Apocalypse Command, there is a balance of factual and fantastical. Real world horrors and events make up a part of my writings, while just as much influence from old tales from texts by Robert E. Howard, H.P. Lovecraft, or Clark Ashton Smith, or even rich horror films and art has an influence on things. Whatever subjects take my interest that I feel can be woven into the type of music being done in these bands is pursued. I know Steve’s lyrics for Malefic Throne may lean a little more to the real but within the lines there can be many ways to take in the subjects presented. You must have a genuine interest in the subjects you choose to use for lyrics, otherwise there is no way you can deliver any appropriate performance of the material. So whether the subject is based in fact or fantasy, you are able to give an honest presentation.
With so much experience when it comes to the craft of making death metal, do you now think that this music is at its very best when it balances between finesse and ferocity, and that dwelling exclusively in any of these two extremes, regardless of the quality of execution, inevitably makes it one-dimensional?
Gene Palubicki: Over the years until now I’ve tried to make an increased contrast in my music writing to shift from wild extremity and fast parts to more crawling and atmospheric sections in creative ways. The skill is to create a sort of uniform overall atmosphere with the music that can maneuver in either way over the course of an album. I’ve attempted my best to do so over the years.
Would you subscribe to the notion that being egotistical in both life and art is actually a desirable trait, and that, for example, you acting humble as it pertains to Malefic Throne could be rightfully considered hypocritical? Do you feel like you’re on top of the world when you play this music, that you’re head and shoulders above everyone else?
Gene Palubicki: I think it is imperative to maintain a sense of self-importance in your approach to creating this material. A sort of applied ego towards doing quality work and delivery for this music and art. Snob-like entitlement, usually from wannabe artists, shows itself in the reverse of this. I don’t think of myself as humble about any of what I do, but I never have any sense of being greater than anyone of my contemporaries or peers. I do look down at what I feel is mundane from artists that I know could do much better, but not the persons themselves. There is always the opportunity for them to achieve greater creativity. Observations of that sort are the things that make you subject yourself to the brain death and endurance tests to stay in the game with this genre of music to ensure you are staying productive with quality.
What about the personalities of Steve Tucker and John Longstreth do you find particularly pleasant and particularly irritating?
Gene Palubicki: I’m sure each of us has traits that may not be entirely in step with each other. It is the ability to focus on the best reasons of why we are interacting that can enable us to go into the long term. Petty disagreements must be left in the dust. These are the sort of tolerances amongst each other you must develop, especially if you are in a band that does tours and a lot of travelling together. This is the territory that can make or break the foundations of a line-up, and should always be addressed with care for any sort of longevity.
Would it be fair to say that now, after more than thirty years of contributing to death metal, be it through Angelcorpse, Perdition Temple, or now Malefic Throne, that venture has in the meantime become somewhat of a necessity? Can you imagine your life without doing this?
Gene Palubicki: I am for sure a committed lifer to all this. And at this stage in my life I cannot foresee a time of not having some new ambition to create some forthcoming work. It would be like giving up and laying down to die.
Looking back at your entire body of work, is there an album that still leaves you with a slightly bitter taste in your mouth, that you feel didn’t quite turn out as you expected, despite your best intentions and the effort you put into it?
Gene Palubicki: Despite it having been the most successful of the Angelcorpse catalog of albums, The Inexorable always has been a sore spot for me because of the way the audio came together on that one. We tried to do part of the recording in a less expensive studio, thinking by having more time would get a better result. It came to be that the material recorded at one studio did not entirely blend right for some technical reasons and resulted in some very painstaking work to get anything to work at all. For me it left a lot to be desired in the end result, especially in the guitar sound overall. I was very happy with the material, just not the audio presentation we ended up with.
Could you name an album you contributed to that still feels flawless despite its age and the fact you are now god knows how many years removed from the entire experience of making and releasing it?
Gene Palubicki: As far as a perfect album in my history? Not a single one!
What was the most difficult period you went through as a musician?
Gene Palubicki: I guess the most challenging period was getting any start in this music as an artist at all. I guess from the time I was capable of playing the guitar and writing riffs around the age of 14, all through my school years, and even after my high school period, I had much difficulty finding like-minded musicians at all. Even those into the most surface level metal music. It was around 1989/1990, around when I was 16 years old, that another guitar player in my hometown of Winona, MN who I went to school with then attempted to make some crude demo material, using a drum machine. Mostly for the purpose of having something to present to other musicians as we tried to acquire a drummer and bass player. All of this was going nowhere for about a year into 1991. We drove about 120 miles from our hometown in the winter of 1991 to attend the Morbid Angel, Unleashed, and Entombed show, part of the Blessed Are The Sick tour. I ran into Pete Sandoval at the event and gave him one of the tapes we had. This tape was the Impiety’s Damnation Of The Holy demo we had, and of course we were at that time oblivious to the band from Singapore with the same name. Anyways, some months go by into the following year 1992, a phone call comes to me from the Tampa, FL area. It was Aantar Coates, who had previously been part of the Exmortis band here in the USA. He had heard our demo from Pete of Morbid Angel. He contacted me about whether I was willing to move to Tampa from my hometown and attempt to start a band. So I sold off most of my personal items I could sacrifice to make the trip on a wing and a prayer. I went broke in Tampa within about four or so months there and needed to basically flee back home to my home state of Minnesota. Aantar came along with me, and I think in late 1992 we made the Impiety’s Despondent Ecstasies demo. In the months that followed rolling into 1993 nothing was happening, no labels interest, no shows that we could get, due to our location being over 100 miles from the nearest cities that would host metal shows, and promoters knew nothing of our existence. So eventually, Aantar returned to his home state of Maryland and pursued other projects over the years to follow. From 1993 through 1995 was basically a sort of purgatory period for me as I had to either start again from zero to find any other people to work with, or simply give the whole thing up. From back around 1991, from a tape given to members of Order From Chaos at a show in Milwaukee Metalfest 1991, I had been for some years exchanging pen pal letters with Pete Helmkamp, their bassist and vocalist. We had been out of touch from somewhere in 1993 and all through into 1995. It was by chance that Bill Taylor, who would a few years later become a member of Angelcorpse, was at a small metal festival in the capital city in my home state of Minnesota playing with his band Xenomorph. He was walking around the venue handing out paper flyers for stuff, he didn’t know me at all, but he approached and handed me some stuff. One of the flyers was an advert for the Plateau Of Invincibility 10” from Order From Chaos. It was a surprise to see some new activity from the band, and since I had not been in touch with Pete for some time, it would be a chance to order the new record and get back in touch. When I got the record in the mail some weeks later, He included a long letter detailing that the band had done this 10” and also recorded a second full-length album, and then decided to end the band. I was pretty much out of options in my home state to find band members, and I was a big fan of the Stillbirth Machine album from Order From Chaos, so I wrote back to discuss possibly leaving my home state again and venturing to Kansas City, MO to attempt a new band. We agreed to give it a try, and about one year after I lived there in Kansas City, we recorded the debut Angelcorpse demo. So, the about five year period I described here was probably the bleakest, until things began to surge upon the entrance of Angelcorpse into the metal music community.
On the other hand, what were some of the most satisfying moments?
Gene Palubicki: Of course getting that early album deal for the Angelcorpse debut album, writing the songs for it, and the first outing into a professional recording studio was quite a thrill! I think the next best thrill for an album was the mixing of the Perdition Temple’s Sacraments Of Descension album. Mixing was done with Jarrett Pritchard at his studio in Orlando, FL. It was fantastic to mix an album with a person who was from our same age group and had been a part of the metal scene for as long as we have. I did not need to explain every little detail like you would at so many other studios. It is a huge benefit to work with people that are on the same page as you. I think the two biggest and wildest highlights, aside from the albums, were the seven weeks long 1999 Angelcorpse tour in Europe with Marduk, and the six weeks long 2019 tour in USA for Perdition Temple, supporting Cannibal Corpse. Greatest memories from these times!
It’s probably fair to say that the underground scene keeps death metal vital and thriving more than any new album by any of the genre’s most established bands does. Could you name some of the younger bands that you feel are particularly noteworthy?
Gene Palubicki: For sure there are always new bands that have great merit. There are always going to be younger bands emerging from the underground to create quality music in this genre. Over maybe even the last decade or so there have been some great highlights for me. Ascended Dead, Omega Vortex, Sijjin, Hexorcist, Magnanimvs, or Force Of Darkness, just to name a few off the top of my head.
Even though the world is and has always been an immensely miserable and hostile place to live, most people cannot overcome the burning desire to believe in some higher power. What is at the bottom of that irrational impulse?
Gene Palubicki: I think overall, those belief systems are a desperate groping for the hope of making mortality that much easier to swallow. So when on their deathbeds they can fantasize of some better life? Usually those who are attracted to these belief systems are the ones leading unproductive and quite negative lives. So I really have nothing in common with them.
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