Noisey/Vice recently asked us some questions about the origins of Death Rites.
Read the original full interview by Tim Scott (Noisey) below.
What’s the story behind the zine?
Death Rite zine was something I did while in high school – late 1988 to 1990/1. My friends and I were getting further and further into metal and skating and seeing none of us had any real talent for playing instruments haha a zine seemed like a likely step.
It was all done through letter writing and the postal service. You’d reach out to a band or a band would write you with their demo tape. Band interviews were sent to them through the mail and a month or so later the answers would appear in your post box. Sometimes a lot longer…
The zine ran band interviews and features, demo and record reviews, and scene reports mostly. It was heavily based on death metal, thrash/crossover and grindcore coming up in the late 1980’s. Over the course of the zine we ran stuff on many bands including Nocturnus, Benediction, Morbid, OxLxD, Autopsy, Nihilist, Righteous Pigs, Mayhem, E.N.T, Soothsayer, Bloodcum, Sindrome, too many to list/remember. You’d basically run something on any band that sent you stuff.
The zine was mainly traded for other zines and sold through a couple local metal/punk record stores in Sydney.
How many issues did you do?
I made and released two issues and kinda a third that never got made. It was obviously super lo-fi by today’s standards. The zine was typed on A4 sheets on my mum’s typewriter then laid out and glued onto a folded A3 booklet which was then photocopied at my parent’s work. Any spare space on a page you’d draw something or stick a zine or band flyer. Each issue took 6-12 months mainly due to how long it took corresponding via mail.
Most of the bands and other tape traders found you from classified ads in bigger magazines like Metal Forces or other zines and fanzine review sections. Metal Forces had a ‘Penbangers’ section where you’d list your favourites bands and address. People would read these ads and write you to trade tapes/correspond.
Like all the zines, I’d send out small business card size Death Rites flyers with all letters that would then get passed on like chain mail as that person sent out letters. It was pretty primitive way of advertising but it got out there…
Do you have a favourite issue or interview?
Dead from Mayhem/Morbid. Maybe Autopsy because I was such a Death fan.
This was before the internet and soudcloud and zip files.? Bands would send you physical tapes to your PO Box in Gladesville?
Yeah this was the days of tape trading and letter writing. Zines and tape trading kinda went hand in hand. Tape trading was basically the analog version of file sharing. You would trade lists with other people from around the world.
It worked like this - I’d receive a tape trader list from someone and that list would detail all the tapes he had for trade - Band name, what type of tape it was be it demo tape, live recording or rehearsal, duration of title and grading of recording. You’d take this list of his and select the titles you wanted that would fit on a 60 or 90 minute blank cassette and send off a letter requesting the titles you listed. He’d dub these onto a cassette and send back to you that you’d then add to your list to trade in future. In turn he’d have my tape trader list and request titles from me that I would then record and send.
The PO Box in Gladesvile was my dad’s work one. Over time he had to get a larger PO Box to accommodate all the mail I was getting.
I was getting so much mail and spending a lot on stamps so you’d always ask people you sent letters and packages to to send your stamps back. A punk kid had shown me how to lacquer a stamp so when it came back you could wipe the postal mark off and re-use. It was pretty common practice and saved you loads of money on stamps…
What do you love about the phyicalality of demo tapes?
Its similar to a record. Its great to hold something tangible in your hand. To collect something. Also the artwork I think is important and something that kinda gets lost/overlooked now with downloads and iTunes. Also, thank you lists! I would pour over thank you lists looking for new bands to investigate. Thank you lists and liner notes were a super common way of discovering new bands pre-internet.
The designs are often crude and hand drawn. Would you get suss if a demo looked a bit too pro?
So many of the demos were through tape trading so you might not have ever seen the original version. There were definitely bands that sent proper band bios, studio recorded demos, had management etc.. Demolition Hammer sticks out as sending super pro studio recorded tapes with artwork, band pictures and press. Some bands self released their LP’s or EP’s also. Mostly though the demo’s were pretty crude tape dubs, recorded on 4 track mixers or worse and very DIY. I think you were stoked if you got something in the mail that was professional looking. The whole tape trader/zine scene was pretty underground but I remember trying/wanting to make the zine look as professional as possible.
A lot of them were themed around skulls, death and nuclear war. Was that the main themes of the time?
For sure. Many thrash bands from that era dealt with social and political themes, nuclear war etc… as did a lot of the early grindcore bands. Many of the first and second wave death metal bands either pushed more gore based imagery – Repulsion, Autopsy, Death or anti-religious/occult type art from bands like Morbid Angel and Deicide.
I was into bands like Nocturnus and Bolt thrower use of fantasy/sci-fi imagery also.
All the art for Death Rites today kinda works off these ideas. My good mate, UK illustrator French, draws all the original art for Death Rites along these lines.
Metal has always been international. Where did the demos come from?
The demos were from all types of places. You’d get mail from Eastern Bloc Europe, South America, Japan – all over. Inmates in jail a couple times.
Many zines ran ‘scene reports’ where you could read about a particular city or country scene. Most of the zines due to geography would feature local bands. For example - F.E.T.U zine (Far East Thrashcore Union) out of Japan really pushed a lot of local bands from their scene – Casbah, Outrage, Raging Fury, Systematic Death etc… Pre internet this was really one of the only ways you could hear about these different local scenes and bands.
What was the local scene like at the time? Did you have have a fave band?
The local scene was cool. In Sydney a lot centred around Utopia Records when they were in Chalice Arcade Martin Place and Waterfront Records for more punk and hardcore. Both those shops sold the Death Rite zine.
In Sydney Mortal Sin were big, Armoured Angel from Canberra would come up to play. A bunch of the Waterfront Records bands would play underage shows - Massappeal, Hellmenn, Hard Ons, Spunk Bubbles. Melbourne and Perth had rad scenes for metal also.
Locally i was really into Massappeal and then Sadistik Execution as I got more into extreme stuff. Sadistik Execution were big in the tape trade scene and highly regarded overseas. I got a lot of letters for their live tapes and demos but never got to interview them unfortunately.
Tough question but did you have fave demo?
The first two Nihilist tapes – Premature Autopsy and Only Shreds Remain. Nihilist went on to become Entombed. Being a big Danny Lilker/Nuclear Assault fan the first Brutal Truth demo. Morbid – December Moon demo. Anything coming out of Florida.
Though I didn’t own an original copy the first Death demo is so brutal, maybe that one. That demo and their first album were very influential for me and really pushed me deeper into that scene. Also, but not officially a demo, Morbid Angel’s then un-released LP/bootleg ‘Abominations Of Desolation’ tape. I literally played that tape til it wore out.
Where are the demos now?
Some of them must be valuable now? Have you priced/valued them? What is the most expensive in you collection?
I have managed to keep a bunch over the years. Many are long gone. Given away, lost, thrown out. Most were at my parents until a couple years ago.
Also many were tape trader dubs not originals. I’m told some are worth a bit now but to be honest I’m not really across what they’re worth. Maybe the Nihilist ones. Or Entombed. I do keep an eye out for zines from that era online – they go for big dollars now.
How has Death Rites influenced Supply?
Maybe a little the other way. Having done Supply for 15 years part of what I have learnt there I guess has influenced how I approach Death Rites. Though the idea for the Death Rites brand stuff came about after seeing one of my original Death Rite flyers in the (excellent) Metalion: Slayer Mag Diaries book the basic idea for Death Rites was to make a small line that could sit in the shop next to the brands we carry.
Its rad that a project that’s really just fun and paying tribute to that time can mean something to the people that buy it and be stocked and sold in some great shops globally like Supreme, Union and Dover Street.
In saying that, looking back over the history of Supply I would say the DIY idea that Death Rites comes from has and does influence the culture around the Supply shop and what we do there.
At the time skateboarding was big into speed metal. Do you have a fave video from that time that featured metal?
Skateboarding was what led me into metal and hardcore for sure. In those days this style of music and skateboarding went hand in hand. Thrasher magazine was really important (and hard to get back then) – it had record reviews, band adverts and most importantly the Puszone section. Puszone was Pushead’s column in Thrasher where he’d write about bands and releases. Puszone definitely influenced many of the first albums and tapes that I bought from this genre of music.
I vividly remember reading Thrasher then going out and buying my first Suicidal Tendencies tape – Join The Army. The following week I bought the first Excel tape Split Image and Exodus Bonded by Blood. From there I’d basically try and buy as many releases as I could afford. Thrasher’s Skate Rock tape series was also really influential.
But to answer the original question, my favourite skate videos from that era – Santa Cruz’s 'Wheels Of Fire' and 'Streets Of Fire’ didn’t so much feature metal but more punk/hardcore that I was also getting into – Firehose, Eight Dayz A Week, JFA, Minutemen, Blast.