Least Worst Option
is the new and independently operated media review project of long-time Masterful Magazine scribe Wouter Roemers. He will remain with us, while doing his own project. The goal is to cover metal records, both old and new, in greater length and detail on comparison to the more compact reviews people have come to expect here. Least Worst Option will cover mostly metal records, but will occasionally venture into pop territory to keep things interesting, coverage of old and new video games is something to be found there as well. Check out all of this and more at www.leastworstoption.com
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interview by - Wouter Roemers
Amon was the band headed up by the Hoffman brothers before teaming up with Glen Benton and Steve Asheim. In 2007 the name was dusted off as Eric and Brian sought new members to resurrect their original band/vision. With a complete line-up, a new album with "Liar In Wait" and a kick ass video for ‘Among Us’ - there was incentive enough for Masterful Magazine to seek contact with ringleader/lead guitarist Eric Hoffman. After many delays and setbacks we finally caught up with Eric to pick his brain on the interesting history of the unit and their part in the early Tampa, Florida scene. Frankly, one can’t shake the impression that Hoffman just doesn’t care one bit about thoroughly promoting his band, label or new record. Many of the short answers he gives sound obligatory, forced and dangerously unenthusiastic. Moreover, they reek of disinterest, annoyance and general apathy.
In the interest of full disclosure, we decided to publish this interview "as-is"; with minimal editing and touch-ups from our side, to give our readership the most honest representation of what Amon stands for. Alas, anybody looking to find new information on this re-emerging and promising Tampa death combo, better look elsewhere...
Hi there! Thanks for doing this interview with us! An in-depth interview with Amon was long overdue here, as we here at Masterful Magazine have the utmost respect for old ambassadors of the international death – and black metal scene. I hope you’re in the mood to tell us about your musical undertakings - past, present and future...
Amon was formed in Tampa, Florida in 1987 under the name Carnage by you and your brother. Carnage was a pure heavy metal band in tradition of Judas Priest and Iron Maiden. Tell us something about the band’s line-up (who was in it besides the two of you. In "Behind the Scars" Andy and Ron are mentioned) and what you did during the band’s very short lifespan? Were there a lot of local shows and what led to Carnage becoming Amon?
We did some covers with the two you mentioned then hired Glen for bass and had a vocalist named Joe. He did not phrase right, so we decided to let Glen sing. No shows until Amon was formed.
Amon, the band that rose out of the remains of Carnage, was heavily influenced by Destruction, Sodom, Venom, Bathory, Mayhem, Possessed, Death, Autopsy and Slayer. Could you give us a brief overview of the highpoints and challenges you faced during these early days? What do you recall from the early days of the Tampa/Florida scene – were there any events or happenings that stand out in your memory?
Those are great bands, learn and observe. Stuffing mannequins with guts, hanging them, then sacrificing them. Chopping them up for the fans.
Amon eventually transformed into Deicide and went to have a stable career that lasted for 15 years, with two genre classics and a number of solid later albums. Looking back in hindsight to the Deicide days – what are the things you are most proud of and what are the things you wished wouldn’t have happened?
Most proud of giving the fans some brutal music. What I would of not like to have happened, Glen taking all the royalties for "Scars". All publishing and royalties are always split 4 ways. Glen Benton is obligated to send us our royalties for "Scars". He took it upon himself to have Earache Records send all royalties and publishing to Glen Benton.
Around the release of "Scars Of the Crucifix", there were talks of a new project between you and your brother, which remained unnamed at the time. Was there any material that you had written (individually/collectively) for the project that eventually was integrated into this new Amon album?
No, there was no new material. We were observing, getting riffs together.
In November 2004 you split with Deicide, allegedly over publishing rights, contractual disputes, royalties and growing animosity within the ranks. Deicide carried on almost overnight, while you and your brother disappeared from the metal scene for a number of years. What were the two of you doing during this time period? Working a daytime job, enjoying civilian life while writing new material and plotting the eventual resurgence of Amon, I assume?
Brian builds guitars, I run the label. Enjoying life, writing, yes resurrection of Amon.
What were your feelings when it was announced that your own guitar teacher Ralph Santolla was hired as one of the replacements for the vacant slots left by you and your brother? Are you still on good terms with Ralph Santolla at this point?
He gave me two guitar lessons for a Marshall cab. He still owes me some lessons. No problem, other than some lessons, or some cash. You have the Internet to be your teacher. You can learn all the scales and modes, all the tabs. It is awesome. That is your new teacher, the computer.
In 2005 there was briefly talk of Eric Hoffman joining Unholy Ghost, the band formed by sacked Diabolic members. At one point there was even talk of pre-production happening on the band’s proposed (but never recorded) second album "Blasphemy Of the Grand Divine". Understandably, there was lots of excitement and confusion. What exactly happened back then?
They tried out members and offered. I had other duties to work with Brian and get Amon going.
Talk us through the process of quitting Deicide, reforming Amon and how you went about getting back on your feet, artistically. It must have been quite difficult, I imagine. You probably had to acquire a new rehearsal studio, set up all the contacts in the industry, plus finding new members and teaching them all the Amon material already written.
No one quit Deicide. We split all royalties and publishing, or no deal. He/Glen wrote one song, musically, ‘Trifixion’, then I arranged it, in his whole career and one part in ‘Dead by Dawn’. Yes, very brutal.
I remember in 2007, in the early days of the Amon reformation, there was talk of possibly using the Deicide moniker for the unit. What were the reasons for dusting off the Amon moniker for the new unit? Was it due to litigations and/or copyright reasons from Benton/Asheim and their reshuffled incarnation of that earlier band?
Who ever got in commerce first touring. No we hired Glen, we had the songs before he was even the band.
The new Amon line-up is certainly an interesting one. Frontman Jessy Jolly cut his teeth with Florida stalwarts Diabolic (and its side-project Blastmasters) and grindcore unit Success Will Write Apocalypse Across the Sky. Drummer Mike Petrak also briefly was part of SWWAATS. What about these guys in particular led you to working with them? I understand you had some trouble finding a suitable frontman.
Yes, Brian brought them to me to work with.
I assume Eric and Brian are the main songwriters in Amon. What were Jolly’s and Petrak’s contributions to the material that can be heard on "Liar In Wait"? How important do you see their contributions becoming on future Amon material?
We will see.
"Liar In Wait" was recorded at Red Room Recorders with Mark Prator. The production is vintage old school Florida in its overall unpolishedness. In today’s climate of lifeless, flat-sounding sterile production jobs a welcome breath of fresh air. In the past you always recorded at Morrissound, what prompted the change of studios? Are you happy the way the whole thing finally sounds?
Yes, it is awesome.
Tell us something about the lyrics. From what I gather the album deals with subjects as alien invasion, New World Order conspiracy theories, inner earth, etc. It is obviously very different from the anti-Christian shtick Deicide made a career out of. How much of these subjects are a personal interest of yourself and vocalist Jessy Jolly? Do you intend to elaborate further on these subjects and continue the concept on future albums?
They are great concepts to analyze. I will learn, and have new ideas, and new things to talk about.
For "Liar In Wait", the band’s recently released new album, you have founded your own label imprint Amon Records. What was the impetus behind starting your own label/distribution company? Was it through your own experience (and hardships, difficulties encountered therein) in working with labels like Roadrunner – and Earache Records, that you could do it better on your own?
Not receiving royalties. Yes, not receiving royalties. I will license, or take offers, no problem.
How would you describe the first few years of the label, before it established itself with "Liar In Wait"? How has this been working out for you - was this to retain as much creative control over the final product as possible? Is it a family business – or do the other two members have equal share in the firm as well?
Brutal. Yes, it is a family business. I own the copyright and trademark.
With the whole do-it-yourself tactic, obviously you have to do everything yourself in terms of distribution, marketing and promotion, etc. Is that the easiest or best method for you guys because though it is more work, you have complete control and after the initial overhead is spent, you get to keep all of the profits from the sales?
Yes, it is hard work. It is better than getting $1 to split, between members.
A promo video was also shot for lead single ‘Among Us’ in Clearwater, Florida. Tell us some stories or anecdotes about the production of the video. You worked with director Chris Nemzek from Candy Factory Studios. Who wrote the script/concept for the video? Was it entirely self-financed and did the video live up to the vision you had for it?
I wrote the concept then Chris was on his own. Yes, it is self-financed, as with the armor, recording, website, trademark, copyright and merch.
I remember seeing an early Amon appearance (from public access TV, I think) on YouTube, in which Benton was wearing elaborate studded body armor. Today with Amon you continue that tradition. Were these suits something you wanted to do with Deicide back in the day already?
Yes, they are suits that we would have worn back then. They are new ideas, new concept new suits/armor.
One of the album’s prominent features is that each band member is represented by a unique sigil, which ties in to the record’s overall concept. Other than that, you have custom-made "battle-suits" by Dale/Diggers Leather that remind me of Behemoth and Dark Funeral. How important is image and artwork in Amon’s new look and sound?
The image is very unique, armor, as is the art .... of death metal.
Another thing about the new album that I like is the familiarity. A lot of contemporary acts change whenever a new trend rises, which is detestable. Amon, on the other hand, just dishes out classic Florida death metal, with increased speed, technicality and solo’ing – but the essence is the same. How important was keeping things exciting but familiar, for both yourself and the fans?
Writing good riffs is what matters, keeping it exciting for the fans.
From what I gather looking around the web, the response to the album (in general) is pretty favorable. Has this positive response translated into possible show offers, either locally or regionally? What are Amon’s current tour plans?
Soon. If there are many/good offers we will be there, my friends.
Thanks for the interview! Good luck with Amon. I would like to extend my praise for your persistence in keeping the ancient flame burning. The last words are yours.
Thank you Wouter and all at Masterful Magazine. I would like to thank the fans for their endless support, you rule!!!
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