PHANTASM was a four piece outfit based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, U.S.A. This Horror Death Metal act with it’s so unique sound was formed in 1988. PHANTASM brought us classic demos as „Lycanthropy“ and „The Abominable“ and disbanded in 1995. I talked with forming member singer/drummer Tony Brandt in 2004 about the bands history. N-Joy!
Tony did some new PHANTASM t-shirts (black) featuring the original artwork from the „Lycanthropy“ demo (Werewolf slashing a man’s throat open) in a white/silver print on the front. He’s selling the t-shirts for $15 (including postage & packing). Available sizes are L, XL, 2XL and 3XL. Tony is accepting PayPal (no credit cards) at beezer226(at)sbcglobal(dot)net
- Hey Tony what’s up? How are you doing today?
Well, I’m doing okay except for the fact that I hate my job and our plant manager should be gang raped by some big prison inmates!!! Other than that everything is peachy!!
- Let’s start with HUMAN EVIL. As I know PHANTASM was formed out of the ashes of this band. Please give a detailed view on HUMAN EVIL.
The members were Eric Ebert ( vocals and rhythm guitar), Todd Klipfel (lead guitar), Tony Brandt (drums) and Scott Mckillop (bass). We formed in 1987 and only lasted about a year. We made a practice tape with 3 originals and a few covers by SLAYER, EXODUS and METALLICA on it. We never got a chance to play any shows. I think the reason we broke up was that we had no place to practice anymore and we all wanted to do something else musically.
- Was HUMAN EVIL your first band? Did you ever played in a band before? What made you start playing drums instead of other instruments?
I use to play with a lot of other musicians during my highschool years but HUMAN EVIL was the first real band I was in. I remember Me, Scott, Eric and a guy named Jeff playing cover songs like oldies and punk for a fourth of July party at Scott’s Aunt’s house. It was pretty funny!! We were all about 15 and 18 years old at the time. The police came and made us stop playing. We were playing outside and some neighbors were complaining. Fuck em!!!!! I can play guitar too and I come up with a lot of guitar riffs but I really love the drums! Who doesn’t love beating off !!! ha ha! I think I was a very nervous type of kid and drums released a lot of tension. Plus I always wanted to play pearl drums like Peter Criss of KISS. Little kid fantasy.
- So KISS was the first „hard“ band you listened to??? What was your first Metal record you bought?
It was a fast progression. It started with IRON MAIDEN and went to METALLICA and SLAYER. One of the first death metal albums I bought was CELTIC FROST „The Emperor’s Return“ and DEATH „Scream Bloody Gore“.
|5. When was PHANTASM formed? You and Scott Mckillop were the first line-up. Was it difficult to find the right guys to complete the line-up at that time?
PHANTASM was formed in 1988. Actually Scott and I started the band and wrote all the material but Matt Grassberger played bass for our first few shows. Later on we picked up a 2nd guitarist Doug Schoeneck. He was our first choice cause he really liked our music and we never tried anyone else. After Matt left we asked Steve Somers who was doing our artwork to play bass for us. He was in his own death band called THANATOPSIS but they broke up and we picked him up.
6. Could you tell a little about THANATOPSIS? I know you once played with em.
- For a short time period you had Matt Grassberger of Wisconsin’s DR. SHRINKER in your rows.
Matt was still in DR. SHRINKER at the time but he was also playing bass for us. I can’t remember why he left. Shit got fucked up for awhile. Scott and I played with DR. SHRINKER on „The Eponym“ demo and we had played a metalfest show with them. At this time Matt was not in DR. SHRINKER and Scott was playing bass. Anyways, right after we got done playing the show, Matt was giving us a ride home and he told us that the other guys in DR. SHRINKER wanted us out and that Matt and James were replacing us. That kind of pissed us off at the time and it might of had something to do with Matt not being in PHANTASM anymore. Ya know what I mean homey? Shit happens!!
|8. Who came up with the moniker PHANTASM? Was the band name inspired by the same called movie and/or by the POSSESSED song?
Scott and I were trying to come up with names and we both went to see „Phantasm 2“ the movie. Scott suggested the name PHANTASM and we both thought it was great!! The song by Possessed is great and that’s why we covered it for the first show we ever played but it had nothing to do with us choosing our band name.
9. What was the very first song you wrote with PHANTASM? Did you play HUMAN EVIL songs in the beginning?
- You were the singer and drummer in PHANTASM which is similar to bands like AUTOPSY/ABCESS, EXCITER and others. Why did you decide to do it that way and was it difficult for you to do both at the same time in the beginning?
At the time we didn’t want go looking for band members cause we knew exactly what we wanted to sound like and didn’t want to go through problems with other band members. At first it was very hard to sing and play at the same time. I had been playing drums for quite some time so my coordination was good I just had to practice singing at the same time. I like a challenge so it was really cool!!! The trick to it is the same way singer/guitarists do it. You fit the lyrics in where it isn’t too difficult or off timing. It just takes a lot of practice.
|11. In 1990 you entered a studio for your first demo „Lycanthropy“. You recorded it as a two piece. Were there still no other members for a complete line-up in sight?
Matt was still playing bass for us but I remember him going on vacation when we went in the studio. Some parts were a little difficult for Matt to play so Scott just did all the bass parts. Plus we all paid for it out of our own money and I don’t think Matt would have had the money at the time. It was a mutual agreement.
12. How long was the recording session and was it your first experience in a professional studio?
- Looking through old fanzines I think this demo hit the underground like a bomb. What do you think was the reason nearly everyone was so impressed by „Lycanthropy“ and PHANTASM? How many tapes did you sell back then?
I think the reason it did so good was that we spent a lot of time and effort on it. We wanted it to blow away people when they popped that tape in. We didn’t want people to say it was just another unoriginal crappy demo. When we went into the studio it was like making a horror movie not a demo tape. I know we sold about 5 or 6 hundred demo’s but we also gave away a lot of free copies to ‚zines and tape traders. That was a real cool time back then. Getting to read cool reviews about the band you were in and getting fan mail. Very cool!!
- Did you get reactions from record companies? Which were interested in PHANTASM?
At the time of „Lycanthropy“ we didn’t get any label interest. All the labels were signing bands that all sounded alike or they were from Sweden or Florida. We sent a lot of demo’s to labels but never got any interest. It’s very hard to get signed.
|15. After your first demo PHANTASM became a quartet. I think you
must have known Steve for a longer time ‚cause he did the artwork for „Lycanthropy“ but where did you know Doug from?
We got a hold of Doug through Chad of DR. SHRINKER. Chad told us he knew a buddy of his that played guitar and wanted to join our band. So, we had Doug try out and that was it. I knew Steve through a friend of mine and he was doing our artwork since the „Lycanthropy“ demo. I think Doug joined us in 1991 and Steve joined a few months later.
16. In the early 90’s you and Scott joined DR. SHRINKER. You recorded
- In an old interview I read that the guys of DR. SHRINKER told that they had a big impact on the Wisconsin Metal scene back then ‚cause they were the first act which played Death Metal in this region. Thy also told that a lot of bands changes their style to Death Metal ‚cause of DR. SHRINKER. For example MORTAL DREAD sounds really close to DR. SHRINKER. What do you think about it?
They were a big influence on all local bands cause no one was really playing that type of music. They were a big influence for us but there were a lot of bands that were coming out like DEATH, NECROPHAGIA and AUTOPSY that were big influences as well. Also bands like THE ACCÜSED were a big influence and that’s where Rich from DR. SHRINKER got influence for his vocal style. Everybody has major influences it’s just what you make out of it that makes you stand out from the rest.
- In 1992 you entered a studio again to record „The Abominable“. In my opinion you improved a lot and this tape blew me away back then (and it’s still doing it nowadays). Was Steve and Doug a big part in writing songs?
We all worked together on the material but most of the song writing came from Scott and me. We worked very hard on the songs and wanted them to be technical but also eerie and bizarre. Just like anything you do, the longer you do it you usually become better at it. I think we spent about $2,500 on the recording. That was a lot of money back then for a demo. I remember when I went in to do the vocals I got there early and recorded all the tracks. About an hour after I was done Scott and the rest of the gang came and Scott had me do them all over again just to get them as scary and raw as we could. I remember getting very bad headaches when I recorded those vocal tracks. We also had all the lights turned off in the studio to get in a horror atmosphere. When we recorded „Gutsuckers“ we had a part in the song where the organ part comes on and you can hear zombies in the back ground. We did all the zombie voices and for the part where you hear a zombie crunch into a persons skull, that was Steve biting into an apple!! Pretty cool hey?? We did a lot of crazy shit in the studio. Just like the intro part on „A Rotting Surprise“ we brought in a chainsaw and did all of our own sound effects.
- What reactions did you receive from fans, fanzines and record companies?
After we released „The Abominable“ we received a lot of fan mail and a lot of good reviews from fanzines. I know one year we placed 1st for best unsigned death metal band in the „Wild Rags“ magazine. That was pretty cool. We got some interest from „Metal Blade“ records but nothing ever came of that. Maybe we didn’t have enough leather or bullet belts!!! Ha! Ha! Finally we got interest from a real small time label called „Monsterdisc“. All they did was release „The Abominable“ and pay for the thousand or so copies they had pressed. We didn’t get shit from them and they didn’t really have the connections to release it with a lot of advertisement.
- Who came up with idea to do a cover of the song „For Your Love“ from the THE YARDBIRDS? (The THE YARDBIRDS had band members like Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page in it’s row [http://www.theyardbirds.com.] After the band split up Jimmy Page continued under the moniker NEW YARDBIRDS with other well known members and later changed the name to LED ZEPPELIN. – demon666) What was the reason to do that cover? In my opinion the original version of the song has a more obscure feeling. I’m not sure if the lyrics are about a man who’s in love or a maniac… hahaha. The song fits perfect to the sound of PHANTASM. I think your version sounds more spooky and way more sick. I love it!
I came up with the idea of doing the „Yardbirds“ song „For Your Love“. I listen to alot of oldies and i always thought that the song „For Your Love“ had a really eerie feeling to it. Plus i thoght it would be really cool and unique to do an oldies song death metal style. Alot of people thought it was really cool and the local radio stations use to play it from time to time. You have to keep the classics alive and let the youngsters know that there was cool music around back in the day.
|21. As like on your „Lycanthropy“ demo you attached a great
importance on the packing also on the „The Abominable“ demo. Do you think that was necessary for an underground release back then? As I remember your tapes were not the cheapest but both had a long playing time and great packaging.
No it wasn’t necessary but if you wanted to stand out from the rest you had to do your best. The quality of the music and song writing always comes first but if you want to catch someone’s eye you better have a cool cover or something that would stand out on it. Word of mouth is the best advertisement you can have and if someone bought your demo and it was on a cheap tape and had a photo copied insert you probably wouldn’t be too happy. Like the old saying goes, you get what you pay for. When we made those demos they were more like albums to us and we wanted to package them like an album. Everything from professional tapes with printed ink on them to quality inserts with all the lyrics and artwork inside. Now please give me a moment of silence for I have dropped some serious ass!! Ha! Ha!
- All in all you played only 24 live gigs in seven years. Wasn’t PHANTASM a so called live band? Tell us a little bit about your live gigs( I heard you did a live show with a lot of blood and throwing some stuff into the pit ).
We didn’t play a ton of shows cause we didn’t want people getting sick of us. Almost all of our shows were hear in Wisconsin. Plus, all the time we spent working on new material and going in the studio we couldn’t do live shows at the same time. Some of our shows were really intense. One show we did a skit for „Sewed Back To Life“ and had a crazy doctor on stage working on his corpse and then all of a sudden he would start throwing bloody meat into the crowd with tons of blood. We also use to blast the crowd with blood out of a fire extinguisher. We did that at one of the big „Metalfests“ here in Wisconsin. I guess the security or police were looking for us cause they had to stop the show to clean the floor.. Too bad!!! Sometimes you have to do what you have to do. We also use to do a lot of skits that would be acted out onstage while we were playing that certain song. We’d have zombies and vampires coming out onstage. Another show we had a guy hanging on stage like the „A Rotting Surprise“ picture and had someone cutting him up with the chainsaw.
- What was your best live gig and which one was the worst I heard about a show with Deicide.
My favorite show was the „Metalfest“ that we got to play with ICE-T and Body Count. They actually watched us perform and liked us. The crowd really went crazy for us. ICE-T even did a shout out to us when they were onstage. Also, the crowd went so nuts for BODY COUNT that they tore down the lighting rig onstage and it almost fell on the crowd. Everyone in the front of the crowd had to put up their hands so they wouldn’t be crushed by the lights. It was awesome!!! Now for the worst that I think we ever played was the one with DEICIDE and BROKEN HOPE. We had these huge wooden crosses with blood and candles on them that we wanted to have on stage when we played. Well, DEICIDE being so evil and satanic (yeah whatever) wouldn’t let us play if we put them on the stage. Then the dickheads from BROKEN HOPE wouldn’t let us put our banner logo onstage so we had to play while their banners were onstage. We also had some problems with Scott’s guitar cord falling out. Not to mention a couple of cocks yelling shit while we were playing. There was still people getting into us but it just wasn’t our day. We almost said fuck it and didn’t play but at the last second we said what the hell!!!
- Why did Steve Somers decide to quit?
I think he left sometime in early 1995 right before we broke up. I think he quit because he couldn’t handle all the late night partying and wanted to get up early in the mornings to eat breakfast with his Mommy and Daddy!! Ha! Ha! I think he started to lose interest and wanted to pursue his art career. He’s a great artist and also knows how to roll one mean joint. He’s a wacky fucker, check out his web-site at www.stephensomers.com.
|25. After the split of PHANTASM Doug formed SPIRIT CREEK and Steve worked on his art career. Do you know what Scott did after the split.
Scott was working on some music but never released anything. Steve left the band first and after that it was just a mutual split up. At one point Doug and I were talking about keeping it going but it just wouldn’t have been the same. Scott lost interest and him and I were the main song writers so it just wouldn’t have worked out. We all wanted to quit and try out for THE NEW KIDS ON THE BLOCK. Wouldn’t that have been cool??? NOT!!!
- You joined forces with Lee Groth of Wisconsin’s MORTAL DREAD for the remaining shows.
We heard he played a mean skin flute or was it a rusty trombone? I can’t remember.. No, seriously I knew him for a long time and MORTAL DREAD wasn’t doing anything at the time so we asked Lee to join and help us out. I’d always prefer getting someone in the band that we already know instead of trying out a bunch of strangers. He was a good bass player back then but he’s a lot better now.
- Around the same time that Steve left, you found a record company. Death Trap / Monsterdrive released the „Gut Suckers“ 7″ and the „The Abominable“ CD. I think everyone expected a full-length album with brand new songs. You just re-released the „The Abominable“ demo plus one new song. What made you decide to do it that way?
We wanted „The Abominable“ to get out as an LP. Not a demo. Plus, the record company wasn’t giving us any money to go record a new LP, they just wanted to put out „The Abominable“. That way they didn’t really have to stick any real money into us. You know what I mean??? I would have loved to do a new full length LP but we didn’t have enough new material written at the time and I didn’t want all the expenses coming out of our own pocket again.
- PHANTASM’s music was and is totally unique for me. I would describe it as Horror Doom Death Metal. What would you describe your music as and what were your main influences in writing that kind of music?
You described it pretty much how I would of. I always thought of our music as short horror stories with the music being the atmosphere. We use to make the music as if it was a soundtrack to a horror movie. We didn’t want to sound like everybody else. Everybody has a lot of musical influences but the ones that really got me into that type of music was: DEATH, SLAYER, AUTOPSY, TROUBLE, THE ACCÜSED, NECROPHAGIA, POSSESSED, DR. SHRINKER and MERCYFUL FATE to name a few. I also had a lot of strong influences from horror movies and authors such as Stephen King, Clive Barker and Edgar Allen Poe.
|29. Let’s talk about your lyrics. It looks like you attached a great importance on it. For me you’re telling a little horror tale with each song. What was your main inspiration?
Since I’d never get to make horror movies this was the next best thing. Horror music!!!! Some songs are based on horror movies like „Sewed Back To Life“ is about „Frankenstein“ and „The Abominable“ is about „The Abominable Dr. Phibes“ starring Vincent Price. But then there are songs that are totally made up from imagination like „A Soul’s Nightmare“ which is one of my favorites. It’s about an innocent man’s soul getting robbed of going to heaven and being brought back to do evil doings so that his soul’s ends up with the devil.
- You mentioned „Frankenstein“ and „The Abominable Dr. Phibes“. As I know you’re totally into Horror movies. What is your fave classic (b/w) and fave new horror / gore movie? What do you think about remakes like „Dawn Of The Dead“?
One of my black & white favorites is „House On Haunted Hill“ with Vincent Price. „Psycho“ is also a top notch classic. There hasn’t been a lot of new cool horror movies but I did like „Wrong Turn“. It had that early 80’s feel to it with some good killing scenes. I did like the new „Dawn Of The Dead“. They did a pretty good job on it. I still love the original. „Shaun Of The Dead“ was really good too!!!!
- Did you write songs with PHANTASM which never saw the light of day?
We finished „The Devil’s Judas“ which is the longest (over 14min!!! – demon666) fucking song ever!!! Ha! Ha! But we never got to record it in the studio. A few months before we broke up we were working on a song called „Trance“ but never got to finish it. I had lyrics written a long time ago for a song called „Frozen Dead“ but we never got around to writing the music for it. That’s about it.
- Looking back if you think about the reactions on your demos from fans & fanzines are you a little sad that nothing happened after the last demo/CD? What do you think was the main reason that at one point the chapter of PHANTASM ended?
Certain members in the band started to lose interest and wanted to do other things. Not to mention the death metal scene started to lose its flavor. Everybody was sounding like someone else and the shit got old!! Plus a lot of people fled from the metal scene and started listening to grunge/and alternative rock. It would have been cool to stay together and make new wicked music for the fans but things don’t always work out that way. I think things would have been different if we would of been signed earlier in our career by a good record label.
|33. It seems that Wisconsin had a big metal scene in the 90’s. I’m talking about bands like PHANTASM, DR. SHRINKER, MORTAL DREAD and the Milwaukee Metalfest. Do you remember other worth-to-listen-to 90’s metal bands hailing from Wisconsin?
The first release by REALM entitled „Endless Pain“ was really cool. It was a really good technical/thrash album with blazing high vocals. I think they were signed to Roadracer records. There were a lot of metal bands back then but none that really hit me that hard.
34. I found a PHANTASM homepage in the web which was online
- What’s your fave porn movie so we can compare what you’re talking about!!!
A totally awesome classic is „The Sexorcist“ with John Holmes and Amber Lynn. John Holmes is dressed up like batman but instead of a utility belt he has big dildo’s hanging from his belt!!! There’s too many good ones plus I can’t remember the titles cause I’m to busy slapping my donger!! ha! ha! Any newer movie with Keisha getting plugged in the crapper is good too!!! I still like the classic bitches like Tori Welles, Ginger Lynn, Selena Steele, Jeanna Fine, Ashlyn Gere, Christy Canyon and so on and so on………
- You’re still active as musicians. Together with Lee Groth you’re playing in MAD LAUGHTER. Who is the other member and when was the band formed?
The other member is Matt Gyarmaty who is the guitarist and vocals. We started out back in 1996 but we took a few breaks and went through two bass players until we finally had Lee join the band to make it complete
|37. What a kinda music are you playing with MAD LAUGHTER?
Our originals are a mixture of old metal combined with a few touches of new metal. We kind of have our own sound for this day and age. It’s not death metal but it’s still heavy enough to knock your socks off. If I had to say what we sound like it would be a mixture of MEGADETH, YNGWIE MALMSTEEN’s „Rising Force“ and old BLACK SABBATH & KISS. When we play live shows we also do a lot of cover songs. Anything from SLAYER, MISFITS, to classic stuff like VAN HALEN, KISS, BLACK SABBATH, LED ZEPPELIN and JIMI HENDRIX. We even do a cover of „The Devil Went Down To Georgia“ by THE CHARLIE DANIELS BAND. It’s really cool!! Our guitarist plays all the fiddle parts on the guitar. He’s really good.
- As I heard you’re going to release a full-length album soon. Tell us a little bit about!
It should be done sometime in December or early January. It’s self produced so it’s quite expensive and time consuming for us. It’s turning out really cool though. It will have ten originals on it and be about 40 minutes long. The title will be „The Shined“. Once it’s available people can order it from our web-site at www.mad-laughter.com
- What are you doing nowadays besides the music?
I’m a mixer operator in an adhesive sealant factory. The adhesive sealants are for the car industry. I have a 3 year old son so I try to be home as much as I can to play with him. I’m a big movie buff so I do a lot of movie watching. I can’t wait till Starwars 3 („Revenge Of The Sith“) comes out. I’m a big Starwars freak. Other than that I do the occasional drinking with a bit of porno watching!!! Ha! Ha! And a lot of video game playing.
- Hey Tony, thanks a lot for this interview! I hope you enjoyed the interview. This is the space for you to say something to all the old and new PHANTASM maniacs!
Thanks a lot for this kickass interview!!!! I had fun doing it. Keep metal alive. For anyone that doesn’t have the PHANTASM cd’s get them now!!! www.wrecking-crew.de/phantasm or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org Be on the lookout for the new MAD LAUGHTER cd. I hope all of the old school PHANTASM fans tell these younger metal heads about us and what the old school is all about!!! To everyone, drink and be merry and don’t forget to wear a rubber when your slapping skins with some big ugly pig you brought home from the bar!!!! Peace out!!!
by demon666 (http://www.wrecking-crew.de/demon666)
- Rehearsal 1988
- Lycanthropy / Demo 1990
- The Abominable / Demo 1992
- Gutsucker / 7″ 1995 Monster Drive Rec.
- The Abominable / CD 1995 Monster Drive Rec.
- Lycanthropy / CD 2000 self-released
- The Abominable / CD 2002 self-released