After releasing several albums in the '90s, the Chicago death metal band Broken Hope called it a day. They have now reunited and released a new album, Omen Of Disease. The core of the 2013 version of the band are guitarist Jeremy Wagner and bassist Shaun Glass. New to the group are vocalist Damian Leski, guitarist Chuck Wepfer and drummer Mike Miczek. Wagner fills us in on today's Broken Hope.
Chad Bowar: What led to the band getting back together?
Jeremy Wagner: When I was beginning to pull Broken Hope back together in January 2012, it was just Shaun Glass (bass), Mike Miczek (drums) and me. We started jamming songs off the first 5 albums to see how it felt. We rehearsed like two days a week. Once we got down 20 Broken Hope songs on a regular basis, and they were sounding really awesome with just the three of us, that’s the exact moment when I realized Broken Hope would really come back.
Then we got Chuck (lead guitar) and Damian (vocals) to finalize the lineup …then the tours, and the deal with Century Media, and now Omen Of Disease is out. A lot happened in a short amount of time.
How did Damian, Chuck and Mike come to round out the new lineup?
I found Damian Leski after searching for vocalists and contacting several. Damian is the singer for Gorgasm and he turned out to be more than I could hope for. Damian is a very driven and professional individual. He’s a true commander of sorts as he pushes every member of the band to be the best they can be, whether it’s in the studio or on stage. He makes sure we’re all on top of our game.
Then there’s Chuck Wepfer and Mike Miczek, who Shaun Glass discovered and brought into the band. Chuck and Mike are both really young, hungry, and also professional. Both Chuck and Mike constantly work to improve their skills and it has all made our new music better on Omen Of Disease. They’ve made our old music better when we play live, and they all make Broken Hope a lean, mean, and devastating death metal machine. This new BH lineup is a dream come true for me.
Describe the songwriting and recording process for Omen Of Disease.
Shaun wrote riffs at home and brought them in to our rehearsal studio to work on them with Mike. I did the same thing, writing riffs and songs on my own, or sometimes writing riffs on the spot with Mike. Shaun and I also collaborated on music together, and then we built everything up from there, song-by-song. Each song was conceived in a entirely natural way.
The riffs just flowed and we made one song after another quite easily. Some songs are real fast and in your face, while others are a bit longer and more involved. We like to bring brutal and catchy riffs/hooks back again and again within a song. We’re all about dynamics, heaviness, and orchestration. Whether it’s short or long in length, it works for us.
How did Trevor from Black Dahlia Murder's guest appearance come about?
Trevor Strnad and TBDM have all been awesome friends to us. I met him years ago when they were on tour. I had heard that Trevor was a Broken Hope fan and he said awesome things about us in the press, so I always wanted to shake his hand. Since we became friends, we’ve hung out and last year we started talking about the new Broken Hope album and that’s where the idea to have Trevor do guest vocals came from. It turned out great! Trevor’s backups really compliment Damian’s vocals on “Rendered Into Lard.”
What will you remember most about the sessions of Omen Of Disease?
I’ll remember that it was a mission to make sure our first album in 14 years had to deliver in every way! (laughs) But I’ll also remember what how exciting it was to write this album with my bandmates, and what a joy it was to record this album with Chris Wisco at Belle City Sound, with Scott Creekmore at Mercenary Digital Studios, and with James Murphy at Safehouse Productions. Moreover, doing this album for Century Media meant the world to us…our new home and new crew behind us made everything even better.
How would you characterize the band's sound now compared to back in the '90s?
I’d characterize it as being Broken Hope’s greatest “sounding” album on a sonic level, while retaining our “classic carnage.” Compared to our previous efforts, we’re stronger and more pummeling than ever. I never really look back on previous albums to compare what I’ve done with new. It’s important to retain the Broken Hope sound, but it’s more important to offer new and exciting riffs and songs that don’t sound rehashed. I always want to create something new, and always something heavier and sicker, too.
As one of the main songwriters for Broken Hope since the beginning, I know I possess the original formula that makes BH sound like BH, every time. With that, I was also sitting on a good amount of material I had pre-written before BH even reformed. My personal goal with Omen Of Disease was to write the heaviest, sickest, and most relentless Broken Hope album to-date, while also increasing the recording quality than ever before with modern production. I think we achieved that.
Shaun Glass contributed some brutal material to this album, and he should be credited for his vision in seeing the production through the way we did it. There’s also more harmonies and solos than ever before…stellar solos thanks to Chuck Wepfer. All this, without compromising the brutality. I always say that I’ve kept the original formula for Broken Hope intact: the tuning, the tone, the horror content, and the dynamics haven’t changed.
That said, I have brought in new ideas and progressive riffing and solos that breaks fresh ground. I believe Omen Of Disease is the perfect synergy of brutality and sickness complimented by shredding and modern production.
How did you come to sign with Century Media?
Century Media’s chief Robert Kampf came out to see Broken Hope in Hollywood, CA. last year. He offered the band a contract simply based on the strength of our new lineup, our live show, and the excitement with our triumphant return. We’re so happy to be with Century Media, they really are the best metal label in the world. Century Media Records and I have been working really well together already, and a massive marketing campaign was unleashed just weeks ago. There’s amazing visibility for Omen Of Disease, and both the label and myself are doing amazing work together. This entire album launch and future plans for the next year have all exceeded my expectations.
How was the video shoot for "The Flesh Mechanic," and what's the concept of the clip?
“The Flesh Mechanic” is about a twisted artist who reassembles human body parts into horrific works of art; kind of like the forms you see in the “Body Worlds” exhibit, but much worse and totally unethical and gory. I’m so happy with the way things turned out with this video! It looks like a real horror movie combined with a death metal music video. This is only the second music video we've ever done (the first was “Into The Necrosphere” in 1995), and it truly captures the horror and brutality of the storyline and the music.
It was directed by Corey Soria (Danzig, Hollywood Undead), and with his best video and camera crew. Moreover, Corey has a genuine passion for horror and death metal, so our collaboration was perfect. Just as awesome is the fact that horror FX-god Jamie Grove stepped in to do the horror/gore FX and to also appear as the actual “Flesh Mechanic” character. Jamie brought in tons of props, his great FX crew, and badass acting skills to “The Flesh Mechanic” video set.
He really made this video look like a high-budget horror movie. In my opinion, death metal videos are severely lacking in conveying any real horror element. I think Broken Hope changed that with this video. Also, “The Flesh Mechanic’ features Dino Cazares of Fear Factory as a special guest actor.
Cazares appears as the Flesh Mechanic victim and is chopped to pieces. I love Dino’s quote about the video where he says: “It was a honor to be a part of the Broken Hope video. I had a great time getting bludgeoned in the head with a severed arm then getting my face sliced off with a dull knife.” (laughs)
A lot has changed in the music industry since your last album. What are your expectations for this one?
I think death metal’s popularity at this time is greater than ever because new generations want to hear really brutal music. All the great bands from decades back: Morbid Angel, Obituary, Carcass, Death, and more, all put put incredibly heavy albums that still stand the test of time. Those albums have influenced many new and popular bands in the deathcore and metalcore scenes, and some of those new, popular bands have given props to the classic death metal bands that inspired them.
So, fans who may not have heard of Broken Hope until now, get turned on via other avenues. Then they eat up death metal and get into it all. It’s like a 12 year old totally being into Led Zeppelin right now and searching for more and more classic rock. Younger metalheads search for heavier bands and discover death metal.
I don’t know where death metal will go from here, but I never want it to go away and I certainly embrace this grander scale of death metal love worldwide. There are some countries where death metal bands are just as popular as huge mainstream pop acts are in America. That’s pretty awesome. That said, I’ve an opinion on death metal has changed…that I think what’s changed is how “dangerous” death metal is.
In the early ‘90’s, death metal was perceived as being dangerous, like you were scared of certain bands, or in awe of their sound and imagery mixed. Perhaps we’ve seen too much by now. To that end, I’d say death metal bands are delivering amazing albums right now, and the genre is bigger and healthier than ever. So, for that, I’m grateful. As far as expectations with Omen Of Disease I’m hoping to blow everyone away, and perhaps, we can scare people again!
What are your upcoming tour plans?
Europe and the rest of the world through the first quarter of 2014, the U.S. again in the second quarter, then more festivals in summer, and more touring into the last part of 2014.
What has been your most memorable Broken Hope live show in a good way?
When Kirk Hammett of Metallica came out just to see Broken Hope on our reunion tour last year (2012) in San Francisco. I’ll never forget that. He hung out in our dressing room after our concert and I have the whole thing captured on our new DVD 25 Years Of Sickness—The Broken Hope Story. Watch it!
In a bad way?
When a fan got his throat slashed by a maniac with a box cutter at our recent concert in El Paso on 10/22/13. Thankfully, that fan survived and is healing.
What was the response to your book The Armageddon Chord?
Very positive! It became a bestseller in four countries, got some great blurbs from some huge authors I respect and love like Peter Blauner, Jonathan Maberry, and Peter Straub; and has gone on to achieve great accolades. It even garnered favorable reviews in Decibel Magazine, Rolling Stone, and Publisher’s Weekly. I really can’t complain about that, especially for my first novel.
Do you have plans to write or release more books in the future?
Since The Armageddon Chord came out, I’ve published a few short stories in anthologies, I have an essay on horror-writing coming out in an essay book via Bantam, and I have two new novels written. I just need to find time to edit them. I’m still here to keep putting out books. Writing is the great passion I have next to being a death metal guitarist/lyricist.
Anything else you'd like to mention or promote?
I’d just like to mention that I urge people who are going to purchase our Omen Of Disease album, to please pick up the Digipack version as it features the CD with bonus tracks and also comes with our first-ever DVD that contains our documentary 25 Years Of Sickness—The Broken Hope Story I mentioned earlier. It truly is an awesome film. Even for those who don’t like death metal, this film is pretty compelling and covers our entire history, successes, tragedies, and our return to greater, more amazing things. Thank you for this interview!