CLASSIC INTERVIEW: JESSE PINTADO (TERRORIZER)
BY DANGER COOLIDGE
Originally published in Unbelievably Bad #5, 2006.
Today (August 27) marks 10 years since the death of Terrorizer and Napalm Death guitarist Jesse Pintado. This interview, originally published in Unbelievably Bad #5, would have been one of the last he ever gave…
The Darkest Day
In a laconic Latino-American drawl, Jesse Pintado loosely explained his departure from Napalm Death and the relaunch of his groundbreaking grindcore band Terrorizer. He sounded kind of vague over the phone. Not wasted or anything, just a bit vague. But then again, it was late-July (2006), and he was stuck in Germany doing interviews on the hottest day that country had experienced in 100 years.
Nevertheless, the longhaired guitarist used his vagueness to dodge certain questions, in particular the real issues surrounding his exit from Napalm. When I asked him directly about it he said, “I’ve heard so many rumours. I heard I was dead.” One month to the day of our interview, he died.
On August 27, 2006 Jesse Pintado was pronounced dead in a Netherlands hospital from “complications relating to a diabetic coma”. He was 37.
A pioneer of grindcore, Pintado made a name for himself on Terrorizer’s masterful 1989 album World Downfall, which also featured Oscar Garcia of Nausea (vocals/guitar), and David Vincent (bass) and Pete Sandoval (drums) of Morbid Angel. From there he was poached by English grind godfathers Napalm Death, making his debut on 1990’s Harmony Corruption as the band experienced upheavals in personnel and a changing of their sound from grind to death metal.
Playing in Napalm for 15 years, Pintado was said to have become unreliable around the time of the recording of 2002’s Order Of The Leech. In April 2005 his guitar partner, Mitch Harris, told Aussie metal webzine themetalforge.com, “He didn’t actually leave the band; we sent him home. We knew that being in the band wasn’t the right environment for his current state of mind so we sent him home to get some help and support from his family and stuff. We waited for two years for him to get his act together. We gave him 200 million chances and he came back after two years, and his condition hadn’t improved and we decided to let him go because he just became unreliable. It’s a shame.”
Jesse seemed to have landed on his feet, though. Having struck a deal with Napalm’s current label, Century Media, he and drummer Pete Sandoval set about reviving the long dormant Terrorizer. Just one week before Pintado’s death, the group’s second album, Darker Days Ahead, was released across Europe. Made 17 years after its predecessor, it was definitely worth the wait. Sad that Jesse couldn’t stick around to enjoy the kudos.
R.I.P. Jesús ‘Jesse’ Pintado: July 12, 1969 – August 27, 2006.
Why did you take so long to make another Terrorizer album?
We always talked about it and the thing is, we never really broke up. In LA at that time we were teenagers and to play a club you had to be 21 and over because they served alcohol. So we could never play clubs so what we did is we played a couple of parties here and there or played youth clubs and benefits and stuff. So after a while I used to run a fanzine called Filth and I used to tape trade and was good friends with Trey [Azagthoth, Morbid Angel guitarist], still am, and he asked me if I knew a good drummer just for a session. I said, “Yeah, Pete [Sandoval]!” Then Pete moved to Florida to be in Morbid Angel and he ended up staying. So we still made World Downfall together and after that I got the call from England and Napalm Death because I had been tape trading with Shane Embury their bass player and Mick Harris their drummer. Mick’s like, “Come over ’cos Bill Steer can’t do it, he’s going to university.” So I went over, thinking it was just for the one tour, and I stayed. I did one tour as the only guitarist before Mitch Harris came over and joined as second guitarist.
Can I ask about your departure from Napalm Death and why that came about?
Maybe at that time it wasn’t meant to be. It was a difficult time, not that it was difficult. The departure was a mutual thing. We lived together, we toured together and sometimes you don’t want to be together. I moved to Holland and y’know, when you live together for that amount of time you could get in an argument here or there. With Terrorizer, we work in different ways. There’s three writers in Napalm, or four actually. In Terrorizer there is only two writers. It’s less complicated. We grew up together, it’s cool, we’re buddies, Terrorizer is simple.
So then why haven’t you made a [Terrorizer] album in 17 years?
That’s a good question but I guess everybody moved their own ways and this was about the right time.
Is there any truth to the rumours that substance abuse issues were affecting the ability of Napalm Death to function?
I’ve heard so many rumours. I heard I was dead. I woke up and I was amazed. I heard I was dead, drug problems, I’ve heard everything. I could say the same thing about anybody but y’know… There’s no truth to that. Maybe it got blown out of proportion somewhere along the line. Nowadays with the internet people talk all kinds of stuff. MySpace, stuff like that, man, people go crazy. If you have any, I wouldn’t say enemies, but people with nothing better to do, all they do is talk shit. So y’know, I don’t have time for that.
Were the issues that led to the split quite complicated?
Not really. We had lived together and there was a plan to sell the house so we all moved out. Mitch got married, we sold the house, things changed and I wanted to concentrate on my new life in Holland and take it from there, really.
When did you decide to relaunch Terrorizer?
That’s been coming a long time. We always talked about it over the years. Every time Morbid Angel crossed paths with Napalm Death I’m like, “Oh Pete, we gotta do it, I got some new riffs.” He’s like, “Yeah, we gotta do it man.” But it was always a little bump here, a little bump there, but this time it came through.
Did you feel you had to stay true to what Terrorizer had been?
I thought about it, yeah. ’Cos I know people are going to say something about it. They’re going to look for the differences between this record and the first record. But there is just a certain style to the band. We’re not trying to jump the wagon on black metal or death metal or nothing; it’s just a Terrorizer thing. That’s the way we play and that’s the way it is. Do you like the record?
I think it’s the perfect follow on from World Downfall in terms of the songwriting but production-wise it obviously sounds cleaner and crisper.
Well, the first record was recorded to 8-track and this one was recorded digital. So that would make a difference. Also, when we recorded the first album, we didn’t have the equipment we have now. We didn’t have the means or whatever you want to call it. I think the first record sounds great. This one, I wouldn’t say it’s polished, but we have better equipment and all that. It’s obviously going to sound different and that’s what we wanted as well. It’s old-school with a touch of modern-ness.
Where is Oscar Garcia (original vocalist/guitarist) these days and why didn’t he want to be a part of the new Terrorizer?
Basically he’s a married guy and when it came to travelling he couldn’t do it. I don’t know if he was worried whether his voice would no longer hold up but he’s got a really good job and he just told me before we started recording, “Y’know, I’m not really interested.” He goes, “I’m interested but I cannot tour, I cannot do shows so why not get someone who’s into it, who’s willing to do it?” That’s what happened there – there’s no hard feelings. When we were recording in Florida he would hear every song over the telephone. He’s like, “Killer man, excellent.”
What about Dave Vincent (former bassist and Morbid Angel frontman), did you ask if he was available?
With Vincent, he was never really a member of Terrorizer; he just played on that first record. He didn’t want no connection this time around so we felt comfortable asking somebody else.
It’s interesting that you’d recruit Tony Norman (Morbid Angel guitarist), keeping up the Morbid Angel connection.
Well, I’ve known him for a long time and I just called him up and was like, “Wanna play bass and a bit of guitar?” – because there’s always twin guitars in Terrorizer – and he said, “Yeah, fuck yeah.” At first Frank [Watkins] from Obituary was going to play bass but they had some shows coming up or something, they were going on tour and we only had a certain amount of time. Because Norman is in Morbid Angel and he has the same schedule as Pete, it worked out.
New singer Anthony Rezhawk has got the perfect voice for Terrorizer, where did you meet him?
I’ve known him growing up. They had a band called Resistant Militia like back in the mid eighties, a punk band. I played with those guys before Terrorizer. They still have a band called Resistant Culture, you gotta check them out, they’re killer. So when Oscar told me he wasn’t going to be able to do it I’m like, man, who can we get? I was thinking of LG [Petrov] from Entombed or somebody of that nature and then I’m like, ‘Ah, what about Tony?’ So I talked to him and he’s like, “Fuck yeah, let’s go to Florida and do it.”
Anthony also did the cover art, which very much ties in with the old spirit of the band.
He works for Walt Disney as an art designer. He does graphics on cartoons and games; he’s a computer freak designer. He had different designs for the cover but some of them were too much so we went with that one. We’re anti war and all that but having really extreme images means people could take it the wrong way, especially with a name like Terrorizer. Having a name like Terrorizer is almost like free advertising – you put that word out there and people are like, “What? Terrorizer? Terror? Terrorists?”
Why did you sign with Century Media for this one and not go back to the old home Earache?
Basically Century Media is the best going metal label at the moment and Earache rips off people. I don’t wanna go there. Plus, Earache are not even interested in this type of music anymore, they’re into techno and different stuff. Century Media is full-on metal and it was the logical choice. I’ve known the guys here for a while and they were into what we do so it makes sense. Earache weren’t good businessmen and they ripped us off big time.
Who, Terrorizer or Napalm Death?
Both – double whammy! They still have the rights to release World Downfall, unfortunately. We’re looking into getting it back but I don’t think it would sell. It wouldn’t be worth putting all the effort into getting it back and re-issuing it I don’t think.
How does World Downfall sound now when you listen back to it?
Like I was saying before, with the equipment we had and the resources we had, that was the best we could do. Maybe we got lucky, maybe we just wrote good songs or maybe it was influenced by brutality, but that’s the way that happened. Now we can sit down a little bit more and figure out what we want to do. You grow and change, but the music is still Terrorizer and that’s the most important thing.
Are there going to be any live shows, are you even equipped to play live?
We’re equipped to play live, we might do some Christmas festivals or something. There are two shows that are supposed to happen here in Germany in November. We’re supposed to headline but I don’t know if they’re going to be able to provide the set-up that we’ve asked for. We want screens and we want all kinds of crazy stuff.
What kind of shows did Terrorizer play back in the day?
We started out playing backyard parties and benefit shows. We played this one show at a youth club and they couldn’t charge money because it was a government institution and it was a free entrance so this lady that ran the place said, “It’s a benefit so why don’t we charge kids four tins of food.” We’re like, “Four tins of food, what do you mean?” She’s like, “Beans or rice or vegetables, anything in a tin, just four tins per person.” The gig was sold out. Imagine 800 people all bringing four tins each? There was all these punkers with fucking beans and ravioli and spinach and spaghetti hoops! We had half a normal-sized room stacked to the roof and it was all given to the homeless. That kind of thing shows you that we were coming from a hardcore and punk background.
You can hear plenty of that in the mix of styles that Terrorizer do.
Yeah, it’s just a mixture of the old hardcore and punk and then I got into metal and then it became grindcore and I don’t know… as long as it’s fast and extreme I don’t give a shit.