(by Mike Riddick)
(contributing photography by Rudy’s Photos)
Frank Watkins (the “Executioner”) lives metal, as evidenced by his participation and contributions to two of the most enormous extreme metal bands ever: OBITUARY and GORGOROTH. We took some time to get responses from Frank on the new albums from each of his respective bands while also learning more about his “Back from the Dead” management service and other activities.
Gorgoroth is preparing to do their first live show in two years at the Hole in the Sky Festival in Norway. Being the first show with the new line-up, do you believe fans of the band will respond well to the show?
Hell Yesss!!! We have the band at its absolute best! We’ve been rehearsing and we sound so fucking Heavy!!! I’m very proud to be playing with these guys and I’m sure the fans are going to fucking flip out! I’m overly excited to destroy Bergen and spray OUR Satanic Seed all over the Hole in the Sky Festival!
Are there any bands at the show you’re particularly looking forward to seeing live?
Aura Noir and Taake! I’ll only be at the fest the Saturday Gorgoroth plays as I have a festival in Portugal with Obituary the day before. But honestly, I’m super excited for GORGOROTH! We are going to FUCKING KILL!
What are your thoughts on taking residence with a band hosting such a controversial history? Do you feel there is a standard to live up to, in respect to writing and performing or do you leave this burden with Infernus and the other former members who’ve returned?
I absolutely love it! I’m always into pushing limits and this band does it very well! There are really no standards to adhere too. Infernus and I have been friends for years. We connect very well. We are two unique individuals and we don’t fuck around! Now that we are playing together it’s just perfect. To be playing in the greatest Black Metal band of all time…is a true Honor!!!
Were you a fan of Gorgoroth in the early underground days, or did you begin to take notice of them upon their expansion with Nuclear Blast in the late 90′s?
I’ve always been into Black Metal and Gorgoroth was the band that had something very real and evil about them so I was drawn very early. The first album I heard was “Antichrist.” It blew me the fuck away!!!
Residing in the USA, how did you secure your spot in a band hailing from Norway? Please tell us how you manage recording, rehearsing, etc.? Does it require plenty of travel or is much of it handled via correspondence online or otherwise?
Infernus came to me when his band members tried to kick him out of his own band!!! I thought it was hysterical! I was like how could anyone kick out the founding member? I mean, fucking INFERNUS created Gorgoroth!!! He is Gorgororth!!! He wrote and played on every album and even did bass on a few. When this all went down he asked if I wanted to play bass for Gorgoroth and I immediately said, YES. It’s been a pretty easy process. I’ve been to Norway and we’ve rehearsed a lot. We both traveled to Stockholm with Pest to record the new album and we had a blast! We are professionals at what we do and its all going along very smooth. It has made our bond grow stronger and I’m very pleased about that!
You and the percussionist are using your names in the line-up whilst the other members have epithets. Do you find it silly to use an epithet? What was the reasoning behind this?
When I first joined my real name was used but I’ve taken the name Bøddel. It means Executioner in Norwegian. Good friends in Norway came up with it and it stuck! I am the Xecutioner!
Apart from the current album you’re working on with the new line-up, which Gorgoroth album do you esteem the most and why?
“Under the Sign of Hell”! It’s a fucking great record! The riffs off the album are so evil!!! The beginning snare drum on “Revelation of Doom” kills!!! “Ødeleggelse og Undergand,” “Blood Stains the Circle”…fucking classics!
What can fans of the previous albums expect in comparison to the new one?
GORGOROTH! In its purest most brutal form! Infernus wrote some amazing songs on this album! Pest sounds amazing and is more pissed off than ever! And Tomas Asklund is an animal and fucking destroys the drums on this record. I’d say the new album has a lot of qualities that the older Gorgoroth albums had but the production is killer with a lot of balls and every song is a classic! Infernus had a lot going on within himself that poured out with all this bullshit he dealt with in the last few years. I hear his soul scream on this album.
You’re best known for your membership in Obituary. How does it feel to be a long term part of such a death metal legend?
It’s amazing! I can’t even describe how proud I am of our legacy. We busted our asses for years and always stayed true to what we did. We didn’t give a fuck about what anyone thought. I’m very glad to look back at our career and know we’ve always kept it HEAVY!!!
Having realized much success with Obituary, do you find it challenging to take things up a notch with each album?
Actually not! We’ve always just tried to make the heaviest record we could possibly make! And it comes very naturally. I feel we have gotten better with age! The last three records we put out are classic Obituary!
The new album, “Darkest Day,” has only been out a short while, via Candlelight Records. How do you feel the response has been and what are you currently doing to support the release?
The response has been incredible! I’ve seen some really killer reviews and actually had some journalists we’ve known for years say it is one of the best Obituary releases to date. We’ve been playing some of it live lately at some festivals we’ve done and they feel very natural. We’ll be touring here in the US with Goatwhore and Krisiun in September-October and we will do a massive European tour in 2010!
Apart from Obituary, you also used to play in Hellwitch, back in the late ’80s! What do you think of the re-issue of “Syzygial Miscreancy” on Displeased Records and their new album coming out on Xtreem Music?
I really want to hear it. It was really cool playing with Pat back in the day. We used to rehearse a lot in his apartment and he really helped me improve on my playing. I thought Hellwitch was way ahead of their time back then. I’m glad they’re still doing it. Actually, I only recorded a demo with them and we did a Death cover, “Arch Angel.” Great times!
Your iPod play list posted on MTV’s Headbanger’s Blog lists everything from Frank Sinatra to Watain! Man, that’s nuts! Do you make it a point to keep your play list diversified? How important do you think it is to take breathers from extreme metal and why do you engage these other artists and genres?
I just listen to what I feel at the moment. I have a super-wide influence in music. My Dad was into Heavy Rock and all kinds of music and my Mom listened to Country and Elvis. I also grew up in the 80′s so my musical tastes were all over the place. I couldn’t listen to just one style of music. I need variety!
You handle management for a handful of bands through your company, Back from the Dead. What sort of services do you provide and what inspired the creation of this service?
Well, I’ve been in the music business since I was very young. My Dad owned a studio in Manhattan in the 70′s. So I was always around music and it was my dream to play full-time in a band. When I joined Obituary I felt I did it! We toured a lot and put out albums but we didn’t have a lot of business sense and that led to us disbanding for some years. In that period I had to figure out what I could do besides music. I ended up in the financial industry, and was very successful, but my heart was still in music. In 2005 Obituary decided to start playing again and it felt totally right! So I incorporated a lot of what I learned in the financial industry and used it for Obituary’s business and it’s worked out extremely well! As time went on a lot of bands I knew and ran into would always ask me questions about the record business and how to read contracts, etc. So I started helping these bands out and before I knew it a few bands were like “could you manage us,” so I did! And for me it’s the best of both worlds!
Managing several successful bands as well as playing in them, I imagine you’ve had a lot of experience working with various labels. What do you look for in a label when you’re trying to secure representation for a band?
I look for commitment, dedication and honesty. But it’s very rare to find! I can’t wait for the day when there will be no more record labels! Bands should sell they’re own shit. Fuck giving some record label all the rewards! If I’m paying $15 for a CD I’d love to know most of it goes to the artist but the sad thing is that the artist makes almost nothing! It’s insane!
What has been your worst label experience and your best? Please tell us why.
I’ll take the 5th on that one!
Are there any new things in the fold for the bands you’re working with? Tell us of any albums or events metal fanatics should keep an eye open for.
Definitely buy the new Merauder album, “God is I.” I think it’s the best album they’ve ever done! Totally heavy and brutal as hell! Jorge sounds sooo amazing on this record. I can’t stop listening to it! I’m also working with a band from LA called Rise and their album comes out later this year called “Pentagramnation.” It’s a really great record as well! Also, look out for Secrets She Kept! American Black Metal! Check out the new Obituary record, it’s definitely one of my favorites and of course the new Gorgoroth “Quantos Possunt ad Satanitatem Trahunt.” Please support us and buy the record, its going to be well worth it! There are no radio hits… just satanic grit!
Thanks for your time Frank…any closing comments for the readers of Metal Maniacs?
Support Metal Maniacs! I was really upset when the print mag went out of business! I was a subscriber and was sooo disappointed about not getting it anymore. I’m very glad to see there is still life now with the online version! Thank you for that!!!