How much honesty can you handle? How much doom and gloom can you digest? Well, if you have been following A PALE HORSE NAMED DEATH, you are part of the clan and you are bold enough to stare into the abyss. Sal Abruscato is a genuine artist feeding his demons with his music while gaining energy to contain them, you can never win, and METAL KAOZ had one more chance to speak with him and get a scoop of how brutal life can be. Ready to dive in? We are challenging you to do so...
Hi Sal and welcome back to METAL KAOZ! We don’t want to keep you for long, so we’ll start right away. First question: is it true that you came close to call it a day?
It’s good to see both of you! I wouldn’t calling it a day; I’ve been through so many struggles – what happened was when “Lay My Soul To Waste” came out, my middle daughter was born disabled, blind, it was really rough, rough on me and my wife. And at the same time, I was kinda like [interrupting himself] I was asked to work with LOA [LIFE OF AGONY] again, so I got involved on that for a few years. Then Matt Brown who was kind of like my production partner didn’t wanna do it anymore and I was having issues with that. Then when I finally decided after getting so many letters from fans – and I had this material sketched out since 2014 [pointing at “When The World Becomes Undone” our vinyl record], that title I’ve had it since 2014 – and I said “I’ve got to do more”. This is my baby, this is what I love to do, this is where I belong, doing my own thing. So I asked Matt like three times “hey, do you wanna do this? Because I’m gonna do it, don’t get upset when I move on”, and he didn’t want to do it. So, we auditioned, we got Joe Taylor in the band who is phenomenal – he was Lita Ford’s guitarist and Doro’s guitarist for many years – extraordinary musician so I’ve compiled now the most awesome bunch of musicians where there are two amazing guitarists as well, a great drummer and bassist and it was time to do a record. And that’s what we did. And as soon as I’ve reawaken this animal, it was like a drug; I was like “this is where I belong”. I like dark stuff, I’m a very dark person, I am diagnosed depressive and I have my issues, so this is my therapy.
You’ve answered maybe five of our questions so far (laughs).
Because I’m very personable and I know what you’re thinking (laughs). I’m the prophet of doom, man (laughs).
Did you write the whole thing, “When The World Becomes Undone”, all by yourself?
Yeah, I write all the music. I let the guys write their solos with direction, but I pretty much sit down and orchestrate everything in my studio and I’m pretty much putting it all together. But with this album, what was different is that we didn’t have Matt to record with, so Eric, our bassist, joined with me and wanted to be my partner recording and doing all the production, so we mixed the record together and Eric actually wrote three of the soundscapes on there and it was awesome. No drama, no problems and it’s just the band is in a great place now. The camaraderie is great, we are all happy, there is no such thing as an argument or any kind of tension whatsoever and we are just having a blast. And we’re grateful to be doing this.
You look happier because the last time we saw you, back in 2013…
[interrupting] I was exhausted. I had to leave my family for seven weeks; left my wife with our situation of our daughter and I was feeling really down.
Is it ok, if we include your daughter’s health issues in the interview?
Absolutely, because I want the world to know the truth. My daughter had to go through 20 surgeries. I was also in my last year in LIFE OF AGONY and in 2017 I was diagnosed with a pre-cancerous condition and I had to get bone marrow biopsy in January. This condition is called monoclonal gammopathy that if it becomes aggressive, it becomes myeloma which is a type of blood cancer... I thought I had leukemia two years ago and I had to quit smoking like that [snaps fingers]. That scared the crap out of me. So, that was a rough time. I was like “listen” and I started thinking about mortality also. I was like “if I’m gonna get diagnosed with something, it’s the worst thing in the world for my kids and my wife, but I need to leave, like the last record”. If there is gonna be a last record, it’s got to be APHND, you know? Not any other band. It’s got to be my thing. But I’m ok now (the results were negative), and we have this 7’’ coming out, we did these amazing covers of THE CURE and THREE DOG NIGHT, so we’re really excited about that.
You didn’t choose these songs, but the other guys did that, right?
I let them choose it because I feel like even though I write and I’m the singer and blah, blah, blah, I want everyone to feel like I share everything equally; my royalties, my publishing, everything is different now. And I want everyone to feel like they are an important part of this band. We were in Dusseldorf talking about that because the record label actually wanted this and put the idea in our heads. They said “do a couple of covers”, because they thought that it’s a great way to get the press onboard again and keep up with things. It seems these days you’ve got to record every eight months, the way the business is. It’s nuts. The problem is though, you’re not gonna get the quality from these bands because they are in a rush to put out this material and that’s why they have maybe one good song in every record.
Right; but you do recognize also the effect of bands using like something a blueprint and releasing the same stuff all over again.
Yeah, it gets boring. I already have a different approach for the next record because I’m actually gravitated to be more Doom, and more in a type of Black Arts type of direction, which was always my nature but I was always careful about that, about being branded in any way. But I have already these ideas that I want touch with being slower in certain moments and darker and progressing because I don’t want to stay too much the same. This is a wonderful progression from the other two records and I wanna do the next progression that will have all these elements but I want to dive into even more taking people down into the abyss with me.
You know, when I started listen to “When The World Becomes Undone” – and this is why took me so long to write the review – whenever I started playing this album, it was so tough. But once I did it again and again, I started relating with that. Listening to this stuff is like a therapy for us too. It is like a therapy for us too.
Yeah. The first track, “When The World Becomes Undone”, I like to dub it in piano, and in fact I did the other night in the hotel – I had the garage band app on my phone and I do some ideas and sketch them and I came up with this other line with a piano instead of the organ and it was really awesome, and I let some of the guys hear it and I have already my head spinning for the next chapter. So, I’m excited! I’ve no intentions to stopping right now. I don’t wanna take a break, like I did before. Honestly, LIFE OF AGONY took my time up; I was involved with writing like nine songs for that record and I arranged nine songs, and you can even hear some riffs like kinda APHND, so that took up my time, two years of my life. And actually that was the last thing I did with Matt; I had Matt involved on that record as well and I could not focus on APHND. You know, this time the label told me “we don’t want you to take so long for the next one”. They’re very accommodating and such a huge support for this band, they love what I do, they respect me and basically they give me freedom. They know whatever I’m gonna do, it’s gonna be good and I’m gonna deliver. So, I’m already thinking about ideas and titles and direction for the next APHND album.
One thing I want to ask you; “When The World Becomes Undone” is almost like a concept, like we discussed, right?
Kind of like an unintentional concept, but there isn’t an actual conception theme behind.
Is there a positive twist at the end? Because, we hear sounds of a funeral at the track that closes the album.
Yeah, actually I put that one together closure; that’s a recording of a real funeral happening outside my door that I took. And hearing the dog, the German shepherd barking, so that’s my dog barking at the background. I wanted to give that feeling of heaviness.
[interrupting] But my take on this, because you also hear birds chirping there, so I thought “Sal put that there just to give you something optimistic at the end”.
It’s about hope, like that is something on the other side, light at the end of the tunnel. Subliminally everyone who is intelligent would catch that, and you did. I wanted to have the birds chirping while the bell was going and the dog was barking [interrupting himself] You see, to me, dog’s barking is like the devil; you’re fighting over taking that soul. The birds are like god, heaven, bringing the light. I am glad that I made it difficult for you and you took your time with it.
It felt almost disrespectful to not invest my time on it. I need to hear and also “see” the music by connecting with the lyrics.
There are a lot of personal battles even for stuff that goes all the way back when I was young. Like a couple of lines in “Splinters”; when I was 10 years old, I was at a sleep-away camp and I had three grown men trying to rape me and that’s where that comes from. The line “yesterday I was hurt forever / long ago I was scarred forever” is about that because that incident fucked me up and my parents had to send me to therapy. And they didn’t even know. I didn’t even tell my mum about that until I was 33 years old. This is why they didn’t understand why I was a fucking nutjob - I was constantly fighting at school, I was an angry and very anti-social teenager. I did not have friends or girlfriends, I was outside the box because I did not know how to act around people.
Other stuff is about my daughter; she had multiple corneal transplants but she rejected them and it was like “the world is disappearing from her eyes” was from that experience. It is ongoing and it is brutal. My wife is the most strongest woman in the world, she really keeps us together and keeps everything going because I think I’m a little weaker in that department and I have been in battle for six years with god. I’ve been angry about why this innocent girl [interrupting himself] There are so many pieces of shit out there that do horrible things, but then this poor girl when was born all she wanted to do is playing with her sisters, but she doesn’t walk, doesn’t talk, she’s in a wheel chair, so I’m angry. Songs like “Love The Ones You Hate” is about people that I knew in my life and they didn’t understand the pain I was going through as a father during the recent years and the battles I was personally having and were fucking me up in the head, and it’s like a little bit of a send-off, like “goodbye, fuck you forever”.
But then why do you say “love the ones you hate”?
I’m trying to get over it, I’m trying of letting go.
Initially when I was listening to that song, I thought that even though there are people who treated you bad, in a way, they got you where you are now; they got you stronger.
Yes, there is that message as well, almost like how Jesus turned the other cheek and forgave. I believe that to an extent, but that was my therapy song that tried to like “move on and let it be” and feel better about things and be positive in my own way. Just let them go.
I wish we had more time to keep talking to you but we have to keep the schedule. You have the European tour after this trek, right?
Yes, in six weeks we go to Europe and then there is something really big in the works for April in Europe we’ll be going back, there’s talks about maybe this festival in March in Mexico City and we maybe do main support in Europe for someone really big which I can’t really say yet because it’s not confirmed. It’s all in discussions right now. The goal is to try to work as much as possible in 2020, I’m trying to [interrupting himself] Life is short, I’m feeling it, I’m already 49, so I wanna get out if I can afford to do it in my life, keeping doing the records and tour with the help of my wife who takes on a lot of extra work when I go away, but that’s why we do 2-3 weeks at the time. But there are plans to do festivals next summer as much as good quality touring we can do, hopefully in the US as well. Also, I wanna go to places I’ve never been to, like Australia and South America, like on this EU tour we’re doing two shows in Romania and a festival in Bucharest with DARK TRANQUILLITY and it’s gonna be really cool, I’ve never been there, so I’m excited.
Well, Sal, we wish you all the best of luck for all your future endeavors and hopefully we’ll see APHND again in Chicago soon.
Alright, guys! Enjoy the show!