Mike Browning is a good poser test: Anybody who knows their shit will quickly tell you about Mike's role in shaping early Florida death metal. A founding member of Morbid Angel, he made his biggest contribution with Nocturnus. We make a lot of Nocturnus jokes, but trust me that we are all huge Nocturnus fans. I first heard them in 1991 or so on the legendary Earche comp "Grindcrusher" when their track "BC/AD" completely blew me away. I stuck with them and became a huge fan by the time I was out of high school. Lucho, Krusher, Awakening, me, and the other kids in our circle of weirdos who grew up listening to Youth of Today and Terrorizer literally talked about Nocurnus for fucking hours when we hung out. In particular I remember around 97 or 98, me and this one dude Vince (where are you broseph??) geeking out on "The Key"and making "WEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!" noises at each other like the the keyboards on "Lake of Fire."
In contrast to many of his contemporaries (for instance the other dudes from Morbid Angel), who are complete fucking wingnuts, Mike seems like a cool, down-to-earth guy that doesn't take himself too seriously. That's a welcome change of pace, since there are way too many people who were in far less important bands who have their head completely up their own ass.
Washed up a-hole: "Do you know who I am?!?! I played bass in ROTTREVORE, you insolent fuck! Now kiss my pinkie and I'll forgive you."You don't hear his name nearly as much as you should these days, so we are super stoked to have Mike on Metal Inquisition!
Guy he is talking to: "Uh.... welcome to Olive Garden. How many people in your party?"
You made quite a mark on the death metal landscape in the 90s, but many of us lost track of you after that. What are you up to these days, both musically and otherwise? What do you do for a living?
Right now my band After Death is mixing a bunch of new songs we just recorded. There are 5 new songs and we rerecorded one off of our last Retronomicon CD and just for the fuck of it we recorded 2 old Morbid Angel songs Chapel of Ghouls(with The Invocation) and Angel of Disease from the Abominations of Desolation album, close to how they were done back in 1986, but still with some new elements as well. The last time we recorded was back in 2006, so we are way past due for some new material to be released! We also did a tour last October of Europe as After Death playing Nocturnus songs from The Key, which went over pretty well, so we may do that again sometime soon. Other than that I just work a regular day job for the water department in Tampa and work on my newest project a 1957 Chevy Bel Air that has become a fucking money pit, but it does haul ass!
Nocturnus was pretty out there for the early 90s. How did people react when you first came out? How does that differ from how people would react now, in a world where we've heard enough blast beats and sweep picking to sink a battleship?
The reactions were pretty good actually. I think because of The Science of Horror demo being heavier and less technical than The Key was, helped us to kind of break into a new style of death metal without going to far over the people's heads. But yeah today we might just have been the band of the week for the fucking sheeple that say they are death metal fans! Peoples attention spans these days are about as long as their dicks! And their attitudes are bigger!!!
Are you familiar with the popular death metal band Nile? They have a lot of songs about having sex with mummies, pet sphinxes, and other weird Egyptian stuff. You had a mummy on the cover of your 7" many years before Nile came out, how do you feel about them stealing your gimmick?
Well we did use some Egyptian themes way before Nile, but actually I didn't play on that 7" you mentioned, that was after I left the band. My band After Death does a lot more Egyptian themed music now, but we don't sound anything like Nile. Our style of lyrics is also more about the magick and rituals that the Ancient Egyptians used. And we have a full time keyboard player, so we can make the whole song have more atmosphere instead of just an intro.
Aside from mummies, Nocturnus' lyrics referenced all kinds of crazy shit like crystal balls, spaceships, droids, and so forth. Where did you come up with that stuff? Specifically, can you tell me what "Enter The Droids" is about?
In the beginning Nocturnus was mostly occult oriented lyrics, but when Mike Davis joined the band and started writing and had some lyrical ideas it turned more into sci-fi type stuff, so I mixed his ideas with mine and it came out to be some pretty crazy shit that I ended up writing about. The Key was pretty much a concept album about a guy going back in time and destroying Jesus Christ and taking over the world with future technology that he brought back with him.
It didn't really start as a concept album though, but as we kept writing songs they started to fit together like a puzzle and kind of ended up as a story, but each song could still stand on it's own. Enter The Droids was the part of the story where alien droid ships started attacking the Earth and the main character retreated to a cave where he built the time machine and it was in one of the crashed alien ships that he found "The Key" that was the finishing piece to make his time machine work.
Here on Metal Inquisition, we like to joke about "the Nocturnus time machine." For example, we have a whole section dedicated to "things I would destroy if I had access to the Nocturnus time machine." We also came up with a concept for scale models of the time machine. What would you do if you actually had access to the time machine you wrote about on "The Key"? I think I would go back in time to when I was a child and rape myself.
Man do you want me to make a fucking list or what!!! Hell there are tons of things I would go back and change if I had a time machine, especially some of the chicks I have met and had relationships with, that would probably be first on my list!!! I think some sweet revenge would be nice too for people that have wronged me, that's always nice to think about as well!!!
But why rape yourself when you can go back a bit farther and rape your mom and actually create yourself by raping your mom, now that's a fucking idea there!!! Maybe that will be my next concept album, so don't go stealing my idea like everyone else does!
If you were 20 years old today and starting a band, what would it sound like? What would your personal brand be?
I think I would have to say it might sound like After Death does now, pretty much I have always wanted to do atmospheric sounding occult metal! But if I was 20 again I don't know if I would have the discipline for it the way the world is today, but I would probably still make the same stupid mistakes anyway because I haven't changed much since then.
You know the guys in Morbid Angel well, right? Please watch this video of Trey Azagthoth hosting "Headbanger's Ball" and tell us what you think is going through his head. Other than, "I feel like the biggest fucking asshole on the planet."
What's funny is I knew Trey was going to be on Headbanger's Ball, so I actually saw that episode when it first aired and from knowing him all these years it was pretty much exactly what I expected to happen!!! I doubt he will ever try that one again!!!
Back in the day, it was mindblowing for someone to be able to play a blast beat, double bass, or tremolo riff at all. In retrospect, most of the musicianship was pretty amateurish by today's standards. As someone who was in one of the most technical, innovative bands of the 90s, how does it make you feel that these days every 16 year-old asshole kid can play sick blasts, sweep picked arpeggios, and 250 bpm double bass when people like you struggled so hard at pioneering these techniques?
It is all pretty relative because back then people thought that what we were doing was mind blowing and now I see these kids playing twice as fast and not even breaking a sweat. I think because the kids these days are brought up on this stuff and didn't have to progress into it or create it, that they come from a different mindset. Only problem is not a one of them have any originality, they all want and do sound like someone else and even worse is they want to be that way! There is no more originality anymore, so maybe it all has been done!
When I listen to Nocturnus, I always have a visual in my head to go along with the song. For example, "Empire of The Sands" reminds me of the Jawas in "Star Wars." Did you have any visuals in mind when you were writing them? If so, share the one that you think would be most surprising to us.
The whole goal of Nocturnus was to create an atmosphere with the music and lyrics together and this has always been what I would consider success over making money, not that making money is bad, but to me this is the greatest compliment someone can say about my music. When I write the lyrics, usually the whole idea pops into my head with a title that sums it up and I have a visual of the whole song like a movie playing out inside my head so at that point the lyrics start flowing sometimes so fast I can hardly write them down before I forget them. I usually have to find a paper and pen right away and end up writing the whole song in less than 10 minutes!
I would say as far as Nocturnus it would probably be Destroying The Manger, where I see this guy kicking the stable door down wearing some kind of a futuristic space suit and just blasting away Joseph, Mary and the 3 wise men and then saving the baby Jesus in his little manger for last as he starts laughing hysterically maybe with a cigar in his mouth like a true superhero would and just blasts the whole manger to smithereens!!! It would make a great movie don't ya think!!!
ENTER THE DROIDS / Cybernetic cralts approaching / Through skies lit with fusion discharge / Androids from the gamma quadrant / Moving at the speed of death / Now the human race is so vulnerable / Invasion set for attack / "Enter the Droids" / Command-Mission-Destroy-Planet-Three-From-Their sun / Caught within my tractor beam / Bringing the craft to me / Disable the robot for my own use / to aid my escape / Fleets of ships are now arriving,overtaking / Physical evasion is my only demise / Left to me for my survival / Gaining data from their system,overriding / To complete my invention,the time machine / Only question is"will it function"?
Pretend you get to write the metal history books. What would you like people to remember about you and your work?
Well I have never claimed to be some kind of an amazing musician, so more than anything I would want to be remembered as the one and only Mike Browning!
More info: After Death on MySpace, Mike Browning's MySpace, Nocturnus on Encyclopaedia Metallum. Also check out this 2008 interview with Mike courtesy of I Could Die Tomorrow. After Death is currently finishing up a new album, which we'll post about when it's done- stay tuned.