Doom legend and former Pentagram, Death Row and most recently Place of Skulls front-man Victor Griffin tells Metal Chaos the reasons behind the demise of Place of Skulls and his plans for the future.
|Hi Victor, hope things are well with you? Can you confirm that Place of Skulls have indeed split up?|
|Yeah, the latest line-up of the band has split.|
|What factors lead to the split?|
|Several factors really…since Lee left the band back in 2002, there have been a number of personnel changes and problems. We tried the thing with Wino but that didn’t work out in the long term because of logistics. During that time, Ron Holzner and Greg Turley were in and out of the band on bass in a matter of months. So we finally got Dennis Cornelius as the permanent bass player after a year and a half searching…that turned into an excellent relationship. I hate to see it end with Dennis but we’re talking about playing together again in the future. So then this past summer, Tim quit just weeks before our European tour and we had to cancel our studio time as a result. Luckily we got Pete Campbell to fill in on drums for the tour, but he lives in Minnesota so that couldn’t be a permanent thing. After the European tour, Tim wanted to rejoin the band but I think at that point, the damage had been done. So now, I think it's time to give Place of Skulls a rest. It's hard to be passionate about something, working with other people, when everybody involved doesn’t share the same passion. I thought we came back from Europe with some pretty good momentum. But since we had already cancelled studio time for the new CD and we were back with a drummer dilemma, I think we lost a lot of it.|
|What now lies on the horizon for you, any immediate plans? Will you be staying in Tennessee?|
|I don’t know about staying in Tennessee. I think I’d like to get outta here. I’m contemplating a move, possibly back up to the DC area. I just don’t know yet. As far as future band plans, I’ve been talking to a drummer I met recently. But I’m gonna try to take easy and see how things work out. I’ve got a full CD’s worth of new material I’m anxious to get recorded. Dennis is moving back to Oklahoma after the farewell show on Feb. 18. We’d like to continue together but unless we figure out something logical with that, I’ll also be looking for another bass player. I really didn’t think I’d be this anxious to get going again so soon. But it didn’t take long after the decision to split that the wheels in my head started turning.|
|Prior to the split the band recorded “Love through Blood”, what are the plans for this release?|
|It’s coming out on Outlaw Recordings within the next week or so. It’ll probably be available by the time this interview’s out. The show we’re doing on the 18th is also a CD release show so we’ll have there for sure.|
|You have also recorded your solo album, “Late for an early grave”, how did this come about?|
|Omid Yamani of Outlaw Recordings contacted me like 4 years ago about this cassette he’d gotten his hands on. It was some over-generated copy of a bunch of demo songs I’d recorded. He wanted to release it but the copy he had was really no good for that. So I got all my masters together, went to Seva, my mastering guy at Soundcurrent Mastering, and he just did a phenomenal job with it|
|Is a solo career something you will be pursuing, in light of the demise of Place of Skulls?|
|It’s a possibility, though I don’t know if I’m comfortable with that concept. I’ve always liked the full band effort kind of format. But maybe at this point, it could be a possibility. I don’t have the patience I once had in dealing with the potentially extreme mixture of personalities in a band. If the chemistry’s just right, it’s magic. But usually it’s not that easy. It might be cool to do a solo thing where some studio musicians just come in and lay down the tracks.|
|Is the solo album in the same vein musically as that of Place of Skulls?|
|No…not really. There’s a bunch of experimental hard rock tunes. A few songs that ended up being used on the Pentagram “Be Forewarned” album…a coupla Dead Boys cover tunes and a combination cover of Steppenwolf’s “The Pusher” and Motorhead’s “Iron Horse”.|
When was “Late for an early grave” recorded, who appears on the record with you?
|It was recorded sporadically between ’88 and ’94. I’d left Pentagram the first time around ’88. Some of it was recorded around that time and some of it was recorded after I moved to L.A. in ’89. Wino and I were trying to put something together for awhile out there so he’s on it for a couple of songs. But other than that, the rest is just me.|
|Do you have any plans to tour in support of “Late for an Early Grave”?|
|Nah. It might be cool if I had an instant band to do it with. But it’s something I’m not prepared to put that much work into|
|Is touring something you enjoy or is it a necessary evil?|
|It’s enjoyable at times. Like that one hour a night when you’re onstage…if you’re having a good night. And it’s cool to meet your fans and so forth. The rest of it can get pretty monotonous and boring. I think if my career had ever gotten to the point where I was touring with just a few more luxuries and less hassles, I could tour indefinitely. I don’t mean to sound like I’m complaining because I’m really so thankful to have at least gotten this far, ya know. But after all these years, it definitely takes a little more out of you having to figure every dollar, and getting from gig to gig in a van pulling a trailer. So yeah, it’s both to me…enjoyable at times but also a necessary evil. But I wouldn’t trade the experiences I’ve had for anything.|
|Rumours persisted while you were in Place of Skulls, of a Death Row / Pentagram reunion. The band having now split, I’m sure these rumours will intensify, is there any truth to these rumours? Is this something you would consider?|
|We did a full Death Row reunion in 2002 and I’d definitely do it again. I don’t know much about the rumours now but Joe, Bobby, and I have been in contact lately. Of course the new Pentagram have some things going on, so a Pentagram reunion with Joe and I is probably out of the question for now. But the possibility of another Death Row reunion with the classic line-up could definitely be in the works. Yeah, we’ve been talking.|
Much is made of the ‘Victor Griffin sound’ and it’s influence upon the current stoner / doom bands. How does this sit with you and what do you feel influences ‘your sound’?
|Man, I’m just really flattered to be considered in that respect. I think I’ve developed my own sound and style over the years apart from my early influences. But it’s an ongoing process. Right now I’ve really settled into what I think is totally my sound. But at the same time, I’ve talked with people who have been seeing me play for years and tell me I’ve always had the same tone…regardless of gear. I do believe the old adage that tone is in your fingers. You just fine-tune it with your gear. I’m not too influenced anymore from other people’s sound or tone. I do my thing with my gear. I don’t play my rig and go, hey, this thing needs a little more of so and so’s tone…know what I mean?|
|Having seen and done most things within the music world, what continues to drive you on to make music?|
|The creativity. That’s really it. It provides me with a forum to express myself that I couldn’t at most times, ever do with regular words in a regular conversation. I can say anything I think and feel with music and no one can tell me it’s wrong. It’s art…and art can’t be wrong. It’s all a matter of taste and opinion. If you don’t like a particular band or person’s piece of art, you go to something else.|
|Any Message to your fans?|
I can’t convey my appreciation enough. Whether or not I’ll ever sell a million records is irrelevant. To the relatively few people in the world who connect with my music, I’m eternally grateful.
|All photographs and images used with kind permission of Victor Griffin.|
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