~ Interview with Mike Mellinger ~

Mit der Veröffentlichung ihres verschollenen ‚Nails‘-Albums von 1992 haben uns die kalifornischen Melodic-Thrasher INTRINSIC eines der edelsten metallischen Geschenke der letzten Jahre gemacht. Kaum zu glauben, dass die Band mit diesem Meisterwerk im Stile der besten FORBIDDEN/HEATHEN und DEATH ANGEL-Momente seinerzeit bei keinem Label landen konnte. Den Schatzsuchern von Divebomb-Records ist es zu verdanken, dass wir nun doch noch in den Genuss dieses Kleinods kommen durften. Und das Schönste: Die Band hat sich reformiert und will alle Hebel in Bewegung setzen, nächstes Jahr bei den einschlägigen Undergrund-Festivals in Deutschland und Umgebung auftreten zu können. klingelte bei Bandleader/Gitarrist Mike Mellinger durch, der uns auf den Stand der Dinge im INTRINSIC-Lager brachte. Hier das Interview im englischen Original:

Mike, “Nails“ will hit the record stores at the end of October. Until now it was only available online and by some special distributors like How are the fan-reactions so far?

Mike Mellinger: We are getting some great reactions and reviews! I think people are surprised at how heavy and intense some of the songs are, but also surprised at the diversity of styles. Some people prefer less diversity, it seems, but a lot people really like the different styles on Nails. That diversity is part of who we are as a band.

Without Charly Kogler, a metal-maniac from Austria, who made the contact to Divebomb-Records, “Nails” might have never seen the light of the world. Have you invited Charly to California already?

Yes, he has an open invitation! Charly is a great guy and has been very helpful and supportive. We would love to meet him in person.

The Liner-Notes of the CD are very informative, but you left out your 1996-“Closure”-Album. Why that?

Well, the Story of „Nails“, that I wrote in the liner notes is really just about the „Nails“-period. It is an unknown time in Intrinsic history and the label, Divebomb Records, felt an important part of the release was telling our story during this time. I think many people were surprised when „Closure“ came out because they had not heard from us in about 5 years, so maybe that is another story we should tell …

When I listen to “Nails”, it’s hard to believe, that no record-label showed interest back in 1992. Were your expectations too high?

Maybe our expectations were a little too high. We just felt so strongly about the songs and so we were targeting major labels, in addition to independents. Maybe we should have just focused on the smaller labels. We made some demo tapes of the songs and sent them out to record companies, with no results. The labels would say that they liked the music, but they were looking for something more contemporary (i.e. trendy). We thought about releasing it ourselves or just sending the demo tapes out to all the fanzines and magazines to try to create a buzz, but just didn’t have any energy or money left to do that.

Grunge is often blamed of having killed metal in the nineties. How did you experience this revolution in California?

Metal concerts were still very popular in the early 90’s in California, but styles started to change. You could hear the grunge influence creeping in. Bands became less technical and simplified their songs and sound.

How much is the metal-scene itself to blame for the decline – in terms of creativity and stamina?

That’s a a good question … Thrash definitely stagnated and fans got bored with it, I think. METALLICA tried to take thrash in a more commercial direction. PANTERA took some of the groove rhythm elements of thrash and more or less the sound of the “…And Justice”-album and combined that with their other influences to create a pretty fresh sound that resonated with fans. Extreme metal really took off in the underground, but this further fragmented the scene into more subgenres. Overall, there was nothing really exciting to unite the metal scene at that time.

Why did you reform INTRINSIC?

Well, we had such a good time doing reunion shows in 2005 and 2007 that we just wanted more of that camaraderie and creativity. We all felt that we had a lot more to say musically together, too.

How many new songs are in the pipeline right now?

Mike Mclaughlin, our bass player, really spearheaded the start of the songwriting. He wrote three songs and then demoed them – plus a couple Garrett and I wrote – playing all the instruments. We are in the process of writing more songs and refining our sound. In fact, our drummer Chris Binns and I played together over this past weekend and worked on four or five more songs in the pipeline. It was a revelation to turn up my amp and play along with Chris’ acoustic drum kit. We had been writing and recording, up until this point, directly into our computers. Recording technology improvements over the years have been an incredible boon to musicians. We never would have been able to get the songwriting process off the ground without computer recording, but there is something so amazing about all of us being in the same room together with amps, drums and vocals blazing and the synergy of everyone working together. It gives you goosebumps, sometimes, it’s so exciting. It did my heart and soul so much good to jam with Chris. We will be doing much more jamming in the near future with Mike Mclaughlin there, as well, and are planning some full band get-togethers.

How does the new material sound compared to “Nails”?

I would say that the style of our new songs is a natural extension of the „Nails“-sound filtered through the „Closure“-era and our 2015 selves. Prior to even thinking about a „Nails“-release, I had been feeling so connected to the speed/thrash/technical metal feel of the earlier INTRINSIC and I wanted to express that in our new music. The process of mixing and releasing „Nails“ really coalesced those feelings. It is 2015, though, and a lot has happened in all of our lives since „Nails“. We aren’t just pretending its 1992 and continuing writing where „Nails“ left off. We are different as people and musically and I think you will hear that, but we know what INTRINSIC is all about at its core and it’s important to us to maintain that integrity.

You’re planning some festival-shows in 2016 – how big is the chance to see you live over here in Germany?

We would definitely love to play festivals in 2016. For American metal fans, the European metal festivals have a mythical and legendary status. To have a weekend of just metal with thousands of like-minded metal fans and all the best bands playing, is like a dream come true.

What do you know about the german scene and festivals like Bang Your Head, Keep It True or the Headbangers Open Air?

We have been in contact with Headbangers Open Air, but haven’t been able to reach anybody at Bang Your Head and Keep it True. We have received no commitments from HOA, though. Unfortunately, we are running out of time because they book these festivals so far in advance …

Is California and especially the bay-area still a hotspot for metal-music?

I would say that California is no longer a “hot spot” for metal. With the proliferation of the Internet and the immediacy of connecting with bands these days, there is no longer geographical significance when it comes to metal. The Bay Area scene of the 80’s, that I was in, was a perfect combination of underground record stores feeding musician’s influences, a tight knit group of tape traders and fanzines, a good club scene, great bands and a lot of metal fans. I don’t think you will see something like that ever again.

Are there some friendships left from the “glory days”?

Yeah, mostly friends from bands and the scene in San Luis Obispo in the 80’s and early 90’s. have been reconnecting through Facebook. I lost touch with some of the Bay Area bands I knew back in the day, but have reconnected with a few.

What jobs do you and your bandmates have?

I work as an engineer in the Aerospace industry, Garrett (Craddock) is a database developer at Expedia, Chris (Binns) is a project manager at an internet service provider, Mike (Mclaughlin) is an accountant on Hollywood movies and Lee (Dehmer) is a foreman at a trucking company. Chris, Lee and I all have families.

San Luis Obispo, located roughly between San Francisco and Los Angeles, is famous for its wine. Can you recommend us some grapes?

That whole wine industry just popped up in the last 15 years. We moved from San Luis Obispo in the mid 90’s and have visited a lot in the time since then, but we are not really wine drinkers so I cannot recommend any, unfortunately. We were and still are much more beer drinkers than wine drinkers.