With a sound, mixing the beauty and atmosphere of shoegaze and post-rock, all the while mixing the visceral and ear
INTERVIEW: Jeff Becerra / Possessed
the creator of possessed talks new music, robotic legs and lockdown projects…
FD – *grinning like an idiot* Hi Jeff – Thank you so much for your time today! This is unreal! I am a massive fan, if you couldn’t already tell.
JB – Oh, thank you Fae! That’s like Faye Raye, one of my favourite actresses. I remember watching the B&W King Kong as a kid and thinking “God….I love Faye Raye”. I am showing my age here, aren’t I? *smiling*
FD – No, I remember watching that as a kid too. It’s a classic! So, I tweeted that I was going to interview you and my notifications exploded, with questions for you and comments from people who have met you, saying what a nice guy you are.
JB – Oh that’s cool! Well, at least somebody’s Twitter is exploding *laughs* because mine is dying. My Instagram is doing quite well. Oh, and my Facebook will hit 500,000 followers pretty soon, which is pretty cool. You have to be savvy with the technical stuff and social media, because it really matters nowadays.
FD – That’s very true. Now for my first question – If you could only listen to 3 albums for the rest of your life, what would they be?
JB – Sin After Sin (Judas Priest), Melissa (Mercyful Fate) and Bonded by Blood (Exodus). I watched Exodus as a teenager, way before ‘Bonded by Blood’ came out and I loved them. They were by far, the most popular band in the underground scene back then. As for Melissa, on the 2nd or 3rd listen, I was like “This band is f*cking amazing!” right? And Hank Shermann is a f*cking rager on guitar! It’s an album I play almost daily – if I get in a mood, I will put on Melissa. Sin after Sin, is an album that is a classic and a great example of amazing musicianship. Rob Halford…how he hits those notes, I don’t know *laughs*. Did you know that they practised for ONE DAY, before recording that album? So amazing.
FD – Wow! That’s really incredible.
JB – That just shows the difference between pros and novices. The first Possessed…we practised 3 hours a day, for 3 days a week and we still weren’t that tight. But with the new Possessed, we don’t practice that much. We practice one or two days before a tour and everything is tight. I’ve had around 25 members of Possessed over the years, to improve the band, but this round now is lit…it’s so good.
FD – That’s brilliant and leads me nicely to my next question…Can we expect some new Possessed music soon?
JB – I am writing new music, yeah. It’s going a bit slow…there’s been some lag because of COVID, but we’re back at it, hard at work. It’s hard though. I want every lyric to mean something and I also add in hidden meanings and double entendres, so it is really hard work. Right now, we have 3 full songs ready – we need 4-6 more complete songs. But we have 4 on the burner right now, so when it comes, it will come fast.
FD – Exciting! I’m so pleased to hear that and so will a lot of my followers on Twitter – many of whom were eager for me to ask about your new music.
JB – Well, I am under contract, so legally I am bound to produce at least 2 more albums. I want to keep on pumping out albums until I physically can’t or I am dead!
FD – That is great to hear. Your previous album (Revelations of Oblivion) was f*cking awesome, I will just take the opportunity to say *fangirl smile*.
JB – *smiles* Thank you, thank you. There were complaints that it was too technical and too long, so the first thing I did after reading that, was write a 10 minute long song *laughs*.
FD – Too technical and too long?! I personally don’t agree with that.
JB – The thing is, especially on social media, there is so much negativity. There will always be people to drag you down. And that’s why Possessed will never be a massive band…we won’t sell out. You can’t please everybody.
FD – I read an interview you did back in 2017, prior to the release of Revelations of Oblivion, where you said that you wanted to bring Possessed’s music into the 21st century. Do you feel you achieved that?
JB – I feel I did as much as I could for that step of the journey. I added some hooks, I made it more digestible. I want to stay true to the roots of death metal, even though I love what it’s become nowadays. I want to be as big as I can, with the tools that I am offered. Hopefully I can take it a step further with the next album, where people can enjoy it without having to grind their teeth to get through it. I want it to be super heavy but also super cool to listen to.
FD – So, in the early days of Possessed and death metal, was this new, heavier sound accepted straight away?
JB – No, it wasn’t. Death metal definitely wasn’t cool in the beginning. It was before it’s time. People would cover their mouths in shock, roll their eyes and giggle and I would get so many comments like “We can’t even understand what you are saying”. I also got people (early on) saying that we were Slayer clones, which I thought was weird because Possessed sounds nothing like Slayer. We were death metal, before it was cool and I think we paid the price for that, by being an outcast band and not being recognised as the first. There will be a time, when we have all passed, that Possessed will be forgotten as the first death metal band…because we just didn’t hit that fame and high level of production early on, like bands such as Death did. I love Death – they created that Floridian, zombie death sound. Death metal should be all encompassing, you can’t limit it to one sound or one sub-genre, or it will die out.
FD – I had this discussion with a friend of mine the other day. He loves technical death metal and refuses to listen to any other type of death metal. It infuriates me because he is missing out on so much amazing music.
JB – Yeah, tech death is amazing but it can be an overload if you listen to it too much *laughs*. But I love it all. All death metal is great and it’s good to be able to draw on all of the elements of it, to make great death metal music. Possessed were the first to mix metal genres and create a hybrid and that really is what death metal is – a hybrid. You can see nowadays, all of these new sub-genres popping up which is great, but I hope it is not the end of true death metal.
FD – I agree. I’m trying to do my part, by raising my children to be metal fans and to appreciate good death metal. My oldest is almost 4 years old and is already a great head banger *smiles*.
JB – You’re lucky! That’s awesome. My children are 18 and 21.
FD – Do they like metal?
JB – They like metal, yeah. They love their dad, of course. Whenever I am going over a new song, I will sit with my daughter and show her a riff and she is brutal…she’ll be like “Yeah….no….yeah…no” it’s cool *laughs*.
FD – That’s great! I’m glad to hear that. They can’t have you as a father and not like metal…that would just be wrong! *laughs*. So, back in 2020, you were part of the “Metal Against Coronavirus” project. You and Karl Willetts (Bolt Thrower, Memoriam) provided the vocals for the song “Celestial Burial” – how did that happen?
JB – They just got in touch and I was happy to be part of it. I could lay in my bed here and record the vocals direct into my iPhone *turns the camera to show his mic, amp and recording set up, beside the bed*. I can record bass, vocals and FX at studio quality. I could make a whole album on my phone, right here. So, I sent the raw vocals to a guy in Norway to get mixed for the song “Celestial Burial” and that’s it. We’re thinking about doing another 4 songs, but I’m super busy so we’ll see.
FD – Now, I promised a lot of people on social media that I would ask about the video you posted, where you are walking with the aid of some expensive robotic legs. Can you tell me about that experience?
JB – Yes! The $175,000 robotic leg set up. You strap in and you just kind of lean sideways and your leg moves. It’s pretty scary, actually because I’m 6ft 3” (191cm). It was great and very emotional to stand up again. Pretty exhausting, but it was amazing. Unfortunately, my dad was filming it on his iPhone 3, so it was pretty grainy! For me, I just don’t think the robotic technology is there quite yet, though. It’s still easier for me to jump into my chair and go. I got a bit bruised up, but it was a really worthwhile experience. Two things I rarely do is laugh out loud (even though I am really happy) and cry, but that’s as close as I’ve come, since the injury happened.
FD – So, how would you describe death metal? Is it a lifestyle? Is it a particular sound? What would you say?
JB- If I was younger, it would be easier to answer that…it would just be like “F*ck the world” and that kind of outlaw attitude, but things have changed. Death metal is technically challenging – to me, it’s high art. It’s a mind-set as much as anything and it is definitely a way of life. In the early days, when Possessed were the only death metal band, there would be a lot of drugs, alcohol, girls, etc., but now you’ll see college kids at death metal shows…it’s become a valid genre, which is amazing – you don’t have to be a certain kind of person to listen to death metal.
FD – So, now for my final question. Many people claim to have been extremely affected by the COVID lockdowns. Have you?
JB – In my small local town, out in the country, the Mayor wasn’t that strict with the restrictions, so we didn’t really suffer as much as a lot of other people. Other than not being able to travel and tour, which got to me a lot, the lockdown didn’t really affect me. In a way though, the lockdown was a blessing for me, because I had a major surgery and was out of commission. It gave me a much needed break and a chance to recover.
FD – *still grinning like an idiot* Well, thank you SO much for your time. It’s been a pleasure having the chance to speak to you.
JB – Thank you so much Fae.