Bay Area thrashers Epidemic were consistently in the right place at the wrong time. The Death monicker had to be changed to avoid confusion with the Florida/Bay Area band of the same name. Managed by Marco Barbieri's Barbwire Productions and of the No Glam Fags fanzine (later Metal Blade and Century Media), the band was initially formed in 1987 by the two guitarists and bassist for a high school talent show. With a drummer called Geoff Bruce joining that summer all the combo needed was a singer. Enter Carl Fulli that September. The band won a Battle Of The Bands and as a result received the opportunity to open for Death Angel. December of 1987 brought the Immortal Minority demo. The band mailed out 200 copies and replaced Bruce with Bob Cochran. Following a series of shows - one with D.R.I. - the band recorded Demo '89. The tape sold over 2,000 copies and becomes of the top 10 demos of the year in the only place that mattered: the Metal Forces' demo charts. The band's Demo '89 was a success thanks to intense promotion and a vibrant underground community. England's Metalcore label pressed the demo on vinyl - supposedly limited to 5,000 copies and calling it The Truth Of What Will Be - and the reviews were very positive. Metalcore didn’t bother to pay the band any royalties.
In January of 1991 the gang horded into Telluride Studio and recorded Extremities '91. Again the response was good and the band promoted itself heavily in the underground. Barbieri was now working at Metal Blade and the song Circle Of Fools was slated to open Metal Massacre XI. The band's appearance on the sampler - though unexpectedly not as openers - further promoted the band. Barbieri brought the band to the attention of Metal Blade's Brian Slagel who offered the thrashers a contract. The band entered the studio in the winter and recorded a debut, which it expected to see out in the spring. While the album appeared in early July, the band had utilized the time and procured a satisfactory cover art and opened the Bay Area leg of the Entombed/Dead Horse tour. This, the day after Exhorder was ordered off the tour for indecent behaviour. With Decameron out – does one sense a theme here? - the band managed to get on the Malevolent Creation and Suffocation tour. The band's brand of thrash metal was not a good fit there however. Following the tour the band asked guitarist Higbey to leave the fold citing a lack of musicianship. With the new line-up the band submitted a pre-production tape (recorded with a drum machine) to Metal Blade. A teaser 7" called Lament preceded the sophomore album. The band's second full-length was called Exit Paradise. Failing to make any headway, the band called it a day with several members scattering onto other projects.
The below is an interview Ali “The Metallian” originally conducted in March of 1992 with Carl Fulli the singer for Bay Area thrashers Epidemic. The interview was conducted during a private visit by Fulli to Montreal following the recording, but before the release of Epidemic’s Metal Blade Records’ debut. Carl’s wife hailed from Montreal, Canada. Now unearthed, the text is kept intact with minimal edits in order to present it with the original atmosphere and sensibility of the era intact. – 03.1992
METALLIAN: The obvious question is to ask about the band’s history and the line-up.
FULLI: The line-up is myself Carl Fulli on vocals, Erik Moggridge on guitar, Guy Higbey on guitar, Mark Bodine on bass and Bob Cochran on drums. Guy, Mark and Erik started out with this other drummer who was never really part of the band. They started off as a little band that wanted to do a high school talent show when they were seniors at high school. They did it as a joke; for fun. Then they decided to keep jamming and called themselves Epidemic. They got another drummer to play with them. This was around April of 1987. In September of 1987 – the very beginning like the second or third – they asked me to join the band. I tried out and joined. I was the final addition to Epidemic.
METALLIAN: For the last thrasher out there who doesn’t know talk about the band’s output until now.
FULLI: We started off with Demo ’89, no excuse me, we started out with the Immortal Minority demo. That was with our drummer Geoff. We got around 200 copies of it out. After about a year, which was September of 1988 or beginning of October, we kicked out, er we asked Geoff to leave - don’t want to say ‘kicked out’ – and got Bob. I had known Bob for around three years, no, I had known him for… six years. I had known him for a long time. I asked him to join the band because he could play really good drums. We needed somebody solid. We then recorded Demo ’89. We got three or four thousand of those out. That demo got us into the underground really big. It got us really well known around the Bay Area. We sent it to Metalcore Records in England. They pressed it, put it out, placed some ads in Kerrang and Metal Hammer and, as far as I know, only sold 5,000. They have screwed us over with money and stuff. After that, we recorded Extremities ’91 in January of ’91. We got it out the following month. We almost sold 2,000 of that. We got interest from Metal Blade. The contract came over in August and we signed it. We just got done recording the album in January of this year (1992).
METALLIAN: Why the name ‘Epidemic?’ Are you aware of the UK band with the same name?
FULLI: Yeah, I am aware of Epidemic from the UK. I am also aware that there is an Epidemic in Brazil as well. I got in the band when it was already Epidemic. I am not so sure how they got the name. I think they were sitting around listening to Slayer and thought, ‘fuck it, let’s call it Epidemic.’ Just, what the hell! It’s a good enough name or whatever. As far as the other band in the UK, we heard a tape of them and honest to God, not to be a dick, but they sucked. I don’t know how good the Epidemic band from Brazil is. I can’t really make a judgement upon them. It looks like we have the name and we don’t have to worry. We haven’t really worried about changing our name or anything.
METALLIAN: Are you sure? What if they pull a whole ‘Wrathchild America’ on you?
FULLI: That was a whole different story because there was a band called Wrathchild in England in the early ‘80s and they were the Wrathchild. They had put out records in America also. They had a distribution deal. So, Wrathchild America couldn’t just call themselves Wrathchild. They had to add the ‘America’ thing to make themselves distinctive. I think this is the big difference. These two Epidemics have not put out anything commercially. They don’t have any rights to anything. We already have our album out and a demo, which got pressed in Europe on Metalcore so, I don’t think there is any problem with that whatsoever.
METALLIAN: How confident were you that you would land a deal for an album with a company like Metal Blade? It looked like you were very confident recording a demo on 24 tracks. Was there a time that you had some doubts?
FULLI: I think we were always serious. Back when we put out our demo it wasn’t real serious. The first demo was on 16 tracks, although it is a very good quality demo for 1987. Bands were doing 4 tracks and maybe 8 tracks. That was just us. We didn’t think anything about it. Demo ’89 was also 16 tracks, but it was a much much better recording. People thought it was an album when they heard it. I am still proud of that demo today. A lot of bands put out demos and are not proud of them, but I am still proud of that demo. We got a little more serious with the success of Demo ’89. We saw that people bought it and liked it. We got rid about 4,000 on our own. We sold them ourselves through the mail or at shows. We were serious. We thought that this is something that is cool and we should keep going. We weren’t the types that kept saying ‘we are going to make it’ or ‘we are sure that we are going to make it.’ We kept our jobs. To say that we are going to make it for sure is ludicrous. We go an album deal, but we still haven’t made it.
After that, we got our manager. He was managing another band and decided to manage us too. He really helped us out a lot. A year and a half later, he got a job at Metal Blade and he played our tape there for Brian Slagel. It was Brain Slagel’s decision to sign us. Our manager was the one who made our music available for Brian Slagel to hear. Some would say ‘oh your manager did it all for you.’ Yeah, he did help us, but it wasn’t for us he wouldn’t have a band to sell. If Brian Slagel had said ‘no’ then our manager would be shit out of luck.
We just got more serious as we came along. It was a gradual thing. We weren’t out to make a living. Hopefully now, we all hope to make a living off of it.
METALLIAN: You are saying that with your manager’s job at Metal Blade, or without, you would have gotten a deal.
FULLI: Yes and no. I think we might have gotten a deal without him working at Metal Blade. We would have had a good chance of getting a deal without him working at metal Blade. To have him… to have him… working at Metal Blade was a big push. He was inside. He knew everybody. So, it was easy for him to get it in there. Like I said though, it wasn’t up to him. It was up to Brian Slagel.
It was amazing because Monte Connor from Roadracer said we were garbage. And Roadracer is the other big independent like Metal Blade. It is hard to say. We might have gotten signed and we might not have.
METALLIAN: You got into my next question because I was just going to ask if you got any response from other companies.
FULLI: We didn’t really send our demos to labels. We sent it to the fans. We were trying to get the buzz going. We were really in tune with just going and hitting the record companies. We weren’t that high on getting a big record deal. We were more or less into getting the fans into it and then we would generate some record company interest. We sent it to Roadracer and sent it to Relativity. Monte Connor said we were garbage. Relativity sent us the typical form letter that said we are not what they are looking for. They were signing bands like… who were they going for… they were trying to sign this alternative shit. Whatever. Metal Blade is a good label. They are behind everybody.
METALLIAN: Tell me about the deal you have with Metal Blade.
FULLI: I think the deal is for six or seven albums. I mean I cannot get into the complete details. As soon as we sell a certain number of records, we will be jumped up to Warner Brothers distribution. As of right now we are going through independent distribution.
As far as money goes, I prefer not to mention it. Bands have gotten bigger amounts than we have. It is nothing to be ashamed of, but it is nothing to sit down and brag about either.
METALLIAN: My main issue is tour support. I have seen bands not tour following an album and the LP sits there in the record store on the rack. Nobody is picking it up. Seems like the metal scene lives off bands touring and how aware of this problem are you?
FULLI: I am very aware of this problem. I know what you mean about tour support. That is a big thing. That’s the whole strength of metal, thrash and a whole scene. If you are not touring people won’t be aware of who you are. Roadracer has a big tendency to sign bands for, you know, $50,000, have them record an album for cheaply, put the album out without any advertising whatsoever, don’t put them on the album and the band does not sell. And that is not how you push a band. You gotta put some support behind bands, put them on tour and get some advertising behind them. That is how people get to know you. We played shows around California that people have gotten into and they didn’t even know us. When they saw us, they got into us and got the demo and I am very aware of this issue. Metal Blade is very supportive. They are willing to keep us going. The more tours you do, the better things will go. They are definitely with it and they want us to tour.
METALLIAN: Will we be seeing you live in Canada pretty soon?
FULLI: I hope so. The album should be out around June, give or take a month, more like give a month so it should be June or July. Thereafter, we can do a North American or European tour. If we do North America, we will probably hit Canada. Usually you would hit Montreal and Toronto anyway.
METALLIAN: What’s the deal with Europe as far as the album’s release is concerned?
FULLI: The album will be out through Music For Nations which covers pretty much all of Europe. It is very good distribution. Music For Nations is behind Metal Blade bands.
METALLIAN: Let’s talk about the album and compare it to the Extremities ’91 demo.
FULLI: We’ve got two songs from Demo ’89 which are Live Your Death and four out of the five songs from Extremities which are Circle Of Fools, Territories, Tornado and Hate. We have six new songs. The newer stuff is more in the vein of Extremities with Vision Divine and Factor Red being slower songs. We wanted to write slower songs but make them very heavy so we have balance on the album. We didn’t want to have speed all the way through. I think we need to have a balance on an album. The majority of it is fast. Definitely. That’s a fast album. Most of our songs are fairly diverse. We like to keep changes and keep people focused. The slow songs here and there are good. As long as we keep it heavy which we try to do.
METALLIAN: What will the album be called?
FULLI: We are not sure, but it may be called Decameron. I am not sure if it’s called quite that way, OK? The decameron was about the black plague in Europe. I think it was back in the 15 or 1600s. It is our drummer Bob’s concept. It is about the whole epidemic thing. It sounds pretty good. Everybody likes it so far. We are not sure if we are going to call it that, but it’s pretty cool. It sounds a little bit different. It’s not like (growls) ‘death rise’ or shit like that. It is different but it doesn’t sound lame.
METALLIAN: Before the interview we were talking about the artist that did the cover. How did you find him, how come you went with him and what is the concept?
FULLI: This guy’s name is Dave McKean and he had drawn the graphic novel of Batman: Arkham Asylum. It was really well done. It wasn’t a comic. It was a graphic novel, which means it was longer than a comic. It is about three times the size of a comic. It’s got a very dark and psychotic style. He is very good doing things dark and with colour. I am sure if we asked him to, he could do something very bloody too. We got hold of him because we liked him a hell of a lot. We liked his style. Our manager called DC Comics and got his number and he called back. Everything just worked out.
As far as the concept goes, it revolves around the whole decameron thing. It may be a sort of a funeral type thing. Maybe, maybe not. We have not decided on a concept yet. We will shortly. We might just let him have a free rein of it. We’ll let him draw it when we get the title. Maybe, maybe not.
METALLIAN: I have been curious about Metal Massacre XI for four or five months now. Your bio stated that your song, Circle of Fools, will start off that compilation. That wasn’t the case, Mystic Force started the compilation. What happened?
FULLI: There was a guy who was working at Metal Blade at the time and he was organizing the whole Metal Massacre thing. Originally, we were slated to be last on the album. Then our manager fought our way to being first. That is why we thought we will be first on the album. This guy, who was head of the whole project said no and said Mystic Force will be first. And Mystic Force is first. It is fine by me. We were the featured song every time they sent out a Metal Massacre. They said play this song if you will play anything.
METALLIAN: Tell me about the whole San Francisco Bay Area scene. It was pretty big and booming, but in the last two or three years the shift seems to be towards a more death metal sound coming out of Florida. How will that affect you?
FULLI: The scene now kinda lags pretty bad. Like you said, two or three years ago, it was pretty good. You figure from ’83 when Metallica were coming out and all the way to ’88 or ’89 it was really good. People were coming out to shows, getting into the music, and having a good time. Everybody would buy demos and come to the shows. Now people have been really spoilt. There are too many bands and it is oversaturated. The whole alternative thing is getting really big. The funk thing and the Subpop scene are getting big and people don’t want to come and see the local bands. The problem is that some bands are still playing the style of 1985 to 1987 that Metallica, Exodus and others influenced. There is a death metal grindcore scene coming up. It is not a big death metal scene, but you have Autopsy, Sadus, you have us which I consider us in our own vein and very fast more like Sadus than Autopsy. We are not necessarily thrash; not necessarily death; just very progressive. Then you have a new generation of grindcore kids coming in there, like seventeen or eighteen range and a couple of the bands are good. A couple of them suck. The whole scene has very much changed.
METALLIAN: If six years ago being from the Bay Area would get you a deal, does the same thing mean a fatal blow nowadays?
FULLI: A band like us? Yes. Now, when you say Bay Area people think of Metallica, Testament, Exodus, Death Angel, Vio-lence, Forbidden… that whole mainstream thrash kind of thing and people just don’t like them anymore. Honest to God, I don’t like a lot of those bands. They are not very heavy. A lot of them are trying to be more technical. They are trying to be more commercial instead of doing music from the heart. We do music that we want to hear. Suddenly you will hear a death metal riff or a thrash sound or hear some other thing. That is what has gotten us this far and we figure we shouldn’t change. Why try to change? Why try to do things for the labels? I have seen bands do things because it is big and that is just wrong. It is phoney and not genuine.
METALLIAN: I was not suggesting that. I was wondering if the listeners won’t give you a chance now in 1992 knowing that you are from the Bay Area. Is it possible that you will be dismissed out of hand?
FULLI: I think that is true. People might dismiss you if you said you are from the Bay and you are a thrash band. If I could, I want to be identified as just a California band. We are not a Bay Area band. When you think Bay Area you think Exodus, Testament, Forbidden, that kind of garbage and that’s not us. We are not that way. We have always been heavier and faster than those bands and we just write heavy music that we like. That’s the way it goes.
METALLIAN: Where will you be in five years if I approach you for an interview for a fanzine?
FULLI: We will always be talking whether it is two hundred, two thousand or two million or whatever that have come out to see Epidemic. I don’t know if we will be playing in arenas, but I can’t foresee. I didn’t know death metal was going to get this big. Nobody knew. If, in fact, we do get successful and we get big it’s important that we don’t let it go to the head. We want to stay legit. We are all fans. We are metal heads. That is what we are. We are into thrash, we are into death, the whole fucking thing. We like a whole lot of music. That is why we play the music. We play what we want to hear. We are not like these bands that play metal and are not into metal. For instance, I heard Kirk Hammett saying, quote unquote, I play this shit; I don’t listen to it. Well then what are you doing play metal? I figure, if you are not into it don’t play it. We are into it. If we make it big, we make it big. If we don’t, we don’t. We will still have the same attitude.
By press time California’s Epidemic will have released a second album, Exit Paradise, through Metal Blade Records. Appropriate time in 1994, therefore, to get a hold of vocalist Carl Fulli (the band is rounded off with guitarist Erik Moggridge, bassist Mark Bodine and drummer Bob Cochrane) to find out more about the album and all the latest news surrounding the band. - Ali “The Metallian”
METALLIAN: Your new album, Exit Paradise, was recorded late last year. How do you find it in perspective?
FULLI: I think it’s great. I am pretty happy about it. We got the heavy guitar and clarity we wanted without losing any of the heaviness. That’s what we wanted to achieve, and we got it.
METALLIAN: How would you compare the album with your debut, Decameron?
FULLI: Blows it away!
METALLIAN: In what sense?
FULLI: In every sense. We are more mature as writers and we play better. The production is leaps and bounds beyond the first one. On the first album we were green and we produced it ourselves. This time we got Scott Sargeant who, among others, has done his own band, Gack (formerly Lääz Rockit) and this rapper called Pale Face. He’s a white guy, but he isn’t sappy. Scott knew what we wanted and knew how to get it.
METALLIAN: On the line-up front, it’s been a year since you parted ways with your long-time second guitarist Guy Higbey (Guy was asked to leave Epidemic in May of ’93). What are the details behind that?
FULLI: Guy wasn’t good on the guitar and he was holding us back.
METALLIAN: Is it not important to stick by your friends in the name of friendship and the years you’ve been a unit as opposed to looking as it as a business and treating it as such?
FULLI: I think a friend will realize they are holding somebody back. You can’t say OK he’s not playing well, but he’s a friend. So we’ll go out and play like shit, sounds like shit and feel like shit. When in all reality, you should be playing better than you are. If you don’t do anything (about it), it can be detrimental. A friend would understand.
METALLIAN: Did Guy understand?
METALLIAN: Are you accepting guitar demos?
FULLI: Yes, we are. Having a new member is weird, but we’re accepting guitar demos.
METALLIAN: Being a vocalist, which would you say is your favourite track on the new album?
FULLI: It’s really hard to pick one. I kinda like Exit Paradise because you can put a lot of power into it. In the middle section you can do a lot of stuff like scream, et cetra.
METALLIAN: Do you attempt to put a lot of emotion into your singing live or do you prefer to stay true to the album?
FULLI: I try not to be just like the album. I try to sound somewhat like the album because otherwise it detracts, but at the same time if you sound exactly like the album it takes away from the live performance. (Putting) emotion helps make it more special.
METALLIAN: I wondered why you released a 7-inch single prior to the album?
FULLI: It helps spread the word and help hype up the record. Basically to let people know we were back before the album comes out and get back into the eyes of the people and give them a taster.
METALLIAN: With only one track from the album it can’t be considered much of a taste.
FULLI: It was only one track, but it hopefully makes you want to hear more. Another big reason was that we wanted to do some cover songs. This way we don’t have to put them on the album.
METALLIAN: Why did the 7-inch appear on New York’s Rage Records, and additionally, can’t Metal Blade hype its own records?
FULLI: We figured Rage Records would distribute it into a more underground area. Metal Blade’s distribution is through R.E.D. and rage knows where the underground scene is.
METALLIAN: Apart from that, how will the promotional effort be for the album?
FULLI: I am not sure, but just from experience I don’t expect much.
METALLIAN: If the advertising will not be full force, how are the prospects for an Epidemic tour?
FULLI: We’ve been up for a couple of tours like Overkill’s, but we were too heavy for that. But that’s OK as none of us wanted to do that. I don’t think we have the same kind of crowd. Nothing against them, it just was not appropriate. We were also submitted for the Morbid Angel tour. They first decided to tour with Crowbar and then to tour alone. It’s pretty hard to get on these tours. Maybe we’ll go out with Cannibal Corpse again.
This interview initially appeared in Pit Magazine No. 12.
If you enjoyed this, read Exumer