Interview with Ill Remembered (1999)

Here’s a moral from the Ill Remembered storybook: Good songs will get put to good use in good time.

“I had these old songs laying around, things that I’d written back in ’95 or so, songs that I was planning to record myself, playing the drums and everything” recalls guitarist Mike Maney as we sit around a table covered with magnificent appetizers at Troy’s Ale House. “But, y’know, I was working 10 to 12 hours a day doing tattoos then and I moved to New York City while the singer I was gonna work with moved to California, so I just had to put that project-and music in general, actually-aside for a little while. But I still knew that I wanted to come back to those songs at some point.”

And he has: the best material from that aborted endeavor has now been dusted off, outfitted with new lyrics and set as the anchor on Ill Remembered’s debut album, Hero Park, which will be publicly unveiled during a CD release party at Valentine’s on July 10, 1999. What can listeners expect? Well, given that Maney, bassist Jason Sunkes and drummer Pete Vumbaco are all veterans of indestructible ultra-metallists Stigmata, while singer Jann Kasey Dorr earned his stripes with late Section 8 and the recently-retired Disciples of Berkowitz, an expectation of violently aggressive, sludge-metallic scream-core might be reasonable. But it would also be wrong.

“We’ve done metal and we’ve done hardcore and all of that,” explains Sunkes. “So we wanted to do something that was more along the lines of what we’re listening to these days, something more on the rock-but still the hard rock-side. That was the plan: keeping the screaming vocals to a minimum, no ‘life in the street’ lyrics, creating something that owed as much to Led Zeppelin as it did to Slayer.”

The first seeds of that plan were laid after Maney returned to the Capital Region to cut a four-track demo of his songs with Sunkes, with whom he had already shared guitar duties in Stigmata for almost five years. After completing the demo (with Sunkes handling bass and Maney providing guitar and drums), the pair serendipitously overheard an old Stigmata single featuring Vumbaco’s impressive percussive skills-which had, since his Stigmata days, helped him to emerge as one of our area’s most in-demand, versatile session and show drummers. Maney and Sunkes believed that their former comrade could provide the groove that their new material needed-and Vumbaco agreed, leaving only the nascent band’s vocal slot unfilled.

“We knew that we wanted a singer, not a screamer, for the project-but getting Kasey into the band wasn’t really planned, it just sort of happened,” recalls Sunkes. “So last September or so, just a few days after Section 8 called it quits, Kasey approached me and asked what was going on and I mentioned that I had this thing with Mike and Pete. So we just kinda left it there that night, but then he called me later to see if it was going to happen or not-and we sent him the tape and invited him to come in to practice with us. And Kasey’s such a professional: he showed up with lyrics already written for most of the songs, amazed us when he sang ’em at the rehearsal and that was pretty much it. We knew he was the singer.”

“I gotta admit that I was skeptical about what I could do with this material when I got the tape,” notes Dorr. “I mean, here I was coming out of the whole sludge thing with a deathcore band and this was just something completely different. But my life’s different now, too, than when I was first writing for Section 8, so I saw this as an opportunity to go about what I do from a different angle. I went back to my older influences, bands like the Misfits and Minor Threat, who you couldn’t call positive, really-there’s a lot of contempt in there-but the music and the lyrics aren’t as dark as other stuff I’ve done. It’s still heavy as hell, but instead of just wallowing in the fact that we live in a negative world, it’s trying to say ‘Well, let’s do something about it.'”

Ill Remembered made their live debut at Valentine’s in January with the harder than hard Crisis and the faster than fast Sam Black Church on the bill. “I was just really grateful that people gave us a chance to make it work, since we came out playing something that was so off the beaten track and so different from what people were expecting based on our prior experiences,” says Dorr. “And the overall feeling from the frontline to the back of the room was so great: people were listening and putting their hands together for the songs-not for who we used to play with or what they think we should sound like now. That’s very rewarding. ”

After issuing a potent cassette single (“1000 Points of Darkness”/”Pray”), the quartet moved into the studio to craft their first full-length creative statement. “We went into do the record at [Albany’s] Max Trax [Studio] and we were like ‘No one’s gonna tell us what we can and can’t do’ since we’d all had bad experiences in the studio before,” says Sunkes. “So we had a list of stuff we wanted to accomplish and we were adamant about how we wanted the mix to sound-and I can’t say enough about how well our engineers, Paul Benedetti and Brett Portzer, worked to make it come out the way we wanted. We had an idea, we’d explain it them, they’d make it happen. And you can hear that in the final product, I think.”

After their record release party, Ill Remembered may be laying low for a couple of months out of respect for Vumbaco’s heavy summer performance schedule-but the group’s members are confident that Hero Park will sustain the formidable momentum they’ve accumulated to date. “I hope people will put the CD in and say ‘Damn! This is different,” concludes Dorr. “Mike’s songs are so strong and you can hear so many influences and so many styles-but you can also hear us making fun of ourselves and playing with the expectations that people have. I want people to be able to hear the songs over and over again without getting sick of them. I want people to feel the way I do: that this band is actually worth leaving my house for.”

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