There’s absolutely no denying how sincere and powerful the underground extreme music scene was in the late-80’s. One only had to bear witness to the bands living it, and giving it a fucking name, to understand this concept. At that time, Indianapolis, Indiana would become the birthplace of a handful of true, thrashing soldiers to the cause that would leave a mark still visible to this day, such as the recently-resurrected masters of misanthropic crossover destruction, Radiation Sickness. Forbidden Magazine recently caught up with the band’s vocalist, Doug Palmer (from Innndiannapolllis), where he shed some light on the band’s roots, new recordings, and what it’s like to be back from the dead.
Hails, Doug!! First off, what unholy forces brought Radiation Sickness together at the very start of the band‘s rampage?
I dropped completely out of the scene around 1993 went all B.D. Cooper never to be found. It sucked being gone, I missed it all the time, the people, the music. You do not say one day “I like this music, this scene, this darkness.” , it is something inside you. It was always inside me when I was gone. I got to the point of such depression, that I had to make a change. I found my old chum, Mike Rippy and started hanging out again. I was amazed the people who still knew us and wanted us to play again. I said “No.”, “No.”. and “No.” Well, one thing lead to another, and I contacted Byron Holton and Mike Herald, and it was on. We just needed a guitar player, Ricky could not do it. An old pal and friend from the early days, Tom Ball, was down and man was this a good choice. We played one show, and one show only, and had too much fun I think. Well, here we are about one year later with five shows under our belt and a new CD getting ready to released on Abyss records. Like I said, you are born into this crazy world we call the underground music scene. You can not escape it. It is in your blood.
What are your thoughts on the current Indianapolis scene compared to how things were when Radiation Sickness first made their rounds in the 80’s?
Well, the first time around, I was under twenty-one, so I did not know anything about bar shows, but I was still drunk all the time. The scene then was at the end of the punk movement, the start of crossover and then death metal’s rising. It was more DIY for small shows, but again I do not know much about underground, small shows, kids are doing today. Everyday was something new back then. We seemed to get much bigger shows back them through Indy. King Diamond, Death Angel, Circle Jerks, you name it. Not as many bands back then either. Transgression, Bluck, Radiation Sickness, and Drop Dead. Today I love it. We do not get the big shows through Indy, but they are still just a drive away. I think we have outstanding local bands from Indy and from Ft. Wayne. People just need to watch trying to overbook shows in Indy, and booking shows on the same night. That will not do it, splitting the scene in Indy. Again as far as bands in the scene today, our local band pool is amazing, and I support so many of them. I am proud to be back in the Indy scene.
The band shared the bill with the likes of Autopsy and Cannibal Corpse at the Day of Death fest in 1990. What kind of memories do you have about that experience?
Man, that show is still talked about to this day. About a month before that show, Radiation Sickness was on a small east coast tour. We had a gig in Philly that night, so we were hanging out walking around South Street in Philly. I saw my first flyer for that show posted in a record store. “A Day of Death,”, I said, “fuck yes!” This was the first death fest of its kind. The first real death fest. I have so many memories of that fest. Just hanging out meeting so many people I have traded tapes with over the years. Hanging out with our good pals in Repulsion in their RV with Jeff Walker from Carcass, watching the whole thing unfold. I could talk about the fest for hours…to see all those bands in their demo days or first LP days. That show is a legacy and always will be.
How would you describe the atmosphere of recording the band’s The Other Me – A Journey into Insanity EP, around the time of the Day of Death, with the way things have been working with Bob Fouts (Apostle of Solitude, The Gates of Slumber) on the upcoming Radiation Sickness release?
Man, at first I did not like the idea of going into a studio and recording on a computer. I have only recorded serious stuff in studio with a 24-track recording system. I am open to technology, so we started. It was like being in any other studio, “Boring do it again, do it again.” We did have a blast. Everyone of us has known Bob for twenty years-plus, so it was just like a bunch of family hanging out, laughing, having fun, and making jokes, but still serious as fuck. I did have some serious shit go down in the middle of my vocal tracks, and we still nailed it. If not recording with Bob, and having Byron and Tom Ball and everybody there laughing and talking about bad ass (May Tag’s inside joke), I do not think it would have turned out so fucking sick.
It’s easy to hear many bands mention goals they had in mind, whether it’s the Axl Rose brand of rock-star ego, or to merely spread the word of the almighty Satan. Did Radiation Sickness ever have any sort of “mission statement”, so to speak?
No, not back then. Just play heavy, hang out, have fun and keep the music true (where have all my goth girls gone?). Today, thinking about it, our music is the true evil, because it is based on real-life experiences. Like a new track off the new CD, “Death Did We Part, A Demented Love Song II“, is about the murder-suicide in a relationship-gone-very-bad of an old, close friend of mine). I say today, “Life-gone-bad makes good Radiation Sickness songs.” Oh yeah, fuck Axl Rose!
How did the passing of Ryan Rollins impact the band’s survival, back in the day?
Ryan started the band with me in 1987, and killed himself in 1989. It was a tragic day for many people, still haunts many people, and has changed them forever. The band still charged on. Byron Holton came in on bass. Anything positive that was left in Radiation Sickness was dead. My writing style changed, the direction changed. Life just changed. He was too good of a kid to go so young. Strange, it has been twenty-two years now.
What circumstances brought the band to dissolve, and, in the past couple of years, claw its way back from the dead to unleash more chaos?
Man, to tell the truth, total burn-out. I got so burnt out. It was pre-internet days. The driving, the hangovers, the fuck-head promoters. What would have happened if I did not walk away, who knows? We had some great deals out there. All I know is, I am happy with the way my life turned out. I have two great girls, great friends and great band mates. Chaos is in the blood. I am more driven then before and Tom Ball is more driven then I am. We still have a strong fan base, and are spreading our sickness to new fans. There was no clawing we just all had to do it, pretty simple, once we all got in the same room and Mike hit the drums.
In October of last year, Radiation Sickness put on their “Back from the Dead” show. How did it feel to play your first show in eighteen years?
Fun. Simple, that’s it…fun. Since the only band I have ever been in was Radiation Sickness, it was my first time on stage in a hundred-million years. It was a blast.
Speaking of extreme music, in general…how has it progressed or otherwise, over the years from where you’re standing?
Some is great, some sucks. Simple as that. I am not a big fan of all the labels out there now. Core this, doom this, sludge this. I like it or I don’t. Some people think they can not like certain music because it falls out of their category. If it’s good, it’s good.
What event would you target as the moment that initially drew you toward the more extreme side of the music spectrum? And, musically speaking, who would you say are your biggest influences?
There are so many. I started out with AC/DC, Black Sabbath, and Ozzy, to Iron Maiden, Motorhead, Cryptic Slaughter. Then Extreme Noise Terror, Napalm Death, Deviated Instinct, Electro Hippies, Chaos UK, Hellbastard and all the crusty, metal punk. Biggest influences? For me…the crust punk, Impulse Manslaughter and Cryptic Slaughter.
When it comes to every day life, what part of that shitstorm makes its way into your writing, as a form of inspiration?
Depression, good things gone bad, loss of hope…tragic, true life stories of people we know. Insanity and madness, the ways of dealing with it. My own mortality is a topic in a new song called “Tripping in the Seas of Madness.” Like I said, life gone bad makes good Radiation Sickness songs.
If Radiation Sickness was translated into a feature-length horror flick, what would the story consist of?
Just look around at life, the greatest horror flick of all time. That is us. Four young kids from the south side of Indianapolis in the late 1980’s with addiction and depression problems. Some us made it out, some did not. Now we are all good and back telling stories of the horror life brings you.
Having known Anal Cunt’s infamous mastermind, Seth Putnam, for years…what are your thoughts on his legacy and passing?
I first met the late, great Seth in 1988 or so. Seth lived how he wanted, on his terms. How many of us can say that? The passing of Seth was a sad day. He went too young. Anyone we see pass in this scene is too young. Seth lived his way. The only thing I regret is that we never had a chance to play a show with him after we came back, so I could get even with his ass.
What lies in store for the future of the band, aside from the upcoming record?
We have a new CD coming out (all songs but one) from 1991-1992 never released. It will be called Reflections Of A Psychotic Past. We will also be re-releasing the 1990 LP, The Other Me – A Journey Into Insanity, as a bonus CD with this. We have a split seven-inch coming out. There are also a few other things in the mix on re-releasing The Bounds of Reality. A lot of shows in 2012…a lot. On a few fests already. I have just had a few major changes in my life, so I am ready to play. If you want info on the new CD, contact www.officialabyssrecords.com.
Well, man, that about does it for now! Speaking for both myself and Forbidden Magazine, I can’t thank you enough for your time! Any last words of enlightenment or cryptic warning for the salivating masses?
No, not much you have not asked, Nate! See you and Paige December 17th! Don’t forget the gas mask. Thanks for the artwork for our first shirts back! For booking or any other crap, contact Abyss or radiation Sickness at: https://www.facebook.com/RadiationDoug.