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Martyr Music Group

Divine Empire has been steamrolling through crowds since 1998. Although their sound is firmly rooted in American death metal, there is a twist of originality that sets them apart from the armies of Cannibal Corpse clones. Metal Update caught up with bassist/vocalist Jason Blachowicz to speak of Divine Empire's third full length 'Nostradamus'. Blachowicz opened up for the interview, discussing some of the problems that the band has had in the past few years in addition to answering the usual, yet necessary questions about the new album and touring the states.

METAL UPDATE: If you could, please explain to me the humble beginnings of Divine Empire.

JASON BLACHOWICZ: We basically started on the level. Me, Derrik Roddy (Hate Eternal, Malevolent Creation), and J.P. Soars (Malevolent Creation, Paingod) were together for the line up for Malevolent Creation's 'In Cold Blood' album and we all got along really well and shit. We all had quit Malevolent on separate occasions and weren't doing anything for a while. We were good friends and kept in touch with each other, so we got together just to see what happened. We were getting a little itchy to play the music again - it was still in our blood. We got together and wrote the first album in like a week. The chemistry was there. We just started going from there.

MU: When you say the first album, do you mean the demo or the first album for Olympic?

JB: The demo and the first album, 'Redemption'.

MU: You and J.P. are the two remaining founding members of the band. When and how did you and J.P. first meet?

JB: I've known J.P. forever. There used to be a good metal scene down here 10 to 15 years ago and we used to play in Paingod, Malevolent. We played shows together all the time, smoke joints together, hang out. . . I always thought he was a really talented guitar player. He only did backups for the band he played in, but when he did backups, he really blew everybody away. That dude should be a main singer. That's why I love playing with him in this band because when I was in my old band, I had to handle all the vocals. In this band, it makes it more fun because we have two singers and we go back and forth and it gives us a chance to breathe.

Divine Empire

MU: And I think it adds another dimension to the sound, too.

JB: Totally. And it makes it a lot more fun and easier on us too. The live thing is cool because whatever you hear on the album you're gonna hear live too.

MU: After Derrik left, why was it so difficult to find a replacement? It took two years, I believe.

JB: Because he is such a great drummer. He was very hard to replace. We had some serious personal problems, so we were forced to part ways.

MU: Was there a time when Divine Empire's future was in jeopardy, as a whole?

JB: Oh, absolutely. We ran into a little bad luck streak for a while after that too. We did 'Doomed To Inherit'. I was looking for a drummer and I was talking to some people. I almost had Tony Lorano do our second album with us and then I came across Alex Marquez and I figured because he had made such a name for himself from the old Malevolent days and 'Retribution' and shit, I figured I'd use him to bring him back. Unfortunately, after he recorded the album with us, he robbed me. He fuckin' stole two of my TVs, my stereo and he just disappeared.

MU: No kidding?!

JB: Yeah, he's all fucked up on drugs - on coke and shit - and he steals from his own friends and I had done so much for that kid and he just stabbed me in the back. And the band had a chance to get going, but that left us on a three year hiatus. It took me two years to find the drummer I have now - Duane Timlin - who plays on the new album 'Nostradamus'.

MU: How are things going with him?

JB: They're going great. It's fun jamming with him. He comes in - he doesn't live in the same town we do - but I fly him in and he gets the job done. We practice, we go on tour and - bam! - no problems. We're back in form like we were on the first album. We've got a fuckin' solid lineup and we're just ready. We're really stoked on this new album - really proud of what we accomplished. Have you heard it at all yet?

MU: Oh yeah. I was just listening to it a couple of days ago and listening to it today in the car. I think it's awesome.

JB: Cool, cool. Everyone seems to like it so far and we've got high hopes for this one. Century Media seems to be boosting us up pretty well so far. It's coming out June 10 and then we'll be on tour this July with Dying Fetus and Skinless.

MU: That's perfect for you guys.

JB: Yeah, I'm looking forward to it man.

Divine Empire - Nostradamus Album Cover

MU: What do you feel you bring to the table in terms of your talent and influences and what influences your music and lyrics?

JB: A lot of my lyrics are personal and have a lot of anger in them. A lot of my songs are influenced by people who piss me off, betray me or stab me in the back. Unfortunately I've run into a lot of assholes like that in my life, so I take it out on my music and I write about them. Most of the songs are about particular people. For example, like on the new album, the last song "Cuidate Del Traidor" is my response for what Alex did to me. Cuidate del traidor means beware of the traitor - the chorus is in Spanish.

MU: I think that is an awesome way to close the CD. Musically, I think the song is awesome.

JB: Oh yeah, read the lyrics. The lyrics just totally go off. "Aggravated Battery" is another personal song on the new album. I had an aggravated battery charge. I was running into a bunch of bad luck, man. My fuckin' drummer stabbed me in the back. I got in a fight with someone on the beach. He ended up stabbing me, I stabbed him and ended up in jail for a while. On this new album I wrote almost every song in jail.

MU: Really?

JB: Yeah. That's what happens when you've got time on your hands.

MU: Well, is what they say about metalheads true for you too - even though you may look like a big, burly guy, you've got a big heart inside?

JB: Oh yeah dude, I'm the easiest person in the world to get along with. Man, it takes a lot to piss me off. I'll fuckin' buy anybody a drink. I'm the crazy freak that runs a kitchen down here in Florida - work at a redneck bar, hang out with rednecks, bikers and shit. I'm fuckin' easy to get along with, man.

MU: Cool. Now, how did the writing and recording process go for 'Nostradamus'?

JB: The last album we recorded at Studio 13. We did the drums and the bass there, and my guitar player had another studio going for a while and we did the guitars and the vocals there.

MU: Did it come along pretty quick and pretty easy?

JB: Ehhh, I wish it did. That's the first time someone actually asked me that question. It was some work because, unfortunately, it was kind of a slow process because there were some technical difficulties. Things took a lot longer than they should have. After I went through that whole process, I will never go anywhere else but Studio 13. Jeremy Staska, the guy we recorded with is just a Pro Tools master. I will never experiment or go anywhere else because this guy just reads my mind, I read his and we connect.

MU: Why did you choose 'Nostradamus' as the name of the new album?

JB: To be honest with you, I had a dream one night. It was in a dream. It was funny because in my dream our new album was called 'Nostradamus'. A lot of our songs are also about the end of the world - the apocalypse and shit - and I had a dream one night that the word Nostradamus came up. I saw a fiery picture of Nostradamus, the prophet, like an old guy all pissed off looking and shit. Unfortunately, I couldn't get an artist in time to create that, but that was what was in my dream.

MU: That would have made a sweet album cover.

JB: Yeah. I guess it was kind of like a vision.

MU: Do you believe in his predictions?

JB: Some of them - yeah, they're pretty cool. I like the way he portrays them, like they're poems.

Divine Empire

MU: Do you believe in fate?

JB: Absolutely. I believe in karma. I believe in fate. What goes around, comes around.

MU: Do you think it has been fate that has carried the band as far as it has gone?

JB: I guess so, yeah. Because after all the nightmares I've been through, this band would not give it up. We're still trying to go. We've finally got a drummer, a solid album to play with, the tour is coming up. We're supposed to play in Puerto Rico this summer.

MU: Will that be your first time there?

JB: I've been there before with my old band I used to play in.

MU: In your mind, what do you think makes Divine Empire different from other extreme death metal bands like Deeds of Flesh or label mates like Jungle Rot or Diabolic?

JB: Well, I think those bands are a little more raw sounding.

MU: You prefer to have a polished sound to your finished product?

JB: No, ours isn't too polished. Ours is kind of raw. I don't like to compare myself to other bands. They're all good bands. I don't want to try and be all cocky or nothing, but I've been doing this shit for so long and there's a lot of anger and personal frustration built up. Like this is three years built up on this album here, so this album is very personal and it means a lot. It's got a lot of straight-to-the-point, three minute songs. It's not five minute opuses. And a bunch of the people we've been touring with have been telling me we sound different from everybody else, compared to those bands that try to sound like Cannibal Corpse or Morbid Angel and shit. We just try to stay away from that. We try to get our own sound and get our own thing going.

MU: Earlier, you mentioned the South Florida scene 10 or 15 years ago. How do you see the scene right now?

JB: The scene down here's got its ups and downs. The scene sucks down here now. It's not like it used to be. Out of this whole state, there's only like three decent places to play: The Brass Mug in Tampa and then in Fort Lauderdale you've got The Metal Factory and the Culture Room - that's been like our home. And when there have been metal shows there, to be honest with you, there's been good turnouts lately. All the shows I've been going to have very good turnouts. Basically, one of the reasons is because they're the only shows down here.

MU: What happened with the Overkill tour?

JB: It was all booked and good to go. We were very disappointed to find out they cancelled. They flaked out or something. I heard this is the second time they've done it. I don't mean to badmouth the band at all or anything. I'm an old fan of theirs and was looking forward to touring with them and I don't know what happened. It was gonna just be fuckin' Overkill and Divine Empire for like 18 shows in a row. I flew my drummer down here and everything because he stays with his girlfriend in Houston. We got all practiced up and ready to go.

MU: That sucks

JB: Yeah, it did suck. He just went back home and he's waiting for the next tour. We're just sitting here ready to go. I've just been fuckin' drinking and smoking, waiting for these tours and shit to come up.

MU: Now you've got that tour with Dying Fetus and Skinless, right?

JB: Yeah, and Misery Index. That tour starts July 19 in Long Island, NY.

MU: Sweet, that's where I am.

JB: Yeah, and it ends in Montreal on August 24.

MU: Yeah, and I also caught you guys at the New Jersey fest this year. You guys were sweet.

JB: Oh you did? That's cool. That was a crazy show. We got to hang out with some really crazy varmints, man. We had a really good time at that. I also want to boost up our Web site. We just got a new merchandise page on there. We just got our DVD. We have a DVD of the 'Doomed To Inherit' sessions. It's got a lot of cool shit on there. Check it out.







Interview: Brian Ferry [ ]
Photography: Brian Ferry [ ]
Editor: Brant Wintersteen [ ]
Webmaster: Sean Jennings [ ]

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