Ted Aguilar (Death Angel)
The Ultraviolent thrashmeisters Death Angel are bringing out a new album in 2016! We caught up with guitarist Ted Aguilar to hear what he had to say about the album and life on the road.
HB: Hey Ted, thank you for taking the time to do this interview with us. How does it feel to be back at home, now that your long European tour is done and dusted? What do you do on your down-time?
TA: Thanks for thinking of us. Yes, Summer European tour is done. Very successful and we had a blast. I’ve spent my down time enjoying home. Got a new puppy (yellow Labrador name Espen) and just hanging with him and my other dog Paris. Going on hikes and such. Basically enjoying home life and laying low.
HB: In April 2016, Death Angel will release their 8th studio album and the third with this lineup, after ‘Relentless Retribution’ and ‘The Dream Calls For Blood.’ What can we expect from this release?
TA: What can you expect? Well, I’ll have a much better answer once I get a copy of the record (mixed and mastered) and give it a good listen. But going off what I last heard when I left Audiohammer studios? A natural, mature progression. Death Angel of today. Good song writing with hooks and Death Angel heaviness. What you normally expect from a Death Angel record.
HB: You’re working with Jason Suecof at Audiohammer Studios once again on the new album. What’s it like working with him, and what’s special about the studio to draw you back to it once again?
TA: Working with Jason has always been a blast. Very laid back (sometimes too laid back LOL!) but at the same time comfortable. It’s like recording with a good and close friend. He knows the band well, knows how to push each individual to our best and get the best performance. A great producer, guitar player with an incredible ear for music. Not a big fan of Florida (weather wise) and where the studio is at, there’s really not much going on. But, we’re there to make a record. So there’s no distractions (except Jason Suecof HA!)
HB: And will we see Wolfie on the cover of the new album again?
TA: As of now, that’s the plan. Would love to see Wolfie again, but you never know what might come up. Nothing has been finalize as we are still mixing the album. We usually like to hear the album when it’s all said and done to vibe off it & get concepts.
HB: Having played on both sides of the Atlantic as well as across the world, what are the differences you see, both with metal as a whole and with the fans across the world? What has been the best live experience you’ve had with Death Angel?
TA: Metal has always been there. Especially abroad (from my experience). In the US, it’s always been there but it’s always been shadowed by what music trend is in at the moment (or what Reality Show is dominating the airwaves so to speak). It’s there but underground. At one point in the late 80’s early 90’s, metal was huge in the US, then it tapered off. Then it came back in different forms in the early 2000’s. It goes in waves. It will eventually be huge again (so we hope). But it never died overseas. It just kept growing. Metal fans are very passionate, loyal and just plain “into it”. It’s a lifestyle. Gotta love them.
As far as my best live experience? Too many to mention. But here’s a couple. This past summer, we played Free and Easy Festival in Munich, Germany (with Dust Bolt, Kryptos and Sepultura) I thought that show was one of the best this band has played. It was one of those gigs where everything was lined up just right. The sound was great, our crew was kicking ass, the place was packed and the crowd was loud with loads of energy, the band was feeding of the crowd’s energy and the band was firing on all cylinders. The vibe was just right. The one gig (well, two shows) that will always stick out for me as the most memorable was the first overseas show and festival I did with Death Angel. July 2002. We headlined a sold out show at the Effenaar in Eindhoven, Holland and the next day we played the Dynamo Festival supporting Soulfly.
HB: Music today is moving at such a terrific pace – there are new bands and new releases coming out every day. In this day and age, how easy/hard is it for Death Angel to continue pushing the boundaries and making new albums, playing new venues and making new fans?
TA: Musically, it’s easy to push the boundaries when it comes to song writing (and making records). But as artist, that’s what we do. Explore & push boundaries. We love to progress and push the envelope when we create. It’s a fun challenge. But not push too much where you completely fall off the edge and change the sound of who you are. That’s why I love being in Death Angel so much. We’re able to keep the thrash foundation there and go explore other influences and territories to add to our existing sound. You can hear that in all our albums.
As far as touring, it’s much harder now. With the decline of music purchasing, it causes bands to tour a lot more. Not that touring is a bad thing. We love to tour. But there are so many bands out there touring, it’s a bit of a competition. It’s hard to choose what band you want to go see. Especially if a lot of the bands you want to see live are coming to your town the same week. Money is tight nowadays and cost of living is way up.
HB: So I have to ask you about the Bay Area thrash movement from the 80s. In your eyes, what was it like growing up in the heart of thrash metal back in the day? What’s changed in the metal scene today?
TA: The Bay Area scene back in the 80’s was great. Unfortunately, I was too young to see the rise of Metallica & Exodus. But, I did get to see Death Angel when the TUV came out, Vio-Lence on the high of their demo, Forbidden, Heathen so on and so on. Even the third tier thrash bands were making a lot of noise. It was a great moment in time. Everyone was supporting the scene. It was a healthy, vibrant metal scene that was like being in a huge gang. All for one and one for all. I’m glad I lived it.
What has changed? The short answer. The internet and the rise of technology. I say that in a good and bad way.
HB: So who were your biggest influences growing up?
TA: I was fortunate to have an older brother who exposed me to music like AC/DC, Black Sabbath, Van Halen, Scorpions etc. So I would like to cite him as influence. From there I discovered other bands on my own and through other friends in the neighbourhood like Metallica, Venom, Slayer and all the harder & darker stuff. But as a guitar player, James Hetfield would be the one. Young James HA! His riffs, guitar tone, lyrics & his presence sure hit a spot with me growing up. I’m sure a lot of people think the same. He was like a heavy metal super hero. I like guitar duos as well. Glenn & KK from Priest, Adrian & Dave from Maiden, Holt & Hunolt from Exodus. Can’t leave out Rob Cavestany. Loved his playing then in the 80’s and throughout the 90’s during the Organization years. Even til this day, he still amazes me with his songwriting & his guitar playing skills. Pretty fucking original & unique. Very, very underrated.
HB: Have you been following a lot of the music that has been coming out in the recent years? What are your favourite releases of 2015?
TA: My favourite release in 2015 is Adele’s “25”. One of my favourite artist today.
HB: Your Metal-Archives page calls you “the world’s smallest Samoan.” What’s the story behind it?
TA: LOL!!! I get mistaken for other nationalities (Indonesian, Guamanian etc.). I’m skinny dark dude, so Mark dub me ‘”the world’s smallest Samoan.” I think it’s hilarious as hell. I love it. There’s a back story to all this, but I won’t mention that. Although, I do have a nick name for Mark.
HB: So what’s next for Death Angel? Apart from the new album, any new releases/tours or anything of the sort on the pipeline?
TA: As of now, we are in the middle of mixing this new album. We do plan on hitting the road once the album comes out (Spring 2016). Where and with who? Is yet to be determined.
HB: Any plans for a show in India in the future? You know you’ve got a lot of fans in the country…
TA: We always wanted to play India. We heard so much about how there are many metal fans out there. But, no promoter has contacted us though. Hopefully that will change when the new album is released.
HB: Thanks a lot for taking the time to speak to us, Ted. Looking forward to catching Death Angel on tour very soon, either in Europe or in India!
TA: Thank you. We’ll be back in Europe when the album is released. Cross our fingers for India.
Picture of Ted Aguilar by Soile Siirtola from the Death Angel website