Mortal Sin: The story of making «Mayhemic Destruction»

Internet made everything easy. You can find almost any information about any band, listen to te music and even chat with your favorite musicians online. But 30 years ago band who lived far away from Europe or the USA was forced to work really hard to get some attention. Mortal Sin is a great example of that. Releasing the debut album in 1987 at the same time with the second wave of thrash metal in Bay Area, these Australion thrash legends never got the recognition they really desrved. Together with the singer Mat maurer we remember the album «Mayhemic Destruction» — one of the key points in Australian thrash metal. 

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It’s a common knowledge that you both got to know each other in the train when it was stopped by a lightning and later you and Keith Krstin went on to form Mortal Sin. So what was you idea about the band? Did you already have a clear vision of your musical direction? How did you get in touch with Paul Carwana and Andy Effichiou?

We didn’t really have too much of a plan, all we knew was that we wanted to play thrash metal. The band that Keith and Wayne were in (Wizzard) was playing Iron Maiden inspired power metal and I basically sang with them for a while before we decided we had to play music heavier and faster, so Wayne, Keith and myself split from Wizzard to form Mortal Sin. i can’t really remember how we got Andy, I think we might have met him at the rehearsal studio or something like that. Paul came afterwards — we had two other guitarists before him, Neville Reynolds and a guy called Nobby. Paul was in a band called Judge with Andy so he was suggested to us by Andy.

Did you feel isolated in Australia at that time? Was it easy to get magazines, tapes, LPs etc.? Were there any cool record stores and local fanzines which kept you updated about heavy music?

At that point in time 1985 in Australia it was quite rare for any thrash metal bands, we were one of the first. We mostly bought magazines, t-shirts and albums from overseas or from Utopia records (which still exists today). Metal Forces magazine was where we got most of our contacts and information from.

Tell me please about songwriting process for the album. Who was the main writer in the band? I know that there were a lot of discussions between you both. What was the object of these discussions? Would you say that they made your music better?

Keith, Wayne and myself were the main writers, but Paul and Andy contributed on some of the songs as well. Generally Keith wrote riffs first and then either Wayne or myself wrote lyrics — Wayne was a good storyteller but I nearly always rewrote his lyrics to suit how I was going to sing the song. We didn’t have too much of a process when we went into the studio to record because we really had no idea what we were doing, so we just let John from EMI studios in Sydney record what we had so we could listen to how they would end up. We didn’t even plan to record this as an album but John said he believed it was good enough to put out there as an album, so that’s what we did.

Did you record any demos prior to the album? Is there any unreleased material from that pre-album era?

The album WAS the demo. It was the first time we had ever gone into a studio. We had some rehearsal demos that we made up and sold on cassettes and used them as traders. There is not any other unreleased material from that era although we did have a few songs that we wrote early on in the piece, but we basically cut them from our set. metal City, Evil, Running from the corpse, were all Mortal Sin songs that are possibly out there on cassette demos somewhere….

What influenced you to write the lyrics for “Lebanon”? I heard you worked with some people from this country and they told you about a war in their homeland. What lyrics you also contributed to the album?

Yes that is correct, I worked in a cardboard box manufacturing company and I had some Lebanese friends who I worked with, and I always heard stories of what was happening in their homeland. When Keith wrote some music that sounded middle eastern I thought it was perfect to write something political and about the war between the Christians and the Muslims. I wrote or co-wrote all the songs on the album.

What are your memories about Studio 301, EMI? Were the people from this studio supportive to you?

We had a lot of fun when we recorded the album. We basically went in there to have a party and just to see what our songs would sound like. It wasn’t very professional from our standpoint because we had no idea what we were doing. We just did what we did best — play thrash music. We let the guy in the other room behind the mixing desk take care of the professional part… John Darwish who recorded and mixed the album probably played a bigger part than what we have given credit, so it’s thanks to him that this recording ended up as our debut album.

The album was recorded in 3 days which means that you were well rehearsed and had no time to party in the studio. Was it really like this? Tell me please everything you can remember about working in the studio.

We probably weren’t as well rehearsed as we should have been, I think we recorded the album about eight months or so after we formed the band so it all happened pretty quickly. We all knew our parts, except Andy, I think Paul played a lot of the bass parts on the first two albums… The only reason the album was recorded in three days was because that was all we could afford and there was no other dates that we could get at this studio, which was one of the most famous studios in Sydney at the time.

The album was financed from your pockets. Were you forced to take a loan or did you have any sponsors? Were you so confident that it will pay off?

Yes it came from our own pockets. I think we got a package deal from the studio which was 3 days recording for so many dollars ( I can’t remember how much) as mentioned before, we only went in there to record the songs as a demo, not as an album, so we had no idea it was going to end up as the first album. Sometimes and especially since we came from Australia a band has to back themselves, and we felt we had some good songs that we knew we should invest in ourselves. We all had good jobs, so we saved up enough to record the songs.

Being unsigned means that you had to handle with pressing, cover artwork and promotion on your own. Was it easy to deal with all this stuff? How did you get in touch with Simon Bisley who is from UK? Are you still satisfied with the cover?

Well we didn’t really know how to do it all, we basically had to learn how to do it all from asking around with people. We found a record pressing plant in our local city so we went in there and discussed what we wanted to do. We explained to them what we wanted to do and they had an in house artist who did the first LP cover for us. Again we had to save up. A lot of money and I think Keith got a loan so we could produce 1000 LPs. After we did all we had to do to get the album finished, we started getting lists together of who we wanted to send copies to, Metal Forces and Shades Record shop were the first ones we wanted to send them to. When Shades Record shop played the album in their shop, David Thorne of Phonogram Records in London was in the shop and asked if it was the new Metallica record…. they told him it was a band from Australia and he got in contact with us the very next week to sign us up. Simon Bisley was contracted by Phonogram to redo the artwork. I believe it was his first artwork for any band and he went on to become famous in the cartoon world.

Was there a kind of release party after you put out the album? How was the album received by local press and fans? Were people into thrash metal at the time?

I can’t remember too much if we had a party afterwards because we concentrated really hard on getting our name out there and tried to get everyone to listen to our album. The more magazines we sent our album to, the more good reviews we got. It was a lot harder back in those days to get your music out there than it is today, and it cost quite a bit to send an album overseas as well. Australians were well into thrash metal, but we were the first to release an album and also the first to sign to a major label. We basically helped start the thrash scene in Australia and it remains strong.

Mortal Sin was labeled as an Australian Metallica in press. Did it bother you?

At first we thought it was really great. Metallica was the biggest thing in thrash so to be compared was awesome. I didn’t feel that I sounded too much like Mr Hetfield but again if it meant people would buy our album, then how could you be offended?

How did you get to know Bernard Doe from Metal Forces? Would you agree that if it wasn’t for him the band would have not signed with Vertigo? Were there other offers from major labels?

When we sent our album to Metal Forces, we addressed it to Bernard Doe. He really gave us a great review (99/100) and absolutely loved the album. Getting signed to Phonogram was a combination of him, Shades record shop and David Thorne. We did get another offer from an American major label but we had already committed to Phonogram (since we were going to be labelmates with Metallica)…

Why did Keith Krstin quit the band soon after the release of the album? How was it to work with Mick Burke? Did he change the band’s chemistry for better?

Keith was actually sacked from the band. He panicked a lot when we moved forward so fast. He got really nervous every time we played and made mistakes all the time. I think Wayne may have previously had talks with Mick Burke to try and get rid of Keith but in the end Keith made us look bad playing live so we all agreed to let him go, and Mick joined straight away. Mick was a great songwriter but a lot different to Keith in his style. The difference from the first album to the second album is very big and contrasted.

NOTE: Unfortunally Mich passed away August, 24, 2017. 

Did you tour a lot in support of “Mayhemic Destruction”? What shows from this tour were the most memorable? Was this tour really mayhemic?

We only toured around Australia. The record company thought we weren’t ready to play in Europe yet — more like they weren’t ready to invest much money in us yet, so we just did shows across Australia. All our shows were Mayhemic! We always went crazy wherever we played and people loved us because we always put on a great show.

You and Testament released debut albums in the same year but there is huge difference in your careers. How do you think why Mortal Sin didn’t succeed? Is there anything you would like to change if you had an opportunity?

Haha if I knew the answer to that I’m sure we would have been a lot bigger that we were! A lot of it is probably because we were from Australia and so far away from everything. If we were from the Bay Area or from Europe our history would definitely be a lot different. Also in my own opinion, I feel like the record company should have took us overseas to play tours in 1987 which was the biggest growth period of thrash, and we didn’t make it over there until 1990, so we missed the boat and all the bands including Testament had already became bigger