PESTILENCE's PATRICK MAMELI Brushes Off Talk That He's A 'Dictator' And Shares How HATE ETERNAL 'Saved' His Life

May 14, 2024

By David E. Gehlke

PESTILENCE founding and lone consistent member Patrick Mameli is aware that appreciation for his band hasn't come easy. After the influential (and excellent) one-two punch of 1989's "Consuming Impulse" and 1991's "Testimony Of The Ancients", PESTILENCE ventured off into space with 1993's "Spheres", an album that puzzled many at first, but decades later has generated a cult following — like a few other technical metal LPs of that era (see: CYNIC's "Focus"). However, sales of "Spheres" weren't up to snuff for Roadrunner Records and PESTILENCE broke up in 1994, leaving just as death metal started to experience some turbulence.

After a stint in the financial industry, Mameli reformed PESTILENCE in 2008 with a new lineup. The following year's "Resurrection Macabre" (featuring "Testimony" era bassist Tony Choy and DARKANE drummer extraordinaire Peter Wildoer) was the kind of modern but still brutal and forward-thinking album PESTILENCE needed to hang with the new breed of bands who embraced technicality. Mameli has since gone back through the PESTILENCE catalog for the latest "Levels Of Perception" best-of collection that finds the current version of the band re-recording 12 of their best-known cuts while putting their own spin on it. It's a risky move that also drew some scrutiny when the original "Levels Of Perception" cover was found to be created by AI. Mameli and co. quickly changed course and released a new cover, but when talking to BLABBERMOUTH.NET, the frontman said being unpredictable and not bowing to pressure is still the way to go for PESTILENCE.

Blabbermouth: You received some criticism for creating an AI version of the "Levels Of Perception" cover. Did it bother you? Are you still bothered by it, even with a new cover?

Patrick: "I never was really bothered with it. I thought we did something way out there because AI is getting so big that it's getting out of hand. We just funnily made caricatures of ourselves. People, I guess, didn't like it. It's like 'Spheres'. People weren't ready for it. I like to listen to the fans. I'm not one of those guys that, for whatever reason, goes through with their stuff just to put it through. I don't want to harm the band. I don't want to harm the band's tradition, but AI has been going on for a long, long time. DEICIDE had the same kind of cover [for their new "Banished By Sin" studio album]. They got some slack, but not as much as us. I guess it has something to do with the picture that was used. DEICIDE had a demon with a split tongue; we had caricatures of ourselves that we thought were funny. On our recent tour, a lot of people told me they liked it. It is what it is. You can see PESTILENCE listens to our fans. We're not doing our own thing."

Blabbermouth: You had to be at least surprised, though, right? You'd think people should also expect something like AI from PESTILENCE.

Patrick: "That was the idea of trying to be at the forefront, and we get that type of recognition for always taking risks. That's been my whole career—taking risks. I would never do 'Testimony' Part II. I would never make 'Resurrection Macabre' Part II. I always try to top myself. In that process, you lose fans. I understand that. Record labels are usually not too happy with me, either. They say I'm stubborn, but I have a clear vision of what PESTILENCE has to be. I don't look back at our older stuff too often. It's still me. I cannot undo something that I've done, but I do know and realize that when you make an album, you're stuck with it. I'm stuck with playing 'Out Of The Body' for the rest of my life, whether I want it or not. [Laughs] I'm trying to make it as interesting for myself and for the rest of the guys as well."

Blabbermouth: What was it like going through your catalog to select the songs for "Levels Of Perception"? Did anything jump out?

Patrick: "That's why it's called 'Levels Of Perception'. I always like to hear everyone else's idea of what PESTILENCE should sound like. The fact people say that I'm a 'dictator' and telling everyone what to do—no, these guys put their own perception and talent on it. This is what came out of it. I think that's a good thing. Imagine how that works in jazz music. You have different interpretations of the same song. I think, as a listener, you can choose: I don't like this too much, I like this better. You have a lot of choices this time instead of rehashing our older material with the same sound, amps and knowledge you had when you recorded it. When we recorded 'Testimony', that was years ago. It's difficult for me to grasp that exact moment in time and reproduce it. It's better than putting the album on and listening to it. For us, we try to make it better and sometimes people say, 'Better is not better.' We like the innovation of using different techniques and becoming a better musician. Why else would you practice?"

Blabbermouth: Were you comfortable with your current bandmates sometimes going off script?

Patrick: "Yes. I'm into people doing their own thing, but if it got too far out there, I would have to come in and correct something. On the other hand, what is better than listening to your own music with some 'wow' factors in it?"

Blabbermouth: You had to quickly step into the role when Martin [van Drunen] left before "Testimony", but where do you see yourself as a vocalist now?

Patrick: "I think it's very important not to do the same tricks over and over again like most vocalists do. They have one little trick, or maybe they go high, like Glen Benton [DEICIDE]. He can go really high-pitched. He's got a distinctive voice, so everyone knows, 'Oh, that's Glen.' For me, I like to, I guess, 'experiment' with my voice and what I can do. I guess on [2021's] 'Exitivm', you hear a different Patrick Mameli than on 'Resurrection Macabre'. I don't get that hoarse feeling where I can't talk after three or four shows. There are some frequencies I have difficulties with, but on the other hand, people came up to me and said they got goosebumps from my screams. The way I sound now, if I have to compare, a lot of people say it's like Chuck-ish [Schuldiner, DEATH]."

Blabbermouth: Chuck experienced the same thing with his vocals. He started with very deep vocals, then they became a sharper rasp. The commonality is that the two of you have fairly good enunciation.

Patrick: "The articulation is very important. You want to get your point across. Also, when you don't do that and you're just blabbering, people could say, 'He doesn't know his lyrics.' Some of the bands, they don't care. I always try to be on top of my game and make sure PESTILENCE gets better with time. That's why we were offered two shows with BEHEMOTH and TESTAMENT in Bulgaria and Athens. We're opening for those two bands. There are three bands and we're the opening act. We really have to show them what's up."

Blabbermouth: If we go back to "Spheres", not many people understood it when it came out in 1993. Did that album lay the groundwork for how you approach PESTILENCE from that point forward?

Patrick: "It now comes with aging. As I age and get older, it's not like I'm doing something else. I'm exploring my talent. During this whole process, I'm getting older and see all these youngsters and all the YouTube videos of these guys ripping it up. They're fucking awesome. It's like, 'Wow. I have to be on point and make sure that I'm on top of my game.' There are so many good musicians out there nowadays. It's a real competition, but it makes me work harder and harder. We're working on our new album called 'Portals'. It's going to be something else. Again, you never know what to expect with PESTILENCE. This one is going to be technical and over the top but not lose any brutality. It's going to be one eerie album for sure."

Blabbermouth: After the band split in 1994, you were inactive for nearly 15 years. What did you do to stay busy?

Patrick: "I have a bad taste about 'Spheres'. I needed to do the album to get dropped by Roadrunner. I was so fed up with everything. They were flooding the market with so many death metal bands that PESTILENCE didn't get the attention we needed. Making that album made us quit. I got a regular job in finance. I worked in banks and stuff like that. I had to dress up nice and found out that these kids here are as fake as they come. You're talking to zombies—they have what they have to do, their orders and that's what they did. I felt like, 'Man, this is not something for me.' I think I heard HATE ETERNAL and it got me back into it. Maybe [HATE ETERNAL founder] Erik [Rutan] doesn't know, but this guy saved my life from being a clerk for the rest of my life and being unhappy. I gave it another try. I didn't want to sound like HATE ETERNAL and I knew he stole some of my riffing styles, which I think is really cool, but it made me get back that internal fire. You tell a painter to stop painting. You can't do it. I tried for seven, or eight years and I couldn't do it. Now, I'm back and of course, there are little things that bug me from way back, like record labels and some frustration around touring. Come on, that's part of the game."

Blabbermouth: Did your co-workers at the bank know you were a successful death metal musician?

Patrick: "These guys were way out there. They had very different interests. [Laughs] At some point, some people did realize it and started treating me differently. That's when I really got pissed off. I asked, 'Why are you acting differently around me because I did all these shows?' They didn't have that talent, but I was one of them for a long time and I took some of the shit that comes along with the banking industry. Once they realized I was a famous musician, it was already the end and I was going to step out again and do my thing. I've never, even when I met my girlfriend, I never talked about it. I don't even listen to death metal that much. I never do. I'm like a sponge. I don't like to be influenced. I think I succeeded in keeping PESTILENCE as pure as possible."

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