SUFFOCATION's TERRANCE HOBBS On Departure Of FRANK MULLEN: 'It Hurts Not Having Him Here'April 18, 2022
By David E. Gehlke
Terrance Hobbs doesn't avoid the elephant in the room when talking about SUFFOCATION's upcoming ninth studio album and first without venerable vocalist Frank Mullen. He knows all eyes are going to be on Mullen's replacement, Ricky Myers, who, while having several years of touring with SUFFOCATION under his belt and Mullen's endorsement, will likely face the ultimate litmus test when the band gets around to issuing new material with him on the mic. After all, Mullen's gnarled, guttural and rhythmic bellows aren't easily replaced. But Hobbs exudes confidence in Myers, especially now that he's been given free rein to write lyrics and vocal patterns. Chances are, Myers will do just fine.
Mullen's departure is yet another obstacle for SUFFOCATION. The band was at the forefront of the 1990s death metal wave before bowing out in 1998, when attendance and sales figures slipped drastically. SUFFOCATION, though, has been all-systems-go since their 2003 reformation, even with a myriad of lineup changes that have left Hobbs the only original member standing.
Blabbermouth: How is the first non-Frank Mullen SUFFOCATION album coming together?
Terrance: "I'll be honest: We really like Ricky Myers, who is singing for us. He's one hundred percent into it, one hundred and ten, if you want to give that a little bit extra of clap. The pre-production we're doing, he sounds super-awesome, super-aggressive. I just saw Frank two days ago. [Laughs] Of course, we miss Frank. We would love to have Frank; we never wanted to tell the public that Frank wanted to retire. Him pushing all the time with his vocals, family, kids, travel, jobs, wife and so forth, the things that go on in the real world. Frank said, 'I'm going to take that backseat. I'll do little things here and there. Maybe some backups on somebody's record. I'm not really looking to write records, go on tour and support all that stuff.' It kinda hurt. Obviously, I'm still great friends with Frank and we always have been friends since we were 15 years old. It hurts not having them there. He's still super-supportive of the band. He still comes out. He comes and hangs out. Sometimes he'll feel the gumption to do stuff and maybe if we're working on an old song, he'll be the one to talk to Ricky and help him with the lyrical patterns. Frank is still involved in the music industry to some degree and especially still involved with us to some degree, but he wanted to take the back seat. And he was the one who said, 'Get Ricky!' We had done some touring back in '95, '96 and we met Ricky Myers, he's the drummer and head of the band DISGORGED from California. We had done some touring and eventually, Ricky caught wind, especially Derek [Boyer, bass], being a California player. He's been with us for a long time. Longer than any of the original members. [Laughs] It's kinda crazy. It's great for me because now I've got a right-hand man who's there just like Doug [Cerrito, guitar] was there for a long time. Basically, what we wanted to do was keep the integrity of our band. We have new members. We talked with each other. We tried to work out everything we could possibly do. We may get Frank to sing an old 'Breeding [The Spawn]' song on this record for all I know. Don't cross your fingers, but I'm not sure. We still have a very good rapport, and I think Ricky is a pretty good choice. He's been with us for five, six years. He's done quite a bit of touring with us. I think he's a good fit. I think it will be good."
Blabbermouth: He's in the same age bracket as you, right? That has to help.
Terrance: "It does, especially considering we've been friends since the mid-'90s. We still had a rapport with him before he was in consideration to sing. It was funny that Ricky sent in a demo trial of a song saying, 'I want to sing.' Frank came in, had a couple of drinks while listening to it and said, 'That's not me! That sounds sick! Is that live?' We said, 'That's Ricky.' 'Ricky Myers? You should get him!' There you go. Now you understand why it had to happen."
Blabbermouth: For the new songs, does Ricky have to adjust to you? Or do you have to adjust to Ricky?
Terrance: "We try any technique. Ricky is a die-hard person and hot as fuck on it. [Laughs] As soon as I give him new riffs, he's immediately writing. I don't have to ask him shit. He's already on; he's on it. It was a big relief. Frank was like that in the earlier stages of SUFFOCATION. As time went on, we started picking up on the writing and making the patterns for the lyrics. He was slowly fading out of that. More of it was coming on Derek and me to write lyrics. Now, we don't even have to bother. If any of us decide to write something, we give it to Ricky, but he does all the writing on this album, which is fantastic. It's great to have somebody who is one-hundred percent into it and ready to be on it. He's very open, too. Ricky's like, 'How do you think this sounds? Does this sound cool? Tell me if my tone sucks. Anything.' It's an eye-opening experience and it gives me a little more gumption and drive in my old age because now I have someone who wants to put in all that energy."
Blabbermouth: But this is a tough gig considering Frank handled his patterns and had his own style. Ricky has a tall order in front of him.
Terrance: "[Frank's] got that Long Island thing going on. [Laughs] It's still very similar. It's not like we're trying to reinvent the wheel here. It's just that we have different people and people will have to grow accustomed to it. The new material is just as aggressive, fast, brutal and melodic and as time went on, I learned more from people like [producer] Scott Burns. He helped us understand making a song sound like a song, not just a run-on sentence or something so bland that it loses the interest of the listener. I have to take those things to heart and the rest of my band did as well, like Doug, [former bassist] Chris [Richards] and [former drummer] Mike Smith. He really gave us a little bit more gumption to know about producing music. Even though he was the engineer, he still did produce some songs for us and it was eye-opening to understand that type of methodology."
Blabbermouth: Has it gotten harder to write SUFFOCATION albums, especially when you have "Effigy Of The Forgotten" and "Pierced From Within" hanging over you and growing in status?
Terrance: "Absolutely. [Laughs] From that point in time, this style of music was a little bit newer. It went from the hard rock to heavy metal to thrash to hardcore and so forth, going down the line. Now, all those heavy parts and all those little technical things with the advent of YouTube and people being able to listen to music all the time and learn from it and express themselves with it, it's a lot harder. Now, it's not like I can be myself. I have to look at what everybody else is doing and go, 'I can't steal that!' [Laughs] It makes it a little bit harder in the creation, but I still get by. I have new guys in my band who bring new blood into it. It makes it pretty interesting and it still keeps it interesting for me. Now, I have different people that I can feed off of instead of being, 'Oh, man. I'm the last guy in the band who is writing. I'm just going to write the whole fucking thing.' I don't want that. I don't think the public wants that; they already have ten albums of us. I'm really excited about the new stuff. It's a little different. A lot of pressure has been taken off of me and has made it where this band will be, not just Terrance and the SUFFOCATIONs or Frank and the SUFFOCATIONs."
Blabbermouth: You split after "Despise The Sun" came out in 1998. Twenty-four years after the fact, what do you remember about those times?
Terrance: "It really didn't come down to the fact — we were young kids, we did some bad tours and we were offered some tours we should have done, but being kids and not having money, we couldn't afford to do them. That hampered SUFFOCATION in a way. Still, for us, that breakup was happening more just because we saw the scene slowly kind of dwindle. We would go and see a show. There would be 250, next there's 100, then 75 people. We would get offered shows and play with our friends out of state, but we slowly saw it wither away. The show opportunities were getting less and less. We figured, 'Hey, man. We're just going to call it quits. This is not going to work out the right way.' Once Frank decided to come back in mid-2003, he had moved away and came back to New York and said, 'Dude, let's get the band back together and see what we can do.' I said, 'Oh, now you get it!' From that point, I went right back into it from working a job for seven years to going out on the road."
Blabbermouth: Did that lineup have anything to do with the split? I thought [drummer] Dave Culross did a great job on "Despise", though.
Terrance: "Dave's great, but like anybody else, real-life gets in the way a lot of times. You can't be away from your kids as you get older. Even Dave was just like, 'I can't do this all the time' at that point in time. We disbanded; it was mutual. But Frank was coming back into town and there was always inter-band turmoil going on. He called everybody. He called Richards, me, Josh [Barohn, bass] and Smith. He called everybody. At that point, the lineup ended up coming fruition for the 'Souls To Deny' because the other people like Doug Cerrito, for example, just weren't into it. He had his own job, his own business, his share of issues going on. He respectfully turned it down. I saw Doug not too long ago. He's a good guy. That was just the way the lineup turned out and we figured we'd try to give it a second chance with people in the band. After a couple of years of that, things changed again. There's nothing I could do about it. It's just the way it is. It's not like we said, 'You're out of the band.' People change and want to do different things. It's okay. That's their path."
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