Ex-MORBID ANGEL Drummer/Vocalist MIKE BROWNING Remembers Band's Late Guitarist RICHARD BRUNELLE

May 6, 2024

In a new interview with Mark Kadzielawa of 69 Faces Of Rock, former MORBID ANGEL drummer/vocalist Mike Browning reflected on the passing of the band's ex-guitarist Richard Brunelle. Richard died in September 2019 at the age of 55. Mike said (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET): "It was me that got Richard into [MORBID ANGEL]. I went to a party and he was there and I knew he played guitar and I knew he was interested in all the kind of stuff we were into. So I said, 'Hey, you wanna try out for MORBID ANGEL?' And he's, like, 'Yeah.'"

He continued: "Me and him hung out a lot back then, because Trey [Azagthoth, MORBID ANGEL guitarist] has always been kind of introverted. That's just the type of person he is. So me and Richard hung out a lot. Johnny [bassist John Ortega] had a girlfriend back then. And so when we had that house together, me and Richard hung out all the time. We used to go out to the bars and hang out. So I was pretty good friends with him while I was in the band, and even after, we still talked a bit. And then they kicked him out of MORBID ANGEL, and we still [stayed] friends.

"The weirdest thing about this whole thing is, I had went into a restaurant with my mom and my daughter — this was maybe three months before Richard passed — and Richard was working in the restaurant. I didn't see him, but he saw me at the front counter. He was back in the cook area. And so we're eating at the table and Richard comes walking out. He's, like, 'Hey, Mike.' And I'm, like, 'Hey, Richard. You're here?' And the restaurant was right by my house. And it turns out he was living half a mile from my house. So we started talking again, and he was doing music again, and he asked me if I would play drums for him and his band. And I was like, 'Okay, I'll do it.' So, Richard and I were talking at that point, and we were talking about playing music again. And in the back of my mind, I thought, 'Wow, what if I could get Richard and Trey and me back together again?' So I was trying to get a meeting, like have Richard come over a few times and then have Trey come over. So I thought maybe one day we could start jamming again, even if it was just here at my house or something. I kind of had a little idea of maybe, 'Hey, if I start playing with Richard and help him with his demo, his new band, maybe I could get Trey over one day and we could kind of mend things back up with everything.' But I was talking to him — I remember it was his birthday — and then I didn't hear from him for a week or two, and then next thing I know, he was found dead."

Regarding the circumstances surrounding Richard's death, Mike said: "I still don't know what happened. Nobody will say anything about what happened. But I know Richard had a really bad drug problem. And when I was talking to him just weeks before he passed, he was actually telling me that he was doing really well. He wasn't drinking. He wasn't doing anything. He was just working. So I don't know if he fell off the wagon or what happened. I have no clue what happened. And there were some other guys that he was kind of jamming with too. They needed the drummer at the time. But the bass player and vocalist and stuff that he was jamming with, I talked to them and they didn't even know what happened to him. So his family — I believe his sister found him, and nobody will say anything about what happened."

Mike continued: "[Richard] had his problems with drugs, or they had problems with him. He couldn't shake it. Some people just can't shake their drug habit. They stop for months and sometimes even years, but a lot of times they go back.

"Drugs will… I've done my share of stuff in my life — there's no doubt about that — but nowadays I'm just trying to stay alive," he added. "I'll be 60 this month, so it's just, like, hey, I just wanna wake up tomorrow. [Laughs] So I don't wanna play around with something that I might not wake up tomorrow with."

Brunelle was in MORBID ANGEL from 1985 until 1992 and he appeared on the band's first two albums, 1989's "Altars of Madness" and 1991's "Blessed Are The Sick". He returned to the group a couple of times — most notably in 1994 and 1998 — to help out with live work, but he never took part in any additional recording sessions with the band.

Brunelle formed PATHS OF POSSESSION in 1999 with Randy Butman (SILHAVEN),Jay Fossen and Erin "Goat" Fuller (CRYPTIC WINDS) and appeared on the group's independently released CD-R demo "Legacy In Ashes" in 2000.

Brunelle had been largely inactive for a decade and a half prior to this death, having spent much of that time battling drug addiction, which had apparently landed him in jail nearly a dozen times.

A few years before his death, Brunellestated about his exit from MORBID ANGEL: "I was unable to stay with MORBID ANGEL for personal reasons. I spent the next few years trying to start a band and PATHS OF POSSESSION was born. But as fate would have it I quit the band just before they were signed to Metal Blade Records. After I left PATHS OF POSSESSION, there were many dark days for me. It has taken every ounce of strength I have to crawl out of the darkness."

In 2018, Richard launched a new project called MOSAIC COVENANT. He was joined in the group by drummer Brandon Thomas Lyons.

MOSAIC COVENANT released its first two songs via Knife Fight Media, "Silence The Dead" and "The Sun Never Stops The Rain".

Browning played on what was originally intended to be MORBID ANGEL's debut album, "Abominations Of Desolation". Recorded way back in 1986, the LP eventually saw the light of day in 1991.

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