RADIATION SICKNESS (U.S.) Interview by Raw Nerve Zine


by Raw Nerve Zine

By Martin Harris

Radiation Sickness folded in 1992, but now they’re back and eager as ever. Martin Harris has a good catch up with Doug Palmer…

Most of us who were around in the 1980s still crave the feeling that time gave, with impassioned bands seemingly forming exponentially on a planet wide scale, with each country defining its own sound with a plethora of underground bands, involved in the massive tape trading scene that was around then, and sadly missed today methinks. By the mid 80s some interesting and strange things were happening in extreme music, such as the onset of proto death metal, the mixing of thrash with hardcore and subsequently called crossover, the morphing of Euro thrash into the harsher sounds of black metal and speed metal was degenerating into power metal. Now, during 1987 a band from Indiana, USA formed called Radiation Sickness and heavily influenced by hardcore blasters Cryptic Slaughter from California. A couple of demos ensued until the band was hit by the tragic death of founder Ryan Rollins, and though the band continued to release demos including the excellent “The Other Me – A Journey Into Insanity” album Radiation Sickness folded in 1992. Fast forward 18 years and the band reformed for a reunion show in October 2010 which catalysed a reformation and new material under the banner of new album “Reflections Of A Psychotic Past” which also contains a remastered version of “The Other Me – A Journey Into Insanity” album. Raw Nerve caught up with Radiation Sickness vocalist Doug Palmer to bring everything up to date.

Raw Nerve: Firstly many thanks for doing this interview it is really appreciated. The band has been around since 1987, can you give a brief history of the major things that have happened, and also what you have been up to after the band folded in 1992.

Doug Palmer: I have been trapped in a world I did not like! I was working on a lot of stuff going on that I did not like, all non musical stuff. I was trapped in a minivan, vinyl village hell but I broke free in 2010 and am back for good.

Raw Nerve: Can you tell us what the current line up for Radiation Sickness is?

Doug Palmer: The line up that recorded the new CD is me on vocals, Mike Herald drums, Byron Holton on bass and Tom Ball on guitar. All are original group members, except Tom. It was great that Ricky did not come back and Tom did. He added more talent, more passion and is just an all around better fit. Kevin Gibson is now doing drums. Mike had life stuff going on and so had to step aside.

Raw Nerve: Congratulations on the new album, I was very surprised to hear that your new material is death metal whereas the older music is predominantly thrashcore or crossover. What prompted the change in genre, as your previous style seems to be having a major resurgence at the moment?

Doug Palmer: All the songs on “Reflections Of A Psychotic Past” were written 91-92. Before the split we had added a second guitar player and just kept going for a faster more powerful sound. With my vocals it will never be death metal. The lyrics were re-written and some of the songs changed a tad but the main guts of the music was written in the early 90’s but never released. I love all the old bands getting back together. Just waiting to see Impetigo return.

Raw Nerve: Hmmm the return of Impetigo, now that would be something. Anyway what have been the main influences in the making of “Reflections Of A Psychotic Past”?

Doug Palmer: The major thing is just having fun. That is all we want to do. This is who we are, part of this dark and dirty underground scene. Nothing more to it. See old friends and hang out with new people. It is in our blood it is what we love to do. Just being part of this great thing we all have is the major influence.

Raw Nerve: The sound on the album feels old school, was this something you always aimed for prior to recording?

Doug Palmer: I had no clue what sound we were aiming for at first (well I knew, but was nervous about the new recording methods). Last time I was in a studio was 1990. Big ass 24 track recording studio. This recording was done in the computer age by Bob Fouts (Gates Of Slumber, Nachtmystium, Christ Beheaded , Apostles of Solitude and a million others). We let Bob have free reign on the production (he has been friends with us since the start up). Tom Ball, Byron and I also knew what sound we were going for but Tom played a major role in the production. During the recording I was going through some ugly life changes. Being the control freak I used to be, I eased up to let the other guys run with it. I am very pleased with the sound we got. We wanted an old school sound because we are old school. 

Raw Nerve: I like the drum sound on the album, even on the older material, the sound is dominant and very forceful wouldn’t you agree, much more organic than a lot of bands’ drum sounds these days?

Doug Palmer: Mike was never trained properly as a drummer, he picked up the sticks, blasted like hell and beat the crap out of the drums. I love the drum sound, the speed the power. I’m not a fan of triggers or tap – tap – tap. That is why it was so hard to replace Mike. No triggers was the first rule. I don’t want to listen for the drum beats to stay in time, I want to feel them.

Raw Nerve: Too darn right. What are the key elements on the album you are most pleased with?

Doug Palmer: What I am most pleased with is our reunion, the passion still to stay together and record this and keep pushing on. I am 100 percent pleased with everything about the record. The music, sound, lyrics and artwork. We are getting great feedback from reviews and gigs. I love playing live we are looking to hit Europe in spring of 2013.

Raw Nerve: How do you go about song writing process, there’s plenty of variation on the songs, and pleasingly it is nice to hear some focus on the bass lines a feature of your old days maybe?

Doug Palmer: Well I love bass solos and fills. Goes back to mine and Byron’s love for Cryptic Slaughter. We are all stuck in the late 80’s and early 90’s. I love the crossover, crust punk era and the start of death metal and second round of black metal.

Raw Nerve: What made you decide to include the “The Other Me: A Journey into Insanity” release with the new material? Do you think it will confuse the listener or maybe some might prefer the older music?

Doug Palmer: I love the sound of “The Other Me: A Journey into Insanity”, such a classic underground record. I was surprised how many people in the younger generation knew it. I wanted to include it because it is such a good record from the era and I would love someone to re-release it on wax with a new cover hint, hint anyone???). I wanted to get it out to more people. I don’t think it will confuse anyone, I mean the sound of my vocals in different due to age, the recording of the new stuff is much better as Tom is a much better guitar player. Also it is listed on the CD that we’re-releasing all the old stuff in due time.

Raw Nerve: The titles of the songs are fairly atypical of death metal, can provide some insight into them?

Doug Palmer: The words are about true life insanity. Things I have lived through for the most part. “Graveside View” is about watching people around you die off as you get older (including my parents). “The Place Where People Die” is about a funeral I went to for an old pal who killed himself. He had four young children. I saw the blank look in their eyes, staring into nothing. They were the ones who also died that day. My lyrics have nothing to do with Satan or molesting dead bodies. It is all dark elements of the human mind insanity if you will.

Raw Nerve: The cover art is interesting and seems quite socio-political with its imagery; does it reflect the ethos or standpoint of the band? I sometimes feel like that guy on the cover, though without my head exploding of course.

Doug Palmer: The cover is a Sociopath or a person with an antisocial personality disorder who is starting to feel remorse for his psychotic past. Look at the images coming out his mind or things he has had to deal with over the years. Now the only way to make peace internally is to slip into a mind altering state of insanity, relapse into addiction and/or off yourself. Not many choices.

Raw Nerve: You have been picked up Abyss, how did that come about? There are some top notch bands on their roster, so you must have something special about you.

Doug Palmer: I have known Danny from Abyss Records since he was like 15 years old. He went to high school with a lot of the guys in Radiation Sickness when we started this thing in 1987. Yes Abyss is working with some top notch bands and Danny has a passion for keeping the underground true to the roots he has done a great job with Abyss.

Raw Nerve: You have played some shows with a lot of high profile extreme metal acts, what experiences did they give you and did they influence the album in any way at all?

Doug Palmer: Tough question. We have played with outstanding bands from Autopsy to Repulsion, Macabre, Cannibal Corpse, Transgression, Phlegm, Impetigo and Suffocation all when they where starting up. I think they all played a role in the music one way or another. I am just glad we got the chance to play with them all. We will again I am sure. Already booked with Deceased (Look out King) in 2013.

Raw Nerve: Will you be playing the older material live as well, as I wish I could see that. I think it will be funny watching the death metal fans listening to the crossover stuff, even though it’s all metal to me?

Doug Palmer: We play a lot of the old songs when we do gigs When we where coming up we would play with pure punk bands, crossover bands, grind and death bands. Hell we played the A Day Of Death, the first death fest in 1990. People love the old stuff. I think there are too many break downs and classifications in music today. If that shit is good, it is good.

Raw Nerve: I know the album has just been released but with only 7 new songs do you have any more material already in the pipeline?

Doug Palmer: Yip! And that’s all I have to say about that. But, it will be fast and heavy with a lot of stop and goes and speed changes! Seriously.

Raw Nerve: What would you say is the vision for Radiation Sickness now that you have the album out?

Doug Palmer: The vision is to have fun. Play shows with old pals doing the reunion thing again. Hang out with new bands and meet new people. A tour of Europe (about a three week tour). We were going in 1991 but it fell through. Have fun, if it gets to the point that it is no fun, then it is time to hang it up. Plus a ton of split sevens.

Raw Nerve: What sort of feedback have you had so far?

Doug Palmer: The feedback has been outstanding. I am very proud and I can’t thank people enough. Without them there is no Radiation Sickness and we know that.

Raw Nerve: Can you tell me a bit about the scene in Indiana? Any upcoming bands I should know about?

Doug Palmer: Indiana is a hot spot for extreme music. The city itself has produced bands like The Gates of Slumber, Demiricous, Apostle of Solitude, The Lurking Corpses, Christ Beheaded. Coffinworm. Plus you have new acts such as Late August, The Black Goat of the Woods, Nak’ay, Chaotic Neutral and Kata Sarka that you need to check out. There is also Abyss label mates Hordes of Nebula and MAAX.

Raw Nerve: Some trivia if that’s OK:

Doug Palmer: Ok trivia, Back around 1989 we did a garage show in Indianapolis with Macabre (yes that one). There was also a band that opened that Tom Ball and Danny from Abyss records were in but I do not recall them (sorry Danny). The place had way too many people there. Macabre got to play their set but a big ass riot broke out, booze, drugs and too many people causing it. Cops showed up, fire trucks the whole works. We were cranking “Street Cleaner” by Godflesh watching it all go down.

Raw Nerve: What would you say is the most frustrating or annoying thing about being in a band?

Doug Palmer: Limitations, we never had as kids when touring, We all have jobs, families, mortgages and so on. We cannot tour like we want to. There is just not enough time to go around. It is always family first. That is a rule we set up when we started this monster back up.

Raw Nerve: Which 3 albums could you not live without?

Doug Palmer: “Money Talks” (Cryptic Slaughter), “Scum” (Napalm Death if you’ve been living under a rock for 30 years or so, and “Hell Awaits” (do I really need to say who released this).

Raw Nerve: Damn fine choices I have to say. So what was the first album you bought?

Doug Palmer: Damn “Let There Be Rock” (AC/DC) or “Blizzard Of Ozz” Ozzy Osbourne, ridicule shall befall your serious lack of knowledge of classic albums if you do not know this album. Not sure what one but I was hooked for life.

Raw Nerve: What was the first band you saw live? What was it like?

Doug Palmer: The true first concert I went to was Tom Petty and the Heart Breakers not sure when. Around seventh grade I think? I loved it, stoned out of my mind.

Raw Nerve: Finally do you have any thoughts or messages for our readers and once again I would like to thank you for taking the time to answer these questions.

Doug Palmer: Thank you for the interview and keeping the underground sound alive. Keep it real and sick. Don’t download, it takes guts doing labels that are putting everything they have into it. Thank you for your time Martin!

Radiation Sickness really is a throw back to the 1980s when music was incendiary and creatively explosive and with RS you really do get an authentic 1980s band who was there, lived and breathed it. Check out the links and hopefully someone will indeed give their “The Other Me: A Journey into Insanity” release a vinyl reissue edition. Any takers for it.

Interview link: http://rawnervezine.co.uk/interviews/radiation-sickness-interview

Radiation Sickness links:

Facebook: www.facebook.com/RadiationDoug

Reverbnation: www.reverbnation.com/radiationdoug

Last fm: www.last.fm/music/Radiation+Sickness

Abyss Records links:

Label & Online Music Store: www.officialabyssrecords.com

Myspace: www.myspace.com/abyssrecordsofficial

Facebook: www.facebook.com/OfficialAbyssRecords

Reverbnation: www.reverbnation.com/label/abyssrecords

Last fm: www.last.fm/label/AbyssRecords

Youtube: www.youtube.com/user/MinionfortheAbyss

To purchase RADIATION SICKNESS “Reflections of a Psychotic Past” CD and other RADIATION SICKNESS merchandise go to: www.officialabyssrecords.com/advanced_search_result.php?keywords=radiation+sickness


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