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Mortification

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When talking about Mortification, you can't neglect the fact that this is the band of Steve Rowe. He started the band and he is still the main figure. Interesting fact is that he went through serious health problems over the last few years endangering his live. Listen to the nterviews I did with guitarist Lincoln about the band, the upcoming album, Hammer Of God, and of course Steve's health. This interview was taken during the Deuteronomium show

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Interview with Lincoln Bowen (guitarist) and later on with Steve Rowe (bass-player and vocalist)

Date: June 30th 1999

Where: In a backstage-room of Nighttown in Rotterdam, The Netherlands

Other Bandmembers: Keith Bannister, drummer

Band's Hometown: Melbourne

Discography: Mortification (1991), Scrolls Of The Megilloth (1992), Post Momentary Affliction (1993), Live Planetarium (1993), Break The Curse (1994), Blood World (1994), Primitive Rhythm Machine (1995), Envision Evangelene (1996), Noah Sat Down And Listened To The Mortification Live EP While Having A Coffee (1996), Live Without Fear (1996) , Triumph Of Mercy (1998), Hammer Of God (1999)

Contact Address: see Links section, Rowe Productions

Interview by MPO

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With the new album the rumour came that you're signed with Metal Blade. You're also signed with Nuclear Blast. How is that?

Yeah. We're signed with Metal Blade just for the U.S. only. And on Nuclear Blast just for Europe. So, Metal Blade will also be trying to get some deals in other places like South America, Japan, places like that. But Nuclear Blast has the European Domain so there will be no Metal Blade CD's being sold here in Europe 'cause that's the Nuclear Blast domain. We just visited Metal Blade on our last US tour and they're really excited about what we're doing and they really loved the new album. So that should be really good. If they can take over the market over there it would be fantastic. And get it really out there because they're a big label. They started off Metallica and have lots of big current bands like Six Feet Under -I can see their signature on the wall over there- and so many other bands. King Diamond. And they're really a good big label. And so is Nuclear Blast. And they're treating us both very well. We just visited Nuclear Blast the day before yesterday and yesterday and they were fantastic to us and they treat us really well. They looked after us. So, we're sticking with both of those, I think.

As Mortification is a ministry, what do you deem more important, the music to appeal to people or the lyrics to bring over the Christian message?

Ultimately, it's the lyrics. But people won't hear the lyrics if the music's not there to support it. You can't sell albums just on lyrical content, like people say "Oh, it's a Christian band, I'll buy it". No one buys a CD not to listen to. So, that has to have music that hits home. We're always trying to think about what kind of music we're doing. The music on the latest album, Hammer Of God, is been really good. It's struck home. It's the perfect style of music. It's come up really well with what we've tried to achieve with sounding heavy and brutal without needing to have blast beats. So, it's really moving music and people can groove along to and it is extra powerful. So, I think that will be very appealing. Hopefully it will get good reviews. Plus album covers as well. That's something important because being a Christian band people might say you can't have brutal looking covers like Primitive Rhythm Machine with the skull on it. What Steve would say about the Primitive Rhythm Machine cover is that with this style of music you just can't put a flower on the front. The covers of the CD's are directed towards the kids who will listen to that kind of music. And you have to do something appropriate. And the latest cover has the symbol with the star of David made out of swords and hammers in the middle which is quite simple. It's not the same. Lots of bands have a pentagram or some satanic thing. This is a Christian thing but it's also simple and it's quite an impacting kind of cover. It's the same with the last one (Triumph Of Mercy, mpo) that looked really classic metal.

I asked this question because I hear from several people they are not as much into Triumph Of Mercy as much as the older albums. Do you get that kind of reactions too?

Yeah, we've had mixed reactions to Triumph Of Mercy. I think....the latest album is a lot better! Triumph Of Mercy was recorded under very hard circumstances. Steve was very sick and we recorded two weeks before he went into a coma. There are good songs on that album but the production didn't come out so well. Personally I don't think the drum-sound....I think they could have been better. It's the same kind of production, same kind of set-up as on the album before that. But it's not a very modern kind of production. It's a very processed-sounding. We've just had to learn that that's not what people are into these days. They want real kind of drumsounds unless you're playing something like Fear Factory where it's all processed, you know, and they have that typewriter-sound and everything is clinically clean. That's not the kind of production you need for this style of music. So, on the latest album it's been a different guitarsound. Guitar's been right, sticking out and very heavy. And the bass-sound is more distorted and set further back in the mix so it doesn't take over everything. And the drum-sound....a lot more live, more roomy-sounding. I think the production is what people would complain about Triumph Of Mercy. We've also heard a lot of really good things back about it. How it was number two in HM. That was encouraging. There's a few highpoints on that album that everybody thinks that are fantastic. But I think they didn't find it exciting. It didn't go up a level from what came before. So, I think the new album goes up several levels. It's really leaked out and it's finally come together.

That Triumph Of Mercy is not accepted as good has to do with Steve Rowe's illness?

Yeah, sometimes. Maybe a little bit. It sold the same amount of albums as the previous album which is Envision Evangelene. It had the same kind of sounds. It wasn't a failure of anything. It would have been a lot easier to record if Steve had been well. And I was sick as well. I had gelantia fever. So, I was quite crook at the time too. And it took a little while to record. We had to record it around being sick which didn't help. It had to happen.

I saw your soundcheck this afternoon and I saw Steve walking with a stick. Is he sound bodily? And does that affect the tour so far and the recording of the new album Hammer Of God?

Well, Steve just had the Hammer Of God Studio built at his house where we recorded Hammer Of God on and it's brutal that we can have this studio and rehearse there and record. It's really great. But Steve's body is still crook. He has no cancer in his body at all now. But just the affect of treatment and drugs have had on him. Spinal damage from tests they did. And lots of different aspects of    treatments which have had paid their toll on his body. So, the affects of those treatments which is the hassle now, because he has had paralysis and he's got several physical problems which are quite heavy. But he's so determined and so intensely focused on doing his thing and spreading the message. He's stubborn as a mule. And twice as determined now. Most people who are as sick as he don't get out. They sit at home and say, "wow, here's me", if you know what I mean. Well, if you had that, you wouldn't have survived what he went through anyway. He's really taking it by the throat. It's amazing. He's a bit self-conscience about walking too slow. But he's been really great on tour. As a band the only negative effect, of his being sick, is that we have to start a show at nine o'clock. If we start any later then that then he's really too tired to play. He's done it before but it's no good and he doesn't function very well. So, we really have to start at nine o'clock which is not a negative thing anyway. It really should start at nine o'clock because that's what you always try to do. And it takes him a long time to get ready in the mornings. He has to be up at least an hour and a half before myself and Keith have to get up, so he can get prepared in the morning. Do this and that. Because of things he has to take and it takes a long time. So, it's quite heavy on his body. His sickness hasn't affected the band in touring because he has made the tour happen anyway because he has said: "Right, I've been sick. My body is still not a hundred percent but I'm going to give it all to God", which is great. It's amazing.

I always wondered how the band stayed together during his sickbed. It's quite amazing. Bands have split up for much a less reason than that. How did you stay together as a three-piece?

Yeah, again, people with illnesses that Steve had, die of much less and and with much less pressure. He's had to go through many times worse than a lot of people have died from. And he's still here. He has really made the band happen as well. I think, with his label, he had to drop a few bands and had to open an office in America so the heaviness and the weight of all the label is somewhere else. And he doesn't have to bear it all on his shoulders so he can concentrate on fewer things and do them better. I've had a couple of side-projects. Not side-projects, but other bands I've played in over the time that Steve's been sick. I've played with Day Of Atonement, a deathmetal-band, and Callous, a hardcore band. That's kept my hands full anyway. It's really good, playing with other guys. We're really keen and doing things. Keith's been working full-time and saving money to get married. I'm getting married next year too! Keith gets married in about two weeks. I think we're a bit  nervous now. Regardless, Steve's has always made Mortification happen. It's his band. He put it together. And he's always the driving force. He books the tours. Keith and I do next to nothing in terms of management and getting everything organized for touring and recording. Steve does all of it. 

Can you tell me more about Hammer Of God?

Yeah, it's come out really good. We rehearsed for quite a while doing all the songs. Most songs are written by Steve. I wrote a song and Keith wrote a song. It just came out fantastic. I was thinking, "well, these songs are good, it's gonna be a good album". And then we recorded it and we heard it and thought "wow, what has happened, it's amazing! It's come out so well. All the sounds are fantastic and the mix is good and the production is really heavy". That's what we've been looking for, for a long time. There's keyboards on it as well. It just adds so much more. It's huge compared to what is happened in the past. It's up a level, you know. We recorded it probably over two or three weeks. Didn't spend a great amount of time doing it. We were abled to get the right sounds. It's worked out really well. At one end it's got classic metal kind of sounds. I've made that kind of thing, like Black Sabbath. At the other end it has the more brutal thrash kind of sounds, like Slayer. So, we're really excited about what can happen with it. We think all the fans will really like it. Hopefully it will attract new people as well. The labels, Nuclear Blast and Metal Blade, are both excited about it. They are very keen about promoting. That can make a big difference because if the label isn't behind it...that's where it all starts. So, hopefully, it will grow.

How is the lyrical content of the new album. Is it again about the sick-bed of Steve or are there more subjects on it?

Yeah, a lot more subjects then that. Triumph Of Mercy was mainly focused on Steve's sickness and recovery. The new one has a little bit about that but it has lots of other topics. A song I wrote is about the Bible and taking the Word of God seriously and applying it in the context what it's written for. And not listening to all the things people say about the Bible, but reading it for yourself and finding out what it really means and applying. Every passage is written for a purpose. You need to see that purpose and that purpose only. Not all the other things people say. They're good at making and tying together little bits of information scattered around the Bible and making up some insane doctrine. There is also song about martyrs. Steve wrote a song called Martyrs which is about people in the church being persecuted. The persecution of the church, I guess. People who have been shot, killed for their faith and believing in Jesus and taking a stand.

And here ends the interview with Lincoln. The friendly Mortification guitar-player was so kind to grab Steve out of the concert-hall while Deuteronomium were playing. Below you'll find the interview I did with Steve:

Like many will know, you were diagnosed with an aggressive type of cancer. Word came that you were expected to die but that you still believed that God would cure you. Well, here you are, can you tell me about that experience?

Well, it's a very extreme cancer that I got up with. It's Acute Lymphatic Leukaemia. I nearly died five times. June 1997 they gave me two hours to live. And the last year, about April, I was supposed to die overnight. So, I've come very close to death. But I just believed that God would give me the courage to go through the pain. It was very extremely painful. It's about the most extreme treatment that there is, bone-marrow transplantations. It does hideous things to your body. But, I knew that if I came through the other end that we wouldn't just be a band with a message but we would have a story to back up that message. And it's a blessing to be here because I was in hospital with other people that died all around me. There's even a couple of Christians in it that died, you know. And Christians die of cancer all the time so it's nothing special about me. I just think that God hasn't finished with me yet, you know?

Yeah. Did you never doubt? Because, you said you saw other Christians around you die. Did you have doubts?

Well, I just gave it over to God. I claimed the Scripture, "whatever you ask in Jesus' name He will do". And I said, "Jesus, heal me of this cancer, but Your will be done, I would like to live on and keep doing things for You and bless other people." I had that sort of attitude about it that it was in Gods hands. I believed I was going to get through and I did. But it took a lot of fighting to actually come through such an extreme illness.

You're always known as a metal missionary to bring the Christian message in the metal-scene. Do you see this sickbed of yours as a test of faith or as something else?

Yeah, I think it's refined my faith to a point where...all that I have come through is God, you know. And He has to be everything for me because I've got a lot of body-damage as a result of the treatment. I've got problems with kidneys, and my bladder and my heart and my organs. And I can't walk properly. I've got spinal damage and paralysis. So, it's basically like Paul, God's grace is sufficient for me and he gives me enough energy to come on tour when most people would not have come through what I came through. Because I had really extreme cancer. I had a one percent chance to live. One percent chance and I came trough the other end. And now I can still play and I can be encouraging to young people that wanna hear Christian lyrics and also be the only Christian extreme metalband that's signed to major labels. We're on Nuclear Blast here and Metal Blade in America. God opened incredible doors for us as the years have gone on. And with the album Hammer Of God I think....with Triumph Of Mercy I was still sick then. I didn't have cancer but was very very sick. But I kind of wanted to do one more record and I think the production could have been a bit better. One thing that kept me going last year, when I was in hospital, we bought a house and build our own studio. And we had a little 24-track equipment and put in a desk and we recorded Hammer Of God in Hammer Of God Studio, which is my studio where the Rowe Productions' bands will record. It's amazing the outcome that we've got. Because we had our own studio, we've had a lot of time and it cost of course a lot of money. We had to put the money into the studio but I think that everybody agrees, with the recordlabels that we have, that it's a special record.

Do you see that you're cured as a miracle?

Certainly. The doctors say it's a miracle and they're not Christians. But they say it's a miracle.

How do non-believers respond to this? On the album Triumph Of Mercy you wrote about your recovery. How do non-believers respond to it?

Well, everyone is standing back in amazement, really. Especially the medical staff. That someone can get through something like this and be so well. I shouldn't have gone through the first three months. And just by God's grace I'm here today to play music and to share with people what God's done for me.

You see Mortification as a ministry. Has this ministry changed through your sickbed?

It hasn't changed. It is just intensified. Now I really have a story to back up our message. All sorts of amazing things happened to me. I was visited by an angel. And in the song Visited By An Angel you can hear about it. And I had prophecies for doctors that saved my life. Just really amazing things happened along the way. The doctors are really speechless about the whole thing.

I have some statements and other things that I want you to comment on. The first one is a statement: If you believe strongly enough, you must be healed.

People who are not Christians have come through. But I could only have got through the sickness that I had by a miracle of God. It's like a Job-experience.

Another statement: If you're sick it's because there's sin in your life.

I don't agree with that. I mean, there are Christians in China, Cambodia and the Middle East that are tortured and murdered for their faith. Christians that have no food and get sick because they're Christians and are outcasts of society. So, sickness is the result of the fallen human race. And for some reasons....my brother had leukaemia, so there's something maybe in the genes of my parents that made me and my brother prone to leukaemia. So, that's not God's fault. It's a very evil thing. It kind of sharpens you as a Christian because you've got to rely so heavily on God.

The third statement: If you're not healed you do no pray properly.

I don't believe this. I believe that God has his reasons for letting people live, and God has his reasons for letting people die. And I'm subscribed to a magazine called Voice Of The Martyrs and people are shot and tortured everyday for being Christians. And they're prepared to die for their faith. We have a new song called Martyrs which is a single on Hammer Of God. So, God does step into circumstances sometimes, and sometimes he doesn't. I don't know why. I don't know why I'm alive, I'm just grateful that I am and that he's still using me.

Mortification

It's from the King James Bible. In the old English they used the word, instead of "dying to yourself", they used "mortify the flesh". So it's dying to self and serving others, if you read the King James Bible in the New Testament. I've got some theological Bible-study books from the Eighteenth century and the book is called Mortification. And it got "the need for Mortification, the reason for Mortification, what is Mortification". And it's about dying to self.

Modification

What does it mean?

Well, you know, the album that came out.

Well, when I was in hospital and was given two hours to live, someone put together a tribute-album, started to, because I was supposed to die. And the cover has got a photo of me with flowers around like a grave-thing. And then I lived, so it was a tribute-album that didn't need to happen. But my friend, the guy who produces our albums, was thinking I was probably going to die so he thought, what better thing to do then have a tribute-album out for when I passed away, and I didn't pass away and the tribute-album still came out (laughs triumphantly)

Gladly so. Okay choose between Metal Blade or Nuclear Blast.

We're on both.

Yeah! Choose!

They're both fantastic.

It's hard to choose...

Well, Metal Blade is the best label in America and Nuclear Blast is the best label here. What can I say?

So, choose between Europe or America.

For fans it's all the same. We're going to South-Africa next year. We're going to Brazil next year. We're going to Scandinavia this week where we've never been. So, we're breaking new ground. This is the third time in Holland.

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