Editor’s Note: It was such a great conversation with Sal Abruscato, who is the founder of legendary underground metal bands Type O Negative and Life Of Agony. In this interview, we learned how humble he truly was as he believes that he doesn’t live the rockstar lifestyle. We learned that he has a penchant for automobiles, the reasons why A Pale Horse Named Death wasn’t around for awhile and now is back and the messages behind their latest record entitled “When The World Becomes Undone”. Fans can find A Pale Horse Named Death at the following locations:
Madness To Creation: What’s going on today?
Sal: Hey, how are ya? I came in from the ice and snow in upstate New York and was out snowblowing, and right now what it’s doing is that ice/rain where its encapsulating everything, it’s one of the rigors living upstate in the winter. Very exciting rockstar life here. *laughs*
Madness To Creation: What is the biggest myth about the rockstar lifestyle so to speak?
Sal: I think the biggest myth is the illusion that you are automatically super wealthy and that you don’t do anything, and everyone does it for you, that you have no problems, it’s all bullshit, I’m only speaking for myself and for the friends that I have in music, and some of them are pretty notable, but we live our regular lives. We have families, we have homes, we have bills, and there are some musicians that don’t know how to do nothing, there are musicians that don’t even know how to turn a screwdriver, but guys like me, Johnny, we’re all wrenchers, I weld, I can do electrical, I can do plumbing for my house, I do carpentry, I have tons of equipment and tons of machinery, and I actually learned how to build custom bikes in 2005 and 2006, I learned how to work on machines, worked on machining parts and stuff like that, they’ve all fascinated me, I just love mechanical things.
I work on my own cars, I have a couple of cars. I have a 1967 Coronet that’s been completely restored, a California car that I worked on for three years, and that’s what turns me on too, it’s kind of a balance in me. I love to create music but what feeds me to become inspired to write music is when I’m out there in a garage, and what I did last week, I was on my back in my garage, I was replacing my gas tank and my fuel line in my 1967 Dodge Coronet 440, I’m part of a dying breed called “the Renaissance Man”, I’m a hands-on mofo on everything, so that’s my life.
I can’t speak for every musician, but say with Johnny, he has his life, he has a car that’s being restored as well, he’s a wrencher, he works on things. We just love tools, we buy tools all of the time, I’m a guy’s guy, I have the cool garages. I have two different garages on my property, and that’s how I recharge, and get inspired and riffs and music will come to me when I’m doing something with my hands creatively in another form, so that’s a long answer to your short question.
Madness To Creation: What is your absolute dream car that you could have?
Sal: A lot of the obvious ones. It would be great to have a 1969 Dodge Charger, or a ’68 or ’70, I’ll take either one of those years to be honest with you. I love all of the Roadrunners, the ’69 and ’68 Coronets, I want to own all the Coronets from all the years, a ’70 Challenger maybe with a 446 pack, or the elusive heavy 426, any car that was born with a 426 is always worth up to 100,000 grand to 150 to 250 grand depending upon what kind of car it is, I don’t know how familiar you are with cars, but they have a ’69 Daytona, which was a big wing car to have. Those cars go for hundreds of thousands of dollars, one went for almost a million dollars one time. These cars have become huge investments, better than keeping money in the bank at this point, your other option is real estate, but cars have become such a great investment, especially the Mopars, they made the least of them versus Chevy and Ford, there’s millions of Mustangs and lots of Camaros, these cars you can still find for a decent price in an okay condition, but the Mopars, the Dodges and the Plymouths, they’re worth a lot of money now, you can expect 40 grand on a nice car, it’s some Hot Rod muscle car talk for ya!
Madness To Creation: Do you get involved in street racing or any car shows?
Sal: No, no! *laughs* I treat my cars like babies like Matchbox cars, when I was a kid we had Matchbox cars, where you collected them and you kept them in the case, and I still have all of them, I actually kept them in the case from when I was a kid. I treat them like that, I don’t beat the hell out of them, I’ll push them when I need to or when I want to, but I won’t race. Right now, I currently have a 2015 Dodge Challenger that I have had a supercharger put on it and a few other things done to it, it’s about 600 horsepower basically, I’m not going to race it though, I’m not going to kill myself or destroy the car. I see pictures all the time of people with Hellcats, it’s those Dodge Challengers that are over 700 horsepower, and you can buy them off of the showroom floor like that. There’s people wrapping them around poles all of the time and crashing and killing themselves, or destroying the car basically, because they can’t handle the power, they get a little bit foolish and you gotta respect it. I’m not into the racing thing, I don’t want to ruin my cars, they have very low mileage too.
Madness To Creation: You absolutely have to take care of your collectibles, I feel like we could talk about cars all day, but let’s switch gears to the music. You’re a well respected musician in the metal world. What advice would you give to upstarts?
Sal: Persistence and working on your specialty or your craft, whatever it is, and stay dedicated, if anything take more lessons, because the better that you are the better that your shots are making it in that band that just might get that record deal, that just might get that first tour, that just might get that break, that just might get you noticed, it’s pretty grassroots. I think discipline, dedication, and follow what’s going on but stay within your own realm, and don’t worry about copycatting people or to try to follow a trend, and play with what you’re really good at, don’t be contrived, and don’t try to play something that’s not natural. Be yourself, be hardcore, play what you like, and be dedicated as good as possible and understanding the theory of music, and understanding the difference of playing a note 1/32 later or earlier will make the difference of the song possibly being even more catchier, from the beginning, stay grassroots, a lot of guys want to take shortcuts or doing blast beats in a band, and you need to know first the foundation of how it’s all built, it takes discipline and dedication. A producer told me that “if it comes too easy, then everyone will be doing it”.
Madness To Creation: I think you certainly hold the key to some valuable advice for upstart musicians. A Pale Horse Named Death recently released “When The World Becomes Undone”, take us into the writing process. What was the most rewarding and most challenging part about writing the new album?
Sal: I think the challenging thing is scheduling and organization. As far as material and creation, and the other part is when you’re doing vocals, working on lyrics, and all of a sudden, you realize that the syntax is all out of wack, and you have to rephrase or retry something to where you are constantly being challenged to figure out things to go in the best direction possible, but really scheduling. Everyone else lives somewhere else, it could take weeks to just get a solo done, it could take weeks to organize something for both parties to be available to do something, we played recently, and we literally had to schedule three rehearsals for three days before the show. Johnny was in Texas, he travels a lot and works with a lot of different folks and different bands. I got guys that live in South Jersey that are almost three hours away from where I am in upstate New York, I would say that. Young kids can’t relate to it because they’re young and they have no responsibilities, but with us, you got everybody who has a day gig or family or children, or whatever, it just changes things, things just take longer, and when you’re working with other artists, so that’s the most challenging thing honestly, musically it’s not a big deal, we’re unstoppable on that level, nothing stops me moving mountains.
Madness To Creation: Could you take us into the single “When The World Becomes Undone”, it reminded me of a gothic Pink Floyd in a way, what’s the song talking about? Do you have a favorite Pink Floyd song too?
Sal: That’s a huge compliment, that’s awesome! The concept of the song came back in 2014 as well as the title of the album. I had a lot of sketches and ideas and things like that, what motivated me to think of that was I was in Europe in a hotel, I think it was after BBC: Unfiltered, during that time, there was a rise in terrorism where terrorist groups were killing people and putting videos up, it was insane, and I said, “the world is falling apart”, and I couldn’t believe this barbaric behavior is going on and for what, because of a different belief, and I said, “the world is falling apart” as I’m rambling to you as we speak, and it just led me to that it’s all coming undone like laces on a shoe, piece by piece, and it became “When The World Becomes Undone”, this will happen and it stuck with me all of these years, and the piano sketch that I had when I was fooling around on my daughter’s keyboard, just toying around with it, and it happened to have all of the notes there, and it all came together last year, it just finalized everything, all the bits and pieces of the sketches, the lyrics, and it all felt more natural than ever five years later that the title stuck with me. It’s kind of apocalyptic, it leads to the interpretations of any bad situations that are going on no matter what you feel or believe in.
I also have a line in there that says, “the world is slowly disappearing from her eyes”, which is from a conversation that I had five years ago from when my second daughter was born disabled and blind, and she had numerous surgeries, and she again went through another round of corneal transplants since the first set was rejected, and we were having a discussion when I was working on the record, and my wife said, “one of her corneas is starting to reject, and it was rejecting again, and she was starting to lose sight,”, she didn’t have clear sight but the transplants were starting to help her, she was born with opaque corneas, so she said, “the world is slowly disappearing from her eyes”, again, she got to see a little bit of it in some form whether it’s lights or shades of colors or whatever, that line especially, in the record I put little pieces of myself everywhere on the record, it talks about a lot of the personal struggles that we had as a family over the last five years, hence why I haven’t been on the road extensively for the last five years because it’s a little tough to be away for long periods of time at once. I’m trying to do it in little chunks and go back and forth and maintain a balance with the family and the amount of work it takes when you’re a special needs family, and this was one of those things that was going on for years, something when I was gone for awhile, and just dealing with a lot of things as a father and a husband, and that’s why the record is so heavy and genuine and not making up bullshit, I would say that song is the type of storytelling song that has a correlation with someone that tried to do ill will to me.
The rest of them all touch on a lot of stuff, whether it be worldly, apocalyptic, or personal struggles that I have gone through as a father and as a person, and the depression, I have been diagnosed with stuff, I am a diagnosed manic depressive, I have other issues, so these things all fit into the songs, and I’m not afraid to tell it a little bit, I’m not trying to hide nothing, and I wrote it in a way where I want people to feel it in their own personal situations and they can relate to it instead of being too specific.
Madness To Creation: You’re a standup guy for looking out for your family and you absolutely understand what is important, is your daughter doing better now?
Sal: She actually had another transplant a few days after Christmas with her left eye, she had her right eye done in July, she’s been so far into the rechecks and so far, everything is looking good, she seems a lot happier, we got her a nice big TV in her room, we got her a bigger flat screen so she can watch her favorite kid stuff, she seems a lot happier, we’re on an upswing hopefully, and hopefully it doesn’t reject. A cornea transplant requires a donor, it comes from a deceased person, a deceased child for her. You’re dealing with an organ transplant. The body, how it perceives it, the body can reject it at any time in your life, so that’s the kind of forever checkup watch possible reuse in the future in terms of what’s going on.
Madness To Creation: I didn’t even think about the cornea being an organ.
Sal: I didn’t know that either!
Madness To Creation: Coming up, A Pale Horse Named Death is playing in Europe with Transport League. What is your favorite place to play in Europe?
Sal: London! London is awesome and it’s always been good to us, we will be there this March, I also think Hamburg is a great place, that’s also one of my favorite places to play. The luster of Amsterdam has went away a long time ago, when we were there in the 90’s, we were like, “Wow, this is the greatest place to play, you can go to a shop and buy weed”, at the time it was super illegal back in the States, and over the years, its lost its luster, you grow up, you get older, your life doesn’t become all about that, and then I noticed that there’s a lot of shady characters always following and looking at tourists, if you don’t have street smarts and you’re just a bumbling tourist over there, you’re a goner, you’re going to get pickpocketed, you’re going to get something. I had a friend who was on tour and he had a camera around his neck, and sure enough, he got mugged, he was walking around with a camera around his neck, it’s just these crazy people man. They’re just desperate I guess.
Europe has changed a lot. In the ’90’s, Europe was fantastic it was a great place to go to because when American bands went there, it was a big deal for them because they didn’t get to see these kind of bands often. I toured there right after the Berlin Wall came down on the first Type O Negative tour in Europe. It was different, now what you have going on is becoming so spoiled like the United States where the band is playing every day, at least ten bands are playing somewhere, especially around the big cities, they got so many bands playing Europe or between Europe all the time, that not everybody is leaving their houses like they used to, and with the onset of YouTube and things like that, people just say, “I’ll just watch it on YouTube”, that has how it has changed all the way from 1990 all the way to now, which is quite a chunk of time.
But, I’m looking forward to the tour, we have Transport League opening up on the tour, they seem like a nice bunch of guys from Sweden and I’m looking forward to hearing their music live, and we haven’t been in Europe since 2014, so we’re doing smaller places where everyone is jammed up and it’s going to be more intimate and intense as a kickoff kind of thing since it has been a little while, we’re going everywhere that people want to see us. We’re talking about another leg in the fall, we’re also going to be looking at any festivals in the summer.
Madness To Creation: What is one memory that sticks out with you and Peter Steele in Type O Negative?
Sal: Those awesome moments in rehearsal and we were working on the material and recording the album. Every weekend, we used to go out, me, Peter, and Josh would go to New York City, where in the 90’s there were really gothic bars and little clubs and stuff, and we used to like doing the rounds and go from place to place and barhop over there. We would have a lot of laughs, lot of crazy situations would happen, and how we got home every time, I have no idea, we would be plastered, so we were definitely risking our situation back then. He was very comical, we used to crack each other up, he was a funny guy, he had a dark humor, he liked being a comedian. Everyone would just push everyone’s buttons, there was a lot of laughs, and that’s the kind of stuff I’m really fond of. Definitely working in the studio on those albums, there’s a ton of stuff in my mind to this day.
Madness To Creation: I appreciate you sharing that with us. Is there anything else you would like to add?
Sal: Please get our album “When The World Becomes Undone”. It’s one of my favorite records already as far as the accomplishment and the experimenting, and delving a little bit darker and further. I appreciate everyone’s support. I love how all the fans around the world are receiving it, and to see them get so excited to see us reactivated and that we did do another record. I was getting letters for years and they were like, “when are you going to get to the record?” I was like, “I’m getting to it, I’m just sidetracked with a lot of stuff that I’m in love with as well musically”, so I had to get to it in order to make it all happen. We had a member change and we had to attack the album, which took us nine months to do, it was a big undertaking and I just want everyone to give it a fair shot, there’s something for everyone on it. There’s a light at the end of the tunnel, you just have to go through dark passageways to get to the light, and to feel better, you have to go through some bad shit in life for a lot of people. So, check out “When The World Becomes Undone” and I thank you for the support.
And there you have it! Check out A Pale Horse Named Death on tour with Transport League in Europe. Show information is available below!
Fri. 3/22- O2 Academy Islington in London, United Kingdom
Sat. 3/23- Rebellion in Manchester, United Kingdom
Sun. 3/24- O2 Academy in Birmingham, United Kingdom
Tue. 3/26- Elpee Live Club in Deinze, Flemish Region, Belgium
Wed. 3/27- Bogen F in Zurich, Switzerland
Thu. 3/28- Universum in Stuttgart, Germany
Fri. 3/29- STROM in Munich, Germany
Sat. 3/30- Eventwerk in Dresden, Germany
Sun. 3/31- Bi Nuu in Berlin, Germany
Tue. 4/2- Logo in Hamburg, Germany
Wed. 4/3- Blue Collar in Eindhoven, Netherlands
Thu. 4/4- Rockpalast in Bochum, Germany
Fri. 4/5- The TUBE in Dusseldorf, Germany
Sat. 4/6- MS Connexion Complex in Mannheim, Germany
For tickets and further information on any of the shows listed above, click here.