One thing a lot of people may or may-not know about me, is that I am heavily rooted in what is called as “Christian metal”, and hard music all around. I still find it silly to call it that, but I suppose for disambiguation and clarity its used. I still find the argument that would never call an inanimate object, “Christian” so how exactly a genre of music can have a faith of its own in a religion is a bit perplexing.
All that aside, a gentleman by the name of Billy, who is no stranger to death metal music has been around and kicking since the early 90’s, or quite possibly even the 80’s. I didn’t know about him until hearing his drumming on Oblation and later in his own one-man project known as Discern.
I later found out he was involved with Crimson Thorn, and many other death metal and “metal” projects. He is an insanely talented guy and its with great esteem and pleasure that I got to exchange some words with him. So, without further a due, here is the interview.
QUESTION: First and foremost, thank you for this opportunity, and I hope you’re doing well. Tell me how you’re doing?
Billy Fraser: I am doing well brother, as I hope you are the same. I have been busy with work and also busy getting ready for the new DISCERN album coming out on Sound of White Noise Records. The album is pretty much all written and I am focusing on starting recording in a matter of months. A long time coming, as there have been many setbacks, but many are looking forward to the third installment of Spirit-Filled Death and I think they will be quite satisfied.
Q: What got you interested in death metal?
Just the simple fact of how powerful, heavy, and commanding good death metal truly is. As I was growing up, discovering so many metal bands, I was not only a lover of rock and traditional metal, but I was also always attracted to the most extreme bands as well. When I got into thrash at age 13, I was engulfed by so many bands such as Metallica, Anthrax, Deliverance, Morbid Scream, etc.. It was amazing how heavy and fast these bands were!
The next year, in 1988 when I was 14, I was exposed to even more bands, such as doom legends Trouble, Slayer, Vengeance, etc., and I joined a thrash metal band called Summoned, and we recorded our first and only demo, selling many copies in the underground. What an exciting time! I was only 14! One summer night afterwards, I was relaxing and listening to Z-Rock, a rock/metal radio station, and they played the title track of Death’s album, Leprosy, which had just come out. I was like ” What in the world is this??? LOL! ” I was so blown away by how much heavier Death was then everything I had heard up to that point. The riffs, the growling vocals….it was incredible! Shortly after, I heard Obituary’s album Slowly We Rot, and was also floored. The heaviness was unlike anything I had heard before!
Finally, after meeting my longtime friend Neal Christmas, in 1990, who showed me his underground band’s jambox recording, which they were called Brutal Death-simply put, and then right after when I heard Napalm Death’s album, From Enslavement to Obliteration, I was hooked on death metal and decided what the future held for myself!
Just when I thought thrash metal was the most intense and fastest form of music, death metal changed it all and took it up 10 levels!!! The stalwarts of the scene, such as Cannibal Corpse, Morbid Angel, Suffocation, Death, Napalm Death, Deicide, Vader, Obituary, and such, instigated what has now become such a huge and vast scene.
To correlate, my band Summoned was already starting to write more in the lines of death metal and departing from our thrash influences, later on in our existence, by 1990, having songs very much influenced by Obituary and the blasting power of Napalm Death. Unfortunately, those songs were never recorded. Through the bands Summoned and Oblation, and my musical band/project, DISCERN, playing death metal has been a huge part of my life for the past 33 years.
Q: Can you remember back your earliest influences and interests in metal music? doesn’t necessarily have to be death metal, but metal in general.
My biggest and all-time musical influence is KISS. They are the ones that started it all for me and I owe it all to them. I was 3 years old when I saw a commercial for them, and I was astounded. I did not really understand WHAT I was looking at, while being only 3 years old. I thought they were a mixture of a rock band and superheroes-LOL! Everything about them spoke to me-their music, their show, and their image. While The Beatles influenced KISS themselves, and countless other bands, KISS was my ” Beatles ” per se.
I then decided right at that moment when I was 3 years old and watching that KISS commercial, that I was going to be a drummer. The next year, at age 4, I started playing drums. What is funny is throughout this turning point in life that KISS brought me, my mom would not allow me to buy their albums at age 4…HA HA! I was SO mad! LOL! So, I started listening to various other bands I could get my hands on, such as Foreigner, Journey, and ultimately, the first rock album I ever owned was Queen-The Game. Queen brought everything to another level, as their talent and ability to do anything they wanted to do musically, showed me that there are no limits with what you can do as a musician.
From that point up, by age 7, my mom allowed me to start buying KISS albums, so I built up quite a collection of their albums, along with other bands such as Def Leppard, Duran Duran, ZZ Top, etc. By this point, discoveries of so many metal bands started coming into play, which was around the same time I came to know the Lord at age 11.
By then, I was introduced to many Christian metal bands, such as Bloodgood, Stryper, Barren Cross, Soldier, Cross, Philadelphia, Barnabas, Messiah Prophet, Saint, Paradox, and tons more in the Christian Underground scene. I also heavily admired Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, etc. From then on, it was the discovery of thrash and death metal that set the course for myself.
Q: Do you game at all? whether it be video games or tabletop, I am interested in hearing about it.
I actually do not game currently but when I was young I did! Back in the early 80s, when Atari came out, I did very much play many of those games, along with Nintendo and Sega games. Hours and hours were dedicated to those fun games! By 1993 or so, I was not playing those games anymore.
Q: You ever meet or hang around the guys from Embodyment? them being a fellow Texas death metal band, I figured you might have shared some air.
Yes! My band Oblation played many gigs with them, and I talked with a few of the members many times during that time. Very cool guys!
Q: Did you ever get to meet Wayne Knupp from Devourment?
No I did not, and I was very saddened to hear of his passing. However, I met Kevin Clark, who has played guitar for Devourment off and on, at a Disencumbrance show, when he was jamming with them. Great guy!
Q: How in the hell did you learn all these instruments?
I have no idea! LOL! I am a drummer, first and foremost, and I always label myself as a drummer playing guitar…LOL! All of this just came from having so many musical ideas in my head that I wanted to release into the world. I would jam on fellow band member’s guitars between jam sessions, trying to figure out how to do what, and I would come up with guitar riffs.
In my band Summoned, when we were turning into death metal in 1990, from thrash, I was coming up with guitar riffs among the drumming, and would show Brandon, the singer and rhythm guitarist, and he would incorporate them into the songs if they fit. In Oblation, I was learning more on the guitar, and finally, DISCERN, being a side project, turned into my main thing once Oblation disbanded.
I will say this about my guitar playing: Simple and without any head knowledge. I just do it. I do not know music theory or one guitar scale, I just play what comes out of me, and what comes out are songs. That is, it.
Q: Favorite movie, book and current album?
I am a huge movie buff but I prefer Foreign movies over American movies. Foreign movies have so much more atmosphere, better setting, better acting, and more intensity. Foreign movies that are my faves are The Raid and The Raid 2, both of which are the most incredible action movies ever made. Overall, I have so many favorite movies, but if I had to pick ONE, which is nearly impossible, it would be the American film, The Blues Brothers, which technically, was my first exposure to the music of Blues at a young age.
Regarding current albums: Every day I have been listening to one of my all time favorite bands, VNV Nation, who is an Irish alternative electronic band. Their songwriting, beats, etc. are just phenomenal! I also worship with Michael W. Smith’s various praise albums many times throughout the week. As far as death metal, lately it has been a combination of Vader, Mortician, and Skeletal Remains.
Books: Although I love to read and have loved it all of my life, I have several faves: Rotten: No Irish, No Blacks, No Dogs and Anger Is An Energy, both by John Lydon/Johnny Rotten, of The Sex Pistols and P.I.L.. Both are fantastic, and I highly admire John with his wisdom and outlook on life.
Regarding books dealing with our Christian life, there are 3 that have stuck out that I love dearly:
Two written by a pastor friend of mine, J. Kevin Butcher, and those are: Choose and Choose Again and his follow-up book, Free. Both are outstanding and they dig deep into the core of God’s true love, grace, and redemption for us all. I have read both many times and I get something out of doing so each time. I cannot recommend these books enough.
The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning is not only the battery that jump started my friend J. Kevin Butcher’s calling to write his two above books, it also changed his life dramatically and it changed mine too. Learning to fully understand and embrace God’s love for us empowers us as Believers to walk more in fellowship with Him. I cannot recommend these books enough!
Q: Advice for somebody who might be thinking about killing themselves?
Even though I am not 100% fully qualified to answer this question to the extent this question deserves to be answered, as I have not struggled with this myself, my thoughts are this………..
One thing to remember is this concrete rule: Feelings lie. What one may feel may not be actual reality. Anything mentally that attempts to steal your life, joy, meaning, and worth, is not based in reality, but in the many characteristics of mental illness. Myself having OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder), I know this firsthand. What I may feel at a given time may not, and very often is not, based in reality.
The key is to grasp the tools given to us by God, who is real and who loves you with an unfailing love, through His knowledge and hand in the field of mental health and through professionals/organizations who specialize in these issues and others. The help is there, and the amount of help is vast.
There truly is not only help, but tools available to put oneself onto the path of healing and assistance. It just takes one small step of moving forward to begin the proper healing. Grasp all of the MANY examples of assistance out there in this world when it comes to this subject. There is so much to take advantage of: Therapy, first and foremost, counseling, group therapy, medications prescribed by a doctor who knows your body’s chemical makeup and framework, and so forth.
This concludes the interview, after getting his responses it opened me up to wanting to ask more questions, but hopefully the opportunity will present itself again and I’ll be able to ask him more questions, maybe even in more of a podcast format with actual audible dialogue. I am happy he brought up God because what separates this brand of death metal from other bands is their unabashed message and hope in Christ.
CHECK OUT MORE FROM BILLY….