Vomitous Horsecorousous: A very old interview with original dead horse vocalist/guitarist Michael Haaga.

Back in the early late 80s/early 90s if you were a patron of metal/hardcore shows just about anywhere in Texas chances are that alongside D.R.I.’s ubiquitous skanker dude and any shirt with a Slayer logo on it, you we’re probably just as likely to see some mullet-headed thrasher adorned in a shirt with dead horse’s “death ride” logo or their classic “Farm Road 666” design. For a brief period there they seemed poised to be the next underground band to break out of the regional scene and bring the sound of Texas metal to national and international audiences. They most certainly had the talent and originality but, as has so often been the case within the annals of rock history, label issues and internal band strife proved to be too much and the galloping hooves of the stygian steed finally came to a halt.

dead horse released their very first recording in 1988 in the form of their Death Rides A Dead Horse demo which was quickly followed in 1989 by a self-financed proper full-length entitled Horsecore: An Unrelated Story That’s Time Consuming which, incidentally, was recorded at Rampart Studios, the same studio as D.R.I.’s monumental Dealing With It LP. This album established the bands unmatched penchant for writing exceptionally heavy songs with infectious almost pop-like sensibilities. Extreme grindcore blasts like “Murder Song”, “Crushing of the Irate”, and “Subhumanity” were juxtaposed with comedic gems like “Hank”, a little ditty about a good ol’ boy that likes  “shooting deer, drinking beer” and which starts out as a bouncy country tune before devolving into scathing grindcore madness, and “Bewah”, a groovy bass-heavy track about the plight of the underage drinker. Thrashier, slightly more midtempo songs such as “World War Whatever” and “Mindless Zombies” were also on display and one of the bands most classic cuts, “Scottish Hell” evinced a mournful dirge, proving that dead horse was much more than a one-trick pony. As L.G. Petrov, vocalist of Swedish heavyweights Entombed announced at a gig one dark night in San Antonio before launching into their rendition of “Scottish Hell”, “This is a cover by one of Texas’s greatest bands”. Indeed.

1991 saw the release of dead horse’s second LP, Peaceful Death and Pretty Flowers on the ill-fated Metal Blade/Warner Brothers subsidiary Big Chief Records and once again showcased the band’s metallic heft, irreverent sense of humor and manic, derailed train of thought lyricism,  but this time around some of the speed was reigned in a bit in favor of more carefully crafted compositions which revealed a band that was ever-evolving and maturing. While there was still plenty of tongue-in-cheek humor manifested in songs like “La La Song”, “Aplo”, and the cover of the B-52s hit “Rock Lobster”, songs such as “Like Asrielle”, “Turn”, and the monstrous titular lament “Peaceful Death” presented a more thoughtful, somber, and sobering side of the band. Unfortunately, the band’s decision to sign with the fledgling Big Chief  proved to be a costly one and the label shut down operations some two years after the release of Peaceful Death.

Finding themselves once again a band without a record label, dead horse released a 5 song demo entitled Feed Me in ’94. The demo failed to  attract the attention of a major record label and guitarist/primary vocalist/songwriter Michael Haaga left the band amidst rumors of turmoil and dissension within the ranks. The rest of the band soldiered on for a while and in 1996 released the BOIL(ing), EP and added Force Fed guitarist/vocalist Scott Sevall to the line-up in an attempt to fill the huge void left by Haaga’s departure. Not too long after, the band would call it quits…well, at least for the next 15 years.

Michael Haaga went on to form the band demonseeds which released one  album in 1999 entitled Knee Deep In Hell’s Grasp and actually carried over the song “Every God For Himself” from dead horse’s Feed Me EP. Completely abandoning his metal and punk roots, he later formed another band and released a solo record in late 2004 of sunny pop material entitled The Plus And Minus Show. This group was short-lived however and disbanded not too long after.

Fast forward to 2009 and we see the majority of the post-Haaga dead horse line-up of Greg Martin, Ronnie Guyote, and Scott Sevall teaming up with underground icon Kurt Brecht, of crossover progenitors D.R.I., to form the excellent thrash outfit Pasadena Napalm Division. They released their first EP in September of 2010 and have been keeping busy, as their Facebook page states, “playing live, touring, drinking, gambling etc…” I have seen them live a few times now and I can say with utmost certainty that they are definitely worth your time and attention, so check them out.

In June of 2011 it was announced that dead horse would be reuniting for a show in Houston later that year in October. Almost immediately speculation began as to whether it would be the original line-up or the later post-’94 incarnation. I know many old-school Texas metal fans, myself included, were completely ecstatic about the idea of witnessing the original band back together again, but unfortunately it was not to be. Haaga expressed interest in doing the show but apparently he and the other members couldn’t come to an agreement in time and the show went on without him. Since that show they’ve gone on to perform a few more live dates including a gig at last year’s Fun Fun Fun Fest in Austin and it appears that they plan to keep the band going with a new lead vocalist, Michael Argo.  Finally, a full decade and a half after their demise, death rides again.

(This interview was originally conducted sometime in 1990 for the small metal fanzine that I did at the time called Subterranean ‘Zine. dead horse had recently played my hometown of Waco, TX. for a rabid following of music starved metal fans and I wanted to find out more about this group that was rapidly becoming one of my favorites. It was done the old-school way, through snail mail, and I still have Michael Haaga’s handwritten correspondence with the responses to all my questions.)

Please tell me a bit about the band’s origin.

well, dead horse is the final regurgitation of many nauseating band experiences. from mere acoustical trash dating back to the early 80s when greg and i chain smoked for a living to semi-seriously productive thrash bands that greg, alpo, randy (our manager), and rob the former bonehead guitarist that would be a part of the band that would eventually be called dead horse. four years ago after much vomiting greg and i would jam for the first time. later, alpotatoe would join and i don’t remember why they asked me to sing, but they had written a couple silly originals, so i wrote some silly original lyrics, not taking all this too seriously. we then called the band brain dead, bloody typical, eh? anyway, so rob quit the band and since i’d already been playin’ git fiddle for a long time it seemed logical that i start playing, consequently making the whole experience quite more serious for me. we had never done any shows yet, and we sorta unconsciously dropped the old name. it somehow unanimously became a different outlook at what we were doing: we sped up all those silly songs drastically. and like many bands still finding themselves (did you look in the toilet, yet?) we found ourselves in that beautifully categorized category, death, punk, thrash, polka, country, rock group. i can’t remember exactly when dead horse became dead horse, about 3 years ago or less, i think, and we started writing songs like bewah and scottish hell, a logical happening considering greg and my long time mutual musical friendship and understanding. viola, and otherwise check the john again, actually, cause i think that’s our real origin, some bacterial growth found on the spleens of dead horses.

Lyrically and musically, what influences you?

strangely enough, i’d say the reason our band works is due to our varied musical influences, our open-mindedness and the ganja god himself, chicken feet, a great historian. i don’t know, we’ll listen to anything that’s good, if you’re talking musical influence…lyrically i move my emotions out of the reach of the deadly pendulum of life recalling all the near misses. did i say something? ah, sure.

Who came up with the name “dead horse” and how?

greg, and i don’t know how. but neither does he, so rot.

I heard that you were getting signed to Big Chief Records. Will there be a new album out soon? Tell me something about your newer songs.

yes, we signed to big records and we’re setting a studio date for late april. this would place the record release date for sometime in june i suppose. the newer songs are more thought out. lyrically, they’re more sobering. they represent dead horse much better musically, not that “horsecore” didn’t, that album represented then. so what am i saying. chicken feet.

Were there any other offers other than the offer by Big Chief?

metal blade, and cargo in canada. big chunk offered more bucks and more concern for the artistic needs for seriously promoting a band. more sincerity and fewer bands on their rooster. turkey for thanksgiving, and did i mention chicken feet.

You played Waco once before. What made you decide to come back?

the sincerity in the people who went to the first show. those that kept in touch and their persistence in getting us to come back, also i had planned to do more headstands, so i figured wacko was the place.

What’s the crowd response usually like at a dead horse show?

interested. relieved that shows can be fun, instead of completely serious, with rock gods glaring at you like they want to kill your grandmother. can’t relate, man.

How often do you usually play shows and whereabouts?

over our three years of existence, we’ve made excursions, (what’s an excursion?) all the way to california, back to phoenix again, to colorado, places in mississippi, all the way to canada, and of course lots of places in between, and we usually play various texas shows monthly, except for now as we’ve been trying to finish our new material. there are talks (in the white house) about touring with rigor mortis all over the west. we like this idea particularly because of rigor mortis’ connections with dookie houser.

What bands do you listen to?

i’ll answer for me. and i like everything that’s good. lately i’ve been listenin to godflesh, the b-52’s. jane’s addiction, and rocky horror. everybody’s music is as varied. mentors to napalm to dee lite.

How would you describe the dead horse sound?

vomitous horsecorousous.

Any final closing remarks?

hmm? as you get older and more and more people die…people you and i know; arises the question of why all this self-destructing reactionism exists, death is more real than you might imagine. everything is funny, or can be. do you take it serious, murder, murder, murder? do you know what that song’s about? chicken feet…rot. thanks for going to the shows, we’ll come back for sure.(All photos in this post were taken by yours truly, and all flyers are from my personal collection.)

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One Response to “Vomitous Horsecorousous: A very old interview with original dead horse vocalist/guitarist Michael Haaga.”

  1. Wm. Scott Deaver Says:

    Enjoyed this

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