Interview by Keith Dempe (Eternal Darkness Fanzine) with John of Scepter 1997 

The phenomenon of revitalizing the whole “old metal” sound is sweeping the globe, but some of us have stayed true to this vision the entire time!. While thrash, death and black metal have each individually left their mark on me both as a listener and as a critic, nothing has touched me as deeply as just plain old, outright, balls to the wall, heavy fuckin’ metal!. Some other people that have never “kicked” the metal “habit” are the trio that calls themselves Scepter from Chicago, Illinois in these United States!. Their debut demo “Up Thy Ass” belongs in every metal fan’s collection, no matter how lightly you take the genre!. 4 songs of aggressive hell bent, metal anthems and no less you get. It is available from both me and the band for $5 US. More recently the band released a 4 song mini CD that is equally aggressive in it’s aural assault, this too is available from both the band and me (Eternal Darkness Creations) for $7 US, I will let bassist/ vocalist John take over from here… 


Since I really didn’t give much of a bio why don’t you introduce yourself and your band, by filling in any necessary information of the history and prehistory of Scepter!.  “Hello readers. My name is John and I am the bassist/vocalist for Scepter. Scepter also consists of Todd on guitars and Eric on drums. Beginning with Scepter’s prehistory, let’s go back to 1987. I had joined my first serious band called The Dead Youth. By 1988 Todd had joined Violent Insanity. Our bands often played together so that is how Todd and I became acquainted. Eric also joined Violent Insanity soon after. By 1991 I was getting frustrated with the direction that The Dead Youth was going in, so I asked Todd if he wanted to work on a couple of songs that the rest of The Dead Youth shot down. Eric joined in and within 2 jam sessions Nostradamus was born!. That union only lasted about 6 months due to commitments to our main bands.

     In 1993 I got kicked out of The Dead Youth and Violent Insanity dissolved due to lack of members. That left Todd and I to concentrate on Nostradamus full time!. Eric wasn’t available then so we knew we’d have to get another drummer. Since this would not be the original Nostradamus line up, Todd and I felt a new name was in order so in the spring of 1994 Scepter was officially born!!. We recruited a drummer named Dave and in the winter of 1994 we recorded the now legendary “Up Thy Ass” 4 assault EP. Shortly after that Dave left the band due to personal matters and Eric joined us once again. We recorded our latest effort “Metal Supremacy” in 1995 and that brings us up to the present. Still awake?. 

Was “Up Thy Ass” your first demo?. Did Nostradamus record anything?. Are you satisfied with “Up Thy Ass”?.  “Nostradamus mad a four song rehearsal tape but we never released it. “Up Thy Ass” is Scepter’s first release. So far we’ve gone through about 800 tapes by sale, trade and promotion. Just about all of the reviews we’ve either heard or read about it were positive. We are completely satisfied with “Up Thy Ass” because it sounds as good today as when it was recorded. It has a timeless quality and will never sound dated. We love it and that is the most important thing.” 

Your production style on “Up Thy Ass” was very Horst Muller/Celtic Frost-ish circa 1984 sounding. I thought it very much like “Emperor’s Return”, was this sound intentional?. Do you hear this comparison often?. Who produced “Up Thy Ass?. Could you tell us of the processes that went into creating and recreating such a legendary sound?. “Yes we have had many Frost comparisons with our sound. I think that is mainly due to our straight-forwardness of our recording. We’ve always thought that albums like “Morbid Tales”, “Dressed To Kill” and “Too Fast For Love” (Leathur Records version) sounded because of the straight-forwardness. We recorded “Up Thy Ass” at Hair Bear studios and it was produced by Jeff Islinger and Scepter. Jeff’s a great engineer because he’ll get you the sound you’re after and suggests things that are normally taken for granted yet could be easily overlooked.

     The sound we were going for was just the natural sound of the band with good sonic separation of the individual instruments. We don’t use effects other than a little delay or reverb. We’re pretty much a plug-in and go kind of band and I think that “Up Thy Ass” shows that. I’ve heard a tape of Celtic Frost rehearsing for “Morbid Tales” and it sounds basically the same as the album. A band must already have a sound and know what they want before attempting a studio recording” 

Who was behind the helm on “Metal Supremacy”?. Could you tell us a little of what went into writing the tracks on the mini CD and tell us how the recording went?. Any interesting stories to had there?. “Again the same team produced “Metal Supremacy” (with the exception of Dave of course). All of the songs were written at the same time as the songs for “Up Thy Ass” except for “Nostradamus” which was written back in 1991. We chose to put out two releases ourselves rather than put them on a full album in order to develop as a band and build a solid foundation over time. We feel that we are just now starting to tap into our full potential. These days too many bands go for the first deal that comes their way rather than planning for the long haul. We took a little longer recording “Metal Supremacy” because we tried to capture more of an “album” this time around. Who can tell what is album quality these days anyway with all of the black metal recordings being passed off as “album” quality. I think the psychological ramifications of pressing a recording onto a CD instantly registers as an “album” quality product to most listeners simply because it is on CD! (I think so too -Keith). So whether or not “Metal Supremacy” is a sonic improvement over “Up Thy Ass” is up to the listener. We love it and that is all that matters. As far as interesting stories during the recording session… Jeff, Eric and I were all wasted for the duration so maybe that’s why it took a little longer to record! HA!!!” 

How has “Metal Supremacy” been received by the public?. How about the press? How can my readers get ahold of a copy and what labels are selling it?. “Some people prefer “Metal Supremacy” to “Up Thy Ass” and vice versa, but for the most part the mini CD has been well received by zines and public alike. Some distributors carrying “Metal Supremacy” are Merciless Records(GER), Near Dark(SWE), Abyss(USA), Repulse(SPA), Displeased(HOL), Bleed(FRA), Eternal Darkness(USA) and many others. One can always write Scepter as well. “Metal Supremacy” is available for $7 worldwide and “Up Thy Ass” is still available for $5 worldwide. Scepter/ P.O. Box 388068/ Chicago, IL. 60639-8068, USA”. 

I am aware that Scepter has preceded this trend but what do you think of all of the bands reverting back to the traditional ways of metal and hellfire?. Especially in Europe, what do you think of bands like Bewitched, Dissection, Nifelheim and the like who are pretty much the cream of the “new crop”?. “Bands should play whatever they want to play. Perserverance and longevity always separate the real bands from the trendies. Bands who do nothing to innovate usually disappear when they run out of ways to exploit the work of others. I have always been into metal and hellfire so bands reverting back to the old ways probably never knew the old ways to begin with (How true -Keith). When a band decides to “get back to their roots” I ask myself why did they leave their roots to begin with. These days all you need is a bootleg Hellhammer shirt, some spikes and bullet belts, invoke the names of certain old bands and PRESTO!. You’re instantly “true”. Ten years ago if you saw some sick fuck wearing a Destruction shirt or a bulletbelt you knew he was the real deal. Nowadays it is hard to tell who the enemy is. I can’t believe that every “old school” person today is for real or we wouldn’t have been subjected the lame thrash and death metal of the early 1990’s. Where were all of these “true worriors” of today 10 years ago when we needed them?. My main beef with the “old school” tend is that when record labels use the 1980’s tag as a marketing tactic it cheapens the feelings and memories of the past. Scepter is a 1990’s band and proud of it!. Trends will come as they will go, but bands like Scepter will stand the test of time because we play metal to please ourselves and not to please others.” 

I know you do not like to be labeled (the band that is) as thrash, black or death metal, and that just the term “metal” suffices. Do you think that labels are limiting and misleading?. How are some of the interesting ways in which Scepter has been labeled?. “For us, “metal” is all we need. We have been influenced by so many metal styles that to call ourselves just “thrash”, “black”, “death”, “hardrock”, or just “heavy metal” would be inaccurate. This is the 1990’s we don’t want to rehash the past. No one else is writing music we want to hear so we do it ourselves. We have been called a various mixture of all of the styles I just mentioned and that is fine by us. We take all the great music we have been influenced by, add our own ideas and create METAL!. Pure and simple. Bands should label their music with what they feel in their hearts.” 

What five albums sum up the term “metal” to you?. “Morbid Tales”, “Too Fast For Love”, “Dressed To Kill”, “Black Metal”, and “Reign In Blood”.”  

What is Scepter like live?. What can one expect walking into a Scepter show?. Do you do any covers live?. What would be the ultimate cover for Scepter to do?. “A Scepter concert consists of three fuckers abusing their instruments, banging their heads and driving the audience into a insane metal frenzy!!!. All of the songs off of “Up Thy Ass” and “Metal Supremacy” are fair game for a Scepter performance as well as some new ones like “I’m Going To Hell”, “Death Spell”, and “Swastika”. The only cover we have ever done live was “Oriental Masquerade” as an intro. Right now we are too busy creating our own music to spend time learning someone else’s material. Most of the bands/songs we’d like to cover have already been disgraced by other bands. We have some covers in mind maybe one day…” 

If you could, please give us a brief rundown on what the songs on “Metal Supremacy” deal with?. “Metal Supremacy” is about being a METALHEAD,, thinking the way you want and not letting society’s “betters” tell you how to live your life. Everyday real METALHEADS triumph over the followers of the world by being our own persons. “Death’s Head” is about the lame aspects of eternity and how it’s not worth worrying about dying because it is unavoidable. “Tetagrammaton” is about Solomon’s Seal and his conjurations. Finally “Nostradamus” is about the healer/prophet/astrologer himself.” 

How long have you been playing bass?. Do you play any other instruments?. What is Scepter’s practice regiment?. “I have been playing bass since 1985. As a kid I played piano, saxophone and trumpet. I have never stuck with them because I needed a ROCK instrument. I wasn’t into the drums and guitar was too delicate for me. I was into Steve Harris and Nikki Six so I came to the conclusion that bass was for me, it’s twelve years later and I am still playing bass so I guess I made the right decision. As for practicing we usually just work on what we need to for the time (i.e. during the “Metal Supremacy” day we work on “Metal Supremacy” songs). We never force anything out. If practice becomes a chore it’s not worth it!.” 

Is it hard on your voice to sing in the fashion that Scepter vocalizes?. Have you ever had a problem with that?. How would you describe Scepter’s vocal style because whilst you don’t grunt you definitely don’t shriek. How do you describe it?. “It took awhile to break my voice in but it takes time to perfect like any other instrument. My main priority as a vocalist is to sound as sick as possible yet understandable. I always liked the qualities Tom Worrior, Cronos, Alice Cooper, and Tom Angelripper had in their voices. Maybe that crossection is a good description of my voice. Being a bassist first, vocals have always been a secondary concern for me.” 

What bands have you played out with?. Are people that see you live surprised by your straightout approach?. What have given you their “seal of approval”?. “We have played with Funeral Nation, Mortar, Cianide, Corpsevomit, Ember and Eternal Hatred. Chicago has some pretty diverse bands so others probably just look at us as one more piece of the mosaic. Most bands here, wisely, are only concerned with themselves and their own sound. I suppose we have the seal of approval form the aformentioned bands. Other bands outside of Chicago we share a mutual support with are Vulpecula, Abigail, Pentacle, Deceased, Occult and Typhon”. 

Any comments in closing?. “Believe in your METAL.” 

I hope you have enjoyed these few words with a real metal meister! (I know I did Keith, my metal brother!!  Thank you!!!-Dale). Remember the name-Scepter and buy their stuff!!!. ALL metal fans must own a copy of “Metal Supremacy” or else F.O.A.D.!!!!!!!!!!!.



The Scepter Discography 

SCEPTER "Up Thy Ass" Demo Tape

SCEPTER "I´m Going To Hell" CD

SCEPTER "Fucking Metal Motherfuckers" CD



Click above to return to the homepage