Is This Another Dimension? Kurk Bachman

Believer are no strangers to the Christian Metal scene, along the likes of Stryper, Deliverance, Tourniquet, Recon, Barren Cross, Living Sacrifice, Believer are one of the bands that stand out in the Christian Thrash Metal movement. Formed back 86 the band were soon picked up several years later by REX Records and a licensing deal with Roadrunner Records was soon to follow for the bands 2nd and 3rd album. Unfortunately the band broke up and went separate ways up until now when the band reformed and released their new album 'Gabriel' through Metal Blade. This is a strange and unusual album for this band, I guess it shows the bands previous elements within the new album with a more modern approach. I managed to have a chat with Kurk Bachman about the bands formation and the new album. Here is what he had to say to the following questions.

Ok as this is the first interview I have ever done with Believer, (I never had the chance to interview you back in the day) I would like to start by asking you just who formed the band and what year did you form?

Joey and I formed Believer in 1986. We were playing in some other bands together before this for about 3-4 years. Our first record "Extraction from Mortality" was released in 1989.

Has the line-up been the same up until the debut album, if not who replaced whom?

Our line-up has been constantly changing from record to record with the exception of Joey and I. Howe Kraft played bass on Extraction and was replaced by Wyatt Robertson on Sanity Obscure. Dave Baddorf played guitar on Extraction and Sanity. Dave and Wyatt left the band after the Sanity Obscure tour. Jim Winters played bass on Dimensions and performed some lead guitar parts also. Scott Laird has played violin on all 4 Believer records.

Has the band always been based in Colebrook P.A.? Also how much has the metal scene changed over the years in P.A.?

We started our first rehearsal studio in Colebrook and this is where Extraction, Sanity and Dimensions were written. Our current studio is still in PA which is where we recorded Gabriel. I have a rehearsal space in my house which is where most of Gabriel was written. The most noticeable change to the metal scene in PA has been the number of bands coming out of our area. When we were last on the scene, there were only 1 or 2 bands that went national/international. Now there are many which is really awesome to see!

Did the band have any other names before choosing the name Believer? If so what were they?

We were originally Deceiver and then changed our name to Believer after the amazing Ozzy Osbourne song from Diary of a Madman.

As a band does the Christian faith reflect within your music and does it make it hard for people in the metal world to take you seriously?

On Gabriel, our lyrics are about personal things going on in our lives. Our earlier records focused on many biblical and scientific themes, so the metal media labelled us as a Christian band, something we were not promoting ourselves as and still do not consider ourselves a Christian band. We have no indication that we are not taken seriously, but quite the opposite. There are some individuals that might disregard our music because we are not satanic black metal, which is fine with us. Their loss if you know what I mean. You can't please everyone and we don't try to just to sell records. All we want is for us to be happy with what we release and if others like it and get something out of it then this is a great bonus.

As a band, who are the bands influences? Do these influences reflect within your music that you are creating? I can certainly here the likes of Kreator, Coroner, Destruction, Sacrifice and of course Slayer in your music. Do you agree?

You are totally correct and I agree. These were the bands that really influenced our metal side. We listen to many different styles of music outside the metal scene and I know these styles influence our writing also. We are musicians and producers so we love music in general. If it is written, recorded, and produced well, we will absolutely recognize the talent and enjoy the listening experience. No closed minds in Believer.

How many demos did the band record before releasing the debut album? Also what songs made it onto the 1st demos as ‘Believer’? Any un-released songs that you may re-record in the near future?  I heard you released a demo called ‘The Return’ in 87, under a different style of metal, what style was that?

We recorded the one demo you mention, but it was more power metal sounding with small thrash elements. We were just starting to get our thrash wings at the time and learning how to write songs in that style. I think that elements of the song Unite were on that demo, but I'm not sure. We have many riffs and partial songs that will probably never see the light of day for many reasons.

What made you change your musical style into Thrash?

I think this was just what we felt comfortable writing at the time. It was in our brains which translated easier to our playing and writing. It is such a great, creative style of music with very few musical and artistic limitations. Many other genres of metal are way too limiting for Believer which may explain why many people have a hard time classifying us.

Was it hard for you guys to find a decent label with you been Christians, did most labels reject you because of this faith, as you might have been too much of a risk?

We had no problems finding a label as the music we were writing was what sold us to the labels. We had great support from REX, Roadrunner and now Metal Blade. No label looked at us as a risk.

The band recorded ‘Extraction….’ Through REX records, how did that deal come about? Were you happy with the way the label treated the band? How long was the contract for back then?

The REX contract was for 3 records, but was optioned by Roadrunner for Sanity and Dimensions.  We were very happy with REX at the time and for what we could expect from a small independent label.  It enabled us to get to where we are now and for that we are very grateful.  All of the labels have allowed us to experiment musically and never tried to dictate Believer's musical direction.

Do you feel that bands like Barron Cross and Stryper  made all the difference to the White metal scene?, What I mean is, did it open the door ways to bands like you and Deliverance etc…?

I am assuming that these bands did open doors, but we were in a different genre, so the bands that opened doors for us were Kreator, Destruction, Slayer, Testament, Sacrifice, Coroner, etc. We toured with Sacrifice and Bolt Thrower which helped us to gain a wider audience.

What other labels approached you beside REX?

The label history of Believer is quite remarkable because we didn't solicit many companies. It really came down to these few labels approaching us after hearing our music or seeing us live. We were very fortunate compared to many bands in the scene. Not sure why that is, but I guess the right A&R person heard us at the right time. Kind of weird!

Lets talk about your debut album ‘Extraction…’ this is a fucking incredible album, I love it!! Was it an easy album to write and how long did it take to record the album?

Thanks man!  It has been so long that I'm not sure if it was easy to write or not. I do know that we recorded it in like 7 days! Crazy but it seemed to come out okay. I'm proud of it and it really reflected where we were musically at that time in our lives.

Where was that album recorded and as a debut looking back on it now do you feel it was a very strong album or do you feel it could have been better?

This was recorded in Philadelphia, PA at Morning Star Studios. I think I can speak for Joey as well here, but we always feel that every album we put out could have been better and stronger.  With that said, we don't regret what was released as we have come to the realization that we will never be completely satisfied.

What songs on that album stand out for you and why? Also are there any songs that you don’t like? If so for what reasons?

That is a tough question as I have not listened to this record in a very long time. I remember liking Tormented and Shadow of Death though. I also remember how cool it was to do the intro to Extraction from Mortality with Scott Laird on violin.

Let me a little bit about the album cover for that debut album? Does it reflect within the music for the album?

I think it is okay, but we really didn't have a ton of input on that one. Not sure we were focused on the cover as we were just stoked to be putting out music for the world to hear.

After releasing that album you went onto recording ‘Sanity…’, which also resulted in you signing to Roadrunner records, how did that deal come about and were you happy with them back then? How did REX records feel about that?

Roadrunner was great and we are still in contact with Monty Conner. Again, they allowed us to do what we wanted to do with no dictating. They approached us after hearing Extraction and wanted to do a buyout deal with REX.  Of course REX was into this as they were just a small indie label with little cash. It helped them to build a name in the business also.

This album also saw Kraft leaving, why? He was replaced by Wyatt Robertson. What band was Wyatt in before Believer?

Wyatt was a friend of ours and new the band very well when Howe decided to leave and pursue other career opportunities. Wyatt was not in a serious band prior to Believer as he was in college at the time.

This album took another direction for the band, a little more experimental and more technical, was it hard writing songs for that album? How long did it take to record? Where you happy with the end results? Who also produced the album and were there any special guests on the record?

I wrote the majority of this record when I was suffering from chicken pox and locked in my house for a week. I can't remember any of our records being hard to write. We recorded this album over a 2 week period at Morning Star again.  As with Extraction and all the others, we were not completely happy, but it is what it is and we live with that. The record was produced by Doug Mann along with Joey and I.

You also covers a ‘U2’ song, god I hate that band haha!! So why one of theirs? Why that song in perticular?  Also what songs stand out for you and why? Are there any that you don’t like and why?

We really liked that song and wanted to cover something that was not metal to begin with. We need to be unique and not follow the common musical path. I liked playing Wisdom's Call and Nonpoint. Obviously Dies Irae was special as we expanded out work with Scott along with his sister Julianne the opera singer.

A tour with Bolt Thrower, Sacrifice and Pestilence took place, how did that go for you? You also played the Milwukee Metal fest with Deicide, how was that and was there any animosity between you and Deicide?

The tour was awesome and we made great friends along the way. The Metal Fest was fun also because you get to hang out with friends who were also on tour at the time. We had dinner with Deicide and the other bands on Roadrunner and had a lot of fun. I recall Glen and I having a nice discussion about cooking scallops.

How do you see the 2nd album a sa progression from the debut album? In what way?

As you pointed out nicely before, I think we went in a more experimental and technical direction. Every musician will mature through time with their writing style and if they don't, you get the same album every time which is a really boring thought for us.

After the release of the 2nd album Wyatt Robertson and David Baddorf left Believer, why was that? Are you still friends with all the old members?

They left to pursue other career interests and I did after Dimensions so there was no animosity. We are not in touch with them but we still consider them friends who spent an important part of our lives with us.

As the band seemed to be moving on up on the ladder of success, you released ‘Dimensions’ , which was a very experimental with half the album been Thrash and the other side been more Classic influenced, was that a very difficult album to record? How did it take to record that album? 

Dimensions was quite difficult to record.  We were using the new digital ADAT systems because we needed 36-48 tracks for the string sections. We were one of the first bands to use this technology so we had to deal with a lot of bugs. Fortunate for us, our friend and engineer Ted Hermanson was (and still is) an amazing software engineer, so he was able to get things up and running. We recorded and mixed this record over a 2 month period. 

I now a few people who didn’t really like that album, but I personally loved the way you mixed both classical with thrash. Did you ever try to play this live with a orchestra? Would you of liked to of done it live?

We never played it live as we could not afford the cost at the time to travel with an orchestra.  We did play 'Dies Irae' live once and that was a blast. I know that some people like the thrash part and others like the orchestral part, while others like yourself are able to enjoy both sections.  I think that many people have a hard time dealing with something different because they don't know how to classify it. Those that like it don't worry about what to call it but just sit back and enjoy it.

Did you have any other titles for this album and how do you see this album as a progression from the last 2 releases?

Dimensions was always the title because we were exploring musical ideas that were new to the metal genre. We started using more sound samples on this record and took the orchestral style to the limit. We still kept the technicality flowing from Sanity though in the thrash sections.

What songs stand out for you on this record and why? Any you didn’t like and why? What was that album concept all about?

I like Gone and No Apology and of course the Trilogy. These were just slightly different writing styles used so I think that is why they stand out for me.  The concept was the exploration of new musical dimensions. Pushing the envelop of our creativity in a sense.

Did the album receive good positive reviews or were they mixed reviews?

All of our albums get mixed reviews which is fine. We don't expect everyone to like a Believer album as not everyone is insane! Some people get where we we're trying to take them while others just don't want to hop on the ride.

So why did things all start to go wrong for the band after that release? Things seemed to look promising for you, so why the split? You even won an award for GMA Dove Award, that must of meant something to you!

I wanted to pursue my education in medicine and it just felt like the right time.  I focused on obtaining my PHD and starting my own cancer research lab.  Joey played with other local musicians and became a member of Fountain of Tears, a prog metal band that included Jeff King who is now in Believer.  Everything worked out in the end.

So what did you all do after the band broke up? Did you all remain friends and keep in touch with one another?

See my previous answer. Joey and I were always in contact with one another.  I helped to produce the Fountain of Tears recording and that sparked the bug in me to start working with Joey again.

The band recorded a live CD ‘The Chosen Live’ in 2007, was this released as a live DVD or what it recorded as a DVD too?

This was not an official recording but an unauthorized bootleg. I think the sound is horrible and as many know we would never allow anything like that to be officially released.

I bet you had a lot of fans emailing you asking for you to reform the band? So what made you come back and record a new album ‘Gabriel’?

 We did through the years have fans asking us to put something else out and this did factor in to the release of Gabriel but only after we recorded it. Joey and I were just having some fun getting together to jam and found the chemistry was still intact.  It felt like 15 days past and not 15 years. We decided to record the songs as we have our own studio. During the recording, many of our friends told us that we should release this for our fans to hear. Joey and I never wanted to do a reunion thing but rather a continuation and this is why we didn't write Sanity or Dimensions part 2.

Some years have pasted and so you reformed, how did you find the new members Jeff King, Kevin Leaman, Elton Nestler? Did you approach the old members first to reform the band? What did they say?

Jeff was playing in Fountain with Joey and we decided to expand the Believer sound by adding his keyboards. Kevin and Elton have been long time friends of ours and are from our area. We never approached anyone else from the past with the exception of Jim Winters to do a few leads and Scott Laird to do a bit of violin work.

How did the whole ball start rolling once again?

Just a result of Joey and I having fun and realizing the chemistry was still intact.

How did you approach Metal Blade and what other labels did you approach too? What did M.B. offer you, which was better than the rest of the labels?

We worked with Clandestine Music, which is a company formed by former A&R guys from Century Media. They work for the artists to obtain the best deals possible.  They also worked with Cynic to get them their deal. We did not approach any other labels as the deal with MB was exactly what we were looking for.  We sign a 3 year licensing deal as we have our own production company, Trauma Team Productions. Howard Jones (KSE) was came to put vocals on The Brave and mentioned that he was starting an imprint on MB call Cesspool Recordings and ask if we would be the first band on the imprint.  The rest is history.

So why the name ‘Gabriel’ for the title? Who is Gabriel? Did you have any other names for the new album?

Again, this was the only name we focused on. It has many meanings to us and we hope that our fans uncover what the title means to them after listening to the album.

How do you see this album as a progression from the last albums? To me it is very strange and different. Not your typical Believer album, so why the change? Do you feel that the album might let your die hard fans down? Also do you feel that it is still early stages and that the band may return to their old form that we all love to hear? I would love to hear you return to the 1st 2 albums for the next album.

As I mentioned before, we did not go out to repeat our past. The tunes on Gabriel represent where we are as musicians. We just wrote what was interesting to us and didn't worry about letting anyone down. I think if we did this, we would be letting ourselves down and taking the easy way out. We like being creative and doing new things rather than repeating ourselves.

So where was the new album recorded and how did you hook up with Killswitch Engage member to record the album? He is Christian also?

We recorded the album at our own studio in PA. It was great being able to record something and then walk away for a few days to get fresh ears. Howard has proclaimed his interest in Believer in some of his interviews. Mike Gitter, A&R for Roadrunner put us in contact with Howard and we asked him if he would be into doing some vocals for the new record. He was stoked and we had a blast with him in the studio. He truly is a great guy. You will have to ask him about his beliefs.

How long did it take to record the album? Are you also happy with the end results?

We took our time so the recording and mixing went on for approximately 10 months. Again, we took time off the be able to come back with fresh ears and critically listen to what was recorded. We are pretty happy with it and we think the dynamics intact.

To me the album has a strange production, a little weak maybe do you agree?

I actually disagree. We did not want this record to sound like every other band out there where the dynamics are gone and everything is compressed to the max.  Like many bands today, we also did not trigger the drums as all the sounds are real. We compared the production to bands like Tool where the dynamics are critical.  I'm happy to see Mastodon and KSE are using producers who are not trigger and compression freaks with kick drums dominating the mix. This just kills songs from having any feel or depth and can mask any unique background sounds. I think it is just another unfortunate thing in the industry today.   

This album also features Joe Rico form Sacrifice, how did you hook up with Joe once again? I heard there also making a come back -  great!!! Also what are the songs about on the new album?

Joe is a good friend also and we asked him to do a solo. He was really pumped about this and the new Sacrifice is amazing. 

What are the songs about on the new album and are they wrote as a team effort? How do you see this album as a steeping stone for the band? (Progression). 

As with the title, we really want people to interpret the songs in their own way. Make the songs their own in a sense rather than them having a meaning that was only personal to me. It is a way to encourage others to think for themselves and not spoon feed them. I think Believer fans are a pretty intelligent bunch of people. Joey, Jeff and I wrote the lyrics for the album and they stem from personal experiences. We do look at this album as a first album since it has bee 15+ years since Dimensions and many metal fans never heard of Believer before. I'm excited to start working on the next one and as with all Believer records, I'm sure it will be different.

Do Christian beliefs still play a big part in your song writing and lyrics?

You will have to make your own decision on that one! 

What sort of album reviews has this album been getting from the press and what do your fans think of it?

It has been getting great reviews.  Probably 90% are very positive. Many reviewers that did not like it have confessed to only listening to it once, but after multiple listens having it grow on them. Many have also listened to subpar mp3 versions and not the actual disc. As I'm sure you know, the mp3 conversion can destroy many frequencies and we used the entire range for this record. The disc sounds so much better and there is more separation, depth and clarity.  The fans seem to love it and the feedback has been very positive.

So when will we expect to see the band touring here in the UK and Europe? Any festivals planned?

We are rehearsing now to start playing shows this summer. We would love to come to the UK and have been talking about a European mini-tour. We'll see how the record does in Europe before we make any commitments.

Whom would you like to tour with within reason?

We have been discussing doing shows with Sacrifice and Atheist once their records come out.  Again, nothing set in stone at this point.

Do you have any messages for the fans who will be reading this?

We really do have the greatest fans, both old and new. This would not be worth it without them and we hope they are enjoying the new album.  Their support has been completely amazing!

Well thanx guys for answering these question, take care and god bless. Thanks for giving us this opportunity. We really appreciate it!  Cheers!

                                                Thanx to Andy @ Metal Blade and Kurk for the interview. Best of luck guys!!

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