Hard Talk

Interview with Jeff Becerra of Possessed

It’s been just over twenty years since we were blessed, so to speak, with the birth of death metal. I remember the buzz in school and all the demo trading going on about this band called Possessed. Being from the Bay Area myself, and I know from time to time I say this so just deal with it, I was able to grow up with these bands early on. In fact at a little club called The River Theatre in Northern California was my first mosh pit experience. And it was Possessed up on stage. My brand new Iron Maiden tour shirt was ripped right off my back. Think it got a broken nose that night too. Oh those were the days.

One of the guys responsible for this was Jeff Becerra, of the legendary death metal band Possessed. And though the physical life of the band only made it through three albums, the spirit of what they accomplished in that short time still lives on. A worldwide underground genre was created which still thrives today. And oh how there are still many trying to capture the essence of what Possessed created back then. Good luck, and keep on trying. All hail Possessed.

I am putting this here so if anyone gets to bored reading my jabbering, they’ll have seen it early on. At Jeff‘s request, “Send my love out to Countess Bathory and my boys, Jeffery Jr. and Sonny.”

What a fluke this was. Not the interview, but the way I hooked up with Jeff. I won’t go into it, not much of a big deal. I will say, the best interview I’ve ever done is right here. It took place about three weeks ago. We talked for just about an hour. A great ,great guy. So yes, there is quite a bit that has been left out. More so for they are not for general publics ears/eyes, or come on. Have any of you chicken-pecked an hour long conversation? I’ve been sitting here for a couple hours now with doing it this way. Hopefully in me writing it out this way, you get something out of it. This is my first attempt at writing it out this way. Hope it’s okay Brother.

Besides wondering what Jeff has been up to lately, there are of course going to be some Possessed history questions. There was a time, say from 1993 through I’d say about 1998 where I just gave up interest in music. Well the underground scene. Didn’t pay much attention and didn’t really buy anything. Boxed up what I already owned and put it in storage. I’d always wondered whatever happened to Possessed. We all know Larry went on to be in Primus, but what about Possessed?

There were several reasons why Possessed went by the wayside. “ Basically we were going hot and heavy.” Jeff states. “ Touring .Playing, playing. And it was really great. But I always felt like I was the only one that was really into it. And that it was just like a job to everyone else. And it was when Larry left to join up with Les Claypool, Mike and Mike were just like, fuck we don’t want to go on. Mike S. wanted to go off to college and Mike T. wanted to be around and take care of his family. So there I was with no band and no where to go. I knew I could never replace them, so I didn’t. Why even bother?”

So after 20 plus years, is there any possibilities of Possessed reforming? Is it ever going to come to life? The inventors/godfathers of modern day death metal? Jeff laughs, “ Actually I’m in the process of reforming Possessed right now.” “ So many people over the years have been asking and asking and last year I did that Hollywood gig with Sadistic Intent and we did The Exorcist and I fronted for them . I was a little worried about the wheelchair. You did know I was in a wheelchair?”

I said ,“uh, no.“ And this is where I find myself feeling like a idiot. It wasn’t but a few weeks ago chatting with a buddy about the band and we both thought we remembered hearing something, but during this call I was shocked. Knowing full well I was just winging the questions with not too much research involved Jeff continues, “ see I took a couple bullets 16 years ago. I was coming home from work one night and I got robbed. A couple of crack heads. I was coming out of a liquor store and they robbed me for a pack of Camels. One guy shot me in the chest with a 9mm and shoved it in my chest and it broke my ribs, shattered my lung and stuck in my spine.” Holy shit! I was very sorry to hear that. But as Jeff states, that was a long time ago and everything is okay now. He says the lucky part was when one put a 22 handgun up to his head and shot, the bullet ricocheted off his ring , just missing his head. “Yeah it’s cool, they sewed my finger back on and now I’m good to go.”

“So back to my worries on being on stage, in a wheelchair, but it didn’t seem as if any one really cared.”

Why would we?

“They were just like fuck it’s Jeff. This is cool.” “ I think we’re more famous now than we were in the ‘80’s.”

I tend to agree. After all the bands who have been influenced by your music, and are still using it as inspiration, you guys are legends. You know that don’t you?

So on to the band. I could not make out a couple of the names that well and if the spelling is wrong, sorry guys. There are a couple guys from Sadistic Intent. That much is clear. Emilo Marques, Essidino(?), basically the guys from Sadistic Intent and a new guitar player, Ernesto Bueno. “Yeah we’re the Satanic Hispanic. We’re all Mexicans. They’re all from East L.A. and shit. We go back many years. “ “they’re hella old school black and death metal and I like that vibe.”

There had been several attempts to get to old group back together with no avail. Jeff said they wouldn’t even return his phone calls for the longest time and when he finally heard beck from one of them, they’d said they have not been playing since they broke up. I know I’ve not heard hide or hair of the two Mikes myself. Larry on the other hand had been nothing but supportive of Jeff all along. “Larry has always been cool. He’s just the laidback stoner type.” Jeff comments.

With Seven Churches, Possessed set the bar way high. Too this day, it is one of the greatest, if not the greatest death metal albums of all time. Band after band has tried to duplicate it. And with it’s utter simplicity in the chord structures, you’d think it would be cake. Well it’s not. It was and still is truly a unique sounding and utterly brutal album. What was going on in these kids heads at the time they were jamming The Exorcist or Satan’s Curse out in their parent garage?

“We’d seen Venom, Exodus and Motorhead and Judas Priest and shit like that.” “but, Mike didn’t read music. He was sort of a tour de force all on his own and would just come up with all kinds of shit. Some weird rhythming and timing. What I think it really was is we heard all these heavy bands and agreed that we could be heavier. We just set out to be heavier than all the rest of them. And as Satanic as we possibly could.”

Jeff is also part of the New York Death Metal Militia. He is starting up a chapter in the Bay Area with several others throughout the country. With a purpose to just hang out with people of the similar interests, jamming out to some extreme music, wearing their colors and having a good time. There have been several benefits already and many more are on the way for numerous groups.” yeah we’re not a motorcycle gang. Even though some of the guys ride. It’s more of just a brotherhood society of metal. I want to raise benefits for like cancer and stuff. “

Commenting on today’s metal scene,” back in the day it was all about drugs. Drugs, girls and alcohol. Just to get sick with it. But today’s scene is cool. There are a lot of intelligent kids out there turning out some great music. Not like all the posers that were in L.A. in the ’80s. It is nice to see that the kids today know what metal is all about. That it’s about the music and not just going out to fuck, drink and snort crank.”

Jeff seems to be really up to date with today’s underground metal scene. So what bands are in the CD player? “I’m suppose to be doing a jam with Vital Remains, so I’ve been listening to a lot of that lately. I really like that. Who else? Oh , you know, this is kind of weird but I’ve sort of got a crush on Angela from Arch Enemy.” Yeah? Who doesn’t. “She’s so hot. But it’s just a rockstar crush. I’m still listening to Kreator, Destruction. Their new stuff kills. The new Exodus. I guess I’m still listening to the old bands. Just the new material. I want to hear the new Venom”. And I proceed to go into a bit of detail about it. And it’s old school Venom vibe.

So we went off track again, for a bit. I want to know more about the band reforming. “We’re going to be called Re-Possessed.” “No ,no just kidding. But the album is going to be called Metal Death” “No, no just kidding” Yes, this is how most of the interview went. He goes on to say, “ So we’re trying to nail down an hour and a half set. I want to headline. We’re not going to open. I think I deserve that. And hopefully we can get a couple new originals in there. Basically play some of the old school stuff off the three albums that we did. And then work our way up to building a fan base again. You know you have to start all over again. I may play bass on a couple songs. I haven’t figured that out yet. I still can play good, but it’s sort of cumbersome playing in a wheelchair trying to sing and shit.”

Jeff shared with me a great Haunted Happenings story for the Ball-Buster site, but when he was finished, I asked if he really wanted me to print it and he replied with, “No.” Not sure how many others this story has been shared with, but I now feel honored twice. Once just for this great interview and two for the great story.

Many thanks Brother. I’ll be calling you soon.

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