Terraphobia: Terrorising the Earth
By Baz Bardoe
If you live in Australia and you are into metal, chances are you have heard of Mick Jelinic. He played guitar for Mortification for almost a decade, but these days he is better known for his own project Terraphobia, which is now effectively a solo project where he also sings and plays bass. He has recently released an album of material he had prepared whilst in Mortification, featuring drumming from erstwhile band mate Mike Forsberg. I began by asking him how he chose the somewhat unusual name for his band, which I roughly interpreted to mean ‘fear of the earth’.
“The band started in 1985 under the name of Lethal Dose”, he explained. “We went through a few line up changes so in 1993 the guys in the band suggested we start afresh with a new name, everyone had to come up with a name, as you know it’s hard to come up with a name that’s original and not in use by hundreds of bands around the world. I wanted a name that could easily define us as a metal band, some people that don’t understand heavy metal music see the music as something terrifying, so after looking through a thesaurus and combining the words and meanings of terror and fear I came up with Terraphobia, terror spelt as terra because I was a big fan of Pantera. The name really has no real meaning I just thought it sounded kind of cool. I remember the final vote for a name was either Terraphobia or Misanthropy, Terraphobia won three votes to one. “
I asked Mick why the project had basically become a solo venture. What were the benefits or downsides of such an approach?
“In 1995 it virtually came to the point of go solo or do nothing, after the singer and bass guitarist had left to form their own band, the drummer (Damien Percy) and I tried to find suitable replacements and after a few months of searching and getting nowhere Damien had become so frustrated that he ended up selling his drum kit. And then there was one!
I had some songs that I wanted to record so I ended up buying an 8 track cassette recorder, and in 1996 I recorded and released my first solo album “Natural Born Killer”.
Having artistic freedom is one of the main benefits of doing a solo project, also not having to rely on other people that might not be as dedicated and driven as you, and the downside is not being able to play live.”
I wondered how he felt about having the constraint on playing live, and whether he preferred studio work?
“I have only just started to get back into playing live again after many years off, I’m doing a classic rock covers band with my son called Psychedelic Fugitives, It’s been fun so far so who knows, in the future I may just bring Terraphobia back as a live band.
I do like playing live but for writing and creating I prefer the studio environment, I find that there are no limitations only the ones that you place on yourself. “
Mick is probably best known for his tenure with Mortification, who have become one of Australia’s most enduringly successful metal acts. I wondered how he got the gig and what that was like?
“I was recommended for the guitarist position by Steve Ravic (Metal Warriors, Majestic Film) who was editing Mortification’s Conquer the World DVD at the time, the band had just finished a world tour and the guitarist had had enough of touring and quit. I received a phone call from Mortification front man and bassist Steve Rowe, we had a long chat and I got invited for an audition.
A few days later I received some CDs in the mail sent from Steve for me to learn the songs for the audition, prior to receiving the CDs I’d never heard many Mortification songs so I had my work cut out.
At the audition I was nervous, during the first song I dared to look up and saw that Steve and the other guys had grins on their faces, from the first song the band was not only tight but had plenty of energy it felt like we had been playing together for years, it all just seemed to click together.
After the audition Steve said to me “you’ve got the job and we have a gig next weekend”. So it was another busy week for me learning all the songs for the set, and the gig ended up being a ripper.
Overall it was a great experience being in Mortification not only for the international tours but also the friendship and the professional attitude of the band.
The downside was the travel to rehearsal, as the band was Melbourne based and I lived in the Latrobe Valley almost 2 hours away, I travelled to rehearsal almost once a week for 9 years now that’s what you call dedication or maybe craziness! “
I put it to Mick that metal seems to thrive on a darker take on spirituality. Mortification are well known for their Christian beliefs and I asked him how he manages to retain a positive spiritual perspective amongst all the darker aspects of the metal scene?
“I try to not over analyze when writing lyrics, it all depends on the subject matter but sometimes with the crazy things that happen around the world, it can be hard to put a positive spin on a negative subject, I basically write whatever comes naturally.
I think most of the darker imagery of the scene stems back to the early days of metal music, the music was so different to what people had heard before so nearly every early metal band was labeled as satanic, I suppose not too dissimilar to Elvis and the early pioneers of rock n roll who’s music was referred to as evil.
Then you had artists such as Ozzy Osbourne and Alice Cooper who would play on this image, the more that they tried to ban their music the more albums they would sell.
Another thing that didn’t help was all the bad press that metal was getting in the 80’s, metal bands were getting blamed and sued because little Johnny had taken his own life while listening to their music. Have a look at the documentary of the Judas Priest trial on YouTube.
Maybe I was just naive but later I discovered that there were some that did take the satanic thing very seriously, in 2007 when we toured Europe we playing a show in Oslo, Norway, for those that don’t know Mortification is a Christian heavy metal band, the next morning after the show we were on the front page of their main newspaper, there was a photo of the band and crowd. I asked what was written in the article and was told it was basically reporting on the festival where we had played at and how Christian heavy metal bands had played to a packed well behaved crowd with no issues and also how there were no reports of violence around the city that night, referring back to the days of the 1990’s when in Norway the black metal movement were burning down churches and were linked to bashings and murders. Steve Rowe then told me how in the 90’s he had received numerous death threats and was put on a death list by a group calling themselves the Norwegian black metal mafia. I remember saying to him “thanks for that information mate you could of told me that earlier!”
So what inspires Terraphobia lyrics?
“Anything really, be it injustice, politics, war, the more passionate I am about a subject the more I find it easier to write about.”
Mick is a formidable guitarist, but his vocals are also impressive. I asked him when and how he discovered he could do metal vocals so well.
“It was when I was recording “Natural Born Killer” back in 1996, I had just finished recording all the music and all that was left to do was the vocals.”
I was hoping to have found a singer by then, so it was really just out of pure desperation that I decided to give the vocals a go.”
And of course the obligatory gear questions……
“I use a Mesa Boogie dual Rectifier head through 2x 300w Marshall quads, and the main guitars I use are two S series Ibanez guitars one is tuned to D and the other is in C. For the covers band I use a 2014 Roadhouse Fender Strat. “
I asked Mick for his thoughts on the impact of downloading. Many independent artists and labels are finding they can not survive, or at least they can no longer make money and hence have to do their music as a hobby, or compromise in other ways. A lot are saying that they can no longer release material of the quality they would like because few people seem to think they should pay for musical product any more……thoughts? Where is all this headed? What can artists do?
“The internet has been a great way to discover and promote bands but the reality is that a lot of labels and bands are struggling with the illegal downloading.
The dream of a band or artist going into to a big studio to record with a well known producer has almost disappeared, there aren’t many labels left out there that will sign and invest money into a unknown band, and most independent bands just cannot afford the expense, even if they could find the money with all the illegal downloading they would most likely never recoup the costs.
But on the other hand the digital age has made home recording affordable, a lot of independent bands are recording their own albums, so you would think that the recording studios would be struggling as well.
Earlier this year on the official release date for my latest album “Terrafication” I did a google search and found that it was already available for download via torrent sites.
To minimise the financial impact I have taken the do it yourself approach, I record all my music in my small home studio. I also I do my own artwork and even have made my own video clips. I didn’t know how to do these things when I first started I just learnt along the way and I’m still learning.
Some bands are just making their music available via digital downloads so they don’t have to pay for the pressing of CDs, but then again vinyl sales are surging.
Please support your favourite bands and artists by buying a legal copy.”
To my mind early Celtic Frost was art. Can metal truly be ‘art’?
“Metal is just a bunch of noise with people screaming into microphones, how many times have I heard that over the years. Creativity is art in my view, if someone has an idea and puts their heart and soul into such as band recording an album, the band might see the final recording as a great accomplishment and their best work yet and then some critics and fans might not just get it and give it negative reviews, it’s just how we interpret things, it’s the old saying of beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”
Terraphobia’s ‘Terrafication: The Mort Years’ is out now. Buy it here: http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/terraphobia2