The Lifer

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There is prolific and then there is what Fistula’s Corey Bing does. The man that has redefined the term. A veteran of the Northeastern Ohio sludge/doom battle zone, Bing has played in numerous heavy hitting acts – Accept Death, Sollubi, King Travolta, Ultralord, you name it. But Fistula has always been the area’s flagship act with a sound that is quintessential in its hatefulness and crushing weight, yet one that is also varied and always impeccably written and recorded. New album Burdened by your Existence owes as much to crust as it does Black Sabbath, driving listeners into the ground with crawling menace and ripping out throats with quick turns into speedier tempos, and everything in between.

Bing is a lifer in the truest definition of the term. Guys like Corey are the reason I continue to write about the world of metal, particularly the underground superheroes like Bing and the fertile community in which he resides. His work is created out of love, nothing more, nothing less, just like many of the scene veterans with which he has played. In the interview that follows, Corey and I discuss Fistula past and present, his former and current projects, record labels, and what this beloved thing call metal is supposed to be all about. As much as I hate to make self-important douche-bag claims, I’m inclined to call this Fistula interview a pretty damn definitive one. Soak it up and sweat it out.

Where are you located in Ohio anyway? I know it’s in the Northeast Cleveland-Akron-Canton area.

We’re about right in the middle of Akron and Cleveland. We grew up in a town called Litchfield.  We grew up out in the sticks kind of and then we ended up living out here in Medina, which is like a major city. Akron is about 20 minutes away from us going southeast and Cleveland is like 20 minutes away from us too, right north of us. I used to fuckin’ repo cars, man. I’ve been to like every fuckin’ county in Ohio.

I grew up in Michigan and spent quite a lot of time in Ohio. I remember that you couldn’t buy Everclear in Michigan, so Ohio was the first place I made the mistake of indulging in that shit.

Dude, that shit is devil poison. I had my time with that when I was younger. Michigan just got legalization of medical marijuana and now Ohio has been talking about that.

I was looking at the lineup on Burdened by your Existence. You’ve had some changes. Like Jason Corley (16) didn’t play on this album.

Basically, around 2005 and 2006 we were talking to Corley and him coming out here from California. After we recorded the For a Better Tomorrow EP with him eventually 16 got back together and signed to Relapse. So it makes it kind of difficult for him to come out here. And then Nate [Linehan] from Anal Cunt, who also plays in other bands like Adolf Satan, came out from Massachusetts and he played on an EP with me and Bahb [Branca]. After Corley I had a whole album’s worth of material, which was Burdened by your Existence and we didn’t have a drummer. There was this kid [Keith Double] we knew, younger than us, and he was really into a lot of the same things we were and he was a total fucking nightmare too, which is why he’s not jamming with us anymore. But I just fuckin’ worked him for like eight months, and I mean worked this motherfucker. He pounded the drums on this release. And we had Steve Barcus who did the vocals on this record. He was the original singer, over 10 years ago, that was supposed to start with Fistula. But substance abuse problems, like was all have, caused him to not be able to do it. So Bahb and I ended up singing by default really.

So I had these thoughts after we did the EP with Corley. I had this vision that I could make Fistula a powerhouse and I had been talking to Steve and hanging out with him and I thought I could just give this a chance to bring Fistula to what I had always envisioned. With Scott Stearns on guitar for the record we could just have this sicker sound and just crush. So that took its time and my friend Makita from Apartment 213, Lockweld, and Agoraphobic Nosebleed played with Fistula after that and on some experimental releases. We’ve always done noisy shit. Nate came out from Boston after all that and he played on an EP with Bahb and I, which is in delay in Florida with Scott Angelacos from Bloodlet and Hope and Suicide. Scott is doing the vocals on the EP, We the Beast, which is coming next.

And then we needed to find a drummer. So we got lucky and found one of our old bros from back in the day. Fistula is not the kind of band where we hold tryouts for drummers or something like that. It has to be someone where that’s just what they are. So we got this dude who had some problems in the past, but had cleaned his shit up. So we’ve been rehearsing with him since last August. His name is Jeremy Wilson. It’s been going well, man. We not only have that EP that’s coming out, but Fistula already has like 10 new songs that we’re already working on for our new release, which will be called Medicine Head. We’re playing with Maruta and Rotten Sound in May and then we’re playing another show out in Akron again in June just to test the waters on the new material before we record. So the lineup we have right now is Bahb and I and Jeremy Wilson, and Steve might be coming back to sing with us. Otherwise, Bahb and I will resume doing vocals. I already have half the lyrics written for the new stuff.

Bahb and Scott Sterns are veteran players too; they’ve been around.

Oh yeah, oh yeah. Ultralord, Necrodamus, and they always do the King Travolta stuff with me. Scott Stearns actually plays in Diehard, which was basically Integrity minus him. Scott played in Accept Death with me and Matt [Harvey] from Hemdale, but Scott doesn’t play in Accept Death anymore. It’s just Matt and I. Bahb has just been in Fistula with me forever. He did the vocals on the Ultralord album and played bass. He’s a sick fucker.

You definitely keep busy with the splits, compilations, full-lengths, various bands…

Yeah, we definitely keep busy, man. We’ve got so much shit now. We have a split with Necrocannabalistic Vomitorium coming out. We did a song for the Buzzov*en tribute that’s coming out. We did a song for this thing that Blind Date Records is putting out called The Clone where a lot of people just picked a song from all the shit you loved growing up and just did it your own way. We did “Dead in a Ditch” and the “Suit and Tie Guy” intro from D.R.I. Four of a Kind. We’re doing a split with SMG, lathe cut on an 8″ split from Malaysia. They cut like octagon records, triangle records, just really weird stuff. I love fuckin’ with people.  I love doing weird shit like that. We just do all this stupid shit to please ourselves. There are so many releases in the making. They’re even doing a double-vinyl version of Burdened by your Existence right now. We are also going to be working with a label for a split in the near future and they’re called Killing Machine out of Massachusetts. Their first release will be unreleased and remastered tracks for a Buzzov*en 7″, so you know Dave Scrod knows his shit.

We’re going to be touring again. We’ve just been going through a long slump. Long story short, when Bahb and I used to play in Rue… We started Rue in 2003. We weren’t even a fuckin’ band for a year and we did a three-week east coast tour with Weedeater, Bongzilla, and the cover version of 16. It was insane! Me and Bahb and Aaron [Brittain], the first lineup of Fistula, we had all known each other since we were like 12 years old, and me and Bahb were doing the Rue tour. Aaron was back home fuckin’ Bahb’s old lady. So that caused Fistula to not tour. Our last show at Emissions from the Monolith in 2004 or 2005 was the last time that our original lineup had played. And we haven’t had a full time drummer since then. So I’ve been pushing, doing project after project just because that’s what I do. I’m just always trying to get the shit out of me. I always have a vision for Fistula and fortunate enough for me I get involved with some really good dudes and I’ve made some really good friends over the years. I’m just lucky, man.

Plague Island Records released Burdened by your Existence. In the past you’ve had releases on Shifty Records and Corley Music. What can you tell me about Plague Island?

Plague Island is a label from Sweden. This guy who runs it, Ola Lawner, is the guitar player for a Swedish crust punk/thrash band called Modorra. They’re good, man! It’s the old fuckin’ Earache sound. We did a split with them too. We talked about doing a split first and then I sent him a bunch of stuff and in that pile was Burdened by your Existence and he was like “I fuckin’ love this record!” I said it wasn’t on a label and he said he’d put that out. He runs another record label called Goryfied and they’ve done like Hemorrhage and Machetazo. He’s sick, man. I love that shit, bands like that.

For years we’ve been classified as everything from stoner rock to sludge to doom, noise, whatever… I always wanted to break out of that. I never agreed with people calling it stoner rock and I hated that. We are not Kyuss or Fu Manchu. So we tried to get away from that. We just fucked with everybody, making different sounds on different albums and writing the weirdest shit that made us happy. Some people just didn’t fuckin’ get it. That’s good, I’m glad they don’t. I don’t want you listening to my shit [laughs]. I don’t care. I sent Ola a few things and he would question our motives. In the end, Ola is a good dude and he runs a solid fuckin’ label. He’s really good to us.

You sent me the Sollubi release, At War with Decency. That’s on Choking Hazard Records. Do you have some relationship with that label?

Choking Hazard got in touch with Griff – him and Jesse run the Land o’ Smiles label. They got in touch with Griff and said they were interested in doing it. This dude seriously only puts out releases of what he likes. That’s it. He’s not trying to make any money. He runs a pretty cool record label. They’ve got bands with some really cool old school sounds and the bands he puts out are fuckin’ hungry and you can tell. He put the Sollubi album out and he started talking to me about releasing the Fistula stuff. So I’m going to let this dude release the new EP we did with Nate because it could be good for us because I know it will sell and it’ll be good for him to have another cool release. He’s going to do it in a different format, like a DVD case release with a poster and sticker and a patch or something like that, just makin’ it different.

We worked with Shifty back in the day. I really don’t care, man, I’m honest about everything. I’ve aired some shit out too on the Net that I probably should have never aired, but it happens. Back years ago I was working with Shifty and he had hardly released anything, maybe four releases or something. All the contacts we had made from over the years from touring and playing in bands – we were always playing shows. If we weren’t touring out of state we were always playing around here or throwing parties. He would always tell us that “you guys are just as much Shifty as I am” and he’d always pump us for money for the releases. So I was talking to one of my friends from Rhode Island and he says “Did you know this band that’s on his label, he just gave them like $1,100 to go record?” Here this dude is always telling us that we’re his favorite band and all this stuff, and he’s hitting us up for money, yet giving other dudes money who never put nearly as much work into this label. Needless to say, I was like “fuck you dude.” If we couldn’t get anybody to work with us right now then we must suck really bad. Then all of a sudden Adam from Crucial Blast got in touch with us and asked if we wanted to put out a release that we had just recorded. So that started the whole thing.

We get contacted from some labels to do things, but we’re only going to work with some of them, and some people bust my shit. Like “You’re putting out your shit on this label called Basement Records? Who the fuck are these dudes?” It’s dudes from Malaysia that have got over 200 screens and bootleg our shit over there because they don’t have anything and they can’t get anything so they make shit happen. That’s why! It’s because they love the shit. I don’t care, put out our shit, give us the copies for ourselves, and leave us alone. That’s basically how it’s been working.

Corley Music, Jason was the shit. He ran shit so fuckin’ awesome and he hooked it up righteous. Him and Ola and even Steph from Choking Hazard, all these dudes run shit really good because they’re into it, they love it. Corley was awesome, he just had so much on his plate and then with 16 getting back together and getting signed to Relapse… He busts his ass for that band and that’s why Corley wasn’t running his record label anymore. He just had no fuckin’ time.

The Sollubi release is a more of an out-there sludge trip.

It is dude. Griff writes all the riffs for that; Jesse and him do the riffs and the vocals and the noise [and I play drums]. They drive out from Pennsylvania and hang out with me and Stearns and we rehearse the material that Griff writes. Sollubi is getting ready to have another release. Those guys are coming out soon so we can start demoing the new material.

What’s going on with Accept Death right now?

Accept Death, Matt is actually writing the new album and then we’re going to get together and start demoing the shit soon. It’s probably going to come out on No Escape Records. They’ve been patient with us. Matt got another DUI and that kind of hindered things for us, so he can’t go anywhere. Since I’m working on the new Fistula and stuff out here I don’t really have the time right now to go out there.

What’s your take on DeathCrawl? That [The End not is Near Enough] was really strong, an independent release too.

That’s Big Metal, man. Those guys are good. Big Metal recorded all that stuff himself in his home. That’s actually where we recorded the D.R.I. song for The Clone. Big Metal plays in a thrash band called Soulless out here. They’re one of the best around, hands down. They don’t give a fuck about anything other than just kickin’ your ass. DeathCrawl is the same way. He plays drums on that release! He’s been my bro forever. DeathCrawl is as sick band. As a matter of fact, we’re trying to set up a show with DeathCrawl soon.

But back to Burdened by your Existence. I’m thinking that this might be the angriest record you’ve done yet, which is saying a lot.

Oh yeah. Bahb is my brother; he’s one of my closest friends. When I was writing this material he was kind of junked out and I was getting people to help fill in and I never thought it would see the light of day, man. I was just pissed, but I did it. I just had a vision for this record and I was pissed, and I’m still pissed about this fuckin’ gay world that we live in. Everybody’s got to be so PC and not step on people’s toes. Sometimes you need to step on some fuckin’ toes, man. That’s part of your existence; questioning things and never just taking things for what someone else says they are. And all these people just smile and they eat the shit all the time. I am not one of those guys.

The new shit that we’re doing now for Medicine Head is more pissed off and more fuckin’ aggressive than anything we’ve ever done. It smokes Burdened by your Existence. I put these guys through the ringer doing that record. I pushed ‘em! I mean that’s one of the reasons that drummer is no longer with us. He’d scream at us.  He was literally back behind that kit screaming and we were like “Who the fuck are you screamin’ at?” We’re here for one reason; now I’m here for another [laughs].

What was his problem?

The dude had some problems upstairs. I mean we’re all fucked and I accept it, but trying to hide what you are and making excuses and trying to play the normal guy. We would fuckin’ bust his shit so hard when he was playing and he would literally scream he’d get so pissed off. It’s like “bro, we’re here because we’re having a good time; this is what we do. If you’re miserable and pissed off and you don’t want to fuckin’ rage, then there’s the door.” It came down to that. I could go into some fucked up details. We had a lot of crazy experiences with him. He’s just a fuckin’ nut job, man. We in certain situations, doing what we do, we just look at each other and go “well, we should have known. What did we really expect?”

I’ve just got a lot of shit that pisses me off lately, dude. This whole country… In God We Trust and all this bullshit.  Let me tell you something, that shit is so hypocritical. All these people that are like “God will make it all right.” Dude, fuck you and fuck your god, I don’t give a fuck. I’m supposed to be ok because some imaginary father figure from light years away is watching me apparently and I’m going to burn if I fuck up? And this is all because some woman that was created from a rib ate some magic fruit that a talking snake said it was ok to do? Dude, you gotta be fucking kidding me!

Faith is the opiate, isn’t it? That anger is harnessed on the first two cuts on this album, “Burn the Ladder” and “Destroying the Masters House (with the Masters Tools)” and that’s like 20 minutes of music right there. It’s classic, bottom crawling sludge, man. If you can’t make it through those two cuts, then you probably don’t have any business listening to the album anyway.

[Laughs] Exactly! If you can hang on, it’s worth it. I’m so glad you fuckin’ get it, man. You’re right on the money too. If you can hang through that shit, then this is what you were supposed to be doing. If you can’t, then this really wasn’t for you in the first place.

Actually, “Destroying the Masters House,” I wouldn’t call it catchy exactly, but that chorus stays with you. It bounces around in your head.

That’s awesome that you say that. I grew up listening to everything from old school rap to fuckin’ old rock, punk, and metal. It’s all in there. Fistula has never spit lyrics the same way other people spit lyrics. We put them there in kind of the way that rap would put them in there, the placement. It’s weird to say. It is hooky. There are some parts of Fistula that are really infectious and hooky, not because we intended to; it’s just the way we write. When I was writing that record the only thing I thought about was Black Sabbath. And there is nobody that changes up riffs and writes the way we do.

In fact, there is a part in “The Butcher” where you transition to a totally old school Black Sabbath style riff.

Oh yeah! You gotta keep it simple, man and we’ve always kept it simple. Every day when I wake up all these people are always like “Oh, I’ve got writer’s block, I can’t do anything” Dude, I got so much shit in me that I can never stop writing. I’m a lifer. I look at all these bands that over the years had played with us and got hyped up and then they fell off and don’t exist and never tried to do anything else other than that. We’re lifers, this is what we do. We’re always be doing this shit. There is nothing that could ever happen that would ever deter us from doing this.

After those opening tracks you do indeed start changing up the arrangements a little more and throw a few curves. Like “Isolation Reward” has some cool arrangement shifts and then you go crust/thrash on “Cat Skulls are Thick”

People are like “For a sludge band how can you keep it so interesting?” Well, it’s because we don’t play slow all the time [laughs]. All these bands I see, like Khanate and Sunn O))) and all these bands that are supposed to be doom and drone. You’re so scary, dude. You’re fucking boring me to tears, that’s what you’re fucking doing. And they call it art. These bands that think they’re so overwhelmingly heavy just because you’ve got some loud gear. Dude, write some shit that’s fucking heavy. I probably think differently. But these guys that are self-proclaimed drone kings, doom kings. Whatever dude, it’s all just a bunch of fuckin’ shit. Mix it up. Who wants to hear you sit in a chair and hit one note every five minutes? And there are dumbass motherfuckers that pay lots of money for that shit. Like “I just got the new Mastodon that’s like double, triple swirl vinyl that was in the 45th box set from North America”. Fuck you, man! Give me the new fuckin’ Master album with the pen artwork from ’95 on it.

That was one of my favorite albums from last year.

Those guys didn’t lose anything over the years! I have On the 7tht Day God Created…Master on tape! I listen to that and then I listen to the new one and this new one is way more together and way more brutal than that.

And nobody really sounds like that right now.

That’s the thing. Some people can say what they want and some people probably don’t even know who the fuck Master is. Those guys right there are one of the reasons that I still love creating music. A band like that after all these years can find a way to push through and be known and still be relevant; more than relevant, like setting the bar for what’s around. Those guys destroy. Man, like old Venom, old Celtic Frost… What’s wrong with people? All I hear now is “Did you hear the new fuckin’ Mastodon or the new Suicide Silence record” or some shit. I mean that’s cool that bands like Mastodon do what they do giving their piece to music history, but there are all these other bands that are going to be overcrowding the bargain bins at the record stores in the next 10 years. It’s just ridiculous.

What I always say is that if everyone was into it, then it probably wouldn’t be such a special thing.

Yeah, exactly. You hit it right on the fuckin’ head. It’s so accessible now that every jackass and his brother have a band out there now. It’s just ridiculous. I heard on the news the other day that Korn is going back to writing the way they did on their first record and I’m like “Oh, that’s nice, who gives a fuck about that?” Let me guess, it was like your darker, more pissed off old school shit, right? Whatever, dude! Like when Anthrax had a new record out. Do you think anybody gives a fuck about that? Seriously, that mass fuckin’ rip off Captain America cover that they did for We’ve Come for you All… Now if you were a band like Brutal Truth and you had a record with that title I could believe that shit. But…no dude, no. I’ll take a new Brutal Truth record over anything that’s coming out. I got lucky enough to meet Dan Lilker when Rue played a show in Rochester and got to smoke pot with him. That was one of the highlights of that tour.

Where the hell did you get a title like “Cat Skulls are Thick?”

That’s kind of like a correlation between the human race and my fucking stupid cat that I used to have. As many times as I had to beat his ass he would go shit on the drum rug downstairs. I would cut a new rug, nail another 2×4 to it, roll it up, and put it underneath the drum set. I’d tell him not to shit on it and he’d shit on it again. And my cat was huge, man; he was a beast. I go to thumpin’ him a few times when he was doing that and no matter how many times I’d crack him on his thick-ass skull he’d still do the same thing. That’s almost how this dumbass world is [laughs]. I couldn’t beat the shit out of him enough. No matter what I did he’d just keep doing it [laughs].

The line of the album is on “The Butcher.” It goes “I ain’t jokin’ baby, you better back the fuck off.”

You know how everybody goes through shit with their girl. You try to tell her that I ain’t joking, stop fuckin’ pushing me. That’s the way we all kind of are, just back the fuck off and then all of a sudden you wake the butcher [laughs] and the butcher rears his ugly head and now I’m seeing red. In the end where he goes “I’m sorry my love, I couldn’t hold back.” That’s pretty much what it’s about.

The artwork is just phenomenal. It doesn’t get any more metal than that.

Oh man, Stearns did an incredible job on that artwork. He is the fucking king. He draws in his sleep. That dude’s been doing a lot of artwork for bands over the years. No one even knows. Stearns did a limited 7″ for Jeff Becerra from Possessed. He’s done shit for Centinex, Nunslaughter… He did a fuckin’ hundred covers for one release for Nunslaughter, a hundred different hand drawn covers! He’s out there. They love his shit in Japan. The guy from Obliteration Records has been doing art gallery showings of his art out there.

Wrapping up, there is something about this Northeast Ohio sludge/doom pocket. It’s like the epicenter of the sludge world. What is it about that region?

I really think that this place is what it is for this music is because of the people that make this life and the conditions where we live here. And the weather is definitely going to have something to do with it. The way this society is and the government is a lot of people here in Ohio feel the same way. I think it’s slowly growing larger instead of diminishing, which is really odd. I’ve witnessed it first hand and I can speak very honestly about it. It’s just getting bigger. You’re never going to stop it. This world is fucked up, our government is fucked up, and we live in place that will drive you crazy in the summer time and drive you crazy as well in the winter time, and everything in between. That gray, dead Ohio sky. You just feel like you’re in this mental asylum.


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