By: James Grell
would you ask Les Evans from Cryptic Slaughter if given the
opportunity?Ē If that question was posed to me back in 1986 when
I was in 10th grade and first heard their debut album
Convicted, my answer might have been something like ďHoly
fuck! Thatís the fastest, most insane shit Iíve ever heard!Ē I
know thatís not really a question, but Iíd just heard the band
and Iím certain thatís what was going through my mind at the
time. Now itís 17 years later, Iíve had some time to gather my
thoughts, and by some strange twist of fate Iíve stumbled upon
I canít conceive of words that will do the music of Cryptic
Slaughter justice. If you know their records already I suspect
youíre nodding in agreement. Those unfamiliar will simply have
to rely on a little bit of faith and your imagination. Suffice
it to say that when Metal sped up and Punk got heavy, no band
blurred the lines any better than they did. To this day, they
are the first band to come to mind when I think sheer velocity.
Even more impressive is that no matter how long Iíve gone
between listens, their songs always sound as if Iíd just been
listening to them yesterday. In a time when both Metal and
Hardcore are more extreme than ever, the combination of flat out
speed, infectiously memorable songwriting, and frightening
intensity found on Cryptic Slaughterís first three records has
yet to be surpassed.
I suppose itís now time to ask that question(s).
RESOUND: So, what have you been up to since 1990?
Les Evans: The final show for the Portland
Cryptic line-up (now affectionately known as Cryptic version
2.0) was in Paris in late October 1990. And truthfully, we
didn't know at the time that that was it. We never officially
called it quits. It just kind of fell by the wayside in the face
of what was a much bigger deal at the time, which was another
band that both Brian and I were in called Sweaty Nipples. Sweaty
was far and away the biggest band in Portland and the time and
regularly packed in 1200 people at our shows. At one point, we
held the attendance record at four different local venues (as
well as the alcohol consumption record). People drank so much at
our gigs that it was not uncommon for the bars to run out of
beer, even after they knew what to expect from our degenerate
audience. I played with Sweaty for two years -- until the end of
1991 -- when we parted ways. After that, I worked for a short
time on an industrial music project in the Ministry vein, but as
it turned out, the guy I was working with liked heroin just a
little too much.
I was worn out at that point and decided that the music biz was
just not for me. Too many friendships had been put at risk over
inflated egos and lack of communication and I just didn't have
the stomach for it anymore. But I did stay close to music, which
is easy to do when all your friends are musicians. I only picked
up the guitar a few times in the span of ten years. I kept
myself busy with things like marriage, fatherhood, and working
"real" jobs. I just started jamming again over the past year and
a half or so and only then did I realize how much I missed
playing and writing music.
R: What are some of the "real" jobs you have worked?
What do you do currently? Do you know what any of the other guys
have been doing since leaving the band?
LE: I worked as a guitar tech for a great
band called Love On Ice (think Janeís Addiction meets old Van
Halen) who should have made it big but didn't. I managed a
campground in the middle of nowhere in Central Oregon, which was
beautiful but the isolation got more than a little creepy.
Especially when you've seen Evil Dead on acid as many times as I
have. I've also worked in silk-screen production, which every
musician in the world has done at some point. It's like an
unwritten law. For the past five years I've worked for a bank.
And no, I never cut my hair for any of them. I know that Scott
works for a lawyer but I'm not sure in what capacity. He also
has a punk band called So Abused. Bill is the distribution
manager for an L.A music magazine. And Rob has most recently
been employed by Rob Zombie as Mr. Blasko. He's jamming now with
the singer/guitarist from Helmet.
R: Wow, campground manager sounds like fun. I can see
how your imagination could get the better of you. All work and
no play makes Les a dull boy! Are you at all surprised over the
current interest in the Cryptic Slaughter records? How did the
reissues come about?
LE: The campground was really off the
beaten path so we didn't have a lot of business. At one point, I
hadn't had any human contact (and no phone) for two weeks and
I'm sure I started to resemble Nicholson in The Shining.
The renewed interest in the band really took me by surprise at
first. It really hit home when I saw someone pay $360.00 for a
copy of Money Talks on eBay. But we always had extremely loyal
core fans who were so down for the music and apparently still
are. And I'm very flattered to hear that we've had an influence
on some of today's bands. That's like the ultimate compliment.
Matt and Pellet had been trying to track me down to re-issue
those records for a few years now but didn't know how to get a
hold of me. They finally got my email from Katon of HIRAX, who I
had just gotten back in touch with a couple of years ago. What's
interesting is that it was Katon that gave our demo to Brian
Slagel, which got us signed to Metal Blade in 1985. So he's
partly responsible for both of our record deals. And that's
appropriate, because Katon was a catalyst for the underground
scene. He was always bringing different people and bands
R: Iíll take this opportunity to say ďThanks KatonĒ!
Iím sure you guys are psyched to have your records reissued.
What role did the band members play in putting them together and
how do you feel about the final results?
LE: We can't really take any credit for
putting the re-issues together, beyond the obvious things like
supplying the photos, flyers, and bonus material. Relapse
deserves the praise. They've bent over backwards to make the
records look and sound better than they ever have and we
couldn't be more stoked. It makes a huge difference when your
label reps are also fans of your music. This was a labor of love
for a lot of the people involved. Metal Blade respected the fact
that we sold records but I don't think they ever liked us as a
R: The re-mastered records are definitely more crushing
than ever. Going back in time a bit to when Convicted first came
out, did you know the band was doing something different? In
terms of style and approach, were there other bands at the time
that you felt a kinship with?
LE: I think that we were hoping to do
something different although it really wasn't premeditated. It
was more of a natural evolution in an attempt to carve out our
own sound. There weren't a lot of bands playing ultra fast back
then. I believe D.R.I was probably the first to really take the
whole speed thing over the top and I'm sure they influenced us.
Wehrmacht was also one of the early pioneers of the genre and
just about everyone knows how tight we became with those guys.
What's funny is, both Cryptic and Wehrmacht had to fend off
accusations of artificially "enhancing" our records in the
studio because there were some people at the time who refused to
believe that a drummer could actually play that fast! These, of
course, were people who had never seen us live. Brian from
Wehrmacht used to get so intense when they played that he would
always puke all over his snare near the end of their set. And
this is while he's still playing, so puke would be splattering
all over him and any unfortunate roadie who got too close.
R: Listening to your first demo, it seems you guys had
a bit more of a Metal sound than on Convicted or Money Talks.
Considering that in 1985 the whole crossover scene of Punk/Metal
was just beginning, which camp was Cryptic Slaughter embraced by
more? Were you purposefully trying to appeal to both Hardcore
and Metal fans or just letting the chips fall where they may?
LE: When I was a kid I was metal to the
core, and that was our initial intent with Cryptic. In the
beginning for us it was all about Slayer, Metallica, Motorhead
and Venom. I saw every show SLAYER played in L.A. in late 83'
and all of 84'. When we first started jamming together in the
summer of 84' we were just starting to get into hardcore bands
like GBH, RKL, Minor Threat, Discharge, and Suicidal. At that
point, we were embracing any fast, charged music that we could
get our hands on. The simplicity and lack of pretension of the
punk bands definitely appealed to us and we also liked the fact
that by and large, they had much more to say lyrically. By May
of 85' when we recorded the demo, I would say we considered
ourselves a metal band with a punk edge. We wrote and played
music that appealed to us without giving any thought to who it
would attract (or repel). And we didn't care who we played to as
long as the club wasn't empty! Our first show in the summer of
85' was all metal bands but there were both punks and metal kids
in the crowd. A couple of months after that we played a gig with
the Descendents, D.R.I, and Excel with the same mixed crowd. The
crossover of styles happened naturally for a lot of bands and
everyone benefited by appealing to a larger audience. It was a
great time for underground music.
R: A great time for sure! While most everyone I know
who has heard Convicted and Money Talks consider those absolute
classics, few of them feel that way about your 3rd album, Stream
of Consciousness. I know there are issues with the production,
but I personally feel the songs are every bit as good as the
first 2 records. Can you tell me what happened with Stream and
what was going on with the band at that time?
LE: You'd be surprised how many Stream
fans have come out of the closet recently, so to speak. I've had
a lot of communication from people who call that their favorite
Cryptic album. And in terms of the material, it's my favorite
too. I think those are the best songs that we wrote. But, you're
right, a lot of people didn't like it, and not just because the
production sucks. It was quite a departure from what our fans
had come to expect from us. On Convicted, every song was fast.
Money Talks was integrated with more groove-oriented breaks. But
on Stream, although the songs are very aggressive, we had slowed
down quite a bit. Either you dug it or you didn't, but music has
to evolve. The truth is, that we were broken up before that
album was even released. I didn't even hear the test pressing
before it came out. We officially broke up on the road, but the
first signs of cracks in the armor appeared while we were in the
studio during the Stream sessions. The break up had nothing at
all to do with the music, because that was the one thing that we
could all agree on. There was a lot of personal tension between
us at the time and, like most bands, we weren't very good at
communicating with each other. So all that angst came out during
the recording of that record which made it an extremely
In 1988, we had been together for four years, which seems like
an eternity when youíre 18 or 20 years old. Underground music in
general was really exploding at that point and it really felt
like what we were doing was over. You had bands like Janeís
Addiction, the Chili Peppers, Faith No More, Ministry, and Voi
Vod who were defining the new era.
R: There are demo and live versions of Stream tracks on
the Money Talks CD. Do you think that will spark more interest
in Stream of Consciousness as a whole? Are there any plans to
reissue that one as well?
LE: I think it's interesting to contrast
the Stream songs with the material on Money Talks. We threw them
on there because the energy on those versions is really good.
Plus there's one unreleased song that no one outside of our
circle of friends has ever heard. I don't know if it will spark
any more interest, but it gives people an opportunity to hear
another dimension to those tracks. I would really like to remix
Stream before ever re-issuing it. Actually, truth be told, I'd
like to re-record it.
R: Speaking of recording, I understand thereís new
Cryptic Slaughter material on your web site, www.crypticslaughter.com. Whatís going on with the band
LE: The new music on the website
represents the current band I'm working with, but we're not
calling ourselves Cryptic Slaughter. We haven't decided on a
name yet, but we don't really have anywhere else to post the new
song at this point. I'm sure the obvious comparisons will be
made, but while we're not trying to sound like the old band, we
do want to try and re-capture that same energy and spirit. I
encourage everyone to check it out. The song is called
"Cataract" and is available for download at our website. It was
recorded by myself, Brian Lehfeldt on drums, and Chris Merrow on
vocals. We're working on material and recording when we can. We
live in different states, so everything is done long distance.
Brian is best known for playing drums for Wehrmacht and Sweaty
Nipples and Chris is a twisted genius who sang for Village Idiot
for several years in Portland. His antics have become local
legend. Even though Rob, Scott, and Bill aren't involved in the
new material, I've gotten very positive feedback from all of
them on the new stuff. And having their support is great.
R: So, there isnít any intention of revitalizing
Cryptic Slaughter? I know that some time ago (1990?) there was
actually a fourth Cryptic record titled Speak Your Peace that
didnít have the other three guys, just you. How come you chose
to stick with the name back then but not now?
LE: Now, with the benefit of hindsight, I
feel that it was a mistake to call the Portland band that
recorded Speak Your Peace Cryptic Slaughter. What it came down
to was basically a marketing decision. My contract with Metal
Blade had me by the balls. They had the option to release any
record I wanted to put out and they sure as hell didn't want me
starting over with a new band name no one had ever heard of.
They had invested too much money in me at that point to begin
anew, and I understand that perspective as well. At the time, we
made no secret of the fact that it was a brand new line-up and
direction. A lot of people don't like Speak Your Peace because
it was quite a bit different and that's fine. I still like it
and I make no apologies. We found an audience with that record,
toured Europe, played a bunch of shows with D.R.I., smoked a
mountain of pot, and had a blast. What's funny is that a lot of
the music on "Speak" was written by Rob and I before I moved to
Portland, which was a continuation of the direction we started
in with 'Stream". So, if the original line-up had stayed
together, the music still would have been much slower and
weirder because that's just where our heads were at then. Listen
to every Cryptic record and they all sound different.
As to why we're not calling the present day band Cryptic
Slaughter, well, I don't want to make the same mistake twice.
All the attention we're getting for the re-issues is great, but
the past is history it's time to put the name to rest. The irony
is that the music we're making now is more akin to the speedy
earlier Cryptic stuff. Originally, I was planning on working
again musically with Rob and Bill, but the logistics of the
situation (living a thousand miles apart) made it too difficult.
Plus, Rob has a new thing going with Page Hamilton from Helmet,
and Bill just really isn't interested in playing music anymore.
Scott is still playing and last week told me he was trying out
for a punk-a-billy band after quitting a band he had been in for
a while called So Abused.
R: What was the best thing and what was the worst thing
about being in Cryptic Slaughter?
LE: The best thing was all the great
friends I made along the way and all the amazing music I got to
experience. Above all else I'm a fan, and including the gigs we
played I've been to well over a thousand shows. I never would
have had that opportunity if not for Cryptic. And my best
friends today are the people I became close with through the
music. When it comes down to it, your good friends and your
music will be there for you for your entire life, no matter
The worst thing was the politics of the music biz. It's just an
ugly, corrupt, awful business to be involved in. When I was
about fifteen years old, I was watching an episode of Night
Flight (those old enough to remember will bow to the greatness
of that show) where Grace Slick was interviewing Frank Zappa
after his set. She asked him if he had any advice to kids who
wanted to become musicians and start bands. He looked straight
into the camera and without missing a beat said, "Don't do it,
quit right now, you'll never be happy and this is the worst
business in the world". He always was a no bullshit guy.
Les, thanks for taking the time to shed some light on the
history of your band and thanks for such great answers. Any
Les Evans: I'm still amazed to this day at
the absolute dedication and loyalty of Cryptic Slaughter fans.
There was never a middle ground with us. Either you loved it or
you hated it, and that polarity helped to create a cult
following that still exits, much to my delight. I want to say
thank you to all of those people who have supported and
encouraged us both then and now. And of course we are very
grateful to Relapse and their many talented associates for
treating us and the music with a great deal of respect. And
thank you, James, for a terrific interview and everything else
you've done for us.
This interview originally appeared on Resound Magazine and
can also be found
DEAF SPARROW Zine would like to express its most sincere
appreciation to John from Relapse Records/Resound Magazine for
allowing us to post this excellent interview and to the author James Grell.
Relapse Records Official