King Fowley of Deceased pens track-by-track guide to “The Blueprints for Madness”

The Blueprints for Madness is Deceased’s second full-length album, recorded with Don Zientara at Inner Ear Studios and released by Relapse Records in 1995. It’s D.U.’s favorite Deceased record, and we’re in good company: the band’s guitarist, Shane Fuegel, feels the same way.

The man who played drums and sang on the record, and is one of the co-writers, King Fowley, posted his track-by-track accounting of The Blueprints for Madness on his Facebook page last year, which we’ve edited lightly and posted here with his blessing. Dig into this death metal classic’s history below.

“Morbid Shape in Black”

This was the first record where we really dabbled in keyboards. We wanted to make it crazy with off-beat tempos, violins, things that I wanted to call “the kitchen sink album” for us. I was really in an Emerson, Lake & Palmer mood for that couple of years when we did the record. The “Morbid Shape in Black” song title came to me during a PCP moment in my life.

We had smoked a ton of PCP one night, and in the middle of the night we went walking and I looked over at this rose garden and I saw these black, hovering witches. It looked like the Mob Rules Black Sabbath album cover, and these witchy things were hovering and spraying this pesticide shit all over the place and were killing all the roses. It freaked me the fuck out, and when it came time to write The Blueprints for Madness record, I tried to think back to events in my life that made me nuts, that made me fucking crazy. So I thought back to that night and came up with the title “Morbid Shape in Black.” It was a crazy fucking night, one that freaked me out and it was morbid. It was morbid, they were shapes, and they were black.

It was about 5:30 in the morning and the sun was just starting to come up and the sky and surrounding area had that kind of blue tint to it. It was about 50 yards away or so and I was on the street. I was high as fuck and when I saw them, I was like, “Whoa! What the fuck is that!?” So I just went with it and I kept watching them. We kept walking and we eventually got to the spot where they were, and I still saw them. It might have been a worker spraying the flowers to keep away the bugs and shit, but, man, it was creepier than hell. To me they were like these black goblin things that were slowly killing off the world.

The sample in the song is from the movie Messiah of Evil, one of my all-time favorites. The sample is taken from this scene where this girl winds up in a nuthouse, but the doctors don’t believe her story or what’s been going on. She’s walking down this corridor, this hallway in the hospital, and nobody believes her. She’s hearing all these voices from people that nobody else can hear or see but her. I thought it was very fitting. It’s a really weird movie from the 1970s where the director probably did a bunch of drugs in the ‘60s.

This song was written about halfway through the album’s writing process for The Blueprints for Madness. I love it. I really do want to put it back in the live set, because I really enjoy it a lot and people ask for it quite a bit. There’s actually a few dudes up in New York who are called “The Morbid Shape in Black Crew” and they’re always asking us to play it live.

“The Triangle”

It’s one of the first songs we wrote that really has that old thrash beat to it, kind of like the old Master beat and kind of like Motörhead speed. It’s probably one of my favorite songs on the record and definitely one of my favorite songs to play live. It came together really easy. I always compare it to “Overreaction” from Voivod, with the melodies and how it starts out with the bass. It’s about the Bermuda Triangle. I was reading about the subject and wanted to write a song about it.

I started playing around quite a bit with the keyboards because of Doomstone and I thought it would be really cool with Deceased, too. The guys let me run with it on the record. I guess they were thinking of just letting me go nuts, because I was going to go nuts anyway. All the keyboards for that song and the entire album were written and added after the riffs/actual songs were written and completed. I don’t remember if I intended on using the keyboards for this song, but I do know we wanted to add all sorts of madness to the record, and whatever sticks, we’ll keep. If it turns out to be shit, we’ll throw it out. I think it works. I like it a lot because it’s creepy and brooding. We all started fucking around with the keyboards. I played with them a lot, Mike [Smith] played some parts, Mark [Adams] did, too, and I think Don did as well. We were starting to go overboard with them. We were all like, “Hey, this is The Blueprints for Madness! Let’s add this, let’s add that! Put keyboards here! Hit this button and see what it does! Do this!” It was fucking crazy.

“Island of the Unknown”

Originally that song was called “Skeleton Island,” and it was one of the first song titles I ever had as a kid. I wrote that title originally in about 1984. There was this band from Virginia called Skeleton and they were fucking goofy. After I heard them, I decided to never use the word “skeleton” in any of the songs I’d write. So when we started writing “Island of the Unknown,” I decided to change up the title a little bit. It’s more of a tribute to all of the old sci-fi movies like The Island of Dr. Moreau and movies with these mad scientists on an island. The song is about these people who are placed on this island and left there.

Mark and I wrote this song. It’s kind of weird because it’s a lot like the Uriah Heep song “Too Scared to Run,” which is the first song off their Abominog album. It was totally unintentional, and a few years after the fact I listened to that song and I was like, “Man, this sounds a lot like ‘Island of the Unknown’.”

“The Blueprints for Madness”

This is one of the few albums that we have a title track to. This song is the only song on the album that when it was written and halted at two minutes, it stayed that way. Les [Snyder] wrote the majority of the riffs on this song, and it was funny because when he came up with the main riff, I kept telling him that it sounded like “One of the These Nights” by the Eagles. Les said I was fucking crazy, but I think it sounds a lot like that song, which is cool because I love a lot of the Eagles songs.

“The Creek of the Dead”

This was the “hit” song from the record and it was featured on the Death … Is Just the Beginning III compilation. I put the keyboards onto that song, and it was one that me and Mark put together. Mike contributed to it as well. It’s definitely the odd man out on this record because it’s unusual, even for us. It’s about an old friend of mine who I used to play soccer with named Mike Erickson. He was one of my best friends when I was a kid, and we used to always go down to this creek. We’d hang out there all the time, he’d pull out his cigarettes, and we’d basically just talk about how cool we were going to be when we got older. We played soccer together from about age 5 to 13. My mom always said he looked like the old Campbell’s Soup kid. It was one of those things where we eventually lost touch over the next couple of years. One day I heard from a mutual friend that he went sledding and he fucking broke his neck. It was awful, man. He was on this life support machine and he had to have this hose going into his throat. It was just terrible. Then I heard he was at the dinner table one night and he just died. He was trying to eat, and he just died. He was paralyzed like that for a couple years, and I don’t think he ever made it to his 21st birthday. He was always in one of those chairs, and it was just a shame. He was such a good kid, one of my best friends, and he was such a phenomenal soccer player. It’s just a shame.

I was sitting around one night and thinking about the friends I had that have passed away. I was thinking of them and trying to come up with some creepy shit. I was thinking about him a lot and how we used to always go down to this creek. There was this sewer pipe thing that always had water coming out of it. It’s weird because I was thinking about all the good times we shared together, but whenever I was thinking about him and the creek, I kept thinking about how he was dead and how it sucked because he never had a chance to really live out his life. Out of all the records we’ve ever done, this was by far the darkest, most morbid in terms of my lyrics and what I was writing about. Even over when I went through my stroke and everything else. This was a real morbid time for me.

The keyboards came when I was messing around with the chords and some of the riffs that Mark came up with. The vocal part where I kind of whisper in the sinister tone came to me when we were writing the song. I wanted to do something a little creepy, a little sinister to go along with the riffs, and it just kind of came out that way. Mark is very good at coming up with really clean, killer little parts to songs, and that’s how this one came up. Mike created parts like the chorus in the song, but it was Mark who wrote the majority of everything else. The end of the song is the same as the beginning, but it’s much more ominous because of the added effects—the voice, the violin, etc.—that was put on the end. It’s kind of like a reprise with a bonus.

“Mind Vampires”

I love this song! It’s a song that me and Les put together. I had this idea of these weird little creatures that go in one ear and out the other and steal all the thoughts out of your head. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to call it, and then I eventually said, “I’ll just call it ‘Mind Vampires’.” There’s a lot of back-and-forth to that song, and Les sings on it, too.

This album actually has more bass parts than any others we’ve done. We wanted to continuously add more depth to our songs and elements that split the songs up. Putting in some bass for a change of style or dynamic was always a good way to do it, rather than just doing the same guitar parts over and over. It was still new to us to stop a song and then restart it with something new.

To me, this is the song that goes on the crazy rollercoaster ride more than any other, but yet it doesn’t actually come flying off the tracks. It’s the nuttiest song on the record, and to play it live is just fucking nuts. I don’t really know about the other guys, but I know in my mind, nothing was too crazy for us. I wanted to test myself, to push myself to my playing limits. We wanted to be as out there as we could, and we wanted to create something new that hadn’t been done yet.

“Into the Bizarre”

The voice intro where the guy says, “I think I’m going mad,” is again from the movie Messiah of Evil. When we were piecing the song together, that sound bit just fit, it worked. It was another one of those songs where we were throwing all sorts of shit together. The song’s about being taken to this weird, unknown place, more or less like The Twilight Zone where you’re not sure where you are or what you’re doing. “We’re not sure what it is or where we’re going, but it’s weird, so come on, let’s all go together.”

This is probably the most intricate song on the record, and it’s my song. It’s one of those things where if every song on the record just blasts away at top speed, it gets boring real quick. I always want to change things up, and since some of the other songs on the record are very fast, I wanted to go fast but at different speeds. I wanted to layer some fast parts on top of other fast parts, but then shoot something at the listener that is very slow, but do it quickly to catch the listener kind of off-guard.

This song took the longest of all to come together. It was three songs of mine all rolled into one. We rearranged it over and over to connect the riffs together to make it sound good. That’s one of those things where sometimes the song will have such a drastic change of tempo or pace, because we had one idea and then added something else completely different to it just to make it even crazier.

“Alternate Dimensions”

This one was supposed to be just a thrashy, speedy song, and it was supposed to be kind of like a continuation of “Into the Bizarre.” It is kind of a two-part song where we went to one weird place, “Into the Bizarre,” and now we’re headed to another weird place. Kind of like the brother of “Into the Bizarre” or something. With both of the songs, I wanted to take the listener to this weird place but I couldn’t really pinpoint exactly what this weird place was or what it was about. I didn’t really know what to make of either of these weird places, and I wasn’t sure what it was about. Even the lyrics are weird, because I was just throwing words out there, trying to make sense of it all. Lyrics like, “I visit my mind from afar / It floats weak, sick in a jar.” The lyrics are so wacky that they actually almost make sense. I liken it to how some people think of something as pure stupidity, yet other people think of it as sheer genius.

This is one of those “kitchen sink” songs on this record, where we tried all sorts of crazy shit. We had some of the vocals go backwards and the snare was sped up and turned backwards. We were going to throw everything we could at it, because this is the blueprints for fucking madness!

Out of all the songs on the record, this is probably my least favorite. I wouldn’t say it’s a throwaway song, but it’s way down there as the least favorite on the album.

“Midnight”

That’s another one of my songs. This is three songs in a row that were mostly all of my riffs, and it was weird because I was coming up all these ideas. For me, I was thinking that it was a lot of riffs from the fucking drummer, but the rest of the band was cool with it. It’s got some of the weirdest drumming I’ve ever done. I was doing a lot of really quick double bass, some of the fastest double bass I’ve ever done. It was super heavy, super intense quad-double bass, but you can’t really hear it because the production is so fucking muddy and shitty. It really sucks because it’s this super speed, but you can’t hear shit because the production eats a dick.

“Midnight” was written about the time of night because there’s always been something about midnight. It’s like, every horror movie, every spooky story takes place around midnight. The serial killer waited until the midnight hour or the Satanist killed at the midnight hour or the witching hour of midnight is when everybody went nuts or the moon was full at midnight, shit like that. I could never figure out what it was about midnight, but I wanted to write something about that time. It’s never 1:18 am or 3:47 am; it’s always midnight. The song is tongue-in-cheek too, as are the lyrics. It’s just goofy that everything bad tends to happen exactly at midnight, and since it is so goofy and this is The Blueprints for Madness, I had to write about it.

“Negative Darkness”

This is one song we’ve been trying to put into the set for years. The one section with the guitar leads is one of my all-time favorite Deceased parts ever. It’s about the dark side of life. It was kind of a continuation of “Midnight” in a way, because since everything bad happens at midnight, the negative darkness is the morbid things in life. There’s no real inspiration behind the song or the lyrics aside from it being about the darker side of life.

Between this song and “Midnight” was where “A Dose of Reality” was supposed to go, an instrumental we wrote and recorded but later didn’t put on the record, reason being is it didn’t feel right amongst the rest of it. It felt “unfinished.”

“A Reproduction of Tragedy”

This song is similar to “The Creek of the Dead” in that I was thinking a lot about friends that passed away. With “A Reproduction of Tragedy,” I was thinking a lot about our old bass player, Rob [Sterzel], who was killed. He was our bassist before Les joined the band, obviously, and I was thinking about him quite a bit and how it would be if we could somehow bring him back to life.

During this time, I was reading a lot of things about some of these places like Haiti where they were claiming they could bring their loved ones back from the dead. I was thinking about what if this was actually somehow possible? But rather than them coming back to life how you remember them, how they once were, what if you brought your loved ones back to life, but something went wrong and they were all fucked up? It wound up being a very morbid song and theme, but it was really about somehow bringing Rob back to life. Very The Monkey’s Paw-like theme to it.

It was a fucking hard-ass song to put together, mostly vocal-wise. We didn’t have any counts for any of our songs back then. We do now because we learned from our mistakes, but back then we didn’t. It was very hard to know exactly when to lay down the vocals, and I sometimes had to guess where to start. I remember I had to listen for signs within the music or glitches in the tape as to when I needed to start or continue my vocals, and the end of the song was the hardest. The engineer would sometimes point to me to go, and I think it took about 50 times for me just to get down the outro vocals. And the whole writing of the song took a very long time.

By the end, it got to be a huge pain in the ass, because it never came out how we wanted. Those riffs are very weird, and when I started laying down the drum track to it, it was still a pain in the ass. That song is really creepy to me. I don’t know why, but it’s one of our creepiest songs ever. ■

The Blueprints for Madness has come out on CD, cassette, and LP, and is now available on Bandcamp with bonus tracks, including the unreleased track Fowley referred to above.

Related:

Deceased interview from 1991 with King Fowley and Mark Adams for our From the Vault series

A review and brief discussion of the Deceased Ghostly White album, the band’s last full-length release, from 2018

Another Deceased interview, this time with guitarist Shane Fuegel in advance of one of the band’s U.S. tours in 2013


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