One day after announcing his departure from OBITUARY, guitarist Allen West has rejoined the group and is on his way to the first show of the band's U.S. tour with NAPALM DEATH, which is scheduled to kick off Thursday (September 1) in Springfield, Virginia. OBITUARY bassist Frank Watkins contacted BLABBERMOUTH.NET on Wednesday (Aug. 31) to set the record straight regarding West's status in the group. A transcript of the chat follows:
On Allen's "announcement" that he was leaving the band:
Frank Watkins: "What happened was, we were doing all these festivals that we've been playing all over the world. Shit gets hectic, you know what I mean?! You're on planes and you take three different flights to get to one place. And Allen is a drinker, and Allen likes to party. So Allen got pretty wasted at a bunch of these shows, and some of these shows, like Wacken or Gods of Metal, you can't be drunk off your ass. And Allen showed up at some of these shows drunk. So we just got to a point where we were like, 'Look, man, you need to quit doing that. If you want to be in this band, you've gotta step up, you've gotta keep it cool with the alcohol and shit until after the gig, and then after the gig, you can do whatever you want.' We've got easy lives [on the road] — we do an hour of work a day. It's not too much to ask from somebody. So we kind of had all these conversations and then we came back and did the show in Bergen [Norway, at the Hole in the Sky festival] and as soon as we landed into Bergen, he was just so wasted, he couldn't even stand. So I told him to go back to the room and sober up…"
Q: So, he actually got wasted on the plane on the way to Norway?
Frank Watkins: "Yeah. It might have to do with a fear of flying, it might have… Who knows?! But it's just kind of a pattern that we keep going into every time we do one of these festivals. So it's just like, 'C'mon, man. You've really gotta get yourself back on track.' 'Cause we ahd a real 'heart to heart' with him a couple of weeks ago, and then we come back here to go to Norway, and we're in the same boat again. So we said, 'You know what? Maybe you need to take a couple of months off from OBITUARY and kind of think about what you wanna do. 'Cause you've got four guys here that are 110 percent into this band, and we really want this to kind of carry forward, and we can't have a weak link.' And when we told him that, he got a bit pissed off and said, 'Look, if you guys don't want me going on this tour, then I'm gonna quit the band and blah blah blah,' and he probably started talking to his other bandmembers and they told him, 'Fuck Frank, fuck the band, you should just leave anyway, we've got a better band here, blah blah blah,' and I guess they kind of went to you guys [BLABBERMOUTH.NET] and spread it out. So I called Allen this morning and I told him. I said, 'Dude, I love you as a brother, man. There's nothing more that I would in this band than the five of us, and whatever it's gonna take, I wanna do it to make sure it works, and I just would hope you can extend your hand out to do the same.' And he agreed. He said, 'You know what, man?! You're right. I should really keep myself back on track, I should try to straighten myself out.' And he said, 'Give me another shot and I'm gonna do the best I can and we'll take it from there.' So we said, 'Definitely, man. C'mon back.'"
Q: You mentioned that there was a patter of Allen getting drunk when you guys were playing these one-off festival dates during the summer. When you guys had scheduled back-to-back dates and you were traveling on a bus, was it the same type of situation or was it different?
Frank Watkins: "No, it was pretty controlled. I mean, this was back last October — the last time we actually did a tour with buses and everything like that. And he wasn't so bad back then, he wasn't really bad. It's just been since we got back from the last tour — actually it's been since the beginning of this year on — where we've done one-off gigs and he's just gotten wasted and… Like I said, I don't know if it's because he's afraid of flying and he gets nervous and he just gets hammered and he can't control it, you know what I mean?! Then you're drinking them crazy German beers and stuff like that, and that's really gonna topple you over [much more so] than the piss-water Budweiser we've got over here… [laughs]"
Q: One thing I'm not too clear on is… If Allen sent this e-mail [announcing his departure from the band] last night… Had you guys been rehearsing for the U.S. tour or not really?
Frank Watkins: "Well, we just got back from Bergen on Sunday. We were all kind of pissed off, because like I said… The thing is, when we got to Bergen, everybody was dead tired 'cause our flights got delayed and everything. I came from Miami and I got there on time, my flights all came in, but everybody else in the band got there the day of the show. It's like three flights, 20 hours on the plane — everybody was beat. So I sent everybody back to the hotel. I said, 'Get some rest. We'll come back tonight. We don't go on until midnight, everything will be fine.' So I was doing interviews all day long, and so many people were so excited to have us come over there. We hadn't been in Bergen since, like, 1994, and so many people had come up to me, 'Man, I can't wait to see you guys, I can't wait to see you guys.' So for us to go up there and do it half-assed, it's devastating, you know what I mean?! It breaks my heart to look at the fans and then I look over at him and he's wasted — he can't even stand up. It just kills me. And I know that's not typically how he is, and he shouldn't be like that. We've done gigs for years and we never really had this problem." [see photos and video clips of OBITUARY's performance at the Hole in the Sky festival at ScreamMagazine.com]
Q: So did you guys have a conversation with Allen about this after the Norwegian gig?
Frank Watkins: "After the Norwegian show, we went back home, and he kind of went his way, we went our way, and we were trying to contact him, he was trying to get back with us, and we couldn't really talk on the phone or anything. And I just left him a message and I said, 'Look, this is what you need to do. You need to call me up, because we're really considering not taking you on this tour, 'cause we want you to sober up. I want you to look yourself in the mirror and find out what you want. You wanna be in OBITUARY or you don't wanna be in OBITUARY? Because doing this and being drunk and playing these shows, it ain't gonna fly.' So like I said, he called me today and we talked about it. He was like, 'You're right. I really need to straighten my shit together, I need to get my stuff together. I definitely want this band. This is my dream come true to have this band going again, and for us to just fuck it up and throw it away would be ridiculous.'"
Q: So if Allen hadn't come back to the band, you would have done this tour as a four-piece?
Frank Watkins: "Yeah. Well, we had a friend of mine, J.P. Soares [from DIVINE EMPIRE]. He was jamming with us, he was just gonna go on the road with us… I mean, I'd praise him because out of nowhere, he just dropped everything, he had students — he's a guitar teacher as well — he dropped his students, he had a couple of gigs with a blues band he's got, he dropped all that. And he was over my house last night and we were going over the songs. When we play, we wanna have a full show. Trevor, he can do leads, but OBITUARY is about the power and the heaviness of us. And live, it's definitely a two-guitar band."
Q: So this tour is, in some ways, a "final test" of sorts for Allen?
Frank Watkins: "Basically, what it is is 'put up or shut up. Come in, do your gig, do the right thing. Play for the fans, and do the shows and kick ass. After that, you can do whatever you want.' To us, we don't really care. If it was anybody else, if it was any other bandmembers, maybe if we all got together with not all the original members, we would have probably booted the guy the first show he was wasted. But because of the history we have with Allen and the love we have for him as a friend and as a bandmember, we can’t turn our backs on him. We're gonna do whatever it takes to get him up back on track and get him going."