Interview with Varnam Ponville of Gammacide: Paul Baloff was my biggest thrash metal influence!

25/10/2022 Video Interviews Share

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Minions! We were thrilled to have Varnam Ponville, the singer of Gammacide as a guest on our show. In this interview, we talked about Gammacide, Victims of Science, the sickest moshpits, and much more!

When asked about whether there’s something new coming out from Gammacide, Varnam said:

Nothing with new with Gammacide...We probably shut down for good, man. Nobody has any interest in doing anything with know. However, he added that he is working on a new album for his project:

I’ve still been writing songs and I do have plans to get in the studio here pretty soon and record another record, but as far as who’s gonna be on it, and who’s gonna play on it, and where’s gonna be recorded and all that good sh*t, I have no idea.

Then, we proceeded with the question from our most loyal patron – Amber Dawn. She asked Varnam the following question: Could you elaborate more on the Reptilian beings you talked about in the song “Fossilized? Ponville explained:

They were dinosaurs. That were the reptilian beings. Basically about dinosaurs, the song and one day I’m sure the next dominant life form on our planet would one day dig us up. We’ll be Fossilized.

We then proceeded with the question about the band’s name:

The band’s name was kind of…I want to say that it was Rick that came up with it. Rick and I were just kinda throwing around different names and I don’t know maybe if somebody he worked had kind of came up with something similar to that, and he just came up with the Gammacide  and that was it. It was gonna be a…I guess we could write songs more themed about chemical sh*t, you know…It was kind of futuristic sounding and all of that good stuff in it.

Later in the interview he expanded on the concept of the band’s name:

As the time kind of went on, our idea about the Gammacide actually being a real chemical kind of took hold. We kind of were coming up with the idea that there was the actual Gammacide chemical that had been spilled out onto the earth. It was kind of mutating plant and animal life on the planet. That was kind of our idea behind it…

After that, we talked about the 1987 Gammacide demo that was recorded by Jerry Abbott in Pantego Sound Studios:

He used to know Vinnie and Dimebag Darrell Abbot: Oh yeah, we were all good friends. We all lived in the same area in Arlington Texas, we all  hung out together, you know...There are so many stories with Darrell...Darrell was a big prankster and everytime you went out with him, it was gonna be a good night, but I’m damn sure you were coming home drunk, you know…

Then, Varnam Ponville mentioned some of his favorite vocal influences:

My biggest vocal influence would probably be Ozzy and Dio.You know, when I first started singing I was like, sh*t if Ozzy can do it, man, so can I! I guess that's just where I started as far as singing and who inspired me to be a singer and write songs. I would have to say Dio, it got a lot to do with Ronnie James Dio...As time went on and I got in heavier stuff...The first Iron Maiden album...Paul Dianno, he was a huge influence on me. And then as time went on and we got into thrash, Paul Baloff was probably my biggest influence as far as thrash metal singing, you know...

He also gave a glimpseof what was it like partying with Paul Baloff of Exodus:

We were out in California on a tour and I don’t think If I can go into that one…You know, back in the Gammacide days, we were all fueled by some chemical substances and you know…That would probably be my biggest influence as far as thrash, you know…

When asked whether he thinks that his voice sounds like Sean Killian of Vio-Lence, he stated:

Yeah, people always say that to me and to be honest, I really never heard Vio-Lence until after we had recorded the Victims of Science album. Vio-Lence was out on the West Coast and I think they may have came to Texas one time, and I think I may have even seem them play, but as far as really listening to the band I haven’t known anything about them you know, before we recorded Victims of Science I really knew nothing of the band you know…until later on. A lot of people do compare us. I think it’s more because we have an original sound and our voice, and we are not trying to sound as anybody else.

After the discussion of whether Gammacide was inspired by death metal as well, we shifted the topic toward the concept of Victims of Science album:

It really wasn’t a concept album…A lot of our songs had to do with kind of chemical effects on the human population on earth but no, we didn’t consider it a concept album. That was just a vein of the theme that we wrote most of the lyrics was about. It wasn’t all about any kind of concept…We were all just victims of somebody’s science…

When asked if the Victims of Science album has something to do with nuclear war, biological and chemical weapons, Varnam said:

When I was in grade school, man, we used to do the nuclear attack drills at school, to put your hands under your desk and all that good shit like that was gonna save your ass but…I guess I guess just growing up with all that in America at the time, it just gave me stuff to write about, you know… When asked whether that was about Duck and Cover (1952) movie drills he added: Yeah, the bomb would go off and everybody would have to get under their desk with head between their legs and that was the drill...They just didn’t want us to see the end, you know (Laughs).  We were still doing it in the 70s, you in America.

Regarding the lyrics, he added:

I have always been a war historian kind of guy, I’m all into ancient battles and stuff so it has always presented us with good lyrical material, you know.

He then went on to explain the artwork of Victims of Science album:

With that...At the time most thrash bands and most of the bands had some kind of crazy ass artwork...I don’t know, it looked like some kind of school grade hand drawn type sh*t, and we weren’t really into that, we wanted something more realistic, and we just kind of were sitting around the house one day and came up with idea to actually take a picture of it and then…Back in the 80s, through some kind of  color technology they were able to color separate the picture because the  actual picture is in the color picture, and they were able to take some of the blue shade or green shade out and made it look with that reddish tint, and that came out to be the album cover.

When asked whether the song “Endangered Species” has sometning to do with the  Terminator movie and the AI technology taking over and starting a nuclear war, Varnam stated:

Terminator. And I thing big inspiration for the theme of that song was...I think in our country the president had this Star Wars (S.D.I.) thing that they were trying to put up...That kind of inspired us to write the lyrics for that song. That one day war is gonna be fought by machines and men are probably just be hiding in some underground bunker, you know...

After that, we chatted about Cold War madness and ended up talking about the lyrics of the song “Gutter Rats”:

Gutter Rats was just inspired by..we thought that Gammacide had been poured down into the gutters,  and it started to mutate the rats because you know, flesh-eating beasts, you know...

We also talked about the lyrics for the song “Chemical Imbalance” and after that, we continued about the legacy of Gammacide and their tours back in the 80s. After that, our chat shifted to Texas metal scene, 1991 demo and the upheaval of grunge and fall of thrash metal. When asked why most of the thrash metal bands were talking  about nuclear war, biological and chemical weapons in their lyrics, Varnam Ponvile stated:

I guess because we didn’t want to write about fucking chicks (laughs). It was just always something cool to write about. It was always something that I was going to…I guess there were a few bands at  that time that kind of wrote about chemical-nuclear type thing like us…I don’t know…

After that, we talked about some of his favorite albums and the German metal scene:

We were really influenced by German thrash metal bands. Destruction and Kreator. I probably...I remember getting the first Destruction album (Infernal Overkill) as soon as it came out, so I already was shipped to German thrash metal bands you know... They were of course one of my favorites, Destruction and Kreator. Yeah, I would say it influenced us a lot, me and Scott, we listened to a lot of German thrash back in the day.

And right after, we discussed the most violent show that Varnam has ever witnessed. He also touched on fights with skinheads:

I’ve been to some very violent gigs, you know. It’s hard to just pin one down. I mean, in my mind,  one of the most violent ones that I’ve ever had been to was, as far as the pit was Carcass and Kreator, and us, Gammacide. That was one of the if my memory serves me right, one of the most violent shows. Like I said, I’ve been to so many...I remember playing so many Gammacide gigs where after the show there would be so much blood on the front of the stage, you would think that somebody was murdered, it was just a bloody show you know... Somebody got cut up or broke up and... It was just the fun of the night, you know...  Sometimes in Dallas, when we would play in Dallas, they had a lot of skinheads there and they were trying to come up to the metal shows and start some shit with the long hairs. That was always some crazy sh*t you know, but...I don’t know. It was all just good friendly violent fun, you know...

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00:38 New Gammacide album?

01:30 Amber Dawn’s question for Varnam Ponville –

02:14 – The band’s name

03:17 Working with Jerry Abbott

05:00 Vocal influences

06:12 Paul Baloff story

08:15 Thrash vs Death metal?

10:00 Victims of Science album

13:40 Victims of Science artwork

15:00 The band’s name

16:55 Endangered Species lyrics

17:55 Cold War madness

19:49 Gutter Rats lyrics

20:36 Chemical Imbalance Song

21:22 The legacy of Gammacide

25:05 Gammacide tours back in the 80s

22:43 Texas metal scene

25:52 1991 demo

28:25 Grunge?

29:38  Nuclear, biological, chemical weapons in thrash metal

30:29 Chernobyl

31:03 Musical taste

31:47 German thrash metal scene

33:28 The most violent thrash metal band in the 80s?

36:05  5 favorite albums

37:15 final words?

38:24 New album

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