Hopefully you held onto a least one tooth…
To celebrate the 10 anniversary of Martyr Immortal, Pulling Teeth — a ferocious, restless entity that brilliantly Frankenstein-ed a slew of extreme music elements into a completely idiosyncratic whole during its stunning seven year run — is dragging itself away from the cold embrace of the grave long enough to reissue that landmark metallic hardcore masterwork and perform the LP in its entirety at a one-night-only performance at this year’s This Is Hardcore Fest. Get psyched.
“Pulling Teeth was constantly evolving musically from its inception to its demise — and that’s probably my favorite overall aspect of the band,” the band’s guitarist Dom Romeo tells Decibel. “For us Martyr Immortal came from a time and place where the only thing we cared about was sounding vicious, and playing as many shows as possible.”
In the following in-depth, candid interview, Romeo — now an official member of the legendary Integrity — talks about the origins of Pulling Teeth’s unlikely reunion, the band’s unique and enduring legacy of brutality, tattoos memorializing crimes against music, metallic hardcore love connections, and more.
First, however, enjoy this exclusive stream of a track off the upcoming remix/remaster, out this summer on A389 Recordings.
Alright, so the scheduling of this interview is no coincidence—it’s the infamous anniversary of your Mitch “never forget” tattoo. For the uninitiated, please do tell.
The evening in question took place in 2009 at a show in Massachusetts. During the song “Bloodwolves,” there is a part that splits off into a twin-lead guitar harmony break. The stage was set. I set the riff up by playing the first half, and then it was Mitch’s turn to join in. Time stood still as everyone twitched with anticipation and then…much to everyone’s chagrin, it happened. His glorious entry was replaced by a succession of the sourest notes ever emitted in the history of sound. A true crime against music.
The “Never Forgive/Never Forget” tattoo was designed by Nate Newton (Converge /Doomriders) to commemorate that tragic sequence of notes and remind ourselves that we survived the horror. The tattoo was applied to myself and our bassist Chris Kuhns at Ink Assassins Tattoo ship in Erie, Pennsylvania by an awesome dude that went by the name “Greg The Greek.”
Despite the infamous evening of 3/23 taking place two years after Martyr Immortal‘s release, it remains an important date in Pulling Teeth folklore celebrated annually by friends and fans alike — and remains to be a day abhorred by Mitch.
It was obviously the perfect day to announce our surprise for this year.
I recall reading an interview or two around Pulling Teeth’s breakup in which you said, basically, the parting was amicable, but you didn’t see any sort of reunion in the future. What changed?
Pulling Teeth ended with the best possible break-up scenario. We realized we accomplished everything we wanted to do as a band, and wanted to move on to pursue things like families, careers and new creative endeavors. Even though the band ended in January 2012, our internal band group texts continue to thrive to this very day. Only instead of band stuff, it’s been a continuous stream of dumb inside jokes.
When I realized that Martyr Immortal was going to be 10 years old and thought it would be cool to give it a remix/remaster facelift, as it’s been out of print for many years. Once everyone got around to chiming in about the remix, I suggested we play a show to commemorate the album’s tenth anniversary. We always said we’d never play, but truthfully we do miss being around each other and playing music together. We all concurred that commemorating Martyr‘s ten year anniversary was a good reason to hang out and play a one-off reunion show.
It’s a reflective moment—how do you feel your Pulling Teeth years affected your life moving forward? Do you think you’d be on the same path or was it a destiny shifting experience?
Pulling Teeth was a catalyst for many things for me both personally and musically. Up until that point I had played in some cool bands and made some interesting records, but Pulling Teeth was the first time the entire vision was realized and executed in its entirety.
On top of that I was really able to get my label A389 off the ground by seeing/hearing so many cool bands when I had the time to immerse myself in it.
Best of all though, I met my wife when her band at the time — Gnarly Rueage — played a show with us. So in a way, I have Pulling Teeth to indirectly thank for meeting her and eventually our slew of children and pets.
Has the process of revisiting these songs been interesting or at all revelatory? Do you appreciate any of the lyrics, music or spirit in a new way?
Looking back I admire the intensity, it was definitely more about intensity and less about mood like the later PT records were. I think the album held up musically and the lyrics are still relevant to these times. The songs/performances themselves still feel pretty timeless.
Talk to me about the remix/remaster.
We had Kevin Bernsten/Developing Nations remix the original tapes and Brad Boatright/Audiosiege master them and it totally gave the recording a breath of new life. It sounds like it could have been recorded yesterday.
What were you hoping to accomplish with it?
I was always fond of how frantic and rabid the original sounds, but also felt like it was super compressed. This new mix breathes more and the guitars/drums sound more burly. Also the last track “Dismissed In Time (As Perfection Unwinds)” was originally omitted from the original vinyl pressing to make the CD worth getting. It’ll be on vinyl for the first time, and is best listened to alone in the dark with headphones on.
Artwork wise there was this weird part of the illustration that Jeff Beckman included in the top right that was airbrushed out of the final cover and covered up with the Pulling Teeth logo. Hopefully we can find a way to include it in the reissue. We have a lot of cool photos from that era as well.
Now that the fuse is lit for this Martyr Immortal-centered TIHC Fest set, are you looking forward to the boom?
Yeah, it will be really fun. Hopefully anyone that never got to see us play, or bugging us for a reunion can make time to come out and have a good time for one night. Once it’s over, you won’t be hearing from us again any time soon.
Any other surprises you want to hint at?
The plan is to focus on the early era of the band and just do Martyr from top to bottom with select songs from ’Vicious Skin’ and maybe a cover or two. Being one of the few privy to knowing the entire lineup ahead of time, I can say going to be an incredible weekend.
I could probably guess at the answer, but why was TIHC the perfect venue for this one-time event?
Honestly there was a time and place that it would have been in Baltimore at A389 Bash. But nowadays I’m so invested in the other aspects of my life, I don’t have time to oversee such a thing and make sure it gets handled properly. This is also why the label activity has slowed down considerably.
As for TIHC, Joe has been a close friend of mine for decades and has always been a big supporter of Pulling Teeth. He was one of the first dudes to get us playing in front of bigger crowds etc. There was no question as to doing this show anywhere else other than TIHC.
I think most underground heavy music fans are probably aware you’re in Integrity now and there’s a new record coming out on Relapse. (Decibel covered it here.) Is that something you applied your Pulling Teeth skill-set to?
Being in Integrity has been a dream come true for me. They’ve been my favorite band since I was a teenager, so getting to write the new LP was a huge deal. I think you can definitely hear a little bit of later Pulling Teeth in the weirder song structures, but this is a whole different animal. It was fun to make a record where I didn’t have to be conscious of how hard I’m ripping off Integrity, but at the same time there are more curveballs than any other music I’ve ever written. I’m really excited for everyone to hear it.
What’s everyone else been up to?
Alex settled down to focus on tattooing. He’s currently floating around the south working in a bunch of shops. Mike moved to Denver after Pulling Teeth with his family and works as a graphic designer. Kuhns also moved to Denver for work and has a band called State Drugs. Tony Hare currently plays second guitar for Integrity with me. I haven’t talked to Danny P in quite some time but I’m told he’s happily living his life. Mitch plays in a crust band called Old Lines and gets really mad at me every time 03/23 comes around. Maybe this year will change that.
Any last thoughts on the meaning of Martyr Immortal as well as its longevity and lasting impact?
It’s always amazing to see so many people still care and enjoy the band. The number of Pulling Teeth tattoos we see posted on social media is just mind-blowing — everything from the band’s logo to full blown back pieces of album covers on people all over the world. It’s incredible that anyone would care that much in the first place, but to have this happen years after the band ended is just unbelievable. I’m grateful to have been a part of creating something that connected with so many people.
It’s also amazing to meet people in current bands who were younger kids at Pulling Teeth shows back then. It was really cool to be able to give back and help some them start out on A389 before they went on to do amazing things on bigger labels. Bands such as Genocide Pact, YAITW, Gatecreeper and of course Full Of Hell whom are my favorite band going. Be sure to check out their new album Trumpeting Ecstasy. RIP Tim Butcher.