That Tour Was Awesome: Campaign for Musical Destruction (1992)

It’s pretty shocking that we haven’t looked at the 1992 U.S. Campaign for Musical Destruction tour yet in this column. The tour came in at number 25 in our Top 100 Metal Tours of All Time special issue, although to many of us, it’s pretty hard to find an extreme metal tour that tops this one.

After all, we’re talking Napalm Death, Carcass, Cathedral and Brutal Truth. In 1992. The bands were all riding a creative high, and the extreme metal underground was booming. Sure, these shows weren’t exactly a get-rich guarantee, but they were, without a doubt, legendary.

To go back down memory lane, we caught up with Carcass bassist/vocalist Jeff Walker, Napalm Death guitarist Mitch Harris, Cathedral guitarist Adam Lehan and Brutal Truth bassist Danny Lilker to see who could remember what about this most perfect moment in extreme metal history.

What do you recall about how this tour came together?

Mitch Harris: That was our first headlining tour after supporting Sepultura. We did one headlining tour before that with Godflesh and Nocturnus, which was mind-blowingly fun, so was Sepultura, and this was even better because we were closing the bill, along with playing with [Carcass’] Bill [Steer]’s camp, and Danny and Kevin [Sharp] from Brutal Truth, Lee [Dorrian] from Cathedral, all those guys, they were all just good fun. So it was touring with friends and seeing the world and it was all a new experience. We were young and crazy and full of energy.

Jeff Walker: All I can assume is it must be something to do with… all the albums were probably released on Combat by then. [Then Relatively product manager/future Earache Records U.S. label manager] Jim Welch was probably behind it. Napalm had an album out, and we had an album coming out. So it was either Napalm’s manager suggested we did it or maybe Jim Welch. I can tell you now Cathedral was my idea. I vividly remember sitting in our manager’s [Martin Nesbitt] kitchen. I lived with Griff [Mark Griffith, bassist] from Cathedral at the time. I really loved Cathedral, I thought it would be cool to have our mates on tour with us. I reckon Brutal Truth was probably because of Shane, I’m guessing.

Danny Lilker: After the 1989 Grindcrusher tour, [Earache Records founder] Dig [Pearson] wanted to do another huge Earache tour a few years later in the States.

Adam Lehan: All I recall is that it was generally understood that if we didn’t do the Columbia deal, we couldn’t afford to do the Campaign tour… so we did the deal! [laughs] At the beginning of that whole Columbia thing it was understood (at least at our end) that Cathedral and I think Godflesh were the only bands that they were going after… Of course later they went for the whole roster, probably assuming it would work well with the “heavy” music upturn (influenced by Pantera). Of course that was incorrect. But I remember being told that there was no way we could afford to tour the U.S. if we didn’t sign the deal… This was at a little pub in London, if memory serves.

Courtesy of Albert Mudrian.

How did your band get involved?

Harris: We did a Campaign for Musical Destruction tour in Europe with Obituary and Dismember. So we just kinda wanted to have a moniker, or catchphrase, tour. Like “noise not music” type of thing. So it became our little thing, so we just took it to America with a different bill. It was more Earache bands, actually, so it was kind of “all in the family” type of thing.

Walker: It was just one of those timing things. You had Necroticism coming out. It was just something obvious at the time, wasn’t it? To stick all the bands on the same tour. Obviously it was Napalm Death’s tour, then we got shoved on it. I remember our agent got pissed. We were signed to, I think TCI or something, I can’t remember the bloody name of these agents anymore. But our agent got really pissed, because when we toured with Death we kind of had the classic under duress, “You’ve got to sign to this agent to do the U.S. tour,” which we did, without seeing a lawyer or anything, so we were kinda strong-armed into signing to some agency. Then that agent got pissed, because he wasn’t involved with the booking of this Napalm Death tour, so we had to kind of buy our way out of the contract, if memory serves me right.

Lilker: Although we didn’t have anything out on Earache yet, Dig thought it would be great exposure for us to open the package. For me personally, it was the impetus to cut the cord with Nuclear Assault, who I’d been slowly but surely losing interest in being a part of due to my boredom with thrash metal at that point in time.

What are some general memories you have of this tour?

Harris: For the most part, it was really good. There was some sort of crest of the wave, where all these bands were finally distributed in America instead of import only from Earache. I guess Relativity had a distribution deal, or manufacturing deal, I don’t know. So there was a bit of a buzz going on. My favorite show was the Hollywood Palladium. The first time we played there, with Godflesh and Nocturnus, it was at the Country Club [in Reseda, CA], it was a crazy show but… people were injured and there were kind of riots and it was out of control. That place kind of closed down soon after that. So we had no idea what to expect at all, I think we played the Palladium with Sepultura on the Arise tour, with Sacred Reich and Sick of It All, so it was going to be weird us headlining, I wasn’t sure how many people would come but I think it was pretty much sold out. From what I heard, the front windows were broken, but either way, when we played the crowd was super energetic, and the circle pits and all that stuff… L.A. had a different style compared to New York. It was amazing, really.

My parents came to the show from Las Vegas. It was the second time they’d seen us, and they kinda couldn’t believe what was going on. It was the kind of thing that no one ever expected to catch on but it kinda did. It showed that people were into extreme music but also open-minded enough to accept it and see that there was a message there, and it wasn’t about anything to do with Satanism or witchcraft or anything to do with that, it was just about freedom of speech and somehow the message came across and there was just a united scene that was coming together. People just out of high school, and everyone was so young, and the future was a question mark. It was good.

Napalm Death circa 1992.

Lilker: Cruising in a passenger van with Cathedral! Having people who were familiar with Nuclear Assault watch in horror as we tore shit up at 8,000 mph! And, naturally, smoking a lot of weed.

Lehan: So many memories, cooped up in a van for two months with Brutal Truth! None of Cathedral could drive, so it was BT who drove, and of course we’d get drunk and wind everybody up with our sarcastic English humor. We missed the drive-through tree—this has become a thing of legend. When we finally got to this tree… it was closed! My daily (and I mean EVERY day for eight weeks) diet of two eggs, hash browns, two orders of toast and a coffee at Denny’s. This was also of, course, the tour where our growing enthusiasm for second-hand ’70s clothing reached its peak, much to Griff’s despair.

Walker: It’s such a fucking open-ended question. There’s just bits and bobs. I can remember the first date, we were traveling in a mini-van, and our driver, Steve, managed to lock us out of the van almost immediately. Being naive and British, and expecting help of American cops, you know what their reaction was? To tell us go to buy a slim jim from a hardware store. No wonder you’ve got so much crime in America. So we went to the hardware store and bought a slim jim, and by the grace of god, I managed to get us back into the van. I think I’ve done that twice in my life — break into a car — but never with the help of the police before. There’s a fucking brilliant story involving Napalm Death and the tour bus but, believe me, if I told you, I’d probably get my knees broken, so I can’t fully go into that.

Sleep did one of the shows, in San Francisco. That was the first time we ever came across them. You gotta understand, on this tour, Cathedral had developed from going from wearing like white canvas jeans and sneakers to wearing flares and shopping in second-hand stores. Sleep turned up and outdid them in the ’70s clothes they were wearing. Cathedral had just signed to Sony then. I remember the first date we played, we were in a hotel room, and we were sharing beds, this is the budget we were on. I was sleeping with the drum tech, and I think this was the time, he woke up in the middle of the night throttling me. I slept all the way through it. I guess in his sleep, or I guess in reality he wanted to kill me, he awoke to find himself strangling me, and we were in this cheap motel.

Now, the point I’m trying to make here is we went to swing by where Cathedral were staying the next day, they were on Columbia/Sony, and staying in the Holiday Inn. I remember their manager at the time was filling their heads with these ideas about how they were going to be as big as the Black Crowes and all this kind of stuff. It was kind of impressive that they could afford the Holiday Inn. We saw a lot of Cathedral and Brutal Truth because they were sharing the same van, but we hardly saw Napalm Death on that tour. They were on a tour bus. They were on a different level. We were doing these stupid drives, I remember one of the drives was Denver to Seattle, it was just crazy. The things you do when you’re kids. Sleeping in the van and shit. Our driver Steve wasn’t too impressed because we made a stop at Snoqualmie Falls, where Twin Peaks was filmed. The poor bastard drove like 10 or 11 hours and we made him do a detour to go see where Twin Peaks was filmed.

Totally worth it, though, I’m sure.

Walker: Eh, not really. I just seem to recall a railway track. I remember we played Florida and there was probably 20 people there. I think Sepultura had been through and played the same venue the same week, and it was during the giddy heights of Sepultura, and there was just no one there for them either. Florida could be very unforgiving back then.

That surprises me.

Walker: It shouldn’t, really. Nothing’s really changed.

What was the relationship between the bands like going into the tour, and did that change by the end of the tour?

Harris: We get along with everybody, really. The lineup before I joined Napalm was Bill Steer, Lee Dorrian, Mick Harris and Shane Embury. I was a fan of Carcass, who was going side by side along with Napalm in the early days, and we’d known each other for years. Kevin Sharp was a good friend, he used to work with CMJ, and Danny Lilker had some pen-pal relationships back in the Nuclear Assault days, when he did a little scene report for Maximumrockandroll, I wrote to him and sent him my Righteous Pigs demo, he wrote back, and I met him long before I joined Napalm, so it was just amazing to get to see him every day and hang out. He’s the coolest, most talented, level-headed guy. Everybody who knows Danny says he’s just the best people you could ever hope to meet. Some people may not know, but when I was in New York when I was deported, trying to get into England, I was at my aunt’s house, and Danny Lilker showed up to show me how to use my drum machine, and he brought his eight-track TASCAM recorder and his keyboard and we made a little project then that never made it off the ground. He started playing piano, just testing sounds for the levels, and he was playing all this Bach and Beethoven, and my aunt was like, “I can’t believe how talented this guy is, playing Beethoven and all this stuff, what a nice guy, what’s his other music like?” I’m like, “Yeah, it’s kinda like our stuff, you wouldn’t like it” [laughs].

Walker: It’s fine. Thing is with Napalm Death, it felt like they detached themselves because they were on a tour bus and that kind of thing, they were the rock stars, if you like, at the time, and everyone else was slumming it, so there was more comradeship, we were in the trenches. Cathedral and Brutal Truth were in one van; I think there was some tension there that involved Adam’s feet, a lack of hygiene [laughs]. I seem to recall there was a competition in Cathedral for who could go the whole tour without showering, and I know that really pissed off Kevin Sharp and Dan Lilker; there was nearly blows, you know? Griff in Cathedral wasn’t getting on that well with the band, he was spending a lot of time staying in Brutal Truth’s hotel rooms, or a lot of the time he’d crash in our hotel room, if we had a hotel room. I remember one time snapping at Adam, because he was really winding me up in Vancouver by being really annoying… childish stuff [laughs].

Lilker: We all knew each other pretty much before the tour and got along great, and except for a couple of minor touchy moments between us and Cathedral due to our constant close proximity in a van for two months—their drummer always wanted Taco Bell, which got a little annoying—everything was fine. We were all there for the same reason.

Lehan: Every band knew each other and got on, and that didn’t change at all. The only variable was us and Brutal Truth. Obviously, some individuals from both bands had met but as bands we hadn’t. But by the end of the tour I think it’d be safe to say we were all very good mates. When I look back on it now, I wonder how we got through it without any trouble, but I honestly don’t remember any.

Was there anything particularly bad or particularly good that happened on that tour that you recall?

Harris: Canada, New York, Chicago, Florida, Texas, San Francisco, they were all places where we met a lot of friends on the first two tours, and we were just looking forward to seeing everybody again. There was just more fun times, really. We weren’t necessarily the most professional band or demanding, it was just like, we get to see our friends and family, people I knew from Las Vegas. They’d come see me play and be like, “What the fuck? Mitchell, I love your music but, boy, I can’t understand a fucking word he said.” I’d be like, “Don’t worry, it’s a long story. But you came, that’s what’s important.” You never knew if anyone was going to turn up, and you got to hang out with friends in the bands, and friends and family, I don’t give a shit if there’s 200 or 2,000 people at the show, as long as you have fun and hopefully spend time with quality people and good friends and you maintain those relationships, that’s what it’s all about, really.

Napalm Death “Utopia Banished” Tour T-shirt

We played this place called Harpos [in Detroit], I think we’d been there before with Sepultura. But with this bill what I remember is it was $10 to get in, and 75 cents for a pitcher of beer, but you had to keep your pitcher because there were no more available. Literally there were people crowdsurfing and whatever, and you could see pitchers of beer flying around the room. It was probably a 2,500 capacity room, the only time I’ve ever seen it full, and it was just insane. There was some sort of between-show activities, which I won’t mention [laughs] but it was interesting. It was totally surreal.

But the important thing about this is at that time there was a rise of a Nazi movement. That venue is situated in a very dangerous location, I’m not sure what part of Detroit it’s in, but people get killed in the parking lot across the street, it’s like a murder capital. So anyway, there was a Nazi movement, which was just beginning to rise, maybe there were 20, 40 of them there at the time, which is nothing compared to 2,500 people but as the years went on, Harpos was basically the venue in Detroit, and we would play there and there were less and less people, because they stopped the $10 all-you-can-drink deal. So the Nazis started overpowering the scene, even if there were 400-600 people, 40 people in the front row beating up people and stomping on faces and heads as we played “Nazi Punks Fuck Off.” I’m like, “why don’t you go preach that shit in the parking lot?” It’s fucking insane, it was building stronger and stronger and it got worse, year after year.

So after a while we started requesting to play other places, like Blondie’s, where bands like Repulsion had played in Flint, Michigan, and just play other areas as well as Detroit. So I’m not sure how it is now, the state of that movement, but it was very much out of control at that point. But definitely everyone remembers something about that. Any band that’s ever played there, it pretty much happened at all the shows. People got scared to go there, and no one stood up to them. Anyone who did was outnumbered, so it was just a case of what the fuck do you do? We just played our songs, nothing ever happened to us.

Walker: No, I mean, these kind of things you view through the rose-tinted spectacles of time. Nothing really comes back to me that was terrible about it. Some of the drives were a bitch. Nowadays, you do them on a tour bus and you don’t notice, but you sat in a mini-van… I remember Griff would drive with us sometimes as well because of the distance that was becoming between him and [Cathedral] and what we’d do, is you’d have your rider from the gigs and you’d end up with extra beer, and we used to keep it under the seats in our van. I remember one morning, 11am, Griff helped himself to some warm Milwaukee’s Best. Really shitty beer, you know? Just kinda like, what the fuck? You couldn’t drink it when it was cold, never mind when it was warm and had been sitting in the van for a couple of days.

Even if there was no one there [at the shows], we still had fun. I remember on that tour, I bought a canister of pepper spray, and we were in Portland, and for some stupid reason, I wasn’t setting it off, but I was just pressing the trigger to see how loose it was, and that nearly gassed the whole fucking backstage. I remember Kevin Sharp was asleep and he wasn’t too happy. I wasn’t setting off the fucking damn thing, I just pressed it really quickly to see what the trigger was like, and, fuck me, I nearly cleared out the dressing room. Actually, I’m thinking of some other funny stories that involved the same gig. There was a lot of Nazis there, because Portland around then was like a magnet for the right wing, you’d get Nazi skins turning up at gigs and stuff. I can remember a bunch of them being there, and I probably thought I was a tough guy at the time, and maybe kinda kicked one in the head who was getting in my face or some shit, or maybe I was mouthing off. It’s surprising I didn’t get killed, in all honesty. You think you’re invincible when you’re standing on stage, but I’ve since found out that you’re not [laughs].

Napalm Death “Utopia Banished” Tour T-shirt (back)

Ken [Owen, Carcass drummer] had a really shitty gig, I recall. He played the whole gig, I think this was the one where the beater of one of his kick drums was adjusted badly and it kept hitting him in his shin, so he was in a lot of pain, so when he got off the stage, he was really angry, he had a really shitty gig, he felt he played badly, so he decided to kick a door, which he did, but unfortunately, it was a fire door. And those things are made out of fucking metal, so he nearly broke his foot doing that. It was fantastic that we got to play the Hollywood Palladium, that was a really great show, and it was sold out. I’m pretty sure us and Napalm couldn’t do that now. So we went from the giddy high of a show like that to playing the Ritz in New York, which is a big show, but you still play Bumfuckville in the middle of nowhere to like 30 people sometimes. I seem to recall we played a pizza parlor somewhere up north, near the Canadian border, on the east coast. And I’m not exaggerating. It was like a kind of pizza parlor bar thing. It wasn’t massive by any stretch of the imagination. You probably couldn’t get 150 people in there. But I can’t really think of any shows for me personally where I thought it sucked. Except maybe the first show because we tried to open with “Tools of the Trade,” and I warned the fucking band, but they don’t listen to me, and it was a train wreck. Monitors can be hit and miss nowadays, but back then, my god, most places had really shitty monitoring systems.

Carcass’ Jeff Walker circa 1992.

Going back to Nazi skins as well, I remember we played somewhere probably in the Carolinas, and, again, Nazi skins turned up. I think me and maybe Griff were putting something on the door just to piss off the Nazis and I remember the promoter or someone at the club saying, “You shouldn’t do that around here.” They basically didn’t want to upset these people, whereas we wanted to… I don’t think any of the bands would have been too chuffed about the fact that they were letting in these white power dudes wearing their insignias. I’m trying to remember these places we played. Nothing really major exciting happened, except the things I can’t tell you. I recall we when we played Vegas, Mitch had a barbecue at his parents place… he was pissed later because I hadn’t turned up. I’ve since told him and apologized, it’s because my oh so bloody kind bandmates never told me they were going and let me lie in! Oh, and someone threw a dead rat in a plastic bag onstage at us there! And Kevin Sharp arranged for us all to play a Sunday matinee show at the very end of the tour. At the time, I didn’t really care, but looking back I’m grateful I got to play that shithole! Something to tell the grandkids!

Lilker: Having to do some of those drives with 10 people crammed in a passenger van was a little intense in general, I’d say, not like a bad incident per se, just a bit of a chore. On the good side, we got to play in front of lots of grind fans at a fairly early stage of our career.

Lehan: Bad would obviously be Griff leaving, although we could see it coming, it was still rough… and rough for him because he’d made up his mind I believe before the tour so then had to do eight weeks in a van with us getting loaded. Although I’m sure he loved seeing the U.S., I think he probably really wanted to go home. Good—some insane things happened that still make me smile to this day. Our manager losing our passports (I’ll say no more!), the “Autumn Twilight” video filming in New York, I always remember a water park or something… in Phoenix, maybe? I became a huge fan of Newport cigs, and as a Brit, I was often completely flabbergasted at just how many folk in the U.S. had swimming pools on their property! And lightning storms in the desert. I really wish I’d had a camera phone back then. Or maybe not! [laughs]

Do you recall what was on your rider at this point?

Harris: We kept it super simple. We had some vegetarians in the band, so it was kind of different in America, whatever the catering was, it was basically spaghetti for 22 people, some lettuce, and a jar of salad dressing and some cheese and bread, maybe some waters, Gatorades, and a couple cases of beer. Nothing too extravagant. We’re not the band that needs green jelly beans.

Walker: Probably a couple cases of beer for us. Maybe you’d get buyouts at $5 or something, but, really, we weren’t getting a proper rider. It just would have been, like, beers, maybe waters and some sodas.

Lilker: No, but I’ll guess a case of beer, water, deli tray and hot meal/buyout.

Lehan: I have no idea… And to be honest I doubt we just stuck to “our” rider! [laughs]

Looking back on it, or even from the outside looking in at the time, this tour was massive: These four bands at that time were a huge part of just such an exciting point in extreme music. What was it like on the inside? Did it feel like an important tour at the time?

Harris: Every tour seems like an important tour to me, and it’s all about the package, how bands get along and complement each other. It was all exciting because you never knew what was going to happen—how far can it go? Wow, we’re not even 21 years old and playing the Hollywood Palladium, where do you go from there? The scene kind of exploded and changed. You could even say it was trending at the moment, because kids were in high school and it spread like wildfire, people were looking for something a little more cutting edge, it was kind of stagnating in thrash metal—which I loved as well—and no one really wanted to push the boundaries, and Earache did, and it caught on.

In a way, it’s like being in a war zone, when you come home after tour, especially if you’re sharing vehicles or whatever. We toured with At the Gates in Europe and we’d gone to Yugoslavia during the war—there was literally a war going on—[and] the bus crashed into the ditch, and at the end of it, the doors were broken and opening on the freeway… you come back, you see each other 10 years later, and you’re like, “Remember that time when the air conditioning broke and we were sweating like it was a sauna and we couldn’t breathe and we had to share bunks and the bus broke down and we had to take a train from Seattle to Denver in order to not miss a show?” It’s really hard work. But it’s a vision that we all dreamed about for years, it came from years of hard work and dedication, and the underground tape trading scene all coming together. It was really nice to meet your pen pals, and I’m still friends with these people today. It’s more of a culture and movement and an institution than just your traditional band tour. There was something about that time and our scene… it was a way of life, and it still is for some people.

Walker: Nah, not at all. It was important for Cathedral, because they just got signed to Sony at the beginning of that, and it was important to us because I remember we played the Ritz show in New York, and Cathedral had just played, and I think we had just played, and I was talking to some of the people from Sony and they were really excited about Carcass as well, so it was opening doors for us for getting into the major label situation. I remember Jim Welch was in probably Pittsburgh, and we were discussing the possibility of signing to Columbia or Atlantic then, because Jim was kind of testing the waters, because although he was running Earache in the States, he was trying to hawk us to the major labels as well. So it was important in that sense.

I remember seeing some of the footage probably from Harpos in Detroit, and it looked really good. We brought a light guy with us, and we started to take it a bit seriously as far as how we look live as well, and Steve was doing a really good job. He is a guy from North Carolina, we found him on tour with Confessor in Europe. He went on to do lights for Corrosion of Conformity and stuff like that. It felt like, rightly or wrongly, all the bands [on the tour] were going to drift into the major label situation that we did. I don’t think anyone ever thought that the tour was massively important but in retrospect, I guess it was. It was important because a lot of the audience that saw those gigs, the people ended up in what became the new wave of American heavy metal, all those bands that followed. I’m not going to name names; I’m sure you can fill in the blanks. I know for a fact that a lot of those people are only one or two years younger than us and they saw that tour. The same kind of thing happened when At the Gates went through a few years later with Napalm Death and Morbid Angel.

Lilker: Yeah, we knew it was a pretty sick tour! We were proud to kick it off every night and then chill and watch the other bands. We could tell from the overwhelming enthusiasm of the audience that they were witnessing a special evening. And Cathedral doing their doomy stoner thing was a great way to break things up stylistically.

Lehan: Honestly, at the time it was just a lot of fun. Obviously, we were aware that Napalm and Carcass were getting huge but we were just having a blast. We were in the U.S.! We never thought it would happen, I don’t think, and it did seem to kind of drop in our laps out of nowhere. Hand on heart, no shit, if I had a time machine this is the tour I’d want to do again. I was so lucky to have been a part of it.

What’s the significance of this tour for your band?

Harris: It was just kind of our own brand of voices, and not just us, but supported by the Earache scene, which eventually collapsed and bands moved on, and Earache sold bands to a major label, and it showed that people wanted things faster, crazier and heavier, or more interesting or more controversial, so it inspired younger musicians, and a lot of them came to take it further in different ways. It sparked an interest.

Walker: Nothing, really. It’s some good memories. It never felt that important at the time but, honestly, it seems to have been important to a lot of people who were in the audience. It’s hard for the bands to judge. We just thought it was another Napalm Death tour. It’s those guys that called it the Campaign for Musical Destruction, I’m pretty sure at the time I thought that was cringeable because anyone who knows anything knows that that’s stolen from the band Lärm. So, plagiarism to the nth degree… you know, great artists steal, but you don’t lift it wholesale [laughs]. We probably thought it was cheesy at the time but now it’s kinda cool. It was a cool tour. Certainly with hindsight, and now the fact that you’re writing an article about it, it seems important.

Lilker: Huge. As stated earlier, getting the opportunity to play in front of a shitload of grind fans before we even had anything out was awesome. People still rave about that tour!

Lehan: This is maybe a bit of a downer but I think that tour and maybe the CMJ thing after were perhaps the last time everything seemed like it was clicking properly… for me, it seems like that, anyway. That was, for me, the top of the mountain, and things began to slip after that. Petty things creeping in, from all angles. But that Campaign tour? I loved it. I didn’t want it to end!