Q&A: Erik Payne Resurrects Floridian Death-Thrash Institution Intoxicated


Florida death-thrash institution Intoxicated return from the grave with new album, Watch You Burn. Born in Altamonte Springs in 1992, the aggro-thrash combo hit the ground running, owing comparisons to similar cross-genre acts like Revenant, Sadus, and Incubus. Intoxicated were so punishing that not long after forming Death’s own Chuck Schuldiner took the fellow Sunshine Staters under his astute wings, producing, mentoring, guesting on, and prompting premier metal indies to seriously check out the song-driven death-thrash savagery that were the Scars and Drain demos. The group, with vocalist/guitarist Erik Payne at the helm, eventually issued their debut, Metal Neck, in 1997, but vanished altogether once Payne (and Obituary’s Donald Tardy) went on to party with maniac Andrew WK.

Back for the metallic attack, Intoxicated have released their long-awaited sophomore full-length Watch You Burn. True, the Walled EP was released to headbanging plaudits in 2020, but Watch You Burn shows Payne, bassist/vocalist Gregg Roberts, guitarist John Sutton, and drummer Mike Radford firing on all cylinders. With thrashtastic tracks like “Revelation Denied,” “Assholian Mode,” “Legacy’s Demise,” and “Watch You Burn,” Intoxicated demonstrate hard-to-control brutality with a ragged, dissonant edge. That Kenny Andrews (Obituary, ex-Andrew WK) and Municipal Waste’s Tony Foresta guest on Watch You Burn is one thing, but that it was produced, mixed, and mastered by Ryan Boesch (Foo Fighters, Andrew WK) at Candor Recording (formerly Morbid Angel’s HQ) in Tampa checks all the requisite “Florida metal” boxes. Watch You Burn is a must-hear for diehards of (old-school) Kreator, Death, Protector, Obituary, and Devastation.

Payne and Decibel meet over binaries to shed more light on Intoxicated’s Watch You Burn as well as the band’s latest moves (they’re already writing their third full-length).

Two years ago, Intoxicated issued the Walled EP. What has the journey to reinvigorate Intoxicated been like since?
Erik Payne: We really never stopped writing. The flow was there, so we embraced it. We’re really stoked on the tunes from the Walled EP, and this being our first crusade with our new drummer Mike Radford, it’s all been a learning process. While getting to know one another musically, and as a band, we’re evolving and pushing each other. I’m grateful to say, the tunes have organically gotten heavier. The new album is super-pissed. It’s our first full length and we’re swinging for the fences!

The time between full-lengths is like 25 years. What was happening in the years between? I assume life, work, and other things that occupied your time.
Erik Payne: Truth be told, we were on the longest hiatus known to man. I started the band in ’93, and we did four back-to-back EPs between ’94 and ’97. Our third EP, we recorded with Death’s Chuck Schuldiner at his house. Man, if those walls could talk… There’s actually some guitar and vocal work Chuck did on several of our EPs that the masses haven’t heard. Around ’99 my writing partner, who sang and played guitar for Intoxicated, left the band, and moved out of state. These were confusing times, but we didn’t stop. I started singing and our good friend, Obituary’s Ken Andrews, filled in on guitar. Donald Tardy, also Obituary, took over on drums. They were both super-honest with me and could, understandably, only commit to filling in. Donald played several years with us, but he had joined a new project already with a name we’d not heard yet. We just knew he’d eventually be leaving to tour with Andrew W.K. as his new drummer. A few months later Donald asked both myself and our bass player Gregg, if we wanted to go tour the world with him and Andrew as part of his live band. Within 48 hours and one phone conversation with Andrew, Gregg and I left our apartment in Orlando and moved in with Donald in Tampa, in his one bedroom flat. I’ve got such great memories of that time. I actually got Ken Andrews to quit his job of 12 years and come with us as a guitar tech. The first few years we toured non-stop and we’ve stayed pretty busy with him ever since. Gregg and I have been part of Andrew’s touring band for over 22 years, but we always knew we wanted to do something more with Intoxicated. About four years ago we reformed with a new lineup and haven’t stopped. This has always been a fire that couldn’t die inside me. It took what it took to get here and I’m actually grateful it’s now. I’ve always worked hard, but was a raging maniac and not in the right mindset do genuinely give Intoxicated the attention it deserved.

Florida was a hotbed of death metal activity in the early ‘90s. How has the scene changed, in your view, from then to now? Obviously, a lot of bands are still going like Obituary, Atheist, Malevolent Creation, and Intoxicated. Do you see younger bands coming up taking the baton?
Erik Payne: Coming up in central Florida was great! We had Death right in our home town. Obituary, Cannibal Corpse, Morbid Angel, Diabolic, and Malevolent Creation all right down the street. The scene was strong, the bar was high, and I think it really pushed everyone in the best way. The biggest surprise to me back then was how cool and gracious everyone was. Both Obituary and Death took us out to do shows in the 90’s, and everyone would come out to each others gigs. Warehouse keg parties, $5 to see your favorite bands. I consider myself very lucky! There’s definitely some bands carrying the torch now: Druid Lord, I believe on Hell’s Headbangers, Corrupted Saint out of Jacksonville, Carnal Ruin, and 3KDeep just to name a few. People come out to shows in force still, that’s one of the great things about metal. I love the fact it’s still somewhat underground, there’s always going to be at least one hesh kid in the classroom, if you know what I mean.

What were some of your goals for Watch You Burn?
Erik Payne: We’re pushing ourselves and really proud of this record! We were really grateful to gain some attention from Walled and establishing a label with Seeing Red Records. Seeing Red has been great and refreshingly honest to work with. We know we’re still a piece of sand on the beach career-wise, but that screams opportunity to me. This was put up or shut up time, and we’re not fucking around. We have the golden opportunity to be heard and we are road ready! Not to sound like a dick, but the band’s on fire. We’re definitely touring on this record and we’ll be announcing those and festival dates once we’re allowed.

Candor Recording
Intoxicated and Municipal Waste at Candor Recording in Tampa, FL.

OK, besides you and Mike, who’s in Intoxicated now?
Erik Payne: We were a three-piece on the Walled EP with Mike Radford on drums, and Gregg Roberts playing bass, who are still in the current lineup. In late 2020, we added our longtime friend John Sutton as a second guitar player. John’s a shredder and has added a great dynamic to the band and loves big solos. Both Gregg and I played in his old band Pain Principle, also with Ken Andrews. We all go way back. Fun Florida fact: without John, Bobby Koelble would have never been in Death. Gregg has been with me since ’98 playing music. We still laugh about it today. I said, “quit your job, join my band.” He did and we’ve been jamming together since. Mike joined us in 2018 right when we decided to go at this full force again. It’s great! We all have a passion for metal but come from different backgrounds. Mike is more into black metal and thrash, while Gregg loves straight-up great hard rock, and equally bands like Nuclear Assault. We embrace the differences, and you can hear it in the tunes.

How long has Watch You Burn been in the works?
Erik Payne: We never stopped writing after Walled, and nothing has changed. We’re writing the next record now. We turned Watch You Burn in about 10 months ago; vinyl has just been a waiting game for everyone. Jon Bon Covi [COVID-19] fucked a lot of people up. I’d like to say we took full advantage of that time in the best way. We’ve spent all our time writing and getting road ready. We’ve been playing a lot of shows supporting bands like Gruesome, Nasty Savage, Obituary, The Casualties, Inhuman Condition, Massacre, Toxic Holocaust, Soulfly, etc.

There’s a fine line between thrash metal and death metal with Intoxicated. I guess it doesn’t really matter what genre it is as long as it rips, but curious to know where you see the band fitting musically.
Erik Payne: I really agree with you! I’ve never put much energy into figuring that out. There’s too many genres/sub-genres in my opinion. I write how I feel and just want it to come across pissed! Don’t get me wrong, I get it, but for me, generally there’s two categories: good and not good.

Tell me about the focus songs on the album. I hear aggression, groove, and maybe a little dissonance in tracks like “Assholian Mode,” “Watch You Burn,” and “Force Fed.”
Erik Payne: I’m stoked you picked up on this. Dissonance is a great word. We’ll never be a super-melodic band; we really want to keep it dirty, stay in the shadows, if you will. I’m personally not a trained musician so there’s a caveman style that may come through, but I love it. I want the feeling to be, you’re gripping the steering wheel with one hand, going 120 [mph] down the highway holding a bottle of whiskey out the window. The songs are very different from one another, but that’s the freedom of not placing to many labels on it.

How did Tony from Municipal Waste and Ken from Obituary enter the fray as guests? I guess I know the answer to the latter part of the question.
Erik Payne: Ken and I go way back, he’s been a ‘fifth’ member of Intoxicated since day one. He’s recorded EPs with us, played bass, guitar, etc.. In the early days, someone was always going to jail–he’d be there to save the day. It was only fitting to have him on the record. Tony and I became friends a few years ago–what a good dude! We have a lot of the same friends here in Florida and we’re glad to have him here. He’s super-funny and has a really infectious personality. Musically, he’s been super-gracious, and I love his style. To be honest, I just asked him and he said done! He slays on this track, I can’t wait for people to hear it.

Morbid Angel
Old Morbid Angel gear at Candor Recording in Tampa, FL.

Candor Recording Studio has a bit of musical history to it. What attracted you to Candor?
Erik Payne: Morbid Angel bought this building in the early ’90s; where they jammed and recorded for years. As the story goes, Dave’s ex-wife Gen of the Genitorturers got the building in their divorce. Ryan’s known Gen forever and she offered to rent him the building when he moved back to Florida. The place was crusty as hell, but walking in there was so sick! It was like a filthy death metal time capsule. A ton of gear was left there, mostly Gen’s shit, but there was also a few hidden gems. There was still the Morbid Angel setlist written in dry eraser on the wall. We found a few of Dave’s unfinished prototype basses, and a box of bad-ass “Pete the Feet” shirts. Pete, hit me up there’s several boxes of these! When we mastered Walled, we brought all of Ryan’s gear in for one day and immediately got it out of there once we finished to start the demo process and revamp the building. It took Ryan and I roughly four months to completely redo the place. I mean completely! I’m super-grateful for any opportunity to work with Ryan, but budget is always an issue. I bartered my time. I’m a painter by trade and grew up building skate parks with my brother, so that’s how we afforded to record Watch You Burn. The studio is beautiful on the inside. We’re writing the new record now, so I want to have it paid for by the time we go in. I wish more people bartered. I’m grateful for that mindset.

So, how did [producer] Ryan come into the picture?
Erik Payne: I met Ryan in 2003; he was working on the new Andrew W.K.’s record in New York, where I’d come up to help out. We lived in the studio together above a bar for, I believe, four months. We are both from Florida and had a ton of the same friends in the skateboarding scene. We immediately hit it off–by the end of the first night we were tackling each other drunk as shit in the streets of New York. We both lived in Los Angeles at the same time as well, so we’ve always stayed in touch. Ryan has a great mindset and work ethic; he’s also extremely funny. He’s worked on a ton of records, anything from Fu Manchu to The Foo Fighters. He mastered Walled for us right when he moved back to Florida. We bartered work for the mastering and that’s when Candor Recording Studio comes into play. As far as the tone of the record, Ryan hasn’t done much metal but was super-intrigued. He’s really talented and we work well together, so we went for it and I’m glad we did! I gave him the Gruesome album Savage Land as a sonic reference. I love the kick drums and overall low end punch on that record.

We premiered the “Watch You Burn” video (HERE) Tell me about that experience.
Erik Payne: We were really lucky to work with this group of dudes. I’d already worked with them on three other videos for Andrew W.K. and these guys are top notch. I didn’t know until after this project was finished that Herb Maximo, the cinematographer was an Emmy award winner. Such a great vibe and so easy to work with! We kept it simple and raw; videos terrify me. There’s a fine line between punk and polka, if you know what I mean. Doing a concept video is something I really wanted to stay away from. I feel like there’s to many opportunities to make something lame. We took the money we’ve made from merch and shows and invested it back into the band to do this video. I know they did this for us for pennies on the dollar, so a massive thank you to Herb, Kyle and OT.

You’re going all out on Watch You Burn. New album, big-name producer, studio with history, and a big-name video producer. I gather it’s crush or go-home time for Intoxicated.
Erik Payne: Sounds fancy, but I’m just grateful to work with like-minded friends, with an over-the-top work ethic. Hell yeah, there’s a sense of urgency, the ball is rolling and it’s time to work. I don’t want anything we haven’t busted our ass for, and I’m all in! I find beauty in taking an unpolished band like ours and putting it in polished environments. With that we are beyond stoked to release Watch You Burn.

** Intoxicated’s Watch You Burn is out now on Seeing Red Records. LP, CD, and digital are currently up at Intoxicated’s Bandcamp site (HERE).