Interview with bassist Eric Burgess from Metal band CEREBUS

Interview by: Chris Martin

 

How does it feel to get back to Cerebus after so many years of being out of the game?

Honestly, I had mixed feelings initially and still do somewhat.  You have to realize that back in the 80’s, I handled most of the day to day dealings for Cerebus including writing most all the music and lyrics, talking with record companies, answering interviews, answering mail etc. so when all the resurgence came about, I only really wanted to play and not have any other major role.  The first time took a lot out of me, both financially, physically and emotionally.  I had walked away completely.  I didn’t want to pick up a bass much less play.  I was quite happy to be married and be a father.  I guess I was scared that if I got back into the band, I would end up completely immersing myself into it like before.  Luckily, both my wife and my son gave me their blessing to pursue playing again and Scott has sorta taken over the role as a leader so that has really taken a load off me.  I must say that I am really enjoying myself.  It does feel good to be back but it feels strange that not all the members are here with us on this journey.
 
What brought about the reunion?  How did you guys come to work with Heaven & Hell Records?

Scott was the real catalyst in making all this come about.  He just called me one day and told me about all the interest in Cerebus and that Heaven & Hell Records wanted to re-release some things.  After talking it over with my family, I decided to get back into the band and give the reunion a go.

Board-Scott-album-back Interview with bassist Eric Burgess from Metal band CEREBUSHow did Cerebus come to exist back in the day?  With the formation coming around the time when a lot of the metal bands, that are legends today, were coming into their own, how was it competitively on the scene?

Cerebus actually came from a cover band version of Cerebus.  Chris and I started the band around ’83 or so just so we could go out and play.  Scott was in there on drums and vocals.  This version of the band split and Chris and I decided to really go for it by going into a studio and recorded songs that we had written.  Scott came in and laid down some vocals and soon we had the real Cerebus up and running.  At the time, we really didn’t have any competition because everyone just wanted to go out and play cover songs in bars, which is fine if that’s all you want.  We wanted more.  We got signed to New Renaissance Records, it actually proved that you can play your own music to be somewhat successful.  There really wasn’t a scene for all original rock music at the time.  To my knowledge, we were the first here in the Triad area of North Carolina to really break away.
 
Your debut album ‘Too Late to Pray’ was released originally on New Renaissance in 1986; how was the album received both domestically and abroad?

The album got great reviews both in the States and overseas, especially in Europe.  We were in a lot big music magazines, fanzines and had loads of airplay.  I have to say that New Renaissance Records really pushed the album in a big way.  We were very pleased with the overall reaction to the album.

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In 1987, the ‘Like a Banshee on the Loose’ EP was released, but it was not under the New Renaissance name.  What led to the split with the label after such a short relationship?

Well, basically, it was a lack of tour support.  Here we were getting loads of attention in Europe and were even offered some big time tours but we were young and had no money to pursue any of it and neither did NRR.  So at this point, since we had made decent contacts, we thought we would try it on our own, and thought, “why not?” I know it sounds like I am ragging on NRR.  Not at all.  They did a bang up job of promoting and getting our music out there but with no tour support, it made it very difficult for us.   Looking back we should have somehow come up with enough money to go over to Europe at least once and who knows what would’ve come from it.  Guess we will never know!
 
By 1991 the band shifted sonically from an NWOBHM sound to more of a 70’s band hard rock vibe on the ‘Regression Progression’ EP released on Rockduster.  What brought about that shift?

As I have often said, we’ve always been a band that is influenced by whatever we are listening to at any given moment.  Around that time the LA Glam metal thing was still going on which I hated with a passion and then the Seattle grunge started to blow up which I also detected, so there was nothing new coming out anymore that I really liked, so I went back to my roots and revisited all those great albums and bands like UFO, Rory Gallagher, Uriah Heap, Zeppelin, and Purple.

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What caused the band to fade away?

It just got to where it wasn’t fun anymore.  When you lose that element, you just stop and do something else.  At that point, it was just Chris & me as others had moved on to other projects.  Chris used to always say “And then there were two!” Haha.
 
In 2005 a CD release of ‘Too Late to Pray’ was released by Greek Label Sonic Age hat caused a bit of stir over it being an official release or not.  Despite its terrible sound, it was great to see it out there.  How did you and the band feel about this release?

I was really unaware of it at the time.  That was something Scott was involved with.  I thought it was pretty amazing that people still wanted to hear our music which is pretty much how I feel with what’s going on now!  I never realized that we still had fans out there who wanted to hear our music especially after being away from it for so long.
 
Cerebus disappeared and had not been heard from in many years.  Basically, since the internet, there has been no Cerebus as a band.  However, over all these years the band managed to build great respect and a cult following.  How do you account for this and were you aware of it over the years?

Being out of the scene for so long, I really don’t know why the music stayed on people’s radar screen, I really had no idea it was still popular.  When we wrote and recorded TLTP, we weren’t thinking about 20 or 30 years down the road, we were just trying to make a decent fulfilling album and hopefully go out and play to support it.  Never in my wildest dreams did I think it would turn into a highly respected band/album in the metal world as it is now. If I had to say what set us apart from most other bands, it was our songwriting.  The way we could all embrace a particular song as a band, come together and just nail it to make it the best. It was fun and easy with this band and something that was and still is very special.

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How has it been working on the upcoming Heaven and Hell Records reissues? What’s it been like hearing those songs again and knowing that so many people still recall the band all these years later?

Jeremy Golden at Heaven and Hell Records has really been awesome.  He is really on top of things and understands how to get our music into the right hands and market our music.  Much respect to Jeremy for believing in us and pushing us to get the reissues completed.  We had to get Tom Rowan, the original producer involved to remaster everything and I must say it sounds amazing! I really wouldn’t have expected anything different from Tom.  He has such a great feel for the music.  He hears things that normally one wouldn’t hear.  He has been our producer since day one.  Cerebus has always been about family and friends.  Everyone that has ever been involved with this band has always been regarded as family.  As far as people still be interested in our music, well, I can’t explain it but it’s a great feeling. 
 
What should the fans expect from the reissues?  Are there any hidden nuggets that the band is most excited about?

There are not any old demos or lost songs but the sound of the songs along with the packaging really make this reissue special. Some new unreleased photos are included plus Scott and I have written down our reflections about each recording to give a little more insight to the songs, so that’s a cool addition.  The overall album sounds incredible and H & H Records has done a fantastic job on the packaging and artwork.  We couldn’t be more pleased.  Everyone should be happy.
 
With a reunion show coming up later this year on Chicago (Legions of Metal) how excited is everyone about it?  How did it come about?

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We have Scott and Jeremy from H& H Records to thank for pulling together the Chicago show.  They were talking about the possibilities and one thing lead to another and before I knew it, we were booked, sorta hard to believe actually.    We are all really looking forward to it, so excited.   Out of all the towns I have played in my career, I’ve never played Chicago plus my son will finally get to see me perform on stage which will be awesome.
 
What does the future hold for Cerebus leading up to the Festival and after?  Will there be any new recordings?

If Chicago goes well, then it could open up a lot of doors but who knows.  Now that I am back into the music, I’m really itching to record some new songs and play more live shows.  In fact, I believe we are booked for a big festival in Germany next year so looks like we are on our way again.  We are excited and the fire is still burning.   It all comes down to the music, so long as it is good and fun to play, you can count me in.
 
Thanks to everyone who has supported Cerebus over the years.  It means so much to us.  Take care and hope to see y’all soon.  Eric

 

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