If you’re like me, you’re pretty impressed with the debut single from Martin Simson’s Destroyer of Death. I was grinning from ear to ear when listening to it the first dozen or so times. Like all of you, I wish there were more tunes to digest, but we’ll have to wait.
I thought to myself, ‘I haven’t done a cover story feature interview for Heaven’s Metal Magazine in a while.’ Why don’t I do one with Martin? He agreed and so here you go.
Tell me about Conzo Fury. What other bands did you play with?
Conzo Fury was a local band in Ventura County, CA in the early to mid ’80s. I joined the band when I was 17 and the other two guys were older and much better musicians.
Before I was jamming with the guys, the band had released one 45 record on Magic Wand Records, which was one of Quiet Riot’s early labels. The founder, guitarist Mitch Yenney, said the band had pretty much dissolved by the time I was playing with them. We did one 4-track recording before disbanding.
In 1990 I did one low-budget recording with a very talented shredder buddy of mine named Ronnie Hunter (it sounded a lot like Impellitteri, actually). He later became a top pick of Mike Lee of Barren Cross when he was forming a new band after he left the band.
How did you come to Christ?
In late 1985, I was living with my aunt and uncle while attending college in Ventura, CA. One night I asked my aunt if she really believed the Adam and Eve story. My uncle overheard from another room, and a discussion began that lasted over 4 hours. Using the Four Spiritual Laws tract, they witnessed to me through the many hours. God saved me that night and I’ve never been the same since.
How long have you been a musician? How did that start?
In 1982, when I was 15, a buddy at school started playing the guitar. One day he asked me if I wanted to form a band. Only problem was, I didn’t play an instrument. My choices were drums or bass. My parents wouldn’t allow the former – so bass it was!
I then played in several garage bands before joining Conzo.
How did you discover Christian metal?
Stryper. In 1984 I discovered Stryper and was simply blown away by the distortion sound. After God saved me in November of 1985, I began regularly searching Christian book stores for new Christian metal bands.
Fast-forward to 2020. What led to this project?
I’ve been friends with CJ Grimmark for many years and about a year ago I told him I sometimes hear killer riffs in my head, and asked if he knew how I could document them since I don’t play guitar or have a studio, etc. He told me he uses a voice recorder on his phone to record ideas. So, I began humming/singing riff ideas into a voice recorder. I also played some bass and explained what I wanted to do. CJ took all of that and started recording my ideas.
How much did you produce Rob Rock for this single, “Destroyer of Death?”
Rob agreed to do the vocals after hearing the almost finished song. He liked my lyrics and added a few things here and there. He and CJ have been colleagues for decades and Rob and I have been internet friends for years (laughs).
CJ did all of the actual Producing. I wrote most of the lyrics and about 75% of the music. I also wrote the chorus melody.
I’m curious about how the “two voices” or two vocal approaches idea came into being. It’s cool. It contrasts with the other in a point-counter-point way. Like call and response sort of.
The song is largely based on Romans 7:14–25. The battle we fight as believers with the flesh. And also the over-arching concept that Jesus Christ conquered the grave – He’s the Destroyer of Death.
I wanted the first verse to show the struggle and despair we all feel from time to time – as unbelievers, and also as believers as we struggle to do what’s right and often fail.
Then the second verse to show hope and conversion. Both verses have sort of a dual meaning – the lost searching for hope, then finding it through salvation in Jesus Christ, but also the believer struggling as depicted in Romans 7.
What sort of coaching/producing did you do for CJ? Did you have specific lead guitar ideas? What were they like versus the end result?
I explained that above.
Oh! How rude of me! (laughs) This is the bane with pre-written questions! How did you get together with these two musicians?
CJ has become a close family friend. I first began emailing him around 1999, I believe. He responded because I told him how I was his biggest fan, being that I’m 6′ 7″ tall.
We finally met in 2014 when he was passing through Ventura on his way to the NAMM show.
We approached Rob for two main reasons – we both knew him, and I wanted to make sure the song retained its spiritual impact and integrity. CJ and I had another singer in mind as well, but we thought he’d want to alter the lyrics and arrangement, etc.
What about the drums? Was that programmed? Who did that?
Eberhard Etzold out of Germany.
Have you written any other tunes for this project?
It’s possible there may be additional songs, depending upon how this single is received. 😃
Who will play on those?
CJ will remain the Producer and principle guitarist/co-songwriter. We’ve talked about a few other singers, both Christian and mainstream. I can’t tip my hand just yet.
Lyrically, why did you focus on the destroyer of death? What about that aspect of Jesus turns you on? Why?
Jesus Christ came to overcome death and redeem mankind. He was born to die for all those who will ever believe. He’s our only hope.
This is the over-arching theme of the song:
but now has been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus,
who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light
through the gospel,
2 Timothy 1:10 NASB1995
Where do you live now and what do you do to stay busy besides writing melodic metal gems like this one?
(laughs hard) I live in the central valley of California with my wife and two small children. My current gig is being a stay-at-home parent. I’m a Technical Writer by trade, but I’m also an artist and photographer.
Anything else you’d like to add?
I just want to thank CJ and Rob because none of this would be possible without them. Also special thanks to my wife for putting up with me through the process. And of course, Jesus Christ, the Destroyer of Death.
I hope people like the song. I just want as many people as possible to hear it.
Photo cover by Amber Simson.