I don’t know a ton about metal. If you read my interview with Øde Vinter, you’ll see the beginning of my education. It continued here, with Pete Altieri, over the last week. He gave me great insight into the sub-categories of metal and the inspirations that drive his band, Low Twelve.
Smile Politely: Who is Low Twelve? What are the moving parts?
Pete Altieri: Low Twelve is me, Pete Altieri (bass/lead vocals); Meister (guitar/vocals);
Les Aldridge (guitar); and Travis Waterman (drums). We play all original metal.
It’s tough to put us in a box, but I would categorize our style of metal as thrash and death metal. Our origins would have been with some of the early thrash bands like Testament, Exodus, Kreator as well as some death metal like Cannibal Corpse and Morbid Angel.
SP: When does your story begin? How did you start?
Altieri: I started the band in 1998 after taking ten years off playing metal. I moved here from Connecticut back in 1990 after leaving my former band, Sacred Oath. I took the time off to raise a family; serve in the US Army during Desert Storm; and then decided to give music another try.
I came up with the band name while serving as a Freemason. The term “low twelve” means midnight or the very end of something. Some have said it could mean the last moments before death. I thought it sounded interesting.
We are based in Bloomington, and, during our 15 years, we’ve released five full-length albums and two DVDs. We are currently signed to Dark Star Records (California) and have had songs used in various horror movies as well as our lyrics published in a book about a 9/11 hero. We have played approximately 350 live shows and opened for many notable national acts such as Cannibal Corpse, Gwar, Mastodon, Chimaira, Pro-Pain, and others.
SP: I’ve heard of Gwar, but I’m afraid I’m very ignorant about metal. Learn me! What is it? Why is it more than “just noise,” as the older folks in my family might say?
Altieri: Well, one of the confusing things about metal is all the sub genres. There is the early stuff like Judas Priest, Black Sabbath, and Deep Purple. It was more like heavy rock back then, but in the ’80s, you saw the rise of the sub genres. Thrash metal spawned from the San Fransisco area with bands like Metallica and Slayer. Then you’ve got the death metal bands, the growling deep vocals like Cannibal Corpse. The hair metal bands were there too -playing on the whole effeminate male figure with make up and spandex.
But in my opinion, the staple in all metal bands is guitar. Loud and in your face and usually featuring strong guitar solos. The bass and drums are usually pronounced, too, especially in the heavier forms like death metal. The music is faster, too.
Metal bands usually write about unique subject matter. That’s one thing I like about it. Low Twelve writes about many historical events and even some of our own stories that we create and write a CD around.
SP: What kinds of events inspire you in writing? War, political events, social distress?
Altieri: We are inspired by historical events and figures such as Pol Pot, Mao Tse Tung, 9/11, Rape of Nanking, WW1, WW2, school shootings, and more. Also… our current CD, Shrug, based on Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. We have also written about serial killers like John Wayne Gacy and Vlad the Impaler. Our 2006 release This Side Toward Enemy was based on a story I wrote about a serial killer that eludes the police across the country. Our next CD will be entitled Six and is also based on a story about a killer from the 1960’s that is executed but comes back to life by possessing a person in current times.
So we like to keep things fresh and like to write about current events, as well as things in the past that impacted so many. And then, sometimes, just a guilty pleasure like John Wayne Gacy.
SP: I love the idea of John Wayne Gacy as a “guilty pleasure.”
What kinds of personal events spark your creativity?
Altieri: Well, I’m a disabled veteran myself. I served in the Army from 1991-1994 during Desert Storm. I was hurt in 1992 and got out a year early. One of the other guys (Les) is also former Army. So some of our music is patriotic in theme, or, on our 2010 album, “Splatter Pattern,” we wrote a song about a Marine who saved his fellow Marines by jumping on a hand grenade. Or a guy who saved 2,700 people at the World Trade Center on 9/11 but died in the process.
That song, “A Hero’s Last Stand,” appeared in a book about him called Touched by a Hero. The lyrics were used by his widow, Susan Rescorla.
SP: Do you ever get negative feedback about such strong themes? How do you react?
Altieri: Yes, we have. Our 2010 [album], Splatter Pattern, got some strange reviews in Europe. I wondered if it was due to our patriotic theme to much of the CD. We don’t even care. We just love creating music and so we roll on. We try to avoid politics, but it’s hard to do when you write about current events. Everything has a political slant. So I do my best to keep that stuff close to the vest. It just polarizes people.
SP: Gotta keep going. That is true. What’s next? What are your personal and musical plans?
Altieri: Well, Low Twelve’s latest CD, Skin in the Game, will have been out a year this coming February. We have one more music video we did from this CD that will be done and out in February. It’s for the song “Shrug,” and I think it’s going to be our best one yet. We’re also half done writing for the next CD, Six, and [we] hope to start recording it by the summer. As of now, we’re not sure where to record it but we have a few options.
As for personal plans: I am writing a novel based on the Six story and hope to have it done by this time next year. I wanted to finish it this year, but, with everything going on, there was just no way.
SP: What is that story, exactly?
Altieri: It’s a story I wrote about a serial killer who is executed but comes back to life 20 years later.
SP: I didn’t realize you had written it!
And what’s your dream jam session? No restrictions.
Altieri: Interesting question! I guess it would be fun to just have a day to jam with a bunch of musicians I really admire. Chuck Schuldiner (Death) would definitely be among them. He was a great guitar player and singer, too, who died from a brain tumor about ten years ago. Also, Cliff Burton: former bass player for Metallica who died in a bus crash in 1986 or so. As for drummers, I think Gene Hoglan of Testament, Death Angel, Deathclok, and others.
Lastly, I would to add former Low Twelve guitarist Tim McCleland who died in 2002. He was a very close friend and it would be awesome to jam with him one more time.
Low Twelve will be at The Canopy Club this weekend. They’re playing on Saturday, along with Burial Ritual and Emminent Slaughter. Doors open at 8 for the 9 p.m. show. You’ll fork over just $6 for a night of loud guitar and in-your-face sound.