Texas Takeover: Guitarist Trey Pemberton of Creeping Death

Photo Credit: Rahul Raveendran

Each week, this column features a Q&A with a “next generation” death metal representative from the Lone Star State. Through a series of questions, we look to uncover what connects these death metal acts from various cities around the state. We dig into details about specific members musical upbringing, local inspirations, and the various characteristics that make up the spirit of Texas death metal. View our previous guests here.

Today, we direct our attention over to Dallas death metal crew Creeping Death. The band released their critically acclaimed Wretched Illusions in 2019, pulling listeners in with their crunchy riffs and pummeling grooves. The band is at once fast, challenging, and devouring, drawing liberally from the template set by influential death metal titans like Grave, Gorguts, and Blood Red Throne, along with the speed of early Sepultura and the epic crush of Bolt Thrower.

It’s all re-fused together and reflected through their own unique prism, making the record one of the most scathingly heavy outputs for that year. 

We caught up with guitarist Trey Pemberton to hear more about his perspective of Texas, being a transplant, and moving to the state at the age of 12.

What are some of the things you cherish about having grown up in Texas? Things about the person you’ve become that you can attribute to where you grew up.

Since I’m a Texas transplant, this question is kind of difficult for me. I was a military brat, so naturally, we moved around a bunch before finally settling in the Fort Worth area in ‘05, when I was 12. So, while I’ve spent over half my life here at this point, I don’t necessarily feel as connected to the state as say, someone who was born and raised here.

The first thing that pops into my head when I read that question are the faces of all the amazing people I’ve met in Texas over the years. Besides my parents, of course, I can attribute a lot of who I am today to my bandmates, friends, and even a few teachers. Texans get a bad rap because of some loud idiots, but the good ones will be some of the best people you’ll ever meet. 

Was it common for a lot of you musicians to grow up in a household with music playing? If so, what sorts of music were you guys hearing at a young age, and what was the climate of music culture like in Texas overall growing up?

My mom is a drummer, so music has always been a huge part of my life. She has incredibly diverse taste, so as a kid, I was exposed to anything and everything. Rush, Prince, Talking Heads, Slayer, Def Leppard, The Ohio Players, about every single style of hip hop and rap from ‘79 to present, a plethora of ’80s, ’90s, and ’00s pop hits, and so much more.

Before moving to Texas, I assumed the music culture was almost exclusively county music. Shortly after moving, it didn’t take long to discover there was a rich culture of hip hop, metal, and Tejano music in the state, as well. Whether it’s DJ Screw and Houston, Selena and South Texas, or Pantera and DFW, there’s a fervent fandom that’s deeply imbedded in fans across the state. It feels equal parts state pride and regional pride, which was a wholly unique experience for me.

If you can recall, what were your parents’ reactions to the death metal style upon first hearing it? Was this something that they grew to understand or still can’t get into? 

My mom loves it. I’m not exaggerating when I say we’re her most-played artist on her Spotify wrapped every year. She loves metal, so it was easy for her to get into. She’s always been incredibly supportive of my music career, and for that, I feel insanely lucky.

My dad didn’t get it until he started going to our shows, honestly. He was always supportive as well, but I don’t think it clicked until he saw a couple of really huge gigs. Now since, he has us on his workout playlist; he gets recommended bands similar to us, and he’s been adding them, as well. I’ll make a metal head out of him yet! 

Has a community developed around some of the more recent death metal bands in Texas? Is it important to you guys to support the other bands from your home state?

Absolutely. I’m a firm believer that a rising tide raises all ships. I think the musicians understand that as well, which is why you see us support each other so much. At the end of the day, as much as people want to make everything a comparison amongst artists, music is not a competition.

If you were to think about it for a moment, what are the core elements that make up the collective spirit of the Texas death metal sound?

Riffs, drugs, alcohol, and 16th notes on the bell of the ride cymbal.

A lot of the bands I enjoy from Texas as of late are extremely heavy and in-your-face. What do you guys attribute that to? Is Pantera held in high regard as a big influence for that throwback groove? And on the death metal side of things, what bands do you find yourselves more drawn to?

It’s hard to say, honestly, but I think the common denominator with those bands is, they’re all comprised of extremely talented musicians. With a population of 30 million, there’s no shortage of talented people to jam with. Touring is hard for Texas bands due to the sheer size of the state. For most bands, it’s much more practical and economical to just play the major cities, as opposed to driving all the way out to either coast. After seeing or playing with your talented peers over and over, after a while, you draw influence from them. I think that’s part of the phenomenon you see here in Texas.

People love them some Pantera down here, for sure; I think their influence is felt not only on the groove, but the fact that so many bands just want to headbang and party. Personally, I find myself drawn to any death metal band that has a good mix of speed and groove. I don’t want just fast all the time, but I also don’t want slow and heavy all the time. I need a good, solid mix, and thankfully, there’s a ton of bands killing it right now. 

Who would you consider as local (hometown or statewide) trailblazers for the genre of death metal, and was the fact that these bands were from your home state an inspiration for you to grow as a band?

They aren’t death metal bands, but it would be a travesty not to mention Iron Age and Power Trip. Tying it in to your question earlier about supporting other bands, that sentiment came directly from those guys. Both bands have always put on for younger, smaller acts. So much so, that I think it’s ingrained into the Texas hardcore/punk/metal ethos at this point.

The whole Texas metal and hardcore scene owes them a debt of gratitude, in my opinion. Their contributions to the genre, not just for the state, but the world at large, will continue to be felt as long as bands from this big-ass state keep churning out riffs.

Follow Creeping Death on Bandcamp here.

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