I recently had the opportunity to get with Place of Skulls vocalist/guitarist Victor Griffin to see what’s new with the band and to give some people who’ve never heard of Place of Skulls a bit of history.

Hey Victor, thanks for doing this interview.
Victor: Hey Jeff…glad to do it!

How did you first get into music?

Victor: My dad was a big country music fan, back when country music was pretty good…Merle Haggard, Waylon Jennings, Hank, Johnny Cash, stuff like that. He used to jam on weekends with his friends at our house so there was always a guitar around. I used to strum around on it and watch my dad’s friends play. That’s actually how I learned all the open string chords when I was probably 9 or 10 years old. But I got more serious about it when I was around 13 or 14. My older sister also had some rock albums…Steppenwolf, Three Dog Night, Alice Cooper , stuff like that. Though I was learning guitar through country music, I wanted to be able to make those kinds of sounds. Steppenwolf was my favorite band when I was like 9 years old. But that was the beginning of my first interest in music.

Who or which bands were a major influence on you musically?

Victor: Steppenwolf was definitely my first big influence, then Alice Cooper…back when it was the Alice Cooper group…then later into the mid 70’s, KISS and Black Sabbath . Those were the main ones.

How did you get into the band Pentagram?

Victor: I never joined Pentagram back in the day. I started Death Row after high school with Lee Abney. In ’81 we met Joe Hasselvander and he joined on drums and introduced me to Bobby, and then Bobby joined Death Row. Pentagram had been defunct for a few years. Around ’83 or so, Joe left Death Row to audition for White Lion and seek other opportunities. Stuart Rose came in on drums and then around that same time, we decided to change the name to Pentagram. So I never really joined Pentagram. It was more like Death Row transitioning into Pentagram and there I was.

When you became a Christian was it difficult being in the band?

Victor: When I first became a Christian, I wasn’t in a band at the time. I’d quit Pentagram in ’96 and had been struggling for years with the usual stuff like alcohol and drugs and other vices. Then my dad died of cancer as well as three other relatives dying within a year or so. It was a very reflective time…it caused me to really get serious about where my own life was heading. I used to lay awake nights thinking about life and what would happen to my soul if I died in my current situation. Once I got to the place of being sincerely sick of it all…just really sick and tired of feeling like crap in the morning, worried at night, and knowing in my heart that my life was all wrong…it gave it up to God.

What was the reason for starting up Place of Skulls?

Victor: It had been 3 years since I’d quit Pentagram and had this spiritual awakening. During that time I was becoming more creative again. But obviously I didn’t feel I could do something like Pentagram again. I wanted to do something uplifting that reflected more of a positive spiritual influence. So Lee and I started working on my new stuff and eventually placed an ad for a drummer…that’s how Tim Tomaselli came into the picture. The three of us were in agreement on life in general and spiritual issues and wanted to do something to reflect that.

Which has been more accepting of Place of Skulls – the church or the world?

Victor: Great question! I don’t know man…sometimes I feel like we’re the so-called red headed stepchild of both the church and the world when it comes to music. We seem to be too heavy or doomy for the church and the world can’t stand the thought of lyrics about God or Jesus Christ. Of course, I certainly don’t mean that as a general statement. We have some great fans on both sides that have stuck with us and we’re gaining new fans all the time. But it seems when we try to expand beyond the basic boundaries of our circle, that’s when we run into the criticism. But hey, persecution will come.

Place of SkullsPlace of Skulls has a new release – As A Dog Returns – coming out soon.  How would you describe the album?

Victor: It’s the most dynamic thing we’ve ever done. It’s not that different from “The Black Is Never Far”…it takes up where that one left off but progresses even further dynamically. Lyrically it’s the most direct I’ve ever been about personal spiritual struggles, faith in God, and salvation. The reviews have been pretty mixed so far. Its been compared to everything from Sabbath and Trouble to Pearl Jam to Molly Hatchet, so I guess we’re kind of in a weird place with some people. We don’t really fit into the secular heavy rock or Christian rock markets firmly, and that’s fine with me. We’re not out to satisfy anyone’s expectations of Place of Skulls…least of all, the ridiculous comparisons of some of the digital critics on the internet. By the way, ‘Digital Critics’ is a new song I’m working on for the next album. But anyway, if we find ourselves in a place where we’re not being honest and not writing what we feel…only trying to match a past album or what we think people expect…that doesn’t do anybody a service…least of all ourselves. So whether people like where we’re coming from or not, it’s honest music and that’s the most important thing.

The band is also doing a tour in Europe.  Are there any plans for more tour dates in the US?

Victor: Yea, it’s been 4 years since Place of Skulls has been on the road in Europe. This tour goes from October 23rd until November 8th with Eternal Elysium . We’ve been talking to a few people about a possible US tour in January and February but nothing to announce yet. Then we’re heading back to Europe in April with The Gates Of Slumber.

If you were going to do a world tour, which bands would you want to tour with?

Victor: There’s a bunch of bands that fall into that category. But I’d like to do something a little different than the typical doom metal rock tour combination. I’d like to mix it up with a nice variety of music…do something with some bands like Porcupine Tree and Wovenhand…a nice variety with a dynamic appeal but keeping the heavy vibe.

This past summer, Place of Skulls played at Cornerstone Festival.  How was that?

Victor: It was pretty cool. It was the first time they had a doom stage, so I didn’t expect that much from it honestly. There was a decent crowd occasionally throughout the day but it seemed to be more out of curiosity than anything. Some good bands played like Sweet Cicada & Troglodyte Dawn. It’s cool that people are becoming aware of the doom metal scene but it’s still going to take a while for it to draw consistently large crowds.

Do you have any final comments for the readers of Untombed?

Victor: Thanks Jeff, and a big thanks to our supporters and God for giving us the opportunity to continue doing what we do.

Ignore the naysayers, live your life through your own spiritual consciousness and give the digital critics the boot!

Thanks again for doing this interview.

Promo video for “As A Dog Returns”: