"Rock & Metal in my Blood" today is happy to present an exclusive interview with the Thrash Metal band Aggravator from San Antonio (Texas). We've talked with Mike Cortes (Drums). The new EP "Aggravator" is out through independent production, and we hope you'll enjoy reading about our time with Mike. Horns up!

R&MIMB: Hi guys! Welcome to Rock & Metal in My Blood!! Can you tell our readers something about you and your history as a band?
Mike Cortes: Hello Readers, my name is Mike Cortes, drummer for Aggravator. Me and Derek Started Aggravator in December of 2008. We used to be skateboard buddies until one day Derek came over to my dad's house and saw my old school Majestic kit sitting in my game room. Not too long after jamming for a while, we started making songs and it became about making music instead of skating. Me and Derek played as a two piece for a couple of years and then Tristan and Jesse joined in 2010.

R&MIMB: How did you come up with your moniker, Aggravator?
Mike Cortes: Well as cheesy as it may sound, one day before one of our first shows, me and Derek were determined to come up with a band name before we hit the stage for the first time. So we start naming off names and slowly start eliminating them as we discover that the names are already taken. I remember Attacker was one of the names that Derek wanted to use, but we soon found out that name was already taken by a bad ass power metal band from Jersey so that was a no go. After scouring for a while and coming up dry, I started to get "aggravated" with the situation, so I searched Aggravator on every outlet I could think of and it wasn't taken, so I proposed the Idea to Derek, who wasn't sold on it at first and said we could always change it later, but here we are still Aggravator 10 years after.

R&MIMB: The songs in your latest release, the EP "Aggravator", show very particular meanings. Let's take for example "Desensitized Devotion", that seems to deal with faith and religious beliefs. Could you give us more details about the song and its lyrics?
Mike Cortes: I think that the lyrics can be interpreted in different ways, a lot of reviews that we have gotten in the past have different interpretations from the one before. I honestly think that Derek prefers it that way, let the listeners take it in and see what message they get from it and he always says that he doesn't write on one particular subject, it's all random. For Desensitized Devotion, I would say that it is about someone losing their faith, and how can there be a God in today's fucked up world, show me the proof that kind of thing.

R&MIMB: How does the creative process come about? Is it a team effort or does one of you put together the lyrics/music?
Mike Cortes: The writing process has always been the same for the last four albums. Derek would come to me with all the riffs for each song already structured. We would work through the songs together, me on drums and Derek on guitar, changing stuff here and there, if need be, to develop the songs one by one until we had a full album. Then Tristan and Jesse would add their flare to the songs. Now with this new album, the writing process has sort of changed. I would come up with random drum beats and Derek would kind of riff to them and we would kind of piece the songs together that way. Everyone has always been free to add their own flare to the songs and be as creative as they want, but Derek would always already have an idea of how the songs were going to sound. Derek is also behind all the lyrics.

R&MIMB: On your Facebook page and on the web in general the genre you play is simply defined as "Thrash Metal", but you can hear many old school Thrash/Death influences. Do you think bands such as Morbid Saint and Sadus have influenced your music?
Mike Cortes: We have always been compared to Slayer and Kreator mostly when people listen to our music, but with the latest EP we have seen more and more comparisons to Sadus. Our music has developed over the years and our sound is changing to some extent. I still feel that we stay true to our thrash metal roots, but we are also leaning towards that old school death metal sound now and it's only going to get heavier. This new album we are working on follows suit of this latest self titled EP and has that death metal grim to the thrashy grit. I think it's safe to say that our death metal influence is starting to show its face now.

R&MIMB: We love the cover of your EP "Aggravator". Who is the artist? What about the concept?
Mike Cortes: Alan Lester Perez (Leprous Hands Art) is the artist. We were all feeling a lot of emotions after our lead guitarist Jesse Lopez passed away, and we wanted something that would capture that emotion and possibly the emotion that Jesse was feeling. It's suppose to represent anxiety, depression, confusion and the sense of being trapped and we think that Alan Leprous Hands was able to capture that perfectly.

R&MIMB: You guys all seem very good at playing your instruments, but your music is never "showy" as regards your personal skills. I really liked that aspect of your latest work. How do you think metal musicians should approach their music?
Mike Cortes: Our approach when writing music is simplicity (meat and potatoes) and to never limit each other on what we can do with our instruments, allowing each other room to do what we want. We all know when it's time to shine and when it's time to back off and let the next person take the spotlight. I would tell other musicians to never stay stagnant, always keep writing music, no matter what the process is.

R&MIMB: Let's talk about some of your past releases. Do you guys think there are many differences between "Populace Destructor" and "Sterile Existence"? If so, what are the main ones?
Mike Cortes: Progression is definitely the main difference between those two albums, we just got better as musicians and not to mention more chemistry from just playing with each other longer. I would say the main difference for me is my drums stand out more in Sterile Existence as opposed to Populace Destructor and I'm happy with the progression that we have achieved together.

R&MIMB: How many fans of your music are there in Texas? Are you feeling forced to leave your home to get an audience?
Mike Cortes: We have a great following here in our home state, but we strive to play outside of Texas as much as possible. Having played overseas a couple times, we have seen how much different it is compared to here in the states. People take their metal seriously over there and you better bring it when you perform. We prefer to branch out and seek exposure elsewhere then stay in our comfort zone. Especially in different countries.

R&MIMB: How is the underground metal scene in Texas? Are there any bands you would like to suggest?
Mike Cortes: The underground metal scene in Texas is pretty strong, there is a lot of support throughout. Not only with just all the fans that come out and support, but also the numerous outlets like magazines, web-zines, blogs etc. that make the underground metal scene their main focus. Steel Bearing Hand is pretty cool if you haven't heard of them.

R&MIMB: Which artists were you listening to when you started playing music? We are very curious about that!
Mike Cortes: I was listening to bands like King Diamond, Kreator, Slayer, Sodom, Destruction just to name a few and I would say that is where I get my influence for my style of drumming. I always liked Mikkey Dee's drumming style with King Diamond, I think that a lot of drummers can abuse the double bass, but Mikey utilizes "appropriate double bass" as I like to say. Using his kick to highlight key parts of the song as opposed to just forcing it down the listeners throat.

R&MIMB: Among your releases, is there one you consider the best or do you like them all in the same way?
Mike Cortes: I think that they are all strong releases, but like I said before, it is all about progression. Coming from Age of Combat to this recent self-titled release, I'd say that we have come a long way musically. I like all the releases the same, but I'm glad that the album productions have progressed as well.

R&MIMB: What was your favorite experience when touring Europe? Any funny stories?
Mike Cortes: I loved getting to see the different cultures in all the places that we have been in Europe, it's a totally different world over there compared to the states. I think that the metal scene is also just incredible and it's awesome to be able to perform over there. There are so many hilarious memories from our journey's overseas, but I would say that one of my favorite memories is when Jesse decided that it was a good idea to drink a warm beer in the morning after a night of partying. Jesse had the tendancy to be determined to have a little hair of the dog that bit you first thing in the morning. Well one morning we were fixing to hop on a train to head back to Copenhagen from Sweden. Jesse grabs a warm beer leftover from the night before and starts drinking it as we walk to the train station. The whole time he's talking about how refreshing and perfect it was. We get to the train station and we are waiting for the train to arrive. Finally the train starts to pull up so Jesse decides to chug the rest of the beer. Mind you, there are other people standing around waiting for the train as well, quite a few of them. He slams it down, looks up at me, then immediately starts puking all over the floor. Nobody says anything, but people just look at him with disgust and slowly start moving away, it was hilarious. Then on the train, he goes to the restroom and forgets to lock the door while he's taking a shit. Some lady walks up and opens the door and all you hear is Jesse yelling "real fucking great" and the lady just drops to her knees in laughter and the whole train car is laughing as well. You may have had to be there, but it was hilarious.

R&MIMB: What are your goals for the future? Your Italian fans would like to know whether you guys are planning on coming to Italy on tour sooner or later!
Mike Cortes: We plan on continuing to write music and touring. We are currently in the works of getting into the studio again for album 5 in a couple months, so definitely be on the lookout for a new full length album very soon. Italy is on the list of places to play, so hopefully we can make it out there sooner than later.

R&MIMB: Is there anything you would like to say to all the readers of Rock & Metal in my Blood?
Mike Cortes: I would just like to thank Rock & Metal In My Blood for the opportunity with this interview and for the kind words in the review on the new self titled release. Keep a look out for a new album in the near future and keep on banging heads. We will see you soon ITALY!!

For the record I would also like to add that Jesse Lopez performed all solos for the new self titled EP except for Suspended Agonal Breathing, Jesse wrote the solo and Austin Zettner performed it. Just wanted to clear the air on that one, easy mix up for this confusing time. Thanks!