Δευτέρα, 26 Σεπτεμβρίου 2016

CIRITH UNGOL - Paradise Lost

When Metal Blade Records announced that has finally been successful in licensing the rights for the reissue of 'Paradise Lost' on CD and for first time officially on vinyl, there was this statement of Robert Garven (drums) accompaning the release news: 

"The saga of Cirith Ungol's fourth album is true to its namesake 'Paradise Lost'. Like a classic Greek tragedy, it is an epic tale filled with pain, challenges, battles, lost opportunities, and final redemption. It contains a cast of heroes and villains, playing out their parts on a stage of metal, at a time when hair bands and speed metal were in vogue.
The seeds of this project grew from the fertile soil that was the aftermath of 'One Foot in Hell'. After its release the band immediately started work on their fourth effort 'Paradise Lost'. This was planned to be a concept album, and the album cover and theme had already been selected.
After its release the original record company could not secure distribution in Europe, and they released the band from its 3 album deal. Shortly thereafter, several of the remaining members left out of frustration. However, a few original members kept the fires of Ungol burning, closely guarded in its secret lair. They waited for the time when the stars were right, and the Great Old Ones were ready for it to come crawling out from its ancient crypt, back upon the metal stage. As of this writing, the being called Ungol has arisen to take its rightful place in the pantheon of true metal, and calls forth the Legions of Chaos to stand by their side to usher in its final act."

According to an older interview of Robert Garven (Steel Conjuring zine, May 2000) and also some personal email discussion I had with Robert during 2012, there were indeed many challenges, battles and lost opportunities, and more likely, this "final redemption" is more or less this 2016 reissue and the present status - reunion of CIRITH UNGOL, and perhaps not the original release of Restless Records in 1991, but lets stay in the music and talk about how legends are forged. 

Being unique from their first day, 'Paradise Lost' is the perfect follow-up to 'One Foot In Hell' and among some C.U. fans, that's their best album. I will have to disagree with that, since I consider 'King Of The Dead' as their best one, but still we are talking about a band that is balancing between perfection and... perfection. So we just share opinions and each one of the servants of chaos can choose among four perfect and unique metal albums as the "best one". 

'Paradise Lost' was out in 1991 and in 1992 CIRITH UNGOL steps into oblivion... until now. With Jerry Fogle (R.I.P.) been replaced by Jim Barraza and "Flint" by Vernon Green, we also find two additional musicians during th recording sessions (Joe Malatesta, Robert Warrenburg) with credits on the songs 'The Troll' and 'Heaven Help Us', plus a cover on the Arthur Brown's track 'Fire'.
The album starts with 'Join The Legion', a song that will drive the metal hordes crazy once it will be performed live. That intro and the vocals of Tim Baker (the voice of Chaos) cannot fail. Most people place C.U. under the "Epic Metal" banner, but that's somehow unfair for such a unique act. They have many epic elements of course, but there are also doomy moments, they are inspired by late 60s and 70s underground rock bands and the spirit of classic heavy metal is present everywhere and especially in 'Paradise Lost'. As for the last songs of the album, you cannot find easily tracks like 'Chaos Rising', 'Fallen Idols' and 'Paradise Lost' back-to-back. 

This article started as a 'Paradise Lost' reissue presentation, but you all have heard the album and you all love it (at least the readers of this blog-site), so it will end as another one CIRITH UNGOL-praise feature... and that's fine by me. Many bands have been labeled as "cult" but none deserves this title more than CIRITH UNGOL. One of the greatest metal bands.

Few days left and on the 7th of October 'Paradise Lost' will be available again and claim its place once more among the best metal releases ever. The CD version has been newly mastered from the original master tapes by Bart Gabriel and will include five bonus tracks (alternative mixes from album tracks). The vinyl edition will have a special vinyl master, using the original master tapes as a source, re-mastered by Patrick W. Engel at the Temple Of Disharmony studios. More goodies will be available in both formats, like previously unreleased photos, liner notes and song descriptions by band members.

CIRITH UNGOL will perform live for the first time in 25 years at the second installment of the Frost and Fire festival in Ventura, CA, taking place October 7th-9th, 2016.

Well, many of you have heard some rumors for something more in Europe during 2017... But until an official statement will be announced, consider this as a wish...

The might of Chaos descends, join the Legion.

Τετάρτη, 18 Μαΐου 2016

Tour Report: Heavy Metal Forces United - HITTEN & AMBUSH

Our friends in Hitten, one of the best bands of New Wave Of Traditional Heavy Metal, based in Spain and having just released their second album "State of Shock",  just returned from their European Tour with Ambush. The band was kind enough to send us the tour report, so enjoy it!

An awesome experience. That's what this last tour has meant to us. Heavy Metal Forces United has taken us, Hitten, and our Swedish brothers Ambush, through all over Europe. 18 concerts, 18 cities, 7 countries. Big Deal.

It all started on March 9th. At 9 o'clock in the morning we all met in our rehearsal place. Time to collect and pack up all the stuff (drums, amps, instruments, merchandise, luggage...) in the van, say goodbye to our friends and family, etc. When all is ready we hit the road and head to Barcelona, our first stop. We got the city and we made the typical route we would do from that day on in almost every cities: 1) Hostel/resting place, leave the luggage and take a rest if there's enough time, 2) go the venue, unload all the stuff and set up all the equipment, 3) sound-check, 4) dinner, warming-up and pre-concert stuff, 5) CONCERT! 6) pack all the stuff and equipment, 7) party and crazy anecdotes (very important part in this tour!) and 8) sleep all you can in order to hit the road and repeat the same process the next day.
When we got to the venue, Rocksound, we met the Swedish guys and since then there was a very good feeling with them, and all along the tour. Great musicians and great people. We miss you guys!

After all the working-time, it was time for the concert, and we were very happy with it. The venue was really crowded, a lot of metalheads enjoyed our first Heavy Metal show of this tour. Everything went right, though it was the first concert and there were, of course, things that we could improve and work on. Typical stuff. After a beer drinking night, speaking English, and trying to find a good parking for the van we could finally get to the hostel and rest, ending the beginning of our adventure.

From that day on we had 11 concerts in a row, each day, until our first day-off, which would be in Hamburg at a spa! Great moments! Vitoria was really cool. A very good venue with an excellent and very kind crew. The sound was also very good and we had a lot of audience too! Burgos meant a little step-up for our performances. We will surely remember the dinner that day (so tasteful burgers!) and of course, the cold... such a cold city! Even the Swedish guys were freezing!

In Madrid we did another great show, surrounded by friends and other bands we knew from before. We also had great party 'til sunrise.
Next day was time to cross the border; Bordeaux, Nantes, and Reims awaited but in general France wasn't what we expected. Too much money spent in highway tolls, bad days for the shows (Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday). We will come back and get things better, for sure! We also appreciate the treatment we had there in the venues from the staff and owners.

Lots of good moments in the Netherlands and Belgium. Definitely great concerts in Tilburg, Antwerp and Kuurne (we will never forget “the laughing night”) or the perfect welcome in Enschede, with our sweet brother in Distillator. We love you, Julays!

Germany is indeed one of the Heavy Metal fortresses in Europe. And yeah, you can notice it! We had great success in German lands (Braunschweig, Hamburg and Oldenburg). Awesome shows, perfect sound, really devoted audience and very good sales! We are really looking forward to come back soon and keep on delivering Heavy Metal!

When we finished our shows in Germany we only had 2 shows left; in Olten (Switzerland) and in Milano (Italy) but this time we would have to continue on our own because due to some throat problems, the singer of Ambush couldn't make it anymore and the band had to return to Sweden sooner as expected. We missed them a lot the rest of the tour but... we had to keep on working!
In Switzerland we made one of the best shows of the tour, with a great performance, lot of people in the audience and furthermore a really really good treatment from the staff in the venue, where we also had a fantastic day-off! The post-concert party was also EPIC!

The finishing touch came in Milano, taking part in the Easter Desaster Festival, along with some Italian bands, though they were a bit more thrash-oriented, and so was the audience. We had bad weather in Italy so we couldn't have much party there but some of us wanted to the use our time to visit the magnificent Duomo, while the other members took a rest of a such exhausting tour.  

The next day we decided not to sleep in Barcelona, in our way to Murcia, as we had expected. At 11 am we left Milano, and we drove all the way home, where we arrived at 5 am. A really exhausting and hard trip, with a lot of accumulated tiredness but full of joy for all the things we had achieved, all the people we had met, thousands of funny anecdotes and good moments, and really good vibes and feelings. We also want to thank David the huge effort he made replacing Aitor on vocals on this tour, risking his own vocal chords at some times. Without him, this couldn't have been possible. A really professional singer. Thank you so much, man!

Heavy Metal Forces United had ended but there will be more opportunities to take our music to as many places as we can. We are already working on a second tour for our album, “State Of Shock”, expected for October, November and December along with our mates of Leather Heart, from Madrid. Stay alert! We will see you on the stages! 


The new HITTEN album "State Of Shock" is out now on CD format by No Remorse Records and on vinyl format by High Roller Records.

Join HITTEN on Facebook HERE

Παρασκευή, 18 Μαρτίου 2016

Assassin's Blade interview: Under the blade of mystification...

Almost a year before, this new band named Assassin’s Blade, came to my attention. Shortly, I had the chance to listen to a 3-song demo from their upcoming album called “Agents Of Mystification”. I loved it at once. Now, the time has come that this album will be released and I had the chance to speak to bassist and songwriter Peter Svensson about this newborn metal monster.

First of all, introduce us the pack under Assassin's Blade and when did you form the band.

Peter: The band was formed in 2014 and consists of Jacques Bélanger on vocals, David Stranderud on guitars, Peter Svensson on bass and Markus Rosenkvist on drums.

How did you get Jacques Bélanger in vocals and how easy or difficult is to work with such a distance?

Peter: I have been the webmaster of the "official" Exciter fansite since 2001 and I have been in touch with Jacques and met him a couple of times over the years. The beginning of Assassin's Blade is traced back in 2013 when David and I were putting some songs together just for fun. We then decided to record these songs and in a moment of whiskey-induced audacity we decided to ask Jacques if he was interested in doing the vocals. He agreed right away and flew to Sweden shortly afterwards to record vocals for 6 of the songs on the album. It was at that point we decided to form the band. From the initial recording session we got a good idea of how we should work together and were able to sort out a lot of things. After that we have stayed in touch through e-mails and Skype. We have all been open about things and what we want to do and there have not been any major issues caused by the distance.

Your first album is already completed and will be released by Pure Steel Records shortly. Give us all the available details, release date and tracklist.

Peter: The album will be released on the 29th of April 2016.The tracklist is: Agents of Mystification, Herostratos, The Demented Force, Dreadnought, Autumn Serenade, Transgression, Nowhere Riders, Crucible of War, Frosthammer, League of the Divine Wind, Prophet’s Urn
Also, Janne Stark (Overdrive and more) makes a guest appearance on lead guitar on several songs.

How was the writing and recording procedure?

Peter: The songs were more or less written by David and me. The arrangements were done collectively as a band. Jacques had a lot of input into the vocal arrangement and added some very cool things as well. Everything was recorded at my studio, except vocals on 5 tracks, which were recorded in Canada with Manfred Leidecker and Janne's solos were recorded by himself at his home studio.

Did you include all the songs you wrote in the album?

Peter: All the songs we wrote and recorded for the album were included. Originally we only wanted to release about 40-45 minutes of music on the album but we could not decide which songs NOT to include...

What's the story behind the band's name and what's your lyrics' inspiration?

Peter: The band name fits the image that we want to express with our music, it is aggressive yet sharp. Also, you can see the assassin's blade as the tool you need to achieve your objectives. Some of the lyrics were inspired by books written by Yukio Mishima ("League of the Divine Wind"), Jean-Paul Sartre ("Herostratos") and Calvino Italo ("Agents of Mystification"). "Dreadnought" was inspired by the war-ship and "Prophet's Urn" is a story about a prophet who foresees the end of the world and decides to take his own life before that happens.

What about the music? Which are your favorite bands and influences, how would you describe your music and what do you want to succeed?

Peter: Our main influences are the old classic bands like Priest and Maiden. Of course there is some Exciter influence as well, but in short, classic metal. Our aim is to make timeless heavy metal. We do not intend to sound like one band/album/era or anything like that, we just want to make great metal songs. Our main focus is to create something that we enjoy playing and listening to ourselves.

How do you see underground metal nowadays? There are plenty of bands out there...

Peter: Well, the underground is growing all the time. New bands and projects everywhere. Of course it is good but it also makes it a lot more difficult to stand out and get noticed by people. The amount of records that are released now is unbelievable.

Do you think there is a kind of hype with "underground metal" the last years? How do you explain the countless new bands, all the reunions (from everyone) and the amazing amount of reissues from old albums-demos-whatever?

Peter: Yes, there most definitely is a hype, however it's been going on for some 10 years now. Old bands that made one single in the 80s and new bands from everywhere. I think the old bands come back since they are at a stage in their lives where they might have more time than when they were in their 20-30ies and also that they easily see the interest in their bands through the internet. With new bands I think that the access to technology has made it so much easier to record and release music. Anyway, I don’t know how or if it should be stopped. How can you tell somebody that they are not allowed to play music?

Are there any plans for live shows?

Peter: There are no shows booked at the moment but we have been talking about a possible live set. Hopefully we can make a small tour or so of Europe in the near future since it is not feasible to fly over Jacques for a single gig.

What the future holds for Assassin's Blade?

Peter: We will start working on the next album right away. Also, hopefully there will be some live shows during 2016. I am really looking forward to where this takes us!

Any news on your other band's camp, Void Moon?

Peter: Yes, actually we are releasing our second album on the 28th of March. It is called “Deathwatch” and will be out on Sun & Moon Records, as well as a tape edition on Arcane Tapes.

Join Assassin’s Blade on Facebook HERE

Visit Assassin’s Blade official site HERE

Δευτέρα, 13 Ιουλίου 2015

David T. Chastain interview - The Ruler Bleeds Metal!

David T. Chastain is an iconic and highly acclaimed metal guitarist, one of the longest standing in the United States. Having released countless albums including masterpieces of Heavy Metal music, he stands among those few respected metal musicians with common acceptance. Just few months before his upcoming new album “We Bleed Metal”, I had the chance to discuss with him about his music career and to present to you a great interview. Enjoy!

Back in the early 80s, what made you start the band under your name and how did you gather the members of Chastain? A rumor says that the band was put together by Mike Varney (Shrapnel Records) for a solo David T. Chastain album.

David T. Chastain: Mike Varney had heard my solo instrumental music as well as CJSS but didn't like either enough to invest in an album. He suggested I put a new band together. I brought along my CJSS bassist, Mike Skimmerhorn in the band. Varney knew Leather and Fred Coury and we liked each other's style so we did a few demos that rocked and decided to record the album "Mystery of Illusion". I still continued CJSS and my instrumental recordings just not with Mike Varney.

However, you had the band Spike from the late 70s if I am correct. What do you recall from this band?

David T. Chastain: Yes, there were numerous lineups over the years. The last lineup morphed into CJSS. The best Spike lineup to me was when Stephen Fredrick (Keznier, Kinrick) was handling the lead vocals. We did a short tour with Black Sabbath (with Ronnie James Dio) that probably was the band's high point. Spike released one album "The Price of Pleasure". I would call it commercial metal. About 1/2 of the songs are good the other half are too commercial!

The first two Chastain albums, "Mystery Of Illusion" (1985) and "Ruler Of The Wasteland" (1986), were released by Shrapnel Records. Give us a few words for those albums and your first years as a band.

David T. Chastain: The first album "Mystery of Illusion" was a very exciting record for all of us as it was our first so called "real record". There are lots of problems on that record as far as performance and meter but the energy is on 11! "Ruler of the Wasteland" is a much more "professional" record... everything is there: songs, performance and production. Considering each of those albums were on very low budgets (100 hours in the studio to record and mix), they both have stood the test of time. I think if both were released today for the first time with modern production they would still sound contemporary. 

From that moment and on, after the first two albums, you started your own label, Leviathan Records, and the majority of your next releases were issued by you. How did that came and how easy or difficult was to start running a label back in those days?

David T. Chastain: I had already released the Spike album on a label I ran so starting Leviathan Records with a friend, Steve McClure, was not that big of a deal. In those days it was MUCH EASIER releasing an album. Far less competition than it is today. Whereas there may have been 100 metal albums released a year in those days it is probably 100 a month now. 

Your next albums (almost all in Leviathan from that moment, as mentioned) were "The 7th Of Never" (1987), "The Voice Of The Cult" (1988) and "For Those Who Dare" (1990). That was a very strong period for the band, and also during 1990 you had your first video clip of "For Those Who Dare" on air. Again, give us a few words for those albums and that era.

David T. Chastain: Actually Roadrunner released "For Those Who Dare" worldwide. "The 7th" and "The Voice" were released on Leviathan and did very well. During those old days Roadrunner had released our albums in Europe for the most part so we felt if they had the whole world they would do a better job... however that was not the case. We sold more Chastain albums on Leviathan than Roadrunner. The problem with Roadrunner was that we were one of 50 bands and we were not their main concern. On Leviathan we only had 3 or 4 bands so Chastain was the top dog. Obviously Roadrunner can take a band big time if you are their main concern.
What about live shows back in that period? Which are the most memorable moments you had on the road?

David T. Chastain: For Chastain I guess the biggest live show was playing with KISS in a huge arena. However playing a venue in Cincinnati called Bogart's were the most enjoyable shows for the band. We played all over the US numerous times and there were some great shows and some not so great shows.... depended on the promotion.

During that period, there was a kind of partnership with Black Dragon Records from France and Leviathan, where each label licensed some releases to the other for European and US release. What do you remember from that co-operation?

David T. Chastain: Black Dragon was a good label during that era. They sold a lot of CJSS, Chastain and David T. Chastain albums. However once the Lp became extinct they sort of lost how to do business. I am still in contact with the owner of the company Agnes Desgranges. We released the Candlemass album "Epicus Doomicus Metalicus" for them in the US and it did pretty well.

What about the CJSS project that started in 1986 with the albums "World Gone Mad" and "Praise The Loud"? What made you start another band and what your goal was with CJSS?

David T. Chastain: As I mentioned previously CJSS was born out of Spike and was formed in the summer of 84... so it came before Chastain. I always considered CJSS an American Metal Band and Chastain more of a European sounding metal band.

Also, during those years, you released your first solo albums. Leone also released "Shock Waves" (1989) and before that she had a single with Malibu Barbie. How did you managed to do all these stuff and also having a label running? It seems that you have huge creativity in song-writing.

David T. Chastain: Every time I pickup the guitar I write music. I can literally write an album's worth of music in short order. So quantity was never a problem. Of course some people will argue the quality. Usually an album is just what I was writing at that moment. I have at least 1000 hours of music that has not been used for public consumption. The fun part for me is always writing the song and making a demo... everything after that becomes "business".

And then, when you entered the 90s, Leone left the band. Why this did happen and how was that period for metal music in the States?

David T. Chastain: After the "For Those Who Dare" tour Leather and I  just went our separate ways. There was no big fight, no one quit or was fired. We were just burned out. We had been recording one album a year and touring since 85 so we needed a break. She tried to find something new but never could for one reason or another so she just retired. I concentrated on my instrumental career. Around 94 I decided I wanted to do a vocal record with a male singing. I tried out numerous people but none fit the bill.... so I became the lead vocalist. I did a short tour with me doing vocals... then I met Kate French. 

Three Chastain albums followed later with Kate French (vocals). "Sick Society" (1995), "In Dementia" (1997), "In An Outrage" (2004). Give us few comments on them and what was the reaction of the fans and the press for those albums?

David T. Chastain: "Sick Society" shocked a lot of people They expected the same music with a new voice but what they got was different music with the same voice. The music on Sick Society was actually written for my vocals so Kate really didn't get to shine on that Cd. Strange as it my seem that Cd is one of the most profitable Chastain Cds because music from that album was used in numerous TV shows over the years. In quick order we released "In Dementia". For me, that is one of the top 2 Chastain albums of all time. Everything clicked on that one. Kate did an amazing job on writing and recording the vocals. It is a joy to listen to that one but you really need to listen with headphones to hear all of the vocal ear candy. Kate then married Larry Howe and had a son so music became a secondary matter for her... of course that is understandable. It took her forever to write and record her vocals for "In An Outrage". Therefore there was a 7 year break between albums. "In An Outrage" is a very good album but it is hard for me to enjoy since it was such a labor to make public. How did the fans and press react? It was mixed. Of course when Leather was in the band it was also mixed. During those old days, female vocalists were not given serious respect and it was an uphill battle. 

If you should name the best 5 albums you participate in, which ones would you chose and why?

David T. Chastain: Hard question and if you asked me tomorrow it would probably be different but today I feel of the ones I played on (in chronological order.):
Chastain "Ruler of the Wasteland" - The best of the early Leather era Cds
David T. Chastain "Instrumental Variations" - My first instrumental album and my biggest selling album of all my releases.
David T. Chastain "Next Planet Please" - Where I finally got to venture out into metal fusion which is really a favorite style of music of mine
Chastain "In Dementia" - The best of the Kate French era.
Southern Gentlemen "Exotic Dancer Blues" - Strangely my best reviewed Cd of all time even if I did the vocals! Also probably the most profitable because it was placed in 100s of TV Shows over the years. 
As far as the ones I produced:
Leather "Shock Waves" - A chance for Leather to shine
Kenziner "Timescape" - Jarno Keskinen and Stephen Fredrick really made a great Cd.
Firewind "Between Heaven and Hell" - Getting Gus G and this band together was an exciting time. Gus G is always fun to work with.

Which are the guitar players that you admire more and which ones are your inspirations as a guitar player and composer?

David T. Chastain: There are so many that I admire but I have never tried to copy any of them: Hendrix, Page, Holdsworth, Dimeola, Van Halen, Rhoads, Malmsteen, Stevie Ray Vaughn to name a few.  I guess Iommi for his metal compositions. I was never good at imitation so I always tried to do my own thing. For the last 10 years the only thing I listen to for enjoyment is classical music… preferably solo piano pieces.

During that period you had more solo albums released and some productions done, right? Give us a brief bio of those days outside of Chastain, until 2013…

David T. Chastain: Once again too many to list. Instrumental, Chastain Harris, Zanister, Southern Gentlemen, Kenziner, Kinrick, Firewind and more. There is a list at www.leviathanrecords.com/chasdisc.htm. Even I don't remember them all!! 

And in 2013 the album "Surrender To No One" is released with Leather Leone back in vocals. Powerful and aggressive, that was a cool comeback. Was it planned or just came? How all this happened?

David T. Chastain: Leather decided to come back and I offered to produce a solo album for her. However she wanted to try to do something else, Sledge Leather. It did fairly well but everyone was always asking her about a new Chastain. I had quite a bit of material backlogged so I let her hear some and she was excited about it. We demoed stuff for about 6 months before we decided we would record a new Chastain album. I knew Stian from his work on a couple of records I had produced: Firewind and Kinrick. I think the addition of Stian helped bring the band into a modern sound. I brought Mike Skimmerhorn back in the band to try to make Chastain as "original" as possible. The reception to the reunion was very positive. www.chastainmetal.com

You haven't played any live shows the last years, right? Why?

David T. Chastain: I much prefer the studio. While I enjoy the hour on stage I don't enjoy the other 23 hours involved in touring. Fortunately I have been able to make a living off of albums and TV placements so that I wasn't forced to have to tour. I have only played a show here or there over the last 20 years. Chastain received some very nice offers to play festivals, both small and large, since the reunion but I haven't seen anything I couldn't resist.

A new album is on the works. Give us all the details, please.

David T. Chastain: Chastain "We Bleed Metal" will be released worldwide on November 6. It is the same lineup as "Surrender To No One" Leather on vocals, myself on guitar, Mike Skimmerhorn on bass and Stian Kristoffersen on drums. The music is in the same ballpark as the last album. Definitely my most "shredtastic" guitar playing on a Chastain album since "The 7th of Never". Leather thinks it is a better album than "Surrender To No One" but I am too close to it to make that judgement. I usually don't formalize an opinion on one of my releases for at least 5 years after release. www.webleedmetal.com 

Last words…

David T. Chastain: Thanks for the support through all of these years! Hopefully the new album will not disappoint. WE BLEED METAL!!!
You can visit www.leviathanrecords.com for further info on all of my releases.

Κυριακή, 10 Μαΐου 2015

Carl Canedy interview: From The Rods to Apollo Ra and beyond - Tales of a True Headbanger

Carl Canedy is one of those important persons of US Metal. Drummer of The Rods, highly acclaimed producer, songwriter, headbanger... With The Rods being strong again, arranging few reissues and his first solo album recently out, we had no other option and contacted our friend Carl for a detailed interview. Enjoy...
Back in your early days, what made you start beating the drums?

I remember seeing a drum kit at a wedding reception when I was 4 and half and it was as if the Angels were all around it singing Hallelujah. I'd wanted to play drums from that day on. I actually didn't get a kit until I was 13. I did my best to make up for lost time.

Your friendship and partnership with Dave Feinstein goes before The Rods, since you played drums for D.Feinstein's  Midnight Lady 7" single, 

It has been said that I have but actually a drummer named Dave Galutz played drums on that track. David and I met during the early '70's. My band rehearsed in the Garage and Elf (with Ronnie Dio) rehearsed in the house so I've known David from the Elf days.

How did you and David decide to form The Rods?

We had tried working on a project that didn't get off the ground. It led to my becoming part of the initial Manowar. David and I decided that we were a good fit musically so it seemed like a logical choice for us to work together.

Did you play with Manowar also in their early days? Are there any recordings that you made together?

I did and there are some recordings I made of rehearsals and there is also the demo we recorded. I know fans have shared the demo on the internet. There were intense and exciting times with that band watching the music take shape. I'm proud to say I was there at the genesis of such a great and legendary band.

Back in The Rods, what do you remember from your first private release of 'Rock Hard'?

We began recording within the first three months of being together. Chris Bubacz (first Metallica album) was at Fredonia University and we would record there on our days off from gigs. It was an exciting time and releasing 'Crank it Up' as our first single and having it played on radio was a big thrill. I called a Rochester, NY Station to see if they'd received it and they told me how great it sounded on the air and that fans were calling in requesting it be played. A very exciting moment.

The Rods, Wild Dogs, In The Raw, Let Them Eat Metal, Heavier Than Thou... Golden years of The Rods in the first half of the 80s. During that period the band was one of the most iconic names of US Metal. What each album means for you?

The Rods: Fun, hard work, sex, no drugs and Rock and Roll. We played as much as possible and recorded that album in between gigs with Chris Bubacz in Fredonia, NY where he was a recording engineer student.

Wild Dogs: Exciting, frustrating (record label pressure, management problems). Doing the Iron Maiden dates was a huge thrill. All the English press was fun and interesting.

In The Raw: This was done in 48 hours again with Chris Bubacz engineering. We went into the studio, I found drums from all over the studio and built a kit. We played live and overdubbed the vocals and guitar solos. The photo was taken by our manager after being awake for almost two days (genius move). It's a demo but the fans love it and I believe they love the fact that it's The Rods live in the studio. Chris captured the band warts and all and I think that's why it's held up over time.

Live: was just simply that. It was live but it was tough to have recording gear follow you around. In the end I'm not sure recording many dates was a good idea. We might have done better recording one gig well. I still love 'Hellbound', which we've never recorded in a studio setting. Maybe one day...

Hollywood: A collection of songs that we felt should not have The Rods name attached (so the fans wouldn't be disappointed with the more melodic songs). David and I had material we'd written that we wanted out but it really didn't suit The Rods style. Rick Caudle came in to do vocals (suggested by Andrew Duck MacDonald who also suggested Joey Belladonna to me for Anthrax. Thanks Duck!). I really enjoyed working with Rick and there are some strong songs on this album.

Let Them Eat Metal: Again Chris Bubacz recording. Some really good songs on this album and we seem to get many requests from fans for songs from this album. I love playing 'Let Them Eat Metal' live. It was winter when we recorded it and it wasn't the most fun I've had recording but I did like the record.

Heavier Than Thou: This was really fun working with Shmoulik Avigal on vocals. Also a highlight for me was working, once again, with one of our first bass players Craig Gruber. Sadly Craig just passed a few days ago. It's been tough losing a good friend. Craig and I were such a great rhythm section and I loved playing with him in every band we were in together. Garry was on tour with Kim Simmons so Craig was the obvious choice. Shmoulik really killed it on vocals. He wasn't originally going to be the vocalist. David was going to sing these songs, but when he heard Shmoulik sing he felt Sam was the best choice for these songs. I think there are some great songs on this album. The album was getting some really strong national attention when the label went under. I felt it was one of our strongest albums.

What was the reaction of press during those years?

Press was strong at first, then they went for the throat on a couple of albums ('Live' and 'Hollywood') then came back with great reviews for 'Heavier Than Thou'. The fans always stayed with us. Hail all Wild Dogs!

Best and worst moment from your live shows back in the 80s?

Best moment for me was our first arena show in Binghamton, NY, opening for Blue Oyster Cult. It was my first show in front of 10,000 people and the crowd was very supportive and I threw my drum sticks into the crowd for the first time (and loved it but I was also told to never do it again to avoid a lawsuit).
Worst was opening for Judas Priest in Albany, NY at the Palace theater before we were signed. We didn't quite understand monitoring on a large stage and I could hear David's guitar and it was a huge mess. The Promoter of the show, who was considering us for management, suggested that both the bass player and myself be replaced. Not the best gig but it was awesome seeing Priest from our dressing room above the stage!

When did you start working as a producer and what made you occupy with that also?

I've always been interested in producing. Kelakos was my first real experience (just re-released www.Kelakosband.com). With The Rods, David and I just began producing ourselves because we were the only ones around. No money to hire one and so we started learning on our own.

You worked very close with Megaforce Records also, since you produced few of their best albums, including bands like Anthrax, Overkill and Exciter, among others. Which ones are your most notable moments of those years as a producer?

Those were whirlwind days for me. Each project had its trials and tribulations. I loved working with Exciter, I spent quite a bit of time with Anthrax, having worked with them on 2 albums and an EP, and Overkill were clearly talented and Blitz was a star! I loved Dickie Peterson from Blue Cheer. That band was a huge influence on me and it was an honor to work with them. Jon and Marsha are the best to work with.

Did you work in any album that didn't come up as you wished because of a label intervention?

I have regrets of one kind or another but I blame them on myself and budget constraints. I can't blame others for my shortcomings. I accept responsibility (even if it's a hard pill to swallow at times) The other side of that is that I'm very proud of many aspects of my work.

Why did The Rods split after 'Heavier Than Thou'?

It was never a problem between the members. I was producing, David had bought a restaurant (the Hollywood in Cortland, NY. A great restaurant and our one consistent endorser) and Garry was touring with Savoy Brown. It was just as simple as that.

Give me a few words for the following names:

Joey DeMaio:
He and I were a great rhythm section. Joey is a guy who walks the walk.
Jon Zazula:
Impresario, visionary, great guy!  
Jack Starr:
Talented and knows how to utilize talent around him.
Rhett Forrester:
A star. True charisma and an awesome vocalist. I had a lot of fun with Rhett.

reat band!
Ground breaking. Great band!
Loved them from the first album and looking forward to sharing the stage with them again June 13th in Endicott, NY
Armored Saint:
Powerful vocals
Anthrax: Driven.
Talented. Charismatic. Ground breaking.
Ronnie James Dio:
Legendary and the nicest guy. I don't have enough words. Eternally grateful that he was kind enough to sing a song I'd written. RIP RJD

Back in the late 80s you worked with Apollo Ra, a band that never made it back in the day, but their songs are jewels of what is called 'US Metal', since few metal fans nowadays consider 'Ra Pariah' as a masterpiece. When did you meet them, how did you work with them and why do you think they never made it back then?

I met them through David Carpin. He owned Shatter Records. He was an attorney who started a label. I was hired to produce them but his label went bankrupt before we finished the album. I financed the project and shopped it for them. We had strong interest from Monte Connor (another visionary), Roadrunner and Mike Faley from Metal Blade and Michael Alago from Elektra. Michael saw them live and decided to pass on the band and from that word the other labels pulled the plug on their offers so we self-released. It's been a sad tale that this band was not a major force. Super talented guys and fun and hard working as well. I'm thrilled that the fans have found their music and kept it alive for all these years. I believe it's a fantastic album.

Since many people are not familiar with your projects, what have you done during 1990 to 2010?

Performed with a local band, written music and children's plays for my daughter's group and had a children's theater for 12 years. I also did the occasional project, such as John Hahn's solo album.

The Rods are back in full force since few years with an album released in 2011 ('Vengeance') and some live shows over the past years. Do you plan to record a new album soon and which are your future plans with the band?

Yes, we just played in Chicago and we are heading to Europe for Heavy Sound Festival, Belgium, a club date in Lubeck, Germany, and Muskelrock in Sweden. We are beginning work on a new CD and we are releasing a single featuring Veronica Freeman from Benedictum on vocals. We are also booked for Keep It True 2016 and will announce more European dates soon.

Few months before you released your first solo album 'Headbanger' and I have to admit that it was one of the best releases of 2014. With all these guests, anyone can understand how important personality you are for the American metal scene. What made you write and release a solo album, and also, were these songs older, or written for this album?

Thank you for the kind words. I'm proud of the album. It's been better received than I could have imagined. Reviewers and fans have been very kind. Some of these songs are new and some had been previously released.

What was the reaction of fans and press about 'Headbanger?

Again, the fans and press have been so kind and generous with their words and support.

Last words...

Thank you for being a true metal fan and supporter. Thank you to the fans who've stayed true to The Rods over the years. I always encourage any fan to make an effort to say hi at gigs. We love meeting you so make the effort to say hi and thank you for being true "Wild Dogs".