We are flesh, we are blood.
We inherit Thy kingdom.
We are all, we are one.
Warlord is a legend among metal fans. With two albums in the 80s, they built a status of a band that everyone respects. Unfortunately, they split up but after the mid-80s, Lordian Guard appeared, the new band of mr. Bill Tsamis handling all instruments and lady Vidonne on vocals. In their two albums, they perform a unique epic renaissance apocalyptical metal, but after that they stopped… until 2002, when Warlord appears again, Rising out of the Ashes. That was the last appearance of legendary musician William J Tsamis.
Many things were unclear among Warlord/Lordian Guard fans and even if mr. Tsamis doesn't do interviews anymore, he was kind for an exception to clarify these matters.
As I told him, I personally want to thank him because his music was always a “friend” in difficult moments of my life and I can tell that for only a few bands like Warlord or Manilla Road.
So here, Bill Tsamis speaks again in his first interview after a long long time...
So here, Bill Tsamis speaks again in his first interview after a long long time...
How did Metal Blade get in touch with you in 1982 and how old are the compositions included in “Deliver Us” album?
Actually, I read in a local rock magazine that Brian Slagel was starting a record company called Metal Blade Records. Mark and I went to his place of work (Oz Records - a record store) and I asked for him. I had our demo tape and I told him to play it. He put it in and the song "Winds of Thor" came on. Within 15 seconds he offered us a place on Metal Massacre I which he was in the process of doing. We didn't have a singer. We thought of recording “Child of the Damned” with me singing it but decided against it. So we told Slagel that we would like to be on Metal Massacre 2, first song on either side. At that point, Jack Rucker felt that we were going somewhere so he sang on “Lucifer's Hammer”. At that time, Metal Blade Records was in Brian Slagel's bedroom at his mother's house. There were no offices, no money, no nothing. So, unfortunately, during those early years with Metal Blade there was no money to promote us.
The compositions on “Deliver Us”, some of them are very old. Both “Child of the Damned” and “Black Mass” go back to when I was 17 or 18, which would have been 1978 or 1979. I remember playing “Black Mass” and “Child of the Damned” without the lyrics in high school.
Which bands influenced you back then?
Rainbow, Sabbath, Priest, Angel Witch, Scorpions, UFO, Rush
“Winds of Thor” and “City Walls Of Troy” were unreleased material from those days. Did you have other unreleased songs in the early Warlord days?
Yes, but I forgot the names of those songs. We actually had quite a few songs.
“And the Cannons of Destruction Have Begun” is all recorded live or did you add anything in the studio? Who had the idea for this release and why didn’t you record a studio album instead of that?
Actually, “And the Cannons of Destruction” was recorded in the studio and then presented as a live Warlord show (a showcase). Unfortunately, a couple of the cameras weren't working. We had the UCLA film school doing the filming as part of a school project. The vocals on the video were lip synced - there was no way Rick Cunningham could have pulled off that vocal performance live. We kept hoping that he would get better but then decided we had to find a singer who could sing perfectly live.
Why and when did Warlord officially split up?
Warlord officially split up in 1985 and it was because of a lot of circumstances. We couldn't get a major record deal, we couldn't find a singer, the metal scene in L.A. had become a pop scene, Rap started to become popular, etc. I think we just became discouraged after all those years and tensions arose within the band. We did finally find a good singer (Rick Anderson) but it was too late. I was heavily playing classical guitar and thinking of going into a different form of music altogether. Of course, we had no idea that the European metal scene would take off just a few years later. My father died that year and I'm sure that caused a lot of stress inside of me. It was just difficult. Metal Blade had no money. Again, if we knew that the European scene would take off, we would have stayed together. But how can you predict such things. I really got sick of the music “business”.
How do you feel now about the old Warlord compositions?
I enjoy them whenever I hear them. They bring back a lot of memories. Of course, we were starving musicians in those days and we didn't have much money to make an album. I think we spent $500 on the “Deliver Us” EP, which was actually pretty successful, getting a lot of radio play, etc. I remember that “Winter Tears” and “Child of the Damned” were the #3 and #5 most requested songs in the San Francisco bay area and there was radio play in other major cities in the U.S. For a while there we thought we had made it, or at least “crossed the line”. There were stacks of Warlord records featured in record stores, we did radio interviews, things were going well. But we had no money for promotion - Metal Blade was in its infancy and Slagel couldn't help us. I never liked the quality of the production - it sounded so cheap. That's one of the reasons we re-recorded “Lucifer's Hammer” on the “Rising Out of the Ashes” LP. We always wanted to hear what Warlord would sound like if properly recorded. So when I listen to the old songs, I still hear them in my head the way they were supposed to sound and I discount the bad production quality. But I never thought I wrote a bad composition. And you have to remember that I pitched all the melody lines to both Jack Rucker and Rick Cunningham, sometimes line by line. Vocally, some of those songs were patched together verse by verse. They just didn't have the metal instinct to do it on their own.
What have you done after the split of Warlord until Lordian Guard? What’s the story of “My Name Is Man” and “Lordian Winds”? Which songs did you compose that time?
Well, as I said, I started moving in a classical direction. I took a risk and worked with this classical producer who had this idea of a grand epic story. He told me to come up with something - I came up with “My Name is Man”. It would be like 2112 but hopefully transferred to film (I had some connections in the film industry at the time). It's a story about “everyman”, represented by one man. His story is everyman's story. At first, he is created and life is beautiful (“My Name is Man”). Then he is taken up to another realm to be shown the future (“Stygian Passage”) and warned that two forces will fight for his allegiance. While he finds himself asleep on a sandy beach, there is a terrific “War in Heaven” taking place. Lucifer is cast out of heaven and the “Man” on the sandy beach hears some beautiful choral voices coming from a cave. He decides to go toward the sound and enters into the cave. It is the song “Lost Archangel”. The cave is full of beautiful creatures, including Lucifer, and caverns full of tempting riches. The “Man” decides to give his allegiance to this being Lucifer and he is given civilizations and riches. “The Rise and Fall of Civilization” is kind of a montage of “Man” building and destroying civilizations and leaving a path of ruin and destruction in his path. Somewhere in the middle of the story there is “redemption”. Anyway, the story goes on and on… and ends up with “Revelation XIX”. The Lordian Winds demos were just rough cuts. I had written the whole thing out (75 minutes worth of music on staff paper for an orchestra). I had meetings with the producer and conductor. Everything was fine, but the producer told me that it sounded “too catholic”. Remember, I was thinking big, like Michaelangelo and Milton and all the great epic artists of history. When he told me this I was completely defeated. “Too catholic?”, “Some of the greatest art was catholic”, I told him. He didn't think it was popular enough. I got sick of the whole industry. I can't tell you how much work I put into that, writing everything out “note for note” for different orchestral instruments.
I then tried to enter the film score field, but that field is dominated by so few composers. It, too, was very difficult. After 1986 I finally got sick of L.A. altogether and moved to Florida with my wife. I decided to study philosophy and theology. I had already read a lot so I was a fairly advanced student. I decided to go to college and get formal degrees, both undergraduate and graduate so I could be a professor of both philosophy, theology, ethics, and ancient history. I love to talk about those subjects so I figured it would be great to do that in a college setting in front of a bunch of students. But around 1990-94 certain people were telling me that Warlord was very popular with certain people in Europe. That was new to me because I had tuned out of the heavy metal world altogether. Jürgen Hegewald (one of my best friends) talked me into doing “something”. I didn't feel like going out and assembling a band or anything. I knew my wife could sing and do various accents (and she had no ego), although, at the time, I knew using female vocals in metal was not really acceptable. So I kind of toned everything down a little bit and used a lot of keyboards, took some ideas that I had from the past, came up with some new ideas - thus, Lordian Guard. I didn't like the mastering of those records. Here I was in Florida and I had to trust the mastering to someone in Germany. It didn't end up as well as I wanted. I always like to be there in the studio when my music is being printed.
Christian art, apocalyptic concepts, Gregorian chants and Byzantine hymns, John Milton are some of your influences for Lordian Guard. What this music means for you?
In a way, this music is more meaningful to me than Warlord because there were no restraints. I didn't have to worry about writing for commercialism or anything. Plus, I didn't have to worry about the time element. Some of the songs could be 10 minutes long. I always wanted to use narrative in some of my music and I got a chance to do that with “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God”. I only wish it could have been recorded in a major studio with more instruments.
How did the critics and metal fans accept Lordian Guard?
Some liked it, others I guess didn't, although I never got any bad fan mail for Lordian Guard. I think the true Warlord fans understood that the deep melodies which were characteristic of Warlord were even more present in Lordian Guard.
I’ve been reading your “Fidei Defensor” old blogspot. Which are your religious and political beliefs in general and how is your life as a Professor?
Well, I am a Christian of no particular denomination. I do respect academic atheism, but when I take everything in to account, I place my wager on the Christian worldview. Also, I am very much an existentialist and a Stoic - so a different kind of Christian. As far as politics, I am very cynical about politics. I do love lecturing to college students. There is a certain creativity and style to it that I find very natural and I love kids of that age. They remind me of myself when I was that age and inquiring about the existential questions regarding life. But these are highly academic lectures and we discuss some of the explore some of the deepest recesses of philosophy and theology. In the end, it is impossible to be certain about anything - it comes down to “faith”.
I know that this is a hard one but there are people interested and concerned about lady Vidonne, so can you clear the story and her health issues?
She has had numerous “failed” spinal fusions since 1989 (about 4 separate sugeries, all failed with complications). For the past 4 months she has been in 4 different hospitals due to a potentially deadly spinal infection and just Monday (Aug 8) she had her spinal hardware removed again in another surgery. Then on Fri (Aug 12) she had a skin graft surgery to cover a wound the size of a shotgun blast on her back (from the spinal infection). She is recovering in the hospital now and hopefully will be able to come home soon. But there are certainly a couple spine surgeries ahead. She is now seeing one of the top neurosurgeons in the Southeast United States.
In 2002 “Rising Out Of The Ashes” came out including you, Mark Zonder and Joacim Cans. Why didn’t you continue?
I was in a horrible car accident in May 2003 which pretty much wrecked my back. And the past year or so I've been sick with a terrible gastrointestinal order. It's too bad because we were planning on doing more stuff together.
Which are your memories of your first European show in Wacken?
Well, it was great to see all the fans and meet them. But I was disappointed with the promoter. He didn't deliver on his promises. The rehearsal space was too small. We were supposed to get the 9:00pm slot but ended up playing much later. Things were disorganized and everything was rushed. However, it was a good experience.
I interviewed Mark Zonder last year and he said that he would drop everything to do a Warlord show again and he would do anything to play again with you. Are you thinking again of that? Are you thinking about a new Warlord album and maybe a couple of shows? Are you willing to do this and can you find time for that or you can’t because of the University?
No, I would love to play with Mark again. But we live 3,000 miles away from each other. We have pressing health concerns in our family and I have to keep the family first. My daughter will be entering college next year so I want to be there for her to help her. Going out and playing old Warlord songs is not that appealing to me. I would rather do another album. But right now I am unable to do anything else except care for my family. Too much illness.
Do you have other projects in mind that you would like to release someday? The “My Name Is Man” story or some Lordian Guard songs including real choir and orchestra?
I don't see it happening.
Thank you Bill, my thoughts are with you and your family. Thanks for the music through the years.