Τρίτη 13 Δεκεμβρίου 2011

CLOVEN HOOF interview with Lee Payne

Astral Riders over Greece!

Cloven Hoof with Russ North on vocals are back and already arrange live shows in 2012. Three of them will be in Greece including Up The Hammers festival. Crystal Logic took the opportunity to talk with the Dominator himself, about the past, the present and the future! Lee Payne speaks...

by Andreas Andreou

- How were things for a young musician and a young metalhead in the West Midlands of England, in the early 80s?

Metal really did rule the streets in those days. Denim and leather armies were everywhere. All the metal kids were united back then and they supported metal bands to the hilt. It was like a religion. Even the cynical British music press had to embrace, there was a powerful new metal movement sweeping the country and new bands were springing up everywhere in the mould of classic bands such as Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath. It was given a name the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal, and It was a period of time when it became possible for occultism and full blooded metal to fuse in dark perfection. It gave rise to exciting, innovative powerful metal music, played with passion and total conviction. Looking back it was a magical period and there were some incredible bands that came out of it. 

The West Midlands is a grim industrial place where you have to be tough to survive. It is no surprise there is a certain type of aggression and darkness that is inherent in the music of all the bands that originated in that part of the world. Black Sabbath, Judas Priest and Cloven Hoof certainly could not have come from any place else. We even started out at Holy Joe’s a rehearsal room at a local church once used by Priest, Robert Plant and Slade. I am told all the band logos are still on the main rehearsal room walls and it has been preserved by the local council for music history. That is a nice honour for all the groups concerned.

- How did you felt when the first Cloven Hoof vinyl of The Opening Ritual reached your hands? 

The Opening Ritual was recorded at Metro sound studios in the heart of the west industrial midlands. The guy who owned it heard the band and then wanted to manage us. Raymond Frogget was his name and he really helped start our career. Black Sabbath used to support his band when they were first called Earth. He saw our potential early on.
It was a dream come true really to finally have a piece of vinyl, containing work we had laboured over and created. It made us all feel really proud. Seeing all those boxes of a few thousand records delivered though was really daunting because there looked so many. Steve, Kevin, Dave and I wondered how on Earth are we going to sell all those? We were a new band without too many live shows behind us back then. We need not have worried because they sold out in two weeks and had to order three times as many over the passing months. In fact The Opening Ritual sold so well Cloven Hoof got in the Kerrang heavy metal charts at number 18, so it was a stunningly successful debut, thank goodness.

- In 1984 you released the Cloven Hoof album through Neat Records. Tell us a few things for this legendary label, the other bands, how did they contacted you and the reaction of the fans and press about your first full-length album.

Neat signed us after hearing our session recorded for the Tommy Vance radio show on BBC Radio One. We had recorded a demo at a studio in the West Midlands England, and Rob Halford and Robert Plant had both taken it into the BBC for us to try and get a session. It worked and then Dave Woods from Neat records asked if we would like to sign a record deal with them. They were a perfect label for Cloven Hoof because they specialized in pure metal not like the big corporate giants that signed rubbish pop fashion acts.

Neat had great bands like Venom, Raven, Satan and the like so we were proud to be with such cool stable mates. The manager from Venom even visited us when we were making the album and complimented us on the epic song structures we were playing. He said a lot of big bands will not want Cloven Hoof to support them because they would see us as a threat... He was right lol!

The debut album got brilliant reviews everywhere across the world and many people now say we were a very influential band. I suppose that is true because many groups cover our songs and that is a great honour. 

We didn’t set out to create a new metal genre it just sort of happened. I wanted to play challenging multi time changes because I would get bored with easy verse chorus song structures. Cloven Hoof played fast because we were young and nervous in the studio so the adrenalin made you speed up. As a metal fan I always liked the big epic songs too, like “Stargazer” from Rainbow or “2112” by Rush, so I guess the epic feel to our music was influenced by them.

In any case the metal fans went crazy for the debut album and I never forget seeing it in the shops for the first time, it felt such an honour our album being along side my heroes in the rock and metal section.

- After that you gave many live shows and you recorded a live album with new songs. That was a strange idea... How did this happen and which are your strongest memories from the live shows during the 80s?

It was crazy really and very risky releasing Fighting Back in hindsight but I’m glad we did. We had the naive notion of using electronic drums because the drummer was convinced they would record better in a live situation (he was very wrong lol). He got this electronic kit one of the first ones available, thinking the new technology would be cutting edge but the problems with it were unbelievable. It kept cutting out for one thing and the sounds left a lot to be desired. They are better now of course but you can’t beat REAL drums pounding away. I suppose that is why I don’t like computer based recording it is too sterile and processed. You can’t beat a real band playing without click tracks and stupid cut and paste cheating.

The reason we wanted to do a live album was because we had some live shows booked and we wanted to play some new songs. No band had gigged with new songs comprising most of the set so we thought what the hell lets do it!
The trouble is most bands won’t do that for a very good reason, the crowd won’t react as well to songs they don’t know!!! Despite that, the album sounds ok and there are some very good tracks on Fighting Back that would be great re-worked in the studio some day. Particularly “Heavy Metal Men Of Steel”, that is a kick ass song. If we covered it again with great production, I am sure it would rip your face off.

Rob Kendrick (ex-Budgie and Trapeeze) was enlisted to fill in for Dave Potter because he was having private life trouble. Rob sang well but he was never intended to be a full time member of the group.

The live shows back then were great and Steve, Kev and Dave were wonderful down to Earth guys. Things went wrong when girl friends put pressure on the lads to settle down in mundane 9 to 5 domestic bliss. I lived for music so I always told my girls it’s heavy metal first and last so if you don’t like it leave the guitars and dog then use the door! Hmm one even took the dog lol, but you get the picture!

- Then, Russ North joined the band. How did you come up together?

Andy Wood auditioned first and became the Hoof guitarist, then when we found out the singer we had at the time couldn’t cut it in the studio he suggested Russ North. Russ and Andy joined us from Tredegar, the other two guys used to be in heavy metal pioneers Budgie. I was a big fan of Budgie and thought Ray Phillips was a terrific drummer and Tony Borge a brilliant guitar player. Burke Shelly had a wonderfully distinctive voice and played solid bass, Never Turn Your Back On A Friend and Bandolier were classic albums.

Andy knew Russ was a big fan of Cloven Hoof and used to play the debut album all the time on the tour coach. I said well ring him up and get him to audition, and Russ turned up and in 30 seconds we knew we had our man. The rest they say is history!

- Dominator and A Sultan's Ransom are two amazing albums that came out in 1988 - 1989. These albums, even if they still sound British, they stray from the classic N.W.O.B.H.M. sound. Songs like "Reach For The Sky" and "Forgotten Heroes" are among my all-time fave ones! Tell us everything about that time, the compositions, your ideas, ambitions and why after these unique albums you split? 

Injecting new blood is sometimes the only way of infusing new life into the band. Fresh vitality and enthusiasm is a positive force, our work ethic is ever onward. Stagnation is not an option in Cloven Hoof and we are always trying to re-invent ourselves to stay vital and break new ground. Russ and I will always be the two stable factors in this band because his voice and my writing is the key to our identity. We both know that and so do all the fans!

As a musician all you can wish for, is that your songs connect with people on an emotional level. When fans tell me that Cloven Hoof songs provide a sound track for there lives then that is a humbling and rewarding experience. If people get off on our music, like I got off on Deep Purple and Black Sabbath... Then that is the ultimate reward, and we have touched the sun!

I always write from the heart and imagination, I never listen to what other bands are doing; I just let my mind compose mini film type scenarios and put them to music. All the Cloven hoof material start of this way as stories that is placed into lyrics and they imply a melody and structure to me. The subject storyline matter dictates the atmosphere and I chip away at it like putting a jigsaw together, I suppose that is why the band has its own unique identity, the material is created in a certain way.

I have always been inspired by a steady diet of Greek, and Norse mythology, old horror and sci-fi films and Marvel comic books. I suppose this amalgamation of things that fill my imagination is mixed up and synthesised into our songs. I have pretty vivid nightmares too, and many of our riffs are playing as a background track to these. I keep a tape recorder by the bed and I hum song ideas into it sometimes in the middle of the night. This drives my girlfriend nuts!

Dominator fused prog rock with pure metal in a concept album that was a metaphor about the dangers inherent in genetic engineering. All the tracks are really good and many are all time hoof classics like “Nova Battlestar” and as you say “Reach For The Sky.” I love it when the crowd sing along to them live and we all go crazy!

A Sultan's Ransom was an eclectic mixture of songs celebrating our fusing of metal and varied musical styles, from Arabian influenced time signatures to hard hitting thrash. It is very pleasing indeed to see some critics naming it in the top ten best ever power metal albums.

Personally, I think Cloven Hoof is an important group because just as 70’s era Rush are the link between prog rock like Yes and Genesis and traditional metal. Cloven Hoof are a 2006 link between Rush, thrash and metal. We act as a role model for power metal bands to have epic and imaginative song structures with thrash power and melody. 

Every album had to count, that is why the material is so strong. We had no financial security net like other groups who churn out one good song per album, with the rest filler dross. Hoof has had to fight tooth and nail for acceptance and the battle rages on today stronger than ever! In retrospect I can see a very definite shift in style and approach within each album. I hate safe albums and stagnation is not an option with Hoof, progression can only be a good thing.

After A Sultan's Ransom we never really broke up, it was just to get out of legal hassles that have hindered us throughout the bands history. Every time we were about to make it into the big time, parasites would crawl out of the woodwork and try to claim money due to a rip off contracts I had signed in my younger days. New bands should be very cautious when starting off in the business, and get serious legal advice before signing anything.

Throughout the 90’s, Russ and I were always keeping an eye on the metal scene, I think we both knew it was only a matter of time before we were free of legal ties.  With the introduction of the internet and reports of Cloven Hoof being very influential to the new breed of metal bands, we saw our great worldwide following had not diminished. Our following had got even bigger in fact. We are bigger now than we have ever been. So after the contractual problems had been sorted out we decided lets get out there and start playing.

- Recently you re-released on your own the Dominator album. A CD-r edition was released and some fans were displeased. After a while another official release of the same album came out. What happened? Is the album still available and did you make any remaster or something or we're just talking about simple transfer from the vinyl to CD?

I am sorry to hear some fans are disappointed with the re-release of Dominator. That is a shame as I have made it a personal crusade to make the release possible and cut through legal ties that prevented it. Funny as it seems I had no problem with bootleg versions appearing as they helped fans get into the band. Many bootleggers are genuine fans of the band so I forgive them!

There was a mess up at the pressing plant and some fans got the wrong CDs. There were promotional copies and silver disc real versions of the album and we apologize for mix up. But I am told by collectors in time, the promotional copy will be the most valuable particularly with the free patch! So the copies will be worth holding onto.

The Dominator CD is still available of course and was made from the quarter inch master tapes that are now in America being turned into a vinyl version by the record company Buried by Time And Dust. It will be available on vinyl sometime next year.

The songs on Dominator are really great and some of them will always feature in our live set. However we have always had a problem with the scratchy production of Guy Bidmead. The two inch master tapes have been lost which is a shame because we could have had it re-mixed. All that is left is the quarter inch pre mixed version that we had re-mastered at the Old Smithy Studio’s Judas Priest made the last two albums. I hope the fans now understand we only wanted to let them have the album in good faith and that we could not improve or change the mix. The fans mean everything to me and they are the only reason why Cloven Hoof carries on a war for metal acceptance for over 30 years.

That is why we intend to re-record them on a new The Definitive Part Two album to be recorded next year. The fans can then have the unchanged original version and have the new better quality recorded version of the Dominator songs.

- What about A Sultan's Ransom? Are there any plans on re-releasing this one also?

High Roller Records will be re-releasing A Sultan's Ransom next year probably in March 2012. So that is good news for the fans and not before time.

- So, it's time for a vinyl re-release of these albums… 

Yes, and it is now in progress as I have said above. I wanted the fans to get theses albums so much that I brought back all the rights from FM Revolver records out of my personal money. It cost a fortune but a whole new generation fans deserved to hear Dominator and A Sultan's Ransom

- You are England-based and Russ left the band at first place because he lives in Spain, so you can't work together because of the distance, right? That means that this kind of reunion is temporary? You know... there are hopes for a new album with Russ...

Russ left Spain and he now lives in England so he can work full time with Cloven Hoof I am glad to say. We have promised each other to spend 10 years making music in Cloven Hoof on a permanent basis. To celebrate it we are each getting a tattoo of the band logo on our arm... How permanent is that?!

Currently Russ is putting down vocals for the new album and the rest of the band are rehearsing the live back catalogue. The new album will be our most heavy album yet but will be a return to our roots in many ways. Expect epic songs and screaming powerful vocals all the way!

- Are you gonna see the Black Sabbath reunion with Ozzy?!

You bet! Russ and I will be the first to get a ticket! We love that period of the band. Ronnie Dio, god rest his soul, was one of the greatest metal singers of all time, without question, but no one could fill the role of Ozzy in Black Sabbath. It is a unique line up and the songs are doom like and magical. 

- What makes so unique the British Heavy Metal sound and why for many years (almost decades...) Heavy Metal is dead in England?

British metal is usually more aggressive and doomy than good time rock from other countries in general I think it is true to say. This is because Britain is grey, rainy and miserable most of the time… lol.  

But seriously Heavy Metal is in a truly dire state in the UK I'm afraid. This is because of our useless media will not support home grown talent anymore. Many bands are forced to become third rate tribute bands because most clubs don't want to put on acts no one has heard of. They think only bands that have a press profile are good enough to pull in crowds. This is bollocks because everyone has to start somewhere, bands need experience in refining there material and stage act. 

How can new bands break through without the chance to grow in front of a live audience? Nothing can live in a vacuum and the press has created this appalling situation with there pathetic stance. It is very hard for new bands to get anywhere these days in Britain. We would like to pioneer a new, new wave of British metal if we can. If enough people buy our new album then maybe we will make a difference. Cloven Hoof will always try to get new bands that need a break on our support slot.

Kerrang has to be the biggest disappointment in the history of music! The writers lost the plot completely and abandoned the music that had made the paper famous. Kerrang started off as a magazine exclusively for heavy metal and in the end tried to destroy the whole mood and movement. That magazine now totally sucks and people should wipe there ass on it! 

- So, you are confirmed for Up The Hammers Festival on 3rd March 2012 and there are two more dates TBA for Greece on June? Do you have any details for these shows and how did you came up with three shows in Greece?

As ever Cloven Hoof are approached by cool promoters and we have to decide if the band will enjoy playing the proposed shows. If we get the offer to play in Greece then it is a no brainer... we will always agree to play there without question because our most loyal and fanatical fans are there!

See you all in Athens at the Up The Hammers Festival on the 3rd March and on June the 1st. On the 2nd of June we are in Thessaloniki also. Why? Because Cloven Hoof loves Greece and the metal heads in Greece love Cloven Hoof! We promise you all the best ever shows, but see us at all of them because we will change the set and put in many different songs each time. There will be a surprise track from the new album at each one also played just for our Greek fans! We can’t wait!

Keep it true and may the Elemental Forces be with you!

Πέμπτη 3 Νοεμβρίου 2011

EMERALD - An interview of Iron on Iron...

Back to the mid 70s two school friends, Bert Kivits and Allard Ekkel, formed a band under the name WARRIOR. In 1976 they released a demo (including “Sirens” and “Hell Racer”) but there were later a number of other bands called Warrior. At the end of ’83 the name is changed to EMERALD, inspired by the classic song from THIN LIZZY and in 1984 the band records a 4-track demo. What everyone directly hears is the extremely high pitched voice of Bert Kivits but besides that, Allard’s Randy Rhoads style playing is remarkable and gives EMERALD their own unique sound. With Essie Zagers on bass and Gert Slot on drums, the band signs a deal with Megaton records on January 1985. The album “Down Town” is released and it contains the four songs from the 1984 demo plus the new compositions of the band. Songs like “Shadows of Allmighty”, “D-Day”, “Hell Racer”, “Witch” and the emotional ballad “Suicide” are indicative high quality pieces of 80s Heavy Metal. Emerald played lot of gigs back then and they had a very good reputation in their country but after a while, Megaton records gets bankrupt. 
In the meantime they replaced drummer Gert Slot with Rudy Marissen from Revenge. With him they write new songs like “Robin Hood”, “Karen”, “Wet Dreams” and “Back to the Future” which were played only live and never recorded on a demo tape. Unfortunately the band didn’t get a new record deal and at the end of the 80s they split up.
It takes till mid 90s when few fanzines and underground magazines started to mention Emerald and in 1999 the German record label Iron Glory records released “Down Town” on cd. They changed the artwork and the title into “Iron on Iron” and got very good reviews in several magazines. The band decided to get back in action and do a reunion gig and in 2002 at Heavy Metal Maniacs festival with Paul van Rijswijk (ex-HAMMERHAWK) as a second guitarist. The news reached Germany and later the band hit the German ground for the first time in their career followed by a number of other gigs there. Most memorable live shows are Keep It True festival (2005 & 2010), and the amazing show in Greece at the Up the Hammers festival (2009). At that time, the riots in Athens - Greece inspired the band to compose a new song, entitled “New Gods (Of Athens)”.
In October 2011, “Iron on Iron” is finally re-released on vinyl including for the first time two new songs from EMERALD’s new line-up, “New Gods (Of Athens)” and “Sting Of Death”. 

(Based on Stefan van Zijl’s article on Holland Heavy Metal website and taken from “Iron On Iron” vinyl re-release © 2011)

With the re-release of “Iron On Iron” on vinyl, Crystal Logic took the opportunity and interviewed singer Bert Kivits and guitarist Paul van Rijswijk. After all, here, I present only my favourite bands, and EMERALD is among them…

The first form of EMERALD was called WARRIOR back in the mid 70s. What do you remember from your early days and which songs were recorded back then?

Bert: In the mid 70s we recorded some songs with a band Called trash. There were two other members at that time. Besides me and Allard there were two brothers, Joop Schipper on bass and Henk Schipper (R.I.P.) on drums. We recorded 3 songs, “Warrior”, “Hell Racer and the third I don’t remember. In 1979 that band split up and Allard and I went on so we invited Essy and Gert to play with us in the band Warrior. During that time we were writing songs and recorded them in 1984…

In 1983 you changed the name to EMERALD and later recorded a demo tape but how did you get in touch with Megaton Records for the release of "Down Town"?

Bert: At that time we had a friend who tried to contact record labels and many weren’t interested but Bram Kloos working at bodisque in Amsterdam was.

What can you recall from the Dutch metal scene of that era and how did the album was received from the fans and the press?

Bert: There was a solid Dutch metal scene and our album was received well, but here, there were so many metal bands at that time that we were snowed under.

Paul, how were things in Holland for a metal band or a fan back in the 80s?

Paul: Much better than it is now! The scene was strong and united, and there were lots of places to play and many bands, even radio shows that played Heavy Metal. So for both fans and bands those were the best times!

How easy or difficult was for EMERALD to play live back then and how was an EMERALD live show in the 80s?

Bert: We lived in the east of Holland and it was better those days to live in the west, because there were more places there so we had to travel a lot.

Did you record any other songs except the ones in "Down Town" after that album, and why you couldn't find another record deal?

Bert: We wrote new material for a new album but at the time we were ready for recording, the band split up…

You also played in another great band called STASH. When did you join them and what's the story behind them? Which are their releases and do you have any plans about bringing these songs out of the closet?

Bert: I joined Stash in 1987 after a recording session on a local radio station. They were searching for a singer and I was available. There are plans for bringing the songs on cd and vinyl…

In 1999 Iron Glory Records re-releases "Down Town" with different cover artwork and name ("Iron On Iron"). How did they contact you?

Bert: First there was this red book from Germany… there was one review of the “Down Town” album. So Iron Glory was getting interested. Stefan van Zijl, our Dutch metal brother brought us together.

After a while you started playing live gigs. Among them, you played twice in Keep It True festival (Germany) and at the Up The Hammers (Greece). When you came in Greece in 2009, there were riots in Athens and you inspired from this for a new song entitled "New Gods". Which are your strongest memories from these days and that gig in Athens?

Bert: When the other members of the band tried to find a restaurant, they were confronted with the strong arm shooting teargas. I went straight to the Hotel and I could smell the burning of the trash containers in my apartment… The gig was great, so many fans singing along and a chance to meet the other bands, Titan Force and Harry.

Paul, when did you join EMERALD and how do you remember the band before that?

Paul: I joined Emerald in 2005 around the time of the first Keep it True gig. Before that I had already wrote some songs and recorded some songs with Bert Kivits for the Heavy Metal Maniacs FC compilation cds. And of course I knew the “Downtown” album, which was always one of my favourite Dutch Metal albums.

Which were your previous bands?

Paul: My previous bands were Cerberus (1986), Afterdark (1987-1989), Goddess of Desire (1994) and Hammerhawk (1989-2003) and I did some playing on records of other bands as a session musician.

How were your first live shows with EMERALD?

Paul: The first shows were great! All shows are great, I really enjoy playing with Emerald all the time! Actually for the first show I didn’t even played with the complete band before, had to learn everything from the record so that was kind of scary hahaha !

There is a strong bond between EMERALD and the Greek fans. So, in January 2012, you are coming back for a live show in Athens and "Iron On Iron" is re-released on vinyl from Iron On Iron Records. A Greek record label that whose name is inspired from EMERALD. How do you explain this bond between the fans and the band?

Bert: The real first fan I knew was Eleni Papadea. We were social contacting on MySpace and when we went down to Greece she picked us up from the airport. She showed us that night, Athens and we felt very welcome. I cant explain the strong bond, it’s just there… See you in January, Andreas.

EMERALD will play live in Athens, Greece on January 29, 2012.
Kyttaro Live Club (entrance: 10 euro)
Free entrance for kids under 17 years old and unemployed people!
Presale starts at January 5 at: Eat Metal Records, No Remorse, Sirens and more places in Athens.
Support the Heavy Metal Faith.

The new songs, “New Gods (Of Athens)” and “Sting Of Death” were recorded at www.voodoosoundstudio.com


Παρασκευή 7 Οκτωβρίου 2011

HEIR APPARENT - Terry Gorle interview

Heir Apparent is for sure one of the greatest US metal bands of the 80s. Recently, they announced a reunion tour with the original line-up and the brain of the band, guitarist Terry Gorle, was kind enough to share with us many important things about past situations and the history of this great band.

Heir Apparent are back and announced special shows with the original "Graceful Inheritance" line-up. How did this happen and why now?

Ray and Derek had talked about wanting to do some gigs. Ray contacted me, and I contacted Paul. It all came together quickly. I contacted a few people in Europe who immediately expressed interest, then I started a Facebook page, and everything took off from there. Within a matter of days, we had offers from several people, and now a small reunion tour. It's a dream come true for me.

So, which are the confirmed shows until now and when are you coming to Greece? Which are your memories from the past show in Greece?

The itinerary I received today is this: Jan 14 - Wurzburg, Germany; Jan 15 - Thessaloniki, Greece; Jan 16 - Nicosia, Cyprus; Jan 17 - Athens, Greece.
The 2006 trip to Greece was great. I was very happy to be able to bring a group of guys with me who had never experienced anything like it. I remember visiting the Texas Club several times, the Harley Bar, exploring the subways in Athens to tour the city, and the train ride from Athens to Thessaloniki... it's a beautiful country. The fans are incredible. I had a great time and I'm really looking forward to returning with the original members. It will be their first time in Greece and it will be a special memory for all of us.

Are you reunited just for these shows or there will be new material? Have you written anything all these years?

We are just planning on doing these shows for now. We live 100 miles apart, so continuing on a steady basis would require some of us to relocate our families and rearrange our lives. It's a tough thing to do with jobs and other responsibilities. However, Paul and I have made plans to record a new album, so we will fill in the band lineup as the situation develops. Hopefully it can work out for everyone. I've written a lot of ideas... I can pick up my guitar and improvise new songs, so it won't be a problem. The main issue has always been finding other musicians/vocalists who want to spend the time and do the work.

Lets go back in time... What do you remember from your early days and how did you sign with Black Dragon Records for the first album? Did you had other offers and which was the response of the fans and press for "Graceful Inheritance"?

In the early days, 1983, I bought a PA system, rented a house with a basement and built a soundproof rehearsal room. Then, I started writing songs and looking for other musicians. Kim Harris (Queensryche's manager) had heard some of my tapes, sent them to EMI, and said he wanted to produce a solo guitar album. I was more interested in creating a band. Eventually, I found players who were interested. My house had 5 bedrooms, so Derek and Paul moved in. That allowed us to rehearse almost every day, and it was a great environment for being creative and spontaneous. 

We booked time in the studio to record Graceful Inheritance in July of 1984, and Kim Harris was going to produce the album for $20,000. Queensryche demanded Kim's full attention, so he backed out of managing Heir Apparent at the last minute. So, I borrowed $3000 from my parents, and we cut the studio time back and quickly recorded 5 songs. Two of the songs, "Keeper of the Reign" and "Tear Down the Walls" received some local radio play, and so I started sending tapes out to magazines. In August of 1984, the drummer (Jim Kovach) quit, so we replaced him with Ray Schwartz and kept writing songs. By 1985 I was able to borrow another $5000 from friends to begin recording the album. I sent those tapes to more magazines, and eventually Black Dragon made contact with me. They provided the additional $5000 that we needed to complete the album and "Graceful Inheritance" was finished by October of 1985. The album was released in Europe January of 1986 and the response from most of the European press was great. We toured France, The Netherlands and Germany in May and June of 1986. During the tour we began to see problems with the relationship of Black Dragon, they breached our contract and they didn't pay us. Then, it was over... we came home with no jobs, no rehearsal room, no management, no US record deal and nothing on the horizon. Derek quit and moved to LA. I regrouped and started writing one on one with Mike Jackson on keyboards in September of 1986... Essentially, I started over. Within 6 months Derek had returned and we found Steve Benito and started a new chapter. But, I can't help but wonder how much different our lives would have been if we would have been able to keep the original plan of recording "Graceful Inheritance" in 1984 with Kim Harris... twice the recording budget, a US deal, and professional management with major label contacts.

Which are your strongest memories from that tour and the US metal scene of the 80s?

We toured three countries in Europe in 1986 for 6 weeks, the Metal Hammer Roadshow, with Savage Grace. We started the tour as the opening band... we ended the tour as the headliner. I think the 80's metal scene is my most favorite period of music and musicianship during my lifetime. There was a lot of candy ass garbage on the radio in the US, but we all loved the bands who influenced us and never received the Hollywood hype. 

Which ones were your favorite bands back then?

Rainbow (w/Dio), Deep Purple, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Dio, Black Sabbath... those were the bands who inspired the whole Seattle Metal scene starting in the early 1980's. 

In 1989 "One Small Voice" was released. What happened in the meantime and why vocalist Paul Davidson was replaced from Steve Benito?

By early 1987, we had recorded "We, The People" and "Tomorrow Night" with Paul. The bassist for the sessions was Randy Nelson. We were renting Studio B at Triad to rehearse. Paul began losing his voice, and it appeared that he wouldn't be able to continue for long. He came to me one day and told me that he needed to leave the band. It was sheer coincidence that we heard a voice coming from Studio A during that time that sparked our interest... and we then located and recruited Steve Benito from Portland, Oregon, 180 miles away. Ray and I drove down to Portland, and I paid Steve $400 to settle some debts he had so he could move to Seattle and join Heir Apparent.

There was a strange situation around this album and maybe you can clear the things. They cut you from the album photo of the band and you name is mentioned seperately from the other members as "guitar parts performed by Terry Gorle". What was happening, who had the rights of the name and who is responsible for the final choice of these songs? Are you happy with those songs and the production of "One Small Voice"?

To make a very long story short, I am the owner of the trademark/trade name Heir Apparent. I've owned everything, including the business license since 1984. As you can see from earlier comments, I was the founder of the band. It was my dream and my philosophy behind it. Out of necessity to make life as easy as possible for the other bandmembers to become involved and stay motivated, in addition to writing most of the songs, I needed to be the manager, the studio provider, the equipment provider, and the primary person responsible for finding investors (who ultimately were people who believed in me. Friends of mine who were willing to loan the band money to record and promote ourselves). I also provided a place to live, and I found a job for Steve when he moved here (he is still involved in a related business after all these years). I consistently wanted Heir Apparent to be a partnership of shared responsibility, shared profits, and shared debts. I tried this in 1984, and the band refused... Paul was the only member who would make a partnership committment. I tried this again in 1987 with the new band, and they again refused...  By 1988 I was under increasing pressure to repay band debts. All the debts were in my name and we were borrowing more money all the time to pay for new demos and promotional expenses. My wife and I were personally paying for almost everything. I negotiated the album contract with Metal Blade/Capitol for 9 months. I was in debt about $20,000 in the name of Heir Apparent by the time we finally signed the recording contract. It was a 7 album deal with $600,000 in recording advances. Our first album advance was $25,000. I went to the band with another plea to form a partnership and become a true business, and I stressed the importance of taking $5000 from the recording contract advance and making a good faith gesture to our investors who had been very patient for several years. The band refused. Instead, they conspired to avoid any responsibility to pay the band debts... Behind the scenes during the recording of One Small Voice, they were plotting to remove me from the band when the album was finished. They voted their choices for the songs that would be recorded for the album, they removed my influence as much as possible, minimizing the importance of the guitar parts in the final mixes, and removing Questions and Cry for Rome from the track list. Then, Steve took the entire project $5000 over budget to add more vocals and keyboards. I was outraged at his arrogance.

A week after we took new photos for the album cover, I received a phone call on March 10, 1989 from Julie Hines (a girl acting as the band manager in LA) telling me that I was being removed from the band. I was devastated, and I was forced to file a lawsuit to regain my name and my rights. They stole my dream, my band, my publishing credits, my record contract (where I am specified as bandleader and the sole person to make band decisions), my trademark, and my hope. I received a phone call from a friend to tell me that One Small Voice was in record stores. I drove to the store to buy my own copy... I never received anything from Metal Blade/Capiltol or the band. 
Looking back, I perceived their actions against me as pure evil, not to mention totally illegal. Their intentional actions caused me a great deal of pain, and they knew it would. I was forced to sit quietly on the sidelines for 18 months while they toured and reaped the rewards of their coup. I won my lawsuit in settlement on November 14, 1990. But what did I really win? I was still devastated. The others were found guilty of Copyright Infringement, Trademark Infringement, Breach of Contract, and Tortious Interference. But, by then they had destroyed everything I'd built. The Metal Blade/Capitol contract had been terminated and the debts were still unpaid. Technically, Metal Blade breached the contract with me as well. I never sued them.
Over the years it has become clear to me that the best path is to rise above the circumstances and forgive them. I have taken it upon myself to repay several thousand dollars to as many of the original investors I could find since signing the reissue deal with Hellion in 1999. Now, we are grown men... Ray and Derek have apologized for their part and we are moving forward. I have not seen Michael or Steve in 21 years. I remain hopeful that we will be able to reconcile at some point in the future. I wish them well.

What kind of person was Steve Benito?

There is no denying Steve is an extremely talented vocalist. He is very intelligent as well. Unfortunately, he would sometimes be extremely brash and offensive in public situations when he thought he was being funny. He was very opinionated, and very used to getting his way. I consistently asked him to scream less and add some Dio power to his style... I think that my suggestions offended him, although I can hear that he eventually followed my advice in the demo recorded while they were still illegally using the name Heir Apparent in 1990. The only time I confronted Steve with my outrage was when he belittled a very good friend of mine who had gone out of his way to be a roadie and photographer for the band. Steve expected the world to be given to him on a silver platter... that was his biggest fault. He lacked appreciation or empathy for others. But, I excuse all of that now, expecting that he has learned and grown from his experiences over the years.

There was only one live show with this line-up? What happened after the release of "One Small Voice"?

Heir Apparent played several shows in 1987/1988. We played a large pavilion in Lacey, a club in Seattle, a club in Lynnwood, a high school in Maple Valley, and at our last gig we replaced Poison to open for David Lee Roth in the Seattle Center Coliseum in 1988. I have no idea what happened after the release of One Small Voice, because I was totally removed from having any contact. I only know what I have read from reviews and rumors.

What is your occupation?

I was a tilesetter/stone mason for 20 years, until several injuries forced me to find a new career.  I've torn my left shoulder, and muscles in both elbows/forearms that required surgery over the past 15 years. I cannot continue the physical demands of the trade without further risk of injury. So, I have just completed two years of college to earn my Associates of Technical Arts degree in Web Application Development, and I'm currently working for Cascadia Community College as an independent contractor to build their new international website. I'm also still in school, finishing my Digital Forensics Certificate by December of 2011.

In the late 90s, "Graceful Inheritance" was re-released from Hellion Records along with a great compilation entitled "Triad", including amazing songs like "Tomorrow Night" and "Cry For Rome". Do you have other material from that era or there is any other material under the name Heir Apparent without you from Benito and the guys, after "One Small Voice"?

There is a 4-song demo that was recorded in 1990 when Steve, Derek, Michael, and a drummer from Steve's old band in Portland were illegally using Heir Apparent as a name, which I've already referred to. There are some live tapes, videos, and rehearsal things recorded with Paul and Steve during the legitimate period of the band. In short, most of the material is already available and the rest will remain in its place for a while... ;-)  I remastered the "One Small Voice" album in 2000, I added the song "The Haunting" and "Two Hearts". I also re-recorded my guitar parts in several songs, mixig them over the stereo master to return some of the missing power and energy of the original 1989 release.

How did you decided to come back in action after a while, for those live shows a couple of years before?

As long as people want to hear Heir Apparent, and I'm able to play, I'll be there. There have been several band lineups since 2000. My goal was always to find people who would make the effort to record a new album. But, none of the lineups was dedicated enough to make the time and energy committment required for new music. So, we played gigs of the old material. Now that Paul has expressed interest in writing a new album, he and I will proceed with a new plan.

What kind of equipment do you use?

I still play the Kramer Stagemaster American that I bought in 1987 and loaded with EMG pickups... the same guitar used on One Small Voice and in Greece in 2006. I also have a Charvel Model 5, and a custom guitar of zebrawood and black limba I designed in 2000. I have been using Johnson Millennium amplifiers since 1998. They were discontinued in 2002, and I own two of them.  The Johnson Millennium is a digital modeling amp with twin tube preamps. It's the only amp that can emulate all the sounds and effects from the two Heir Apparent albums.

So, what should we expect from Heir Apparent now?

All I can promise is that I will do my very best to perform to the very best of my ability and to record new music for the fans of Heir Apparent. I just need a little help from my friends...  ;-)

Can't wait to see you in Greece, add anything else that you want.

I'm very excited and thankful for our opportunity to return. The last trip was great and I have every reason to believe this next trip will be even better! Thank you, and thanks to everyone for their dedication and support over the years! 
It is a true honor for me. I hope to have time to meet and visit with as many fans as possible during this trip. Don't be shy, come up and introduce yourselves.


Κυριακή 14 Αυγούστου 2011

WARLORD / LORDIAN GUARD - William J Tsamis interview

We are earth, we are heaven.
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...

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.