Saturday, April 29, 2017

Ian Chains of Cauldron Interview (2013)

This is my interview with Ian Chains of one of my favorite bands, Cauldron. They're one of the finest of the traditional heavy metal bands coming from Canada. You know that Misfits song Spook City USA? Okay, good. This interview is like that, except Cringe City USA. My husband, Aaron and I, got the chance to catch Cauldron in Louisville back in October (2016). We got there a bit early and got to meet them and talked to Ian. I had asked if he remembered this interview, and he said he remembered doing one for me, but didn't remember it exactly. Well thank fuck, because damn, it was embarrassing to read what I had asked. The show and meeting them was awesome, of course. Satan (NWOBHM) was with them too, and let me tell you, they sound exactly the same as they did in the '80s. Such a great show (Possible other blog post, there)! But, anyhow, my main point was that yes, this is cringey as hell on my part, but Ian's answers are what I wanted to put this up for. Along with the awesome pictures I have for it, generously donated by those credited under the images. Enjoy! And feel free to make fun of me. At least my dumb questions could be good for a laugh.

Photo by Francois Dejonege
added to by Me

You guys are on a small break from the tour you’re on now which is the “America’s Lost” tour in support of your latest album “Tomorrow’s Lost” which was released in October of last year. Are you glad you have time to rest or, are you still in full tour mode wanting to play shows almost every night?

Well it's nice to finally get more than 5 hours of sleep, but we'd still rather be on tour more than anything else.  Going from touring for 5 weeks to trying to find work is pretty hard.  The bulk of the tour's done, but we've still got Orion fest in Detroit and then a handful of Eastern US dates in July with Volture.

Speaking of that, how’ve the gigs been? Any Spinal Tap-like things happening while doing the gigs?

The shows have been great for the most part.  We probably got our best reception in the States so far on this tour than any previous one.  Nobody spontaneously combusted this time.

What’s been your favorite place to play and why would that be?

On this tour I would say Edmonton and Brooklyn were a couple of the best shows.  Edmonton's always a good time just because we know so many people there, and Brooklyn was the first show of the Diamond Head dates.

I know some fans let you crash at their place sometimes after shows, any of that happen on the tour so far? And any specific person or happenings you remember?

Photo by Karen Tof
This was our 4th full tour through the States so we've gotten to know a lot of people who are willing to put us up.  It's pretty hard to turn away 3 drunk Canadians right?  Portland was the drunkest night of the tour.  We stayed with Spellcaster, watched them trash their apartment with swords, axes and antlers and then took to the streets drinking until the sun came up.

After the release of “Tomorrow’s Lost” did you guys get a lot of good feedback on that? And how was it to record it?

There was a good response and a lot of press in Europe back when it came out in October, but it only came out in the States on April 30th, and it's still not even out in Canada.  There's been very little North American press for us.  To us it seems like if you don't have a beard and neck tattoos you don't get press in North America.  Recording it was pretty similar to our last album.  Same studio and engineer, we just tried to do everything better than last time.

Photo by Mieke DeVlieger
On the album, two of the three covers (all of which are bonus tracks, and come on a 45 when you buy “Tomorrow’s Lost” on vinyl, or bonus CD, if you choose that rout of media) are oldschool grindcore covers. “I Told You So (Corporate Rock Really Does Suck)” by Carcass, and “Autumn Twilight” by Cathedral. I thought it was cool how you guys chose songs that fit your sound and attitude so well. What made you guys pick those songs? Earache records, what you guys are signed with for those unaware, was a strictly grindcore label when it first started out, a suggestion or inspiration from them, or just coincidence?

That was our idea to record those songs.  Earache actually hated the idea and thought it was a mistake!  We did it anyway and now of course they like it.  Like you said, we thought they fit our style pretty well.  That Carcass tune is pretty uncharacteristic for them, so it wasn't too much of a stretch for us to play it.  I bet Earache told them it was a bad idea when they wrote that one!

The third cover, just a traditional heavy metal song, “Streetwalker” was, in fact, a cover, which a lot of people seem to be unaware of. It’s by a Louisville heavy or kind of glam metal band Buster Brown. Who’s the one that picked that?

“Streetwalker” was a song that we always listened to in the van.  That's how most of our cover choices come about, they're all tour jams.  Jason and I came across that song back in 2007 when we played in Greece.  They had these street vendors all over Athens selling bulk packs of obscure bootleg metal cd's for dirt cheap.  We bought a shit load of them and that Buster Brown album was one of the cd's.
Photo by Brody LaBlanc
added to by me

Since we were just on the topic of obscure metal, I’ve seen some pictures of Cauldron’s records and saw stuff that’s awesome not a lot of people know of. What’s some of the most obscure stuff you like?

Well we're all avid record collectors, but I guess the most obscure stuff I like never even came out on vinyl.  Some of my favourite stuff only came out as cassette demos way back when.  Bands like Ear Danger and Stash from Holland, and Excalibur, Neptune and Stormchild from Sweden. 

Who did that album art and where did the idea of it come from?

Todd Kowalski from Propagandhi painted it.  We saw the painting he did for the Sacrifice/Propagandhi split and asked him if he'd do something for us.  We wanted something in a similar style to Thomas Cole or John Martin, sort of a hellish landscape with a bright source of light.  The initial idea came from some of our favourite album covers, namely Candlemass, Entombed and Angel Witch.

I’ve noticed people complaining that the cover’s misleading, and that it seems like a death metal band cover, your thoughts on that?

It doesn't bother us if somebody strictly into death metal picks it up and ends up throwing it out their car window.

Photo by Ish Fauxtography

Are your fellow Canadian brethren Terrance and Philip from South Park some of your heroes or influences?

No but without fail, somebody would ask us every single day on tour if we liked Fubar or Trailer Park Boys.

You guys score some pretty nice records while on tour, what’d you get this time so far, and where was the best record or junk store?

I think we all came home with a stack of 30-something records each.  I got some OZ, Avenger, Possessed, Wolf, Venom, Lone Wolf, Savage Grace, Ostrogoth etc.  I'm just looking at the pile next to my record player.  The best stores were in Quebec City, Portland and Topeka.

Is there one specific thing you always seem to take with you when you go on tour besides the obvious stuff?

I always take a book that I never read.  I just end up sleeping when I'm not driving.

You guys have toured with a number of bands such as Enforcer, Municipal Waste, and more. What bands did you enjoy playing shows with the most and did you guys hangout after gigs and all?

We've been on nightliner tours with both bands, so needless to say they were non stop parties.  There were times on the Municipal Waste tour where I'd wake up in the morning and Jason and Ryan would still be up singing along to Platinum Blonde completely off key and wasted.

Photo by Al Case
Ian Chains
What was the idea behind the video “Nightbreaker”? And why was that song chosen for a video?

Earache gave us a budget to do a video for that song.  I guess they figured it packed the most punch for a video.  The idea for the video was pretty simple, we were just inspired by heavy metal horror movies like Black Roses and Rocktober Blood.

Do you guys hang out with Alison Thunderland (ex-Skull Fist, and drummer for Axxion now) and Inti Paredes a lot, who are in the beginning of the “Nightbreaker” video?

We see them at shows all the time.  Inti was also our merch guy on our last European tour.  He came with us for the US tour as well but got denied at the border for not having the right paperwork.  We had to turn back and drop him off at a bus station in Niagara Falls.  It was pretty shitty.

Sometimes it can be tough to write songs, do you guys sit down and come up with ideas, or does it just sort of happen?

We never try to force anything.  We usually come up with riffs on our own when we hear something in our heads and try to figure it out.  We do the arranging in the jam space but never sit down and say “OK let's write a song”.  It's pretty easy to tell when something is forced.

That video called “Cauldron Doing Nothing”, is that a usual practice session?
Photo by Al Case
Myles Deck

Earache asked us to give them a video tour of our jam space and talk about the story behind our new songs.  We weren't really into that so that's what we filmed and they didn't use it!  I can see why though, it's just us drunk.  Our usual practices include a lot more playing.

The newer drummer, Miles Deck, how’s it been with him, is he the man for Cauldron for sure? And how’d you guys know him?

We probably have a closer musical taste with him than with any other drummer we've had.  We met through a mutual friend who thought we'd be a good match.  So far it's working out really well.  We try not to think too far into the future!

Do you and Jason have a lot of the same styles with riffs when starting to write songs, or are some completely different sounding style wise than others?

I think we both have a good idea of what suits Cauldron and what doesn't.  I'm sure there have been a few ideas that didn't really work out but for the most part we know how to write riffs that sound like us.

You joined Cauldron right after the split of “Goat Horn”, how’d you end up with them? Did you have a band before Cauldron? Speaking of Goat Horn, were you fond of their stuff? And did you know Jason before you joined up with Cauldron?

Yeah I had a Nitro inspired hair metal band called Whyte Hott.  It was pretty fun but was going nowhere.  I was already into Goat Horn at the time and met them in 2005 when they played in Vancouver.  When I heard they had broken up and were looking for a guitar player I emailed Jason and told him I would come to Toronto to try out.

Kind of a stock question, but I’m sure people are wondering, when did you start playing a guitar and how’d you get to where you are today with playing?

Photo by Al Case
Jason Decay
I started when I was 14 by trying to teach myself, but didn't get really serious about it until a couple years after that.  Like a lot of kids I just learned every Slayer and Metallica song and tried to play as fast as I could!

How has your time overall in Cauldron been?

Well I don't lie to myself and have huge expectations because that's just setting yourself up for disappointment.  I just try to take things as they come and enjoy myself.  I get to tour and travel often so that's good enough for me.

How was it growing up? What made you pick up a guitar and is that the only instrument you play?

Yeah guitar is the only instrument I play.  The first time I remember really wanting a guitar was when I saw Back to the Future for the first time.  Michael J. Fox playing guitar behind his head and tapping was the coolest thing I had every seen.  That's what planted the seed and it's been there ever since.  Also “The Power Of Love” by Huey Lewis and the News was the greatest song I had ever heard.

Photo by Al Case

After this short break in touring, Cauldron will be playing at the Orion Festival with Metallica. You guys must be ready for that one! How do you all feel about that? Nervous, excited, ready to tell James to grow his hair back?

Well Jason's been on holiday since getting back from tour, so we've only got a few days to cram before we leave.  I think we're all pretty excited and hope to meet Metallica.  We'll probably try to get them completely hammered.

What are your favorite things to do on tour offstage?

Records and parking lot beers.

What’s the strangest thing you’ve seen so far on this tour?

Myles being casual, and Ian staring down Kimo?
Photo By Kimo Verkindt

Myles and I actually saw a leprechaun in Lawrence, Kansas.  We were standing in a circle talking to some people outside the show and he appeared out of nowhere.  He had a green felt jacket and hat on, and his eyebrows were shaved off with lightning bolts tattooed in their place.  Myles and I ran to get our cameras/laugh and when we came back he was gone without a trace.

I saw a Cauldron hat before, maybe a few years ago, and haven’t seen them much; do you guys still sell them?

Yeah we still make them for every tour but they always sell pretty fast.

Any bands that have landed on the scene in the past years you like a lot?

Yeah Explorer from Italy, Evil Invaders from Belgium, Night Demon from LA and Wytch Hazel from England.

Do you guys have a reliable van to go around in now and what kinda stuff’s in it?

Photo by Kevin Brown
Yeah we tour in our trusty red old cable van that we've had for a couple years.  The inside is covered in Samantha Fox posters.

Who are some of your favorite guitarists or idols?

Tony Iommi and Criss Oliva from Savatage.

What’s your favorite Cauldron album so far? And what’s your favorite song to play live?

I'd have to say Tomorrow’s Lost because I'm not completely sick of it yet.  We've got a few favourites.  Summoned to Succumb, End of Time and Frozen in Fire would be a few.

You guys seem to have timeless tunes. When I hear songs by Cauldron, I don’t think of a specific era it reminds me of, or the specific year it was from, it just is Cauldron. Is there any formula or anything like that you guys have that you’d like to share?

Thanks, all I can think of is that we just play what comes naturally.  We don't just listen to one thing either.  We listen to just as much Dokken as we do Bathory and Savage Grace.  Maybe that has something to do with it?
Photo by Brody LaBlanc

Are there any TV shows or movies you all like to watch on tour or just in general?

We can't afford to have a tv and satellite dish installed in our van, but we're all into Breaking Bad.  When we were in Albuquerque we stopped by Walter White's house and the Octopus car wash.  We felt like we were on the show, it was pretty weird...

On the inner sleeve of the album “Chained to the Nite”, it’s almost like an I-Spy book kind of collage. One picture was of Slayer and Megadeth being crazy and drunk together. Who threw that in there?

I think I found that online somewhere and sent it to Jason just because it looked cool.  He threw it in the collage and put Steelrider next to them like he was in the photo.

What are your favorite Canadian metal albums?

That's a tough one but I'd have to say Killer Dwarfs “Stand Tall”, Razor “Executioner's Song” and Reckless “Heart of Steel”.

Photo by Ish Fauxtography

Sometimes you have to make sacrifices if you want to make metal, has it been hard on you guys to get by on the road with getting food and all through the years?

Getting by in Europe is a lot easier.  They always hook you up with food, beer and accommodations.  The States is different, you're pretty much left to fend for yourself.  It's harder to get by when we're not on tour!  It's pretty difficult to make money when we're taking so much time off.

Well I’m sure all those reading wish you guys the best of luck with everything, and I do as well. Hopefully you’ll be up for another appearance in the ‘zine someday, I know I’d certainly like to know what the rest of the tour will bring for Cauldron and how it will be doing the Orion Fest. So in closing, what are your hopes and some things you’re curious about for the rest of the tour?

We're looking forward to BBQ'ing with Volture in Richmond this July.  That's gonna be the highlight of the year for us.

Thanks for your time, Ian!
Phew... long interview... good luck with the zine Olivia!  Stay Hard!

Here's one of my favorites by them from their latest album "In Ruin". Check them out if your mind hasn't been blown by them already:

Friday, April 28, 2017

Vic Stown of Vindicator Interview (2015)

This next one is from South Amherst's own thrash metal veterans (having their debut album "There Will Be Blood" back in 2008. Vic , frontman and founder of Vindicator, talks to us about their latest happenings (at the time), what they've done, and gives you a feel of what they're about. If you're into good old thrash metal and don't know these dudes, give them a listen for sure. I'll put a video of one of my favorite songs at the end of the article. This one is considerably less cringey. I'm not talkin' like I'm coolguy McGee now, because there's no fixing me in that aspect, but I like to think I learn from my.... how you say.... Idiocy. So here's an old(ish) interview With Vic. Enjoy!

Photo Cred: Cristina Atilano, Image altered by yours truly

Let's start off with getting to know the man who is Vic Stown a little better before we get right into the Vindicator talk. How was it growing up? Did you parents introduce you to metal?

- My parents were into a lot of sixties and seventies rock and of course metal from the seventies and the eighties. Back then radio stations didn't suck nearly as bad as they do today, so you could tune into your local rock station and a hear variety of good music. That's what I grew up with, Aerosmith, Motley Crue, Black Sabbath, AC/DC, etc. But my love and appreciation of thrash came from my buddy and former band mate, Wayne Holocaust. He's the one who really hooked me. Annihilator, Mortal Sin, Artillery. Known and unknown. At twenty years old he had a massive collection of tapes, CDs, vinyl, and mp3s. We'd hang out and just listen to music.

What band was your Dad in, and how did it affect you?

- In the eighties he was in the heavy metal/hard rock outfit, Stutz. That lasted until the early nineties. Then after a brief moment,  he was in a Christian hard rock band called Michael for several years. And then a band called SOL after that. His constantly being in bands had a huge impact on who I am today. It's like I couldn't stop writing, playing, or enjoying music if I wanted to. It's in my DNA. His songwriting has influenced the way I compose my own music. It's subtle, but it's there.

When was the first time you picked up a guitar, and is that the only instrument that you play?

- I couldn't remember the first time I actually picked one up, no matter how hard I tried. But around the age twelve is when I really wanted to learn how to play. Today I can play bass and guitar, if you want to call it that, heh. I have a very rudimentary understanding of most instruments and can play them like cavemen would paint. I'm no virtuoso on anything, but I can figure most instruments out enough to play a primitive song or two. I'm great fun at campfires.

Did you and your brother both start playing instruments at the same time, and how were you introduced to the guitar?

- My brother really started getting into drums around the age fourteen, I think. I was eighteen at the time. I somewhat decided for him that he would play drums. The way I saw it was, he had a tiny kit when he was like five, he should play drums. I got my first guitar around the same age that I really started getting interested in it. That Christmas my parents bought me an Epiphone Stratacopy and a Park fifteen watt practice amp. They were both horrendous sounding and difficult to work with. But I made do.

Photo by Robert Escue

Who was your biggest influence?

- At the time, my biggest influence  was my Dad. He showed me three power chords and told me I could learn most songs knowing those three chords. So naturally Smoke On The Water and Cat Scratch Fever were played quite a bit. Over the years my Dad has remained an influence in my writing, but depending on what I'm writing, my influences will change damn near song to song.

Growing up, were your favorite bands the same as they are now, or have they changed over the years, and do they have any part in inspiring your music to this day?

- The bands I liked when I was growing up, I still like today. There's just way more now. Certain bands inspire me creatively, while others inspire me as a musician. They all help me to be creative, I suppose. Some are very obvious, others only slightly.

What was the first concert/show you saw, and what did you think of it? Was it special to you?

- The first real show I went to was Kansas at the Lorain county fair. It was a great show. It is still special to me, yes. My first metal show was Iron Maiden, Dio, and Motorhead. That show really lit me up as an aspiring musician. Nothing tops the energy at a metal show of that caliber.

Alright, now to get to some Vindi talk! In 2005, the formation of Vindicator came about. How did that happen?

- My previous band of three years had came to a screeching halt. It crushed me. All the time we had dumped into it for nothing. Feeling a bit bitter and having lots more to say and do, I didn't hesitate to form another. Obvious choices were my brother and Wayne Holocaust who were also in the aforementioned band. We learned that our friend from high school who was in a black metal band as a vocalist (but could also play bass) had just quit. We all lived in South Amherst. It was a no-brainer for all of us.

Photo by Rockhouse

Was Vindicator the first name that was chosen for the band, and who came up with it? Why was the name chosen?

- There were a few names and for the life of me I can't remember any of them. Most were pretty silly. I think one might have been “Thrash Hammer”, ugh. Glad that didn't happen. But Vindicator was in that first mix. Marshall came up with it since he and Wayne were Warhammer dorks (like those Bolt Thrower guys) Vindicator was a natural choice. I'm kidding, by the way. Warhammer is awesome. And so is Bolt Thrower.

Were there any bands you were in before Vindicator?

-I was in a rock band in high school named LEAF. Some cool acronym for something or other. Wayne and Marshall were in a metal band named Fallout. After high school, Wayne, Jesse, and myself were in what started as Snowyt (Snow White, our wit was OFF THE CHARTS, I know). When Mikey B. Lial joined the band he suggested we change the name as people had trouble actually pronouncing it. We got “Snowy T” or “Snow It” a lot. So it was clear, the name had to go. Jesse suggested Violent Night and everyone agreed.
Photo by Sarah Stown
Jesse (drums), Vic (guitar), James J. (Cat, Guitar), and Ed (Bass)

A little while after the formation of the band, the first demo came out, followed by the second demo entitled "South Amherst Thrash", which included new songs altogether. What are your thoughts on those songs now, and how did you record and get those demos around?

- I still love those early tracks. Our first demo was just a demo of a basement rehearsal. We recorded it on an iPod using the Griffin iTalk attachment. We tossed it up on a dryer and ran through our set. Warts and all. I love how it turned out. It was free and didn't need mastering. As raw as they come. It was the only recording with original second guitarist, Wayne Holocaust. He left shortly after. Marshall, Jesse, and I decided we needed a proper demo. I hit up former Violent Night member Mikey B. Lial to record with. He had a Fostex digital recorder and was pretty good at using it. This was in an age that most DAWs were extremely expensive and not readily “available” in terms of finding pirated copies. So at the time, it was an excellent option. We cut those songs in one day. A few of those tracks made their way onto our first full length. Some retain there kvlt status on those demos. We decided to combine the two demos since we had space on the CDRs we were making. Getting them out was fairly easy, too. We hauled them around to local shows we attended or played. Sent them out here and there. They made their way around the world. I recently ran into a vender selling them for five bucks a piece. I got a good chuckle out of that.

After the release of that demo came the first full length album called "There Will Be Blood" (2008). Only 3 songs from the demos were used on this album. What was the reason for that, and why did those three stay, and did you already have all the material written for the rest of the album, or did you guys work on it after the initial songs for the demos were written?

- Vindicator actually went into a temporary hiatus for roughly a year in two thousand-seven. In that time we wrote most of There Will Be Blood. When you're inspired to write, you write. So we took advantage of that. Some songs happened while we were down, some when we started to get active again. It came together relatively easy and quickly. We didn't really have a solid reason as to why what demo tracks stuck around. We just felt those three were ones that needed to happen.
Photo by Sarah Stown

What are your thoughts on that album today? Any memories or notable events from recording it? Was it tough recording it?

- I think it's a solid release. I think it stood up to the Slayer worship that many of the new crop were producing. It's a fun album and it's catchy. It wasn't extremely technical by any means. But it's good. We recorded TWBB in the loft of a three car garage. A guy my Dad was jamming with had a studio. We hired an outside engineer and made it happen. It was hot as fuck up there. No AC. Just fans. The album unfolded smoothly. I remember one nasty storm, but it came and went. We laughed a lot, ate a lot of Subway, and made the magic happen.

Who was the guy on the cover of the album holding the axe?

- That's Marshall. Originally, we had paid famed artist of the era, Halseycaust to make the artwork for the record. She didn't get it to us on time. We had a set deadline to make TWBB happen before a quick run out to LA. Marshall came up with the concept you see on the cover. And we used the art from Halsey for our sophomore record, The Antique Witcheries. I love how that unfolded. I feel the artwork for TWBB is more appropriate than the Halsey piece for that record. It's very Exciterish, if you will.

Where was it that the album was done, and did you guys have decent equipment?

- I think the studio was called Atonement Studios. Like I said, it was a loft above a garage in Birmingham, Ohio. It was nice, sort of in the country. Quiet place. They had good enough equipment. The album had an unintentional eighties vibe. It was all digital, but sounded pretty analog. Which was weird. I'm not sure how that happened.

How was the distribution of the album, and what formats was it on? Did it seem to be well received to you?

- It was pressed by us, so the only distribution it saw was from us trading with small labels. But there's a lot of small labels worldwide that wanted it, so in the end, it got excellent distribution. Sure, it wasn't in major retailers, but it was getting to people who were genuinely interested in that music. It was originally pressed on CD. Later on Doomentia Records would reissue it on vinyl.

When was it that Slaney Records contacted you, and how did it go down?

- Shortly after TWBB we were contacted by fledgling Irish label, Slaney Records. They were interested in us to participate in an unnamed split series they were working on.

After the single "The Dog Beneath The Skin" (Vindicator's first released work under a label), you guys did a split compilation entitled "Outbreak Of Metal Vol. 1" with another band named Metal Witch. Was that Slaney's doing, or did you guys suggest it, and were you a fan of Metal Witch?

Photo by Ron Daniel
- The single happened because Slaney wasn't going to have the splits to us before an upcoming tour. They're a good label, so wanting us to have SOMETHING, they pressed the single in order for us to have a release to take on the road with us. I actually came up with the name “Outbreak Of Metal” a nod to Teutonic thrash titans, Sodom. The label sent us a list of bands to check out. We either couldn't agree or the band wasn't interested and finally we came across Metal Witch. I've been a fan since the first time I heard Valley Of The Kings. That song will never not rip.

Were there intentions to have another edition of an Outbreak Of Metal compilation because of the "Vol. 1" at the end of the title?

- I'm fairly confident Slaney intended to keep the series running. They ended up doing a Volume Two. Not sure if anymore happened following. Splits are a tricky thing. Some are received well. Most, not so much. An EP seems to generally do better alone.

Who came up with that album art for the Outbreak Of Metal compilation? One of my favorite album covers of Vindicator.

- I believe the artist's name is Sean Fitzpatrick. He's still out there making great art.

After There Will Be Blood, a few line-up changes happened including the bassist and the guitarist. Did this happen directly after the recording of TWBB, or did it happen gradually, and for what reasons, if you'd like to share.

- Well, Marshall stayed on bass up until around The Antique Witcheries. But Bob Shubert did quit after our first tour. He played a show or two and then bailed to work on his own project. This wasn't a bad thing. We appreciated the time Bob spent with us, but it gave us the opportunity to rekindle our relationship with former Violent Night band mate, Mikey B. Lial. Mike is phenomenal musician. Both very professional and talented. We asked if he'd be interested in recording leads on the split stuff and after he did, offered him the lead spot to which he accepted.

For what reasons did Marshall Law go from singing and playing bass  to just singing?

Photo by Ron Daniel
Jesse Stown
- We all agreed that Marshall needed to not be tethered to a bass. As a band we wanted an energetic frontman and oftentimes that's difficult to achieve when you're both playing and singing. One or the other is going to take a hit. Being able to focus on ONE thing means it will sound better.

After that came Vindicator’s second full length album; "The Antique Witcheries", which seemed to take on new lyrical content and sound overall in my opinion, would you agree with that?

- Lyrically we sang about roughly the same things we had before. We touched politics for the first time. Still the same old horror. The album was very Lovecraft themed. Many lyrics and titles were pulled directly from Lovecraft stories. The sound was sonically different from anything we had done before. We recorded it at the same studio we had done the split hoping to attain that same rawness. It was a little more polished the second time around, though. I still was not at all disappointed in the release, though.

Being that this was the first album that you recorded on Heavy Artillery records, was it a lot different from when you recorded under an independent label?

- It was a lot different. We got jerked around a lot and pretty well under funded. We did our best with what we had. So to answer your question, yes. Working with people who genuinely love the music they're releasing versus people just trying to use you to make money is what you get with indie labels versus labels with massive retail distribution.

Did the recording process seem to go a lot smoother, and how was the treatment Heavy Artillery gave you overall at that time?
- There were elements that went extremely smooth, while there were issues here and there. Heavy Artillery had us in the dog house just about the instant we signed the contract. I could go on about the crap we endured from their end, but I'd rather not.

On the cover of "The Antique Witcheries" there is a skeleton holding an ax. Was that at all intended as a theme for your albums, as the guy on the cover of There Will Be Blood had one, or was it just a coincidence?

- Purely coincidence. The first three releases did have a dude with an ax, though. We loved axes back then.

The title of the album along with the title track seemed to be a new sort of topic to delve into. Seems like an interesting cool topic to me, what prompted it?
- I got a copy of The Library Of America's “Lovecraft Tales” for Christmas the previous year. I had heard of the author but never really delved into his writings. It inspired me greatly at the time and influenced most of what you hear on TAW.

Did the distribution of that album go more smooth since you had Heavy Artillery on your side at that time?

- I guess you could say that. Labels distribute according to demographics, so in LA you could walk into a Best Buy and see it on the shelf with fellow thrashers Fueled By Fire, Gama Bomb, and Warbringer. But in our neck of the woods, Rap rules supreme, so needless to say, we couldn't find it. It was a bummer. One of our biggest accomplishments, our CD in a major retailer, and we couldn't even walk into our local chains like FYE and Best Buy and hold our work.

The third album to date "United We Fall"was a major turning point for the band, with the departure of a few members,and a door open to new ones, along with you going from guitarist, to the singer and guitarist. So what happened with the singer and bassist, and where did you find Ed Stephens and James J. LaRue?

- Marshall started to drift apart from band shortly before recording TAW. He had just graduated from college and was wanting to get on with his life. Shortly before we headed out on our first (and ironically our last) major North American tour, he bailed. With very little options, I took the helm. Although Mikey recorded leads for TAW, he had already parted ways with the band prior to it's recording, also siting life as his prompt to quit. He did us a solid by playing on the record. Mick Mayer joined as lead guitarist after the album was cut, but also left for reasons unknown prior to our US tour. This left myself, Kid, and Jesse. We toured as a power trio with no guitar harmonies or solos, with our friends in Possessor and Aggressor. James was filling in for Aggressor. We became good friends during that month and we talked him into moving out to Ohio and filling the vacant lead position. Kid left shortly after that tour for personal reasons. In that time we sought out local bass talent, Mike Kurtz, from the Lick The Blade. Mike stayed on for a short period. Ed filled in for Mike on a few gigs and shortly thereafter, we offered him the bass spot.

Photo by Robert Escue

Had you already been experienced in singing, or was it a whole new thing for you to master? And was singing and playing guitar at the same time difficult at first?

- I sang and played guitar in Violent Night, so it wasn't anything new for me. Some things were tough, others weren't so bad. But I didn't have much time to get into shape. I had been out of practice for some time. It was hard, but I pulled through. After a month on the road, I hadgotten much better, haha!

Shortly after the release of "United We Fall", Vindicator played the Warriors Of Metal fest. How was that for you, and are there any really memorable moments you'd like to share?
- That was a great time. All of the WOMs were. We played the year before, and headlined the pre fest show the year after. That particular one we were direct support to Helstar. I remember playing  and looking over my shoulder to see James Rivera watching us. That's special to me. That means something to me. It was a real honor. Sadly, it was James' last live performance with us.

Who have you gone on tour with over the years that have left an impact on you in the sense that the bands were great to play a show with and fun to hang out with?

- Every. Single. Band. We were VERY fortunate to not run into or have to deal with ANY rock stars when we toured. We only toured a handful of times. I can list all the bands we toured with: Fatality, Aggressor, Possessor, Lich King, Viking, Seven Witches, and Vicious Rumors. Not a single one disappointed or were unfun to hang with. You forge amazing friendships on the road with your tour partners. They become your satellite family.

Photo by Rayna Lawson
Your most recent work to date with Vindicator is the EP entitled "Sleeping With Evil", which was released in January of 2014 also involved Ed and James, how did that work out?

- These tracks were tracks we had left over from UWF. They just didn't fit for one reason or another. UWF was the first release we went into having more tracks than we needed. So it was nice to be able to put them out.

There seems to be a lot of talking before the songs a lot like how Toxik had on "Think This", any correlation there? I think it adds a nice touch to the songs.

- As much as a love that record, there is no correlation between to two. We added Robert Oppenheimer to New Clear Assault: End Of An Error for the obvious reason the song is about nuclear warfare. It added to the overall feel.

The song "New Clear Assault: The End Of An Error" was a reprise almost of the song featured on the first album, just called "New Clear Assault". What was the reason for re doing that song, and what does the "End Of The Error" part of the title indicate?

- I wanted to rerecord a track, but not in the typical sense. So we built off the original and expanded it a little bit and that's what you get with New Clear Assault: End Of An Error. The end of an error aspect of the title is referring to mankind being the error. How greed and power killed us off. Not a new concept to the metal world, but something I wanted to write about.

"Hockey Stick Vengeance" stuck out to me on that EP, as well. What was the inspiration for that?

- I'm a product of the eighties. No matter how “childish” is seems, I still have a special place in my heart for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Hockey Stick Vengeance is about Casey Jones. That character always has been and will be a favorite of mine. I write about stuff that interests me. This include serious, social, fictional, political, horror, and pretty much: all topics.

Where did the art concept come from for "Sleeping With Evil" and what was the intention of the title, or the meaning?

- Artist Yannick Bouchard was the creator of that piece. I meant it literally. Sleeping With Evil is about a succubus.

If you could have any custom guitar, what would it be?

- I'd probably get myself another V of sorts. Maybe an Explorer body. I've got enough guitars that I don't really think about this anymore, haha! I actually do have a custom KxK. I quit playing it because I didn't want to beat it to hell, haha!

What are some of your favorite bands you always enjoy sitting down and listening to now?

- So many... Hessian became a recent favorite. I'm a big fan of Superchrist and most things Chris Black. Havok will always have a special place in my ear. Of course, Megadeth, Iron Maiden, Annihilator, Artillery, Riot, Thin Lizzy, etc. But I enjoy sitting down and listening to most music. There's usually always music playing in my household. An eclectic variety at that.

If you had a Cheat-tar, would you play it all the time?

- If it were a neckthru and didn't break my cow lamp, yes. I'd be ok with light switch raves, though.

At this point in your musical career, would you change anything that you've done, and are you happy with where you are now? And with all the contributions you've given to the metal community thus far, what are your next plans of action for the future?

- I'm content with what I've accomplished. Having said that, hindsight is truly twenty-twenty. There's A LOT I would do differently. Writing the same music isn't one of them, though. At this point in time, I have no plans of action. The members of my band all have a lot going on, so we do what we can, when we can. That just means Vindicator is slowing down. It doesn't mean I'm slowing down, by any means. I've got a lot planned for the future, music-wise. And in typical artist fashion, I can't really divulge right now.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Brad Hull Of Forced Entry Interview (2013)

This is an interview I did for Brad Hull of Froced Entry; one of the first "underground" 80s thrash bands I got into when I was 13 or so (I'm now 23); Forced Entry. Enjoy! And don't forget, I was about 19 or so, cut me some slack. I asked some idiotic questions and asked in odd manners. Just concentrate on the answers.... that's the cool part. Anyway, enjoy.

We all know of the impact that the bay area thrash movement made on the underground world, and is still renowned by all of the metal world today, but what about Washington? More specifically, Seattle. There were some hard ‘n’ heavy bands out of there, Metal Church, Sanctuary,  Bitter End, etc. But there was always one that seemed to be slightly overlooked, and I think that’s just wrong. That band is Forced Entry. They had blistering riffs, hard-hitting lyrics, and an overall aggressive controlled sound to them a lot of people have yet to hear. The guitarist, Brad Hull is still out and about thrashin it up, and I thought it would be most excellent to get a chance to talk to him about what he’s been doin’, and what he has done. He’ll also give you a good feel about what Forced Entry was about, and their musical style. Take it away, Brad!

Photo by Side Kick

So let's dive into this first off by finding out what you've been up to nowadays. You recently left your Metallica tribute band Blistered Earth, and I believe you went to Sanctuary from there? Am I missing anything, there? And what was the reason for leaving Blistered Earth?

BRAD:  “I’d rather not talk about the reasons why I left Blistered Earth.  Let’s just say they were trying to do something that I didn’t agree with.  But yes, I have been the touring guitar player for Sanctuary for the last two years.  I actually started playing with Sanctuary before I left Blistered Earth.  In fact, Blistered Earth’s current guitar player who replaced me, filled in for me when I went to Greece with Sanctuary.”

How'd you end up in Sanctuary? I know they were, and still are, in the Seattle metal scene, but have you known them since they started or did you guys start hangin a few years ago or something?

BRAD:  “I’ve known the guys in Sanctuary for 20+ years.  In fact, I used to go over to drummer Dave Budbill’s house and play board games, like Hotels or Life.  In 1992, they had a US tour lined up and their guitar player Sean Blosl quit the band and left them hanging.  I heard about it and asked if I could try out.  I went over to the other guitar player’s house (Lenny Rutledge) and learned the majority of their songs in about 3 hours.  Fortunately, I was already very familiar with their tunes.  So that helped a lot.  Then I did that ’92 tour with them.”

How've the gigs been for you? Any crazy times or yarns you'd like to spin to the readers?
BRAD:  “The gigs have been AWESOME.  Packed houses.  Lots of support from the fans.  Crazy times?  On our first trip to Greece, we were in Thessaloniki and our hotel was about 45 minutes from downtown.  We got to the city at about 2 pm their time.  Hung out and drank and actually ran into a few fans who were going to the show the following night.  Around 10 pm everyone else was tired and wanted to get back to the hotel.  We got on a city bus, but I didn’t want to go back at all.  I was having so much fun!  So the bus went about 2 blocks and I asked Lenny what time Lobby Call was.  He said 9:30 am.  The next time the bus stopped, I told him, “Okay, I’ll see you tomorrow!” and jumped off the bus.  I proceeded to walk around Greece drinking Heineken on the streets (You can buy a 16 oz Heineken for 80 cents Euro in these little kiosks on every street corner).  I wandered around a few hours catching the nightlife and stumbled into the club called 8-Ball, that had a metal band playing.  When the show was over, I was outside smoking a cigarette.  I asked this guy if he had any weed.  He said, “I’ve got some hash.”  So we went back to his and his girlfriend’s apartment with a bunch of other people and smoked hash and listened to her play classical piano for hours.  I got up at 7:15 am, wandered down to the bus stop, caught my bus back to the hotel, made lobby call by 9:20!”

Is Sanctuary planning on coming out with any new material?

BRAD:  “Yes!  They just recently signed to Century Media, have been writing a lot of new songs, and I think we’re slated to record in August/September.  Album titled “The Year the Sun Died.”

I noticed you were playing a '96 Carvin DC127 in a few pictures, is that a new addition, or an old reliable?

BRAD:  “Bought it in ’96, so you could say old reliable.”

What's your favorite guitar you've used and what makes it so nice?

BRAD:  “My white ’92 Gibson Explorer.  It just plays really well, stays in tune better than any guitar I’ve ever known, and the tone is incredible.  When we played Barge to Hell last December, I was told by three different sound guys (from other bands on the ship) that I had the best guitar of any band that tour.”

Any guitar you've yet to snag and shred that you've been wanting for a long time?

BRAD:  “Nope.”

What are your thoughts on the modern metal scene? Are there any bands you really like that are newer?

BRAD:  “I don’t listen to a ton of new music, so I’m not really that familiar with all the new killer bands that are coming out.  I’m kinda old skool I guess.  Gimme ‘Reign In Blood’ or ‘Ride the Lightening’, Led Zepplin or AC/DC, and I’m happy.”

-Alright, now for some Forced Entry talk!-

How did you, Tony Benjamins, And Colin Mattson meet and were you guys all into the same kind of music?

BRAD:  “I used to play soccer with Tony when we were 7 years old.  Then when I was about 16, and had been playing guitar for a very short time, someone told me Tony could play “Another Thing Coming” solo note for note.  So I walked over there with my buddy, knocked on his door, and said, “I hear you can play “Another Thing Coming” solo note for note!”  We went down into his room and he played it for me.  It was okay.  Not really note for note.  But we jammed a little bit and things clicked.  So we decided to form a band.  We went through a few drummers and then met Colin at a keg party.  He came over to jam and we all hit it off good.”
“…Because we get letters every single day from people who say they saw the video, or their friend bought the album but they can’t seem to find it in any record store!!”

Before Forced Entry was named that, you guys were Critical Condition, was that your first band?

BRAD:  “Yes.  In Critical Condition we were a five piece.  Tony played guitar at that time.  We had a different bass player and singer.  In fact, we had several different bass players and singers.  As we progressed as a band, the bass players and singers just couldn’t keep up.  So Tony switched to bass and then we went through a couple more singers.  Finally, we just said Fuck It.  Booted the last singer to the curb and decided to sing ourselves.”

Where’d the name “Forced Entry” come from? Or why did it suit the band?

BRAD:  “When Quiet Riot came out with their second album, Condition Critical, we felt it was too close a name to Critical Condition and didn’t want to be associated with them in any way.  Tony came to us with a list of names he thought up and we picked Forced Entry because we were determined to force our way into the music scene.”

Was Combat Records a good label to be on in those days? Did they treat you guys well and all?

BRAD:  “Combat was an okay label to be on, but we were happy just to be on any type metal label.  They treated us okay in the beginning, but we had really poor distribution.  We couldn’t even get distributed in Europe.  As time went on, they got worse.  We switched to Relativity for our second album (Combat was a subsidiary of Relativity).  They got our videos played on Headbanger’s Ball and I remember the Vice President calling to say, “Your video for Never a Know, But the No has been played on MTV more than any other Combat band.  Aren’t you guys happy?”  Tony told him, “NO!  Because we get letters every single day from people who say they saw the video, or their friend bought the album but they can’t seem to find it in any record store!!  What good is it being played on MTV if your fans can’t even buy your record?”  We also had a tour lined up with Cannibal Corpse and Carcass and our label would not give us one penny of tour support to do the tour.  Thanks, guys.” (quick intrusion from me (Olivia): Holy hell that tour would have been awesome!! Heads would have exploded. Re-reading this now, and completely forgot he said that.... I don't remember a lot of these interviews. Haven't looked at them in a while.... back to the interview.)

Who was the one who wrote most of the material for FE, or was it usually a collaboration thing? I know you and Tony liked to switch back and forth with lead vocals, which is a notable touch added to the music.

BRAD:  “It was a collaboration.  I’d say musically, probably 50/50, me and Tony.  As Tony was a guitar player initially, the stuff he wrote was on guitar.  He wrote a bunch of the guitar parts as well.  Tony also wrote a majority of the lyrics.  On occasion, one or the other of us would come to the band with an entire song written, but that was fairly rare.  We liked to collaborate.”

In the video “Macrocosm, Microcosm” you were goin’ to work on a solo walking down the sidewalk. Was that your idea? And how many people gave you crazy looks?

BRAD:  “Yes, it was my idea.  ALL of them gave me crazy looks.  I also played that solo with no music.  I just played that solo walking down the street, not even my guitar plugged in.”

Who’d you get to do album art on the albums?

BRAD:  “I can’t recall.  I wanna say David Betts was the art guy at Combat/Relativity, but he commissioned artists to do the album covers.  You could probably find the artists names if you looked at the albums.”

Did you guys ever hang out with Metal Church?

BRAD:  “Not really.  Run into them at clubs here and there, occasionally, but they were from South Seattle and we were North End.”

I’m guessing one of your favorite bands is Metallica, since you were in a Metallica cover band, do you remember when Cliff Burton passed away and how you felt about it?

BRAD:  “Yes, I remember when Cliff died.  I basically thought, “Fuck.  There goes that band!”  Fortunately, I got to see them on the Ride the Lightening tour in 1985 at the Moore Theater.”

Are you still proud of your work in Forced Entry, and do you still pick up a guitar and jam out to some FE stuff every now and then?

BRAD:  “Yes, I’m still very proud of the stuff I did in Forced Entry.  I like to think that it stands strong today against the music coming out.  On occasion, I do go back and play some of the stuff on the album.  We had talked about doing a reunion, so I really started trying to get it down.  That shit’s hard to fucking play!”

The band split up after the EP “The Shore” was done with in ’95, if I got my info right, there, was it hard trying to pump out an album, and what became of Tony and Colin?

BRAD:  “The Shore came out in ’93.  What was hard was trying to find a label to pick us up after we asked to be released from Relativity.  It seemed like every label out there was trying to find another Nirvana.  We stopped playing in ’95 as a band because we didn’t just want to keep playing the same songs over and over and be a band like Foghat that used to play huge arenas and are still slogging on the road playing shitty bars.  We wanted to die with a little dignity.”

Over the years, do you feel like your guitar style has changed or that you’ve progressed a lot? Anything you’ve done that’s changed your style or anything?

BRAD:  “My style has changed slightly.  I don’t think I’m as aggressive as I was in my youth.  If anything, I’d say I got shittier because I wasn’t forcing myself to play at my top level constantly.”

Was the scene cool in Seattle? There was Bitter End that was a pretty fast-pace technical thrash band as well from there; did you guys hang out a lot? I’ve seen flyers from shows where both bands played together.

BRAD:  “The scene was awesome in Seattle!  We were good friends with the majority of the bands in town.  For the most part, we all played and partied together on a consistent basis.  There was a lot of love and support for the other bands, while there was still competition.  There was also a lot of respect.”

Do you have any strange or crazy memories from touring around with Forced Entry?

BRAD:  “Before we signed to Combat, CBS was courting us in Los Angeles.  After we went to our business meeting with them, and scarfed down triple cheeseburgers and $8 milkshakes, they decided they’d rather not sign a band like Forced Entry.  Later that night, we were walking back to our hotel from The Whisky and the A&R Rep threw an empty beer bottle into a bus stop.  It smashed all over the place.  This bum came out and started screaming at us, so we kinda roughed him up a little bit and went on our merry way.  About three blocks later, he popped out of this alley way, cradling like five 16-ounce Coke bottles in his arms (when they were still made out of glass).  He started throwing them at us and was missing by a long shot. He was kind of running away from me, and I was gonna git em, when he fished his own pint bottle of Night Train out of his inside pocket.  He smashed it over my head, then pulled the old Hockey Maneuver on me, pulling my shirt up over my head, and proceeded to rake the broken bottle up and down my back.  I was cut up pretty bad.  We walked a block and a half to the hotel.  My head was gushing blood.  So I got undressed and into the bathtub.  Tony had recently taken a first aid class in college and started applying pressure on the deepest cut in my back.  They called 911.  When the paramedics got there, they pulled me out of the tub and put me on a gurney.  There was blood five feet high around the bathtub area.  I remember one of the paramedics saying, “We gotta get this guy some blood!” and the other one says, “We don’t even know what type his is!” and then the first one said, “I don’t care!”  They stretched both my arms out and put these huge needles in each of my arms, and took my ass to the hospital.  I got 106 stitches, and they wrapped me up.  Got back to the hotel about 4 am, and about 8 am we had these two chicks take us to Disney Land.  Cuz we got some free passes from CBS as some sort of “consolation prize” for not signing us.  It was awesome freaking all the little kids out with the stitches in my head, and my hair matted in blood!”

“Fuck you, we’re gonna drink ALL your beer!”

There any other instruments you play, or anything you have a passion

BRAD:  “I also play the bass in a classic rock cover band called The Hitmen.  It’s a good excuse to go out and party and get paid, plus we have a really good singer and guitar player.  I like playing the old Journey and Van Halen and shit like that, with three-part harmonies.  Outside the world of music, I love my dogs.  I have a pit bull named Cujo.  Best dog ever, totally sweet. And I’ve got an awesome girlfriend that lets me do what I want to do musically, and supports me totally in my music career.
Did someone grow up on a farm from Forced Entry, or did I just hear an odd rumor?
BRAD:  “We used to practice on five acres in a suburb of Seattle called Mountlake Terrace.  We had horses, pheasants, peacocks.  In fact, our band room was a converted chicken coop.  It was also cool because it was zoned differently from the city, so we’d throw these huge parties and the Mountlake Terrace cops couldn’t do shit!  They had to bring the sheriffs out, which rarely ever happened.”

Any back story for the song “We’re Dicks”?

BRAD:  “We played this show with a couple punk bands in Tacoma.  We ran out of beer, so we started drinking one of the other punk band’s beer.  They came in and started getting all pissy with us.  So we said, “Fuck You, we’re gonna drink ALL your beer!”  Then sat there and drank it in front of them.  Then one of the guys said, “Fuck you, you guys are just a bunch of dicks.”  About three months later, we were booked at that same venue and found out that punk band was on the bill again.  So the night before the show we were at practice and Tony said, “We should write a song about those guys.”  So we wrote them a lovely tune to remind them how much of pissy little bitches they were.  Fuck em!”

Another song I wonder about is “Never a Know, But the No”. Those are some pretty heavy lyrics, was that about a specific happening with someone? You sang the vocals on that song, so I’d imagine you wrote the lyrics for it.

BRAD:  “I did write the lyrics, but Tony wrote the title.  It was nothing about anything specific that happened in my life.  I just wanted to touch on the topic of verbal abuse.”

What’s your favorite band? And are there bands that would seem odd for you to like to other people who know what kind of music you play?

BRAD:  “Really?  Favorite band?  Can I give you a few?  Led Zepplin.  AC/DC, Van Halen, Metallica, Slayer, Black Sabbath. KISS.  I know I’m forgetting about 50 of em, but that should do ya.  I like all kinds of music, but I don’t really listen to music that much.  If it’s a good band, with some merit, I probably like it.  Except U2.  I fuckin hate U2.”

I admire that you kept the long hair, and are still doing what you love. A lot of dudes who’ve been around the metal scene for a while kind of give it up because the lack of money, and not a stable life and blah blah blah, but you’ve kept the metal flowing without yielding it seems. What kept your spirits up all these years? Do you still feel as passionate as you did in the 80s about making music?

Photo by Foto Jagla

BRAD:  “I actually cut my hair, all the way, super short in about ’96.  Kept it that way for about 10 years.  But I wasn’t really playing.  In fact, I quit playing for about 10 years to raise my son.  When I got an offer to join a band in ’06, I got up on stage with my short hair and thought, “This is some fuckin bullshit.”  So I started growing it back out again.  What kept my spirits up?  I just like to play fuckin music and bang my head!  I’m not as passionate about writing music now as I was then, because I haven’t had as much opportunity.  So far, I haven’t done any writing with Sanctuary.  Hopefully that will change in the future as I continue to play with them.  I’ve got a few ideas and a couple complete songs written.”

Let’s wrap this up with a bit of a quintessential well… wrapper upper: What are your plans and hopes for the future? And what are your thoughts on your life as a musician so far?

BRAD:  “I’d like to continue doing what I’m doing.  Hopefully be in a position to write some more killer music for the world to hear.  Of course, get up on stage and bang my fuckin head!  Cuz that’s what I really love!  I wish I’d made a lot more money doing what I love, but I can’t complain.  I’m still able to play and tour the world and do things that millions of other musicians might never have the chance to do.  Can’t complain at all, but I still like to sometimes….LOL….”

Thanks for your time, Brad!
BRAD:  “Thank you so much, Olivia, for seeking me out and giving me the opportunity to share my thoughts with your fans. Horns up, BITCHES!!”

Photo drawn by Mortuus Art
I know the names will contradict the material, but I like this picture a lot and wanted to include it.