2010. január 4., hétfő

My top 20 list of 2009

1. CANDLEMASS: Death Magic Doom
2. ASPHYX: Death...The Brutal Way
3. HELLWITCH: Omnipotent Convocation
4. COUNT RAVEN: Mammons War
5. INTO THE MOAT: The Campaign
6. EXCORIATE: On Pestilent Winds
7. NILE: For Whom The Gods Detest
8. GNOSTIC: Engineering The Rule
9. PSYOPUS: Odd Senses
10. PESTILENCE: Resurrection Macabre
11. ARTILLERY: When Death Comes
12. BELIEVER: Gabriel
13. WARBRINGER: Waking Into Nightmare
14. WINO: Punctuated Equilibrium
15. KEEPER OF DREAMS: Taste Smashed To Pieces
16. SUPREME PAIN: Nemesis Enforcer
17. DAMNED SPIRIT'S DANCE: Weird Constellation
18. STEEL PANTHER: Feel The Steel
19. ANVIL CHORUS: The Killing Sun
20. SHRINEBUILDER: Shrinebuilder

Metal History with Steve Gaines

So Steve, do you still remember, how and when did you get in touch with metal? How did your way lead to the realm of metal? How did you discover this music?
What were the musicians/records that had the biggest effect on you?
Sabbath, master of reality, Deep Purple Machine Head and Zeppelin II and III when they were all new releases.
Did you prefer the mainstream/established acts or rather the underground ones or it was equal for you?
It depends on the songs. I really do not seek out underground or vice versa. If a song speaks to me, I listen.
At which point did you decide becoming a musician? What were your influences to become musician?
At about age 4, I started singing in church choirs, so I was on stage early. It ran in the family, my grandparents, parents, uncles, aunts, and brother and sisters have all released at least one recording. Musical, to the point of embarrassing. Kind of funny…
Its well known that your brother Tim is/was the bassplayer of Christian metallers Stryper, did you start playing at the same time? Did you have a common taste considering the metal music?
He is older than me, but I started playing rock before him. He saw what I was doing and got into it. And no, we really didn’t listen to the same kind of music. I was into metal, he was into Elton John.
You play several instruments, such as guitar, bass, keys etc. did you learn at first playing instruments and then you became singer or…?
Singing came first, but when I discovered guitar, my life changed forever. Mix the two and you have a plan for life.
Have you ever taken sing/guitar etc. lessons or were self-taught?
A few lessons to learn the basics, but was self taught for the most part. I really play by ear – am not formally trained at all. And I personally frown on formal training. I think it ruins the spirit.
Being based in Los Angeles, do you agree with, that Los Angeles was the capital of the U.S. hard rock movement at the early 80s? How do you view, that inspired by Van Halens success, a metal scene began to develop in Southern California, particularly Los Angeles, during the late 1970s/early 1980s?
It was, and still is – believe it or not. While Europeans have remained more true to metal, keep in mind that the industry is still located here. Having said that, I have always found my audience in Europe. In Los Angeles, there is so much happening musically that even if you sell out the local arena, by tomorrow everyone has forgotten because someone else is coming into town that night. You would have to live here to understand.
A lot of bands were popping up at this point, such as Metallica, Slayer, Savage Grace, Shellshock (later Dark Angel), Abattoir, Armored Saint, Sceptre, Vermin, Bloodlust etc., were you deeply involved in the underground scene? Would you say, that these bands created a new type of sound?
The answer is yes – but honestly I don’t think any of us realized that we were creating something. It was just what we all wanted to hear, and no one else was consistent in doing it. So we did our best to bring it all the time. Only after the fact did anyone realize…
What do you think about, that the L. A. scene was divided into two parts? I mean, there were the aforementioned underground acts while in the other hand there were the glam/hair ones, such as Stryper, Ratt, Mötley Cre, Dokken, W. A. S. P., Bitch etc.?
That is true – but not really a bad thing. Oil and water will always separate. Only when they are shaken up do they mix. How is that for an analogy?
Did Los Angeles foster a more insular scene around the Sunset Strip, starting in 1984-1985?
Again, I don’t know. It was what was happening at the time, and in this town I don’t think we paid much attention to what went on elsewhere. We watched San Francisco and New York… other than that we were insulated.
Were the underground acts overshadowed by the glam ones? Was it harder to build up a fanbase for the underground bands than for the hair/glam ones?
Maybe, but let’s face it – if you looked at photos of a thrash band and a glam band, which one would garner more attention? The goofy looking ones. Harder to gain fans? No – there was and is an audience.
What about the club scene? Which clubs did start opening their doors for metal?
All of the ones you have heard of. Troubadour, Roxy, Whisky, Gazzarris… and those in Orange County as well.
As for your career, how did it begin at all? Was Bloodlust the very first act that you have started playing with?
I had been playing in bands for years before Bloodlust. BUT Bloodlust was the first band that wanted to be metal all the time.
Were you aware of, that Bloodlust was founded when guitarist Earl Mendenhall joined a band called Warlock (whose members included M.E. Cuestas on drums, Guy Lord on vocals, and Anthony Romero on guitar), who were rebuilding themselves from a metal cover band into an all original monster and with the addition of bassist Sandy K., the band laid the groundwork for the rest of the L.A. metal movement to follow?
You do not have the full story. I was in the band when it became Bloodlust – Guy had quit. I came in, and we started writing the songs that became the Guilty As Sin record. I left to join Abattoir, and Guy came back to do GAS.
When joined by you, Bloodlust became a fearsome act performing with bands such as Slayer, WASP, Bitch, Lizzy Borden, Abattoir, Savage Grace Holy Terror and others, how do you view it? Why and when did Guy Lord leave the band at all?
See the previous answer – as to why Guy left, I cannot speak for him. But it was nice to be able to return to do Terminal Velocity.
So, what about your rehearsals? Did you start writing originals or were you jamming rather on covers?
Original Music immediately. That may have had something to do with Guy leaving… although again, you would have to ask him.
Have you ever done any demos with Bloodlust? Do you still remember the very first Bloodlust originals?
My vocal tracks are actually on the basic tracks for GAS – but I had already left for Abattoir. Came back and did a demo before we did TV.
Unfortunately, the band suddenly found themselves without a vocalist, as you departed to join Abattoir, what was the reason of your departure? Why did you leave the band exactly?
First, I was a huge Abattoir fan. Bloodlust was shopping to labels, and Cees Wessels from Roadrunner came to see us – and at this show I was very sick… had a temperature of 102. He loved the band but didn’t like me, so I was fired from Bloodlust. The band realized they had compromised – especially since Cees then refused to sign them. So I was asked to rejoin – but was held under thumb because I was viewed as a weak link. In the meantime, I had auditioned for Abattoir a couple of times- and after their experience with one vocalist, they came to me and offered me the job. Timing was everything! I’ll tell you honestly – if the whole Roadrunner debacle had never happened, I probably would not have left Bloodlust – but the vibe was awful at the time. I had to go.
Abattoirs line up changed a lot compared to their early days, since Danny Annaya was brought in as the new drummer replacing Robert Wayne; the band was brought up to strength with the addition of you and guitarist Danny Oliverio, did you join the band at the same time?
I did the Vicious Attack album with Juan Garcia and Robert Wayne… but both departed before the album was released – but they were not credited with playing on the album.
To which extent were you familiar with Abattoirs stuff?
Much like now, I knew Abattoir’s music – all of it – like the back of my hand. I could play every song on guitar, and sing every song – regardless of which vocalist wrote the words, I knew them. And this was before joining – I was a huge fan.
At which point did you enter the studio to record your debut album Vicious attack? Were the songs ready when you joined them or did you have the opportunity to write some vocal parts or songs?
It was summer 1984 - right before the Los Angeles Olympics - I remember it vividly.
I had to rewrite some of the lyrics – but a few songs were not changed at all. Screams, Vicious Attack, The Enemy… all written by Juan Garcia.
Were you prepared to record the material?
Me personally, yes. The band had already started when they fired their vocalist and gave me the job.
How did the recordings sessions go with the record?
They were tense. A group of young kids who knew what they were doing, but had no idea of the long term implications. There was lots of fighting, alcohol, even drugs that got in the way. We were splitting sessions with Megadeth (same producer and studio) to get the most done in the least amount of time. Looking back they were a lot of fun, but from this standpoint I realize that we certainly didn't make the most of the experience.
Could be seen „Vicious attack” as one of the earliest speed metal albums out there, but the thrash moments are definitely here too?
Leslie, I have to disagree here. In fact, I disagree with everyone who calls Abattoir a speed metal band. From tempo and violence we were no different than Exodus, and they were considered thrash - not speed metal. Speed metal (to me) is a band like Agent Steel, where the emphasis is on speed. Abattoir played no polka beats at 250BPM - we still don't. We had that double slap violent style that is 100% thrash. Almost every band out there is faster than us, so why is Abattoir a speed metal band? I think we never were. I could never understand this.
What do you think about, that you got a great range and puts out a decently aggressive performance, and your shrieks fit perfectly?
Uhh, thank you? I can't really say anything about that because that would be for the listener to interpret. I just do what I do. I am happy people connect with it - by the same token, I know that my voice is an acquired taste and it bothers some people. I guess that means I am original. I have had more people call me a Phil Amselmo copy, which I simply say to them "look at the release date of Vicious Attack vs. Cowboys From Hell." I was singing like this long before people knew who Phil was. Also, how the hell could anyone confuse me with HIM, of all people? LOL
Let we clear some things. Despite Danny Anaya, Mark Caro and Danny Olivero being listed as drummer and guitarists, it was actually Robert Wayne and Agent Steel’s Juan Garcia who recorded this album. What’s the truth behind this?
Of course Mark played on VA - but the rest (as you state in your question) is the truth - it was Juan and Robert. Juan quit before the album was complete to join Agent Steel, and Robert was let go. We put both Dan O. and Dan A. on the cover to show continuity with the band and move forward. Having said that, my conscience is clear that I wanted to credit Juan and Robert with recording... I was outvoted.
How do you view, that the guitarists steal the show quite often with their incredible guitar work, and pretty original too; tons of fast and catchy riffs to be heard here, layered with solos and the solos are razor sharp and brilliant?
Mark and Juan were a fantastic guitar duo - and the album shows that. Live, Dan certainly filled Juan's shoes perfectly.
Are the drums executed nicely as well, and keeps the demand for speed flowing?
In my opinion, the drums are only keeping time on this record. Robert only had one single drum fill on the record - 'The Enemy'. He was an excellent timekeeper, and probably had the most solid double bass we had hear up to that time.
Does „Vicious Attack” basically have everything that one wants in a speed metal album; speedy riffs, outstanding vocals, and godly solos and this delivers it all, in songs that aren't repetitive at all or feel long?
Uhh... in a thrash metal album. In speed, I want the band to go faster, and have more solos. Vicious Attrack cannot be considered Speed Metal... But to agree with you... I love shorter songs. There is way more urgency. Even after all this time, I am not tired of listening to it.
Is musically „Vicious Attack” raw thrash metal, roughly recorded and delivered with an almost punk like attack, while the execution is quite tight?
EXACTLY. And that is the difference between speed and thrash.
It is fitting that the band does a cover of Motorhead’s „Ace of Spades" as this release certainly has a heavy Motorhead influence, right?
Is it correct, that rumours have it that when Lemmy heard the Abattoir version he wanted to recruit Mark Caro for Motörhead?
I don't think that could be true - as when we recorded Phil Campbell was already Motorhead's guitarist - and since he is still in the band, I sincerely doubt it. Phil and Wurzel had been in the band a couple of years at that point. I heard that rumor - but it is just that. A Rumor, as far as I know. Perhaps you should ask Mark? He has denied it to me.
Was it unambigous for you to cover the song? How did your choice fall on this tune at all?
We were such huge Motorhead fans, that we always knew we'd record the song. Never a question.
The riffs, however, are pure thrash, while the slightly more melodic vocals with variations between high screams and raspier grunts help the band to bridge a gap between speed metal and thrash, what do you think about it?
I answered this earlier. But how anyone can equate a vocalist as the single link between thrash and speed - I think it is wrong. I appreciate what you are saying, but if I was the reason why Abattoir was considered a speed metal band... I guess I simply do not understand it. I am not really a fan of too much speed metal. It is a little like calling a meat lover a vegetarian. Does that make sense?
I hope it does not sound like I am angry about this - because I am not. I am simply stating the point that I do not see it. But, your opinion is yours. I also think that the term Power Metal is wrong for the bands it applies to. There is nothing powerful (the likes of thrash) about a lot of power metal bands. I would rather call it finesse metal.
Is the songwriting all pretty solid?
That is really up to the listener, not me. But personally, I do like the songwriting.
How do you view, if these songs had been recorded slightly better, without losing the edge they would have even been better?
No, because they captured a moment in time that can never be recaptured. All of the raw emotion that you hear there could not be recreated with today's technology. The best example is Destruction recently rerecording their classics. They sound fantastic - and are technically better. But that original innocent charm is gone. A lot of bands fall into that trap - thankfully we did not.
In your opinion, were you certainly one of the forgotten gems of the first wave of thrash metal to come out of California?
Well, the entire European tour was sold out, so I do not know about being forgotten. But I will say that we missed the wave by making bad business decisions for stupid reasons. We should have toured behind VA back in 1985 - but did not. Other bands took the tours we passed on, and they are a lot more legendary today as a direct result.
Is it true, that originally the material was recorded as a demo, but Combat Records loved the raw, vicious sound so much they released it like it was, does it mean, that you didn’t change anything on the songs? How did it happen exactly?
Here is what happened - the band was recording a demo - songs were Stronger than Evil, Don't Walk Alone, and Living and the Dead. I came into the band during these sessions. We were signed to Combat before the demo was finished - so we used what we had already recorded as a starting point - it was done at the same studio with the same producer and engineer anyway. For the record, the only songs to carry over from demo to album were Don't Walk Alone and Stronger Than Evil. LATD was re-recorded.
That was the case with Exciter’s debut „Heavy Metal Maniac”, since originally that record was considered to be a demo too…
Seems like you know more about that than I do. But it is not a bad thing. If the vibe is correct, then why not use the demo versions?
How do you explain, that the timing was great, since in that year came out classics, such as „Hell Awaits”, „Long live the loud”, „Seven Churches”, „Skeptics apocalypse”, „Infernal overkill” etc.,? Did the great thrash/speed metal boom start at this point?
Can't explain - other than to say that there were a lot of metal fans who were frustrated with their heroes going weak on them, and we couldn't understand why. So we vowed to stay metal, no matter what. I can only speak for Abattoir and Bloodlust - but for all of the other bands, they were all fans first and foremost. This is what we wanted to see and hear. If we couldn't depend on Judas Priest to deliver for us (Point Of Entry was current, for example), then we'd do it ourselves.
Were you able to capture the attention of the speed metal aficionados all over America and Europe?
We sold a lot of records... a lot of people around the world identified with it.
What were the shows in support of the record?
One show in San Francisco, and 6 shows in Los Angeles.
Why did you leave Abattoir after the album came out? Were there any musical and personal differences or…?
Long complicated answer. When it came time to get ready to record our next album, management and the label pressured Abattoir to go more commercial. Why Abattoir, of all bands? So I started to argue to save the direction of Abattoir - and was met with resistance by management. I would present songs and management would remind me that I was a hired gun, and was to do as I was told (funny because they ended up using my songs anyway). With all of the lineup changes, the chemistry had changed dramatically. Management had their eye on Mike Towers anyway, and held him over me "if you f*** up, we'll fire you and get Mike to sing." So instead of working to prove my point, I became an obstinant arrogant drunk. The short answer is that I drank myself out of the band. Regardless, there were changes going on within the band organization were I would not have been there for the long term anyway. But I was vindicated. Vicious Attack outsold the Only Safe Place by 5 to 1.
Then you joined Tactics and you released both a demo („Playing To Win”) and a record („The Master Plan”), how can you sum up this very short lived act? How did the band get together?
These points are not chronologically true. Tactics existed from 1986 through to 1999 for a total of 12 years. I would not really quantify that as a short lived act - as technically it was longer than the Beatles were together. The band got together simply because I knew that Abattoir was abandoning the style I loved, and I wanted to continue in that way, so we did. We got together in 1986, were featured on Metal Massacre #8 in 1987, went on a short hiatus in 1988, came back and toured the USA, recorded "The Master Plan" in 1991, released a series of demos which were to compile the album "Prey Upon The Weak" through 1995 (Playing to win was a song from one of those demos, but was NOT the title) which was never released as a full length because the backlash against metal was so strong in the USA at the time. Another series of demos in 97 and 98, but we had run our course. Some of the other players ended up in Ministry and Agent Steel.
Then your way led back to Bloodlust, how did it happen? Why did Tactics split up?
Again, alcohol. A complete disregard for what was being accomplished. Other members trying to turn the band into something it wasn't, and Bloodlust asked me to return. I Always knew Tactics would return someday. This was 1987 to 1988.
Bloodlust had a new line up at this point, since instead of Guy Lord you became the „new” singer, guitarist Anthony Romero was replaced by John Lisi and drummer Craig Kasin took over the drumkit from M. E. Guestas, how did they get in the picture exactly? What about their musical past?
John was in the band when I returned. Anthony was terminated - I know why, but it is not my story to tell. So I'd better remain silent about it. Mark E. Cuestas (note the spelling of the name) had some personal issues which got in the way of him being a productive member. He was replaced by Craig. As far as their musical pasts... there is nothing really to say. I was no more aware of them than anyone else until they came into the picture.
You recorded a three tracks demo featuring „Trapped In The Void”, „Guilty As Sin” and „C. T. R.”, did all of you have the opportunity to take part in the songcomposing?
No. I recorded vocal tracks over Earl Mendenhall's tracks - the demo already existed with him singing on it.
Was this demo spread around the attract label interests? Did you have faith in, that Metal Blade re-enter the picture again considering, offering a new contract for you?
Metal Blade was out of the picture entirely at this point. This was right around the time that bands started releasing demos in leiu of records as a way of gaining fans. So that is why - there was no label at that point.
During late 1987 you entered the Skyline Studios, Topanga Cyn, CA to record your next material which became the „Terminaly Velocity” EP, but, was your original plan to record an EP instead of recording a full length album? Didn’t you have enough material for a second record or…?
We had enough material. I wanted to do a full length. I was outvoted by the band. They wanted to use the EP to shop for a record contract (it was considered a vinyl demo). At about this point in my music career, I had what I consider my great awakening. That you take advantage of every opportunity to the max. I was fully aware that the EP being released by Wild Rags would be considered as an official release by a signed band. At best, we could have a full length release to be picked up by another label. At worst, if we were stuck in a backlash because it was assumed we were signed, we would have a full length release available to the world. Even after the EP was released, Wild Rags offered to get us back in to complete a full length. The band refused. I remember the meeting clearly, with the owner of Wild Rags calling us spoiled brats and walking out of the meeting, thus severing ties with Bloodlust. In this meeting I was the sole vote saying we should go with WR. The rest is history.
How did the recording sessions go with the EP?
Terrible. The band really put in time to make the best recording possible. But Eric Meyer was brought in to produce, and when it came time to record (without any preparation) he insisted that we play everything fast... like Dark Angel. 2 things - 1) Bloodlust is not a speed metal band, and the songs do not lend themselves to being performed that fast. All of the power would be lost. And 2) we never even rehearsed anything at the faster tempo. We just started doing it as soon as the tapes were rolling. I was the only one in the studio saying "this is wrong! It is not who we are!" Then I was being encouraged to changed my vocal style to a more Don Doty-esque style due to the Dark Angel influence. Look, I like Dark Angel, but it was a catastrophic mistake to make Bloodlust in their image.
Do you agree with, that „Terminal Velocity” is very much like a basic example of old speed/thrash metal, somewhat effective with its plain energy and typical raw sound?
Reluctantly, yes. I don't hate the record, but I know it could have been so much better if Bloodlust would have simply been Bloodlust.
How much did you develope compared to the first album? Have you ever listened to „Guilty As Sin”? Did you like that album?
Have I ever listened to it? Of course. I was there when all of the music was written, and I wrote lyrics to all but 2 of the songs (they were rewritten after I departed for Abattoir). I actually recorded the original vocal tracks for it, but Guy recorded over my tracks. GAS was the classic Bloodlust style - and that is what TV was going to sound like, until the Eric Meyer debacle.
What are/were the main differences and similarities between the record and the EP?
I cannot answer that question any better than the above answers. Besides, that is more for a critic or a fan to answer.
The EP was mixed at Rafaelson Recorders, Hollywood, CA 12/87, were you satisfied with the result?
I guess I never gave it a second thought. It was completed, and that was what mattered.
The EP was produced by Eric Meyer, engineered by Ross Stein/Assistant Engineer Britt Bacon, how did they end up becoming the producers? Was it Eric’s first experience as a producer?
Britt was the in house engineer at Skyline - once we moved to a different studio, he was out of the picture. The band and Wild Rags thought that having Eric Meyer's name would help sell more records. I thought he was inexperienced - and yes. We were his first producing job. Guinea Pigs. Big mistake.
He was the guitarist of Dark Angel and the producer of the Recipients Of Death’s EP „The Final Flight”, isn’t he?
I do not know about Recipients of Death, or his involvement with them. But, yes, he was from Dark Angel.
Licensing EP „Terminal Velocity” through Wild Rags Records, Bloodlust quickly moved back to the forefront of the 80’s LA metal movement, correct?
We never left. We were at the time, one of the only bands with a current release, so that was something of a press buzz. But the band always drew well and were influential to the scene.
How did you get in touch with Wild Rags? How much support did they give for the band?
We knew Richard Campos very well, and he would have given us whatever we wanted - hence my wish to do a full length - as opposed to an established label.
Although you played in two very good bands, do you agree with that both for Abattoir and for Bloodlust failed the breaking through?
Sure, and because of choices both bands made. Even now in 2010 with both bands reformed, I distance myself from their business practices and reserve all of my energies for Anger As Art. But both bands had opportunties to tour, make more records, and essentially be in charge of their own destinies. Both bands chose to fail. Abattoir should have done the co-headliner with Megadeth in 1985, and Bloodlust should have done the full length and taken the US tour dates that were being planned. Like I said earlier, I learned a lot about mistakes, and how not to make them in the future.
Around the mid ’80s more and more thrash bands was popping up in Los Angeles, such as Death Force, Recipients Of Death, Viking, Necropolis, Archenemy, Bloodcum etc. what were your views on that wave? Were they on the level of Slayer, Metallica, Abattoir etc.?
I thought Viking was a cut above the rest of them. But the rest were all good - many of which I consider the first death metal bands.
Do/Did you always keep an eye on what’s going on in the underground?
Not really. Like I said earlier, I would listen to whoever wrote good songs - whether they were mainstream or underground. If you stick too much to one or the other, you miss a lot of good music.
Abattoir reformed this year and you performed some shows in Europe, how did the shows go? How happened the reformation at all? Whose idea was this?
The band actually reunited in 1999 - and this was the culmination of the reunion. We had recorded a comeback album, and toured all through the 00's. We had players come and go, dealt with other issues, spent some time on hiatus, etc. but to get Juan back was the icing on the cake. It was all spurred on by Century Media re-issuing the albums in 1998. We just kind of fell together, trying to do something else, and it morphed back into Abattoir.
As for the line up of abattoir, why didn’t Mark Caro take part in the reformation? What about Danny Oliveiro, Danny Anaya and the other former members these days?
I cannot and will not speak for Mark, but he chose not to do it - and I back his choice 100%. No hard feelings, or anything. I know you are in contact with Mark - perhaps you could ask him? Anaya? We had been out of contact for a long time. I understand that he is not playing drums at this time. Oliverio? He is in the reunion along with Juan. And also is playing guitar alongside me in Anger As Art.
What about the setlist as a whole?
Stuff from both albums, one new song, and an Evil Dead Song.
Do you plan to give more shows in the future?
It depends on what is offered, or what opportunities arise. I would like to say yes, but there is nothing on the table right now.
Nowadays you seem to be very busy with Abattoir, with your own band Anger As Art and with Bloodlust, correct?
Anger As Art just released out 3rd full length album "Disfigure" on Old School Metal Records, and we are planning a 2 legged European tour in 2010. Abattoir and Bloodlust? Gotta wait and see. Nothing at the moment with either band.
Do you get these days more respect and attention then back in the day? Did the Abattoir shows help getting new fans?
I have to admit that I enjoy my 'elder-statesman' status. To have younger bands thanking me is kind of cool - because they have taken our work and are flying the flag. The second part of the question - I don't know... maybe some of the old people brought their children to the show? I really do not know what you mean.
Being a long time musician you are, what’s your opinion about the metal scene? How much did it change or develope compared to the ’80s?
Good songs and good bands will always prevail. Bad songs and bands will be exposed and ignored. Be it the 80's 90's, or 00's - the time era doesn't matter. Shit, 3 decades have gone by since I came into the scene, and as of today we enter a new decade (today is January 1 2010) - to think that just because a calendar says something that 2 following decades should be ignored because they didn't come from some magical mythical time in the 80's is stupid.
What I do like is that the consumer is now in complete control, and that news that once would have taken 3 months to get around the world now takes 3 minutes. There are so many great bands from the entire history of metal that you can bring up on the internet and listen to... this truly is a magical time. If you are good, and appeal to or connect with people... the world is yours.
Steve, thanks a lot for the chat, any closing words?
No - I said it all in the last answer. Thanks.

Incubus - Scott LaTour

On February 1986, the Howard brothers Moyses and Francis formed Incubus and they put you on vocals, how did it happen exactly? Were you their first choice or did they audition other bassplayers too?
I was playing in a metal cover band called Fallen Angel when I met the Howard Brothers. The New Orleans metal scene was fairly small, so I had seen their band, and knew of them(though I can not recall their name at the time). They approached me after one of the shows that my band had played, and said that they were looking for a new bass player, and were interested in me. I had been looking to do originals instead of covers anyway, so we set up a tryout/jam session.
It was Francis, Moyses, and a singer named Brian Jeffrey. We were in a small room at the Howard’s apartment. We decided on some covers that we all knew so that we could break the ice. When we jammed Flight of Icarus by Iron Maiden, the room came alive, and we all knew that we had something. The chemistry was undeniable. We played a mixture of covers and originals for several months, including some studio work, before making the transition to all originals. Shortly after that transition, Francis and Moyses asked me if I would be interested in doing vocals. Brian’s voice was great, but not quite what we were looking for with the new material that was being written. I reluctantly agreed, and we broke the news to Brian. The rest as they say is history.
They moved from Rio De Janiero to New Orleans a couple of years earlier, do they?
Yes, They moved to New Orleans from Rio De Janiero when they were in Elementary school, i’m not sure exactly what year. Of course I did not meet them until 1986.
You are a New Orleans born bass player, what were your influences to become bassist?
I come from a musical family. My Father was a jazz trumpet player, and both of my older brothers are musicians, so my interest in music started at an early age. I started playing drums and learning to read music in the 4th grade. I played drums and percussion, in school and in small garage bands (playing stuff like Styx and Journey), through 10th grade, when my interest started leaning towards heavy metal and more guitar-oriented music. Some friends of mine were starting a band, they already had a singer, 2 drummers, and 3 guitar players, what they needed was a bass player, so I bought a bass, and joined the band. We were called ’Neves’, which is Seven spelled backwards, because there were 7 of us in the band. I learned bass really quickly, and wanted to start playing gigs, so I started trying out for bands that were actively playing gigs.
What about your musical past? Is it true, that you have been playing also in the same Heavy Metal bands under different names with the Howard brothers for quiet a few years before the birth of Incubus? Can you tell us more about it?
Well, I kind of touched on my past with my answers to the previous questions, so it’s a good segue. Speaking strictly from a bass-playing standpoint, my early influences were Steve Harris, Geddy Lee, and Jaco Pastorius. As stated earlier, me and the Howard’s did play together in another band prior to Incubus forming. We went through several names. Excalibur, Sabre, and Martyrdom are the ones that I can remember, before we settled on Death metal and the name Incubus. With Brian as the singer, we did covers and originals, though we tried to do covers that not many bands did. I mean, back then, everyone was doing ’Breaking the Law’, and ’The Trooper’. We took it a step further and did more obscure covers, like ’The Trees’ by RUSH, and ’Zero the Hero’ by Black Sabbath. We always tried to separate ourselves from other bands, and what other bands were doing.
What about the New Orleans scene at this point? Were you familiar with bands, such as Exhorder, Nuclear Crucifixion, Acid Bath, ShellShock etc.?
The New Orleans scene was, and still is, very small. Most all of the metal musicians knew one another, and tried to help each other out as much as possible. There was an underground metal scene, and the Hair Metal band scene that was popular at the clubs and with the ladies. It was a very tight-knit group of musicians, no matter whether you played hair metal or underground metal. We looked out for each other. We had friends who played the Hair Metal stuff, and they even let us open for them, to help us work on our live performances.
We were very familiar with those bands that you mentioned. We opened for Shell Shock, when we first got into the underground scene, and played with both Acid Bath and Nuclear Crucifixion. As for us and Exhorder, arguably two of the biggest metal acts in New Orleans at the time, we never got to play together. They have re-united this year as well, and I am still friends with those guys, so it still could happen.
Did these bands put New Orleans on the map of the metal scene? What would you say about the ’80s New Orleans metal scene, compared to the ’80s New York, Los Angeles, Bay Area, Texas or Chicago one?
I think that all of the bands helped to establish the New Orleans metal scene and sound. There were some great musicians, working very hard, and making some original sounding music. There are several things that happened to put New Orleans on the map, besides some killer musicians. There were some of the hardcore bands that were signed (Shell Shock, Disappointed Parents), before the crossover scene started happening. Of course, you can’t mention the New Orleans scene without mentioning Phil Anselmo. He, as most people know, got his start with Hair Metal bands, he got recruited by Pantera, and moved to Texas. He still stayed involved in the New Orleans metal scene and helped bands a lot by trading tapes with people that he met. Incubus was the first of the death/thrash metal bands to get signed out of New Orleans. Exhorder, Graveyard Rodeo, Crowbar, Soilent Green, and many others would follow.
I don’t think that there was much of a difference between music scenes outside of New Orleans, although, I do not think that any scene as small as New Orleans’ produced such a great number of quality bands and musicians.
How much were you involved in the underground? I mean, were you often hanging at clubs, did you take part in the tapetrading and stuff?
I was very much involved in the underground scene. I traded tapes, and went to as many shows as I could. I have seen myself in the crowd in some old videos of metal shows, you may have seen me and not realized who it was. I love metal, and have always supported the scene.
What were the venues in New Orleans that opened their doors for metal? Did you have a healthy club scene?
As for clubs, no not really. Most of the clubs, either didn’t think that we could bring in the money that the Hair Metal bands did, or that the crowds were too raucous and would tear the place up. Most underground metal bands rented halls to play in. The V.F.W. (Veteran’s of Foriegn Wars) Hall on Franklin Avenue in New Orleans became infamous for hosting some of the greatest metal bands of the era. It was an empty hall, so it was all ages, and there was very little to break or damage, so it was perfect for hardcore and metal shows that lent themselves to having large slam dancing pits.
How about your rehearsals? Did you start writing originals right from the start or were you jamming mostly on covers?
We started off by just practicing in the Howard’s spare bedroom in their apartment. But then, due to the noise, we had to rent a mini-storage garage and would practice in the evenings before it got too late. We eventually got a practice room above an indoor shooting range, and we were free to practice any time of the day or night.
When I first joined the band with Francis and Moyses we did a mixture of covers and originals, and eventually went to doing all originals. The problem back then was that it was very difficult to get a gig playing only original material, most club owners wanted you to play at least some covers. Not to mention that you had to have enough material to be able to play for at least an hour. Covers are, and were, a great way to build your chops, because you’re playing someone else’s style, so it all worked out for the best.
In May '87, you recorded your first demo, entitled; „Supernatural Death”, how were that songs penned? I mean, who was responsible for the music and for the lyrics?
Correct. We did that recording in May of 1987. Francis wrote all of the music, and we all pitched in on the lyrics. I wrote some lyrics by myself, Francis and Moyses wrote some together, and we all three wrote them on some songs. Of course, Moyses and I wrote our own drum and bass parts, but the main music of the songs were all written by Francis.
Do you still remember how was the demo recorded?
Well, Stonee’s Studio was in a toolshed, that was in the owner’s backyard, that he converted into a studio. Nothing high-tech at all. He advertised in the paper, and it was affordable so we did it. It was an 8-track studio, which was plenty for us, because we practically did the whole thing live anyway. I did a scratch vocal, and Francis over-dubbed the guitar solos. That’s about it. Most of the tracks were occupied by drums. We all had prior studio experience, so we were in and out of there in two days.
Can you tell us more about the tape?
I think that I covered everything that I remember about it. We recorded 10 songs total. Of those we made two different demo tapes. We had a 10-song tape that we traded and sold at shows. We also made a 4-song tape that we shopped to A&R people at record labels, of course this is back in the day of press kits.
Was it originally a four track demo or a six track one? I ask, because demo recordings of „Death”, „Hell’s Fire”, „Caraleptic”, „Rigor Mortis”, „Blind Vengeance” and „Assault” were also done, but never properly released, why did you never spread these tunes?
I guess I jumped ahead a bit with my answers, but I can perhaps shed more light on why we did it. Basically, we put what we felt were our four strongest songs on the 4-song demo tape. That’s marketing 101, really. You have to catch the attention of the listener right away or you lose them, and it just did not make sense to shop a 10-song demo in those days. It’s not that we didn’t spread the 10-song tape(we probably made more copies of that one), it just seems that the 4-song tape spread further and faster for whatever reason. And not so coincidently, most of the 6 other songs never made it past that demo tape. Again, because we kept what we thought were the four strongest songs, and eventually just wrote better songs, and dropped the others, even from our live sets. If you listen real good, you will find a riff or two that shows up from one of those songs on a song from one of the later albums. 
Who designed the logo of the band and the cover of the demo?
If I remember correctly Moyses drew the original logo, and the Supernatural Death cover. He, Francis, and their brother, Reginaldo, are all excellent artists.
The demo was spread thru the underground Death Metal scene, did it open some doors for the band? Did it help to expand the band’s popularity in the underground?
Yes, I think it certainly helped. Even now, with the internet, it is very difficult to spread the word about a band without physically touring. The tape trading circles were a way for lots of bands to get a following and open up doors for them, whether it be for gigs or just as a fan base to use as a selling point for any record label that might be interested.
What kind of reviews did you get on the demo?
I personally have never seen or heard any formal review of the demo. I have had people tell me everything from „it was great and ground-breaking”, to „it was good for what it was at the time”, which I think are all fair statements. It’s very hard to be subjective about your own material, so any feedback that I get is welcomed and accepted.
What about the live activities at this point? How often did you play live?
I’m guessing that you mean, at the point of the demo release. At that point we had played at least 10 shows as Incubus. We had played shows prior to me being the singer, as well. So, 10 is a rough guess, it could have been a bit more, but it was at least ten, i’m fairly sure of that. And, of course with other bands and/or line-ups, we had all played shows before. We were not new to the concept of live performance.
In my collection is a bootleg that was recorded 8/28/1987 at the VFW Hall in New Orleans. Do you still recall this particular gig? Was it your first show what you have ever played?
Ah, yes. The day after my 19th birthday. I remember the gig, and have the recording myeslf. It was a very hot August night in the hall. It was our 3rd or 4th headlining show. Flagrantz and Seveth opened for us. Good times indeed.
A few months after the release of your demo, the band released their first debut album „Serpent Temptation” through Brutal Records (USA) and Metal Works (UK), at which point did you enter the studio? Were you prepared to record the material?
It was about 6 months in between recording the demo and the album. We were very prepared for the studio, nevertheless. We could almost literally play the material with our eyes closed. We went into Southlake Studio in January of 1988, and laid down most of the tracks live. Steve Himmelfarb was the engineer, and though a mighty fine engineer, he had very little experience with the extreme metal that we were doing at the time, so we decided to fly to Los Angeles to mix and polish it. We entered Track Record in North Hollywood in February of 1988, and it was a perfect fit for us. We had Ken Paulokovich engineer and do the mixing. He was a relative unknown at the time, but he had spent a lot of time working with Bill Metoyer, who was our first choice, but he was working at Music Grinder down the street with Flotsam and Jetsam on their „No Place for Disgrace” Elektra debut.
Did you constantly write the songs for the record?
Francis was always writing new material. As for the stuff on Serpent Temptation, that had all already been written and practiced to death. He would come to practice and play a new song that he had written,and Moyses and I would follow along until we learned it. Francis would of course tweak it, and sometimes make major changes, come back to practice, and we’d do it all over again. It was really a pretty straight-forward and effective way of writing new songs. Since Moyses and I learned it as he made the changes, we could play the song very tight shortly after it was finalized by Francis.
How did the recording sessions go? How long did the recording sessions take?
The sessions went fine. We enjoyed it, and learned a lot. We were in Southlake studio for about 10 days, and Track Record for one week.
What made you to record the material at the Morrisound Studios? Do you agree with that it wasn’t as popular at this point as it became later on?
„Serpent Temptation” was not recorded at Morrisound, that was the 2nd album, „Beyond The Unknown”, I was not on that record. Morrisound started to get popular in 1990, when the heavy metal record labels started sending their bands there.
Do you agree with, that Incubus made a strong start as one of the heaviest bands in the eighties?
Yes, I believe that is a fair statement. I know that not many bands were doing what we were doing at the time.
Is „Serpent Temptation” an example of pure thrashing rage in its finest form, with barking vocals and rampaging guitars?
Yes, I think that „ST” was definitely a thrash album. The later Incubus/Opprobrium records lent themselves more to death metal, but I believe that „ST” was pure speed/thrash.
Especially the ultra-fast guitar solos on this album often sound downright rushed, making even bands like Slayer sound almost progressive in comparison, right?
We were very proud of the fact that we were one of the fastest bands around at the time. I think Cryptic Slaughter were doing the kind of speed that we were, but that’s about it.
Do you think that, „Serpent Temptation" is furious, very fast thrash/death which took the genre into its next stage?
Well, I like to think that we played a part in helping metal go to new extremes. Sadly, there are some young metal fans around that have never heard our stuff. We hope to change that, now that we’re back together again.
Is the music still more thrash than death metal, but some sections are so intense that many future death metal bands would find it hard to match; a ground-breaking album?
Definitely. As I stated in an earlier answer, it was definitely thrash, and definitely not something that anyone else was doing at the time.
How do you view, that most of the tracks on this record consist of a mixture of slamming breakdown riffs or high speed hypersnare?
We picked our 8 strongest songs at the time, for the record. Those being the songs with the most brutal slam-dancing riffs, as well as, the fast drumming riffs.
Do you think, that this masterpiece made quite and impact in the international metal scene and built up a strong worldwide fan following? Were all of you satisfied with the result?
As I look back on it, I have mixed feelings. At the time, I don’t think that I realized the impact that we were having across the US and the World, but at the same time, knowing what I know now, I think that had we been better backed, and managed, we could have been bigger than Slayer. So, it’s really a happy, yet sad kind of feeling about the whole thing. Of course, I would not give up the experience, ever. I just wish the results had been a little better, that’s all.
As for the labels, how did you get in touch with them? Weren’t bigger labels interests in the band at this point?
To be honest with you, we had a manager who took care of most of that, so I was not involved as much as as I probably should have been. I know that we had shopped our Demo tapes to literally hundreds of record labels. Back then, you had to make press kits and send your stuff by certified mail. We spent a lot of money on postage and long distance phone calls. Thank God for the Internet, it is much less expensive nowadays.
How much promotion did you get from them at all? Did they support the band?
Overall, we got a fair amount of promotion from the label early on, but it eventually faded as time went by. When the album was first released, we had full-page ads in „Thrash Metal” magazine, and „Power Metal” magazine, in the US. I don’t think that we got nearly that much promotion in Europe though, and that was just the inital push, there wasn’t much more after that.
Which bands were still signed by Brutal Records besides Incubus?
I don’t know any other bands that were signed with them at the time.
What were the shows in support of the record?
We did plenty of shows to support „ST”. I do not have an exact number, but we played a lot in 1988 and 1989.
Would you say, that „Serpent Temptation” really makes its mark on the scene? Is it considered today a classic?
I think it made a mark with those who heard it, unfortunately, I don’t think that enough people heard it, in order for it to be considered a „true” classic. Of course I think it is a classic, but I am biased.
At the end of '89, the band was looking for a new label to release their second album, which became „Beyond the unknown”, does it mean that you take part in the songcomposing for the second record? Did you do some preproduction demos and stuff?
We had about half of that album written when I left the band, but Francis, being the perfectionist that he is, changed much of what had been written after I left.
We recorded a lot of our practices onto cassette tape so that we could sit down and critique it later, so there are some tapes of practice out there, but nothing of any decent quality, I would imagine.
In the mean time, in late ’89 you left the band, what kind of reasons did lead to your departure? Was the second album ready and written when you quit?
1989 was a very difficult year in my life. The band was looking for a new label, we also decided to part ways with our manager. I was not working a regular job, so I no longer had steady money coming in. Francis and Moyses decided to change the direction that the band was going in, and relieved me of my vocal duties. The event that most contributed to me leaving was the death of my Father. My Father had fallen ill, and in a matter of just a few months had died. It would take me many months to get over his passing, and start playing music again.
As I stated in an earlier answer, we had about half of the 2nd album written when I left the band, but it would change a lot before it was actually released.
How did you and Francis end up doing guest appearance on Sepultura’s „Beneath the remains”?
Good question. I think that we had some mutual friends, and somehow found out that Max Cavalera would be in Tampa around the same time as us. We called the studio and made plans to come by just to visit, and when we were there, Max asked us to sing. We hung out that day at the studio, then again that night at the hotel. We had a good time, Max is a nice guy.
After you left Incubus you joined Haate and Disjecta Membra, what can you tell us about these outfits? Have you ever recorded materials with them?
Correct. I formed Haate a few months after I left Incubus. I wanted to start playing music again, so I got together with some friends that I knew from the nola music scene. Jay Gracianette on guitar, who would later play with „Graveyard Rodeo” and „Christ Inversion”, James Landry on guitar, who is now in a band called „4Q2”, and Willie Larkin on drums. We started off without a vocalist just writing and polishing our sound. Once we had about five songs written, we decided to hold tryouts for our vocalist, as I did not want to sing, because I wanted to concentrate on playing bass. After trying out several singers, we enlisted Brian Jeffrey as the singer. Yes, the same guy that sang with Francis and Moyses when I first joined them. He is now with a band called „Crotchbreaker”. We started playing shows, recorded a demo, and quickly started to grow a following. We had some infighting, and by mutual decision, James left the band. We broke up a few months later, and I moved to Atlanta, Georgia in June of 1991. I joined „Disjecta Membra” shortly after moving to Atlanta. They were already established on the Atlanta scene, and had a demo tape out. We played several large showsin Georgia, opening for Prong, as well as headlining some shows in Louisiana. We broke about a year later due to other projects that some of the members were involved in.
Did you remain in touch with the Howard brothers by the way? Did you part ways on a friendly term at the end?
I was in a bad state of mind when I left the band, and probably didn’t handle it in the best of ways, but we were never mad at one another. We just didn’t talk for a few years, because I was just trying to move on with my life, as were they. We began talking over the phone on occasion, and were still on very friendly terms. I always thought that one day we would be back together again, and now we are, so overall, it worked out okay.
What do you think about „Beyond the unknown”? Did the band succeed in doing another classic?
I think it’s a fantastic record. Yes, it’s a classic, and it is exactly the direction that they wanted to go in with the 2nd album. They did a great job on „BTU”.
Did the band step on a higher level with „Beyond…” in terms of sound, songs, production etc.? Did they keep their unique sound that can’t be compared to any bands? I mean, they sounded unique, they weren’t a Morrisound band…
The writing is definitely better, and they did the entire album at Morrisound, which of course speaks for itself from a production standpoint. I think they held onto the „ST” style for the most part, but grew musically.
Did you remain involved in the metal scene during the ’90s? How did you view all of those trends (grunge, pop/punk, nu metal etc.) that appeared at this time and effaced the metal scene?
Yes, I tried to stay very active in the metal scene. I knew some metal musicians who jumped on the grunge music bandwagon, as a way of making money, but I stayed true to metal. Although, I do like some of the grunge bands, metal will always be my favorite.
What do you think about that, Incubus were a band in the early movement of death metal that are severely overlooked by death metal fans today?
It’s unfortunate for us, but I am very thankful that we were able to make an early mark on the scene. Some of the old school metallers know who we are, and we hope to continue to spread the word to the younger metalheads around the world. We hope to bring it back around again, even bigger and better than before.
Are you aware of that „Serpent Temptation” was re-released by Radiation Records/Nuclear Blast on CD with completely re-recorded vocals, revised lyrics, and different cover art (1996) and Nuclear Blast re-released the re-vocal tracked version in 2000 with „Beyond the Unknown” in a bare bones digipak format…
Yes, I am very aware of it. When I first heard about it, I was a little concerned, and thought that I might need an attorney, until I bought it, and realized that all of the stuff that I had done had been removed. I figured that it was a money grab by the record label, to take advantage of the popularity of the original release. I still have mixed feelings about it, but it’s out there, and I guess that is the most important thing. People know about it. From what I have heard from Francis and Moyses, it was just a project that they had wanted to do. They removed my vocals, bass lines, and lyrics so as not to infringe on my copyrights.
These days you joined forces with the Howard brothers again and you released a material titled „Mandatory Evac” last year, what would you say about it compared to the classic Incubus stuffs?
I officially re-joined in July of 2009, so I was not in the band when they wrote and recorded „Mandatory Evac”, but I think it’s a good album. I think they tried to recreate some of that old school sound for this one and it turned out very original.
Is the band live and well? What about your future plans?
Yes, we are very much alive and well. They live in Tampa, FL and I live outside of Atlanta, GA. We’re doing the long distance thing right now, and as we get closer to doing live shows, i’ll be down there a lot more often. Francis is writing material for the next album right now, as well. We’re hoping to go to Europe and/or South America before we record the next album, but right now everything is on hold until we get our live performance where it needs to be. Then we’ll be doing some warm-up stuff around the Southeastern U.S. We’re excited to be back together with the original line-up.
Scott, thanks a lot for the interview, anything to add what I forgot to mention?
Look for us in 2010. We’re going to be trying to get out there and be seen. We’re going to try to do as many festivals as humanly possible.