2010. január 4., hétfő

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.

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