2010. szeptember 10., péntek
Early '80s Los Angeles thrash/speed history - Abattoir - Mark Caro
So Mark, to start this feature, I would like curious to know, how did you discover metal music?
Really by way of my friend and Abattoir band mate Mel Sanchez. He was more open to the heavier music than I was early on, and was liteneing to music ike GBH etc, before most of us even knew who they were. So, Mel brought me up to speed, no pun, on a lot of the music that became influential in Abattoir style.
What did you find so exciting in this music? What was the attraction of this music?
At fisrt it was the power it projected, after that, it was that it intimidated other bands that just labeled us a a punk band, then when Meallica, broke, just like that, we were instantly labeled a speed metal band..LOL! -
Was your goal at the age of 14/15 to become metal musician? When did you decide to be metal musician? What were your influences to be metal musician?
At 14 / 15, my goal / dream was to make my living at playing music, and at that time bands like Aerosmith, Led Zeppelin,etc, were king, so metal was not in my mind at all. – Honestly, playing metal just came as Abattoir evolved into a metal project. It was nothing planned on my part.
How did your choice fall on the guitar? Did/do you play perhaps other instruments as well?
Candidly, I tried the drums at first, but I couldn’t quite find the coordination. My older brother started playing my drums and was instantly so much better than me that I lost confidence and quit. I just gave him my drums. I tried the guitar and discovered that it was a perfect fit for me.
Were you self-taught or…?
My Dad started me off with the basic chords and after that, yes, 100% self taught.
Was it easy to get those times good quality guitars, strings, equipments, amplifiers etc.?
This is good question – On amplifiers, today’s amps are much better in my opinion, but back then, the guitars were better than today’s, unless you are willing to pay half a years salry for a custom built piece.
Abattoir were around since 1978 in one form or another, but they truly got their start when after a video shoot of „I Love it Loud”, KISS’s Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley gave Mel Sanchez and Juan Garcia a one-hour clinic on music business, is that correct?
Yes, this is correct. I was not there when that happened, but the story goes Paul and Gene explained how music was a business and gave them a few pointers; not sure what they were, but I do remember from that point on they both had a very business centric attitude with Abattoir and their future musical projects.
When was the band formed exactly?
Right around 1977 or 78.
Who came up with the name of the band?
Mel came up with the name.
Did soon Abattoir become one of the most remarkable early speed metal bands?
It wasn’t real soon after that, but by 1983 Abattoir had built a pretty nice buzz in the Los Angeles music scene, but real lift-off came right after the release of the ’Screams from the Grave’ demo that Bill Metoyer recorded at Track Recording Studio.
The line up was consisting of Mel Sanchez (b), Mark Caro (g), Rawl Preston (v), Juan Garcia (g) and Robert Wayne (d), do you still remember how did you get together? Was Abattoir the very first band for all of you or…?
The line up on the ’Screams’ Demo featured Ron Gonzales on drums; not Robert Wayne. This line up was the one we used going into the all original phase of the band. Ron left shortly after to form his own band called Commander. Robert Wayne, was a local guy that Juan recruited after Ron’s departure. Mel, Juan and I all knew each other from High School and Raul was a friend of Mel’s cousin that came down to audition and simply blew us away. He was that good. His voice and image was a great fit for the band.
You started to play your first gigs in 1982, what do you recall of the very first gigs?
Was it 1982? I take it you are referring to our all original lineup, right? Whatever year it was, the first show was at the Icehouse in Pasadena, CA and came off pretty well. I response to the new music was exactly what we had hoped for. The next after the Icehouse was on a Wednesday night at the Troubadour in Hollywood, CA. That was on August 3rd, my birthday and that show sold out. A sell out on a weeknight was unusual and made the club owner take notice, resulting to us getting a weekend slot by our next show. At that point, we knew we had something own that was special.
What was your setlist like? I mean both originals and covers or…?
At the point where we transitioned to all originals, covers where cut from the set, with the exception of ’The Ace of Spaces’. Other than the all the songs on Vicious Attack, I think we played a few songs off the Only Safe Place, like ’Hammer of the Godz’ and ’Back to Hell.’ We also did a song called ’City Turned Metal’ that was never recorded by Abattoir. I think may have played B.O.H.I.C.A. now and then too. I believe Evil Dead tracked that one.
What about the L.A scene at this point? Were you familiar with bands, that started trying its wings at the same time as you, such as Metallica, Shellshock, Slayer, Omen, Armored Saint, Sceptre, Vermin etc.?
Yes, you are right. It was a watering hole for some of the 80’s biggest metal acts. It was a non-stop record label signing party. Once the scene dies, Hollywood was like a ghost town. It hasn’t been the same since. Armored Saint were local to us and so we saw them at party’s and clubs. Slayer were also local to us, but I never saw them too much other than at the clubs and although I probably met them, Kerry was the only one I actually said more than a couple words to because he played guitar with Dave Mustaine with Megadeth when we opened for them went up to San Francisco, Dave’s first trip up there after leaving Metallica. We hung out with the guys from Metallica up there on that trip. Mel was real good at staying on top of who was who in the metal scene so, we knew who pretty much all the established, and up and coming acts were.
You etched your mark on the developing Los Angeles metal circuit alongside bands like W.A.S.P., Malice, Bitch, and Slayer, right?
This is true. I think W.A.S.P. were pretty much the act that I looked forward to playing with the most. Chris Holmes was a huge guitar influence of mine, so any chance to play on the same bill with him, was another opportunity to hang out and learn from his vast musical and business experience, and he was a super great person as well. Other than Edward Van Halen, Randy and Jimmy Page, no other guitar player had a greater influence on my playing and approach to playing the guitar than Chris Holmes.
Was Abattoir the really first metal act or did you play earlier in several acts?
Well, I can’t account for every region in the USA, but around southern Californina 1983, I don’t know of any bands that were playing the brand of metal that Abattoir was. I’m not sure what year Bloodlust broke, but they had a pretty good style of metal.
Would you say, that Abattoir was one of the first speed/thrash LA outfit?
Yes, Without a doubt.
Was it hard to find back then in LA the most suitable members for a speed/thrash band?
Yes, but its tough finding suitable members in any music genre or any business for that matter. It’s so difficult to get any group of musicians to stay on the same page for any real length of time. To have any real chance for success in music, its like any business, you need a strategic plan, structure and discipline. Even at that, its very challenging. I found that very few musicians were willing to buy into this business first way of thinking. Mel, Juan and Steve are very much business first thinkers.
What do you think about that the L. A. scene was divided into two parts? There were the underground thrash/speed outfits and the glam/hair ones and the underground outfits were overshadowed by the glam ones? Were these commercial acts more popular and known than the speed/thrash ones?
You are correct on this. Very often the two genres clashed at times. In the begining I think that glam did dominate for the most part, as they had pretty good sales generated from their albums, but as Metallica’s record sales increased, glam sort of took a back seat to the heavy brand of metal and eventually the whole scene just died out.
Actually, this worked out ok for the most part because the seasoned promoters like Gina Zamperelli who booked some of the best, most memorable shows at Perkins Palace and Mike who booked shows at the Troubador, had a good feel for the genre’s and followings of the bands and rarely mixed them on the bills. Once and while the genres were accidentally booked on the same show and it candidly, it never really ended well. But, for the most part, there was room for everyone and the majority of any disputes where just part of healthy competion between bands of both genres.
Which clubs did start opening their doors? Were there clubs both for the thrash/speed bands and for the glam/hair ones or…?
If my memory serves right, at first most clubs booked both glam and Metal, but because most metal shows resulted in thrashing/moshing pits, the clubs began booking more glam shows, probably cornered about the liabilty and safetly issues. One club that booked pretty much both was the Troubador. Mel pretty much plotted the circuit of clubs that we’d be playing. Gazzaris was what we did as we were writing originals and playing covers, and once we launch the all original phase of the plan, it was the Icehouse, to the Troubadour, the Country Club and the Roxy, mostly. All the bands shared the clubs, and the really smart and successful concert promoters back then, like Gina Zamperelli, did a pretty good job for the most part to make sure that the hard core music crowds weren’t mixed with the more glam crowds.
What about your early rehearsals? Did you strive writing originals or were you jamming mostly on covers?
Early on all covers. Mel had a good feel for what songs and bands to cover. We were doing some cool covers from bands like Riot, Saxon, AC/DC, The Scorpions, Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, cool stuff like that. I mean, now, it must not sound like any big deal, but back then, NOBODY was doing that stuff, so it really did sort of clear a path for where the band was heading.
You recorded your first demo titled „Original Abattoir” in 1983 featuring „Screams from the grave” and „Vicious attack”, can you tell us details regarding the tape? How was it recorded at all?
It was recorded at Track Recoring Studio, in Hollywood. I think that was one of Brian Slagel’s (Owner of Metal Blade Records) flagged studios for his Metal Massacre bands. We went in to record ’Screams from the Grave’ for the Metal Massacre compilation. Our manager asked us to record Vicious Attack at the same time so we could send it out to as a demo. Bill Metoyer was the engineer at that session and I was so glad. He is one of the best engineer/producers I ever worked with to this day. It all went pretty smooth. And when a thief was shot dead police, outside the back of the studio, during the tracking of ’Screams for the Grave’, after he robbed a local liquor store, the tone was clearly set for everything going forward..(laughs)
Would you say, that ABATTOIR's sound was maturing from performing covers to writing original material as band leader Mel Sanchez became highly influenced by the New Wave of British Heavy Metal (N.W.O.B.H.M); a firm decision was made to forge ahead as a full blown Heavy Metal band?
Well, that’s exactly right. It all fell into lace and was a naturals progression from the influence of British Metal. And, you can hear the influences clearly on the first record. You are right on the money. As I spent all my efforts polishing my chops as a guitar player, Mel brainstormed the direction of the group. So, as the sound became heavier and faster, our writing styles (Mel and I) seemed to contrast more and more. For example, as you listen to “Screams from the Grave”, you’ll hear clearly Mel’s Motörhead influence as compared to “The living and the Dead” which reflects an Accept driving sound, a band I really grew fond of at that time.
Did you put on the demo only two tracks, because you haven’t more material or…?
No, we had budgeted recording for two songs.
Was it shopped around to attract label interests? Through which channels did you start promoting the demo?
I think our Manager, Rico, shopped it around a little, but mostly it was sent to magazines and radio stations, you know, the usual promotion channels.
The demo was engineered by Bill Metoyer at the Track Studios, does it mean that it was your first studio experience?
That was my first true studio experience, I’m not sure about the others. Juan and I spent some good hours planning our parts out, from the rhythms, to leads to layering – all that fun stuff. We were ready and pretty much got exactly what we envisioned in the final product. He was the best studio engineer and producer I have ever worked with to this day. So, my initial recording experience was very positive and then as time went on, I got to see more of the bad side of the studio experience.
Did the demo open some doors for the band in L. A. area?
It really did. I had a feeling about it too because when we played it for people we knew I could see their faces turn pale, then for the most part, their reaction was always the same ” You guys are going to make it, no doubt about it”. What a feeling to be around all that. It was an awesome experience. Then, all of a sudden folks treated you different, then came the groupies and all of a sudden, we were living the life of rock n roll, and all that comes with it. Some radio airplay, a ton of fan response worldwide; it was a huge catalyst for us.
The thrash/speed scene started with „Kill em all” of Metallica and „Show no mercy” of Slayer, in your opinion, if these records wouldn’t have released back then, wouldn’t have been any thrash/speed scene?
This is great question. I do think that thrash metal was going to emerge regardless of who it was that received credit for breaking it to a wider audience. Mel sort of showed me during that era how certain groups were getting heavier and faster before anyone ever heard of Metallica and Slayer. So, I am convinced it was a logical and natural progression of the genre.
How much, how great effect have SLAYER and METALLICA had on the thrash/speed scene as a whole?
Lets put it this way, both acts have clearly established their own place in Thrash Metal history, and on own accord. Metallica however, are receiveing credit for clearing the trees and the brush in the jungle, a pathway if you will, for all that endeavored to play thrash to a wider audience. - They’ll be know for that.
You debuted live at the Troubadour, what do you recall of that show?
I remember it was Wednesday night and it happened to fall on my birthday. The club managers were blown away and happy because we had sold the place out on a weeknight. It was the only weeknight we played at the Troubador. – It could be looked at as the commencement of Abattoir’s assault on the music industry.
The band generated a strong following by constantly performing live at the Troubadour in Hollywood and even traveled North to San Francisco to support the newly formed Megadeth on a bill that also included Trouble and that was Megadeth’s first show, that took place February 15th and 18th, 1984, wasn’t it?
I think that is correct, again, I’m not good with dates. But yes, that was the idea. Mel’s idea was to play shows, but good shows. We rarely played, just to play. Every show had to make sense. Meaning, it was either a good bill, or a headlining show at a good venue. This strategy worked pretty well as the following grew fast and steady. Right around there yes. Being a sort rookie to the metal scene, having the opportunity to go north with Dave Mustaine was a huge advantage. Dave was a person I grew a great respect for. He had a keen grasp for all the major aspects of the music business, writing, publishing, preparation, strategies, in addition to being a superb guitar player. And he was willing to share his knowledge, unlike others in this business. Back then I think I looked at Dave Mustaine as pioneer of sorts in thrash having been the main songwriter for Metallica. To have the opportunity to play shows up in Northern California where the scene was pretty darn good and where Dave was considered to be God, was more than I could have hoped for at that time. The shows were amazing and it taught me a lot about true thrash metal fans and how the expectations were more about musical substance than a flavor of the month stage presence and smoke and mirrors stage antics.
As I as know, they played with Kerry King on those shows, is that correct?
Yes. I think Dave’s Megadeth was at its very best when Kerry was in the band. He just fit. He had a style and chemistry that to me, just fit. Too bad he wasn’t able to do both projects. I think about that time both Slayer and Megadeth were on pace to get really busy with touring and recording, so it would have been real tough for Kerry to that pull off.
After receiving lots of airplay on KMET's Friday night radio show „The Mighty Metal Hour” the band started to generate a buzz within the music industry, correct?
Wow, yes, this was a very key element to our ascendance. This huge commercial radio station, KMET, was clearing air time, in prime party time, on Friday nights! This show called „The Might Metal Hour”, hosted by the legendary Jim Ladd was pumping Ratt, Malice, Armored Saint, Queensryche, Abattoir, Dio, Iron Maiden, Riot, I mean really cool stuff...! First time I heard ’Screams from the Grave’ on the radio I was freaked out. I thought I was dreaming..(laughs). A lot of the bands on that show got signed, including us. I’d say, all these bands owe Jim Ladd a debt of gratitude for his part in the eruption of the Heavy Metal movement.
Typical line up changes happened in the early days which lead John Cyriis (John Syriis at the time) (later Agent Steel) into the band, how did he get in the picture exactly? Why did Rawl Preston leave the band?
Well, best as I can recall, Raul had just fell out of love with the Abattoir and wanted to try something else. John was somebody Juan brought in to take a crack at the vocals and he got in. He didn’t last long, but he got in. No one knows for certain why. The reason at the time was that the band had gone a little heavier than he wanted. Candidly, to this day it’s a bit frustrating to speculate, as all the components for a powerhouse metal act were right there and he just walked away from it. Musicians don’t get many chances at the brass ring in this business and when you experience something like this, a straight up wasted opportunity, it’s very hard to let it go and move on, very hard indeed. It still haunts me to this day.
John left Sceptre to join Abattoir, correct? Was he the first choice of the band or…?
Mel and Juan wanted him in I think Rico, Ron and I were sort of just crossing our fingers. John came in to audition and sort of did his best Halford impression and Mel gave him the thumbs up. This was not a good fit for Abattoir, and it ended up setting us back a bit, but launched a new super metal band; Agent Steel. It didn’t take long to find out the guy was an ego – big mistake.
This line up produced a new 2 track demo tape, was it a better representation of the band? What about this tape as a whole?
It wasn’t a new demo, but yeah, John Cyriss demanded that we put his vocals on the demo and erase Raul’s. He was very insecure and lets just leave it at that. A very insecure request and what was to be a huge red flag for ugly things to come with this guy.
How did you end up performing on the „Metal Massacre IV.” sampler? Was it a good opportunity to draw more fans attention to the band?
I think it was Juan that set that up. I think he met Brian Slagel at the Troubador or something like that. That’s what the purpose of the demo was. So that demo got a lot of milage. It was distributed worldwide, so the folks outside the USA got to hear our music. Our fan mail stated to have European postmarks.. .!!. It was very cool.
How did you feel being on the record?
It was the first time I was on vinyl and it was a compilation, so I got hear what the competion was out there. It felt amazing, but in the back of my mind, it wasn’t a touchdown it was more like a field goal. The objective was a full LP release on a decent record label, but again, I appreciated what had transpired and could appreciate things were moving in the right direction.
Do you agree with, that Brian Slagel was a great supporter of the underground back then and with the help of this compilation he introduced a lot of band for the fans?
I agree with that, and would say Brian had great vision. I don’t know Brian, but I sure did respect what he accomplished. Some really good acts came out from his bullpen of Metal Blade talent. Brian was a key player in launching the careers of some of the great acts in metal music. Brian is a legend!
Cyriis made the switch from guitarist in Sceptre to the new Abattoir vocalist, how did that happen?
My guess is that he just wanted to sing, and he you know what, he had some fans that liked his vocals too. Anyway, I’ve heard him play guitar and I think he made the right descision. Well, for one, his guitar skills no match against mine. So, he had little choice, if he wanted to play in Abattoir, it was a front man role. But to be honest, I’m not sure what was going on in his mind. I’m not sure I wanted to know. John was a decent vocalist, but I like Bruce Hall way more.
This valuable exposure led to support slots to W.A.S. P. and Metallica at the Country Club in Reseda, California, how do you remember that gig?
The shows were all cool in their own way. All were sold out shows and high profile. At shows of this caliber, we could get our in front of a lot of new people, and industry folks, and get all the perks that came with being one Southern California ’s best bands. The Metallica, Armored Saint show was real cool. There was a lot of buzz on that show because Metallica was blowing up huge and Armored Saint was on their way, and a local favourite. The bad part, is that our drummer left the band just as the show was booked, so we had to break in Robert Wayne and he sort of blew it on some songs. If anyone noticed, I’m not sure, but it was still a cool show.
Every gig was pretty remarkable. Every show got better and better. I tell this story more than I should, but the most memorable moments for me was when Chris Holmes, whom was a huge guitar influence to me, played Humble Pie’s “I don’t need no Doctor” with Abattoir at the Troubadour. For just a few minutes, I knew how the members of WASP felt to play with a monster performer and talent like Chris. And as far as a humble and kind person, they don’t come better than Chris Holmes.
Did Cyriis’ voice/performance fit better to Abattoir’s music than Raul’s?
Hell no. Raul’s voice was a perfect fit! He certainly wasn’t our worst singer, but lets just say, he was meant to be the singer of Agent Steel, he had no business ever being in Abattoir. The John Cyriis era was actually a nightmare. He was not looking out for the best interest of Abattoir, the band, only his own and we’ll leave it at that.
At one point was Rich Deathcamp the singer too, wasn’t he? Have you ever recorded with him some material?
Yeah, we got Rich in the studio, but management didn’t feel his vocal performances were a good fit and released him. Too bad, he was a great performer live.
Soon after releasing the song „Screams From The Grave” on Metal Blade’s „Metal Massacre 4” sampler the band already fell apart for a short period of time, because John and Juan went on to form Agent Steel while you and Mel Sanchez reformed Abattoir in late 1984, what happened exactly?
I’m not sure it was exactly like that. It really fell apart during the recording of Vicious Attack. From what I remember, John Cyriis had been going around telling everyone that Juan was planning to leave Abattoir and launch Agent Steel with him. I don’t remember beaing all that concerned, because I had no control over whether Juan stayed or not. Anyway, guitar players were readily available and whats the point in anyone staying in a situation where they were not happy, right? Unfortunately, I seem to remember all this all led to some kind of blow up with our producer and Juan in the studio. The way I saw it, Juan wanted to lead his own band and he would not be able to do this in Abattoir. Mel called all the shots in Abattoir and although I didn’t always agree with all his decisions, he still had all my confidence back then. So naturally Juan would have to go elsewhere if he wanted full creative and business control. So he did. Look, Juan just wanted out, and more power to him. So, all the backstabbing between Juan and Abattoir, all the lies, and all the deception, eventually it led to a big blow up with Juan and the band. And then, he was gone. It all ended up for the best. He has had great success on his own and Danny Oliverio and I became great friends. I have great respect for Danny’s guitar playing. Check him out in the new Anger As Art CD, ’Disfigure’. Danny plays his ass off on that CD. Anyway, it all worked out ok. Juan and I still talk once on a while and there are no ill feeling that I am aware of.
You recorded a single in 1984 featuring „The game of death” and „Stronger than evil”, what about this material as a whole?
I really don’t recall this at all. Are you sure about this?
It was a self financed pressing before the first album came out, correct?
Oh are you talking about the demo that ended up being Vicious Attack? I believe that was financied in part by our Manager, Rico and Jay Jones the Megadeth producer and manager.
The band got signed by Combat Records in the United States, how did you get in touch with them? Were there still other label interests in the band at this point?
The funny thing is we got a deal at the same time Megadeth did. We had the same Producer, Jay Jones, and he shopped us together. I’m not sure if there were a lot of labels interested, but I think our manager did a good job getting our music in front of all the right people. Combat was it and we signed.
Did Combat ask you to record a preproduction material, a demo or whatever?
The music was all recorded. Jay jones helped finance the demo that got us signed. That demo is what became Vicious Attack.
As for the line up, Danny Annaya was brought in as the new drummer replacing Robert Wayne; the band was brought up to strength with the addition of vocalist Steve Gaines and guitarist Danny Oliverio, what about their musical background?
Starting with Danny Oliverio, he was a local player and we were familiar with his playing. From the time he walked in to audition, I knew he was a good fit. Danny-O was a real pro with tons of talent. Those two elements are still a big part of who he is today a well. He came in and had most of Juan’s parts all learned. We never looked back. Danny Anaya was recommended by someone and Mel liked him, so he landed the gig. I never knew Danny Anaya very well, so I can’t say much on him at all. With him, it was just band business and not much more than that. Now Steve Gaines, he was always one of Los Angeles’ best singers and we were lucky to get him. Realistically, he should have been signed with a major label act already, but some things are meant to be and we got him. And to this day, his voice is the signature sound of Abattoir.
At which point did you enter the studio to record your debut album „Vicious attack”? Were you prepared to record the material?
It was the demo that got pressed. We shopped the 8 song demo to Important Distribution and Combat picked it up and distributed it through Important.
Did you have a decent budget considering the recordings?
Well, you know the story on Vicious attack, no budget obviously because it was a demo, but the second release we finally had our first decent recording budget.
How did the recordings sessions go with the record?
Well, we were on a budget so we had to have out stuff down, no wasting time. I think for what we had to work with time wise, we got some ok performances on tape.
Do you agree with, that Steve Gaines got a great range and puts out a decently aggressive performance, and his shrieks fit perfectly?
Absolutely, once Vicious Attack was released, Steve received the credit and attention he deserved. Incidentally, he was also an outstanding musician and writer. So, he gave the band a great lift there too.
How do you view, that Danny Oliverio and you steal the show quite often with your incredible guitar work, and pretty original too; tons of fast and catchy riffs to be heard here, layered with solo's and the solo's are razor sharp and brilliant?
Thank you so much – That really means a lot because Danny and I set out to give the people a great show. So to hear this makes all the hard work and time we put in to it very much worth while.
Are the drums executed nicely as well, and keeps the demand for speed flowing?
I think so, on Vicious Attack anyway. On „The Only Safe Place”, not so much.
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?
Thats great that you picked up on that because there was an intent in Abattoir to get a punch in your face and then get out in our music. Outside of that we tried to insert a hook of some kind in each song.
Is musically „Vicious Attack” raw thrash metal, roughly recorded and delivered with an almost punk like attack, while the execution is quite tight?
I think once the writing was going, it just turned out that way as all the musical influences sort of all came together. I had almost no punk influences, but I had Iron Maiden influence and they had a puck style now and then early on. So maybe thats where some of that comes from. But really, after I saw Dave Mustaine and Fallen Angel, or what is now Megadeth, I really was inspired by Speed Metal. It was a turning point for me in my writing at that time.
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?
For Sure. Mel was heavily into Motorhead at that time and it was only fitting that that would go on the first record.
Is it correct, that rumours have it that when Lemmy heard the Abattoir version he wanted to recruit you for Motörhead?
I had hear this rumor too. I was playing at my best at this time and really tons of bands were asking me to join on with them. I had never considered any other opportunity other than playing for Ozzy. I think if I had auditioned, I easily landed that gig and I would have taken it. Outside of that, I stayed loyal to Abattoir.
Was it unambigous for you to cover the song? How did your choice fall on this tune at all?
It was Mel that advised on this I believe, but not really certain. Mel was very into Motorhead at that time.
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?
Again, you really caught something here. (laughs) All of what you mentioned is what set us aprt in many respects and Steve was so darn smart on how he used his vocals. His vocals became like another instrument to not only lay out a vocal melody, but compliment the music overall. I really appreciated that on Vicious Attack.
Is the songwriting all pretty solid?
Absolutely. We spent a lot of time going over parts – tons of pre-production and re-writes until we all agreed it was where it needed to be.
How do you view, if these songs had been recorded slightly better, without losing the edge they would have even been better?
Great question.. I think we could have done it way better.. I mean way better. But we had no say in the matter. Remember, back then not everyone got a album pressed and with worldwide distribution. So, we didn’t make a fuss we agreed and shut our mouth.
In your opinion, were you certainly one of the forgotten gems of the first wave of thrash metal to come out of California?
I think there is some truth there. Although, even up to the break up on „The Only Safe Place”, I felt there was a chance we could make some record label a ton of money.
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?
That would be the more sexy way of looking at it, my opinion was that Combat didn’t want to spend any money to re-record the material.
Despite you and Danny Olivero being listed as guitarists, it was actually Agent Steel’s Juan Garcia who recorded this album, wasn’t he?
Yes, Juan tracked some guitar parts on ’Vicious Attack’ and and Danny tracked some guitar on ’The Only Safe Place’. What a mess and confusion this turned into. The fact that Juan was not credited on the record created alot of problems going forward and lasted for many, many years. This is good lesson to the young folks, never let emotions get in the way of business decisions...in a crisis, step back until your are calm before making a decision - that my friends, is a good advice..
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., how do you view it?
It was a sernegy of events that created this Metal explosion and we just happen to be in the thick of it. Sometimes its better to have good timing than a good plan.
Did the great thrash/speed metal boom start at this point?
I’m not sure if this is where it started, but I can recall this is when the local promoters and record execs took notice and began to smell money.. if that is not too crude a statement..
What were the shows in support of the record?
Shows? I can’t remember that far back, then I can tell you this, all were local to the states, meaning, we did not go to Europe.
After the album came out, Steve Gaines departed to join Bloodlust; his replacement was ex-Heretic singer Mike Towers, did you take part with Steve on a friendly term at the end?
Well, all these singer changes were bullshit and the folks that made those member change decisions really hurt the band in the end.... hey, there was little I could do about it and it is very hard to maintain friendly terms with folks that depart and go their way because there is a lot of hurt feelings, egos and competition in the music business as it is..and for many, it not just business, it god damn personal..and some take any slights all the way to their graves...with Steve, I think it was mostly good terms back then. I remember recording on his Tactics demo..I think it was Tactics..I was great fun! -but, make no mistake, Steve and I have had our differences and at least on my end, to date, I have nothing but respect for Steve and thats all I can control in that regard... he’s a real talented musician and writer. I think of Steve as friend but I can’t say the same for all the Ex-Abbatoir members..but no worries; life goes on.
How did you find Mike Towers? Were there perhaps other singers in mind as well?
The management ran with those decisions, but I think once these guys had their mind made up, it was Mike all along..at least that’s what I think. I didn’t seem to remember there being a whole lot of singers that where there waiting to jump in for an audition..so, that Towers got the gig, was probably a deal done without my knowing about it..then it was like, guess what, here is our new singer..and I was like who the hell is Mike Towers and who the hell is Heretic? And we need him why??
Did Mike have a great hand into the songwriting?
Nope, some lyric changes here and there..but that’s why Mike left after TOSP, he wanted to go write Pop -commercial rock stuff like Cinderella style rock.. decisions have consequences...choosing Mike killed the band.
What about the recording sessions of the album?
The recording sessions were so different because we were working with a producer that had a vision for the band that in the end didn’t work out well fur us. I know there were folks that came up to me and asked what the hell were we thinking when we recorded TOSP? Should I bury my head in the sand about it? Maybe, but to learn from it is better...
Do you agree with, that the emphasis on speed and innovation is still definitely there, but at the same time it does feel like a very different side of the band, that maybe its the new vocalist who led these changes?
Mel was sort of the compass of the Abattoir sound in that where I was willing to let some things go more commercial, he was not..and he was having personal problems at the time, so the band sound really changed not only because he wasn’t there to direct, but the vocalist was limited on time to prepare and he was not as good a fit as the decision makers thought.
The vocals aren't bad at all, and the chorus’s here are as catchy as ever, but Mike lacks the aggression and originality that Gaines had, the vocal style is of the standard thrash/speed metal fare, with variations between higher screams and raspier thrash vocals, what’s your opinion about it?
I’m in agreement with that. And to your point, Wouldn’t it makes sense for Manangement to want to get those things you mentioned resolved before bringing a new guy in at a critical time for Abattoir? But, the guys that made the decision to get Mike are at fault and I’ll leave it at that.
Would you say, that while „Vicious Attack” was an almost thrash metal oriented album his follow up „The Only Safe Place”, showed the band from a more melodic side best described as speed metal on the border to power metal?
Yes, some of that, but also, that a producer with no real experience maybe should not have been given our follow up record as his fuckin laboratory experiment! As everybody knows, the tremendous influence having the right producer has on the success of a record. Look, again, Mel was out with his problems and up to that point, although I was a founding member, my role in Abattoir was to be a bad-ass guitar player and not much else. So when it came to stepping into Mel’s role of laying the hammer down, I fell short and I do take responsibility to a some degree, but not 100% of it. My primary responsibility was to lay down guitar tracks that would help the album sound good and I think I succeeded in that. But, how the end result of the sound, production, whatever, got fucked up, EVERYONE had some part of the blame, some for making bad choices that caused them to not be there at a pivital time for Abattoir, and others for contributing to the god damn mess, while being there.
Do you find the production is superior to the debut and the production is a step up from the previous album, and the songwriting is more developed, compared to the first album?
No,the production had to sound better because Vicious Attack was essentially a demo pressed as a album. But, I always wanted the follow up to be on parr with the legenday records of that era, such as ’Ride the Lightning’, ’Hell Awaits’, you know, TOSP, should have landed the band a major record deal, but all it did was destroy all the momentum we had built off of Vicious Attack.
Is another major improvement the length of the album?
I’m not sure the amount of music time on the record meant too much, because in my mind at least it was never a thought at all. I wanted more songs, but good songs that contribute to our catalog in a positive way.
Have the raw power you had on „Vicious Attack” is a bit lost here?
And there you have the producer. I assure you that I could re-record these songs and it would sound fuckin heavy, but the girly background vocals would be gone and the drums would be played completely different.
One other thing Abattoir have going for you that has helped you retain your underground cult status is that you knew how to right a catchy refrain and were not afraid to mix in some melodic moments into their heavy metal, correct?
Thank you for that, and credit Steve Gaines for that. Also, credit Raul Preston on Screams from the Grave for the vocal melody line. You see, the vocal lines really helped to create the catchy refrains and hooks. If you listen to the rhythm tracks and isolate them without vocals, you can see they are good, but the vocals bring them to life.
How happened, that „The only safe place” was released on Noise Records in Europe and Combat Records in America? Didn’t you/Couldn’t you find a bigger label considering the European distribution?
You got me there. I feel if the record had been a better effort, we could have received the Cadillac treatment, but even our label knew this record fell short of expectations and although its a bitter pill to swallow, it’s just how things work in the music industry..the flavor of the month gets all the attention.
Did it success for Abattoir to make a name in Europe?
Yes, absolutly! That’s why it was so strange that we never got over there in the 80’s.
Is it true, that some of the band members were unhappy with the „commercial feel” of this album and felt the band should go in a more „speed-core” direction, did they think, that Abattoir lost its originality at this point or…?
Yes, yes, and yes. Look, the intention was to go more commercial, to reach a wider audience, certainly not to the point of losing our core sound. I looked at ’Ride the Lighning’ and said shit, here is the model right here. It's fuckin heavy, but it’s produced to reach a wider audience, while maintaining that core Metallica sound. And who can deny that it did just that. But TOSP, didn’t do that at all. It changed our style and sound too damn much. It missed the mark in very bad way.
This turmoil about musical direction within the band caused the band to split up not long after the album was released, was only this reason that led to the band’s break or…?
And, anyone close to the band had to suspect that something was going to come from the disappointment of TOSP. Mike Towers, Danny Oliverio and Danny Anaya were writing new Abattoir music for a third album and believe me when I tell you IT SUCKED! Over my and Mel’s dead body would it have ever make it on an Abattoir record let alone without our consent under the name Abattoir. Then at that point Mel was jamming with Juan Garcia in Evil Dead with Jimmy DiAnda, Rob Alaniz. And the material they were writing was excellent and damn heavy. Exactly what Mel wanted - So, Mel quit and when he told me he was out, I was out too.
„The Only Safe Place” turned out to be the last album of the band, by the way, did you have some material written that didn’t make up on the record? Did you have any plans considering a third album?
After Evil Dead and I parted ways, I got Danny Oliverio and couple of other guys and we tried to start the band up, but when internal conflicts started right away, I walked away and never looked back until around the year 2000. After Evil Dead, I needed a break to get my life in order and build some structure and discipline.
Did you go on tour to support „The only safe place” by the way? What were the dates? How did the shows go as a whole?
We did some shows, like the Country Club, Roxy, stuff like that. Nothing resembling a major tour.
At which point did Mel Sanchez quit? Was it a bloodletting for you?
Mel quit at around the time he and Juan were starting Evil Dead. I wasn’t too surprised, but I did go through years of sort of a quiet depression. The idea of knowing that Abattoir would never attain the brass ring bugs me to this day, its very hard to let go of that reality.
After Mel was gone Abattoir went through several line up changes and you recorded a three track demo in 1987 featuring „Necessary evil”, „Unbroken” and „School daze” (a W.A.S.P. cover), what was the line up of the band exactly? What about this material as a whole?
Oh, ok. That demo was recorded in 2000. We were just tracking to test the waters.
You never found a constant line up and finally split up in the late 80’s, correct?
That is correct. It's really tough to keep a line up together.
Mel Sanchez formed Evil Dead with Juan Garcia and drummer Rob Alaniz how did you end up joining them?
I can’t remember how I joined them, but it was right after Mel left Abattoir. So, it possible that I was invited to audition by either Mel, Juan or maybe both.
Rob was very young at this point and he wasn’t as experienced as you were, he drummed previously in a band called Necrophiliac, were you familiar with this act?
Uhmm, not really. Rob wasn’t inexperienced at all. He was actually a better fit for Abattoir than any of our drummers overall, but somehow our management missed that. So, here is how I see it, if Rob had drummed on TOSP, you would see what I mean about how heavy that record could have been. My choice for a drummer would have been my friend Ron Shaefer. He has always been the best drummer I have known.
He was also the drum technician of Danny Anaya, wasn’t it?
Yes, Rob helped Danny out from time to time.
The band took its name from the Sam Raimi horror film „The Evil Dead”, were all of you into horror movies or…?
Mel and Juan and I think even Rob were into horror films.
You recorded a three track demo titled „The Awakening” in 1987, how did you approach the songwriting? Can you tell us everything about that demo?
For me, not much. The other guys had already formulated a chemistry that I just add my style of guitar playing to. I walked into something really cool and it was great, to have helped them, for the short time I was there.
On April 11, 1987 Evil Dead played its first live show in front of about 2500 crazed thrashers at Fender's Ballroom, in Long Beach on a bill with Possessed, Dark Angel and Cryptic Slaughter, any memories about that gig?
Oh yeah, I was amazed at the response to Evil Dead..these folks knew who this new band was and they even knew all the words..blew my fuckin mind..I think there is a photo of me somewhere where I was looking our into the crowd with a stunned look on y face,,,hahaha
Was it already a „pay to play” gig or…?
Not sure about that..
How did you view the L.A thrash scene at this point with popping up thrash outfits, such as Wargod, Viking, Recipients Of Death, Bloodcum, Bloodlust, Death Force etc.?
It was a thriving scene to be sure... I didn’t get us to see other bands that much to be honest.
Do you agree with, that thrash metal was on its peak?
I think in 1987 it was beginning to peak a bit, but I seem to recall it was moving along pretty good throughout the 80’s and into the early 90’s.
Why and when did you leave Evil Dead?
Right away. I had too many problems to take care of at that time and need to get some structure in my life and also, I didn’t like the name of the band too much. I guess I was wrong because the band did ok, with that moniker.
The line up of the band became complete with the addition of singer Phil Flores and second guitarist Albert Gonzalez, they released an EP, two records and a live record –they also went through line up changes after the first record- did you follow Evil Dead’s career by the way? Did you like their materials?
OK, Phil was singing for my re-formed line-up of Abattoir when I tried to record a third record, after Evil Dead and I parted ways, but when internal fighting occured in the new line up of Abattoir, I was too burned out to go through all the ego and internal fighting bullshit again and I canned the Abattoir resurrection and Phil went over to Evil Dead. As far as their material, the first release was great! The follow ups to the first record didn’t hit me the same way..but Evil Dead wrote some great music and I think they were way ahead of their time.
What have you done after your departure from Evil Dead? Did you keep an eye on what’s going on in the underground?
I resurrected Abattoir to try and record a follow up to TOSP. But when the member of the new line-up began to fueled, I let it go and canned it. Some people have said that the material I was writing at that time for Abattoir was the heaviest Abattoir material since ’Vicious Attack’.
Eventually scuttled by continuous line up hassles ABATTOIR finally split, but more than a decade later the band came out of retirement debuting with cover versions for tribute albums; Abattoir lent their touch to Dwell Records IRON MAIDEN tribute „Call To Irons”, W.A.S.P.’s „School Daze” and SAXON’s „Motorcycle Man”, how did it happen exactly? Was it hard to „regroup” the band?
Mel and I were jamming in this Blue Band called ’Money Shot’ and needed a bass player and got in touch with Steve Gaines. That re-connection led up to the recordings you mentioned.
Did you remain in touch with your early Abattoir mates during the years? Were they involved in the scene?
Not really, I was living my life away from music for a long time. I kept in touch with Ron Gonzales here and there, but really, the only former member that I even thought about contacting was Danny Oliverio. Mel and I have never lost touch. Juan and I a little here and there.
With interest resurging in mainland Europe German label Century Media re-released both albums of the band, how deeply were you involved in the making of the re-releases?
I had nothing to do the re-release. Had I been involved, I certainly would have requested a re-mastering of Vicious Attack and The Only Safe Place.
Didn’t you think about to add bonus materials to the re-releases?
Yes, that would have certainly added value to the re-relaese.
Abattoir, now comprising of Steve Gaines, Mel Sanchez, you and drummer Kevin McShane prepared for a full blown return, was the first step of your comeback the re-releases of your classic records or…?
The plan was to get some music written and on tape. So, we were also getting to know each other again as it had been a while since Steve, Mel and I had worked together and Kevin was new to the process. The good news was Steve came in with material, the bad news was when we took some of this material live, the fans rejected it. We went back to drawing board and went back the roots and steered away from the any modern sounding material. In retrospect, and I don’t kow why or how it didn’t register on me while we were playing together that the sound could never have been true as long as Mel was not on bass. Mel’s bass playing was a integral part of the Abattoir sound. So, if we really wanted to return to the true Abattoir sound, it would have been best to have Mel on bass and Steve on guitar, or had we been smart, maybe bring Danny Oliverio or Juan Garcia in on guitar and allowed Steve to return as a sole frontman. But hindsight is always 20/20.
Why didn’t Robert Wayne or Danny Annaya take part in the reunion? How did Kevin get in the picture exactly? What about his musical background?
We actually did audition Robert Wayne but it didn’t work out. Many of the same problems from the past began to resurface and we decide to part as friends. My understanding is that Danny Anaya is an Attorney and real busy, so we thought not bother him. Kevin was a guy that Mel knew from work and so when he was helping us out with a little project Mel and I had called ’Money Shot’ help agreed to help us thought the Abattoir venture as well.
Abattoir would bounce back in October of 2001 with the live album „No Sleep 'Til Kalamazoo”, what can you tell us about that effort?
The show was booked and someone had the idea to record with the possibility of releasing it as a limited edition Live CD. We asked our good friend and recording Engineer/ Producer Eric Anderson to record it for us. As raw as it turned out, it actually received a real good response from the metal world.
Why was the album a strict limited edition and made only available through your website? Did you sell all of the copies?
We just felt that a limited amount would make it a more valuable and cool keep sake. Yes, all packaged units were quickly sold. I still have a handful of CD only units shrink wrapped with no covers that were over-runs.
Abattoir were busying themselves with recording of a fresh studio album provisionally entitled „Evil Incarnate” during the latter half of 2001, but the project was put on hold due to recording difficulties and later unleashed as a limited release re-titled: „From the Ashes”, what happened exactly? How about the songwriting, recording sessions and stuff?
Evil Incarnate ( a CD title Mel came up with ) did go through three recording format changes. When we set out to do the record, Eric Anderson had committed to record it, but due to an incident in the studio early on the recording process, he resigned for the project. Our drummer Kevin McShane took the recording responsibilities on was sort of learning on the job. So, we did go from this to that to that to this and finally settled on a format that he felt worked best for him. After a couple of years we were at the finish line for the record, completing a few tracking touch ups and ready to mix when Mel and Juan Garcia were working with a label that was considering releasing it, and Mel had asked Kevin to burn us three good mixes for their review and strangely Kevin was slow and unresponsive to this request. I was also working with Kevin on a solo project of mine as well, and he was a lot not returning my calls as well. So I called him one night asking him to be ready to give me th files for my solo project because i was taking it to another studio and then came the bad news. He called me back and let me know that my solo project and worse yet, Evil Incarnate had been accidentally completely erased. Just like that, Evil Incarnate was no more. All we had were some rough mixes on a CD. These rough mixes became what is now known as ’Out from the Ashes’ – appropiatley named, right? My good friend Richard Sandoval of Rich media Design productins came up with a CD cover but we never released it because some in the band thought it would give a poor representation of Abattoir. Some folks got a copy of it as a courtesy because they asked for it, but it was never released formally.
What would you say about this material compared to the first two records? Do you consider it a kind of „back to the roots” material or rather a nu metal oriented one?
I would go back to thoughts I had before. It could never sound like old Abattoir as long a Mel was not bass. So it was not really abattoir and could never have been. –If anything, it was just a new Mel, Steve and Mark project and call it what you will Anger As Evil Abattoir Dead....ha ha..whatever man...
Mid 2002 found frontman Steve Gaines in league with Dark Angel and Dreams Of Damnation guitarist Jim Durkin in the project band Pagan War Machine, then he signaled his intention to issue a solo album, billed „Anger As Art”, in August of 2004; Anger As Art concept flourished into a band with releases on Old School Metal Records, did the band split up again or were you on hold? What was Abattoir’s status exactly at this point?
Candidly, Steve is a work-horse professional and really, I for one didn’t have the energy to keep up with him. Meaning, I didn’t want to play all the small shows. Plus there were other internal things going on that was quickly taking the air out of the balloon. If you know Steve, this goes against everything he stands for. If there is a chance to play; he plays! To his credit he is an amazing musician, writer and businessman. Juan Garcia is exactly the same way; a hard worker and savvy businessman. But, getting back to Steve, he wasn’t going to wait around and sit idle, he went off to seek other avenues and Anger As Art came from his shere determination and he crafted a real nice project that I really like. I really like ’Disfigure’. That is great CD.
Abattoir readied a new album for 2005 release through Artillery Music a special concert being filmed for DVD to mark the 20th anniversary of the „Vicious attack” album was set to include appearances from original members Mel Sanchez, you, Juan Garcia and Robert Wayne, what can you tell us about it? Why didn’t come it to reality?
I really cannot comment on this as I do not have amy recollection of this event.
Would you say, that „Vicious attack” left his mark on the scene and became an influential record?
I really do. I think most people knows by two songs Screams from the Grave and The Ace of Spades. The energy that came for this album was noteworthy.
German band Powergod cut the cover version of „Screams from the grave”, have you ever listened to it? Were you satisfied with their performance?
Really? I have never heard it. But I will go out and listen to it. I would bet they did a great job on it. But, I look forward to hearing just the same.
To the present; Abattoir has once again regrouped, what’s the line up of the band?
The band lineup that went to Europe and played the KIT festival was Steve Gaines, Mel Sanchez, Juan Garcia, Tim Thomas and Rob Alaniz.
How do you view all of those reformations that happened in the last 7-8 years, such as Metal Church, Agent Steel, Nasty Savage, Heathen, and list goes on?
These legends of metal know how to bring it and to have them here still doing it serves the metal world in a very positive way. I hope they continue to write, perform and contribute as long as they want.
Evil Dead plans to regroup as well, correct?
Yes. I spoke to Mel after he returned from KIT and he said that is the plan. I hope they can get Albert back because that would really keep the integrity of Evil Dead.
Abattoir is confirmed to make their European live debut at the upcoming „Keep it true” festival XII. to take place in Germany on April 24-25, 2009 on a bill that also includes L.A's own ARMORED SAINT, LIZZY BORDEN, and many others well known metal acts.
In your opinion, if you would have had the chance to play around 1985/86, would you have been a more popular or known act? How happened, that you never played in Europe?
This is now a past tense for the band as they have played that show and a few more in Europe as well. – Abattoir just never got around to a Europe tour back in the day.
The band is also planning additional selective European live dates, does it mean, that you make up leeway?
Is Abattoir’s name still big and in people’s minds?
Yes. I do get good response even today. How great is that?
What were your best and worst memories with Abattoir? What would you change on the band’s career?
The worst is easy, the erasing of Evil Incarnate. The best might be when Chris Holmes from WASP joined us on stage at the Troubadour for a song called I Don’t Need No Doctor.. that was one of the best memories to be sure.
Mark, thanks a lot for the answers, anything to add, what I forgot to cover?
I want to thank you, L.D. for the opportunity to interview with you. 100 questions – wow! ..and you really covered a lot of good questions.
I want to also thank every single person that has supported Abattoir over the years. We owe so much to these people.
In addition I want to thank all the internal support we have have over the year, meaning the road crew, I remember every single one of you and our stage managers Ope and Dirk and last but now least, our former band Manager, Rico Aiello for all those hard work and sacrifice. I appreciate it to no end and will never forget.
I wish all your readers the very best and if any of them should have any questions, they can email me at: email@example.com or connect with me on Facebook or Myspace.
Take care and all the best to you!
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