2012. január 10., kedd

Viking interview with drummer Matt Jordan - part 1.

So Matt, before Viking was formed in spring 1986, you were playing in Tracer, that included you on drums, James Lareau on bass, Ron Daniel on guitar and Spider on vocals, how did the band get together?
Tracer was in essence the beginning of Viking and was the start of something very special. Jim and I were in raw adolescent hard core garage bands. Ron was in The Hags and was already established and familiar with the club scene in Orange County California. Ron, Jim and I became friends through the music scene in that area and immediately had something in common. We wanted to express ourselves through music and become the band we always wanted to see.... a loud in your face locomotive. Tony Spider was brought in to do the demo and really never fit in. He was a good friend and helped us out. Tracer was the chance for Ron, Jim and I to become good friends. We used the time to get to know each other. We developed and matured as musicians forming a band that was very special to us.
As for your musical past/background, you were involving earlier in Barrier, Ron was the member of Hags, while James were in Lethal Gene, does it mean, that all of you were involved in the underground those times?
We were all involved in bands of some kind. I was in a sloppy garage band that really never satisfied what I wanted to do early in life. The guys I shared music with were more into playing heavy metal cover tunes, hanging out with girls and going to parties. As I developed as a drummer, those guys really couldn't keep up with what I wanted to do. I wanted to play heavier hard core songs that meant something. They were satisfied playing Iron Maiden and Black Sabbath copies then hanging out wasting time. That wasn't for me. Jim and I had mutual friends through the local punk rock scene. Jim was in a punk band and mostly played parties. Ron played guitar in The Hags and was more exposed to the club scene.
How did you discover music as a whole and at which point did you turn into the realm of metal? What were your early favorites?
Tough question... When I was 6 years old (1975) I fell in love with KISS. The attitude, smoke bombs, flames, blood... I've loved them as far back as I can remember. I've always loved music and was heavily influenced by music at a young age. When I was a kid in the late 70's I loved everything from Van Halen to Iron Maiden. In the early 80's I dabbled in the punk rock scene for a while before discovering speed metal. When I first heard speed metal I was in love... it was what I was looking for the whole time.
Being based in Los Angeles, what do you recall of the early/mid ’80s L. A. scene? Can you tell us more about it?
In the early 80's heavy metal took a turn for the worse in my opinion. At that time metal was more interested in hairspray and lip gloss than kicking your face in with killer guitar tones and out of control drum kits. I rebelled and melted into the local punk rock scene. I loved tons of bands like Sin 34, Dr. Know, and Manifest Destiny. I liked the attitude, the fast drums, cool mosh riffs, and heavy guitar tones. The problem with the L.A. punk rock scene in the early 80's is there was a division between punk rock and metal. There was almost an anti metal mentality in some punk rock circles. My problem was I had long hair but liked punk rock. I wasn't going to cut my hair or get some goofy hairdo for the sake of fitting in. For a long time, I would go to punk shows and stand in the back. I saw a lot of stupid fights because of hair length. I remember going to a GBH show at the Olympic Auditorium in LA. What attracted me to that show was the comment at the bottom of the flyer said "Heavy Metal welcome." Shortly after that I got a cassette copy of Metallica's demo. I also discovered early Slayer, Corrosion of Conformity and Artillery. I was hooked. This was what I was looking for. The heavy guitars riffs, fast locomotive drum kits, killer moshes... I was home.
Would you say, that the L. A. scene was divided into two parts, since there were the glam/hair bands (Steeler, Ratt, Dokken, Mötley Crüe, W. A. S. P. etc.) and there were the underground thrash/speed/power ones (Armored Saint, Metallica, Hirax, Sceptre, Slayer, Dark Angel, Vermin etc.)?
The LA scene was definitely divided into two parts. At the time, I really didn't care or even notice. There were certain clubs in Hollywood that attracted the heavy metal glam bands. There were a few clubs in Hollywood the thrash metal bands liked to play. I remember Ron and I went to a free Stryper show at Magic Mountain. Looking back it must have been a bizarre scene. Two thrash metal dudes with long dirty hair right in the middle of the lipstick and hairspray crowd. We were outcasts from the start. Before the first song (a ballad) was over, we were basically kicked out and ridiculed by some chick who had giant pink hair and makeup dripping off her cheeks. She had her hands on her hips and said in a snotty voice, "I suppose you like Slayer too." We laughed in her face and left.
Were the underground acts overshadowed by the hair/glam ones?
I really don't think glam bands overshadowed thrash bands. The thrash metal bands I knew didn't care what the glam scene was doing. I thought it was kind of funny. Some of these guys were more into glitter, hairspray, lip gloss and getting girls. We cared about the music. I remember Viking played the Whiskey A Go Go in Hollywood and the headliner was a local glam band. We were the last band after the headliner. I guess we were hired to clean out the club. It worked.. by the time we were done with our set the place was empty and we loved it. The club was full of hairspray that didn't know what to do with the attitude of Viking. I remember being in the dressing room and watching these guys color coordinate their clothes and wristbands. I thought it was hilarious.
Which clubs did start opening their doors for metal at this point?
Some of the clubs that were very supportive was The Whiskey, The Waters Clubs, and Fenders Ballroom. There were several clubs in the LA area that were open to having us play. Back then, some of the clubs had the band buy tickets to their show a head of time. It was the bands responsibility to sell the tickets and fill the club with people. That way the club was guaranteed to get their money. Unfortunately, if the bands didn't sell any tickets, they would be paying a lot of money to play for an empty house. That inspired a lot of bands to make flyers and advertise their shows at other concerts. We sold tickets in the parking lots and left flyers on light poles and car wind. There was no internet back then so bands depended on flyers and word of mouth to advertise their shows.
You released a demo as Tracer, how was it recorded? How would you describe Tracer’s music? How did the band sound like at all?
The Tracer demo was recorded in a studio in the Orange County area. It was good a sound for what we were trying to do. Ron, Jim and I were still getting to know each other and we were still developing our musical style. I wouldn't call it a masterpiece by any means. I remember it being an exciting time in our friendship and we were proud for what we accomplished.
Was this demo spread around?
The demo was mostly distributed in the Orange County area.
You temporarily broke up because you couldn’t find a full-time singer, but restarted after Brett Eriksen (a.k.a. Brett Sarachek) began jamming with you, and Ron Daniel (a. k. a. Brett Eriksen) began singing, how did you find Brett Eriksen? What about his musical background?
Brett answered an ad we placed in a local paper. Brett was a breath of fresh air and we immediately bonded. His writing style, attitude, and skill level was exactly what we were looking for. We had so much in common it was like we were friends for years. He was a very gifted musician and great friend.
Did you perhaps audition some guitarist besides him or was he the first choice?
I don't remember if we auditioned other people for the position. If we did, it was before Brett. Once we all played with Brett there was no need for another. This was the guy. We had so much in common it was obvious we were going to be friends and band mates.
How about the band’s name? Who came up with it? What did you want to symbolize with it?
I think we all agreed on the name of the band right away. The Viking image was very appealing to us because of our Norwegian heritage. The Vikings wanted things: coins, treasures, spices, works of art, raw materials. They probably didn't want these things any more than other cultures did..... But with their skill at sea and violent tendencies, they often found themselves in a position to take whatever they wanted. Looking back... I feel that was our attitude towards the music we created together. It worked and just fit. There was no debate about it. Viking was an attitude and the name we chose right away. We were also fans of the artist and painter Frank Frazetta. His portraits of Vikings were brutally awesome and fit our mentality. Those paintings were very inspirational in our early writings.
What can you tell us about the rehearsals of Viking? Did you start writing originals or were you jamming on covers?
Those were good times... We rehearsed at Ron's house and customized his garage with a killer drum riser and stacks of amps. We even tried to make it sound proof which really didn't work very well. Ron's mother was very supportive and loved having us. Everyone called her mom... she is a fantastic person and we loved her a lot. All the neighbors knew we religiously rehearsed every Saturday and Sunday mornings and rarely got complaints. We had a skateboard ramp in the backyard and arcade video games in the living room. It was a great place to hang out and we all called it our second home. I think we started to write original songs right away. Brett and Ron wrote most of the music. I remember walking through a grocery store with Brett and coming up with riffs and chords right in the middle of the store. I would play drums on my chest and Brett would be writing cool riffs on the spot.
Viking entered the studio for the first time to record three songs (Hellbound, Prelude/Scavenger and Do or Die) that became your first demo, do you still remember how did the recording sessions go with the demo? How much experiences did you have at this point considering recording a tape?
Nowadays its easier for bands to record demos and even full length CDs. Recording studios are now very common and for a reasonable price, a band can record their material and distribute the music via the Internet. Back in the 80's, it was not that easy to share your music. Bands usually recorded demo's in a low quality garage studio with an 8 or 16 track recorder. These were transferred onto cassette tapes and distributed through word of mouth or sold at shows. Back then, there were no CDs. If you were fortunate enough to record on a major label, your material would be on vinyl and cassette tape. Viking was very fortunate to record our first demo in a high quality professional studio. We all pitched in and payed for the project. The tapes were mass produced and given away and became popular though word of mouth. At the time we were also playing local clubs in San Pedro and Hollywood. We would hit the clubs and hand out flyers advertising our next show. We sold and gave away many cassette demos and developed a large following in the area.
Can you give us details regarding the demo?
What an exciting day. It was the first time I had a drum tech set up and tune my drums for me. He set up all the mics and made sure I was comfortable with the recording. I remember we were all driving home together listening to our recording and thinking to myself I ruined the demo. I thought I played our songs too fast and felt it was a little out of control. Little did I know, our first full length album would be almost twice as fast as our demo. It was a great experience and we really bonded as a band. Those are great memories. We were great friends who felt we captured something very special.
Did the demo fulfill the needs of the thrash metal fans?
I'm not sure I would say our demo fulfilled the immediate need of metal fans. There were a lot of great bands at that time. We were very fortunate to be good friends with Dark Angel and played several shows with them. They were a great influence on us and we considered them our big brothers in the industry. I think our demo became more popular after the band split. We were very lucky our demo played a small part in the huge history of the LA metal scene.
Tape trading was huge in the 1980's speed metal scene, so fanzines began to brand this cassette as essential for every collection, and orders from all over the world began to come in the mail daily, would you say, that the demo helped to expand the band’s popularity in the underground?
It definitely helped expand the popularity of Viking. After the band dissolved, I think our fans craved more and discovered the demo later. It was a raw kick you in the head recording that is very appealing to fans. I'm honored people still love and ask about it. It was great time in the history of Viking.
Viking also appeared on Metal Massacre VIII with a song titled Hellbound, was this the choice of the band or of Brian Slagel? How did you get the chance being
featured on this legendary compilation?

It was an honor to be featured on Metal Massacre. I'm not sure who picked the song Hellbound for the LP... but it was good choice. It had killer riffs, shredding guitar solos, heavy drums, a smoking hot bass tone, and head pounding vocals. It encompassed all that Viking had to offer and was a good example of what our material stood for. We owe a lot to Brian Slagel and his loyalty to our music.
Was it a good opportunity to draw more fans attention to the band?
It was a great way to expand the popularity of Viking. For the most part, our exposure was limited to the southern California area. This was setting the stage for our full length album that would hit the shelves a short time later.
Do you agree with, that the Metal Massacre compilation series from Metal Blade Records has launched the careers of many bands, including Ratt, Slayer, and Metallica? Was/Is the label (Brian Slagel) very supportive of the underground?
I absolutely agree with the Metal Blade compilation series and the part it played in the success of many bands. It was a great way for talented bands to share their music. It's a different world now a days. With internet access, it's a lot easier to hear bands from all over the world. Back then we depended on major labels like Metal Blade to record and distribute songs from somewhat unknown bands who deserved to get their material produced. I appreciate Brian and Metal Blade in what they did for Viking. It was a great start to some great memories I'll cherish for the rest of my life.
Did the demo generate some buzz from Metal Blade Records that resulted in your signing and the release of the debut Do Or Die? Is it true, that the band signed a record contract after completing their second live appearance?
The demo definitely had some buzz around it. I'm sure it had something to do with our eventual signing with Metal Blade. I know Brian was at one of our early shows at the Whiskey in Hollywood. I'm not sure if it was our second show or not. It just proved you never know who is out there to watch and listen to your band.
The cool logo of the band was drawn by you, wasn't it?
Yes I believe I came up with the logo. Nothing too glamorous... I remember working for a trashy phone soliciting company and just sat there and drew pictures all day. Instead of making cold calls, I would draw pictures on the back of the cards. I still have some of the old calling cards with Berserkers... axes.. swords.. skulls.. whatever.. I drew the logo as if it was cut from stone then put the Viking horns on each side. We loved it right away and it stuck until this very day.

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