It seems that quite a few readers consider that my piece of work with HEATHEN published in Snakepit issue 4 is one of the most complete interviews ever made, well I do hope the same people will appreciate this DARK ANGELpiece the same way because despite the fact that it wasn't an easy thing to do and that it took no less than three years to materialize but with the huge fuckin' help of Leif Jensen from Century Media / DEW-SCENTED (thanks so much again buddy) I finally got the mastermind behind DARK ANGEL, best known as Gene Hoglan answering to an unreal thorough interview...
So DARK ANGEL finally reformed after a ten years hiatus featuring you, Eric Meyer (guitar), Ron Rinehart (vocals) and Danny (ex-GRUMBLE TUMMY) on bass. But at first, when Jim Durkin (guitar) decided to give it a try early last year (2002), it was DREAMS OF DAMNATION's drummer who was supposed to play and finally you managed to rejoin them. So how did all that stuff happen at first? Also a lot has happened since that reformation came into the picture since Jim left the band around December 2002 as he thought the timing to play some scheduled dates was too short and a bit of controversy has started over his departure...
"Well Jim gave me a call last July (2002) or August or something and said "Hey do you have some time available" like "I saw your kind of tour schedule and then I see you've got a little bit of time available" last December and he was saying "Do you think you might want to play a couple of shows or something?" and I'm like "That sounds pretty cool" you know like 'I think I've got the time to do it, I don't know how much time we need to rehearse or anything like that', he's like 'Well we'll worry about that when it'll happen' so... it was supposed to be about ten or twelve west coast dates and it all fell through, I don't really know how it fell through but it just... like I know that the plug got pulled on it... so I was busy trying to make it happen and it just fell apart underneath me anyway so after that we tried to... like Jim decided he didn't want to do it so he said that we didn't have enough time to rehearse or something, so for those dates I turned around right to Jed (Simon) my guitarist from STRAPPING YOUNG LAD and said "Jed, do you want to do those dates with us?", he's like 'Yeah sure I can do it, no problem I've got the time' so it was gonna be like that but turns out that by the time we got hold of the promoter to say "Look, just because Jim isn't doing..." cos Jim called the promoter directly I understand... and I haven't spoken to Jim since it happened - I haven't got the time you know - but by the time we got hold of the promoter, the promoter said "No, Jim cancelled everything!" like it's all off, I just got off the phone with the last guy right now saying it's over you know so then this war started over the internet like all these people yelling at Jed for "How dare you replace Jim?" and it wasn't like Jim... to me Jim wasn't kicked out of the band or anything, there wasn't a band to be kicked out of, it was just like, well Jim couldn't do it so Jed will you know?! If people want to see DARK ANGEL music, of course Jed is the first person to say "Jim Durkin should do it" you know and I'm the second person you know, I'm the first person too, this should be a reformation with Jim but if he's involved in it I don't know!"
Don’t you think some will think that it’s a bit strange to see DARK ANGEL going on without Jim considering that he has formed DARK ANGEL around ’83 or so and he’s out again?
"Well Jim has never like... Jim has never really played outside of like the states with DARK ANGEL, outside of California Jim only did maybe at the most ten shows with the band... no like a couple of tours..."
Yeah with POSSESSED...
"Yeah that one and then the third tour I guess... we did some east coast stuff with MOTÖRHEAD and MEGADETH but he quit pretty early on into the... We hadn't been to Europe yet so Jim hadn't played outside of the U.S. with us so you know nobody has ever seen DARK ANGEL with Jim so whether that's strange or not, I don't know... you know I think DARK ANGEL should be Jim Durkin, I fully... you know, I would never shy away from that you know..."
Do you have an idea about who's gonna replace Jim right now?
"Well I just hope it's like... this is what I hope: I want Jim and Eric to both put aside their differences and make it Jim and Eric, they were both the guitarists, the original guitarists from DARK ANGEL, if you're gonna reform a band, reform it with the original guys, there's no way we can get Rob Yann to play with us and there's no way we can get Mike Gonzales to play with us either so we'll have to go with another bassist but you know, hell it's gonna be... and Don Doty has disappeared I understand so, he's not a possibility either but Ron says he'll do it so at least it is most of a DARK ANGEL line up, you know what I mean? Five guys, four guys that have recorded with the band, all at one time... so I hope it's Jim, I want it to be Jim, you know I haven't spoken to Jim in six, seven months or something like that but you know I love Jim and there's no reason why it shouldn't be him and that was kind of like when he called me up and said "Do you want to do some of these shows", I was like 'Man if it's gonna be fun, let's just make it fun, it should be a good time, it shouldn't be a war or a battle about you and Eric and your problems, you guys should put those aside you know, this could be fun and you guys could have a good time and you never know where it can go' cos originally it was gonna be just a few dates so... and around that time when like Wacken heard about it, they said “Hey you guys want to do Wacken?!" and I was like, I called up - I think it was Eric and Ron and they were like 'Yeah sure we can do it!', I figured Jim would want to do it so I committed to it six months ago, then everything fall apart so... it did what it did."
And now I hear that DARK ANGEL are supposed to do some dates during the Christmas festival in December... (but since that interview was done it appears that DARK ANGEL cancelled as nobody in the band were aware of that and Metalysée promotions took it on their own to publish the statement that DARK ANGEL would play - Laurent)
"You know I just found out about those yesterday (March 26th 2003) so I don't know anything... I don't know like man if DARK ANGEL could be carrying on with another drummer you know for all I know cos I haven't spoken to anybody in a few months, I have just been on the road for fuckin' three months now and three months before that I was in the studio so... and I told everybody "Just let me know where I gotta be and I'll be there" so... One thing that I did do to make rehearsals easier on everybody is I recorded a little disk of the drums, I went to the studio recorded 'em so they can have some to rehearse so I don't have to be there all the time you know?! I can show up a week before not two months of rehearsals before you know, they can rehearse as much or as little as they want you know?!"
So how do you feel, to see that DARK ANGEL are around once again, considering how much you believed in the band back then? Also how do you view this reformation exactly, I mean will it be for all of you something for the fun, playing some local shows and maybe some festivals or do you plan to go further and record a new album?
"Well that's another question that's hard to answer because I have always said... but I remember when we broke up ten years ago, I remember like looking around and go "Wait a minute like THE MONKEES are reforming and the MOODY BLUES are reforming and BLACK SABBATH are gonna reform and you just wait, in ten years from now, we're gonna reform and it's gonna be a big fun, it's gonna be fun for everybody", I was half joking you know but sure enough, ten years later Jesus you know?! But I've always said you know reunions are silly you know, like they really are, like 'Why didn't you just carry on in the first place?!' you know, for all these bands that are reforming and stuff like that and you know I've been a hold out on the DARK ANGEL reformation, I've been the one saying 'Come on guys, don't you think it's kind of goofy?!" but this time I'm like 'Okay, well it sounds like fun', you know?! It doesn't sound like a whole lot of work, it sounds more like fun so let's make it fun. But if there's another record and if I'm involved in it, cool you know?! Like if they are like... I don't know if they're booking shows but those Christmas festivals or whatever, I don't know if they remember that in December I usually don't do anything, this December might be different but in December I usually take December off like STRAPPING does or my other bands do you know, I go home for the holidays and blah blah so they might have said "Hey man we know Gene has this time so let's go over there, you know he did last year, we know he's going to have it again this year", they might have done that but I don't think they probably thought that far ahead. So... yeah you know, if there's another record, cool but if they do these festivals or if they do any shows without Gene, I think that will be kind of counter productive you know?! I don't think that would be the wisest move but who knows?!"
If that happens, will you be involved in the songwriting this time considering that you're busy as hell with STRAPPING YOUNG LAD or will you simply always have the right amount of time for DARK FUCKIN' ANGEL?
"If there was to be another record, it should be me and Jim get together and write some riffs because we work really well together and Jim still writes GREAT riffs, he's got awesome riffs but not every riff of Jim is a great riff you know, just like not every riff of mine is a great riff, there was either of us saying "Hey well that one is kind of stinky, that one is no good", "Okay you're right", you know "This one's good, yeah you're right, that's good", "this one's off" so... you know anything can happen, you can make anything happen and that's the one thing that I... like I even told Eric recently like, "Dude we were fuckin' spoiled kids when we were in DARK ANGEL" because granted it was a lot of hard work in the early days but then we got to the point where we had managers, booking agents and record label people setting up interviews and this and that and the other and we didn't have to do a lot of work on our own, we had a lot of people handling us and the one thing I have learned in the past two years, definitively learned from STRAPPING is that you have got to work really hard you know?! If you're not getting it done, it's not gonna get done so you've gotta get shit done on your own so... if they want to make something happen, they totally can, it doesn't have to be, you know 'Well we don't have enough time to rehearse so we can't do this tour' ... you can make anything happen! So that'd be cool, I'd love to write again with Jim, that would be deadly!"
So you haven't discussed the possibility of doing a new album with Eric or Jim so far and how it would sound like in 2003...
"Well good question man, I haven't even discussed with Jim or Eric if Jim is in the band you know so I apologize for that, this is the most non-newsworthy interview so far you know cos I don't even know if Jim is gonna do it you know?! Jim might just hate Eric so much right now and Eric might hate Jim so much that, you know it's like "Fuck both of you guys" you know, so who's gonna do it, Cris McCarthy and Brett Eriksen? (laughs) You know that would be wicked, Jim Drabos on vocals?!"
Like you mentioned before, Mike Gonzales or even Rob Yann will never be involved in rejoining the band, but did you try to contact one of 'em?
"Oh yeah! I think Rob is really into what his job is and I don't think he even lives in L.A. anymore because I've talked to Jim about that and he's like 'Oh man, I wish but Rob can't do it' so... and I'm pretty sure Mike Gonzales has lost his mind to drugs, that's what I've heard for the past ten years so he's not even Mike anymore, he's not even Gonze that we knew you know?! And the last time I spoke to Gonze was September 5th 1992 and that was the day when we broke up so that was the last time I ever said any words to Gonze man!"
And Don Doty has disappeared?
"I heard Don originally for like this tour that we had booked like three years ago or whatever, he said he'll do it which made my interest in it go down drastically you know (laughs) but he's a Christian now and he's got a really good job so... like Ron's Christianity - Ron is a Christian too but Ron is cool with all of this, he's like "Cool, we were never a satanic band so...". But I guess Don... I understand from Eric that Don does have some problems with say some of the old lyrical content, the old imagery or whatever so Don was like "No!", "No I don't want to do it even if I could" and you know Don hasn't sung in 15 years, 16 years so how good would it be you know like, okay you've got your person that you want, you beg for people, here's your Don Doty after not picking up a mic for 16 years, here you go you know?! How good would that really be? But Ron has sung everyday since he quit so... I've always liked Ron's voice better anyway, period. I thought he's a way cool singer than Don so."
DARK ANGEL have already done a sort of reunion show as they played two songs at the KREATOR / DESTRUCTION show in Los Angeles on 9/21/2002 but you weren’t part of that, why?
"We were mixing the STRAPPING album and I couldn't get away from that cos that was number one on my priority list for the entire year and that show just kind of came up about a month beforehand and my schedule was already pretty tight, I said that I was gonna try to pull away from it and head down for the week end and do it but I couldn't do it, I just didn't have the time but I understand that the guy they got, Al Mendez from DREAMS OF DAMNATION - I saw a bunch of stuff on websites after that that said "Fuck Gene, that was great!" so... cool! (laughs) And I saw a video tape, I went to Eric's and we had a DARK ANGEL party about a month and a half ago or whatever, and I watched the video tape of it, it looked cool."
Now I hear that Eric is planning to release a DARK ANGEL DVD featuring that "show" plus older DARK ANGEL shows, anyway what do you expect from the very first show which will take place at the Wacken festival?
"Hopefully that won't be the first show... (laughs) hopefully we'll squeeze one in before... that would be cool but man I'm gonna to be spreading myself super thin trying to get all of this together because I've got PUNCHTRUNCK on the bill as well, as well as STRAPPING I think so you know, that's gonna be a crazy weekend so... it should be good! But man I don't know what to expect but I know DARK ANGEL has... you know we've always been a pretty decent live band, lots of energy and lots of cool stuff and I know those guys are gonna be excited to be playing in front of... 10.000 or 20.000 people, however many people it is, yeah it should be good."
What will be the set like for that show?
"Probably a whole lot of "Darkness Descends", couple of the good ones from "Leave Scars" and maybe for Ron's sake like one from "Time Does Not Heal" and a couple from "We Have Arrived" you know, 'Welcome To The Slaughterhouse', 'We Have Arrived' stuff like that... it depends how long we get to play, they'll probably give us a 40 minutes set so we'll may be only able to play "Darkness…" for everybody you know?!"
There were already talks about a DARK ANGEL reformation in 1999 - it even went as far as having tour dates for September 1999 printed in some Metal mags in Europe with ANCIENT RITES as support, but nothing happened because Jim wasn't into it all, how about you at the time?
"I would have done it but I also had a bunch of shit going on so... I told Eric "Look, I can't get involved in any of the business of this you know, like I just don't have the time at the moment so if you really want to make this happen, you have to do all the biz" so... and maybe Eric wasn't up to it at the time to see it through so it just kind of fell apart."
So Gene, tell us how you got involved in music to begin with like when it was, how you discovered Metal and stuff... I think your sister Lisa and your parents had a lot to do with that?
"Oh yeah, yeah Lisa was and my cousin Ken, they were both like one year apart, like she's five years older than me and he's six and they were always hanging out, shooting the breeze about Rock 'n' Roll and stuff and my sister got into Rock 'n' Roll at a young age, she was 13 or 14 when she started to get into it and I was like 7 or 8, I was always into the music man, I grew up on the AM pop radio from 1969 through like 1976 or so and then in '77, '76 I guess it was just discovered KISS and my sister was really into QUEEN, BLACK SABBATH, ANGEL and THIN LIZZY and AEROSMITH and all these bands I got into you know, BLUE OYSTER CULT, TED NUGENT, that was my total background and as I got a little bit older I started discovering you know like the underground Metal, I always like being the only person that... I was one of those super hardcore kids, I wanted to be the only one to know about these bands nobody else knows about so I'm cool you know?! So I got really into like the N.W.O.B.H.M. and like the old Japanese Metal and European Metal underground stuff that nobody had heard of, nobody had even heard of IRON MAIDEN at this time so... you know like IRON MAIDEN or JUDAS PRIEST, nobody knew who those bands were so I was safe in liking those bands for a time and once those bands started getting songs on the radio or whatever, I just drifted into deeper, deeper Metal waters as it were and then so I just started... you know I got pretty heavy into the tape trading scene before I was really in any bands or anything like that so you know that's how I got to know people like Chuck from DEATH, trading tapes left and right, Borivoj (Krgin) and people like that."
Considering the influential drummer you have been for many baby Metal drummers over the years, I guess it's logical to ask you what were your main influences to start with? Were you more into full force drummers like Phil Taylor, Tommy Aldridge, Robb Reiner or much into the legendary masters of precision, Mr Neil Peart from RUSH or even Rick Colaluca from WATCHTOWER?
"I was into all those guys, just equally. I grew up like my first favorite drummer was Neil Peart and I could air drums his stuff really well then when I started playing on drum sets, you know I could play his stuff really well and I was getting into... like RAVEN was my favorite band so Wacko (Rob Hunter) was a big influence and ANVIL was another one of my favorites, I just loved all the double bass drummers like if you were a precision player like say Mark Crenny, from Gino Banellie or Terry Bozzio I was really into him... and if you were a really heavy hitter like Philthy Animal (Taylor) or a double bass monster like Tommy Aldridge or Cozy Powell, both the Robbs there, I was totally into that, and as I got a little bit older I totally got into Rick Colaluca, I mean he's always a great drummer and you know after him even Sean Reinert (SEAWEED, CYNIC, DEATH, GORDIAN KNOT, AGHORA) take a big influence out of Rick and get into Steve Gatts from Al DiMeola, he was a big influence on my playing around the "Individual Thought Patterns" days, he was really cool. I like drummers that you can get, you know, that you can understand, you know they were going crazy, it was really technical but I usually had a pretty decent aptitude for picking up what they were playing so... you know just transforming that and absorbing that and making certain elements of other drummer's styles part of my style, that was something I was pretty good at doing from a young age so... but I always admit like half the shit I've played man, I've stolen it from somewhere you know, they're just drums so things do tend to get stolen."
What's your opinion about the somewhat special drummer known as Dennis The Menace from Chicago's MACABRE?
"Oh man fuck Dennis The Menace is killer! He was one of my favorites growing up, yeah totally."
From an old discussion we had back in '87, you said your early drum sets suffered a lot from your pounding drumming but which drums do you think fit the best your drumming?
"Hmmm well I'm still playing the gray Pearl that I got in DARK ANGEL, I still play that and you know I tell you the custom Z that I was using in DEATH, that was a perfect drum set for DEATH, I thought and that sounded really well... right now I'm playing a rented kit cos I don't have a drum endorsement so I'm playing a rented kit from our tour manager - he has a production company in England so we just always hire his drum sets and stuff... it never matters what kit I play, I can usually tune any drum set to sound pretty decent and you know, a label is just a label but I can use some new drums I tell you, I owe it to the rest of the guys in my band to get a new drum set cos they're out there procuring themselves new guitars, finding themselves amps and here I am playing this 13, 14 years old piece of shit drum set, I owe it to them to get something soon." (laughs)
Tell us about how you as a writer and Lisa as a photographer got involved in the fanzine Brain Damage in '83, '84, how did that happen? It seems you have always been close to the underground, helping small bands from your area like VIKING, SANCTUM, LEGION... or even being in touch with bands from elsewhere like MUTILATED, PRIME EVIL later on...
"Well there was another fanzine from L.A. called The Headbanger which was a great fanzine, that was the first fanzine I've ever seen in my life, I didn't even know that something like that existed and I was about 13 or 14 at the time when I saw that, I was just blown away and I got to... because I would see the owner of the mag Bob Nalbandian, he would be at all the shows, all the local shows that I would go to and he was this guy that was way more Metal than me and you know when I was talking to him, he was a really cool guy and he handed me a copy of his zine one time, he was like 'Here's my magazine', and I was like 'Holy fuck! This is a fanzine... cool!' and I was totally into Metal so I wanted to be a writer when I was that age and that's what I thought I was gonna end up doing so I was like 'Dude, can I write something for you?', he's like 'Sure! Review an album for me' you know like 'Go to a show and review it and let me know what you think', and so I did, so I wrote for The Headbanger for a couple of issues there and stuff. As a matter of fact... yeah I'm the very first person that have ever reviewed any SLAYER album EVER! Because The Headbanger had the very first review of "Show No Mercy" and I fuckin' wrote it so that was cool... Yeah so this kid (Vadim Rubin - Brain Damage editor) moves in down the street to me, he's a total Metalhead and he's totally into Metal and I was thinking 'You're just a Punk', you know he was a year younger than me and I was like 'No way dude, there's no way he can be into Metal as much as I am' and he's like 'Well come to my house man, check out some of the shit I got', he's got tons of cool shit! I was like 'Fuck! We live three doors down from each other!", and so you know he was familiar with The Headbanger magazine, he'd seen it around a little bit, I was like 'Well I write for it' so he's like 'I wanna do a magazine too' so he started writing articles, it was run by a bunch of kids, 14, 15 years old, I was like 14 or 15 and he was like 13 or 14 and we were going to shows and reviewing shows, all that sort of stuff and my sister drew the logo for it, she takes tons of pictures for it cos that's what she was doing, I mean she's taking pictures for Metal Hammer and Rock Hard, Aardshock and stuff like that. I used to write articles for like Metal Hammer and stuff when I was a kid because she would take pictures of like, let's say EXODUS would come to town, the very first show in southern California, you know we'd go down and she'd take pictures for it... it was through the band SAVAGE GRACE that she made some contacts with some European mags and stuff and she would send 'em pictures of like the latest shows, you know POSSESSED, DARK ANGEL and SLAYER at Radio City or whatever and they would say 'Well that's cool but can you add a review to go along with it?'" you know, she's like 'I'm not a writer and I really don't like this kind of music but I'll see what I can do...' so it was like 'I'll tell you what, I'll write the articles' so I used a pseudonym, now I write this great article like 'DARK ANGEL just played there and they were killer, destroyed the house... great show... oh yeah SLAYER played too' you know (laughs), stuff like that, I was always doing that man, I've got a bunch of articles in like Metal Hammer, Rock Hard, shit like that so that's pretty cool."
Was DARK ANGEL (not the same familiar outfit you joined later) the first outfit you joined? I think you had played with CARNAGE at one point?
"In fact that band CARNAGE was originally called DARK ANGEL and you know, I made 'em change the name cos I thought DARK ANGEL was a gay name so I made 'em change the name to CARNAGE and it had nothing to do with the other DARK ANGEL and as soon as I started seeing ads for DARK ANGEL playing at the Whiskey or DARK ANGEL playing at Radio City, I thought it was those same guys and they just carried on, I just thought they kept playing or whatever and then I found out it was a totally different DARK ANGEL, then I've seen 'em a few times and stuff and you know I went to go see them and that was about the time I was starting to go to see SLAYER too for the first time, you know like '83 or whatever so now that was cool. I saw 'em playing a bunch of shows together before I was in the band, DARK ANGEL and SLAYER."
What type of music did the other DARK ANGEL / CARNAGE play?
"We tried to play as Heavy Metal as we could but like I was about the only super heavy guy in the band like 'Come on, let make it dark and evil' you know I was playing 'em like ANGEL WITCH and stuff like that and TANK, VENOM, MOTÖRHEAD and you know we sounded like a really really terrible MOTÖRHEAD I guess, just raw and fast and loud and heavy you know with 14 year old kids playing it so...(laughs)"
Did you have lots of originals or was it mainly covers?
"We didn't have any covers in fact, we had a whole lot of originals, and they were all pretty terrible you know?! I would laugh if I found like the old rehearsal tape that we made. We never recorded any demos or anything but I know there's a rehearsal tape floating around somewhere and I'm sure it's pretty terrible."
And did you play any shows?
A while later, probably late '83 or early '84, you became the lighting guy for SLAYER and you ending up doing more lighting work for that new wave of Metal bands in L.A. like BLOODLUST, OMEN, SAVAGE GRACE and SHELLSCHOCK who had changed their name for DARK ANGEL, do you have fond memories about that?
"Oh totally man like fuck just like... I remember I would have to, like I was in the stage crew at school meaning that I was the fly man, meaning I pulled the curtains for the school plays and stuff and when they had like the dance recitals, when the orchestra would play, I'd be the guy pulling the curtains and there was a lot of times when I couldn't make that cos I've got a gig, I gotta go to a show you know, I've got to do you know SLAYER and SAVAGE GRACE at the Woodstock and I got to be there for 10 so... yeah totally, great memories cos I didn't know what I was doing at that either and the way I started to do lights was... SLAYER's lighting guy didn't show up, the guy who ran the lights for 'em and you know, Tom (Araya) turns to me, he's like 'Well Gene you come to our shows, you know our tunes pretty well, do you wanna have a crack at the lighting board?!', I was like 'Sure!' so I got up there and you know I would got a show on video tape even, it's bouncing around somewhere, one of my first shows anyway... then the next time... buddy didn't show up again, Tom's like 'Dude you're here, dude' and then, I think it was probably a show with SAVAGE GRACE so you know I offered myself to SAVAGE GRACE cos they were my friends too, it was like 'I'll do your lights too' and they said, "Oh yeah sure" so there, boom another job, and then OMEN was coming around then and I go like 'Well I do lights, you need some lights?', "Yeah sure", boom I'm gonna be at your show anyway, then EXODUS came to town for the first time, I did EXODUS' lights, their very first L.A. show and then reviewed the show for Metal Hammer later or Rock Hard, one of those magazines so I was a busy little fuckin' 15 year old bastard!"
That's when you've met SHELLSHOCK / DARK ANGEL for the first time?
"Yeah in fact they were probably DARK ANGEL at the time and I met Jim Durkin at a SLAYER after party, I think it was a DARK ANGEL / SLAYER show that I couldn't get to, I just got into town like that night and went right to this gig and missed it but there was a party afterwards and there was Jim Durkin sitting there, I'd seen him around at a couple of the other shows and seemed like a cool guy and we started talking, he's like 'I'm in DARK ANGEL', I was like 'Hey check this out, I was in this DARK ANGEL' and blah blah, he's like 'Cool', totally into Metal he was so you know we just became friends and you know after the first conversation DARK ANGEL had a lighting man too (laughs), I was like 'Dude I do lights!', he's like 'Cool, come to our next show!' so I did, I worked for him for a few shows and then I'm on the road with SLAYER and when I got back from that, I think I pretty much made enemies with all the SLAYER dudes, they were like 'Fuck Gene is an asshole! He's a 15 year old Punk man!' cos Jim was like 'Dude I've heard Gene because of WARGOD' - cos I've jumped to WARGOD around that time and it was.... Jim would come to a couple of rehearsals and he saw me play and they already got rid of Jack Schwartz once and they got Lee Rauch from MEGADETH for a while and that didn't work out too well so they got Jack back but then they came and saw that WARGOD rehearsal cos Jim and I were pals at the time so... and he was asking around like 'What do you think of Gene?' cos he knew that I was doing stuff on Dave's (Lombardo) kit for SLAYER, I would play with SLAYER like the soundchecks and stuff and that's a pretty well known story or whatever and Kerry (King) was like 'Hey Gene is a wicked drummer, but he's a little bastard' you know, "He's a fuckin' asshole! You don't want him in your band, he's a whiny little fuckin' Punk!" and Jim is like 'No dude, I think he's cool, I've heard him play and I saw him playing cos we're thinking about getting rid of Jack, what do you think about Gene?' and Kerry is like 'No you don't want him!' so... but he asked me anyway so I said "Yeah sure!"."
At around the same time you did some backing vocals on the very first SLAYER album - how did you get involved in that and on which songs did you sing?
"It was on the song 'Evil Has No Boundaries', it was the chorus 'Evil!' and I was going down to the studio and watching them record, watching 'em record pretty much the whole record cos we were close back then anyway and I was a huge SLAYER fan and they didn't have many you know (laughs), I mean they would bring about 30 people to the shows..."
Oh yeah I remember that!
"Yeah totally and you know I just became pal with them and I go see all the shows, I never missed a SLAYER show so... I was cool enough, they were like 'Come to the party' or 'Come watch us rehearse' or "Hey we're recording the album next week, come on down and check it out" and back at the time it was Jeff (Hanneman) and Kerry doing the 'Evil!', you know it didn't sound too heavy and I mentioned to like Tom or Jeff or somebody like 'You know you guys should consider... maybe consider doing like big gang vocals on that, make it sound evil like demons and stuff' and they were like 'Good idea' but how about now, we got about eight dudes sitting around in the studio and now everybody jumped there and yelled 'evil' so I was like 'Cool' because I'm like 'I wanna sing on this record somehow, that's how I can do it", totally unplanned you know?! Sure enough there were like "Fuck we have the time, let's do it" so I was like "Yeah I got to sing on it!" so..."
Your involvement with SLAYER didn't end up here as you went on tour with them in June / July '84 during their "Haunting The West Coast" short tour in June / July '84 where it seems you became really close to Dave to the point he asked you to become his "drum tutor", tell us the story about that and wild stories about the SLAYER guys being on tour with you!
"I remember spending a lot like after the first show, it was in L.A. at the Country Club (6/21/84) and we packed up and Kerry had his van and the rest of the guys had another van that they were traveling in, Kerry had the gear in his van and we went up to S.F., it's about a six hour drive or whatever and about three hours into it Kerry and I hadn't spoke a fuckin' word to each other you know?! It was like, fuck he's just a really quiet guy and at the time I was pretty intimidated because he used to be a pretty opiniated guy as well and usually if you're an opiniated guy that makes you an asshole you know?! And I didn't think that but I was like, 'Man he don't want to talk' so I was just like, I was bored so that's like 'Dude I'm fuckin' bored, give me something to do!', he's like 'I'll tell you what, I've got this B.C. Rich guitar back there, it's just a red one' and I splattered all this fuckin' black paint on it. So over the course of the next three hours til we got to S.F., I was sitting there chipping off little pieces of black paint and... I never got to finish it so if you have ever see that cos I've got pictures, it's like half the paint is gone, I got half the job done, that was cool and you know what? I was such a young idiot back then, I was a fuckin' retard, I was doing lights for 'em but I thought... I didn't know that... nobody explained to me what a roadie does like if they had said "Dude we need you to lug gear after the show" and you know set up stuff and tear stuff down and do that, I would have done but I didn't know so there's Johnny, Tom's little brother doing all the work, he's loading everything! And I'm sure they're going you know "Gene get your ass and gear, do some work here." and I'm just sitting around like talking to chicks and I didn't know what I was supposed to do so I got fired pretty much after that first tour so... but that was a good learning experience."
The first band that got really well known - in the underground at least - that you were involved with was WARGOD. According to what you said before, you actually met guitarist Michelle Meldrum (later seen in PHANTOM BLUE and now MELDRUM) during that SLAYER tour and once she had relocated to L.A., you met up with Rob Perkins (vocals), Phil Williams (guitar), Greg Gunther (bass) and formed WARGOD, tell us the exact story about how you got all together... I think there was some dude called Blake involved also at one point huh?
"Blake Edwards... yeah and that was the original bassist, Phil wasn't around at the time, neither was Greg in fact, it was just us four and... yeah she was a total Metal fan as much as I was, I met her at Ruthies Inn in Berkeley, CA, that was EXODUS, SLAYER, POSSESSED, VERMIN from L.A. (6/23/84) and like I just saw her rocking out, you know and she was going for total Metal, Metal headbanging chick and we didn't have Metal headbanging chicks in L.A., you know all the girls were all fou fou, all pretty looking like glammers or whatever and here's this chick wearing fuckin' like an EXODUS shirt, just thrashing and I was like 'Cool!' and she came, stood by the board and she introduced me, I was like 'I know who you are' because I heard about this band called WRECKAGE that Steve Craig the manager of SLAYER was working with and it was an all chick Metal band and she was the guitarist, she was like 14 at the time or something like that so... we just became pals, I gave her the number where we were staying and she called me up the next day like 'Hey man do you guys want to come over, go swimming or something like that?', 'Cool we'll do it' but she just lived too far away but we just kept in contact and she moved down to L.A. like a couple of months later and I was off the tour and so we kind of put a band together, it was just me and her at first and then... I'm not sure how we got Rob or Blake, in fact I think Rob and Blake were putting something else together, we just kind of molded, they were a singer and a bassist putting a band together and we were a guitarist and a drummer and it's like 'let's throw ourselves together and see how it goes', we recorded this really crappy little demo and what was on that... I think 'Day Of Atonement', 'Break The King's Seal' or something like that, it was pretty terrible (well compared to today's standards in Metal in general, this recording can be considered as killer! - Laurent) but we were into it, that was cool and I felt really bad when... you know here's my first band, my first real band, we got a logo, we take some pictures and we're doing a demo and that's when Jim asked if I like to be in DARK ANGEL so that was a pretty rough consideration you know?! It's like well do I take this band from the ground up or do I join this band that had gotten a record deal, stuff like that but I felt really bad when I told Michelle about it but she was like 'Dude, of course you got to do it man! I won't hold you back, do it!'."
If I'm correct you thought WARGOD were too much SLAYER orientated and maybe you saw more future in DARK ANGEL also...
"Hmmm... I definitely saw more future in DARK ANGEL but the thing that really got me about DARK ANGEL was because I knew all their "We Have Arrived" material, from having seen them live for a couple of times watching 'em play and what not but they had these two brand new songs, one was called 'The Burning Of Sodom' and the other one was called 'Perish In Flames' and once I heard those two songs and like it had been about a month or so since I hung around or seen 'em or anything like that and my buddy Vadim from up the street, he found a rehearsal and told me like 'Dude they got those two new songs, wait til you hear them, 'Burning...' and 'Perish...' are gonna rip your fuckin' face off!', I was like 'Cool man, cool!', you know DARK ANGEL was okay, they were alright like I remember being on that SLAYER tour and we did more DARK ANGEL songs at soundcheck than we did SLAYER songs. That's all we wanted to play was DARK ANGEL, we played 'We Have Arrived' and shit like that, couple of the other songs and stuff, I remember Hanneman go "Dude, fuckin' DARK ANGEL is fuckin' faster than us, heavier than us they are killing". I remember telling Hanneman "Dude, what are you talking about? You are in SLAYER!" you know like 'Fuck! Do you worry about that band from L.A., DARK ANGEL? Big fuckin' deal you're in SLAYER!" and he's like 'Dude, their new shit is fuckin' ripping!' cause he had some of the new stuff and then I heard those two songs and I was like 'Yes I want to be in the band' cos I was telling Jim "I don't know man, it's like WARGOD, we're really tight and..." we'd only been in the band for three months or something like that, three / four months but you know fuck I really like all these guys, it's gonna be cool and Jim was like 'Come on dude, check it out! We hate Jack, we don't want Jack anymore, we like you so come on!' then I heard 'Perish...' and 'Burning...', I was like 'YEAH'."
How much did you contribute to the songwriting in WARGOD and their first three song tape? I think you wrote 'Day...' at least on it, correct?
"Yeah I wrote that and that's probably the first song I ever wrote on guitar because I wasn't really playing guitar at the time so yeah I wrote that one, I wrote the lyrics and I think I wrote probably the lyrics to everything on there I think maybe and then I think it was probably the riff I wrote, the only song I wrote, I had a bunch of riffs that I was writing for WARGOD that I show to Jim Durkin when I joined DARK ANGEL, he was like 'Holy hell, we'll take that one! Have that one too! Hey give me that one overthere!' so... and I didn't know how to play guitar, I mean "Darkness Descends" was written by a guy who'd been playing guitar for probably three years and another guy who'd been playing guitar for three months! (laughs) Fuck!"
Did you play lots of shows while you were in WARGOD?
"No we never played any... I think I ended up playing a show with WARGOD after I was in DARK ANGEL..."
Yeah you continued to play with WARGOD at the same time to help them out for live shows until they recruited previous MEGADETH / DARK ANGEL drummer, Lee Rauch...
"Yeah that's right... I didn't want to leave WARGOD hanging so I stuck around with 'em until they found another drummer and yeah they did some shows... and at the time when I joined DARK ANGEL I hadn't done a show with WARGOD yet but I think I did a couple, a few maybe..."
But did it get in the way of DARK ANGEL sometimes the fact that you had to play with WARGOD too?
"No! No but there was one time when I rehearsed for 42 days in a row, you know there was like four DARK ANGEL rehearsals one week, four WARGOD rehearsals the next week, three DARK ANGEL rehearsals so I remember having no days off for 42 days in a row and I thought that was pretty strenuous now that's no big fuckin' deal you know?! (laughs) I do that for months but at the time I was like 'FUCK! I'm killing myself here!' and that's back when we had a rehearsal one time a day like nowadays I'm rehearsing three times a day with three different bands and sometimes it's seven days a week for a month straight so... crazy!"
What was your opinion of their second two song demo which I really found to be a stepback in terms of quality / catchy songwriting?
"Yeah I agree but I remember working on a couple of the songs with them, I think it might have been a three song where they ended up dropping off the third song sort of thing and that never got released, I think there was a couple of the songs that I was working on and I remember Lee, like Lee when he joined DARK ANGEL it was like 'Dude they got the drummer from MEGADETH! Fuck! DARK ANGEL is gonna kill!' I was really excited for him cos I figured 'Dude if you're in MEGADETH, you had to be a fuckin' killer!' but you know (laughs)... if you were an ex-member of MEGADETH that meant you couldn't play your fuckin' instrument you know?! And Lee in fact wasn't very good, I don't even know how long he was in fact in MEGADETH. I went to a MEGADETH rehearsal and he was rehearsing with them but I guess he was with 'em for like two or three months or something like that... but he had the name so when Lee disappeared after DARK ANGEL then he joined WARGOD, I was like 'Cool! Maybe he'll be better, he didn't fit DARK ANGEL too well but maybe WARGOD he'll do alright with' you know and WARGOD needed a good straight forward thrashing drummer and Lee wasn't, Lee is kind of a power drummer more you know, he lashed double bass and stuff like that, he slowed lots of the songs down and his meter wasn't really too happening or anything like that so... but yeah so they did tons of stuff at that time yeah."
Why do you think that band - despite their somewhat lack of originality, never went further?
"Well I don't know, maybe they just didn't really wanna try too hard, maybe it just became kind of a side project for 'em, after WARGOD Michelle disappeared for a little while and then did PHANTOM BLUE and all that stuff, and that was probably her thing cos she was a shredder when she was a kid, she was a talented guitarist man, solid."
Are you still in touch with some of the members like Rob Perkins who was later seen in PHOBIA or Michelle Meldrum?
"No I haven't seen Rob forever and Michelle, I jumped on her website, she's got a MELDRUM website and I typed an e mail message to her and I couldn't get the thing to send..."
Yeah I tried myself one time also and I couldn't either...
"Okay, there we go... I'm a computer idiot but... yeah I've followed Michelle's career you know, she might have done the same with mine or whatever but I haven't spoken to Michelle in a long time, about ten years or so I understand she's married, living in Sweden now..."
Yeah she's married with John Norum...
"That's right. That must be a guitar shredding family. Imagine the fight, you can totally get out 'Baby I'm sorry, we're angry to each other, pick up a guitar, let's shred it out!' you know?! Cool!"
So do you remember your first rehearsal with DARK ANGEL? It would be dumb to ask you if you were familiar with their music as you worked with them, but what about the older SHELLSHOCK material?
"Well I don't really remember any of the SHELLSHOCK stuff, I don't think that was really... I mean they were already DARK ANGEL by then, I think they were called SHELLSHOCK before right?"
Yeah and they had a demo out.
"Holy shit! Okay... my first rehearsal with DARK ANGEL was December 10th 1984, we set up the gear, there's little... the cool thing about the rehearsal place was that it wasn't too far from my house and... you know I had to travel for miles to see 'em rehearse in their other place then they just ended up leaving that place, coming around and rehearsing at a place not too far from my place so I was like excited about that, you know it was easy to get the drums in and out stuff like that so... I remember bashing to all their songs that they had you know, I knew most of 'em already, I'd already played tons of them with SLAYER (laughs)...And then you know I was like 'Dude bring on 'Burning Of Sodom', give me 'Perish In Flames'!', get a crack of that you know cos we were doing like 'Falling From The Sky' that's a cool song, 'Welcome To...' that's okay and 'No Tomorrow' that song was stupid, 'Vendetta' that song was stupid 'Come on let's get to some of the other songs!'..."
Were you DARK ANGEL's first choice as drummer or do you know if they had some other guys in mind?
"Hmmm.... no, well they had Jack and then they replaced him with Lee and then Lee didn't work out so they got Jack back and then I don't think they were looking but then they saw me sort of thing you know, I think they were just gonna carrying on with Jack like 'Fuck it, he's the best we can get' cos... it's not like Thrash Metal drummers are breaking down your door in those days, it was hard to find anybody who even liked that kind of music you played, let alone knew how you played it so I mean there were no Thrash drummers in L.A. at the time."
Do you remember how your first show went with them which was I believe on December 31st 1984 with HIRAX at Radio City, Anaheim...
"As a matter of fact, I think on these reissues that Century Media put out, those pictures like in "Darkness Descends", one of 'em is a picture of all of us and Rob looks really young and stupid, that was taken then, and that was taken by my sister too so yeah I was totally scared shitless, I was trying to go home, you know I'm like 'Fuck I'm leaving, I can't do this!' and then like the show was packed anyway because both bands had a pretty good following... and I used to introduce DARK ANGEL, like 'Come on you motherfuckers! Get in here you fuckin' bastards!', I used to introduce SLAYER too 'You fuckin right, fuckin' SLAYER!' and that's where DARK FUCKIN' ANGEL came from, just the chant from 'Are you alright, would you please welcome DARK FUCKIN' ANGEL!' so that was always the chant before the shows, DARK FUCKIN’ ANGEL and I created that before I was even in the band so... as soon as I got on stage, the crowd would chant DARK FUCKIN' ANGEL, they're screaming at us and I just started screaming back at them, it was like 'Yeah come on!' you know I did the same persona I called it my wrestling voice you know like back when the wrestlers they can be really soft spoken off stage but then you put a microphone on their face 'Oh fuckin' kill' you know that sort of thing and I started screaming and back of the crowd just went nuts and I loved being on stage, that was the greatest thing ever so I went from terrified to fuckin elated in about 20 seconds and I've never looked back."
It was also somewhat surprising that your picture appeared on "We Have Arrived" instead of Jack's picture...
"Oh yeah, that's right... well, I think they hated Jack so much... you could see he was a real bastard when they kicked him out the second time, he's like 'Well you're erasing my drum tracks, you'd better not put my name on the record' or something like that and they wanted to credit me with the drums on it, now I was like 'NO! No I do not want to be known for playing the drums on this record' you know?! I can kill this guy on... I wish we could have gone back and re-record the drums, we were talking about for a while..."
Yeah that was my next question, so you thought about re-recording the drum parts with you as it could have give this album the real punch it REALLY deserved?
"Yeah, yeah I know we talked about it for a little while, that would be cool..."
Because the drumming was really sloppy on it...
"Yeah, it was really safe sounding... it wasn't ripping your head off, that's why "Darkness Descends" was such a surprise to people you know like 'Holy fuck this is the same band, Jesus!' you know?! So it didn't happen but still they ended up putting my picture on but I made sure that somewhere on the record you know, Jack Scwhartz plays drums on this album."
1985 was mainly spent to play on a regular basis in the Los Angeles area, often opening for upcoming outfits such as MEGADETH or SLAYER, and at the time some tension started to appear between SLAYER and DARK ANGEL... any comments on that?
"Yeah it was probably me you know like I talk to Hanneman about this..."
But I remember some interviews with SLAYER and they were hard with DARK ANGEL...
"Yeah because you know one thing, I never talked about it at the time but I knew all the SLAYER secrets you know?! I went on the road with 'em, I knew these guys were playing and worshipping DARK ANGEL songs and I'd be like 'Okay...' you know they played 'We Have Arrived' (playing a part of the song) and then 'Kill Again' would come out (playing a part of it, sounding very similar), 'We Have Arrived' (doing it again) and then fuckin' 'Hell Awaits' (doing a part of the intro which sounds in fact very similar!) you know it was like 'I know your fuckin' secrets dudes' you know?! 'I know where you're getting your riffs from' and I think that's why they came out so hard with... DARK ANGEL are SLAYER clones you know because it was the other way around and they knew I knew and there's nothing I can say because they were SLAYER, they were fuckin' bigger than everybody else at the time and who you are going to listen to? Kerry King and Jeff Hanneman or some kid in a Death Metal band from L.A.? So I knew there was nothing I could say that would make people go 'Alright Gene is telling the truth!' you know so... I can say I talked to Hanneman about that a couple of years ago like 'Dude you guys fuckin' hated me' you know like "We were pals and after that tour you guys fuckin' hated my guts!', and he was like 'Dude how old were all of us then? We were 18 and you were 15 or whatever and we were all fuckin' dumb punks' so what could you do?!"
You recorded "Darkness Descends" in mid '86 with Randy Burns as producer who had just finished producing the second MEGADETH album, why did you choose him and were you happy with his work?
"He was given to us by the record label and at the time there was another producer in L.A., a guy name Bill Metoyer, he was Metal Blade's house guy, he did "We Have..." and the band was like 'Maybe you can find somebody to make it just a little more agro you know?! Our first choice was - not so much a choice, but the first guy we were offered was this guy named Kerry Hay who did the first MEGADETH "Killing Is..." record, and we didn't like the sound of that but it turns out that MEGADETH recorded it for like 100$ and spent 8.000$ on drugs (laughs) so that's okay, that's why this album sounds like shit and then there was another guy, I can't remember his name but he was doing a lot of other bands around L.A. and Eric and I went to his house and we took a copy of "Bonded By Blood" with us and we're like you know "This is kind of..." cos I was like ... of course this album doesn't sound great by today standards but at the time that was a killer sounding one! And we're like 'We want to be along these lines, big, fat, loud, Metal, agro, angry' and this guy was listening to our... like we had this board tape that we had made at one of the Country Club shows we had done with SLAYER, it came up pretty good, you know you can hear everything and we're playing it for the guy, he's like 'Oh yeah I can hear lots of harmonies right here, lots of thirds and fifths on the guitars right over here and...' we're like 'What?! What this producer is gonna try to change our sound, fuck you!' you know?! So we tossed that aside, I can't remember who he was and he did a bunch of stuff too, he did like an ABATTOIR record, couple ABATTOIR records and..."
I think the first ABATTOIR record was produced by the same guy who did the first MEGADETH...
"Okay... anyway and then we were like, well we were kind of not coming up with anybody, the label said 'Well MEGADETH just used this guy Randy Burns and he's done this and that in the past', we were like 'Fuck yeah he did "Seven Churches" (POSSESSED) so... cool!' so they were like 'Do you want to use him or...?', "Sure! Just give it a shot!', Randy was fine, he was a cool guy. He did a lot of drugs (laughs) and I was not a drug dude and it was always like 'Holy fuck this guy chopping up lines on the mixing board, holy shit!' you know?! He and I butted heads a lot because Don Doty's vocals sucked and it was me and Jim screaming at Doty while he's recording cos I mean the vocals were coming up like "We Have..." you know?! Really weak and limp, no power into the voice, I was like 'You fuckin' sucked on it! You better start screaming that shit!' and Randy Burns was like 'Dude that is no way to talk to your singer, get out', then I am like "Fuck you asshole, I'm talking to my singer how the fuck I want because believe me this works", that's the only way you can get through to Don so when people say 'We love Don Doty's voice', I'm like 'Thank you' you know (laughs)?! Me and Jim put alot of fuckin' work into Don's voice on that because it was not gonna sound powerful like the (adopting a mocking voice) legendary Don Doty that everybody knows, it was not that in the first few hours of takes and Randy was like 'Oh it sounds great!', 'Oh yeah killer it sounds great man! yeah you're do good', he didn't know, I mean nobody knew, you know nobody... there was three Thrash Metal albums out when "Darkness.." came out, to most of these guys you know 'Oh oh a METALLICA band' and SLAYER, VENOM... who?... out to producers in L.A. anyway so there was no rules at the time and were just making them up as we went along."
It seems Eric had a good hand also as far as producing goes with this album but he wasn't credited from what he said, how did that happen?
"I don't remember Eric producing much on that record I'll tell you! I remember you know, he turned a couple of knobs, he said "Hey why we don't try this over there?!" you know... God I remember just howling when I read the songwriting sheet or whatever and he took a credit for 'Death Is Certain, Life Is Not' because he was like 'Dude, do you want to put some drums at the beginning! I don't know do a drum solo or something like that', now I was like 'Well let's try this' (doing a snare roll) you know?! He took a credit for that, it was like 'Did you sit on the drums and write that part?' but I don't care, I never give a shit about songwriting credits as long as the song is there and it's on vinyl and it sounds good, fuck you know?! Ghandi could have written a song you know?!"
On "Darkness.." the material was a lot stronger and faster as it can be heard with 'The Burning...', 'Hunger Of The Undead' or 'Darkness...', but still that material didn't have the Punk influence that many other Thrash bands at the time which had included in their sound like HIRAX or SLAYER, how do you explain that?
"Well we were so into Metal and I was hugely into Punk like FEAR is still one of my favorite bands and stuff like that, like RUDIMENTARY and stuff, I was totally into those bands but I don't know... I grew up playing to RUSH songs and playing to U.K. and YES songs, I didn't really play to too many Punk songs like... I can play you' a mean version of... like fuckin' 'Kill The King' by RAINBOW but I probably couldn't play 'Holiday In Cambodia' (DEAD KENNEDYS) so... so yeah but the one thing that I do remember about like the best way to explain like how "Darkness..." sounded kind of so different from everything else was that we finally had two guys in the band that had the same goal in mind, let's make some fast, heavy duty shit, doesn't have to be the fastest shit in the world like to me "Darkness..." didn't seem that fast when it came out, everybody was like, 'Holy fuck, that's the fastest thing ever!' but we used a comfortable speed to record them, believe me we could play that shit a lot faster than how we recorded it but... you know like Rob kind of wanted to sound like EXODUS, Eric kind of wanted to be more of a Power Metal thing and Don, Don just didn't care, you know he just wanted to be a singer in a band and you had two guys that were like totally into the Metal, we loved POSSESSED, we loved fuckin' DESTRUCTION, like the new VOIVOD stuff, we had the same early influences like ANVIL, TANK and stuff like that so let's lay something down heavy! It wasn't like we were the songwriters, Jim just happened to write a bunch of songs and I was learning how to play guitar at the time so Jim and I would jam a lot together, you know I go to Jim's house and we'd spend a Friday or Saturday night when maybe the other guys in the band were up seeing their girlfriends or they're going out to a club or whatever, we'd just spend time writing you know so that's kind how it worked out."
Do you think the fact that you joined the band is also responsible for the change of the musical direction of the band towards something faster / heavier or would it have been the same with somebody else?
"Yeah it is hard to say but you know I don't say it - no (laughs) it wouldn't be the same! Cos like Jim and I were friends and since we were both in the same kind of music we were like... I was in the heaviest shit around and I was getting Jim into the heavy shit, I was getting the SLAYER guys into a lot of the Punk stuff that they were getting into and I was turning them onto other Metal bands like across the sea and stuff like that so I was getting all my friends into like all the shit they've got into you know so Jim was like 'Holy fuck! Gene knows what he's talking about! He's okay on the drums' cos back then I was pretty stinky, I wasn't a very good drummer but then again there wasn't Thrash Metal drummers so how can you tell you know?! (laughs)"
Did you have some songs written that didn't make it on the album?
"Let me see... in fact no! That's why we had to redo 'Merciless Death' (laughs)! We didn't have enough songs, they were like 'Dude we only signed this contract' and none of us knew what we were doing then, sign a contract, they were like 'Okay start recording... now', and we're like 'Ohhhh okay we got six songs so should we write another one or...?' but fuck... so were like 'Ohhhh we'll re-record the other one' but tell everybody that, hey it bridges the gap between you know, it shows what we were and what should we have been then and what we are now and that's what we should have been then and blah blah, we came with some sort of bullshit that people bought so..."
What happened to 'Harbringer Of Doom', the intro to 'Darkness...' which wasn't credited on the album and starts the album?
"Yeah exactly, what the fuck happened to that?! 'Harbringer', they chopped it out, they've chopped out the title, they just called it 'Darkness...' and we were like 'Hey wait a minute! That thing is an intro, that thing in fact is called something' and they just put fuckin' 'Darkness Descends' you know?! But it worked out fine you know, it worked out okay but I mean we had thrown 'Harbringer' in front of like all these other songs, like we weren't sure... like 'Harbringer' could have worked in front of like fuckin' 'Perish...' for god's sake, we just happened to throw 'Darkness...' in after it and the title just got absorbed into one you know?!"
On this album, you started to have a big hand for the writing of the lyrics, where do you draw your influences in literary terms?
"At that time hmmm.... For instance the song 'Darkness...' was written... you know it was one of this end of the world thing but I kind of tied it into the magazine Judge Dread, they had these comic book characters the Four Dark Judges, Judge Fire, Judge Death, Judge Mortis and Judge Stinky or whatever it was and they were pretty scary characters, I was like fuckin 16, 17 or whatever and I was scared by comic books back then so I wrote this tune about that and I was like thinking that people only say that Heavy Metal lyrics are comic book lyrics so I wrote lyrics about a comic book then you know so... I wrote about that, that was one and then 'The Burning...', all they had like up until I wrote the lyrics - I think they played that song live for like a year or something like that and I finally asked Don "Don where are the lyrics? What are the lyrics to that song?' cos I know the chorus (chanting the chorus) and they had that little intro, that middle part break down thing, they had the lyrics for that but I was like "What are the verses, What are you singing?" he was like and he looks around at Jim kind of sheepishly, he's like "Should I tell him?", Jim is like 'Yeah', he's like 'There are no lyrics', so we were doing this song live, we were doing this song for like four months before I figured out there were no lyrics to it so I went to school the next day and during lunchtime, wrote down some lyrics, I think we had a poetry assignment due that day or something like that so... whatever I turned in as my poetry assignment, I just grabbed it graded, I handed it to Don and said 'Hey use these', he's like 'This will work, thanks, cool!' so that was that and then you know I wasn't a really big believer in God or Satan really at the time but I was trying to figure out some sort of... you know what sort of spirituality was out there so that's where 'Hunger Of...' came from, it was just about Karma, fuckin' whatever but then like... we had written a song that didn't have a title yet and Jim would always come up with titles before we even come up with songs, he'd got like a book of titles and we'd come up with a song and he was giving a title immediately so I would have to tailor the lyrics like 'Hunger...', hmmm what I'm gonna write about you know?! Zombies eating flesh or the undead, taking it to a spiritual plans sort of thing you know and like I said, I'm 17 and I'm an idiot so I didn't know anything at the time so... but I was always a good writer and I was always in the gifted classes at school and my high school teacher, my creative writing teacher Mr Hollis like I credited him on the record, he was first the teacher I ever had who my writing wouldn't go over his head cos I've been writing about these dark things like 'I'm a serial killer' or 'I'm a rapist' or 'I'm a child molester' and my teacher would be like 'What the fuck is this?!', this is the first guy that ever said 'This is great man! Obviously you are gonna be above and you're not a serial killer, rapist or child molester but that's crazy you can write well as one' so I just kind of went with that and then my uncle died, he was my mom's closest relative and so we had this new song and came up with the title 'Death Is Certain, Life Is Not' so I wrote that about my uncle, euthanasia in general, but it was based on my uncle's passing, how you know do we keep you alive on tubes or they let you go and that's one I was thinking 'Well, hell I'm not really good with writing fantasy stuff but I'm pretty good at communicating things that affect me' and I looked around at all the Metal lyrics and they're all about you know blood, rusty masses and getting into the pit and thrash, I was like 'Well maybe DARK ANGEL can get something different going if I just write about stuff that means something to me you know, maybe it's a little more personal and it's gonna make a lot less people get a lot of it but it might affect a couple of people here and there like deeply and you know over the course of time it kind of has, people come up to me and show me their 'promise of agony' tattoos on their wrist and stuff like that so after that I just started writing a little more personal things, like I didn't write 'Perish...' which is about being a jet fighter pilot and even though 'The Burning...' is completely incongruent like the parts I wrote and then the part that Don Doty wrote, one is from the New Testament, the other is something from the Old Testament I guess, somebody had a theological discussion about that with me one time and 'Black Prophecies', I was really into Nostradamus so I was like 'Well hell, if this is what you're into, then write about it' and ... here we go."
On the song 'Promise Of Agony' there's that line "as darkness descends I behold the candlemass" when CANDLEMASS had in 'Well Of Souls' something in common, was it a deliberate thing or just coincidence? Also that song dealt with Judge Dread comic if I'm correct...
"No they had a line 'Twelve strokes of candlemass, darkness descends' and so I just totally threw in a totally cheesy line, I have no idea what a candlemass is! But I was like you know 'As darkness descends I behold the candlemass' cos I loved CANDLEMASS, I was like 'Hey cool, check it out, they used one of our song titles!' you know like 'Whatever as if they really did' so I just chucked in the line... and we did a tour with 'em and shit so 'Hey check this out guys, I did that for you guys', they're like 'Fuck you're weird' so yeah I told em you can have some fun with lyrics' you know I write about fuckin' want to kill myself so there's little humor in there."
"Darkness..." despite the critical acclaim it received in '86 was somewhat overshadowed by "Reign In Blood", don't you think that it could have had a bigger impact considering how strong this album is if the release date would have been different since "Reign In Blood" had been released a few months earlier?
""Reign In Blood" got released two weeks earlier (laughs) so it was like 'FUCK!'... if we could do this release "Darkness" like a month earlier then it could have been a totally different situation! Yeah fuck totally! Fuck we just came late to the party so yeah I'm sure but who knows? You know like it could have been the greatest record ever or it could have been like 'cool' when that SLAYER record came out you know like, who knows, it's definitely hard to conject about things like that so..."
Nearly mid November 1986 you finally hit the east coast for the first time since you opened for CRO-MAGS and MOTÖRHEAD at the Ritz in NY and you also did a few shows with MEGADETH, how did that first trip there go?
"That was crazy! That was amazing! Like I was on the top of the world you know, like I remember just hitting New York City and I'd just walked around N.Y. forever, and I thought it was the coolest thing ever and here we go playing with two cool bands, I remember Lemmy (Kilminster) HATED us, like he was hanging out after the show and Eric and like Jim or whatever went and bumped into him and stuff and... I guess he caught the show and he was like 'You guys were the worst band I've ever seen in my life!', it was like 'Cool! Lemmy watched us!' you know?! Whatever and like everybody was there at that N.Y. show, really huge show and CRO-MAGS were really cool to us and... we didn't know what we were doing, we had no idea you know?! We had no clue man, it's not even funny how clueless as a band we were you know like two months earlier, we were sitting around picking our noses and now we're on tour with MOTÖRHEAD, MEGADETH you know?! I remember being introduced to the sites of heroin by MEGADETH, you know I didn't do drugs, I didn't drink, I didn't smoke, I didn't do anything and like there were the guys from MEGADETH who were staying in the same hotel with us and like we were leaving to go out and grab a bite to eat and they were just coming in, they were like 'Hey man come on to our room later, have a beer' or whatever, and was like 'Hey sure cool!' and like a couple of us went off later and knocked on the door, the door is kinda open and there's two of the guys from MEGADETH sitting across to each other with their portable bunson burners and they're shoe laces are tied off around their arms, the guy is going like you know 'Chris, slap my arm and get an even blood flow!' you know, I was like 'Holy crap!', I am 18 years old and I've never seen this before you know?! So yeah fuck that was crazy and... watching Chuck Beehler - the guy ended up playing for MEGADETH after that - watching him tying off Gar's (Samuelson) fuckin' leg while he's on stage, while he's playing drums injecting like in the back of the leg, I was like 'Man this is wild!' so that was some of the personal shit I remember about that stuff but it was cool you know?! I mean MEGADETH, they were just... "Peace Sells" had just gotten released and they were doing really tiny clubs, really small places so that was cool and... we're fast and stinky you know?!"
Mid January '87, you went on a co-headlining U.S. tour with labelmates POSSESSED but without Don Doty since he had left the band following a car accident and you recruited at the last minute Jim Drabos, DEATHFORCE's singer (a local based underground Thrash act) for that tour...
"Well I guess Don had cracked up a car and it was a two car collision and Don was uninsured at the time so he had to basically pay for that from his own pockets so he was like 'Dude I can't go on this tour, cos we won't gonna make any money it's a 3.000$ car destruct bill I've gotta pay for the other guy so I'm gonna stay and work' and so we're like 'Great! We leave in two weeks!' so we thought about it for a little while, we tried to figure out what we can do and then we knew Jim cos DEATHFORCE was playing around a little bit so we called up Jim and said "Dude can you learn our set in about a week?!", he was like 'I'd give it a shot!' and... Jim did a great job you know?! I mean powerful voice, good, yelly, bangin' his head cool and I thought he was killer, in fact I preferred his voice to Don's and Jim wanted to stay, it was like 'Cool stay man! We'll write another record and get killing' but he didn't want to stay after that you know?!"
That's why you parted ways with him after that tour?
"Yeah, he said "Man okay, well I went on tour, I saw it, I'm gonna get a job now, bye" so he's a cop now and he looks just like Sylvester Stallone, but with a chubby face, totally looks like fuckin' Rambo cop guy but... yeah so we gave Don another shot, Don was like 'Dude come on, I've got my shit together, let's do this' so we gave Don another chance..."
Talking about the tour, it seems you had a good time with POSSESSED for your first real touring experience, do you remember some funny things that happened during that tour? Like you being drunk during a radio interview in Boston...
"My very first time drunk... well I remember pulling up to... like we drove up to the Bay Area to pick up POSSESSED, to hook up with them and I remember going into Debbie Abono's (POSSESSED manager) house and Jeff Becerra passed out on the couch and there's... Mike Sus the drummer and Larry Lalonde the guitarist are like duct taping him to the wall to get him to sober up you know?! (laughs) So it's like you got four guys pushing him up against the wall while the other guy's got his arm out duct taping him to the wall, that was like 'Okay I see how this tour is gonna be' ... yeah we used to... like Debbie, she was very strict on the band, you know like we had our little RV and they had a van, we were getting to hang out like catch at the hotel into the night and they would have to drive the van to the next show and stuff so everyone was like, Jeff would just be 'My god, dude I'm going insane! Would you please kidnap me tonight?', it was like 'Sure!' so we'd hide Jeff in the RV after their show and stuff and we just take off, you know he'd walk off stage and we'd be like ready to go and he's be like, 'Bye, see ya' and you know there's Jeff waving out the back of our RV at Debbie so... and I remember Larry was going out with Debbie's daughter at the time, she's really a pretty girl, they were really serious or whatever and we would kidnap Larry one night and take him to the nudie bar or whatever, he had a blast! He was like fuck, 17 at the time or whatever and you know like Debbie was just screaming at him the next day 'How could you?! How could you?!' and nothing happened, we just went to a nudie bar but you know 'How could you do this to my daughter', oh man that was funny!"
Right at the end of the tour by early February - without POSSESSED - you had the chance to play two shows in Canada with CRUMBSUCKERS and AGGRESSION, how did that go?
"Yeah they were great shows, totally man! We played the Spectrum in Montreal and that was really cool, I met the guys from VOIVOD and that was alright and then we played this place, goddamn I just played the same place last year, we played in Quebec City and I just remembered like... that was such a culture shock for us because you know we hadn't been to Europe and granted if you live in L. A., chances are that you probably been at least to like Tijuana, Mexico at least once or twice so you know what's Mexico is all about but you know Quebec was like France! You know it was like 'Waouh! This is like Europe, people don't even speak our language there, this is great!', shows were killer, CRUMBSUCKERS were awesome man! They were totally one of my favorite bands at the time so playing with them was awesome and AGGRESSION was really cool, I bump into those guys still every once in a while you know?! This guitarist that plays with me in my band JUST CAUSE, he was at one of the shows, he was at the Montreal show he was like 'Dude I've never seen anything so crazy, I was like 14. You guys came busting through, and fuck changed my life!' so that's cool. Yeah good shows, nice people. I just remember like the girls in Quebec City were the prettiest girls I've ever seen, they were all fresh faced and no make up and it was winter time so everybody had rosy cheeks, all the girls are really pretty and I thought it was really cool."
So just after that tour, Don started to beg you to take him back in the band, and you did. So at that particular moment, were you sure that he had really cleaned his act and that everything could work out once again or did you have deep inside yourselves some doubts about the guy?
"I did! I did totally and we all kind of did but we were like you know, like the one thing about Don is that he would never show up to rehearsal, he would suck live, he was terrible and we'd be like 'Dude if you'd just rehearse, you'd get good!' and he would never bother to come to rehearsals and you know, he's a really good looking guy so he was a total playboy, all he just wanted to be in a band is to get chicks, you know like in playing this kind of music he was not getting girls playing Thrash Metal so he didn't care, he'd be off at the mall or to the movies on the weekend picking up girls or whatever so... when he came back he was really into it for about like two or three weeks and I was like 'Well I'm a little tenuous on this but he's showing up', he's showing up to every rehearsal, he's got his lyrics memorized, he's you know going for it and I didn't want to say for how long it's gonna last but you know I did say it a couple of times and sure enough it lasted for two or three weeks or so, maybe a month and then he started missing rehearsals, you know we had a big show coming up in a couple of weeks and you know couldn't get him down..."
With him back in the band, you did some dates in the L.A. area like with POSSESSED, CRYPTIC SLAUGHTER, EVIL DEAD, then opening for SLAYER at the Hollywood Palladium on their last date of the "R.I.B." world tour, also with SACRED REICH and VIKING, and in July '87 a handful of dates in Texas as headliners and that's when the problems with him started to re-surface since he missed the first Texas show in San Antonio where you did a brand new song 'The Death Of Innocence'...
"I sang at that first Texas show. We did that new one? Cool! That must have been an instrumental... and I remember, what was that song originally called... 'The Cursed Earth', were we calling it 'The Death Of Innocence' then?
I'm not certain but I think so...
"Okay. I knew what the lyrics were gonna be about then but that was just, Jim's writing the riff, here's the song title you know?! As soon as the song comes, boom it's got a title, doesn't matter what's the song is gonna be about, it's got a title but I had overruled on that one..."
And there was 'Black Prophecies' played as well...
"I think it's about the only time. Yeah I think pretty much after that tour, I was like 'Fuck don't put in this song live ever again!' but now I can do that double bass all day long you know so it isn't anything that I can play that song all the time now."
By the way at that famous San Antonio show, one of you sung some of the lyrics during most of the songs, I guess it was you right?
"Yeah that was me and that was the one where I kind of pulled off, I knew the lyrics and I'll try to sing 'em' you know?!"
Was it during that string of Texas shows that you had Jason Mc Master (WATCHTOWER / DANGEROUS TOYS singer) as guest bass player as it's written on the "Leave Scars" credits?
"Oh that's right yeah cos he came up and he's like 'Dude fuck...' cos he's my bro, he's like 'what's say' you know 'Jason why don't you come up and play 'Merciless Death' with us', he's like 'Cool yeah' cos he was always playing that riff cos he came to stay with me for a while when WATCHTOWER was doing some west coast shows (October '86 - Laurent), he stayed with me for a couple weeks after that... so he was always playing that riff all the time (doing the riff), I think he did that one, I'm pretty sure so yeah I go 'Yeah come on, play bass for us' so that was cool, something fun to do."
So Don did the two other remaining shows in Texas and also a show at Fenders in September 1987, and I think it was his last one, correct?
"Yeah that was his last show and it was going to be, like we all knew it, we knew it was gonna be his last show but we were giving him like one last chance if he shows up, pulls it off, does a great job then okay we'll carry on but if he doesn't like we know he's not gonna do that so we knew going into it that it's gonna be his last show because he wasn't showing to rehearsals and he's gonna have another shitty gig and sure enough he did so... that's like, it drives me nuts when people say 'Well I like Don Doty better' you know it's like 'Fuck you asshole! Fuck you, Don was an idiot. And fuck he didn't care, he didn't care about you, you know or if he would have showed up he would have become probably a pretty good frontman, a pretty good singer and a legend' but you know he didn't care then fuck you for caring."
Did you part ways with Don friendly despite all the shit you went through with him during the last months he was in the band? Also from mid September '87 to December '87 when Ron Rinehart (ex- MESSIAH) joined the band, did you try out lots of singers?
"Yeah it was friendly enough, it was like 'Don come on! You know this thing was happening, you don't care so won't you let us get on and you carry on and do your thing' and he's like 'Yeah you're right, cool' so it wasn't big tears or anything like that fuck... and we actually thought we had a guy lined up, he was the dude from the band WRATHCHILD AMERICA, they were in L.A. for a little while doing some stuff and they weren't doing anything, they weren't signed or anything and they've been there for a while so it was like 'That guy's got a pretty good voice and is he gonna do it?', 'Of course he's gonna do it!' and we approached him, it was like 'Fuck you're kidding me! I don't wanna sing in your band!', we're like 'Oh!' so we went in fact to the Metal Blade offices and William Howell from Metal Blade, he opened up the office and the demo reels, you know like the demo box, he's like 'have at it boys you know' and so we got that going, in fact we're even like... in our first choice instead of Jim Drabos was Phil (Rind) from SACRED REICH because we had done some shows with 'em and in fact we discovered SACRED REICH. Yeah because Gloria (Bujnowski), she ran a little club in Phoenix and her son Dana had seen us at the Troubadour - his dad had brought him up to L.A. a few months earlier and this kid was like 9 or 10 and happened to catch us at the Troubadour, we became his favorite band with his mom who ran a local club said "Son, what do you want for your birthday?", he's like 'I want you to bring DARK ANGEL to town' so we got a call from Gloria saying "My son saw you guys and he's 10 and he wants you guys to come and play for his birthday!", we were like 'Sure! On weekend cool', this band SACRED REICH opened for us and I was like 'Fuck these guys are cool! Man they're total SLAYER rip offs but they're cool, they've got some definite shit to 'em' so you know we got some demos and I took 'em to the Metal Blade office and said "Hey check this guys out, you might like 'em" and they did, they got that song 'Ignorance' on this Metal Blade compilation and then they got a deal and "Yeah go SACRED REICH!" so I thought pretty good about that. Those guys probably don't even know like to this day they probably don't cos it's not something I went 'Hey man I've got you guys signed' it's not like I ever brought that to 'em but you know... that's pretty damn funny. So yeah in the middle of all that, we went to all these demos and stuff, trying to find somebody and then my brain just popped open to this guy I had seen about a year earlier singing with this band called MESSIAH and I was like 'Fuck yeah I remember that guy. Shit my old girlfriend had taken me to see this band she was friends with or whatever, you know the band was pretty generic but the singer was pretty good! I was like 'Fuck man, what is that guy and what could he do with Thrash Metal singing?!' cos I remember loving the guy's voice, he looks cool, a big fuckin' burly guy, tattoos, long hair and... nobody had tattoos back then! You know GUNS 'N' ROSES had not came out yet so you know... so we were like 'Fuck' I got in touch with them, would he be interested in coming on down and he came down, checked out a rehearsal, he came back again like a few days later and we ended up doing the 'Immigrant Song' together, he's like 'I don't know any of your songs but do we...' we have been goofing on the 'Immigrant Song' and he was a ZEPPELIN fan so that's kind of why we recorded the 'Immigrant Song' on "Leave Scars", cos that was the first song we ever played together! And he did this ripping version and we're like 'Dude, you're in! You're fuckin' in dude' but we had to be cool like you know, we got to talk outside for a couple of minutes, it was like Ron inside the room, Ron was like dancing in circles going 'Yeahhhh!!!!', we came back in, it was like 'You want the job dude?', 'Yeah that would be cool! Yeah!' so that was cool, so that's how Ron got in the band but it took like six months. We rehearsed with this guy named Ice who had a really good voice but he wasn't much of a showman, he was a little short little dude and he sang for somebody else later on. He had a pretty manly voice, he was really into it, he was trying hard, we auditioned EVERYBODY and there was a guy named Strephan (Taylor) from the band SACRILEGE BC that we really wanted and I just think of relocation for everybody involved at the time wasn't happening... we couldn't pay anybody and it was like 'Okay you wanna move down to L.A. and... get a job down here then join our band' cos weren't making a lot of cash back then so..."
When you finally solved your singer problems, problems started to appear with Combat, the way they were handling the bands in particular and you re-negotiated your contract with them at that time, can you give us details about that?
"Well we re-negotiated before "Leave Scars" and... it wasn't like we were having problems but our new manager that we got who was a real motherfucker, he was a killer, he looked at our contract and said 'I won't manage you with this contract I'm going to take care of it' so he went in yelling and screaming and pissing everybody off at the label but he got the job done, but he was a weird dude... he re-negotiated it and we got a ton of money for "Leave..." and we put a ton of money into the record and it still sounded like shit. But unfortunately like when we recorded "Leave...", there was... like our producer at the time just... he was a guy that our manager found, Michael Monarch, and the reason our manager got him was I guess they were friends or whatever but this guy played guitar in STEPPENWOLF so yeah he knows how to get a heavy guitar sound! He's the guitarist on 'Born To Be Wild' and that's the very first H.M. song so he knows what he's doing and we're like 19 years old going "Okay" and you know like three or four days into the session when we have recorded all the drums, we're deep into the guitar tracks already, he's like turning to us 'Guys, obviously I really don't know what I'm doing here so I'll tell you what, I'm gonna sit in the corner, read the magazine, I'm letting you guys have at it, if you have any questions let me know' (laughs) so it's like 'Great, oh oh' so that's why "Leave...".. "Leave..." was killer music, the production was shitty, fuck and then "Leave Scars" killed us you know?! Combat sank so much money into the record, and the record looks great, all the ads look great, the band was working hard, we were out touring tons but it just can't polish a turd, it's just a shitty sounding record and we totally took the blame for it you know, it's like even the tones were okay, just the mix was terrible and the studio we were in was awful and we just didn't know what we were doing, it's like you know, turn five monkeys loose in the studio with 40.000$ and here's what you get you know?! So it came out like shit totally and so damn... if people ask you if you have any regrets: yes the production of "Leave...", things would have been a lot different all the way across the board ."
It seems you even got major label interest during that time, so do you think you made the best choice to go on with Combat instead of going elsewhere? But was it really possible for you to sign with another label when you had first signed for a seven albums deal?
"We did but the majors were like 'Don't worry about that, at the time you need independent. If we want you bad enough, we'll get you' you know and so I guess the majors didn't want us bad enough which is cool cos in fact Combat became really good around the "Leave..." era because they got Scott Givens working for them and Scott who eventually came to manage DARK ANGEL was great, he was a friend, he was the guy that I was penpals with and he's like 'Dude, I got my little tiny record label (Facemelt Records), I just signed AGGRESSION from Canada and I'm a big fan' and we ended up hooking up and he became my bro, total bro and he got a job with Combat and he ended up... you know now Scott Givens is a major pubah in the whole deal of everything, he worked for Roadrunner for ten years and did well... after we hooked with him, like he was our dude at Combat so he was the guy really doing all the work so he made so many cool things happening for DARK ANGEL that probably wouldn't have happened if it wasn't him doing it so... We were happy with Combat for a little while but once like you know... we were happy with them for about a year and a half, two years and then the bottom fell out again so... and they probably never got over this gigantic contract they had... they were being basically extorted into and given us by our old manager, you know the motherfucker, fuck he was a bastard so we said to Combat 'No it's fine' until it wasn't so..."
The newer stuff showed a somewhat different musical approach since the majority of the tracks were slower, not as fast as the stuff on "Darkness...", why did you choose to go that way?
"Speed was never an issue, you know it's like, if this song should be fast so it shall be, if this song it shouldn't then... that's why we got 'Cauterization', 'Never To Rise Again', and 'The Promise Of Agony' and stuff like that which were fuckin' total blisters but you know, we had like five Thrash Metal tracks on there so, five of to nine so..."
This time, not only you had a big hand on the lyrics - even if you had new singer, but you also wrote some of the stuff and did play the instrumental 'Cauterization' except the lead on it that Jim did...
"No I think I did the lead too on that... or maybe, I don't know, god I can't remember. I remember I wrote that tune and we were never gonna play it live so the guys were like 'Dude if you want to just record that one, go ahead' so I was like 'Okay. Cool' and then for 'Leave...', the song itself, that was the last song written for the record, well that and 'Cauterization' - 'Leave...' was written about a week before we went into the studio - I thought nobody knew it as well as I did cos I wrote, like Jim wrote a big part of it then I wrote like the majority of that tune so it was like whoever knows the song best record it. And I remember we played it too fast and so in order for me to record... that's why the song 'Leave...' sounds like it was recorded on an AM radio, because this is back before you know we had like a computer program to do this for you but... I couldn't play it fast enough but I knew all the riffs so we had to slow the song down so I can play to it and then we pitched it, I had to play in a different key then we pitched it back up and it sounded like a tin can but at least the riffs were all on there so... that's why every song sounds so different on 'Leave...' man, what a tragedy! (laughs)"
Talking also about the lyrics, did you get lots of controversy concerning 'The Death Of Innocence', I heard Combat didn't want to print the lyrics to start with, they found some of them too graphic...
"Yeah... it's just because people didn't get it, you know people didn't want to read like the actual meaning of the song, they just saw, okay well the guy in the song is a molester of children so therefore the guy who wrote the song is a molester of children and totally condones it and you know I'm saying the exact opposite and it's right there in the lyrics?! I'm an aberration, I deserve to die you know and the little thing I had to put at the bottom of it you know like 'leave the children alone' like... just some of the Christian groups, they saw the bat wings on the cover and the girl getting frightened in her bed and the first song on the thing is 'let's molest children' so this band is evil. You know it's like fuck, if only they knew like we were doing a service for the planet god damn it because that's got to be one thing I'm still like violently against is child molestation so like any sort of forced anything you know?! Rape or whatever so that was... we got some flak but overall they were more concerned with TWISTED SISTER at the time (laughs), evil... THE MENTORS were making quite a name for themselves around, El Duce he was condoning rape so... and there was some shit and Combat didn't want to print the lyrics at all but it all came out good at the end so..."
When Ron joined the band in late '87, how much of the new material was completed exactly? And did you have to re-write most of the stuff with Ron in mind?
"No... like a lot of the stuff I was like 'Cool' cos I wanted Don to step up and do some singing on this record, and some real singing not that like (singing the chorus of 'We Have Arrived') you know that sort of stuff. It was an easy transition, I had a guy who was willing to work and he was illiterate as a motherfucker so some of these ten dollar words that I was using his girlfriend - now his wife - would write them down phonetically for him and he'd come to practice with like just big pages of re-written lyrics but you know it was still the same lyrics just written in Ron's speak sort of thing cos he'd just got out of jail when we got him in the band so he was a hardcore criminal so that was that... and we had told him "Dude you've got plenty of time to learn everything, we're not gonna do any shows so...", we got him in the band in December of '87 and he ended up doing a show like in January, we had told him "We are not gonna do any shows, you've got three months to learn, we're gonna go in studio around May - oh yeah by the way we've got a show booked too" so he was like 'You bastards!', did the show, that was cool and he learned all the lyrics, it was just cool you know, he came to work totally. I think his voice is great, fuck what anybody else thinks man! He might sing off key, he might not be a classic vocalist but fuck he had so much character! And plus live he was a great frontman you know?! He just unplugged his brain and said whatever came to his mind, he was entertaining."
I understand that the song 'Angel Of Death' from ANGEL WITCH which should have appeared on "Leave Scars" as a cover but it didn't happen because of the SLAYER track...
"Yeah that's right! A fuckin' song title you know and we wanted to do it for "Darkness..." and we had tried to do like 'War Pigs' and fucked that up."
There was also 'Symptom Of The Universe' which had been tried...
"Yeah, yeah we noodled with that one too and then we didn't know what to do at the end so... we didn't know where to go with that one, we fucked up every cover we ever tried to do (laughs) but we wanted to do 'Angel...' for "Darkness..." too... you know what's kind of funny is that we had in fact actually done it for "Darkness..." maybe... I don't know, the other 'Angel Of...' had already came out anyway, they were recording at around the same time anyway so fuck whatever but that would have been cool, we would had two albums coming out at the same time, same title...That was a ripping song, I mean that's a fuckin' deadly tune so... somebody should do it damn it!"
What do you think this album lacked to make DARK ANGEL enter the "big five" (METALLICA, MEGADETH, SLAYER, TESTAMENT, ANTHRAX) because this album should have been the album that should have propelled DARK ANGEL in the big league!
"Well the production was awful and we couldn't get like... back then you really needed to have a good support slot with a cool band that's out there doing stuff and the big four wanted nothing to do with any of the other bands except for TESTAMENT, you know TESTAMENT in fact became the little five because they were pretty safe, they had catchy tunes, they weren't gonna destroy the headliner, DARK ANGEL would of! Because back then live we were a fuckin' force and you know we did a couple of shows with SLAYER and they were like 'We don't wanna play with you anymore, piss on you guys' and so it was like 'Fuck!', nobody would take us... METALLICA was already out of the loop, they were already huge, ANTHRAX, fuck who the hell were they... they were taking TESTAMENT on the road or something, you know the good safe opening band, OVERKILL was the other like opening band for a lot of those bands, they were gonna show up, play some Metal, play it well but not make you forget about the headliner you know?! METAL CHURCH, the same thing, good band, fuckin' getting up there playing some solid meat and potatoes Metal but you're not gonna come out and go "Oh my god METAL CHURCH destroyed SLAYER!" you know but fuck yeah DARK ANGEL we were out for everybody's throats, we were going for everybody's blood like there's no band that can step up and play a live show like we do, we were fuckin' insane live you know?! Way too fast, way too crazy, no rules, just fuckin' kicking ass and smiling as we did it so..."
So more than two years after "Darkness..", "Leave Scars" was issued in January '89, but before you had already played at the famous Ultimate Revenge Festival in Philadelphia, any memories of that fest?
"Well that was my very first show with my new bass pedals, they were five years old at the time and I still use them so I haven't changed that... they were the same one so the bass pedals that I've used on pretty much everything are about 20 years old! Very antiquated and old but they've got the job done! Any other memories, well like FORBIDDEN EVIL, that was really cool cos they became our pals after that, Craig (Locicero) from FORBIDDEN EVIL, he's my brother now so like it started a long friendship with those guys and I think what I remember about that day a lot is... like I used to worship RAVEN, I used to love 'em and me being a young stupid punk like... nobody got soundchecks except for RAVEN cos they were kind of headlining that and it turned out not to be RAVEN's fault, I just thought they were poking along being rock stars but there were problems with the board all day which I did not find out until way later and so I went on record and said "RAVEN sucked! Fuck 'em! Bunch of rock stars" and there's... I think it was like in Metal Hammer or something like that and John Gallagher wrote a letter to reply to some of my tirades and he's like 'Young Gene, let me tell you a few things about that day, let me point out some things and this is in all truth' and he was basically saying it wasn't their fault and I was like 'God, what an idiot I am! Of course it wasn't their fault' so I did get to meet 'em a few years later and it was like, everything was cool, I explained to all the band, I'm sorry, I was just being an asshole so I remember that about that day and... seeing DEATH play, that was cool."
Were you happy with the video / LP soundtrack that they released later? Do you think it represented real well DARK ANGEL despite the guitar sound problems during 'No One Answers'?
"Yeah, no we were terrible like we didn't have a good sound live, we never sounded good live, we were awful, we were really terrible so like live we were like I said we were hoarse we were loud, we were just ugly you know and you can bang all your heads off but we just never sounded good at that time..."
Because after you finally got the right clear live sound for the first European tour - thanks to Big Mick "Big Mick" Hughes who had previously worked with METALLICA...
"In fact we got Mick for the U.S. tour so that was cool, made it well but a lot of it was our own sound like... it's hard to say this but like a lot of times you can be a great guitarist and a great songwriter or a great riff master or whatever but your own sound isn't that good, your tone-like me, I am one of these like I can play guitar like a motherfucker, I can rip off, I can play guitar like a bastard, my guitar tone sucks like you can tell on the songs that I record the ones that I record because I don't play guitar like a guitarist - there's something about my tone that is awful but I can write riffs like a champion and at the time you know, there was certain elements to the band that they can write riffs like a motherfucker but boy they can never get their sound together so... I think that's got a lot to do with it but... and the fact that we used to play like fuckin' mach ten speed like how can you be tight you know, I've learnt over the years that, now I'm like cut back the tempo a little bit it's still fast and the guitarist can keep up with the tempo you know like don't kill yourselves so... and guitar playing has come along so much in the past like ten years like, I've got to talk with one of the Century Media guys, I was talking with Leif (Jensen) today about like how the '80s were... you know songs are really fast but the guitarists were really sloppy and that's why the Thrash of like the late '90s or whatever, a lot of the kids grew up playing along to those old Thrash classics, they've got their shit together, lots of these guitarists are tight solid bitching so that's just back to the old thing, there were no rules back then so..."
Do you remember that review that Borivoj Krgin did in Metal Forces for this particular show and Jim had to reply to it?
"Yeah and I in fact thought Jim was like... being silly you know?! It's like I didn't know Jim was doing that and I wouldn't have told him not to do it if he felt strongly about it but when Jim took an ass ripping after that, I was like 'Dude you're going up against Borivoj!' you know like 'What do you expect man?! He's gonna rip you a new ass all day long and you got no comeback Jim so-big deal... so somebody criticized your live sound, ooopps badadoum' you know it's like there was no reason to like fuckin' fire off a letter... Jim got what he deserved I tell you."
Then mid April '89 the Ultimate Revenge U.S. tour was organized as a co headline thing between DARK ANGEL and DEATH...
"Ha that is a mistake, it was never a co-headlining, it was equal billing and that is the thing that is different like I had to learn it on that tour because we went through a lot of problems with DEATH over that co-headlining as opposed to equal billing. Co-headlining is when you get paid the same, you get like the same set time, you get all that sort of stuff, equal billing is more of a - at least at the time it was like if one band name is gonna be one size in the ad, the other band name is gonna be the other size or the same size in the add it has nothing to do with the actual show so... just to clarify that but that's started the whole mess of a mess."
Jim left the band early on in Boston because of family problems and the rest of the tour was done with Brett Eriksen (VIKING) as a replacement, tell us what happened at that point because DARK ANGEL seemed to have more support than ever, first with that "big" tour and then you were scheduled to go on your first European tour...
"Yeah and then like when it came to Jim the wheels fell off and man that was a confusing time! It's like... fuck, here we were in Boston and like when Jim disappeared, we didn't know he had disappeared like we were looking in dumpsters around the club for the guy because we had some skinhead problems that night, Boston is a well known skinhead problem town - and we were thinking, maybe Jim stepped out to get a bite to eat or something, saw some of the skinheads that we had been getting problems at the show and Jim won't back down from a fight with anybody so but you know... Jim one on one or one on two or one on three, he can take them you know, he can hold his own but one on six, one on eight, ten you know so... we could not find him after the show, we were looking all over the place after that show, looking in dumpsters, looking in the alleys, looking out all over the place and then my drum tech Steve came up, he's like 'Bing!' a light bulb went off over his head, he was like 'Dude let's check to see if his guitar is here, let's check where is his bag' and sure enough his guitar is gone, his bags are gone and then we were like 'Oh fuck, he fuckin' left out on us!' you know?! So we tracked his progress like we called every train station, every plane, every airport trying to find out you know, did he leave from Boston, did he... obviously he went home, we assumed he was having fuckin' problems and we were able to... I think he took a bus to New York City, we would call all the bus places and like the bus for NYC just left ten minutes ago, and where's it gonna stop you know, this place, by the time we would get ahold of that place it was like 'Oh it was here, it just left' and we tracked his whereabouts all the way home in fact and got in touch with him the next day and I was like 'Dude come back. Doesn't matter what your problems are at home, just come back', he's like 'Yeah - I know what my problems are at home, I'm not coming', I'm like 'Dude, fuck!', we had to go through so much shit to get him back, I bought him a ticket to come back and he had some crazy demands, lots of fucked up demands for him to come back, involving his family back home like certain members of his family had to come with him on the road so it was like 'Okay fine. Fine! I can't afford to pay two tickets to NYC but we got the biggest show in the world tomorrow, the biggest show of our career tomorrow so we got to get you here' and we bought him a ticket and... he didn't show up! And that's really when all the problems started like, yeah I was mad with Jim for like another year after that but we fuckin' settled those differences but like Eric never forgot it you know?! Eric was like 'Fuck he left us fuckin' high and dry' like when the things were going good, he had to fuckin' put the brakes to everything so I guess that's when the problems that we started now started like 'many years ago' so... whatever."
What was that huge show you had to play?
"It was a show in Brooklyn at a place called L'Amours, we ended up playing as a four piece but we sounded good! We were the tightest we had ever been because you know it's like... I love Jim to death, I fuckin' love Jim but you know like... when you're playing with one guitarist as opposed to two, things are gonna sound tighter, you got one guitar not two piles of buzzing bees, buzzing around each other."
Did you recruit Brett because you were a close friend of VIKING? If I'm correct Brett wasn't supposed to be a full time member at first so why did that fact change at the end?
"Because we weren't sure what was gonna happen and in fact VIKING crumbled under breath while we were doing that tour like he came out and... like when he got back home, like he came and did the next two months with us and by the time we got home, he didn't have a band to go to so we're like 'Of course Brett, fuck you've got a home here' and Brett was great, a great songwriter man, I dug his songwriting, I think he shine on "Time Does Not Heal", I think "Time..." was great because of Brett you know?! To me I'm a pretty average riff writer but I've got those riffs that will come support the great riffs that the real guitarist writes and so Brett and I became a songwriting team after that, it was all cool after that but... yeah you know everything crumbled underneath that so that's why Brett joined us permanently."
Even if the problems that happened between DARK ANGEL and DEATH during that tour are buried in the past, what really happened between DEATH and DARK ANGEL during that tour, which finally ended up with DEATH leaving the tour in Florida after several disputes? It seems it had more to do with managers problems than with the members themselves?
"Yeah that's what...where I had to learn, co headline, equal billing you know cos the contract stated DARK ANGEL 100% headliner, DEATH 100% support act so somebody didn't get the contracts, on some end of the line there you know, somebody didn't read their contracts but at the end of the day, look at the funniest thing out of all that could have happened, I joined DEATH you know?! (laughs) And Chuck went on to become the Metal God after that so all the stars ended up aligning over it, it was all cool at the end of the day but Chuck and I definitely had a few giggles when we were putting "Individual Thought Patterns" there as DEATH together just like 'Dude people are gonna be like 'What?! What?!'... totally' it was all water under the bridge sure enough, misunderstandings and... Chuck is a fighter, he's a fighter, he would stand tall for what he believes in, he was led to believe and that's what he should believe in, his management at the time who he ended up not getting along with them after that tour... led to believe in a few things that in reality... that wasn't the case, it's hard to say, hard to admit but you know, fuck! That wasn't right so... water under the bridge totally."
Was the full tour (that you finished even if DEATH left the bill) a success for the band?
"Yeah totally! Yeah that was a good one, like all shows were really well attended and people seemed to dig it... and at the time I thought "Leave..." was great! You know that's what you do and that's your second album like 'Oh fuckin' great this fuckin' album' , only in time did I realized " Waouh this record is really stinky!' you know so it did well, I believe we tooled around Billboard there for a little while, stuff like that, now that was pretty exciting for us 'Hey we're number 169 on Billboard, yeah!', I think we ended up getting 124 or something like that 'Hey we're the top 125 records of the nation yeah!' so that was all good... and yeah that was a successful tour, it was good and we became a pretty tight knit band after that cos that was a total clusterfuck for DARK ANGEL, I mean... when we reminisce, when all the guys get together, all the guys in the crew and all of that from that tour man it's like, all the road stories from that tour were just fuckin' hilarious, Jesus! So good time."
Then in October '89 you finally came to Europe for the very first time, why did it take so long for you to come over since bands like POSSESSED and others had already managed to come over a while earlier?
"Good question, yeah I was wondering the same thing, it's like 'God damn, it's 1989 and we've been putting out records for the past four years now it's our first time over' so... I really never had answer for that but hell at least we were there then. But it was all those other things we've already talked about, probably had something to do with it, you know like 'Fuck we have to find a new singer' that takes a few months, we got this other singer that's been a fuckin' idiot and we can't really book anything because our singer has been an idiot, and the record label is like... I'm sure the record label would have said 'Yeah cool!' but we're having other problems with them, renegociate this contract you know and another good question, why did it take two years between every single DARK ANGEL record to come out you know?! Nowadays that's not really all that rare but back then, it was like god damnit you put out a record a year."
Even if you opened for NUCLEAR ASSAULT (with ACID REIGN as guests), was it a total success for the band? What kind of memories do you have from that tour?
"Ha great ones! Yeah it was a great success because it's like, we got to play in front of packed houses every night cos NUCLEAR ASSAULT were on the top of the game back then, fully and everywhere we played there was always a ton of people and sold a whole lot of merchandise, have a whole lot of filthy road stories to bring back home to the boys and stuff like that... and then Gon (Mike Gonzales) got thrown in prison (laughs) and that was a great road story, it was like... if you sit around with three other bands and you know 'What's the hardest thing that happened to you? Well this thing' 'Oh you guys that thing' and 'Well our bassist went to jail for a week!'."
What happened to Mike exactly because he was in jail in Germany and Dan Lilker had to fill in as bass player for the last three dates or so?
"No I think that was seven dates or something like that, but fuck it was something crazy! It was some stupid shit, all the guys from the entire tour went out to this Thrash Metal club in Bavaria - I guess Bavaria is a pretty hardcore place, you don't fuck around in Bavaria - so we were in Nurenberg... like at the end of the night a bunch of the guys came out and there were all these cars that were just parked, just parked back to front, nuts to bust and so somebody got the idea 'let's start in one line and run all the way across all the cars, you know just one after another you know because you could and some of the guys in NUCLEAR ASSAULT did it, some of the guys from ACID REIGN did it and some of the guys in DARK ANGEL were in fact involved but Gon was not and that ended up... you know all car alarms are going off everywhere, the cops got called and at the time in DARK ANGEL we all had these denim vests with the same backpatch on the back and somebody grabbed Gon inside a Burger King, he was sitting down, having a bite to eat at the end of the night and someone comes in and says "That's the guy!" and got pulled out by the cops, thrown in jail, this and that and the other and all the people that were in fact involved in the fracas or whatever, they came forward, you know, he's innocent , he wasn't involved, we were cos like when I found out what was going on, I was like 'Fuck you! Get my fuckin' bassist out of jail!', I was like 'Damn, Eric you're involved, GREAT' but I was like 'Eric step up man! He's in fuckin' jail for something he did not do so fuckin' step up and fuckin' take the shit for it', Eric is like 'You're right' so... but it didn't matter like the German cops were like 'We got our guy , we got the guy, that's the guy so fuck it' so it ended up costing us 50.000 DM to get him out and at the time that was like 31.000$ so..."
A while after, a video was released called "Three Ways to Thrash" featuring all the bands from that tour recorded live at the Hammersmith Odeon in London, what do you think of that product? Did you have any word to say about this release?
"I liked that better than I did with "The Ultimate Revenge". It looked better, it sounded better, we were a little tighter, at the "Ultimate Revenge", that was Ron's third show with us ever and that was our first show in like eight months and in the "Three Ways..." we'd been on the road for the past six months straight or something crazy like that so... so I do like that one... but we were a terrible sounding live unit, I fully admit that."
Then a month after you went on a U.S. major tour as support for OVERKILL in mid '90 and you did a small tour on the east coast, how were those tours?
"They were cool. The OVERKILL tour, that was one where we were using Mick (Hughes) in fact... that was the first one we used him and yeah it was all good, we got to play in front of a whole bunch of folks then, I think like OVERKILL were on their strongest album ever I thought! You know, was it "Years Of Decay"? Oh that was a killer record! And Terry Date produced it and that's in fact where the first time we got the idea of 'we've got to improve upon "Leave...", "Leave..." fuckin' sucks' by then we were like 'Well yeah we can't make the same mistake twice' so... and "Years Of..." was Terry Date and we're like 'Hey this album sounds pretty good!' and he was in the studio at that time doing this band called PANTERA, it was like I knew PANTERA from like the "Metal Magic" days so I was like 'They got him to do that, they must be going in a crazy direction' and "Cowboys From Hell" came out a few months later but... so he was doing that at that time so we talked to OVERKILL and said "How can we get in touch with him?", they're like 'Here's his number' so that's the best thing that happened about that OVERKILL tour. There's lots of road stories of course, that would take a Penthouse or a Hustler to tell those stories."
Let's talk about "Live Scars", why did you decide to release a live EP exactly? Was it the same live session that you had recorded for Westwood Radio during mid '89? Were you happy with the final result and do you think it represented really well how DARK ANGEL was sounding live?
"It was the same recording. Westwood One was gonna put it out on a radio thing and for some reason they said 'Okay we're not gonna so here's your tapes back' and... King Biscuit Flower hour, DARK ANGEL, yeah wicked! That would have been awesome. So they gave us the tapes back and we're like 'Well, it's gonna take another few months to get the fuckin' record out' so we'd put it out merely as like for the fans only sort of thing you know?! As soon as we were done with the show, the album was complete, it was mixed on the fly by some boneheads and they had no ideas of what they were doing but... yet another in the long line of crappy DARK ANGEL products so... and we put it out like that was totally for the fans, like if you are a fuckin' DARK ANGEL freak, here's something for you to kill some time before the next record, so that's all that was."
So once you finished all that touring, you started to work on a new album, "Time Does Not Heal", how much input Brett had on the material? What major changes did you find between his style and Jim's style?
"Brett had a huge influence and Brett could write some great heavy but really catchy riffs and at the time like when Jim was working on like the next DARK ANGEL record man, I gotta tell you, I wasn't really happy where Jim was going with his riffs. They just weren't catching me, they weren't grabbing me and when Brett came out, he came out and he had done this little demo, a little 4 track of a new tune that he was working on which became 'The Act Of Contrition' and that's such a mighty song, you know like I was like 'Fuck dude, you're welcome to stay in this band if you want! Let's have that song' you know?! 'Act Of...' is a fuckin' great song like the riffs and stuff were just sick so and he had this little demo of that and that's where Brett was going with, that's where he was with his songwriting, I was like 'Fuck! Deadly!' so Brett could write great killer catchy riffs that were very memorable you know like a lot of the riffs song "Time Does..." are in fact one that you can hum to it more than you could with some of the "Leave..." stuff and definitely were better than what Jim was coming up with at the time."
You're gonna be surprised now because I think that album didn't have the exciting / insane catchy riffing plus the material was a lot slower than what could be found on the previous releases even if the press praised it, looking back don't you think that this album was maybe something like too huge a departure from the older material?
"Well that was kind of the... like let's evolve and Jim was not gonna come back in the band, now we were not gonna have Jim, he didn't want to come back and believe me, some of what he wrote at the time like he had one cool song that he brought to the table and he had about four or five others like works in progress, I was like 'Damn!' you know?! Like I really liked this one song - it ended up turning up on one of the DREAMS OF DAMNATION records - but it was like 'Hum I'm not getting you. Jim I'm not getting where you're going' so I was happy to have Brett in and I think "Time..." fuckin' rips! That was like... like I said an evolution in progress, it's a cool sounding record and... there are faults with it of course but fuck I was really happy with it and it's like 'man this band does want to carry on in like ways that people don't even know. The struggles that this band has to go through to carry on, we're gonna carry on' so if anybody has any bitches about any of the DARK ANGEL stuff like ' "Time..." is fuckin' wimpy' or whatever or it's a departure, it's like "Sorry buddy, we were carrying on, we're evolving', nobody gave VOIVOD shit for "Angel Rat" or "Nothing Face", even "Dimension Hatross" which did not sound like VOIVOD or "Rrroaaarrr"... like bands are gonna evolve you know?! KREATOR for "Renewal" took a ton of flack for it, why? Because they are eight years on the road and started like branching out and let some of their other influences flow, you know that's what a band is gonna do over the course of eight years so... here you go." (well sorry Gene but I give shit to VOIVOD for going the way they did after "War And Pain", to KREATOR after "Pleasure To Kill", to DESTRUCTION after "Eternal..." and more recently to SLAYER after "Undisputed...", that progression thing is just not understandable to people who really enjoy the bands for what they were about at first, look at bands like MORBID ANGEL, NAPALM DEATH (minus a couple of albums where they went out of the road but understood their mistake) or SACRIFICE, they always stayed true to their original approach or sound. Better change your name if you plan to deliver stuff that doesn't have the sheer ripping class that you first delivered, that's no problem but other than that don't deliver to us that type of different sounding stuff which is most of the time plain boring / weak - Laurent)
Was it easy to work with Terry Date?
"Totally! Yeah Terry is a fuckin' king man! He's a great producer, he's an awesome guy and he was really cool to us, I had a really good time with that guy."
That album featured more of your lyrics, some dealing with sexual torture, rape and stuff, why did you choose to write about those subjects? Did you have problems with the label or other people concerning those lyrics?
"Not too much but like for instance we had a song 'An Ancient Inherited Shame' and that song was written about rape from the woman's standpoint and, you know I thought it was gonna catch lots of shit from woman about that like 'How dare you write about something I had to go through?' and stuff but I got so many letters and stuff like that, the label got so many like letters to us and stuff saying like 'Waouh! How did you know? How did you capture that?' you know, I can pull myself into the mind of somebody who was tortured pretty easily so... and it just carried on the scenes of like 'The Death Of Innocence', maybe like 'The Promise Of Agony' or whatever, we just took it to another level and at the end of that "Leave..." tour, I started to go a little bit nutty cos we spent six - eight months on the road and I was going a little bit loopy so I had to get away from everything so I went to NYC, I was like 'I'm gonna write lyrics and I know what I want my themes to be about and I've wrote lyrics all over the road. You know I've been writing like little pieces of it, that's why I put down like 'Where I have finished' or 'Places I had written the lyrics in?' you know, just like sitting in a hotel room or in the back of the bus or whatever that was, at the end of each song I put down the final date I've finished the lyrics on and some of the cities I'd written the lyrics in so I moved out to NY for about six months and inhabited all the filth districts, you know, I was going through a phase so... and also there's an author named, Andrew Vachss who has been a big influence on me, he's an author, himself he's a lawyer who deals with like sexual abused children and he's got a series of books like he's got 18 books out on pretty much that same subject, the main character in his books goes insane when it comes to child torture or stuff like that, I identified with the guy, so he was a big influence on my writing so every single record I always thank Andrew Vachss and his novels."
Which lyrics are you the most proud of in your career? Do you think people really paid attention to the quality of your writing during all these years?
"No people never pay attention to lyrics like lyrics are not important to people so... And as I would write and like if you'd ever read interviews and stuff for they say 'Looks like he put a lot of time in his lyrics, do you think people care?', I go like 'No! Please don't!', people don't care about lyrics, they want catchy hooks or riffs or... some songs just to be agro or fast or catchy or whatever so I would write lyrics for the 2% of people that in fact cared so with that in mind I guess, like 'The Death...' and 'An Ancient...' were the most... like I put my balls on the line with these lyrics so... I'm gonna take some shit for these but these are the couple of themes that I care a lot about you know?! 'Psychosexuality' that was another one it's like 'Fuck!' I'm gonna talk about some of the things that people don't talk about, 'Time Does...', I'm talking about some of the things that happen to children that people don't like talking about, that talked about how your parents can fuck you up, it's not from a personal standpoint you know because my parents were great but... I can identify those who are tortured so... Nowadays that's the big thing to write about, 'Mommy and Daddy just hated me and I'm so sad' stuff like that so I'm like 'Dude those are DARK ANGEL lyrics man!', KORN? Fuck! What did you grow up listening to cos Jesus, you quoted the old DARK ANGEL stuff for that shit."
Concerning the lyrics, I always wondered how Ron managed to deal with those hella long texts, did he have problems sometimes remembering some of the lines or...?
"Ron he would just always happen to have the shit written in front of him when he was singing and he would just bitch at me all the time like 'Dude can you write a fuckin' short song?!' but Ron was like you know he had his wife like I said, like that's why the lyrics started getting simpler, the texts were so long but the words themselves were getting simpler because Ron was just killing himself... you know like 'Macramation' why should it appear in a song like he goes 'Fuck!' , but I was always an English major, just like I was a young man with a big vocabulary so... like always in the gifted classes and always at the top of my school cos school was so easy, like I started to go in high school when I was in fourth grade which you're nine, you know I started going to high school when I was nine so... shit like that... like if somebody is gonna do something with their brain, here's the chance to do it sort of thing so... here we go."
Brett did the majority of the rhythms on this album, how did that happen that it was him and not Eric?
"Because Eric could not play guitar that well. And Eric didn't learn the... it was hard for Eric to learn riffs, Brett he could play a riff he knew it, boom right then and there you know?! And some of the technical riffs, Eric would be like a little off on the count, he would be faster and stuff like that so... that was kind of the thing you know when he got a riff down, he's a motherfucker with it but like learning them was like 'Dude you gotta play it right, this is recording. Whatever we do live you're gonna do live, do it but we gotta record this thing correctly anyway' so that's it's like on 'An Ancient...' and 'Trauma Catharsis', I played all the rhythm guitars on them so there you go because they're pretty technical songs, I knew we're probably not gonna play any of those live ever so... and that's where I was saying, it's like 'I've a pretty terrible guitar tone' like you listen to those two songs, you listen to like 'Time Does...', 'Pain's Invention Madness', 'Act Of Contrition' big mighty sounding fuckin' guitar stuff! But 'An Ancient...' is just awful sounding, so was 'Trauma...' in fact?!"
During that period, you did some backing vocals and a lead on a DANGEROUS TOYS album...
"In fact I never did!"
Oh shit I read that in an interview with you in Metal Forces!
"Okay! When I saw that question (from this very interview), I was like 'Man, did I?!', and you said I played a lead on a DANGEROUS TOYS album, I don't remember doing that but then again there's alot of stuff I don't remember, that could have been one of 'em but I don't remember ever doing anything for DANGEROUS TOYS but... you know I was totally... like I said Jason was my pal so maybe I did!'
Then in mid '91 you did your first European tour as headliners, what kind of response did you get from the fans concerning the mix of the new and the old stuff?
"Some said they didn't like the newer stuff and other people were like 'Fuck! Your new album is the best ever' you know?! It's all a matter of opinion so you can't please everybody and especially when you go through a main line up changes and as many songwriter changes, we'll probably talk about this later bbut when we got Chris (McCarty) we went through a songwriting change again which got back to really heavy Death Metal shit so you know, what can you do? It's like... the only thing that is gonna kill this band is apathy from the band members like at that time there was like '91, I remember... like fuck, the album was getting soaring reviews from the reviewers and the fans were just kinda going 'Damn I wish it was "Darkness..." ' you know so... you can't please everybody, you gotta be in a band to please yourself and that's definitely what I was doing. I was happy with everything that DARK ANGEL released that was coming out out so... and I was really happy with "Time Does...", if you didn't like it sorry buddy you know?! Fuck you're gonna like it in ten years sure enough like a lot of folks... I remember when I was on tour in the "Individual Thought Patterns" days, "Darkness..." was the album like 'Oh my god "Darkness...", holy shit! Fuck this and that' and then I remember in "Symbolic", I never heard anything about "Darkness..." from the fans, it was all "Time..." so go figure, fans are pretty damn fickle. Like they're gonna be there for you until they feel like you're not so..."
So what happened with Brett Eriksen after that tour, why did he leave the band? Did he want to have his own thing going like maybe get back together with VIKING?
"No I think VIKING was pretty much dead dead dead by then but Brett was just like... I don't really know why he left, Brett was my good friend and he was just like 'Dude I don't wanna do the music anymore. I want to go in a different direction' and he started like doing some techno stuff after that. Hell like in 1996 Brett and I moved in together, five years down the road so... whatever, he just wasn't into it anymore, maybe has a girlfriend or something that, maybe he said he wanted to spend more time with his girlfriend but... he just didn't want to do it anymore which was kind of sad because I thought Brett was killer!"
He was replaced by Cris McCarthy from SILENT SCREAM, did it have something to do with the fact that it was your first attempt as producer for their first album?
"Well Cris was there and he was like 'Dude, once we need a replacement, do you mind if I gave it a shot?', I was like "Are you into this?' cos he's kind of a Death Metal guy but Cris and I went to high school together and stuff and he's like 'Yeah fuck!' you know?! And I loved a lot of the stuff he was doing in SILENT SCREAM like he went from a not too Metal guy to an extremely Metal guy that was quality so I was like 'Man do you want to jump on over here? Fuck we're not really that far apart musically speaking', he's like 'You're right' so... and he can write some technical riffs that I was really into it so the next record "Atrocity Exhibition" that never got released, man we were writing some stormer songs you know? I got really tired of doing eight - nine minute songs there so we had a bunch of like three minute blasters that were just like killer! I was still writing and... me, every riff I ever wrote, I threw in. I never like edited anything so I needed a writing partner to go "Come on! That riff sucked, come on!' and so every riff I would write I would chuck it right on in so here we go, that's why there's eight and nine minute DARK ANGEL songs?! Probably half of the riffs were good, the other half were just fuckin' sucky but... and so, Chris had a great attitude and I'm very fortunate to have three great writing partners in DARK ANGEL. It's just a shame none of the Chris stuff was ever able to come out."
How strong was his position in the band?
"The band was pretty nebulous at the time so he's like 'Dude I'm along for the ride if we're gonna make this record, let's make it' so...it wasn't really a positional stronghold or anything like that, it was just like 'Chris, let's see if you and me write this killer record' and we were in the process of doing it when you know, all the wheels fell off so... the next record would have pleased a whole lot of people again you know?!"
How would the next album have sounded exactly from what was written?
"Well, it was definitely a new era of brutal Metal, lots of speedy stuff, lots of technical stuff, lots of crazy playing, it's got crazy vocals on it and Ron was like... I wrote the lyrics and the vocals cos I wrote all the vocal lines for "Time..." so people that have problems with it, talk to me, don't yell at Ron! I wrote 'em all, I was a big CANDLEMASS fan so lots of Messiah Marcolin vocal lines but... Ron at the time was like 'Dude I'll tell you man, I thank you for "Time...", I got to sing my ass off on it but I got that out of my system man, I feel pretty agro right now, what do you feel?', I'm 'Same way. Fuck just scream the vocal lines, just yell 'em', lots of old... like catchy bits here and there, catchy chorus here and there but lots was just screamed in your fuckin' bag off, screaming for the pain of it you know so... and that's what the next record was gonna be about, and that was gonna be even more twisted lyrical ideas and stuff like that so.. that was psychotic lyrics on that one man, I finally started to get them down at the time."
By early '92 you were touring again with DEMOLITION HAMMER as openers, it was Chris' first touring experience just like it had been the case three years earlier for Brett, how did those guys handle that side of things and how did that new tour go?
"Well that was definitely when DARK ANGEL and all of Thrash Metal - classic Thrash Metal - was taking a backdoor to Death Metal, you had CANNIBAL CORPSE, MORBID ANGEL, DEICIDE all these raping the scene and taking it to a new level so... and lots of the classic Thrash sort of sounds were bombing and... so that was a Johan tour which Johan is known for the small cheap tours, played lots of small places, had some good crowds, there was some shitty crowds and a lot of people just didn't care. That's why like 'So many people are so into DARK ANGEL a long time ago, DARK ANGEL fuck reformed, play the Wacken and...' I'm like 'Fuck you man! Where were you in '92?!' you know?! 'I'm from Freiburg, Germany', it's like 'Where were you man? There was ten people to the Freiburg show! You were not one of 'em' so...People are fickle when they want to tell you whatever they want to tell you so..."
How did you manage to have the chance to do two headlining tours in such a short period of time? Does that mean Under One Flag did a good job, way better than what Combat / Relativity did?
"Well Under One Flag was very very into the album, I remember them telling us like 'We are gonna kill ourselves to break you cos this album is...' they were totally behind "Time..." and like I said, that's why you can't really pay attention to the reviewers because all the reviews were like five K's in Kerrang, 10 out of 10 and 95 out of 100, stuff like that but the album still sucked and bombed so... but Under One Flag, did they ever were like 'Fuck, we'll throw some money at it and see what goes on', I don't think they really supported that last... like the Chris tour too much, I think by then, it was like... whatever, we pretty much funded it ourselves, got a little bit of tour support but you know didn't make a lot of cash on it... that's okay you know?! Fuck it was a European tour yeah!"
Getting back with label problems, what happened with Relativity / Combat exactly? Did you get dropped just like FORBIDDEN or CYCLONE TEMPLE?
"We worked so hard to get out of the contract, they were like 'Man we're so into you for so much money and we're gonna fuckin' keep you guys' and it took us ten months to get out of the contract but you know... we finally did! It took us a while man, lots of negotiations and lots of dumb shit and at the end if they say they dropped us, cool! You know whatever, just get us out of there cos they weren't gonna do a damn thing for us because like I said Death Metal is the new thing and for Relativity Rap is their new thing, so Metal was gonna just take backseat number ten sort of thing you know?!"
What about the States - did you do any touring for this album there except in Hawaii?
"Not enough! That was kind of the thing that broke the camels back you know, to have a 65 date tour where like we were packed and ready to leave and then Combat pulled the plug on it so that was like 'Okay, that's the final stuff, fuck you!' like 'We hate you, why do you want to keep us? Why are you gonna make us sit out of this contract and give you shitty records? I'll give you another four records right, another five albums right now! Five albums with the bullshit material to get out of this and release 'em every two months if you want!' but it took a while to get out of the contract, took about ten months like I said and finally we were out, we were like 'Yeah! Move!' you know... big weight lifted off our chests so..."
From what you said two years later in a DEATH newsletter, you expected to be able to release that unreleased material with Chris one day because it seems a full album was completed, so what is the news concerning that, can we still hope to see that released especially now with DARK ANGEL being back?
"Well... like the songs were completed but we never recorded that so you know I have 'em on a 4 track demo sort of thing and it sounds pretty rough but..."
Any chance to release that one day?
"Oh no! No. Because it sounds like a 4 track with no vocals and no bass... in fact the vocals are mine on 'em. I'm laying down the vocal tracks cos that's what I did on those, every single DARK ANGEL song that I wrote, there's a track of me singing on it really."
What happened from that point, did you disintegrate following the label bullshit? Did you get label offers after Relativity dropped you?
"Well we started working on... we were gonna do a demo and start shopping that and right around that time which was like the summer of '92... on September 5th 1992, Ron came in and quit the band! He was like 'Dude, yes I'm fuckin' quitting, this I'm not just bullshiting, thought about this for too long', quit and so... that was that and so it was like 'Okay we can take another six / eight trying to find another vocalist and right now it's like, morale was high in fact but when Ron quit it was like 'Damn!' you know like that just took all the wind right out of the sails' so it was like 'Fuck!' so I told the band 'Man if you guys want to carry on with another drummer, feel free but I think I'm going to step off now too. I just don't feel like I can do this eight month vocal search again' so... you know having a third vocalist for DARK ANGEL with the last one was such a travesty to most people you know... like fuck man, nobody got Ron and I was mad at DARK ANGEL fans or people who were interested or not interested in the band because Ron was killer and fuck if you didn't think so! After all that Don Doty bullshit I was telling you earlier, it was like 'Fuck' ."
It was over...
What was your initial reaction when you saw that poor DARK ANGEL compilation "Decade Of Chaos" that Relativity released at the time (a similar treatment was given to EXODUS, FORBIDDEN, POSSESSED...)
"Yeah, it was like 'Waouh! Talk about just cashing in at the last minute' you know?! I didn't okay any other songs, the band didn't okay any of the songs, there's a few songs on that I would not put on and there's a few songs that I would have put on! Just whatever, you know the packaging was all the exact same for all the bands, it's like 'Fuck'.... do you think putting those out as like a mass like a box set or something at the time or was it like just 'Oh we're just gonna release a bunch of records!' you know?! If they had put it out as a boxset like 'Here's some of the stuff from some of the bands that were on the label and here's the big old box set of it' ... and you know it's gonna be so high priced that you'd better be into this stuff to buy it! Nobody was into it and at the time nobody would buy it so... it was just one last cash grab, it was just kind of sad really."
From all the DARK ANGEL albums you have appeared on and which one are you the most proud of and why?
"Hmm I'm proud of "Darkness..." because it was my first record and it was such a legendary album and it seems to have become a legendary album and I'm proud of "Time..." because of the work that went into it, love and the fuckin' pain and the heart that went into that album you know?! Like talk about a motherfucker baring his soul for you, the average Thrash band who's gonna give a shit about anything other than breaking up their rusty knife or jumping into the pit or you know I'll mutilate something down here that is a monument of a person's pain and you're gonna feel it. And... I don't care man, that album influenced tons of bands and DARK ANGEL I will fully admit influenced tons of bands, in so many ways so I'm proud of all DARK ANGEL, I'm proud of DARK ANGEL you know?! Doesn't mean I really want to see it resurrected you know but fuck you have to bow to the pressure some day."
Have you stayed in touch with the other DARK ANGEL members during all those years? Were you familiar with some of their new bands like Eric and Ron were involved after the DARK ANGEL split in HUNGER and are now in SWINE (Eric) and OIL (Ron), Jim in DREAMS OF DAMNATION...?
"Oh yeah yeah, I'm checking all them out. Well... those guys would not like bat an eyelash at the fact that like 'Man I'm in STRAPPING' you know that's the reason why I don't listen to anybody else's music but like... I remember HUNGER and that was decent stuff like Ron's vocals were cool and he was trying to do that kind of PANTERA sort of action there, I know that's what Eric wanted and SWINE, hell I helped them writing a couple of their stuff recently like for a chorus for Eric and stuff like that to a couple of lines... OIL, hmm I love Ron you know?! I'm gonna support all those guys in everything they do, Jim's DREAMS OF DAMNATION, I'm gonna support Jim and everything he does, and I want those guys to be successful with their band, I hope all of their bands just sign HUGE deals and all get HUGE. I wish success for every, every member of DARK ANGEL and what ever they're doing you know?! Totally."
"We Have Arrived" was issued as a bootleg CD in the early / mid nineties first and more recently by Axe Killer, were you contacted for that?
"Oh no. It's like I never knew about this stuff but I became aware of it when like somebody would come to a show and have me sign a disc, I'm like 'Hey check this out, where did you get that?!' you know 'Oh I bought it in a store last week' and this is like 'Oh cool!' so I hope all the members of DARK ANGEL can do stuff with the old stuff where they can make some money out of it, Jim Durkin can make some money of... like signing a license deal for "We Have..." to somewhere, go for it brother! Fuck yeah you know?! Everybody from DARK ANGEL deserves... make a little bit of cash for yourselves, totally! Like one of the reasons I got involved in that tour that was supposed to happen on the west coast was our booking agent said "Dude if you don't get involved, I can probably get three of four shows around the L.A. area for the band and that's about it but if you get involved I can get you guys shows wherever you want for lots of money" so that was like 'I can make the rest of my ex bandmates some cash!' that's why we’re gonna do it, that's why I'll do this because I make a comfortable living doing what I do, sometimes things are ruff, things are hurting or whatever but if I can spread it around with the rest of the DARK ANGEL guys and just the fact that I'm involved in it will make the rest of the guys some cash, fuck what's wrong with that?! If I got the time hell yeah! Obviously it's not all about money but if it's gonna be like 'Gene is involved, yeah!', 'Gene is not involved... whatever' you know?! Here's a couple of hundred bucks for you guys, fuck I'm get involved if I got the time, fuck cos I want to spread around with these guys, totally!"
Last year Century Media re-released the old Combat catalog including "Darkness.." and "Leave..."... are you happy to see that those albums are finally available again on CD at a time old Metal makes its comeback or...? Did they ask you your opinion about the re-releases?
"Yes they did and yes I'm happy about it because like back when all the like 'Hey will DARK ANGEL ever reunite?!' sort of thing were happening sort of back in like '97, '98 or whatever and I was like 'If we do, fine but if we don't I tell you, one thing I'd love to see happen is all the old records being made available again on disk' because CD's came around about half way through the "Leave Scars" sort of era really and you know I had a little "Darkness.." CD but that was brand spanking new stuff. I remember like my mom's friends saying 'You have a CD! Wah' and stuff like that, that was back when that was brand new stuff so... it's like the main goal that I ever wanted has already been achieved, that got re-released and... if people want 'em, they can get 'em, if they don't piss on ya at least that's just... any bands just want their stuff being made available."
Also I expected some real unreleased tracks as a bonus on these releases but that wasn't the case...
"There is no bonus man! We released everything. I tell you one thing, there is one song that we recorded for "Time..." but that never even got the lyrics put to it but I laid down the rhythm guitar tracks for it and all the drums and stuff, a song that never even had a name but fuck you can get somebody in there, singing some stuff to it and if that tape can ever be found, that was the one extra bonus song that... from start to finish like I don't remember... like we fucked up 'War Pigs' and I don't think we ever even got to a semblance of a recording like 'Angel Of Death', never really got recorded and then like for "Leave..." we used everything, "Time.." we used all but this one song so there is no bonus! Here's the bonus track used from that "Ultimate Revenge", garbage!”
Yeah it's garbage and the song is cut!
"Yeah,'What's that?!' It's like the first time I heard it I was like 'We must have made a mockery to the ending or something' this is just like a train wreck at the end -l ike 'Thank you good night!' - yeah I was really surprised with that but you know it's like fuck, what can you do with the record label."
Anything to add that maybe wasn't covered in this short feature?
"Well brother, this interview has been five years in the making, sorry for all the dodging and I'm glad we finally got to do it, it's been a total pleasure and to anybody out there reading, thank you very much for all of everybody's support, that I really appreciate it and I'm gonna carry on trying to make as killer of fuckin' next level of Metal that I can do so I appreciate everybody's support, thank you to everybody involved in my career totally."
Since that interview was conducted, shit happened in the DARK ANGEL camp (used from www.blabbermouth.net):
Reunited Los Angeles thrashers DARK ANGEL announced Monday (May 19) that they have been forced to postpone their "Darkness Returns" summer tour plans due to an unfortunate injury to their lead singer, Ron Rinehart. Rinehart reportedly sustained critical damage to the cervical region of his spine and several herniated disks in his neck recently, resulting in severe pain, numbness, and mild paralysis (loss of control over voluntary movement and muscles of the body). Among his more serious symptoms are loss of sensation and reflex function, which, if left untreated, may lead to loss of autonomic nervous activity such as breathing and swallowing. Asked about Mr. Rinehart's progress, his neurosurgeon stated, "His progress is improving and all measures are being taken to ensure that further injury to the spine does not occur due to the amount of soft tissue damage. In an official statement, the rest of DARK ANGEL said that they are "saddened by this unfortunate accident and wish Ron and his family all our love, support and encouragement. We are confident Ron will return strong as ever as the only person to front the stage for the mighty DARK ANGEL." They further regret the unfortunate position this has put the band in regarding their scheduled appearances. "We want to apologize to all our fans for the tour cancellations and we want to let them all know that this will not stop the L.A. Caffeine Machine from returning to redefine metal one more time." Also DARK ANGEL have been invited to contribute to a METALLICA tribute album being produced by Bob Kulick (KISS, MOTÖRHEAD, MEAT LOAF), and are currently in the studio recording their version of 'Creeping Death'. A late 2003 release through Cleopatra Records is expected. Complete video coverage of the recording sessions for the album will be featured on DARK ANGEL's upcoming DVD, due in 2004.
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