Moments like these are the uninvited guests and bad dreams of any long time Metal fan (and I really mean long time here, not any poor 10 or so years). Moments when you question your devotion to Heavy fuckin’ Metal and the answer is no longer as clear as it used to be. Moments of uncertainty and disappointment. Moments when you wake up in the morning and pay the first visit to a WC and only after that to the CD-player – exactly in that ridiculous order, not vice versa as it used to be. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Then you should know as good as me how to deal with those warning signs – kill ‘em before they grow in strength and power, kill ‘em with no mercy, kill before it’s too late. The weapons may vary, yet a good piece of Metal always works. Some piece of timeless Metal you have grown up with and are going to die with. "Tales Of Terror" told by HALLOWS EVE back in 1985 is, without even a shade of a doubt, one of such outstanding albums graced with that magic gift to heal our souls and kill our doubts. Any stupid thoughts along the lines of "Good God, have I grown out of Metal?" are doomed the moment they are confronted with this record. Less than a half an hour long and close to 20 years of killing power strong – now, that’s THE ART. Meet the artists: Tommy Stewart and Steve “Skully”.
Before HALOWS EVE was born on October 31st in 1983, you were playing together with Stacy Anderson in the band called WARRIOR. Did its original stuff have anything to do musicwise with what you came up with a bit later in HALLOWS EVE?
Tommy: “WARRIOR was a popular Atlanta band in the vein of DEF LEFFARD in which I sang lead and played bass. I replaced the vocals with Stacy, we met Skully and formed HALLOWS EVE with songs too heavy for WARRIOR”.
Were there any demos of WARRIOR featuring you and Stacy available?
Tommy: “There was a two song demo called “Metal Prisoners” with both of us. That song is similar to ‘Metal Merchants’ and is a bit of a collector item”.
Was it only your own development as the musicians that was drawing you into much heavier direction around the time of WARRIOR’s demise or maybe the general tendency of Metal becoming more and more heavy and fast had anything to do with it? How much were you inspired by the heaviest stuff available at that time?
Tommy: “Honestly, we were barely aware of other bands in Metal at that time. There were probably twenty Thrash bands in existence then and they were SLAYER, METALLICA, ANTHRAX, etc. It was still demo-time for those bands! We were encouraged to know this, but Thrash was not defined yet as a genre and I don’t think the term “thrash” even existed yet”.
Have you brought into HALLOWS EVE any songs or at least any riffs from WARRIOR or Stacy and Tym’s band PUBLIC ENEMY?
Tommy: “I tend to keep a back-pack of songs as I did then, I have over 100 songs now, 51 recorded, that no one has heard yet”.
It seems like HALLOWS EVE was born under a lucky star as unlike many of your colleagues it didn’t take you very long to get the deal and the slots in quite big shows. Looking from the outside, it wasn’t a hard and long road that led your band to success, but maybe from the inside the perspective did look a bit different?
Tommy: “We worked very, very, very hard and made many personal sacrifices for our music as I still do today, I know that answer sounds cryptic, but a lot of my sacrifices have me paying a big toll in my day-to-day routine and are personal. On the other hand, I cannot thank supportive fans enough for allowing me into your musical memories. It was people who allowed me those shows because they wanted it! Thank you”.
How important was Brian Slagel’s role in HALLOWS EVE’s career, especially in its early stages?
Tommy: “Brian came in exactly at the right time and brought us out. He was part of our team and he was for other bands as C.O.C. and SLAYER. He was like a show-host or circus ring-leader saying: “Hey, look at this” or “check out these guys” to the world. Like P.T.Barnum saying: “Look what I found!” He also produced “Death And Insanity” and I think that is one reason why that album is considered a classic definition of Thrash today”.
It still isn’t clear for me if the songs from the "Tales Of Terror" demo were exactly the same recordings that went to the album later on? Were they simply remixed for the album or re-recorded at Axis Studios as the rest of the album?
Tommy: “Maybe. Just kidding, our demo is the album. And as we do this interview, we are doing the same thing for our fourth album which is coming up. One song is called ‘Technicolour Roadkill’ and it will be available to hear on our website, HALLOWSEVE.org by the time your people read this”.
It’s quite odd and amazing at the same time that at least three of my top ten Metal albums are actually demos put on vinyl as debut albums – "Heavy Metal Maniac" by EXCITER, "Executioner’s Song" by RAZOR and yours "Tales Of Terror" were all in one way or another rather demos than anything else. It seems like sometimes it’s simply impossible to catch certain primeval charm and spirit of raw demo tapes and make it work again when recording an album with a producer, in a professional studio, etc. Do you think you could make that album even better if you were given the opportunity to re-record it in a decent studio with a generous budget? Wouldn’t something very important have been lost then?
Tommy: “I agree with you, a recording is a snapshot of a moment. It cannot be done that way again. It can be done differently and that’s all. If we recorded “Tales…” a month later, it would have been different. And I personally do not like too much time in the studio. I love recording, but quickly!”
What I especially like about the "Tales Of Terror" LP is that it was absolutely unpolished, as wild and untamed as music can get. Was it considered to be one of the keypoints while making the album or did it turn out simply a natural outcome?
Tommy: “This is funny. ‘Valley’, ‘Merchants’ and ‘Eve’ was our demo, recorded in one afternoon. The rest was recorded as a studio closed for good and we got a sweet deal on those songs because: a) the studio was closed; b) the engineer secretly pocketed the money; c) and we told him these were demos; d) and we did it in five days. Basically we sneak in at night with the engineer like Ed Wood made his films”.
Moreover, as if all that was not enough, you even combined ‘Horror Show’ and ‘The Mansion’ to pay for them as for a single track… Hey, what you were after at the time – to make a timeless Metal classic or rather to save some money for beer and girls, eh? ; -)
Tommy: “We’re just poor, working-class, dead-end kids trying to make our best Metal and have a beer and, uh, yeah! You don’t know you’re making a classic, you don’t even know if what you’re doing will be heard! I asked Woody Weatherman from C.O.C. the same thing about “Animosity” and he said what I said, “who knew”!”
Well, seriously, was there anything that you wanted but failed to realize on "Tales Of Terror"?
Tommy: “It is what it needs to be and is perfect. I may have turned up the over-all reverb a bit, but that was my doing anyway. The original idea was to musically tell little horror stories and people got it”.
Judging by the songs like ‘Hallows Eve’, you were simply squandering your songwriting talents – some other band, more concerned with making money with their music, could make some 3-4 good songs having used the riffs from that only track. How could you afford to be so prodigal with your art? Let it burn short, but bright – was it exactly what you preferred to dull smoulder?
Tommy: “These are Skully’s riffs, but my lyrics and the arrangement of Skully’s riffs were mine. Skully and I are basically endless pits of music and lyrics. Pete Palumbo, the guitarist who took David Stuart’s place, said I was the most prolific songwriter he’s ever known. I have eight full albums of recorded demos no one has heard and there is more than that waiting. As for Skully, he is a musical genius and has been criminally ignored. It’s time for our fourth album!”
Back at the time, was Metal anything more for you than just a kind of music you happened to play?
Tommy: “It’s a style, we could have done it as Hardrock, but I like to go as hard as possible. I think we have obvious Punk influences as in ‘There Are No Rules’ and ‘Suicide’ and prog tendencies such as ‘Hallows Eve’ and ‘Goblet of Gore’”.
What did your first album give you as a musician and as a person?
Tommy: “It gave me confidence and that “Yes, I can do this”! I saw the dream come true against all odds through my persistant belief that it can be done. Work would pay off".
Why didn’t you add the second guitarist after Steve did quit the band in 1985? Did you feel more comfortable as a four-piece or the reason was none good enough happened to come across?
Tommy: “I actually prefer to play just bass, drums and one guitar. As for HALLOWS EVE, we tried to get another guitarist and just could never agree to keep them. One of them was James Murphy (TESTAMENT)”.
Steve, did you really leave HALLOWS EVE because the other members didn’t share your wish to use stage names? Well, seriously, was it Death Metal you wanted to play so much that you even left HALLOWS EVE to do that?
Skully: “No, it was because I wanted to play more aggressive, fast evil music”.
How long have you been in OGRE OF DEATH and INCUBUS? Was it the former band were you used to play with David Vincent? Please, tell more about your post-HALLOWS EVE activities…
Skully: “After I left HALLOWS EVE, I jammed with Sterling Scarborough in INCUBUS. That is the Death Metal INCUBUS, NOT the PUSS METAL INCUBUS on MTV. OGRE OF DEATH was a project I put together with songs I wrote for HALLOWS EVE. David Vincent called me and asked if I would like to audition for his band. I did and then I moved to Charlotte, NC. Nothing really came of that, so I moved back to Atlanta. LESTREGUS NOSFERATUS came to be by the merger of two bands. We recorded a demo and played some shows. Musical direction was the reasoning for that line up’s demise. I have been working and writing songs for this project for many years. Finding a drummer has been the biggest problem up til now. Ron Vento of AURORA BOREALIS played in LESTREGUS. He is a very focused and dedicated musician, but finding a drummer was difficult, so he moved back to Maryland and started working on his project. Tommy also played in LESTREGUS.”
Despite "Death And Insanity" being a really great album, it is "Tales Of Terror" that the majority of your fans consider THE THING, the best one, the ultimate HALLOWS EVE. I see, it isn’t particularly fair towards "Death And Insanity" as it was definitely more mature, advanced and everything, but still my heart belongs to your first LP… I wonder if you share your fans’ opinion?
Tommy: “I like the first two as if they were a double CD”.
Was there any sensible difference between HALLOWS EVE entering a studio to record "Tales Of Terror" and HALLOWS EVE entering a studio to record "Death And Insanity"? How much did the band mature in between?
Tommy: “We were never mature about anything back then and the main difference was we no longer had Skully, had Donal Jones engineering, and Brian Slagel producing”.
Has your second album – an essay on death and its insanity – really helped you to get rid of the thoughts about death and stuff like that, of "death and her tricks"?
Tommy: “Even though each song was about a different aspect of death and should have been cathartic, it stayed with me because it is the basic subject of my career. “Arm in arm I dance with Death… (‘Suicide’)”.
What have you learned from the life on the road with HALLOWS EVE, from all your countless gigs?
Tommy: “I never wanted a life doing anything else”.
How did you manage to keep your own face throughout the whole HALLOWS EVE’s career? Is the rather banal "listen to your heart and don’t care what the others may say" all what it takes?
Tommy: “My face is HALLOWS EVE. I just be me, I can’t answer for the others”.
Do you have any personal faves of yours among HALLOWS EVE’s songs? Which ones and what’s so special for you about them?
Tommy: “Lyrically, ‘Nobody Lives Forever’ is a favorite because it’s so personal and ‘Hallow’s Eve’ because it’s such a mini-opera”.
"Monument" turned out to be a step in the new direction, but do you still consider it to be a step in the right direction for the band?
Tommy: “Tales Of Terror” was a collection of stories, “Death And Insanity” was little essays on different aspects of death. Originally entitled “Monument To Nothing” was just that, an ode to disillusionment. The upcoming fourth album will be an album of power and strength”.
Stacy was the first to go off the board. Was exactly it the beginning of the end for HALLOWS EVE or did it all begin even earlier?
Tommy: “Actually, we had earlier non-essential changes. It wasn’t the end; versions of HALLOWS EVE went on playing and recording till ’93 and recently we reformed again. There are tons of demo recordings out there from various incarnations”.
Couldn’t you, please, explain your words concerning Stacy’s leaving the band: "Two years later he realized we had more going on than he thought"? Did you mean he had wanted to rejoin the band later on or even bring the band back after its demise?
Tommy: “We just didn’t know that we were getting popular, especially Stacy!”
Were it only internal personal problems in the band that led to HALLOWS EVE’s break up in late 80s or more global ones as well, like the general decline of your kind of Metal, any disillusion in its future, anything like that?
Tommy: “We actually stopped in ’93 and then I got with Skully to do Black Metal in the band LESTREGUS NOSFERATUS. I then spent two years studying theory and did a Punk band for three years before reforming HALLOWS EVE. That Punk band was FRAGILE X”.
Did you feel you were loosing anything deadly important in your life when the band was falling apart?
It’s sad to admit, but none of the former HALLOWS EVE members has made a considerably successful career in Metal afterwards. What do you think HALLOWS EVE as a band had that its members individually had not? What was it to make the band so strong?
Tommy: “We were all talented, but need each other. Now we are Skully on guitar, Dane Jenson our kick ass drummer that is going to rip your eardrums off soon, and Dwayne Monk also on guitar. We all do vocals. Three of us have been lead vocals in other bands. I’m tired of LSD, Lead singers disease. All our singers were great, but I won’t quit me, ya know!”
What do you miss the most from those exciting times, early and mid eighties?
Tommy: “I’ll tell you off record, eh…”
Did you have to sacrifice anything for the sake of HALLOWS EVE’s career? Looking back at it from nowadays perspective, do you think it was worth it at the end of the day?
Tommy: “We sacrifice for our craft. I mean all musicians! And worth it? Yeah, well, I’m not doin’ nothin’ else, so to live, or have a reason, I do it. For the record I care about my family too. Not much else”.
When did the idea of a reunion first came into consideration and how was it finally put into practice?
Tommy: “Steve Cannon from Vibrations Of Doom Magazine was very instrumental and kept pointing out all the interest”.
Were there any other attempts to rise HALLOWS EVE back from the ashes since late 80s up to these days?
Tommy: “Many times, but something wasn’t right. The times, whatever!”
When people in their forties with the makings of decent lives in their hands grab their guitars and try to revive the spirit of music they used to play almost 20 years back, is it a matter of music only or does it have anything to do with the desire to bring back the good old memories of their youths, to live in those years once again? What about your own case, to be more to the point?
Tommy: “Well now, I will well point out that I never quit playing and have played on about, by my count, 33 recordings, 26 of them after ’88. I enjoyed youth but moved on! The new HALLOWS EVE is different, way more experienced, more, uh, evil, and I’m in 3 projects including CRANKY BENT BASTARDS with Chris Gailfoil (by the way, boys and girls, let’s thank this good man for his help with this interview – Tim) on drums and LESTREGUS NOSFERATUS which is all HALLOWS EVE members except it’s Black Metal rather than whatever HALLOWS EVE is; I don’t think we’ll properly fit our image till we’re older. Then we won’t need corpse paint, it will be real, dear reader!”
Skully: “I don’t think your age has anything to do with it. Besides, I have never put my guitar down, even after leaving HALLOWS EVE. I was always playing, writing new material.”
How does it feel to continue in your manhood the thing you’ve started in your youth? Now you must be about twice as old as you were when launching HALLOWS EVE for the first time, so what did remain the same and what did change when it comes to your ambitions in music and your aims with the band?
Tommy: “We’re not as angry now, but we’re twice as mean. Skully is known as a, and I quote, “musical Nazi” and I can be, well, I hear that I’m an asshole”.
Skully: “It feels great and it was really cool jamming with Tommy on stage for the first time supporting EXODUS. Twenty years ago, when we started this, we were children writing songs, getting fucked up, chasing pussy on the weekends, etc… Now we are men, concentrating on writing even better material, rather than getting fucked up and shit like that. I am a much better player than I was back then, and more focused on what I am going to do with it.”
Were there any chances (or maybe even attempts) to talk Stacy, David and one of your old drummers into doing this reunion together? Thus there were rumours about the possibilty of David Stuart joining the band for this reunion, how close were they to the truth?
Tommy: “They’re happy with their lives. I invited them, they declined for now. I miss them, but this line up is fine. Maybe David or Stacy will drop in on stage or in the studio. It’s open for anyone to visit, we’re cool”.
Skully: “Oh, absolutely. The reason for it not coming to be is both of them are very successful with their careers and do not have the time. That’s all. I will say this, I have no animosity towards David or Stacy and never have. I did not quit because of them either. I think a lot of them both. They are very talented players and will always be known as that.”
What’s the difference between the current incarnation of HALLOWS EVE and LESTREGUS NOSFERATUS as the same people seem to be playing in both bands?
Tommy: “HALLOWS EVE is fun, Tales from the Crypt, Frankenstein, B-movies, riffs. LESTREGUS NOSFERATUS is not fun. It’s bad music for bad people. We just help Lestregus out. See, we’re not really in that band, just beings who look like us. I’m not Black Metal, but their bassist, Avatar, is my “other”. Oooh, cryptic!”
Skully: “HALLOWS EVE is a Horror Metal band, having fun and stuff, where LESTREGUS NOSFERATUS is brutal fast blasphemous Black Metal with nothing but hate. You see, we are really fucked up individuals with two personalities.”
The drummer’s seat seem to be damned in HALLOWS EVE: just look at all the accidents with Tym, let alone Rob and perhaps even Ronnie. What’s wrong with it? And don’t your current drummer feel a bit uncomfortable about it?
Tommy: “I wouldn’t wanna be Dane. He is a brave, courageous man”.
Skully: “Yeah, it’s kind of like SPINAL TAP, is it not? I wonder if one day he is going to blow the fuck up!?!?!”
Aren’t you afraid of turning from the cult band of the eighties into "just another one in the crowd," one more band in the never-ending stream of nowadays bands? It’s so easy to get lost in this huge stream, you know… Plus we are all familiar with the sad cases when old legendary bands just destroy the great memories of their past glory with their useless reunions and weak new albums
Tommy: “I began playing music at age 5 on stage. Was on my first album at age 14. I stopped HALLOWS EVE at age 34 and did many other music projects. I will make music till I die. I have never known anything different”.
Do you think that the best times for HALLOWS EVE already belong to the past and all what’s left for you nowadays is to try and revive at least their spirit or are you more of an optimistic kind of person and believe that times of fame and fortune for HALLOWS EVE are yet to come and you still have enough fire in your hearts to give it a second try and make something as brilliant and exciting as your first two records once again?
Tommy: “I think we are about to make the most valid HALLOWS EVE album ever because the first 3 were fine albums in their day, but made by children. We are strong, experienced, fierce men now. You will be surprised at your future excitement. Thanks to everyone who gives us the support to bring this powerful album! We’re ready to show you how the big boys do it and we, the seriously experienced men of Metal, are coming to you with the new way. Prepare”.
Interview: Timothy Dovgy
vintage live pics (12): Mary Ciullo