My fondest memory of Steve Rodriguez is watching him step out of a van in the parking lot of Curra’s Grill in Austin, Texas. I was there to interview his band The Dragons for Metal Edge magazine (an odd fit, but I pushed hard). With his hoop earrings, sunglasses, dagger-shaped sideburns and skin-tight jeans, Steve was a string-bean version of Johnny Thunders-meets-Joan Jett with a mullet that rivaled both. Dude had style to spare!
Based out of San Diego, The Dragons were regulars in Austin thanks to their religious SXSW appearances. Lead singer Mario Escovedo was also well-connected in Austin due to his brother Alejandro being a local music legend. I was already a fan of The Dragons, but soon found myself becoming fast friends with Steve, Mario, drummer Jarrod Lucas and guitarist Kenny Mochikoshi-Horne. I never missed them when they arrived, their broken-down van be damned.
R.L.F.: A photo I shot of Steve closing out SXSW with The Dragons at the Continental Club in Austin.
The music, of course, was my first attraction. When it comes to barroom, sing-along, whoa-yeah, rock-n-roll, few bands have done it better than The Dragons. Their sound was a contagious cocktail of the New York Dolls, Hanoi Rocks, the Rolling Stones and Jack-and-Cokes (the band’s preferred breakfast, lunch and dinner). They were loved in a gritty circle of underdog rock bands that included the Wildhearts, the Hellacopters, the Streetwalkin’ Cheetahs and the Riverboat Gamblers. The Dragons were energetic, they were fun, they had smiles for miles and, to paraphrase the title of their 1999 album, they simply rocked like fuck!
As I interviewed the band over a meal of Mexican food, Steve told me his day job was at TUK Shoes, a business that specialized in creepers and Vans-like footwear. When he asked me for my shoe size, I dismissed it as a casual inquiry since we were on the subject of sneakers and other such stuff. Two weeks later, two boxes of brand-new shoes arrived on my doorstep courtesy of Steve and TUK Shoes. When I wrote to tell him one pair didn’t fit (I wanted to return it so TUK didn’t lose a potential sale), he told me how to go about returning it and sent another pairas a replacement. All this without me ever asking for a thing. Steve just did it! That’s how cool he was.
SPECIAL THANKS: The pleasure was mine, Steve.
The Dragons called it quits in 2005 after a 13-year run that produced such masterful garage-rock albums as “Pain Killer,” “R.L.F.,” “Rock-n-Roll Kamikaze” (the gem of the bunch in my opinion), “Sin Salvation” and “Live at the Casbah” (the Dragons’ beloved hometown dive bar). Trust me, you owe it to yourself to own at least one.
At this writing, I’m still not sure what happened to Steve. Reports indicate he suddenly became ill last weekend and passed at age 48 on Tuesday, July 21, 2015. He was 13 days younger than me.
Steve is survived by his wife Jamie and 15-year-old son Jesse. Details for Jesse’s fundraiser are here if you’d like to help.
I’ll miss you, Steve. I haven’t seen you in a while, but your smile and warmth will always be with me. You were one stylish cat and the sweetest of souls. Thanks for lighting up my life with your music and friendship. You truly were special, mi amigo!
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ The clip below cuts off at 1:45, but gives you a perfect taste of The Dragons’ sound and vibe. Below that is a moving tribute, courtesy of Mario Escovedo. We all share in your loss, Mario. Peace, my friend.
Before the budget started wheezing like Keith Richards, I was making good money as a regular contributor to online hard rock/heavy metal website KNAC.com. The year was 2000-2001 and under the free reign of Managing Editor Frank Meyer (Streetwalkin’ Cheetahs), I interviewed a lot of my favorite rockers and spent untold hours transcribing cassette tapes. I also — for better or worse — reported the WHOLE conversation with my subjects with little-to-no regard for editing and economy. In the interest of preserving the original articles, I suffer some cringing and refrain from editing … and don’t blame you, dear reader, for jumping ahead as you see fit.
By David Glessner KNAC.com – July 28, 2000
S.O.D.’s Danny Lilker: The Brutal Truth About This Stormtrooper for Life
Much like Megadeth’s Dave Mustaine, Danny Lilker had to sink or swim when his original band mates tossed him overboard just before their ship came in. While Mustaine watched his former Metallica mates emerge as millionaire successors to the heavy metal crown, Lilker watched his estranged Anthrax buddies become formidable challengers to Metallica’s reign. As Metallica and Anthrax redefined the sound of heavy metal, both bands earned the fame and fortune that came with such a conquest. While Metallica and Anthrax basked in the heavy metal hall of fame spotlight, Mustaine and Lilker quietly went to work in the darkest corners of the underground.
But enough about Mustaine. With due respect, this is Lilker’s story and it’s one worth telling since the man’s unwavering perseverance has kept him firmly planted behind his bass guitar instead of a deep fryer. Resurfacing as the driving force behind Nuclear Assault, Lilker and his new mates toured the world gaining fans in their own right. When Nuclear Assault imploded, Lilker unleashed Brutal Truth and picked up where he left off, playing uncompromising metal with f**k-all regard for mainstream success. Now leading Hemlock, Lilker continues to follow his black-metal heart, record sales be damned.
FUTURE ‘BIG 4′: The debut album, ‘Fistful of Metal,’ was released in 1984.
He may have missed the Anthrax rocket ride, but not before he left the Lilker stamp on the band’s debut album. Perhaps more importantly, though, Lilker had the last laugh when Anthrax guitarist Scott Ian and drummer Charlie Benante invited their banished brother to play on the landmark Stormtroopers of Death album, “Speak English or Die” some 15 years ago. Further proof that Lilker wasn’t the problem in Anthrax is that the ongoing friendship with Ian and Benante produced last year’s S.O.D. follow-up, “Bigger Than the Devil.” A much–anticipated tour ensued and the mighty S.O.D. went stomping across the globe kicking ass and taking names.
Recently, Lilker was kind enough to let us pester him for an interview and follow-up questions.
KNAC.COM: How have you been spending your time since coming off the S.O.D. tour?
LILKER: Jamming with my other band, Hemlock, messing with Photoshop, going out drinking, etc …
‘UNHOLY': At the very least, Hemlock gets props for a killer album title.
KNAC.COM: Tell us about Hemlock. Who’s in the band? Describe the sound and tell us when we might see and album and tour.
LILKER: In Hemlock, we play good ol’ “unholy black metal” in the spirit of bands like Hellhammer and Bathory. We do not use keyboards, we don’t wear leather pants and corpse paint, it’s all about the essence of black metal, not the trappings. That’s not to say that I’m putting down other modern black metal bands that look or sound a certain way, but this is the path we have chosen. Regarding who’s in the band, we use pseudonyms, again in the spirit of the older bands, but most metalheads would probably only know me. The other guys haven’t been in lots of “popular” metal bands. The sound is extremely raw and basic. It’s hard to find our old stuff (look on black metal distribution lists like Necropolis’s) but now we’re on Full Moon Productions and the new one, “Lust for Fire,” will be out this month. By the way, no, I’m not a Satanist, just an extremely contemptuous atheist, OK?
KNAC.COM: After 15 years of inactivity, re-grouping S.O.D. and going on tour must have been like summer camp for you guys. Any insane shows or memories onstage or off?
LILKER: Well, let’s see, there’s (vocalist) Billy smashing my bass on stage at the end of the ’99 U.S. tour, there’s the Dynamo Festival, our first Japanese tour, our killer show in San Francisco on the U.S. tour … way too much for me to think about at 3 a.m. stoned on G-13.
KNAC.COM: I know you played some large-scale metal festivals with zillions of bands on the bill. Did you “discover” anyone that you bonded with or gained respect for?
LILKER: Being me, I just partied with my friends in black metal bands like Immortal and Marduk. The beer was flowing!
SPEAK UP!: An underground classic, this album merged thrash metal, hardcore and liberal doses of political incorrectness. A game changer!
KNAC.COM: “Speak English or Die” was a milestone album in that it successfully melded hardcore and metal. Add the politically incorrect lyrics and it was a pretty daring album for its time. Did it ever cross your mind during its recording that you were crossing into unchartered territory and possibly creating a landmark, genre-blending album or was it simply a goof-off release to satisfy your collective sense of humor?
LILKER: I think that when the mixing began we realized we had something pretty special on our hands. The tracks were recorded in three days, so we didn’t have time to sit around and analyze it or anything, so when the mixes were coming together, we were like, “Holy sh*t, this stuff’s pretty intense!”
KNAC.COM: Your bio says “Speak English or Die” was recently released with four new studio tracks. Where did they come from? New or from the vaults?
LILKER: Actually it’s just two new tracks, “Identity” and “Go,” but there’s also “Seasoning the Obese” and “Raise Your Sword,” which are our “tributes” to Slayer and Manowar, respectively. These last two were written at the same time as the other new ones, but came out on 7”s and CD singles. All that stuff was written last August, hot off the presses …
MAIDEN NEW YORK: Released in 1999, S.O.D.’s second album featured artwork inspired by a famous friend.
KNAC.COM: The artwork for “Bigger than the Devil” is hilarious. I laughed my ass off and showed it to everyone. Whose idea was it to spoof Maiden’s “The Number of the Beast?” Did you catch any grief from Maiden?
LILKER: It was actually Twiggy (Ramirez) from Marilyn Manson who came up with that. He’s friends with Scott and Charlie, and came to rehearsal back in ’98 when we were tossing around ideas. He threw that at us. We thought it was killer. When we spoof Maiden, it’s just out of respect. We all love their old stuff. Their manager was pissed, but apparently you can’t copyright a pose!
KNAC.COM: Besides a bigger budget, updated technology and fewer time constraints, what was different in the approach to recording “Bigger” vs. “Speak” after 15 years?
LILKER: I’d say the main difference was the fact that we were obviously a lot more known when we did the second one, so there was a certain air of expectancy. Naturally, there’s an unspoken pressure to write sh*t that was as good or better than “Speak” … but at the end of the day, we just got together, wrote what came naturally and produced it good with no further ado. Just like the first one. The other difference was that we made a conscious decision to put some “blast beats” on the record so we didn’t sound like dinosaurs, keeping in mind that we were always looked upon as being somewhat extreme.
STORMTROOPERS: S.O.D. circa 1992 with my future pal and fellow South Austinite Billy Milano front and center.
KNAC.COM: Is it safe to assume that, to some small degree, the time was right for regrouping S.O.D. because Anthrax wasn’t getting a big enough push for “Vol. 8” and John Bush was doing the Armored Saint reunion, so this was a way for Scott and Benante to change gears and have some fun rather than diving right into another under-promoted Anthrax album?
LILKER: The time was right for various reasons. Brutal Truth had just broken up, freeing up my schedule. There had been plans for an S.O.D. tribute record, which didn’t pan out, but that also sparked interest in doing another one. It’s not for me to comment on Scott and Charlie’s feelings about how much support Anthrax get from their label or whatever.
KNAC.COM: What was it about Nuclear Blast that made you guys sign with them over other labels in the bidding war?
CHAOS MONGER: Lilker sporting a vintage Voivod shirt.
LILKER: I, for one, had been familiar with N.B. pretty much since they came out in ’88 or whenever. They showed a lot of enthusiasm, they had obviously been fans since day one and we felt they were the right label to bring us back to the “limelight.”
KNAC.COM: What inspires the band’s humor and how in the world do you keep a straight face when you bring a song like “Celtic Frosted Flakes” to the table? How much beer drinking and arm twisting goes on before an insane/hilarious idea like that ultimately lands on the album?
LILKER: Insane or hilarious as stuff like that might sound, you just have to realize that everyone in the band has an extremely off-the-wall sense of humor, so that kind of wackiness is just typical. No arm twisting necessary.
KNAC.COM: What is your opinion of the whole Metallica vs. Napster lawsuit?
LILKER: I don’t see what those guys are so worried about. If anything, these services help promote bands. Guess those guys figure they don’t need any more promotion.
BALLISTIC: My 1989 Nuclear Assault ticket stub. Opening acts were Mordred and dead horse. Lilker’s signature is upside-down at top.
KNAC.COM: As a purveyor of what I consider “real” metal, how do you feel about what’s being labeled “metal” in 1999-2000?
LILKER: If you’re referring to Korn, etc. I gotta say I think I’m over it. Just don’t care anymore. If people wanna say that’s metal, let ’em. There are those of us that know different.
KNAC.COM: You’re obviously a metal head, but surely there are other types of music that move you. What would we be surprised to find in Danny Lilker’s record collection?
LILKER: Oh, lots of classical music (the metal of the Middle Ages!), really melodic, ambient stuff like Dead Can Dance and Love is Colder Than Death, industrial stuff like Throbbing Gristle and Test Dept., oddball indie stuff like Radiohead, some extreme Jap noise…
ALMOST FAMOUS: Anthrax circa 1982. From left, Scott Ian, Neil Turbin, Lilker, Greg D’Angelo (who went on to drum for White Lion) and Greg Wells.
KNAC.COM: You’ve seen all three incarnations of Anthrax firsthand and from the sidelines. What is your opinion of each Anthrax singer?
LILKER: Um, er, Neil Turbin had a good metal voice, but he was a prick. Joey technically has a great voice, but perhaps a little clean for my personal taste. Great guy, though. Bush has a really good voice as well, and is quite fun to have a few with. Hope that’s cool.
KNAC.COM: Describe the events leading up to your departure from Anthrax.
LILKER: Ha! Well, the aforementioned Neil Turbin forced me out. He didn’t like me for whatever reasons – well, one was he was super high-strung and couldn’t take a joke, so he was fun to bust on! He told the other guys, “It’s him or me,” and they kept him, thinking he was the recognizable frontman. They threw him out eight months later, which I think vindicates me. And, of course, we’ve all gotten along for years, S.O.D. being absolute proof.
KNAC.COM: You managed to hang on long enough to record the debut album with Anthrax, though.
LILKER: Right. “Fistful of Metal” was released in January ’84. Ironically enough, I was tossed out about three days before it came out, due to those guys listening to Neil Turbin. So, it kinda sucked at the time, holding the first album I was ever on and not being in the band anymore! But I went on to form Nuclear Assault and Neil fell by the wayside seven months later. And I got to play with Scott and Charlie in S.O.D., so everything worked out and obviously any “hard feelings” I had dissipated swiftly.
KNAC.COM: Was there ever any second-guessing your departure when Anthrax started to hit big?
LILKER: I know Scott was firmly against it and I’m sure he and Charlie were glad that we got to play together again in S.O.D.
THE TRUTH HURTS: Lilker and Brutal Truth during the 1990s.
KNAC.COM: Why has it worked out that you’ve made a career out of playing in multiple bands as opposed to staying put in just one?
LILKER: I have a short attention span!
KNAC.COM: Of all the bands you’ve been a part of, which one brings you the most satisfaction and why?
LILKER: That’s impossible to answer ‘cos every band I’ve done was very satisfying for different reasons. Anthrax was great ‘cos it was so cool to be on the leading edge of thrash metal. Nuclear was the first band I saw the world with; Brutal Truth was known for pushing music to its limits, see what I mean?
GAME OVER: Nuclear Assault was formed in 1984, but Lilker called it quits in 1992 leaving the band to carry on without his marquee name.
KNAC.COM: Why did Brutal Truth and Nuclear Assault dissolve?
LILKER: B.T. broke up ‘cos a couple of guys weren’t getting along, to the point where the whole vibe was shot. We never thought about replacing anybody, we were too far out there musically to try to introduce a new member to our insanity. I left Nuclear in ’92 due to the fact that I was bored doing thrash. I’m not gonna do something if I’m not into it anymore, plain and simple. Yeah, I’m doing it again with S.O.D. now, but seven or eight years later, it’s fun again.
KNAC.COM: When will we see S.O.D. back in the studio or on tour? Will it be another 15 years?
LILKER: I can tell you definitely it will not be another 15 years! It might even be sooner than you think! Do you really want to hear 50-year-olds play fast metal?
‘CHEERS’ FROM A KILLER: Interesting to note how Paul Di’Anno signs with a lower-case “a” in “Di’Anno,” yet his album credits and website alternate between lower and upper. I’m guessing lower-case makes for a quicker autograph.
Somewhere between 1990 and 1992, I was sitting beside Paul Di’Anno on a Dumpster-ready backstage couch at the Showcase Events Center in San Antonio. Paul was eagerly devouring American-brand cigarettes and graciously obliging my unscheduled interview. A few hours later, the former Iron Maiden singer would take the stage with his then-new band, Killers.
‘IRON LADY': Maiden mascot “Eddie” casts his vote against Margaret Thatcher.
In the end, I had no media outlet available to publish the interview. It was too late for the daily newspaper and at the time I had no solid connections to national or international metal magazines (this was also before the modern age of websites, blogs and other more immediate outlets). The interview tape is also lost to the ages, which is very uncharacteristic for a hoarder like me. Don’t even ask why I didn’t bring a point-and-shoot.
Regardless, as a huge Iron Maiden fan, I was thrilled to be chatting with the guy whose voice launched one of heavy metal’s most immortal bands. After about an hour, the cigarette fog got downright toxic and Paul excused himself to tend to business. Together, we walked out the back door of the venue where my car was parked and he kindly signed an obnoxiously thick stack of records (“Iron Maiden,” “Killers,” “Maiden Japan,” the Margaret Thatcher EP) and two black-and-white photos ripped from the pages of “Iron Maiden: Running Free.”
EMBATTLED TOME: Di’Anno’s book will likely not win him any new fans.
About eight years later, I was on proper assignment for KNAC.com and got a second chance to interview Paul (I plan to post it in the near future). Again, it was a fun conversation full of insight regarding his tumultuous history and adventures with Iron Maiden, Killers, Battlezone and other musical endeavors.
And then along came Paul’s 2010 tell-all autobiography, “The Beast.” To say it makes him nearly impossible to like may be an understatement. His penchant for violence, drugs and other misbehavior is dangerously over-the-top and not the least bit funny (at least other tell-all, rock-n-roll books make you chuckle a bit over the band members’ self-inflicted stupidity).
It’s a shame Paul felt compelled to tarnish his vocal legacy with 350-plus pages of thuggish behavior (and nary a trace of remorse). Me? I prefer to remember his singing and the times he gifted me with his generosity. For that, I say thanks. For the rest, I hope he gets help.
If Scandinavian sleaze rock crashed into vintage Hollywood hair metal, the shattering sonic slam might sound like Kickin Valentina.
Gruff and nasty, these Atlanta-based, raunch-n-rollers are back with their second platter, “Super Atomic.”
Opening with “Sermon,” which is actually a mini-narrative about the corrupting evils of rock-n-roll, the six-song “Super Atomic” gets banging with “On My Side.” A bazooka blast of hard-drumming thunder and biker-boot stomp, there’s not a door left on the hinges when this one rattles to a halt. Holy mother of Molotov!
Next up is lead single and video, “Wrong Way.” A smoldering, mid-tempo tune that never really ignites (although it sorta, kinda grows on you after repeated listens), “Wrong Way” is hardly the most exciting song here, but likely got the nod as lead single due to its grinding, more universal dance-ability.
“When You’re Gone” finds Kickin Valentina back up and swinging on a groove that semi-recalls Motley Crue’s “Wildside”until the floating chorus and (subtle) keyboard stabs swerve it into its very own memorable identity.“Fist N Twist” follows with a frantic, punk-ish approach that — despite the questionable title and chorus — makes for a great, Broken Teeth-style adrenaline punch.A real shouter, this one!
The title track, unfortunately,is riddled with overbaked lyrics (“designer jeans,” “spray tan,” “Daddy’s cash”), but musically and vocally, “Super Atomic” is a melodic bombshell that vibes like something from The Cult’s “Sonic Temple” or Alice Cooper’s “Trash.” Great singing and a swaggering groove make it diabolically impossible to shake.
And then? Oh, boy, here comes “Some Kind of Sex.” Again, a contagiously crushing song hobbled by lyrics so blatantly “naughty” (“condom in your hair?” “I’m doing your best friend,” “we’re all just f**kin’ whores!”) they come off like Steel Panther minus the intentional wink. Yeesh! Props, nonetheless, for mega-ton riffage.
It has to be said that singer Joe Edwards is badder than Samuel L. Jackson’s wallet. With a star-making voice that’s soulful, husky and seemingly scarred by corrosive excess, this guy’s vocals are the stuff of hard-rock wish lists. I’m talking, WOW! Dude gets my vote for best new singer.
Guitarist Heber Pampillon shreds without over-noodling, and bassist Chris Taylor (ex-Rockets to Ruin) along with drummer Jimmy Berdine bring a volcanic punch spiked with skull-knocking, double-kick fills. As players, Kickin Valentina holds all the aces.
Like the self-titled 2013 debut EP (with added roaring production), “Super Atomic” is way more blast than bomb and further proof that Kickin Valentina is a serious contender. The talent, ‘tude and vocals are all a slam-dunk if they can just raise the bar on lyrics and maybe deliver a full-length, 8- or 10-song album next time. Until then, I’m still on board and paying lots of attention. You should, too.
* Overall Grade: B-
* Favorite Tracks: “On My Side,” “Super Atomic” * For Fans of: Hardcore Superstar, L.A. Guns, mirror shades and double-fisting at last call
For a review of Kickin Valentina’s debut EP, go here. For new single/video for “Wrong Way,” click below.
HEAVY DUTY: The expanded reissue of Judas Priest’s “Defenders of the Faith” album includes a remastered version of the original 10-track studio recording, a bonus 21-track concert recording from the ensuing tour and retrospective liner notes.
Compared to my other youthful offenses, lying to my parents so I could attend my first Judas Priest concert is practically cute today. Seriously. Just ask my Mom.
The year was 1984. My co-conspirator was my younger sister who — despite a mighty showing by the storming Priest (and a hungry Great White) — would somehow prove immune to the seductive corruption of heavy metal concerts. Hey, I tried!
Now, some 31 years after telling Mom and Dad I was spending the night at a friend’s house, Judas Priest has re-released an expanded version of 1984’s “Defenders of the Faith” album. For obvious reasons, I always think of this album as a guilty pleasure, but not in the same sense as Bon Jovi or Apple Jacks. I also consider “Defenders” to be Judas Priest’s last truly classic album.
Studded with such soon-to-be, fan-favorites as “Freewheel Burning,” “Jawbreaker,” “The Sentinel,” “Some Heads Are Gonna Roll” and “Love Bites,” “Defenders of the Faith” proved a formidable follow-up to Priest’s now-classic 1982 breakthrough album, “Screaming for Vengeance.” For added good measure, “Defenders” also contained “Night Comes Down” (a personal favorite), the Tipper Gore panty twister, “Eat Me Alive,” and cover artwork by “Screaming” artist Doug Johnson (who also did JP’s 1986 album, “Turbo”). Now newly remastered by celebrated Priest producer Tom Allom, the reissued 10-track “Defenders” boasts added muscle and might.
Reissues, of course, almost always need to sweeten the cake and this is where “Defenders” redux delivers a goodie. Recorded live at Long Beach Arena on the 1984 “Defenders” tour, the added 21-track, two-disc concert is must-have nostalgia. I mean, how can you possibly go wrong with a Priest concert that backtracks from 1984? Exactly! You can’t.
The audio is a bit bottom-heavy in places and “Desert Plains” loses some of its vibe because it’s played too fast, but it’s impossible to numb the exhilarating rush of “Grinder,” “The Sinner,” “Victim of Changes,” “The Green Manalishi (with the Two-Pronged Crown),” “Hellbent for Leather” and “You’ve Got Another Thing Coming” mixed with then-new tracks from “Defenders.” And hey, do I even need to remind you there are few greater pleasures in all of heavy metal than hearing Rob Halford singing live at his peak? If so, please retire your black leather jacket.
As for the packaging, “Defenders” gets an embossed variation of the original artwork, period photos, liner notes from both band and my fellow/former Metal Edge magazine scribe, Bryan Reesman (whose liners have been previously blessed by the Priest) and a humorous retelling of the time when Priest fans uprooted and started tossing the seats at Madison Square Garden leading to a lifetime ban and $250,000 in damages (or upgrades if we’re telling the truth).
The reissued “Defenders” follows 2012’s beautifully reissued “Screaming for Vengeance,” which added bonus tracks and a live recording of Judas Priest’s monumental 1983 US Festival performance. Pair both alongside last year’s excellent new studio album, “Redeemer of Souls,” and the recent output of Judas Priest makes for a welcome series of high notes.
* Overall Grade: A- * Favorite Tracks: “Night Comes Down,” “The Sentinel,” “Some Heads Are Gonna Roll” * For Fans of: Definitive heavy metal, living after midnight, black leather
For more on Judas Priest, including tour dates and ticket info for the upcoming May 14 gig in Austin, click here.
ACES HIGH: It’s little surprise that the return of singer Bruce Dickinson, center, and guitarist Adrian Smith, far left, re-sharpened the spikes of the mighty Iron Maiden. The returning pair joined, left-to-right, guitarist Jancik Gers, drummer Nicko McBrain, bassist Steve Harris and guitarist Dave Murray to re-establish Iron Maiden as heavy metal conquerors.
BEAST MASTER: Not only is Steve Harris the visionary and co-founder of the almighty Iron Maiden, he also ranks as one of heavy metal’s elite bass players (arguably the very best).
The following interview with Iron Maiden bassist and founding member Steve Harris originally published Aug. 6, 1999 in the San Antonio Express-News
under my professional byline, David Glessner
The bugle sounds and the charge begins Saturday when reloaded British heavy metal troopers Iron Maiden gallop into Sunken Garden Theater.
The concert marks the much-anticipated return of vocalist Bruce “Air Raid Siren” Dickinson following a six-year solo career that saw the much-loved screamer replaced by Blaze Bayley.
“It was a mutual decision,” bassist Steve Harris said of Bayley’s departure and Dickinson’s reinstatement. “(Bayley) wanted to do a solo thing and he’ll have an album out at the end of the year. He’s happy and so are we.”
As a bonus, former Maiden guitarist Adrian Smith is also back, although not at the expense of longtime replacement Janick Gers. The duo is complemented by founding guitarist Dave Murray, bringing the total of guitar shredders to three. Veteran drummer Nicko McBrain rounds out Maiden’s galloping sound.
HE HAS THE FIRE, HE HAS THE FORCE: Hyper-athletic frontman Bruce Dickinson reigns as one of metal’s most operatic voices
“When Bruce came back, a lot of people weren’t surprised,” Harris said, phoning from France. “Adrian coming back and keeping Janick surprised people. Having three of them actually makes things a little heavier. They spread (the guitar solos) out pretty evenly.”
Dickinson, who recorded the solo album “Tattooed Millionaire” in 1990 while still fronting Maiden, eventually left the band in 1993 for a full-time solo career that steadily gained momentum – especially when Smith turned up to play guitar in recent years. As fate would have it, both were destined to return to the band they helped turn into a globe-trotting, multimillion-selling act that is rightly praised as one of metal’s most influential.
“We had a meeting with Bruce at the end of January and we weren’t sure which way things were going to go,” Harris continued. “There’ve been big rumors about Bruce’s return for some time, but we adamantly denied them, because at the time, they weren’t true. Unbeknownst to us, the fans were right. They must’ve had a crystal ball or something.”
ED BANGER: Maiden’s interactive, double-disc CD offers an audio and visual journey through the dark side.
Supernatural powers aside, Maiden’s latest release is a glimpse into the future as well as the past. “Ed Hunter” is a double-CD greatest-hits package with an added interactive PC game that allows players to interact with Eddie, Iron Maiden’s eternal, rotting corpse mascot.
“It’s basically a shoot ‘em up game,” Harris explained. “It has superb graphics from all the album covers. You basically travel through all these worlds that have something in common with the album covers.”
Those covers began frightening the world in 1980 when Iron Maiden’s same-titled debut was released. The cover art featured a screaming, glowing-eyed Eddie, who mutated and reappeared on subsequent albums such as “Killers,” “The Number of the Beast,” “Piece of Mind” and the double-live opus, “Live After Death.”
YO, ADRIAN!: Along with co-guitarist Dave Murray, Adrian Smith is responsible for some of metal’s most blistering dual guitar solos
By the time Dickinson replaced original vocalist Paul Di’Aanno in time for 1982’s “The Number of the Beast” album, Maiden’s grotesque cover art, headbanger image and literate lyrics of war, mythology and history had religious zealots in a clatter. The ludicrous charges of devil worship are long gone in the age of Marilyn Manson and Rob Zombie.
“We put a backward message on ‘Piece of Mind’ and people went over the top,” Harris said. “I don’t miss it at all. Someone else can take the heat.”
Maiden took some heat of its own in recent years, especially from American fans who had a difficult time accepting Bayley in place of Dickinson. The band’s last San Antonio appearance was peppered with boos as Bayley and the boys played more recent, expansive material rather than the wealth of fire and brimstone classics Maiden has at its disposal.
“It was bloody hot, I remember that,” Harris said of last July’s concert. “I thought we were brave doing a lot of stuff off the new albums. We were doing those songs all over the world and it was going great. In America, the albums didn’t (sell) as well and when people don’t know the material, they’re a bit bewildered. We thought it was the right decision. We didn’t’ want to do a best-of (set). We’re doing that now.”
Dave’s digit: Iron Maiden guitarist Dave Murray fractured the little finger of his left (fretting) hand in an on-stage fall during the encore July 30 in Los Angeles. Shows were cancelled in San Jose last Saturday and Las Vegas Monday, but the tour reportedly was back on track as of last night in El Paso. Bruce’s birthday: Bruce Dickinson’s return to San Antonio will be doubly triumphant s the singer celebrates his 41st birthday Saturday. Born Paul Bruce Dickinson in 1958, the British fencer, pilot and Deep Purple fan first gained fame in the new wave of British heavy metal band Samson before he won the job as Paul Di’Anno’s replacement in Iron Maiden in 1981. Opening Acts: Pushmonkey and Puya
HELLBENT FOR LEATHER: For 40-plus years, Rob Halford and Judas Priest have defined the look and sound of heavy metal. The band formed in Birmingham, England in 1969 and broke big in the United States with the now-classic 1982 album, ‘Screaming for Vengeance.’
REDEEMED WITH A VENGEANCE: The latest album from Judas Priest is a fine return to form.
By David Glessner
Special to the American-Statesman
Rob Halford has been sober since 1986, but that won’t stop him from scoring a fix when he lands in Austin this week. Worry not, however, as he won’t be breaking the law.
“I love Mexican food,” said the 63-year-old Judas Priest singer, calling from his native Great Britain. “That’s one thing I don’t get in England. When I get to Austin, I’ll be first in line for a burrito.”
Headlining the Fun, Fun, Fun Fest on Friday, Halford and Judas Priest are undisputed heavy metal legends thanks to such classic albums as “Sad Wings of Destiny,” “British Steel” and “Screaming for Vengeance.” Known for their leather-and-studs wardrobe, dueling lead guitars and Halford’s operatic wail, Judas Priest is promoting its latest album, “Redeemer of Souls.” Released earlier this year, the album has garnered critical praise as a blazing return-to-form following mixed reviews of 2008’s double-disc concept album, “Nostradamus.”
UNCERTAIN PREDICTION: Judas Priest’s double-disc concept album earned a divisive vote among fans.
“It was time to regroup and re-emphasize all the things people love about Judas Priest,” Halford said. “Concept records are very out of the ballpark. We love ‘Nostradamus’ and a lot of fans loved it, too, but it’s the kind of record you have to commit to and invest time in to get the full idea. We had fun with it, but decided it was time to get back to what Priest has been doing for, God, 40 years now (laughs)?”
Melodically metallic and heavily armed with pummeling drums, slashing guitars and Halford’s signature vocals (which, he admits, are dialed down a notch from his piercing yelps of yore), “Redeemer of Souls” is available as a standard 13-track album or a deluxe edition featuring a five-song bonus disc (hint: buy the deluxe edition).
In other words, “Redeemer of Souls” is a triumphant case of the metal gods’ cup runneth over.
“They are great songs, aren’t they?” Halford said of the bonus tracks. “They’ve got their own feel and almost sound like the start of a whole new record. So, do you stick them in the vault? Do you hide them? Do you keep them for some other occasion? We felt it was important to put them out there so our fans are able to have all the material if they choose.”
FAULKIN’ HELL!: New guitarist Richie Faulkner is filling massive shoes as the replacement for founding member and fan-favorite, KK Downing.
“Redeemer of Souls” also marks the recorded Priest debut of insanely capable guitarist Richie Faulkner. Paired with founding guitarist Glenn Tipton, Faulkner replaces disgruntled original co-guitarist K.K. Downing who departed in XX.
“We told Richie from the get-go, ‘You are your own man and we want you to stand on that stage and be Richie Faulkner,’” Halford said. “He did that night after night on the last tour and made an immediate connection with the fans. By the time we recorded the new album, he was already fully immersed in the Priest family and just did a stellar job.”
WHERE’S THE PISSER?: At US Festival ’83, Judas Priest played in front of an estimated 350,000 fans.
While Fun, Fun, Fun is in Halford’s immediate future (and a solo blues or covers album is not beyond the realms of future possibility), it’s a festival of bygone decades that remains firmly cemented in Judas Priest lore. Namely, California’s massive three-day 1983 US Festival that featured a heavy metal roster of Van Halen, Scorpions, Judas Priest, Ozzy Osbourne, Triumph and a couple up-and-comers called Motley Crue and Quiet Riot.
“What was it, 350,000 people or something like that?” Halford said. “It still ranks as one of the biggest metal events ever held in America. It was insane. All the bands had to be flown to the stage by helicopter. The thing we always remember is flying over and seeing, literally, hundreds of thousands of abandoned vehicles and then, of course, the humanity was extraordinary. It’s great to know we were part of such a historical event.”
JUDAS PRIEST, DUDE!: For better or worse, the cult favorite ‘Heavy Metal Parking Lot’ candidly captures heavy metal culture. It’s actually a hilarious must-see.
A lesser-known, but no less forgotten footnote in Judas Priest history is the low-budget 1986 cult-classic documentary, “Heavy Metal Parking Lot,” which captured the teenage wasteland of pre-concert Priest fans tailgating in all their mullet-sporting, half-shirt glory.
“Oh, it was great!” Halford said. “It’s a microcosm of what goes on at every metal show. If you took your iPhone out to a metal show parking lot today, you’d get the same kinds of things (happening). Just seeing such passion and dedication and enthusiasm and excitement … I watch it occasionally and it’s just really satisfying to see such honest emotion coming across from these young metal kids. It’s part of American heavy metal culture.”
While Texas has been a Judas Priest stronghold since the late 1970s, Austin is a rare tour-stop.
“We’ve not been to Austin in about 20 years,” Halford said. “We’re just thrilled for the opportunity to be coming back. The Fun, Fun, Fun Festival is a very significant event so we’re stoked and can’t wait to come screaming back.”
To hear “Redeemer of Souls” bonus track, “Snakebite,” click below (and remember to buy the deluxe edition with 5-song bonus disc. Four of the five tracks are stellar Priest that easily could have come out circa “Screaming for Vengeance” and “Defenders of the Faith.”). The “Redeemer of Souls” title track follows.
BAD-ASS REPUTATION: The former Joan Marie Larkin comes off as one tough chick, but admits to being an approachable softie. Nonetheless, her swagger and perseverance have made her an American rock-n-roll icon.
SIN-SATION: Jett’s 2006 album includes songwriting credits to Linda Perry and Kathleen Hanna as well as a cover of the Replacements’ “Androgynous.”
On tour promoting her latest album, “Sinner,” Joan Jett is rushing through (what else?) an airport when she phones for a quick interview on the eve of her recent fortysomething birthday. “Sorry,” the Philadelphia native says after a brief interruption. “I’m checking my bags and I’m getting hassled.”
Since her teens in the late-1970s all-girl rock band the Runaways, hassles have threatened to clip Jett’s wings. Initially dismissed as a novelty act in the macho world of rock ‘n’ roll, Jett proved to be tougher than leather as she overcame the naysayers to become a legend with classic 1980s hit songs and MTV videos. Backed by her bad-boy band, the Blackhearts, Jett is an inspiration and the undisputed queen of sneering punk ‘n’ roll.
With her bags finally checked, I landed Jett before takeoff.
Tell us something about yourself that contradicts your tough image.
Wow! You’d have to hang out with me (to know). I love animals. I like to read. I think people tend to think I’m mean because of the image, but that’s the biggest misconception. I’m not unapproachable.
Your new single, “A.C.D.C.” is a re-make of an old Sweet song. Why did you choose it as the single and how did you get Carmen Electra to star in the video?
When I was 15 years old, I used to go to this disco where they played glitter music, so I was aware of the song long ago. It’s provocative and I thought it would be fun to do. I happened to meet Carmen at a gig and I heard she was a fan. She’s so unaffected by her fame. She’s perfect (for the video) because she’s beautiful and she’s edgy, so we gave it a shot.
BROKEN ARROWS: After being turned down by every record company on the planet, Jett broke big with her 1981 cover of “I Love Rock-n-Roll.” It immediately became — and remains — her signature song.
Your best-known song is another cover from a little-known band called the Arrows. How did you discover “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll”?
The Runaways were on tour in England and I heard that song. It was the B-side of an Arrows’ single. Nobody was paying attention to it, so I thought the Runaways should do it. None of the girls liked it, so I just held onto it until I had a chance to do it with the Blackhearts. It certainly wasn’t an instant hit. It took awhile because I had a lot of resistance from the industry and radio.
Were your parents supportive when you tuned into rock ‘n’ roll?
They opened their mouths and had to live by their word. They told me I could be anything I wanted in life. They were very supportive. I wanted to be an astronaut, an archeologist, an actress. Once I got to rock ‘n’ roll, I’m sure they thought it was a fad.
Sexuality is very up front in your music, yet you keep your private life fairly secretive.
It’s not secretive; it’s just nobody’s business. Everybody’s game, so why should I pin myself down? I want the girls to think I’m playing for them and I want all the boys to think I’m playing for them.
How do you stay in shape? How many sit-ups can you do?
I’ve probably reached 100 of different kinds, but it’s not everyday. I don’t smoke, I don’t drink and I’m pretty boring. I’m vegetarian. I exercise a bit, but not enough to claim that’s the only reason I look OK. My job is intense. It’s very physical.
GERM WARFARE: Jett produced the Germs’ cult-classic 1979 “(GI)” album. Guitarist Pat Smear has since been a longtime member of the Foo Fighters.
What do you remember about producing the Germs’ 1979 debut album?
People remember the Germs and that time as being very wild and (messed) up. That certainly was the case in a lot of instances, but when it came time to do that record, we had four days to be serious and do it. I think they thought I knew what I was doing because I had been in the studio with the Runaways.
The new songs “Riddles” and “Change the World” are unusually political.
A lot of people are just oblivious to the fact we’re in a war. Until it affects the quality of their day, people just don’t give a (care). (Those songs) are more about starting a conversation. It’s dangerous when everyone is so righteous in their beliefs. At the same time, I understand because everyone is passionate about their vision for America. It’s an interesting time to be alive.
This article originally appeared in the Austin American-Statesman XL entertainment section on Thursday, Nov. 09, 2006
HORROR BUSINESS: Iconic heavy metal vocalist Philip H. Anselmo shares his life-long passion for horror movies, including — believe it or not — the one that made him cry.
By David Glessner
Special to the American-Statesman
For a guy who rose to fame barking heavy metal threats, Philip Anselmo is a stone-mellow dude. Drawling in a groggy croak on the phone from his New Orleans home, the former Pantera and current Down singer is discussing the inspiration behind his second annual Housecore Horror Film Festival running Oct. 24-26 at Emo’s.
“I was lucky enough to grow up in an era where the whole weekend was jam-packed full of horror flicks and monster movies,” he said. “I also loved all the television stuff like ‘The Twilight Zone’ and ‘The Outer Limits.’ I’m sitting here right now staring at this wall of VHS tapes. My box copy of the original ‘Evil Dead’ is fantastic, but is it any better than my box copy of ‘The Sinful Dwarf’? I’m not sure.”
Named for Anselmo’s Housecore Records label and created in partnership with true–crime author Corey Mitchell, the horror fest combines screaming heavy metal bands with horror film actors, exhibits, zombie makeovers and other bloody treats. Along with the grinding howl of bands like Danzig, Voivod, GWAR and Evil United, a main attraction this year is appearances by cast members of the “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” movies.
HELLBENT FOR LEATHER: Leatherface from ‘Texas Chainsaw Massacre’ ain’t lookin’ to saw no logs
“It’s very surreal for me (to have them on the bill),” Anselmo said. “‘Texas Chainsaw Massacre’ is a disturbing flick, man. It’s got that sick element of lunacy and it still holds up even today. To me, it’s just a classic.”
Naturally, the demonic imagery of horror films pairs wickedly well with heavy metal.
“I’ll tell anyone with ears that if it wasn’t for ‘The Exorcist’ or the ‘Living Dead’ movies, there wouldn’t be a genre of music called death metal where the singers are singing with the guttural vocals and whatnot,” Anselmo said.
Another exclusive at this year’s fest is the return of Anselmo’s Superjoint Ritual.
“From what I heard, there was a poll of some sort asking people what band of mine from the past would people like to see me reorganize and Superjoint won. (Freakin’) peer pressure, right there! We said, ‘(Screw) it. Why not?’ It’s one day, one show, no harm, no foul. Plus, it’s pretty easy to do. I mean, there’s no image or stage show involved (laughs). Hopefully some of the people will remember the words to the songs, because I most certainly won’t.”
So what horror flick first scared the bejesus out of young Anselmo?
“I won’t say it scared me, because it actually made me cry my eyes out, but ‘King Kong’ was the first movie that really touched me as a kid,” he said. “As far as scaring me and giving me the fear when I was a youngster, there was a movie called ‘How Awful About Allan’ starring Anthony Perkins of ‘Psycho’ fame. That movie scared me. And of course, there’s no denying the power of ‘The Exorcist.’”
“In grade school I saw ‘Don’t Go in the House’ at the theater,” he continued. “I saw ‘The Changeling’ at the theater — which scared the living, flying (crap) out of me! I saw ‘Silent Scream’ with Barbara Steele and that was insane.”
A few years later, a friend invited Anselmo over to watch “The Evil Dead.” He’s been scarred ever since.
“Man, I will just say it was a long walk home on these empty, desolate streets,” Anselmo said. “Oh my God, I was pretty much awake all night. It outdid ‘The Exorcist,’ because at that age you go through this gore phase where the gorier the better. That one hit a nerve, man.”
Like many of the horror fest musicians, Anselmo’s friend Glenn Danzig was heavily influenced by horror movies. From his iconic horror-punk Misfits to Samhain and Danzig, the so-called “Evil Elvis” is a horror-rock pioneer. A rare appearance by cult-favorite Samhain followed by Danzig will have him pulling double duty.
“The first time I ever met Glenn Danzig was in Los Angeles when Pantera was playing with S.O.D.,” Anselmo said. “That was a helluva show. I didn’t think he knew me from anybody ‘cause Pantera was still up and coming, but he walked right up to me, shook my hand and said hello, and it made my entire night. Ever since then, we’ve stayed in touch via email and he sends me his Verotik comics. He’s just a dynamite guy so I took a wild stab and said, ‘Big brother, would you play the Horror Fest?’ He named his price and I said let’s do it.”
Asked if he might one day organize a festival that combines his other love of boxing with heavy metal, Anselmo ponders the question and says, “Well, damn, man! I might have to give you some side-cash credit for that. I hadn’t even thought of that one. That’s pretty good, man.”