How are you David? Give us a little history lesson on Blacksmith, how did the band originally form back in 1984?
Hey! I am doing great! Thanks for asking.
Blacksmith formed in late 1984 but the seeds of the band were sown as early as 1982. Heidi Packard and I were living together and romantically involved when we first formed a metal band called "Tokyo Rose” in ’82. This band played Scorpions, Priest, Maiden, Krokus, N.W.O.B.H.M., Riot, Anvil, The Rods, and a lot of the days heavier music. Tokyo Rose just began to play originals and we decided to go heavier and the band became Blacksmith.
I used the name Blacksmith partly from my English and Welsh heritage. My family had originally come from the U.K. They were actual blacksmiths and explorers. I am also a direct descendant of Captain John Smith. And since my surname Smith was used in the band’s name. Heidi decided to change her last name to Black to have her name as part of the band, which was cool with me. Heidi did not legally change her name to Black though she just used it for the band.
Blacksmith had some lineup changes most notably with Heidi Black being replaced by Malcolm "Mania" Lovegrove, in your opinion, how did that affect the band? Whatever happened to Heidi Black?
Heidi decided to leave the band midway through 1987 (effectively breaking up the original Blacksmith). We were no longer together as a couple, so it was difficult to keep it together in regard to a working band relationship. Heidi began to garner other interests and just decided the music thing was not for her anymore. It’s too bad because Heidi was great and I always believed in her and think she could have gone on to be a star. I know she was working in the American Radio industry for several years but she has told me she left the field. Heidi is married with two great kids and lives a happy life. I do speak to her from time to time. She was to be involved in this latest project with Heaven and Hell Records but it just never came about. Certainly no resistance from my end, but you would have to ask Heidi for the reason.
Malcolm "Mania” Lovegrove came aboard right after Heidi in ’87. Malcolm was fronting his own Albany, NY band Sinistar, I thought he sounded great and could hit the high range vocally much like Heidi. He was and is a great front man and performer on stage. In terms of affecting the band I think Malcolm Blacksmith (mach II) was far better and operated as a true team. Malcolm contributed to the songwriting and really pulled his weight as a key band member. Songs like ‘House’ and ‘The Beast’ were tunes he started, good stuff. I am glad that he and I are working together again; think we can pull out some cool new material. We are working on some right now.
After the band originally broke up, many years went by before Blacksmith was eventually resurrected, tell me about what landed the band a record deal with Heaven and Hell Records?
I was contacted by Heaven and Hell Records late last year. I found the owner/CEO Jeremy Golden was a Blacksmith fan and we were at the top of his wish list for re-issuing on the label’s "Lost Relics” series. One thing led to another and Jeremy and I hit it off really well. I decided he was the guy to do it. Heaven and Hell Records did a fantastic job with it all; music re-mastering, packaging, DVD and video style and transfer along with promotion. I like Jeremy’s spirit and sense of humor, he is a good guy.
Heaven and Hell Records will be putting out the unreleased Blacksmith album as well in the upcoming year. Hope to have new Blacksmith music released with H&H too. We are talking about it which is great.
The name of your new album is "Strike While the Iron's Hot" a collection of all of your early material from the eighties, digitally re-mastered. Tell me what you think of how the tracks sound now and did it bring back a lot of memories for you to be hearing all of your old music?
The tracks sound great and Jamie did an excellent job with the re-mastering process and result. I think it breathed new life into the old tracks, great job, couldn’t be happier. Yeah, I guess it brings back a lot of memories (although I don’t dwell on that stuff much) good and bad, but all cool though, great stuff and it has been fun to go over all this stuff. Now Malcolm, Chris Caglione, John Dodge and I are playing again in a revitalized Blacksmith, it’s great to be playing these songs once again.
Back in the day you worked with famed producer Louis St. Louis who produced the "Grease” motion picture soundtrack? Do you feel like Louis also had a good ear for metal music? What do you recall about working with Louis?
Louis St. Louis had absolutely no ear or concept of heavy metal whatsoever! (laughs) True! St. Louis came from a Broadway show tune background. Never the less this guy was extremely talented. His claim to fame was indeed the "Grease” soundtrack. Louis wound up working with us as a favor to our drummer George Snyder. George’s family had ties to the theatre industry and Mr. St. Louis did it as a favor to the Snyder family. I am sure he hated our music and thought it was all a joke. (laughs) St. Louis was completely flaming and was running around the studio singing, dancing and insane (think Rip Taylor with a beret). He sang opera to Heidi and would refer to her as the Metal Diva, screaming "where’s the diva”, "bring me the diva to the vocal booth!”
In retrospect it was a great experience and a lot of fun. We were in our early twenties in a pro studio with an experienced team making a heavy metal record. It was great! I really appreciate Mr. St. Louis working with us and putting up with our shit, he did a great job and I am sure we are a black mark on his impressive career.
Who were the bands that influenced you as a metal guitarist?
Influences… As a kid; early KISS, Zeppelin, Sabbath, Aerosmith, Nugent, Blue Oyster Cult then UFO, AC/DC, Rush, Priest, Maiden. The N.W.O.B.H.M. made a big impression. While bands like Thin Lizzy, Dio, Motorhead were big inspirations. Also punk stuff like; the Ramones, Sex Pistols, Dead Boys and The Clash. Early Metallica was a huge influence as well, when thrash hit Blacksmith was right in the middle of it. It was a natural progression going from the American power metal stuff to the European bands and then to thrash as America came back to conquer and reclaim the crown. As a guitarist; I love Michael Schenker, Ritchie Blackmore, Jimmy Page, Tony Iommi, Randy Rhoads, Eddie Van Halen, Mick Taylor, Leslie West, Angus Young, Ace Frehley, Joe Perry, and also the Thin Lizzy, Priest, Maiden, Scorpions guitar duo stuff. I have always been partial to the European metal sound and playing style. I love all heavy riffy, balls out guitar driven music along with soulful emotional pieces.
Movies, novels, and comic books have always been a big influence to my songwriting as well.
Blacksmith was legendary for breaking things on stage during your concerts and inciting riots. Was the band really this out of control and rough offstage?
Blacksmith never intentionally broke anything on stage, other than our own asses! We were always about the music and the stage show. Blacksmith never incited riots, we had our share of incidents on and off the stage but I don’t think we were really known for either of these things. My earlier and previous band "Dead End” did purposely destroy things on stage and wreak havoc on and off the boards but that was when I was much younger and less professional in high school and early college days. It was really nothing to do with Blacksmith.
Have you planned a tour or have some local gigs soon in support of the new album "Strike While the Iron's Hot"?
No planned tour as of yet, we are looking at some European festival dates though. We want to play overseas Germany, the U.K., Poland, France, Italy, where ever. Contact us, love to make it happen. We will kick your ass!
You are currently endorsed by Dean Guitars; what is it about their guitars that made you want to work with Dean?
I love Dean Guitars; I always have even as a kid. They are great looking, playing and sounding. They are classic and flash all in one. I have worked with Dean for over eight years and really appreciate all they have done for me and my bands. Great company and good people. Dean Rocks!
I'd like to get some perspective on the biggest differences between being an active recording and performing musician now versus when your musical career began in the early eighties. How have things changed; for better or worse?
Tough question… on some levels things have gotten better. Getting your music out there is easier, getting your name, image, info out in the world is relatively easier with the internet, Facebook, Twitter, etc. Recording and creating music is much easier with computer technology. You can virtually do it all out of your home now. Worse… record labels, lack of live venues, fickle public and apathy with the audiences to some extent. The bullshit you have to go through with club owners, booking agents and industry weasels is the same. Internal band drama and garbage is the same as well. Some ways better, some ways worse. In the grand scheme of things none of it matters. Enjoy what you do while you can do it, appreciate what comes your way and try and make some good music, art and happiness along the way. My answer to this question would most likely vary on any given day you might ask me, and/or the mood I am in.(laughs)
Now that all of your early recordings have been reissued have you already started writing for a new album? How would you describe the sound of your new material?
Yes, Blacksmith has a number of new songs recorded. Malcolm has been working on vocals and things are sounding great. As a team we will be writing more new material. Most of what we have now comes from me but I would like to get both Malcolm and Chris’ song ideas into production. They both really come up with cool stuff and are both talented. John Dodge is a very good player and comes up with good contributions as well. I am really looking forward to new music with all four of us contributing.
Hopefully, we can get Heaven and Hell to release a new Blacksmith CD. The sound is heavy, classic Blacksmith sounding. With big riffs, heavy grooves. A lot of killer guitar, drums, bottom end, and vocals. Cool song ideas and interesting topics and concepts, the old sound with a touch of the modern world and our surroundings and where we are right now.
What can your fans look forward to in the future from Blacksmith?
The future from Blacksmith aside from the nice "Strike While the Iron’s Hot” release from Heaven and Hell Records, re-mastered "Fire From Within” and the first EP, along with DVD concerts, downloads, packaging and liner notes, lots…
Through Heaven and Hell we will be releasing the lost Blacksmith album from 1992 "Time Out of Mind/ Burn Down the World”. We never officially titled the album but we’re going to call it either/or. The album was completed and shelved when Tropical Records went down. We feel it was the best stuff we had done up until that point and really shines. To get this out with the proper Heaven and Hell Records treatment will be nice. Maybe more extras like a DVD as well, we have lots of stuff.
Live dates in 2011-2012 and beyond for Blacksmith: We are working on our killer show right now. Blacksmith will be attending the ProgPower Festival of 2011 in Atlanta to promote the H&H release, should be fun. We want more metal festival shows and opportunities in the U.S. and overseas. Anyone out there please contact us for live show bookings through our website and Facebook. We would also like to again issue a new music release sometime in the next year for Blacksmith.
Thanks for answering these questions for Pest Webzine. Any last words for your followers reading at home?
Thank you for your time and interest. To all our friends and fans at home and all over the world we really appreciate your support of Blacksmith. We play and make music for you and we hope to see you all out on the road and at shows. Drop us a line, online anytime, we will get back to you. Keep it heavy and keep the faith! Cheers!
Interview by Osiris Stef
Answers by David Smith (guitar)