So Carlton, in 1979, guitarists Kirk Hammett and Tim Agnello, drummer/vocalist Tom Hunting, and you bass formed the initial lineup of EXODUS, do you still remember, how did you get together? Were you friends, school/classmates etc.?
Kirk and I went to high school together, he was friends with my sister and we had an Algebra class together. She told him I played guitar and he asked if I wanted to jam sometime. We used to sit in the back of Algebra class and play guitar, drove the teacher crazy. He finally separated us by sticking Kirk in the front of the class by the front door and me at the back in the opposite corner. The first song we learned how to play together was “Calling Dr. Love by Kiss”. After I graduated High School I moved to Sacramento to go to college. While I was away Kirk met Tim, Tom, and Keith. They had another bass player at the time but he didn’t work out. I came down one weekend and Kirk asked me to join the band. I would drive back to the Bay Area every Friday and we would practice.
How did you discover music and hard rock/heavy metal particular? What were your musical background/experiences, since EXODUS was your first band, wasn’t it?
Exodus was my second band; my first band was Equinox with Kirk Hammett and David White of “Heathen”. Dave played drums and kirk and I played guitar. I switched to bass when our bass player quit. I felt more at home on Bass than guitar. Chris Squire and Phil Lynott were early influences of mine. My dad listened to Jazz so that was the first music I listened to. My Godfather gave me my first Rock album; it was the Beatles fourth album. The Beatles spoke to me musically. “Kansas” and “Bachman Turner Overdrive” were the first heavy bands that I listened too. They led me to Thinn Lizzy, Rush, Jethro Tull, Yes, Pink Floyd, and ELP. I was into Progressive music before I got into anything heavy. I was influenced by the same bands that Dream Theater was influenced by. Rainbow with Dio was probably my first Metal band.
Is it true, that Kirk had named the band after Leon Uris’ 1958 novel of the same title?
No, that’s not true. Right after we formed Exodus we were looking for a name. Kirk called me one night and we got the idea to look in the bible for names. We just went back in forth with names from the bible then Kirk said “Hey, what about Exodus?” I thought it was cool and we brought it to the band. Everybody loved it.
How happened, that Tom was the singer at the early period of EXODUS? Does it mean, that it was hard to find a suitable member/singer for the band?
OK, here is where I clear this up. “Keith Stewart” was the first singer in the band. He was in the band before I was. We didn’t even have a name when he was singing. When it didn’t work out with Keith we just never got around to finding a singer because we were having too much fun in the summer of 1980. My Mom let us practice in the garage so she could keep an eye on us. Kirk and Tom’s mom like that idea also. We spent the summer practicing, drinking, and swimming in my pool. During that time we played the occasional party.
What about your early rehearsals? Were you jamming mostly on covers or did you start writing originals right from the start?
At the time we did both. We had half originals and half covers. UFO’s “Rock Bottom” and The Scorpions “Another Piece of Meat” were part of the set. We also had our jam songs. We used to play 2112 by Rush a lot. Tom and I were into Styx at the time and the two of us would jam on their stuff by ourselves. At one point we even play Stairway to Heaven. Tom, Tim, and I would switch instruments. I would play Drums, Tom Guitar and Vocals, and Tim Bass. For a long time I think Kirk and I were the only 2 musicians who didn’t know how to play Stairway to Heaven on guitar.
How did the early EXODUS sound like? What were your goals with the band at all, I mean, what did you want to achieve?
Early Exodus was a mix of American (Tim), Canadian (Me), and European (Kirk) metal. We wanted to be rock stars. Gene Simmons said “Most bands wanted to be the Beatles, but we wanted to be Coca Cola”. I wanted to be like Kiss with our brand on everything. You can love or hate Gene Simmons but he is a hell of a business man.
Did all of you take the band seriously?
As serious as kids fresh out of High School could. We were only together for a year and fumbled our way through the best we could……..but we were serious about beer.
Have you ever recorded any demos or rehearsal tapes with EXODUS? Who was/were responsible for the songwriting and lyrics? How were the songs written? What were the very first EXODUS tunes? Can you tell us perhaps any song titles?
I never recorded any demos with the band but we did have rehearsal tapes. I have no idea what happen to them. Tom might have them, maybe. Kirk, Tim, and I wrote the music but all four of us did the arrangements. I think we had about 5 original songs at the time. The only two I remember are “Bad News” and “Gotta Getaway”. I wrote Bad News and Kirk wrote most of Gotta Get away with help from the 3 of us. I think Tom and I wrote the lyrics to the song if I remember correctly.
Do you agree with, that the earliest documented roots of the Bay Area thrash scene date back to the formation of EXODUS in 1980?
If you mean Wikipedia version…..They left some stuff out. Wes Robinson of “Ruthies Inn” played a large part in the Bay Area Thrash scene. When I was in “Outrage” with Tim Agnello we played an outdoor show one weekend. After we got off stage Wes introduced himself to me and said that he wanted to start booking some heavy bands at a club in Berkeley CA and wanted us to play. I said sure and he asked me to help find some bands for the show. I called Gary Holt and asked if Exodus wanted on the bill then Debi Abono for Blizzard. That was the first Metal show at Ruthies. From that point on it was history. Deth even drove out from Florida to play Ruthies. There was even a famous Italian Metal band that I can’t think of that played Ruthies. I even remember Slayers first Ruthies’ show, it was phenomenal. That day changed my life forever.
What about this early Bay Area scene as a whole? What were the bands that started their career along/together with EXODUS? LEVIATHAN/ANVIL CHORUS, VICIOUS RUMORS, METAL CHURCH, CONTROL, SINISTER SAVAGE/GRIFFIN, BLIND ILLUSION, EZ-STREET… Can you tell us detailed about it?
The Bay Area Metal scene was huge, and with the other genre Bands it was even larger. The Bay Area as a whole has been very influential to Music since the 60’s.Ruthies Inn was the hub of the Thrash scene. Metallica was the only Bay Area band that didn’t play there as far as I know. Seattle bands Metal Church and Culprit used to drive down to the Bay and Los Angeles Bands like Slayer and Abattoir drove up. Deth even drove across country from Florida to play. The 80’s and 90’s were a good time for Metal in the Bay. There were shows happening every week and if there wasn’t a show somewhere there was a party going on. I have forgotten names of most of the bands that played, some of them were mine (Outrage, Colonel Flagg, Fuhrer, and Blizzard). My High School was a who’s who of Bands and musicians that grew out of it. Metallica, Exodus, Blind Illusion, Heathen, Metal Church, Primus, Outrage, Fuhrer, Hexx/Paradox, Blizzard, and Colonel Flagg. That’s a lot of music to come out of one school.
You were the pioneers of the whole Bay Area scene, weren’t you?
We were pioneers of the Bay Area Thrash scene. When Metallica, Exodus, and Slayer started getting recognition Bands started popping up out of nowhere. Each city had their own number of bands out there playing clubs. My home town of El Sobrante had four.
How do you view, that Bay Area thrash metal, or „Bay Area thrash”, referred to a steady following of heavy metal bands in the 1980s who formed and gained international status in the San Francisco Bay Area, California and along with South Florida, the scene was widely attributed as a starting point of American thrash metal and death metal?
History attributes the Big Four as the progenitors of Thrash. In my opinion 2 of the 4 don’t belong on that list, Megadeth and Anthrax. Exodus should be on that list. Metallica, Slayer, and Exodus are the Big Three. They are the bands that started a whole new genre of music that conquered the world.
In your opinion, did several early outfits of the Bay Area scene borrow heavily from the new wave of British heavy metal and early punk rock?
If you want to be technical there were only two bands that started Metal in my opinion, Black Sabbath and Blue Cheer in the US. Most people don’t know about Blue Cheer, they should learn. Led Zepplin is also accounted as Metal by some. Growing up all we had was music from the 70’s and a few pioneers who wanted to step outside the box and do their own thing like Rush and Sabbath. A lot of musicians claim NWOBHM as an influence but I’m not one of them. Progressive Rock was my major influence and still is today.
Would you say, that Rampage Radio, conceived by KUSF DJs Ron Quintana, Ian Kallen and Howie Klein, has been assaulting the airwaves with metal and other noise on a weekly basis ever since its official birth on Sunday, March 6th, 1982, played also an important role in the Bay Area scene? Do you recall of one of the very first fanzines Metal Mania that was done also by Ron Quintana? He was a kind of catalyzer of the Bay Area scene as well…
I know that Ron had a lot to do with the Bay Area Metal scene and I listened to his radio show from time to time but I don’t remember the fanzine that much. I know there was a lot of them out there but I couldn’t name any of them.
What can you tell us about the club scene? What were the first clubs, that started opening their doors for hard rock/heavy metal?
As I stated above, Ruthies Inn was the first club to really start booking metal show on a regular basis. They were followed by The Omni, The Stone (San Francisco and Berkeley) and Mabuhay Gardens among others but those were the main 4 clubs everyone played. There were always show going on at one of those clubs every week. Sometimes it was all four. In San Francisco there were 3 clubs all within walking distance. The Stone and Mabuhay Gardens were right across the street from one another with The Rock on Broadway above Mabuhay Gardens. On night my band Fuhrer played The Rock on Broadway, that same night Metallica was giving a surprise show downstairs at The Mubuhay Gardens. We were on the bill with the glam band Jet Boy. We went on second to a full house played and play our set. Everyone hung out until Jet Boy took the stage then they all walked out and went downstairs to watch Metallica. Jet boy’s singer started yelling at everyone leaving and trying to make them come back. The club emptied out in 5 min. It was really funny. We loaded up our gear waved goodbye and went downstairs also. That same night there was another show at The Stone across the street.
You would soon be replaced by Geoff Andrews and the band also added vocalist Keith Stewart, why did you leave them?
Keith Stewart was in Exodus before I was and left soon after I joined. I only met Geoff a few times and didn’t know him that well. As far as me leaving the band……..Tom got mad at me for some reason and didn’t want to play with me anymore. I never found out why. He was going to quit, Kirk and Tim decided to go with him. They gave me the name Exodus but I told them I didn’t want it. After a while Tim quit and formed the Outrage. His bass player quit and Tim asked me to join. We were together for a long time before I joined Blizzard.
(second part of the interview next month!)
Interview by Leslie David