How do you think, that METALLICA’s move to Bay Area was an important step? Would you say that they were the fastest, rawest and most brutal band at this point?
I don’t think their move to the Bay was that important at all. They were on the road to success either way you put it. James and Lars are the main focal point of that band. Metallica goes in whatever direction James wants it to. Slayer was the fastest most brutal band back then. I didn’t know about Metallica until Kirk took me to see them in SF. Mustaine was still in the band at the time and I thought Metallica was one of the sloppiest bands I had ever seen. When Kirk took over the Lead Guitar spot they became a tight aggressive unit. Dave getting kicked out was the best thing that happened to that band.
Although they had initially formed in Los Angeles, it wasn’t until their February 1983 relocation to the East Bay area that Cliff Burton and Kirk Hammett (after Dave Mustaine was fired) joined as bassist and lead guitarist, sealing the band’s first, formative line-up, correct?
That’s correct. Dave was still in the band when they move up here I think….don’t hold me to that. Kirk flew out to New York to meet the band to record their first album.
At the early/mid ’80s more and more heavy metal bands started popping up in the Bay Area, such as MURDER, MORDRED, RUFFIANS, DEATH ANGEL, TRAUMA, LAAZ ROCKIT, WARNING S. F., ULYSSES SIREN etc., what were your views on the scene at this point?
The 80s was metals largest growth period. In the Bay Area alone there were so many heavy bands forming it was impossible to keep track. Every two weeks there was a show with a new band that I never heard of playing somewhere. After Slayer made their first trip to the Bay other LA bands followed. California was like the Thrash Metal capitol of the word with Ruthies Inn at its center.
Did Cliff Burton’s and Kirk Hammett’s friendship with other local acts, notably Oakland’s EXODUS and TESTAMENT, and later, San Francisco’s DEATH ANGEL strongly vitalize the scene, leading to intensive touring and tape trading that would cross borders and seas, and eventually graduate to record signings?
No. Metallica was on the road right after their album came out. The Thrash scene grew in the Bay while they were away. They only played in the Bay maybe a few times a year. The only access we had to them was Rampage Radio and MTV. Exodus, Legacy (Testament), Violence, and Forbidden were among the first bands signed. Fanzines and tape trading is how the scene grew. Metal bands across the world would were on list in Fanzines and people would contact them through the mail asking for demo’s. You would stick your tape in a package and send it to wherever. There was always someone you knew who had a bunch of tapes of some obscure metal bands and that’s how you would find out about them. Even Hip Hop tapes made it into the metal scene. We knew about NWA and Public Enemy when they were still trading tapes. Then record companies started popping up everywhere and more bands got signed. The scene these days is nowhere near what it was like. First the clubs started closing down then Napster show up and changed the music business forever. Lars saw the righting on the wall and was vilified for trying to put a stop to it. I know a band from Israel……Linked…..these guys are really good. They got to go on one tour in Europe, put out an EP and recorded an album that never got released. After 5 years they were force to call it quits. Everyone wants music for free these days and new bands can’t make enough money to get anywhere. This is what Napster has done to the music business. Gene Simmons said it best……(Rock n Roll is dead and you killed it). You can get mad if you want but it’s the truth. Go to Band Camp and get “Linked”.
How deep were you involved in the underground scene? Did you perhaps take part in the tapetrading/fanzine network, that played an important role in the underground scene?
I didn’t really take part in tape trading that much. I didn’t find out about tape trading until I was in Fuhrer. Our drummer Eddie Colmenares took care of that for the band. I was mostly busy booking shows and promoting them. Ed and I would share the responsibility in the promotion department. We designed flyers and got them out to the people.
Which fanzines do you recall of? The New Heavy Metal Revue, Metal Mania and Headbanger were the first ones, but a lot/million of fanzines popped up later on, such as Kick Ass Monthly, Brain Damage, Violent Noize, Midwest Militia, Metal Meltdown, The Book Of Armageddon, the list goes on…
That was a long time ago; I don’t remember the names of any of the fanzines that were out back then.
After you left EXODUS, you joined OUTRAGE. Since I haven’t found any informations about this outfit, can you tell us detailed about it? I mean, line up, rehearsals, recordings etc…
Outrage was formed by Tim Agnello after he left Exodus. He had a full band until his bass player quit. That’s when he contacted me and asked me to join. I hadn’t played with any one since I split with Exodus. I have no idea what happened between Tim and Exodus. Outrage’s original bass player also did the singing with the band so we needed a singer also, that’s when we found David Vanderhoff. Ed Clare was on drums. We were sort of a cross between Hard Rock and Metal. Outrage is where I honed my song writing abilities and found my voice. We made one 4 song demo but I have no idea what happened to it. I was very much into Iron Maiden at the time and my song writing reflected it. We were together for about 2 -3 years. Ed eventually quit because he didn’t like the image of our singer. Dave loved David Lee Roth and had the same personality. Dave used to be one those people you liked or didn’t. After Ed quit the band sort of fell apart. Tim and I eventually got back together to try and resurrect the band. We found a drummer and started writing to build a set. That’s when Blizzard asked me to join. I discovered Slayer during this time and my song writing started to change Tim and our drummer weren’t into thrash, Blizzard was. They gave me the opportunity to do what I wanted to.
How long did OUTRAGE exist at all?
About 2-3 years.
Then you joined BLIZZARD, were you a founder member of this act or did you enter them to replace Jeff Becerra, who went on to join POSSESSED?
Blizzard was formed by Jeff and Larry. Jeff told me that when he was in grade school he and Larry saw Outrage play at my mom’s school and that’s when they knew what they wanted to do for the rest of their lives. My Mom was one of their teachers. When Jeff joined Possessed Blizzard asked me to join.
How about the line-up of the band at all?
Blizzard was Mike Miner-drums, Larry Lalonde-guitar, Danny Boland-guitar, Matt Wheeler-vocals, me on Bass.
Were you more experienced (and perhaps younger) compared to them, since you played earlier with EQUINOX, EXODUS and OUTRAGE? How about the musical background of the other members?
I was much older than the rest of the band. They didn’t think I would join because of our age difference. But I liked what they were doing and wanted to contribute to that.
What were the influences of BLIZZARD? Would you call it a thrash metal band?
Thrash was new and all five of us were into it. It was nice being on the same page with everyone in the Band for a change.
If I’m correct BLIZZARD released three demos, what do you recall of the recording sessions of those demos? How did they sound like?
Blizzard had 2 demos and a practice tape that was released. I recorded the 2nd demo and was on the practice tape. I had no idea the practice tape was released until recently.
Were the demos shopped around to attract labels interests? Did the demos perhaps help the band to expand a fan base?
We broke up before any of that happed. Possessed was on the verge of getting signed and they asked Larry to join. Larry and I talked about him joining Possessed, I thought it was a good idea and told him he should do it. That’s what we were doing this for and it was a great opportunity. Needless to say our Manager Debi Abono and the rest of the Band thought it was a bad idea and blamed me for breaking the band up. We didn’t talk for years after that.
Have you often gigged with BLIZZARD?
That was a long time ago; I have no idea how many gigs we played. One gig does stand out. We played with Mercyful Fate, Exodus, Possessed, and Sentinel Beast. At sound check Exodus, Possessed and Blizzard got the idea to combine our cabinets and make a huge solid wall. Fate hated the idea and told us to take it down because the crowd couldn’t see there equipment. We told them to Fuck Off and left it up. The show sold out and there was a huge crowd. Our guitarist Danny Boland got stage fright and quit the band an hour before we were supposed to go on. We soon broke up after that show.
Have you ever got a chance/possibility being featured on compilations, such as „Metal Massacre” etc.?
Fuhrer is on the Eastern Front album that Wes Robinson put out. Our song “Too War” is on it. That was the one song where our guitarist Jim was out of tune and it ended up on the album.
At the mid ’80s was a kind of thrash metal boom in the Bay Area more and more newer outfits started popping up, such as FORBIDDEN EVIL, DEATH PENALTY (later known as VIO-LENCE), DEFIANCE, REDRUM, SENTINEL BEAST, MERCENARY, DESECRATION, EPIDEMIC etc., to which extent were you familiar with these bands? Were they the second generation of thrash metal?
We were the First Generation of Thrash Metal. There were so many Bands in the Bay Area during the 80s I can’t even begin to tell you all of them there were. Some of us made it into the world and most of us didn’t. Most of us are still friends and still talk from time to time. Facebook has brought a lot of us back together.
Compared to the New York or Los Angeles based thrash bands, the Bay Area ones were more melodic, technical, had a tight rhythm section, catchy riffs, killer solos and often sing along choruses, do you agree with it?
The Bay Area and Los Angeles Thrash was basically the same….so I would call it a California thing. As far as I’m concerned we were Heavier than anyone else. There were only a few New York thrash bands that I got into so I can’t really comment on them. “Slayer” and “Abattoir” may be from LA but they played in the Bay Area enough to be classified as a one of us.
Were the Bay Area bands easily distinguishable from each other in terms of songwriting, producing, sound etc.? Did all of them have an own/unique music, style, sound etc.?
Most of the bands were very distinguishable from one another but some weren’t. When it came to metal in the Bay Area Thrash took a firm foot hold of a lot of musician. There were also Hard Rock and Power Metal bands. There was a large Punk scene also but I wasn’t really into punk that much so I can’t really say anything about it.
Would you say, that „Bonded By Blood” is a milestone in thrash metal and if it had been released the same year as „Kill ’Em All” or „Show No Mercy”, as intended, it’s almost certain, that EXODUS would’ve seen similar success?
The thing that held Exodus back was that someone leaked their first album to the public. Poor record sales and the fact that just about everyone had “Bonded by Blood”.
Your next act, where you were involved in, was FÜHRER, at which point was it formed? Was the lineup you on bass/vocals, Eddie Colmenares on drums and Jim Lapin and Terry Scott on guitars right from the start?
FÜHRER was formed after Blizzard fell apart. Ed, Jim, Terry and I met after that. I don’t remember where or how we met. It was some time in the mid-80s and we’ve been friends ever since. We even stayed friends after we broke up. FÜHRER was the four of us with David Vanderhoof on vocals at the beginning. After we started playing around the Bay Dave got blackballed by all of the clubs everyone played at. We don’t know how it happened or why, no one would ever tell us. I only found out because one of my friends who managed a few bands told me. I took the news back to Ed, Jim, and Terry. We decided we had to let Dave go. We didn’t want to let him go but we had no choice. The part that sucked was we had a show booked and they were going to kick us off the bill. We decided that I would take over the singing duties since I wrote all of the words anyway. I had 3 days to learn how to play bass and sing all of the songs. On top of everything going on we lost our practice studio. Luckily Exodus let us use theirs. The first day of practice Kirk Hammet called me and said he had back stage passed to Rush. I couldn’t go because I had to learn the set. I was totally pissed off. Later that night my girlfriend comes knocking at my window about 3am and she says “guess where I went tonight?” She got my pass from Kirks sister and met Rush. I was not happy.
What about the musical past of the other guys?
I think FÜHRER was their first band….but don’t quote me because I could be wrong.
To what did the name of the band refer? It means in English „leader”, right?
I can’t remember who came up with the name but everyone liked it but Terry. We had to talk him into it. The way we saw it was (I was black, Ed was South America, and Jim was Jewish and Mexica) so there was no way anyone was going to think we were Nazi’s. Terry and Dave were the only ones who had any German in them. Most people didn’t care about the name and others thought it was really cool. There were a few who wanted us to change it. One guy came up to me after a show crying and begged me to change the name. I thought it was hella funny. At the time I wanted the name just to draw attention to the band. I wanted to be like Gene Simmons and Kiss and merchandise the hell out of the band.
Is it correct, that you first appeared on the „Live at Ruthies Inn” with the song „Too War” from 1985? What were the bands that were featured on this sampler besides you?
There was about 2 or 3 of those albums. I cant remember which one we were on. I just remember that on our song “Too War” Jim was out of tune. We went to the record store and bought the album. On the way back I remembered that when “Too War” was recorded Jim was out of tune and mentioned it to the band. We started to panic and hoped Wes was smart enough to realize we were out of tune and didn’t use that song…..but of course he did. He recorded us on 3 separate occasions and that version of “Too War” was the only song out of tune and he used it. Go figure.
Did it help you to increase a fan base for the band?
Not that I know of. I don’t even know how many copies of that album sold. There were a bunch of bands who played Ruthies on a regular basis and I don’t know anyone who has the album but me.
You released only one demo in 1986, could you tell us everything about this effort?
We met a guy who had a studio in our home town of Richmond and he was trying to keep it alive. He gave us a really good deal on the studio. Gary Holt found out we were going to record a Demo and he wanted to produce it. Gary was learning his way around the studio at the time and he had more experience in the studio then we did. Plus the guy who owned to studio didn’t know Metal that well and Gary did. All around it was our first effort and we were happy with it.
Did the demo really represent what you wanted to achieve FÜHRER with?
It did at the time. When we first started we used some of the songs I was working on with Blizzard and stuff I wrote between bands. I am always working on new material in some form or another. Artistic creation keeps me sane. After my last band broke up I got into loop and midi based music. You don’t need other musicians to make your own music when you use a computer.
Was the demo well received?
We gave a lot away. We gave them away at shows and sent them around to the world. I’m sure there are some tapes still floating around out there somewhere.
Did you start working on other songs after the demo came out? Did you have perhaps material written, that never were released?
We were working on new material right before we broke up; it was more progressive than what was on the demo. Terry and I had a few songs we were working on; musically Terry and I were headed to the same place. Even after we broke up and went our separate ways we ended up in the same place musically……Progressive Metal. I wish we could have had the chance to record our new stuff but Bands are a finite animal and it wasn’t to be.
Why and when did the band split up? What kind of reasons did lead to the demise of the band?
The band wanted a front man on vocals and didn’t want me singing any more. I got used to doing the singing and like it. I wasn’t planning on stopping so I quit. Most of the music was mine so everybody had to start over. They formed another band and I went on to form Colonel Flagg.
Could you give us a detailed sum up your other musical activities, such as REPULSA, COLONEL FLAGG etc.?
Colonel Flagg was formed by me and Tim Agnello after Fuhrer broke up. Tim was managing Fuhrer at the time of our break up. Tim wanted to start playing again so we came to terms on what kind of music we were going to do. We put out an ad for a drummer and found Scott McKenzie. Scott knew guitarist Todd Langner and he completed the lineup. We were together for about 2 years until things fell apart. I then rebuilt the band with Devin Walker and Randy Markham on Guitars and Rick Durocher on drums. Eventually Scott came back and we had a solid lineup for a while. Repulsa was a side project of one of Scott’s friends and she needed a band. We helped with songs and recorded a Demo and CD for her. After Colonel Flagg broke up for good I didn’t do much for a while. Then Devin called me and we started Pipe 13. We released one demo then broke up. I’ve been making music on my own since 2000 under the names “The Pole Project” and “Prophets of Conviction”. If you google them it will come up. I mainly write music for me these days and if others like what I’m doing all the better.
Did you take part on the Thrash of the Titans, that was a benefit concert held on August 11, 2001 at the Maritime Hall in San Francisco and the concert was a co-benefit for TESTAMENT vocalist Chuck Billy, who was diagnosed with germ cell seminoma (a rare form of cancer); and Chuck Schuldiner, leader of DEATH, who was also battling cancer?
No I didn’t take part in that.
By the way, do like the present METALLICA, EXODUS, TESTAMENT, DEATH ANGEL etc. albums? Did they change in one way or another compared to their early days?
I’ve only heard the new Metallica and Exodus CDs. Exodus seems like they are getting back to basics with their new stuff. I’m a bigger fan of their music with Rob, some of the heaviest stuff I’ve heard in a long time. I like the new Metallica also. Sounds like James has been busy and he felt like taking control of the band back.
During the years a lot of Bay Area musicians passed away, such as Cliff Burton, Jon Torres, Sam Kress, Jim Lapin etc., how do you feel about it?
Jim was my friend and band mate. When you’re in a band with someone they become Family. Cliff and I knew each other but not well, the other two I didn’t know.
Who are/were your best friends from the Bay Area scene? Are you still in touch with some Bay Area musicians?
None of us hang out like we used to but we still run into each other from time to time. Facebook keeps everyone in contact with each other. Some people you just loose contact with.
What were the highlights and the low points in your career during the years? Are you satisfied with it or could it have been better?
The 80s and 90s were the high points. The low point was that I never got signed. Always got close but then someone in the band would quit and derail the whole process. It’s hard to keep everyone on the same page musically. The key to making it in the music business is staying together and remaining committed to the goal at hand. None of my bands would stay together long enough to get anywhere.
Do you still keep an eye on what’s going on in the metal scene? How do you view the scene these days compared to the glorious ’80s?
I don’t pay much attention to the scene these days it’s not the same as it was. All of the clubs in the Bay Area have closed down and few have taken their place. I just pay attention to the music that I’m into and sometimes I discover something new.
Carlton, thanks a lot for your answers.
Interview by Leslie David