Guys, what can you tell us about the 80’s metal scene of Atlanta? What were the most known/popular bands and venues/clubs in the city?
Rick MacConnell [RM]: At that time, the metal scene was really concentrated in Los Angeles and New York. The Atlanta music scene was more eclectic. The clubs where metal bands played were underground and served a wide variety of music genres. You might go to the same club on a Tuesday and see a touring reggae band, on Thursday there could be a hardcore punk band and on Friday, a metal act. Many bands who have gone on to become huge were touring out of vans at the time. Bands like Megadeth, Venom and King Diamond all came through and played venues of 300 seats or so. Crossover was really going strong then as well so bands like D.R.I. and Corrosion of Conformity drew large crowds.
Ed Reimer [ER]: The Atlanta Metal scene of the 80’s was bigger than it seemed at the time. You could go see local metal bands every weekend at multiple venues around town. Also, Atlanta was a tour stop for metal bands of all sizes, so you could see pretty much anyone you wanted to if they were touring the country. One of the biggest metal bands to come out of Atlanta in the 80’s was Hallows Eve. We were good friends with them, and our pre-Kinetic Dissent band (The M.D.T.) opened for them a lot. Some of the other local Atlanta bands we shared the stage with were Nihilist, Threshold of Pain, Mess of Bones, Cyanide, Saboteur, Smartass, Ghost Story, and Necropolis – to name just a few.
Dwight Irvin [DI]: There were lots of clubs around town that would book local Metal bands. The biggest and best of those clubs was The Metroplex. We played there many time either opening for national acts like Death Angel, or headlining our own show. The Metroplex is where touring Metal bands would play on their early tours.
Was there a healthy scene, by the way?
E. R.: Yes. The Atlanta metal scene was quite healthy. You could go see a national or local band pretty much every weekened if you wanted to. There was always a show going on. Every now and then, we’d get really lucky and a touring act that was popular outside the US would come through town to a smaller venue.
R. M.: One night after rehearsal, we went over to a popular underground club in town and saw Loudness. There were maybe 50 people there, but they played like it was a stadium. It was a fantastic show.
D. I.: There were other scenes going on in the city at the same time as well. You had R.E.M. influencing many of the alternative bands and there was a more pure rock scene that created the Black Crowes. All that was going on at the same time.
Were there any fanzines as well?
[RM] Fanzines were what got us recognized outside of Atlanta. Getting a positive review in a fanzine back then was absolutely critical. Outside of having a record deal, fanzines and tape trading were really the only ways to get your name out back then. We were always diligent about sending our music to popular fanzines in hopes of getting some exposure.
[ER] There were always Fanzines getting circulated around the scene, but not sure how many of them were based in Atlanta. Once we started making demos, we sent copies to many of the better known Fanzines, and were reviewed in several and interviewed for a few as well. To be honest, we didn’t really care where the Fanzine was based as long as it was getting the word out about the band. We sent tapes overseas frequently. It seemed like Europe had a more sophisticated fanzine culture than the US back then.
Kinetic Dissent was formed in 1987 by Ed Reimer drums, Dwight Bales vocals and Stephen Danyo guitars/bass, how did you get together?
E. R.: Steve, Rick, and I all went to the same high school. Steve and I were childhood friends even before that. Steve went to live in Heidelberg, Germany for a few years and discovered a lot of NWOBHM over there. When he came back, he’d amassed a huge record collection of metal music. That turned us on to a lot of music we’d not heard before. This was around 1981-82. The first time Steve and I met Rick was going to see Judas Priest on the Screaming for Vengence tour stop in Atlanta. Dwight went to a neighboring school, and was found through a general search for a singer using local classifieds. We all shared a love of the same bands – mainly the NWOBHM and their US counterparts.
R. M.: All of us had this attitude that we didn’t want to be just fans of the music, we wanted to make our own. We were all devoted musicians at the time and spent hours practicing on our own. Eventually, we decided to start writing songs and recording them. That part was really critical for us. From the beginning, we recorded ourselves frequently and listened back to the music to see if it sounded the way we’d envisioned. We worked in cycles writing songs, recording on our 4 track tape recorder and saving up money to go in to an actual studio in Atlanta. When we had a new batch of songs, we’d all pitch in and buy hours in a studio to properly record them. It was a lot of fun and we always enjoyed being in the studio. Back then, studios were still very expensive and required a ton of equipment and expertise so using your time wisely was important. These days, with a good set of microphones, a Mac and a copy of Pro Tools, you can get studio quality recordings. The production quality of records these days is amazing compared to what you heard back then.
What about your previous bands The M. D. T. and Den Of Thieves? Would you say, that Kinetic Dissent was born on the ashes of The M. D. T.?
E. R.: The MDT days were pre-Kinetic Dissent (with Rick, Steve, and me), and was something we did for fun while we were trying to find a singer for our „real” band. We wanted to play, but we did not have a singer. So, we recruited a friend of ours (Mr. Chad) to be our singer, and formed a hardcore band in the vein of D.R.I. and S.O.D. We did that for a couple of years around 1985-86 and had fun, but once we found Dwight we focused on Kinetic Dissent. Also, this was around the time Rick moved to Texas, so it was a natural time for a change. Fast forwarding, Den of Thieves was a band formed by Rick and me after Kinetic Dissent disbanded around 1992. It was more of a straight-ahead metal band and did not have the thrash or progressive styles that Kinetic Dissent included.
Did you have a clear vision of the musical path that you wanted to follow?
R. M.: It wasn’t really a conscious decision, but we knew we wanted to be a guitar driven metal band. We individually liked all kinds of music (and still do), and Kinetic Dissent was influenced greatly by the NWOBHM and the early thrash bands of the early and mid 80’s. We always focused on creating music that was unique. We didn’t want to be lazy in our songwriting or put out a song that sounded like any other band. We tried very hard to develop original ideas that had a sound that identified us. We would often record ideas for songs and then throw them away because they sounded too much like someone else. We also tried very hard to write lyrics that were thoughtful and made a statement. It was important to us to be original.
What acts would you cite as your main/most important influences?
E. R.: Again, we all liked different stuff. But, as a whole the band was influenced by Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, and all the other bands they influenced plus those early thrash bands like Anthrax and Death Angel.
R. M.: One of the elements that we did incorporate early on was speed. When the song Fast as a Shark was released by Accept, we all connected with that. They were doing something with the tempo that was new and sounded cool. When the first Metal Massacre compilation came out, you heard bands really increasing the tempo of their songs. We loved that and made it a part of our sound. We also liked progressive bands like Rush and Watchtower. We wanted that element of musicianship to be a part of our sound while also making it accessible. You can hear bits of the early two guitar bands like Priest and Maiden in our music. You can also hear the tempo made popular by Anthrax and Metallica. Having good vocals was also important to us. We were listening to bands with singers who had great ranges like Priest, Metal Church and Riot and wanted that to be a part of our sound as well.
Did you start writing originals or were you mostly jamming on covers?
D. I.: Like every band getting started, we played covers in rehearsals. But, we wanted to be an original band from the start. We usually placed one cover song in our live set for fun (Hendrix’s Fire, X’s Hungry Wolf, or Rolling Stones’ Paint it Black for example), but we never played a covers, only set live.
You recorded your first demo The Fall of Individualism, what do you recall of it in terms of songs, songwriting, production, recordings etc.?
E. R.: Our first demo was really just the first 6 songs we had written as a band. We owned our own 4-track studio, so we wanted to record them and produce a demo once we felt we were ready. That demo is 100% self-produced. I was still in high school when it was recorded and released. Steve and Dwight were out of high school only a year or two themselves. We were very young! That recording process was critical to the bands growth.
R. M.: At the time, scrounging up the money to buy a 4 track recorder took a lot of work. Even though it was primitive, having the ability to record multiple tracks and mix them was huge for us. We learned both a lot about the recording process as well as learning about how to assemble a song. We were always working on demos. In those days, everything was recorded to tape so it wasn’t as easy to go back and reassemble pieces of songs as it is today. We had to record riffs on a boombox and then remember which tapes they were on later when we were working on new music. We envy the folks today who can record everything on their iPhone and index it for use later.
Did this demo see you standing beside your colleagues from the American speed/power metal movement, coming up with a roughly produced, but highly inspired concoction of power, speed and quite a bit of thrash?
E. R.: Yes. We always wrote songs that we liked to hear. We didn’t try to write what we thought others liked.
R. M.: We knew that if we liked it and it was something we wanted to hear that others out there would feel the same. Originality was a priority for us. We didn’t want to sound like a clone of any other music out there. We spent a lot of time working on new material. We aspired to be a technical band that could play fast and also had great songwriting. For us, the song mattered more than anything. If the entire composition didn’t stand on it’s own, we threw it out and started over.
It was recorded and mixed in at The Pawn Shop, Pine Lake, GA, was it your first studio experience?
E. R.: The Pawn Shop was our rehearsal space. We literally rented the basement room of a local Pawn Shop and rehearshed there. We recorded that first demo on our 4-Track studio to cassette. We had used the same 4-track in the past to record other various songs and ideas, but this was the first Kinetic Dissent recordings.
R. M.: Over the years, we acquired microphones, mixers and some outboard gear like compressors. We had our own mini studio and were learning how to record as we went. Back then, it was very technically complex. You had to worry about where each microphone was placed and how best to capture the atmosphere without overprocessing everything. It was a great experience that helped us later on when we went into more professional studios to record.
D. I.: For something the like the song The Price of Defense it was a very difficult process to mix since we had multiple spoken word sections we had recorded from a TV show that was used for the intro. All done with just 4 tracks! It was hard work, but it was fun.
Since the band didn’t have a bassist during recording, Stephen Danyo played bass, but credit was given to Frank Winter, a fictional person named after a school friend, is that correct?
E. R.: Yes, that is correct. We did not want to wait until we found a bassist before recording our first demo. So, Steve played both guitar and bass on the demo and we used the name of one our school friends as an inside joke. It was our salute to the movie Spinal Tap in a way. Also, having that first demo recorded help make finding a bassist that much easier.
A year later you became five piece, when bassist Troy Stephens and guitarist Rick MacConnell joined the band, while Stephen switched on guitars, how did they come in the picture exactly?
E. R.: Troy we found through using local classifieds and auditions. We did not know him before that, but he was a perfect fit both muscally and personally for us as we were looking for a bassist that played with his figers versus a pick. As for Rick, Steve and I knew Rick all through high school. But, Rick moved to Texas to go to college before Kinetic Dissent was formed. After living in Texas for a year and playing in Eldritch Rite there, Rick moved back to Atlanta and was immediately welcomed into the band. Having a second guitar opened up a lot of possibilities in song construction that were important to our overall vision.
Were they the first choices or did you audition other musicians as well?
E. R.: We found Troy first, and he was the result of auditioning several local bassists. When Troy came in to audition, we knew he was the one. His style fit in perfectly with us. We then began auditioning guistarists as we knew we wanted to be a 2-guitar band. But, we were not having any luck finding a good fit. So, we actually booked our first show as a 4-piece. Then, a few weeks before that first show, Rick moved back to Atlanta from Texas. Rick wanted to join, and we all wanted him to join. It was a no-brainer, and he learned the songs in time for that first live show.
What about the musical background of them? From what I know, Rick has been in Eldritch Rite…
E. R.: Correct. When Rick moved out to Texas to attend University he joined Eldritch Rite. But since he was already close friends with Steve and me, he was welcomed with open arms when he moved back to Atlanta from Texas. As for Troy, he had played in other local bands earlier in his career, but we had not seen any of those bands live. We clicked with him after auditioning and a few reheaseal sessions. His style (playing with his fingers instead of a pick) was what we were looking for.
Do you anything know about, that Rick had made plans in early 1987 to form a band named Allied Dominion with Steve Murphy and Chad Randolph and although a promo bio and logo were printed, the band never had a practice or came to be?
R. M.: Yes. I knew Steve Murphy from Eldritch Rite and forming this band with Chad was discussed when that band broke up. In the end, we never got together and I moved back to Atlanta joining Kinetic Dissent. That was a tough decision but the momentum behind Kinetic Dissent was building, they had a great sounding demo with well written songs.
When you started rehearsing with Troy and Rick, did you immediately feel that they were the right guys for Kinetic Dissent?
E. R.: Yes. Absolutely. As important as ability on your instrument and musical styles are, the 5 of us just enjoyed writing and playing songs together.
R. M.: One of the most difficult things to do is create art with a group of other people. Everyone has to be open-minded and willing to expore ideas while, at the same time, holding true to a vision. We all had the same vision for the band and its music. That made things very easy for us. When it came time to write songs, we all knew when we’d found the right path. If something didn’t sound right, we didn’t fight over it. We had a natural connection that allowed us to key in to each other and the sound we wanted to create.
D. I.: We were (and are) great friends enjoy hanging out with each other even when instruments are not involved.
How long did it take you to come up with newer material with them? Did they add/inject any new to the music?
E. R.: Rick and Troy immediately injected new song ideas. You can hear the growth from the first demo to Controlled Reaction and they were both a big part of that growth of the band. 3 of the 4 songs on Controlled Reaction have co-writes from Rick or Troy.
D. I.: Their impact on the overall sound of the band was immediate.
Your second effort was Controlled Reaction, that contained four compositions of outstanding refined, technical thrash which put you alongside outfits like Realm, Watchtower, and Toxik, how do you view it?
E. R.: Controlled Reaction holds a special place to us. It’s the demo that got circulated underground through fanzines all over the world. Remember, this was the late ’80’s. There was no internet. The fanzines were the internet back then.
R. M.: But, we had no way of knowing how wide spread the demo had been traded until we started seeing things from Europe and Brazil that we had nothing to do with!
D. I.: Controlled Reaction is also the demo that got us signed. So, that’s another reason it’s will always be special to us.
Did you develop a lot compared to the first demo?
E. R.: Yes, we did. It was a combination of natural growth that every band goes through and the addition of Rick and Troy. The first demo was really the first 6 songs we wrote.
R. M.: It was a great start, but we knew we had more in us and Controlled Reaction is evidence of that. When we recorded those four songs, we knew we’d done something powerful. They were technically strong, catchy and worked well together as a collection. We were starting to explore things like gang vocals, different time signatures and longer guitar solos which all contributed to the evolution on Controlled Reaction.
In 1989 Roadrunner Record Sessions was an uncirculated demo recorded to demonstrate new songs for Roadrunner Records, how did you get in touch with them? Did they ask you to hear newer songs?
E. R.: We were put in touch with Roadrunner via one of the fanzines that really championed the Controlled Reaction demo. Roadrunner was interested enough to send us into the studio to record 4 of our newer songs. The label liked what they heard, so we were able to sign a deal with them. We never bothered to circulate that demo as once we knew we were headed to the studio to record a full-length album, that’s where we focused all of our energy.
Was it a better representation of the band?
E. R: Since that demo for Roadrunner was 4 of our newer songs at that time, it was a good representation as to the kind of material we were writing and performing. As a band, we never stood still. We were always evolving.
Does it mean, that besides Roadrunner, weren’t any other labels interests in the band?
E. R.: We did get interest from other labels, most notably, we had interest from MCA records new imprint at that time Mechanix Records. But, the story we heard on that was MCA was interested in only signing one metal band, and that ended up being Vio-lence.
R. M.: Thankfully, they referred us to Roadrunner which opened the door for our eventually signing with them. So may great metal bands have signed to Roadrunner since, it’s good to know that we were a part of something that has stood the test of time and fostered so much great music.
Choose Your Fate appeared on the Metal Disorder compilation, did it help to make a name for the band?
E. R.: Wow! This is the first we’ve heard of that. That’s great! We wish we knew about it at the time. We’re sure being on any kind of compilation like that helped get our name out there.
R. M.: The same thing with many of the underground radio stations. We got word that some metal radio programs in Europe played the Controlled Reaction demo as well. If only we had the internet back then, it would have been much easier for us to monitor and communicate with people who supported us like that. Thanks for letting us know about that.
Did you do a fairly good job on the demo stage?
R. M.: Yes, we believe so. We enjoyed the studio experience. It’s always fun to track the songs you spent so long writing and rehearsing and then hearing that final product playback and mixed for the first time. It was always a great feeling hearing a song in your head, working it out in rehearsal and then hearing it properly recorded. When it matches what you envisioned, it’s a special feeling. In some ways, we enjoyed writing and working in the studio more than performing live. We were always exploring new ideas.
When did you start working on your debut album I Will Fight No More Forever?
E. R.: We had been writing the songs that ended up on the album during the months and years leading up to heading into the studio in January 1991. You know what they say, „You have your whole life to write your first album!” The only song we wrote in the studio was the instrumental I Will Fight No More Forever. In fact that song was recorded in one take! It just happened very naturally.
From 1/91 to 2/91 you worked at Channel One Studios, Atlanta, GA, how did the recording sessions go? Were you prepared to cut the material?
E. R.: The sessions went well, and we were prepared to record the material. We used Donal Jones who had recorded 2 of Hallows Eve’s albums as well. Channel One studios was a place that recorded religious material during the daytime, but Donal was allowed to bring bands in at night and on the weekends. So, it was Angels by day, Devils by night we used to joke!
D. I.: Donal let us take as much time as we needed to record and mix since we weren’t under the kind of pressue of a commercial studio. Of course, that luxury was both positive and negative because it meant we spent more time in the studio since we could only record on nights and weekends.
About one and a half year passed between the Roadrunner… demo and the recording of the album, why did you have to wait so much? Didn’t you have the possibility to enter the studio earlier?
R. M.: Some of that delay was just Roadrunner waiting to offer us the deal after we sent them the demo. Then, Donal had to clear his schedule for us so that we could have exclusive use of the studio to record. Between those 2 things, it took around a year before we got into the studio.
Did you get a decent budget to record the album?
E. R.: It was enough for what we needed to do. We paid a fixed total amount for studio time. But since it was not a commercial studio, we were not held to a fixed number of hours. It was a good situation for a band recrding their first album. It took some of that pressure off of us to „get it done NOW!”
How do you think, that progressive metal as a genre had it’s most fruitful span in the break of late 80’s and early 90’s?
E. R.: That period of time was good for progressive metal bands. You had Queensryche at their peak with Operation Mindcrime and Empire as well as bands like Fates Warning, Dream Theater, Crimson Glory, Watchtower and others. It was a good sound that crossed over. Prog metal fans could also be fans of thrash or even more commercial hair metal bands.
Can you tell us in detail about the record?
R. M.: We laid down the basic tracks in around 2 weeks. We played live in the studio, but only recorded the drums. After that, we went back and recorded bass and guitars and, finally vocals. One of the most interesting parts about recording that album is that Donal was still using a two inch tape machine so we would have to load up the reels of our tracks, find the one we were working on and start recording. We were in the studio one day and Donal heard a stick click in one of the drum tracks. He looked around and said “I can fix that.” We sat and watch while he slowly rolled the tape reels back and forth until he heard the click. He then took a razor blade and cut the tape (which caused us to all freak out), after overlapping a couple of inches of tape he spliced it back together and the stick click was gone. Those were the kinds of techniques that were widely used before digital recording. We then spent the next few months finalizing and mixing.
E. R.: Since we had the flexibility of not being „on the clock” and could only work nights and weekends, we wound up taking longer than we hoped to get everything completed. But, we were happy with the final results. So, that is a much better story than telling you we rushed through the studio process and were not happy with the results.
Did the album feature a wide range of compositional varieties?
E. R.: Yes, it did. There are many different styles and influences on display on I Will Fight No More Forever. You had more sraight-ahead thrash songs like Cults of Unreason and Social Syndrome as well as more experimental progressive tracks like Reworked, Testing Ground and the title track. And then you have a track like Melanin which has a grunge sound to it, but grunge had not become known nationally yet.
Is every song greatly enjoyable and brings something unique to the table?
E. R.: All the songs were fun to play and record. There is a little bit of everything within the 9 tracks on the album. We felt they were the best songs we had when we went into the studio.
R. M.: Had we been granted a second album, it would have been interesting to see if we would have included some of our older songs that were on the early demos.
Were there any shows or tours in support of the album?
E. R.: Unfortunately, we were never able to get onto a touring bill. That was not something the Roadrunner helped us with, and we were self-managed. We did have a good booking agent for the Atlanta area that helped us get good shows at home like opening for Pantera on their Cowboys From Hell tour. We were able to book some of our own shows elsewhere in the Southeast states, but not a proper tour.
R. M.: In hindsight, we really could have used a manager that would have helped us with things like that which we did not have any experience with. We had a couple of conversations about going to Europe and should have done that when we had the chance. We were selling more records over there than in the US at the time.
Why and when did Stephen Danyo leave the band? Did you start/try to find a new guitarist instead of him?
E. R.: Steve was a founding member and a big part of the Kinetic Dissent sound. As we were recording I Will Fight No More Forever, his musical tastes were changing, and he was just no longer happy continuing.
R. M.: The remaining 4 of us wanted to continue as a 4-piece and while we like the twin guitar line up, we decided to stay a 4-piece as we were happy with the material we were creating at the time.
D. I.: Plus, we had been together for so long, we knew it would be hard for someone new to integrate our tight-knit circle.
In 1992 you released the Channel One Sessions demo, what was the goal of this recording? Where do you find the similarities and differences between this material and the full-length?
E. R.: Once Steve left the band, we wanted to get in the studio and record some of our post I Will Fight... material. Since we were always evolving, we wanted fans to be able to purchase that demo at shows as it reflected more accurately where we were as a 4-piece. We also sent the demo to Roadrunner, but they declined, which is why there was never a second album recorded. That was most record label’s business model back then. Sign a band to a one album contract with a label option for 10 more so that if they became the next Metallica, they could sell the rights to a major label for millions. When you didn’t become the next Metallica, they could just drop you. It was unfortunate, but that’s how it worked in those days.
At which point did the band split up? What have you done all of you after the demise of Kinetic Dissent?
E. R.: We carried on as a 4-piece for around a year or so, but we weren’t able to get the traction and buzz around us that we had before. We agreed to split up with no hard feelings toward each other, which is nice. We’re all still friends to this day. Rick and I formed Den of Thieves that was a more straight-ahead metal band that lasted a couple of years and Troy played with a few Atlanta area bands, most noteably Pusher. These days, everyone makes a living with „real” jobs, but still enjoying seeing each other when we can to share a meal, some drinks, and cut up like the old days.
Last year Divebomb Records released the Controlled Reaction: The Demo Anthology, how did it come into reality? Were all of you involved in the project?
E. R.: Stay Heavy magazine from Russia found me online and sent me an interview request (a lot like how this interview happened!). Konstatin from Stay Heavy is friends with Matt Rudzinski at Divebomb and he’s been interested in releasing our demo tracks for years, but never was able to get in touch with us. In many ways, it was a lot like the old days where a „friend of a friend” connects you with and opportunity. But in the old days it all happened in the same city. Now, you can do that with people from around the world! We were heavily involved in the project and supplied the masters, photos, interview, lyrics, etc. Divebomb did the hard part and put it all together and made it available to the world. We appreciate it and had fun doing it. It brought back a lot of great memories.
R. M.: If you are a fan of the band, it’s a must have. It’s everything we recorded with the exception of I Will Fight... in one place and sounds great. Matt and his team did a fantastic job.
Do you still follow what’s going on in the metal scene these days?
E. R.: Sure. We are all still big fans of music in general. Our hearts and our history is with metal music, but we all listen to just about every kind of music imaginable, just as we did back in the 80’s. In metal, the original guys like Anthrax, Death Angel and Testament are still knocking it out of the park with their new releases.
R. M.: Plus, you have newer bands like Lamb of God, Mastodon and Gojira (also on Roadrunner) that are carrying on what was started in the 80’s. It’s all great!
Guys, thanks a lot for the answers, what are your closing words?
All: It will never cease to amaze us that the Kinetic Dissent name has lived on like this. If you had told us 30 years ago that in 2020 & 2021 we would do interviews for magazines in Russia and Hungary PLUS release all our demos on CD, we would not have believed you. We truly appreciate all the fans out there who keep the Kinetic Dissent name alive. You all are the best!
Interview by Leslie David
Answers by Ed Reimer [ER] (Drums), Rick MacConnell [RM] (Guitar), and Dwight Irvin [DI] (Vocals)