Robert, how did you discover music and hard rock/heavy metal particular? What were the first songs, records, that had a great effect/influence on you?
Well when I was a young kid I use to go to WinterLand in SF My "home town" to see lots of Rock bands live. Robin Trower and Black Sabbath opened my eyes to Hard Rock. Then I really got into Punk Rock like the Sex Pistols, Stiff little fingers,the Damned,Cockney Rejects, and GBH!!! I am a native San Franciscan, when I was 13 I use to go to a place called Winterland to watch rock bands like the Who, Black Sabbath, Robin Trower thay influenced me early on. My older brother had a guitar laying around the house all the time and I use to pick it up and make noise and try to play .... good old Smoke on the Water. Lol
Were there any record stores, where you could buy European releases?
The Record Vault was the place to go for punk and Metal. Punk Rockers and Metal Maniacs all went there. I use to go to tower records on Columbus st in SF. Later on came the record Vault in SF it had all the music you couldn't find but wanted fround around the world.
How did you end up becoming musician? Did your parents support your musical endeavours?
My older brother use to have a guitar laying around while growing up and I use to mess around with it. I never really got serious about learning until about 18yrs old. Parents didn't trip on things, they both worked. Around 18yrs old I got into Punk Rock, Sex Pistols, Cockney Rejects, Johnny Thunder, The Damned and Especially GBH!!! I loved that hard driving sound. My parents said okay as long as I stayed out of trouble. I formed a punk band, did parties but didn't go no where. At that time the Metal scene started to come alive!!! MotorHead came to SF the Old Waldorf "I partied with Fast Eddie" when I seen them and it blew me away!
Was WARNING your first act or did you play in several cover acts prior to WARNING? What about your musical backround/experiences as a whole?
I played in a Punk band that did party's, never went anywhere, jammed with lots of bands. Jammed with Brocas Helm and Roadie for them as well. Bob Wright to this day is a good friend of mine. I started a Punk band I sang and played guitar we played cover tunes at parties but that was about the extent of it never went anywhere. At that time The Metal scene was just hitting SF. I went to see MotorHead At a club called The Old Waldorf partied with Fast Eddie "nice guy" the first tour in the USA and I got hooked!!! Then I Seen Metallica with Dave at the same place. I started to go to Metal shows all over, I really wanted to get into a Metal band. I started to hang out and meet alot of Bay area Heavy Metal musicians. I Jammed with Bob Wright and John Grey of Brocus Helm they were good guys as many other SF Metal musicians. I heard of this bad ass guitarist in a band called Thunder Head Jon Torres who really didn't live that far from me so I looked him up.
How did the band get together exactly? Did the line up consist of you vocals/guitars, Jon Torres guitars, Terry Hamilton bass, Brian Poole guitars/keyboards and Tony Fillari drums right from the start?
I started to go to all the Metal shows all over Sf and Oakland. I heard of this bad ass guitar player Jon Torres who lived around the area I stayed at and I wantedto see what this guy was about. I knew he was in a band called ThunderHead but now he was in this band called Warning. I caught a show that Warning was doing at a SF Night Club called The Stone. It was a good show, the band consists of Jon Torres lead guitar, Brian Poole on guitar, Tanny Fillari drums, a bass player? And Carl Stevens singer. So that was the first Warning band.... I didn't know any of them! I talked with Jon Torres after the show and we exchanged phone numbers. He invited me to his rehearsalstudio and we started to jam a bit just he and I. Jon told me that he was looking for a new singer and bassist. We got to know each other and hang around a bit. Jon and I had alot in common. I got to watch them practice with no singer, at that time. Jon got a guy he grew up with (Terry Hamilton) to play bass. Terry is very talented can play guitar, keyboard, bass and sing. Anyway they did a cover song by Iron Maiden called Remember Tomorrow. I knew that song by heart... so I took the mic and started to sing, Jon looked at me and said we just found our new singer, I said cool. The New Warning was born. Jon Torres just formed this new band called Warning at that time consists of Jon Torres, Brian Poole, Tanny Fillari, a bass player ? and a singer Carl Stevens. They were playing at this club called The Stone in San Francisco and I attended. It was a good show , after the show I approached Jon and we talked and exchange phone numbers. Jon invited me to his rehearsal studio to have a beer and hang out. He was telling me he got a new bassist his good friend Terry Hamilton and now he wanted a new singer. I went over to their studio a few times hanging out to listen to them practice. I remember they sounded good !!! Then they played Remember Tomorrow by the original Iron Maiden and I knew the words by heart so I grabbed the mic. After we finished the song Jon ask me to be apart of the new Warning sound.
What can you tell us about the musical past of the other guys? Did you know each other earlier?
Jon was in a metal band called ThunderHead ln 1980 Brian was in a metal band called Monolith also Tanny. Myself played punk and metal, I also before warning I use to jam with Bob Wright of Brocus Helm! Who is still my good friend. So we were all around at the start of 80ies Metal area! I felt good about being in that band with all those guys because I knew that they have all been around SF Metal from the beginning. Late 70ies early 80ies. Jon was in Thunder Head, Brian and Tany was in Monolith and Terry other bands off and on.
It was pretty unique, that you had three guitarists, wasn’t it?
Ya I also played guitar with Warning Jon and Brian did duel harmony leads and I did rhythm so it made a fuller sound.
Was the band called WARNING or WARNING S. F. or S. F. was added later on?
The band name was Warning. Years later Jon started it again and called Warning SF.
What about your early rehearsals? Were you jamming mostly on covers or did you start writing originals right from the start?
I was a guitar player and sang as well so when we wrote songs with guitar octave leads I would play a rhythm while Jon and Brian did lead to give it a fuller sound. Jon and Brian wrote music and I would write the lyrics. On our demo Jon wrote all of Metal Maniac and I wrote the lyrics to Not a chance in Hell and Fall upon your knees and other songs we did live. We played all original music except sometimes we did Remember Tomorrow. At that time the band was named Warning!!! After the band broken up years later Jon ree named it SF warning. We did our own material, sometimes for fun did covers. Even at shows.
Who was/were responsible for the songwriting and lyrics? How were the songs written?
Most of the time Jon and Brian wrote the music and I wrote lyrics. On our demo Jon wrote and composed Metal Maniac and I wrote lyrics to fall upon your knees and Not a Chance in Hell. Jon and Brian did the music.
How did the early WARNING sound like? What were your goals with the band at all, I mean, what did you want to achieve?
We all could play any type of music we wanted too but nothing gave you the feeling of Metal, even to this day! We wanted Warning to sound Hard, musical, and Fuckin blood pumping Thrash! We wanted to give you that feeling that only Metal can give you!!!! We mostly wanted to achive making good solid music "HEAVY METAL"
Did all of you take the band seriously?
Yes we took the band serious Jon more so though! He always lived and breathed Heavy Metal to the bone!!!
Do you agree with, that the earliest documented roots of the Bay Area thrash scene date back to the formation of EXODUS in 1980?
Yes I do agree with early roots of Bay area bands! Exodus and Metallica were there and they had the following but alot of others played along side!
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 whole early Metal scene was a Great time. I remembered Paul Baloff of Exodus, Metal Church, Anvil Chorus "Doug Piercy" a real good guitarist! Griffin was a good band Yaz was a grest show man as well as a smoking guitarist, what a good person he was real cool.
WARNING played alot of shows we started to headline as well ! We played with MegaDeth second bill and opening was Blind Illiusion at the Stone night clun in SF. We played at the legendary club The Mab in SF alot. We played with Control, Mentor's, etc etc. You know what was cool all the Metal bands went to see each other to see what their are about and we all supported each other, hung out after the shows, even Metallica. San Francisco was the place to be on a Saturday night or any night that a show was playing.
They were the pioneers of the whole Bay Area scene, weren’t they?
Yes they were pioneers but so was my guys just because we didn't have the promotion or the backings the talent was there! Jon Torres and Brian Poole played around long before most.
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?
The Bay area has always been a spearhead for music! From 60ies rock to 80ies Heavy Thrash Metal Death Metal till now.
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?
My opinion the British are innovators in music all together but I think we take from them and them from us it goes back and forth and that's the beauty of it. We put our own twist on things. Don't forget the rest of Europe!!!
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?
Ron use to play us on Rampage Radio that was cool!!! (thanks Ron) He use to say I reminded him of Paul di'anno. Nice complement!!!! Ron was a Big part of the Metal scene in SF. Rampage Radio did so much for all the SF bands and all of Heavy Metal as a whole!
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…
We were in Metal Mania mag, I think Ron gave our demo a good review if I remember. Metal Mania mag and Ron did alot to support bay area bands and Metal as a whole.
What can you tell us about the club scene? What were the first clubs, that started opening their doors for hard rock/heavy metal?
The club scene was lots of fun.Mabuhay Gardens aka the Mab always Rocking, The Stone and the Keystone, The Old Waldorf, The Rock on Broadway. Ruthie's Inn we played them all. What a good time, Metal Heads all over the place. Like I said The place to be!!! We played all SF clubs The Mab, The Stone, TheRock on Broadway to name a few. Started to headline!!! played with Control, Blind Illusion, Mentors. Second billed for MegaDeth, things were going good. It was cool having three guitars going at once. Did alot of shows every week, Jon was the gas to make all of us go he was the Drive!!!! We were part of the early Metal days in San Francisco!!! Warning started to do alot of gigs all over the bay area, we second billed fof MegaDeth at the Stone. The lineup was MegaDeth, Warning and Blind ILLusion. We started to headline shows. We played at the Mab a legendary club in San Francisco and the Rock on Broadway.., Ruthies inn all over. We played with the Mentors, Control, Vicious Rumors. I remember when Death Angel started a bunch of cool kids. They were real young. All the bands use to hang out at each other's shows Metallica also! It was fun we all had something in common Metal!!!
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?
Metallica moved to SF I think was a Smart move. Myself I didn't think they fit the LA scene well. Hair bands and glamour bands LA had lots of them. Metallica had a hard driving crunch
James and Lars knew what sound they wanted!!! Love 'em or hate 'em no denying the pounding sound. To me they had it on point. Warning opend for Metallica at the Stone on the start of the Metal Up your Ass tour. Frisco was trend setter in Thrash Metal Death Metal and alot of other music throughout the years! The Metal scene was off the chart all the bands use to hang out on Broadway and together we all kicked ass and had a good time doing it!Influenced by punk and European Metal no doubt but we put our own twist on it!!! Harder, Faster, Louder. Live it, Love it and if you can't be good be good at it!!!
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?
Warning was there at the start also !!! All the bands wanted to know what each other was about and we all supported each other's music. San Francisco was the place to be on a Saturday night or any night thats for sure. Metallica and Exodus had the biggest following though but all the bands did good shows. Played our asses off!!! Metallica is a good hard pounding band they always had that certain something and that hard freight train pounding sound!!!! They worked hard to get where there at ! You half to Respect themThey put the sweat and time in. I really don't remember the dates but I do know Kirt Hammett did play for Exodus and Cliff Burton played with Trauma. I use to go to see both of them bands play.
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?
I really dont want to talk of other bands!!! We played with some of those bands and I remember when Death Angel first started they were real young kids but they thrashed. Drummer Andy is a friend and Ulysses Siren are friends also. I use to help them out time to time moving the equipment and drinking the beer. Lol
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?
I don't know about Kirk snd Cliffs interactions with other bands
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?
Jon and I hung out worked on music drank beer went to shows, we knew alot of people but did our own thing. The most important thing wr could contribute was our music.
You recorded your demo „Not a chance in hell” only in 1985, how happened? I mean, why did it take so long to record the material? Three years after the band was formed… How was it recorded? Was it your first recording experience by the way? Can you give us details regarding on this material?
It was our first recording together. It took until 1985 to get the right group together. The material, Jon wrote music and lyrics to Metal Maniac, I wrote lyrics to Not a Chance in Hell and Fall upon your knees. Jon and Brian wrote music.
Was the demo shopped around to attract labels interests? Did the demo perhaps help the band to expand a fanbase? How was it received as a whole?
The demo was received good and played on rampage radio but we didn't shop it around much. Too busy writing other material.
Have you often gigged with WARNING? Tell us please about your live shows!
We giged alot all around the bay. The shows went well. Every weekend we played gigs, things were going good.
At the mid ’80s was a kind of thrash metal boom in the Bay Area more and more newer outfits came into being, such as FORBIDDEN EVIL, DEATH PENALTY (later known as VIO-LENCE), DEFIANCE, REDRUM, SENTINEL BEAST, MERCENARY, DESECRATION, EPIDEMIC, SACRILEGE B. C., FÜHRER, BETRAYEL, SADUS etc., to which extent were you familiar with these bands? Were they the second generation of thrash metal?
I do remember Legacy well!!! Later on to became Testament! Violence and others all the bands played Hard. I dont know about 1st or 2nd generation metal we all just play from the heart and express what we feel.
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 metal bands in the 80ies from the bay did have there own grove and I do think were different than other cities in the 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.?
All the metal bands in the day had there own personality and style it was good times.
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?
EXODUS HAD SOME TALENT! The songs were powerful, show was good and they pounded harder then all. Only if Exodus had the resources! Definitely had the talent!!!
I think the cards fell in place for Metallica at that time though. In my opinion James had the voice that was distinctive and no denying that sound. Right place at the right time.
Why and when did WARNING split up exactly? What did you respectively the other guys do after the demise of the group?
Warning started to fall apart because I think Jon was the only one who took it seriously, I myself got drunk and went to jail a lot, so that didn't do much good for the band. Young and dont care. So much for that. A good band out the window!!!!! That was the end of Warning. I think that I went to jail or something that broke up the band.
Jon went and played on tour with Laz Rockett. Jon played with other musicians like Tom Hunting of Exodus and Angel Witch.
Did you stay in touch with each other later on?
I always stayed in touch Jon Torres he was a close friend to me!
In 2002 Mausoleum Records released „Aftermath” including the demo songs, how much were you involved in this material? I mean, were you aware of it? What would you tell us about this particular material?
Jon asked me to sing for SF Warning and go on tour in Europe. I was honored but I have a good job and priorities that come first.
Are you still a metalhead? Do you follow what’s going on in the metal scene these days?
Yes I still love Metal it's in my blood!!! I don't get a chance to really listen to alot of underground bands like I did when I was young as much as I'd like to.
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 wasn't around when Thrash of the Titans was going on.
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 do like alot of the new Metal Metallica, MegaDeth, Slayer, Testament, Death Angel, Vicious Rumors, etc. I wish Pantera would put some new music out they POUND!
During the years a lot of Bay Area musicians passed away, such as Cliff Burton, Jon Torres, Sam Kress, Jim Larin, Mike „Yaz” Jastremski etc., how do you feel about it?
I miss my good friend Jon alot! I often think of Yaz and others. It was my pleasure to have known them.
Who are/were your best friends from the Bay Area scene? Are you still in touch with some Bay Area musicians?
Im still in touch and in collaboration with Bob Wright working on my own material. I go to some Metal shows when able and get to chat with other musicians from the old days.
What were the highlights and the lowpoints in your career during the years? Are you satisfied with it or could it have been better?
The high points were playing with good musicians and meeting good friends. Some I still stay in contact with to this day. The lows I should have been more driven instead of fucin off getting smashed. Now that Im older I see that!!! Lucky I still have a axe and a voice because you never get to old for HEAVY METAL!
Robert, thanks a lot for your answers, anything to add, that I forgot to mention?
I want to say I miss my good friend and Brother Jon Torres!!! He was Metal to the bone!!! Lived and breathe it till the end. Godspeed Jon. Hopefully in the near future I will have some good featured musicians on my new work.
Well David I think that's it bro! Thank you for your dedication to the art of HEAVY METAL. Much Respects to you David! I will keep you posted on my new work and sound.
Interview by Leslie David