I have known Steve Gaines from a long time from his days in Abattoir up until Anger As Art. We were supposed to do this interview 3 years ago and it was all my fault, but here it is and it is a great interview for sure.
Where were you born and where did you grow up?
I was born in Portland Oregon, but grew up in the suburbs of Los Angeles. Arcadia, to be specific.
Did you come from a big or small family?
Medium? Mom, Dad, 2 sisters and one brother.
What sort of kid were you growing up and what sort of things did you like to do as a kid?
Truth? I was a dork. My folks tried to raise us in a ‘Brady Bunch’ environment – which were good intentions, but it did not prepare us for the real world. So, there was a lot of ‘cold water reality’ every time I went outside. As a kid, I loved trains, baseball, and girls… so yes, I was definitely a dork.
What did you want to be when you were growing up?
I had this idea that being a railroad engineer was gonna be my dream job! So as a youngster, my Dad arranged a meeting with a family friend who was a ‘higher-up’ at Southern Pacific Railroad, and he let me know what the job really was, the state of the business market (declining in the 1970s), the idea that you will never be home, etc. That was probably my first exposure to Nihilism. Haha
Were you always into music at a young age or did that come later on? What were some of the 1st bands that you heard?
Early… EARLY on. A very musical family. In fact, each member of my immediate family has appeared on or released at least one album. Uncle was a protégé of Mel Torme, and was establishing himself – but died young. My Dad was a preacher, and as such, I was expected to be in church choirs, etc. So I think I was on stage singing at around the age of 4 years old. First bands? Paul Revere and the Raiders, The Beatles, The Monkees, the Association, etc. A lot of singing groups. Funny how those songs still appeal to me.
How did you come to discover the world of heavy metal? What were some of the early bands that you heard and did you take a liking to this style of music right away?
My sisters are older, so they started bringing home ‘rock’ records – I clearly remember Led Zeppelin 2 AND 3 coming into the house, my sisters digging them, and my folks HATING them! Then at age 6 Black Sabbath’s Master Of Reality was released, and my sister brought home a copy. AT THAT MOMENT, my life changed.
How did you come to discover the underground? What were some of the 1st bands that you heard and was this something you loved right away and wanted more of or did it take a few listens to really get into?
The Underground was suddenly ‘there’ – it came from a frustration of wanting heavier and harder music, and all of the mainstream bands I was getting into going soft right when I discovered them. I discovered Rainbow, and became a huge fan. Then they released ‘Down To Earth’ and it was softer. Same with Rush – I really got into Rush when Hemispheres was released, and the subsequent releases were no longer what I thought Rush should be. Priest – I discovered when Stained Class was new… and then they went commercial and sucked with Point Of Entry (Come on – “All The Way” vs. “Saints In Hell”?) My brother was playing with a larger L.A. band, and they were softening up, and I clearly remember talking with them about how the fans want them to stay heavy…. Little by little, I noticed other fans around me who wanted the same thing… I became aware of Motorhead (my first underground band?), but did not understand them. Until I ‘accidentally’ saw Metallica at the Whisky – maybe their 2nd or 3rd show ever? But there was something there. The bands I was playing in at that time (in High School) were starting to stick to only heavy songs… and it just grew. That was a long answer, but it appealed to me before I knew it. Almost as though it was created for my life purpose.
How early on did you take more to the singing or the actual music itself?
The music. It was always the riff. The Rhythm guitar. I could care less about guitar solos, or great musicianship – to me it was all about the song and the attitude, or mood that was set. So I would be into bands and artists that most people would not.
You really take to the underground like were you reading fanzines and trading tapes etc? Did you ever get to visit stores like The Record Vault or Wild Rags?
Reading fanzines? Absolutely. I devoured them, because I was learning not only about something new, but something that mattered to me. I knew it was amateur journalism, but it didn’t matter, because this was “MY” stuff, my music, my people. Tape trading? No. When tape trading really took off, I was living from place to place, did not have a stereo or tape deck, etc., so I listened to a lot of stuff (fortunately have a photographic memory of songs), but never collected or traded – simply because I had no place to keep them. (Damn, I could have used a smart phone in 1984!)
How did come to join Abattoir? Were you in any bands prior to them and what did you think of their prior singer John Cyriis? Were you familiar much with the band before you joined them?
Oh… shit. This is going to be a loooong answer. I had already been in recording bands – most notably a founding member of Bloodlust – but more on that later. I was playing in my High School band called “Prisoner”, and we were splintering because we had myself and Dan Oliverio wanting to play heavier thrash-based stuff, and the other members playing the more commercial angle. Early on in this band, they kept talking about Abattoir, and I was like “Who the F*** is Abattoir, and why should I care?”
Well, I went and saw them play their 1st show with all original music (they were a cover band for years), and my life changed literally on the spot. The presentation was absolutely brutal. So, I went with them to their after-party, met Mark, Mel and Juan – and the way they talked about what they were doing was eye-opening. Then I met their singer Raul. (He looked like a witch, and sounded like Udo Dirkschneider), but his attitude was different. He was complaining about hating the music, etc. (He was the bands 4th vocalist, by that time) So, as my band was crumbling, I started to wonder… hmmm, is there a chance? Well, Raul leaves, and I audition – and essentially had the gig. Then Juan brings this guy John Cyriis (who claims to have been the singer for a band called Sceptre, but wasn’t. He was the guitar player). And he is a douche! He did not fit the band at all, but Juan wanted him (I think it was based on his personality).
So, I go off and form Bloodlust – the goal was to be heavier, louder and more crushing than anything since Sabbath. We develop a huge following, and play a lot of shows with Abattoir – beating the snot out of them! (Haha… yes, I said it!) Well, Cyriis doesn’t last because his voice was awful and he was a human freak show, so they get Raul back in the band. But by now, Raul refuses to sing anything like he did before, and their chemistry is awful. Now, Bloodlust starts showcasing, and someone from Road runner came and saw us – said he would sign the band on the condition that they sack the vocalist (me!), so they DO THAT! Coincidentally, Abattoir fired Raul again, and ask me to come back and sing again. This time I got the gig, until Juan brought home another stray named Ritch Deathcamp! (Now, Cyriis being a freak is legendary, but this Ritch guy had him BEAT!) So I get bounced, again, and go back to Bloodlust – funny, but Roadrunner didn’t sign them after they fired their singer for the contract. We were productive, but relations are strained. Abattoir decides to record a new demo, with Ritch on vocals. And this was the first time they actually listened to his voice. So… shortly after, I got a phone call from Mark Caro saying “No more BS. The gig is yours.”
Now, what did I think of Cyriis? He was in the band for about 6 months. His voice was all wrong, he did not fit at all. Not many know this, but that version of Screams From the Grave from Metal Massacre 4 was already in Metal Blade’s hands with Raul singing on it – and Cyriis threw a shitfit threatening to quit if it was released. So they replaced Raul’s vocals with John. He wrecked that song. But those who do not know are entitled to their own version of what they think is true. I was always aware of that, no one else was. I have no idea how John was able to sound like he did with Agent Steel… because the voice I heard before (MM4) and later (Recent 2011 Youtube videos with Agent Steel) was they voice I always knew. Limited range. And when you are ‘joined at the hip’ with a vocalist like that? You resent it! LOL
At what point in your life did you start singing? What were some of your favorite singers back then and what are some of your favorite singers these days?
I first started singing in choirs around age 4. Early vocal influences? Steven Tyler, Brad Delp, Ronnie James Dio, Rob Halford…. And those 4 still have an influence on me. All of them were groundbreakers. Today vocalists? Hard to answer – I listen more to their spirit, and what they are trying to convey or do, rather than their skill set. If it is from the heart and honest, I am most likely a fan.
So now back to Abattoir. When you joined the band around how many original songs did the band have any did they have a good local following?
How many original songs? Hard to answer. Maybe 15 or so? The band had a huge diehard following. Crowds were violent, in good fun. These were the early days of thrash.
So what was the 1st live show with the band like? Do you remember much about it? How were the crowds like for your shows back then?
I was one of their biggest fans, so I knew most of the crowd, and exactly what I was getting into. The difference being (and I am on record as saying this ) I think I was the only vocalist the band ever had who respected the position, and the band equally. Every other singer was in it as a stepping stone to something bigger. The first gig was like a homecoming. I stepped right in, and the crowd knew the job was given to someone who cared about it. I remember it pretty clearly, even at the end, when Mel Sanchez was standing next to a flashpot, and burned his hand pretty good. Funny, he had a habit of blaming his errors on everyone else – and insists that this was the drummers fault. Of course, we all knew were the flashpots were, and to stay away from them or risk injury. The crowds were insane – stage divers, pits, fights, toilets getting ripped out (and we get stuck with the bill), throwing shit at opening bands (expect Bloodlust… LOL) I remember that first show being over in a blink. And standing outside thinking ‘did this really just happen?’
When you joined was there already interest from Combat Records? How did the deal with them come about and were any other labels involved cause I know the band had a track on one of the Metal Massacre releases?
There was interest from Metal Blade, as I recall it. But perhaps some reluctance on their part as we were longtime rivals for dominance with Armored Saint (same neighborhood), and Saint was already with MB. As stated earlier, the band was recording a 3 song demo with Ritch on vocals, and that is what I came in to finish. The producer was connected with Important, and the idea was to do a Distro deal with Important. But the producer was also helpful with getting Megadeth off the ground, and as a result of that Megadeth was being courted by Combat – and Johnny Z came to see us for Megaforce. But in his mind, he already had Anthrax. Combat wisely had the foresight to see the wave that was coming, and went on a signing spree – including offering a contract to Abattoir, and it was accepted.
So how the morale of the band when you ended up signing a deal with Combat Records which was one of the premier underground metal labels at the time?
Oh… a bunch of youngsters with a record deal? We were arrogant. Morale was really high – save for writing on the wall. Juan Garcia left to join Agent Steel… and interestingly enough – I never signed the Combat contract. My name was forged. So, if we were more experienced, we would have seen ‘chinks in the armor’ – but screw it! We were gonna be rock stars!
From what I read your debut was recorded for $ 3,000 and originally was intended to be a demo and Combat just basically left the recording as is. Why was this? Is this why it is only 27 minutes long and includes a Motorhead cover of “Ace of Spades”? Whose idea was it for the Motorhead cover?
This is not entirely true, and I still do not know how this story came out the way it did. There was an original 3 song demo (Don’t Walk Alone, Stronger Than Evil, Living and The Dead) – of which Living and the Dead was entirely re-recorded. 6 of those 8 songs were recorded AFTER signing the Important Distro Deal, and were being tracked as we signed to Combat. The 2 songs left over from the Demo were Don’t Walk Alone and Stronger Than Evil – which is why their sound quality is decidedly different than the rest of the album. The fact that the record was only 27 minutes never even occurred to us. It is simply how long the album ended up being. I am still stunned by how short it actually is, because it feels longer. Recording Ace Of Spades was a no-brainer, as it traditionally closed out every Abattoir show. It was the only cover song the band did at that point, and it was part of us, so to speak. I remember saying that we should have recorded “Hammer Of the Gods” but was outvoted.
The album came out in 1985 at the height of thrash metal. What were the reviews and buzz like about the band at the time? Did you get to play many live shows or do any type of tour behind this release? What were some of the bands you played with during these times?
This is where the wheels started falling off. It was released on the same day as Hell Awaits, Killing Is My Business, and Bonded By Blood. Those bands all took off and toured. We stayed home – did ONLY 7 shows in support of the album. The band made bad choices, and here are a few. Juan Garcia told me that the deciding factor in him quitting was Mel refusing to go on tour with Mercyful fucking Fate on the ‘Don’t Break The Oath’ tour. We had direct support on the West Coast. Mel refused. Later, Dave Mustaine came to a rehearsal and offered (get this) a 40 date co-headlining tour with Megadeth. Mel refused. (Mustaine took me aside and gave me some advice – “if you want to keep your job with this band, you should convince Mel to do the tour. They are getting ready to fire you”). As a side note, Jim Durkin later thanked me for not taking the tour. Dark Angel went out with Megadeth (before Darkness Descends was released) and did the tour. Hence, Dark Angel was established thanks to Abattoir hubris. We had 2 dates in the Bay Area – one at Ruthies, the other at Mabuhay Gardens (Friday and Saturday). Friday at Ruthies, the show was not promoted – maybe 15 people. Of those 15 were members of Metallica and Exodus… in the front row banging their heads. Mel was so pissed, he demanded we go home. No one is there. So … we go home cancelling the show at the Mab. Well, in the meantime Metallica and Exodus got on the phone and told everyone in their networks that Abattoir was in town – get to the Mab. The house is packed before load in, but no Abattoir. The Mab scrambled to find a replacement, and offers the gig to this really young band – it was DEATH Angel, playing one of their first shows in front of a rabid SF metal audience! Hence, Death Angel was established thanks to Abattoir hubris.
Your fate is decided by the choices you make. Look at those 3. If Abattoir would have chosen differently, the history books would have been rewritten.
Were shows wild and crazy out in CA at this time? Besides the band did you go and see any shows yourself and if so who did you go see?
Everything was wild then. Bands tried to be heavier and faster than others. This was long before the backlash against metal bands that Doug Weston started… I saw lots of bands at different levels. LA was magic at that time.
Now what are your thoughts on this album these days? Do you like the cover which was based upon an idea by band member Mel Sanchez? Do you have any ideas these days about sales figures?
The cover was meant to shock – and it did! Looking back on it, I am proud of it. I really loved those songs – they were a part of my fabric, so to speak. To be connected with them is an honor. Of course, from the artists perspective, I hear mistakes we made and tried to cover up – things that I would have corrected today. Example, because of this album, I never double vocals any more. Some singers or producers demand it, but I despise it. It takes away the soul and honesty of your voice. There is a lyric in the song “Game Of Death” – The Hunter’s at hand and he’s ready to take – and my voice does something weird on the 2nd syllable of the word ‘hunter’ that just drives me nuts every time I hear it. (I have no problem exposing my weaknesses. LOL) Sales figures – I understood it to be somewhere around 100,000 – but am not really sure. Actual figures would be nice to know…. Or maybe not!
The album has been re-released 2 times, once by Century Media and again in 2015 by Marquee Records. Does it amaze you in some ways and album that was released on an independent label is now still going strong even these days as it is called by some as a “thrash metal classic”? Would you recommend it to someone looking to get into 80’s thrash?
What amazes me was looking into the contract after CM reissued it – and realizing what an incredible trap not only us, but all the Combat bands willingly walked into. Combat/Relativity/CBS owns that stuff until hell freezes over. They own rights worldwide, and have the USA locked out – of course, in today’s world, imports are easy to get, so they can release as many copies as they want ‘in another country’ – and Amazon will have them here next week. Marquee Records actually paid Relativity for the rights to license it and sell in South America. We will never see a dime from it. OF COURSE, I never saw the contract – my name was forged. So, truthfully I had no say in the agreement they entered.
Business aside, it does amaze me that people still spend money on a 31 year old album. I know it has some ‘staying power’. And lastly, THANK YOU for calling it a thrash album. We always knew we were an original thrash band – I wince when I hear ‘knowledgeable metal experts’ call us speed metal. It is like telling a vegan that he is a meat eater! I would recommend it to someone discovering early thrash. It’s not the ‘be all – end all’, but a good stepping stone.
What led to you leaving the band? Was it a bad split at the time or you just wanted to move on and go onto something else? Now if it was a bad split back then do you still talk to any of your old band members these days or you did years later?
Combination of things: Different lineup preparing to record #2. Not the same chemistry. Too many bad choices. Pressure from management to be more accessible. Scapegoating… and me blowing out my voice because I was partying too hard. That, and instead of working with the system, I worked against it. I did not like the direction the band was heading. In fact, when Tactics released their debut album later, most of those songs were songs I brought to the table for Abattoir #2. I wanted to enhance what existed, and stay with the formula. It was entirely different. And… the John Bush syndrome. In Los Angeles, every band wanted their own John Bush, and tried to find one. Abattoir ultimately had 9 vocalists in their history – I was there at the most important time (for VA). I had blown out my voice, and was a drunk obnoxious a-hole. I was fired. I moved on and started Tactics, then came back to Bloodlust in time to record ‘Terminal Velocity’. For the Record – Bloodlust’s Guilty As Sin album – look at the credits. Whenever you see Lyrics written by Bloodlust – that was me! That is how they credited me without crediting me as a member.
As far as old Abattoir members? We all get together regularly. We are all actually good friends. I have a photo of my recent birthday party, and there are 6 Abattoir members all hugged up together - Multiple vocalists, drummers, guitar players, etc. But if you put Mel Sanchez in the room, everyone starts arguing and wanting to kill each other. That is sad!
What did you think of the bands follow up release?
Not a fan. Sorry. The only songs I liked were the ones I was credited with writing. One of them was used without my permission. They recorded it after firing me. I was actually told “you will never do anything musically again, so you should THANK us!” So I threatened to have their contract voided because of the forgery, and they grudgingly gave me my writing credits.
But it sounds like an entirely different band – because there were 3 new guys, Mel was barely there, the producer and manager tried to compete on a commercial scale, and Mark Caro trying to ‘herd cats’ in the studio.
After you left Abattoir what was your next move band that you were in and how long did that last?
That is when I started Tactics. I had all these songs, and wanted to capitalize on momentum. The first lineup lasted just over a year. Appeared on Metal Massacre 8, then I returned to Bloodlust. Reformed Tactics in 1989, and stayed there for 10 years – and honestly it was the best musical time of my life (to that point). No BS or egos, just hard work and great songs. Lots of road work.
Have over the years you ever been asked to do any type of re-union shows with opne of more of those fests overseas?
We actually had a 4 year reunion. Did some dates, recorded a comeback album, etc. But all of the same issues still existed. The difference this time is that I had my own body of work, work ethic and reputation. And was not going to take any BS. When it got thick and stupid, we had a meeting, and I told them “you need to prove to me that you are willing to do this, and capable of doing it. I cannot and will not do it for you. Reach ‘these goals’, and then call me when you are ready for me to come back. Until then I have other projects to work on.” And that is when I started working with Dreams Of Damnation, Pagan War Machine (both involving Jim Durkin), Bitch, Bloodlust and also a Motorhead tribute called Lemmy’s Wart!
Came back again in 2009 to do a European tour, festivals etc. But again, the bad habits and egos returned. I stepped away for good in late 2009. It’s time for one of the other vocalists to do it.
Tell me a bit about this 4 year re-union you spoke about and what lead to this and you also had a comeback album. What are your thoughts on this release these days?
1) The release never was completed, even though we started recording it 3 times. We did get 14 tracks done, but they were lacking any fire. The first recording was electric, but I was outvoted 3-1 on continuing with that producer. The following sessions were good, but sounded like a very lukewarm intensity.
The entire recording was lost in a computer error, save for a test mix.
I love the songs, but was disgusted at the work ethic. My tracks (vocals and bass) were complete for 18 months before other members completed theirs.
The comeback started when suddenly I found myself in a rehearsal room with Mark and Mel. And logically, Abattoir resurfaced.
But I know that I had moved on musically, in that everything I was writing ended up sounding like Anger As Art sounds... just 3 years before AAA was born.
The scratch tracks were released as an incomplete product, and essentially as a document of what we tried to do. Sadly, I am not really proud of it, but could have been.
You also re-joined in 2009 to do a tour that included some European festivals. Did you play any of those shows and if so how did it go? Were there big crowds for the shows? How did the band as a whole get along and who was in the band at this time?
2) We did a 7 date European tour to SRO crowds, anchored by a headliner at Keep It True. The good? Rob Alaniz played drums, and not only nailed the songs, but he and I developed a great working relationship that continues 8 years later. The bad? Mark Caro sat out the tour, so instead of having Dan Oliverio play Mel and Juan recruited Tim Thomas. Now, Tim is an amazing guitarist. But his mindset was not an Abattoir mindset. There was tension between him and Mel, which exploded onstage in The Netherlands, with Mel giving Tim a 2 handed shove offstage. All they did was bump into each other. (That was a fun plane ride home).
We got home and I resumed work with Anger As Art. But the intention was to keep Abattoir available for shows, tours, etc. We did one more show in Los Angeles. The lineup was myself, Mel, Juan, Rob and Dan O.
But when we completed the Anger As Art album (Rob and Dan now in the band), Mel became insanely jealous, and scuttled what remained.
A shame really. The fans got fucked. But all of the bad habits and negativity was the final straw. I stepped away, and never looked back.
So at what point did you start picking the guitar up and did you take lessons at the time or no? Now here in 2017 how many years have you been playing guitar and how many bands have you been in?
I started out as a guitarist, but never really developed great skills. At the time, bands needed singers, and I was much more developed and prepared to do that, so I put the guitar down until 1986 when Tactics formed. At that time I played bass and sang, and it was LIBERATING! I loved being a player singer, and still do. Played bass for the Abattoir reunion, Early in the Bloodlust reunion (funny, Sandy was holding out, didn’t want to do it. I said ‘I will play bass and sing. It will bring Sandy around.’ It did.) and also with Pagan War Machine. Being a serious guitar player as a goof – seriously. We will hit that in the next section. When Anger As Art was being formed, I was debating between guitar and bass, but really wanted heavy emphasis on rhythm guitar. So that is when the switch was made, and I came full circle.
I first picked up a guitar at age 9 or so, I guess. Always played well enough to write. In fact, we even discussed me playing guitar and singing in Abattoir when Juan quit. But have only been serious at it since 2002.
I am going to name some bands you were in and you can tell me a bit about your time in each band and how you came to join them and leave them and did you record anything with them:
Magic! The first time I took control of my destiny. And everything was simple. Wrote some great songs, did some great tours, released a couple of great records (Reissued box set in 2013 through Minotauro Records), and had the time of my life. Good friends with the key members to this day – we get together often. But the band stopped in 1999…. We had run out of ideas, had exhausted every avenue, etc. I think instinctively we knew it was over, and we needed to move on. No regrets.
Dreams of Damnation:
First time I saw them was like the first time I saw Abattoir. The band was a friggin’ monster. Jim Durkin on guitar, and Charlie Silva on bass and vocals. Then they get Loana dP Valencia on vocals, and got stronger. We were great friends, Abattoir was on downtime, and I was acting as ‘road manager’ (I guess) when they played. I was able to keep warring factions within the band from fighting. One day I was at a rehearsal…. I had a demo of theirs attached to a file of Pagan War Machine songs, and just for a goof learned them on guitar. So, at this rehearsal, I jokingly asked to sit in, and it was good. I was asked to come back to the next rehearsal, and then to play at the next gig. I was there for a year and a half, until that lineup imploded on tour in Cleveland Ohio (that was when Anger As Art was born). I played rhythm guitar, no vocals at all. The ‘true metal’ people could not understand… but it made perfect sense to me. Again… songs!
Pagan War Machine:
This was ‘the calling’. I was involved with Abattoir, and nothing I was writing sounded like Abattoir. It was much more aggressive, yet still accessible. I started hanging around with Jim Durkin / DOD, and one day he shows me a demo of some songs he wrote that did not fit into DOD. And they spoke to me. I wrote lyrics, and we recorded them within a week. And they were accepted immediately across the underground. We only did a handful of dates, and nothing more. DOD dominated the time. So, when DOD crashed, and all the other bands had stopped, I had songs that sounded like PWM. Out of this Anger As Art was born. The original AAA lineup had 3 PWM Members.
I answered an ad at a record store for European sounding band influenced by Sabbath and Priest. Got the gig, and it turns out I knew some of the members from the backyard party days. But the songs were heavy as hell. I was that band’s first vocalist (and 3rd… lol)– and have a bunch of my history tied to them. Proud of everything we accomplished, and wish them well as they carry on. I was fired, quit, bored, quit, etc. but stepped away for good in about 2008.
When Bloodlust was a new band, Earl Mendenhall and Dave Carruth were friends. As such, Bitch were very encouraging to our young band, and we always had a bond. Fast forward to 2004, Bitch was reunited, but needed a bass player, so I took the gig. After a delay, we started gigging, but by this point Dave had left the group. This came to a screeching halt when founding drummer Robby Settles passed away from Leukemia. After his funeral, Betsy and I talked, and she mentioned a Euro Festival date, but did not know what to do. At an Anger As Art rehearsal, Rob Alaniz offered to step in… and before you knew it, Anger As Art was also subbing as Betsy’s backing band, or Bitch. We had a run across Europe, did some local dates. Metal Blade released a concert video of our appearance at Keep It True (unbeknownst to us), so there is documentation of it. We continued for a while, but had obligations to our own label. As well, we were not being fair to Bitch – they need a band that can devote their full time to it. But it was a lot of fun. Betsy STILL has that voice, and is a great gal.
In 2004 you joined Anger As Art a band your still presently in. How did you come to join them or was this band started from scratch? How far would you say you have come from a singing standpoint from 1985 till today?
It started from scratch, sort of. As mentioned earlier, DOD broke up on tour. So, sitting in a hotel room in Cleveland, I had plenty of time to ponder my future. All I wanted to do was take all of the songs I wrote, and record them. These are songs that were turned down by all of the bands I was playing with. I just wanted to record and release them. It was a swan song, a last hurrah. It was also a way to clear my name. I was the one single common denominator in all of these failed bands… and wanted to prove that it was not my fault. So, I release this on August 15, 2004, and the internet just devoured it. I was moving thousands of physical copies. And there was demand to perform live… so I had to put a band together. The first lineup consisted of former members of Pagan War Machine. And the rest is history.
Singing now as opposed to then? I will use an analogy. Everyone thinks they have the finesse of Hakeem Olajuwon or Kareem Abdul Jabbar. I thought I could sing like Dio, but realized my voice was not that (way late in the game, I might add). My voice was a lot more like Shaquille O’Neal – so I went to my strengths – which were midrange and brute force. And it worked! It has preserved my voice maybe 20 additional years, just by knowing who I am and what I do. (I speak in analogies… so pardon me if that seems like a stretch)
For those who have never heard Anger As Art what would you say the band sounds like?
A slightly more melodic version of Slayer… a more violent version of Abattoir… look at the names of the people involved, you should know what to expect. And you will get EXACTLY that. A couple of other thoughts – we can thread a lot of needles – yes, we are based in thrash. But we can also easily fit in with Death Metal, Classic Metal, Crossover Punk Metal…. And do each style convincingly. And, the band was designed with multiple vocalists – even back on the first album. 3 bands – The Beatles, Kiss, and Anger As Art! All had multiple lead vocalists. Currently – myself, Eric Bryan and Dan Oliverio.
The band has 5 releases out so far. Were all these put out by labels or just a couple? Going to get your opinions on your old releases and let me know if they are still for sale and your brief thoughts on them these days:
The first album was initially released by me independently. But when we signed with Old School Metal Records in 2005, they re-issued the debut with some bonus live tracks. So all 5 albums have been released on Old School Metal Records. For what it’s worth, we have extended long beyond our contract, and exist entirely on a handshake for the last 2 albums. We have an excellent relationship built on trust and respect. I literally owe my career to Patrick Ramseier. He believed, and continues to do so.
Anger As Art – The Most important album I have ever done. May not be the best, but the most important. This was where I was finally able to look at all of the douchebags across my career who told me I could not do it without them… and silence them! I wrote every song, and played every instrument.
Callous And Furor – taking the things set in motion on the original and expanding on them. More aggressive, more chances, more ambition. In hindsight, it was recorded with a lineup that perhaps had different motivations, and at times sounds like it. But to have 2 records? Awesome.
Disfigure – this one was easy, after a struggle. In pre-production, we went through a complete lineup change (Rob Alaniz and Dan Oliverio coming into the band). Aggressive as hell, some great songs, great performances. The first album that I ever did that received 10/10 ratings and was called a masterpiece.
Hubris Inc. – A carry over of what we did on Disfigure, and also saying goodbye to some ghosts of the past with some bonus tracks. Received very well! Sold like crazy.
Hubris Inc. is the only one we still have copies of – the others (physical copies) are sold out. But all 5 are available digitally online!
Your most recent release came out in 2016 called Ad Mortem Festinamus. How did this release come together and where did you record it? By now I imagine, at least for you, it is very easy to go in and record nowadays or am I wrong?
The recording process is never easy… if it is too easy, you are doing it wrong. AMF was the first one we recorded with producer Ron Sandoval. And we wanted to raise the bar, not rest on our laurels. I have this theory that your peers buy your records because they feel obligated – what we wanted to do was to give you a product that would addict you… that was so good you had to listen over and over. We pushed hard… I was a bulldozer on this one, and I think the results shined. This was also the first album to feature Eric Bryan on Bass and vocals.
Of course, at this point – we have not even toured yet for AMF, and we are already thinking about album #6. And the last thing I want for it to be is ‘easy’. I want to leave blood in the room. Even at this stage, it still matters – integrity.
Looking back over your career what are some of your personal highlights and low points of it?
Highlights is every day Anger As Art is alive and makes people happy. This band is done for the right reasons. Lowlights? At the time I did not know how constructive the setbacks were… and they seemed like ‘the end’. But I am one to learn from them. I embrace adversity as a challenge, and as motivation. The old story of healthy people do not need a doctor – the sick people do. Well, I always think I am sick, and want to be as healthy as possible… if that makes sense.
The real lowlight was losing everything when getting sacked from Abattoir – I was living in the backseat of my car. I had to admit that I am just a human being, and had better start getting my shit together. So I learned how to work! The moral? If I never would have been forced to do that? I never would have learned about honor and integrity. Some of those alongside me at that time never learned. And today they suffer.
Please plug any websites you have you Anger As Art.
www.angerasart.com www.facebook.com/angerasart www.reverbnation.com/angerasart www.youtube.com/angerasart - and that is really it. So many people are asking me to create more, but there would literally be too many to maintain. If they cannot find us there? Do a Google search.
Steve this interview is 3 years later, my bad on that, but any last words to wrap it up?
The funny thing is this – if not for you posting on Facebook about Wild Rags, I don’t know that I would have remembered either. LOL. Thanks for doing the interview. Talk soon.
Interview by Chris Forbes