God when Divebomb Records send me over an email with a digital promo of Tyrranicide’s “God Save The Scene” release, plus a ton of other goodies on it I couldn’t believe it as I used to write to member Jeff Hill back in the 80’s. I found Jeff on Facebook and he was down with doing an interview so hop in your time machine and enjoy the ride. I know I did.
Jeff have you lived in CA all your life? What sort of town did you grow up in? What did you want to be when you grew up?
Yes, sir. I grew up on Pleasanton, CA. It's changed completely since I was a little kid. It used to be a blue-collar town with lots of bars and cool weirdos, but now it's one of the most expensive places to live in the world. Great place to raise my kids, but I can't wait to get the fuck OUT of here. I guess I've always had some level of mechanical/technical aptitude. When I was a kid I would always be building and making stuff. I wanted to be an inventor. Not even sure if that's really a job title anymore.
Did you come from a big or small family? Did you hang out or play with a bunch of kids when you were young?
Small family. One younger sister. My parents still live in the same house I grew up in. My street was literally the perfect place at the perfect time for all us kids. We are all still best friends almost 50 years later. We did everything from playing baseball, hockey, BMX to dressing up like KISS, to finally starting a band in 1982. Very diverse neighborhood as well, which was unheard of in the 1970's, whitebread California at the time.
Now were you into music a lot or did that come later on? What were some of the first bands that you heard? Was this by way of the radio or from another way?
My first memory of music was when I was really young and my dad would play CCR records. By the time I was in 3rd grade the older kids in the neighborhood liked KISS so I decided I would like KISS too. By the time I was in Junior High School I was into Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and Van Halen. I think I was 11 or 12.
When did you yourself start buying music? What were some early bands you checked out and liked? Do you still like these bands today?
First record I remember buying was Van Halen 1. On 8-track! We had a cool record store / head shop in Pleasanton called Portable Madness. They even carried imports in the late 70’s. I bought all my records there until they closed in the mid-80's. Last one I got there was Dio-Holy Diver. I do still love Van Halen, Sabbath, Dio and all that formative stuff for me. All the Ozzy solo records (up until Bark At the Moon). I'm still a huge Sabbath fan.
When did the world of heavy metal, not underground, enter your life? Did you like it right away or did it take a few listens to really embrace the style as it was a step up from rock n roll?
I eased into heavy metal. I was born in 67, so I was 3 years old when Black Sabbath came out. I had a cool uncle who was into 70's hard rock and stuff like Led Zeppelin. Zeppelin was probably my first exposure to Heavy Metal when I was 7 or 8. It freaked me out hearing Dazed and Confused with headphones on, but I liked the scary part of it. It wasn't much longer when I heard Black Sabbath and it scared the hell out of me in a good way. In those days I was just searching for something cool. A lot of the neighborhood kids liked late-70's soul music (and so did I), but there were a few of us that loved KISS, Zeppelin and Van Halen. When I think of Heavy Metal, I think of the dark musical notes (the tri-tone) and darker lyrics, not happy hard rock like Van Halen.
How did you come to discover underground metal? What were some early bands you liked? Are you still a fan of any of these bands these days?
Well, I grew up in the Bay Area, about 40 minutes from San Francisco. Even as far back as the late 70's there was a solid hard rock / metal scene here. Y&T could be considered an underground metal band, but not like you're describing. They were local guys and played clubs around here. That was the first time I heard of local bands playing clubs or bars in the area. I think I was about 12. Around 1982 I started getting into the NWOBHM stuff like Motorhead, Saxon, etc...One day I was standing outside our local arcade and this cool kid named Raymond Ahner was listening to Mercyful Fate on his walkman. I asked him what he was listening to and he let me hear it. Totally changed my world. Next was Metallica and then Exodus, who were playing locally all the time, but we were still pretty young to be going to clubs. Once I got my driver's license at 16 I started going to Ruthies, The Stone. Once Kill Em' All came out, it was all over for me. I was in deep. I still love all those early bands that are certainly not "underground" anymore. I used to love reading about all these crazy underground bands in Metal Forces and Kerrang! This would have been 1983.
What was it like going to Ruthie’s Inn for shows and also The Stone?
Truly amazing, actually. I guess that's no surprise to hear. Ruthies was very much Exodus' home turf and every time they played there it was a bloody mess. That is no exaggeration. What's crazy about Ruthies was that it was primarily a blues club and host to many of the West Coast Blues artists like my favorite: Lowell Fulson. Of course we had no idea at the time. Anyway, on any given weekend you could see Sacrilege BC, Possessed, Death Angel, Blind Illusion, Possessed, Stone Vengeance, Legacy, Heathen, you name it. The Stone was more of a "rock" club. They did TONS of great metal shows, but it was also a haven for hair metal bands. Touring bands would always play one of the Stone clubs. Originally they were the Keystone: Palo Alto, Berkeley and San Francisco. Ruthies was incredibly special though. Saw so many legendary gigs there I can't even count.
Were the crowds as wild and crazy as I have read? How about the pits?
Absolutely. Ruthie's had a legal capacity of probably 150 people, but I saw several shows with probably twice that many. Suicidal Tendencies, Cro-Mags and many times we played with DRI it was completely insane. There was a crazy dude named Toby Rage that would walk on people's heads at the front of the stage and dive off of the PA, stage, you name it. Lots of fights. Lots of underage drinking. I stated going there at 16 and nobody ever got carded for booze. I even got beat up on stage while playing one night. I called a dude a poser and he jumped onstage and punched me a few times. All in good fun I guess.
At what age did you really start to get into the underground metal scene and did you ever go to the record store “The Record Vault” and if so what was that store like? Were there any other cool record stores around in the 80’s and into the 90’s?
I was 16 in 1983. Kill Em' All had just come out and I dove in with both feet. Metallica, Exodus, Possessed, Death Angel, and about a million other bands were playing local shows. Once I got my driver's license I would drive all of my friends and I in my 66' Barracuda to the Record Vault and another (even better) store in Walnut Creek called The Record Exchange. The owner was such a nice guy and so into it! He turned us on to so many great bands. It was just walls of records from all over the world. The Record Vault were fucking bootleggers and skimmed a ton of money off of local and touring bands. I remember seeing Reed Mullin from C.O.C. demand to know where the hell they got some of their bootleg COC T-Shirts. They were notorious, but they did have a huge selection. Particularly the 'zines. That was my favorite part.
How did you come to discover fanzines and what were some you read back in the day? Did you ever get to meet Rob Quintana back then?
I used to buy Kerrang! and Metal Forces at the Record Vault and one day I snatched up a couple of new ones: Metal Mania and Midwest Militia. I was freaked out when I saw the lack of sophistication in the layout, but it made it that much more metal! I started reading about other 'zines all over the world and I couldn't believe there were metal bands in places like Chile, Brazil, Japan, Sweden, Norway...you name it. This would have been around 1985 or 86'. I started sending out demos to a lot of these guys (like yourself, if I recall correctly) and made connections with some really great people. Yeah...Ron Quintana used to do Rampage Radio on KUSF in the Bay Area and one night he invited us to come by and talk about the band. He had just booked Watchtower at the Rock on Broadway and asked if we would like to open the show. Of course we said yes! Incredible gig. I think every metal luminary from California was at that show. We also played a couple of benefit shows for Metal Mania with DRI and others.
What led to you picking up the guitar? Did you want to learn any other instruments? Did you ever take any lessons or were you sell taught?
Self-taught. My friend Dave Mattie could play when I was like 12 or 13 and I was captivated by that. My uncle played guitar as well and would let me bang around on his white Les Paul copy. I've been mostly playing Mandolin and Banjo lately. I do a little acoustic / bluegrass thing with some friends.
When did the idea pop into your head about forming or even joining a bad as I am sure at the time bands were looking for guitar players big time?
Well, my buddy Mike Serafin played drums and lived at the top of my street and one day we decided to try and play music together. I brought my shitty little les paul copy and 20 watt fender amp up to his house and we started with some Sabbath, and Metallica. This would have been 1983. We didn't even have a clue about being real musicians yet. Our world at the time was our neighborhood with about a dozen kids who all hung out together. We were all REALLY into BMX and then Mike and I sorta nudged us all toward music. Eventually everybody bought an instrument of some kind. Once we got going a bit, there were a couple local bands we began hearing about and then we finally combined two bands to form Mayhem. This was a five piece with Tim, Mike, Ty, Myself and a singer named Bobby. Pretty soon we outgrew the singer in terms of dedication, etc so Tim and I decided to sing. This was when we changed our name to Tyrranicide and started to get a buzz going in our area. That's when we realized there were hundreds of bands and nearly all of them were glam metal. No thanks.
How did you come up with the name and did you know there was a band with the same name that formed in 2008 and they are from Colombia and play death metal?
We kept throwing names out there and after many, many silly ones we decided on Tyrranicide. I wanted to spell it with two R's because it looked funny to me with two N's (the correct spelling). There was a really shitty punk band called Tyrannicide back in the early 2000's, but I wasn't aware there was a Colombian death metal band with that name. It was bound to happen I guess.
Did you go through many early line-up changes before you got a core line-up together? How long was that line-up together before you started to write original tunes?
Nope. Once we kicked out our singer, we held that lineup (Jeff, Mike, Tim and Ty) until the last night of the 89' tour, when we kicked out Ty. Once we got back home we decided to recruit Tim's uncle (Rick). He lived 3 hours away at the time, so it was short-lived. Around that time, we found Sean and he joined in 1991 I believe. Unfortunately, the band didn't last long after that.
How long was the band around when you released the “Hiding Under White” demo? What are your thoughts on this demo these days? What was it like for you in the studio?
We had been a band for almost 2 years by then. We had done some quick recordings before the Hiding Under White demo, but we wanted to finally do a proper demo tape with our 5 best songs. When I listen to it now, I'm really proud of it, given our lack of any kind of supervision or guidance. We always just figured out stuff for ourselves and managed to get these tunes recorded how they sounded. The studio was always my favorite part of playing in a band. It was so cool to hear things come together in a way that you don't really hear at rehearsals or at a live show. We recorded all of our records and demos at Audio Voyage (it used to be called Little People) and we were sorta the first serious band that would record there. The owners were kind of baffled when we first plugged in and got going. They had no clue about thrash metal. Both guys were REALLY into the Beatles, but they helped us get the stuff recorded and didn't give us too much direction.
Did you send this demo to many fanzines and even some of the big mags (Metal Forces) and if so what was the feedback like?
We sent it to about a dozen fanzines (including Metal Forces). I don't recall MF reviewing it, but suddenly we had zines from every single corner of the world asking for free shit. I'd be willing to bet we had at least 300 Chileans, Brazilians, etc asking for free shirts, demos, stickers, etc. Not once did we ever get an order from down there, but I appreciated the enthusiasm. One zine that really dug it was Grey Matter in Texas. Jason McMaster from Watchtower reviewed our demo in there and suddenly we had a couple hundred people buy it. We had played with Watchtower in SF during their first ever visit out here and they were amazing. The zines were my favorite part of the metal scene, by far. So many folks like yourself that were genuinely INTO the music that bands were making and there was no pretense to it. I'm still in contact with people from all over the world as a result. Zines were what facilitated both of our tours in 88' and 89'. It was our way to make contact with people and bands in different areas of the US and I'm continually thankful for them!
How were live shows for the band at this time? How crazy were the shows and who did you play with?
The shows in the bay area were pretty fun. Since there were sooooo many bands, it was tough to get a good core fan base. We played some insane shows with DRI, Attitude Adjustment, Sacrilege BC, Stone Vengeance, and many, many others. Ruthie's Inn always seemed to have the craziest stuff going on. Riots, brawls, stabbings, and always WAY overpacked. It held like 150 people but there were shows that had at least 400 jammed in there. Total fire hazard.
Now with all the great reviews and stuff and you guys being in the backyard of all the Bay Area scene did you send that demo to any labels and if so did any want to sign the band during this time?
The only labels that showed any interest were Wild Rags and New Renaissance and both offers were a joke. Basically “you pay us $1,000 for the pressing and when it makes money we’ll pay you back” or something equally ridiculous. At that point I decided I could do a much better job.
To be fair, we only sent the demo to about 10 labels as I recall. Remember that there were THOUSANDS of bands looking to get signed during that time. Can’t blame them for taking a pass on us really. Worked out great for us, actually.
After the labels passed 3 years later you released a full length called “God Save the Scene a take off of sorts on the Sex Pistols. How easy was it coming up with songs for it? Was the line-up the same as the demo? Where did you record it and how much did it cost if you remember?
Well, we didn't write the tunes specifically for a full-length LP. We just picked the 13 best songs we had and said "Let's do it!" Songwriting has always been my favorite part of music. I've been able to come up with riffs fairly easily. Lyrics were different. Most of it was adapting syllables / words to the phrasing of the riffs. I'd start with a concept and agonize over it for a few weeks. The album line-up was the same as the Hiding Under White demo. I absolutely remember what it cost to record God Save The Scene: $800. It was done on an 8 track analog Otari deck. Mixdown was fun...no automation in those days, so we had as many as 3 or 4 people riding faders during mixing. Such great memories!
Wow that's amazing, $ 800. What was the response from the public towards this release and the fanzines, etc? Who came up with the cover for it and what formats did it come out in back then?
It did really well for a tiny label release. People were surprised that a little metal band from the suburbs could create a kickass album all by themselves. We didn’t send out too many promo copies to fanzines simply because we didn’t have the money. What’s people did get copies of eight seemed to really like it. Metal Forces gave us an 85 if I remember correctly. The original pressing was 2,500 LPs and the we did a license deal in 1990 for Europe that was another 10,000 cds. Art work was done by a local artist named Mike Singleton. He did an amazing job and only charged us like 100 bucks. Last I heard he was one of the artists on the TV show Phineas and Ferb.
Obviously I don’t think you did any type of big tour or anything behind the release, but did it lead to playing bigger shows or out of state shows etc?
Actually we toured the whole US in. 1989 to support the album. We were on the road for two months and it was amazing.
Oh wow. Did you headline or was it like a package type of tour? What were the crowds like and what were some highlights or lowlifes of the experience?
We were always full-on DIY. No package tour. it was all self-funded, self-booked, etc. We played some good-sized shows and lots of very small shows as well. Got to play with some cool bands and meet tons of cool people. The highlight was probably hanging out in the Philly area for about a week. Played a couple of cool shows and did some radio interviews on WDNR, etc. I insulted Pete Steele on the air after many, many beers. The lowlight was probably when we broke down outside of Goodland, KS. Thinking the tour was over and trying to figure out how to get all the gear home, etc. Luckily a friendly, honest tow-truck driver brought us into town and fixed the water pump bolt for $20! Incredible.
In 1992 you released a 7" called "Hard Like a Machine". What was the line-up for this release and what was the music like on it because in the 90's thrash was starting to fade away a bit and bands were changing their sounds to be more mainstream? Did you put this 7" out or did a label?
Well, when we got back from the tour on Halloween night in 1989, we parted ways with our bass player, Ty. We recruited Rick Berry, but unfortunately he lived about 3.5 hours away so we were only able to rehearse and write once a week with a bass player. It got too much for him and we snatched up Sean Kinnick to play bass with us. I had already written an album worth of riffs / songs and in late 1990 we decided to record those songs for demo purposes. The first attempt was so bad we scrapped it. By then, Tim and Mike had (rightfully) gotten disillusioned with thrash metal and having nothing to show for all the work they had put in over the last 5 years. We went back in and re-recorded those songs and they are the ones I'm most proud of. They were released in February this year on Divebomb as part of the God Save the Scene deluxe edition. For me, Thrash metal had really changed, since virtually ALL of the bay area bands were playing some sort of funk-metal. I wanted no part of that, despite being a HUGE fan of Faith No More, etc. I just felt like it was a pose to suddenly switch gears like that. I wanted to experiment a bit with my voice but write even darker, heavier riffs with odd-time changes. When I finally heard Messhugah - Obzen, I wondered if that's what we would have sounded like if we had stayed together (minus the vocals). Later on, Bad Card got in touch about doing 1,000 7" eps and we said yes. We picked some rough mixes of two of the songs we recorded in 1990 and went with it.
How was the response to it when it came out?
Seemed to be pretty good, although it was obvious thrash metal was killed by Nirvana in 1991. Fortunately, they also took out glam metal as well so it was almost an even trade. I kept wondering what the next thing was going to be, but grindcore caught my attention around then and I was slow to warm up to it. I love it now!
Your last release was a split with the band Liquid Courage that came with or was put out by Thora-Zine Magazine. Tell me about the 2 songs you had on it and how this release happened? What was the final lineup for this release?
Our good friends were in Liquid Courage and Aaron from The Probe put it together. The 2 songs from that were also part of that recording session from 1991. Same lineup. By the time that came out, thrash metal was pretty much dead. Metallica was trying to do some sort of modern rock and people thought Pantera was thrash metal. All in all, I think it was all just a little late...
How soon after this release did the band break up? Was it all just a mutual decision among the band members or did you just leave at some point?
Well, it faded out more than anything else. Mike decided he didn't want to play metal anymore and had outgrown it. Can't blame him. This left us with Tim, Sean and myself. Sean's old drummer from his previous band was a great dude named Jon Oliphant and we recruited him. Huge Dave Lombardo fan and played REALLY HARD. We rehearsed at his house about 40 minutes away from my house and an hour and a half from Tim, so it got to be too much for Tim and he sorta stopped showing up. He never officially quit...heh. This left us as a 3-piece. We actually played our final shows as a 3-piece and it was really cool, although lots of our songs really need another guitar for the harmonies. I finally got tired of trying to hold it all together and just folded the band. It was really unfair to Sean and Jon, because both of those guys really challenged themselves and put in a TON of work, but it was time to fold the tents.
After the band broke up what did you end up doing? Were you sad to see the bad go much or did you know it was time?
After I ended the band, I got more involved in a project I had been doing with some friends, called Second Coming. Joey Vela, Tim Narducci and I had written some metal / hardcore tunes mostly for fun. Tim played drums, joey sang and I played guitar. We didn't play any shows or record with that lineup. It became a real band in 1994 or so. I was very sad to see Tyrranicide end. I'm really proud of the music we made. I've got a completely different life now as a dad, husband and business owner, but man did we have a ton of fun and learn a lot in those days. It was definitely time to fold the tents, however.
Over the years did you ever see any bands do any Tyrranicide cover tunes or see any of your stuff bootlegged?
Never saw any band cover our tunes really. I did see a couple of bootlegs of God Save the Scene. One was a cassette version and also some vinyl. It's funny how many underground bands got ripped off by bootleggers. Obviously we weren't exactly top billing compared to the big ones, but at some point everybody seemed to just be ok with bootlegs. The "legendary" Record Vault in San Francisco were NOTORIOUS bootleggers. They made a whole bunch of money selling bootleg demos, vinyl, etc. Fuckin' dope addicts need to pay for their shit I guess. I'm sure whoever bootlegged God Save the Scene had a hard time making his money back...
How did Divebomb Records find you and how surprised were you when they wanted to put your music out after so many years of it now being out?
Matt reached out to Tim out of the blue and we were both surprised. He was VERY patient with us, since the focus changed quite a bit over the 2 (or 3?) years it took to get our shit together. I think he did a freaking amazing job and this guy does this because he loves the music, not to make a bunch of money (he's smarter than that)
For those who don't know yet, what exactly is on this release?
The God Save the Scene LP remastered, Don't Label Me, from Complete Death 2, The Hiding Under White demo, and the album we recorded in 1991 that was never properly released. It turned out really nice.
Do you have any type of Facebook page or anything up on-line these days?
Yeah, we have a facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/tyrranicide
Jeff mega horns up for the trip back in times with the band. Any last words to wrap this up?
Yeah man. Thanks for the interview. Much respect to you, Chris, for staying involved all these years. Admittedly, I moved on from the underground scene (yet I still love the music) but I have a ton of respect for the old school 'zinesters, bands and fans for keeping this scene alive for over 35 years now. Without guys like you, there would be no archive or record of all this weird cool shit that has grown and evolved from all those early years of people trying to figure out what it could be. Thanks again.
Interview by Chris Forbes