So Tom, how did the whole Warhead story start exactly? How did you get together?
I was in a Judas Priest/Iron Maiden copy band called Kingdom, easily the best Priest copy band in the tristate area, (think the movie Rockstar), BTW Ripper Owens had nothing on Jay Amon! Twisted Sister would frequent our shows, Mike Gallino filled in for our drummer one night, that’s how I met Mike, he was the fastest double bass drummer I ever heard! I met Neil at Sam Ash, part of the world famous guitar row in Manhattan. I’m not sure where we first played together, but shortly after we rented a room in the Queens music building and started writing songs as a trio, we started auditioning singers and foundd Ron through a tristate music publication and this was how Warhead was formed.
Was the line up you on guitars, Ron Simmons on vocals, Mike Gallino on drums and Neil Benderman on bass right from the start?
Yes, in the order of the prevues question
Were all of you deeply involved in the underground scene those times? Was Warhead the very first band for all of you or did you perhaps play in other oufits prior to Warhead?
I had only played live shows with Kingdom prior to Warhead.
Being based in New York, what do you recall of the late ’70s/early ’80s scene? How did it begin to start with? Were Kiss, Twisted Sister, Riot etc. the very first acts, that emerged from New York?
For me and many others the rock scene in New York in the 80’s revolved around the two L’amour rock clubs, in Brooklyn and L’amour East in Queens, of the three bands you mentioned, obviously Kiss was first from New York
Did they have a great influence on bands, that were formed later on, such as Manowar, Over Kill, The Rods, Cities, Anthrax, Warhead, Deathslayer, Fallen Angel etc.?
I’m not sure about the other bands, but Kiss made an impression on me
Who came up with the moniker Warhead? Did you choose it on the base of the Venom song or...?
We came up with the name Warhead with regards to the power of our songs and live show, we wore camo outfits, had camo netting, sandbags and dummy munitions stacked against our amps! and need ourselves after nuclear missiles
Were you aware of the existence of the Columbia based (South Carolina) act with the same name? They were active from 1981 to 1987...
No, New York was where it was at for us, this was the beginning as far as i’m concerned, it was us (Warhead), Anthrax and Metallica.
Did you take the band seriously?
Very seriously! As i mentioned, Anthrax and Metallica were our neighbors in the Queens music building on the same floor!, we would play each others riffs for jokes from our respective rooms, (doors closed). but the volume we played at superseded doors and walls!, lol!, Warhead had contracts offered from the premier Indy labels, Megaforce, Roadrunner, Combat, Schrapnel, among others
How did you opt for that heavy/power style, that you started to play with? Which bands would you name of your biggest influences?
For me it was Sabbath first, then Ted Nugent, Van Halen, UFO, Judas Priest, Iron Maiden
How about your rehearsals? Were you playing mostly covers or did you start writing own material right from the start?
With Warhead it was originals from the start
Your first (and unfortunately the last) material was the Demo 1984, do you still remember how were the songs written for it, how was it recorded, how did it sound like etc.?
We recorded the demo at Bolognese studio on Long Island, the manager from the band TNT referred us to that studio, he was acting as our co manager along with myself at that time, it was recorded multitrack, 2” tape and it was a very quick session, after we laid down the rhythms the owner was so blown away, he called Dee Snider, to see if he would sing backing vocals!
How do you explain, that the songwriting, performance, and atmosphere were all so incredibly strong on the tape?
We just carried our rehearsal attitude and performance with us into the studio
Were there definitely touches of speed metal thrown in the songs? Was the riffing catchy, but dark and powerful?
Speed was in at the time and i always tried to come up with the heaviest yet melodic riffs i could create, (see my influences)
Was this material spread around in the tapetrading circuit? Did you try to make a name for the band with this demo?
The demo went to a few of the premier Indy labels, the response was so overwhelming, it was then my decision to shop to major labels, Atlantic being the one! Which was a bad decision on my part
The track Whore appeared both on the New York Metal-84 (Rockcity, 1984) and on the 12 Commandments in Metal (Roadrunner Records, 1985) compilations, didn’t you think about to record a brandnew song to these compilations or to publish a previously unreleased one?
NY Metal 84, came about as the founder of the compilation was a friend of Neil and we thought it was a good idea, The 12 Commandments In Metal was a surprise - quite possibly a result of our meeting with the CEO of Roadrunner at his NYC office
In your opinion, did these compilations help the group to increase a fanbase or getting new fans, to draw the fans attention to the band?
I’m sure they did
Did you start working on a second demo or on a record at this point? Did you have any newer songs written?
Yes, the majority of those songs can be heard on the Cult Metal Classics release, “Warhead”, recorded live at our show opening for Lee Aron at Cheers rock club on Long Island
How about your live shows? Did you manage to headline or were you mostly opening act for bigger names?
We opened for Lee Aron at Cheers, Ratt at L’amour and TT Quick at L’amour
During the mid ’80s a lot of fast, brutal bands were popping up from New York, such as Nuclear Assault, Caligula, Deathrash, Deathcorps etc. what were your views on this movement?
Nuclear Assault was Dan Lilker (Anthrax) and Glen Evans (TT Quick), this was long after Warhead and in fact before Glen joined Nuclear Assault he and i had formed a trio with bassist Larry Calcagno and we rehearsed at Glenn’s house in New Jersey and I had written approx 5 songs with them, not sure what ever happened with those songs and I wasn’t familiar with the other bands you mentioned
A burgeoning scene was in New Jersey too (Whiplash, The Beast, Gargoyle, Revenant, Ripping Corpse, Blessed Death etc.) was it chained to the New York one or was it totally independent from it?
Independant, as I mentioned Anthrax and Metallica were our direct competition as far as we were concerned
How do you mean, that it’s such a pity that a band like Warhead - having a good grip on songs in their stuff generally, never joined the group of album-recording artists back in the day?
Again it was due to a couple of things, mainly my optimistic outlook judging by the amount of interest from indie labels (i had aprox. 5 contracts/offers), i thought there might be a chance we could get interest from Atlantic Records, since I had a contact through a family member. but the major labels weren’t interested, that and we had a falling out with Ron
When and why did the band’s story come to an end? What have all of you done after the demise of Warhead?
When we decided to let Ron go, a close friend of mine, Jack Strarr (Virgin Steele), introduced me to Schmoulik Avigal (Picture/Horizon), who then came to the US, Schmoulik stayed with me at my family house, which wasn’t the best arrangement, after writing several songs together, Jack had advised me that Carl Kanedy (Rods) and Craig Gruber (Elf, Rainbow, Gary Moore) were available and we moved to Cortland NY, which resulted in a new project
Were Warhead criminally overlooked back in the day? What did lack become bigger, more well know or more popular in your opinion?
Yes, however losing Ron was out of our control but we had made the decision to let him go together, I blame myself for not signing with one of those indy labels
How about your early bandmates these days? Are you still friends and/or in touch with them?
Yes and believe it or not, we’re talking about recording new Warhead music for future release
Last year Cult Metal Classics released a compilation album, limited to 500 copies, how did it happen? Were all Warhead members involved in the project? Was it done only for the diehard collectors?
I was contacted through Facebook by Laurent Ram and he introduced me to CMC, we were featured in Snake pit mag and all were involved with the release of the demo and live show which i had on CD
Do you still follow whats going on in the metal underground? How much did the scene develope/change compared to the 80s?
My tastes and influences have changed the inhe opportunity to the years, as I currently don’t follow the metal underground these days, those days are gone, but i’m glad i had the opportunity to be a part of it and in 1990 had the privilege to play and tour with as guitarist for Doro Pesch.
Interview by Leslie David
Answers by Tom Innamorato