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It seems that quite a few readers consider that my piece of work with HEATHEN published in Snakepit issue 4 is one of the most complete interviews ever made, well I do hope the same people will appreciate this DARK ANGELpiece the same way because despite the fact that it wasn't an easy thing to do and that it took no less than three years to materialize but with the huge fuckin' help of Leif Jensen from Century Media / DEW-SCENTED (thanks so much again buddy) I finally got the mastermind behind DARK ANGEL, best known as Gene Hoglan answering to an unreal thorough interview...
So DARK ANGEL finally reformed after a ten years hiatus featuring you, Eric Meyer (guitar), Ron Rinehart (vocals) and Danny (ex-GRUMBLE TUMMY) on bass. But at first, when Jim Durkin (guitar) decided to give it a try early last year (2002), it was DREAMS OF DAMNATION's drummer who was supposed to play and finally you managed to rejoin them. So how did all that stuff happen at first? Also a lot has happened since that reformation came into the picture since Jim left the band around December 2002 as he thought the timing to play some scheduled dates was too short and a bit of controversy has started over his departure...
"Well Jim gave me a call last July (2002) or August or something and said "Hey do you have some time available" like "I saw your kind of tour schedule and then I see you've got a little bit of time available" last December and he was saying "Do you think you might want to play a couple of shows or something?" and I'm like "That sounds pretty cool" you know like 'I think I've got the time to do it, I don't know how much time we need to rehearse or anything like that', he's like 'Well we'll worry about that when it'll happen' so... it was supposed to be about ten or twelve west coast dates and it all fell through, I don't really know how it fell through but it just... like I know that the plug got pulled on it... so I was busy trying to make it happen and it just fell apart underneath me anyway so after that we tried to... like Jim decided he didn't want to do it so he said that we didn't have enough time to rehearse or something, so for those dates I turned around right to Jed (Simon) my guitarist from STRAPPING YOUNG LAD and said "Jed, do you want to do those dates with us?", he's like 'Yeah sure I can do it, no problem I've got the time' so it was gonna be like that but turns out that by the time we got hold of the promoter to say "Look, just because Jim isn't doing..." cos Jim called the promoter directly I understand... and I haven't spoken to Jim since it happened - I haven't got the time you know - but by the time we got hold of the promoter, the promoter said "No, Jim cancelled everything!" like it's all off, I just got off the phone with the last guy right now saying it's over you know so then this war started over the internet like all these people yelling at Jed for "How dare you replace Jim?" and it wasn't like Jim... to me Jim wasn't kicked out of the band or anything, there wasn't a band to be kicked out of, it was just like, well Jim couldn't do it so Jed will you know?! If people want to see DARK ANGEL music, of course Jed is the first person to say "Jim Durkin should do it" you know and I'm the second person you know, I'm the first person too, this should be a reformation with Jim but if he's involved in it I don't know!"
Don’t you think some will think that it’s a bit strange to see DARK ANGEL going on without Jim considering that he has formed DARK ANGEL around ’83 or so and he’s out again?
"Well Jim has never like... Jim has never really played outside of like the states with DARK ANGEL, outside of California Jim only did maybe at the most ten shows with the band... no like a couple of tours..."
Yeah with POSSESSED...
"Yeah that one and then the third tour I guess... we did some east coast stuff with MOTÖRHEAD and MEGADETH but he quit pretty early on into the... We hadn't been to Europe yet so Jim hadn't played outside of the U.S. with us so you know nobody has ever seen DARK ANGEL with Jim so whether that's strange or not, I don't know... you know I think DARK ANGEL should be Jim Durkin, I fully... you know, I would never shy away from that you know..."
Do you have an idea about who's gonna replace Jim right now?
"Well I just hope it's like... this is what I hope: I want Jim and Eric to both put aside their differences and make it Jim and Eric, they were both the guitarists, the original guitarists from DARK ANGEL, if you're gonna reform a band, reform it with the original guys, there's no way we can get Rob Yann to play with us and there's no way we can get Mike Gonzales to play with us either so we'll have to go with another bassist but you know, hell it's gonna be... and Don Doty has disappeared I understand so, he's not a possibility either but Ron says he'll do it so at least it is most of a DARK ANGEL line up, you know what I mean? Five guys, four guys that have recorded with the band, all at one time... so I hope it's Jim, I want it to be Jim, you know I haven't spoken to Jim in six, seven months or something like that but you know I love Jim and there's no reason why it shouldn't be him and that was kind of like when he called me up and said "Do you want to do some of these shows", I was like 'Man if it's gonna be fun, let's just make it fun, it should be a good time, it shouldn't be a war or a battle about you and Eric and your problems, you guys should put those aside you know, this could be fun and you guys could have a good time and you never know where it can go' cos originally it was gonna be just a few dates so... and around that time when like Wacken heard about it, they said “Hey you guys want to do Wacken?!" and I was like, I called up - I think it was Eric and Ron and they were like 'Yeah sure we can do it!', I figured Jim would want to do it so I committed to it six months ago, then everything fall apart so... it did what it did."
And now I hear that DARK ANGEL are supposed to do some dates during the Christmas festival in December... (but since that interview was done it appears that DARK ANGEL cancelled as nobody in the band were aware of that and Metalysée promotions took it on their own to publish the statement that DARK ANGEL would play - Laurent)
"You know I just found out about those yesterday (March 26th 2003) so I don't know anything... I don't know like man if DARK ANGEL could be carrying on with another drummer you know for all I know cos I haven't spoken to anybody in a few months, I have just been on the road for fuckin' three months now and three months before that I was in the studio so... and I told everybody "Just let me know where I gotta be and I'll be there" so... One thing that I did do to make rehearsals easier on everybody is I recorded a little disk of the drums, I went to the studio recorded 'em so they can have some to rehearse so I don't have to be there all the time you know?! I can show up a week before not two months of rehearsals before you know, they can rehearse as much or as little as they want you know?!"
So how do you feel, to see that DARK ANGEL are around once again, considering how much you believed in the band back then? Also how do you view this reformation exactly, I mean will it be for all of you something for the fun, playing some local shows and maybe some festivals or do you plan to go further and record a new album?
"Well that's another question that's hard to answer because I have always said... but I remember when we broke up ten years ago, I remember like looking around and go "Wait a minute like THE MONKEES are reforming and the MOODY BLUES are reforming and BLACK SABBATH are gonna reform and you just wait, in ten years from now, we're gonna reform and it's gonna be a big fun, it's gonna be fun for everybody", I was half joking you know but sure enough, ten years later Jesus you know?! But I've always said you know reunions are silly you know, like they really are, like 'Why didn't you just carry on in the first place?!' you know, for all these bands that are reforming and stuff like that and you know I've been a hold out on the DARK ANGEL reformation, I've been the one saying 'Come on guys, don't you think it's kind of goofy?!" but this time I'm like 'Okay, well it sounds like fun', you know?! It doesn't sound like a whole lot of work, it sounds more like fun so let's make it fun. But if there's another record and if I'm involved in it, cool you know?! Like if they are like... I don't know if they're booking shows but those Christmas festivals or whatever, I don't know if they remember that in December I usually don't do anything, this December might be different but in December I usually take December off like STRAPPING does or my other bands do you know, I go home for the holidays and blah blah so they might have said "Hey man we know Gene has this time so let's go over there, you know he did last year, we know he's going to have it again this year", they might have done that but I don't think they probably thought that far ahead. So... yeah you know, if there's another record, cool but if they do these festivals or if they do any shows without Gene, I think that will be kind of counter productive you know?! I don't think that would be the wisest move but who knows?!"
If that happens, will you be involved in the songwriting this time considering that you're busy as hell with STRAPPING YOUNG LAD or will you simply always have the right amount of time for DARK FUCKIN' ANGEL?
"If there was to be another record, it should be me and Jim get together and write some riffs because we work really well together and Jim still writes GREAT riffs, he's got awesome riffs but not every riff of Jim is a great riff you know, just like not every riff of mine is a great riff, there was either of us saying "Hey well that one is kind of stinky, that one is no good", "Okay you're right", you know "This one's good, yeah you're right, that's good", "this one's off" so... you know anything can happen, you can make anything happen and that's the one thing that I... like I even told Eric recently like, "Dude we were fuckin' spoiled kids when we were in DARK ANGEL" because granted it was a lot of hard work in the early days but then we got to the point where we had managers, booking agents and record label people setting up interviews and this and that and the other and we didn't have to do a lot of work on our own, we had a lot of people handling us and the one thing I have learned in the past two years, definitively learned from STRAPPING is that you have got to work really hard you know?! If you're not getting it done, it's not gonna get done so you've gotta get shit done on your own so... if they want to make something happen, they totally can, it doesn't have to be, you know 'Well we don't have enough time to rehearse so we can't do this tour' ... you can make anything happen! So that'd be cool, I'd love to write again with Jim, that would be deadly!"
So you haven't discussed the possibility of doing a new album with Eric or Jim so far and how it would sound like in 2003...
"Well good question man, I haven't even discussed with Jim or Eric if Jim is in the band you know so I apologize for that, this is the most non-newsworthy interview so far you know cos I don't even know if Jim is gonna do it you know?! Jim might just hate Eric so much right now and Eric might hate Jim so much that, you know it's like "Fuck both of you guys" you know, so who's gonna do it, Cris McCarthy and Brett Eriksen? (laughs) You know that would be wicked, Jim Drabos on vocals?!"
Like you mentioned before, Mike Gonzales or even Rob Yann will never be involved in rejoining the band, but did you try to contact one of 'em?
"Oh yeah! I think Rob is really into what his job is and I don't think he even lives in L.A. anymore because I've talked to Jim about that and he's like 'Oh man, I wish but Rob can't do it' so... and I'm pretty sure Mike Gonzales has lost his mind to drugs, that's what I've heard for the past ten years so he's not even Mike anymore, he's not even Gonze that we knew you know?! And the last time I spoke to Gonze was September 5th 1992 and that was the day when we broke up so that was the last time I ever said any words to Gonze man!"
And Don Doty has disappeared?
"I heard Don originally for like this tour that we had booked like three years ago or whatever, he said he'll do it which made my interest in it go down drastically you know (laughs) but he's a Christian now and he's got a really good job so... like Ron's Christianity - Ron is a Christian too but Ron is cool with all of this, he's like "Cool, we were never a satanic band so...". But I guess Don... I understand from Eric that Don does have some problems with say some of the old lyrical content, the old imagery or whatever so Don was like "No!", "No I don't want to do it even if I could" and you know Don hasn't sung in 15 years, 16 years so how good would it be you know like, okay you've got your person that you want, you beg for people, here's your Don Doty after not picking up a mic for 16 years, here you go you know?! How good would that really be? But Ron has sung everyday since he quit so... I've always liked Ron's voice better anyway, period. I thought he's a way cool singer than Don so."
DARK ANGEL have already done a sort of reunion show as they played two songs at the KREATOR / DESTRUCTION show in Los Angeles on 9/21/2002 but you weren’t part of that, why?
"We were mixing the STRAPPING album and I couldn't get away from that cos that was number one on my priority list for the entire year and that show just kind of came up about a month beforehand and my schedule was already pretty tight, I said that I was gonna try to pull away from it and head down for the week end and do it but I couldn't do it, I just didn't have the time but I understand that the guy they got, Al Mendez from DREAMS OF DAMNATION - I saw a bunch of stuff on websites after that that said "Fuck Gene, that was great!" so... cool! (laughs) And I saw a video tape, I went to Eric's and we had a DARK ANGEL party about a month and a half ago or whatever, and I watched the video tape of it, it looked cool."
Now I hear that Eric is planning to release a DARK ANGEL DVD featuring that "show" plus older DARK ANGEL shows, anyway what do you expect from the very first show which will take place at the Wacken festival?
"Hopefully that won't be the first show... (laughs) hopefully we'll squeeze one in before... that would be cool but man I'm gonna to be spreading myself super thin trying to get all of this together because I've got PUNCHTRUNCK on the bill as well, as well as STRAPPING I think so you know, that's gonna be a crazy weekend so... it should be good! But man I don't know what to expect but I know DARK ANGEL has... you know we've always been a pretty decent live band, lots of energy and lots of cool stuff and I know those guys are gonna be excited to be playing in front of... 10.000 or 20.000 people, however many people it is, yeah it should be good."
What will be the set like for that show?
"Probably a whole lot of "Darkness Descends", couple of the good ones from "Leave Scars" and maybe for Ron's sake like one from "Time Does Not Heal" and a couple from "We Have Arrived" you know, 'Welcome To The Slaughterhouse', 'We Have Arrived' stuff like that... it depends how long we get to play, they'll probably give us a 40 minutes set so we'll may be only able to play "Darkness…" for everybody you know?!"
There were already talks about a DARK ANGEL reformation in 1999 - it even went as far as having tour dates for September 1999 printed in some Metal mags in Europe with ANCIENT RITES as support, but nothing happened because Jim wasn't into it all, how about you at the time?
"I would have done it but I also had a bunch of shit going on so... I told Eric "Look, I can't get involved in any of the business of this you know, like I just don't have the time at the moment so if you really want to make this happen, you have to do all the biz" so... and maybe Eric wasn't up to it at the time to see it through so it just kind of fell apart."
So Gene, tell us how you got involved in music to begin with like when it was, how you discovered Metal and stuff... I think your sister Lisa and your parents had a lot to do with that?
"Oh yeah, yeah Lisa was and my cousin Ken, they were both like one year apart, like she's five years older than me and he's six and they were always hanging out, shooting the breeze about Rock 'n' Roll and stuff and my sister got into Rock 'n' Roll at a young age, she was 13 or 14 when she started to get into it and I was like 7 or 8, I was always into the music man, I grew up on the AM pop radio from 1969 through like 1976 or so and then in '77, '76 I guess it was just discovered KISS and my sister was really into QUEEN, BLACK SABBATH, ANGEL and THIN LIZZY and AEROSMITH and all these bands I got into you know, BLUE OYSTER CULT, TED NUGENT, that was my total background and as I got a little bit older I started discovering you know like the underground Metal, I always like being the only person that... I was one of those super hardcore kids, I wanted to be the only one to know about these bands nobody else knows about so I'm cool you know?! So I got really into like the N.W.O.B.H.M. and like the old Japanese Metal and European Metal underground stuff that nobody had heard of, nobody had even heard of IRON MAIDEN at this time so... you know like IRON MAIDEN or JUDAS PRIEST, nobody knew who those bands were so I was safe in liking those bands for a time and once those bands started getting songs on the radio or whatever, I just drifted into deeper, deeper Metal waters as it were and then so I just started... you know I got pretty heavy into the tape trading scene before I was really in any bands or anything like that so you know that's how I got to know people like Chuck from DEATH, trading tapes left and right, Borivoj (Krgin) and people like that."
Considering the influential drummer you have been for many baby Metal drummers over the years, I guess it's logical to ask you what were your main influences to start with? Were you more into full force drummers like Phil Taylor, Tommy Aldridge, Robb Reiner or much into the legendary masters of precision, Mr Neil Peart from RUSH or even Rick Colaluca from WATCHTOWER?
"I was into all those guys, just equally. I grew up like my first favorite drummer was Neil Peart and I could air drums his stuff really well then when I started playing on drum sets, you know I could play his stuff really well and I was getting into... like RAVEN was my favorite band so Wacko (Rob Hunter) was a big influence and ANVIL was another one of my favorites, I just loved all the double bass drummers like if you were a precision player like say Mark Crenny, from Gino Banellie or Terry Bozzio I was really into him... and if you were a really heavy hitter like Philthy Animal (Taylor) or a double bass monster like Tommy Aldridge or Cozy Powell, both the Robbs there, I was totally into that, and as I got a little bit older I totally got into Rick Colaluca, I mean he's always a great drummer and you know after him even Sean Reinert (SEAWEED, CYNIC, DEATH, GORDIAN KNOT, AGHORA) take a big influence out of Rick and get into Steve Gatts from Al DiMeola, he was a big influence on my playing around the "Individual Thought Patterns" days, he was really cool. I like drummers that you can get, you know, that you can understand, you know they were going crazy, it was really technical but I usually had a pretty decent aptitude for picking up what they were playing so... you know just transforming that and absorbing that and making certain elements of other drummer's styles part of my style, that was something I was pretty good at doing from a young age so... but I always admit like half the shit I've played man, I've stolen it from somewhere you know, they're just drums so things do tend to get stolen."
What's your opinion about the somewhat special drummer known as Dennis The Menace from Chicago's MACABRE?
"Oh man fuck Dennis The Menace is killer! He was one of my favorites growing up, yeah totally."
From an old discussion we had back in '87, you said your early drum sets suffered a lot from your pounding drumming but which drums do you think fit the best your drumming?
"Hmmm well I'm still playing the gray Pearl that I got in DARK ANGEL, I still play that and you know I tell you the custom Z that I was using in DEATH, that was a perfect drum set for DEATH, I thought and that sounded really well... right now I'm playing a rented kit cos I don't have a drum endorsement so I'm playing a rented kit from our tour manager - he has a production company in England so we just always hire his drum sets and stuff... it never matters what kit I play, I can usually tune any drum set to sound pretty decent and you know, a label is just a label but I can use some new drums I tell you, I owe it to the rest of the guys in my band to get a new drum set cos they're out there procuring themselves new guitars, finding themselves amps and here I am playing this 13, 14 years old piece of shit drum set, I owe it to them to get something soon." (laughs)
Tell us about how you as a writer and Lisa as a photographer got involved in the fanzine Brain Damage in '83, '84, how did that happen? It seems you have always been close to the underground, helping small bands from your area like VIKING, SANCTUM, LEGION... or even being in touch with bands from elsewhere like MUTILATED, PRIME EVIL later on...
"Well there was another fanzine from L.A. called The Headbanger which was a great fanzine, that was the first fanzine I've ever seen in my life, I didn't even know that something like that existed and I was about 13 or 14 at the time when I saw that, I was just blown away and I got to... because I would see the owner of the mag Bob Nalbandian, he would be at all the shows, all the local shows that I would go to and he was this guy that was way more Metal than me and you know when I was talking to him, he was a really cool guy and he handed me a copy of his zine one time, he was like 'Here's my magazine', and I was like 'Holy fuck! This is a fanzine... cool!' and I was totally into Metal so I wanted to be a writer when I was that age and that's what I thought I was gonna end up doing so I was like 'Dude, can I write something for you?', he's like 'Sure! Review an album for me' you know like 'Go to a show and review it and let me know what you think', and so I did, so I wrote for The Headbanger for a couple of issues there and stuff. As a matter of fact... yeah I'm the very first person that have ever reviewed any SLAYER album EVER! Because The Headbanger had the very first review of "Show No Mercy" and I fuckin' wrote it so that was cool... Yeah so this kid (Vadim Rubin - Brain Damage editor) moves in down the street to me, he's a total Metalhead and he's totally into Metal and I was thinking 'You're just a Punk', you know he was a year younger than me and I was like 'No way dude, there's no way he can be into Metal as much as I am' and he's like 'Well come to my house man, check out some of the shit I got', he's got tons of cool shit! I was like 'Fuck! We live three doors down from each other!", and so you know he was familiar with The Headbanger magazine, he'd seen it around a little bit, I was like 'Well I write for it' so he's like 'I wanna do a magazine too' so he started writing articles, it was run by a bunch of kids, 14, 15 years old, I was like 14 or 15 and he was like 13 or 14 and we were going to shows and reviewing shows, all that sort of stuff and my sister drew the logo for it, she takes tons of pictures for it cos that's what she was doing, I mean she's taking pictures for Metal Hammer and Rock Hard, Aardshock and stuff like that. I used to write articles for like Metal Hammer and stuff when I was a kid because she would take pictures of like, let's say EXODUS would come to town, the very first show in southern California, you know we'd go down and she'd take pictures for it... it was through the band SAVAGE GRACE that she made some contacts with some European mags and stuff and she would send 'em pictures of like the latest shows, you know POSSESSED, DARK ANGEL and SLAYER at Radio City or whatever and they would say 'Well that's cool but can you add a review to go along with it?'" you know, she's like 'I'm not a writer and I really don't like this kind of music but I'll see what I can do...' so it was like 'I'll tell you what, I'll write the articles' so I used a pseudonym, now I write this great article like 'DARK ANGEL just played there and they were killer, destroyed the house... great show... oh yeah SLAYER played too' you know (laughs), stuff like that, I was always doing that man, I've got a bunch of articles in like Metal Hammer, Rock Hard, shit like that so that's pretty cool."
Was DARK ANGEL (not the same familiar outfit you joined later) the first outfit you joined? I think you had played with CARNAGE at one point?
"In fact that band CARNAGE was originally called DARK ANGEL and you know, I made 'em change the name cos I thought DARK ANGEL was a gay name so I made 'em change the name to CARNAGE and it had nothing to do with the other DARK ANGEL and as soon as I started seeing ads for DARK ANGEL playing at the Whiskey or DARK ANGEL playing at Radio City, I thought it was those same guys and they just carried on, I just thought they kept playing or whatever and then I found out it was a totally different DARK ANGEL, then I've seen 'em a few times and stuff and you know I went to go see them and that was about the time I was starting to go to see SLAYER too for the first time, you know like '83 or whatever so now that was cool. I saw 'em playing a bunch of shows together before I was in the band, DARK ANGEL and SLAYER."
What type of music did the other DARK ANGEL / CARNAGE play?
"We tried to play as Heavy Metal as we could but like I was about the only super heavy guy in the band like 'Come on, let make it dark and evil' you know I was playing 'em like ANGEL WITCH and stuff like that and TANK, VENOM, MOTÖRHEAD and you know we sounded like a really really terrible MOTÖRHEAD I guess, just raw and fast and loud and heavy you know with 14 year old kids playing it so...(laughs)"
Did you have lots of originals or was it mainly covers?
"We didn't have any covers in fact, we had a whole lot of originals, and they were all pretty terrible you know?! I would laugh if I found like the old rehearsal tape that we made. We never recorded any demos or anything but I know there's a rehearsal tape floating around somewhere and I'm sure it's pretty terrible."
And did you play any shows?
A while later, probably late '83 or early '84, you became the lighting guy for SLAYER and you ending up doing more lighting work for that new wave of Metal bands in L.A. like BLOODLUST, OMEN, SAVAGE GRACE and SHELLSCHOCK who had changed their name for DARK ANGEL, do you have fond memories about that?
"Oh totally man like fuck just like... I remember I would have to, like I was in the stage crew at school meaning that I was the fly man, meaning I pulled the curtains for the school plays and stuff and when they had like the dance recitals, when the orchestra would play, I'd be the guy pulling the curtains and there was a lot of times when I couldn't make that cos I've got a gig, I gotta go to a show you know, I've got to do you know SLAYER and SAVAGE GRACE at the Woodstock and I got to be there for 10 so... yeah totally, great memories cos I didn't know what I was doing at that either and the way I started to do lights was... SLAYER's lighting guy didn't show up, the guy who ran the lights for 'em and you know, Tom (Araya) turns to me, he's like 'Well Gene you come to our shows, you know our tunes pretty well, do you wanna have a crack at the lighting board?!', I was like 'Sure!' so I got up there and you know I would got a show on video tape even, it's bouncing around somewhere, one of my first shows anyway... then the next time... buddy didn't show up again, Tom's like 'Dude you're here, dude' and then, I think it was probably a show with SAVAGE GRACE so you know I offered myself to SAVAGE GRACE cos they were my friends too, it was like 'I'll do your lights too' and they said, "Oh yeah sure" so there, boom another job, and then OMEN was coming around then and I go like 'Well I do lights, you need some lights?', "Yeah sure", boom I'm gonna be at your show anyway, then EXODUS came to town for the first time, I did EXODUS' lights, their very first L.A. show and then reviewed the show for Metal Hammer later or Rock Hard, one of those magazines so I was a busy little fuckin' 15 year old bastard!"
That's when you've met SHELLSHOCK / DARK ANGEL for the first time?
"Yeah in fact they were probably DARK ANGEL at the time and I met Jim Durkin at a SLAYER after party, I think it was a DARK ANGEL / SLAYER show that I couldn't get to, I just got into town like that night and went right to this gig and missed it but there was a party afterwards and there was Jim Durkin sitting there, I'd seen him around at a couple of the other shows and seemed like a cool guy and we started talking, he's like 'I'm in DARK ANGEL', I was like 'Hey check this out, I was in this DARK ANGEL' and blah blah, he's like 'Cool', totally into Metal he was so you know we just became friends and you know after the first conversation DARK ANGEL had a lighting man too (laughs), I was like 'Dude I do lights!', he's like 'Cool, come to our next show!' so I did, I worked for him for a few shows and then I'm on the road with SLAYER and when I got back from that, I think I pretty much made enemies with all the SLAYER dudes, they were like 'Fuck Gene is an asshole! He's a 15 year old Punk man!' cos Jim was like 'Dude I've heard Gene because of WARGOD' - cos I've jumped to WARGOD around that time and it was.... Jim would come to a couple of rehearsals and he saw me play and they already got rid of Jack Schwartz once and they got Lee Rauch from MEGADETH for a while and that didn't work out too well so they got Jack back but then they came and saw that WARGOD rehearsal cos Jim and I were pals at the time so... and he was asking around like 'What do you think of Gene?' cos he knew that I was doing stuff on Dave's (Lombardo) kit for SLAYER, I would play with SLAYER like the soundchecks and stuff and that's a pretty well known story or whatever and Kerry (King) was like 'Hey Gene is a wicked drummer, but he's a little bastard' you know, "He's a fuckin' asshole! You don't want him in your band, he's a whiny little fuckin' Punk!" and Jim is like 'No dude, I think he's cool, I've heard him play and I saw him playing cos we're thinking about getting rid of Jack, what do you think about Gene?' and Kerry is like 'No you don't want him!' so... but he asked me anyway so I said "Yeah sure!"."
At around the same time you did some backing vocals on the very first SLAYER album - how did you get involved in that and on which songs did you sing?
"It was on the song 'Evil Has No Boundaries', it was the chorus 'Evil!' and I was going down to the studio and watching them record, watching 'em record pretty much the whole record cos we were close back then anyway and I was a huge SLAYER fan and they didn't have many you know (laughs), I mean they would bring about 30 people to the shows..."
Oh yeah I remember that!
"Yeah totally and you know I just became pal with them and I go see all the shows, I never missed a SLAYER show so... I was cool enough, they were like 'Come to the party' or 'Come watch us rehearse' or "Hey we're recording the album next week, come on down and check it out" and back at the time it was Jeff (Hanneman) and Kerry doing the 'Evil!', you know it didn't sound too heavy and I mentioned to like Tom or Jeff or somebody like 'You know you guys should consider... maybe consider doing like big gang vocals on that, make it sound evil like demons and stuff' and they were like 'Good idea' but how about now, we got about eight dudes sitting around in the studio and now everybody jumped there and yelled 'evil' so I was like 'Cool' because I'm like 'I wanna sing on this record somehow, that's how I can do it", totally unplanned you know?! Sure enough there were like "Fuck we have the time, let's do it" so I was like "Yeah I got to sing on it!" so..."
Your involvement with SLAYER didn't end up here as you went on tour with them in June / July '84 during their "Haunting The West Coast" short tour in June / July '84 where it seems you became really close to Dave to the point he asked you to become his "drum tutor", tell us the story about that and wild stories about the SLAYER guys being on tour with you!
"I remember spending a lot like after the first show, it was in L.A. at the Country Club (6/21/84) and we packed up and Kerry had his van and the rest of the guys had another van that they were traveling in, Kerry had the gear in his van and we went up to S.F., it's about a six hour drive or whatever and about three hours into it Kerry and I hadn't spoke a fuckin' word to each other you know?! It was like, fuck he's just a really quiet guy and at the time I was pretty intimidated because he used to be a pretty opiniated guy as well and usually if you're an opiniated guy that makes you an asshole you know?! And I didn't think that but I was like, 'Man he don't want to talk' so I was just like, I was bored so that's like 'Dude I'm fuckin' bored, give me something to do!', he's like 'I'll tell you what, I've got this B.C. Rich guitar back there, it's just a red one' and I splattered all this fuckin' black paint on it. So over the course of the next three hours til we got to S.F., I was sitting there chipping off little pieces of black paint and... I never got to finish it so if you have ever see that cos I've got pictures, it's like half the paint is gone, I got half the job done, that was cool and you know what? I was such a young idiot back then, I was a fuckin' retard, I was doing lights for 'em but I thought... I didn't know that... nobody explained to me what a roadie does like if they had said "Dude we need you to lug gear after the show" and you know set up stuff and tear stuff down and do that, I would have done but I didn't know so there's Johnny, Tom's little brother doing all the work, he's loading everything! And I'm sure they're going you know "Gene get your ass and gear, do some work here." and I'm just sitting around like talking to chicks and I didn't know what I was supposed to do so I got fired pretty much after that first tour so... but that was a good learning experience."
The first band that got really well known - in the underground at least - that you were involved with was WARGOD. According to what you said before, you actually met guitarist Michelle Meldrum (later seen in PHANTOM BLUE and now MELDRUM) during that SLAYER tour and once she had relocated to L.A., you met up with Rob Perkins (vocals), Phil Williams (guitar), Greg Gunther (bass) and formed WARGOD, tell us the exact story about how you got all together... I think there was some dude called Blake involved also at one point huh?
"Blake Edwards... yeah and that was the original bassist, Phil wasn't around at the time, neither was Greg in fact, it was just us four and... yeah she was a total Metal fan as much as I was, I met her at Ruthies Inn in Berkeley, CA, that was EXODUS, SLAYER, POSSESSED, VERMIN from L.A. (6/23/84) and like I just saw her rocking out, you know and she was going for total Metal, Metal headbanging chick and we didn't have Metal headbanging chicks in L.A., you know all the girls were all fou fou, all pretty looking like glammers or whatever and here's this chick wearing fuckin' like an EXODUS shirt, just thrashing and I was like 'Cool!' and she came, stood by the board and she introduced me, I was like 'I know who you are' because I heard about this band called WRECKAGE that Steve Craig the manager of SLAYER was working with and it was an all chick Metal band and she was the guitarist, she was like 14 at the time or something like that so... we just became pals, I gave her the number where we were staying and she called me up the next day like 'Hey man do you guys want to come over, go swimming or something like that?', 'Cool we'll do it' but she just lived too far away but we just kept in contact and she moved down to L.A. like a couple of months later and I was off the tour and so we kind of put a band together, it was just me and her at first and then... I'm not sure how we got Rob or Blake, in fact I think Rob and Blake were putting something else together, we just kind of molded, they were a singer and a bassist putting a band together and we were a guitarist and a drummer and it's like 'let's throw ourselves together and see how it goes', we recorded this really crappy little demo and what was on that... I think 'Day Of Atonement', 'Break The King's Seal' or something like that, it was pretty terrible (well compared to today's standards in Metal in general, this recording can be considered as killer! - Laurent) but we were into it, that was cool and I felt really bad when... you know here's my first band, my first real band, we got a logo, we take some pictures and we're doing a demo and that's when Jim asked if I like to be in DARK ANGEL so that was a pretty rough consideration you know?! It's like well do I take this band from the ground up or do I join this band that had gotten a record deal, stuff like that but I felt really bad when I told Michelle about it but she was like 'Dude, of course you got to do it man! I won't hold you back, do it!'."
If I'm correct you thought WARGOD were too much SLAYER orientated and maybe you saw more future in DARK ANGEL also...
"Hmmm... I definitely saw more future in DARK ANGEL but the thing that really got me about DARK ANGEL was because I knew all their "We Have Arrived" material, from having seen them live for a couple of times watching 'em play and what not but they had these two brand new songs, one was called 'The Burning Of Sodom' and the other one was called 'Perish In Flames' and once I heard those two songs and like it had been about a month or so since I hung around or seen 'em or anything like that and my buddy Vadim from up the street, he found a rehearsal and told me like 'Dude they got those two new songs, wait til you hear them, 'Burning...' and 'Perish...' are gonna rip your fuckin' face off!', I was like 'Cool man, cool!', you know DARK ANGEL was okay, they were alright like I remember being on that SLAYER tour and we did more DARK ANGEL songs at soundcheck than we did SLAYER songs. That's all we wanted to play was DARK ANGEL, we played 'We Have Arrived' and shit like that, couple of the other songs and stuff, I remember Hanneman go "Dude, fuckin' DARK ANGEL is fuckin' faster than us, heavier than us they are killing". I remember telling Hanneman "Dude, what are you talking about? You are in SLAYER!" you know like 'Fuck! Do you worry about that band from L.A., DARK ANGEL? Big fuckin' deal you're in SLAYER!" and he's like 'Dude, their new shit is fuckin' ripping!' cause he had some of the new stuff and then I heard those two songs and I was like 'Yes I want to be in the band' cos I was telling Jim "I don't know man, it's like WARGOD, we're really tight and..." we'd only been in the band for three months or something like that, three / four months but you know fuck I really like all these guys, it's gonna be cool and Jim was like 'Come on dude, check it out! We hate Jack, we don't want Jack anymore, we like you so come on!' then I heard 'Perish...' and 'Burning...', I was like 'YEAH'."
How much did you contribute to the songwriting in WARGOD and their first three song tape? I think you wrote 'Day...' at least on it, correct?
"Yeah I wrote that and that's probably the first song I ever wrote on guitar because I wasn't really playing guitar at the time so yeah I wrote that one, I wrote the lyrics and I think I wrote probably the lyrics to everything on there I think maybe and then I think it was probably the riff I wrote, the only song I wrote, I had a bunch of riffs that I was writing for WARGOD that I show to Jim Durkin when I joined DARK ANGEL, he was like 'Holy hell, we'll take that one! Have that one too! Hey give me that one overthere!' so... and I didn't know how to play guitar, I mean "Darkness Descends" was written by a guy who'd been playing guitar for probably three years and another guy who'd been playing guitar for three months! (laughs) Fuck!"
Did you play lots of shows while you were in WARGOD?
"No we never played any... I think I ended up playing a show with WARGOD after I was in DARK ANGEL..."
Yeah you continued to play with WARGOD at the same time to help them out for live shows until they recruited previous MEGADETH / DARK ANGEL drummer, Lee Rauch...
"Yeah that's right... I didn't want to leave WARGOD hanging so I stuck around with 'em until they found another drummer and yeah they did some shows... and at the time when I joined DARK ANGEL I hadn't done a show with WARGOD yet but I think I did a couple, a few maybe..."
But did it get in the way of DARK ANGEL sometimes the fact that you had to play with WARGOD too?
"No! No but there was one time when I rehearsed for 42 days in a row, you know there was like four DARK ANGEL rehearsals one week, four WARGOD rehearsals the next week, three DARK ANGEL rehearsals so I remember having no days off for 42 days in a row and I thought that was pretty strenuous now that's no big fuckin' deal you know?! (laughs) I do that for months but at the time I was like 'FUCK! I'm killing myself here!' and that's back when we had a rehearsal one time a day like nowadays I'm rehearsing three times a day with three different bands and sometimes it's seven days a week for a month straight so... crazy!"
What was your opinion of their second two song demo which I really found to be a stepback in terms of quality / catchy songwriting?
"Yeah I agree but I remember working on a couple of the songs with them, I think it might have been a three song where they ended up dropping off the third song sort of thing and that never got released, I think there was a couple of the songs that I was working on and I remember Lee, like Lee when he joined DARK ANGEL it was like 'Dude they got the drummer from MEGADETH! Fuck! DARK ANGEL is gonna kill!' I was really excited for him cos I figured 'Dude if you're in MEGADETH, you had to be a fuckin' killer!' but you know (laughs)... if you were an ex-member of MEGADETH that meant you couldn't play your fuckin' instrument you know?! And Lee in fact wasn't very good, I don't even know how long he was in fact in MEGADETH. I went to a MEGADETH rehearsal and he was rehearsing with them but I guess he was with 'em for like two or three months or something like that... but he had the name so when Lee disappeared after DARK ANGEL then he joined WARGOD, I was like 'Cool! Maybe he'll be better, he didn't fit DARK ANGEL too well but maybe WARGOD he'll do alright with' you know and WARGOD needed a good straight forward thrashing drummer and Lee wasn't, Lee is kind of a power drummer more you know, he lashed double bass and stuff like that, he slowed lots of the songs down and his meter wasn't really too happening or anything like that so... but yeah so they did tons of stuff at that time yeah."
Why do you think that band - despite their somewhat lack of originality, never went further?
"Well I don't know, maybe they just didn't really wanna try too hard, maybe it just became kind of a side project for 'em, after WARGOD Michelle disappeared for a little while and then did PHANTOM BLUE and all that stuff, and that was probably her thing cos she was a shredder when she was a kid, she was a talented guitarist man, solid."
Are you still in touch with some of the members like Rob Perkins who was later seen in PHOBIA or Michelle Meldrum?
"No I haven't seen Rob forever and Michelle, I jumped on her website, she's got a MELDRUM website and I typed an e mail message to her and I couldn't get the thing to send..."
Yeah I tried myself one time also and I couldn't either...
"Okay, there we go... I'm a computer idiot but... yeah I've followed Michelle's career you know, she might have done the same with mine or whatever but I haven't spoken to Michelle in a long time, about ten years or so I understand she's married, living in Sweden now..."
Yeah she's married with John Norum...
"That's right. That must be a guitar shredding family. Imagine the fight, you can totally get out 'Baby I'm sorry, we're angry to each other, pick up a guitar, let's shred it out!' you know?! Cool!"
So do you remember your first rehearsal with DARK ANGEL? It would be dumb to ask you if you were familiar with their music as you worked with them, but what about the older SHELLSHOCK material?
"Well I don't really remember any of the SHELLSHOCK stuff, I don't think that was really... I mean they were already DARK ANGEL by then, I think they were called SHELLSHOCK before right?"
Yeah and they had a demo out.
"Holy shit! Okay... my first rehearsal with DARK ANGEL was December 10th 1984, we set up the gear, there's little... the cool thing about the rehearsal place was that it wasn't too far from my house and... you know I had to travel for miles to see 'em rehearse in their other place then they just ended up leaving that place, coming around and rehearsing at a place not too far from my place so I was like excited about that, you know it was easy to get the drums in and out stuff like that so... I remember bashing to all their songs that they had you know, I knew most of 'em already, I'd already played tons of them with SLAYER (laughs)...And then you know I was like 'Dude bring on 'Burning Of Sodom', give me 'Perish In Flames'!', get a crack of that you know cos we were doing like 'Falling From The Sky' that's a cool song, 'Welcome To...' that's okay and 'No Tomorrow' that song was stupid, 'Vendetta' that song was stupid 'Come on let's get to some of the other songs!'..."
Were you DARK ANGEL's first choice as drummer or do you know if they had some other guys in mind?
"Hmmm.... no, well they had Jack and then they replaced him with Lee and then Lee didn't work out so they got Jack back and then I don't think they were looking but then they saw me sort of thing you know, I think they were just gonna carrying on with Jack like 'Fuck it, he's the best we can get' cos... it's not like Thrash Metal drummers are breaking down your door in those days, it was hard to find anybody who even liked that kind of music you played, let alone knew how you played it so I mean there were no Thrash drummers in L.A. at the time."
Do you remember how your first show went with them which was I believe on December 31st 1984 with HIRAX at Radio City, Anaheim...
"As a matter of fact, I think on these reissues that Century Media put out, those pictures like in "Darkness Descends", one of 'em is a picture of all of us and Rob looks really young and stupid, that was taken then, and that was taken by my sister too so yeah I was totally scared shitless, I was trying to go home, you know I'm like 'Fuck I'm leaving, I can't do this!' and then like the show was packed anyway because both bands had a pretty good following... and I used to introduce DARK ANGEL, like 'Come on you motherfuckers! Get in here you fuckin' bastards!', I used to introduce SLAYER too 'You fuckin right, fuckin' SLAYER!' and that's where DARK FUCKIN' ANGEL came from, just the chant from 'Are you alright, would you please welcome DARK FUCKIN' ANGEL!' so that was always the chant before the shows, DARK FUCKIN’ ANGEL and I created that before I was even in the band so... as soon as I got on stage, the crowd would chant DARK FUCKIN' ANGEL, they're screaming at us and I just started screaming back at them, it was like 'Yeah come on!' you know I did the same persona I called it my wrestling voice you know like back when the wrestlers they can be really soft spoken off stage but then you put a microphone on their face 'Oh fuckin' kill' you know that sort of thing and I started screaming and back of the crowd just went nuts and I loved being on stage, that was the greatest thing ever so I went from terrified to fuckin elated in about 20 seconds and I've never looked back."
It was also somewhat surprising that your picture appeared on "We Have Arrived" instead of Jack's picture...
"Oh yeah, that's right... well, I think they hated Jack so much... you could see he was a real bastard when they kicked him out the second time, he's like 'Well you're erasing my drum tracks, you'd better not put my name on the record' or something like that and they wanted to credit me with the drums on it, now I was like 'NO! No I do not want to be known for playing the drums on this record' you know?! I can kill this guy on... I wish we could have gone back and re-record the drums, we were talking about for a while..."
Yeah that was my next question, so you thought about re-recording the drum parts with you as it could have give this album the real punch it REALLY deserved?
"Yeah, yeah I know we talked about it for a little while, that would be cool..."
Because the drumming was really sloppy on it...
"Yeah, it was really safe sounding... it wasn't ripping your head off, that's why "Darkness Descends" was such a surprise to people you know like 'Holy fuck this is the same band, Jesus!' you know?! So it didn't happen but still they ended up putting my picture on but I made sure that somewhere on the record you know, Jack Scwhartz plays drums on this album."
1985 was mainly spent to play on a regular basis in the Los Angeles area, often opening for upcoming outfits such as MEGADETH or SLAYER, and at the time some tension started to appear between SLAYER and DARK ANGEL... any comments on that?
"Yeah it was probably me you know like I talk to Hanneman about this..."
But I remember some interviews with SLAYER and they were hard with DARK ANGEL...
"Yeah because you know one thing, I never talked about it at the time but I knew all the SLAYER secrets you know?! I went on the road with 'em, I knew these guys were playing and worshipping DARK ANGEL songs and I'd be like 'Okay...' you know they played 'We Have Arrived' (playing a part of the song) and then 'Kill Again' would come out (playing a part of it, sounding very similar), 'We Have Arrived' (doing it again) and then fuckin' 'Hell Awaits' (doing a part of the intro which sounds in fact very similar!) you know it was like 'I know your fuckin' secrets dudes' you know?! 'I know where you're getting your riffs from' and I think that's why they came out so hard with... DARK ANGEL are SLAYER clones you know because it was the other way around and they knew I knew and there's nothing I can say because they were SLAYER, they were fuckin' bigger than everybody else at the time and who you are going to listen to? Kerry King and Jeff Hanneman or some kid in a Death Metal band from L.A.? So I knew there was nothing I could say that would make people go 'Alright Gene is telling the truth!' you know so... I can say I talked to Hanneman about that a couple of years ago like 'Dude you guys fuckin' hated me' you know like "We were pals and after that tour you guys fuckin' hated my guts!', and he was like 'Dude how old were all of us then? We were 18 and you were 15 or whatever and we were all fuckin' dumb punks' so what could you do?!"
You recorded "Darkness Descends" in mid '86 with Randy Burns as producer who had just finished producing the second MEGADETH album, why did you choose him and were you happy with his work?
"He was given to us by the record label and at the time there was another producer in L.A., a guy name Bill Metoyer, he was Metal Blade's house guy, he did "We Have..." and the band was like 'Maybe you can find somebody to make it just a little more agro you know?! Our first choice was - not so much a choice, but the first guy we were offered was this guy named Kerry Hay who did the first MEGADETH "Killing Is..." record, and we didn't like the sound of that but it turns out that MEGADETH recorded it for like 100$ and spent 8.000$ on drugs (laughs) so that's okay, that's why this album sounds like shit and then there was another guy, I can't remember his name but he was doing a lot of other bands around L.A. and Eric and I went to his house and we took a copy of "Bonded By Blood" with us and we're like you know "This is kind of..." cos I was like ... of course this album doesn't sound great by today standards but at the time that was a killer sounding one! And we're like 'We want to be along these lines, big, fat, loud, Metal, agro, angry' and this guy was listening to our... like we had this board tape that we had made at one of the Country Club shows we had done with SLAYER, it came up pretty good, you know you can hear everything and we're playing it for the guy, he's like 'Oh yeah I can hear lots of harmonies right here, lots of thirds and fifths on the guitars right over here and...' we're like 'What?! What this producer is gonna try to change our sound, fuck you!' you know?! So we tossed that aside, I can't remember who he was and he did a bunch of stuff too, he did like an ABATTOIR record, couple ABATTOIR records and..."
I think the first ABATTOIR record was produced by the same guy who did the first MEGADETH...
"Okay... anyway and then we were like, well we were kind of not coming up with anybody, the label said 'Well MEGADETH just used this guy Randy Burns and he's done this and that in the past', we were like 'Fuck yeah he did "Seven Churches" (POSSESSED) so... cool!' so they were like 'Do you want to use him or...?', "Sure! Just give it a shot!', Randy was fine, he was a cool guy. He did a lot of drugs (laughs) and I was not a drug dude and it was always like 'Holy fuck this guy chopping up lines on the mixing board, holy shit!' you know?! He and I butted heads a lot because Don Doty's vocals sucked and it was me and Jim screaming at Doty while he's recording cos I mean the vocals were coming up like "We Have..." you know?! Really weak and limp, no power into the voice, I was like 'You fuckin' sucked on it! You better start screaming that shit!' and Randy Burns was like 'Dude that is no way to talk to your singer, get out', then I am like "Fuck you asshole, I'm talking to my singer how the fuck I want because believe me this works", that's the only way you can get through to Don so when people say 'We love Don Doty's voice', I'm like 'Thank you' you know (laughs)?! Me and Jim put alot of fuckin' work into Don's voice on that because it was not gonna sound powerful like the (adopting a mocking voice) legendary Don Doty that everybody knows, it was not that in the first few hours of takes and Randy was like 'Oh it sounds great!', 'Oh yeah killer it sounds great man! yeah you're do good', he didn't know, I mean nobody knew, you know nobody... there was three Thrash Metal albums out when "Darkness.." came out, to most of these guys you know 'Oh oh a METALLICA band' and SLAYER, VENOM... who?... out to producers in L.A. anyway so there was no rules at the time and were just making them up as we went along."
It seems Eric had a good hand also as far as producing goes with this album but he wasn't credited from what he said, how did that happen?
"I don't remember Eric producing much on that record I'll tell you! I remember you know, he turned a couple of knobs, he said "Hey why we don't try this over there?!" you know... God I remember just howling when I read the songwriting sheet or whatever and he took a credit for 'Death Is Certain, Life Is Not' because he was like 'Dude, do you want to put some drums at the beginning! I don't know do a drum solo or something like that', now I was like 'Well let's try this' (doing a snare roll) you know?! He took a credit for that, it was like 'Did you sit on the drums and write that part?' but I don't care, I never give a shit about songwriting credits as long as the song is there and it's on vinyl and it sounds good, fuck you know?! Ghandi could have written a song you know?!"
On "Darkness.." the material was a lot stronger and faster as it can be heard with 'The Burning...', 'Hunger Of The Undead' or 'Darkness...', but still that material didn't have the Punk influence that many other Thrash bands at the time which had included in their sound like HIRAX or SLAYER, how do you explain that?
"Well we were so into Metal and I was hugely into Punk like FEAR is still one of my favorite bands and stuff like that, like RUDIMENTARY and stuff, I was totally into those bands but I don't know... I grew up playing to RUSH songs and playing to U.K. and YES songs, I didn't really play to too many Punk songs like... I can play you' a mean version of... like fuckin' 'Kill The King' by RAINBOW but I probably couldn't play 'Holiday In Cambodia' (DEAD KENNEDYS) so... so yeah but the one thing that I do remember about like the best way to explain like how "Darkness..." sounded kind of so different from everything else was that we finally had two guys in the band that had the same goal in mind, let's make some fast, heavy duty shit, doesn't have to be the fastest shit in the world like to me "Darkness..." didn't seem that fast when it came out, everybody was like, 'Holy fuck, that's the fastest thing ever!' but we used a comfortable speed to record them, believe me we could play that shit a lot faster than how we recorded it but... you know like Rob kind of wanted to sound like EXODUS, Eric kind of wanted to be more of a Power Metal thing and Don, Don just didn't care, you know he just wanted to be a singer in a band and you had two guys that were like totally into the Metal, we loved POSSESSED, we loved fuckin' DESTRUCTION, like the new VOIVOD stuff, we had the same early influences like ANVIL, TANK and stuff like that so let's lay something down heavy! It wasn't like we were the songwriters, Jim just happened to write a bunch of songs and I was learning how to play guitar at the time so Jim and I would jam a lot together, you know I go to Jim's house and we'd spend a Friday or Saturday night when maybe the other guys in the band were up seeing their girlfriends or they're going out to a club or whatever, we'd just spend time writing you know so that's kind how it worked out."
Do you think the fact that you joined the band is also responsible for the change of the musical direction of the band towards something faster / heavier or would it have been the same with somebody else?
"Yeah it is hard to say but you know I don't say it - no (laughs) it wouldn't be the same! Cos like Jim and I were friends and since we were both in the same kind of music we were like... I was in the heaviest shit around and I was getting Jim into the heavy shit, I was getting the SLAYER guys into a lot of the Punk stuff that they were getting into and I was turning them onto other Metal bands like across the sea and stuff like that so I was getting all my friends into like all the shit they've got into you know so Jim was like 'Holy fuck! Gene knows what he's talking about! He's okay on the drums' cos back then I was pretty stinky, I wasn't a very good drummer but then again there wasn't Thrash Metal drummers so how can you tell you know?! (laughs)"
Did you have some songs written that didn't make it on the album?
"Let me see... in fact no! That's why we had to redo 'Merciless Death' (laughs)! We didn't have enough songs, they were like 'Dude we only signed this contract' and none of us knew what we were doing then, sign a contract, they were like 'Okay start recording... now', and we're like 'Ohhhh okay we got six songs so should we write another one or...?' but fuck... so were like 'Ohhhh we'll re-record the other one' but tell everybody that, hey it bridges the gap between you know, it shows what we were and what should we have been then and what we are now and that's what we should have been then and blah blah, we came with some sort of bullshit that people bought so..."
What happened to 'Harbringer Of Doom', the intro to 'Darkness...' which wasn't credited on the album and starts the album?
"Yeah exactly, what the fuck happened to that?! 'Harbringer', they chopped it out, they've chopped out the title, they just called it 'Darkness...' and we were like 'Hey wait a minute! That thing is an intro, that thing in fact is called something' and they just put fuckin' 'Darkness Descends' you know?! But it worked out fine you know, it worked out okay but I mean we had thrown 'Harbringer' in front of like all these other songs, like we weren't sure... like 'Harbringer' could have worked in front of like fuckin' 'Perish...' for god's sake, we just happened to throw 'Darkness...' in after it and the title just got absorbed into one you know?!"
On this album, you started to have a big hand for the writing of the lyrics, where do you draw your influences in literary terms?
"At that time hmmm.... For instance the song 'Darkness...' was written... you know it was one of this end of the world thing but I kind of tied it into the magazine Judge Dread, they had these comic book characters the Four Dark Judges, Judge Fire, Judge Death, Judge Mortis and Judge Stinky or whatever it was and they were pretty scary characters, I was like fuckin 16, 17 or whatever and I was scared by comic books back then so I wrote this tune about that and I was like thinking that people only say that Heavy Metal lyrics are comic book lyrics so I wrote lyrics about a comic book then you know so... I wrote about that, that was one and then 'The Burning...', all they had like up until I wrote the lyrics - I think they played that song live for like a year or something like that and I finally asked Don "Don where are the lyrics? What are the lyrics to that song?' cos I know the chorus (chanting the chorus) and they had that little intro, that middle part break down thing, they had the lyrics for that but I was like "What are the verses, What are you singing?" he was like and he looks around at Jim kind of sheepishly, he's like "Should I tell him?", Jim is like 'Yeah', he's like 'There are no lyrics', so we were doing this song live, we were doing this song for like four months before I figured out there were no lyrics to it so I went to school the next day and during lunchtime, wrote down some lyrics, I think we had a poetry assignment due that day or something like that so... whatever I turned in as my poetry assignment, I just grabbed it graded, I handed it to Don and said 'Hey use these', he's like 'This will work, thanks, cool!' so that was that and then you know I wasn't a really big believer in God or Satan really at the time but I was trying to figure out some sort of... you know what sort of spirituality was out there so that's where 'Hunger Of...' came from, it was just about Karma, fuckin' whatever but then like... we had written a song that didn't have a title yet and Jim would always come up with titles before we even come up with songs, he'd got like a book of titles and we'd come up with a song and he was giving a title immediately so I would have to tailor the lyrics like 'Hunger...', hmmm what I'm gonna write about you know?! Zombies eating flesh or the undead, taking it to a spiritual plans sort of thing you know and like I said, I'm 17 and I'm an idiot so I didn't know anything at the time so... but I was always a good writer and I was always in the gifted classes at school and my high school teacher, my creative writing teacher Mr Hollis like I credited him on the record, he was first the teacher I ever had who my writing wouldn't go over his head cos I've been writing about these dark things like 'I'm a serial killer' or 'I'm a rapist' or 'I'm a child molester' and my teacher would be like 'What the fuck is this?!', this is the first guy that ever said 'This is great man! Obviously you are gonna be above and you're not a serial killer, rapist or child molester but that's crazy you can write well as one' so I just kind of went with that and then my uncle died, he was my mom's closest relative and so we had this new song and came up with the title 'Death Is Certain, Life Is Not' so I wrote that about my uncle, euthanasia in general, but it was based on my uncle's passing, how you know do we keep you alive on tubes or they let you go and that's one I was thinking 'Well, hell I'm not really good with writing fantasy stuff but I'm pretty good at communicating things that affect me' and I looked around at all the Metal lyrics and they're all about you know blood, rusty masses and getting into the pit and thrash, I was like 'Well maybe DARK ANGEL can get something different going if I just write about stuff that means something to me you know, maybe it's a little more personal and it's gonna make a lot less people get a lot of it but it might affect a couple of people here and there like deeply and you know over the course of time it kind of has, people come up to me and show me their 'promise of agony' tattoos on their wrist and stuff like that so after that I just started writing a little more personal things, like I didn't write 'Perish...' which is about being a jet fighter pilot and even though 'The Burning...' is completely incongruent like the parts I wrote and then the part that Don Doty wrote, one is from the New Testament, the other is something from the Old Testament I guess, somebody had a theological discussion about that with me one time and 'Black Prophecies', I was really into Nostradamus so I was like 'Well hell, if this is what you're into, then write about it' and ... here we go."
On the song 'Promise Of Agony' there's that line "as darkness descends I behold the candlemass" when CANDLEMASS had in 'Well Of Souls' something in common, was it a deliberate thing or just coincidence? Also that song dealt with Judge Dread comic if I'm correct...
"No they had a line 'Twelve strokes of candlemass, darkness descends' and so I just totally threw in a totally cheesy line, I have no idea what a candlemass is! But I was like you know 'As darkness descends I behold the candlemass' cos I loved CANDLEMASS, I was like 'Hey cool, check it out, they used one of our song titles!' you know like 'Whatever as if they really did' so I just chucked in the line... and we did a tour with 'em and shit so 'Hey check this out guys, I did that for you guys', they're like 'Fuck you're weird' so yeah I told em you can have some fun with lyrics' you know I write about fuckin' want to kill myself so there's little humor in there."
"Darkness..." despite the critical acclaim it received in '86 was somewhat overshadowed by "Reign In Blood", don't you think that it could have had a bigger impact considering how strong this album is if the release date would have been different since "Reign In Blood" had been released a few months earlier?
""Reign In Blood" got released two weeks earlier (laughs) so it was like 'FUCK!'... if we could do this release "Darkness" like a month earlier then it could have been a totally different situation! Yeah fuck totally! Fuck we just came late to the party so yeah I'm sure but who knows? You know like it could have been the greatest record ever or it could have been like 'cool' when that SLAYER record came out you know like, who knows, it's definitely hard to conject about things like that so..."
Nearly mid November 1986 you finally hit the east coast for the first time since you opened for CRO-MAGS and MOTÖRHEAD at the Ritz in NY and you also did a few shows with MEGADETH, how did that first trip there go?
"That was crazy! That was amazing! Like I was on the top of the world you know, like I remember just hitting New York City and I'd just walked around N.Y. forever, and I thought it was the coolest thing ever and here we go playing with two cool bands, I remember Lemmy (Kilminster) HATED us, like he was hanging out after the show and Eric and like Jim or whatever went and bumped into him and stuff and... I guess he caught the show and he was like 'You guys were the worst band I've ever seen in my life!', it was like 'Cool! Lemmy watched us!' you know?! Whatever and like everybody was there at that N.Y. show, really huge show and CRO-MAGS were really cool to us and... we didn't know what we were doing, we had no idea you know?! We had no clue man, it's not even funny how clueless as a band we were you know like two months earlier, we were sitting around picking our noses and now we're on tour with MOTÖRHEAD, MEGADETH you know?! I remember being introduced to the sites of heroin by MEGADETH, you know I didn't do drugs, I didn't drink, I didn't smoke, I didn't do anything and like there were the guys from MEGADETH who were staying in the same hotel with us and like we were leaving to go out and grab a bite to eat and they were just coming in, they were like 'Hey man come on to our room later, have a beer' or whatever, and was like 'Hey sure cool!' and like a couple of us went off later and knocked on the door, the door is kinda open and there's two of the guys from MEGADETH sitting across to each other with their portable bunson burners and they're shoe laces are tied off around their arms, the guy is going like you know 'Chris, slap my arm and get an even blood flow!' you know, I was like 'Holy crap!', I am 18 years old and I've never seen this before you know?! So yeah fuck that was crazy and... watching Chuck Beehler - the guy ended up playing for MEGADETH after that - watching him tying off Gar's (Samuelson) fuckin' leg while he's on stage, while he's playing drums injecting like in the back of the leg, I was like 'Man this is wild!' so that was some of the personal shit I remember about that stuff but it was cool you know?! I mean MEGADETH, they were just... "Peace Sells" had just gotten released and they were doing really tiny clubs, really small places so that was cool and... we're fast and stinky you know?!"
Mid January '87, you went on a co-headlining U.S. tour with labelmates POSSESSED but without Don Doty since he had left the band following a car accident and you recruited at the last minute Jim Drabos, DEATHFORCE's singer (a local based underground Thrash act) for that tour...
"Well I guess Don had cracked up a car and it was a two car collision and Don was uninsured at the time so he had to basically pay for that from his own pockets so he was like 'Dude I can't go on this tour, cos we won't gonna make any money it's a 3.000$ car destruct bill I've gotta pay for the other guy so I'm gonna stay and work' and so we're like 'Great! We leave in two weeks!' so we thought about it for a little while, we tried to figure out what we can do and then we knew Jim cos DEATHFORCE was playing around a little bit so we called up Jim and said "Dude can you learn our set in about a week?!", he was like 'I'd give it a shot!' and... Jim did a great job you know?! I mean powerful voice, good, yelly, bangin' his head cool and I thought he was killer, in fact I preferred his voice to Don's and Jim wanted to stay, it was like 'Cool stay man! We'll write another record and get killing' but he didn't want to stay after that you know?!"
That's why you parted ways with him after that tour?
"Yeah, he said "Man okay, well I went on tour, I saw it, I'm gonna get a job now, bye" so he's a cop now and he looks just like Sylvester Stallone, but with a chubby face, totally looks like fuckin' Rambo cop guy but... yeah so we gave Don another shot, Don was like 'Dude come on, I've got my shit together, let's do this' so we gave Don another chance..."
Talking about the tour, it seems you had a good time with POSSESSED for your first real touring experience, do you remember some funny things that happened during that tour? Like you being drunk during a radio interview in Boston...
"My very first time drunk... well I remember pulling up to... like we drove up to the Bay Area to pick up POSSESSED, to hook up with them and I remember going into Debbie Abono's (POSSESSED manager) house and Jeff Becerra passed out on the couch and there's... Mike Sus the drummer and Larry Lalonde the guitarist are like duct taping him to the wall to get him to sober up you know?! (laughs) So it's like you got four guys pushing him up against the wall while the other guy's got his arm out duct taping him to the wall, that was like 'Okay I see how this tour is gonna be' ... yeah we used to... like Debbie, she was very strict on the band, you know like we had our little RV and they had a van, we were getting to hang out like catch at the hotel into the night and they would have to drive the van to the next show and stuff so everyone was like, Jeff would just be 'My god, dude I'm going insane! Would you please kidnap me tonight?', it was like 'Sure!' so we'd hide Jeff in the RV after their show and stuff and we just take off, you know he'd walk off stage and we'd be like ready to go and he's be like, 'Bye, see ya' and you know there's Jeff waving out the back of our RV at Debbie so... and I remember Larry was going out with Debbie's daughter at the time, she's really a pretty girl, they were really serious or whatever and we would kidnap Larry one night and take him to the nudie bar or whatever, he had a blast! He was like fuck, 17 at the time or whatever and you know like Debbie was just screaming at him the next day 'How could you?! How could you?!' and nothing happened, we just went to a nudie bar but you know 'How could you do this to my daughter', oh man that was funny!"
Right at the end of the tour by early February - without POSSESSED - you had the chance to play two shows in Canada with CRUMBSUCKERS and AGGRESSION, how did that go?
"Yeah they were great shows, totally man! We played the Spectrum in Montreal and that was really cool, I met the guys from VOIVOD and that was alright and then we played this place, goddamn I just played the same place last year, we played in Quebec City and I just remembered like... that was such a culture shock for us because you know we hadn't been to Europe and granted if you live in L. A., chances are that you probably been at least to like Tijuana, Mexico at least once or twice so you know what's Mexico is all about but you know Quebec was like France! You know it was like 'Waouh! This is like Europe, people don't even speak our language there, this is great!', shows were killer, CRUMBSUCKERS were awesome man! They were totally one of my favorite bands at the time so playing with them was awesome and AGGRESSION was really cool, I bump into those guys still every once in a while you know?! This guitarist that plays with me in my band JUST CAUSE, he was at one of the shows, he was at the Montreal show he was like 'Dude I've never seen anything so crazy, I was like 14. You guys came busting through, and fuck changed my life!' so that's cool. Yeah good shows, nice people. I just remember like the girls in Quebec City were the prettiest girls I've ever seen, they were all fresh faced and no make up and it was winter time so everybody had rosy cheeks, all the girls are really pretty and I thought it was really cool."