Steel Prophet Interview
With Steve Kachinsky
Interviewed in May 2000 by EvilG
The band began in the 80’s, but believe it or not I’ve only heard of you recently with the release of your new CD Messiah – and I’ve been into metal since the early 80’s! So my question is, what has changed and what has put your name out there for people to all of a sudden be hearing about you?
Probably being signed to Nuclear Blast is one of the biggest reasons why you can hear about us now. We did three records for a really small label called Art of Music. Starting in 1995, we put one out in ’95, ’96 and ’97. They were so hard to find, even the people in Germany where they were pressed, it was hard for them to find them in record shops. So it really didn’t get us too far but we did build up a little bit of a cult following.
Are those previous albums still available?
Yeah they are still available and still kind of hard to find because they are still on that label. The label has since pretty much gone under. But there’s definitely places you can find them. I see them for sale from some vendors like DreamDisc and Sentinel Steel, I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of those?
I’ve heard of DreamDisc and Sentinel Steel, isn’t that a magazine or something?
Yeah it was a magazine and then the guy that was doing it also started selling CD’s.
Has there been any interest in re-releasing some of the harder to find stuff?
Yeah, as a matter of fact that’s funny because the guy from Sentinel Steel has also got a record label and we have been talking about maybe doing a “best of” package including a couple of rare things. We’ll see what happens.
So are you happy, so far, with the level of support that Nuclear Blast has been giving the band?
Yeah pretty happy. They’ve done really good promotion, as far as magazine support and stuff like that, in Europe. In the US it’s a lot smaller, Nuclear Blast is a lot smaller, it doesn’t have the power that Nuclear Blast in Europe has. In Europe their distribution is major label distribution through east/west and over here it’s like small independent distributors – Caroline records. But as far as what we’ve gotten in the European office, we’re completely satisfied with the promotion, the tour support and all that stuff.
Will the label be putting you on the road again this summer, maybe playing some festivals in Europe this summer?
We won’t be doing any festivals but we’re talking about a tour package that would start at the end of August – and it’s not certain yet so I guess I shouldn’t say anything – but we’re hoping it’s going to happen.
I was reading over your bio and there’s been quite a few personnel changes over the years. Have any of these difficulties with personal conflicts or whatever happening caused you to ever question “what am I doing?” or has it all been for the best.
Ohhh…well I definitely question what I’m doing (laughs). Sometimes if somebody leaves and everything is cool and they just want to move on for whatever reason, maybe they want to start a family or they’re just not interested in music or they want to do something different like play jazz/classical or something like that, we can shale hands say best of luck and it’s fine. But when you get some of these guys acting like a prick…because playing music there’s ego’s, tempers and all that stuff…there’s been a couple less then amicable splits. Those really get you wondering ya know? You say if I gotta deal with this kind of stuff, maybe I should pack it in. I’m not into dealing with this kind of conflict.
So are you happy with the current line-up and is everything solid?
Well…not really. Part of what I can tell you, what I’ve been thinking is we’ve had a problem and we have to replace our guitarist right now, one of our guitar players.
Not you though! haha….
Naw, I think I’ll be staying. Right now we have even let anybody know about the change because we are pretty close to getting the new guitarist in. We thought we would just announce that there’s a member change instead of saying we don’t have a member and then later putting out a press release saying we do have a member. It’s kind of tough man.
Back to the Nuclear Blast situation…you said that their promotion has helped get your name out there so how did you originally hook up with them?
We got signed by one of their A&R men named Andy. He dates back with us a long way. Back in like 1990 he had a little tape label (I guess that’s what they called it) and he would be selling demo tapes of some underground bands at that time and he was selling our ENTER ASCENDANCE demo tape. So we knew Andy for a while. He worked at Massacre records then he went to Nuclear Blast. we were definitely unhappy with Art of Music because we just weren’t getting anywhere with that label. Andy knew it and he asked us if we’d want to sign up with them.
There’s been a lot of really cool bands being signed to Nuclear Blast in the last couple of years – HammerFall, Stratovarius, Savatage, Helloween, Primal Fear and on and on…How do you think you fit into the scheme of things at the label with these other bands?
Well….I don’t know. I’ve got mixed feelings about that because when we signed with Nuclear Blast we were, I think, one of three power metal bands they had so it looked like a good idea. Now they’ve signed a bunch of big bands. Obviously we are not on the same level as Helloween or Manowar, those bands can sell a quarter of a million records and we still need to be developed because to most people Dark Hallucinations was our first record – to the mainstream buying public. We’re up against bands that have been doing this for 10-15 years who are highly visible. We just hope they are patient enough and believe in the band enough to take the time to develop us.
From what I’ve read, Messiah is more of a power metal CD than Dark Hallucinations was. Is that your feelings on it as well?
Well, see I don’t know where this term “power metal” comes from. I remember reading about it back when Metallica did Ride The Lightening. They were asked what they classify themselves as and they said power metal. So that’s what I thought power metal was…kind of a thrash type of metal. But now power metal is like Rhapsody and Stratovarius – these melodic speedy bands are getting called power metal.
So you don’t see yourself fitting in alongside bands like Helloween or Stratovarius?
Naw, I don’t think we fit in with that. I mean we can fit in with it ya know it would be a nice concert bill to be on with those bands but we’re more from the Iron Maiden, Priest, Metallica school of music.
That’s what I was going to bring up next – I heard comparisons and after hearing Messiah, I hear them myself, and that is to Iron Maiden and not in a bad way. It’s definitely your own take on it. I guess you don’t mind being mentioned in league with someone like Iron Maiden?
No, Maiden are like, if I start listing my favorite bands Maiden are definitely high up on my list. They meant a lot to me especially when they came out with Number of the Beast, Piece of Mind and stuff like that. Being compared to one of my favorite bands is definitely not bothering me!
How important do you think image is for a band?
Well, I think there is certain guidelines or whatever, like if you have guys that are like…I dunno. You can look at some people on the street and say, they wouldn’t look good in a band. It’s one of those things like there is a certain importance to it…there’s those that are overly image conscious. Some bands supposedly have no image, but that is their image. It’s all in the minds of the listener – whether they like the image or not because there are so many images to choose from.
The typical metal image is kinda think Priest…long hair, leather, black…but you guys seem to be a little bit away from the “traditional” look. Most of you guts have short hair, not saying that’s a bad thing, it’s just different for a metal band.
Yeah, that’s true for sure. I know some fans have been turned off from us because they have seen our pictures and don’t think we fit in with what a metal band is supposed to look like. At the same time, there’s some people who are more open minded, listen to the music first. I don’t think we have a bad image, I think we have our own image and I don’t see how that could be a bad thing for us.
What was it like touring with the legendary Kai Hansen (Gamma Ray)?
It was great man! I first heard Helloween on the Walls of Jericho album and then the Keeper of the Seven Keys, I bought those two albums. So I was, when I was growing up, I was really into Helloween for a while. Just the fact that I was out there with Kai was really cool. I got to ask him questions, stuff about Helloween and about his music, influences…stuff like that. It was pretty cool to be out there with him!
Did being on the road with band like Gamma Ray and Edguy at all influence your band, sound or approach to anything?
It’s hard to say. I’ve actually been asked that question before. People asked if being out with them influenced our new album because a lot of people said is has more like a German, melodic speed metal influence or whatever. The fact of the matter is that album was written before we went on tour with those guys. I think maybe our next album will show if there has been any influence.
So have you been writing your next album already?
Yes, I’ve got 14 songs written right now.
And how has it been sounding?
I think it’s pretty good so far. The riffs have just been written and I’ve tape recorded them just on a boom box. So we haven’t learned them as a band yet. I’m pretty sure a couple of these songs will be pretty good.
You’ve written them all yourself so far?
Well, yeah I’ve written 14 myself but some of them will get used, some won’t, the other guys will write some stuff. Of the things I’ve written we could say well this section works good for this song but the rest of it doesn’t work so let’s borrow this section from that song and piece together a whole new song. You never know how it’s going to work out.
What is the difference in touring/playing in Europe where metal is (as we’ve been reading) still popular versus the States where it seeming to pick-up but still not at the levels as elsewhere?
I think a lot of it is that there’s strong press over there. In Germany you have Rock Hard, Heavy or what magazine, Metal Hammer and in each of these European countries you have some rather large magazines with good circulation and they get the word out about the underground bands. I think that’s got a lot to do with it and that in turn means you get new listeners coming in. When we toured with Gamma Ray and Edguy, we’d look out into the audience and it wasn’t like a metal show here in the US where it’s mostly people over 30 because there you see plenty of teenagers, people in their early 20’s and you see some older headbanger too of course. It’s still gaining respect and popularity with younger people over there and that’s kind of what I see it NOT doing here. The young people are getting into Korn, Marilyn Manson and Limp Bizkit and stuff.
Do you think that true metal, or whatever you want to call it, is alive and well in the US or becoming better with bands like Iced Earth, Nevermore, Kamleot, Crimson Glory and Steel Prophet?
We’ve got a scene but it’s really, really underground. It’s almost like what punk was in the late 70’s or something like that. It’s there, their are people that are really into it, but you’re not really going to know about it unless you…..
…look for it.
Yeah, and the Internet seems to be the only way to really find out about it here in the US at this point. Bands like Iced Earth and Nevermore and stuff…we’ve got some KILLER bands here.
…And they are all big in Europe.
Yeah and until somebody wants to give us a chance…hooked up with like MTV and radio stations and stuff like that we’re probably not going to get too much further than we are right now.
I assume your European sales tower above what you’re pushing in North America?
Oh man yeah! For sure.
What kind of a ratio are we talking, is it like double or triple….
Oh no more than that. It’s like ten times what we sell in the US. Actually, it’s more than ten times to be honest but I can’t do the math. (laughs).
Yeah I was never good at math either, fuck math!
(laughs) Yeah I hate math!
So, after releasing all these CD’s, do you ever get frustrated that you are doing so well in Europe, while in North America people are still finding out about you now?
Yeah sometimes I get frustrated but I’m pretty happy that we’ve at least found an audience somewhere in the world. I’m pretty grateful for Europe. I got into this music because I liked music. My first goal was to just make a CD. So when I made my first CD it was like WOW, killer a disc out with our stuff! That was pretty good and then (the goal) was to go on tour. Then we went on tour, people are paying – the label pays to make good records and it’s not so bad if you try to focus on the good parts of it and not on what you are lacking or what you haven’t got yet. I try to look at the bright side of it. I definitely got my goals and I’d like to tour the US some day.
To what extent have you played around the States?
We’re from L.A., so L.A. is pretty common and then we’ve gone up to San Francisco and Southern California is really big and we’ve gotten pretty far east like close to Phoenix and places like that. That’s about it but we’re looking to get into San Diego, Vegas, Phoenix and stuff like that pretty soon.
What is the local scene like in your area? Is there a lot of happening bands that you can play with locally, or do you see yourself as one of the only ones around?
We’ve got some good bands here but it’s just that common problem. We’ve got Agent Steel, Destiny’s End, New Eden, a band called Cage from San Diego, Armored Saint. We’ve got some good bands here but it’s really hard to get the word out among the metalheads and to get them to come out for us. If Dio blows through town, people are there. But Dio is a legend and we’re still kind of a cult thing.
And that leads perfectly into my next question, you must of read my mind. I know you are a big Dio fan. I think you did a stellar job of covering “Neon Knights” on Holy Dio and that attests to how big of a Dio fan you are. So can you tell me how you got involved in the Holy Dio project and why you picked that song?
Yeah I can tell you that and I can tell you some other stuff too. The way we got involved with the Holy Dio is actually we did a tribute on Dwell Records to Black Sabbath. There was plenty of songs to chose from but we felt like with our singer, Rick, it would make more sense to do a Dio song then an Ozzy tune. There was so many good tunes to choose from but we decided to go with “Neon Knights” because it was pretty fast and up-tempo and it’s a killer tune. When I first heard Heaven and Hell and heard that song blasting through my speakers I was hooked!
Is that your favorite Dio / Black Sabbath?
Yeah, I like that one and probably Dehumanizer the best as far as the stuff he did with Sabbath. But I love the Rainbow stuff too. And I especially like the first two Dio albums, they totally kick.
Have you heard the new one – Magica?
Yeah I just bought that a couple of days ago and it’s pretty good man.
So what did you think of the Holy Dio tribute as a whole?
I thought it was pretty good. I think most of the bands did a good job. I was knocked out because I read in a couple of articles where Ronnie was asked which bands he liked the best, and every article that I’ve read he said Steel Prophet, Doro and Angel Dust were his favorite bands. So I was stoked!
Actually I’ve got a good Ronnie James Dio story for you. There’s a park, like I could go to my window right now and look out, it’s right near where I live…and one day, I’m in the park running and I see this guy with long hair walking a dog and I go – That guys looks familiar…wait a minute, that’s fucking Ronnie James Dio!!!!! So I go running back and I go “Hey, your Ronnie James Dio!!!” (laughs) He goes, “yeah that’s right.” He’s really cool, he shakes my hand and whatever. This was like a few years ago and then last year I’m in the park again and I see Ronnie again and I’m like WOW this is killer and this time I had to actually talk to him because last time I just said hi and shook his hand and told him I was a fan. This time I actually went and talked to him a little bit. I said “Hey Ronnie what’s up, do you mind if I chat with you for a minute?” He was like “No, sure go right ahead.” So he’s walking his dog and I’m walking along with him talking about stuff like Rainbow and Sabbath and these musicians, his whole career. And then it’s like it’s almost three times a week that I see Ronnie in the park man and all the time he’s cool and I’m walking around the park with him while he walks his dog about a 1/2 hour a day. I found out so much stuff.
So you goto the park every day no going “where’s Dio, where’s Dio?!?!?!”
(laughs) Well you’ve got to give the guy a little breather ya know. But I’ll never forget that you know. It’s one of those things like a dream come true.
Who else do you look up to like Dio?
Steve Harris and Iron Maiden. I was lucky enough to meet Bruce Dickinson a couple of month’s ago. He recorded at the same studio where we did Messiah. I also met Rob Halford down there where he was doing his new album. Those are the guy that I was into. I was so much into Priest and Maiden and Sabbath, anything that Dio did. Randy Rhodes – I’ll never meet…
Not for a while maybe…if there is another side…
Yeah and I’m not in a rush to get to that meeting (laughs). But that’s a few guys.
And how about new band, are there any other new bands that you’re like wow.
Yeah there is a band from Chicago called Cyris that did an album called Unseen Forces that I thought was really good. Besides them, Iced Earth are one of the bands that really caught my attention a few years ago. Agent Steel is a big favorite of mine, I used to look up to those guys too and then I was lucky enough to meet up with Barney from Agent Steel and he actually played a couple of solos on Into The Void and Dark Hallucinations. There’s a lot of good bands around right now, I just kind of have a problem remembering you know, I should look at my CD collection, like, oh yeah In Flames is cool and Jag Panzer…
Back to the cover song thing… When you e–mailed me we had a little chat about the Simple Minds tune you were doing – “Don’t You Forget About Me.” That was like – whoa, what are they doing?
What inspired you to cover a song that is obviously not metal and why did you pick that particular song?
That song, whenever I heard it, which I think was in The Breakfast Club which was a movie. Then the classic rock radio stations out here in LA, they play that song all the time. I would always listen to it and think there was so much you could do with it. I thought we could really metalize it. Kind of what like Van Halen did with “You Really Got Me” or some of the cover songs that they did. It was kind of a rock ‘n roll song and they took it and turned it into metal. I always had that in the back of my mind. Eventually we were doing some tribute tracks and I suggested while we were at it to lay down this tune. I thought it would be kinda interesting. So we finally got to it.
Was anyone in the band like “what are you talking about – Simple Minds?!?!”
Oh yeah…Out of the four other band members there was one person dead set against it, and two people that really didn’t have any opinion (laughs). (They thought) this was kind of an odd tune. And Rick, he thought it was a good idea. So it was really just the two of us who thought it was a good idea. One guy didn’t want to do anything with it and he actually didn’t even play on it.
He just flat out said “I don’t want any part of playing Simple Minds!”??
Pretty much…something like “This tune it too gay!”
Sounds like something I would of said!
But actually I did like your version of it. The vocals came out really cool.
Yeah, we changed it around. We added the harmonized guitar lead riff that runs through the song and we changed some of the chords around. We put a guitar solo in it. I think it’s kinda cool, but it’s not for everybody.
Where is this recording going to show up to?
That’s the thing and part of the reason why I contacted you. I was actually at this message board on the Internet and Mark from Jag Panzer had said something like…he named a couple of cover tunes, he said he was bored of metal bands covering other metal bands. He said “wouldn’t it be interesting if somebody did a song by…” and he named some kinda weird 80’s new wave band. I said “hey we’ve already done something like that.” I said I’d like to get it out but I don’t really know what to do with it, it’s not supposed to come out on any record. Somebody said, maybe you can talk to the guy at Metal Rules, he’d probably let you post it up there.
Has anyone e-mailed you saying they’ve heard it or any reactions.
Yeah, Mark from Jag Panzer – he thought it was great! And yeah actually quite a few people have been impressed with song. What we are thinking about doing is, since the classic rock stations play it here in LA, to try and see if they would play an updated version of it. It could get some people interested in the band that wouldn’t hear us otherwise.
You’ve obviously taken part in a number of tribute and cover albums so what is your opinion on the abundance of these type of albums that have been coming out in the past couple of years?
At first when we started getting into it, it was just purely to pay tribute to the bands, the great ones like Maiden, Metallica, Priest and Sabbath. We knew it was good for getting our name out to people that haven’t heard us. Since that started a couple of years back I think it has gotten to be too much. A lot of the albums come out, you pick it up and put it on and half the bands are really lousy doing bad renditions of the songs and you go what a rip off! I get more feedback like that from fans more and more now. It makes me not want to be a part of it.
The Holy Dio one, out of the tribute albums I’ve heard, is way above the rest. It had some really good bands on it, two CD’s and not allot was missed.
Yeah Century Media, they did a real good job with that and they did a good one with the Judas Priest tribute.
Legends of Metal.
Yeah, they do quality not quantity.
I’ve read that your vocalist is working with some members of Edguy. Is that for a project, a couple of songs, what is it all about?
It’s called Taraxacum and it’s a four-song thing. I think you can find it at www.taraxacum.net. They have some sound samples and they have a brand new webpage for it. It’s really cool stuff, it’s like 70’s progressive rock, it’s pretty good. It’s got a metal edge to it too. I definitely recommend it. The best part is they used Rick’s picture on the cover of their CD. You’ll now what I men when you see the CD.
Are you or any of the other members of Steel Prophet involved in other bands or projects?
There’s little involvements here and there. Our bass player played about 1/2 the bass tracks on the latest Agent Steel album. There’s little things that go on. I’m doing a little project with the singer from a band called Dreams of Sanity. We are really trying to stay prioritized with Steel Prophet.
What is the game plan for the next couple of months for Steel Prophet? Are you going to tour or work on recording? I know you mentioned that in August you were hoping to get out on the road but between now and August or after that, what’s the plan?
We’ve still got to get the replacement situation in the band finished up and then we want to play some live shows in the area and stuff like that to break the new guys in. Then we’ll be working on these new songs and that’s pretty much it. We’ll need to start rehearsing a set, if we’re going out on tour, and that’s really about it.