Steve Gaines – Anger As Art (& Abattoir, Bloodlust)

Interview by Arto Lehtinen

Live pics by Swissman

Steve Gaines, having carved his name in such legendary 80’s speed/thrash metal bands such as Abattoir, Bloodlust, strikes back with his current Anger As Art combo. AAA combibes the raging thrash metal with the old school attitude by creating neck breaking and head banging, thrashing metal maelstorm. Anger As Art will or has already released the self titled album consisting of eight pure thrash hymns and some extra stuff as well. Therefore Steve Gaines was more than willing to shed some light on Anger As Art as well as what’s up with both Abattoir and of course Bloodlust.

Howdy Sir Gaines, what’s up there in the sunny and warm Californication ?!

It’s nice here, Arto.  About 80 degrees today….  You gotta love L.A.   Seriously, things are good.  Very busy, and looking up.  Thanks for the interview, by the way. 


The interview could be kicked off by focusing on your Anger As Art, but I can’t help asking if  Anger As Art is now your priority number one compared to your other bands/projects, is AAA basically on the same equal level with Abattoir, Bloodlust etc ?!

Anger As Art is absolutely my priority.  Musically, it is where my heart and soul has always been.  In all fairness, Abattoir and Bloodlust both exist, but there are situations that will prevent both from working at a pace I am used to.  That is fine with me.  It is nice to be able to work on a band that has no history or track record – where the future is wide open.

As a matter of fact, how did the AAA band start out in the first place, was the band based on a project approach originally, was it supposed to be your solo project ?!

Well, it wasn’t supposed to be a band.  I was working in 5 bands – all at the same time.  But one by one, each stopped working for one reason or another. And I am a workaholic – and wanted to record my ideas.  It was only supposed to be a demo of songs I had written – and hopefully the songs could be divided amongst the bands where they would fit in to each respective style.  Funny, but a couple of members of these bands took my writing and recording of songs as personal attacks on them.  Why? I don’t know.  Another said “these songs aren’t even good enough for Abattoir (he wasn’t an Abattoir member).  Another from the same band said they sounded too much like the band we were in.  Uuh, hello – I was presenting them to the band?  So, they were rejected outright by all of the bands.  At the same time, I sent the CD out to some on my mailing list, and to the press.  And they loved it.  I couldn’t believe it.  I have been doing this music for more than 20 years, and this was the first thing I had done that was loved universally. Demand came for a live band to be formed.  So it was obvious from that point forward. 
 I hope this doesn’t come across as ego-speak.  But I have had my share of rejection, and there was no rejection at all on this CD.  It was vindicating.  Another thing – after all of these bands stopped working, I realized that to people on the outside of these situations, the one common denominator in all of these failures was me.  And I knew I was not responsible for the failures – so in a way I had a lot to prove.  Not only to myself, but to the metal community worldwide.  And I am humbled greatly.  Thank you so much. 

This may be a little bit standard question, but I assume it would be good to know a little bit about other guys involved in AAA as all of them have a long and strong background gained in different metal bands before ?!

The first one to get involved was Mars.  We had known each other for about 20 years , but really got to know each other when we both played in Dreams Of Damnation. But he really made a name for himself as drummer for CoffinTexts.  I knew how special this guy was, and jumped at the chance to work with him.  At our first rehearsal, he asked if a friend of his could sit in on bass (at this time, I didn’t know if I should play bass or guitar) .  It was Javier, and he was so strong on bass, that I couldn’t let him get away.  I have known him also as long as I have known Mars. He has played with a number of bands – some with a worldwide name- and also did a lot of session work.  One of the funniest fuckers you will ever meet.  The final member was the first one I talked to – it just took a while to get together.  William Rustrum.  Here in Los Angeles, he is the one who plays the role of Dave Mustaine in the Megadeth tribute band Hangar 18.  He is an amazing guitarist (really reminds me a lot of Mark Caro from Abattoir) and a great singer and songwriter.  I had the good fortune of knowing each guy’s personality, and travelling with them in other bands before we started working together in AAA.  After some past experiences, I really wanted to know that each guy could handle the pressures that this business can bring.  There are no surprises. For that, you have no idea how grateful I am. 

Anger As Art is a kind of interesting as well as unusual name, does the name reflect  your Anger in Art in some way, are you still a young angry man who despises, dislikes and hates everything which is surrounded  for example by you?!

Here’s the thing – angry YOUNG man?  As I write this, today (February 4) is my 41st birthday.  I have been told for years that this is just a phase – that I will grow out of it.  Really?  When?  I have been on this earth for this long, and I still don’t have the answers, and am just as pissed (if not more) than ever.  It is very much a real thing. 
But, to answer…  I went with the name of the song as a band name.  In a very literal sense, it is a matter of converting your anger into a form of art.  So, what am I angry at?  Injustice… not being heard…  being made to feel like you just don’t matter.  I am sure you have had this happen.  Been at work, working on a huge project, sale, whatever, and then at the last second, someone else comes in and gets the credit?   Ho about doing all of the right things in life – treating people with respect that they deserve, and they use it as an opportunity to not only shit all over you, but to take what little you have from you, and then when it fails for them, they blame you?  Yet you were raised in such a way that you live by the golden rule, turn the other cheek, or whatever?  I do this, and it fucking eats me up inside. 
You would need to read the lyrics to the song – Anger as Art.  It tells of how if it wasn’t for this music, I would probably have done some thing I would have regretted.  Thrash Metal is the only form of music where Anger can so rightly be spend energy – turning a negative into a positive.  When it came time to put together a band, the name was a no brainer for me.
Now, I want to make clear – it is not about anger as a false act – like Kevin DuBrow used to do with Quiet Riot in the 80’s.  Remember how crazy they were?  All of that poser shtick.   We are not that, but rather we reach right into each person’s private emotions, and strike a nerve. And it is real for us.  Not a stretch at all. I believe that at least 10% of the world’s population has the same sort of issues with anger that I am describing here.  That is who we are here for. 

As far as lyrics are concerned, hmm what kind of topics are you keen on penning about ?! Do you ladle possible ideas for lyrics from your life or cruel every day reality or … ?!

Cruel every day reality – I like that.  It kind of hits it on the head.  But nothing is off limits.  I mean, I don’t really deal in fantasy – like swords and dragons, or stuff like that.  I like basing on reality, or real emotions.  In fact I always have.   Going back to the Abattoir days – there is a songs which ended up on The Only Safe Place called Under My Skin – I wrote those lyrics in 1985, and they are still true for me today. 
I think that the lyrics are pretty self-explanatory – but I would be happy to go in depth on each topic if anyone ever asked.   Real quick – I Create Your God is about how people will so quickly abandon their beliefs and believe something else just to please others.  New War – about continuing to fight for what you believe in, even when your friend, family abandon you.  Blood Of My Enemies – about finally hitting the breaking point, and exploding in rage. 
Things like that. 

How do you usually start writing new songs, do you write together with other guys, are you some kind of main composer who writes the basic song and other AAA members just agree with your standpoints to which direction a song is supposed to head to ?!

I have worked with people like that – and that is not a band.  That is being a side man for an egomaniac.  And there is no worse feeling than working for someone like that, who cannot create.  And then they blame you for their failures. 
To this point, I have written most of the material.  My problem is that I write away from other people.  I have a hard time when you try to show someone a song piece by piece, and they start offering ideas, and change your vision.   Too many times, I would come in saying “ I have a song, and another member would say “ I have a part for it” but they hadn’t heard the song yet.  How will they know it would fit?   Then they change things – re-arrange your riff, add their parts, then when the song is rejected by the fans, they point the finger saying ‘Steve wrote it’.  (This happened in other bands more times than I could count.) I hate it when it is done to me, and I refuse to do it to my bandmates.
 Anyway, I usually start with a riff in my head, and in a matter of a few minutes have a whole musical arrangement complete.  What I do at that point is go home and demo it on my 4 track –  then present it to the band.  If they like it, only then will I write lyrics. By the way, they will say if they do not like something.   And I appreciate their honesty.  William is the same way – he follows the same procedure of demoing his songs.   I think the best thing about doing it this way is that it allows the writer to be able to present his whole vision as he sees it first – before it is rejected.   Javier writes as well, and is starting to follow suit with demoing.  And Mars – he does 2 things.  First his drumming brings every arrangement to full fruition, and secondly, he does play guitar, and has some riffs that are amazing.  These ideas will most likely make their appearance on the 3rd CD – which we are already thinking about.  So, their hasn’t been a whole lot of collaboration to this point, but that is something that I am sure will grow as time goes on.  The important thing is that we all respect each other as writers, and that all of the music comes from and goes to the same place. That is something I watch very closely. 

The first official AAA release was basically your own solo album, but can it be in a way or another considered the debut release of Anger As Art ?! And it was released on your own, right ?!

I would like to think of it like that – this is where the band started, and grew from.  I looked at it like a full length CD once people started warming up to it.  It was originally released in September 2004, and we moved a couple of thousand copies on word of mouth.  But never with a proper release – i.e. no label or promotional machine to push it.  So those copies went to people that otherwise wouldn’t have heard it.  We still have a virgin worldwide audience to reach with it.  And in addition, we have added bonus tracks to it – a couple of the studio tracks recorded live in December 2005, a song called Everybody Dies (originally recorded by Abattoir in 2001) and a cover of Sepultura’s Troops Of Doom.  These live tracks show the strength of the band as a live unit, and also gives a comparison to the studio version with only myself playing.  Plus, it clearly lets you see what direction the band is headed – setting the table for the next CD.  There is new artwork, and the whole thing was remastered.  I should mention that I was told by so many people who were in the biz that this thing I was doing never works – I was wasting my time doing a full length.  No one would want it.   It is nice to believe in something, and see that you weren’t wrong.  

Did you produce the whole album by yourself from the beginning to the end ?!

I did play all of the instruments, but did not produce.  It was produced by Chris Trent – a good friend of mine, and quite possibly the best ears in metal.  I have so much faith in this guy.  I also worked on his solo recording in 2004 – putting vocals on songs he wrote – there is a link to it at  Chris will also be producing the next CD – we start recording in a couple of weeks. 


Did you even try to look for any label to release the first Steve Gaines/AAA output, or were you willing to control by yourself all the rights etc ?!

Not really – Again, I felt as though I had something to prove.  And the last thing I wanted to do was to go around and beg for a shot on a label, looking like some prima donna washed up old fart who has nothing left in the tank.  I knew the fans would look at me as a ‘has been’, and I didn’t want to fail before I started.  So I knew that I had to send these out for free.  The idea was “ look, I believe in this stuff – so much that I will send it to you for free.  I am willing to invest in myself because I know that it is still viable.  And you will believe.” The idea is to act like a drug dealer – get you hooked with the first one, and then you come looking for me after that.    Plus, there are so many options nowadays, with the internet and all.  What would have had the most impact, and reached the most people?  It is an old business axiom  – “How do I reach that customer?  And once I reach them how do I keep them coming back for more?” 

How did you get convinced about Old School Metal Rec and decided to sign a deal with them ?! And what does the deal with OSM consist, I mean by that if you are going to unleash more AAA releases on OSM ?!

Well, you would have to know the label boss to understand.  I first met Patrick Ramseier through Marcelo Lima – at a Death Angel show in 2002.  This was before Pagan War Machine, when the Abattoir reunion was going full-bore.  We hit it off.  One of the things we first talked about was our love of standard tuning on guitars – there is a reason why it sounds right.  We stayed in touch – he came and saw Abattoir, PWM and DOD play.  When the word got out that I had released this CD – he was just starting the label.  And I sent it to him, not as a way of shopping it to the label, rather because he was a friend, and I wanted to share the music with him.  He seemed to like it, and asked if there was anything he could do to help the band.  I asked if there were any good shows in the San Francisco area that he knew of?  Next thing I knew, he booked us on Thrash Against Cancer – which was a HUGE step for us.  We continued to stay in touch – then we started talking about OSM, and before you know it, we were signing with them.   What made us want to sign with them was the friendship, and the love of old school metal- particularly the values of old school bands. We are on the same page in so many ways – it was just a perfect fit. 
Regarding the deal – we will be working on at least one more release for OSM, and to say anything beyond that would be presumptuous.  I’d rather keep the terms, and etc. private – thanks for understanding.

How do you view being on the smaller ug label gives better results and benefits for you than being on some bigger label ?!

The biggest thing for a small label is distribution.  And OSM has it.  There are a number of different avenues by which their releases can be purchased worldwide – from CM Distro and Amazon, to the big record chains ( Tower, etc.) and big box stores like Wal-Mart.  As long as product is available, the next thing needed is a label that has a plan – and OSM has a plan.  They know how to get the word out – and that is all that can be asked for.  The biggest advantage for us is that we are being handled by a staff that knows us (and we know them) – what we are about, etc.  and has a personal vested interest in the success of their artists.  We have that here.  Obviously we don’t have some of the things that a larger label would give – but you must remember…  a large label with a lot of artists on their roster give very little attention to an artist unless they sell right out of the box.  I know for a fact that the largest underground label that deals with our music will only give promotional push to 4 bands a week – upon the week of their new release.  If one of those bands shows any strong ‘out of the box ‘sales, they get more push.  It is not really wrong – it is just logic and economics.  From a business standpoint, they want to make their investment back.  If your band does 500 copies, but Joe Blow’s band does 1000 copies in the first week, guess which one gets more attention?  Whereas, OSM is still working the Ruffians CD.  That is what you want – a label that cares about the well-being of their roster.  Being on a small roster means you get the proper attention. And with this Distribution, we are in good shape. 

The self released AAA output will be put out by OSM, but that OSM version will be having some extra stuff, right ?! And will the front cover remain the same or will it have some changes as well ?!

I’m sorry – we answered this earlier.  But yes, there will be bonus tracks, and new artwork by the amazing and incomparable Eddie Mize.  He is our artist like Derek Riggs is to Maiden, or Roger Dean was to Yes.  You can find a link to his artwork on our webpage

Was it a kind of pain-in-ass task to do all the promotions by yourself for the AAA debut album, or was the whole promotion of the album handled after all ?!

It was a labor of love.  For a long time, it was just me coming home to the computer, and literally, going fishing.   I went to places that I never did before, and made contacts around the world in places I never would have thought possible.  I also got reacquainted with people I lost contact with over the years.  Many have signed on to the street team.  Honestly, it wasn’t easy.  But if I said it was a pain in the ass, then I might not have the proper respect for the work I was doing.  Does that make sense?  You have to do this because you really want to – that is the only way it is true for anyone, most importantly yourself.  Otherwise, people will see right through it. 

After signing a deal with OSM rec, have you started thinking and working on new tunes for the follow-up of AAA ?!

Oh, hell yes.  We start tracking in a couple of weeks.  We wrote something like 25 songs for this, but whittled it down to 14 for the next full length.  All of the songs are complete – we are just fine tuning them right now, waiting for Chris Trent to finish another project, so we can get started.  Directionally, very much the same thing – but with some surprises.   This is the scary part.  You work on something for so long, and get to the point where you share it with the world – what will people think?  I have reality checks with myself daily, listening to the songs, and really critiquing them.  I never want to get to a point with them where I am believing them so narrow-mindedly, that we are serving up shit on a shingle and trying to pass it off as yummy!    But I feel great about the songs – as good as I felt about the first AAA CD.  They are fresh, strong, incredibly thrashy, and display a lot of rage.  Everyone has contributed greatly to them.  Truly a band effort. 

AAA have done gigs here and there in the West Coast, how do you usually get those gigs and have you tried to expand your gigging passion elsewhere !?

Through contacts that we have developed over the years – promoters, and friends in other bands.  We hope to hit every major market in the USA this year, and get into the festival circuit in a strong manner. 


How does being on the stage with AAA differ from being on the stage with Abattoir or Bloodlust, is there some kind of different chemistry in you when doing those two different bands ?!

Anything I say here might be considered as throwing stones, but please understand that I am not doing that.  The difference here that is most obvious is that I don’t have the sense that everything is about to fall apart, or spin out of control.  AAA is very well rehearsed.  Aside from that, there is no real difference.  As long as you believe in the music you are creating, you will have a great time.  The difference in this band is I am singing and playing guitar, as opposed to bass / vocals, or just lead vocals.  When I am just doing lead vocals, I always feel like I am taking up space, standing there trying to look cool while the musicians perform – particularly when there is no singing.  And so much emphasis is placed on a lead vocalist in the way he/ she carries themselves – body language is a key to watch.  I always feel so much better with an instrument strapped on me.  I feel like I am part of the group.  Having said that, in the Bloodlust reunion gigs in 2005, I did only lead vocals, and it felt very comfortable – moreso than it did years ago.  And people seemed to like it.  Maybe it is the years of experience that changed it. 
The chemistry is definitely different – there is the definite sense that ( in Bloodlust / Abattoir) we have to be exactly something we used to be, and I resent that.  For instance, when Bloodlust played the Classic Metal Festival, I really noticed how much of a time warp people choose to be in.  Other bands are singing about swords, and monsters… fantasy.  Their raps between songs are about keeping true metal alive, metal will never die… all that B.S.  And I come in and start ranting about the companies who are taking your freedoms away because they are in the pocket of the government (Clear Channel, for instance) – and this is who we as metal heads should rally against. In the sense that these radio monopolies are the ones controlling record companies and genres of music in the USA – trying to keep freedom of choice quashed.  And these people come up afterward, saying to me “I never paid attention to that until now – thanks for opening me eyes”.  I will never get into that true metal vs. false metal argument, because at the end of the day it really doesn’t matter.  There is a bigger fight to fight then to worry whether I measure up to Manowar.  Who fucking cares?  Do what you do honestly and naturally, and if people dig it – you win. 
Unfortunately, because of Bloodlust and Abattoir’s ties to the ‘glory days’ we always get dragged into this bullshit.  It is not for me.  With Anger As Art – the slate is clean.  The future is open wide, and the journey is exciting.  That helps the chemistry and live experience more than you can imagine. 

As far as I know, of course I can be mistaken, but you haven’t been managed to get over to Europe, right ?! Have you been approached by any European ug festival promoters yet ?!

There has been some talk – we have been in contact with promoters – some of the smaller festivals.  We tried to work something out for 2006. But honestly, I don’t know that we can justify a trip to Europe yet.  We still have a lot of work to do to establish the band in Europe.  Any way you look at it, we will lose a lot of money coming over the first time.  It would help immeasurably if the records are selling, and there is greater demand.  Otherwise, we will spend about $10 – $15,000 on a weekend trip where literally the only thing we do is play a 45 minute set, and then get back on a plane and go home.  It may be 2007 before we seriously start looking at the possibility of coming over to Europe.  But it is high on our priority list, believe me.  We are making all of the contacts we can now in order to make the situation more viable in the future. 

What’s the current status of Abattoir, cos the official website seems to be down and I haven’t heard of the band’s activity that much during the last few years ?

There was such a long period of inactivity that we let the web domain lapse.  Part of the problem was that no one wanted to accept the responsibility for updating the site – actually I was told about a year ago that it was going to expire, and it would be up to me to keep it going.  Simple fact –I had too much else going on, and could not devote the time or money to it.  The way I figure is that if we need to get a site going again, we will go on MySpace  – it is free, and the reach is so very broad. 
The band is together, but inactive at the moment.  I am sure that the word is out that we are planning a Vicious Attack reunion show – playing only those songs.  But as far as working day to day, it won’t happen like that.  Mel has a health issue that he is dealing with, and Mark says he has ‘outgrown’ metal… whatever that means.  I can expand on that more in the next questions, so please read on.

The live album called NO SLEEP TIL KALAMAZOO and apparently one demo release saw the light of day back in 2004, then you recorded a full-length album, which never came due to an incident as the dat-tapes got destroyed, actually what exactly happened to that album tape ?!

It is a little more complicated than just that.  We started recording that album 4 different times – with 4 different studio engineers, etc.  Various members didn’t like the way things were going.  So as opposed to saying “this needs to be fixed’, they simply stop showing up to the sessions.  So there was tension on that level.  I want to state for the record that although I may have been the most visible person during the reunion – I was only one member.   I deferred to the founding members for leadership.  But they did not lead.  Whenever things got tough, it always came down to people threatening to quit.  And I am beyond that bullshit.  I hate that.  If you are gonna quit, then quit.  It was frustrating. 
So, back to the issue – with each recording, we got good results, but each time we recorded a song, it had less and less urgency…  and became stagnant.  When we started recording the 4th time, our drummer at the time ended up taking the responsibility of recording and producing.  Finally, there was no one to blame but us.  Problem is that he is an incessant tinkerer… can’t leave anything alone, and was constantly changing things on the tracks.  My bass and vocal tracks on all of the songs were done for more than a year, and the others couldn’t get in and record – they simply would not communicate.  I finally had to sit them down and make out a schedule for them.  It was driving me nuts. 
Anyway, I am making a short story long.  But I took a step back away from the band – I was tired of fighting against the situation.  I told them what I wanted to see from them was for them to lead the way, finish the recording, and when I saw that they cared about it as much as I did, I would return and get back to work.  I only wanted to see my effort matched.   So they start to finish up tracking to the point where we got a rough mix of the whole thing.  It needed a final mix. 
That is when disaster struck – the drummer / producer decided to transfer the entire recording from one computer to another (keep in mind that we had everything on a backup hard drive….  LOL) and 14 songs literally were erased one track at a time.  I mean… DELETED.  Gone… all of that work was deleted – and he never bothered to save anything on backup.  All we have is the rough mix.  And to my ears… I cannot listen to it.  Whenever I put it on, I get pissed off.  The performances are lacklustre.  Which is disappointing because the songs we wrote were amazing.  In my estimation, the first sessions we did with Bernie from Agent Steel captured the very best that Abattoir EVER sounded.  The band sounds vibrant, violent, and angry.  I wish the guys would have thought the same thing, because we would have finished an album in late 2001, and we would be telling an entirely different story now.
As you can tell, it took the fire out of us.  We all love the band too much to put it away, but to start recording a5th time will never happen. 
The only way this recording will ever see the light of day is if we not only include the 14 song rough mix, but also every other alternate take, and B-side songs, along with the Live Kalamazoo disc. 
A quick word on the live disc – that was when the band sounded amazing.  Right up there with the Bernie sessions I mentioned earlier.

Wasn’t Juan Garcia from Agent Steel supposed to team up with you to work for Abattoir ?  I guess John Cyriis will never take a part of Abattoir…..

John Cyriis only did about 4 shows with the band, believe it or not.  He just happened to be in the band when Metal Massacre 4 was released.  And that was another Abattoir recording travesty – putting John’s vocal on it.   The original version had Raul Preston on lead vocals, and THAT guy was amazing.  When I came into the band, the only shoes I was ever concerned with filling was his.  He sounded like Udo Dirkschneider, and in L.A. in 1983 that was absolutely unheard of.  That original demo is still making the rounds – in fact I just got a copy of it after not hearing it for years. 
The idea actually came before Slayer did the Still Reigning DVD – what we wanted to do was get the Vicious Attack lineup together to do one show, videotape, and release it on the 20th anniversary of the album release.  I’ll tell you, it is amazing to have the original 5 guys playing the songs – it immediately takes you through 20 years of living – amazing that we are all still here and able to do it. 
What we are doing right now is waiting for the right time to do it.  2005 ended up being a very busy year for Juan and myself, but we are planning something for this year.  My hope is that the band will be able to play out as a live unit from this day forward, and not even think about writing or recording.  Just play live, and love it. 

And Bloodlust have returned back to the limelight as well ?! How did this come about ?!

We all stayed in touch – and toyed with the idea.  But we figured nobody cares, so why do it? Anyway, while touring with Abattoir, Pagan War Machine, and Dreams Of Damnation in the Midwestern US, I kept running into people who were making and selling bootleg Bloodlust CDs, and asking me to sign them.  One guy in particular engaged me in a conversation in Cleveland Ohio about how we should get the band back together, and as we were talking, Brad Youngblood from the Metal Music Foundation said that if we did, he’d have us headline the Classic Metal Festival.  So I went back, talked with Earl, and told him we had a serious offer.  About 2 weeks later, we were rehearsing, and it sounded like no time had passed at all.  All the pieces fell together.  We have only played 2 shows since reuniting, but in both Chicago and Los Angeles it was a full house, and the crowd really received us well.  It was nice to do something because there was demand, as opposed to trying to force the issue.

The first and only full –length album titled GUILTY AS SIN was released in 1987, then a couple of series of all kinds of smaller products by Bloodlust came out. Will the album be re-released again ?!

We have just acquired all of the rights to all of the releases, and the plan is to put them all together with a couple of the old tracks that we re-recorded in one package.  No details, – we are still working on it.  And from that point, see what happens next.  We are looking forward to playing again.

Well are you going to resurrect TACTICS from the ashes which was re-activated after your departure from Abattoir ?! What is the history of Tactics anyway, how did the band got started out in the first place ?!

No, I can say with all certainty that Tactics is done.  I remain good friends with all of the members, and would not rule out the possibility of playing with them in a rehearsal room.  But to unite the band for gigs recording… that is done.  The band was together for almost 10 years – and we did things that other bands in the genre at the same time could not do.  We did 2 full length releases (out of print – I don’t even have copies), and a few demos – a home video, toured the States, made money – all without a record company.  But we rode it out from beginning to the end – there is no unfinished business.  For the record, the drummer is in Agent Steel now, and one of the guitarists plays with Society One.  The other member vanished – in fact I still have all of his equipment in my garage 7 years later.

When being on the stage with AAA, do you happen to play songs either Abattoir or Bloodlust or some other bands ?!

The only song we do is something I wrote called “Everybody Dies”.  It was originally done by Abattoir, and Pagan War Machine played it also.  It will be included on the reissue of the debut CD – but will probably be phased out of the live set now that we will have 2 CD’s with of material to draw from. 
But no other Bloodlust or Abattoir material.


Steve, you have been involved in the metal scene app. 25 years on even more, how would you view the current metal scene of nowadays and its wide range of various metal and different styles ?! Do you have your own fave style that you personally dig mostly ?!

Personally, the music itself has never been better.  I never buy into the argument that things were better back in the 80’s.  That was a special time, but best left alone.  It is 2006, after all.  Some bands that have been around since back in the day are still relevant – and a lot of the newer bands have written some of the best music I have ever heard.  For example I love Dew Scented, Carnal Forge…  the new Exodus is really strong too.  Having said that, there are a lot of bands that I just don’t get.  I like Lamb Of God, but don’t see why people are flipping out over them. Same with The Haunted, and Arch Enemy.  They are all good – but I think people are searching for the next big thing – and I don’t think any of them are it.  Having said that, people love them.  And I cannot fault them for loving metal. 
As far as American mall-core… again, there is an audience for it.  Who is to say what is good or bad? My absolute favourite type of music is now, and always will be Thrash Metal.  I didn’t choose it – it chose me.  And every time I hear a new song, or happen to write one of my own, I realize just how much this music means to me.  There is something about the looseness and tightness of it.  And it has what I call a bounce… almost like dribbling a basketball.  It is the only form of music to tap into the anger that I feel everyday perfectly. 

Is there any interest and demand left for this kind of old school thrash metal style especially in North America, have you kept your nose on the ground following what’s going on in Europe, do you view the European metal scene would be more tolerant and so called open-minded to thrash metal ?!

There will always be a market for thrash.  In a lot of ways it is like Jazz.  It appeals to a very dedicated following, and will always be relevant and exist as an art form.  In North America, it is strong, but no where near what the European market is.  Europe is not only tolerant of thrash, but of all forms of metal – and that amazes me.  For those of you in Europe reading this – please understand that Los Angeles, and the metal scene here may have a storied place in history.  But we are still treated like bastard children compared to more important music like Mariah Carey.  The business side dominates, and creativity and art don’t really matter to the machine.  And that is a shame.  Perhaps that is why the pop music industry is failing so rapidly – and that just warms my heart. 
I heard these figures recently. Metal music was the 2nd best form of music worldwide in 2004 with 31% of sales – behind country music (32%), and rap only had 18%.  Maybe it is time we start taking our marketshare strength, and demand what we really want.  But instead of some kind of uniting together, we will probably end up squabbling over true metal vs. false metal.  The cause and fight wasn’t 20 years ago – it is now.  Wake up!

Before concluding the interview, could you name the most played top 5 releases of your at the moment and why ?!

There are 5 – in no particular order

Judas Priest – Unleashed in the East.  The songs and production are just amazing – I was a Priest fan before it came out – and always will be.  Nothing weak about it at all.  Perfect album.
Accept –Restless And Wild.  Oh the violence and power of Fast As A Shark, all done with a smirk on the face.  This was the music I heard in my head.  First time I saw punks and rockers get along.  This album shaped my life.

Motorhead -Ace Of Spades.  What can be said?  It was so fast at the time.  And it taught me that making mistakes was okay (intro to Bite The Bullet).  Absolutely untouchable album. 

Slayer – Reign In Blood.  Was a fan of Slayer when they were on metal blade – and could not believe how incredible the production was, and how simple it was also.  Altar Of Sacrifice will always be the greatest song Slayer ever wrote.  Another perfect record.

Machine Head – Burn My Eyes. In America at the time it came out, it was unbelievably heavy – one of the greatest collections of songs on a metal album.  The song ‘none but my own’ literally saved me – pulling me out of a year long depression. Read the lyrics, and listen to the way Robb Flynn sings it.  That whole album is incredible. 

All right, I can’t help asking how many times you have been confused to Steve Gaines of Lynyrd Skynyrd ?!

Arto, more than you know.  In all honesty people really believe that I am him – I have to remind these lifelong Skynyrd fans that he is dead.  Look at the pictures, people.   We don’t even look alike.  About 3 years ago, I was introduced to Gary Rossington, and Ricky Medlocke.  They didn’t even flinch when they heard my name.  And I thought they would.  It was kind of funny. 

I therefore thank you for the interview, wish all the best for AAA and you can spill the last words to conclude the interview…

Haven’t I said enough?  Thanks for the opportunity, and the space to ramble on.  I really want people to know how appreciative I am for the kindness I have been shown through the years.  And how grateful I am for the opportunities I have now with Anger As Art.  I take none of it for granted.  Please know that.  I know you have many choices to listen to, and if you take a chance and listen to AAA, we hope to make a connection.   If we do, we have a covenant with you.  We will do our best to bring the best music we can every time we go out.  We know we have to earn it from you, and are honoured to do it every time.  I am concerned with being loyal to you – as opposed to the other way around.  Thanks for your time. 

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