Heart of Steel: Interviews

Interview with Tales From the Pit Video Producer Jerry Allen

Interview by EvilG

First of all, congrats on the release of TFTP #5!

Thank you. Appreciate the interview.

How long did it take to put this one together?

Well, the first band we interviewed for Issue #5 was S.O.D. back in late 1999 and the final event we covered was Vio-lence's last show in April of 2003. We covered many great events during that time frame including Thrash Of The Titans, which I also co-organized with Walter Morgan. I'd say my involvement with organizing and filming that event was the main reason why #5 took so long but everything worked out in the end and I was happy it took so long because had we put this out a year or so earlier, the line up and material wouldn't have been as strong. What you have to understand is I never put a time limit on myself when creating an issue. I'll release the program when I feel I have enough killer material to top my previous installment and satisfy myself.

It was a lot easier back in the late 80s/early 90s because there was way more great thrash events happening. Obviously because thrash was in it's glory days and shows were happening every weekend. If you recall, they also had a yearly event called Foundation's Forum where great metal acts from all over the world would gather for a weekend of metal. Sort of a convention. I got so much great material for the early issues at those events. Just one weekend and I had interviews and live footage (if they played) with at least 10 bands. That cuts down on time in a big way. We're a small company so we don't have the luxury of flying around to all these events. We have to wait for bands to come to us or at least California. What we do is all self financed without any corporate backing. And we choose to keep it that way. I still have a contract from Metal Blade sitting on my desk. Without sounding pretentious or gay, I look at these videos the same way a painter or sculptor looks at something they're trying to create. They create something they hope others will enjoy but their primary goal is to please themselves first. Unless they are a commercial artist. Which I'm not. My approach is far from commercial and that's why I choose to do things myself and at my own pace. When it's ready and it makes me happy as a program I'd like to watch myself, I release it. Yes, I could pump these out quicker if I wanted to include bands I wasn't really into but I think the main reason why Tales From The Pit turns out the way it does is because the viewer can identify with the honest approach behind it. Like them, we are into the bands we cover. There's no bandwagons we jump on or favors we do for labels. No agendas except our own....which is obviously to create an entertaining and informative program that promotes metal and the scene we love.



Why was there a long gap between #4 and #5?

We put out #4 in late '93 and that was a very rough time in my life. I'd say the combination of grunge and nu metal dominating heavy music mixed with the downfall of the thrash scene was the primary reason why I said "fuck it" for a while. I got burnt out and jaded. Add to that a messy divorce and a drug problem and you have all the ingredients of someone who needed to get their shit together and figure out a new game plan. I really didn't have much of a scene to cover as my videos are dedicated to primarily old school thrash. Of course there was some good bands still playing at the time but my favorite bands that inspired me to do the program to begin with were dead or dying or evolving into something gay.

What I did during those years was listen to my old death, thrash and traditional metal albums and found work on independent films and projects my industry friends were doing to earn a living. I think I really needed that time off to recharge, get healthy and clean, learn some new things from some of the pros I was working for and come back with a vengeance. I never stopped listening to the music or quit being a metal head though. That is something I'll never grow out of. I'm talking old school. In 1998 I decided to put out a Best Of TFTP which is a 3 hour compilation of highlights from the first 4 issues mixed with a bunch of new classic stuff...like Glen Benton of Deicide, Testament in the studio with Dave Lombardo recording their brilliant The Gathering album, Paul Baloff doing a hilarious 'work out' routine and more..

That sort of got me back into the groove and got me into my old TFTP mindframe. I released the Best Of and promoted the hell out of it to as many metal press outlets as possible (more on that subject later) which resulted in some great reviews and opened many doors and opportunities when it came time to start issue #5. I also bought all new digital cameras and digital editing tools so it's fair to say that this was the issue that was going to top all previous efforts in quality and approach. It's the first one that actually looks semi-professional. Ha ha! I can't even watch my previous ones anymore because my skills as a director and editor are much more advanced and the old equipment I was using was great for the 80s but in today's DVD spoiled society, it just doesn't hold up. You gotta grow. I've learned so much over the years but I have a lot more to learn.



Why isn't #5 for sale on DVD or DVD-R? A DVD burner is inexpensive now so there are no excuses! haha!....well maybe there are, if so let's hear them! :-)

Baby steps my friend. Haha! There is nothing I'd love more than to be able to release everything on DVD. I love DVD. I own over 300 movies and music related titles as we speak. The thing is I don't want to put out something bare bones and lame because I know how I feel when I buy a DVD and it's got nothing on it but the program. We don't have the budget to put out the type of DVD I'd want to see this released on so it's out on video at the moment because it makes more sense for us economically. We are old school. Videos are old school. You'll get a DVD somewhere down the road in the not too distant future and when it comes out, it will be loaded with extras and shit. I'm certainly not going to burn a bunch of DVDs one by one anyway. I don't even do that with the videos. We have them duped professionally in semi large quantities. I have my hands full just trying to keep up with orders at the moment. All I can say is have patience. Hell, Indiana Jones just came out and Star Wars has yet to come out. Haha! Not that TFTP compares with those titles but shit man, I've waited forever for those to come out and I'm still waiting so unfortunately things don't happen as quickly as we want but at least you have a video to watch for now.



Will TFTP #6 possibly be available on DVD/DVD-R?

Whenever and if ever I do TFTP #6, of course it will go straight to DVD and no video release. Like I said, baby steps. The reason I say "if ever" is because I've had a few offers to do some official DVDs for bands we feature on TFTP and I think I'd like to explore those options if and when they materialize. I feel I'd be a perfect choice to direct a DVD for a thrash band(s). Think Kreator and Overkill's latest but better. All it takes is a contract and a budget. I have the vision.

Another thing we want to do is make a low budget horror film in the tradition of the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Last House On The Left. I'm talking about a real film. My background started in Hollywood and I've worked on quite a few genre films in the late 80s. I still have a lot of old contacts who have become fairly powerful people in the business since I last worked with them. We have been in touch and they are interested in doing something. They are the type of people that can get a script funded and name talent to star in it. I'd also incorporate my thrash metal influences and have some notable musicians making cameos and such. We'll see how it all works out. Tales From The Pit is something I love doing but even though they are technically video magazines, the approach is very similar to making a documentary. The amount of work is certainly the same. I never say never. There may be a #6 somewhere down the road but with me, I always have to move forward. That doesn't mean selling out...it means I'm limited with TFTP. If I can promote metal in bigger ways, that's what I'd be happier doing.

I've also noticed a big trend with SOME of the metal press in this day and age. Back in the day we all helped out each other for the common cause of supporting the scene. Nowadays a lot of these magazines want you to buy ad space just to review your product. Hell, If a label asks me to put a banner ad on my web site and I like the band, I'll put it up free of charge. Especially after they sent me a free promo. A lot of these press people not only expect a free promo but they want you to pay them as well. Totally weak! Of course there are still good press people out there who love metal and support the scene. I'm talking about a few I've recently run across that left me totally disgusted. They requested a video to review from me and then sit on reviewing it or spam me with demands to buy ad space off them or it will effect my review. Those people are total jackasses and give metal a bad name. Maybe I'll list them on my web site soon.



What made you decide to do a "video magazine" as opposed to a print magazine or a website?

Like I said, my background is in film and video production and I love metal. It was like that commercial where the chocolate gets mixed with the peanut butter. Haha! Also, there was no such thing as web sites when I started doing TFTP.



Where did you learn the art of video production?

Massachusetts College of Art and UCLA Film School.



How did you get Vio-Lence vocalist Sean Killian vocalist Mark Osegueda of Death Angel to be the hosts of #5?

They are friends of mine. I just asked them and they said yes.



Did you consider doing the hosting yourself?

I'm on there a little bit but who the fuck wants to see me host? Haha! They want to see Paul Baloff or Sean or Mark.



On TFTP #5, how old is the content, namely the interviews and when were the host sections filmed? Some of it seems new!

It all spans the last 3 years but most of it is new from 2003.



There were a lot of video "clips" used on TFTP #5, but not full videos. Some of them were ones I haven't seen in ages or haven't seen at all and it would of been nice to have more in the way of that I think?!?!

Just pick up a bootleg or the band's official home DVD releases or watch Headbanger's Ball if you want to see whole videos. Tales From The Pit is about the interviews and other rarities you never see anywhere else. The music clips just make the interviews more interesting and gives the viewer a sense of what the band is all about so you'll go out and buy their albums. You have to realize that with as many bands per issue that we feature and to keep it interesting, it's got to be a fast moving, quickly paced program that informs and entertains but the most important thing is to promote. If we played whole videos, we'd be getting into the area of royalties and such. We feature clips because that's all we're allowed to feature. Our goal is to turn people on to the stuff we present and leave them wanting more so they'll actually support the band by buying the albums.



In my review of TFTP #5, there were two things I that I pointed out that I disliked (and that's why I gave the tape a 4/5 instead of a 5/5). The first was the interview with the goth skank calling herself "Mistress Persephone" and the second was the silly "Brawlin' Broads" section. Why did you (in my opinion) waste space with that instead of using it for more things like full videos, longer (or just more) interviews, and more live footage showing COMPLETE songs from the Thrash of the Titans gig or any other gig?!

Uh...again because I make these programs for me. It's stuff I find funny or interesting. If you like it..great..if you don't...I really don't care. I can handle the criticism but the bottom line is, I dig what I put on my programs. You and one other guy are the only ones who seem to be hung up on it. If you get a moment, check out some of the customer/fan testimonials on the TFTP site. A lot of people have sited those segments as highlights of the tape and favorites of theirs. You can't please everyone so I just try to please me and hope others like it...if not...oh well. As far as replacing it with more metal...well what the fuck dude? I just gave you 2 1/2 hours of metal, is it okay if I break it up and put something different on there? Something that makes you laugh or gets you to talk about it in reviews? You sound like a frustrated director. Haha! As far as more TOTT stuff...dude, to be honest, people would be complaining there wasn't enough of it no matter how long we made the segment. Hopefully we can get it released on DVD in the future so people can enjoy a longer version of it but I'm sure there will be people people complaining then as well. Haha! It's all up to Walter and Chuck. The ball is in their court. They can make it happen and they know how.



Tell us a bit about yourself such as...
- how you got into metal

I was stoned out of my mind on the way to a party when I was in High School and the driver of the car put on Judas Priest's Stained Class. I managed not to kill myself, had a great time at the party and went out and bought it the next day. The rest was history.



What are some of your fav bands?

Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, old Slayer, Exodus, Death Angel, Vio-lence, Overkill, old Sepultura, The Haunted, At The Gates, S.O.D., Testament, 80s Anthrax, Kreator, Nuclear Assault, Dew Scented, Venom, Witchery, The Crown, Napalm Death, Deicide...and a shitload more.



How did you get into the video production business and what other video things have you done with Metallian Productions?

I broke into the film business by moving to Los Angeles from Boston in the mid 80s, attended UCLA, dropped out to actually work on some Hollywood films, made a bunch of money and started my own company...to make a long story short. We put out a Mentors home video back in the early 90s when El Duce was still alive and got some rave reviews.



Do you play any instruments or have you been in a band yourself?

I had a side project called Storm Of Hate. I sang. Very badly. I didn't pursue it and stuck to making videos. You CAN hear the music from my project during the opening titles of Tales From The Pit #5. We just looped a really cool riff. It's not the whole song. But yeah, I'm a frustrated musician.


Anything else you'd like to add...

I like beer.



Please tell us what happened with the planned DVD release of the Thrash of the Titans benefit gig? Some KILLER scenes are on TFTP #5, but I'd like to see the full thing!! Will it ever come out in a huge full length DVD box set?

Basically what happened with the DVD is there was never a concrete agreement to put out a DVD. It was all a verbal agreement that wasn't set in stone. It was just talk. Like anything in the music business, verbal agreements get broken and plans get shelved. To be honest, it will be nearly impossible to release the concert in it's entirety. Do you have any idea of the music rights and red tape involved with 10 different bands giving us rights to entire sets? What we talked about originally was a few songs from each band like the old Ultimate Revenge videos. Even that will be difficult. Some bands like Exodus don't want that footage to ever get out. They feel their performance wasn't that great and to be honest, they didn't practice much. Every band is going to have their own set of demands. 10 sets of demands. It's not a simple task by any means. I own the footage. If one of the bands wants to use it for their own home release well then you could possible see a whole set by a band. It's probably the only way it will happen. I'd love it to come out though. Make me an offer.



You must be pretty disappointed that it didn't come out?

Well we busted our asses filming it and I lost a $2K camera so I was hoping to recoup the losses when we finalized the deal in writing. Shit happens. Move on. Someone is going to want to put it out and make a deal one day. They'd be fools not to. Haha!



Do you have plans to do anything like TOTT again - be it a benefit gig or a normal metal festival?

If someone I knew got sick and I could help them in some way, I'd do it in a second. I'm not interested in organizing any metal shows for the fuck of it though. We did TOTT for a special cause.



What do you think Death Angel's return (with a new album) in 2003 will be like? Will it be a continuation from Act III? A redefining moment in thrash metal? A mix between Death Angel and the oddball Swarm? etc...

Death Angel are a really smart band. They know what's up. I've heard some of the new material played live and I was really impressed. Exodus as well.



Didn't you film the Death Angel reunion gig? Or was that their appearance of TOTT? If it was a separate gig, will it be released because I want to buy a copy!

Yes, I filmed their TOTT and reunion shows. We'll see if it gets released. Anything is possible.



What thrash band should reunite? (I would like to see Forbidden return).

You pretty much nailed it. I would LOVE to see Forbidden come back with Craig and Bostaph.



What thrash band should call it a day?

Although you can't really call them a thrash band anymore, I seriously think Metallica should call it a day.



Here's some quick questions for you...

Bay area thrash or German thrash?
Well, that's not fair because you know I'm gonna say Bay Area!! Haha!

Testament or Vio-Lence?
Oh shit...that's a tough one. I love them both.

Clean vocals or cookie monster?
I've got nothing against cookie monster vocals but I do think it's been overdone to death. No pun intended. The thing about cleaner vocals is it gives the band more of a unique identity. Look at old school Bay Area thrash. Every band played somewhat similar thrash music but the vocals were so unique, you knew exactly who they were immediately. It takes more talent to sing. If you can sing at times and growl as well, I think it's better.

80's thrash or modern thrash?
80s thrash all the way....but I really do love The Haunted, Witchery, Dew Scented and few other modern thrash bands.

Next thrash band that will make it?
Dew Scented and The Haunted!!

NU Metallica - shit or not?

Most under rated thrash band?

Most over rated thrash band?
I don't know...Pantera?

Favourite video / fav live video?
MTV style promo would be a tie between Slayer's War Ensemble and Seasons In The AByss. I dug the black and white aggression of WE and the whole Egypt vibe of SITA. Live video would be Britney Spears live in Las Vegas. Hahaha! No, probably the original Ultimate Revenge with Exodus, Slayer and Venom.



What are your top 10 thrash metal albums of all time?

1.) SLAYER - Reign In Blood
2.) EXODUS - Bonded By Blood
3.) METALLICA - Master Of Puppets
4.) VIO-LENCE - Eternal Nightmare
5.) OVERKILL - Horrorscope
6.) DEATH ANGEL - The Ultra-Violence
7.) S.O.D. - Speak English or Die
8.) DARK ANGEL - Darkness Descends
9.) TESTAMENT - The New Order
10.) KREATOR - Extreme Aggression


Any closing words for the reader of metal-rules.com?

Support thrash by going to the shows and BUYING the albums. This downloading shit is way out of hand. Sampling a few songs is cool but fools downloading whole albums and ripping the artists off is lame.

Thanks for the interview.

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