Guitarist John Ricci from Exciter
Interviewed by: Anders Sandvall
Thanks to Tom Hack at Massacre Records for making the interview possible.
Thanks to Massacre Records for providing promo pictures of the band.
A while back I got the opportunity to talk to the guitarist John Ricci from the legendary Canadian act Exciter. Exciter’s new studio album is called DEATH MACHINE and was released late last year, so to talk about that album was a given. Besides that, we also handled issues like band-members and the past present and the future for the band. Take a look at what Mr Ricci had to say.
Hi John, it’s really nice to talk to you. I hope you are OK and ready to take on this interview with me and metal-rules.com?
I am doing fine, looking forward to doing this interview !
Exciter’s new album DEATH MACHINE is now out and I thought we might begin to talk a bit about it. For how long did you work on the album?
Every album we release the songs usually take about a year to write. Even though our songwriting is very basic every part is carefully assembled until we feel we have a strong song. We started recording in July and finished at the end of Sept. way behind schedule. The four of us were not available to record at the same time so we played all our parts individually at different times. It’s much more difficult to record this way but we had no other choice. That’s why we fell way behind schedule.
Did you feel any pressure on delivering something out of the ordinary this time?
This album has a simpler approach like the early albums from the 80`s. I do most of the songwriting so this time I tried to conceive improvised riffs (sometimes the improvised riffs turn out to be the best songs) combined with lots of energy and attitude. I think Death Machine is a strong record. In my opinion since 1996 when the “new” Exciter emerged the songs we’ve written contend with all the old stuff from the 80’s.
What have you been up to in between album releases?
Between album releases we’ve been touring in Europe, we don’t play that often but when we do play shows it’s usually overseas. There is no metal market here in Canada and we don’t get much support here like we do in Europe and other parts of the world.
Were there many songs that didn’t end up on the final edition of DEATH MACHINE?
I think there were only 3 or 4 other song ideas that didn’t work out and we decided not to spend any further time on when we were initially trying to come up with songs for Death Machine.
I know that the album has a theme can you tell us about the theme?
The theme for the album is basically torture, deviance and sexual slavery. I am a big horror movie fan so this time I thought we should talk about the horrors of unnecessary violence in today’s society. Even though these atrocities are depicted in movies the real shit happens in real life and to me that’s really sick. The album is condemning this kind of behaviour not supporting it.
Where does the title DEATH MACHINE come from and does the title have any special meaning for you?
The title of the album was initially just the name of one the songs. I originally suggested to the other guys we call the album Power and Domination but Clammy our bassist thought Death Machine might be a better title and after thinking about it we all agreed. Death Machine is about torture and the front cover of the album depicts.
Do you think that the band have developed musicwise since you first began play? If so in what way?
Over the years the music has remained the same. Even in the early days I wrote most of the musical ideas. Today, I stay to the same formula. I don’t like to experiment too much in fear we might lose our fans if we start to write music that is not the style that we are known for.I think the way we have developed is that our music has more aggression than the early days.
Who has done the cover art-work? Are you happy with it?
I think the artwork on the whole album is fantastic ! Our friend Julian Illiev from Sofia, Bulgaria did all the artwork on the album. We met Julian in 2008 when we played a show in Sofia, he was the concert promoter’s assistant. He told us he did graphic artwork and if we were interested in his services for the next Exciter album. When the time came we contacted him and gave him our ideas of what we thought the cover should be like. Basically the ideas for the cover are our ideas but Julian made them a reality with his computer graphics. He did a wicked job !
There’s also a limited digipack version of DEATH MACHINE what bonus stuff is featured on that version?
On the digipak version there is a hidden track at the very end of the album. Because we didn’t have a 10th song I decided to attempt to play a guitar solo and put it at the end of the album. The think the solo was a waste of time because I haven’t heard many comments about it. Oh well, that’s the way things go sometimes !
Who’s idea was it to release the album on vinyl? How many copies are there of the album on vinyl?
Our record co. Massacre Records in Germany have always released vinyl versions of our CD’s. I believe this time there was a limited 500 copies of the vinyl pressed.
You put out the songs “Death Machine” and “Slaughtered in Vain” on your MySpace site before the album was out what did the fans think of the songs?
We felt Death Machine and Slaughtered In Vain were very strong songs so we decided to post them on the Exciter MySpace as a preview to the album.The fans response was very positive.
Are there any plans on shooting videos to any of the songs?
There are no plans for a video for any of the songs basically because we have limited money to put into promotion to support the album.
Have you read any reviews in the media of DEATH MACHINE what have the critics to say about the album?
For the most part the reviews have been very good all over the world. But, there are 2 German publications that have always liked our records except for this time, I believe both of these magazines did not like Death Machine. Nevertheless, these publications have always been huge supporters of Exciter.
Do you think that the critics opinions are important?
The critics opinions are very important but on the other hand I don’t get phased at all if we get a bad review. If Exciter didn’t have longevity and dedication we would not be here today.
What do you think of the outcome of DEATH MACHINE compared to your previous albums?
I think Death Machine will do very well, in the first 2 months of release we sold about 3500 copies.
Do you think that hardcore fans of Exciter are going to like the new album?
Yes, I think the hardcore fans will like the new CD it’s what fans expect from Exciter, head-bashing anthems !
The last song on the album is “Slaughtered in Vain” and it clocks in on 7 minutes which makes it a pretty long song, what’s the story behind the song?
Slaughtered in Vain is just a really good song, we didn’t want to end it ! he ! he ! When we play it live it goes over really well !
In which studio did you record the album and who has produced it?
We decided to work with Manfred Leidecker again in his studio. Last time with Thrash Speed Burn we recorded at a different studio because Manfred’s studio was under renovations.
You have worked with Leidecker before what makes his so so great as producer?
Manfred knows what we are all about. We don’t have to spend much time explaining to him what sounds and mix we are trying to achieve,he knows, he’s in tune with our head-space.
Was it any differences in how you recorded this album compared to your previous ones?
As I mentioned this time we recorded all our parts separately. I guess this was the ultimate test how good of a musician we are? but we pulled it off, the album is tight !
How long did it take to record DEATH MACHINE?
The album took 3 months to record.
Who has done the mixing and mastering?
It was mixed by Manfred and us here in Ottawa,Canada and it was mastered in Germany by Andy Horn.
Exciter is signed to Massacre Records are you happy with the work the label has put into DEATH MACHINE and the band?
Massacre have promoted Death Machine to the best of their ability by arranging many interviews and ads in European magazines.
Is the album released world wide today?
Massacre take care of all promotion and distribution outside Europe.
What’s the differences between being signed to MR compared to your previous labels?
We’ve always been signed to small independent labels so the treatment has always been the same. They have limited funds to promote their artists.That’s okay with us otherwise we would have no record deal at all ! The big major companies are not interested in Exciter.
I know that you are a “high priority act” for MR how does that feel?
I wasn’t aware that we are a high priority act for Massacre. That’s news to me !
Are you currently co-operating with any promotion agency or management?
We are self-managed sometimes we work with Jens at Crush Concerts in Berlin. Either Jens will get us gigs or concert promoters will contact us directly to book us.
Do you know if it’s possible to get a hold of your older albums in stores today (not as downloads)?
In 2006 all the old records from the 80’s were re-issued on Megaforce Records USA. I guess if you live in Europe it would be an import order from the USA.
Have the older albums ever been remastered and re-released? If not are there any such plans in the near future?
As I mentioned earlier, the 80’s records were re-released in 2006 on Megaforce Records and should be available as imports in Europe.
Who own the legal rights to the older Exciter albums today?
As far as the 80’s records are concerned currently Megaforce USA owns the rights as well as myself Beehler and Johnson.
You come from Ottawa Canada, how’s the climate for metal there?
There is no metal scene here in Ottawa. There is one club called Maverick’s which hosts local and international bands but that’s it nothing more. People here in Canada are very behind in what’s happening in the rest of the world. It’s never been a metal market. A lot of big metal bands that are on tour usually don’t play Ottawa because the interest and attendance is so low it’s not worth it.
You are the only remaining original member today has it been hard with all the member changes throughout the years?
Yes, the member changes have been very difficult and stressful. Every time you think “ok” this is it, this is the ultimate line-up somebody quits or is unhappy in the band. A lot of members who have been in Exciter can’t accept that it’s my band and that the band is my vision not theirs. Otherwise I think we wouldn’t be where we are today.
Is Exciter a democracy or are you the leader?
I am the leader of the band but I do encourage the other guys to give their opinions and ideas.
Could you ever imagine that Exciter would still be active today when you formed the band back in 1978?
Yes, I believed the band would last for many years because of my determination to play metal and succeed. After the release of our first record HEAVY METAL MANIAC I knew we had something unique to offer the metal world which no one could copy at that point I knew we would be around for a long time.
What do the other two original members think of that you’re still active under the name Exciter today?
I really don’t think Beehler and Johnson thought I could succeed without them. Johnson quit in 1988 and Beehler quit in 1993 after our tour of Europe with Rage. Beehler didn’t want to play music any more. So, decided to keep playing and audition new members. We got signed right away with Osmose Productions in France in 1996 and now with Massacre, so far so good.
Do you run Exciter on a hobby base or is the band your full time commitment?
Exciter has always been a part-time band. I have a regular job. It’s too risky going full-time with the band because the money is not always constant and there are a lot of rip-offs that happen in this industry.
Are you heading out on the road this year? Are you coming over to Europe on tour as well?
So far this year our tour schedule is as follows,
South American tour, March 22-29
Toronto,Canada April 23
Madrid,Spain May 7
AB,New Mexico,USA August 20
More dates will probably be added,but no other European dates at this time.
Do you get a lot of mail from fans and what are the most common question you get from fans?
The most common question from fans is “will the original line-up get back together” and the answer is no, never !
Are you happy with what Exciter have achieved through the years?
Yes, I am content with the success we’ve achieved. Being an underground cult band that’s all we can ask for.
How would you like to describe a live show with Exciter?
A live Exciter show is very intense and the energy level is tremendous throughout the show. We actually tire out the audience because they can’t keep up with us !!!
Where in the world are Exciter biggest at the moment? Are you disappointed that Exciter aren’t “bigger” today?
Our biggest market has always been Germany and we are also very popular in Italy. I have accepted being the status that we are we make records and tour the world. Isn’t that what every musician dreams of? We are not bigger today because we can’t get the attention of big league agents, managers or record companies. So be it, I don’t care anymore.
Both you and the well known act Anvil comes from Canada, have you seen the movie about Anvil and do you know the Anvil guys?
Yes, I’ve seen the Anvil movie, I’m very happy for the them and their new success, we have been good friends with them since the 80’s and more recently we did shows together in Europe.
How does it feel to know that Exciter are considered as living legends today?
I’m very humble that we are considered legends. Our success was kind of accidental because when we were writing our classic first record we really didn’t know what we were doing, we were just trying to write good heavy metal songs and the rest is history !
When can we expect to find the next Exciter album out in stores?
I haven’t even started writing new songs, we’ve tried a few new ideas at rehearsal but nothing sounded promising. I can’t see a new record until at least 2012.
What would you like to say to those who doesn’t know or have heard Exciter?
To people who have never heard Exciter if you are into old school thrash with a unique twist and power and intensity and you want to play air guitar and headbang for 40 minutes buy an Exciter record !!!
What are the plans for the band during 2011?
For the rest of 2011 we will writing songs and hopefully waiting for offers to play more shows.
Could you give the readers three reasons why they should buy DEATH MACHINE?
Readers should buy our new record Death Machine for the following reasons,
-if you want to hear where speed metal originated buy this record
-if you want to hear unsophisticated raw guitar riffs buy this record
-if you like screaming vocals buy this record
Do you have any final words of wisdom to share with the fans and readers?
The key to success is never give up in something you believe in, otherwise if you give up at some point you’ll never know where the future could of brought you ! That’s why Exciter is still alive and well!
That was all I had, thanks a lot for taking the time to make this interview. I wish you and the band all the best in the future, take care.
Thanks so much for the interview and supporting Exciter !!!
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