INTERVIEW WITH JOE HASSELVANDER
(Raven, Pentagram, Deathrow, The Hounds Of Hasselvander, Blue Cheer etc…etc…)
Joe Hasselvander is a real metal drummer icon and has been rocking since 1965 in various bands. Above all Raven and Pentagram have both carved immortal marks on his long career. Therefore it was about time for this Metal-Rules.com journalist to sit down and talk to the true hard working musician who definitely lives up to his legendary status in metal and rock in every aspect.
Interview and pics by Arto Lehtinen
This is your second time around here?
We played the first one and we got put at weird times when, like at 5:30 in the morning and it was too late for anyone to come out really. They came out in pajamas, the people that came. Then they put us on to dinner hour, so we really didn’t get a good slot either in the day. So, they wanted to make up for it and put us on this last tour of this ship, this last cruise. So, they had us back and paid us well and we are here.
Before this you played as the special guest with Girlschool?
Was it a farewell gig for Girlschool?
No, not necessarily. They always say that, but they continue playing. It was a real good tour. It’s just that there was no road crew and there was all of us scrambling in a van and there was a lot of loading in and out and then we had to play. So, but luckily that was only two weeks. So, it wasn’t too bad, but it was very cold and hard to do. But it was good, it was a good package because Girlschool was great. We did well and they’ve got a French band opening for us who was kind of commercial. We did really well in London, which we’ve never really cracked London. They very standoff as to Raven for so many years and we played it and it went crazy. So, it was really, really good this time. London is always hard place.
What kind of turn out did you have on this tour?
Well, London was about 1,000 people. Most of them were packed to capacity, whatever that would be. Some of them are 400, some are 1,000. But it was a very, very good turn out. In some of these country towns in the middle of nowhere they showed up too, which was amazing. Nice venues, but I don’t think more than 30 people show up at those concerts usually, because there aren’t many metal fans there but they came from all over. So, it was good. Italy was good, it did really well.
The DVD is the most recent Raven output. There is a lot of the old material from the 1982, ’84, as well as the most recent stuff, taken a couple of years ago. How did you find the old video material and how did you start working on this output?
What happened was, we used to have a policy that if you are going to video us, you must send us a copy each member of the band. It’s only three of us, so send us a copy. So, over the years we have all these videos, all this footage. We sort it out and some people that didn’t give it to us, we asked them and they sent it and we had such good stuff. The Architect Of Fear Tour, we were opening for Running Wild, it was kind of a co-headlining tour, we had rims of footage from that. They were shooting a documentary about being about us, which became “Electroshock Therapy.” It was a video, the time on SPV and it just had a recap of the tour that we had last and stuff. Then suddenly we found a footage of Rob with Wacko in the band from that has been lost for a long time and it surfaced. We said, okay. Let’s put this together and Olive from SPV definitely wanted us to do this – Let’s do it like a chronology. Let’s don’t make a movie out of it, let’s make it a chronology. We show also definitely people know how the band progressed and up till now, what the real story is. I think it did that, like really it shows to me. It’s like and a lot of the fans have brought the product, they have said, this is a perfect documentation of Raven. So yeah, it’s what it is about. So, its four and a half hours or something we got. It’s long, but it’s good, if you don’t know about the band. It’s eye opening and Lars Ulrich said some great things in there, Dee Snider did too and these people that were our peers and we were in competition but as Dee says “We were the band to beat”. So, we raised the bar so high, he had to do it too with Twisted Sister and that’s really flattering with these people.
I guess you still have a plenty of material left?
Yes. We have…
Can we expect to see another DVD?
I think maybe, I don’t know. We have about three times more of that, there is so much we couldn’t put it all. I think some of the best sound quality, they are not all visually perfect quality, but the sound was pretty good and that’s what we went for. We took those, but there is other ones that surface all the time and like this year’s tour, it’s just filled with YouTube videos that are really, really good. The South American footage we have is very good. So, we probably will do another at some point. But we are all getting up there now. So, will see how long heavy metal last till.
BEING ON BREAK AND WORKING ON THE NEW MATERIAL
The last album WALK THROUGH FIRE came out 2009 and the previous one ONE FOR ALL came out in 2000. Well there is a reason why there is a big gap…
Yeah. Mark got in a terrible accident there, and crushed his legs, they were actually turned backwards. A wall fell on him and we stuck in there with him, I said, “Mark, I’m not moving on. I’ll stay; I don’t care how many years it takes you to get it back. I will be there waiting.” So, this gave me the time to do these Pentagram records and I never missed a bit and I kept working and I went down periodically to see Mark, to see how he was doing and we took him in a wheelchair to Disney World and all the stuff. Then he got so, that he could walk with a walker and because I want to tour. A short two week tour, so we went with Seven Witches and did a tour with them a few dates, he was great, but he was on the stool. Then each time we go out and play finally he’s got the leg brace and then finally he was fine. He’s very lucky that he’s still playing today after that. One thing good that came out of it was that your most great entertainer, but he was such an entertainer and in the old days that he forgot that he has played guitar too. When he got in the wheelchair, it really got down to his guitar playing. We got deep into it and now he’s the best, I love his playing. He’s perfect, he’s consistent and he’s always good, never let’s me down or anyone in the band.
Even though you are not into a death metal thing, but you may remember a band called Possessed?
Yes. Possessed, yeah.
And Jeff Becerra, he’s in a wheelchair and he’s singing and fronting Possessed on gigs.
Yeah. I’ve seen the heavy metal kids do it back in 1974; the guy is on a wheelchair with cast on his legs. It was excellent and if you can do it, do it. I wouldn’t care if I’ve got no legs; I’ve got to play somehow. The drummer from Soft Machine lost both of his legs and continued making albums; they did the double bass with his hands. A person like that is something that I never forget when I hear things like that. This is something like, “Hey! You know what? Things aren’t that bad.” Just look over this guy and he’s kept going, so.
So, you are working on the new stuff anyway?
Yeah. So, we are going to… We are going to do new albums soon and we are writing songs right now and just trying to figure out the time. We are also looking for a good producer. We can produce these ourselves, no problem but I’d like to have a good name of somebody who wants to have fun with us. And we did it with Michael Wagener once, but I think the schedule was pretty hefty.
I was about to ask about him, so why not him?
Yeah. Usually we would use him but we can’t spend that kind of money, we had to get somebody that’s willing to back off on the price a little bit and work with us. And we have a few people in mind.
Do you think it’s a little bit challenging for a band like Raven to top the material, because you have a huge legacy from the past as when releasing the new stuff, people are more eager to hear the old stuff anyway ?
Well, I know exactly what you are saying, because I think about this all the time. But I think, because I write songs too. So, when I came into the band I’m more of , I would just say Doom. It’s just it’s more… It’s a little bit of a darker sound going on. So, I brought new element to them and I have a million song ideas that are, and I’ve put, injected some of that into our music and so we have actually created a new sound. So, it’s limitless the kinds of songs can work with that. Now, if it was Rob was in the band today, they probably run out of material. I mean they would have material, but it would be an imitation of their old days. I keep trying to push them into new areas, but when we play it they want to hear the old stuff and I enjoy playing the old stuff better than the new stuff. I like those old songs, and I get a chance to really do some crazy drum stuff in that. So, our newer stuff is a little more serious, a little less tongue-in-cheek, it’s a little really serious, a little more solemn I think. We have two or three on there that are classic Raven like, ‘Under Your Radar’, and the stuff for those songs. Then we have a couple of real pieces, more pieces. I don’t think they had that before really, it was more of a just right on goes out rock N roll. But I think I helped them to create a new sound, a newer sound and it’s limitless what we can do. We can keep going with this. So, it’s easier for us to write material. It just has to go by John, whether John wants to do it or not. He’s kind of the quality controller officer there and, “I like that one, let’s do it.”
When will we see the next Raven Album out?
We are going to start working on it, and if we don’t tour with Anvil in April or May. That might be happening, then will start then. And then have it done, wrapped in the summer. And hopefully have it ready to release by fall. So, we have some good music. We have some good stuff, more sweet, some great stuff, these are really good songs. So, I think this will be a good one.
WORKING ON SOLOS
Raven has never been that fast what comes to recording a new material. But when Mark has this accident thing, you were working on your albums – you got several solo albums out, three or four solo albums?
Yeah. So, yeah. I always have to play; I have to work all the time. I have to do this for a living. Mark or John don’t, I do this for a living. So, I have to play all the time. I’m on 45 albums and counting right now. And I’ll play anything, if they play Rockabilly, I’m there because I like that, its high energy. It’s very high energy, it’s very fast. It’s very loud, but it’s Rockabilly but I’ll do that, I like stuff old instrumental surf music. I’ll do straight rock albums; I’ll do some thrash albums. I’m working with a guy right now from what they call Mind Assassin, with Bob Mitchell singing from Attackers, pretty good record. I’m doing some stuff for the band called Armageddon, and I’m doing my solo career stuff. I had to go and since I get home, I have to start new record. And so, but I have got really good relationships with several labels they’ve got to know you’ve got a gig for life for this. Just put out what you want.
How did Costas Stoios come into the picture?
Costas was a big fan for years and he wrote me letters, it started out with letters. At the time I was going through a terrible divorce and a custody case with my child, and I didn’t want to talk to anybody. So, I didn’t really answer his letters and finally he called me. He wanted to release some old Death Row / Pentagram stuff. I said, “Well, I don’t really have any. I don’t have anything”. Not on me anyway, later I got things and I opt them out with some of that. But he called me, was, “Hey, you know? I listen to your solo albums. You want to do a solo record, a new solo record? I’ll do it.” I said, “Well, that’s really funny because I just finished writing it.” And literary I’ve been working on a record, I had no deal. I just said, “I’m just going to do it.” I work it and then try to do something. I think what made the minute, I wrote the last lyric. The phone rung, “You guys want to do a record, I just finished it two minutes ago.” It’s just like magic. We put that out, we’ve got a great relationship ever since. He’s a super guy, what a sweetheart man. And then it’s your friend and Marlene, super people. I’m doing a new album for him now and it’s called, PHANTOM CHILD. I didn’t really know I’m going to put my name on it; I’m just going to have a sort of name for a name. So, I guess I just do anything I want without even worrying about it.
Is it coming out on Iron Pegazus ?
Actually we are developing a new label for me called Horrible Records. And then the logo says, if it’s not horrible it’s awful and he thought it was genius. Right? Because this is unbelievable. So, he talked to another friend of his from another label and says, “That’s the coolest thing I ever had. Man, you ought to get behind that.” So, he’s going to set that up and then eventually I’m going to take that label myself and start recording young bands that I like. That they need to be seen and heard. And then just do a cheap recording and say, “Let’s just pull them out.” I am probably going to do all the artwork and all those covers and that kind of thing, because I’m an artist too. He’s always got great ideas like this for me. He’s a wonderful person to work with, he’s a brother. He sees me as a super rock star, which to me I don’t see that. But he sees that I am or something, and so he has his own thoughts in his mind about me, like I’m the lady killer and I’m screwing all these girls, but it’s not what I’m doing. I’m a normal person with a nice beautiful girlfriend and just have a normal life with the kids and all that. But he believes on what I do, so God bless him. I’m very happy.
As you are working with Costas and you can count on him. But I guess you had learned your lesson from the past when Raven and Pentagram were ripped off by labels and other people in a hard way?
Yes, yes. And then when we were working with him, its like, “Dude let me just send you two gigantic boxes out and you solve them for yourself. And never to worry about money”. I get paid more working with him than a regular label. That’s how I survived the whole year on the first Hasselvander album, he sent me all those CDs. So, he’s like family to me, he really is. You know its unusual working relationships like that. Well, Mark and John are. I just be around them and play, I just want to hangout with them. We make each other laugh and we feel really energized after we’ve been together. So, if we could play some music, and between all that its fun and you know.
FROM FATHER TO SON
Does your kid like your music?
Not at first, because he liked Emo stuff but then he discovered Queen one day. Then he discovered John Entwistle. And then his favorite drummer was a drummer from Slipknot.
Yeah. So he goes, “I love John Ossea from Pentagram.” Suddenly I was cool. My son goes, “You are cool now.” But then he finally came to see Raven for the first time, just four months ago. Blew his head off, he was just like, “Man! Dad, God that was great.” So, now he’s playing the bass and I’m actually going to have him on my next album. He’s a really good bassist like John, really technical.
Is it possible to make the “son and father” album?
Sure, it works fine. Ellen is doing it. And I know lots of people do that, Alan Davey from Hawkwind, has a band called Gunslinger. All his nephews and nieces were in it. And the family sound it’s like really wow, and yeah. I’m going to give him his first time in the studio, because I’m not going to be around forever. I was old when I had him, so I’m going to leave him something that he can do. Make it a family business, you won’t regret it.
DEATHROW AND PENTAGRAM
Pentagram was and still are influenced by Black Sabbath sounds and attitude and image and how they looked in the first place - Do you think that one of Pentagram’s purposes was to shock the people with all this image thing with the inverted crosses. the mystic lyrics and the stuff like that?
Yeah. We weren’t really into that, because the Pentagram name comes from the WolfMan movie. We were in the horror movies, Bobby was and his original Pentagram, that’s all they were doing. The guitarist was a writer for a Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine and Forrest J Ackerman was his boss. So, they were really heavily into the horror aspect and I agreed with Bobby when I got with in that, you’ve got to shock the audience or they are going to remember you. They’ve got to give them a little bit of a jolt of something, and of course a lot of bands do that here. A little bit of shock rock doesn’t hurt you know, you put on a show. Some people just look at their feet and play, that’s no good. Like the grunge thing was all about that, and I like some of that music but I didn’t like to go see the bands, it was boring. But we were a lot like Black Sabbath, we liked their tone. We liked their tones and we like some of the things we did but we weren’t exactly trying to be Black Sabbath. But we did. If I hear a good sound, well I’m going to have that sound. I don’t care who does it or who makes it; I know they are playing correctly. So, I want to investigate that more and do that my own music. We’ve been very lucky that we haven’t been called a Black Sabbath tribute band then, that’s never been said. So, that’s a good thing I guess.
I saw you playing at Roadburn with Death Row and it was a really good gig. The first one was really magic. Could you tell a little bit, how the whole thing started out with Death Row when you teamed up with Victor Griffin and you got a chance to play at Roadburn ?
The thing is, Victor. I met Victor a long time, he was 16 when I met him and I was living with his sister and she kept telling me about Victor, “You’ve got hear him.” I go, “Yeah, yeah. Whatever.” I was with some other band making a lot of money at the time and I went down to visit him and I was just blown away. So, of course then I got him in with Bobby and all, but of course Bobby has got his own story and this is why we don’t play with him anymore. But Victor goes, “Hey! Why don’t we go out at this Death Row and I’ll sing it all?” I said, “Can you sing it all?” And he goes, “Yeah.” We did a rehearsal, we had done it before with Eric Wagner from Trouble, he played one show at Hammer of Doom with us. And Victor wasn’t happy with the singing. I thought he was great, but he didn’t like him. So, he says, “I can sing it.” So, “Okay. Let’s do it, let’s try it.” And he sounded really good, good vocalist I thought. He’s like John Kay for Steppenwolf, for even a little like Bob Singer. I mean he had this really unique voice. I said, “Yeah, he can do this.” And that was a short tour; the end of it was at Roadburn. But we played, everywhere we played, we’ve never put up a Death Row album. Okay. It was packed every gig we played and people were going nuts. So I said, “Victor, we can make a lot of money doing this. This could keep rolling and get bigger and bigger.” And then I got a phone call and he says, “I’m going back to Bobby.” I said, “Good luck, I’m not playing with him.” And Bobby, because you probably know everyone else, about his substance abuse problem. It’s in the movie…
The movie tells a lot.
If you actually lived everyday with that person, he would drive you nuts because I really was a babysitter for him. Finally the whole band quit, no one would play with him. So, I did the two albums with him. We did it twice at some basement, and played everything. I played all the instruments and he sung. And because I knew we had it in him, I just knew he was down but I said, “If you can just get in there for a couple of hours a day and sing your parts, I’ll do this with you. So, he did and he made it. It was really cool; we got to be closer than ever. And then the album, some basement was coming out and right away it was on the cable TV stations, it’s like a real radio station, but some cable TV and started playing stuff from some basement. And Bobby immediately put out an album with the Relapse Records of his old material. Suddenly that was out there and they put that junk on. We sold demos from 1970, who gives a damn. This was current stuff and it completely, the album just all sales just dropped because he’s got this other album out that everyone thinks, so this is it and it never got a chance. It wasn’t until five years later that people started now seeing the record, I thought it was a masterpiece, a Doom album, really was. I always told Bobby, this is our Sergent Pepper of Doom Metal. And it was and we could have done better, but we couldn’t get anyone to play with us. So, it was just him and I and I think we tried to audition people, they wouldn’t show up. They were scared of us, scared they couldn’t handle that I think. That’s how it happened and I can’t work with him anymore, because now I understand what he’s doing, he’s got young kids who play with him. He makes a lot of money, and that he pays up a little.
Were you kind of surprised that Pentagram got a deal with Metal Blade?
I was very surprised, but they dropped him. And we actually just got out of Raven, got out of our contract with them too. Because they are good label, they are prestigious but really there is no promotion. Just put it out.
Someone told me that this kind of promotion thing is a good public relations here at 70000 Tons and and it’s mandatory for bands nowadays to do that.
You have to have promotion and it can’t off the band, the band has got to do their music. And at the arms of the act to persona our work and it’s not going to work. So, we are going to sign exclusively with SPV because we are in Europe and so now we are going to do America with them too. And they are going to do a lot for us.
You said that you are playing for a living, you are playing from rockabilly, even to thrash.
Yes. I play for a living. Anything that’s good, that’s actually good music I’ll play it.
What about the thrash thing that the came very big in the ’80s and Raven has been described and named one of the important names in the thrash.
Yeah. The godfathers of thrash, that’s what they used to call them.
Along side with the other bands who started out in the early days.
You went out to tour with Testament?
Yeah. But the whole thing is Raven is a Rock N Roll band, they just play real fast. It’s all Rock N Roll really and but its fast, well I don’t mind. If it’s this other stuff is like I said, it’s like more is chord, like I don’t get it. I don’t understand, I don’t get anything from it. But Testament, I like those guys, they are nice people, they are way good now. But in those days, it was purely thrash and their audience hated us. They were fucking flipping us off and throwing bottles at us and stuff, they thought we got the… Said we were, some of the reviews were, “Yeah, Raven is like country and western band.” We got total disrespect on our tour, not from Testament though, they were great guys. And but that scene at the time Slayer was number one and Exodus and all these were number one. Now there is millions of bands out there doing all the things, all the genres and stuff. Which it really it is healthy; there is many genres of music, heavy music. I hope it all just stays, stays together.
You had the Finnish band on the tour with Testament, Stone?
Stone!! They played three gigs and they were gone.
Tell me a little bit more; because it’s a little, it’s interesting because the Stone guys were really active in Finland and now they have reunited.
I thought they were great, I thought they were kick-ass. And I saw, I went, “This little Styrofoam stones.” They were throwing all these stuff and they were just rubber bling. And they were really good, and I was like where are they going, they are gone. They did three shows and they were gone. I remember playing The Channel in Boston with them, yeah they were great. I was wondering, whatever happened to them. I knew they were from Finland and I think the person handling them was Forbidden’s manager, they hold that old lady, like a grandma or something. I think she brought them over, as I remember. But I do have a good memory for these things. Yeah, they were great. The guitar player was great, singing and stuff it was really good.
Were you kind of surprised at seeing a thrash band coming from the country like Finland?
Yeah, yeah. I know, well it’s amazing you see bands from… A lot of my favorite bands from all different times were from weird countries, there was a band back when the Stone first came and the Beatles first came, there was a band called Thor’s Hammer. They were like Motorhead playing Mercybeat music. Is that fucking crazy, I mean drummers are out of control; really high energy and they were using false tones before anyone else. No one has ever heard of them, I’m the biggest fan and still you know. I’ve thought of going to Reykjavik and looking them up, to talk to them and… But yeah, something is up here what is it? Icecross, they were from Iceland I think and couldn’t ever find a record. I found them in Argentina and I brought them home, it was awesome. It’s like they were from the ’70s, the early ’70s. But they were doing a tag with Doom, Black Sabbath thing a little bit. And Black Sabbath doesn’t have the pattern on that kind of music, was many bands before them doing that. It’s same kind of doomy thing, just hundreds of them. That was the style then.
When I watched the DVD, all gig flyers a with Anthrax stuff, Riot, Metallica – I can’t help asking if you ever hope in your mind going back to old days, remembering then or missing something from the old days?
No. I don’t like any of them bands, I mean I like them but I’m not impressed. I’m not like, “God! They are great.” Metallica is open up for Raven, they are young kids. They are a little younger than me, and I saw there on the first gigs on East Coast and that’s first gig with them. I was there, it was like a little bar in the middle of nowhere in New Jersey. And Anthrax played with them and they sucked, Metallica was okay, Cliff was fantastic. He played the bass solo, was great. And as time went on, everybody loves them then and they did the Black Album also and they all hate them. But it’s still best album, it was a fucking fantastic record for any genre. That’s a good record, but it’s so popular their old fans didn’t like anymore. They are too popular now. That’s what happens, I mean happened to Alice Cooper in the old days when he did BILLION DOLLAR BABIES, his old fans said, “Goodbye. You are just commercial now.” And are using some backing tapes and all those shit, you know. We saw them and we were just like a garage band, it’s like an psychedelic garage band. Were really cool. So, I have so many years in music, I have been doing this since 1965. And my brother was a Surf guitar player, so he paved the way for me. I heard all the music and learned how to play the drums, at six I already knew how to play. And I was playing with people who were 25 and 30. I was playing strip bars by the time I was nine, and with these 30 year old men. So, I’ve been around a long time.
That’s your life high school.
I had a whole another life before Raven, many, many years. I played with a lot of people, Leslie West, with Mountain, I played with the Platters of all people. Also, it was more and more. I played with the guy who wrote Susie Q. The song Susie Q, I got a phone call, “Hey! Can you play drums at this gig?” I get there and the guy wrote it and completely packed out, and I’m a little kid. I’m like what is it; I’m doing a concert here. Wasn’t what I wanted to do, but would set me on this song goes like this, when I heard Blue Cheer. The first time I went, that’s it. That’s me the rest of my life right there, and it’s very odd that years and years later I’m on the last Blue Cheer album. That was a dream come true to play with Dickie Peterson, he’s a father of heavy metal, he really is. And I said, look, I don’t remember playing with him. And they were kind of ’80s metal sound. Said, “You guys are going to ditch that crap and we got to get back to what you guys used to sound like.
That’s what made you famous.” And Dickie goes, “I’ve been trying to tell this guitar player that we should. So, it’s time.” So, we developed to get the old sound back. And I think I helped them a lot, but of course Dickie didn’t have long to roll, he died from liver cancer about a year later. But he’s very lucky to be on the record. And I got to tell him, he lived in my house for five months and we did pre-production and then recorded the album and down to Washington and so on. That was really cool, so. But I know it’s been a lot, that was a band starting of in this, and it has to be loud and it’s got to be heavy and it’s got like blow people’s heads off. I’m not interested really. And there is a lot of types of music you can do that with, you can do it with a great Rockabilly band, you can blow people away. But it’s got to be high energy.
What do you think, how long the heavy metal will last – Because when we are looking at this crowd here and thinking about their ages, is about from 30 up till 50. There is hardly any young kids here. If you are going to concerts the average age is over 30, and Sweden Rock goers are at 40s. Some researchers have said that kids were between 15 and a little bit over 20 are completely missing from the concerts nowadays. How do you see it?
Well, what’s happening? What I’m seeing though actually is younger kids coming out now, where else before it was only old people and we are all getting older. And by this last North American tour, it was all young people and they don’t like death metal. They don’t like thrash, they want to hear rock and what they want to hear every rock with real songs, real vocals and that’s what they like. And so, that’s healthy for me because I have nothing to say against death metal, and these people play very well. But I don’t hear one song, not one song, it sounds like most chord played to one note, it never stops. And some cookie monster guy singing, well that’s fine and all but it’s so down to death. I’d rather go see a hardcore punk band do that, because that’s what it’s about. This is trying to convert metal into this new thing, because I know that it wouldn’t last that long. To me it’s like rap music, really is. I don’t like it. But it doesn’t mean the musicians are great, I’ve seen some great death metal musicians.
Some of bands start very brutal, then they are getting softer softer?
Yeah, they sound very soft. I like it real heavy, real brutal but I like songs, I like with good singing and stuff. If you told me that I would still be doing this, and 2014 I’d say you are crazy. Back in when I started this in the ’70s and… But it does seem to survive and I’m very surprised that they are old music accepted again. So, they are older heavy metals accepted, and heavy metal has been around a lot longer than people think. And I was in the very first heavy metal band ever was before they all died, I was in Blue Cheer. They started it, the back lines of Marshalls and the long hair and all deal that we see today, everyday. They are like Metallica in 1967, they really were, it’s the same thing. And I thought, this can’t last but it did, it’s the same more and more. But I think it has a good shelf-life and I hope that it stays around, but if it gets more death metal and it’s just all about death metal, then people would play rock, any kind of rock and roll in their songs, we are gone. And people are going to miss that, they really you are going to miss it.
So it’s very strange, it seems strange. But I am seeing it reverting back to about 1981 or ’78 even, it’s reverting back to that sound and that was a good sound for a lot of bands. A lot of great bands came out there, a lot of good albums. And they don’t sound alike, everything sounds alike nowadays and of course that’s what happened in hip hop, everything is the same. I can’t tell who is who; they all sound the same to me. But one thing about Raven is we don’t, we definitely want… We don’t use click tracks in the studio, it’s a real time band and real-time playing together in the studio. We don’t do that, no one does that anymore. They are all flying in, one guy goes. Well, I’ll send you the track. So, and I may and you, I’ll email you the tracks and you go ahead and put your drums down. I don’t work that way, the band is going to have, be alive. And not going to be alive, if you are not in the same room together. And a lot of these drummers they play to a click track, and a lot of times they sample drum machine and they are not really playing. I remember seeing Slayer at Wacken, we played with them and they’ve got some of the drumming is incredible in that band, that was great. I’ve got to say, he doesn’t play anything like that, he sounds like a punk drummer. It sounds like poker music. He doesn’t double bass hardly any, which was unusual for me. I just said, well maybe he can’t do it. There was a studio thing or something, but I’m not a big fan to that, that kind of thing. Really, I like good… I love Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, there is a few. I like Type O Negative, a great band…
What about these high skilled power metal bands like Stratovarius, Gamma Ray and the stuff like that?
Really haven’t heard much of that, we’ve played with a lot of those people and it just doesn’t… It’s very, I don’t know. It’s a bit like Foreigner; it’s a bit like Journey, makes heavy metal I’m just really not into Journey. It’s not roll enough for me, it’s too sweet, too syrupy, it’s too over produced. But I like something that’s got a rage, tough edge and… But I like good iconic songs that would sell on the radio but I want that big sound, the big rough sound that the media doesn’t… People in charge of the media really don’t want it that way, they want it either or just. I like it one way. And I hear something in my head and that’s it, it’s not like it’s a fashion or something, it’s just what I’m feeling and I’ve got to have that. I know when it’s right when I hear it. So, like Pentagram, I know that. We were all about that, so we were all about that kind of thing.
RAVEN WILL FLY ON
Raven came into your life ’86, ’87 I guess?
’87 was the first demo.
How did you get in Raven in the first place – Raven was from England and you were from The States or I guess the Raven guys were already living in The States?
They had moved to Upstate New York, and I was in Subway Brown. With the Blue’s rock band and with the guitar player from Blue Cheer, Duck MacDonald, Gary Bordonaro from The Rods and Jimmy Kunes from Cactus, singer of Cactus. So, we had this super group. It’s kind of like Whitesnake. We ended up, originally we were based out of Cleveland and then we moved Upstate New York and I ended up moving in the house with Mark and John and Rob left, and we became instant friends. Because we listened to the same music growing up, the Sweet, Groundhogs, the list goes on and on. And then you know, Rob went… They went down to their, they went down to look at their equipment and the storage unit place and his drums are gone and he’s gone. He quit, didn’t say a word, not a good bye, nothing. So, they called me up and I was doing my second solo album at the time and said, “Hey! Would you come up and do a demo at Bells Will studios.” It’s the best studio in the world and it’s not the leader. It’s gone now but I went up there for a weekend and we cut a demo out, and it was really, really good. And then they are managing as well, we should try out a couple of more drummers. I know he was good, but nobody knows where he is. Let’s get this guy from Celtic Frost. Well, he couldn’t even play Rock N Roll by Led Zeppelin. He couldn’t play anything, he could play nothing. They tried to jam, he couldn’t jam. Not he’s a bad drummer, I just don’t think he was in their vibe; he just wasn’t in that place they run. So, then I finished my album then I got a call from John’s wife, says, “Hey! We got a record deal; do you want to be on this on your own?” “Yeah.” So, we went up to New York and recorded it and we were on Combat and that was it. But we never had an argument; I’ve been with them for almost 30 years. We have never argued about anything, it’s always a good time.
And we are always thinking the same way, there is no like, “Well, I don’t like that part.” It’s never like that. It’s like, “That’s a cool part.” And so, it was very easy to work with them. Very easy and it’s all on blast, I’m so blessed to have them. Because Pentagram was started by yelling and screaming and people breaking things, and Victor broke up bottles, was going to cut me open with it. And all this kind of stuff in the studio was like, “I’m sick of this shit.” Kid stuff, that’s kid shit. And so then Mark and John had done the business, we just want to get it done. Okay, let’s do it. I can’t deal with people and they are positive, they are not negative. And I hang around with a lot of negative people in my life, it was making me negative. And they finally said, “You’ve got to teach these people.” And they were right. So, I cleared out all the negative people out of my life, drug dealers, drug addicts, drug solemn are gone. Good bye. And my life is wonderful for it, and much better, much better quality. So, I know a lot of bands have some in fighting. You see these videos, people like Caimero and other; they are all kicking each others asses and fighting in the streets, and forget that. You should be in a band together; you should be on stage doing a professional job if you are like that. Should be in a bike gang, it would be better.
What do you think that how long Raven will be around?
As long as our health holds up, we will be as long as we are not done. If any member of this band goes, it’s not going to be Raven anymore. So, we are all trying to keep our health together and we eat right, we don’t party too much. I drink a little bit, very tiny. We all used to drink a lot, Mark and I but I don’t, I rarely drink anymore. So, we just keep our health together. Keep a good lifestyle at home and we are able to continue doing this. I mean we did this tour all over America just left a couple of months ago and no kid at 18 to do this, it was so hard. We got no roadies, we were the rodies and the drives were sometimes a thousand miles to the next gig. And the anonymity of North America is unreal, trying to do that without a boss. We were in the pickup track and a trailer. And now road cross, we did that, I don’t know too many kids could it. So, we are in pretty good shape. Well, keep doing that like that forever. So, we are just hoping that, we are really hoping that will come out with a record that really sells, really big. But we will see, because it’s not necessarily a word of mouth thing.
Somebody is pushing that album; somebody is putting their money behind it to make a successful record. Metallica did prove that they could make it big through word of mouth, but I think at some point after MASTERS OF PUPPETS was like you’ve got to do what we say. And course a Black album, which they put all their money into. But at least they’ve got a living, they made a life, they’ve got a house, they live fine, they don’t have to work and all this stuff anymore, to all the work, in a regular job anymore. I know I am, I’m done work construction. That’s what I used to do. So, now we are just hoping to get there one big one and if we don’t it’s not a big deal either, but it would be nice. It would be very nice. But a lot of these gigs we’ll play at Festival and they’ll put us on the worse slot. It’s like, why did you even… Why are we here? Why did you invite us? We are more legendary; any of these bands on the stage and you put us at the very beginning when no one is here.
They saw these bands, Precious Darling, like I’m on, I’m off, all these bands. That’s the best band in the world. Who is in next week? People just can’t just… What I like about Europe is, everyone does love their bands going all the way back in ’70s and they are fans forever. In The States it’s throw away, like Metallica everybody hates them, in Europe they love them. Everybody hates them in the states now. And I think that some wanted it, since they were the biggest band in United States. Why are they all giving up on them? It’s ridiculous. And cut down the band ago, you guys cut them down a few years ago. You were rolling them as the greatest band on earth. So, it doesn’t make any sense to me. You go, shit, yeah in a second. I’m not a fan of America; I wish I didn’t live in America. It’s a throw away society and it’s going down, the whole thing is going down fast. We have no more money left and all this new band habits, it’s starting to become like Britain, for our people it’s hopeless. And you know the story, I’m sure.
Yeah. It’s everywhere nowadays.
I think Rock N Roll and heavy metal represents freedom, that’s what it represents. And if God was to look down at people he’d say, “Those are my people.” Not some guy that’s in a business ripping people off and making more money, living in a penthouse, listening to Rock N Roll and some… That’s it, those are the good people. We are about freedom and living and being individuals. That’s why metal walked out, I mean at least not completely. It’s the only outlet sometimes.
It goes back to the underground then it’s coming back to the mainstream.
Yeah. The underground is not necessarily smaller, sometimes its way bigger than the mainstream. And at least the money is not there. I knew that in Pentagram and all like The Obsessed and other sister bands basically – We are getting huge, but we are under money and we have put the names everywhere. And I said, you know the underground is way bigger, its way bigger.
Because of good networks.
Yeah, yeah. It’s like in the days when everybody traded cassette tapes in the old days, its back to that but without the cassette tapes. The word of mouth is, if you hearing that has made it happen, I really think. And it’s a good thing, a lot of bad things about the Internet but there is a lot of good things too and that’s one of them. We don’t talk to each other from Finland, Taiwan if you want to. And they are like they are next door, so.
Alright. Thank you for the long interview..