Interview with Michael Podrybau
Conducted by Robert Williams
Michael Podrybau is best remembered as the vocalist for the Pacific Northwest based traditional heavy metal band Glacier. A recent resurgence of renewed interest in the band’s seminal self-titled EP lead to a deluxe reissue campaign on both CD & Vinyl spearheaded by Cult Metal Classics Records. Original axeman Sam T. Easley sadly passed away in 2016 laying to rest any hopes of a Glacier reunion but Michael Podrybau has since put together a proper Glacier tribute band with the aptly named Devil In Disguise. Michael shares his recollections of his time in Glacier as well as what to expect from Devil In Disguise in this special chat. Enjoy and pick up your copy of the Glacier reissue when you’re done reading!
Glacier formed in Portland, Oregon in 1979 and released the debut “Ready For Battle” EP in 1984. How did you all meet and decide to form a heavy metal band?
Glacier was already a current band playing in the Portland area. Scott Prinzing was the bass player and lead singer at the time but was moving on with his life. Him and Sam had been fighting a lot over control of the band. To be more accurate Sam was trying to call all the shots while Scott was trying to keep it a democracy or at least a team that works together. The band was all Sam had and he saw it as his mission in life. Scott had a lot more options and his parents were not really supportive of the music and they wanted Scott to go to college. Scott knew Tim for a few years when he was 16 or 17 and would sometimes sit in with Tim’s band Assassin. When Scott decided to leave Glacier he asked Tim if he would be interested in replacing him and Tim did just that.
What was the Portland metal scene like at that time?
The Portland/NW scene was really good. We had lots of great bands from the NW and Portland. Wild Dogs, Black and Blue, Manchild, Sabotage were some of the local bands that were playing around Portland at the time.
What can you tell us about the early years of the band?
I was in a band out of Salem, Oregon called Harlot and I was dating a girl from Portland. She told me about this band in Portland called Glacier and said they needed a singer. She was friends with them and hooked me up with Sam and Pat and I went to try out and after singing 2 songs I was in. This was the main line up of Glacier. We were doing all original material and opening for Wild Dogs at the Starry Night in downtown Portland. After a few shows we were headlining at the Starry Night. We did a show down in Eugene Oregon opening for the Dogs and Rail. That was probably the largest crowd we played in front of.
Was it difficult to find a studio to record the debut EP or were you guys just taking your time honing your craft prior to recording the EP?
We went to Mt. Hood Community College first where a friend of one of the other guys was into recording. We recorded a song called “Live for the Whip” but it was never released. Then we found Scott at Northstar Recording studio and recorded the three songs I sing on side B of the EP. “Ready for Battle”, “Devil in Disguise” and “Speak no Evil”.
Why were there guest vocalists on the two songs on Side A?
We had some record company interested in doing an album after hearing our demo. They took us into Recording Associates in Portland to record When Heavens at Hand. The guy from the record company told the others that they needed to find a different singer so I got the boot and moved on. Somewhere out there is a missing recording of me singing “When Heavens at Hand”.
After kicking me out of the band the guys made a deal with Axe Killer to do the EP but they needed to record two more songs. Enter Rex McNew (Vendetta) and Keith Flax (When Heavens at Hand) I was the only singer to perform all of these songs live. Keith and Rex were only brought in to record the one song each and never played live in the group.
What are some of your memories working with producer Scott Hybl at Northstar Recording in Portland, Oregon when the EP was being recorded. Was it your first time in a recording studio?
It was our first time in a professional recording studio. It was a small studio in the basement of his house but very well set up. I remember he was a really nice guy and very patient which I am sure you have to be working with musicians.
To what do you attribute the longevity and success of the self-titled EP in underground metal circles?
The internet for sure. Think about it, today you can go on YouTube and type in a band that you like and YouTube will suggest different bands from the era or of the same genre. I have discovered so many bands that I had never heard of because of the internet.
Did you stay active in the Portland metal scene after leaving the band?
No, I actually moved back to Salem and re started my old band Harlot with Aaron Grubman, Kelly LeMieux and Michael Lowery. We started doing all originals and won a battle of the bands to be on a record for radio station KZEL 96.1 out of Eugene, Oregon. I had an investor to pay for us to go into the studio and press an album but just before we did Aaron and Kelly left to join a different band.
Glacier guitarist Sam T. Easley sadly passed away last year. Was he aware of the reissues that were coming out?
He was actually the one to make this happen. He made a deal with Manos Koufakis from Sonic Age Records/ Cult Metal Classics and thirty-one years later the EP is reissued.
What are some of your favorite memories of your metal brother Sam?
I have a great one for ya, it was the year Motley Crue toured for Shout at the Devil. We found out they were staying at the Benson Hotel in downtown Portland. We were all of age so we got to go into the bar and hangout with the guys from Crue. Sam and I were sitting at the bar talking to Nikki Sixx and Sam ask’s Nikki “So what do you say when people ask what your real name is??” The look on Nikki’s face was priceless, he stood up and abruptly said “Nikki Sixx is my name” I thought for sure Nikki was gonna knock Sam out so I stood up to back him if needed. It was so funny. We always teased him about it after that.
Are you still in contact with any of the other guys from Glacier?
Yes, the four of us are still good friends. I talk to them once in a while and when Loren comes to town we try to get together. I’m actually really good friends with Rex.
Devil In Disguise is the name of your Glacier tribute band that will perform at this year’s Keep It True Festival in Germany as well as a special performance at the inaugural Legions Of Metal Festival in Chicago. Please introduce the band members and explain how this all came together…
OK, kind of a long story. Michael Mendoza guitar (Satans Hollow, Veneficum) Michael Maselbas guitar (Veneficum, Centaurus, Against the Plagues) Alfonso G Polo Cuevas bass (Angeles Del Infierno, The Chasm, Allusion) and Adam Kopecky drums (Trials, Slow Pump Charlie, Human Trash). They are all out of Chicago, a bunch of great guys and awesome musicians. I am lucky to have them. I was actually a FaceBook friend with Mendoza because of Glacier before I ever met him. Odin, the promoter from the Ragnarokkr Metal Apocalypse fest was a huge Glacier fan. He had contacted me about getting Glacier to do a reunion show. I sent him to Sam and there was no interest at all about doing it. So Odin comes up with the idea of having me do all the Glacier material with a backup band. In comes my four com-padres from Chicago. In the beginning we didn’t want to announce till the last minute as a surprise, so as a joke we were calling the band Werewolf Avalanche. Then the horrible news about Sam came out so we announced immediately. I talked to my ex-band mates from Glacier and told them about what we had been planning and reluctantly they were all three OK with it. Intro Devil in Disguise!
Do you anticipate recording original material with Devil In Disguise at some point?
Absolutely! We are already working on stuff but we are mostly concentrating on the two festivals as of right now. We want to be ready for the crowds and give them a great show.
If material has already been written, can you describe the musical direction?
Fast driving aggressive power metal of the old school NWOBHM genre.
It’s interesting that the members of Devil In Disguise are split between Portland and Chicago. Why not utilize musicians from the Portland area? What’s special or unique about these players from the Windy City?
Originally this was going to be a one-trick pony for the Ragnarokkr Metal Apocalypse fest having the band centralized in Chicago seemed to be the best thing to do at the time. Then the growing excitement turned into something much bigger and the rest of the group and I decided we are going to continue on and see what happens. It is much harder to find musicians from Oregon that would be dedicated for this project. It just makes more sense for the band to be all together. Im just the singer (Laughs). The band rehearses every week, works on material, recording and sends it to me to work and practice with. I fly to Chicago to practice with them as much as possible and before the events so we get tight as a group.
Are there any plans to film these Devil In Disguise festival performances for a future DVD release?
I know that Keep it True videos all the performances so we will possibly be on their DVD. We will probably be recording some new kick ass material make a video of one of our new songs sometime this year.
How did you originally get into heavy metal music? Who were the band’s that got you hooked on this music and inspired you to sing in a band?
I used to listen to rock music with my Dad. Bands like the James Gang, Focus, the Eagles, Elvis and even early KISS. Iron Maiden, RIOT, Judas Priest and Saxon were my main influences. Originally I was a guitarist but with my band Harlot who couldn’t find a singer. I could sing decent so we (Harlot) decided I should sell my guitars and my Marshall to buy PA gear. BAM! I’m the singer.
Who would you consider your all-time favorite metal vocalists?
I’m not a screamer and I don’t hit the killer high notes like Geoff Tate or Rob Halford. I am more of a meat and potatoes singer, hard driving mid-range with style. I was definitely inspired by those guys but my all time favorite singers would be Paul Di’Anno (Iron Maiden) and Guy Speranza (RIOT). Those guys had both melody and style.
Matt McCourt (Wild Dogs) and Tommy Thayer (Black and Blue) are long time staples of the Portland metal scene but they are not as tough as Rip “The Crippler” Oliver or Portland original “Rowdy” Roddy Piper. If Matt and Tommy spent an afternoon getting tanked on Portland’s microbrews and had to slug it out (hypothetically) over the last copy of Glacier’s reissued EP who would reign supreme in this knockdown, drag out street fight?
Matt McCourt would put the beat down on Tommy Thayer with some whips and chains while Tommy is on the floor begging to be shocked.
Thank you very much for taking the time to talk metal, Michael. Any last words for your fans reading at home before we wrap this up?
I want to thank all the Glacier fans worldwide. I met so many incredibly nice people at the 2016 Ragnarokkr Metal Apocalypse fest. It was really humbling and exciting at the same time. Keep a lookout for Devil in Disguise in 2017 Thank you!