On September 14th, 2016 the biggest rendition of Calgary Metalfest (CMF) will be kicking off it’s fifth year and the line up has been catching international attention. The big deal this year is of course the final night of the festival where attendees will be treated to a “Historic Night of Canadian Metal” featuring Annihilator, Exciter (original 1985 line-up), Razor and Sacrifice, all sharing the same stage on September 17th, 2016. The preceding nights have killer draws as well with The Exalted Piledriver headlining Thursday September 15th at the Distortion Music Venue and Toxic Holocaust, the only international act on the bill, will be tearing apart Dickens Pub on Friday night. The rest of the bill is packed with a selection of local heavy hitters and new acts that the founder of the festival, Nate Renaud, thinks you should check out.
In 2014, the Canadian speed metal pioneering band Exciter made the announcement that the original trio of John Ricci, Dan Beehler and Allan Johnson got back together.
The classic line-up has since played Keep it True festival in Germany, Defenders of the Old in the US, a full-on tour in South America and finally, they will be playing their first Canadian show in 31 years on Friday March 18th at Montreal’s legendary Foufounes Électriques club! Their performance will consist of all the classics from “Heavy Metal Maniac”, “Violence and Force” and “Long Live the Loud” that established Exciter as one of the pioneers of speed and thrash. New material and a new release will eventually follow.
The Foufounes Électriques march 18th concert will feature only Canadian metal bands. Besides EXCITER, the show includes heavy/speed metal killers PILEDRIVER and pre-Cauldron heavy/doom band GOAT HORN.
PILEDRIVER, well-known for their debut 1985 classic “Metal Inquisition”, was formed in 1984 as a studio project. Their leather-clad vocalist is well known for his over-the-top image and fist-pumping flamboyant song lyrics. They have been playing live since 2005, having done festivals in Europe and North America.
GOAT HORN was formed in 1999, by three metal maniacs from Pembroke, Ontario. Started up as a Cathedral/Judas Priest jam band, they have released three albums (mostly privately pressed) and have toured extensively between 2002-2006. The band disbanded in 2006 and Jason Decay then formed CAULDRON. Goat Horn reunites from time to time for special events (like this one).
REVIEW AND PHOTOS BY ARTO LEHTINEN, MARKO SYRJALA AND PATRICK CLEMENT
The Finnish Metal-Rules.com commando team made their annual road trip to Sweden Rock. Metal-Rules.com has covered Sweden Rock since 2001. The 2015 line up presented a wide range of metal and hard rock. Over 70 bands offered one hell of an experience for the attendees during the four day festival. Sweden Rock has been successful during the past ten years always being sold out. This year wasn’t an exception as the fest was sold out despite the lousy economic situation worldwide. It has become quite logical for us to give an in depth article of several bands performing at Sweden Rock to all the readers out there. The weather was tremendous, despite being quite windy and cold on the opening day. But we were there for bands, not for having some beach party crap. Unfortunately, we are not able to cover every bloody band, but hopefully you will have a pleasant reading experience… Rock on!
The classic three piece line-up of Exciter has returned. The legendary Canadian metal band went through changes resulting in the break-up of the previous line-up a few years ago. When the return of the classic line-up was announced, die hard old school metal fans went totally berserk. The first three albums – HEAVY METAL MANIAC, VIOLENCE AND FORCE and LONG LIVE A LOUD are pure classic gems in the speed/thrash metal genre. Therefore, the return of the original Exciter is truly welcomed. Here we have guitarist John Ricci to talk about the band’s reunion and writing new songs.
Interview with the guitarist of Exciter John Ricci
Every old school metal maniac is expected to be familiar with classic Exciter songs and albums from the 80’s such as VIOLENCE AND FORCE, HEAVY METAL MANIAC, and LONG LIVE THE LOUD. The three piece Canadian metal pioneers pounded several classic tunes in the heyday and toured effectively. The legendary Canadian metal outfit have unleashed killer outputs during the past years. I had the great opportunity to meet the founder and original guitarist of Exciter, John Ricci. He had a lot of great stories to tell and recall. Besides returning to the glorious years of the 80’s, he talks about Exciter’s latest album DEATH MACHINE showing that the Canadian metal legends still kick ass and hard.
Interview and pics by Arto Lehtinen
Welcome to North Europe. I can’t say welcome to Sweden, because I’m from Finland.
How many times have you played here up in the north – You played the Sweden Rock Cruise, I guess?
We played the Sweden Rock Cruise a few years ago. It was our first time in the Scandinavian countries. So this is our second time here in Sweden.The way we got this gig, well I think, we did the 70,000 Tons of Metal back in January through the Caribbean and one of the promoters for the Sweden Rock Festival was on board and we chatted. We talked about possibly doing this gig here. So he came through and invited us, so here we are.
Back in the day you used to play in clubs, whereas nowadays metal gigs are arranged on ships and of course there are a lot of huge festivals. Are you sort of surprised?
The reason for that, I think just to put heavy metal audience and atmosphere in a different setting. Because a lot of heavy metal people are just regular people. They like the vacation too. They like to travel as well, so it’s a good excuse to sort of have a vacation and have your favorite music at the same time. I think that’s the thought behind it. The other reason is for economical reasons. It creates a lot of business when there’s two or three thousand people on the ship of heavy metal fans that like to drink. There’s a lot of money there, a lot of revenue to be had.
Do you think that one of the reasons is the internet, people are able to check out there is a good metal fest somewhere in Europe and book the cheapest flight and rent a car to go there – Do you view the people have more chances to check out the festivals in Europe nowadays because the Internet gives them the opportunity?
Oh, absolutely. Yeah, I mean, the world is smaller now because of the internet. You’re so in touch with everybody. The internet can be a good thing and it could be a bad thing. The internet has brought everything together. Even in the old days we used to travel in the ‘80’s. Still word of mouth from heavy metal fans. We’d be playing a show in Los Angeles and someone who saw us in New York City already knows what’s going on in Los Angeles, if there’s some rumors or problem with the band or something. And you go, how did they find out ? That was back in the ‘80’s. Now it’s even faster. I mean, it’s instant, right ? As soon as something happens, people are twittering or e-mailing each other. But I think because of the internet that the attendance at all the festivals around the world there’s going to be higher attendance, because people are more in touch of what’s going on and what it takes to be at that festival, how much the cost is, what the traveling cost is going to be. It’s very instant.
Speaking of the latest album, DEATH MACHINE; Is it nowadays more challenging for you to create new Exciter riffs because of the legacy of Exciter in the past?
It’s really difficult to write songs. When we first started, we sounded unique. Now we don’t sound unique anymore, because first of all, there’s so many other bands that have sort of copied us, that do it better, better songwriting. Even though we still have our unique style and sound, we don’t stand out like we used to. Again, back in the ‘80’s when this whole genre of metal happened, speed and thrash metal, it was us and Anthrax and Megadeth and Metallica and Slayer and Venom. Everybody sounded unique. But now you have bands that sound like Metallica. You have bands that sound like Megadeth. You have bands that sound like Exciter. We’ve just been lost in all these different bands. You don’t stand out as much. And, of course, we’re not the original band, so the vocals are different, the playing, the musicians are different. I try to retain the styles since I do most of the songwriting. I try to keep the sound the same as it was, because that’s what we’re known for. I think people respect that. They want to hear that same sound. They don’t want us selling out or trying to explore two different avenues of music, you know. The fans tell us that all the time. ‘Hey, we’re glad you stuck to your roots, man.’ To write fresh, exciting music for Exciter today is a big task, even though I’m the guy who wrote the old stuff, most of it, not all of it. And I’m the guy that does the writing today. It’s hard to come up with a really exciting, fresh angle to our old style. So, it’s a big challenge.
In my opinion, the main elements in the Exciter music are aggression, catchy and riff with hooks and pounding metal.
That’s the Exciter formula.There’s always a hook.There has to be hooks right through the song, everything. I don’t like any weak links in the song. I try to keep it as interesting as possible, because you want the audience to participate in the music. It’s hard. Sometimes I go through a writer’s block. I know months and months and months will pass and I just can’t come up with a good song, you know. Even though I do come up with songs, I try them out at the band rehearsal, and if it doesn’t work and they don’t sound good we actually throw them out. We don’t use it. We move on to the next idea.
Is that one of reasons why you have so long break between albums as sometimes you have four – two year break ?
That’s partially it, yeah. We are writing music, but a lot of it is no good. We don’t use it. That’s why it takes such a long time.
How do you usually start writing music and creating riffs for example, for this new album, DEATH MACHINE – Jamming or playing together or something like that?
I come up with riffs like anywhere, any time. But I come up with a basic riff and then I build, we build from there. First, like I said, I write one riff, try it at rehearsal, we jam it and see if right away we know if it’s going to work or not. If it’s a keeper and we want to work on it, then I keep working and building the song. That’s the way, basically, we build the song.
Do the other guys bring their own input in the writing process or is the whole thing your job basically?
They come up with ideas. On DEATH MACHINE, Clammy our bass player came up with one riff. “HellFire”, the basic riff is his riff. Then I wrote the rest of it. I wrote everything around it and all the lyrics and the melody. If they come up with a riff and it’s within the Exciter formula, okay. If it’s not, I don’t want to use it, because I want to stay to the formula that made us what we are today. If someone comes up with an idea that’s way out in left field or it’s way out of the circle, I don’t want to use it.
Do you have a routine how a song fits to the vocal style like Kenny’s voice or Belanger’s voice, or is it automatically a way to thing this is the Exciter formula and the voice has to have a certain sound?
Exactly. I write all the lyrics. I write all the melodies for Kenny to sing. Sometimes he puts his own ideas in there, which sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t. But when our previous singer was in the band, Jacque Belanger, he had more of a melodic voice. So when I wrote songs during that period, I catered to his vocal style. Now that Kenny’s in the band, I’m catering the melodies that I write to his vocal style. But sometimes it’s a compromise. I don’t try to be a tyrant, but you want to be in this band, here’s the formula, here’s what you have to follow. That’s the way it is. I know it sounds one-sided, but I don’t want to experiment. I don’t want to try a different style of music.I just want to stay to the same music.
What is DEATH MACHINE – Is it a suicide machine or something else?
Well, the whole theme of the album is like unnecessary violence in the world today. That’s one of the reasons for the album cover, the chain saw with the topless girl. There’s such unprovoked violence. Everything’s about getting tortured and slaughtered and killed and everything, which is typical heavy metal themes in a lot of bands. But every time I read the newspaper, there’s horrible killings and tortures, like unprovoked, people just doing it for kicks. Or in some cases, political prisoners or innocent people, children. Like I was watching CNN and in Syria they killed more women and children. Why? What possibly could they have done in a political way to have them killed? So the album is actually not supporting violence. That’s basically what it is. It’s not supporting violence. There’s such unnecessary violence in the world today, it just really bothers me. But, again, the theme of destruction and violence, it goes hand in hand with heavy metal. So for us, you know, it’s a combination of fantasy, like fantasy themes, like movies. Movies imitate real life and real life imitates movies. Now it’s out of control, you know. DEATH MACHINE is basically unprovoked violence and killings throughout the world. That’s what the album is about.
Does the title of the albums, every album, somehow reflect on the reality, news and in general what’s going on in the world right now?
Like BLOOD OF TYRANTS and even LONG LIVE THE LOUD – I guess they reflect the reality of nowadays.
Exactly. DEATH MACHINE actually was not meant to be the album title. It was just the name of the song. But then the guys in the band thought that DEATH MACHINE would be a good title for the album. That’s how we came up with it. But as the years have passed, like you say, maybe because we’re more exposed to the media, like we were talking about the internet before. There’s so much violence in the world. It’s crazy. It’s hard to digest for me, you know.
ABOUT RECORD LABELS
You are on the Massacre label nowadays?
What made you decide to sign a deal with them actually – Did they come up with a good offer or did you have to find a new home for Exciter ?
No. We were with Osmose Productions in France. We got signed in 1996. I’m going to go back a little bit to get to the Massacre. The original Exciter had completely broken up in ’93. I get a phone call from Herve’, who is the label manager at Osmose. He just called me out of the blue. So he told me he was a big fan. He said he wanted to sign the band to a record deal. I said, “Well, okay, but we just have a few songs written. Do you want us to do a demo tape and send it to you?” He goes, “No, no, no.” He says, “Based on Exciter’s track record, I’ll sign you. Whatever music you have, I can trust you,” he said. I said, “Okay.” So we signed with Osmose. After three records, like we did THE DARK COMMAND, BLOOD OF TYRANTS and NEW TESTAMENT. They’re a very good label. But there was some discussion within the band that maybe we should look for a higher profile label, maybe they can do something better for us. So we voluntarily did not continue with Osmose. Then we put the word out that Exciter is looking for a new record deal. And Massacre contacted us. That’s how we signed with Massacre. They came to us.
Was it kind of surprising that some guy from France, from the small label, calling you – ‘Okay, we want to sign you.’ I guess you have never ever heard the record label before and of course, they were mostly focused on the extreme metal stuff.
Well, yeah. Everyone at the time said, ‘Why are you signing with Osmose? They’re not a metal label. They’re more goth and death and black, satanic label and everything.’ I said, ‘It doesn’t matter what band is on the label. If they’re going to promote you, they’re going to promote you.’ So I had no problem with it, you know. I was quite happy. And Herve’ was so nice. He was a die-hard fan. We’re happy with Massacre. We’ll see what happens. We’re due for a new record soon. DEATH MACHINE, it’s already been two years. We are writing some new songs. We have five or six new ideas. But we need at least ten songs before we do a record.
I remember when Osmose announced about having made a deal with you – I was like, hold on. How is it possible – Exciter at Osmose. They have all these extreme black metal like Marduk, Impaled Nazarene etc. I was like huh – Then I read an interview, it was some of the Osmose bands that said Herve’ is a huge fan of Exciter and he had said that after signing Exciter, he went out and got drunk for being so excited.
We met Herve when we did our first – after we signed with Osmose. We did a little European tour and I believe Herve and one of the promo guys, Nicola, came to one of our gigs in Belgium, I think. They drove from France to Belgium to come and see us in this gig. We met them for the first time. Yeah, they were very enthusiastic about signing us. But I didn’t know Herve went out and got drunk.
You used to have a deal with Music for Nations and Megaforce. Then you had the deal with Osmose and you are right now on Massacre. What is the difference between record labels nowadays and back in the days from your point of view?
The biggest difference is – I’m not going to mention any names in particular – it seems like record companies today are a little more honest. Because in the previous days if you try to get information about how many records have we sold, will you send financial statements, they wouldn’t do any of that. They wouldn’t send us regular statements. You try to call them on the phone to talk to them. You couldn’t get them on the phone. We’re a band on their label. If I’m calling to get information, I expect to talk to somebody. So it was very frustrating. But in today’s record company, situations like if I call Massacre, I want to talk to the label manager, I can get him on the phone. If I send him an e-mail, he’ll respond within a certain amount of time. With Herve’ at Osmose, we would be chatting non-stop back and forth, back and forth, back and forth, you know. It was more like friends than a musician and a record company. We’d be talking more like friends kind of thing, you know. That’s the main difference. I find the people that run the record companies today, because they were fans way back in the day, that they have more compassion for their bands and artists, where back in the ‘80’s it was more corporate. They weren’t really fans. They were just business people trying to make a dollar from the bands that they had on their label. So that’s the difference. There’s more of a personal obligation from the record companies today.
Do you have an idea how much your albums are selling nowadays?
Well, by our standards, they’re not selling well. But, according to Massacre, they’re happy with the sales figures. They’re okay. Massacre told me because of all the downloading and piracy and everything, the bands that used to sell tens of thousands of records, only sell a fraction. That’s the way it is. So the numbers that we sell now Massacre seems to be happy with. But, basically, they’re not very good, as far as I’m concerned, as far as the band is concerned. As far as Massacre is concerned, they’re happy with the amount of records that we’re selling.
The old bands which used to be around in the 80’s had deal with labels back then, and those bands obviously got ripped off by record labels?
Well, that’s everyone’s story, you know. If you were to ask me how many records have you sold of your first record, I don’t know. My second record, I don’t know. The third record, I don’t know. We never got proper sales figures. The only company actually – I’ll rephrase something. Our first record company, Shrapnel Records in San Francisco, his name was Mike Varney. He signed us for the first record, HEAVY METAL MANIAC. And, actually, he was very good with the money and the financial statements. He was the only guy. Then the rest of the record companies that followed, things fell apart as far as being honest with us. Then, of course, some of the companies are run by different people today, which is different. I’m just saying, back in the day we had problems. But a lot of the bands that we know, that I talk to that are in our sort of genre of music, like underground, speed metal, power metal, they all have their horror stories about not getting paid and no royalties and we don’t know how many records we sold. It’s too bad companies operate that way.
As for Megaforce, they used to have a lot of nowadays well-known bands like Anthrax and Music For Nations was huge of course. What did they treat you back then ?
Pretty good. To the best to be expected. He really pushed. He wanted us to play live more, because with Shrapnel we didn’t do any shows, because he wouldn’t give us any tour support. But Megaforce really sort of enticed us to sign with them after HEAVY METAL MANIAC, because Jon “Z” who ran the label, there was this big buzz on Exciter. So he wanted to capitalize on that situation. He had Anthrax and he had all these up and coming metal bands, so he wanted us, too, on his label.
He called us and he called us for months and months and months and months. I had second thoughts about him. I had this gut feeling about him. But eventually, the guys in the band, we talked it over and we said okay, let’s sign with him, see what happens. So we signed with him. He brought us to record VIOLENCE AND FORCE down to New York State, at a studio that he worked with a lot. And we recorded VIOLENCE AND FORCE at the Pyramid Sound in Ithaca, New York. He hired this musician, Carl Kennedy.
From The Rods ?
From The Rods. He’s the drummer. He produced VIOLENCE AND FORCE. And we worked with Carl, and we got along really well with Carl. It went really well. And then Jon “Z” arranged two or three dates with Anthrax. We did Port Jervis, New York. We played an auditorium. We played a gig in New Jersey. Anyways, he got us two or three gigs with Anthrax. We knew that he was really trying to push us first to play live. Again, we did the shows, but no money, really. We just did it for the exposure. Then after that, Music For Nations got involved with some of the Megaforce acts that they wanted. I’m not really sure about this, but I think Jon “Z” traded us with Music For Nations. They traded bands or something. It was like a trade in hockey or something. You take this team, I’ll take that team. Next thing you know, we’re signed with Music For Nations in London, England, something that Jon “Z” some sort of deal that he did, which we weren’t consulted or anything, you know. That was over for Jon “Z” and Megaforce. So then Music for Nations, they wanted to bring us to London, England to record the next album, which was LONG LIVE THE LOUD. So we flew to London and we got booked at Britannia Row Studios, which is owned and operated by Pink Floyd. So Nick Mason, the drummer, he was the guy that was on the premises. And we had Guy Bidmead, one time Motorhead Producer, produced LONG LIVE THE LOUD. But the first couple of days in the studio, the drummer for Pink Floyd, like I said, he had his office, you know. He was always sort of looking around the corner to see what we were doing. He made us feel really uncomfortable. So I said to the guys in the band, I said, “That’s it. I’m going to go up to him and say is there a problem, is something wrong.” So I go up to him and I say, “Nick,” I said, “you’ve been looking around the corner and seeing what we’re doing.” And he told me, he said that when he was told that the studio was booked by a heavy metal band from Canada, he thought we were going to party and demolish his studio, like party and throw beer bottles and scratch the furniture. So I said, “Oh, okay.” Because he had a nice pool table, pinball machine. He thought we were going to party and drink beer while we were recording. And he said to me, “I realize now that you guys are like nice, polite, laid back guys. I have nothing to worry about,” he says. I said, “Exactly. Don’t worry.” I said, “We’re here to do a job.” I went a little further than your question there.
TOURING WITH OTHER CLASSIC METAL BANDS
It doesn’t matter. It’s interesting to listen to.
So that was it. Then we finished the record. The last day we were in the studio doing the final mix, the Music For Nation calls and says, “Hey, we have a tour for you, a European tour, ten shows with Accept throughout Europe. It’s just Exciter and Accept, no other bands.” Okay, let’s go. So we finished mixing the record. The very next day we got on the Nightliner, like a tour bus, and we toured with Accept throughout Europe. The last day of the tour was at the Hammersmith in London. That was the final show. That was a really good tour. It was March 1985.
How was the tour with Accept?
Oh, fantastic. The crowd was crazy. I remember we played in Paris at this venue called Le Zenith, which is like a huge arena, but it’s a tent. And they have cabaret shows in there. And I remember when our tour bus parked around the building, there was a big head of King Kong, from the movie King Kong, the head. Because apparently one of the cabaret shows they have, they use it as a prop. A lot of stuff like that happened. But, anyways, we played Paris.The response for us was crazy, like the crowd going crazy. I couldn’t believe it. And then back stage there was like many, many, many journalists waiting for interviews, like beyond our expectations. So it was a good, good tour.
You toured with Mercyful Fate and Megadeth. I guess you toured with Megadeth in The States?
How was the tour with Megadeth?
I just talked to Dave Mustaine, because we just played in Brazil with him about a month and a half ago, a metal open-air. Yes, it was an Exciter tour, but like I said, just recently Dave said to me, “Yeah, man,” he says “I want to thank you for taking us on tour with you back in the ‘80’s.” And I said, “Well, you don’t have to thank us.” But the tour went really well. We helped each other out a lot. We had like a big truck. We had two vehicles on the tour. So we let Megadeth put their equipment on our truck to go from city to city. The vehicle that they were driving, there was no air conditioning and we’re driving through the desert in Arizona and everything. So they’d ask us can we drive with you guys, because we had an air conditioned motor home. We had a good time partying and drank after the shows together and talked about life. Oh, my God, it was so much fun. Some of the shows down in the southern U.S., obviously Megadeth had a bigger following than Exciter did. So what we told them, we said, “Look, we’ll go on first. You guys headline. You go on second.” They said, “Yeah, really?” “Yeah,“ I said. These people are here to see Megadeth. They’re not here to see Exciter, know what I mean? So we’ll go first. You guys play second. They were very impressed with that. You got to help. It was obvious, you know what I mean?
So we did that a couple of times during the tour where we switched, even though it was an Exciter tour. We realized in some cities they had a huge, huge following, so we’d tell them, “You guys finish the show,” you know. So we got along very well.
And then Mercyful Fate?
Same thing, very, very well. King Diamond and all the guys in the band, we were on the same tour bus on that tour, you know. So we were kind of living together for two weeks. They’re very, very nice. We get along with all the bands. Very rarely do we have any friction with any band, you know.
Well you got to see how the King Diamond made his mask for his show (laughter)?
Yeah. They had their own dressing room, but he applies his own makeup.We had many conversations on the tour bus, like after the show when we’re driving to the next city. He’s just a normal guy. He really believes in the music he plays. It was all a really good time, a really good time.
EXCITER – PIONEER OF THRASH AND SPEED METAL
Exciter is considered as a pioneer of the thrash and speed metal genre. It is said Exciter was one of the first speed/thrash metal bands. How do you see this pioneer and legend role in the whole metal scene?
When we were developing this style, we didn’t know what we were doing. We were just trying to write good, fast heavy metal music. I was trying to imitate the bands that influenced me in the ‘70’s, like Saxon and Judas Priest and Black Sabbath. I was just trying to get the same energy that these bands had, you know. I just brought it one step further, a little more extreme than what they did. What I came up with was accidental. The fast, frantic guitar playing, it’s just something like frustration. Because we, in this business, you’re always hoping to do better and be more popular and be more successful. And sometimes you’re not, and that really eats at you inside. Like, why are people not liking our music? It makes you angry. So the whole speed thrash was accidental. It was discovered accidentally. The first riff I came up with, which was the beginning of the Exciter style, was the song “World War III”, which is featured on the U.S. METAL VOLUME II album, back in ’81, ’82. When that song became so popular and so well-reviewed, from that point on I based everything I wrote on that riff.
At that time bands like Overkill, Slayer etc came up. Did you follow how the whole speed and thrash metal culture got bigger and bigger?
I don’t know if those other bands were actually developing that music then around the same time and we really didn’t know each other. We’re in Canada and Overkill is in New York and Slayer is in California.
And the European bands, of course.
And the European metal. I don’t know if it’s just a coincidence and off all the Canadian bands like Anvil, our friends Anvil. You know, a coincidence of this new music was coming up at the same time. As far as I’m told, our record was out first, and then you started to hear about these other bands. I’m sure they were getting developed at the same time. But maybe to a certain extent ours could have motivated some of these other bands when they heard fuzzy, fuzzy guitar, fast rhythm and screaming vocals. I accept that definition that we were one of the pioneers of speed and thrash. I’ll accept it.
LEAVING EXCITER AND RETURN
I can’t help asking why you left the band after the FEEL THE KNIFE Ep. Did you have some conflict within the band or was it your personal decision to leave Exciter in 1986 ?
Well, there was conflict in the band, because I started the band. It’s my band. And then as we became more popular, everybody wanted to be the boss. Then we started arguing. It was right after the Megadeth tour, August 1985, I had enough, because we were arguing so much and were stressed out and I couldn’t carry on any longer. That’s why I left the band. I said, “You guys want to be the boss, you guys want to call the shots, go ahead.” That’s exactly what happened.
But you got the things sorted out, because you re-joined the band early 90’s, I guess.
Well, what happened was the band continued without me. They got another guitar player. They put out two records, UNVEILING THE WICKED and EXCITER. And then that line-up dissolves. So during that time back in my home town, I put a little band together we called Black Star. It was actually me and Jacque Belanger’ who eventually became an Exciter singer years later. We were a four-piece band. We never recorded anything. Our music was more progressive as compared to Exciter. Not as straight ahead, a more progressive, more busy music.Then that Black Star project fell apart. So here’s Dan Beehler doing nothing. I’m doing nothing. I can’t remember. We got in touch with each other and I said “look, me and you, let’s do it again, you know. Let’s continue”. We called Allen Jones, the original bass player. He was not interested. So what we did is we would just hire a bass player. If we had a show or something or a record to record, we’d just hire a bass player. That’s what we did. So during that time we got signed with Noise Records in Germany. We put out KILL AFTER KILL. We did one tour with Rage, a German band. We did a European tour, and then it was only a one album deal. They dumped us, Noise, because our record sales were horrible. So they got rid of us, okay. So then Bleeding Hearts Records was a real nightmare.
Bleeding Hearts from hmm, where was it from ?
The U.K. They ripped us off really, really bad. They don’t exist anymore. We had a live record, BETTER LIVE THAN DEAD. So we sent Bleeding Hearts our master tape, on the promise they would send us money in advance. So we sent them the master tape. So they took the master tape. We sent them all the art work. We did the art work ourselves in Canada. We sent them all the master art work, all the master tapes. They pressed the record. They started selling it. And guess what happened?
You got nothing.
Zero, nothing, zero. That company is no longer, but the person who ran that label, he got us really good. I don’t know why we sent that tape, the master recording, before we got an advance.
HEAVY METAL MANIAC IN DIFFERENT DECADES
When you got back in the early 90’s the whole climate heavy metal was completely changed because there’s a new style, death metal coming out from Florida and Sweden and the grunge came a big thing. How did you notice how the metal thing was changed?
Well, you know, that’s the thing. In Europe it’s not as trendy. North America is very trendy, so the whole Seattle sound and alternative rock dominated all of Canada and U.S. Then the few gigs we did here and there, the comments we would get, ‘Oh, Exciter. Are they still together?’ Because everyone gets brainwashed with the music trend that’s going at the time. So we weren’t influenced by any way as far as like overshadowed, let’s say, by that new music happening in the early ‘90’s. We just kept doing what we were always doing. You know, obviously metal was more in the shadow back then.
It was. We just kept going. You just got to keep going. You can’t put your whole life into something and then decide, oh, our time is over. It’s time to quit. We never had that attitude. We just said, well, you know, we’ll just keep playing our music and if people want to hear us, fine. If they don’t, fine. We weren’t as hungry as we were in the ‘80’s, you know, because we’ve been through so much ups and downs and disappointments. Like after a while you’re just, if it happens it happens. That’s the attitude we took back in that day, yeah.
The Canadian metal is known from the ‘80’s, because of you, Exciter, Voivod, Annihilator and of course, the smaller bands, but is the Canadian metal more stuck in the 80’s stuff – Because everybody remembers the old bands and some newer bands like Gorguts. How do you see the Canadian metal in general ?
How do I see Canadian metal ? I think you’re right. Because Voivod and Anvil and all the other Canadian bands, they stuck to their roots. So we all have a very unique style, which is a good thing. Nothing against European bands, but sometimes I can’t tell them apart. A lot of European bands tend to sound like each other. I’m not an expert on European bands, but they sound some alike. Some death bands, they sound alike. I can’t tell them apart. There are certain bands, obviously like Immortal, Kreator, okay; they have something more unique about them. But some of the younger upcoming bands, they sound a lot alike and I just can’t tell them apart. But the Canadian bands always have this uniqueness about them. I don’t know why that is. Maybe because we’re from Canada, we’re kind of removed.
The Canadian sound.
Yeah, the Canadian sound, I guess. I don’t know. Does that answer your question? Like I say, I don’t know what makes Canadian bands unique. I don’t know. I’ve been asked that many times. I don’t know.
How about this black metal thing – Were you surprised that the black metal thing got really big and did you get interested in black metal or death metal thing at all?
I listen to all kinds of music, Cannibal Corpse, Arch Enemy, Immortal, Kreator, all those guys. But I like all kinds of music. I like death metal, goth metal, whatever metal, you know. To me, if it’s a good song, it’s a good song. That kind of music is a very pulsive kind of music. Don’t try to listen to it with the vocals, the guitar, the bass, the drums. Listen to that kind of music as a whole and what the overall sound is. That’s what appeals to me. If it’s death vocals, that’s fine. I like it all. It’s all art as far as I’m concerned. I don’t look down on any band, any music we play.
Back to the present day – You told that you are working on the new album, the new songs, do you have any expectation when you’ll get the new album out, maybe next year?
We should have something out by next year, for sure. Like I said, we only have five or six ideas right now. We need at least ten songs. So between now and the end of this year, 2012, we should have the songs completed and then go in the studio next year. I’m sure we can stay to that schedule.
That’s a good way to end the interview. I thank you for your time.
Massacre Records is proud to bring the latest album from long running Canadian thrashers EXCITER an official North American release.
Since helping to forge the North American thrash movement in the ’80s EXCITER’s layered 34-year career has elevated them to legendary status, and their most recent album, 2010’s Death Machine delivers nine-songs of the expected headbashing mayhem fans worldwide have come to expect from the outfit. Featuring founding guitarist and mastermind John Ricci, singer Kenny Winter, bassist Rob Cohen and drummer Rich Charron, EXCITER once again worked with longtime producer Manfred Leidecker who produced nearly all of the band’s releases since 1990. The production on Death Machine compliments the grinding rhythms and speed that has held the band’s name as one of the most classic speed metal bands ever, while lyrically the the theme of the album addresses sadistic unforgiving torture and the demented individuals who deliver such horrific pain and suffering onto others.
Death Machine is officially available in North America as of today, Tuesday, February 14th.
70000TONS OF METAL, The World’s Biggest Floating Heavy Metal Festival has reached the Canadian East Coast. Before turning the ship around, they dropped off a scouting party to explore this vast country. Given secret orders, they headed West to the nation’s capital of Ottawa where they received a raving welcome. Are you all getting a little EXCITER yet?
Make no mistake, 70000TONS OF METAL is not your grandma’s cruise. It’s also not one of the cruises that share the ship with normal cruise guests. This is an all heavy metal cruise! Can you imagine that? A whole luxury cruise ship full of metalheads? And since there is no backstage area you will have the opportunity to mingle side-by-side with the artists in this incredibly fan-friendly scenario that has no comparison. It’s like everyone has a backstage pass!
So far 31 out of a total of 40 bands on board are known:
CHILDREN OF BODOM
MY DYING BRIDE
70000TONS OF METAL will sail Monday, January 23, 2012 aboard the Royal Caribbean “Majesty of the Seas” from Miami FL to George Town, Cayman Islands and will not return you to the real world for four days until Friday, January 27, 2012.
Ticket prices start at US$666 plus US$289 taxes and fees per person and include all on-board entertainment, non-alcoholic and non-carbonated beverages, all meals at the dining rooms, most on-board restaurants and even 24 room service!
What are you waiting for? You might even need a vacation from this vacation when all is said and done! Check out http://www.70000tons.com/ for more information and book your cabin NOW!
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.