INTERVIEW WITH DIMI PONTIAC OF THE FINNISH SPEED METAL PATROL: RANGER
Hail the old school speed metal! It lives well in Finland, thanks to the rising forces of metalbangers known as Ranger. The four piece has taken the metal scene by storm and conquered both new and old metal heads with skull splitting metal. Ranger’s most recent output, WHERE EVIL DWELLS, is a pure old school speed metal onslaught, with a modern approach. The band’s frontman Dimi Pontiac talks more about the new awesome album, and yes, every old school worshiper needs to get a hold of the album now!
I had an opportunity to interview Peter Hobbs in Jalometalli –festival which turned out as an interesting session for covering up the history of the band from the late 80’ties to the present day. We talked about future plans of Hobbs Angel of Death as well as the shape of music industry today. How does Peter Hobbs feel about the comparison of Hobbs Angel of Death to Slayer??? Got interested already? Read on!
Interview by Niko Karppinen
Pics by Arto Lehtinen
Short history lesson of what happened after the first album
The debut album of Hobbs Angel of Death was released in 1988 and second album was released in 1995. What happened during those years and why it took so long between those two albums?
PH: A lot of line-up changes. A lot of line-up changes and unfortunately the window of the line-up changes when you go reshow people the past. By the time you get to show them the past songs and you get to a stage where you can get — again you can do tours and whatever, you end up playing the old songs. By the time you finish a lot of people realize that they can’t really cut the deal. It’s not what they want in life. You got to be a diehard to be doing this sort of thing. That’s why there were so many — so many years past.
I was trying to find the right people that can actually work with me. I’m not a tyrant. I’m a pretty easy going fellow. But some people at the end of the day they got commitments. They got commitments and normal lives.
I always made Hobbs Angel of Death to be a part of my life when I possibly can. Unfortunately line-up changes have been a great deal in my career. But while I’m still here today I keep going and going and going to give my fans what they expect from me, the best I possibly can.
During recent years there have been lots of reunions from the old bands. Which probably got something to do that thrash metal has become popular again? What actually made Hobbs Angel of Death to come back in 2002?
PH: Hobbs is full of passion, passion and aggression. I thought it was a good time in my life when I saw maturity coming into it, that I could go out again and fight those wars as a gladiator and actually even get wounded in the process but always finish that war and be proud of what I did. In the earlier days a lot of people take for granted what you can go and do. I found it was a very good opportunity for Hobbs and to me, personally to go back out in the world again and show the artistic thing that I withhold. You know? And I did some great gigs with Destruction of course, Mayhem, of course close friends of mine. And a lot of numerous other bands that sort of asked me to be playing with them and whatever.
So when bands came to Australia they will ask for Hobbs support or whatever. I actually didn’t want to do supports. I said, “Look, this is your guys, this is your night. You’re in my hometown. Enjoy, enjoy your time. Enjoy your gigs. Do whatever. I’ll play after. . I’ll play afterwards and I’ll just fill my hometown with my enjoyment.” That’s a badie, you know? I went on a long fishing trip earlier in that year and I caught a whale and it took me around the world a few times.
The sound of the band was unique right from the start because you were using keyboards in the debut album and that was not very common in those days when it comes to the thrash metal bands. Do you think that it made a difference between the Hobbs Angel of Death and the other thrash metal bands at the time?
PH: It was keyboards. Hobbs never had keyboards. You mean at the end Marie Antoinette?? Correct. I wanted that to be a very classic ending. I wanted it to be epic and I played those keyboards myself. I believe that French Queen, Marie Antoinette deserved to be remembered for total history. I hope the younger generation remembers a lot of people through the old past times. Because without history, you can’t move forward and you need to learn from history for repair change. Or make another way of it to progress. So it was my honour back there at that time to make it an epic ending and do the choirs.
The music press was praising that the Hobbs Angel of Death was the Australian response to Slayer. What do you think about that especially now when you are sharing the stage with the Slayer here in Jalometalli-festival?
PH: I’ve waited 30 years for this to arrive. 30 years to actually prove that Slayer and Hobbs Angel of Death are totally different. I mean there’s no denying that my influences were Slayer. I’m a sort of guy that I guess shaking the future in front and I loved it. Slayer’s coming through with Show No Mercy, Hell Awaits and all those classical awesome songs. I know that that sort of band is going to really happen because I could see the support they had, I could see their hunger, I could see their warmth, I could see their passion and I knew that was going to happen.
Last night, on the 9th of August 2013 Hobbs Angel of Death had the opportunity — and I ask Peter Hobbs had the opportunity to show to Slayer is that we are not the same. There are some influences but everybody has influence on everybody. It gave me great pleasure to — and I know they heard — I know they heard from their dressing rooms I was giving it what Hobbs – Peter Hobbs is all about and I just hope a small part of my life if they can respect me as much as I respect them.
What kind of elements are Hobbs songs made of ?
Your songs are quite often referring to the historical events or characters such as “Bubonic Plague”, “Jack the Ripper”, “Marie Antoinette” and “Tutankhamen”. You seem to find history inspiring when writing songs?
PH: Okay, a quick rundown. House of Death was — I wrote that song in Italy. I was there, there was a shrine of monks there and had these — they were fucking real. They were standing there and they were holding crosses and there was content there of what you are, we once were a monument of life. Now what we are here you will become in the House of Death. I took that and I put it in my own way.
As Jack the Ripper, I’m a person that gets a feel — I need to feel the realness. So back in that time I was in White Chapel in England as I was there in the year previously. I did a bit of a promo tour as well on my own. I actually walked around the Jack the Ripper walk and felt the ground, felt the walls, felt where the murders were. I could actually feel that — I could feel what happened.
Marie Antoinette, the Bastille — the real Bastille is not there anymore. Actually wrote that song in the early times with Tarsus and at the same time when I was there I actually went to in my imagination to the Bastille on the grounds of where it was. I asked my first wife to bring me my last supper to actually let me feel how that pain was going to be, heading to the guillotine the next day. How Louie was thinking. How the children were thinking and I put myself in the position of that pain knowing that come that time in the morning there’s going to be no more.
That gave me great inspirations for those choirs and everything when I recorded that album. Yeah, I like to get feeling from real life things. A lot of other songs that I’ve wrote, well you can’t commit such crimes to feel that feeling but to still have the fantasy and whatever. I think it really helps a lot writing music.
What kind of bands influenced you most in the beginning when you formed Hobbs Angel of Death?
PH: Okay, so if I can just go into my early stages like when I was 9-years-old. I was listening to all those sort of bands like Status Quo and all that sort of stuff. Then of course Black Sabbath, Rainbow, Uriah Heep, Iron Butterfly all those sort of bands. I was listening to Demon… A lot of early things…
I should tell you a little quick story. When I was in Wacken back in 2004 I had the opportunity to meet Ronnie James Dio personally. I was talking to Ronnie for about half an hour and I mentioned to him that watching you guys — sort of made when I was young, wanting to be in a band and now what I’ve saw. That’s what I want to do with my life. After length of time and he actually said to me, he said, “I’ve listened to you bullshit for fucking half an hour.” And he said, “I actually know who you are from Australia.” And he said, “You make me want to keep going at 60.” – I was just fucking shocked! I was just absolutely blown away that talking to my idol could turn around tell me that back to me! Made him still trying to conquer and continue in his career. You know? So it was quite a shock.
I hear a lot of things from a lot of people and – Norwegians; Hell Hammer, Frost, Faust, Emperor. All these people, they’re saying to me that fucking you do matter. It’s amazing and I inspired them in the things that they do and they inspire me. So what I’m actually seeing now is a mirror image of me being able to have the pleasure to have been around watching them saying that fuck you guys, you really fucking kill. It’s a pleasure to watch this talent, you know, from around Europe and we’ll watch. You know? Especially when they say that I’ve influenced them. I’ve just come from Norway. I saw Bloods & Army and I thought, fuck, these guys are now influencing me back again. They made me hungry to finish off the rest of the tour and to finally today be in Finland and fucking enjoy myself and you know, play. Last night was awesome.
You have once said that Hobbs Angel of Death is playing “virgin metal”. Was this term about to differ the sound of the band from the others or does this term contain certain musical features?
PH: Pure black virgin metal are my old management from back here what nearly 25 – 27 years ago now. He came up with a sort of name and we actually came with it together, you know. I was the black, he was the — you know, anyway what it is not fucked by anybody. That’s what it means. Pure black virgin metal is Hobbs’ pure aggression. The black is my satanic lyrics and the virgin is not being at that stage by anybody. It was unique. It was something special and the metal, yeah, pure black virgin metal.
Back to the roots of thrash-metal
European thrash metal has its roots in traditional heavy metal whereas U.S. thrash metal (especially east-coast bands) has clear hard-core influences. Hobbs was among the very first Australian bands playing European-style of metal. But do you think that the roots of Australian thrash metal lies somewhere else compared to the European and U.S. bands?
PH: I don’t know. I mean being far away in Australia I’ve always said there was a band in Australia called Depression, another band called Renegade and I had my band called Taurus. We actually changed the movement in Australia of that cross over deal. So we — being living in Australia, very far away from everywhere. America’s far, Europe’s far. But I actually learned that if you combine U.S., European and Australian on Australian way. I’m English born but I still have that European thing about me inside. You know? I’ve also always believed that European ways the way to be. They’re straight forward; you say it straight up front. If you can’t fucking operate with the rules, get the fuck out. You know what I mean? It’s I believe the way of being true to yourself. Be a Viking, be a Gladiator, and be whatever. Add to the combination of the American, Europe.
I still to this day walk around thinking, well how do you judge genres? How do you judge them? Now where did it come from? So I like 70s punk, Sex Pistols. You know you can be mixing 60s sorts with explode into that. You know? And as thrash and that’s where you come up with the aggression. The aggression, that rudeness and forceful way, you know what I mean?
The tape-trading and the metal underground scene began to take shape in the middle of the 80’ties. How do you see the importance of metal underground scene in those days and do you think it helped Hobbs Angel of Death in the very beginning to gain success?
PH: Definitely! At the time when European metal underground put a lot of support behind Hobbs for Germany that was the first time in Angel of Death before I changed it to Hobbs Angel of Death it took quite a lot of copies and Europeans helped us to get through that area there with the first demo. The demo was accepted worldwide and it sold so quickly. The amounts, the units, I still even believe today that it’s a great opportunity for bands to release a demo. Do a demo first. Like it’s really hard because it’s very financial now to be doing these sort of things but I believe in the old school way. Do a demo. Do a very good demo. Have it as a teasing thing for companies.
We all know that the industry has got older now and there’s downloading and stuff like that. But I believe — an that’s what I’m actually doing is what I’ll do is I’m going back to the roots of how I saw success to make things happen. There’s nothing wrong with doing demos. If you can do a great demo and you have interest, you can do a great album and that’s where companies may help you go in the old school way. You know? A lot of companies want you to do it all now so financial and they want you to do all the products and just take the easy road. I think it’s time to go back to the old roots. Go back into the bedrooms. Start writing this stuff. Stop doing any demonstration form. You know? Come out with a good demo. Enough to tease show what you got. Then come to the product.
Touring in Europe and a few words about the forthcoming album
This is the very first time for you to play in Finland. What kind of expectations do you have towards the Finnish fans? What do you know about Finland and do you know/ like any Finnish bands?
PH: Oh, it’s always been a dream to play in every country of the world. I heard a lot about Finland. I got here yesterday and I walked in through these gates. Got out of the — you know, walked through these gates and there was just so much respect for me. You know? I must apologize for a little bit of my naiveness because there’s some great talent here. You know, I can go back home in the next few months and appreciate the talent that has come here from Finland’s. There’s great talent worldwide and I think that everybody has the opportunity to do that. I’m seeing that here at this festival.
It’s a great organized festival. Everybody’s friendly. Everybody is respectful and of course it’s in turn. Organizers are to be respected for their efforts. They’ve done a great job here. I want to actually come back to Finland here when it’s snowing. I want to see it in winter. You know, I want to feel that — I want to feel what you guys feel. You know? Out here in the summer I get the feeling like in Australia sometimes.
But I actually want to feel the — I want to feel what it’s like to be living here in Finland fucking minus 30 degrees and feel the passion of getting up every day. Going to do your normal life I take my hat off to this country because it’s something that I just wouldn’t see. But I’m going to make it a good effort to come here in the winter. Yeah, I want to do that.
You just finished your European tour and this gig in Jalometalli –festival is going to be the last one of the tour. You have played in Italy, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Germany, Holland and Belgium. How do you feel about the tour?
PH: Very happy with the tour, the tour was going extremely well. I came in 2012, did a little mini tour to see how Hobbs would be accepted to come back after a long term of absence. I’m absolutely overwhelmed by the attention that I’ve had here. The respect is just abundance.
It really makes me quite emotional at times to actually feel that, because one thing that I always said to a lot of people in the young generation as well; is that never ever in your career disrespect any fan! Listen to input. Your fans are what are making you. Without fans you’re nothing. You might as well stay home in the bedroom. Which I’m very lucky and very graced to have a great lot of gratitude to my fans for giving me the support. And it just grew, I understand now that it makes me feel that 2013 is not over. I’m going back to Australia. I’ve got a few things to do. I’ll enter back into Europe again before 2014. So I will be returning in 2013 again to show my appreciation. Love Europe! I love the people in Europe! I love the fans in Europe and all I’m trying to do is return that gratitude! That’s what I’m here to do.
You have Harris Johns 0n the tour with you who mixed and produced the first album?
PH: Because that’s the guru, the guru is Mr. Harris Johns! Awesome producer, awesome engineer! Harris and I collaborated 25 years ago and we made something special that become cult. When I’m dead and gone, another 25 years — though I hope I’m around to see it — this new album to become cult again.
To do a product you have a product, you have a market and to make something work you need to work with the right people it saves everything. Harris knows what I can deliver. I know what Harris can supply with his maturity and professionalism, and also his experience in Music Lab. I know what he’s doing so well that I would be an absolute fucking fool to not ask again this man to help me do something special together and collaborate and do something special again.
You know, like I’ve got seen through a lot of other bands that I’ve had producers, engineers and they’ve changed. A lot of the ones that have succeeded and I’ve ended up with great big names, humongous names today that stuck along with the same way. The same process, not everyone’s a winner but it is there. You keep chumping and changing in life, fucking nothing works. You know, you got to get something, think about it, put it all together, do the planning of it and then come and execute it.
So that was my thought. What I’ve done here, while I’m here I believe that I’ve done that again. So I’m going back here in about three weeks’ time to complete what I believe and personally believe and with support from people. Is I’ve recreated that cult album in another way. Let’s see what happens.
There is new album on its way which you recorded in the Musical Lab in Berlin? What kind of material we can expect from the forthcoming album?
PH: Okay, so what I’ve tried to do is I’ve had advice from you know like old listeners and old school people. I understand and I appreciate exactly what they’re talking about. Hobbs was something special back in the 80’s. I did create something special. Somehow try and recreate that. So think of the old way, this of the old roots and everything, you know.
So, I feel that I have put back into the — this upcoming album a lot of taste from what I did in the past. You know, like you will hear 12-stringer again. You may even hear more than choirs this year. Maybe even a harpsichord. You know. And that’s me showing a very old instrument there.
About the new album: What kind of process it was to work it out? Did you do something differently than usual?
PH: Am I doing something different? Unusual? Yeah, I’m putting back the passion back in satanic part of fucking Hobbs Angel of Death. That’s what I’m fucking putting back.
Hobbs Angel of Death, what it’s all about
The current line-up consists of skilled musicians like Luke Anticevic who has played with Angelcorpse, Krisiun and Forbidden etc. How difficult it was to find right guys for the band and do you think this line-up is going to be the permanent one?
PH: Hobbs Angel of Death is never going to have permanency. Hobbs Angel of Death is always going to be changing line-ups talking about commitments and things like that. Not everybody can afford to be playing the game with Hobbs. It’s not a game, it’s a very — I take my career very serious. It’s not a joke. People have got to be in the unit that actually believe in me. It is my baby. It always will be my baby. I’m offering my heart for you guys to come on an adventure with me. If you can cut the distance and you can run with it, you can do it. You can abide by the rules? Okay. So join the family of Hobbs Angel of Death. Tell me now before I get to a stage where I feel that you can be a part of the family and fucking now if you don’t want to do it. You know?
Having Luke in the band is absolutely fucking amazing. This guy’s young, this guy’s talented. Very, very talented and the way he uses his instrument, plays an instrument. Matt’s also a professional as well that’s playing and filling in with drums. I’ve got Bo Rami with me as well. Bo and I — he worshiped Hobbs from his younger days when he was 16. He used to come and see me in Cantarus days. Bo is with me today too.
The reason — another reason why Bo will probably be — will obviously stay with Hobbs is because he has the same fucking dream I have. We — he has the same dream. We get up, we sing music, and he’s wanted to come here as much as I have and fucking we’re here! So he said to me last night, you know, he calls me Boss. I started laugh about it and I call him brother. You know? And we both thank each other for being a team. Hobbs is a team. And that’s what we’re here, to be a team. Execute what we’ve got to do as a team. I’m not better than these guys. But I do know that the situation and the line-up that I’ve had here on this tour, it has been fucking cream. It has actually been cream. I’ve got to go back home and do what I’ve got to do to now gather again and to have Hobbs come back to wherever again in Europe. If it’s one month, two month, three months, I have to — I have to fucking put it out! I’ve got to get it…and that’s life. That’s what it’s all about. A lot of people have a lot of different things in life. There’s opportunities knocking on another door then we’ll take that. If that opportunity is not the right door to open it’s not my fault. because the train does actually pull in the station; “All aboard!”, and then leaves…
Music industry today is in crisis, record sales are getting down resulting that the gigs and online sales have become important issue for the bands. So there is kind of “do it for yourself” –mentality prevailing in scene which reminds me a bit of a situation we had back in the 80’ties with the metal underground. Do you agree with me?
PH: I do. It’s becoming very, very hard. You go to the internet, very easy to download things. I’m actually thinking to maybe stay in the independent area where I can have full control myself. It’s my product. I pay for the recording. Actually Peter Hobbs personally pays 99% of what I do. That’s a big sacrifice for me to just give that away.
I’m very strict about when I do recordings and whatever, there are no leakages. Because I want to offer if there’s an opportunity with a company to have Hobbs Angel of Death on their label. I want to have total security and respect to them that you’re getting the whole 99% of Hobbs without any interference. So I have strict laws. Anything I record does not leave that recording studio. It stays mine. It’s protection. It’s a protective way.
The internet has personally fucking — we need this internet and what’s been invented for us to use? Technology! We need technology to move forward. Unfortunately technology’s destroying a part of what the metal scene is. I’m old school and I know that to get things was hard. You had to in your ways fucking get up, go to the bloody record store, sit there before it opened and all this stuff. And wait and fucking bleed for the new Exodus, new Destruction album. Sodom all this sort of things, fucking Raining Blood… Everything, you know, you had to really wait. It was an excitement. Fuck now you got to do is — you can actually do it in bed. You just fucking roll out, turn on the fucking laptop, push this, fucking bang. YouTube is there and, you know, like Lars for Metallica many years ago was trying to stop all this. I could see his intentions but unfortunately you’re one man now competing against the world and you can’t stop it.
But, he gave it a good shot, he tried to do what he had to do and it’s a part of growing as well. You have to accept the fact that technology is growing. I at my age have to understand and appreciate I guess and respect also because a little bit of a leakage can actually fucking help in ways. It can tease and whatever…
But for me personally Hobbs Angel of Death is I keep everything fucking secure like the Mafia -man. I think that’s the best possible way for it to happen for myself. A lot of people wouldn’t agree but fuck them. I treasure what I have and everything that I’ve worked for I’ve had to work hard. I don’t believe that it’s a free ride. If I’ve got to get on public transport, I got to pay. I tried it in my younger days to sneak on it but I got fucking caught and but I’ve learned now through wisdom fucking pay the money. Don’t try to sneak in anyway because all you’re doing is ripping somebody off. Instead of trying to get on a guest list: See the band, fucking pay! Pay to go in! It’s helping them! It’s helping the younger generation of the world. That’s my honest opinion. It’s good for some, bad for others. But we all have to adapt to it, you know, in our own way.
What kind of music does Peter Hobbs listen nowadays? Are there any new bands which have impressed you lately?
PH: I’ve always answered this in a very intelligent way. There is so many bands that I listen to and I can’t mention them all. To leave anybody out from who I would mention is — I would, you know, to me personally, the person that I am I would find it insulting on my behalf that I can’t mention the great artists and the great bands that are in this world of today.
I’ve always tried to be political in that way as well to not mention so and so and so and so, without mentioning so and so and so and so. So where’s it start, where’s it stop? I just sort of like to add to that comment as well that everybody that’s trying to do what they’re doing. Fucking don’t stop!
I appreciate everything that I hear. It doesn’t matter whether it’s fucking hard core, soft core, fucking new metal, blah, blah, blah… black-metal. Ya, ya, ya, ya, ya. …As long as everybody’s trying.
Look at these guys behind me now. They’re still fucking going. I can spell it. T-A-N-K-A-R-D, you know what I mean? Fucking my hat’s off to these sort of people! European acts, fucking awesome! I love them! I was English…Born in England and I’m not racist so I love music from every avenue of the world and it keeps me versatile. So there are some great bands in Australia. Some really great talent and I’m going to help them personally. I’m going to help them. I’m going to offer my advice if they want to listen, so be it.
What kind of plans does Hobbs Angel of Death have for the future?
PH: To come and keep pleasing you Nico… To show you that at my age I still have passion. I still have aggression. I still have respect for my fans. I have respect for organizers. I have respect for festival organizers, promoters. Again, Hobbs has material but I also need the help from promoters and organizers to help me put it out there. So Hobbs has a future that is still being respected today. So why not continue that fact and keep coming back.
Fucking put on those fucking boxing gloves bro and I’m ready to fucking enter into any ring as a Gladiator would. The bigger coliseum, the more opponents I have, the more it makes me hungry! So and I feel like that. The voice has its story. You know that movie Gladiator? Where that fucking — that gate is like that. The sun is shining in your face and I see on the other side the fucking thing man, whipping that fucking thing. And I’m looking here… Are we ready to go and some are pissing themselves and I’m thinking fuck, I got to get out of here. Soon as that gate opens, actually duck, come around from the back. Get that big fucking guy. You know and that’s how it is. Because I’m older now, Nico I’ve got wisdom in my head. I know how to fight wars, which is normal strategy. Wars are built on strategy. So the wars for Hobbs Angel of Death in the future are about to fucking stand tall! Respect those who respect me. Have gratitude, have honour, and have dignity and fucking continue on in this fucking metal industry!
Just — I’m going to go further. I haven’t finished. And like Ronnie James Dio said to me once is, well I gave him the reason to keep going. Well now I look at all these younger bands and they’re giving me the fucking reason to keep on going!
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.