Neil Turbin was the original singer of Anthrax on their debut album FISTFUL OF METAL. In addition to co-writing the FISTFUL OF METAL album, he also contributed such thrash anthems as “Armed and Dangerous”, “Raise Hell” and “Gung-Ho” for both the ARMED AND DANGEROUS and SPREADING THE DISEASE. More recently Neil has released a solo album called THREATCON DELTA and is currently working on an album titled A FATE WORSE THAN DEATH with his new band called Deathriders with lead guitarists Steve McKnight and Kurt James, bassist Sandy Vasquez and drummer Chris Moore.
Stay Metal Thrashing Mad!
Interview by Marko Syrjala
Pics by Justice Howard and www.neilturbin.com
Why don’t you first tell us about your new band, Neil?
My band Deathriders formed in 2003 when we were asked to perform at an awards show in Los Angeles. Deathriders is a metal band.
You are currently working on a new album and the rough versions of the tracks you played us sounded very promising!
Thank you. The purpose of playing you some raw tracks is to show that Deathriders is not about nostalgia, but we are still old school. It wasn’t produced, it wasn’t mixed yet, just raw fucking elements. Nothing to hide. I am not afraid to step up to the plate and lay it on the line. It is what it is. It stands tall or falls flat.
So what is your songwriting process like?
I write songs that are relevant to me and have a deeper meaning than their face value. If the listener gets it right away, then cool. In some cases, it may take another listen or two. I have written songs in collaboration with lead guitarist Steve McKnight of DEATHRIDERS (Viper Soul, Metal Warrior, Dreams Never Die) and Swedish Master Guitarist, Dangerous Viking and my Brother of STEEL: Jonas Hornqvist (Rise Up, Forgotten Sons, Bridges Will Burn) of TREASURE LAND. I also have material that I have written on my own like “Riders of the Apocalypse” which I played for you. Steve, Jonas and I all have our own Pro Tools studios. As a result of this collaboration, we have really sharpened our knife. I like to craft or compose a song that is both hard-hitting in feeling and sound as well as meaning. I don’t just write riffs and throw lyrics and melodies on there. I intentionally write the specific key the song is in along with the tuning. We try to avoid the obvious as a general rule of thumb. DEATHRIDERS does not try to write with a formula. If anything, we typically write as an anti-formula to ensure that we don’t replicate but maintain continuity.
What’s on the horizon for Deathriders in the immediate future?
I am 110% committed and focused on Deathriders and in the writing and recording of ï¿½A Fate Worse Than Deathï¿½. We are currently confirming potential shows in Mexico and South America. These are both places where the fans are great and they really appreciate their metal, so we look forward to touring there soon.
How did you end up joining Anthrax back in the day?
I put out an ad out in what was called “Good Times Magazine”. After the issue was out for about 3 or 4 weeks, Scott called me and asked if I would be interested in his band called Anthrax as they were looking for a singer for months and had just started to do some shows. I then proceeded to tell him that I was in a band called Amra for a month at that point and only lasted a few months. This was back in early 1982. I saw an ad in Good Times Magazine from a month previous and it turned out to be Scott and ANTHRAX. Scott sounded reluctant on the telephone. Scott and Danny Lilker came over to my house in Bayside, NY and we then proceeded to play demos and live tapes for each other. At the time out of necessity, they were using Scott’s brother Jason Rosenfeld who was 13 or 14 years old. Then I met with the other guys in the band at rehearsal: Greg Walls and Dave Weiss. Soon after that, I met the Anthrax roadies, Scott Setari, Tom Beach and John Connelly who were buddies of Dan Lilker and Scott. Greg told me years later how Scott had said that he didn’t want me in the band in the first place, but Greg, Dann, and Dave all voted me in. They told me they were looking for an experienced singer and I already had a history and had experience playing the NYC club circuit with numerous gigs at Max’s Kansas City, Great Gildersleeves, CBGB’s, etc. I had two weeks to learn all of Anthrax’s material and play at Great Gildersleeves in September 1982. It was interesting material at the time which was a mixture of classic heavy metal, hard rock and some Iron Maiden riffs thrown together for those of you out there who might have early Anthrax demos you know what I’m talking about. It was very guitar riff-oriented, but not really tailored for the vocals. Since everything was more or less in the key of E and tuned to standard A440, which makes you sing in a much higher range than if you were tuned to E flat or dropped D as most metal bands are tuned to today.
How long did it take for labels to get interested in Anthrax?
It wasn’t the labels, it was just Johnny and Marsha Z, they basically had a place at a flea market and sold imported picture discs, records, tapes, posters, and magazines.
Did you have any idea about the business side of things back then?
I was not fully acclimated into business yet and to be honest, I was very naive about the entire process. I was purely an artist for the artist’s sake and out to create the best music I could dream up. I did not consult with attorneys, I was not prepared to fight with sharks, savages and bloodsuckers. I should have because thatï¿½s who we were dealing with. There was no exit clause in our contract and I helped establish the brand during the time I was in the band. I never saw a penny for any merchandise that was ever sold during the two years while I was in the band. I once called Johnny Z and asked him for $200 and a tour jacket that he was giving away to everyone else in the band. He told me “NO” on the $200 and asked me to pay for the tour jacket. I told him he could pay for the tour jacket himself out of all the money he’d been making from T-shirts and album sales or go find somebody else to sing for free. It was great, because that night we played Roseland and it was the one and only time I had my own hotel room and dressing room on the tour. It was cool because I had some people backstage that were actually nice and fun to be with like Richie Stotts from The Plasmatics. What happened after that was already set in stone.
Do you still get paid royalties from the songs you wrote for Anthrax?
The answer is yes to “Fistful of Metal”, but NO on the other albums with my songs on them. There are albums on Island, Universal, and Sanctuary that have songs I’ve written on them, like “Deathriders”, “Metal Thrashing Mad”, “Panic”, “Gung Ho” and “Armed and Dangerous” that I have never received any royalties on. Anthrax has re-recorded my songs several times and I have not seen DIME ONE!
Can you tell us something about the personnel of the early Anthrax?
Well, Scott was the leader of the band. It was Dan Lilker and Scott who started Anthrax and I became part of that equation with Greg Walls and also with Dave Weiss who unfortunately had a hit and run car accident. There was a time we were in a studio in New York City and I just said to those two guys “I don’t know if we can go on like this.”, I had serious doubts about continuing with Scott and Danny at that point, since we had lost both our great lead guitar player Greg Walls and our drummer Greg d’Angelo. Scott and Danny Lilker were childhood friends and I was the odd man out. Greg D’Angelo was actually a very interesting member of Anthrax, he had a beautiful white $10,000 Sonor double bass drum kit, a 1968, 427 Shelby Cobra, a Stingray Corvette, an amazing house in Great Neck, NY and a huge Ford econoline van in which both Anthrax and Metallica were pulled over by NYPD and ordered to get out of the vehicle. We were drinking a 12-pack of beers that we had to hide. What I remember most about that is that Cliff Burton just held onto his beer and didn’t want to put it down. He just held it at his side, the cops were looking in the van with flashlights and made us get out onto Queens Blvd. near the old Lamours. They let us go, which was a surprise to me, since it had to have looked like we were guilty of having too much fun! We were definitely up to no good!
Early Anthrax promoshot…
Is it really true that you fired Dan Lilker back in the day?
No, not at all. No one gave me the keys to the kingdom, I wasn’t in charge of Anthrax and never had that kind of decision making power over the rest of the band. We were a band on a record label, so no I didn’t have that kind of control over the band. No one died and left me in charge. It was a band decision and not my personal decision. The label and management were behind the bands decision to replace Dan Lilker. There were four members in the band and the three other than myself could’ve outvoted me, if they wanted to. Scott called Dan Lilker and broke the news to him. Scott called me the same exact way. That was before they invented email. They just used me as a scapegoat after I was out of the band. If they wanted him so badly, why didnï¿½t they invite him back to re-join the band when they had the chance?
Who was calling the shots back in those days then?
Well, basically Scott Rosenfeld, Jon Zazula and Marsha Zazula… and Tony Incigeri, the management company Crazed Management, were in charge. I thought I was friends with Charlie, but he just played it off that way and was very tight with Scott. There was a power struggle going on that I really wasn’t aware of at the time. You see I was the main songwriter on the “Fistful of Metal” album with Scott and Danny Lilker and on “Armed and Dangerous” Gung Ho and Raise Hell with Scott. Charlie played guitar as well as drums and started to make a push for his songwriting ideas, which were different than the sound and direction we had on the first album. So it’ pretty safe to say that I wasn’t calling the shots which reaffirm the answer to your previous question.
Neil on stage !!
Getting back to the personnel, how about Charlie Benante and Frankie Bello?
Charlie was basically brought in by Scott and then there was pressure put on the band to go with Frankie because we were without a bass player and were getting ready to tour. Frankie was a roadie for the band and also knew the songs, but was Charlie’s nephew which was a big RED FLAG! Ultimately this kept the voting process within the band very one-sided, which was similar to when Dan Lilker was in the band. He would rarely if ever go against Scott. The same holds true for Charlie. I thought I was friends with Charlie and me spoke often and confided in him, but the feeling was not mutual and there was much that I was not aware. Whether it was childhood friends, a family member, or a social clique, it does not make for a fair democratic decision process. Therefore personal agendas and politics of the band were strategically aligned from the beginning and were eventually carried out. I ran into Frankie Bello and John Tempesta back in September 2004 and they were both cool as fuck! Frankie was always a hyper kind of guy, you can probably tell from the way he moves around on stage. He was very respectful and you could tell that he had grown a lot as a person and an artist. We had fun hanging out at the Rainbow on the Sunset Strip.
..and finally, what about Dan Spitz?
You mean Dan”THE DIVA” Spitz? Dan Spitz had this HUMONGOUS EGO, was highly opinionated, high maintenance and Napoleonic. He tried to jump on the bandwagon and blame me and say I had the lead singer’s syndrome, but anyone who has read his interviews can attest to the fact that Dan is the opposite of humble. I can remember a few times when we tried to write together, we once tried to write a theme song for a WWF wrestler named “Sergeant Slaughter” (CRAZED Managements brilliant idea) and the parts he would come up with sounded like something a fan of Van Halen would come up with. It certainly didn’t sound like Anthrax! We couldn’t get it to work, so we abandoned it. When I showed him my guitar riff for the verse in “Death from Above” on my 1978 Gibson Explorer when he was over at my house, he claimed it for his own after he conveniently forgot to remember I wrote it. The reason I didn’t write more music is because the guitar players in the band did not want to listen to or respect my musical ideas since they had their own strong opinions. Hence the then working environment and politics of the band. Dan was really a part-time band member of the band since he lived in Orangeburg, New York, a couple of hours away and he would infrequently come to band rehearsals that everyone else was at five nights a week. I went out of my way to try to get him into the band, to convince him because we needed a hot lead guitar player and thought his pentatonic scales were interesting at the time.
Any other Anthrax stories you’d like to share?
When we played in San Francisco at the Kabuki Theater in San Francisco in July 1984, I later read interviews where Anthrax claimed that I was disrespectful to the kids who were jumping on the stage and I pushed a few off. The reason for this is because I thought they were going towards Dan Spitz. I threw them back in the crowd because this had never happened to the band before at any show like it did in SF. This was the first time a bunch of people from the crowd jumped onstage, including James Hetfield from Metallica. That’s when I got the idea, OK this is what happens now in Metal. This was an amazing sold out gig of 3000 screaming metalheads. The awful thing was that I was in bed with strep throat and a high fever and was at the hotel until just 45 minutes before stage time. I was in pretty bad shape and to be honest don’t know how I pulled it off. Then in an interview done by the band somewhere, I read they said that I was disrespectful to the fans. What a steaming pile of shit! Lies! Utter nonsense! I wasn’t going to let some overzealous fan end our tour by charging at our guitar player at the time, even if it was Dan Spitz. I completely acted on instinct when someone gets in my face, I was just helping throw a couple back into the crowd. It was actually a lot of fun. The crowd started jumping on the other side of the stage away from me since they knew better, which looking back was kind of funny. Nowadays they can jump onstage and do a lot worse things than that.
Why did you decide to leave Anthrax?
Some decisions you choose to make, others are made for you. The writing was on the wall. Well, there were really mutual reasons leading up to what was inevitable. There was poor communication within the band and with management to the rest of the band, personal agendas, resentment, jealousy, disrespect, disloyalty, and NO PAY! I hung in there for as long as I could tolerate it. I was only there for the music.
KUNI / TURBIN / CLAUDE SCHNELL
What did you do after leaving Anthrax?
I worked a normal job like everyone else to pay for my trip to California. When I gathered up enough funds I left it all behind and started a new beginning. I played with a lot of bands and ended up meeting Kuni, he was a Japanese guitar player I became roommates with.
After that, you had what from pictures looked like a hair metal band called Turbin that you never eventually released anything with, right?
We were not a hair metal band. We did a photo shoot with Neil Zlozower at the time and he had a girl who did hair and make-up, so we just went along. At the time many hard rock/heavy metal groups had a similar look. We were a heavy rock band. If you thought we were something else than you were mistaken. I had Dave McClain, who now plays with Machine Head, in the band. As far as not releasing an album, you are correct but we did record two demos, showcased and had interest from Bill Aucoin, Kenny Kerner from Music Connection, Spencer Proffer (Pasha Music) and Kim (the guy who wrote some KISS songs).
Claude and Neil
Later on, you at one point collaborated with Claude Schnell, who used to play with Dio, can you tell us about that?
I saw Claude perform with Dio in Paris, France when they headlined the Breaking Sound Festival in 1984. Claude Schnell is an amazing composer, always has funny stories and is a true perfectionist among perfectionists. I worked with Claude for 3 years from 1996 to 1999. It was piano and vocal and that’s it. It comes across very honest that way because the raw instruments need to sound strong with a note for note accuracy and precision. Claude plays a Steinway and Sons Grand Piano built in 1887 which is quite magnificent. His compositions are very classical, refined and highly complex in melody and structure. They are reminiscent of classics that Elton John, Meat Loaf or Billy Joel would write in an elegant classical rock sort of way. It was always challenging to keep the vocal technique very sharpened in order to execute Claude’s songs. Not what you would expect from someone who got his start singing thrash metal.
The newest release from you is your solo album THREATCON DELTA, from 2003, right?
Yes, it was released in August 2003.
It’s somewhat hard to get, isn’t it?
Yes, distribution was very limited. So if you own a copyhold on to it because it may be difficult to replace. I now own the rights to the album, but I don’t have any plans to re-release it.
Is the song “Vigilante Justice” on that album purely fictional or was it actually inspired by a real event?
It is completely non-fictional about Bernard Goetz who was taking the subway in New York and was approached by four young assailants who were attempting to gang up on him and rob him. He basically pulled out his firearm instead of his wallet and gave them all bullets in lieu of money. I don’t advocate the use of excessive force or violence, but hey sometimes you have no other choice than to stand up for your human rights.
Was Rob Halford ever an influence on your early singing style?
Oh, Halford is a killer singer, the guy is just phenomenal. Rob Halford was definitely an inspiration as a singer and frontman. I’ve always loved Halford’s style, his range and great ability to capture the crowd. A guy like Rob Halford is like a Freddie Mercury, a Glenn Hughes. There was NO one in his league that could match his voice and stage charisma. These singers are performers that are one in a billion like Stevie Wonder. He could never be replaced with all due respect to Tim “Ripper” Owens. I mean Halford as a frontman is unshakable. I saw him with Judas Priest on the “Screaming for Vengeance” tour at the Madison Square Garden. I met him in the 1980’s, he’s a gentleman, terrifically polite, very kind, congenial and humble. Rob is fucking cool and a total class act. I saw Judas Priest play the last show of the “Point of Entry” tour on the pier in NYC where they threw their studded belts and jackets to the crowd. I also saw them a few years back on Ozzfest. I thought “Hell Bent for Leather” was beyond the beyond, and then they totally raised the bar with “British Steel” and “Screaming for Vengeance”, and that’s the kind of music I appreciate. One of the first bands that I played with, the second band I tried to join at 14 years old, they played me one of the songs from “Hell Bent for Leather” and I was like “How am I supposed to compete with that?” Halford fucking blew me away, just unreal, I mean it was vocals from another planet.
Were you ever into KISS?
Neil Turbin: My aunt’s sister Robin used to date Paul Stanley when they were next door neighbors in Kew Gardens in Queens, NY. She used to babysit me when I was very young and who knows if she invited him over since she probably couldn’t do much at her house with her parents there. Anyway, she used to refer to him as Stanley and her mother said she was in NYC and saw him playing guitar on the street (way before KISS) and she gave him a dollar. I saw KISS for the first time in December 1978 at Madison Square Garden with the band Piper opening up. I was in the nosebleed section – upper deck bleacher seats. I remembered going there as a kid to go see the Ringling Brothers and Barnum Bailey Circus. When KISS hit the stage, it was like the most amazing experience ever. Fire, spitting blood, great songs, great theatrics, big hydraulic stage, more pyro than in Hades and bombs. Ace Frehley shocked me with smoking guitar, big Peter Criss drum solo, “Christine Sixteen”, “Calling Dr. Love”, “Firehouse”, “Detroit Rock City”, “Rock and Roll All Nite”. This was right when KISS “Alive 2” came out. Wow, it was a life-changing event. Seeing KISS for the first time at their pinnacle was a mind-blowing experience.
Are there any bands or singers in the current metal scene that you like?
Neil Turbin: There are so many. To name a few off the top I think Tobias Sammet of Edguy, Johnny Lindqvist of Nocturnal Rites, Ralf Scheepers of Primal Fear, Ronnie Munroe of Metal Church, Russell Allen of Symphony X, Stu Block of Into Eternity, Tim “Ripper” Owens, Sean Peck, Zp Theart of Dragonforce, Bruce Hall, James Rivera and of course Glenn Hughes are among my favorites.
Thank you for the interview, Neil !!!
NEIL TURBIN’S COMPLETE MUSICAL BIOGRAPHY
After leaving Anthrax, Neil has remained constant and steady in numerous bands and recording projects including solo bands and album projects starting in chronological order as compiled by the original Deathrider himself:
1979, 1980, 1981 NEW RACE. Played CBGB’s First Club Gig, MAX’S KANSAS CITY, and GREAT GILDERSLEEVES numerous times. Recorded footage for a video at the World Trade Center in NYC 1980.
1982 AMRA. A band that I joined for 3 months in early 1982.
DESTROYER. A cover band for fun with the guitar player of the NY band RUST. Even shorter-lived than AMRA ï¿½ Played Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, KISS, UFO covers.
ANTHRAX. I saw an ad in Good Times Magazine from a month previous and it turned out to be Scott and ANTHRAX. Scott and Danny Lilker came over to my house in Bayside, NY and we then proceeded to play demos and live tapes for each other. Then I met with the other guys in the band at rehearsal: Greg Walls and Dave Weiss. Greg told me years later how Scott had said that he didn’t want me in the band in the first place, but Greg, Danny, and Dave all voted me in.
1982 – 1984 Joined Anthrax in September 1982 played the first gig two weeks from initially joining Anthrax.
1984 – Left Anthrax in August 1984. One week after August 3, 1984, Roseland gig with Raven and Metallica.
1985-1986 Wrote Kuni Album – Recorded with Chuck Wright, Frankie Banali, Kevin Dubrow.
Kuni – Masque Album. Kuni later took the demo tape that I had of CARY SHARAF from Billy Squierï¿½s band with MARK BOALS incredible singing on it and had JEFF SCOTT SOTO who was equally incredible, sing on his next album on the song “Memories of You”. This was a weird move since I had the demo and had auditioned for CARY SHARAFï¿½s band when I moved to LA in 1985. Kuni lifted the song from my tape and used it for his second album. Sorry, Mark!
1986-1987 Turbin (version 1.0 with Dave McClain, Doug Morrison, Kurt Kasinoff) Played gigs at The Country Club in Reseda, CA with RACER X and LION.
1987-1988 Kurt James Band (Steeler, Driver, Black Sheep, Dr.Mastermind) Gary Shea (Alcatrazz) Andrew Dezarn, Jim, Scott from Atomic Punks, John Fuentes which recorded tracks for an album with Allan Holdsworth producing.
1989 Turbin (version 2.0 with Bobby Pieper, Curran Stromberg, Gary Montemer, Walter Garces) Played The Roxy Theatre, Gazzariï¿½s, The Marquee. Recorded demo at The Record Plant in Los Angeles and rehearsed at YO studios where Sam Kinison used to rehearse.
1990 Wrecking Crew with (Bobby Pieper of XYZ, Joe Christafanelli, Joe Pafumi, Dwayne Barron, Richie on Drums). Recorded a demo with James Christian (House of Lords) producing at his studio in Burbank.
1991 Bad Apples (Sean Flynn, Todd Flynn, Robert Hernandez, Jeff Coffer) formerly known as JAVELIN. We recorded 2 demos at SIR Studios Hollywood and played numerous shows The Whiskey with Silent Rage, Jezebels, FM Station.
I did a project with Lanny Cordola, Michael Guy, Chuck Wright. We recorded a demo “Devil Rocked Your Cradle”.
1992 Soundtrack recording project Bob Kulick, Chuck Wright, and Jimmy Waldo. Recorded 2 song demo for a movie.
1993 A recording Project with Finnish guitarist Petri Nauha of Radio Mafia Finland.
1994 Medicine Man with Al Estrada (Cover Band played for fun Pier 52, Hurricanes, etc)
1996-1999 Claude Schnell Band (DIO, Rough Cutt) Piano and vocals on Claude’s s material.
2000 Voodoo Rhythm Devils Project with Swedish Guitarist Stefan Lindqvist and Mike Daley.
2001 Signed Album deal with Metal Mayhem as a solo artist.
2001-2003 Neil Turbin Solo with Vernon Anderson, Henry Moreno, Mitch Perry, Steve Ornest, Jamie Carter, Izzy Diaz, Dario Seixas.
2001 Established Website – neilturbin.com and commenced songwriting for the future album.2002 Chuck Wright, Lanny Cordola. Paid Session vocal work “FAITH” cover.2003 Session work: backing vocals on “Mistaken” with Tracy G on guitar/Amsterdam for Metal Mayhem.
2003 Neil Turbin – Threatcon Delta Album Released. Album delayed by 6 months+ due to Jet City Studios withholding master recordings. Middle Finger Records intervened to release an album in cojunction with Metal Mayhem.2003 DEATHRIDERS (Kurt James, Beau Simpson, Mike Giordano (CAGE), Mikey Nielson (CAGE), 2005 – Gene McEwen.
2005 – Jack Frost – Out In The Cold – Wrote and Recorded CRUCIFIXATION with Jack Frost with MARK BOALS (Yngwie Malmsteen, Ring Of Fire, Ted Nugent) producing.
2007 Deathriders, “A FATE WORSE THAN DEATH’. Lineup Kurt James (Steeler, Black Sheep, Driver, Dr. Mastermind) Lead Guitar, Sandy K. Vasquez (Bloodlust, Last Rites) Bass, Chris Moore (Orcus) and introducing the newest DEATHRIDER, Steve McKnight (Cry Wolf), band on lead Guitar. Exciting News: Along with Steve McKnight joining DEATHRIDERS and also collaborating as a co-writer and in co-production, DEATHRIDERS are also collaborating in both songwriting and performance with brilliant Swedish guitar phenomenon Jonas Hornqvist from Swedish progressive power metal band Treasure Land. Deathriders are in the midst of writing and recording their debut album “A FATE WORSE THAN DEATH”
FOR MORE INFO GO TO:
DEATHRIDERS OFFICIAL WEBSITE
DEATHRIDERS OFFICIAL MYSPACE
DEATHRIDERS OFFICIAL MESSAGE BOARD
NEIL TURBIN OFFICIAL MYSPACE
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