Interview with Scott Board
Conducted by Robert Williams
We really haven’t heard from Greensboro, North Carolina’s Cerebus since 1991’s “Regression Progression” EP. The newly reformed band have scheduled a main-stage appearance at the inaugural Legions of Metal Festival in Chicago, Illinois this Spring as well as a back catalogue reissue campaign from Heaven and Hell Records. There’s no telling what the future has in-store for Cerebus going forward but we caught up with Cerebus vocalist Scott Board who filled us in on the band’s early beginnings and everything else leading up to this point.
How are you doing today Scott?
Hello Robert! Thank you so much for your interest in Cerebus!
It was recently announced that Cerebus would be reuniting for an exclusive appearance at the inaugural Legions of Metal Festival this coming May in Chicago. Explain to our loyal readers how this exciting reunion came about?
Well, to start, this has really been a fire-storm of events that have happened very quickly. For years now Jeremy Golden as well as many other fans of the band have posed the question, “do you think there’s a remote possibility that you can re-unite the band in any form even if for a one-off type show?” Eric Burgess and I haven’t wrote any music together or played together since around 2004. I had been performing in a lot of regional Tribute Acts such as Still of The Night Tribute to Whitesnake as well as expecting my sophomore album release from my original group, NoLoveLost (Kivel Records) later this year. I was also the lead vocalist in a Florida based Page/Plant/Zeppelin Tribute and with all combined trying to make a reasonable living as a singer.
I wasn’t sure if all the other remaining members of Cerebus were still playing or interested in playing at this point. And so, I contacted Eric to let him know of the interest to put the old material out as well as the interests from different festivals and events that have been asking about us. I was delighted when I spoke with Eric and he said that he indeed would be interested in doing live shows with Cerebus again. From that point, the question was who will be part of the band with us. I immediately went to my “right hand man” Stephen Arnold for the drummer slot.
Steve and I had been working closely in many musical projects including the Whitesnake Tribute and the new NoLoveLost line-up so I knew he was completely ready and willing no pun intended!
Many will remember Steve for his work with Cerebus on the “Like a Banshee on the Loose” EP. And live shows from the eighties. Next, Eric had long since been in contact with former Cerebus (cover band version) guitarist Tony Merritt. Tony was in and ready to go filling the spot of lead guitar previously held by Chris Pennel who we tragically lost back in 2010. We approached Andy Huffine former Cerebus guitarist about also joining us for this reunion but he had to decline unfortunately due to other commitments. We then approached another former member of the classic cover band line up of Cerebus, guitarist Bruce Drake. Bruce was very interested in the new project. And so, the new lineup was complete and we were able to keep everything “all in the family” so to speak.
The first rehearsals are about to begin for the live dates coming up. As you can imagine, we are all very excited to roll up our sleeves and get to work.
For those readers who may not be familiar with the band, take us back to 1984. How did you guys originally meet and decide to form a metal band?
Well, it all really began around the summer of 1980 when I was playing in a local Greensboro band called Blood Rose. At the time I did double duty as lead singer on some songs and playing drums. Chris and Eric were finishing up High School and had a great Metal original/coverband called Bastille. Around “the big year for metal” 1980 there was a great local radio program on every night on WRQK FM and the DJ was a young kid like all of us who was very much into the new wave of British Heavy Metal movement. And the show catered to this audience and featured new releases from all the fav metal acts at the time, Def Leppard, Krokus, Iron Maiden, Priest, Scorpions, etc. Of course the metal movement was starting to really blow up around that summer of 80′, and all of us were all consumed with these bands. It wasn’t long before Chris and Eric came by at a rehearsal for Blood Rose one afternoon and I got to meet them for the first time. Blood Rose was about to wind down and they were looking for a new lead singer.
I went over one hot as hell June afternoon and auditioned singing Priest’s “Deliverin’ The Goods”. Soon after I joined forces with the guys and we started a friendship and musical relationship that would last for years to come. We played as Bastille all over the area doing one or two original songs as well. The scene in NC at the early eighties pre-MTV was fairly strong especially for established regional bands.
As MTV was introduced and the scene built around it, so did we and in 1982 we decided to put together a more detailed cover act doing all the new Heavy Metal hits along with some deeper stuff like Saxon and UFO… even our ramped up metal version of Rory Gallagher’s “Shadow Play” & The Pretenders “Precious”.
Around this time we had recruited Tony Merritt a local killer guitar slinger who killed on all the new metal stuff alongside Chris. Tony now joins forces with us to be a part of our new reunited group 33 years later! We played the circuit all up and down the East Coast, from 1982 to early 83′ Tony was actually the one who brought up the name Cerebus one day as we all drove around Greensboro together.
Around early 1983 Tony left due to family commitments and his spot was quickly filled by Bruce Drake another close friend and musical comrade of the band. Bruce Drake now rounds out our new twin guitar attack alongside Tony for the reunion. It was in late 1984 when we all decided it was time to do or die and give making it in music a try. Soon after, we went into the studio and recorded a demo of about eight or so songs.
Eric came into the studio one night and mentioned he had seen an ad way in the back of Circus Magazine… it was an ad for an Independent Metal Record label who were looking for songs to include on a “compilation” style album. They album was going to be released with warning stickers and such to hype it up as some sort of dangerous record complete with backwards masking etc. which back then would immediately sell to disgruntled teenagers.
We sent our demo into New Renaissance Records and were quickly chosen to have our song “Fight The Beast” included on the “Satan’s Revenge” LP to come out in early 85′. The label loved our other tunes as well and offered us a two album deal. We then began work on the songs that would soon become the “Too Late To Pray” album.
And so a string of demo releases in 1985 lead to an appearance on the “Satan’s Revenge” compilation album through Ann Boleyn’s (Hellion) New Renaissance Records as you just mentioned. Tell me about your interactions with Ann back in the eighties? Were you guys also fans of Hellion?
We really hadn’t listened to a lot of Hellions music I had heard a song or two and thought it was cool. Good ferocious female vocal.
The debut Cerebus LP “Too Late To Pray” was originally released in 1986 and has since received the bootleg treatement from Cult Metal Classics and is soon to receive a proper reissue treatment from Heaven and Hell Records. What are your memories of creating and recording the debut full-length?
We went into the studio I think in late 1985 to begin work on what was to become the “Too Late To Pray” album. Like most recordings we did, we would record live a lot of the basic tracks, then add overdubs lead guitars, vocals etc. With our band we were always very rehearsed and had most of what we wanted to do down note for note before entering the studio situation. So recordings typically went fast. No time wasted. After completing the record, the wait began for the release of it. The company that was doing the pressing of the album was also handling the Miami Vice Soundtrack album which of course delayed our release somewhat.
So while we waited the band embarked on a bunch of live dates. To start promoting the LP. I would probably attribute most of the “cult” following our debut album has received is largely due to its rarity and hard to find status. Since we weren’t able to properly tour to promote it in the areas in the world where it was more popular it sort of fell off the radar so to speak. After the initial release which was available in all music retailers across the globe the rest of our releases were largely obtained at our live shows. And some bought them thru mail.
Following the release of “Too Late To Pray” Cerebus split with New Renaissance Records. Looking back in hindsight, do you believe the deal with New Renaissance solidified the band’s existence in underground metal circles or did a lack of promotion and tour support hinder Cerebus from reaching a larger audience? Do you wish you guys would have held out for a better deal?
I think what New Renaissance Records did for us press wise actually helped substantially to get us out there our name and music were forever grateful for that opportunity. They did what they were able to do to push us and it worked well. Unfortunately with no touring support it could only go as far as the band could afford. In hindsight, if we had searched out real management companies across the world maybe that would have made the difference however we must remember we weren’t in the days of the internet, or any easy way of gaining contacts or any way of getting our material out to management companies quickly except by mail.
The four-track EP “Like A Banshee” surfaced in 1987 via the fledgling Songdancer label followed by another four song EP the following year. Were these two releases originally intended to be your second full length? Why two separate releases?
After all this, when we were ready to record our second release it became an EP instead of another full length LP simply because we were already in debt for the first album… pretty deep for twenty-year old’s so a shorter EP release was in order.
It’s very important to keep in mind when you look back and you watch our bands recordings and hear them in succession you are watching and listening to a young band growing and progressing in our writing styles and writing skills. We all in the band, were and are still influenced heavily by the music we happen to be listening to at the time inevitably it would come thru in our songwriting.
The final recorded output from Cerebus came in the form of the five-song “Regression Progression” EP released through Rockduster Records in 1991 that featured more of a hard rock sound then the band’s more overtly metallic origins. Why the sudden change in musical direction?
After the “Like A Banshee On The Loose” EP we were all listening to and getting heavily into older stuff from Deep Purple, Thin Lizzy, UFO, and a lot more bluesy influenced music such as the great Rory Gallagher. It would surface in our musical style certainly by our third release 1991’s “Regression Progression” EP.
Looking back it was a bit of a blessing to have no one like a label telling us what style or what song was able to make it on the album. We simply wrote and recorded exactly and anything we wanted. “Regression Progression” was a start to many more blues laden avenues the band would go down in the near future.
That EP introduced the new line up with Jeff Koenig in on drums. Steve Arnold had left at that time to pursue more live playing options that kept his chops up and kept him relevant thru out this time period. So in came Jeff on drums. Jeff Keonig was also a vibrant song writer himself and we utilized some of his ideas into the new blusier recordings. Jeff brought in his idea “Close The Door On My Heart” a classic Whitesnake/Deep Purple styled rocker that quickly found its way into our live set. And also the killer bluesy ballad “I Dont Need Your Love” turned into a live fan favorite as we kept pounding our live circuit doing small tours in the areas with such groups as Blue Oyster Cult and Krokus and Bullet Boys thru the Midwest.
Describe the events that lead to the band parting ways following the release of “Regression Progession” Was it an amicable split? Did you guys remain close friends?
As time went on other opportunities would come my (Scott Boards) way also. A opportunity to join forces with as many of the absolute best seasoned musicians and songwriters and put together the super band so to speak and really go for it and try to get a record deal with a more melodic hard rock MTV friendly band.
That band would be Dimage. I brought several tunes into that group a few from the older Cerebus days that I had written and this was the perfect outlet for that more melodic hard rock/pop sensible style. Friend Of Pain and No Secret to name a couple.
The Dimage band would go on to have a lot of initial major label
interest but the core of the entire musical horizon was about to get a major face-lift with the admin of the Grunge music scene. So Dimage never did take off or slip in the door to the majors at the last minute however there was a lot of touring progress made. We got to do big shows with bands such as Jackyl ,Trixter, Foghat and Lynyrd Skynyrd.
The decision to split with Cerebus to do the Dimage project back in 91′ 92′ was very amicable. Chris, Eric, Andy and I always remained close friends hanging out and still recording different small projects here and there. In 1997 Chris, Eric and myself found ourselves recording a very blues laden/Rory Gallagher-Free type four-piece group called Shin Kicker the band also did some dates as Shadow Play with our Rory influence evident.
A recent press release from Heaven and Hell Records indicates a reunion in the early 2000’s that lead to new material being recorded and ultimately shelved. Can we expect any of these never before heard tracks to see the light of the day on the upcoming Heaven and Hell reissues?
It was in early 2002 when we started to work again this time all original Cerebus members Eric, Andy on guitar and even on drums! Chris on guitar and myself on lead vocals. Eric had a collection of new blusey, but very commercial ideas we began to work on until we completed the until now unreleased Cerebus 2004 demo.
Yes, this will be included on the new releases from Heaven And Hell Records. Eight songs that have never before been heard. And the last recordings we all did with the late Chris Pennel. Fans will hear a very definite influence from Chapman era UFO on the rocker “Dont Speak For Me” which kicks the demo off. My vocal styling on it varies from very Glenn Hughes like Rock blues vocal to more soulful Doug Pennick like vocals.
What happens after the reissues are released? Is the performance at the Legions of Metal Festival just a one-off or can we expect more from Cerebus going forward?
As far as live dates, we do plan on being in Chicago for the Legions Of Metal Festival in May 2017. We will surely do some local dates before Chicago in May to knock the dust off so to speak. I’m certain that this will lead to more live shows and Festival dates in and potentially out of the country.
Original Cerebus guitarist Chris Pennell sadly passed away in 2010. What are some of your favorite memories of your metal brother Chris?
Yes, in 2010 we lost our longtime friend and guitarist Chris Pennel. His passing left us all in shock and deeply saddened. Much too early. Chris was a kind giving soul, one of endless generosity, not to mention a very talented natural feel guitarist. I will be forever grateful to have known him and called him my friend. We are dedicating this Cerebus reunion to Chris.
How did you originally get into heavy metal music? Who were the bands that changed your life forever and inspired you to pursue a career in metal?
I would say definitely early Kiss music changed my life into wanting to be a musician. Most definitely, then soon followed by the early New Wave Of British Heavy Metal movement bands. I loved ELO, Foreigner, Nugent, Boston growing up which gives you a wide range of hard hitting but melodic music.
Who would you cite as your vocal influences?
I would say my earlier vocal influences certainly are Paul Stanley, Ronnie James Dio, and singers like Derek St Holmes, Brad Delp and Lou Graham. A little later on I’d come to find David Coverdale, Geoff Tate, Phil Mogg as very influential vocalists on my styling. Ray Gillen also one of my all-time favorites R.I.P.
Where do you draw your primary lyrical inspiration from?
The primary lyrical influences in Cerebus will be Phil Mogg, Ian Gillian and Steve Harris’ lyric writing styles. Eric Burgess wrote all the lyrics in Cerebus as well as all the guitar parts. I would say those were definitely his influences lyric writing wise. I did some but more complete song ideas later on in the Cerebus story.
I’d like to thank you for taking the time to talk metal with me today. Do you have any last words for your fans reading at home?
In closing I would like to send sincere thanks out to Jeremy Golden and Heaven and Hell Records without his undying interest and belief in our band and our music none of these new happenings with the band would be possible. And of course, to all of the fans of Cerebus across the Globe you have all of
our members’ deepest heartfelt thanks for liking what we do and the way we do it. It’s more than we could have ever hoped for from a bunch of kids from North Carolina. We are so very grateful for you as listeners and as fans. The Beast is back…. see you on the road somewhere soon my friends!