Bob Nalbandian, Director of Inside Metal
Interviewed by JP
Official Trailer to INSIDE METAL: LA METAL SCENE EXPLODES! (1982-1986)
What first inspired you to develop Inside Metal?
I’d been a fan of heavy metal and hard rock music since I was 8 years old, I started my first Fanzine THE HEADBANGER in 1982 when I was 17 and had been writing for various metal mags over the years and also hosted my own podcasts, radio shows and metal nights and I always wanted to direct a documentary film on metal. My partner Carl Alvarez and I started a video podcast called the Shockwaves Videocast (YouTube.com/bnalbandian) where I interviewed several renown classic metal artists that Carl filmed. Carl and I talked about one day doing a documentary film on the LA Metal scene since we both grew up in LA and were a part of the scene and we saw all the biggest bands from the ‘80s LA Metal scene before they were signed and still playing the local clubs, from Motley, Ratt, Guns n Roses, WASP, Steeler, Black n Blue to Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth, Armored Saint, and Warrior, so it was really something dear to us. And the ironic thing is that I had featured Warrior guitarist and producer Joe Floyd on one of my old Skullsessions podcast on “Producers,” and after that interview Joe called me on the phone and said he was working on putting together a LA Metal documentary with his associate Warren Croyle and asked if I’d be interested in working with him on it. Joe told me that they hadn’t started on it yet and he wanted me to direct the film and he would film it. At the time I was hesitant to do it as I had never directed a film before but Joe said how much he loved the way I directed my audio podcasts and said just do the same but we’ll film the interviews. Joe filmed most the interviews but then he got offers for his band Warrior to get back together for some European festivals so he was really tied up with that, so I brought in Carl to film the remaining interviews and also come in as co-producer, along with Joe. So that’s how it all came about. And we ended up having so much great content that INSIDE METAL ended up turning into a series of films, each 2 volumes. We’re editing the third INSIDE METAL movie “Rise of LA Thrash Metal” now and that should be out this summer.
There have been a couple of other documentaries and books on the same topic. What did you and your team feel that you could add to a story that has already been told?
Well, when I first got involved with this project Warren, Joe and myself had a 3-way phone conversation and I told them at the time that if I’m involved I want to create the most comprehensive documentary on the LA hard rock and metal scene, from the beginnings of hard rock and metal all the way through the pinnacle of the LA Metal scene. And they agreed and said that’s exactly what they want to create with Inside Metal. I personally felt the scene got way over saturated and too “fake” by the end of the ‘80s so I thought it would be good to cut it off at 1986, since most those latter bands (Poison, Warrant, GnR, Slaughter, Faster Pussycat, LA Guns, etc) have already been covered extensively in other rock docs and VH-1 Specials, and I also wanted to include the underground “pioneers” of the LA hard rock scene that many people hadn’t heard about, basically before the LA scene “exploded” and bands were getting signed. So we split the Inside Metal movie up into a series, the first from 1975-1981 called “Pioneers of LA Hard Rock & Metal” which touched a lot on the Van Halen and the Rhoads/Quiet Riot era and covered a lot from the legendary Starwood nightclub which closed in 1981. And the second films basically continues from 1982-1986 and is called “LA Metal Scene Explodes” which covers the era of the first major label signing wave of LA Metal bands (Motley, WASP, Ratt, Warrior, Armored Saint, Black n Blue, Rough Cut, Malice, etc). And then I wanted to also include the LA Thrash scene since I felt that there were so many great LA thrash bands from the ‘80s that got pushed under the rug because the glam scene was so prevalent at the time, so the third movie will be called “Rise of LA Thrash Metal.” I also just finished a 4th movie on the San Francisco Bay Area metal scene which we also plan to release hopefully later in the year.
When did you start the project?
I believe it was 2012 when we first started the interview process.
How did Warren Croyle get involved?
Warren is the Executive producer/creator and the owner of the MetalRock Films. Warren and Joe Floyd both ran Silver Cloud Studios together and Warren has a very successful DVD business which he ran long before the Inside Metal series. He mainly did horror films and conspiracy films and documentaries and does very well with those.
How did you get John Bush to narrate?
John is one of my oldest friends, I met him in Armored Saint in early 1982 and we’ve been good friends ever since. I wasn’t really happy with my narration on the first film “Pioneers…” so I wanted to hire a professional for the second film, as well as someone that was heavily a part of that scene. The forthcoming movie “Rise of LA Thrash Metal” is narrated by David Ellefson from Megadeth. That will also be a 2 volume DVD.
Can you explain some of the biggest technical challenges making the series?
It’s funny because the interviews went really smooth, I’ve had relations with many of the artists in the film so it was really a matter of calling them up and setting up the interviews, most which were done at Joe Floyd’s home studio Silver Cloud and many on his patio. So I thought, “shit, this is easy” but then came the editing process and going through all the footage (over 70 hours) and then sequencing it all together. Carl helped me on this process in a big way! And he did the initial edit and handed that over to our editor. We had all sorts of technical problems with the editing programs, some of the audio, etc but we learned as we went along and learned from our mistakes.
From the business side, was it difficult to get promotion and distribution?
Not at all, as I said Warren has his own DVD company with great distribution which was already lined up, and it was his idea to do the series, so that was in place. As far as promotion, seeing we are independent and didn’t have a major budget the promo was done pretty much in-house, being in the metal music biz I know many of the major magazines, websites, podcasts, etc so I hit them all up and invited them out to the LA screenings which went very well. We also have a girl, Lezli Hough, who is also a huge metal fan, that has been recently helping out in a lot of the promo. So it’s a very independent and underground street-level marketing and promo.
In an era of physical media becoming less and less relevant , how it important was it to secure a on-line / cable / pay-per-vie service deal and how important was it to actually manufacture DVD’s? Is it available on Blu-Ray?
Fortunately Warren had a lot of experience in digital media as many of his conspiracy films are on Netflix, Hulu, iTunes, Amazon etc. And we have MVD distributing the Inside Metal series and they do great with rock music documentaries and know how to market them. So yes, it’s extremely important in this day and age to have digital and cable outlets. We have our films out on iTunes, Amazon Prime, Google Play and many of the Pay-per-view outlets. We also have it now airing on AXIS TV and also Night Flight and many other cable and digital outlets. But Warren is also very old-school and he has a great niche for selling physical DVDs and we have the INSIDE METAL DVDs at most all the indie record and book stores as well as Barnes & Noble etc. Even many of the Guitar Centers are carrying the DVDs. But if you can find the DVD there you can also order it from MetalRockFilms.com via Paypal on of course on Amazon.
Were there any big name stars you could not get in touch with, or some that declined to participate?
The one band that we really wanted to get for the first film “Pioneers…” and the band that was talked about more than any other band was Van Halen. We actually met with Michael Anthony, who was the guy we really wanted as we knew that both Eddie and Alex rarely do interviews (especially video interviews) and David Lee Roth, well….is David Lee Roth! And he likes to go off on a tangent when it comes to interviews. Anyway, Carl and I met with Michael at a nightclub in Orange County and he was really into it and started telling us all these great stories right there in the club so we thought “Awesome, we nailed Michael!” But then he said, you will have to check with my wife about arranging it (apparently his wife also handles all his business). She was very nice and into the idea but I think she just didn’t want Michael talking VH because at the time he was still pretty fresh out of the band and she didn’t want him doing any interviews. So unfortunately that didn’t pan out. The other band was Motley Crue, we hit up their management (since I didn’t really know any of them personally) but we got no response. But I had heard from a friend that Nikki Sixx actually saw the first movie and really liked it and was happy we covered the Starwood era so extensively.
Was licensing music for the film, difficult or expensive? I understand many bands may not own their own music anymore. Was tracking down a certain song that is languishing in a vault somewhere and nobody knows who owns it, challenging?
Yes, it is very expensive to license music from major bands, that I found out! As I said we had a very small budget on these films so we didn’t have a budget for music. But fortunately I have a lot of friends in the bands that we interviewed, as well as many other bands from that era that weren’t in the film, that had released indie records or demos and they graciously allowed me to use their music for free, just for the music credit. Same goes for all the photographers that allowed us to use their photos for free as well as artists and friends that donated archive video footage. I really can’t thank these people enough (way too many to name here) as if it weren’t for them this film wouldn’t have been possible. As I’ve said I’ve been in the “metal” business for 35 years and know so many great friends and musicians over the years so that was definitely a blessing.
Were there any big revelations or surprise that came out of interviews? What was the best interview? Worst interview, if you can name names?
All the interviews were great in their own way. I can’t really pick a best interview. Obviously Lars was great, we we set to do 20 minutes with him at Metallica HQ and ended up with 40 minutes. Don Dokken is a riot, he’s got stories for years. Stephen Pearcy was great as well. I can go on and on. I really liked the lesser known artists as well as some of them, like Brian from A La Carte, Stephen from SNOW, or Scotti from Smile, had so much personality that it really shined through during the interviews. There wasn’t any interviews that were bad, they all had so much to say. Not really many surprises, there was a lot of stuff I learned from their stories. In fact I’ve had so many people, that are major journalists etc, telling me that they had no idea “so and so was in that band and they turned into this band” etc. People keep telling me they learned more about the LA metal scene from the Inside Metal movies that all the combined documentaries and books they’ve seen and read. And that is such a compliment. As far as surprises, there were many insane stories the artists told me off-camera, and due to respect, I will not share any of those stories but all I can say is all the craziness and decadence you heard about from the latter ‘80s hair metal bands doesn’t even come close to the insanity that went on at the Starwood club in the mid/late ‘70s till it closed in 1981. Fuckin’ insanity!
I understand Part 5, looking at Thrash Metal is coming in the summer of 2107. Can you tell us a bit about that?
Actually, as I stated previously, the LA thrash metal title will be the third movie and will be titled “Rise of LA Thrash Metal” and should hopefully be out this summer. I know it’s confusing since each movie title is 2-volumes with a Part 1 and Part 2, so in that sense “Rise of LA Thrash Metal” would in fact be part 5 and part 6. That movie will concentrate on the LA Thrash Metal scene of the entire decade of the ‘80s. I included trailers to all the films below so that will give you a better understanding of that title.
Looking back, if there was one band that could have, should have, would have made it (ie. sign a major label deal) but did not, who would it have been?
As John Bush jokes about in LA Metal Scene Explodes, he said “It seems like every band got a major label deal at the time.” And there were so many great bands coming out back then. Definitely many of the bands we covered in the first title should have gotten major label deals and should have “made it big” but in the late ‘70s after Van Halen got signed, new wave and punk hit the scene big time so labels were not signing metal bands until the second wave when the second version of Quiet Riot and Motley, Ratt, WASP etc all started getting major label deals. So I can’t really say, although I will say one band that should have got a major label deal was EDEN, and the reason I say that is because I managed them and I would have benefited financially if we had got a major deal at the time but instead we signed an indie deal with Enigma Restless and all the money we got out of that went into recording the record! Haha!
Do you follow the big world-wide global melodic Hard Rock / Heavy Metal scene these days, the new bands and the old veterans who are still going?
I do to an extent but there’s so much hard rock and metal bands coming out these days through digital media that there’s absolutely no way to keep up! I still do the Shockwaves Podcast on HardRadio.com from time to time and I literally get over 30 digital download emails from labels of new metal releases! I’m lucky if I can listen to 3 or 4 of them! There’s just way too much stuff being released that it’s become overly saturated, But I do try to go to metal shows as often as possible.
For more information go to any of the following!
MetalRock Films Website: metalrockfilms.com