STEVE REYNOLDS, DEREK SYKES, JAMES REILLY AND ANGEL COTTE
OF DEMOLITION HAMMER
Demolition Hammer, hailing from New York, released two demos of extreme furious thrash metal and got a lot of attention in the underground in the late 80’s. The four piece continued their brutal thrash delivery on the two albums released by Century Media. The band then went through some changes and finally released a third album (not listed as a real DH album) and called it quits. While resting on laurels, and gathering the dust for about 25 years, the band’s cult status just kept growing. Within these years the return of Demolition Hammer has been waited anxiously. Metal-Rules.com sat down with the whole band and talked about the past, the present, and the future.
Interview and pics by Arto Lehtinen
THRASHING RAGE AT THE STAGE
Derek : Yeah, we fucked that up a lot. Looking at each other like, “Do I go left? Do I go right?”
James : It’s not planned. It’s just happens.
Steve : Yeah.
James : We get up there and we try to have fun with our music, and we don’t work on moving on.
Steve No. Not at all. Yeah.
James : Moving sides. It just happens. It’s power of the moment.
Derek : Back in the day we used to have something as where we would plan head banging. But I got no hair, so head banging is out of the fucking question. So now it’s just like look. We do what we do. I look at him and he looks at me like, let’s switch sides. Or I jump up and hopefully I don’t land on his foot. That’s kind of how it works.
Even though you haven’t played almost 20 years, but you still have some kind of connection. When you’re getting on stage, you know when you have to move, like looking at each other’s eyes.
Derek : It is coming back a little bit like what we used to do. But listen, I don’t care. If we screw it up, we screw it up.
Steve : We don’t work on that at all, liked I said. James and Derek, I’m kind of glued to the mic and I have things. Sometimes I’m just fucking gasping for air. But these guys and back in the day, they used to go all over and I think a lot of that muscle memory is coming back. But nothing even then was very rehearsed. They just go – okay -take a look at each other, like switch and it just all happens.
James : Stay there. Yeah.
Derek : Yeah. I don’t like that. In the early days of thrash metal. People consider us thrash metal. But you know, we kind of really have a lot of different types of influence either way. But in the early days of thrash metal, we used to watch Exodus play. We saw Exodus play in the 80’s, it was excitement. Those were guys were everywhere. They were so energetic. Even if you hated the music, you’d watched those playing and go, “Holy crap!” We like that. We’re very energetic people. We don’t like to sit one spot. Especially now that we’re older. We’re like, we don’t want to look like a bunch of old dudes. So we try to move a little bit more as much as we can. But you know, I love going to the other side of the stage. Jim is the greatest with getting right in people’s face and he loves and they love him and it’s awesome. So he’ll be like I’m sinking into these people faces. I’m going to go into those people’s faces, and he comes to my side and he gets right in their face. People dig it. So I’m just happy. Just in general, that we’re able to do it. So there is no kind of rehearsing or anything. We just kind of go with what we feel that day.
James : It just happens. We like playing in smaller places, where people are right… there is no space, with security. We like to stay exciting. We like the crowd surfing. We like the moshpit I want to get right in the… We like to get right in their faces and it’s like an intimate kind of thing. But like Derek said, it’s nothing rehearsed. It just happens.
THE REBIRTH OF DEMOLITION HAMMER
When watching your show here at Brutal Assault and at the Deathfest, I noticed that there is a whole new legion of the younger generation.
James : Yeah. Young generation and the older generation.
Derek : I’m going to say no. Because this was our plan the whole time, obviously.
James : We’re amazed that people react when they do mosh.
Steve : Absolutely amazing.
James : We can’t believe it ourselves.
Derek : It’s great that we’re able to do. iI was great that we were able to do at 25 years ago and we’re able to do it now. All the new fans that like us. They come up. They go, great. I have been waiting for so long for this and we’re thinking, but you’re about 23 years old. You weren’t even born when this stuff happened.
Steve : That’s what’s amazing about it too. Like Derek is saying, there is so many people that come up to us and they weren’t born when our stuff came out. I think there is lots of new bands out there. But for some reason, when you come to these festivals. It’s all like metal, a lot of metal bands. A lot of older bands. I think the younger people as well as the older people appreciate what was done before. Now, maybe some of the bands that have recently, it just doesn’t good for them. So we’re proud to be a part of that. Even though we were only playing to a few people back then. That all these younger people and the older people are back here with these reunions. It’s been overwhelming, what the response has been from all generations.
James : Really, absolutely.
When you started the reunion, you were a little bit skeptical in the first place. Are you kind of convinced now about the reaction that you have got?
Steve : Absolutely. We were lucky enough 25 years ago to get a shot at doing what we loved to do and to get a second chance to do it again 25 years later at our age. We’ve always wanted to give back to the fans, because if it wasn’t for them we wouldn’t be here. We feel blessed and we have the second chance to do this and we’re going give it everything we’ve got, every time we go out there.
Steve : Absolutely. Like I said, Angel was good enough for this reunion. We had asked him if he wants to do this. The fans had been waiting for 25 years. We don’t want to come out and play the songs differently. He was willing to do that for us. But he can do so much more and when we actually start writing some new stuff, he’s going to contribute. He’s a very talented drummer. We were lucky to have him. So he’s going to contribute it, just as much as Vinny did to our new material. He’s our fourth member of the band.
Derek: I can’t stress enough. Drummers have big giant egos for the most part. But when Angel came in and we were like; “Angel look, we want you to play like Vinny”. He was like, okay. When we go all like, wow. That in itself, you don’t get a big head cut to this. That in itself speaks volumes about the guy. Not only he was like, I don’t want to disrespect what Vinny did at all. He has respect for that. He’s kind of suppressed his amazing talent, to kind of do what Vinny did that’s great. We love that about him and it was super awesome. Now that we’re writing new stuff, we can see where that goes.
James : It’s more like seeing what he can bring to our material.
What do you bring?
Angel : Maybe the new Demolition Hammer album, will be like a Nile record maybe.
Derek : I’ll tell you what it brings. he brings a lot of ice coffee and Redbull.
NEW MATERIAL ON THE WORKS
You’re writing new material.
Derek : Yes.
Steve : We’re going to try. Because people have to realize that 25 years ago, all we did was the band. Now everybody has families and jobs and careers and businesses. We just don’t have enough time. So for the last year and a half, we spent a whole lot time getting back in shape to do the reunion. I think it’s working out great. But we want to write some new material, but it’s going to take a little bit of time. Because like I said, our lives are busy. We don’t have 24/7 like we did back in the 90’s.
When getting older, do you think a musician has the same kind of spirit and aggression inside to write?
Steve : If it’s any indication what we have been doing on the stage. People seem to think we have the same passion that we did back then. So I’m hoping that’s going to translate into new material as well.
Derek : I could tell you very easily. We live in the Bronx, we rehearse in Queens. We have to drive down the Bruckner Expressway, over the goddamn RFK bridge. Which is always under construction. There is a shit load of traffic. By the time we get to Queens, we’re pretty fucking pissed off. So let me tell you, it’s going to be fucking aggressive.
James : We are what we are and we wrote the way we wrote back then and I don’t think that’s going to change. We’re not going to try to be something else, because of the different time. We’re going to be us. It’s going to come from here and if you like, you like it. And if you don’t…
Do you have some leftover from the heyday of the ’90s, or are you starting completely from the new table?
Derek : We’re going to start new. If we have older stuff, it’s on tape somewhere and I don’t have a tape player. I don’t know about you guys.
James : And so do I. We’re going to start all over again.
THE THIRD ALBUM MYSTERY
I read somewhere that there is a Demolition Hammer demo tape ’93, that’s never ever recorded any song on the official albums.
Derek : Yeah. What we did, that was for the Time Bomb session. So basically Time Bomb came out. James had left the band, because he started a family and life in New York is really fucking expensive. So it’s like we weren’t making any money and he’s got a family, he’s got to work and he couldn’t tour anymore. Vinny left the band. Because it’s too expensive we couldn’t really tour that much. So it was just Steve and I left. So we were like, all right. Let’s try to keep going with Demolition Hammer and we started writing some songs, and we went through old tapes. We found a couple of songs that we figured, okay. That we took some old material. But then we got with Alex Marquez and we started writing the other stuff. It was such a drastic change. Demolition Hammer has always been sort of a product of all the four guys in it. If you take half of that away and it’s going to be a different band and we knew that. As we started writing Time Bomb, we realized it’s a different fucking band. It’s not the same. We made a pre-production demo and that’s what you’re talking about. There was a couple of sort of Demolition Hammer songs and then there was this new band that we created. Century Media was like : “listen, we’re not putting out, unless it’s Demolition Hammer”. We were like, we like the songs. Let’s roll the dice and see what happens. But yeah, there is this…
Steve : The thing is to expound on what Derek was saying is you work so hard on something. We had told the record label, hey man. This is not Demolition Hammer. They’re like, that’s fine. We’re good with you guys and we’re thinking of other names, we’re going to put it out on another name. But when all was said and done, they said, “You know what? We want it to be a Demolition Hammer record. It’s not a Demolition Hammer record. It wasn’t written as a Demolition Hammer record. It’s not Demolition Hammer. Demolition Hammer was the four of us: Vinny, James, Derek and I. This is not… they said well, if you don’t want to put it out. If you don’t want to call it Demolition Hammer, we’re not going to put it out. When you work so hard on something, you want it to be released. You want it to get out there. You want people to hear it and that’s how it basically came about.
Have you talked about doing songs from TIMEBOMB for the live set?
Steve : It’s not Demolition Hammer. Even though the record is called Demolition Hammer. It’s not Demolition Hammer.
Derek : I got to say this and this is to Jim’s testament. When we first started he asked; “Hey, are we going to do TIMEBOMB songs?” I think Jim, that was great. Because he was like, he would do it. But you know what? TIMEBOMB like I said it was me Steve and Alex. It wasn’t me Steve, Jim and Vinny. So it had Demolition Hammer’s name on it, but it wasn’t the same band. So we shy away from that. We basically said ; “Look, Demolition Hammer were those four guys”. We got Angel which is fucking awesome. So this is Demolition Hammer. It’s not Steve and I. It’s these guys on this table right now.
SIGNED BY CENTURY MEDIA
I used to do a lot of tape trading in the 80’s and early 90’s. Then I came across the name of Demolition Hammer and the NECROLOGY demo in a Finnish magazine called Axe magazine. There was a guy who had ordered your demo and praised that demo in his review in that magazine. So I immediately started looking for the demo. When getting a hold of the demo, I was thinking that; “Holy crap – This band is going to be signed by Roadrunner immediately”.
Derek : We got an offer from Roadrunner.
But you got the deal with Century Media. That surprised me in a positive way.
Derek : You got to understand the times are very different now than they were back then. Back then the record company ruled the rules. Basically they set the terms, they did whatever. Now it’s not so much. Roadrunner offered us a deal, but they also just signed Sepultura, Obituary, Exhorder…
Derek : So many bands.
Steve : The bands that we really liked, that we saw that there was all these of bands. There was only enough money for certain ones. So we didn’t want to be locked in and just left behind. That’s the reason Century Media, they promised us some things that Roadrunner could not promise us at that time. So we decided to take a chance and I think it worked out well.
Derek : Yeah. Even the guy that offered us the deal, we’re still friendly with him. So we see him…
Steve : Matthew is a great guy.
Derek : A great guy.
Steve : There was no hard feelings or anything. It’s just that we understood what was going on, but we took a leap of faith. As a matter of fact, ourselves Demolition Hammer and Iced Earth were the first American bands that Century Media signed. So we were kind of proud, that they were willing to take that chance on us and it kind of worked out for us. We got the tour and we got tour support. I think other bands and our level would not get that. So it was a good idea I think.
Derek : It was very close-knit. When we went to Tampa to record our first album, Iced Earth picked us up at the airport.
How many copies have you sold of the NECROLOGY demo?
Steve : I’m not really sure man. I would say probably in the area of about 500.
It was spread in the underground.
Derek : I think people would copy it.
Steve : Yeah. But as far as the original copies, probably in the area of about four, 500.
Speaking about the next album a little bit more. It’s going to be Century Media or something else?
Derek : I don’t know. Oddly enough man and surprisingly enough. We’ve gotten offers from every major record label in this genre. All of them. They’re all like; “Listen – we’ll put something out”. So first of all, that’s amazing. I never thought that would happen. So we have to see where we’re in our relationship with Century Media and where that’s at. Listen, we’re going to do; what’s best for the music and for the band. So that’s what we’re going to do.
Derek : Yeah. But that was the deal back in the day. I’m not sure. I don’t think we do. I have to dust out the old contract, which is buried somewhere. But listen, we’ll straighten those things out and we’ll do what’s best for us. Like we’ve always done. We’re old guys now. We’re not like young kids, just looking to get on a record deal. I’ve negotiated contracts, Steve has been in the business. We’re not young kids. So we know what to do and we know what’s best for us in whatever we’re going to do.
You have the experience for the music business, because you have worked for Anthrax.
Derek : I do know some stuff.
When James left the band, they formed the band called Deviate New York.
Derek : Yes.
What kind of stuff was it?
Derek : Basically once James left and Vinny left. They live a couple of miles from each other and they remain friendly. So they would just sit in their basement and they wrote some really good music. That’s pretty much was what it was. I heard it when it came out. I was like, wow. This is really good. We wish them the best of luck and they listened to Time Bomb and said, hey. That’s good. That’s not Demolition Hammer, but it’s good. We said, it’s not Demolition Hammer. But it’s good. So I think that that demo came up pretty good and it’s the last thing Vinny recorded. That’s why it holds a special place in heart, because it’s the last thing he did. But we’re working with them.
What kind of metal do you listen nowadays?
Derek : I stopped listening to music after 2004. When you get to be our age you draw the line and say, I’ll listen to this. I ain’t listening to this. Because Steve, he’s got his year to the grind. He knows everything.
Angel : For myself, I’m 34. So I’m still there man. But yeah, I listen to fucking Nile and all the fucking brutal shit that’s going on. Pulling thrash bands like Warbrinder and Havok and all that. I try to stay atop of what’s going on. I love music and always learn something new. I try to be the same as I was, when I was 15 and I started listening to this shit.
Were you part of the New York thrash metal and scene or hardcore scene?
Derek : New York is very interesting place. You think there is a scene. There is no scene in New York. Back then there was. It was just like when you open your fridge and you got every type of food there is. That’s what it was. There was hardcore. There was a few thrash metal bands, with death metal bands.
Derek : Yeah. Whatever the hell they were. I used to see Ross the Boss. He used to work for construction for the State. I would see him on the Hutchinson River Parkway, fucking working in jacket. He had his shirt on, I just want to let you know. So the New York scene back then was a bit weird. We didn’t try to fit in anywhere. Was just Rock music that we liked? Some people liked us, some people didn’t. Some people were like, you’re not skin heads. You’re fucking death metal band. You’re not Anthrax. Who the hell are you? So some people thought that was weird. Some people fucking… we don’t give a shit. We play. We go, we play a show. We write music. You like it, you like it. If you don’t, you don’t. What are we going to do?
What’s the next for the Demolition Hammer, because the festival run is basically over ?
Derek : We’re coming back.We’re doing fall of summer. Then we’re playing the California Deathfest in October. We’re playing a show in Mexico city. We’re playing a show in Puerto Rico.Then after this in the winter time we’re going to sit together and write an album, and let’s see what we can do.
All right. Thanks for your time.
Derek : Thank you.
The Official Demolition Hammer sites :