Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Band Interview: REIGN OF TERROR

Interview with Reggae of REIGN OF TERROR

How long has Reign Of Terror been an active band? Are you the main founding member? If so, what was your inspiration and purpose in starting the band?
Basically the band has been active and gigging since 1994 (with the exception of this last year and a half) but we are back in action and ready to rock really soon! I came up with the general concept and name of the band and formed the band with my high school friends when I was a kid. Of course time passes, people become no longer interested or unable to commit or various life issues and substance problems can get in the way so as a result I’m the only member left from the original line up. I've always liked heavier stuff since I was a little kid, and after years and years of listening to it I started playing a bit of guitar at age fourteen and soon after attended my first real show, featuring Morbid Angel and an Aussie band, Armoured Angel. Two bands that night that shaped my whole musical outlook. Armoured Angel were a local band from our town and I recognized them from the local record store, it proved that a good metal band can come from anywhere and it was inspiring to see a local band play such a powerful show. Morbid Angel were another level complete of awesomeness... the complete package, they looked like rock stars and played like demons back then (blessed are the sick tour) and the power they held over the crowd was unbelievable, I wanted that for myself so basically from then on started to practice like nobody’s business to get my skills up to a point where I could be in a band.
Basically the biggest influences on me musically were the bands at the time, Metallica, Slayer, Morbid Angel, Deicide, Carcass, Priest, Sabbath, Crue, Skid Row, which I wanted to emulate as best as I could. Lyrically the stuff tends to focus on fantasy, gore and occult topics. I tend not to worry about what is going on in the real world. I want my music and lyrics to be an escape rather than a reflection of the real world. Venom were a huge influence on me lyrically as well as musically.

What about the Morbid Angel/Armoured Angel show made you want to seek out more heavy music?
It wasn't so much seeking out more heavy music as I was already well into the underground at the time but more the desire to play and get on stage. They were so fuckin' powerful that it blew me into another dimension of just wanting that power and metal.

What aspects of Venom would you say were the most significant influences on Reign Of Terror?
I guess as the first of the extreme bands I had heard, their power and fear they inspired. I'd never heard lyrics or seen imagery that over the top and powerful. And the music: as far as extreme metal goes they wrote songs that were easy to grasp for the newly initiated, that still shredded but were catchy. It was really the complete package. As I got older I could appreciate the riffs and the independent bass lines that made Venom really solid as only a three piece. Cronos' bass and Mantas’ guitar were big influences on me as they both can fill a sonic range while staying heavy. Most of my fave guitar players were like that; Tony Iommi, Mick Mars etc.

What spoke to you about Tony Iommi and Mick Mars’ respective playing styles? How do you think they were unique in their field?
First I'll address Iommi's playing. He invented heavy metal guitar; there is no doubt about that. It's all well and good to be a good guitar player but it’s another thing to be a visionary and not many people can say they invented a whole style of playing, even if it was through "accidental necessity". As you may or may not know Iommi lost the tips of his fingers in an industrial printing incident at his work and had to play with plastic/leather finger tips attached to his fingers to keep playing. That is true strength and commitment. The style of chords he uses and the tuned down strings are a combination of not being able to feel the strings when he plays and not having too much resistance on his string (presumably so his fingertips don't fly off I’d guess) Iommi kept a heavy as hell feel to music while exploring the neck of the guitar and played with variation, skill and feeling and all the time managed to maintain a solid wall of sound that never fell apart by himself. That is skill. Much the same for Mick Mars I guess. He has a varied style of playing and never loses feeling of the song or lets the song fall apart despite being the only guitar player. Being a big fan of the Crue I've read their biographies and Mars rose above adversity to even keep playing in the Crue with that degenerative spinal disease of his. Despite being in crippling pain all the time the guy doesn't let it stop him making music; that's true toughness! I guess both guys have great styles which they carried off by themselves on guitar and they've overcome adversity to even be on stage, let alone shape the history of music!

What made you want to start a band to begin with? How did you seek out people to work with in the beginning?
I just jammed and pissed around with friends from school. We were all just starting so we learned together and just had fun with it while trying to push it live and write our own songs.

Australia has always had healthy metal communities, though they don’t seem to get as much attention as the scenes in other countries. Why do you think this is, and how would you change it for the better?
You know, I don't know the answer to that one.... you can push your CD or merch through the underground but there's only so far you can get with that. Touring is where it’s at, but in Australia the population is not as big as America, the cities are so far apart that even gigging in the next town requires overnight stays, hotels and such. Touring overseas is even harder and that requires a huge financial commitment from the band members and I've seen it break up and destroy a lot of bands. I mean you can play your ass off but if crowd numbers don't support what you are doing you come back with massive debts and that's just the reality of it. Without mentioning names, the bands that do tour overseas have either developed side businesses which allow them the money to tour and the time or many others just take a huge punt and end up in crippling debt. A lot of the bands I think are funding their activities out of their day jobs (which is fine if you don't have family to support, or you don't ever expect to buy a house) or others are just using a tour as a once in a lifetime holiday to play music without the expectation of recouping costs. I'm sure a few of the bigger bands do recoup costs but also I'm sure they've had to sacrifice a lot to get to that point.
Generally speaking I think the bands from here are purer though, and well regarded in the scene because there is virtually no money in it and no reason to sell out or to be in it for anything other than the music. The people involved in Aussie metal are great. They are down to Earth and happy to help you out where they can... and I've made some lifelong friends out of this scene! I can't say enough good things about the people in it. Sure you get the odd retard or asshole but that's in every scene I guess but yeah I'm happy with it!

Aside from touring, do zines, webzines and social media sites help Australian bands get their work out there?
Webzines are important. If people actually read the zine (but why would they read it if they are not interested in heavy metal) I think it does expose bands into the metal underground and those guys (and you too) do a great job!
Social media can be a different beast. Some great bands I follow post and nobody sees it, and other shit heads or bimbo's post dumb shit and it gets 200 likes or whatever. Using social media is tricky and bands have to keep their posts and promotions interesting or nobody will care. But at the end of the day its people using the internet for free, unless they are prepared to part with actual cash for your product/gigs or downloads it doesn't really matter does it? I spend a lot of time online as I design websites for a bit of extra cash... but I have to limit my social media time as it really does my head in.
One particular person on my list who was in a famous American death metal band, gets drunk all the time and talks shit about his ex-bandmates. If you can't keep your shit under control online, it can destroy you in many ways... especially if the matter has gone to court... it’s a double edged sword you have to know how to use and manipulate social media.
I've had few people I look up to (and bought their records as a kid) expose themselves as slightly retarded or pathetic on social media too.... kinda ruins the image of themselves and the band. Keep your dirty laundry off the internet haha. I know it’s hard but in this day and age it’s important.

I do notice a lot of drama on social media, particularly on Facebook where I promote most often. It’s easy enough to avoid it and correspond instead with people who are serious about promoting. Are you in touch with serious promoters?
I'm in touch with a few promoters of varying degrees of seriousness. It's a great way to keep “in the loop” in that regard, but social media is a tricky beast.... some people use it as a primary means of communication and others don't use it much at all, but the 'drama' you speak of on Facebook is a big one; some guy might be posting serial posts of whatever crap and it takes over the feed and you end up missing the important stuff or other people take on dramas they see online and get involved and distracted from they were meant to be doing. I know I try to limit my own time on Facebook because it brings me down reading other people’s negative shit all the time.

How many independent zines are circulating Australia at present? There was one whose editor I interviewed called The Fallout (the editor is now doing a comic series called Dampman). Are there currently more print zines or web zines?
There are a couple of nationally circulating mags but that’s really all I hear about. I do read zines on the net and try to take in whatever comes my way when I got time, but I have to admit I don't see any print zines around here the way they used to be.

How long have you seen fewer print zines since more people started doing zines online? How often do you get a chance to do zines online, and are there any that have gotten your attention recently?
Last fifteen years I’ve not seen much printed zines in this country (about the same time the internet took over I guess), and it pretty much coincides with the rise of the online zine. I guess it gets information out there a lot faster and doesn't cost anyone money to print them up! I used to be more in touch in the Myspace days (I had 25k friends on that so we were doing interviews and press all the time) but since Facebook it has been a bit harder as everyone keeps getting taken down (myself included) but it’s definitely building up a good contact base again.

How many nightclubs do you know of in Australia that have been long time supporters of the scene? Do these clubs usually get big turnouts or does it depend on the band?
The club near here (The Basement) has supported live music of all types for a long time; ten years now; but generally around the country there seems to be a few venues that consistently put on bands. Where the idea of putting on only metal or only punk is not viable you might have one heavy gig a week or fortnight in most of the cities here, then on other nights the clubs will put on something else (say rock or blues or grunge or something). Most of the clubs seem to have regular gig goers at most events but obviously it gets bigger with the more well-known bands....

How many well-known bands have played in Australia of late? How much of a turnout do those shows usually receive?
These days we seem to get most of the touring bands that people want to see. Obviously it cost more as they have to fly out, but I'm happy with the situation. There's as many bands as anyone could realistically afford to see. The turnouts can be better than American gigs for touring bands cos we don't get as many gigs so people make sure they pile out when they do come!

Does Australia have many major metal festivals like they do in the States and European countries?
Not in the same league as your country (Soundwave was our biggest one and it got canned due to a shonky promotor), but there's smaller level fests that appeal to the local gig goers and they seem to do well. You might get 300 or more punters to watch say eight to ten bands on a couple of stages. Not big league stuff but definitely cool and much more affordable. I’m not a big fan of the huge fests (though I'd love to play them) cos I miss half the bands while chatting and drinking with people anyway. At local level gigs I can combine all three aspects rather nicely!

How often did Soundwave take place each year until it was discontinued? Which of the smaller fests for local bands have you been attending?
Soundwave was once a year in Sydney. Great gig but unsustainable. I've organized gigs and it looked suss to me from the start. It turned out the guy running it was paying bands (those that did get paid) with money he didn't have and it just imploded. I'm not too concerned cos that gig would suck up everyone’s money for a month either side of the show and virtually kill the local scene for that period. Locally I attend anything I can when I have money and I’m not being a parent.

How do you account for the hiatus the band has taken for the last year and a half? What led to you becoming active again?
I'm just going say “life pressures” but it was a few things put together. We lost our drummer at the start and I have this fuckin' job that takes up ten hours of my day, so it’s been really hard to find new members and set up a jamming schedule. But we have a full line up and have been jamming where we can. Usually I don't work as many hours so when lineup changes happen we can get onto it a bit faster. But yeah this time round real world pressures got in the way. I don't think of it as us being inactive, as the band never stopped, I always play, and always push the band; we just didn't have a lineup to back that up.

How many lineup changes has the band had since the beginning and what is Reign Of Terror’s current lineup?
The current lineup is me (Reggae) on guitar and vocals, Mike (guitar) Kris (bass) and Danny (drums). I started the band when I was fifteen/sixteen or something and just made the band with local friends from school, so that really was never going to last forever you know? But since 1994 I’m pretty sure we've had twenty drummers, and a total of at least 35 people come and go from the band. When I say this I have to also point out that there's not a lot (or any) bad blood or ill feeling between me and former members. In fact we still play gigs with the guys that are still in the scene and playing. In this country there's virtually no money in the scene so it just runs on the smell of an oily rag for the local level shows. So unfortunately people move or have to get jobs/families that make it hard to play or in some cases get too heavily into drugs to be a functioning part of the band. No issues; everyone has their journey to go on, and if it doesn't involve Reign Of Terror that's cool too.

You never know what could happen. Metallica was probably viewed as a bunch of rebellious kids, but they followed their own dreams and decided for themselves, and now people say they are the Led Zeppelin of their generation. AC/DC. Kiss, Marilyn Manson… just a few bands who succeeded on their own terms. Is this still possible for underground bands under the proper circumstances?
Yeah there's always that hope isn't there? But let’s face it in the past and right up until about ten years ago record companies could inject money into bands they saw potential in to help them... and let’s face it the record industry is on its ass... Also bands like Metallica or Kiss were doing something new for a hungry market. Anyone playing metal realistically is entering into an already crowded marketplace. Doesn't make it impossible but it does make it a lot harder for those mega bands to happen again. NOW is the first time in ages with the retirement of many old school bands that a new band could step up and become huge. It’s never impossible but it’s been rather hard! Also it comes down to originality; someone has to create something new and fresh. Why would I buy a record by a Metallica clone when I can just go out and buy a Metallica record?

Originality has always been important. One reason thrash fell by the wayside in the late 80s was because so many bands were copying Metallica or Slayer. What do you think it would take an original underground band to break the market today?
Originality is important but essentially if you are going to choose a path of playing thrash (or any other well established musical genre) you have to be really fucking good at it! Warbringer and Municipal Waste are great bands but they’re not doing anything really original... but they shred and we love it! There will always be room for great bands that thrash even if they are not that original. Let’s say I have 300 death metal albums at home which I don't get enough time to listen to as it is, why would I buy your second rate clone of death metal? Either do something fun, original or be better than the guys that came before you… If someone was to genuinely recreate the moods that "Reign in Blood" or "Altars of Madness" or "Speak English or Die" created I would be happy to support them! “Necro” black metal is a classic for this! So many shit bands emulating shit bands that came before them. Once you own an early Mayhem record or two how much shit black metal can a person take?

Have you heard any black and death metal bands doing something more original these days? What can you say of those and other subgenres in terms of originality?
Black and death metal have the same problems, I think. They are genres with select followings and both have pushed extremity as far as it can go, added orchestration and crossed into other genres.

So do you think black and death metal have reached their limits, or is there more ground to cover if musicians look for it?
I've thought that for a while, but every now and then a new band (like Necrophagist, Decapitated or whatever) will come along and push it further in terms of musical technicality, but I for one think death and black metal was at its most extreme with bands like Deicide, Brutal Truth, Dissection, Mayhem... and even Aussie bands like Sadistik Exekution, Abremalin and Damaged in terms of sheer hatefulness, attitude and heaviness and lack of fucks given.

How much material has the band released since the beginning? Are your releases still available for purchase or trade?
We put out a couple of demo tapes in the 90's. They did alright for what they were. One CD in 1998 (Under Blackened Skies) got the name around nicely and sold solidly for a band of our stature. We put out another CD (Book Of The Dead) in 2005 which also sold kinda alright but it was getting pirated everywhere. I guess you could say it sold but we didn't see the rewards of that.
We have another full length done from 2008 (Tormentor Of Lost Souls) but it never got released, but once the band is fully kicking I plan to release it in one form or another. We are recording a short mini EP or something at the moment. Book Of The Dead is available on Itunes, Emusic and some other online outlets. If someone really wants a physical copy they can order one off me I guess. I did have “Under Blackened Skies” available as a download from our site but it went down so I'll have to set that up again. The new ones we'll put it out on Itunes and physical release CD as well. I still think there's a place for physical CDs (hopefully I'm right hahah).

Were your demos and CDs distributed independently or did you seek out any labels or distros to help promote them?
A bit of both really. I pressed them up here in Australia and sold them at shows and stuff. The demos got around a little overseas (but not much really) but I learned that if I trade or wholesale to labels overseas it’s a good way to get metal coming in here, and get my product out there. So what I’d do is trade say ten Terror discs to a label in America and they'd send me ten of their discs back. So we'd each sell each other’s wares and all make some moolah! Can't get better than that can you? I liked it, because it fired me up to promote metal and I'm not chasing shonks for money.

Did you see any reviews of your demos in zines based in other countries? Were the reviews generally favorable?
It got around into a few mags in other countries both print and online. The reviews have all been good, except one Australian mag gave us a really harsh review for our demo tape. But that's alright, people have their opinions and they're entitled to them… but yes, generally they've all been really positive!

Since New Zealand is close to Australia, do you know of an underground metal scene there? Do you happen to correspond with bands or listeners from that country?
To be honest I have no idea what goes on over there. I was actually just thinking about it the other day. I might have to go over there, scope it out and check out the venues and beers for my band hahah.

How did you get wind of Book Of The Dead being pirated? Do you care to expose whoever it was who profited off your work? Even if you didn’t make anything from it, did it help the band become more well-known?
Initially my brother found it on the net and he thought we were famous cos we'd sold 800 copies or something in a week. Turned out it was an online pirate hahah! Not really much I could do as I investigated it and it came from the Ukraine or some other shitty eastern bloc country. No point pursuing that really. I did contact Paypal and inform them that criminals were using their payment systems and Paypal shut down for them so hopefully it hurt them to some degree. The site did go down sometime after that. They had 20,000 bands on there mostly rock/hard rock/metal and every release from every important band… ACDC through to ZZ Top. When I looked up Judas Priest they had every album, EP, single and bootleg. This was a huge operation and was obviously run by a team of people; it was fuckin' massive! Great to know my album was only worth 20c! Dunno if it did anything for us, as losers that use that service wouldn't show any appreciation by buying anything off us anyway!

How much pirating do you see from country to country? Are you friends with other bands who were similarly exploited?
I think with the internet now any band that achieves even the moderate level of success we've achieved is able to be pirated. I think it’s now a global problem anyway. For whatever reason people don't want to pay for music any more in a pre-recorded format like they used to and all it takes is someone putting your music on Youtube and then there's no reason for anyone to buy it; they can download it off there. But the incident I mentioned earlier did get a couple of Australian bands I know and was friends with at the time. Internet piracy or file sharing someone’s music without consent is much different to the days of tape trading as well. At least in the tape trading days you'd have to KNOW someone (say at your school) to copy tapes off, so the bands would sell at least a copy to each school, in each city around the country. Now with the internet it only takes one to share it and potentially destroy a band’s sales within days of its release.

Would you say trading helps bands more than downloading or file sharing does today, or does it depend on the situation?
Definitely depends on the situation. The net if manipulated properly can be a great platform to launch a band but it definitely kills album sales for bigger bands or anyone who has ambitions of making an income/full time pursuit of their art. When I started out, bands did make money off discs and it helped funding tours and merch, but now you have to make sure your tours are financially viable cos there ain’t nothing coming in from record sales. Maybe we have to think of the recorded product (download or physical) as a business card for the live performances. Maybe this also sorts out the real live musicians/bands from the bedroom/studio musicians.

What accounts for the extended period of time between the releases of Under Blackened Skies and Book Of The Dead? Was the band on a hiatus during those years?
Mostly I’ll put it down to lineup hassles. We'd write a bunch of songs and someone would leave and then we'd get new folk in and it happened a few times, so just getting a bunch of people to write/create songs together for long enough to get tight enough to record an album. But I've always got a heap of songs that never got recorded or played live so if we ever get a multi-album deal I'll still not run out of songs!

How many unrecorded and unreleased songs has the band accumulated through all those lineup changes? Are the new members of the band learning the older songs?
Yeah we have heaps. One day if someone ever gives me a multi-album deal I'll be able to record them all again and release! I've probably got at least two albums worth of unreleased material, but probably another two albums of songs I've written, so we won't be running short of material any time soon! What usually happens if we have a lineup change we'll make the new guy(s) learn a few songs whatever they want to learn from the old material. There are a couple of classics we just have to play and then we'll do new stuff. It keeps it moving forward and keeps it interesting for me and Kris who have spent 13 and 22 years each in the band.

How many songs were included on Tormentor Of Lost Souls? In what ways do they expand upon the band’s style?
We recorded seven new originals, six older songs and our version of "In League With Satan" by Venom. We are undecided if we'll rerelease the six older songs (as they've already been released). I dunno if it really does expand that much on the style of playing. There's a few cool things in there that we didn't try before but in my opinion we've always had a varied style as far as 'death metal' goes. But we're definitely getting better at it, which is what counts in my opinion and that’s really all I’m after anyway.

Describe the new songs on Tormentor Of Lost Souls and the subject matter written for them? Why did you choose to cover In League With Satan for the new release?
Most of the subject matter focuses in on the one thing we can't escape and that's Death: be it Armageddon, the return of the great lord Cthulhu, Egyptian curses, Flesh Eating Parasites, The Antichrist and so forth.... In short we tried to keep this one on the more positive/uplifting side of life hahah! Why Venom? Why not? They invented extreme metal in my opinion and influenced me no end... it was one of the greatest moment in my life when Jeff Mantas heard it and said 'Maximum Respect!" as he always does hahah! But in all seriousness the sound/ideology and playing style fits in well with ours.

What twists are put onto those death-related themes that are unique to the band? Who wrote the lyrics to these songs and how much research went into the lyrics?
Not a lot of effort goes into the lyrics. Most of them are dream related, especially the more 'occult' songs. I just wake up and write down the meat and bones of the song. If I dream up something worth singing about and then the next day just go through it and make sure it fits my way of singing (pronunciation, vocal phrasing etc). I like to make the songs rhyme but usually they do anyway. Generally speaking they seem to come to me so I don't have to force them. Most of them are influenced by things like Revelations (from the Holy Bible) and my favourite the Necronomicon and the works of HP Lovecraft (which I view to be two different things.... but that’s just me) and the odd one influenced by a film or something (like Human Centipede). Strange thing is not a lot of research went into the lyrics either, maybe a subconscious absorbing of the occult maybe? Either way they just seem to fit in with occult parameters naturally. I dunno really where they come from but they just do!

How soon do you expect to work on another full length? Any cover ideas you have in mind for the next recording?
No idea really, we'll just take it as it comes. It will come when it does. We've been here for 20 plus years and we ain’t going anywhere anytime soon. I don't worry about it in terms of linear time. I have already painted the cover for "Tormentor Of Lost Souls". It follows the Book Of The Dead style of artwork and I’m really happy with it. It’s an oil on canvas. Again most of the inspiration follows from the dreams that inspire the lyrics, so it seems to fit!


-Dave Wolff

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