Friday, February 5, 2016

Band Interview: MIDNITE HELLION

INTERVIEW WITH DREW RIZZO OF MIDNITE HELLION

Midnite Hellion formed in 2011 combining traditional heavy metal with thrash metal. Did the band’s approach to writing and composing come from the band members’ tastes? How many bands in your area are playing metal and thrash of late?
When forming, the initial thoughts were to be a strictly Traditional Heavy Metal band, and we even toyed with the idea of having a keyboardist as we had thought about having a DIO/Rainbow approach to the lineup. However, that idea quickly dissolved as we had naturally started to integrate our Thrash and Death Metal influences when writing. The approach has always been that there is no such thing as a bad riff idea, which is another reason we label ourselves Heavy Metal. With that label, we aren’t pigeonholed into a specific sub-genre and can essentially integrate any style into the numbers. Our area has a good amount of bands playing Metal, but the majority are in the vein of Thrash and Death Metal; very few others lean towards Traditional Heavy Metal. However, the stronghold for our area has always been the Hardcore scene. When I was a kid, there were literally two Metal bands in the immediate area, and I was in one of them – my band, Skinslip, was Death Metal and the other was Thrash Metal, and along with the Hardcore scene being strong, there was the Pop Punk scene which made major waves in the area. In those days, around 1997-2005, it wasn’t uncommon to have multi-genre local shows. A Rockabilly band would headline, with support from old school Punk, Pop Punk, Thrash Metal, Death Metal, and Hardcore bands. However, in those days, the major shows were similar – a Thrash Metal band would tour with a Symphonic Metal band supporting them.

How did the band first come together? Do you think it would have been possible to have a keyboardist in the band while playing thrash metal?
The band started after I had been dismissed from a previous band, Horrifier. The original bassist/vocalist, Jaron Gulino (On Top, Mach 22), and I had been friends for many years and played together either in bands or sharing the stage with our own respective bands. Having been frustrated with our situations at the time, we decided to join forces and form our own band on April 4, 2011. However, his involvement was short-lived as life got in the way, which has been a recurring issue with maintaining the band’s lineup over the years, but it has always worked out for the best for everyone involved. Amadeus Zajac, who was the bassist of Horrifier, joined on guitar and we worked together until two weeks before our first show, which is when his work relocated him. Mario DiBartolo joined up, and along with singer Sonny Zackeo, guitarist Dan Sclavi, and bassist Bill Dripps, we proceeded to conquer the Tri-State area playing an average of three shows per month, all while recording and releasing our demo cassette, “The Fever,” on November 17, 2011, as well as tracking our CD EP, “Enter The Unknown.” Sonny left the band while we were recording “Enter The Unknown,” and with singer Scott Alpert, we toured the US Northeastern Coast with Prime Evil in support of the release. I believe that having a keyboardist could still work. The keys can always add an atmospheric-element to the song as well during some of the busier sections. The main problem is finding a keyboardist!

What was touring with Prime Evil like? And is the material released by Horrifier still available to interested listeners?
Touring with Prime Evil was a ton of fun, but also a major learning experience. We put together the entire tour by ourselves so we got to bond a lot even prior to hitting the road together, but because we did it ourselves, we didn’t have the appropriate muscle in place that we should have had. Shady promoters, dropped shows, etc. were some of the hurdles that we had to endure. All in all, the shows all went well and we accomplished what we set out to do, so I’d deem it a full success. Couldn’t have asked for a better group of guys to tour with, hails to PRIME EVIL!! They have a new record out, “Blood Curse Resurrection,” which slays!! Some of the Horrifier material is still available. The demo is long out of print (two versions exist with two different singers), and the full-length, “Grim Fate,” is still available via Witches Brew, which is also our record label: http://www.witchesbrewthrashes.eu

Did you know the members of Prime Evil before touring with them? What speaks to you about their new recording?
We had never met in person prior to hitting the road together. I dig the fact that they are able to retain their classic sound without too much modernization and they are always themselves – you’ll never hear them write in a way that isn’t true to who they are in hopes of breaking through with a different edge. They still write the way they did for the Manifestation demo, which is quite cool and a bit difficult to do considering all of the advancements with the genre that has happened since the 80’s. Subliminally, one can get influenced just by listening to the newer bands and newer sounds.

I’ve sometimes heard that the 80’s sound was “outdated” but even so thrash made a comeback in the heyday of death and black metal in the 90’s. First there was what was known as retro-thrash and after that came the resurgence of the old school. This was because of many 80’s bands reforming and bands like Deceased paying homage to the old days.
Oh yes, I remember the beginning days of the Retro-Thrash movement very, very well. It was weird because all of a sudden, there were more than 30 people at a weeknight Overkill show that wasn’t in NYC or Jersey and the average age wasn’t 30-40, but 15-20. Kudos to King for always flying the flag of Heavy Metal loud ‘n proud.

Why was the band’s demo recorded with two different vocalists? Which version do you personally prefer?
The vocals on the Horrifier demo were re-recorded by one of the guitarists because the original singer split right before we were about to play our second show. Literally minutes before the set, he called us saying that he wasn’t coming and that was it. Vocals were then split between me and one of the guitarists to get through the show, as we were the lyricists so we sang whichever song we wrote lyrics to since we knew them the best. I personally dig the first version better because when the vocals were re-recorded, the entire recording was also remixed.

In what ways were the remixed songs on the demo different from the original versions?
Bass and drums were virtually non-existent in the remixed version of the Horrifier demo. Rhythm guitars were equal to the vocals in the mix, and the lead guitars were louder than absolutely everything else. The original vocals were recorded while the singer was standing behind my drums to get a little bit of reverberation from the drums and cymbals to be picked up by the microphone. It would have worked better if we had a room mic going in addition to the close-mic for the vocals, and probably even better in general if we used a pop-filter.

How long has the band’s record label been active? How many copies of Grim Fate is currently available through it?
Witches Brew started in 2002 and has since released 53 albums. Cheryl, the Brew Mistress, is one of the classiest acts that I’ve ever met – she truly goes above and beyond with every band that she works with. For our first release with the label, Midnite Hellion’s “Hour of the Wolf” 7” single, she put great effort into making sure that the product was top-notch and all of the extra goodies included were of top-quality, too. We’ll be releasing our full-length album with her later this year, too! I don’t know how many copies remain of Horrifier’s “Grim Fate,” 700 were pressed altogether and the band had sold 400 of them. Horrifier disbanded completely shortly after I left – my friend, Ryan Donato of Condition Critical and Grim Legion, took over the drums and then left within three months, and that marked the end of that band as of May 2011.

How did you and Cheryl hook up for Witches Brew records and what does her job entail?
I started working with Cheryl out of necessity. Horrifier was signed to Witches Brew and the member of the band that had been in touch with her had gotten hit by a car (nothing too major, thankfully no permanent damage). I contacted her to confirm that our copies of the album had been received and we started up our friendship from there. We were due to perform a record release show at Duff’s a week after the accident, but that was postponed for obvious reasons. Jimmy Duff and I still had a record release party that night for it. Since Cheryl and I had a great rapport during my time with Horrifier, it was a no-brainer to work with her again when she proposed an offer to sign Midnite Hellion. Witches Brew is essentially run exclusively by Cheryl, but her husband also assists – her husband runs the Barbarian Wrath label. You’d have to ask Cheryl for full details of what her job consists of.

How well were the bands getting along with one another while sharing the same bills? Do you think having bands of different genres playing shows together thinned the boundaries between fans of different genres?
All in all, the bands all got along swimmingly. Of course, there’s always a few bad apples in the bunch, but nobody worth mentioning. Back in the aforementioned days, the crowds were supportive of live and local music as a whole. It wasn’t uncommon for a Hardcore fan to buy all of the Rockabilly band’s merchandise; there was a lot more support back then for purchasing music. A lot of the bands and fans grew up together so there was that unity already in place just from going to school together, and when out-of-area bands would link up, it was the same situation where it was a totally united front.
I do believe that the multi-genre shows helped thin the barriers significantly, and I’d love to see it go back to those times. Nowadays, the most diverse bill we will be on would feature Death and Thrash bands, with us being the only traditional band. I’ll go to the local Hardcore shows on a frequent basis and hand out flyers for our upcoming shows and see a lot of kids there wearing Metal shirts. I’ll hand out flyers to everyone and anyone and find that a decent amount of them actually show up to check out something new to them. Funny story about that – the promoter at Champs in Trenton used to bust my chops about handing out flyers to the bar crowd, saying that they wouldn’t come out. She singled-out an older lady in particular, probably in her late 50’s/early 60’s, saying that I was wasting time and money by giving her one. Low and behold, that lady showed up to the show!

Are physical fliers still a reliable method for bands to advertise their shows in the information age? How many filers do you usually distribute for one of your performances?
Physical flyers are the tried and true method and always yield the best results! When someone has a physical reminder of a show, that sets in better than just the digital invitation of it, and when combined, it provides multiple reminders to the potential patron. By physically giving a flyer to someone, it’s an engaging experience and tends to spark conversation, which then already establishes a relationship between the band and fan. They take the flyer home with them, see it again when emptying pockets, and then are reminded a second time of the show. Combining that with digital invitations and posts on their newsfeed, that’s more reminders about the show. Seeing the same flyer in stores again triggers the memory.

Are you known to keep fliers for shows you have attended? If so, how many are in your collection?
I am a major packrat in general and keep absolutely everything. I haven’t the slightest idea how many flyers I have from gigs, but also collect set lists, guitar picks, drumsticks, and other odds and ends from shows. My biggest and proudest collection is of my t-shirts – well over 500 and 99.9% are all original prints, with the oldest being the Motörhead/Girlschool tour shirt for the Overkill tour in ‘79. If I had to guess, I’d say I had less than ten reprinted designs.

Most of the mementos of shows I attended were live recordings I taped or traded for. How many love shows have you kept through the years?
Unfortunately, I don’t have many recordings of shows that I have attended, but I do have a few. I also collect bootlegs of shows I wasn’t at, and all in all I have quite a large collection of VHS, cassette, CD, and DVD generation copy bootlegs, along with a few pressed vinyls. I haven’t gotten rid of a single bootleg over the years, so we’re looking at roughly 20 years of collecting boots.

Which of your audio and video bootlegs of shows you have attended and shows you haven’t attended are personal favorites?
I have too many to sort through, but off the top of my head, my favorite bootleg of a show I had attended was from Iron Maiden’s last show on the Somewhere Back In Time tour – only US date for 2009, which was in Ft. Lauderdale, FL. That show was the best time I have ever seen the band and they haven’t come close to topping it yet, plus the entire event and trip is a great memory. I told my girlfriend about the show announcement, and she immediately made travel plans, which was also our first of many trips to Florida together. For favorite non-attended bootleg, I’ll have to go with the Exciter “Royal Standard” gig in ’85. They thought it was one of their worst shows ever, but personally, I can’t see why. As usual, they were strong, defiant, and present – just a ball of energy.

Did you mostly have local bands making club appearances with some national acts making occasional appearances? How often has Midnite Hellion played shows outside Trenton, New Jersey?
If you’re speaking of the old days, most of the times they were locals only. Skinslip did support a few National Acts, such as Dying Fetus at L’amour Brooklyn and one of my all-time favorite shows, the Metal Meltdown 4 in Asbury Park, NJ, where we shared the stage with Manowar, Saxon, Diamond Head, DRI, Nuclear Assault, Cannibal Corpse, Macabre, Disinter, and many, many more. I was only 17 at the time and already a major dream had come true for me! With regards to Midnite Hellion, majority of our shows have been supporting National Acts. Our very first show that was scheduled was supporting Forbidden, but unfortunately our only guitarist at the time had split prior to the gig. Approximately two-thirds of our shows have been outside of the Trenton area, the furthest show thus far being in Chicago.

In the old days bands and fans were on equal footing, as bands came out from backstage to meet the clubgoers. It was all on a one to one basis with no “rock star” attitudes. Was it the same when you went to clubs as a musician or a fan?
For the most part, the unity was always there. My very first concert was Dream Theater and the Dixie Dregs during the first leg of DT’s “Scenes From A Memory” tour in February 2000 in Philly. After the show, we went to the back of the venue and were able to meet Portnoy, Petrucci, and LaBrie. They all hung out, shot the shit, took photos, etc. One thing I’ll never forget is how each and every one of them treated each fan with respect and took the time to answer any questions. No bullshit attitudes whatsoever from them. This was when they were still a club band, and having recently seen Portnoy hanging around on the Motörhead cruise in 2014, he treated people with the exact same respect as he did when I met him 14 years prior. In 2003, I met some of the Overkill members at L’amour who were hanging out in the club before and after their set and throughout the years, I was on a first-name basis with the entire band. Being 20 and having your favorite band know your name was a pretty cool feeling, not to mention getting to hang out with them. In recent years, I’ve noticed a drift from the headliners from the openers. There’s still a ton of unity, but there are more headliners forgetting that they were once a local opening band, too.

It’s good to hear you’ve met bands who treated their fans with respect. I always looked at it like, the fans deserve respect since they support the bands by seeing them perform and buying their releases. Do you still see any of that happening?
I do still see that happening, there are a lot of the bands that understand that respect isn’t given, it’s earned. Something especially cool that I recall in recent times is from the band Artillery when they were touring with Onslaught. I had went to the show in Brooklyn to promote for the show that Midnite Hellion was performing at a few weeks later in Trenton and I asked them if it would be cool to leave a stack on their merch table. They in turn asked for more flyers so they could distribute them at other concerts on the tour, too!

How often have you seen a headlining band forget they used to be opening bands?
Sadly, more often than not. Some bands that I had opened for previously who were down to earth then all of a sudden became egotistical and rude. Nothing changed in between the time we gigged together in terms of them graduating to bigger venues, but for some reason they felt the need to talk down to others. I try to forget about those bands and focus on the positive ones.

Any memorable experiences from sharing the stage with all those bands you mentioned while you were in Skinslip?
Ahh, the Skinslip days – those remain some of my fondest and most fun memories. With Skinslip, there was a ton of trial and error as it was my first band that did anything outside of basement rehearsals. We only played live for about a year, but did a lot in a short period of time with very limited funds and resources available to us. Our first time at L’amour was interesting, as our bassist decided to bail the day before the show. It was a Friday night in March 2002, a locals-only night, and we only played to the other bands and one of their draw, so about 30 people total. We learned quickly that if the staff liked you personally, they’d take care of you but if they didn’t, watch out! Luckily, they liked us and felt bad for us so they mixed our guitars with a lot of low end to make up for the lack of a bassist. I made the stupid mistake of combining all of our L’amour tickets and the Metal Meltdown 4 tickets in a single envelope, separated by rubber bands, and when the guitarist handed in the tickets, he forgot to take out the Metal Meltdown 4 tickets… lesson well learned! Hope the L’amour staff had fun at the show! However, all of the bad didn’t matter – we were playing the same stage as our heroes had, hanging in the dressing room where Carnivore, Metallica, and many others had years before, too, total night of history and fun! A few weeks later, we played the aforementioned Metal Meltdown 4 in April 2002. Friday night slot around 11:30, dinner with Cannibal Corpse, we were living the life! Or so we thought – we looked again at the schedule, and the other stages had Diamond Head’s first ever US performance and Saxon playing at the same time! We played to a total of 8 people that night, our set got cut short by 5 minutes, but it was all worth it. Most of us were in high school and we were making our dreams come true, sharing the stage with bands we loved. Like any self-respecting band at the time, we made sure to party hard since we were staying in the band hotel and our guitarist was able to buy all of us booze. Hung over and getting a late start to the next day, we staggered over to the festival to find out that we missed Nuclear Assault and DRI! Whoops!

I have quite a few memories of L’Amour and miss going there from the 80s to the 90s. My first time there I saw Celtic Frost, Voivod and Whiplash. It felt like a new world was opening to me. What were your first impressions of the club?
If you’re looking for a new beat, head down 62nd Street – L’amour, the Rock Capital of Brooklyn!! It was definitely a different world within those walls, and to this day remains my favorite club. Man, half of the fun for going to a show at L’amour was the trip there and back! Taking the subway in and seeing other people going to the show on the train was always fun – going to King Diamond in ‘03, we had a sing-a-long of Abigail on the subway! As you know, the headliners wouldn’t go on until very late so the show would be over well past the time for the last train home, so hanging around Penn Station for a few hours was always interesting. You quickly learn where the heaters are located, as well as where the stacks of newspapers get placed so you have somewhere to sit. Speaking of the King show, I had gotten there early and was front-row center for the entire night, never leaving to even go to the bathroom, and the staff took notice of this. A few times during the show, the staff would walk on stage and give me cold waters from the bar, refusing to take payment for them. I’ll also never forget their zero tolerance policy – they see you get up to crowd surf, you were dragged out immediately! I attribute that back to their lawsuits at both L’amour and L’amour East, so they had to cover their asses for sure. Unfortunately, I missed the heyday of L’amour due to being born in ’84 but made the most of it regardless. My first time there was playing there, and quickly returned to see Overkill, King Diamond, Cannibal Corpse, and a few other shows as well.
I had become a regular at the L’amour Staten Island location and played there twice, too – the second time opening for Lizzy Borden in ‘07, which is where I also met my girlfriend – she was there to buy tickets to the upcoming Carnivore show, and thankfully she stuck around for the show that night. Hanging around the SI location, I made friends with owners George and Mike Parente, DJ Alex Kayne, and other staff members. It was fun hearing stories about the old days and I’m glad that they are finally going to be released in book-form this year. Speaking of George, haven’t seen him in a long time now but whenever I’d see him at a show, he would hook me up with backstage passes. Hope they’re all doing well.

Riding the subways to and from a show was part of the experience I remember. More than once I hung around Brooklyn and Manhattan long after the show was over, Each Sunday after attending CBGB we would explore the East Village at all hours, getting pizza and visiting Bleecker Bob’s.
So many shows that I wish I could have attended that I’ve only heard about from friends. Never been inside CBs, but passed by it a few times before they closed. I have found some KILLER goodies at Bleecker Bob’s, including a 70’s Twisted Sister subway-sized poster.

It’s a shame Bleecker Bob’s closed, along with many record stores and clubs in NYC. But I suppose I’ve come to expect is with all the gentrification that has been taking place there. How often did you visit Bleecker Bob’s and the other outlets?
The mom and pop shops had such character. Being in Trenton and more of a frequenter of Jersey stores due to convenience, I didn’t make it to Bleecker Bob’s too often, perhaps once or twice a year for ten years or so, but when I did I made it count. I still frequent record stores quite often, but I used to be relentless and go practically every pay day in my younger years. Still love the thrill of the hunt!

Slipped Disc was a record outlet on Long Island from 1982 to 2007. They had two locations out here at one point. Did you ever make it out there to buy gear? Another outlet, Sit & Spin, recently opened in PA. I interviewed the owner and heard good things about it. Are there outlets in Jersey you would recommend checking out?
I remember Slipped Disc very well, and I did make it to one of the locations once prior to them closing. Another one which I’m sure you’ve been to was Zig Zags – loved going to the Brooklyn location, and went to the Jersey one once before it shut down. Actually found out about that location only a week before they closed up shop, sadly. I’ve yet to go to Sit & Spin, but have heard good things about them. There are quite a few stores holding on in Jersey, including Princeton Record Exchange, Randy Now’s Man Cave in Bordentown (former booking agent for City Gardens), Music Country in Cliffside Park, and The Rock Shop in Galloway and Ocean City.

Will there always be a need for mom and pop record stores in the age of social media and net downloading?
I think that there will be a resurgence in the mom and pop shops, not only for physical products but also for proper customer service and the rapport built with actual human interaction. Already, people are growing tired of digital products and are starting to convert back to physical mediums in the book realm, and it’s only a matter of time before it translates back over to musical mediums.

How would you rate the newer New York clubs compared to the older clubs? What shows have you attended in recent times?
Nothing against the newer clubs, but they don’t have that magic that the older clubs had, not to mention the conveniences. From a musician’s perspective, it was very nice to actually have a gear storage area located close to the stage for easy changeovers as well as security for the equipment. I recall going to see MOD a few years back at Vitus and their cases got trampled because they were stored against the wall next to the pit – the only other option was behind the amps which then reduced the stage room, so a lose-lose situation no matter what. I still enjoy going to the clubs but my New York is going away. Going to Brooklyn used to have a special feel to it, which gets reduced each visit due to the older dive bars and businesses closing and the new brew pubs, fancy cocktail bars, and chains taking their place. It was such a shame when the Roseland was recently demolished, that place had such character. Going across the river, the Brendan Byrne Arena at the Meadowlands going dark is a major upset to me. Having seen Priest there in 2014 and again at the Prudential Center in 2015, it was a night and day experience. The Meadowlands had that old-style feel to it, and Prudential is just so cold and sterile-feeling. No parking lot parties going on at Prudential – not that drinking in a parking lot makes or breaks a show for me, but it’s the energy given off from everyone getting excited for the show, blasting tunes and having fun, which makes the concert feel like an event rather than just another show.
I used to attend a lot more concerts per year than I have in recent times especially due to the rising ticket prices, but I try to go to as many as possible. I’ll try my best to recall all of the shows that I attended within the last calendar year. I went to see Anthrax a few days ago, a Lemmy-tribute at Arlene’s, kinda-sorta watched the show we played a few weeks ago with Enforcer, Warbringer, Cauldron, Exmortus, Thrashole, and Fiakra – whenever we play a gig, it’s more of a working situation than a concert-attending one for me. The aforementioned Priest show, Danzig, Motörhead in Pompano Beach, FL, the Motörhead cruise (both years – they RULED!!), AC/DC, Saxon and Armored Saint, Anvil, Defenders of the Old (RIOT, Exciter, October 31, etc), Testament and Exodus, Slayer and King Diamond (Mayhem), King Diamond fall tour, and a few others that I know that I’m forgetting. That’s a pretty minimal year for me, I used to go to shows at least twice a month if not more, and even further back to about then years ago, shows were attended at least twice a week.

I’ve heard a lot about higher prices at local shows, but there are still some venues in New York and other states where you don’t have to pay more than ten dollars. ABC No Rio still puts on shows with no cover charges.
I wasn’t referring to local shows’ price increases, but for the National Act shows at larger venues. Prime example – I purchased tickets to see Overkill at their DVD taping show in 2002 for $13, and $12-$25 was the price point for all of their shows until about six years ago, when it became $25-$50. Local shows are more expensive than before, but that is largely attributed to venue operating costs increasing and the turnout decreasing due to the rising cost of living. $5-$10 for a show is very reasonable and is still found more often than not. Our local venue, Champs, hosts free shows from time to time as well.

How often does Champs decline from charging admission? Are local cover charges still fairly reasonable where you are?
Champs recently made it as a monthly event; before this, there was a free show roughly every two to three months. Every first Friday of the month is a free admission show featuring local and smaller Regional Acts. Also, Champs hosts after-show shows that are free for those who attended the earlier show and $5.00 for everyone else. The management and staff over there have been implementing great new ideas to keep more of the creative crowds and the local patrons coming in and the riff-raff out, which has also bled into the off-nights. Champs is managed by Nikki Nalbone and Drew Glenn. Drew is the bassist and singer of the band Triggered Impulse and Nikki literally comes from a bloodline of Trenton venues as she is the daughter of Patty and Frank Nalbone, who owned and operated City Gardens. The head booking agent is Michelle Messina of Nice Guy Bookings, who has been successfully bringing excellent shows to the Trenton region since 2007, but got her start at The Rail and The Stone Pony.

Do you see the free shows have helped local bands make a name for themselves on the club circuit?
Absolutely! In addition, it invites the local bar patrons who otherwise might not attend the shows to check them out, almost a try-before-you-buy approach. Many of the patrons have since started attending those bands’ shows and other shows, not to mention buying merchandise at the free and paid admission shows. Since the patrons then have an extra $5 or $10 saved from the admission fee, that encourages them to purchase merch and to purchase more drinks at the bar, hence helping both the business and the shows. Without the venue, there are no shows, which a lot of people tend to forget until a venue shuts down.

Was Metal Meltdown 4 the only time you visited the festival? How much did the attendees appreciate the bands there?
Unfortunately, I never performed there again, but had attended the fest the year before and after. The year after, it was moved to Irvington at the Cricket Club for two years and then Jack Koshick stopped running them. The attendees absolutely loved the fact that Jack brought over bands that had never touched US soil or had rarely performed over here. I completely forgot to mention Artch’s performance for the year we played – they were one of the highlights for sure! I truly hope that Jack decides to resurrect the festival, he put on some of the best shows! Never attended a Milwaukee Metalfest, but he was the man behind that operation as well. Also, there was a cool full-circle thing that happened when we played that I recently found out about. The band before us was Dimentianon, who is fronted by my friend Mike who runs Paragon Records. Paragon is the parent label to Hels’ Trash Industries, which released Midnite Hellion’s demo cassette, “The Fever.” I knew Mike looked familiar but couldn’t place it, but recently came across the schedule for the fest and that solved that mystery! Those fests in general remain some of my favorite events that I’ve ever attended. The only other one that has come close to it in recent times was the Ragnarökkr Metal Apocalypse festival in Chicago, which we played in 2014 with Grim Reaper, RIOT, Picture, and more! That weekend was a total blast and a dream come true!

I was in touch with Dimentianon and Paragon Records from the 90’s to the early 2000’s. Are the band and label still active?
Dimentianon are actually playing February 12 at The Acheron in Brooklyn!

Will you be attending Dimentianon’s show at the Acheron on the 12th? How often do you get to see them perform?
I would definitely love to attend the show but I am going to be out of town that weekend. Being that it’s on a Friday, there’s a slight chance of being able to go before heading out to the highway, but chances are looking slim. I haven’t seen them play in quite some time, probably since the last time we shared the stage together at the Dark Ascension Festival in 2012 with Artillery. I’m definitely long overdue to see them in action!!

What else has Dimentianon been up to these days? Are there new releases from them or other bands on Paragon Records?
I know that they recently solidified their lineup and have been playing more shows. Paragon has a bunch of new releases per year, too many to keep up with! Check ‘em out at http://www.themetalunderground.com/.

Have any new clubs opened in Trenton since the older clubs went out of business? Do fans still attend shows as actively as you remember from the old days?
There have been a few new clubs, but most dissolved fairly quickly while a few remain. All in all, it’s really an ebb and flow of things. When I was a kid, we didn’t have area venues so shows were in firehouses and VFWs and tended to be packed. Of course, one moron decides that they would like to punch a hole in the wall and boom, that’s the end of shows at that space. The attendance depends on the generation of kids, as when Midnite Hellion first started out, the high school kids at the time were all about Heavy Metal. They went to college and/or moved away, while some remain from that crowd. The generation after showed little interest, but the one coming in now has showed a lot more interest and shows are getting packed again. For the older crowd, it really depends on life situations. For a few years, everything is cool for shows, then their life gets in the way for a bit with kids and other responsibilities but then return once things have settled.

What clubs in Trenton and other areas in New Jersey are most active these days?
Trenton’s two mainstays are The Backstage at Champs and The Mill Hill Basement, both with at least two to three shows a week, sometimes more. There is a lot of live music in general at the area bars, but those are mainly reserved for cover acts. In addition to the Trenton venues, The Brighton Bar in Long Branch, Le Grande Fromage and The Boneyard in AC, the Court Tavern in New Brunswick, Roxy & Duke’s Roadhouse in Dunellen, the Wonder Bar, Stone Pony, The Saint, and Asbury Lanes in Asbury Park, Dingbatz in Clifton, and the Starland Ballroom in Sayreville (Slayerville!) are the most active in Jersey.

It sounds like Jersey still has a healthy club circuit for underground bands. Who are some of the local and national bands that have performed?
Jersey is still holding on! Man, too many to list overall, but here’s a few from recent times – OZ, Diamond Head, Anvil, Raven, Blood Feast, Axe Ripper, Anger As Art, Deceased, Impaler, October 31, and more. Locals-wise, there are a few holding onto the flame along with us – Thrashole, Fiakra, Grim Legion, and Condition Critical are the first that come to mind.

How many releases does the band have available, up to and including your current release?
To date, we have three releases out. Our 2013 7” single, “Hour of the Wolf,” was released on Witches Brew, our 2012 CD EP, “Enter The Unknown,” was released on Else’s Metalecke, and our 2011 demo cassette, “The Fever,” was released on Hels’ Trash Industries. This year, we are planning on having up to four releases, the first of which being our full-length album which will be available on both CD and vinyl on Witches Brew, as well as a bonus EP that is exclusive to our Kickstarter backers who helped make the album possible!

Who penned the lyrics on each of the band’s releases? Where did the lyrical inspiration usually come from?
For the past releases, it was a collaborative effort, but Sonny wrote majority of the lyrics. I penned some lyrics, too, and also worked with Sonny on the ones he wrote. Also, Scott and PJ both modified lyrics for their time with the band. For our current lineup, our new singer Kate has been hard at work writing lyrics for the new songs. Both our bassist, Roy, and I have some lyrics on reserve, and our new guitarist Jeremy is starting to pen some, too. For both the music and lyrics, everyone has a chance to write, voice their opinion, and modify everything so everyone’s voice is heard and put into each song. The majority of the lyrics is based on history, the occult, and personal experiences.

What are some of the historical events the band writes lyrics about, and were they chosen for a specific reason?
Only two that are in our current catalogue have to deal with historical events, the first being 1903 which is about the Wright brothers and the first airplanes. A former member was an aspiring pilot and the singer at the time decided to write the lyrics based on that interest. A new song, which will be on either the upcoming full-length or the next full-length has to do with the Cold War, which I had penned based on my Russian heritage.

What aspects of the Cold War did you tap into when writing a song about it? How much historical research generally goes into choosing subject matter and what time period was the other song you mentioned about?
I’d rather not dive into the aspects of the lyrical content as of yet, as it could change direction completely between now and when it’s recorded. The research hasn’t been too extensive or exhaustive for this song, and the time period spans from 1918 through 1989. Generally, a topic of discussion is something that comes as a spark of interest; it’s difficult to really pinpoint what or why something has created the topic. Speaking personally, I will typically have a lyrical idea based upon the riffs and just playing them, but there are times when a topic just pops into my head and I’ll write a set of lyrics without having a composition to pair it with. “1903” was based in the early 1900’s.
Who in the band is writing your occult based lyrics? Are there occult authors who would be cited as influences?
Nearly everyone who has written lyrics in the band has penned something about the occult. A previous singer, PJ Berlinghof, had cited the authors Arthur Machen and Algernon Blackwood and poets such as Tennyson, Spencer and Scott as influences in their writing of the lyrics to “Hour Of The Wolf.” Personally, my ideas tend to come more from general reading, imagination, or at random and then I’ll start doing research from there. However, the lyrics in “Spirit Possession” were influenced by the subject matter in a college course.

What is the lyrical progression on Hour Of The Wolf and Spirit Possession, and how do the lyrics unfold into storylines?
I am uncertain for Hour Of The Wolf, as PJ never went into detail about the story itself when writing it. However, for Spirit Possession, it’s a narrative about having one’s soul stolen which causes the person to think that death can escape the pain. However, the spirit remains forever at unrest, continually tortured, and essentially feeling like it’s buried alive but cannot move and slowly suffocating – every “breath” feels like it’s the final one, but it never is. In short, someone who suffers from claustrophobia’s worst nightmare.

Were all your releases produced independently and in your own recording space? What equipment are you currently working with to record your material?
Only our 2011 demo cassette, “The Fever,” was recorded and produced independently. That was recorded in Bill Dripps’ basement, who was the bassist at the time. We figured that since it was being released on analog, we should record it on analog and we used a Tascam 8-track recorder that unfortunately did not have Phantom power. That prevented us from using condenser microphones, so we were using Shure SM57s and SM58s to record everything.
Our 2012 CD EP, “Enter The Unknown,” was mixed and mastered by Len “Tone King” Carmichael at The Sound of Revolution in Ewing, NJ, but tracked at a separate studio. The recording engineer “lost” some of our tracks when sending them to be mixed, but Len was a miracle worker and truly salvaged the album. This became a blessing in disguise, as it led to a friendship and a continuing working relationship with Len.
Our 2013 7” Single, “Hour Of The Wolf,” was tracked, mixed, and mastered by Len Carmichael at the aforementioned studio. He is absolutely the perfect person to work with and truly dedicated himself to the recording. We’re very excited to work with him again on our upcoming full-length. I’m uncertain as to the recording equipment that we will be using, as Len is always learning something new and upgrading his equipment, so we will be in for a pleasant surprise. Most likely, we will be using the Tone King’s amplifiers and my drums, but not certain as to which of my Tama drum sets I will be using just yet. Definitely will be using all Paiste cymbals, as usual, and I may decide to use my 1950’s Slingerland Radio King snare again, but I’ve been leaning towards using my mainstay snare, which is an ’83 Tama Imperialstar King Beat, or a ’65 Ludwig Supraphonic if it’s restored in time.

How much studio experience has Len Carmichael had up to now, and how easily does he and the band work together?
I know that Len has been doing this for quite some time, but the earliest recording that I am aware of is his work on Swashbuckle’s 2009 album, “Back To The Noose.” Swashbuckle is actually how I met Len, as I have known Pat and Justin since we were teenagers and they had their former band, Ash & Elm, and Pat recommended Len to me when we needed assistance mixing and mastering “Enter The Unknown.” Len is pretty much booked solid throughout the year every year that I have known him, which is since 2012, so he has done numerous releases. His usual clients are Hardcore and Death Metal acts, and he mixes the audio for the video footage of Philly’s annual “This Is Hardcore” festival. A fun fact about Len’s family – his uncle was in Kool & The Gang. Len is a dream come true. He is very thorough with his work, down to earth and easy-going, but he also doesn’t put up with any bullshit. When we did tracking for the 7” single, he spent an entire evening just on microphone placement for the drums, and we spent another entire evening just working on EQing the drums to get the right sounds. If the client wishes, Len also acts as a producer and really helps up the ante with the compositions, but he also lays back if the client prefers to not have him take that angle. This will be the first time in the studio for Kate, Jeremy, and Roy, and I’m confident that they will find the experience to be a very positive and fun one.

Are you planning to work with Len while recording your next release? Will the experience you have had with him help the band to progress?
We plan to work with Len for as many recordings as possible. I believe that the experience we have had will help future recordings. I have learned something new every time we enter the studio, and with Len always keeping up with new and innovative ideas, I foresee the future sessions continuing to be educational. Also, each time we work together, we learn more about each other which translates onto the recording. This time, we’re handling things with a different approach from before. In the past, we have come in with some ideas of how we wanted to have the record sound and provided them to Len before even setting up any instruments. This time around, we’re not saying a word initially and will let him come up with the sound of the record, which we will then tweak from there. He has let me in on some of his ideas already and I am quite eager to hear what he has in store!


-Dave Wolff

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