CYCLONE... not really a new name for anybody familiar with Speed Metal. "Brutal Destruction" and "Inferior To None" are two classic Metal albums now and since Axe Killer have re-released recently their first opus, I thought it was a good reason to talk in details about the history of that band with singer Guy Gevels and lead guitar player Didier Capelle on two separate chats. For those who don't know Guy (better known as Guido), the guy is an absolute old Metal fan who knows what he's talking about and to me, he's like the European answer to Chuck Schuldiner for the knowledge and the passion he has for Metal. |
Well Guido, let's start with your first band, CENTURION, back in 1981, how did you start that band? Have you played shows, did recordings with that band? And what was the style of music that you were playing?
Guy: "CENTURION started around in 1980, not in 1981. Johnny Kerbursh (rythm guitar), Pascal Van Lint (lead guitar) and I were friends for a long time, we had the same music tastes, we were all playing music so we decided to form a band. In the beginning, we haven't recorded a demo because we were only a three piece band, we rehearsed as a three piece. And we couldn't find a drummer and a bass player...but we had some tracks, the style was Traditional Metal influenced by N.W.O.B.H.M., it wasn't Thrash or Speed Metal, just Traditional Metal. At first, we played songs in the style of DEEP MACHINE, TYGERS OF PANTANG but not as complicated, we were just trying. But at one point, we found out that there was an English band which had the same name, CENTURION so we changed the name for CYCLONE, and that name was inspired from a N.W.O.B.H.M. band called DERVISH, they had stuff on a compilation called "Kent Rocks"."
How was the Metal scene in Belgium at that particular time?
"Well there was OSTROGOTH, KILLER, CROSSFIRE, THUNDERFIRE, also ACID but we had no contact with those bands until when we got in touch with ACID's manager, Eddy Verbrugge, he was at our first show because we were opening for ACID in Leuven, Belgium, I think it was on June 2nd 1984, our very first show... but we quickly understood that the relations between the Belgium bands weren't that good, lots of jealousy, that's something we found out when we opened for ACID. They saw that we had the potential through the public response that we had received, the crowd loved it and that was our first show... CYCLONE got known in Belgium very quickly and the other bands were careful about us and didn't want to play with us."
So how did you find the other members?
"It took a long time to find a drummer and a bassist because back then it was hard to find people interested in playing N.W.O.B.H.M. style, it wasn't well known. Finally in 1984, we found a good bassist Michel De R'dt and a drummer Nicolas Lairin who have recorded the album with us."
Being influenced by the N.W.O.B.H.M., I guess you were a die hard fan of that style, I'd like to know what that period have meant for you. I remember that you had ads in the penbanger section in early Metal Forces issues, that you were in touch with the guys from WHIPLASH 'zine from S.F. and stuff like that, deeply involved in the underground circuit in fact.
"Of course we were die hard fans of N.W.O.B.H.M. but not only that, we liked RIOT, Y&T... we liked everything new and that certainly influenced us, but N.W.O.B.M. was a big thing for us. We were going to U.K. to find obscure singles, going to small shows, traded tapes, we tried to get everything we could... crazy! That was my thing to put ads in Kerrang, Metal Forces... and I got in touch with lots of people around the world, I was getting stuff of bands from Canada, USA... and at the same time we played the same kind of music."
Tell us more about the first CYCLONE shows and in your opinion, why all the old Belgium Metal bands have broke up around 1985?
"Well in 1984 we did our first show opening for ACID, the second had been organized by ourselves but it didn't go well, 250 persons were at that show but the sound was terrible... anyway we did shows around and the fifth show we did, we opened for DESTRUCTION in Aalst, Belgium in front of 1.000 persons, the public have really discovered who we were with that particular show. At first people didn't know what to expect because we were saying that we were influenced by N.W.O.B.H.M. bands, they couldn't believe it was our style... bands like HOLOCAUST, T.O.P., TRESPASS, ANGELWITCH, SWEET SAVAGE etc... and I still like that nowadays, stuff like JAGUAR, I love that, it's still an important part of my life, I don't think it's gonna go away. And the other members were like that also, totally into that stuff and we wanted to play that style of music, so it's how the whole thing started. After that show with DESTRUCTION, we got several interviews in magazines and we were getting easily shows but we had no help from other Belgium bands because like I told you jealousy was around. In fact we were newcomers and the bands like those I mentioned before, they were kind of frustrated because we were playing another Metal style, more aggressive, faster and they saw that everywhere we played, we had a great response so... and that's also why they have broke up, a new wave was coming, and in Belgium, we were the leaders of that new wave of Metal, we were the first band playing that style and the other bands like ACID, KILLER, OSTROGOTH... were playing the old style of Metal influenced by JUDAS PRIEST, SCORPIONS etc... and since we had something new in our music, that N.W.O.B.H.M. thing with more aggressivity and a better sound, like METALLICA ... so I think that's why those bands have broke up."
Then your first demo "In The Grip Of Evil" was recorded in 1985, what kind of response did you get from that demo which etablished CYCLONE as one of the best Belgium Metal band with your unique style?
"That demo was released when we did that DESTRUCTION show... but I must say that it wasn't our first demo, it was the third one! But the previous ones were never sold, it was just for us, the band wasn't really tight and we were still playing stuff which wasn't that aggressive, that Thrash comparing to the songs on "In the Grip..". At that DESTRUCTION show, we sold that tape for the first time, 250 copies were sold and I think everything was sold at that show, we made also 100 t-shirts and everything was sold. That was incredible because we weren't that known and at the first big show we did, all our stuff was sold out and from that point, everybody wanted to deal with us, everybody wanted to see us live, interviews and stuff. The advantage of that situation is that we were the firsts playing that stuff and we had no competition, people wanted to do the same stuff but you can't form a band like CYCLONE or like METALLICA, a Thrash band in a short time period so the other bands had some ground to make up."
Then you did an appearance on a compilation called "Metal Race" and you got that Roadrunner deal right?
"With all those articles we got and all those small shows which drawn quite alot of people, we've been noticed by Gug Rorn who was working for Roadrunner Belgium and he was the guy who organised every year the Metal Race Festival so all the bands had to send him a tape if they wanted to be part of that, but we didn't send anything, he just asked to us to take part on that because he had seen us live previously, he liked so much our music that he wanted to have us on that so we did it, we easily got a place in final, that's why we were on that "Metal Race" compilation in 1985 or 1986. But it's not because we were on that compilation that we got the Roadrunner deal. They were interested but other labels were interested too, there was a German label, I don't remember the name but later it became Shark Records, and that was the same guy Alex Thubeauville but we had lots of offers and finally we went with Roadrunner because they offered us the best deal. I remember that we were in Germany to check out Shark, it wasn't called Shark yet (It was Earthshaker Records at the time-Laurent) and we did a demo recording there, live in the studio, we recorded all the songs that we wanted to put on the album and when they heard that, they were into it but at the end we signed with Roadrunner because they were better known, had better distribution..."
When "Brutal Destruction" was issued in 1996, it seems to me at least that Roadrunner hadn't put so much efforts and money on your record because there was no lyric sheet, almost no informations... it looked like a cheap product I should even say.
"Roadrunner gave us a good budget for that recording, but it was done really quickly, I think we did it in three days and it's like you say, they choose the cover because they didn't want to use our cover, it was too expensive and stuff like that, they didn't print the lyrics either. I don't think it was so expensive but of course they weren't sure where the band could go, they weren't sure that the album would do well. But the first album did well and Roadrunner have never put alot of money into the band because they had American bands which were more interesting for them than a small Belgium band."
Do you think you have opened the door to a new wave of Belgium Metal bands like WARHEAD, BLACK SHEPHERD, TARGET, DEATH SQUAD, RITUAL....?
"After "Brutal Destruction" was released, madness took place here in Belgium. Quite alot of bands wanted to play the same style that we were doing like BLACK SHEPHERD, TARGET, DEATH SQUAD... RITUAL had another style but I can't say the same about WARHEAD because they were already formed when we were around... they were doing something else but when our first album was released, Didier Capelle was one of our friends, he liked alot CYCLONE and after the first WARHEAD album, he wanted to play like CYCLONE anyway to end up, I think we were an influence for those bands. But it's not only in Belgium that Metal was exploding, at the same time you had DESTRUCTION, KREATOR in Germany and others so we weren't alone in Europe and that was great because when there was small festivals or shows with foreign bands, it was always with them, DESTRUCTION, KREATOR... and that was drawning lots of people to the shows. And back then, we were the only band in Belgium to be compared to big European bands and to big American bands."
Musicwise, the EXODUS, METALLICA influence could be heard on that album with those crunching sounding riffs all the way.
"I don't really agree about that. Of course when you listen to "Brutal...", you hear things which sounds like METALLICA or EXODUS but it didn't come from those bands, it came from bands like SATAN, T.O.P. and other N.W.O.B.H.M. bands because when I listen to EXODUS or METALLICA, I hear things from DIAMOND HEAD, BLITZKRIEG or from SATAN so I think... because the songs that we had put on our first demo, they were written before we knew EXODUS especially because we already knew METALLICA not to say that were influenced by METALLICA but EXODUS came later so the similarity with EXODUS must be searched in the N.W.O.B.H.M. thing especially in bands like SATAN, JAGUAR, BLITZKRIEG, DIAMOND HEAD, ANGELWITCH... the fact is that those bands had the right formula, aggressivity, melody, good singing, killer leads... everything to have good metal! The only thing that we have added was the speed but even at that time JAGUAR, DIAMOND HEAD, SATAN, they were the type of bands who played quite fast, it wasn't slow at all for that time."
Looking back, what do you think of that first album which had received a good response by the press in general?
"Looking back, with the conditions we had to do that album, three days for the recording, I think we came up with a good album. Lots of people liked CYCLONE, we got mail from all over the world and even from the States, I think we have sold around 60.000 copies there and in Europe, around 30.000 so that means something I guess. I think EXODUS sold 100.000 copies of their first, and the same amount for the first METALLICA back then so... we also had stuff in international magazines, mainly underground magazines because at that time there wasn't much official magazines, the biggest were maybe Metal Hammer, Hard Rock and Metal Forces but I think we appeared in thousands of underground magazines, I still have all that stuff at home... but we were really satisfied because we never expected that we would get such a big worldwide following, I was really surprised."
You also had the opportunity to open for huge bands like ANTHRAX, METALLICA and SLAYER, what kind of memories do you have about that?
"So with that album, we had got worldwide recognition as a good Belgium Thrash band and we have done quite a few shows in foreign countries, in Belgium, at festivals with well-known bands like we have done a tour with ANTHRAX and OVERKILL and some shows with AGENT STEEL, we have toured with BLESSED DEATH in 1988. We have opened for METALLICA in 1987 and SLAYER but even later we have played at festivals with SEPULTURA and other well-known bands. Of course I still have good memories of that and also the other members because it's not given to everybody to play with METALLICA, SLAYER, ANTHRAX or OVERKILL... and each time we got to know the bandmembers, everybody was friendly and what was really great was to see that they liked our music, they were really impressed by our live show... I remember that James Hetfield told me that the agressivity and our enthusiasm looked alot like the early days of METALLICA, even SLAYER were impressed, they were like "That's fuckin' agressive! You're the only European band that we have played with which shows such a big potential!"... yeah I have real good memories about that. And I'm still friends with some of them because when some of these bands plays in Belgium, I meet them, real cool people. What's also good memories is when we were playing in large halls with thousands of persons, lots of enthusiasm with stage diving, people singing with us... and I think it's something which have been lost nowadays, it doesn't happen that much now but we were involved in that particular period and that's gonna remains a good memory."
Have you got offers to do some other tours in Europe or even elsewhere? And what happened with Roadrunner?
"The first real tour that we have done was in 1988 with BLESSED DEATH who were also on Roadrunner but the money for the tour came from both bands and from a guy of Metalysée Concerts but it was done without any help from Roadrunner, that was our first big tour. We have done small tours of a few days in Germany and especially in Holland with OVERKILL and others but no real tour. We had got an offer to go on tour with SEPULTURA but Roadrunner didn't want to back up CYCLONE financially. And when time was right to do our second album, Roadrunner wanted to invest their money into American bands, we had to wait and since they didn't want to help us financially for the touring aspect of the things so finally it end up with a contract severing with them. They told us " Well, things are like that, American bands are more important than you." so finally we were free and we could look for a new record deal."
Talking about that BLESSED DEATH tour, I think it wasn't such a long tour, I think you had covered mainly Belgium and Holland right?
"It wasn't a few dates tour. It was around 25 dates in Europe. We went in Holland, in Germany mainly and some other countries but I don't think we have played in France. I think it was in September or October 1988 but I'm not sure."
Also lots of line up changes have happened between 1986 and 1990, the only remaining members were Stephan (Darmen) who had moved from bass to rhythm guitar and you from the album line up, and you also were also joined by some DEATH SQUAD members at one time, right?
"So after we splitted up with Roadrunner, internal problems have begun. Some members had no belief anymore in the band, they were like "That's bullshit...we don't want to involved into that." and that's why Nicolas Lairin and Johnny Kerbush have left the band in 1987 so we have replaced them by Giancarlo Langhendries on drums and Pablos Alvarez on rythm guitar who were in DEATH SQUAD before. At that period, Pascal Van Lint was still in the band until BLESSED DEATH tour in 1988 but after that tour, Pascal and Pablos have left the band to form their own band, DECADENCE, they have released an album but we couldn't get along with Pascal anymore and when he has left the band, he has took with him the other guitarist. Then, Stephan moved from bass to rhythm guitar and we had to look for a new bass player and a new lead guitarist. We had found Gert Van Overloop as bassist and a lead guitarist called Xavier Carrion who have played later in CHANNEL ZERO but he has stayed with us around five or six months and finally he got replaced by Didier Capelle from WARHEAD."
Have you got offers during that time from labels? How did you get the deal with Justice?
"So with that new line up, we have started to write new songs because the songs that he had planned to put on the second album sounded dated so we had to write new stuff and we have started to look for a new record label. And lots of labels didn't want to sign us because we were with Roadrunner before, they were like "Well what you got from Roadrunner, we can't give it to you." and they couldn't believe how the whole thing had ended up with Roadrunner so that wasn't that easy and finally that's a friend of ours which had started his own label, Justice records... and since we have been fucked up a few times, we thought it would be better to work with people that we knew, that's how we got the Justice deal and then we have recorded the second album. But we couldn't trust any other record labels."
So "Inferior To None" was recorded by the infamous at that time DEATH manager, Eric Grief, how did you get in touch with him and why have you decided to work with him?
"We wanted to release a second album with an amazing sound, that had to be a comeback album so somebody at Justice knew Eric Grief who had already produced some bands, I've sent him a five track demo, songs that we wanted to put on the album and three days later, he called me up and said that he was okay to do it because he thought that the songs were killer and he was interested in it. And finally, I think three months later, we have started to record the album here in Belgium. He has come and stayed here one month. The album was recorded in two weeks... ten days I think."
I personally think that the sound of "Inferior To None" is really good, really Heavy guitar sound especially with the kind of riffs you had written on this one but on the other hand I think there's not enough hooks comparing to the songs on "Brutal..." which is surprising when you know Didier's fitness to write incredible riffs like he did in WARHEAD, how do you explain that?
"Eric Grief did knew how a Metal album had to sound like to be a great album and he had the opinion that the sound we had was perfect so with his work, we have been able to get a great production, way better than the first album. As for the musical change between the first and this one, first the musicians are different and secondly, the songwriting... at that time, technical Thrash was really developped and we were into that style, we have become more technical. Those last years have spent to develop a ore technical style. When you listen to both albums, you can hear that it's CYCLONE of course, there's a different style but it has nothing to do with Didier because he has never taken part to the songwriting in CYCLONE. The songs were mainly written by Stephan and myself so it has nothing to do with WARHEAD's riffing style. But I understand your comments about the lack of hooks... maybe it's true but I think it still sounds like CYCLONE and personally I prefer the second album... but I can understand that people like the first better because it's more in your face, the riffs are maybe not as technical but more catchy."
Also there's another big change on that album concerning your vocals which are more hardcore sounding, I mean your singing sounds alot like Roger Miret from AGNOSTIC FRONT so in result, the album sounds alot more like Hardcore/ Metal than purely Metal...
"I think what I said about the kind of riffs we have used on it can be also stated for the vocals style, we couldn't use the singing style of the first album for this one and I didn't want to do anymore those screams ala Rob Halford, I didn't want to do that, I wanted to use a more aggressive singing which I think fitted the music better. Of course, there's the hardcore influence because we were listening to hardcore music... what you say about sounding like Roger Miret, some other people told me that also but that's a coincidence... that's only a coincidence, nothing else. I prefered to sing like I did on the second one than on the first, I just didn't want to use those typical Metal vocals. But I still can sing like I did on the first... but Metal at that period had reached a point where you weren't hearing much those Rob Halford screams so I think that's a reason why we went away from that."
What kind of response did you get for that second release? I think that the distribution wasn't that good, I mean it was hard to find it.
"Well, we got a good response for that album, people seemed to like it. Here in Belgium, we have sold approximately the same amount of records as the first. That's true that the distribution worldwide wasn't like Roadrunner's distribution. Worldwide, we haven't sold as many albums, maybe 10.000 copies of that album have been sold worldwide comparing to the 100.000 copies of the first so that's maybe why I think alot of people don't know that we have released a second album because even in the press, we had good reviews, but it was a small part of the press because alot of magazines haven't reviewed it, that's the problem to be on a small label, they didn't have much money and stuff but if we had got the same distribution that the first had, then I think it would have done quite good, maybe a bit less, maybe better, you never know... but this album have been unnoticed. Also when it got released, that's when Death Metal started, lots of young people were into Death Metal, they were going away from Thrash... the album got released at the wrong time, that was the end of Thrash and the beginning of Death Metal, lots of Thrash bands had broke up like EXODUS... all those bands were on the verge to disappear... so that was a hard period... but I've always believed in that album and we had got the chance to had the right distribution, I think it would have done good."
So what happened after "Inferior To None"?
"After that album, we have played quite alot of shows in Belgium, Holland, Germany and two tours, in 1992, we have done one with SADUS all the way through Europe, and then one with THE ACCUSED, about 20 dates with them. And after that tour, but even during that tour, there was dissension inside the band, so I said to Stephan that I wanted to stop, that's when we took the decision to stop. After that tour, we have played two other shows because we had the contracts and then the band broke up. Didier have started his own thing, the drummer we had at that period was Norwegian, his name was Eric and he went back to Norway, the bass player has joined a band called JASON RAWHEAD, Stephan and myself, we have started a new project with Christian who now plays in FEAR FACTORY... I think Christian was in CYCLONE during the last tour we did, he has stayed with us for a short period... I think he has done the SADUS tour with us because at one time Didier had left the band so he was replaced by Christian then Didier was back in CYCLONE... at the end, it was a big mess... things weren't that great so that's how the band have broke up... so, Stephan, myself and Christian, we had a new band until when Christian was on holidays in the States and he has stayed there to play with FEAR FACTORY. So after the split, people were wondering what we will do, I mean people talk to me at shows and still nowadays, for them I'm still Guido from CYCLONE... and now with the CD release of "Brutal Destruction", the old timers they'd like to see CYCLONE live again, doing a reunion to do some shows... it's a possibility, but it's not that easy because I have to persuade the other guys to do it, we need a few months of rehearsing to be tight like we used to be."
By the way what do you think of that "Brutal..." CD release on Axe Killer? Did they get in touch with you for that?
"We were surprised by that! I mean we weren't expecting anymore to see "Brutal..." on CD. Obviously, Axe Killer and Roadrunner never consulted us for that. I heard about that through our old manager that Roadrunner had made a deal with Axe Killer to release that album. What I think about that? On one side, I'm happy because it's great to have it on CD, I'm proud of that, it means people think it's still can be sold and from what I understood, it seems it sells quite well so I'm really happy but on the other side, it seems that we're not gonna get any money on that as always since we never received anything from our previous deals. But it seems the fans are happy to have it on CD because I get great response from them when I go to a show... Anyway we'll see what future will bring us, but I'd like to do some live shows, I'm gonna try my best to do it, even the Metalysée organisation would like to help us out if it happens but we'll see..."
With the actual Heavy Metal revival, thanks to bands like ANVIL, BLITZKRIEG, TANK... do you plan to form a new band or..?
"Like you say, there's definitively a revival with all those old bands... but even before the CD release of "Brutal...", I wanted to do something, I had talked to the other guys about that but I don't think we really want to reform the band after those couple of shows. I really would like to form a new band but to start again CYCLONE would go nowhere, times have changed... of course for people like us, there's always lovers of that stuff who will go nuts with that... and in fact that's a pity because in the actual Metal scene, there's not so many bands who play Metal like Metal should be played! There's no True Metal bands anymore and I miss that. I'd like to be involved in a True Metal band but it's gonna be hard to convince other people to do that or I should do that with old CYCLONE members, but even in that case, that's gonna be hard because when I talk to Stephan about doing that again, he'd like to but he doesn't want to play that kind of music... and getting older, there's not only Metal, we're interesting in other forms of music, it's really expanded nowadays with Grunge, Industrial... so if you play music now, either you mix all those different styles or you get back to the old Metal roots and maybe that would be the best thing to do but is it worth still doing that because you play music for you at first and then if people enjoy what you're doing, that's satisfying. But I don't know if people are still gonna be into it, EXODUS have tried two years ago and that's finished now so I don't know. Also the actual Metal scene is disapointing, everything sounds the same, all those bands doesn't have that "groovy" thing, what Metal really is, the mix of aggressivity, melody, good singing, great lead work, now when I hear those new bands, they all sound like BIO-HAZARD, MACHINE HEAD but even M. HEAD music is just reheashing stuff, I hear lots of Eighties Thrash stuff in their music, they just have a better sound and added a few things but that's all... so, yeah the scene is really weak right now... going back to the old thing would be great but I wonder if it could be like it was. But what those actual bands don't have, that's the knowledge of what happened in late Seventies/early Eighties, they're not inspired by the roots like we were or EXODUS, SLAYER were. That's how I view the actual scene."
So Didier, before you've joined CYCLONE, were you a fan of their music?
Didier: "Well at the time WARHEAD were around, both bands were around at the same time in fact, they were friends, true friends, there was no jealousy or whatever, Guido have always been a good friend. I loved what they were doing so that what just a logical step for me. I don't think I took me long to say "yes!" when he has asked me to join them! But when WARHEAD was around, I could have already joined CYCLONE! So that happened but four years later."
Really? There was a possibility that you could have joined them earlier?
"Yes. Musically I liked alot what CYCLONE were doing and they weren't that satisfied with their guitar player but that never happened... only four years later."
So let's talk about the second CYCLONE album now. Personally I think that the riffs sounds more Hardcore/moshlike than the stuff you were doing in WARHEAD, less effective than what you were doing before.
"Well, that's difficult to compare CYCLONE and WARHEAD because they were more EXODUS sounding and us more METALLICA sounding. That was a different style of thrash."
Well, I don't know because as much as the first CYCLONE sounds like EXODUS, METALLICA, the second album sounds... I don't know... even the way Guido sings is more Hardcore influenced I would say.
"Maybe... that's evolution but from the first album, there's only the singer remaining, there was a new rhythm guitar player, new bass player, new drummer so logically there's a new influence."
Personally I was expecting something closer sounding to what you were doing in WARHEAD when I heard you had joined them with effective, intense riffs.
"But I wasn't a songwriter in CYCLONE, I was just a lead guitar player. That was mostly Guido and the other guitarist who were doing the songwriting because they were in CYCLONE for a longer time. I think on that album there's only two tracks that I've written."
Like the instrumental track I suppose?
"Exactly and also a slow sounding track. Yeah the slower track and the instrumental."
So what memories do you have from that period of time in CYCLONE?
"I had a very good time with them, we have toured quite alot which was something I never did with WARHEAD, a fifteen days tour."
Where have you toured?
"We have toured in Germany, Switzerland, Spain, Austria, France..."
I never heard about those dates! That was a headlining tour?
"No, we were guests of THE ACCUSED so we did a whole tour with them. That gave me also the opportunity to going back in a studio and to record a third album, to work with an American producer who knew his job, Eric Grief who was DEATH's manager. He knew what he was talking about and stuff. I can tell you that there's a huge difference between the tape I got from the studio and the final release on CD! The mastering has been fucked up! It should have sounded more powerful, it sounds good but it doesn't have so much power."