SLAUTER XSTROYES!Out of the so easily and quickly labelled as "cult/ legendary/ essential" micro pressings releases which were issued mostly during the first half of the eighties -the majority of those being nothing but garbage Metal albums (i.e. ATTIKA, IMAGE and dozen others) overpraised by a handful of individuals who certainly doesn't have any idea about what stands as quality Metal considering that their biggest concern seems to be nothing but collecting for the sake of it- a few still stand out as real essential releases, one particularly stands out of the lot being "Winter Kill" from Chicago's own SLAUTER XSTROYES! But while this one already showed lots of promises due to the unique sound this band had managed to create back in 1985, it was still nothing comparing to the second album which was finally issued a couple years ago by Monster records titled as "Free The Beast"! Every Metaller in this world has a list which consists of essential releases (except if you belong to the category listed earlier) where the likes of "Melissa", "Ample Destruction", "Heavy Metal Maniac", "Forged In Fire", "Hell Awaits", "Kill 'Em All", "Psalm 9"… appear, then you have no other choice than adding "Free The Beast" to it! Total ripping molten Metal delivered by this foursome in the greatest and most unexpected fashion. For this reason, I've decided to make a new feature on this mighty act being enough familiar with their stuff at this point -considering that I really wasn't the first time I interviewed guitarist Kratky, making sure this time to cover their entire story in detail, bassist Brent Sullivan agreed to do it and made sure to provide all the elements needed to get the complete puzzle on this highly underrated major act. Now read the following interview, get their fuckin' albums and get blown away!
A usual question by now but a necessarily one considering how talented you are with your instrument, for how long have you played bass and do you recall in which conditions you picked up that instrument? It seems that Gene Simmons was one of your biggest influence to start with…
"I have been playing for about 25 years now. I originally started on guitar, getting my first acoustic guitar on my 14th birthday from my mother (whom has been behind me since day one) even to this day. She fuckin' rocks! Always continued playing guitar, but bass is my main instrument. I do a lot of my writing on the guitar and piece things together such as riffs, bridges and breaks with the bass. I like writing guitar parts and then writing a cool or wicked bass line afterwards, but that's not to say I haven't written many songs on bass alone. "Mother Fucker", "City Of Sirtel", "Black Rose" and "Thorns" to name a few. I have always admired Gene Simmons, not so much for his playing but how intelligent he is. Blackie Lawless of WASP is another one. Playing wise I would go with Stanley Clarke, Billy Sheehan, Randy Coven, Geddy Lee and some Steve Harris -although he's a bit repetitive."
Do you recall how you've discovered Hard Rock/ Heavy Metal as a whole? What were some of the bands that you truly enjoyed immensely?
"I remember hearing "Dr. Love" on the radio and discovering KISS when I was around 12 years old. That really got me into the theatrical thing and Metal as a hole. Then there was IRON MAIDEN and MERCYFUL FATE, I was hooked then. I remember always turning my band mates on to different bands. I was the one that would go out and just pick up different albums of bands I never heard of because maybe the cover was cool or the name or just because it looked heavy. I wouldn't doubt if I didn't turn them guys onto FATE and MAIDEN. I picked a "Metal Massacre" LP and discovered a band called FATES WARNING. Love that band to this day. Some other bands I really like back then and now are AGENT STEEL, WATCH TOWER, OVERKILL, LETHAL, BARREN CROSS, DREAM THEATER, Stanley Clarke, FOGHAT, FIFTH ANGEL, ACCEPT, TESTAMENT, SLAYER, SYMPHONY X, WASP, TTRIUMPH and BLIND GUARDIAN to name a few. Stuff I'm really digging today are bands like MUDVAYNE (love that bass player), SEVEN DUST, TOOL and DISTURBED (hometown boys). The thing I hate with music today is no fuckin' leads!!! I don't get it, but at least it's very heavy and aggressive which cool with me."
Did you start right away to play Metal? At which point did you start playing with bands in the Illinois area? What were those early acts?
"Yeah, I've been a Metalhead from the start. Is there anything else? Truthfully, I do listen to other things too. I think as a musician, you need to open your mind to different styles of music otherwise you'll never grow as a musician, but that's only my opinion though. I still like bands like BOSTON, STYX, and even 3 DOORS DOWN and CREED. I started playing in bands when I was around 14 or 15 yrs old -yeah, I wasted no time! Right when I got my first bass and amp I started jamming in a band called GRAND THEFT. We did real Progressive stuff along with bands like RUSH, AC/DC, B.T.O. -and I did the singing- that had to be interesting. I wish I had a practice tape of that. It only was together for about five months. Then I joined a group called EQUINOX later to call it FINAL FAZE. It was mostly just Rock And Roll and all the other guys were much older than I was. The guitar player Jim Karones was 21, Sam S. Vocals was 18 and the drummer was 19, Steve Craine. The funny thing was, Steve had a major problem with me being only 15 and only playing less than a year, but that changed after he heard me play and we became the best of friends all these years and he was a huge supporter of my musical career. Unfortunately, he past away May of this year 2004. It was quite devastating for me. Jim and I have just reunited after all these years at Steve's funeral and now we stay in contact. It was a fun band and had many great times. We played many college shows with a band called M&R RUSH who were very popular out here. Then came NAJ…"
Do you recall how was the Illinois Metal scene back in 1979/ 1980 when NAJ were around? TROUBLE and ZOETROPE were already around… were you familiar with those acts at this point?
"Oh yeah, I remember the scene, we have seen TROUBLE and ZOETROPE quite a few times. We didn't know them personally though. I remember the scene being quite competitive amongst bands. We didn't give a shit, we just did what we did best…PLAY MUSIC!"
So NAJ which featured Paul Kratky and Ken Shembarger (guitars) Eddie Morevac (drums) started in 1979 and you joined 'em during 1980 as they couldn't find the right bass player at that point if I'm correct, do you recall how it happened? Had singer John Stewart had already joined them at that point?
"I think I answered an ad that Paul put in the paper. He came by to listen to me play at my house, I guess he was impressed because he insisted that I come down to jam. Stewart didn't come into the picture till much later. We had a singer named John Hill. After NAJ, Ed Morvack and I joined a band called WHITE WITCH, this is where John Stewart came in. We never played out though but it was a killer band. This is when I really started writing much more Progressive stuff. We used to practice in John's mothers basement. It was together for about a year or so."
What was John's background? I mean this guy had a totally unique voice and personality to say the least, giving the band even more uniqueness…
"John Stewart was indeed, one of the most unique individuals I've ever known. But the guy also had a heart of gold and very kind personality with one of the best voices I've ever heard. In WHITE WITCH, his vocal style was the most haunting and very cool. It was some very unbelievable shit. He used to have candles lit all over the fuckin' basement when we would come down to practice and he always had a circle drawn on the floor that he wanted no one to enter, even in the SLAUTER XSTROYES days. He had told back then that he was messing with black magic then but gave it up and he told me to never mess with it because it was very dangerous. I didn't doubt it. I think one of John's biggest down falls was he was always in competition with himself. Always trying to out do himself. If he just sang, he would be unstoppable. The thing was, he would never sing the song the same way twice, including words at times. This was a problem for us, because we wanted to sound the way we did live as we recorded. Imagine seeing a band you loved and the singer sounds like he's singing a different song. We got on him about it constantly and he got better but not as much as we wanted."
Had they written a lot of material before you joined them? How would you describe NAJ material at the time? It seems also that the band wasn't playing covers as Ken didn't want to play any right?
"Yes, they had quite a few tunes, but we also wrote a lot more together. I don't recall Ken staying in the band very long. Paul was the one that wasn't into doing covers. We did do some covers by SABBATH and ACCEPT at one time. NAJ was more of a Heavy Rock and Roll band like SABBATH. Paul reminded me very much of the style of Tony Iommi."
Did you use a lot of that early NAJ material into S. XSTROYES with the exception of "Mass Confusion" which became "Winterkill"? Was there any demos recorded with NAJ as I never saw any floating in the underground?
"No, just "Mass Confusion", from NAJ, I went to WHITE WITCH then Ed and I got back together with Paul and brought Jerry Klein, the guitar player from WHITE WITCH. From there we became SLAUTER XSTROYES. No demos, just a lot of practice tapes, some pretty good sounding though."
At which point did you change the name for SLAUTER XSTROYES and who came up with that totally unusual name?
"Ah, now that's a good one. When Paul, Ed, Jerry and I got together, it wasn't going to be NAJ again. It was going to be totally different so we all got totally stoned at practice and started shouting out some names. I came up with the name Slauter and Destroy. We were close but didn't like the "and" thing. Then I said, I wonder what Destroy is in pig Latin is. I think we came up with Xstroydes. Was that right? Who the fuck knows, either way we were getting closer. So, I said how about Xstroyes! There ya have it, I guess it was me. Sounded crazy enough to us."
So at this point you had replaced Ken with Jerry Klein, what happened with Ken and for how long did Jerry stay in the band considering that the band ended up being a four piece act?
"I think this was kind of answered earlier although Jerry was with the band when John Stewart came into the band within that first year. Don't really remember why or when he left. It was more personal reasons I believe."
During the early '80s the Illinois scene had became bigger with bands like THRUST, WITCHSLAYER, WAR CRY, HAMMERON, INFRA RED, SNOWHITE, MAELSTROM, POISON etc being around, were you familiar with those acts as it always seemed to me that there was most of those bands on one hand and S.X. on the others as I don't recall having seen you sharing bills with them (or with TROUBLE, ZOETROPE..)?
"Yes, I know of all those bands. I know we played with MAELSTROM, HAMMERON, and WAR CRY, I think even WITCH SLAYER and ZOTROPE. I know when I formed WINTER KILL, we played with TROUBLE and even SAVATAGE, OVERKILL, MANOWAR and SAXON."
During 1983 you parted ways with Eddie who was replaced by Ed Pukstys and later on by Dave Bono (ex-NO MERCY), what happened exactly considering that Morevac was a killer drummer to say the least?
"Ed is a great drummer, just not very reliable. The more serious we got, the more he slacked off. Drummers were a major problem with S.X.. Probably one of the reasons S.X. finally broke up."(Another ULYSSES SIREN here syndrome? Guess so unfortunately!- Laurent)
How many demos have you exactly recorded before doing your first album?
"Damn, that's a tough one. Really only one with the band FINAL FAZE. The rest were all more just home recordings and practice tapes. Some of the songs; "The Watcher", "Wizard Of The Hills, "Love & Women", "Chicago Needs Rock", the others escape me right now."
Have you shopped them around back then or were you simply totally unaware of all the business side of things at that point?
"We were young, really just enjoyed writing, recording (when we had the cash) and playing live. We didn't even really think about getting signed too much in the SX days until we recorded "Winter Kill". Well, I should say, we focused more on it when that time came, we just knew we couldn't do much until we had music recorded."
The debut album was recorded in 1985 In Orland Park, IL, do you recall how went the sessions? At that point did you have the idea to release it yourselves or did you want to record it first and then shop it around to labels with the hope to be signed?
"As far as we were concerned, the session was going great. It was our first major recording session, unfortunately, the engineer was just an engineer and was no help on the production side. We were on our own as producers..(laughs)! So picture five young Punk musicians telling the guy, I need more bass, I need more guitars, I need more drums, etc… Really it wasn't too bad, but I know we look back and really wish we could record those songs over again. The recording sucks to today's standards and their are some great songs on there. I do guess it makes it a nice classic though. We definitely had the idea of releasing it ourselves, but the reason we stopped at 500 is because we were foolish with the money trying to get a record deal and didn't have enough cash to re-press it. We were impatient and gave money to lawyers who took vacations on it instead of shopping us and the rest went to recording new songs. Bad money management but as I said, we were quite young and didn't have a clue."
At the time Dennis Bergeron from Midwest Militia 'zine who was the owner of King Klassic Records label approached you and offered you to release this album but it didn't happen because according to Paul, Dave Bono wasn't into it, what about you, how did you see the whole thing considering that you ended up releasing it yourselves on a minimal basis?
"To tell you the truth, I'm not really sure where I was on that issue. I really think it was a money and contract issue, I know Dave had a problem with it, if I'm correct, I just didn't want to sign off with (at the time) was a very small thing and just wanted to see if we could do better before we locked into it. Who knows, I know Paul just wanted to get the music out there, and of coarse, so did I. Was it a mistake? We'll never know."
So with a $5.000 budget, 500 copies of that albums were releasing making of this album a collector in recent years after people like myself discovered the band, how do you view the whole thing nowadays? Don't you think that it was almost inevitable that the band would stay ignored with such a choice unless a radio station would have picked up a copy of it and played it non stop but it obviously never happen…
"I don't think it was inevitable at all. I think it's a damn shame someone didn't pick us up and bring us to the next level. S.X. had a very special chemistry to create a very different style of music. I always wondered if I just stuck it out a couple of more years if it would of ever took off. Hell, MAIDEN, FATE and a million others in that style never got any real airplay, they just had a record label behind them. If a band don't get a company and some muscle behind them, it gets very difficult to continue. Without backing or support, you're basically fucked, unless you're made of money. You need the tour support and promotion to let the masses know who you are. That's why so many great fuckin' bands fall apart and it's a damn shame. Especially when you see some of the crap that does get signed."
Were you playing a lot of shows at that point? Did that "Winterkill" release opened some local doors to the band?
"Oh yeah, we were doing pretty good after "Winter Kill" came out. A lot of people began to recognize us. We started play out a lot more along with small radio interviews, etc…No real national act gigs though."
Do you know if some European people have ordered the album back then as there was no reviews that could be found around, even if it was Paul who was taking care of the album distribution?
"I don't think so, I think most all copies were sold in the states. Although, I would not doubt some got out that way."
Next effort was the inclusion of the song "No Idea" I believe on a local compilation, "Chicago Metal Works Vol.I" on the tiny Silver Fin label during 1986, do you think it helped to increase the band's popularity at least locally as it was another tiny pressing type of album?
"Well, any promotion or songs you can get on a compilation helps. I think the reason we put" No Idea" on there was because it was the shortest tune we had and I think we were only allowed 3 ½ or 4 minutes and we didn't want to chop our other songs. Plus, I'm sure we figured it was our most commercial trying to think like a record company."
So what happened exactly within the band from that point except continuing writing newer songs?
"I know we really tried to focus on getting our live show tighter. Not music wise, just as far as consistency with John, look wise, props and what ever we could think of that would just blow people away and we could afford to pull off. I think the more we really started doing and became more focused on trying to get signed, the pressure also began to build."
You had started to put together a second album titled "Free The Beast" during 1987 but it was never fully completed as only eight songs were recorded, tell us more about that…
"Well, we recorded as much as we could with the money we had. It ran out so most of them never got fully mixed. By that time I was getting a bit frustrated with the whole situation. It was a very tough decision for me and it took a long time for me to finally call it quits. I checked out a few bands on the side every once and awhile and finally came across the band called SQUADRON. I really enjoyed what they were doing…except singerwise. But I changed that not soon enough after I joined. Plus, they had management, and I thought at that time it was the best move for me to do."
Were you envisaging to issue by yourselves again this second album or did you have in mind to really get signed this time?
'No, we were just writing machines and wanted to just keep the music flowing and fresh. Plus, it was time for a new album, it just never made it that far."
By 1987 the Illinois Metal scene had changed its face, gone were the Heavy Metal bands like THRUST, WAR CRY etc but a whole new Thrash wave had appeared with acts like MUTILATION, NATAS, TERMINAL DEATH, MASTER, SINDROME, SOLEMN etc… were you interested by what was going on? Also there was some clubs which had opened their doors to Metal like the Iron Rail, Rock 'N' Chicago….
Yeah, we played those places, but I myself wasn't into the hole cookie monster vocal thing. I like my music as heavy as it can be but just with some vocal style. I only recall bands like SINDROME and MASTER. I actually went to try out for MASTER one time. That was interesting but I wasn't interested."
You said you did try out for MASTER, do you recall when it was ? Was it to succeed to Paul Speckman or could it be as a guitar player to replace Chris Mittelbrun?
"I recall Paul Speckman but I dealt with the drummer which I don't remember the name off hand. It was only one rehearsal so I don't remember that much except jammin' with them.
It seems the band managed to play in other states than Illinois at the time such as Indiana at least, were you getting a good response from those crowds that weren't that familiar with your material?
"We always got the look of awh when we played. Especially when people didn't know anything about us or our music. But that doesn't mean that was a bad thing though."
The band broke up supposedly in 1987 according to different interviews but I recently put my hands on live videos that are dated from mid 1989, so what's the truth behind this? When and in which conditions did the band end up? So you were the first to leave and joined a newer act called SQUADRON…
"1988 or 1989 sounds about right. Yes, I broke the band up and I joined up with SQUADRON I believe in 1989. I know Paul wasn't happy with my decision and knew it couldn't continue without me considering the chemistry we had together, but we always remained close friends to this day. Haven't seen Dave Bono or John Stewart in many, many years."
SQUADRON didn't have much in common with S.X. based on the material I've heard from the band, for how long did you stay with them? Have you recorded something with that tiny act? I remember that you were covering "Whiplash" in your live set…
"I'm not sure what you heard from them but some stuff we recorded together had quite a bit of S.X. elements. It wouldn't be the same without Paul's style of playing of coarse but I wrote quite a bit of S.X.'s material and I brought that style into SQUADRON as well. We recorded a three song demo right around the time of Desert Storm so we named it "Storming The Desert". We also recorded some other songs that were never finished. Yes, we did that song along with a couple others such as a re-make of SUGARLOAF's "Green Eyed Lady" and ELP'S "Carnevil No. 9". It was a great band and I really enjoyed the guitar player's style as well. He was a phenomenal player. His name was Brian Cassidy."
What have you done between SQUADRON around 1989 and more recently with WINTER KILL?
"I was with SQUADRON for about three years. Till about 1991. I don't know exactly what happen, just one day everyone just decided to part ways. For most of 1991 I wanted to create a sort of Metal / horror opera with two singers acting out their parts. I had most of the music and lyrics worked out for it, but trying to get two Metal singers to work together was quite a task. Not that they didn't get along, but they were always trying to out singer each other with their high pitch screams. That was not going to work. Then I had to pitch to them the story line and what they had to wear for costumes. Really, both singers would of worked out perfectly appearance wise. One was going to be a decrepit child (singer 1) raised in a cellar (which would have been part of the drum riser) by his evil father (singer 2). It was quite a sick fucking story and would have been pretty fucking cool if I could have pulled it off, but it took a lot of work, coordination and corporation. It probably would of worked better if I just wrote and directed it and just got a bass player, but to top it off, we had no heat in the practice we had and the dead of winter pretty much killed it and it fell apart."
Then you started WINTER KILL while Paul was involved with SPECIAL ED and then with JOHNY CHAINSAW and some other outfits later on, what about Dave and John? You were in a band called THE ENERGY VAMPIRES for a little while, tell us more about this too… Still it seems you've tried to reform S.X. during 1991 with Paul and a drummer as I have a rehearsal from that year where you play never heard before material, tell us more about this reunion or reformation attempt, how did that come about and why it didn't go further?
"I filled in for John when he had a band called Energy Vampires for a show. Ed Morvack also filled in. John had called me and was in a bind when his bass player and drummer left and asked if we would fill in. I'll never forget that fuckin' night (laughs)! He got us fitted for fangs to put on. These were fitted to our two eye teeth. So, I asked him how they were to stay on the night of the show and John dips them into something and shoves them in my mouth. Only to find out after the show, they wouldn't come out. Well, after a long time of prying. I asked him, "What the fuck did you use?" he says, "Oh, just denture grip, don't worry". That sucked! Paul, Ed and I jammed together for a solo thing I was attempting to do for awhile and again fell through due to Ed's responsibility to show up. In late 1991, John had a new line up for ENERGY VAMPIRES with drummer Tony Rios and guitarist Vernon Voss. Considering the hole Metal opera thing fell through I decided to check it out. We did some recording but this did not stay E. VAMPIRES for long. To make a long story short, I talked Tony and Vernon into making this into the rebirth of S.X.. Although John was not thrilled, he went along for a little while. We had a big show with a bunch of bands with SAVATAGE as headliners and John ended up showing up ¾ of the way through the show. Yes, we had to play instrumental with a little of hatred singing from yours truly, me. That totally sucked and was the end of John Stewart. I knew the time was coming anyways, so a month prior to this, at a July 4th party, I ran into my old friend Randy Barron. At that time I asked him if he would be interested in coming down to check out the band considering his band TYRANTS REIGN was finished. He would of did the SAVATAGE show but he was going to be out of town for work that weekend. By the time he came back to town, we were hitting the studio, so he had his work cut out for him. We played some shows as S.X. but by the end of the year, we decided that it really was not the same sound. I still wanted to keep the association, so we called it WINTER KILL. Then in 1992, we finally finished the recording that was called "A Feast For A Beggar"."
But talking about that reformation of S. XSTROYES during 1990/1991, on my rehearsal video, it seems it's Paul who's playing -short haired guy, could it be him or was it Vernon?
"That may be a video of me, Paul and Ed doing a bunch of old NAJ, S.X. and some new stuff which we were going to record -that of which I sent you the results on cd. Never was finished though. If it was, it was to be the making of a new S.X. cd, but mainly because we wanted to get some of those old songs recorded."
What do you think lacked to S.X.. to become well known -at least- and big for sure considering that each of you guys were totally outstanding musicians and there was an unreal chemistry coming out of this as it could be especially heard on "Free The Beast"?
There are a lot of amazing bands and musicians out there that never catch their break or get noticed yet you see some that couldn't play their way out of a paper bag. I will never understand it."
So a couple years ago, Paul was approached by Denis Bergeron who had in between launched a new label with his old partner, Phil Baker, called Monster Records and wanted to re-issue "Winterkill", were you involved into that re-release project as I think you had stayed in touch with Paul?
"Personally I don't know how I feel about it. I had nothing to do with it and only found out about it after the fact. I am very glad that it's reached more people than we ever could do or did, but I guess I have a problem with someone other than the band cashing in on sales. Now, don't get me wrong, I am sure Dennis is not raking in the cash on SLAUTER XSTROYES, but there is some money there and I guess I just believe that the musicians that made the music should be entitled to something for their efforts no matter how small the return. Take your percentage and give the band the rest is my take on this. We're talking about a band that is no more, releasing copies, promoting it and creating a buzz to sell albums/ CDs. In the end, yes, it has put our names on the map, made a band that don't exist that should of a long time ago popular, much appreciated for me personally. Paul and I differ from this, but as a musician, We have all done nothing but spend money on our music and dreams. Always money we don't have. Hell, I would always take my last dime to record music and blow off paying my electric bill or something. Never to profit, make a living, nothing for what we love to do. I know Dennis means well, loves the band and wanted to let people hear what we've done and I don't want to sound like an ass, but damn, am I wrong? This is where I don't know how I feel about it. (laughs) Paul thinks I'm wrong to feel this way…but he has not continued music as his dream either. I have not stopped. It's not about the money, it's about principal."
This re-release really introduced the band for the very first time to traditional Metal followers, were you aware of the fact that it was getting favourable reviews 15 years after its initial release?
"Oh yeah, I was aware. You know, it's great that so many people embrace it now, 15 even 20 years later but it's also depressing to think all these people could have been embracing it to this day. If it was noticed back then, we may still be together producing music today."
As a consequence, the original pressing of "Winterkill" can be sold for $600 these days when copies can be found, something which would have probably not happened in the '90s, how do you view this?
"I have seen it for a $1000.00 on e-bay at one time. It is amazing and a great compliment. There are many people who love to collect that rare stuff. Hell, I have the original copy still wrapped if someone wants to make an offer. For me, I have it on cd now so the album does nothing for me. Of coarse it's very precious to me, but if someone is more into that, cool. I'll let it go for the right price. I have more than enough memorabilia and I can understand how someone that has that interest would want a piece of that, so I may give that up to someone."
So at which point was it considered to release on CD the "Free The Beast" album which feature the sessions for this album plus older sessions? How was it put together?
"I had nothing to do with this either, sorry. Kind of like the first pressing, in the end though, it's all good, everyone gets to hear our music."
As I've stated it many times since I heard this one, "Free The Beast" simply contains some of the best U.S. Metal ever written and can be labelled as the U.S. answer to MERCYFUL FATE's "Melissa" considering how effective/ technical and simply ass kicking the material is on this album, how much input did you have on the songwriting process for this masterpiece?
"I had a huge influence on the writing. I can't say that MERCYFUL FATE had anything to do with our writing at all no matter how kick ass they where. We were in our own world when we wrote music. I would say I wrote about 75% of the music. I really did most of the arranging. I would take songs home and go over them and put them together or create riffs to smooth the breaks out. A lot of times I would just have a complete song worked out, we would learn and change it again. It drove them nuts sometimes but we always beat it to the ground until we got it right. But without a doubt Paul played a huge role in our songwriting. A lot of times, Paul would come up with a riffs, we'd fuck around with it and record, then I would take it home to finish it or we would just finish it at practice. Bottom line is though, no matter what I write, it still is never the same without Paul on guitar. Us together is what makes S.X. sound the way it does. I can't produce that without him and his style. We have a certain chemistry together that I can't copy with anyone else. So, bottom line is, it doesn't matter I wrote a large part of our music, it would not sound the same with any other player."
I'd say that it's really also on this album that not only your talent really shines but also Paul's unreal ability to write Metal riffs the way it was meant to be, at which point have you found out that Paul was the type of guitar player that you don't meet everyday?
"Well, being a guitar player myself, you would probably be surprised on how many of those riffs I may have came up with, but without a doubt, Paul ruled on the guitar far passed me and made any riff I gave him or he came up sound fuckin' perfect! By far one of the smoothest guitarist I've ever played with next to my new guitarist Mike Cess. He is also very smooth but a different style. I tried to get them together which would of destroyed but Paul wasn't into the 7 string thing."
Would you say that early MERCYFUL FATE was a huge influence for the band? I know Paul loved them…
"I would say no."
I understand that you, Paul and former drummer Eddie Morevac have got together during 1999/2000 and recorded in studio seven cuts which included two new songs, and there was at this time some hope to see S.X. coming back minus John but until now, nothing came out of this, so what happened? I mean even if you can't get back together, can it be envisaged to release that studio session with more unrealised old tunes such as "Glacier", "Sorcerer", "Witches Of Honor"….
"Well, we tried once again, and once again, Eddie failed to show commitment to take it farther. It would be great to get together and do another record. Our biggest problem is a place to play and finding a drummer that would dedicate his time to do it. Then of coarse is finding a vocalist that can come close to sounding like John. Personally, I would like to get Scott Huffman ( SPIRIT WEB / TWELFTH GATE) to do vocals on it but we may know someone else too. Plus, I am the busiest of the bunch with my new band NDX. Things have really been taking off with them and it has been tough to find the time now."
Do you recall how many tunes you have written as S.X.? I believe you had an unreal bunch like 40 songs or so?
"We had a shit load. I'm sure it was more than 40, but most were never completed with vocals. Some practice tapes I listen to sometimes and I wonder what the hell we were on. (laughs) There was some crazy shit we did. I think with some tweaking or maybe none at all, it would blow most people away. It does when I listen to it now. I don't even know what the hell we were playing at times."
Have you tried at that point to get John Stewart involved even if he lives in Las Vegas apparently now? I remember that Paul envisaged to change the band name if there was a reformation…
"We did try to get in touch with him a few times. I think Paul did a long time ago and he was not interested from what I understand. But I think at that time it was more of a reunion show thing instead of recording. Now we can't find him. To tell you the truth, I don't know really how well that would work now. Paul did mention we should just do a new thing and change the name, but I don't know if that would be the same. The other factor was that I wanted to make the new S.X. record in the same fashion we were back then and he is a little more refined these days in my opinion. But, who's to say what we would come up with once we started rollin'."
Was it considered to do a reunion show to celebrate the CDs release?
"I would like to. It seems only fitting. You have to remember, I'm the only one really still active in the music scene. I have never stopped! Well, for about a year between WINTER KILL and NDX, but that's it. So, it's not that important to them to play live at some club."
Paul was even involved with WINTER KILL at one point but it seems it didn't work out with him…
"Paul did do a recording with us covering "Beyond The Black" by METAL CHURCH. It was for a METAL CHURCH tribute cd, but I don't know if it ever got released. It was very cool though, I thought."
For how long did the whole WINTER KILL thing go on? I understand the band broke up because guitarist Jeff West left the band… Have you released more albums or whatever? According to reviews it seems there was some nu-Metal sounding parts that were including in the band sound….
"WINTER KILL was also a very big part of my life. I was with WINTER KILL for over eight years, pretty much as long as I was with S.X.. I eventually ended up breaking up the band. Oddly enough like S.X.. After "A Feast For A Beggar" which later was distributed through a distributor Molten Metal distribution. The original release of this cd is also very hard to find let alone the new cover. The first cover was black and white with wolves eating a carcass of a dear, and the newer version was in color of just a wolfs face. We then released a second cd called "Freedom". I don't think that one got over sea in any large amount. This cd would probably be considered more modern. I thought it was a great bunch of songs. Things were going quite well at this time, did a video and everything but once again, began to have drummer problems. Tony Rios was an unbelievable drummer, one of the best I have played with, but he began to battle his own personal demons after awhile and it began to take a toll on the band. We then signed with an overseas record company which I don't even care to mention. They took songs from "Feast" and "Freedom" plus four new tracks we recorded with a new drummer and keyboard player that we were trying out. We called it 'Taming The Wolves". Kind of a meaning that they were taming the beast, taking our most commercial songs from both cds because they didn't give us much choice on what to put on there. Nevertheless, they fucked us, never promoted the damn thing let alone put it in stores for people to buy from what we heard over seas. By this time, I was really trying to move the sound to more current. I really wanted to try something different, not old, not nu-Metal, just different. My take was, let's get more Progressive or more of what's going on. We were constantly get labelled as an 80's Metal band and I couldn't really understand why. Well I knew why, Randy has that old school vocal style. The thing was, he was fully capable of the new style, he just didn't want to do it. Plus, Jeff West was just not into change. Myself, as a musician, realize, you must bend and change somewhat with the times or you will be left behind. I think that's why I'm still were I'm at now because I spent way to much time in the music I believed in and the players that I was with too long and didn't move on soon enough. So, I decided it was time to leave."
Next band you were involved with was SPIRIT WEB, a band formed by ex- STYGIAN, DARK AGES, SYRIS guitarist, Paul Speredes, joined by ex- DARK AGES, THE LORDS OF MEAT, SYRIS singer, Scott Huffman, and ex- HABITUAL RITUAL, THE ENERGY VAMPIRES, WINTER KILL drummer Tony Rios, so how did you end up being involved in that band? Were you still involved with WINTER KILL around at that point as you have mentioned that S. WEB was just a project for you?
"I jammed with Paul S. back in all that mess between SQUADRON and WINTER KILL for a brief time So he knew me and how I played. He called upon Tony Rios at first because he felt he was the best drummer in Chicago, which he was. He definitely had some of the fastest feet. He was originally going to do the bass himself but decided to ask if I would also be interested in doing the project because he felt I was the only bass player that could match his riffs. That cd was basically done by exchanging tapes and a couple of rehearsals. It was pretty tough to juggle that and rehearsal with WINTER KILL three nights a week as we promised the band it would not interfere with WINTER KILL."
Were you familiar with SYRIS prior to join SPIRIT WEB? Actually Paul Speredes had managed to write with "Unseen Forces" a totally shredding record in terms of ass kicking riffs…
"Not really, I only heard them once I got involved with SPIRIT WEB."
How do you view the first S.W. album nowadays? While I find it good when it was first released, now I tend to consider it as just okay as the songs sounds a bit like interchangeable for most of them and lack of hooks…
There are some tunes on there that I really liked a lot and still do. I love "Cut You lose", "Osiris Be Thy Judge", "Dream Never Ending" and "Blind Faith". Those are some great fuckin' songs! I wasn't there for the mix down so I really hate the way they squashed the bass with compression. I'm not real big into compression. I like my shit wide open and raw. The bass sounded great when I laid the tracks, but what can you do, I was a hired gun at the time. How do I view it? I think it's a great classic old school style Metal cd. I will say that I absolutely love Scott's vocals on pretty much anything he does. He is definitely one of the best Metal vocalist in Chicago."
During 2001/2002, Tony was replaced by Chuck White who had played with Michael Angelo before, and more surprisingly Scott (who's also involved with TWELFTH GATE featuring also ex- SYRIS members) decided to not do the second S.W. record, what happened with him as he was replaced by your ex- WINTER KILL partner, Randy Baron?
"Well, as I said, Tony had his personal demons going on and still does, truly a shame! Not only a great drummer but a great guy as well. I really miss him as a friend. So, there was no way we could do another recording with him. It would of never made it, so I asked Chuck to do it. Now this is a pretty interesting little story. This was months after I left WINTER KILL, but for some reason they were trying to continue on with the band including my name "WINTER KILL". Either way it failed and right at the time the SPIRIT WEB deal sprung was the time they asked if I wanted to come back. Well I tried for one practice and Jeff didn't make it, so I asked Chuck if he was interested in playing drums for the S.W. project. Then Paul found out that Scott had no time to do it because his commitment with TWELFTH GATE so I asked Randy. That took some time because Randy told me he was not the style of Scott. We knew this, but the record company and Paul were all cool with it so we went for it."
How did you view the fact that S.W. managed to get a deal for Europe at least with the reformed Mausoleum which has proved to be a poor deal as no real promotion is done at all for the band -neither for the other bands signed on their roster either?
"This is a major problem with European labels signing bands in the states or anywhere else for that matter in my opinion. I see it all the time. They promise the world and nothing happens. A band I know called ION VEIN just signed a deal with some label over there not to mention TWELFTH GATE. They are doing nothing. I really wish them well but been there, done that! They hardly play shows out here and I think they are great bands. It's just the same old shit with these labels. They take recordings the band paid for, print them up on their label, make a couple of bucks and then disappear or drop them without paying them a dime. I'm personally finished with giving any of my music to any of those fuckers again. When I make music, I will make it available through me period. There are plenty of ways to get it to fans all over the world on the internet. Those who want it will find it and at least the artist will make a buck or two. It's sad, but that's the way it is."
So the next S.W. effort came into the shape of "Far Beyond The Visual Mind" during 2003, it seems you had a bigger hand in the songwriting department at least for this one than on the first who was already written when you joined them? Would you say that this second album sounds more like what the band wanted to achieve?
"When Paul asked me to do the second CD, it wasn't going to be a hired gun type of thing. So, I told him I wanted to have a say in writing. He basically said he would write half and I would write half so I was cool with that. We had three months to write, rehearse and record this cd. It was quite stressful, especially on Randy. I remember him writing lyrics on his way to the studio. "Prince And A Pauper" which he was worried about the most, he wrote that day driving to the studio and I think did a great job! He really surprised me on the whole cd. Was it what we wanted to achieve? (laughs) I think we did a great job for the time we had and I think there are some cool tunes on there. Do I think S.W. fans from the first cd like it? I'm not sure, I have not seen no feedback or reviews on it. It's night and day though. Most Metal fans hate change. We just tried to do our best with what we had."
This second album features good old traditional Heavy/ Power Metal sounding material but at the same time this stuff is mixed with modern sounding songs, while one can think that it can appeal to a wider audience, at the same time it can be the reverse thing as traditional followers might pass on it because of that mix, what do you think of this?
"Well, that's what we thought when we heard the final product. I'm sure the modern sound came from my input. Paul is very far from any kind of modern Metal and is Randy. But both played ball very well. It's unfortunate, but yes, I'm sure your hardcore followers will not get it. Some just won't give in. I find it frustrating. I love my old fashion Metal but there is a hole other world of Metal out there that isn't half bad. I only wish some of those hardcore fans would give it a chance. They may not be hearing the right shit. I suggest some MUDVYNE and SEVEN DUST."
Do you have a clue about the response those two releases have got so far? I guess it's from Europe and Germany especially that the biggest response comes from right?
"I saw reviews from the first one but nothing on the second one. Probably Europe and Germany is only the way they distributed it if that. Sound bitter, Fuck yeah!"
Would you say that this second S.W. line up is the strongest so far with Randy having done an outstanding performance on the second album?
"Randy is a very good friend of mine and a great vocalist for his style and did do an outstanding job but S.W. is best with Scott Huffman. He just fits that style of music. If S.W. was a band and we produced music like the two bonus tracks on the first album, it would fuckin' rule! Wouldn't do shit in our good old city of Chicago but over seas I'm sure. If you like the second S.W. cd then you should get your hands on WINTER KILL's "Freedom"."
I wonder if S.W. have played live yet as it seems it's hard for such an untypical sounding band to find shows to play? It seems you were supposed to come over and do some festivals and eventually do a tour with another Mausoleum act, the legendary Belgium act, KILLER but it didn't happen so far, do you know more about this?
"As you probably figured out so far from this interview, S.W. was nothing but a guitar player with a dream to play Metal just as the rest of us. It was never a real band to ever play a live show. It would probably be one hell of a band if we actually rehearsed like a real band. Paul put together some cash to put together a cd of Metal he wanted, got a deal, then got the label to pay a small amount to do another one. I give him a lot of credit. He got a band signed that wasn't even a band. The deal sucked as usual but he did it never the less. He tried and if the label would of done something, it would have been a band."
So what's the current status of S.W. these days since you are involved with NDX, Randy seems to enjoying new success with the reformed TYRANT'S REIGN…? Have you started working on a third record with Paul Speredes?
"No, I don't think there will be another S.W. cd. I don't even think Mausoleum Records paid all the money to the studio, which is fuckin' bullshit considering the studio let us record on a credit basis. Word to the wise, stay away from them. Yes, TYRANTS REIGN is back! Support them!"
So it seems your main act these days is NDX, what can you tell us about that act? When was it formed and what's the line up?
"It was formed in 1993. It consists of founding member Mike Cess on guitars, Bob Ordaz on drums, Steve Savage on guitars, Jewell on vocals and of course me on bass. The band is heavy as fuck, has a very infectious groove to it with a lot of old school and modern mixed together. I got with these guys after about a year break from bands. My old friend Mike called me to come check out his line-up he had going on. I liked what they were doing although different from what I was used to, it was still very heavy. I thought to myself that I could work with this. Within the couple of months we were gigging and then in the studio recording a three song demo. Handed out over 3000 cd's within two months and before we knew it, by the end of the year recording a five song cd with producer Doug McBride who was blown away by the demo. Ever since then to this day the band has been blowing up. It's going very well."
It sounds like this band is much more modern sounding orientated than the other acts you've been involved with so far, can you describe the band's material to our readers?
"Yeah, it's definitely got a modern feel to it but it still has some very old school riffs going on. The thing of it is, we've blended it so well you can't tell and this has been catching on big time. Both guitarist play 7 strings so it has a very low end sound, then you got my style which I have not changed. There is actually more bass lead riffing going on in a lot of our songs than you would ever here in any modern Metal band. You could compare us to a KORN, MMUDVYNE, GODSMACK and old style PANTERA but with a more melodic style vocal. No, it's not like SLAUTER XSTROYES or SPIRIT WEB or WINTER KILL for that matter but if you give it a chance, I think you'll find elements you'll start to enjoy. There is a lot of new material that we have yet recorded that I have been much more involved with writing that I think you'll like. So don't give up yet my friends. Check it out for yourselves and give me some feedback at www.ndxmusic.com ."
I'm correct you have an album out as well, tell us more about this…. What's the next step for NDX?
"Yes, we have a three song demo and a five song cd entitled "Rectified" which is available at www.ndxmusic.com and www.cdbaby.com . Right now we have been creating quite a buzz in Chicago along with the music industry. Right now we are just hitting every thing we can with great success, unlike any band I've ever played in. Everyone in this band is 100% in there parts in making this band succeed. One can only tell and I really hope that all that have followed what I have done give this a chance."
How would you like to end up that so fuckin' well deserved interview? If there's something that I've forgotten to cover, feel free to add it.
"I would like to say thanks to all that have enjoyed the music I've played in the past and I hope now-a-days. Music is a tough business and it makes it all worth while to know people out there are enjoying what you do no matter how few. Always remember, Metal is Fuckin' Metal no matter if it's old school or new school. If it's heavy, it's Metal! Embrace it and keep an open mind! You may be surprised, you might enjoy it. Music is ever changing and it can be very rewarding in discovering new sounds for your soul. Check out the new band NDX at www.ndxmusic.com with an open mind, be patient, I have been writing more with the band and I think you'll like the new stuff we have yet to record. Feel free to contact me at email@example.com if you have any questions, I always enjoy hearing from you. And yes there is still hope that a new S.X. cd will be done. Also, I will be launching my own website soon possibly before this interview hits so check it out at www.brentsullivan.net . This will be anything and everything I ever done but most you probably never seen or heard. I figured I would do it just for the hell of it and I've got so much shit, might as well pass it on to those who may be interested."
(with SLAUTER XSTROYES)
Winter Kill -Self financed/1985
Winter Kill - Monster Records/1997 (re-release)
Free The Beast - Monster Records/1998
(with WINTER KILL)
A Feast For A Beggar - Xstroyes Music/1995
A Feast For A Beggar - Molten Metal/1997 (re-release)
Freedom - Wild Fire Music/1998
Taming The Wolves - MTM records/2001
(with SPIRIT WEB)
Spirit Web - Stentorian Records/2000
Spirit Web - Mausoleum/2002 (re-release)
Far Beyond A Visual Mind - Mausoleum/2003
Rectified - NetherWorld Records/2004