BLITZENHAMER was founded from the vaults of S.S.DAGGER. In 2000, BLITZENHAMER released a very strong debut album called “Pawns Of The Predator”. Heavy Metal floats through their vains. And in the summer of this year they convinced the Metal fans who came to the Milwaukee Metal Fest of their strength. And I believe that this is just the beginning of a hopefully long and successful career. It’s an honour to introduce this well talented band, whose star is rising very fast right now. This is the story of BLITZENHAMER…..
You started as SS DAGGER ten years ago. Who were in this first line up?
"The first lineup of S.S. DAGGER ten years ago was as follows: the three cousins: Fritz Patrick (lead vocals), Tim Cardoza (bassist), Doug Teixeira (percussion), and Kaz Suda (guitar) of Tokyo, Japan."
How did drummer Douglas get his nickname "Honeychild"?
"Douglas got the nickname ‘Honeychild’ from his older brother Steve, who died of leukemia at the age of twenty-three. Douglas was fourteen years old at the time. Steve was a real role model for Doug, and he used to call himself ‘Sonny’. So the nicknames were ‘Honeychild’ for Doug, and ‘Sonny-child' for Steve."
Why did your Japanese guitar player Kaz Suda leave the band after the release of your first four track EP "Rest In Peaces"? And do you know if Kaz is still playing music or have you lost contact with him over the years?
"Kaz Suda left the band after he got his Art Degree from UC Berkeley, and he went back to Japan to try to get a job. We saw him a few years ago, when he returned to USA. He got to meet Len and hear the new sounds of the band. He still plays some music. It’s more of a hobby to Kaz and he’s done some recording on his own. His new music is more techno-pop sounding. We like to listen to the “Inspector Gadget” theme song. We haven’t seen him since then."
Who were your musical influences in the early years and did they actually change over the years?
"We all have a lot of different influences over the years. They don’t necessarily change, but rather they grow. The earliest ones would be: THE BEATLES, BUDDY RICH, DEEP PURPLE, BLACK SABBATH, ALICE COOPER and RITCHIE BLACKMORE’S RAINBOW. Some of our later influences are: JUDAS PRIEST, IRON MAIDEN, KISS, TWISTED SISTER, WASP, ACCEPT and MOTORHEAD. Our new favorite metal bands are PRIMAL FEAR from Germany and HAMMERFALL from Sweden."
I know that your drummer Douglas likes BUDDY RICH a lot, who is a very famous jazz drummer. BUDDY RICH is also Rob Reiner’s (ANVIL) favourite drummer. How did he get familiar with Buddy's music and does he also listen to other drummers in this style, like GENE KRUPA for example?
"Yes, Doug is a big Buddy Rich fan. He’s his icon. From his early childhood, he first learned of Buddy from his music teachers, and saw him perform many times. He even met Buddy back stage a few times and has photo of himself and the jazz legend together. Douglas also got to meet his tour bus driver and became friends with both of them. GENE KRUPA and LOUIS BELLSON are also high on Doug’s list, and appreciated their contributions to the music."
When Kaz left the band, it took you almost a year to find Len Goldsmith to replace him. What took you so long to find a suitable replacement and were you still active as a band in this period of time? It looks rather difficult for me to have a band without a guitar player.
"It took us dozens of auditions to find a suitable replacement for Kaz. Almost a hundred different axe players tried out, but none of them fit the bill. We kept playing as a unit, but just did not gig."
How were the reactions on your first (four track) demo “Rest In Peaces” (‘’93), and how many copies were actually sold of this tape?
"The 1st demo got a good reaction from a lot of people. We shopped a lot of tapes to fans and A&R people to promote the band. We sold a few, but didn’t really market it aggressively. The most important goal was to give the band exposure. We were approached by Metal Blade records, but we were still looking for a guitar player at the time."
I guess you already played live too at the time you only had this four track tape out. Which other songs did you play live then, and did you play any covers as well to make your set complete?
"We played these four songs, plus another six, which we had in our repertoire. We did all original material in our sets with no copy songs at all."
In 1995, you added a second guitarplayer to your line up. His name is Russ Farnsworth. What made you decide to add a fifth member? And was he expected to be a rhythm guitar player or did you want him to play double leads?
"We added Russ to the lineup, because we always wanted a second axe player to help fill out the sound. We felt that for our style of music, two guitars were needed, and we enlisted Russ to add some more structure and have us a killer guitar duo. We taught him the basics of our songs, and encouraged him to give us input & work with Len to trade off on the rhythm and the lead parts."
Are there any 'famous' or 'well known' bands, that you played with in those early days?
"We’ve only played with local Bay Area bands. A lot of headliners don’t even tour out here. They usually pass this place over. On top of that, a lot of nightclubs have closed their doors, so there’s not many places left to play."
Do you remember any funny or interesting gigs from the early days of SS DAGGER?
"At the first live show of the band in Santa Clara, CA, at a club called One Step Beyond (now closed), Dave Menniketti from Y&T attended and was banging his head to our set. At another show in Berkeley, we showed up on time only to find out the club had no electricity. They kept us waiting all night, until the lights finally came on, to tell us it was too late to start the show. That club soon got their permit yanked from the city, and has not been open since."
Also in 1995 you released a five track EP, called "Look Out Below". How were the press reactions to this tape and how did it sell?
"We got very good response from “Look out Below,” from all over.We got reviews from a few different fanzines and websites, and we also hooked up with Alan Gilkeson at heavy-metal.about.com for an interview. He became a huge supporter of the band. We made modest sales again. We were basically trying to promote the band and we did seem to get a lot of attention."
Russ was still mentioned on the inlay of the tape, but he's not in the band picture. While in 1996 he left the band. Why did he leave the band so soon?
"Russ left in 1996 during the post-production of “Look out Below,” when he moved to Santa Rosa. The long distance was the main reason, why he left. As a matter of fact, we parted on good terms.
You re-recorded "Wretched Man" on this five track tape. This song seemed to be very special to the band. Is this the very first song, the band ever wrote or perhaps there’s another reason why you re-recorded this song?
"We seemed to get the most public response from “Wretched Man.” It’s a good classic-sounding rock ‘n’ roll metal song, and we decided to re-record it on the second EP not only because of the pub-lic reaction to the song, but also to compare it with the first recording. We felt it would be a good thing to hear how the band’s sound was progressing over the years, and the people agreed with us."
When Russ had left, Chuck Aldrich replaced him for about a year. Were there any big differences between Russ and Chuck’s playing and why did Chuck leave the band again?
"Chuck wasn’t a bad player, but Russ was more developed. We worked with Chuck on the songs, but had difficulty moving forward as a unit. Chuck was also heavily involved in a relationship, which was taking up a lot of his time and concentration. A year went by and we realized that it wasn’t working out, so we parted ways."
This next question might be a touchy subject, but we already talked about it before doing this interview. I would really like to create some clearness to the outside world about your first band name, S.S. DAGGER. The SS signs in your name caused a lot of trouble. I know that you only used them, because it looked cool. Fritz is a very big KISS fan and they have used these lighning bolts (SS signs) in their name for years. You have got no bounds or connections at all with Nazi, Germany. And that was what a lot of people thought. They were sending you offending emails, etc. etc. Can you tell us what really happened and what was the worst thing, that people wrote to you?
[NOTE: I don't want to rip open old wounds here. I just want to make my story complete and clear up all these terrible misunderstandings - hopefully!!]
"Regarding the old band name. It's okay and I am glad you brought up the topic. Your question is precisely why we are now called BLITZENHAMER. Everybody, and I mean EVERYBODY took the meaning of the old band name the wrong way. A lot of record labels and booking agents were reluctant to approach us, because of the same concerns you mentioned. They thought that because of the name, we were all angry racist whitepower nazis. Nothing could be further from the truth. We used the name, simply because we liked the dagger. It looked cool - swastika or no swastika. We also liked the slogan on the blade: "my honor is loyalty," because that's the way we feel about our music. In additon, the SS lightning bolts were the same style as the S's in KISS, another one of our favorite bands. We were only trying to take something which was perceived as being bad, and make something good out of it. That was our intention, when we named ourselves S.S. DAGGER. But we now know that intentions are not enough, and that the German government has no tolerance whatsoever for any references to the third Reich. So we got rid of it. We changed the name. We removed the lightning bolts from the album altogether, and any lightning in the artwork has no resemblance to the SS emblem. We do not endorse facism, racism or any discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, etc. We have no interest whatsoever in pushing ignorant racist, fascist political messages through the media. That's not who we are, and we will never be that way. We're musicians and we play music. Heavy Metal Forever! That's us, and that's all we are. We are perfectly comfortable with discussing the issue and putting it to rest. For the record, we actually didn’t receive a huge volume of negative email. There were a few individuals, who consistently gave us a hard time on our website and over the email about our use of S.S. DAGGER (called us names, made threats, etc.), but we were not overly concerned about these people. What did concern us was the impression we were making to the labels and promoters. We were not getting a lot of shows, and a lot of labels seemed to be reluctant to approach us because of the name and its implications. But heavy metal is a rebellion. It is supposed to have an imposing presence, an image that is larger than life. Nearly every metal band has used the devil (satan), as part of their underlying theme, and we felt that this particular gimmick was old and worn out. We decided to find something else with an imposing presence and use that particular object to shock the people. The dagger was an imposing, ornate weapon with a catchy slogan, so we figured: hey, why not? S.S. DAGGER sounded like a good choice for naming a heavy metal band. While we did get good publicity with the name, the negative implications simply didn’t justify our sticking with it. We were still the same band playing the same music, so what difference did a name make? So we got together after recording “Pawns of the Predator”, voted on a new name, and we have not looked back. It was a conscious business decision between the active members to change the name to BLITZENHAMER and we are very satisfied with it."
You recorded your first full length CD "Pawns Of The Predator" in 1999 as BLITZENHAMER. How were the reactions on this great debut CD?
"The reactions have been excellent. After our performance at the November to Dismember Metalfest in San Bernardino, we have received writeups in several international magazines and in webzines all across the USA. We have sales in several local record stores, but again, our focus is promotion and exposure towards signing a deal and landing a tour. We will never stop playing heavy metal music. It is all we long for."
Are you satisfied being a four piece band, or are you still searching for a fifth BLITZENHAMER member at this time?
"The four active members are the nucleus of the band, but we are still auditioning people for the second guitar spot whenever possible. With one guitar or two, the band will go on. What’s most impor-tant is that each member contributes to the sound and fury. There are no back seats or free rides."
What's your favorite BLITZENHAMER song at this moment and is this also the public's favorite song or can't you tell?
"We like them all, and everybody has a certain favorite. Fritz announces “Captives of Pleasure,” as his favorite, for example, but all of them have that special fire. We’ve been getting some good response lately from “Chamber of Horrors”, but the people still enjoy the other songs thoroughly, and so do we. If the music’s good, it never goes out of style."
Like you already mentioned, you played at the November To Dismember Metalfest. How was that experience and can you name some other interesting bands, that played there? We heard that there was a fight on the Friday of that weekend between Billy Milano (M.O.D / S.O.D.) and Warrel Dane (NEVERMORE). Do you know what actually happened that night?
"The show in San Bernardino was great. A few technical difficulties arose, but we worked it all out and had the crowd around the Nightfall stage banging their heads and screaming for us. There were some other great bands that played such as VERNICIOUS KNID, RAVEN MAD and CHAMBER SEVEN. Everybody did a killer job with the show. We didn’t hear about the fight between Billy and NEVERMORE’s singer. Len and Douglas bumped into Dan Lilker that night, but he didn’t mention anything about the altercation to them. We heard about it later, that Billy messed the guy up pretty bad and that neither band got to do their thing at the show. It’s bad on all sides when that happens"
Fritz is wearing a Frankenstein mask during your live shows sometimes. At least that's what I read. What else can people expect when they come to see BLITZENHAMER live. And do you still play "Never Say Die" (BLACK SABBATH cover) at your shows?
"The mask, Fritz wears, is from the movie “The People under the Stairs” and he has it on for the intro to “Wretched Man”. We all have masks, which we wear for different songs. When we play, the audience can expect the band to give them a show, that they will remember. We don’t stand there like dolts and stare at our shoelaces. Nor do we sit on stools, get mellow and play weak sauce. When the curtain falls and the lights come up, we’re there to perform like there’s no tomorrow. Like ANTHRAX says: “Metal Thrashing Mad!” We pride ourselves on playing a strong set musically, and also being very theatrical. That’s why we look up to bands like KISS, IRON MAIDEN, WASP and ALICE COOPER. Not only did they kick your ass with the music, but they gave a great stage show. We want to give that same kind of thrill, when we play live. We run pyro, wear masks, run fog and strobe lights. Anything which will contribute to the quality of our performance as a band. We’ve played a few cover songs to warm up and sometimes we play them if our set time permits us to do so. “Never Say Die,” has a particular significance, as we’ve all overcome a lot of hardships over the years together. It’s our way of saying to the fans and each other: “We’re here, we’re playing a song together, and there’s no place else we’d rather be”. It was particularly appropriate, when Len had a motorcycle accident on the day of a show we had in San Leandro. He still did the show without missing a beat!"
Fritz, let's go back in time for a while. You played trumpet at Junior High with Jim Martin of FAITH NO MORE. What was your reaction, when you discovered years later, that he was the famous guitarplayer for FAITH NO MORE?
"I was happy for him. I knew he had a lot of talent and would find a good band in the future. I saw him later, when he’d formed BEHEMOTH and congratulated him for hitting the big time."
Actually, I've got the same question for drummer Douglas, who went to school with Cliff Burton, who later became world famous with TRAUMA and especially METALLICA. What was it like seeing him play in these bands, after you went to school with him for so long?
"I met Cliff in Junior High School and we became very close friends. His first band was called E-Z STREET, then he was in TRAUMA, which he left to join METALLICA. Cliff was a true friend to me, and he was a true headbanger. He loved his bass and his music to the fullest. God bless him for eternity. I feel that Cliff was a phenomenal musician, a real virtuoso on the bass. Being with METALLICA gave him the chance to do the things he loved, until his death on September 24, 1986. Cliff Burton left a lifetime impression on me, and on all of the true METALLICA fans and headbangers around the world. I hope to succeed as a musician solely for him. I thought METALLICA was a killer band at the time. “Kill ‘Em All”, “Ride the Lightning” and “Master of Puppets” were three of metal’s pio-neer albums. They inspired a lot of other people to play heavy metal."
Douglas, you once toured with Y&T. Can you tell us a bit more about this experience? What exactly did you do on this tour and did you also meet any nice bands in those days?
"I’ve lived in Hayward, California, for many years, and Y&T are also from Hayward. I knew the band, and became friends with drummer Leonard Haze and guitarist Joey Alves. When Y&T broke up, Leonard and Joey formed BLACK TIGER. I was playing the drums with the band, when Leonard Haze was singing the song “Alcohol” from their 1976 debut album, entitled “Yesterday and Today” on London Records. We played all over the Bay Area together (Sacramento, Santa Rosa, etc.) and many other places. It was a blast!!! I later played with LAST DESCENDENTS, and then with a band, who was produced by RONNIE MONTROSE and opened up for bands like TESLA and EMPIRE. We did a tape and a few shows, but it wasn’t really my style of music. I’m very happy to be a part of BLITZENHAMER. It is the best band I’ve ever been in."
You will be playing at the Milwaukee Metal Fest soon. Which other bands will be playing there? How long will you play and which songs will you be playing there?
"We know that PRIMAL FEAR will be there, so will CHAMBER SEVEN - another fine band. We have a twenty-five minute set, which should be enough for us to get five or six songs in. We plan to play a few of our faster numbers, such as “Alienus Maximus” and “Chamber of Horrors”, and we’ll be sure to rip it up and give the audience the best we’ve got."
‘Heavy Metal Forever’ is your favorite slogan. To me, Heavy Metal is not a music style, but a way of life. It's the way you dress, communicate with people, the way you behave, and the way you take care of business. It's the number one thing in your life. Do you agree with me and how important is Heavy Metal to you (the band)?
"We absolutely agree with that principle.One important part of it is being definitive: in your words and deeds. For metal, there is no mistaking the power, the clarity, the message. A lot of popular musicians today take pride in being vague. We hate that.We are very clear in our message and our delivery. We love music with a melody, a harmony, a story to tell, and a loud, clear voice!!! Same goes with the attitude and the way we live our lives. Being definitive doesn’t happen with-out a lot of thinking and a lot of hard work. But being vague requires neither of these things. It’s just like Rob Halford said in his last interview. A lot of bands have simply become lazy and the music has suffered. And that’s why a lot of what they call metal today, simply isn’t metal!!! Performing and putting our talents to good use is part of the same mentality, because it is a privi-lege to play. All the work that gets us on that stage is up to us, and we do all we can do get it done. We know that our abilities are partly a gift, and partly a result of working at it. But they both run hand in hand, and we can never lose sight of either of them. We will always work to become better musicians and better people. We will never stop learning. The best part about metal is that when it’s done right, it simply is good music. And contrary to a lot of people’s opinions, you don’t have to be a teenager to enjoy it. Just like you don’t need to be an old man to enjoy classical music. If it’s good, it’s good. That’s all that matters. In all, Heavy Metal is about honesty. It is a showcase of the human fire. That’s why we have the slogan as part of our band logo. It goes without saying and will never separate from us. That’s why we want so much to play out for the rest of the world, especially in Europe where the fans truly appreciate good, honest, rip-roaring heavy metal music! We can’t wait to play Europe."
Is there any particular song that represents this true Heavy Metal feeling to you? And why did you chose it?
"There are so many great songs. It is hard to choose only one. “Hell Bent for Leather” by JUDAS PRIEST carries an important message, as does TWISTED SISTER’s “You Can’t Stop Rock ‘N’ Roll”. We love the thundering “Fast as a Shark” by ACCEPT, EXCITER’s “Breakdown the Walls” and WASP’s “On Your Knees,” for their uncompromising metal attack. But if it had to be one song, alone, which carries the message and mentality, it would have to be BLACK SABBATH’s “Never Say Die”. The lyrics really sum up our feelings about metal, our commit-ment to the fans, and our unity as a band."
As die hard metal freaks you might have a big record collection. Are there any rare items that you have in your collection and are worth a million (figurely speaking) to you?
"Len has a few choice recordings, including a quite a few METALLICA bootlegs and rarities. He has a leather copy of MOTORHEAD’s “No Remorse”, a signed OVERKILL CD of “Horrorscope”, plus a bunch of ACCEPT and VOIVOD picture discs. He also has a few good NUCLEAR ASSAULT selections: the “Brain Death EP”, the nuclear vinyl “Game Over” and the “Fight To Be Free” EP with the full-size poster. Fritz, Tim, and Douglas have some vintage FLOTSAM & JETSAM records, and some mint copies of METALLICA singles and some red vinyl KISS records. They also have several signed KISS albums. When KISS came by on the Revenge tour, Fritz, Tim and Douglas went to their signing party at the Oasis Ballroom in San Francisco. They got “Destroyer”, “Alive”, “Double Platinum” and “Alive II” all autographed by the original members."
What is the goal that you have for BLITZENHAMER?
"Secure a contract for a European Tour and as many recordings as possible. We just want to play. We have never missed a single gig, and we have a lot of original material both on record and in the wings, several record’s worth. We’re not in it for the accolades, the partying, or to strike it rich. Money is important, of course, but there’s all kinds of ways to make a buck. There’s only a few ways to be a strong band, and that’s where we are completely committed. We dedicate ourselves to the fans, and each other, and strive never to let anyone down. You’ve got to love it, and we most certainly do."
Are you recording any new stuff already and what can we expect of the new CD when it comes out?
"Presently, we have six to seven new songs in the works, and when our newest recording is released, it will be our latest and greatest effort."
Which other future plans do you have at the moment for the band?
"Keep playing, keep writing, and keep pushing for more opportunities to do both. The Milwaukee Metalfest XV is going to be a great show for us, and we hope to sign soon with a label, who believes in hard-working, die-hard true metal bands. If there are any labels out there on the hunt, we’re ready to hit the road!"
Do you have any personal messages or is there something you'd like to add to this interview?
"We love music, and we live to play. The metal scene may have waned, but we never followed it down, because metal is our lives. And to all you ladies and gentlemen out there tired of seeing stoned jerks in baggy pants and watch caps up on the stage playing their vague crap, never fear. We will set your night afire. We’ll be there to kick ass & deliver the goods! We take the stage tonight and forever!!! HEAVY METAL FOREVER!!!!"
Interview by: Toine van Poorten
(!!!!Exclusive website interview!!!!)