All you metal freaks will have your fave band which you worship through thick and thin. OZZY, PRIEST, MAIDEN, MANOWAR, MOTORHEAD or cult names like ANGELWITCH, CIRITH UNGOL, HAWAII, HEAVY LOAD, WARLORD, JAG PANZER or EXCITER. I assume a lot of those names are in the hearts of almost every metal fan. When I made the arrangements for this next interview, I was really thrilled that I finally got the chance to chat with my personal faves...maybe. When, through the interaction of Molten Metal records (Thank you ever so much, guys!!!), I was asked to send my questions for an exclusive interview with HALLOWEEN from Detroit my heart skipped a beat (or two). I'd so many questions and I knew that these guys would take some time to answer them all. Well they did, but the result turned out great. I ended up with so much news and information, facts that I wasn't aware of at all. It made the waiting worth the while. Brian Thomas, the singer of HALLOWEEN, took the time to get me informed. Read all the facts about the album "Don't Metal With Evil", the "No One Gets Out" CD and the comeback CD "Victims Of The Night", on which they came up with some old unreleased tracks. I am glad that I wasn't tricked, because to me it felt like a treat to talk to these guys. Read on and you'll get to know the ins and out of my personal faves: HALLOWEEN.
Starting out under the name BITCH, the story goes that you changed your name into HALLOWEEN on Halloween night in '83. Accidentally or not?
Actually, when we first put our band together, Rick Craig (guitar) and myself (Brian Thomas on vocals) wanted to name the band HALLOWEEN. Our drummer at the time (Chuck Burns) didn't, because of another band from Detroit, SEDUCE. They were on the "Decline of Western Civilisation" (part two) movie and were signed to I.R.S. records for a little while (the album "Too much ain't enough" was released on IRS Metal in '88). SEDUCE had just written a song, called "Halloween". This was right around the holiday Halloween and that's what gave us our idea and apparently that's why they wrote the song. In fact, as irony will have it, the song "Halloween" written by SEDUCE, we covered on our "No one gets out!" CD. We did it, because they'd quit doing it, because of us (at least that's what I've heard). Anyway, we ended up using the name BITCH instead. This was the most hard name we could come up with for a group of guys that looked like girls. Unfortunately, at the same time that we came out, there was a group from Los Angeles called BITCH, that came on to the scene with a girl singer. After a year of playing around here as BITCH, we decided to change back to our original choice for a name. Chuck had left the band since and we had a new drummer, Bill Whyte. We changed the name to HALLOWEEN on Halloween night of 1983.
Was the material you played as BITCH similar to what you were doing after the name change?
The stage show was definately the same. We adapted the phrase "the heavy metal horror show", when we were still BITCH. Because we got together during Halloween time, we always decorated the stage, dressed up in our outfits and things like that. The songs were also the same, but we were doing more cover tunes with BITCH. We were doing songs of THE SCORPIONS, IRON MAIDEN, ACCEPT, DOKKEN and so on. Yet we were already writing in the same style as we developed into with HALLOWEEN. So the only thing that really changed was the name.
Who created the "heavy metal horror show"?
It all began, when I was in an earlier band, called MESMERIZED (which was just a small band that played around at schools and stuff like that in the Detroit area). Being the frontman, I always went on wearing top-hat, make up and high platform shoes. I introduced the band to pyrotechnics and we did a big stage show in that band. After that, I was in another group called ALCATRAZZ (not the same one with Yngwie Malmsteen and Graham Bonnet, but another local band). In that band I also wore make up, but I was the only band member that did it. The whole horror show thing kept developping with me over the years. Of course I was influenced by KISS, ALICE COOPER and DAVID BOWIE, but I wanted to do something that was more than just show. I wanted the music to stand out as well, which was why HALLOWEEN has always had a broad range of musical styles and songs. I wanted to be like the LED ZEPPELIN, that wore the make up and put on a show. Taking together a complete package: the music, the lyrics (what the song topics were about), the look and appearance of the band and the stage show. Something that people thought they would be getting their money's worth.
Please try to describe what the people got to see during the show and give us a view on this 'horrible' event.
Our horror show started out as a goof. Like I told you, we got together on Halloween time at the end of October 1982. Our bassplayer at that time had a ceramic skull which he'd gotten from Disneyworld at Florida and he wouldn't rehearse unless he had the skull sitting on top of his amp. So one night he'd forgotten to bring the skull with him to practise and he refused to play. We thought it was very odd and we goofed on it and we thought we'd just wasted a whole night. So the next time he came over for rehearsal, we'd decorated the entire rehearsal area with pumpkins, witches, goblins, spider webs and skulls - all kinds of stuff - just to goof on the guy. It ended up looking so cool, that we kept it up for rehearsal. Our actual show with HALLOWEEN started out with what I'd been doing in previous bands. We had an awesome lightshow, pyro, fog, the make up - you name it! For the song "The Wicked Witch" we had a girl dressed up like a witch and she'd come out on stage and do battle with the band members and during the guitar solo wrestle her broom away from her, hold it in the flames and chase her off the stage with fire. We had things where the bassplayer and I both spit blood during certain songs, like "Haunted". We had parts where I would shoot fire from my hands or throw fire balls. We had actors that we got from one of the local Universities, that would come out on stage dressed up like Zombies for the song "Busted". We had a Zombie dressed up like a police officer and he came out with handcuffs and a gun. He was trying to drag me off the stage and he was shooting at the other band members. We had it worked out, so you could actually see the gun firing. Right at the end of the song, when the stage goes black, he drags me off into a crypt, that we'd set up on stage. Our stage shows ranged from a cemetary with pillars and gates, head stones and trees with spider webs in them. There were also times where we've had absolutely nothing on stage and it was just the band members. We didn't alwasy use the horror show. The beauty of going with the name HALLOWEEN was, that we could be who ever we wanted to be. At Halloween time, kids would dress up like pirates one year and maybe a clown the next year. We kind of adopted that whole attitude towards the band: the freedom of being anybody we wanted to be at any show. We always kept the shows different. You'd never get the same show. We didn't want anybody to feel like they'd already seen it. Sometimes there were minor changes, but at other times we re-changed the whole stage set.
Why do you think HALLOWEEN became so popular with the fans?
At the time we came out, ALICE COOPER was no longer doing the make up and stage show and he'd moved on to the more new wave stuff. KISS wasn't wearing their make up anymore either. For once, I'd never expected that HALLOWEEN would become as popular as it did. I guess, everybody wants to relate to rock stardom or whatever. But that never really had much of an influence on me. I just did, what I enjoyed doing on stage. It felt right to get up there and put on a show, no matter what band I was in. I wanted to show the the younger kids the same kind of entertainment, that I'd grown up with. I wasn't tryin' to carry on what they'd done before me, but I wanted to keep that whole show thing alive. Nowadays, the kids can see KING DIAMOND or MARILYN MANSON. There's a zillion bands out there. When we did it, there was nobody else doing it. So it was different and unique and I think that's why we became so popular.
Before you released your killer masterpiece "Don't Metal With Evil", you put out a single, called "Trick Or Treat"/ "Teaser". Why did you print this as a very limited release (300 copies only) with no cover at all. I should say it's very unusual to try to get noticed by fans this way.
When we decided to put that out on a 7", the only thing we planned on doing, was to throw some of them out in the audience as a kind of a teaser. We wanted our fans to know that our album would be coming out soon. Also we sent some out to the local radio stations trying to get some airplay. They were just meant as a promotional tool and we figured that a three hundred copies would be more than enough. Then the plant where had them pressed went out of business, so we never had any others made. In fact, we didn't even use all the ones, we've had! Somewhere there's a couple of boxes with maybe a hundred of them floating around and we don't even know where they are. Maybe in somebody's garage or whatever. We tried to locate them, but without any luck!
After this you first released a tape version of your debut LP. Did it have the same cover and inside pictures as the LP version?
During the process of the art work and film for our debut album, the people that worked with us ran into all kinds of problems. So it took a long time to get the official release out. In the meantime, we were impatient and we were tired of not knowing what to say when fans asked us why it took us so long. So we printed up the covers on just regular poster board, cut them ourselves and hand-folded them. We went to a local tape reproduction place and we had a thousand copies of the album put on tape, a few months before the actual release came out. It had a different cover printed on an orange piece of paper with black print and it had a picture of the band in full make up on the front cover. It was something we tried to do, so that people wouldn't loose interest in us.
"Don't Metal With Evil" became a rarity, a real collectors item. On record fairs, people pay about $100 for it (if they can find it!). Now you're back together again, is there any chance you will re-release it or put it out on CD?
We made 3000 copies on actual vinyl and 7000 copies on cassette of "Don't metal with evil". Those are long gone. Our distributor at the time made sure they ended up around the world, but unfortunately we ended up making only 800$(US funds)of the entire 10.000 or 11.000 copies (if you wanna count the advance cassettes), that were sold. They've made it all around the world, but we never got paid for them. We've had a falling out with our manager, our distributor wouldn't pay us and went out of business and we never got our money. The only money that we've made from those albums came from an order that was never picked up from the tape plant and we sold those. The same goes for our merchandise (t-shirts and all that stuff). We never saw a dime from it. Other people made all that money! Now that we're back together, we have remixed "Don't metal with evil" and we do have plans to bring it out on CD as an official release. I don't know yet when it'll come out, but hopefully people that weren't able to get that first time around, will get it this time. I must say, we feel honoured that people pay so much money for us (100-200$ for an album) at record conventions (we don't think we're anything special) - it really blows our minds!
Is it true there's also a bootleg picture disc printed of "Don't Metal With Evil" and did you actually ever see it yourself?
As far as the picture disc is concerned - I've never seen it! I've heard rumours about it, though. The only thing I can come up with, people might be mistaken with the German HELLOWEEN and have seen that. But possibly there might be a bootleg out there somewhere, that I just haven't seen yet. However, we were on a bootleg disc of QUEENSRYCHE's, that they'd done on a live broadcast of Harpo's, here in Detroit. Geoff Tate mentioned us on their disc. I think that was a picture disc.
Which bands were your biggest influence that time? Some mags wrote you were a cross between MOTLEY CRUE and DOKKEN, but to my opinion, you were much much heavier and more Metal orientated.
That's hard to say. We've always loved LED ZEPPELIN, KISS and ALICE COOPER. My favourite band of all time is THE SCORPIONS. I've loved them since the beginning. When we were doing cover tunes, we played "He's a man, she's a woman" (our version "He's a woman, she's a man") and "Another piece of meat" of THE SCORPIONS. We used to open our show with the TWISTED SISTER cover "What you don't know...". We did "The Ripper" (JUDAS PRIEST), "Breaking the chains" (DOKKEN), "Love Child" (ACCEPT), "Live Wire" (MOTLEY CRUE) and many others. One time we played an entire LED ZEPPELIN set! People came out to see HALLOWEEN and they only got LED ZEPPELIN tunes. It went great! We begged, borrowed and stole from anything that was good!
What does the backward message on the song "Don't Metal With Evil" say?
Our message is easy to understand: "Don't metal with evil". You can't do that backwards on a CD player. Figure it out.
I have a copy of a promo videoclip of "Trick Or Treat". Did you shoot any more promo clips? On a Harpo's Detroit '85 audio tape, you mentioned "Justice For All" as a possible new video clip. Did you ever release that one?
We never did the video for "Justice for all". We intended to, but the people that were going to shoot the video went out of business. "Trick Or treat" was done by a local radio station here in Detroit, that no longer exists (WLLZ). They played it in one of their television shows 'The Beat' and about a year later we did "What A Nice Place". We've done various cable TV shows, like 'Soundtracks' and 'Rock To The Top'. We also did a video for the song "Nightmares" for 'Rock To The Top', as well as a live show. We've done several like that. Getting access to those things, you have to go through the cable companies that did them, which isn't easy. Even we had trouble getting access to our own video tapes.
You guys never had any luck with managers, didn't you?
Yeah, actually we've never had a proper manager. If you know anybody out there, that would be interested in managing a dedicated American heavy metal band with a ton of bad luck, let us know because we've been looking for a real manager for a long time. Warren Wyott, who managed SAIGON KICK and CRIMSON GLORY was the closest thing we had in the industry. Things didn't work out with us and him. We got along great, but he was too busy trying to get deals for CRIMSON GLORY and working with SAIGON KICK. We lived far away and he didn't have enough much time available to do the things that we needed to do, so we mutually and amicably parted ways with Warren. But since then, we never had a real manager to handle our business. It's hard to get people that deal with the band members. A lot of people don't wanna deal with the band members.
How did you get on the "L'amour Rocks" sampler with the song "Come And Get It" and did you write it especially for the album or was it left over from the "Don't metal With Evil" sessions?
We'd been playing at L'Amour in New York several times and we were very popular there. Somebody knew the person that was involved with the record label Mercinary Records and we ended up being one of the two bands (together with WRATHCHILD from Baltimore) that weren't from the NY area. It was just luck. The song "Come And Get It" was a left over from the "Victims Of The Night" session.