Many people didn't discover Halloween (US) until their magical appearance at the Keep It True Festival in Germany 2004. Myself, I am a huge fan of this horror metal band from Detroit, Michigan for years. In fact, ever since I discovered their awesome debut album "Don’t Metal With Evil" from 1985. With reference to their show in Germany and twenty years anniversary, I had a long chat with singer Brian Thomas and companions to talk about the latest developments within the band and their future plans.
Congratulations on your 20th birthday. How will you be celebrating
this milestone, besides a new album called "Tricks, Treats And Other Tales From The Crypt"?
Brian Thomas: "As you already know the 20th anniversary passed on Halloween night 2003 and we played in a club in downtown Detroit, called The Labyrinth. It’s a dark dungeon club in the basement of a old hotel in the city. The place was packed and we showcased the 4.0 line up of the band and played most of the popular live songs from "4.0 Tricks, Treats And Other Tales From The Crypt" CD."
Can you please can us an update about what you've been doing from
'99 (our last interview) until now?
Brian: "Mainly trying to keep a steady line up of players in the band. It seems that everytime things start to go right, someone has a crisis in their life and it interferes with the progress that we were making! Besides that we have been writing lots of new material, and continuing to build on to our stage show."
Who is in HALLOWEEN right now? I believe, that George Neal is back
on the bass guitar.
Brian: "Hmmm, interesting question. At the time of the KIT festival, we brought a line up in progress, which included George Neal on bass and Jason Rossvanes on drums. However, since the show things have progressed even further, we have yet again made some incredible changes, George has rejoined the band as a second guitar player. And taking over on the bass guitar, formally of Local Anesthetic, is Toledo Ohio native, Kevin Clifford. Jason is still playing drums for Donny and myself in a yet to be named side project. And taking over the drumming position in Halloween is another Toledo native, Rob Brug, formally of Damien. Donnie and myself are still doing our thing, and we feel this is the strongest line up of Halloween in a verry long time."
Kevin Clifford: "After playing a show with Halloween and Local Anesthetic on the same bill; one week before they left for Germany, wishing them the best, I never expected that when they returned I would then become the new bassist after being a lifetime fan. Let’s just say, I only had to be asked once. As a difference in interests for the 4.0 line up developed, with me taking over on bass I brought to the table, Rob Brug Toledo’s number 1 rated metal drummer and lifetime fan of Halloween as well. It turned out to be a perfect combination."
What was it like to play in Europe for the first time in your career?
Brian: "FUCKING INCREDIBLE!!!"
What did you expect from this gig?
Brian: "We knew it would be great, but we weren’t sure that the lack of previous appearances in Europe would hurt the crowds acceptance of Halloween, but to our surprise the audiences’ response was awesome!"
How did this gig become reality and why didn't you play more gigs in
Germany? Also, shows in Greece and Poland were scheduled. Now you were
coming over from America for just one show?
Brian: "Former 4.0 bass player John G. arranged the show with Oliver and we robbed our piggy banks, to get pane tickets, to come over and do the show. The other shows had been mentioned to us, but by the time the plans were being made, the bills had already been filled for those shows. We hope to come back to play many other shows in Europe in the coming years."
Did we get to see the same show as you are playing in Detroit Rock
Kevin: "Being a long time fan, after seeing part of the video from KIT the show didn’t even reach a quarter of what it entails here in The States. Not that it was any ones fault, but the funding wasn’t there to bring the full show that the fans here in The States get the privilege of seeing."
Brian: "We hope the next time that Halloween comes to Europe, that we will be able to do our full stage show and tour most of the major cities."
Are you planning to come back to Europe, now you've been here once?
All: "As long as Europe wants us, we are ready, willing, and able."
You went through some changes in the line up lately. Maybe you can
tell our readers what happened to people like Bill Whyte and Rick Craig?
Brian: "We have had a lot of people the have played in Halloween and due to one circumstance or another members have chosen to move on. Rick Craig moved to another city a thousand miles away, and last we heard he wasn’t playing guitar very much anymore. And Bill Whyte is busy recording bands in his studio and playing drums for another local band in Detroit. (In the style of Disturbed and Godsmack)."
And your stage outfit changed from leather and chains to skeleton shirts and Jason ("Halloween" -The Movie) like outfits. Who came up with that idea?
Kevin: "First off, it’s Michael Myers not Jason, but to my knowledge Michael Myers has never been used in a Halloween stage show. As far as the clothing goes… Brian Thomas can’t make up his mind from minute to minute on what he wants to wear on stage, (but the fans love it). As far as the wardrobe, leather and chains will always be a part of the Halloween attire, especially now that I’m in the band. And the Halloween appearance changes from show to show and sometimes even from minute to minute. The beauty of Halloween is that we can be whom or whatever we want to be, when ever we want."
You have just released a new CD called "Tricks, Treats And Other
Tales From the Crypt". How are the reactions towards this album so far?
Brian: "Reaction has been mixed, the CD was only meant to be a tribute for the 20th anniversary and a reworking of classic Halloween songs by the current band at that time. It was never released on any major label just locally here in the states and we brought some to the KIT Festival. It was recorded in two weeks time and in my opinion some of the songs turned out better than others, and overall we felt like the technology was better than when the songs were originally recorded, but in no means was it meant to be an attempt to out do the original, just a tribute to the original songs. It was also just a limited addition; only two hundred copies were pressed."
Didn't you get many reactions that people wanted to hear new HALLOWEEN stuff, instead of reworked old songs?
Brian: "We originally recorded a brand new CD called “The Fire Still Burns”, in Bill Whyte’s studio in 2000. Due to technical complications and other circumstances, this CD has still yet to be released. I wish I had some control over the release, but it is out of my hands, Bill Whyte is in control of that recording; however, the band has continued to write a number of great new songs and we are currently in the pre-production stage of preparing for a brand new CD tentatively titled “Reinventing Fear”, which is a reflection of the bands commitment to restore the Halloween aura and attitude of old, while appealing to a whole new generation of Halloween fans. The new songs are killer!"
I really like the new CD. It sounds very fresh. Sometimes I don't
have the idea that I was listening to 'older' songs, because you changed them quite a bit. How was it to study these old songs, with the new line up?
Brian: "Obviously, I am not one of those people who are afraid of change. I feel like peoples lives change on a daily basis, the music business, society and events in everyone’s lives change constantly. So it seems completely natural to me that something that I wrote 15 years ago may have a slightly different meaning today, so to rework an old song and bring it into the present feels completely natural to me and I enjoy doing it. When I listen to the new versions, I feel like I am listening to a new song. That is why “Reinventing Fear” seems like a perfect title for our new CD. Not only is it the band, but the music as well."
Your voice is still very strong and recognisable among all these
other metal voices. How do you keep your voice in shape?
Brian: "I am not a big fan of my voice. My favorite singers are Klaus Meine, Paul Stanley, Rob Halford, and too many others to name who I feel sing effortlessly. I’ve always struggled with my voice and maybe someday I will come to appreciate that I don’t sound like anybody else, but right now that is hard for me. But thank you to the fans that do like the way I sing."
Where did you record the two live songs that were on the new CD
("Die Forever" and "Fire Still Burns")?
Brian: "We invited a very small handful of fans to attend a rehearsal for the recording of the 4.0 CD, and the 2003 Halloween night show. We recorded those songs at that rehearsal, and we love the way they turned out so we added them to the 4.0 CD."
The CD is a special 20th anniversary limited edition. What's so
limited about it and in what quantities was this 'limited version' printed?
Brian: "As stated earlier, only two hundred of these CDs were pressed, specifically for the 20th anniversary show and it was later decided to bring some to the KIT Festival. At this time there are no future plans to repress that CD."
Have you ever thought about releasing a live album?
Kevin: "I think it would be great to release a live album, but with that stated, to release a live album, you want to be sure that the line up you have and the music you play is powerful enough that the CD will go over with the fans and the proper material is played at the live recording."
Brian: "In 1988 a live recording and a five camera video shoot was done at Harpos in Detroit, and like with so many other things surrounding this band circumstances arose that prevented these recordings from being released (maybe someday). However, someday a live recording of Halloween will be officially released, both on CD and DVD."
When can people expect a new CD? Are you working on new material
right now? When we did our previous interview, you mentioned a song called "The Crush". Many fans are dying to hear what it sounds like, and I also believe that you will have more interesting material which is ready to be released?!
Brian: "“The Crush” is one of the songs featured on “The Fire Still Burns” CD. We are constantly working on new material and have some great songs that we are ready to record in 2004. However, everytime any one of us gives any kind of a prediction of a release date the curse of the pumpkin befalls us. So in order to avoid the curse, I will only say we are working on it."
Are you still working together with John Mestad and Molten Metal,
and if yes how's John doing? I haven't heard anything from him for a long time already?
Brian: "The last time we heard from JB was, when we released the reissue of “Victims of the Night”. He intended to release “The Fire Still Burns” and we suddenly lost touch with him. So your guess is as good as ours."
What do you think of the metal scene of today, and do you also
believe that there's a revival of old school metal going on in America?
Kevin: "I don’t believe that old school metal has ever stopped. I just believe that it is overshadowed by what the American music industry considers new metal, but in my opinion it is not true old school metal, it’s what they call grunge and alternative metal."
Brian: "I love all music. I don’t care what kind of music it is, if it is good, I love it. As far as metal goes, the new metal isn’t really metal at all, I love that it is aggressive, but I hate that classic bands like Dio, Iron Maiden, Scorpions, and Judas Priest have no place in today’s American music scene. In other parts of the world, especially Europe, these bands still reign supreme, as well they should, along with brand new bands like Edguy, Brainstorm, and Pink Cream 69, bands that most Americans have never even heard of. In the underground here in the United States, true metal fans can still find their favorite bands, e.g. Wasp, Lizzy Borden, King Diamond and others if they dig deep enough playing small clubs, it’s a shame."
Some prove of that is the amazing metalfestival in Kalamazoo, where
you also played live, some years ago. How was that experience, and which other bands did you see live that you enjoyed a lot?
Brian: "Playing the show was amazing being in the company of some of those classic bands was a real honor (just as it was at KIT). However, the show was poorly promoted, and the turnout was horrific. I loved seeing Vicious Rumors, Anvil, and Exciter especially, and my favorite part of the entire festival besides playing our show and meeting fans from Europe was being throw out of the festival for getting a blow job in the balcony. I guess I am just an extreme kind of guy."
I know, there is some video footage available from that same
festival, but I also think that a lot of people are dying to see a live video or DVD from HALLOWEEN, one of these days. Are there any plans for that already?
Brian: "The plans for this band are like my CD collection, many. Stay tuned.."
Speaking of videos. I've seen the video clips for "Trick Or Treat"
and "What A Nice Place". But I also recently saw some recent video footage of HALLOWEEN, dressed in sober black costumes, not wearing any make up, or whatsoever. When was this video clip shot?
Brian: "I am not sure which video you have seen. There are lots of bootlegs out there and as we stated earlier the bands image changes from show to show. As much as we love putting on the make-up and costumes we also love the rare opportunity to go onstage nearly naked and just kick ass for the fans.(speaking of naked, there was a particular show where I spent the first four songs in nothing but a fluorescent green g-string and a pumpkin mask. Like Europeans, I am not afraid to be naked. HaHa!"
Kevin: "Amen to that!"
And maybe you can tell us a bit more about the jam you did with
Zakk Wylde in Detroit. I've seen pieces on video.... I believe that it was shot in the early nineties, if I remember well??
Brian: "For one moment Zakk Wylde played guitar for Halloween. Actually, Rick Craig brought Zakk Wylde to Detroit for a guitar clinic. Zakk asked for a backup band and Rick had Bill Whyte and George Neal play bass and drums for a jam session at The Ritz. Zakk performed approximately nine songs, mostly southern rock and blues, and one Black Sabbath, and one Ozzy song. During the Ozzy song, “I Don’t Know”, Zakk called me out on stage to sing lead vocals. So for one song Zakk Wylde was the guitar player for Halloween in a sense, as Rick Craig watched from the side of the stage. I believe that the entire jam session is on video somewhere out there. It was one of the highlights of our career as a band."
We are very good friends of Rachel and BROADZILLA for a long time
already. I believe, this band supported HALLOWEEN very recently. What do you think of their music, and what do you think about women playing heavy metal,in general?
Kevin: "I think, it is awesome! There are lots of female bands out there that don’t get recognization, there are too many to list but Drain STH is one of my favorites and I believe that the female metal bands should have the same opportunities as the male metal bands, but for some reason they don’t."
Brian: "I am a big fan of Broadzilla. Rachel, Kim and Angie I consider to be close friends. I love female rock bands and have all the way since the Runaways. Halloween opened for Lita Ford back in the 80’s and it was a real honor. I am also a big fan of Doro Pesch, and Madame X was one of the most kick ass bands to come out of Detroit in years. Chicks rock!"
What's your favorite HALLOWEEN song after all these years?
Kevin: "7 Years"
George Neal: "Not One."
Rob Brug: "Trick Or Treat."
Donny Allen: "Wake Up Screaming."
Brian: "Right now, it is "Reinventing Fear"."
And which song do you like to play live most?
Brian: "Miss Eeries Child", "7 Years" and "If I Die, You Die"."
Kevin: "Halloween", "7 Years", "Fire Still Burns" and "Black Skies"."
Donny: "Fighting Words", "Wake Up Screaming", "The Battle" and "Nobody’s Home"."
George: "Haunted", "The Seer", "Tales From The Crypt" and "If I Die, You Die"."
Rob: "Scared To Death", "Trick Or Treat" and "The Thing That Creeps"."
In the previous interview that I did with you for Snakepit, we were
discussing the release of the VICIOUS demos, which were released on the
re-release of "Victims Of The Night". But you were also talking that you were trying to lay your hands on some good recordings of ABANDON. Have you succeeded in that already, and are you planning to do something with these recordings?
Brian: "The Vicious Demos" were released on "No One Gets Out". As far as the Abandon stuff, I brought a few copies of Strength to the KIT Festival, ten to be exact, so a few people got a taste of what Abandon was all about, when George and I were involved in that band. I still love those songs and we plan to do a few of those live. Maybe someday when we make peace more of those songs will be available on CD. Only time will tell."
What are the future plans for HALLOWEEN right now?
Brian: "I want my other new best friend and bass player Kevin to comment on this."
Kevin: "Future plans are to reinvent what used to be and then some, and to take it as far as inhumanely possible (and then some)."
Brian: "Halloween fans have supported us for 20 something years now and I for one have always given 100 percent back to the fans and I feel that due to circumstances beyond my control the fans have not always gotten what they deserved and being Halloween’s number one fan, myself, I feel let down, and my promise is that no Halloween fan will be let down ever again, as long as I can help it. We are planning songs, ideas and stage shows beyond what we have ever done before and it is our goal that every fan gets everything they deserve and more and that they walk away from every show knowing that they got what they came to see and then some. And that every recording lives up to the expectations of every Halloween fan. Our fans deserve to get their money’s worth."
What do think of the fact that there are so many people interested
in an 'old school heavy metal band' like HALLOWEEN? It must really do you good to see that fans are following your career for about twenty years right now?!
Kevin: "I think it is awesome and shows complete loyalty to the band because I, for one, am one of those people. And now being a part of the band, I still remain a fan as well, but I get the opportunity to perform in front of the fans and give then what I saw at a younger age growing up watching Halloween become who they are today. I am damn proud to be part of it so if there are any other people out there like me the fan base for Halloween will only continue to grow and never die."
Brian: "Even though it has been 20 years, it seems like it has only been 20 days in all the time that the band has been doing what we do, I feel we have only scratched the surface of what is possible. I look forward to experiencing many more exciting experiences with this band. Halloween lives!"
Have you got any messages for our readers and the Halloween fans in Europe?
Kevin: "Hey, thanks for taking the time to read the article."
Brian: "To borrow a quote from my friend Brian Thomas, this isn’t a case of here we go again, this is a case of here we go!"
The last words are for you Brian……
Biran: "I just want to thank Halloween fans all over the world for making the effort to discover and support us year after year when there are so many awesome bands out there world wide. It’s hard for fans to know who to spend their money, time and effort on, and I am just happy that Halloween fans have given me and the band the chance and opportunity to do and feel such amazing things and feel so appreciated by people who we have never met except through our music. Thank you always and stay tuned, we’re not through yet! I would like to especially think Toine and Rita for their continued support in helping to get the word out about our little band from Detroit. Best Witches, Brian Thomas."
Interview by: Toine van Poorten, for Headache magazine NL/2004
DONNY ALLEN – GUITAR
GEORGE NEAL - GUITAR
KEVIN CLIFFORD - BASS
ROB BRUG - DRUMS
BRIAN THOMAS “T”- VOCALS
Official website: http://www.halloweentheband.us