Heavy metal is definately on its way back. The diehard fans know it and it's only a matter of time now. For the return of this underrated kind of music, we have to thank a few upcoming new bands for paving the way. RHAPSODY, SACRED STEEL, PRIMAL FEAR and of course HAMMERFALL, who have the same spirit and the same heavy sound as their examples IRON MAIDEN, HELLOWEEN, GAMMA RAY and JUDAS PRIEST. From Australia we were already attacked by ANGEL CITY, CHEETAH, ROSE TATTOO and of course AC/DC. With PEGAZUS we can add another name to our list of the metallic rockers from Down Under. PEGAZUS plays traditional heavy metal influenced by IRON MAIDEN, MANOWAR, DIO and JUDAS PRIEST. I couldn't wait until their first European show at Wacken Open Air '98 in August, so I got in touch with the very sympathic Johnny Stoj (guitar) and together we rode the horse with the wings of steel. An introduction of these very promising new Australian talents in metal: PEGAZUS......
When did you start PEGAZUS and why? Did you play in other bands before that?
PEGAZUS officially formed in late 1993, but the actual birth of the band was around '91-'92, when I started writing songs for the band. My brother Robbie and I were in search of finding the right guys to join a true metal band like PEGAZUS.The chemistry and commitment had to be just right.When we first started playing 'live', many people would laugh at us and try to put us down for being a band, who played true heavy metal. I guess, this kind of attitude is what made us stronger and more persistent to stick it up those very critics! We have always played heavy metal music, because this is what we all felt very comfortable with and grew up listening to all our lives. Robbie and I used to play in a cover band called the BOYS IN BLACK, which was a three piece band where I was playing guitar and singing lead vocals. We played stuff from BLACK SABBATH, JUDAS PRIEST to THIN LIZZY. Speaking of THIN LIZZY: Robbie and I are very big LIZZY fans and we put together a THIN LIZZY tribute band, called LIVE & DANGEROUS. This band was so much fun and we still plan to do the odd anniversary tribute show in the future!
Who came up with the band name and why?
I came up with the band name about 14 years ago, while I was in high school . Our high school used to have a picture of a pegazus in a shield as its logo and that's where the idea originally was born. I think the name PEGAZUS is very mystical and mysterious. It's not only a name, but it has an image of a white winged horse that strongly goes with it. To me, PEGAZUS is pretty much a heavy metal symbol of strength and free spirit for the future of metal! Please tell us about your first line-up and who was in it. The first line-up of PEGAZUS was with myself, Robbie, Dave and our first lead vocalist Justin Fleming, with whom we recorded our self-titled debut album early '95. Justin was in the band for about two years, from December '93 till around February '96.
Who are your main influences? I hear influences of MAIDEN, PRIEST and MANOWAR, but I can imagine there are a lot of other bands important to you as well.
I guess the main influences we all would agree upon have to be bands like IRON MAIDEN, JUDAS PRIEST and BLACK SABBATH. But being the main songwriter in the band I would definitley say the above three bands had a big influence on my life going back since the early to mid eighties, especially when I saw IRON MAIDEN on their '95 World Slavery tour. That really blew me away and totally changed my life! Some of the other bands I grew up on were THE SWEET, DEEP PURPLE, THIN LIZZY, ALICE COOPER, OZZY, WASP, DIO, RAINBOW, EUROPE, VAN HALEN, AC/DC and anything that really rocked hard and heavy. Robbie was pretty much into the same bands, except he also got into a lot of heavier bands like SLAYER, ANTHRAX and SEPULTURA, to name a few. Danny, I know is a big fan of MANOWAR, SAVATAGE, DREAM THEATRE, TNT and CRIMSON GLORY, as for Dave, he likes MOTORHEAD, RUSH, KISS and a lot of current bands like TYPE O NEGATIVE and DIMMU BORGIR.
How big was the influence of bands like AC/DC, ROSE TATTOO and ANGEL CITY on the rock scene in Australia? Have they affected your musical taste in any way?
These bands really gave the Australian heavy rock scene a big kick in the arse and it's bands like these that are still going and that are the life blood of Australian rock! My personal taste with music is quite varied from rock to metal and the NWOBHM is what I was hugely influenced by, but bands like AC/DC and The Angels were very inspiring to me also, because of what they set out and achieved and how they went about things with a pure rock'n'roll attitude!
Isn't it a big disadvantage to be living in Down Under instead of the USA or Europe?
It's a big disadvantage because we are so far away from the real metal action, which is definitely in Europe, but we do plan on making up for that in a big way, when we come and tour there this summer!
Your S/T debut CD "Pegazus" was already a big success in the underground scene back home in Australia. How was the response by the media?
The album did pretty OK for us in Australia, considering that the metal scene in 1995 was non existent. The small amount of media seemed to show a little bit of support and respect for a true metal band like Pegazus for a change, especially when the scene was purely dominated by the Seattle grunge invasion.
Danny The Screaming Demon' Cecati became your new vocalist on the "Metalbound" tape in '96. Why did Justin Fleming leave the band? Are you still in touch with him? Is he in another band and/or still working in the music scene at all?
Justin left the band because he was having lots of personal problems for a very long time and his whole attitude about the band was also rapidly changing, so he decided to leave because he didn't want the band to suffer from his attitude and problems, which we totally respected. We haven't seen him around for a long, long time but I know we will catch up with one another one day soon. I think he is keen to play in a band again from what I have been told, but from what I do know, he is working as a fitness gym instructor. He always was very athletic!
Can you introduce the band to us and the instruments they play?
There is Danny Cecati, who is the lead vocalist. (Myself) Johnny Stoj, who plays lead/rythmn guitar. Dave King on the bass guitar and Robbie Stoj on the drums.
On the "Metalbound" tape, you recorded two cover songs, "Victim of Changes" (JUDAS PRIEST) and "Symptom Of The Universe" (BLACK SABBATH). Why did you pick those songs and not f.e. something by SAXON or IRON MAIDEN?
We chose those songs because they were different from playing than the usual BLACK SABBATH's ''Paranoid'' and JUDAS PRIEST's ''Breaking the law''. We originally started out messing around with these tunes at rehearsals, when Danny joined the band. However, we do plan on recording a few more of our favourite covers in the future for demo purposes and IRON MAIDEN will definitely be one of those, I can assure you!
Do you also play covers in your live shows and what can we expect from a PEGAZUS show in general?
We do play some covers in our shows and I guess that's why we decided to record them for the ''Metalbound'' demo tape in '96. The songs went down so great at our shows that they became favourites and for those fans that couldn't catch the band 'live', we decided to record these extra songs on the b-side for them. As for a PEGAZUS live show: you can expect one very loud fucking metal band, cranking out decibels of pure classic metal! Firstly, the drums and bass will pound and tenderize you, then my guitar will slice and dice you, and to finish you off, the vocal screams of Danny will split you in half! Ha! Ha! Ha!
How did you get in touch with Nuclear Blast and get to sign a record deal?
The label contacted us in the first week of January, early this year, because they had read lots of great reviews about our debut album and the ''Metalbound'' tape in many European metal magazines and from this, there became a big interest in the band. Especially when Nuclear Blast next heard an audio tape recording of our new album ''Wings of Destiny''.
They're absolutely right! Your new CD "Wings Of Destiny" is a true killer! My compliments! It's definately a big step forward in the right direction. What are your fave songs on the album?
Thanks very much for the compliment! We are so glad that there are so many true metal fans out there, like yourselves, that really like the album and can relate to what PEGAZUS is all about. True fucking metal! It's so hard to pick a favourite song, but I would probably have to say ''Braveheart'' and ''Wings of Steel''. We really enjoy playing all the tracks live, because that's where the songs and the band come to life!
In which way do you think this album is different from your debut release?
Both albums were self financed by ourselves, so it's really only a matter of how much you can afford to spend on studio time. I think the songwriting and playing has matured and improved between albums. ''Wings of Destiny'' is definitely a much better produced album, because we were able to spend much more time in the studio. The debut album was recorded and mixed with a very small budget in a total of about six days and has a real raw quality to it, which I guess shows what stage the band was at in early '95.
How did "Wings Of Destiny" come about: the song writing, recording, producing and everything around it? Is it true it only took you fifteen days to record the complete album?
I had been writing songs in my usual way for this album not expecting what the final outcome and response would be. The songs came about pretty quickly, like ''Wings of Steel'', ''Braveheart'' and ''Destiny''. Some of the songs I had started writing back when Justin was still in the band, like ''Witches Hex'', ''Cry Out'', ''Mother Earth'' and ''The Werewolf''. Once Danny joined the band, it all started to fall into place, just like we expected and those songs really came to life. The experience of recording this album was much more relaxed and less stressful this time around because we prepared ourselves much better and yes, it did only take fifteen days to record and mix the album! Unlike the six fully stressed out and pressured days we spent on our debut! Each recording though, was a special experience in itself.
Johnny, you are resposible for writing all the lyrics. Isn't it hard to come up with new material every time and where do you get your ideas from?
I've always enjoyed writing songs, whether it be lyrics, music or both. This is a side of me no one really knows and I like to keep it a little mysterious and to express it through songs. Watching movies are one of my favourite past times and I think this is where I get inspired from or maybe even something I may have read from an article or book. When it comes to writing, I really just lose myself in it and hopefully when I resurface, I will have created a great song for PEGAZUS. That's all I ever aim for! I guess I could say, I just have a creative imagination, that really enjoys to run wild most times!
I've seen your "Wings Of Steel" clip on the 'Metal Warriors' video magazine. Where did you film it (which location) and how exactly did you get on this video magazine? Any plans for other video clips in the near future?
We shot that clip at a Scottish Castle, called Kryal Castle in Ballarat, which is about a one hour and a half drive into the country area from Melbourne. It was a fantastic location to do the clip and the people who live and work there were absolutely great about it all. I guess, we were selected to be on the 'Metal Warriors' video magazine, because of the bands' pure persistence and credibility of being known as 'the only true heavy metal band in Australia'. This was the sort of band that editor Steve Ravic was really proud to be involved, promote and to work with. We just finished the second video clip from the album, which is for the song "Cry Out" and we are just about to start shooting the third and final clip from the album for the song "Braveheart". These clips will hopefully be getting airplay in Europe just before and during the time that we come over to tour in the summer.
You're playing at the Wacken Open Air festival in Germany this August. Is this your only gig in Europe? Are you looking forward to it? I heard some rumours you might be touring with HAMMERFALL in September as well.
We are also playing at the Rock Hard festival in Dortmund on August 9th and a special appearance at the Pop Komm in Cologne also. We are absolutely looking forward to the tour, because for many years we have heard so many great things about the European metal fans and we finally get to play to the metal mad maniacs of the world! I'm not really sure what the rumours and plans are for a tour with HAMMERFALL in September. At the moment an European tour is being scheduled for us by Nuclear Blast. We'll have to see where that will take us, but it would be totally fucking great to play at least some shows with our label mates HAMMERFALL! I think both bands would really compliment one anothers styles and I'm sure we would have a lot of wild fun on and off stage together!
I've heard you're willing to record a live CD. Any concrete plans for that or have these plans been changed in the meantime?
We were thinking of recording a live album a little while ago, but we have decided to let that idea go for now. I know that we will be getting some live shows recorded while on tour playing the festivals, but we might only see one or two of those live tracks being used for a CD single (or whatever) by Nuclear Blast in the near future. However, we are still thinking of recording a live album, but it probably won't be until next year sometime.
Did you already support any big names in Australia or have you only been playing at small clubs so far? With whom (please name a band) would you like to tour around the world, if you'd get the opportunity?
We've only been playing club shows around Melbourne over the last four years. Sadly, we've never had the opportunity to support an international metal artist playing Australia, because the tours are scarce and the bad politics involving the music industry in Australia. Only one time, a few years ago, we were chosen to support BLACK SABBATH on their proposed 'Forbidden' album tour, but it was cancelled last minute because of lack of interest and that, I guess, was just our luck back then! One band, I would love to tour around the world with, is the original lineup of BLACK SABBATH. That would be a real dream come true, because during all our years of growing up as teenagers, those guys were (and still are!) our fucking heroes! That's where all the monster metal riffs were created...
Are the metal and rock bands of today playing in Australia frequently or do they consider it as a forgotten part of the world? Do you get to see many bands yourself in Melbourne?
Bands will only tour Australia if their new album has done really well with album sales here. Many, I guess, would consider it also a forgotten part of the world, probably because Australia is a country with a much smaller population than say many of the countries in Europe. Therefore, the heavy metal fan base is a much smaller audience. I try to go to all the great concerts that do come to Australia. Last year I saw the KISS reunion, which was OK and earlier this year I saw OZZY OSBOURNE, which I would have to say was one of the best shows I've seen in a really long time! This was also the first time in twenty-six years that OZZY played in Australia since touring here with BLACK SABBATH in 1972! That's how deprived of metal we are in Australia! Bands like JUDAS PRIEST and MANOWAR are just a few of the bands that many would freak out to see, but they have never toured here. That's a shame, because they are two of the worlds greatest metal bands. Hopefully, one day that might happen!
What do you think of the metal scene in Europe? Do you get anything through over there from great new bands such as HAMMERFALL, RHAPSODY, SACRED STEEL and WHITE SKULL?
From what I have been told by many people from Europe over the last twelve months, is that the true metal scene is really starting to pick up again and that is truely a great sign for the True Metal Invasion of the world to take full control again, just like in the eighties. The only bands album, which I have seen over here from your list is HAMMERFALL's "Glory To The Brave" and that I know for a fact has really got some great attention from the die hard metal fans Down Under. I haven't heard of the other bands much because the distribution and promotion for most metal bands in Australia really sucks!
Let's get very serious here, Johnny. From our contact (by email), I can tell heavy metal is more a way of living for you rather than just an image. Metal is your food and water and a way to survive, when times get rough. Can you add something to this statement?
Well, you nailed that description right on the head! Metal is definitely something that once you have been brought up on it like food and water, it really does become your life blood forever. For me and the guys in PEGAZUS, there's no other choice or turning back. Heavy metal has always been there for us through life's good and bad times and continue in its classic tradition, we will forever! No looking back! Heavy metal is certainly not a trend! It is timeless and eternal!
What are the future plans for PEGAZUS?
After our tour in Europe for the summer, we will be taking a month off when we arrive back home. We will be getting straight into pre-production rehearsals, working on the new songs for our next album, which we hope to start recording in December. We plan to have the album recorded and finished by late January 1999, then we will see what touring options are available to us, because next year besides coming to Europe again, we would also like to play some shows in Japan and the U.S.A. A live album is also a high possibility next year!
Any goals you'd still like to achieve in life?
What the band is doing this very moment is a life long goal and ambition by itself! At least, we're persistent enough to keep the flame of traditional metal burning into the next millenium. Personally, one of my all time ambitions would be to possibly co-write a song with my hero Steve Harris from IRON MAIDEN, who has always been a big inspiration to me!
Have you got anything to add to this interview?
All I would like to say on behalf of the band is, when PEGAZUS does come to play in Europe this summer, we hope to meet with all of you crazy true metal heads and we will play our music so loud and so fucking proud! See ya soon.... Best wishes & Metal Forever!!!
Visit the band's website at:
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Interview by: Toine van Poorten
(originally appeared in SNAKEPIT, issue #4, 1998.)