I have to tell you, that John Cyriis is my favourite singers and I read a lot of about him, that he is a difficult person, how was he back then? How would you charakterize him personally?
To be honest, John Cyriis is one of my favorite singers of all time, too. I have a lot of respect for his talent, he is a very special person with regard to his vocal abilities and songwriting. I don’t want to go into too much detail here, but yes, he is very hard to get along with, let alone be in a band with. He caused a lot of unnecessary tension within the band.
Was it hard to work with him?
Very easy at first, then more and more difficult as time went on. That amazing voice of his forced you to put up with his diffucult personality. He is a great talent. Like a girlfriend who is a great piece of ass but a real bitch – the ass wins you over for a while..... until you can’t take the bitch part any more.
Do you think, that he has/had a unique vocal style, which can’t e compared to anybody?
I think that he can be put into the same category as the great metal vocalists, such as Geoff Tate, Rob Halford, Bruce Dickinson, and Ronnie James Dio. He had incredible range and control of his voice. His tonality was very musical, too. When you hear John Cyriis sing, you immediately know that it’s him, and not one of the other four guys I mentioned. They all have their own signature tone. He was unique.
With this line up you recorded a one track demo „Demo ’84”, what can you tell us about this tape? Was it your first recording experience by the way?
We went into the studio to record four songs. That’s what is know as the ’84 Demo. Our goal was to put one track on the next Metal Massacre album, then put out all four tracks on an EP on Metal Blade. If the EP did well, then we’d do a full LP. Yes, it was my first time in the studio. We recorded at a local college recording studio on the weekends when the students were not there.
How did happen, that you recorded only one tune?
We recorded four songs, but Cyriis only did the vocals on one song, Satan’s Reign. He left the band before he could finish singing on the other three tracks. Since that’s the only song with vocals on it, a lot of tape traders have a copy of it.
Did you heavily promote the demo in the underground scene? Did it start developing a great buzz surrounding the band or…?
Like I said before, the scene was not underground at that time. Cyriis sent a copy of the tape to a radio guy in New York, who played it on his show. He also sent it (without our permission) to Roadrunner and Combat records. We already had plenty of buzz in LA and San Francisco.
This powerhouse lineup with Mike Chacon on drums and John Cyriis on vocals continued to headline gigs in both SoCal and San Francisco, how did these shows go? Did the shows help the band getting new fans?
The shows went very well. We had a cool stage setup, with a huge drum riser and black screens in front of the amps, it looked very clean. Exodus came to see us in San Francisco, they were very cool guys. I’m sure the exposure by playing more gigs helped us expand our fanbase.
A four track demo was recorded in 1984, with interest from Metal Blade and Roadrunner records, what about this tape compared to the first one? How was it recorded at all?
This is the same tape as the first one; there was only one tape.
Was it a better representation of the band?
We scrapped it after Cyriis left. The live bootlegs are the best representation of the band at that time.
Do you still remember at which point did the aformentioned label start showing interest in the band? Did they also offer you a deal or…?
Metal Blade was interested from the first time that Brian Slagel saw us play. All we had to do was supply him with a tape, and he was ready to put us on vinyl.
I don’t understand, while almost all of the underground L.A. bands, such as Omen, Armored Saint, Abattoir, Savage Grace, Metallica, Slayer etc. were performed on the legendary „Metal Massacre” compilations, Vermin never was on it, how did it happen?
We didn’t want to submit a song to Metal Blade with Cyriis on it as he had quit the band. After the band changed to L.S.N., they submitted a Vermin song, ’Deadly Kiss’, which was on Metal Massacre 8. They re-recorded the song; I did not play on that version, although I wrote the music.
What do you think about, if you would have had the opportunity to be featured on one of the „Metal Massacre” compilations…?
It would have been cool, as all of the other bands in LA that we knew were on those compilations. We all really like Brian Slagel. He’s the Godfather of Metal, that guy. No one else has done more for metal than Brian.
Unfortunately, with personality conflicts causing tension within the band, John Cyriis left, followed by you, what were the reasons of these conflicts and did you part ways with each other on a friendly term at the end?
Yes, it was friendly. It was over money, unfortunately, that he owed us. He kept in touch with me for about a year after that, telling me about his Agent Steele project.
In 1984 Dean Coffey left the band as well, is that correct?
No, Dean stayed on for a while and played a few more shows with a new vocalist named Mike Torres. After Dean quit, Greg and Mike changed the name of the band to L.S.N.
Vermin also had the honor of being thanked in the liner notes of Slayer's „Haunting the Chapel” EP, as both bands often gigged and partied relentlessly together, does it mean that you were very close to the Slayer guys and you were great friends?
We were pretty good party buddies. We would go to all of their gigs, and they (Jeff and Tom) would come to all of ours. We’d all hang out together back stage. They used to come over to our house and party with us, get drunk and sing Priest songs, etc. Good times. Great guys. We did a few more shows with them before they headed off into the big time.
How did you feel being on the thanks list of the EP?
We were the only band that they thanked, so it was pretty cool. They considered us the only other true thrashers in LA, not just because of the way we played music, but because of our attitudes and how we lived our lives – hard! We were hard drinking, womanizing, crazy fuckers. So, we had a lot in common with Slayer.
How happened, that Vermin never had the opportunity to record its first full length? Would it have been a thrash classic in your opinion?
We went into the studio to record an EP, 4 songs, that Metal Blade records was going to put out. This was right after our friends Slayer had released their first LP. However, we parted ways with John Cyriis prior to completing the tracks. I left the band shortly after that. Yes, I do believe it would have been a classic thrash album, due to our popularity in California at the time, and our close relationship witih Slayer. Our plan is to record all of our classic songs this summer and have a CD available before the end of the year.
A new vocalist, Mike Torres joined, and the band soldiered on for a few more months fulfilling prior gig commitments in both SoCal and San Francisco respectively they released a 4 track demo in 1985, did you remain in touch with the members of Vermin after your departure? Have you ever heard that demo?
Yes, I heard that demo. They used the same four songs we had recorded when Cyriis was in the band, and had Mike Torres sing over them. I thought he sounded awful. From what I understand, he was very good live, but in the studio he could not stay in tune. Some people call it ’red light syndrome’. That’s when the recording starts, they get nervous and it affects their performance. I did not keep in touch with the band after I left.
What have you done after you left the band? Can you tell us more about it?
I quit the band, sold all of my gear, cut my hair, got a good job, and got married and had two sons. I was burned out on the scene.
Do you agree with that at the mid ’80s the L.A. scene (and thrash metal as well) reached its peak, new bands were popping up, such as Viking, Recipients Of Death, Bloodlust, Bloodcum, Sadistic Intent, Majesty (later Nausea, then Terrorizer), what were your vies on this scene?
All those bands came about after I had gotten out of the scene, so I don’t know much about them. We did a show with Bloodlust at The Waters club in 1984. I just ran into their singer, Steve Gaines, who now fronts Anger As Art, at the Seattle Metal Fest last month. Small world!
Wanting to take the musical vision in a new, more hardcore direction, Greg Cekalovich, along with Mike Chacon, created L.S.N., which stands for Loud Senseless Noise; George Robb (ex-Agent Steel) was recruited for bass duties, along with Tony Vargas on vocals, the later, Angelo Espino joined as a second bass player, what’s your opinion about L.S.N. compared to Vermin?
A lot of the L.S.N. catalog were Vermin songs which I wrote. When I left Vermin I told Greg that he could keep playing the songs that I wrote, I didn’t have a problem with it. The stuff that Greg wrote after that was much more hardcore. He was really into GBH and Discharge at the time, so that influenced his writing style. The songs were fast, short, and agressive in L.S.N. His guitar sound was much more distorted. Vermin had more of a punchy sound, like Motorhead, L.S.N. had more grind to it.
By the early nineties the genre was a bit oversaturated, and in later years fewer bands played the style, but it’s still a viable style today, with veteran bands such as Overkill, Testament, and Destruction, among others, still producing quality thrash albums, while bands such as The Haunted have spurned a new generation of thrash in the new millennium, how do you explain this?
Everything comes around in cycles, like 20 year cycles. Every genre of rock or metal has done this. Look at all the ’stoner rock’ type bands that are around. St. Vitus and Witchfinder General were doing that stuff 25 years ago, now it is fashionable again. It’s great that the new, younger bands are inspired by the stuff guys from the original thrash wave did, are making that style their own, and riffing like motherfuckers and having a great time making classic sounding music. There is a Mexican thrash band called Strikemaster, they are big Vermin/L.S.N. fans. They sent us an email and told us that one song on Metal Massacre 8 influenced them.
Did you have an eye what’s going on in the underground at all or did you turn a back on thrash and metal in general?
All I knew after 1985 is what I saw on MTV, just like everyone else. I was aware of bands like Biohazard, Prong, stuff like that. I continued to go to concerts. Then Grunge happened and everything changed. But, I loved Soundgarden and Alice in Chains – both great bands.
A few years have passed by since the glory days of West Coast Thrash.... and now the core players from both Vermin and L.S.N. have re-connected and are ready to create music again, how did it come in the picture exactly? What about the line up?
This is a long story. Here we go:
Every once in a while, I would do an internet seach for Vermin, L.S.N., etc. One day, about 2 years ago, I did a search and some guy’s page came up who had a bunch of bootleg tapes. One of them was Vermin live at the Troubadour. He was in Budapest. I sent him an email and asked if he’d let me have a copy of the tape (I didn’t even know that it existed, and had never even heard it). He told me that he’d trade me for a CD that he could not get, Metal Massacre 4. He was a huge Cyriis fan. So, I sent him the CD, and he uploaded the bootleg of us at the Troubdour.
I also noticed when I did the search that we were listed on the Encyclopedia Metallum, but none of us had put the info on there. So, I wondered, who knows about us? I emailed the webmaster and told him who I was. It was a guy in Germany, again, who had a bunch of our bootlegs and was really into us. He sent me more songs, including the original demo with Cryiis on it. It was through him that I came into contact with Laurent from Snakepit Magazine in France, another Vermin/L.S.N. fan. All these people in Europe who had bootlegs and liked our music got me thinking about a reunion.
Next I contacted Angelo Espino, who played bass in L.S.N. Angelo was interested in getting together, so he contaced Greg Cekalovich and Mike Chacon. I had not seen any of these guys since about 1987 or so. We planned a jam. I flew down to LA in December of 2006 and we got together and jammed on the old songs. Greg, Angelo and I did the vocals since we could not find Cyriis or Tony Vargas. After we made our Myspace page, Tony Vargas found it during an interet search and he contacted us. The next time we got together Tony came and sang. We had a complete unit again, all original members of either Vermin, L.S.N., or both. Just recently Angelo was offered a full time slot as bassist for a band called Anger As Art, which he accepted. Original L.S.N. bassist George Robb is now on board with us.
Do you want to re-record all of your early materials or did you pen some new tunes as well?
We are only interested in re-recording all the old songs. We have not written anything new since we reunited. However, anything is possible.
How does Vermin/L.S.N. soud like these days?
People who have come by the studio to listen to us have told us that we sound better, tighter, and punchier than we did back in the ’80’s. Part of this is because we are all much older and have been playing for a long time, and are just better musicians now than we were back then.
Did you already start the recording sessions or…?
No, the plan is to start recording the drum and bass tracks as soon as possible. I am going to LA on June 20th 2008 for some practice and a band meeting.
Do you consider this record a kind of gift for the old thrashers and headbangers?
Yes, that is what it is. This is for all the people who have our bootlegs and demos from the ’80’s who like our music. They deserve to listen to something of better quality. Plus, we want to get the songs recorded for our own history. We all have kids and would like our kids to have a copy of what we did. We get email all the time from young kids who like the stuff they hear on our Myspace page, so who knows, mabye a few of the new, young thrash fans will like what we record. Then, maybe a tour with some of our old friends.......
John, thanks a lot for this interview, anything to add what I forgot to mention?
Feel free to list our page at www.myspace.com/verminlsn Also, send me any more questions you might have after you read this. I’m happy to answer anything you would like to know. I’ll email you some MP3’s.