As you may know, HELLHOUND (USA) is one of the first Bay Area thrash bands, they were there, as the US-thrash-movement was born. After more than a decade of silence they are now active again, last year they released a CD, which contains their debut album from 1998 and an old demo (+bonus DVD). The interview was answered by Rich Pelletier (bassist).
So Rich, HellHound’s career began in 1981, when at the age of twelve, novice drummer Steve Pelletier began playing music with some friends in his parent's garage. How did this passion into metal develop, and how did you discover that music style?
I'm pretty sure I got Steve into metal, at least the more extreme forms. I think he and his friends were already listening to UFO, Scorpions, Judas Priest and Black Sabbath. My best friend in high school was Brian Lew (Whiplash Magazine, among other things), and he got into tape trading. He got ahold of the very first Metallica and Mercyful Fate demos, and that really changed things for me. Before that, we were already experimenting with Iron Maiden, Motorhead, Saxon, Venom, Angel Witch and the like, which was pretty radical in our area because no one knew who these bands were. We'd read about them, and buy the records without knowing what they sounded like. Luckily, it was the greatest thing we'd ever heard in our lives.
What were the stuffs that you were into? I mean, did you prefer underground acts or rather known, established ones?
Well, because I lived in the US, even the mainstream stuff I listened to like Judas Priest seemed underground compared to what my peers were into. The US was, and still is to a large degree, very trend-oriented. There doesn't seem to be a lot of independent thinking when it comes to art, and musical taste in particular. People tend to like whatever MTV and the radio DJs tell them is good. It has begun to change in the last decade or so, but you still have to make an effort to find something you really like for yourself, instead of relying on society or the media.
What were your influences to form a band respectively to become musicians? Were all of you self taught or…?
My brother Steve and I loved metal so much that we simply had to learn to play it. For me, I wanted to be it. I love listening to metal, but there's no comparison to actually playing it. We started out with some formal lessons (Steve, piano and drums; me, guitar), but for bass I'm entirely self-taught (and I'm sure some will tell you it shows, haha).
The band was called Black Death, and were soon joined by you, who came up with the name of the band. Weren’t you aware of the existence of a Cleveland based band that was also called Black Death?
When I joined up with Steve and his friends, they were called Black Death. We had never heard of another band by that name, but this was before the Internet.
Together you began practicing incessantly, attempting AC/DC, UFO and Judas Priest songs in typical „garage band” fashion. What do you recall of your rehearsals? Was it unambiguous for you to start playing covers instead of writing originals?
When we first started playing together, we could barely play. It sounded horrible. Playing covers wasn't so much a choice as a necessity, as we lacked the skills to write anything ourselves. Still, we had one or two originals we'd mess around with, but I think they sounded very much like another band's songs.
You wrote a song called „Hellhound”, and the band changed it’s name soon after. What was the reason of it?
According to my brother, I didn't like the name Black Death. I think the real reason is that I wanted to be like Black Sabbath and Iron Maiden, with a song named after the band.
Players came and went, leaving Steve and you the only original members and finally, in October of 1982, Robert Kolowitz joined as rhythm guitarist, and soon proved to be an integral and permanent part of Hellhound. What about his musical background?
His story was pretty much the same as ours. He was taking formal guitar lessons, and was into the usual Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, etc. Steve and I turned him onto Metallica, Mercyful Fate, Venom and the rest.
You were one of the first Bay Area bands, were you familiar with other acts, such as Sinister Savage (later became Griffin), Exodus, Blind Illusion, Anvil Chorus, Metal Church etc.? Did the Bay Area scene start with these bands? I mean, they were the pioneers at the Bay Area surrounding…
Yes, we were aware of these bands. We all had the same influences, and were sort of doing the same thing at the same time. Hellhound was based about 50 miles from San Francisco, though, so we had little contact with them at first.
Do you agree with, that Along with Tampa, Florida, the Bay Area scene was widely attributed as a starting point of American thrash metal and death metal?
In my opinion (and I'm sure some will disagree), thrash and speed metal were born in Southern California (the greater Los Angeles area) with Metallica and Slayer. It quickly moved to San Francisco, though. I'm not sure there was ever a thrash metal "scene" in LA. If there were, Metallica wouldn't have moved to Northern California. My interest in death metal didn't really begin until the Scandinavians got ahold of it during the 90's, but my understanding is that Possessed (from the SF Bay Area) were the first death metal band.
What were the clubs that started opening their doors for metal? Was there a strong and healthy club scene at this point?
There were a few clubs that embraced metal, mainly the Keystone Family (one club in SF, one in Berkeley and one in Palo Alto, which was our area) and of course Ruthie's Inn in Berkeley. There were a few other places that would have metal shows as well, but these were the main ones. I would say the scene was pretty healthy; on any given weekend you could see Exodus, Legacy, Death Angel, Heathen, etc., and every so often big guns like Slayer, Metallica, Megadeth and Anthrax would come through.
In your opinion, did Ron Quintana’s and Ian Kallen’s Metal Mania fanzine and KUSF radio help to develop/evolve the Bay Area scene? Were they a kind of catalyst for the Bay Area scene?
Absolutely. Metallica in particular owes a lot to those guys, along with my friend Brian Lew, who helped build the scene.
In November of 1983, after a steady stream of part time bassists and singers, you decided to switch from guitar to bass, because you felt locating another guitarist would be easier than finding a permanent bass player. Robert had begun displaying considerable potential as a lead guitarist himself, you advertised for a singer and new guitarist, and began to write original material. Does this mean it was hard to find the suitable members for a metal band? Was it hard to find members that were sharing the same musical path, interest, direction etc., as you?
It was very hard. We wanted to play a style of music that was so new barely anyone had heard of it. Thrash or speed metal is also unique in that it really has to be inside you. It's not a style like blues or country that any decent musician can pull off convincingly even when they're not serious. There's a technical skill aspect that requires a genuine passion to learn and execute. It was hard enough finding people who liked the music, let alone those who could play it. Vocals are another matter. If thrash, speed or death metal vocals aren't done just right, they can suck pretty bad. Most people don't even like them when they're done well. Yeah, building HellHound took a lot of time and hard work, and looking back I feel pretty fortunate it turned out the way it did.
How do you view, that although Metallica had initially formed in Los Angeles, it wasn’t until their relocation to the East Bay area in 1983 that Cliff Burton and Kirk Hammett joined as bassist and lead guitarist, sealing the band’s first, formative line-up? Did Metallica have an important effect on the other Bay Area bands?
I think moving to Northern California was the smartest thing they could do, and that it was Cliff who made them into a real band. I was at one of the very first rehearsals Cliff had with Metallica, when Mustaine was still in the band. He was an incredible bassist, and he brought them to a new level. There are guys you play with that make you better, and he was one of them. The very first time I saw him play was with his old band Trauma in Palo Alto, CA. He blew me away, and I feel fortunate to have seen him perform so many times. Metallica had a huge influence on all the Bay Area bands, including HellHound. They weren't the most original band in the world when they first started (if you listen to "Kill 'Em All" you can hear Diamond Head and Blitzkrieg in nearly every song), but they added the speed element to their NWOBHM influences, and created something new and improved. Anyone who doesn't acknowledge Metallica's contribution to metal, thrash and speed in particular, doesn't know what they're talking about.
Was their musical direction the most brutal and the heaviest at this point?
They were on the cutting edge, but I always thought Slayer to be the more brutal. It's funny when you think about what used to be considered "extreme". I'll play an old Judas Priest song for my son, and say, "This was as heavy as it got at that time."
Burton and Hammett’s friendship with other local acts, notably Oakland’s Exodus and Testament, and San Francisco’s Death Angel - among others - strongly vitalized the scene, leading to intensive touring and tape-trading that would cross borders and seas, and eventually graduate to record signings, what do you think about that?
I wish that we had been based closer to San Francisco, so that maybe we could have benefited from some of that. We of course talked to all of these people and knew many on a first name basis, but these guys had the advantage of growing up together, of living in the same neighborhoods and going to the same schools. There was an "inner-circle", I guess you could say, that we unfortunately were never a part of. We also weren't the most social of people, myself and Robert especially being rather quiet and low-key.
Inspired by the NWoBHM and then largely unknown bands such as Metallica and Slayer, Robert wrote music while you provided the lyrics, coupled with Steve’s blossoming technical expertise, the result was a fast, furious and very heavy style, which turned away the Van Halen and Ozzy Osbourne fans who were coming to audition. Can you tell us more about it?
Well, we basically had people answering our ads who were barely into metal. Maybe they knew Iron Maiden, most only Priest and Sabbath. Metallica and Slayer sounded like noise to them. We also needed people who looked the part, which for us and the other bands doing our style was modeled after a British metal fan. Back in the early 80's where we lived (and probably most places in the US) it was hard to be a male with long hair. No one wanted to hire you, a lot of girls didn't want to date you, and your parents gave you a lot of shit (though luckily mine didn't). Being a thrash metal musician was an underground lifestyle unto itself.
Finally, in May of 1984, the new members were settled upon; they were Bob Edwards (guitar) and Rich MacCulloch (vocals). Would you say, that a long way led to the band’s permanent line up? What can you tell us about Bob’s and Rich’s musical past?
It seemed like a long time, but I think it was less than a year of searching. When you're 19 years old, a year is a long time. I don't remember much about Bob and Rich's previous experience, but I don't think either had ever been in a serious band prior to HellHound. Bob came in with an original song (which became "Suffer the Innocent") that fit right into our style. He was a huge Iron Maiden fan, and kinda looked like Dave Murray, so he was a no-brainer. Rich wasn't exactly what we were looking for vocally, but he was a nice guy, dedicated and willing to work hard. We were happy to have found them.
Hellhound, now a complete band with its own material, rehearsed through the summer with renewed vigor, the band made its club debut in San Fransisco that October, and soon followed a series of uneventful gigs during which the band perfected its performance skills. How did the early gigs go? Did the shows help the band getting new fans?
Our early shows, except for the one with Slayer, were mostly uneventful. They served to give us experience playing live, and interacting with club owners and promoters. We built our fanbase primarily through the demos. It did help once we started playing regularly at Ruthie's Inn, and later doing gigs with Forbidden Evil and Death Angel.
Then, in December of ’84, the band was offered a dream come true - the opening slot for Slayer on New Year's Eve…Is it true, that Slayer’s gear had been left in New York due to an airline mix-up, so Steve offered Dave Lombardo the use of his drum kit and as a result, Hellhound was moved up to the support slot, playing right before Slayer, and performed to a packed house?
That's exactly the way it happened. We got to the club pretty early, but Slayer were already there. They were hanging out at the bar, looking depressed. We introduced ourselves and started up a conversation, and learned of the airline mishap. Of course, we offered to lend our gear. I think they ended up using various pieces of equipment from all the bands that played that night, but because Dave Lombardo used Steve's drums, we were moved up to direct support. I believe Sentinel Beast originally had the slot.
In 1984 you released a seven tracks rehearsal demo, how did the recording sessions go? How many time did the recording sessions take at all?
That actually wasn't an official release. I see it listed all the time on various websites, but it was just a rehearsal we had recorded that somehow made it into the hands of the tape traders.
Did the demo contain brandnew material or were the songs written earlier?
I honestly have no memory of it. I imagine it had "Ice Age", "Flee the Bomb", "Killing Spree", "Hellhound", and some cover tunes we used to play (possibly "Creeping Death").
Can you give us details regarding the demo?
Since it was just a live rehearsal recording, there's not much to tell. I used to pull my tape deck out of my home stereo system (it was a component system), and we'd plug a couple of cheap mics into it.
How much support did you make for the demo? Through which channels was it spread? I mean, through the tapetrading scene, in record stores, did you sell it at your shows etc.?
Though we weren't aware of it, I suppose it helped to get our name and our music out to the underground metal scene. I'm guessing one of my friends asked me for a copy, and he started sending it to people he knew. Like I said, it was never an official release, so we never packaged it for sale.
Would you say, that the material showed a very promising thrash outfit?
I think by the summer of '84 we were starting to show promise. I think we were more of a thrash band at that point than we were a year later, when the first demo was recorded. Since we still had our first singer, there was a lot less melody in the vocals as well.
In August of 1985, shortly before the recording of Hellhound’s „Submit or Die” demo, Mike Walish took over as vocalist, learning the material in only one week’s time, how did he get in the picture exactly? In which bands did he sing prior to Hellhound?
We'd been working with our old singer for some time, trying to move him in a direction we'd all be happy with. By Spring of '85 (I think it was), we decided it was never going to happen, and we started looking for a new singer. I think Mike answered an ad we'd put out, but I do know we'd played a show with one of his bands in the past. I think his previous bands were called Omega and Militia.
Why was Rich McCulloch fired? What did he do after you parted ways with him? Did you remain in touch with each other?
We were getting negative feedback from our live performances. The consensus seemed to be "You guys kick ass, but your singer sucks". We came to believe that he was holding us back. He formed a band called Baphomet almost immediately after leaving HellHound, and I had limited contact with him for a while. I eventually lost touch completely, but just saw him for the first time in about 15 years at a Forbidden show.
In 1985 you released your second demo „Submit Or Die”, were you more prepared then with the previous?
Well, being as how "Submit Or Die" was the first official demo, we were very prepared. We rehearsed like madmen, so that when we went in to do our tracks we wouldn't waste a lot of time (meaning money).
This material contained the majority of the „Rehearsal demo 1984” and a new track called „Repression Of Life”, why didn’t make up more originals on the demo? Did you re-recorded the old songs, because the sound quality wasn’t so good on the first tape?
When that rehearsal tape was recorded, most of the songs were very new. I'm not sure if they are the exact same versions as were eventually recorded in the studio in '85."HellHound" and "Flee the Bomb" had already been around for a couple of years by '84, so they are probably the same versions. By August of '85 all of these songs might have seemed old to us, but to the rest of the world they were brand new. This "rehearsal demo" from '84 probably didn't make wide distribution until long after our 2 official demo releases.
The material was recorded on 16 tracks at Astral Sounds Recording San Jose, CA, correct?
That's right. My brother and I had been friends of the family that owned the studio for a while; I think I was in Kindergarten with the guy who recorded us. We were able to get a discount of sorts on the project, and were pretty lucky to do our first recording in a studio of that quality (for the time).
Were the sound quality and performances excellent in your opinion? How much did you develope compared to the first demo?
We were pretty happy with the way it turned out. The guy had never recorded a metal band before, so we had some problems initially with the guitar tones and my brother's double bass drum kit. It's not perfect, but a good representation of the band at that point in our history. To compare HellHound in '04 to the level we were at when we recorded "Submit", I'd say we were more polished and better musicians. We'd matured past just wanting to play as fast as we possibly could, and were concentrating more on perfecting our performance.
The tape got rave reviews in many prominent metal fanzines, including Metal Forces from England and Metal Hammer from Germany and as a result, many copies were sold. Hellhound received airplay on radio stations in Europe and the U.S., often ranking high on audience request lists. Does this mean that the tape helped the band to expand its popularity in the underground? Did this demo draw more fans attention to the band?
Exactly. Once the reviews started printing, we started getting a lot of orders for the demo. After that, the fan mail started coming in. Most of the attention seemed to be coming from Germany, though we got letters from all over Europe. I used to spend a lot of time answering fan mail and filling demo orders. It finally got to the point where I had to set aside some time one day a week, after band practice, so the rest of the guys could help me.
Around the mid-80's the sound of the Bay Area scene changed considerably; virtuosic musicianship (particularly lead guitars) had become a defining characteristic of the scene; the second wave of bands coming out of the scene, led by Testament, Death Angel, Forbidden and Heathen, played a style of thrash considerably different from their predecessors, what do you think about it? Was it a natural progression of the Bay Area scene?
Yes, I think we all went through the same process. When we first started out we were mostly concerned with how fast and heavy we could play. After hearing guys like Yngwie Malmsteen, I think the guitarists started to change their style a bit. Overall, I think we all became interested in being more technical instead of just "thrashy".
Do you agree with, that this new brand of thrash featured longer and more harmonically and rhythmically complex songs, with often neo-classical styled dual lead guitar playing highlighting the album and the songs also borrowed more from NWOBHM vocals and melodies?
The NWOBHM influence was there from the beginning. Thrash can be seen as a hybrid of the NWOBHM sound and stuff being played by the (then) hardcore punk bands like G.B.H., Discharge, The Exploited, etc. The changes you mention came from a natural progression, I think. The bands were getting better with time, and starting to experiment with more complex songs.
A progressive rock influence became apparent for the first time in the genre and the punk influence that was once crucial to the genre was now almost completely absent and this sound, highlighted by albums like Testament's „The Legacy” and Death Angel’s „The Ultra-Violence”, both released in 1987, was the style that many would associate with the classic Bay Area sound, how do you explain this?
I think Megadeth had a lot to do with it, along with Metallica and Anthrax. For HellHound, at least, "Killing Is My Business....", "Peace Sells....", "Ride the Lightning", "Master Of Puppets", and "Among the Living" were very influencial. I can imagine they had an effect on other up and coming bands as well, though I'm just guessing. Testament and Death Angel may have been influenced by something else entirely.
Meanwhile, Hellhound had perfected its live performance into an intense, brutal assault, complete with choreographed stage moves and non-stop head banging. Unfortunately, the band lacked management or a booking agent, and most shows were dismal failures played in near-empty clubs. Did this hinder the career of the band? Why couldn’t you find any agency or management that would have attended to the band?
Well, it obviously hindered our career, and was a contributing factor to our eventual demise. Basically we were young and stupid, and made some bad choices. Unfortunately, we weren't connected with anyone who could have helped us properly. I was the de facto leader of the band, but when it came to business matters I wasn't very good at it. I tried to work with a couple of different people that I knew, but they weren't professionals, either.
In the summer of ’86, it was decided to record a second demo, the band opted for a studio run by one of Mike’s friends who became ill shortly after recording began, what happened exactly?
He hurt his back, I think. I'm not sure why he didn't cancel the project. For some reason he kept telling us to come back, but we'd make the drive out and find he was unable to work. It was very frustrating.
Is it correct, that the project dragged on for months in an „on-again/off-again” fashion, during which time the band did not perform in public at all and eventually the work was scrapped entirely, but by then many thought Hellhound had broken-up?
Yes, we wasted an entire summer, basically. This was another nail in our coffin.
In December the band returned to the studio where the first tape was recorded, and produced „From The Ruins Of Yesterday”, what about the recording sessions?
I think the tracking went well, but it was during mix-down that we ran into problems. This time around, the brother of the guy who did the first one was doing the engineering. He wasn't as authoratative, and we were able to have more say while recording than we should (it would have been okay had we been more experienced, but this was only our second professional studio project). I think we made some technical decisions during recording that lead to problems when we got to mix-down, and the guy had to call his brother back in to fix things. I don't really like the sound of "Ruins", though I think the performances are better. We were definitely tighter by that point.
How do you view that the demo was more polished than its predecessor, the performances proving HellHound’s growing mastery of technical and progressive Speed Metal?
I think it’s more polished than the first demo, but sounds over-produced in some aspects. I think some of the effects were over-used, but some of us were into that. The first three songs on „Ruins” are more technical than our older material, and Robert was trying to be more progressive with his writing. „Progressive Metal” means something else entirely now, so the term really doesn’t apply any more.
As for HellHound’s music as a whole, do you agree that it varies from early Exodus to Attacker and even Helstar, as well as some other heroes from the 80s?
I think you can hear our influences somewhat, which were Iron Maiden, Slayer and Metallica, mostly. We tried to be as original as possible and made an effort not to sound too much like anyone else. Any resemblence to the other bands you mention would probably be due to the fact we had similar influences.
Is the music pretty catchy, the riffs quite good (especially the technical ones), and one can hear some entertaining drumming too; fast but varied and the bass is clearly audible, and it is also pretty good.?
I’ve always been a fan of Robert’s songwriting, and my brother’s drumming. I was as big a fan of HellHound as anyone. As for the bass playing, I’m my own worse critic. I always feel it can be better, but now that I’m revisiting these songs after 25 years in the new HellHound, I find I’m not changing much.
This demo was also well-received, and the band's fanbase was growing, especially in Germany, where HellHound had achieved an almost cult status. Did you get a lot of mail from Germany? Does it mean that you were more popular and known in Germany than in the States?
Yes, most of our fan mail came from Germany, and it did seem we were more popular there than in our own country. Metal has never been as popular in the U.S. as in Europe, though.
How about other European countries considering fans interests, demo orders and stuff?
I remember getting fan mail and demo orders from Italy, France, Belgium, Poland, Switzerland, and a few from the U.K. I expected more to come from England since metal was born there, but we didn’t get much for whatever reason.
1987 saw the band playing bigger and better shows, supporting such acts as Forbidden Evil and Death Angel. Do you think that the Bay Area scene reached its peak at this point or would you say, that the scene started becoming oversaturated?
I think it was either the peak or close to it. Many of the bands had been signed by this point, so they weren’t playing the Bay Area constantly like they used to. Also Metallica had got pretty big by ’87, and many in the scene had already labeled them sellouts (because they were signed to a major record label, I guess). There were a lot of new bands on the scene, so I guess you could say it had become oversaturated. People were still going to the shows, though.
Two of HellHound's most notable performances were with Anthrax and Megadeth (both on seperate occasions), after which they received compliments from these bands as well as excellent audience response, what do you recall of these shows? Did you musically fit to that bill?
I wish I can remember more detail about individual shows, but they all seem to blur together for me. I do recall the crowds were great for both those shows, and we were very excited to do them. We certainly didn’t have any trouble selling tickets for those two shows, and that was probably the most money we made for performing. As far as fitting on those bills, we definitely did.
HellHound sought professional backing, and during meetings with Forbidden Evil's and Death Angel's management were surprised to learn you had attracted the attention of record labels who were waiting to hear more from the band. Who were these labels? Did they show a serious interest in the band?
I can’t remember any specific label being mentioned by name, though I did hear at one point that Metal Blade was interested. Unfortunately, by this point we were already falling apart.
It's sadly ironic that the time HellHound was perhaps closer than ever to it's goal of being signed to a record label, it was crumbling from the inside; Steve, you and Robert, long the solid core of the band, had begun growing apart, what kind of reasons did lead to it? Were there any personal or musical differences or…?
Steve had been unhappy for a while; I think he wanted to try something different. Robert’s songwriting style was changing, too, and I remember not being very happy with that.
While you remained committed to the speed metal style, Robert was progressing as a musician and writing slower, more melodic material. Steve, on the other hand, had grown weary of the long struggle for success and was doubting the band's commercial potential. What do you think about it? Were they dissatisfied both with the band’s status and musical direction?
Robert’s change was natural, I think. He was listening to all the Mike Varney/Shrapnel Records guitar shredders, and it seemed to me that he wanted to progress as a musician along those lines. I don’t recall him ever losing faith in the band. Steve was definitely dissatisfied with the band’s status, and figured that if we hadn’t been signed by then it was never going to happen. He was almost completely out of thrash and speed metal by this point, so I don’t think he was into any of our music any longer.
In early 1988, Steve and Bob accepted an offer to join another band; you, Robert and Mike attempted to replace them, but after a few months of unsuccessful auditions you broke up the band. In stark contrast to it's thunderous music, HellHound died not with a bang, but with a wimper. Your comments?
Well, we definitely didn’t go out in a blaze of glory. I’d felt the band was dying for some time, but I guess I was tired, too. I just kind of let it happen. We did try to replace Steve and Bob, but I don’t think we tried very hard. It was clear (to me, at least) it would never be as good as it was, so I decided to call it quits rather than do something that didn’t live up to what we’ve done in the past.
A couple of Bay Area bands besides HellHound, such as Militia, Desecration, Assassin weren’t signed by any labels, although they had the potential becoming great outfits. What are your views on it?
Well, not every band can get signed. Though I can’t remember any names, I think there were bands from that scene who were signed but went nowhere. They either signed bad deals and got ripped-off, or didn’t sell enough records and were dropped.
Can you tell us more about your musical involvements that you did after HellHound’s demise? I think of RapidFire (you and Steve), Doom Society (Mike) and Blackstorm (Robert)…
After HellHound broke up, I actually quit playing for a while. My son was born shortly after, and I had to get a full time job and such. Eventually I started jamming with people again, and made another attempt to put HellHound back together with Mike. We tried some different drummers and guitarists, but nothing came of it. I really didn’t have as much time to devote as in the past, though, as I had a new family as my main focus. Still, I was hired to do some studio work by a guy I met while I was recruiting for HellHound. Robert was in Blackstorm during all of this, and Steve had moved to Southern California with the guys from Rellik to join up with another band (can’t remember the name). Bob was with them, too. All of this took place during 1988 to about 1990, I think. In 1991, Steve was back in Northern California, along with the singer and guitarist from Rellik. Bob stayed in Southern California, but I think he had stopped playing guitar by that point. Rellik reformed but needed a bass player, so I came out of retirement and joined up, wanting to play with my brother again, more than anything. I was in the band for about a week, then one of the guitarists quit. The singer, Steve, second guitar player and I went on to form a band called Ground Zero. We later recruited Robert, who was then out of Blackstorm. We changed our name to Disciple for some reason (I think there was another band called Ground Zero), recorded a demo I never play for anyone and did one show that no one came to. Disciple broke up, but Steve, Robert and I went on to form RapidFire, which lasted until late ’93. After that, I didn’t play seriously again until Robert asked me to jam with his band Terminus in ’97. It was an industrial metal thing that didn’t work very well. We played several shows and recorded a demo (again, which I don’t play for anyone), but it was pretty obvious the band was never going anywhere. We broke up in ’98, I think. As for Doom Society, I don’t think Mike formed that band until 2003 or 2004.
What about these acts compared to Hellhound? What can you tell us about the materials, that you –and the other guys- recorded with those acts?
For me, the only band that could be compared to HellHound is RapidFire. The only things I’ve done that I’m proud of in any way are HellHound and RapidFire. Like I said, I don’t listen to anything else I’ve recorded, and don’t play it for other people. I’m sure I was into it at the time for whatever reason, but not everything you do in your life can be gold. I don’t necessarily regret doing those other things, but looking back they just don’t hold up. I’m sure the other people involved wouldn’t be very happy to hear me say that, but I’m just being honest.
How did you view the metal movement during the ’90s and nowadays? How much did it change compared to ’80s? Do you agree with, that the ’90s weren’t favourable for metal, because it was almost killed and annihilated by the crap grunge and pop/punk bands, that started popping up at this point?
When I was doing RapidFire in the early 90’s, metal was pretty dead in the U.S. People were still into Metallica, but they had just done the Black Album, which to me isn’t really a Metallica album („And Justice...” is the last thing they did that I really liked). Real metal went back underground, so in a way it was like the early 80’s all over again. Unfortunately, it didn’t pick up again until around ’04 or ’05, but there were some cool things coming out of Europe during the mid to late 90’s, if you were open minded enough to accept them. Luckily for me, I was able to get into bands like At the Gates, Cradle Of Filth, Arch Enemy, Dimmu Borgir and In Flames. Metal didn’t die, it just evolved. A lot of my friends were stuck in the 80’s, though, so for them metal died when grunge took over. Well, grunge didn’t last very long, and metal is still here. Presently, we have the classics like Iron Maiden and Judas Priest still going strong, and of course bands like Slayer, Exodus, Forbidden, Death Angel, Testament and others are still out there plugging away. Metallica are even trying to be Metallica again for the first time in 20 years. I think this is a great time for metal.
That the memory of Hellhound remains alive to this day is a testament to the loyalty and perseverance of Heavy Metal fans around the world, so you would like to dedicate the CD „Ice Age” to all the people who supported the band and helped make those years spent playing in Hellhound some of the best of our lives, how deeply were you involved into the making of that record? Can you tell us more about it?
Thanks for quoting so much of the bio I wrote. That’s one of my favorite parts! For the „Ice Age” CD, I was involved pretty heavily. I wrote the bio and all the liner notes, assembled the photos and transcribed all the lyrics. I always wanted to call our first album „Ice Age”, so it seemed the perfect title. We didn’t have anything to do with the cover, though; we didn’t provide High Vaultage with anything, so they took care of it. I’m not sure where they got that painting. It was a lot fun doing that CD, signing an actual record contract and getting an advance from the company. It would have been better if we had put the band back together at that point, but I guess the timing was wrong.
Did you have some materials written back in the day, that never saw the light on Hellhound releases? Did you put all of your songs on your stuffs?
There is only one song that isn’t on either of the CDs.
Stormspell Records released „Anthology” last year (including a DVD), but it was the „Ice Age” material from 1998, wasn’t it?
Yes, the first and second demos. That’s everything we ever recorded in a studio.
Do you agree with, that Hellhound was a promising band from America which unfortunately never achieved the success it deserved and you sure had the potential to become a big name in the thrash metal underground?
I can’t say if we ever would have been a „big name”. I’d like to think we would have been, but that’s up to other people to decide. I actually consider the two CD releases, which are ten years apart, to be a sign of success. The fact I’m doing this interview 20 years after the band broke up shows success, too, in a way. If the band simply died in 1988 and no one ever showed any interest whatsoever after that, then I’d agree we never achieved the success we deserved.
What were the best and the worst memories with the band? What would you change on the band’s career? How would you sum up the band’s career at all?
My best memories are of writing the songs, of hearing them go through the creative process until completion. It’s very satisfying. The recording sessions were also great experiences, as was the T.V. appearance we did. My worst memory is of the band breaking up, the moment I realized it was gone for good. As for summing up our career, I like to tell people we were „almost famous”.
How would you see the band to be remembered?
I’m pretty happy with the way HellHound has been remembered so far. The current CD release on Stormspell Records is selling well, and I don’t think I could ask for anything more. I’d ultimately like us to be remembered as the band that just wouldn’t die.
Rich, thanks a lot for the answers, anything to add what I forgot to mention?
Well, you probably didn’t know this, but the band is now officially back together and writing new material. It’s great to be playing all the old songs again, and we hope people will like the new ones, too. We’re also working on doing some shows in Europe next summer, so people who never got a chance to see us back in the 80’s will finally get a chance. Thanks for having me, and thanks to everyone who has supported HellHound over the years. It’s great to be back!