Interview with John Ricci
by Metalion
from SLAYER Magazine.
Used under permission.

It is kinda strange to have such a legendary band as  in here. I think very highly of this band, especially the three first albums ("Heavy Metal Maniac", "Violence & Force" and "Long Live The Loud"). Then I lost track (as well as interest) but anyway, a lot of things happened to  since that. As we write '98  is signed to OSMOSE and have released one helluva album in the shape of "The Dark Command". Heavier and more aggressive than ever, keeping the trademark of classic . I was privileged to interview original guitarist John Ricci…

When the band originally started I believe it was originally called HELLRAZOR, why did you change to ? And was the new name influenced by the JUDAS PRIEST track 'Exciter'?
"Yes, we were called HELLRAZOR back in '78, that name came from my previous local band I had in the mid 70's. That name kinda carried over, myself, Dan Beehler and Allan Johnson (original  members) got together. Then after a couple of years playing under that name, we grew tired of it and one of our roadcrew members suggested the name  from the JUDAS PRIEST song. We thought it was a great name and we decided to stay with it."

When you released your debut album "Heavy Metal Maniac" back in '83 it was a milestone in brutal Heavy Metal. What influenced you to write so Heavy music back then? Did you realize your music was much more before it's time?
"When we wrote the songs for "Heavy Metal Maniac" we were trying to capure the same energy of bands that influenced us greatly. Like JUDAS PRIEST, BLACK SABBATH, MOTORHEAD, SAXON etc. We had no idea we were writing Metal that would change the term Heavy Metal, to us we were writing the best Metal songs as we could."

The label who released your debut (SHRAPNEL) mostly released guitar oriented bands, but also some heavier stuff like HAWAII, THE WILD DOGS… Did any of those bands inspire you?
"When US Metal Vol. 2 was released on SHRAPNEL, featuring our song "World War III" in '82, some of those other bands on the record like THE WILD DOGS, HAWAII, we had never heard of until the record was released. They definitely did not influence us in any way."

For me there were three classic albums, the first three. ("Heavy Metal Maniac", "Violence & Force" and "Long Live The Loud") I kinda lost track after that. Do you feel you made an impact on the Metal world with those releases?
"The first three  LP's are all time classic Metal LP's. A lot of journalists and fans always tell us, how those first  LP's changed the world of Metal and created a legion of fans world-wide."

I understand you left the band after this, why was that?
"In the summer of '85, after an /MEGADETH tour of the USA, I quit . The reason was I felt the band was making some bad business decisions that was affecting the success of the bands career."

So I am a bit confused now, how many times did  really break up?
"In '85,  broke up the first time, when I left the band. At that time I was replaced by guitarist Brian McPhee and they released "Unveiling The Wicked" ('86). Then in '88,  added a new lead singer, Rob Malnati and released "".
Then that line-up broke up. In '90 myself and Dan Beehler got back together with a stand in bass player Dave Ledden, and later replaced by Jeff McDonald. We released "Kill After Kill" and "Better Live Than Dead". This time Dan Beehler quit and never came back. And now I've put together the new  together as of March '96."

About the "Kill After Kill" album it was a great album with a somewhat strange sound, would you agree? And what happened to  after this?
"After "Kill After Kill" we released a live album called "Better Live Than Dead". It was a live record of our early material, recorded during a European tour in May/June '92 which was /RAGE tour. The sound quality on "Kill After Kill" wasn't the best because it was recorded over a short period of time, therefore we did not have so much time to concentrate on production."

Now it is time for "The Dark Command". Is it really recorded at the same place as "Kill After Kill"? It sounds so much better…
""The Dark Command" was partially at the same studio as "Kill After Kill". The basic tracks were recorded at DISTORTION STUDIOS (Ottawa, Canada) and the overdubs at LS PRODUCTION which is our producers studio. Plus we had a lot more time to record and mix the album."

A special thing for  was the drummer/singer Dan Beehler. Did you approach him when you started to plan "The Dark Command"?
"When Dan Beehler quit , I just thought he was going through a phase of frustration and I waited for two years for him to change his mind ('94 - '96). At this time I hadn't written any songs for "The Dark Command", it was after I realized he was never coming back. I don't know what Dan thinks about "The Dark Command", we haven't spoken in two years."

Also, has there been a copyright problem concerning the band name? I mean, you once were out of  and now you are using the name… So has this been a problem?
"Basically, whichever member of  continues the band, the name belongs to that member. That is an understanding that the original  members have."

Did you ever consider to use another name than ?
"Another name we were considering back in '80 besides  was HELLHAMMER."

I think your new line-up works great, especially the singer Jacques Belanger. It sounds really like classic . How did you find him?
"Jacques and myself played in a band called BLACKSTAR in '87 (when I was out of ). We wrote some songs that were more progressive Metal, but the band only lasted for about a year and then broke up. When I decided to form the new  I called him to consider joining me and he said yes. I'm glad he did because he has such a wide vocal range."

In a way it is strange (in a cool way) that you are signed to OSMOSE now, how did that happen?
"Herve, the label manager at OSMOSE, called me for about one year trying to talk me into signing with them. I resisted because in the past we had some problems with European record companies. But after checking some references in the music industry, we agreed to sign with OSMOSE. They are the best record company in the entire 's career."

If you compare OSMOSE to the other labels you have been woking with, would you say there is a huge difference in the attitude?
"Herve at OSMOSE is a die hard Metal fan and a huge  fan. He is very dedicated to his bands and he promotes his bands all the way."

So do you think the odds are on your side, do you think it will go better for you now than earlier?
"The odds are definitely on our side, this new CD has got the best reviews and exposure out of all the  albums. OSMOSE is a great label."

Did you sign a long term deal with them?
"Our deal with OSMOSE is for two albums."

Is there any chance that your old material will be re-released now?
"Re-releasing our old material is a possibility we have been talking to OSMOSE about. But right now it is something we could consider in the future, in the meantime we are concentrating on "The Dark Command"."

Have you checked out any of the other bands on OSMOSE?
"I've heard all the bands on OSMOSE, I like them all really."

Thank you for your time, good luck.
"Thanks Metalion for the interview."

Interview by Metalion (aka Jon Kristiansen).