The Original Heavy Metal Maniacs
An interview with the “Riff Master” - John Ricci from
by James from Thrash Metal Times
were there at the birth of thrash metal. Far from jumping on the
thrash bandwagon, 's
full length debut album Heavy Metal Maniac, was released a full six months
before Metallica’s Kill ‘Em All.
has gone through several line-up changes over the years including a period
of time when John Ricci was not in the band. However,
has a solid line-up, led by John, and they are spreading metal across the
1983's Heavy Metal Maniac
I met John Ricci back in 1984 when arrived in Austin, Texas on their tour to support the release of Violence and Force. They were to play at the Ritz Theater on 6th Street. As with all shows at the Ritz, my friends and I would show up about six hours early so we could get a chance to chat with the bands that were going to play. This usually worked and it was no different with .
I saw John Ricci standing in front of the Ritz Theater while he was looking around at some of the other places on 6th Street. I just threw out a quick “Hey John, how’s it going”? That turned into a 30-minute conversation about metal and the recording process for ’s first two albums: Heavy Metal Maniac and Violence and Force.
John explained the sonic differences between the two recordings and enlightened me on the status of “posers” in Canada. His description of Canada’s poser pandemic made me laugh.
Our conversation ended when he had to get back inside and help set up. He autographed some items for me and took off. Since that day, I have always appreciated that John took the time to hang out and answer some fan’s questions about guitar playing, recording styles and how to spot a Canadian poser.
Recently, I was able to contact John when I was doing some freelance production work for a metal podcast. John worked with me on conducting an interview for the podcast I mentioned and then, as the professional he is, said yes when I asked if he would autograph some items for me and he left the door open for other opportunities to contact him for interviews.
After establishing the Thrash Metal Times, I wanted to give John and the boys from the opportunity to let the metal world in on what they are up to. On 14 January, 2012, I conducted the following e-interview with John. As the band was preparing for a special ocean going gig 23 - 27 January, 2012 in the sunny Caribbean Sea, John and the band were too to busy preparing for the gig and did not have time for a phone interview.
JS: John, when I contacted you about doing some interview questions, you mentioned that the band was preparing for a heavy metal cruise called “70,000 Tons Of Metal.” How did ’s participation in the cruise come about?
John Ricci: Our bassist, Clammy, had mentioned to us about this cruise taking place. After discussing it, we contacted the promoter to see if there was any interest in . They responded by inviting us to be part of the line-up. This year is apparently the 2nd annual cruise, so we are really looking forward to it and delivering some kick-ass` horns up` metal!!!
JS: How many times will be playing on the cruise?
John Ricci: We are scheduled to play two 45-minute sets. At this point we don`t know which days or which stages we will be playing on. I believe there will be 3 concert stages throughout the ship.
JS: Looking at the cruise website, there
is quite a large list of bands playing. Have you played gigs or toured
with any of them in the past?
John Ricci: The only bands I see in the line-up that we have shared a stage at various festivals in Europe is Overkill , Hammerfall and Kamelot.
JS: Are you a fan of any of the others?
John Ricci: Yes, I`m a fan of all these bands and also the other bands on the bill. My musical taste in metal includes all genres and I will make an effort to check out all the bands.
JS: Can you provide fans with any updates for the follow-on to your last release - Death Machine? Is there any timeline for recording and release?
John Ricci: We currently
have five strong ideas for songs for the next record but they are in the
very early stages and they are basically just guitar riffs that we`ve jammed
and they seem to work. At this point there are no song titles or
theme for the record. We are aiming for 10 songs, we`ll see what
happens in the next few months. We do not have a timeline from our
record company, Massacre Records, in Germany. They have not put any
pressure on us as long as we deliver a strong record when we commit to
a deadline. Depending how busy we are this year with shows, ideally
if we get a record out by the end of 2012 this would be a good thing.
On every album we try to out do ourselves and write the best
songs possible. This can be a great challenge since we have so many
classic anthems old and new.
JS: Will it be keeping with the traditional style of music that fans crave?
John Ricci: Since I do most of the writing, with input from the rest of the band, I stay to `s roots. I must say I`m afraid to experiment too much with our style because I don`t want to alienate our fans. I think the style has a certain essence that I`ve never heard from any other metal band and I purposely stay to the formula.
JS: In writing music for , has it come natural to you to write this style of music?
John Ricci: My writing style comes natural to me. The turning point as far as being discovered by a record company (Shrapnel Records) in the early 80`s was the song World War 3. That guitar riff is my riff. We had recorded a four-song demo and World War 3 was one of the songs on that demo. The other three songs totally sucked and were very un-. Since that point, I fashioned every riff based on that newly discovered style that I accidentally came upon. The riffs I write for some reason always turn out sounding really angry and menacing. I remember a comment just recently back stage at our recent Chicago show; the guitarist for co-headliners, Sleepy Hollow, said to me “you don`t play that guitar you torture it”!
JS: After awhile, a lot of bands start to sound repetitive. You must have a secret vault full of guitar riffs in your head because you have avoided this problem. Has that been easy or have you had to make an effort for songs not to sound similar?
John Ricci: I`m always searching for the ultimate guitar riff and try to stay within the realm of the bible on how to play them. Trying not to sound repetitive is very challenging. Most of the riffs I write are usually power chord based. My riffs don`t have a lot of notes in them and I do that on purpose. To me what`s important is the pulsation of the music so the crowd can really get into it. I find songs, where the guitar is really busy all the time, loses the heaviness and aggression. One of my main influences is Motorhead. When I heard my first Motorhead record in the 70`s, I was a fan for life. The sheer power and adrenaline of this band just killed me. I`ve always played my guitar loud and proud even before , so volume, power and distortion is, and will always be, part of the sound.
JS: John, what do you do when is not touring or recording?
John Ricci: My 9-5 day job is as a sales person at a music store. I`ve been working in music stores since the early 70`s. In this one we sell all types of instruments, and we specialize in PA and lighting systems.
JS: Have any customers asked if they can jam with you. Has that ever turned into any type of impromptu thrash session in the store?
John Ricci: I`ve never jammed in the store with any customers. Basically, I`m too busy and I`m sure that wouldn`t go over very well with my boss if I was jamming all the time. I don`t talk about the band too much when I`m at work unless someone asks me “what`s up with the band?”, then of course you can`t shut me up!! I have signed autographs and posed for photos with some customers because they tell me no one would believe them if they said they met me in person so they need proof!
JS: What are the main guitars you play? Do you use the same gear out on the road?
John Ricci: I play Washburn A-10 and A-5 guitars. They are discontinued and are about 15 years old. I`ve hot-rodded them with hotter pickups and improved their whammy bar systems. These guitars go everywhere with me, to whatever part of the world we are playing.
J.S. What about amps and effects? Do you have any particular favorites you use?
John Ricci: The amps I use are Marshall JCM 800-100 watt amp heads (from 1986) and Marshall 4 x 12 cabs. I don`t use any effects or rack gear. The only stompboxes I use are a MXR Distortion +, and a Korg PB-1 tuner. I find when we play live if I`m going through too many effects I lose the tone of my Marshall, and the whole idea is to hear the power and roar of a Marshall amp, not a bunch of effects.
JS: For your style of playing, especially with your whammy bar use, do you use heavier gauge strings?
John Ricci: I use GHS boomer strings, .010-.46 regular gauge. I tried for a while to use .011-49 gauge, but I found my sound was too muddy for fast riffs. So, I went back down to .010-46. Since I`ve been using boomers I haven`t broke many strings live as I normally do.
JS: What is in the immediate future for ? Are there any plans for an upcoming tour or plans to play any festivals in North America or Europe in the coming months?
John Ricci: As mentioned before, we`re playing 70,000 Tons Of Metal cruise throughout the Caribbean this month. On February 19, we`re playing a hometown gig in Ottawa. This is a charity benefit gig for Multiple Sclerosis. The event is called “Metal Therapy”. We`ve had some offers in other parts of the world, such as Bulgaria, Greece and Germany but no confirmations at this time.
JS: Where can fans get current news, tour information, gig dates, etc.?
John Ricci: We have a brand new official site, http://www.excitermetal.com there you will find everything that is going on with the band. Our direct contact is firstname.lastname@example.org
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