Interview with Halloween
By: Mohsen Fayyazi - 2012-12-01
HALLOWEEN is an American horror-heavy metal band, formed in 1983 in Detroit, Michigan. The band have released 5 studio albums up to now and the latest album is “Terrortory” which was released on February 25, 2012. I had a chance recently to have an interview with HALLOWEEN’S vocalist, Brian Thomas, for Jorzine. Check out my questions and Brian’s answers below, I hope you find them as interesting as I did.
JZ: Let’s start with the story of how Halloween came to be, what made you decide to first form the band and why did you choose “Halloween” as its name?
Brian: In 1982 I got together with 2 friends; Rick Craig and Mark Scott to start a band, we found a common ground in the fact that we were all from the east coast of the United States. I am from New Jersey and they were both from Baltimore, Maryland. We started the band at the end of October around Halloween time so I had Halloween decorations up around the basement where we practiced, and when we started to think of names Rick said how about Halloween… 4 out of 5 of us liked the idea but our drummer didn’t like the name because another Detroit band that he was friends with, had written a song called Halloween and he thought that they would think we got or stole the idea from them. We didn’t even know anything about the song but he refused to use the name so we went with a different name. We had long hair, wore black nail polish, black make up and tight clothes so we thought BITCH would be an appropriate name. (Guys that looked like tough girls, was what we were thinking). When we had friends come over to watch us practice they loved the Halloween decorations that were all over and we decided to use them as a stage show. We used the moniker ‘The Heavy Metal Horror Show’ even when we were called Bitch. We were fans of Alice Cooper and Kiss so we didn’t mind being called a shock rock group. Both of them were scaling back their image at that time, so we felt like we were carrying the torch. After a year and a few line–up changes (including the drummer who didn’t like the name Halloween) we decided to go back to our original choice for a name. We found out that another group from LA was using the name Bitch and it wasn’t our first choice anyway. On Halloween Night 1983 we had a show that was advertised as the final show for Bitch. Our fans were really upset thinking we were breaking up the band, but what they didn’t know was that we were changing the name of the band! At 2 minutes to midnight we took the stage and as we began our set I announced that we were no longer Bitch but we were now called HALLOWEEN and we dropped the Bitch backdrop to reveal a new Halloween backdrop that was behind it and we became Halloween right there on stage and played our first show that night as Halloween ‘The Heavy Metal Horror Show’.
JZ: Some people think Halloween is a tribute band of Helloween, especially people who don’t know the band well, but that can't be true as you formed the band a year earlier, is that right? How do you feel about this wrongful attribution?
Brian: We found out about Helloween in the spring of 1985 from our then manager Cecil Jackson and one of the former owners of Harpos, Ron Baltrus. Ron showed us their first EP and said we would have to change our name because they were signed to a label. We didn’t agree, we had the name for 2 and half of the years before knowing about them (if you count when we originally picked it). We had been through too much trouble getting to that point and we were not about to give up the name. Then we read an interview in Kerrang Magazine where Helloween acknowledged that they already knew about us when they came up with their name and we knew we had to keep and fight for the name. our entire existence is based on Halloween (The holiday, the theme, the ability to change direction and basically be anything we want to be that is all because of the name Halloween) Alice Cooper, Kiss, Slipknot, Mushroom Head and GWAR all have an image but none of them have a name that spells out exactly what they are and what you are going to get… WE DO! I think us and Motley Crue are the only 2 bands that have a perfectly suited name that tells our fans exactly what they are in store for. It’s a shame that we haven’t had as much exposure as Helloween through the years because it is a bummer when metal fans get confused about the 2 bands, but we are not the first 2 bands in history to have similar names. And if we have anything to do with it, metal fans will get to know us soon.
JZ: I’d like to know how you would describe Halloween, your genre of music, and the band's influences…
Brian: Well we just think of ourselves as Heavy Metal we don’t really get into all the sub-titles and sub-genres. We do a little of this and a little of that, some of it is really heavy and some of it is more main stream. Others have called us Classic or Old School Metal but we still write and we are still influenced by music both old and new. We are constantly discovering bands, some that have been around for years and we just never heard before and new bands that come out. Our influences are very wide ranging and obviously have changed throughout the years and with our own lineup changes. But to name a few; Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, The Who, Judas Priest, The Scorpions, UFO Salty Dog (New York), Queen, very early Twisted Sister, Grand Funk Railroad, The Ramones, David Bowie, Alice Cooper, Kiss, Genesis (with Peter Gabriel), Elton John. And then more recently Savatage, Pantera, Queensryche, Fates Warning, Metallica, Slayer, Bullet For My Valentine, Three Days Grace, Papa Roach, In Flames, Nevermore and Killswitch Engage. Like I said a little of this and a little of that… Again that’s the great part of having a name like Halloween we can be anything we want to be. When kids dress up for Halloween they don’t go as the same thing every time, and neither do we.
JZ: Let’s talk about Halloween’s latest album, "Terrortory", how would you describe it for metal heads who haven’t had chance to listen to it yet?
Brian: It is one of my favorites so far. I would say for me Terrortory, No One Gets Out and Don’t Metal With Evil are my 3 favs because each of them have an intensity and they stand tall on their own. With Terrortory, we were hungry to get back in the studio after Horror Fire and because we had so much fun making E.vil P.ieces. We had a lot of ideas and we loved the process of recording on our own studio equipment. We had so many good songs that we couldn’t decide which to keep and which to leave off so we kept them all and they fit on the record. It has a lot of heart felt and emotional songs that deal with real life horror. I find most of my inspiration in the news headlines, and I incorporate those stories with the horror theme so that fans that are just looking for the sensational imagery will find what they are looking for and those that want to dig a little deeper will find what they are looking for as well. Musically we are all over the map, I can give you my assessment of the styles and influences on most of the songs or what I have been told they remind people of… Terrortory has a bit of a Dio vibe to it, Her Ghost Comes Out To Play has a Savatage feel. Caught In The Webs I would say classic Alice Cooper (Welcome To My Nightmare) creepy kind of thing going on, and the rest of them are a combination of new and old sounds that are very much Halloween. Some of the songs are from our past, songs that we have had for a while and just never got recorded and others are new like Traipsing Through The Blood, Dead On…, Her Ghost Comes Out To Play, Terrortory, Scare You and I Lie Awake. Overall I would say that it’s all pretty intense, some heavier, newer, classic, old school, hard driving, deep thinking, creepy, emotional, social, informative, angry Heavy Metal…
JZ: “Terrortory” was Halloween’s first album in six years after your previous album, “Horror Fire” (which was released in 2006), what was the reason behind this long delay?
Brian: After Horror Fire we did a little bit of regional touring here in the states and then started writing for Terrortory. Billy Gray left again and we replaced him with Don Guerrier which took a little bit of time. In early 2007 we started to record and had gotten most of it finished in just a few months. We had to take a break from recording to go to Germany to play the Headbangers Open Air Festival in the fall of 2007. When we returned to the studio and we were ready to record guitar solos, Donny Allen was diagnosed with Cirrhosis of the liver and was unable to continue. We spent 3 years trying to get the recording done with different players and several ideas that did not pan out, and after a liver transplant Donny was able to finish the record in 2011. We also took a break in 2009 to play the Sword Brothers Festival in Germany. So even though it seemed like a lot of time passed by we were very busy trying to get the recording done and we are very happy and proud that it is finally finished and released...
JZ: How was the writing and recording process different from your previous sessions? When did you decide to start working on new material?
Brian: We write whenever the feeling hits, we keep in touch by internet and telephone and also in person. We are always exchanging ideas and we have plenty to pick from, all of us write though George Neal and I have been the constant contributors through the years. Like in the past, we have songs that have been around for years and for one reason or another just never got recorded, and we love going back and bringing those songs back to life and our fans love it too. Fans hear about these songs from friends or old articles or see something on the internet and so when we record these songs they like finally having an official version instead of a live bootleg or a practice session or demo. It’s fun for us to go back and rebuild and record these songs, it brings back a lot of memories. We also love writing brand new material too because we are so inspired by so many things that we need a place to put it all. Most of the material on Terrortory was already in the works when we released Horror Fire because as our luck would have it that record saw its share of delays and problems too. So we had been really eager to work on new material and we had started planning for it early on. Similarly we feel the same way now after this record and we can’t wait to get to work on the next album. (But we have to do some shows first). The recording process for us is a constant work in progress as the technology becomes more and more advanced we learn more and more about how to do it better. We have our own work station studio and record our own tracks, then Rob Brug our drummer drops the session into pro tools and mixes and masters from there, so it’s all kind of in house.
JZ: What feedback have you received so far from your fans and critics regarding the new album?
Brian: Most of it has been pretty good. We do get the occasional bashing that we are not heavy enough, or current enough or that we are trying to be too modern or too heavy and we are not consistent or that the record is too long. (It’s really funny when some say we are too heavy and others say we are not heavy enough). But hey we don’t do what we do for critical acclaim we write what we feel and we play for our fans and if the critics like it cool, if they don’t we take their comments into consideration and move on. As long as our fans are happy with our work then we feel like we are successful. Without our fans we are just a bunch of guys playing music in a basement, so it’s all about them. So far our fans have been very supportive with this record; in fact we haven’t heard many negative comments yet.
JZ: What are your plans for supporting this album? Have you any tours scheduled as of yet? If yes, could you give our readers more details?
Brian: We are trying to book tour dates here in the states and we are doing a short tour in Europe in October. (9 shows in 9 days – Germany, The Netherlands and Belgium) The details are not yet finalized yet the will be announced by Pure Steel Records when everything is in place.
JZ: What are Halloween’s plans for the next 10 years?
Brian: We hope to continue making records and playing live. We have plenty of material and ideas and have been working hard for many years to be able to tour the world and open the doors to many other opportunities. We have plans for a documentary dvd and we have been writing a movie and would like to do a concept album in the future.
JZ: As an American metal act, what do you know about the metal scene in Middle East? Have you any plans to come in this part of the world and play gigs?
Brian: We do not know a great deal about the metal scene in the Middle East, in fact I was surprised when I got your request. I know there are metal fans all over the world, but I would love to know more about the scene in that part of the world. I would love to play shows anywhere that people would like to see us. One of my very best friends is from the Middle East and he is the biggest metal head I know. Of course most of what we see on the news is about politics and war and religion… We don’t hear much about the music. Would love to know more about the scene there in fact I just started checking out bands on the internet. Very cool!!
JZ: Any final words? Feel free to leave a message to our readers and your fans.
Brian: To Jorzine fans and all metal heads who may read this, I hope you get a chance to check out our music. We have been making albums for nearly 30 years and our new Cd Terrortory is finally available at our website with our new line of ScareWear at www.halloweentheband.com and on Itunes, CD Baby and Amazon.com or through Pure Steel records. Stop by our website and check out pictures and info about the band or look us up on youtube or google by searching Halloween Detroit metal band. Thanks for reading the interview and ROCK ON!!!