Article CIRITH UNGOL INTERVIEW DARK TALES / GERMANY 4/02 with Michael Wohde • Published Mon 01 Apr 2002
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CIRITH UNGOL INTERVIEW
DARK TALES / GERMANY 4/02

Hello Robert,

Here are the questions for our German „Cirith Ungol” – Fans. Please tell us the true story about “Cirith Ungol” and answer the questions in details for a long, long interview for many sites for our website (and if these become 10 sides). I hope you can understand my English questions. My friend translates the answers when you send us back. He is very good in English.

1. Is it true, this were you and Greg in a band named called “Titanic”, before you formed “Cirith Ungol”?

GREG: Rob and I met in 7th grade and instantly became friends. He and Jerry Fogle and Pat Galligan (who later joined punk band The Angry Samoans) decided to start a band to play Beatles songs, and I think the only reason they got me was that I had an amp. We called ourselves Titanic. Three guitars plugged into one 15 watt amp and Rob with just a snare drum and hi-hat trying to play Beatles songs…I wish I had a tape! Anyway, Rob and Jerry and I wanted to play heavier stuff like Cream and Mountain, so we left Titanic to sink, and the three of us formed Cirith Ungol in 1972.

2. Why did “Greg Lindstrom” 1981 leave the band? What can you tell us about it?

GREG: I left in 1982, because I felt I had reached a turning point in my life after graduating college and spending 10 years in the band. It was more than a year after F & F had been released, and sales were decent, but nothing was really happening for us, and I felt it was time to move on, which I did with much regret.

3. “Cirith Ungol” was founded in 1971 before “Tim Baker” 1978 came into the band. What has happened within the eight years?

GREG: Almost immediately we started doing some originals (Radiation Blues, Flesh Dart) along with our versions of songs by Sabbath, Budgie, Ursa Major, etc. Mountain was really a big early influence on all of us, in the way they would do extended jams. Around 1975, Neil Beattie (aka Terry Dactyl) became our lead singer. He was a little more glam inspired than the rest of us, but he put on a really wild live show, with black widow spider fingertip extensions to go along with our six foot wide black widow spider for “Shelob’s Lair”. Even though he was a great performer, his voice didn’t quite fit our style, and we parted ways after about a year. We spent the next couple of years writing a lot of songs and playing all the LA clubs as an instrumental power trio, playing with bands like Quiet Riot, Y & T, and Van Halen, going over amazingly well. We tried out a number of singers, but nobody clicked until 1979, when Tim Baker, our head roadie at the time, tried singing lead on “Hype Performance”. That version is the first song on “Servants Of Chaos”.

4. Tell us something about “Frost & Fire”. Why did you had to self produce this album? Wasn’t there any suitable record firm?

GREG: We recorded a 12 track demo cassette (the “Orange Album”) in 1979, which we sold locally and at shows. “Bite of the Worm” and “Witchdance” from that cassette are on “Servants Of Chaos”. We sent the cassette out to a lot of record companies, but I think they were all looking for another Van Halen at that time, so we decided to release an album ourselves.

5. “Frost & Fire” came out of the “Liquid Flames” / “Enigma Records”. What can you tell us about it?

GREG: Liquid Flames was our own label. The first 3000 copies were all paid for and distributed by ourselves, and we sold out in a couple of months. After that, since we really didn’t have the infrastructure to distribute the albums all over the world, we signed a deal with Enigma for distribution. My only regrets about “Frost And Fire” is that we the sound is not as heavy as I would have liked and that we ran out of money for recording time. I would have liked to put a couple more songs on there.

6. Why has “Frost & Fire” appeared in Europe only about import?

GREG: I believe it’s still available on Metal Blade in Germany.

ROB: I think you are talking about the LP, which was never liscened or manufactured in Europe.

7. How did the contact take place with “Metal Blade”? What was the co-operation like with “Brian Slagel”?, for the “Metal Massacre Sampler Vol. I” (Death of the Sun).

ROB: Brian Slagel worked at a record store at the time (OZ Records) and he was a big fan of ours back then. He hooked us up to the new company “Greenworld” who distributed our album until they started the company “Enigma” which signed our band. We were the first band I know of in the LA music scene at the time to try to release our own album. We were the first band signed to Enigma. The next was Motley Crue (YUK), they wanted us at the time to wear women’s clothes and make-up (like all the bands they liked over the years, Ratt, Stryper, Poison) and we refused which I think had allot to do with them doing very little for us. I have very little respect for these bands or their music, I think them dressing like women wearing lipstick and eyeliner etc. really set them apart from C.U.

About the same time Brian was working on getting his first compilation album off the ground for what would be his record company Metal Blade Records. If you read the history on his web site we were not even mentioned but I am pretty sure we were one of the first bands he selected. It is surprising that we were one of the only bands on this LP that were never signed to a major label. I heard most of the bands live at the time, after seeing them I wasn’t very impressed with any of them except “Malice” they were like a total Judas Priest clone but were very good and heavy! We played with Ratt several times and they treated us pretty bad, no sound check etc. I think of them as pretty much posers. I remember once we played the Beverly Theater with them, my memory is they had 2 big dressing rooms and we looked in there and they were putting on lipstick and make-up for hours while we tuned 10 guitars and basses in a broom closet!

8. “King of the Dead” was produced by the band himself again. How was the work with “Enigma Records”/ ”Roadrunner Records” like this time?

ROB: KOTD was our best album, the reason was that we had total control over it. Every album could have been this good if we could have exercised complete control over its production etc. This is the album that I feel is our best effort. The reason the long wait between albums is because when you are financing them yourselves, you have to come up with the $$$ to pay for studio time etc. Plus being on all these independent labels their timetables are slower. I also did all the layout and design of the first 3 covers, all this while we were all working full time trying to sponsor the dream. Enigma was not bad at the time although they did almost nothing for the band in the way of promotion or touring. I never had any direct dealings with Roadrunner except when trying to release „Paradise Lost“ in Europe. The owner I think named Cess Wessels or something refused to release it saying that it was outdated sounding. It is funny as it is the CD that everyone wants and it is still unavaialable!

9. For the album “One Foot in Hell” you have signed at “Metal Blade”. Why weren’t the first two albums recorded taken at “Metal Blade” also?

GREG: Metal Blade did not exist as a label when we released “Frost and Fire”.

10. You have produced the album “Paradise Lost” with “Ron Goudie”. I have read some years ago that you had very big trouble with “Ron Goudie” and “Restless Records”. What can you tell us about them?

ROB: You asked for it, so here is the whole story! After OFIH was released we kind of knew that M.B. either didn’t have the money or interest in the band to follow through with what we needed, so the waiting game started again. We had written the most unbelievable set of new songs and we were ready to release them in 1987 when the band broke up, but the demo versions (I think I destroyed the tapes) of what was later to be Tim’s trilogy “Paradise Lost” were 10 times better than the album you know of by that name. I was personally so disappointed in the album that when I came home and listened to it the night it was completed, I actually cried, think all these wasted f**king years trying to get this whole f**king thing off the ground, all the REAL blood, sweat and tears and here we are f**ked again. It was almost more than I could take as an artist. What happened next is the downfall of the band as I envisioned it. Jerry impatient with his 15 years in the band and my relentless pushing of all involved getting every one to keep up the grueling work even though there was never any pay back, left the band. Flint, Tim and I tried to talk him out of it to no avail. We had found a really good guitarist named Jimmy Baraza who we wanted to bring on board so that Jerry could concentrate on his leads and we could play all the double leads we were writing in all the new (and old) songs. Somehow Jerry must have felt that we were trying to replace him although nothing could have been farther from the truth.

Next we signed with Restless which actually were the shattered remains of our original label Enigma who had been bought by Capitol because they were impressed by all their poser type bands. After Capitol bought them and the men dressing like women thing started to die out (who would have guessed:) Enigma filed for bankruptcy. I don’t know or care about all the sordid details but they ended up in abbreviated company called Restless. We were so desperate at this time and really had no where else to go so I talked this creep Ron Goudie into signing the band. It took at least 3 years for all the shit to settle at the record company after their break-up with Capitol so this whole time we waited. I showed up at the band room one night and Flints stuff was missing, he had decided to join a garage band thinking that our career was as doomed as the planet we live on. After six months he returned only to leave again right as soon as the album was to start to be recorded. I can’t fault their decision but if Jerry and Flint would have stuck it out #4 would have been allot better CD and we may have finally got the recognition that we deserved.

Anyway I put ads the local music stores and got a call from two guys who were in a local band in Santa Barbara. They came down and we decided they would be better than nothing. The deal was they help us record our album and they would get to put some of their songs on it. The guitarist Joe Malatesta’s song was “The Troll” and the bass player Bob Warenburg’s song was “Heaven Help Us”. Although these songs really were not our style we really had no choice.

I showed up at the band room one night and Ron Goudie brought in a little box which was to be my little friend for the next f**king six months! It was a f**king electric metronome. I was to play along with it every day until I could learn to keep a “beat”, this way the album was to be professional (in his opinion). Every time I complained about this kind of bullshit he would kindly remind us that we could stop the whole thing at any time if we couldn’t follow his orders, it was just as well with him. Anyway here is the true disgusting story how we were forced to record our fourth album.

I was to go in with only the little f**king click machine to record the drum tracks, no bass… no guitar.. no nothing to play with but this little piece of shit!! Next the other members followed suit except Ron did not want the other members of the band in the studio. (I guess he didn’t want us to contaminate his vision of what we thought was our album!!!!) So each band member went in did his part alone. I was really upset about the vocals cause I had coached and cheered Tim through the last 3 albums, Guess what I wasn’t allowed in while the vocals were done. I hope you can get the picture of how warped and terrible this whole album was done. Not only this but the best 20 seconds of the album Ron cut out because while he was producing the album he fucked up and the part which I thought was the most killer part of “Paradise Lost” was spooled out on the studio room floor. I was very pissed about this!!! And still am!!

To make a long story short Bob got some kind of religion, and Joe left to do something or another. Both left before the album was even released, which made us look bad in Restless’ eyes. Tim, Jimmy and I were so pissed at what we thought was a betrayal so we pulled their pictures from the album.

Anyway I put another ad the local music stores and got a call from a guy called Vern Green who also unfortunately had some religious beliefs, so right after we got cut from Restless he quit the band, then Jimmy quit. The sad thing about Jimmy, he was one hell of a guitarist but once again he didn’t have what it takes to have followed it through. It is really a shame but Tim and I were looking at each other one night at our band room and we just decided after 22 years of being f**ked over we had had about enough. I sold all our equipment and my drums paid off or bills and Cirith Ungol was officially deceased.

11. Why don´t “Restless Records” give the Masterbänder for a reprint freely? I think it becomes slowly time.

ROB: I have no idea. I tried to get them to talk to several people including Metal Blade and Underground Symphony, but Restless would not return any of the e-mails are calls, they are just a bunch of creeps!

12. “Paradise Lost” has never comes out in Europe. Only over expensive money. Can you explain this to you?

ROB: See #8

13. How it came, that “Metal Blade” decided, the albums “Frost & Fire”, “King of the Dead” and “One Foot in Hell” to new remastered?

GREG: I think that came about because of the constant demand from our fans.

14. How did the contact with “Michael Whelan” take place? Tell us something about it! Had to pay its money for it?

ROB: At the time we wanted a “Sword and Sorcery” (S&S) theme cover called “Berserker” by Frank Frazetta a famous S&S artist but it was taken by the country rock band Molly Hatchet! I was reading “Stormbringer” by Michael Moorcock at the time and was thinking man this is the ultimate cover art! I never thought we could use it but I contacted the publisher who got me in touch with Michael Whelan, who is one of the few people in our entire music career who was honest, friendly and kind, and we got to use it. I think we were the first album covers he had done at the time and we really wanted to use all his “Elric” series on our covers which we did! I told him that I always wanted to buy the painting for the cover of #1 (Stormbringer) from him if we made it big but we never did. He was quite successful them but now he is probably the world foremost fantasy artist/painter/illustrator and his paintings cost $$$. It is funny, Deep Purple had an album named after the book and we got the cover. Blue Oyster Cult also had a song “Bane of the Black Sword” which was based on Michael Moorcock’s writing.

15. Why did “Cirith Ungol” never come to Europe? (Germany).

GREG: It all comes down to money. We never had the funding from a record company to enable us to tour. Believe me, we would love to play at some festivals in your country!

16. Who came onto the idea of bringing out “Servants of Chaos”? How long have you needed to find the songs newly?

GREG: There have been a lot of requests from our fans for some new CU material, so Rob and I spent a couple of months going through our demo and practice tapes. Rob pitched the idea to Metal Blade, and the European side was very interested. Unfortunately, MB in the US did not release it, so the CD is rather hard to find over here in our own backyard! We would like to get a US label to release “Servants” over here.

17. Who has painted the cover to “Servants of Chaos” and what is the title name of this cover?

GREG: The very talented Michael Ewerhard did all the artwork and layout. I know he has done some covers for Steel Prophet, among others. The praying skeleton logo is our own design, dating back to around 1977.

18. Do you still play privately together?

GREG: I play privately with myself, but don’t tell my wife! I play guitar or bass almost every day and I have a small studio at home I play around in.

19. How many live appearances did you made in your career? Which one was your best “Cirith Ungol” Gig? And how can it imagine a “Cirith Ungol” Live-Show?

ROB: We played hundreds of shows, and had a band room where we played 3-4 nights a week and people would come over and hear us. We were a very powerful band live and blew away many of the bands we played with. The only part I enjoyed being in the band was playing and unfortunately out of the 22 years it was not what I got to do the most. Near the end were some of our best shows. Our roadies would dress up in robes and bring Tim out in a coffin for “King of the Dead” they would slowly raise it up and he would crawl out singing. I had these explosive devices on my cymbals which would shoot a balls of fire 20 feet in the air, we also had this stuffed head that had red LED’s for eyes that we would mount on my gong stand. We had a gigantic praying skeleton logo backdrop and sometimes the glowing “Wheel of Fate” logo off our album. At the end of the show we would always go crazy scraping guitar strings, smashing equipment, breaking cymbals and generally letting loose. We usually opened for “bigger” bands so we usually got no sound check, no dressing rooms, bad sound and lights so we always would try to play as hard and heavy as we could and finish up with a bang. It made us hard and cold and we would always play very loud and Kick Ass!

20. What do you make professional today?

GREG: I’m a mechanical engineer at Boeing on the C-17 project (that big USAF cargo plane that drops food packets on the heads of the Afghan people). A lot of people at work know about the band, and every few months, we have a “Cirith Ungol” day and 30-40 people come in to work wearing their CU T-shirts!

ROB: I work in the graphic arts field. My real dream was to play music but with the break up of the band in 1991 my life was pretty much shattered. I have recovered but I still have dreams almost ever night about the band and what it could have been if the record companies would have only supported us as they should have…..

21. Will be published in the next future another “Cirith Ungol” album comes out or is “Servants Of Chaos” the last album? I can for it imagine, a live album would be quite good.

GREG: If “Servants” generates enough interest, you could hear from us again. We still have at least 20 songs that have never been released, like “Brutish Manchild” and “Route 666”. I would like to resurrect some more old tapes that have Jerry’s guitar magic.

22. Is there the possibility that “Cirith Ungol” form up newly once again?

GREG: We are downhearted and our ranks have been decimated but our spirits will not despair! With Jerry Fogle gone we have lost one of the greatest unheralded guitarists ever to walk the earth. But between Rob and Tim and I there is still enough chemistry to forge new metal.

23. How you explain it to you, that bands like “Cirith Ungol”, “Sacred Blade”, “Omen”, “Brocas Helm” or “Culprit” never had the great breakthrough? Mattered other music directions like NWOBHM, “Thrash Metal”, “Black Metal” and of so on?

GREG: I’m sure there are many reasons: poor record company support, not enough touring, etc. For us, I think that Tim’s voice was too radical for mainstream acceptance. But obviously Tim’s voice is a major component of the CU sound.

24. How did you see the “Metal Scene” today in comparison with the eighties?

GREG: I guess it depends on how you classify “metal”. Obviously, this thing called “nu metal” is huge right now. I think of it as the music of the uninformed masses who are just following the latest trend because they’re being told that it’s cool. One small trend that I like is a revival of the 70’s sound from bands like Fu Manchu, The Quill, etc.

25. How many albums has sold to her altogether. Could you live on it?

GREG: We’ve sold around 100,000 LPs and CDs over the 20 years and 5 albums, and there’s no way we could live on that, especially with Rob’s Ferrari to support! I think a band needs to sell around 75,000 to 100,000 copies per CD consistently and tour a lot to make a decent living.

26. Why did “Cirith Ungol” never get a correct contract?

ROB: I am not sure. We were always waiting, but it never was to be I guess.

27. I have the feeling for it, there are guilty persons who never was glad “Cirith Ungol” to have the hoped success. What do you meaning of them? Do you share with my opinion? (I hate “Restless Records”).

GREG: I don’t think it’s a matter of people hating us, I think it’s a matter of people not caring at all. It just doesn’t make sense to me for a company to spend the money for recording time, all the costs to produce an album, and then not promote it in any way or attempt to distribute it in any quantity.

28. How did you find the film “Lord of the Rings”? Your songs were also fantasy. Tells has resulted for us like such a song once anyway.

GREG: “Lord of the Rings” is a great movie, better than I expected. The actors were all good, the special effects were great, and the scenery was breathtaking. I can’t wait to see the second part. We have an unreleased song called “Shelob’s Lair” that would be quite appropriate for the second movie, “The Two Towers”. We will be on the soundtrack to the horror movie “I Am Vengeance”, on Game Two Records, coming later this year.

29. What do you say for it that “Warlord” have formed up newly and produced a new album after 16 years? Why don´t you make it just the same? I can imagine that a thunderstorm arises in the “Metal-Scene” to.

GREG: Manilla Road, also. More power to them!

30. Do you have family? Wife and Children?

GREG: My wife and I seem to be rescuing a lot of stray cats.

ROB: I am married no children

31. Why has “Jerry Fogle” killed himself? I found it what quite sadly happened there is. What can you tell us about them? It´s a tragedy.

GREG: It really is a tragedy. Jerry was one of the greatest hard rock guitarists who ever lived. He should be mentioned in the same breath as Randy Rhoades and Tommy Bolin, but he never got the recognition he deserved. He could always amaze us with his solos.

32. Do you have still plans for the future? Any projects or you have completely stopped the music?

GREG: I have a small home studio that I like to mess around in. We have more than enough songs to do another album.

33. To which music do you listen privately today? Which bands can you recommend us?

GREG: I still listen to a lot of new music, and buy a couple of CDs every week. Of the new stuff I’ve heard, I really like the Hellacopters, The Quill, and also a lot of 70’s influenced bands like Sea of Green, Firebird, Spirit Caravan, Mammoth Volume, etc. And some of the bands that were big influences on us: Captain Beyond, Stray Dog, Bang, Dust, Sir Lord Baltimore, Highway Robbery, Hard Stuff, Trapeze, Night Sun, Granicus…I could go on, but they’ve all been reissued on CD so go search them out and get blown away.

34. Do you have a message for all fucking German “Cirith Ungol” – Fans?

GREG: Thank you so much for your support over the years. We hope that you enjoy “Servants Of Chaos”, and let us know if you want to hear more!

ROB: I just wish we could have played for all our German and European fans when we were kicking ass. It is sad that when we were at our best no one wanted to hear us and now that we have been broken up for over 10 years many wish to have their ears bleed from the banner of Ungol. Please play the music loud so that all can hear what could have been.

Okay Robert. That’s all. I hope you can answer the questions in the next weeks.

Can you send us new photos, live-pics and so on? I think, 8 photos are okay.

If I still should have more questions, I will send it to you.

Many thanks and “Cirith Ungol” will never die.

Michael
www.dark-tales.de

German (archive)

michaelwohde@cityweb.de

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