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CIRITHUNGOL INTERVIEW WITH
GUARDIAN OF FATE METAL ZINE
Hail great Robert Garven
Here Francesco from Turin (Italy), I love heavy metal from 80’s. I have a metal zine called Guardians of Fate. I’m interested in interview you, sorry for many questions, but I love all your works.
1. Now Metal Blade has repressed your albums. What do you think about this operation?
GREG: Unfortunately, Metal Blade here in the US has just deleted “Frost And Fire” and “King Of The Dead”, but they are still available in Europe. The only album available in the US right now is “One Foot in Hell”.
ROB: Yes it is sad that Metal Blade in the U.S. has not promoted the re-releases at all, but Metal Blade in Europe has been great to promote them. If it weren’t for Michael Trengert and Metal Blade in Europe there would have been no “Servants of Chaos”.
2. With Manilla Road, Warlord, Brocas Helm you are one of the cult bands of American Epic Metal. What do you think of these bands? What do you think about their return (Manilla Road, Brocas Helm)?
GREG: They’re all good bands, and it’s great that they are carrying on the epic metal tradition. The Lord Weird Slough Feg is another cool band with an epic style.
ROB: I just wish that we could return and play with these bands at some of the festivals in Europe! Unfortunately with Jerry dead and Tim not interested at all this seems like a long shot.
3. What do you think about biologic attack? Are you afraid?
GREG: At the facility where I work, we have been evacuated several times due to false bomb threats and biological threats, but to tell you the truth, I think it’s more dangerous driving to work on the freeway.
ROB: Most people in this country are pretty ignorant of the real world events. If the reasons for people’s hate against the US had never existed there would never have been 911. It is sad that many oppressed people did not learn of peaceful demonstration, such as Ghandi or Martin Luther King. Instead of killing innocent people many of these causes would better have been served at least in the civilized world by peaceful protest.
4. Which is your opinion about the American attacks against Bin Laden & terrorism? Will be there be a third world war?
ROB: It is my opinion that the emerging third world nations will have a major part in the peace or stability of the entire world. Once again I see this as a religious war even though no one in this country does. And once again many will die in the name of religion. To my knowledge most in the band had similar non-religious beliefs. It does not mean that you can not be spiritual but personally I reject all man made religions as just a veiled attempt like governments to control the thoughts and actions of people.
5. What are you doing in your life? What’s your job?
GREG: I’m an engineer at Boeing on the C-17 Air Force transport plane, which is flying in and out of Afghanistan right now, dropping food packets and carrying some of our Taliban friends over to Cuba for an extended vacation.
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…..
6. Have you any hobbies? Which?
GREG: Besides living and breathing music, I cycle a lot, both road and mountain bikes, I enjoy hiking, I am a fan of Formula One and sports car racing, and I collect model cars, especially Ferraris! Rob and I are still great friends and we like to go to races and car shows.
ROB: One of my dreams since I was 11 was to have a vintage Ferrari. After the band broke up and I did not have to spend all my money supporting the band I bought a 1975 308 gt4. I do all the wok myself and have rebuilt the rear suspension and done major engine work. Right now I am replacing the cam drive pulley bearings a very complicated job. I love this car and all Ferrari’s and all Italian cars. It is my dream to some day come to Italy and go to the Ferrari factory in Maranello, and then go see a race at Monza.
7. Before playing with Cirith Ungol, you were called Titanic. What did Titanic play? Did Titanic make any demo? Can you tell anything on Titanic?
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. 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, it would be hilarious!
8. You changed the name in Cirith Ungol in 1977, why?
GREG: Rob and Jerry and I wanted to play heavier stuff like Cream, Grand Funk, and Mountain, so we left Titanic to sink, and the three of us formed Cirith Ungol in 1972. We were all reading “The Lord of the Rings” at the time, so we chose this name as a tribute.
9. Where did you record “Frost and Fire”? How many copies did you sell in that period?
GREG: We recorded it on 8 tracks at Goldmine Studios in Ventura, in the winter of 1980. We sold out of our first pressing of 3000 in a couple months, and there were around 20,000 copies sold in the year following its release.
ROB: It was recorded on a Tascam 80-8, 1/2 inch 8-channel tape recorder. We had won a local battle of the bands and received some free studio time at a local studio. We ended up moving our band room across the street from this studio and we recorded the first 2 albums and much of “Paradise Lost” was recorded there as well.
10. This is one of my favorite albums of ever; it is dark and epic with the dark voice of Tim Baker and the biting riffs of Jerry Fogle. What do you think about this work? What are your favorite songs?
GREG: I’m very glad that you like it, because we put our hearts and souls into it. I wish we could have put a couple more songs on the album, but we basically ran out of money for studio time. The sound is not as heavy as we wanted, but we were just learning how to use the studio. My favorites are “I’m Alive” and “Edge of A Knife”.
ROB: Yes I like I’m Alive also. The Los Angeles Times said in a review of Peal Jam’s song “Alive” that it was a blatant rip off of our song……..
11. After “Frost and Fire” Greg Lindstrom left the band, why?
GREG: 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. Flint didn’t join the band until after F & F, and part of the reason that I switched from bass to guitar was that I could see the day coming when I would leave, and I wanted to have a good bass player so the band could carry on right away without missing me. I felt it was time to move on, which I did with much regret.
12. I love Tolkien as writers; your name comes from a work by great Tolkien, why did you choose this name?
GREG: We all loved “The Lord of the Rings”, so we came up with 5 or 6 different names from the book, and chose the one that was the hardest to remember!
ROB: Sometimes I think that it was the wrong choice as so many people had a hard time either pronouncing it or remembering it. Many people made fun of the name calling us many things like “Sarah’s Uncle” or “Serious Uncool”.
13. All the covers of your albums are dedicated to the Elric, can you give me an opinion of Moorcock as writers? What’s your favorite Moorcock book?
GREG: My favorite Moorcock books are the Elric series and the Corum series.
14. You have wonderful covers, the pictures are Michael Whelan, he is a very good designer: How did you contact him? What do you think of his works?
GREG: I think he’s the best fantasy inspired artist around. We had originally wanted to use some of Frank Frazetta’s pieces, but the southern rock band Molly Hatchet used them on their first two albums. But we were very fortunate to be able to use Michael’s work. I know some people who don’t even like metal have gotten our albums just for the cover art.
ROB: I was reading the book “Stormbringer” at the time we were making F&F and I was thinking this would make the best cover we could ever hope for. I contacted the publisher and was really surprised when Michael Whelan contacted me back. Throughout our career he was one of the most honorable people we have ever worked with. It is my opinion that he is one of the greatest painters of all times, and we were lucky to be associated with him and his work.
15. Then you’ve taken part to the compilation “Metal Massacre “ 1982 where there were Metallica and Malice, how did Brian Slagel contact you?
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!
Metallica used to make fun of us and called us Dinosaur Rock, now that they have learned how to play their instruments I see that their music has the same tempo ours had 20 years ago. I feel the only reason they made it was the whole speed metal thing which I still don’t understand (I guess like Rap). For a while most bands were just trying to play as fast as possible. Being a bit more sophisticated, I saw speed metal as punk rock with long hair. To Cirith Ungol we never wrote a song based on tempo alone. Every consideration was given to the music to tell a story or convey a feeling of darkness or gloom. THICK…. POUNDING…. HEAVY…THIS IS WHAT METAL IS!!!!!! Like the beating of a human heart…. Like the pounding of mercenary iron shod shoes marching into battle…. Like the steady pounding of rain or thunder… like the fall of the ax…To me this is HEAVY… not the nervous tappings of immature musicians. Don’t get me wrong there is nothing wrong with fast or speed, it is the reliance on this gimmick alone, which I find amusing and confusing.
16. My opinion “King of the Dead” is your masterpiece, there are fabulous songs as “Master of the Pit”, “King of the Dead”, “Toccata in Dm” and “Cirith Ungol”. Are you agreeing with me?
GREG: I agree. Hearing it made me sorry that I had quit.
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 the layout and design of the first 3 covers, all this while we were all working full time trying to sponsor the dream.
17. Who was the main songwriter of the band?
GREG: Well, I was, up through F & F. I would bring in a song with a basic arrangement, and after we played it all together, the song would be hammered into its final form. Everyone had a major part to play in the final product. I was always amazed with some of the guitar solos Jerry would come up with.
ROB: Yes it was a group effort before and after Greg left. After Greg left I took it upon myself to make sure the songs fit the Ungol mold. Unfortunately on PL some of the songs were pretty sad and I had no control over this.
18. On “king of the dead” there is the song “toccata in dm”, is it a cover? Why did you choose it?
GREG: It’s a piece by Bach. I think in a way, it’s Jerry’s answer to “Maybe That’s Why”. He wanted to do a multi-track guitar piece that was different from the usual CU song.
19. “One Foot in Hell” was out on Metal Blade. What are the differences between you precedent production and this?
GREG: It’s a good album, but I think it’s a bit of a letdown after KOTD. The songs are not quite as good, and somewhere Flint’s bass got lost in the production. I also wish that Jerry had carried on the tradition and done another solo guitar piece.
ROB: Well first off, Brian was in complete control of this project and did the final mixdown. He did a good job but he cut out allot of stuff I wanted in the final mix. There were many great guitar solos and vocal harmonies, which were deleted, which is sad.
20. What you can tell us anything “Paradise Lost”?
GREG: The Chaos Trilogy is some the best stuff CU has ever done, but “Go It Alone” should be played 24 hours a day in Afghanistan until Bin Laden runs screaming from his cave with his ears bleeding, begging for mercy.
ROB: After OFIH was released we kind of knew that Metal Blade Records 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.
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 Barraza 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 guy 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.
I have know idea how copies of “Paradise Lost” many were made. Three weeks after the CD was released we got a letter from Restless saying we were cut from the label.
If we could have recorded and produced it ourselves it would have been 10 times the travesty it turned out to be, and probably would have sold allot better.
21. Why did the band split up?
22. A last message for all Cirith Ungol fans.
GREG: My humble thanks to all our fans over the years. We hope that you enjoy “Servants of Chaos” and let us know if you want to hear more.
ROB: Yes, even though the band was not a commercial success I am most proud that we have many fans still in Italy. I am an original tifoso, starting at age 11 to worship the red religion (Ferrari). I love everything Italian and an honored that there are some people in Italy which like the music we wrote. If you look at an original vinyl copy of our first record “Frost & Fire” the words “for Enzo” are scratched into every record. That about sums up my feelings.
Thank you Francesco for this interview! If you could send us a couple of copies tha would be great.
Robert W. Garven Jr.
324 Estrella St.
Ventura, CA 93003-1604
May The Lords Of Light Be With You!!!!!!