CIRITH UNGOL INTERVIEW
METAL HAMMER / ITALY 11/99
Metal Greetings Oh Disciple of Chaos Metal Hammer!! You have gratified us doing this interview with your magazine. We are very happy that after all these years metal fans still remember Cirith Ungol. With your help we can spread the word to a whole new generation of metal heads!!
A Churning Maelstrom of Metal Chaos Descending!!!
When the interview comes out could you send me a couple of copies I would like to show them to the other band members!! I remember doing an interview with your magazine years ago. I am glad that you are still interested in the “UNGOL”!!!
1. Can you tell me something more about the early stages of the band, dating back to the early 70’s?
Our original band “Titanic” started when Greg Lindstrom and I first met in 7th grade about 1969, we had several things in common, we both loved sports cars, especially Ferraris and hard rock music and we wanted to start a rock band. We had a friend Pat Galligan, whose parents had a folk singing group called “The Galligan Family”. Pat played rhythm guitar, Greg was playing bass guitar and Jerry Fogle was playing lead guitar, I had just bought a drum set so we started to jam. Pat was a big Beatles fan at the time so we stared playing all Beatles covers, first song we played was “Get Back”!
To make a long story short, the rest of us were into heavier music and so the three of us quit Titanic and started Cirith Ungol. Right away we started to write original music and play heavier covers, Mountain, Jimmy Hendrix, Cream & Black Sabbath who were all happening around that time. We had some heavy jam sessions, I wish I still had those tapes still they would have been classic!
2. After a first phase as Titanic you changed your monicker to Cirith Ungol. Why that name?
As soon as we left Pat behind “Titanic” was history. We were C.U. from 1972 on. We changed the name because frankly we wanted to distance ourselves from Pat, but we also wanted a heavier sounding name. Greg and I met at an English Literature class where the teacher was reading “Lord of the Rings” by J. R.R. Tolkien, Greg and I read it and it had an influence on our music and feelings. In retrospect I wish we had picked something easier to remember because allot of our trouble has been over our name. People couldn’t pronounce it or remember it but we figured once that they did they wouldn’t forget it! We had been humorously been called “Sarah’s Uncle” and “Serious Uncool” etc. HA! 🙂
3. How did you come to the first deal with Liquid Flames?
We tried for years to get a record company interested in us to no avail, we had no manager and we live about an hour from LA where all the record company goons were at the time so we decided to record our own album. The name we decided on was Liquid Flames Productions, which had a logo of a burning sun. I borrowed the money and we recorded it. 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 group 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 we met in our entire music career who was honest, friendly and kind, and he let us use it. I think we were the first album cover 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 then but now he is probably the world’s 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.
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 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 signed 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 what we were trying to do!
I feel that if we could have gotten away from GREENWORLD, ENIGMA, and RESTLESS, which basically were all the same company with different names (probably to confuse all those they had ripped off) we would have had a chance. If we could have signed with a major label, with tour support etc. we would have made it big, but we kept thinking someone was looking out for us which was a big pipe dream.
4. From the very beginning you were pretty much into fantasy and Tolkien’s literature. Why?
Every one in the band was a big “Sword and Sorcery” (S&S) literature fan, especially Greg and I. He would always turn us on to the great writers who gave us inspiration for our music. We read all the books Conan, Bran Mak Morn, etc. but the books that stood out in my mind are Michael Moorcock’s masterpieces: Elric, Hawkmoon, etc. I wish we were still together today because I have been reading lots of H.P. Lovecraft (Michael Whelan painted the covers of his books released in the U.S.) and his horror stories give me all sorts of ideas for new songs!
5. How important was the concept behind the band, rather than music itself?
Actually the band was really about the music. Sure we had an S&S theme but we were musicians at heart, not many bands would stay together for 22 years with as little commercial success as we achieved. We would work five nights a week writing songs, playing and answering fan mail. There probably has never been a more dedicated group of musicians than Cirith Ungol was in our heyday.
6. Have you ever thought of recording a proper movie soundtrack?
If we were still together we would be very interested. I keep thinking that some movie producer will contact us about using our music in a soundtrack but so far the only movie, that I know of that has used our music, is the slasher or agent helps get the producers interested, and I can’t see that happening with us.
7. All you albums came with beautiful covers courtesy of Michael Whelan. Was it the best optical counterpart for your music at that time?
We were very lucky to get to use those fabulous paintings as our covers and to this day I feel that they really relate the same level of intensity that we were trying to accomplish with our music!
8. Now your first two albums are re-released via Metal Blade. Were you involved into these actions?
I had the first two albums re-released on One Way Records several years ago to try to keep the dream alive, but nice as they were to do this, One Way was not really a metal label, so when our old friend Brian Slagel offered to re-release them we were really happy that they were back on Metal Blade where they always belonged. Don’t forget our 3 album “One Foot In Hell” was re-released in October 1998 on Metal Blade Records!
9. Both feature a live bonus track, where do they come from? Is there any unreleased stuff of C.U. yet to be discovered?
First of all let me say how happy I am with the re-mastering of all 3 albums. Brad Vance at DNA did an amazing job at getting the bass to the right level. Low-end bass always seemed to be missing on the LP’s. I feel that the new CD’s sound better than the original LP’s, something that I never would have thought possible. Next is we wrote at least 30 songs that have never been released. I also have several C.U. live tapes. Two of the songs that you have heard on the recently re-released CD’s on Metal Blade Records are from these. Both live songs were recorded in California, the live song “Cirith Ungol” was recorded at the Arlington Theater in Santa Barbara on April 5, 1985, and the song “Last Laugh” was recorded at the Country Club in LA on November 9, 1984.
I am hoping that with our fans support, that Metal Blade will re-release our fourth album “Paradise Lost” and also a final C.U. CD with all this unreleased material on it. None of it is what I think of as “studio quality” but some are the best songs we ever wrote and Tim’s singing and some of the double lead guitar solos are far more radical than anything our fans have ever heard! “Last Laugh” being just one. Others songs are “Half Past Human -A Quarter to Ape”, “High Speed Love”, “Show You All”, “Hype Performance”, “Brutish Manchild”, “Shelob’s Lair”, “The Twitch” etc. etc. etc.
10. What happened after the last album; why did you come to the final split?
“Paradise Lost” (PL) was a disaster of an album as we had zero, repeat zero control over the production or recording of that album. I was brought to tears when I heard the completed project The band members were not allowed in the studio when the other members were doing their tracks and I was forced to play my drums to a click track without any other instruments. It was all very disgusting and sickening and is probably the #1 thing that led to the final destruction of the band. However Tim’s trilogy “Paradise Lost” I feel makes this CD worth listening to. The sad story here is that our pre studio demo tapes of the album were ten times better than the final product. I also have these tapes still!!
11. What did you do right after C.U.? Were you still involved in metal?
After the bands break up, I was very depressed for several years. All I ever wanted to do was play drums. We did not break up because we wanted to, the final break-up was more for financial reasons. Who would work at a job for 22 years and not receive a paycheck? And even if we wanted to continue, there was a big recession going on in 1991-1992 here and I really couldn’t afford to keep supporting the band with out any record company help. I still wake up at night with dreams about the band. I dream that we are getting back together etc… I still listen to allot of classic metal but other than that and these re-releases I am not involved with the music business. However, this is the 6th interview I have done this week and I feel that Cirith Ungol is finally getting some of the recognition that we deserved a long time ago. I will do AS MUCH AS I CAN to see that our music will be available to the faithful!!
12. What are former C.U. members doing now? Are you somehow still in touch with them?
Tim still lives in Ventura, Greg lives in LA, and Flint lives in Las Vegas. I still keep in touch with them all. Greg and Flint are still playing music but not professionally. I think all of us had dreams of continuing the band, and I know that all of us are disappointed about the breakup.
13. What do you think of the great comeback power and traditional metal is experiencing through these years?
I think it is great! I am a big supporter of all Hard Rock and Heavy Metal. I really dig the heavy beat and I still feel that it is the most intense form of music ever created. The fact that real metal can still be appreciated 40 years after it was written (Jimi Hendrix for example) shows how powerful and timeless this art form truly is!!
14. Many bands currently claim to be influenced by your sound. Do you think it is case? With which bands, if any?
I hope that we influence today’s musicians as we ourselves were influenced by musicians that came before us. As the wheels of fate spin, some are chosen to carry the banner of metal held high for all to see!
15. An Italian band called DOOMSWORD recorded a cover of ‘Nadsokor’ on their debut-CD last year; are you aware of it? Did you listen to it?
I have heard many good things about this group. I have not yet got to listen to them however I am looking forward to hearing them, and I wish them all the luck with their music and career! They must have excellent taste in music! 😉
16. There were rumors of a possible reunion; it is true? If so, who is involved in the new Cirith Ungol and what are your current plans?
Unfortunately with Jerry’s death and the time that has passed since the break-up it seems like a long shot, however I can not say definitely, as “It burns inside of me”, “It burns inside of me”!!!!! (Lyrics from F&F) I would like to say a few words to your esteemed readers:
The being called Ungol is dead, its resurrection is doubtful. But heed its teachings oh faithful, for these memoratic disks contain, the wisdom of the ages, and by your iron fists, the horror, of false metal be extinguished.
As you now join the swelling ranks of the Legions of Chaos, together we will drive before us, the cringing herd of False Metal, crush their spineless lackeys, and purge the world of their mutant plague!!!
P.S. As you might already know I am not only a huge Ferrari fan I follow F1 and am a loyal Tifosi!! One of the first times Greg Lindstrom and I got together we went to the LA auto show to see the new Ferrari’s. We were very young about 12 or 13. The fire of the red religion burns in me. I think there is a definite relationship between the screaming of the engine, the sucking of the carburetors and the throbbing and pulsing of True Metal!!!!! I was hoping that if the band was successful I could have a huge stable of them, however I had to quit the band and get a regular job to afford even one! I have a 1975 Dino 308 gt4. If you listen real close, you can hear me racing in the hills above Ventura, winding through the gears, blasting metal as I downshift into the next corner!!! I am very sorry Eddie lost, but I know Michael will carry the torch of the faithful next year…My life was full of two passions, now that my passion for music has been ripped from my breast… I have immersed myself in the red blood of Ferrari!!!!
I also have many photos of the band, if you need them for your magazine, you can reach me at CirithUngol.org