Steel Conjuring Issue #3 – May 2000 – “The magazine of the obscure and underground heavy metal.” A Greece paper metalzine. Written in English. Tim Baker on frontpage. Features 6 pages interview with Robert Garven, conducted by Manos Koufakis.
CIRITH UNGOL INTERVIEW WITH
STEEL CONJURING MAGAZINE / GREECE 11/99
1. Cirith Ungol is perhaps the most unique heavy metal band of all time. Unusual guitar/bass sound, strange vocals, doomy/heavy as hell compositions that comprise a really cult band. Also, you seem to be one of the oldest U.S. metal acts. You were formed in 1971 under the name Titanic. The founding members of the band were you, Greg Lindstrom and Jerry Fogle. Can you tell us some things about Titanic and describe the musical style of the band at the time? Were you just a cover band or you put out your own songs as well?
The other member of the band at the time was Pat Galligan. His parents had a folk singing group that he was part of called “The Galligan Family”. He played rhythm guitar. Greg and I first met in 7th grade about 1969, we had several things in common, we both loved cars especially Ferraris and music. We wanted to start a band and we knew Pat already played guitar and Jerry was starting to, 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 had the tapes still they would have been classic!
2. Who was the singer of the band at the time? Do you remember any other metal or hard rock bands from California that you were acquainted to?
Pat, Greg and I all sang in Titanic, after C.U. started we went to school with this guy named Neal Beattie. He stared singing for the band and he was great! He was a great showman. You got to remember this was a long time ago. Iggy Pop was real big with us, so Neal was influenced by him in his show. He did a fair amount of rolling around on stage, some in very little clothing. We played in a local battle of the bands every year, we were always the best but the judges always wanted bands people could dance to, so they could have dances with the winner. Needless to say they never knew what to make of us, we always blew the other bands away with our on stage theatrics and heavy sounds. One year we had some of our equipment stolen and were generally f**ked with during one of these “competitions”, the song “One Foot in Hell” was about that night. We had this great song “Shelobs Lair” during which Neal came out on stage with little rubber spiders on his fingers and sang the song. (Shelob was a giant spider monster from the Lord of the Rings that lived at Cirith Ungol, which was an evil castle in the book)
3. Until 1977, Tim Baker was the roadie of the band. This means that you did some small or big tours with Titanic. Which places did you visit and did you participate in any festivals?
Titanic actually ended in about 1972. That’s when we started C.U. We were really serious about the music then and even though Neal was the coolest we felt at the time that we needed a better singer. Although when I look back and listen to the songs Neal was good, especially if you compare him to some of the singers that are successful that I hear today! We went awhile looking for a singer and played all the big LA clubs as an instrumental power trio, which was amazing if you think about it because no other band was doing that at the time. Our music was so strong that we could pull it off. This is when we started to get a larger following. It was amazing because Tim was there right with us all the time, it turned out he was a natural. I think Tim’s voice deteriorated with time. He was a smoker and when I listen to the tapes that came out before F&F I think he had the cleanest and sharpest voice. I liked his high pitched voice like on “Better off Dead”.
4. After the coming of Tim Baker in the band, you changed the name of the band to Cirith Ungol, the name of a tower in “Lord of the Rings”. Why did you pick that quite unusual name and why did you did that name change? Was there another band using the name ‘Titanic’?
Once again 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 also we wanted a heavy sounding name. Greg and I met at an English Literature class where the teacher was reading L.O.T.R. and 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! 🙂
5. From 1977 to 1981,the bass/guitar/organ player of the band was Lindstrom. But in 1981, Michael Flint joined the band and handled the bass. What I want to ask is if between 1977 and 1981 you put out any official demo tapes? I have in my possession two demos, one of which features Cirith Ungol songs that some of them were later used in ‘Frost and fire’ and a solo album of Greg Lindstrom. Classic songs on that demo like ‘Frost and fire’ and ‘Edge of a Knife’ and others appeared in alternate versions than the ones on your debut LP. The keyboard usage was obvious and it gave the songs a more 70’s psychedelic approach. In you debut album very few keyboard parts were preserved. Why was that?
Greg was always a GREAT bass player (by the way it is Greg playing bass on F&F, I think Flint just joined the band after we recorded the LP) but he was also an enormously talented guitarist. We knew Flint (Michael Vujea) from the band he was in at the time (Possession) and we had allot of double leads going on in our songs that we could not produce live, so we recruited Mike and started calling him Flint because he was “In like Flint” (the title to an old spy movie with James Coburn). The funny thing was Flint like Greg turned out to be one of the most amazing bass players I have ever seen. Do not be fooled C.U. was a LIVE band! Our live music was so powerful the albums were a poor substitute but because of little (read NO) record company support ever we could only play as far as we could drive and then get back the next day so we could go to work. I liked the keyboards allot but after Greg left the band no one else played, so we dropped it. We were always looking for another organist but could never find one, we also tried a violinist. I am curious about your demo. I have at least an entire CD of unreleased material I am trying to talk Brian into releasing. Most of it was like garage tapes type stuff but some have the most unbelievable guitar solos and Tim’s voice sounds like it is a razor blade slicing through your guts!! It seems unlikely that Metal Blade will release the stuff unless these re-releases sell well. I am hoping all our good Greek friend will pick up “Frost and Fire” and “King of the Dead”, both have a live track added, and also maybe contact Metal Blade if they want to hear more!?!
6. In 1981 you put out your masterpiece ‘Frost and Fire’ on Liquid Flames. Was it a band owned label? How much did the album cost and how many copies of it were printed? From which other label was it out too? The front cover artwork is a classic monumental drawing, for sure one of the best covers of all time and that happened with all Cirith Ungol LP’s. Can you tell us some things about Michael Whelan?
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 geeks were at the time, so we decided to record our own album. 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 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 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 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.
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.
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.
7. Although you had an epic name, an epic artwork and an epic album title your lyrics on your debut didn’t focus on sword n’ sorcery literature but were more socially involved. Can you refer a bit to the lyrics of that album?
I kind of disagree with this, “Frost and Fire” (The frost monstreem and the fire divine!) and “I’m Alive” (I’ve pulled the mighty from their throne and laughed at deaths own door!) have an S&S meaning.
Here is the real story. We wanted to make it big but all our music was so heavy and dark we thought we would use our most commercial material on F&F, so that we would get airtime etc. Although all the lyrics and some of the music on F&F were written by Greg almost all of our song over the years were a collaborative effort, some times “I” would even hum out parts until we got it right. Everything had to be perfect, sometimes leading to fist fights over riffs) It just turned out Greg’s songs had the more commercial sound. After F&F came out it was only played a couple of times on the LA radio KLOS because everyone said it was way to heavy… So we figured F**K IT if they think that is heavy why are we holding back. Let’s show them real heavy!!!
That is why I feel that K.O.T.D. was our best album because we wrote it, paid for it, produced it, and meant it!! I have never been much of a Mettalica (There first song was on Metal Massacre #1 with our song “Death of the Sun”) fan. I kind of always thought of them as a very successful garage band, their album “Master of Puppets” came out the same time as KOTD and I still feel KOTD is a heavier and a more substantial heavy metal album deserving of attention.
8. In my copy of ‘Frost….’ There’s a song called ‘Maybe that’s why’. What is really strange is that although in the lyric sheet it appears as a vocal song with lyrics, chorus etc. what someone hears is an instrumental song from the beginning to the end. Can you explain to me why did that happen?
It was a love song Greg wrote, the original (I have on my un-released tapes) was the most unbelievable instrumental you can imagine. (Hopefully this can be on the CD of unreleased songs!) It didn’t come out near as good on the LP?!? Greg had written lyrics for it but we decided not to use them, there is not much mystery to this but it is the most asked C.U. question ever.
9. In the second verse of ‘Edge of a knife’ you say ‘I got my rock n’ roll haircut, I got my rock n’ roll jeans’. Would you describe your music as rock n’ roll or would you accept the characterization of being a pure heavy metal band? In my opinion the sound is prime doom/heavy metal.
I think of us as a Metal Band, but we did have a lot of HARD ROCK influences such as Cactus, Mountain, ZZ Tops, Y&T, etc. I think of “Edge of a Knife as our “Rockabilly Song” 🙂 Ha! Don’t forget the solo in this song is great! We certainly aspired to be the Heaviest Band around, I feel if we had had succeeded the music would have progressed along a far heavier path.
10. All the compositions on ‘Frost and fire’ were written by Lindstrom. Wasn’t there any participation of the other members of the band? Could someone claim that Lindstrom was the leader of the band at the time?
Not at all (see above #7) although it was never said, I was the leader of the band. Although I do not want to brag the truth is I paid for recording of #1 and #2 provided the band room (10 years) parents house paid the rent mostly on the one we rented (10 years) got all of our record deals including these re-releases tried to motivate the members paid all the bills: phone, postage etc. did all the interviews set up all the gigs pissed of all the record companies 😉 etc., etc., etc. worked several day jobs to do all this but you have to remember these guys were some of the best musicians that (I feel) ever played, I felt lucky to have been in the group although we were all talented Greg was unbelievable on any instrument he picked up (Bass, Guitar, Keyboard, Glockenspiel – just kidding 😉 And remember….Just because you are a great talent doesn’t mean that you are good businessmen….!!
11. I’m really curious to ask you what was the opinion of the music press in 1981 about your debut. I guess it sounded quite unusual to most music journalists, didn’t it? Do you remember if you had found any European distributors to sell ‘Frost and fire’?
I am surpassed you say this because I have quite a few good reviews on all the albums from the U.S. and Europe. One of the editors of “Kerrang” was one of our big fans. I think he picked KOTD as one of his top 10 albums of the year! We were different but I know the fans liked us. We would get about 300 letters a week and we tried to answer them all, another thing that led to the burnout of Jerry and Flint.
12. After the release of ‘Frost and Fire’ I have read that there was a big argument among the band members about the way the album sounded, the compositions etc. That argument resulted to the departure of Lindstrom who was by the time the sole composer in the band. Can you give us more in-depth info on what really happened between you and Greg? Did Lindstrom form another band after his departure from C.U. or he did something else?
Greg had moved away to got to college and he started to be influenced by some of the new (wave) music at the time. Greg to this day listens to allot of new music, he still buys about 10 CD’s a week, and he also was the first to turn me on to REAL Hard Rock and Metal. The whole split was just a matter of taste (although there was a woman some where in there just like all bands split ups!) and we are still in touch and friends to this day. He still plays guitar every day but is not in a band – so much wasted talent from our band….
He was never a big fan of Tim’s singing (?) and was pushing for us to replace him, thinking he was not commercial enough to be successful. (I guess he was right!) The rest of us were very happy with Tim and decided to keep on the path chosen for us by the hands of Fate!
13. In 1982,Metal Blade put out its first release, the most legendary heavy metal compilation in my opinion, featuring bands that would later become world wide known and some of them like Ratt or Metallica would become number one selling artists. How did you come in contact with Metal Blade? Did you know any of the other bands on that compilation?
(See #6 for how we met Brian)
It is surpassing 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.
14.Judging by the song, ‘Death of the Sun’, on Metal Massacre 1, you seemed to have hardened your sound more and you were about to follow a more doomy/depressive direction. So, later you signed a deal with Enigma records. What year was that? Enigma records somehow forced you to finance your next album and some guys keep saying that due to that restrictive deal you put out in 1984 an album full of long, depressive songs, so that you could avoid any mistakes in the production. Is that right?
(See #7 above)
I like those long and depressing songs! The music on KOTD or F&F were never infected by the record companies
15. So we move to year 1984 when you created your second opus in the row, ‘King of the dead’. The album was released in the States from Enigma records and in Europe from Roadrunner records. In that album there are the last three compositions of Lindstrom that will ever appear again on the next C.U. albums, and these were ‘Finger of scorn’, ‘Atom Smasher’ and ‘Cirith Ungol’. The rest songs were composed by you, Fogle, Baker and Flint. Although this time the lyrics were quite epic and the sound was more raw there wasn’t any dramatic change between your debut and your sophomore LP. Were you satisfied by the production and the songs on ‘King….’? I think it features one of the best metal songs of all time, ‘Master of the pit’!
(See # 7 above)
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. We wrote about 30 songs with Greg that have never been released some not even on tape. It was only understandable that we put some on KOTD. Greg did not leave the till after F&F so we were writing songs up to the day he left.
16. In the lyric sheet of the album there are some live shots of the band. Talk to us a bit about your live shows? Did you have a solid following, a core fans that followed everywhere and was buying your releases? Did you use to play any cover tunes live?
We were definitely a live band. We had a band room here in Ventura, right across from Goldmine Recording Studio. We would play at least 4 times a week, answer fan mail, work on new songs, etc. We always tried to play as hard as possible. Some of the bands we played with were, Ratt, Loudness, Armored Saint, Bitch, Pandemonium, Stryper, Lita Ford, Steeler, etc., etc.,
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!
17. After that album you moved from Enigma to Metal Blade records. Really, why didn’t you sign with M.B. at the first place and why did you leave Enigma?
We left Enigma because the whole Motley Crue and Stryper thing made us sick to our stomach. In my opinion these were bands with little talent getting all sorts of attention because they had people behind them throwing around lots of cash. We also were sort of asked to wear make-up, which we flatly refused because we still felt that we were real musicians not f**king transvestites. Little did we know then that being a first class musician really means little in the music industry? The industry is about money the fact that music is involved really is only secondary. We felt that since Brian understood metal that we would have a better chance on his label. The main problem was with M.B. was that by the time OFIH was released Brian was releasing about 10 albums a month, we were like just another one of the 10 groups of a certain month. You have to remember what the independent companies were doing then. Instead of releasing one album and really promoting it like the big companies they were releasing 100 albums and hoping one or two would sell allot or even break even. It is really like gambling but with people careers. Bands like ours were the losers. Metal Blade did not really get off the ground until after F&F. Brian was a good friend of ours and we thought we would get more promotion with M.B. It turns out we just went from one independent company to another. No matter what Brain’s good intentions were no one ever spent the kind of $$ on the band for promotion that it needed to become successful.
18. There are many bands that were on Metal Blade that praise that label while there are some others that have a very bad opinion of that label, even claiming that it ripped them off. I guess you were one of those unfortunate bands that none of your two labels financed any tour, except for a short-timed visit to Mexico as far as I know. So, in 1986 you put out ‘One foot in hell’ that is a very underrated LP as it features dynamites like 100 M.P.H. and the classic ‘Doomed Planet’. The production on that LP was the best you had until then and there was more up-tempo material. Did you see any change to the better after the release of that album? Did your fan base grew bigger or was that album another commercial (only!) failure?
I still feel KOTD was a better album but then again we had complete control over it. But see, you didn’t hear the solo’s of Jerry’s that were cut on OFIH or the unbelievable four part background vocals I did on Nadsokor that never made it to the record. I also feel that it was mixed kind of flat. I think that now F&F and KOTD have been re-mastered that the real beauty and complexity of the compositions are revealed. We really didn’t have the cash to record our first two albums like we wanted but I think the music was there. We did not really have complete control over the last 2 albums or I guarantee they would have sounded very different. Those who mixed the last 2 projects might disagree, but I ask you who wrote the music? I didn’t notice any change in our fans, but we still kept getting enormous amounts of fan mail.
The trip to Mexico was really paid for by the promoter who owned a chain of record stores. It was really our big adventure, we did a national radio show and played a dinner concert and some wild outdoor concert (10,000 people) at a giant skating rink. We really thought that we were going to hit the big time after that but nothing happened!
19. From 1986 to 1990 your traces were somehow lost. What happened those 4 years? Were you mainly a live band or you had temporarily disbanded?
I think I have explained this, but I really feel I need to again. We could have released 20 albums in the space of the four we released. The 3 to 4 year wait between each one was either us trying to raise the money (F&F and KOTD). Or waiting for the record company to get their act together (PL). The studio we recorded at (Goldmine) was also under construction before OFIH, which caused about a year delay in the release of that album. We still kept playing every other night, answering our fan mail, writing new songs etc. waiting for some white (or black) knight to come and rescue us from our predicament, whether it be a manager, (we only had 3 all of them ripped us off), a major record company, (none ever materialized), or agent (WE never had one in our entire music career.) We just were waiting in vain. In LA if you don’t have a manager you don’t get and agent. If you dot have an agent, you don’t get gigs. If you don’t have a manager and an agent you don’t get signed to a major label. You can’t get a good manager or agent unless you are signed to a major label. It is kind of a catch-22. There may be some exceptions to this rule but I never personally witnessed them.
20. In 1991 happened something that even the most die-hard fans of the band wouldn’t have predicted. You came back, stronger than ever, with some member replacements with a classic fucking amazing album. It came on Restless records and what I die to ask you is: WAS THIS ALBUM EVER OUT ON VINYL OFFICIALLY? There is a rumor here in Greece among C.U. fans that they have seen the album on vinyl but I really doubt it, because myself I have only seen it on CD and tape. Give us an official answer to end this big controversy.
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.
(This whole next crap you have to read sarcastically to get the feeling for what I am thinking!) When we finally started recording 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 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.
21.How many copies did you print of it on CD? I must tell you that it is very rare now and I have even seen it sold for $50 or more!
I have know idea how many were made. Three weeks after the CD was released we got a letter from Restless saying we were cut from the label. MY QUESTION HERE TO RON GOUDIE AND THE REST OF THE SHITS AT RESTLESS IS IF YOU KNEW YOU WERE GOING TO DO NOTHING FOR THE BAND WHY DID YOU TOTALLY DESTROY OUR LAST ALBUM?????????
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.
22. In ‘Paradise Lost’ there’s a great song with ‘clean’ vocals this time, ‘Heaven Help Us’. Why didn’t you make more songs like that one? Also, how come you covered Arthur Brown’s ‘Fire’?
(See above for “Heaven Help Us”)
We had always liked the Arthur Brown song and we wanted to do a remake. This song was also destroyed in the final mix down. It had this really great bass line in D running all throughout the song somehow it got mixed totally out of the song. It is really a shame because this was what made the song really heavy!!
23. What happened to C.U. after the release of P.L.? Did you give any live shows to promote the album? Also, I must tell you that since 1992 I saw no signs of existence of your band, so when did you finally disband and why? Do you know if the other musicians of C.U. are musically involved any more? How about you?
We played a couple of live gigs. This was when our show, if not music was the best. We played one at the Ventura Theater, which was our last show. It was video taped but I never got a copy. We broke up some time in 1992 To my knowledge none of the remaining members are in any kind of real band. Flint lives in Las Vegas and I think he plays around but nothing serious. I haven’t touched a drumstick since 1992, I remember telling the F**ks at Restless that “I would rather never touch another drumstick than to be in the same business as you scum bags”. I had serious nightmares for about 5 years dreaming about the band and my drums, they have somewhat gone away but I still miss playing very much…
24. Now I want to ask you some general questions. First of all, give me your top five favorite C.U. songs and your favorite C.U. album.
Easy best album KOTD best songs: “I’m alive”, “Master of the Pit”, “King of the Dead”, “Chaos Descends”, “Show You All”
25. Do you recall any good/strange/weird/funny etc. moments with the band worth mentioning? I’m sure that you must have thousands of stories to tell us, but if possible refer to the best ones.
Unfortunately remembering all of this makes me very sad, that is why it is so hard for me to do these interviews. I always think what could have been. I do remember all the times we got stoned and played and wrote music in our band rooms, people would always come over and we would always play some kick ass music. I wish you could have been there! I think the best thing that ever happened is now that people all around the world can have access to our music. Now that the web is up, everyone who wants a copy can have it. It used to be if only one LP was in a store in some city then only one person could get it. Now whoever wants a copy is only as far away from it as their keyboard.
26. According to my belief, I think that you were much more talented than Metallica or Ratt but for some certain reasons you never made it to the top, but you were loved by a small core of metal fans. What did you lack and you didn’t manage to sell millions of records?
Luck and Money, plus we never blew anyone 🙂
27. Just like in Manilla Road’s case, your band is worshipped here in Europe (and Greece) while in your country you didn’t seem to be as popular. What do you say about this? Really, did you ever receive any letters from Greece and do you know any Greek music artists or bands?
We received tons of U.S. fan mail the problem is the U.S. is so big it is hard to get a following without touring, which we never got to do. Our dream was to go to play in Europe. We had lots of Greek fan mail but I only know of the bands that people have been telling me about recently. I love Greek food and hope to come to visit someday. We don’t get as many vacations in the U.S. I just recently got my first two weeks off in 8 years!
28. Do you listen to heavy metal or hard rock anymore? Which are your favorite bands and musicians of all time and if you were restricted to listen to only five albums, which would they be?
Black Sabbath, “Master of Reality”. Montrose, “Montrose”. Scorpions, “In Trance”. Yesterday & Today (Y&T),”Earthshaker”. Lucifer’s Friend, “Lucifer’s Friend”. Thin Lizzy, “China Town”. Queensryche, “Operation Mindcrime”. Rush, “Rush”. ZZ Top, “Tres Hombres”. Deep Purple, “In Rock”. Mountain, “Nantucket Sleighride”. Dust, “Hard Attack”. Mournin, “Night Sun”. Sir Lord Baltimore,(2). Captain Beyond,(1) Budgie, “Squawk”. Moxy,(1).Blue Oyster Cult, “Tyranny and Mutation”. Hard Stuff, “Bulletproof”. Kansas, “Masque”. Trapeze, “Medusa”. Judas Priest, “Sad Wings of Destiny”. Etc, etc, etc, Sorry couldn’t just pick 5!
29. When you began playing music, even Black Sabbath was a new coming band. You have witnessed three decades as a musician and a music fan. I think you are the right person to tell us what was your favorite decade and which are the differences you trace in the music business now? Or you think that nothing’s changed?
I don’t think the business has changed. I am pretty bummed out at the influence of rap in metal, which I think is sad. I still hear a new song on the radio every once and awhile by a new group which gives me some hope! I think the best decade was the 80’s for C.U. because it was the time we existed. I do feel the MTV thing is very big, I wish we could have done some professional videos I think they would have been very dark and heavy. We were just not in the right place at the right time. It is sad and ironic that maybe we will be most popular after our death.
30. Some metal clubs here in Athens (the capital of Greece) play some Cirith Ungol songs like ‘Join the legion’, ‘Fire’ (though a cover song), ‘Frost and fire’, ‘Black Machine’, ‘100 m.p.h.’, and people here seem to know and headbang to the C.U. tunes. How do you feel about that?
This is hard for me to believe, actually if I didn’t see and hear it myself I’m not sure I can believe it, although it is very gratifying and I wish I could sit in and play along with them! Greece is the cradle of human civilization and it is amazing to me that someone could be walking on the Acropolis and hear the strains of F&F floating up from the city below.. WOW!!
31. For the end of the interview I would like to ask you about Jerry Fogle who sadly passed away recently. Can you tell us some things about your relations with Jerry? It is somehow ironic that he died from drinking just like Phil Lynott who was one of the band’s favorite artists.
Even though Jerry left the band because he was depressed at our lack of success, I know that he never really lost his love for the music. Several times before his death we talked openly about the band and what happened. He finally admitted to me that leaving the band was a big mistake and he regretted doing so. He eventually drank himself to death, alone, sad and unhappy. Jerry was one of the most brilliant guitarist you could imagine, sometimes during rehearsals he would come up with leads that would bring tears to the eyes of the listeners, he was that good, and yet he was a very quiet and reserved individual. I miss him very much, not that we were that close at the end but I miss his talent which is lost forever!
32. I want to thank you for the interview. I think your music is timeless, a true heritage to the generations to come and I really hope that in the future your band will be appreciated by all the metal fans in the world as it should have, years ago. End the interview the way you wish.
I know it has taken along time for me to do this interview. I have shared many things that until now I have kept inside. Your questions were so intelligent and thought provoking I felt as if I had to finally tell some of the true story about what really happened to our band. It is a coincidence that this is for a Greek magazine for I feel that the true story of Cirith Ungol has all the ingredients of a Greek tragedy. The real sadness in my heart lies in the fact that all I ever wanted to do was play music and this has been taken away from me. I only hope that your readers will take the time to listen to our music and appreciate the passion, which drove us to write and play it. It was really not about money or success but about art and creativity. The amount of music we could have left as a legacy I will let your readers ponder, but think of this, we probably had at least another 30+ songs that no one will ever hear…this is why my heart is broken and my life will always seem to be incomplete and a failure…
This is it! If I have offended any one probably leave that out of print. I already have enough enemies although I swear this is the truth as I remember it. So said Robert W. Garven Jr. on November 14, 1999
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