Contains an interview/article with Cirith Ungol.
INTERVIEW WITH TERRORIZER MAGAZINE
Hello again. Here are a few questions for Terrorizer. By all means copy them to Greg. You can divide up which ones you want to answer or you can both answer them all. The only thing I would ask is that you let me have them for Wednesday. We have a deadline and as it’s my personal crusade to put you in the mag, I want to make sure it happens. Besides, I’ve made the editor set aside some space for you! By the way, it’s cool to note that you guys are Ferrari fans! I too was punching the air when Schumacher triumphed again two weeks back, making the restlook like amateurs yet again. I may be Northern Irish and we have a great driver in Eddie Irvine, but you’ve got to respect sheer talent and Schumacher is the best. Too bad Irvine quit Ferrari! Best wishes Damien
GREG: Thanks, Damien. I’ve been an Eddie fan ever since his “conversation” with Ayrton Senna regarding Eddie’s reluctance to be passed!
1. So I can write an introduction, can you give me the basic facts about the formation of the band.
GREG: Rob and I have been friends since 7th grade. We were the only two members in a Ferrari club! He and Jerry and Pat Galligan had decided to start a band, and I think the only reason they got me was that I had an amp. Three guitars plugged into one15 watt amp and Rob with just a snare drum and hi-hat trying to play Beatles songs…I wish I had a tape!
ROB: 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!
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! 🙂
2. What did you set out to do with the band and why do you think your music was so different, some would say strange?
GREG: We just set to play the best hard, heavy music we could. I wanted someone who heard CU the first time to feel the same rush I did when I first dropped the needle on Captain Beyond’s first album, or Stray Dog’s first, or Sir Lord Baltimore, or 50 others I don’t have the space to name. I think our style was forged by hours and hours of jamming- Rob’s drums always on the verge of chaos, me playing bass like a frustrated guitar player trying to go off and hold everything together at the same time, and Jerry wailing away on top of it all. More tapes I wish we had! Actually, by the time we recorded F & F, we had made a conscious effort to calm down a bit and tighten the songs up.
3. Was Liquid Flames your own label? If so, was this because you had difficulty in arousing record company interest?
(See answer #4)
4. How did get your first proper record deal?
GREG: I thought they were all improper…
ROB: 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!
5. How did the press react to the band over the years? Do you think in general that they were able to grasp what the band was about?
GREG: With some notable exceptions, I’m not sure if most critics are any more open-minded than the rest of us. When confronted with something different or strange, it’s easy to put it down or dismiss it. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a positive review from a UK critic, while I’ve seen nothing but positive reviews from German, Italian, and Greek publications. Maybe they have more of an affinity for epic metal or maybe it’s just my translations!
ROB: Actually, almost all of the reviewers really liked us. There was one LA writer in particular who would always write great articles on the band. Once when we played with Ratt and Lita Ford he wrote how we were the best that night and had the “soundtrack from hell”. Another critic that liked us (Geoff Barton) was one of the editors of Kerrang. They did several big articles on the band and put two of our albums on their ten best album lists. Unfortunately having critical acclaim is not the same as having record company support.
6. In trying to get across your music to others, I often say ‘imagine Rush meets Celtic Frost’, especially with regard to the first album. You must have read some pretty colourful descriptions of yourselves over the years?
GREG: The most recent thing I saw on the net described F & F as “only the most metallic
10% of “The Fountain of Lamneth”. It was meant as a putdown, but to me that’s not such a bad thing. Or, according to Martin Popoff on KOTD, “derogatorily progressive”.
7. Is it true that many bands in the 80’s were afraid to share a bill with you, and why was this? Perhaps they felt that your total originality and bizarre nature would be impossible to compete with / follow?
GREG: After I left the band, I saw these guys open for Ratt at the Beverly Theatre in front of about 1500 people and I thought CU blew Ratt away musically but fell short in the eyeliner department.
ROB: I am not sure that is totally true, but we were treated so badly when it came to sound checks, dressing rooms, lights and sound that when we came out on stage it was always a fight for survival. We had the attitude to “take no prisoners”. We didn’t make many friends, especially from the local LA bands but oh well…
8. What inspired the band’s image? Also, how did you hook up with Michael Whelan and get to use his amazing artwork? Did you ever discuss the commissioning of original Whelan artwork for CU?
GREG: I know a few people not into heavy metal at all, who bought our albums just for the artwork.
9. I assume at least one of you is a Moorcock / Elric fan? Personally, he’s my favourite writer ever.
GREG: He’s definitely one of my favorites, along with Jack Vance (The Dying Earth series), Fritz Leiber (Fafhrd And The Grey Mouser series), Clark Ashton Smith, and of course, J.R.R. Tolkien. I’m beginning to re-read the Elric series, I’d almost forgotten how good it is. (I need to break out my old Hawkwind albums, to get in the mood!)
10. ‘King of the Dead’ is your magnum opus. If things had been different, what do you believe the band would eventually have been capable of?
ROB: 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.
Both “King of the Dead” and “Paradise Lost” were made with little or no record company support or promotion. I can only guess that if we would have had the slightest financial or moral support and creative control that every record, one after the other would have been heavier and better that KOTD.
11. You say you had no artistic control over ‘Paradise Lost’, but surely you wrote and recorded the songs?
GREG: Looking at the album (somewhat) objectively, it’s got some of the best stuff CU has ever done (The Chaos trilogy) and the worst (The Troll and the truly vile Go It Alone). Even though Jimmy Barraza is a fantastic guitar player, I feel that he lacks a certain spark of uniqueness that made Jerry so great. And I really prefer Tim’s higher pitched vocals on the earlier albums. He gets a little too Cookie Monster at times on PL.
“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. Some of these are on the new double CD unfortunately, we had used these studio tapes to practice for the original CD so we had erased a portion of them, mainly background vocals. We still put them on the new CD as they have some cool parts on them. The other lame thing about this CD is that unknowingly we signed away all the rights to the CD and the music. This is the only time we used a professional lawyer and we were totally screwed. Restless Records owns this project now and will not let anyone re-release it. I can not understand there logic but they are pretty lame so it is what I would respect from people like that. The whole LA music scene and US is pretty lame. That is why this new album is only coming out over there, as there is not much imagination left here I guess….
12. In a way, the world seems to condemn individuality, and strangle deviancy from the norm wherever it appears. Was Cirith Ungol just too different to be accepted and destined to be destroyed by others?
GREG: I feel that 98% of the world needs to be told what to eat, drink, drive, wear, and listen to. Bands like Cirith Ungol are for the other 2% of us that like to think for ourselves and don’t need to belong to the herd.
13. Have you become aware of any artists over the years who you feel have something of the spirit of CU about them, people, perhaps, who you feel some affinity with?
GREG: I can appreciate any artist who follows their own vision, and not the latest trends. One band I really respect is King’s X. They were influenced by a lot of the same bands as us, have made a lot of great music, and have managed to earn a living doing what they love without massive album sales.
ROB: There is a cool band in Italy called “DoomSword who did a cover of “Nadsokor on their album. I thought it was really good. We have also heard over the years that Celtic Frost were influenced by us some, and even got there name from the album “Frost & Fire”.
14. I know that not all of the band members have gone on to better things. Can you tell me what everyone did / is doing now?
GREG: I’m an engineer at the Boeing Co. in Los Angeles, working on the USAF C-17 transport. We just delivered four C-17s to your RAF as part of a leasing deal. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to get the praying skeleton logo on the side of an aircraft yet.
ROB: 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.
15. For people who obviously were so passionate about music, was it hard to give up?
GREG: Quitting the band for me was worse than breaking up with a girlfriend. 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. I still got a few nice guitars and basses play almost every day, fool around with my multi-track recorder, and I’m constantly prowling the CD stores for new (and old) bands.
ROB: It was worse than that. 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. All these re-releases have rekindled those same feelings that I thought I had buried in my sub-conscious. It is all very difficult for that is all I wanted to do is play the drums. That is why I have tried to re-direct my energies into something that has given me ultimately more satisfaction, which is my car.
16. Ultimately, despite your extremely loyal fan base and assured place in history, you seem to feel that the band failed in some way. What would you change if you had your time over again?
GREG: I just wish we had reached more people. If even 1 of 100 Sabbath or Maiden fans had heard us instead of 1 of 1000. And Jerry Fogle should be a guitar hero mentioned in the same breath as Randy Rhoads or Tommy Bolin. And, (if I can have 3 wishes), I regret not being able to tour and meet more CU fans. But at the same time, I’m really amazed and gratified when someone tells me how much they love CU, or when another band lists CU as an influence.
ROB: Well you have to look at it from our perspective. After 20 years we never made a cent on our music, while bands I consider talent-less have made millions. That is the real reason we broke up, no one wants to work at a job for over twenty years and never get paid. As cool as all these re-releases are I have again spent money I don’t have to keep our music out there. As you get older you find that enthusiasm and drive just wont pay the bills. It is very sad but true.
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.
17. You refer to the new collection as being ‘the end’. Have we heard the last from you?
GREG: Not if we could get Tim to lay off the cigarettes and Rob could wrangle a drumkit out of Pearl or Ludwig! We have at least 20 songs that have never been properly recorded. We could definitely come up with 8 or 10 strong songs for an album. “Brutish Manchild and “Shelob’s Lair” come to mind….
ROB: Well, Greg and I have talked about re-recording some of the old material that was lost. Some of the sounds were pretty cool such as “Half Past Human, A Quarter to Ape”, “High Speed Love” etc. We thought that we would be able to put them on this double CD but much of the material was either totally lost or deteriorated to far to put out! However I am not sure that this would be possible. Metal Blade Europe has expressed an interest in a project like this but only if it included Tim. Tim is not interested in doing anything with the band so this is probably a long shot. However just like a horror movie sequel there is always a possibility.