A CONVERSATION ON THRASH
Picture this scenario. A band playing superlative old-school Thrash with an interpretation that sounds effortlessly modern. The origins of this band being Nashville, Tennessee. A scenario that is highly unlikely but also true. What's more, Intruder (the band in question) has been around since the 1980's, so it's also odd that they're not much of a household name today. To be fair, the band doesn't tour much these days so when I moshed to an Intruder performance at a German festival towards the end of 2005, I realized that I had been through a unique experience... in more ways than one.
When an opportunity presented itself for an impromptu interview with the entire band, needless to say, I grabbed it. By 'the band' I mean: vocalist James Hamilton, guitarists Greg Messick and Arthur Vinett, drummer John Pieroni and bassist Chris Veach.
It turned out to be an easy-going and fun affair (apart from that indecipherable Tennessee accent, which for me turned out to be an absolute nightmare when transcribing the interview!). On the onset I confessed to the quintet that I had really enjoyed Intruder's show, and that I rarely witnessed such a tight performance. The band thanked me for my comments, telling me that they had a great time too…
Chris: When introducing a particular song, I heard you mention a new recording?
James Hamilton: We've just finished it right now and it should released it any moment.
C.: Could you describe it and tell me something about it?
J. H.: What we've done is to re-record songs off our old albums, but we're doing it with new technology. So it's a 'Best of' but done differently. And we're going to do a brand-new song which we also played tonight, plus we're going to have a couple of live tracks. It's a kind of thing for the fans?
Greg Messick: In fact we actually let the fans themselves choose the tracks through our website.
C.: Intruder originates from Nashville, Tennessee - to be really honest I wouldn't have normally associated that region with Metal, let alone with kick-ass Thrash Metal…
J. H.:...You and a thousand other people.
C.: So there is a Metal scene in Nashville after all?
J. H.: It depends on what kind of music you mean, because there is a Nu-Metal scene but regarding old-school Thrash, no, that there isn't. Basically we are the Thrash scene.
C.: So what about doing gigs and recording your records, how did you manage these especially when Intruder was still starting out?
J.H.: I'll tell you what, on our first album, "Live To Die", our old influences were those tapes and records that us band-members used to get hold of. These were import albums of Cloven Hoof, Satan, and all those bands we used to listen to, mostly originating from Europe.
And then, before "A Higher Form Of Killing" came out, we listened to Slayer's "Reign In Blood" and that changed our life.
C.: And like you thousands of others!!
[All the band-members express their agreement on this.]
C.: You don't seem to tour much these days?
J. H.: Where we played tonight was probably the first time we played in a year and a half. We sort of come out of retirement every two years or so to play a show.
C.: But how do you manage to give such tight performances if you don't play that often?
Arthur Vinett: Well, the band's two guitar-players play in other bands. I myself play nearly every weekend with my band Dead Sun - we play a modern Metal but a little bit poppier chorusues.
C.: Arthur, I must say I sensed influences beyond Thrash Metal in your style of playing, such as influences from Classical music.
A. V.: Well, I used to play violin when I was a little kid.
G. M.: So do I play in another band, we're called War Within. Right now we're putting on the final touches and getting ready to go into a [recording] studio and we're gonna start and do some touring. This stuff I'm playing is very aggressive.
[Arthur nods in agreement.]
C.: There is a tendency for Thrash bands to be lyrically influenced by contemporary political events. This may often be observed with bands like Kreator, Nuclear Assault, do you think Intruder shares this trait?
G. M.: Yes, somehow I think so. Especially the more modern stuff.
A. V.: Back then, we wrote about a lot things that were happening at the time. We also wrote about esoteric, I guess that's the word, themes, such as UFOs.
J. H.: We write about the stuff others wouldn't normally write about.
John Pieroni: Yeah, we wrote about some political, some sci-fi, some twilight-zone type of themes. Though we didn't go into it [the lyrics] too heavily.
[An unidentified band-member comically mocks an alien at the mention of The Twilight Zone!]
C.: So what had happened around 1992 when Intruder split up? What was going on within the band then?
[From the reaction, or momentary lack of it, by all band-members, I get the impression to have touched a sensitive point.]
J.H.: We got dropped from Metal Blade in the middle of our tour when we just hit the charts.
Besides, although we had been together for so long, just like many marriage relationships there was no more 'love' and we said 'this marriage needs to end for a while. We need counseling.
G. M.: We had even tried to keep it going for a while but without the original line-up it just wasn't Intruder.
C.: I read in an interview with one of you (though I don't remember with whom) where it was stated that before the split, Intruder had 2 albums' worth of unreleased songs.
J. H.: That wasn't me.
A. V.: Greg an I had written a bunch of songs to keep it going.
C.: So are those songs ever going to see the light of day?
G. M.: I don't know. Well, actually one of them was played tonight. It was the first time we had played that song, and was written right after the break-up.
J.H. : We just kinda changed a few things around, used new lyrics and made it more 'us'.
C.: Guys, now I'll mention some classic Thrash bands and I'd like your opinion on their recent releases…
DESTRUCTION ("Metal Discharge")
J.H. : The new Destruction I think kicks ass! [accentuates this last phrase] It's awesome! I think it sounds just as good as what they did back in the 1980's.
EXODUS ("Shovel Headed Kill Machine")
J.H. : The new Exodus? I think it sounds good too.
G.M. : I've heard a couple of songs off that album and I did like them.
KREATOR ("Enemy of God")
A.V. : I haven't yet heard "Enemy….." so I must go and get that one quick.
C. : It's a great album. You know, I think no two Thrash bands sound the same. Which might be something odd if we basically describe Thrash Metal as 'fast aggressive music with screaming style vocals'. What is Thrash Metal for you?
J.P. : Thrash? Well, we actually we like to call it 'Speed Metal'. It's good riffs, good songs
G.M. : For me, it's just something in my blood. I'll play it until I draw my last breath.
CHRIS VEACH : I think Thrash is based purely on the energy of it. People just try to blow off steam, you know, just get out all your aggression that way since you can't go about beating people up.
J.P. : Just beat the drums!
C.V. : Well, maybe we could beat people up just a little bit!
[All the band laughs, devilishly!!]
©Chris Galea ( firstname.lastname@example.org )
INTRUDER Line-up :
Vocals: James Hamilton
Guitars: Greg Messick
Guitars: Arthur Vinett
Bass: Chris Veach
Drums: John Pieroni
"Live To Die - Relived" (2004)
"Psycho Savant" (1991)
"Escape From Pain" [E.P.] (1990)
"A Higher Form Of Killing" (1989)
"Live To Die" (Vinyl: 1987; C.D.: 1990)