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It was 1988 and without a doubt, Thrash Metal was at it's peak. 1985, 86 and 87 had laid the foundation for what seemed like the ultimate Summer of Thrash. One such bill set to go coast to coast was proof of this. Canadian futuristic pioneers Voi-Vod, San Francisco's fast rising Testament and new comers Vio-Lence. That summer was the first time I heard and saw Vio-Lence. And truth be told, they weren't hard to miss. Not only was their debut 'Eternal Nightmare' coming out on a new label, Mechanic, which was an offshoot of the major label MCA, but they had established themselves in the underground via demo's. If you were around in the scene at that time, you couldn't miss the promotion surrounding 'Eternal Nightmare'. Now we all know Voi Vod were forced to cancel when it was revealed their guitarist Piggy announced he had Cancer. He's fine now. A few weeks before they were due to play Chicago's Vic Theatre, I decided to pick up the groups debut, 'Eternal Nightmare'. I was floored. Obviously this album and this band weren 't for everybody. But for some reason, they were perfect for me. The follow up's to 'Eternal' were 1990's 'Oppressing The Masses' and 1992's 'Nothing To Gain' and again. Like I said, they weren't for everybody, but this retrospective is for the people who cared.

MIDWEST METAL: Before Vio-Lence you played in Forbidden, I guess we should start there, because before then would just be garage bands?

ROBB FLYNN: Forbidden was my garage band! But it was me and a drummer who now plays in this Punk band out here called The Mr.T Experience. Me and him were jamming and we'd just discovered the joys of drinking a six pack and listening to Metallica! So we started off just trying to emulate Metallica, just covering Kill 'Em All stuff, we liked Sabbath and all that. We'd play at a friends party or something, playing Slayer or Metallica stuff and a bunch of older, biker kind of guys would be like "Play Zeppelin"! And, of course, we'd be like "Those guys suck" (laughing)!

MM: Now as the band evolved, who was in the band before you left?

RF: Uh, it was Russ, Craig, Paul, Matt.

MM: Wow, I didn't know it was basically their "classic" line up.

RF: Yeah, pretty much. We were playing clubs as I was like 17 maybe, we were getting snuck in to play and then after the show just getting hammered, drinking Mickey's and doing Crank.

MM: When were you aware of Vio-Lence?

RF: They started practicing in the same building as us, we may have done a show together, I can't remember. But they were playing by us and I met Phil and we became drinking friends, pretty much, and one night he invited me to check them out. I was checking them out and they went into the middle riff of "Eternal Nightmare", the bass line part, and I was just like "FUCK"! I was blown away, I mean that was like one of the heaviest things I'd ever heard at the time. So from there I was a fan.


MM: What was it like when the classic line up first jammed?

RF: It was kinda weird. I mean I had quit Forbidden, and while I was in that band we were like eighteen years old and crank/speed freaks, just doing lines like there was no tomorrow! But I quit because I was having some problems in the band and the first night I jammed with Vio-Lence, the guys from Forbidden came by to try and talk me back into the band. So it was like hella drama the first night!

MM: So how long after did it feel right, like a "this is it" sort of feeling?

RF: Well I think one of the first real practices we had we wrote "Torture Tactics" which was a riff I brought in. So I brought it to them and they totally dug it. We started fucking around and we tried to steal "Chalice Of Blood", we stole that riff and it was originally called "Calling In The Coroner"! But after awhile I was like "man,we can't do this, it's lame", so I wrote another song, and that became "Calling In The Coroner".

MM: Classic! That was the hit!

RF: (Laughing) The hit?

MM: Fuck yeah, if it were released today it'd come with a sticker saying featuring "Calling In The Coroner"!

RF: I guess kinda (laughing)!

MM: There was a lot of press noticing the area and obviously a ton of bands, why do you think you guys, well, made it?

RF: Well to begin with, I knew the chemistry of what we were trying to do was right. I mean the five of us would walk into a room and we had to be the center of attention (laughs), it had to be all eyes on us and our chemistry just ended up working like that. And we just wanted to be the craziest, the fastest, uh, Thrashiest (laughing) whatever band we could, and we had Phil. I mean if it wasn't for that guy then half of the shit that happened wouldn' t have, and that's the fucking truth, man. He carried this band, a lot.

MM: Was he the guy to deal with the mail, tape trading and all that?

RF: That was, well me and Deen were at the bottom of the totem pole, I was actually above Deen (laughs), I actually managed to claw my way above Deen (laughing)! When I first joined the band Phil, Perry and Sean pretty much called the shots, but if you really wanted to get technical about it, it was Phil. He was the man, he could talk to people, he could talk business and everyone was OK with it because he did it so well.

MM: How about the demo that led to the band getting picked up?

RF: Yeah, we went in and did the demo and it garnered a lot of interest I think because we were offering up something different, nobody sounded like Vio-Lence, at all. Sure riff wise it was total Bay Area, a lot of Slayer mixed into it, but we had Sean and no one sounded like Sean. That plus the fact that he had an attitude and so did the rest of us, that all seemed to really help. But getting signed, we really didn't know too much of what was going on, that was our managers.

MM: How did you hook up with both Joey Huston and Debbie Abono?

RF: Joey was our original manager and we hooked up with him soon after I joined

MM: Now at the time was he managing a lot of bands or what?

RF: No, Joey was just our friend, he was like eighteen or nineteen and he had one of those fancy college edumacations (laughing), and the rest of us were just out of or dropping out of high school. But he was a few years older and considerably smarter.

MM: So those two did all the dealing and Vio-Lence are signed to Mechanic. What do you remember about that time period?

RF: Yeah, we were stoked to be signed, I know it was like a brand new label, there was only like one other band on it, and they totally sucked, so we were the best thing they had. And they were just hella into it, Steve Sinclair was the man and he was really into Sean and Phil, he really got off on their attitude and charisma. Then there was the demo giveaway, I mean every magazine we picked up there was a full page ad, giving the demo to any and everyone.

MM: Were a lot of people jealous of you guys back then, MCA and all?

RF: Well, it was kind of a weird time in the Bay Area, I don't remember all the bands that got signed or the order they were signed in, but I do know we were signed before Forbidden. They were our arch rivals, so we always kept an eye on them (laughs)! But like I said it was weird, we were a part of the third wave, first was Metallica, then Possessed/Testament days and then Death Angel/Vio-Lence days. By then it was less of a community and nowadays it's even more of a rivalry.

MM: The Testament tour!

RF: That's where, well for me, that was my induction to everything! I mean I 'd already done drugs and done tons of drinking, but at that point, going on tour and all of a sudden you throw groupies and more drugs and more drinking into it all! And we were all like nineteen and all of us and our stuff was crammed into the van, no hotels, crashing out on people's floors and shit like that. Debbie came out with us for a few dates and those ruled because we'd get to eat at Denny's. We'd just eat as much as humanly possible and hopefully we'd eat at the show, but we had absolutely no spending money. We weren't making anything, that's for sure, maybe we made $50 a night. And while it was rough with the driving, I mean we'd pull up, have to unload our stuff, play for a half hour, I'd stop playing, put my guitar in it's case and start loading everything again. The drives could suck, but if you were in the back seat of the van, you were in heaven because there were only two people back there. Halfway through the tour, as soon as we entered Texas, middle of the Summer mind you, the air conditioning broke! So the next week and a half it's 115 degrees out and we're driving and everyone's dying and crabby and all you hear is "STOP SWEATING ON ME"!

MM: Later that year was the Voi-Vod tour, finally, again what do you remember?

RF: Well that was the eye opener! I mean Testament were really big at the time, 'The New Order' and they were on fire! We went out on that tour and ya know we were like "you know this tour wouldn't be doing half as good if it wasn't for us (laughing)" that kind of shit, ya know? We thought we were Led Zeppelin, the biggest and best thing since sliced bread. So the Voi-Vod tour, we go out and reality really smacks us in the face. That tour was pretty dismal, not a lot of people at the shows, still loading and unloading our selves, in a van, but with a trailer.

MM: But all in all it was like a night and day difference.


RF: Yeah, you know what happened, between the two tours I got hit by a car while skateboarding. So I fucked up my back, so that tour I just thrashed my back, bad. I couldn't get enough pills or booze to try and control the pain. So I was doing it up hella hard, still lots of girls. We started having contests at that time who could get the most girls.

MM: Oh yeah, who'd win?

RF: Phil. I mean come on, he was the social butterfly of the band, he could talk to anyone convincingly. And back then Phil was also the mediator of the band.

MM: What do you mean?

RF: Well it was like me, Deen on one side and Perry and Sean on the other and Phil had to tow both lines.

MM: OK, this takes us to writing for 'Oppressing The Masses', at what point did Mechanic flake out?

RF: I really don't remember, I know we were unhappy with them, but I really don't ever remember separating from them. It's was like one minute we're with them and the next we were on Megaforce. Vio-Lence, in the Bay Area, was pretty fucking huge, so I kinda had like carte blanche and I was like twenty and it was great, drinking, doing speed etc. So the writing is a bit of a blur, and in that blur we got dropped and were now on Megaforce and I was like "cool".

MM: Do you think 'Eternal Nightmare' did that well back then, 88/89?

RF: Well for a major label, it did horrible! At the time MCA had tons of bands selling millions and we sold like 30,000. That was 30,000 worldwide, so it was like "later".

MM: With 'Oppressing' coming out you had a much bigger role in the band, writing a lot and working very well with Phil, it had to be a cool time?

RF: Yeah, we went to Ithaca, NY. To record with Alex Perialas at Pyramid Studios and I was in Heaven. I mean he had done so much and he did the first S.O.D. album which I thought, and still think that guitar sound was just retarded! Heavy as hell. But at the same time we fired Debbie and it was my job to do it because I was dating her daughter. So they elected me to do it and I did it. So the recording of the album was a lot of ups and downs. Cool because we're with Alex and the down because we had the personal stuff with Debbie hanging over us. But the recording of it was ragingly fun! Still doing speed and living like maniacs every night, made a ton of friends. Phil and I totally complemented each other. I remember writing "I Profit", Phil and I writing "Officer Nice" and the title track. I remember hating "Engulfed By Flames", that was written very fast.

MM: When the record came out, were expectations super high, new deal, management and all?

RF: When it came out, I think we felt we were hitting our stride. We were shooting a video ["World In A World"], and it was like "Wow! We're shooting a video, we've got a new manager".

MM: Now who was that?

RF: This guy named Jerry Adamane who played like he was some Hollywood hotshot who was actually the worst scumbag on Earth. But when the album came out we played and sold out two back to back nights in our hometown at the Omni and The Stone. We then went out on a headlining tour with Defiance in support, which was real cool. We had a bus, our first bus, which was great. We were able to get more girls with that, so we still had some good times on that tour. I think I'd stopped doing speed for that tour.

MM: Now 's the time where it's rough waters, correct?

RF: Yeah, that tour was basically the beginning of the end.

MM: Business, personality or what?

RF: Everything. We had then realized our big Hollywood manager was nothing but a scam artist, we're spending money, that we didn't even have, hand over fist, no one's making any money in the band, nothing. And there were always tensions in the band like I mentioned earlier, but at this time the canyon was widening. We were set to do another tour which was dubbed the Disastour! It was a headlining thing, we should've had a bus, but we find out at the last minute it's an RV with a few friends following us in a van with the equipment. So Jerry tells us "I've got you guys doing some stuff, but the first show is with Alien Sex Fiend", and we're like "What, who, why them"? and he's like "They're huge, it'll be good". So he tells us the tour begins on the 25th so we have to leave on the 20th to get to Florida. We wanted to fly, but no go. So it's like the 19th and he calls in a panic, "Oh my god, I made a mistake, the tour starts on the 23rd"! And now we've got three days to get from San Francisco to Florida! So all of us just pile in and go.

MM: Ala Airplane, you were probably like "I picked a damn good time to stop doing speed"!

RF: Oh, by that time I was back on it! So we make it, three days straight, four hour shifts, get to the gig, clean up and go on stage. Dude, the whole place just stood there, they were all total Alien Sex Fiend fans and didn't want to hear any of what we had to offer. I mean we'd finish a song and you could hear them whispering in the corner. We make it three shows later to Miami and the RV is basically melting. We lift the hood and all the plastic, rubber gaskets and clamps and whatever else was plastic has now melted and molded together. So we play the show and rent a car to get to the next show in Atlanta. So we're in Atlanta, play the show, it was cool and something was wrong with the rental car. So we call the place and they're like "You're where? You can't leave the state with that car! That's stealing we're calling the cops"! And we're like "What the fuck"? The tour's over, we have no money, Jerry has cut all communication with us, dude he didn't change his number, he disconnected every phone he had! Our booking agent drops us that same day and we're in Tallahassee, Florida stranded. We had $159.00 each to get home and eat for however long it took to get home. Those guys all took a bus home, five days on the road back. I borrowed money from Debbie Abono actually, I swore to God to pay her back if she'd just loan me $300. She did and I paid her back with my first royalty check from Machine Head years later.

MM: Where did that leave you with Megaforce?

RF: Well we were still with them, the record didn't really do shit, maybe 20,000. And at that time Johnny Z was coming in and wanted to change us into this, like a Testament type band. And I was like "we are what we are, we're a Thrash band with a singer who can't sing, but he's really, really good at screaming like a lunatic and writing songs about killing and torture and all that".

MM: So you start writing 'Nothing To Gain' and this was to be issued through Megaforce.

RF: Yeah, we got Michael Rosen producing and Vinnie [Wojno], who later engineered the first and second Machine Head records, this is where we met him. So we start doing it and it's, we're all just fighting like crazy, like every single day, and no one can see eye to eye.

MM: Everyone really bags on the 'Nothing To Gain' album, I like some of the songs, but I will say the sound is shit. What songs did you write or co-write?

RF: There were a few songs, I think I wrote "Atrocity", the songs that were down tuned I wrote, that's right when I was getting into down tuning. There was a lot of collaborating with Phil, I remember we were trying to stay away from writing fast and other bullshit.

MM: Now I'll ask Phil the same thing, but do you think, at this time, he was caving in to some of the pressure from Megaforce, etc.?

RF: Well, the thing that started happening was that Perry and Sean started becoming more and more the shot callers. He [Phil] was just kinda getting beat down because the two of them were always ganging up on him. Don't get me wrong everyone was still looking to him for final decisions, but at that point those two thought they knew best, so, they kinda started steering the ship.

MM: So you turn in 'Nothing To Gain'.

RF: They heard it and we got dropped.

MM: Ok, you're done with Megaforce, where is the band at now?

RF: Well, we're still together, still gonna try and write, but there's obviously some thinking to be done. It's weird though, in the Bay Area we still had a very good reputation. At the time Vio-Lence was still one of the more notorious bands out there, I remember one show we did with Death Angel, we'd been dropped at the time, and we, for a lack of better word, started a riot, it was crazy. But like I was saying we had a name we could fall back on, but behind the scenes it was getting pretty ugly. We'd gotten a new manager named Alexis Olsen and we had this new deal for 'Nothing To Gain' pending and it seemed pretty solid and I was waiting for that to happen. But at this point I was quite unhappy and I was just like "Whoever's steering the ship now is an idiot (laughing)"! But there was a lot of fighting, more than before. And now I had learned a lot along the way, ya know, what we should be doing a little more. I started bringing in songs, which I later used for Machine Head, like "Blood For Blood", "Death Church", and both got rejected because they were "too heavy" and Vio-Lence was trying to go even more accessible direction and I thought that was crazy. I think we lasted another six months together and then that deal that we were waiting for fell through, so at that point I said to them "I'm starting a side project called Machine Head, and that's what I'm gonna do". Everyone was cool with it. Right about that same time I ended up getting into a fight with this pretty bad gang, they were from our neighborhood and used to hang out at this club we'd go to. For some reason I got accused of stabbing someone, and I had nothing to do with a stabbing. I was in a fight, but I didn't do that shit. But it was a rumor and these guys wanted to kill me, literally. Vio-Lence was supposed to do a show and this gang was calling up the club and were doing bomb threats and just fucked up shit. So the day after I tell them I'm doing this side project, this shit happens! The show was the next day and I said "I'm not doing the show", it just wasn't gonna happen. So we got into this big fight and I just quit. And it was weird. It was a crazy ending and I was out on my own. They'd changed the locks on the rehearsal studio and I talked my way into there to get my stuff out. They were hella pissed!!

MM: Were you surprised that they continued without you?

RF: Yeah, I was! It's all my ego of course. But like I said they still had a good name with or without me, especially in the area, but that could only continue for so long. But we all hated each other for fucking ever, lots of shit talking and all that. I was bitter for a long time, but success may have eased it, ya know? I mean Vio-Lence, 30,000 was our biggest record and I've done way more than that. So I'll be the first to admit that being able to rub that in their faces was a good feeling.

MM: Sean brought up the fact that you both were able to do a show together. That you headlined!

RF: Dude, that was, at the time, my crowning achievement (laughing)! At that time their reputation still preceded them and I was speaking to them through Debbie, who was managing them again. So Debbie was trying to get me to do the show, and this was like days and days and I was like "Fuck that"! So a day or so passes and I told her like one hundred times no, so then I told her the only way I'd do it was if I headline. I told her equal money, no problem, but I am gonna headline!

MM: How would you sum up the Vio-Lence years?

RF: You know, there were a lot of phenomenal highs. I mean if I want to really think back I could get hella pissed because we got fucked, dude. To this day we don't own our own publishing, no one even knows who owns it, for all the records. I saw $5,800 in six years and that was due to a advance publishing deal before 'Nothing To Gain' came out, I got $4,000 up front and $300 for six months, that was it. For all those years and three records, that was the only money I saw. So shit like that will make you think differently, it's brutal to get taken like that. But on the other hand, those were my wildest of times, I was just out of my mind. I definitely think, for me, it was an unbelievable learning experience and I learned a lot and I'm proud of everything we did. We carved a niche in history, it may have not been the biggest, but we made our mark. I mean any band where there 's no middle ground. . . you either were a fucking die hard Vio-Lence fan or a "fuck off" type person. I mean some of the reviews were so bad I couldn't believe I was reading them, and we wanted to kill journalists! I think we were one of those bands that made enough of a statement that the people we touched and reached we really made an impact. I was bitter about the situation for a long time, but when I look back on those times, they were definitely good times, me Phil, Sean and Deen are still tight. Phil and I actually hang out quite a bit now and it's cool, it's really cool.

Editor's Note: This is only one side of the story. Get your hands on a copy of Midwest Metal #23 which also includes interviews with vocalist Sean Killian and guitarist Phil Demmel. The address and email are below.




VIO-LENCE from the Aversionline Vault



Interview: Tom T. Vader [ ]
from: MIDWEST METAL # 23

Post Office Box 183
Brookfield IL 60513

Metal Update Editor: Brant Wintersteen [ ]
Webmaster: WAR [ ]

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