Back in the ’80s, as in previous decades, the Bay Area rock scene was still making a global impact with bands like Journey, Night Ranger, Y&T, and a host of other S.F. Bay natives playing arenas all over the globe. Meanwhile, back at home, a faster, more aggressive sound was taking shape in clubs like Ruthie’s Inn, Keystone Berkeley, The Omni, The Stone, The Fillmore, and The Warfield. This new sound was what would become known as “thrash metal.” At the forefront of the attack were the Bay’s own Testament (the Legacy album), Metallica, Death Angel, and Exodus. These bands, along with L.A.’s Slayer and Megadeth, and the East Coast’s Anthrax and Overkill, forged a new global force in music…and they are all still tearing it up today.
Chimaira from Cleveland, Ohio, opened the show with a great set. I had never heard these guys before, but they definitely caught my attention. Their music was heavy and a good fit with the rest of the bill. Singer Mark Hunter brought a commanding energy to the stage that was equaled by his brethren. What sets this band apart from most “true” thrash bands is their use of keyboards and MIDIs, which they have incorporated in an authentic and convincing manner.
Second up was Death Angel. I saw them last year at Slim’s, celebrating the release of their current CD, Relentless Retribution, and was blown away. After an exhausting and highly successful tour of South America, Southeast Asia, Eastern Europe, etc., Death Angel is still kickin’ ass and takin’ names! The audience was assaulted with the passion and power that is Death Angel.
I had the opportunity to speak with the very talented and charismatic guitarist Ted Aguilar, who replaced founding guitarist Gus Pepa when the band reformed in 2001. And here’s what he had to say…
BAM: Death Angel reunited in 2001 for the Thrash of the Titans benefit concert for Testament’s Chuck Billy, who had been diagnosed with a rare form of cancer. At the time that you did this show, did you intend to reunite long term or…?
Ted: It was just for that show. The band had been asked to reunite many times during the ’90s, but we turned it down because the band was just done with it. And when this came about, Chuck being diagnosed with cancer and doing the benefit, if we’re going to reunite for something–it’s going to be for a cause. So it was just meant for that one show, but as soon as we got off stage, it was so overwhelming that calls started coming in and we were, like, “Aaaahhh…well, let’s just do another one…” and then, another one…and here we are today.
BAM: So you got a new record deal after that?
Ted: Yeah, we did a tour of Europe just to check it out. The labels were courting us. We signed with Nuclear Blast, and…they were the right label because they were fans of the band. They know their metal and they had confidence in us. They signed us without even hearing one new song.
BAM: You had a lot of success in the ’80s and ’90s. However, I’ve heard that your latest release, Relentless Retribution, is your highest selling album. Is that true?
Ted: I think it would be the highest selling, since we reunited out of the three albums. But this album, we were able to go to places we have never been before: South America, Southeast Asia, Eastern Europe. We did a tour of the States a couple times, Europe quite a few times, so we’ve been busy on this tour…
BAM: How many months out of the year have you been on tour?
Ted: Right now, we’ve been seriously going at it since April of 2006. It’s the longest tour this band has ever done, since the reuniting and even in the ’80s.
BAM: Recently, you did the 70,000 Tons of Metal Cruise. How was that?
Ted: It was unbelievable, it was! Ya know, at first we were all like, “How’s that gonna work, on a cruise ship with all these bands?” But as soon as we got on, the vibe was great. We had a great time, all the bands had a great time. It was good because there were no dressing rooms. All the bands got to mingle with the fans, and [with] other bands, so it wasn’t like, “Oh, they’re in their dressing room.” And it was incredible. It was just one of the best shows we’ve had. Great bands, and great times!
BAM: So what do you have coming up for DA?
Ted: After this show, we’ve got four more weeks left on this tour, and we’ll have some time off. We’re gonna start writing the record…We’ve got some [shows] coming in the spring and summer, summer festivals in Europe and stuff. We’ll be busy, so right after the summer, we’re going to start recording this new record. So from now until then, until [around] the end of spring, we’re gonna be writing, writing, writing.
BAM: Don’t you have a DVD coming out, too?
Ted: Ahh, a thrashumentary, by the way. It’s basically about this whole Relentless Retribution touring cycle. It’s filmed by Tommy Jones, who did our River of Rapture video. We saw the rough cuts, and it’s looking really good, [with] the vibe of U2’s Rattle and Hum. It’s not going to be your ordinary metal video.
BAM: That’s going to be released when?
Ted: Sometime in the spring.
BAM: Cool, so the DVD is going to be timed around the release the new album?
Ted: Yeah, it’s going to buy us some time…We’ve got a lot of things [coming up.]
BAM: What did you think about BAM? Do you remember BAM, growing up?
Ted: Come on, I remember Sara Tassione, Steffan Chirazi [both BAM writers]. I remember all the ads of The Omni, The Stone…
BAM: What did BAM mean to you when you were a kid?
Ted: It was great. It was always something to look forward to, the interviews and who’s playing. There were always great interviews, it kept the scene healthy. You know, the publication BAM was great, I used to always see interviews or ads on Babylon AD, Sister Strange, Mr. Hyde…Then when a big show would come, like Death Angel or Violence, it was like, you’d look forward to it. BAM Magazine was a great supporter of the Bay Area scene, whether it’s metal, glam or rock. I went to all those shows and they were always packed, a lot of it because BAM supported it. I loved it. I still own a few [issues]. I’m stoked! I’m glad it’s coming back!
BAM: Thank you, and best of luck to you!
Ted: Thank you very much.