Hey there guys. Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions for Skullbanger Media. I guess the first place to start is can you tell us a little yourselves and your band Midnite Hellion?
MIDNITE HELLION: Hey TJ! Thanks for having us. We’re a Heavy Metal band from Trenton, NJ. Having formed in April 2011, we have two releases out currently, the most recent being our “Enter The Unknown” EP. You have all three of us here today, lead guitarist Dan Sclavi, bassist Bill Dripps, and drummer Drew Rizzo.
I recently reviewed you EP ‘Into The Unknown’ and immediately noticed a New Wave of British Heavy Metal sound. I’m assuming this was a conscious effort. What is it about this sound/era that influences you to make music along this same style?
DR: When the band started, we didn’t set out to say that we’re going to be a NWOBHM style or first wave of Heavy Metal; we just knew we wanted to play Heavy Metal and we wrote from the heart. Collective influences definitely are strongly rooted in the NWOBHM movement, but also the 80’s Thrash and Speed Metal movements as well as the sounds of 60’s and 70’s Heavy Metal, Death Metal, and Doom Metal. Basically, we set out to write music that we would like to listen to, and voila! I do have to say that I was listening to a lot of Rainbow and DIO when the band first started, which I do believe influenced some of my early writing contributions.
BD: The ubiquitous raw sound and power of NWOBHM bands is what initially drew me to that era of metal, and the variety of styles therein kept me listening. All of those genres that influence us either emerged or came to their prototypical state within the heyday of NWOBHM. We didn’t make a conscious effort to write a NWOBHM EP so much as we wrote in the style of our collective influence, which mostly seeded from that time in the history of metal.
DS: The rawness of the sound of those bands such as Saxon; simple riffs yet they’re not boring, very heavy. Then you also have bands like Maiden, Diamond Head, and Satan with speed, and also a little melody on top which I enjoy as well.
Going back to the NWOBHM sound…I am starting to notice a trend with several bands going with this sound such as Holy Grail, White Wizzard, Skullfist, and some others. In your opinion do you think it’s a desire to go back to a more raw sound when the metal of the early 80’s had that “special” feel to it that made a fan feel they could have a bond and connect with the band easier?
DS: I think it is a desire to go back to that earlier metal sound. Personally, the majority of the bands and albums I listen to came out in the 80’s. I think a big factor to is production. And the 80’s releases had an organic sound. Nowadays, too many bands have over produced recordings, with muddy guitar tone and drums that sound like a drum machine. I like a human feel to the production.
BD: The reason any band emerges in any scene is that people like what they hear and become fans. The mentality is not so much “X band is playing X music so we have to worship them”, in fact, it’s the other way around. People like to hear certain music, and then the bands that play it. The “connection” or “bond” between band and fans is that they all like the same kind of music.
DR: I do believe that it’s a desire to go back to an earlier sound as well. Extreme Metal is already starting to break the boundaries and there is nowhere left to go to. The music would become impossible to replicate if it were to get any faster and would eventually just turn into white noise. Having said that, I think people are starting to look back into the earlier forms of Metal and are finding a stronger appreciation for it again. The 80’s Metal most definitely has a very special feel to it, and like Dan said, I believe it’s because it was organic as well as the recording process. The bands tended to record live together for drums, rhythm guitars, and bass to capture the energy of the band when recording the drums, and then overdub the rhythm guitar and bass tracks if needed be. Also, the analog recording equipment largely added to the warmth of the records.
So other than the old school metal sound that influences you what else do you draw inspiration from when writing songs?
DS: I’d say blues or classic rock. A lot of our songs are about the supernatural which is an interesting subject.
DR: I listen to many genres of music, which does play an influence on my writing and approach. I’ve recently been listening to a lot of 50’s Rock and Pop again, which I’ve always enjoyed but haven’t been focusing on a lot in recent times. Also, Jazz, Blues, Classic Rock, old Punk, old Hardcore, first wave of Ska, Swing, and the very first wave of Rap find their way into my ears on a fairly regular basis. I believe that it all helps to draw musical influence one way or another, as well as life experiences in general.
I’m currently living in Finland where the Heavy Metal scene is strong. I came from Tennessee where, well metal was not so strong, how is the metal scene doing in New Jersey? I noticed that in America the scene is stronger in the northern cities more. Do you have a lot of up and coming bands in the area that are worth looking into?
DS: Yeah there are plenty of bands worth checking out. We live an hour away from New York City where there are a lot of bands.
BD: There are myriad bands playing in this area, like Condition Critical and Asphyxiating, but what seems to be lacking in the area are good metal venues. Champs in Trenton seems to be the best venue for underground metal in our immediate area, but places outside of there are few and far between. We also tend to play in NYC a good amount besides the NJ gigs.
DR: NYC has a ton of killer bands that seem to be emerging on a daily basis. One of note is Bröhammer, whose singer has helped us out in the past. There’s also a program called Metal Thunder Radio, who did something really cool back in January where they broadcasted a complete live show on their radio show so fans from all over the world could listen in as the action was happening, and we were honored to have been a part of it. Lately, Jersey has had a vast amount of new noteworthy bands as well as older bands reforming such as Attacker. I do agree with you that the Northern states do seem to have more action in terms of Metal, with the Ragnarökkr Fest in Chicago and the Warriors of Metal Open Air in OH bringing in bands from all over the world. We’re also very fortunate as to where we live because most tours stop within an hour of us so concerts are definitely plentiful, as well as opportunities for performing with the touring acts. Unfortunately, there are only a select few active Jersey venues left for original music, but majority of them are quite excellent.
You have your EP Into The Unknown available now. Can you tell us your plans for a full length album? I know you just recently lost your lead singer and guitarist due to commitment issues, can you elaborate on that any?
DS: We are currently writing new material for the full length. Our former lead guitarist, Mario, who played every gig so far with us, had to leave due to returning to college, and our former singer, Scott, had to leave due to work responsibilities.
DR: Also our latest guitarist, Matt, left after a few short weeks due to having too much on his plate. He was active in two other bands before joining, which both reformed shortly after he joined MIDNITE HELLION.
We all know New Jersey’s greatest claim to fame is the Aqua Teen Hunger Force. Who is your favorite character? Any other answer but Carl is WRONG.
DR: Carl, but if that program is truly Jersey’s great claim to fame, I think we’re going to have to do something about that, haha!
Ok. I’m going to list three things. Tell me the first thing that comes to mind or which you prefer. 1. 2 Minutes to Midnight or Hellion? 2. Captain Kirk or Captian Picard 3. Snooki
DS: Hellion, picard, no comment.
BD: 2 Minutes to Midnight, Picard, ?
DR: Hellion, Captain Kangaroo, and the fact that Hoboken denied Snooki and Jwow for their spinoff program forcing them to relocate to Jersey Shitty gives me a new respect for the town.
Well that just about wraps it up. Is there anything you want to say before we go? What we can expect in the near future from Midnite Hellion?
MH: Thank you for having us, TJ! It’s been a true pleasure doing this with you, and thank you again for reviewing our EP. A full-length release is slated for later in the year, with touring to support it hopefully all over the US and Europe. We’ll be supporting DIAMOND HEAD in April and the OZ/OCTOBER 31 “Turn The States Upside Down” tour in May, so if anybody is in the area, come out to some killer shows! All current information can be found at http://www.midnitehellion.com and http://www.facebook.com/midnitehellion, and you can check out the live action at http://www.youtube.com/midnitehellion and http://www.youtube.com/strunza. Cheers, and keep the flame of Metal burning strong!
No problem guys and thanks again for taking the time to answer even the silly questions! I hope you continue to tear up New Jersey!