Magazine: Rock Hard Germany
Report: Thrash Of The Titans
Venue: Maritime Hall - San Francisco / USA

Written by: Thomas Kupfer & Götz Kühnemund
Published: October 2001
Pics: Alex Solca, Thomas Kupfer* & Jeff Rappaport**



For many a die hard Thrasher it was probably the most spectacular festival-bill of all time: almost every Bay-Area band of the eighties (apart from Metallica, Megadeth, Blind Illusion and the recently cancelled Laaz Rockit) and their friends from Anthrax, S.O.D. and Flotsam & Jetsam spontaniously reported for the job, to support their friend Chuck Billy who is sick from cancer. Thomas Kupfer and Götz Kühnemund got on their way to the one and only Metal-Metropolis, San Francisco, to meet some old acquintances once more.

Machine Head's Adam Bruce

Interview with Chuck Billy by Götz Kühnemund.

Chuck, how are you?

Considering the circumstances pretty good. I just finished three months of chemotherapy and I will hear the next couple of days whether or not I have to undergo surgery.

This festival was initiated by your roommate Walter. Did he surprise you with the idea?

You can say that indeed! I didn't know anything of the idea up till a few weeks ago. Walter knew I had a rough time financially and I would have a hard time to deal with the fall out of the work with Testament financially. Therefore he organized this great Old-School-Festival, for which I'm truly grateful.

Did it surprise you that almost all your old buddies promised?

Yes, it surprised me indeed. Some of the musicians that are on stage here had completely vanished from the face of the earth.

You plan to give half of the proceeds to Chuck Schuldiner.
(Which Chuck Billy already did and for which the Schuldiner's are grateful beyond words/YK) Was this your idea?

Yes. I'm in contact with Chuck and his mom and I know how hard help is needed there. It's great that all my Bay Area-Friends want to help me out, but Chuck Schuldiner is doing far worse than me. I came out of my chemotherapy pretty undamaged -beside the loss of hair and the weight gain. Chuck on the other hand, is having a very hard time financially and on top of that his health gotten worse. At the moment he's taking a new medicine which isn't really tested and has very heavy side effects.

Did you have to rearange your life?

Yes, I quit drinking and smoking pot and I can't eat everything that I would like to eat.

How will your music career go from here?

It will take some time, before I can tour with Testament again, but I don't doubt at all that I'll make it. After all the hardest part of my illness is already behind me.

Festival review:

It's been over ten years since we first travelled to San Francisco to investigate the scene over there. At the end of the eighties and early nineties the Bay Area-Scene was the musical opposite of the trendy Los Angeles, where "poser"-bands dominated, and brought about a dozen bands, whose mere mention still make the connoisseurs slaver. Ten years later there's not much left from the once prosperous location. Metallica and Machine Head probably, the best known Bay Area-bands, 40 Grit, Skinlab and Unjust represent the second generation, and with Man Made God is the hopeful newcomber in the starting blocks. The rest is depressing....

...which there wasn't much of when the Heathen guitarists Lee Altus and Ira Black welcomed us at the airport. Ira (just recently on the road in Europe as Vicious Rumors guitarist) as well as Lee (lost all joy in music after the short guest appearance with Die Krupps) are looking forward to this show. They will of course never admit it, but the fact that Lee's small house has tons of guitars, effects and amplyfiers laying around, says enough...

Change of scenes: In a building in the darkest part of Oakland rages the normal Bay Area-madness. One after another Forbidden, Heathen, Testament and Legacy rehearse. The Vio-Lence-guys start off, fans from Japan and Sweden come by as a matter of course -and the old public spirit suddenly rises again. With all its bizarre excesses: Heathen vocalist David White complains about the volume of the guitarists; who grin and -when Dave leaves the room for a second- turn up their amps even more. The setlist gets discussed as well as the running-order of the show, because the demand from Vio-Lence to play at the end sets bad blood. The organizers visit the scene and with the right amount of dope and beer a spontaneous party starts. Demos from new projects are being exchanged. Although every musician swears to not having played "the old songs in years", it's amazing how tightly all band present themselves. The former Legacy and Exodus vocalist Steve "Zetro" Souza states at the end of the night, somewhat embittered: "it's great to see the old friends again and to revel in memories. Every musician present here has more potential as the current charts toppers. The music industry sold out the entire Bay Area-scene and with it squeezed it like a lemon. Everybody made money out of it except the musicians, and when we didn't bring about enough money anymore we were replaced by the next trend. But we're not dead yet -and we will come again!"


On showday the frustrations of the true friends are vanished. And HEATHEN, opening explicitely asked for by vocalist David, are being welcomed as returned lost sons by the 700 fans already present of the 2300 in the sold-out venue. David, who's been living the past few years as a "born-again Christian", in any case didn't want to mingle with the ego struggles of the other bands. "We're all here to help Chuck- personal vanities are completely out of place here." Indeed, especially because Heathen delivered a brilliant show: the demanding guitar harmonies were played perfectly, and behind the backline the son of the deceased Vicious Rumors-vocalist Carl Albert (Carl Albert jr.) together with Ira's two-year old son and heir bang their souls out. But not only the guitar duo Lee Altus/Ira Black did an excelent job: David White's vocals were beyond all doubts, Darren Minter (also active with the Krupps for a while) worked his drum kit into the ground, and true bassist Yaz -a ruthless Party-Animal- took unselfish care of the very special contributions to the show. Especially his totally sensless announcements were hilarious: when Dave after "Open The Grave" and "Set Me Free" directed some words towards Chuck Billy, Yaz supported him by summoning all women to call him at his voluntarily given number after the show. He would "satisfy their lusts guaranteed".... After this intermezzo the show was continued with "Goblin's Blade", "Heathen's Song" and "Opiate Of The Masses" it ended way too soon. Hopefully we'll get a chance to see this band again at one of the next years' Open Airs! (tk)

The second band FLOTSAM & JETSAM didn't fit quite into the image next to S.O.D. and Anthrax. Because a) they're not from the Bay Area and b) they weren't reformed for this benefit-festival. How did Eric and company (who as we later that week found out, played with this festival his last gig with F&J) get on this bill? The answer: they were asked at the last minute to fill in the gap Laaz Rockit left, which singer Michael Coons was admitted in a rehabilitation centre. Thinking of Hetfield and associates, apparently one of the Bay Area favorite places to be. Apropos Metallica: of course Lars, Kirk and Jason -next to some other promise as Tom Araya, Paul Bostaph and John Tempesta- were invited, but none of the three showed up in the Maritime Hall. Jason supposedly unable to come, and Kirk and "Shit Talker" Lars (as he's being called in the Bay Area) according to inside information, were threatened by Exodus. Both didn't dare to come to the lion's cave. But back to Flotsam: the old thrashers are hardly recognizable on stage (who privately belong to the most introvert bands ever anyway), played as if they had to prove that their appearance here was legitimate. On the setlist were songs from the "Metal Shock"-demo ('Hammerhead') to the last album "My God" ('Dig Me Up To Burry Me') and they were being received pretty well by 1500 visitors. The true highlights, as we all knew, were still to come.... (gk)

I have to confess, I never did care much for the Techno-Thrash of SADUS, not even when math students as colleague Kaiser, upon hearing the name, wet their pants. On this evening their performance suffered from a quite indefinable sound, which killed the many nuances of the complex material. Still the trio was received well in the packed venue, and fired tracks as "Sadus Attack", the enchanted applauded "Crutch", "Certain Death" and "Twisted Face" into the auditorium. As been said about the stylistic character of the band spirits may be devided, but judges for their instrumental capabilities Sadus was one of the best bands of the festival. (tk)

After Sadus with FORBIDDEN EVIL (cool, that they performed under their Demo-Name!) followed the first real highlight of the day. Loudly announced from a tastelessly dressed Billy Milano, who played the pause clown all day. And Forbidden Evil, with Russ Anderson on the mike in a shining mood, played the show of their lives! Squatters like "Off The Edge", "Through Eyes Of Glass", "One Foot In Hell" and the old demo-classic "Chalice Of Blood" changed the entire venue in a gigantic Moshpit, in which several Scene-veterans took part. When on top of that Paul Bostaph (ex-Forbidden drummer) took place behind the drumkit, nothing could be stopped! Nobody was bothered about the fact that original guitarist Craig Locicero couldn't be here because he's in the studio with his new band, Man Made God, at the moment nor about the fact that bassist Matt Camacho almost cut as much hair as Russ Anderson gained weight. Shortly, it was gigantic! (gk)

Then came the (premature) highlight of the entire festival: when DEATH ANGEL entered the stage to greet the audience, hell broke loose and we had the feeling that we were being catapulted right back into the glory days of the Bay Area! Frontman Mark Osegueda whiped up the feeling to unexpected heights, thanked the audience, that came from all corners of the country, heartened Chuck Billy and delivered an unbelievable gig with his band. Already with the old demo-classic "Kill As One" things couldn't be stopped anymore, the audience were upside down. The band self were visibly surprised and grew further during the show, stimulated by the unbelievable reaction from the audience, and fired killer songs as "Mistress Of Pain" or the last song "Seemingly Endless Time" super tight through the speakers. This band definitely split up too soon, the Death Angel members are only in the late 20's, and have enough fire within to start a second career. When the band after this world class show said goodbye and left the stage totally exhausted, there only were shining and enchanted faces all around. There will be another Death Angel gig in San Francisco in October but a reunion is not in discussion.

If there was to be one band in the Bay Area that was looked up to by all musicians respectfully it would have to be EXODUS. For the "Godfathers Of Thrash Metal" were waited with great tension- and the band presented themselves, considering their unhealthy way of life, pretty tight. According to guitarist Gary Holt (meanwhile pushing forward a proud belly) they were able to pull themselves through 5 rehearsels, and although with every rehearsal only two songs were being played and then they got back to drinking beer and smoking pot again, the band ruled. Beside the somewhat jolting start, which was due to the fact that there wasn't any monitor sound and the opener "Pleasures Of The Flesh" wasn't appropriate while everybody was awaiting "Bonded By Blood". It took some time for the band to warm up, but then killer songs like "And Then There Were None" and "Exodus" were blown out of the PA sharp as knives. Bassist Jack Gibson together with drummer Tom Hunting took care of a super tight groove, the "H-team" Rick Hunolt and Gary Holt gave every guitar student visual college free of charge and frontman Paul Baloff roared himself like an irritated sow, through the gig. Some things (thank God) never change. Baloff, who reminds me more and more of a freak brother from the legendary Robert Crumb-comics, was visible happy when Zetro Souza climb the stage to share the vocals of "Brain Dead". Cool show and at the same time a reconciliation of the Exodus guys! (tk)

didn't actually fit into the bill, but got greeted with the same loudness as all previous bands, which could also be because of the unbelievable popularity of mister Milano. And indeed Billy was in excellent shape today: earlier causing lots of laughs as the pause clown, during the S.O.D. set he just outgrew himself: he made a fool of everybody including himself, made class announcements and imitated the quaking voice of his sidekick Scott Ian inimitable: every time Scott tried to say a few words, the entire venue fell laughing on the ground! Even sleeping pills Danny Liker was wide awake, having visible fun and banged like a madman. Only disappointment of the short gig: Tom Araya didn't show up, as planned, for a familiar version of "Raining Blood" because his son was loudly protesting and daddy had to go home early. Therefore S.O.D. played the Slayer song, out of necessity, as a short instrumental and left the stage to make place for the next band. (gk)

To celebrate the day ANTHRAX only played songs from the Belladonna period, even vocalist John Bush was excited about it. The fact that he's singing songs like "Caught In A Mosh", "Indians", "Gung-Ho", "Got The Time" or "Bring The Noise" better than his predecessor is already known. That they would receive such euphoria in the Bay Area, Thomas and I never would have guessed that to be possible. Anthrax was celebrated as if they had been vanished for this earth for the past ten years, and with as much joy they played. Chuck Billy watched the spectacle from out his "hiding" behind Charlie Benantes drumkit and was later as enchanted by his New York friends as the rest of the employees. (gk)

In the Bay Area the opinions about VIO-LENCE are divided. While the fans like to refer to the unbelievable agressive live-shows of the combo, critics counter with the arguments that these guys are merely a second generation Bay Area-Thrash band and therefore are a weak copy from things that have already been. The truth as always is somewhere in the middle. But one fact can't be argued about, and that's that Vio-Lence celebrated thrash metal in its most original form. Riffs sewed to riffs, seldom were there any "disturbing" melodic lines, and the band around the truely crazy frontman Sean Killian spread an almost touchable power. Yet with the demand of getting high on the billing they didn't do themselves a favor, because the Maritim Hall at this point already emptied, but with songs like "Bodies On Bodies" or "World In A World" the guys whiped up their die hard fans once more. A pity that Robb Flynn was not persuaded to be part of this gig. (tk)

When, loudly demanded by the audience LEGACY entered the stage at 2AM, it was just once more unfasten all power reserves. Meanwhile short haired Alex Skolnick was celebrated from his first solo as was Ritchie Blackmore in his best days. Which proves the exceptional value of the Bay Area-String King. Even frontman Zetro, who sang quite more melodic LEGACY than later on with Exodus, was exited about his band colleague: "Look at this guy!", he stated more than once. "Isn't he unbelievable?!". Indeed! Alex played old demo-classics like "Alone In The Dark", "Burnt Offering" and "Reign Of Terror" like a young God, and didn't let Paul Bostaph and Steve DiGiorgio (who both climbed on the stage later) eat the Show-butter from his bread. Just when the LEGACY set was slowly diluted with Testament songs, Alex stepped back from the stagelights to make place for two other star guests: first White Zombie/Rob Zombie-drummer John Tempesta got behind the drumkit playing "Over The Wall" and somewhat later to crown the day, Chuck Billy himself got on stage to fire a mercyless version of "Into The Pit" into the audience. The following cheers of "Chuck! Chuck!" echoed in our ears for long.....(gk)


Walter Morgan, organizer of the Thrash Of The Titans benefit regarding his motives to get the festival going:

"For a few years I've been living with Chuck Billy and I used to work for bands like Legacy, Exodus and also Testament. When Chuck was diagnosed with cancer, I immediately got the idea to organize a benefit show. Chuck gave a lot to the Bay Area community, and I realised pretty quickly that his illness would get him into financial problems, because he can't do -beside Testament- his normal job as well. In a perfect world this would not have happened, but I'm glad we took the risk of this show. Vio-Lence, Forbidden and Exodus are actually talking about recording another album, the Death Angel guys would have never reformed if this special occasion would not have taken place, so the circle has come 'round again.

Personally the most beautiful part of this event is the relaxed atmosphere, all the musicians took their kids with them. Even Tom Araya made the trip with his wife and two kids." (tk)

Chuck Billy *

Steve Di Giorgio (r)

Billy Milano

Death Angel

Exodus with Zetro & Baloff

Ira Black **

Flotsam & Jetsam

Darren Travis

Glen Alvelais

Mark Osegueda

Rick Hunolt

Danny Lilker



Alex Skolnick

Walter Morgan*


to gigs

Translated by YK/MM for EmptyWords-Published on September 25 2001