Headbanger isn't a man reowned for his love of the understatement;
to this Shakespeare Of Speedhem, nothing is simply "poor"
when it can be a "pile of steaming crap", and something
is rarely "good" when it could be "the bone-shattering,
when the good Harold comes bursting into Spotlight City, face
the colour of a baboon's jacksie, ears steaming like an outdoor
urinal in winter and white-knuckled hands frantically waving his
latest album review copy like MacMillan on sulphate, most unflappable
folk would be ready to take the imminent shower superlatives with
a pinch, nay a fistful, of salt.
was the senario for the Double Aitch's most recent rave, Flotsam
And Jetsam's debut disc, "Doomsday For The Deceiver".
The best trash album I've ever heard! quoth he. "It's that
good - I kid you not!" he promised passionately. "I
guarantee you'll be amazed!" he squealed at the end of a
hot-headed, hilariously hyperbolical six-K kritique. And sodium
chloride was duly passed among the sober cyhics
should one capable of such stunningly accurate statements as "Ted
Nugent stinks!" always be taken so lightly? I, in a disnal,
diet,stricken state of sobriety, throught not, and when claims
of "impressive musicianship" were uttered from that
frothing HH cake 'ole, there was nothing for it but to check the
thing out for myself. And d'ya know what? That sonofaroadie was
Flotsam And Jetsam's "Doomsday For The Deceiver" is
indeed a K-ridden killer, turbo-charged with all the speed this
side of Brands Hatch and yet filled head, shoulders and private
parts above the monotonous majority of Thrash bash I'vbe had the
gross misfortune to encounter by nifty songs, smarter-than,average
lyrics and ... yes, might fine musicianship!
not for one micro-secong suggesting that the Flots are some sort
of perverted Thrash equivalent of Yes , although "Tales of
Topographic Oceans" might sound better at 180 mph, but just
that for those Metal fans with considerably more brain cells than
Thrash albums to their name, this "Doomsday ..." thing
could be a real eye-opener.
to the dog'n'bone and a week-long 8000 call attemp to contact
Flots in their hometown of Phoenix, Arizona. The band were founded
there during '84 - the current line-up being completed by arrival
of Michael Gilbert in Feb '85 - and they first turned people's
heads with their "Metal Shock" demo which surfaced in
track from the demo, "I Live, You Die", was selected
by Metal Blade Records to appear on their "Metal Massacre
VII" album, and indeed further attention was gained by the
band's second demo, "1985 Bootleg", from which "Hammerhead"
and "Iron Tears" were chosen by New Rennaissance Records
to appear on the "Speed Metal Hell II" compilation.
then until the release of "Doomsday ..." FAJ pretty
much launched themselves at the South West Metal audiences, playing
with the likes Alcatrazz, Armored Saint, Malice, Autography, Megadeth
and many more, and building up quite a reserve of local support
I finally tap into the warmth of South West America on chilly
London evening in October, it's not surprisingly bassist Jason
Newsted I talk to. A founder member of Flots, Jason is the band's
prime pensman, manager, agent and spokesman, and appears to be
capable in these capacities, leaving the rest of the krew , singer
Eric A.K., drummer Kelly David-Smith and guitarists Edward Carlson
and Michael Gilbert , to get on with the job of whipping up that
manic-yet-mature, chaotic-yet-classy FAJ sound.
get the ball rolling, I ask Jason if he considers that "FAJ
sound" to be Thrash Metal.
we're more of a Power Metal band than a Thrash metal band,"
he claims, leaving me wondering what on earth is diffirence! "We
do play fast, but we're more into the melodic side of things and
our music is much more refined than Thrash. With Thrash you can't
hear what's goin' on and and it's just like, noise, with what
we play - US Power Metal - you can hear the melodies and all the
other subtleties. I thought the best description of us was Harry
headbanger said in Kerrang!: "Thrash with an IQ". yeah,
that's just how we feel."
are FAJ disassociating themselves from the Thrash movement?
really," Jason says, "it's just that we've got a lot
more to offer than most of those bands, and I wouldn't like us
to be bunched in with them. We do listen to a lot of Thrash bands
- I mean, I really like the Crumbsuckers - but that's not all
we listen to. I like listening to classical music a lot, particularly
Paganini and Bach, and I also like people like Stanley Jordan,
Al Dimeola, Dixie Dregs and John McClaughin - sý I have
a lot of influences coming in at me. In one evening I might be
listening Bach one minute and Slayer the next!
I'm glad bands like Metallica and Slayer have been signed to major
labels, because that has opened a lot of doors for the whole new
wave of Metal that's around right now. I don't know if Thrash
will ever reach a point where you'll here it being played on the
radio as often as genesis or anything like that, but at the moment
it seems to be picking up popularity and that's a good thing.
Essence of the most Thrash is, ofcourse, speeed. But I wondered
how important speed is to FAJ's so-called Power Metal.
we like to play fast, but it's also important to be melodic, precise
and in control of the song," Jason explains. "This band
plays a lot of real fast songs but, but I also like to play slow,
where you can be real melodic and create a lot of feeling with
it difficult to be melodic when you're playing at the speed of
really," Jason reckons, "it's all down to the construction
and arrangements of the music. If you've got that right and you've
also got the right guys to play it, then it's not hard at all.
But I don't know of too many bands who can be melodic and real
fast at the same time."
re obviously proud of your melodic side, but do you deliberately
try to be faster than the next band as well?
... I don't know," Jason confesses. "We don't playfast
just for the hell of it" we play songs of diffirent speeds
and hopefully the ones we do that are real fast are only done
like that because they should better and more effective that way."
playing fast require a lot of practice?
we practice a lot - much more than a lot of other bands I can
tell you! - and a lot of that practice is for us to build up stimina,"
Jason tells me. "When you're playing Power Metal like us
onstage for a long time it really takes it out of you, and if
you haven't worked on your stamina then you're in real trouble.
We go over our songs until we're so tight and so fit we just know
we're gonna be hot onstage."
lyrics that important when you're playing so fast?
yeah, our lyrics are very important to us," Jason emphasises,
"and so are our vocals. Every member of the band sings, so
we perform live we can really make an impact with our vocals,
they come across real powerful. But with a lot of Thrash bands
you can't understand the words at all, and in any case, these
people just seem to wanna sing about satan an' that kinda stuff
- I guess becauseit's so easy to rhyme "death" with
"last breath" and stuff like that - so it doesn't really
mater if you can't hear what they're saying."
your lyrics, it's so obvious you're anti-Satan.
I don't know if I wanna come out and say we're anti-Satan any
more," jason ponders, "because I don't want it to be
thought of asd a kinda Stryper, hyped-up, gimmicky sorta thing.
But we are diffirent from all these other bands who seem to think
it's great to sing about Satan just because it might get some
attention and publicity. We want to be diffirent from that."
from occasional lapse into clichedom (see "Hammerhad"),
FAJ do manage to keep their lyrics interesting, and, in the case
of "U.L.S.W" (Which, Jason assures me, stands for Ugly
Little Slimy Wench and is ineviably about groupies) quite humorous.
But it's the more serious stuff on the lyric sheet that caught
my eye, and in particular trax like "Der Führer"
and She Took An Axe", concerning Adolf Hitler and Lizzie
fascinated by all these evil, black-hearted people who gained
so much power simply through what they said and did," Jason
explains. "I mean, how did such a monster as Hitler gain
so much power? he was killing, like, 12 million people or something
for no reason, and yet there was a whole nation of people worshipping
him and follow him just because he got up there and gave all these
wild speeches! I just had to write about it."
Lizzie Borden was another character who fascinated me. This bitch
was a lesbian and her mom caught her with the maid, so her mom
fired the maid ... and Lizzie killed her mom with an axe! She
also slaughtered her father ... and then got away with it! She
got let free! That's what really fascinated me about that story,
and again, I was just inspired to write about it. I spend a lot
of time going through books - especially encyclopedias - looking
inspiratioýn for the epic nine-minute title track of the
FAJ album, "Doomsday for the Deceiver", came more from
Jason's own personal anti-Satan stance than from any encyclopedia,
however. Flotsam and Jetsam - names taken from from Tolkien's
"Lord of The Rings" - are misfits, outcasts and drifters
by definition, who worship a figure called Flotzilla, a survivor
of the holocaust who seeks to kill the Devil (or Deceiver). Jason
takes up the story.
in this case is the hero of Metal and he fights the Deceiver,
who has turned the world into a living nightmare. ("Belial
begins his scheming, treacherous plan / Turns brother on brother,
toys with the leaders of man / He creates before them illusions
and broken truce / A wicked plot of deception that commanders
cannot refuse / In a short time he has control, USA, Russia -
chaos from pole to pole / Mankind's worst nightmare, it's too
late to pray / Hold tight and take your last breath, and missiles
are on their way")
ofcourse Flotzilla rises to challenge and manages to triumph over
the deceiver ("The air is charged with Power Metal, Flotzilla's
eyes glow as he feeds / The clash begins, a fight 'til death,
such power never seen before / Thrashing jaws, slashing claws,
dealing the darkside's fate; the Deceiver's doom this day!"),
ridding the world of evil," Jason concludes.
really the main theme of the album and it's continued on the first
track of side two, "Metal Shock", which is about life
after holocaust and how Metal somohow becomes the saviour of mankind,
giving it the power to recover ("... until World War Four")."
fanciful stuff. Will Flotsam And Jetsam achieve similar successin
the "real" world of Thrash/Speed/Power (call it wotcha
Interview poublished on the net for the first time by MFC
Images scanned by MFC