Interview with Dyanne Davis, RoadBand, USA

transcript of a online chat interview by Dyanne Davis

first published in RoadBand Ezine USA February 2002
transcribed by the RoadBand staff and used by permission

Predator

During the early 80’s to the early 90’s, metal band Vengeance Incorporated were one of the stars of the burgeoning power metal scene. The pioneers of power metal, that guitar lick driven brand of metal with operatic vocals, blazing solos and technically proficient rhythm sections were spear-headed by Judas Priest.

Vengeance’s lead singer and bassist, Guy, was a lead guitarist in Vengeance in the early days, and according to him, although the Beatles were an early favorite and he calls Queen his probable life-time fav band, Priest were the biggest influence on Vengeance Incorporated’s sound and song-writing style.

I sat down (virtually, using online chat) with Guy recently for a wide-rangeing talk about his and his band’s history of enjoying and playing Priest’s music, which ended up talking a least as much about the history of Vengeance Incorporated as well.

It combines to make a very informative and interesting interview. It’s a long one, edited down from a nearly 2 hour conversation where we talked about our favorite bands and the ’80s metal scene, which actually came about while I was a toddler, but an interview I think you’ll enjoy if you are a Priest fan, a Vengeance fan and a fan of Power Metal in general.

Dyanne Davis: So why was Judas Priest such a big influence on Vengeance Inc.?

Guy: First and foremost, I think, Vengeance was influenced by Priest. Sabbath had kind of a quirky style, this seems presumptuous of me to say, but a lot of the older stuff, up to and including Volume IV, anyway, seemed really dumbed down music, in our early days the Dio stuff hadn’t happened yet.

I don’t want to go off tangent talking about Sabbath but Sabbath Bloody Sabbath and Sabotage were brilliant and we played Sabra Cadabra in the early band, even when it was a 3-piece with me a sole guitarist, but Priest was sheer driving menace, even more so than Maiden, which we played a lot of as well.

Scorpions would be the 3rd band, we loved them, but very few of their songs translated well live, I think we did He’s a Woman but a lot of other bands were doing that song and we tried to do stuff no one else did, it was a real point of pride with us. Like, we would never have played The Zoo.

Except Priest. We felt we could play it better than the other local bands, and Priest‘s songs just perfectly fit our style, although our vocalist couldn’t really do Halford, he gave it a game shot, and at that point we were just a keg party band anyway.

Vocals weren’t the main focal point, lead guitar was, that’s what the crowd came to see and the crunch of the band, and Priest was the perfect vehicle for that.

Very dramatic, theatrical, but with the pure power, always the drive and bottom end, no other band had that persistent, unrelenting slam to the chest Priest had.

Predator

DD: Ok, so can we do album by album? Which one was the first, which one popped your cherry for Priest.
Guy: Cherry, that’s good.Herb was our first real drummer, Herb’s brother, Henri, himself an excellent guitarist, turned me on to like 5 records one day that changed my life.

I was a total Beatles freak, and almost all other music seemed less than compared to them. We played some Cooper and Deep Purple and Wings and Sweet, but I was a Beatles freak.

I didn’t really know too much about heavy metal. ThenHenri came home from the record store and I was just showing up at his front door and he had these albums, I remember them to this day.

He had Taken By Force, Scorpions, which still has the best guitar solo I’d ever heard, Sails of Charon and a huge influence on our later lead guitarist, Curt, he loved Uli, and Michael Schenker.

So Taken by Force, and Cheap Trick In Color, another fantastic album that was very raw, but with great hooks, and very 4 piece oriented, and I really loved bands like that because you wanted stuff you could recreate it live with a garage band, which to be honest is what we were.

One was Long Live Rock and Roll, Rainbow, and Blackmore did a lot of pull-offs, the precursor to tapping for playing very densely, with a lot of notes mimicking speed, and that influenced me greatly, the first song, Kill the King, which we later covered, had a really wonderful solo.

Another was UFO Lights Out, I could go on and on about that album, we later did a lot of UFO, another staple for us, but lastly and most strikingly, Sin After Sin by Priest.

He put on the 2nd side first actually, Call for the Priest.

Raw Deal, with this double guitar intro, and then the heaviest riff/drum combo I’d ever even dreamed of, it just drove and kept on driving, like driving a fast car with a manual shift where you speed shift, heh I could go on. But anyway, it just blew my socks off.

And then Sinner, an epic song with a lot of changes, I mean I, we, liked the short, fast punchy stuff but the epics, those were great also and we ended up writing a lot of those ourselves, where you just keep writing and adding parts organically, so it didn’t seem like a cobbled-together song, I really think we got that listening to stuff like this.

And for the short, devastating stuff, Dissident Aggressor, jeez, what can you say.

Curt’s band used to play Diamonds and Rust, he wasn’t in our band then, he was in a rival band, Rapid Fire that actually played bars, but they didn’t have near our following, they played more commercial stuff like that, and later Living After Midnight and Breaking the Law, we tended to avoid what everyone else did.

We ended up not playing, I think, anything off this record, to be honest, but it was a big influence, and I’d have to say it’s one of my 2 favorites of Priest.

Predator

DD: So what about Sad Wings or Rocka-Rolla?
Guy: I discovered those after the fact, of course.

No one in our crowd thought much of Rocka-Rolla, with “Bob” Halford with long hair and the guys in hippie garb, and you couldn’t wrap yourself around any of the tunes, they just weren’t heavy.

I read much, much later that they got screwed by their producer, the great Roger Bain of Sabbath fame, but we didn’t know that at the time and the album was the butt of much derision.

Sad Wings, it was a little rough and scattered, there are some great tunes, but they seemed to have honed them, maybe it’s just the sound, but we got onto those more from Unleashed in the East, I think.

DD: So then Stained Class?
Guy: I wasn’t a reader of trade mags or Circus regularly, so I wasn’t necessarily aware of regular releases, and I missed Stained Class when it first came out, but I became a huge Aerosmith fan after Toys and Rocks and really cut my teeth on them, and Ted Nugent’s first album, when I started playing guitar.

I had an older neighber who played guitar and he showed me pull-off licks, I was playing stuff like the verse of Sweet Emotion with block chords and trying to play Kiss Alive in Ab, and he just opened up a new world to me.

And he got that I really liked the heavier Aerosmith like Nobody’s Fault and Round and Round and he said, you gotta check out this new Priest album, you’re going to love this, and it turned out to be Hellbent for Leather.

Again, life changing, shorter, punchy, to the point songs, but still with melodic hooks in the changes and a lot of musicality, much more so than Sabbath, to my ear.

When we really got the band going, we ended up playing almost every song from that album, especially Green Manalishi, Hellbent for Leather, Running Wild, which was the only song I sang for a long time, I didn’t sing then other than weak backing vocals on Crazy Train or something, btw we played a lot of Ozzy also, Mr. Crowley, Steal Away, Flying High, Believer, Crazy Train, another huge influence and another of Curt’s big influences, Randy.

Anyway, I don’t think we ever played anything from Stained Class for whatever reason, but I got into those 2 albums in a big way.

There was a lot of screaming on Class and it wasn’t pleasant to listen to, and despite I was in a very heavy power metal band, I liked James Taylor and Elton John and the Beatles and Queen, and I liked good melodies and hooks in with the guitar power, and Class had some harsh stuff, Exciter was great of course, but Saints in Hell, Heroes End, Invader, Savage, those didn’t move me.

I liked Better By You, a Spooky Tooth song and Beyond the Realms of Death, but not to play live.

DD: Then their big one, their breakthrough, British Steel.
Guy: Ok, by then we were playing regularly and we were covering a lot of very heavy import stuff, like Holocaust, Trust, Accept, Maiden, a lot of Maiden by then, and British Steel just left us cold.

Curt was still in Rapid Fire then and they played the hell out of that album, but we detested stuff like Breaking the Law and especially Living After Midnight, although we ended up playing that crap when we finally started in the bars, it was a different scene than playing for our buddies at a keg party, there were hundreds of them then, but the drinking age changed to 21 at just that time, and it really killed us, we were in our 20’s and we couldn’t keep playing keg parties, but the scene was not supportive of metal, at all.

Savatage didn’t even exist then, there as a band called Argus that played Gorgon by Angelwitch and stuff like that (which we later copped some of) but that was all, it was not even a hard rock scene, bands played a specific set of band friendly stuff like All Right Now and Mustang Sally, crap like that. We did not fit in.

But I’m getting ahead of myself, we didn’t like British Steel and we moved on to Accept and Maiden and Ozzy at that time.

DD: So I guess Point of Entry, same thing?
Guy: Well no, oddly, we did 2 off that, Heading out on the Highway, which always came off out of tune for some reason on the double lead solo, and Hot Rockin’, which went over gangbusters, and which I understand Priest still does live, so it’s a hell of a song and we recogized that, and our crowd did. But yeah, it was a thin album.

Predator

DD: Then the kind of come-back for Priest, Screaming for Vengeance?
Guy: This was our real heyday, I guess it was 81-82, that album came out and it really struck us, we had these buddies who fed us import stuff, so we had not only Blizzard of Ozz 6 months before it came out in the US, we had Defenders, and we played a Battle of the Bands, and we were in our glory, in those days, probably still, all battles were just set-ups to showcase bands for certain agents, with the winners fore-ordained, they went by tickets you got at the door, then you dropped them in the band of your choice, but as a fail-safe, they had judges who put their thumb on the scale, because they didn’t want to have to give a week’s gig to some upstart band, the main prize, the judges rating would count for 60% of the score so that you couldn’t win just by crowd.

However, there were some oddly very honest judges that night, and one of them had to leave before the final tally of all the bands, so he gave us a 5 our of 10 or something, far above what he was supposed to give the cannon fodder bands, just because we really blew smoke that night, I remember, we came out with Another Thing Coming, that chugging intro, and this, understand was before it was even on the radio in this country, but it was a great, driving power metal song and we fucking tore the roof off that bar, plus our gang knew the song, they were all import aficianados, so even the bought and paid for judges couldn’t deny.

Then we went right into Electric Eye, the intro to it actually, The Hellion, with the double lead thing, and our crowd just went mad.

We also did stuff like Murders in the Rue Morgue, with all those breaks, and Accept, Son of a Bitch, we only had I think 30 minutes, so we did really well and actually won due to those miscalculations, our crowd outpolled the other bands by hundreds of votes in this small local bar, packed to the sky with our crowd, so they had to negotiate with us and give us some Saturdays or something, back then you got a 5 day gig, Tuesday to Saturday night and they didn’t want us in there with the shit-kickers trying to play pool on a Wednesday night, this had been a country bar but they were riding the coming metal wave, which was just hitting Tampa then.

As you know, we talked about, Brandon was this weird hotbed of BNWOHM type bands, us, Savatage and Argus did well there at the little pub called The Brass Mug, Siren, Nasty Savage, Morbid Angel were all around.

So we were right in with all that, and everyone wanted to do gigs with us because we had this amazing following, mostly they were direct friends of Mike’s roommate, Bobby Gibbs, who was our lightman and main fan, and he was a big import metal collector and mix tape maker who would feed us these great tunes, we did Samson, Go to Hell and Ridin’ With the Angels, and Accept and US Metal and Metal For Muthas songs, Girl, Hollywood Tease which had the guy who would later join Def Leppard, Phil Collen, we did a song by Gary Moore’s G Force called Dancin’, Trespass, Stormchild, and Angelwitch, Gorgon, both lifted from Argus, I think Sin City, Have a Drink on Me and Riff Raff by AC/DC, we only mostly liked the Bon Scott era stuff the only Aero we ended up doing, oddly enough, was Walking the Dog.

I remember we played Klaatu Mr. Manson and even Older pre-Mike, some very quirky things.

But Maiden and Priest, those were our main squeezes, we did Hallowed Be Thy Name, that was our big end of show, and Murders, as I said and Wrathchild and the Ozzy, plus the Dio Black Sabbath, a set-piece with solos for all 4 instrumentalists was Heaven and Hell, and we did Mob Rules, so Ozzy, Black Sabbath, Priest and Maiden probably made up half our set list.

Predator

Then, in the year after that, we lost the big band house, an old 2-story farm house were my girlfriend and I had lived for several years, and a number of band members in and out, plus my brother, who had gotten out of the Navy and played drums with us for the 2 really hective, crazy years when we were mini-gods in Brandon, and various bass players, and we rehearsed there.

The landlord finally got to where he wanted us out and it was a real blow, you can’t imagine, there was no where for a loud band to rehearse.

Up until then you could rent mini-warehouses, there were even some who catered to bands, but drugs, all-night parties, break-ins and theft of equipment and cops in response to neighbors 5 miles away complaining about noise had shut almost all of them down, so we were out of business.

And also, right at that time, it became apparent we had to move on to the next step, everyone in the band was over 21, we couldn’t keep playing keg parties, which also by the way the hammer had started to come down on them, someone would throw one and hand out flyers and 2 thousand people, I’m not shitting you, would show up, because where else would teenagers go? Cheap beer, girls and live heavy metal music, which you couldn’t get in the bars, for $5 or whatever at the door? So they started requiring a bond and porto-lets and security and even an ambulance on-site and none of these keggers were organized enough for all that crap, plus no teen drinking, so that killed the scene, we were right there for 2 magic years and it was great, but time marches on.

So first, Curt’s brother Dave came available, he was the best drummer in town, double bass, and my brother, Mitch, great guy and enthusiastic and pretty tight drummer, but self-taught, no rudiments, half-ass kit with cracked cymbals because he never had any money, god love him but we’d outgrown him and it was hard but the guys came to me and said, listen, Dave’s available and he wants to join, and he has a singer, we had about blown the pipes out our current, another great guy named Carl who would attempt to sing whatever we threw at him, I remember Kill the King, which we called Kill the Carl, particularly breaking his balls, also he drank at gigs and had made a real ass of himself and after one particularly shambolic performance, knocking over cymbal stands and one of my guitars, pouring whiskey into a monitor and completely blowing the lyrics for the last set, Mike refused to play with him anymore.

Back then, guitarists were guitarists and solos were everything and we didn’t sing much, so we needed a singer, and Dave and Wayne, a singer, came as a set, and I said yeah, and I had to tell my brother and I think he’s still mad at me, this was in like ’82-83.

But there was friction because this new singer hated the import stuff, he was cool with Priest, but not Maiden, he liked Riot (not Quiet Riot) and Saxon but he was a baritone who could hit a few high notes but not Dickenson and he just flat refused to do stuff he couldn’t hit, unlike Carl who we could bully into whatever we wanted to play, “Hey, we’re doing Green Manalishi, do your best, 1 2 3 4 go!” So Mike and I started singing the stuff he refused to do because our crowd expected it and we needed them to succeed in bars, because the regulars usually hated us.

The upshot is, with no place to practice, Herb, our bass player and Mike vs. Wayne, and Dave liked the heavy stuff but Wayne was his buddy, and they wanted us to get Dave’s brother Curt in the band, and Curt was the man, the best guitarist in town, he could pull off all the Randy stuff we’d just been faking.

I was the leader, so-called, and I’m in the middle of this great tension, and finally Mike just quit.

DD: I was reading a bit of your band history and you guys were like best friends, right? What happened exactly, if you don’t mind talking about it?
Guy: It was really trivial and had nothing to do with the larger issues at hand, but I remember we did finally get a warehouse, but they didn’t allow loud music so we had to sound proof it, Mike had a van and I worked construction so I had a bunch of plywood and studs at my house and he was to bring the stuff to the warehouse so I could put up partition walls and cover them with plywood so we could rehearse for an upcoming gig, and he couldn’t fit it all so he just brought plywood, and I lost my temper and was an asshole about it, I remember with shame, saying “wth am I supposed to do with plywood and no studs”, but the real point was all this conflict just came to head with this stupid little incident and he quit and I immediately felt bad.

Predator

DD: Ouch.
Guy: Of course I regret how it all went down to this day, although it was inevitable and probably best we did break up and regroup, but I was young and stupid but I regret my attitude and assholishness of how we broke up to this day, because Mike was, and still is, my best friend and the heart of the band, we had really taken off when he joined, I wanted to be the only guitarist and Carl, the singer didn’t want any more competition in volume, but Mitch, my brother was a good friend of Mike’s (I was not before he joined the band, I knew him of course) and Herb, our easy-going bass player liked him and talked us into it and it was the best thing that ever happened to me professionally, hooking up with Mike.

I give him a lot of credit for continuing our friendship after all that bad blood and nastiness.

I’ve always been a strong peronality, to put it nicely, sometimes you have to be to run a band and hold it together, but my behaviour and things I said at the time were inexcusable and make me cringe now. However, the past is past and things happen, we’re all older, if not wiser now.

However, it gave us a break, which we needed.Curt did join, Herb left and I moved to bass out of necessity.

Curt, it transpired, LOVED the import and heavy stuff, and we’d done a joke band with me, Herb, an ex-Nasty Savage drummer, forget his name, with Bobby Gibbs singing, and we did even heavier stuff like Plasmatics, andCurt wanted to do that, and Motorhead, and all the Maiden etc. so Wayne, outvoted now with me, Curt and Davey all wanting to do import heavy metal, ended up leaving, and I started singing full-time and on bass full-time.

Mike and I were still friends and he came by regularly, and I was starting to accumulate studio equipment and I got first, a 4 track reel to reel, then an 8 track and with my brother on drums did a bunch of Queen songs and I really learned a lot, not just about over-dubbing and bouncing tracks, but about building harmonies and counter-melodies which figured into our originals later.

DD: So, back to Priest. I guess Defenders of the Faith?
Guy: Also, Screaming, I forgot, Bobby put together a tape intro with SCREAMING, SCREAMING FOR VENGEANCE and some of Gillan’s song Vengeance and other static and bits of noises.

We knew after that album there would be a bunch of Vengeances running around, but we were named for King’s Vengeance, a Thin Lizzy song when Herb and I were looking through albums looking fora name from song titles.

DD: Did you ever do an Thin Lizzy.
Guy: Yeah, but only in the studio, we did 2 tracks for a Tribute to Phil Lynott for an indy producter, Don’t Believe a Word and Suicide, which he used to start and finish the album.

DD: So back to Defenders.
Guy: Ok, we were a 3-piece, me on bass and vocals,Curt on guitar and his brother, Dave, on drums, and starting to write and record, first on 4 track but quickly to 8 track, but during that time I remember we did songs off Piece of Mind and Powerslave, and getting back to Priest.

We did Freewheel Burning and Heads are Gonna Roll, Love Bites and it was then we started doing Ripper and Tyrant, along with about everything we hadn’t done before from Maiden’s Killers, including Ghengis Khan and Trooper off Piece of Mind, Still Life, Flight of Icarus and To Tame A Land, long epic, 2 Minutes to Midnight and Powerslave off Powerslave, probably others I’m forgetting.

We did the last Ozzy I remember hearing, from Bark at the Moon, the title track and Waiting for Darkness.

But we only played 2 or 3 gigs during that year, concentrating on writing and recording, and then Dave left to join Brat, ironically the band Mike had joined when we split up, but nothing much happened for them, just as it hadn’t while Mike was with them, and the reason he left, as well as why Dave eventually left.

I remember an agent had gotten them to do an ill-advised heavy metal cover of The Archies Sugar Sugar which was hilarious.

After Dave left us and we got Chuck, and we did another batch of Queentunes with Mike so he was always around, then Curt had to move to Alabama for family reasons for a year or so and we went through a couple lead guitarists, and then Mike joined and Curt came back and I was relegated to bass for good, up until then I’d always hoped we’d get a bass player and I could return to guitar, but Mike and Curt were such a great team and I was kind of a natural bass player.

I figured I could be a pretty good lead guitarist, but never on the level of Curt, or a really good bassists, so I settled.

Plus, I was singing, so everyone got a chance to shine, and the band was set. Then for the next, I guess 10 years, didn’t do any covers other than just one, our encore, Raven’s arrangement of Sweet’s Action, which we customized more ourselves.

DD: So Priest. stuff after Defenders? Turbo and Ram it Down?
Guy: Yeah, with the drum machine and guitar synths, they totally lost me, I never did even buy those albums, I’d run through 3, at least, copies of Hellbent for Leather, and here I didn’t even care anymore.

When Painkiller came out someone played it for me, probably Ed Aborn, Todd Grubbs‘ consigliere, and said listen, they’re heavy again, they have this great drummer, check it out, but it was like with Metallica or some of our contemporaries who came out around the same time as we did, yeah, it’s great, but we’re playing our own stuff now and I don’t even want to listen or be influenced by that stuff.

Even with the bands I loved, I just don’t care anymore. Plus, they were all changing, mostly becoming more radio-friendly and less original and heavy, although in some cases more melodic, the stuff was just lame.

UFO came out with Misdemeanor, a really lame album, and Scorps became a joke with songs like Hurricane and Sabbath kind of fell off the Earth after Dio, then Gillan, then Glenn Hughes left.

With Dave and Curt as a 3-piece we did rehearse, but never played out, a couple songs from Born Again, Trashed and Disturbing the Priest. Same with Rainbow, one of my all-time favs.

In the early ’90s the only really new stuff I listened to Living Colour and Jellyfish and odd stuff like that at the time, plus all my old stuff that had nothing to do with metal, like America, James Taylor, McCartney, I was completely out of the mainstream metal scene, and to tell the truth, beyond those years, early 90’s, we had to switch to covers when all the live venues died and we did more hard rock than metal, Extreme, Coverdale Page, Aerosmith, Jakie Lee, G&R, although we did do some Motley Crue for the first time ever.

And I just lost touch with Priest, I think I remember when Halford left, but I was past caring long before that.

Predator

It was much the same with Scorpions, post-Love Drive, except for Blackout, I just didn’t care anymore what they did.

And Maiden, Somewhere in Time I guess they went to the synth guitars as well, they are very satisfying and fun to play, it sustains forever and hides a multitude of ills, but it just doesn’t bite and you lose all your balls with that shite.

Anyway, I play Priest for my little boy now and he loves it, my wife hates the screaming and some of the lyrics, but it’s fun and brings back memories.

DD: But you don’t really listen to it for enjoyment, or pleasure…
Guy: Our guitarist Mike had the best line for that, when someone asked him why he didn’t play metal anymore, he said “I’m just not that angry anymore”, and that just about covers it, there was a time I was a crazy kid, and it was great driving and drugging and fucking music and really gave me a rush to play, but anymore, I’m just over it.

It was a time, but you’re pathetic of you’re still playing that stuff into middle age, it’s just silly, it’s a young man’s music I think, I had my fun with it, let the next, or 2nd next by now, generation have at it.

I don’t think I listened to metal as something I would just sit down and listen to for pleasure for a long long time, when we were playing it I mostly listened to it because I wanted to learn it, I didn’t really jam on metal, I listed to a lot of Queen, always, and Jeff Beck, Tommy Bolin, UFO I loved, always, Elton John and James Taylor I’ve said, I like really good singers like Freddie, Paul McCartney, kd lang, Nilsson and I’ve always been a big Prog Rock aficianado Klaatu, Zappa, Tull, Yes, stuff like that and that’s what I would, and still, listen to for entertainment.

DD: Thanks for the interview, wow that really went places I didn’t expect!
Guy: Thanks Dyanne, and I warned you. But I enjoyed it also.