Part two of the Inside Metal series interview with Bob Nalbandian.
There wasn’t segregation by subgenre yet. “There wasn’t a separation back then. Slayer would play with Ruthless or Bitch or glam bands. Stryper played with Metallica at early shows. It wasn’t that strange to have Armored Saint with Steeler and Slayer. W.A.S.P. and Slayer played together a lot.” A lot of it would be miss-matched for today’s standards but it was all metal back then.
On bands they tried to get but couldn’t, “It would’ve been great to get Motley Crue. We reached out to their management but they said the band was too busy doing their final tour and couldn’t connect. We met Michael Anthony at a club in Orange Country [for the Pioneers DVD) who told some great stories. They were the band that broke out in that era.” He thought the concept was great and they talked to his manager and wife but they didn’t want him talking about Van Halen because it was around the time of the split. They tried but couldn’t get him to go on camera.
Another band they wanted was The Runaways. They were the big female band of the day, involved in the L.A. club scene and the first all-female hard rock band that broke nationally. “We had a small budget. We couldn’t fly out for an interview. We had to wait until the artist was in L.A.” Apart from them, they got pretty much who they wanted.
Pioneers was intended to be one DVD but there were so many interviews. Even if they made it a two hour movie, some of the story would be lost. So they made it a two DVD set, making sure the complete story was captured.
Penelope Spheeris [Director of the Decline of Western Civilization series] came out to the screening of the first movie. “It would’ve been great to interview her. I didn’t have a connection to her [but] she dug Pioneers.”
They wanted to do their own thing, “We didn’t want to compete, so we cut it off at ’86. We got just to the tip of Guns N’ Roses. I didn’t wanna have Poison in the movie. Those were bands that came to L.A. I wanted to focus on the roots of the L.A. scene.” They showed Guns N’ Roses as a local band just starting out. It showcases the scene before the big glam explosion.”
Spheeris’s Decline of Western Civilization II The Metal Years and The L.A. Metal Scene Explodes both have interviews with Chris Holmes. “It was really cool we got him. He told some great W.A.S.P. stories, he was amazing. It was a different setting than The Metal Years. Penelope’s was shot during the height of the L.A. explosion. So, Jeff Duncan, from Armored Saint, he was in Odin at the time, that was what everyone was doing at the time. It was a giant party and she captured what the L.A. scene was in 1987.”
It’s a modern day, retrospective take of the era, “I’ve gone back and captured that time 30 years later. The musicians now are more humble, without the big ego, or that party mentality. They kinda look back and laugh at that era. They give a more telling story of what it was like. We concentrated more on the music than the party. The ‘80s scene in particular, was always about the music but the whole party image and the glam, was way overstated. It was Hollywood, it was what the public and the press wanted. Regardless of how ridiculous things got, they were still musicians first. They had superb musicianship, from Eddie Van Halen, to Randy Rhoads to George Lynch, Warren DeMartini, and Dave Meniketti from Y&T. [They] may have been in glam bands known for poppy hit songs but musician wise you couldn’t [ask for] better. It was from practicing every day and working your ass off. The importance we wanted to concentrate on was bands that busted their ass and worked hard for it.”
On the W.A.S.P., Troubadour rat grinder story, “Back in the early ‘80s that was the place to play, one street over from Sunset, after the Starwood closed. The Whisky and Gazzarri’s had shows, but the Troubadour was the mecca for metal, W.A.S.P. used to play there all the time. He [Blackie Lawless] had a rat cage and looked like he was putting them in the meat grinder but was actually putting them back in the cage but the way the stage was set up, people swore he was putting them in the meat grinder, grinding up live rat and throwing it into the crowd. It was all for show, but got the band a lot of attention.”
On Canters contribution to GNR’s early days, “Slash was a regular at Canters (Deli). They gave the band free food. They thanked Canters for basically allowing them to survive on the streets. They didn’t have any money. They had a room called the Kibitz room. They hung out there a lot. I saw them at the Whisky a lot and at the Santa Monica Civic for a big show. When I saw them at the clubs, I thought they were awful, just drunk and falling all over the place, just very unprofessional. Then saw them at the Civic. They sounded amazing, once they got their shit together.”
The Whisky’s kind of stayed the same over the years. The first shows Nalbandian saw were Metallica in the early days with Armored Saint in ’82.
Nalbandian talks Gazzarri’s and what came after, “The building that was formerly Gazzarri’s went from Billboard Live then The Key Club then One Oak.” Bill Gazzarri [“The Godfather of Metal” before Ozzy was christened] was in The Metal Years chanting Odin. “He was always with young chicks, a girl on each arm. A lot of the clubs were 18 and over. The legends and stories of the Whisky and other clubs built them up to be ten times bigger than the venues physically were. Back in the day you had to be a really good band to play the Whisky.”
On part two of The L.A. Metal Scene Explodes the PMRC is featured. “I think Tipper Gore really thought she could put an end to the rock n’ roll and metal scene. They made such a stink about the satanic imagery and how it’s gonna make our kids Satanists. It was a joke and it really backfired. The bands loved getting on TV for the exposure. Betsy Bitch even said she loved it when Tipper Gore carried her album under her arm showing the Bitch record. That meant more sales and more popularity. W.A.S.P. and Slayer said we encourage that, free publicity. They weren’t getting any national press at the time. That helped the L.A. scene. Kids saw the sticker and said this has to be something my parents would hate.”
Back in the mid-80s Nalbandian knew Screamer Magazine founder and publisher David F. Castagno when Screamer first started. “The first time I met Dave, we did the Cliff’em All premiere in ’87. Elektra did a listening party in their office with 8-10 people and it was the beginning of Screamer. Dave gave me his card. At the time it was a free magazine, then in the late ‘80s, early ‘90s it went national like RIP magazine, it was great, a new magazine that concentrated on heavy metal. There were a couple other writers. They were very active in the local scene. I worked with a band called Armed Forces, they did a couple records and Screamer was very supportive of them. I appreciated they were dedicated to the metal scene. Screamer was 80% metal, LA Weekly was about social issues and trends.”
After watching the documentaries people have said, “Finally someone did a doc that tells the full story. Before the glam and the decadence, in the early ‘80s, people came out in droves. We would drive an hour to see a local band in the valley from Orange County. It’s such a privilege that I lived it and got to be a part of that scene. I saw a lot of that decadence, it was a great time.”
“Our doc was for the hardcore fans that knew the bands and the scene and lived it or knew about it. We did it purposely more educational than drama. We were just rappin about the scene. It was more of a conversation than an interview and it got the real feel of 30 years ago playing in L.A. I think we captured it. I’m pretty happy with it.”
The upcoming Rise of the L.A. Thrash Scene will feature members of Suicidal Tendencies, Agent Steel, Body Count, Steel Prophet, Cryptic Slaughter, Katon from Hirax and Eric and Gene from Dark Angel. Nalbandian also has a Bay Area documentary in the works.