Hello Guys! I’m very happy that DEFIANCE is back. I think so, the fans don’t know so much about the band and I would do an indepth interview with you all right? DEFIANCE is the hidden jewel of Bay Area.
Jim: Thanks! I’m glad to do this interview! I have been out of the music scene for a while. It is nice to be welcomed back.
Let we begin with the very beginnings. How was the Bay Area scene when DEFIANCE was established? Which bands were active at that time? Was a unity among the bands? What kind of fanzines were at that time?
Jim: Back in 1985 when Defiance was formed, I was still in high school. At that time I was playing in a band called Attrition. I remember the bands that I liked to go see at that time were Exodus, Sacralige (later changed their name to Sacralige B.C.), Metallica, Part Time Christians and Blind Illusion. By the time I joined Defiance in 1986 there were a bunch of bands that were really great. We met a bunch of them through shared rehearsal studios or going to shows. There was quite a good vibe among the bands.
I don’t rember too many fanzines being around the Bay Area. We had several local music papers that used to have articles and reviews of bands and shows.
Matt: The Bay Area scene was thriving when we started to jam together back in the late 80’s. There were clubs, venues and parties to play all the time. We were not playing as much as some of the other bands and we still were able to gig two or three times a month, sometimes even more. The bands of the Bay Area did work together at the time, for the most part. We would help each other get gigs because we all knew how hard it was for any one band to get recognition, but there was a level of competition that keep us all fighting for the best gigs and sometimes we would get a little “chapped” at each other if one or the other bands got the big gig of the month. I don’t remember too much about the Fanzines…
When, by whom were DEFIANCED formed? Did you know each other earlier? Which bands have had an effect on you?
Jim: Defiance was formed initially by Brad Bowers and Matt Vander Ende. Later Mike Kaufmann joined, then Doug Harrington. After sometime, Brad and Doug were no longer getting along. Since Brad was still concidered the ’leader’ of the band at that time, he made the call to fire Doug. I auditioned for the gig and ended up taking Doug’s place. After a few months of rehearsal and one show, I too realized that I couldn’t continue to work with Brad. Mike got Doug and I together over at Doug’s house and we just started jamming some of the songs (like Hypothermia) and we totally hit it off. It was clear that Doug and I had good chemistry. Mike and I talked to Matt about it and he agreed that bring Doug back was the best thing to do.
Mike and Doug knew each other. I didn’t know any of them prior to auditioning for Defiance. I was introduced through mutual friends. I don’t believe Matt knew any of us prior to jamming with us.
Many bands had an effect on me personally. In the thrash/heavy metal vein, Metallica, Exodus, Voi Vod, Possessed, Destruction, S.O.D., Merciful Fate, and Anthrax were some of my favorites.
Matt: Defiance was officially formed by Brad Bowers and Matt Vander Ende. We asked Mike Kaufman to join as our bass player closely after. Doug, Jim and Steeve came later. I knew Brad from junior high school; we jammed to gather from my old band that played cover songs. When that band broke up Brad and I put together a band and ….I think Brad knew Mike from some were…can’t remember but the three of us started to play keggers in the Oakland hills for beer money and free drinks. Our biggest influences were Metallica, Exodus, Testament, Motor Head, Megadeth, etc.
You have had several line up changes as far as the early period of the band. Tell us please about! What were the reasons of these changes? When did become complete the line up?
Jim: I mentioned above about the revolving door Defiance experience in the very early days of 85/86. Once we had the four core members set in place, we recruited a friend of mine from high school that had been the singer in Attrition, Mitch Mayes. We rehearsed and had a full set of material completed, we began playing the club circuit in the Bay Area in early 1987. We recorded a demo on my 4 track, but soon after completing it, Mitch left the band. We still had a couple of booked shows and we couldn’t talk Mitch into finishing the gigs we had set up, so to keep from ruining our reputation with the clubs, we did the shows without a vocalist.
Once our commitments to the clubs had been fufilled, we began our search for a replacement. We also began writting the rest of the material that would eventually become the ’Product of Society’ album. We were introduced to Ken Elkinton. He had recently moved from the Seattle area. His brother was Rich Wilde who had recently joined The Ruffians. He had an interesting and different style. His approach seemed to fit pretty well with what we were doing at that time. He joined the band and we really started bringing the music for the first album together. We did a four song demo at Dragon Studios in Redwood City, CA. This is when the line up for the first album was complete.
After we signed to Roadrunner Records, they sent us to Canada to record Product of Society. When we came home we played as many shows as we could in the Bay Area. We opened for acts like Overkill , Angel Witch and Legancy (along with a bunch of other local bands that most people havent’ heard about). We started to notice that Ken didn’t seem to be in very good physical shape and he had a hard time keeping his voice in shape and completing the shows in a professional an d quality way. We started to think that maybe he wouldn’t make it on a full tour. The four of us decided we should start looking for someone else to hold down the vocals for Defiance.
We met Steev Esquivel through a band that we were all friends with especially Doug. The band’s name was Laughing Dead. Steev had only been with the band for a month or two and didn’t have really strong ties with them. We offered him an audition. He came down to our studio (at that time sharing with Laaz Rockit and Ruffians) and did a great job on our songs. We were impressed and we offered him the job. This caused some tension between us and Laughing Dead for quite some time. This was the finally line up and the one we all consider to be the ’true’ Defiance.
Matt: The line up changes was due to us kicking out Brad Bowers. We wanted Jim Adams in the band mainly because he was a better Guitar player. We got Doug because we wanted two guitars. Ken Elkington was asked to leave because he could not perform at the shows very well at all, when we found Steev it seemed like a great fit.
You have released two demos. Tell us please about these tapes! Which songs were on them, in what kind of reception were the demos by the fans, by the metal magazines participated? Did these demos draw the fans attention to the band?
Jim: The first demo we did was recorded in our rehearsal studio by me on my Tascam four track tape recorder. It was the line up with Mitch Mayes on vocals. The songs on that demo were: 1) M.I.A. (later renamed ’Forgotten’) , 2)Product of Society, and 3) Deadly Intentions. Mitch left shortly after the completion of that demo so we really didn’t push it very hard. Mostly just made copies of it for friends...it is a very rare demo.
The second demo was a more professional piece of work. We went to Dragon Studios in Redwood City, CA. I believe we completed most if not all the songs in one day (we didn’t have much money to do more). This demo was originally called ’Demolition’ but was renamed ’Hypothermia’ by Roadrunner Records. The songs on this tape were; 1)Product of Society, 2)M.I.A, 3)Deadly Intentions and 4)Hypothermia. It also had a ’bonus’ track, Aftermath, which was not listed on the tape insert.
The reception to the second demo was pretty good from what I remember. We were able to start landing some better gigs after it’s release. I don’t recall if there were ever any reviews of it in magazines.
The second demo was sold at local shows and was also taken to Europe by our then manager Ace Cook who had landed a job as a roadie for Testement. Ace had ten copies with him on that trip and tried to give them to people he thought could help to get Defiance signed. He did a good job, as we were contacted by Roadrunner a few months later. There is a funny side story to that though...it seems that we forgot to include any contact information on the demos Ace took to Europe. Roadrunner had our tape, but had no idea how to find us. They ended up contacting another band called Defiance in Chicago and asked for them to send a demo....turned out to be a totally different act. They were about to give up from what I was told when they contacted the manager from Laaz Rockit who was able to put them in touch with us.
Didn’t you take part on several compilations like Metal Massacre, Speed metal hell etc.? At that time have these compilations played an important role in the underground haven’t they?
Jim: I don’t believe we were ever on any of the metal compilations that cames out back then. I do believe they played a big roll in the popularity of thrash metal and many of the bands who took part in them.
Matt: I don’t think we are on any compilation records that I know of. I wouldn’t be surprised if a few are flouting around.
You have released three records. I would ask you to speak detailed separately about the albums! By whom were the music and the lyrics written, what were it all about the lyrics, what do you think about the songs, about the sound, about the cover, where, in which studio and with whom were the albums recorded etc.? Your first album was „Product of society” (1989).
Jim: Product of Society was recorded in New Westminter Canada, a suburb of Vancover. It was produced by Jeff Waters of Annihilator. The music on that album was written by Defiance as a whole...including some parts/lyrics by former members, Brad Bowers and Mitch Mayes. Doug most definitely was a big contributor to the song writing of Defiance. I would guess that around 70% of the song ideas came from him. Lyrics were written by Mitch where credit was given (Forgotten, Deadly Intentions). I believe most of the rest were writen by Ken with some ideas from Doug (Lockjaw for one) Some of the songs were more of true group effort. Tribulation is a good example of a song that we all had an equal part in writing. Hypothermia was written by Brad and I. It was actually the first song I wrote with the band. I recall sitting in the hallway at our rehearsal studio with Brad working out the first few parts the Hypothermia, when Chuck Billy came by (he was trying out for Legacy at that time who practiced right across the hall from us) and told us that Cliff Burton had just died in a bus crash in Europe. I wanted to dedicate that song to him, but that idea was shot down by the others. The final title wouldn’t have made sense anyway, so I think that was probably for the better. Deadly Intentions was actually a song from my former band Attrition that I re-introducted the Defiance in the early days.
The production of that album was not at all what we were looking for or wanted. Jeff made decision to try and create a ’new’ sound...but that didn’t go over very well with us. He had Doug and I turn our volume pots on our guitars down to ’7’. This took away a lot of our heavy tone. He said he would ’fix it in the mix’ but that never happened.
Why did Ken Elkinton leave the band after the releasing of the album? Were you dissatisfied with his achievement?
Jim: Ken was a good guy and a friend. He didn’t seem to have the same passion as the rest of us for the project. Once we returned from Canada, we did several more show with him in the Bay Area. Opening for some pretty big acts. He did really do very well, due to health issues and lifestyle choices. He also was pretty bad about coming to band practice which really bothered the rest of us. I also believe it contributed to his performances. We decided if we were really going to try to ’make it’ as a band, we needed someone who would work as hard as the rest of us. We needed someone who wanted it as bad as we did. It was a very hard decision to let Ken go, but I think it was for the best.
When and how did Steve Esquivel get into picture? Did he take part in the songcomposing?
Jim: We met Steev when he moved up from the South bay (San Jose) and joined a band we were friends with Laughing Dead. He had only been up here for a month or two when our manager approached him asking him if he would be interested in trying out for Defiance.
He learned a few of the songs from the first album and came to our rehearsal studio in Emeryville and did a great job. We knew pretty much right away he was the one we had been looking for.
Once Steev joined the band, he was always *very* involved with the song writting. We really started working as a whole team to put together the ideas into songs.
Your second album was „Void terra firma” (1990). In my opinion you have developed very much compared to the first album. Do you agree with me? How would you charakterize this record?
Jim: I would say that record showed how the band was starting to grow together into a more cohesive unit. Although we still have some rough edges that didn’t get worked out until the third album. That album was a difficult one to record due to a very tight budget and time constraits at the the recording studio, Prairie Sun. We only had 18 days for set up, recording and mixing. This forced us to except less than we wanted with regards to some of the tones and performances. I still think this album showed some of the what you would get from a live Defiance show. It was truely recorded ’live and in your face’ as Roadrunner liked to say.
Were there similarities and differences between Kens voice and Steves one?
Jim: Similarities, None. Differences, Yes. (laughs)
„Beyond recognition” (1992) was your third album and I think so this album was so excellent like „Void terra firma”. What do you think about it?
Jim: Beyond Recognition was by far my favorite Defiance album. We finally had all the pieces working. We had a great producer in Rob Beaton http://www.meetbeaton.com , we had very well written songs that the whole group helped to put together, and we were working with a decent budget in a great studio close to home (the first two albums were recorded away from home which made it a much larger challenge due to finances and being away from loved ones). My only regret from Beyond Recognition, was that it took us way too long to finish. By the time this album had been mixed and mastered, the music scene was moving away from our style of music. This prevented us from getting the opportunity to tour and promote the album. Matt: I loved recording Beyond recognition…I think it was out best record, the creative process was great…I like each record as much as the other, each one has it’s own flavor and was recorded in very different ways.
Tell us please about your shows and tours! Were you on European tour? What kind of experiences did you gain in Europe? With which bands did you play together?
Jim: We never had the opportunity to tour in Europe. If we had been able to finish ’Beyond’ on time we would have been on tour with Sepultura in Europe, but because we were not able to complete the album on time, Heathen got the gig instead. We did a bunch of small tours mostly on the west coast of the US/Canada/Mexico. We did one major US tour with Vio-lence. During that tour we also did six or eight shows with Flotsom and Jetsem. Those guys (both Vio-lence and Flotsom) really know how to rock!
Why didn’t you record a live album?
Jim: Roadrunner never approached us with that idea.
In the middle of the ’80-s was thrash metal very popular. The big American thrash centres were Bay Area and New York/New Jersey, but also from California have came a lot of thrash bands. While the Californian and NY/NJ bands were very brutal and fast the Bay Area bands were technical and a little bit melodic. What do you think about my statement? What were the similarities and differences between the Bay Area and the NY/NJ and Californian thrash bands? What would you say about the American thrash movement compared to the European one? Which European bands did you know or with which European bands were you in connection?
Jim: Seems like Europe started the whole metal movement. In America, we just made it faster. European metal played a large part in my musical development. Bands like Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Scorpions, UFO and Saxon along with some lesser known ones such as Viva, Tygers of Pan Tang, Tank, Girlschool, Uli John Roth’s early solo work etc. Later on bands like Merciful Fate and Destruction were hugh to me.
When we would group the Bay Area bands, how would you charakterize them? What would you say about the music of DEATH ANGEL, FORBIDDEN, TESTAMENT, HEATHEN, BLIND ILLUSION, VIO-LENCE and POSSESSED? All of your albums were released by Roadrunner. How did you get on well with them? Did Roadrunner support your career?
Jim: Yeah, they were very supportive especially during the first two albums. We got along fine with them. I don’t recall any major issues that came up during our relationship with Roadrunner.
At that time were Roadrunner an underground label, weren’t they? They have very good thrash and death metal bands, like DEFIANCE, EXHORDER, OBITUARY, SEPULTURA or DEICIDE. What’s your opinion about the label? Why are they nowadays employed in doing popular, trendy bands? Why do they sign trendy, popular bands?
Jim: They were great for promoting our style of metal in the late 80s and ealry 90s. Since then, they have moved to what is popular in the attempt to remain a viable company. There is nothing wrong with that in my mind. If they did’nt do that, they would go out of business. Hey don’t forget they still have Machinehead, who I think rock! Free market society...got to love it.
Matt: Roadrunner records was an underground no-name label, I think they started to sign bigger more commercial viable bands because they want to make more money…could be wrong but I’ll bet it’s because they sold out for all might American dollar!!!!!
Why and when did DEFIANCE split up?
Jim: Defiance didn’t really split up. We just morphed into a different band. Once Dave White (Heathen) joined in 1993, we were doing all new songs. We didn’t really sound like Defiance at all. We decided to make a clean break and change the name of the band. We re-named the band Inner Threshold. We did one demo with Rob Beaton (Beyond Recognition) producing. I’ve contacted Rob and he is going to send me a CD of the demo from his original DAT tape. Once I have that I will make it freely available on our website http://www.defiance1.com After Dave and I left Inner Threshold in 1995, the band decided to again change the name. Inner Threshold was changed to Under. They continued playing shows and recording demos until 1999. I guess that could be considered the break up of Defiance.
After the splitting up the band you have played in several bands, like INNER THRESHOLD, UNDER and SKINLAB. What can you say about these bands? Did these bands play also thrash metal?
Jim: Skinlab was Steev’s creation. In fact he is working on new material now for their next CD. As I mentioned above the history of Inner Threshold and Under. I’d say that Inner Threshold was a more grove oriented metal sound with straight ahead traditional metal vocals. Under was definitely more thrash although they played many of the same songs as Inner Threshold...but with Chris Long on vocals and guitar, it came across a lot heavier.
As far as thrash metal, how would you define this music? What’s the essence of this music?
Jim: Thrash metal to me, is a way to release inner aggression without kicking someone’s ass. I feel it is a great way to release tensions and express distain for the state of the world we live in.
At the early ’90-s have thrash metal lost from its popularity. In your opinion why did go thrash out of fashion?
Jim: It had it’s time in the limelight. With the onset of the 90’s, new bands and sounds started to come out...especially those from Seattle. I’d say by 1992, the majority of people were looking to these new bands for a new sound and a new message. People just didn’t seem to be as pissed off anymore.
What would you say about the metal scene of the ’90-s? Was metal dead? Why were the grunge and the pop/punk bands so popular?
Jim: The scene in the Bay Area definitely died down, but it didn’t die out. Most of the clubs that we used to play went out of business. The new clubs that came in to take their places never really caught on.
Matt: Metal was not doing well in the 90’s….mainly because the grunge bands were selling so many records all the labels flocked to Seattle to get a piece of the pie. Bands like Metallica, Megadeth and Pantera faired to bad weather and influenced the Metal music as we know it so much its ridiculous…
In 2001 was the thrash of the titans in San Francisco which was an aid for Chuck Billy. Did you also play on this festival? How do you remember about it?
Jim: We didn’t play that show. We were approached to perform, but at the time, we couldn’t pull it together. Steev and I went to show. That was the first time Steev and I had seen each other in 6 years. It was an awesome show. I had a really great time and ran into a lot of old friends from back in the glory days.
Matt: We did not play the festival in San Francisco, what I do remember of the gig is it was GREAT!!!!!!!!!! The best metal fest EVER!!!
In 2002 has Paul Baloff passed away. Did you know him personally? What kind of man was he?
Jim: I had met Paul before, but I can’t say I really knew him. It was sad to hear that he had passed away. He lived a pretty hard life. Mike knew him pretty well.
When did you decide to reform DEFIANCE? What’s the current line up? How often do you rehearse? Did you already write new songs?
Jim: Mike and I started floating the idea around last summer as I was preparing to launch the official website. We thought it would be fun to get together with all the guys and re-learn some of the tunes and maybe play a show. Steev puts on shows locally in the Bay Area and we thought we might be able to talk everyone into playing one of them. It didn’t work out due to Matt moving to New York and Doug’s busy schedule. Mike and I were thinking about starting a new band if we couldn’t get all five of us together, then he came up with the idea of a studio project. That seemed to resinate better with everyone. The idea of doing a show(s) is not out of the quesiton. For now, we are just going to work on getting some new ideas together. The current line up is: Jim Adams –guitar, Doug Harrington – guitar, Steev Esquivel – vocals, Mike Kaufmann – bass, Matt Vander Ende – drums. Essentually the same line up from the second and third albums. We rehearse once or twice a week as time and personal lives allow. Mostly right now, it is Doug, Mike and I getting together in the ’jam room’ at my house and working through some of the old songs and working on some ideas that Doug and I have come up with.
As far as the reunions, a lot of bands from the ’80-s have reformed again, like DEATH ANGEL, HEATHEN, MORDRED, NASTY SAVAGE, NUCLEAR ASSAULT etc. In your opinion why do these bands continue their career? There is a thrash renaissance nowadays?
Jim: I can’t speak for any of those bands, but I feel the Thrash of the Titans reminded a lot of us how much fun we used have playing together. With the explotion of the Internet, it is much easier to get the word out and share/sell your music with people around the world.
What do nowadays former DEFIANCE members Brad Bowers, Ken Elkinton and Mitch Mayes do? Are they still in the music industry?
Jim: I have no idea what Brad or Ken are doing. I was able to get Ken’s email address from his brother Rich Wilde (Ruffians), I sent Ken an email asking if he was interested in taking part in the reunion, but I never heard back from him. I do know what Mitch is up to. He has a act called ’The Boone Bros.’ that do comedy and have come out with this insane DVD called Brawling Broads. You can check it out at http://www.brawlinbroads.com
Do you have some information about Jeff Becerra and ex-BLIND ILLUSION members? I was in touch with Jeff, but he didin’t write me for a long time.
Jim: I do not.
What could you say about the new DEFIANCE songs? Did the songs changed compared to the ones of your first three releases?
Jim: So far, the songs are reminding me of some of the stuff from Beyond Recognition. Not quite as complex, but of that vein.
Do complexity and the melodics play an important role in your music? In my opinion you aren’t so brutal, you have catchy riffs and songs.
Jim: They do to me. I really enjoy hearing bands that can play some tight metal, but also throw in some technical chops to mix it up. A good melody is always a good thing in any kind of music.
What are your future plans? Will you release a new album in this year? Did you already sign a label?
Jim: We are working on new material and hope to be in the recording studio by late summer of this year. We have not signed with a label, but Steev has been in touch with a few who have expressed interest in signing us if we get a CD together. I’m sure that will be dependent on us writing decent songs of course.
How would you charakterize the developement of the career of DEFIANCE from the early days ’til nowadays? Was DEFIANCE a well known band or an underground one?
Jim: It has all been on big blur. (laughs) I think we matured a lot from the early days to the time we did Beyond Recongnition. It was a long hard road with a lot of hard lessons about the business along the way. I still am very grateful for the opportunity. I believe Defiance was always more of an underground band.
Tell us please the first ten thrash metal albums of all time! Why did you chose these ones?
Jim: It is pretty hard for me to choose my top ten thrash albums of all time, but off the top of my head this is what comes to mind:
1. Master of Puppets - Metallica
2. Hell Awaits - Slayer
3. Reign in Blood - Slayer
4. Speak English or Die – S.O.D.
5. Don’t Break the Oath – Mercyful Fate
6. Demention Hatros - VoiVod
7. Ride the Lightning - Metallica
8. Cowboys from Hell - Pantera
9. Spreading the Disease - Anthrax
10. Bonded by Blood – Exodus
Like I said, these are what come to mind. All are chosen for their affect on me and my playing. All of these albums inspired me to create and play.
I think, we have came to the end of the interview. I’m very proud of this chat, it was a honour for me. Tell us please your closing words! I wish you all the best!
Jim: Thank you for your interest in Defiance. We really appreciate the chance to do this interview. If you are interested in finding out more about Defiance and what we are up to currently, check out our website http://www.defiance1.com. Cheers! Jim
by David Leslie