Greetings John from Hungary! As I as know, this is the first time for you to do an interview for an Hungarian underground fanzine, isn't it? I have thought about, to do an in depth interview, because I'm very interesting in the career of Exciter. In my opinion, the Hungarian fans are knowing not too much about you. Tell us please about, when and by whom was Exciter established! I know, you have chosen your name, on the base of an classic Judas Priest song, haven't you?
I formed the band in 1978 and auditioned Dan Beehler and Allan Johnson. Yes, we got our name form the Judas Priest song "Exciter. Before that, from 1978 to 1980, we were known as "Hell Razor".
Have Judas Priest had a big effect on you? By which bands were you still influenced? What do you say to it, Rob Halford is by Priest again?
Exciter's main influences were, and still are, Judas Priest, Black Sabbath, Motorhead, Iron Maiden, etc... I tihnk it's great that Rob Halford is back with Priest. He is an original and pioneer of the art of heavy metal vocals. Once a vocalist achieves greatness, like Halford has, everything he does with or without the band is considered the highest quality of talent.
Tell us please about your early rehearses! How was an Exciter rehearse? How was your rehearse room?
For many years, we rehearsed in a very large warehouse with the entire stage show. Every practice was like a live show. We still do that today, but in a smaller rehearsal hall.
How was at that time the Canadian metal scene? I think, in those times were Razor, Anvil, Voivod, Sacrifice active, weren't they? Tell us please everything about the metal scene of your country!
The metal scene in Canada is very disappointing. The bands you just mentioned, including Exciter, do not get any support from the music industry, and it is a struggle to get recognitionin our own home country.
Were there fanzines or magazines? Were the Canadian bands supported by the fanzines?
At this time, the only fanzine/magazine in Canada that supports metal is BWBK (Brave Words and Bloody Knuckles). Before that there were some minor publications, but nothing of any influence.
You have a demo in 1980 ,,World war III" recorded. What must we know about this tape? Did you record further demos?
In 1980, we recorded a 4 song demo. One of the songs was WWIII. The next demo we recorded contained 9 songs and went on to become our first LP: Heavy Metal Maniac.
As I as know, you have taken part on the Metal Massacre II. compilation.
I am not aware that we have taken part in the Metal Massacre II compilation. As I told you before, we do not get very much exposure to metal happenings, here in Canada.
How did you get in touch with Shrapnel? As I as know, your first album was originally demo, but the label doesn't want to pay the costs of the studio, so you have recorded an album. Is it true?
Shrapnel actually got in touch with us in 1982, after I sent them the WWIII demo, and signed us. They asked us if we had anymore new material, and we told them we had just recorded a 9 song demo, so we sent it to them. They completely freaked out. They loved it! They wanted to release it just the way it was - raw and HEAVY.
Tell us please everything about your debut album ,,Heavy metal maniac" (1983)! I'm interesting in, by whom were the songs and the lyrics written, how was the studioworks, what are all about the lyrics, what do you think about the sound, about the songs etc. After the intro “The holocaust" have the metal storm, the metal attack started...
Before Shrapnel released Heavy Metal Maniac, there were advance orders of 10,000 copies in the first scheduled week of release. This is because we had mailed this demo all over the world and it was in circulation. So when it was announced that the LP would be released, everybody wanted a copy of it. On this record, Dan Beehler and Allan Johnson wrote the lyrics, which were mostly about death and destruction (which are a very common theme for heavy metal music), and I wrote most of the music with contributions form Dan and Allan. When we wrote the songs for Heavy Metal Maniac, we were trying to copy bands from the 70s that influenced us, like Priest, Saxon, Motorhead and Sabbath, but in some musical way, we came up with our own style.
Both the cover and the title of the album was excellent, they speak for theirself. Whose idea was to create such a cover? From where did it occur to you the title?
The title for the Heavy Metal Maniac LP was Dan Beehler's idea. The cover concept was created by our friend/artist/road crew member Andy Brown.
The sound of the record was very raw, your guitars respectively the bass of Allan Johnson were very untuned. Do you agree with me? You have created something new, as the matter of fact the sound.
The sound of that record was very raw we used very low quality studio equipment and it was recorded in the basement of our sound engineer's house. The guitar sounds out of tune in some spots because I play the strings very hard and it wouldn't stay in tune. The bass, for the most part, was in tune during the recording.
Dan Beehler have had an high voice and his screams were eerie. In my opinion, his voice was the trademark of the band.
Dan Beehler's voice was the trademark of the band. He has a unique vocal style and screams. This is something that will always be evident, no matter what band he's playing in.
He was also the drummer of the band, we can say, two in one ha-ha! Was it unusual at that time, that the drummer at the same time is the singer? Didn't you think about, to admit somebody as drummer? Was it compulsion solving?
Dan Beehler sang and played drums because we could not find a singer who could sing aggressively. Yes, a singing drummer was very unusual at that time, but he was like a drummer/frontman, so it worked.
Why did you leave Shrapnel? In your opinion, was a good choice, to get to Megaforce? Were they better than Shrapnel? At that time were by Megaforce a lot of cool thrash bands, weren't they?
We left Shrapnel after the first LP because the label owner, Mike Varney, did not want to support the band for a nation wide tour. He was not willing to finance it or even to try to make arrangements with a booking agent to make it happen. Therefore, we decided to leave. During this time, we kept getting offers from Megaforce Records to sign with them. It was a mistake to do so. We never saw any financial statements or royalty money, so we didn't really know where we stood with them financially. I don’t know if we got the same treatment as other Megaforce bands at that time.
Your second release was ,,Violence and force" (1984). I think so, this album was good to. What do you think about this record, compared to your first one?
We were so pleased with the first record, Heavy Metal Maniac, that by the time we were ready to write new songs for the next record, we were really in a positive state of mind, because we were getting so much attention from around the world. We came up with some great songs, and that's why Violence and Force is such a classic in the speed/metal genre.
The cover became a little bit laughable, but it symbolizes the essence of the music ha-ha.
The album cover for Violence and Force did not turn out the way we had visualized it. We had technical problems with the photography equipmentand props we used, so it did not translate the way it was meant to be.
It was followed by ,,Long live the loud" (1985). How would you comment this album?
Long Live The Loud was more of an experimental record. We tried different ideas, different tempo changes, and the guitar tone changed. Personally, I like this record. It was very much an Exciter record.
In 1985 you were on tour together with Megadeth and Motorhead. Tell us please about this tour!
If I remember correctly, in 1985 we toured separately with Megadeth and Motorhead. Exciter and Megadeth did a co-headline tour and with Motorhead, we were the support act. Both tours were very successful and the attendance for these tours was great!
What must we know about the further Exciter tours and shows? How were they? With which bands did you still play together?
The only bands we've toured with more than once are Motorhead and fellow Canadian metal icons, Anvil.
Did you reach such titles, like newcomer of the year, album of the year, the best song, the best record or the best musician of the year? I think, ,,Heavy metal maniac" have had an important effect on the whole scene.
We never have been acknowledged with any special attention or titles, except for that we are known as one of the pioneers of speed/thrash metal.
The middle of the '80-s was the golden age of metal. You have taken part in this scene, you have gained very much experiences, you have played music and toured. Tell us please about that times!
The mid-eighties was a new beginning for metal. At this time this new music was fresh and not pretentious. I think alot of fans picked up on this new form of musical expression.
Do you agree with that, Exciter was one of the first forerunners of thrash metal? In your opinion, is Exciter a thrash metal band? How would you determine thrash metal? When did it start?
For Exciter, I think thrash and speed metal were born out of frustration. There were so many wimpy bands in the early 80s. Exciter was out to prove that heavy metal RULES! We played fast, heavy and aggressively.
Were you popular in the middle of the '80-s or you were rather underground? What does it mean for you underground respectively to be underground? What do you think about popularity?
Exciter has always been an underground band. Extreme metal has always been underground as it has a limited listening audience. We would like to be more popular, but not if we have to change our style, which will NEVER happen.
In my opinion, Canada has play an very important role in the metal scene. Such bands like you, Obliveon, Infernal Majesty, Razor, Voivod, Anvil, Sacrifice, Gorguts, Cryptopsy etc. were more brutal and aggressive than the majority of the American thrash bands. What do you think about it? In your opinion, are there differencies, similarities between the Canadian thrash bands and the American ones? I think the Canadian scene is a very special, interesting one.
Canadian thrash/metal bands are more aggressive than American thrash bands because we have a harder time trying to promote ourselves due to not having any support here in Canada. American thrash/metal bands have the support of the music industry who believe more in their artists than Canadians.
Why and when did you leave the band? I have read in an interview with Dan Beehler, it was a mistake for your part. If you would have remained in the band, ,,Unweiling the wicked" would have been heavier and faster, than it had.
I left the band in August of 1985 because we had a difference of opinion on business decisions which I felt was holding back our potential success. To this day, I really regret that decision. If I had stayed in the band and played on Unveiling The Wicked, it may have been a strong disc... who knows?
It was done an Exciter EP ,,Feel the knife". Did you still play on this stuff? Is this a rarity? When was this EP released? What must we know about it? Which songs are on this EP?
Feel The Knife was a leftover track form Long Live The Loud, which I play done. On the flipside of the EP are two live tracks.
What do you think about those Exciter albums, which ones were done without you? Were you in contact with the guys? Did you care about Exciter, until you weren't the member of the band?
The two records without me were "Unveiling The Wicked" and "Exciter". I did keep in occasional contact with Dan and Allan, and I was aware of what was happening with the music at that time.
You have retuned on the ,,Kill after kill" (1992) album. What did you do during the passed years? Did you remain in the music business, maybe, did you found another band? What's your opinion about ,,Kill after kill"?
During 1985 - 1990, I formed a band named "Blackstar", and Jacques was the singer. This band was like a melodic power metal band. We did not record anything. Dan Beehler and I got back together in 1990 and we wrote the songs for "Kill After Kill". I like this record. I think the material was strong, but the production was poor. Therefore, I think this record was overlooked by the industry.
A year later was ,,Better live than dead" (1993) released. On this live record are songs only from the first three albums. Why? Where did you the album record?
The tracks for "Better Live Than Dead" were recorded from various North American concerts.
Why and when did Dan Beehler leave the band? Did you search for a new drummer, or did you finish with Exciter? Hadn't you have enough from the music business or from Exciter?
Dan decided to leave in 1993. He had had enough of the music business. I decided to continue and audition a new Exciter which included current drummer Rik Charron.
In the middle of the '90-s was metal not so cool, everybody has said, metal is dead. How do you remember about that times? In your opinion, was metal dead?
In the mid-90s, whatever metal bands existed were still there, but they had a lower level of exposure to fans because metal was being overshadowed by pop and the alternative trend.
After four years of silence you have came with ,,The dark command" (1997) back. You have had a new line up too. What did you do during thar four years? How did you find the suitable members? Who did they earleir play, before they joined Exciter? Are the new members younger than you?
After Dan Beehler quit in 1993, I decided to wait 2 years for him to reconsider and continue the band, but he never came back. So, in 1995, I started auditioning new members. Jacques, as I mentioned before, played in Blackstar, my previous project, Rik Charron auditioned after hearing, through advertisements, that I was looking for a drummer, and Marc Charron I met where I used to work at my day job.
As the matter of fact the line up, it was always like a house with a passage-way. Why? Many musicians have in the band during your career played.
Basically, most of the musicians I have played with are not dedicated enough to go through the ups and downs of the music business. They get frustrated and quit.
How would you charakterizc ,,The dark command" compared to the classic (first three) Exciter records? Did you become more modern, as the matter of fact the sound?
The production is better on The Dark Command than the first 3 records, but the songwriting is the same style as the old stuff.
This album was released by the French label Osmose Productions. How did you get in touch with them? Are you satisfied with them?
Osmose contacted us in 1996, and was interested in signing us without hearing any advance demos. We did and as a result they have been the best and most honest record company in Exciter's career.
They are focusing rather on black metal bands. What do you think about the bands of the label? Do you like black metal?
I like all types of metal, including Black Metal. Any kind of music needs exposure and Osmose is there to help these younger bands.
Two years later was ,,Blood of tyrants" (1999) released. What do you think about this record?
Blood Of Tyrants is a fantastic speed/metal record, but once again, we had technical problems in the studio. Therefore, the production suffered. If the production was better it would have gotten more attention.
After the releasing of this album, we haven't anything heard about the band, you have vanished from sight again. Why?
About a year after Blood Of Tyrants was released in 2000, Jacques quit the band again, which kind of left us stranded and inactive for a while.
Who are playing nowadays in the band? Is the current line up stable?
The current lineup is: Vocals: Jacques Belanger; Drums: Rik Charron; Bass: Clammy; Guitar: John Ricci. Yes, this is a stable lineup.
Dan Beehler has an own band, which is called Beehler and he playes together with Allan James Johnson. Why didn't you with the classic line up Exciter regroup? It would have been a great idea.
I am not interested in regrouping with Dan and Allan. My dedication is to the current lineup, Jacques, Rik, and Clammy.
You have with the new album ,,The new testament" finished. This one containes the re-recorded versions of the classic Exciter songs. Why did you re-record these songs? Why didn't you write brandnew ones?
At the time we did not have new songs ready for a new record. We decide to re-record classic songs with the current lineup to let Exciter fans hear what the old songs sound like played by the new Exciter.
Although I still heaven't listened to the the new album, I don't want to hurt you, but I can't imagine these songs, without the singing and voice of Dan Beehler. Did Jaques Belanger do in the studio a great job? Are you satisfied with his achivement? Does his voice similar to Dan Beehlers one?
The New Testament turned out great! Jacques does his own renditions of the songs. He is not trying to copy Dan Beehler.
Did you alter something on the songs or did you stick to the original versions? Why didn't you re-record songs from the other Exciter records, like ,,Unweiling the wicked", „Exciter" or „Kill after kill"?
There are no songs from "Unveiling The Wicked" or "Exciter" because the guitar work does not suit my style. We did record the song "Rain Of Terror" off the "Kill After Kill" disc.
I think so, Exciter was/is a very good band, but you have never got that acknowledgement, what you have would deserved. Do you agree with me?
We never had a lot of support from the music industry, therefore we lack exposure. Everything we've done so far, we've done ourselves with no one's help.
What's your opinion about your career? Why didn't you become popular or well-known?
We've always had lack of management. Besides, we are living in Canada, where there is no support for heavy metal.
Which are your favourite records and songs?
My favourite LP and songs are Violence and Force and The Dark Command.
Both ,,Heavy metal maniac" and ,,Violence and force" were on CD re-released. When will be on CD the other Exciter records released? Why did you put ,,World war III." on the re-released version of ,,Heavy metal maniac"? Do you have unreleased tracks, videos, covers etc.?
Any past records that have been released are illegal copies, bootlegs, etc... We have lost control of our past catalog. Our old record companies are re-releasing our old records without our permission or paying us our due roylaties. They area complete ripoff!
Something other at last. If I say Ottawa Senators, Toronto Meaple Leafs or Montreal Canadiens, what does it occur to you? Canada was in this year ice hockey world championship. Are you sport fan?
I'm not really a hockey fan. I don't really care about sports. The other guys in the band are, though. If the Ottawa Senators had won the championship, it would have been great, but would not have really mattered to me.
John, thank you for your words, I hope, my questions weren't boring. Tell us please about your future plans. Please close the interview. Cheers: Leslie
We will be touring Europe form October 8 - 17, 2004. Check with Crush Concerts in Berlin, Germany for tour dates. We are writing new songs for a new record, which we hope will be out in the summer of 2005. Thanks, Leslie!!
by David „Steel” Laci