- Hello, Mike! Let's get back to the early days of Holy Terror. How did you guys meet each other and how did you decide to create a band?
- I knew Jack Schwartz since I was a kid. We grew up in the same neighborhood. When we first started playing instruments, we would jam at his parent's house and play KISS songs and songs from other 70s bands. By the time we were in high school I started playing in other bands and so did Jack. Around 1984 Jack hooked up with Dark Angel. In fact I jammed with them at Jack's house a couple times. When they relocated their rehearsals I stopped playing with them. I continued with a band called Black Widow. However, after we were featured on Metal Massacre III the other members in the band wanted to move more in a Def Leppard direction and I was getting in to heavier stuff. After Jack left Dark Angel, he hooked up with Kurt. Kurt brought along Floyd on bass and the three of them started jamming. Jack recommended me to join them, but Kurt really wanted Juan Garcia from Agent Steel. When Juan declined the invitation, they gave me a shot. The four of us rehearsed for a couple months at Jack's house and then we started looking for a singer around the beginning of 1985. We soon found Keith from an advertisement in a local newspaper. Within a couple months we recorded our 3 song demo.
As for the idea of the band...it was all Kurt. He had the name Holy Terror and he had much of the material written. I had a couple songs, but only
Tomorrow's End made it on Terror and Submission.
- Who came up with that name? Did you have any other versions to choose from?
- As I mentioned, HT was completely Kurt's brain child. There really wasn't much questioning it. I vaguely remember him mentioning the name Holy Terror when I started rehearsing with them. I though...ok, cool.
- What was your first rehearsal place like? At that time, was it difficult for you to get all the necessary equipment?
- Jack and his older brother owned a home in the San Fernando Valley. It had a spare room that we used for rehearsal space. I had an old 100W Marshall head and some unknown 4x12 cabinet. Of course I had my white Gibson Flying V too. Everyone else had nice gear too. It wasn't very difficult for us I don't think. We all had jobs and could afford to buy equipment. However, once we started to rehearse regularly (3 - 4 times a week) we realized we needed to find a new place...not a home. We found a 500 sqft warehouse in North Hollywood. It was about a 1/2 hour drive from Jack's home, so it wasn't too far. I also bought a white Gibson Explorer, but as soon as I saw that Hetfield was using one, I sold it and just used my V.
- Tell us a bit about your first cassette Demo. Where did you record it? Did the tape have any artwork? How did you distribute the material?
- Our 3 song demo was very raw. We were pretty tight as a band, but we didn't have a lot of money to invest in a really nice studio. Kurt found some place in Santa Monica. If I remember correctly, it was a house converted in to a studio. I didn't have a lot of experience recording and we didn't have a lot of time. So my musical presence on the tape was limited to primarily rhythm guitar. There wasn't any artwork and Kurt handled all the details. I don't think he shopped it in the US. I think he focused on sending it to magazines and fanzines in Europe. It was reviewed in Metal Forces and then Mark Palmer (with Music for Nations) caught wind of it and offered us a record deal.
- When was your first live performance? Do you remember your thoughts and feelings after it? What bands did you share the stage with?
- I am assuming you are asking about HT's first live performance. I think it was at the Troubadour in Hollywood. It was pretty cool. This is the same place that the Door's, James Taylor, and all the 60s and 70s rock acts. I don't remember the show all that well, but I do remember it being a lot of fun. We had a bunch of friends show up for support. There's a picture on the T&S album sleeve from backstage at that show. It's the one with me and Kurt...I have a big goofy smile on my face. I have no idea who else played that night. You have to realize that back then it was very difficult for bands to book shows in Los Angeles. Most venues required you to "pay to play". You had to buy a bunch of tickets with your own money and then try to sell them. One place we played a lot that didn't require pay to play was a place called The Anti Club. This place was a dive, but great. We played there a bunch and I think The Mentors played with us on a couple of occasions. We also played a place in the Valley called The Country Club. One time we opened for Megadeth.
- In 1987, being already signed with "Under one Flag", you released your first album "Terror and Submission". What can you say about the recording sessions? How did it go? Why did Kurt Kilfelt decide to be also a producer?
- The recording went well, but the production is not great. We recorded at a place in the Santa Monica mountains with a bunch of trees and a real peaceful environment. Great for a folk album, but not for a thrash/speed metal record. The sound engineer didn't know anything about this type of genre either. We recorded everything in a couple weeks. We had been rehearsing a lot and were ready by the time we recorded. I think Kurt had an idea of what he wanted and that's part of the reason he wanted to produce it. We also didn't have a lot of money to pay a producer. Plus the fact the sound engineer had no idea what speed metal was, Kurt sort of had to take control. Unfortunately the sound is a bit weak and polished. I still love it though.
- Rick Araluce did an amazing art for this LP. How could you comment on it? Was it the band's concept or did Rick came up with it?
- I don't know the whole story behind the artwork. I do know that Kurt and his girlfriend moved in to an apartment where there was some of Rock's artwork. Kurt saw it and was blown away. Kurt got in touch with Rick and the rest is history. I think Kurt explained the concept behind the band and described what he wanted in a cover.
- Did you have any tour after the release? What was the feedback on your debut album?
- We toured Europe within a few months after T&S came out. At this time we didn't have a deal in the US. We played somewhere around 28 shows in 31 days opening for D.R.I. The reception was amazing. People were singing along to our songs and the crowds were very welcoming. The feedback on the album was good too, but wasn't amazing. The feedback and the results from the first European tour were enough to make us more hungry to put out something special, which I think Mind Wars came to be.
- Next year, in 1988, you released your second album "Mind Wars". How did the creation process go? Do you remember which tracks were the most difficult to compose?
- Mind Wars was much more of a collaborative effort. We just got off our first European tour and we were very well rehearsed. We also play our T&S songs much faster live then on the album. Kurt still had a bunch of material and I had a couple songs, but when we began rehearsing them everyone contributed a little something to each song. Keith also started writing lyrics. If I remember correctly, he wrote about 1/2 the lyrics on MW. As far as the most difficult to compose, I think Christian Resistance was the toughest for me. Those opening riffs are a bitch! However, nothing seemed too difficult to compose. Like I said, we were really prepared coming off our tour of Europe.
- Who was writing the lyrics? What were the main topics raised in your songs and why?
- Kurt wrote all the lyrics on T&S with the exception of Tomorrow's End which I wrote. I think Keith and Kurt each wrote about 50% on MW. The theme behind the lyrics of T&S were more geared toward religious and spiritual themes...kind of hell, fire, and brimstone. Tomorrow's End is simply about the apocalypse. There were some hopeful themes on T&S like Distant Calling. On MW they seemed to get in to more political topics...or at least more topics on the injustice of society. There were still the religious topics, but those too were more geared toward injustices. As to why? I think we felt the need to have some substance behind the lyrics. Something with meaning to make people think. It's easy to write lyrics about sex, drugs, and rock and roll, but what is the point. A lot of bands do that, but not many write meaningful lyrics.
- That time again, Rick was developing the band's vision on the album cover. Was it intended to do the art in the same way the first one was done?
- I think so...the band really wasn't involved with the artwork and concepts of the album covers. They were really Kurt's vision.
- What was the reason for the band's split up? Was it a mutual agreement or were you forced to do so?
- The break up of the band is a bit complicated. It had to do with us getting kicked off our second European tour with Exodus and Nuclear Assault. We had fulfilled our contractual obligation of two records with Under One Flag and they reached out to our manager while we were on tour to talk about our third album and beyond. Unfortunately, our manager told Under One Flag that we had signed a US deal for T&S, MW and our next 3 records. In addition to the US deal, we agreed to sign with the European counterpart to our American company the third, forth, and fifth records. Well, this didn't sit well with Under One Flag. They were upset we didn't let them compete for a European contract and they kicked us off the tour. Kurt ended up getting in to a fight with the Tour Manager and the German Police was called. We all hopped in to our van and took off. My relationship with Kurt had been declining over the last few months and I was a bit taken aback by what was happening, so I opted to fly home. I was told if I was leaving, I would be leaving the band for good.
- What can you say about the recent compilation, tribute to Keith Deen? What does this edition mean to you?
- I think it is awesome! Keith was an amazing person and a one of a kind thrash/speed metal singer. To me and many HT fans he was the best and most versatile singer of the genre. He had unique and unmatched qualities. If HT didn't collapse who knows what we would have done. I am very thankful to Ted from The Crypt for helping to bring this compilation to life. It amazes me how the HT spirit continues. I am very grateful to all the HT fans around the world. It is a very special thing to have a tribute record for Keith.
- Today you are involved into your project Mindwars. Could you tell us a bit about this band? What is the current status? Are there any plans for a new release?
- Thank you for asking about my new project Mindwars. After I left HT, I never stopped writing and creating material. I just stopped participating in the music industry. I went back to college and created a different life outside of music. However, the passion of this music never left me. When Roby Vitari and I connected through FaceBook, I knew it was time to start creating thrash/speed metal music again. We talked a bit through email and we had the same sort of vision to re-create the vibe and magic of the 80s scene. Our first release The Enemy Within was all material I had from back in the day. Much of it I would have presented to Holy Terror for what would have been our third album. So, I sent the material to Roby and he put drums to it. The next thing I knew, we created 11 songs that would become Mindwars first album. Roby recommend Danny and he fit perfectly. It made a ton of sense to have the rhythm section live near each other. It's hard enough for me and Roby to live in different countries. To try and add a bassist from a different area didn't make sense. We are very happy with how Danny has worked out. He is a guitarist by training, but he handles the bass just fine. Both of them made the trip to Los Angeles last Fall after the release of TEW and we managed to book a few shows. The experience was great.
We are currently working on our second album. We have 11 more songs and we hope to take MW to the next level. We have the drum tracks recorded and will begin to record the bass tracks over the next couple of months. Roby will then come to Los Angeles this fall to help with the recording of guitars and vocals. We are trying to secure a sound engineer to help with the mixing, but we can't mention who at this point. We hope our next record will come out this winter and to follow with a mini-European tour in the spring 2016.
- Thank you for this interview, Mike. Would you like to add anything in the end?
- Thank you so much for your continued support of Holy Terror and your interest in Mindwars. I hope I can continue putting out music that people enjoy. Thank again! Remember…SPEED KILLS!
Don't forget to check out Mindwars