- Hello, CJ! The band was formed in 1984, tell us how did it happen? Whose idea was it and how did you meet each other?
- Tom (Nolz, guitar/vocals) and Eddie (Sciortino, drums) had a couple of jams before I came along. Tom went to college with my friend Charlie Lim, who knew I was looking for a band. Charlie gave him my phone number. We set up a jam (Wednesday, 12 Sept 1984) and it felt good. We decided to keep at it.
- What bands did influence you the most? What was your local underground like?
- We all had similar tastes at that point, primarily Metallica, Accept and Exciter. I was kinda new to the deep underground at that point. Tom introduced me to Mercyful Fate, Slayer, Kreator and Exodus. He had a copy of Bonded By Blood long before it was officially released, as it was making its way around the world via tape trading. From there it was a non-stop search of the underground.
As far as our local scene, we were just learning about things. We obviously knew we didn't fit in with the glam stuff. Eddie knew the guys in Fantom Warior, and we all became fast friends. From there we just met more folks and got more and more involved.
Our local heroes were Overkill. They were still unsigned when we first saw them, but they were great even then. Tom and I would go see them as often as possible, which was an awful lot as they were the de facto house band at L'Amours in Brooklyn during 1985. (And they're still awesome!!)
As an aside, when Fantom Warior reunited a few years ago they tracked a new song at my recording studio. Later on they got some show offers, and they asked me if I'd play guitar with them. I spent a year or so with them. We got to play a lot of cool shows opening for Raven, Deceased and Black Anvil.
- Do you remember your first rehearsal place? What kind if gear and guitar did you use at that time?
- Our rehearsal space was Eddie's basement. We were so loud – I don't know how his family could stand it, but they were totally supportive.
I had a Marshall JCM-800 combo, the 2x12" model. I used that for many years. My main pedals were a Boss OD-1, a Cry Baby wah and a Boss CE-3. As for guitars I had a white custom-built Strat and a Tokai Strat. I had Floyd Rose units installed on both.
- Who came up with the band's name? That's a nice mix of Insane and Maniac?
- We were hanging out in Eddie's basement, and we were kinda arguing about coming up with a good band name. When we formed we called ourselves Tantrum, but later found out it was taken. We didn't dig it any way, ha ha ha. So there we were, arguing in a good-natured way, and Tom Medcraft (our bass player) said something to the effect of "you guys are insane, you guys are maniacs... you're Insaniacs." And, just like that, we had cool band name. :)
- Your first demo, "Screams from the Asylum", was released in 1985. Where did you record it? How many copies did you originally have?
- Screams was recorded by me, on my TASCAM 244 PortaStudio. We did most of it in Eddie's basement, with some overdubs and the mixing done at my house. It was totally DIY, and I was learning my craft. For what we had to work with it came out great. We wound up getting over 600 copies out in circulation.
- How did you distribute your tapes? What was the feedback? Did you get any labels interested in your music?
- As was the way back then, we sent Screams off to as many fanzines as we could find, all over the world. The reviews were positive across the board, not much negativity. Once the reviews got noticed we'd get orders via mail. As time went on a few people overseas bought 20-30 at a time, selling them via their distribution lists. We also had them for sale at some underground music stores in the area such as Rock 'n' Roll Heaven (Clark, NJ), Vintage Vinyl (Fords, NJ), Bleeker Bob's (NYC) and Slipped Disc (Valley Stream, NY). We didn't get any label interest from that demo, but that didn't really bother us. We knew the songs that followed were showing lots of growth.
- How often did you play live? Having only 1 demo in the list, was it difficult to get invited to play at a certain venue?
- We would play live as often as possible, which was probably 10-12 shows a year. By the time Screams was out we had a few more songs, so filling a 40-45 minutes set was not a problem. Plus we had some covers at our disposal.
- It was also mentioned that later you re-recorded "Screams..." with some additional tracks. Could you tell us a bit about it? What was the reason for it? Where did you record it? What was the cover it?
- Yes, we re-recorded the Screams demo in 1986. We also tracked early versions of "Circle Of Death", Plead Insanity" and "Apocalypse Warrior" along with some covers. I'm sure I instigated the re-recording, trying to get it to sound better. On the original version the drums were in mono. Getting them tracked in stereo added a lot of depth. I was improving as an engineer, and I had access to some better gear. The cover art was the same for both versions.
- Your next release was in 1987, "At Large". That was your live performance demo. Where did you record it? Who did the mastering and mixing and in what format was it release?
- At Large was a stop-gap release. It had been a long time since Screams came out, and it would still be a while before Psychomania was recorded and released. The songs on that release were from 3 shows in Staten Island, recorded between 10/1986 and 2/1987. They were all 2-track board tapes, so there were no overdubs. I assembled it on the PortaStudio and added some crowd noise from The Dictators live album Fuck 'Em If They Can't Take A Joke.
- "Psychomania", your next demo, become your first studio release. Where and how did you record it? How long did you spend at the studio?
- We decided that our next demo had to be done in a real studio. Fantom Warior had done their Morbid Invasion demo at a place called Merlin Music. We liked the sound and the price wasn't bad, so we went there. It was an 8-track studio on 1/2" tape, loads of outboard gear, great mics – definitely a step up.
We were well rehearsed going in, so I think we only did 3 sessions total. We got the basic tracks done in the first session, leads and vocals at the 2nd, then the mix. We were in the studio in June, and we had it out by August.
- Later on, this one was re-released already officially by BFD Records, still as a cassette. Tell us a bit more about this label and the deal you got.
- The re-release of Psychomania on BFD was a full re-mix of the demo. It was still on cassette (as an EP), but professionally manufactured. However, we didn't really get signed. I started BFD Records to make our recorded output look more 'official'. I wound up releasing a few things from other bands once I got it going. Much later on I released my first solo album and our Skullshifter album, Inner Demons, on BFD.
- In 1989 you recorded 8 songs that never got to be released. What were those songs and what is the story about that bad luck?
- The 2 sessions we did in 1989 (in June and Septembre, respectively) were only for us. There was never any intention to release them. They were just live-to-tape on 8-track, warts and all. Those recordings were the heaviest we had sounded by that time.
- Why did Tom Medcraft (bass) have to leave the band? And how did you find a replacement for him?
- By that point we were getting frustrated. We were at it for 5 years and hadn't gotten past the demo stage. There was a contract offer on the table from a label in the UK, but the negotiations were at a bit of a stalemate. Without getting into the gory details, Tom Medcraft had lost the plot. We offered a solution but he declined, and that was it.
We posted a 'bass player wanted' advert in a local music newspaper called The Aquarian. We had a few bass players down, but nothing clicked. Then Patrick Hamel stepped through the door and knocked it out of the park.
- In 1990 you set to record the first full-length, but again, it didn't happen and you ended up by releasing an EP only. What happened?
- Once we had Patrick in place we decided to move forward with recording our album. We were pretty certain that the deal would happen, so we booked some time at place called Studio E in Garfield, NJ. This was another step up, as they were a 16-track facility on 2" tape. Unfortunately once we started recording the deal fell through. We couldn't afford to finish the album with our own money, so we finished 2 songs – "Media Lies" and "The Verdict" – and added 2 others ("Plead Insanity" and "Outcast") that we recorded live-in-the-studio back at Merlin to 2-track. That became the Media Lies demo, which was our last 'proper' release.
- There was another funny story, where you had to support Obituary and Sacred Reich,but they didn't manage to come. Do you know what was the reason for it? What was your set like?
- In the Summer of 1990 Sacred Reich, Obituary and Forced Entry were touring together. We got booked on the bill with them at Club Bené in Sayreville, NJ. Our friends Elysium were on the bill as well. We never got a straight answer from anyone, but I can only figure that ticket sales were low as it was a Monday show. I'm sure the promoter pulled the plug so that he didn't lose a bundle of money. Of course, since all the local bands sold tickets he still had the show.
- Your last show was in 1991, what was that concert? And why did you have to disband Insaniac?
- The final show was at L'Amours, and it was a real anti-climax as we had decided to call it quits a few weeks before. It was a 10-band bill, and we were on last. I remember nodding off during a few bands. It was around 2:45am when we finally hit the stage. At that point in time I was heavily influenced by a lot of the death metal that had emerged, bands like Pestilence and Obituary. Even moreso Napalm Death, who are, of course, grindcore. I wanted to get heavier, and Eddie wasn't into it. So, if I needed heavier, it had to be a new band. Unfortunately that band wouldn't happen unto late 2002, when Tom Nolz and I started Skullshifter.
- In 2009 "At Large" was officially re-released on vinyl with some limited edition. Could you tell us how did it happen and what kind of edition was it exactly?
- We got approached by Yohta Takahashi of HMSS Records in Japan about doing a vinyl release of At Large. We thought it would be a cool thing to do, as we never had a vinyl release. There were a few problems, though. The original 4-track cassette master tapes were long gone, and the cassette duplication master was worn out. I did still have the original board tapes, but only from 2 of the 3 shows. So I had to make some adjustments. There are a couple of songs on the vinyl that did not appear on the original version.
This time I was able to assemble the master in the computer, via ProTools. It also allowed me to enhance the audio a bit, add EQ where necessary. I grabbed the crowd from that same release from The Dictators, which was now on CD. The Dictators thing became all the more hilarious to me, as I spent 8 years as their Road Manager (2000-2008). HMSS Record only released 125 copies. Nearly all of them wound up in the Japanese market, and it sold out very quickly. Sometimes I see them pop up on eBay.
- And in October 2013 there was another release, by AreaDeath Productions. Was it a compilation of all the records you've ever done? What is the story behind this release? Can people still find it somewhere?
- The Terminal Madness compilation... this release saw all of our studio demos released on CD for the first time. Chris Forbes from Metal-Core zine helped set things in motion for this one, as he put Wang from AreaDeath in contact with me. Wang did a fantastic job on this, no question about it. When he sent over the artwork we were blown away. He treated the band's legacy with the utmost respect.
I mastered all the audio for this release. All the songs from Psychomania were re-mixed, along with the song "Plead Insanity" as I still had the 8-track masters. There are 6 rare tracks included at the very end. At Large was not included as 1) there wasn't enough room to fit it, and 2) we kinda did that as an exclusive for Yohta at HMSS anyway. The only song not included on Terminal Madness is "Perception (Is Reality)". We never did a demo of that one, and none of the live recordings of it are any good. This release is definitely still available. It can be ordered from us through our web-site.
- Are you still in contact with other guys? What are you up to now? Have you ever discussed possibility of any reunion?
- Yes. Quite a bit, in fact. Tom Nolz and I, as mentioned above, started Skullshifter in 2002. We released an EP (Here In Hell) in 2005, and a full album (Inner Demons) in 2008. At some point in 2010 that band morphed into Death Metallic, which is a Metallica tribute band that we have a lot of fun with. There is a possibility of Skullshifter playing a show next year, which would be our first since late 2009. We also did a video for "Strain".
Eddie and I did a cover band called Radio X from 1994 until early 1999. That was different, and fun. He and I also played a lot of roller hockey together. He even filled in on drums for Death Metallic for one show about 2 years ago. It was cool for Tom, Eddie and I to share the stage again, fer sure.
Patrick Hamel played in a band called Dirt Church in the mid '90s. They were really good and should have gotten signed, but unfortunately that was when metal was out of vogue. He and I did an instrumental rock trio called Shroud Of Silence around the same time. Right now he's currently in a band called Danse De Sade. They've got a cool vibe and they're pretty unique, with elements of both horror and sleaze. They play in NYC and Philadelphia quite a bit, and they have a one-off show in L.A. this coming New Year's Day. Everyone's lost contact with Tom Medcraft since around 2009-2010.
Reunion?? Well, there's already been one. Kinda. Let me explain...
Since 2006 we've been working on the unfinished album. I had the 2" masters from the Studio E sessions, I transferred the tracks to digital. After going through everything we recorded at that time (we did backing tracks for 9 songs) we realized there were some problems. So Tom Nolz and I decided to move forward and finish the thing, but we'd have to re-record a few songs. This allowed us to get a recording of "Perception (Is Reality)", as well as a brand new song that Tom wrote entitled "Spiders". Eddie was no longer interested in playing heavy stuff, so we approached our friend Joe Moore (who was with DTA at the time) to do the new drum tracks. And he did an absolutely stellar job, he totally killed it!! Patrick Hamel is on bass, and he played great. Everyone did, I'm really proud of all the guys. These songs never sounded better. All that's left to do is some mixing – just a few tweeks, actually – and then the mastering. I've gotten a little sidetracked there, which is addressed in your next question.
- Recently you joined another Thrash maniacs from Blood Feast, how did it happen? What are your current plans?
- Blood Feast had a festival gig scheduled down in Puerto Rico. At the last minute their 2nd guitarist decided he couldn't do it, so they had to cancel. By coincidence, that same night Death Metallic had a gig at St. Vitus in Brooklyn, and Adam Tranquilli (their original guitar player) was playing with his Carnivore tribute band, Retaliation. I told him I'd love to try out, so we rehearsed once and I was in. They simultaneously decided to replace their original drummer, as he had no interest in moving forward with new material. The above mentioned Joe Moore was available and interested. We jammed, things clicked and Blood Feast was reborn.
Once promoters heard that their was a solidified line-up we got offers for shows. Our 1st 2 gigs were in Virginia and Chicago. We played at the True Thrash Festival in Osaka, Japan back in February. Then we started getting label interest for a new album, which lead to us signing with Hells Headbangers. We've been working on the album since April at my studio – all that's left to do are lead guitars and vocals. It's been quite a whirlwind so far. So this is what is kept me from finishing the Insaniac album.
Aside from Blood Feast and Death Metallic activity, I'll finish mixing the Insaniac album as soon as possible. Then once that's done I'll get back to work on my 2nd solo album. That's long overdue.
- Thank you for this interview, CJ! Would you like to add anything in the end?
- Cheers for the interview Dima, we appreciate your interest in Insaniac!! We'll let you know when the album is done.