- Hello, Michael! So, how did your metal journey start? What were the first bands that influenced you the most? Do you remember the moment when you decided to become a musician?
- My metal journey started at 12 years old when I first heard “Walk This Way” by Aerosmith and “Boys Are Back in Town” by Thin Lizzy. I was hooked on distorted guitar sounds. That progressed into a lot of other late 70’s hard rock bands like UFO, Scorpions, Rush, Triumph, Blue Oyster Cult, Mahogany Rush, Led Zeppelin, Queen. I discovered heavy metal through the unholy trinity of Black Sabbath, Judas Priest and Iron Maiden. “Unleashed in the East” and the first Maiden album changed my life. I was also very big into the NWOBHM bands, especially Angelwitch, Tygers of Pan Tang, Sweet Savage and Diamond Head. Later on, I was part of the 80’s San Francisco Bay Area thrash scene. That was really exciting. Lots of great bands and shows. All the bands were feeding off each other’s energy and creativity, making them even better bands.
- How often did you go to the metal shows? And how could you describe your local metal community at that time? Do you still remember any great concert that really changed your life?
- I went to a lot of metal shows in the 80’s. Saw some seminal shows – Ozzy with Randy Rhoads (twice), Sabbath with Dio on Mob Rules tour, the first Dio band show, Motorhead on the Ace of Spades tour (twice). Maiden on Number of the Beast tour (twice), Metallica with Mustaine. Slayer on the Show No Mercy tour (Ruthie’s in Berkeley, CA), Exodus with Kirk Hammett, Metallica/Raven tour, Mercyful Fate on Don’t Break the Oath tour, Accept on Balls to the Wall tour. The show that changed my life was Priest on the British Steel tour, though. First row at the Warfield Theater in San Francisco and met Halford and Tipton before the show.
- The band was formed in 1984, so how did you meet the others? Where did you rehearse? And did you record any demos prior to your debut full-length?
- I met 3 of the other original members of Intrinsic (Ron Crawford – guitar, Joel Stern – bass, Garrett Graupner – vocals) at my university – California Polytechnic State University – San Luis Obispo. I was studying Electronic Engineering. We met Chris Binns – drums, through an ad in a music store. He was only 16 at the time. The rest of us were just 20. A bunch of kids, really. We rehearsed at Sandor Studio in SLO, which was owned by Ed Sandor. He went on to produce all of our recordings over the years, including Nails. We recorded a demo in 1985 with Ed. 2 of the songs ended up on our first album and 2 were never released.
- In 1987, you released your self-titled album. Tell us about the recording sessions. How did it go? How long did it take you to record all the material?
- The recording sessions were pretty amazing. The studio, Villa Recorders, was in an almond tree grove just outside the California Central Valley city of Modesto. It was a real studio with a Studer 24 track tape machine and we were in awe, but felt very comfortable. We brought our big brother, Ed, along to help us and the sessions flowed really well. We recorded the whole album in the space of 5 days and mixed it in 3 days. I couldn’t sleep at night while we were recording it because I was so excited. We learned a lot from that experience.
- Howie Weinberg did the mastering of the album. Before you, he'd worked already with such bands as Slayer, Scorpions, Riot and Anthrax. So how did you get him into the team? How did you like working with him?
- Howie mastered the album at the request of the record company. We did not attend those sessions, but our manager did. He did an amazing job with the mastering and was real good to work with according to our manager.
- By your next release in 1990, you lost 2 members, and the "Distortion of Perspective" EP was released with new vocalist and guitarist. How can you evaluate those changes together with the new material.
- It was pretty hard to get that EP recorded between the revolving door we had at the vocalist position and losing original guitarist, Ron. We had actually written all the material for the EP with the original line-up, so we saw it at the time as a natural extension of the first album. I think that some people saw our direction turning more progressive. I don’t really see it that way, though I can understand it because of the ballad-like “Sail Into the Sun” and the long instrumental, “Maximator”. We recorded it at Ed’s 8 track studio in his house in SLO. We didn’t have the same technical resources that we had when we made the first album, but I think we did pretty well considering all we went through just to complete the EP.
- How active were you with the concerts? Did you have any tours? Have you played outside USA? What are your coolest memories of the live performances you did?
- We played a lot of shows all around California. We just did very short tours promoting the first album. We never really had the record company support to do long tours or play outside of the US. It’s a shame, really, but we hope to rectify that in the next year or so. I think one of the coolest memories I have is the first real concert we played in 1985 in SLO opening for Lizzy Borden and another LA band, Pandemonium. The SLO metal scene was pretty non-existent at the time, but we had been building it up with a lot of local shows. There were plenty of metal fans, but not many venues or any other bands besides ourselves. The show was at a real concert hall and it was sold out. The roar of the crowd when we hit the stage still rings in my ears all these years later.
- In 1995 you released your second album, "Closure". The material sounds really heavy and groovy. What were your main influences? How difficult was it to follow the new tendencies in music and stay yourself at the same time?
- It wasn’t on purpose at all, but we definitely shifted our songwriting focus after we couldn’t get a deal to release our Nails album in 1992. We simplified and wrote shorter, heavier songs. I am sure that how the metal scene was shifting at that time away from thrash & power metal to more extreme metal seeped into our writing. We were listening to more extreme metal bands. Plus the grunge sound was everywhere. We liked some of those bands a lot. We always wrote songs how we felt in our hearts our music should sound. There was never a conscious effort to change our sound, but we were definitely conscious of staying true to ourselves. We also moved to Arizona during the songwriting period for Closure and I think that was a big influence on us, just being in a different area. Especially in the desert. It just seeps into your entire being.
- And until last year there wasn't much information from you. What did you do all this time?
- Well, we like to say that we were on an extended hiatus. A few of the guys formed or joined other metal bands. Chris joined the band, Motograter, who put an album out on Elektra Records and did a bunch of touring, including Ozzfest. Mike Mclaughlin, bass player, formed a band back in SLO called Snubnose 32. I helped produce their album, Isolation, in 2000. Chris and Mike went on to form a band called Ghost Machine, with Ivan Moody from Motograter and Five Finger Death Punch on vocals and John Stevens on guitar. They released a couple of albums in 2005 and 2006. Garrett went back to Seattle and formed a band called SP Unlimited. They released an album in 2005 called Underrated Lifestyle. They were on the verge of getting a record deal when their singer, Jason, tragically passed away. It was very sad. Garrett went on to form a folksy Americana roots band called The Big Medicine and they had a few releases, but unfortunately, they recently broke up.
All of those bands were really good. I suggest that your readers go and check these bands out.
I focused on my engineering career during the early part of the Intrinsic hiatus. Working in Silicon Valley in California and other locations. Chris, Lee Dehmer – singer and I all started families, which has been a very rewarding and fun experience. We had put that off due to focusing on Intrinsic for all those years. It really is pretty great to be able to start a family later in life.
Intrinsic did some reunion shows in 2005 and 2007 just for fun, but it really made us remember how enjoyable it was to create together and how much we missed it and how much we missed each other. We started talking about writing again, but are spread out over the western US and it is difficult to collaborate that way.
- In 2015 you released your new album, "Nails". But it has an interesting story, that the material has been already recorded in 1992, but released only now. So what happened? Why didn't you unleashed this material on time?
- We would have liked to release it in 1992, but could not get record company support. As I said in my earlier answer, the metal scene was changing and grunge was huge. Record labels wanted nothing to do with 80’s inspired thrash/power metal. We had to give up on releasing it and move on. It was a bitter pill to swallow and I think our disappointment and anger about it show up in how the music on Closure sounded. Now all these years later, as we were starting to think about writing again, I made a Facebook page and through that and an Austrian metal collector, Charly Kogler, we connected with Divebomb Records who wanted to release.
- Have you ever thought, how would it changed the history of your band if the album was released in 1992? Or do you think that now it's also a good opportunity and you didn't lose anything?
- That is a very interesting question and I have thought about this. In some of the reviews of Nails and posts on Facebook, people are saying we would have been a big name band had Nails been released in 1992. I much as I believe the music was very strong on Nails, I am not sure that would have happened. Not in the musical climate of the time that I described earlier. I think it would have been buried under all the shifts in the music scene and probably forgotten about unless we had gotten a major label deal with lots of promotion. It’s funny, but I almost think that now is a better time for Nails to be released. There is pretty good demand for 80’s and 90’s metal. People still really like that era and think it was the most creative time for heavy music. So I think there is more of a receptive audience out there now and they can be reached easier with the Internet. It’s still a pretty underground album and there is a lot of other bands out there vying for people’s attention, but at least it’s not buried.
- So, tell us a bit about the album. Where did you record it? How produced it and what was your studio team? How did your recording sessions go?
- We recorded it at Sandor Sound Studio in SLO. It was our producer’s (Ed Sandor) studio again. We started out recording in his house, but this time with a 16 track tape machine. He built a studio halfway through the recording, so we finished recording and the original mix there. The sessions went great and were very creative, but pretty hard at the same time. It took quite a while to track the album between doing so many songs and the studio moving right in the middle of it all. It was a pretty experimental time for us. We were trying a lot of different things and some of the experiments required guest musicians. We brought in a keyboard player on a couple of songs, a group of women who sang for the Cal Poly Chorus, a violin player, a horn section and a harmonica player. They were only on a few songs, one of which was a bonus track – Cannabis Sativa, but I think it all added a cool diversity to the album. When we signed the deal with Divebomb, our original intention was to use the original mixes. They sounded pretty good, but there were issues with the original master tape. It was mixed to DAT tape, which was the standard back in the early 90’s but DAT tapes are not meant to last 20+ years, so the tape had degraded. Lots of digital glitches and dropouts of the sound. We decided to do a new mix of the album at a studio (The Mouse House Studios) in Pasadena, CA, just outside of Los Angeles. Ed still had the multi-track master tapes and they sounded great all these years later, but we first had to bake them in an oven to make sure they didn’t fall apart during the transfer process to ProTools. Rich Mouser was the mixing engineer, assisted by myself, Chris, Mike and studio intern Jeff Fox. It was so much fun hearing all the tracks again and really taking the sound to its highest potential.
- And what's your current status? Are you working on the new material? Can we expect to see you on tour? Maybe visiting Europe?
- We have officially reactivated and are writing new music. We have some long distance video chat writing sessions and some sessions in person. We have to be flexible and do things a little differently than in the old days. We have about 11 songs in the pipeline and will be finishing demos of 5 of them very soon. Then we will look for a record company to partner with to record and release the album. We would love to come to Europe in 2017. We tried in 2016, but Nails came out too late for the summer festivals and they were all pretty much booked.
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