Many bands from the 80's scene seem to be completely forgotten now, we can't sum up how many of these combos had released jewel back then that are lost in the ages now. Among them, we'll deal with BROCAS HELM. This Amercian combo came with a great Epic Heavy Metal. "Black Death" remained a cult and classic album in the underground scene. Here is an interview with bassist Jim and drummer Jack...This interview was conducted in 2003 by Patrick from Iron Wolf web zine.
BROCAS HELM formed in November 1982. Do you remember what were the goals of the band ? What were the bands which gave you the desire to play ?
Jim : Hm, I’ll only speak for myself when I first started playing, Deep Purple were gods. We drove thousands of miles to see them. Also Black Sabbath was around, later came Judas Priest, UFO, Scorpions and stuff like that but in the later years, NWOBHM rolled in like a steamroller, and that was the stuff for me. I still prefer almost all European stuff. (Especially German; the language seems to suit metal well.) Uriah Heep is a good old school band; one of the first where I realized hard stuff could be fantasy based. If you haven’t before, check out Demons and Wizards, or the Magician’s Birthday. Gary Thain was one of the great mostly unknown bassists of the day.

You recorded a demo in 1983. Did it help a lot to play concerts and to find a deal ?
Jim : Yep, it got us a great deal of recognition it was the first demo I’ve ever sold; before it was always just passing them around or sending them out. The Record Vault personnel told me to bring some in and sell them and they actually sold. It was a bit of a turning point; I’d almost given up the thought of making any money in this business.

In 1984, you signed with First Strike for USA and Steamhammer for Europe. Was the deal for one album only? I think you were not satisfied with the deal. On the Steamhammer LP, the original cover was put on the paper sheet with the lyrics, and the new cover was not great...
Jim : Nope, I wasn’t satisfied. Steamhammer was a licensing deal, through First Strike. The cover sucked; it was put on by First Strike a week before pressing, without our consent. There’s a lot of things I could say, but that was then and now is now, screw the past.

 

"Into Battle" is a great LP with fantastic songs as "Into Battle", "Beneath a Haunted Moon" or "The Dark Rider". How was the response for the album at this time ?
Jim : Great. Wonderful. Everything we could hope for, except cash. And a good record is far more important to me than making money from it, anyway.

Why did you disappear until 1987 ?
Jack : It may seem like we were lazy bums, but in fact we were constantly busy. First we had contractual obligation with First Strike Records. We owed them another product, and made a demo just for them. Eventually they agreed with us that we should not continue our relationship and they signed off making us free to pursue other deals. We did lots of shopping with our demos, but eventually ended up making "Black Death" at home. It took a lot of time and work.
Jim : We were lazy bums.

You returned with a promo tape to find a deal, but unfortunately it seems the labels were deaf. Was it the reason to create Gargoyle Records ?
Jack : Yeah, that was the reason. The labels with any money to spend were signing Speed Metal, Black Metal, ..... I can't remember what the flavour of the month was, but there was no "Epic Metal" at that time. If you didn't fit into a category, they didn't know what to do with you. We couldn't find a label willing to pay for a good recording. We did get some offers to press our demo directly an EP. However at the time it seemed that the best offer was from ourselves because we got 100% of everything! The takes used on the demo are the same as on the record, but mixed differently.
Jim : We also have 100 percent control over sound, over cover, lyrics, etc...

1988 was the year for the legendary "Black Death" LP, with awesome songs as "Black Death", "Hell s Whips", "Fly High", "Prophet's Scream". What are your thoughts about this album ? I guess you know it is considered as the BROCAS HELM album by your die-hard fans ?
Jack : It's good to hear that it was appreciated. We called it our "sleeper album" because we thought it wouldn't be noticed for sometime after we released it. We didn't have the resources to make a high-fidelity recording and properly promote it, but we definitely worked the hardest on that one. Now it seems that it was worth the effort. I'm happy with the way it worked out.

Seeing that you were back, Steamhammer made a poor CD re-release of "Into Battle". Any plan to re-release properly this album ?
Jim : Yep. Stand by. As soon as we iron out all the legal details.

Did you tour in USA for "Black Death" or did you play local gigs ?
Jim : That would be local we’ve never really done any touring, although it’s my favourite aspect of music. A combination of finances and lack of places to play would be the problem, we’ve always pretty much done everything on our own; no financial support.

What did you do between 1989 and 1994 ?
Jack : That sounds like a much longer time period now than it seemed when it happened. I remember needing a bit of a break after "Black Death". It was 5 years of staying up most of the night, every night, recording, artwork, business, making contacts, promotion, accounting, taxes, distribution, mail,...it was actually much more work than I ever expected. At one point, just answering the mail was almost full time job. I had no idea how many fanzines there were around the world. Anyway, it may seem like we were not busy, but after a short break, we recorded some demos that were never released, but only shopped around to the labels. I remember once at a trade show, an A&R guy from Atlantic Records said that his son thought we were the greatest band ever, but of course his label was not interested. Anyway, we then we started recording the songs on the Ghost Story demo. T-Bone's departure caused as tall in that project. We tried some replacements but couldn't find a match. Finally we agreed that it was just the three of us and finished the Ghost Story tape. During this period, the metal scene had almost gone away. It was non-existent in San Francisco. Without shows to play, it was sometimes difficult to keep going. The only real motivation to keep playing BROCAS HELM music was that we love it. Things are much better now. There are shows to play, our studio more or less works, we have new songs, I think we have more fans than ever, and there's a category called Epic Metal! Life is good !

You did another return in 1994 with a demo, but then we have to wait until 1997 to hear again from BROCAS HELM...
Jack : The "Ghost Story" demo was another attempt to get a deal to make a well produced CD. It went only to record labels at first. This time we actually received responses from most of the major labels. They mostly said that they really liked the demo, but couldn't make money in that market. Strangely, we considered this a compliment. We wanted to put out another record, but simply didn't have the money, time, or energy, required to make it ourselves. Our "Caverns of Thunder" basement studio was worn out. We needed as much money to get it going again as we did to make another record. It was never that we quit, or didn't want to put something out. It was a bit frustrating.

In 1997, you released the "Time Of The Dark" 7EP on Bad Posture with two songs from the 94 demo, and you re-released "Black Death" on CD on your label Gargoyle. You received good responses both in Greece and in Germany, but the other countries seemed to be ignorant to BROCAS HELM. What did you think of the situation ?
Jack : Perhaps we are to blame, as we did no promotion at all. We were only responding to requests for our music that we received in the mail. We just needed something to send to those who contacted us, not really trying to get a lot of attention. Germany has always been the capitol for real metal, but the Greek fans caught us by surprise. We didn't really know how much we were appreciated there and how it happened. We never promoted ourselves there in the past.

Again we had to wait until 2001 to hear two new songs on the "Skullfucker" 7EP. The songs are faster than in the past, the result being a devastating Heavy/Speed 7EP. Are you satisfied with the result ?
Jim : I like it a lot. Hey, that’s one of my bikes on the cover. This is what comes of doing it ourselves besides, I always wanted colour vinyl (now I want splatter vinyl).

Do you consider Greece as the home of BROCAS HELM ? I mean you played in Athens in 2002, and it seems you got a great response...
Jack : We were treated royalty or gods there. If only home could be so good ! My soul is still there. Special thanks to Greg Varsamis and the all of the guys from Battleroar. They are some of the greatest guys I've ever met! The list of great people we met there is far too long to list here.
Jim : We shall return. I’ve never been treated so well, in any place we’ve been. I strongly recommend it to all bands.

In 2002, Doomed Planet re-released "Black Death" on picture LP with two bonus (which are the other two songs from the '94 demo). How did you get in touch with this label ?
Jim : Well, Rob Preston lives about 20 miles from us, and comes to our shows. He just asked us in person. And he was sober at the time.

Is there a chance to see a new BROCAS HELM full album in the near future because after all these years, the waiting is more than a pain...?
Jack : I assure you, it's a pain for us as well ! If only we could account for all of the energy we've used just answering this same question.

What are your best and worst memories with the band ?
Jack : Best: Playing in Athens, The making of "Black Death", almost every show that we ever played.
Worst: The making of "Black Death". Answering thousands of questions over the years about when the next BROCAS HELM project will be released.

Jim : Of course, the best is Athens, the worst... Hm... Well, there is the story of how one of our road crew got tossed in jail for punching out a cop, but that’s a bit too long to recite now, look for it on the website, in the Wizard’s Tales section.

With Cirith Ungol and Manilla Road, Brocas Helm are on the throne of the Epic Metal kingdom. This is not only my statement, it's the opinion of many Epic Metal maniac. How do you feel when someone says this to you ?
Jack : It's a never expected honour. Much better than any financial success we ever hoped for.
Jim : Yeehaw. Where’s my castle ?

In these days, which bands do you listen to ? Do you still buy Metal albums ?
Jack : I've been only listening to tracks we're working on for the next BROCAS HELM CD, over and over and over......Maybe that's what's why I twitch.
Jim : I don’t buy a lot these days; not much of the good stuff is available in America, unless you dig deep it’s not like the old days. Too many of the new bands sound alike. Oddly enough, lately I listen to a lot of Jrock (Japanese Rock), but that might be because I have a thing for Asian women. I still listen to the old Metal, and a few new things, but I’d have to go look up the names of the bands, even. I have a bad memory for names. So if I meet you (anyone), and don’t remember your name, it’s not because I’m an asshole, just an idiot. I know who you are, I just don’t remember names. My brain’s too full.

Thank you very much for your answers. I wish BROCAS HELM all the best for the future. If you want to add something...
Jack : Thanks very much Patrick.
Jim : Stand by for the German Assault, see you at the Keep It True Festival, in July. Once again we brave the unsettled skies, placing our faith in the Dark Rider. (who wears the Brocas Helm).

Franang zine 28/01/07