|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
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.
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.
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.
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,
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
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
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 !
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
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
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
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