Exciter - 12/04/2008

In 1978 the band Hell Razor was formed in Ottawa ON,Canada. At that time the band consisted of John Ricci (guitars), Dan Beehler (drums) and Allan James Johnson (bass). In 1980 they changed their name to Exciter and recorded a demo which they then sent to Mike Varney of Shrapnel Records. Varney included one song from it, "World War III", on the compilation album US Metal Volume II in 1982. Shortly after that Exciter were signed to Shrapnel Records. In 1983 they released their debut album, ‘Heavy Metal Maniac’.

Later that year Exciter signed a record-deal with Jon Zazula's Megaforce Records and soon after that they released their second album, ‘Violence & Force’ (1984). After a few opening dates with Anthrax they embarked on their first U.S. tour with Mercyful Fate. Exciter switched to a new label, Music For Nations and traveled to London to record their third album (produced by Motörhead producer Guy Bidhead). The album would be titled ‘Long Live The Loud’. It was a slightly more 'mainstream' heavy metal sound than the speed/thrash metal of the first two albums. After its release the band went on a European tour with Accept and later a U.S. tour with Motörhead and Megadeth. Before the year ended they released the 3-track EP 'Feel the Knife', which would be the last release by the original line-up. Shortly after this release, John Ricci quit the band.

Along with a new guitarist came a new, more melodic sound. The next album, ‘Unveiling The Wicked’, was released in 1986. After its release the band went out on a very successful European tour with Motörhead and Manowar. It was decided at this time that Dan Beehler (who had handled both drums and vocals since the band's inception) would not sing anymore. A new vocalist was found in Rob Malnati who made his debut on the 1988 album Exciter (O.T.T.), with this album the band pushed the melodic sound even further. A Canadian tour followed but after that the band went on hiatus.

In 1991 the band re-emerged with Dan Beehler on drums and lead vocals again. Original guitarist John Ricci also returned to the fold and one year later the band signed with German metal label Noise Records and recorded their sixth album entitled ‘ Kill After Kill’ and went on a three week European tour with Rage. In 1993 they released their first live album, ‘Better Live Than Dead’ , which had been recorded during their 1991 Canadian tour. After this release the band disappeared for a second time. It would be three years before they would be heard from again.

In March of 1996 an almost completely new line-up was announced. Guitarist John Ricci, was the only remaining original member. Jacques Bélanger was the new vocalist and Rick Charron and Marc Charron (no relation) would handle drum and bass duties. The new line-up played a few well received shows in Canada before recording a new album entitled ‘The Dark Command’ (1997).

Between 1998 and 2000 the band was basically dormant with only two festival appearances in the 2 year span. The summer of 2000 saw the release of the follow-up to ‘The Dark Command’ entitled ‘Blood Of Tyrants’. The new album was heavier and more aggressive than its predecessor. In the fall of 2001 Jacques left the band due to "creative differences". A year later Marc quit to pursue a career in the technology industry.

At the beginning of 2003 a new line-up was announced with John and Rick returning to the band, but due to several line-up problems the band recorded ‘New Testament’ with John on both guitar and bass. ‘New Testament’ would be a "best of" album of re-recorded classics from throughout the band's entire career. Later that year, bassist Rob "Clammy" Cohen would join the ranks. The year 2004 would end with the band heading out on a European tour with Steel Attack and in 2006 Jacques Belanger left the band once again.



Now, two years later the band has a new singer and a new album has been released through Massacre records, so we have plenty of questions for John Ricci, the only original member left  in the band!!!


Your latest album Thrash Speed Burn’ was released recently, so of course we’d like to ask you a couple of questions about it! So here we go, first of all, how are you?

Everything is going great, the new record is getting positive response from the fans and media!


Let’s go back in history for a bit. After the album ‘Blood of Tyrants’ (2000), your singer Jacques Bélanger left the band. Then in 2003 new members joined and you recorded a number of old classics for your album ‘New Testament’. How did you finally come to this new line up for the band? And how does it feel to be the only remaining original member?
Yes, Jacques left the band after ´Blood Of Tyrants´ but he came back to record New Testament in 2004.The line-up for that record was myself, Jacques and Rik. I played bass on New Testament because at that time we didn’t have a bass player. The line-up that we have now on this new record ‘Thrash Speed Burn’  is myself, Rik Charron, Clammy and new singer Kenny Winter. It does not feel strange to be the only original member it’s actually better, there is less disagreements within the band and we actually work as a team and not against each other like the original members.


So it took you guys some years to come up with a new studio album, why did we have to wait so long?
After the release of 'New Testament' we did not have any new material. We started writing new songs in 2006 for Thrash Speed Burn but then Jacques quit again so at this point we had to audition new singers before we found Kenny. Time passed quickly and before you knew it here we are in 2008!


How did you launch into writing the material for ‘Thrash, Speed, Burn’ after your previous album, did ideas come easily so that you just had to write them down or was it more of a careful composing thing?
When I write songs they come easily. I wait until I’m inspired by a musical idea or guitar riff. I never force creativity, It is a natural evolution. I never write anything down, I actually tape the idea and then go back a few days later  and listen to it again to make sure the idea is going to work.

What were the goals you had in mind when you started to record ‘Thrash, Speed, Burn’’, any elements you definitely wanted to have on the album?

The goal of ´Thrash Speed Burn´ is to introduce Exciter to younger fans to let them know where thrash and speed came from. We are one of the pioneers of speed metal, I felt we had to re-establish this. This record is like a `roots` record, it has all the elements what metal is all about.


Was it a conscious decision to do it this way?

Yes, this was a deliberate vision to write the album this way.


Who was responsible for writing the songs and the lyrics on the new album?

I write all the music and lyrics but Rik, Clammy and Kenny really contribute a lot

to make the songs better.


What are the main differences between your last album ´Blood Of Tyrants’ and the recently released ‘Thrash, Speed, Burn’?
In my opinion there isn’t much difference between ´Blood Of Tyrants´ and ´Thrash Speed Burn´. Both records are very fast, if any difference I think the songwriting is stronger on ´Thrash Speed Burn´.


How did the recording process proceed and how much time did you spend in the studio?
The recording went very smoothly, our producer Charles Fairfield was very easy to work with. The record was recorded from Sept.-Dec./07. It would have taken less time but our singer Kenny lives in New York City and we had to work around his availability when he could record.


For the first time in Exciter history, you recorded an album in a digital studio, what were your expectations of this type of studio?
Our expectations in a digital studio were that we assumed the recording process would be much faster and less complicated than an analog studio. When recording tracks, if a mistake would occur it was much easier to correct it with music software instead of re-recording the parts again.


What are the main differences between a conventional studio and this digital studio, were there any problems which you hadn't expected?  

As I mentioned, a lot of time is saved when you don’t have to re-record parts again and the corrections can be done with automation, that’s the main difference between analog and digital studios.

Back to the production of the album. It’s a pity that this is the only weak point of ‘Thrash, Speed, Burn’, how did that happen ?

I don’t think the production is weak on ´TSB´, it just sounds 80`s and has that old school garage sound which is what made Exciter popular in the first place. We didn’t have the same budget as some other bands where they could spend months and months to refine their sound, we had to move quickly and finish the album for the proposed release date Feb.22/08.

Now we have ‘Thrash, Speed, Burn’ in store. And despite the bad production of the album, have you received any feedback on the new album yet? How do you feel about this album – are you satisfied with the outcome or would you have liked to have changed anything in retrospective?
The reviews for TSB have been over the top, great reviews. I would have changed nothing on this record, we’re very satisfied with it.


In song writing, what is, according to Exciter, the utmost important ingredient for a song, how can we imagine you work on new songs? What comes first, lyrics or melodies? Is it like you sit down and write a new song because you need more material now or do you wait until you get an idea?
Sometimes I come up with song ideas when I’m not expecting it, at that point I pick up the guitar and play the idea before I forget it ! ha ! ha !


Is there any typical way that an Exciter song comes into being?
Usually I’ll  come up with a guitar riff first, we’ll jam it to make sure it will work and then we move on and complete the song . We add the lyrics the last after the whole song has a final arrangement.


Do any bands, inspired by your work years ago, in turn inspire you these days? You guys have been around for almost 30 years, and your body of work has had enough impact.
Younger bands that we influenced do not really inspire me, I do appreciate many new metal bands, but what they are playing is just an extension of what we started.


After your album ‘New Testament’ you changed record labels, Osmose Productions was exit and Massacre Records came in. Did this change also have a positive influence on recording of ‘Thrash, Speed, Burn’?

Massacre Records has been very good with us. We had full creative control for this album with no influence from Massacre. We were free to do what we wanted.


What was the main reason you joined Massacre Records, how is your relationship with them - did you have free reign as a band to do what you wanted creatively or otherwise, or did they impose any rules on what you guys did?
We decided to leave Osmose Productions because even though they are a excellent company we felt that they had done all they could for us and we wanted to move on  to a company that could possibly do more promotion for us.


Could you please describe the implications of the title Thrash, Speed, Burn’, what does it stand for and is there a special meaning behind it?
The meaning of ´TSB´ is this,

Thrash.....thrashing and head banging.

Speed.....playing wicked riffs with intensity.

Burn.......burning up and down the guitar neck.


Who wrote the lyrics for this album and can you tell us something about them?

I write all the lyrics but on this record Kenny’s contribution has been fantastic. He added alot of ideas that I never thought of and as a result the melodies improved.


Finally, where do you see Exciter going in the coming months, or do you not think to the future too much?

First of all our new record ´TSB´ had pre-orders of 5,717 units before the release date,Feb.22/08 which is a great start. We just played the Atarfe Vega Rock festival in Spain, March 8 and we’ve just been confirmed for the Rock Hard festival in Germany,

May 10.We hope the sales for our new record are good, I think this is our main focus this year.


What about touring? Are you going on a European tour as a support act, or will we see you in the smaller, but nicer, clubs? Is there a chance that we could see you here in 2008 ?

We are working on a European tour of one week, Oct.10-25/08. Our agent, Jens at Crush Concerts in Berlin should have confirmation within a month. The tour will be a headline tour with maybe 2 support acts in smaller venues.



Ok, now some questions to enable our readers to get to know you a little better:


How did you get involved in the music business?

I started playing guitar in the late 60`s and I had dream like most musicians to make it. That desire to succeed is still with me today.


What songs and bands do you listen to these days?

I listen to a lot of newer bands like Kreator, Arch Enemy, Cradle of Filth, Cannibal Corpse etc. and also the classics Priest, Maiden, Sabbath, Motorhead, Saxon. I listen to everything, I think it keeps me updated on what’s happening.


Is there anything you like to do besides your job in the band?

I have a regular day job, I work in a music store selling musical instruments.


You guys are from Canada. Was it hard to sell your style there as the music scene there isn’t  dominated by metal?
Canada does not support their own artists unless you're a pop band. Heavy Metal music is considered a joke to the Canadian music industry. They don’t understand it and they don’t take it seriously. Canada is a nice place to live but a horrible place if you try to pursue a musical career and get recognition in your own country if you are in a real metal band.


I assume you are not yet capable of making a living out of Exciter; what is a common day like for you?

A common day for me is work all day and then do band business during the  evening always thinking what will be the next move for Exciter.


So tell us a little about yourself personally and the kinds of things that motivate you in your writing, your poetry, and your lyrics. What are you into?
I am motivated by the need to succeed playing metal music and not selling out due to frustration. Besides music I do have hobbies like restoring classic cars.


How do you see the future for Exciter? Do you think, for instance that the band will still exist ten years from now?
The band will definitely exist 10 years from now. Exciter is an institution, we will continue to write great metal music for years to come.


What is your opinion on the thrash / power metal scene these days, is there anything missing?

The new thrash music of today is more extreme than what we started. If you listen to newer thrash bands in comparison we sound mellow. I don`t think there's anything missing.


Which album has been your biggest musical influence, one that made you think “this is what I want to do!”?
Because I started playing music in the 60`s ,the first heavy albums

at the time that inspired me were Led Zeppelin ´11´ and Black Sabbath’s first album.



Okay, if you could choose three bands to get on stage with, who would they be?

Three bands that I would like to be on the same bill with would be, Judas Priest, Black Sabbath and Motorhead.


Any last statement or anything you'd like to add...
We have many fans in the Netherlands and the rest of Europe, I would like to thank the fans for their ultimate support for keeping the band’s name alive. We always make an effort to meet and sign autographs at all our shows for our fans, we really appreciate their die-hard dedication. Long Live Metal !!!


Okay, thanks for the interview!  



Current members :

Kenny "Metal Mouth" Winter - Vocals

John Ricci - Guitars

Rob "Clammy" Cohen - Bass

Rick Charron - Drums


Former members :

Dan Beehler - Drums, Vocals

Rob Malnati - Vocals

Brian McPhee - Guitars

Allan James Johnson - Bass

David Ledden - Bass

Jeff McDonnald - Bass

Marc Charron - Bass

Jacques Belanger – Vocals



Heavy Metal Maniac (1983)

Violence and Force (1984)

Long Live the Loud (1985)

Feel the Knife (EP) (1985)

Unveiling the Wicked (1986)

Exciter (1988)

Kill after Kill (1992)

Better Live Than Dead (1993)

The Dark Command (1997)

Blood of Tyrants (2000)

New Testament (2004)

Thrash Speed Burn (2008)