The North America, California based band TYRRANICIDE was formed as MAYHEM on Halloween 1984. Later Hardcore had a great impact on TYRRANICIDE’s sound. But read more about the complete history in the following interview done with Jeff Hill (vox & guitar) back in 2004…
Let’s start with a question which I always ask in my interviews. When was it that you got in contact with the harder kind of music?
What a GREAT question, and I have a weird answer for you…When I was in 3rd Grade (1975), there was a kid who lived around the corner from me that was a couple of years older than I was ( I think he was a 5th-grader). One day he was wearing an army jacket with a Kiss Army patch on the shoulder. I just remember thinking „that’s a scary looking logo“. I was friends with his little brother and we were playing in the garage and I said „what does KISS mean?“ Anyway, we went into the living room and he put on the first Kiss record and I just sat there staring at the LP sleeve the whole time. I don’t think I even heard the music, but the costumes made quite an impression on me. It wasn’t long after that, I was walking home from school and saw an 8-track (Yes, an 8-Track!) tape lying next to the gutter. I just picked it up and took it home. I asked my mom if I could listen to it and she said go ahead. It was Van Halen I, and it totally kicked my ass, even as an 8-year old kid. That’s when I knew I wanted to play guitar. The next thing I found was Black Sabbath in 5th grade and by then, it was clear that I was a rocker kid.
Well, at one point you got the idea to form a band. When did it happen and what made you picking up the guitar? Was it just there was no other who wants to play guitar?
Well after I heard the first Van Halen record I was obsessed with the guitar, but I didn’t have one. The only one who did was my uncle Bill, who was the hippie of the family…he had a white Les Paul copy and he totally let me bang on it whenever I was over his house. I didn’t get my own electric until 9th grade, when I bought my own Memphis Les Paul copy with a 25 watt Fender amp and MXR distortion pedal. I was in heaven and I played about 10 hours a day when I was trying to learn…
What was the first song you ever wrote in a band?
The first song I wrote was „Blood Red Moon“ which was the first song MAYHEM ever wrote as a band. It was pretty pathetically simple, but it was my first attempt. It was on our first demo, but I have no idea where to find a copy. I’ve been asking around and nobody has it anymore.
When and how was TYRRANICIDE formed? I read about pre-TYRRANICIDE names like PROWLER, OBLIVION and MAYHEM. Who was involved in these projects/bands and were came all you guys from?
Mayhem was formed on Halloween night, 1984. It was Bob Beban (vocals), Ty Turner (bass), Tim Narducci (guitar), Mike Serafin (drums) and myself (guitar). I still remember us trying to tune up our guitars. As soon as Ty played the opening bass-line to N.I.B., I was kinda freaking out. This was a real band! Once the guitars kicked in I thought I was the king of the world. Nothing could bring me down from that rush of adrenaline. Anyway, we stayed as this lineup for about 6 months. We recorded one 4 track demo with this lineup and it’s somehow been removed from the earth. I wish I could find a copy, but it’s nowhere.
Did you ever release tapes with PROWLER and OBLIVION?
No demos from either PROWLER or OBLIVION. Both bands were only in existence for about 3 months before we combined them to create MAYHEM.
What a kind of sound did you play in the MAYHEM? I read that it was a more Heavy Metal than a Thrash Metal style that you later played in TYRRANICIDE.
Mayhem was definitely more of a Heavy Metal band than the Thrash style that was new and getting popular. We wanted to play thrash metal, but it took awhile to be able to go that fast! Remember, I was hardly even a musician at the point where the band started. I literally would practice fast picking on anything I could find, during class at school, etc. I was a HUGE BLACK SABBATH fan (and I still am…it’s my favorite band), and they played slow, but I was listening to METALLICA, SUICIDAL TENDENCIES, and MINOR THREAT, who played ridiculously fast. Being the elder statesman in the band, I sort of had a bigger influence on our musical direction, and by the time RIDE THE LIGHTNING came out, we HAD to start playing faster and heavier.
Later you came to the point to record your first demo tape. You released the demo under the moniker MAYHEM. What was your feeling while recording your own stuff for the very first time?
Basically what happened was…..we wrote 3 songs in a hurry so we could record a demo tape (Blood Red Moon, Fallen Angel and one other song that I can’t remember the name of, but I can remember 2 of the riffs… funny eh?), and naturally we weren’t very well-prepared to record. We used to have a coffee can, and every practice, we’d put 3 dollars each in there. Once we had about 80 bucks we had enough to record a demo. The whole idea of recording our music was totally nerve-wracking and baffling to me in 1985…It was January of 85′ if I’m not mistaken. I just went with the flow. I practiced my parts a lot so I wouldn’t screw up. There were some mistakes and we weren’t very tight. I remember the engineer telling us we would never go far singing about blood and death and violence. He wanted us to take a band picture without our leather jackets so we would be considered a „rock“ band. We refused.
Did you release your first recording or was it just a give-away for friends?
We didn’t really have a „plan“ for the demo. I think we were using it to get gigs playing keg parties, which only worked once I think. Since I was learning graphic arts and printing in High School, I was able to copy off some tape covers. It was red paper with a black „MAYHEM“ logo on it…Unbeknownst to me, it was exactly the same as the incredible POSSESSED demo that was recorded around that time.
When took your first live show place?
The First live show we ever played was at Tim and Ty’s middle School (grades 6, 7, and 8). I think we played the 3 songs from our first demo, N.I.B. (Black Sabbath), Evil (Mercyl Fate), Hit the Lights (Metallica) and maybe another song. It was pretty scary for me, even though I was 17. I have always been pretty shy, but it took awhile to get comfortable playing music in front of people (even a room full of middle school kids). I was so nervous at first that I played facing Tim and Mike with my back toward the audience. Pretty silly stuff.
Is it right that you had a TV appearance with MAYHEM on a local show? How comes and do you still have a video of this show?
Yes! We played some songs in our friends living room and taped it for our local TV channel. Pretty much the same songs as the first show. In those days, pretty much NOBODY watched the local TV channel, and they had a real need for stuff to put on ….I guess legally they HAD to play whatever the local people submitted. I plan on putting it up on the www.tyrranicide.com website soon. It’s pretty funny. We look like babies! This was 1984, remember…
Shortly after you had your first line-up change.
Well, Bobby (the old singer) was kicked out because we didn’t feel he was capable of doing the kind of music we wanted to play (much harder thrash…exodus, slayer, metallica, suicidal tendencies, etc).
It seems that nearly everyone was deeply involved in the tape-trading / underground scene back then.Was it the same with you? Do you remember some people you were in contact with from these early days?
You know…to be honest, I wasn’t too aware of the tape-trading underground until I got a copy of a live Exodus tape floating around about a year before „Bonded By Blood“ came out. I listened to that thing so often, I wore it out! Then I found Metal Forces magazine and they had a really cool Demo section. I traded demos with some bands all over the world, and made friends that I still have to this day. Pretty amazing, really. There were some good bands around the bay area in those days (duh!), but most of them were assholes to us. We were pretty young (Violence used to call us the Tyrrani-kids). Probably the best band I can remember that never did an LP was Pillage Sunday. They were one of the funniest live bands ever.
What were your fave bands back then?
Lets see…we’re talking about 1985 or 86’…I would say Possessed would be at the top of the list. It was about then that I discovered Prong from NY. Minor Threat was my favourite band around then…Raw Power, DRI….
If I think about the 80’s nearly every metal head listened to Hardcore / Punk bands, too. Was it the same with you?
Hell yes! I played in a Hardcore band during and after Tyrranicide broke up called Second Coming. I still play the occasional show with them too. The hardcore scene was much more intelligent than the Death Metal Dorks that hung out at shows then.
What was the date when you record your 2nd demo tape?
I honestly don’t remember when the second demo was recorded…I want to say early 1985 (February?). The cover was just MAYHEM in black letters on red paper (again, exactly like the possessed demo, although I had no idea). The songs were Poser Genocide, Mayhem and Mortuary Millionaires. It (and all subsequent recordings) were done at Audio Voyage recording (formerly known as Little People Studios). The owners were Mike and Doug, who had never even heard of thrash metal. You should have seen the looks on their faces when we tuned up and started on the first song…..somewhere between laughter and disbelief. We were sloppy and horrible, but honest.
What was the reaction on this tape? Did you send it to fanzine? Do you think the 2nd tape was a progression for MAYHEM?
Mostly we recorded the demo for the sake of recording! We did use it to get our first show at the legendary Ruthie’s Inn in Berkeley, though. I don’t think we ever sent it to magazines because we knew we weren’t up to par even with the „demo“ bands at the time. This demo was more like the stuff we were really into at the time: Voivod, Slayer, Exodus, Metallica, Venom, Motorhead, Black Sabbath. We were listening to a lot of Hardcore at this time but it didn’t come through in the music until later.
Later on you decided to change the bands name. Was it ‚cause there were several MAYHEM’s in the USA (like in N.Y., Illinois, Oregon) around that time or what was the reason?
That is exactly the reason! I saw that Mayhem (THE legendary Mayhem) had a picture and demo review in Metal Forces magazine and they said it sucked beyond belief. I didn’t want people (and god…I still don’t) want people thinking that was us.
I got a tape through tape-trading. As you told me it features two songs from each MAYHEM demo. Did you ever put this tape out in this form or do you think the other tracks get lost by trading?
We never put the demo out in this form, that’s why I was so surprised to get the copy from you like this. I remember we copied a few for some people around here, but I honestly have no idea where it would have come from. Pretty funny….Let that be a lesson to you… whatever you record, it will find it’s way in peoples hands… even 20 years later.
What’s about the original demos of MAYHEM. I never saw ‚em in any trader list. Do you think there are still some tapes out there?
At this point I wouldn’t be surprised by anything! The quality of the playing, writing and recording is so low that I doubt there would be any interest in it.
What makes you writing the word TYRRANICIDE with two „r’s“ and one „n“? What was the meaning for you/the band?
Even 20 years later, nobody ever asked me that until now. I always thought it looked like Banannacide or something. I figured two R’s looked meaner than two N’s. How silly does that sound? I liked that meaning of the word (the killer of a tyrant), but people had that hardest time pronouncing it and most metal heads didn’t have a clue other than ‚cide mean killing something so we we’re cool. Ha!
In early 1986 you recorded the first TYRRANICIDE demo „Hiding under White“. Listening to the tape right now I think this must have had an impact on the scene featuring really great Thrash Metal.
Well, thanks! We were very proud of that recording and it was about that time that we started to find our „sound“. At least our playing was much better than the previous stuff. It was at this time that we really tried to expose ourselves and started trading tapes and sending them to magazines. I don’t think we made much of an impact on the scene, however. We were just one of MANY bands playing thrash metal…we were different because we didn’t try to go the death metal, satanic, or cheese metal route. Our lyrics were more positive I suppose. There were a few pockets of kids that really dug our music during that time and it allowed us to tour the southwest of the USA. That was a big step for us, obviously, but it wasn’t until the summer of 1988). The demo actually sold about 2,000 copies around the world, which was very weird. Getting foreign currency and about 10,000 request from Chile and Brazil for free copies was pretty funny. At first I tried to personally respond to all of these guys, but after awhile I started tossing them. I appreciated the interest but you could tell they were just trying to get free shit and didn’t know about the band.
1985/1986 was the beginning of the sound called „Death Metal“ and most bands tried to sound as evil as possible [sound and lyric wise). Your lyrics never had that „satanic“ touch. What was your inspiration on writing lyrics?
We always thought the lyrics should be as important as the music. Obviously not all bands had that same attitude, and I don’t fault them for it, but it’s much easier to sing about fantasy world crap like satan, death, etc, etc. We tried to say something with our songs, but looking back a lot of it was pretty simple. We tried to take the best aspects of Hardcore (lyrics and message) with the best aspects of Metal (chunky guitar, speed, fatter production, etc). I was inspired mostly by things that would affect me negatively….We grew up in a small suburban town, but spent a lot of time in the big city playing music. It was pretty easy to get me excited or upset in those days. I wanted to change the world!
As you was part of the California metal scene back then what impressed you the most
What impressed me the most was the quality of musicianship with a lot of the musicians. Look at a band like Forbidden Evil (or Forbidden if you prefer). Every one of those guys could play their ass off! Paul is still one of the best drummers I’ve ever heard, hands down. Legacy (later Testament) was the same way. Possessed was sloppy as shit, but brutal as hell. There were some very amazing and cool people around in those days, and some serious assholes! Some of the bands got along ok as far as we know. We were always outsiders on the whole metal scene (and sadly the punk / hardcore scene as well). It was amazing in those days to see the Metallica and Exodus guys just hanging out at Ruthies Inn while you were playing. It was pretty intimidating though! We played a show with Watchtower in San Francisco once and it was like a who’s who of the music scene. Nobody let anyone else’s head get too big in those days from what I could see. It was just a bunch of scrubs hanging out slam-dancing in the pit, regardless of what band you were in or not.
Shortly after you had your first tour which you organized on your own. It was a trip from California to Texas, right? Who helped getting the tour started and what bands did you play with?
Really, the catalyst was Jason McMaster of Watchtower / Dangerous Toys. He wrote a very positive review of our Hiding Under White demo in a fanzine called Grey Matter. Shortly thereafter, we got a lot of interest in the Texas / Arizona / New Mexico areas. On the map it didn’t seem that far away (even though we’d never even driven more than a couple of hours to play before). The first show was in Albuquerque, New Mexico at a skating rink called Roller West. We played with 2 punk bands (ala GBH), and the kids DID NOT like our music at all. It was just like home! Next we drove all the way to San Antonio, Austin and Dallas, which were all forgettable shows except for the PAGAN festival! It was about 20 bands on the lake in Flowermound, TX. We didn’t go over well, but at least we played to more than 8 people like the other shows. We played with Insecticide, Process Revealed, Rigor Mortis, Gammacide, and a bunch of bands I can’t remember.
I read on your web-page that you met the guys of PAPSMER. As there is not much known of this act can you tell us a little about the band (history)?
Eric and Woody (who was their artwork guy) shared an apartment in Vegas and that was our first stop on the tour. The show was cancelled, naturally, but we stayed the night and drank beer with them. They were the coolest guys you could meet. Eric looks exactly like Kid Rock but with black hair (or at least he did). They just sort of disappeared, didn’t they? They were good friends with Righteous Pigs, but Papsmear never put a record out that I know of. The first 2 demos were really good and I haven’t heard them in a long time.
Later you started a label on your own. What was the reason for you doing an own record label? Was no other label interested in releasing the TYRRANICIDE’s music?
The only interest we had in Tyrranicide from a label perspective was from Death Records and New Renaissance Records and they were both an obvious ripoff so we said no. At that time, I had planned on doing a Tyrranicide LP, and an LP of a great straightedge hardcore band called BREAKAWAY who were (and are) our really close friends. I had no idea what I was doing, but I’d saved a bunch of money and figured „what the hell“ as long as I make my money back I can do more records of cool bands. The BREAKAWAY record was never recorded, but I put out the God Save the Scene LP, Yellow Snow-Music For the Asses 7″, Amoeba Men 7″, and Aproctous / Plutrocracy split flexi and Plutocracy – Snitch 7″. I barely made my money back on each release except for the Amoeba Men. Nobody bought that record although the band was really good.
Where do you have the idea for the name „Whirling Dervish“ from?
Whirling Dervish was what RL Stevenson described Mr. Hyde as in „Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde“. I thought that sounded like somebody in the slam pit so I used it.
You recorded the „God Save The Scene“ LP in 1989. What stands the title for?
It’s a play on the Sex Pistols – „God Save the Queen“. The whole thing was basically – look at all the stupid shit in the metal / hardcore scene! God save us from that….kind of a joke that nobody got.
Looking back recording demo tapes. What was the difference for you recording a full length album?
The difference was that we had learned that we HAD to be prepared! Our budget was $800 for the recording so we had to get as much done as quickly as we could. This was the first recording we did that we knew would be done for public consumption actually. I think we played pretty damn well for a bunch of young guys doing 100% of it on our own.
Somewhere I read that the LP was re-released on CD by a label called „Bad Taste“.
CD’s were very new in 1989, and actually you were considered a sellout if you had your music released on CD. After a very positive review in Metal Forces (or was it Kerrang?) we got a TON of interest in the band from Europe. We had been talking about doing a European tour in the summer of 1990 and a label called Rising Sun records contacted me about a European licensing deal. They gave us a tiny amount money up front and never paid us the rest of it after several pressings of CD’s and LPS (If I had known it was going to be released on a subsidiary label called Bad Taste, I would have said no, but we wanted to use the money to get to Europe and tour. They wanted us to tour with Wrathchild. Have you heard of them? The musical styles were nowhere near the same so we said we would do our own tour. This actually was the beginning of the end for the band since Tim and Mike didn’t agree with my decision.
Later you had a 2nd tour. When started it and where did you play?
We toured the USA for 2 months and played a TON of shows. Some of the more memorable bands were: Amoeba Men, Angkor Wat, and Dead Horse. Most of the bands we played with sucked pretty bad. We met some really good people that became our good friends which was cool enough for us.
As far as I know you kicked out Ty after the tour. What mad the band kick him out?
Ty’s last show was in Salt Lake City (the last night of the tour 10/30/89), and we had enough of his shit. He was an only child and pretty tough to deal with, and not that much of a musician, really. He had already planned on going to college anyway.
Rick came in for Ty. Where did Rick came from, did he play in other band before?
Rick was the bass player for Yellow Snow and Tim’s uncle, believe it or not.
In 1992 you released the „Hard Like A Machine“ 7″ on the France based Bad Card Records. How starts the cooperation with an European label?
I received a letter from Bad Card Rec. asking if they could do a 7″ and I said yes. I don’t think there was any money exchanged, but he sent us a bunch of records to sell, which we didn’t. I still have a bunch of them. It was a dumb idea actually, but I didn’t know the band was about to break up.
You recorded several songs in the studio but only released „Hard Like A Machine“ and „His And Hearse“ on this 7″.
We actually never intended to release these at all. We were offered some free studio time at Audio Voyage and we had a bunch of tunes that we wanted to record so we said yes. We wound up recording 8 songs. In my opinion, it was the absolute peak of my songwriting efforts. Lyrically and Musically it was my proudest time, but by this time Mike and Tim had more or less „checked out“ of the band and didn’t really care anymore. Mike gave up on playing and listening to metal after the 89 tour, really. Tim wanted to go more in the direction of Modern Rock, and in fact Mike and Tim had a band after Tyrranicide called Side Stream Smoke (very much like a band called Mary’s Danish). The performances on the recordings are pretty horrible, actually. It’s a damn shame too because we had an album worth of REALLY good music that nobody put out, and I certainly wasn’t going to dump all my money in a band that didn’t give a shit anymore (I certainly did, but…).
Before recording the tracks for this 7″ you had another line-up change. Bill left and a guy called Boo-Yaa entered. What happened and who was the new bass player?
Rick left to finish school or get married or whatever (I don’t really remember…he was living 3 hours away and getting to practice was pretty hard for him). Our friend Sean „Boo-Yaa“ Kinnick had a band called Burnage that we played with a few times and they were sort of breaking up. He was a pretty good bass player, and it took him quite a while to learn the WAY MORE technical stuff we were doing. He played pretty well actually.
Later two of the original TYRRANICIDE members left the band. What was the reason?
I think Tim and Mike just got tired of playing the kind of music we were doing and I know they felt like they should have more to show for their time they were in the band. I can’t blame them, but their hearts weren’t really into it. They were really excited to do their Modern Rock band so I guess that was a big part of it too.
Was this the end for TYRRANICIDE or was the band still active at that time?
Actually we (or I) continued on with Sean Kinnick and we got the drummer from his band. This big dude name John Oliphant. He was in the same boat as Sean…he’d never really played much Technical music prior to joining up. He learned by sheer effort and practice and we actually sounded pretty good as a three-piece for a few gigs. At some point, it just fizzled out and we just stopped practicing. I guess we never really broke up „officially“ but I just sort of gave up on it. I have to admit that was very, very hard on me, as I put 10 years of my life into something that basically died on the vine.
Did you wrote new songs and did you record anything in studios with the new line-up?
We wrote two songs as a three-piece and never recorded them, and I have completely forgotten them.
As I never heard anything out of this period what was TYRRANICIDE’s sound direction at that time?
It was more of a continuation of where we were with the previous recording, but maybe a little more driving and less thrash. More soulful I guess?
What was the definitely end for TYRRANICIDE? Did you ever played in another band later?
I guess the real end for Tyrranicide was when I went to recording arts school in 1994. I had started a hardcore band called Second Coming with my good friend Joey Vela (from Breakaway), and we were starting to play some fun shows. After Tyrranicide broke up I had a lot of fun writing, recording and playing shows with Second Coming, since I didn’t have to be the band leader. I wrote almost all of the music, but didn’t really have to deal with the other junk.
What happened to you „Whirling Dervish“ label?
Well, the last Whirling Dervish release was the Plutocracy – Snitch 7″. I basically gave up on the label as well once Tyrranicide gave up.
You had a reunion gig on 22nd December 2000. What was the reason to do this show?
The reason was…Tim and I had a major falling out and really avoided each other for a few years. I was pretty bitter about the whole thing, and he was off doing his new band Systematic. Anyway, one night my wife saw him and another friend of mine at a bar and they were all drunk and he said „Come on down here and hang out with me, fucker.“ It was nice to bury the hatchet with him. We sort of continued our friendship from that point and the next thing I know he’s drunk one night and says „Let’s do another Tyrranicide show!“. I said „only if we don’t embarrass ourselves, and YOU do the legwork“. I invited Second Coming to play, which was cool. Tim booked it and we rehearsed twice and actually wrote a song for the show. It was recorded to Digital tape and I’ve just never gotten around to editing all the songs. It was pretty fun seeing a lot of people from the old days, but there was no way we were a band again.
What was your feeling to go on stage after all this years together with your old band mates?
It felt pretty good. No stress or any of that shit. We just went out and played our set. Mike played really well. Tim had quite a few drinks in him, and I didn’t forget too many of the lyrics.
Did you guys ever thought about going on with the band again?
Nope. It would have been pretty sad to try and do that. I can see myself jamming with Tim again in some capacity, but Tyrranicide is done.
If you compare the metal scene in beginning of your musical career and at end of TYRRANICIDE what was the biggest difference?
Good question. In the beginning, it was a very arcane, underground scene that most people didn’t understand. It was pretty easy to shock and offend and we thought we were testing the limits by playing faster. By the time we fizzled, Grindcore had become the flavour of the day and musicianship and singing had kind of gone out the window, so we were a dying breed. Don’t get me wrong, I completely dug a lot of the stuff on Earache that was coming out, but it just seemed to me that we would be total sellouts if we followed that trend to cash in. The kind of stuff we were doing didn’t catch on until later with bands like Dillinger Escape Plan playing the odd time signatures, suspended chords, and many time changes.
What are you doing nowadays?
I am married with two daughters (4 and 1). I work as a software engineer by day and I still do a lot of audio / music related stuff. As I mentioned, I graduated from recording arts school in 1995 and worked as an engineer / sound effects editor for several years which was fun, but not very stable. I am in the process of building a studio in my garage. I play a lot of Ice Hockey as well.
Jeff, thanks a lot for your time doing this interview. I hope you enjoyed it. Here is your space to tell what ever you wanna do:
Thanks for the interview! It was fun remembering some of the history and I appreciate the thoughtful questions. I wish you luck with all your efforts and thanks to everybody who has supported us all the way!!!
Hiding Under White Demo 1986
God Save The Scene LP 1988
Hard Like A Machine 7″ 1991
Tyrranicide / Liquid Courage 8″ split Flexi // came with Thora ´Zine // 1992