Exciter are an old-school band from Canada that many of you will be familiar with. They were one of the first thrash bands in existence and recently released their “Death Machine” in North America. Like Overkill or Testament? Check them out after the following interview with John Ricci.
First of all I want to congratulate you on “Death Machine”. I’ve listened to it several times now and was impressed! Also, most of the reviews I’ve read have been quite favorable. How come it took so long to release the album in North America?
The songs on Death Machine have a simpler writing approach than previous recent releases. Exciter has always been a 3-chord basic musical adventure.
I`m glad you like the record and I`m glad you picked up on the straightforwardness of the songs. When it was first released in 2010 in Europe we got mixed reviews. I don`t really know what the media was expecting because we always deliver more of the same. But since the release in North America we`ve received rave reviews which makes me personally content because I know our musical direction is not to be tampered with and I know that our music is still sought after by fans in America and around the world. As far as a USA release taking so much time to nail down, the fact is since 1996 we`ve always been signed with European labels who do not have much interest in promoting their bands in America. I`m not pointing the fingers at any particular label, but every time our previous record companies tried to negotiate a deal in the states for some reason or another it would not work out, leaving our records available as `import` only in America. This time Massacre Records in Germany (our current label) cut a deal with Earsplit and everything is going smoothly.
For those people who aren’t familiar with Exciter could you give a brief overview of the band’s career?
We originally formed around 1978 and we were know as Hell Razor in our hometown Ottawa. We were just a cover metal band playing the usual stuff. But in 1980 we realized that if we were to be successful in the music business we would have to drop the cover material and start writing
original music. Fortunately we came up with this highly original sound which made us very distinct. Our first demo `World War 111` got us signed to Shrapnel Records in California and then followed our first full length lp `Heavy Metal Maniac` which is still considered today as one of the first speed/thrash records. Since then we`ve never looked back, getting record deal after record deal with absolute no effort. We`ve toured all over the globe and have diehard fans in every country judging by our recent shows in Mexico and Brazil. Today, I am the only original member and joining me are Rik Charron, ( drums since 1996) Clammy, ( bass since 2004) and Kenny Winter (vocals since 2006).
I read on your webpage that the theme of “Death Machine” is “sadistic unforgiving torture and the demented individuals who deliver such horrific pain and suffering.” Can you explain this a bit more and who came up with the idea?
I came up with idea for Death Machine ( and also all the records since 1996). I got the idea from a combination of reading the daily news and watching horror films. The problem in today`s society is that fantasy imitates life and life imitates fantasy. It makes me sick reading about all these sick people torturing and mutilating innocent individuals just for kicks. It`s so inhuman! I think the human species ( as far as I`m concerned) is more violent than any wild animal you may encounter. I just don`t comprehend how one individual good inflict such pain to another for no specific reason unless of course it is in a time of `war`. Death Machine is not supporting violence or condoning it .
Despite the fact that the band has been around since 1980, you guys never managed to get to the same level as many of your contemporaries such as “The Big 4” or even the “second tier” thrash bands like Overkill and Testament. Why do you think this was? A lot of your work was on par with many of those bands in my opinion.
Thanks for the compliment about our music but the problem why Exciter never excelled like the bands you mentioned was because of lack of management and lack of interest from the industry and also that we are located in Canada ( which is a big negative). It was so stupid for example when we toured or played one- off shows in the USA, Canada and Europe all the industry people I would to talk backstage would tell us how great we were but the moment I would ask them if they would be interested in signing us they would pass on us. There is some negative stigma attached to us and I don`t know why. Currently we have a manager in the USA ( Jeff Keller Management) an agent in LA ( Artists WorldWide) and an agent in Europe ( ITM)
so things are looking promising now and hopefully we can continue climbing the ladder after 30 years !
What’s the metal scene like in Ontario? ave you guys found it hard to carve a niche for yourself out there or has it been fairly easy?
It`s always been tough for us here in Ontario, it is so trendy. Metal music is last priority in Ontario. Of course, there are a small group of dedicated headbangers but the metalheads that used to listen to metal don`t listen to metal anymore, so as a result the attendance at metal shows is very small. We just played a local show here in Ottawa ( the first since 1999) and much to my surprise we drew 250 people who were for the most part moshing and headbanging and singing along with all our songs. I was in shock!
Obviously in the last ten years or so it has been a lot harder for bands to make money and survive primarily due to the internet and file sharing. I do know that I read somewhere that you work a 9-5 job and don’t depend on Exciter for a living, but how do you feel about this? Some people say that file sharing is no different than tape trading back in the 80s and is in fact a promotional tool for many bands that would never be heard by many people, while others find this argument ridiculous.
I think the internet is a good thing. You can`t stop file sharing and downloading, it`s like when I see Exciter bootleg shirts at our shows. How on earth am I going to stop this merch guy from selling illegal shirts? If I take away those shirts from him and seek legal action, he`ll just start all over again and do again. So, what`s the use ? Even though I don`t like getting ripped off with bootlegs or if our music is illegally obtained I guess it is form of publicity. It`s a never ending war and you can`t stop it !
Another thing a lot of the older bands from the 80s and 90s have told me is that they feel that having albums on MP3 format without a physical copy is not the “correct” way to hear an album, but that an album should be experienced with full packaging and an actual physical product such as vinyl, CD or cassette. What are your opinions on this?
I agree. I`m old school as well. There`s nothing like buying a CD or LP and sitting back and listening to the music and flipping through the booklet. This way you connect the images in the booklet with the music that you are hearing and this way you get a notion of where this band is at musically and image wise and what message they are trying to get across.
Any plans for doing shows other than the few mentioned on your web page?
At the moment upcoming shows are in Montreal, May 31 and the Sweden Rock Fest June 7th. After that nothing yet but we do have 2 confirmed shows in Japan the first week of Feb.2013. (2 smaller headlining shows)In the meantime we’re writing new material.
As someone who has been around metal for a long time, what do you think of the current scene? Any current bands you’ve been listening to or do you primarily just listen to the old school stuff, or even no metal all?
I definitely listen to metal all the time but I listen mostly to old school stuff ( mostly 70`s and 80`s bands). I do listen to newer bands, for example High On Fire, Arch Enemy etc. I find newer bands ( not the ones mentioned) sound the same and I can`t seem to retain the message in their music so I lose interest quickly.
Thanks for doing this interview. Is there anything else you would like to say to the readers?
Once again I would like to thank our longtime supporters throughout the years and the new younger fans that have been turned on to Exciter and are now diehard fans. We really appreciate every single supporter and when we play shows in your city we make sure we tear off the roof with our performance ! Hail to Metal ! Metal will never die !