Exclusive Interviews Only Found Here at MetalCore!
Black Task was the 1st local thrash metal band that I ever saw at the now closed Empire Rock Room in Phila. While doing a seb search I stumbled across Warren's website and I shot him off an email to see if he would want to talk about the good old days. As you can see he did and below in the interview and buy his stuff and the Black Task stuff on CD is fuckin priceless. I also never got a chance to interview the band because they broke up right after I started the zine so now we have come full circle.
MC: Warren, long time huh? What did you do when you saw that is was me emailing you ha ha?
WA: It has been a long time! I was surprised to see your email to say the least - I'm happy to see you're still at after all these years - cheers!
MC: What made you decide to re-release the Black Task album? How has the response been to it so far? Is Axe Killer ever planning on putting it out or trying to stop you from putting it out?
WA: Well, I was getting a lot of emails through my Blacktask and Warren Appleby websites requesting the BT albums. Unfortunately, I didn't have any of the original records to sell, just my copies. So, I decided to release them as CD-Rs. The response has been great - getting to hear from a lot of old fans who had the original records, or who saw us play. Also, it's helped open the door to BT fans to check out my solo music. I don't know what Axe Killer's plans are - they're a very shaky company - and still owe us money from that record!!! I haven't heard from them regarding the CD-Rs and don't give a crap what they think.
MC: Let's travel back in time. How did Blacktask form and are you still in touch with any of the former members?
WA: BT formed back in 1983. Gus Santiago, the bassist, and I had been playing together in lots of cover bands. We met Jim Trub, the drummer, through mutual friends and started the band with his friend, guitarist, Eric Az. The band was originally called Maidenhead. Eric left the band after a few months and was replaced by Steve Kristiansen. We changed the name to Blacktask when Steve joined. I knew Steve because I was dating his sister, Karen. Unfortunately, I'm really not in touch with the other guys anymore. I last talked with Steve via email a few years ago and haven't heard from Gus or Jim in many years. I do hear from Steve's sister from time to time, so she keeps me up to date on the other guys.
MC: What were some of the really early days of the band like? What stuff were you guys all into and did you play many covers back in the day?
WA: Well, the early days were fun because we were the only metal band in the Philly area that was playing real heavy - thrash type stuff. We would open for Cinderella (who also started in Philly about a year before BT started), and shocked a lot of their fans!!! Not many people knew what Thrash was - the heaviest stuff out prior Metallica and Slayer's first LP were bands like Maiden, Priest, Sabbath etc. We were into all of those NWBHM bands, Metallica, Slayer, Venom, Motorhead, as well as 70's bands like Deep Purple, UFO, Thin Lizzy etc. We only did one cover as Blacktask - a thrashed up version of Queen's We Will Rock You. We always wanted to concentrate on BT music. As Maidenhead, we did some typical covers - Paranoid, Breaking the Law, Wasted mixed with originals.
MC: What are you thoughts on the demo you put out many moons ago? Do you remember where you recorded it and how much money it cost and about how many did you get rid of?
WA: The demo is really raw. Lots of distortion on the bass (Gus was going for that Lemmy sound). We just wanted to be disgusting!!! That's the first time any of us ever stepped foot in a recording studio (1984). It has it's place in our history and I'm happy to say that you can hear a nice progression in our music and recording style through the subsequent releases. It was recorded at Rising Sun Studios in Philly - a little 8 track studio in the basement of a music store. Can't remember how many we sold - but it was a good amount. We sold a lot at shows, and through the Metal underground due to reviews in various fanzines. We used the money from the demo sales and local club shows to pay for other recording sessions and merchandise (T-shirts, buttons, stickers etc.)
MC: About how many copies did you end up selling? Did you think at the time
that it would lead to any kind of record deal?
WA: We sold a few hundred copies - don't really remember how many exactly - that was 23 years ago!!! We never sent any to record companies, so we didn't think it would lead to a deal. We wanted to record again - get better at it and also put out something that was heavier- which turned out to be the Blacktask EP.
MC: You next recorded an Ep? How come you just didn't do another demo? How was the response to the Ep and how many did you print up and do you ever see any on sale on Ebay at all?
WA: We did the EP instead of just a demo tape because we felt an EP would be more professional and a good seller at shows. We sold several thousand copies - sold the out. The EP was very successful. I do see it on Ebay from time to time - people list them at $50 and up - which blows me away.
MC: What was the morale of the band during these times as Phila, PA was not exactly the hot bed of underground metal? Did you get a chance to play out of town at all?
WA: We were having a great time - Philly may not have been the hot bed of underground metal - but we had a nice local scene with a few places to play - the Empire, the Galaxy (in NJ), and Bonnies (also in NJ). There were a handful of Metal bands that we played with and hung out with - Cinderella, Anvil Bitch, Metal Wolf, World War III, Fallen Angel, and White Fox to name a few. When we started, we only played the local clubs, but after our debut LP was released, we did some touring - played lots of different places - as headliner or opening act.
MC: What were the reviews like for the band at this point and was their any sort of record label interest? Did the writing of the songs on the EP, was they easier than on the demo?
WA: The reviews were all positive - we were getting reviewed in a lot of fanzines and mags - like Kick Ass and Metal Hammer - I believe the reviews helped us get a record deal. We landed two record deals because of the EP - with Axe Killer and with Combat - we chose Axe Killer. I think the songs on the EP were a nice progression from the demo. I don't think they were any easier to write - we just had a better understanding of what we wanted to create.
MC: What are some of your memories playing the Empire Rock Room and what was it like opening for Cinderella ha ha?
WA: Great memories of playing the Empire - that was our place - our favorite local club. They had 2 Metal nights - Thursdays for 21 and older, and Sundays for all ages. We played there a few times as an opener, then became a headliner pretty quickly. We drew 400 to 600 fans per show with Anvil Bitch as our main opening act. Also, I became the house metal DJ there for about a two years or so, when we didn't play there. I had a great time doing that, because I got play all of the music that I loved (plus a healthy dose of Blacktask - ha ha) and got to hang out with all of the national acts that played there - I hung with Slayer, Riot, Saxon, Raven and many others. Learned a lot from all of those guys - all were very cool - no a-holes. Opening for Cinderella was cool - they were all cool dudes too - especially Jeff, their lead guitarist. We were pretty different from them - but I think we won a lot of their fans over to us when we played with them.
MC: Did you ever think of pressing the EP onto cassette? Were you able to start
doing many out of town shows? When you played out of town what was the response
WA: I think our long range plan was to get the EP pressed onto cassette but we soon got signed to Axe Killer and began working on the LP and never followed through with the cassette pressing. We only played the Philly area (Philly, NJ, Delaware) during the demo & EP times. We started touring out of the area when the LP was released. We always received a good response where ever we played.
MC: If you can remember where did you get the EP pressed at and how many did you have pressed? Looking back can you still listen to the EP and what are your thoughts on it today?
WA: We had the EP pressed by Disc Makers in Philadelphia. We had several thousand pressed. Sure, I can still listen to it from time to time. It's very raw and different from the type of metal I write/record now, but it has it's place in "history" and represents a specific time in metal & Blacktask.
MC: Did you regret not signing with Combat and do you think things might have worked out differently if you did?
WA: Yes, I do regret not signing with Combat looking back because they were a US company and seemed to grow by signing some real good bands. I felt they were strong competitors with Metal Blade and Megaforce.
MC: How did the signing with Axe Killer come about? Did you at the time think it was a fair deal and were all the band members on board with signing with Axe Killer?
WA: We signed with Axe Killer instead of Combat because they offered to pay for all recording costs. Combat wanted us to pay for the recording costs. The difference was that with Combat, we would have received royalties right up front. With Axe Killer, we only would receive royalties after they re-couped all recording costs from album sales. We jumped on that deal because we wanted to record in a higher end studio that we couldn't afford - so, we figured it would make better sense to have the record company pay for it. Yes - all members were on board with the decision.
MC: Did the label give you any money to record the album? How did you come up with the cover idea and how long did it take you to record it? Were you as a bad happy with it after it was done?
WA: See above - yes, they paid for the entire recording. Axe Killer designed the album cover - hired an artist to paint it. We had no say on the album cover - we just requested that it be called "Long After Midnight" and I designed our logo - which they used. Yes, we were happy with the recording and the cover, however, there are some things on the back cover that should have been fixed before it was released - typos and design issues etc.
MC: Did Axe Killer make any promises to you that they did not keep? How come you choose to record all new songs and not any demo or EP tracks? Was it easy writing songs for the album?
WA: They followed through with paying all recording costs and they also did a good job with promotion - we had lots of full color ads for the LP in all of the major metal mags. They also did a nice job with distributing the LP to the independent record stores in the US. My contacts in Europe had told me that the LP was easily found in record stores in England, Germany, France, and Holland. We never could get a response from them on record sales - so I have a problem with them about that. By the time we were ready to record the LP, we had a lot of new tunes ready to go due to all of the shows that we had played. We just felt that the LP should have all new songs. We felt that if we re-recorded the EP or Demo songs, then fans who had both might no want to buy the LP.
MC: Did the Axe Killer release ever come out on CD or tape and what kind of
distribution did you have in the US? Did the label ever give you any kind of
WA: The LP never came out on CD or cassette. The LP was distributed by Warner Bros overseas and by an independent company - Backlash in the US. We didn't get good stats from Axe Killer - just a little here in and there. I don't really know how many albums we sold.
MC: Did you get to do any type of tour and did you ever get to play overseas?
What was the response to the new stuff live?
WA: Yes we did some touring to support the LP in the US. We played many dates all over the East and Mid-West. The response to the new material on LP went over really well. Certain songs like RIP and Shattered & Torn were killer live tracks.
MC: Did you get any coverage in any of the bigger fanzines back then? What
do you think of fanzines and do you think of we had the technology that we
have today bands like Blacktask could have been bigger and do you ever talk to
any of the old members of Faith or Fear or Anvil Bitch?
WA: Our LP was covered in Metal Hammer, Kerrang, Kick Ass, and a few others. Fanzines are great - they reach a ton of hardcore metal fans. I'm getting my solo music reviewed in lots of on-line fanzines like yours, Detritus, Metal Dreams, and Metallian that have really helped me promote my new music. I wish the Internet was around during the 80's - it would have much easier to reach fans around the world and have instant contact via emails. Unfortunately, I don't have contact with any of the members of the bands that used to open for us.
MC: Have you gone on Ebay and seen some of your stuff for sale and if so
how much? Did you see any websites or much stuff about the band on the internet?
WA: Yes, I've seen the EP and LP selling on Ebay for $50 to $70. If you Google search Blacktask or Warren Appleby, You'll find lots of sites with info on my music. The nice thing is that many of these sites are foreign. The Internet gives you easy access to fans worldwide. Much easier than when I was in Blacktask.
MC: What led to the band breaking up? Did you have songs that you wrote or
recorded that will ever be released?
WA: Our bass player, Gus, left due to medical and family issues. We actually had a 2nd bassist in the band, Mike Moore, for a few months before we broke up. We broke up due to band arguments over music direction, commitments etc. The typical things that break up bands. We did record 5 songs with the new bass player but never released them. They won't be released because the original master tapes were destroyed and I just have a rough studio mix of the songs.
MC: Was the break up really bad and what was your last ever live show like
and did you all know that it was the end of the band?
WA: Yes the break-up was very bad. I still don't talk with any of the other members. I did get an email from Steve, the guitarist, a few years ago, but that was it. I really don't remember the last show that we did - we didn't know it was our last at that time. Gus left the band about a week after our last show, then we spent time auditioning bass players, then spent time working Mike into the band after he was selected, then went in the studio to record the new 5 song demo.
MC: What did some of the other members go off and do and were you offered
to sing in any other bands?
WA: Steve formed a band called Highwater and played some local gigs then was in a bad car accident that had him in a coma for a few months. Gus and Jim, the drummer, just quit music altogether. I don't know what happened to Mike. A few guys asked me if I was interested in starting new bands, but I wasn't interested in starting all over again. I produced some demo's for a band called Negative 1 and worked on some projects recording as Solstace 7 and Fugitive Time Table during the 90's. Around 2001, I started writing and recording my current solo music.
MC: Did you get any major slack about some of your early lyrics and what would you like the band to be remembered by?
WA: Didn't get any problems about the lyrics that I can remember - even though now looking back at them - some are pretty out there. I hope people remember Blacktask as a kicking live band with some great riffs. I hope people that have our records or who saw us live have good memories about us.
MC: Are there any good quality live videos or shows that might see the light of day one day?
WA: You know, I do have 1 or 2 "home videos" of a few live shows. I haven't looked at them in about 20 years. I hope they still work!!! I'll have to check them out and maybe see if there is anything worth putting out one day.
MC: What would you say your solo stuff is like musically? Do you still listen to any like any of the old thrash stuff and what was the wildest thing you can think of that happened at one of your shows? Have you ever bumped into any of your old fans in the Phila area or on-line at all?
WA: I like to think of my new solo stuff as mix of straight forward metal and progressive rock. Its been categorized by webzines as UFO meets Priest meets Rush, which I agree with. Craziest thing I can remember about an early Blacktask show is lots of bacon, and other pork product being thrown around the audience - with people in the mosh pits slipping and sliding on meat!!! That's a lasting memory for sure. Yes, I hear from fans all of the time via email and they're all very cool.
MC: Is not crazy that I am interviewing you after all these fuckin years Warren?
WA: It is pretty crazy. I think it's very cool that were both plugging away at what we love. It's very cool that we still love hard rock and metal. I hope you continue to keep Metal Core going for many more years!!!
MC: Any last words the floor is yours and I am proud to say that I stage dove at many of your Empire concerts ha ha.
WA: Thanks Chris - glad you survived the stage dives! Just want to thank you for the coverage of Blacktask and my solo music in Metal Core. Also, want to thank all of the great Blacktask fans worldwide that still care about the music. For all Metal Core readers that are not familiar with me, I hope you take a few minutes to check out my music at my website - warrenappleby.com, or download a few of my tracks from iTunes, or other download sites -
I think you'll like what you hear - Keep it LOUD!!!