Interviews Only Found Here at MetalCore!
Fantom Warrior. I had not heard that name in decades. I reviewed this band’s demo and did an interview way back in 1986, when my 1st issue was released. Well when I found out the band had gotten back together I knew a new interview was in order so I emailed longtime member John Chernac some questions and here is what he said to them:
MC: Have you lived in the North Jersey area all or most of your life? What sort of kid were you growing up and did you come from a small or big family?
JC: I lived in North NJ for 29 years. Now I am in S.I. N.Y. but I venture back quite a bit for Fantom Warrior rehearsal. I was a good kid overall but I would get in trouble quite a bit because I was hyper, impulsive and a risk-taker. Fortunately, I turned out okay! Ha… I was born into a good family which consisted of my father, mother and 2 brothers. We had a dog and a cat too which was cool to have growing up.
MC: Did you enjoy school at all and did you have many friends or were you more of a loner type of person?
JC: School was okay. Fortunately, I was never a loner. I spent most of my time outside with friends. I have been blessed with some great friends and I still hang with many of the same buds that I hung with back in the day.
MC: At what age did you start to get into or discover music? What were some of the first bands that you listened to and that you became a fan of? Did you collect vinyl Lps at all?
JC: I started off with cassettes and LPs! I remember Aerosmith was my first favorite band and that was in 5th grade. I started to build a decent sized collection once I started working.
MC: Now how did you discover the wonderful world of heavy metal? Did you discover it pretty much on your own or did somebody sort of steer you in that direction?
JC: The music just kept getting heavier as I got older. I always was a big rock n roll and heavy metal listener! I started with Aerosmith and Kiss and Van Halen but as time went on I began listening to heavier stuff like Priest and Maiden. Then the heaviest stuff hit the shelves Slayer and Venom! Some of my friends at the time were really close to Metallica, Slayer, Anthrax etc, so we showed support to these great bands in the early days.
MC: At what age did you, if you ever did, listen to WSOU 89.5 which was a great hard rock/metal station back in the day and I would listen to it anytime I was up in the North Jersey area?
JS: I always loved WSOU. They used to play our demo on regular rotation. I almost went to that school just so I could DJ there.
MC: Now what were the 1st metal bands that you became a fan of? Did you go to stores like Rock N Roll Heaven or Vintage Vinyl to get your heavy metal fix? Obviously cassettes and albums were the big thing back in the early 80’s. Do you still to this day have any that stuff you brought back in the day lying around?
JS: We spent much time in both of those stores. We were always there when the bands came in. For example, when Raven came in to promote the Raven, Metallica and Anthrax show I was there and had my jacket signed by them. I am happy to tell you as I answer these questions Fantom Warior just finished playing with Raven on Sept 18th. Mantas from Venom with his new band Empire of Evil was supposed to play as well but from what I hear there were some immigration issues. Our good buds Black Anvil played the show as well.
MC: Since there was a lot of clubs up in North Jersey and in NY did you get to go see many early underground shows back in the day and if you did what were some of the bands that you saw and what memories do you have of this time?
JS: I've been to so many shows I can't remember them all. Just to name a few, I was at the Ultimate Revenge show with VENOM, SLAYER AND EXODUS, Kill em All for One with RAVEN, METALLICA AND ANTHRAX. MOTORHEAD, MERCYFUL FATE AND EXCITER at the Capitol Theater. I've seen POSSESSED, DESTRUCTION, Etc.. The Mid 80s were a great time for thrash music shows as is now!!! Great memories!
MC: Now at what time did you begin to decide you wanted to play music and start a band? What made you pick up the bass and not the drums or guitar?
JS: My Dad wanted me to become a Piano player so I started at the age of 6. I picked up the stand-up bass in 6th grade at school. I used to lug that beast all over the place. It was bigger than me! Ha I then bought my first regular bass guitar in 9th grade and then began jamming with friends.
MC: In 1984, you started out as Phantom Lord, which was a heavy metal cover band. I assume the name came from a track of the 1st Metallica release “Kill Em All”. Did you go through many early line-up changes before it became yourself (bass), Keith Pires (guitar), James Jensen (drums) Steve Schley (guitars) and singer Dave Montini?
JS: Not many, we had a few friends Steve Kuchen and Jason "Raeph" Glicken that jammed with us but that was it.
MC: What cover songs did you go and what were the early practices like and where did you practice at?
JS: The first songs we ever played were simple songs...You Really Got Me and All Day and All Night then we started doing Priest, Maiden, Sabbath and early Metallica, Slayer, Overkill stuff.
MC: You went through a number of singers, including Jason "Raeph" Glicken. What were the problems with keeping a proper singer ha ha? How did you come to find the 4 core members, yourself, Pires, Jensen, and Schley? Were you friends with them before you formed the band?
JS: We were friends for many years. Dave Montini's vocal style was good for Scorpions style music but we were leaning towards a heavier sound which Keith and I had better voices for. Jason was a good friend who would sing the cover songs that required serious range because he had a great high voice and he used to do really cool stage stuff like putting out fire in his mouth.
MC: Now in early 1985, the 4 core members (mentioned above) broke up Phantom Lord due to another band based up in NY already had the name? Were they a cover band or did they do originals and when you found out you would have to change the name was it a big deal?
JS: The way I remember it is we decided to change the name because we didn't want to use the name of another bands song for our name since we had switched from a cover band and were now doing original material.
MC: Now were the 4 of you very tight as far as hanging out doing non band things, like going to record stores, shows, or just hanging out with each other generally? How much time in any given week was spent doing band related stuff?
JS: We practiced a lot like 3 to 4 times a week. I was in two bands. One with Schley and Montini and then with Pires and Jensen. I merged the two bands into one. I hung out mostly with everybody quite a bit. The only one I didn't hang out with much was Steve.
MC: Who came up with the name of Fantom Warrior and were many other names tossed around? Was Montini ever in the band at all? When you broke off ties with him was it a bitter thing or you guys and him just went their separate ways?
JS: No bitterness that I can remember. I don't remember how we came up with the name either.
MC: Now you and Pires took over the vocals duties. How did that come about and why did you decide to have 2 singers and not one?
JS: We wanted a heavier sound. We couldn't find any singers that had the voice we were looking for and we weren't going to wait around so we just decided to do it ourselves.
MC: Now at what time did you decide to start to writing originals and scrap just being a cover band? What was the 1st song that the band write and after that 1st song was did writing songs become easier and how did a song come together, was it a group effort or just one or 2 members?
JS: The first song we did was a song called Prepare for Battle I wrote. All of the songs on the demo came about after that. Keith, Steve and I wrote all of those tunes.
MC: Now at this time, in 1985, underground metal was in full force. You had bands springing up all over the place, record labels putting out killer releases and I am sure up in North Jersey there were many metal shows. What was it like being in a band and being in that area at that time?
JS: We were focused on what we were doing. We weren't really in tune with all of the other bands coming out unless they playing the same gig with us. Overkill was a band that we did listen to and dig in the early days. I discovered the Whiplash demo sometime later.
MC: You played your 1st show at the Showplace in Dover, NJ in May of 1985. Do you remember who you played with that night? I imagine your set list consisted of some originals and cover tunes. Did you have any kind of following as far as fans go at the time?
JS: We had a core group who came to all of our shows and each show we played more and more people that would come. That night in Dover was one hell of a night. We crashed the car on the way to the show. Since we weren't dead, there was no way we were going to miss the show. Someone came all the way to Union NJ from Dover to pick us up to make sure we made it. We got there right on time and we jammed. It was a great show but I have no idea who else was on the bill with us.
MC: At the time of the 1st show or shortly thereafter, did you know about fanzines and demos and tape trading and the passing of flyers through the mail, etc?
JS: We shared our demos with many fanzines from all around the world. Much respect to all of them that helped us get our music around the globe.
MC: What did your parents think of you being in a band called Fantom Warrior and how do you feel you were as a bass player and was the band getting tighter and being better at their instruments at the time?
JS: Dad had passed away by that time and Mom supported my music venture even though it wasn't her kind of music.
MC: In March of 1986, you released your 1st demo of 5 songs called, “Morbid Invasion”. These 5 tunes, were they all the originals that you had? What studio were they recorded in and when it came out how did it feel to have a cassette in your hand? Did you have them mass produced or did you do the tape to tape thing?
JS: They were all original and we did it out of Merlin Music. We were happy with the product and it was a good experience.
MC: Once it came out, did you start to sell it in local stores, at shows and through the mail? How were the early sales of it? Do you still have any original copy of it hidden away somewhere?
JS: We sold it on everywhere we could. Rock n roll heaven, Vintage Vinyl, Bleeker Bobs, Through Fanzines, Melody Records, etc We have a few original copies still around.
MC: What was the cover like and who designed your logo?
JS: Not sure but the cover was cool.
MC: I imagine the response to it was great as I reviewed it and gave it a great review in my zine, which was issue # 1. Did you send it out to every fanzine that you knew of? How did all of the mail, was it you or several of the other members?
JS: Thanks Chris! We sent it out to as many fanzines as possible. My address was on the demo and when it got too overwhelming, we changed it to a PO Box so we all could help.
MC: After the demo had been out around say 6 months or so, did mail start coming in and what was it like getting your first overseas letter or order? Was it weird getting various pieces of mail every day and did you make your own little flyers and put them in letters that you sent out to various people?
JS: It was exciting getting orders from overseas. I don't remember what we put in the envelopes other than the demos but I wouldn’t be surprised if we added some cool memorabilia like buttons or bumper stickers.
MC: Around how many copies do you think the demo sold? Were you playing more shows due to the demo and what were some of the places you ended up playing around this time?
JS: I would say about 1000. We played throughout NJ, NY, Penn and Conn.
MC: In April of 1987, you appeared on a compilation album put out by Merlin Recording Studios. I assume you got asked to be on it because you had recorded your demo there. Were you the only thrash/speed metal band on it or were their various genres on it? The song that appeared in it, “E.R.C. (eat the rotting corpse”, that did not appear on your demo. Was that song recorded specifically just for this release? Did this song help your popularity at all?
JS: The comp was a mixture of genres. That track was the first song I created for our new album.
MC: A few months later, in October, you released a 10 track album called “Fantasy Or Reality”. Did this come out on vinyl, cd and cassette; if not what formats did it come out on? What was the response to this release like? Did this have any songs from the demo or were these all new tunes? Was Token Records your label or just a small indie label and did anything else come out on Token Records? How many copies were pressed and I imagine this release has been out of print for quite some time. Have you ever seen a bootleg of it or heard that somebody has bootlegs.
JS; We pressed about 1000 copies on Vinyl. Token Records was an independent label owned by Keith's cousin John.
MC: What was the morale of the band like? With all the great review you were getting and labels popping up and thrash and speed metal in full swing, did you feel that soon you were going to get picked up by one of the bigger indie labels at the time?
JS: We had a great time together jamming. We were never really interested in signing to a big label. We were just in it for the fun of it. We loved to create music and jam together.
MC: Now through all this did you keep having 2 members singing?
JS: Yes...Keith and Myself.
MC: What were some of the band’s biggest influences at the time? What do you think you sounded like and how exactly the band come up the guitar tone and sounds?
JS: Slayer, Overkill, Metallica, and Iron Maiden.
MC: What was it like back in the day playing venues like: The Show Place in Dover, NJ, The Rock Palace in Staten Island, NY? Who did you with at some of these shows I imagine Insaniac and Savage Thrust were 2 of them?
JS: We had a lot of fun jamming with all of the bands we played with.
MC: At your live shows, were there lots of headbanging, moshing and stage diving? Do you have a favorite live show that you played? What songs went over best in a live setting?
JS: The crowds were very enthusiastic at our shows. I always remember having a good response.
MC: Did you send your album or your demo out to any record labels? If you did what kind of response did you get because I think back then you would have fit in great with either Noise Records or Megaforce or Metal Blade Records?
JS: I don't remember ever sending out our demo to any labels.
MC: Now during this entire time did the line-up remain the same?
JS: The line-ups stayed the same.
MC: Now in 1989, 2 yrs after your album came out, the band broke up. Was this something pretty much all the band members agreed with and was it one thing in general or was it just kinds being disgusted with the music scene and not being able to get a record deal?
JS: We agreed it was time to call it quits. All of the heavy partying was getting in the way as well as other things began to take priority. It had nothing to do with not acquiring a record deal.
JS: MC: Between 1987 and 1989 did you record or have any new tunes that you never got around to being recorded? Do you have live tapes of the band at all that sound rather good?
JS: Keith has some live tapes I believe. He has quite a few cool things from the old days.
MC: Now when did the release “In The Beginning” release come out? Is it still for sale and what stuff is on this release? Who ended up putting this out?
JS: I'm not familiar with that. I would love to see it!
MC: What did you end up doing with yourself between 1989 and 2011? Did you join any other bands or did you after a bit just got away from music completely? Were you still on good terms with the other band members after the break-up or was it a nasty one?
JS: I've played in a many underground bands over the years. I've worked in many fields over the years as well. Keith is a printer, James is a carpenter and Steve is a computer professional.
MC: From 1989 till 2011 did you still see or keep in touch with other band members and was there ever any talk of doing a re-union show so to speak? Throughout the years did you still keep a pulse what was going on in the underground scene?
JS: We kept in touch periodically throughout the years. We've all continued to jam in different t bands throughout the years. We've all continued to go to different shows throughout the years as well.
MC: Now in 2011 the band reformed. How did this end up coming about and what is the current line-up of the band? Whose idea was it to reform the band and how did you or another member go and seek out the original members or did you just want to go with a new line-up?
JS: The idea came about when our good friend Jason "Raeph" Glicken suggested it.
MC: What was it like being in the same room with Fantom Warrior back on the bust for another ride so to speak? Were you pretty much still playing the bass all this time and was it tough getting your vocal cords back in speed/thrash metal shape?
JS: Getting together was great! It was just like the old days only a little rusty! Ha
MC: Has the band practiced yet and if you did what was like dusting off the old tunes and was it hard to get into the groove of things and to do kinda laugh at some of the lyrics you penned all those years ago?
JS: It's been fun. We always like those crazy lyrics.
MC: I understand there is going to be some new music from you guys on the horizon. When can we expect that out and will it still be in the killer Fantom Warrior style?
JS: We just finished Retribution which is old school Fantom Warrior. We are in the process of creating some more new tunes as well and putting out a brand new album.
MC: Looking back what are some of your favorite memories of the band and some of the worst ones?
JS: The best memories are the gigs. No sense dwelling on negatives.
MC: Do you think it the band had stuck it out for a few more years that you would have eventually signed a record deal and maybe gone onto bigger and better things?
JS: I don't know. Don't care really,
MC: Back then did you think in a million years that bands like Slayer and Metallica would be on major labels and selling quite a few albums and that there are still around today?
JS: I never thought these bands would still be playing 30 years later. It makes me happy although I mourn the loss of Hanneman in Slayer. That is going to hurt their music writing going forward I believe.
MC: Now way back when there was no internet, no social sites, no nothing. Do you think if a band such as yourselves had stuff like My Space and Facebook, etc. that bands like yours would have been more successful?
JS; Don't know. More channels means more exposure yet more bands to listen to. Information overload has its downside.
MC: Now I know you have several websites. What is the url’s to them and what will people find when they go to them? Do you have any shirts for sale cause if you do, I WANT ONE?
JS; We are going to start making some shirts again. We had quite a few back in the day. You will get one of the first ones of the press Brother! Right now, the best place to find out what is up with Fantom Warrior is on Facebook, Reverbnation and Soundcloud. We have a gig coming up on Oct 3rd in Brooklyn at a place call Coco 66. We just did The Rage of Armageddonfest as well. We may be playing a show on October 15th as well at Champs in Trenton with Impaler.
MC: Have you ever gone and googled the band’s name to see what popped up? Have you seen the videos on You Tube posted of the band? Has over the years people found out you were in F.W. and told you how much they loved the band?
JS; I was shocked the first time I googled and found the band everywhere on the internet. It humbled me. I didn’t think that would ever happen.
MC: This time around are you kind of just taking things day by day as all of you are older and can’t commit to the band full time? Isn’t it fun to send an email and not a letter, I do, but miss the fun of stuffing letters and orders with all those flyers.
JS: Family and other obligations definitely get in the way of committing full-time like we did when we were younger. However, it is nice to be able to shoot an e-mail but I miss the whole mail process.
MC: Have you ever seen a bootleg of the band anywhere on the internet and to your knowledge has any band ever done a cover of one of your tunes? Can we expect any live shows in the near future?
JS; I haven't seen a bootleg but I see many websites that stole the music and reposted it selling it. That’s just the age we live in. Was never in the music to get rich. Ha I have heard of some bands covering our tunes which I think is pretty cool.
MC: Now has far as your old stuff goes, can we expect to see a re-release of it one day and would you rather have a label put it out or would you want to do it yourselves? Is there any old material you recorded but never released or live material that might find its way on a cd some day?
JS; We are doing a re-mastering of the old material. We are working on a new album as well for 2014 with all new material.
MC: In your wildest dreams did you think over 25 years later you would be doing an interview about Fathom Warrior?
JS: I sure didn't but I am glad that I am still alive to do it!
MC: Do you have an old box somewhere filled with all your old flyers for shows and reviews and fanzines, etc?
JS; No I don't but I know people who do. Much of the stuff is posted on the internet. I just google it to see what out there.
MC: John I am exhausted and out of questions. I hope I covered it all and I just want to say your band was one of the best bands around back in the day and it is crime you never got signed to a record label. Any last words to wrap this up and hope to meet you sometime down the road?
JS: Thanks Chris. We could have never gotten the exposure we got if it wasn't for guys like you and the fanzines you created. Much respect and thanks again for your ongoing support! Long Live Metal Core Fanzine!!!!