Exclusive Interviews Only Found Here at MetalCore!
Midnite Hellion are a killer power/heavy metal band from NJ and a couple really good EP release I emailed them an interview and here is what they said:
MC: Tell me a little bit about each band member and I see your having problems with keeping a singer. Why is this and who is the singer now and is he just a fill-in again or is this guy the singer
MIDNITE HELLION: Hey Chris, hope all is well with you!
Dan Sclavi: I’m Dan, the current sole lead guitarist, and come from a background heavy in Thrash and Death Metal, but love the Traditional Heavy Metal.
Bill Dripps: I’m Bill, the bassist, coming from a very eclectic musical background having studied Jazz and played upright bass while attending college, and I’m very into the New Wave of British Heavy Metal movement.
Drew Rizzo: I’m Drew, the drummer, born and bred in Trenton, NJ. I’ve always been into music in all forms since a young age, but found a true fondness and dare I say obsession with Heavy Metal since the ripe old age of 2. Drums came on early after receiving a video of The Who and a toy drumset for my 5th birthday. Keith Moon was and still is one of my main inspirations.
MH: We have had three different singers in the band so far, and the most recent was Scott Alpert. Scott was originally from our area, but relocated to the Poconos a few years ago. He was kind enough to help us out in a great time of need, having recorded the EP with us, playing shows, and going on tour. Unfortunately for us, but fortunately for him, he was recently promoted at his job which causes him to be on the road majority of the time and forces him to be unable to continue with the band.
Currently, we have yet to secure a permanent singer. Bill sang at our last show as Scott couldn’t do the show due to his work, and while it worked quite well, we’d like to have a singer at the helm. It’s proven quite difficult to find a singer in our area that is first and foremost into actually singing that isn’t already involved with a band, and also it’s hard to find one that is dedicated and committed to being in a band. We’ve found a lot that are more into it for the occasional jam or gig, but not for a full-time situation, and we’ve also found plenty of people that are 100% right for the job, but unfortunately live on the other side of the globe! We do have a lot of auditions lined up for the coming weeks, and we’re determined to find a permanent singer and will do so, come hell or high water!
MC: So tell me how the forming of the band came about and how many line-up changes did you go through before you came to the current line-up minus the singer of course?
DR: This is quite a long story, haha! Essentially, the band came about once I was dismissed from my previous band, Horrifier, in February 2011. I was determined to continue musically as it’s been a dream of mine to make a band a professional career since a young age, and I wasn’t about to let that minor setback stop me. I started looking around for bands needing a drummer and jammed with some great bands and musicians, but it just didn’t have the right spark. An old friend and ex-bandmate, Jaron Gulino, was also frustrated with his current musical situation, and we started talking and decided to get together to see what we could make happen. Jaron handled the bass and vocal duties, and he also brought guitarist Alex Kulick along for the ride. After the first jam on April 4th, 2011, we all knew that something special had just happened, and started writing and rehearsing relentlessly. After two weeks, we had booked our first three shows, including our debut which was to open for Forbidden, and had plans to record and release a debut album with a local label. Unfortunately the plans were soon foiled, as Alex was unable to keep up with such a tight schedule while balancing everything else he had going on, causing the cancellation of the aforementioned shows and recording. I had kept in touch with Amadeus Zajac, bassist of Horrifier, and we had wanted to collaborate musically. Since he’s mainly a guitarist, we invited him down the day Alex announced his leave and he joined right on the spot. Amadeus invited Dan the following week as he was looking for a band at the time. In the interim, Jaron had decided to reform his previous band, On Top, and we decided that the material we collaborated on previously would be a better fit for On Top then for Midnite Hellion. Jaron also had relocated to Delaware, which proved difficult for rehearsals. He announced his leave the day we auditioned Sonny Zackeo on vocals, who joined the following week. We invited Bill down to check out the band the week after that, and he joined on July 4th, 2011. Needless to say, a lot had happened in a short period of time.
Amadeus had to depart two weeks before our debut performance, as he is an archeologist and his job had him working far away from home. Mario DiBartolo then agreed to come aboard and was with us until January of this year, as he returned to college. Sonny left the band while we were tracking the EP in March 2012, and Scott joined in June 2012, leaving the fold in January of this year due to work-related issues. Matt Runge was with us for a few weeks, and just last week informed me that he couldn’t commit due to having a lot on his plate already with work and a cover band he is involved with. However, I am confident that we will find permanent members shortly. We already have a lot of auditions set up for both vacant positions, so it’s only a matter of time at this point.
MC: Were any of the band members in any other bands before they joined Midnite Hellion?
DS: I was in a band before MH for about a year but we didn't play any shows and we didn't have anything really recorded. I am currently in another band called Stench in which I play bass instead of guitar.
DR: Amadeus and I were founding members in Horrifier, and I was in Skinslip, C.D.M., Vigilante Suicide, In Reality and numerous others that didn’t progress past the early phases.
MC: What were some of the early practices like and what cover songs did you fool around with and how long had the band been around before you decided you were gonna write some original tunes?
DS: The first song that was written was The Fever by Amadeus and Drew. Shortly thereafter, I joined and all three of us wrote Cross The Line. When bill joined he added 1903 which was a song he already had written and was on his shelf. After those first 3 were written we then decided to do a cover of Invaders.
DR: The early rehearsals went great!! Tons of energy and lots of fun were had all-around. Originals have always been the focal point, but we continue to include covers to keep a fun aspect to the live show for both the fans and the band.
MC: So tell me how the coming of a song comes together and who comes up with the music and the lyrics?
DS: With some songs, the music is written by one person. On others we collaborate at practice and write the song together. When Sonny was in the band, we left him to come up with lyrics. Now usually Drew writes them but Bill and I have some lyrics, too.
DR: When writing together, Dan, Bill, and I will sit down with guitars and practice amps and construct the riffs and then go into a formal rehearsal setting to solidify the material and the structure. When Amadeus was involved, he was 100% part of the writing process as well. Scott had also contributed lyrics while he was in the band. Sometimes the songs come together quite quickly, while others rest on the backburner for a while. Currently, we have roughly six incomplete songs that are ready to be worked on as a group, and we’re finishing up two others as we speak.
BD: We try to make sure everyone's on board with the outcome of our writing.
MC: So long was the band together before you decided to book a show? How was the 1st live show for you guys? Were you at all nervous and what was the set list and where did you play?
DS: We had our first show scheduled for a couple of months after we had a solid line up. I can't speak for anyone else in the band, but I was nervous.
BD: I was nervous, to say the least. We played The Fever, 1903, Cross The Line, Stand Up (which is now Spirit Possession), plus our cover of Iron Maiden’s Invaders. We first played out at the Irish American Club in Kearny, NJ.
DR: The band was together for all of two weeks with the initial lineup for the initial show that ended up being cancelled. Once Bill joined in July of 2011, it was about three weeks before our true debut show was confirmed with a promoter, and the show went over great!! Personally, I have been playing on stages since I was 9 years old so I have gotten over the preshow jitters years ago, but I was still on my toes that night as it was the first time I had performed live with anybody in the lineup. Thankfully, everything held together well, although we had a few mistakes throughout the set, but it went over well and became a springboard into bigger and better things.
MC: Now you have 2 Eps out. Why an EP and not a full length? Tell me a bit about the 1st Ep and how as it going into the studio for the 1st time and did everything go pretty smoothly?
BD: “The Fever” was considered a demo. It was recorded on an old Tascam 4-track, released only on tape, and to be looked at as just that, a rough demo. “Enter The Unknown” was released to give those songs a decent studio recording and reveal a newer song.
DS: “The Fever" was recorded by us in Bill's basement, while “Enter the Unknown” was done in a studio. It was everyone in the band’s first professional recording so we were all unfamiliar with the process, and we didn't have enough material at the time to cover a full length was why we did an EP and not an album. The recording process had its road blocks for us, but it’s all a learning experience. On our next recording we'll be more prepared.
DR: The initial plan was not what had happened at all, hahaha! Then again, everything happens for a reason and in the end, everything worked out for the best. “The Fever” was originally recorded as a pre-production demo in September 2011 and we wanted to use it as a reference point for going into the studio. However, we decided to do a quick run of 100 copies to get the music out to the public. Since it was recorded on analog equipment, we wanted to release it on an analog format, and our friend, Brian Varney, had just started a label which releases only cassettes, and we were the first release by Hels’ Trash Industries. The demo was released on November 17th, 2011, and tracking for the EP was to start on November 21st, 2011. Our initial plans were for the EP to be released by January or February 2012 at the latest, which did not happen at all. The studio we booked was quite busy, so tracking happened when they had availability which we soon found out was very few and far between. The drums and bass were completed during the first two sessions, but then we had a three week wait period until our next session. In the meantime, however, the 100 copies of the demo had sold out, so we needed to press 100 more copies, which went almost as quick. We finally were almost done tracking the vocals when Sonny announced that he was leaving the band in April 2012, and at that point, it had taken a five month period to track four songs. Also, a third pressing of our demo had come out by then, pressed by Else’s Metalecke exclusively for the Keep It True Festival. Scott came on board in June and finished tracking the vocals in August, as he had to take time to rearrange some melodies and lyrics before putting it to tape. We have decided to reserve a block of studio time for the full-length, as needless to say, the process was not very smooth for basing it around the studio’s availability. If all goes well, we will have our full-length released before the end of the year.
MC: How did you go about promoting it and around how many copies did you sell and is it still for sale?
DR: Any and every way possible has been done for promoting the record. I work day and night pushing the product online and in person. I have pushed it to various webzines, PR companies, radio stations, record stores; you name it, I’ve done it. Approximately 500 copies have been sold since its release five months ago, which isn’t too bad considering it’s been a self-sufficient effort, but I’d like to see more sell at a quicker rate. When we toured in October, we took advantage to market our product to various distributors and record stores in person, so the tour took on a promotional tour in many senses of the form. It’s currently available at various physical record stores, online outlets, and also through the band on our website and our Big Cartel store.
MC: Now during this period you had ton quite a few lives shows. What places have you played and what bands did you share the stage with at this time and do you have a favorite place you like to play?
BD: Champs in Trenton is a fun place to play. One of my favorite shows so far was opening for Morbid Saint at The Barbary in Philly.
DS: We've played all over Jersey a couple places in Brooklyn and a couple places in Philly. On our tour we went as far north as Worchester, MA. My favorite place to play and the place we play the most is Champs in Trenton. Always a great turn out, it's an all-ages venue, and the fans are never afraid to dance.
DR: We’ve performed at The Irish in Kearny, NJ, Championship Bar & Grill in Trenton, NJ, in Brooklyn at St. Vitus Bar, Trash Bar, and Europa, in Philadelphia at The Trocadero Balcony, The Barbary, JC Dobbs, and O’Reilly’s Pub, Dingbatz in Clifton, NJ, The Cup in Linden, NJ, The Brighton Bar in Long Branch, NJ, Castle Graeskul in Shirley, NY, Ralph’s Rock Diner in Worcester, MA, and The Beacon Theater in Beacon, NY. I’ve always loved playing L’amour in Brooklyn, but it has been closed for many years, so I never got a chance to play there with MIDNITE HELLION. Currently, I’d have to say St. Vitus Bar in Brooklyn and Champs in Trenton are my favorite venues to play.
Band-wise, we’ve played with Artillery, Blood Feast, Whiplash, Morbid Saint, Deceased, October 31, Obituary, Denial Fiend, Deathrash, Warbringer, Lazarus A.D., Diamond Plate, Landmine Marathon, Prime Evil, Oath of Insanity, Graeskul, Malignancy, Sacrificial Blood, Condition Critical, Asphyxiating, Anvil Bitch, On Top, A.S.D., Swashbuckle, Corpse, Fiakra, Carcinogen, Power Theory, Regalia, Lethal Strike, Grim Legion, Anticosm, Asphyxiating, Day of the Beast, Revocation, Cannabis Corpse, Ramming Speed, Dimentianon, Sectioned, Coffin, Deathrash, White Goblin, Bröhammer, Vermefüg, Mount Olympus, Heavy Sons, The Fetals, Enemy Eternal, Tortured Existence, Mobile Deathcamp, Gnarly Vomit, Eliminator, Scarred For Life, Eternity’s End, Brain Damage, Thrashole, Centralia, Pitch Black Sleep, Bob Mitchell Band, Undivided, Coffin, Shadows of Dawn, Thanatotic Desire, Ruins of Akora, Helcaraxe, Valacar, Wizard Eye, Saviour, Pitch Black Sleep, Egokill, Tantalus Spine, Forever Her Nightmare, Winter Nights, Seeds of Redemption, Infernal Opera, and Supercrabs. I know there’s a few others I’m missing, but, that’s all I can currently recall. We also are performing with Diamond Head and OZ in a few months, so they might as well be added to the list, too.
MC: Now not to long ago, EP # 2 came out. How did the songs come about with this release and do you feel it is now easier for the band to have songs come together now that you have been around for a bit.
DR: See the previous question for the story of “Enter The Unknown,” haha! I’d say that we’ve never had writer’s block thankfully, just a matter of not enough time to work on material as we would like.
DS: I think the songs come together easier now. The more you write the easier it comes.
MC: Around how much time in any given week is spent doing band related stuff?
DS: For me on average about 5 to 6 hours a week if I were to guess.
DR: It truly depends on what is going on at the current time. I spent up to 20 hours a day for two months straight preparing and organizing the tour this past Fall, so little sleep was to be had prior to hitting the road. When finalizing the artwork and information for both releases, I spent up to the same amount of time, as both functions were added into the standard daily band activities. On an average day, I’d say I put in roughly anywhere from 4-8 hours a day into band-related activities, as there’s always something to do, whether it be search for new outlets for our material, send out merchandise, physically go to shows and record stores to promote the band, maintain the websites, or write new material, to mention a few of the daily actions. Most days, it’s closer to 6 hours, and I do try to have a bit of down time on the weekends to recuperate from the week. MIDNITE HELLION is a full-time job, and I treat it as such. If I didn’t have to work a full-time job to survive, that number would be increased to around 20 hours a day at all times, haha.
MC: Does the band have any goals and have you sent out the EP to any labels in the hopes of getting a label to sign the band?
DS: We definitely want to do a full-length for our next release and tour to support it.
DR: The ultimate goal is to tour the world and to have several full-length releases, and it would be great to have the band serve as the primary income for the members, but the last part is quite unlikely in this day and age, haha. We have sent out the EP to labels and have had plenty of offers, and we’re currently negotiating contracts. We’ll soon see how things pan out and hopefully have several upcoming announcements.
MC: For those who have never heard of the band, what would you say that the band sounds like?
DS: NWOBHM with some Thrash thrown in, and maybe some Melody on top
DR: I’d honestly say that the band sounds like Heavy Metal from the days of old, when the music mattered and heads were banging. Our collective primary influences include Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Motorhead, Saxon, OverKill, Exodus, and other bands from the NWOBHM and 80’s Thrash Metal movements. I believe that we pull from our influences while maintaining originality.
MC: How did you come up with the name and were any other names tossed around?
DR: The name itself was the most difficult part of the formative stages, haha! Jaron and I spent about two weeks tossing names back and forth before deciding on MIDNITE HELLION. The spelling of MIDNITE was derived from the Krokus song, “Midnite Maniac,” and the HELLION portion was from the WASP song, “Hellion.” Former guitarist Amadeus had noted upon joining that the name reflects two of the band’s primary influences as well, Judas Priest’s “The Hellion” and Iron Maiden’s “Two Minutes To Midnight,” which was completely unintentional.
The logo itself was created by a friend of Jaron’s, who was given the ideas of the original Metal Church logo, the King Diamond logo, and the Metal Massacre II logo as a basis. He created a good rough sketch and Chris Milnes, singer of the great Bergenfield, NJ band Mucky Pup, was kind enough to clean up the logo and digitize it to what it currently is today.
MC: Plug any websites and any merchandise you have for sale.
DR: We have a few websites up at the moment. The official site is http://www.midnitehellion.com where you can get the up to date information and listen to our full EP for free, we’re on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/midnitehellion, and you can purchase our EPs, t-shirts, patches, beer koozies, and tickets to upcoming shows at either our official site or at http://midnitehellion.bigcartel.com. We’re also on Youtube at http://www.youtube.com/midnitehellion, which has individual live song clips and at http://www.youtube.com/strunza which features the full live shows.
MC: With so many bands out there, do you find it tough at times to get the band noticed at all?
DS: Sometimes, but the good thing about this band is that I feel we are unique compared to all the other local bands.
BD: I think the traditional aspect of our brand of metal sets us apart from many other bands that we play with. Most underground shows we end up sharing the stage with thrash and death metal bands.
DR: Yes and no. Locally, it’s not as difficult as there aren’t any other bands with our sound around our area. However, it’s proven a bit difficult on a global scale, as essentially we are a small fish in an ocean of bands, although we have gotten positive recognition in most continents thus far, having good and loyal followings in the Americas, Europe, Asia, and Australia. We only hope to play for all of our fans in the very near future, and we hope to make many more fans as the time comes. In our eyes, our fans are our friends, and we treat them as such. They are the ones who make this happen, and without their support and encouragement, we wouldn’t be able to thrive.
MC: When your not doing band related stuff what do you like to do?
BD: Jerk off with the power and fury of Arnold Schwarzenegger.
DR: There’s not much of that time for me, as I tend to integrate band-related activities in everything I do. I enjoy spending time with my girlfriend, and we love to travel and try to do one big trip a year in addition to mini trips scattered throughout the year. I’ll bring promotional items along and spread the word wherever we are vacationing. We also enjoy frequenting concerts, as well as traveling for our favorite bands. We’re also huge collectors of Heavy Metal memorabilia and she of The Rolling Stones memorabilia in addition to Heavy Metal, so we’re always looking for record shops to pillage through and find hidden gems for our collection.
MC; Now since we are both based in South Jersey, what are your thoughts on that and the Phila, PA music scene?
DS: Sorry Philly, but you're just not cutting it for metal compared to New York, where no matter what day of the week it is people are always at the shows.
DR: I’ve always considered myself a Central Jersey resident, haha, and while I have always supported the Philly scene, I’ve found more of a unity and fondness with the NYC scene. Philly seems to go through ebbs and flows through a “flavor of the week” type of mentality, while the underground NYC scene remains strong through and through. I’ve found people and bands to be more supportive and more determined in NYC while Philly seems to be more about the party than about the music.
MC: Do you like to listen to any other forms of music besides metal and what are some of your favorite bands and shows you have seen over the years?
DS: I like Classic Rock and Punk. I've seen a lot of good Metal shows over the years, too many to list.
BD: Besides metal I like rock, blues, jazz, and a bit of punk.
DR: I am eclectic with my musical tastes and listen to pretty much everything under the sun, including Classical, Blues, Bluegrass, Jazz, Rock ‘n Roll, Funk, Country/Country-Western, and even some early Rap finds its way into my eardrums. I could easily write an entire book on favorite bands and concerts over the years, as at one point in my life I averaged 100 concerts a year. I’ll try to simplify it as much as possible and just include some concert highlights instead of bands, as both lists would take too much time and space to include. OverKill was my favorite band for many a year having seen them 58 times and counting. I’ve seen many memorable OverKill shows, including the ’02 DVD show (which was my first time seeing them), Orlando and Ft. Lauderdale ’10, Cleveland ’06, Birch Hill ’03, L’amour ’03, and for what it’s worth, the riot show at the Metal Meltdown V, in which their set was cut short with the power being cut during the last song. Some others include Helloween in Sayreville, NJ ’04, The Big 4 show at Yankee Stadium, King Diamond at L’amour ’03, Testament with Louie Clemente, every show I’ve seen of Manowar, Twisted Sister, and KIX, every Judas Priest show (especially the farewell show), Iron Maiden Ft. Lauderdale ’09, the Heavy MTL Festival in Montreal ’08, the Metal Meltdowns III, IV, and V (saw a TON of killer bands), both times seeing Carnivore, the Biohazard reunion show, the most recent 70,000 Tons of Metal cruise (Metal Church reunion performances were incredible), and of course, Deceased. There’s a whole lot more that were great and that I can’t recall offhand, but those are some standout shows that I can think of right off the top of my head.
MC: Do you think your a good live band and are any live clips floating around on You Tube at all?
BD: I think we are the worst band live and no one in their right mind should ever see us play. Every show is a daunting, miserable experience which fills the hearts of our listeners with either apathy or sorrow. Please, do yourself a favor and stay home.
DS: I'd like to think we are getting better as a live band. Every show we've ever played is on Youtube, which you can check out at http://www.youtube.com/midnitehellion and http://www.youtube.com/strunza.
DR: We strive to be energetic and deliver a show that leaves people wanting to come back for more. We want to entertain and give the people their money’s worth and in general, make them happy. A reason to go to a show is to forget your troubles, and we want the crowd to leave in a better mood than when they arrived at the venue. We’re all huge fans of the genre, so we try to bring to the stage what we’d like to see from a live show as well.
MC; What are your plans for the rest of 2013 and beyond?
DR: First order of business, after solidifying the lineup, is to record and release a full-length record. We plan to tour to support the release as well, and will continue to perform at venues in the Tri-State area, as well as mini weekend tours in neighboring states. Beyond this year will include extensive touring throughout the world and hopefully we can continue our one release a year schedule that we have adhered to thus far. We will bring our Metal to the masses by any means necessary!
MC: Any last words, horns up for the interview?
MH: Cheers, Chris, thank you for the opportunity and the constant support!! We wish to thank everybody for their support and for those new to the band please check us out, give us a listen, and if you like what you hear, please support the underground and pick up some merchandise!! Our next shows are supporting DIAMOND HEAD and OZ, so if you need tickets, please get in touch. Also, if you’re a singer or lead guitarist interested in an audition, please get in touch as well!! Keep the flame of Heavy Metal burning strong!!!