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Tales from the Pit
Jerry Allen used to do a video magazine back in the day called “Tales From The Pit” and I thought he would make for a great interview and here is that great interview:
MC: Tell my readers who you are and why are we doing this interview?
JA: Well, I'm just a fan of old school metal music. I grew up listening to it in the late 70s/early 80s. It became a driving force in my early life. I also love film and videography. I picked up my first film camera at age 11. I guess you're interviewing me due to my love of metal and using film and video to document the metal scene back in the day. Haha.
MC: Where were you born and where did you grow up?
JA: I was born in Boston, MA. I grew up in a tough neighborhood in the Boston suburb of Somerville. Or Slumerville as anyone from there calls it. Haha! Around age 12, I moved to a semi- rural area of New Hampshire and went to high school there. After high school I lived in Manchester NH for a few years and went to college in Boston. I had the opportunity to relocate to Los Angeles in the late 80s and moved there to work on feature films.
MC: What sort of kid were you in school and did you have many close friends?
JA: During my elementary school years, growing up in Somerville, I had lots of close friends but I also got in lots of street fights. You either fought in my neighborhood or you got bullied. My neighborhood was Irish/Italian and it was pretty tough. We played lots of street hockey and my friends and I were kinda trouble makers. Haha! The older I got, the more trouble I started to get into. My grandfather was a Boston Firefighter and intervened as my mom was unable to control me and my brothers. My mom split with my dad early on. My grandfather and grandmother took us up to NH and got me back on the right track. Sort of..Haha! I guess it depends on your perspective. It was boring in NH. Having just moved from the city to a town with a population of 2000, was a culture shock to say the least. I made friends pretty easily though and discovered dirt bike riding and that's when I found my grandparents old super 8 movie camera. I started filming my friends and me on dirt bikes. Evil Kneivel was pretty popular back then so we all tried to jump ramps and such. I had a huge sand pit behind my house and that's where we'd all go to ride and shoot film and guns. I started getting better and better at filming and my grandparents supported my hobby. They bought me books on film making. I started getting into filming stories and writing scripts as opposed to just filming a friend crash his Kawasaki. Haha! Back then my favorite film was Jaws. It changed my life. It is still my favorite film. At age 16, my friends and I went to Martha's Vineyard MA and shot a fan-made Jaws sequel. It was hokey and I'd be embarrassed to show anyone these days but back then, it was sort of a big deal in my small town high school. The local papers all did stories on us. We built a giant shark fin in woodshop - I was encouraged to pursue film. It was a lot of fun. Haha!
MC: At any time did you ever want to sing or play an instrument in any band and if so what instrument and did you ever play in any bands or manage any?
JA: Yes, I did form a side project band called Storm of Hate in 1990. My friends in NH had a thrash metal band called Decrepit Mind and I thought they were very talented. They were sort of like Sacred Reich but better IMO. I encouraged them to move to Los Angeles...which they did. Metal Blade was interested in possibly signing them but the band imploded due to infighting. Anyway, me and some of the members did a side project that was my baby. I sang on it, wrote the lyrics and arranged the music based of riffs they would come up with during jam sessions. We did a 4 song demo and it was mostly just for fun. I was never serious about doing anything with it but I did use the music for the opening and closing titles for Tales From the Pit. The music is very influenced by Reign in Blood era Slayer and Bonded by Blood era Exodus. I sang poorly but a few have described me as Billy Milano's retarded brother. Hahaha!
MC: When did music enter your life and did you take a liking to it right away or did that come later on in life? What did you want to be when you were growing up?
JA: My mom would always play Aerosmith and classic rock from the 70s around the house when I was growing up. I liked it. I really loved film music as well. The Jaws and Star Wars soundtracks were played constantly. John Williams was a favorite. Around 1978, one of my friends in NH introduced me to Judas Priest's Stained Class album. I was hooked. Judas Priest were, and still are, my all-time favorite metal band. Thrash band would be Slayer. Early Slayer, anyway.
Growing up, I always wanted to make movies. Before metal grabbed me, I wanted to film Great White Sharks and be one of those Discovery Channel Shark Week videographers. I still do. One day when I grow up, perhaps? Haha!
MC: What were you like during your teenage years and what were some of the things did you like to do after say you got out of school?
JA: I sort of covered it a bit in the previous Q&A but to expand further, my friends and I were not really jocks and we weren't really burn outs. We were sort of a hybrid. Lol! We all joined our school weight lifting team. It was fun! We had a power lifting team. We all tried to bench press the most weight and set the school record. Our school was too small to have a football team or else I might have played football instead. I did love weight lifting and I also got into amateur boxing. I'd drive down to Lowell MA and train at the same gym they used in that Mark Wahlburg film, The Fighter. Just for fun. I've always been into fitness and certain sports. My friends and I were also metal heads and pot smokers. We drank heavily and partied hard. Go figure. lol! We were into hitting Hampton and Salisbury beach during the summers and chasing girls, cranking AC/DC, Priest, Sabbath and Maiden and getting into the occasional brawl. Haha!
MC: Now when did music become a big part of your life and what were some of the early rock n roll bands that you heard and liked? Were you a fan of many musical styles back then?
JA: Well, like I said earlier, Judas Priest's Stained Class changed everything for me. Then when British Steel came out a few years later, I was blown away. I also LOVED Bon Scott era - AC/DC, Maiden, Raven, Motorhead, Sabbath and others. The more I heard, the more I went to the local record stores and searched through the album bins, looking for something that looked cool and heavy. Album art was a big selling point for a metal album back before the internet. You'd buy something based on how cool the cover looked and hopefully the music would be just as awesome. And then of course, if you're a metal head, you either are that friend or you have that one friend who introduces you to new bands. I had a friend in NH that would always play me the latest Venom or Slayer's Show No Mercy or Kill Em All and I was like WHOA!!! That shit is awesome!!!! Just when I thought it doesn't get any heavier than Stained Class, POW!!! Kill Em All punched me in the ears! Of course the day that Slayer's Reign in Blood came out, I bought it. I was there when they opened the store's front doors. Wow! That album is probably what cemented me as a hardcore metal fan. Exodus's Bonded by Blood as well. From that day forward, all other music would be measured against Reign in Blood, Bonded by Blood and for me, Master of Puppets.
MC: Now let’s talk about those 2 evil words, “heavy metal” ha ha. When did the world of heavy metal” enter your life and who got you into this wonderful music? What were some of the 1st bands that your ears got to hear and are you still a fan of any of these bands these days?
JA: Haha! I guess I should have read through all your questions first before answering as much of the answers are covered in prior questions. I will answer the last part to your question. A lot of my favorites, for one reason or another, are no longer favorites for whatever reason. Bands change members over the years or put out weak material. I will always be a Priest and Slayer fan but mostly listen to the old stuff.
MC: Now if you remember, what was the 1st concert that you saw and what were some early concerts that you saw and what was a live concert experience like for you back in the day?
JA: The first concert I saw was ...and don't laugh. YES in 1978. A friend had free tickets and we went. I wasn't really a fan of their music and only knew that one song, Roundabout or something. I didn't like the music but I loved the concert going experience. I then saw AC/DC and of course I finally saw Priest on the Screaming for Vengeance tour. It was awesome but I thought their Defender's of the Faith tour was crushing!!! It is still my favorite tour by them and one of my favorite Priest albums. I love Defenders of the Faith. Around 1982, I started hanging around with the bass player for punk shock rocker, GG Allin while I lived in Manchester NH. He had another band called Knightmare, which was a punkish metal band. I started filming their club gigs opening for the likes of Megadeth and other up and coming thrash acts. I saw GG Allin's earliest gig at this club called the Merrimack Club. He was breaking bottles on the floor and rolling around on the broken glass. This was before he graduated to rubbing poop on himself and smearing it on himself and everyone else. I saw many club gigs at the Living Room in RI, the Channel in Boston and more. I saw everyone back then. In Kingston NH, starting around 1984, they would have these huge outdoor festivals. The first year I believe they had Twisted Sister, Cheap Trick, Ratt and Lita Ford and the next was Ozzy, Queensryche and Raven. They were always fun drunken times.
MC: Now how did the underground find its way into your life? What were some early bands that you heard and was it like a drug this music and that you wanted more of and couldn’t get enough of?
JA: Yes, I had a friend that I hung out with. He was a bass player for an underground NH metal band. He was wicked into Venom, Tank, Motorhead, Raven, Slayer, etc. I loved it all. I sought out bands and albums on my own after the initial exposure.
MC: Did you ever go to shows at “The Stone” in SF, CA and if so what was that like and were shows in CA as crazy and wild as I heard they were?
JA: I moved to LA in 1987 and started going to shows in LA and up in the Bay starting around that time. I was a little late for Ruthies but I went to the Stone, The Omni and The One Step Beyond quite a bit. Saw Vio-lence, Testament, Exodus, Death Angel, Forbidden, Epidemic and more…many times. Too many times to list. In LA, I went to many shows at the Country Club in Reseda. I saw so many death metal, thrash and grindcore shows there. I was at the Napalm Death show and some kids got killed. It was crazy. Bay area shows were violent but some of the LA shows at the Country Club or when Slayer played the Paladium during the South of Heaven tour were beyond violent. Even when Vio-lence played LA, the fans were ripping down curtains and beating the shit out of each other.
MC: Did you read many fanzines back in the day and if so which ones? Did you ever do any type of writing for any fanzines at all?
JA: I read anything I could get my hands on. I used to go the local record stores and read everything from Metal Forces, RIP, Thrash Metal, Metal Maniacs, Kerrang, Metal Hammer, etc to fanzines like Marco Barbieri's No Glam Fags, Banzai out of Kansas, Metal Dose out of Anaheim, and more. Too many to list. If it was about metal, I read it.
MC: Did you ever do any tape trading and did you buy any demos back in the day or did you just buy stuff that was released on indie labels?
JA: Yes, I eventually met some metal friends when I moved to LA and he had a fanzine called Metal Dose. He hooked me up with a bunch of tape traders and I started collecting demos and rarities like Slayer rehearsals and so forth. I had pretty much everything at one point.
MC: Now we have reached the point where we are gonna talk about your baby “Tales From the Pit” video series. How did you come up with this idea and how long did it take from being an idea to becoming a reality?
JA: My friend Dwayne, who had a fanzine called Metal Dose ended up getting writing assignments for Thrash Metal Magazine. He asked me if I wanted to tag along and film the interviews. I think the first interview I did was with Atrophy and Forced Entry. Also Exodus at Capitol Records. And then of course in the process, I began making my own connections and someone asked me if I was this video magazine called Hard and Heavy. I was familiar with Hardly Heavy but unlike them, I was only interested in covering thrash and death metal and some traditional metal. I just came up with Tales from the Pit after writing down on paper a bunch of possible metal sounding names. Tales from the Pit seemed like the perfect choice. After I released the first issue and got fairly decent reviews from fellow journalists, record companies began giving me greater access to bigger bands like Slayer, Priest, Maiden, Megadeth, Anthrax etc..and then of course the more underground bands wanted to be a part of it because word of mouth spread that we were just covering heavier bands and we had 3 of the big four as well as the other legendary Bay bands. Metallica - we could never get because they didn't need our exposure. They were huge and their management said no to video magazines at that time. Over the course of 5 issues, we interviewed pretty much every band I was a fan of. A few, we didn't get like Venom and Ozzy.
MC: Looking back, was it harder to do this video show than you thought it was going to be? For those who don’t know, what exactly was ‘Tales From The Pit?
JA: Tales from the Pit is a video magazine. On each issue, there may be 12 or more bands ranging from Judas Priest to an underground unsigned band and everything in between. Always thrash, traditional or death and maybe some funny novelty acts like the Mentors and Gwar. Always uncensored. Always in your face. I tried to give each band 10 minutes or so to explain what they are all about and show samples of their music to give new fans enough of a taste that they would be interested in knowing more about whatever band I was featuring, and seek them out. But their albums, go to their shows, become fans. I tried to have their music playing as the bands were talking about it. Sometimes I'd veer off and ask bands about topical questions such as their views on religion, politics, whatever. We'd even shoot free promo videos for unsigned thrash bands we really believed in to try to help them out and feature them next to bands like Slayer and Exodus. Many times, we'd try to do band histories in 10 minutes or less. We did a two parter on Exodus. That's when I because really good friends with late Exodus vocalist, Paul Baloff. The whole videotape would run a full two hours and just be packed with metal. In between the interviews, we'd try to include 2-3 minute clips of fun metal stuff. Some outrageous statement by El Duce from the Mentors or Dave Brockie from Gwar or some debauchery from the Foundations Forum conventions held in Los Angeles during the late 80s/Early 90s.
MC: How many shows did you end up doing and how hard was it putting together the actual 1st show? Take me through the steps of putting the 1st show together and who was in the 1st show and how long was it?
JA: Back then Metal shows were frequent and happening every few days. After I got my own credentials, I filmed many many shows and interviewed countless bands. It would take roughly a year of interviewing and filming shows and videos to put out a decent issue. I always filmed way more then I needed and used the very best of that. What got cut usually ended up making an appearance on an issue later on down the road. The first issue was -
Featured bands: EXODUS, RAVEN, KREATOR, FORBIDDEN, SACRED REICH, DARK ANGEL, FORCED ENTRY, EVIL DEAD, ATTAXE AND DECREPIT MIND.
MC: What gave you an idea to do this? How many people helped put the show together and how did you go about spreading the word about your show and around how many copies of each show did you sell and did circulation go up as more shows came out?
JA: I usually had a rotating crew of dedicated metal heads who helped me over the years. I did all the filming and editing. Sometimes my crew asked the interview questions, most of the time it was me. We had no budget. It was shoe string productions. We distributed ourselves through the underground and via full page and half page ads in all the major metal magazines and fanzines. The major magazines like RIP and Metal Maniacs were always cool to us and gave us rave reviews and where to order the tapes. It started off before the internet became a factor. After the internet, it became much easier to get the word out but on the other hand. Technology also hurt us as fans were less likely to buy a tape to get info when they can see the stuff for free via You Tube, etc. We did sell quite a bit in the early days. So much so that Brian Slagel from Metal Blade offered us distribution. Unfortunately the contract being offered could be agreed on so I decided to stay on my own.
MC: Were all the shows released on VHS and from what year to what year was the shows done?
JA: We began shooting in 1989 and wrapped issue # 4 in 1994. I took a 4 year break as metal had become nu metal and alternative. I was not into jumping on trends and I hate mallcore, Nu Metal, Rap Metal and all that trendy crap. I despised it. I was like "fuck it". I'll do something else. Then it seemed like Metal was trying to come back when SOD released Bigger than the Devil and Testament released the Gathering. Exodus reformed with Baloff and more. I put out a Best of TFTP in 1999 with some new interviews with Glen Benton of Deicide, Lombardo in the studio with Chuck Billy recording the Gathering and Lemmy from Motorhead talking about life. It got a fairly decent reaction so I decided to do one more issue since metal was trying to go old school again. I released issue #5 in 2003. I was going to do an issue #6 but then Vio-lence asked me to do their DVD and since they are a favorite band of mine, jumped at the chance. I put out Vio-lence: Blood and Dirt through Megaforce Records in 2006. Since then, I've shot random interviews with Slayer and others for my You Tube page but not a full issue.
MC: What was your favorite interview you did and least favorite and was there any band or bands that you wish you got to interview, but never did?
JA: I always loved interviewing Glen Benton from Deicide, Tom Araya from Slayer and Trey and Dave from Morbid Angel. Oh yeah and Paul Baloff. Billy Milano is up there! Dave Brockie and El Duce! It was never a dull moment with those guys. They gave me video gold every time! Always something controversial or funny or twisted. That's what I looked for when I interviewed. Something you couldn't see on other mediums or TV. Something that left your brain scarred. Hahaha! Or had you laughing about later in the day. I wished I got to interview the original Venom line up, Ozzy when he was still coherent and Metallica before the Black album came out. I was basically trying to make a program, I as a fan of metal, wanted to see.
MC: Did you ever get to come to the East Coast or overseas for any shows? Did you ever go to any of the Maryland Deathfest or Milwaukee Metalfest shows? How about any of the Concrete Foundations shows?
JA: I flew back East to interview Raven. I love Raven. I pretty much attended all the major shows in California. Clash of the Titans, Concrete Convention - Foundations Forum, New Titans on the Block, November to Dismember and of course, I co-organized the Thrash of the Titans show for Chuck Billy. I really didn't have the budget to fly to Europe and I could see all the same bands in California rather than fly to Milwaukee. However, if I had the budget, I would have gone to everything.
MC: What was the best live band you ever saw and how about live shows that were disappointing?
JA: Vio-lence at Thrash of the Titans was off the hook! Priest on the Defenders of the Faith tour! Phenomenal!! Slayer on the RIB and SOH tours! Pure sickness!!! SOD on their reunion tour! Destroyed!! Too many to list! Too hard of a question. I'd be writing for days! I haven't been that disappointed at shows other than shows where the band had a drastic line-up change or played a crappy set list. The act of going to a show always provides a lot on entertainment and fun in itself. Even to a jaded veteran like me. Haha!
MC: Is there any chance that your shows will end up on DVD or are they already on DVD? How about You Tube or Facebook?
JA: I've been asked many times about putting the DVDs out and one day that may happen. It's a huge project as I'm not someone who would just throw them on a DVD and release them. I'd want to include all kinds of bonus stuff, new material and re-edits of past interviews that by today's standards seem amateurish. I'd want to clean it all up and make it as professional as possible. It's time consuming and I've been working on it a little at a time. A few things are up on my You Tube page. You can see the tamer stuff. A lot of TFTP isn't You Tube friendly so I've been warned and even shut down a few times for explicit content. Hahaha.
MC: Now back when you were doing your shows, there was no internet or anything. Do you think if we had all the things we have today that your video series would have been bigger or that with everything being posted and stuff that your show would have got lost in the shuffle so to speak?
JA: I don't think I would attempt TFTP if the technology was the same back then as it is now. People have lesser attention spans due to a constantly changing internet and format. DVD is now Blu-Ray. Blu-ray will be obsolete in a few years by the next leap in technology. People go to metal shows these days and stare at their cell phones through the whole show. It would be a waste of time to do TFTP these days. It's all about instant gratification now. You couldn't release a film like Jaws today. It would move too slowly for today's quick cut, fast paced, explosion every 5 seconds audiences. They'd want a CGI shark and the latest A lister to play the roles of Brody, Quint and Hooper. I think I put out those videos in a time when nobody was doing it and everyone couldn't upload their own cell phone shot concert on their own YouTube page. Unfortunately I'm a dinosaur. Hahaha! But I have no regrets. I had lots of fun making those videos and met lots of cool people.
MC: The music scene has changed big time since the 80’s, what are some of the things and bands you like these days and what are some of the things you hate about today’s music scene?
JA: Well, I turned on some satellite radio station that said metal. I didn't recognize one band, they all had long pretentious emo sounding names and they all sounded alike. And not in a good way. I still have my old school favorites that I will always listen to.
MC: Thoughts on the following:
JA: Defenders of the Faith, Number or the Beast, British Steel, Diary of a Madman, Stained Class, Holy Diver and The Last in Line, Painkiller, Piece of Mind, Sabbath, Ace of Spades, I can go on and on...
JA: REIGN IN BLOOD, Bonded by Blood, Master of Puppets, The New Order, Eternal Nightmare, The Ultra-Violence, Taking Over, Arise and Beneath the Remains, Peace Sells and Rust in Peace, Among the Living, Steve Zetro Souza's Hatriot, Twisted into Form, Extreme Aggression, Coma of Souls, Dew Scented - Issue VI, Anger as Art - Hubris, Inc. Ride the Lightning, Hell Awaits, South of Heaven, etc..
JA: Napalm Death
JA: Way gay.
MC: How many shows did you end up putting out and why did you decide to end it and did you know at the time that the last show you released was going to be your last release?
JA: I sort of explained this earlier. 5 and a Best of issue plus I continue to release random You Tube interviews.
MC: Who has been your favorite band and have you ever had a chance to meet them and why are they your favorite band?
JA: Back in the day it was definitely interviewing Tom Araya and Kerry King around the time South of Heaven came out or a bit after. They are my all-time favorite thrash band. The kings! Nothing touches Reign in Blood. Also meeting and interviewing the Metal God, Rob Halford. Slayer and Priest are both responsible for defining the genre. They influenced my life and their music has both inspired me and gotten me through some difficult times.
MC: Tell me something that might surprise people that know you?
JA: I'm a hardcore Conservative. A Reagan Republican if you will. :)
MC: The Violence DVD that came out a few years back. Who came up with the idea for that and how long did it take to actually put all the stuff together and what are your thoughts on it these days? If somebody wants one, where can they get one?
JA: I've been filming Vio-lence since the old days. I have tons of footage I shot of them. I filmed them at Thrash of the Titans with 7 cameras and they stole the show that night. I did campaign to do a home DVD for them back in the day. I can't remember how it took place but I believe Phil Demmel called me and asked me if I would meet with him and the rest of the band to discuss doing a DVD back in 2003 or 2004. We came to an agreement and I told them my ideas and they loved it. So I started shooting interviews soon after as well as collecting other people's footage and transferring a lot of the band's own footage they shot on the road. We had hours and hours and hours of stuff to go through. There was tons of editing and editing decisions to make. We had monthly meetings where I would show the band what I had done as far as the documentary and we all decided what would stay and what would go. For the most part, they pretty much liked everything I was doing. When all was said and done, the DVD came out through Megaforce records in 2006. The process of collecting footage and getting everyone's interviews as well as doing the narration and such took a long time considering I did most of this on my own. I had help here and there but it was pretty much a one man show. The DVD was out in record and video stores upon release and it was sold on most online retail outlets like Amazon. I think Amazon still sells it. I'm not sure if it's out of print at this time but I'm sure someone is bootlegging it.Haha! Or you can hit up Phil Demmel or Perry Strickland on Facebook and ask how they can get a copy. Haha! For me, it is a proud moment for me. I am totally happy with the way it turned out. It's a DVD that I as a fan of Vio would want to see and I have gotten nothing but positive feedback from other Vio fans as a result.
MC: Do you follow any sports at all?
JA: Yep, I love the New England Patriots! I love Boxing and I was always a huge fan of Mike Tyson.
MC: Did you ever do any “slam dancing” or “stage diving” back in the day?
JA: Hells yeah! I still do!!! Haha! On occasion.
MC: When you listen to a song, what catches your ear so to speak?
JA: The riffing and the drumming.
MC: What would a dream concert line-up be?
JA: If it were ten years ago...Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Slayer, Vio-lence, Demolition Hammer, S.O.D. and a Baloff fronted Exodus. If he were alive and healthy.
MC: Were you sad to stop doing your show and around how many hours were you putting in putting together a show?
JA: It takes a long time to put an issue of TFTP together as I film more than I need and only use the best stuff from that. I haven't quit. I'm still filming select interviews with bands. Mostly just favorite bands or bands that I haven't covered yet. And just for You Tube.
MC: Do you think a show like you were doing back then work in today’s music world?
JA: I don't know. Metal bands aren't even shooting their own music videos that much anymore. The whole face of publicity has changed due to technology and trends.
MC: What were some of the craziest shows you have ever seen and what do you think of bootlegging?
JA: I already sort of covered this but Napalm Death in Reseda. Sepultura on the Beneath the Remains tour in LA. Vio-lence at Thrash of the Titans. Any early Slayer show. Early Baloff era Exodus shows. I have no opinion on bootlegging.
MC: What are you doing with yourself these days?
JA: Just trying to make a living like everyone else. Haha! Hopefully I will be continuing to shoot my Tales From the Pit stuff as well as pursuing my love of great white sharks. I hope to one day shoot a documentary for Discovery Channel's Shark Week.
MC: Do you still go to many shows and have you ever watched any of your old shows at times and just thought all about the oldie days ha ha?
JA: All the time. I'm just more selective now.
MC: Anything you would like to plug and any last words and if somebody wanted to get in touch with you how would they go about doing that?
JA: Well, I did that Vio-lence DVD that I believe you can still buy. I'm wicked proud of that. If any bands out there want to shoot a video, drop me a line on Facebook or linked in. I'm not hard to find. You can contact me at
Thanks for the interview. I appreciate the interest. I've always been a fan of Metal Core so it's an honor to talk to you. :)