From time to time there are surprises…from a Band that was active way back then and found together again after a long time to produce something new. And if these new Songs are the best the Band ever did, the suprise is perfect! Fitting in this positive picture is that the guys replied to my Facebook-Message within some seconds (!) and answered the mailed questions within one day. Enjoy the Interview with the fantastic Hittman, here we go:
Have to start in the past – do you think the fact that your Debut album was available through Import in the US only stopped you before you could really start? Or were you glad to be represented on the european market on a german label, as the underground scene here was very strong?
Hello! Well, thats always a Place to start. Well we didnt sign to a german
label at all. SPV had opened a USA office and it was run by a guy we knew and
loved. Mike Schnapp. They had
distribution and everything. However, on the actual day oft he albums
release. SPV USA closed
their doors and the album went into limbo for months. We, of course, were very
upset as it killed all the timing. We now had to find an amaerican deal but
since the contract included the USA we were in a bad place. We did get a major
deal with POLYGRAM. However SPV wanted a million dollars to free us from the
contract. This lead to a very bad releationship with SPV.
JIM : Yes….the whole SPV USA debacle was what messed everything up for us. They ended up licensing our record to Roadracer. In hindsight…I wish we would have worked with Roadracer records as they did a pretty good job of getting the record out there.We just got starstruck by the major label thing, and decided to fight SPV instead of just working with Roadracer. It was a very valuable lesson…
Work with what you have, not what you MIGHT get.
Why weren´t there any Tours? Can remember attending gigs by lots of US-Bands way back then, from Possessed through Crimson Glory to Leatherwolf – didn´t the Label support you with this? If I remember correctly Bands toured to push album-sales, so where´s the use to not support a Tour to sell more albums? Should ask this at the Label I guess ☺ What´s your oppinion to this?
Again SPV. We got zero support on that album. Even though it was critically
acclaimed and we were featured on the cover of Kerrang, SPV for some reason (
known only to them) didnt give us anything, no help us get tours, budget for a
video etc. We were dead in the water.
JIM : We were fighting SPV legally (again, a bad idea in hindsight) so I don’t think we were even speaking to them at that point. As much as I blame them for the whole situation, I blame ourselves too…. Had we just decided to ride out the situation, work with Roadracer and SPV in America and Europe respectively, we could have lawyered up and sorted out our legal situation for the second album. Again…lesson learned.
What happened in the time until „Vivas Machina“? Would you agree that it came out in a time no metal album stood a chance, no matter if it was good or bad? This was the 90s, after all….this cursed decade where noone seemed to want metal bands anymore…
Well yes, the 90’s Nirvana , pearl Jam and C..C Music Factory. LOL. We tried to get all the legal things out oft
he way and that took years. By that time
the music tastes had changed and so did we for better or worse. Had it come out in 1990 we might have had a
chance. It was also too far away in direction from the debut to make whatever
fans we had happy.
JIM : The 90’s sucked for being in a metal band. Even the bigger bands were forced to change and adapt to that current market.So, yea, not a good time for a record like “Vivas”.
Will you stop answering the questions when I compare „Say a prayer for me“ to Bon Jovi? ☺ Would you say the musical direction on the album was too diverse and / or too far away from your Debut?
I think Say a prayer for me is a great song (For me, too! – Frank). Perhaps its
my fault. I grew tired oft he Geoff Tate comparisons and worked on dirtying my
voice up a bit. I was looking for new ways to sing Im really good at mimicking singers and have
a bunch of party pieces. I can do Jon, Klaus, Dio, Geoff and even Tom Jones and
Neil Diamond. It’s just
a fun thing to do and ultimately that lead to Bon Jovi Comparisons. I was
intentionally doing that AOR style. The song itself is not them at all maybe just
the vocal. P.s. I stopped doing that LOL.
JIM : Yea….I think at that point, for me it was either go in a heavier, more thrash direction, or go in the more commercial hard rock direction. The hard rock direction made more sense for us, because it was still driven by melody and song structure, and not about how “Heavy” or “fast” the music was. So, Bon Jovi was selling millions of records at that time, so my attitude was “Lets just get a major label deal” so we at least will have a career. Again…in hindsight..not a god choice. Keep in mind , that we live in America, and things are different here than in Europe, where, at that time, traditional metal was still more acceptable. Bands like Manowar were selling huge amounts of records and tickets, whereas here in the US, they would play clubs, but in places like Portugal, they played stadiums.
There was no internet to show us what was going on over there, so….we just didn’t know how popular we were…we just assumed no one cared, like ion the US.
Please tell us what you guys did during all the years until reforming Hittman – I guess you had to do regular jobs or were you still involved in music for a living?
John started his own business, I wrote for TV and commercials , did VO and
jingles. I did a non metal solo album and kept the profile low. Jimmy has had
quite a good career as a producer, engineer and composer for just about
everything. He also has had many bands, Ill let him explain that.
JIM : Pretty much what Dirk said…I moved to Los Angeles in 1995 and pursued a career in music….both as an engineer/producer and songwriter/performer.
Ive don tons of stuff…records, engineering gigs….got to work with some really cool people, and continue to do so.
How difficult was it to bring all the guys back? I think you really love the Band as it´s not promising big financial rewards (my respect for this attitude, guys!). Did everyone got on Board right away? Who was responsible to get back together initially?
- Easy and Hard. Jimmy and I were on board right away. We both have studios, we both engineer etc.
but Chuck was a big problem he didnt have the time and wasnt on the same page.
John needed cohersion and that took some time but he eventually came around.
Greg happened upon us in a natural way and he knew mike as a kid and
his style is pretty close. Getting the drums done was a process. Weh ad our
friend Jai Es play on it as well as the studio player Joe Fugazi. Now we have
Mark Jenkins back, arent we lucky?
JIM : Basically , what Dirk said….for me it, it was just adjusting to playing that style of guitar again, which took some work….I tend to me more of a rock player these days, but as soon as I pick up my 1985 Hamer Flying V, the guitar I recorded the first Hittman album with, those riffs just come out.
Writing took a bit of work to get back to that style, but it was definitely fun.
Let´s get to the new album which I absolutely LOVE, more than all you did before… are the Songs all new or did you work on ideas that have been around for some time?
Dirk- They are all new save for out in the cold and „ code of honor“ we demored about 20 songs.
I think the guitars are fantastic, the double-leads are great, full of melodies and the vocals are brilliant as well as the rhythm section – how important was it for you to keep it Metal despite the melodies and not getting too soft as so many other so-called „Power Metal“-Bands do with all the Synthies/Keyboards and stuff?
We did that on purpose. We listend to the first album. The elements, the
songwriting, the style and remembered
what we sounded like. What was most natural. We kept the keyboards and
orchestra stuff to a minimum becuse they werent there on the debut. We have
plenty of time to experiment in the future, this one had to be straight up
JIM : Yes…we really decided to keep it as traditional metal as we could. 2 guitars, bass drums, vocals. A few keyboards for texture but otherwise, keep the pure essence of what we started as…a metal band.
I wonder how Bands can survive nowadays with the bloody Covid-19 when you aren´t able to tour? CD-Sales/Downloads won´t be enough....did you think to maybe hold the album back until touring is possible again?
Dirk- No we did hold it back a bit, but now there is nothing to do but listen. Maybe by the time we get to play live these songs and possibly more new ones will be fan favorites.
one is thinking about getting rich believe me. Ist just about the music and the
JIM : We delayed the release from May until September…which, in the world of releasing records, is pretty normal. Im not sure if it mattered or not. Luckily, the record seems to be getting a good reaction from everyo ne, so I’m happy about that.
Would love to see you guys live, how difficult is it for you to rehearse when the members live far away from each other? There might not even be rehearsals possible?
Near impossible. We only rehearsed a few times for both european shows. Now, to be absolutely killer you need more time
to get it all right, especially as a singer who has to sing those kinds of
songs. I will admit to being intimidated by them and instead of going all in i
timidly held back. When this is all over
I’d like to have a months worth of rehearsals. This way I can get back to 100%
JIM : Yes, being 3000 miles apart means, when we DO get together, we’d better all have done our homework and come in prepared, because we did those 2 festival shows on about 4 rehearsals each. Imagine not playing those songs for 27 years, then getting together with a new new members, and having to get to together in 4 rehearsals. I think we pulled it off pretty well, considering….
Being from the US, I have to ask you about the election as well of course ☺ I was shocked to see so many (70 Mio people) electing a dictator like Donald Trump and he won´t even admit defeat, just like some 5-year-old stubborn kid….do you think Joe Biden will be able to unite the people in the US? If I look on some of the Trump-Voters this might be difficult…’
Dirk- Destroy all humans indeed. Well... He certainly is acting like a dictator now isnt he. What kills me most personally, is that his supporters dont see the wolf. He is telling lies and blaming everyone for his loss. He is actually undermining the very democracy the right believe they support. Hes not a man of the people, hes an autocrat. Not recognozing the election is what Dictators have done throughout history. The peoples votes dont count, its fake its fraud, i dont like it etc. But the far right is so indoctronated they cant see it. His current actions could very well mean the end of the United States democracy as we know it.
JIM : What Dirk said….and I will add that, as much as I would like to see it, I don’t think Joe Biden will be able to pull those Trump fanatics back from the ledge (no pun intended) and unite everyone…they’re too far gone. Were too divided as a nation. You have to think that this is a very big country, with a very diverse populous and many differing mindsets….I don’t see the United States ever really being “United” ever again.
What I predict is more turmoil, and being that these people love their guns, love to dress up like they’re in the Marines, and hate anyone who doesn’t look or think like them, we will see a sort of American version of Al-Qaeda rise from this….radical acts of domestic terrorism and the like. More mass shootings, only they will be politically motivated, not just random metally ill folks shooting up schools.
I hate guns….I wish they’d never been invented. I know this sounds funny coming from a guy in a band called HITTMAN, lol….but it’s how I feel. More guitars, less guns, please….
Anything else you want to say? Your chance ☺
We’d love to thank the fans for
all the love and support they have given us over the last 30 years and the
surprise of a lifetime is the success of the new album.
JIM : Thank you for interviewing us, and thanx to everyone who still finds a reason to put our records on. It’s nice to know that what we did, and now continue to do it still appreciated. Hope we see you all soon.
Thank you so much. For the interview and fantastic review
No problem, it was a pleasure for me to do…haven´t heard such a great Metal-Album for a long time and it would be nice if the Band would get support with CD-Sales / (paid!) Downloads from all of you out there.