In-depth Interview With Malice Guitarist Jay Reynolds

By Aniruddh “Andrew” Bansal

It’s been way too long since Los Angeles-based heavy metal veterans Malice released a studio album, 26 years to be exact. The wait is finally over, as they now prepare to release their third full-length studio album “New Breed Of Godz”, featuring original members Jay Reynolds (guitar), Mick Zane (guitar) and Mark Behn (bass), along with new vocalist James Rivera and drummer Pete Holmes. The album includes four brand new compositions in addition to re-recordings of eight classic tunes, four each from “In The Beginning” and “License To Kill”. Yesterday, on May 14th 2012, I had the pleasure of talking to Jay Reynolds to discuss this new album in detail, among other things. Read the conversation below, and order the album or visit the band online using the links posted at the bottom.

Congratulations on completing your new album, man. It comes out next month. First of all, how does it feel to release an album after such a long time?

It feels great! We did the first reunion with Malice in 2006. I was on tour with Metal Church when we were doing a European tour. Michael Schenker’s band was on tour at the same time, and my drummer Pete Holmes plays for Michael Schenker, so our bands were on tour playing the same venues along the same routing, so we were always one day ahead or behind of each other. And when we finally got to Hamburg, Schenker, Metal Church and Rose Tattoo all played together. It was a pretty fun gig. I was talking to Pete as I hadn’t seen him for a while. We were sitting backstage and talking, saying ‘Hey this is pretty cool, we’re playing a show on the same stage, twenty years later from LA. We’re still doing it, we’re making a living, metal is huge, and this is awesome!’ Wouldn’t it be really cool, we thought at the same time, if we get our old friends Mick and Mark from Malice back in the game so that they could do it too. And when we got back to the States, we called them and they were interested. So all I needed was a singer to replace James Neal. I had originally asked James, he didn’t want to do it. So I brought Brian Allen in, who’s now singing for Vicious Rumors. We started playing, and the first show we did was actually packed. Incidentally, it was Paladino’s [in Tarzana CA] back in 2007. So we were really surprised that there was that much interest in the band, and the first reunion went well. But Brian wasn’t going to work out and it took us a little while to find James Rivera. But now that we have, we have the right guys in the band and it feels really good. I mean, the chemistry is awesome, the record came out great, and we can’t wait to tour.

You played some shows last year as well, including a gig at Paladino’s with Bitch. How would rate that experience of playing as Malice again, and were you surprised at the crowd’s response at the 2011 shows as well?

Yeah, I was kind of surprised. I mean, I expected the shows to go well, but we had played in Europe last year as well because we did the shows in California. When we played Europe, it was amazing. We did the Keep It True festival and a couple of club shows. People were singing the songs, everybody knew all the material and everything went really well. People from the SPV label was there to watch the show, and they were really interested from the get go. The chemistry’s just amazing. When we did Keep It True, we only had four rehearsals with James, even though he was brand new to it. This is just a testament to his professionalism. So, when we came back from Europe we were like, ‘Okay man, this is really feeling great!’ So we booked some more shows and did a short run at the end of July 2011. That went really well, and again we didn’t have dress rehearsal time. We only rehearsed two or three times. But now that we’ve actually done all those shows and we’ve done a record, as a band we’re getting more rehearsal time and a proper chance to gel together, so the band is on fire now. We’re way better than we were (laughs). So I’m really excited to go out and play this summer, now that we have the new record done.

That’s awesome, man. So this new album has re-recordings of some of the older songs. What was the reasoning behind that?

Well, we could have done a record with all brand new stuff. But when we talked to the label, they were like, you guys haven’t released an album in 20-plus years, so there’s a lot of people that love you but there’s a whole lot more people that have no idea who you are. So, the idea was to take four songs from the first album, four off of the second album, and do four brand new songs. So we kind of have the best of the old stuff, but at the same time show people where we’re headed with the new direction, and reintroduce all the fans to Malice because like I said, there’s a whole legion of metalheads that don’t know who we are and haven’t heard us. So, this CD, specially with the DVD, really brings people up to date on who we are, where we’ve come from, and what the band’s all about. The DVD has a live performance from ’87. It has a live performance from last year. It has the making of the record. That’s the bonus DVD on the collectors’ edition, and the whole package is kind of like the best of Malice, and it’s got the heaviest songs we did back in the day. That was our criteria for picking the songs, to go with the heaviest ones. So we’ve tried to eliminate the hard rock element that we had back in those days. There was a bit of a hard rock element then, but now it’s just straight-up metal. So that’s kind of why we did what we did.

Yeah, and it’s great to see James Rivera as the new vocalist. He has that whole Rob Halford kind of thing going on. In your opinion, what change has he brought to the older songs that were re-recorded with him on vocals?

Well, I think he really put his stamp on the old stuff. I mean, I literally had some people … there was a journalist that really wasn’t familiar with the band that much. He was familiar with our material and our old songs, but he listened to the new record and without really looking into it, he thought James was the original singer, whose voice had changed over the years (laughs). I was like, no dude, this a brand new guy. But when I listen to it, I think James has really fit into this band to the T. I know all the stuff he’s done in Helstar is great, and he has done stuff with Vicious Rumors, but the Malice material is just perfect for his voice. I thought he was able to put a fresh spin on the older songs. Wherever necessary, he did all the vocal gymnastics that we had from the older days, with songs like “Hell Rider”. So he was able to do enough of the old vibe but he made the songs sound new and interesting. I didn’t think we could take those old songs and make them any heavier or more sinister than they already were, but I think we actually achieved that. He did a really good job. Concept-wise too, we picked songs for their lyrical content as well, so “New Breed Of Godz” is also a bit of a story in itself, lyric-wise.

You said that you dropped the hard rock element. So, would you say that these four new songs are more ‘metal’ than what you did in the past?

Well, if you listen to songs like “New Breed Of Godz” and “Branded”, that’s pretty much the direction we’re headed with the band. We did a kind of a different song in “Winds Of Death (Angel Of Light)”. That’s a really special song that James and I worked on for some friends of his that have passed, and that was a really meaningful song for James. So for that one, actually we stepped back and did a ballad-type song. It gets heavy (laughs), but other than that the focus on the album is to be faster, heavier, louder, and eleven all the time. So, the title song of “New Breed Of Godz” is really the direction that we’re headed. I’ve already been writing for another new record, and it looks like those will be a step heavier. So I’m pretty excited to get out in the summer and try out some of the new songs here and there, songs that aren’t even on the record. But yeah, the idea is to ‘metal up’ the band.

How long did it take you to complete the whole process of making this record?

Making the record went really quickly. We actually reached an agreement with SPV in principle, after we did the dates last July. So a little less than a year ago, SPV wanted to sign us and we said, yes let’s do it. We committed to it, but it took all the way till the end of December to get all the contracts done. We were hoping to actually go into the studio in November or December to get this done. But when we got the contracts done, it was right after Christmas and right before the New Year. By that time, I had already talked to Joe Floyd. Joe’s an old friend. Malice and Warrior used to play together and Joe’s been a studio owner since the 80’s. He has produced a lot of records, so I only had him and a couple other producers lined up, well before we had the contract finished. We started writing songs last summer, so there was a surplus of new material, and there was more than enough for a new record. Like I said, we probably had enough to do an all-new record. So, the process went pretty quickly. We started writing on the 10th of July and finished recording by the end of February. With the limited budget that was available to us, we were able to achieve the level of production that we had before on albums we spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on, recording for Atlantic Records. So the new album stands up well production value-wise to anything Malice has ever done. I’m really looking forward to do another record, and now that we’ve got one under the belt, the next will be easier.

Yeah, exactly. I’m glad you mentioned Joe Floyd, because I was going to ask you about him. I think he has given it the 80’s metal touch. He has worked with bands of that style before, and I think that reflects on the new Malice album as well. Do you agree with that?

Absolutely. Joe and I did a lot of talking even before we started doing this thing. We looked at how Accept had a great comeback record in “Blood Of The Nations”. I was reading an  interview with the producer for that record Andy Sneap, whom I know (laughs). Anyway, how they produced that record with the new singer is, they wanted to capture all the essential elements that made Accept so great back in the day. So, they listened to “Breaker”, “Balls To The Wall”, the “Restless and Wild” album, and they pinpointed certain elements that made Accept, Accept. So for Malice, when SPV came up with the idea of doing the old songs, Joe and I had to make sure that we captured the essential elements that made Malice great back in the day, but also we wanted to make it sound current, modern, new and not just a re-recording of the old stuff. We wanted to make it a little different. I think Joe’s intuition was paramount in making this thing happen. He had a great idea because of knowing the band from back in the day, and also knowing where we wanted to go. He and I, and the band worked together extremely well in terms of achieving our goal of taking a new direction but showcasing some of the old material by making it sound more current and heavy (laughs). So, Joe was awesome there. I hope I can get him to do some Warrior & Malice shows actually. We’re talking about doing that, so we’ll see.

That would be cool. But you already mentioned that the next album will come to you easier. So, can we expect that sometime soon, within the next year or two?

We’re absolutely doing another record soon, because we’re looking to go into the studio again at the end of this year. We’ve signed a multiple-album contract with SPV, so that’s the plan. We start touring in July, we basically do two or three weeks in that month. And then we start touring in earnest in September, October and November. In that three-month span, we’ll be doing a full tour of America, we’re going to Europe and we’re also going down to do a short run in South America. One of the things we’d like to do is to open up some new markets, play some new places, and we’d like to get to Japan, Australia, and may be a few Asian markets. But right now, we’ve really got our eyes on the whole of America and Europe. And let’s see what else we can do, you know. So we have a busy game plan, and once that’s all wrapped up in November-December, by then what we will have done is, we will have done the whole of the pre-production on the new material during soundcheck (laughs). So I’m sure we’ll be working on new material on the road. It’s always a really good way to get things moving, and keep things fresh and interesting while you’re touring, playing with new song ideas at soundcheck everyday. We’re actually looking to go into the studio in either December or January. With a little luck and a few record sales, we’ll be back into the studio doing a new record for SPV next year.

That’s good to hear, man. You also mentioned that there’s a bonus DVD with this album, and has footage thrown in from ’87. That has to be rare footage. What show is that from?

It was a show from Orange County, California. We were actually on tour at the time. We were just back from Europe. We were doing a club tour before we jumped on another tour, and we were pretty busy back in the day. It was basically just a random show that we had video tape on, and when we were doing the production for this record, we had to scramble to find something that was actually going to work. There’s a couple of other shows that I would rather have on there. We had been on tour for around six to eight months at the time. It was the “License To Kill” tour. The video tape of this particular show was horrible quality, but the performance of the band was just awesome. We were really on fire. The band was playing well, and we were young, energetic and doing the entire stage show that we used to do. It really gives you a good look into what Malice was back in the 80’s. We did a lot of bigger shows, but that particular show was cool. I was surprised, and I didn’t even see it until I got a copy of the album with the DVD. It’s pretty cool, man. It’s basically a show that took place in 1987 at an Orange County club called Jezebel’s. They’ve actually cut the first half or third of the show because of the quality of the video tape. They had to digitize it and the sound quality was too bad. So it starts when we’re already about 30 minutes into the set, but you get to see the rest of it. It’s well worth the watch though (laughs).

So, what did you do during the time you didn’t put out any Malice album after “License To Kill”?

Well, we got back from the License To Kill tour, and we ended up having some problems with our original singer James Neal. He had a drinking problem and he would blow his voice out when he drank too much. We were trying to resolve that issue and we also also ooking around for a new singer. At the time, the prospects were doing a third album were not there. There were issues in the band, and then Dave Mustaine also asked me to join Megadeth. That didn’t work out for me in the long run, but for four or five months, I was in the band, and we did pre-production and rehearsal to record “So Far So Good, So What?” The real story of that has never been told (laughs). We need to get that story out one day … but that put a whole new spin on my chops. I played guitar with those guys for twelve hours a day, for months on end. And then from there, I went out and I had probably three or four of the best bands that have ever been that never got signed in the 90’s.

So from ’89 to the late 90’s, I was still playing in bands. I had a band called War Party that toured and was actually close to getting a record deal Chuck Behler, the drummer from Megadeth played with me in that band. The bass player Ron Cordy from the original L.A. Overkill was also in the band for a while. We had a great singer, Dave from Attack. He was also in a band that Don Dokken produced called Shire. So I thought the four of us recorded a couple albums worth of material, but the 90’s was a bad time for metal in America (laughs). But if you’re a real guitar player, you play everyday. I mean, I have guitars lying around the house everywhere, always writing something new or jamming with the guys. You never stop working when it comes to music, and that’s the best thing about it. I think in Malice we’re better guitar players than we’ve ever been. So at this point our musicianship is at a whole new level. I think Mick played his ass off on this record too. He did a really good job as well.

And as for Metal Church, that was a great opportunity for me, you know. I was booking some bands back around the year 2000. There was a festival called North By North West. I was booking clubs back then, and they booked a metal day for that festival. So I put together a show, and I heard that Metal Church was back together again, so I called Kurdt Vanderhoof and said, ‘Hey man, I’d like you to come do this festival, now that Metal Church is back.’ He said, ‘Yeah the band’s back together again, but there’s only one problem. We don’t a lead guitar player.’ I got really quiet for a second (laughs). He asked me what I was doing that night. At the time I was actually in a band, but I didn’t tell him that (laughs). He asked me whether I needed a gig, and I said yes. So quite literally from that one phone call, I drove up to where they were outside of Seattle, and basically after jamming with the guys one time I got the gig. It just worked perfectly and that was an awesome thing. Metal Church went on hiatus in 2008. We toured till 2007, and then the band wanted to take a break because a couple of the guys were in TSO, and they were touring constantly. At that point, everything kind of fell apart. Kurdt and I are actually talking about putting it back together again, but for me, Metal Church was one of the greatest experiences as a musician. We got to tour all over the world, be a part of every huge metal festival and play hundreds of shows. It was awesome, and we made some good records too.

I have just one more question for you. We talked about the Paladino’s thing. You are still playing shows at venues that you played back in the day. When you step inside such places today, does that give you a sense of deja vu and bring back those old memories?

Oh yeah, it’s trippy. On this tour, I think we’re actually playing the same club where we filmed the DVD in, that ’87 show. Only thing is, the club is renamed now. It was a rock ‘n roll night club. I think it’s called Malone’s, and we’re playing the same place. So it’s pretty trippy to step into a place like that. There are venues in America that have been around for thirty or forty years, and we end up going back to the same place over and over again. I remember being on tour with Metal Church and playing a venue, remembering the stage and the venue from when I played in the 80’s with Malice. When I go into a venue I’ve played before, I feel really comfortable, and it’s like I’m home. So it just adds to the familiarity and the comfort level of having played there before. I’m sure that on this tour there will be some places that we’ve played before. A lot of the places that I’d like to play are not around anymore. There are some really famous places that don’t exist anymore, like La Moore’s in New York and the Country Club in LA. But then there’s places that have been around forever and where we’ll probably still play, so it’s always fun doing that.

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