By Andrew Bansal
To a majority of metalheads around the world, the history and reputation of the Los Angeles metal scene equates to glam metal, which is far from the truth. Enter journalist Bob Nalbandian, who has been conducting interviews and writing reviews since the early ’80s, to finally rectify the perception of LA metal, both for people from and outside LA. He released ‘Pioneers Of LA Hard Rock And Metal’, the first in the ‘Inside Metal’ trilogy of documentary movies in 2014, and has followed it up with the second movie ‘The LA Metal Scene Explodes’, which was premiered at the Regency Plaza theaters in North Hollywood on June 6th 2016, and will soon see a DVD release. Bob Nalbandian spoke to Metal Assault to discuss these movies in detail. Enjoy the conversation below.
Bob, it’s good to have you on Metal Assault, finally. I’ve been following your work for a number of years, and of course with the movies coming out, you’ve been pretty busy lately. So, thanks for taking the time. You’ve been doing interviews for years now and you’ve been around forever, but how did you come up with the concept for the ‘Inside Metal’ movies?
Well, it really goes back to the writing I used to do. It goes way back to 1982 when I was doing my fanzine The Headbanger. I’ve always been doing reviews and interviews as a journalist, and this is kind of the next transition. It’s something I always wanted to do. I was doing my Shockwaves Hard Radio and the Shockwaves Skull Sessions podcasts, and we started doing video casts. I interviewed people like Michael Schenker, Biff Byford, and a lot of different artists. I knew Joe Floyd from the band Warrior, and he had been working with his partner Warren Coyle, who has a very successful DVD company. They had been throwing around the idea of doing an LA documentary. I had Joe on one of my Skull Sessions podcasts about producers. Mark Popoff, Johh Bush and a couple others were on it too. At that time Joe said he and Warren were putting together this LA documentary and he would love for me to get involved and direct it. I’d never directed, or done anything like this film-wise. He said he loved the way I did the podcasts and the interviews, so I got on board. It just kind of evolved from there. They all come from the old-school. One thing I said was if I was going to do it, I wanted to concentrate more on the earlier years. I didn’t want to do it on the late ’80s when the glam scene took over. It wasn’t really my scene, plus it’s been done. Everyone knows stories about Poison, Warrant, Guns N’ Roses, Faster Pussycat and that era. And most of those bands weren’t really from LA. They came out to LA. So I said we should go way early, into the Van Halen era and really give a full-on history because that hasn’t been done before.
A lot of people don’t know about the earlier bands that appeared in the ‘Pioneers Of LA Hard Rock And Metal’. Of course, everyone knows Van Halen, but not many people remember Snow, Smile, Greg Leon Invasion, Stormer, George Lynch’s old band Xciter and Don Dokken’s old band Airborne. Steve Plunkett from Autograph had a band from Wolfgang who were very popular. So, we decided to start it off there and then we did so many interviews and so many hours of footage that it just evolved into doing a three-part LA series. Each movie is two DVDs because we can’t fit it all on one DVD, and that really wasn’t our intention initially when we did the first movie. For me to edit that into one 90-minute movie, we would miss out on showing so many things and it would lose the plot. So they approved the 2-volume DVD. I know it’s confusing to a lot of people, but the ‘Pioneers Of LA Hard Rock And Metal’ is a 2-DVD set, and the movie that we screened last night is actually the second movie, ‘The LA Metal Scene Explodes’. It takes off from where Pioneers left, so what you saw last night covers 1982-86, and that was really when the scene first exploded. We had Motley Crue, Quiet Riot did ‘Metal Health’, and then came the onslaught of LA bands that got signed, W.A.S.P., Malice, Black N’ Blue, Rough Cutt, Warrior and Armored Saint. That was the first wave, and it really got neglected, I think. We also touch on bands like Leatherwolf, Racer X, Lizzy Borden, London, and so many bands that were underground. We obviously got some of the bigger bands too, of course, like Dokken, Lars from Metallica, Carlos Cavazo from Quiet Riot and Stephen Pearcy from Ratt. We wanted to give props to all the bands of that scene, the bands that were big in that scene, and not really playing favorites to just the popular bands. We wanted to give fans an idea of what that scene was like in Los Angeles from ’82 to ’86.
You’re right, it hasn’t really been done in this way where the LA scene was projected in a real way, showing exactly how it was. I think people, specially those outside of LA, have a kind of misconception about what the LA scene represents. I’m glad that you’ve taken this step to throw some light on what actually happened.
Exactly, and that was really the key. That’s what I wanted to do, and it was so great that Warren wanted the same, and of course Joe Floyd did too, because he was an artist growing up in that scene. We didn’t really want to cater to that glam era that everyone knows and everyone thinks LA is associated with. It sure was, but that was more during the later ’80s. There were so many huge bands before that period that were selling out the Country Club and the Troubadour that never got the props. It was before MTV really exploded. But the executive producer and I fought on a lot of issues, believe me, and it was tough. I kept doing more and more interviews and it took forever. They kept telling me to get to the editing and that I already had too many interviews. But it all worked out. He saw what the vision we were really going for, and my co-producer Carl Alvarez helped out immensely, as did the editors. I have to give props to Robert Gaston and Curtis Don Vito, the guy who edited this new movie Rico Lowry, who didn’t realize at first what a huge job this would be with 60 different interviews to condense into a 2-DVD set. But he was a trooper and he came through for us. So, I’ve got to give props to everyone involved.
That’s awesome. As you said, you did a lot of interviews and as I saw in the movie last night, it was pretty comprehensive in that sense. But in terms of the bands that were talked about in the movie, is there anybody that you couldn’t get that you really wanted to interview?
Well, it would have been good to get Motley Crue. We reached out to them and their management. And again, it really wasn’t about me getting the big artists, but Motley Crue obviously were a big part of it. They didn’t really respond, for whatever reason, and that’s fine. We reached out to people like George Lynch and we really wanted to get him for the first movie too with Xciter, and Tommy Lee as well, because he was in a band with Joey Vera and Greg Leon before Motley Crue, and Nikki Sixx had London. It would have been great to get them for those reasons, and we actually sat and talked with Michael Anthony about doing this for the first movie because it was so much about Van Halen. He was really down for it and was telling us some great stories, but then his wife who manages him didn’t want him talking Van Halen because it was shortly after he had left when we approached him on it. So, that didn’t happen. I would say those are the artists we didn’t get. But everyone else was really cool, and I heard that even the Motley Crue guys saw the first movie and really enjoyed it. A lot of bands were on the road at the time too, so it was difficult. We found that difficulty while working on the ‘Rise Of LA Thrash’, which is our next title, and I’m already working on a San Francisco documentary. Sometimes it’s hard to pin the bands down because they are so busy and active on tour. But as for ‘The LA Metal Scene Explodes’, Motley Crue is one major band missing.
You also talked about the length. I enjoyed the fact that it was so comprehensive and detailed because it’s kind of like my style too with what I do. I think people who were there enjoyed it too and it didn’t feel like it was too long. But were you at all apprehensive about it when the final edits came through, because average attention spans are short these days?
Yeah, I was really apprehensive when we did ‘Pioneers Of LA Hard Rock And Metal’ because it was the first time, and those were rough edits when we first screened it at the Beverly Cinema in 2014. We did a couple of screenings. We decided to screen both DVDs and give people the whole movie. I was really worried when we did that for the first movie that people weren’t going to stick around for a 3-hour movie and would leave after the first part. But people didn’t! They stuck around. So, we decided to do the same thing for this one rather than do two separate screenings for DVD 1 and DVD 2. I know it’s a lot to absorb in one sitting. We actually rushed to get the second DVD ready. You probably noticed that the second DVD in particular was a rough edit. We filled in a lot of video footage in the montage, so we’re going to go back and fix a lot of that stuff. But yeah, it was kind of a concern, but these people are hardcore, as are a lot of the artists involved, and it’s only fair that we give them the whole movie because it really ties in together. It’s really one movie put into two parts. To do it separately, it would have been a lot more difficult and a lot more expensive on our part to do two different screenings. I mean, obviously when you do it at that time, people get hungry so they go out and grab some dinner, so a few people left but most of them stuck around, and that was really cool.
You’ve been involved in the LA scene for so long and these movies are all about that, but these days are you still doing interviews actively and do you still enjoy it? What’s your perception of the scene now around here?
There are some great young bands out there, and some of the older bands still carrying on the tradition. They are really good bands and great musicians, but I’ve been so out of it. I just don’t like the way the scene has become. There really isn’t a scene. The only active club in LA right now is the Whisky doing stuff. There is no more House Of Blues or Key Club, the Roxy is doing more major shows and they’re not really supporting the local scene. I guess you’ve got the Viper Room but it’s more like tribute kind of stuff. So, I don’t really follow it and I haven’t been doing interviews. I’ve kind of been real lax on doing interviews for the podcasts, because I see people doing other podcasts, people like yourself that are so active and keep up with the scene. I really respect and appreciate people like you that are able to still devote your time and energy to the scene. I still have a passion and I love metal music, but there’s so much out there now, as you know, with the internet. I get digital promo downloads and I can’t even keep up with downloading all the bands. I get 20 a day from all these different labels. I still haven’t even had a chance to listen to the new Metal Church or the last Jorn album. There’s so much coming out now. It’s difficult. So, I try to keep up with it but it’s been hard with trying to put these movies together and everything, and I’ve had to prioritize.
I appreciate the kind words. I try to keep up as much as possible. The scene is what it is, but I think there are still good things about it, and that’s what I try to highlight.
For this movie, what plans do you have? You mentioned something about a DVD release date coming up.
Yeah, we’re going to release the two DVDs for ‘The LA Metal Scene Explodes’ separately. Part 1 is going to be released on June 10th, so coming up next Friday. It will be out on Amazon and available for streaming through Amazon Prime, and also available on iTunes, and will be going out to cable pay-per-view and several cable providers. I just got word that the first movie ‘Pioneers Of LA Hard Rock And Metal’ has been accepted on AXS TV. I don’t have a schedule of dates for that yet but I believe it’ll be coming out on the new fall schedule, which is really cool. DVD 2 of ‘The LA Metal Scene Explodes’ will be out on August 12th. And then we’re hoping to screen the next movie ‘Rise Of LA Thrash Metal’ before the end of the year and the DVDs for that movie will likely come out in early 2017.
Will the DVDs for the second movie be the same as what we saw last night or will it be edited further?
It will be the same but it’ll just be cleaned up a bit. There might be little edits here and there, a lot more video footage will be thrown in there and a lot more photos, specially in the DVD 2, which like I said was a rough edit. What you basically saw is what you’ll get but it’ll be cleaned up. You might have noticed a lot of repeated stuff, and that was because we have a lot of new stuff that we didn’t get a chance to plug in. So that’ll be fixed. And the DVDs will have bonus material, deleted scenes and photo galleries of the screenings. So it’ll be worth buying the DVDs separately.
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