Archive for April, 2014

Breaking the Silence
Steven K Craig

In 1984, Steven Craig’s name was almost as well known as the band (Slayer) that he was part of as the manager. However, he was not just the manager; he was involved in every aspect of the development of what would take the band out of the garage and into stardom. His role as manager went far beyond that of a typical manager. He designed the bands logo, influenced the direction of their sound, assisted in creating the dark image, build a stage show that set the band apart from all others, operated public relations and promotion, ran the lights and lit the explosions. When it came to interviews at the time, it was the Kerry and Steven show as they represented the band in the media. Then he disappeared. The members of Slayer have been tight lipped about his exit and history with the band, and for 30 years, he denied journalists any interviews. That is… until now!

Q. You’ve been involved in airbrushing, graphic design, Jet Ski racing, journalism, writing books, and most recently, literary publishing after your initial involvement in the music business, out of them all, which one would you say has brought you the most enjoyment in life? Do you maybe have some regrets to not have gone further with a particular one, pushing it further looking back?

A. Which one have I had the most enjoyment? All of them in their own way! I have been asked so many times if I have any regrets for leaving Slayer, and I can honestly say, none whatsoever. I am glad that I was able to be at the beginning of, and instrumental in something that turned out to be legendary. It is a memory and an experience that I will always cherish, but I went far beyond being Slayer’s manager. Actually, I have made more money on my own than I ever would have with Slayer, quite a bit more. I was asked this question for Bob Nalbandian’s documentary “Inside the L.A. Metal Scene. For one segment, they had me with Doug Goodman, Slayer’s tour manager after I quit the band. When I explained what I have done since Slayer, Doug looked at me and said, “Good for you. You went out and got a real life. So many people just hang onto the past.”

Since then, I’ve owned a music magazine, worked for Disney Pictures, won multiple championships racing Jet Ski’s (talk about an adrenalin rush), owned and operated my own race team, became one of the top airbrush artists in the country with a high successful business of my own (SKC CUSTOMZ), wrote six novels, including “Little Miss Dangerous” that spanks 50 Shades of Grey and “The Uber Single Man’s Cookbook & Romance Guide to Amazing Sex” that teaches men how to turn women into nymphomaniacs, and now I’m launching my own publishing company (Empire Publishing). Whew! That took a deep breath to say. And the best success of all, I have a daughter (Kristen) who is my entire world. After Slayer, my life has been an amazing non-stop rollercoaster ride and I would not trade any of it or change a single thing for anything. However, after Jeff’s passing, we have come full circle, and I’m now working on a book to answer all the questions interviewers and fans have been asking for years. Who was Steven Craig and where did he go? The book is titled, “The Origins of Slayer “The Untold Story.” It will feature untold information on the history of Slayer that the band has kept secret and a multitude of unreleased photographs and memorabilia. Doug Goodman comment, “It’s about time. Without you and the work you did for them, Slayer probably would have never made it.”

Q. Since you’ve been involved with them, Slayer has been the band who enjoyed the most success while Dark Angel and Jag Panzer have well established their names on the underground but have never been able to do much more for different reasons, first did you keep an eye of Slayer‘s activities once both parties parted ways or was it something that had no concern for you anymore?

A. Actually, I haven’t listened to anything Slayer has recorded after “Reign in Blood.” Honestly, I never thought they would have the staying power that they have, but I am very happy to see that they have been successful.

Q. Was it kind of obvious for you when you saw the success Slayer finally got despite having not chosen the easy way, unlike let’s say Anthrax, Megadeth or Metallica who slowed down quickly after they started and added a lot of melody in their material – that they would be so successful? Was it something you knew deep inside yourself that they would make it one day?

A. I knew in my gut the very first time I heard Slayer that they had what it takes to make it. As a group, they had the right chemistry together. That is the reason I quit working with other bands, stopped promoting shows, and worked exclusively with Slayer. Granted, their sound and approach to metal was more aggressive that what was popular in the mainstream and not commercially viable for mass sales, but I knew there was a following out there. Our target market was hormonal, frustrated male teens. We knew our audience would never consist of women with big hair, high heels, and mini dresses as the other bands in Los Angeles were at the time. Once the band realized this, we went the opposite direction that everyone else was taking and sped it up even further.

Q. Have you remained in touch with some of the musicians that you’ve been involved with from back in the day, may it be Slayer, Dark Angel, Jag Panzer or even Michelle Meldrum (RIP) formerly of Wreckage or even people in the business that were there early on such as Bob Nalbandian, Brian Slagel or Bill Metoyer amongst others or have you entirely cut ties with this scene during the mid ‘80s?

A. When I walked away from the industry, I cut all ties to it. That chapter of my life was closed and I moved onto much greater experiences and successes. However, using Facebook has recently reconnected me with many people from back then. Enough time has passed that now we can reflect back on a time that was amazing and share our stories. I have talked with Jim Durkin from Dark Angel and I did the interview with Bob Nalbandian on film for his upcoming documentary about the L.A. heavy metal scene during the 80’s as a representative for Slayer.

Q. Is there one band out of those you managed that you felt could have been huge but didn’t in the end and it was a real disappointment for you? If so, for which reasons do you think they didn’t make it?

A. Yes, I think Jag Panzer could have gone a much, much further than they did. At the time, they needed to be in Los Angeles. They needed to be in the belly of the beast where the labels were snatching bands up left and right, but they couldn’t get there and missed the window of opportunity.

Q. Did you have some training back when you started in 1981 as manager as you were originally involved in the Graphic Arts Industry or was it something that you learned as time went on?

A. I learn quickly, always have and still do to this day. I’m one of those personalities that needs to be constantly learning. I am an information junkie and I thrive on new challenges. I am an extremist, which means whatever I do, I go all the way and as far as I have to in order to conquer what I have set my sights on. When it came to music management, it was on the job training. I purchased several books written about Music Management and took a crash course in all aspects of the business. What I learned in the process has worked out in many other avenues in my life. In 1993, I began racing Personal Watercraft (Jet Ski’s). My first year of racing, I became a multiple class champion. Then I brainstormed an idea of creating an independent race team that would have the look and rival any professional team, and ran it under my name “SKC Racing & Designs.” This is where my marketing and management skills paid off for me once again. I created and assembled the largest independent race team in the United States, and for four years, every rider in every class all became champions. By using what I learned about marketing during my time with Slayer my race team had full sponsorships from the manufacturers of our choosing. I have applied those management and marketing skills to achieve success in every venture that I have entered into after Slayer.

Q. Was it Heavy Metal that really pleased you the most at the time you started or were you just into Rock in general and you just didn’t care from which scene were the bands you were interested to manage as long as it was into Rock?

A. In order to manage a group successfully, you have to love the music they are playing. You cannot sell a product that you don’t love and completely believe in. However, I personally like a wide range of music. Heavy Metal has always been what I feel in my soul since the day I heard Kiss Alive in ‘75 and then I found Judas Priest’s “Sad Wings of Destiny” when it was only available as an import. I don’t listen to much Speed Metal anymore, not the new stuff that is, but I still like the older recordings from my era in the 80’s and 90’s. Lately, I’ve been going back in time with what I listen to such as Blackmore’s Rainbow when Dio was the singer. The music put out today has no soul, no feel or emotion to it. Although, there are a few new bands I listen to as the Black Veil Brides and I’m still stuck on the Murderdolls and Dope. It’s funny, my daughter Kristen who is 15, is the one that turns me onto most of the newer metal. I take her to the concerts she wants to see. I hadn’t even listened to Avenged Sevenfold until I took her to a concert. It’s kind of a weird feeling when your kid is more in touch with what’s new than you are.

Q. Was Slayer the very first rock or Metal band you’ve been involved with as manager?

A. Well… there really were not any metal bands around to choose from in the beginning. If there were, I would have probably had most of them on my roster. I had just heard of Metallica from a friend that saw them at a backyard party in Norwalk. The bands I worked with when I was a promoter were mostly hard rock and progressive rock.

Q. Were you maybe also somewhat interested in bands that had already started a bit before Slayer like August Redmoon, Motley Crue, Sister, WASP, Dante Fox, Ampage or Witch to name a few in the Hard Rock style as they were still label less?

A. Actually, bands like W.A.S.P. and Witch came after Slayer was already playing on the circuit. I would have loved to have worked August Redmoon. They had the look, stage presence, and sound that should have taken them to the top. I don’t know what happened to them, but I have a feeling it was due to bad management and the lack of a good public relations representative.

Q. You mention in your biography that you were introduced to Slayer during early 1981 as you were looking for a band to add on a bill you were booking at the legendary Woodstock Theater, but SLAYER’s first show is said to have took place on Halloween 1981 at the South Gate Park Auditorium and back in the day I recall reading that you were involved with them around late 1982 or so, can you clear up things here if you still recall all the details?

A. Before Slayer, I was a promoter at only 19 years old. I worked out a deal with a few nightclubs (The Woodstock Concert Theatre was one of them) and would host shows under my company name SC Productions. I had a small roster of bands that I would put together for live shows. During this time, I became the manager for three of the bands. One was a band called Syrinx that was mostly mainstream and progressive rock. Another band Optical Illusion played music in the hard rock vein with a slight touch on heavy metal, and the third was a rock band in the Def Leppard vein called Fractured Mirror. At the time, I was very interested in a local group called Crystal Blizzard. Those guys had the Rockstar look and were diving into early metal, but then they began having internal problems.

I was putting together a show and needed to fill the forth slot. The girlfriend of the bass player in one of the bands scheduled to play told me she knew of this band in South Gate that might be interested. She called a friend and got me Kerry’s phone number. I asked him if they would like to fill the slot and he accepted. And this is how I met Slayer. The show I recruited Slayer for as an opening act was on July 4, 1982. I was so impressed with them that night and saw something in them that I felt was unique and very workable. Kerry and I continued to talk after the show, and two weeks later, I decided to work with them exclusively and shut down SC Productions.

Before I came into the picture, Slayer had performed a few times, but I wouldn’t actually call them shows. Besides the Halloween gig, they played at South Gate High School where Dave attended, Warren High School where Kerry went to school, and a back yard party.

Q. Slayer had a set that consisted of mostly covers and a few originals, when you found about them, were they still performing the old Montrose, Van Halen, UFO stuff in preference for Maiden, Scorpions, Judas Priest stuff if you recall? Would you say their job at covering stuff was just great as they were maybe blowing away the original versions due to their fresh approach?

A. When I first came in, most of the covers they did were more of the Maiden and Priest genre. Slayer absolutely blew away several original versions. Deep Purple’s “Highway Star” was one of the most popular cover songs that they performed live. Glen Hughes was at the Troubadour one night when Slayer was playing. They performed Highway Star and he was so impressed with their version that expressed interest in singing it with them the next time we did a show there. Slayer’s version of AC/DC’s “Sin City” was another show highlight when Jeff and Kerry would stand side by side with Tom. During the break with the bass, Kerry would take over doing the notes on Tom’s fret board with one hand while Jeff, on the other side of Tom, strummed the strings.

Q. Do you recall how their few originals sounded like at this point? I think they already had written stuff like “Blitzkrieg”, “Assassin”, “Delphic Oracle”, “Ice Titan”, “Night Rider” etc…

A. Let us not forget Jeff’s song “Simple Deception” which was one of my all time favorites and I was disappointed that it was cut from the first album. I don’t know if it has been told before, but the song “The Final Command” on the album “Show No Mercy” was originally titled “Blitzkrieg”. The song was not even slated to be on the album. Brain Slagel heard it and requested that Slayer add it to the album. If my memory is correct, I think “Simple Deception” was cut because of time limitations when “The Final Command” was added. Brain also wanted a gong at the beginning of the song; however, he didn’t get that. I bet you didn’t know that Slayer actually had a semi-ballad called Autumn Lake.” I know I have it somewhere on a cassette.

Q. What did exactly please you in Slayer’s approach at that point comparing to the other bands that were also starting out in the area?

A. It wasn’t so much what they were doing when I first started working with Slayer. They mainly did cover songs and dressed in spandex with stripped shirts. What appealed to me was the unity of the band members. They worked well together, learned fast, and were exceptionally tight musically. I knew all they needed was a direction to go in. What pleased me was they were heavier than anyone else out there besides Metallica.

Q. When you started working with them, did they have already some interest into the dark, satanic stuff or was it something that came after and was developed like a marketed thing that could help differentiating the band just like Motley Crue who added that whole glam image to their music in a fresh fashion?

A. No, they did not have an interest in the “dark” side when I came into the picture. Kerry says it came from his love for horror movies, only part of that is true. Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, and the Scorpions were the main influences of Slayer at the time, and it was extremely noticeable in their early originals. There were two substantial events changed Slayer’s direction. The big change came after I discovered Venom’s album “Black Metal” which was in the import section that I purchased solely due to the image on the cover. I became enthralled with Venom because of the utterly raw sound they have. I introduced Slayer to the album, and although a few members of the band didn’t find the aggressive sound as appealing as I did, Kerry and I joined forces to push the band into the direction of Black Metal. You have to remember that back when we went this route, there was not a band in the United States that had even attempted going in this direction yet. At the time, satanic lyrics were taboo in the music industry and it would be the kiss of death for any band that even hinted at Satanism. Anyone 45 years old and up right now will remember that back then religious fanatics would check music for back-masking to try and catch them embedding hidden evil messages. Once we decided this was the direction we wanted to go, it became a game of testing the waters and pushing the limits a little more each time to see what we could get away with. We had to learn about Satanism and study it so we didn’t come off as posers. Again, I will cover this in extensive detail in my book. When we started in this direction, we were the first in the United States to do so. Again, I will cover this in extensive detail in my book. Motley Crue… now there is a band that took time for me to like their music. Back then, I hated them. Let me explain why, and I actually got in a lot of trouble the first time I said what I am about to say in an interview 30 years ago; one that I received death threats for years because of saying. Every image Motley Crue had in the beginning of their career came from what was taking place in the underground scene at the time and Motley Crue would take credit for creating the image. If you look back, when Motley released “Shout At The Devil,” Slayer, and bands following their lead were playing the club scene in Los Angeles. When Motley released “Theatre of Pain,” Poison was headlining the clubs, and when they released “Girls, Girls, Girls,” who was packing the clubs in L.A. at that time? It was Guns & Roses and L.A. Guns. Do you see the correlation? Motley Crue would go into the club scene to see what was hot at the moment and take that image for themselves. I got a little sidetrack there, but to answer your question, it wasn’t a marketing ploy to differentiate us from the other bands because there were no one like us at the time, which by the way, actually made it difficult for us to gain acceptance or establish a dedicated following. This made us have to work even harder than most to work our way up.

Q. What kind of strategy did you adopt for that band in terms of live appearance because it seems they were playing A LOT at least during 1983, almost like every week which included A LOT of shows at the Woodstock Theater in Anaheim, to the point that for outsiders like myself, Woodstock looked like the second home of the band?

A. The strategy was to get the band seen and build a fan base, which meant playing live as often as we could. Besides, playing live gives a band experience and is the best way to work out the kinks (like no tuning guitars on stage between songs). At one time, I think I threatened to shoot anyone tuning on stage with a wrist rocket. Our goal was to look and sound professional and not like a garage band. I believe that by doing this, it helped us to stand out above the other bands playing the club circuit. We used the Woodstock because the owner John Shultz gave us free rein to do as we pleased and were able to experiment with the stage show and pyrotechnics. The band was young, we wanted to perfect live shows, and the best way to achieve that is play in front of a crowd as often as possible. We played a lot more than you realize. There was a place in South Gate called the URWA Hall that we used to rent. It was a good size facility with a large stage. The best part was they sold beer to minors and we would pack the place. This was one way to generate capital because nightclubs did not pay bands very well. The last time we played there was shortly after Metal Massacre 3 was released and people started hearing Slayer’s “Aggressive Perfector” for the first time. The place was packed. Actually, it went beyond capacity. That night I was experimenting with a new stage prop. We had two eight-foot upside-down crosses on stage. One was placed on each side and up front on the stage. They were built out of wood 2×4’s and soaked in kerosene. When the band began playing, we lit the crosses on fire. Immediately afterwards, we noticed people climbing into the building through the windows that were high off the ground, and then we saw red flashing light outside. I looked out the window and the street was lined with police cars. We shut it down and vacated the building leaving all the equipment on stage. Can you imagine being on stage playing “Evil Has No Boundaries” with two burning upside-down crosses? They would have hauled us off to jail for sure.

Q. I recall that many times in early/ mid ‘83 the band were playing in front of a handful of people as their music was already too rude for most of the public, was it like disappointing for you where you sometimes felt that it would go nowhere or were you always confident that at one hand the situation would change –as it happened by late ’83?

A. I was always confident that we would rise above it all and take off. We never got discouraged; we just worked harder. And we did! I designed and printed fliers that would fold into an eight-page booklet. We would fold these things for days. The week before the show, late at night, we would sneak into all the local high schools within a 10 to 20 mile radius of the nightclub and slide the booklets through the vents of every locker on the premises. It turned quickly for us. One night when we were playing at the Woodstock, next door was another club “Radio City,” and Ratt was playing that night. I walked over to look inside. We had a full house, and Ratt had approximately 17 people in their audience.

Q. Was it quite easy for you booking shows for them with their material and having them sharing the bill with bands like Bitch, Overkill etc who had a different musical approach?

A. Actually, when we started playing with bands like Bitch, it became easier for us. Before then, we were put on stage with bands that played music in completely different genres, a lot of progressive and alternative rock, and the audiences collided with each other. One show at Filthy McNasty’s in North Hollywood, we opened for an all male Glam band named St. Valentine. Here you have Slayer dressed in all black leather, studs, spikes, and of course, Kerry with his nail wristband, opening for a group with band members that looked prettier than the women in the crowd did. Jeff and I stayed to watch them, and after a few too many beers, Jeff turned to me and said, “A few more beers and I’d fuck the guitar player.” In the beginning, there were no speed metal bands to share a bill with and very few heavy metal bands. In Orange County at the Woodstock Concert Theatre, we teamed up with Leatherwolf quite often. However, it was funny when we played together because the fans for both bands didn’t like each other and you could watch them rotate. Slayer’s fans would be in the front when they played and then went the back when Leatherwolf came on stage and vise versa.

Q. Did you built the stage set up for them early on with all the lights, smoke and fire that was extremely effective for that time? Did you have a clear vision of your mind on how the band had to be on stage and stuff?

A. The stage came into play very early and quickly. I built the stage for several reasons. Most of the nightclubs had low stages and if you were not in the first few rows, all you could see was the band members mid torso and up. Therefore, I built platforms to get Kerry and Jeff higher so the crowd would be able to see them better. As for the lighting rig, the clubs had horrible stage lighting that was very simplistic and minimal to say the least. I wanted something blinding, bombastic, over the top, and something that would visually assault the audience to coincide with the aggressiveness of the music. We were doing far more visually than any other band on the local circuit at the time by incorporating fog with lights and many explosives. I know that seems basic now, but it was not being done on a scale that we did at the time. We chose to open for other bands during that time because it took longer than the time allotted to set up our stage. I have a ton of stories to tell about mishaps with the stage show that will be included in the book. For example, it was a tradition for us to play the South Gate Auditorium on Halloween night. The last time we did it, I had been experimenting with a new pyrotechnic system that had two tracks with four massive explosions on each. I test ran it several times before the show. The auditorium was packed. We had two fog machines running behind closed curtains before the show. The taped intro started, we used the music from the movie Halloween that night. As the curtains opened, the fog was so thick that you couldn’t see the band on stage. The way it was supposed to go down was as soon as the intro ended, I would set of the first set of explosions and the band would start playing. It didn’t happen that way. When I hit the switch, the first two explosions did go off as planned, but sparks instantaneously ignited the other six all at once. It sounded and felt as if a bomb went off in the building. The entire building and ground shook like an earthquake hit it hard. Then there was dead silence. The crowd was quiet and the band didn’t start playing. An eerie silence seemed as if it lasted an eternity. I could not see them through the thick fog. I could feel my heart beating in my throat because I was afraid of what lied in the fog. I yelled at our head roadie Blake Edwards, “Do you see anyone?” he yelled back, No.” I thought I had just killed all of Slayer and I’m going to jail, and what seemed like a very long period of silence, Kerry started playing and the others joined in, and the crowd began yelling. The blast scared the hell out of everyone. When it was over, the front of the guitar risers were burnt, and Dave had shrapnel covering his drums. Here a little history no one knows. The flier that I made for this show had a headline that read “The Nightmare Returns”. That headline had what you may call Demonic Wings around it. I ended up incorporating those same wings into the Dark Angel logo.

Q. Is it correct that you were into construction and that is what helped in the stage set up?

A. I grew up with a father that owned a construction company, so yes, having worked for him occasionally when I was growing up; I have a background in it, which helped in building a stage show. However, what helped the most was that I also grew up with grandparents that owned a printing company where I spent a great deal of time at earning money when I was young. My experience in printing helped quite a bit when it came to promoting. Instead of flyers made with Sharpie markers and a Xerox machine, ours were professionally printed.

Q. How was it like in those early days to work with those four guys? Did Kerry already have a strong and somewhat rude personality?

A. Kerry was a spoiled child. He was arrogant back then, but not the pompous ass he is now. Let me just say this, the stories I will be telling about him in the book will change your view of him if you thought he was cool. I remember once when his father came home with a Marshall stack for him. Kerry got mad and didn’t want it because it was beige and not black. He already had one Marshall full stack while Jeff was playing through a Fender amp that was on the verge of blowing up. Now if he was cool, he could have passed it onto Jeff and just spray painted the cabinets’ black, but no, Kerry refused to take them, and was quite the little baby about it. Just wait until you read what I have to tell you about Mr. Jagermeister in my book. Just for the record, I think Kerry is a complete asshole for the way he has treated Dave Lombardo. Dave is just as important to the band as Kerry, not to mention the fact that Dave is hands down one of the best metal drummers in history. I have the great respect for Dave and I’m happy to see that he has gone above and beyond Slayer. Unfortunately, now with Dave out of the band (again), and Jeff passing away who was a vital key in the band’s sound and songwriting, Slayer is seeing its last days.

Q. By mid ’83, there was that offer coming up from Brian Slagel who had Metal Blade going and had started to establish the label name in the underground for an appearance on the “Metal Massacre” series, do you recall how this offer came in the picture?

A. It has been so long now that I don’t remember exactly how it happened. I know Brian approached us at the Woodstock Concert Theatre, but I don’t remember who we were playing with that night. I think it was on October 22, the show we did with Metallica. He came back stage and handed me his business card and I called him Monday afternoon.

Q. Had you tried to get in contact with some other labels before Metal Blade’s offer or even tried to have some A&M people attending some Slayer shows or was it simply too early?

A. Are you kidding? Everyone in the business shied away from us. I sent out promo packages weekly. What we were doing was unacceptable at the time. We competed in a Battle of the Bands, which Armored Saint won, and the judges told us to give it up and that we would never go anywhere. The judges also said to us that our style of heavy metal died with Cheer in the 60’s, but we stuck to our guns and belief that what we were doing was special.

Q. Aggressive Perfector was chosen to appear on Metal Massacre 3 and it was the first song out of the Slayer set to sound so fast, do you recall what changed in the band’s approach to go into that direction exactly? I mean it was a big transition from “Ice Titan”, “High Priestess” etc…

A. It had a lot to do with what we were listening to at the time. Kerry and I started purchasing many imports from the British metal bands such as Mercyful Fate’s first EP. We were heavily into Queenryche’s first ep as well at that time. Jeff infused his love for punk bands like DRI, and Fear into the mix, and Dave was heavily into Motorhead and AC/DC. Tom on the other hand, I couldn’t tell you what he listened to besides the Doors. It used to drive us insane when he would recite Jim Morrison’s poem “The Celebration of the Lizard” at sound checks. I hated seeing High Priestess go. I had a lot of fun with fire on stage when Tom would sing, “The flames will rise.”

Q. How was the song chosen to appear on Metal Massacre 3? Was it between you and them to appear as something like a shock value type of thing for the album as it was without any doubt the highlight of the album due to the speed and heaviness delivered, something never heard before by any Metal band in the music scene?

A. Actually, it was chosen because it was the newest song added to the song list. And yes, this song was the beginning of the transition into speed metal.

Q. When Slayer went to Track Records to record that song was it also the first time for you in a studio? Would you say the guys were remarkably prepared for what was their first time as well?

A. It was my first time along with the rest of the band. I will say, Slayer has always been professional in every step of the way. They all take the job very seriously. Well… with the exception of Tom when he was stoned, then we had Jim Morrison doing sound check. The first time in the studio, it was hard for most of us. We went in at 6pm and stayed until 6am, and then went to work immediate afterwards, and then back to the studio. This is where my addiction to Pepsi began and why we included Big Gulps in the credits on the inner sleeve.

Q. Having been involved since the beginning in the L.A. Heavy Metal circuit, what type of relationship did Slayer have by 1983 with Metallica who were making a name for themselves and had their first album released by the summer of 1983? Do you recall if there was a bit of competition in the air between the two acts? There’s always that famous rumor that Slayer had seen Metallica playing probably around 1982 and that night they were so blown away by Metallica’s speed that they decided to adopt the same style.

A. This is a very good question and one that has not been answered in 30 years. Unfortunately, you will have to wait for my book that will contain the details in depth about how the Slayer/Metallica feud started. As for the rumor, it is true and one of the two events that I mentioned earlier which would lead Slayer in a new direction. I had already seen Metallica at a backyard party in Norwalk. Then we opened for Metallica on Oct 22nd at the Woodstock in Orange County. Two weeks later, Jeff wrote, “Die by the Sword.” If you pay close attention when comparing the two bands music at the time, you will hear and get the same feel with Slayer’s “Die by the Sword” as the music on Metallic’s first album.

Q. Would you have liked to manage METALLICA at that time? Did both parties possibly consider it?

A. Who wouldn’t have loved to manage Metallica? However, I would have had a meltdown when Dave Mustaine was kicked out of the band. Still to this day, Metallica to me is the original lineup with Ron McGovney and Dave Mustaine. Although, I did have the pleasure of being there to see the beginning of Megadeth when Kerry sat in to temporarily play as the bands rhythm guitarist.

Q. Once Metal Massacre 3 was released in September 1983, what kind of impact do you feel it had on their career? Did that change somewhat things locally or was more on an international way that you were seeing the band getting attention?

A. Metal Massacre 3 gave me something more than a demo tape to work within the PR department. A recording on the compilation album validated the band. We had a recording that was a tangible product and the success of the Metal Massacre Compilation series had a fan base that stretched around the world. Our fan base grew, but we still had a hard time in Los Angeles because the bands playing the club circuit were more commercially marketable. Quiet Riot had just taken off and opened the door for other bands such as Ratt and Great White who were on the rise. We had a strong draw in Orange County but were never accepted in Hollywood. However, that didn’t discourage us and we just dug our heels in and worked harder, and played live as often as possible.

Q. There’s a demo which got recorded probably around the summer of 1983 featuring “Black Magic”, ”Antichrist”, Fight Til Death” whom very few things are known about it, except that it was sent to some magazines back at the time for a review such as Metal Forces, so what sort of details can you give us about that recording?

A. It was recorded in our rehearsal studio (Tom’s garage), and it was done to mainly for magazines and to send out to record companies. I was constantly bombarding the underground fanzines, radio stations, and labels with promo kits trying to get their attention. Do you want a copy? I still have it.

Q. Was it a demo strictly done for labels or did you somewhat spread it around for the tape trading circuit at the time as it was never been made available to the public at shows for example? What was exactly the purpose of that demo?

A. That’s a funny question. We were not even aware of the underground trading of tapes until our first visit to San Francisco when we saw our tape in a record store. We never sold tapes at shows, but we did sell video tapes of a previous live show.
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Q. If you sent it to labels, what kind of feedback did you get as a whole for it as I guess it must have been majors from the time that were considered, the usual suspects, CBS, Chrysalis, MCA, WEA etc?

A. I sent the demo and promo kit to every label out there, and if I was lucky enough to even get a reply, it was one that said they were not interested. Our music was not commercially viable to them. Those doors were slammed tightly closed until Quiet Riot crack them open even though they were not a heavy metal band per se.

Q. Instead came the offer from Metal Blade for an album, but was it immediately a multi album deal or just for two album or even one? Looking back was it a decent contract that got offered to the band?

A. That contract sucked! However, speed metal bands were not getting signed to major labels at that time. If you wanted to get an album released, you had to go with an independent label. It is similar to the contract a wrestler gets with the WWE. The band does not make money from album sales; the label invests no money in advertising or recording costs. The band had to make its money by playing live and merchandise. The contracts are for one album at a time, which was good so we wouldn’t be bound to a long-term commitment in case a large label became interested in us. We took it because we wanted an album on the market. We knew going in that Metal Blade was just a stepping-stone. I cannot say anything bad about how Slagel operates his business. Actually, it is a very good business model. I use the same principle with my publishing company White Roses Publishing for literary works. It’s harder to get a book published than it is to get a record contract. An author could wait years for a publishing contract if they are offered one at all. Out of two million manuscripts submitted to the large publishing houses each year, only 2% of the authors land a publishing deal. As an artist in any media, you need a product to sell in order to build an audience. I do with authors what Brian does with metal bands. However, Amazon makes it easy to self-produce and market music. If I would have had that available back then, I would have used it to its full advantage and would have build Slayer’s fan base much faster. They only label I would have liked to sign with at the time would have been Shrapnel Records. They also had a compilation series with some very good and heavy bands on them.

Q. Did you go for it straight away knowing that there was very few chances you would get a better one or were you quite hesitating at first?

A. At the time, Metal Blade was the best deal we could get, but the label was gaining momentum and building a large fan base by producing records for up and coming metal acts. Any other offer then by an independent label would have been a step down, and the majors were not signing non-commercial metal bands.

Q. How did you all approached their first album thing considering it had to be flawless if you wanted to establish the band for good – as a first album is always crucial?

A. There was a lot of time spent perfecting the album in the studio. We even played it back on small speakers to hear how it would sound on a car stereo. If you recall, sound systems in cars back them were nothing to brag about. As I stated before, we took every aspect of what we were doing very seriously and in a professional manner.

Q. I recall the band by the summer 1983 had erased all their mid tempo tunes and they had a brand new set featuring nonstop speedy/ Satanic stuff like “Tormentor”, “Crionics”, “Show No Mercy”, “Fight Til Death” or “Evil Has No Boundaries”, having known both periods, the Heavy Metal one and the Speed/ Thrash one how did you see the transition yourself? Were you by the way a fan of their music?

A. At the time, the term “Speed Metal” was just coming into play and “Thrash Metal” was non-existent. We viewed ourselves as more of a “Black Metal” band in comparison to Venom’s raw style of music. I loved all the music the band did and became even more excited as the writing progressed. Tormentor and Crionics were restructured for Show No Mercy. Both songs had melodic components to them before recording which were removed to fit the new sound, writing style, and image of the band. Show No Mercy will always be my favorite because it was the beginning and the rewards for a lot of hard work and sacrifice on all our parts.

Q. Did you spend most of your time in the studio with the band for that first album or were you much more concerned by the promotion aspect that you would have to do shortly after with the album release?

A. I was in the studio with them every step of the way. We were in the studio all night and I worked on PR during the day. Back then, you couldn’t get anyone on the phone in the music industry until 2pm. Kerry and I spent almost every day together, and most nights working on advancing the band by brainstorming new ideas, or we would just screw around. There was an arcade in Downey that would let us and Dark Angel come in after hours to play games. Most of the time, Kerry and I were working constantly on moving the band forward.

Q. How was it like working with Bill Metoyer who engineered the album? How do you see this album some 27 years later? Would you say that the overdubbed cymbals was really the thing that should have never been done but at the same time considering the tiny budget available you had no simply other choices?

A. Bill is a master at his craft and was one of the best engineers in the area for metal bands. I loved being at Track Records. Jeff and I would sneak in the back room and make copies of all the recordings and demos of the other bands that recorded there. We had so many albums before they were even released. As for the cymbal fiasco, I still do not know what he was thinking. Bill and Tom may have sparked a few too many joints that night. Just kidding Bill! It was the most ridiculous idea ever and it had nothing to do with the budget.

Q. Incidentally future Wargod (which featured ex- Wreckage guitarist Michelle Meldrum)/ Dark Angel drummer, Gene Hoglan, was doing some road work for Slayer at that point and was part of the backing vocals on “Evil Has No Boundaries”. What do you recall from the first meetings you had with this kind of unique person who is an incredible multi instrumentalist and a real down to earth guy?

A. Honestly, I don’t remember much of Gene. We had dozens of people hanging around us, all faces without names. Now Michelle on the other hand, most people probably don’t even know that I was working with Michelle as Wreckage was being formed. Wreckage was on my new roster, but it was moving too slowly and this is when I started working with Dark Angel and Jag Panzer. However, while I was working with Michelle, I got Wreckage and her a great deal of exposure in the underground press.

Q. Let’s talk about the promotion aspect of their debut album, there was that legendary picture used by all the specialized magazines which showcased the four guys violating a girl, apparently Jeff’s girlfriend, Kathryn, another total shock value picture never seen before in the style, who had the idea to do that photography? How do you view it nowadays?

A. Kerry and I that came up with the idea for that photo. We spent an entire day setting up for it and recruited the only four people we knew with decent cameras. It was done in our rehearsal studio (Tom’s garage). There was another girl we wanted for the shot, but she couldn’t make it. Jeff then asked Kathryn if she would do it. How do I view it today? I giggle when I see it because my hands were all over that shot. Tom is wearing my upside-down cross necklace, and Kerry is holding a sacrificial dagger that I purchased from the Ram Center in Hollywood. I kept that dagger for years and it still had bloodstains on it from the photo shoot. I’m not sure where it is now, probably packed away in a box in the attic. I do remember being worried that the guys taking the pictures wouldn’t get what I envisioned, so I grabbed one of their cameras and starting taking pictures. If I remember correctly, it turned out that the one used for promotions is actually one that I took.

Q. The album went down like a storm in the underground world with the exception of Kerrang and maybe a few others who gave a bad review to this album, how did you react when you saw the feedback this album was getting, not only by the press but also by the listeners considering that this album apparently soon become the best selling release from Metal Blade at this point?

A. Most of the reviews we got were good. That’s when it became obvious to us that what we were doing was the right way to go. Finally, the doubts that we did have up until then were wiped out. As for the bad reviews, they did faze us at all. We just laughed at them, and I continued sending them press releases.

Q. How about the local crowds because by late ’83, there was MUCH more people to see the band in the clubs as appearances at Woodstock or at the Roxy proved it (via live/ videos tapes), did you have the feeling that something was going on with the L.A. audience?

A. We were doing fairly well in Orange County and started playing to full houses. However, we were never accepting in Hollywood. Los Angeles was packing the clubs in every night of the week with the “pretty-boy” bands. It was a great formula to gaining a following for them… attract the girls, and fill the club with guys. As I said before, we didn’t attract the girls. We were on the hunt for our audience most of the time, but that never stopped us nor did it discourage us.

Q. At which point did you understand that it was extremely important to be involved in the underground network which had started like in ’82 or so which consisted of fanzines, tape trading etc? Would you say that this thing was crucial for any band from that time if they wanted to go somewhere?

A. One thing I did to get Slayer known was constantly sending out updates on the band to all the magazines/fanzines around the world, and I still feel that this was very instrumental in Slayer’s success. I became friends with Bob Nalbandian who had a little black and white fanzine called “The Headbanger.” We had Bob’s support from day one and I bought the center spread for several issues. No matter what we did, be it nailing pizza to the ceiling in a hotel room or a new song, I sent out updates monthly. I used the underground magazines to their full advantage. They were extremely instrumental in getting Slayer quickly known around the world. We were unable to go the traditional route mainstream metal was using so we went another direction. This paid off for the band by going directly to our target market.

Q. Was it because of that network that the “Show No Mercy” advance tape was sent around to eventually create a buzz before the album was released actually?

A. Yes, we needed to quickly build a following and generate interest in the band to achieve record sales. I sent it out to anyone that I was able to obtain an address where I could to send it.

Q. It was stated in the adverts for the album that ‘SLAYER were the fastest and heaviest band in the U.S.’, a statement which is seen by some people like Bob Nalbandian as bold nowadays but I recall that at the time, it was simply the truth and the band definitively lived up to the expectations created by this statement, what kind of reflection do you have over it looking back?

A. Yes, I received a lot of criticism for that one when I did it. I was always pushing the envelope to see what I could get away with. I know it seems tame nowadays, but anything referring to the occult or Satanism was taboo. You just did not go there. At first, I stated incorporating symbols as upside-down crosses in our advertising. A bold statement as such would have been the kiss of death for us if we could not back it up. When I did it, I thought, “What the hell… just go for it and see what happens.” I figured there would be much more of a backlash than there was. The bands in Los Angeles hated us for it, but it drew more people in to seeing us perform live.

Q. By January 1984, the band would head to San Francisco where a devoted hardcore Metal scene was developing at fast pace, what do you recall from that trip where Slayer played two or three shows as support for Laaz Rockit and Exodus (with Savage Grace also on the bill)? it seems the crowds were giving them a somewhat rough time, chanting, “Exodus… Exodus” during Slayer’s set…

A. This was a monumental road trip and I have tons of stories to tell about what took place the week we were in San Francisco, but once again, you will have to wait for the book. I will give you a little taste of it. We just came off stage at the Keystone Berkley and were in our dressing room. People were all over the place backstage. This very loud and rather obnoxious guy come bursting into our dressing room. We couldn’t understand a word he said. I had one of the roadies toss him back out into the hallway. I didn’t know it at the time, but that person was Paul Baloff the vocalist for Exodus who we would be sharing the stage with at Ruthies Inn two nights later.

Q. The story says the rabid S.F. fans told Slayer to throw away that make up thing (eyeliner) and just wears standards clothes like Exodus, Metallica and other new bands were doing, how were you viewing this as manager?

A. I wasn’t too thrilled with it at first because it worked for us in Los Angeles. The disappearance of the eyeliner was not an issue, but as any superstar act, they had to seem larger than life, so the black and leather stayed as part of the image. Kerry’s nail armband just got bigger at that point. One thing I liked about Kerry was his refusal to cave from peer pressure.

Q. Seeing just a dedicated crowd welcoming in such a great way his local bands but also a band like Metallica who had moved from L.A. to S.F., was it considered at one point to maybe move out of L.A. to not be associated with the glam image somehow?

A. We love San Francisco, but there was never any talk about moving there. Our ties and family were in the Los Angeles area. Our sights were set on reaching out beyond the club circuit at that point, so there was no reason to set up a base camp somewhere else.

Q. The band went on to do more shows and did in April ’84 the legendary “Haunting The Chapel” EP, which was like the promotion was already stating it since “Show No Mercy” was released, faster and heavier, something which was definitively unheard of before (and totally contrary to Metallica who were slowing down), as a manager how were you viewing that aspect? Was it like totally positive for you because you knew people wouldn’t believe it could be possible so it would certainly augment the interest for Slayer?

A. I was behind Slayer every step of the way. The heavier and more aggressive they became, the more I believed we could make it. No one ever becomes famous by coping someone else. Following a trend may get you famous for a short time, but there will be no longevity, and that is why Slayer has withstood the test of time. We were pioneers, we believed in what we were doing, and let nothing stand in our way.

Q. At which band did you start manage Jag Panzer and Dark Angel exactly by the way? Did you decide to go with Dark Angel after seeing them sharing the stage with Slayer back in late ’83 at places like Troubadour?

A. Dark Angel was from the same area as Slayer. We would use them as an opening act when we rented out halls in the South Gate Area. We rented these facilities to generate capital that we could not get from the nightclubs. We became friends with Dark Angel (Jim Durkin specifically) and had a mutual respect for each other. Jim was the reason I began to work with them as well as Slayer.

Q. Jag Panzer were based in Colorado unlike those two other acts, did the management thing happened because you know Dave Richards from Azra/ Iron Works or just because you had got their debut mini LP and were interested by their relentless Power Metal approach, with impressive vocals from Harry Conklin?

A. I loved Jag Panzer immediately when I heard their first EP. They contacted me when I started running ads looking for new bands to manage. Joey Tafolla, the lead guitarist, contacted me shortly after. We talked on the phone multiple times and then him and Mark Briody flew out to Los Angeles to meet me. In regards to Harry, there’s a voice that should have become famous.

Q. How was it like working with Jag Panzer and Dark Angel comparing to Slayer? Did you find the same determination to succeed within those two acts?

A. There are many reasons Slayer is still around today. All of which Jag Panzer and Dark Angel did not have. One of which is their determination to get to the top at any cost. Dark Angel and I didn’t see eye to eye. I had a certain vision for them, but theirs was different from mine. I got frustrated with them and asked, “What do you want? Do you want to be just like Slayer?” They said yes. I said if that is what I wanted, I would have just stayed exclusive with Slayer. Jag Panzer did themselves in. I worked out a deal with Azra records to send them on a west coast tour with Kerry Doll, another act on Azra Records. I started pumping KMET and KLOS with promo’s to get them airtime on the radio. All Jag Panzer had to do was get to Los Angeles. They couldn’t do it. I dropped everything with Panzer right then. It was a sad day because their album “Ample Destruction” that was just released was a masterpiece. Every band I worked with did not have the drive or determination to do what needed to be done as Slayer did and it was getting frustrating.

Q. Did you try somehow to build an image for those two other bands or one of the like you had done with Slayer or was it more difficult because their approach was more traditional?

A. I was working on a stage show for Jag Panzer that was on the scale of an arena act. It was something that had never been seen on the local level and would have been an historic event. This was a major ordeal that caused a problem between Slayer and I, which lead to my departure.

Q. How did you view the debut material Dark Angel had recorded on demos at that point? Was it with those demo that you approached record labels and you got in the end Azra Records?

A. Dark Angel’s music was still in its infant stage and experiencing growing pains, but I felt in time they could mature and become a band that could make a mark on the metal scene. I met Dave Richards (owner of Azra) through Jag Panzer, which was the label they were already signed with.

Q. Did you have at that point other bands managed by Platinum Management?

A. I was receiving demo tapes from bands all over the world wanting me to manage them, but I was looking for the right bands that turned me on inside. At one point, Hellhammer (Celtic Frost) was hitting me up hard and I almost took them on. I considered working with Hawaii (Vixen) with Marty Friedman (Megadeth) for a very short period.

Q. The band went on to share (the stage in San Antonio, Texas on 11/30/84 with the other Texas Slayer, first at which point did you get aware of that band who already had an EP out too? Then how did you handle the situation with that band? I understand you made clear that they had to change their name and stuff… tell us everything about this story…

A. There is not much to tell. I found out about them through the underground magazine The Unholy Book. As soon as I became aware of them, I sent a “Cease and Desist” order or otherwise I would file a lawsuit for using the name. They changed their name to S.A. Slayer. The two played together in what has been dubbed as “Slayer vs. Slayer battle of the bands”.

Q. I understand you and Slayer parted ways around late ’84 after two dates done in New York, what happened exactly? I heard you were looking for Glam bands to manage instead, is that correct?

A. Who the hell said I was looking for Glam bands? This is what I find hilarious after leaving the industry. So many people have tried to find me the past 30 years, magazines seeking me out and requesting interviews, which I turned down every one of them (until now), people made a multitude of speculations of who I was and why I left. After I quit, I would not even talk about Slayer anymore. Many of my long time friends did not even know I was involved with the band. I kept quiet about it and wanted to keep it that way. Some of the absurd stories have blown my mind over the years. What was actually taking place at the time when it all began to fall apart was I wanted to expand my company Platinum Management by including more commercially marketable bands. I had the speed metal genre covered, but wanted to reach a wider audience with mainstream heavy metal and edgy hard rock.

Q. Was it a split in good terms because if I recall well Slayer didn’t even mention you on their next album or even mention you much later on in interviews which was quite strange if you ask me?

A. Sadly, it was not on good terms and unfortunately, you will have to wait for the book to know all the details. Regardless of what anyone says about why I decided to leave the band, they are wrong, and what actually happened is far more than anyone can speculate. My reason for leaving is extremely complex and not easily explainable. It was very hard for me because we were friends, especially Jeff and I. We were like a family. Slayer considered me as part of the band, not just a manager. Many things happened between us that no one has ever known such as the significance of the swords in the pentagram logo that I designed. I didn’t do it intentionally, but it became a symbol for us as a unit. The swords represented the band members. There are five swords and four band members. Guess who the fifth sword in the pentagram represented? We were extremely tight and I was treated as a band member, not just a manager, but then again, I was very instrumental in changing Slayer from a cover band into the monster they would become. Tom would thank me and introduce me to the audience at some of the shows. The band even learned to play Judas Priest’s “Beyond the Realms of Death” and performed it at one show because they knew I loved the song. When a member abandons the family, feelings get hurt, and they did when I decided to quit. It was something we began together and should have finished together. There are a mutitde of reasons why I decided to quit Slayer, but you will have to wait for the book to find out. The saddest part for me is that I thought when it was all said and done, Jeff and I would speak again, and now with his passing on, that will not happen. I think it was a mutual agreement not to mention each other afterwards. During the twenty years after I left, the friends I would make never knew that I was involved with Slayer because I never mentioned it to them. In addition, the part about not mentioning me on the next record, they did so on Haunting the Chapel with a special “No Thanks To…” Kerry is quite vindictive.

Q. Dark Angel had their debut album released in the mean time, how did you view this record, which in my opinion was good but had numerous flaws that hindered them from having an impact on the scene, notably the drumming?

A. I wasn’t in the studio with them much as the album was being recorded. It was rushed due to a small budget, and when it was completed, I was not happy with it.. The album didn’t have the thunder of Slayer’s debut. What hurt them was Dark Angel had a horrible time trying to get a decent drummer. Before the drummer (Jack) who recorded on the album, there was another person playing in the band, but the dude went nuts, literally. He was screwing around drunk one night, started bashing his head into a metal dumpster, and I think he caused himself permanent brain damage. I loved Jim Durkin like a brother. He is a talented guitarist and was the driving force behind the band. I would have liked to have kept him and Don Doty and started over by replacing the other band members with better musicians. However, I was happy to see the band redeem themselves and get the recognition they deserved when they released Leaving Scars.

Q. How did things end up with Dark Angel and Jag Panzer as well? Was it because of different point of views or…?

A. I function on instinct, and if I’m not feeling it, there’s no reason to continue with a project. It would not have been beneficial for either party. I wasn’t invested in either band as much as I was with Slayer so it was an easy departure.

Q. Was Platinum Management terminated not long after late ‘84/ early ’85 because I don’t recall having seen the name associated with demo acts or well known acts after this? Tell us everything…

A. What people don’t know is when I stopped managing bands, I started a music publication called Platinum Bound. It was not your typical music magazine. The stories were very in-depth and on the cutting edge. Many well-known bands that I interviewed wrote me afterwards to say it was the best interview they ever had. Platinum Bound was a hybrid magazine that appealed to both music fans and musicians. In fact, with the information we provided in monthly columns, a band could successfully manage and promote themselves. I had employees across the country and into Europe, and after two years of hard work, I had the first three issues ready for press. I landed a deal with a large magazine publisher to put it on the market. When we sat down to finalize the contract they attempted a hostile takeover. They thought they had me backed into a corner because of the amount of money I had invested in the magazine and that I would be forced to take the deal. They thought wrong. I buried the magazine and walked away from the music industry. Years later, I tried to manage a few other bands, but I never got the gut feeling I had with Slayer.

Q. So how do you view now those unique years that were that particular era? What sort of view do you have on all the stuff you’ve accomplished and helped accomplished for those acts?

A. All I can say is the 80’s Metal era was amazing and almost indescribable. You had to be there to know what really took place.

Q. Do you still have a look on the music business these days and how it has evolved with the Internet notably having built a new environment for this particular art? Do you think it would be as interesting for you to manage a band nowadays than it was back then if you had to do it now?

A. I would hate to be in a band nowadays. The music industry is not what it once was. In fact, it sucks now. Bands emerge one day and are gone the next. Record companies no longer allow a band to mature and musicians have become disposable. The day of the Superstar/Rockstar are gone, and if you are in it for the money, find another profession. The Internet has opened up so many new ways for bands to promote themselves and to be heard, ways I wish I had available to me back then, and yet, I don’t see anyone utilizing it to its full potential. However, the Internet has also hurt the music industry in a way I don’t think it can recuperate from. Full CD’s where a band can show versatility with an array of songs is close to coming to an end as people are purchasing only the song they like. This is sad because albums always contained rare jewels in them. Would I want to manage a band now? No, I would not, and in all honesty, I have made more money in other avenues than I would have ever made with Slayer.

Q. How would you end up this exclusive feature for Snakepit?

A. Since my departure from Slayer, I have kept quiet about what took place. Every year since, magazines have tracked me down requesting interviews, all of which I chose not to do. You readers here need to give Laurent a big round of applause for being persistent and talking me into doing this interview. Watch for the release of my book “The Origins of Slayer. The Untold Story” in 2014 by checking my website http://www.steven-k-craig.com. The Slayer book is not going to be a typical documentary. It’s not what you think and more than you can ever imagine.”

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