Have your official forum at the most awesome online metal community!
Tom Gattis has been around forever, started Deuce in 1978 with Marty Friedman (renamed to Tension later on), was part of Wardog and now resurfaces with his own band Ballistic, signed by Metal Blade. This chat is about two old farts talking about old times, constipation and being 40, Ballistic's in-your-face debut CD and about our mutual passion - /mp/\.jpgm/etal! - in general.
Hi Tom! I've been curious about Ballistic ever since we exchanged a few emails
when I was still the webmaster for Snakepit Magazine - and I must say
the CD blew me away! Great job, you show the youngsters how it's done
right - and show certain metal-pioneers what energy and inspiration
really sounds like these days haha!
Thanks, and I am glad you like the CD. It is the first one I have ever made that I really like listening to. What can I say, I'm my own worse critic.
You were very young when you started jamming with Marty Friedman
and started Deuce. How serious were your plans at the time - did you
already know you wanted to conquer the international metal scene back
That is a good question. Yes we did want to be big, like any young man dreams of, but we really didn't know there was an international metal scene. It's strange, although we were a kick ass band, we really had no idea how to go about getting big... now that I think about it neither did Wardog and Tension. I have always had to make the same mistakes over, and over, and over, mostly because I am not a tyrant kind of leader, and in the case of Wardog I wasn't the leader at all. I am pretty sure that if I had been an asshole all this time I would have gotten pretty big. I like where I am now though, and in a real sense I like that I never got real big and I am always in the underground metal scene, where I am the most comfortable.
I can understand that, getting really big has quite a few downsides too I guess. And I'm not jealous either at people that gain success over the backs of others. I'm sure it would be nice to have enough success to pay the bills though - how's that for you? Have you ever been able to live off music (either through bands or maybe teaching etc.)? Would you want to or do you prefer the combination with a steady job for financial security? Making a living with music sounds nice, but I know some like to combine it with work because it takes the pressure off of the business-side of making music.
I am a Civil Engineer. I decided I didn't want to make a living from music, not just because the music business sucked, but also I did not want to take the fun out of the music. I want to keep it fun and that way and problems that come up in the music business don't mean anything to me. I know a lot of miserable assholes in bands, and they didn't start out hating life, they turned into an asshole. Not me, if there is something I don't want to do regarding music then I don't do it, because I don't have to. That is power.
What or who made you pick up a guitar and want to become a (rock) musician back in the day?
Up to 1976 I had only played classical flute. I was very good, Played for money at age 12, played weddings, etc. But the problem was that the bullies at school would kick my ass on a daily basis because I was a boy playing a "girls" instrument. So I picked up the guitar, and by the time I was 14 I was steeling the bullies' girlfriends. Apparently, I have from the very beginning liked harder music. As a young child my dad had a lot of Beatles records and he said the only songs I would listen to was "Revolution" and "Helter Skelter". So I think I was born a metalhead.
At the flute/bullies' gf's thing: LMAO!!!!
And about being born a metalhead.... I hear ya! I remember being a Sweet fan as a little little kid and always liked the harder songs on the radio etc etc. like Slade or Mud or The Osmonds with "Crazy Horses":) My favorite Beatles song was "Help!" BTW. Any other stuff you remember you liked as a kid?
Yep, I remember "Crazy Horses" too! I also liked some of the Who. Funny, although I was really big, even as a kid, I was raised to be a pacifist so I let a lot of people pick on me. One day, after years of torment, I snapped and put 2 kids in the hospital and was never bothered again. Kind of reminds me of the USA in general, big power that sits there until it's attacked and then starts kicking asses everywhere. Bullies eventually meet their end.
Can you tell our younger readers a bit about your history: You started
with Deuce (with Marty Friedman - renamed to Tension later on) in 1978.
What happened to Deuce/Tension?
Yea I started Deuce after I moved to Maryland in 1978. If I remember correctly, I put an ad in the paper and Marty answered it. I went over to his parents and we just started jamming. From there my mom built us a barn "studio" to jam in, like she built it herself for us! In that barn all sorts of illegal things took place. But above all we cultivated a totally original sound built on a cross between metal and punk. God god, we were a full 6 years ahead of the times.
How did you end up in Wardog - and what made you quit in 2000?
The reason Deuce, Tension, and Wardog failed is that we always make excuses for not doing things we should be doing, like playing everywhere. The painful part for me is having to do it over and over, knowing all along the decission maker was making huge mistakes. I could have been an asshole and "made" people do things, but that hust isn't me. I am very, very good at bringing other musicians to their full potential, but they have to want to do it. So in Wardog I was frustrated for the lack of interest in progressing the talents of the band, which did need progressing but it would have been possible. The emphasis was on being rock stars and we were turning into "that band" that I always used to make fun of. So I wanted out, but the final straw was when Wardog turned down a paid offer to tour Europe opening for Fear Factory. I have been so happy since I left because the poser type is not the type of person I have been around all my life. It was like I was out of my element, I was lost or something.
"That band" wouldn't by any chance be the band that THINK they got back to their roots by making an album totally lacking inspiration and quality, with a sound a beginning band wouldn't even get away with and egos so big you could find them on a map?;)
Hmmm, who are you talking about? I meant "band" in general, poser bands, bands that hardcore kids make fun of.
I meant Metallica, or rather "Lica" these days, heh. IMO it's a shame what they came up with, if St. Anger was some band's debutalbum, I'm sure they would stay totally unnoticed!
Yea if I remember correctly Metallica's "roots" had leads.
It seems that pure heavy metal has always been more popular in Europe
than in the States, was it like that for your bands as well?
Yea, but during the mid 80's we played with a lot of big bands, and I mean we smoked!!!! Wardog was a good live band I must admit, but compared to the heydays of Tension..... I mean we completely ruined audiences, literally, for some headliners. I remember a Metal Church gig. After we played we walked out in te parking lot and there were car doors open everywhere with bodies hanging out of them. Tension was incredible. It's such a shame.
How's the response to Ballistic worldwide? From what countries do you
get the most/best reactions?
So far there are 5 albums of the month that I know of. Every rating is pretty much in the 90's. A few 80's. There are no 60's or 50's, etc. I really think that if you like this music to begin with that it may be the album of the year for you. Unfortunately I don't think that thrash is real huge. Am I wrong? But interestingly, I have done more interviews from France than I have ever done. Italy has been great. Greece is non-existent so far. England is a no-no too, but I think a lot of their tastes are as bad as the U.S. I wonder if it is getting better there? Isn't it strange that the place where the NWOBHM was born is so soft now?
True, that is hard to believe. Just about the whole hardrock/metal scene was born over there, actually. But Greece is non-existent?? That surprises me, they usually know their metal and are totally crazy about it! And how about Spain or South-America?
No Greece, at all, nothing. Spain pretty good, no South America at all.
How did you get signed by Metal Blade, was it because Wardog was also a
MB band? Was there a lot of interest from other labels as well?
3 others, but although Metal Blade wasn't the highest money offer, I knew them and they got me the killer shows in Wardog (now Bang Your Head 2004!). But they really liked the demo we did in 2001. Of course they knew me from Wardog so it wasn't real hard to get heard. Plus they had been trying to get me to take over when I was in Wardog, and now that I have my own band they were pretty optimistic.
Do you guys write songs as a band? I mean, with such talent in the band
I can't imagine you being the sole songwriter.
You know you ask good questions, like you really think a lot about them. Maybe I give you reviewer of the month! Yea, there is no way in hell I could write those parts for the other guys. They are out of their minds in talent. That is the thing. With Ballistic I have 3 guys who are never satisfied with their playing and are always, always trying to get better. Frankly, its scary how good we will be in four or five years.
Always trying to get their playing better, not the egos bigger:) And yah! Of course I think about questions:) And I would be honored to be the reviewer of the month, hahaha!!
You got it! Reviewer of the month!
In Google I stumbled upon a subpage of gattismetal.com, your editorial
page that doesn't seem to be linked to the main page anymore, with a
message stating Peter (Petio) just left the band and Chris Broderick
stepped in. The message wasn't dated but it seemed to be from before
the CD was recorded. What was up with that?
Yea, I'm a lazy bastard getting info out. I apologize. But if you ask me to tour I'll say hell yea!
Chris did go for the gig but he was so busy with Jag Panzer and Nevermore. He just had a lot on his schedule.
So Petio just reconsidered his decision to leave, or what?
It was a mutual thing, we needed him back and he was fine with that.
You've worked with producer John Herrera before, why did you feel you
needed to bring Achim Köhler in as well?
I really liked Achim's work, so with the demo I decided to give it a try this way. Not that John's mixes are any less, but Achim had that metal sound I really like for this kind of music. I have heard mixes from John and they totally kick ass, but it was with a different music, a little darker, slower. I mean I have thought about having either John or Achim do it all, but I have found a formula that works, and I am really hesitant about changing things that work.
I believe you're around the same age as I am. I just turned 40 and I
know I didn't change much in the past 20 years - I still eat, sleep and
breath metal and I still love to headbang in the front at shows. Do you
think the metalhead in you changed much over the years?
No shit! You're older than me by about 5 months. You old man!! You old fucker!!
Yea! When I was 18 the drummer from Tension said "wait till you turn 22, you're tastes will change". Well, uh, NO. As a matter of fact it got heavier to where I was a Slayer freak for a while. But I must say that I have always been interested in many things, not just music, a lot of science and math. When it came to music, it was metal. About headbanging in the front rows, I have been known to do that (ask Sacred Steel), but now I will be old like you in 5 months and my back is bad. I am a fat old bastard who sits around and upspritzen all day, only to get up to take a poop and find I am constipated...... brown underpants (thanks Achim!)
Hahaha!! So who are YOU calling old huh? HUH? End of June, you and me in a dark alley in Balingen!;)) And it's "woman" and "fuckette" for you (well, at least I'm not constipated hahaha!). But hey, what on earth is "upspritzen"??
Ah, I spelt it wrong, means jerking off.
Who are your influences these days?
War, violence, indifference, consumers of the pathetic that is modern pop culture.
And favorite bands to listen to?
The last band that really hit me hard was The Lord Weird Slough Feg. A lot of even the popular Europe metal that comes out is tuned down and sounds muddy to me. I mean it's nowhere near as bad as in the U.S. I know damn well there are bands out there that would kick my ass, but I haven't looked too hard. Could you suggest one that is clear sounding, not tuned down low, and energetic? You know the Ballistic CD is something I really like not because the band is good, but because of the way the music sounds and the style of it. I think that is kind of hard to find? For every music style I like there are 100 people who don't, so what the hell do I know.
Oh you can't argue on taste too much, but how about bands like your labelmates Brainstorm and Symphorce? I also think Evergrey from Sweden is a band everybody should at least give a listen, they are SO unique. Same goes for the Canadian band Into Eternity, they have a really fresh mix of progressive and deadly thrashing parts, as well as two vocalists that both sing clean and death vocals combined in a unique way (plus one clean and one death voice to back them up, it's killer!). Do you know any of these bands?
How dare you mention other bands… I take away "Reviewer of the month" now!! HA HA!
I am familiar with Brainstorm and Symphorce, excellent bands, great! But not really my particular style either. It's a little different, I can't explain it.
Are you and Marty still playing in his Ramones coverband?
No he moved to Japan. We were going to do it again when he came around on tour, but that was the same weekend our CD came out so it was fucked up.
When will we see you back in Europe again? I wanna see Ballistic live!
Bang Your Head 2004, 2 times! You know I saw Helloween and Jag Panzer for the first time here in Phoenix. They were both fucking incredible (I mean real good)!! So many people here hate that music, but I just cannot fathom how someone could have gone to that show and thought it sucked. I don't care where they live. It boggles my mind. But Ballistic really is different music than this. It will be like a battle in the real sense of brutality and athletic violence. Oh shit I better lose weight or I'll have a heart attack. Damn, I guess I shouldn't finish this beer.... NAW!!! GULP GULP!
By the way, if there are any Tension fans out there you will not want to miss this show.
No, wait, let me finish that beer for you! I will only be headbanging in the audience, not running around on stage like some fat old bastard;)) Anyway... They may be good, but I don't like Helloween's music (I'm allergic to "happy" metal), but I LOVE Jag Panzer!! From what I hear the scene is getting better in the States, so I hope that the younger kids are finally starting to listen beyond the MTV shit?
Who are you calling old fat bastard?!!! Never mind the fact you are right! HA HA!
YOUR words, hun, haha!
Yea Helloween is too happy, but believe me compared with the crap around here they are complete gods! It is getting better on the east coast. Actually, the most shocking thing about this Ballistic CD is that the reviews (albeit few of them because we are only in Europe) are actually better here in the U.S. than in Europe, as a whole. Now THAT I can't figure out!
Hahahaha!! That kinda contradicts the bad image of the U.S. scene, right? See, there is still hope:) Metal is just NOT gonna die. EVER!
Tom, thanks so much for the interview and good luck with the band - I
hope to see you when you get to this side of the pond! Anything left
you'd like to tell our readers?
Kill with fucking ultra speed and violence. See you in June 2004.... LET'S FUCK IT UP!!!!!!! AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHH!!!! RIP!
submitted by Marlies 25.10.2003