Interview with Barry Fischel of Fischel's Beast by Dave Wolff, June 2009.
Between 1984 and 1989 you were one of the guitarists for Sentinel Beast, who released Depths Of Death on Metal Blade records during that time. Why did the band part company at the end of the 80s?
After the ‘Depths Of Death’ album, Michael Spencer (our bassist) left to join Flotsam & Jetsam when THEIR bassist Jason Newsted left to join Metallica (replacing Cliff Burton who had recently been killed in a tragic bus accident). We replaced Michael with a bass player named Manny (I didn’t remember his last name in the first five interviews and I ‘still’ can’t remember it). He was really good and the future looked promising for us. However I needed to leave the band to straighten out some personal problems I was having. I had found a replacement guitarist but within a year, the group disbanded.
In the mid to late 90s you relocated to New York and slowly became interested in playing music again, during which time you got into playing blues and came across material that would have been recorded for the second Sentinel Beast album. From that point you decided to play old school thrash again. Describe this story in greater detail?
Actually you did a pretty good job of it - but let me fill in some more ‘details’ for you. Jerry Baird (a close friend and huge fan of Sentinel Beast) had sent me a cassette tape of the band rehearsing some the material that would have been our second album. I was listening to it, when Eric Mauriello (bassist in the blues band - and later bassist in Fischel’s Beast) came over for rehearsal. He asked what it was and I told him it was my old band. He said ’man, if you can play like that, why are we playing the blues?’ That got me inspired and I wanted to return to Metal, and I wanted to play those songs again. It was a HUGE challenge to be able to do so. It took a lot of hard work and determination, but I was up for the challenge.
Settling back into the unrecorded Sentinel Beast material was a long process, during which time you found a drummer who was into working on the material named Eric Klinger. How enthusiastic was he about playing with you?
OK, let me first clarify Eric Mauriello is the bassist, ED Klinger is the drummer. We had been working with Ed on a side project, something a bit more mainstream hard rock. Eric and I had been working on our own to get the Sentinel Beast material up to a level where it was ready for us to add drums. We enjoyed Ed’s playing, he knew of Sentinel Beast and we knew that in the past he had played with the Metal band Caligula, so we figured we’d have take a shot at playing the Sentinel Beast material. We were ALL pleased with how I turned out. Ed even joked that this is the project we wanted him for all along.
During the formation of Fischel’s Beast you had six compositions to work with, including three written by former Sentinel Beast bassist Mike Spencer. You contacted Spencer for permission to record these three songs, and eventually received his ok. How much correspondence did you share with Spencer before he agreed to allow you to record his songs?
Michael and I hadn’t been in contact at all for about 10 years. When I contacted him to discuss this project, we first had to catch up on 10 years! Michael and I were the two that had the biggest ’rift’ within Sentinel Beast, so we had to get past that hurdle first. He was a bit reluctant at first, I think perhaps because he wasn’t sure of how GOOD the material was going to sound. He let me hear another band that had recorded ’Forbidden Territories’ that he was excited about. When I listened to that, I sent him a rough recording of my lineup playing the song. He never told me what he thought, be he did reply and finally give the OK to record the songs. Since the release of the CD, he has given his ’stamp of approval’ on the job we did with the music.
You had a couple of songs in your repertoire with lyrics penned by you and Sentinel Beast vocalist Debbie Gunn, whom you also contacted for permission. How amenable was she to the idea when you contacted her?
To clarify I wrote the MUSIC to ‘One Man’s Cry’ and ’Where Am I’ and Debbie wrote the lyrics. She used those two songs as a ’bargaining chip’ with me. She wanted to be able to use the name Sentinel Beast for her new project and wanted me to release myself from any claim to the name. Michael Spencer let me use the music under the same premise of giving Debbie the rights to the Sentinel Beast name. To ME the ’music’ is what I wanted more than the name so it was a good deal. I knew my new line-up would work on new material after we recorded these songs and I wanted the new project to be just that a NEW project, and thus Fischel’s Beast was born.
Gunn is recording her own versions of the aforementioned songs with a new incarnation of Sentinel Beast. Did you get a chance to hear her versions of these songs yet? How do you expect they will sound?
We heard her version of The Phoenix (a live version from a club gig), a live version of Forbidden Territories (from the Keep It True Festival 2008) as well a studio recording of The Phoenix. All of these are on her myspace page. While the energy level was really high and the musicianship was good, we feel that our versions are a lot closer to the versions that Sentinel Beast was playing. As I mentioned I had the rehearsal tape that Jerry Baird has sent to me to use as a learning tool. I’m pretty sure she only had her memory and maybe a version of the song that Flotsam & Jetsam did.
You are working on new material to accompany the classic Sentinel Beast / Fischel’s Beast songs. How is this going?
It’s going really well. We’re working on lots of new material and we think we’re doing a good job of developing our own sound. I think the line-up works well together and I think our sound is kind of progressive / speed metal with a touch of thrash. We hope to be recording at least some rough demos soon to let people hear what we’re up to.
At first you sought a female vocalist to front the band, but eventually hired Anthony Cross as frontman and lyricist. What led to your hiring a male vocalist instead of a female vocalist as you had with Sentinel Beast?
We DID try to find a female vocalist first. We weren’t haven’t any luck finding anyone that could do what Debbie did. We did find a singer named Lillian La Salle who was very different from Debbie but was very good. She was a very powerful vocalist and her voice had a lot of passion - but without the ‘edge’ that Debbie had. In fact when Anthony came over for an audition he heard her singing and said ’you, guys should just use her!’. We coaxed him into staying and singing, and we were all really pleased. Again thinking PAST the project of doing these Sentinel Beast songs, I knew I wanted my new group to have a male vocalist.
Describe everything you are seeking to accomplish with Fischel’s Beast. What can we expect in the future?
We want to do everything that a top notch, accomplished Metal act should do! I’d like to do all of the things that I never got to do with Sentinel Beast. We want to release more than one album, and really believe in the music we are playing and recording. We just signed a deal with Stormspell Records and they will be repackaging and distributing our debut CD ‘Commencement’. We are working on new material and when the time is right, we’ll start shopping that.
We’d love to tour and play as many of the metal festivals as possible. There is still a market for Metal and when you can find it the fans are loyal and really support the genre. That’s not something that I feel is true with many other styles of music these days. So feel free to call your local radio stations, email your internet radio stations, drop a line to local and festival Metal promoters and ask for Fischel’s Beast. We want to play for you!
Thanks so much so much for letting us ‘talk’ to your readers!