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pre-Anacrusis

Anacrusis was a word Kevin stumbled across in the glossary of a music theory book in high school. Technically, the word means "upbeat, or an unaccented beat at the beginning of a piece of music or line of poetry". This sounded to Kevin like Kevin Heidbreder an ideal name for what would be the band he would Kenn Nardistart later that year. Kevin, like myself, grew up in and around St. Louis. Also like myself, he had always been a huge KISS fan. There has probably never been a group more influential than KISS when it came to producing "young fans-turned-wannabee-rock-stars". There was something about those cheesy "Mom’s eyeliner and lipstick, sister’s tights, tennis racket-wielding, food color- spitting, ‘lip-synched in front of the mirror’ KISS concerts" that made a kid feel like it could all be possible for him someday (don’t tell me I was the only one). Eventually, most of us decided to trade the tennis rackets for a more traditional instrument. In Kevin’s case it was the trumpet, in my case the violin. Kevin continued to perform in the marching band all through high school, while my interest of the violin didn’t make it past the fourth grade. The reason? Of course, because I couldn’t play KISS songs on it (even "Beth" might have taken many years of practice). My Dad had always been a singer/guitar player,(as was Kevin's) so growing up I had always been around music. A born showman, my dad was always entertaining the neighborhood kids, or hanging out at the local tavern playing tunes by Elvis, Johnny Cash, Hank Williams Sr., or the like. He had opted early on for the domestic life, deciding to get married and raise a family rather than pursue a musical career. I often thought John Emery that he regretted not having at least tried doing something musical and seemed to resent the grind of an ordinary day-to- day job. I was determined not to repeat this fate and decided to find out if I had what it took to "make it", or at least not grow old wondering. John was born and raised in Canada, moving Mike Owen to the US with his family around the age of sixteen. He is a couple of years older than the rest of the band, and though also a KISS fan, his musical influences also included other classic metal bands like Black Sabbath (Geezer was his idol), Led Zeppelin, and Rush among many others. He had played in a few bands with friends, doing songs by everyone from Robin Trower to Santana. Mike Owen was a military brat, born in the Philippines, but also raised in St. Louis. He and Kevin were the same age (I’m a year older) and attended the same high school. Many people have thought that Kevin and I grew up together, but actually, though we had lived our whole lives about five miles apart, I had attended the 'rival' high school on the other side of town. Mike was very sociable and popular in high school. He was always very athletic and hung around with more of the 'jock' crowd. He and Kevin met at school, and after discovering a mutual love of many of the newer heavy metal bands coming out (Slayer, Metallica, etc...) decided to play music together.

 

 

Heaven's Flame

I had started a band in High school with my older brother Sam, called Heaven’s Flame. Almost since the first time I had picked up the guitar, I had felt inclined to write and Heaven's Flameperform my own songs. (and due to the fact that I have a pretty terrible vocal range and nearly any song was too high for me to sing). For this reason, I had never learned to play many songs Chad Smith recorded by other bands. I think this would turn out to be an asset in my song-writing later on, as I think my ignorance of the "way to write songs" would always make me approach it differently than many other writers. It was at this time that I was introduced to Chad Smith by a mutual friend. When I met Chad, he was very much on the cutting edge of the metal scene. Though most of us were still into Judas Priest and Iron Maiden, Chad had already been into Slayer, Venom, and Metallica for a couple of years. The most impressive thing though, was that his kit featured double-bass drums, and that he definitely knew how to use them. At the time this was essential. Just as it would later on, Chad’s ability to play anything I could imagine, opened many doors for me musically. Like everyone else at the time I had also begun moving from more 'old-school' British heavy metal to the newer, faster bands that were beginning to surface on both American coasts. Chad, Sam and I began playing together in 1985 and continued to perform locally and record demos until about the middle of 1986. The highlight had been opening a show for my favorite band at the time, Kenn NardiMetal Church at a local club. It was in this band that I was introduced to low-tuning. Because I had a very limited vocal range, Chad suggested tuning down a fret or so, as this was a common thing for bands to do, especially in a live situation. This made it easier for the singer to hit the higher notes more easily. Hey, why didn’t I think of that? Well this did allow me to be more creative Sam Nardimelodically speaking, but still was not enough. I kept tuning lower and lower, until finally going down five whole frets to 'B'. This was great for me vocally, but caused many problems with staying in tune. Anytime you drop the pitch of even one string this effects the intonation ofthe whole of the guitar (the ability of each string to sound in tune with the others). Not only that but the strings go very limp, especially tuning down a whole string like we were doing. I experimented with many different string gauges and for a long time I was using bronze-wound acoustic guitar strings. I would use two low 'E' strings for 'E' and 'A', an 'A' string for my 'D' and so on (sorry non-guitarists). This did the job pretty well and gave us a very deep, full sound. It was near the end of Heaven’s Flame that Chad introduced me to Kevin. He, John and Mike had been practicing cover songs and a few originals Kevin had written, but had never been able to get a permanent singer. They used to come and watch Heaven’s Flame play at local shows and had always liked our songs and my voice, so when Heaven’s Flame finally broke up Chad suggested that I call Kevin.

 

 

Heaven's Flame

The two of us hit it off right away, having many of the same ideas musically and the same sort of sense of humor. I went over to Kevin’s house to try and 'jam' with the whole band but didn’t do very well since I couldn’t play any songs they knew. Eventually I borrowed Kevin’s Garage Days EP and figured out "Am I Evil". He also showed me how to play the couple of original songs they had ("Annihilation Complete", "Pendulum", and "Frigid Bitch"). We would stand around for hours playing these four songs. (We also eventually figured out "Motorbreath" from Kill Em All, too) At the time I had no real interest in getting involved with another band. I was very depressed about the break-up of Heaven’s Flame and having just graduated high school, had begun to question whether I should just forget about music and look for a 'real' job. I agreed to help them record a demo to use to try and find a vocalist. I miked all the instruments through this mixing board we used at practice and we recorded "Pendulum" and "Frigid Bitch" all together straight through with no way to fix mistakes as the sound was going straight to Kevin’s jam-box (we couldn’t John Emeryafford to rent a 4-track). I then ran the music back through the mixer and sang(?) over the two songs. I had to read "Frigid Bitch" off of a piece of paper to keep up with the many lyrics. Again we weren’t using a 4-track so I had to get through the Mike Owen whole song in one try. We then took a tape of the two songs to a local collage radio station that had a Sunday morning metal show. One of the features was called "demolition", a segment which featured demos by local bands. Heaven’s Flame had been played a few times so we thought we would give it a try. Luckily, they did play it, and also did a short, on-air interview with us. The funny thing is he announced each band member, but didn’t say my name, but only that they were looking for a vocalist. We continued to practice together and eventually Kevin convinced me to teach him a few Heaven’s Flame songs. This was a perfect excuse to convince him and John to tune their guitars low, since these songs had to be played with my low-’B’ tuning. Well, obviously the guitars were never tuned back up, and without any 'formal' decision, I just eventually became the permanent vocalist for the band. We practiced the songs we had, wrote a few new ones, and after a few months began to get shows around St. Louis. Our first headlining show (and second show ever) was at the local Community Center. Kevin and his friends had hung out there growing up. One of the rooms had a nice sized corner stage and could hold about 200 people. We rented the room for about $60 and hired someone to supply the sound and lights. We weren’t allowed to charge admittance since it was a public building, so we made up tickets and sold them before-hand at school and around town. The place was packed and the show went very well. It was then that we began thinking of recording a proper demo to send out to record companies. We went to a local music store that rented equipment and picked up a 4-track recorder and began working on what would become the first version of our "Annihilation Complete" demo.

 

 

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