Special thanks to Bart Gabriel of www.tyrantsofsteel.com for the interview!
Keepers Of The Flame
Blacksmith is one of the underground cult acts from New York. They had 2 great releases in the ’80s: the same titled EP (1986) and the “Fire From Within” LP (1989), which soon will be re-released on Heaven And Hell Records. It seems that this re-release is kind of a new beginning for them, as you will read below, they didn’t said their last word yet. Ladies and gentleman: David Smith!
Hello David, how are you doing?!
Greeting Bart, I am doing well! Keeping out of trouble, living and breathing! Hey thanks for taking the time and for the interview!
Hey, my pleasure! “Strike While the Iron’s Hot” is a re-issue of the early Blacksmith material, I wonder, why didn’t you re-release that classic stuff earlier?
This opportunity came around at the right time, Jeremy Golden and Heaven and Hell Records clicked with me, and I felt he and the label were sincere and were good people to work with, I also felt Blacksmith would be well represented, with class and respect by Heaven And Hell. Over the years I have had a lot of interest from all over the world from different people and labels. I also noticed the Blacksmith stuff being bootlegged and being sold on Ebay and the internet? I wondered who and how this was being sold and distributed? I even bought copies for myself a few years ago, inquiring from the seller where this was coming from, with no answers. Jeremy has done a great job and has excellent attention to detail and a clear vision, the Heaven And Hell release will be special.
Why have you decided to use new title and new artwork? To be honest, I really like the “Fire From Within” original front cover picture…!
The new artwork is keeping with Heaven And Hell’s Relic Series. The new title was Jeremy’s idea, and the label commissioned a well know artist to create the artwork for the cover, pretty cool! I think it looks great and the label certainly had a vision of what they were looking for. I love the “Fire From Within” title and it is still represented in this package. I however never liked many aspects of the original cover; I hated the Blacksmith logo printed. I originally wanted our logo in chrome or silver letters, metallic looking. What we got was (in my opinion) letter and logo that looked like a Nestle’s Crunch bar (American candy bar) take a look, you will see what I mean. I unfortunately did not see this until the album / release was out. Also the face thing and eye’s on the cover was not what I wanted, more on that later…
One version of the “Strike While the Iron’s Hot” CD compilation will include bonus DVD disc, was it hard to restore this old material?
In terms of the restoration of the footage, Jeremy and Heaven And Hell Records did all that, and a great job I might add. I had hours and hours of footage of both the Heidi and Malcolm era’s of the band. I look at myself as the keeper of the flame for Blacksmith. I had everything stored away in my guitar vault all these years. One regret though, I have not been able to locate the very first Blacksmith concert which was filmed in 1984, I have not been able to find this one? The interesting thing about this show, was the band all wore garish white face, thinly applied along with blackened eyes for a very Gothic look. Hey, we were visually into W.A.S.P., Motley Crue, Overkill and early Kiss, at least in regard to visual at that point. Needless to say this was the first and only show we wore this stuff.
You guys started in 1984, did you play in other bands before? How do you remember the first rehearsals of Blacksmith?
Yes, Blacksmith did start in 1984, but the seeds of the band were sown a couple of years earlier, Heidi and I were in a short lived New York band called Tokyo Rose. We played mostly covers like Scorpions, Maiden, Priest, Riot, The Rods, etc. We had a few originals, I have a few Tokyo Rose photos and demos in the vault. I played in another pretty popular local band here in New York, while still in high school and into college. This band was called Dead End and we played heavy, fast really aggressive stuff. Dead End were known for their on stage destruction. We would destroy and explode televisions, break furniture and actually chew glass! We were kids and we wanted to be crazy. Musically we were a cross between The Ramones, Kiss and Van Halen. We so wanted to be Van Halen, but more Gothic and crazier. We played teen bars and millions of backyard and house parties around Albany NY. We destroyed many houses at these parties; we felt the show was not a success unless a huge fight or riot broke out, or if police were not involved. Crazy kids we were, the shit that went down was fucking unbelievable. The crowd would throw stuff and hand us things which we would then destroy while playing, radios, appliances, furniture, electronics, glass, anything! We were fucking nuts, fueled on hits of speed and straight gin. We dressed in fur coats, leather pants, wore black eye-liner, and motorcycle boots. Dead End was started by myself and my best friend Charlie Sex, interestingly enough future Blacksmith bassist Chris Madsen was also a member. We were all from a tough New York neighborhood called Port Schuyler, and we were all street rats, alcohol abusers and speed freaks. As the band got more professional, we started playing clubs. Our first real show was on Halloween night 1982 in Troy, NY. We opened for The Rods, right around the time of their first album, the one with “Power Lover”. Cool experience and great show. The Rods cleaned our clocks that night, I fucking love The Rods, I think Carl Canedy is one of the best drummers and Rock Fienstein is bad-ass! Anyway, Dead End led to me meeting Heidi and us forming Tokyo Rose and later Blacksmith. Heidi and I went to the same high school, I was a couple of years older, but we traveled in the same circles. After Dead End I had strange homeless period, Heidi and I developed a serious romantic relationship and we soon moved in together. Heidi got me off the streets and we began to mastermind the future Blacksmith. First rehearsal for Blacksmith was epic, Heidi and I had our shit together and Mike and Tommy kicked ass, we all knew what we wanted and we were all super aggressive and focused. We had a street gang mentality and a take no prisoners, fuck you attitude. First practice we knew we were onto something.
Did you record any demos before the self-titled EP from 1986?
Yes, Blacksmith recorded several demos in Schenectady NY at MCE studios with owner Mark Ernst. We recorded most of the songs you already know from the first EP and several other tracks like “Beware the Dog”, “Black Attack”, “Hell to Pay”, “Thrill of the Kill” which were among these demos.
The debut EP was a self-released, how many copies were made?
Originally 1000 copies were printed of the EP, I believe we ran another 1000 copies once we had distribution.
How did you distribute the EP back then?
Blacksmith hooked up with Important Records back in 1986. Important became Relativity Records, but at the time they had the pulse of the independent metal scene. Bands like Megadeth, Raven and Metallica were also coming out with distribution from Important. We also sold the EP at live shows, word of mouth and old school hustle.
Did you start as female fronted band, or did Heidi Black join you later?
Blacksmith started female fronted. Heidi was there from day one with me. I was very proud of her contributions to the female fronted metal movement and believe she would have been huge had she decided to remain as Blacksmith’s front person. Her mother was from Germany and would say “Heidi vill be bigger than Elvis”. Heidi was great! Heidi’s daughter is on her way in becoming a Metal musician and she should be proud of her mother, I know she is.
Why did she leave the band?
I don’t 100% know? Sometime around 1986 we broke up as a couple, but kept the band going, but like everything, things change. Heidi can certainly provide a more accurate reason why she left, be it her being sick of me and my shit, tired of the band and the music business, I don’t really know? We never really talked about it in any great length. It’s tough because we had a personal relationship before our involvement in music together, so there are several layers here, but again ancient history. I always wished her the best and did give her opportunity to work together again, would have loved to, but just has not happened.
How did you find the new vocalist, Malcolm Mania?
Malcolm was the singer, guitarist for a local band called Sinistar. I was introduced to him by a rock magazine writer and friend Sue Cohen. Through Sue I met both Malcolm and drummer Chris Caglione at the same time. We rehearsed once with new bassist and former Dead End member Chris Madsen. Session was fantastic, Malcolm had the high range vocals like Heidi and sang all and performed the old stuff great. Things clicked immediately, Blacksmith II was born. Interestingly enough the house we first got together and played that first time, burned down right after, thus immortalized in the song “House” off of “Fire From Within”.
Was the recording sessions of “Fire From Within” different, than recording sessions for the debut EP?
Yes, the “Fire From Within” sessions were totally professional, working with Tropical Records and Mark Avnet. Mark was from Hollywood producing and engineering bands like Leatherwolf, Megadeth and Poison. Leatherwolf was the first Tropical release. This was a real rock and roll studio with people working together as a team. The original EP was recorded in a converted church to recording studio, Cathedral Sound Studio in New York; very low budget and all band members with little experience. Although I must say we had a famous producer on the EP, Louis St. Louis who produced the John Travolta “Grease” album of the late 70s. St. Louis was brought in as a family favor to our drummer George Snyder.
Why did you decide to re-record some of the tracks from the debut EP for “Fire from Within”?
Most of the world had not heard these tracks yet. I spent years, sweat and blood developing these songs. I wrote the music and lyrics myself and was not about to lose great tunes to a quitters lineup! I looked at it, as this is Blacksmith’s first real album and real lineup for better or worse. Did I wish it was the original line up, yes at first, but I had no control over it and I needed to pick myself back up and forge ahead… And I certainly did.
Who is on the picture from the front of the “Fire From Within” LP?
Ah, the cover photo on “Fire From Within”; there are many stories and legends with this. All I can say is that the morning after the albums photo session, I woke up in the back of my pickup truck severely hung-over with black makeup all over my face, body and guitar? They say it was me? Though I cannot confirm or recall.
Haha, allright… “Fire From Within” was out on Tropical Records… How did you find, and sign with this label?
I answered an ad in the back of a music magazine, for a new label seeking artists. Blacksmith had a track record and the goods to deliver. Things moved quickly with Tropical, I felt a good vibe with the owner; Mark Avnet was a good man and became our manager. I trusted the label and did the deal. Tropical would get the product out worldwide and had good distribution through independent and major labels.
I suppose you were playing lot of live shows back in the day, which of them do you remember as the best, or the worse ones?
Tons of shows played… Heidi era – playing the Zoo Club in New Hampshire to outlaw bikers who were jacked on booze, drugs. Intense shows, packed to the rafters, guns, girls debauchery running rampant. We were actually held to the stage by gun point, we got into lots of trouble and were banned from every hotel in Manchester, NH. We loved every moment of it! Heidi era – We did a great show with Anvil in Albany NY, IN 1986. Great crowd, lots of fun. We just came of the road and this show was a cool homecoming. Heidi era – Burlington Civic Center – Arena show, big stage. This was the last show original Blacksmith I played. This show is actually on the DVD with “Strike While the Iron’s Hot”. Malcolm era – Transworld concert 1989 – full concert for fans, friends and music industry people, this was in broad daylight and raw (included in the Heaven and Hell release “Strike while the Iron is Hot”. This show kicked off “Fire From Within” tour, hometown and homegrown, great vibe and feeling… Malcolm era – Palace Theater, Albany NY. Major concert venue hometown. Same stage I saw bands on as a kid Kiss, Aerosmith, Black Sabbath, Blue Oyster Cult, AC/DC, Rush, UFO and Rainbow. This was the stage I always wanted to play on! Malcolm era – 1990 Concrete 5th Anniversary show in New York City. Sharing stage with many famous bands Skid Row, Extreme, Dangerous Toys, Britney Fox, Doro. Also MTV covered.
I heard you guys recorded 2nd full length album in 1990 but it was never released, is that true?
Yes, a second full album was recorded in 1990-91, was tentatively titled “Burn Down the Word” or “Time Out of Mind”. This was killer stuff we all wrote as a band from “Fire From Within”. release and beyond. In my opinion this was the best stuff Blacksmith had ever done. We recorded once again with Mark Avnet and Tropical Records. Around 1991 Tropical folded from finance and internal issues, leaving us to field offers from other labels. We were sitting on the best music of our career with no home. I had done an interview, with a German magazine (That’s Metal) several years ago, I gave the interviewer a cassette copy from these sessions for private usage, now I see Blacksmith “Time Out Of Mind” CDs for sale on the internet? Hopefully this record will come out with a proper release soon. Again this is the best stuff we ever did. We have been talking to H&H about this, and hopefully Jeremy will work with us on this!
Why did the band split up in 1991? What were you doing through all these years?
The band split with Malcolm in 1991, he had ongoing other musical interests and some leaning towards rap music; we were all heading in different directions musically. The core of Blacksmith myself, Chris Madsen and Chris Caglione stayed together and retooled, changed the direction and name of the band to Freaknation and recruited a new lead vocalist Will Foley. We wrote, recorded a whole new set of material. The vibes was very much in a heavier Black Crowes, Lenny Kravitz, Sabbath kind of thing. Gone were the high pitched vocals and replaced with a more earthy sound and attitude. We recorded, toured and eventually signed with Circumstantial / Relativity Sony records in 1995, putting out release “Achilles Mojo Fix” (you can find it on E bay and internet cheap, check it out, very cool!) Freaknation was active until late 1997. From 1998 to the present I have fronted David Smith and Bad Karma. Bad Karma is an ass kicking biker type band, playing all over. We had released an original CD titled “American Standard”. Bad Karma has played live and made more money than both Blacksmith or Freaknation, but certainly not achieved the cult status Blacksmith. I have been endorsed by Dean Guitars for the last nine years, and we did a new Blacksmith recording session a few years back. We did play around 2006 several Blacksmith shows as a three piece with me handling vocals along with my usual guitar duties. These new tracks sit in the can, Malcolm has just recently recorded new vocals and we hope to put out a brand new Blacksmith music release soon! Hopefully there will be interest.
How did this all come about and how has it led to Blacksmith’s return? What’s the current lineup of the band?
This all comes about from the initial contact from Jeremy Golden and Heaven and Hell Records. Jeremy communicated to me, he was a fan and Blacksmith was at the top of his wish list for the labels Lost Relics Series. One thing led to another and we have hit off a pretty cool relationship here. I like Jeremy’s spirit, honesty and humor, so it’s all good. I hope we continue and work together for a long time. I had some conversations with Heidi last year about working together and making some noise, pre -speaking with Heaven and Hell. She and I were trying to line something up. With my time schedule with Bad Karma and several other projects, and her schedule and life commitments, time was not our friend and nothing did come about? Once Heaven and Hell Records came into view, Heidi and agreed to make a go of it. Since then I have not heard a word from her either way? This was much like her original departure from the band; she disappeared without any word or communication to me? If this is with an issue with me personally, or lack of confidence or inability to sing or perform (remember, she has not sang professionally since 1987) lack of interest on her part, I do not know? It would have been nice out of courtesy and friendship on her part to communicate to me either way? Through the label Malcolm contacted me, and things clicked once again. Much of Blacksmith’s success was with the Mark II line up with Malcolm fronting. This was really the bands most recognized and famous period, so I think things worked out the way they were supposed to. Blacksmith is once again active recording, playing live and writing music. David Smith – guitar, Malcolm Mania Lovegrove – lead vocals, Chris Caglione – drums and John Dodge – bass. Three original members from “Fire from Within” era, and John Dodge the last recording and touring bassist for Blacksmith. We are excited with the release and opportunity of the Heaven and Hell Records “Strike While the Iron’s Hot CD and DVD package. We hope the unreleased “Burn Down The World / Time Out Of Mind” sees the light of day. We are looking forward to putting out the new tracks recorded as a new Blacksmith music release. Fan support has been great and we are looking at some European and U.S metal festival dates. We really have our fingers crossed with a certain festival booking in Germany in 2012. Hopefully you can see us on stage and hear our new music soon! Please check out Heaven and Hell Record’s “Strike while the Iron’s Hot” CD and DVD. Thanks for opportunity to speak to you and your readers. God bless all! Cheers!
Thank you for this amazing interview, it was a pleasure!
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