Exclusive Interviews Only Found Here at MetalCore!
Recently after going to my PO BOX to get my mail I see that I got a package
from Saddle Brook, NJ and when I opened up the package and I saw the name Midian
my eyes lit up big time and as I opened up the CD case and began to look at
the packaging and the booklet I ran over and popped in disc # 1 and soon I was
head banging to some good ole NJ thrash from back in the day. Soon after I got
in touch with Chris Hawkins from Midian/Mercenari and emailed him off an interview
and here is what he said to my questions and the bands double disc of material
is not to be missed:
MC: You recently sent me a double disc of Midian/Mercenari material that I loved and was put out by AreaDeath Productions. How did this release come out and were you at all surprised that somebody wanted to re-issue your material on CD? What steps actually led to this happening and has anybody in the past ever wanted to do something like this?
CH: Let me tell you Chris...I was very surprised. I'm still amazed how this all came together. Well how it originally started was, a label in Russia wanted to put this out a year before. Looked at the contract, did a background check on the label. Everything looked good and was ready to go. But the person that ran the label moved and the label from what I was told fell apart. I was so disappointed because before that I was going to put the CD out myself, but it was too expensive, so I bagged the project. So I was back to square one. I was bummed.....UNTIL!! Weeks later, a friend mentioned to me about Area Death Productions (Thanks Erwin). Wrote an email to see if the label might be interested in putting the Midian CD out. Few days later, one of the guys at the label (hi Filippo) got back to me and said yes. I was like "Finally" ha ha. Thanks Area Death!!! Death!!!
MC: Was it hard for you to gather all the material for this double disc and how long did it take you to gather up all this material and were any of the other band members involved in this?
CH: Not really...I had everything here at home, so it didn't take long at all. I'm a archiver Chris. I save everything. Had a tub filled with photos, old flyers and zines including some of your old issues lol. The other members didn't have anything to contribute like any photos or flyers or anything like that. I had their support of the project which meant a lot to me.
MC: Now there are 8 different parts within the the 2 discs. Tell me a little bit about each part and what emotions were going through your mind as you listened to some of this stuff? Are you proud of all your work within the 2 bands?
CH: The first part of Disc 1 is the debut Midian demo "The Last War" from 1990. That's my favorite recording. Next we have the second Midian demo "First Impressions" which we didn't release to the public. We recorded that demo to give to record labels. But of course nothing panned out. Next we have the unreleased demo which we recorded at The Institute Of Audio
Research in NYC back in the summer of 1991. A bit of a train wreck sound wise, but it's cool to listen too. Very raw and fast. Then to close out Disc 1, is the Mercenari 1989 demo version 2 with Dean Martinetti on vocals. A few months before Dean left his old thrash band Parasyte to join Mercenari. Now for Disc 2. It starts with the Mercenari 1989 demo version 1 with Alex Guider. This is my favorite of the two versions. Alex did a great job on the vocals. The version with Dean was rushed. We wanted to get him into the studio ASAP to record his vocals. We didn't give him proper time to learn the lyrics and work with them, and it shows on the recording. Next are some rare rehearsal tracks recorded at various band practices. The song "Out Of Reach" was never recorded on any Midian demo. That song was written by our old bassist Gregg Moench. He left the band a few months later, and the song left with him. After that is the live board recording from one of our gigs. Was recorded at a roller rink called The Live Wire in PA. I remember that this gig was a battle of the bands contest. We lost to a hair metal band. Later we found out that one of the judges was the brother of the band that won. Can anyone say RIGGED!!!!! And as a bonus there are some live videos from our 1990 gig at Escapdes a local club in Jersey City, NJ. That was a great gig. Listening back to all this music puts a smile on my face. Brought back some good memories, and some bad. It's still mind blowing how fast and technical the band was. The guys in the band are real proud of the CD too.
MC: For those who don't know, who came first, Midian or Mercenari and what led to the break up of the 1st band and what led to the forming of the 2nd band and what lead to the break up of the 2nd band?
CH: Mercenari came first in 1989. Then after a few line up changes we decided to go for a heavier thrash sound, so with that we changed the name to Midian. Plus there were a few other Mercenary's floating around and we didn't want to be
confused with those bands. The name Midian definitely fit us. Midian broke up in early 1992 mostly because of grunge!! It was the new thing at the time. Clubs no longer wanted to book metal/thrash bands. Labels passed on us...it wasn't going anywhere. We were frustrated and we still want to keep it going. So we discussed about going for a new musical direction. We went for a groove metal sound like Prong, Pro-Pain...bands like that. With that, we changed the band's name yet again to Facing God. We recorded on demo in 1992.
MC: After the 2nd band broke up what did you and some of the other members go and do and are you still involved in music at all?
CH: Arnold Marfoglia (guitar), Kevin Finnen (guitar), and I went on to form Facing God. Dean Martinetti (vocals) and Tom Peluso (bass) left Midian. Yes...I'm still involved in music .Played in a few bands over the years like Gomez's Childhood (hardcore), Child (nu-metal), The Binary Code (technical death metal). I've been busy. In fact I'm reforming Midian with all new members. I have the singer and guitarists. All I need is a bassist, then we're ready to go.
MC: The material on the 2 discs, did you re-mix any of it? Did you have the actual masters or did you dub the stuff off good quality tapes?
CH: "The Last War" was remixed, "First Impressions' was mastered. Could remix it cause the reels are missing. Everything else was remastered by "Clearcut Studios", "Sound Investments" and the label. Yes I had the masters for all the recordings. The rehearsal stuff, and the live board recording I had on cassette. My friend Max at Clearcut Studios helped me clean
up those recordings.
MC: How fun was it for you going through all your material and putting together the lyrics and stuff and the finished product are you happy with it?
CH: Very much. It went far beyond my expectations. Everyone at the label, everyone at the studios that helped me master, remix the music did a fantastic job. This CD made my year. Fans of this type of music is going to enjoy the CD....hopefully. Yes it was fun going through all the materials. Had fun reading all the old metal fanzines and all the reviews....good and bad ha ha. Saved every letter the band received from all over the world. Reading some of those letters was a real hoot. I have so much stuff, it's crazy.
MC: I reviewed you guys way back in the day when my zine was a paper zine. Did you feel at the time most of the reviews were fair or unfair and did most of the reviews focus on the vocals?
CH: It was 50/50 Chris. And yes, most of the time, the reviews centered around Dean's/Alex's vocals. Back then....that was important. If you had a great singer, whether the music was average, band's would get positive reviews. That's how it was. In our case, the reviews were really good, or really bad. Very few so so's.
MC: Tell me about some of the shows you played back in the day? Who did you share the stage with and what was the farthest you played away from NJ? What was your favorite show you played and how wild were shows back then?
CH: Oh man lol!!! We played some amazing shows, We played mostly in NJ, in the Poughkeepsie NY area, and in the Scranton, PA area. That's it. No U.S. tour at all. Some of the bands we played with were: Ripping Corpse, Mucky Pup, Biohazard, Jersey Dogs, Gothic Slam, Tony Macalpine, Revenant, Wrathchild America, but the big show is when we opened for Pantera in 1991. That was a show. Met all the guys in the band. Everyone was super cool. That's also my favorite gig personally. The gigs did get crazy when there was a good crowd. Moshing galore lol.
MC: Did you ever get to play Lamour's and if you did not, did you like I, go up and there and see some classic shows back in the 80's and early 90's?
CH: No...Midian never played at Lamour's in Brooklyn or the other one. Hell yes I've seen some killer shows there. Saw Carnivore, Hades, Flotsam & Jetsam, Anthrax. Those were the days Chris. I'd wish that place would come back. I know they had a location in Staten Island for a while, but it didn't compare to the one in Brooklyn. BRING IT BACK!!!!
MC: I know you have a My Space page. How has the response to that been and have you reconnected with some old fans, bands from back in the day and do you think if the band had the internet and all the technology of today that you and other bands might have become more popular?
CH: The response for "Thrashology" is going well. More overseas than here in the U.S. I've reconnected with a few people from back in the day thanks to Myspace and Facebook. Reconnected with some old band mates as well. I told them about the CD. Sent them copies and they're digging it. Oh yeah...if Myspace was around back in the 80's...forget it...band's would have a bigger fan base, plus the bands would be able to sell more copies of their demos, eps, lps. But honestly, I do miss the days of tape trading. Couldn't wait to get a tape in the mail from bands that I wrote too.
MC: Was there every any label interest back in the day and is any of your stuff on vinyl or did anybody ever bootleg any of your stuff at all that you have seen? Did the band ever appear on any compilations at all?
CH: Nope. No label took interest in Midian. I did hear a story from my guitarist Arnold, that Monte Conner (Roadrunner) was interested. But only if we got rid of Dean and found a new singer with more of an aggressive voice. That was the time Roadrunner was signing all the up and coming death metal bands like Obituary, Deicide, Malevolent Creation. So we knew that wouldn't work out. Dean at the time was a very good frontman and singer. To replace him with a person that grunts just to get signed was ridiculous. No. never. No Midian bootlegs out there. I would know if there was. The only compilations that Midian appeared on were "The Population Won't Care" put out by After World Records. Also "Best Of The Underground" by Psychoslaughter Fanzine from PA. And "Underground Assault" put out by Urban Warfare Productions. That's it.
MC: Over the years did you ever see any of your stuff being sold like on Ebay etc?
CH: Yes I did. Saw someone selling a copy of "The Last War" on cassette. I laughed when I saw that. That was some time ago.
MC: What was the biggest magazine/fanzine that you got a review in?
CH: Rock Hard Magazine from Germany. And we got a great review thank God ha ha.
MC: Do you still have master copies of all your demos and fanzine reviews buried somewhere?
CH: Damn skippy!! Like I said, I'm a pack rat. I save everything lol.
MC: What were some of the cool record stores you went to in NJ and shopped for metal?
CH: Well I went to and still go to Music Connection in Elmwood Park, NJ. Cool little metal shop. But the big one is Vintage Vinyl in Fords, NJ. That's my favorite record store. Lots of metal, DVD's you name it they got it. And if not, they can order it. By the way, you just reminded me, I have to drop off some Midian CD's there. NICE!! You know any good places Chris? (I go to Vintage Vinyl all the time as well. Itís the best-cf)
MC: Back in the day how much time was spent on doing band related stuff and do people ever laugh or chuckle when you tell them you used to receive fan mail and actual letters since that is kind of a dead thing now with email and stuff? Did the mailman ever look at you funny with all the mail coming to your house or when you went to mail stuff? What was the farthest place you ever got mail from?
CH: I spent a lot of time doing band stuff. Whether it was writing letters, mailing out tapes, doing interviews....that was the fun part of my day. Couldn't wait to get home from work to see what came in the mail for me. Nah...the mailman never gave me any funny looks or anything. In this town the mailmen or mail ladies constantly rotate, so almost everyday it was a new person. But nothing crazy. The guys in the band are amazed that I saved everything. Once in a while someone will ask if I can make a copy of a certain interview or flyer. It's cool. I'm like the metal librarian ha ha!!! The farthest place that I got mail from was from New Zealand, and also from Japan.
MC: Is there any videos floating around on the net of either band and did you think you were a good live band and did you ever do any covers live?
CH: I posted some Midian live clips on my Youtube page. Some of them are on the "Thrashology" CD. I still have some Mercenari/Midian videos I have to convert to DVD. That's another project. Then I'll post them on my Youtube page which is: /www.youtube.com/spaungod I thought we were a good live band. Played very fast, but we were a tight group. We did play a few covers. I remember doing an Overkill song "In Union We Stand". We did Testament covers like "Raging Waters". We played "War Ensemble" by Slayer. I have a video on my Youtube page of Midian playing that song. Check it out.
MC: Looking back what are some things you wish you had done differently bandwise?
CH: Well for one thing we should've had management. I bet if we had proper management, we could've gotten a lot further then we did. We took care of things ourselves which was foolish. We were young, proud, naive men who thought we could've handled all our business affairs. Then looked what happened lol.
MC: How did a song come together and were lyrics important to the band and what did you parents think of you playing in a thrash metal band?
CH: Well from what I remember, Arnold (guitar), or OJ (guitar) would make riff tapes and give them to all of us to start working on our parts. Then we would come to rehearsal and work on the material. The music that took the longest to compose, was the songs on "First Impressions", our second demo. At that time, we were rehearsing in upstate NY in this big house. 3 guys in the band lived there. On the weekends, Arnold and I would travel from NJ to NY. That's the only time we could rehearse. It was rough, and it took months to write the material. Before that, we used to rehearse in my basement. Everyone lived in NJ, so it was easier. The lyrics were very important. Dean was a damn good lyricist. He came up with great concepts. His best work was definitely on "First Impressions'. The lyrics for "Candy From A Stranger" are sick. I wish I had the lyrics for that recording. Dean tells me he has them someplace lol. I'll get them some day. My parents didn't mind me playing in a thrash band. It kept me out of trouble. HELL...they let the band rehearse in the basement for a time ha ha.
MC: What was the first underground band you heard and what led to you wanting to be in a band?
CH: First underground band as far as tape trading or reading about in a fanzine? Let's see...Adonis from California was one. Crionic from Denmark was another. It's been a while; I'm trying to remember. It's been so long. At that time I was already into Venom, Possessed, Metallica, Slayer, Bathory..all the good stuff. Watching Led Zeppelin's "The Song Remains The Same" made me want to play in a band. Watching John Bonham play those drums.....DAMN!! Then I saw Iron Maiden "Live After Death" on MTV. That was it for me as well. I decided I wanted to play metal after I saw that concert. Most definitely!!!
MC: Don't you miss the days of dubbing 60 min TDK tapes and sending them out to fanzines etc?
CH: Fuck no lol!!! It was too time consuming. Sitting in my room for hours recording demo tapes....hell with that ha ha!!! Sending tapes to fanzines I miss. Those were the days right?
MC: How did you come up with the cover for the double disc?
CH. My friend and fellow drummer Kevin Standler helped me with the cover. I wanted a cover that was shocking, depressing yet realistic. The lyrics for the song "The Last War" popped in my head and I was like "that's it"!!! So Kevin and I looked for war photos. Had to make sure that the photos were public domain so we wouldn't get sued. Found some good ones. The homeless Vietnam veteran photo really depressed me. Plus the photo of the soldier weeping over another soldier's grave was depressing as well. The cover came out very well. It was exactly what I wanted.
MC: Have you gone and seen many shows lately and does it in some way amaze you that bands like Slayer, Anthrax, Exodus etc are still going strong?
CH: Haven't been to any shows lately. Waiting for the Overkill/Forbidden gig at Starland Ballroom this November. Can't miss that one. (I will be there too-chris) Seeing Forbidden is a must. I'm very happy that bands like Exodus, Anthrax, Overkill are still going. That proves it, that thrash metal will not die lol!! I'm also happy that some thrash bands have gotten back together to put out great albums like Sacrifice, Heathen, Artillery, Believer. I love it.
MC: What do you think sort of killed thrash metal in the early 90's and what do you think of this new generation of thrash bands such as Gama Bomb, Bonded By Blood, Warbringer, etc?
CH: Like I said before...thrash will not die, and because of these bands you mentioned, it will go on and on and inspire a new generation of thrash fans and new bands. Well...what I feel killed off thrash metal in the early 90's was grunge. Fewer clubs were booking heavy bands. Labels, radio stations, magazines lost interest in the thrash genre. That's what happened to Midian. No labels wanted to sign us. Some clubs refused to let us play. It was a bad time.
MC: Where can fans pick up the CD and I know you only printed up a 1000, but if the demand is great enough will more copies be pressed?
CH: You can buy the CD through me. Prices are $10 (US/Canada), $15 (worldwide). You can email me or contact me on Myspace. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org. The Midian Myspace page: http://www.myspace.com/midianthrashnj" I hope the label does print more copies. Have only a few left and need more. That's in the works at the moment.
MC: Is there any shot of the band doing any type of re-union show at all?
CH: Yes and no. Yes...I'm getting Midian back together. No...it will be with all new members. None of the original members will participate. No one has the time to do it, so I had to find new members. Found some great musicians. All we need is a bassist. When I get the line up complete, I'll make the announcement.
MC: Do you still remember a lot of the names of zines that you sent your demos to and how in the world did you still know I was doing Metal Core and I see you still live in Saddle Brook, NJ. What is it like living in Saddle Brook and is there any cool metal stores up that way worth checking out?
CH..It's funny on how I can remember such things, and I can't even remember what I had for dinner the night before lol. Call it selective thinking ha ha!!! Let's see. Some of the zines that gave us great reviews was of course Metal Core, Eternal Darkness (AZ), Metal Curse (OH),
Stifneck (CAN), Unchain The Underground (NY), Heavy Metal Newsletter (Netherlands). I still have everything stored in my crawl space in one of those climate controlled tubs. Letters, zines, photos...you name it. I found you on Myspace, and read you were still writing for Metal Core. So I figured I'd surprise you , and send the Midian CD to you for a review. Bet you were like "What the hell" ha ha!!! I'm proud of you Chris. For keeping Metal Core going after all these years. May you be around for a long time. Yep..I still live in Saddle Brook. It's a quiet suburban town. Not too many metalheads, but it's home. The only record store by me that caters to metal is Music Connections in Elmwood Park. That's the next town over. Has a great selection and tons of metal t-shirts. The number is 201-797-5212
MC: Plug any websites you have and any merchandise you have.
CH: Yep...the Midian Myspace page: http://www.myspace.com/midianthrashnj
My youtube page: http://www.youtube.com/spaungod You can see my drum videos, and
Midian live clips Once again, you can buy the "Thrashology" CD through me.
Prices again are: $10 (US/Canada), $15 (worldwide) If you want a copy, email me at: email@example.com or contact me on the Midian Myspace page. ALSO...I gave private drum lessons. You can email me for rates and info.
MC: Chris thanks a million for sending me the double disc as it brought me back many memories and horns up for answering these questions and any last words the floor is yours? Please keep in touch my friend.
CH: Cool man...thanks Chris. Glad you enjoyed the CD. Thanks for the interview. It reminds me of the old days. Keep Metal Core going!!! You got my support. Old school thrashers like us got to stick together lol!!! We want to thank all of the Midian supporters old and new, our friends and family. Thanks of the undying support. It's amazing 20 years later, the interest in Midian is still there.