Maelstrom: Long Island Cult Metallers Are Finally Getting Their Due
After many years away, Maelstrom vocalist Gary Vosagnian and guitarist Joey Lodes announced that they would be resurrecting the project with the fittingly entitled EP, It Was Predestined. Now signed to Itchy Metal Entertainment, Maelstrom officially released the Tue Madsen-mixed (The Haunted, Dark Tranquility) EP back in October and have their sights set on a busy 2013.
Noisecreep caught up with Vosagnian to get the scoop on the band's history and what they have up their sleeves for the coming year.
There was never a band that truly broke big from the Long Island metal scene that spawned Maelstrom. Why do you think that is?
Carlos, I would first love to say thank you for this interview and your support through the years, Maelstrom considers you a great ally and truly appreciate everything you have done for us.
With respect to our original local Long Island scene, I am sadly not totally sure why none of the bands really broke out big. Within our scene, we played fairly regularly at multiple small and medium-sized rooms including the Sundance, Reds and most often a small club called February's later to be re-named as HammerHeds. That club, owned by the late great Gasper, was sort of a ground zero for many of us young aspiring metal acts. Twisted Sister played there in the early '80s as did, I believe, Dream Theater on occasion, probably as Majesty at that point.
I will say there were some bands to come out of it with some more notoriety and the occasional deal did happen. Coldsteel got a deal with Turbo Music in Germany for the Freakboy album, and Apparition after somewhat abandoning their thrash beginnings and embracing more of a death metal vibe and renaming themselves Sorrow, wound up with a deal on Roadrunner. Winter gained a sort of cult-like status for their glacial-like velocity.
In my opinion, timing played a huge part in everyone's fate from that scene. The bands who played thrash or traditional metal began to fade a bit as death metal really took hold, and ultimately the scene itself began to succumb to grunge. Members got frustrated, tastes changed and labels who were still seeking heavy material were looking for the next Morbid Angel. Therefore Suffocation (though from a bit further east out on Long Island) really came out of it the strongest as well as truly heralding in a new level of extreme that many of the rest of us just were not doing. And that seemed to be the way the tides were turning back then.
If I had it to do all over again, I would say if there was a mistake that was made, it was more about something we did not do. Perhaps the three bigger bands at that time (Maelstrom, Coldsteel and Kronin) should have all hopped in a couple of vans and toured together for a few months, that might have made the difference for all of us.
Let's talk about the influences that everyone in the original lineup of Maelstrom shared. I always use Sabbat as a reference point when talking about Maelstrom.
And that you should! Sabbat was a huge huge influence of mine, Martin Walkyier's vocal style and lyrical ability played a big part in the development of my own style and in the fact that I began to truly look at lyrics as an art form, no one wrote like that man, then nor now. The rest of the band dug on Sabbat that is for sure, but our influences were much more varied. We all loved multiple styles of metal, as well as other forms of music, especially classical, what we wanted to do was create a type of band that had some thrash elements but really showcase more budding musical talent. We all sort of looked at Testament as a great example of a really talent driven thrash band but we sort of dug more on the harsher vocals of other bands of the day namely Kreator, so Maelstrom's intial sound forging started as an idea to be a bit like Testament with Mille [Petrozza, Kreator vocalist/guitarist] singing.
Did your second demo, 1991's This Battle to Make History, Yet History Never Comes, get a lot of love on the tape-trading scene? I do remember reading some great reviews at the time in some of the magazines of the day.
That second demo I would say really blew us up in the tape trading and zine underground. It got a lot of great press and was very much responsible for Maelstrom spreading beyond domestic borders. Yes, I would say the love was certainly there – it got some decent underground radio play, and even charted in Metal Forces readers demo chart . Not an easy feat when you consider people had to write in, lick a stamp and spend their time and money to vote for you. I think we debuted at 14 and hit as high as 4 on that one. We had some great help back then from Richard Campos of Wild Rags Records, he had a killer zine list which we traded for our fan mailing list, he gave us some great advice about mailings and things then took off from there. Many zines put our whole bio right into their mag, they put our flyers and adverts in their mailings and their zines. I also wrote a one sheet about the local scene and featured different LI bands in it each time as well as our selves, and many zines ran that for us as well.
Why do you think you couldn't land a deal with one of the metal indies after the demo came out? Did you tour at all or play outside of Long Island then?
I believe the reasons for us not being able to land a deal after the demo came out was primarily timing, as I had mentioned the Scene was changing over to Seattle grunge, or extreme death metal, we did not fit either of those. Additionally, we have been called ahead of our time before even with respects to this latest recording of It Was Predestined and that is rather interesting to me as the songs you are hearing are re-tooled versions of what we put out 23 years ago, so perhaps we were way ahead of our time back then.
I also believe that not touring on our own hurt us for sure. Also, quite possibly, I had too difficult a time giving up levels of control, be it to potential management or to others that might have helped us further ourselves along. We did not push all that hard on the labels doors either, due in part to lack of connections and in part to lack of balls.
The band broke up in the early '90s, but a few years back, you and Joe came out of nowhere again and announced the return of Maelstrom. What brought on the reunion?
Joey and I had remained best friends through Maelstrom's breakup and had even been in business together on several other ventures. As I was talking with him one night I said, "you know of all the things I have tried before, some that worked some that did not, I really miss Maelstrom the most." We both talked about how we felt Maelstrom was a piece of un-finished business in our lives, both individually and together. The regret we had for never seeing through at the very least the full length album that the demos would have ultimately represented. And the very real need to express ourselves creatively through the project we started when we were teens.
The seeds to do it again were planted that night, it has been a long difficult process from that night to this one, and we still have more to go, But I can finally see some light at the end of the tunnel and can hear the album in my head. I recall reading and sharing with Joe an article on a web site by an old friend and tape trader named Roman (You can find his review Maelstrom's second demo here under 'kult demos' section). His review was an impetus in putting Maelstrom back together to finish off the vision we once had for it.
Now that the Tue Madsen-version of It Was Predestined is out for everyone to check out, what is the game plan for the band? Tell us about the record deal you recently announced.
The game plan for Maelstrom on the short term is to do a radio campaign for It Was Predestined with Munsey of Skateboard Marketing and really try to work with our new label, Itchy Metal Entertainment, to move forward the band, the EP, and their label itself. We are also working with the label on obtaining some endorsements and are currently teamed with the guys at Clawhammer PR on the press end of things. The longer term plan is to build toward the ultimate goal of the full length album which Joey and I will finally release, after all these years.
We will probably do a Kickstarter campaign to help us a bit and also have some plans on releasing a cover as a single which would probably be picked up by Itchy Metal as well. A gentleman named Ed Fassio, who I have had the pleasure of knowing a little over a year now, runs it. We began talking after I read an article on the label's business model and was intrigued, I contacted him through Facebook and we began a year long dialog before we actually signed on board in May 2012.
I know Joe is in the medical field, so I'm guessing you won't be touring anytime soon.
Touring is tough, between family and commitments to careers, what we really are hoping to do are after the album, set up some really good select shows. A goal has always to been to preform on a festival so that would certainly be something we would do if the opportunity presented itself. I see something like 70000 Tons of Metal as a perfect forum for Maelstrom. In the future we foresee Maelstrom as playing select well thought out meaningful shows as opposed to a full touring situation. A mini tour opening for the right headliner would also be something we would certainly entertain. We would absolutely love the opportunity to bring Maelstrom to a live audience it just has to make sense within the lives we keep.
Head over to Itchy Metal Entertainment to download Maelstrom's It Was Predestined EP!