Exciter - John Ricci

Exciter - John Ricci

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METAL KAOZ got the chance to talk with John Ricci from the legendary Speed/Thrasher EXCITER and even if this will sound cheesy I just have to say how down-to-earth person he is. This was a most friendly discussion that took place a week after the excellent EXCITER show in Chicago and I have to admit it was like talking to a friend. His honesty was disarming and I am sure everyone will appreciate this. Long Live The Loud!

Hey John, it’s really nice talking to you again! How are you this fine evening?
I feel great Dimitris, it’s great to talk to you again.

How did you find the show in Chicago, did you like it?
I thought it was fantastic and also the organizer treated us really well. The idea to organize this show belonged to Chicago Jay and he basically recommended EXCITER to Reggies. And I am really happy he did, since it went great and we got the chance to meet the fans in the Chicago area.

Did you think to book more live dates while in the US?
EXCITER have a new management, Jeff Keller Management who is based in Sacramento, California. He also manages DESTRUCTION, RAVEN and an American band called BLACK AND BLUE; anyway, he contacted us and basically wants to make EXCITER more active in the States. After all, EXCITER play more overseas and less in the US. So, he wants to increase our shows in the US for 2012.

That’s great! Are you talking about a headlining tour for next year?
I don’t think it’s gonna be a long tour; we may do two or three one-off shows... Personally I am not ready to go on a full scale tour. I have done that back in the 80s, but now I am not going to do that, unless the money is good enough.

Yeah, I know exactly what you are saying. The band has to survive economically.
Exactly. Everything is different now and based on money and expenses. So, the plan is to book some dates in the East coast, like New York, Boston, Chicago and see how it will go. If those shows go well, then we will increase the number of shows.

After all, the US audience is more into the mainstream music and doesn’t pay that much attention to the old-school sound.
Yeah, the old-school sound is not that popular in the US as it is in Europe. It seems that North America is more trendy. So, we do have a limited appeal. On the other hand, I’ve always thought that EXCITER had something unique to offer and we are not like any other Metal band. We are just as good as any other successful band out there and we have the talent and the potential to conquer the Metal scene.

Yeah, but talking about potential after all these years… I think EXCITER have proven themselves.
(laughs) I know what you are saying; personally I don’t have something to prove; I just want to play music and hope that people will like it.

So, in the context to boost EXCITER’s publicity, do you have in mind to release something new for the new year?
Well, we are currently writing new songs and we are hoping to have something ready for next year. But this is probably going to happen late in 2012. In fact, we are starting to work on new music for the next record.

Do you have any songs that you could say are almost ready?
Well, we only have three songs but they are in the very early stage. There are some very strong riffs. When I write ideas for new music, I present them to the band and then we jam together. If that something sounds good and it feels right, then we keep it. So, we may write 15 songs and then only keep 10, you know?

After all, EXCITER is a riff-based band, right?
Exactly and I don’t like to have filler songs in an album. I want everything to feel strong and I am happy to say that we keep 99% of the riffs that I write.

Does this also mean that you have the first and the final word about the songs?
I do, but everyone has an input. If I feel strong about a song and the rest of the band hates it, then we won’t do it. I don’t want the guys in the band to be unhappy because they have to play with me onstage. Those guys are participants in my vision and my dream for EXCITER.

You used the word ‘dream’ for EXCITER; does this mean that it feels like a dream and that the band has not yet accomplished what you have in mind?
Well, EXCITER have toured around the world, have been in magazine covers, have done interviews... but we still don’t have the big success like METALLICA, MEGADETH, or SLAYER since we missed the opportunities in the 80s. So, I have a level of frustration because of that. I think we have to offer the same things as the bands I just mentioned. I am content where we are now, but I just wish we had a higher profile.

Do you think that the lineup changes and the time that the band was in hiatus had something to do with this?
You are exactly right! All these, slowed down the band and everything came from the personalities; it is really hard to find musicians to get along with all the time. I don’t think I am a hard guy to get along with, but I do have a vision for this band. And sometimes when a new member comes in the band, shares the same vision, but after a while changes his mind and wants different things. I don’t want to change the band’s style and I want to keep it the way it is. So, I am not that open into new ideas. But you are 100% right, Dimitris: all those lineup changes and break-ups were the cause for this; people just forget about you. Since 1996 I have been trying to re-build the band’s profile again without the original members. And that was a real hard task but I also think that in the process we got some new fans. I think we are in the right track and we just have to go with it!

You said about a specific style that EXCITER have in the music; does this also mean that when you write music, you have in mind how you want to sound like? Do you work with a specific music direction?
Yes, I follow a formula when I write songs.

Can this be a little restrictive? Is this something like playing it safe?
(laughs) Well, that's exactly what I am doing; playing it safe. I like to stay in the path and follow the EXCITER formula from the 80s. And I am not ashamed to admit that because this works with the band that has always been about speed and intensity. So, that’s how I write the riffs every single time.

Some fans believe that a band should quit if it loses the original lineup; what do you think about this?
When a band changes lineup, it will never sound like the original, no matter what. And why would I want to sound like the original? I mean, sometimes it’s best to move on and keep doing what you are known for. But when you have new musicians in the band, the chemistry and the sound change. I know some people who believe that without Dan Beehler in the lineup, EXCITER is not the same band, but personally I don’t really care. After all, without Dan Beehler on the vocals, EXCITER cannot sound like the original and that’s the way it is. The band has to move on. Dan and I haven’t worked together since 1993 and you know, we are still friends, although we don’t really talk. He is doing his project now and I have been with EXCITER for many years and that’s it. I just want to do my own thing and be left alone. For fans who like this, it’s really great, but for the ones who don’t, I cannot do something; it’s their decision.

After all, it’s your band and not ours, so you are calling the shots. Let’s move on; in a recent interview of yours I read that there will be some EXCITER references in the new Tom Cruise movie “Rock Of Ages”.
Earlier this summer we got contacted by Warner Brothers from Hollywood and one person who is affiliated with the movie and he is a big EXCITER fan asked us if they could use the band’s name as a background theme in this Tom Cruise movie that is based on the Broadway show. There will be two scenes in the movie; the first one EXCITER name will be on the marquee sign outside a venue saying EXCITER sold out show and in the second there will be a poster of the “Heavy Metal Maniac” album that will be appear inside a venue.

So, they won’t use EXCITER music on the movie soundtrack?
No, it will be just the band’s name appearing for a few seconds on the background. So, they needed our consent for this and I think this movie will be out in the summer of 2012.

All the EXCITER fans should be checking that movie, I guess…
(laughs) Yeah, I have to go to see the movie too.

Is difficult for the band to work with Kenny Winter who is living in Brooklyn, New York?
In 2006 Kenny came to our city for the auditions and his vocals blew us away. And then, we started thinking how this would work with him living hours away from Ottawa. So, we decided that this would be possible if he was willingly to come to Canada once every couple of months and rehearse with us. And it has been working very well from that day. Sometimes we don’t get a chance to rehearse with him like it happened earlier this year when we did a South American tour. We just met in Buenos Aires before the show and then we played Santiago and Sao Paulo without rehearsing with Kenny. We are competent musicians and talented enough that we can pull something like that off. Three weeks before the Chicago show, Kenny came to Ottawa and rehearsed with us and it went great. Unfortunately, he caught the flu before the show, but even in that state he did a great job!

Yeah, I think he did.
He did really well! I didn’t push him because he said to me before the show: (with a changed voice) “Look John, don’t push me ok? Don’t push me!” and I said, Kenny don’t worry about it, do what you can!”

Did you change the setlist to leave out songs that Kenny would have a hard time to sing?
The only song we took out was “Rot The Devil King” from the “Thrash, Speed, Burn” album because he asked. And that’s the only song we did not play. I have to say that I was so happy watching the fans reacting to our newer songs like “Evil Omen” or “Slaughtered In Vain”. It’s great to see young fans sing the lyrics of new EXCITER songs, because it means that we are on the right track.

We talked about this before the show and I was surprised when you said that it’s pretty rough for the Metal bands in Canada.
There is not much Metal here. I mean, in every show the attendance is very poor. Generally speaking, the support from the industry is not good in Canada. Everybody has to go to the US or travel overseas and that’s the way it is. The biggest Metal market is in the province of Quebec like Montreal and Quebec city. For example, the French kids in Quebec love Metal and you can simply forget about the rest of Canada. When big Metal bands tour across Canada, they usually play Montreal and Toronto and they skip over Ottawa (laughs).

So, what about Europe? What are your touring plans?
Well, we have signed with ITM Agency and we are planning to go to Europe sometime after March 2012. We just got an offer to play live in our hometown with VOIVOD and this will be in February. We have accepted the offer and now we are waiting for the confirmation. And that will be our first gig for 2012 and after that, we're going to plan for the rest of our days. We are currently planning everything, so there is not much to tell you.

Yeah, I understand this. Are you still signed with Massacre Records?
Yes, we have an album-to-album deal, so the next one will be also in Massacre. And they are working with our manager to get a domestic distribution (in the US), so the new album will not have to be an import.

Well, Jon I’ve made all the question I had planned, so if there is something else, please feel free to add it now.
I just want to say that I appreciate all the fans around the world and we like to meet and talk to them before a show. Just like you saw us doing in Chicago and in Athens, Greece. We like to watch the supporting bands and talk to the fans. We are real people, you know? I really don’t understand how all these bands can stay in the dressing room and not even make an effort to come out and say ‘hello’ to the fans. We are not like that, even in big festivals like ‘Bang Your Head’ or ‘Wacken’; we want to be out in the open and part of the audience. We want fans to come and talk to us for whatever topic they like. It’s like paying the fans back for the dedication to EXCITER.