Catching Up With Brian Korban of Heretic
Let’s talk about the brand new Heretic box set from Metal Blade Records From the Vault…Tortured and Broken. It must be very satisfying to finally have your original EP Torture Knows No Boundary (1986) and first full length album Breaking Point (1988) released remastered with bonus tracks for a new generation of fans that may have dismissed these back in the day or maybe were not even born yet upon their initial release?
Yeah, you know it was one of the first things when we reformed that we thought of doing. The EP and that first album were really hard to find. You had to go to Ebay to try and find them and pay like $50.00 or more for each of them. They were totally out of print and our initial thought was to maybe just put them out ourselves. After the release of A Time of Crisis (2012) Metal Blade contacted us about releasing them both and that started the ball rolling from there. It’s great to finally get these out there in this box set for the newer fans and also for the fans that maybe had it on LP to now be able to have them remastered with bonus tracks.
The box set also contains two vintage shows on DVD one from the Country Club in 1985 and the other Jezebels in 1986. My guess is that these shows were taken from original VHS sources. Was it fun to watch these after so many years and did they bring back any special memories from that period in your life and career?
We were really lucky to find those vintage shows and to have Metal Blade salvage them based on their advanced age. They were barely able to transfer these shows over so we were very fortunate that those tapes were not destroyed and lost forever. Watching that Country Club show that featured our original singer Mike Torres and we performed about 5 original Heretic songs that were never recorded. We didn’t create any demos back then. Those songs have virtually been long and forgotten about. As I would write new songs back then other ones would get pushed aside in a sense. As I’m watching this show and listening to these tracks I’m thinking why did we get rid of that song? Hopefully in the future we can do something with them. There are about four of them that I think we could use and possibly record with the current lineup for a future release. I have to really reach back to remember the lyrics which could take some time!
The bonus feature on the DVD actually contains footage of you with singer Julian Mendez watching these shows and commenting. Where was that shot?
Metal Blade ran the concept past us of adding commentary to the shows as a bonus feature. Our bass player Angelo Espino filmed Julian and me along with William Howell, our original A&R rep back in the day at Metal Blade, at his house. He was a great supporter of Heretic and still remains a very close friend. We thought that they would most likely just use the audio portion of that film but they must have liked the joking around between the three of us and we were all just so relaxed having beers and talking about old songs and laughing at old hair do’s.
Heretic broke up after Breaking Point was released. What were the main factors that lead to the band’s demise?
The main factor was our singer at the time Mike Howe jumping ship to join Metal Church. He was our third singer by that point and it was just bad timing. We wanted to go out and tour to support this album and him leaving was a real punch to the jaw. I understand why he left the band was on a major label and he saw a bigger potential with them. We auditioned a few singers after Mike left to try and keep the band going and all the roads seemed to be leading to attempting to land former Metal Church singer David Wayne to join us in Heretic. The Metal Blade folks were telling us to try and hook up with David and maybe catch lightning in a bottle and get picked up by a major label. They were truly trying to help us.
When we actually played with Dave we all thought that this would be a good career move for us but Dave himself told us that there was no way he was going to replace “Howie”. He took my job in Metal Church and now I’m going to take his place in Heretic? He said if you want me we need to form a new band. That’s basically what happened. We then formed Reverend. I was sad to see the band end so quickly but it seemed like the right move to leave Heretic where it was.
Fast Forward to 2011 what lead to you reforming the band after such a long layoff?
Honestly it was out of envy. I was watching former band members Glenn Rogers and Angelo Espino playing in the band Hirax in front of thousands of fans in Europe. My wife was bugging me for years that I should get out and start playing again. I never really took it seriously until I was seeing these images of my friends playing these festivals in Europe. The guys were telling me that there is a real Metal scene here in Europe and Heretic could really come back. Julian came to me at one point and asked if I would be interested in getting Heretic back together again for a couple of local shows nothing too serious. I guess I must have been in the right frame of mind at the time because I said yes. But let’s really get it going again and record some new material. Julian was on board right away and I just started to write songs immediately. It happened fast. Within a month we had half the songs that ended up on the new record.
Sounds as if you guys are old friends taking a well respected project that had a lot of unfinished business and making it bigger and better than it ever was before?
Everyone in this lineup is coming from other acts that have been successful. Instead of us forming a brand new band with no identity and just a new act with former members of we just restarted Heretic. We have a history and a catalog to play from. When we started playing shows we just played a good mix of songs from the EP and the first record and now we have new songs to add to the set and it just took off really fast. It seemed as if once we started to play gigs older fans started to appear from out of the woodwork at our shows. We had all of our old fans and friends starting to support us again. I’ve known Glenn Rogers since junior high school like the 7th grade. Now there is no animosity in this band and it’s just old friends having a good time.
Were the songs recorded for your comeback album A Time of Crisis (2012) material that was leftover from older writing sessions or were they songs written after you got back together?
Everything was just fresh out of my brain. It had been a long time since I even played metal. I didn’t even own an amp! I had to call Glenn to ask him if he had any amps lying around I could use just to start to practice playing guitar again. That’s how he found out I was getting Heretic back together again. Once I started to play meal riffs again it was look BOOM everything was right there almost right where I left off. I really haven’t been influenced at all by any new metal that’s out there. I really didn’t get into the drop tuning. I have always been a classic metal fan at heart. European metal mostly. Once I started writing I think I kept it fairly true to what I was writing in the 80’s. Most of the reviews I have read it seems as if Heretic picked up where they left off. Everybody is participating in the writing. All of us have strengths in the writing process.
Do you have any touring plans for the rest of this year or into 2014?
We cannot do any type of extended touring any longer with careers and families outside of music. It would be nice to go out and play with Saxon for 2-3 months but that just isn’t possible. We will do long weekends for sure. Early 2014 is our goal right now. Our current management has some strong connections within Texas where we might be able to play 2-3 shows at a time with other bands in that area. The east coast is somewhere we want to hit again. We had such a blast playing in Brooklyn last year and the promoter wants us back. We want to do a 4 or 5 show run and make it up to Boston. That was mentioned in our talks. We are booked in September 2014 already to play in Germany. We want to do more than one show in Europe and play multiple dates.
Do you have fans that are seeing you now live that may have attended shows back in the day and what has the response been since getting back together?
When we played our first few shows back together we were signing old EP’s, old records and the fans were wanting to say hello after the gigs. Social media has allowed us to reconnect from older fans as well and they all seem to be happy we’re back and playing better than ever. It really motivates us to keep it going. I’m just enjoying myself so much the size of the crowd really wouldn’t matter. More so now then when I was younger because there is a lot less pressure and it seems less like a job then when I was starting out. Now I can enjoy something as simple as a rehearsal where is back in the day it was a drag. I get to get away from the family and hang with my friends and make music. Now any step forward is an enjoyment for me. I like all the press we are getting and it’s just been such a positive experience.
Heretic opened for several big names back in the day such as Metallica, Saxon, Motorhead, Megadeath, Riot, Lizzy Borden, and Armored Saint. Is there any one show were you thought that the band had either peaked or just a very special performance for you personally?
Yea there are a couple of standouts. One of our first really important shows early on when Julian was our singer was opening for Saxon in Santa Monica, CA 85 or 86. That was our biggest show we played at the time. We had a 30 minute set I think and I just remember blinking and coming off stage it was over so quick. The adrenaline was so intense playing in front of that many people that I remember laughing to myself at the time I don’t even remember playing! The other show was opening for Metallica at the Country Club in Reseda, CA November 8, 1986 Jason Newsted’s first show in the band. Everyone was warning us the crowd will be brutal to you. We were nervous and the crowd was chanting for Metallica to come out but after the first song we had their attention. We always prided ourselves as being very energetic on stage and that night we were at our peak. We keep that energy alive even today when we play out. The promoter in Europe was really impressed with how well the audiences had received us.
There must have been a lot of nervous energy in that club that night with that being Jason’s first show in Metallica. What do you remember about what he was going though personally?
We were friends with Jason. Flotsam and Jetsam were label mates with us at Metal Blade. We played with those guys in Arizona not long before that. We were so happy for him to get the gig and see the excitement in his face. We didn’t know what the future was going to hold for him. We felt really bad for leaving Flotsam and Jetsam because he was major contributor to the song writing. He even wore a Heretic shirt on stage that night! He was a good pick for them. Cliff’s (Burton) shoes to fill was not an easy task…for anyone. Sad day when we lost Cliff.
Heretic has had some really interesting album covers, gig posters and artwork over the years. I’m a huge proponent of records and cd’s as opposed to a download because I think you lose a certain connection to the band and an appreciation of the work that went into it. Do you agree?
I agree. I remember buying albums as a kid and rushing home to read the lyrics if they were included and just absorb them as quickly as I could. Read all the liner notes and look at the pictures over and over again. Back then it wasn’t that easy to see a lot of bands live. You had to picture what their stage show might be like. You had Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert and that was about it. That is why I spend a lot of time on lyric’s myself so fan’s can get that same experience. I really do miss the big album artwork. It’s a shame bands don’t take as much time as they did in years past. I created the Heretic logo by hand and spent hours coming up with the design. I used to have plastic sleeves for all of my vinyl. I wanted to keep them in pristine condition.
What does the future hold for Heretic?
We are looking at Feb-March 2014 to record the next album. We have between 4-6 songs already that are strong candidates right now. We will continue to work on them. I don’t like to bombard the guys with tons of material all at once. One song a week and take it slow and work on them. We have already spoken to our producer from A Time of Crisis (John Haddad) to make sure he will be available to help out on the next record. Hopefully the record comes out in the July-August period of next year. I hope everyone enjoys the box set and hope to see all of my Boston fans next year.
For more info on Heretic, visit the band on Facebook.