Former EXHORDER Frontman: 'Did PANTERA Rip Us Off? Possibly'

Dave Larmore of Midwest Metal recently conducted an interview with vocalist Kyle Thomas (ALABAMA THUNDERPUSSY, EXHORDER, FLOODGATE, TROUBLE, PITTS VS. PREPS). A few excerpts from the chat follow:

Midwest Metal: Kyle, being a native from Louisiana, how severe were you and your family affected by Hurricane Katrina, and how have you coped with the tragedy?

Kyle Thomas: It was horrific. I had to evacuate with two small children and an 85-pound dog in a two-door sports coupe that was overheating in bumper-to-bumper August traffic. A trip to Houston that normally takes 5-6 hours took 14. Two weeks after the storm my ex-wife and I split for good. Our home was flooded with a foot of water, which is just enough to ruin everything. After bouncing around the South I finally made it back home to live with my folks and share my childhood room with my sons. It has been a long and tedious recovery, but we're on the mend.

Midwest Metal: You participated in "The All-Star Sessions", a 17-track compilation celebrating the 20 years that Roadrunner Records have been in business. Were you surprised when Joey Jordison (SLIPKNOT) approached you about partaking in "Constitution Down", and were you impressed with Jordison's line-up and writing?

Kyle Thomas: I wasn't surprised, because I was aware that Corey Taylor was an EXHORDER fan. I was flattered for sure, though. I know Rob Barrett and had spoken with James Murphy before, so that was cool to work with them. Joey sent me the song and said "It no longer belongs to me. It is your song and I wrote the music with you in mind. Do what you do to finish writing it." So I wrote the rest and I am damn proud of it. I was fortunate enough to work with such talented people, even though I only worked with their finished work here in New Orleans. The only stuff for that song recorded after my parts were Andy LaRocque's lead, I think. I may be biased, but I think the song stands apart from most of the material on that album.

Midwest Metal: When you go back and listen to "Constitution Down" today (assuming that you do), are you proud of how the song turned out?

Kyle Thomas: Hell yeah! Lots of people only enjoy my work with one band and not the others, and I think that song bridges the gap a bit. For the many EXHORDER fans that lust for more or have never gotten over the split it gives them another taste of me in that style, yet there's enough melody to please any fan of heavy rock. I'll always be proud to have that song in my discography.

Midwest Metal: In 1996, Roadrunner Records issued "Penalty", the debut (and only one thus far) album from the short-lived FLOODGATE. Exactly why was FLOODGATE such a short-lived project, and was there a falling out with Roadrunner following the release of "Penalty"?

Kyle Thomas: FLOODGATE formed in 1994 under the name PENALTY and we stopped working around 2002 until recently, so we weren't too terribly short lived. Longer than EXHORDER actually! We were writing and had begun recording album number two when Roadrunner dropped us. Nu-metal was hot and we got swept under the rug as an afterthought after having been touted as the next big thing for the label. They just started claiming us in their history again. I'll always have a dagger in my heart because of the way that band ended. We were really just beginning to do our best work when it imploded.

Midwest Metal: Not many people may be aware of the fact that you briefly occupied the vocal position for legendary doom metal band TROUBLE. How was the transition from the style in FLOODGATE to the style of TROUBLE, and who was it that approached you to front TROUBLE?

Kyle Thomas: Ron Holzner approached me about it. At first it was supposed to be me and several other singers doing a song or two at a showcase type gig, and eventually I was the only one that didn't drop out. They asked me to do the entire set, and over a year or so we did a handful of gigs and started to work on finishing some of their songs in the can. Eventually they reunited with Eric [Wagner] and now I look forward to the new album they are fixing to release. I was a fan first, and a fan I remain.

Midwest Metal: How come your stay with TROUBLE was so short?

Kyle Thomas: We were talking about recording, but I think the label they were with was interested in the classic lineup.

Midwest Metal: Now onto EXHORDER. Not to stir up any tried-and-true bullshit here, but there's been a legend approaching 20 years that PANTERA deliberately ripped off EXHORDER. Your vocal style was an obvious influence on Phil Anselmo in the early '90s, and there are even old-school pictures of Anselmo proudly wearing an EXHORDER T-shirt. Perhaps it's time to shitcan this legend, or instill truth to it. Would you defend the claim that PANTERA deliberately ripped off EXHORDER in order to survive the passing of the glam-rock trend, or argue that PANTERA were slightly influenced by EXHORDER's style and simply mixed it together with the late Dimebag Darrell's incredible guitar playing?

Kyle Thomas: The thing I hate the most of this topic is just how handcuffed we are to their success. Did they rip us off? Possibly. Was it deliberate? Maybe. Were they influenced by us? Definitely. Did they work a helluva lot harder than we did? Absolutely. Case closed.

Midwest Metal: Any memories of Dimebag Darrell, while speaking of PANTERA?

Kyle Thomas: Darrell was always really cool with me. We weren't tight friends but we were friendly acquaintances that enjoyed each other's conversations and throwin' down some booze. He came out to see EXHORDER several times out in Fort Worth. We had great mutual respect and admiration for each other's work. It hurt my soul to hear what happened to him. I feel really bad for his family and loved ones.

Midwest Metal: EXHORDER first dissolved in 1994 (or 1995, correct me if I'm wrong), and it was announced last year via MySpace that the band was on a permanent hiatus. If What exactly led to the break-up of EXHORDER in both instances, and is a third album an impossibility?

Kyle Thomas: Actually, we first dissolved in 1988, reforming later that year with a new guitarist, Jay Ceravolo replacing David Main. We really never worked again after the last night of "The Law" European tour in 1992 until the reunion in 2001. As of now there are reasons that I have agreed not to discuss regarding why we won't work again. Personally, I wish we could tour but it can't happen. It may also be best that we never record again, since we've all changed so much. I always say it's tough to have teen angst at thirty-something.

Read the entire interview at MidwestMetalMagazine.com.

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