On episode 475 of the "Talking Metal" podcast, Mark Strigl conducted an interview with guitarist John Ricci of Canadian thrash metal pioneers EXCITER. You can now listen to the chat using the Spreaker widget below. A couple of excerpts follow (transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET).
On whether he had anything to do with the announcement that was made in February 2014 that he was "retiring" from the music business:
Ricci: "No, never, I never did. The former members [drummer Rik Charron, bassist Rob 'Clammy' Cohen and vocalist Kenny Winter] just decided they were gonna word it that way. When I had a falling out with the other members, I was so stressed out — I don't wanna get into the details about the whole thing — I did say to them, 'I need a break from music.' But, to me, that's not saying I'm retiring. So they interpreted that as, 'Oh, John doesn't wanna play music anymore.' So I never even hinted at that. They were just covering up what the real story behind the whole uprising was, in my opinion. So when they made that announcement, I got flooded with more e-mails from all over the world, saying, 'John, we don't believe this. We know you'll never retire. You are the band. What's the real story?' So that's one issue I had to deal with."
On how the other members of the last EXCITER lineup could think that they could continue as EXCITER without any of the group's original members:
Ricci: "It's a very complicated story. I've been doing this for many, many, many years. But I can't tolerate stress. Some situations I can't handle because I'm just gonna lose it, and I'm trying to be sane in this business. So, technically, I removed myself from the band, because I was so fed up with their behavior, and I just couldn't take it. So they thought, 'OK, if John's removed himself from EXCITER, we can continue as EXCITER.' Now, it's a very complicated story. I don't wanna… It would get into legal stuff, and I just don't wanna get into it right now. So, skipping all the details, yes, they were gonna try to continue as EXCITER without me. [But] how could you get bookings calling yourself EXCITER without at least one original guy in the band. So, what happened was the three of them ended up, as far as I hear through the grapevine — I mean, I don't know; I haven't really spoken to any of them since all of this has happened — they had a falling out among each other, so now there's no band. And the name was surrendered back to me, which I am the lawful owner of the name. I'm skipping a lot of details here; there's probably a lot of blank things that [I have not talked about]… The three of them kind of had disagreements among each other, and I wasn't involved in any of it. And they basically dissolved… We could have fixed what was happening at the time. But as far as I'm concerned — it's just my personal opinion — what was happening, we could have fixed it and continued, after I made the changes in the band. But it didn't happen that way. So any kind of apology, and they're making apologies on the Internet for the whole world to see, well, it doesn't matter anymore, 'cause the damage is done. I mean, they've toured with me, they've toured with the world, people want their autograph, people want their picture taken with them, you'd think… I'm not criticizing those guys — they played a great role in the band's music and everything — you'd think they'd sort of see clear my position in the band. I'm the guy who started the band in the '70s, I continued the band, I did most of the songwriting. In the recent version of EXCITER, I did all the lyrics, I did the melodies. You'd think if you're playing with someone like that, you'd have a little more devotion. Things could have turned out better for everybody, but it didn't happen that way. And they can make all the apologies they want, it doesn't matter anymore. The damage is done."
On how he mended fences with the other original members of EXCITER, drummer/vocalist Dan Beehler and bassist Allan Johnson:
Ricci: "Well, we haven't even spoken about [the issues that caused to have a falling out back in the day]. [laughs] We've had two meetings. We're only gonna start rehearsing this coming week. And when we had our meetings, those topics never even came up. We basically said, 'What happened in the past happened. It's water under the bridge.' But back then when I did that last interview with you, I very rarely spoke to Allan. I mean, we had no reason to speak to each other for anything, really. But things happened through word of mouth and the media, and 'He said this' and 'He said that.' You don't know what to believe. I mean, are they actually saying things, or is it just fabricated? So at the time, that's the way I felt. I had no idea in 2014 we'd get back together. I'm completely surprised myself. But I think Dan and Allan — and I can't speak for them — they might have a certain level of frustration as well that they really wanted to get back with me and continue the music that we made. 'Cause the three of us have incredible chemistry when we play our instruments. A lot of great bands — I'm not saying we're a great, fantastic band — but a lot of classic rock and metal bands, they have incredible chemistry when you put certain individuals together. So I think Dan and Allan, over the years, realized that, and they probably thought, 'Let's get back together with John and just keep going, having fun and playing our music.'"
On whether there is still a friendship between the original members of EXCITER or if they are working together purely as business partners:
Ricci: "Our first meeting, when we sat down, we did not discuss business, we just reminisced and talked about the old days and all the fun times that we had. 'Cause, I mean, we toured quite a bit. In 1985, we did a MOTÖRHEAD tour across the U.S., coast to coast, we also did a MEGADETH tour, coast to coast, we played shows with MERCYFUL FATE, we did a couple of shows in upstate New York with ANTHRAX when we were signed with Megaforce. We had a really good time and everything. So our first meeting was just four hours of… You know, we were sitting at a bar, just drinking beer and talking about the old times. So yeah, we're still friends. Our level of dedication to EXCITER, no one has ever questioned it. Yes, we have a difference of opinion on certain business issues, but when it comes to music, we're exactly on the same wavelength — like, our headspace is exactly the same, musically speaking. And it makes it so much easier when you're writing songs, that everyone recognizes everyone else's vision; you don't have to shove down their throat. But, I mean, on the other hand, for the past 20 years I've been continuing EXCITER, in most cases I handle all the band's business dealings. So the same thing will stay — I will be handling a lot of the business stuff. But because we're the original three guys, everyone's opinion counts when it's time to make decisions; I'm not just gonna be railroading those decisions — I'll ask Dan and I'll ask Al their opinion — and we'll move forward with whatever opinion we take."
On EXCITER's setlist for the upcoming shows:
Ricci: "We've discussed it. I think, initially, our live shows will be just the old classics. We're not trying to be a nostalgia band, but it's timeless music as far as I'm concerned. With the former EXCITER, when we played all the old songs anyway, all the younger fans, they know all the songs, they know all the lyrics. If a 15-year-old fan knows the first three albums, obviously that music's timeless because something has brought that music to their attention. But, initially, it will be just the classics — just one after another, just rip-your-face-off classics — and then we're gonna phase in some new material and do a new record."
On how Beehler's voice has held up over the years:
Ricci: "We haven't actually rehearsed yet. I haven't heard Dan's voice in a live situation since 1993 — only on YouTube or the record that he put out. But when we had our meeting, Allan told me that Dan's voice is better than ever, as far as the octaves that he can hit and the aggression that he has in his voice. So I'm sure Dan's voice is still there."
On when the reunited original lineup of EXCITER will make its live debut:
Ricci: "We're working with a South American promoter. He has booked two shows in South America the first week of October. And it's a triple bill — there's two other bands, and I don't recall their names right now. But right now I think the first live shows will be these two South American one-off shows. I mean, it's not the official announcement — it's not out yet — but it will come soon."
The original EXCITER lineup recorded three classic albums in the 1980s — "Heavy Metal Maniac" (1983), "Violence & Force" (1984) and "Long Live the Loud" (1985) — before Ricci left he group and was replaced by Brian McPhee.
EXCITER's latest album, "Death Machine", which featured Ricci as the sole remaining original member, was released on October 29, 2010 via Massacre Records.