In a new interview with music writer Joel Gausten, RAVEN bassist/vocalist John Gallagher discusses a variety of topics, including the band's new album, "ExtermiNation", their longevity over four decades and the struggles they and many of their peers encountered when they were forced to follow a more commercial direction in the mid-'80s. A couple of excerpts from the chat follow below.
Joel Gausten: This year is kind of an anniversary for RAVEN. Exactly 30 years ago was the first time a lot of Americans got to hear the band to begin with through the single "On And On" and the first Atlantic record, "Stay Hard". When you look back now, what are your thoughts on that era's place in the history of the band and the effect it's had on you even today?
John Gallagher: It didn't do us any favors. "Stay Hard" was a great album for us; it was the logical next step after "All For One". We had no problem; the album was done before we finalized the deal with Atlantic. They had input on the next one [1986's "The Pack Is Back"], and obviously made our lives miserable one way or another. We had to climb back from that, and we got a lot of flack for that [period], but a lot of other bands made much more grievous errors. JUDAS PRIEST did at least two horrible albums, and SAXON probably did two or three. It happened to a lot of bands where the record companies were meddling and pushing...They wanted KISS-meets-BON JOVI or something, you know? You're young, impressionable and naive, and it takes you a while to wake up sometimes. And we did, and we moved on from that. It's water under the bridge. You live and learn. We learned that when we did "The Pack Is Back", it's not the best way to do a record — using click tracks and going in and doing it one [track] at a time and spending eight to 10 weeks doing a record. It drove us crazy. When we record, we spend all the time with pre-production and writing and getting it the way we want it, and then we bang it all out in like five or six days live in the studio . No click track, no nothing — just boom. You fix whatever you need to fix, but you've got to capture that energy. That's what it's all about — capturing the feel.
Joel Gausten: I know you guys kind of had a full-circle moment with [METALLICA] last year with you played with them in front of a pretty big audience — I think about 70,000 people in São Paulo.
John Gallagher: Yeah, it was insane. We did the DVD, and a friend of a friend asked Lars [Ulrich, METALLICA drummer] if he wanted to contribute. He very nicely did like an hour's worth of interview, which we used quite a lot of. When we played California in 2013, he came down to the show and we saw him for like five, 10 minutes... In 2014, we were setting up some dates in Brazil, and my guy down there said, "Hey, METALLICA's playing a soccer stadium down here. Are you guys still in touch with them?" I said, "Well, I can get a message to them." He said, "Well, why don't we ask if we can open up?" [Laughs] Hey, if you don't ask, you don't get. I put the message through, and it came back, "Yeah, let's do it." So we went, and it was mind-blowing the amount of people and the size of the hall. It was crazy. METALLICA were delayed... What happened was, we were able to play an extra song, which turned out to be "Break The Chain" for about 12 minutes! [Laughs] It was funny as hell, as James [Hetfield, METALLICA frontman] was on stage videoing us, headbanging and giving us the high five. It was really cool. We hung out with them for about 10, 15 minutes before they went on stage. We had a bit of a reconnect there, which was awesome.
The complete interview is available at JoelGausten.com.