A totally underrated band. They were one of the first pioneer in heavy
metal history. And they have let a legacy with four masterpieces of epic
metal. I thought drummer Rob woud be the only one to answer the questions,
and it was a good surprise to see bassist/guitarist Greg also answering.
When you formed the band in 1971, it was called TITANIC, and the
line-up was you (drums and vocals), Jerry (guitar), Greg (bass and
vocals), and Pat Galligan (guitar and vocals). Did Titanic sound like a
sixteen rock band ? How was it to have three singers ?
GREG: I think the only reason Pat and
Rob got me involved was because I had an amp! Three guitars plugged into
one 15 watt amp and Rob with just a snare drum and hi-hat trying to play
Beatles songs. I wish I had a tape, it would be hilarious !
One year later Galligan left, you add Neil Beattie on vocals, and
you renamed the band Cirith Ungol. This line-up lived until 1977. Can you
tell us about this time ? Do you consider the year 1972 was the real start
of CIRITH UNGOL ?
GREG: 1972 was our real start. Everybody
except Pat wanted to play heavier stuff like Cream and Grand Funk, so the
three of us quit Titanic and formed Cirith Ungol. Almost immediately we
started doing some originals (Radiation Blues, Flesh Dart) along with our
versions of songs by Sabbath, Budgie, Spontaneous Combustion, etc. Mountain
was really a big early influence on all of us, in the way they would do extended
jams. It wasn't until 1975 that Neil Beattie (aka Terry Dactyl) became our
lead singer. He was a little more glam inspired than the rest of us, but
he put on a really wild live show, with black widow spider fingertip extensions
to go along with our six foot wide black widow spider for "Shelob's Lair".
Even though he was a great performer, Neil’s voice didn’t quite fit in with
our vision, and we parted ways after about a year. We spent the next couple
of years writing a lot of songs and playing all the LA clubs as an instrumental
power trio, playing with bands like Quiet Riot (w/Randy Rhoades), Y &
T, and Van Halen, and going over amazingly well. We tried out a number of
singers, but nobody clicked until 1979, when Tim Baker, who was our head
roadie at the time, tried singing lead on "Hype Performance". That version
is the first song on "Servants Of Chaos".
Then Tim replaced Beattie, Greg played guitar because of the arrival
of Michael on bass. You recorded demo songs until 1981 and some of them
are available now on the "Servants Of Chaos" double CD. Why songs like "Bite
Of The Worm", "Last Laugh", or "Hype Performance" weren't used on the "Frost
And Fire" album ? Have you memories about that period ?
GREG: Actually, Michael didn't join
the band until after we recorded the "Frost And Fire" album in December
1980. I played bass on that record, but we put Flint's name on the album
so people would recognize him as a band member when they saw us live. I
wish we could have gotten a heavier sound, but were all still learning
how to use the studio. We definitely would have liked to put “Last Laugh”
and “Hype Performance” on the album, but we basically just ran out of money
to pay for recording time. Remember, we paid for everything on “Frost
And Fire” ourselves, from the recording time to the shrinkwrap.
In 1981 you created your own label Liquid Flames to release the first
album, the excellent "Frost And Fire". Songs like "Frost And Fire", “Better
Off Dead", and "I'm Alive" became classics. Do you remember how this album
was received by the metal maniacs ? Why did Greg leave the band ?
GREG: One reviewer in Kerrang! called
“Frost And Fire” the worst heavy metal album ever recorded! I think a lot
of critics at the time just didn't know who to compare us to and tended
to dismiss us. But the fan reaction from all over the world was great.
Unfortunately, our albums didn't have very good distribution and
were often hard to find in stores. And that’s part of the reason
I quit the band. I felt I had reached a turning point in my life after
graduating college and spending 10 years in the band. It was more than
a year after “Frost And Fire” had been released, and sales were decent,
but nothing was really happening for us, and I felt it was time to move
on, which I did with much regret.
In 1982 you put the fast and savage "Death Of The Sun" on Metal Massacre
1. There are no doubts it's the best song on this compilation. Didn't Metal
Blade offer a deal at this time ?
GREG: That’s actually an older song,
written in 1977.
Three years after "Frost And Fire", you signed with Enigma and released
the masterpiece "King Of The Dead", a fantastic work of dark epic heavy
metal. What do you think of this album ? Do you agree it's the best CIRITH
UNGOL album ? But it doesn't seem Enigma did a lot for the band...
GREG: “King Of The Dead” is CIRITH UNGOL’s
classic. The production is 100% heavier than on “Frost And Fire”.
ROB: “King Of The Dead” was our best album, the reason was that
we had total control over it. Every album could have been this good
if we could have exercised complete control over its production etc.
This is the album that I feel is our best effort. The reason the long
wait between albums is because when you are financing them yourselves, you
have to come up with the $$$ to pay for studio time etc. Plus being
on all these independent labels their timetables are slower. I also
did all the layout and design of the first 3 covers, all this while we
were all working full time trying to sponsor the dream.
Finally you signed with Metal Blade and released "One Foot In Hell"
in 1986, another great album which contains my favorite CIRITH UNGOL song,
"Chaos Descends". I would like to know how you consider this third album
because I remember you said you had complete control only for "Frost
And Fire" and "King Of The Dead".....
GREG: It’s an excellent album although
I thought the songs overall were not as strong as “King Of The Dead”, and
Flint’s bass seems to have gotten lost in the mix.
Cirith Ungol played of course in the USA and even Mexico in 1986,
but never in Europe. I guess there was the money problem, but the truth
is also you never got the support from the labels you were on, isn't it
ROB: There was never ANY tour
support from the record companies at all !
Why did Jerry leave the band and how did you find Jim ?
ROB: We had found a really good guitarist
named Jimmy Baraza who we wanted to bring on board so that Jerry could concentrate
on his leads and we could play all the double leads we were writing in
all the new (and old) songs. Somehow Jerry must have felt that we were
trying to replace him although nothing could have been farther from the
On the last album, Joe Malatesta played guitar too, Robert Warrenburg
played bass, and after the recording there was another bass player called
Vernon Green. These three guys didn't stay a long time in the band... What
was the reason Michael left the band ?
ROB: When we signed with Restless Records
to do “Paradise Lost” they were actually were the shattered remains of our
original label Enigma who had been bought by Capitol because they were impressed
by all their poser type bands. After Capitol bought them and the men dressing
like women thing started to die out (who would have guessed:) Enigma filed
for bankruptcy. I don't know or care about all the sordid details but they
ended up in abbreviated company called Restless. We were so desperate at
this time and really had no where else to go so I talked this creep Ron
Goudie into signing the band. It took at least 3 years for all the shit
to settle at the record company after their break-up with Capitol so this
whole time we waited. I showed up at the band room one night and Flints
stuff was missing, he had decided to join a garage band thinking that our
career was as doomed as the planet we live on. After six months he returned
only to leave again right as soon as the album was to start to be recorded.
I can't fault their decision but if Jerry and Flint would have stuck it
out #4 would have been allot better CD and we may have finally got the
recognition that we deserved.
Anyway I put ads the local music stores and got a call from two guys
who were in a local band in Santa Barbara. They came down and we decided
they would be better than nothing. The deal was they help us record
our album and they would get to put some of their songs on it. The
guitarist Joe Malatesta's song was "The Troll" and the bass player Bob Warenburg's
song was "Heaven Help Us". Although these songs really were not our
style we really had no choice.
To make a long story short Bob got some kind of religion, and Joe left
to do something or another. Both left before the album was even released,
which made us look bad in Restless' eyes. Tim, Jimmy and I were so
pissed at what we thought was a betrayal so we pulled their pictures from
Anyway I put another ad the local music stores and got a call from a
guy called Vern Green who also unfortunately had some religious beliefs,
so right after we got cut from Restless he quit the band, then Jimmy quit.
The sad thing about Jimmy, he was one hell of a guitarist but once again
he didn't have what it takes to have followed it through. It is really a
shame but Tim and I were looking at each other one night at our band room
and we just decided after 22 years of being f**ked over we had had about enough.
I sold all our equipment and my drums paid off or bills and Cirith Ungol
was officially deceased.
Five years after "One Foot In Hell" you finally released "Paradise
Lost", and album with great songs but an album that Ron Goudie slayed.
The six songs that are on "Servants Of Chaos" sound really better. Why
did you sign with Restless ? Have you only bad memories about this time
ROB: I was to go in with only the little
f**king click machine to record the drum tracks, no bass... no guitar..
no nothing to play with but this little piece of shit!! Next the other
members followed suit except Ron did not want the other members of the
band in the studio. (I guess he didn't want us to contaminate his
vision of what we thought was our album !!!!) So each band member went
in did his part alone. I was really upset about the vocals cause
I had coached and cheered Tim through the last 3 albums, Guess what I wasn't
allowed in while the vocals were done. I hope you can get the picture of
how warped and terrible this whole album was done. Not only this but the
best 20 seconds of the album Ron cut out because while he was producing
the album he fucked up and the part which I thought was the most killer
part of "Paradise Lost" was spooled out on the studio room
floor. I was very pissed about this !!! And still am !!
You wrote in the booklet of the double CD because of a lawyer you
signed away the rights to "Paradise Lost" forever to Restless Records. Is
it really impossible to get the rights back ?
GREG: Nothing’s impossible, but the
legal fees and hassle wouldn’t be worth it. Maybe there’s a lawyer out
there who’s a CIRITH UNGOL fan and wants to donate his time…
About the live songs on "Servants Of Chaos", there are "Last Laugh"
and four immortal songs from "King Of The Dead". Haven't you recorded other
live tunes from the other albums like "Frost And Fire", "Better Off Dead",
"Chaos Descends", "Doomed Planet", or "Fallen Idols" for example ?
ROB: There is some more but most of
the stuff for one reason or another was not as good so we decided not to
add it. There was also not very much room on the CD’s left !
You also wrote in the booklet that you made a video of "Join
The Legion". Didn't you think to include it as a bonus cd-rom on one of
the re-releases ?
GREG: It's a bit amateurish...
ROB: It was done by a friend who was in college.
I am sure everyone will see it someday but it was and is not a good representative
of what we were really like. It was lip synced to the music and like
Greg said is not very good !
Are you satisfied with Metal Blade for the three re-releases and
the double CD ?
GREG: The European branch seems to believe
in us much more than the US side of the company. Metal Blade chose not
to release “Servants Of Chaos” over here, and apparently, they have deleted
“Frost And Fire” and “King Of The Dead”. We get emails every day from US
fans trying to find “Servants…”.
Are you stll in touch with Greg, Tim, Michael, and Jim ?
GREG: Rob and I are still great friends.
We go to auto races and Ferrari events all the time, and I keep him up
to date on new music.
ROB: I see Jimmy once every 6 months are so. Tim
and Flint have pretty much disappeared.
Would it be possible to see a Cirith Ungol comeback with you on drums,
Tim on vocals, Michael on bass, Jim and Greg on guitars ?
GREG: Maybe if we could get Tim to lay
off the cigarettes and Rob could wrangle a drum kit out of Pearl or
Don't you think Jerry was an underrated guitarist ? I think he was,
still is and always will be one of the greatest guitarists in heavy metal
GREG: I totally agree. Jerry Fogle should
be mentioned in the same breath as Tommy Bolin and Randy Rhoades. I'm going
to make it my personal mission to get CDs to every guitar magazine I can
so more people can discover what an incredible guitar player he was.
Would it be possible to see a "Servants Of Chaos Volume Two" double
CD in the future ?
GREG: We have at least 20 songs that
have never been properly recorded. We could definitely come up with 8 or
10 strong songs for an album. "Brutish Manchild and "Shelob's Lair" come
CIRITH UNGOL was more than an important part of your life. Have you
more good memories or have you more bad memories ?
GREG: The best things were coming up
with a new song and playing it together for the first time, playing on stage
for an appreciative crowd, and meeting our fans. The worst things were dealing
with greedy promoters, club owners, and some of our rival bands.
ROB: The only good memories I had were of being on stage
and playing, unfortunately this was a very small part of the 22 years that
I spent trying to get the music out to the people. There are many
people who should be ashamed that they were guilty of actually conspiring
to keep our music from our loyal fans.
CIRITH UNGOL will be remembered and your music is eternal. Thank
you very much for answering the questions. Last word are yours....
GREG: My humble thanks to all our past,
present, and future fans. We hope you like “Servants Of Chaos” and let
us know if you want to hear more…. (YES, we want to hear more !!! –Patrick)
ROB: Yes thanks to all who listen, hold the bannerproud
The being called Ungol is dead, its resurrection is doubtful. But heed
it's teachings oh faithful, for on these memoratic disks contain, the wisdom
of the ages, and by your iron fists, may the horror, of false metal be extinguished.
As you now join the swelling ranks of the Legions of Chaos, together
we will drive before us, the cringing herd of False Metal, crush their spineless
lackeys, and purge the world of their mutant plague!!!
interview by Patrick Lefevre