Interview with Satan [HORR]
In September of this year I was extremely grateful to receive a response from Steve and Russ from Satan after contacting them with the 'History of' video. It's taken a while but now the site is in full swing and the next parts of the series in production - I'm happy to start feeding these written interviews to your prying eyes.
Again, thanks again to Steve and Russ for taking the time to provide such articulate and vivid answers, on events that occurred nearly 40 years ago!
How did Satan initially come to Roadrunner's attention? Was it just Cees Wessels at that point, or were there other A&R people?
Russ; We played four shows in Holland in February 1983. We made quite a splash at the Dynamo club in Eindhoven and it was reviewed in Aardshok magazine along with a two page article about the band. It seems logical that if Roadrunner were looking for unsigned bands they would be checking the press etc. Anyhow, not long after that little tour our manager received a phone call from Cees asking if we would be interested in signing with them. That was the first point of contact.
Did you get any interest from Neat Records? It intrigues me that you were practically on their doorstep but they only ended up issuing 'Court in the Act' on license from Roadrunner.
Russ; No. Our manager called them before we'd even made so much as a demo. When he told them the name of the band and our idea for a stage show, they burst out laughing and managed to compose themselves enough to say no thanks they were not interested. So we went to Guardian studio instead and made our first recording self financed.
What were the details of the initial record deal with Roadrunner? My reading so far indicates that a standard arrangement would be for 6-7 records, all intellectual property is retained by Roadrunner, and the band would typically receive an advance of about £3-4k for the debut album. Also there's no guarantee of tour support. Does that sound about right, or did Cees conjure up a sweeter pot, back in those days?
Russ; Actually it was even worse than what you just stated. They sent us a contract through the post which we took to a lawyer for advice. He was quite unequivocal in his scathing assessment of the terms and said whatever you do, do NOT sign this deal. It was set out for a five album deal but the label would retain the rights to the master recordings in perpetuity ie. we would never get them back unless we bought them. Same with the publishing rights too. They proposed a two thousand pound advance to make the debut LP plus a couple hundred quid for an artist to draw the cover. The proposed royalty cut was 8% of 90% of the base price (not retail). Of course we signed the deal and made the record within budget. Since then the only royalty payment we've received from that album came from Neat after they had re-issued it 15 years ago.
What prompted the first name change? How did Roadrunner react? It doesn't seem they were that fussed since they put out "Out of Reach" in '85.
Steve; ‘Court In The Act’ was given terrible reviews by Aardshok magazine in Holland and Kerrang in the UK, the two territories where we had been trying our best to build up a following. We were impressionable young kids back then and took it that we were doing something wrong and needed to change things. Of course in hindsight we should have stuck to our guns! Roadrunner were happy to go with it especially when they realised bigger labels were now interested in the band.
What was a 'business' meeting with Cees like? Was it a daunting prospect?
Russ; You know, I really wish I had something nice to say about the guy. He came to London while we were recording the second LP there circa "84 and said he would take us all out to dinner. It seemed like a cool thing to do and he seemed a nice enough bloke. It was a really good night out. We only found out the following year when we got the first statement from the new record, that he'd added the whole cost of that evening to our account, that is, it was added on to the total we already owed the label from our recording advances. So it was us that paid for our (and his) dinner.
Mercyful Fate were another band on the roster at the time. Do you think Roadrunner was leaning towards the perceived 'occult' image that both Mercyful Fate and Satan wore, as a selling point? At the height of the Satanic Panic, it seems that signing potential 'antagonist' acts could be quite promising PR for the label
Steve; Not sure, maybe. I think he was just a new label signing a lot of bands and seeing what the playing field was like at the time. Advertising for CITA was a tiny picture of the sleeve on the same page along with another 11 bands albums he was releasing that month.
Can you tell the story of how you moved on from Roadrunner to Steamhammer?
Steve; By the time we had changed the name to Pariah we had all moved to London to try and raise the bands profile a little more. We had a few bigger labels sniffing around, especially Don Arden and Jet Records who tried to get us released from Roadrunner to sign with them. Cees wouldn’t let us go and we got a lawyer involved but to no avail. We eventually ended up getting free from the label because in all the confusion they forgot to take up the third option by mistake! We then went back to our roots and recorded the ‘Into The Future’ demo that Steamhammer liked so much they put it straight out on record. We recorded and mixed the songs in a little demo studio in London in two days and got a bigger advance for that than we did for the two full albums we had made on Roadrunner!