Surely one of the most unsung bands in the history of American hard rock music, BANG released three full-length albums for Capitol Records in the early 70’s, that criminally sank without a trace. Capitol artist development at the time just did not know what to do with the band that was often called America’s answer to Black Sabbath.
Who were the band’s major influences?
Earliest influences were The Beatles of course, but also Hendrix, and Cream. Also the music coming out of San Francisco, stuff like Moby Grape, The Grateful Dead etc.
Were you in any bands before forming Bang?
No. Bang was my first real band after being in some local cover bands. Bang was the one that had the focus and drive to write our own music and follow a dream.
Me and Frank Gilcken went to grade school together and started playing and hanging out together. We met Tony thru an ad in the paper 2 weeks after Woodstock. We became the best of friends and had a common goal that we went after with a vengeance...
Do you remember some of the early sessions?
We had a friend that would come to rehearsal and record us on his reel to reel. We would rehearse at least six days a week and did so for about 18 months before we even did a gig.
In 1971 you released your debut. What are some of the strongest memories from recording it? What can you tell us about the cover artwork?
We recorded Death Of A Country before we got a record deal with Capitol and the cover was the Bang album cover. We were drawn in the barrel and Death Of A Country was printed around the barrel of the gun. When Capitol decided not to release our Death album they gave us 2 weeks to write a new record. We did so and went to Criteria Studios to record it. We ended up using the same cover
and used the Bang burst.
We had a great producer in Michael Sunday and he took the time to get the sound we were happy with. My greatest memory of that record was after we finished we went into the studio, did a doobie of some fine Colombia pot, got a great buzz and listened to the music for the first time. When the intro to “Lions . . .Christians” started ... Wow! What an enormous rush...it sounded so good.
What can you tell us about the Mother album?
We recorded the Mother album just six months after the Bang record ...by this time...due to pressure from Capitol...lost Tony as our drummer. Me and Frankie ended up using 2 different drummers for the record...Duris Maxwell from the group Skylark played drums on Mother...Humble...Feel the Hurt...Tomorrow and Bow to the King. We recorded that portion in Miami at Criteria Studios...On Keep On...Idealist..Realist and No Sugar Tonite we used Bruce Gary from the Knack...who was doing session work at the time. We recorded that part of the album at the Sound Factory with Dave
Hassinger engineering...Great engineer who did a ton of work...from the Strawberry Alarm Clock to Seals and Crofts...
Did Bang play many gigs?
We played every festival we could from the Soda Pop festival to the Mar y Sol festival in Puerto Rico. Our manager Rick Bowen wanted to surprise us by chartering a plane to take us to the gig.
He invited a few friends and the vice president of Capitol and his wife to come with us. The plane that he got was an old World War 2 plane that was being refurbished and wasn’t done yet. The plane had no seats but 2 sofas to sit on. It also didn’t have a bathroom. We had to use a Kentucky Fried Chicken box between blankets. Not enough room for everyone to sit so we ended up sitting on the floor of the plane. A normal flight to Puerto Rico from Ft. Lauderdale usually takes a couple of hours...it took us 4 hours. The plane could only fly so high and we ended up running into a huge storm. We ended up losing altitude and the plane just dropped for about 30 seconds...Talk about fear. The plane had no lights inside and all we could hear was thunder and lighting. It was pitch black...We finally regained altitude and proceeded on our way. When we finally landed...one of the front tires went flat as we were coming to a stop. At that point the doors opened and everyone in the plane ran for the weeds...cause nobody was gonna use that Kentucky Fried Chicken box.
What about your Music album?
By this time Capitol was forever trying to make us commercial. They wanted us to be a top 40 band. That just wasn’t us. We lost our original producer after the Bang album and the staff producer Capitol got us, was not as sharp musically as Michael was. We pretty much ended up producing the Mother album and the Music album ourselves. Instead of Marshall Amps we used Fender amps and the music became more poppy by this point. I love the Music album but after Tony left we could never regain the drive and focus we had early on. We used Bruce Gary again on the record and also ended up recording our “lost singles”: “Slow Down, “Feels Nice” and “Make Me Pretty” to fulfill our contract with Capitol. Me and Frankie were extremely frustrated by the lack of support from our label and the fact that we could never find someone to replace Tony only made it worse. We were ready by then to hang it up. Which turned out to be a bad decision. Instead of regrouping and finding another label, we decided to go our separate ways. Frankie had an opportunity in Texas and I stayed back east playing with a couple of bands...nothing special. And nothing that was as good as what we had.
In 2004 you had reunion and released The Maze. How was to play again?
Tony moved back east to Philly in 1999 and after years of being apart we clicked like we never lost a step. We did the RTZ record in Frankie’s basement and had a fantastic time. It’s funny how when you make magic with someone...it never goes away. We wrote a lot of great songs for RTZ. By 2004 our old manager’s wife found the Bang Music site and asked us to reunite with our manager who in our minds really let us down the first time. We all went to Savannah where Rick had a studio and proceeded to record The Maze. In the end his ego got in the way and though we were somewhat happy with the record, under different circumstances it could have been done better. Some things never change.
What are you doing these days?
These days I have been doing a lot of writing. Tony still writes most of the lyrics and we’ve been trying to place songs with other artists. Been doing a solo thing and trying to enjoy my passion. It never went away and I know it never will.
Thank you. Last word is yours.
A company called Rise Above Records released a box set of all our early work for Capitol including our Death album and lost singles. Along with a 40 page booklet telling the “Bang” story. They did a great job putting it together. It was remastered and it sounds fantastic. Here it is 40 years later and the music still sounds original and fresh. The Box set is called Bullets and its getting a great response from everyone. I’m really proud of it.
Thank you for remembering and enjoying our music and thanks for the interview. And always remember to “Keep On”...
- Klemen Breznikar
© Copyright http://www.psychedelicbabymag.com/2011
© Copyright http://www.psychedelicbabymag.com/2011