Interview with guitarist Jim Nickles
Interview conducted by Luxi Lahtinen
Date online: October 9, 2014
Hellcannon, formed in 2009 in Buffalo, NY, plays Thrash Metal – the brutal kind, to be precise. Hellcannon's first EP, 2009's Raiders of the Waste, and their 2010 debut studio album, Infected with Violence, were both well received all over the world. Their 5-track Soothsayer EP, released in 2013, only strengthened the band's position as one of those most promising new Metal forces coming out of Buffalo.
During the first half of 2013, Hellcannon lost their lead guitarist. Jim Nickles (ex-Vile Vindiction, ex-Malevolent Creation), who had produced the Soothsayer EP, was asked to join the band and fill the lead guitarist position.
Hellcannon are preparing for their first European tour, in October 2014, with the Brazilian act Sodomizer, that will see the band play 13 shows in 11 countries. Jim Nickles took a few moments to tell us more about Hellcannon, a cover band called Resthaven and a bit about his own Shredly Studios, among other things, before embarking on tour...
Luxi: How's life, Jim?
Jim: Things are going pretty well Luxi. Thanks for asking...
Luxi: As you reported to me recently, you joined Buffalo-based thrashers Hellcannon last year. How did that come about?
Jim: In April of 2013 they lost their lead guitarist, initially to an ear problem. I had recently produced their Soothsayer EP at my studio (Shredly Studios) and launched my label with that release. They already had a tour of the northeastern USA booked, and since I had recently produced their EP, I was familiar with the music. I also produced their first demo in 2009, so I filled in for the tour, and later just stayed on.
Luxi: Are you going to be a studio member of Hellcannon or just live?
Jim: Up until this point, I had only performed with them live, but we just finished a limited edition release for our upcoming European tour. It is entitled Terminal and features five new tracks, and the '09 demo as bonus tracks. When we return from Europe we will complete the full-length to be released worldwide.
On the new songs, I play bass on four, rhythm guitar and lead guitar. We will be playing 14 shows in Europe and will be there the whole month of October 2014. This release, including the bonus tracks, makes it possible for every Hellcannon song ever recorded to be available to our fans on our merch table while we are there. Also on our merch table will be Soothsayer, and Infected with Violence repackaged, now on Vile Records, as well as the Butchered Records version, the label that originally released it.
Luxi: Has the age difference between you and the other Hellcannon members caused any hilarious and funny situations because they are young enough to be your sons? Do you joke about age issues within the band?
Jim: A little bit at first, yes, but not anymore; we are all just good friends.
Luxi: What have you brought into Hellcannon that they probably didn't have before?
Jim: The experience and knowledge that can only come from having lived many more years, I guess, ha ha!! Also I believe my playing and writing style is a bit different than their former guitarist. I am strictly old school, that's what I like, and that's how I play...
Luxi: You played with Hellcannon at Rage of Armageddon festival in New York on September 21st in 2013, sharing the stages with 12 more acts, including Exumer, Prime Evil, Blood Feast, Malevolent Creation and so on. Was this your first live appearance with Hellcannon, and how did this show go, overall?
Jim: As I mentioned earlier, no it wasn't, I had been playing with them most of the year already. It went well in NY and everybody loved us. It was killer.
Luxi: You not only performed with Hellcannon at this event but you were also invited to join the stage when Malevolent Creation played their encore that night. Would you share a few thoughts of your about this special moment with the readers of The Metal Crypt?
Jim: Sure. I was a founding member of the band and I hadn't performed with them in 25 years. It was definitely a defining moment of validation; that I had regained everyone's respect, and it meant everything to me. But I was there to handle Hellcannon's business first, and that was just the icing on the cake!! It really was an amazing night!
Luxi: You, Brett Hoffmann (Malevolent Creation) and Rob Barrett (Cannibal Corpse, ex-Malevolent Creation) also have a sort of jam band named Resthaven, which is dedicated to playing classic Heavy Metal songs from bands like W.A.S.P., Sabbath, KISS, Maiden, Priest and so on. Where did the idea for having a cover band like Resthaven come from exactly?
Jim: Resthaven was our band name pre-Malevolent Creation. I realized that everybody (with the exception of Barrett) had been in Resthaven at one time or another, and so it just made sense to revive it. Resthaven is just pure fun!
Luxi: Resthaven played a show in New York on October 5th, 2013, with Final Decline. How did that show go for you guys, and what was the set list that night? Did people get to hear songs like "Sabbath Bloody Sabbath," "Exciter," "Killers," "I Wanna Be Somebody" and stuff like that?
Jim: The show was great!! We made some good cash that night! Mike Shearer, The infamous No.1 Super Hippy, (Phil Fasciana's cousin) owns the club, and really took care of us! Here are the current set lists for Resthaven...
Over the Mountain
I Wanna Be Somebody
Hell Bent for Leather
Children of the Grave
The Four Horsemen
Luxi: Resthaven also performed at Rob's wedding party at Club Infinity in Williamsville, NY on January 11th, 2013. Was this the very first live appearance for Resthaven and was the success what gave the boost for more Resthaven live performances?
Jim: As I mentioned earlier, it was our first show since the early 80's with the band Resthaven. This show did make us realize that we wanted to keep doing shows together, at least a couple times a year.
Luxi: Back to Hellcannon again. You released the band's latest offering on your own label, Vile Records, this year. This 5-track EP is called Soothsayer and features four songs of very intense and brutal Thrash/Death Metal, plus a cover of Death's "Pull the Plug." How well has the EP been selling so far and how has the reaction been, in general?
Jim: People seem to like it a lot. I have just received the third printing for us to take to Europe...
Luxi: What about the cover of Death's "Pull the Plug?" Was it the band's idea to record it for the EP or did that come from you?
Jim: They had been doing the song live, and got permission to record it. I actually played it, as well, on the eastern US tour, but we no longer do it.
Luxi: Obviously, since the release of Soothsayer, the band has been working hard on new stuff. Could you share some details about Hellcannon's new material and how it compares to the stuff they have recorded previously?
Jim: You'll have to hear it, I guess!! Basically, it's different because it has me on it, but I think it is true to Hellcannon's spirit, just with a rawer, old school feel to the writing and production, and it now shows my influences as well as Ryan's and Bryant's.
Luxi: There will undoubtedly be a time when Hellcannon will be locked in the studio to record the new material, which hopefully will be a follow-up album to the excellent Infected with Violence debut released in 2010. Have you guys gone through some serious talks about this, and about going to the studio sometimes around in the fall of 2014, or early 2015, to record the next Hellcannon release?
Jim: Another case of me already answering your question in a previous answer, ha ha ha!! We just finished Terminal, our full-length for Europe, and will release Wasteland Remains soon after the touring has completed.
Luxi: Did Hellcannon use your recording studio, Shredly Studios, for the new stuff?
Jim, Oh yes, I produced it all @Shredly Studios in North Tonawanda, New York (a suburb of Buffalo).
Luxi: Brett Hoffmann (vocalist of Malevolent Creation) already used your studio to record his vocals for a new Malevolent Creation song, titled "Face Your Fear." Was Brett happy with how his vocals turned to the extent he is possibly considering using your studio again when the right time comes to record his vocal parts for the next Malevolent Creation album?
Jim: As it turns out, he did all his vocals with me, for a release that isn't making it out because they split with their former drummer, Gus Rios. They are re-doing it, along with more new material, and just signed with a new label, the name of which I cannot disclose at this time.
It was agreed I was going to track it this month and mix it in November, after the Hellcannon tour, but label restraints insist they complete it in a time frame that I just can't meet because of Hellcannon's tour. Unfortunately, as of last week, they are making other plans for recording during October with someone else.
Luxi: When did you come up with this idea to have your own recording studio, Jim? I suppose it's been a huge financial investment for you. What could you tell about the facilities of Shredly Studios?
Jim: I didn't want to be limited by budgets and other producers' ideas. I have all state of the art gear and I keep my rates at a max of 25 an hour, mainly to help the little guy that doesn't have a label to back him up. At my studio, you can achieve the highest end production, without all the damage to your wallet! I strive to make sure everything doesn't all sound the same coming from here and my main focus is giving the bands modern production that meets today's standards, without being OVER-produced.
Luxi: As for Hellcannon, the band this interview should mostly be about, what are some of your personal expectations, hopes or goals that you'd like to achieve with this band?
Jim: I grew up loving and playing Thrash, and it's just what I love to do. I plan to make records, and tour as long as I am capable. During, in between and after, I will always produce bands and custom guitars (Shredly Guitars).
Luxi: Gigging-wise, Hellcannon has only performed in the States thus far, but you are obviously aiming to play outside of the States a little bit, too. Would the best scenario be getting Hellcannon booked at some European summer Metal festivals, the kind that always seems to draw huge crowds?
Jim: Oh yes, we are going in one week! Unfortunately, we missed the summer festivals, but we are playing the Romanian Thrash fest.
Luxi: Your previous band, Vile Vindiction, never really managed to gain that much of a following. Do you believe you might have a better chance to get things to the next level with Hellcannon?
Jim: Although Vile Vindiction could have been much bigger, had I not put it to rest, I believe Hellcannon has even more potential, yes...
Luxi: What killed Vile Vindiction? A lack of motivated members?
Jim: In Vile Vindiction, my other guitarist's closed mind and arrogance held us back, and made it impossible to accomplish anything. We never could keep permanent members, but I still play with both Kevin and Ryan, and Evan Leuer is my close friend. But, mainly, the other guitarist and I parted ways due to musical differences.
Luxi: Okay Jim, I think that's all I had in mind for this chat, so thank you so much for your time and doing this interview for The Metal Crypt. Last, but not least, I want to wish you all the best with all of your projects in the future. May your future also be full of pleasant rewards... any last comments perhaps, Jim?
Jim: Yes; Hellcannon uses Shredly Guitars and Kahler bridges and Thank You Luxi for all the great questions and support! Cheers and beers to you... Jim & Hellcannon
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