Interview with vocalist Strephon Taylor
Interview conducted by Luxi Lahtinen
Date online: October 3, 2019
Punk Rock. Crossover. Thrash Metal. Ruthie's Inn. The Berkeley area. Sunny California. Restless yet careless youth. Drugs. Getting ripped off.
The words above are related, more or less, to this once wild and crazy Thrash/Crossover bunch of musicians hailing from Berkeley, California, Sacrilege B.C. These energetic, beer-drooling delinquents recorded their debut album, Party with God, on Alchemy Records in April 1986, which did very well worldwide with sales of 10,000+ vinyl copies. The band played and opened up for many bands in the second half of the eighties, with many gigs taking place at the famous Ruthie's Inn in Berkeley, CA, where such names as Exodus, Slayer, Possessed, Death Angel and many others, played some of their very first gigs. At one point they were the house band of Ruthie's Inn.
The band's second album, released on Medusa Records two years later, did not go down so well due to a lack of some of the frantic aggression and neck-breaking speed that was present on the band's highly praised debut. The band kept on going for a couple of years more until careless and regular use of hard drugs put an end to everything in 1991.
As always, The Metal Crypt is eager to dig up old graveyards with our shovels of sheer curiosity to find out a more than just what is on the surface and why things happened and wiped away once promising bands. Hands down, an important piece of history was certainly written with Sacrilege B.C.'s impact on the whole Bay Area Punk, Crossover and Thrash Metal scene when the band's debut album hit the music stores worldwide in 1986.
Read about this and much more by the words of the band's vocalist, Strephon Taylor here on The Metal Crypt. Read on...
Luxi: How's life, Strephon?
Strephon: Life is fine.
THE TIDE TURNED NEGATIVE
Luxi: It's been 28 frigggin' years since Sacrilege B.C. decided to call it quits. What happened in 1991 that killed the band?
Strephon: Some of the band members started using hard drugs on a regular basis and it was becoming increasingly difficult to even have a conversation about what it was doing. We also had very little interest from labels for our final demo and we were looking for alternative labels again. The last straw was that our bass player left. We had a lot of bass players with Sacrilege B.C., but Matt Fillmore who played drums had had enough of getting new members up to speed with the music so he kinda wanted out. I was tired of a lot of the drama, drugs and lost time the band was not as much fun anymore, so I went along with the demise.
Luxi: Sacrilege B.C.'s debut album, Party with God, released in 1986 on Alchemy Records, took the world by storm. Can you tell where all the speed and aggression on that record came from?
Strephon: I don't know about taking the world by storm, but it did very well for an independent release from a Crossover band. We had sent out hundreds of demo tapes and that helped us with the success of the release as people knew who we were. As for the aggression on the album, the founding bass player was incredibly talented, and our guitarists were capable of creating some great songs as well. We were lucky to have that many writers in the band. I wrote most of the lyrics and I was indeed an angry teenager that listened to a lot of Metal and Punk, did not like what our politicians were doing, just add a bit of horror films to the mix and you get a dose of aggression.
CALIFORNIA PUNK SCENE – BEFORE AND AFTER
Luxi: The sound of the band was a mix of relentless Hardcore and Punk and frantic Thrash on Party with God. Undoubtedly, you all loved that kind of aggressive stuff back in those days, especially the early CA Punk/Hardcore scene, with bands like Blag Flag, Vicious Circle, Circle Jerks, Fear, Attitude Adjustment, etc., the real Punk/Hardcore bands. Did any of those bands in particular influence the sound of Sacrilege B.C. in a relatively big way?
Strephon: Well, the Bay Area had a really strong Punk scene well before the Metal and Thrash scenes went full on. I was going to both kinds of shows and the punks were way more fun to hang out and party with than the metal heads at first. Later when the scenes started to wash over each other it was the best of both worlds. Fang and the Ramones were my biggest Punk-influences. I am sure that local bands were influencing us as much as we influenced them.
You mentioned Attitude Adjustment and they are a great band that came along after we were already playing a lot and they helped make the Crossover scene as good as it got. Our drummer was a really big Punk Rock fan and he would turn us onto great new stuff all the time.
Luxi: After a while, there was this phenomenon in some suburban parts in CA for so-called "Surf Punk" or "Beach Punk" bands and people started calling it the "Hollywood" scene due to their their more "fashionable" sound. What did you think of this particular scene?
Strephon: I really don't remember it or it was called something else while I was active with Sacrilege BC. I do like some Surf Punk bands like Beachkrieg and The Mummies. But they came out well after we were gone.
Luxi: What do you remember from the recording of the Party with God album? You used Starlight Sound studio, which is located in Richmond, CA. Obviously, it was the kind of studio many bands from the California area used for the recordings. How was your own experience?
Strephon: Starlight was in Richmond and at the time that neighborhood was really tough, 2pac recorded some songs there later. We recorded at night for better rates, so you had to have your van locked into the driveway with a barbed wire gate. It was a great studio and I think we only took a couple days to record everything, Alchemy was footing the bill, so we had to get everything done fast and cheap.
Luxi: What was a typical Sacrilege B.C. rehearsal like? Were they wild boozing parties with some of your closet friends or more serious efforts?
Strephon: It all depended on the situation. If we were working on new material, it was pretty much working and not much partying. If it was during the week and we were getting ready for a show, we might be drinking and smoking some. If it was a weekend and we were just fucking around then – yes, we had a party with friends.
ABOUT MAKING BAD DECISIONS, GETTING RIPPED OFF AND STUFF
Luxi: How did your deal with Alchemy Records come about? Was the label owner a friend of yours so it was no brainer after all to sign a deal with his label?
Strephon: Alchemy Records was run by Victor Hayden and Mark Deutrom. Mark was a really good musician and producer and he had the band Clown Alley. We played a lot with them and our drummer played with them for a while as their drummer. So, when they started the record label we were tapped to be one of the first bands on it. We were stoked to have been signed and that first set of bands was really cool to be along with.
Luxi: How did your transition from Alchemy to Medusa Records happen?
Strephon: Alchemy Records never paid us. We found out through Southern Studios who were distributing in Europe for us that we were getting ripped off. Alchemy sold our records to Medusa Records without our knowledge. I had to hire a lawyer to get us out of the contract and we got ripped off by the lawyer. I would later get the rights back and have since released both records on my label, November Fire Recordings. I found out that we had sold over ten thousand copies of Party with God on vinyl and did not get paid. The attorney I had hired to get out of the contract took the money but never tried to get the rights back. We had a contract with Alchemy that had blanks for almost all of the important information regarding rights and royalties. When I got a new attorney, they had to give the material back.
Luxi: You recorded your second (and last) outing, Too Cool to Pray, for them. Musically, this album wasn't nearly as aggressive and hostile sounding as your debut album but a more refined and polished effort. What happened at the band's rehearsal room or did the new label want to push you in a different direction?
Strephon: We had lost our original bass player Moose, who in retrospect was a huge part of the band. We were being heavily influenced by the slower Punk bands that were emerging in force. And like I mentioned before, some of the band started using pretty regularly so our sound changed dramatically. I like the record. I think I wrote some of my best lyrics for it, but I get that people wanted more of the same. We had just grown in different ways. The label just wanted another record. They did approach us and asked us to be more "radio-friendly" which did not go over well.
Luxi: Guillotine from Santa Clarita, CA, were on the same label. Did you know those guys?
Strephon: No, I did not know them.
Luxi: You played live quite a bit and with many Thrash Metal bands from the California area. Which bands did you get to play with and how did these other bands interact with Sacrilege B.C.?
Strephon: At one point, we were like Ruthies Inn's house band. Wes Robinson, who booked for the club, liked us and we did not complain too much if we got short changed or not paid at all. We played with a shit ton of bands and I could not begin to list them for you. I was well into partying and most of the bands we played with were on the same trip so we would just party then play then party some more.
RUTHIE'S INN – A PLACE TO BE
Luxi: Ruthie's Inn; a famous club in Berkeley for many Californian Metal bands that were starting out. What kind of meaning does this club hold for you? I know you shared the stage there with many great Hardcore and Thrash Metal acts like Legacy, Suicidal Tendencies, Death Angel, G.B.H., Hell's Kitchen, Wehrmacht, Desecration, Dr. Know, etc. You have some great memories from there, I bet, eh?
Strephon: Ruthie's Inn was great to us and it was our home club. Like I mentioned before we played there all the time. Big O Tires across the street was the place to get fucked up, Ruthie's had a bar but for the price of a drink there, you could walk a couple blocks and get a 6-pack. All our friends would be hanging out it was a great time and a lot of fun.
Luxi: Did your cousin Michale Collins, come to your shows? How supportive was he towards your doings and the band anyway?
Strephon: I don't think he ever came to a show.
Luxi: I remember when I visited Berkeley and Ruthie's Inn some years ago, with my old friend Chris Reifert (Autopsy, ex-Death) kindly being a guide for my wife and me, I felt somehow connected to this place even if I am from Finland. Now there's a bookstore there on the same premises. A great thing is this historical building is still there and it's not been dismantled. I suppose you feel the same way?
Strephon: So much of the Bay Area has massively changed and so many clubs are gone now. Ruthie's Inn is owned by a church now, the bookstore sold it. I don't think I would miss it much if it were torn down to tell you the truth. We tried to rent the space from the church for a reunion, but they did not want to let us in. So, unless it goes into other hands it's as good as gone now anyway. That said it will always have a special spot in my heart.
MAILING IT OUT THE PAUL BALOFF STYLE
Luxi: Before the band broke up for good, how much material did you have ready for the band's third full-length studio album?
Strephon: We had five songs recorded as the 1990 demo and they are on my release of Too Cool to Pray. We had more material and I wish I had some of the rehearsal recordings of that. The legendary metal manager Debbie Abono had agreed to help shop the 1990 demo and we gave her a bunch of tapes and press releases. I found out years later that Exodus singer Paul Baloff took all that material and chucked it into a trash can telling Debbie she did not need to help us out. I never got to talk to him about that, but it was what Paul Baloff did best.
Luxi: Did you regret that the band ended way too soon, and you never had the chance to become a household name in the Californian underground Thrash Metal scene (just like many bands did)?
Strephon: I regret not getting to do the third record. The demo songs were very strong, and we had a chance at breaking through as we were pretty well known by then. But like I mentioned, the drama and the drugs were a real drag. I needed to get myself cleaned up a bit as well and to do that I had to step away from the band and the scene for a couple years. I am happy with its legacy and I do not miss the touring and the time it took to just get to play live.
Luxi: Do you ever miss the times of Sacrilege B.C. and have you ever considered a few comeback shows with the band? Never say never... ;o)
Strephon: No, I am not that angry teenager anymore. I have a soundtrack band called Hobgoblin and I get to do music projects with friends from time to time. I can't see Sacrilege B.C. playing shows, I know some bands have played Sacrilege B.C. songs live so that is about as good as you can get now.
IN LEAGUE WITH POSSESSED
Luxi: One more question and then we are done. What's the wildest or most thought-provoking thing that people don't know about Sacrilege. B.C. that you might be able to share with the readers of The Metal Crypt?
Strephon: I don't know if it's wild or thought-provoking but besides playing in Sacrilege B.C., I roadied for Possessed back in the day. During that time nobody ever approached us about Satanism or anything even remotely close to it. Later, I become friends with some pretty well-known artists that dealt with heavy occult themes and I asked them if they had ever been approached by anyone even remotely associated with Satanism. Only one had been approached by a group for commercial reasons, and they run like a business. So, growing up with all that Satanic Panic stuff it's ironic that even if you are considered part of the issue there is still nothing there.
Luxi: That was it... phew, what a ride! Hope you enjoyed doing this interview with me as much I enjoyed interviewing you about those past but not forgotten times of the band. So, thank you, Strephon, for bringing some of these memories back to life again. Wishing you all the best... Any last comments or curses perhaps?
Strephon: Yeah, I have my website www.novemberfire.com and I am currently working on documentaries which you can find on the site. Last I worked on a local TV show called Creepy Coffee Movie Time that you can watch on Amazon Prime or get DVDs from November Fire.
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