Interview with vocalist Guido Gevels
Interview conducted by Luxi Lahtinen
Date online: April 12, 2020
When it comes to the European Thrash Metal scene in the eighties, undoubtedly everyone first thinks of the productive German scene that saw the rise of bands like Kreator, Destruction, Sodom, Tankard, Assassin, Exumer, Living Death, Holy Moses, etc. But Thrash Metal bands were born everywhere, and the genre enjoyed overwhelming attention all over the world.
One of the other hotbeds for Thrash Metal in Europe during the eighties was Belgium, which produced a shitload of killer Thrash Metal bands like Target, Black Shepherd, Decadence, Evil Sinner, Asphyxia, Sixty Nine, etc., but most importantly, Cyclone from the town of horse eaters, Vilvoorde. The band's 1985 debut album, Brutal Destruction, is still hailed as one of the Thrash Metal classics from Europe and it was only a sum of bad luck and timing that explains why they never made it big in spite of many great gig opportunities opening for bands like Metallica on the Master of Puppets tour and Slayer on the Reign in Blood tour in 1986. That alone says something about the popularity of these Belgian thrashers back in the day.
The band's second album, Inferior to None, was released on small Belgian label Justice Records in 1990, but by that time a new subgenre of Metal music, Death Metal, had overtaken Thrash Metal and the leading role in the underground scene. In between the band's debut and follow-up album, many things happened to Cyclone and the band's original vocalist Guido Gevels stepped up to talk about some of those past events and reveal what they have been up since they decided to reform in 2018...
Luxi: Hey Guido! How's life in Belgium these days? Are you afraid of moving from place A to place B due to this ugly Coronavirus disease?
Guido: Not really but we simply are not allowed to move around anymore. Most annoying is we can't rehearse for the moment and shows are getting cancelled.
BACK TO JAMMING
Luxi: It was roughly mid-2018 when you, Stefaan (guitar) and Matthias (drums) first started jamming, later joined by Kevin (on guitar) and Vincent (on bass) and Cyclone were reborn again. Did you feel that the time was right to bring the band back from its dusty and dark grave after 27 years of inactivity?
Guido: It grew on us, Stefaan and I still see each other, though we never talked a lot about the old Cyclone days but in recent times it happened once in a while. I happened more and more up to the point where we said we should jam and see if we can still pull it off.
Luxi: You and Stefaan are the only original members left from the band's early lineup. When you guys started thinking it would be nice to bring this shredding old corpse back to life, did you also consider ex-members Pascal, Johnny, and Nicolas, who were all part of the band's classic debut album, Brutal Destruction, released on Roadrunner Records in 1985?
Guido: We did talk about it but you have to understand that during the second half of the Cyclone days just Stefaan and I were left and Stefaan had switched from bass to rhythm guitar, which he already often did during rehearsals when Pascal wouldn't show up. We didn't plan to put Stefaan back on bass so little room was left for the old rhythm guitarist Johnny to step in again. As we were jamming to see if we could still pull it off, we invited some cool musicians to join us, we still did not know at that point what was going to happen but there was a click with Matthias, our drummer, and he was really good. The same happened with Kevin, our lead guitarist. So, after a few weeks jamming we just decided to continue with these guys as they were all great players and hungry and willing to go for it.
Luxi: Could you kindly tell how Matthias, Kevin, and Vincent entered the picture to complete the Cyclone 2.0 lineup?
Guido: I knew Matthias and Kevin from seeing them play at my club with their previous bands and they caught my attention simply because they were that good. Vincent responded to an ad we placed but he didn't know it was about Cyclone, we just wanted someone motivated by having the pleasure to play, but Matthias and Kevin knew Vincent, so it was a lucky coincidence to stumble upon him. At the first try-out, we immediately knew he was the right guy.
Luxi: As far as I know, you haven't done any new tracks yet but have a bunch of riffs, ideas, etc., that may well form a bunch of songs that who knows, may even end up building up the next Cyclone album. How far has this songwriting process advanced at the moment?
Guido: It's just some basic spontaneous ideas that popped up while jamming at rehearsal. We recorded them just to make sure to not forget them and deepen them at Stefaan's home studio. But unfortunately, we haven't really done anything with all this material yet. We are just trying to concentrate on our first festival shows at Keep It True and Alcatraz Fest that are coming up this summer.
Luxi: Do you have certain roles in the band, for example, coming up with new song material, writing lyrics, booking gigs, managing general things within the band (inc. press), and so forth?
Guido: So far, I have been doing the management, Cyclone Facebook page, press, etc. but I have no intention of doing it permanently. Regarding new stuff everybody can have his input as long as the others like the idea.
THE ROADRUNNER EPISODE
Luxi: Do you remember why you were dropped from the roster of Roadrunner Records after you had made your classic debut album? The album had all the potential a Thrash Metal band needed for taking the next step success-wise, to say the least. Would it be too harsh to say that Kevin and Nicolas killed the band when they decided to step away from the Cyclone ranks at the beginning of 1988, right before the recording of the band's follow-up album, Inferior to None, were supposed to begin?
Guido: Johnny and Nicolas leaving had to do with the fact that Roadrunner kept on delaying the recording of our second album due to the fact that they wanted to do albums by other bands like Anthrax and Toxic (which Roadrunner believed were the new Metallica) first, so each time ours was delayed by six months. Finally, I had an argument with Roadrunner which led to them dropping us.
Luxi: After quite a few lineup changes, you finally managed to get together in early 1990 and record the band's second album with Eric "Griffy" Greif producing. How did you end up arranging this collaboration with him?
Guido: We had a new lineup by the end of 1989, finished work on all new tracks and via a good friend of the band we came in touch with Eric Greif. We sent him a tape and he immediately said, "Yes, I wanna do this".
TROUBLES WITH THE FOLLOW-UP ALBUM
Luxi: Did Eric, with all his connections in the music business back in the day, also try to find a bigger label for you to release Inferior to None? It felt it was a pity that the album was released on the small Belgian label Justice Records because the label obviously didn't have a big enough budget to market it to the masses. Some people didn't even know Cyclone had a new album out, which was... well, just sad.
Guido: Well he got us the deal with that Mexican label Avanzado and they distributed the album both in Central and North America. The main problem was when the album came out the label went bankrupt and 10,000 CDs got stuck at Sony, Austria. It took a while before another company took us in and paid the bills to Sony so the album got delayed by almost one year. By that time the Death Metal scene was exploding and interest in Thrash was almost nonexistent.
Luxi: To me, there's a pretty strong Metallica vibe on Inferior to None, especially in the guitar sound (the instrumental track "Crown of Thorns" speaks loud and clear for all that). Did Eric have some sort of intention to make Cyclone Europe's answer to Metallica? ;o)
Guido: Eric didn't have anything to do with our sound, it was simply our guitar sound and we still have that sound today. I don't agree that our sound was like the Metallica sound as at that time we weren't really listening to Metallica. We did like early Metallica but never tried to sound like them, we've always tried to do our own thing. Of course, we have the same influences; early NWOBHM bands like Diamond Head, Holocaust, Sweet Savage, Angel Witch, Trespass, Tygers, etc.
OF KICKING ASS LIVE WISE
Luxi: The band shared stages with some household names back in the day, from Metallica to Anthrax to Slayer to Overkill, etc., plus you also did a tour in Europe with Blessed Death in 1988, which I am sure you'll remember and cherish for the rest of your life. What were some of the most memorable and coolest events that you did with certain groups during the period 1985-1993?
Guido: Yeah, sometimes I can't believe it myself, it's quite a list of bands we played with actually; Metallica, Slayer, Overkill, Metal Church, Destruction, Kreator, Blessed Death, Sadus, Agent Steel, Anthrax, Whiplash, Carcass, Sepultura, etc. We played with almost every Metal band in those days. I have fond memories of the Blessed Death tour 1988 and the Sadus tour at the end of 1991/beginning of 1992. Of course, opening up for Metallica on the Master of Puppets tour and Slayer on the Reign in Blood tour are things you will never forget. But we got along great with every band we played with. We were nice guys... [*laughter*].
Luxi: It's all (perhaps unnecessary yet stupid?) speculation but if the band had kept going on after your follow-up album, do you believe there could have been at least a chance that Cyclone could have reached the next level as a band and even achieved something big that you can only dream of in this day and age?
Guido: Well we believed in this band and we thought that with Inferior to None we had delivered a great album. I like everything about this album and with more money it could have sounded even better, but one should know that we did the album recordings and the mixing in three days so we can't complain with the outcome. Thanks to Eric Greif and engineer Alan Pangelinan (guitarist for Darklin Reach).
Indeed, if everything had gone well, the album had gotten in the shops on time, good distribution, etc., we could have achieved more for sure. It's not the fault of the music on the album as I believe we delivered a fantastic brand of tight Thrash Metal on that record.
Luxi: Mexican label Avanzada Metálica reissued the band's follow-up album one year later on both cassette and CD but that's about it. Are there any plans to make it available again?
Guido: Yeah, if we can we would do a reissue, we are working on that. In fact, we would like to reissue both albums, maybe add some old demo tracks on them as a bonus.
THE FUTURE OF CYCLONE
Luxi: As you guys have been playing some gigs with this lineup you have now, have you felt overwhelmed by the fact the crowds have taken to you really well thus far? A whole new generation of metalheads seem to know what Cyclone is all about, which must make you very happy.
Guido: Indeed, we are very happy with the outcome and overwhelmed with the great reactions and all the offers to play. We started this band again because we truly wanted to play again. We didn't have high expectations, we just said, "we'll see what it brings..." but it's beyond our wildest expectations, especially the many offers to play shows abroad. It's simply great! Also, it's great to see how many youngsters picked up Cyclone and another great thing is nowadays more people know and picked up our second album. We get a lot of praise for it so that kinda makes up for the past.
Luxi: As you mentioned already, you have a couple of festival appearances booked for this year; Keep It True, the XXIII edition in Germany in April, and then Alcatraz Festival in August. How excited (or even nervous?) are you for these slots at these two festivals? Do you have some other festivals in the pipeline that may well work out for you this year (of course, depending on how long this sad Coronavirus situation will last)?
Guido: Yeah, we are totally stoked to do these festivals especially because a lot of old-school metal fans attend them, but nervous, no. We are eagerly waiting to play them. We do have a few other festivals coming up like Metal Experience in Holland at the end of September and the Blast from the Past Festival in Belgium in December where also Acid will be playing. You may not know this but our very first show ever was opening up for Acid.
Luxi: Now when everything is back on the right track and Cyclone's train is pushing forward, all this positive feedback must be marvelous fuel for all of you guys to make this band work great again. What are some of the near future goals that you will try to make happen for the band within the next couple of years?
Guido: Well, we have several old songs from in between the two albums lingering around; tracks from the sessions that were done after the debut album that didn't make it on our second one, so we are starting to rehearse those now and adapting them a little bit here and there. We have the intention of recording those songs first and releasing them before starting to work on brand new songs for which we already have a few great ideas. We hope that we can finally make it as far as a new Cyclone album but so far it's dreaming only. But if we can pull it off somehow, we surely will...
Luxi: Hey, that's it for now. I wanna thank you from the very bottom of my heart for taking your time with these questions and wish you all the best with all of your future endeavors with the mighty Cyclone. Now you are entitled to the last comments...
Guido: The pleasure was all mine, great that you made some time for us - highly appreciated!!
To all our fans worldwide, Cyclone lives...! We sincerely hope festival and gig promoters all over the world will book us, so we finally can come to your countries to rip your heads off! Stay wild...!!!
Copyright © 1999-2020, Michel Renaud / The Metal Crypt. All Rights Reserved.