Interview with guitarist and vocalist Marc Biedermann, bassist Tom Gears and guitarist Doug Piercy
Interview conducted by Luxi Lahtinen
Date online: October 28, 2022
San Francisco thrash metal veterans Blind Illusion, formed way back in 1978, are back making new music after a break that lasted 17 years. The band took a prog-ish thrash route when they released their highly acclaimed debut album, The Sane Asylum, in 1988. After reforming in 2009, they recorded their second album, Demon Master, which didn't have much left of the band's thrash metal roots and only guitarist Marc Biedermann from the original lineup at that point. That lineup wasn't meant to last for long.
In 2018, the band returned again, independently releasing a 4-track EP simply titled 2018 and with a new lineup. This time their attempt to return to form seemed to be more successful and apparently, The Netherlands' Hammerheart Records got their hands on a copy of the EP because they decided to sign the band to their roster.
Wrath of the Gods, the band's third studio album, came out on October 7, 2022, and has been getting rave comments and reviews around the globe. The Metal Crypt contacted the band at the end of August for an interview and when the band was willing to do it, we sent some questions their way. Due to unknown circumstances, answering the questions got delayed, so be aware of the fact that some of the answers may have an outdated feel to them.
Hey dear sirs! How's life in sunny San Francisco, CA?
Tom: Everything's great! We are all staying busy working on new songs and getting ready for the worldwide online record release party at Rampage Radio this coming weekend! And the album release is Friday!
THE DEBUT ALBUM – THE SANE ASYLUM
First, we need to go back to the history of Blind Illusion just a little bit as there's a chance some newer metalheads might not be aware of the undisputed Bay Area thrash metal classic, The Sane Asylum, which is the band's 1988 debut album. What do you think makes the band's debut such a highly appreciated thrash metal album? Obviously, you did something a little different than many other thrash metal bands from those days...
Marc: Well, I guess it's due to the staying power of not only the songs but also the wild musicianship.
What killed the band in 1992? Did it have a lot to do with getting dropped by Combat Records and Claypool and LaLonde wanting to continue their career in Primus? Apparently, the reasons for Blind Illusion disbanding in 1992 might not be straightforward...
Marc: I can't really say what all the reasons were. It certainly was more due to the fact that it can be difficult to put a band together where everyone in the band is willing to go all the way, like working towards releasing albums and going on the road, etc.
How was Blind Illusion's relationship with Combat Records back in the day? Did the band get support from the label, or did they put more focus on other bands, like Exodus and Forbidden, than Blind Illusion?
Marc: I really don't know because back in those days we were still just using the phone so personally I had very few conversations with record companies. Today with the Internet it's a lot easier to connect with people.
THE MEDICINE SHOW
I am curious to know what happened to the band's meant-to-be follow-up album, The Medicine Show, that you recorded in 1989? Wasn't the new material good enough to put out or was this project put on ice simply for lack of label interest?
Marc: The recording was live in the studio and was meant to be pre-production. It was never properly completed as an album because the band lineup kept changing.
Would there ever be a chance The Medicine Show would see the light of day in the future? I am pretty sure fans must have been asking about this over the years, haven't they?
Marc: If by that you mean the old demos, it's quite possible that some may surface. Doug really likes a song from those sessions called "Eye of the Storm."
2010 ALBUM – DEMON MASTER + EP 2018
Fast forward to the Demon Master album that came out in 2010. I must confess I have not heard it because the album seems to be difficult to find, but I have heard some people say that musically that album does not have much to do with thrash metal, if at all. What can you tell us about that release?
Marc: The musicians I was working with at that point in time were much more into playing hard rock/metal, so the thrash element just isn't there, which was fine at the time because I like branching out into other musical realms to keep my chops up.
Moving on in chronological order, in 2018 the band put out the 4-song EP simply titled 2018, which was kind of a mixed bag. It contained two re-recordings from The Sane Asylum album, one new song, and one unreleased song from prior to the sessions for The Sane Asylum. Was your main purpose to let fans know you are still alive, have a new lineup, and are ready to play some gigs again?
Marc: Absolutely, and by remaking a couple of songs from The Sane Asylum I was making sure that people would know we were playing what we were known for with newer versions featuring Doug and Tom and trying out new production techniques.
Doug: Marc had been experimenting with different string tunings. He came into rehearsal and had this crazy idea which I helped him arrange and turn it into what would become "The Ice Sage." Lots of slide guitar and heave swampy sounds. It was new, so we put it on the EP.
OF INSPIRATIONS AND INFLUENCES
Blind Illusion's sound has always been a mixed bag of thrash, some progressive and some unorthodox elements that demand a lot of concentration from its listeners. Has it been intentional to create this distinctive and totally unique sound to differ from the rest of the thrash pack?
Doug: As long as I've known about Blind Illusion, they have always been quite progressive and their influences were all the '70s prog rock bands such as King Crimson, Led Zeppelin, Genesis and others. I came from a similar background of Rush, UFO, Bruford, Jean Luc Ponty, Allan Holdsworth, Gary Moore and Colosseum 2, Van Halen, many others.
I was in a progressive metal band called Anvil Chorus when I first met Marc. As the NWOBHM hit we all started adding new influences into our writing and things got heavier and heavier. We kept the progressive elements, and it made us more original.
Marc: It has always about being as original as we can be.
ANDY JOINING IN FOR DRUMS
Andy Galeon (ex-Death Angel, ex-The Organization, etc.) joined the band in 2020. How did he end up joining the band on a permanent basis? I suppose it was no-brainer because the (old) Bay Area family, if you will, is so big and everyone seems to know each other over there...
Doug: We had heard Andy was available, and we all went to a show where he was playing that night for a Kiss tribute band. We told him about how we were recording a new record and asked if he would be interested in playing on it. He said, "Yes, absolutely!" So, we had him come in and knock out the drums for nine songs in four different sessions. He was really excited about the songs, and all went very smoothly. Great times!
Marc: The whole process was very exciting.
What did Andy bring into the band, besides a lot of energy, talent, and his known face, of course?
Doug: Andy has brought a lot of experience and wisdom that is great to consider when we plan stuff now, and a great sense of humor!
Marc: Andy was the missing link. I feel the band is way more stable now.
THE NEW ALBUM - WRATH OF THE GODS
Wrath of the Gods is the title of the band's third album, which I'm sure has all of you in the band excited about the fact it is scheduled to be released on October 7, 2022. How excited you are about the material on this record? Having heard "Straight as the Crowbar Flies" and "Protomolecule," it all sounds like your main intention is to go back to the thrashy times of The Sane Asylum album, which undoubtedly will make fans of the bands happy, including yours truly.
Doug: This band allows me to pretty much play any style I can write in. Marc and I (as well as Tom and Andy) have such a large background of influences and styles of music that we enjoy playing. It's a vast territory of things that we can try. There are parts on this record that are so musical and symphonic, with layers of melodies and counterpoint. I've never done these things before, and it inspired the others too. Marc came up with some great solos after he heard mine and was inspired! [*laughs*]
I enjoyed working closely with Mark on the vocal production as well. A lot of development went into that.
Marc: I am very excited. I can't wait till everyone hears it!
Did everyone in the band contribute to the songwriting somewhat equally by bringing loads of ideas to the table, or were some of you the primary songwriters so that the album sounds as linear as possible?
Marc: I feel we all contributed equally. We were still trying to make sense of some of the songs when Andy joined us. With his help each song began to solidify and really take form.
Doug: Absolutely! Once he had the drums solidified, I started playing and adjusting the rhythm guitars to his killer fills and getting them super tight.
I am sure each of you has your favorite songs on this new album. Could you tell us which ones are your favorites and why?
Marc: They all are my favorite songs.
Doug: I really like "Behemoth," the symphonic melody section, the following descending part and everything to the end is simply epic! What a climax!
But every song is great in its own way, with great vocals, solos, bass runs, and drum fills for any connoisseur of progressive metal!
THE VIDEO STUFF
Promotion is a very important part of any band's success, and it's great to see that you shot videos for the "Straight as the Crowbar Flies" and "Protomolecule" songs that can be found on YouTube. How much have these two videos helped you in getting the word out that the band is coming back stronger than ever, after several years of waiting?
Marc: I believe those two videos have spread the word quite nicely and will continue to do so.
Doug: We are currently in production for a third video for the song "Spaced." It's going to be the craziest one yet! We used to have MTV and Viva, now it's YouTube. [*laughs*]
Can I ask how you found George Anderson to direct the video for "Protomolecule"? I think he did a great job with it, so I assume you'll be using his services again when it's time to work on some new audio-visual things, right?
Marc: He's great. We were all in awe of the videos he did for his own band From Hell, and yes, we definitely will continue to work with him.
Doug: We love working with George. He has a style where the storyline is about 75% scripted, and then we improvise the other 25%! It always works out. I find it really exciting to work this way and it makes for entertaining and hilarious videos!
Will there be an official record release party at some venue in SF to celebrate the band's new album with the fans and friends?
Tom: There will be a worldwide online record release party October 8th at 12PM PST on the radio/Internet via KUSF in Exile on radiovalencia.fm with special guest DJs and giveaways. There will be a huge party there in the studio!
How does the rest of the year look for Blind Illusion, gigging-wise? Are you aiming to get as many gigs booked for the band as possible to advertise the release of Wrath...?
Marc: We love to play so yes, there will be as many gigs to play as we can muster.
Doug: Right now, there are three gigs in California before the end of 2022. We are planning a West Coast tour as we speak.
What do you think about the fact thrash metal is going strong these days and bands like Testament, Exodus, Heathen, Kreator, Destruction, etc., are still very relevant names in the thrash metal scene?
Tom: It's fantastic! I'm happy all the veteran bands are out touring regularly. However, I really hope there are more young bands coming in as our older peers retire to keep the metal flames burning!
Analog or digital? Do you feel like you are analog guys in a digital world?
Marc: You could say that. [*laughs*]
Doug: We recorded the whole album on our ProTools machines. After suffering in the eighties with 2" tape machines then in the nineties with the horrible ADAT machines, I am proud to say with the advent of ProTools and digital recording, we will never go back, EVER! At least for me...
We still record real tube amps, analog mics into tube preamps for warmth before A/D conversion. That will never change.
WHAT DOES THE CRYSTAL BALL FORETELL?
When you look at Blind Illusion's crystal ball, what does it show for 2023? In other words, what kind of plans have you already made for next year?
Marc: Same as before... smash the crystal ball, smash the mirror... just kidding! [*laughs*] We have plans to do some touring as well as begin work on another album.
Doug: So far, we have one European festival in 2023, Stormcrusher in Germany, and there is a tour being planned around that. Then there is discussion of shows in the spring, too.
I would like to thank you all for making this interview happen, and in the same breath I want to wish you all the best with the band's future endeavors whatever they might be... any closing comments?
Tom: Thank you one and all for keeping metal alive, and please reach out to blindillusionoffical.com for gig information, and make sure to follow us on our social media sites!
Instagram #andy galeon #denniger666
On Facebook: Doug Piercy, Mark Biederman; Tom Gears, Blind Illusion Official
|Other information about Blind Illusion on this site|
|Review: Wrath of the Gods|
The Metal Crypt - Crushing Posers Since 1999
Copyright © 1999-2023, Michel Renaud / The Metal Crypt. All Rights Reserved.