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Interview: HELLION
Title: Female idealism

The release of their last regular full-length album „The Black Blook“ was entire twelve years ago.

Finally this US legend returns now! The outstanding L.A. band around one of the very first front women and singers in the whole Heavy Metal industry, Ann Boleyn, gained musical strength again.

Hellion delivers melodic and genuine Heavy Metal with its new album „Will Not Go Quietly“. The American troop was established in 1982 in the haunted mansion in which Ann lived at that time. With a self titled mini-album, which became later with new title re-released, an optimal start succeeded them at that time.

Ann established later with New Renaissance Records a characteristic record label, on which the Hellion debut album „Screams In The Night“ appeared.

Hey Ann, did you form Hellion in 1982 really in your so called „haunted house“?

„Yes. In 1980 my boyfriend lived in a very old house in Tujunga. This house was one of the first houses built in Tugunga. This house was built to be a vacation home for a very wealthy person. There had been a swimming pool, which was very unusual for houses built a long time ago. But the swimming pool had been filled up with dirt which was also strange. There was also a place where there had been a maze and some kind of Asian gardens. But of course they were over-grown. This house was built at the top of a hill and was on a large piece of land. My former boyfriend had rented this house because it had a very big garage for three cars - and he used that as a place to rehearse with his band. When my boyfriend decided to move to Canada, I asked to take over the house. Right from the beginning things were very strange. I used to hear the sound of crying of a very young child or baby in the area near to where the swimming pool had been. I thought at first that maybe it was a child who was lost. I would try to find the crying child and nobody was there! Then one night I was in the living room downstairs with my friends. The house was very big and there were a lot of people coming in and out. So I had a lock on my door. My bedroom was above the living room. When we were watching TV you could hear footsteps of somebody walking with a limp on hardwood floors in my bedroom that was locked. This was totally impossible. For one thing my bedroom was carpeted - but the sound I heard was on bare floors. Of course nobody was there. Later on, before Hellion was officially a band, we had a singer named David Reece. This guy eventually joined Accept. One night after rehearsal all of us were in the living room. The band and the road crew all lived at this house and it came time for everybody to go to bed. One of the guys, either Dave or the guitarist, went upstairs to use the bathroom up there and to brush his teeth. The other guy went into the kitchen and was brushing his teeth in the sink there. Both the upstairs bathroom and the kitchen overlooked a courtyard that faced the guest house where Chris, the guitarist lived. Both the guitarist and Dave seemed very surprised to see each other entering the room. They both really looked surprised. Chris got excited somebody grabbed a baseball bat and headed into the guest house. Both Dave and Chris had seen a man in the guesthouse carrying a stratocaster. We thought we were being robbed - but nobody was there. Dave Reece had some strange things happen to him. He and his girlfriend were in the living room and a fire started in the fireplace suddenly. There were a lot of things like that. I woke up one time in the middle of the night and saw somebody at the foot of my bed. Things like that happened a lot. It all started to make sense one holiday. On this holiday, everybody had gone some place to visit with their friends and I was the only person alone. We had so much valuable music equipment that somebody always had to stay at home. But, I was hungry so I went to pick up a pizza. When I was waiting to get my food I started talking to a biker. He said he knew the house very well and that it had been the headquarters for a biker gang during the 1960s. He also said that there were a lot of deaths that happened. He told me that the place had been used to manufacture speed, too. He said that the problems started when two girls had hung themselves from the rafters of the guest house. Then he said there was a guy - Jack - who was a guitarist. This guy was also a biker and he had lost his foot. I don't know if it was in a bike accident or in Vietnam. I heard both stories. Anyway, this guy jack was said to be a very nice man. If somebody was having a bad trip on LSD, they'd send him to Jack, who was known for his ability to help people who were having that problem. Jack, however, did too much drugs himself and he died in the little room that was at the top of the stairs in the main house. Since the residents had been making speed they were afraid to call the police. I was told that Jack's body stayed in that room until it exploded. When the authorities were finally called, parts of his body were into the floors and walls. That room still smelled like death on hot days. That room was like the room in the Amityville Horror House. Bees and flies lived there and there was no way to get rid of them. The story of Jack explained why we often heard the footsteps of a man with a limp. But that was not the only thing that happened. On New Year's morning a pipe burst and the ceiling in the dining room fell. In between the ceiling and the floor of the room above was the old steel toys and clothing of a very small child! I think this may have had to do with the crying we heard all of the time. As I searched the public records I found more and more about this house. The house was regionally famous and had been used in experiments having to due with ghosts by a team of scientists at a University (I think it was UCLA but I don't remember). This university had a program to investigate paranormal events. However, the funding for the program had been cut when Nixon became president. The house was historic, too. It was one of the very first in the area. We tried to have it become part of that city's historical district, but we were not successful. It was bulldozed. Condos now are where the house once stood. Hellion started after David Reece left the band. That is when I started singing. When the house was torn down we had to leave - so Hellion went on the road as a club band because we did not have a place to live anymore. That is how we started.”

Could it may be, that Hellion - beside the band Bitch - were one of the very first Heavy Metal outfits in the world with a female singer?

„It is possible. Although, people's definitions of music have changed. In the early days people thought we were a punk band. I suppose that was because they'd never heard a girl sing like me.”

Promotion says: „Legendary cult reputation in the European Metal scene with previous albums „Screams In The Night” and „The Black Book”. Your opinion about?

„I don't really know what to say about that. However, Hellion probably has accomplished more than any other band that has never had a record out on a major record label. When you look at all of the things we did without a major record company, it is really amazing! Hell! We had two videos on MTV - without a major record label. We were the first US band to tour in the USSR. I can go on and on. I am very thankful because Hellion has allowed me to see the world and do some very fun things!”

Is it true that Hellion was the very first Heavy Metal band which did play in the Soviet Union?

„I know that Hellion was the first US Metal band tour in the former USSR. Ozzy, Mötley Crüe and the people who performed at the Peace Festival were the first to perform in the USSR. However, they flew to the USSR on chartered jets, did the show, and came right home immediately. They didn't tour. Touring in the former USSR was a really bizarre experience. First of all, the Russians were not used to taking care of a non-Russian touring group. During that time the Russian musicians often brought their wifes on tour so that they could go and stand in line for food during the shows so that there would be food after they were done performing. You have to remember that you had to have ID cards to get food and that even the Soviets were limited to how much food they could buy. We didn't have that ability to buy food where the Russians shopped because were were not citizens. None of us could speak Russian. Also there were limits on how much food people could buy. Our Russian friends could not go to a store and say "Oh please give me enough food to feed an American Rock band and crew along with the rations for myself and my family." It didn't work that way. Like I said before, language was a problem. Almost nobody spoke English. Ray Schenck used to communicate with the Russian body guards in German. That helped. When we were in Moscow we ate at McDonalds. But, there was not McDonalds in other cities. It was really weird. Also there were problems with the Russian mafia. We always had lots of bodyguards. Some of these guys were weight-lifters from the Olympics. That was cool. They were very nice. But, there were serious problems. Our promoter had his car set on fire. That kind of crazy stuff was going on. There was also a danger of being kidnapped. The transportation was really crazy, too. You had to fly between most shows because the distances were to big for bus or train travel. Everybody took all of their luggage on board the jets: the guitars, the clothes - everything! You never would allow your luggage out of your sight. We flew on normal Aeroflot jets - not any chartered jets like Ozzy or Mötley Crüe. Even getting tickets for the flights was a problem. The promoters never had the tickets until one or two days before the flight. Getting airplane tickets was troublesome and people had to be bribed to give us tickets. The "Aeroflot" plane that fly to the USA were not much different than any US airline. But, the Aeroflot planes that flew between the Russian cities were very dirty and badly maintained. The seats were not much different than deck chairs. They were very thin and uncomfortable. There was a crazy child sitting behind me and he was kicking the back of my seat on one flight for about five hours. The flights were total chaos. Sometimes a "babushka" or grandmother would be walking around trying to sell some kind of home made food. There was no food or beverage service. If you wanted food, you had to bring your own. Also, I always wondered about the heating on those planes. It seemed like it was always 90 or 100 degrees Fahrenheit. When the jets were preparing to land, people were out of their seats and rushing around the jet. The Russian guitarist, Valeri Gaina from the band Kruiz, said to me that I needed to go get my luggage and hold it in my lap or pick it up. On my first flight I did not understand why. He said, "Just wait. You will see why!" As the plane started to land, the shit from the bathrooms started coming down the aisle! That is how badly maintained those planes were. I can tell you all kinds of stories about the Russian airplanes. Poland's national airline, "Lot" was even worse! At the end of the tour we were supposed to do some shows in the republic of (Soviet) Georgia. This is where they are having problems with the Chechnayan rebels now. When I went to the airport in Moscow there were television news reporters from CNN waiting at the gate. The CNN news team was not allowed on the airplane because Soviet Georgia had left the Soviet Union. The USA had diplomatic relations with the USSR, but not with the new country. If something happened to us, there would be no way that the USA could help us. The CNN reporters had normal visas and were not allowed to get on the plane. However, I had been required to get special diplomatic visas because of the political importance of the tour and with opening up the Soviet Union to business. So they did not stop me from going. The shows in the nation of Georgia were very strange. I remember several things. First, the USSR had turned off the water supply to Georgia. And the USSR had also stopped the supply of gasoline to Georgia. Somehow we always got gasoline for the tour bus, but I think it was from the black market. The nation of Georgia was very beautiful and is on The Black sea near Turkey. But it was very hot and the tour bus started to smell really bad after a day or two. I remember a bunch of old ladies get on the tour bus. I wondered what was going on. But, the old ladies was a way for the concert promoters to stop counterfit tickets. On the morning of the concerts the old ladies would set up card tables on street corners throughout the cities and some of the body guards would go with them. This was safer somehow than pre-selling tickets because there was not enough time to make fake tickets. Crews would go around several times a day picking up the money from these old ladies. It was a really weird way to sell tickets. But it somehow worked. Most of our shows were held during the daytime in outdoor football arenas. The reason for the daytime shows is because many of the stadiums did not have lights. Any of the women in Georgia wore burkas and were covered from head to toe. I don't think anybody had ever seen anything like me. On the day of the show you would see a whole family walking hand in hand. Grandma, grandpa, mom and dad and the kids all came to hear the heavy music. It was just like if the circus came to town. They were all dressed up like they were going to Sunday school. The people sat in the seats, which were really really far back from the stage. The only people allowed on the grass area were the grandpas. The grandpas would lock arms and form a big line and would kick their feet in a sort of Greek or Russian form of dancing. It was the strangest thing I have ever seen at a Heavy Metal show. Also, I remember another thing. I was in the bus putting on make-up one afternoon. Suddenly, there was no light. I looked up and saw a whole group of women were staring through the windows of the tour buss and their burkas were blocking out the sunlight. They had never seen another person put on make-up. It was really weird. These women had somehow managed to find the tour bus and were peering inside. As far as they were concerning, they might as well have been watching a space alien. My life was so different then theirs. This must have been in 1989 or 1990.”

How successful was the last album „The Black Book“ and which concept stands behind?

„In the late 1980s, Hellion signed a record deal in the USA with a company called Enigma Records. Enigma Records had bands like Poison and Steve Vai and was distributed by Capital Records. We thought that this was going to be the big break we needed to take our career to the next level. We had friends in Metallica and had seen their careers off after signing with Elektra Records. We assumed that it was our turn next. However, one week after I signed the contract with Enigma, the owner of Enigma, Wess Hein, quit and announced that he was going to form Hollywood Records with Peter Perterno for Disney. Once Wess Hein was gone from Enigma, things went downhill fast. Enigma kept putting back the release date of the CD, again and again. During this time we were also signed to the British record company, Music For Nations. Music For Nations started asking `OK guys. Where is the new album?` We found ourselves in a very bad situation. Enigma kept delaying the release date and that meant that the booking agents were not interested in booking a tour. I wrote a novel which was supposed to come out at the same time as the album. We had a deal with a publisher who was very careful that the book be published at the same time as the CD. After the release date changed for the 3rd or 4th time, the book publisher cancelled the deal. The contract with Enigma said that Enigma had six months to release the CD after they were given suitable masters. The masters were delivered, but Enigma kept putting back the release date until the six months was over. Then when we told them that we would soon assume the rights back for the album, they told us that it needed to be remixed - which it did not. After a year or two, Enigma was reorganized under the name Restless. Restless's promotion was horrible. The only people promoting the CD were interns. I don't think they had one single interview set up. Some of the journalists got mad because they could never get their calls returned. A lot of strange things were going on. I recently discovered that `The Black Book` had been released in Japan on Pony Canyon even though neither Music For Nations or Enigma had the right to make such an agreement. It would have been nice to know!!! We could have done interviews or played there. But we didn't even know. Somebody had to have made that deal. I am sure that Pony Canyon didn't just start making CDs without permission! However I never saw one accounting statement for that album. I would never have know about `The Black Book` coming out on Pony Canyon if I did not go on tour in Japan and have some fans ask me to autograph their CDs and LPs! However, with all of this, I still believe it is a great album.”

How successful were the albums of Hellion to date on the globe?

„I have spent so many thousands of hours on music that there is no way I could ever be paid for what my time would normally be worth. How do you measure success anyway? If it is by the size of my bank account, it has provided me with a income, yes. However I make no more money than most people who work in a normal job. But, in terms of the places I have travelled and the friends I have made, the experiences are priceless. There is no way to describe the success and satisfaction of getting to do things like tour in the USSR during a time when most of that country was closed to Americans.”

My personal favourite among others on the album is „Dream Deceiver“. Who wrote the tracks on „Will Not Go Quietly“?

„I wrote the lyrics and melody lines to every songs. I also wrote the music to every song except for four of them, Ray Schenck wrote the music to „Resurrection”, „Dead And Gone” and „Duchess Of Debauchery”. Chet Thompson wrote the music to „Shit Is Gonna Hit The Fan.” We also gave Mikey Davis, our producer some credit, because he helped with some arrangements.”

Which were and still are the inspirations for the music of Hellion?

„I find my inspiration mainly in two things: real life and history. I am very idealistic and I get very angry when I see so many things that are so unfair and when people are so unkind to each other. I have had a lot of inspiration the last few years. Every song on the new album was inspired by a real situation. For example, the song "Dead And Gone" was inspired by a news story about a black woman who was robbed and stabbed in Florida. She went from door to door for over an hour trying to get help in a white area after she had been stabbed, but nobody would open the door for her, so she died. That story really disturbed me because I have been in situations that were mildly similar. During the L.A. riots I lived in the middle of a neighbourhood that was being burned. I live alone and was really frightened. Everybody knew where I lived because I ran New Renaissance Records out of my apartment. My location was not a secret. Anybody who had a television during the riots could see the videos of Hollywood Boulevard being burned. At night there was a curfew and nobody was supposed to go anywhere unless it was for an urgent reason. During the day, groups of gangs were going door to door. At one time buildings were on fire on three sides of the apartment where I lived. My phone worked - but not one person bothered to call and say, "Hi Ann. Would you like to come and stay at my house?" This really upset me. It really made me think about a lot of things. I am not always as considerate as I should be, but, I try to make sure to look after my friends - even if they don't call me, because I remember those times during the L.A. riots.”

Hellion‘s pretty unique US Metal style is filled with very much strongness, and with sophisticated arrangements, too. How did it develop mainly?

„I have been playing in bands since I was eleven or twelve. I have had many years to develop my style. I have been lucky to have had the help of many great musician friends. And also I have always tried to become better. During the 1990s I studied opera with a classical singer named Peter Hoffmann. This was very serious study. I took lessons several times a day. I had to learn German and some other languages. I even entered contests and won the chance to sing classical music at the Graz festival. I also run marathons to keep my fitness and stamina. All of these things are important.”

„Will Not Go Quietly“ sounds raw and aggressive, but at the same time very melodic.

„Yes. This is always a goal. When you go in the studio everybody has a job. The producer wants to make it sound smooth and commercial. I want it to sound powerful and maybe more raw. In the end there are compromises for the best.”

Women in Heavy Metal are always double interesting interview-partners – please describe yourself with a few words as a person!

„I am a very complicated person. Everybody looks at me driving my corvette and they think, "What a great life." But nothing is ever as simple as it looks. I was raised un a very conservative small family in a small town in Washington state - not far from where Curt Cobain was raised. I came to Hollywood as a child to play with The Runaways. But, as you probably know, things were very different in the music business back the and the manager of The Runaways was basically a pedophile. Female performers were regarded as little more than unpaid prostitutes back in those days. Many of the people who worked with The Runaways should be in jail because they were dealing with children. That is the reason I did not play in The Runaways - because I would not have sex with the people who were running the band. I never would go along with those demands. I am stubborn! I like to have fun - but I don't like being used! Later on, I would have liked to gotten married, but everybody who was serious in that way did not want me to continue with my music. That seemed very very unfair especially when the guy was a male musician and had no intention of giving up his career. They wanted me to stay home so they could go out on the road and have fun? Not! My relationships with "normal" people are also really hard. I attend UCLA and am also a member of a marathon running club. I think that sometimes people think I am lying if I talk about some of the places I have been or the people whom I know. My life is very different that you'd expect. I am basically pretty mellow and I love to read and to watch sports. But, I can have my wild side, too. I still hope one day to find a special person who can get along with me. I get very tired of being alone.”

Please be so kind and explain the lyrical content of a few songs out of the new album!

„One of my favourites is "Welcome." This song should have been the theme song of my life for the past few years. It is really interesting to see how people respond when you are no long the "flavour of the day." I would meet somebody back stage at a social event and they would say something like "Ann. You look so great! What are you doing these days? Give me a call and we'll go out!" Or, "I'd love to help your band - I always thought you were great! Give me a call!" But then you call and get a secretary and your calls are never returned. Or, the secretary says "Mr. So and So will call you back as soon as he can - he's very excited." Then I'd just sit there, waiting and waiting. That is how that songs came about. I imagined that one day somebody would finally wonder where I was and come looking for me - but they'd find a skeleton sitting in a chair in front of the television, with a TV remote control in one hand, waiting for the telephone. All of the songs are very personal in that way.”

Are you fully satisfied with the new frontcover artwork of Travis Smith? In which direction shall go the message of the picture?

„I am very happy with the new art. The message of the new CD is a protest against what is happening in America in the music business and of corporization. (The main colours are red (blood), white and blue.) In America, the entertainment business is controlled by major corporations. There is one big company called Clear Channel. They have bought many of the radio stations that once played rock music - and turned them into conservative talk-only, children's or oldies stations. This same company also owns booking agencies and also produces concerts and it has ownership relations with some record companies. They are trying to destroy any competition this way. If you are on a indy record label that is not affiliated with one of these major companies you can forget about getting good shows or being a support act for a major band. If you are an indy label, you can all but forget about decent distribution, as well. All of the decisions are made at the corporate level and there are two aims: (1.) get rid of any competition and (2.) make as much money as possible. I do believe that there will be eventually a back-lash against this situation. I think laws need to be changed because this type of monopoly should be illegal. But, people need to know what is happening. I will not go quietly.”

Your style of singing hasn´t much changed during the years, isn‘t?!

„I just run longer now!”

What means the album title „Will Not Go Quietly“ for you?

„It means that I will not sit back with my mouth shut while people do things that are wrong.”

Does exist a more or lesser change on the new album to the both previous albums?

„This album is different because it was written on keyboards and the keyboard tracks were used as basic tracks - and every other instrument was recorded later. Usually you start on an album by recording the drums and bass and add other things like the guitars and voice. Keyboards are usually recorded last. This album was different. The keyboards were recorded first.”

Which ones were your early idols out of the Metal scene, and which ones did influence you?

„Deep Purple was my all time favourite band. Jon Lord is my favourite keyboard player. Ian Paice is my favourite drummer and Ritchie Blackmore is my favourite guitarist. My favourite metal singers are all men. I don't like most female singers - especially the ones who try to sing Metal, their voices annoy me. I like Annie Lennox, Tina Turner and Aretha Franklin. That's just personal opinion. I was also a big fan of Alice Cooper, Uriah Heep, Jethro Tull and those kinds of bands.”

To which bands do you listen nowadays? Only Metal stuff?

„I believe that many performers like Dio, King Diamond, and Rob Halford are still important. They still make great new music and still put on a good show. I saw Linkin Park and liked them. I also like Tool. I'd never seen No Doubt until I watched the Superbowl yesterday and I thought that they were good.”

What does the band name Hellion mean? It isn´t to find easy in the dictionaries.

„A Hellion is a trouble-maker. Our neighbours used to call us "a bunch of Hellions" because we were so loud and because people were always coming and going from the old house.”

Any last special words to old and new fans?

„I'd like to thank the people who have kept in touch or visited the band's message board. I'd also like to thank everybody at Massacre Records for helping get this CD out. We'd really like to tour in Europe and hope you'll all come out and say hello.“

© Markus Eck, 30.01.2003

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