Interview with Chris St. Pierre

Eine gefühlte Ewigkeit nahm dieses Interview in Anspruch. Immer wieder durch Chris´ private Schicksalsschläge zurückgeworfen, war nun endlich die Zeit hierfür gekommen. Zeit, um mit Chris St. Pierre, dem Keyboarder und Komponisten von REBELLION, der US amerikanischen Legende, ein sehr lustiges und spannendes Gespräch zu führen.

Ein willkommener Anlass war für uns natürlich die erstmalige offizielle Veröffentlichung von ´And The Battle Begins´ und der ´Unreleased Sessions´.

Einen kleinen Blick in die Zukunft und Gegenwart werfen wir natürlich obendrein. Aber lest selber (im Originalwortlaut):

Hi Chris! Let’s start from the very beginning. When and where were you born?

I was born in southeastern Massachusetts U.S.A. – in a city called Fall River – back in July of 1967 in St. Anne’s Hospital, where I was named Christopher James St. Pierre. Ironically the city’s infamous home of Lizzy Borden, the so called axe murderer back in the 1800s. The city was also world famous for its Mills, also known by some as Mill City.

After my birth I was brought home by my Father Joseph W. St. Pierre, the hospital wouldn’t let my Father take me home until he paid the bill. He said try and stop me, he was a giant of a man, and they let him bring me home to a town called Tiverton, in the State of Rhode Island, where I’ve come to reside to this day. It is home and it is beautiful around here.

How was your childhood and youth?

It was a pretty crazy time and I could write volumes on this topic. For the most part it was an average childhood, playing kick the can street hockey, shooting out street lights with BB guns, throwing old TV’s of bridges to watch them explode, no flat screens back then, these things made a bang when they hit the ground, playing with matches accidently lighting a field on fire, getting a bunch of friends together at night and putting cars on their sides – crazy shit that every youth gone wild does, throwing rocks at each other at the bus stop etc. … yes, it was great times, but home life was not fun at all, my parents like to drink maybe too much, too often and I was for the most part unsupervised a hell raiser you might say and so were a few of my friends. To say the least we were fucking little brats. For the most part I was always in Bars with my Father and I saw many a Bar room fight. I think the craziest thing I did was steal my Fathers Motorcycle at 17 years old and drove it down south to Florida to see my high school sweet heart, who had moved down there – young love, crazy times, what the fuck was I thinking. I could’ve got killed, but I made it. Well, you get the idea, music back then did keep me sane considering the shit I did, but that’s another story …

When did you come in contact with heavy music?

The first heavy tune I heard was on an 8track tape my older Brother had. It was Steppin Wolf (´Born To Be Wild´) and it surely fit my childhood personality, I think it was the first song the coin the lyric HEAVY METAL, heavy metal thunder; I loved it so much I wore it out. Then on to Led Zepplin, Black Sabbath, old Van Halen etc …

… and your musical idols?

Believe it or not, my first musical idol was a jazz/fusion Trumpet master Maynard Ferguson. Safe to say the greatest trumpet player of all time. Then the Metal scene … not an easy question to answer, regarding so many greats such as Jimi Hendrix, Zeppelin, Accept, old Van Halen in their hay day, Kiss back in the day, old Mötley Crüe, Dio, Queensryche, Helloween, Manowar, Iron Maiden, Wasp … Headbangers ball when MTV was MTV … all those bands kicked ass…

In which bands did you play before REBELLION?

I played Trumpet. In concert bands, marching bands, and jazz bands. I did many festivals for R.I.M.E.A. (Rhode Island Music Educators Association) and 1st Trumpet in Rhode Island Allstate Band, which made me in the top 50 teenage Trumpet player in the country. Also I went to an international competition in Montreal, Canada, needless to say if you rent out the entire 12floor of the Holiday Inn to 100 or so teenage musicians expect some debauchery and mayhem to occur, and that it did … the hotel manager shut off the elevator on the 12th floor at 10pm so we wouldn’t sneak out and corrupt the Canadian youth with our American way of what we thought was fun. I was hooked never played for a crowd that big I think around 25,000 that’s a lot for a kid; I was hooked and got my wheels turning to create a metal band. Jazz wasn’t cutting it for me; I needed to create something louder!!!!

How did you get into Keyboards? You’ve already played piano as a child?

My Friend bought a Keyboard in trade for a car, his father owned a used car lot, and he called me and played it on the phone. I went nuts at how cool it sounded, back then there was just organs and the famous Hammond B3 which you can hear in a lot of old Deep Purple, but you had to be well off to get one of those plus it was very fucking heavy, but technology evolved and the first one I played was a Casio 610. I was hooked, I bought it of him and an old Altec PA with spring reverb, it would pick up radio signals from CBs and it was loud, I think the first thing I played on it was ´Crazy Train´, Randy’s guitar part, I looked at the electronic keyboard as a guitar mutated, and I started writing metal tunes, the first tune was ´Hear Their Cry´, I didn’t play it like a piano right away, I just loved what I was able to create with it.

When and how were REBELLION founded?

REBELLION was formed in a basement in Westport Massachusetts, a region in southeastern New England in March 1989; the members at that inception were Mike (´Taco´) Moreira on Drums, Mike Doyle on Rhythm Guitar, Guy Walkden on Lead Guitar, and Me on Keyboards, Synths and Vocals. Guy left by his own decision prior the recording and release of the ´Does Anybody Care´-EP. We then recruited Eric Andree on Lead Guitar and his brother Greg Andree on Bass, and of course Ed Snow on Lead Vocals. This was the most remembered and longest standing line up of REBELLION, which went on to record our first EP as afore mentioned and our full length Cassette-LP (´And The Battle Begins´), and the 1993 sessions which was rereleased by ´Cult Metal Classics´ on Halloween in October of 2014. I’d like to take this opportunity to again personally thank Manos Koufakis of ´Cult Metal Classics´ and ´Sonic Age Records´ for the hard work and dedication in keeping the music alive.

Did all members of the classic lineup (Greg Andree, Mike Moreira, Eric Andree, Mike Doyle, Ed Snow and you) stay together from the beginning? What were the most important changes?

The only changes happened in the beginning when Guy left and from then on later in 1989 as you mentioned above that was the most recognizable lineup and in my opinion the only real REBELLION as most will agree.

Was there an occasion or event that was crucial for the founding of the Band?

My cousin Guy came to me one day and told me about this awesome drummer Taco, and when I heard him play I knew this was the beginning of something special, even though there was some turmoil in the few transitions early on, the final line up was more than I could ask for with regard to dedication and us all agreeing on the course of REBELLION, which was originals only to create shows for well deserving fans! Our fan base was incredibly supportive and loyal. We loved to give them the best showmanship possible and we always came through for them.

How unusual is it as a keyboardist in a metal-band to write all the music?

I’m not quite sure how unusual, our Lead Guitarist Eric and I spent a lot of time together writing he deserves as much credit as I, and also no members were denied artistic expression unless that expression sounded like two marching bands coming down the street playing two different tunes and meeting in the middle of the street, you could imagine my ears I wouldn’t allow an off the wall idea that didn’t fit into the compositions that Eric and I worked on. With regard to my own style, I didn’t think of my Keyboards as a Piano nor did I write like a Keyboardist, it was more like a mutated guitar and there was an article written in 1989 after the release of ´Does Anybody Care´-EP blasting me wondering how a Keyboardist could keep up in a Metal band, my response to that Jack ass was the ´And The Battle Begins´-LP, I never heard shit from that critic again.

Didn’t your band mates show any ambitions regarding the songwriting?

Yes, after Eric and I laid down the ground work everyone was free to add ideas and all members had a say, unless a composition was entirely written on my own then I could be a stubborn bastard, not to the point where we would need a bunch of counselors in the studio to keep us from killing each other like Metallica (come on, Lars and James, you know it’s true). For the most part we got along great I could go on and on about our collective creativity, I was already a seasoned musician and there wasn’t much disagreement on a musical course I wanted to undertake. Lyrics for the most part fell on Mike Doyle and Greg Andree and done very well, a big inspiration in my songwriting was Ed Snow, on occasion I would create music just to challenge his awesome vocal range and he never failed to amaze me, he was a natural and it seemed effortless to him. In any case we were all REBELLION and I’m grateful for all the awesome memories!!!!

How did the first years of REBELLION run?

LMAO. We were a bunch of crazy drunken metal heads and so was our Road-crew, which created a band called Squid Eye. They were infamous the very first show, we booked them to play if we got stiffed on a deal at a club and wasn’t paid, they brought buckets of Squid to this on club that screwed us. Three bands were playing that night and Squid Eye was going to be the opener, but all the REBELLION fans were at that show and we had VIP-passes printed up the whole deal, they wound up headlining and the club got destroyed, everyone was covered in salt water squid and squid ink. Some say it was the best show they ever saw, no one could play and instrument in the severe drunken state they were in, I said just crank it as loud as you can it was hilarious, Alice Cooper would’ve been impressed with that kind of mayhem…laughs

What was the goal that you wanted to achieve as a band?

The main goal was to create music and that’s all we did was write songs and book shows. Looking ahead was the goal of a major record deal and we were headed in that direction at the time. Our fan base increased our songwriting became more refined as did our dedication, we took it seriously: after the ´And The Battle Begins´- Release there was no more drunken bullshit allowed at rehearsals or at the live shows, but other than that the mayhem and debauchery did continue going when we weren’t working, case in point I rented a house and only a few months later was asked to appear before the town council, in which I was asked the best thing was to get out of town … laughs … the house was in a fairly quite place, but there was a packy (liquor store) only a block away, the cops would just follow the puke from the packy to my house, needless to say my neighbors didn’t like me too much, so to keep the peace I moved. I could write another volume just on what occurred at those parties, the readers can use their imagination on this one, I don’t want to incriminate myself with the details, yes, we were fucking nuts!

Did you feel as a musical misfit?

Not at all, I loved doing what I did, I was passionate about our music and I never let the status quo dictate what I was going to create or say or dress etc. … A REBEL, I can safely say the same about my Band mates they would surely agree.

How did it come to the first release – the `Does Anybody Care` EP?

The ´Does Anybody Care´-EP was recorded at ´Black N Blue´-Studio in New Bedford, Massachusetts, in the Fall of 1989. Owned and operated by Joe Reilly, who also played a coproducing role, we recorded the EP to have something to sell to the fans at shows and also made T-shirts with the cassette-cover-art which was drawn by our Bass player, considering the financial constraints I think it came out as well as could be. Much to our surprise we sold out 400 in a week also considering the fact that half the band was still in high school – for Taco, Mike and Eric it was a great time for them, the school would blast on the intercom at Diamond vocational in Fall River Massachusetts, that I was outside to pick them up for soundcheck for a show, Ed and I had already been out of high school several years and collectively thought it a great idea to get a recording out while them being in school, which made the word spread fast that this was something we all wanted to pursue far into the future.

What were the reactions to the EP and how long did you wait to get a record deal?

That Release was done independently, ´Black N Blue´-Studio and ´UN Records´ was owned and operated by Joe Reilly, the cassettes were duplicated by another company Joe sent the master to. I don’t remember the name, but in these days the company had something like 50 or so cassette recorders to dub the master and they also did the printing on the cassettes. The cassette inserts where done by ´Alpha Graphics´ in New Bedford, Massachusetts. The reaction from the fans was great, our fan base grew and we started continuing the work on a full cassette-LP ´And The Battle Begins´. Which we didn’t record until 1991, during that time we concentrated on our live shows, that’s where we were at our best, our fans were loyal and very loud, surly awesome times!!!!

Which bands did you share the stage with at this time?

Hammersmyth, Xcaliber, Sanitarium Angel, Dreams, Emissary, Tell No Tales (a TNT Tribute Band), Youth With Bats, Mathias Steele, Touch, Osiris, Thret, D’Priest etc … I couldn’t possibly remember them all – again, great times!!!

How were the recordings of the legendary 1991 cassette `And The Battle Begins …`?

Those sessions were a blast, also recorded at ´Black N Blue´-Studio and co-produced by Joe Reilly. We recorded all main tracks, 11 songs in five days, and due to financial constraints again we didn’t spend as much time as we would have like to including the mix and mastering to D.A.T. – both the EP and LP were recorded on an 8 track, real not much for six guys and Taco’s ten-piece kit. In any case it came out as good as could be all things considered. The only remaining Master DAT is at ´Cult Metal Classics´, I hope Manos has it in a bullet proof glass case, I’ve still been trying to locate the original reals, which to me would be priceless.

Who came up with the brilliant idea to use a trumpet in some songs?

That was my idea as I mentioned in the beginning of the interview I played trumpet in high school and much to my surprise, when I brought up the idea, my bass player also played trumpet. We did use them at live shows also, I don’t think it had been done before in a Metal band and was well received by the fans. ´Enter The Silence´ during the ´93 sessions was the main reason the idea came up; I thought it was a great fit to the song.

Do you have some favorite songs from these recordings?

Well, it’s hard to say, I like them all, but a few of my favorites to play are certainly the title track ´And The Battle Begins´, ´Do Or Die´, ´Alone In The Night´, ´Die By The Sword´ – which is a good story, after I wrote the music and Mike handed Ed the Lyric sheet, we started the intro and Ed, with total surprise, came in with the vengeance “Once upon a time” in the vocal upper register. We stopped playing immediately and all look at Ed. He said, that we was just kidding, I said no, that was fucking awesome, he thought he was being vocally obnoxious, I told him laughing, that the fucking title is ´Die By The Sword´. Also ´He Walks Alone´, ´Demons Of Darkness´, which was written way before the release of the ´Does Anybody Care´-EP – all the songs have a story and even while in their creation lies a story, but I could go on and on just about that, and ´Lonely Child´, there is a lot of personal truth to that song I’ve lived it. Depression is very stigmatized and its very much unseen in the person. As a man you don’t want to seem down, but it can kill you and it’s sad and heart wrenching to lose so many great people to this …

What happened after the cassette release?

After its release around the fall of 1991 it sold like Hot Cakes as we say in southern New England (we have our own way of speaking around here, different than the rest of the country). We picked up more steam and continued doing what we always did, kept writing and booking shows as much as possible. The song writing continued and began to be more positive and progressive and we could afford greater studio ventures. There are cassettes out there to this day, they are very rare, I still have one in a glass case. The only two unsealed ´And The Battle Begins´-Cassette’s that will be around forever are in The Library of Congress copy write division in Washington D.C.

Are you happy with the now-released stuff?

Yes, very much so, ´Sonic Age Records´/´Cult Metal Classics´ did an excellent job on the rerelease and it has since sold out, the vinyl LP version should be out soon, I´ve received many Emails from as far away as Nepal India, the fans are very happy about that, and several other countries as well.

What happened to the recordings back then?

The original reals were loaned to a former band manager JO JO Gater, formally from global entertainment productions in Warwick, Rhode Island, he disappeared and so did the reals. I finally found him at ´Ocean View´-Studio in Newport, Rhode Island, and he said to ask his x-wife, and I said which one … laughs …  in any case, I will find them someday, but the last surviving D.A.T. was mailed to ´Cult Metal Classics´ for the rerelease in, I think, late august of 2014. To me those reals are priceless and are probably on a book shelf in one of his x-wives houses I’m so fucking pist about that, in any case the D.A.T. was found the long awaited rerelease began.

Why did the Band break up after these outstanding songs?

The decline started around the fall in 1993, my bass player left, my mother had passed away that year, then at a band meeting Ed dropped a bomb on us and decided to just fucking leave without warning to become a Preacher. I was fucking furious to say the least six songs had already been recorded for the next album, which has come to be known as the ´unreleased sessions´ and we had five more tunes to record, so the word went out to audition a lead vocalist, some of the people I auditioned I just wanted to slap, it was tormenting, but we kept rehearsing and I kept writing shortly after I got fed up and fell into a bottle of vodka and severe depression and said, fuck it, I’m done, and that as they say was that. I still have some video of live shows and a song that wasn’t yet recorded called ´Cry Tonight Forever´ is how a feel about the dismantling of REBELLION, but, as you know, over 20 years later the music is alive and well – thanks to ´Cult Metal Classics´ for bringing it out of obscurity. Shout out to Manos Koufakis and Kostas Organopoulos, and ´Sonic Age Records´/´Cult Metal Classics´!!!

In 2000 there was a rather poor Reunion – without you. Can you tell us more about it?

Yes, there was a Reunion from which the ´Dream Again´-EP was recorded, for the most part, Eric Andree was the main songwriter on that venture. The lineup was Eric Andree on Rhythm and Lead Guitar, Keyboards and Vocals. Mike Doyle formally Rhythm Guitar took on the Bass, Mike Moriera on drums and Guy Walkden on Lead Guitar. I like the ´The Dream Again´-EP, but the live shows were more of a cover based band and sadly short lived. Something I’ve never been interested in performing was covers. I have nothing against cover bands and have seen some mind blowing tribute bands in my time, but my personal Philosophy to be true to myself was only interested and creating music. In any case ´The Dream Again´-Line up was well received, sadly I didn’t see the magic, the former line up had. I don’t know why that venture ended, and the ´Dream Again´-CD-EP is very sought after, I don’t even have one, but I’m sure I’ll come across one someday.

Is there any video or film material that could still be made public?

I have a Video from some of the ´93 studio sessions and a full live show. I haven’t decided to post any as of yet, but I have been considering having the VHS video’s digitized and after I review it, I might share some live show performances, our fans were fucking loud!!! Most of my archives were destroyed when my basement flooded I was devastated at the loss, but I do have some video that was salvaged.

Or are there even more songs from back then?

There is a song that was saved called ´Cry Tonight Forever´ on Video tape from a live show. It was the first time we did the song live and Eric made up the Guitar solo Live on stage, because one wasn’t written yet.

Are you still playing in a band?

No, not at present. A musical venture isn’t out of the question for 2016 – we´ll shall see, and surely I will have cream of the crop musicians.

Do you know what the other band members do today?

Yes, Ed Snow is a family man and has become a Pastor, Mike Doyle and Mike Moriera own a Sports-Pub in Fall River, Massachusetts, and Eric Andree works there as well. Greg Andree is a family man and went to college and became a school teacher.

Do you still have contact with others – especially to Ed Snow?

I haven’t seen Ed in years, as far as I’ve heard, he only sings in church, I do run into the other guys occasionally and they seem to be doing well.

I think in everyone’s mind REBELLION will always live in there and will be a part of us forever. The memories can’t compare to anything else. And some days … that is all I can think about!!

So Ed is not still in a band as a singer, right?

Sadly Ed’s Metal Days are over, and sadly he was coming into his own as an incredible vocalist and just threw it away. In any case, Ed is one of the nicest people you could meet, very humble and kind.

Of course, this question must be asked: Can we expect a Reunion – possibly on only one concert?

I did start planning something like that after ´Cult Metal Classics´ two releases and was thinking around last spring, but my father got ill and I was his primary caretaker. He passed away in march of 2015 and I am still dealing with the issues of his estate and it has taken all my time. And also I caring for my brother and a Five-bedroom-house all alone – it has taken all my time to keep everything in order until the courts settle this. I guess I’ll try again in 2016, the music has stood the test of time and I’m sure the fans won’t mind waiting for a live show a little longer. It takes a lot of planning and is quite the undertaking, I don’t want to just slap together a band do a few rehearsals and go do a show, the die-hard fans would expect more than that. I want it to be Epic and an all-out midlevel stage show, not just ham and eggs, fucking Steak. I’m sure you know what I mean. Only Time Can Tell.

Yes, we hope for it. Now, please, tell us some funny moments in the band?

I could go on with this question for a while: My guitarist at one show kept getting zapped singing backing vocals, because of a bad ground and he told the crowd. I fried my keyboard amp at a show into the 2nd song, so we had to end that show. My bass player had a bad habit of disappearing and we would have to find him outside whatever venue we were playing, he liked to climb, his alter ego was Captain Courageous … laughs … and when we looked for him as the show was about to go on, he would be on the fucking roof sitting there, legs dangling, one time he decided to climb a Billboard and was sitting on top of it, and he was the normal one in the band – he didn’t drink that much.

My drummer at parties couldn’t keep his clothes on and just walked around naked, parties in our rehearsal studio, he would be climbing across the pipes on the ceiling bare ass.

My bass player let an opening act borrow his bass, because the other guy broke a string and he looked at Greg’s bass and said what the fuck is this – 5 strings and no frets. Greg had the frets removed and he told the kid – welcome the big boy club … laughs … One show with coolers of dry ice leaked all over the stage snake and soaked all the XLR inputs; yes, the sound guy was pissed. Then the flash pot incident, we made flash pots with coke cans, filled them with gun powder and used steel wool and electric to ignite the pots those things were insane. We put our drummers riser on wheels for his solo and the road crew had to push him to the front of the stage, but the they couldn’t pull him back so we did the rest of the show with Taco front stage … laughs … yes, much debauchery and mayhem went on!! So much more went on, but you get the idea.

Thank you, Chris. Funny days, indeed. Last words?

Well, first I would like to thank you very much, Michael, for a great interview, the questions brought back some great memories, also shout out to Manos and Kostas at ´Sonic Age Records´/´Cult Metal Classics´ for keeping REBELLION alive, to all the bands we played with and mostly the fans, surely the greatest fans a band could ask for – here in the USA and around the World! PEACE!!!