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FUELED BY FIRE



Fueled By Fire - Burning Ambition

Interview with: Carlos, Rick, and Anthony

By Joe Who?

Within the last three years, thrash metal has made an amazing come back. The full circle return to the "glory days" of thrash is due to the fact that its influence on other bands never went away. Whether it was slight variations, subtle hints, or straight up aggression, this "classic" style of metal will live on forever.

Being an "old school" thrash fan myself, I must say I'm really impressed by some of the new thrash bands currently on the scene. When thrash is played the right way, it feels like a thrusting jolt of adrenaline going through your body that makes you come alive. This is exactly what I experienced when I saw Califorina's Fueled By Fire perform live.

The band played excellent San Francisco Bay Area style thrash accented with NWOBHM flawlessly. Sure, you could call these guys "retro" or a "throwback", but for me good memories never die. I think it's great that bands like Fueled By Fire are continuing the thrash legacy and proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that the fire indeed still burns.

I had a chance to speak with 3/4 of the group after catching their show in Milwaukee, Wisconsin opening for M.O.D. Here's my chat with one of the hot new bands emerging out of this thrash resurgence. Join me as I uncovered; assessments, anecdotes, and undeniable truths...


Wormwood Chronicles: How's the M.O.D. tour going so far? Is this your first U.S. tour?

Carlos Gutierrez: The tour is going pretty good. I mean, there's been more good shows than bad ones. M.O.D. are really cool guys, and yeah, this is our first major U.S. tour. So yeah, it's going good for us.

WC: Prior to this tour, you guys were suppost to be on the "Thrashing Like A Maniac" tour with Merciless Death and Bonded By Blood, but dropped off. What happened with that?

CG: We dropped out of that tour because we had a chance to work with Bill Metoyer and record a quick demo. Bill is the guy that produced; Slayer, Sacred Reich... you know, he's classic...

Rick Rangel: He's done an endless list...

CG: Yeah, we did a quick recording just to get a feel of working with him, then we can go back later and do the full length album. So we did that... plus the financial thing wasn't there. I mean, that tour wasn't put together the way it should've been for us...

RR: Yeah, we already did a tour like that before. So we were like, nah, because we got this opportunity...

CG: We wouldn't have been able to survive and do this current tour...

Anthony Vasquez: If we did that one, we wouldn't be here right now...

CG: Yeah, we looked at it in the long run. We're gonna get out to where we haven't been before and that was just a west coast tour, which we've done already. We wanted to come out to the east coast obviously, the midwest, and stuff like that. So that's pretty much why.

WC: Thrash is back and you guys are certainly playing a part in this great revival we're in right now. Who were the important bands that got the ball rolling for its return in your opinion?

CG: Us, Merciless Death, and Warbringer I would say...

RR: Toxic Holocaust...

CG: Yeah, Toxic Holocaust, Municipal Waste... there's other great bands out there like, Execution...

RR: Violator from Brazil...

CG: There's all kinds of European bands. I mean, there's too many to name, but to get it started again, I would say those bands that we named are pretty much the main ones.

WC: You guys started your career in 2002, but this thrash revival didn't really explode until about three years ago. Tell me about the scene back then... What kind of shows were you playing, and what were the crowds like?

CG: Well, back in 2002 there was nobody that we played to. I mean, we used to play The Whisky in L.A. to five people...

RR: Five to ten people...

AV: We played before the other bands...

CG: Yeah, but another thing was before we even started playing thrash, we were more of a heavy metal type band...

RR: Classic metal, like, Iron Maiden...

CG: Yeah, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Armored Saint, Dio. If you listen to our first demo, it'll sound way different compared to the way the album came out. Which is pretty cool, because people in L.A. know and own all that stuff. But from 2002 to now it's a lot different, there was no scene... and about the shows, we used to play punk shows. Where we're from in Norwalk, the punk scene was huge...

WC: What about the hardcore scene? Were the Orange County bands getting into L.A. and your hometown?

CG: Not really. It was more hardcore punk... just straight punk from where were from in Norwalk. There used to be a backyard show all the time and we would get on those a lot. It was cool because the punks like metal, but,for some reason they didn't really like us. There were times when we would cover a song from Iron Maiden or something, and they would get into it, and go crazy, you know? But yeah, that's what we used to play all the time, punk shows and backyard shows. We'd also go to East L.A. or somewhere in L.A. and play backyard shows there too with some metal bands, and then finally we got into the metal scene more. So it was really cool.

WC: How were shows organized outside of your hometown? Did you simply network with other bands on the computer to get into new areas? What were the major struggles you went through?

CG: Well, going out of L.A. and maybe heading into the Bay Area, San Francisco for example... yeah, I guess it was through promoting. There's promoters that we talked to and obviously there's cool bands out in San Francisco like Hatchet that we know. We always just hit them up and said - Hey, you wanna do a show or something? You know, get it done that way. Then they would contact a promoter and help us get shows set up.

When we went to Europe, it wasn't through a booking agent or anything... it was all DIY. We were invited to the "Keep It True" Festival. So we decided to do a little mini European tour while we were out there. We played Belgium, France, Holland, and did some more dates in Germany. We toured with a band from France called Resistance, and I guess they knew a guy... Damn, what was his name?

RR: Gilles...

CG: I guess he promotes shows out there and offered to help us set up all our shows. So, that's how that went, and this tour is obviously through a booking agent.

RR: ...And when we first started out, what really sucked was when we started playing clubs, it was always "pay to play". We had to sell all these tickets and most of the time the shows were just shitty. We'd be lined up with some fucked up bands that had nothing to do with our style of music, and the shows were always mixed crowds...

CG: Not even metal sometimes. Sometimes it would be "Nu Metal", sometimes it would be "Alternative Rock", or some "Hardcore" shit...all kinds of bullshit. But then we learned about bands like Merciless Death and that's when we started playing a lot, you know? We were like, let's get together, play some shows, and bring this music up... and that's how it turned out.

WC: It's amazing, right now Califorina is a major hot bed for thrash... we've mentioned; Hatchet, Merciless Death, Warbringer, Bonded By Blood... Are all these bands pretty close distance wise from one another? Have you played a lot of shows with these bands over the last few years?

CG: Well, we're from Norwalk which is more borderline Orange County. Merciless Death is from more up north in Canyon Country. Warbringer is from Ventura County. Bonded By Blood are from Pomona, they're borderline L.A. / San Bernardino area...

RR: We're far, but close. I don't know how to explain it...

AV: We're far apart, but when we play shows, we're all in one area...

CG: Yeah, like, Execution... I guess you could say they're based out of L.A. because the vocalist is from Norwalk where we're from, and the rest of the band are all spread out...

RR: Yeah, some bands are like that, members live in different cities. Most of the time when there's big shows... like, mainly in the Hollywood area, everyone comes from everywhere to go there...

CG: And it's always bands like; Us, Merciless Death, Execution, and sometimes Warbringer... Warbringer has been really busy on tour, but when they can, it'll be them too. Bonded By Blood we never play shows with. The only show that we ever played with them so far was in the Bay Area, starting off that "Thrashing Like A Maniac" tour...

RR: Yeah, we did the first show...

CG: Yeah, we started off the tour with them. Bonded By Blood they're... I don't know, I guess you could say there's a split in the scene. I mean, people like them, personally I don't. Bonded By Blood are more on the other side, and we're over here with Merciless Death and bands like that. We play shows with other different bands.

WC: Are there any more thrash bands in Califorina that we all need to keep an eye on, that haven't been signed to a record label yet?

CG: Witchaven... you gotta check out Witchaven...

RR: Sakrificer...

CG: Devastator from Sacramento...

AV: Execution...

CG: Armored Assassin...

RR: Tyrant...

CG: Infantry is out there...

RR: Infantry, yeah...

WC: This is incredible!

RR: We're naming you good bands ,too. Those guys are really good...


CG: All these bands have demos and they're doing something. There might be some more... I just can't think of any right now. But yeah, these are bands you guys should definitely check out , I would say.

WC: We were talking about networking earlier... Was this the way you guys gained the attention of Metal Blade and ultimately got signed?

CG: Yeah, pretty much. One day Brian Slagel heard us on Myspace... I guess he was looking for some bands and he contacted us out of nowhere. We were already working out deals with some other labels, like Earache when he contacted us. He sent us an e-mail and said - You guys kick ass, we wanna try and do something with you guys, let's get together. We sent him a message back and said - Is this for real? Is this really Brian Slagel? This isn't a joke or anything? And he got back to us, and said - Yeah, this is really Brian Slagel, let's talk, let's do something. Then we started to negotiate a contract and that's pretty much how it happened...

RR: We didn't really know if any labels would pick us up, so that's why we did our self release first. We were like, let's see what we can do with it. I mean, we hoped to get on a label, but you never know what will happen.

CG: So, yeah, Myspace I would say helped.

WC: You mentioned Earache Records was another label that you spoke with. How long of a time frame was there before Metal Blade came into the picture?

CG: Well, Earache heard us on Myspace too, and then they contacted us... it was li two weeks after we released our original. They wanted to do stuff and negotiate a deal, you know? Then maybe another two weeks... or maybe a month or so later, Metal Blade contacted us. We were going back and forth... Earache? or Metal Blade?

RR: We have good releationships with both representatives of the labels, you know... we're still really good friends with all of them...

CG: Yeah, the guys from Earache are really cool people. We got to hang out with Al the president and Vanessa whose in charge of A&R when we played in New York. The guys from Metal Blade go to shows sometimes and hang out... they're more older people, you know? (Laughs) It's cool. So, yeah, Earache was before Metal Blade, but obviously we chose Metal Blade.

WC: Did you ever think you'd get signed so quick? What's the best thing about being on Metal Blade?

CG: Well, we wanted to get signed, but it wasn't really a major priority for us. That's why we did our self release first, because, if we weren't gonna get signed, we were gonna do it anyway, you know? We were gonna do it on our own, go out there to the people, and just do it anyway without a label. If we got signed, that was cool, but like I said, we weren't really looking to get signed right away or anything like that. We distributed the self release ourselves. I mean, there's promoters that picked it up in Germany, all over Europe, Japan, all kinds of distros had it...

RR: It was distributed very well all around the world...

CG: Yeah, Australia, Brazil, all over the world. Then when we signed with Metal Blade, they wanted to re-master it, and re-release it, and all that stuff. So it got to a wider audience, but we pretty much did a lot of that on our own. The best thing about being on Metal Blade is just to say your on Metal Blade!

WC: They've had an amazing legacy... twenty-five years, and they're still going strong.

RR: Yeah, they have a great legacy. We've also learned a lot of lessons being on a label, like, business wise, and we're getting more experience...

CG: Yeah, but I mean, that's the best thing... just to say your on Metal Blade. So far being on a label hasn't really been much help. They put out your album and... what else? That's it. They haven't helped us with the tours or anything. So it's still pretty much DIY...

RR: Yeah, you have to work for what you get, it's still like that.

WC: I see Joey Vera re-mixed your "Spread The Fire" album. Did you enjoy working with him, and how does the original differ from the new one on Metal Blade? Is there any difference in sound in your opinion?

CG: Well, Joey Vera is a cool guy. I mean, Armored Saint has been an influence on us since the begining. So it was cool to work with him...

WC: Were you guys in the studio with Joey durning the re-mix process?

CG: The only ones that got to meet him were; me, him, (points to Anthony...) and ex-vocalist Gio. Rick met him later, but, it wasn't durning the re-mixing or anything. The only ones that helped produce it or whatever, was; me and Gio. But it was more of an e-mail back and forth type of thing. In my opinion... I guess in all our opinions, our self release sounds way better. Joey Vera's mix took away a lot of the heaviness...

RR: Yeah, I think it's too over polished...

CG: Yeah, a lot of people say that the self release is better. We did an interview after we played the "Keep It True" fest, and some guy asked the question - Do you prefer the self release sound? or the new sound? He said he prefered the self release...

RR: I mean, the one Joey Vera re-mixed still has that sound, it's just we prefer the other one...

CG: It took away a lot of the power, like on the drums, you can hear it. The self release is way more powerful, and then when you hear the re-mix, it's not there anymore. So, yeah, we like the self release on that one. But like I said before, we're gonna work with Bill Metoyer on the next one and hopefully that goes good.

WC: What influences your lyrics? What topics do you enjoy writing about?

CG: We just come up with random shit! (Laughs)

WC: I mean, some thrash bands have been known to write about various things like sharks, skateboarding...

RR: You mean, like them... (points at my Municipal Waste shirt...) (Laughs)

WC: Yeah! (laughing) You guys seem more serious though...

CG: With us on the first album, I guess you could say it was more about the L.A. scene...

RR: It was a mix of things. Some of the songs were more serious than others on the "Spread The Fire" album. Nowadays we like to incorporate things. Sometimes we'll read something that's fuckin' crazy, and we'll write a song about it...

CG: We have new songs... like, there's one called "Deadly Restraints". He picked up a pamphlet at a museum...

RR: It was like a tolerance type of thing, and how they abuse all these people that live in the crazy house... it's really fucked up. I started reading this pamphlet and I'm like, I'm gonna write a song about this shit, this is too fuckin' crazy... and it's all true.

CG: Yeah, so we did that. Then we have another new song called "Plunging Into Darkness", and he wrote... Where did you see it? I think you said it was on one of those haunting shows or something like that...

RR: Oh, Yeah! Some dude was living with evil spirits. The gateway to hell was right there at his place, and he was living with it. So, we have to write a song about this, that's fuckin' crazy! Let's see... we're writing a song about Ed Gein, who dosen't? So basically we just like to write about stuff that's interesting, you know?

WC: Gio your singer recently left the band. I was wondering how this lineup came together, and for those who haven't seen you guys live yet... How would you compare this lineup now to the previous one?

RR: Well, I'm the new singer, my name is Rick. I've been in the band pretty much since the begining, but,I just played bass and rhythm guitars...

WC: Did you do backing vocals too?

RR: Yeah, I used to do backing vocals too. I never really cared to sing for the band, but I could, and they liked it. (Chuckles)

CG: The way this lineup happened was after Gio quit, we started having try outs with people. Some auditions sucked and some were good. There was one guy... I guess he just wanted to jam with us. He was like, now I can say I jamed with Fueled By Fire! We were like, fuck, you just wasted our time, dude! What the hell?

RR: So we're auditioning guitarists at the same time. I was like, Ok, I'll sing along so you guys can get the timing right... same thing with the vocalist ,too. I'd say - No, sing it like this. Then one day I got frustrated and said - Dude, you can't get the timing right? I'm doing the timing right, plus I'm playing here. That's when I was like, Dude, I can play and sing! (Laughs)

CG: We were trying out a guitarist and I told Rick, here, sing the song, you know it... just get through it. He sang the song and I said - that sounded pretty good. Then we decided to either look for just a singer, just a guitarist, or somebody who could do both. This was pretty much the way our new guitar player Chris (Monroy...) got in the band. I mean, he came in only knowing one song, and left the session knowing five... he was really good, and the chemistry was there.

After Chris auditioned, a few more people tried out, but, there wasn't anybody that compared to him. So we practiced with him a couple more times, and then asked - Hey, do you wanna be in the band? When Gio quit there was two shows up in the Bay Area that we had to cancel. We didn't wanna keep canceling shows, because, we had another one in Corona at The Showcase...

RR: And it was in November on my birthday. So they asked me - Hey, you wanna do that show, so we don't have to cancel it? I'm like, it's my birthday, fuck it, why not? It'll be a one time thing, it dosen't matter...

CG: We'll do the show with this lineup,and see what happens. We'll get Chris on the stage, give him some experience, and see how he does. So we did the show... everybody loved Rick's vocals, everybody loved Chris, and that's when we decided to make it official that this is the new lineup.

In my opinion Rick's vocals are a lot more aggressive than Gio's were. Rick's vocals fit with the old stuff, plus they fit a lot better with the new stuff. Because the new stuff is a lot more aggressive, faster, and heavier... his vocals fit perfect. So we're happy, we're getting everywhere now with this lineup.

WC: Just out of curiousity... Do you think you'd ever add more elements to your sound? Or will you just keep it Old School?

CG: No, we're gonna keep it old school ,man, because that's the way it's supposed to be played. There's bands out there that say they're thrash, but then when you hear them, you're like, that's not thrash!

RR: Yeah, they'll say - this is our thrash song. Why is it one song? Or they'll have a thrash beat in the middle of it, and you're like, hey, dude, what's up with that?

CG: If your gonna play thrash, play it the right way... keep it raw and aggressive. There's a lot of bands that do the modernized thing. I don't really like it, but whatever... that's their thing. Our thing is to keep it old school.

WC: I totally agree with you. I think thrash sounds more pure the old school way. Earlier you mentioned that this is your first U.S. tour, so I've gotta ask... Which cities have the best mosh pits? And which ones are the biggest pussies?

(All Laughing...)

AV: Cleveland was bad ass!

RR: Cleveland and Virginia Beach...

CG: Yeah, the best mosh pit I would have to say was Virginia Beach...

RR: They were insane...

WC: I think Municipal Waste are from that state...

CG: Yeah, Municipal Waste are from Richmond...

WC: Yeah, that's right!

CG: It was cool that they moshed out there. Tampa was cool... they kinda moshed! More head banging out there. Cleveland was kick ass. Connecticut...

RR: That was out of nowhere!

CG: Yeah, that's a huge hardcore area, and when we played there, these kids got into it and started moshing. So that ended up being a really good out of nowhere show. That one was just us, M.O.D. didn't do that date. Those were pretty much the best ones. I guess you could say the pussy ones would be...

WC: Tonight!

CG: No, actually tonight was cool...

WC: I was head banging for sure!

CG: At least there was people banging their head. There's been times when people just stand there...

RR: Yeah, people just stand there with their arms crossed and you don't know what to say to them. You're like - Ugh!

CG: In Georgia we played to nobody...

RR: Yeah, there was nobody there... Well, there was a few people drinking at the bar, but, that was it...

CG: Yeah, and Gainsville sucked...

RR: Yeah, those were the only two shows I thought sucked...

CG: Orlando was ok. Miami was cool. There wasn't much of a mosh pit, but, there was a lot of head banging...

AV: Miami was bad ass!


CG: New Orleans was ok...

RR: Yeah, New Orleans was actually pretty cool. It was a small place and they had a lot of energy.

CG: So yeah, just those two were the pussy ones... Georgia and Gainsville.

WC: What's been your biggest Spinal Tap moment?

RR: Have we had those?

CG: I wouldn't say we've had a "Spinal Tap" moment on stage or anything like that, but it was weird. One time we were coming home from San Francisco... I can't even remember what freeway it was, but we're supposed to be going home. So it's already been an hour since we left San Francisco, and we're driving through this fog. Then we see this orange bridge...

RR: We're like fuck, where are we?

CG: Yeah, we're like, fuck, we're on a bridge... Is this the Golden Gate Bridge? We're not even supposed to be on the Golden Gate Bridge! Then a sign passes by, "Golden Gate Bridge". We're like, what the fuck are we doing on the Golden Gate Bridge?

RR: I thought we were miles away from San Francisco...

CG: Yeah, we drove an hour pretty much going in a big ass fuckin' circle...

AV: Around the whole bay...

CG: Yeah, and ended up on the Golden Gate Bridge going back to San Francisco...

RR: We pulled over and we're like, what the fuck do we do now?

CG: Yeah, then we pulled up at a IHOP, ate, and got directions. (Laughs) It was one of those times where you feel like your in the Twlight Zone, man! So that was a crazy moment, but other than that, I can't really think of any more.

WC: What was the worst venue you've ever played in?

Rick and Carlos both simultaneously repeat the question - The Worst Venue?

WC: Yeah!

AV: There's been a bunch of those!

CG: In L.A. I would say The Relax Bar sucked...

AV: Zen Sushi sucked...

CG: Yeah, Zen Sushi sucked, but, that place is closed down now.

WC: Where was that place located?

RR: In L.A.... Hollywood area...

CG: Yeah, but Relax Bar in L.A. sucked. It was just a tiny ass stage, and we had to play on the floor. That sucked!

AV: Washington D.C. was horrible...

CG: Oh, yeah, Washington D.C....

RR: Oh... that sucked really bad, because we had to take all our equipment up the stairs and it was really small. We were like, fuck this place ,man!

CG: Yeah, that was a sick ass work out!

WC: You wanna hear a good one? Last month I saw a local thrash show in a roller rink of all places! It was the shittiest show ever. The sound guy didn't know what he was doing... it was terrible. I stayed for one band and left! That's why I asked this question, I wondered if you guys had any experiences like that.

RR: (Laughs) There's been some venues that we've played before where were like, fuck this place! I just can't remember any more.

CG: Oh, yeah! We played this one show in Colorado. We get out there and it's snowing and all kinds of shit, plus we got into a car accident... or no,no, that was right after. But yeah, we're in Colorado, and it's snowing, and cold, and we're trying to get our equipment inside. Finally we get inside, and we're like, what the fuck is this? It's not even a venue, it's like a house show...

RR: And there was dogs running around in there, it was dirty as shit, broken stuff everywhere, creaking wood on the floor... (imitates "squeaking" boards when he walked on the floor!)

CG: We walked through a kitchen and mom is cookin' and shit... No, I'm just kidding!

RR: No, there was no one cooking there! It was just this broken down house...

CG: Yeah, they just converted this back room into a venue and they had a stage there. But we didn't even play on the stage...

RR: They had the sound board on stage!


CG: Yeah, they had all kinds of bullshit on there...

RR: It was a good show though...

CG: Yeah, it turned out to be a cool show, but, that was a shitty place to play.

WC: Who's the wildest band or band member you've ever hung out with?

RR: Billy's a fuckin' character!

CG: Hell yeah! He makes us laugh every fuckin' night!

WC: Any good Billy Milano tour stories?

CG: He just talks a lot of shit about us, because we're Mexican! He's not racist or anything, he just likes to talk shit! He's always calling us Fueled By Fajitas or Fueled By Frijoles...

RR: He's always making fun of the way I talk on stage... (Rick immates Billy Milano speaking in broken english...) This one goes out to you! Whatever! So I started making fun of him. He brought me up on stage in Washington D.C. He's like, come here, Richard... he calls me Richard, my name is Ricardo. But anyway, I go up on stage and he says - This guy likes to talk a lot of shit about me! I'm like yeah!, and start imitating his thick New Jersey accent... yeah, mutha fucka, fuck you! Then some dude in the front row goes - I'm a fuckin' New Yorker! I'm like - Oh, shit!

I started making fun of him in the south, then we started going north, and more New York people started coming out. I was like, maybe I shouldn't do that anymore because I'm gonna get my ass beat!

CG: (Imitates the guy in the front row with the New York accent...) Yeah, man, I'm from fuckin' New York!

RR: Yeah, he gets annoyed by that. (Immates Billy Milano some more...) Hey, fuck you, mutha fucka, fucko!

WC: What are your future plans after this tour?

CG: We're gonna go home and finish recording the next album. We're almost done with the writing process. So hopefully sometime on this tour we'll finish it in the van on the way to somewhere.

WC: What about touring plans? Is that on hold until your next album comes out?

CG: Well, after we're done with the next album, we're setting up a full European tour. It's gonna be Us, possibly Violator from Brazil and possibly Onslaught from the U.K.

WC: Is that tour slated for late this year or early next year?

CG: Early next year, when we're done with all the album stuff. So after Europe, we're working on bringing that tour to the U.S. also...

RR: Hopefully we can support the next album the right way. Because we had a lot of tours that were set up, and then they had to be canceled. It happened at least three or four times, and that sucked...

CG: That wasn't our fault. Some of the headliners had to cancel a tour,or it was the booking agent, you know? We didn't really get to tour this album proper. Hopefully right when they put out our next album, we'll be on tour, and we can support it the right way. So that's pretty much what our plans are.

WC: Thank you so much for your time guys. Any final words for your fans?

RR: Thanks to everyone who read this!

AV: Buy our cd!

CG: Well, "Spread The Fire" has been out for awhile, but go pick it up if you don't have it...

AV: Look for our second album soon...

RR: Thanks a lot for all the support...

CG: Yeah and hopefully if we're on tour, we'll see you all on the road somewhere... wherever you guys are!


Metal Blade Record's Website

Fueled By Fire's MySpace Site