FeaturesBob Nalbandian on The Rise of L.A. Thrash Metal Part II

Bob Nalbandian on The Rise of L.A. Thrash Metal Part II

Dead Rhetoric: We’ve talked L.A. and the Bay Area scenes – with today’s society, is there a potential for scene movement or have we kind of expanded past that?

Nalbandian: That’s a great question – I was talking to someone else about that too. Thanks to the Internet and filesharing, and everything else, it’s so easy access. In the early ‘80s, to buy imports from the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, we had to drive 30-60 miles, literally. We would drive an hour to go to a record store to buy certain things. It was so new.

All these areas – British bands had their own sound. It had a particular sound and vibe. The bands in Holland, the early Dutch bands like Picture or Bodine – they had a sound that was a little bit similar to the British sound. The German bands were all very different. They were kind of like Accept – later you had bands like Helloween. But they all had a kind of German sound. All the French bands all sang in French – Trust, Warning, Sortilège – they all had a separate sound. The Swedish bands had a sound, like a Deep Purple kind of vibe – Richie Blackmore, Yngwie Malmsteen, John Norum – you had these shredding guitar players with a classy European sound. Each country had a different scene and a different sound. It made it so interesting.

Nowadays, you hear a band that sounds like KoRn – they could be from Germany, they could be from England, they could be from anywhere. They are doing the same nu-metal stuff – the sound is international and all rolled into one. There’s no diversity. When I listen to old Thin Lizzy records, I can hear that Irish folk music influence that comes out. That’s what I thought was really cool about bands from the ‘70s and into the early ‘80s. It was so distinct. Each area had its own separate thing, and Europe has now become a huge metal force, particularly in Germany. Germany and Sweden, Finland…all of the festivals, it’s all come together. They were having those festivals in the early ‘80s – the Aardschok festival, the Dynamo. They just increased and became huge.

It’s different, but now it’s so easy. Before, to see someone like when I first met Lars in the 1980s and it was like “Holy shit, there’s a guy out here from Denmark. Wow!” We used to sit in his house in Newport Beach and hear the stories about hanging out with Lemmy and the guys in Diamond Head. This is before Metallica formed. My friend, Patrick Scott, was one of Lars’ best friends, and we were in awe of him because he was hanging out with the guys in Diamond Head and knew Lemmy. It was like, “Aw dude, this guy is God!” It was a whole different thing when you look back at it.

A lot of people today can’t really comprehend that, because everything is at your fingertips. You can get anything you want over the internet. You didn’t have that access. It was all about the tape-trading – we have a whole section, I think, in Part II that’s all about tape trading, which was such a huge scene. That’s how Metallica made it – that’s how they got their international following. You don’t have that anymore. It’s all filesharing and it’s all simultaneous through the computer. We would have to wait three or four weeks to get a package from our pen pals in Germany, Holland, or England. You would get all these cassettes and it would be like Christmas.

Dead Rhetoric: On the same subject, as a long-time journalist in the scene, how do you feel that things have changed over the years on this side of the fence?

Nalbandian: I think it’s gotten kind of tabloid, which I understand. It’s a business. Everything’s a business. The music business is a business. Everything has changed now, and the Internet is something that I’m still learning. I’m not very tech-savvy with the sites. I understand that it’s all about getting the hits and views, and getting the advertisers. The news sites are so huge, and sometimes I look at them and I read the headline. It’s clickbait. “So and so slammed so and so” and then you end up reading the article or listen to the podcast and it’s like, he didn’t really slam them. That’s something that is a sign of the times.

I kind of like the old school – people don’t want to sit down and read whole articles. People want to comment. People will read something on a news site – Blabbermouth or Brave Words [and Bloody Knuckles], or wherever. They won’t read the whole article – they just read the title and just make comments about it. I’ve done certain interviews that have been posted on the sites and I see the comments, and it’s like, “Did you even listen to the interview?” If you listened to the interview, it would be answered. People just like to comment on things. It’s that quick mentality – people want that instant gratification. That’s the sad thing.

Back in the day, we used to read articles in magazines – we’d get Kerrang and just read through all this stuff. Of course, you still have press magazines – Classic Rock and Rock Candy out of Europe. There’s Revolver and Decibel and all that, but its really the websites that have taken over everything. I think in England, the print press has been bigger, even back in the ‘80s. But now it seems like everything is on demand, which is great. Sites like yours are great and informative – I could spend hours reading about all these bands that I’ve never even heard of.

But some of these news things – that’s what people want. They want the quick blurb and that kind of thing. That’s what journalism is now, and a lot of it is just recycling the press releases. It’s funny because I get the same press releases emailed to me through the PR companies. Then I’ll go on some of these sites, and its funny the spin that some of the websites take on the press clips or headline. They cater it to their audience and what they know they will click on. That’s what it’s about – you have to get those clicks. I understand – in order to survive, that’s what you have to do. It goes both ways, it’s just different.

Dead Rhetoric: So you have Part I coming out, and then Part II of The Rise of L.A. Thrash, and we talked about the Bay Area documentary. Is there anything else going on in the future that we didn’t cover?

Nalbandian: Right now, it’s just the Bay Area one. I really want to concentrate and get these out. After that, we’ll see what happens from there. I like to do things that I grew up with and saw the bands. I grew up in L.A. and saw these bands firsthand. Even with the Bay Area, I saw a lot of those bands, even when they came out to L.A. and I know that scene. If we were to do something on New York, I would like to maybe get a co-director or producer. Actually, for San Francisco, I have to give props to John Strednansky from Metal Rendez-vous. He got so many of the interviews for this, and he will be doing the narration. He also did several of the interviews for it. I worked with him a lot on this, and also Danny Shipman, who is in San Francisco and also did a bit of editing for us, and also did a number of interviews and got a lot of people for us.

These are people that grew up in the Bay Area that knew these people personally. I really like to get that personal touch on the interviews. San Francisco is going to be a little bit different. It’s going to be me, plus a couple other people that are going to be a lot more involved in the Bay Area scene. I’m looking forward to that, but as far as the future goes, we’ll see how it goes from there.

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