A Heavy Metal Maniac's Audition With Exciter

By Andrew Depedro, Ottawa Corespondent
Sunday, October 29, 2006 @ 6:16 AM

"All I brought with me to the

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The news about Exciter's ongoing quest to find the perfect replacement for Jacques Belanger after he left the band for the third time yielding some success may be old news now but back when the band were auditioning for singers in the summer I decided to cast my name in for the audition and see how it progressed from there. At best, a career full of European metal festivals and lots of visits to the KNAC.COM and Indie 103.1 studios for interviews which would make for good excuses to blow off a high school reunion ("Dude, fuck Mac spirit, I've got some Dio and Gamma Ray shows to open in lower Saxony in 12 hours"). At worst, at least I got to see Exciter live even though I was part of the entertainment myself. That's what always went on in my head when I entered the studio to cut 3 songs with the band. That and maybe a small glass of the Haitian rum I had before the audition which I had won, ironically enough, at a karaoke contest with my running group a month earlier.

So here's how the audition went:

It was about mid-August at around 6:30 in the evening that day. I was counting down to when I would finally complete my flooring course that took up my whole summer. All I brought with me to the audition were the printed lyrics to the 3 Exciter songs - "Violence And Force", "Violator" and "Dark Command" - I was required to have memorized before the day of the audition. I was still reading them over while trying to find the band's rehearsal place which was somewhere in Gloucester and whose exact location I'm not at liberty to divulge. Let's just say that with the amount of band equipment and promotional swag - including Ric's (Charron) badass-looking 12-piece drum set, Clammy's even-more-badass-looking Warlock bass guitar and several vintage 80's Exciter posters - would be too lucrative for burglars to resist and thus I've probably already said too much here.

Ric is the first person I see when I walk in. I'm half-nervous and half-awestruck as this is, after all, the drummer of one of the founding powerhouse bands of the burgeoning thrash scene of the 80's. I'd likely be indifferent if this had been, say, Lars Ulrich but unlike Ulrich, Ric is pretty approachable, down to earth and quietly unfazed at the fact that he plays in a band that remain a heavy metal diety to many old-school fans worldwide some 25 years later. Must have something to do with the fact that he's still firmly based in reality and has a job outside of music to keep him fully grounded in between recording and touring (construction and a brief stint working at Statistics Canada answering phones and helping people fill out their census forms this past summer - he hated just about everything associated with it because of the constant harassment of people he felt he had to undertake in order to get the job done). I may have been a bit nervous in his presence the first 10 minutes having met him but some 2 hours later I felt like I had known Ric personally my whole life.

Bass player Clammy arrives a good 20 minutes later decked out in enough Harley-Davidson merchandise to land his own commercial. He even has a leather cover for his ponytail for God's sake. We've actually met before at a few concerts in the past (Motorhead and the Supersuckers in case you're asking) and we've chatted a few times on Ottawametal.com so we know each other well enough. He's the carefree, most talkative/animated and happy-go-lucky member of the band - think Jeff Pilson in this case but with a bit more facial hair. He's the person to talk about when discussing Exciter's tales on the road in great detail which is funny considering that he's only been in the band for 10 years and that's mostly off and on given their frequent line-up changes. Titty bars, Wacken/Bang Your Head festival backstage parties, his infamous photo shoot with Dio backstage at Italy's Gods Of Metal festival 2 years ago...Clammy's seen it all and is thus cool as fuck.

Vocalist/guitarist John Ricci is the last person to show up having been unable to schedule some early leave time at work but makes up for it by grabbing some beers for all of us by the time we set up our gear to rehearse. He's so soft-spoken he makes Ric sound like Clammy in comparison but knows his music and isn't shy on giving his opinions on specific topics and news. Sample comments-well, only 3 I can recall:

"His brain's officially gone lost in the backwoods" - In reference to Ted Nugent's ill-timed comments on Pantera's cover of "Cat Scratch Fever."

"Pffft....like he's hurting for money" - In reference to Heather Mills-McCartney suing her former husband for $100 million (come to think of it, I think that was me who made that comment but he found it funny and added something similar to that comment.)

"Thanks to the radio in this city I really can't stand to listen to them anymore" - In reference to the Beatles on classic rock radio in general which explains why he listens to CHEZ 106's rival station The Fox.

John Ricci is truly a man of wisdom.

Ummmm.......I think we should mention something about the actual songs I did with the band at this point, right?

"Violator": One of Exciter's lesser-known songs as it was from their 2001 CD Blood Of Tyrants which unfortunately came out at the same time Depeche Mode's comeback album - Exciter. Honest - came out, I was rehearsing this song for about a good 2 weeks prior to the audition almost to the point that it was a miracle that I didn't forget the other 2. I wanted to really improve on the song's demonic spoken-word intro ("Forbidden/On the eve of the holocaust/Confronted by the sentence of death/Controlled by the slayer of innocence/Beyond darkness there's nothing but destruction") especially since the one website I printed the lyrics off of had the second and third lyrics in reverse. Thus I was eager to do this song first as I figured that "Violence And Force" would be a total cakewalk. I almost fucked up in between the end of the first chorus and the guitar solo as I was told afterwards that John Ricci extends the guitar solo an extra beat when it's played live but I managed to regain my ground on the rest of the song. The band seemed to like my rendition of the song regardless. Probably even moreso that I remembered the lyrics to it rather than my vocal delivery on it.

"Violence And Force": Anthemic, brutal, violent and forceful. That was my own take on my own version of the song anyway until I missed a cue in between the second and third lines of the second bridge of the song and actually had to stop in between to regain my composure. Yeah, I probably shouldn't have assumed that Exciter's other signature song would be that easy to cover at first. I did get to perform it again and nailed the song on the second try because I really wanted to give it justice just as Dan Beehler and Jacques Belanger had done before. The band seemed to agree on this too.

"The Dark Command": The other not-so-well-known Exciter song from back in the day I was also rehearsing like mad to nail it down pat, this is a pretty thrashy number almost on par with "Violence And Force" in terms of speed and aggression. I forget which early Exciter CD it originally came from - in fact I think it was even on the band's The New Testament CD from 2004 which was pretty much a re-recording of a select number of songs from the band's catalogue if memory serves me correctly. Slamming intro, biting guitar solo and ferocious lyrics about a ruthless leader leading his people to certain doom in the quest for military supremacy, all I had to do was picture news images of either Iraq or Lebanon and the song's delivery came naturally after that. Try not to picture downtown Baghdad or Beirut while embedded with the US or Israeli military respectively after hearing "the command is given/the weapons are drawn/No hope no one/Lives or survives ". I told you the delivery just came naturally. And it's still better than anything Sleater-Kinney could come up with.

John Ricci was my ride home after the audition some 2 hours later and that was when he recounted Exciter's history and coming of age thanks to a song that the original trio hammered out in 1982 called "World War 3" that would help change heavy metal forever. Even though I may be critical of Metallica having usurped Exciter's chance of fame and recognition for themselves only for them in turn to squander it themselves after the 1980's with lawsuits over tape trading, a highly-publicized cinematic documentary, degrading treatment of one of their band members and subpar music, Ricci himself surprisingly is not. His band may still have to deal with lineup changes, lecherous local venue managers whose pay-to-play cash schemes have given Ottawa the dubious distinction of being the only city in the world that Exciter won't play in and a hard rock audience that have mostly left them behind for the more modern sounds of, say, Hinder, but Ricci wouldn't change much if anything about Exciter's past, present or future judging by his tone. Just the fact that the band broke out of Ottawa thanks to a compliment from Megaforce Records' A&R man some 25 years ago on how their music changed metal for the better is praise enough for Ricci.

As for myself, I went into Exciter's rehearsal hall hoping at best to finally see the band for free by being their singer for 2 hours while knowing full well that competition to be their frontman would be fierce, especially with "that one guy who came as far as New York to try out" turning out to be the aforementioned Kenny "Metal Mouth" Winter who's now the band's new singer and while part of me is not so much crushed that I'm not the new singer in so much as I'm concerned that Ottawa is suffering a drought of powerful heavy metal vocalists to the point that Exciter have had to look to New York to find a decent singer (although it was Kenny who took the time and initiative to come all the way up to Ottawa to audition for Exciter rather than the other way around, plus even my mom actually had to agree that having Winter as a last name was way more metal - her exact words too), the other part of me is actually hopeful that Exciter can finally put the stigma with their first 2 singers behind them and concentrate on being an active recording and touring heavy metal band again. So far it's looking promising as the band have announced touring plans for next year and they've even announced the release of their new CD Thrash Speed Burn to be released that same year. That's probably the most news I've heard from Exciter regarding anything related to recording new material in the past 3 years. Seriously. My guess is that Kenny used to be a former UFC fighter and must've literally whipped the other band members into action with threats of dragging them into the octagon here.

Holy fuck. Exciter are actually active and announcing recording/touring plans again. I think that's all that matters anymore. So best of luck to the band and Kenny Winter from the perspective of a fan and an audition hopeful.

Although imagine if whatever band nickname I'd get if I was in the band myself after those interviews with Diana DeVille and Full Metal Jackie. And the Clammy nickname was taken back in 1996.....

Andrew/The Space Lord

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