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James Rivera (Helstar)

Interview with James Rivera from Helstar
by Grigoris Chronis at 22 November 2007, 11:02 PM

James Rivera and HELSTAR. Again: HELSTAR and James Rivera. While waiting for the tremendous US Metal band's upcoming - and first in many many years - studio effort (yet untitled), we grabbed the chance for a brief talk with the one-and-only Metal singer due to HELSTAR's Sins Of The Past release, a CD full of re-recorded (80s era) classics plus two brand new 'teaser' cuts.

Greetings from Metal Temple magazine! I admit I was a little bit worried how the ’updated’ versions of HELSTAR classics would sound like, but I feel there’s been a tremendous work done in the studio! First of all, who’s idea was it to re-record songs from the band’s 80s days? Did the company – AFM Records – have something to do with this decision?

It was my idea and it was this idea that sold AFM on signing us. The saw it the same way I did. A good idea to expose the band to the newer metal audience with a more up to date sound.

What was the motive for choosing the specific songs? On the other hand, we see no tune off the Multiples Of Black album (plus my beloved Run With The Pack is missing!). To tell you the truth, I’d release a double-CD set (laughs)!

Obviously we had to pick a few of the popular ones but we also picked ones we thought fit the direction of today and our future. Run With The Pack was just re-recorded on the Distant Thunder record. As far as Multiples…, it is just the album that I wish never was.

In today’s Metal scene, you feel younger Metal fans do have the potential to feel the pure Metal magic of HELSTAR as delivered in the 80s? I’m asking this, in order to assume a couple of elements in regards to the band’s upcoming album.

Yes, but also with a touch of more heaviness and darkness.

Sins Of The Past may sound as a kinda weird title for a compilation album. I’d choose ’diamonds’ or ’monuments’, but that’s another story. So, who came up with the album title and who thought of the simple-yet-ample cover artwork?

Larry came up with the title but come on! How heavy does diamonds or moments sound? That might fit AIR SUPPLY or someone like that! LOL!!! As far as the simple cover with a modified HELSTAR logo, we saw it as simply letting the name stand out alone boldly just as you said it moved you in question 9! See, it has that effect!

The last two songs are newly penned ones, or they are dating back to older HELSTAR days? If they are new, are they kinda ’teasers’ for the upcoming HELSTAR album (due in 2008? Which brings us to the crucial question: have you written all the songs for the new album? What’s up with the recordings? Any possible title (even tentative)? Any track list?

The 2 songs are newly penned and yes they were planned as a tease. Nothing from the past will be used because that is exactly what it sounds like. The Past! We have about 3/4 of the record written and plan to go into the studio hopefully by Feb. Some other titles are The King Of Hell, Garden Of Temptation, Wicked Disposition and Asylum Of Black. No title yet.

It was rumored that Larry Baraggan was/is keen enough on the so-called ’Nu Metal’ movement. True/false? Is there any possibility this ’taste’ will affect HELSTAR’s upcoming album (many fans would like to know, I guess!)?

No! He knows what to deliver for the HELSTAR listening audience. He likes certain bands that I would probably not listen to but to each his own.

Back to the sinners: nearly the whole Remnants Of War lineup is present in the Sins Of The Past album. How did you come all together, in the first place, to decide a new HELSTAR album should be recorded after all these years?

It was all brought together from the idea of a person named Rob Chavez who has a TV show and once a year puts on the Rob’s metal works showcase. It was last year which marked the 20 year anniversary of the release of Remnants…. That is why it is this line up that is in existence. Once we did that it lead to other shows and from there the rest is history.

A rather naive(?) question: the chemistry is still there or it’s just the will and you now cooperate more professionally?

Of course the chemistry is there but we look at this more as business as well. Not too many people get a second chance.

As a retro metalhead, seeing the HELSTAR logo again really moved me. What do you believe the reaction of your fan base (many of them being in their mid-30ies no, huh?) will be towards a new album?

Excited! Only because that has been the reaction everyday in our mailbox so to speak. Again this is why the simple cover. Let the logo speak for it’s self.

Many ’golden 80s’ Metal bands – especially the US Metal ones – have released rather mediocre or disappointing ’reunion’ albums the last years (no names, though). How far is ’the spark’ from ’the disillusion’ when a ’classic’ Metal reforms after many many years in order to deliver a new album? Should such a band write the same ol’ classic songs, should they try to be up-to-date with today’s standards, should they do something ’in the middle’?

They should stick to their basic roots but look around themselves to see what is going on and what is up to date and what would fit them as far as these up to date ideas.

2001 saw HELSTAR performing at Germany’s Bang Your Head!!! festival. Since then, even in selected dates, you must have witness how strong the HELSTAR brand still is. Are you willing to get thrown on the road in 2008?

By all means!!!!!

Really what was up with the Bang Your Head USA II - Texas fest? Whose ideas was it?

It was mine and it is simply a cool one day fest here in my hometown. You have to remember we are talking the US here and we could never really have nice big festivals such as over there for real metal. Not this OzzFest. Bullshit!!!!

A big difference – in my eyes – for HELSTAR in regards to other 80s US Metal bands is that you did never show a ’sellout’ attitude in your - so far - career. HELSTAR’s music was rather complex to many Metal fans, I can recall, but the band seemed rather ’honest’ at its musical creations. In our days, do you feel current bands can be that ’stuck’ to their initial goals? Is there space for Metal ideology in newly formed Metal bands, in your opinion?

I don’t know how other bands think or work but that is something that doesn’t matter to me anyway. I’m not worried about how they do things. I’m only concerned about what I will deliver which is going to always be from the heart and when you do things from the heart it will always come out honest!

OK, think that’s all for the time being. Needless to say, we’re all looking forward to the new HELSTAR album. Thanks a lot for this interview!


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