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Jim Adams & Mike Kaufmann (Defiance)

Interview with Jim Adams & Mike Kaufmann from Defiance
by Grigoris Chronis at 24 February 2005, 10:01 AM

News and (or) rumors spread like a disease nowadays… Defiance are working on new material…, Reunited Defiance to record new album etc etc etc… It seems there might be some good news here! I've always loved Defiance. So, what's that fine classic Bay Area Tharsh Metal outfit up to? Jim Adams and Mike Kaufmann are online to clear things up. Gentlemen…

Greetings from Greece and Magazine! It seems that a total revival of the classic Bay Area thrash Meal movement has started to occur! We are all happy to see the glorious comeback of Exodus and Death Angel have released a notable effort etc. At last, what about Defiance? Many rumors carry on ’bout a partial (or total) comeback, possibilities for reunion show(s) etc. What’s really goin’on (lineup, upcoming recordings etc)?

Jim: We are currently working on writing some new songs. We hope to head into the studio this summer to record. There has been talk about a full album, but that is still be determined by how well the song writing come along. The line up will be the same line up as the last two albums: Jim Adams – guitar, Doug Harrington – guitar, Matt Vander Ende – drums, Steev Esquivel – vocals, Mike Kaufmann – bass.

As far as reunion shows, we have already been offered a couple of shows. We have not accepted any as of yet because we want to work on writing music first. It is not out of the question to think we might do a show(s) if the right opportunity presents itself.

Mike: We had been talking about doing a reunion show for the last couple of years but because of other obligations it just didn’t materialize. So a few months ago I came up with the idea of writing new material and started talking to Jim about it. We agreed that the only way we would do it is if all the original members from the last two albums would be involved. We then talked to the other guys and everyone really liked the idea. It’s a huge challenge because we all agreed that we will not stray away from the Defiance style of writing. Anyone who’s listened to Defiance knows that the songs are extremely complex and difficult to play. We put together a set list of old Defiance songs and we’ve been practicing them for the last few months just so we can get back in to that mode of writing. We are planning to go into the studio sometime in August.

You’ve been involved in the Metal music business for so many years now. What’s the motive for a late 80’s Metal band in making plans of reforming, since things seem to have changed a lot in what we now call in general Heavy Metal? You know, all this Nu-Metal and atmospheric gothic-like domination, sometimes miles away from the 80s-like sound.

Jim: I think it is a mid-life crisis \[Laughs]. It seems that there is an interest again in our type of music. With the growth of the Internet and all these bulletin boards and MP3 sharing, it has made it easier to find what ever you are looking for and to experiment with different music. I think that has had a lot to do with the new interest in Thrash Metal. It allows people to find listen and share with others, bands who have not been available through regular mediums like CD stores, MTV etc.

Mike: Our motive is the fact that Thrash Metal has made somewhat of a comeback in the last couple years. We also received lots of messages from fans who would love to hear some new Defiance. We feel that the band broke up to early so we plan to use this opportunity to pick up where we left off.

Defiance split up in the early 90’s (1992, I think). During all these 13 years were the band members in contact (correspondence, hangin’ out together etc) or did you just start talkin’ again lately?

Jim: Yeah, we have for the most part stayed in touch. There have been periods when I didn’t talk to or see some of the guys (just simply due to our changing lives, not any hostility). Doug, Mike and I stayed in the closest touch over the last 13 years. In more recent years we have all begun to talk to each other more frequently, via email or phone.  We had floated the idea of doing a reunion show a couple of years ago, but at that time, I couldn’t commit due to personal issues. Now to me, seems like the right time for the reunion.

Mike: We are all still great friends and I’m sure we will be for the rest of our lives. I think of all those guys like family and I’m sure they feel the same. Also, Jim, Doug and myself went on jamming together up until around 1996.

Many of you were (or still are) involved in some bands/projects. A brief reference to everyone’s musical activities after Defiance would be most welcome.

Jim: Well…I personally was involved with a few projects after Defiance/Inner Threshold. Right after I left Inner Threshold (which was essentially Defiance without Matt or Steev) I joined a band called Trampoline. I played bass in that band. It was a guy named Jerry Wagers project. He is a great songwriter albeit not of a Metal vein.  It was more straight ahead Rock and Roll.

After I left that band, I was called by Mike to join a project that he was working on with Perry Strickland from Vio-lence. It didn’t work out for me initially and I left after a few band practices. About a year later Perry called me up and asked me if I would be interested in giving it another shot. I accepted. Mike was no longer in the band. Perry me and another guitarist named Joe (can’t remember last name right now) started writing new material in a studio near Perry’s home in Castro Valley CA. I played with that project for about 7 or 8 months before I left due to (more) personal issues.

The last band I played with was a cover band called Fat Freddie’s Cat that was started by Doug (Harrington). That was a blast! We played covers of Judas Priest, AC/DC, Kiss. We played a kegger party, which was my last public performance… that was in 2000. I left that band due to school/work commitments. Doug continued on for another year or so. In fact, I believe Mike played with them for a while too.

Mike: Inner Threshold’s music was definitely similar to the Defiance style but that kind of music had really taken a nose dive and we never got signed. In 1996, we got a new singer/guitar player and drummer and changed the name to Under. Under did quite well in the Bay Area and came very close to being signed by Metal Blade before breaking up in 1999. I guess you could say Defiance evolved into Under. By the time we broke up I was the last member of Defiance still playing in the band.

Steev, as you know, quit Defiance to form Skinlab. Matt joined Gak (formerly Laaz Rockit) and then I believe he toured with a country western band for a while. He’s now doing percussion for the Broadway play Wicked.

Defiance had all the advantages to develop into a first-class respected Bay Area band. Still, you didn’t manage to gain the recognition you deserved (I think). Would you blame it on the label support, bad management or the sign of the times (grunge/new rock conquering the U.S.)?

Jim: Mostly, I would contribute our problems to bad management. We had several, all of which ripped us off (except for the last one…but by then it was too late). By the time we finally got a decent manager, the music scene had changed. Nirvana was the final nail in the Defiance coffin. Roadrunner had done a decent job promoting our first two records but didn’t promote our last (and I believe our best) album. I understand though, the times had just changed too much for them to make a large investment of that kind.

Mike: It was partly because of the sign of the times. But also we took way to long finishing the third album. I remember having a conversation with Monte Connor (from Roadrunner) where he told me how much he loved the album but he also said it was too late and that kind of music was on the decline. If the album would have come out 1991, like it should have, things may have been a little different. As a result, Roadrunner did not give us the support we needed (tour, video, advertising etc)

Defiance (if I remember well) had signed a seven record deal with Roadrunner Records. Yet, three only (excellent) albums saw the light of day. Was it the band’s split-up or Roadrunner’s decision not to have the chance to enjoy more albums after Beyond Recognition?

Jim: Roadrunner released us from our contract.  The band continued on trying to get a new deal and writing new material. Matt and I had left the band before this happened though. I returned to re-join Defiance about 4 or 5 months after the band had been dropped by the label. Steev left shortly there after while we were trying to find a new drummer. Once we landed a new drummer, Dave White (Heathen) joined the band.  We did a few shows under the name of Defiance, but we realized that our sound had changed too much to continue to call ourselves Defiance. That is when we changed the name to Inner Threshold. One of our roadies, Brendan Traynor, came up with that name.

Mike: Roadrunner just felt that Thrash Metal was out and decided not to pick up the option for a fourth album.

In my mere opinion also, Beyond Recognition was at the highest position compared to your other two recordings (Product Of Society and Void Terra Firma – anyway, brilliant albums). Are there are any outtakes, extra stuff destined for a fourth (then) record that we may have the chance to hear sometime?

Mike: We were working on new material but we ended up using most of it for Inner Threshold. It’s too bad because I.T. was really like new Defiance with a different singer and drummer. The music was awesome but it was really never noticed.

Jim: The only outtake from the Beyond… sessions was an acoustic piece that I had been working on and actually recorded during the sessions. It was going to be the sequel to the piece I performed on the Product Of Society album, Aftermath. The producer, Rob Beaton, insisted on me playing the song on this really nice (but hard to play) Martin guitar. I had been practicing the song on my personal acoustic (Ovation), which I had used to record Aftermath. The problems I encountered trying to play and record with this guitar caused Rob to pull the plug on the piece.

Then it was the time of vinyl, now it’s the era of the CD. Many people fond of the Bay Area Thrash Metal scene are still desperately looking for Defiance CD issues. Really, has any label re-released your three albums? I think Void Terra Firma was released on CD in Japan…

Jim: That is correct. Roadrunner re-released Void… in Japan. I contacted Monte Conner of Roadrunner to ask if there were any plans to re-release the other two CD’s in Japan or the US or Europe. He told me that at this time (about a year and a half ago) there were no plans to re-release any of the other albums.

Traveling back to the mid-80’s, it must have been a helluva good time to be a part of the blossoming Bay Area scene. It’s remarkable that in every band’s recording there were more than 20 bands credited at the back (or inner) sleeve, for support mainly. Why isn’t this possible anymore? You know, bands to hang out together, helping each other, contributing – in general – to what we can refer to as Wave or Movement?

Jim: Indeed, those were great times J. I think of it as a fraternity. We had a great time hanging out at the Omni, Stone and One Step Beyond (all owned by Nady Wireless). We would all do shows together, and go see each other’s shows, and party all night. It was a lot of fun.

I think the reason it is less likely to happen now (at least in the Bay Area) is that there are not a lot of clubs that bands like us can play anymore.  There are a few, but they are smaller venues, and they are spread out.

Mike: Back then, music was our life and we lived for the Bay Area Music Scene. We would go to almost every show and hang out with other bands which was a good way of getting on the bill for good shows or tours. I think that these days people have different agendas for their lives. We were all much younger and most of us didn’t have to worry about putting food on the table for our families.

U.S. Thrash Metal Vs Euro-Thrash: opinions, favorite bands from both sides of the Atlantic, percentage of contribution to the general Thrash Metal movement?

Jim: Back in the early 80’s most metal seemed to come from Europe. I was really into bands like Accept, Mercyful Fate, and Motorhead. In 1981 I went to see Metallica and Exodus at one of their first shows (I think I was about 14 at the time). They blew me away and from that time I knew that’s what I wanted to do. At that time the only Thrash Metal I was into came from the Bay Area and Europe. I really thought that the best music came from the Bay Area but I never thought that it would blow up to be as big as it was. I think that Metallica and Exodus pioneered a new thrash sound that was greatly influenced by European Metal.

Defiance (if I remember well) didn’t have the chance to tour Europe. Why did that happen? Was it due to lack of support? From what you have heard, how would you judge European Metal fans Vs the U.S. ones?

Jim: That is one of my biggest disappointments. I really wanted to go to Europe and do shows. I think there were many reasons. One of the biggest was the amount of time it took us to complete the Beyond Recognition album. I believe Heathen took a tour that had been promised to us…simply because we just were not ready to go.

Mike: We really took way too long finishing our third album. My understanding was that Roadrunner had planned to put us on a European tour with Sepultura. When they found out that our album was going to be delayed for an uncertain amount of time they went out and signed Heathen who ultimately got the tour that we should have had.

Except for fan mail, we never really had a chance to interact with the European fans. By reading their letters and talking to friends that have been there, I think that they may be a little more fanatical about Metal then the fans in the U.S.

The band’s influences: apart from each member’s fav bands, are there any bands/recordings you would credit as determinant for the classic Defiance sound/tunes?

Jim: As far as influences? Slayer, Metallica, Exodus, Anthrax, Voivod, S.O.D., and later on Pantera. Of course there are many more, these are just the ones I could think off the top of my head.

Mike: Back then my biggest influences were the Bay Area bands (Metallica, Testament, Exodus etc). Throw in a little Slayer and Anthrax too… But growing up, my biggest influences were Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, Scorpions and Judas Priest.  I really can’t speak for the rest of the guys but I know that we were all greatly influenced by the Bay Area’s Thrash Metal bands. Also, we were all into different kinds of music aside from thrash metal and I think that really helped to make our song writing as good as it was.

Is there any kind of contact with other Bay Area bands? Exodus, maybe Heathen or Testament? Are there any other good ol’ bands you believe are about to get (or should be) active in the near future?

Jim: Well, Steev and Mike are still in touch with Exodus. I haven’t talked to anyone from Testament in five years, but I know where to find them. We are all still in touch with Heathen. I don’t know if any of the other old school bands are considering a reunion, but I think it would be great to hear of more old bands getting together to have some fun and drink some beer!

Mike: Dave White of Heathen was renting a room in my house for about 2 years before moving last October. I just saw the Exodus guys last week at their studio (they were trying out new singers). Ran into Steve Zetro Souza at an Oakland Raider game last month. I think most of the Bay Area Thrash bands that were signed have done some kind of reunion in the last few years.

One question out of curiosity: Defiance did not participate at the Chuck Billy Thrash Of The Titans benefit concert, held in 2001. Why were you not in the bill? Was it not possible to gather the band members all together?

Jim: I heard we were asked to perform. I wish we had taken them up on the offer. It was a great show and a great cause. My wife and I went as guests of Dave White (Heathen was one of the first bands to play). We ran into Steev at the show. It was the first time we had seen each other in 6 years.

Mike: At that time I think a couple of the guys were to busy with family obligations and other personal matters. We had talked about it briefly but there just wasn’t enough time to pull it off.

Guys, thanks for your spare time in doing this brief interview! Last words form you are gladly welcome!

Jim - Mike: Thanks for asking us to do the interview Greg! It is an honor and a privilege to be thought of as worthy interview material.

 You’re - first of all - thought as a great Metal band, guys!

Links: Official Defiance Website


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