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Steve Hochheiser (Detente)

Interview with Steve Hochheiser from Detente
by Dimitris Antoniou at 28 December 2008, 2:24 PM

The Thrash Metal scene left a huge legacy. Modern extreme metal bands still pay homage with their music to the pioneers who cleared new paths in music in the early 80s. It was not an easy thing to do in the US. Glam/Hair metal ruled the airwaves and not even the popular european heavy metal bands couldn't easily survive, especially in LA. But the early thrash bands had the nerve, the balls (huge balls the size of a mountain) and the passion to stand their ground and deliver the most extreme, angry,  dark music the world had ever seen. DETENTE was one of those bands. Even if they managed to release only one album, they were one of the very few that sponsored a female vocalist. With lyrics drawn from politics and aggression against the status quo, much like punk did in the UK, DETENTE set some standards that are still being followed after more than two decades. Recently they came back together and re-released their debut Recognize No Authority and a compilation of their old demos titled History 1. We contacted their bassist, compose and founding member, Steve Hochheiser to have a talk about their past, their present and their future.

How did the band get together again?

We had a couple of festival offers after the re-issue of Recognize No Authority so I tracked down Dennis and Caleb; keep in mind that none of us had spoken for 18 years! Caleb was still actively playing but Dennis and I definitely had some rust. We put in a few rehearsals and started doing shows.

Why Ross Robinson didn't join the reunion?

Ross quit playing guitar years ago and is quite happy with his career in record producing; he was actually supportive of us doing it though.

Ann Boleyn was quite a strange replacement for the late Dawn Crosby. Their singing is quite different, with Ann being more melodic. Do you think she can give the same feeling Dawn was giving with her screams? Has the audience accepted her?

Dawn was not only a unique vocalist but also very gifted writer; all of our respect runs deep for Dawn. The simple fact is nobody was going to sound like Dawn so we wanted someone from our day (the 80's) that could do justice to the material; Ann was viewed as one of the few viable singers along with Debbie Gunn. Ann has done a great job and the reviews have been extremely favorable.

How did you manage to get Recognize No Authority re-released?

I was approached by various record labels over the years and never followed through with it until I had to buy my own CD on eBay for 220 Euro! I received the Price Killer version of the CD and thought the mastering was just terrible so I contacted Monte Conner at Roadrunner who put me back in touch with The Netherlands Group who licensed it to my Cognitive label. I wanted the re-issue to have a certain quality to it and knew the re-issue labels would just toss it out there so I handled it myself.

Your latest CD is called History 1 and it contains demos from DETENTE and CATALEPSY. Although it was for me a pleasant surprise, we don't see very often bands releasing their demos, especially when it concerns side projects or unsuccessful attempts. Why did you decide to release them, after so many years?

Quite a few people were asking about the demos which at the time I did not own. I placed a few calls and tracked down copies of the cassettes and had them re-mastered. Recognize No Authority was selling very well so I decided to take a chance and issue History 1 which by the way is also now selling well.

History 1. Does it mean we will have also a History 2? What will include?

I left it open for History 2to cover DETENTE/FEAR OF GOD tracks plus live material. At the moment I am more interested in new material but we will see.

In your myspace you have some videos from old shows with Dawn on vocals. Is there any chance we will see a DVD being released containing old gigs?

There is a chance that I will throw together some of the new shows with the original video's; something very limited for hardcore fans.

Let's stay a bit in the past. How things were back then in L.A. For the thrash bands?

LA sucked! LA was already going Glam! We had to play mostly in San Francisco and the only good shows in LA were with Punk Bands at the Balboa Theater though we had the infamous show at the Country Club in Reseda with DARK ANGEL and MEGADETH which broke out into a full on riot!

Why didn't you move to San Francisco like other thrash metal bands?

Even San Francisco only had a few clubs like Ruthie's, Mabuay, and Rock on Broadway. We should have moved to Europe, that is where the scene was happening.

Tell us a bit about the original split up. You had a great album out, kickass reviews, kickass live shows and all stars seemed to be aligned for you. Sure the sales weren't good in the US however Europe seemed to like you and things weren't that bad. Or were they?

Europe was going well and we were lining up a tour there but the band barely made it through the recording of Recognize No Authority. The simple fact is Dawn was so self destructive anytime something good was about to happen. While it is true that our producer Dana Strum was a jerk, Dawn was just walking out of the studio in fits of anger, coming in drunk, and just was so difficult to deal with. We had very limited funds, 10K, and we did not know if we would even finish the recording. At the end the relationships were very strained and Dawn and Ross would not even talk. We did one show after the recording, the one on video, and nobody showed up further proving that LA was not the place to be. We decided to take a hiatus and then Dennis had his accident being burned and it just ended.

And what about CATALEPSY? Now that I had the chance to listen to what you had recorded back then, I am even more curious as to why this effort failed also. You were ahead of your time, even more than with DΙTENTE. Why did it stop?

CATALEPSY was actually signed to Roadrunner; we were Monte Conner's first assignment when he joined! When we released the first demo the press was going nuts over it which perked the interest of CBS records, the problem was that Roadrunner heard it first and exercised options on Ross and I to keep us on the label. Ross  was completely unwilling to record for Roadrunner again with CBSshowing interest. We spent the next year trying to get off Roadrunner and out of another management contract; by the time this happened CBS had lost interest in Metal all together. We recorded a full length album on our own during that time hoping the CBS thing was going to happen and when it didn't we pitched it out to a few of the independents; funny thing is that everyone really liked it but they thought is would be hard to market, they couldn't decide if it was Thrash, Power Metal, Progressive, or Melodic; this is the downside of being ahead of your time! Nobody would touch it.

You did some shows recently and you even participated in Headbangers Open Air in Germany. How does it feel being back on stage again?

We are loving it! There is no pressure of success so we try to enjoy the moments more. Our first show at Tidal Wave was rough but after that it came together because nobody was picking apart the faults of the other players. We just said oh well, better job next time and since then the shows have been very well received. Our comeback show in LA had a great crowd that just went nuts and of course it was great to finally play in Europe at Headbangers Open Air.

Very few thrash bands remain active from the 80s, some don't even play thrash. Do you think there is room for old school thrash bands like you anymore?

A lot of young bands are trying to recreate the 80's; FUELED BY FIRE, MERCILESS DEATH and  BONDED BY BLOOD. HIRAX and EXODUS are still at it but in general Thrash is very limited in draw, it just doesn't fit into the Depressed Goth youths view of the world today. There is no thought in our heads that we will quit our day jobs, we will enjoy what we have until is gone.

Do you have plans for a full tour? Are you going to visit more cities and countries in Europe?

We just would not have the draw for a full tour. We are popular in Benelux and Germany still as well as certain cities in the US but the rest of the world is more of a cult following. We hope to play a couple of European festivals in 2009 but nothing is confirmed at the moment.

From what I know, you are working on new material. Do you want to talk to us about it? Is it going to be old school thrash or will it be closer to the extreme music of these days? Who is going to sing in the new album?

Like DETENTE and CATALEPSY I am doing a lot of the writing and I think it is very old school; Dennis also has such a unique feel to his drumming that the sound really will remind people of the old days. Ann is still singing with us and I will tell you that there is nothing overly melodic about the new tunes; a couple of them make Losers seem like a love song!

Anything else you might want to add?

Thanks to everyone who continues to support us in this endeavor; it has been an honor to meet and play for so many cool people, we were shocked and thrilled by the number of people who traveled half way around the world to see us at Headbangers Open Air and enjoyed sharing the beers and the stories. We are proud to be have been part of the first wave of Thrash and hails to you and Metal Temple for your commitment to the music.

Thank you very much for your time and your answers.


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