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ACID REIGN - Interview with Howard Smith
By Wojtek Gabriel, posted 7 Jun 2018
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Acid Reign thrash metal band
As Mr Howard Smith aka H pointed out in the interview below, Acid Reign don't fit norms of thrash metal. If you know anything at all about this jolly combo you won't even try to argue with this statement. Their reunion idea didn't exactly work out as planned so, we now have a new incarnation of the band, with H at the helm, but what's most important is that Acid Reign kick butt as hard as always, which they unquestionably proved during their recent UK tour. With their sleeves rolled up the guys are currently working hard on a new release, which... Oh wait, you can read about it yourselves...
You re-started the band two years ago and you have a completely new line-up. I've watched a few of your live videos on YouTube and I must say that this squad is very strong. How and where did you find those guys?
Well, how is hard work. I never wanted to have auditions or anything like that so I asked some people I know in bands and Pete was recommended to me by Sy from Annihilated, Mark was recommended to me by Jeff from Onslaught and Paul I've known for 20 odd years. Paul wanted to be in Acid Reign first time round when we went from five down to four. He approached us but we stayed as a four-piece. He played one song with Acid Reign in 1991, he played "Motherly Love" with us at the Marquee and we've kind of stayed in touch ever since. So, there was always me and Paul there and then the final piece of the jigsaw was Cookey and this is really weird. He sent a video of him playing "Goddess" to our facebook page the same day we just auditioned a family friend of mine who I was sure was gonna be a fit and just didn't have the chops to play thrash. So, we were a bit down and we saw this video and we were like, "Hey, this guy knows what he's doing." So, I contacted him and it turns out he lives in Wales where Kev lives. Kev, our original guitarist is the guy who started all this by saying, "Hey, let's do some gigs." And so Cookey was one of the guys that was pestering Kev to get Acid Reign back together. And instead he ends up in Acid Reign. So yeah, it was kinda weird.
Did you speak to anyone from the original line-up at all?
Yes, it was going to be re-formation. It wasn't my idea, it was Kev's idea. Me, Mac, Adam and Ramsey rehearsed twice together, we were putting sets together and it was all looking like it was gonna happen. Then Ramsey pulled out, then Adam pulled out, then Mac pulled out and Paul was gonna fill in for Kev when Kev wasn't around. There was a point where I was gonna do this thrash project and get all the people I've known in thrash metal over the years to come together and do a song and then I realised what a stupid idea that was. It was hard just to get just 5 people so trying to get more people was a stupid idea. And then one day I rang Paul and said, "You know this thrash project I'm thinking of doing, I've got a name for it." He said, "All right, what do you wanna call it?", I said, "Acid Reign". And he just started laughing and I said, "Yeah, why not, no one else is out there using it, let's just do like a new band." And that's how it happened.
How did it feel to play the first gig after such a long break as Acid Reign again?
It was bizarre. We played the place called Nunnington, it's not called Nunnington but we call it Nunnington, and that was in October 2015. The last time we were in Scotland was just over two years ago and this would have been our sixth ever gig as a unit. That first gig was amazing. What struck me most was our third song was "Humanoia" and I'd forgotten how much Acid Reign fans like to sing along. And we got to the chorus and it wasn't the case of, "Yeah, you guys sing", I started singing the chorus and I realised I was not the loudest person singing the chorus. And that just absolutely blew me away. It makes me smile just talking about it.
So, you sported that nice pink suit at Bloodstock last year... Why? I mean, why?
Ha-ha! Because the beauty of being in this band is that we don't fit the norms of thrash metal. We never have. And funnily enough our fans don't fit the normal kind of fan either. Acid Reign fans want colourful T-shirts, they want lots of colours, whereas normally it's like black T-shirt, black T-shirt... And they buy them all colourful ones. Also, because the album "Obnoxious" was pink, I wore a pink suit and blue shirt which was the same colour scheme as "Obnoxious". And the pink hat I found on the day. I bought that from the stall at Bloodstock. And it was really funny, because Mark was not sold on the pink suit idea, everybody else was, but then Mark was the one who found the hat and he was like, "Oh, I'm gonna have to tell him." But yeah, it was one of those things, you know? Pretty much like my stage gear tonight. It was bought on Tuesday and it's a size 14 female pair of silk pyjamas. They were on special offer in a Sports Direct store. I was out Christmas shopping and I was just flicking through the sale rack and I saw them and looked and just thought, "They look like they fit me" so, I had to go up to the counter and say, "Can I try these on please" ha-ha! So, I tried them on and they fit and that was it. So, you know, whatever happens.
Thrash metal seems to have stood the test of time. Why do young people want to play and listen to that style of music?
Well let's face it, thrash didn't die. I mean, you know, it went to sleep for a long time. Music goes in cycles. History goes in cycles. Look at some of the oldest conflicts in the world, they're nothing new, there's a peaceful time and then there's a war... Music comes around, goes around. There's always, is it the death of heavy metal, is it the death of rock'n'roll, oh, metal is thriving, no it isn't, yes it is, you know? So, everything comes and goes. But it seems to be back now. I can't see it going away to the extent that it did before. I think it's pretty much here to stay from now on.
What drew you to playing thrash metal? When starting the band, you did realise that thrash musicians didn't get groupies, just ugly smelly dudes, didn't you?
Ha-ha! You know what, if you're playing music in the hope that you are going to become some sort of sex symbol, you're playing it for all the wrong reasons. Certainly metal and certainly thrash metal. No, we were just young kids who were excited by the music we were hearing coming from the States and wanted to play music like that. Some people go out there, buy records and they go see shows and that's exactly what I did, but that wasn't enough. I guess it's what separates a performer or a musician from fans. For some people going to a gig and having great time is enough. For you it's not enough, you want to be involved, you want to report on the music, that's your route. My route is on stage and for some people it's going to as many shows as possible. We are all contributing in our own way. So, it was just pure enthusiasm, I just wanted to play that music because I loved it so much. I don't just wanna go and see people on stage, I wanna be on that stage, making that music. And that's the kind of belligerent attitude that I had back in the day that got my band signed.
UK thrash band Acid Reign
The original Acid Reign was together for just 6 years, yet you were never forgotten and kids that were born after you split-up are digging your music now. Does it surprise you at all?
Yes. Next question, ha-ha! We finished the band in 1991 and quite a lot has happened since then. Something called the Internet was invented and all of a sudden people discovered music on-line. I guess people got into it because music's around. It's around all the time. And last night funnily enough I had a guy come up to me when I came off stage and he said he'd never heard of Acid Reign until Monday and he was at our show on Friday. I mean, to have people coming along and say, "Thank you for doing this, you make me feel like I'm 20 again" is a wonderful feeling. And having people to come up and say, "I've liked you since I was 10", and they were born in 1990, you know, when "Obnoxious" came out they were 0, so to have them come up and say, "It's great to get a chance to see you", that's total buzz as well. And then you get fans bringing their kids and that's a head trip as well, especially when they bring their kids and they're fuckin' taller than you, ha-ha! But that's a whole other deal. Most people are taller than me, I should be used to it by now.
Apart from being a thrash metal singer you're a stand-up comedian. Which activity do you enjoy more? I mean the audiences are, well, slightly different...
Yeah, completely different. It's a totally different thing. Although I'm gonna be merging the two together, I'm doing spoken word show next Friday in Birmingham and that's gonna be the start of me doing some spoken word shows which is kind of like half metal half comedy. I'm gonna be telling a lot of stories from back in the day when we were touring with Exodus, Flotsam and Jetsam, Death Angel, Nuclear Assault, Candlemass, Dark Angel. And there's also some crazy stories because we were young and stupid. But it's very different. This is a really corny answer so I apologise, but it's like being asked who's your favourite child, you know? If I had to say, hand on heart, if someone said to me, "Tomorrow night, Acid Reign gig or stand-up comedy gig?", it would be an Acid Reign gig. I've been doing comedy for 20 years and I absolutely love it, don't get me wrong, but let's use a cliché, that metal is in my veins. When I was first in this band I was 15 years old, I'm now 47 with 25 years off and I just fuckin' love it man, it's awesome. To get to do it again, it's just too much fun.
Would you say it's a good or a bad thing that these days any band, even with no song-writing or technical skills whatsoever, can release an album and put it out there for anyone to listen?
The beauty of the Internet is that everybody has a voice. Unfortunately, it's not until everyone has a voice that you realise everyone shouldn't have a voice. Neither system is perfect. The system that you've just described is not perfect, the system going back 25 years where record labels decided who would be signed and who would not be signed, that wasn't perfect either. But you know what, it's a free country, it's a free world, if kids want to put some music out and it's absolutely terrible, let them. I mean, our first demo is fuckin' awful, it's shocking. Not "Moshkinstein", the demo before that. Music for Nations turned us down. And I have that demo and it will never see the light of day, it will never be an mp3, it's fuckin' terrible. The only purpose for releasing that would be bands listen to it going, "Jesus Christ, that's awful, and now listen to them, we have a chance," you know? Put it this way, the difference is that back in the day we made our mistakes in private and now people make their mistakes in public. Back in the day we used to mime in our bedrooms to bands and now people mime and put it on YouTube so, you know, people have a lot less shame now.
Why release the complete discography in one box like you did with the "Apple Core Archives"?
We had done the separate releases with bonus tracks, Lost and Found in the US did that and then that's how Candlelight Records wanted to do it. They wanted to do that whole box set. And I thought it was a great idea. I mean, it retailed at 15 pounds and so for 15 pounds you could buy our entire catalogue and I thought, "That's a really cool package."
You've released two digital singles since your comeback. Was it a statement to show fans what Acid Reign sounds like nowadays?
Exactly, very perceptive. Yeah, "Plan of the Damned" was announcing the band and saying Acid Reign were back and it was not only me. People might be like, "No, this is not Acid Reign, this is just H and some guys." So, I wanted to have a song ready to release and go, "Check this shit out! This isn't just me and four guys, this is full on." But this is where trying to predict the future, especially as this band is concerned, is a bit strange, because we said, "Hey, Acid Reign are back" and nobody said, "Oh, it's just H and four guys," everyone went, "Yay!" I was waiting for a backlash, this is the Internet, come on, where are trolls, where are the people saying, "Fuck that shit, that's only H!"? So, then we announced the new song, the song came out and everyone went, "Yay, it's fuckin' great!" and we were like, "OK, surely someone's gonna hate it and say, no it's just H." No, everyone loved it. So that was the purpose for that one. The reason to do "The Man Who Became Himself" was we were about to do our first headline tour for 25 years and also because we wanted to put another new song out for people to know that we were still around, you know?
As far as I know you're writing a new album, to be released next year. How is it progressing so far?
We have seven songs written and demoed, just demos, not properly recorded, well, recorded in studio, but recorded in Paul's studio, just demos for us to be able to work on the songs. Hopefully we should record next year but the music business being what it is, who knows. But we should record it next year and it depends how we decide to release it, because the label might turn out to us and say, "OK, yeah, this is great for February 2019" and that's if we go with the label. We're totally independent, we release songs independently, we do all these tours independently and giving that up and being on somebody else's timetable, you know, "You need to do this now, you need to do that", it would be like being self-employed and then going back to work for somebody. But we might have to, I don't know. So, the good news, we're well into writing the new album, the bad news, not a fuckin' clue when it's gonna be out. It might be the next year, it might be the year after. But this year is gonna be a quiet year on the live front. We've got one gig in January in Portugal and we have no other gigs booked for 2018.
So, what's next for Acid Reign, after this tour and the festival in Portugal?
It's gonna be working on the album, writing it and finding out where we go from there. But we might get off to do the odd gig or a support slot. But as of this moment I cannot say if we'd be doing any other live gigs in 2018 and I cannot say when the album's coming out. And that's where we are at the moment.
Interview by Wojtek Gabriel
Photos by JC Photography

Official Acid Reign website: www.acidreign.co.uk
Acid Reign on facebook: facebook.com/acid.reign.thrash
Tags: Acid Reign, thrash metal, Howard Smith, Obnoxious
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© 2007-2018 Wojtek Gabriel. All rights reserved. Unauthorised use of any works published on this website is prohibited.
Materials may not be reproduced in whole or in part by persons, organisations or corporations without the prior written permission.
© 2007-2018 Wojtek Gabriel. All rights reserved.
Unauthorised use of any works published on this website is prohibited.
Materials may not be reproduced in whole or in part by persons, organisations
or corporations without the prior written permission.