Thrashback» is the title of the new album of New Jersey thrash veterans, who have become popular due to the cult albums «Power And Pain» and «Ticket To Mayhem». Hey, may be the old school thrash metal is really coming back? Tony Scaglione, the drummer of the band, is quite sure about the fact. And why not? Considering the quantity of the unexpected «come backs» of the once legendary bands, there is something really going on in the thrash metal scene. EXODUS, EXCITER, RAZOR, INFERNAL MAJESTY, and, of course, WHIPLASH who have finally come back with their original line-up! That is why get your one-way ticket to mayhem and enjoy with full force!!!
It goes without saying, that old school thrash metal is coming back. Personally I do believe in it. That is why the title of your latest album «Thrashback» sounds like the establishment of the fact...
Yeah, we wanted to show there is a lot of valid music out there. Thrash was always a powerful style. May be there isn’t many thrash bands around today. We wanted people to remember there are and there were a lot of bands around, that made some great music. And we are still out there doing that, trying to please a lot of the fans who used to buy those records back then. There is a lack of newer bands playing that style. At least in the US, that’s for sure. And it was the idea behind the new «Thrashback» album cover. With this title we wanted old fans who were there back then, when we were starting out, we wanted them to, may be, remember those days. There was a lot of great music back there. It was a great time to start out a band back then.
Let’s rewind back to those old good days and remind our readers how it all started out.
Actually WHIPLASH started back in 1983. Tony Portaro and I put the band together. We would play in a band and decided to write some songs on our own, and we got rid of the other two members of the band. We wrote songs, they were on our demo tape originally called «Thunderstruck». We didn’t have a bass player at that time. So Tony Portaro and I went to the studio and recorded those songs. And eventually we found a bass player named Tony Bono. Soon after we did a couple of other demo tapes and we then signed a deal with Roadrunner records. It was back in 1985. We ended up recording our first album «Power And Pain» and it was released in 1986. We didn’t do the whole tour to support the album but we did a lot of shows in the North East. After that, in the end of ’86 I got an offer to go on tour with SLAYER. Dave Lombardo didn’t manage to play that time as he got married. I said: «Sure, I’d love to». I wasn’t really the member of the band, I just filled in on that tour. After the tour Dave came back in the band.
How did you like touring with SLAYER?
That was great. It was a fantastic experience, very positive learning experience for me. Just to see how a professional band did everything. I was only eighteen years old when I did the tour! I was very young. The guys were very very cool. It was just a blast, we had a lot of fun.
Actually, SLAYER became popular with the release of the «Reign In Blood» album. What did you feel returning to WHIPLASH after touring with the future «stars»?
Yeah, it was the last part of «Reign In Blood» tour. And SLAYER just started to get very popular. After I came back from that tour, the record company situation was really bad, and there were also problems with the manager. So, Tony Portaro and Tony Bono were very frustrated at the same time. I just kinda chose not to get back into that situation, and they kinda continued on. But eventually all the problems with the record label, and business, and management ended up breaking the band.
How did WHIPLASH manage to release the second album «Ticket To Mayhem» having all those problems with the record company and management?
It was very frustrated for Tony and Tony but at the same time you wanna make records and you want to make the band work. It can become overwhelming some times. Almost the whole material for «Ticket To Mayhem» was written right around when we wrote «Power And Pain». May be a little bit afterwards, with the exception of one or two songs. The material was all written and it wasn’t like they had to sit down and write all the material. It was a very good album, but, again, there were problems with the record company and eventually, they ended up getting a singer for the third album. Which, according to Tony Portaro, was the biggest mistake that they have ever made. But the record company kind of pressured them into getting a singer. So, they had no choice. They got the singer... Record company wanted to change from Tony’s vocals to a different vocalist. At least that Tony Portaro explained to me.
You mean Roadrunner forced the band to take a new vocalist?
Is there any story behind the name WHIPLASH?
Tony Portaro chose this name. I was always on the impression that it was from the cartoon character. But may be it was also from the METALLICA album. I think it was a combination of all those things. I can’t remember exactly, but Tony Portaro would know it.
How have you found your own sounding? Even the deaf could tell WHIPLASH from the other bands.
We just sat up to write material and it came naturally. With all the bands we listened to, we just wrote what came out of us. It had a different little twist, as I also liked bands like IRON MAIDEN and KISS, and Tony Portaro was into DEEP PURPLE, Tony Bono was a big BLACK SABBATH fan. So, I think, we had our own kind of sound. It was fast, it was heavy but it still had a little bit of melody back then. And it still does. That’s why I think WHIPLASH is apart from different bands, that gave us some king of our own sound. We tried to make it a little bit melodic, make the songs catchy, so you could remember them. As oppose to putting ten thousand riffs together and making a song, we just tried to make a catchy heavy fast song structure.
How did the American metalheads accept your first album?
That was a very successful album, probably the most successful WHIPLASH album we have ever released. We sold a lot of records and we were never paid a penny for them...
We just got screwed by the record company. We just never saw a penny for any record that was on Roadrunner. That just how it was. It was sad, ha ha!
When did you learn that Roadrunner didn’t pay you any money?
Basically, it was simple to figure out. Cos we knew we sold a lot of records, and we spent hardly anything on the recording of the record. I mean the budget was very low, may be only five thousand dollars. We did the record very quick, it took us a week to record the album. So, if you do the math, you will find out everything. Buy, hey! We signed a bad contract I guess, but at the same time we sold a lot of records. That’s in the past, what can we do?
So, you did not return to WHIPLASH after touring with SLAYER. What have you been doing after quitting?
At that point, I was doing a lot of touring with a lot of bands around the New York area. I did a couple of albums with different bands. And that basically what I did right after WHIPLASH. For the next couple of years after that.
You were a sort of a session musician?
But didn’t you think about coming back to WHIPLASH?
I would love to, but as I said the business problems and all those things really made it difficult. Even though the whole time, fifteen years I mean, we have always been great friends. We have never had any problems with each other.
As far as I can see, «Cult Of The One» was more into power metal than into thrash...
Yeas, absolutely. Back in 1993 I was playing drums for M.O.D. and we needed a guitar player. So I said: «Why don’t we try Tony? I know he hasn’t played for a couple of years, may be he’ll be into touring.» So, I called him and he was very into it. So we did the whole European tour with M.O.D. And afterwards, we came back and we decided that we wanted to write some songs together again. So we wrote the songs, and we got line-up together and we released «The Cult Of One» record. It’s very different from other WHIPLASH records, definitely. I think a lot of fans when they heard it, might have been like: «Wow, that’s not really WHIPLASH!» But we think it’s a great album, just a little different.
What made you record such a different album?
We tried to write in a different style. Tony was always influenced by DEEP PURPLE and stuff like that. We just put all those songs together thinking that we wanted to write a little bit more, less faster, tried to get to a different audience. And some other songs were written by the other guitarist. He wrote in a very different style. Originally we didn’t set up to call it WHIPLASH album because it has a very different sounding. But we couldn’t make a name so we decided to call it WHIPLASH...
What have the two Tonys been doing during the six year break from 1990 till 1996?
Tony Portaro got married and was just working. He had a daughter, and now he has a son. He was born last month! He just took a break from music business. Tony Bono was in the band called INTO ANOTHER for a long time. He released four or five albums. He was touring and playing with them. They had enough of the music business. At least enough with the problems WHIPLASH had. They just needed break.
After Roadrunner you have signed to Massacre...
We have a great deal with Massacre. We are very very happy with them. They do great job. We recorded the «Cult Of One» demo and sent it to different labels. That’s how we got on Massacre. We knew Massacre had a good reputation.
I really like the cover that features your «Sit, Stand, Kneel And Pray» album. Where did you make such a killer shot?
Actually the little girl is Tony’s daughter. Tony wanted to have his daughter on the cover, which is very cool, ha ha!
Judging by the cover, you might have Anti-Christian views...
All of us are the Catholics. I don’t think anybody of us against Christianity. I think it was more funny. It wasn’t that serious.
You see, it is rather popular among thrash and death metal musicians to criticize church...
We don’t look at it like that. I don’t. I think a lot of these bands just take it too far. A lot of bands do that just to mask their lack of song writing or musicianship. They do it just for a shock value. Some are truly into it, I know.
Is there anything that angers you the most?
The only thing that pisses me off is country music, ha ha! Country and western music. We never really sit around and specifically write songs being pissed off or anything like that. We have song called «Temple Of Punishment». This song is about all that crazy things we put into our bodies, we punish our bodies by drinking and all the other things.
Do you punish your body with anything?
I punish my body with a lot of alcohol. But we are not really into drugs or anything like that. Just more or less beer, small little pipe. But I don’t even small pipe anymore, I can’t even do it anymore. I am getting too old, ha ha!
I see the «second coming» of the old school thrashers taking place in Europe, when it is impossible to say about the US. What’s the matter?
There are a lot of bands that are trying to keep it going or get the thrash metal scene kinda popular again. There’s a lot of great music and I wish there was more like that over here in the US. Unfortunately, a lot of bands have to go like us: we have to go to Europe to really get any kind of success or to get a record deal or something. It’s hard in the US. We can’t get the US deal, I don’t know. We’ve been trying but nobody really wants thrash metal, you know. We won’t probably sell many records here, and if we’re not gonna sell records here, they don’t want it. If we sell ten thousand records, it’s not worth it.
Yet I know you make your living from playing music, am I right?
I have been living from playing music for a while but only because I could switch from different bands, I could keep busy. But we couldn’t live from WHIPLASH. We don’t make enough money out of that.
How has it happened that there are three Tonys in the band? TONYS BAND so to say!
Originally there were Tony Portaro and I, then we put an add in the local music paper for a bass player. And the guy’s name who called us was Tony. And I said: «Get out of here!.. You are in!» I didn’t even hear him play. I said: «He’s got to be the guy, cos his name is Tony!». It’s just wired. We all have sons, and our sons’ names are Tony!
Hey, man, I think next millennium your kids will fill in and continue WHIPLASH!
That would be great, ha ha! Do you take groupies for your tours?
I am married, so I don’t do that anymore. Yeah, I have been on tours with groupies. I think it’s more of a metal kind of thing. But nowadays we are pretty settled down. Except Tony Bono. If there are any groupies out there, ask him, ha ha!
Well, you should leave his telephone number then!
Yeah, ha ha ha!
I know you have already played in Poland, at least once...
Yes, I have already played in Poland. I am actually Polish! It was great! My grandmother and grandfather came from Poland. So, my mother is Polish. And then my father was Polish as well, but when he was a child he was adopted by Italian family. That’s why I have an Italian name. But I am Polish!
Then, Tony, you should come to Russia as well and drink vodka instead of beer!
That sounds good for me, ha ha!