Phoenix, Arizona-based quintet BORN OF FIRE is a band that I happened to discover by accident; I read a favourable review of their Transformation CD in a Hellion Records catalogue, thought I might like the band and ordered a copy of said CD right away. Indeed, Transformation managed to convince me hands down, being full of powerful true 80's American heavy metal. I contacted the band to see if they were still around, only to find out they had just released a new 3-song promo CD (reviewed elsewhere), which has a bit of a different approach, but is still a kick-ass release. More recently they went through yet another line-up change & new BORN OF FIRE material is on the way as well, so there was plenty to talk about. Actually, even former guitarist Micha Kite answered some of the questions here, while drummer Steve Dorssom took care of all the rest.
Steve, how did you become involved with metal music to begin with?
Metal music has been a part of me since I started listening to music. I grew up with it, went through the good times and the bad ones with it. I guess that's why I love it.
What eventually led to the formation of BORN OF FIRE in 1997?
Fellow friends and musicians, who in fact had been playing together for quite a while and wanted to put a metal project together, got together. Not just any vanilla metal but classic, epic true feeling and style from the roots of each one of us.
Who came up with the BORN OF FIRE moniker & what do you want to bring across by it? Is there any special meaning to it?
Micha was the originator of the name. Speaking for myself, the bandname means a fire of rage burning inside of you; we were all born for a purpose and whatever that purpose is, it's that aggression that fuels the rage of fire inside of you.
So BORN OF FIRE formed in 1997, but what did you guys do prior to that, as far as musical experience is concerned? Bands? Recordings? Releases?
We were all in a band called PSYCHIC PAWN, except our current singer. We were signed to Cacophonous Records in London, England. PSYCHIC PAWN was together since 1989 and we had several recordings and promotional items. The record deal didn't last long, due to the label not supporting the band's new release with a big push. At the time CRADLE OF FILTH's new album was being released simultaneously, and that one got the focus.
Can you tell us something more about PSYCHIC PAWN's releases? And what was that band's musical style like? How did it compare to what you're doing nowadays in BORN OF FIRE?
PSYCHIC PAWN started in 1989 with me on drums, Bobby Chavez (bass) and Victor Morell (guitars), who are currently in BORN OF FIRE and Micha Kite (guitars), who has his own project going on and is getting ready for a release. PSYCHIC PAWN had a 5-song demo in 1990, not named or released ... no money ... And a 4-song demo in 1991, called Expedient Demise. And in 1992 we released a 3-song demo, called Wake Of Entity, which got us signed. The music was epic thrash in the beginning and escalated to death metal with the Wake Of Entity release and beyond ...
How did PSYCHIC PAWN end up signing with a London-based label to begin with?
Micha had contacts with other bands, labels and media. The demo went out everywhere and someone gave someone a copy and it made its way to the band CANCER, and they turned the label on to it. Next thing you know we are on the phone with the label.
Back to BORN OF FIRE then : how did you guys end up on Maiden America, a tribute to IRON MAIDEN CD? Which other bands were on there? Which song did you cover, and why exactly that song? And how have reactions been to it so far?
(Micha) The other mentionable bands in my opinion are PHARAOH, which featured Tim Aymar on vocals (who went on to sing in CONTROL DENIED), ex Metal Blade recording artists OMEN, SADUS and DAWNBRINGER. I had James Murphy convinced to do a track and then some shit went down with him and it didn't happen. The funny thing about this was the fact that I had heard somewhere that a buddy of mine, who writes for Metal Maniacs, was putting together an IRON MAIDEN tribute. I didn't have a band, or even a song, and I emailed him and told him about this faux band that I had, and asked if we could be on the compilation if I provided a decent demo. He agreed and I quickly grabbed one of my roommates, who's a drummer, learned Remember Tomorrow (I always loved that song because it was heavy and melodic) and wrote Fire And Brimstone, which sounded like BUDGIE's Breadfan before I made a few minor adjustments. We hit our home studio, I called a few ex bandmates and a demo turned into a band.
One thing that sets this particular tribute apart from most of the rest is the fact that there was also an extra CD included, on which all bands were able to display an original song. What do you think of that idea?
(Micha) I think the idea is pretty cool because, besides covering a band, you're also giving your band exposure by getting people to hear your original material. As I stated before, we only wrote one song for the tribute and that was Fire And Brimstone. The singer on that tribute never even met the other musicians who played on it, and he's in a country band now, but he can sing Ian Gillan to the T!!!
In the beginning of 1999 you released a 4-song promo. Which songs were on there? Which style was it? What did you do with that promo as far as promotion goes? Did it help you guys the way you had expected it to? Why?
(Micha) I can't remember what songs were on the promo, as I haven't been in the band for over a year ... It was straight-up power metal, influenced by the likes of IRON MAIDEN, JUDAS PRIEST, HELLOWEEN and MANOWAR. We sent out the four-song promo to most of the metal labels worldwide, got some decent press reviews and got the band moving along nicely. It also brought the end of a musical relationship with the second drummer, bringing our old buddy Steve Dorssom into the band. Three drummers, three vocalists and no strike outs …
In 2000 you released the Transformation CD, which you also regard as a promo, even though it's available to the public. What's the deal here?
Transformation was meant to get the new BORN OF FIRE sound promoted to fans, listeners, record labels and magazines. We also distributed the record to some select distributors. The goal was to get our name out there and possibly get a record deal. The one bad thing about the CD is that the production was flat and the real feel that was in our minds didn't come out on CD like we had hoped. Studio and production are to blame.
How have the reactions been to Transformation, both from fans & media?
Everyone loved it! All of our reviews were awesome. We got frequent airplay on the radio and caught the attention of several labels.
Was there no concrete label interest to release Transformation or didn't you really try?
There really wasn't. We talked to quite a few labels and they liked it, but nobody seemed to be signing bands at the time, so we kept writing and playing shows.
How do you look back on those recording sessions? And what do you think of the songs on Transformation these days? Which ones do you like most? Why?
The studio was a shithole with good equipment and the guy turning the knobs didn't know metal. Our production was flat, but the actual recording of the songs was great. It went smooth; we were prepared and had the feeling flowing, it just didn't come out in the flat production. But I liked the songs. My faves are The Storm, On The Run and Eclectic Ones.
And what about the lyrical content of the songs on Transformation? Care to tell us what they're about, in a nutshell?
In a nutshell ... Real life scenarios, excitement, fears, accomplishments and regrets.
And as opposed to in a nutshell, care to elaborate on the lyrical content of some of the songs on Transformation?
You know, when you read the lyrics, the cool part is that the point is there but you can mould the story behind the lyrics to your personal situation or feeling. For example, Eclectic Ones : it's a mind trip, dreaming about things ... how they could be outside of reality. How we fear things we have never tried before. Why? It leaves it open for the listener to mould.
Exactly what does the cover express and how does it tie in with the title?
It's an actual photo of a star in outer space being born, with the eyes of a wild lady looking over it. The back of the CD is the death of a star exploding. We thought it fit us.
Trying not to lose momentum you decided to record another promo in early 2001, a decision that was based on media & independent label interest primarily. Which labels were interested in the band at that time? And how have things evolved ever since?
I do not want to list label names, but there were some upper self-independent and a few major labels that had interest. BORN OF FIRE was in testmode with the labels and we needed to prove that we wrote good songs. We didn't have a lot of money to work with, so we figured we would do a 3-song promo, package it and send it out. And if we were going to record again I thought we should shop it everywhere. That's what we did and it turned out great.
And how have reactions been to Promo 2001?
Everybody loved it; killer reviews and great coverage on radio and in magazines worldwide. I am really surprised that we have not signed a deal yet. We do have interest and they want more music. We are currently working on new music and getting it recorded. It's better than ever.
All songs from Promo 2001 & Transformation are available from MP3.com, except for Fire And Brimstone. How come? I suppose it's because it's written by Micha?
It was written by Micha, but it just never got posted on the site. Micha still supports us and we are very good friends.
Actually bassist Bobby Chavez switched to guitars sometime in between Transformation & Promo 2001, replacing Micha. How did that come about? And how did you get new bassist Bill Kressin?
Bobby is a bad-ass bass player and when Micha left we knew that Bobby wanted to play guitar, so we decided to make the change and find a bass player. Bill Kressin is a friend of ours and had the job temporarily, but Chris Nelson showed up on the scene and stole the gig.
Why didn't things work out with Bill? And what about Chris Nelson's previous experiences?
Chris is a friend of ours who played guitar and switched to bass because we needed a solid bass player to fill the spot. Bill wasn't cutting it.
Latest line-up news is that vocalist J. Davis is out of the band. What happened? Did he leave or was he asked to leave?
Well, it's a long story, but J. needed time off and we were frustrated, and he just stopped showing up, so I would say he left the band. Now we have a new singer and he is a godsend. Just wait until you hear us now, this is what we were missing. No bad on J. at all, we loved the guy, it just didn't work out.
There was also talk of a 4-song promo EP to be released early this year. Did this ever happen, or is it still in the pipeline?
It started out as a pre-production tape and went to a 4-song EP, but now we are working in our awesome new singer Dave and we are going to revise and re-write it, and get something out with Dave's vocals, and then re-shop it.
You're also working on new songs, right? How will these new tunes compare to previous BORN OF FIRE stuff? Aren't you afraid that BORN OF FIRE's style will change drastically, as J. Davis was responsible for some of BORN OF FIRE's music and almost all of the band's lyrics in the past, or at least on Transformation?
We have all new songs and are working on more. BORN OF FIRE has always written the music, J. had his input on structure to fit his vocals, and yes he wrote the lyrics. You will find our style is a bit updated and we have not lost anything with the vocal change. We now have an awesome singer that writes meaningful lyrics and has a great range. We are very blessed.
So when can we expect the release of a new, proper CD? Can you give away some of the new songtitles already? Albumtitle? Record label?
Since we got our new vocalist Dave in the recent past, we have been spending time together in the rehearsal room, getting comfortable and moulding some of our written material with him. You should see something out by summer's end. Hopefully much sooner.
BORN OF FIRE has been compared to IRON MAIDEN & QUEENSRYCHE quite a few times in the past. What do you think of those comparisons? And how would you describe BORN OF FIRE's style yourself?
Well, it was cool at first but now it's old. We probably got that label from J.'s vocals. He had a hint of Tate in him and that's the first thing media picks on. We have so many music collaborations from the past writing this music, it seems to blend really well. To put a label on how we sound with Dave is tough. It's still a melodic kind of vocal approach, but it has a lot of range and mood too. We'll see what 'they' say ...
BORN OF FIRE is also set to have a track included on World War III's Hail To The Stonehenge Gods compilation, a tribute to BLACK SABBATH. Which song did you pick? And what about the other bands that will be part of it?
We picked Heaven And Hell. The song came out awesome in the studio and the label was very pleased with the product, and has also indicated that they would be interested in putting out a full-length BORN OF FIRE CD. Since the singer change we are waiting until we are ready to pursue the curious labels. The CD has been released as of February 12th of this year. The other bands on the tribute are great; it's a killer party CD that brings back good old memories.
BORN OF FIRE has been playing with plenty of known names so far, including AGENT STEEL, ARMORED SAINT, DESTINY'S END, FATES WARNING, FLOTSAM & JETSAM, NEVERMORE, SAXON, STEEL PROPHET, UDO, MANOWAR, … How do you end up playing with all of those quality bands?
Just contacts with the local venues, to get the leads on opening the shows, but most of all it's been Juan Garcia from AGENT STEEL, or ORDER OF THE ILLUMINATI, as they are known as these days. He has been awesome in helping us hook up shows with his band, as well as STEEL PROPHET. He has also helped us get in on the BLACK SABBATH tribute. His band did a killer remake of Hole In The Sky for it too.
What's your best live memory, from other bands as well as far as BORN OF FIRE is concerned? And what about the worst ever experiences?
My best live memory was playing with AGENT STEEL and ARMORED SAINT, because the show went smooth, no complications. It was a packed house and of course it's always fun to play for lots of people, especially when they are totally into it. My worst memory was playing in the dead of summer at an Arizona club, where it's hotter inside and cooler outside, being 115 degrees. When I was playing I felt like I was going to pass out halfway through the set. There was nowhere to plug in a fan and I was overheating fast. My head was tingling but I made it.
What is the local Phoenix, Arizona heavy metal scene like these days? Bands? Places to play?
We have a few good clubs and a lot of concert venues, big and medium. The crowd draw really depends on the band, local or national acts, and of course what night you play. On the weekend you could just pick a club by college town Tempe and it will be hopping. The entire metal scene is fairly large in general.
Have you heard former WARDOG Tom Gattis' new band BALLISTIC already? They're also based out of Phoenix. What do you think of them?
I have spoken with Tom in the past, right before he signed his deal with Metal Blade. I dig his band a lot! Heavy catchy tunes, I love it.
And what is living in Phoenix like in general? Life, work circumstances, nature, ...?
It's a big city, and growing. I love it here, it's my home. The business industry is growing quickly, so of course a lot of people are moving here. You basically work, live, pay bills and are constantly in search for a good time! The weather is always warm and skirts are always short.
Do you have any BORN OF FIRE merchandise available as of yet?
No, not yet, but when our new CD comes out you bet we will have a full line to choose from.
How can people get in touch with you guys? Email? Snail mail address?
BORN OF FIRE / 3343 W. Taro Lane / Phoenix / Arizona 85027 / U.S.A. Or email me at : email@example.com.
What happened to the BORN OF FIRE website? It seems to have vanished. Do you plan to have a new website set up soon?
We are currently working on a new, killer website and it should be done by the end of June.
Anything you'd like to add?
We are a band that plays what we feel and like, and we hope that everyone else can see and experience what we do when we play the music, or listen to it, for that matter. We hope the fans enjoy the throwback new age metal that we have put out and we truly hope everyone enjoys the new BORN OF FIRE soon-to-come release. Thanks to you and everyone out there for taking the time to look into BORN OF FIRE.