Interview with William J. Tsamis
1995 marked the return of ex WARLORD guitarist/mastermind/genius William J. Tsamis (aka Destroyer) when his new project LORDIAN GUARD released their self-titled debut through Germany’s Hellion Records. Being aware of the fact that new LORDIAN GUARD releases were on the verge of being released, this was the ideal opportunity to get in touch with the mastermind himself and try and find out more details. Unfortunately William didn’t want to give too much away as far as the upcoming Sinners In The Hands Of An Angry God CD was concerned, in order not to ‘take away the anticipation’. Questions regarding William’s private life and non-musical activities were left unanswered as well, as he’d like ‘to maintain some aura of mystery’. Nevertheless there’s plenty to be discovered here, ranging from the early WARLORD days, over to the first LORDIAN GUARD release, up until the present. Hail to William for delivering the goods, amidst being extremely busy recording the upcoming CD!
William, we all know about WARLORD. Did you do anything music-related before that?
I started WARLORD when I was 16 years old. In those days we played original songs. Black Mass was from those days, I wrote that when I was 17. But we also did some covers, like BLACK SABBATH’s Symptom Of The Universe, U.F.O.’s Rock Bottom, RAINBOW’s Man On The Silver Mountain, as well as some other classics.
With hindsight, how do you look back to the early WARLORD releases?
I think that everything we released with WARLORD was in the classic vein of heavy metal, and I am proud of what we contributed to the metal scene. When we first released Lucifer’s Hammer on Metal Massacre 2, I wasn’t sure how people would respond, but the response was overwhelmingly positive, so I knew that we were on our way. The only criticism we received was for production quality, but for musical quality we scored very high marks. Again, I am proud of that work, although I hardly listen to it anymore.
And what about Thy Kingdom Come and Best Of Warlord. Did you have anything to do with those, or was it just Metal Blade trying to cash in on the band?
Best Of Warlord and Thy Kingdom Come originated with Metal Blade. They were just trying to rehash the same old stuff, so they could make some money. Thankfully, I own the copyrights to the music, so at least I was compensated.
Wouldn’t it have been better if Metal Blade had supported WARLORD a bit more when you were still around, in stead of several years later, by re-releasing the old stuff?
When WARLORD first started out, Metal Blade was just Brian Slagel in a room at his mother’s house. There wasn’t any money to back up WARLORD. I also think Slagel was more interested in the thrash/death metal scene anyway.
WARLORD had a unique style, great potential, a large following worldwide, ... Despite all of this, why did WARLORD never quite made it in the end?
I think our timing was a little off. We came on the scene during the very first wave of the L.A. metal scene, in the early 1980’s. At that time, bands like MÖTLEY CRÜE, QUIET RIOT, RATT, and other pop metal bands were getting popular, but epic metal had not really come on the scene yet. In truth, WARLORD began to grow in popularity after the band broke up.
Never playing live didn’t help out either, I guess?
The reason we never played any live gigs is because we never had a full band at any time. We always had great difficulty finding a vocalist. Hollywood was full of David Lee Roth clones, but there was only one Dio, one Geoff Tate, etc. So this is the reason.
WARLORD’s And The Cannons Of Destruction Have Begun ... video soundtrack was hard to get a hold of in the 1980’s. It’s good to know the video is now available again, but why are the interview parts not included on this re-issue?
I just decided to make the video available because everyone was writing to the LORDIAN GUARD LEGION asking for it. The master copy that we have does not have the interviews on it, so this is the reason.
Back in 1986, rumor had it that Metal Blade would release a new WARLORD album by the name of My Name Is Man. Was there any truth in that?
My Name Is Man was never a WARLORD project. Rather, it was a 75 minute music video concept that I was trying to market to various producers. It is an epic story based on John Milton’s Paradise Lost, and similar to Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey. Dave Watry and Rick Anderson worked with me on the demos, but Mark Zonder had nothing to do with it. Anyway, the music from My Name Is Man will be released through LORDIAN GUARD. For example, Lost Archangel and My Name Is Man were on the first project. And Stygian Passage and Children Of The King will be on the second project. Perhaps some day in the future I will be able to release it as a whole. It’s really a creative epic fantasy that should be done on film.
Someone once described WARLORD’s career as follows : ‘Classy HM with a style ranging from popular metal to the world of early RAINBOW. By 1985 they had become a thrash-oriented outfit.’ What’s your opinion as far as this statement is concerned?
Well, I’m not one who is concerned with definitions, but I can’t see how someone could regard WARLORD as thrash metal, according to my understanding of thrash metal. The early RAINBOW parallel is appropriate. When I was in my developing years, Rainbow Rising was my favourite album. I used to love Blackmore up through the Long Live Rock ‘N’ Roll album. But after Dio left, RAINBOW was finished in my opinion.
What would you say are chances like of ever reforming WARLORD? Why?
None. I wouldn’t be interested in reforming WARLORD and working with Mark Zonder again. Our personalities are too different.
I think most people are aware of what happened to Mark Zonder (Thunder Child) and Diane Kornarens (Sentinel) after WARLORD, joining FATES WARNING and SAHARA respectively. But could you tell us what happened with Jack Rucker (Damien King), Dave Watry (Archangel), Rick Cunningham (Damien King II), Rick Anderson (Damien King III) and The Raven? Who was The Raven anyhow?
I don’t know what happened to them, except for Dave and Rick Anderson. Dave became disillusioned with the commercialism of Hollywood and he moved to Northern California. And Rick joined a band that was playing pop commercial cover tunes. As far as The Raven is concerned, I was The Raven! I played all the bass parts on Deliver Us. It was a mysterious pseudonym.
I think not too many people know about your Sea Of Tranquility tape, which dates back to the early 1990’s, 1992 to be exact. Care to tell us more about that release?
The Sea Of Tranquility tape is a collection of classical compositions that I have written, similar to KITARO or YANNI. The music is all keyboards, but it is very expressive, sad and melancholic. It sounds like the music you would hear underscoring a film. The melodies are very dark and captivating, taking the listener away to distant lands which only exist in the imagination. Of course it’s not metal, but it’s very creative and artistic. I have received a lot of positive response regarding the tape, even from metal fans.
Over to LORDIAN GUARD then; what made you choose that particular moniker?
The reason I chose the name LORDIAN GUARD is because it is consistent with the medieval sound of the music, as well as the epic, religious concept. After WARLORD, I did have a renaissance trio called LORDIAN WINDS, but that just didn’t sound quite heavy enough, so I used John Milton’s term Lordian Guard instead. I think it’s a very original name, and the word Lordian is an old English word which is no longer in usage. Also, the name LORDIAN GUARD sounds similar to WARLORD, so the WARLORD connection is maintained.
Why not just calling this project WARLORD again?
Many people urged me to use the name WARLORD, since I own the name. But LORDIAN GUARD is not WARLORD. It is an expression of my musical and conceptual ideas apart from WARLORD. Of course, it is very similar, since I wrote all the music and lyrics for WARLORD. But I don’t like it when bands retain names just for purposes of marketing.
The first LORDIAN GUARD release is blessed with a striking cover. Where did it originate from and what does it portray?
The cover art is an old Catholic painting, but the artist is anonymous. Simply, it represents the throne of God with Michael the Archangel seated at the base of the throne. In John Milton’s epic poem Paradise Lost, he uses the term Lordian Guard to depict the angelic legions of Michael the Archangel, who are doing battle with the demonic hosts of Lucifer. In fact, this is what the song War In Heaven is about. And Paradise Lost is based on the Book of Revelation, chapter 12, verse 7. Anyway, the religious cover art is consistent with the whole concept of LORDIAN GUARD. It is an appropriate conceptual and visual parallel to the medieval /renaissance sound of LORDIAN GUARD, so I will continue to use these religious motifs in the future.
Now that we know what War In Heaven is about, would you care to elaborate on the lyrical content of the other songs on Lordian Guard?
Winds Of Thor is about an oppressed Nordic people, who call on their god of war to deliver them from their evil oppressors. Lost Archangel is also based on Paradise Lost, and is about Lucifer being cast out of heaven, and consequently wreaking havoc upon the earth. But ultimately he is defeated and cast into hell by God. My Name Is Man is a song about the creation of man, and his recognition of the beauty of the whole creation of nature. Revelation 19 is another song from the biblical apocalypse, which is basically about the battle of Armageddon and the Second Coming of Christ. In Peace He Comes Again is simply a renaissance Christmas song.
Judging by the lyrics, symbols, covers, ... l’d say LORDIAN GUARD definitely is a religious-related band. Would you say you’re a White metal band?
No, I wouldn’t consider LORDIAN GUARD a White metal band. The music of LORDIAN GUARD is essentially medieval /renaissance music, within the context of the metal sound. As far as the lyrical expression is concerned, it conforms to the medieval/renaissance period, a period where religious and epic themes dominated the artistic world. In my view, the reason that the art of the medieval/renaissance period was so wondrous is because the artists were trying to aspire to the heavens, expressing very lofty concepts. Interestingly, as you know, heavy metal is a very religious form of music. Groups like ROTTING CHRIST, IMPALED NAZARENE and SLAYER are all attempting to make a religious statement. However, for me, there is nothing older and less original than this form of black metal. I was writing this type of stuff 20 years ago, when I was 13 years old. Everybody has already done it. And in my experience, most of these bands don’t really even believe what they are saying. They are just trying to associate themselves with darkness in order to convey the image of power. I know, I’ve been there. So, to quote Crowley, the Necronomicon and Lovecraft is, in most cases, meaningless. And to say God is dead, etc. is not an expression of power, but rather an expression of weakness. If the Roman Empire, Soviet Communism, Nietzsche, Freud, Marx, Voltaire, and others could not overthrow Christianity, I seriously don’t think ROTTING CHRIST, IMPALED NAZARENE and SLAYER really have a prayer. ‘It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the Living God’ (Book of Hebrews, chapter 10, verse 31).
How have the reactions to Lordian Guard been so far, both from fans and press?
The reaction to Lordian Guard has been overwhelmingly positive, especially among epic metal fans. We received some criticism for the production quality, but that has greatly improved, as you will hear on the upcoming single Behold A Pale Horse/Deliver Us From Evil, and on the upcoming LP/CD Sinners In The Hands Of An Angry God. I remember WARLORD received similar criticism for the Deliver Us LP, but now that album is a classic.
I’ve seen plenty of excellent reviews in German magazines. Where does most of the other interest come from? And what about the U.S.A.?
Most of the other interest comes from the other European countries, especially Italy and Greece. There are many die-hard epic metal fans there. Although I didn’t even try to get any American distribution with the first project, I think this time around we will pursue some American distribution as well.
Like you just mentioned, the production was lacking a bit on the initial pressing of Lordian Guard. What went wrong exactly?
Well, the first mastering studio in Germany basically botched the job. When I first heard the CD, the entire EQ middle range had been dropped out. The drums sounded very thin and mechanical, and because the drumsounds are sampled sounds, real drumsounds, there should have never been a problem. Anyway, I obviously was not able to be at the mastering studio in Germany, so I had no control over the mastering process. So we remastered the project a second time and achieved much better results. From now on, however, everything will be mastered here in Florida, where I can have complete control. You live and learn ...
The Lordian Guard CD is said to be limited to 1000 copies. Don’t you think that’s too limited?
The 1000 copies refers to the first pressing only.
Besides, there’s a limited edition picture disc version, plus red and clear vinyl versions. Not to mention the black vinyl test pressing. Did you have any say in this?
These were the ideas of Jürgen Hegewald at Hellion Records, and I agreed to go ahead with them. The picture disc really turned out fabulous. By the way, Jürgen is very professional and great to work with, much more so than the people I have worked with here in the States.
Speaking of Hellion Records, how did the deal come about in the first place?
John Kornarens, the brother of Diane (Sentinel), is one of the leading metal aficionados in Los Angeles. He has always been a fan and a friend, and he urged me to send a tape to Jürgen Hegewald. So it was John who really put Jürgen and I together.
I know that the upcoming LORDIAN GUARD releases will be on Hellion Records once again. Have there been any other offers from other companies so far?
Yes, but I like working with Jürgen. He’s honest and professional. I can trust him!
So what can we expect from this upcoming LORDIAN GUARD picture disc?
The new single will be first released as a 12” picture disc. Side A will be the song Behold A Pale Horse, an 8’43” classic metal epic. And side B will be a rendition of the WARLORD classic Deliver Us From Evil. The WARLORD fans will love it. It sounds intense!
And what about those other old WARLORD songs, i.e. Father, Thy Kingdom Come, Battle Of The Living Dead, which have never seen the light of day officially. Will they ever be released properly?
Father will definitely be on the upcoming CD/LP, and even possibly Thy Kingdom Come. Battle Of The Living Dead will be on the third project. I would hesitate to put three old WARLORD songs on the same project, so I am trying to spread them out a little bit.
What will the artwork for the 12” picture disc be like?
The artwork is a famous painting of the Fourth Horseman of the Apocalypse, Pale Horse, by the 19th century British artist George Frederic Watts. It’s very intense. I’m still looking at a few possibilities for the Sinners ... CD/LP cover.
Obviously you don’t want to say too much about the upcoming CD/LP yet, but how would you say the new songs sound, compared to the ones on Lordian Guard?
The music now is a little bit more WARLORD oriented, much thicker and more powerful. But the sophistication, maturity and medieval quality of LORDIAN GUARD is still present.
And what about the lyrical content? And musically?
1. Behold A Pale Horse - the opening track will be a powerful epic about the great DIVine judgements that will befall mankind in the last days of humanity. The concept is taken from the Book of Revelation, chapter 6. The song reflects the driving power of WARLORD, but the maturity and sophistication of LORDIAN GUARD. It is fast paced and extremely heavy, incorporating medieval and Gregorian motifs. In fact, the song almost sounds like a combination of an epic metal Gregorian chant, with elements which are reminiscent of the theme from the film The Exorcist.
2. Stygian Passage - this song is from the My Name Is Man epic. It is a powerful metal piece which overlaps classical and electric guitars. The main theme is a beautiful guitar harmony which floats over a moving rhythm. The song is about a man who is caught up by a flaming chariot and taken on a ride through the skies on his way to the gates of heaven. Musically, the song also features some powerful Roman style rhythms, and eerie lead vocals.
3. Golgotha (Place Of The Skull) - this is a piece in the style of Winds Of Thor, very powerful and driving, but more medieval. It is very reminiscent of the Deliver Us From Evil song style. There is a pipe organ interlude which is reminiscent of J.S. BACH’s Tocatta And Fugue In D Minor. The song also features some beautiful guitar harmonies. Epic, medieval, etc.
4. Father - this composition is an old WARLORD song which I have not modified at all. It is reminiscent of early SCORPIONS and it features some very fast Uli Roth style guitar harmonies.
5. Children Of The King - this is another song from My Name Is Man. It begins with a beautiful, sad theme, featuring cello, classical guitar and renaissance voice, and then it moves into a very heavy epic/power metal theme, with a chant chorus.
6. Sinners In The Hands Of An Angry God - this is perhaps one of the heaviest songs I have ever written. The main theme is extremely medieval and Byzantine. The song moves at a medium pace, and the lyrics reflect the damnation imagery of biblical apocalyptic writings. The title is taken from a famous literary piece written by the great American philosopher Jonathan Edwards, who lived in the 1700’s.
7. The seventh song will either be Thy Kingdom Come, One For All And All For One (both old WARLORD songs), or In The Name Of God, a song from My Name Is Man. I haven’t decided yet!
By the sounds of all this LORDIAN GUARD is destined to be even less commercially interesting than WARLORD was. Aren’t you afraid of ending up like WARLORD, being just a project, not a real band?
I’m not interested in commercialism, I’m interested in artistic expression. Whatever is destined for LORDIAN GUARD, let it be so.
Do you think we will ever see LORDIAN GUARD perform live?
Right now, LORDIAN GUARD is an ongoing studio project. Whether or not it becomes a live project will depend on some other factors, such as demand, financing, etc. Our present goal is to finish and release the second CD/LP, and then we will assess the possibility of coming to Europe. Let’s see what happens. But there have been some offers!
And what about a possible LORDIAN GUARD video, any plans as far as that is concerned?
Yes. I haven’t been able to really think it through yet, but we have a video producer who is interested in doing something creative with the LORDIAN GUARD concept. Perhaps after the second project we will begin planning something specific.
Please list the available LORDIAN GUARD merchandise?
1. 8x10 black & white promo picture. Autographs upon request! U.S. $ 3.00.
2. Black t-shirts, logo on front, John Milton’s poetry on the back. Specify size! U.S. $ 15.00.
3. 4”x4” decal, featuring the LORDIAN GUARD battle emblem. U.S. $ 3.00.
4. WARLORD Video Soundtrack. The same video as released by WARLORD Productions, except for the personal interviews. 45 minutes. American VHS - U.S. $ 17.00. European VHS - U.S. $ 29.00.
5. Sea Of Tranquility cassette (1992). 60 minutes of keyboard compositions, no guitars, no voice. U.S. $ 10.00.
Please add U.S. $ 3.00 for orders up to U.S. $ 12.00, for postage & handling. Add U.S. $ 5.00 for orders over U.S. $ 12.00. Mail check or money order payable to LORDIAN GUARD (U.S. dollars only) to : LORDIAN GUARD LEGION / 1292 Raleigh Court / Tarpon Springs / Florida 34689 / U.S.A. Please notify us if you move, so that we can update you regarding new products and CD’s from LORDIAN GUARD.
Have you ever considered a LORDIAN GUARD fanclub?
Well, there is a LORDIAN GUARD fanclub in Italy, and I think one is being organized in Greece as well.
Change of subject. I know you’ve been a long time ANGEL WITCH fan. What do you feel now hat there’s a possibility of an ANGEL WITCH reunion?
I think an ANGEL WITCH reunion would be great, but I would really like to hear what Kevin has been doing all these years. I’m sure he has composed some great masterpieces. Of course, I’ve been out of the scene, so I have missed a lot. Has he done anything all these years, and how can I obtain some of his music?
One thing I’d really like to know concerns the death of your father. Did this change your opinions about life & death? Has it made you stronger in a way?
I was in my early 20’s when my father died. His death was sudden and very traumatic. At that time I was very self-centred, concerned only with pleasure and fame, but I soon came to realize that there were larger issues in life. So, of course, I began asking questions which any typical person at that age would ask, questions like : ‘Is there a God?’, ‘What is the purpose of life?’, ‘Is this all there is?’, etc. Pondering these issues, I became very interested in philosophy and religion, and I began to read and study various philosophies and worldviews. Of course, I saw the apparent problems with all religions, so I became very nihilistic in my outlook, agreeing with the philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre, when he wrote ‘It matters not whether a man is a homeless drunkard or a ruler of empires, because in the end both men will suffer the same fate - death.’ But I continued to search, hoping to find something more than this. Simply, I was seeking contentment in life, and I had already learned that pleasure and fame could not satisfy. True contentment in life cannot be found in external circumstances, but only from within. Well, in my search for contentment in life, I came across the words of St. Paul, who wrote, while he was awaiting execution in a Roman prison, ‘I have learned in whatever state I am to be content’ (Philippians 4:11). St. Paul’s contentment and inner peace flowed from his faith and relationship with God, something that was beyond the clutches of an evil world. For not even the evil tyrant Nero, with his threats of execution, could snatch away the contentment of Paul. And today, people name their children after Paul and their dogs after Nero. Anyway, to make a long story short, I decided to pursue the way of Christ and have come to experience that ‘peace which surpasses all understanding’ (4:7), indeed the peace of Christ. Life, for me, has become incredibly purposed and unified, so I am not ashamed at all to say that I am a Christian, a simple follower of Jesus.
Any closing comments?
Well, I would like to thank you, EddY, for this interview. I am grateful to you for your interest and support of LORDIAN GUARD. Also, let me say that my sincere appreciation goes out to all the WARLORD fans who have been so faithful over the years. You are all fantastic! And I can assure you that you will be very pleased with the upcoming LORDIAN GUARD projects. Dominus Vobiscum!