Interview with George Neal of Halloween
Well, it's Halloween and fittingly enough I have an interview with Geaorge Neal who is the bass player for Halloween. Halloween are from Detroit and they formed back in the early 1980's. They did a few albums and then continued to play a few shows on and off in the 1990's. They are still going playing shows today and working on material for a new album.
MM -Who are your influences?
George Neal- Obviously KISS and ALICE COOPER. Before we became HALLOWEEN we were called BITCH and we did a lot of cover songs. They varied from SCORPIONS, IRON MAIDEN, DAVID BOWIE, BLACK SABBATH, AND OZZY during the RANDY RHODES era. You will find a lot of the RANDY RHODES influence in Rick Craig’s playing on the Don’t Metal With Evil album.
MM -Back in the 1980’s did you ever play many shows outside of your home state?
George Neal -After the Don’t Metal With Evil album came out we started to get radio play here in Detroit. Eventually we branched off further from home. We headed over to Canada and did some shows then we ended up headlining a tour along the east coast and down south.
We eventually hooked up shows with bands such as SAVATAGE, CRIMSON GLORY. Not sure of the timeline of those two bands, but it was either the late 80’s or early 90’s. So we did play outside of Michigan a lot.
MM-You used the tagline “The Heavy Metal Horror Show". What did your stage show involve back around the time of your debut “Don’t metal with evil”?
George Neal -It started back when the band was still called BITCH before I came along. The basement that the band would rehearse at had posters of naked girls everywhere . When October rolled around (Halloween Season of course) we would decorate the basement with black lights, spider webs, candles, and skulls. People would come to see the band practice and comment on how cool it looked. Eventually all of the Halloween decorations ended up on the truck with the equipment and it started from there. That’s when the seed for the band HALLOWEEN was planted. The stage show eventually grew to include pillars, gates and a cemetery scene. Kept on growing into a multi-level style stage with drum risers, etc.
MM-What is your stage show like now?
George Neal -The stage show varies from a wall of Marshall Amps to truck loads of Halloween props and stage gear. We now have so much props that the storage is busting out at the seams. As a matter of fact one of the props includes a real Christmas tree that we used back in the early 90’s, but it looks a lot cooler now that it is dead with cobwebs. Our setup depends on the type of venue we are playing.
MM- Did you ever have a stage prop not work like it was supposed to?
George Neal -Nothing as drastic as SPINALTAP. Thankfully none of us were trapped in a pod. Back during BITCH we were using pyro and a flame projector went off while Brian was standing directly over it. It melted his spandex pants to his legs and at that time he would wear painted skulls on his face from clown makeup. Unfortunately the makeup was oil based. The impression of the skulls were burned into his skin and he lost some of his hair. Brian continued to do two songs before taking a trip to the hospital. I was sitting in the waiting room when he came out. Me being the smartass that I am with no sense of timing. I tried to cheer him up by saying “ Look at the bright side Brian, now the skulls are burned onto your face, you should not have a problem getting them right every time, just trace the lines.”
A few years later it was my turn. We were playing a show and during the intro the gates were rigged with flash and gunpowder. They went off pre-maturely when I was leaning against the gate. I did not notice. The funny thing was that people were screaming and yelling and I thought to myself hey this was a cool crowd really into the show! Next thing I knew a Roadie was running across the stage with a wet towel and draped it over my entire head. I was a bit pissed at first because I thought someone was messing around and I had just wasted two cans of Aqua net hairspray in my hair. Which by the way ignites quite nicely. The roadie yelled to me that my head was on fire. During this whole time the intro tape is still playing. I ran off to the side of the stage to get to a mirror. When I touched the side of my head my hair came off in my hands. I reached for my trusty can of Aqua Net and sprayed what was left of my hair back to my head. It was a bit stiff, but it worked. Needless to say I looked like the singer from RATT for at least 6 months after that.
MM-Did you ever get any interest from major labels in the 1980’s or early 1990s?
George Neal -Yes we have gotten a few and it all seemed to be the same story when we spoke to them. One instance was when an A&R from CAPITAL RECORDS came out to see us. He said he loved the band and wanted to sign us but wouldn’t know how to market us. He said there was not specific category for a band like us. We weren’t a glam or hair band. our music wasn’t “Poppie”. We didn’t play the typical pop metal or write songs about hot chicks in convertibles or strippers. It was heavy, we wore gore makeup (not pretty makeup). He didn’t know really what market to put us in. Our response was Metallica didn’t have a market when they came out, but eventually someone created one for them. That has always seemed one of the biggest problems we‘ve had to endure. Nobody knew where we fit.
One of the other problems was the mix-up between HALLOWEEN AND HELLOWEEN. We had record labels offer us a deal if we would change our name. We refused to because we already had enough time and effort invested in HALLOWEEN and we were around before HELLOWEEN. The name HALLOWEEN fit the music and what we were doing. It’s who we are and will always be. If you take the time and nurture something that is new and different, you can create a category. Look how many bands came out after METALLICA that sound just like them. So yes you can say we had some interest from some record labels.
MM-What was the Detroit metal scene like in the 1980's?
George Neal-Back in the 80’s the metal scene was like any place else, HUGE. It wasn’t just music back then, it was a way of life. No matter where you played, the venue would always be packed. People lived for music back then. It wasn’t really all about going out to hook up with someone. They were actually there for the music. If they did hook up with someone that was just an added bonus. Just as it is now over in Europe. We just got back from Germany and the people that were at the shows were so into the music….it made our 80’s look lame. We are looking forward to heading back to Europe someday soon.
MM-Back in the mid-late 1980’s did you ever think about leaving Detroit and going to LA instead?
George Neal -You know, back then it never really crossed our minds. LA was swamped with bands. The band was born here in Detroit and the fans became family to us. I think had we made the decision to move to LA the band would not be together today. There are several bands that jumped into that scene that ended up dieing within a few years. You’ve got some bands now such as POISON and MOTLEY CRUE and a handful of others that are still around, but over 70% of them are gone. I don’t think that the band would have survived the 24 years it has if we were in LA. Not quite sure which is harder….being with a major label for a short time and losing the deal or not having one at all. So I think staying here in Detroit was a good move for us. Back then we would have been lumped in with the bands in LA and currently you would find us on “Where are they now?” on VH1.
MM-Why was your second album shelved for years?
George Neal -We had recorded Victims Of The Night about 1 ½ years after Don’t Metal With Evil. Due to production, engineering , time and money we weren’t able to release it till a few years later. Bill Whyte and the engineer wanted to experiment with triggered drums. They rented the triggers for the drums and had no idea how to use it. During the process of the recording they erased the original drum tracks. Only thing left was the trigger drums so we kept in on the album. We had no other choice at that point. We weren’t even sure if this album was going to be released at all. Years later we were approached by a record distributor asking if we had any un-released material. That is when Victims Of The Night came up. We knew the drum tones were not great, but we knew there were some great songs on that album and in spite of the drum tones Bill Whyte did an awesome job and it would have been a shame to never release those songs.
MM-What were you doing in the 1990’s?
George Neal -We were still playing shows here and there. And started recording No One Gets Out Album. We actually recorded that album twice. Once here in Detroit at RT audio and once in NJ with Jon Oliva from SAVATAGE who was producing and engineering . When we got to this “awesome” studio in NJ we found out that the recording equipment was less to be desired. Jon and us were told this was the best studio in NJ. When we got there we were in shock. we all stood in the driveway and said “What the fuck are we doing here”. We did what we could recording wise and threw it up against the wall to see what would become of it. Eventually we ended up releasing the RT audio from Detroit version of the album. , but is was awesome working with Jon. We became great friends. A couple of years after No One Gets Out we took a break. Brian and I started working with some friends from another band CRUCIFIED NATION . Brian had hooked up with them and was singing for them. A few months later Brian called me and asked if I wanted to check out this band. I agreed to join and the band became ABANDON. We did that for a few years and had HALLOWEEN on the back burner for awhile. Then eventually it was time to put HALLOWEEN back to the front burner. Rick Craig and Bill White (original guitar player and drummer) hooked up with the band . We wanted two guitar players so we called Donny Allen back from the No One Gets Out album. It was amazing seeing these two guitar players together. It only lasted for a short while. Rick moved to Atlanta. Bill eventually moved on as well. After playing with several different drummers, a few years ago we ended up with this “ fucking beast “ of a drummer Rob Brug who is currently on the Horror Fire Album and soon to be released Terrortory. Rob as helped make a major change to the band not only with his drumming, but his guitar playing and song writing talent and all around musicianship.
MM-I am guessing at least someone in the band loves horror movies. What's your favorite horror movie?
George Neal -I cant speak for everyone, but Brian and I were just talking about this not too long ago. We are not really into the slasher/cuttem’ up movies. Movies we like are along the lines of The Omen, and The Amityville Horror. As a matter of fact , you will find reference to the Amityville Horror on the Horror Fire album. That story intrigued Brian mostly because he grew up in that area where the murders took place. On Horror Fire track 8 and 9 are the ones that refer to the murders. Track 8 is an intro called The End And The Beginning. Which if you listen carefully it’s our version of the murders taking place. Track 9 Nobody’s Home is the story about the murders after they took place. So in answer to your question I would have to say that Amityville Horror is up there.
MM-Do you get more or better offers for playing shows around or on Halloween?
George Neal -No not really. It is pretty steady all year round. Although because of the season people talk about us more and some people who would normally not come to a regular show would come out of curiosity and then keep coming after. We try to pick a choose our shows cautiously around Halloween time because we don’t want to be labeled as a seasonal band.
MM-Do you sell more albums and t-shirts through your site around the holiday?
George Neal -There really is no time when we sell more. We sell our merchandise all year round and it seems we sell more if we have something new out as apposed to the time of year.
MM-What are you currently up to?
George Neal -We are currently in the studio recording a new album titled Terrortory. I will start laying bass tracks by the beginning of November and we are hoping the album will be done by Christmas. But if the past reflects the future it may take a bit longer. You never know when shits going to happen when you are recording.
Thanks to George for doing the interview and Happy Halloween to everyone.