Recently I had the great pleasure of sitting down and talking with cult eighties power metal band Xcel. Their album, "Deliver This Dream", is getting a re-release thanks to the fine folks at Arkeyn Steel Records. You can read my original review of the re-release, a simply shredding affair!, at the link at the bottom. Much thanks goes out to Xcel for taking the time to chat with us. Be sure to pick up your own copy of this killer, limited-edition, re-release! It's a must have for eighties heavy metal fanatics!
|Yes, this really was the fashion! Xcel back in the day.|
HEAVY METAL TIME MACHINE – ‘Xcel’ US Interview, April 2013
Andy-Could you introduce the members of the band?
Kevin: Well it is Barry Duncan and I on guitars, Kevin Luke - lead vocal, Peter Voight - bass guitar, and Dag Gabourel - drums.
Andy-How did Xcel originally come together?
Xcel was born out of a band called Wizzard. I had left Wizzard to
play guitar with another group of guys. Wizzard replaced me with Kevin
Cox, at my suggestion (See? I told you he was good!). Several months
had passed and I got contacted by one of the Wizzard guys to come out
and see them play at a local bowling alley. I was blown away! There
was so much life and energy in the band that had gone missing over
time. They had new, original music. I was astounded. I called Rob
Duplantis, the drummer, and told him I’d like to come back if they lost
their other guitarist (not Kevin, mind you). A few days later he called
back and said, “Come back!” That move caused a bit of strife in
Wizzard and they subsequently lost their singer too. So, we’re left
with Rob Duplantis on drums, Peter Voight on bass, Kevin Cox on guitar
and me rejoining the band on guitar.
The four of us sat down and made a conscious decision to change the direction of the band. A new name, a new look, new original
songs (not so many cover songs). Wizzard, in my opinion, was already
headed that direction naturally, we just made the decision to push it in that direction. That’s where the band “Xcel” came from.
Peter: We were getting good feedback on our originals, so we decided to take our music in a different direction. We
performed only our originals and would fill in with covers as needed. I
knew Kevin Luke from him singing in his high school pop choral group,
so I told Kevin Cox I knew of a guy that could sing. So Kevin Cox & I
went to the local skating rink where Kevin Luke was working, and asked
him if he wanted to audition for our band’s type of music. Getting Kevin
Luke in the band led to the association with Dag Gabourel from them
going to school together. I was very impressed with Dag; he had the
musical ability and the looks to go with
Kevin: The guys have pretty much summed it up on the formation of Xcel. But
before Wizzard, I was in a band called ‘Bandit’ that just wanted to
hang out and get wasted and I was anxious to get out and play. I
knew the guys in Wizzard, was already friends with Peter, had seen them
play several times, and really looked up to Barry, so I became a
roadie/guitar tech for them a bit. So when they asked me to come and audition after Barry left, I was nervous but I couldn’t wait for the chance. So I guess the chemistry
was already there before I came in and having Barry come back made it perfect. We then set out to find the remaining pieces of the puzzle in Kevin Luke and Dag Gabourel. And we were lucky when we found those two, it just all fell into place.
Andy-And the name?
Kevin: I keep hearing it was me! But then I thought it was Barry. Who knows? I don’t remember honestly. There’s not some cool story behind it unfortunately. But
the thing I think we ended up focusing on was the fact that it was a
positive name, energetic, and was associated with achievement. So it made perfect since in one regard. You want five guys who are going to work their tails off for something really important to
them? Well you’ve found them! And they happened to be called Xcel! Brilliant!
I don’t think anyone really knows where the name came from. Some say I
was the one that came up with that name. I don’t remember that, to be
honest. And, oddly enough, I do remember I didn’t particularly like
the name “Xcel”. I couldn’t tell you why, I just thought it didn’t
sound too good; it didn’t roll off the tongue. However, it took on a
whole new meaning for all of us and has come to mean a great deal over
the years. Also, the logo design, I think, looks surgical...and, that’s
how our music was developing, into this surgical, precise, progressive
Peter Voight: I
don’t think anyone really remembers who came up with it. I do recall us
considering the name Mako at one point. Kevin Cox came to practice with
“Excel” and its definition written on a piece of paper; we all like the
meaning of the word, and agreed it fit the direction we were headed
with the band. Barry designed the logo and shortened the name to “Xcel”.
I was impressed with the design’s looks and everyone agreed to go with
Andy-Who were some of your influences when you started off?
I grew up listening to the Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Grand Funk Railroad,
BTO, and Black Sabbath. In my teen years I began listening to KISS,
Judas Priest, Rush, Iron Maiden, Queensryche.
Everyone had their favorites, but I especially liked Queensryche and
Iron Maiden. I’m sure it’s not too hard to see those influences. But,
there were a lot of others: Fates Warning (I still love those guys), Dio, Black Sabbath with Dio on vocals, Whitesnake.
Kevin: For me it started by listening to KISS Alive II and staring at the inside cover of that album for hours on end. I used to listen to my older brother’s Black Sabbath, Grand Funk Railroad, Deep Purple, etc. I love the early Queensryche when they had Chris DeGarmo, and of course Iron Maiden and Judas Priest. I still, even today, gravitate towards the power guitar and riffs. I listen to a lot of Primal Fear, Brainstorm, Accept, UDO, and Disturbed now. Notice the mostly German theme there?
Andy-I've just got to say that "Deliver This Dream" is a really cool album.
Tell us a little about how it was recorded (and how you ended up at a
studio more known for country and western than rock and heavy metal!)
and what you remember from that time period.
Well, to be honest, I don’t think anyone of us really realized that the
little studio we recorded in was a Country and Western studio. For me,
I didn’t care what you recorded, if you had lots of equipment, you
should know how to use it, and how to use it for whatever genre
of music you were recording. That wasn’t the case. I’m sure there were
studios out there that could do that, but we didn’t have access to them
or the money to afford the really good studios. So, our ignorance got
the best of us. Remember, there was no Internet at that time and there
was no really good way to research a studio. I guess we could have gone
to Houston, but again, that was money we didn’t have.
studios were surprisingly hard to come by in our area of Southeast
Texas, considering some of the big name talent that has come from here.
The owner of Tri-Plex Studio was a music professor at Lamar, and one of
us must’ve known him from that. Country music was very popular at the
time, so the studio was probably just catering to the trends of the
time. We recorded the majority of the album at night; I remember being
very nervous about getting all my parts right on the first take, in
order to keep costs down. It was also my first opportunity to see each
band member perform individually, and I remember being very impressed
with each member’s ability &
Kevin: As Barry mentioned, we really didn’t know any better. We thought we were doing what we had to do to get noticed, and that was hit a studio and get it out there. Along with Peter, I’d have to say what I remember the most about being in the studio was getting to watch Dag specifically. Since
the rest of us were usually out front in shows or rehearsals, I would
stand and watch him through the glass during the recordings and think
“wow, I didn’t know he did that! This is cool.” The other thing was
being a bit stressed to get it right in as few takes as possible so that we could keep costs down to the penny in all areas.
Andy-What happened in the end? What made you guys decided it was time to put Xcel to rest?
make a long story short, I saw Xcel’s popularity start to plateau, and
the economy at the time was declining. We lost investors, and I only had
a year of college left to graduate, which seemed like the more
practical opportunity. There were no arguments, no fighting, no
disagreements; we’re all still friends even today.
Kevin: Man, that was a tough time. I remember it well. It was a 5 way divorce that no one wanted to do. But I think that we ran out of options and there were no opportunities coming our way where we were. The desire was there, the avenue and money to do it was not. Picture
having this dream you’ve always wanted, it is right there in your
grasp, and then you come to the realization that it is not going to
happen and you don’t know what to do next other than go to college.
I was sick about that for a long time, which is why I moved away to start school. I just had to reboot. We have always remained friends and I would consider them close friends. It is nice to talk music again with all of them and re-live a part of that.
I was just burnt out. I had put in 2+ years of my life into Xcel and
gotten nowhere. A lot of time invested in creating the music, getting
it recorded, trying to push the product and no real results other than
lost time and spent money. We had a lot of fun, and I wouldn’t trade
that for anything, but the goal was to get signed and go on tour. We
never got close.
coup de grâce for Xcel was losing all of our potential investors. We
had been working with several different people about investing into us
(yes, we perceived Xcel as a business venture) and then October 1987
happened. “Black Monday”. The stock market fell. All of the investors
we had gathered up said they could not/would not give us any money
because they had lost in the stock market. I think that really deflated
Andy-Were you surprised at all to see Xcel turn into a cult heavy metal band over the years?
very surprised. I guess it was in the mid-90’s that I realized it due
to receiving calls from Europe asking about the band and wanting to book
shows. It’s still amusing to me even today how many search results you
can get from Googling “Xcel Deliver This Dream.” Also, I had mixed
feelings when I heard that someone had bootlegged our album without our
permission, but without that coverage, the dream would never have stayed
alive this long.
Kevin: Aw man, most definitely! Like Peter, many years later I too started receiving phone calls even from different people here in the US. There was one in particular at some rock festival in Chicago. If I recall, this guy read about us online and somehow found me?! I thought it was someone playing a joke at first. Now,
I’m hearing from some people associated with the worldwide South By
Southwest music festival showcase in Austin, TX asking us to play, and
using that as an Xcel kickoff of sorts. This thing still breathes
life, and you just sit and scratch your head. I’ve been approached by entertainment lawyers as well who have heard about all this. It's just crazy.
without question, the people in Europe who love this type of music, as
well as record collectors and others, are the ones that have kept this
alive. This ‘cult’ status as you put it is thanks to them.
Barry: Yeah! I would have never guessed that! We knew our stuff was good, we just never knew so many other people thought so too.
Andy-Can you tell us how the deal with Arkeyn Steel Records came about?
Kevin Cox had discovered looking around on the Internet that the name
Xcel popped up on a few websites. One guy in particular, Chris
Papadakis, had some really nice things to say about the album at his
Forgotten Scroll website (link below), I mean, really nice, Kevin e-mailed the guy and told him, “Hey, I’m one of the members of
Xcel and just wanted to say ‘thanks’ for the nice review of our album.”
The guy freaked out! He e-mailed Kevin back and said he’d been trying
to find us and this
and that, and before you know it, he’s telling Kevin that he’s part of a
record label and would we be interested in re-releasing the “Deliver
This Dream” album through that label. Geez, are you kidding me?!? We
couldn’t believe it. We all said “yes” and we’re now a part of the
Arkeyn Steel family.
Andy-"Deliver This Dream" has held up surprisingly well. Who wrote the bulk of the material or was it a group effort?
of the songs for Deliver This Dream are written by Kevin Cox and Barry.
They would present their ideas to the band and the other members would
take them in their own direction.
Yeah, I think that our bringing in ideas and letting everyone run with
it and add their own interpretation is how we developed our own sound. However,
Peter and our sound guy, Andy Owen, were also starting to contribute
ideas to the mix and they were some really cool songs. Andy
had some great ideas and we were fortunate that he had the ability to
work with writing the lyrics that worked in the music structure.
Everyone did their part to each of the songs. We really let everyone
stretch out and didn’t limit anyone unless it simply didn’t work. We
worked and arranged for the song, not to highlight any particular
member. As for the writing, I wrote the lyrics and composed several of
the songs on the album and Kevin C. wrote the others. And, several had
some collaboration: Kevin Luke had written the lyrics for “I’ll Make It
Someway” and brought it to me to write the music. Other parts of songs
might have just needed a little tweaking or a segue into another area.
Since we never put restrictions on each other, I think that helped the
songs come out better than we even imagined.
Andy-Did you ever think when you were recording it that all these years
later you'd be getting such a royal treatment for a re-release?
Peter: No, not in a million years. Of
course, we had hoped that we would get signed at the time, but when
nothing really came of it at the original release; I pretty much dropped
Barry: No way. Chris and Kostas at Arkeyn Steel have been great to work with; “royal” is definitely the correct word to use.
Kevin Cox: Ha, not even remotely! I
don’t think we planned on it turning out the way it did originally,
much less reading about us 26 years later and gaining fans in other
I completely agree with the guys on this one. Kostas and Chris at Arkeyn Steel have been great. They do quality work and release professional grade results. It’s funny, we’ve seen more promotion for Xcel in the past year than all 26 plus years combined and I am humbled by it. They have definitely given us the royal treatment and appear to really appreciate our music. For that I am grateful!
Andy-What does the future hold for Xcel? Do you guys have any plans to release new material?
hard to say at this point; I, for one, would love to record new
material. However, we all have responsibilities to our families and
careers, which makes getting together rather difficult. Let’s just say
it depends on the success of this re-release....
There’s a lot up in the air for us. The band members have moved to
different cities over the years and it’s proven difficult for us to get
together, even just to visit and hang out. All of us have families,
from toddlers on up to college students and that takes a lot of
everyone’s time and resources. So, logistically it could be troublesome
to release more material. The good news is, we actually do have new material. When I say “new”, I mean unreleased
material from 1986, 87 and 88. Any “new” release would be our
“sophomore” effort from that time. I believe that we’re all hoping the
“Deliver This Dream” re-release goes ballistic and gives us some real
motivation to record some more.
Kevin: Man, it’s hard to say at this point. I’m probably pushing the hardest to make something else happen. But, I’m also one of the ones that live in a different location from the rest of the guys. Although, I’m not going to let that stop me. I want to do something with it. I
think what excites me the most is, if people like what is on Deliver
This Dream then I am confident that they will like the “new” stuff we
have. I thought it was more powerful and heavier personally, and I would love to get that out there and let the world hear it. I think it is good
even by today’s standards and songs that are out there. I’ve had many people ask when Xcel will do shows so they can see us. I’m all for it, but we’ll have to see how this re-release goes over and if the market even wants it. I’m also not opposed to doing it just for ourselves, so we can have a copy to keep.
Andy-What would you say to all of the fans who have kept the spirit of Xcel alive all these years? It's got to be pretty amazing to think that your lone record had that much of an impact on people right?
Kevin: Wow, just a great big “Thank you!” You guys are amazing. There is no greater satisfaction to have something you’ve poured your heart and soul into go on to be enjoyed by others. I really hope we can bring you more in the near future. Our engineer, George Coyne in Austin, TX is the one that made this happen when things looked bleak
with our master tape. Chris and Kostas took a chance on us and brought it to you. So if you are fans of metal of any sort, show these guys your gratitude for what they bring to everyone. You US metal fans need to go out and show support for these bands. Demand the music and demand the shows.
Peter: All I can say is “Thank You” for all the support; it’s been a blast! I feel as if the entire band is humbled by the recognition, and that we would never be where we are without the fans. I
also want to wholeheartedly thank Chris and Kostas from Arkeyn Steel
for giving us this opportunity as well as seeing what we believed our
Barry: I’m still numb from all this. I had no idea there was this whole underground International metal
movement…and we were in the middle of it! God Bless all of our fans
and a heartfelt “Thank You” from Xcel for keeping this little album
really hoping everyone enjoys the re-release of “Deliver This Dream”.
The remix and re-master was an amazing process and we can’t thank George
Coyne over at Parrot Tracks Studios in Austin, TX for bringing out what
we truly had in mind for this album. Also, a huge “Thank You” to Chris
and Arkeyn Steel for jump starting this whole process and bringing our
music to even more people!
Andy-I'll wrap things up by letting you have the last word. Final thoughts? Are there any words of encouragement to other eighties heavy metal bands trying to start things up again? The mic is all yours!
Barry: You’ve heard the phrase “Never say ‘never’”? That certainly applies here. We would have never
thought we’d see this amount of recognition and this amount of
excitement from the music community. But, here we are, about to
re-release an album from 1986. How outrageous is that?!? I’ve always
felt, and told people, that you can do anything if you put your
mind to it. A lot of the lyrics and messages in our music said that
too. There will always be people who tell you that you can’t do something. Call me stubborn, but you’ve just given me that much more motivation to prove you wrong…so, don’t give up!
Peter: If any other heavy metal bands get a similar opportunity, I encourage them to take it! Life’s too short to miss out on magical moments like these. You don’t realize how much you miss it until you get back into it. Andy, I want to thank you for your time & efforts in pushing this project.
Labels: eighties metal, interview, power metal, re-releases, Xcel