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EXCITER – Stand Up And Fight
Bernard Doe
Metal Forces, Issue 4 (1984)

John Ricci and Allan Johnson
Pic: Wayne Archibald

Together with Metallica, Ottawa’s Exciter have been one of the bands responsible for the current trend of power metal now sweeping the headbanging globe. So, it seemed fitting that both bands would make their debut live UK appearance together on the same bill with The Rods on the Hell On Earth tour. However, as you are all no doubt aware, that entire British tour together with numerous dates throughout Europe were cancelled due to poor advance ticket sales.

The three members of Exciter – Dan Beehler (lead vocals / drums), John Ricci (guitar) and Allan Johnson (bass) – had arrived in London the very day the UK dates had been scrapped. So, when I met up with the band a few days later the first thing I asked them was if the disappointment of having the tour cancelled had changed their attitude towards their British audience? Dan: “No, not really because we are well aware of the present economical situation in Britain, and there’s currently a lot of tours going on with bigger bands. So when a band like Exciter come over with only one album (Violence And Force on the Music For Nations label) that is domestic in Britain, it’s very hard for a band like us to sell tickets. The kids just don’t have the money to go to every show that’s coming through. So it doesn’t change our attitude as far as Britain goes, because we know we have a following here and if the kids had the money we know they would be out there headbanging.”

Were the band happy with the latest album Violence And Force? Allan: “Yeah. Although the first album opened everything up for us, Violence And Force is so much better. Better produced, better writing… everything.”

What was it like working with The Rods drummer Carl Canedy, who produced the album? Dan: “Great! Carl’s very easy to work with and he’s a great producer. If the band had any suggestions then he was very open minded. In the past, we’ve had real asshole producers that say ‘Oh no man, it’s done like this, you don’t play your guitar like that and tune your drums like this’. But Carl knew that we knew our music better than anyone else, so he let us do whatever we wanted to do, and we’ve come up with a product that we are all really pleased with.”

Exciter’s first album, Heavy Metal Maniac, was actually a demo tape which had found its way into many a tape traders collection long before the album was officially released in 1983. Had this worried the band? Dan: “Yeah, we freaked out! At first we were really mad that our tape was getting around and we didn’t think anyone would buy the album, but in the end I think it helped us in a way. Let’s face it, the underground metal world is what made Exciter what it is today.”

Heavy Metal Maniac was released in the US on Shrapnel Records, but then Exciter split from the label after being offered a better deal from Jonny Z’s Megaforce Records in New York. So what is the situation like in Canada at the moment in terms of getting record deals? John: “Well, our music has always been extremely hard to market in Canada. Initially, when we got our demo tapes together, we did go knocking on Canadian doors.”

Dan: “Yeah, and they slammed them in our faces with comments like ‘You’re too fucking heavy – get lost’, ‘You guys suck’, or ‘Anvil’s the greatest man, so forget it’. But we kept forging on and said we would go and get signed in the States… which we did. And, now we’re getting recognition over here and our second album’s doing well, these Canadian companies are starting to turn their heads and say ‘Exciter! Yeah, we like those guys’. But I say to them, ‘Fuck you! Where the hell were you two years ago?’

“The club scene in Canada at the moment is full of new heavy metal bands, but there’s no band there who have really reached the stature that we have. We’re not big and we’re not small, but in that in-between stage where we’re treading on Anvil’s heels. But it’s great that we’ve got all these other bands coming up, like Rapid Tears and Kraken, because maybe it will click in the heads of Canadian record companies that heavy metal is getting better and they should start pushing some of our acts.”

How about the heavy metal audiences in Canada? Dan: “When we played L’amour in Brooklyn, New York the place was sold out with crazy headbangers who just love our material. Canadians are almost there, but we don’t get the same reception as we do in the US. They’re just too laid back and don’t wanna move in case someone sees them.”

Dan Beehler
Pic: Wayne Archibald

Well, Exciter did manage to play one gig during their short stay in the UK. That was at a packed Royal Standard in London, promoted by Shades record store. Unfortunately, the PA system the band used that night was one of the worst ever used at the venue. But despite the appalling sound, all Exciter fans present, including myself, obviously enjoyed the Canadian trio’s set of pounding metal. As usual there were the ‘slag off’ comments from the liggers at the bar, when instead they should have been praising the band for carrying on despite the sound problems and playing a full set. Lesser bands would surely have cut it short rather than risk their credibility. So, full marks to Exciter.

Live, Exciter certainly give 100% effort and demand the same from their audience. John: “We get the audience involved in every tune we are playing. It’s not like, ‘we are the band, you are the audience’.We don’t have that kind of communication. We mingle right with the audience and they like the personal attention. A lot of bands neglect that, they play their tunes and that’s it.”

Dan: “They’re there to make noise and scream, and we give them their chance. We want to see the audience perform as much as they want to see us perform.”

It’s true that the band’s albums contain a lot of overdubs, especially from guitarist John Ricci. But as a three-piece they certainly don’t suffer live. John: “No, we’re one band that doesn’t miss the rhythm guitar that much. I think it’s just the chemistry of the band. The rhythm section’s very good and they fill in a lot.”

Also, there’s the incredible vocals of Dan Beehler. But doesn’t he find it difficult playing drums and singing at the same time? Dan: “I find it difficult, sure, and I find it a challenge, but it’s just something I’ve developed. What you hear on the album is what you hear live. I write to what I can do on the kit, not just in the studio.”

As I said earlier, with Metallica they have certainly set a trend in fast-paced metal. But how will Exciter’s sound develop from here? Dan: “Sure, it’s good to play fast, but the rhythm section has got to play together. In a lot of up-and-coming bands, all the drummer does is play as fuckin’ fast as he can with the bass player following him… and there’s no rhythm section. Well, that’s where we draw the line. We like to play with a heavy beat and a heavy rhythm section.”

Well they certainly don’t come much heavier than Exciter and hopefully it won’t be too long before they return to these shores and give the rest of Britain, and indeed the whole of Europe, a taste of the Violent Force.

Interview taken from Metal Forces, Issue 4 (1984)

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