Neil Turbin Interview --Vinaya Saksena

Hailing from New York, vocalist Neil Turbin got his first taste of fame in the early 1980ís, when he helped a band called Anthrax create a sound called Thrash Metal. Although he and his band mates parted ways shortly afterwards (doubtlessly a bit of a set-back), Turbinís musical career did not end there, and the ensuing years have seen him involved in numerous musical ventures (which apparently included an audition for New York heavy metal legends Riot). Nowadays, Neil Turbin enjoys the artistic freedom of a solo career, with a solid solo album, "Threatcon Delta", already in the can, and another one in the works. With a new band of hotshot players called Neil Turbinís Deathriders in tow, the singer hit the road for some live dates, including a spot on Mexicoís prestigious Monterey Metal Fest at the end of May. Neil recently took some time to talk to Maximum Metalís Vinaya Saksena about his life and music- past, present and future. What follows are excerpts of that interview.

What inspired you to become a musician in the first place?

Turbin: ďWell, thatís an interesting question. I always loved music, and was a big music fan. I was into sports. I played ice hockey and was competitive in that. And one day I was listening to music, and said ďOh shit, I gotta play some.Ē I was just so into music that it took over as the primary interest from when I was into sports. Something just clickedÖ. I liked the culture, I liked the cool stuff, and it wasnít just metal bands I was listening to, it was all sorts of stuff. I mean, weíre talking about the days of Don Kirshnerís Rock Concert.

There was just a paradigm shift from when I was a big sports fan as a kid. My family was very musical. I had people in my family that are successful in the music business, in different areas, such as Broadway, you know, show music, that sort of thing. I was always surrounded by music. My dad used to listen to the radio a lot. We listened to Motown; we listened to the rock music that was out there at the time. You never really had much choice. It wasnít like ďOkay, youíre gonna listen to Black Sabbath and Deep Purple.Ē I had to go find those types of bands for myself.

Music just took the primary focus. Music is something thatís always been important. Itís always been a great pleasure and I enjoy doing it. Itís something that I do whether I get paid or not, and believe me, thatís been the case. I believe I should be paid for doing a job, but I do it because I love to do it. Itís something I love to do anyway. I think thatís how you can be the best at what you do is really have a passion for what it is that you do, whether itís painting, sports, whether or whatever it might be. Being good at what you do I think is very important and to have a passion for it. I think the key for me is that Iíve loved this from the very beginning, and it s something that was very compelling for me at a very early age.Ē

How would you say your music has evolved over the years?

Turbin: ďWell, itís kind of come full circle, back to my roots, because my roots have always been great singing. Who is a great singer? I think there are lots of different types of singers. What I consider a great singer is someone who can sing pretty much anything thatís put in front of them. Someone who is able to singe high notes, low notes, and have soul. I think there are a lot of singers that donít have soul in the metal genre or the rock genre. I think itís good to have both.

I can remember when I auditioned for Riot in New York. Rhett Forrester had left the band, and I was friends with Rhett. I was more of a singer that would have been more like what Guy Speranza did. And they had me sing on Rhett Forester-type material. They had me sing on ďRestless Breed.Ē So, I was not that soulful type of singer at that moment in time. Weíre talking, I think, like January of í85. They werenít really looking for a Guy Speranza or a Rhett Forrester. And you know, I was very Anthrax back in those days. I was still that kind of a singer. And when I say that kind of a singer, I mean I did one thing. And I do many things now.

Also, I write better songs now, so Iíd rather play the newer material that I write, because so much more goes into the writing. But back in those days, I put a lot into those songs- lyrically, melody-wise. It just wasnít a great collaboration effort. Basically, I was given a track and I said yes or no, based on if it was something I felt compelled to write to. Unfortunately, at that stage, it took a lot to get a song that we wanted to work on, because we were all learning at that point. But nowadays, I am able to identify what I am trying to write to and convey.Ē

What music have you been listening to recently?

"Iím not limited to just having to play power chords and scream my ass off over the top."
Turbin: ďI really like versatile singers, and I tend to like bands that have great singers, like metal bands like Nocturnal Rites, where you have great playing all around, great song structure, very good vocals. Tad Morose, bands like that. Primal Fear I love. I love the new generation of power metal and progressive metal like Symphony X.

That whole approach to me is more singing. So from my perspective, being a thrash metal pioneer kinda guy, I just think there werenít a whole lot of singers in thrash metal to begin with. And Iíve always liked singers. Iíve always liked your Halfords and your Dios and your Dickinsons. I think those guys are great singers when it comes to metal. I believe that I have my own sound, and it took me to today to get to that point. In Anthrax I had my own sound, and Iíve furthered that to the tenth power. I certainly have a handle on what is the Neil Turbin sound. I appreciate vocalists who really can pull it off live, amazing vocalists that can inspire a real powerful feeling and convey that really well. Paul Rogers is a big influence on me. Iím not just into hitting a bunch of high notes. I donít care about singers that just think ďWell, okay, hereís a high note to begin the song, hereís one at the end of the song, gotta have one before the solo.Ē I donít think that way. That is a way of writing that is kind of stereotypical. And I really try to keep things basic. I mean, you can have point-counterpoint melodies; you can have all kinds of advanced writing going on. But I like to keep it so that people can relate to it and I can relate to it.Ē

How would you describe your new album?

Turbin: ďItís a combination of different points in my career. Itís something that represents what I am capable of doing. I think itís a good relief for me. I think that the next thing that I do as a release will be a much more focused album comprised of songs that I wrote specifically for that album. "Threatcon Delta" is something that I put together. It was something that I needed to do, and I glad that I did. But the next step, I think is to put out something that is representative of a band, not just different songs that are put together. It was cohesive, it had a direction to it, but I believe that my direction at this point is much more refined and focused. My writing is definitely progressive power metal, although the thrash element is definitely in there as well. Iím always gonna be Neil Turbin, its always gonna sound like the guy who sang on "Fistful of Metal". But, you know, Iím just capable of so much more vocally and writing-wise. I wouldnít wanna be limited to that. I mean people may expect from me "Fistful of Metal Part Two", but that would be impossible for me. If I were twenty years old, it might be something that Iíd write at that point. But Iím not. Iíve evolved beyond that, and musically, in a very positive way. I mean, there wouldnít be bands around today that I love to listen to like your Primal Fears and Symphony X and your Nocturnal Rites and your Tad Moroses. I like bands that have really strong singers. I mean, there are so many great bands out there in power metal. I love the newer generation of Power Metal, I think itís right where I wanna be, right where I feel comfortable. And I fit in very well with that. Thatís the direction that we are headed, without a doubt.

Itís nice to have a group of people that are cool and down to earth, that have respect, and have camaraderie and trust and that sort of thing and not just someoneís agenda calling the shots. I just enjoy playing music. And I like having the best group of guys with me and guys that are sharpshooters on their instruments- top of the line players. Definitely the kind of players that you would see on like, a Dream Theater or G3 type of level. Iím not necessarily trying to play that type of music. I mean I love it, but I tend to just like bands that are more in it for the song rather than for the glory of the solo. And I think Dream Theater does both. They have both of those angles covered. I mean, those are the kind of guys that can play anything. They can take anything and make it sound good.

I just like to have guys that have the right chops to play that kind of stuff. Itís nice to be able to throw different elements into your music instead of just having a switch that goes fast and slow like on a blender! Itís nice to have all the other little buttons that go in between. Different tempos, different feelsÖ Having the ability to put classical piano pieces, horn sections and things like that in. I mean, Iím not limited to just having to play power chords and scream my ass off over the top.Ē

This is a fan-submitted question: Do you still keep in touch with your former band mates, and if asked, would you perform with them, sharing mic responsibilities?

Turbin: ďWell, I have to laugh at that question, because I havenít talked to those guys since I left the band. I can say that no oneís reached out on either side. However, I did see Frank Bello and John Tempesta, who used to work with Anthrax, and of course is a great drummer. Last fall, we were hanging out and having a couple of drinks at the Rainbow on the Sunset Strip. They were real cool to me. It was fun to hang out with them, for a few minutes, anyway. We just happened to meet up because Helmet was in town, and those guys are playing with Helmet. Frank was a gentleman, he was real cool, real positive, and had a great attitude, and it was great to see him. And actually, Iíve seen him at previous NAMM shows, and heís always been the one to be outgoing and to communicate.

Iím just a down-to-earth person. Iím not judgmental. If Iíve got nothing good to say, Iíd rather not say it at all. Whatís the point? Iím not there to stir up shit. All I know is that Frank was totally cool with me and I was cool with him. And I appreciate it. I appreciate people that are for real. Frank is for real. Heís not thriving off of his ego. He could be cool enough to come up to me and say ďHey, Neil, how you doing?Ē Thatís an example of someone whoís in the music business who doesnít take it for granted, who tries to keep things cool with people and doesnít go walking around thinking heís a rock star.

So I enjoyed seeing Frankie. The other guysÖIíve seen Charlie, thatís about it. At NAMM, I was at the ESP party. It was just cool to be amongst friends. And I know Charlie was there, but he just walked right by me, so I didnít feel any warmth.Ē

Neil TurbinVinaya Saksena6/2/2005


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