Burnt Offering singer Brian Miller is about the heyday of Bay Area Thrash – Part II
Burnt Offering was formed in 1984, included Chris Reifert on drums and Dean Sharp on guitars, who were joined by you on vocals and Bob Shannon on bass. Do you still remember how did you get together?
Actually Steve Pederson came up with the name of the band opposite Dean Sharp on guitar. I would join the band last audition and get the vocal job.
Was Burnt Offering the first act that you were involved in?
No. Chris Reifert and I about a year before Burnt Offering form was in a cover band called Headhunter with a guitar player named Nathan Williams. We were basically a cover band and then a year later Burnt Offering would form. Nathan would go on to record with the band Phantasm and put out a record with them. Nathan’s mother was raising him and his brother at the time. I’m constantly putting Nathan on the scription so we just decided all go our own way that’s how Headhunter ended.
What were your influences?
We all listen to a lot of the same stuff: Voivod, Mercyful Fate, Coroner, Destruction, Nasty Savage and a lot of progressive rock, King Crimson, Frank Zappa, The Sweet, Alice Cooper just a name. Some of the bands we all were influenced by and listen to.
Did you strain after writing originals or were you jamming mostly on covers?
After writing the six different tracks for the Burnt Offering Frightmare demo there was an additional few tracks being worked on one was the title track Burnt Offering. That was never recorded and also another track called Sleeping Prophet and one other comes to mind which was going to be an instrumental called Fugitive Guy. Bob Shannon came up with the idea for Fugitive Guy and some of the music ideas but these extra three tracks were never recorded. I’d only played live one time.
How were your originals penned? Who was responsible for the music and for the lyrics?
Dean Sharp was responsible for most of the lyrics except the last track of Frightmare which I wrote from beginning to end and the Frightmare name was my idea. Dean and Steve collaborated on 90% of the music with Chris Reifert adding ideas. Death and Violence was the first song Chris ever wrote on guitar to add to what we had and Dean and Chris would collaborate on the lyrics for Death and Violence and I would add the final touches lyrically.
In 1985 you released two demos, can you give us any details regarding on them? Did they help to gain the attention of record labels and gain a record deal? What do you recall about these recordings, the studio, the songs and how well did they sell?
We actually did 3 demos. The first two were rough draft and only 2 and 1/2 of the songs recorded. They were incomplete tapes then the third one would evolve into the Burnt Offering Frightmare demo. Completed version we didn’t get too many record offers, there was one offer though from Steamhammer Records. We were going back and forth with communications with them but it just didn’t work out and we never released anything other than the demo. We had been selling it all record stores in our local area and at school we were distributing them at shows.
Do you agree with that Burnt Offering played a sort of melodic speed/thrash metal, with an obvious nod to Exodus and Slayer but a bit more melodic?
I definitely would say so. Dean Sharp was the unique guitar player that had very cool ideas. I would definitely say Exodus and Slayer played a big role in our musical style among many other bands like Blind Illusion, Legacy and the band Hexx just to name a few.
It is worth mentioning here that the band were for the most part, still in high school, so a little roughness around the edges can and should be expected, correct?
Definitely we were in our senior year of high school trying to figure out life. We were very serious about the band but didn’t have the experience to get signed so I would definitely say we were very rough. Around the edges experience wise and music wise but still managed to put out something we thought was original for the time.
Through which channels did you spread the demos?
Local music stores, shows, school and a lot of personal friends. Also tapetrading was another way of getting it out there and exposing the band.
Were you aware of the fanzine/tapetrading circuit? Were you deeply involved in the underground?
Chris Reifert was the main tapetrading guy and I would follow in his footsteps and trade with people all over the US and abroad but the other members of the band were more into making the music then trading.
What do you think has caused that new metal movement at that time?
The way the music scene was changing and the new bands that were being introduced and other bands constantly joining the pool the Bay Area San Francisco had a lot of influence to offer whether it was punk or metal.
Is Burnt Offering one of those obscure, long forgotten bands from the Bay Area Thrash scene of the 1980’s, who for various reasons never got that far?
I don’t know if we were forgotten but I think we could have went a lot farther if we were a little older down through. The band has gotten really good responses from people and still getting great responses today on social media about the demo.
Was it hard to make a name for the band considering the big amount of bands, that were popping up around those times?
Not really, but the business end was a bit complicated. A lot of other bands in the Bay Area at the time were already established and had money flowing to help their cause. We didn’t have that kind of luxury we were all still living at home and didn’t have a lot of money so we had to do it little by little to make a name for ourselves which we wanted up achieving regardless.
In your opinion, was it a healthy rivalry among the outfits?
To be honest with you it was kind of a strange climate back then. There were bands you got along with and bands you didn’t. I think it was more of a competition that a healthy rivalry to answer the question accurately.
What about your live gigs? Did you manage to do any headliner shows or were you opening act for biggers names, such as Metallica, Exodus, Slayer etc.?
The time I was in the band with the original line up we played three shows. We were the opening band for all three one of the bands, we open for was called Tyrannicide, the other was Death Angel who we were classmates with in high school and also The Accused from Seattle. We were the opening act for all three gigs which were all play at the legendary Ruthie’s Inn in Berkeley, California.
After the demos there were several line up changes. What happened? What kind of reasons did lead to them?
One of the reasons why was I decided to leave the band due to internal problems and disagreements and convinced Chris to branch off and form Frightmare. We never did any shows we had about seven or eight songs that were never recorded. Chris would leave Frightmare to record the Death Mutilation demo and then go on to record Scream Bloody Gore with Chuck Schuldiner in Florida. I would take a year off and then reform Frightmare again but couldn’t find a bassist at the time. We recorded two demos but never signed a record deal. I never played any shows and that was the end of that.
Did the new line up write any new tunes back in the day?
Yes, there were several line up changes and they had different songs that were not in relation to what the original line up did. I think they did two of the original songs though one being Dead Walk the Earth and the other Death and Violence the first song Chris Reifert would write on guitar.
From what I know, you have been in Death Resurrected and Frightmare; can you tell us more about them?
Death Resurrected was a one-time thing. One song was written, and it was kind of for fun more than anything. A homemade video was made of just guitar and drums but it didn’t do anything and went nowhere. Frightmare would go on to record to demos with two different line ups.
Are you showing an interest these days in what’s going on in the metal scene?
Absolutely. It’s amazing how the metal seen would evolve worldwide and how big it’s become today.
Brian, thank you for your answers! Any closing words for the Hungarian fans?
Thank you all so much for all the support related to the Burnt Offering Frightmare demo you are appreciated. Thank you for the support down through the decades!