The Bloodlust story told by Sandy K. Vasquez
The L.A. metal scene at the early 80’s was divided into two parts. There were the glam/hair outfits and the thrash/speed ones. After the emergence of Metallica and Slayer a lot of brutal sounding bands started popping up such as Shellshock/Dark Angel, Savage Grace, Abattoir etc. all of them trying a name for themselves. Bloodlust belonged also to the first wave of the speed/thrash movement and bassist Sandy K. Vasquez told me the entire story of the band.
Sandy, Bloodlust was formed in 1983, but they started originally under the moniker of Warlock, including guitarists Earl Mendenhall and Anthony Romero, drummer M.E. Cuestas and singer Steve Gaines (brother of Stryper bassist Tim Gaines), correct?
No, If I remember correctly, Warlock was a band that Anthony Romero, M.E. Cuestas and Guy Lord had played in prior to joining up with Earl, Steve and myself.
The line up became complete after you joined soon them. What about your musical background as a whole?
I was definetly influenced by my older brother’s record collection of bands like Black Sabbath, Rush and Deep Purple to name a few and started playing bass at the age of 16 and jamming with friends from school.
Was it the very first band for all of you, that you were involved in?
No, I had played in a couple of local bands while I was in high school playing a mixture of cover songs and original music.
When did you change your name to Bloodlust?
When I joined the band we decided to call the band Bloodlust before we played our first show.
How about the early 80’s L.A. scene? What were your views on it?
The early 80’s were a very exciting time in Los Angeles for all types of bands because there was a good support from fans and many venues were having live music and also local radio stations started to play more metal music.
In your opinion, was it divided into two parts? There were the glam/hair outfits and the early thrash/speed/power bands?
Yes, there were two different types of fans and music scenes. The Hollywood Sunset strip area was becoming more glam and most of the other clubs in and around L.A. were more metal.
What were the clubs/venues that started opening their doors for metal?
Yes, there were quite a few. The Country Club in Reseda is where we opened up for Megadeth. Dancing Waters in San Pedro, The Troubadour in Hollywood and Madame Wongs and Jezebels in Orange County.
Was it hard or easy getting shows for the harder, faster bands or were the glam/hair outfits preferred by the promoters/organizers?
When Bloodlust first started playing it was easy to get shows but then when people started slam pits at metal shows the clubs didn’t want to book the heavier bands to avoid problems.
How deeply were you involved in the underground circuit at all?
We played some local underground type shows in the early days and started developing a following in our area.
Do you perhaps recall Bob Nalbandian’s Headbanger fanzine that was one of the first fanzines and pioneering for other releases later on, opened a new world for the fans?
Yes, I remember his fanzine very well and all the cool pictures.
Did you start writing originals right from the start or were you jamming mostly on covers?
We only worked on writing original music in the beginning of Bloodlust.
Have you recorded any demos or rehearsals? Were they spread around?
I don’t think we ever recorded any rehearsals back then and we didn’t have a demo.
By mid 1984 Steve Gaines left the band to join Abattoir and he was replaced by Guy Lord. How did he get in the picture exactly? What about his musical past?
Guy had been in a previous band Warlock with Anthony Romero and we invited him to come down and jam with us on the songs we had started recording for the album. He was able learn the songs quicky and record the vocals.
At which point were you signed by Metal Blade?
I belive it was in 1985.
What kind of deal did they offer you?
We ended up producing Guilty as Sin ourselves and ended up signing with Metal Blade as distribution deal for the first album with an option to record a second album.
You didn’t appear on a Metal Massacre compilation like most of your peers. How did it happen?
Good question. I actually do not recall why we were not on one of those compilations.
In August 1985 was released your debut album Guilty as Sin. How did the recording sessions go?
The sessions were great and it was an exciting time for us because it was our first time going in the studio and we tried to capture the energy of our live performances.
Were you prepared to record the material?
Yes, we had rehearsed and played all of the songs live before going into the studio.
Was your style the classic speed/thrash metal that by the middle of that decade was really great, especially in Canada and in the U.S. with bands like Exciter, Détente, Znowhite, Agent Steel, Savage Grace, Abattoir and many others or were you somewhat similar to Omen or Witchkiller but more typical LA sounding and far less epic?
I think we were more in the style and genre of Exciter, Abbatoir and Agent Steel.
How do you explain that the guitars are scratchy and metallic enough to play speed metal, the rhythm section is tight and Guy Lord’s performance fit perfectly to the end result?
Earl and Anthony had two different playing styles but they worked really well together to create the classic two guitar attack and M.E. and myself played the rhythms with intensity and then adding Guy’s vocals on top made it complete.
In your opinion, is it a good album with well balanced songs, that go from speed ones to more mid paced and epic others?
Yes, and I think that balance shows all of our influences combined into creating the overall sound of the album.
Are the guitar solos and the vocals are the two elements that contribute in making this album even more enjoyable and nostalgic?
Yes, I think those are the two key ingredients for metal but as a bass player I think the bass and drums are just as important, too. Ha! Ha!
Would you say that the fast songs with melody and the impressive vocalist make the album an example for outstanding metal music?
Yes, I think that is a big part of the original Bloodlust sound.
US Speed Metal in perfection, right?
Maybe close to perfection. Ha! Ha! No, I don’t think it was perfect but we are still very proud of Guilty as Sin.
Were there any shows in support of the album? Did you manage to do any headliner shows or to open for bigger bands such as Megadeth, Slayer, Metallica, Exodus etc.?
Yes, we opened up for Slayer and Megadeth and went to Arizona to play with Flotsam & Jestsam and Sacred Reich.
Then happened some line up changes: Steve Gaines returned, John Lisi replaced Anthony Romero and Craig Kasin end up becoming the new drummer. What were the reasons of these changes?
With Anthony and M.E. Cuestas there reason for leaving the band was more on a personal level more than anything. We had continued to remain friends with Steve and knew it would be great to have his singing style on the new songs we were writing. Adding John Lisi and Craig Kasin brought an exciting new energy to the band.
This new line up recorded a demo Anti-Life in 1987. Did this demo serve promotional goals? Was it shopped around to attract labels interests?
I think we mainly sent the demo to fanzines and some labels at the time.
Although Tear It Up appeared on the Speed Metal compilation (Metal Blade, 1987), you got to Wild Rags Records. Were you familiar with the activities and the releases (Preacher, Bloodcum, Recipients of Death) of the label?
Yes, Wild Rags Records and the store was located near our area and we were familiar with these bands and promo magazine and thought it would be a good fit for the band.
In November 1987 you entered Skyline Studios (Topanga Cyn, California) to cut the Terminal Velocity EP. What do you remember about the recordings, the performance and general attitude of Bloodlust?
I remember that it was an overall good experience and we were all excited to record with the new band members and also having Eric Myers there as a Producer was a great influence. The recording went very smoothly and we had a good time when tracking each of our parts. The studio was up in a mountain type area which added to the darker atmosphere and vibe.
What were the similarities and differences between Guilty as Sin and Terminal Velocity?
I think we captured the similar raw energy as Guilty but the songs on Terninal Velocity had a more structured attack and social lyrical content.
Do you mind that you turned into a heavier, more brutal direction compared to the album?
Earl and I wanted to get a little heavier and having Steve, John and Craig in the band we were able to go more in that direction.
Bloodlust dissolved around 1989. Did any musical or personal differences cause the band’s split?
No, I don’t think it was because of any musical differences. I remember Earl was going through a divorce at the time and Craig had decided to move back to Chicago which kind of brought that line-up to an end.
John Lisi and you joined forces with drummer A.J. Cavalier and guitarist Jeff Mohr to form Last Rites and you released two demos. Can you tell us more about this outfit?
John and I wanted to continue to work together and create a new band. I decided to play bass and be the singer and go in more of a thrash direction. We hooked up with A.J. and Jeff who were going to the Musicians Institute in Hollywood at the time. We were thinking of keeping the name Bloodlust but then decided to change the name to Last Rites. We played many shows in the L.A. area with bands like Wrathchild America, Civil Defiance and MX Machine. We did a couple of self promoted tours across the U.S. opening up for Prong and Violence in New York. Unfortunately we were unable to sign a record deal and decided to go in different directions.
John Lisi played on the second EP of Recipients of Death titled Final Flight. Was he only a session member? Did he only help out in the band?We were friends with them and he was basically helping them out.
These days you are playing in L.A. veterans (cult act) Ruthless. Can you bespeak any details regarding the new album Evil Within?
Recording Evil Within was a great experience for all of us. We all contributed on the songwriting and working with our producer Ron Sandoval and having his creative input was a big part of the end result. The new album has a great blend of the classic Ruthless sound and also songs with a more progressive thrash style which I think all metal fans will enjoy.
Where do you see metal heading in the next 4-5 years, and are you happy that people are rediscovering cult/underground acts worldwide that didn’t gain attention back in their activity?
I think metal will continue to survive especially now with the help of social media for fans to rediscover bands from the past and discover new bands of today. We are very happy that bands like Ruthless who were part of the original 80’s metal scene can continue to make music and share with the global metal scene for fans of old and new.
Sandy, thank you for your answers! Any closing words for the Hungarian fans?
I want to thank you and all of the Hungarian fans for their support and continue to go out and see live metal music in the clubs and concerts. Egészségére!