The story of Bulldozer told by frontman A. C. Wild
What could I write as an introduction to this feature? Everything speaks for itself. This Italian bunch was one of the forerunners of the European extreme metal scene, but unfortunately, they didn’t manage to make themselves a name, or at least, only at an underground level. Bassist/vocalist A. C. Wild told me the story behind Bulldozer.
So A. C., do you recall when and among what kind of circumstances you jumped in the metal cauldron? How did you discover this music as a whole?
In 1973, my cousin made me listen to Made in Japan by Deep Purple. I bought hundreds of records in the 70’s mainly rock and prog. I bought my first bass in ’81 after seeing a video of Motörhead.
Were you into well-known, established bands or into underground ones?
At that time there were some well-known bands and very few local bands. I listened to both.
What were the records, songs, bands, that influenced you around those times?
As a musician/writer I would say mainly Motörhead, early AC/DC, Venom. As a fan of many artists: lots of bands from the early 70’s. Rock, prog, jazz. I also studied classical music.
How did you end up becoming a musician?
From ’77 to ’80 I had studied to become a monk, then I had a violent rebellion and studied architecture at Milan University (got a degree in ’86). In the meantime, from 1980, I became a very big fan of AC/DC and Motörhead and I started playing bass and sing, starting with Motörhead covers.
Originally the band was formed as Barracuda in 1980 by bassist Dario Carria (R.I.P.), drummer Erminio Galli, guitarist Andy Panigada and vocalist Massimo Zanara, but they soon renamed themselves Bulldozer, and recorded a two- track demo in 1981 (never released). Were you aware of their existence at this point?
In the shop where I bought my bass, there were often discussions about the international and local scenes. I heard about Bulldozer as the worst band in Italy. In ’82 I heard a metal kid laughing when mentioning Bulldozer. I had no idea who were those guys. I met them in November ’83. One year later we signed with Roadrunner. We were the only Italian band who signed with a big international label in the 80’s. It’s curious how things changed in one year!
How was the Italian metal scene around the very early 80’s? Were Death SS, Vanadium, Hocculta, Gow, Vanexa etc. the first outfits, that tried to put Italy on the map of metal?
Vanadium were very popular since the early 80’s in our country. They sold lots of records in Italy. I met personally many of these bands in ’84. At that time Italian bands were not popular abroad.
Due to military service, they disbanded at that time and reformed in 1983 and from what I know, Andy Panigada introduced you to Dario Carria. How did you get in the picture exactly? Did you know each other earlier? I also read, that second bassist Fabrizio Grossi (who would go on to play bass with Steve Vai) and drummer Rob K Cabrini were involved in the band at this point, what’s the truth behind this?
I met Andy Panigada some months before the Bulldozer meeting in November ’83. The day after (therefore, before Bulldozer meeting) we made a session with Fabrizio Grossi and Rob K. In October ’83 I made a short concert with Andy and Rob K playing Motörhead and Venom songs. In the same days Dario wanted to re-create Bulldozer and contacted Andy. Andy told them that he could try but at the condition of having me as the frontman. We had the meeting and the first session: the project started and we recorded the single a few weeks later.
What were your musical experiences and background prior to Bulldozer?
A piano concert (Bach) when I was 9. That’s all.
How about your rehearsals? Did you start writing originals right from the start or were you mostly jamming on covers?
Few jamming and covers before Bulldozer, then we concentrated mainly on original Bulldozer new songs, from November ’83.
Your first material was the Fallen Angel 7” in February 1984. Can you tell us any details regarding this stuff?
After the meeting in November 1983, we went to a rehearsal room and Dario proposed his basic ideas. Andy scheduled a second meeting where he proposed his ideas: the music of Fallen Angel and Another Beer, which had been accepted by everybody. Fallen Angel music was keeping a couple of Dario’s idea. I never performed vocal in the rehearsal room. The band listened to my vocals directly during the recording session in studio, for the first time. Everybody was shocked. It was a „first take” recording.
Is it correct, that this record shared the dubious honour with Hellhammer’s debut EP Apocalyptic Raids as being rated the worst record of all times by respected UK magazine Kerrang?
Yes. I attach a photocopy of the double review. Very curious.
At this time there were major line up changes: both Dario and Erminio left the band, you took over the bass/vocals duties, and Andrea „Don Andras” Di Rienzo became the new drummer. What happened?
When the record was released, the parents of Dario discovered that he had a big tatoo in his chest. He was 17. They forced Dario to quit the band. Erminio, his best friend decided to quit, too. It was sad. They wanted to go on, but they could not.
Would you say, that it was hard to find suitable, committed musicians for an extreme metal band in Italy at this point?
Yes. Me and Andy were sharing a passion for Motörhead and Venom, but we were the only ones in Milano in ’83-’84.
What about the musical past of Don Andras?
He was a guy from Naples who moved to Milano some years later. He was working in a car cemetery and had problems with Justice. He was into Deep Purple and playing in a cover band. He was a very powerful and fast drummer so we decided to try with him.
In October 1984 you released a demo, how was it recorded? Did it really represent what you wanted to achieve with Bulldozer?
Actually we produced a demo for Roadrunner, after they showed interest in our band. We released it only recently when I found a copy of it a few years ago. We did not distribute it at that time. It represented the basic ideas for the album. As I said, it was recorded to show our ideas to Roadrunner.
Is it true, that originally only 3 copies of this demo existed, one was sent to Roadrunner Records, one to King Diamond and one was recently rediscovered by you?
Yes. It is correct. King Diamond was one of the most important artists signed to Roadrunner. That’s why we asked if it was possible to be produced by him. Roadrunner gave him a copy of the demo tape, and his phone number to me.
This is the recording that got Bulldozer signed to Roadrunner Records in 1984. Were there perhaps other labels that interested in the band as well or did you want to contract solely with Roadrunner?
I know that Roadrunner was interested in Bulldozer therefore we accepted immediately their offer. It was our favourite label. They had Slayer and Mercyful Fate. We signed in November ’84, exactly one year after our first meeting.
Is it correct, that the contract contained a special clause noting the fact that you, as a conscientious objector during the Spadolini government in Italy, did not have a passport and could not travel outside of Italy to perform, for an unknown period of time?
Yes, of course. The government called me 18 months later and then I had to work for the goverment (instead of the Army) for another 20 months. Fortunately I could stay in my city and I could rehearse with the band every evening. We could also record the following albums but we could not tour outside Italy.
Were they already an independent label at this point or were they mostly focused on releasing import materials?
I don’t remember exactly. They signed Mercyful Fate, Tank, Satan and other bands, while they licensed and released US bands like Slayer etc.
Were you one of the first signings of Roadrunner by the way?
Honestly I don’t know. I don’t think so.
At which point did you enter the Psycho Studios to record your first full length The Day of Wrath? Were you prepared to record the material?
I remember that everything was ready and well scheduled. We were ready to record everything. I picked up Algy at the airport and had a meeting with the band at our favourite pub. I invited Dario and he came to the meeting, too. He was a great fan of Tank. Algy drank 5 bottles of Italian red wine.
How did the recording sessions go? How long did it take?
I don’t remember exactly. Maybe 8-9 days.
Did you have a decent budget to cut the material?
Enough to cover all expenses. Psycho was a great studio.
The band wanted King Diamond to produce the record, but he claimed the material was too punk for his taste, so Roadrunner appointed Algy Ward from Tank as producer. Did he help you a lot during the recording sessions?
Yes, I confirm: I spoke on the phone with King Diamond and he said that our songs were too punk. He said he was not interested. So Roadrunner suggested Algy and we liked this choice.
Did you get on well with Algy? Was it easy to work with him?
Yes. He’s a great guy. Unfortunately, I could not see him after that period. I hope to do that in the future. He was drinking a lot of red wine and he had some problems on the 4th or 5th day (don’t remember exactly) so he worked from the toilet… We had a very good time and we could do the job. Great memories.
In your opinion, did The Day of Wrath explore furthermore what Venom produced in the early 80’s and it seemed to pick up the torch that the English trio had dropped and forgotten?
I never denied the influences from Motörhead and Venom, but I don’t think we were picking up Venom’s torch. We made our path as well as they did theirs. Of course I prefer their first 2 albums in comparison with the following one.
Your music can also be noticed to have some Motörhead touches in it, too, correct?
Yes, of course. Motörhead until Iron Fist.
Do you think, that the material on this album is quite varied and the tracks are really not similar to each other?
Every song is a precise story, with particular meaning, mainly personal experiences or ideas. Nothing taken from books or movies. In writing lyrics, I can say I was more influenced by Bon Scott. He used to write often about his personal experiences.
How come, that you invited Dario Carria to record bass on the album version of Fallen Angel?
I wanted him to be part of the project. He was the founding member of Bulldozer and he played bass on the original version.
This debut is from 1985, so an important year for the growth of the extreme genre, The Day of Wrath is a classic slab of black/speed metal, and Bulldozer’s most glorious contribution. How do you explain this?
In general I don’t like to talk about genres. This is a reviewer’s job. I can just say that we gave our best and we did what we felt to do at that time. I still love that album.
Is the sound and production of the full length just as one would expect from an old school Black/Speed Metal album from the 80’s; raw, grimy, and dirty?
I still like that sound. It was a combination of our performance, our sound, Algy’s job and the studio’s job.
Do you know, that The Day of Wrath is also the English title of an 1848 book by Hungarian writer Mór Jókai?
Actually the title was to be Dies Irae („the day of wrath” in Latin, old Italian language) but someone wanted us to make it in English. Dies Irae is originally an Italian medieval poem (Tomaso da Celano, died in 1265). This theme, talking about the Judgement Day focuses on the violent conflict between good and evil. It was proposed also by Mozart in his Requiem, Verdi, and other artists and writers like Mór Jókai, who is an internationally known writer.
All the songs were about true experiences, real people or events, nothing was invented, right?
I would add personal ideas. The songs Cut-throat and Mad Man were written with the contribution of a friend from California.
Do you mind I say that when it comes to 80’s extreme metal, Italy has never been a huge part of the game; together with Necrodeath and Schizo, Bulldozer represented the elite of the brutal Thrash Metal in Italy and you were surely the most Motörhead/Venom-oriented one?
Yes, this is what happened. We had been refused by the „big game”, but this doesn’t mean anything to me. Recently that album is very appreciated. Much more now than in the 80’s.
Did The Day of Wrath remain an underrated gem of that age of underground metal?
It was underrated. Recently it had been re-evaluated.
The British press labelled the band a Venom clone, in fact Cronos even jokingly asked for royalties, but the band and particularly you, never accepted the labelling used by the British press. Did it cause a lot of harm for the band? How were the responses of the record in general?
The industry wanted to sell the album to Venom’s fans. This is how I see that fact. Of course Cronos was joking. I always had a good relationship with Venom and Venom inc. Jeff and Tony are good friends.
How much promotion did you get from Roadrunner by the way? Were there any shows, tours in support of the record?
They could not do much, considering my situation with the passport.
Did you manage to make a name for the band with the record and to leave your mark on the scene? Do you consider The Day of Wrath as an influential album?
Many known artists, much more famous than me, told me that. I think that also Neurodeliri introduced new elements which influenced other musicians; so they told me. Someone made also covers of some songs.
A. C., thanks a lot for your answers! What would you like to add to this feature?
All the best to you and your country. We had a very special parliament member from Hungary… the very best!