Back in the day, during the great thrash boom, there were several bands that never got signed by labels, never got that recognition that they would have deserved. One of them were Betrayel. In this interview bassist/vocalist Chris Campise and drummer Arlie Patton told us the story of this underrated band.
Arlie/Chris, how and when was Betrayel established?
Chris Campise: Betrayel started in 1985 by a couple of friends who were intrigued by the new sounds of Slayer, Metallica and Exodus.
Arlie Patton: I will let Chris handle this. I will only give the Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner response. lol
Did the line up consisted of Arlie Patton on the drums, James Carter, James Johnson on guitars and Chris Campise bass/vocals right from the start or did you go through any line up changes?
C. C.: The line up was solid from the get go. We were all friends from school and we were looking for the same thing, to spread our wings with heavier and darker material.
A. P.: It has always been us four from day one and can only be us four. There is just something special that happens when us four get in a room and create music.
What about your musical background? Did all of you have the same musical taste and interest?
C. C.: We all have similar influences but we are all different in the same kind of way if that makes sense. We all grew up on the standards but were all drawn to the dark side.
Was Betrayel the very first outfit and musical experience that you were involved in, for all of you?
C. C.: No, we all came from different local bands, but we all crossed paths in the scene so we all knew each other, we hand picked everyone based on our desire to get heavier.
Being based in Fresno, what about the metal scene of the town? Were you somehow familiar with the Bay Area, were you closed to it?
C. C.: When we started there was no one around Fresno doing what we were doing, it wasn’t until we got involved with the record Vault in San Francisco that we truly discovered the thrash scene and our path was laid out.
How about your rehearsals? Did you start writing originals or were you mostly jamming on covers?
C. C.: From day one we were writing our own material, we never played any covers until we got 2-3 years in then we started doing Black Widow by Alice Cooper. (I was and am a huge fan.)
A. P.: We have always played originals. I think it was in our genes to forge our own path from day one.
Your first demo was Helpless Souls in 1986. Do you still remember, how was it recorded?
C. C.: We recorded that at A.I.R. studios here in Fresno. We recorded it live to get the drums down then went back and tracked everything on top. It was only an 8 track studio but we used our time wisely and got a pretty good recording, all the demos we recorded were done there. The engineer/owner Gray Gregson did us right and gave us a great product to shop.
Can you tell us any details regarding this material?
C. C.: These were what we thought was our best material at the time. We were always writing so we never had a shortage of material, there are still many songs that never made it to tape. The attention posers line that starts off the tape was a spur of the moment thing we did to let the listener know what to expect.
Did this demo really represent what you wanted to achieve the band with?
C. C.: I think we were pretty spot on with what the band was about on the first demo. The songs were hard and fast and ground breaking for the time frame.
A. P.: I believe it did. It was a very solid piece of metal. Especially since it was our first effort as a band.
A year later was released the Death Shall Overcome demo. Did you develope compared to the first stuff in terms of songwriting, production, sound etc.?
C. C.: When DSO came out it was a natural progression of where we were as song writers. We were living it as it happened so I know I was proud of the results. We went back to A.I.R. and Gray Gregson to get the DSO demo done and again we were very happy with the results.
A. P.: Yes for sure. We had grown as a band and as writers. And the DSO demo really shows this.
Was this demo pretty pure and lethal in the ways of earlier works by Dark Angel, Exodus, Whiplash and post-debut Devastation? Was it a better representation of the band?
C. C.: It was us growing as song writers and evolving into what we ultimately became, I think those early days were fun and exciting. The scene was growing by leaps and bounds and we were just happy to be a part of it.
Were the demos heavily spread around in the fanzine/tapetrading scene by the way?
C. C.: The tapetrading was great, we were one of the top tapes to get back in the day. Later on there was a Japanese website that was dedicated to Betrayel and all our material. So we were proud that we made it all the way to Japan. My mail man used to ask me all the time why I got mail from all over the world. I just told him it was the power of Heavy Metal, ha ha.
At which point did you have the opportunity being featured on the legendary Raging Death compilation, that was issued by Godly Records (Borivoj Krgin) in 1987? How were you picked up?
C. C.: I got a phone call asking us if we wanted to be on a compilation called Raging Death. We of course said hell yeah, back to A.I.R. we went to record Another Sacrifice and Hypocrites Reign, and Scream in Darkness. Another Sacrifice we used for the Raging Death comp while Hypocrites Reign and Scream in Darkness were added the Death Shall Overcome demo to make it a 5 song EP.
A. P.: Yeah we wanted new and fresh songs for the EP so we recorded 3 songs and used what we thought was the best one for the comp and put the others on the DSO demo.
You appeared on this material with D.D.P (Death, Destruction and Pain) and Another Sacrifice, was this latter tune recorded exclusively for this album? Would you say, that it was a very strong effort along with Sadus, R.A.V.A.G.E., Xecutioner, Lethal Presence and Betrayel?
C. C.: You know at the time it was our best stuff. I think the Raging Death comp was killer and it definitely helped raise our profile. All the bands on that comp were doing well at the time.
Did it help a lot making a name for yourselves? Is it correct that the band was hailed as being the only unsigned band to be featured in Kerrang! magazine back in the day?
C. C.: Yes, that is true, we were very proud of that. Kerrang is such a huge part of metal and we were very happy to appear in that mag a couple of times. After our first article we were giving the distinction of being the only unsigned band with a full page article. They said we were the next big thing in thrash, that was a great compliment. We were very humbled to be part of that. Thanks to Stephan Chirazi for making that happen!
What can you tell us about your live gigs? Did you manage doing headliner shows or were you opening act for bigger names, such as Metallica, Slayer, Dark Angel etc.?
C. C.: We opened for a lot of huge bands, but we also did headline a lot of gigs ourselves. We did some monster shows here in the valley and sold out all the venues around us. We tried to make sure whoever came to our shows would be back the next time we came around so we always gave our all at every show!!!!! We played everywhere and anywhere. Rather we were headlining or opening for bands like Dark, Death Angel (all the angels), Kreator, Voivod, etc. We were there to kick ass and leave a long lasting impression. We figured, if we did this. The rest would work itself out.
After these demos you wrote more materials, such as Sick or Sane?, The Daily Sin, Face the Flames, Hellborn etc. Was your goal to record a next demo or a full length?
C. C.: We always had our eye on a full length LP. That was going to be our finest moment, we had enough material for a couple of albums.
A. P.: From day one the goal was to sign with a major label and tour as much as possible.
Unfortunately these songs never saw the light. What were the reasons of it?
C. C.: It was just never meant to be I guess, at this point we were together for 5 years and it was tough to make a living in metal. Cracks started showing up in the armor and before we knew it there was no way to patch the holes.
A. P.: I think it was just due to the lack of funding and drive. Plus, I think the machine known as Betrayel was tiring from the crap of being a band in 1990 in an ever changing industry.
Sick or Sane? appeared on Metal Massacre X (Metal Blade, 1989). Did the label show an interest in signing the band at this point?
C. C.: By the time Metal Massacre hit the shelves in the stores, Betrayel was no more. We did have some preliminary talks with Metal Blade but by then it was too late. We were the type of band who were not going to replace members, it’s all or none with us. After we decided to part ways we all went and formed new bands instead of trying to shoe horn in another member and lose what made us great in the first place.
What do you think about that by 1989/1990, Thrash Metal was out, and anybody playing Thrash Metal was either too late on the scene or looked like they were without enthusiasm?
C. C.: Well, for me, I wanted to do something totally different instead of trying to use my past as a crutch or something. I wanted to start from scratch and see if we could build it back up from the ground floor and we did to an extent. Plus by then thrash was getting stale and there were a lot of poser bands that were just not getting the right vibe for the scene to continue.
Why did Betrayel split up in 1990?
C. C.: We accomplished a lot in a short amount of time so by the end we were all burned out. We gave it our all and put in a crazy amount of time and effort we all lost girlfriends and relationships because quite frankly the band came first but we were young and did not know what we had until it was too late to realize.
How did you view all of the musical changes that happened in the scene? I mean grunge, then pop/punk, nu metal etc.
C. C.: I still like what I like. I don’t really listen to a lot of newer stuff because most of it sucks but to each his own. That is the beauty of music. Not everyone likes the same stuff and that’s great. Imagine if there was only like 5 bands to listen to for the whole world, that would suck.
Chris Campise and James Johnson formed Organ Donor in 2001, but what about you and James Carter? Did you play in several outfits as well or did you turn your back on the metal scene?
A. P.: Chris and James formed Organ Donor, James Carter went to the Berkeley School of Music and got a degree in music theory. Arlie stepped out from behind the kit to sing and play guitar and was in various bands that saw some success so we all stayed busy but we never captured that lightning in a bottle like we did with Betrayel.
In 2018 Divebomb Record put the Death Shall Overcome compilation on the market. Was it the first step to reform Betrayel?
C. C: Once Dive Bomb hit us up we were stoked, that sparked the same feelings we had when we were kids. It was natural to want to fire up the old motor and see what happened. Me and Arlie called up the guys and told them about the Dive Bomb deal and they were as stoked as we were so we decided to write some new songs and see what happens.
This year you will release your album titled Offerings. Tell us please everything about it!
C. C.: Offerings is our chance for redemption. We wrote 7 new songs, we redid 2 songs that were the last ones we wrote as a band in 1989 and then we redid Helpless Souls to keep that part of the band alive. Matt at Dive Bomb Records has been great and gave us the flexibility to write a new album and get it out to our fans so we are very happy about that. We think this is a great album and we cannot wait to get it out there and see how the fans like it. It still amazes me that after 34 years people still remember us and are excited for new music. I could not ask for more than that. It is really surreal to think about. I am super proud of these songs and I hope that the fans like it as much as we do.
A. P.: One of the easiest things personally I have ever done. It was such an easy CD to make. The songs came together as if we had never stopped playing music together. And the best part was that the chemistry was still there and stronger than ever. And what could be better than making the best music with your best friends?
What about your future plans? Are there any shows in mind to support the record?
C. C.: We are reborn and the drive is back. We are going to take this as far as we can and get to do some touring. We want to play every festival and every show we can get our hands on, we would love to come to Hungary and rock for our friends there so maybe you can help us make that happen?
A. P.: For me, it TOUR – CD – TOUR – CD. Lol. You get the picture.
Thanks a lot for your answers! Anything to add to this feature?
C. C.: Thank you for reaching out to us! We love nothing more than sharing our story to those who are interested. We look forward to meeting you in person someday. You never know we might just show up at your front door!
A. P.: Thanks for the support! See you soon! Long live metal!!!