Lets face it; the careers of certain artists and groups, it would seem, never truly come to an end; they simply 'roll' with the proverbial changes, re-defining and, in some cases, improving themselves as they inevitably age. Although the abuse of such an undeniably clichéd descriptive may seem contrived, at best, it's appropriate when discussing legendary ex-Accept/Bangalore Choir frontman David Reece. Having survived a veritable plethora of label and 'inner band'-related turmoil--most notably his notorious ousting from the German Power Metal legends--he again finds himself basking amid a critical renaissance with the release of the ingenious Cacophony Of Souls (2020). Recently, the charismatic Reece, always a man of many words and interesting stories, was kind enough to speak with us regarding, among many other things, his unlikely partnewship with Udo Dirkschneider.
Todd: For the uninitiated, let's discuss the earliest origins of your career. Am I correct in understanding you 'got your start' in the Twin Cities region of Minnesota? All things considered, that's not the origin story I'd imagined.
David: “I got my start in 1977 in North St. Paul, (MN) with a guy named Brynn Arens, who went on to form the band Flipp. At the time, he had a band called Obsession. We started a garage band, with a couple of guys, went out and played some farms and beer parties and it grew from there into being in club bands. I ended up being the singer for a group called Dare Force, who were the biggest local band in the area. They had a singer named Xeno, who was the original singer for Cheap Trick, that they wanted to replace. They snuck me into their band house, we rehearsed and then, out of the blue, I got a phone call asking 'Can you play the gig tonight?' I think I knew four of their songs, so we played the same four songs. We used to play at lot of places like (the now defunct clubs) Duffy's and Mr. Nibs. At the time, that area was frothing at the mouth with a music scene, so it was an amazing time. That's where I kicked off, really. We played a lot of big shows and did a lot of shows as the opener for big headline acts because we were the band to call. We'd play an opening slot and then go play a headline slot at the club. ...We'd literally play six, seven nights a week, four or five hours a night. It was insane.”
Todd: Did the end of your tenure with Accept serve as a direct catalyst for the formation of Bangalore Choir? While Eat The Heat may not have been the commercial success so many had hoped for, it did raise your profile.
David: “Actually, no. ...I had nowhere to go and nothing to do, so I went back to Minnesota and met up with Rusty Miller, who has been the original drummer from Hericane Alice. He had just been fired after the group signed to Atlantic Records. He said 'Let's go to LA. You've got the momentum, so let's get a band together and get a new deal.' Rusty and I ended up going back to L.A. where we'd meet up with Stevie Nicks' manager and was connected to all those other people. He walked me right into that, which was really helpful in getting the deal and many of our shows because I was exposed to some pretty higher echelon people and got my music heard. We hunted around for a name and cherry picked the players. We went through a couple of different guitar players until we settled on the first line-up. Over the course of that one year, I played nine shows because you don't play every night in LA. And over the course of those nine shows, I literally had an offer from every major label. I ended up settling with Warner Brother's Giant (Records). I had the momentum and my face was known because of the Accept thing. It just happened so fast. But while we were doing that, Hericane Alice was dropped from Atlantic Records and Rusty wasn't really working out as a drummer, so my manager, which was also their manager, said 'Why don't you just take (bassist) Ian (Mayo, ex-Doug Aldrich, Medicine Wheel) and (drummer) Jackie (Ramos, ex-Bad Moon Rising, Burning Rain) and put them into your band?' and that's what happened.”
Todd: From a purely songwriting perspective, how did Cacophony Of Souls come together? What role do you play within the group's compositional hierarchies? Are you bringing full, completed material to your rehearsals?
David: “No, I'm a lyricist, but I'm a shit guitar player, to be honest. I really am. ...I probably could have been a really good guitar player if I wasn't so lazy, but I can pluck a few notes on a piano and I do have melody ideas. Most of my lyrics are based on what's going on around me and the things that I witness, hear and read. What I do is flesh out an idea for a story and sometimes a melody and then hand it over.... The I had written the lyrics for the song “Cacophony Of Souls to the music from a guy named Martin Frank who had collaborated with me on the Resilient Heart (2019) songs “Heart Of Stone”, “Karma” and “Two Coins And A Dead Man”. I had originally, was going to work with him, as a guitarist for Resilient Heart, but it never came into fruition. At the same time, I had written the song “Cacophony Of Souls”, the melody and lyrics of it all, to his riff but nothing came out of it because there wasn't a solo part. I wanted to use that song so bad, so I presented it the band and they completed it all. And Malte Frederik Burkert (Exotoxis, ex-Sainted Sinners) is still playing bass with me. We've done a lot of recording and touring together. He's on the road right now with (Deep Purple drummer) Ian Pace. ...To make a long story short, when he came to me, he's a night guy and I'm kind of a day guy, so when I went to his house, I just want to go to sleep at a certain time, ya know? But he was up all night walking around with a guitar, playing riffs. He said 'I want to contribute to this record' and I was like 'Okay, whatever'. But then he played “Collective Anesthesia” for me and I went 'Did you write that?' and he's like 'Yeah, this it's one of my ideas'. And then he played “A Perfect World” for me and I said 'Those are great'. He comes from the Iron Maiden and Megadeath school of thought. He's a few years younger than me, so he's got that fresh. For lack of a better word, Metal influence, which I needed on this album. ...It's nice to have Malte as one of our writers now.”
Todd: What prompted you to partially return stylistically, at least, to the Eat The Heat era? Do you feel as if it's a sound and style your fans are still looking to experience despite it initially being released thirty-one years ago?
David: “During the U.D.O Steelfactory tour, each night I would observed whatever Udo was doing from the merchandise table, soaking it all in. I was playing a lot of the Eat The Heat stuff, obviously, on that tour and of course some of the Resilient Heart stuff and had really started warming up to what was and wasn't working musically. Most of the people that would come to the merchandise booth would say 'Can you go back to that? That's where I know you from. We liked Resilient Heart, but we really love the Eat The Heat style stuff'. And I was like 'You know what? I got to listen to what they're saying'. Plus, while I was doing the tour, I had invited (guitarist) Andy Susemihl (Bangalore Choir, ex-Sinner, ex-U.D.O.) to come visit me at the show in Stuttgart, Germany. Andy and I, as you know, have done four or five albums together and multiple shows in Europe. While we were standing in the catering room, he looked at me and said 'You know, I should be up there with you' and I said 'yeah, you're right', because during the time, I really wasn't feeling like the guitar lineup in the band was working all that well. Andy and I have kind of this weird telepathic thing going on, which is rare. I think he's probably one of the most underrated guitar players in the world. And he actually Produced, arranged and Mixed this album. The sound of this album is so incredible. I had total faith in him too, because I'd worked with him before. He's got a pretty good solo career, as well and is a great singer, too so vocally together, him we can arrange some really nice harmonies. When I'm singing in his studio, he pushes me if he doesn't feel like I'm selling the song to him. He'll tell me 'I'm not buying it. Sing it like Dave', so I've got to give him a real big tip of the hat as far as the meat and potatoes of those songs. Ironically, after the tour, both guitarists said they didn't want to tour anymore. So I called Andy and said 'I'm doing a new record. You wanna do it?' and he said 'I'm in'.”
Todd: Taking into consideration how much time has passed, how do you look back on both Eat The Heat and the Bangalore Choir debut On Target (1992)? Do you remember portions of both eras with a sense of fondness?
David: “It's funny because during the last ten years while touring, people have brought that album to the merch booth and said 'I hated this when it came out, but I've grown to love it. This is one of my favorite Accept albums'. Plus, during one of our tours, they re-released the album on limited orange vinyl so people were buying it and bringing it out for me to sign it. I also found twenty-five original copies on cassette and said 'I'm going to put these on the merch table' and they were gone in two days, which was insane. But you know what? Without Eat The Heat, I wouldn't be talking to you right now. It opened the door for me in many, many ways. Now, I look at it as more of a positive thing than a negative. ...It's a good part of my history. I'm very proud of it and Bangalore Choir. Actually, the video for the (Bangalore Choir) song “Loaded Gun” features the actor Jared Leto when he was a young boy. ...I wasn't even aware of it and I was part of the picking process for the models for that whole thing. I had a girlfriend about ten years ago who was a big Jared Leto fanatic and she goes 'You do realize who that is, right?' and I said 'No'. But then I watched a Jared Leto movie and I went 'That's really him'. Later, I ran into him and asked him 'Do you recognize me?' and he was like 'No' and I go 'Bangalore Choir, Loaded Gun' and he went 'Oh my God. That was one of my first acting jobs.' So it really is a small world, man.”
Todd: When you are able to tour, what type of set list will you be working with? What era you'll be focusing on?
David: “We're definitely going to be playing some of Resilient Heart, but we're also going to play at lot from Cacophony Of Souls, so we can expose the record. We're going to do “Apocalypse”, “Karma” and “Anytime At All” from Resilient Heart and we'll also do four or five from songs from Eat The Heat, and then the rest of it is from Cacophony Of Souls. We've already played “Blood On Our Hands”. We tried at last summer at some of festivals and we actually filmed it for the video. That worked really well. We had a lot of people say 'Are those new tracks from the new album?' and I'm like 'Yes' and they're like 'Awesome. Great direction', so we've tested the waters a few times before we actually recorded it and it seemed to work. ...And then, in the Fall, I've been contracted to do a Bangalore Choir On Target show in Hamburg, Germany specifically for the VIP members for a festival. ...At this point, we might add another Bangalore Choir song to our current set, but we're not sure yet.”
Todd: How did you become involved with the U.D.O. Steelfactory tour? While the pairing worked remarkably well, it seemed less than likely. Considering your backgrounds, has there ever been animosity between you two?
David: “Not at all. I met him when I was recording Eat The Heat and he was next door recording (his second solo effort) Mean Machine (1988). He's always treated me with the utmost respect. Funny thing is, I was doing a podcast and the guy said 'You should go on, and see if you can get on the Steelfactory tour. Imagine the two ex Accept singers touring together' and I said 'You know what? I'm going to call his manager.' So I hung up, called his manager Frank and he said 'This is weird. I was just talking about you'. I said 'I'd like to get on some of these shows' and he goes 'How about these ten dates?' ...That grew into four more dates and then, while I was doing the extra four dates, Scandinavia called and said 'We'd like Reece to be part of this tour, as well', so it started at ten and ended up being twenty-eight or thirty shows. Every night, Udo was great to me and his band were great to me. I have zero complaints. There's never been any kind of weird thing between us other than having the utmost respect for one another. As a matter of fact, when I met him the first night on that tour, I was doing a vocal warm up in the men's bathroom and he was in the stall. I could see somebody's feet on the floor while I was doing the whole 'La, La, La' thing and he said 'Shut the fuck up, David' from the stall. I went 'Ah, Udo' and he came out, hugged me and said It's nice to see again. It's been a long time'. The last time we had seen each other was 2007 or '08 at Sweden Rock. He had asked if I would be interested in seeing him and I was said 'Of course' His tour manager walked up to me after I had finished my show and he had finished his and we were all standing behind the big stage. And there he came, walking down this little dirt road. He gave me a big hug and everybody was thrilled to see us talking. It's always been very positive. There was never any of that between him and I. Of course, with Accept there was, but not with Udo. ...The guy is like a German tank. Night after night, he delivered even though he had a bad bone infection in his leg and was singing with a cane. I knew he was in terrible pain, but he refused to cancel. He carried on in typical Udo fashion delivered every single night.”
Todd: At this point in your career, what do you do to keep your voice functioning at such a high level? Considering the number of shows you perform in a year, I would imagine you'd need a dedicated plan of attack.
David: “Number one for a singer to be healthy is to sleep. I took vocal lessons extensively when I first started. I worked with Mark Farnham from the Santa Fe Opera, who taught me power and how to control it. I also gave up cocaine. That helped a lot. ...I don't smoke and I've stopped drinking. I'm completely sober. I'm an alcoholic in recovery and I've got about two years of sobriety right now. ...I'm not doing it to brag. I'm just that one thing many singers don't realize is that alcohol dehydrates you and forces you to push your voice harder. You think you're singing really well, but you're not. I can listen to my past albums and can hear that I was drinking during the session or live shows. I've kind of been reborn that way. It saved my voice, I think. I'm still nuts. I still have the anxieties I've always had, but I don't drink. Alcohol is a lie. I used to do it because I've always had stage fright and anxiety. I'd drink a few beers before going onstage and then a few on stage and a few more in my hotel room because I'd still have the adrenaline going and I couldn't sleep. It becomes a never ending, vicious cycle where you think you need it to focus, but it's actually, in a weird way, blinding you into a false sense of security, ...I trained with a few other vocal teachers as well. There was one in Germany during the Accept days. ...When I was doing the Accept album, (Producer) Dieter Dirks (Black 'n Blue, Twisted Sister, Scorpions) told me 'You've got a great voice, but you don't know who you are. I've got to find out who you are as a singer and make you that'. It was offensive to a young, cocky kid, but he was right. He helped me build on what I had.”
Todd: As far as the preparation for individual performances is concerned, do you do a lot of pre-show warm-ups and post-show warm-downs? Am I correct in remembering you also often wear scarves as part of your routines?
David: “I try, but it can be hard. When you do a lot of gigs, like what I did with U.D.O. where he plays every night, I do a couple of different things to check where my voice is at. You're not really allowed much sleep on those tours. You run off stage, do your merch, do your fan meet and greets and either jump in the van and start driving or go to a hotel and try to turn off what happened for the last two hours. I don't do a lot of vocal warm downs. I try not to talk much during the day, which is tough because I love to talk and it's always a struggle. I try to warm up my voice. It's a muscle, so I drink a lot of water. Hydration is key to maintaining your vocals. That's where alcohol kills it because of the dehydration thing. You keep drinking more of it, but you're just drying out your throat. It's a muscle. I cover my throat. In fact, I'm wearing a scarf right now. I wear a scarf in the summer after shows to protect my neck because when you use that part of your body and you expose it to different elements, it can be hit directly with viruses. ..All my vocal teachers tell me to wear it and I listen to what they have to say. It really seems to work. ...I like to do a warm up for about twenty minutes. You've got to find out where you are. Some nights are worse than others. It just depends, ya know? On this last U.D.O. tour, we were in a car crash in the mountains in Norway. It was dumb. I was driving too fast on an icy roads on the mountain and we lost control of the van. We had to dig ourselves out of the snow and I was only wearing a light jacket. The wind was blowing and of course that hit me right away with all the stress, so I caught cold. But I can typically work around these things. I've had to learn how to get myself through both the good and the bad days.”
Cacophony Of Souls (2020)
Resilient Heart (2019)
All Or Nothing -- Live At Firefest (2011)
Universal Language (2009)
Suicide Candyman (1994)
Sircle Of Silence (1993)
On Target (1992)
Eat The Heat (1989)
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