It all started when Kevin Cox guitarist of Xcel dropped me an email to thank me for the review that I have done some years ago, on the band's one and only album "Deliver This Dream" on the online edition of my Forgotten Scroll Zine. Well that means luck. You see I have been trying for ages to track down some members of this magnificent Power Metal band from Southeast Texas and now a member of them is dropping an email to say hello and thanks! Of course I could not let the chance to go away and I replied faster than the speed of light requesting an interview. My good luck went even further cause Kevin is one of the most friendly musicians someone would ever meet. Not only he accepted to answer on my questions but he even set up a massive answering of my interview by the ENTIRE band! It was a matter of days until my printed question-paper was in the band's rehearsal room. Yes you have read correctly. Rehearsal room, cause the band has returned in full action again. They are composing new stuff, getting ready to re arrange the older one, they are uploading some rare video footage on youtube and they are preparing some t shirts for all of us the die hards. So the original plan that was a feature of this great interview into the next printed issue of Forgotten Scroll changed a little: I thought that bands in the high level of Xcel should spread their word in as many people as possible especially when they are active. So here is the expanded plan: an online publication of the whole interview into the online edition of Forgotten Scroll together with the printed edition that would come on the next issue of the Forgotten Scroll Zine (no. 5) that would feature Xcel in the front cover as well! Well here it is, one of the most interesting interviews I have done, with some really friendly guys that totally express their passion about their band and their music! Go ahead, read and discover all the adventures of a Metal band that hunted the dream during the 80s, returning now in full glory to deliver some more inspired Steel the way it deserves to be released. This is the story of Xcel my friend, the story of the dream deliverers! Enjoy!
Hello guys and thanks very much for taking the time to answer to my question. This interview is really important for me and I want it to be a real special one. Long live Xcel!
Kevin C.: Thank YOU Chris. We were flattered at the review you gave us on the Forgotten Scroll. It meant a lot to all of the guys in the band.
First of all let's start with your hometown. Where are Xcel from? please confirm that Xcel were from?
Kevin C.: We are all from the same Southeast Texas area originally. I’d have to say Port Neches, TX was our base/hometown. Our rehearsal studio was there. It used to be at an old bank in the downtown area and we rented it out for cheap, carpeted the walls, blacked out the windows,etc. It still had a vault in there too. We would frequently have the local police stop in to see what we were doing, but they got to know us and would just drop by every now and then and say hi. We invited them in and showed them around. They would patrol because they knew we had a ton of gear in the back room for shows. So it worked out great.
Ok lets take a long and big flash back in time. When and where was Xcel formed? Who were the founding members?
Barry: Peter and I were playing in a band called Wizzard, along with drummer Rob Duplantis. I decided to leave Wizzard and play with another band. I felt Wizzard was getting stagnant and wouldn’t go anywhere. Rob, who was the leader of the band, asked who he could get to replace me, I suggested Kevin Cox. Kevin Cox was an “up-and-coming” guitarist with a lot of drive and good work ethic and the band he was playing in couldn’t get off the ground due to personnel issues. I left, Kevin took my place, and everything was okay for a while. However, the band I went to play with couldn’t seem to get any traction and I was quickly getting disenchanted with them.
The guys from Wizzard invited me to come watch them play at a local bowling alley one weekend. That sounded fun, I was curious, so I went. I was blown away! Kevin Cox had injected a whole new vibe and energy into the band! Not to mention, they were writing some really good original material.
I called Rob (drummer) a few days after the Wizzard gig and told him if they ever lost their other guitarist, I‘d love to take his place. Two days after that phone call, I had the job. Apparently, it wasn’t a popular decision and the singer left too!
We all sat down and discussed a new direction and a new look for Wizzard, that’s how the new name came about. Everyone says I threw the name “Xcel” out, but I didn’t really like that name, so I’m not entirely convinced it was me. Everyone else liked it so it stuck.
Now, we need a singer. Peter knew a guy from a neighbouring town that he had met through school choir functions and suggested him. Kevin Luke auditioned and floored everyone! He was in! Now we’re ready to roll, th line-up is complete...right?
Within 2-3 months of getting Kevin Luke, Rob, the original drummer who had weathered all these personnel changes, and affected some of the personnel changes, announces that he’s leaving the band because he and his girlfriend are going to marry soon. Now, we’re back to searching for a replacement drummer.
Kevin Luke knows a drummer who’s not playing with anyone at the moment and suggests him. Once again, we are treated to a great new member in Dag Gabourel. He’s got the look, he’s got the chops, he’s got a nice set of drums (I’m sure he’ll disagree) and he can flat out pound the drums. One of the hardest hitting drummers I’ve ever played with, bar none!
Now the line-up is complete.
Kevin L.: Xcel formed in 1985 and everyone considers me the first real singer for the band.
|First XCEL picture ever taken.|
Kevin C.: In my opinion, this line up always was and always will be Xcel. They’re like brothers to me.
Barry: The only other member was a bass player, David Parent that replaced Peter when he left after a couple of years.
Kevin L.: The only lineup change was made towards the end of Xcel when Peter left. He was replaced for a short time, maybe 2-3 months, by David Parent.
How did you guys met each other and decided to form Xcel? Tell me some behind the scenes stories?
Kevin C.: Peter, and Barry were in another band called Wizzard at the time, and I used to go and watch them whenever they played. I really looked up to Barry, and Peter was a friend of mine. Funny thing is, one of the shows Wizzard was about to do, Barry had trouble with his distortion pedal and I ran up to him and said I could get him one and I ran home and brought mine up there just in time for their show. I ended up sort of a roadie/guitar tech for them for a while. Barry and I hit it off immediately. I was asked to join Wizzard, but shortly after, we decided to break out on our own and do original material mostly and this morphed into Xcel.
Peter: I knew Kevin Cox from school and we played for the Port Neches-Groves Indians High School Football team together and knew that each other played music. I think Barry left Wizzard and Kevin was the first person we thought of to replace him. Wizzard was a cover band. Kevin and I wanted to do original songs and get with some guys who wanted to do the same thing. This kind of started the foundation of Xcel. I cannot remember if Barry came back into Wizzard or if we got him to come into Xcel after we left Wizzard? I knew who Kevin Luke was because he was in his High School’s pop group and I had seen him perform at a competition. The first time we approached him about singing with us he was working at the local skating rink. Kevin Luke knew Dag from school and also from playing in the High School’s pop group together.
Kevin L.: The band was originally Wizzard and really started with Barry coming back to the band and then I came in and then Dag replaced Rob Duplantis. You could almost say the two original core members were Peter and Kevin C.
Dag: I received a call from Kevin Cox to come over to his house because he wanted me to listen to some songs that he had written and to see if I would be interested in joining the band. I walked into his bedroom and was immediately curious. With a Marshall stack staring me in the face and Kevin strapping on his Randy Rhoads Jackson guitar, he definitely got my attention. He is an incredible musician. It was an instant yes in my mind. He was serious, enthusiastic and he simply shred!
I knew Kevin L. from the high school show choir and had heard first hand that he could sing like only the best can. He is a very powerful singer with tremendous voice control. All you have to do is listen to The Vision, as an example.
I didn’t know Peter or Barry. But it only took a few notes with Peter to realize we could find a steady pocket. He was a solid bass player with a knack for providing a good foundation for our music.
Barry is a phenomenal musician and I was very fortunate to be exposed to someone with such God-given ability. He didn’t have all of the best gear, didn’t need it, he could flat out play.
Were any of the band members in any band before Xcel? Have you got any information to share?
Kevin C: Other than briefly filling in for Barry in Wizzard, I really wasn’t in anything worth mentioning. I played with a couple of bands before Wizzard who never wanted to do anything but smoke pot and hang out. I didn’t do drugs and wasn’t into all that crap. I wanted to get out and do shows, not sit around and waste away.
Barry: I played in Wizzard which morphed into Xcel. And Court Jester which was the band I left before rejoining Wizzard.
Peter: Yes I was asked to come play bass for a band called Wizzard. Barry Duncan was one of the guitar players in that band and that’s how we first met.
Kevin L.: Nothing official for me, but I've sang my whole life, probably since I was 13 years old.
Dag: I was in five bands that were nothing compared to XCEL.
How did the name Xcel come up? Is it something like a game with words or letters? Is there any special meaning behind your name?
Kevin C.: *laughing* No not at all. Nothing really special about the name whatsoever. We wanted something positive and we were very energetic about succeeding with the band. I think at one point if I recall, there was talk of naming the band “Mako” after the shark. Now, I get sick of the response when they hear it was Xcel, “You mean like the spreadsheet?!” There wasn’t a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet back then.
Barry: There’s nothing cryptic in the letters, just a positive, forward-looking name.
Taken from http://www.dictionary.com:
–verb (used without object)
1. to surpass others or be superior in some respect or area; do extremely well: to excel in math.
Or, in our case: Music. Even though I didn’t initially like the name, it came to mean a great deal to me and the other guys as well.
Peter: *laughing* I remember that at one point Kevin C. suggested the name of Wicked Bitch for the band. Not the most positive name we came up with. At that point we were listening to a lot of W.A.S.P. Xcel was short, simple, positive, and to the point. We dropped the E and Barry designed the logo.
Kevin L.: I thought Kevin C. came up with the name? I remember Kevin C. bringing in pieces of paper with the definition of "excel" written on them. Maybe I'm just dreaming that, but that's what I thought I remember. To do better...to be the best...that's what we wanted to do, be the best!
Kevin C.: *laughing* Wicked Bitch?! I don’t remember that at all nor do I have any explanation as to why I would want to name the band that. I think Peter dreamed that up.
Dag: We did want to be the best at the music we were playing.
|Xcel Promotional Photo – Accent Records - Palm Springs, CA, USA|
How did the band started to roll? Did you do any covers or began straight with original tunes? What was the first original Xcel song you have composed?
Kevin C.: Well I think from the start, we wanted to build up a mystique about the band and be something different. So we went underground for a long time and rehearsed relentlessly and didn’t tell anyone anything about us. We kept it quiet. You have to understand that in Southeast Texas where we all grew up, everyone assumed you played blues or sounded like ZZ Top. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but we wanted to be the next big band and come out heavy. We immediately started with originals, because that’s what we wanted be known for. It’s hard to say what the first Xcel song was, we were writing so many at the time and we would show up to rehearsal sometimes with 2-3 new ones. I think it was “Out To Maim” but I can’t recall for sure.
Barry: I believe we set straight about writing original music. We threw covers in only as filler. We didn’t particularly enjoy doing other peoples music. I think the first original Xcel song was “Out to Maim” written by Rob Duplantis. Kevin Cox wrote the music for it.Kevin L.: The first original Xcel song was "Teaser", it carried over from the original band Wizzard and everyone loved it (laughing)! We always did covers, not a lot, just our favorite metal covers, you know, Maiden, Queensryche, Whitesnake. People loved the Whitesnake arrangement we did. Ten minute long medley of "Still of the Night", "Slide It In" and "Here I go" (I'm trying to remember how it goes)...and then finished out with the end of "Still of the Night" again.
Xcel with Andy Owen (sound engineer- bottom) and Dana Miller (guitar/stage tech – 2nd from right)
Dag and Barry in rehearsal studio
How would you describe your music in your own words? Which were the band’s main influences? There was a Heavy Metal explotion in the scene of Texas back in the mid 80w, were you influenced by this situation somehow?
Kevin C.: I struggle to say how I would label us musically. Our influences were the early Queensryche and anything Iron Maiden. So we were a power metal hybrid of that I guess. I don’t know of any metal explosion in the Texas music scene at all. If there was, no one told us when or where!. That was part of the problem, you had this band that sounded like we did, and everyone wants you to play Lynyrd Skynyrd or ZZ Top type music, and that wasn’t us at all.
Barry: I’m not sure how to describe our music. I don’t remember any of us saying we wanted it to be a particular style, or mode of writing or subject. It just came about on its own somehow. If we didn’t like a song, we scrapped it, if it turned out good, we kept it. We wanted our music to hold your interest either through the lyric content, or the tempo changes or both. We wanted the song to tell a story and captivate the listener. I think you can hear a lot of Iron Maiden and Queensryche in our stuff, although, we tried to not emulate anyone. I personally made a conscious effort to not purchase any music during that time so I could avoid being influenced. And, I was poor...so that helped. No, I don’t think we were influenced by any Texas Metal...I’m not sure we were aware of that because of our location. We were quite isolated from the rest of Texas and the rest of the world.
Peter: I would say Queensryche, Iron Maiden, and King's X . For my personal main influences I would have to add Kiss, Rush, and Stryper to the list.
Kevin L.: Tasteful metal. Well, I think anyone that liked heavy music could appreciate what we did, whether they liked metal music or not. My influences were my favorite vocalists: Steve Perry, Geoff Tate, Bruce Dickinson, Jeff Scott Soto, those were probably my favorite guys back then. I don't think we were influenced at all. We did what we wanted to do, or we played what we wanted to play.
Dag: Sophisticated metal, as I liked to call it. I was a huge Neil Peart, Alex Van Halen, Peter Criss, Nicko McBrain, and Scott Rockenfield fan. I was definitely influenced by those guys.
It sound strange to me that I have not noticed Xcel mentioned on the glory days of Texas Metal Underground along with bands like Militia, Watchtower, SA Slayer and similar ones. Perhaps you were too far away –distance speaking- to take part in all this?
Kevin C.: Possibly, but I haven’t heard of any of those bands either, or the Texas Metal Underground for that matter. I’m sure we would have hit that up if we’d known about it, or if they had known about us.
Barry: You are correct! Logistically, we were not in a good location to play out and get noticed. The economy in the area was down and there weren’t many places to play, especially for our style of music. The closest place was Houston, Texas, we managed to play there once and it was the last night the club was open. I think I’ve heard of Watchtower, but I’ve never heard of the other bands. The only other band that I can recall that did make it was Pantera from Dallas, Texas.
Kevin L.: (Laughing) I think we were looking at the bigger picture, we were reaching for the spots that Iron Maiden had, or Queensryche. You know, we weren't looking for the local area, we looking for national, or bigger, attention.
Dag: We were way too far away to get any real attention.
Back on the first steps of formation, well can you recall the very first Xcel live show?
Kevin C.: Jan 3. 1986 – Port Arthur Civic Center. That was our very first Xcel show. It was something we had been planning for quite some time. We wanted to come off that we were the ‘big boys’ coming into town. We bought radio air time, everyone was already wondering what we were up to. We grabbed another unknown local band at the time and had them open for us. But didn’t tell them much about it until right before, because we didn’t want the word to get out too soon There were commercials, ticket give-aways – just like the major groups did – and that’s how we wanted to position ourselves. We used to listen to the radio in our rehearsal studio and hear these people calling in to win tickets. It was really cool. We sold that place out, it was packed. Someone had said that a big band had played there a week or so before we did and they didn’t have as many people as we did. And we promoted this whole thing ourselves. I remember pulling up outside this civic center and seeing long lines trying to get in. They had run out of tickets and started stamping hands. The radio station DJs even showed up and introduced us. No one had ever done that before. I’ve always loved the way Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley made themselves larger than life, so you can say we took a page from their playbook. We built amp risers, stairs, drum risers, made our own flash bombs (that’s another story) – and it worked!
|Jan 3, 1986, First Xcel Show|
Barry: Absolutely! We wanted to turn the world upside-down, so we decided to go as big as we could afford. We rented out the floor of a local convention center, about 800 seats, I think, at least, that’s how many tickets we had printed up. We paid for promo spots on the local rock radio station and it started generating a bunch of interest. Partly because no one knew who we were, we stayed to ourselves and did our thing and didn’t make any big announcements. We had the radio station in a buzz because they couldn’t figure out who we were! We kept ticket prices cheap, like $3.00, so everyone could afford to go and Kevin Cox and Peter sold a bunch of tickets! We made the date a Friday night too so all the high school kids could go as well. We were hoping 100 or 200 people would show up. We would be ecstatic if that many came to see us. The night of the show (I’ll never forget – January 3, 1986) one of the girls that volunteered to take tickets, came backstage about 30 minutes before we were to go onstage and announced that they had run out of tickets and there was a line waiting to purchase more! We all about fainted! One of the rock station DJ’s was backstage with us and said just start taking $3.00 apiece from them and stamp their hands. We ended up selling 1100 tickets! It was a sold out show (I still get goose bumps talking about this)! We had pulled it off, and pulled it off in a major way.
There has been no one, before or since, pull off that big of a show with local talent. Even the radio station we had fooled tried to put on a show like we did and they failed miserably. They even invited us to play! They gave us a terrible slot, there was no onstage coordination, and they had their favourite bands in the time slots they wanted. They only had about 100 people show up and most of them left after we got through playing!
|Jan, 3, 1986, First Xcel Show|
|Jan, 3, 1986, First Xcel Show|
Kevin L.: January 3rd, 1986. Played at the local civic center for 1000+ people.
|Jan, 3, 1986, First Xcel Show|
|Jan, 3, 1986, First Xcel Show|
Peter: I don't know if the rest of the guys remember, but about 3 hours before the Jan 3rd show we blew our PA power heads during sound check. We were freaking out and under so much stress; it was a good thing that we had a great reputation with our local music store (A&S Music) they let us borrow some PA power heads free of charge so we could do the show. The thing I remember most about the Jan 3rd show was that we played for over 2 hours and it seemed like only 10 minutes. It was a dream come true to play in front of that many people in our home town.
My information says that there was not any Xcel demo release prior to the debut full length. Can you confirm this? In the case that there was a demo release can you give some info about it? Perhaps you have some demo recordings that remained unreleased –prior to the album- any possible light on them –if they are in existence-?
Kevin C.: The very first thing I would label as “demo-like” we ever did was a song called “Out To Maim”. We never released it though, but we still have the recording of it. It was pretty heavy even by today’s standards and Kevin’s vocals were spot on. We also have live video footage of us playing some of these songs, including “Out To Maim”, and it’s a trip to see. We may publish that out on YouTube or something, we’ll see.
Barry: Again, you are correct. There wasn’t any demo in the beginning. We set about doing the album once we had enough good songs to produce a full length album. It was still a very short album, right about 30 minutes in length.
Kevin L.: Nothing before the album. But, we do have a bunch of practice tapes we've been going over.
How the hell you decided to straight forward record an album form the start without making a demo first?
Kevin C.: Well that’s just it, if putting out a demo got people interested, we thought, “hey let’s put out an album to show them we mean business and that we’re capable of doing it on our own.” At least that was the plan back then. We did all the legwork to have it sold in record stores on consignment and there we were front and center in these record stores. It was pretty cool seeing your album sitting there out front with all the big groups of the time. It was a feeling of accomplishment to say the least.
Barry: Again, we wanted to turn the world upside-down. Queensryche had done it with their self-produced demo, why not us? We felt we were every bit as good as they were and we were willing to show anyone with any interest in us (like a record label) that we would work hard for them.
Kevin L.: (Laughs) We didn't have to ask anybody's permission. We paid for it ourselves, with gig money. We sold it ourselves, we didn't have a record company until Accent (out in California) picked us up.
Dag: We wanted to try and prove we could do it ourselves and set our goals for the band extremely high.
Have you got an offer by a Record Label or did you do the whole thing yourselves? Can you give us any information about Tri Records? Was it a Record label or just a Moniker that you have used to get out your own private release?
Kevin C.: We totally did it ourselves. But here’s the deal, what you hear on that album is all we could afford. And I think I’m pretty safe in saying that the whole band HATES that album or the recording anyway. It did NOT do us justice at all. Those are the weakest sounding guitars ever, Kevin Luke sounds like he’s at choir practice, you can’t hear Peter at all, and the drums sound like they’re in a wet paper sack. We hated it. But it’s all we had. People would come see us live and see that these songs had WAY more balls than the album shows. Hell, we had full blown Marshall cabinets blasting up there and Dag would flat demolish a drum head, so in order to hear what we really sounded like, you would have had to see us play live. Our practice tapes are way heavier than the album. Tri Records was just a couple of guys that had some recording equipment and it was the only thing around at the time. Accent Records was an independent label in Rancho Mirage/Palm Springs, CA who picked us up for our single, but it turned out they weren’t much better anyway. Nothing ever came of that. Same old story, we were made a ton of promises but nothing ever came of any of them, other than what we would go and do no our own by ourselves.
Barry: No, there was no record deal. Tri Records was just a couple of local guys with decent bit of recording equipment and a pretty nice recording facility. They were kind enough to “place” us on their “label” for the album. Unfortunately, they had only recorded country and western acts, not any rock-n-roll or metal. They really had no idea what to do with us. They squashed the guitars so much with their compressors that they sound thin and weak. A great example is “Hold Your Faith”. Listen to the very first strike of the pick on the strings and the guitar sounds full and whole, in a split second, the compressor kicks in and squashes it into oblivion. Rest assured, Kevin Cox was pushing an easy 100 watts through his Marshalls and we did not skimp on the volume!
The other terrible faux pas they made was putting Dag’s cymbals and toms on the same microphones instead of their own separate mics. So, if you needed more cymbals, you automatically got more toms too. They had some terrible recording techniques, and the album’s production quality suffered for it. Maybe that’s the way they record C&W, but it’s not how you record hard rock and heavy metal!
Kevin L.: Tri Records was actually "Triplex Recording".
In how many days have you recorded “Deliver This Dream”, can you recall anything interesting from the recording sessions?? In which studio was it recorded?
Kevin C.: I honestly can’t recall, I want to say it was a couple of weeks or so. We were exhausted when we would leave there, or at least I was. It was record at Tri Records and mastered in Nashville, TN. Recording is a whole different animal. I can honestly say that I had much rather play live any day.
Something interesting from the recording sessions? Well, the most interesting thing to me was watching Dag. He was phenomenal to watch. He never had to do anything twice, unless HE wanted to. He nailed it every single time and he was just as flashy in the studio as he was on stage. I loved watching him play. I’ve always had a bit of drummer envy *laughing*.
Barry: It only took about 3-4 weeks to record if I remember correctly. We had picked the 8 songs we liked the most, and the ones we felt the public would enjoy the most too, and rehearsed them over and over for weeks so we could minimize the cost of our studio time.
From the recording sessions, yeah, I remember one incident: One of Kevin Cox’s friends was hanging out with us at the recording studio. Mind you, this was the same guy that I witnessed dropping Kevin’s Randy Rhoads Jackson “V” and chipping the paint at the bowling alley gig they invited me to come see. He, the friend, decides he’s going to sit in the recording room where Kevin is about to lay his guitar tracks. I told him he had to leave. He protested that he wouldn’t make a sound while Kevin was recording. Yeah right, I told him when he wanted to help pay for the studio time, then he could stay while we recorded. He left. Needless to say, we were very serious about how our money was spent and we couldn’t afford any slip ups. “Deliver This Dream” was recorded at “Triplex Studios” in Port Arthur, Texas.
Peter: I remember that almost all of the recording was done late at night. Some of us were in school or working during the day so we would get into the studio around 7:00 p.m. We would stay just about all night most nights. I remember that Kevin C. would always have a bag of gummy worms and a chocolate soldier drink with him. Sugar rush to get him through the night. This was before energy drinks.
Kevin L.: We blocked the studio for two weeks, it was our studio for two weeks. We recorded and mixed in that amount of time, final product. As mediocre as the quality was. At the time we thought it was good, but, we weren't engineers, we were musicians.
Dag: I remember finishing and then impatiently waiting for everyone else to do the same. I didn’t like sitting in the control room without the finished product. I also recall thinking that the engineers didn’t have a clue how to produce a heavy sound when they tried to mic my snare drum from the bottom.
This record is simply one of the top 10 US Metal Records ever. When did it face the light of the day? In how many copies was it pressed? If you could change something to this album what would it be?
Kevin C.: *laughing* I don’t know what to say to it being a top 10 US metal record. It’s flattering that someone would think so, but I’m sure all the guys would say “You’re kidding right?!” We know we are better than that without question, so if we were given the right equipment and engineer, then I guess I’d say if you liked that crap, then the new stuff would knock you over!
What would I change?? Everything! And I do mean everything. I would completely re-record it. I’m not so sure I would have kept “Teaser” on there either. Peter and I wrote that song just kind of goofing around. Funny part was, people would always ask us to play that one and Accent Record’s AR guy wanted it on the single. Go figure.
Barry: I wish Capitol Records believed it was a “Top 10 Metal record”! That’s very kind of you to say...we thought it was too! I honestly don’t remember when the album was released...and, I’m not sure how many copies got pressed either, a couple thousand, maybe? Maybe if I could change how the album was recorded, or maybe where it was recorded. The content was there, the song structure was there, the guys in the recording booth couldn’t translate it from us to the tape correctly.
Kevin L.: I can't remember, 3 months maybe, after we finished recording...not sure. (Laughs) I would definitely change the quality of the recording. Point of information: The single used the original drums from the album, but we re-recorded everything else. You can see that the quality is much better.
Peter: It’s very flattering to hear that. I wish we could have got the attention of some major labels back in 1986. I am very proud of what the album has done and at the same time almost embarrassed of how it sounds. I think the songs are excellent but the quality of the sound is not what any of us would like to hear on our album. I think the songs rerecorded today could still bring in new fans.
Dag: You’re too kind. I wish more people would have thought the same as you. I’d change everything sound-wise. I think we pressed 1200 copies.
Which is your favourite song of the album?
Kevin L.: Ichabod! The crowd loved it!
Kevin C. : For me, I would have to say “Deliver This Dream” and “The Vision.” We would open the show with DTD and nothing gets your attention like a hard hitting drummer and Marshalls sliding into that intro riff. Barry wrote “The Vision” and I felt like it showed some maturity on our part musically. It had the breaks, intros, dual leads, and of course Kevin’s vocals.
Barry: I would have to say “The Vision”.
Peter: My favorite song would be “Deliver This Dream.” Dag has a really cool drum beat going on throughout the whole song which helps it to really stand out. I also like Ichabod. It's just a straight forward in your face kind of song. The Vision is really cool too. I like how the song tempo changes. I guess it would be easier to answer which song I like the least on the album.
Dag: Deliver This Dream, of course. It starts with DRUMS!
Who should deliver the dream and from what?
Kevin L.: It was a metaphor for what we wanted. That was to play music.
Barry: You’ll have to ask Kevin Cox about that, I couldn’t ever figure out what he was talking about.
Kevin C.: That song is about standing up to any kind of oppression really and not letting anyone keep you down. I wrote that in a geography class one day when I was enrolled in college briefly before the band got going (laughing) shows you how much I was paying attention eh? But Kevin L. is correct.
Kevin C.: I wouldn’t say that we were really focused on any one thing in particular. I mean we would talk about mythology, hypothetical situations, historical events and society, to girls and cartoon characters. I’d have to say that the stuff I’m writing now is more related to society. I have a lot more experience with life than I did back then.
Barry: The strange thing about me is that as soon as I’d hand Kevin Luke the lyrics, I’d forget what I’d wrote. So, in some respects, it’s hard for me to comment. On a general note, we wrote based on experiences, something that had happened to one of us, or, maybe it was just a movie we had watched or a book that we had read. We did want to inspire with our lyrics, kind of like Triumph’s “Fight the Good Fight” song. It’s very inspirational and a lot of our stuff follows those same lines. Don’t let people get you down; don’t let someone tell you that you can’t do something. If anything, that should be the very thing that drives you to prove them wrong!
Kevin L.: Laughs) Uh...no. I'll answer it in the next question.
Was “I’ll Make It Someway” written for a real person or it was just the usual tactic for a ballad that should appear on a Metal record (perhaps the answer catches both of the cases)?
Kevin C.: Kevin Luke wrote that, so I’ll let him answer.
Barry: I’m not sure. Kevin Luke wrote that one and it went over in a big way, especially with the girls! But, I don’t know if he wrote it for someone or not. Kevin Luke’s singing and Kevin Cox’s lead work was awesome, especially when they played/sang in unison.
Kevin L.: That was the only writing that I did in the band. And, it WAS about a ex-girlfriend.
Dag: I know who it was about.
Who was “Ichabod Crane”?
Kevin L.: Google "Headless Horseman" and you'll find out!
Kevin C.: Ichabod Crane – The Legend of Sleepy Hollow about the headless horseman. What I remember most about this one was, Barry was coming over to my place on Halloween one year and the story of Ichabod Crane was on the TV. I came back in the room and Barry had sat down with one of my guitars and was just playing something and watching that show. Long story short, we never left to go out, we stayed in and wrote “The Last Ride of Ichabod Crane” and it turned out to be one of the crowd favorites and was fun to play.
Barry: It’s a story based on Washington Irving’s book “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”. I tried to make the song only about Ichabod Crane being chased by the Headless Horseman. There’s a lot more to the story than just the chase, but for my purposes, I only wanted the frantic, chasing part. The slow, acoustic part in the middle of the song was supposed to be where Ichabod is on horseback going through the forest right before the Headless Horseman sets upon him. We were trying to convey a creepy, dark, forest with the guitar swells and wind. You can read a synopsis here:
Where have you took the photo of the back cover of the album? It is very unique and obscure...
Kevin L.: (Laughs) It was a place we thought looked good.
Kevin C.: *laughing* In a field across the street from where our rehearsal studio was, behind a 7-11 store or something. No kidding! So when we walked across the street looking like that, heads turned. The picture on the single was in the exact same place.
Barry: That’s funny, but I guess the photo worked! It does almost look like the creepy forest that Ichabod was going through! It’s actually behind a convenience store across the street from where we practiced. There was a small patch of trees and we just walked behind the store and I believe it was Dag’s older brother that snapped the photo.
And then what? You got this diamond on your hands, so? Did you hit the road to promote it? What was the feedback from fans and press?
Kevin C.: Well that was the plan, yes. But it turned out much harder than we had hoped. In hindsight, it’s probably because of where we were located. We made it to Houston, TX (again on our own) and were signed with a management company who had seen the show. We blew that place apart and there were police reports about it from several businesses down the street. *laughs* We were really excited about having a manager now, but he got us nowhere. He spent all his time working for this pop band outfit he also managed and did nothing for us. We dumped our manager and hooked up with LD Promotions in California and we thought it would take off after that, but this bunch turned out to be nothing as well. All promises, no action. The feedback we got locally was encouraging, but it needed broader exposure. Ironically, the same radio station that was so supportive of us initially wouldn’t play our material and there were a lot of requests for it on the radio I was told. We got more airplay in California and the Northeastern US than our own hometown. I guess their program director felt Led Zeppelin, Lynyrd Skynrd was what everyone wanted to hear, so it died on the vine I guess you could say.
Barry: We tried to promote it, but we were not in a good location to do any of that. Sure, we shopped it to the local music stores, and I guess we may have sold a few, but by and large, there wasn’t an outlet for us to promote it. The local radio stations wouldn’t promote it, we didn’t fit their mold, and they didn’t much care for us any way. We did do some interviews with a couple of the local newspapers, but again, they didn’t really know what to make of us. The press was nice though. There was a girl that wrote for her high school newspaper, we probably got more good press and more positive results from her writing about us than any other source!
Our fans liked it. We had a lot of the same people show up for every gig, so that was always appreciated. And, I think our fan base was growing. We had some very dedicated fans!
Kevin L.: Then we played as much as we could. Most of the feedback was good. When we finally got on Accent Records we got distributed (the single) to 17 states.
A year after the album, there was a 7’’ single release. Can you confirm that this was out on 1987?
Kevin C.: Yeah, this single release was the new manager’s attempt at getting us more exposure. He claimed he was shopping us to major labels at the time and setting us up for a nationwide club circuit tour and we were extremely pumped up about that. But in hindsight, I don’t think he did anything.
Barry: Yes, I think 1987 is correct.
Kevin L.: Yes.
There is a new label behind the “Last Ride Of Ichabod Crane” single. Can you give us any information about Accent Records? How did you get in touch with them? Why did you left Tri Records? Was it a record label or a new moniker simply behind the band?
Kevin C.: Accent Records was that tiny indie label in California.
Barry: How in the world did you get a copy of the single? It’s amazing to me how our stuff has migrated all over the world! The single was actually produced to give out to radio stations across the United States; we never made them to sell to the public. Accent Records was a small, independent label in California that, again, they just stuck us on for the purposes of producing the single, just the same as Tri Records did for the album.
Were the versions of the two songs included in the single -Last Ride Of Ichabod Crane, Teaser- the same versions as the ones included in the LP?
Barry: Mostly, they were. The guy that did the engineering was pretty good, much better than the guys that did the album. He played rock-n-roll, so he better understood how to mix our stuff. Unfortunately, we were told by our then manager that we only needed to bring our guitars, everything else would be provided. That was not the case. We had a tiny practice amp to play through and no drums! Dag was not happy, understandably. So, the single still had his crummy sounding drums. The guy did the best he could to bring the drums out better, but it’s hard when you don’t have anything to work with.
Kevin C.: Yes, pretty much. Some stuff was re-recorded, but, for the most part it’s the same. It sounds a little better, but not much.
Kevin L.: Other than the solos, they should be 99.9% the same.
Dag: No, I wasn’t pleased. I was shafted! The cymbals on the original recording were too hot. I was looking forward to recording the drum tracks again.
Why have you chosen those two tracks for the single?
Kevin C.: We didn’t. The AR guy at Accent Records chose those tracks. His thinking was, those would get the most airplay and funny thing was, “Teaser” was one of them. I couldn’t believe it.
Kevin L.: I think it was a combination of what the band wanted and what the fans wanted. We liked "Ichabod", but we always got asked to play "Teaser".
Barry: Those two songs were garnering the most attention. We also felt that they showcased both a straight-forward rock-n-roll song like “Teaser” and one that was more complex in “...Ichabod Crane”. The hope was that one or the other would get a record label’s attention.
Dag: They are from opposite ends of the spectrum. Teaser was in your face and Ichabod was more textured.
In how many copies was the single pressed?
Kevin C.: I think there were only like 500 copies of that pressed. We kept a couple for ourselves, but all the rest were mailed out to radio stations, or so we were told.
Barry: There were only 500 singles produced, there wasn’t enough to sell to the public. As far as I know, virtually all 500 copies were sent to radio stations.
Kevin L.: 500.
You have re-recorded all the stuff except the drums, right?
Kevin C.: As best as I can recall, we re-recorded and or remixed the bass, guitar tracks, and vocals. I remember having our guitars with us because one of the airlines damaged one of my cases and I remember Dag being unhappy about not being able to re-do his tracks. I think some of it may have been done off the original tape too. So there wasn’t a whole lot to work with.
Barry: Correct, the drums were not re-recorded at the studio near Palm Springs, CA. We were told, by management, to just bring our guitars, that everything else would be provided (drums, amplifiers, etc.)…and, unfortunately, that was not the case.
Where have you re-recorded the stuff, I guess it was not the Triple / Tri Records studio, right? So where was that place / studio?
Kevin C.: I can’t remember the name of the studio. But I remember it was in Rancho Mirage, California. It is close to Palm Springs, California.
Barry: Correct again. I don’t recall the name of the studio near Palm Springs, CA where we recorded the single. Triplex Studios, where the album was recorded, was located in Port Arthur, TX.
And in how many days have you completed those recordings?
Kevin C.: I believe we were only there for one or two days. It was in and out pretty quick.
Barry: The single was recorded in about 2 days if I remember correctly. I believe that’s all the time we could afford.
Do you think that the guys or guy that did the re-recording of the single -on the other studio- had a better knowlegue in Heavy Music? Do you think that the sound of the single is better than the album?
Kevin C.: Most definitely. The engineer that worked with us was a guy named Nick Mandola. If I’m not mistaken, he is still around and does some work with Accent Records. He had a much better understanding and I think if we had all the gear we needed and more time, he could have had us sounding much better. We didn’t have a lot to work with in a short amount of time, so I think he did the best he could with us. I think LD Promotions wanted us in and out just so we could have something to throw at radio stations.
Barry: Yes, the engineer on the single was a rock-n-roll guitar player so it was easy for him to understand the mood and grit we were looking for on the two cuts. It’s unfortunate we didn’t have access to him, but again, we didn’t have access to the better engineers and studios because of where we were located in Texas. I do feel the single sounds better than the album, but not by much, simply because we weren’t able to re-record the drums. Dag’s drums were a huge part and played a huge role in our music and we wanted them up front and in your face, it just didn’t translate on the album.
If you have recorded the album on that specific studio can we say that the result would be better than the one it ended in the album -which you have stated that sound weak in your ears-...
Kevin C.: Yes, without a doubt. I can’t recall what gear they had in that studio it has been too long. However, engineer wise, Nick would have done a much better job with us. As Barry stated, the guys that recorded us the first time didn’t know how to translate what Xcel was to tape. If we were to have spent the time originally with Nick, our own gear, some time, and some guidance, I am confident that it would have been a much different outcome.
Barry: I whole-heartedly believe the engineer on the single would have done a WAY better job on the album! I would have loved to work with him. I think we all liked him, he was easy-going and understood what we were trying to accomplish and did a great job given what we he had to work with.
Lets meet the band on stage. Describe an Xcel show, recall some shows, have you ever played outside Texas? With which bands?
Kevin L.: Full out! High energy metal, NO down time! No, I dont' think we played outside of Texas.
Kevin C: *laughing* Loud, hot, sweaty, and lots of hairspray. I don’t know what kind of look we were going for back then. It was a cross between the Ratt torn spandex thing and the Queensryche “Rage for Order” look. We played shows with several different bands. None of which went on to do anything big that I know of. Again, I think it was just the scene we were in.
Barry: We tried to follow the same idea as Kiss: Give them the best, most over-the-top show you can! Iron Maiden was doing the same thing. We tried to give our audience lots of theatrics, lots of movement onstage and lighting to complement the mood of the song. We even had band colors: Black, white and red. So, that’s pretty much all we wore onstage.
Since Kevin Cox, Peter and I didn’t have matching equipment, we built stage risers to cover our equipment. The risers extended out eight feet on either side of the drums with stairs to go up and down the risers. They were sturdy enough to stand on top of and were modular so we could break them down, transport and store them easily. Only one other local band followed our lead on this, but we were the first in our area.
We also covered the fronts of the risers with cloth and painted the front with our logo, like the logo on the album. It worked great...no one else in the area had the size of stage show we did.
Peter: *laughing* Let’s not forget the black eye liner and black finger nail polish. I can say no matter how many people would come to see us if it was 30 or 1500 we would put on the best show your money could buy. We were known as being a great live band.
Kevin C.: Aside from our very first show and all the hype around it, ironically, it was one of the shows we played at a club at a teen night of all things. We went from this huge show down to playing teen nights over the years and it was a massive let down for all of us. But we all loved playing, and at this one show in particular, all these kids were really getting into us. It was packed and we put on one hell of a show. The flip side of that was somewhere in Leesville, Louisiana at some biker hangout. It wasn’t big enough to hold all of our gear, and yes, all you heard was “Play Freebird” or “Play some Skynyrd man!”. We finished the set and got out of there. If it weren’t for all the loyal fans following us over there, it would have been really awkward to say the least. Barry also recently reminded me of one place where we kept blowing the circuit breakers due to all of the amplifier load we were carrying.
Barry: Our best live show was definitely our first gig, the January 3rd gig. Next would probably be the show we played in Houston at the club that was shutting down after we got through. We hired a guy to provide his equipment and our guys ran the show. It was, by far, our best sounding gig. We actually signed with a manager after that gig. That was a proud moment for all of us!
Peter: I think it would be the January 3rd show at the Port Arthur Civic Center. In part due to the amount of people we were playing in front of. I can remember being told just before we went out on stage that the show was a sell out and the fire marshal was not allowing any more people into the Civic Center. I also remember playing at a club in Houston, Texas called Phydeaux's. We were playing really tight that night and the sound mix was great. It was our first time playing in Houston and at the end of the show we had a lot of people stay after and tell us how good it was. We also ended up spending the whole weekend in Houston being treated like Rock N Roll Royalty. We had some promoter take us to a number of different clubs to see a lot of the Houston bands play. It was a lot of fun.
Kevin L.: It's really between our first show, January 3rd, and our show in Houston, Texas at Phideaux's.
Dag: I have to agree with Kevin L. Nothing will ever replace the feeling we shared at the first show. But Phideaux’s was a great show.
After 1987 and the single release what was your next steps? It seems like you have been lost in time or something…
Kevin C.: We tried to keep it going. But since we had set a high bar for ourselves, it was costing us too much of our own money to keep pulling off these shows. And one break after the other didn’t pan out. It got to the point where we couldn’t even afford a place to practice anymore and with bills piling up, we had to look elsewhere to survive.
Barry: We waited to hear something, anything, from any record labels or radio stations. We did do an interview with a local rock station in Palm Springs, California and it generated a little buzz, but nothing came of it. The singles distributed to the radio stations didn’t do much of anything. I think there was some interest, but nothing materialized from it. From what we were told, we did receive a good bit of airplay from California and all along the Northeast coast.
One positive thing that happened was a local guy that Dag’s brother had met was interested in us and possibly investing in us. We spoke to our manager about him and got a meeting set up between the two. They met and shortly afterwards our manager told us that the deal had fallen through. We were crushed. Why had it fallen through? What happened? I can’t remember exactly what our manager told us other than it “fell through”.
A couple of years (maybe not even that long), after Xcel had broken up, I happened to meet the investor guy through the job I had at the time. I introduced myself and explained that I was the guitarist in Xcel and asked what had happened in the meeting between him and our manager. He said that our manager wanted to distribute the money he wanted to give us to the other bands he was managing. The investor said “no”, that he didn’t know anything about the other bands, but that he did know Xcel and the money was to go to them only. Apparently, our manager wouldn’t agree to that so the investor withdrew the offer.
The man told me straight to my face, “I was prepared to write him a forty-thousand dollar check.” After learning that, I was furious! Wasn’t our manager supposed to help us?!? Why would he turn down that amount of money?!? Even if he couldn’t use it for the other bands, why would you turn it down?!? Once again, we had trusted someone to “take care of us” and we had gotten burned.
When and for what reasons did the band split?
Kevin C.: Money, or lack thereof, Period. We had investors who were supposed to get the band back off the ground and we were pretty excited about that. However, shortly after, the stock market crashed in the US in 1987, all of them left us high and dry. Who’s going to front a rock band during all that?
Barry: Even after learning that the investor deal fallen through, we had managed to catch the interest of several other people for investment purposes. Then came October 1987: Black Monday. The American stock market fell in a major way and all our potential investors pulled the money they were saying they would invest in us. That was a major hit. And, for me, I was exhausted from trying to make something happen with the band and tired of being poor. My whole life for the past couple of years had been poured into the band. I hadn’t had a steady job in two years. I was just scraping to get by and was ready to make something else happen.
Peter: I could not tell you why the band split. I can tell you why I left. I only had a year left to graduate from college. I was about 21 or 22 years old and at that time it seemed to me Xcel had done all we could do and we were kind of just standing still and not moving forward anymore. I had to start thinking what I was going to do with my life because music was not working at that point. Here in the States in the late 80's Metal was not as popular as it once was in the early 80's. The Seattle Sound (Grunge) had taken over. I just could not see any of us doing that kind of music. Besides I don't look good wearing plaid and it's too hot in Texas to even consider it.
Kevin L.: The stock market crash of 1987, really led to us losing funding to go on a tour, and losing our bass player led to the band going their separate ways.
After Xcel have any of the band members participated in other bands?
Kevin C.: None for me. Barry, Kevin and Dag have done some other projects.
Kevin L.: I've played almost consistently in other bands until 2003.
Barry: Yes, I have. I played in several other bands over the years. The last one was in early 2000 with Kevin Luke and his younger brother Keith. I started out on bass, Kevin Luke played guitar and sang backup, and Keith was the lead singer. It was a good band, not like Xcel, but a lot of the same work ethic and great song writing. Keith was an excellent lyricist and I helped out on the music. He and I clicked really well and we were fairly prolific song writers. I just spoke with Keith recently and he’s still playing and recording in Sienna Blu, the band he formed after we broke up.
Peter: No, after I left Xcel I quit playing. I knew that if I started playing again with other bands it would never be the same as it was with Xcel. I would compare everything we did to Xcel. (When I was in Xcel we did it like this.) Do you know how annoying that would be for the new band? *laughs* The guys in Xcel were like an extension of my own family. We were like brothers.
Dag: I played in a couple of bands with Kevin L. after Xcel. It NEVER had the same intensity as XCEL. That was our true calling. It was completely different being with the Xcel guys. We were all going in the same direction until ended. It was like one unit, a well-oiled machine.
There is a wave of re united bands that came from the 80s, they appear active again, playing in Festivals around Europe –yes in Europe we love the good old bands, especially the US ones- and releasing new albums, what is your opinion about all those re unions?
Kevin L.: (Laughs) The good bands need to come back and the bad ones need to stay at home! The funny thing is I've owned a sound company since 1997 and have run sound for a lot of the "come back" bands!
Kevin C. : Honestly, this is the part that blows me away. We have had more interest in Xcel now from Europe than we ever have. When we heard they were selling albums out on E-bay, we couldn’t believe it. At one point they were going for $1000+ each! Then we see that you can buy our album released by some record label in Italy or Germany? What?! We bought one of those just to see what it was and it’s our OWN stuff but it has been modified by someone, it is not original stuff. I think it’s fantastic that all this resurgence of metal is going on in Europe. Hell, look at the total crap we have to listen to in the US. Nothing but rap and hiphop junk.
Barry: I think that’s great. If they can pull it off, more power to them.
Dag: I wish it was us.
It seems that US Metal is more popular and beloved around Europe and never made it to its original country (USA) do you agree with this for what reasons do you think this is happening?
Kevin C.: Well I’ll take your word for it. It’s great to hear. I would absolutely love for Xcel to play at festivals over in Europe. That way, you could hear and see for yourself what I’m talking about. I personally love the European metal. One of my favourite bands is Primal Fear. I also listen to Brainstorm and like their stuff as well. I’m not into the growling death/satan/thrash metal stuff at all. When it is so fast that it’s hard to tell what is even happening musically, I turn it off. I’d rather have that drum, bass and guitar punching you steadily in the gut. Take Primal Fear’s “The Final Embrace” or “Rollercoaster”..... I flat out love that stuff man. I had the pleasure of meeting them in Austin, TX last year and I have the utmost respect for them. I took my wife and stood there the whole time just smiling and saying, “that should have been Xcel right there.” The nicest guys you could meet but they kicked your ass....I loved ‘em. Matt Sinner is a metal icon in Europe and I see that Ralf Scheepers is consulting with bands, vocals, recording, etc. That would be a dream come true for me to have him sit down with Xcel and help guide us. I think that would refine the talent we have and I’m not against constructive criticism on my playing at all. No ego here! I’ll tell you this, getting to travel and open for someone like that would be the ultimate for me. Europe, the US, or even on a barge in the Atlantic Ocean, doesn’t matter to me.
Barry: I’m not sure why the U.S. hasn’t embraced their own metal bands like Europe has, but maybe it has something to do with the fact that Europe doesn’t glom onto the latest flash-in-the-pan? To me, it seems the U.S. is only concerned with the latest trend and a lot of bands put out one song that gets a couple of months of airplay and they’re done. But, they’re the latest rage and that’s the “in” thing to do in America. Maybe Europeans gravitate more towards something that has more lasting qualities? I mean, the U.S. is not producing the quality of metal bands like Europe has been, especially in the last decade, not that they’re not out there, but in sheer quantity of good heavy bands, the U.S. is lagging. I may be wrong, but that’s what it looks like from my vantage point “across the pond”.
Kevin L.: I do agree! I think Europeans like music more than Americans. I think they're more EXCITED about music.
…And ok I wanted to get you into this question: Are you in contact with other members? Have you ever thought to bring the band in action again?
Kevin C.: Absolutely! We have all been in contact. And it’s this resurgence of activity around the band that has us all excited again. Someone created an Xcel Facebook fan page about us, and it’s a thrill to see the people in Europe saying nice things about us. We humbly appreciate it more than you know. We are talking about completely re-recording 3 songs off the DTD album and putting new songs that no one has ever heard before. But we’re going to do this on our own time and make it sound good. If a label wants to pick that up, that’s great, but we are still going to do it for ourselves and those that liked the band no matter what. Not sure yet, but we will probably release it on Itunes when we feel it’s ready. I would like to see us do a kickoff show at South By Southwest (SXSW) that brings bands from all over the world. We could play on the main rock stage. Now what comes after that?..., I’m open.
Barry: Yes, I’m in contact with the other band members. I’ve always stayed in touch with both Kevin Cox and Kevin Luke. We are in the process of talking about doing something again, maybe doing some recording, re-releasing, nothing very serious, just see what happens. Everyone has so much going on in their lives, with kids, careers, mortgages, braces, college tuition, etc., etc., we didn’t want to over commit ourselves on anything. Not to mention, there are some logistic issues with Kevin Cox located in Austin, Texas and Dag on the far side of Houston, Texas and Kevin Luke, Peter and myself located in Beaumont...it makes it a bit more difficult to coordinate things.
Kevin L.: Yes, I'm in contact with the other members, although some of the time between meetings was sparse, we could always get in touch with the other guys if we wanted. Yes, but I think metal has passed me by.
Dag: We are in contact and would love to bring the band back together. We’re just at another stage in our lives. We should have done it sooner. The band break up was very traumatic for me, personally. We poured our hearts and souls into the band and didn’t get anything of substance in return. Unfortunately, there comes a time when you have to move on and make a real living.
Have you got any unreleased material? In which format? Audio or Video?
Kevin C.: Yes, quite a bit actually. We have recordings burned to CD of many rehearsals with the new material, as well as VCR and DVD footage of some shows we did. Some of our best ones disappeared with the investors though, a lesson learned. Make copies next time.
Barry: Yes, we recently recovered/discovered a video that was made in one of the clubs we performed in. And, as it turns out, Kevin Luke had recorded several of our practices on cassette tapes. I’m in the process of getting them burned to CD.
Kevin L.: Old practice tapes.
Have you got any composed but not recorded Xcel songs?
Kevin C.: You bet. We’re really excited about the new stuff no one has ever heard before. When we got together and listened to it, we all sat there with our mouths open. With some polishing, it will be that diamond you mention.
Barry: Oh yes, they’re on cassette tape, thankfully, because I don’t have any of the lyrics.
Kevin L.: See previous question...I can barely remember some of the songs on the practice tapes!
Have you ever thought of re-releasing the “Deliver This Dream” masterpiece? Have you ever been asked by a label for this?
Kevin C.: Yes. We think about it all the time. Like I said, we hated it. It didn’t capture what we really sounded like. No label has asked us for it. There have been some that have illegally re-pressed it though. We’ve been contacted a few times about doing metal festivals here in the US. But again, I was like ‘show me the proof’. I’m older and wiser than I used to be.
Barry: Thank you for the “masterpiece” comment. Yes, that’s what we’ve all been talking about doing. If we can overcome the logistics problems with the distances and everyone can stay energetic and excited enough to see it through, I think we might just pull it off. No, no record label has approached us about re-releasing the album. This project was born simply out of us wanting to redo the album in a manner befitting how good our music was. At least now the recording equipment is way better than it used to be and with the Internet it’s far easier to share stuff.
Kevin L.: I hope that we can record another album and just put it on YouTube. I think that would be cool.
Dag: It would be cool to put something out with the same quality that was put into the music. Do you have a label that will pick us up?
And yes… which was the best and the worst moment on Xcel saga in general?
Kevin L.: Many "best" moments: First show. Worst moment: The last practice.
Kevin C.: There were tons of great moments. I’ve never worked so hard at something and loved every minute of it. The worst moment by far was when the band split up, it was like a divorce to me. I moved away, simply because it was too depressing. But there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about it and miss it, and that’s no joke. I was happy to see that the others feel the same way, so we’re going to see where it takes us.
Barry: The best moment would have to have been the January 3rd gig at the Port Arthur Civic Center. We had pulled off the biggest coup of any local band, before or since. The worst moment for me, and ultimately Xcel, was speaking to our first potential investor and learning that he was prepared to give us a $40,000 check and our manager turned it down. I know that’s after Xcel broke up, but it was heartbreaking to think that money could have gotten us to California and possibly a record contract.
Peter: Way too many great moments to mention. We were young and had a great time together as a band. The worst thing would have been the breakup of the band and not seeing the guys daily. It was almost like losing a loved one. We were and have always been friends. Being friends and having the same goal in mind for the band kept us going for as long as it did.
Dag: Anytime we would write a new song it was a great moment. The experience of that part of our lives with each other was special. We are brothers and will always have a bond that not many will ever understand. The worst moment was learning that the band, as we knew it, was over.
For what reason do you think that Xcel was not gone in a big career despite the fact that the band got ALL the talent and ability for something like this?
Kevin L.: Talent and ability is just one piece of the puzzle. We didn't have all the other pieces.
Kevin C.: Lack of exposure to the right people, the onset of the whole grunge sound, money,
luck/breaks, and location. That pretty much sums it up.
luck/breaks, and location. That pretty much sums it up.
Barry: We simply were not in a good area of the country where we could successfully promote the band or material. That’s very kind of you to say we had “...all the talent and ability”. We never felt like any one member was extraordinary, but that it was the combination of people, Kevin Luke, Kevin Cox, Dag Gabourel, Peter Voight and I, which made Xcel extraordinary. We all shared the same work ethic and we considered what we were doing as the utmost important thing in our lives. That combination was reflected in our music.
Are you stuck into Metal today? Do you listen to any Metal if not what other kinds of music?
Kevin C.: I’d have to say I probably listen to more of the whole European power metal thing than anyone else at this point. I like some of all kinds of music, but I always go back to that guitar, drums, and PUNCH. Here are the CDs I have in my car now: Primal Fear 16.6, Primal Fear Live in USA, Iron Maiden Live After Death, Disturbed, and UDO Mastercutor Live.
Barry: Yes, I still listen to a lot of hard rock and metal. I’ve recently picked up Black Country Communion and think it’s an awesome CD! I love Glenn Hughes voice, what a huge voice he has! Kevin Cox recently turned me on to Primal Fear and those guys sound great. They are more akin to what we were doing back then, great musicianship and great vocal work. I like what Evergrey is doing as well, their sound is awesome and what great musicians! I still love Iron Maiden, Rainbow, Deep Purple, Kansas, Rush and Black Sabbath with Ronnie James Dio. What a giant man and great front man and voice. There’s a huge hole in the rock-n-roll community since his loss.
Kevin L.: I listen to everything but country and rap...put that together and we call it "crap".
Peter: I still love metal today. At this time you would find I am listening to Breaking Benjamin, Sevendust, Creed, Iron Maiden, and Fly Leaf. I guess that is a mix of all kinds of music.
Dag: I listen to Rush, Steve Vai, Iron Maiden, Pre- Promised Land Queensryche and Dream Theater.
Is there anything more you want to add that I might have forgotten to ask or to mention?
Kevin C.: I can’t think of anything off the top of my head. It was our pleasure to give you a brief insight on the band and what is in the works. I’m ready to do it again!
Barry: I can’t think of anything. You’ve asked a lot of great questions, a lot of things I haven’t thought about in years and you’ve brought back a lot great memories as well! Thank you for that!
Peter: I think you have covered it all. I do have a question for you. When, where, and how did you find our album?
Chris: I first have heard the album through CD-r trading with a friend of mine. I was shocked from the very first listening. I could not believe that a band delivered such melodic and inspired Steel! I remember clearly that it was somewhere around 2001. From that specific time point the music of Xcel was stuck in my mind. The next big goal was to find an original copy of the record. I succeed getting one on a private sale some years later. Of course I always wanted to be able to track down some members of the band or the entire band for an interview. Well finally you have found me!
Kevin L.: Wish we'd have gotten back together 20 years ago! Would have considered touring then.
Dag: Nothing else for me. I’m curious like Peter, though. The single too.
Closing I want to mention that it was a dream for me to find and interview Xcel, I was searching the band for ages and finally you tracked me down. I do not know how to thank you for this. Close the interview as you like.
Kevin C.: Chris, we were happy that we could do this for you. I initially tracked you down to thank you. Your write-up was very complimentary, we appreciate it and you did it before anyone else. We’re thankful that the people over in Europe are keeping this type of music alive. And my hope is that when we are able to release new Xcel material that it will be viewed the same way we view it and maybe someday we can play at one of those festivals and all get together for a long awaited and overdue European Xcel family reunion – you’re invited!
Barry: You can’t imagine how much fun this has been for me! I can’t thank you enough for you taking the time to even develop all these questions and getting to the “heart of the matter” on what made the band tick!
I’m still amazed and humbled by the fact that our music is still out there and still being enjoyed. I find our album, now CD, on eBay all the time...how did it get there? It seems our music has travelled a lot farther than we ever did! I would like to think our stuff is that timeless...that lets me know we were headed in the right direction with our music. Chris, thank you again for taking the time to arrange all this and we wish you all the best for you and yours!
Peter: Thank you for taking the time to put this all together. It's been a blast to go back in time with someone who seems to appreciate what we did 20 (+) years ago. You are making this old man seem cool in the eyes of his kids. That's a hard thing to do now days. I hope we can do another interview with you when we release some new material. I can promise that it will sound 100% better than the DTD album. Who knows we might just see you in person one day on an Xcel European Tour.
Kevin L.: Thanks for your undying support! It's a long shot, but we might end up playing again!
Dag: Thank you for your dedication to Xcel. We really appreciate it! Maybe your interview will create some interest. We would love to give it another shot under the right circumstances.
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