Interview with: Attacker's Bob Mitchell

January 2006

Attacker - logo

Established in 1983, Attacker have made themselves a name for being a band that creates quality metal without truly breaking into the mainstream. The band's vocalist, Bob Mitchell, was kind enough to educate us about the band's long history, and their current affairs:

Attacker - The UnkownI'd like to start with the new album, "The Unknown", when will the album be released?

Bob Mitchell: Well then, why don't we brother? I want to first thank you for the opportunity of this interview. We haven't established a release date as of yet. As you may, or may not know, our original bass player (Lou Ciarlo) has returned to the band so he's in the middle of laying down his bass tracks for the album. His sessions are going just great! He's got that fire again and he's ready to hit it big with us once again. We're all happy to have him back in the band.

Bob Mitchell of AttackerWhat can we expect the album to sound like in comparison with Soul Taker, the band's last album?

Bob Mitchell: I'm not sure if I could answer that question. But I will say this about it. With "Soul Taker", I know we put out a strong record, but this one, "The Unknown", I feel, will be better. I really don't want to discuss as to what the album will be about and all that. I always trust the judgment of the fans. After all, they are the ones who decided that "Battle" was to be a classic, that "Second Coming" became their favorite Power Metal album and the fans are also the ones that embraced the "Taker" album! So with "The Unknown" they will decide its fate. They'll either make it their own once again, like our past albums, or they'll tell us "quit while your ahead" (laughs). Seriously though, I know the fans will love this record because we love it and that's the connection we have with our friends and fans. But if you're looking for specifics, I can only say this and that is I feel, overall, our songwriting has matured. These songs really started out as raw as you could possibly imagine but they have cultivated themselves into some great pieces. That's just my view on it. It is a complete band effort. The songs are heavier on this new album than they were on the last one, yet, we have maintained the Attacker sound and character that has made us the band we are. Not much of a departure because we know what works, but, the direction has certainly gone heavier.

Can you tell us a bit about its title, and the lyrical content of the album?

Bob Mitchell: This is my spin on it mind you. But when the fans listen to it, they, again, will have their own interpretation of it. I got my ideas, for lyrics and themes, from watching classic horror films of the silent-film era. More or less, the German expressionist films like "Caligari", "Nosferatu" and the works of Lon Chaney Sr. So, I got these ideas from the various films I had watched and I dictated these ideas to the lyrics that have turned into our new album. My guitarist Mike (Benetatos) and my drummer Mike (Sabatini) contributed lyrics as well. Nothing philosophical or political. They're just lyrics that seem to fit in with the mood of the music itself. I have to be honest with you brother, Attacker are a Heavy Metal band, we're entertainers. Our purpose is to give our fans a good show and forget about the real world for a little while. I just can't get into a deep discussion on what the lyrics are about. As for the albums title, I took that title from a Lon Chaney film of the same name. It's a great movie and I figured since we're not really sure what realm we're going to be entering or how much more good fortune we could still have, I feel as though that this title is more than appropriate. All I know and all we know is that the album was a great experience to make and I look forward to recording more albums in the future with my guys. In closing, when the album comes out, enjoy it because we enjoyed making it for our fans.

Attacker - 2005 lineup

I understand there have been some line-up changes, can you specify?

Bob Mitchell: Sure can, as I was alluding to earlier in this interview, our original Bass player Lou Ciarlo has returned home to Attackerland brother. Again, it's great to have him back! Now for the benefit of those of you reading this that may not know, Louie was the member responsible for penning "THE SECOND COMING" as well as co-writing most of the "SOUL TAKER" album. As for Felix (bassist Torres), he basically left on his own accord. I'm really sorry that Felix is no longer with us. He did a great job in helping resurrect Attacker. I, personally, will always be grateful for his contribution to the band. The truth is, he just wasn't happy. Despite our recent successes, he just didn't appreciate the rigors of the road. He enjoyed himself when we performed and met with fans but he was just going through the motions. Away from it all, he's a great guy with a good, good heart. He also has a boatload of talent. Before his departure, he contributed some great pieces of music for "The Unknown". I'll miss him and I really hope he finds what he's looking for. Now having Lou back is great! Like I said before, he's in the studio right now working on "The Unknown" and it sounds great. I really had no idea how much I missed him. In all honesty if Lou didn't agree to come back, the band would cease to exist because it wouldn't be fair to the fans to have Attacker as a revolving door for a band. So with Lou back in the fold, it just legitimizes why we are here all that much more. It also solidifies the purpose of our reunion. I read a review somewhere awhile back and the writer proclaimed that "this is a comeback reunion that finally makes sense". I couldn't agree more and again, having Lou gives us even more credibility than we've ever had before. He looks great and he's playing better than ever. Along with the new album, Lou will be on stage with us next year when we visit Europe again in 2006. So welcome home brother, I'm sure the fans share the same sentiment. We've come full circle and it's time for a new era to begin and it begins with "The Unknown".

I understand you're planning a live rendition of the complete Battle At Helm's Deep album, how did that take shape and why?
Bob Mitchell: We just decided that it was time bring it to the forefront once again. In our regular shows, of course, we perform several cuts from the "Battle" album and they get great reactions. So when we were planning our trip to Germany this past summer, we just started talking about the album and we felt it was right to give the fans what they wanted. Performing the "Battle" album in Europe, especially in Germany, was an absolute dream come true for me and I know for the rest of the band as well. It was our way of saying 'thank you' to our fans for the years of support and for welcoming us into their homeland with open arms. The crowd was amazingly vocal throughout the "Battle" show we did in Hamburg. The album was performed in sequence and we did "The End" from "Soul Taker" for an encore. It was great and we will perform that show here in the US later this year as well as some spot shows during our US and European tours in 2006.

A bit about the history of the band, how did the band originally form?
Bob Mitchell: Oh God the history question again (Laughs)... sure thing. I love telling the story especially when we are being introduced to new fans. Please understand that this will be one of the longest answers, I believe, you will ever get (Laughs), OK? Alright then, here we go. Wow this goes way back just so you understand. I've been into music all my life. My first exposure to music was Dean Martin when I was five years old. Dean was a great entertainer. Besides, if you think about it, Dean had a Metal attitude back then, you know. Wine, Women and Song. I mean isn't that what Metal is all about? He's my showbiz idol. So from Dean it evolved into The Beatles then Deep Purple, KISS and it just snowballed from there which of course led to my involvement in bands and so forth. Now let's see, the first album I ever bought was "KISS ALIVE". The first Metal album I ever bought was "MAIDEN JAPAN". My love for Metal has, obviously, never diminished and it never will, but, even after all these years I still listen to Dean Martin. Not to get off track but KISS were Metal Pioneers! In my view, they have certainly influenced an entire generation of Headbangers as far as I'm concerned. So yes, in a sense, I would consider them to be Metal, based on the intensity of their live performances and albums like "Hotter Than Hell", "Love Gun", "Creatures Of The Night" and "Revenge". It was because of bands like KISS, BLACK SABBATH, SAXON and JUDAS PRIEST that inspired me to become an entertainer. I was in several bands before Attacker. Doing mostly cover songs by QUEEN, UFO, SCORPOINS, LED ZEPPELIN. I was in my first band when I was fourteen yeas old. The band was called PHAZE and we covered bands like THE WHO, LED ZEPPELIN, The DOORS, JETHRO TULL, CREAM and we played at backyard parties in the summer months then during the school year we did some battle of the bands type of shows. After that I joined a band called BLAST and that's when I started getting into the heavier style of music. I remember covering bands like NAZARETH, UFO, DEEP PURPLE which at that time, well even until now, they are my favorite bands. So it was also around that time period when I was introduced to the music of JUSA PRIEST because I had to learn "Deceiver" and I really got hooked big time. "Sad Wings of Destiny" has to be one of the greatest Metal albums ever! So anyway, It was during my stint with BLAST that I started playing the club circuit. Back then the drinking age had just turned nineteen. I was, I believe, sixteen by then and my band mates who were well into their twenties protected me from the club owners finding out my real age and as we got popular the club owners turned the other way so to speak because, very much like today, their main concern was how much money they made for the night and I'm glad to say that they were usually very happy. So during my formative years I went to school, worked a part time job after school at a liquor store, after work I rehearsed and played shows on the weekends. It was a great learning experience. I learned a great deal about work ethics which I still adhere to this very day. Well, as time went on BLAST had broken up because a couple of the members had gotten married so a short time after that is when I hooked up with WARLOC and of course as you and your readers now know, the rest is history. So here I am twenty-plus years later, still goin' strong, not bad eh? Now if you want some specifics I will continue. I guess you can say I was already a seasoned performer at that time so, well, yes I sang for about five years before even joining Warlock. I was brought into the band by Mike (drummer Sabatini). Attacker, of course and eventually, was my first professional band. Prior to that I was in cover bands and so on, what have you. As WARLOC, and we did mostly cover material with some originals including "Slayer's Blade" and "Battle" which were the first songs the band wrote together. This was even before Jim (Mooney) joined us. When he did join, he and I wrote "(Call On) The Attacker". It was the first song we ever collaborated on and of course it has since become our signature piece whenever we do live performances. One thing for sure, we will always perform "Call On". It's one of my personal favorites and the kids still love that song. Then of course from WARLOC we became ATTACKER and the question would be WHY?? Well that's easy. It's because Doro (Pesch) had the name and it was Mike's idea to use the name Attacker because we had that little song called (Call On) The Attacker, I think you might know it, eh? It had a great ring to it, the band name that is, and it's been ours ever since. There was really no discussion after that everyone loved the name.

Why did it break up in 1988?
Bob Mitchell: I actually left in 1986, I appreciate your inquisitiveness but I must insist that the reasons for me leaving the band in 1986 have been well documented and it was an unfortunate occurrence. Obviously I have moved on since then and, as you very well know, I'm back where I truly belong. I wasn't around for any of what happened between 1986 and 1988 so I couldn't give you an answer or even form an opinion. All I know is that they put out a great album called "The Second Coming" and that they had broken up shortly thereafter. But you know it's not really important to me or for that matter, your readers. Our history has been well publicized and well documented. We've all moved on and it eventually brought us back to the now and we're ready for more great successes.

Bob Mitchell of AttackerWhy did you leave the band at the time?

Bob Mitchell: I wasn't happy with the way things were going at that time. But trust me brother, I was no help, nor was I an angel in that situation. At the risk of repeating myself, I just moved on and never looked back. I will never know what happened to Attacker after I left but again, it's not important to me nor the rest of the band because we are together again and THAT is what's important.

What were the reasons for its reformation?

Bob Mitchell: I think Heavy Metal needed a kick in the ass and we were the band most qualified to do so. I'm kidding of course, although there is some truth to what I just said........ but the actual reason was that it was time. The anger was gone and I really started appreciating and loving the band again. So, I eluded to this in another interview. I decided to make amends and attempt to bring Attacker back to life again. This was back in March of 2003. So one day I just e-mailed Mike (Sabatini- drummer) and I said 'Hey brother, miss you'. He e-mailed me right back and then we started talking regularly and then it dawned on me to suggest reforming the band again. So, long and short, Mike had a cd of some demo stuff that eventually became the 'Soul Taker' album. On the first listen it felt right, very natural to me. Shortly thereafter, I met with the rest of the band and we then played some of the old stuff and it really just fell into place and we proceeded forward and I'm proud to say that I have finally come home. From that first rehearsal to this very moment, it has been great ride and there's no stopping us. The chemistry is there, the intensity is there. I look forward to greater and bigger prospects in our future. I'll say this, if it ends now I would have no regrets. Plus most importantly the fans win on this one.

I understood that the band actually split into two fractions for a certain name, you leading a group called Vyndykator, can you tell us about that?

Bob Mitchell: Yes I started a version of Attacker back in 2000 but, in short, it didn't work and looking back now, it was a slap in the face to the guys that helped start the whole Attacker movement and it is a decision that I made. Was it a good one? No not at all but out of that came Vyndykator and ultimately the reformation of the Attacker that everyone is now talking about. During my time with Vyndykator and Alchemy X, Attacker were writing what would become the 'Soul Taker' album. After a while, it was time to go back home. I love what I did with Vyn and A-X and it will always be special to me. Again, I am back where I belong and I tell you pallie, the fans would no doubt, agree. If I may, I'll give you some insight on Vyndykator and all that we've done. Again and to be clear on things, Vyn came about after a failed attempt to revive Attacker. In hindsight, I'm glad it happened because this is the best thing that could have happened for me personally. I'm proud of my past but, quite obviously, I have moved on to other bands throughout my career. Anyhow, a reviewer once described Vyndykator's music in this way, and I couldn't agree more. Our music was described as "part heavy, part angry". Overall, we were a Heavy Metal Band in the purest sense. All the musicians that comprise Vyndykator composed and arranged the music and I contributed to most of the lyrics. Steve (bassist Ratchen) and Rob (guitarist Oriani) contributed lyrics as well but the bulk of our songs, lyrically, was done by me.Overall, it was a complete group effort. If you were to ask me to compare the two bands, I don't believe that would be possible. I think that they are both different. Vyndykator was a more raw sounding band whereas Attacker is a more polished, smoother sounding. The Vyndyaktor album itself was a very in your face album. I thought it was a departure for me and I was able to sing in a much lower register. 'Heaven Sent From Hell' is a very dark and brooding type of album. It really stands on its own merit. Vyn was another great band that I was fortunate to have been a part of.

What were the band members doing before its reformation?

Bob Mitchell: Like I said, they were writing for "Soul Taker" and looking for a singer. After a while pallie, it was time to go back and I did.

In what ways do you feel the band had changed since its first albums?

Bob Mitchell: To generalize, we've matured. As individuals, as musicians, as people that are wise to the business. I feel that it's not so much that we've changed because our hearts for what we do are still in it. Ummmm...... honestly Alon, Attacker has matured and have come to truly appreciate what we have and what we will have in the future.

One of the things about the "Soul Taker" album was that it managed to retain the 80's area feel that most of the other veteran bands lose with current releases, how do you think you managed that?

Bob Mitchell: Attacker has picked up where it left off. I absolutely love this album. It was fun writing it, rehearsing it, recording it, I mean everything about this album is special. In a live setting, the songs have really caught on with our fans. To come back after 14 years of non-activity and put out a strong album like this, to me, is an accomplishment to be proud of. You see the best analogy or comparison I can give is this. If you go see a band like KANSAS, what would you expect? You would expect them to perform in the style that made them who they are. You wouldn't expect them to do a thrash song or a doom style of music. They would get booed out of the building right? This applies to bands like MANOWAR, JUDAS PRIEST and many bands that have created their own style. Attacker has its own style and that's what worked and continues to work for us. We consciously knew that to change would be fatal to a band like ours. So here's the best way to close on this, would you expect FRANK SINATRA to sing "Iron Man"? So many bands have strayed from their style and have lost their audience and when they attempt to go back to their style, it gives the impression that they know they really screwed up not only themselves but the fans that put them there and in many cases, it takes forever to recover from it, if they recover at all. So why change? Attacker may take a heavier direction here and there but the style will ALWAYS be the same.

Would you say the band's music will appeal more to old-school metalheads, or to younger ones?

Bob Mitchell: Our live shows have shown us that our music has crossed over to fans of all ages. So, truthfully, I couldn't form an opinion nor could I be objective with regards to our music. I think that the style will appeal to our older fans whereas the music is simple enough to appeal to our younger fans. This is something that we never planned on doing, its just turned out that way.

The last few years have seen a growing number of 80's metal bands releasing new album, which ones did you like?

Bob Mitchell: Definitely the last few albums by ANVIL, SAXON have been great "One For All" by RAVEN is an excellent record as well as "Angel Of Retribution" by JUDAS PRIEST and "Rock The Block" by KROKUS which are, currently, my two personal favorites. It's all just great music and I really idolize these bands so it's great to see them still putting out great music for us, the fans!

What kind of live shows are you planning once the album is out?

Bob Mitchell: Same as always brother. Loud and memorable!

Thank you for your time,
Alon Miasnikov
January 2006
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