INTERVIEW WITH HESSLER GUITARIST, SINGER AND FOUNDER IGZ KINCAID
Date: November 4, 2016
Photos: Geraldine Rodriguez (1st and 11th photos), Glenn Pine (2nd photo), Steve Hurta (5th, 8th, 10th and 12th photos), Ray C Sutliff (6th photo)
2014 TURNED OUT TO BE A YEAR FILLED WITH MANY HIGHS AND LOWS FOR CHICAGO, ILLINOIS, USA BASED ROCKERS HESSLER AND IT HAS TAKEN ALMOST TWO YEARS FOR THE BAND TO REGROUP FROM IT. IN JANUARY 2014, HESSLER’S LEAD SINGER LARIYAH DANIELS LEFT THE GROUP AFTER TWO ALBUMS (‘BAD BLOOD’ IN 2011 AND ‘COMES WITH THE TERRITORY’ IN 2012) AND JUST AS THE BAND WAS ON THE CUSP OF SOME BIG THINGS. DANIELS WAS QUICKLY REPLACED BY TEXAS BASED POWERHOUSE SINGER JESSIKILL WITH WHOM HESSLER RELEASED THE EP ‘GHOST DANCE’ WHICH LANDED THE #3 SLOT ON SLEAZE ROXX’S TOP TEN ALBUMS OF 2014.
BY NOVEMBER 2014, JESSIKILL, WHO HAD NEVER MADE THE PERMANENT MOVE FROM TEXAS TO ILLINOIS, LEFT HESSLER AND SOON AFTER GUITARIST FRANKIE “SNAKES” SPIRADA AND DRUMMER DEREK SPITERI DEPARTED AS WELL LEAVING ONLY BAND FOUNDER AND GUITARIST, IGZ KINCAID, AND BASSIST, ERIK MICHAEL, AS THE TWO LONE REMAINING BAND MEMBERS. AROUND THAT TIME, EL JINETE FILMS HAD JUST RELEASED THEIR DOCUMENTARY ABOUT HESSLER CALLED ‘THE LAST KAMIKAZIS OF HEAVY METAL.’ RATHER THAN CAPITALIZE ON THE FILM, KINCAID AND MICHAEL HAD LITTLE CHOICE BUT TO REGROUP, RETHINK AND RESTART THE HESSLER JUGGERNAUT.
HESSLER HAVE JUST RELEASED A NEW EP TITLED ‘SKELETON CREW’ WITH KINCAID NOW ALSO HANDLING LEAD VOCALS AND MICHAELS SWITCHING FROM BASS TO GUITAR. SLEAZE ROXX CAUGHT UP WITH KINCAID WHO REFLECTED AND CANDIDLY SPOKE ABOUT THE IMPACT OF THE EVENTS OF 2014 ON HESSLER AND OF COURSE THE BAND’S NEW EP. SLEAZE ROXX HAS A FEELING THAT THE BEST IS YET TO COME FOR KINCAID, MICHAEL AND HESSLER!
Sleaze Roxx: Congratulations on the new album! It’s been a long time coming and the album seems to have gone a heavier direction. Would you agree?
Igz Kincaid: Yeah, but I feel that was always just kind of cooking underneath the surface of the band of wanting to be heavier and more aggressive. But with a female front [singer], unless they have a specific type of voice, it’s really limiting on what kind of songs that you can put out and have them sing over. I think that we have a lot more freedom to go now where we have naturally always wanted to as compared to in the past. I am sure that the end result is going to represent just that.
Hessler‘s new song “Killing Machine” released in October 2016:
iTunes – https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/killing-machine/id1169163058?i=1169163153 Physical Copy @ hessler.bigcartel.com LYRICS: Do I go left, do I go right Go straight ahead, turn off the light My god, which way leads out One wrong move, madness unreal Spiraling down, asking for more There’s no escape, nowhere to go Angel above, don’t cry for
Sleaze Roxx: Obviously, the big change for this new album is that you are handling lead vocals. Would you say that this was a change that you wanted to make or more a choice out of frustration with what has happened with your two last lead singers?
Igz Kincaid: I’d say a little bit of both. There have been a lot of fans in the history of the band and even close friends, colleagues, peers that have said “Hey man. You just sing from the get go.” And it’s always been in the back of my head for the very start. I think I’ve always wanted to put more of an emphasis on playing guitar and running around on stage and feeling less chained down but, it’s a little bit out of necessity and a little bit out of desire. It just seemed to be the right move going forward and having Jess, she almost served as a middle man because I think that if we had gone to me singing, or another male singer, from Lariyah [Daniels], people would have just said, “Oh! They couldn’t get anybody better.” Well, we replaced her with someone who had an ungodly voice but the work ethic and everything else just was not on the same page as us – or at least the focus was not on the same goal – so having me in the front, I can always count on me not to let myself down.
Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs] That’s for sure. That’s for sure. One ironic part is that in Hessler’s “Never Lost My Way” video, you’re auditioning singers.
Igz Kincaid: Oh yeah!
Sleaze Roxx: When it came down to you, it says “Dear God NO.”
Igz Kincaid: I drew that. I made that on purpose. But if you take a look at whose name is capitalized. If that is not foreshadowing, I don’t know what is. You know, there’s a lot of this stuff that I’ll throw here and there, and it does not really matter in the grand scheme of things because we are not some monstrous band but if we were the size of Van Halen, I think that it would be pretty cool. I love it when there are little clips and things like that. It’s funny that you notice that. That makes me laugh.
Sleaze Roxx: Cool! How do you find singing and playing guitar at the same time?
Igz Kincaid: I love it man. When I started playing guitar, I was self-taught. I started off just with playing the Judas Priest and Iron Maiden DVDs, standing and moving at the same time it seems. I didn’t do anything very well at the beginning at all but over time, it just kind of came together. I think the only part that I still have to figure out is pacing myself and breathing but just like any other human being or performer, I am looking forward to watching myself grow as a vocalist and as a perfomer. So, it is going to be a fun adventure.
Sleaze Roxx: Given that you are now singing, are you still doing the same amount of leads in terms of lead guitar or are you doing more rhythm stuff.
Igz Kincaid: I am. Frank [“Snakes” Spirada] was a much more proficient guitar player than I am, and so is Erik [Michael]. Erik has always been a fantastic guitar player. He just played bass because Frank and I were already a team and just the transition of him to bass guitar made sense. Now that I am singing more, with a couple of the new songs, we have dual leads because that is always going to be a part of what the band is. But I am giving a little bit more of a reign to Erik because he is a fantastic player. I enjoy listening to his leads and also on stage, it gives me a moment to catch my breath instead of going 100 miles per hour the whole song.
Sleaze Roxx: Speaking of Erik, he’s done the switch from bass to guitar. Did that just happen when Frank left or was there always discussion that he wanted to play guitar?
Igz Kincaid: No. He’s such a patient and understanding guy. I know that deep down inside, he always wanted to play guitar but he understood his role in the band and I wish that more musicians were that humble. I love hearing stories of guitar players in bands that in the end are very good yet choose a different role. For example, I remember reading Angus Young once said, “You know, I am a great guitar player but you should hear Malcolm solo, play lead.” Which means that Malcolm could be a deadlier player but he liked what his role was in the band – being a bad ass rhythm guitar player and you know, holding out the meat section of the band. With Erik, there were times when we’d parted with Jess, and I was like “Look guys, what if Erik switches to guitar and I play bass and sing.” I did not mind giving up playing guitar as much as I love it just to keep the band going forward and help us stay the course. No musician should have an ego of “Hey, I should be playing this. I should be playing that.” You should do what is best for the band. It’s just kind of a natural progression.
Sleaze Roxx: It was kind of surprising to see Jess leave but it was even more surprising to see Frankie and Derek [Spiteri] leave. However, Erik stayed the course with you. What was the impact of the other members leaving?
Igz Kincaid: Well, when we got together, I thought just with us parting ways with Jess, that the four of us would continue together and I thought that I would be able to – for lack of better term – convince Frankie and Derek that me singing is the right decision going forward but they seemed to have their minds set on different kinds of music and different responsibilities of like ‘cause you are getting older. So, it was just… Erik stayed the course because we share the same vision and it’s funny because with everybody leaving, I think the impact of it all brought Erik and I closer together than we’ve ever been before. You know, you work with what you got. It’s like an episode of the ‘Walking Dead.’ Everybody starts the journey but people drop out here and there. Some of them stay a long time, some of them are gone as fast as they came. The ones that continue the course build a stronger bond and hopefully create better art than they did before.
Sleaze Roxx: In terms of the new line-up, it looks like you guys were auditioning for new members at one point but now you have sort of settled on a touring line-up. Am I correct on that?
Igz Kincaid: Yes and no. We are always on the lookout for somebody but we kind of made the decision that “Hey look, we’re going to get this first release put out” similar to what I did with ‘Bad Blood’ of just getting it out and have new music out there — something tangible for people to connect with and grow from there. I feel like it’s easier to pick up or have a good musician join the ranks with new music to show him versus showing old videos of old members and old successes. I mean, that was great and amazing all in its time but anybody coming in that’s new, they’re like “OK. Well, what do you have new to show me?” So now we have something. We are planning for a new music video in December and we are already lining up concerts so. I am actually going on a tour with The Last Vegas through England and Germany to roadie.
Sleaze Roxx: Cool!
Igz Kincaid: Yeah! I am looking forward to it and hopefully will lay down some ground work for a future tour by Hessler. As soon as I am back, I think we’ll put the pedal to the metal in finding permanent members but I have been thinking about this a lot. Everybody wants to be the Aerosmith where you have a consistent line-up, you’re a band, you’re a team and whether you love or hate each other, it seems to work. You’ve got to play the cards that you’re dealt with you know? From the get go, I’ve always wanted a band like Mötley Crüe, W.A.S.P. or Iron Maiden where everybody is focused and in the Mötley Crüe sense, their own character. You can’t force a circle into a triangle shape. You’ve got to play with what you got. It seems that in 2016 with people focusing on so many things in life that if you have a set one or two, or three or four or whatever have you, to run the band and create the art, and have somebody else help out when it comes to live playing, it just seems the way to go.
Sleaze Roxx: Yeah, definitely. It’s an interesting model and it looks like you guys are sort of at the forefront in that regard. What about the new material? How would you compare it to older Hessler material?
Igz Kincaid: I think it is more aggressive and more metal. Erik and I are definitely classic heavy metal fans. I think that in recent times, Frank [“Snakes” Spirada] had drifted away from that. Over the years, he and I differed on what we wanted to play as guitar players so we didn’t mesh as well when we were younger where Erik and I are like a ying and a yang. I think that I am a little bit more melodic and he’s a little bit heavier, which seems to be a good blend. I got into this because I wanted to play heavy metal. It’s my favorite… it’s what makes me happy and that is what I naturally put out of my body and the energy that I exude. Erik is the same way so the new songs are more aggressive with a little more bite. People have said that it’s a little thrashy. We’ll see where it goes. There’s nothing wrong with that. I don’t have the vocal style at all to play pretty ballads or poppy songs — not that I am knocking that. Like I said earlier, you have to play the cards that you are dealt and we look forward to being a son of the bitch aggressive raw nasty band!
Sleaze Roxx: Do you find it difficult singing the songs that Lariyah and Jess would have sang?
Igz Kincaid: Hmmm. I mean… no, because for 90% of the old Hessler material, I wrote the lyrics. I guess that the only difficult thing for me is that — especially for any songs that Lariyah had sang that I had written — how she sang it, she changed the cadence of it so it’s very difficult for me to remember the original way. And when I do, it’s like being a kid in a toys store and finding $100 on the floor, you’re like “Oh! That’s what it was!”
Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs]
Igz Kincaid: I’m not finding it difficult, I’m enjoying it. You know, I’m not going to be able to hit highs or the delivery that Jess had or the smoothness and softness that Lariyah might have but I’m my own entity and hopefully people like it and I’ll keep building on it and keep growing. I do think that I’m much more commanding than they are when it comes to being on stage. There’s no way that — if you want to sell a product, nobody can sell it better than the person who created it.
Sleaze Roxx: How hard has it been these last two years because you guys have had to lay low while Jess has released an EP and stuff like that? Was it difficult?
Igz Kincaid: Yeah. It has been. I tried to travel as much as I could. We just kind of caught up on life because between 2011 to 2014, late 2014, for two to three years, we were just non-stop touring and band, band, band, band. That’s all we did. I am excited now to have ‘Skeleton Crew’ out and to be back on that horse but it was refreshing to be off for awhile to just kind of regroup and get life together — jobs, travel, spend time with family and everything else. But it’s torturous because in the last few years, I’ve caught so many fantastic bands and so many amazing opportunities will come through Chicago [Illinois, USA]. If we were active, it would have helped the band going forward and our career in general but if you don’t have your weapons loaded and ready to go, you can’t jump on the opportunity and it sucks! It feels like being a pitcher in a bullpen. Everybody is going to the World Series but you have to sit and wait ’cause you’re injured.
Sleaze Roxx: Good analogy!
Igz Kincaid: That’s the best way I can — you know, it sucks man! We love playing on stage more than anything in the world and in the past two years, we’ve played what? Three concerts [August 20, 2015; October 27, 2015; and March 6, 2016]? All were fantastic but it’s like, “Man. I need more.” Any musician will tell you that. It’s just like a natural high that you get once at a good concert and every single one, you try to get it again. Being on the shelf is not fun at all but it’s also good to be patient and take a backseat for a little bit. Not necessarily let people forget about you but bring them something new that they can be excited about. As I shipped out pre-orders, it was impressive to me that that many fans had ordered ‘Skeleton Crew’ when we haven’t done anything in the past one and a half, two years.
Sleaze Roxx: Do you think that it helped the new songs having so much time to put them together?
Igz Kincaid: I do. Yes and no. There’s the old — Pete Townsend or Blackie Lawless or somebody said, “The hardest thing to do is know when to let a song go.” They’ve been redone ten million times to the point that I don’t even like listening to them now because I’ve heard them so many times. I have to detach myself. It’s nice because you’re right. Yeah, we got to take our time and build them slowly up all the way to destroying them back to the ground and rebuilding them again whereas with ‘Comes With The Territory‘ and ‘Ghost Dance‘, we only had… A lot of it was rushed. That was the complaint that we always had. We definitely took our time on this and that was nice. It really was. Less stressful — that’s the best way to put it.
Sleaze Roxx: Hessler had a documentary that came out [The Last Kamikazis Of Heavy Metal was released at the end of 2014] was really cool to watch but it was probably bad timing because of the state of the band. What did you think…
Igz Kincaid: Terrible timing! That’s a shame. Bilana and Marina [Grozdanova] from El Jinete Films, the girls that did the documentary — when you look at it, it’s cool because it’s almost like a time capsule. It’s shitty because like you said, we couldn’t capitalize on it. It was doing really well. I haven’t watched it in two years. I’ll have to just to kind of see what it’s about. [Sigh] We could have done a lot more with that than we did but the girls have said, “You know what? What if that was kind of the pre-story and now we are doing the actual story?” We’ll see. You can never count an old dog out of a fight.
Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs] So what are Hessler’s plans for 2017? Are you going to let me know what song that you are shooting a video for?
Igz Kincaid: Not yet because I don’t know if it’s going to be this one. It’s still kind of in the works but the plan is as soon as I am back here after Thanksgiving, I hope that in December, well put the video together. We would have done it earlier but you know, it seems like a natural progression, so first we’ll do the video and we’re starting to line up concerts in January. We’re playing with Dirkschneider. We’re doing his last run of the Accept songs so we have a show with him in January. And we’ve just been put on a bill with Hammerfall in April, which is going to be pretty cool. As soon as I am back, we are going pedal to the metal trying to find — possibly permanent — a permanent bass player and a permanent drummer that share the same goals and continue growing from there. I guess the good thing is — I look at the past years and successes and failures. We got in the ring. We lasted a couple of rounds here and there. We got our asses kicked and you live and you learn from it. It’s just a notch on the belt and an asset now as getting back into the game now, I don’t have to say to myself, “Oh. What do I do here? How do we put the CD out? How do we book the show?” I already know all of that and that knowledge is priceless ’cause now that we have new music and once that new video is out, we’re back in it man — 100%!
Sleaze Roxx: Cool! One last question for you. I think at the beginning of the band, you had toyed with being the lead singer but that never materialized into the long-term. Do you regret not taking the lead singer duties right from the start?
Igz Kincaid: Yes! Yes! Tremendously. If I could go back in time, would we have had the same results, more success or less success, I don’t know. I can’t predict that. But if you ask me deep down inside, I think even with the documentary, there’s footage that isn’t in there when we first started, I kind of voiced how I honestly felt. I should have just kept going with it from the beginning. It’s just at the time, it was very hard to convince… For some reason, if you have a girl in the band, everybody wants to be in the band.
Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs]
Igz Kincaid: It just seemed that way. I mean c’mon! Guys and girls — it’s just a natural interaction. The thing that always bothered me the most was as soon as we had Lariyah as our singer, of course our male fan base increased but our female fan base decreased. When I sang maybe four or five shows, there were a lot of girls in the crowd. What’s the old saying? “Where the girls are, the guys are going to go because they’re going there to meet girls [laughs].” I mean, that’s how it worked or at least, I think so, in the ’80s with gals going to watch heavy metal bands, guys going to meet them and guys ending up being fans. It just grows the whole scene but I always felt, looking in hindsight, being myself on stage and dressing the way we do, headbanging and running around, and having a lot of sweaty, older guys in some instances standing right in front of us… But they’re not there to see us. They are there to look at Lariyah’s body and see if they can catch a glimpse of this or that. Yeah! I would have definitely sang from the get go. I think that we wouldn’t have had the problems that we did. I don’t know if we would have been as successful but we definitely would have been metal and that’s what counts to me at the end.
Sleaze Roxx: I have one more question for you and you don’t have to answer if you don’t want to. When I was looking at the documentary, it seemed to me that you and Lariyah were a couple. Would you agree or can you confirm?
Igz Kincaid: Eeeerrrrr… [long pause] Not for a long time. Not for a long time. We were in the band together for three years and towards the end, like I said earlier, I guess a natural attraction happens when working with somebody for so long. What that was at the time, it definitely didn’t… Well, it didn’t distract from the band and from our success and being focused. She was very focused at the time. I was very focused. Well, I have always been but like I said, it seemed to be a natural thing that happened over time. I don’t know. Was it a good idea or a bad idea? I don’t know. I’m only human.
Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs] Well, how about this? Eventually, Lariyah got into another relationship and then she left the band to pursue that relationship really.
Igz Kincaid: Yeah.
Sleaze Roxx: So what was the impact? The fact is that you two were in a relationship and then you must have broken up to a certain level because she was in a new relationship, and she left the band.
Igz Kincaid: Ummm, no because that stuff happened at the end of our last tour. She just started becoming distant from everything. You know, it’s funny. Somebody close to me had asked me that the other day and I remember telling her, “Look, what happens to me, I don’t fucking care. Don’t hurt the band. Whatever you do, do not.” Personal feelings — that’s personal but the heart, soul, effort and everything else, money, hard work that you put into music and trying to make something of it, you hurt everybody involved. You can’t do that. You can’t do that. You can’t go about it that way. It’s just too much hard work. I think that the way she did that at the time was very selfish but once again, it’s just life. You live and you learn. I thought that we soldiered on from that really well. We lost a lot of opportunities because we looked like a wounded animal and we tried to regroup as much as we could. You know, we were right on the verge of three labels talking to us — one that was a major label — and an European tour basically in the works. We were just about to buy the plane tickets and then all that stuff goes down the drain and back to square one. We tried to recoup as much as we could with bringing Jess in quickly, which is why we did it. I’m not stupid to think that, “There’s nobody in this entire country of the United States of America to sing for this band so we’re going to pull somebody from Texas that is 18 hours away.” It’s not just a rash decision. It’s “Oh crap! We have all this stuff ready to go. If we don’t come up with something right away, we are going to lose all these opportunities.” So, we made our move and it worked as long as it did. You go back to the drawing board and now, I’m in charge. We’ll see how it all develops from here.
Sleaze Roxx: Well, thank you. Is there anything else you want to add?
Igz Kincaid: Ummm. Let me see. Yeah. If you haven’t caught Iron Maiden, please do because Bruce Dickinson, even post kicking cancer’s ass, is still the most amazing frontman / singer of all-time.
Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs]
Igz Kincaid: And support metal! Support metal as much as you can.