INTERVIEW WITH BANSHEE FOUNDER AND GUITARIST TERRY DUNN
Date: March 4, 2020
BANSHEE ARE YET ANOTHER GREAT ROCK GROUP FROM THE LATE ’80S / EARLY ’90S THAT PACKED IT IN FOR THE FIRST TIME WITH THE ADVENT OF GRUNGE IN THE EARLY NINETIES. DURING THAT TIME, BANSHEE RELEASED THE ALBUMS ‘CRY IN THE NIGHT’ (1986), ‘RACE AGAINST TIME’ (1989) AND ‘TAKE ‘EM BY STORM’ (1993). THE GROUP REFORMED FOR A NUMBER OF SHOWS DURING THE FOLLOWING YEARS BEFORE BANSHEE FOUNDER AND GUITARIST TERRY DUNN DECIDED TO FORGE AHEAD WITH NEW LEAD VOCALIST GEORGE CALL IN 2011. THAT RESULTED IN THE TWO HEAVIER BANSHEE ALBUMS ‘MINDSLAVE’ (2012) AND ‘THE MADNESS‘ (2019). SLEAZE ROXX CAUGHT UP WITH DUNN TO DISCUSS BANSHEE’S LATEST ALBUM ‘THE MADNESS’, HIS DIFFICULT RELATIONSHIP WITH FORMER SINGER TOMMY LEE FLOOD AND MUCH MORE!
Sleaze Roxx: First of all, congratulations on Banshee’s latest studio album ‘The Madness‘. It’s a great and very powerful album but it’s also very different from the Banshee albums of the late ’80s / early ’90s. Why did you decide to go in such a different musical direction with ‘Mindslave’ in 2012 and with ‘The Madness’ last year?
Terry Dunn: Hi Olivier. First off thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me about Banshee and our music. I really appreciate it! The change in Banshee’s musical direction was a very natural transition actually. ‘Mindslave’ should have been the record we should have done after the EP but we went in a different direction then. I always wanted Banshee to stay heavy. That’s what we were best at. We were never meant to be a commercial band in my opinion. Of course my musical tastes have changed a bit over the years so this was a chance for me to write the kind of music I always wanted to write for Banshee. Actually, this would be the same music I would be writing even if it was the original line-up. Also, this was my first attempt at writing lyrics for the band as well. I wanted to write songs that more people could relate to like addiction, and mental illness, things that are really happening that impact people’s lives, [and] not ’80s pussy music. Also, anytime you add different members, they influence the musical style as well, [singer] George [Call] made a huge impact on the new music. The guy is fantastic! Him and me work very well together with zero friction. I love that guy!
Sleaze Roxx: Speaking of the lyrics, the new album seems deeply personal with the lyrics touching on mental illness issues. Why did you decide to tackle this theme and how has mental illness affected your life journey?
Terry Dunn: I was talking to Steve [Susman] our manager one day and we were both in a kind of a down mood and came to the conclusion that we both shared something in common, which was depression and anxiety. So that’s where the concept or direction for ‘The Madness’ came from. Steve had some lyrics about how he was feeling and I had a song I was working on called “The Madness” which is the title track for the record. Steve also had some other lyrics that we ended up using, which turned into “Demons In My Head”, “Psychosis” and “Dead Inside” which are tracks on ‘The Madness.’ Like I said before, we wanted to write songs that people could relate to and everyone has bad days.
Banshee‘s “Demons In My Head” song (from The Madness album):
Demons In My Head- From Banshee’s “The Madness” Album. Copyright 2019 Banshee/Double Trouble Productions. Production Rights Visionary Noise Records 2019. Lyr…
Sleaze Roxx: Given that ‘Mindslave’ was a big change musically speaking for Banshee which has continued with ‘The Madness’, why didn’t you just start a new band rather than continue with the band name Banshee?
Terry Dunn: Well, I founded Banshee and was the main songwriter as far as the musical side of the band so I felt like if anyone was to carry the torch forward for Banshee, it should be me. The fans were still hungry for some new Banshee tunes so I decided to keep going as Banshee. I knew there would be fans who would not be happy but this is the case anytime a member of any band continues on with the name with new members. I have retained many of the old fan base and developed an even bigger fan base within a new demographic of fans between 15 and 24. That was very exciting to me that the music of a band from the ’80s could now impact a younger group of people 25 years later.The heavier music is responsible for this I think and the tunes themselves.
Sleaze Roxx: Banshee have had a few breaks along the way before you and George [Call] got together as Banshee in 2011. What led to Banshee disbanding back in 1993?
Terry Dunn: Well, without going into too much detail because I hate talking about this but the band ended in ’93 after a last attempt effort to get label interest but it was not to be. We were blackballed from the industry by Atlantic Records because of a falling out between Tommy [Lee Flood] and Jason Flom who was the head of A&R and the guy who signed us at Atlantic Records. The story is pretty much common knowledge all these years later. Also, my relationship with Tommy was so strained [that] I just thought it was time to end it. Tommy has never apologized for his role in the loss of our record deal with Atlantic and has failed to take any responsibility for his actions, which is sad.
Sleaze Roxx: Banshee’s classic line-up of yourself, Tommy, drummer Kent Burnham and bassist Bill Westfall did get back together in 1999, which lasted until 2000. What led to the band reforming and why did you disband again about a year later?
Terry Dunn: We did a reunion show in 1998 but Kent was not a part of it. He decided he did not want to perform with the band so my good friend and drummer Kevin Lear filled in. He did a fantastic job. He has since passed away — R.I.P. — there was another show in 2004 and again Kevin Lear filled in. Kent had no interest to do the shows but was telling people it should have been him performing at them so it was really just weird. I still to this day don’t understand why he did not do the shows. In 2008, we did the Rocklahoma show and Kent finally agreed to perform but only if Tommy painted his house. I personally would have said “Fuck that” and just used Kevin again but Tommy felt it was worth doing the job to secure Kent for the show.
Banshee‘s “Shoot Down The Night” video (from Race Against Time album):
one and only video by this short lived band
Sleaze Roxx: Speaking of the reunion for Rocklahoma in 2008, Tyson Leslie filled in on bass for that show. Why didn’t Bill [Westfall] or Chuck Hopkins not play bass at that reunion show?
Terry Dunn: For some reason, Tommy did not want to use Bill for the show and Chuck Hopkins was missing in action and no one knew where he was at the time so we brought in Tyson Leslie who is a hell of a musician and a super nice guy, He did a great job!
Sleaze Roxx: What led to the departure of Kent and Tommy from Banshee as far as you know?
Terry Dunn: Kent was asked to perform at every show but declined. He was also asked if he wanted to be part of the new Banshee project but declined as well. Kent has always acted as if being in Banshee was an embarrassment. I felt he was being very disrespectful toward the band. The songs and being in the band were good enough for him while he was getting drum endorsements and free drum kits but now it’s an embarrassment? Who knows what his problem is? I have never been able to put my finger on it.
Tommy is a whole other story. Me and Tommy have never gotten along probably because I will not tolerate narcissism of any kind and never did, so there was a clash between us. It was never any fun working with Tommy. It was actually emotionally and musically draining on me and the other members. Tommy had a great voice and his contribution to the band was huge but he always made us feel like it was all about him and we were just there as a vehicle to promote him which was never the case.
Sleaze Roxx: Original bassist Chuck Hopkins came back into Banshee shortly after the Rocklahoma show in 2008 and he stayed in the band for quite a while, aside from a short stint where Bill took his place in 2014-15. How was it working with Chuck again and what led to his departure?
Terry Dunn: It was great reconnecting with Chuck and working with him again on ‘Mindslave.’ He did an awesome job on the bass tracks and production on the record were great as well. He helped so much with ‘Mindslave.’ I must admit I wish Chuck had never left the band and we would have stayed with Metal Blade Records. Losing Chuck was a huge mistake which I take responsibility for. Don’t get me wrong, Bill Westfall was a great addition to the band and a killer bass player but losing Chuck was a big mistake. Chuck is the only member I still keep in contact with and have a friendship with. Bill stepped back into the band to do a couple of shows but had his own band going at the time — Death By Diesel — so he could not commit to anything long-term with the band.
Sleaze Roxx: In an interview with All That Shreds back in 2018, Tommy indicated that he gave you his blessing to continue under the name Banshee so that you could understand all that he did for you all the years that you were together. What are your thoughts in that regard?
Terry Dunn: This is complete nonsense and untrue. I never talked to Tommy about anything regarding Banshee and my plans to continue. I never asked for his blessing nor did I need it. As far as everything he did for me? We all did our part. He sang and wrote the lyrics and I wrote the music. For some reason, Tommy thinks because he helped build a few stages that that somehow made him more important in the band. It was a huge mistake not having a manager in those days because when you have a band member making decisions and doing things for the band, it tends to go to their heads and then they feel they are more important than the other members. This is a very common theme with narcissistic people I’m afraid.
Sleaze Roxx: Tommy also indicated in his interview with All That Shreds that anybody in Banshee could use the name Banshee. Do you agree or don’t agree with that comment and why?
Terry Dunn: This is true but why do you think that it is that none of them started their own version of Banshee? [It’s] because I was doing all the writing musically. Don’t get me wrong. We all helped with arrangements of the songs but there was never any music written until I brought it to the table. Usually, I had all the guitar parts written for the songs [and] then it was just a matter of arranging and putting them together. Some I had already fully arranged, others were arranged together, but the process always started by me bringing something to the table. Tommy never brought any music to practice. The only reason I bring this up is because of all the lies and misinformation being spread by Tommy and Kent about my contributions to the band and the incredible hypocrisy from them on many issues. I have my theory about this but it is nothing that I did but only their own insecurities and pettiness.
Sleaze Roxx: Let’s switch to something more positive [laughs]! How did you end up hooking up with George Call?
Terry Dunn: I was told about George by a good friend of mine Dean Kinney from Louisiana. He knew George and told me he was awesome and he was right. George blew me away when I heard him sing and I thought he would be perfect for the new Banshee line-up! After some negotiating and getting to know George, he agreed to do the record ‘Mindslave’ and he was amazing on it!
Sleaze Roxx: Steve Susman seems to have played a big role in ‘The Madness’ album. How did you end up hooking up with him and what has been his role within Banshee?
Terry Dunn: I got a message from Steve on Facebook about Banshee playing a show in Houston [Texas] at one of his events. I could tell he had a passion for music and helping to keep bands alive and performing and getting paid a fair wage for their work. I was very impressed by him and by the fact that he is a very nice guy. So we went to Houston and did the show, which turned out great! After I got home, I started thinking, “Wow! This guy would be a great manager for Banshee.” He was the real deal and truly believed in what he was doing so I gave him a call and said, “Steve, how would you feel about managing Banshee?” A few days later, he got back to me and was very excited about the prospect of what I had proposed and said “Yes”! He has helped us tremendously not to mention helping out with four of the songs on the new record! He believes in us and all of his other bands. I totally made the right decision asking him to manage us, not to mention we have become good friends in the process as well!
Sleaze Roxx: I have to ask [laughs]. Who is “Ingrid” from the song “Ingrid (Ballad of An Ex Wife)” and are the lyrics derived from a real life experience?
Terry Dunn: [Laughs] I’ts funny you ask… After we did the kind of Viking chant at the beginning of the song, someone in the room just said “Ingrid” instead of calling it song number one or two, or whatever. So when George got the song, he thought that was the actual name of the song and wrote the lyrics. I do believe the lyrics are about a past relationship George had like a marriage [laughs] hence “Ingrid (Ballad of An Ex Wife)” was born.
Banshee performing “Ingrid (Ballad of An Ex Wife)” live at the Whisky A Go Go in West Hollywood, California, USA in 2019:
INGRID – BANSHEE Banshee performs their original song “Ingrid” from their 5th studio album “The Madness” at the Whisky a Go Go in Hollywood. “The Madness” is…
Sleaze Roxx: What’s next for Banshee?
Terry Dunn: I have been taking a break from everything but I’m now writing music for our sixth release — hopefully to be out sometime this year. Not really sure about a name or direction for the material but it’s kind of early to know at this point. Hopefully, a tour will ensue at some point as well. We will probably end up recording here in Michigan. I have a friend who is a producer here who is really good named Danny Nightmare. He did the recording and production on the song “Psychosis” on the new record and he is great! Doing the record here in his studio means I can take my time and not be rushed like I was on ‘The Madness.’ I was really unhappy with the studio and the recording we did ‘The Madness’ at in Des Moines. The record could have been so much better not to mention I was sick the whole week while [we were] there recording so I don’t think I was on my best game at the time.
Sleaze Roxx: Is there anything that we haven’t covered that you’d like to mention?
Terry Dunn: Yes, I would like to thank everyone who still supports Banshee who have stuck by us all these years and the new fans we have acquired along the way. I also want to say I have no ill feelings toward any past members of the band. I wish them the very best. I do wish the hatred and jealousy would stop and people would just grow up and stop taking things so seriously. Life is too short to hate. And spreading vicious lies about me just because I’m trying to write and perform music for people to enjoy is just ignorant. But I suspect certain people will never change and will continue their childish attacks. Jealousy is a vicious and horrible trait that ends up only destroying the person serving it. It’s not hurting me but only YOU [emphasis added]! I have endured it this long and my true friends are all that matter who continue to support and love me. Again, I thank them with all my heart and soul!
Sleaze Roxx: Last question for you, what are your three favorite albums of all-time and why?
Terry Dunn: Oh wow! This is a tough one because there are so many but if I have to narrow it down to [my] most influential records, I would have to say first, ‘Diary of A Madman’ by Ozzy, because Randy Rhoads’ brilliant writing and textures on this record are just timeless and incredible! Second, Rush’s first double live record [‘All The World’s A Stage’] was so influential on me. I love Rush so much. Third, the ‘Ted Nugent’ record was a record I cut my teeth on that helped me so much with my playing. While I don’t agree with Ted’s [Nugent] politics, I do love his playing!
Thank you to Steve Susman from Visionary Records for facilitating the interview.
Banshee‘s “Psychosis” single (from The Madness album):
“Psychosis” from The Madness album. c Visionary Noise Records 2019. A dark and personal ballad.