Interview with former Banshee frontman Tommy Lee Flood
INTERVIEW WITH FORMER BANSHEE FRONTMAN TOMMY LEE FLOOD
Date: September 9, 2020
FOR MANY, THE NAME ‘TOMMY LEE FLOOD’ IS SYNONYMOUS WITH BANSHEE’S LATE ’80S / EARLY ’90S RUN WHEN THE AMERICAN MID-WEST BASED GROUP RELEASED THE ALBUMS ‘CRY IN THE NIGHT’ (1986), ‘RACE AGAINST TIME’ (1989) AND ‘TAKE ‘EM BY STORM’ (1993) BEFORE DISBANDING DUE TO THE ADVENT OF GRUNGE. AFTER LEAVING BANSHEE, TOMMY LEE FLOOD FRONTED PRIMAL ORDER AND THEN LATER RELEASED A SOLO ALBUM TITLED ‘FLOOD’ IN 2000. RECENTLY, TOMMY LEE FLOOD HAS RELEASED A REMASTERED VERSION OF ‘FLOOD’ AND SLEAZE ROXX CAUGHT UP WITH THE SINGER TO FIND OUT MORE IN THAT REGARD AND MUCH MORE!
Sleaze Roxx: You have elected to release a remastered version of your solo album ‘Flood.’ What prompted you to do that?
Tommy Lee Flood: For years people have asked me about my solo project. There was never really a distribution deal where that album was exposed or distributed properly. Those songs have just laid basically in the vault. I felt it was time to share these songs with people, as people wanted to know what I did after Banshee ended. My thoughts were, ‘If I don’t put this out now, no one would hear it’ and once it’s on the internet, it’s available. Releasing now will preserve it. There were things about the songs after producing the project that I wanted to fix with mastering, editing, etc. I was finally was in a position where I could do that financially. I decided to put it on TommyLeeFlood.net so I could give fans access to these songs. I have a significant financial investment in getting these Flood songs out. It is not about the money. It never has been. If and when I recoup the financial costs I’ve incurred, the proceeds will be split with all contributors as I have always agreed to do.
Sleaze Roxx: I must say that it was quite difficult finding any meaningful information about your original solo album ‘Flood’ on the internet [laughs] but from what I have been able to find, it was only seven songs in length. Who played on the original ‘Flood’ album?
Tommy Lee Flood: ‘Flood’ was released around 2000. It garnished me the independent rock album of the year at the L.A. Music Awards. ‘Flood’ was a compilation of new songs I had written and combined with my Primal Order project. Around 1994, Banshee disbanded. Bill Westfall was working with Lee Jackson, the amplifier designer and also a great guitar player. Bill and Lee started recording a demo and recruited me to come in and sing on the tracks. We began recording in Lee’s home studio and shortly after, Bill left the project. Lee and I decided to keep going because we felt we had something special. The purpose of the demos was to shop for a permanent band. At that point, I solicited Kent Burnham [Banshee drummer] and found Jim Langin through radio station Z-92 in Omaha and selected him as the bassist / keyboard player. We were approached by a guitar player, Hans Brawner from North Carolina. We auditioned him and brought him in as the rhythm guitar player and later, he took on some lead parts.
As the band was now put together, the band recorded the Primal Order CD. We wanted to go for something very fresh. Grunge had taken over the music scene and we didn’t want to be grunge or associated with a time stamp or genre. Although Lee and I wrote most of the music before the other players were in place, we wrote additional songs after the band was put together which allowed everyone to put their touch on the project. I have always been the sole melody and lyricist for everything I’ve ever recorded from Banshee until now. Shortly after the release of the Primal order CD, Lee was forced to leave due to conflicting business affairs with his amplifier company. We decided to continue on as a four piece band. When it was evident the band didn’t sound the same, we decided to part ways and remain friends. While everyone was still communicating and in touch, I pulled them back into the studio and paid for recording some new songs. In addition to these songs, we added four songs from the Primal Order CD to create the ‘Flood’ collection. The ‘Flood’ CD was released with a very limited distribution deal.
Sleaze Roxx: Do you feel that the ‘Flood’ album got its just due?
Tommy Lee Flood: I don’t think it did get its due and that’s why I’ve remastered and re-released all of these songs.
Sleaze Roxx: What do you think prevented it from getting its just due?
Tommy Lee Flood: No one was signing bands at the time. Marketing on the internet was not a big thing. So, between no labels signing rock acts and not having distribution abilities, it made it hard to get the music out. The stigmatism of being an ’80s rocker in the face of grunge and alternative made it even more difficult to bend anyone’s ear to listen to these songs. I was not wanting to do alternative music because many bands had tried to do that and failed miserably. Fans are not stupid, they can smell a sellout a mile away.
Flood‘s “Get Some” cover art video:
Sleaze Roxx: Do you have anything else in the works?
Tommy Lee Flood: There is another project in the vault that I’m anxious to release as I’m financially able to do so. I worked with some great musicians out of Lawrence Kansas. A much heavier and current sounding album. As financing dictates, that album will be mixed and produced and in the meantime, I will release rough mixes through the TommyLeeFlood.net site. After the loss of my mother, I decided to take some time off. People were asking why I’m not releasing music and that re-energized me to mix all of the unreleased songs and get them to the people to enjoy.
Sleaze Roxx: In an interview with All That Shreds almost two years ago, you indicated that anyone in Banshee could use the name Banshee but that you wouldn’t do it out of respect for the fans, crew and staff that worked with you, you wouldn’t do it unless all of the original members in Banshee were involved. That then takes us to Terry Dunn who has continued under the name Banshee since 2011 but with heavier material. What are your thoughts in that regard?
Tommy Lee Flood: Like I’ve always said, everyone that was in Banshee has the right to use the name. We split everything equally. I wrote all of the lyrics and melodies, Terry wrote the lion’s share of the music. Bill Westfall and I co-wrote many songs musically as well as Chuck Hopkins. Most songs were the contribution of everyone in the band. With that being said, anyone has the right to use the name legally. Ethically, none of the other members chose to take the name on without the original guys involved except for Terry. When we played Rocklahoma in 2008, I made an extreme effort to regroup the original band. Bill Westfall was unable to play so we had Tyson Leslie on bass. But, there was great effort to get Bill in order to complete the original line-up. When Terry indicated that he was going to proceed with the Banshee name, I wished him well as I refuse to tear down anything related to Banshee as I have worked countless years and hours to help make Banshee the band it was. To tear down anything Banshee would undermine the cornerstone of what I’ve given my life to.
Sleaze Roxx: There seems to be some bad blood between you and Terry, or at least from Terry’s part, based on his interview with me for Sleaze Roxx back in early March of this year. Terry indicated in that interview: “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.” What are your thoughts in that regard and do you feel that there is some sort of issue between you and Terry, and if so, what is it?
Tommy Lee Flood: Banshee was about many, not just four guys. The many helped us build our dream. I would do anything to keep Banshee going so if I needed to be the lead on staging, financing, promotion, production, scheduling — then that’s what I did. If Banshee was waiting on Terry to lead on something, we would have never got ‘Cry In The Night’ off the ground. Terry suffers from many demons, depression, addiction, which makes him highly unpredictable. When you have so much on the line with the band, crew and fans, financial commitment, unpredictability becomes an issue. Despite that, he is a fantastic guitar player and a great musician. When sober, he could actually be fun to be around.
Sleaze Roxx: Terry also opined in the interview that he did with me for Sleaze Roxx that the reason why you and the other Banshee guys have not started your own version of Banshee is because there was never any music written in Banshee until he brought something to the table. What are your thoughts in that regard?
Tommy Lee Flood: Simply untrue. Terry wrote much of the music. However, I wrote “Shoot Down The Night” lock stock and barrel. Bill and I co-wrote “Precious Metal”, “Desire” and “Memories.” Greg Tucker, Terry and I co-wrote “All Alone.” To not give credit to the actual contributors is sad and shows the cracks within the Banshee camp. The reason I haven’t started my own Banshee is because we were four guys that all contributed, not just me. Thus, not Banshee. I’m glad Terry continued on with the name because it keeps the name alive and it keeps the music alive. I do think he would have been better served to go with a different name as the music does not sound like Banshee. The players are good musicians and I appreciate George Call’s voice and he is a wonderful singer. But it’s not Banshee without the surviving original members. Banshee isn’t just a name. It is much more than that.
Banshee‘s “Shoot Down The Night” video:
Sleaze Roxx: Would you ever consider rejoining Terry in Banshee at this point?
Tommy Lee Flood: No.
Sleaze Roxx: Why not?
Tommy Lee Flood: [Due to] the lack of integrity related to the fact of exploiting and pirating Banshee music and not paying royalties to the contributing members. He has illegally licensed our music to ‘No Life Til Metal’ and others. Terry has removed the credits from the pirated releases and stricken all of the contributions of those that made Banshee what Banshee was. I find this embarrassing and will do what I can to right this wrong by calling out all of those contributions on TommyLeeFlood.net.
Sleaze Roxx: What do you think of Banshee’s legacy after all these years?
Tommy Lee Flood: We were four guys that came out of the mid-west. We did what everyone said couldn’t be done. We were able to become a legitimate major label act from the heartland. I’m very proud of the spirit of the four of us and the hard work that it took to get to where we were. I’d like to think that we contributed to opening minds about the talent that the heartland could offer. Banshee wasn’t the biggest band or the brightest star. But, it is a star on the horizon and that’s where I’d like to leave it, as untarnished as possible.
Sleaze Roxx: Is there anything else that we haven’t covered that you’d like to mention?
Tommy Lee Flood: Thank you Olivier and Sleaze Roxx for your support and the opportunity to set the record straight regarding my career. I have made the ‘Flood’ CD available for download and physical CDs available for purchase at TommyLeeFlood.net. I have a huge debt of gratitude for my fans and all of those who supported me through all the years, and for the opportunity to sing and pursue my dream. Thank you.
Sleaze Roxx: Last question for you, what are your three favorite all-time albums and why?
Tommy Lee Flood: These are three of many that have had a great impact on my life. Iron Maiden’s ‘Number of The Beast.’ Bruce Dickinson took Maiden to an incredible new level. Black Sabbath’s ‘Heaven And Hell.’ When Dio left Rainbow and joined Sabbath with his voice, songs and the mystique, it was perfect. Blue Oyster Cult’s ‘Agents of Fortune.’ Blue Oyster Cult at the time was underground and this album launched them into a whole new league. So many good songs.
Thank you to Scott Ellis for facilitating the interview!