Hellion were an L.A. band who played a major role in the 80’s heavy metal scene. They were led by vocalist Ann Boleyn, who was known for her powerful vox and her good looks. She is still singing to this day, and I recently had the chance to speak with her for BallBusterHardMusic.com about her career, past, present, and future.
BallBusterHardMusic.com: How is your career going? I understand you have a new album coming out? Please tell us about it?
Ann: I am very happy with the way everything is going right now. The new album is done and it looks like we will sign with Massacre in Germany and release it on New Renaissance in the USA. Ole Bang is helping negotiate the deal and it is just down to the small details right now. Mikey Davis, who produced “The Headless Children” and “Crimson Idol” (by W.A.S.P.) was our producer.
BB: Does Hellion still exist as a band, or are you strictly a solo artist now? I’ve seen that over the past couple of years you’ve played some shows under the Hellion name. Do you still have contact with any of your Hellion cronies? Is there any chance of a reunion?
A: You have to remember that most every Hellion album has different musicians on it. But, no matter the line up, the music and the musicianship has always been world class. It is a similar situation with Whitesnake or Dio where the singer is the only member that is the same. Ray Schenk and Chet Thompson both played on the new CD. although it is unlikely that they will be touring. I talk to Ray Schenk several times a week. Chet is still around too. Sean Kelly is living with his wife is Maine. We still keep in touch. The new band is really excellent. I am especially pleased with Chris Kessler, whose songwriting and playing are unique but still fit in. The minute I heard him playing for the first time, I knew that we were going to be one hell of a song writing team. I do not want to put down the previous guitarists in Hellion, but I have no doubt Chris and I will surpass our previous efforts. We are already working on new material and it is getting exciting. We are working out the songs the “old fashioned way”, meaning in a rehearsal room with the entire band present and involved in the writing. That way has always been best. It is one thing to sit at home and write everything yourself, but another to do it as a team.
BB: Much of Hellion’s music has been reissued. Are there plans to reissue any more, such as the “Black Book” album? Will that ever see the light of day again?
A: It is still available readily. I am sure it will be re-released eventually.
BB: I understand you also wrote a novel based on “The Black Book” story. Will that ever be published? Was it ever?
A: I obtained a book publishing deal with a well known publisher and we originally planned for the book and CD to released at the same time. However, when Enigma Records, out record label at the time, went out of business the publisher backed out of the deal. Occasionally I will have one of my assistants photocopy the manuscript for a member of the fan club. We will most likely sell it through the fan club or on the internet site sometime after the new album comes out.
BB: Was the Black Book story a work of fiction or based on real experiences you’ve had? Or a combination of both? Have you ever had an experience with the supernatural/paranormal as the story suggests? If so, did it scare you?
A: The Black Book is pure fiction based on some real places and situations. For example, the town of Moffat is a real place in Scotland and there is a statue of a male sheep in the town square. As far as my experiences with the paranormal are concerned, I could talk about that for days and days. Where do I start? My grandfather was a doctor who started the first medical clinic in North America which specialized in treatment of people with drug addiction. He was a friend of Aleister Crowley and I would imagine he met him while Crowley was fighting heroin addiction. I won a test printing of “Magick In Practice And Theory” which is so rare that the “Encyclopedia of Magic And Witchcraft” is not even sure the exact year it was released (It was 1929!). I began having paranormal experiences during childhood. My other grandfather taught me how to use the divining rod to find water when I was about 10 years old. When I was 18 I worked with Dr John Brooker who was doing government sponsored experiments in out of body travel. I could talk about this stuff forever. I try to be very segmented in my opinions concerning the paranormal. I am currently working at UCLA with Jesse Byock, who is one of the world’s leading scholars on the Vikings. On one level I have interest in pre-Christian religion as part of history. In the Hellion song “Break The Spell” I sing, “Magic is the science of the power of the mind…”. My personal beliefs are a separate thing. Have I practiced magic? Absolutely! It is my religion. Have I ever been frightened? Absolutely! More than once I have performed rituals and been shocked at how fast the intended results took place. It was both frightening and exciting and this kind of thing is a testimony to the fact that you have to be VERY CAREFUL if you are messing around with this stuff.
BB: How are things at New Renaissance Records? I know you’ve also been reissuing a lot of older NR albums. Do you plan on doing any more? Have you signed any new bands?
A: New Renaissance Records is doing great! I couldn’t be more pleased with what is happening. During the 90’s I decided to go to college rather than try and work with the grunge music which I didn’t like but which was nonetheless flavor of the day. However, I soon discovered that people were bootlegging the CD’s which were out of print and that some new bands had decided to start using the names of some of the New Renaissance bands. In law, something becomes public property of sorts if it is not actively protected and I saw that I was running the risk of losing control of the catalogue, and that the bands would in turn risk their reputation, if I didn’t do something immediately. Some people may disagree, but I believe that the New Renaissance Records back catalog contains dome of the finest metal ever made. Even though most of the bands are not well known to the general music fan, I felt that it was important that (the bands’) music be made available to those who wanted it and that their legacies be protected. I know how frustrating it is to be in a band and to have the records company own the rights to your CD and (for them) to delete it from the catalogue and not have it be available. This is the case with “The Black Book”, which has been deleted from Restless’s catalogue. I didn’t want to do that to the bands. Instead I started releasing the old CDs in small quantities. Some of the CDs will be lucky if they sell a few hundred. Those will probably become collectors items. And naturally some are selling better then others. I intend to re-release the entire catalogue. However, it is likely that most of the CDs will be printed in very limited edition. Concerning new bands? Yes, we are actively looking to sign several excellent bands. We are taking our time because we want to find team players who are willing to work with relatively little reward for at least 3 years. That is about how long it took Sepultura to go from an unknown band on NRR to a household name among metal fans. It takes a lot of work to develop a band. In the 80’s we signed a lot of very talented bands. However, unfortunately, many of then did not have the patience and had no understanding of how hard the business really is. I can go on and on about the mistakes bands make concerning their dealings with their records companies. We had one very good band from Oklahoma who developed one hell of regional following. These guys were great! However, even though they were a metal band, the album cover they submitted had a cartoon of a cowboy on it. My experience told me that having a cowboy on the cover of a metal album was not a good thing. The band however disagreed and the cowboy cover stayed. The album flopped in all regions outside of the bands home town area. When the band got their royalty statement they were shocked. There had been one record store in their home town which had sold a box or two of 50 albums and they assumed since there were 20, 000 outlets that sold records in the USA that their sales should have been 50 times 20,000! Too bad that was not the case! I would love to have had New Renaissance Records had such a hit! However, sometimes bands need to listen to the label. If That band had kept on playing and taken some guidance they might be in a different place today. We are going to be very care that this type of thing doesn’t occur again. Not only are we looking for talented bands, but ones who are willing to work as a team and dedicated to go the distance.
BB: One of my favorite New Renaissance albums was the “California’s Best Metal” compilation. I really like that one! Will it ever be reissued?
A: There is a chance. There is also a good chance that we will release a new version of “California’s Best Metal” depending on the quality of the demos we receive from California.
BB: That brings me to another question. One of the songs off that album, “Trail By Fire” by Palace Of Oblivion, has some of the exact same lyrics as the Hellion song “The Witching Hour”. What is the story with that?
A: Good question. Yes, I was involved. I both wrote the song and played the Hammond organ on it. The other musicians were from a well known band in Seattle. The only way that song could appear on that LP was if I agreed not to disclose the names of the musicians. I keep my word on things like that.
BB: Speaking of, in “The Witching Hour” song, you mention the Challenger space shuttle, and I read the day you recorded that song was the day the Challenger exploded! What a freaky coincidence! How do you feel about that?
A: We were recording with Ken Scott, who is the producer who is famous for all kinnds of megahits in the 70’s, like David Bowie, Supertramp, Missing Persons, and Devo! A lot of weird things happened in the studio and he became so alarmed that he sprinkled salt over the threshold of the studio door. Do me, it was just a coincidence.
BB: On the subject of famous tragedies, what are your feelings about Sept. 11th? I’m sure you were horrified, as was the whole world! What were you doing when it happened? What do you think of the actions the US govt. has taken in response?
A:I have traveled the world into places where Americans usually do not go, including Muslim countries. For this reason I do not like to talk about politics. However, Sept. 11th was beyond politics. It was fucked up!!! I don’t know how to say it better! What can you even say? Life changed forever that day! My parents’ neighbors lost three members of their family! It was terrible. Plus, it did not help the music business either. We were getting ready to go tour in Japan with my solo project and I was pissed. Every band I knew was canceling their tours. It was the weirdest experience of my life. The airport was empty. Nobody was flying. There may still be some pictures on the website. It was so strange. But I felt the terrorists were winning if we canceled plans. So we went.
BB: Can you tell me what (if anything) is happening with these bands that were once signed to New Renaissance?: At War, Deadly Blessing, Savage Steel, Wehrmacht, Knightmare II, VVSI, Ruby Slippers, Syren, No Sugar, Savage Grace (These last six were featured on “California’s Best Metal”).
A: Good question. At War is still around and are talking about doing a new album. Nick from Deadly Blessing is now playing with Doro (Pesch, e-Warlock). Brian from Wehrmacht is now in Cryptic Slaughter.
BB: Describe the sound of your new music. Is it “old school” heavy metal like Hellion’s classic music, or are you going for a more up to date sound? Do you still play Hellion songs at your shows?
A: Naturally, the new music I am writing with Chris Kessler is affected by his own style. I think that there is certainly some old school flavor, but the new music is definitely new and more fresh sounding. Yes, we play Hellion songs at the shows.
BB: How did it feel to be part of the 80’s metal scene? Do you have any favorite memories of that period?
A: Los Angeles was the best place in the world during the 1980’s. The music scene was so exciting! My favorite memories were of the good times I shared with my friends and fellow musicians. For New Renaissance Records bands played at the first Milwaukee Metal Fest and that was cool. Also, opening the show for Whitesnake and Dio was a highlight because I idolized both of those singers. I remember singin “Run For Your Life” and seeing David Coverdale and Ronnie James Dio watching me and that was cool! Also, doing “Monsters Of Rock” is the former USSR was insane!
BB: What do you think of today’s music scene? Any favorite bands? Do you prefer today’s style or the 80’s? What’s your favorite music these days? What’s in your CD player?
A: I like Linkin Park. I like all kinds of music. Actually my favorite bands come from the 70’s. This morning I was listening to the Sex Pistols. The other day I was listening to early Scorpions and Deep Purple. Right now “A Cold Day In Hell” which is a recording of Hellion at the Country Club in Reseda is in my CD player. That CD will be coming out in limited edition some time in July.
BB: Will anything Hellion or any other N.R. artists ever some out on DVD?
A: Not yet. However, we may be putting up some videos on MP4.
BB: Do you get a lot of fan mail? How have fans responded to your new music and the Hellion reissues? Do you/Hellion have a dedicated fan base?
A: Yes, I still get mail. Yes, the fan base is strong. Plus we are gaining fans all the time, too.
BB: I’ve heard you were having problems with a stalker, or something like that, in the past. If that’s true, it must have been a horrible experience for you! I hope you aren’t having any problems like that now!
A: Yes, I have had several problems with different people. It is scary as hell! I really do not want to get much into the details because there is a very good chance these types of people will be reading this interview and I do not want to give them unwarranted attention, if you know what I mean.
BB: Anything you’d like to say in closing? Messages for your fans?
A: I’d just like to thank everybody over the years who has supported Hellion and the bands on New Renaissance Records. I hope you will take the time to check out the websites and sign up for the mailing list on the web sites. Also, I hope to see you when we tour.