Interview with John Ricci and Kenny Winter (April 1st 2008)

With the new record Thrash, Speed, Burn the Powers of Metal were curious enough to fire some questions at Exciters pioneer John Ricci and fresh singer Kenny Winter.

It must be a relief to have an album out again, can you tell our readers what has happened after the recording of 'New Testament' in 2004?

JR: At this point we were desperately writing new songs to try to release a new record. We didn't want to wait too long after New Tesament. We also were having thoughts about changing record labels and we had the usual on-again off-again issues with our previous singer. The songs that appear on 'Thrash, Speed, Burn' were actually written 2 1/2 years ago.

For the fourth time Jacques Belanger has left the band, this time forever? And what was the reason?

JR: Jacques, is an excellent singer and an intelligent person, but he has a complex personality. Sometimes there were issues that we could not resolve with him. The last time he quit he told us he was never coming back and the feeling was mutual.

What is the thruth about  you playing in  White Zombie John?

JR: I never played with White Zombie, it's just a coincidence the guitarist had the exact name as myself.

KW: You know I was fooled by that too. It seems that there's another John Ricci out there that apparently had a short stint with that band, in all actuality, John has never played with anyone else but Exciter.

John , you said in a magazine that Jacques kept coming back because of his powerful voice and the band couldn't find a replacement. Did you finally succeed with your new singer Kenny Winter?

KW: Watch your words here, John. I know where you live.

JR: Kenny is a fantastic addition to Exciter's line-up for the following reasons:

-he has a great voice, exactly what were looking for and he is not afraid to scream;

-he is very visual on stage and a good frontman;

-his personality is very ougoing and he's a fun person to hang out with and he is totally dedicated to Exciter!

KW: Excellent! I paid him to say that.

Kenny, where do you come from and in what bands did you play before?

KW: I was born in NYC though my parents hail from the midwestern part of the US. I'm of Native American descent and currently reside in Brooklyn. I have played with an interesting variety bands before joining Exciter, due to my eclectic taste in music.

I think you sing a little similar to Jacques in the higher regions, but you also sing lower and more aggressive. Sometimes I hear a little David Wayne in it. Can you agree with that?

KW: Wow, first time I've heard a David Wayne comparison, I'm flattered. My vocal style varies with each song. I always try to represent or interpret a song to best of my ability so I've gotten all kinds of comparisons throughout my entire carreer. Jeff Martin, Tony Moore, King Diamond, James Rivera, John Connelly, Bobby Blitz, Ray Alder, Ral Scheepers and someone even compared me with Cyndi Lauper, LOL! I find it flattering to hear peoples perspective of my vocal abilities, this means their listening, so I know I'm doing my job.

JR: I agree, Kenny has selective tastes in his influences but when it comes to singing Exciter he does a great job of incorporating his style into the Exciter formula. I like Kenny better than Jacques because he screams more and sometimes has brilliant ideas to make the song better.

What makes your new record 'Thrash, Speed, Burn' the best record so far?

JR: TSB has it all, the old school thrash anthems, driving guitar riffs, pounding drums, pulsating bass and screaming vocals. It's a no-holds barred, in your face, no nonense record. To me this is what a good metal album should be. Don't try to be too artistic because the record will end up sounding wimpy in my opinion.

KW: John's right. Sometimes you can get too wrapped into trying to be the best musician possible. There's nothing wrong with being artistic, but you can sometimes put too much thought into a good thing. There were times in the studio when I started getting caught up in the "I have to do the best job possible or the fans will not like me" fears, but the guys tackled me as I tried to throw myself out the window or attempted to commit musical suicide and assured me that keeping things simple would bet the best recourse. I feel much better now.

This is the first record produced in a digital studio. When I hear a new Exodus record, it has a modern sound, but you can still hear that it is Exodus. Your new record has not a modern sound, but sounds still like in the 80's. Is that because you want it that way?

JR: I think it's because the actual equipment that we use is the same gear we used in the 80's, same guitar, same amp, same bass set-up, but the drums are 90's. We explained our producer we still wanted that garage sound, that was our goal, and we achieved it.

KW: I've read a few comments on the net that lay criticism to the sound of the album and even I was a little skeptical at first. But if you think about it, Exciter is an 80's speed metal band, pioneers, innovators. If it's not broken...why fix it? Exciter is what it is, True Fucking Metal. In these days of sequencers, programmers and triggers, it is good to know that what you hear on the album is what you get live. I believe that Metal Church said it best, ".....sincerity is felt much more when the human factor shows."

The tracks "Massacre Mountain" and "Thrash Speed Burn" are my two favourites, but why record a song as "Crucifixion"? In my opinion the weakest song of the record!

JR: I disagree, I think that it is a wicked song. If you listen to every Exciter record there is at least one doom and gloom song on it. I guess that is our Sabbath influence coming through.

Who is responsible for most of the song-writing?

JR: I write the songs (music and lyrics) but the whole band adds their views and suggestions to make it a better song.

KW: What John means is we muck it up. LOL!

The band started as Hell Razor, why did you change the name in Exciter?

JR: From 1978-1980 we were just a local band in our city looking for gigs. We got tired of the name because I actually used the same name in a previous band I had from 1975-1977. Believe it or not, the name Hell Razor sounded too heavy for the bar owners and prevented us from getting shows. This was during the period when we played cover material.

How is the music scene in Canada at the moment, are there a lot of new thrash bands?

JR: Canada absolutely sucks. The Canadian music industry does not support metal whatsoever. I'm not aware of any new Canadian metal bands, just the classics like Anvil, Razor, Piledriver etc.

KW: Actually when we did that show in Toronto there was a band that caught my eye. They were called Karnax, pretty heavy band in the spirit of 80's thrash. You should keep an eye on them.

Do you think Exciter can profit from the new interest in thrash with some new bands such as: Fueled by Fire, Dekapitator, Municipal Waste etc.

JR: I'm not influenced by new metal, I appreciate newer bands for what they stand for but I stick to my roots. I don't think new bands provide any new opportunities for Exciter, we appeal to a particular type of listener. We'll never been a crossover band.

KW: The recent renewed interest in Thrash and Speed is a welcome revival of a genre that never went away. To assume otherwise would be a futile attempt at trivializing a lifestyle we've lived for years. Whether it becomes a lucrative opportunity remains to be seen. What matters is that it's here, it's always been here and it's never gonna go away.

March 8th you had a gig in Spain with Destruction, Unleashed and Ratt on the bill. Are you going to play the rest of Europe also?

JR: Our next show is at the Rock Hard Festival in Germany, May 10th. We also have a tentative European tour Oct. 10-25 / 08 which is not confirmed yet.

KW: Yeah, we played that show, it was AWESOME! The fans were fantastic, the food was fantastic, the bands were fantastic, AAAARGH!!! I LOVE SPAIN! And soon I will love the rest of Europe!

I give you two words, of which you must choose one, and tell why you choose it.

Unveiling the Wicked/Exciter

JR: Actually I don't like either of these albums I think they both suck.

KW: Hey, I like them.

Dan Beehler/Kenny Winter

JR: Kenny Winter is definitely superior in every way and that's why he's in the band.

KW: Aw shucks!

Violence and Force/Thrash Speed Burn

JR: TSB has better song writing and is more intense.

KW: This is a hard one.... sorry, I can't decide.


JR: Anvil has always been one of my all-time favorite bands, so there is no comparison.

KW: No Contest.

Which five records changed your life?

JR: First Black Sabbath LP, Unleashed in the East - Judas Priest, Ace of Spades - Motorhead, No Sleep til Hammersmith - Motorhead and Wheels of Steel - Saxon.

KW: Paul Anka - Paul Anka Gold, Billy Joel - An Innocent Man, Kiss - Alive II, Cyndi Lauper - She's so Unusual, Riot - Thundersteel & Privilige of Power, King Diamond - Abigail, Helstar - Distant Thunder, Racer X - Extreme Volume I & II, Overkill - Feel the Fire & Under the Influence, Vio-Lence- Eternal Nightmare, Infernal Majesty - None Shall Defy, Black Sabbath - Live Evil, Stryper - To Hell with the Devil, Motley Crue - Girls, Girls, Girls and Vengeance Rising - Human Sacrifice.

I know it's more than 5 but........ I don't take direction very well.

Your final words to our readers are...

JR: Never give up believing in metal, metal was there in the beginning and it will be there in many years to come. Unite, metal Crusaders!!

KW: I love animals cause they're made of meat. Thanx and remember: More Bikes!!! Less Cars!!


Exciter - Thrash, Speed, Burn

Album available on Massacra records