Imagine being courted by every major record label, shipping 400,000 copies of your debut album and then having David Coverdale remove you from the Vai/Vandenburg Whitesnake ’90s tour because he heard your fantastic singing. This is the story of David Reece, Bangalore Choir and the battle with grunge.
Bangalore Choir – All Or Nothing, The Complete Studio Album Collection
Interview: Steve Ritchie
David Reece was the vocalist on the 1989 Accept album Eat The Heat, replacing Udo Dirkschneider. After being fired from Accept, Recce was a hot prospect and today still has vivid memories of that time. After his departure from Accept, Reece spent a few days in Colorado with his family and then jumped in a van and went to LA. The journey would continue in stellar fashion.
“I formed a group with a drummer and John Kirk, a rhythm guitar player,” Reece says. “Kirk offered Curt Mitchell on lead guitar, because they played together with Razor Maid, in Reno. Curt showed up and blew my mind. I mean ridiculous. And then a boy by the name of Danny Greenberg joined on bass.”
Reece says that typically in LA, you played once a month. “After nine shows in that city, I was offered a deal from every major label around,” he says. “I remember going to see Schenker and McAuley at the Palace with Herman Rarebell, who had invited me to join The Scorpions. We all went back behind the building, and Kevin Moran from the Giant/Warner brothers said, ‘hey, there’s a buzz going on with Bangalore Choir. What’s going on?’
“I said, make me an offer I’m going to take, and he said, be in my office in the morning. I mean, it was that fast, nine months. It was insane.”
The album On Target was released in 1992 and featured Doin’ The Dance which was written with Jon Bon Jovi and Aldo Nova. The first single was Loaded Gun, a song written by Ricky Phillips from Styx. Reece and Bangalore Choir had great support at this time from their management and the record company.
“Everything,” David says. “We had Howard Kaufman, of Whitesnake fame, Fleetwood Mac, Stevie Nicks, John Wait, Don Henley. We were going to Stevie Nick’s house and recording in her home studio, So we were really lucky. I mean, everything was laid in our lap.”
Max Norman, of Ozzy’s Diary Of A Madman fame, produced On Target, although Curt did not approve of the mix. David was happy, but Curt persuaded him to go to the record label, but they only agreed to remix the four singles.
“The sad part about On Target,” Reece says, “is you had four singles remixed by Jim Barton from Queensrÿche, and then Max is on the rest of the record. But you know, you’re in over a million bucks on the production, so they’re not gonna start throwing out the checks until the album’s out. So, it’s regretful. I think Max is a great producer. But that was Curt’s call.”
Bangalore Choir have recently released the All Or Nothing boxset, which features all three albums and their live performance from Firefest. The version of On Target here is a later remix of the entire album and it is a spectacular album.
Opener Angel In Black sucks you in. If The Good Die Young is an amazing, uptempo song. I suggested to David that All Or Nothin’ is something that you can imagine David Coverdale and John Sykes wishing they had written. It is just so classy.
“The breakout for Bangalore Choir was Slip Of The Tongue and opening for Whitesnake in Europe,” Reece says. “I believe there were 40 shows planned with Steve Vai and Adrian Vandeberg and Asia. When Coverdale heard my voice, he called and complained to Howard Kaufman, ‘I don’t want that guy on the tour’. It devastated us because you know that was the big breakout. Kaufman looked me in the eyes and goes ‘well if old DC is a little nervous about you, it’s a compliment.’
“I said, ‘how in God’s name is that a compliment? I just got kicked off the tour that I’ve been planning for my whole life.’ I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing but it sure ripped our hearts out. I mean Coverdale said nope, I will use European bands.”
For me, the ’90s were a devastating time for music. The habit of buying CDs, with poor selections in local shops, meant I was buying vinyl albums I already owned in this new format and the lack of new music probably took me 20 years to recover from. I had stopped reading Kerrang and, yes, Nirvana had a couple of good songs, but On Target is something I would have been all over if I had known about it.
Davids’s vocals on Slippin’ Away are just tremendous and with the amazing guitars and a fantastic upbeat positive rhythm, this would have easily sated my new music needs.
“If The Good Die Young and Slippin’ Away were John Kirk songs that we wrote,” David says. “I think I had the title and a couple of lines and I just kind of hummed it to him. Then the next day he brought me a piece of paper and scribbled out some words. We recorded the song the next day with Slippin’ Away. John is not as technically efficient as Curt is as a guitarist but a better songwriter. He’s really got that hook magic in his head.”
Bangalore Choir was a great team. On Target sold well initially, and they went out with Lynch Mob. Bangalore Choir were the band most added to radio, on over 112 stations. “Denny Rosencrantz, who started with Santana, called me in the office and said Loaded Gun in a hit.”
On Target sold 400,000 units worldwide. “Nirvana had shipped 600,000 on their shipping day,” David says, “and I think in that six weird period, they sold six million albums.”
They must have thought the future was looking bright, but, ultimately with grunge surging, the record company pulled the plug. Reece was called in by the record company for a meeting and the news was the worst.
“It’s over, we are dropping you,” the record label told David. “I asked if this was a joke, and they said it was no joke. We were told by Kaufman and Irving Azoff to get a day job. There’s a new kid in town called Seattle and for Bangalore Choir, it’s over.”
David asked about the budget and all the money spent. “They said, well, we will write it off. Goodbye.”
Hollywood became a ghost town. “All my friends, Warrant, Rat, Badlands, everybody was standing around shocked,” he says. “The next thing is you see all these guys in flannel shirts, combat boots and army pants, as dirty as they could be, as the new phase. I really think we kind of cut our own heads off, you know, because every frontman had blond hair. They kind of followed the mantra of David Lee Roth, with the great guitar player and I think kids just went, you know what, we’re tired of this. Somebody resonated with one of those Seattle bands and it just kind of took off.”
The irony of Bangalore Choir was when grunge took over, the UK and Europe really didn’t get the side effect until a year or so later. “Had I known that the album was doing so well over here, I would have jumped on a plane and we could have ‘gipsy’.” That’s what we were used to, sleeping on couches and floors and shitty hotels and continuing the band for a few years.”
A break followed and the second album, Cadence, followed in 2010 with Curt Mitchell and Danny Greenberg joined by new guitarist Andy Susemihl, formerly of U.D.O and drummer Hans in ‘t Zandt.
This is where the new package really fills out wonderfully. On CD1, after the On Target album, and on each CD, there are some live tracks from Firefest, including the stomping live version of Power Trippin’ on CD1 with the studio version which opens Cadence, on CD2.
This is the track that provides the changeover link beautifully. It has to be said that the live tracks sound immense, especially with Hans’ drumming. It sums up Bangalore Choir nicely, classy guitar-based rock, great songs, great vocals and massive energy.
“It was an uphill struggle,” David says of getting the Firefest gig together. “We left on bad terms, but we had to have three original members as a minimum. Danny, the bass player, pulled his fists out and said to Curt, ‘I’ll break your nose, Curt, if you don’t go to England.’ We hadn’t played. We went into the hotel room, rehearsed on boxes for drums, and practice amps, and ran through the set. We played the show and it was a smoking gig. One of the best gigs of my life.”
You can feel the crowd’s response when listening to these live tracks.
“What was fascinating about that gig,” David says, “was when the curtain dropped, we opened with Power Trippin’, people were singing that. Then we kicked into, Just One Night, or something, and I could hear every person singing the songs. I thought, oh my God, they know the records from start to finish. It was balls out. It was crazy. I love England. I love the UK.”
Firefest was the chance for Andy and Curt to bond. “The funny thing about Firefest was, that Andy and Curtis had never met,” David says. “Downstairs at that venue, what they do is they take your amplifiers and let you play through them and keep your settings. They run them up as the band is playing upstairs and they put your amp on, and take the amps that were on stage downstairs for the next band.
“So while those two guitar players are riffing together during the day, Curt looked at me and said, ‘why did you call me. This guy, Andy, does it all?’ And Andy said the same thing. ‘That guy…you don’t need me.’ We had this crowd of guitar players standing there watching them, you know, impressed nerds going, what are they doing? It was hilarious, and just a great compliment.”
Cadence is a cool album, a heavier album and a bit more in-your-face than its predecessor. Wahoo City is probably one of the finest openings to an album I’ve heard, and it just feeds into the Power Trippin’ riff wonderfully. “That’s Andy Susemihl,” David says. “A brilliant guitar player, a brilliant singer. A great guitar player.”
Martyr has a wonderful twin guitar attack at the start, while Dig Deep and Sweet Temptation are real highlights. Heart Attack And Vine has a wonderfully heavy guitar-led intro and another fine example of Bangalore Choir’s well-sung melodies with a big chorus.
“It’s tough to recapture, those moments,” David says of the differences between the first two albums. “I mean, the hunger, the vibe and the songwriting. You have got new guys in the band, but it’s a challenge, to say the least. You use those formulas that work so well, but they don’t come across, in my opinion, as strong as On Target. But a lot of Cadence, honestly, is a better album, in my opinion, because it’s the trendsetter.”
Third album Metaphor followed in 2012. With songs like All The Damage Done, which showcase how great the guitars were in this band, Silhouettes On The Shade, an engrossing track and Always Be My Angel, this was a more than solid effort.
“This was getting to the point where Curt was starting to rear his anti-music business attitude. I mean, Curt probably is one of the finest guitar players on the planet, but now all he cares about is going in the garage and teaching and playing shred stuff. He’s anti royalty, managers telling us what to do. He’s always been a pain in the arse that way, the gameplay part of it and I respect that. When we did the album, the label said we need another album. I think it lacked a little bit in the writing department.
“You could feel it. There was kind of a bad vibe going on between everybody. It wasn’t that enthusiastic. I had tried some gigs in the United States and Curt, you know, he doesn’t like to tour at all, he wants to stay home. So it was kind of miserable and that kind of bled into Metaphor.”
“There are some tracks like I Never Trust Old Joe Alone. He wrote that guitar part and he can chicken pick like no other.”
If the final song on the album, Always Be My Angel, is the final ever Bangalore Choir song, then it is a great epitaph for the band.
“I mean I’m not bashing it,” David says. “There are just certain elements that get created behind the scenes before you get to it and you realize God, my dream of bringing this thing back together, is crashing around me. You know, you can’t force somebody to go out and do it.”
But David is still proud of those songs. “Maybe it’s just me, you know, remembering those times, sitting in the basement at my uncle’s house writing songs. I have to have these guys to create this, but the more I tried, the more they pulled away. Andy was always forefront. He was always go, go, go. But it was tough, and maybe that’s my reflection on it. But I’m not going to criticize the writing.”
Over 30 years since their debut album was released, David is still positive about the overall experience. “Oh yeah,” he says. “I miss those guys dearly. There was another thing that created a rift in Bangalore Choir. There was a band called Hurricane Alice on Atlantic Records. I grew up with those guys in the midwest and my personal manager, managed them as well.
“Out of the blue, he says we’re getting rid of your bass player and your drummer and we’re bringing in the Hurricane Alice guys. Curt was very close to our guys and it really got to him. Managers don’t tell the band who plays in it. And I, being the guy who was afraid to say no, played the game and he’s never forgiven me for that.”
Post Bangalore Choir, and after grunge, David Reece worked with Greg Chaisson, from Badlands, on Sircle Of Silence, and also worked with Ray Luzier, from Korn.
You see people like John Sykes shunning the music industry, and David felt similar. “My family and I were in LA,” he says. “We had the riots, we had the Malibu fires and an earthquake all in a year and the music business had died. So my wife looked at me and said we’re getting out of here. I literally retired for nine years. I didn’t sing a note. I built a farm in Tennessee because I was like John Sykes. I was disillusioned. John made a way lot more money than I ever made and he still does, but I had just walked away.”
Unlike Sykes, for David Reece, this would not be permanent. “I had that yearning in my heart. I didn’t even have a computer on the farm. So when I did get one and I got on MySpace, a gazillion people started saying we thought you were dead. All these people were saying, ‘hey, let’s do something together.’ And that’s how I kind of jumped back in, in the early 2000s. I jumped in with my whole body.”
In part two, we look at David’s solo career and working with other bands on upcoming releases. There is a Bangalore Choir festival performance scheduled for 2022 and the enticing new Iron Allies project is due shortly.
At gigs, David is still asked to sign Accept and Banglaore Choir albums. Certainly not forgotten, there is much more to come from the man with the golden voice.