Deaf Dealer – Journey Into Fear
2014, Cult Metal Classics Records
Jonquiere, Quebec – home to those almost universally well-loved stalwarts of heavy metal: Voivod. In 1986, whilst they were still experimenting with what would become their prog-infused thrash metal trademark sound, their lesser known compatriots had released a more traditional sounding record with moderate success: Keeper of the Flame – by the band formerly known as Death Dealer. Come 1987, Voivod were rising to their zenith with Killing Technology, and alas, Death Dealer (or Deaf Dealer as they were now known), plummeted towards the nadir of their short career.
It wasn’t because there was no music – there certainly was. Journey Into Fear had been painstakingly written, from the isolation of a secluded cottage in North Canada, and recorded at Toronto’s Metalworks studio. The master tapes had even been sent to Tampa, Florida for finishing touches at the renowned Morrisound studio. And then – nothing.
So, perhaps one of the greatest power metal albums ever recorded sat alone and forgotten on a shelf, and soon after, Deaf Dealer ceased to be. It terrifies me to think that, with the exception of a bootleg copy of the recordings doing the rounds of the underground, this little beauty might not have even seen the light of day. However, thanks to the great efforts of the wonderful people at Cult Metal Classics, we were finally able to bring Journey Into Fear home to our record players, almost thirty years after it was written.
As with their other releases, Cult Metal Classics have put a lot of love into the gatefold edition, which is rich with history and nostalgia. In Journey Into Fear you will find an incredibly tight, melodic rhythm section, twin guitar interplay exploring a delicate flirtation between NWOBHM and USPM, and the magnificent vocals of Michel Lalonde giving it a serious surge of power. Iron Maiden comparisons are thrown around quite liberally when it comes to this band, and certainly the influence is obvious, but (okay, don’t shoot me) I think this album has moments (like the amazing opener ‘Back to God’s Country’) that are somewhat superior to Maiden’s late 80s output.
All in all, a real gem, worthy of its relatively recent excavation, and Manos Koufakis of Cult Metal Classics very kindly agreed to talk me through the process.
You are responsible for bringing back several ‘cult’ records. Was it a particular record that inspired you to take on this risky venture?
Actually, it all started back in ’97. Inspired by the great Greek fanzine Singing Swords (hello Greg, Michael, Panos and Costas) and the German That’s It! magazine (that later evolved to That’s Metal), I wanted to release my own fanzine and mainly focus on old and new hard rock and heavy metal bands that had that characteristic 80’s sound. At the same time, I was collecting CD’s and vinyl by obscure bands from all over the world, so I was already in touch with many bands that had released classic underground albums back in the 80’s. I remember spending hours and hours with Greg Varsamis of Eat Metal records browsing the White Pages of USA and trying to locate band members of cult 80’s bands.
The good thing was that at the time, without price guides or Facebook there were very few people in the world searching for old bands. Record labels like OPM (hello John and Jim) and Monster Records (hello Dennis!) paved the way for all reissue vinyl and CD labels to start making reissues of 80’s bands. So, without serious “competition” at the time, when people started discovering MANILLA ROAD and CIRITH UNGOL, we were already looking for VALHALLA and GLACIER and when people started discovering MEDIEVAL STEEL we were onto more and more obscure stuff.
So, to make a long story short, my friend Ed Horgan, the original VALHALLA drummer, told me that they had great unreleased material, and after sending me some tapes, I was blown away. He told me that they were interested in re-issuing them and he proposed that I should do it. I knew nothing about CD or vinyl reproduction at the time and took the chance to do it and it came out really good!
So, in a way, the classic VALHALLA EP from Pittsburgh, shaped my future. It is also a historical reissue, ‘cause it is the first reissue of an 80’s non-Greek metal band made in Greece by any record label. The CD was co-released by me (under my one album record label Shogun Assassin Records) and Chris Papadatos from No Remorse records – that’s why there are two different label logos at the back cover of the CD reissue.
When did you first hear Journey Into Fear? Were you already aware of Deaf Dealer at that point?
Back in the late 90’s, I became friends with Laurent Ramadier of SNAKEPIT magazine, a friendship that lasts to this day. We were into tape trading and also exchanged views on new and old bands and had mutual respect for each other’s fanzines. So, in one of our usual tape trades, he dropped off a metal bomb. He sent me the unreleased DEAF DEALER album on cassette, accompanied by a raving letter, telling me that it is much better than the first album and that it’s probably one of the best unreleased albums of all time. I already had Keeper of the Flame on vinyl and liked it but I wasn’t prepared for THE masterpiece. The day I first played Laurent’s tape on my cassette player, I remember listening to the album 6-7 times in the row. I could hardly believe what I was listening to.
How did you make contact with the band, and how did they react to your proposal?
Thanks to my friend Laurent, I approached Jean-Pierre Fortin, the original bass player of the band, sometime in the early 00’s but I was disappointed to hear that it was an impossible to release the album thanks to some involvement of an ex-manager of the band as well as other legal issues. It was completely ruled out at the time, because on top of the other problems, the original master tapes were not easy to locate, so the best quality we had was that tape that Laurent had sent me.
But I never gave up and from time to time, I would contact Jean-Pierre again and again and ask him if something had changed. Many years later, back in early 2014, my partner Kostas Organopoulos re-approached Jean-Pierre just in case he had managed to sort things out and BOOM!!!! Jean-Pierre had managed to gain access to the original master tapes of the albums and was able to sort all legal issues that had been an obstacle to our efforts thus far. I remember me and Kostas were jumping up and down like crazy at the office when we received that email from JP that opened the door for an official reissue.
For those of us that have aspirations to achieve something similar – just how labour intensive is the process?
It depends on the difficulty of the project. Some projects require extensive research and in equally tough cases like the GLACIER reissue, you will need to resort to lawyers to do the work for you. It can be quite stressful and intense to pursue old bands and recordings, because aside from the legal part, sometimes egos are involved, or bad blood among the old members, and you have to be very easy going and be able to handle the pressure that you sometimes have to face.
Still, when the result is positive it makes up for all the hard work. And let’s be honest. This is not like construction-building or being a farmer, which are both tough jobs to handle. This is a music related job and when you can combine your hobby with work, no matter the difficulty, it’s always a pleasure.
Were the band pleased with the final outcome and subsequent reception?
Yes, they really liked the outcome and especially the fact that we did various versions of the album, such as Box Set, CD and Vinyl with various colours.
Financially, this must have been a bit of a gamble. Has it been worth it?
Thanks to Journey into fear I’m now enjoying a glamorous lifestyle in Monte Carlo.
Just kidding! Of course, the album sold well, was greatly received and was more than worth it, but my disappointment is that who knows what could have happened if the album had been properly released back in the 80’s. Frankly, I don’t see what this album lacks when compared to classics like Ride the Lightning or Maiden albums etc. Has no filler songs, the production is great, the musicianship is killer. It’s a gigantic classic.
Lady luck plays weird games and in a parallel universe, DEAF DEALER could have been METALLICA in terms of popularity. But thanks to the survivor’s bias (a concept popularized by the great Nassim Nicholas Taleb through his books about randomness) people think that a band are millionaires because they did everything correctly and rarely attribute good fortune to pure luck.
Amongst other things, you recently released a gorgeous edition of the Glacier EP. How many other gems do you think are out there, lying beneath the surface. What further excavations have you got planned?
There are always unearthed treasures hiding beneath the surface but with the volume of reissues coming out almost daily, I think most of the great 80’s albums have already been reissued at least once. But on the demo tape level, there’s still tons of great stuff to discover. We’re preparing lots of great albums in the months to come – from little known greats like XEN (USA) and TAMARISK (UK) to more known bands such as TRIDENT (UK), SCRATCH (Sweden), OVERHEAT (side project of Janne Stark of OVERDRIVE fame), etc.
The best news is that we also managed to locate an album worth of completely unreleased VALHALLA tunes (thanks to my friend Ed Horgan), so a double CD and vinyl reissue of VALHALLA songs is on the way too.
Thank you very much, Manos, and good luck with future ventures!
Thanks a lot for the well thought out questions and the interest in the back story of things. If people are interested in getting our reissues they can visit our store http://www.SonicAgeRecords.com . To learn about our latest ventures you can check our Facebook pages: http://www.facebook.com/cultmetalclassics http://www.facebook.com/sonicagerecords.com