Are we all been Destroyed? Dirk Kenndy Speak's Out.
New York's finest melodic metal band 'Hittman' hit back with their new stunning album , their 1st since 93 when they released 'Viva Machina' through SPV/ Steamhammer. The band released their cult classic album which was self titled back in 1988. What a fantastic debut that was which really packed a punch, not one bad song on that release, I loved every song from start to finish.
Sadly the band broke up and in later years when they talked about reforming shock struck the band when bassist Mike Baccell passed away in 2013. With fans wanting the band to reform it wasn't long before the band realized how important they were back then it seemed right for them to reform and start writing new songs.
Yes they did just that with this awesome comeback album 'Destroy all Humans' which is awesome and takes you back to the bands early sound that we all love. I managed to chat with vocalist Dirk Kenndy about the formation of the band and the new album. So hit back crack open a beer and read on, I am very happy to finally interview the band that I sadly didn't get the change back in the 90's.
Well Dirk this is the 1st interview have ever done with Hittman, I missed you back in the day sadly, but I'm glad you're back together as a band. So I would like to start the interview off by asking you if any family member were musician's that have inspired you to become a singer and were you a singer at the start or were you a guitarist or drummer?
"Yeah Jason good to finally do the interview, and to answer you're question there were no musicians within my family who inspired me. I do have Irish blood in me so I do have antes and uncles that played the violin and that is the extent of it. Nobody in my immediate family play instruments other than my sister who is 10 yrs older than me and she likes rock music too. My parents didn't even listen too the radio and we weren't really a musical house hold. My sister listened too Zeppelin, Deep Purple, etc..
For me I got bit by the Kiss bug, so once I got into Kiss it was all over for me. My sister took me to my 1st concert and after watching Kiss I told I wanted to do that. My 1st record was by Kiss it was 'Rock & Roll Over'.
So Dirk as a singer who inspired you to become a vocalist?
"Well David Cassidy was a big influence on me, I love him as a singer and I think a bit of my sound comes from him too. I love those big pop ballads of the 70's and after that I went for the jugular and got into Ronnie James Dio in a big way. I had the pleasure of meet Ronnie when I was 14 and we had a wonderful 10 year friendship were he mentored me and he gave me his number were I could call him up and ask for advice. I was also inspired by Ian Gillan too.
Ronnie was probably the nicest guy you could meet, a very caring guy who said me to 'You want to be a singer, well I can help you'. I met Ronnie on the 'Mob Rules' tour and I had a friend who was a little older than me who had a car and he would chase down Rush & Kiss and Ronnie so we went to a hotel where we thought Ronnie was staying. I met Ronnie and I kind of froze as he was my idol and he looked over at me and asked who I was. We talked for about 30 minutes and I told him I was taking vocal lessons and he gave me his number and said if I ever needed any advice I should call him. We kept in touch for many years.
Scott Ian from Anthrax wrote a book called 'I'm The Man' and I was in Anthrax in the very early stages as their singer. (Ed: No way please tell me more), Sabbath were coming to town and I told Scott I knew Ronnie and he didn't believe me. So I called up Ronnie and asked him for passes for the show as it was sold and he gave us passes. Scott thought I was full of shit, so I spoke to Ronnie and we went to the hotel and Ronnie slipped tickets under the door of his hotel room as he just got out the shower.
Scott was amazed that I knew him and realized I wasn't talking shit (laughing) and Lemmy was there and Scott was blown away. I was also a big Bruce fan from Maiden and I'd never met him, my whole stage presence was based on Bruce. I'm also a big Rob Halford fan too. There are so many great singers out there.
I was the 1st singer for Anthrax when they were a demo band just playing cover I was aged 14 when I joined the band. I met Scott through his girlfriend who said his band were looking for a singer they play metal, so I was in the band for a couple of months and they asked me to learn 'Hellbent for Leather', 'Another piece of me', 'Princess of the Night'. Back then Anthrax were not Thrash Metal as it didn't exist yet.
After I left the band I did nothing I just had singing lesson, a guy called Marty Lawrence who had taught Joe Lynn Turner, Tony Harnell, Lady Gaga and he is one of the biggest voice teachers in the word."
So when did you join Hittman? Did they also have the name Hittman before you joined?
"With Hittman I answered an ad in the local paper. The name was already picked before I joined but they had never done anything until I answered the ad."
What songs made the debut demo? Also were they all on the album? I believe a couple of songs didn't make the album. Have you ever thought of re-recording it?
"Well the demo had the following songs 'Hittman Theme', 'Metal Sports', 'Sleepless Nights', 'Live for Tomorrow', 'Winds of Warning'. Those songs are actually on the reissue of the debut album. We actually went back to 2 old songs for the new album, it was kind of an experiment and we love these songs but they never made a record. So we went back to listen too them and we didn't want to change anything. When we did the new record we had to sound like the Hittman the fans remembered us by.
So when we did the reissue of the debut I had the original mix down of the demo tape so I sent it to Jim and he had to bake the old tape because they were stuck together. Anything that was recorded on tape that kind of lost the sound had to be baked. They needed to be baked because they loose the sound quality and it had to be done at a very low heat for a number of hours. It worked and so we used them for the reissue. So we re-mastered them and they sound great."
So let's talk about the classic debut album, what a killer album that is. How would you categories that album? Power Metal maybe?
"Well I think it's just metal. The album sold really well but according to our former record label you wouldn't of thought so. Well we knew the 1st record was doing really well and there was a problem with the release date. The day it was released SPV closed their U.S. office, so the album was put on the shelf for a year and then it got released through Roadracer here in the U.S. and we were offered a major record deal that never happened because SPV wanted a lot of money to let us out of the contract."
Looking back at the songs from that album which songs were you're favourites and why?
"Well when you're young and you make a record that ends up been important as it was to us, and when we got around to making the 2nd album we had 5 yrs of rehearsals and song writing and we toured Europe for the 2nd album. We only played 3 songs from the 1st album live and I think they were 'Break Out', 'Back Street Rebels' and 'Dead on Arrival' that was it. When we toured Europe in 93 the fans didn't really know much about the 1st album, but nowadays when we play festivals the crowd seem to know all the words which is awesome.
So I would say that my favorite songs from the debut would be 'Metal Sports', 'Dead on Arrival', 'Break Out', 'Back Street Rebels' and 'Behind the Lines' now that Mike has gone because it means so much to us loosing such a great friend and musician and it was his song."
So where was that album recorded? I know it was mixed at 'Morrissound' in Tamp by Jim and Tom Morris.
"Well the album was recorded with no money no management no nothing and we all lived at home with our parents and we all asked our parents for $1000 each to help with the recording of the album and we went into a really nice studio on Long Island in New York at a studio called 'Teekee'. We did every single song there except for 'Will you be There' & 'Break Out' and we sent the recording out to everybody and SPV showed interest and they gave us some money to finish the album off.
Jimmy went down to 'Morrissound' studio in Florida in which both Jim & Tom Morris did the Crimson Glory albums and we loved the sound of those albums and there is a funny mistake on that record that you may not know about. Both Jim and Tom do this thing called drum replacement, which is triggering to give the snare drum a great sound. When it came to 'Test of Time' they had the pitch too high that it sounds like a tin can."
Moving on now lets talk about the 2nd album 'Vivsa Machina' which came out in 93, when I 1st heard it I was rather disappointed with the slight direction you took from the debut album, but it soon grew on me later on. It kind of reminded me of Queensryche with a hint of Bon Jovi vocal harmonies. Why did you go in that direction?"
"Well it was all down to the 5 yrs between both albums, the wait of the debut been left on the shelve for a year didn't help. We originally was going to call the 2nd album 'Precision killing' and we were ready to make that record and SPV locked us up with a load of legal shit for the better part of 3 yrs and I was still study with my vocal coach.
People have to understand that when that record 1st came out everybody said I sounded like Geoff Tate which was very complimentary but after a while you start t think oh shit I am not my own man or voice anymore. It got to a point were every review said I sounded like Geoff Tate or the music sounded like Queensryche.
I think back then we were better song writers and I am very proud of that record and I would of done some things slightly different on that record looking back at it now. Those raspy vocals were intentional I did it on purpose so people would stop saying I sound like Geoff Tate there is only one Geoff Tate and there are 50.000 clones and you could be the best singer in the world, but if you don't sound like yourself then you became another clone. Ypu get people like Joey Belladonna who is an awesome singer without a doubt and John Bush is also awesome.
The 2nd album has a lot a piano playing on it with songs like 'Answer my Pray', 'Mercy', as I play the piano too, so I played some on the record. The song 'Can't Dance to it' is about the grunge scene as a lot of metal bands we're getting signed and I hated what those band did for metal in general."
So who came up with the title for the 'Vivsa Machina' record?
"It was John's brother who is a smart person and he is a physicist and we had put out a debut album that everybody loved and we didn't tour behind the album and we had no promotion for that album. So it basically came to SPV wanted hundreds of dollars to get us out of our contract so we could go make a big record. So we we're bitter and we were changing our style and music and it was all done on purpose and there are songs on the album I don't like for instance 'Partners in Crime', which is embarrassing to me and a shit song (laughing)."
So did the 2nd album sell as successfully as the debut?
"Well it actually did really well, it sold more than the 1st record. The debut album has a song called 'Will you be There' and it was the most played song on the radio in the U.S. but we had no promotion for the album so it failed sadly. I think I could be singing a little more commercial on the 2nd album kind of Geoff Tate operatic style, but I don't think I could do that now.
We did come to Europe for that record and we toured with 'Skew Siskin' & 'Sergeant Fury' they were such a great band in Germany Austria and Switzerland."
So am I right in saying you broke up after 'Viva Machina' just because of the way SPV handled the band's situation?
"No they we're actually better the 2nd time around, as we got to tour, there were just a few things like no direction from them and we had no real booking agency's and we we're suppose to go on tour with good friends of ours 'Dream Theater' but it never happened. Then we got offered a tour with 'Pink Cream 69' and that fell through. We never actually said we we're breaking up, we just stopped writing and recording."
So what did you all do after Hittman kind of stopped writing? Did you carry on writing elsewhere?
"Yeah well Jimmy is a composer and he writes a lot of music for TV and commercials. I did the same and some cartoons and voice overwork and I made a solo record which is more directed to Rock and it's not Metal at all, it has some rocker bits of course. My favourite artist in the whole world is Kate Bush, she can do no wrong she is the queen and I wanted to experiment and do something different it's very ballade stuff. I have a studio in my house and I just wanted to make a record that was different and it was fun to make.
The record I made had 3 musicians and I did most of the stuff, I had a good friend who did the solos on the record and a great drummer I know to do his parts for my record. As for the rest of the band, John got married and has his own business and stepped away from music all together."
How much of a blow was it to the band loosing Mike back then and do you feel his spirit is still with you?
"It was a big blow and I know he is with us everyday and we will never get over it. I feel for our current bassist Greg because he must get sick and tired about us talking about Mike a lot as he formed the band with Jimmy and Mike would tell you if you're ideas were shit, he was a complicated person and a great person too. He was killed in a traffic accident in a truck what he was driving in the middle of the night and he went to a place to get a coffee and a couple of minutes of getting that he went off the road and was thrown out of the window."
Moving on Dirk, so who's idea was it to reform the band?
"Well it all started back in 2008 because of Oliver from 'Keep it true' festival in Germany wanted us to play his festival. In the end we said yes but then Mike said no as something personal happened in his life and we were booked for 2010. We told Oliver that we would love to play it in the future, so he kept asking us every other couple of years if we we're interested in playing. Mike died in 2013 and we all flow in for his funeral and and we all talked about repacking the debut album and putting it out again.
So we got the rights back from SPV and so we repacked that record & in 2017 I was doing an interview for a magazine in Greece, and I had no idea that we we're so popular over there. The next day after the interview I got an email from Oliver asking us to play his festival and we did."
So was the debut album re-issued through 'No Remorse' and was it re-mastered?
"Yes it was reissued on that label and it was also re-mastered. The demo is remixed."
When did the ideas for the new song come about for the new album 'Destroy all Humans'?
"We started writing straight away and the 1st song I wrote was called 'The Devil my Care', but it's not on the record. (Ed: why was that?) It sounded like it could of been on 'Heaven & Hell'. I took a while to start writing songs again and I wrote this very Dio/ Sabbath sounding song and it's a cool song and the 2nd song I wrote was 'The Ledge' and we had a lot of song we wrote, but I knew that song was a great classic Hittman song.
We have studios in our own homes and that is how you make records these days which is sad but true. There is so much work to do at you're own studios. I would of loved to of worked the songs out together in the same room as it comes together a lot quicker, maybe we may in the future."
How long did it take to lyrically and musically to write this album?
"Well I would say it took about a year to write the album, that is the reason why Chuck is not in the band anymore as it wasn't that he didn't want to do it, he just didn't do it and I love the guy. We waited 18 months to get a drum track out of him and he kept saying he was busy all the time meant he didn't want to do it."
So who came up with the title for the album 'Destroy All Humans' and was there any other titles for this album?
"Well Jimmy came up with the title and wrote that song. I remember him writing it and I thought it was a really cool song, and I suggested we call the album that and he said no. It is an aggressive title and it is proactive and it wasn't as if we were working on 'Operation Mindcrime', it was just a cool title it was the last song we wrote for the album."
In you're own words what is each song about on the new album?
"Well 'The Ledge' is about coming back to to been a rock singer after 27 yrs or so and will people like what I sound like and the music now. The song 'Destroy all Humans' like i said was wrote by Jimmy and its about politics in the U.S. and aboard, about the corruption and power and about money. It's also about different life forms in other universes, and we are not very matched up and they destroy each other. It's also about how we will destroy each other to rubble and there will be no humans left and its about the crono virus how we have been selfish humans throughout this pandemic.
Next up is the song 'Breath' and that's about the anxiety that Jimmy suffers with and he also writes music for scores and conducts and it's about him find his inner peace. Next is '1000 Souls', I wrote that song and it's not really about anything, it's more of a cool word playing song. It's a short story about a guy who doesn't have much power in the world and because of the way he looks or sounds and he has to find some inner strengths. Next up is 'Total Amnesia' which is also a video we have just finished.
The song came about because when we where playing in Greece I said to Jimmy 'Armored Saint are playing on the same bill' and I told him that we had already played with them on Long Island in New York and he didn't even remember we played a show together. He doesn't drink or do drugs and he has a bad memory so he went home and wrote the song 'Total Amnesia'. Next up is 'Code of Honour' which is about is an older Hittman song which was going to be on the 2nd album. The whole band wrote it, its about honesty and bravery and we had a manager who was up too some bad stuff but good to us. He thought people were looking for him and wanted to kill him. So it's a song about a good person ending up in a bad place.
Next is 'Out in the Cold' was written by Jimmy and the lyrics are cool."
Do you have any favouite songs on the new album and why?
"Yes I love the song 'Love,The Assassin', it's a really cool song and everybody says it's like the Savatage song and to be honest I have never heard most of their songs, only a couple. I wanted to write a work a fiction song and write about a guy who is hired by a businessman to kill people. The guys job is to just take money and do a precision hit and I wanted to know what went on in his head."
So who's idea was it to do the cover with the target and the skull on it? What does it mean to you?
"Well we wanted to make sure that people understood it was the same band who released the same album back in the 80's. We put the old logo back on the cover and a skull to represent that would be left of the human race. A lot of people don't like the new album cover because we didn't have a cover with wizards and dragons? We thought it was it was a bland cover that worked for the band and album."
Moving on now, when do you think the band will tour again maybe 2021 or 2022?
"It's really tough right now for all in the music industry, no one knows when we can tour with the pandemic we just have to wait and see what happens really.
Well Dirk thank you for doing the interview finally for the website., I want to wish you all well and I hope the album sells well. Do you have anything to say too you're fans out there? Be safe brother.
"Yes thank you to all our fans, I'm sure the long awaited album was worth the wait. We hope to see you all one day next year we hope. Be safe and thanx for the interview Jason, stay safe.
Thanx Dirk for the interview.