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The big break -
The Big Break
We got a call from Dorn Repport, a promoter in Pottstown, PA, and he had heard one of our demos. He was promoting a show with the Daniel Band. He wanted us to be the opening band, and we felt this was a good opportunity for the band to get in front of a big crowd.
I was playing bass on some tunes, Troy was playing bass and guitar, Steve Gilbert was drumming, and we brought in Billy Sutherland, a great guitarist in our home area of Louisville. Billy was brought in like the icing on the cake. He was not a band member, but we felt insecure about our own playing. I had played bass for Bill's band Warrior in 1982 for nearly the entire year before Troy and I had formed Matrix. I had left Warrior on a sour note; however, Billy and I had remained friends.
We rented a van, loaded our gear in, and off to Pennsylvania we went. The show went very well, and a few people in the crowd had actually heard of us. Somehow they had got their hands on the demo tape, and they knew the words to the songs. We did not really have a song set list planned, so we just made it up as we went, but we agreed on an entrance and an ending.
Because of some sound problems, the show was delayed. At the last moment, we thought we would make a spectacular entrance into the auditorium by coming from the back of the room through the crowd. Steve Gilbert (our drummer) was already on stage, and because of the sound delay the crowd urged him to play a 10-minute drum solo. I remember talking with the guys that Steve would be too worn out to play the show if he did not let up, but he relentlessly and mercilessly beat his drumheads flat.
We were in the back of the auditorium when the band was announced. We made a big entrance by running up through the crowd of about 1000 people and leaping onto stage. I can remember people trying to stop me from getting on stage. They had no idea who we were. We had a big finale planned.
We had flash pots loaded down heavy with powder. As the end of the set came, the flash pots went off. Billy tossed his guitar high into the air, up into the lights. The combination of stage lights and the flash from the explosion blinded him. He attempted to catch his guitar, and he did ... "right in the head." He was knocked to the ground by the impact. I remember standing over him, wondering if he was all right. Other than a cut and a bruise, he was fine.
We had constructed the pots out of wood. Normally we would have had metal cans. When the pots exploded, they blew apart splintering wood over the audience. One boy was hit in the head and was bleeding, but he was excited about being part of the show. I believe he collected some of the wood for a souvenir.
The Daniel Band was signed to Refuge Music Group, and we had no idea that there were record people in the crowd. Refuge did not like us at all, however, they were impressed by the way the fans swarmed around us after the show and bought every tape we had brought. The Pennsylvania crowd loved us for some reason, and we were a hit. It was just months later that we were signed to our first record deal. This would be the beginning of something that Troy and I had never thought would happen. God was setting in motion His plan for our lives. We still were baffled by the events leading up to the record deal.
We agreed on recording the record in Louisville, and that we would self produce the project. Things started happening very quickly, and we tried to put together a stable line-up of musicians. We added Scott Hall, a friend of ours, on bass, but he would only play on a couple of tunes in the studio. Steve Osborne was added on guitar because of his local legendary status as a guitarist virtuoso. Steve Gilbert remained on drums, and Troy went to full time guitar. I laid down the bass and would only provide vocals.
The record was under way with Howey Gano as engineer. We recorded this first project in Howey's basement studio, "Sound on Sound," for the incredibly low budget of $2750.00. Originally we had been allotted only $2500.00, but we went over budget by $250.00. Our first check from Refuge Music Group to pay for the recording bounced, and we should have figured then that we had signed with the wrong company, but we were just excited about the possibilities of reaching thousands of people with our music and message of hope.
We were still very inexperienced as a rock band, and our live show was somewhat unorthodox, scary, and confusing for the audience. The volume and the awkwardness of our stage show all contributed to churches frowning upon us. Churches refused to have us, and would not even entertain the thoughts of Bride entering their grounds. If we wanted to play live, we would have to take our music elsewhere.
We found ourselves playing local bars. Places such as The Toy Tiger in Louisville, KY, Bogarts and a club called Annies in Cincinnati opened their doors to us. My wife, Sharon, was due to deliver our first child the night of a show in Cincinnati. Thank goodness Alex, my first born son, waited a few days to arrive. We stayed broke musically, but remained busy playing at any club that would have us, as well as every "battle of the bands" competition we could enter.
The reviews on Show no Mercy were mixed, and Chris Yambar was back with a few remarks, saying, "... Show No Mercy is where Bride shows their true talents and really flexes!!" Other writers and magazines of the underground wrote: "Troy Thompson does a good job of creating fresh new sounds. He reaches to a variety of times and places for just the right thing to spice up a song" (Jay A. Mindeman). Doug Peterson of White Throne magazine had to say, "... This one is sure to please any head banger whose ears are discriminate of tastefully played music." He also followed up the review with an interview.
Powerline said, "You'll either love it or hate it, Bride are a hot property and a force to be reckoned with." Doug Van Pelt of Heavens Metal not only wrote a review, he also did a nice interview with me. To our surprise, Hit Parader magazine did a review on the record. A writer by the name of Jonathan Block said, "... Dale Thompson has the best range this side of Bruce Dickinson of Iron Maiden. If Bride ever gets big, Thompson will have to change his phone number: it's listed on the album sleeve."
Scott Robinson, a contributing critic for the Louisville Times (our home news paper), even covered the release of the record with a full page article and a review of a local live church. The article started by saying, "... There was so much smoke rolling off the stage you couldn't see the lead singer, let alone the drummer. All you could see as Dale Thompson and his band roared onto stage were flashing red lights taken from the top of a squad car, driven by a car battery nestled under the drum risers. Thompson, his younger brother Troy and their fellow band members were so loud the police were called by residents of the Highlands area."
Most of the reviews were kind to us, as we were still trying to find out what style of music we should be playing. The year was quickly spent, and that brought us to our next record. Scott Hall was out of the band, and we found Frank Partipilo playing in a cover band out of Indiana. Refuge Music Group brought in a producer for this sophomore project. His name was John Petri.
We were flown to New Jersey to Grand Slam Studios. The Studio was run down, but it had a big live room for drums. Steve Osborne had left the band for a short period of time, but when he heard we were recording again he was more than eager to return to impress us with new guitar licks he had mastered. Osborne was very strange, and I never knew how to read him. Troy and I had decided that, after this record, we should have nothing else to do with him.
It bothered Osborne that while he was away from the band Troy had learned all of his guitar solos. So as we rehearsed for the next record, Osborne would rehearse with his back to the rest of the band so Troy could not see him play. Osborne had something to prove on Live to Die since Troy had learned all of his solos from Show No Mercy, and he did not want to be second to anyone.
During the entire recording of Live to Die, Osborne was ill with the flu and was hallucinating with a fever. The band lived in the studio and soon found out that there was a hole in the ceiling where we slept. We had mistaken it for a skylight. We found out it was a hole when Osborne tossed a bar of soap through the hole onto the roof. Live to Die turned out to be very heavy and borderline thrash. We knew the hardcore fans would really like it.
In 1988 we played a few more shows than the previous year. We ended up making a couple of trips to California. This is where we found other bands just like Bride who were preparing for the long haul of Christian Rock. We played concerts with Guardian, Xalt and many glam wannabe bands out of California. We were now getting radio air play on some Christian Radio Stations, and were even featured on the national secular radio program called "Metal Shop."
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