Master of the Heavy Metal Basement
Name: Jim Powell
Age: 43 (birth date: Sept. 8, 1967)
Location: Linthicum, Maryland, USA
Occupation: Sales/Project Manager in the sign industry
Tell us something about your history as a Judas Priest fan?
I’d say that I solidified myself a being a Judas priest fan in 1980 when I was 13 years old. I have a brother who is 10 years older than me and is really into hard rock. He was always cranking up stuff at our house and I’d always ask him what band he was listening to when something would catch my ear. I recall asking him about a few songs that I heard him playing that I really liked, his answer was Judas Priest to 3 or 4 consecutive songs, it was “British Steel” he was listening to. I gathered up some money, went out and bought it the very next day.
I then backtracked and bought their previous releases. The second Priest album I picked up was “Unleashed In The East” and this is the album I’d say not only had me hooked on Priest, but really heavy metal music in general. By the time “Point Of Entry” had come out, I had already obtained their complete back catalogue of releases. From then on I have followed the band diligently throughout their career.
When “Screaming For Vengeance” came out, that sent me up to a whole other metal plateau. I was finishing up 9th grade in junior high school when that album came out, man, was I living and breathing that album and band at that time. I was still a fanatic during the “Defenders..” album and tour, but then they lost me for a few years during the whole ‘Turbo- Priest Live -Ram it Down’ era. At that time I was listening to mostly very fast, heavy and aggressive stuff that was coming out, particularly cross over (metal/punk) hardcore and thrash metal. My tastes were moving in a heavier direction and Priest were going the opposite way . Though I did not care for those albums at that time (I do appreciate those releases more now than I did back then), I still saw them live and supported them during those years.
It is when “Painkiller’ came out that I was totally levelled and was back on board, they filled the void that I had been missing from them. I listened to that album endlessly. Disappointedly, Rob left, then in comes Ripper Owens…
When I first heard that Tim Owens was joining the band I was pretty excited as I was a fan of Winter’s Bane, I had their demo tape well prior to him joining Priest. I loved the vocals and was looking forward to hearing him with Priest. I must say that I was very disappointed in the outcome. They had tuned way down and Tim was singing more rougher, they were falling into the standard modern metal trend sound that was going on at that time. I think “Cathedral Spires” had glimpses of being good, but ideally I didn’t really care for the albums they did with Ripper, yet again I did go see them on their tours during that era.
Back comes Rob, out comes “Angel Of Retribution” which brought me back into the fold again. Definitely a pretty strong return for the band. The next release, ‘Nostradamus’ I like as well. I know a lot of people don’t get it, sure there is a bit of filler stuff there, but the album as a whole is pretty decent. I think it is pretty creative and innovative for them at this point of their career.
In regards to my history as becoming a Priest collector, I’d say it all started in 1981. I picked up the U.S. 7″ single of “Heading Out To The Highway” which had a picture sleeve and (2) live tracks on the B-side, which I thought was pretty cool. I shortly there after mail-ordered for the 1981 tour book, then some t-shirts, then some buttons, then posters, the bootleg live LP “The Ripper” and so on. I started trading live cassette tapes with people all over the world and it really snowballed from there.
Your basement might already be familiar to some of our readers, as it was featured in the bonus material of the dvd release of the famous 80s underground documentary ‘Heavy Metal Parking Lot’. Tell us something about your Heavy Metal Basement…
It’s kind of funny, the title “Heavy Metal Basement” was the name conceived by the filmmaker Jeff Krulik upon his first visit to my house. Basically I try to keep my music collection contained to my downstairs basement area so that it does not consume my whole house, though I do have an upstairs spare bedroom which has sort of turned into an overflow area (maybe Jeff will name it ‘Heavy Metal Office’ the next time he comes over Ha! Ha!). I have some posters and other things stored in my attic as well. The other half of my basement has a bar and a bunch of beer/alcohol memorabilia, so it can be a fun place to hang out Ha! Ha!
As far as how the video segment extra ” Visit The Heavy Metal Basement” came about as being on the “Heavy Metal Parking Lot” DVD, here’s a run down of how this whole segment happened: I met the “Heavy Metal Parking Lot” filmmaker Jeff Krulik at a screening of the film at a college near Towson, MD somewhere. Afterwards I told Jeff I was actually at the Judas Priest concert he filmed this at and that I was a big Judas Priest fan/collector, etc. Jeff (and his film partner John Heyn – who I’d meet a little bit later) was not a heavy metal fan, yet alone a Judas Priest fan, nor did he know much about them. They were basically filmmakers, just filming a particular culture, just having fun with it.
So you were there at Capital Centre, Maryland on May 31, 1986 when Heavy Metal Parking Lot was filmed?
Yes, I was at that concert. That is actually my ticket stub that the guys who made the film used on the DVD cover, t-shirts and other forms of promotion for it. I was not in the actual parking lot footage though. Nothing personal against anyone in that film, but I feel as though most of those that were interviewed on that parking lot were not true Priest fans, I’d say that most of them were just going along with the current music trend and partying at that time. I highly doubt many of them are still listening to Priest these days. To be honest with you I was a little hesitant in going to that show because I was disappointed in ‘Turbo’ and in the direction that Priest had gone in at that time, but I went anyway to support them and knew that there would be some good songs played.
Anyway, Jeff came over to my house to get a copy of my concert ticket stub from the actual show that they made the film at and also to borrow some of my old concert shirts to use in the photo session for a GQ Magazine article that was being done on them. He asked me to give him some history on Judas Priest, so I basically pulled out all of my Priest albums I had at the time and went through them from the beginning to end and gave him my opinion on them and their career. He asked if I mind if he filmed me going through the records, that way he had something to use as a reference on the band. I said “no problem”. So that was it, he filmed me going through my Priest records and that is what is now available as a special feature extra on the DVD.
It was not planned or thought out, not even ment to be filmed for public use, just a spontaneous conversation really. When they were shopping the film around for the DVD release, since the film was so short, they added a lot of extras to make it longer, my segment being one of them (a whopping 40 minutes), so there you have it. It’s pretty funny that I’m getting more and more people and old friends contacting me about this worldwide, come to find out this DVD has been getting better distribution as now it’s available in a lot of stores everywhere.
Everyone is asking me why I didn’t show my 7″ singles, tour books, posters, and lots of other rare Judas Priest collectibles, etc. Well, if it had been planned out, I would have surely shown more of my collection and would have spent more time showing some of the rarer items I was quickly flipping through and not spending much time on. I’ve read a lot of funny reviews about my segment, quotes describing me such as “aging rocker goes through his collection” or “obsessive dorky metal geek “, it’s all been pretty fun and pretty positive as well. I heard from a lot of people and have read that some people who are not even into Priest or metal have watched through and enjoyed it. I think some people who don’t know me that see this view me as some guy who does nothing but sit in his basement thumbing through records, buttons and old ticket stubs and has no life. Where as in reality, it’s quite the opposite: I’m a normal guy, I live a very active lifestyle, I have a girlfriend, I do all kinds of stuff Ha! Ha! It’s just I’m very passionate about music. Anyways, everybody go out and buy this thing so that my friends Jeff & John can make some money from this thing (no, I do not get the royalties) and support the independent filmmakers scene. They have done some other fun films to check out as well. Also keep an eye out for their new film “Heavy Metal Picnic” (in which I appear and have a couple roles in too). Please go to their websites: www.heavymetalparkinglot.com and also http://www.heavymetalpicnic.com/
Has your collection expanded since the filming of this HMPL bonus footage?
That video was shot in April of the year 2001, so yes , as you can image I’ve surely acquired a lot more stuff in the last almost 10 years. To be honest with you though, I’m really not accumulating as much stuff as a I did in previous years. A few reasons really, it’s a combination of things such as running out of space to keep things, also I have obtained a lot of what I’ve been looking for and also having other financial priorities these days (not to mention how bad the economy has become over the last couple years) on top of that. A couple years ago I even actually sold a bunch of my original metal concert shirts from the early to mid 80’s. It was sad to part with them, though it did pay off and they were not doing me any good boxed up in the attic (they were way too small to fit me these days ha!).
A majority of my collection was accumulated way before the days of the internet, email, eBay, etc. It took a lot of passion, dedication and hard work to obtain most of the stuff I have. It took a lot of groundwork and gallivanting around, such as traveling to records stores all over the place, looking though magazines, looking for traders, connections, going through ‘Goldmine’ or ‘Record Collector’ with a magnifying glass the day it would come out, writing hand written letters to people on the other side of the planet, just following up any lead possible, going to record conventions, flea markets, concerts, etc. Anywhere or anything my music addiction would lead me to. A lot of it is about being at the right place at the right time. It was not nearly as easy as it is these days to just turning on a computer, typing a few buttons, find what you are looking for, whip out the credit card and there you have it, in the mail a week later. Sure, it is convenient finding stuff online, and sure I’ve bought several hard to find items that way, but it’s just not as special, meaningful, fun or as sacred as it was getting stuff the hard earned way. Those days were a lot of fun and had a lot of great time out in the fields hunting so to speak Ha! Ha!
Besides Priest, what are your other most favourite artists or bands?
I am a huge collector of Thin Lizzy and Alice Cooper also, maybe not quite the size of my Priest collection, but close. Probably the most impressionable music to me is the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal (bands such as Satan, Jaguar, Angel Witch, Tygers Of Pan Tang, Samson, etc.) and the mid-80s thrash movement (bands such as Artillery, Destruction, Exodus, Slayer, Possessed, Nasty Savage, etc.). I had the fortunate timing of my age that I was able to be a part of and watch these movements evolve from the beginning and get into these bands as they came out and was part of the scene (the NWOBHM had already been established, I joined into that in about the middle part of the wave).
I like such a diverse variety of bands and styles of rock music these days, that it is really hard to pin point my all-time favourites, but other than what I’ve mentioned thus far I’d have to say that UFO, Blue Oyster Cult, Mercyful Fate, Plasmatics, and even Cheap Trick are right up there with them. I can’t forget the classics like Sabbath, Deep Purple, Iron Maiden and AC/DC either. I like all forms of real metal (traditional, power, speed, thrash, doom, progressive, and some death metal) and hard rock. I’m also into older hardcore and traditional punk rock, rockabilly, psychobilly, surf, celtic folk, and even some power pop. Let’s see, stuff I like, there’s The Weird Lord Slough Feg, Seasons Of The Wolf, VoiVod, The Hi-Risers, Discharge, ZZ Top, Blondie, Anvil, Molly Hatchet, Legend, Dead Boys, Mind Over Four, Venom, Skyclad, Brian Setzer, The Knack, Krokus, The Sweet, Riot, Jethro Tull, Metal Church, Mind Over Four, Buddy Holly, Raven, The Cramps, Budgie, Deke Dickerson, Y & T, Los Straitjackets, The Doors, Agnostic Front, Accept, Psychotic Waltz, Dark Angel, Demon, Bad Brains, Rose Tattoo, Damn The Machine…I’ll stop there, you get the picture, I’m all over the map.…
Are there any special items in your collection you perhaps consider more valuable than the others? For example some rare hard-to-get records…
As far as collecting heavy metal goes, the rarer hard-to-get stuff is usually private pressing LP’s and 7″ singles from the late 70s to mid 80s. Usually self-financed and released by the band themselves that do not have any affiliation with any record labels. The pressings are very limited anywhere from 100 – 500 or so. I would say that these are the most collectible vinyl. Also limited color vinyl pressings and various foreign country releases with different picture sleeves. I have quite a few of these type records throughout my collection. I have a lot of other music memorabilia too, such as promotional items,autographed items, some odds and ends. One of a kind stuff like a pair of glasses that belonged to the Mentors El Duce, pieces of a TV that was smashed up by Wendy O. Williams, a 10′ x 20′ backdrop that Judas Priest used at the Foundations Forum in CA in 1997, etc.
Are there still any Priest records you’re hunting, or is the collection already complete?
I don’t think the collection is ever complete, whenever you think you have it all or most of what you want, you discover other items out there that you never knew existed. Especially with the internet as a resource these days. I’d say easily the number one item that I am looking for is a Spanish pressing of the “Sad Wings Of Destiny” LP which is entitled “Tristes Alas Del Destino” which has a gatefold sleeve that has an exclusive photo on the inside when you open it up. A friend of mine in New York has it, other than that, I’ve never seen it before anywhere else. I took photos of it, so that will have to do me until I ever find a copy Ha! Ha! There is also a 7″ single I’m looking for, the sleeve looks identical to British Steel, I believe it is a foreign pressing of “Living After Midnight”. There are a couple posters out there and a couple other odds and ends I’d like to get, but these (2) items are my priorities.
Looking at your collection it’s easy to see that you prefer good old vinyl to cds…
Oh yeah, I love vinyl. Don’t get me wrong, I probably have a thousand cd’s, but I really like the sound of vinyl. I think digital recording has gone way too far to the point where it does not sound good anymore, sounds like it is missing a lot of bottom end and other frequencies. I really do not like the way newer cd’s are sounding these days, they are so loud, it almost sounds that in the studio all knobs are just shoved to the top. Older recordings you can hear everything well and distinctly, sounds like a band playing in a room together, it doesn’t sound as processed and pieced together as recordings sound these days. Bring back analogue!
The packaging is something else that there is no comparison to. I love the full size album cover artwork, gatefold covers with inner sleeves, inserts, and sometimes there’s even colored vinyl. I enjoy that much more than holding a little booklet with minuscule writing.
I get a kick out of people that can not believe I still listen to vinyl, whilst they listen to really crappy sounding mp3’s.
During these days of digital downloading, do you see there’s still a future for physical ‘old school’ releases?
I hope so, but am uncertain if there is. There will always be market for people wanting to buy cd’s etc., but I don’t know if it is big enough to keep companies manufacturing them. Vinyl has made a small resurgence here in the USA, though I feel it is dying out already again as new releases are pretty expensive these days. The kids I see lately just download stuff, they don’t care about the packaging, etc. Me personally, I do not download, nor do I like listening to mp3’s. I do not use an ipod or computer as my main source to listen to music. I like to crank up my stereos and listen to it that way. When I purchase music, I like to have something tangible that I can actually hold and keep, not just an invisible digital file of some sort that I would store on an ipod. Uggghhhh…
You’ve got also some experience about fanzines and running a record label?
Wow, where do I start, at some point I’ve pretty much dabbled in just about everything imaginable in the music scene except for being a real musician (I lacked the discipline and patience it took to learn how to play when I was younger, it was much easier being a fan).
I’ll try to keep this short; back in 1983 a friend of mine, Ray Dorsey, had started a fanzine called ‘Metal Maelstrom’, in which the name changed to ‘Chaos’ with his 2nd issue. The only other USA ‘zines that I had known about a that time were Ron Quintana’s ‘Metal Mania’, Brian Slagel’s ‘New Heavy Metal Review’, K.J. Doughton’s ‘Northwest Metal’ and Bob Muldowney’s ‘Kick Ass Monthly’. I had started doing some writing for ‘Chaos’, some of my stuff he used, some of it he did not (I don’t blame him as I was much younger than him and my writing was nowhere near being on par with his). Anyway, I started writing a lot more material, too much for it all to be used in ‘Chaos’, so with that being, plus Ray living on the other side of town from me (remember this was way before the days of email), I decided to just start my own little fanzine with two close friends of mine.
I christened the ‘zine with the name of ‘Grinder’ (I wonder where I got that name from Ha! Ha!) in which the first issue came out in 1984 (I was told by Bobby Blitz that we were the first magazine to ever put Over Kill on the cover – so that’s our claim to fame Ha!). We went on to put out (6) issues of ‘Grinder’. During and in between I did a lot of freelance writing for various other ‘zines. The last writing I really did on a regular basis was for the European magazine ‘Snakepit’ in the mid to late 90s.
Aside from doing writing back then, I also was involved with doing promotion for a few bands (most notably Maryland based band Deuce – eventually changed the name to Tension), and some roadie work for some local bands. I’ve been on some radio shows, done some cable TV affiliated work, emceed, studio work, video work, sound crew, etc. and probbaly a bunch of other endeavours that I can’t even think of right now. In the 90s I was involved with the New Mexico/Arizona based band ‘Wardog’. It was during that time when I stared ‘Metalgrind Productions’ with the intention of it being a Management-Promotion-Distribution-Record Label.
The only release I put out on my label was the cd issue of the Tension – “Breaking Point” LP ,which we titled ‘Epitaph’. I had a few more releases planned, such as Have Mercy, Disaster Area and the US release of the 3rd Wardog cd, but none of that ever came to fruition. I was working my full time job, while doing the music thing on the side. I was hoping that I could do music business full time, but I was having trouble finding dedicated reliable help, it was turning into an expensive hobby really, and worst of all, what was once my true passion (music) was turning into an obligation, like a job. I was starting to lose my passion for it, which I did not want to happen. I remember returning home from a tour I went on in Europe with Wardog, when I arrived back home and got off the plane, I decided that I was no longer going to pursue the music industry as a career and was just going to keep it as a hobby. I was burnt out to say the least. Judging the way the music industry is these days and what it has become, I’m probably much better off with the decision I made.
Can you tell us about your collaboration with Martin Popoff with his book “Heavy Metal Painkillers”?
My involvement in the book was providing a big chunk of the images that were taken from my collection (which is a fraction of what I have and only a portion of what we photographed), as well as some stuff from a friend’s collection.
Martin contacted me through mutual friends and asked if I could contribute photos and scans of some of my Judas Priest collection for his upcoming book. It sounded like fun, so I agreed to do it. After I made the commitment and sat down to start scanning I realised what a task I had in front of me. Just getting out all of the albums, 7″ singles, photos, posters, pins, tour books, shirts, magazines, etc. was a task of it’s own. I quickly went to one of my best friends for his expertise in photographing and getting the best scans as possible. He was then roped in, willingly, to the project as well. The scanning went on for several days, we did a lot of the preliminary photographing.
Martin drove down from Canada on a weekend to check progress and to mill through the countless items picking which he wanted to use in the book. Another full day was spent photographing more memorabilia, which really came out well. Alas we have reaped the rewards of our efforts, the final product is a whopping 8″ wide x 10″ high x 3/4″ thick, 380 page, beautiful color book, with 541 photos, and embossed cover. The text of the book was solely written by Martin Popoff. For more info on the book and to order a copy, contact: www.martinpopoff.com/html/welcome.html Tell him Jim sent ya.
How many times have you seen Priest live, and of those, what was the best experience?
Wow, I’d really have to think about that one. The first time I saw them was at the Baltimore Civic Center in 1982 on the ‘Screaming…’ tour, I then saw them in 1984 on the ‘Defenders …’ tour. After that I’ve seen them twice in 1986, once each in 1988, 1990, 1991, and 1998. Three times in 2002. Once each in 2004 and 2005, three times in 2008, and once in 2009. There may be a few times that I’m forgetting, but that should pretty much cover it. I loved the gig in 1984 as well as the ‘Painkiller’ tour in 1990, but my favourite was the first time in 1982.
I remember my brother going to see them in 1981 and he would not let me go with him, nor did my parents allow me to go because I was too young. Man, was I mad, I remember really having a anger fit over that. Ha! Ha!
Are there any other special Priest-related moments that you remember?
Aside from seeing them live for the first time, which is probably my favourite experience, I have a story that I don’t know if I’d call a special moment, but it was surely Priest related.
Back in the early 90s I took a trip to England and spent a night at former Priest singer Alan Atkins house. After his wife fixed us dinner we went out to the pub and had a few beers, came back to his house and were hanging out. He ends up showing me a acetate vinyl record of some original Priest demo recordings (I think it may have been about 4 songs or so) with him on vocals. He would not play it because his young children were sleeping and he did not have headphones. I was going crazy knowing I had that in my hand and could not listen to it. At that time, this stuff had never been heard by many people and had not circulated out at all. I remember not being able to sleep that night knowing that record was in the house and I was not able to listen to it. The next morning I had to get up and catch an early train out, so I never did get to hear it. I have since then only recently obtained some recordings which I believe came from that acetate.
The ‘Painkiller’ tour was a memorable time as well, because Priest were back, full of vigour and had me back in their graces.
Aside from Al Atkins, the only Priest member I’ve ever met was Rob Halford and that was only briefly outside of his tour bus in Minnesota back in 2000 during a ‘Halford’ band tour. I’d say that was a cool moment too.
What does the music of Judas Priest mean to you?
Reflecting back, their music means a lot to me and is a big part of my life. Growing up as a teenager, during those impressionable, challenging, trying, influential and developmental years in life, Priest’s music was a big part of it. I think the direction I took in life as well as a lot of my life experiences generated from my passion of heavy metal music which all started with Priest.
Back to the “Unleashed…” album, if you look up the word heavy metal in an encyclopaedia, this to me is the album that had the sound, image, song titles, logo, etc. that defined heavy metal. Sure, there were several bands that initiated the ingredients and laid down the ground work, but I feel that Priest were the ones that combined all of the elements and created what is considered traditional text book heavy metal. They are the band that solidified my addiction and obsession with heavy metal music.
Because of liking their music so much, at any chance I had I’d go to the record stores and start in the ‘A’ section and work my way through the alphabet going through every record looking for anything that looked metal, it had to have a cool-looking cover, usually a 5 piece band with 2 lead guitarists, usually 9 or 10 songs around 4 minutes each, cool song titles, and absolutely NO keyboards. Some of the first U.S. Domestic releases I recall seeing that looked metal to me were Def Leppard – “On Through The Night”, Tygers Of Pan Tang – “Wild Cat”, Iron Maiden – 1st Lp, Riot – “Fire Down Under”, Motorhead – “Iron Fist”, Accept – “Breaker”,Saxon – “Wheels Of Steel” just to name a few. Then when I discovered ‘Import’ metal albums, that is what kicked open the doors to a whole other world and my consummation of music.
What is your favorite album and song?
As far as Priest goes, man that is a very tough question because I like a lot of their albums and songs for a lot of different reasons. Right off the bat, song wise, I’d say “Dreamer Deceiver”, “Victim Of Changes”, “Beyond The Realms Of Death”, “The Sentinel”, “Painkiller”, and “Saints In Hell” for starters. Albums, I’d say “Sad Wings Of Destiny”, “Stained Class”, “Screaming For Vengeance” and “Unleashed In The East”, would probably be the top of my list.
As far as my favorite songs by other artists go, off of the top of my head: “Halo Of Flies” by Alice Cooper Group, “Satan’s Fall” by Mercyful Fate, “The Ballad Of Dwight Frye” by Alice Cooper Group, “Black Sabbath” by Black Sabbath, “Phantom Of The Opera” by Iron Maiden, “The Last days Of May” by Blue Oyster Cult, just to name a few. As far as albums go, I don’t even know where to begin…
Your message to K.K. and the Millworkers?
To The Millworkers: I must say that I am quite humbled and honoured to be interviewed here for K.K.’s site, I’d love to actually meet K.K. someday and sit down and have a beer with him. I think this is a great site, keep up the great work in supporting one a hell of a guitarist.
To K.K.: Thanks for being a big influence in establishing my musical tastes and for all of the great music, guitar riffs, sounds, and licks you have created. Keep ’em coming…also see my comment above, the beer is on me!
For those that have read this far and are still awake after my long winded answers (Ha! Ha!), thanks for your interest. Anyone who’d like to correspond, you can find me on myspace at: http://www.myspace.com/diamondjim1967 or email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org