Wargasm Interview With Bob Mayo

OMG am I extremely proud to present this interview with bass player/singer Bob Mayo around the recording and release of the band's classic "Why Play Around Release", so take it away Bob

How did the forming of Wargasm come together? How long were you 3 together before you started to write originals?

BM: All three of us went to the same high school, but didn’t really know each other until we met at a party where people were jamming music all day. At one point, Barry got behind the drums and I played (guitar) with him, one-on-one, and we really clicked. Rich and his friend Pete, who were in a band at the time, watched Barry and I play, and that night they asked me to start a band with them. I said ‘Only if Barry is the drummer!’ Not knowing he was Rich’s little brother. Rich said ‘NO WAY!’ but later on that night, he changed his mind. That was Overkill. We had no vocalist and played metal covers. Pete was the bass player, and he quit after a few months, so I took over on bass. We looked for a vocalist and nobody felt right, so I tried singing; that was Maniac, the precursor to Wargasm.

How did you come up with the name and the logo of the band?

BM: Combat Records offered us an EP deal, on their Boot Camp series, but they insisted we change our name. We passed on their offer but decided we should still change our name. Barry & Rich’s sister found ‘wargasm’ in a thesaurus listed as a synonym for ‘attack’. I still have the thesaurus page. I came up with the logo, just sitting on my bedroom floor with a piece of paper and a Sharpie.

Now your demo “Satan Stole My Lunch Money” got your name out there back in 1986 as thrash was kicking some serious ass. Now did you send this demo out to many record companies at the time? Did you get much interest from many labels, not including Profile Records?

BM: Yes we sent it out everywhere, not just to labels but also to every zine under the sun, which plugged us into the tape trading network. We got offers from 4 or 5 underground labels. In addition to the EP deal from Combat, Metal Blade offered us a spot on one of their Metal Massacre comps. We passed on both of those offers because we didn’t want to give them a strong song, which would’ve weakened our first album, and didn’t want to give them a weak song because it would be our first impression on metal fans. We knew we were eventually going to do an album and we wanted it to be as strong as possible, and for THAT to be our first impression on the metal world.

So now did Profile Records approach you or did you get interest from them and that led to you signing with them? What think or things led to you wanting to go with them and not some other label at the time?

BM: Rock Hotel was a small indie label run by NYC promoter Chris Williamson, he got our tape in the mail, listened to 30 seconds of it, and threw it in the trash. A week later, Megadeth played at L’amour in Brooklyn, and Rich went to the show with a box of our demo tapes and handed them out in the crowd. Some Rock Hotel employees started playing the tape at the offices and Chris asked them what they thought of it. They loved it, so Chris got in touch and made us an offer. He told us this story after we signed with him. Bottom line, his was the best offer overall, recording budget-wise and he also pledged to keep us on the road constantly.

So how easy were negotiations with them? Did they give you much of a budget to record, what is now the thrash classic “Why Play Around”?

BM: There really weren’t any ‘negotiations’, they made their offer, we compared it to the others, and we knew he had the hardcore and metal scenes in NYC nailed down, so we went with him.

Now how soon after you signed the deal with Profile did you start to go in to record this record? Were any people early on telling you that maybe you should have signed with a label like Metal Blade, Noise, Combat, etc?

BM: We had already recorded half the album; the Satan Stole My Lunch Money demo became half of Why Play Around? We tweaked the recordings a little bit and spent more time mixing it, but after signing all we had to do was record a few more songs to complete the album. Nobody told us signing with Profile was a bad move, because nobody knew what was coming. At that time, Cro-mags Age of Quarrel was out on Profile, also Destruction’s Release From Agony and Motorhead’s Overkill, Bomber, and Ace of Spades were licensed by Profile. So there was no reason to believe it was a bad decision. YET!

Now once you signed the deal and were planning on entering the studio, was there a big delay from when you wanted to go in until you actually went in?

BM: No delay at all, we finished the album in no time. The big delay was that Chris lost his affiliation with Profile, who cut him loose and decided they didn’t want to release or promote his hardcore and metal bands anymore. So Chris’ label had no promo and no funding, and Rock Hotel was dead in the water. We waited months and months for him to find another label to support Rock Hotel, but he came up with nothing. Ultimately after about a year, Profile decided to release our album themselves, with no promo, no tour support, and no communication with us at all. They didn’t give a shit about us or about our record.

So how did it take you to find a studio you wanted and a producer you wanted to use?

BM: We had recorded the Satan demo at Normandy Sound and it was a great studio, great staff, a great location, no brainer to go back there to finish it. We didn’t use a producer, we never have.

So you used all 4 of the demo tunes and 4 new tunes, I’m not counting that tune “Merritt’s Girlfriend” that clocks in at under a minute. How long did it take to write these 4 tunes for the release?

BM: The other songs were already written, we had everything for the album written (and a few more) even before we recorded the Satan demo.

How long were you in the studio for? Did it go smoothly or was it mostly a pain in the ass getting these songs down the way you wanted them to be?

BM: 3 or 4 days recording, overnights, because it’s cheaper. It was super-easy. took a while, because Chris Williamson didn’t like the first mix and came to help with a second mix.

So did you manage to do any type of touring behind this release? If so who did you go out with? If you didn’t, did you get to at least go out on some mini-weekend shows during the year that WPA was released?

BM: We continued to play around New England as we always had, but we did go out with Cro-mags for a few weeks up and down the East Coast. It was super low-key because there was basically no record company anymore, so no record company support.

After WPA was out and you were ready to get one with release # 2, how hard was it to get out of your contract with Profile? Were they just the biggest dicks keeping you under contact and not letting you go anywhere?

BM: It was impossible, because you had to get someone on the damn telephone, and they couldn’t care less about us. They never returned calls, even from our lawyer. Dealing with us and making decisions about what to do with us didn’t make them any money so it was not a priority. So yes, we were signed to them and couldn’t record for anyone else, they had no intention of asking us for a second album when the time came, but at the same time, they wouldn’t let us out of the contract so we could sign with anyone else and move on with our careers. They just didn’t care.

Now I’m not here to talk about the next couple of releases you did, but I’m gonna move up to why the band broke up and then I’m gonna talk more about WPA. Was it a mutual decision between all 3 of you and what did you guys do after the band broke up?

BM: I quit. After we finally got out of our contract, almost 5 years after WPA? was released, we signed with Germany’s Massacre Records, and released ‘Ugly’ and the ‘Fireball’ ep. After coming back from our 3rd European tour, things were looking great, and we were seriously considering relocating to Germany. Then Massacre called up our next album, which we wrote and recorded in just about 3 months. During the mixing process, Massacre told us that they just signed a big-name band and that all of the label’s resources would be spent on that band, so our new album would get no promo, there would be no tour support, and they thought it only fair to ask us if we’d like to shop around for another label to release it. All we had to do was pay back the recording advance that had been spent on its recording and mixing. Fucked again! We were about to fall back into the same situation had escaped from, no label support at all. It was our tenth year as a band and we were right back to rock bottom again. I did not want to relive that bullshit, having an album come out with no label support, trying to find a way out of a deal that had gone south… It really felt like Wargasm was truly never going to catch a break, we’d always fighting for everything, and I thought ten years was enough. So I quit.

Over the years with social media being so big did you read much about just how great WPA was and what a classic it was/is?

BM: Ya that was a surprise. It’s more popular and well-known now than it ever was.

Now in 2008, you guys got back together for a 2nd time, the 1st one was in 2004, to release a DVD called “Knee Deep in the Middle East”, with with two shows: in Cambridge, MA at the Middle East Club and in Providence, RI at Club Hell. You guys played “Why Play Around? in its entirety. How was it getting up and playing this now classic album, 20 years later for a DVD? How do you think it turned out?

BM: It was great, and the DVD of the 2004 show came out great, but both the 2008 shows were supposed to be recorded and released as “Why Play Alive?” but due to technical difficulties, it didn’t happen.

How did the idea for this 20-year anniversary show come about?

BM: Our longtime friend Jonathan Jacobs runs a non-profit music-based organization called Rawkstars, and both times we played the Middle East in Boston were for fundraisers for JJ’s charity. The 2008 show was going to be an opportunity for us to release a live version of ‘Why Play Around?’ but again, didn’t work out.

Do you guys realize after all this time that WPA is considered easily one of the greatest thrash albums ever recorded in the trash metal genre?

BM: Yes we see it referred to as such quite often, and it’s humbling. It’s great to know that something lasting came out of those ten years of struggle and strife.

Now these days there are lots of big metal fests in the states where older bands play albums in their entirety. Dark Angel is doing this with “Darkness Descends”. Raven just did this as well playing “Wiped Out” as well. Would you consider doing this with WPA at any fests or even overseas at all like Keep It True?

BM: For that to happen, all 3 members would have to be willing, and unfortunately that’s probably unlikely at this point.

Since Facebook, YouTube, and Spotify, have a lot of new fans discovered this godly release from you guys?

BM: Yes, as I said it’s much more popular right now than it ever was. It’s very gratifying knowing that something you did when you were a kid 35 years ago still resonates with people.

Have you seen many bootlegs of it over the years?

BM: Yes, a ‘label’ called Mad Rush Media printed 666 copies, us and Nuclear Assault’s ‘Survive’. I got in touch with them and got copies for each band member. There’s really nothing we can do about it. They did a nice job with the packaging!

Please plug any websites or social media you have for the band and any merchandise as well.

BM: We own the rights to ‘Fireball’, ‘Ugly’, the live 2004 DVD and CD, and they are all available on Bandcamp:

We’re on Facebook:

Bob, ultra horns up for doing this chat and going back in time to when thrash was king and you recorded what I say is one of the 10 greatest thrash albums ever. Any last words to wrap this up?

BM: Thanks to all our fans across the decades, and thanks to you Chris for your interest and patience!

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