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Today I had the pleasure to talk with Dan Watson, guitarist for the incredible metal band “Hexx”. The band has a new album out called “Wrath Of The Reaper” and I spoke with Dan about the album, life in rock n’ roll and more. Dan had some of the best and funniest answers to some of these questions that I have ever seen. From being stalked by a horny Frenchman to meeting members of Judas Priest in an elevator. You’ll want to read this one….
XS ROCK: Tell me about the latest band news? Any new projects coming out, live shows or announcements?
Dan: Hello, Thanks for your interest in Hexx and the opportunity for this interview!
As most of your readers must know by now we recently released our long awaited comeback album, “Wrath of the Reaper” on High Roller Records. We are very proud of it and it showcases our amazing new vocalist, Eddy Vega and our new guitarist Bob Wright from Brocus Helm! We just did two record release shows here in the San Francisco Bay Area and we plan to be doing lots of shows next year in 2018 to support the new album.
XS ROCK: How long has the band been together?
Dan: We formed in 1983, disbanded in 1995 and reformed again in 2013 and are back in action and going strong again!
XS ROCK: What was your main motivation for starting or being in a band?
Dan: Ha! I will be totally honest here. I started playing guitar back in 1969. I was around 9 years old. My parents took me to the local drive in theatre to see the Beatles Hard Day’s Night movie. When I saw how cool those guys were and how all the girls would chase after them, I knew right then and there that’s what I wanted to do too! It seemed like a real good job!
I got into playing guitar and being in bands just in the hopes of getting girls. It worked too! Trouble is, now I’m stuck with one I can’t get rid of! Ha! Be careful what you wish for it might come true!
XS ROCK: What is your music background?
Dan: I started taking serious guitar lessons at age 9 (I am 55 now, do the math). I started performing in clubs and bars around the SF Bay Area at age 16 (illegally)
After graduating High School in 1980 I studied music theory at Contra Costa Community college for one year. I started playing the piano in my early 20’s and have been studying it off and on ever sense. Mainly in the Blues and Boogie Woogie /Rock and Roll styles of the 1930’s, 40’s, and 1950’s. After Hexx broke up in 1995 I got into roots music like 1950’s Country, Rockabilly and early Rock and Roll. I formed a band with Hexx bassist Bill Peterson and guitarist John Marshall from Metal Church called The TombStones. The TombStones did lots of local gigs and recorded three studio albums over the period of about ten years. Also during this time I started playing guitar in a Bay Area Psychobilly band called The Hellbillys. I toured in Europe three time and recorded three full studio albums and several singles with the Hellbillys. Also during this time I got a gig playing Rockabilly / Rock and Roll piano in Rockin Lloyd Trip’s Three Tons of Fun. I played with Lloyd for over two years did lots of local gigs as well of two tours of the United States.
XS ROCK: What message do you think your music conveys?
Dan: Hexx and the genre of heavy metal music in general allow us to touch on many subjects in our songwriting. Most of which are a little on the darker side of life. It’s a little bit like being a horror and science fiction writer but with shorter stories and they are set to kick ass music!
XS ROCK: What are your immediate music career goals and your long term career goals?
Dan: Right now our short term goals are to try and build up the bands popularity to allow us to get to perform at some of the various festivals in Europe and in the US.
At our age (mid fifties) our long term goals are just to stay healthy and alive long enough to hopefully achieve some of our short term goals!
XS ROCK: Which do you prefer? Writing new songs and recording or playing for a live audience?
Dan: I love both equally. I love to get into writing and recording mode and just focus on that without the distraction of having to keep the band in shape for performing live.
But after the new body of work is in the can I love to switch over to live mode and bring our music to a live audience.
XS ROCK: What are your songs about?
Dan: For the new album” Wrath of the Reaper” the lyrics are about:
Macabre Procession of Specters is about the World War 2 Nazi death marches.
Screaming Sacrifice is about ritual human Sacrifice.
A Slave in Hell is about living a life of evil and ending up a slave in Hell.
Swimming the Witch is about the witch hunts of Salem Mass. back in the early part of American history.
Dark Void of Evil is about being surrounded by evil.
Unraveled is about substance abuse and the struggle to get and remain sober.
Voices is about gambling addiction.
Exhumed for the Reaping is about the resurrection and bringing Hexx back to life.
Circle the Drain is about the coming to the end of the so called civilized world.
Wrath of the Reaper is about cheating death and the grim Reaper as long as you can.
Certificate of Death is about the process of death and the ending of your life.
XS ROCK: Do you have any outrageous tour stories from the road?
Dan: Ha! Ok just remember you asked for it!
Back in the early 1990’s in Los Angeles California they started having this big Heavy Metal music convention called The Foundations Forum. We would always attend every year. It was a great way to network and meet people in the music business and make important connections
Heavy Metal bands from all over the world would be attending this convention. All the record labels would have suites with free food and open bar. You could just walk around and go into EMI’s room and drop off your demo package and schmooze with people from the music business. It was a real challenge not to get too hammered with all the free booze flowing around– good thing by now we were seasoned professionals!
We were so excited, we had just been signed by Century Media to release our new Morbid Reality album and about to catch a flight to LA to attend the big Heavy Metal convention. Century Media was going to have an advertisement in the convention program guide announcing Morbid Reality. It was a very proud moment for us knowing that other bands would be talking about it and some would be envious.
Just prior to leaving for LA we were at the apartment of our manager, Russ Rudolf, who lived at the Alice Street Hotel in downtown Oakland. We just finished smoking a fat joint and drinking a few ice cold beers and were all piling into the elevator on our way to the airport. We were stoned with a nice beer buzz going as well. The 5 of us were in the elevator when it stopped on the 3rd floor. The doors opened–and two police officers swiftly stepped in and smashed up against us. Here we were, with our black leather jackets, long hair and dark sunglasses, freshly stoned and reeking to high heavens of booze and marijuana.
We all had bags of weed on us and who knows what else. An awkward silence ensued. We were trapped with these two cops! It was only for 3 floors, but man that seemed like a long elevator ride. When we got down to the lobby and the doors opened, at first the cops did not move. They stood there blocking our way from exiting the elevator. Finally after another awkward moment of silence, one officer slowly turned around and looked at us, smiled and said,” Sure smells good in here!” Then they both just walked away. We were way too stoned to really take in what had just happened. When we got outside into the parking lot we all just started laughing hysterically–I think we laughed all the way to the airport!
Later that same day, we were in our hotel room in Los Angeles. Having sobered up on the plane ride we were ready to get back into party mode and go mingle and carouse about the convention. We had our trusty ice chest stocked with plenty of ice cold beer and a big bottle of Jim Beam Bourbon working its way around the room.
Our manager lit a big fat joint and we were in party mode once again having narrowly escaped the clutches of the long arm of the law back home in San Francisco.
By the time we were ready to head down into the lobby and join the fun at the convention we were even more stoned and buzzed than we were when we shared the elevator ride with the two police officers. We thought nothing of it; we were always going around high on something or other back in those days.
We left our room, walked down the hall and all piled in the elevator to go down to the lobby. This was a much taller building than Russ’s apartment in Oakland. Our room was way on top, so we are slowly making our way down to the lobby of the hotel when the elevator stops at a floor and three long haired metal looking guys stepped into our elevator. They looked a little familiar. Taking a closer look without trying to appear to be staring, I noticed how old and haggard they were– at least compared to how we looked at the time. It slowly dawned on me that it was Glenn Tipton, K.K. Downing and Ian Hill of Judas Priest! I looked at Clint, John and Bill and could see it was starting to dawn on them too! Once again, we were totally unprepared for this, being so stoned we were just frozen with shock and disbelief. We were sharing an elevator with some of our most admired heroes ever! I thought, “Quick, somebody say something!” Another awkward silence ensued. None of us had the guts to strike up a conversation with them. This was the opportunity of a lifetime to connect with these guys and we were blowing it big time. I finally worked up something savvy like, “Hey, what’s up guys?”
They looked at me and politely replied with something like, “Alright man, how’s it going?” That’s it. That was all I had. I was so baked and nervous I could not think of anything else to say. When we got down to the lobby I think I might have said something like, “Alright guys take it easy, have a good time.” I felt like such a stoned idiot. I turned to Bill, John and Clint and said, “Hey man, we got to stop getting so stoned before we get into these fucking elevators. I’m starting to get a little freaked out by this shit!” We all looked at each other and just burst into laughter. We could not stop laughing–it was all just too much. We laughed all the way to the bar and could barely order our drinks! Good times!!!
XS ROCK: What’s the strangest request that you’ve ever received from one of your fans?
Dan: Oh man, I got a good one for you.
After Quest for Sanity and Watery Graves were released we started to get a lot of fan mail from all over the world especially Europe.
I don’t know how he did it but somehow this guy from France got the phone number to the house we were all living in at the time in Point Richmond California. (This is before cell phones and before everybody had computers and access to the internet.)
He would call and wake me up in the middle of the night and ask to talk to me (Dan). He had a very thick French accent and did not speak English very well so it was very hard to understand what he wanted. Plus I was always half asleep trying to talk to this guy.
The first few times he called I just hung up on him thinking he had the wrong number or something. Then I thought he might be from a French magazine wanting to set up an interview with me or something, or maybe a French promoter wanting to set up some shows for us in Europe.
Nope, it was not any of those things. It turns out what this guy was after was nude pictures of me!
He actually wanted me to have someone take pictures of me naked and then send them to him in France.
When I finally realized what he wanted I told him as politely as I could that I was not comfortable doing this and to please stop calling me in the middle of the night with his request. I guess he did not understand me because the next night he called again and offered to send me nude pictures of himself first. (As if that would sweeten the deal or something?) The rest of the guys in the band thought it was very funny and really got a big kick out of it and teased me about it all the time.
He called again the next night and tried to offer me money as well as nude pictures of himself again. I finally lost my temper and cursed him out and yelled at him to never call me again and hung up on him. I kind of felt a little bad about yelling and hanging up on him but the guy would just not leave me alone. Several weeks went by without the nocturnal phone calls so I thought that was the end of it. Oh no. One day a letter arrived in the mail addressed to me. It was from France. It was him. He had sent me a perfumed love letter on purple flowered paper as well as several nude snapshots of himself trying to look all sexy and stuff. He also included an American Fifty dollar bill. My sexual orientation has always been hetero with no curious thoughts about anything but girls so I just tossed the pictures and love letter in the trash, kept the $50.00 and sent him a Hexx care package with our Quest For Sanity and Watery Graves EPs, a Hexx T-shirt, Autographed glossy photo of the band, some other promotional items and a letter thanking him for his interest in me but I was not going to send him any pictures of me lounging around naked trying to look all sexy and things. I never heard from him again. To this day I don’t know if he was some kind of pervert or just a gay Frenchman with a big crush on me.
I have been to and performed in France several times over the years and each time in the back of my mind I would always wonder and worry that some horny naked Frenchman would show up at my hotel room door holding a bottle of wine and a bouquet of flowers.
XS ROCK: Were your parents supportive of your aspirations to play in a rock band?
Dan: Well, they were very supportive at the very beginning, paying for my first two years of guitar lessons. But my father moved out of the house and left me, my sister and my Mother to fin for ourselves when I was twelve years old. Needless to say we could no longer afford the guitar lessons and from then on I had to figure things out on my own.
When I started getting good enough to play in bands my Mother was not too keen on it because that’s right about the time I started playing in night clubs and bars (at age 16).
Not to mention she did not much like the fact that along with playing in a band I was growing my hair long, into smoking pot, drinking alcohol, and she would occasionally catch me sneaking nasty young girls into my bedroom to spend the night! By this time my father was totally out of the picture and there was nothing she could do about it. I was a head strong young man already set in my ways and well on the path to fortune and fame. Or at least I sure thought so at the time.
XS ROCK: What are your favorite tracks to play live?
Dan: I have to love all of the songs in our live set or I just won’t include them. I try not to waste time writing songs that I might not like to someday play live.
XS ROCK: Which band or artist inspired you to perform? Why?
Dan: Very early on it was The Beatles, than later on it was bands like UFO, Deep Purple, Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, Kiss and then Rush, Scorpions, Iron Maiden, Judas priest…you get the idea, the list goes on.
XS ROCK: If you could design a dream tour for your band, who would be on the bill?
Dan: UFO (with Michael Schenker) Black Sabbath (with Ozzy AND Dio) and Judas Priest (with all original members)
XS ROCK: What do you consider your greatest accomplishment so far?
Dan: Resurrecting Hexx from its smoldering grave to walk the earth once again!!
XS ROCK: If you weren’t performing in a band what kind of career do you think you would have?
Dan: I would be a high school cheerleader gynecologist.
XS ROCK: What type of equipment do you use for live shows?
Dan: For the last ten years or so I have been using a 1980’s Gibson Flying V through a Mesa Boogie Dual Rectifier half stack.
XS ROCK: What do you think of the current music scene?
Dan: Here in the California San Francisco Bay Area it is pretty dead as far as the metal scene goes. Nothing like it was back in the 80’s and 90’s.
XS ROCK: For anyone that doesn’t know you, what would they be surprised to know about you?
Dan: Well for one thing that my father was a failed 1960’s cult leader and a brilliant painter/artist. (Didn’t see that one coming did ya! ) And that after Hexx broke up I taught myself to sing, play piano and played and recorded many albums in Rockabilly and Psychobilly bands for many years.
XS ROCK: If someone had never heard you before, how would you describe your sound?
Dan: In a word…..Incendiary!
XS ROCK: Is there anything that you’d like to promote or say to your fans out there?
Dan: Yes, I would like very much to thank all the fans of Heavy Metal Music because without your interest and support in this style of music this form of music would parish from the earth. Thank you for supporting your favorite bands,buying their music and coming out to the shows. Also thank you for reading this and for your interest in Hexx!
XS ROCK: Thanks again for taking the time to talk with us at XS Rock!
Dan: Thank you my friend the pleasure was all mine!