The Rock Pit - Hard rock, Metal and Blues Interviews, news & reviews from Australia and around the world

The Rock Pit - Hard rock, Metal and Blues Interviews, news & reviews from Australia and around the world



Back in 1983 I bought the first Hellion EP. Listening to the 'To Hellion and Back' Anthology today the band has lost none of its power - and new music is on the way.

Ann Boelyn speaks to the Rockpit.

MARCH 2014


Hellion was a band ahead of its time, and listening to them today you realise that not only does the music still sound remarkably fresh and essential, but also that the new music is going to open them up to a whole new legion of fans!

Mark: Hi, Ann, how are you?

Ann: I’m good, how are you doing?

Mark: Not too bad! Thanks for taking time to talk to The Rockpit. It’s been a long road for Hellion, and that’s probably an understatement!! I remember buying your first EP in 1983, on Music for Nations in the UK, and now here we are 32 years later with the anthology. Tell us about the resurfacing of Hellion, why are you back now?

Ann: Well, it was a situation where I felt I really needed to get in and record for a dozen different reasons. People were saying all kinds of stupid things, like Ann can’t sing anymore, her voice has blown out, a bunch of ridiculous things like that, and that inspired me, as it made me angry, and anger can be a great motivator! Also I had the honour of having the support of some wonderful people, and it was suggested, why don’t we just get out there!

Mark: You started off as a keyboardist and moved to bass, you also got to LA when you were pretty young, what was the scene like there when Hellion first started?

Ann: When Hellion was first around, it was the very early eighties, and we had a whole lot of clubs to play at. When I first came to LA, there was the pop scene sort of in the seventies, The Ramones, and The Sex Pistols, all those things were happening, and usually with Heavy Metal, it was a do it yourself kind of situation, we threw gigs in the back yard of our house, and we evolved a good following and then were able to go in to the clubs. We headlined pretty much right away.

Mark: Some of those clubs are still around, and sadly some are gone. What sort of places were you playing?

Ann: We went into a place called The Troubadour, which is still around, and we played there one show a month, and that really was one of my favourite ever places to play, in LA, even though it was small, the crowd was all age, which was great. I just think the shows there were very special; we often had a lot of great bands on the bill so the shows were packed and the lines went around the block. It was very reminiscent of the Marquee in London.

Mark: Which of course you played, to packed houses back in the day as well.

Ann: We did.

Mark: I remember not being let in there once, for being underage!! It’s hard to imagine when you look back, that Hellion were considered, especially in the States, too heavy, when you listen to the stuff that comes out nowadays! Was it that you had the right idea, and you were just around too soon, or did you see yourselves as trendsetters, or did you just anticipate what was going to come? How do you look back on Hellion now?

Ann: Individual members had problems with other bands with lead singers, my final band included, so by the end of 1981, early 1982, myself, Ray Schenck, and the other guys were all sick of lead singers, we’d form a great band, and then the lead singer would develop, what I call LSD (Lead Singer Disease!), and we’d end up with no singer! We decided we just wanted to go out and play, and we started doing what we did, and we shared vocal duties, and somehow I ended up singing more than the other guys, and eventually ended up being the lead singer. During that time period, by the time we had developed a big following, the record companies pretty much, were signing about 30 different bands in LA, but of those bands that were being signed, they were more the bands that were geared to the power metal ballad, radio friendly, you have to say! Being in LA, it was very much a scene where you had to be like Dokken or Ratt, or very commercial to get those record deals.

Mark: These days it’s funny to look at how many female fronted metal bands there are out there. It’s good to see you’ve got some dates; I see you’re playing the Rocklahoma festival, have you got the support for the Queensryche tour as well?

Ann: No, not that I’ve heard!!

Mark: That must have been something I picked up on social media, I didn’t see anything on your website about it! Have you got any other plans for more festivals or tour dates?

Ann: Absolutely. We are working on some shows, especially in England, and in Europe in the fall.  After the release of the Hellion anthology, which is coming up very soon, myself, Max and Scott, are going out to do some benefit shows, us three with different drummers and different bass players, not as Hellion, but to just get used to playing on stage again together. Unfortunately I don’t think Simon Wright will be playing with us at Rocklahoma because of a pre-existing contract, I think it’s a Queensryche project rock, not sure which one, but then when the EP comes out we will be touring as a full unit, so that’s what we’re excited about.

Mark: Let’s get on to the new music now, you mentioned the anthology’s out, did you have a big hand in the track listing, or was that down to the label?

Ann: I made the final decisions on all of those.

Mark: I have to ask you, the track that you decided to leave off from the initial EP, why??

Ann: You mean “Lookin’ for a Good Time”, because I think it’s a lame song!! In the very early days, especially if you look at the first four songs we recorded, I hadn’t been singing for very long, my vocals were done on that whole thing in about an hour and a half! I still kind of cringe when I hear “Don’t Take No for an Answer” because the vocals are so damn off!! But, on the other hand we had tremendous success out of that mini album, and a lot of people really still enjoy it, regardless of the vocal misses here and there.

Mark: I think it is, in a way, the rough edges that make it stand up pretty well over time. I listened to the anthology when it came out, it’s still powerful and interesting, and I always saw your voice as a rougher edged Ann Wilson, and to me there’s not a bigger compliment I could give you.

Ann: Thank you. It’s a tremendous compliment; I was born in Seattle, Washington, so absolutely a compliment!

Mark: You sound great on the new stuff as well, “Hell Hath no Fury”, the last track on there, is that a taster of what’s to come on the new release?

Ann: Absolutely!

Mark: Are you looking at releasing a 4 or 5 track EP or something more substantial?

Ann: It’s going to be a 4/5 track EP. Our main goal in going in to the studio, is to do the best quality recording that we can possibly do, I think that the listeners deserve that, if we put together a low budget record together of 9 or 10 songs, I think it’s more important to do 5 really good ones.

Mark: Is it possible to pick favourites now, looking at the anthology, do you have a favourite period from Hellion’s past?

Ann: Well, I tried to be respectful to all the line-ups of Hellion that I could. I’ll always be very fond of the original line-up, which split in ’85; it was a very special time. I think also the line-up on “Screams in the Night” was special as well, the title track, and “The Tower” remain two of my favourites. “Nevermore” from “Postcards from the Asylum” which was when we got back with the guy from the original line-up, was pretty cranking too! Each line-up and album is very special in its own way.

Mark: Do you find it hard or easy to listen to your own music? Is it something you were forced to do when you put together the anthology?

Ann: Of course. It’s still hard for me to listen to the early music, because it was really so raw, but it’s got easier over time, but, it’s still hard to hear the rough vocals when you’re trying to make a record, I still cringe a lot on that, yeah!!

Mark: Thinking back to your earliest memories of music, what was that made you decide you wanted to be in a rock and roll band?

Ann: I originally was a keyboard player, and the sound of Jon Lord’s organ was it! The feeling that I had when I was on stage was just a unique experience, and as a fan as well, I remember being in arenas and clubs where you had the feeling you were with a group of people that were enjoying exactly the same thing, at the same time, and how special that is. It’s even more special when you happen to be on stage, it’s magic to me.

Mark: And you couldn’t have a better example than Jon Lord. You come across as a very driven person, reading your bio is very interesting, not many women have fronted their own band in what was when Hellion came about, a very male dominated scene. You started a record company which produced some great names, like Morbid Angel, Flotsam and Jetsam; you’ve studied and gained a law degree, acting roles, worked as a DJ, it’s pretty inspirational stuff. How did you manage to fit it all in and are you one of those people who constantly has to keep moving?

Ann: I think a lot of my accomplishments, with regards to the law degree or something like that, it came out of necessity, during periods of time where Hellion couldn’t do anything, and no one was interested. I also had stalker problems for a while, for which I had to drop out of the main stream situation, and at the same time I needed to keep myself busy. So, there’s no better way to keep yourself busy, and keep yourself from being depressed because you can’t go on tour, than going to law school, and studying for sixteen to eighteen hours a day. So, it took my mind of things while I wasn’t able to tour or do music for a certain amount of time!

Mark: From what you’ve learnt as a musician over the years, what’s the most valuable piece of advice you’ve been given?

Ann: Well, I wouldn’t say it’s a piece of advice I’ve been given, but from the experiences that I’ve had, I’ve learned that, first of all, do not ever rely on hearsay! In the early days of Hellion, meaning pre 1985 Hellion, there was so much negative gossip that was going around, and different people were listening to different things, and it ended up with lots and lots of problems with bad feelings, people were coming up and saying oh, so and so said this about you, and it’s stuff you don’t see with your own eyes! And if a person has a question about something that somebody has said, rather than sit around and have hurt feelings, or feel angry, whatever, the best thing to do is go face to face and approach that person. I think that’s the biggest thing I’ve learnt out of this whole business. There have been so many areas of my career, where hurt feelings and things really have a disastrous affect.

Mark: That is so true, in all walks of life as well. If you could have been a fly on the wall for the creation of any great album, at any point in time, what would it have been for you and why?

Ann: One of my all-time favourite albums was “Made in Japan” by Deep Purple. Because it was live, it was real.

Mark: Finally, what is the meaning of life?

Ann: Every person is different aren’t they? I just think the meaning of my life is to be the best human being I can be, and to use the time I have on this planet to hopefully not cause harm to other people and to try and inspire and just do the best I can.

Mark: That’s a great sentiment. Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us, congratulations on the new album the anthology, “To Hellion and Back”, I understand the first so many copies are going to be signed by yourself?

Ann: Yes, the pre order records are signed by me.

Mark: I think people have got till the 1st of April, to get in on that pre order. We will also look forward to listening to the new music when it comes out later in the year. Have a great time at Rocklahoma, thank you so much.

Ann: Thank you, Mark, and hopefully we’ll get the chance to play in Australia as well.



Ann Boelyn spoke to Mark Diggins March 2014





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