Friday, December 07, 2012

Flash Metal Suicide: Predator


PREDATOR
Easy Prey
1985, Metal Blade

Predator was one of the great 80’s metal mysteries. Well, maybe not great, but certainly mysterious. Their outrageous looking album dropped unceremoniously into the metal bins in 1985 with no fanfare or press, at least that I remember. Metal Blade Records was still in its juggernaut phase, due mostly to the success of Slayer, and began tossing lots of weird stuff on to the market (Pandemonium, Thrust, Mark Edwards), correctly assuming that metal addicted teenage Sleazegrinders like myself would snap up anything with the crude Xerox  sword Metal Blade logo. This one sold itself on pure audacity, though. The cover of Easy Prey featured a curvy blonde in a bikini, strolling down the beach, while a barefoot guy in a shredded t-shirt, with what looks like a condom stretched over his head, hides under the pier, ready to pounce on her. Crazy, right?

There is no subtext or subtlety to this image. It’s cheap and phony and suggestive of nothing other than male dominance and the will to provoke. In these strange and censorious times, the cover of “Easy Prey” simply would not fly. It’d be banned and burned and rightwing radio show hosts would bark like angry dogs about the impending fall of society, thanks to the wicked heathens in their black marble towers at the Metal Blade offices. But this was 1985, and we really didn’t give a fuck about any of that. We just thought it was funny, and kinda sick, and there was a hot, blonde, Californian chick on the cover, and that was all we really needed.

By the way, the back cover reveals the expected ending to the cat and mouse game on the front. Tattered t-shirt guy, now free of his mask and sporting surferboy golden locks, marches back under the pier with the unconscious girl slung over his shoulder. In his hand, a bowie knife. Just what the fuck is he gonna do to that girl, anyway? Ah, who cares, man. Rock n’ Roll!

And so it goes. The music inside was not nearly as reckless or wild as the cover, but it did the job. The band was led by one Jeff Prentice, a white-hot shredder and a full-moon howler, and Predator’s sound mixed his razzle-dazzle riffery with chunky Brit-metal, ragged punk, and the occasional proggy flourish. Musically, they were not far removed from labelmates Savage Grace, another band that liked to feature half-naked women in peril on their covers. The only difference was that we all knew who Savage Grace were, because they had that one picture disc where they dressed up like Robert Palmer and held a couple of titty-girls on leashes like dogs. Besides the girl snuffer on the cover, there were no photos of the band anywhere. There was an insert, but it was just the lyric sheet (sample: “Little lady, drive me crazy/She’s hot n’ nasty/I don’t mean maybe”) and a thanks list. The thanks list was heavy on Hawaiian metal scenesters, but nothing about Predator suggested a Polynesian background. For hardcore metal completists like me and my idiot teenage friends, it was all very frustrating.

But not that frustrating, really. I mean, we had a lot of material to work with back then. The first Sodom EP came out a month or so after Easy Prey, so it’s not like we didn’t have anything else to listen to. But I’ve always kept a copy of Easy Prey around, if only to show off to people. It truly is one of the most iconic looking albums of that weird decade.
Still, I always wondered what the story behind Predator was, so I went on a manhunt for Jeff Prentice.  I found him in Los Angeles, still working in the music industry in various projects, including the Survivor-ish rock band Outland. I was thrilled when he agreed to answer all my questions about Predator, and help me solve the 20 year mystery of the guy in the condom and the girl he abducts.

When did the band get together, and where?

Jeff Prentice: Well, the band actually got together after the record was completed. The record came to be because of a demo I did with a previous band called "Aggressor". A small label called “Azra” wanted to do a record with us and by the time they contacted me, the band had basically broken up, but of course I wanted to do the record, so I borrowed some cash and went into the studio with the drummer from Aggressor and did the record playing everything else myself. His name is Joe Aghassi and he went on to do some stuff with a band called “Axehammer”. The actual names on the record are the band I had together at the time, but none of them played on it.

Was it the first band for everybody, or were you all rock vets? If so, what other bands were you all in?

It was my first label band. I was in a couple of local bands here in L.A. Most notably “Agressor” and another semi successful band called “Deceiver” from which I pillaged a couple of members for Predator later on.

Did you tour at all? What other bands did Predator used to play with?

We toured a little. Mostly just in the western U.S. We toured with Flotsam and Jetsam back when Jason was still in the band, and with Bloodlust. We played shows with bands like Dark Angel, Slayer, Sin, Lizzy Borden, Malice, Armored Saint, and other local metal bands of the day.

Any notable "Gigs from Hell" back then?

Phoenix AZ with Flotsam and Bloodlust was pretty bad. The soundman got us and Bloodlust a horrible sound which miraculously became crystal clear for the local boys Flotsam. We also basically had to threaten the promoter’s life to get paid.

 How did you end up on Metal Blade?

The record was finished and the Azra thing didn’t materialize, so I just started sending samplers of the record out to the metal labels and the fanzines and started a bit of a Buzz. Brian from Metal Blade called me and asked for a promo pack because he wanted to see a picture of the band, which at that point was just me, so I got together a few of my long haired friends and had my girlfriend snap a picture. They signed the “band” the next week. Quite funny actually. I couldn’t believe I pulled it off.

So, the cover for "Easy Prey" is one of the most amazing things I've ever seen. Who's idea was it?

It's amazing alright!  (laughs) Again, that was really thrown together. We basically walked down to Hermosa Beach Pier, which I lived 2 blocks from at the time and shot the photos. A childhood friend of mine (Harlan Glenn, who later went on to sing in a Texas band called Juggernaut) and I came up with the concept in about 10 minutes and grabbed a camera and went to the beach. He shot the photo if I remember correctly. It’s funny, if you look near the center of the album cover, you can see a spare roll of Fuji film lying in the sand.

Who's the girl? and the guy?

The girl is my future (at the time) and ex-sister in law who just happened to be coming over to go to the beach that day. I’m the idiot with the sock on his head and the bad shirt with the holes freshly cut in it. Ha ha.

What did you think of the cover when you first saw it?

I laughed my ass off that they actually used it. Talk about low budget!

Did it get banned anywhere? Did reviews of the album mention the cover alot at the time?

I don’t think it got banned anywhere. It was all in good fun.  Nowadays the politically correct liberal fucks would be all over it. Heh heh. It did get voted the “worst album cover of all time” in some sort of Rock Encyclopedia type book my Mom owns. My big claim to fame!!

How well did Easy Prey sell?

About 40,000 world wide. I hear we did really well in Poland and the Czech Republic.

What sort of influences did you have when writing the songs on the album? What bands, but also, what about the lyrics? What was the inspiration for Hawk Mistress, Siberia, and Demon Witch?

It’s strange, but my musical influences aren’t really metal bands. I just always ended up in metal bands back then because there were a lot of them around and a “scene” here in L.A. I was more into bands like UFO, early Scorpions, Thin Lizzy, even Journey and Styx. I was really into Michael Schenker and Uli Roth as guitarists so that probably shows on the record. About the heaviest bands I was into were Priest and Maiden. So it’s probably modeled somewhat after them as well.

Musically, Siberia is probably the best song on that record. It’s certainly Thin Lizzy influenced. Demon Witch, I remember was built around that intro which I came up with while trying to figure out how to play the Hammond Organ part from Yes’s “Roundabout” on guitar. I think Hawkmistress was just an excuse to play a lot of lead guitar. That’s what I was into at the time. I was 20 years old and wanted to solo as much as possible.

The lyrics were basically something to put in between the lead guitar. I wrote stuff that I thought sounded “Metal” but in hindsight was mostly just pretty bad indeed. I tried to sing like Rob Halford, but didn’t quite have the same pipes.

So, what happened afterwards, did the band break up soon after the album came out?

The band was together with various members for a couple of years after that, but I couldn’t keep a solid lineup together. I’ve basically been a guitarist for hire guy ever since, making my living playing in Wedding Bands, Corporate Bands, Tribute bands, doing sessions, etc. Whatever I get calls for. I currently am producing a CD for a local Metal Band called “9th Circle’ in my home studio. I hope to do more of that sort of thing in the future.

Are you still in touch with anybody in the band? Did everybody continue to play music? 

Yes a few of them. One of our drummers, Andy James, went on to play with Savatage for a while, and is now a successful session guy in the Pacific Northwest. Angelo, one of our Bass Players, went on to play in a band with David Wayne from Metal Church. The name escapes me at the moment.

Oh, and please, tell us about your new project.

My new project “Outland” is more like the music I’ve always been into. More AOR-ish stuff with lots of keyboards and big vocal harmonies. We’ve been compared to Bon Jovi and Survivor. It’s more of a project than an actual band because it’s just 2 of us. Rob, my partner in the band is a high up guy in Hoshino corp which is basically Ibanez Guitars and Tama drums. We hire drummers for each record and do the rest ourselves. Pat Torpey from Mr. Big played on our last one, and Pete Holmes from Black and Blue and currently in M.S.G. just laid down half the tracks for our new work in progress. We have deals in Japan, Europe and South America. We sell the CDs in North America and the rest of the world ourselves from our website at www.outlandmusic.com  

There are some Outland reviews at: www.melodicrock.com as well.

- Sleazegrinder
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