PREDATOR is a true “Power Metal” group based out of Ft. Lauderdale and has earned a giant following all over the world. Their self-titled debut cd, on Arctic Records, is lightning, packed within a collection of high energy thrashers, that grabs the listener from the first awesome slash across the strings. Their poetic lyrics are deep thought provoking works, which will leave the listener feeling and thinking more about life on multiple levels. Their song, “Icon” was hailed by and featured in, Metal Edge’s CD Sampler.
Predator is truly unlike any of the previous releases by Arctic Music. Their sound is raw and heavy but with more detail and great musicianship. As you can hear on their debut cd, guitarists Damien Lee Thorr and Chris Reiser are amazing shredders who work very well together, dazzling the listener with awesome fretboard pyrotechnics. Very notable is their clever guitar arrangement of J.S. Bach’s fugue from the 2 part inventions for keyboard. Their overall sound is like the power and aggression of Slayer combined with Iron Maiden’s cleverly orchestrated guitars but with a sound all of their own. Lead singer Nestor Aguirre is one of the most amazing vocalists in heavy metal, at the age of 23, already being compared to Bruce Dickinson (Iron Maiden) and Ronnie James Dio (Black Sabbath). As I mentioned, their lyrics are very clever works of poetry about many different life subjects. These are lyrics that make everyone think. The song subjects cover many notable points of society: domestic abuse, drug abuse, children in foster care, immigration unfairness, the right to die, and so much more. Damien Lee Thorr, a Spanish-American musician, poet, author, luthier, artist and political activist, stands out as a lyricist who tries to reflect the world in a very eloquent manner in a world where nothing is a surprise.
The DVD features the video to their song, “Closet Anti-Christ”. Even though it has been harshly criticized by several Christian groups, it is a song about the horrors of domestic violence. The band is hoping to sell ample copies to be able to donate a hefty sum to the Women In Distress shelters.
1.When was PREDATOR formed? Who were the forming members and what other musical project did the members of PREDATOR do prior to forming the band?
Damien and I began meeting and talking about creating a new project because we were both currently writing material and decided to collaborate and make an unstoppable metal band. I had previously recorded and released albums including Perpetual State Of Aggression and named the band Metal Militia. I am very proud of this album because it was my first official released cd for distribution.
Damien Lee Thorr: Yes, we started out in late 2007. Chris and I were working on some songs together and the project evolved into what we now have as Predator. Chris was involved in other projects. He was in a band for years called Metal Militia, which included Paolo Gregolletto (now with Trivium) on bass. He has also done an album with another band called Necrotic, which also features Predator drummer, Dan Galante. I have have a few recordings of my own out there but the one people remember me most by is my “Sonic Brutality” solo album I did back in 93.
2.What got you into playing Heavy Metal?
Damien: I love the power I feel in me when I listen to heavy metal. It’s like a shot of pure adrenaline or a shot of joy in my blood. I could be having the worst day of my life, but I will feel a million times better when I plug in my guitar and play with Predator. When we play together, I will look over and see Chris, Nestor, Dan and Scott…. and it is like heaven without dying or drinking a concentrated shot of Red Bull.
Chris: I started listening to 80s bands when I was around the age of six. I started with Guns N’ Roses and was addicted to them at the first second I heard them. I have been heavily influenced by Overkill, Megadeth, Metallica, Slayer, Exodus and today newer bands such as Mastodon, Lazarus A.D., Warbringer, and Necrophagist.
3.Why did you choose the name PREDATOR for the band? Was it inspired by the movie with Arnold Schwarzenegger? Did you know that there was an 80s metal band also called PREDATOR?
Chris: Damien came up with the name and I thought it sounded good because we are hunting for the best metal we can possibly make together! I didn’t know there was another Predator besides the movie.
Damien: The movie had nothing to do with it although I am a huge science fiction fan! We thought it was a cool name and thought no one had taken the name. We now realize the name has been used in the past, but no one ever had success with it. To protect ourselves, we went ahead and registered our name with the government as a business entity. This way, we are now the only ones entitled to the name. Anyone with the name other than us must cease and desist the use of it.
4.You recently released your first CD, was that the first recording from PREDATOR? Why did you decide to release the album on your own? How many copies did you print up?
Damien: Yes. It is the first Predator release. As soon as we were done printing it, it was immediately picked up by the Arctic label. So we now have world wide distribution. It feels great to have the support of the label.
5. On the album there are some titles that were already on D.L. Thorr’s solo album ‘Sonic Brutality’, why did you decide to redo those songs? Are the other songs brand new or are they also based on older ideas?
Damien: Yes. That was Chris Reiser’s idea. At first I was a bit apprehensive about that because to me, those songs sounded old and I wanted fresh blood on the cd. Chris said that Icon is a great song and that we should do it. Chris has a great heart for metal and I really trust his instincts. It was a great idea because when Nestor came in to audition, he completely blew us away. He is an amazing lead singer. A super nice guy, too! All the other songs are new. The Bach fugue we did because it is fun to play.
Chris: Well Icon has always been one of my favorite songs for many, many years. We have the man himself present so I suggested that we redo Icon and make it a Predator song. I think we branded our own sound and style to it.
6. Please tell me something about the lyrics to your songs!
Damien: CURSED (LETTERS FROM HELL) …… This one is a hard subject always open for debate. This one asks “who has the right to die at will?”. After suffering a fate worse than death, completely unable to enjoy a decent quality life, without any freedom, who would want to live? Is it noble or is it too much to ask the government for the right to suicide? I wrote this one when Chris and I were coming up with ideas for songs. He had the amazing intro riff and I had just read the book by Ramon Sampedro with the title, LETTERS FROM HELL. It is basically the sad story of a sailor who suffered an accident that left him quadraplegic. He challenged the courts in Spain for the right to die but it was never granted. Subsequently he found a way to terminate his life without implicating others. Once Chris showed me the riff, the song flowed very quickly and we finished it right away. I love the power of the sound and Nestor’s voice really comes through on this one. Now… I am not saying that everyone should die when they want to…. I am simply saying when there is no hope of a good quality life, and not remnants of what their life was, as in terminally ill people who suffer greatly, it should be an option but certainly not for the depressed rich woman who wants to die because her husband bought her the silver Mercedes when she wanted a red one.
BETWEEN VENGEANCE & FORGIVENESS….This song deals with a few issues: ethics, religion, greed, to name a few….. Sometimes I get so pissed at the fucking world I just want to scream….. Some people complain endlessly without motive and never realize their petty cries are outweighed by some who are less fortunate. I guess they have never visited people at the burn unit at the hospital or a homeless shelter for abused children. Or perhaps they have never seen children sleeping on the church steps in South America.
CLOSET ANTI-CHRIST…….Chris and I bounced ideas back and forth for this one. He had most of the song written out and I helped him arrange it so that it could fit the melody and lyrics. I got the idea for the lyrics a long time ago but never wrote it until it was time to record the PREDATOR CD. It was long ago when I lived in an apartment complex in Ft Lauderdale. There was a very beautiful girl living a few doors down from me. She was absolutely gorgeous…. you know… when you see someone very attractive at the mall or at the beach… for just a few seconds but yet, you remember them the rest of your life….. you know what I mean… any way, I was a bit envious of her live-in boyfriend. One day I was coming home from work and he was beating her up. Without a second thought, I jumped in to rescue her. I beat him black and blue. I helped her gather her things so she could go and stay at her sister’s house. She gave me her phone number and it made me very happy because I thought she and I could begin something special…. something beautiful and wonderful…. I thought we could have a great relationship… or at least a nice time under the sheets…. Anyway, 3 days later she moved back in with the asshole. I moved on… I never understood why women stay.
I have a friend who works at the local Women In Distress shelter and she tells me about how many women have no other place to go so they sleep on the floor. It breaks you and makes you think when some people have nothing… We are trying to sell enough cd’s (the dvd of our video is included) so we could donate money to help them out.
One thing that has pissed me off is that we have been harshly criticized by a couple of Christian groups for the song title. I tried explaining that the song is about domestic abuse and it seems it goes in one ear and out the other. It seems they miss the point of life and act as if they are right and everyone else is wrong. I find their ignorance quite amusing.
DEMON SOUL….. Chris came up with some really amazing guitar parts for this one. As soon as he played it for me, I loved it. I helped him with arranging the parts where I could compose the melody and then the lyrics. This one is about drug addicted women who let their children starve while they get their fix. Unfortunately, it is a side of the drug war that no one gets to see. It amazes me how the film TRAFFIC a few years back documented so much about the drug problems in the world. They showed how everyone is affected except they missed one vital and most important element: the children. When authorities make a drug bust, the children of these people are always removed from the home and placed immediately into foster care. These children are the casualties of the drug war.
DIE UNBORN….. I had played around with the idea for a long time for this one. The riff for the intro Chris had composed a few years back when he was in Metal Militia with Paolo Gregolletto, who is now the bass player from Trivium. We used the intro riff and basically created a whole new song from it. It is one of my favorites that we play live because it has that raw and heavy power that I love in a metal band. It is a song about abortion. A touchy subject where two opposing views always collide. I thought it was an interesting poem if it were written from the point of view of the unborn. It is difficult when both sides are right and wrong at the same time.
ICON…. It is a song about war. I understand war is a necessary evil…. but to what extent and when do we quit? I believe in defending ourselves so that in the centuries to come, there will always be a corner of the planet we will always call home, but I have never been a fan of nations that wage war to conquer and take what is not theirs. I believe in kicking ass when needed and I am a strong supporter of our second amendment, which is my concealed weapons permit.
LONE WOLF ….. This one was written after reflecting on how fortunate life can be as you look at the bright side of things. Chris came up with some really brilliant parts for this and the fast speed really got me going. I love heavy metal when ripped fast. I helped arrange the parts and composed the lyrics. I put together the harmony lead licks and they fit in very well. This is actually the very first song Chris and I wrote together and recorded for the album.
MERCY…. This was a hard one for me….. This song is about children in foster care. It affects me in many ways since I myself was fostering a few years back and lost a child I was adopting. Even after so many years, the wound is fresh and sometimes I don’t know how I move on but I do. I know what the children go through and I also know that the adoption and fostering administrators expect you to be made of stone. I sometimes wish I were. They also betray you in order to cover their asses. I have not seen such gross incompetence as I have seen with them. Chris and I put this one together after he showed me some riff ideas. I bounced some ideas to him and before we realized it, we had a really cool song. The intro was a solo that consisted of a bunch of themes I had composed through the years and when Chris heard it, he said ”That’s the intro!”.
THE BORDER…This was written about how people sacrifice in other countries. They work and work and have no opportunities or rewards at the end of the day. They risk life to get here while some people here just piss away their opportunities…it’s a real shame…Chris and I spent some time arranging the parts for this one and the final product is very impressive. I love playing this one live. The sound is very catchy and heavy.
A MOMENT, SIR… This one is about a young guy going to his girlfriend’s father to explain that he’s just gotten her pregnant…..I don’t think a metal song has covered this subject….. very real…… very powerful…….and very HEAVY! The sound is just pure thrash metal! Chris presented the riffs to me and I immediately knew this one was going to be cool. It is short but really kicks ass.
IN THE NAME OF GOD?… This song was written in the very typical way that Chris and I write. We bounced a few ideas back and forth and before we knew it, we had a kick ass song in our hands. I love the energy of this one when we play it live and Nestor was absolutely incredible when we recorded it. The lyrics reflect much of the hypocritical behavior we see with religious organizations. Everyone of them do things and promote things that are nothing but evil nonsense. If I have learned anything from religion is that they are overstocked with too many disparities and contradictions. All of them are guilty: Jews, Christians, Muslims…. the list goes on. Muslims want to kill those who are not like them. 9/11 is a huge reminder of that. Jews feel they are above everyone and have presumed themselves “God’s chosen”. I was sitting at the doctor’s office a few years ago and was talking with the lady sitting next to me. She said to me: “You are so nice and so smart. I’d like you to meet my daughter. What are you doing for Hanukah?“ When I told her that I am not Jewish her response was: “Oh… Nobody’s perfect”. I was a little disgusted that in our new century we are still dealing with this type of arrogance and nonsense. With Christians, it is really bad and their conduct has led me to conclude that Christianity, as they define it, doesn’t exist. It is hard to swallow when they bomb a clinic or shoot people for the color of their skin (the KKK) and claim it in the name of God….. All religious fanatics are dangerous, and they walk around with an arrogant sense of entitlement, as if everyone else is beneath them. We have been criticized by a bunch of them about our song titles. It clearly reflects that they have not taken the time to read our lyrics. Bottom line: their religious beliefs do not grant them the authority to exercise their prejudices. Because of that, this song needed to be written.
7.Who came up with the cover artwork to your album? Why did you choose this?
Damien: The cover was done by Michael Whelan. He is truly amazing. We originally wanted to use a painting by Boris Vallejo but he was not friendly to us. He was very rude and condescending, so we decided to go with the image by Michael Whelan. Whelan is a very nice guy and was totally cool to us and treated us with dignity and respect. Besides, his work is far superior to Boris’ work any day!
8. Are you pleased with your debut album? Do you like the production on it or is there something you would like to improve?
Damien: It was a “learn as you go” experience. It was entirely recorded digitally and we learned a whole lot from it. When the record company executive at Arctic first heard it, he commented on how great the production was. We were pleased because we didn’t know how people were going to react to it. We love it!
Chris: Considering all the late night recordings I can say it turned out well. We worked 10 hours a day on our day jobs, and at night we would start recording piece by piece for several months until we finished.
9.Did you already start to work on your next record? If so, please tell me about it! Will it be in the same style as your debut or do the PREDATOR Fans have to fear drastic differences in the style?
Damien: YES!!!! Most of the songs are already written for the next album. The new songs are awesome! It still sounds like Predator. The one thing we will never do is disappoint our fans with a bad album. I will tell all of you right now that we will only give you guys our very best! Besides, knowing the personalities of the other members of the band, I don’t think anyone is capable of putting out a shitty product.
10. I know you are also a novelist, Damien, what can you tell me about that?
Damien: Back in ’97, I published a horror-erotica novel called The Vampire Journals. I have written some other stuff but right now I am focusing on Predator and on my family life. After I published The Vampire Journals, I wrote some other stories but I have not published anything as of yet.
11. How old were you when you first started playing the guitar? Did you take lessons or would you consider yourself to be self-taught?
Chris: I was 15 when I started studying the guitar seriously.
Damien: I got my first guitar at age 15. I did not begin to learn until I was 17. I learned by ear at first and by watching closely other guitar players. Later I realized how important it was to know theory, so I taught myself to read music. Subsequently I studied music in college. I studied guitar at the University of Barcelona but I earned my guitar performance degree from Lehman in NY.
12. Damien, I was curious if you’ve ever given guitar lessons to other players or if that’s something that you might be interested in doing in the future?
Damien: Actually, I own a music school in Ft. Lauderdale: God Of Thunder Music. I teach full time. I have taught many notable players: Angel Suarez from Bella Sonus (Flamenco-Techno group), Paolo Gregolletto from Trivium, Xaphan from Kult Ov Azazel, Chris from Predator and a few others.
13. Is Predator currently on tour?
Chris: As soon as we get the offer we are looking for we will be out there doing what we enjoy most.
Damien: Not at the moment. We are in talks with management and acquiring a proper booking agent to make that happen. We are spending a lot of time working on our second album.
14. What’s been the reaction to the band’s debut CD so far?
Chris: Europe has been very kind to us and are really writing us and saying we are their new favorite band. We are getting a lot of comments and we welcome them. We answer every single comment and question we receive.
Damien: It is selling. With our label, Arctic, we have world-wide distribution. It is not selling like Taylor Swift, but we are getting out there. It takes time for the world to notice a new metal band. We’ll get there, no doubt.
15. You guys are amazing. Thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule.
Chris: Thank you!
Damien: Thank you for your support!
Predator is Nestor Aguirre (lead vocals), Damien Lee Thorr (guitar), Chris Reiser (guitar), Scott Opiela (bass) and Dan Gallante (drums). Together, these five predatory musical carnivores comprise the group. Stalking as one, this pack has become a force in Heavy Metal that simply cannot be denied. Their amazing talent, song writing abilities and overall cool positive vibe, will leave the listener feeling enthusiastic and thinking more about their own place in this world. Never, will you hear nonsense songs, simply extolling evil or anger, self-loathing or depression from these boys. These amazing and powerful songs are positive mirrors of strength in the world ,and feelings of self reliance and self worth abound! The future of thrash metal is here: it is called PREDATOR!