Jim Parsons: "Thrash opened metal and hard music up I think"..

The man who produced the Big Four Live in Sofia DVD gives us the benefit of his thrash experience...

Hello again Jim. Thanks for coming back and having another go at one of our Q & A sessions! This time it's a subject I know you know a lot about - thrash metal! So on with the questions... We all know who the big 4 are – you more than most since you filmed the buggers all togther in 2010 - but do you agree with that selection? If not who would your big 4 be, and why? "Hard not to… they were the ones that sold the albums, played the shows and “hit the big time”. To me it’s important to contextualise when the Big Four was first coined.. It was in the late 80’s when as a UK based thrasher they were all streets ahead of everyone else, playing Manchester Apollo, Hammermsith Odeon... what to us were BIG shows. It’s kinda hard to remember Metallica before the Black album, but they were still “our” band. Album wise Master of Puppets, Reign in Blood, Peace Sells…  and Among the Living... if you’re a thrash fan then surely all four have to be in your top ten thrash albums of all time.. Unless you are one of those oblique fuckers that loves he weird and wonderful. Talking or which, my alternative Big 4.. as in anyone but the above would be, in no particular order.. Overkill, Exodus, Death Angel and Vio-lence.. Yup I am pretty Bay Area biased… Exodus simply for Bonded by Blood, Vio-lence for Eternal Nightmare - so underrated - Death Angel as I love Rob Cavestany’s playing and Overkill, well for being Overkill and not giving up and consistently putting out good stuff and touring and touring".

Aha, you kinda nixed my second question with that first answer, but I'm going to ask it anyway - What to you, is the quintessential sound of thrash? Does it come from the Bay Area, from Germany, or from somewhere else - Canada seems to be emerging as something of a dark horse here, surprisingly... "Bay Area, has to be… Was never a big fan of the German scene, wanted the UK scene to be big, but it never quite took off.. For me it was the first time metal from the US really took hold in the UK.. I know there was the LA scene, but it wasn’t as good as Maiden, Priest, Scorpions, UFO et cetera. Dio were awesome, but somehow half ours. Thrash was a US thing, albeit forged in NWoBHM and like that it was dirty and raw and from the streets".  

So now I'm going to ask you to name your top 5 essential thrash albums – I'm guessing they may be geographically related too? "Without wanting to go for the super obvious ones, much as I love them all, these are a few that I come back to again and again: Vio–Lence - Eternal Nightmare. The most underrated band/album of the lot for me… Great, great, great riffs and Sean Killian’s vocals are unique.. Money, Money, Money, Moneeeeey!!!! Next is Exodus – Another Lesseon in ViolenceBonded, but re-recorded better.. Paul Baloff is awesome and for most of us an idea of what Exodus could have been if they had stuck with him. Third up is Death Angel – The Ultra Violence, then Forbidden's Forbidden Evil and Suicidal TendenciesLights, Camera , Revolution. No filler… You wouldn’t know what crazy was if Charles Manson was eating fruit loops on your front porch!"

OK, that's the recorded canon taken care of - now onto the live arena. Who are the best live thrash outfit of all time in your opinion? "I’m told it was Vio-lence, but I never saw them sadly. It's hard to pick one... Metallica with Cliff Burton on the Master of Puppets tour were incredible, Slayer on the Raining Blood tour were brilliant. Anthrax were always really tight. Overkill I’ve never seen do a lame show. Exodus around the time of Pleasures of the Flesh were pretty insane. One very memorable show was Forbidden at the Marquee in London when Paul Bostaph had his arm in plaster and still didn’t miss a beat.. I think they were supporting someone, but I can’t remember who. Maybe Sacred Reich.. they were good too. OK you want one band who were the best live band… I know they were kinda second wave, but I’d go for Sepultura up to the point when Max Cavalera left.. they had such a fire and drive… probably because of where they were from they played like it mattered more than anyone or anything else..." 

Haha, I walked out of the Master of Puppets show at Hammersmith because I thought the band had 'gone slow'. If only I knew what was to come I'd have hung in there... Talking of disappointments, what about the worst you've seen? "It was a one off, Nuclear Assault at the Astoria April 2003.. dreadful show… they were great other times though to be fair".

How about the music itself? What are the key elements for writing a classic thrash tune in your opinion? "Great riffs, a cool dark subject matter. Don’t forget some sort of breakdown and ideally shouty gang backing vocals". 

Which musicians would make up your dream thrash outfit from the last 30 years? I'm thinking you'll need a pretty specific lineup to deliver dark subject matter with shouty backing vocals? "Can I do two?"  Yes. "OK. Vocals – Paul Baloff, drums by Dave Lombardo, on rhythm guitar I'd have Eric Peterson, Rob Cavestany on lead, Bass - Cliff Burton. They'd be supported by Vocalist Sean Killian, Drums – Gene Hoglan, Scott Ian on rhythm guitar, lead guitarist would be Alex Skolnick and bassist would be DD Verni." 

Wow. I think I'd actually plump for your support act! Finally, what do you think is the biggest gift given to heavy metal by thrash? "Opening metal fans eyes to other music… Maybe it was just me but through trash a lot of interesting music came my way.. Public Enemy, NWA, Faith No More, Agnostic Front, Corrosion of Conformity, DRI. Thrash opened metal and hard music up I think.. Without thrash there wouldn’t have been Rage against the Machine or Nu Metal.. OK that would be on thrash’s tombstone.. Sorry for the Nu shit"...