On the verge of the new Omen album coming out, I conducted an interview with lead singer KEVIN GOOCHER. This is Kevin’s second album with the band, but the band’s first new album of original material since 2003. Omen was a band I discovered the same time I discovered Sacred Reich’s American Way and Metallica’s Master of Puppets. (For the sake of keeping Kenny Powell happy and on my side assume this was 2013.) All jokes aside, this interview was a year in the making and I am so glad that Kevin did it. So, if you like what you read, go check out the Omen Facebook Page and see about the pre-order for this album that judging by word of mouth I have read, this may be the album of 2016.
INFRARED MAG: Kevin, I am a huge Omen fan and this is an honor. My first question, and I guess most fans will want to know. The last album was in 2003, the new one is coming out in mere moments. Why the long delay? Was this something that was planned? There were rumors for what a decade that the record was coming, and then another year went by.
KEVIN GOOCHER: Omen actually put out a couple of releases since 2003, but they were a rare live compilation and an essential compilation, but the new one Hammer Damage will be the first of all new material since Eternal Black Dawn in 2003. There were many reasons for the long delay or should I say multiple delays that include acts of God destroying Kenny’s recording studio not once but twice, multiple member changes, near death experiences…just lots of things! But, we persevered through it all and it’s finally here.We definitely didn’t plan for it to take this long.
INFRARED MAG: Let’s talk about the new album, Hammer Damage. As we discussed it was a long time between albums, was going to work on this album a hard process, or did it all come very easily?
KEVIN GOOCHER: For Kenny, it was a long and extensively difficult process as it was he who was spearheading the recording, engineering and every aspect of the recording. For me, it was much easier. Kenny had everything prepared for me to just come in and do what I do.
INFRARED MAG: I think Omen fans know what to expect from Hammer Damage. Do you feel pressure from this? I mean, you have an album that they are eagerly anticipating and you have to know in the writing and studio that this is going on.You know with a new record what this means, you have the dreaded critics, bloggers and those radio personalities or podcasters. Do you read all the press your band gets? If so, does the negative stuff get to you?
KEVIN GOOCHER: You know with Eternal Black Dawn in 2003 I felt extreme pressure as I was the new guy in the band and the critics comparisons to the original singer J.D. Kimball was huge on me. This time though, I had already spent a good decade in the band and done tons of show proving myself to the fans and reassuring them that I was there to honor what J.D. had done before me and show that I was here to help carry on the legacy of the music. These days I don’t really worry about the bloggers and critics so much. I know that the unit of members we have now….Kenny, Andy, Steve and myself are by far the absolute closest that Omen will ever be to the original version of the band and it is our goal to deliver that legendary sound of Omen to them. Delivering the goods live and on recordings is the only thing that matters to us!!! Oh and yes I try to read everything that is written about Omen. Whether I agree with what is written or not I try to show respect to the writers and at least read it.
INFRARED MAG: So, Omen need to replace Greg Powell. Did you audition for the spot?If not, how did they find out about you? I know the band mates will tell you to give me a safe answer to this part, but going into Omen, did you know their music? Were you a fan?
KEVIN GOOCHER: I was absolutely a fan of the band long before I ever got the opportunity to audition. I distinctly remember being 18 years old and going to my favorite record store at the time, Fantasia records in Arlington, Tx. and seeing Battle Cry on vinyl for the first time, buying it and wearing the freakin grooves out on it. I still have that copy to this day in my collection. I was a fan from the start. Playing in bands in the Dallas/Ft. Worth music scene (around ’84ish) I became friends with Andy Haas and we’ve been friends ever since. We played in competing bands but always had a mutual admiration for each others musicianship and always got along extremely well. So, when Greg wasn’t going to be in Omen anymore it was he that suggested me to Kenny. I auditioned actually a couple of times before I got the gig. But, I was a fan long before I was their singer.
INFRARED MAG: Do you feel fans are fair to you? I mean, some fans were a fan of this singer and that singer, and now you are there performing live the songs they sang on. I mean we are both old school, you know Sammy Hagar is a great singer but he is not David Lee Roth.
KEVIN GOOCHER: Like I said earlier, it was tough at first. The comparisons to J.D. were intense. But, I knew I was the right guy for the job because I cared about and still care about being true to the songs and singing them the OMEN way. Not necessarily trying to sound like J.D. but, more of making sure the spirit of the song stays in tact and true to the original recording to the best of my ability.
INFRARED MAG: What in your eyes is the biggest misconception of Omen?
KEVIN GOOCHER: I think when people regard Omen as a thrash band is the biggest misconception. Though Omen has played many of those types of shows and we do have some speedy (tempo) material, I don’t consider us thrash. Love me some thrash though. I think of Omen as a traditional power metal band.
INFRARED MAG: So, we have Gene Simmons. I think you may who he is. Let’s discuss some of his recent quotes. “ Heavy Metal as we knew it is dead”. “ Bands today do not have a message to their music, they are just trying to fill a void that was left by a more famous band”. One more, “ the internet has killed the record industry”. Your band is putting out a new album with all this being said, what do you feel about this?
KEVIN GOOCHER: I don’t think it’s dead it has just evolved. I’m lucky enough to be in a band that created a sound and left an indelible mark in the mid 80’s. It allows us to continue that sound without having to change our sound to fit the times and trends that are created by radio and record labels and other entities in the music industry. Same for Iron Maiden, Judas Priest and others. We all may stretch our musical boundaries from time to time, but we all do what we do, what the fans know us for. Today’s band don’t get that opportunity as much. I think they have to follow guidelines much more. There is always pros and cons to everything. The internet has allowed all bands to get their music out there faster and more efficiently than ever before, but it has also allowed the music to be stolen and unaccounted for too. So, I think that if music lovers and fans of any given band want their favorite to get to continue to make music, then spend the money and buy it. Don’t steal it or try to find a way to acquire it for free. Bands making music and recording records is not cheap. So, when the music is pirated and stolen, it just makes it more and more difficult for a band to record next time.
INFRARED MAG: Do you get nervous before a show? What about during a show? Have you ever been on stage and forgot the lyrics to a song? What happens when that goes down?
KEVIN GOOCHER: I get nerves right before I go on stage. Not to the point where I have to go puke or anything. It’s more of an anxiousness. I’m lucky enough to be in a great band of seasoned pros. There are times when things go awry on stage but we are a great team and take care of each other in those situations. I never go on stage feeling like I can’t trust my band mates to give their very best and they know they can trust me to do the same. There is never a reason to have nervousness.
INFRARED MAG: Omen has been on quite a few labels. Do you feel labels these days know how to promote heavy metal or rock music in general? I mean look at what sells the most these days, it is not exactly the new Amon Amarth or Godflesh.
KEVIN GOOCHER: I think the labels do the best with what they have to work with. Back in the 80’s there were tons of magazines and labels gave bands a budget to make videos and also made sure their lead track was getting airplay. It’s not that way as much anymore. It is definitely one of the things that the internet has changed about the industry. Because of pirating and such, less money is being made which in turn means less budget for promotion and all promotional aspects.
INFRARED MAG: You are being pressured on this, it is peer pressure. You have been on some Omen tours, who or what bands were not the best?
KEVIN GOOCHER: The only band I have ever had any real problems with is Anvil, but that was with another band and not Omen.
INFRARED MAG: Let’s be honest, do you think Omen gets the respect it has earned? The band has been around for 30 plus years but when metal magazines talk about classic songs, I did not fucking see It’s Not Easy on any list or any early albums in their Hall of Fame or in their countdowns. Or any members in best this or that.
KEVIN GOOCHER: I don’t think Omen gets the respect it deserves from the industry. That being said, our fans are the absolute greatest and treat us great. Omen fans are the best in the world!
INFRARED MAG: So you are onstage playing your heart out and you see some idiot snapping pictures at a rapid rate. How does this make you feel? Does this take away from your moment? Also, how do you feel about being taped while onstage and then seeing yourself on youtube?
KEVIN GOOCHER: No it doesn’t bother me at all….and maybe because its become so commonplace for us. I don’t mind trying to give a photographer a good shot. It’s what they are looking for. However, don’t think for a minute that I’m not there for one reason and one reason only and that is to put on the best show and perform these songs to the best of my ability for everyone who shelled out hard earned cash to be in the audience that night!
INFRARED MAG: You are onstage in a club, say you have a small turnout. Most of the people while you are playing are on their cell phones or texting. What do you do? Do you feel personally insulted when this goes down? Now, some bands as you may know have spoke out and insulted fans while on stage, do you feel that is crossing the line? Let’s say you hurt someone bad and they take a swing on you. That leads to the question of ethics and where is the line.
KEVIN GOOCHER: Wow, that’s a tough one. I don’t think we’ve had that happen to us. Our fans are usually really attentive during our shows. That’s a testament to the killer songs and an energetic show I think. I also can’t remember insulting a fan from the stage. Omen has a really great relationship with our audience. We throw a positive energy at them and they throw it back to us and that keeps going all show long. Its a great experience every time.
INFRARED MAG: I have to ask, what was the last CD you went out and bought? Also, what was the last concert you bought a ticket to see?
KEVIN GOOCHER: The most recent CD I bought is the new Dexter Ward CD, Rendezvous With Destiny and it kicks ass. The most recent concert? I really didn’t buy tickets. It was an invitation only metal awards show in Las Vegas. Lots of acts were on the bill but I saw a tribute to the late and great Lemmy of “Ace of Spades” with Chuck Billy on vocals, Alex Skolnick on guitar, (both of TESTAMENT) as well as Rudy Sarzo (DIO, QUIET RIOT) on Bass and Mikkey Dee (MOTORHEAD) on drums. That was killer!!!
INFRARED MAG: If you could put it all in one sentence. How would you describe your time in Omen so far? Have you heard from any past singers from Omen about Omen? If so, did any offer you any advice? If you did not get the gig in Omen, what was your backup plan?
KEVIN GOOCHER: My time in Omen has been amazing. It has allowed me to be creative musically and play amazing shows worldwide in front of many many fans. I feel lucky to get to do this especially when many of my peers that I grew up with as musicians have fallen by the wayside. I live it and will do it til I die. Past Omen singers don’t really speak to me, so I can’t answer that. As far as a backup plan if I didn’t get the Omen gig…I’m sure I would be involved with some band somewhere. But, being in Omen is surely the most fulfilling opportunity I could ever have had come my way.
INFRARED MAG: The new album is coming out. We know that means we will hit the road hard to get the word to the masses. Right now bands seem to have this mentality of going old school and playing a classic album from start to finish. Has Omen ever thought about doing that? Omen fans, who would not want to see Escape from Nowhere or Battle Cry, Warning of Danger and etc played from first song to last?
KEVIN GOOCHER: It was done to a certain degree on the anniversary tours of both Battle Cry and Warning of Danger. They didn’t get played from start to finish, however we did do a majority of each when so.
INFRARED MAG: Take a deep breath, we are done. I hope I was not too hard on you. I have to ask this though, what are your plans for 2016 in terms of a tour or videos from the new album? Thank you so much and please any final words for the fans of the mighty Omen.
KEVIN GOOCHER: Naw, not at all. This was a pleasure to do. I’m not sure about videos as a budget for this sort of thing isn’t really given to us to do it. So, we’d have to fund it on our own. But, that’s not to say it’s out of the question. A documentary has been talked about as well….we’ll see. But, for sure U.S. tour dates are being booked as we speak. For sure we will be back in Europe in spring next year for Keep It True festival and hopefully a whole lot more as well as South American dates. We’d love to go play Japan and other Asian countries as we’ve yet to get to do that so far. We shall see. To all Omen fans out there, we hope you know what you mean to us! You are why we do what we do. Without you we get to stay home and play to the mice in our garages! You guys freaking rule!!! We hope to see every single one of you out on tour soon. Horns up to you all!!!!