Helstar’s latest album This Wicked Nest is a beast. It’s pound for pound Grade A 100% US thrash metal with various other influences. I spoke with Larry Barragan (Guitars) as he talked to me about the interesting recording process behind the record, as well as some of its lyrical topics and his everlasting hatred for reality television.
For those who aren’t aware of you, tell me a little bit about yourselves and how you first got to thrashing. What were some of the bands that inspired you so much back in the past that you said, “fuck, I’ve got to get out there and thrash.”
Well, that’s quite a bit of history to go through. The band has been around for over thirty years. But I wouldn’t really say that we’re a thrash band as much as a band that has thrash influences. The bands that got me wanting to play were Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Rush and Black Sabbath.
Tell me about the fiery new album, This Wicked Nest. This thing definitely reminds me of what great heavy metal is supposed to be, so I’m curious about the writing and recording process. What was it like in the studio and how fast did you hammer this record out?
The funny thing about this album was that we really didn’t go into the studio to record the performances. We recorded all of the parts at home in our home studios. The only thing we did in the proper studio was the vocals and the re-amping of the guitars and the mixing. It still took about two or three months to complete. There was a bit of a learning curve because we had never really worked in Pro Tools – At least not in the sense where we were engineering ourselves. When we were finished, we took all of the clean tracks that we recorded and then set up a few amps in the studio and played those clean tracks through the amps and recorded that. It’s a bit of a process but that’s really the best way to do it, because then you’re not stuck with a certain guitar sound. If you hear something better you can just record the other amp with the same performance.
Obviously, the themes on this record are reoccurring. With “Fall Of Dominion” (and it blazes, by the way) you seem to be talking about an evil empire, quite possibly like the nefarious one that is ruling over our country right now under the title of government. I was born in 85, so I don’t really remember things being nearly as crazy as they are right now.
I think that maybe things have always been like this but now we hear about it quickly through the internet. People are posting videos from their phones as things happen, which was unheard of back in the 80s and 90s really. It’s hard for tyranny to hide these days and people are standing up and saying “This is wrong.” Of course people are getting slapped down too, because they’re outgunned.
When I hear the album’s title track, I can’t help but think of the worker bee mentality. It seems to me that the majority of Americans work boring 9-5 jobs that they really don’t like, while turning on their televisions to see what appear to be once in a lifetime experiences on these “talent” shows as they wish it could have been them. There’s no doubt that people have aspirations, goals and dreams, but it seems that most of them never reach them due to this slave mentality. But you can’t blame people, because the cost of living just seems to go up every year.
Yeah man, it’s tough you know. Bands like us we do what we can because we love it, but there’s no way to sustain a comfortable life doing this. I think the days of bands working their way up to playing arena tours is probably over. As for the talent shows on TV I think that’s just a bunch of crap. How are four people going to judge whether I can sing or not? They go out there and insult these kids like they’re sub-human. It’s horrible and it’s ridiculous. These kids have dreams of being discovered and they think this is the quick way to do it. But it takes much more than a TV show.
I have another interesting question here that sort of goes in with the themes of the record. Do you think that the media could be feeding people with false dreams in the vein of wealth and luxury? For instance, I tuned in the other day and caught a car commercial that claimed “it’s not the size of your car, but the size of your yacht that matters.” In other words, the commercial ensues us that if we keep working hard at our 9-5 jobs, eventually we’ll attain mass amounts of wealth and luxury. Not to mention the fact that people tune into the Kardashians just to revel in the fact that they do basically nothing and get all that life has to offer.
I don’t watch reality TV. It’s shit. Plain and simple, it’s shit. I like what Marilyn Manson said on Bowling for Columbine. The media wants to keep you scared and it wants to keep you consuming. As long as those two things are happening as far as the media is concerned, there is balance. It feeds on chaos.
What are your top five albums of all time, and what do you think are some classics that some people may have missed out on?
Top five…Man, that’s tough. Let me just ramble them off the top of my head.
Iron Maiden – Killers
Judas Priest – Stained Class
Black Sabbath – Heaven and Hell
Metallica – Master of Puppets
And the last one I think would be Slayer – Reign in Blood. But that’s tough because there are so many great albums.
People these days seem to talk about an “Illuminati” often in a joking or comical manner, but do you think that there really could be some sort of secret society like this in control of humanity? Why or why not?
Mikey our drummer is really into all of that. I guess it could be possible. I find it hard to believe, but I guess you could see the connections if you really wanted to.
Let’s talk about the tours you’ve done over the recent years. Out of all the bands you’ve played with on tour, what was that one that had you literally starstruck and you couldn’t believe you were actually playing a show with them?
Man, there’s only been one time when I was like “there he is!” We did the 70,0000 Tons of Metal cruise and I saw Mille from Kreator. I had seen him a couple times hanging out but didn’t really want to approach him. Then he walked by and I turned into a fan. He was very cool. I’m glad because that would suck to meet someone and then they act like a douche. We spoke for a few minutes and I was pretty much in awe.
Tell me a little bit about the awesome instrumental, “Isla De Las Muñecas.” What does that actually refer to? Also, tell me about the last track, “Magormissabib.” What does that mean?
“Isla De Las Muñecas” is an actual island near Mexico City. It’s supposed to be haunted by the spirit of little girl that drowned there. The trees are full of dolls that have been left there to calm her soul. It’s pretty cool looking. That song was co-written by my buddy Jeff Loomis. It was a huge honor to have collaborated with him. The last track “Magormissabib” is a word that I heard on CNN. It’s a word that the Westboro Baptist Church calls the United States. That’s the church that goes around with signs that say God hates fags and the military and your mom and whatever else. It’s a hatemonger church really. Anyway, I heard that word and I thought it sounded interesting so I did some research and it turns out to be this very violent story from the bible. So I pretty much based it off of that.
Since I’ve mainly talked about what some of the songs on the record meant to me, I’d like it if you could describe exactly what “Defy The Swarm” means to you. How exactly can we defy the swarm and avoid the worker bee mentality? I’ve heard that going to college was the key to success, but these days it seems to be a recipe for debt as well. So how can one truly succeed these days?
Man if I knew the answer to that, I wouldn’t be here. I’d be basking on white sandy beaches and drinking out of a coconut. I think really to be successful that’s just a state of mind. It’s not always about money. There’s an old saying, “I don’t have everything I want, but I have everything I need.”
Who came up with the name Helstar and it is actually just a combination of hell and star? It makes me think of an arcade game, but I may be thinking of Sinistar.
Actually, the name came from the original guitarist John Diaz. He never recorded with us, but nonetheless he came up with the name. He thought it just sounded cool. I changed the spelling just because I thought we could do something with the logo if the name had a centered letter.
Thanks for one fucking amazing power thrash record. It delivers a powerful performance and is certainly well worth recommending to all fans of the genre.
Thank you! We’re humbled by your endorsement of the new album.