In the early- to mid-80s, Raven–who play Saint Vitus on Sunday–and their “athletic rock” were essential to the New Wave of British Heavy Metal. Known for their wild live shows, they opened for the likes of Ozzy Osbourne and Iron Maiden before joining Metallica’s first major American tour in 1983.
(Want to hear about a Lars Ulrich hissy fit? Keep reading.)
This year, Raven celebrate the 30th anniversary of their classic album All For One and are doing a handful of shows on the East Coast.
Bassist and vocalist John Gallagher spoke to us by phone from his adopted home in Virginia. Topics discussed include the rather gory details of the accident that nearly crippled guitarist (and John’s brother) Mark Gallagher in 2001, as well as two very specific ways you can piss off Metallica, should you ever want to do that.
Raven has a reputation of being “the wildest band in the fuckin’ world.”
We like to have a lot of fun. Jump around and act silly. Even after all these years, we still enjoy jumping around and acting silly. When you do that, things happen. Either gear breaks, or we break. I have a photo album of lots of cuts and bruises.
Speaking of injuries, how’s your brother doing?
He’s currently losing his mind editing our DVD [Rock Until You Drop, about the history of Raven], for the last month or two, but other than that he’s recovered really well. I mean at one point they were going to cut both his legs off. Then they were going to cut one off. And then he’d never walk again, and he’s basically proved them all wrong by getting to the point where if you’d seen him jumping around onstage, you’d never know he’d had anything wrong with him.
And that happened because a wall fell and crushed him?
Yeah, it’s a kind of weird story. He had a car accident. Some guy t-boned him early in the morning, and he bumped his head real bad off the glass. [Then, he] went to visit a friend on a job site. They were building, I believe, a big drugstore, and normally on the site you gotta wear a hat, and he couldn’t because of the big lump on his head, so he was just wearing his baseball cap. The wind kept blowing his hat off, and he was chasing his hat when the wall fell down. It kind of saved his life because if he’d been six feet closer the other way, it would have fallen on top of him completely rather than just on his legs.
When it was done, both his feet were smashed the wrong way around, and he had a piece of metal rebar through one calf. The other calf was disconnected. Both knees were messed up. So it was pretty serious.
I was under the impression that it was an onstage accident.
That would be more in keeping. [Laughs] I’ve seen many of them over the years, too.
What’s the worst injury that you’ve gotten from a show?
I got burned from pyro once. I was standing at the wrong place at the wrong time and said, “Ooh! What’s that?”, and looked down, and the side of me just is all scorched.
Did you have to leave the stage?
I just kept playing. [laughs] Idiot that I am. I was pretty lucky. A lot of people come off with a lot worse.
Your album All For One is a classic, but it’s very hard to find. It’s not on iTunes or Spotify. I searched several used record stores for it. And I have to confess that ultimately I went the torrent route because I so wanted to hear it.
Exactly, yeah. A guy sent me a message the other day. He wanted to buy our album Stay Hard, and he said, “What do you suggest?” I said, “Well, have you tried ebay or Amazon?” He goes, “Yeah, they’re selling it for $179!” I’m like, “What?!” And I took a look, and he was right! Like, damn, we better start bootlegging this stuff ourselves! [laughs] If someone’s getting that for it, I’m sincere.
It’s kind of cool that your record is a collector’s item, right?
Yeah, it’s nice to be wanted, like on a reward poster.
I heard about a prank you played on Lars Ulrich near the end of the Kill ‘Em All For One Tour with Metallica back in the day.
We actually locked him in the bathroom. He came off[stage] before their encore and went in the bathroom. So we just locked the door. He freaked out. We finally let him out. And he came on the drum kit and knocked everything over. James [Hetfield] looked at him, pointing at him, and said, “Lars Ulrich on drums!” It was hilarious.
How long was Lars in the bathroom?
He was probably there for a minute and a half. But it was like, he had to get onstage! So he was kicking the door and freaking out.
Then when they were singing, they were doing a little crowd participation part of “Metal Up Your Ass”. I crawled under the front of the stage with a piece of a guitar stand and kept jabbing it up James’s ass when he was singing. All good, clean fun.
You play “athletic rock”, and you’re the “wildest band in the fuckin’ land”, but on your website, it says that your personal favorite drink is tea. Tea?
That’s right. It’s very strong English tea, you see.