HEXX – A Talk With DAN WATSON (Guitar)

Posted on October 08th. 2020

Questionnaire by Stefan on behalf of METAL TO INFINITY WEBZINE BELGIUM

Dan founded Hexx in 1983, hailing from SF California he didn’t have an easy time keeping his formation on the rails, nevertheless, he has managed to keep Hexx alive and kicking to this day. They have recently released a new album “Entangled In Sin” for which I have written a review with great appreciation and pleasure. Respect and dignity for Hexx are completely on my side, I won’t let the opportunity to have a conversation with this skill loaded musician pass me by. I am looking forward to his story so let’s get started right away …

Stefan: Greetings Dan, welcome here at the Metal To Infinity headquarters! First I want to take you to the very beginning of Hexx, you as the founder of the band, with what ambitions did you start this mission.

Dan: Hello Stefan, first of all, I want to thank you for your glowing review of our new album and the opportunity for this interview. For me, it all started when I was a very young boy around the age of six or seven when I went to my very first concert. I got to see my favorite group the Monkeeys perform at the Oakland Coliseum in 1968. Then shortly after that, I talked my parents into taking me to see the Beatles movie, A “Hard Days Night” at our local drive in theater. I knew at that young age what I wanted to do with my life. I wanted to play guitar and be in a band. We were very poor but my parents managed to scrape up the extra money for me to start taking guitar lessons at the age of nine. I was able to take a lesson every week for two years until my father left us and I could no longer afford the luxury of lessons. I learned on my own and from my uncle Joe from that point on. I eventually put a band together with my good friend Bill Peterson in the mid-1970s.


Stefan: Actually, Hexx originated from the demise of Paradox, which was founded in 1978. Can you tell me more about this period?

Dan: Paradox went through various incarnations as Bill and I tried working with other musicians from around the bay area. We played every house party and drunken backyard beer bash we could. We recorded several demo tapes demonstrating our playing and original songs. We got our first nightclub gig at a club my uncle’s band played at on San Pablo ave called The Long Branch. It later became known as Ruthie’s Inn. We eventually broke into the San Francisco club scene. We played the Keystone club circuits as well as clubs like the old Waldorf, Wolfgangs, and a few other clubs scattered about the bay area at that time. We were lucky enough to get the opportunity to open for acts like Quiet Riot, Lita Ford, and Dio right after he left Black Sabbath and went solo.


Stefan: Hexx debuted with “No Escape”, released on the legendary Shrapnel Records. How did you get in touch with the leader of this label, Mike Varney?

Dan: Mike Varney at that time was writing a collum in Guitar Player Magazine spotlighting new and exceptional guitar players. Paradox had just recorded a new three-song demo tape so I sent it to him hoping he would feature me in the magazine. To my surprise, he did better than put me in his magazine, he offered me a two-album recording contract.


Stefan: Also the follow up “Under The Spell” has been launched through Shrapnel Records, in Europe through Roadrunner Records. How do you feel about both albums, is there complete satisfaction in terms of sales figures and recording quality?

Dan: Well, the first album “No Escape” had limited success. It was well-received by the press and fans alike but we had no tour support and no distribution in Europe so sales were not great. With the second album “Under the Spell” we still had no tour support but we did have distribution in Europe through Roadrunner Records for that release. It sold a little better than our debuet effort.


Stefan: Which album gets your personal preference, why?

Dan: I think “Under the Spell” is a better record because by then we were getting better at songwriting and recording.

Stefan: It was in times when the Bay Area Metal movement was flourishing, was the competition between the metal bands hard and ruthless or can we speak of one big family having fun on making good music?

Dan: I can only speak from my experiences. It seemed like overnight everybody and his brother had a kick-ass metal band. Yes, the competition was extremely fierce. For the most part, everyone was pretty cool but it was not like one big family having fun making good music. There was envy, jealousy, and some animosity between some of the many acts trying to scratch and claw there way onto the bay area music scene for sure.


Stefan: You had to deal with line-up issues on several occasions, there was no stable group occupancy and especially singers who dropped out early. In your opinion, what was the main reason?

Dan: We had issues with both lead singers for both of our Shrapnel records. That’s ultimately why we ended up letting our other guitarist Clint Bower take over vocals after those two albums. We were fed up with the problems we were having with lead singers.


Stefan: What about the live scene back then, what can I imagine of a Hexx live performance and which bands have you shared the stage with?

Dan: Yeah, we played with just about all the bay area bands you can name back in those days. Besides sharing the stage with Dio and Quiet Riot we opened for bands like Alcaraz, Dark Angel, Coroner, Destruction, and Metal Church. We also did shows with bands like Blind Illusion, Blizzard, later to become Possessed. Forbidden Evil, later to become Forbidden. Death Angel, Sadus, and Autopsy to name a few.


Stefan: You started as a Power Metal band, yet at a certain point decided to look more in the direction of the Thrash genre. Where did this change come from Dan?

Dan: Our musical style changed from power Metal to death-thrash metal out of pure frustration, rage, and survival. We were not getting the opportunities some of the other bands were getting. Besides, speed metal was becoming all the rage in the bay area and we knew if we were going to survive as a band we were going to have to whip the crowd into a frenzy or we were not going to be able to compete with all the other bands at that time.


Stefan: “Quest For Sanity”, “Water Graves” and “Morbid Reality” can be considered as harsh and aggressive efforts. How have these works been received by fans, press, and media?

Dan: We received mostly good reviews for all those releases but some of our fans did not care for our conversion to the more aggressive style. What can I say, you can’t please everyone all the time. We did what we thought we had to do at that time to survive.

Stefan: Maybe it wasn’t the right choice to go for the Thrash Metal genre after all, because shortly after “Morbid Reality” you disappeared off the radar. Did you get tired of it or did you want to do something else, or maybe another reason?

Dan: It was a combination of factors that contributed to the band’s break up around 1995. We had been busting our ass for many years with no real success to show for it. We even completely had to reinvent ourselves. By the time “Morbid Reality had run its course the musical landscape was changing and Grunge rock took over. Century Media didn’t have any further interest in the band and we just didn’t have anything left to give. We were all used up. We were finished.


Stefan: But after 15 years, Hexx surprised friend and foe with a return to the Metal scene. What led you to this decision, what were the predefined plans?

Dan: I was offered an opertunity to put the power metal version of HEXX back together to perform at the Keep It True festival in Germany around 2013. That’s the reason we are talking about HEXX today. I will always be grateful to Oliver Weinsheimer for bringing the band over to Germany to perform at the KIT festival.


Stefan: Who’s left of the original line-up – was it difficult to find the right musicians, please introduce your new brothers?

Dan: Besides myself, John Shafer is still with us on drums. He kicked ass on Quest For Sanity, Watery Graves, and Morbid Reality and on these last two albums as well. We now have a great new bass player for this new album in Don Wood.He and John Shafer have been involved in various other music projects in the past and work extremely well together as a rhythm section. We are also very fortunate to have Bob Wright of Brocus Helm fame on 2nd guitar duities and of course the find of the century, the amazing Eddy Vega on lead vocals.


Stefan: Hexx inked a deal with German label High Roller Records, how did the cooperation come about?

Dan: We have our good friend and manager Bart Gabrial to thank for that. He is the one who got us that deal. I will always be grateful to him and all the good folks at High Roller Records for allowing us to bring two more HEXX albums into the world. 


Stefan: You’ve played three times in Germany, performing at three of the most interesting festivals in Europe named Keep It True, Headbangers Open Air, and the Bang Your Head festival. That must have been quite an experience… give me the heads up Dan.

Dan: Yeah, those festivals were the highlights of my life. I consider myself very privileged to have performed at all three of them. Performing at the KIT festival was the catalyst for propelling HEXX back onto the world stage. Playing at the Headbangers Open Air was a dream come true as well. I think our performance at the Bang Your Head festival was our best European performance so far.

Stefan: Let’s talk about the brand new album “Entangled In Sin”, what about the lyrical content, who wrote the songs, and who were the guys behind the production, mixing, and mastering duties?

Dan: I wrote most of the songs for this album and it was produced and mastered by Bart Gabrial. It was recorded,  engeneered, and co-produced by Tim Narducci. The lyrical breakdown of the songs for this album are as follows:

  1. „Watching me Burn „ is about the traditional story of the musician selling his soul to the devil at the crossroads but in this version, our singer Eddy Vega sells his soul to the Devil of Oakland California. And its time to collect!
  1. „Entangled in Sin“ is about exposing not only the Catholic Church and Christianity for being perhaps the most corrupt and evil religion on the planet but exposing the hypocrisy of all organized religions. When people give their minds and intellects over to theology, most of them are lost to sanity forever. To quote Sigmund Froyd: „Religion is so pathetically absurd and infantile that it is humiliating and embarrassing to think that the majority of people will never rise above it“.
  1. „Vultures Gather Round“ is about the so-called unbiased free press media here in the US and how it feeds the American public’s hunger for violence, death, misery, and suffering. Also how it uses fear to keep the masses afraid and divided.
  1. „Beautiful Lies“ is about how Americans have been lied to by their government and how, because Christianity is forced on everyone here, the American public are brainwashed believers instead of taking the responsibility of thinking for themselves.
  1. „Power Mad“ is about the Roman Emperor Caligula. Any similarities to a certain inept, privileged, childish, ex-reality TV gameshow host current world leader are purely coincidental.
  1. „Internal Enemy“ is about how people delude themselves. Reality is too much for them to bare so it is shunned in favor of fantasy and how religious faith is a willfully ignorant auto deceptive self-delusion.
  1. „Strive the Grave“ is about the journey of life and how we must all someday face death. It is meant to put into perspective how special and fragile life is and how we should appreciate and cherish every moment and each other. Ya know, just in case of the off chance that when we die we are not reincarnated, or get to sit next to Jesus in heaven, or get to indulge ourselves with the 72 virgins Islam says you get.
  1. „Touch of the Creature“ is about struggling with alcohol addiction.
  1. „Wise to the Ways of the World“ is about the hypocrisy of Christianity and how it is used by governments to manipulate and control the masses who prefer belief to critical thinking.
  1. „Over But the Bleeding“ is a metaphorical story about giving your mind over to theology and how once you do you are lost to sanity forever. It’s all over but the Bleeding!
  1. „Signal 30 I-5“ is about fatal auto accidents along California’s Interstate 5 that runs from Los Angeles through the San Francisco bay area and up the rest of the west coast.
  1. „Terror“ is a song about bad dreams and night terrors.
  1. „Night of Pain“ is about our singer Eddy Vega and some of his childhood sexual adventures.


Stefan: May I ask you for a personal opinion about the new album?

Dan: The new album was recorded at the Sonic Room Studios in Livermore California and was engineered by Tim Narducci and produced by Bart Gabriel. We put a lot more time and thought into pre-production with this album than we did for the Wrath of the Reaper record. Bart Gabriel was key in helping us during the pre-production process. I would send him demos of potential new songs and he would check them over and advise us on everything from tempo to lyrical content and everything in between. He was a valuable asset to this recording and I will always be grateful to him and the folks at High Roller Records for their support.

It ended up taking almost a full year to record mix and master this album. The project was plagued with problems and setbacks from the beginning. In addition to that our friend and former bandmate bassist Bill Peterson passed away a week before he was scheduled to record his bass tracks for the remakes of Terror and Night of Pain. Then our friend, engineer and co-producer Tim Narducci’s father passed away unexpectedly. After each setback, we had to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and get back to work. The band is no stranger to setbacks and problems so we managed to persevere.

Stefan: Remarkable fact is that Eddy Vega still on vocals, I think he’s doing a great job, I’m sure he’ll be a fixture at the Hexx camp, right? For some reason he reminds me of Metal Church’s fallen hero David Wayne, are you agree with me?

Dan: Yeah, Eddy is great! He is a fantastic talent and a well-grounded seasoned musician. I could not ask for a better vocalist and bandmate. We are very fortunate to have him as our lead singer!


Stefan: what’s your opinion on the review I wrote for “Entangled In Sin”?

Dan: Stefan, your review is very flattering and I appreciate it very much! I am so glad you like our new album. It makes me feel very proud. Thank you!


Stefan: Are there any obligations attached to the contract with HR Records?

Dan: No. We signed a two-record deal with them so we have fulfilled our obligation with this last album. I would love to keep on making records for them. They have been the best record label we have ever been on. They have treated us very well and we would be proud to make more releases with them if they would want us to. I guess we’ll have to wait and see how this new record does.


Stefan: How has the press and media reacted to the new album so far?

Dan: So far the reviews have been very good. I haven’t seen a bad one yet, but as I said earlier, you can’t always please everybody all the time.


Stefan: Are there any plans made for a European Tour after the Covid-19 Pandemic? How did you fill your time during this ultra-boring period?

Dan: At the moment we have no offers to play anywhere. We would love to be able to perform in Europe again somday but it is very expensive to bring bands over to play. I have been doing a lot of writing. I have written two novels and have been querying to literary agents trying to get them published.


Stefan: How do you see the future of Hexx evolving in the coming months, years?

Dan: I don’t know. I guess it will depend on how this new album is received. It would be great to be able to keep writing and recording new HEXX material. I guess we will just have to wait and see.


Stefan: Is there anything special you would like to realize as a musician?

Dan: Shure, it would be great to have a successful album or a hit song. At least one so all the guys in the group could finally get a little payback for all the years of hard work and sacrifice. We have been doing this for so long with little success so it would be a dream come true if we could find a little place in the sun if you know what I mean?


Stefan: Then I wish you and the whole band all the best, do you have anything to say before we end this conversation? Cheerz brother!

Dan: Yes, I would like to say thank you again Stefan for your kind review of our new album and all your thoughtful questions for this interview. I would also like to thank your readers for taking the time to read this.

All the best, Dan Watson – HEXX