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Laaz Rockit

Laaz Rockit was in the eighties one of my absolute favourite bands and even twenty years later their magnificent albums are still regularly making their rounds in my CD player. Their show in Eeklo, Belgium therefore was a nice opportunity for me to judge if the band live was still as tight as they used to be in the eighties (and they were, believe me!) and to talk about past, present and future with guitarist Aaron Jellum.

By: Sjak | Archive under speed / thrash metal

band imageAaron, the last thing we officially heard about Laaz Rockit was with the 1992 release “Taste OF Rebellion”. What have you been doing the last fifteen years?
Let's see, raising a family and starting my own business but I've always kept playing guitar quite a bit though. I've been composing quite some great riffs during that time but I've always kept them in a safe spot until now. I feel that now is the time to do something with all that stuff and possibly use it for a new record. Besides this I run a T-shirt business that's doing pretty good and that occupies some of my time. So you might say I've tried to be somewhat of a normal person the last years.

Being a normal person doesn't really live up to the rock and roll image though?
When we started we were eighteen and when the band burst in 1992 we were around thirty two, so we had been living the rock and roll lifestyle for fourteen years and at that time it was good to become a family man

So what exactly did cause the band to start performing again in 2005?
Probably just seeing a lot of the other bands reform. We started kind of talking about this and all of a sudden we all had the opportunity to take some time off from the business. We had enough downtime so to speak and we thought it would be cool to do some gigs. So here we are back in action. Vic (Agnello, drummer) couldn't be here though because he just had another baby. He wanted to be part of this though but since he lived at the other side of California it was hard to do the necessary practising and now that he was having a new born child it just wasn't possible.

In 2005 you also released the DVD 'Live Untold' on Old School Metal Records. How did this get started?
We were kind of figuring out a place to start, you know. We knew we wouldn't have the opportunity to do a record right away so we wanted to spark some interest in another way. Ever since we regrouped in 2005 we had taped everything we did and there was also quite some old footage available so we compiled this together just to give the fanbase a view on who we were as a band nowadays. I knew Patrick of Old School Metal Records through our friends from Testament . He put a little offer to the table and he offered good distribution so we just agreed to sign with him. We knew it wasn't going to be a multi-platinum thing but it was just a matter of getting the DVD out there.

So you had the DVD out, you decided to get on the road again but what next? You got the fans interested again, so what more can we expect?
We are enjoying each others company so much, we have a great time together. Sky, our new drummer, is twenty-five years old and he brings kind of a new youthful energy in the band. We don't know yet what the future will bring exactly, but we're not done yet.

A couple of days ago you played at the Dynamo in Eindhoven, which can be seen as your second home more or less. What did that do for you, did it bring back a lot of the good memories of the old days?
It was great to be able to come back there and play again and to be the most surprising thing was that our songs still have quite an impact after all these years. We have been able to maintain the youthful energy of the old days and combining that with the possibility to use all the modern day equipment really gives us an opportunity to show what were capable of as a band today. We're in our forties now but for me it has been a great experience all the way.

You've reunited with Phil (Kettner, guitarist) as well and in the old days the both of you proved to be a great guitar tandem. How did it feel to get back together with Phil again?
It's good, it's cool. We have a very good relationship, you might say that we have a camaraderie like a brotherhood relationship. When he left the band, there was some bitterness but that's all behind us now and musically it just clicks, you know.

You already told me that most of you are in your forties. It must have taken a lot of courage to get back into action. What more could you offer than all the other eighties band that decided to reunite?
I think our chemistry is great and when the five of us hit the stage together we're a very tight outfit. The crowd just feels that and combining this with our above average song material I think we have a lot to offer still. I mean, we're getting older, we don't have as much hair as in the old days, we've gained some weight over the years but hey, we can still kick ass on stage.

How has the period been so far after your reunion?
Absolutely outrageous., nothing but open arms so far. I mean, yesterday we played the Keep It True festival and I just couldn't believe how great the crowd response was. We were just stunned by the crowd's reaction and I think that they were stunned by our reaction. We did have and still have a fuckin' great time, man.

You told me that you wrote a bunch of new riffs. How concrete are your plans to do something with this are will it remains in the Aaron Jellum vaults forever?
No, we're definitely contemplating doing another record. There's a little bit of apprehension though, because there's still the question on how much we can devote to promoting and touring. You just don't want to put out some new material and not be able to tour.

So have does the new material sound like?
The new material has definitely progressed because of the way that I and music in general have been progressing over the years. We're not going to make another 'Know Your Enemy' or another 'Annihilation Principle'. The new record is going to be along the same lines as what we've been doing, but it's certainly not going to be a copy of it. Good production, heavy crunchy stuff, down-tuned guitars are some of the elements that will certainly be part of it. But as said I'm still a little apprehensive about it. Now's the time to do it though, because I don't see us still doing this in another five to ten years from now.

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What does your wife feel about you being out on the road again, since your got some family responsibilities now?
(starts laughing) I think this is a very tricky question. This is kind of a reward for us as a band. I mean we've spent some many years working our butts off and now again we have the opportunity to go out and show what Laaz Rockit is still capable off. The band situation is almost also something like a marriage, being together for so long and going through life together. For us doing this is like a vacation from our normal lives. Of course my wife is not real supportive about this all, but she understands that it's something I just got to do.

Suppose that the next record maybe quite surprisingly becomes a huge success?
I know, that's what I'm worried about! Well, there's always legal matters, ha ha…On a more serious note, I'm the main man of the family doing tons of work, they just need me. At the same time I feel somewhat guilty about taking off every time when something happens with Laaz Rockit. As a person I'm not into being away for too long from my family anymore, so we'll just have to see how this will work out if the new record really becomes a success.

How do the other band members cope with these kind of situations?
Well, we got a new booking agent who can and hopefully will set up new things for us. But having family responsibilities now just bring in some extra prerequisites. Besides this Willy also has a side project going on with Chuck Billy from Testament, so we just have to go along with everybody's schedule and see what possibilities remain for us. The only one being always available is Sky, our new drummer, who has got a flexible job. Doing things with Laaz Rockit really requires good planning skills.

What exactly is the situation with Vic now? I mean, he's been very much involved (also with the DVD), he was willing to get out but couldn't do it because of private circumstances and now you got a new drummer in?
I'm aware of the fact that this is a touchy situation. Vic always has a spot in this band but then Sky has really earned his position as well. Furthermore he's always readily available, while Vic has a family which makes things harder from a planning perspective. Vic totally understands the situation. If he wants to play some songs with us, he's always welcome but Sky is our regular drummer now.

Something totally different now: in the old days the band released a VHS video tape called 'European Meltdown'. Any plans to do something with that?
That's a good question. I have an actual copy of it. It's great stuff, although shitty quality, and we've used some of it on the DVD 'Live Untold' already. Having said that, I'm afraid that it will stay a VHS-release only. Never say never though.

You told me that during the last fifteen years you wrote a lot of cool music. Did you never feel the urge to release some of that?
Not really, I have a home studio and I just record every good idea that I have for possible future use. As far as I was concerned the band was still in existence so I kept writing and kept writing cause that's just what I do. I'm a musician at heart.

Did you never have the feeling to go out and look for another band to record your material with?
There's always a possibility for this of course but it's such a chore trying to find new musicians, getting to know them, practicing with them and stuff. I just didn't seem worth the effort. I actually did a side project for a while called The Dirt Brothers for a while and it was fun, but it was never meant to be on a professional level. We probably played just ten shows but it was just for fun. Something that I learned when we switched our name from Laaz Rockit to Gack is that people always relate to the name. If you go out and try to rebuild everything that you had with your previous band it just takes so much time and energy, I just can't do that anymore. The name Laaz Rockit still has enough fans to make sure that whenever we release another record it will sell a decent amount.

So what about the Gack record? It has become a true collector's item for (especially Laaz Rockit) fans and it makes a lot of money on eBay. No plans for a possible re-release?
I think these are all issues that need to be looked at. Michael (Coons, vocalist) and myself are the only original Laaz Rockit member playing on the Gack records and sometimes we play with the thought of releasing those song under the Laaz Rockit name, but that just wouldn't be fair to the folks playing on the forthcoming album. So I honestly don't know what we're going to do with that. Maybe Patrick (from Old School Metal Records) will have an interest down the line to do something with it, we'll see…I know for a fact that our biggest mistake at that time was changing our name!

What can we still expect from Laaz Rockit? Being a family man, performing live in Europe with the band, recording a new record, what else have you got in store for us?
I guess I just want the best of both worlds, being both a family man and having success with the band. All the older records will be re-released in due time and as said we probably will do another record and we just kind of take it from there and see whatever comes our way. It's hard to predict what the future will bring. Knowing myself I just want to try and make this happen. We've been a well-respected band in the eighties but we didn't have the business sense to make it a real commercial success. I surely would like to get the recognition now that I think that we deserved in the eighties but never got.

(Aaron gets called away to prepare for the gig)Any last words from your side?
I just want to thank all the European fans for staying loyal to the band and supporting us. We still enjoy performing and we want to give back a little bit more to our fans in the near future. So keep your eyes and ears open!

Thanks to Eus from Metal Experience.com for his kind permission to use his shots for this article..

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