Sunday, December 03, 2006

Sam Kress R.I.P.

At the beginning of this year I received some sad news about Mike Sammon, an Old Metal brutha from back in The Day. Sadly and ironically, as this year draws to a close, I received sad news about another Old Metal brutha.

Backstage at Wolfgang's, San Francisco - 1984

Pictured above is a Metal Moment featuring (clockwise from top left): Me, Paul Baloff (Exodus.. R.I.P.), Rick Hunolt (Exodus), Sam Kress (with the bootleg Iron Maiden jersey), Gary Holt (Exodus), Rob McKillup (Exodus), Mike Coons (Laaz Rockit... with a tweed blazer, sweater, and tie.. Metal?), and a guy who I don't remember... I was 20 years old and full of the Metal Madness... We all were!

I remember the first time I met Sam Kress.

We met in the lobby of the Old Waldorf at a Metal Monday (a weekly showcase of local and national Metal bands) in 1982. At the time I was writing for the legendary San Francisco Metal fanzine Metal Mania. Sam was preparing to leave for a trip to England to explore the Metal scene there. It was a vacation that made a least one Metal drummer jealous:

Sam and I had talked about doing a Metal 'zine of our own when he returned from his trip. If I remember correctly, Sam had inherited some money which was going to finance our venture and also trips to England and New York City. On his trips Sam met and hooked us up with bands and people in the UK and NYC Metal scenes... Folks like Brian Ross (singer for NWOBHM legends Blitzkrieg), Venom and their manager, and Mercyful Fate and their manager, among others.

Long story short, Sam and I created a Metal 'zine called Whiplash. Basically Sam was more the business guy and I was more the creative guy and we worked well together... We also spent alot of time hanging out with other Metalhead friends... Listening to METAL, drinking, being young and stupid.. I can't even guess how many times I crashed on his couch.

While in New York, Sam had befriended a guy starting a record label called Torrid. Long story short, Sam helped broker the release of Exodus' seminal debut album Bonded By Blood on the Torrid / Combat Records label in 1985.

I've always considered Bonded By Blood to be THE defining album of the Bay Area Old Metal Scene. No disrespect to Metallica's Kill 'Em All, but Metallica's songs were primarily written before the band relocated from SoCal to S.F.; Exodus were 100% Bay Area born and bred. East Bay OG. Exodus raged the hardest and Sam and I were right there with them.

Sam was more into partying than me, but he was also a good friend to me. When he discovered I didn't have a Heavy Metal leather jacket we went to a leather shop on Polk Street in S.F. and he bought me one.. I'm wearing it in that photo you just saw. Bonded by blood!

(Woah... I just had a flashback to a drunk driving escapade with Sam in my old VW Fastback careening through North Beach after a Control show at the On Broadway... and running the toll booth on the Golden Gate Bridge another time...)

Sam and I are thanked side-by-side in the liner notes of several Old Metal albums, including Metallica - Ride The Lightning and Exodus - Bonded By Blood. We were Metal Bruthas and back then that meant ALOT.

Back in The Day: 1984
Exodus / Slayer in Berkeley
Mercyful Fate / Exodus in Sacramento

Eventually, I drifted away from the Metal Scene and lost contact with Sam.. Then in August 1991 Metallica played their biggest hometown show ever when they headlined Oakland Stadium. I decided to go for old time's sake since it was trippy that Metallica were going to headline a show in front of 60,000 in their own backyard.

As Big Wayne and I walked through the enormous general admission crowd we ran into Sam. I hadn't seen or talked to him in probably 5 years. It was good to see him and we had nice reunion... but that was the last time I saw or talked to him.

In recent years I'd gotten updates about Sam via various mutual friends, but life rolls on.. I never made the effort to track him down and get back in touch.. which I regret now of course.

I must confess that I hadn't thought about Sam in a long time until this year. Ironically, Whiplash was resurrected for one last hurrah. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to share this with Sam... but I wonder if he even would have cared. Life rolls on and things that meant alot to you in youth might seem incredibly trivial in your older age.. I just don't know where his head was at with the past.... which is why it would have been cool for us to have talked again. Regrets.

Anyway, for lack of a better way to end this gracefully, click HERE to read a .PDF of the Editorial Page from Whiplash #1... If you're Old Metal, pull out your withered copy of Bonded By Blood and play it loud in honor of times and people now gone... Travel back to a more innocent time in your head for awhile.. Then return to the 21st Century and embrace everything you cherish with a new appreciation. Life is too fucking short.

Rest In Peace Sam.

"Bang your head against the stage and Metal takes its price.. BONDED BY BLOOD!!"

Thanks to Scarpetti for sharing this:

Cristie & Sam on the Streets of San Francisco (1984)

According to Umlaut's Old Metal friend Cristie, this snapshot was taken in North Beach either before or after getting kicked out of this gig:

(From the Umlaut Archives)

If any good is coming out of this sad event, it's that alot of Old Metal scenesters are reconnecting again.

NEVER underestimate the Healing Power of Metal...