Craig Neilsen - Flotsam And Jetsam - Interview Exclusive Print E-mail
Written by Ross Welford   
Friday, 10 December 2010 05:00




Formed in Pheonix, Arizona in 1982, Flotsam And Jetsam are a band etched into the history books of the thrash metal genre. In his first interview since joining the ÜR massive, Ross Welford found the time to chat with the band's drummer Craig Neilsen exclusively for Über Röck.



Hi Craig, thanks for the chance to speak to you, hopefully this will painless enough. First off, I'd like to start talking about the band's latest and 10th studio album to date,'The Cold', a great, solid 10 tracks of Flots thrash that seemed to get released (at least in the UK) with seemingly no promotion at all. It sounds fresh and with a great production jobflotsam2 and as always. Eric A.K.'s vocals sound great. It's Flots at their very best, arguably the best since 'No Place For Disgrace' - Do you think that Brian 'Head' Welch's Driven label did enough for you and how did that collaboration come about?                

Our collaboration started as a result of Crash Music, through Mark Nawara, forming Driven with Brian and Brian's manager. At the time we were signed with Crash, and Flotsam became one of the first signings with the newly formed label, which we were very happy about because it came with Warner Brothers Distribution in the States. As far as what I can say since then, there has not been a label that didn't drop the ball in one way or another with this band, even MCA. They didn't think to send Flotsam to Europe once in their time with the label. Metal Blade even spelled our name wrong on our promo pictures, etc., and on and on. I don't know a band that doesn't bitch about their label. All I know is we are getting great distribution in the U.S. and we are getting rotation on satellite radio and the fans will make or break the record. I don't put to much faith in what labels do to make shit happen. If it's good, people will find out about it and it will be an organic thing.

Did the welcome addition of getting original guitarist Michael Gilbert back in the band happen naturally or did he need some persuading?              

No persuasion at all. We had done a few shows with Michael in years past for various reasons, and this band is still very much part of his life's legacy and he is still very passionate about performing and we all get along like brothers, the good and the bad. He has continued to play with flotsam4other great musicians throughout the years and his chops were as good as ever on our last European tour of April, 2010. It was as smooth a transition as we could have ever hoped for.

Back in the day, you were on a major label, MCA. Admittedly, thrash and the music market was more commercially viable back then but did the band think it was the big move they craved and life was going to be easy from now on? I know some of you have other jobs now and the contrast must be immense or is it a case of "We did it and we're still here doing what we love"? I know singer Eric A.K. stated in a Greek interview that it was a hobby not a living. Is that through choice or reality?                

It's like this....if we wanted to tour 9 months a year and do another record once a year, then theoretically we could make a living from this. But everyone has families and other responsibilities so to that extent we have to treat it as not so much a hobby, but something we have to be extremely selective about the strategy we take with touring. All MCA, for example, did was make it possible to make the best sounding records, with top producers with the best gear. Yes they were generous with their budgets, but the band never saw any windfall directly in the form of cash in the bank. Actually, it became a huge debt the band was not able to recoup from. But that was the time of arenas with Megadeth, Korn, Fear Factory, etc. So it depends how you look at it if it "paid off".

Here in the UK, the talk of the 'Big Four' shows really seemed to get people talking about thrash metal again. How did you see it from the inside of that movement, did it seem that they really were the flag bearers and everyone followed or was it a case of 'We're as good as them'? Certainly, your first two albums are considered classics and always get aflotsam6 mention in the 'best of' lists. The triple box set repackaged 'Doomsday For The Deceiver' proving what a quality release it was, worth any thrasher's hard earned money.

Everyone can't be the best, or even in the 4 best. I would agree that the Big Four earned that title and for several reasons, not the least of which having superior material. And they had image, AND they toured for years on end everywhere, AND they had great merch machines with hundreds of shirt designs, jackets, hoodies, sweat pants, hats, etc. I have total respect and props for the Americans carving their own scene out of which was a metal world completely, rightly dominated by the British.

Let's talk UK touring. I know you've toured Europe relatively recently and it appears a lot of bands seem to tour Europe and skip the UK. Is it just a case of cost? A few of the glam bands of the 80's and 90's have been double headlining and splitting the costs to decent audiences over the last few years - Do you think that's a possibility in the future? Say, with Metal Church or Exodus for example? I'm sure there's a fan base for this type of tour to happen in the UK.                 

I would kill to tour the U.K. and I'm sure everyone else feels the same way. Yes, it's cost flotsam1prohibitive for us still and hopefully we can find an agent who can make it happen for us in 2011. If you know of such an agent, let me know!

Finally, and talking of glam bands, is it true that guitarist Mark Simpson once toured with George Lynch? You don't get many thrashers crossing the genres.                  

Yes, that is true. Pretty amazing considering Mark didn't know George, and George of course could have chosen practically anyone for the tour. I saw a few of the shows. Fucking amazing job Mark did. We were all totally supportive and proud of him. And then Jason Ward got hired by Rob Halford for a few American shows! What a trip.........
Thanks again Craig.

Much appreciated. Flots Til Death!