Norman Skinner of HELLSCREAM – “If a band cannot sell those tickets then honestly, they probably shouldn’t be on that bill”
HELLSCREAM, the unholy metal alliance of guitarist David Garcia & vocalist Norman Skinner are back with a vengeance with their brand-new 2nd album titled “Hate Machine”Norman Skinner is the dynamic vocalist known for fronting “IMAGIKA”, “NIVIANE” and his own solo band “SKINNER”. With 13 studio releases, countless shows and tours under his belt, metal veteran Norman Skinner has made a name for himself as a force to be reckoned with in the Metal world. Dubbed “The Metal Chameleon” by members of the press, Skinner possesses a very wide range and utilizes it in a unique style to effortlessly walk the line between the beautiful and the brutal. Norman took some time away from slaying dragons to open up about himself
How did you first get in to music? Who turned you onto rock/metal?
I would have to give credit to MTV honestly for 1st exposing me to music and Metal specifically. I mean, my mom would listen to music while cleaning house etc. but I never really paid attention to what I was hearing or took interest. It wasn’t until seeing videos like “Rock of Ages” by Def Leppard & “We’re Not Gonna Take It” by Twisted Sister that as a kid I was captivated and thus began my love of music and metal.
How did you become a musician and what instruments are you proficient in?
I was asked to sing as a last-minute replacement in a high school talent show. Mind you I had never sang before and the band that asked me had never even heard me. More out of desperation I believe. I performed and we were disqualified for kids moshing on stage and stage diving. It was awesome and I caught the performing bug. I just sort of stuck with it. I concentrated on the singing and never did learn any other instruments. Maybe one day.
What was the local scene in your area like in the beginning? Was there a particular band you aspired to be like, favorite local bands back then, favorite local bands now?
When I first started out locally the music scene was still very strong in the SF Bay Area. Lots of great venues to play and awesome acts performing each weekend. This was around 1991-1992 just before grunge started to take over. I was a big fan of all the thrash bands of the era… Testament, Death Angel, also The Organization, Forbidden, Heathen, Vio-lence & Machine Head was just emerging these were local bands to me but many were already established on a much larger scale. There were some great locals I used to watch as well Fifty Lashes, Warfare DC, Corrupted Innocence, Hate. My favorite of the batch has always been Testament. Nowadays there are some solid bands but not nearly as many as back then in my opinion. Some great local bands now I would say just to name a couple Potential Threat SF, Negative Sixxx, Cultural Warfare, Solanum, & Mudface just off the top of my head.
What does heavy metal or hard rock mean to you?
I’ve been linked to it for so long it’s a part of me. I bet there are many that can relate. I can’t go more than a couple days without music or I get in a very bad\depressed mood. It’s a release… it keeps me centered and that is just as a fan. When I get into writing, recording and performing then what it means to me is on a whole different level. Unless you do it you couldn’t fully understand. Creating art and putting it in the hands of fans and then hearing what it means to them still floors me. I will never stop being in awe of seeing someone singing my lyrics back to me.
How would you best describe your sound?
Hellscream’s sound is very straight forward. We are not trying to break boundaries or recreate the wheel. Our sound is very much influenced by classic traditional metal alongside speed & power metal. If you are a fan of these genres then there is something for you. I have seen us classified as hyper metal. LOL!! Never heard that one before. One reviewer called us King Diamond on steroids. That was a great description.
Is doing pre-sales the same thing as pay to play?
That’s a touchy subject for some bands. I would say no, it is not. I remember when the whole pay to play movement was at its peak in the 90’s. It was you pay for X amount of tickets period and you are on the show. Nowadays it’s evolved a bit. If a promoter asks a band to pre-sale 25-50 tickets and they get $2 per ticket for instance then the band essentially can make money by their fans buying direct. If a band cannot sell those tickets then honestly, they probably shouldn’t be on that bill.
What was the first music you bought and what have you bought more than once?
I had a lot of music throughout my childhood but it wasn’t until I was 12 that I went to a store and bought my own cassette tapes. The 1st 2 I remember buying were Bon Jovi “Slippery When Wet” & Beatie Boys “License To Ill”. Of course, my musical tastes have evolved throughout the years. I bought many things multiple times due to switching from vinyl\cassettes to CD and again digitally. However I can think of 2 albums I had to purchase more than a couple times because I just played them way too much. Savatage “Gutter Ballet” & Alice In Chains “Dirt”.
DIY forever or signing with a label at first opportunity?
It really depends on where you are at in your musical career. I would lean more towards signing a distribution deal with a label and not much more. Labels do a standard 3 month push of a new album and move one but the distribution is what bands get the most out of a deal. Everything else I would definitely lean towards the DIY approach. Hire a marketing company or person for promotion and some sort of management is always helpful if they are actually working with you and not just collecting $$$.
What is the biggest show you have played so far and do you still get nervous before a gig?
I’ve played some sold out shows in my career that all were pretty big. Symphony X, Amon Amarth, Testament on 2 separate occasions etc. Still waiting to be added to a huge European Festival. Bucket list item many are shocked to find I have not yet done.
Is commercial rock radio dead?
I think so. I haven’t listened to the radio in like 20 years. Even internet radio I don’t really listen to. Most people are using algorithms via streaming platforms to discover new music and add to their libraries or they discover them performing alongside bands they already know or while browsing YouTube etc. Times have changed and are continuing to do so.
Favorite songs on the new finished album and why?
My personal favorites would be “Blood Rite” as it’s just a heavy screamer. The opening track “There Will Be Blood” is another fav. A lot of vocal flavors in that one. “Zero Control” really grew on me. Wasn’t a fav but the more I listen I really like how different it is.
Out of all your songs which one touches you the most when you perform it?
Hard to answer this particular question as we have never performed together live even though we have released 2 albums. We are more of a studio project. I will say “When Forever Ends” off our 1st release has a lot of emotion and hits the right nerves.
Are there any political or social issues hidden in your band songs?
Yes, but not really hidden. “Weight of The World”, “Hate Machine” & “Generation Kill” are all politically & socially charged songs. “Weight of The World” is essentially about we are average citizens just trying to survive when chaos is all around us and the leaders we trust to guide and assist us are more interested in lying to us and lining their own pockets. “Hate Machine” is more about the use of religion to control and influence hate. For instance, The Westboro Baptist Church and the way they spread their hate and intolerance. Lastly, “Generation Kill” is about the government’s lack of funding of education and poor criminal justice systems combined with a divide of rich\poor and a dwindling middle class.
What was the process of putting the songs in order?
Dave would send me music and I would then cut and paste structure changes. He would then make the changes and I would complete lyrics and vocals. Once we had all the songs he asked me to come up with a song track order. I am all about album flow and chose a running order that sounded good from one song to the next.
What endorsements do you have and what endorsements do you still want?
I am unsure of what endorsements Dave holds. I’m sure he has many. Long ago I had a Nady endorsement but I no longer use their products. I have never really gone after any endorsements. I’m sure I could garner some if I wanted but as a singer I don’t purchase new equipment often.
Bands you would love to tour with and musician or artist you would like to meet and interrogate?
So many bands I would just LOVE to tour with. Evergrey, Iced Earth, Primal Fear, Mystic Prophecy, Angel Dust to name a few. A musician to meet and interrogate… Tim “Ripper” Owens. He is so very busy and has managed to make music full time besides being a phenomenal vocalist. I’d love to pick his brain and chat over a lunch or something.
Song to be played at your funeral and 3 albums to take to your grave?
My funeral song would be “Sleep” by Savatage. 3 albums to take to my grave… hmmm… Let’s go with “Slave To The Grind” by Skid Row, “Awake” by Dream Theater & “The End of Heartache” by Killswitch Engage.
Do you still buy cds or mostly use streaming sites? Which sites do you use? What do you like about them?
I used to have a CD collection of over 1,200 albums. Now it’s just backstock of my own albums Ha!! I am a Spotify user. It’s all I use for my music. My Mac and even my car do not have CD players. Becoming a dead media platform. If I want to hear a CD I’ll have to play it in my Xbox.
Top 5 albums or songs released this year so far?
I’m probably missing some good ones but again off the top of my head… Evergrey – The Atlantic Savage Messiah – Demons Killswitch Engage – Atonement Death Angel – Humanicide Queensryche – The Verdict
Top 5 books and movies released this year so far?
I don’t read books but as far as movies go (That I’ve seen)… John Wick: Chapter 3 Avengers: Endgame IT: Chapter Two Spider-man: Far From Home Captain Marvel
Final thoughts, words of wisdom and shout outs?
To aspiring bands and artists… be persistent and keep moving forward. It’s not always easy or fun but the rewards when they happen are worth it. Big shout out to all my fans and friends.