What a nice surprise to find the original line-up of Exciter back at work! I discovered this by chance only as I only noticed the Band releasing some unrelevant albums with just John Ricci remaining from the initial line-up during the last years, so after checking the homepage of the Band it was clear to contact the guys and try to get an interview (after all, our little mag managed to be mentioned on 2 Exciter-Albums which makes us proud even today..). John replied right away, questions were sent and Bassist Allan Johnson together with John Ricci took the time out to send detailed and honest replies that you can read below:

First and most important, how did you come back together? Meeting at the shop you work, was it that easy?? I read you didn´t talk for 20 years and then in comes Dan and you get back together again – I guess you need a special magic to get together so quickly after such a long time?!

John Ricci: After the demise of the last version of Exciter (1996-2013) my plan was to take a year off and re-assess what I was going to do musically. I needed that time off to clearly think about my next effort. I didn`t even want to think about music or deal with musicians I just wanted to focus on my other passion which is restoring classic cars and just chilling out with no stress. During all of Exciter`s career I`ve always had a regular day job, so one day Dan came to my workplace, as soon as I saw him I knew he was going to ask to get back together. He told me he knew about the previous version of Exciter breaking up and  whatever I decided to do musically he and Allan would back me up. At first I was hesitant because I wasn`t sure how it would turn out but after about a week I decided might as well go for it because there were so many fans around the world wishing that the original Exciter would re-unite. The reason the 3 of of us hadn`t  spoken to each other for so many years is because there was no need to. I was happily playing with my version of Exciter and Dan and Allan had the Beehler band for a number years.

Allan Johnson: What happened in the months leading up to this was many phone conversations between Dan and I, he was over as far as doing the Beehler project and I had quit that band a few years back but he kept saying how much he wanted to do an Exciter reunion and I was really sceptical, I kept telling him it would never happen, well apparently you’re never supposed to say never (haha). Once he did approach John we had to wait about a week before he made his decision, we were pretty much crapping our pants wondering if he’d say yes or no. Dan and I both understood how John felt and that he may have needed a break from the whole scene, and that worried us, that perhaps it wasn’t the right timing, but it didn’t take long for him to make a decision and we were pretty happy when he agreed.

Reading the Liner-Notes to the re-released Exciter-CDs I always thought that one could read the enthusiasm out of every line, Allan and Dan seeming very fond of the good old days and also seeming very proud of what you achieved despite being out of the band at the time – so why did it take so long to get back together again when there seems so much fondness when looking back to the past?

John Ricci: Ironically I was not involved the re-issues. Basically Dan and Allan took care of all of it. Nevertheless the 3 of us all have fond memories of our struggle to be recognized as a solid identity in the metal world. We worked hard from the time of our formation in 1979 till today actually. I`m not sure why it took so long for us to get back together, maybe Dan or Allan can answer that better than I can? All I know I kept playing over the years because music is like a drug for me and you can never get enough, ha, ha!

Allan Johnson: We do have a lot of fond moments and when we travel together or if we’re in rehearsal we often bring up some pretty funny stories and cool memories. As far as reuniting is concerned, Dan and John first approached me back in the early 90’s to get back together again but it was not the right time for me, I had settled down in a serious relationship and I didn’t want to get back in to the music industry again where I felt there was no money to be made, I felt like I had exhausted the whole Exciter effort and I didn’t want to go back and play those old songs again, if I had decided to do anything during this time period it would have been to do something different. But I truly believe that everything happens for a reason and the timing of our eventual reunion in 2014 was just meant to be, it was  perfect timing for all of us. I think it’s perfect timing as far as the heavy metal industry is concerned too as there’s been a huge interest in 80’s metal again.

What did Dan and Allan do during their absence from Exciter? Never heard again from them in terms of other bands/albums in contrast to Exciter who continued to release albums.

Allan Johnson: Well I can’t totally speak for Dan, I know that he spent many years working on his Beehler project and maybe a few other things as well some of which I was involved with and some I wasn’t. As for me, after I left Exciter in the late 80’s I totally retired from the music business, but let me back up for a second, as for the band situation it wasn’t so much that I retired it was that I got kicked out of the band. It was sometime in 1989 I think, we had recorded the self-titled EXCITER album and we were being managed by the same company as our record company, they were not doing anything for us, no promotion, no touring, nothing. The band had been idle for a very long time, we had not played live for a long time and our morale was very low. During this time I had gotten into a very serious relationship and moved in to an apartment with my then girlfriend, in order to pay the bills I had to take any job I could get as the band was not playing. I don’t even think we were rehearsing at the time because there was nothing happening, I recall feeling kind of disconnected from the rest of the guys, and I felt sorry for Rob Malnati too as we had got him to move to Ottawa with his girlfriend so we could be closer. So one day out of the blue I get a call from Dan, he was really angry, he had had a falling out with Brian and kicked him out of the band. I can’t remember how much time had passed but I’m sure it was only a matter of a week or two later Rob called me up and told me I was kicked out of the band as well, he was speaking on behalf of Dan I think, I’m sure with such a history between him and I he didn’t want to be the one to give me the news. I think that there was a lot going on at the time that I did not know about, this was the first time during the band’s career that I settled into a serious relationship and I was so involved in it that I didn’t want to leave and go on tour again. I was really unsure about the band’s future and so personally for me it was a good time to get out, I was actually relieved I got kicked out; it was like a huge weight was lifted off my shoulders. After that I didn’t do anything musically, I was fed up with the business, I was fed up with getting screwed by everyone, not making any money but everyone else was making money off of us. I jammed once with Brian McPhee and Jacque Belanger who were talking about starting a band but nothing became of that. I sold everything I had and I didn’t pick up a bass guitar until I started playing again with Dan on his Beehler project back in 2002.

Any plans for a new album or do you consider this useless in times when CD-sales are going down? Being used to preferring complete albums over downloads I’d love to see a new CD by Exciter…and surely a lot of fans, too….

Allan Johnson: We’ve been talking about an album from day one, right away we all agreed it had to be like the original Exciter material, same formula that we did on the first three albums. This is something that I’m really looking forward to but we have to take our time and not rush it, it has to be the very best or fans are going to be disappointed. So we have this massive amount of material between the three of us and not much time to bring it all together, since the reunion we’ve had many requests to play worldwide and so between all these shows and our own personal lives there is not a lot of time we can devote to writing together, we’re currently working on pre-production on an individual basis to try and speed things up a bit. We’re all fully aware though on the state of CD sales and that even the most famous of artists cannot rely on music sales for income, live performances are the only way of generating money these days. Personally I still buy CD’s, I like something tangible, something I can hold in my hands, look at the cover and the pictures and read the inside. It’s too bad that a lot of people don’t support their favourite bands by buying the CD.

If you plan to do (or already have) new songs, which direction would these go? No big changes hopefully?! 

Allan Johnson: The way I’m looking at it is that the ideal situation would be to look at this as album #4, what we would have come out with if we hadn’t parted ways after Long Live the Loud. I don’t see any big changes, we are what we are, anything we come out with is going to sound like Exciter, there’s no way it couldn’t. When I joined up with Dan to do the Beehler project we kept trying not to write songs like Exciter songs but we kept coming out with song after song where we said “no, sounds too much like Exciter”, it had to be a Beehler album not Exciter. But the first song Dan and I wrote together was Destroy and in the end the fans kept saying this song sounded the most like classic Exciter, we had to agree. Now that Dan and I are back in the band we can finally let out the Exciter songwriting that is still inside of us, and so far the ideas we’re coming out with are pretty damn good. It’s so great to be playing with John again, everything comes natural again, it’s all organic.

Did you ever fully realize which influence Exciter had on other Bands and note the kind of pioneering role you had when releasing “HM Maniac” / the Status that you have within the Metal-Scene? Or did it take some years to get to this point?

Allan Johnson: During the 90’s I was unaware of the major impact we had had on so many fans, many of whom went on to become musicians themselves, I had no idea that we had influenced so many people, and it’s only now that I’m hearing it from all angles. Back then I had no computer or internet until the mid 90’s and even then it was so primitive, there was no social media, no real good connection with the outside world. Once I got back with Dan to do the Beehler project I started to really realize it. We were in demand instantly to do live shows, but everyone wanted to hear Exciter songs, they were promoting us as the 2/3’s of Exciter. That says a lot right there, they really wanted the “two thirds”, now they’ve got three out of three and the demand is even higher now. Having traveled as much as we have since this thing got off the ground I’ve been in contact with many fans and I’m continually blown away by the impact we not only had in the past but now as well. I have been running our Facebook page Exciter Original and for the first time ever I can be in contact instantly with fans all over the world, it’s amazing. It just makes me want to continue and influence more people in a positive way.

Do you miss the days from way back then in the 80s with what went on in the growing underground like Tape trading? Being a fanzine writing letters and including issues from our mags never being sure to arrive and/or ever get a reply was tough…so this is easier now but the magic of those days cannot be repeated…what do you think?

Allan Johnson: There are a lot of things I miss about the 80’s, it was an incredible tidal wave of new heavy metal and I was aware of the underground tape trading and all that but I never did any of that, just never had the desire to do that, the sound quality was so terrible. I liked going down to the local record store and looking for new releases, there was nothing like the feeling of coming home and slapping on a new vinyl record. Later on I was disappointed to go into a record store and see the increase in tapes and the decrease in vinyl; tapes were so inferior in quality and so small, the inside liners had such small pictures and not a lot to read.

What I always wanted to know is why was “Feel the knife” left off “Long live the Loud”? Was it planned that there would be an EP where you needed a new song for? For me this is one of the best songs by Exciter out of all the great stuff you did and would have upgraded a great album ever further.

Allan Johnson: I can’t really remember but I think it was more of a decision by the record company we were with. It was a thing back then to have extra songs recorded so the record company could release them on compilation albums and EP’s.

How do you consider the whole music-scene of today? Isn´t it a kind of overkill when everything can be heard online easily? On youtube you can hear thousands of legendary albums and it´s hard not switching from one to another after just one song as younger people seem to do. You don´t need to discover anything anymore, how do you see that?

Allan Johnson: I think it’s not so much that you don’t need to discover anything anymore; it’s that you can discover things much faster and easier, we’re living in the age where all information is immediately at our fingertips and that’s great. The only thing that is not around anymore is the mystique, the mystery behind your favorite bands and what they’re up to. You had to wonder, you had to wait until an interview came out or a press release or whatever. Now it’s like everything is taken for granted, there’s no anxiously awaiting going on anymore. As far as today’s music scene I can only assume you mean the heavy metal scene? Because if I get into the broader scale I could go on forever on how rap is not really music and that hip hop is crap and so on and so on…..  I’m only really focused on what we’re doing now and that is riding the current wave of the massive resurgence of 80’s metal. My theory is that new metal got so saturated with the same style, same sound, same everything that metal fans around the world went back to the true roots of metal and the NWOBHM.

Do you follow / what do you think of today’s metal-bands? There seem to be millions of them with all sorts of Metal being played…

Allan Johnson: Well I don’t really follow the scene at all, a good friend of mine tried to turn me on to all kinds of new metal bands and every single one of them sounded like the exact same band, same style of music, same vocals, same everything. I swear I couldn’t tell the difference between any of them and I couldn’t bear to listen to them either. There are not a lot of bands that really catch my attention but once in a while one comes along a band that really turns my head. Recently I heard Crystal Viper and they are absolutely amazing, real talent, real musicianship, real singing and real songwriting. It’s the same with Attacker and Mike LePonds Silent Assassins, real metal and once again real singing, totally incredible. I try to stay away from listening to other metal bands though because I don’t want it to influence my song writing in any way.

So, to end this as we did 25 years ago – any final words to our readers? 

Allan Johnson: I just want to say a big thanks to all our fans both old and new; it’s so great to continue to have the support of so many. It’s very humbling and we all appreciate it. It is still so surprising to see such a wide age group come out to our shows, I see fans from 19 to 65 out there decked out in denim and leather and thrashing out with Exciter, it’s great. We’re having the time of our lives and loving every moment. Long Live the Loud!

This is it! We honestly feel pleased for the guys to play as many gigs as possible as this is the only way to get some money in nowadays (a tour of south America is announced together with Sacred Reich if I read it correctly) and we still hope for a new album by the Band to blow some heads off! Until then, revisit the Classic “HM Maniac”, Violence and Force” and “Long live the Loud” Albums and learn why Exciter are one of the main forces in metal-history, referred to by so many Bands and Fans.