Highly respected heavy metal author and BraveWords senior writer Martin Popoff has released a new book documenting one of metal’s previously unsung and tragic tales, Swords And Tequila: Riot’s Classic First Decade. He recently spoke with Canada’s The Metal Voice about the book. Check out the interview below.
His thoughts on why Riot never became a bigger band: “There were problems with management, they got dropped by Capital famously, where Capital thought they were too heavy for them and ended up on Electra. They had a lot of turmoil along the way and the Guy Speranza just quits the band right in the optimum time when the world is phrasing this amazing classic heavy metal album. Guy decides he wants out of the business and everyone in the band was ticked off at the grind of not really getting anywhere and not making a lot of money.”
One thing he learned about Riot that he did not know about before: “I would have to say it is that Crohns disease situation that Mark Reale died from. Also hearing all the management manoeuvres that had to go on to keep the band going.”
Rock City, Narita, Fire Down Under, Restless Breed, Born In America… These are the pioneering, superlative heavy metal records that represent the classic first decade of Brooklyn’s Riot, before the band would break up, eventually storming back with Thundersteel and The Privilege Of Power, existing to this day as Riot V after the shocking death from Crohn’s disease of guitarist and leader Mark Reale.
Riot’s is a tale of opportunities missed, of a band ahead of the curve, and of a band from which both its classic era lead singers—Guy Speranza and Rhett Forrester—are now dead, as is, of course, Mark Reale, a quiet man who, fatefully, wanted to leave the business to others and just play his heavy metal.
But this book is not just about the ’75 to ’85 period of the band that spawned one of the finest metal records of all time, 1981’s Fire Down Under. Even if the classics framed by those ten years get the full, dedicated chapter, track-by-track Popoff treatment, the subsequent rich and substantial catalogue of the band is discussed as well, right up to the present day where Riot shines on.
But still, the focus is on songs like “Warrior,” “49er,” “Road Racin’,” “Outlaw,” “Don’t Hold Back,” “Altar Of The King,” “Violent Crimes,” “Vigilante Killer,” and of course the insanely anthemic “Swords And Tequila,” as we celebrate a New York institution that is perhaps the shining exemplar of the term, “honorary New Wave of British Heavy Metal” band.
Says Popoff: “Below is the back cover blurb, but yeah, it’s pretty wild how many people have asked me for a Riot book over the years. So much so that I included a few fan stories in here to pay tribute to the people’s band status of these guys. And you’ll like the price of it, I hope. Remember, I am signing, packing these up and mailing from Canada. Orders will be signed from me to you, so please specify if it’s a present for someone else. Glad to sign as Christmas present for your fave metal buddy!”