By Andrew Catania
One of the most overlooked bands to come out of the 80’s is certainly Banshee led by vocalist Tommy Lee Flood. Tommy had a vocal range that got your attention pretty quick to Headbangers Ball. A huge following in the midwest, Banshee got tangled up in poor representation with Atlantic/Titanium Records and how they ran out of money promoting Badlands which wasn’t going according to plan. Out at Atlantic, Banshee broke up in 93 and has had a few occasions of regrouping that hasn’t been successful. I’ve been a huge fan of Banshee and set out looking for Tommy Lee Flood. He’s not on the internet, but I got him on the phone. I caught up with Tommy to see if we’ll see him back in music..
What have you been up to musically?
TLF: My last solo tour with FLOOD was in 2012. My mother died, and my Dad is 85, So I made a real conscious decision that I want to spend as much time with my family as I can. 30 years of being in the Biz, I wish I could have spent more time with my Mom. You know, I think about a lot of things now.
Things aren’t as important anymore as they used to be in music. Eventually, I think everybody grows up. I know I did. I love music. I still write songs, and I think some of my best stuff has yet to be recorded. As far as putting a band together and keeping a band together, that’s a lot of stress. I have always been the leader in all my groups, not by choice, but somebody has to take the reigns, You get tired of the guy who has to do everything.
How do you feel about Terry using the Banshee name?
TLF: Terry and I were the primary songwriters, I wrote all every lyric and every melody of every song he ever put out on the first three records. I did have a lot of musical input as well, and the other guys in the band had musical input, not just Terry, but collectively, We split everything equally even though drummers don’t write songs, they still liked to have drum parts, so it was only fair, and I didn’t want to be the guy living in a big house while my drummer was washing dishes in and around touring.
And to me, that seemed like a problem. I wanted everybody to pull there own weight. We split everything equally so nobody had to trip out about money, Everybody wants to worry about money in the beginning. Everybody in Banshee, even Chuck Hopkins, who was only in Banshee on the first record for a year and a half, and then he decided to quit and get married, He never got to enjoy the hoopla because a month after he left the band was when Metal Blade Records signed us. Bill Westfall stepped in and, and boom, we were in California doing all of our college radio interviews and significant publicity promotional blitz with the release of Crying In the Night.
Anybody in Banshee could use the name Banshee; I could have a band named Banshee. We’re all equally entitled to use the name. Out of respect for the fans, crew, and staff that worked with us, I wouldn’t use the name Banshee unless all original members were involved.
I put together wonderful groups that played the music well. Of course, me being the singer, I sang the songs, I wrote them I’m asked a thousand times, why don’t you use the name Banshee? I said I’d never use the name Banshee. People know the Tommy Lee Flood name as they see the name Banshee. I can promise you that every one of those records that says all lyrics and melodies written by Tommy Lee Flood, all music composed and arranged by Banshee. So anybody that ever saw an album cover talk to the band promoted the band. They spoke to me. I’ve had three solo albums. So I felt like I didn’t have to. I always gave people what they wanted to hear, and they wanted to hear Banshee, Terry, for whatever reason, is using the bands’ name.
When Atlantic Records signed you, was that your big breakthrough or your Metal Blade deal?
TLF: It was a huge breakthrough because back in the day there was a real stigmatism about bands once you were on an independent label and Metal Blade at that time was the world’s one of the world’s biggest independent labels because they had distribution through WEA (Warner, Elektra, Atlantic). Although they were an independent label, they were viewed as one of the biggest. So our deal with Metal Blade was a huge breakthrough. Metal Blade released “We Want You” on their Metal Massacre Volume Nine. Out of all the bands on there, we were hailed as the best new band on there. Good things happened to a band on the previous version got signed.
I remember when Metal Blade sent us the contract. It was just a standard, two or three-page contract. Our manager said let’s have a lawyer look it over. He had Lee Greenwood’s Attorney look at it. We had his music attorney at the time, and he looked it over, and he said, look, this contract, there’s no money. You have to sell a million records to take the band out to dinner. But with that being said, it’s a great promotional thing that’s going to be distributed worldwide. It’s going to showcase you guys, but I said, let me rewrite the contract and ask the Banshee, be the first song on side A.
Metal Blade sent it back. John Sutherland, who was the President of Metal Blade at the time, flipped out. He said you’re the first band ever to change this contract. Who the fuck do you think you guys are? We blamed our lawyer and said we’ll be happy anywhere on the CD.
There hadn’t been a band signed out of the Midwest for a long time since the Shooting Star. We waited to hear from Metal Blade, and when they called back, they said they liked the song, and they agreed to put it on side one song one. So that was a real defining moment in our career to have that song come out worldwide.
There were only some bands that weren’t that great, and I think, you know, it just made us look better than we probably actually where we were, you know, I moved to Kansas City and started putting the group together with Cherry and um, you know, I sold my house in Omaha.
I sold my house in Omaha and left my touring band, took all my money from my house, my bikes, all my big during equipment, and came down here. We started auditioning drummers and bass players.
Then a couple of weeks later, Kent came out and auditioned, he was 19 years old, and he walked in and on his first night for his first audition, not only did he get the part, but we wrote, We Want You in our very first practice together. We got a new song idea. Terry and I had been working on some ideas and then when Chuck came down, we started putting them together and boom, we nailed. We Want You, as you hear it on that record. That was exactly what ended up on that first night. It was very magical. We didn’t even have a name yet. We haven’t also chosen a name yet. We were just like, I told everybody, look, we’re, we don’t have to worry about picking a name right now.
We always had a vision that we wanted to do an EP instead of LP. When you’re brand new, with the 12 song record and it would have been so much more expensive to do that since I was paying for it. I got about six or seven grand, and I can either do, five or six songs real, decent or I can try to stretch that budget out and do ten songs, twelve songs and then things will start suffering because the money’s not there.
How did you come up with the name Banshee?
TLF: We had names like a Savage Grace, Cowboy X, some cool names. We were all just sitting there when the manager from the warehouse that I lived in was the Seventh Heaven Record store warehouse, and they rented it out to me, and I remodeled it, made it a slash warehouse rehearsal place and a place for Jeff and me to live. The daytime manager, Bob Bledsoe, walked in with a big old joint. He said I got the perfect name for your band. We’re all just kind of looked at, okay, what’s that Bob? And said Banshee. We just took our list, wadded them up, threw them in the trash. And we became Banshee right there.
So then Kenny and I went to work with a friend of mine had a graphic designer out of Omaha, and between the three of us we came up with the logo that you still see today that Terry’s using. That is the original logo that I came up with Barry out of Omaha, Nebraska.
Tell me how you guys got signed to Atlantic.
This is the first and only time I’ve ever seen it. Atlantic Records ran a campaign for a couple of years. Every magazine in the world. I had the full page ad, and it said, the brand new label on Atlantic Titanium Records. We’re going to sign the four best bands in the world. If you think you’ve got what it takes, send your stuff to this address. I’m telling you right now. Usually, you have to have a publicist or a lawyer, or you have to have an A/R guy to get your stuff solicited. You can’t just freestyle. It usually goes right in the trash can. They look at the ones there people pick and trust there opinion.
For the first time, Atlantic said, look, if you think you got what it takes to mail it in. We were out at Metal Blade records for five days doing big promotional stuff for Crying Tonight. We were doing all the radio station interviews like with you out east to Anchorage Alaska. We were doing group conference calls; they were splitting this up there. We did 135 interviews in two days. We did three photo shoots and as for all the magazines that have pictures and we would change clothes, and it looked like a different day, but it was all in the same day with the same photographer. Alex Soko from Italy came in. He’s one of the world’s great photographers, but so they had plenty of promotional pictures for, you know, they wanted to have plenty of promotional photos for the year and hopefully the release of the full EP which we had not inked that deal yet, but they wanted us.
Metal Blade offered us a six-album deal. On that promotional trip out there, that’s when Andy Secher, who was working for Titanium, who also worked for Hit Parader magazine. He came out and did an interview with us for Hit Parader. He was actually there to do his private interview for Titanium/Atlantic. They had been looking at us very seriously, and we did not even know this. They were blown away that a band to go out and sell as many albums as we had and not out of the back seat of our station wagon, but at a barcoded record store chains which report to industrial magazines and that we were getting airplay in several markets out in the midwest on a mainstream radio, not just college. He was also impressed with our image.
So we didn’t even know that they were considering us being one of the select bands, for the possible Titanium/ Atlantic deal. They Signed Jake E. Lee. They offered them a lot of money, and that was their first signing. They corporately put together Badlands.
We didn’t even realize we were in the loop. We’ll be in the second act that they were going to sign. And until we signed our deal with Atlantic, I put together a showcase up in Omaha at the civic music auditorium. We knew Jason Flom from Atlantic was interested in signing us. We decided to do the show in Omaha because I had a much stronger fan base up there. Even though the band was out of Kansas City, we sold 1200 seats here than in Omaha. We would sell 3000 seats. That was my town. So we went to Omaha, we did the Music Civic Auditorium, we had 2,900 people show up, and Jason Flom flew in. I did what I knew what had to be done, build the hype, make the mystique, put the record out, promote it the best you can and hopefully they’ll come.
It was always a gamble. It still paid off. I had a very gut feeling that it was going to pan out. Jason flew in. If you can play for 500 people in your area, every time you play out, you’ve done something that they considered a serious phenomenon. 1200 people were unheard of. We didn’t know that 3000 people are never, ever heard of a band that wasn’t on a label. We were doing what we knew we could do, and the rest was finding us.
We never really shopped for a deal. Metal Blade found us, Atlantic Records found us. Jason’s Flom was the guy; Andy Secher was a part of the team. Those were the three guys that were in charge of a Titanium Atlantic. So Paul O’Neill was the number one guy, and Andy Secher was the number two guy. Jason Flom was the A/R guy that put it all together.
Titanium picked up the third act; I believe it was Tuff. That was when they were out of money. They spent a lot of money trying to break Badlands, and it didn’t work out.
What happened after Rocklahoma in 2008?
We walked away in 1993, got back together in 1998 and walked away again. With a great sales pitch, I got us together for Rocklahoma. It was short lived.
I told Terry we’re parting ways and he said I’ll start my own band and call it Banshee. I said, well if you think you can, I said that’s the best thing that you could ever do for me and the best thing that you could ever do for yourself. He said why? I said, well, for the first time, you’ll understand what I did for you all these years. So when you go to put it together, you’ll understand what it takes. So keep the name going and I wish Terry well.