by Alun Thomas

''It was just one of those things, you know? I never thought it would go this far.'' Created out of boredom by Danny Spitz, he has an incredulous look on his face as he recounts the history of Driffter, one of Heavy Metal's rare supergroup ''success'' stories. And in an exclusive interview Danny sat down and gave a detailed explanation as to what made Driffter tick and why they are legends.

''I was at a loose end'' Danny recounts. ''I had just been fired from Anthrax and didn't know where to turn when I got a phone call from Alex John Much who had recently quit Bon Jovi. Alex told me he was looking to start a band but he was broke from years of partying. I was penniless as well, the last Anthrax tour I did in '93 was such a dud that I lost everything due to bad investments through a manager who robbed me of my life savings. Anyway I listened to Alex who suggested we team up. Great, but we needed a drummer and vocalist. I put the word out and before long ex-slayer drummer Dave Bombardo hooked up. We then auditioned a whole bunch of singers but none of them fit. But the most obvious choice was right under my nose: my old Anthrax buddy, Joey Bellasponta. For us this was a chance to show those Anthrax fucks we were better than them.''

''The only thing setting us back was the financial backing we needed to get started. Every one of us was broke. We got in touch with everyone we knew-they didn't want to know. We just about gave up until October 1995 when we got a phone call -- from New Zealand of all places. It was a guy calling himself J.K. He and his brother Stu had heard about us and wanted to back us up on their indy label. I almost hung up but he promised to send a check for a cool million the next day. So I said fine and the next day, sure enough my bank accounts been inflated with a million! We were set up now and we had some great songs written. Little did we know we would never use them.''

The mysterious backers insisted the band should never meet them. All negotiations were done over phone, computer and through agents. Unfortunately for Spitz, J.K. and Stu had one ultimate demand; they were to write all the music and it was either that or no deal. ''They had visions of us becoming the ultimate metal band, they had even come up with a name --Driffter, a really crappy play on words. But for the money put our way, and the fact I can't write songs, I wasn't complaining. Neither were those other bums.''

Driffter recorded their first album in one day at Spitz's house in New York. ''We were rehearsing and we got a delivery. Those guys had sent us about six albums worth of music, lyrics and titles! It was some crazy stuff but we just got on with it.'' The first album was called 'High Plains Driffter' and Spitz can't help but laugh at the memory -- ''the song titles were hilarious, I mean in '95 no one was writing songs called 'Heavy Metal Turbo' any more but these guys had a vision, a pre planned one, and if recording songs like 'Put Out The Fire' and 'Blastmaster' was to achieve it then I had no problem.''

Spitz would later learn that their benefactors did not write the music. ''They wrote the lyrics and titles'' explained Spitz.'' Some guy called Foley wrote the music and he did so until he recorded a solo album and tried to kill Stu after he criticized it. He went missing after that and that was when Driffter really got into trouble.''

In the meantime Driffter cranked out album after album, with four recorded in the space of a week. ''We were up day and night'' recalls Spitz wearily, ''and worst of all the styles of music were constantly shifting. After the first album, which was pure metal, the songs started to take a more social, political and personal direction and we were all confused. When in one week you go from making a song called 'The Right To Rock' to 'If I Kill Will Laugh?' you know there are some strange minds at work. And the album titles were ludicrous, to this day I do not know what 'Wyatt And His Rooster' is supposed to mean; J.K. would never tell me.'' Worse than this was the never-ending change in band personnel. Spitz remained the only original member as Bellasponta quit, followed by Bombardo and Much. They were replaced by Ian Hastbury on vocals, who lasted a week before being replaced by Jimmy Barnes, Peter Quaif on drums and Neel Murray on bass.'' It was madness'' says Spitz'' I was only in it for the money but when J.K. forced me to to record a solo album called 'Salute' I wanted to walk away. The album was a total Kreator rip-off; it ate at me having to record such fascist anthems as 'Dachau,' 'Regime' and 'Movimento.' I never really forgave J.K. for that. However he came to his senses and he and Stu changed back to a metal direction. I was tired of songs like 'Assassinate The Greed' and 'Mutant Monkey Torture'.

Driffters' eighth album, ''Total Resistance'' was a return to the style of old which had been a month ago. ''Eight albums in a month, it's hard to believe'' Spitz continues, ''I felt like a prisoner, but at least the grindcore days were over. We were nothing more than Napalm Death clones when we recorded 'Fatigue.' I also persuaded Stu to let me allow Reb Breach to join but Reb left when he found out he could not write anything so off he wentŠ and in came Gary Moore calling himself 'The Hitman' -- a remnant of his days with 'The Hitmen,' surely you remember 'Cry For Me Africa? You don't? Well anyway as good as it was to play metal again songs like 'Thrash Proof,' 'Kent Barnes' and 'Saints Of Metal' left me cold. And don't get me started on 'Your Brains ŠMy LunchŠ'

As Danny rambled on it became clear Driffters' days were numbered. The market was saturated with eight albums in a month with six more in the next three months. Worse still, Driffter were forced to play along side Night Ranger, Eddie Money and .38 Special at local fairs. For Spitz, the end was near and after Driffters' 18th album, an Australian prison concept affair titled 'Suffer The Serve,' he quit.

''Foley was gone by then and the music was terrible and when I learned John Farnham was to replace Barnes for a new AOR direction I knew I had made the right decison. Stu and J.K. were nuts. They even wrote an album based on the film 'Life With Billy'.''

Driffter officially split in March of 1998 when Stu moved to the States and J.K. to London to hunt down Foley. It was the end of three years of madness for Spitz. '' I was proud of Driffter at the start but it got too stupid at the end. I got a lot of money though. And I rank 'Rooney' among the best songs I have ever recorded. The only wish I have is that I knew who 'Junkins' was, that song I'll never forgetŠ''

Uploaded to The Zephyr Online October 3, 2000

Back to The Zephyr