In November of 2003 TexasMetalUnderground.com had the opportunity to conduct an interview with Rodney Dunsmore - lead singer for Corpus Christi based thrashers Devastation. To this day, Devastation remains one of the most successful thrash bands to ever come out of Texas. Between the years of 1987 and 1991 they released three brilliant albums of unrelenting thrash and toured the country with the likes of Dark Angel, Sepultura, and Death. After the demise of Devastation, Dunsmore formed Killing Machine with former bandmate Edward Vasquez on guitar. Killing Machine's main goal was to pay homage to the great NWOBHM bands Dunsmore loved and was influenced by growing up. A rare 7" single was released by Killing Machine in 1992 and it is a sought after collectible today. As an avid collector of classic metal vinyl, Dunsmore has one of the worlds most complete catalogues of metal albums released between the years of 1980 through 1985. For Dunsmore, metal is definitely 'In The Blood'.
Read below for a in-depth and informative talk with one of the icons of Texas thrash. Also, visit our Audio department for samples from Devastation's 'Contaminated' demo and Killing Machine's rare single. As an added bonus, we have included a gallery of pages scanned directly from the Devastation Fan Club Newsletter.
TMU: In the mid 1980’s the Corpus Christi metal scene was pretty active. When did Devastation form and how did you hook up with the band?
Dunsmore: Devastaton formed in late 1985 in Corpus Christi. There was only one metal band in Corpus playing
originals and that was Final Assault. Well, at that time me and Final
Assault's singer Alex were pretty much best buddies and we were about the only two guys at our
high school into underground metal. So I hung out with them and helped
them get shows. I knew Jason from WatchTower and I helped them get an
opening slot for Yngwie Malmsteen in Corpus Christi. Well,
TMU: I have an old video of WatchTower performing in Corpus and the crowd is absolutely insane in their intensity. Thrashing, stage diving, etc…Was this typical of Corpus crowds?
Rodney Dunsmore: Yes, this is pretty typical of Corpus. Our very first show as a band was opening for Anthrax and Helstar at the Ritz in Corpus Christi. It was absolute mayhem. Therefore having such a lofty slot on your first ever gig, a lot of people didn't even realize that we were a local band. Our next gig in Corpus Christi was with WatchTower in June of 1986. That show was crazy. About 750 kids at a local show! The thing about the Corpus scene was it was soooo trendy. There may have been 5 to10 people who were into the underground and really knew what the scene was about and the rest just hopped onto whatever was cool at the time. A perfect example is this: I saw some kids at a show with the Kreator & Destruction shirts on and 'bam!' as soon As Angkor Wat came out the same guys had cut off their hair and now had mo-hawks and combat boots. Corpus was always with whatever the trend was at any given time. They were at least 2 to 3 years behind San Antonio and Austin but they did show up and get crazy at the shows. We did an 'end of summer' show with Angkor Wat for at least 3 years in a row and those were always awesome. Also, just a side note, the first ever underground show in Corpus Christi was Nasty Savage in 1985. I promoted that one myself while in high school. Only 150 people turned out and I lost my ass, but it was fun trying to get the metal to people.
The Ritz in
Rodney Dunsmore: Well there were no metal clubs - period. These shows I talked about in question 2 happened at the Stardust ballroom and we as the band or promoter had to go and rent out the venue, rent the p.a., rent the lights, promote the show, etc. so it was always a risk. there was nowhere to go and play for free. In the late 80s I think a club called Zeroes started booking bands but that was several years later.
TMU: Did you guys ever release any ‘official’ demos prior to recording the first album?
Rodney Dunsmore: Yes, unfortunately those crappy things may still be floating around out there. They were just live recordings we made at a practice with only 1 microphone but we made professional covers and sent them out to fanzines and stuff. They were very, very raw.
1) Destined To Death - a five song demo of the first five songs we ever wrote.
2) Violent Termination - I believe six songs were on this demo - Three of which made the album (this has some riffs I believe you might recognize that other bigger bands may have used at a later date.)
3) Contaminated - studio demo that got us signed to Combat Records.
TMU: The first album ‘Violent Termination’ was released on WatchTower’s label Zombo Records. How did that come about? Was it self financed? How many were pressed?
Rodney Dunsmore: Yes, that album was self financed all the way. We really had no affiliation with Zombo Records at all. I was just good friends with Jason McMaster and asked him to ask his manager Fred Mitchum if we could use the Zombo logo. They said cool. We paid for the recording and pressing ourselves. We pressed an original run of 1000 on LP and 1000 on cassette. (For the collectors the first 1000 have a gray inner label as opposed to black.) We got lucky and hooked up with Important Distributors (probably because of the cool packaging) and quickly sold out. So another pressing of 3 or 4 thousand was done.
What are some of your memories of playing shows around
Rodney Dunsmore: Yes,
each scene was very different but all great in their own way. I have
talked about Corpus Christi. The next best was McAllen, Texas.
Those guys down in the valley were starving for metal. They were the most
like the European crowd. All in their denim vests with patches and they
wanted to get there early to hang out with the bands. And the shows were
insane - furious headbanging and pounding fists. Ah, the good ol'
days! Houston had the infamous Axiom Club. Always packed and
always crazy. that place was great. Many stories on and off stage
there. We played various small clubs in San Antonio. Our biggest
shows there were at the showcase with Sepultura, Death, Dark Angel, and
Kreator. In Austin I believe we played at The Ritz twice and the
Backroom. We actually had a couple of real good shows in
Quite a few of the
Rodney Dunsmore: No, those were probably the biggest and I guess the best bands in the area. It was quite neat that a small city like Corpus could get 4 or 5 underground bands signed. I do remember going to a show in 1981 that featured Rampage, Spectre and Revelation but I was just a kid in 8th grade. They were awesome! I didn't find out until later that Jason Mcmaster played bass for Rampage at that show.
TMU: How did Devastation’s deal with Combat Records happen? Were they supportive of the band?
Rodney Dunsmore: We got signed in late 1987. I believe it was because of the Contaminated demo. It was just pure speed and intense energy. We were heavily into Dark Angel at that time. A guy named Scott Givens signed us and he was totally into our music. Unfortunately, he left shortly after we were signed. We never really got the attention from the label we needed in order to have any kid of success. We even used to say Combat Records sucked at our live shows and word did get back around to them. They were not pleased. The one guy who really did believe in us though was our booking agent Mitch Kardunna at TCI in New York. We told him all we wanted to do was play, and he kept us out on tour for nearly 3 years. Combat Records phased out metal in 1991 and dropped us soon thereafter.
Devastation toured the U.S.
Rodney Dunsmore: The tours were Dark Angel in 1988, Laaz Rocket and DBC in 1989, Sepultura in 1989, and Death in 1990. Those tours were all so awesome. As for memories, I have so many from each tour that it would take an entire book in itself. I believe for sure the best tour was the Death tour. They had just put out 'Spiritual Healing' and it was selling like wildfire. They were huge and everywhere we played was sold out. As for the biggest crowd, I believe in the U.S. it was with King Diamond and Trouble at the Sunken Gardens Theater in San Antonio. We headlined a show in Mexico City with about 2500 people.
TMU: Devastation’s last album ‘Idolatry’ was released in 1991. Did the band tour behind that release?
Rodney Dunsmore: Yes, we toured in the summer of 1991. That was a hard summer. Combat refused to give any bands the tour support (money) it takes to go out on tour. I remember Death and Dark Angel cancelled their tours, but not us. We loved to play live so we came up with all the money to start the tour ourselves. It was hilarious. We were headlining, Malevolent Creation had the middle slot, and opening was Demolition Hammer. They all pulled up to the first shows in big RV's and stuff that Roadrunner Records and Century Media had gotten them and we had 7 guys in a junky old 1970s Chevy van. It was awesome though. We played 75 shows over 3 months and we loved every minute of it.
TMU: What was the main reason behind the eventual demise of the band?
Rodney Dunsmore: I guess you could say the main reason was being dropped by Combat. Mitch Kardunna had booked us a killer European tour with Massacre and someone else but the same crap was coming up again. No tour support from Combat. Well, it's a little harder to rake up the money for a European tour. I always worked, so I was for it. I said, 'Lets go! It's just money. big deal.' Some of the other guys were against it and I guess for that matter they came to realize that we had been a band for 5 years and weren't really making money. Like I said, I always worked and the band was more of a hobby to me, but we weren't teenagers anymore and I guess they wanted to earn a living. It gets hard when you're with the same 5 people on the road for several months. Sort of like being married I guess. We started getting to each other.
TMU: In 1992 you were involved with a project called Killing Machine with Devastation’s bass player Edward Vasquez on guitar. Tell us more about the project and the single you released.
Rodney Dunsmore: Well, the single was just for fun. It was before everybody started having these side bands that were different from their main bands. We knew Devastation was over but we still loved music and wanted to do a special band with our friends and thus Killing Machine is the result. If you listen to the words of 'In The Blood' that was us to a 'T'. The metal is truly in our blood. we love it. No CD's, just vinyl. It's more than the music. It's a feeling you get. Some people know, some don't. It's just the power of music. Killing Machine's singer Rob McNees is so totally from the old school. He is by far the biggest metalhead I know, have known, or will ever know. He is a guy who truly lives for the music. Ask Jason Mcmaster about him some time. He's been there from day one. He started the Doom Society in Houston. Slayer stayed at his apartment on their first two tours. He's a wild man. As for the single, its very rare. Only 500 were pressed, 50 of which were red vinyl. I still have most of the 500 in my closet.
To this day, the 80’s
Rodney Dunsmore: You are so right. I totally agree. I can't say I know why though. We definitely had such a wide range of bands though from the highly technical WatchTower, to the power metal Karion and Syrus, to the thrash kings Rotting Corpse and insane Militia. It was just a special time and era for music and I think for the most part all the bands helped each other out and got along. I know a lot of the European people appreciate that time frame of Texas metal. I guess all the bands were so different and had their own sound. In California there used to be the Bay Area sound, and in New York the Overkill, Anthrax, SOD thing but you could never define the 'Texas metal sound' because what the hell would that be?
TMU: Are you still in touch with any of the guys from your past musical projects?
Rodney Dunsmore: Honestly
the only one I can say I am still in touch with is Edward from Devastation and
Rob from the Killing Machine project. Every once in a while I see or
hear from Joey. He lives in
TMU: You have a massive record collection with over 3000 LP’s. When did you start collecting vinyl and what are some of your most prized pieces?
Rodney Dunsmore: I guess I started when I was 7. My dad bought me KISS Alive and I have been buying records ever since. My truest love might be the NWOBHM. I have about 600 singles and most of the LP's from this era. I love it. I don't know how that many bands came out of such a small country in that short of time. Some of those singles that bands did themselves are just awesome. I basically collect Hard Rock / Heavy metal. I only collect up to 1985 though. That's were I stop. I think the best bands are 1980 - 1985. After that it just started getting way too generic. If it's a metal record from that time period, I could very well have it. I also love private pressed U.S. metal, Swedish metal, etc. I guess as long as it's heavy and has a killer guitar, I like it.
TMU: Are you still involved in playing metal or music in any way?
Rodney Dunsmore: No.
TMU: What are your thoughts on the current metal scene or lack thereof?
Rodney Dunsmore: I can't say I really know a lot about what's going on in metal today. I am still living in the 80's music-wise. I have a business which keeps me very busy, but occasionally if I do go out to see a show or a band play all I can say is it's not the same. It really is just not the same! That's not saying that there aren't any good bands out there because I know there are, but they are just growing up in a different time than we did. Now every band has a heavy guitar sound and such, but to me KORN and Kid Rock and that stuff is not metal. Metal doesn't have rapping and dj's and scratching and to some, not even keyboards (according to Bruce Dickinson). But everybody has their own thing and they have to try, but I wouldn't even compare what I see today with what went on in the early 1980's.
TMU: Thanks for the interview Rodney!