Wicked Angel was a great band that epitomized the San Antonio style of Texas metal. Utilizing a dual guitar attack and soaring melodic vocals, the band joined the ranks of other notable San Antonio bands like Syrus, Wyzard, and Karian in early 1985 with a lineup that consisted of Joseph Valdez and Roland Casias on guitar, Mark Zamarron on bass, Ernest Chavarria on drums, and vocalist David (Gumby) Caballero. Their 1987 demo 'Chaotic Intellect' contains four songs lyrically influenced by the fantasy writings of Michael Moorcock and Robert E. Howard. Samples from this demo can be downloaded in our Audio section. Recently, texasmetalunderground.com had the opportunity to do a Q&A session with Valdez and Zamarron who discussed the history of the band and their continuing musical projects.
Click here to view an awesome gallery of band photos provided to us by Joseph Valdez from his personal archive.
Update! - July 2005
We recently had the opportunity to meet with Wicked Angel drummer Ernest Chavarria and get his thoughts and recollections on the classic Texas metal scene. Not only did Chavarria provide us with great insight and stories from the mid-80's San Antonio scene, he also generously donated his personal scrapbook of photos, flyers, and press clippings. This amazing cache of never before seen photographs and local newspaper articles is currently being interred into the TMU archives. Be on the lookout for exclusive galleries in the coming weeks. Chavarria also hinted that a Wicked Angel reunion show and possible new recordings may be in store for the future, as all the former band members remain friends and still get together as often as their schedules will allow. We can only hope these plans come to fruition. Read more below...
TMU: Wicked Angel formed when you guys were still in high school, right? What was the average age of the band members?
Ernest Chavarria: I joined the band in 1985 when I was 15, a sophomore in high school. The guys were a year older than me and had been around for about a year and a half to two years under the name of Nevermore playing some covers and two originals. I got a call from Gumby (singer David Caballero) asking me if I wanted to jam with them. I was hesitant at first because Rick, their original drummer was a good friend and I had met the guys through him. I think my double bass playing was what caught their eye. After that we changed the name to Wicked Angel. The name Nevermore just didn't fit our musical scene anymore.
Joseph Valdez: Yeah, we were all still in high school at the time, around 16 or 17 years old. We were friends before we learned how to play any instruments, so we all kind of learned how to play at the same time which I think now was pretty cool. I can remember practicing before we even knew how to tune our guitars, just making a bunch of racket at our drummer's house.
Mark Zamarron: I would have to say that we were all in our forties. Kidding aside the answer would have to be about fourteen.
TMU: Did any of the members play in bands before Wicked Angel?
Chavarria: Roland and Rick originally formed Wicked Angel with Joseph
and another guy named Phillip. I remember Roland telling me a story about
them jamming in the high school talent show in 1983 or 1984. He came
onstage all fired up but dropped all of his guitar picks in between the cracks of
the stage. Man, the way he reenacts it is so fuckin' hilarious. They
later recruited Mark and Gumby and formed Nevermore.
Ernest Chavarria: Roland and Rick originally formed Wicked Angel with Joseph and another guy named Phillip. I remember Roland telling me a story about them jamming in the high school talent show in 1983 or 1984. He came onstage all fired up but dropped all of his guitar picks in between the cracks of the stage. Man, the way he reenacts it is so fuckin' hilarious. They later recruited Mark and Gumby and formed Nevermore.
Joseph Valdez: Wicked Angel was our first band, but we were called Nevermore back then. Of course this was way before the Nevermore that's on Century Media now.
Mark Zamarron: I
think not, but I could be wrong. We were called Nevermore before.
Perhaps that counts because there were some member changes before becoming
TMU: Did Wicked Angel do any cover tunes or was it completely original material? What were some of your early musical influences?
Ernest Chavarria: When I joined, they were mostly playing covers and two original songs. But the covers we played were from bands many people really hadn't heard of like Warlord, Holocaust, and even Mercyful Fate. So when we played at parties with other bands who were playing songs by AC/DC, Judas Priest, and Black Sabbath we were fuckin' banging out to Venom, LA Slayer, plus our own material. As far as my own musical influences, I was a late bloomer. I had listened to some KISS, Ozzy, and Van Halen but I didn't play drums at the time. I really didn't follow any style but I did admire Tommy Lee, Tommy Aldridge, and Peter Criss. Before I began jamming with Wicked Angel, the type of band I wanted to be in was a band with the heaviness of Manowar, Warlord, Raven, and SA Slayer.
Joseph Valdez: When
we finally learned how to play halfway decent we picked up a lot of cover tunes
from bands that we were listening to at that time like UFO, Judas Priest, early
Iron Maiden, Sabbath, Ozzy, Rush, Riot. Stuff that was considered heavy
metal at the time. We also started writing originals right away because
since we weren't very experienced with our instruments it was very difficult for
us to learn a lot of the songs we liked. It was easier to just make up our
own songs. I think in the long run it helped because later on I can
remember people telling us that they liked that we played mostly originals while
other bands around us were just doing covers. Personally the guitarists
that made me want to learn to play the instrument were Eddie Van Halen and Randy
Rhoads. I saw Ozzy live around 1982 about a month before Randy Rhoads died
and was just completely blown away. I thought, "I'll never be able to
play like him but I can at least try". As a band we were getting
heavier and heavier with our originals but I think our whole musical direction
changed when we saw S.A. Slayer play for the first time at the
Wicked Angel played tons of cool covers from the
likes of UFO, Riot,
TMU: San Antonio had its share of now legendary metal venues like the Cameo Theater and La Villa Fontana. What are some of your memories of playing there?
Ernest Chavarria: The Villa Fontana and Cameo Theater were every local bands dream to play at. What the Roxy and the Whiskey-A-Go-Go was to the glam bands in Los Angeles, these two venues were to the Texas scene. When we played at the Fontana we were very young and had been together only for about 9 months. It was quite an experience. We weren't prepared but we weren't going to pass up the opportunity to play either. It definitely opened our eyes and gave us the experience. When we opened for WatchTower at the Cameo it was a lot less stressful. We had been together longer, had plenty of originals, and even had some exposure. Ken from Syrus prepared me for that show and was a big help during our set. We kicked ass that night. That night, you could say, Wicked Angel was born.
Joseph Valdez: Man, the Cameo and Villa Fontana was where the whole metal scene revolved around. They were the places to play if you were a metal band back then. A lot of those shows there were legendary. I am glad we had a chance to play the Villa Fontana a couple of times before they tore it down. I remember the first time we played there, it was us and Syrus. This was before I had met or heard those guys and they made a huge impression on all of us. I remember when we opened for Watchtower at the Cameo. The place was as packed as I have ever seen it. I was very nervous before that show. I knew Jason but I had never actually met Billy White. I felt like I was sharing the stage with Jimi Hendrix. From our first song to our last it was just a sea of bodies in the pit and everybody was stage diving. It was just awesome.
Mark Zamarron: They are the best memories any young player could ever have. The shows were real. People were into it you know, and all had a good time. We played with the mighty WatchTower, Slayer, Wyzard, and many other up and coming bands.
TMU: Who were some of the local bands Wicked Angel played gigs with? Any particularly memorable shows from back then?
Ernest Chavarria: A lot of our gigs were with Syrus. We were two of the most well known local bands from the Southside of San Antonio. I really looked up to those guys because they weren't selfish. Ken and I hung out a lot. We gigged with some other bands like Rouxlette, Assalant, WatchTower, Marching Plague, and others. My most memorable show from back then was at our high school with Syrus. We opened up with Prepare To Die by S.A. Slayer and closed with Breaking The Spell by Wyzard. That show was so kick ass. It was right in our own backyard and we had a strong following by then. Another memorable show of course was the show with WatchTower. We had a lot of people asking us if we had demos to sell. I remember headbanging and thrashing to bands at the Cameo and now here are people doing the same thing to our music. It was such a great feeling.
Joseph Valdez: We played quite a few gigs with Syrus, and other very good metal bands from the Southside of San Antonio like Oblivion, Conquest, Rouxlette, Sanctuary. We played with Watchtower, Ritual, Morbid Termination, Tempest (I think Harlan Glen's band before Juggernaut), and Assalant. By the time we started getting a little more popular and started playing at the Cameo band like S.A. Slayer, Wyzard, and Karian had already broken up. I really wish we could have opened up for any of those guys, especially Slayer. Two of my favorite shows were when we played with Syrus. One was at South San High and we just tore the place up. We were, I think, the two most popular metal bands in the South Side at the time and to me, to be playing at the same level as those guys felt great. Of course I felt that we were not at their level yet. To me back then, I thought they were on the same playing field as Slayer, Watchtower, Wyzard - just light years ahead of us. The other show was Syrus' first gig with Ray Alder. Of course we all didn't know he would replace John Arch in Fates Warning later on, but I remember him telling me backstage before the show that he was kind of nervous to go on stage. He was worried that because Syrus had such a loyal following they would not accept him well. I told him all you can do is give it your best shot, fuck what everybody else thinks. I thought he did a very good job that night, although I thought that Syrus without Mike was just not Syrus.
Mark Zamarron: Yes, when we played with WatchTower and as their encore they did Side A of Rush's 2112 album. That was one incredible night.
Did the band ever play any shows outside of
Ernest Chavarria: Did we play outside of San Antonio? Damn, I hate that question. The answer is a big fuckin' NO! We had our chance to play at Joe's Garage in Ft. Worth but blew it. The morning we were going to drive up there, our guitar player Roland fuckin' disappeared off the face of the earth. Couldn't find him for shit. That's the main reason we broke up. I think if we had played there, we would have had many other opportunities. Maybe even played The Ritz in Austin.
Joseph Valdez: I
don't think we played anywhere but
Mark Zamarron: No.
TMU: The Chaotic Intellect demo was professionally recorded and well packaged. Was that recording self financed? How many of those did you make / sell?
Ernest Chavarria: My uncle gave us the money to record our demo, which was a help because I think I was the only one in the band who had a job. We recorded it at Blue Cat Studios. We had recorded a two song demo containing the songs Legions Of The Dead and Sacrifice at the studio inside Windsor Park Mall but we never did anything with it. Don't know why.
Joseph Valdez: Yeah, it was self-financed. I believe it was recorded at the same place Syrus did the demo you have, either Blue Cat or Elephant Tracks with Joe Trevino. The cover art was one of Roland's drawings.
Mark Zamarron: Yes,
the demo was self-financed. The cover was done by Roland Casias (Guitar
Player) and Gumby (vocals) did the printing of the sleeves for the tape.
TMU: Do you know if any live audio or video exists of the band?
Ernest Chavarria: There is some live video taped by the Syrus crew but they never dubbed us a copy. If it's still around Julio or John (from Syrus) might have it.
Joseph Valdez: I think we might have recorded one or two shows but I have no idea if they still exist.
Mark Zamarron: I am
sure but I do not have a clue about who might have one.
Ernest Chavarria: The scene here in the 80's was probably like the scene in Los Angeles. Every guy playing in a band was at the shows hanging out together. We were probably the youngest band age-wise. We were still in our teens and most of the other bands were already 21 years old or older. Weekends were all about the local shows, parties, or just hanging out on Military Drive.
Joseph Valdez: Looking back I think that scene was a once in lifetime occurrence. I mean, there were just so many great bands around. You're right, everybody did support each other, for the most part. I can remember playing and seeing Ron Jarzombek out there in the audience. Jason McMaster, Mike Soliz, Buster, Bob Catlin, to us these guys were Rock Stars. When they got together and did a show it was such an event. I think the whole scene was started because of Slayer, Watchtower and Wyzard. You had quality musicians playing their own unique style of metal. The same, but different. I could go on and on about just those three bands.
Mark Zamarron: You
know going to shows was my biggest thing and playing in a band was the coolest
thing anyone around could be doing. Who was not in a band was the question
back in the day. My best memories are of all the killer bands that played
To this day, the 80ís
Ernest Chavarria: The music was unique. Every band had a different image and musically, every song kicked ass! Tell me one song on Wyzard's Knights Of Metal EP that doesn't kick ass. We lived through our music. We bled it, slept with it, and defended it. We had no managers, no roadies. It was a brotherhood among us.
Joseph Valdez: I think, first of all, it was the musicianship and the creativity put out by all of these bands in their music and their live shows. From Watchtower's onstage controlled chaos to Wyzard's dark powerful sound, Slayer's virtuosity, Karian's melodic power metal, Syrus' harmonic guitar lines, everybody had something great to bring to the table. Hell, I remember some of Juggernaut's shows as the weirdest, funniest, most creative shows I'd ever seen. The guy threw live rats into the audience. Fuckin' hilarious. I remember going to see all of these bands and headbanging and thrashing in the front with a bunch of fuckin' metalheads, some friends, some I've never met before, to us it just did not get any better than that. Oh, and I can't forget to mention how much I thought Milita kicked ass too. Mike Soliz had the highest screams I've ever heard this side of King Diamond. And of course Helstar, they were also a big influence. Here's a cool story about James Rivera. Me and some friends of mine were at the White Rabbit, I believe Las Cruces was opening for Mercyful Fate and they had several other bands in the back room, one of which we had never heard of called Destiny's End. One of my friends recognized him and asked him if he was singing with anybody and he said, "Yeah, my band goes on in a few minutes!" When we told him we were part of the old 80's metal scene and practically worshipped Helstar he went and got every member of his band to come out and meet us. I don't know what fueled all of that creativity back then but I think it definitely spilled over into the early 90's with bands like Petting Zoo, World Bizarre, Sunday, and Retarded Elf to name few. It just wasn't metal anymore though.
Mark Zamarron: What
made it so unique was that everyone doing it had a love for it. You know,
it was eat and sleep music. And anyone who was striving tried their damn
best. Putting on shows, making their own merchandise and trying
to produce the most heavy original sounds.
TMU: What caused the eventual demise of the band? Are you guys still in contact with the other members?
Ernest Chavarria: Looking back, we quit believing, quit striving and lost some of the hunger. Gumby wanted out to join Rouxlette when Ray Alder left them to join syrus but never had the guts to say it. Mark and I left the band the same day we didn't make the trip to Ft. Worth. I was the closest to Mark. I eventually joined the Navy to run away from the letdown. I had seen Wyzard become Ritual, SA Slayer become Narita, Syrus was no longer Syrus without Ken and Mike and I didn't want that. Why believe in friends when your own family has let you down. Because that's how close we were, five brothers.
Joseph Valdez: I think towards the end we were just kind of tired of each other. We'd been practicing together and hanging out with each other for so many years. We never took a break from it. Gumby, (David, but we all called him Gumby) our vocalist, was the first one to leave I think. I remember him telling us that one night, but we had already been expecting that from him. I think he was already jamming with some other band playing more melodic music, not really metal. And Mark left around the same time. We thought we might be able to find another singer but in the end just decided to split the band up. I still hang out with Mark and Roland every now and then. Our first drummer, Rick Martinez married my aunt who is my age, so he is my uncle now! Ernie, the drummer on Chaotic Intellect was in the military for a few years and I see him every once in a while. And Gumby, the guy can sing like a motherfucker now. He has such an awesome voice, a lot more refined than back then, but he isn't in a band or anything.
Mark Zamarron: I
think we all had made our choices as to what we wanted to do with our
lives. Some picked art, some music, and it goes on from there.
And yes, we are all in contact with each other and still and good
TMU: Mark, I
know you have remained active in heavy music over the years and I fucking love
TMU: Mark, I
know you have remained active in heavy music over the years and I fucking love
Valdez: I've played a lot of
different styles throughout the years - everything from tejano, to country, top
40, oldies, classic rock, in different bands. It was pretty cool to actually
get paid for playing my guitar, but my heart was always into metal and writing
my own progressive metal stuff and just archiving them at home on my 4-track and
now on my computer. Currently I play in a band called Revelations and
although we are mainly a cover band right now, we are starting to write and
record our own music, in the style of Maiden, Iced Earth, Dream Theater. I
just want to add that I really liked
Mark, can you give us some info on your latest project Blood
Of The Sun? Is it going to be in
a different direction than
Mark Zamarron: Yes, it is different from Las Cruces in the fashion that it is more rock influenced rather then the Doom sound. It is a totally crushing heavy rock and roll trip.
What are your thoughts on the current state of metal in
Ernest Chavarria: I haven't been in the music scene in years. After the military in 1996, I began working for the airlines. I currently fly for Southwest and although my son and house is in San Antonio, I'm out quite a bit. Coming through, I get to catch a few shows here and there and the bands are good, but I don't think it will ever be like it was before. Shit, get a reunion together with Syrus, us, Karian, and Wyzard for one night and that's the only way the scene will be once again the Texas Metal scene. I remember headbanging at the shows and my neck being fuckin' sore for a whole week.
Valdez: I'm not really sure what
to think about the state of metal here anymore. A lot of bands that I see
just are not very creative musically. I think a lot of musicians here are
too easily influenced by what they hear on the radio and to me 'commercial'
metal is not 'real metal'. Bands like Disturbed, Mudvayne, Godsmack, their
music is okay, but I don't really consider that metal. They are no more
metal than Ratt, Poison, and Motley Crue were. It's just commercial
rock. Real metal is being played by bands such as Iced Earth, Watchtower,
Soilwork, Symphony X, Dimmu Borgir, Cradle of Filth, In Flames, Nevermore, just
to name a few. You will not hear any of those bands on the radio here in
Zamarron: It is not the same as when I was growing up. It was
real back in my day. I am not sure what it is like now. I
don't have an answer for you.
TMU: Thanks for taking the time to do this Q&A. Feel free to add anything I may have left out!
Ernest Chavarria: Thanks for giving me a chance to be part of your website. Recently, all of us were together at a club and talks were in the works about getting together for an album. Hope it works out. I want to say hello to may son Damon. I love you, son. Ken Ortiz if you ever come across this website, look me up. I'm in Sacramento quite a bit.
Joseph Valdez: I just want to say 'Long live Metal' and 'Watchtower fuckin' still rules'! And I think your website really kicks ass.
Mark Zamarron: Hello
to my wonderful daughter, Zoe and hello to all the rivet heads. True
brothers of metal. God Bless.
Group shot from a 1987 article in Gray Matter fanzine