Andre Corbin, Guitarist, Bio-Interview, Helstar, Nosferatu, Distant
full in bloom: What’s new? What have you been up to lately?
Andre Corbin: Well my wife Tracy and I just had our second daughter. Grace is about one month old, she is very cute, such a sweet little baby. I have a six year old daughter Hailey, who is very creative and beautiful. She is currently writing and illustrating her new book “The Zombie Princess”. Jacob, my 13 year old son, skates hard everyday while banging his head with his fist in the air. I mean he literally does that while he skates, it’s funny, he is a very unique kid.
full in bloom: Describe a typical day in the life of Andre Corbin, 2009.
Andre: I have been operating the two businesses for some time now. Besides the skate company I have an ECM rebuilding company, which is Foreign Auto Computer Repair, Inc. We sell and service Japanese made engine and transmissionm control units. It’s basically circuit board work for Lexus, Mitsubishi, Honda, Toyota, etc…. It’s a great job, we’ve been in business since 1999, and have done extremely well.
full in bloom: Tell us about your company, Ghetto Skateboards and the Ghetto Skate Facility?
Andre: When my son was around 9, he got interested in skateboarding, and I was really into it too when I was in my early teens. So we went to the Skatepark of Tampa and bought a couple of decks. He lost interest fast, but my obsession began to snowball into an avalanche. I was going almost everyday to skate by myself, and soon wanted to get my own vert ramp built. Before I knew it, I had the guys from Team Pain, who build the X games every year, and Bob Burnquist ramp and skateparks all over the world, building me a 40′ wide 12′ tall ramp behind my building for the auto computer business. It was amazing, such a beautiful piece of construction, it ran me around $30,000 to complete it. Anyway, the location of the building I owned was in a really bad neighborhood. The building was nice, it was great, but it was in the hood big time. People came from all around Florida to session the ramp, it developed the reputation as “the Ghetto Ramp”. That led to the founding of “Ghetto Skateboards”, the deck company, our own brand, made in the USA. After I sold the building in the hood, we moved everything out to this amazing home in the country. It had a building for the ECM company, a huge house with a concrete pool, 4 acres of beautiful palm trees, orange trees and all kinds of plants and wildlife. It also had a big block building that became the focus for building more skate ramps indoors. Eventually it was pretty much full inside wall to wall, basically it was a skatepark, but a private playground not open to the general public. It was known as “the Ghetto Skate Facility”, because of Ghetto Skateboards. Anyway, after 4 years or so we left that place, and got this big commercial building in Zephyr Hills. Now we are open as a indoor/outdoor skatepark, and the deck company Ghetto Skateboards is alive and well too.
full in bloom: What music do you listen to these days? What are the last 2 CD’s you bought?
Andre: I hear metal and punk music all day, seven days a week and into the nights. Alot of old punk like Black Flag, Dead Kennedys, Minor Threat, Bad Brains, NOFX etc… I don’t really buy stuff for me, especially CDs. I’d have to say it was a few Primus CDs for my son Jacob, now he is off the deep end with the old punk stuff. He knows everything about all these old bands, he reads wikipedia for hours about underground bands and their history.
full in bloom: Who were some of your biggest musical influences?
Andre: Rush, Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Helstar(for years before I joined), Yngwie, Mozart, Bach, etc…
full in bloom: You are thought of as an accomplished, technically-gifted guitarist. Any tips for aspiring young guitarists?
Andre: That’s very kind of you to say, I am so far removed from the music world these days that most people do not even know I play guitar at all. But my advice to players would be to practice alot but try to be creative as well, play clean, don’t slop it. Slow down until you get it really good.
full in bloom: You joined Helstar in 1987. How did that come about?
Andre: I lived in Houston for years where the band was from, and I was a big fan as well. I knew all the material from playing along with the albums “Burning Star” and “Remnants of War”. I had been going to their shows since they were playing cover songs in 1982. Anyway James had come to Houston from Los Angeles, and they happened to be looking for replacements for Rob and Rene. I was in the right place at the right time, got my tape to James, he took it to back to California with him and a few weeks later I was on my way to N. Hollywood with my Marshalls to join the band.
full in bloom: Tell us about the early gigs with the band. Any cool stories?
Andre: Joining Helstar was a dream come true for me, I was very happy to be there with them, I felt like I belonged there and it had been a long time coming. The early shows were not that great, we really came together live after the European tour. We were at our best in the later days, the Nosferatu era for sure. We were very tight and we practiced our butts off all the time, even when we were on the road. One night in New Mexico after we played the University of Albuquerque we sat in the cold dark van, practicing our harmony riffs together over and over again, while we were parked in the street outside a party in some house, we never even went in. It was not easy to perform the Nosferatu set live, it was very demanding.
Helstar – Metal Blade Records
full in bloom: What do you remember about the day you signed with Metal Blade?
Andre: No, it was more like the year we signed with Metal Blade. It took forever to negotiate the deal, there was something to do with Combat records holding it up or something like that. I don’t really know, I was just waiting for it happen.
full in bloom: Do you remember what the signing bonus was?
Andre: The bonus was being in a signed band, having our material released worldwide, thats it.
Helstar – A Distant Thunder
full in bloom: In ‘88 you released “Distant Thunder”. Any cool or funny stories from your first time in a studio?
Andre: First time in the studio sucked for me, very exciting but scary. Everything is on the line and the tape (it was analog tape back then) doesn’t lie, So it’s stressful to make it as best you can, while that moment is frozen in time. The cool part was working with Bill Metoyer, and afterwards it was great to finally have a record out after all the years of hard work and sacrifice it took to get to that point.
full in bloom: Do you have any favorite songs on the album?
Andre: No not really, each has its moments for me.
full in bloom: What was it like working with producer Bill Metoyer?
Andre: Bill was and is super cool. What a professional, and a really nice person to work with. He knows his field very well, he’s great. His list of works is amazing and goes on forever, very cool guy, we all loved him.
full in bloom: Do you remember what the budget was for the record? Were you able to stay under?
Andre: I don’t know, somewhere around $10, 000. We called it Low budget, No budget, but Bill made it happen with what he had to work with.
full in bloom: I’ve heard that the song “Abandon Ship” was about original guitarist Rob Trevino. Any truth to that?
Andre: I wrote the music, actually long before I was ever in Helstar. James was the one who made it about the other guys when he wrote lyrics to it. I’m glad they’re all buddies again now.
full in bloom: You did all the guitar tracks for “Perseverance and Desperation” and Larry did all of “Harsh Reality”. Why?
Andre: Larry didn’t like my instrumental, sounds like Larry didn’t like me either from his interviews I’ve read since. I knew he wasn’t going to learn and practice his harmony parts for all the riffing involved, so I practiced double on mine and his parts to make sure it got done on the record. He could have helped me with the writing but decided to ignore me instead. It was my idea for him to do all the guitars on Harsh Reality, I thought it was a good idea since I was doing all of “Perseverence”. It’s funny though, the guitar plugging in and clanging at the very begining of “Harsh” is mine, it was Metoyer’s idea to leave that on the begining. So did I play on it? How much of my track is there, maybe more than the clang,…I am not sure, but nobody cares.
full in bloom: Talk a little about touring in support of “Distant Thunder”. Any cool stories from the road?
Andre: The European trip was a good experience but we were glad to get back to the USA. On our return trip, we missed Pan Am flight 103 that was blown up over Scottland by two days. We flew the same airline and route, just two days earlier. Now, at this time currently, our country is apologizing to the terrorists and people who hate us. Seems our lost ignorant sheep have elected a False Prophet leader who hates the US as much as the terrorists do. Our “leader” is doing everything he can to bring it to an end, talk about the ultimate sleeper, what an inside job. People should have to pass some kind of test showing they know something about what is happening, before they can vote. When the mob rules wer’e all fools. Capitalism is what made this country great, it’s why everyone comes here from everywhere else. Obama is doing all he can to kill capitalism, he is a Marxist, and all the idiots looking for a free ride voted him in. I have pretty strong feelings about this, we were lucky to be born here. Sorry for ranting on it, you asked something about “A Distant thunder…”?
Helstar – Yngwie Malmsteen Tour
full in bloom: What was it like touring Europe with Yngwie Malmsteen, who had Joe Lynn Turner singing for him at that time?
Andre: It was very cool to open for Yngwie Malmsteen’s Rising Force, I was a huge fan of his first two solo records, mostly the first one “Rising Force.”
Helstar – Nosferatu
full in bloom: In ’89 Helstar released “Nosferatu”. Any cool memories from the studio?
Andre: Again it was pretty stressful for me, you can’t help it when you care so much about the outcome of the record. Its all about execution of the parts you’re playing, you want it to be perfect. We wanted the performance to be great, we tried very hard to achieve that, whether we did or not.
full in bloom: Do you have any favorite songs on the album?
Andre: No, I like most of it musically, it was alot of hard work. The least favorite things are things I did or wrote, besides the vocals anyway. I didn’t think they fit or was disappointed in the way they came out. Out of key, lack of melody…? Maybe that’s part of what I didn’t like.
full in bloom: Whose idea was the Dracula theme for the album?
Andre: James and Larry went off on that theme, I liked the music, but I really wasn’t feeling the vampire stuff.
full in bloom: Do you remember what the budget was for the record?
Andre: I don’t know for sure maybe somewhere around $15, 000. Again it was the Low budget. No budget, Metoyer made it happen with what he had to work with.
full in bloom: Talk a little about touring in support of “Nosferatu”. What stands out?
Andre: Playing with Fates Warning was the best part of that time period, I really liked the record they were supporting at the time “Perfect Symmetry”. And they sounded so good live, it was great to watch them each night, and an honor to play with them.
full in bloom: Do you remember why Metal Blade dropped Helstar?
Andre: I think they didn’t like “Noseferatu”, and didn’t know what to do with us. Also one night in San Francisco, out of frustration related to lack of tour support, James did a Metal Blade sucks chant or something onstage, not knowing someone from the label was in the crowd and reported back to Brian Slagel. I am sure that didn’t help, but mostly I think it was the material was too much, maybe too many notes….?
full in bloom: Why did you leave the band?
Andre: Musical differences for sure, lots of negative personal tension between us, and the lack of hope really, for the future of the band.
full in bloom: What are your 3 best memories of being in Helstar?
Andre: Being recognized in a shopping mall record store and signing autographs was pretty cool, that was in ’88, of course. Really it’s the fans, the fans, and the fans, the answer for all three. They make it all worth it, especially after all these years. I still see people online talking about our records like they just came out. That’s the best part of it all, people loving what you did, and appreciating your contribution to music.
full in bloom: How much, if any, say did you have in the 2000 release of the “Twas the Night of a Hellish Christmas” live album?
Andre: The record is awful, what a rip off for the fans who made the mistake of buying that one. James was responsible for pushing that through, maybe he got paid for it, where’s my $32? It had nothing to do with me, its a shameful release from what was a good live band.
full in bloom: Singer James Riviera and guitarist Larry Barragan have said some negative stuff about you over the years. How is your relationship with those guys now?
Andre: There is no relationship with these guys, obviously I am offended by their statements but I can’t change any of that. I am on good terms with Frank Ferrara, he is a great guy, and thats good enough for me. I have seen their new video for the song about Pain…. I have nothing in common with these guys musically, I wouldn’t be into jamming with them at all. At least they are good at it, I’ll give them that, its just not for me.
full in bloom: What were some of your most memorable shows?
Andre: My first show with Helstar in Houston after returning from living in California was kind of emotional for me, seeing friends and family from the stage after all the years of their support to help get me there. It was awesome, even though I think we sounded bad that night, it was outdoors so the sound was very bad. The Masters of Rock Festival in Belgium, Nov.1988 opening for Yngwie Malmsteen’s Rising Force was great, huge crowd and giant stage, we all loved it. Also the last show we did together, Frank and I knew it would be the last for us, and it was a good feeling of relief to know that struggle was over.
full in bloom: Of all the bands you toured with over the years, who were the best? Who were the jerks?
Andre: Fates Warning were the best, Malmsteen’s band was cool. The biggest jerks?…. I can’t put that on anyone, most people were cool to us. It would probably be me and my bandmates annoying each other.
full in bloom: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Andre: Thank you to all the people who have kept the music alive by listening to it and enjoying it, the fans are what makes it all worth it. When you hear from them or read what they say, you feel like someone got it, they understood what you did and appreciated it, that is a great reward.
THE FAST 5
full in bloom: What is your most disgusting habit?
Andre: Fouling up my trash cans with beer cans and bottles, smells like I’m brewing a cauldron of garbage wine or something.
full in bloom: What is the most feminine thing you do?
Andre: Shave my face, almost regularly.
full in bloom: If there is a God, what is the first question you would ask God when you arrive?
Andre: There is, thankfully, and I will probably be asking: “Is everything cool with us?”
full in bloom: Greatest Rock band of all time?
Andre: I am 42 years old now so my choice is from the old days, I’d have to say Rush is the favorite.
full in bloom: What were you doing 40 minutes before you sat down to do this interview?
Andre: Working on modifications to the skatepark, and dealing with my ECM business simultaneously; as I do every day.