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Interview was prepared by Heather Williams (for K.K. Downing)

A new era of Exciter emerged in the late nineties, morphing from an 1980’s speed metal powerhouse into a brutal, thrash metal -machine. They made appearances at festivals around the world, most notably Wacken (twice) in Germany, the Bang Your Head, Rock Hard and Keep It True festivals also in Germany, True Thrash Fest in Japan, and Sweden Rock.

Exciter changed their lineup many times over the years, but three members have stood the longest: guitarist John Ricci, drummer Dan Beehler, and drummer Rik Charron.

In this interview, we put the spotlight on Rik Charron. Rik pounded the kit for Exciter in the 1990’s era of the band. Currently, Rik is drumming for German 1980’s thrash band Necronomicon. He’s on a little downtime now because of the current pandemic as are most other musicians around the planet and gave me some time for an interview.

 

 

First, I must bring this up as it’s only fitting. You’ve mentioned before that one of your favorite bands is Judas Priest and one of your favorite albums is “Unleashed In The East”. Why are these your favorite?

I was and still am a huge original Kiss, Ace (Frehley) and Peter (Criss) -era fan. They were an amazing hard rock band. Hell, if it weren’t for Peter Criss and his thundering drums, I wouldn’t be a drummer right now. One day, however, while browsing at the local record store looking at LP’s , yes… I said LP’s (laughs), I came across the band Judas Priest who looked heavy with all the leather and flying V guitars and asked the store owner what the album on the rack sounded like (“Unleashed In The East”).

There were other albums from them on the rack but “Unleashed in the East” caught my eye because it had a cool pic of the band in a live setting so I chose that one. The owner said it was a great live album. I said “ like Kiss “Alive” and “Alive II”? “. He said, “better!” I said “no way”… He said “trust me”. So I bought it and OMG! that album blew me away!!!! I’ve been a major Priest fan ever since.

For most fans of Exciter, Exciter is John Ricci, Dan Beehler, and Allen Johnson, but you spent an enormous amount of time in Exciter, 18 1/2 years to be exact and made five studio albums with them. As far as I am concerned, there are two eras of drummers in Exciter. Dan Beehler was in the beginning. He founded the band and played in that magical time, and there is no denying his legacy, but you came in and took over with your own power, your own sound and held your own for a very long time. You also have a legacy with Exciter. But also, in a sense, did you feel cool playing in a band that has such a huge footprint in metal music? Like maybe you said to yourself ” Wow, I’m here playing drums where Dan Beehler played” type thing?

Let me just say this… I knew when I was chosen to be the new drummer of Exciter that I’d have big shoes to fill because Dan Beehler was such a prominent presence in the band being the drummer/vocalist. At least I only had to fill the drum spot in the band as John Ricci didn’t want another singing drummer in Exciter. It was overwhelming at first being in the band. I didn’t know if I would EVER get accepted as the drummer because for almost three years the fans were still screaming out “BEEHLER” when I played shows.

My drumming is quite different from Dan’s, so I knew people would eventually accept me because for a small guy I do play very aggressively and with a lot of power and was quite visual on stage, so it took three years of playing shows and two albums to actually be accepted as the drummer of Exciter and, a snap of the finger for the fans to forget the 18 plus years I played in the band when the original band reformed. That’s what happens when you aren’t an original member…C’est la vie. I’m just happy I was there and part of the rebirth of the band in 1996 to 2014.

A little breaking news: you, Dan, and Allen actually talk now. How’d that come about? I know your departure from Exciter was bizarre and totally unexpected and Dan has no hard feelings with you nor you with him. You two need to get a picture together! That would drive fans wild. Could that be possible?

Yes, Dan, Allan and I speak from time to time. It all came about after John Ricci shockingly left the band about two years ago. Dan and Allan were looking for a rehearsal space which they lost with John’s departure. One of their roadies (friends) contacted me to see if I still had a rehearsal space and if I’d willing to share it with them. Since my band Dark Ministry was on hiatus because of things I just don’t want to get into right now, I told them they could come and see it and rent half the space if they needed to.

Dan and Allan came to see the space and you could feel a little tension in the air but after talking, a bit of the tension all fizzled away as we all saw that neither they or I had any hard feelings for what happened and said they’d take the space. You see, contrary to popular belief… I didn’t really know Dan or Allan nor did they know me. I had met them only a few times when I was in the band and it was always cordial. I’m not sure why fans, friends and interviewers thought we disliked each other because we never really actually spoke to each other… rumors suck, man.

In actual fact, when I technically was ousted from the band in 2014 for things that weren’t of my doing or fault… and heard of the original band reforming… I was happy and excited for them. Not sure what happened or why John decided to leave this time, nor is it my business to know. Dan and Allan are cool guys…not sure what they think of me (laughs) but I think the feeling is mutual.

As for Dan and I getting a pic together, that would be cool and possibly stop some of the rumors out there. I’m sure many fans, old and new, would like it as well and you never know… it may happen in time.

Could you say that in the nineties, Exciter was part of the second wave of thrash metal which ran from the late 1980s to early-to-mid 1990s? You came in right at that time when this second wave was flourishing. The albums you guys made during that time were phenomenal. “Blood of Tyrants”, “Thrash Speed Burn” and “The Dark Command” were thrash gems full of pure speed and heavy aggression. Maybe Exciter didn’t get much credit for that because the industry was too busy promoting others like Testament, Sepultura, and Pantera.

Yeah, I guess you could say we came in during the second wave. But as a Canadian band doing it all ourselves with no agent or manager and no corporate backing from the labels or the music industry at large, Exciter didn’t get as much recognition as other American or European bands. Another possibility is because of too many line-up changes over the years in the band, not to mention taking almost four years writing songs between album releases didn’t help either.

I want to approach this question carefully, but what was the deal with Dan Beehler’s exit and your entry into Exciter?

I heard stories as to why Dan was fed up and left Exciter but in actual fact, I don’t really know why he decided to leave the band in 1993 or 1994. Like I said all I heard were secondhand stories so I can’t say nor do I want to speculate why he left the group. As for my entry in 1995, I heard an announcement on the local radio station of a professional established band seeking a drummer and to call to make an appointment for an audition. I recognized the phone number, called, did two auditions for Exciter and got the drummer’s position.

What do you think prepared you for your role in Exciter and why do you think you had what it took to be in the band? You were up against a huge, iconic band whose legacy was firmly cemented in the magic of 1980’s old school heavy metal. What was it like when you found yourself in the band?

What prepared me was determination and confidence in my abilities as a drummer. Yes, it was a huge legacy I was joining, and I knew it would be a hard road to gain the admiration and respect of Exciter fans worldwide. For the first many years, I felt like an outsider in the band. Even though I gave it my all on stage and while recording earning the respect from the fans and other musicians worldwide, I still felt like a fill in drummer of sorts. Like a feeling I was part of Exciter and at the same time… not really part of Exciter. You know what I mean? I was always prepared for Dan’s return… which only happened 20 years late.

Did you think, after entering the band that you’d literally have to pick up where Dan left off concerning style or sound or was John open to trying something new? Was he looking for a different sound than what Exciter was previously known for?

I didn’t really know what to expect when I joined the band. I just knew that I had to learn all the original songs that Dan played on, so I felt like I had some big shoes to fill. When it came time to start writing the first album “Dark Command”, I started out playing or I should say imitating Dan’s drumming but John said to take my own ideas and make it heavier and faster with lots of double bass drums – as he wanted Exciter to be faster and heavier than before. I did what was asked of me and I did that concept of drumming for all the albums I played on. For John Ricci, the faster the drumming and as much double bass as possible… the better.

Tell us about your time in Exciter? You shared the stage with John Ricci who is a founding and longest running member. You toured and played albums with him and I think people dismiss that too easily. What was it like working with John?

My time in Exciter was a roller coaster ride to say the least. Sometimes it was hard to remember what day it was because though we did two or three actual European and South American tours, most of our shows were weekend jaunts to Europe as well as other parts of the world for a festival here and show there. Here’s what I mean by a roller coaster ride: we’d leave Canada on a Thursday, arrive at our destination on a Friday, play the show on a Saturday and back on a plane to Canada on a Sunday. I did that for 18 years. Not sure why we didn’t actually tour as opposed to accepting so many weekend jaunts all over the world, because I personally could have toured extensively and I’m sure Exciter fans would have liked to see us on a full-blown tour, but it just never seemed to happen for whatever reason.

“Blood of Tyrants” is my number one out of the albums you’ve made with Exciter and is a GREAT album! This album is pure energy, strong, solid and gives off major old school Priest vibes. What’s up with that?

When we started out recording this album, John wanted a straightforward speed album and I think we delivered on that. Needless to say, the fans that got to see us play those songs live were in awe because we played them faster live and even more aggressive during a live show.

I know you’ve had your share of amazing times while playing with Exciter, tell us some of the highlights?

Some of the major highlights I had in the band was playing some huge metal festivals in front of thousands of screaming fans in Europe, South America, Canada and Japan, meeting fans and other musicians from bands I grew up listening to and admired from around the world and playing on the 70000 tons of metal cruise. The most memorable festival I played at was Wacken (twice). I played in front of 70 or 80 thousand people at one of those shows. Other shows I enjoyed playing were Sweden Rock, 70000 tons of Metal and Bang your Head festival. I personally had a great time touring with Anvil as well.

You auditioned for Ozzy Osbourne once. Tell us about that.

Not much to tell really… I failed! (laughs) I was only one drummer of many at the audition. I was recorded playing a few songs in front of a camera. I think I played the songs too fast because nerves got the better of me and I got my rejection letter a few months later thanking me to have taken the time and effort to audition. However, they chose another drummer. I didn’t even get to meet Ozzy. (laughs)

Let’s talk about your drumming style. Listening to you play, it’s just amazing. The speed, the aggression, you really keep it tight. Describe your “signature double bass” drumming style? Tell us why you’ve never used triggers, you’re au natural!

I like playing intricate double bass patterns when I play drums, like following the guitar riff pattern to strengthen the main riff of a song. Playing paradiddles on the bass drums is another thing I sometimes do. I never got into triggers when it was all the rage in metal drumming because I rather hear and feel each subtle bass drum stroke which gives it a more human feel. You can hear the slightly different tuning of the bass drum head and you yourself control the power and intensity of each stroke… you can’t get that with triggers. Each hit is triggered to the same intensity, sound and volume. You don’t get that human feel or sound from triggers.

What kind of drum set up do you have?

I have a Pearl custom all chrome 8 ply maple shell kit with 2x 24” bass drums, 10, 12, 13 and 14 inch rack toms, a 16 inch floor tom, 7 cymbals of varying sizes and types made by TRX cymbals and a massive 14inch diameter by 16 inch deep free floating wooden Pearl snake drum.

Right now, as mentioned earlier, you currently drum for 1980’s thrash band Necronomicon. There is a new album you guys are putting together (the tenth studio album) which had to be cut short because of the pandemic. Also, you were getting ready to go on a European tour which also had to be canceled. Tell us what’s going on?

Right, so I joined Necronomicon in 2019 and went to Germany and recorded all the drum parts for the album within a few days back in December 2019. Then an Eastern European tour was announced for March/April 2020, so I flew out to Germany to rehearse with the band in early March, but the tour got cancelled due to the pandemic just a few days after I arrived in Europe. Took me ten days to find a flight home to Canada because each flight was being cancelled left, right and center!

In the meantime, since the tour was cancelled, the rest of the guys in Necronomicon were finishing off all their parts for the album and had it mixed and mastered. The album is called “The Final Chapter” and should be released by the end of March 2021. Management is hoping to reschedule the tour for some time this year but the way the pandemic is spreading with new variants, I don’t foresee it happening. It’s too bad because I’m itching to play live again. I could be wrong about us not touring again this year, but my gut instinct tells me it won’t happen, and my instincts are usually correct. However, Necronomicon will tour as soon as the world pandemic and lockdowns permits.

Thanks Rik for this great interview and giving us some insight into Exciter from your end and we wish you the best with Necronomicon!

Thank you for the opportunity and great interview Heather.

 

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