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The Universal Heavy Metal of the Mighty Byfist

The Universal Heavy Metal of the Mighty Byfist

The Universal Heavy Metal of the Mighty Byfist

Byfist from San Antonio, Texas, have been active since the mid-80s, and released a 45 single, a couple of EP’s and a compilation album.  In The End is the name of their just unleashed first ever full length magnum opus, now available worldwide via Pure Steel Records.  It’s been a long time in the making, and through personal tragedy arrives a heavy metal triumph that music fans will find absolutely inspirational.  Highwire Daze recently caught up with founding member Nacho Vara to discuss the legacy of the epically underrated Byfist, their brand new album In The End, opening for the likes of Michael Schenker and Yngwie Malmsteen, their David Wayne / Metal Church connection, and a whole lot more!  Read on…

Introduce yourself, tell me what you do in Byfist, and how long the band has been together.
Hi! My name is Nacho Vara and I’m one of the original founding members of Byfist. I play rhythm guitar. The late Dave Lee and I were the main songwriters for the songs that are featured on our first full length album “In The End”, with the exception of Scattered Wits, which is a Reverend song we covered to honor the late legendary vocalist David Wayne. Byfist formed in June 1987 and ended in June 1991 on its first go round. After a 9 year hiatus we reformed in 2000 until October 2010 when Dave Lee passed away. Byfist was off and on for a few years as I grieved and tried to move on with the band. We finally started up again around October 2012 with various members, and finally got this current line up finalized in August 2016.

Where is the band based out of and what is your local music scene like there?
Byfist hails from the 80’s heavy metal capitol of the world, San Antonio, Texas and the live music capitol, Austin, Texas. The scene in San Antonio is still pretty heavy! There are lots of local bands that are still playing original metal.

How did you wind up signing with Pure Steel Records?
Our bassist, Stony Grantham plays with Shadowkeep from England and they are a Pure Steel Records Artist, so we learned of them through him. However, in the summer of 2017, we met Bob Mitchell when we opened for Savior from Anger in Houston, Texas. At that time, Bob was their vocalist and also the U.S. rep for Pure Steel. We gave him a demo to listen to, and shortly after that, we were in negotiations with Pure Steel Records.

Is there any overall story or concept behind the In The End album title?
I’ll cover the story behind the song on your next question. Funny thing is that “In The End” was the title I wanted to use for the album before we even started recording, but then I decided to change it to “Exordium”. It wasn’t until I thought the artwork we were going to use for the cover seemed to fit ‘In The End” better so I decided to change it back.

Select any two songs from In The End and what inspired the lyrics?
In the End – A musician who stole from many of his bandmates! It’s about a Conman who puts on a front. He’s a great friend to all with his wit and charm, but all along is planning to steal from you. He truly is the scum of the earth, gaining your trust, then boom! He has stolen your valuables and flees without a trace, like a thief in the night! But, Karma’s a bitch!

Ship of Illusion – A woman who screws with the minds of many men! A man falls in love with a woman, but unbeknownst to him, she is a sociopath who pulls him deep into her spell of believing he is the only one she could ever love. Then all of a sudden, for no reason, she tells him to stay away from her. This maelstrom continues for quite some time, but then he finally
sees that it was all an illusion. She has fooled him like many others before, but he now realizes she was so full of lies and deceit, so he lets her go, forever.

Who did the cover art for In The End and how much input did you have on it?
Augusto Periexto from Portugal did the cover art. We saw his artwork and really liked it, so asked if it was available for purchase. We also used 8 more of his art pieces to go along with the lyrics in the CD booklet. It looks pretty cool. So, the only input I had was to ask if we could purchase the artwork.

What has it been like to release new music right in the middle of a pandemic and so much social unrest in the world?
It seems to me that it is a good thing that new music is being released in this difficult time. It makes me smile to know that our music is getting airplay and getting great reviews from all around the world. People need a way to relax and get away from the bad things going right now. Listening to music is all that we can do until we are all able to perform again!

What could one expect from a live Byfist show?
With a throwback scene of wall to wall cranked up vintage Marshall amp stacks, Ampeg bass cabs, a double bass drum set up and a bright yellow Byfist banner hanging behind that would bring smiles to the heavy metal bands of yesteryear, one would have to believe that a heavy metal band is definitely performing tonight! Energetic, aggressive, crunchy, head banging rhythms with melodic, high pitched screaming vocals, expressive lead guitars, and powerful bass lines that complement the thunderous drumming. A style with clear influences from early Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Metallica, Saxon, Metal Church and Riot to name a few. Crowd interactions are influenced to make the show more enjoyable for the fans.

What was Davey Lee like and how difficult was it to continue on with the band after his passing?
Dave Lee, the Tasmanian Devil, was the driving force and led Byfist from the beginning. I have so many good memories of Dave! He had such an intense love for our music and wanted everyone to hear it. He loved to perform on stage. He was also a very good friend to me and was my older brother in metal. He was such a great story teller, so funny, and I learned so much from him. I really miss my friend, and it is still very hard to play without him. However, to add to the pain is the loss of two other Byfist family members. Quick history: as early as 2009, our old vocalist Vikk Real did a show with us which started
conversations of his rejoining Byfist with his wife Jeska’s encouragement. We knew her for years and she was a really great friend. Conversations increased in mid-2010 and we were making plans to welcome him back into the band when tragically, Jeska passed away from a motorcycle accident. To honor her wish, Vikk did rejoin Byfist and we did a few benefit shows for Jeska. Then, a little over 2 months later, Dave suddenly passed away. We just lost Jeska, now we lost Dave! This was tragic and very heartbreaking for us. After Dave passed away, Vikk and I enlisted help from several friends to honor upcoming shows and did a couple more benefit shows for Jeska and the Lee Family. Vikk and I leaned on each other for a few months, then finally decided to start writing again. Sadly, almost a year after Jeska’s death, we got the heartbreaking news that Vikk was also in a tragic accident and passed away. After losing so many people I loved, I took some time to grieve and reflect on things. In October 2012, I decided to form Byfist again to honor Dave, Vikk, Jeska and David Wayne. So with help from a
previous drummer and bassist and new lead guitarist Ernie B., things started looking up. Vocalist Raul “Diablo” Garcia joined in March 2013, bassist, Stony Grantham in January 2016, and then drummer, Scott Palmer in August 2016. These guys are great, and I feel that if Dave, Vikk, Jeska, and David Wayne could speak to us, they’d be proud and honored to call them family.

What was it like working with David Wayne of Metal Church on your EP Adrenalin?
It was great! We actually met David Wayne sometime in late 1988 or early 1989 and we became good friends. D.W. visited with us a few times and would hang out at our rehearsals and stay at Dave Lee’s home. One day, D.W. told us that we needed to pack up and go to the city of Angels and record @ Joe Floyd’s Silvercloud studio in Burbank. So, in August ’89, that’s what we did. We learned a lot and had a great time recording the Adrenaline EP there. It was our first trip to the west coast and we enjoyed it very much. We also met a couple of guys from Fates Warning at the studio and they participated in some gang vocals along with D.W. doing some backing vocals as well. It was a lot of hard work, but it was a great experience.

What was it like opening for the legendary Michael Schenker and did you get to meet or hang out with him or any of the band members at all?
The first time Byfist opened for Michael Schenker was in January 1988. He is one of my guitar heroes! And to be able to say that it was the first time that Byfist was to open for an international act was incredible. He was kind of a quiet guy but he was so cool with us. To get to see and speak with him was such a great experience! We were able to open for him again in March 2018, wow, 30 years later! But this time we couldn’t get near him or any of his musicians as we had to leave the stage as soon as we were finished with our set.

And I must ask the same question regarding Yngwie Malmsteen. What was opening for Yngwie like and did you get to meet him?
We got to see the sound check for Yngwie but from a distance. No one was allowed to get closer than 50 feet or so. It was cool to open for another guitar virtuoso but we didn’t get to meet him. And again the venue did not let us up on stage until it was time to perform then leave as soon as we finished our set. Regardless, it was another great experience that we don’t take for granted. And I thought I had a lot of Marshalls! But man, Yngwie’s backline was incredible!

What’s up next for Byfist?
After the CD is released, the vinyl album is scheduled to be released on Nov 27, 2020. We will start rehearsing to record another CD next month if possible. Don’t know how long this pandemic will affect rehearsals or any kind of touring, but hopefully we can get back out and start performing in support of the CD soon.

Any final words of wisdom?
Never stop chasing your dreams, and surround yourself with people who love, support, and encourage you. I had so many obstacles, so many reasons to quit, yet I didn’t. I’m just so happy and grateful to be able to fulfill one of Dave Lee’s goals for Byfist; to release a full length album with worldwide distribution. It’s taken a long time, but who am I to question why?
In the words of Ringo & Ozzy: Peace, love, and God bless!

Raul Garcia (Diablo) – vocals
Nacho Vara – guitars, backing vocals
Ernie B – lead guitars, backing vocals
Stony Grantham – bass, backing vocals
Scott Palmer – drums, backing vocals

(Interview by Ken Morton)

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