Over the last few months some activity at the Hittman camp was noticeable. The band played an highly acclaimed show at the Keep It True Festival in Germany, new songs have been played there and the debut has been re-issued by No Remorse Records. Enough reasons to reach out to Jim Bacchi and Dirk Kennedy to get more information about the current status of Hittman and future plans.
Markus’ Heavy Music Blog: Hittman recently played the KIT festival in Germany. How was the experience of being on stage again with Hittman?
Dirk Kennedy: It was a total thrill. To be back on stage with the guys and to be playing those songs that we created so long ago. Truly surreal. We knew via the Internet and through fan email that there was an audience, but to hear everyone sing all the choruses… It was just so humbling.
Jim Bacchi: It was surreal and amazing at the same time.
MHMB: I assume you guys were really hungry, esp. thinking about the planned 2009 show that had to be cancelled.
Dirk: It was disappointing for sure, to not play back in 2009. We said yes, we worked it all out with Oliver and then Mike just has circumstances that would not permit him to participate. It was always All of us or None of us, of course that all changed when he passed away. But his spirit was with us. We felt him… in the music and in the air. He was such a massive part of Hittman. When we played “Behind the Lines” I know he was happy and cheering us on.
Jim: Yes, and No. I honestly wasn’t really interested in doing anything with Hittman in 2009. After Mike passed away, I regretted feeling that way. When the opportunity presented itself this time, I knew I wanted to do it. Thank goodness for second chances, and I’m really Glad Oliver Still cared enough to ask again.
MHMB: There was a lot of radio silence around the band over decades. How did fans react on this reunion show?
Dirk: I think it was more of a campfire folklore thing. We never released a breakup statement or press release. We just stopped being Hittman. It was never personal or nasty. No one is angry with anyone or anything like that. It was all business. We were just not given the opportunity to progress in a timely manner. We’re not interested in pointing fingers at any one thing. But, the powers that controlled our futures weren’t working and we probably should have just gotten on with it to move forward. Instead we just stopped. We were tired of hitting brick walls.
Jim: The reaction was incredible. I was told by a few people whom have experienced KIT that we would get a reaction like that, but I just didn’t believe it. If you see any of the YouTube videos , you can see how shocked we were by it. Dirk literally stopped singing when he heard the crowd singing along. It was very emotional for us.
MHMB: Were you surprised that there are so many metalheads out there, still knowing and appreciating Hittman?
Dirk: Surprised at the incredible reception for sure. We have had many fans write us and we knew the albums have been bootlegged and traded so we thought ok, there will be people who will like us and that’s enough. But man, it was a massive response. We got to meet a lot of friends and fans during the signing session. Literally hundreds of people. They had all the albums, posters, flyers and adverts. This we had no idea about. It was incredible.
Jim: Yes. I knew we had a bit of popularity in Germany, but, lets face it, it’s been 30 years since the debut album came out. A lot of these kids weren’t born yet. I watch the videos and think “jeez, I wrote that song when I was 23….” I’m 55 now. It’s amazing to me that people still know or care.
MHMB: How easy or difficult was it to get the band together again and prepare for a reunion show?
Dirk: Not easy. John and I live in NYC. Jimmy in LA and Chuck lives in Las Vegas. So we needed a plan. We convened in Vegas for two days of rehearsals, picked the songs. And worked it out. Then in NYC the week before the show we blocked out 2 days in a studio to finalize it all. So, literally 4 rehearsals in 27 years. We played a warm up show and while a bit rusty, gave us faith we could pull KIT off.
Jim: Not easy. First, Mike Bucell passed away in 2013. He and myself founded the band in 1985, and I’d been playing music with him since 1983. So we had to find a replacement for him. We did, in Greg Bier, whom is a friend of mine and went to school with Mike. He actually knew Mike before any of us.
Second, we live on opposite coasts….2 of us in NY, one of us in Las Vegas, and 2 of us in Southern California. So, we had about 4 rehearsals total. It’s was nerve-wracking up until the last rehearsal, when it started to finally sound like Hittman.
MHMB: Did you guys always stay connected to each other, and to music?
Dirk: Always. Like I said were not just friends, we’re family. No animosity at all. Jimmy writes, produces and makes a ton of music for TV and with his band The Tikiyaki orchestra, which is incredible. I did a solo album to explore other sides and music for TV occasionally. Chuck has played in a few things and is an in-demand pyro technician. John was probably the guy who walked away from music most. He raised a family and just let it be, but I knew he longed for it. It was my mission to make sure he felt comfortable doing it and believe me, it wasn’t easy. He resisted. But as I always said it’s all of us or none of us. Thank God he came around. Because seeing him on stage in his element and playing so great made me so happy. We have stayed besties all these years and I wanted to see my friend back where he belongs. Total Rock Star.
Jim: We’ve all remained friends, over the years. We are most definitely like a family, and that has not changed. Personally, I made a career out of music, doing composing for film and TV, and always playing in bands. After Hittman, I did not play metal though. I’ve gone through a bunch of different styles over the years, trying to learn new things, and keep myself interested in music. A few of the other guys, didn’t do that much musically after Hittman, but we all found our way back to playing that style again. For me, it was tough, because I don’t play that fast anymore, so to get some of that guitar dexterity back was a challenge.
MHMB: A glimpse on the setlist shows two new tunes you played that night. ‘The Ledge’ reminded of the earlier Hittman while ‘No Time To Die’ showed a more modern aspect of the band. How far are things when it comes to new songs and can we expect a new album?
Dirk: You can and you will. We’re about 80% done with the new album in various stages. Jimmy and I started writing immediately after saying yes to KIT. We wanted to not be just a nostalgia act. We wanted to add to the legacy and not rest on what we did all those years ago. Jimmy was not playing metal for ages and to hear him come up with new stuff was amazing. He hasn’t missed a beat.
Jim: The new album is mostly written and demo’d. We are currently finishing up those 2 songs for a September Single release, most like a digital only, just to get some new material out there. We are planning to have our new album drop March 15th, at the Up The Hammers Show in Athens. That is the goal right now.
MHMB: How would you describe the differences between songs of the debut and the new ones?
Dirk: Pure Hittman. We thought about what we were and what we could be. Hittman fans want a Hittman album and that’s what they’re going to get. I would say it sounds like what people were expecting the 2ndalbum to sound like. Were going for the original sound that made us a band to begin with.
Jim: I would say, we are very close to the original Hittman style. Granted, we are 30 years older, wiser, and have a had years of new music to absorb. Honestly, though, I’m not a fan of newer metal styles. When we started things back up, I told Dirk I’d love to do a new album, but my thinking was “Let’s write music that reflects the original influences we had that made us what to play metal in the first place….” Meaning, late 70’s early 80’s metal, and NWOBHM. So, we don’t tune down, and we don’t care about being “modern”, ”current” or any of that other bullshit. Back in the early days, metal was constantly changing, and as a band in the current musical climate, we felt inclined to change with the times. Now….? No, we’re doing what we like, and what was the original inspiration for Hittman in the beginning. Priest, Maiden, Dio, Rainbow, Sabbath, Scorpions…pre-1983 stuff.
MHMB: There’s quite some activity in the Hittman camp since next to the KIT show it was No Remorse that re-issued the fantastic debut. Was it that the label contacted you regarding a re-release?
Dirk: A ton of labels have asked us over the years. But it was Chris and Andreas at No Remorse that said what we wanted to hear. They’re fans and cherish the album and we knew it was in the right hands. It was a lot of work to get the reissue edition together and it was worth it. It came out great.
Jim: Yes, they contacted us, and to be honest, we had been discussing re-issuing that record since we all were together at Mike’s funeral, so, it was like the universe heard us and responded. Chris and Andreas at No Remorse did a great job, and really cared about making a nice package and product. They love the music, and what they do, and it shows.
MHMB: When the band released the debut, Internet did not even exist. Times changed and I saw that the band’s present on Facebook, but I couldn’t find a website or something similar. Will Hittman work on the digital presence too?
Dirk: All of that is happening right as we speak. I think were mostly going in the social media direction connecting directly with the fans. We owe it to them for all their loyalty.
Jim: We are indeed working on our digital presence. Honestly, I’m undecided about having an actual website, since everyone looks on Facebook and Instagram (@Hittman_usa). Websites require a lot of work, and I’d rather spend that precious time writing and recording new material, than updating a website. When/if the band gets more popularity and demand, and we need a website, we will cross that bridge. For now, I think, we’re just going to stick with social media, as I’m on it all the time anyway.
MHMB: The inner sleeve of the debut has a small almost hidden statement in the right bottom corner that says, “This album was made with absolutely no hair extensions.” What could be a similar statement for a next album?
Dirk: This album was made with love and care for our fans and for all who stayed true to us. We are so truly grateful. We might not have the longest hair anymore but no ones wearing a wig either. Lol.
Jim: HA! Yes, we STILL don’t have hair extensions, lol. It might say “Hittman proudly STILL plays in A440 tuning”.
MHMB: Is there anything more you want to share with my readers and Hittman fans?
Dirk: Again, we can’t say enough to all our friends and fans who wrote us and asked us to get back together. It has meant so much to us. We’re so lucky to be embraced by the metal community all these years. Metal fans are the best fans on earth. We promise this album is going to make good on a promise made long ago and we can’t wait for you all to hear it.
Jim: Well, first…THANK YOU to everyone who came out to KIT, brought their records for us to sign, and sang along and headbanged to the songs. It was a very emotional experience for us, and we are so appreciative. Please follow us on Facebook and @hittman_usa on Instagram to keep up to date with what we are doing. We’ll be at Up The Hammers next March in Athens, and new material is on the way.
MHMB: Thanks for spending some time with MHMB. Much appreciated.
Dirk: Thank you, it is our privilege.
Photo: Hittman Facebook