Bay area Metallians Hands of Goro drop their fabtastic self-titled album this week, so what better time to probe the trio on what made them the heavy metal men of steel they are today by subjecting them to our Metal Origins grilling? That’s right – there’s no better time, so enjoy this in-depth chat with The Sentinel‘s compliments!

Without further ado, let’s get amongst the questions… Iron Maiden, Metallica and Slipknot are often referenced these days as ‘gateway’ metal bands, but who would you say yours was, and what album or songs really got your knees trembling initially?

Avinash Mittur (drums): “My “gateway” metal band was surely Judas Priest. I heard them first on the Guitar Hero videogame when I was twelve years old and it was all over from there. They’re still my favourite band to this day, and I always find something new to appreciate in their songs and albums. Screaming for Vengeance was the big one for me. That transition from The Hellion into Electric Eye was and is one of those huge cinematic moments in metal that shows just how epic and bombastic the genre can get”.

Tom Draper (guitars): “I’d been playing guitar for about eighteen months (I started learning Oasis and Beatles songs, as was the fashion in the UK in the mid-late nineties) when a friend lent me a cassette tape with Metallica’s Black Album on it, along with a photocopied tab book for the whole album. He said “if you want to get better at guitar, learn this!” So I did. I got into Guns N’Roses after hearing the Manic Street Preachers cover version of It’s So Easy, and around the same time a schoolfriend lent me his Iron Maiden Ed Hunter CD-ROM… safe to say it was really those three bands who set me off down this long, dark treacherous path”.

Adrian Maestas (bass/vocals): “My brother brought home a copy of Black Sabbath‘s We Sold Our Soul for Rock ‘n’ Roll when I was very young, probably ten or eleven years old. Fairies Wear Boots got to me, and I was hooked. So spooky! Shortly after that, Ride the Lightning came out, and the buzz was everywhere. All the kids in the neighbourhood used to come over with records because my Dad had a really good stereo system, so we could blast things like Powerslave right when they came out. The eighties was a good time to be a teenager with a taste for ripping guitars”.

I have to agree with you, Avinash – I saw Priest at Hammersmith on the last date of the Live Vengeance tour and it changed my life forever! Now, Was it ‘love at first hear’ for you and heavy metal? Or did it take a while to insinuate itself into your very being?

Avinash: “For a few years, I really only liked the much older “classic metal” bands. Priest, Maiden, Rainbow, Sabbath, solo Ozzy, that kind of stuff. It took a few years of listening to a lot of classic rock and punk before Metallica and the other big thrash bands like Kreator and Megadeth came into play, and then another few years before the extreme stuff finally clicked. I really had to work myself into death metal, but melodic NWoBHM-esque bands were always in rotation from the get-go”.

Tom: “I definitely got heavily into Maiden, Metallica and GN’R very quickly once I started listening to them. It took a while to get to more obscure underground bands, especially as around the time I started listening to old school hard rock and metal (1999-2000) it was pretty much dead. The big metal festivals at the time like Big Day Out and Ozzfest had one or two bands with clean singing and guitar solos, the rest was Nu-Metal or heavier stuff I wasn’t into at all. My taste matured over time for sure – I know for a long time I preferred Zakk Wylde-era Ozzy to classic Sabbath, which thankfully eventually corrected. I grew to appreciate lower-gain, more melodic guitar playing and really fell heavily into seventies stuff like Rainbow, Thin Lizzy and the NWoBHM – basically the bands who inspired Maiden and Metallica. Checking out the original versions of all the songs on Garage Inc was extremely informative!”

Adrian: “It was the music of my older brother and his friends, so it was a part of my development from a young age. However, my earliest bands were all punk rock, but I was always working on trying to improve my playing, and I had to learn things like Led Zeppelin to get the girls interested”.

Were you considered odd amongst your peer group for liking metal or were you part of a group all starting your musical journey at the same time?

Avinash: “Believe it or not, I actually did have a dedicated peer group made up of metal fans when I was a teenager! They were a couple years older than me – which is an eternity at that age – so they were able to expose me to a seemingly endless amount of great metal. We’d always go to shows together taking turns driving to San Francisco or Oakland, burning each other CDs, all that fun stuff. I always had (and still have) many peers who don’t care for metal though, whether they were classmates, coworkers or fans of other kinds of music. The older I get, the more it becomes a point of interest rather than something that comes off as odd. Everyone needs a hobby after all!”

Tom: “I was definitely initially considered odd, because I was an indie kid first. All my friends were also indie kids, so when I started getting into classic rock and metal there was a lot of “ugh you like all that wanky show-off guitar music” from them. Especially as this was the late nineties, when guitar solos were more or less forbidden in popular culture! Honestly for the most part my musical journey has felt somewhat solitary, I’ve been to hundreds and hundreds of concerts on my own, and my musical taste has morphed drastically over the years. I mostly listen to jazz, funk, soul and RnB music these days but will always have a soft spot for the rock and metal bands whose music shaped my guitar playing”.

Adrian: “No, not at all. I grew up in Los Angeles in the eighties and metal was huge. KNAC was on the radio all the time, everyone was into it, there were so many good albums coming out at the time and we all soaked it up because we were having so much fun”.

How easy was it for you to find out about metal where you lived? I’m old, and English, so for me there was Kerrang! Magazine and one national radio show a week – Was it similar for you?

Avinash: “I was lucky enough to grow up with a fairly mature internet when I was getting into music. Meaning Wikipedia, YouTube and The Metal Archives were already quite populated with both info and the music itself! If I wanted to check out a band, it was easy to find out if I liked them awfully quick. I’m also lucky enough to be from the San Francisco Bay Area, where we’ve had a rich underground metal scene for decades now. Once I found out about Slough Feg, it was like falling into a wormhole filled with bands who were making some killer metal and whose members all liked the same stuff I did. Between getting recommendations from the local record stores (shoutout to Aquarius, Amoeba and Shaxul especially), meeting active musicians in the area and just going to shows, I got exposed to way too many cool bands to count”.

Tom: “As Lars Ulrich’s Napster Naughty-List will testify, I used the burgeoning file-sharing capabilities of the internet to my advantage big time at the turn of the millennium, and built a vast library of MP3s of metal bands. I watched Tommy Vance’s Friday Rock Show on VH1 for a few years too which definitely opened my eyes to a lot of bands I’d never heard of. When I lived in the UK I used to read Kerrang!, Metal Hammer and Classic Rock magazines, and I think I’ve read the Blabbermouth headlines every day for as long as I can remember”.

Adrian: I used to buy Circus magazine, Guitar Player, things like that. I read them cover to cover, every issue. But growing up in Los Angeles in the eighties it was easy to find all the newest records at local record stores. KNAC introduced me to a lot of cool stuff. Seeing people on the streets wearing Slayer t-shirts, things like that made it really easy to discover new bands. My friends were constantly having conversations about, “HAVE YOU HEARD THE NEW RECORD BY XXXXX.XXXX???” We used to take the bus to Hollywood and just sit in the alley behind the bars where bands were playing just to listen because we were under twenty one”.

And how long after first falling in love did it take you to get to a live show? Local bands count, especially if you can remember a bit about the show!

Avinash: “I always look at “concerts” and “shows” as different events. You can take your parents to a concert. Whereas, you beg your parents to drop you off a couple blocks away from a show if you couldn’t get there on your own. Maybe three years after I really got into music, my dad and I saw Blue Öyster Cult together–they opened with The Red and the Black and at that time, those trade-off solos were the single coolest thing I’d ever seen. And yes, BÖC still totally rules. As for a small show with local bands, the earliest one I can remember is Witchaven and Hatchet at 924 Gilman Street in Berkeley when I was in high school. There were a few other bands on that bill, but those two are still busting ass playing shows and making recordings, and I’m stoked to still call them friends after all this time”.

TD: “The first massive show I ever saw was Bon Jovi at Milton Keynes Bowl in 1996, and it was the coolest thing I’d ever seen. I’d already seen Meat Loaf, Blur and Pulp perform at Wembley Arena (separate shows, what a bill that would’ve been…) and these were long before I had any notion of ever picking up a guitar. My first metal show was several years later – Metallica at the Milton Keynes Bowl in ’99, and within two years I’d seen my first Maiden and AC/DC gigs too”.

Adrian: “For my fourteenth birthday, I made my dad take me to see Slayer/DRI/Corrosion of Conformity. I didn’t really know what was happening, but Reign in Blood had just come out, and it was totally insane! My brother took me to see Metallica, Priest, and other stuff, too”.

Was there anything you listened to back then that you now look back on say ‘what was I thinking?’

Avinash: “After I got into metal, I really managed to only pick up the really good stuff. That was the benefit of having older friends in the scene and meeting musicians who had been around a while, they really acted as curators for me and filtered in the best stuff. These days, there’s a lot of black metal and stoner metal that I’ve grown out of to an extent, but I can certainly remember why I liked it in the first place. I’m a much different person at thirty than I was at twenty or fifteen, and the things that I appreciate about bands, songs and albums have changed too”.

Tom: “Yes, lots! I know a lot of people are really nostalgic and precious about their formative musical experiences but I was heavily into Britpop in the second half of the nineties and I really can’t stand by bands like Shed Seven, Cast, Menswear et cetera and say their material has stood the test of time. A lot of it’s pretty terrible. And time has definitely shown that bands who I thought were incredible like Blur and Oasis only made a few “great” albums and a good amount of absolute toss. I still think the Super Furry Animals and Manic Street Preachers have extremely solid bodies of work though, I saw both those bands over twenty times each and think they’re both f’ing excellent”.

Adrian: “Not at all. Everything that I listened to back then made me what I am now. My parents had wide musical tastes, a decent record collection, and a nice stereo, so we listened to a lot of things. I wish I had kept more of those records!”

Would the young headbanger version of you be surprised to find out that you ended up in a rather splendid band of your own? Did you immediately want to make the transition from listener to practitioner or did that take a little while?

Avinash: “I think the younger me would be very, very surprised that I ended up where I’m at with playing in bands, especially one with members as talented as Adrian and Tom. I know that the teenage me would absolutely shit himself if he knew that he’d be in a band with the bass player from Slough Feg! Though I played guitar for fun as a teenager, I really had to set it aside for a few years while I focused on school. I was in college studying electrical engineering, which lent absolutely no time (or money) to playing in a band. Once I got my degree though, it was off to the races with reconnecting with my friends in the Oakland and San Francisco scenes and jamming with whoever was fun to hang out with. It took a good few years to find musicians who I not only got along with but that I also had musical chemistry with, but I really think I’ve stumbled on that with Hands of Goro and my other ongoing projects”.

Tom: “I joined my first band in 1997, the same year I started playing guitar. It was always my dream to play in great bands and I’m very lucky to have had the chance to play with several bands whose records were already in my collection when I joined them (see Angel Witch, Carcass and Spirit Adrift). I’ve been in plenty of unsigned, unknown bands who “tried to make it” over the years and suffered the heartbreaks and disappointments that come with that over and over again. I think the young headbanger version of me would be happy how it’s turned out so far, but the story is definitely not over yet! I’m certain the younger version of myself would love Hands of Goro”.

Adrian: “I thought I would be super mega rock and roll internationally known with gold records on the walls of my Malibu mansion by now, so my younger self would be disappointed that I still have a day job and I’m not signed to a major label with global management and millions of royalties coming in from cinema and record sales. So no, I would not have been surprised that I am in cool bands, but the lack of global domination via my heavy metal axe would have made me sad. I started playing in bands as soon as I learned a few power chords, so the transition from fan to jam was quick”.

Part of the attraction of rock n’roll, particularly in pre-internet days, was the mystique that surrounded bands and their ‘lifestyles’ Do you think that mystique is gone in 2024? And if so, is that a good thing?

Avinash: “That mystique doesn’t have to go away if you’re willing to keep your online presence rather private. At the same time, I think a bit of transparency is a good thing these days. The vast majority of working musicians all have day jobs, social and family lives and commitments just like anyone else, and we often have to sacrifice parts of those aforementioned things to make the music happen. Developing some empathy for the bands you go out to see can really go a long way, and I’d like to think it feels good as a fan to become connected with your favourite artists. Buying a shirt and a record at the show might be the difference between getting a motel room for the night or sleeping in the van!”

Tom: “I think Avinash nailed it. If you’re able to successfully utilise anonymity as a gimmick like Ghost or Sleep Token fair play, but cases where that actually works are few and far between. We live in a different time now where acting like Led Zeppelin in the seventies or Mötley Crüe in the eighties is unthinkable, and I’m absolutely fine with it. I’ve always been much more interested in the music than the “bad boy” bullshit”.

Adrian: “The mystery may be gone but the drug problems persist. Too difficult to control publicity/image/lifestyle these days with immediacy of news and access to global information. I’m surprised that someone like Taylor Swift can keep a new record under wraps without it getting all over the place before she even finishes it!”

Can you name five albums that have stayed with you ever since those formative years?

Avinash: Painkiller, as utterly bonkers of a record as it is, seems to reveal new treasures with every listen even though I’ve spun it regularly for the last fifteen years. I can put on Highway to Hell or Van Halen 1 when having people over or going on a road trip, and the good times always start up when those bands get loud. Brocas Helm’s Defender of the Crown is a Bay Area gem that has stuck around over the years too, the best album by one of our local secrets. The last one that comes to mind is Like an Everflowing Stream by Dismember. It’s still my favourite death metal album and it just never gets old”.

Tom: “Powerslave, Ride the Lightning, Appetite for Destruction, Rainbow Rising and Thin Lizzy’s Live and Dangerous“.

Adrian: Iron Maiden, Live After Death; Descendents, Milo Goes To College; Bad Religion, Suffer; Black Sabbath, We Sold Our Souls for Rock ‘n’ Roll; G.B.H., City Baby’s Revenge

And now here’s your chance to tell us a bit about your splendid new album – Tell our readers why they should invest in a copy!

Avinash: “I’m very proud to say that there isn’t a note on this record that’s contrived or aimed at fitting into some subgenre: whether that’s classic metal, traditional metal, speed metal, whatever! We simply went for what we thought was cool and fun. Whether it was the smothering of guitars on Uncanny, the harmony vocals on Waste of Blood, or the generous heaping of double-bass drums on just about every song. I think you can really hear a band genuinely having a very fun time in the studio and writing songs that we ourselves would enjoy as listeners. I’d like to think that any fan of ripping heavy metal would enjoy this record”.

Tom: “It’s good, honest heavy metal with no pretense or bullshit. And it sounds way better on vinyl, so treat yourself!”

Adrian: “Goro has revealed himself to Earthrealm via our new album. Chaos and disorder ensue with repeated listening and hopefully will annoy your parents. That’s how you know”.

Hands Of Goro’s self-titled debut releases on Friday, Read our review of the album HERE and then buy the record HERE!