The passing of Ed Horgan, original drummer and founding member of VALHALLA from Pittsburgh came as a big shock to us. Aside from being a friend for more than 20 years, he was basically the person that kind of gave us the needed push to start a record label back in the late nineties. No matter how many years will go, he will never be forgotten and he will always have a special place in our memories and his music will be forever guiding us through happy and sad times. After discussing with David Fefolt, singer extraordinaire, Ed's old band mate and friend since the old days, we decided to make an interview, trying to highlight some known and unknown sides of Ed's personality and through that interview to kind of tell a cool tale about the 80's, music, VALHALLA and Ed. We were so delighted that Joe Mutch, original bass player and co-founder of VALHALLA participated.Ed not sure if you're reading this, but if you do, thanks for everything brother. 'Till we meet again!
Tell us a few things about how you first met Ed? You were from the same area I guess.
Joe: I first met Ed in grade school. Actually, it was kindergarten. Me, Bill and Ed went to the same school. We lived in the same neighborhood.
David: I lived about 25 miles away from the rest of the guys in Valhalla so I met Ed for the first time when I auditioned to sing for the band. I immediately recognized his ability and power on the drums. Personally, we hit it off from the start. We had a love of the same music and his personality was very easy to like.
Were you familiar with any of the guys in the late 70's when they were called Armageddon? How old was each one of you when you joined the band?
Joe: We formed Armageddon in high school. We were a garage band. We were about 17 or 18 years old.
David: I did not know them in their earliest years but I think we were still booked as Armageddon in the first couple of shows I did with the band. I was 17 when I joined.
The first singer of VALHALLA was Dave Gonzalez. Do you recall ever meeting him and how come you joined the band?
Joe: I believe we met Dave Gonzalez through our keyboardist john. He tried out for the band and became our singer. He also brought the song “Valhalla” to us which he recorded with another band.
David: I never met Dave Gonzalez. I had my own band Wolfhead at that time and when we were auditioning drummers one of them was a friend of the guys in Valhalla. It didn't work out with him joining Wolfhead but he told the guys in Valhalla about me. Amazingly when Wolfhead was coming to a close, I got a call from Joe (Valhalla bassist) about auditioning for the open vocal position in Valhalla. It all worked out perfectly. Honestly, I was blown away by their musicianship! They were the best local band I had ever seen. I joined right away!
Can you tell us a few things about Ed's personality those first days that you joined VALHALLA? Were you closer to him or to the other guys and how did this relationship evolve as time went on?
Joe: I was close to Ed from the start because of our friendship since grade school. Ed had a great sense of humor and we always hung out together and shared the same taste in music/comedy etc.
David: Ed was a very personable and easy going guy. If you didn't like Ed, you most likely had problems of your own. He loved talking music and was very knowledgeable about many genres not just metal. I was always a bit of an outsider just because I didn't grow up in the same town and go to the same school like Ed, Joe, and Bill did. That said I grew to be very close to all of them personally and collectively.
Describe to us a typical day hanging around with Ed and the other guys. Were you attending live shows altogether, hanging around, going to bars, rehearsing etc?
Joe: We went to many concerts together whenever possible. They were much cheaper then! We would hang out before and after practice and watch comedies and drink beer. We also had parties at my parents’ house where we practiced. They were always crazy! Ed always put on a great show at the parties. I wish we had cell phones back then. The pictures would have been priceless!
David: Back then going to "record stores" and finding the latest and greatest album was a huge pastime of ours. I remember turning the guys on to Anthrax "Fistful of Metal" when it came out but usually it was Ed or Joe who turned me on to new albums and bands. We definitely attended as many live shows as possible and did our fair share of carousing at the local bars. We rehearsed religiously a few times a week and were very serious about our songwriting and playing our parts correctly.
What are some of the funniest (or worth mentioning in general) incidents you remember with Ed?
Joe: We went to a party near Dave’s house one night at his friend’s house. Everyone was drunk and crazy as usual and Dave’s friend lance just started going nuts. He was trying to fight many people and he started to just run around like a lunatic. I believe the cops were called and everyone scattered. The next thing I remember is being lost near a farm with Ed and my girlfriend. Took a while to figure out where we were. I worked a job at a local airport near my parents’ house. I would clean two jets in a hangar that belonged to a local steel company. I worked late at night into the next morning. Ed would visit me every once in a while. Once we filmed a comedy movie in the hangar. We were running around drinking and filming for a couple of hours. We were driving the tow motor that moves the planes! I also filmed Ed on top of a falcon jet engine acting like he was swimming. Can’t believe we didn’t get caught.
David: Once we went to an outdoor desert party in Phoenix to see Malice and Flotsam and Jetsam play and Ed after a few drinks pinched a cute girl’s butt in front of us. She immediately turned around and slapped the guy standing next to Ed! He was completely innocent and had no idea why she slapped him. We laughed about that for years to come! Ed was very, very funny.
I know Ed's family was quite supportive towards him being in a band and basically being a metal fan and musician, when those days metalheads were considered to be "the wild youth". What are your memories of meeting Ed's parents and any cool stories you have to share with them and Ed?
Joe: Ed’s parents were not only great parents, but big fans of the band. They were also friends with my parents. Ed’s parents would come to some shows as well. I think his dad was an honorary member of Valhalla. They were like having an extra set of parents for me.
David: I was really surprised at how supportive Ed's parents were back then even coming to some of our shows. As you said, back then being in a heavy metal band was frowned upon and I always thought it was really cool to see the support his family and parents gave him, it was special. Ed's parents always treated everyone in the band as members of their family. They were just wonderful to us. I remember they came to visit us in Phoenix Arizona and the band was partying it up one night and while doing a round of double shots of Jim Beam, Ed's mother joined us and slammed one down herself! I still have the picture to prove it! Haha!
Ed was a big intimidating dude but throughout those 25 years that I'd been in touch with him, he was one of the nicest, most kind persons I've ever interacted with. I suppose he was the guardian of the band if any trouble would occur though.
Joe: Nope! Ed was a gentle giant. Dave was the badass. He was the muscle in the band.
David: You know we were a very likeable group of guys. We got along with all of the other local bands and honestly, I can't remember ever getting into fights with anyone. We were there to rock your face off and have as much fun as our audience was having... and we did, every night!
How instrumental in the release of the first album Jim Wilson and Jeff Bower have been at the time? Was VALHALLA the first EP they released? Was it actually their release or they were the studio where you recorded all the songs? Were you also friends with them or just a business acquaintance? Unless my memory fails me, I think Jim Wilson passed away a few years ago.
Joe: Unless my memory fails me, I think Jim Wilson passed away a few years ago. Not sure about our EP being their first release. Been a few years. May have been Jeff that passed.
David: They were a big help because at that time we didn't know anything about recording. Back then if you wanted to make a recording you had to find a studio. That was before home computers. Valhalla was their first recorded album but we self-released it and then Important Records distributed it. Jeff and Jim were friends and they would come to our shows frequently. Jeff Bower owned a studio in Las Vegas and he passed away last year. I haven't heard from Jim in years but they were both great guys and instrumental in the development of Valhalla.
Did you hang out with any of the other Pittsburgh bands like IRON CROSS, ASSASSIN etc? Were they any rivalries at the time or the Pittsburgh metal scene was more like a brotherhood?
Joe: We were friends with many bands/musicians back then. Metal was just starting to get recognition in Pittsburgh. Pop rock/top 40 bands were big then.
David: Many of the bands would go see each other play and hang out afterwards. I've seen Assassin numerous times and was friends with two of their drummers.
For the most part it was a brotherhood and everyone was very respectful of each other. It was a great time in music!
What were Ed's most favorite songs from VALHALLA and which ones he didn't like to play live or thought you shouldn't have written at all? In general, what was the creative process of a VALHALLA song? You had many songs available, so did you have to vote or something in order to decide which ones will end up on your first EP?
Joe: Ed just liked to play. He was excited to see the band mature and write new music. Bill wrote most of the music and Dave wrote the lyrics. We would all write our own parts. Dave would work with bill on parts of the song such as bridges or choruses. It ended up being a group effort. It was a blast!
David: I think Ed's favorite song was Nightstalker because he came up with the storyline and helped me write the lyrics. He liked all of the songs though because they were ours and he was proud of that. I wasn't aware of any he didn't like. Most of the time I would get together with Bill (guitarist) and he would have an idea or riff to start with, then I'd write the lyrics. Actually, when we recorded the EP we didn't have that many songs so I think we just went with what we had.
What were Ed's favorite bands at the time and what were yours? He seemed to be a quite knowledgeable person when it comes to music and he actually never stopped buying releases from new and old bands.
Joe: Ed was a big Iron Maiden fan. He also loved Manowar, Ozzy and Black Sabbath. DIO was also high on the list. I liked many of the same bands as well as many punk artists.
David: Yes, Ed was a huge Iron Maiden fan! He also liked The Scorpions, Gary Moore, Tigers of Pan Tang, Loudness, Rainbow, and many, many more. He was a true music lover! He was into many styles and genres. He was not stuck in one category, he liked it all. And yes he was very big into collecting vinyl. I was heavily into Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, Lynyrd Skynyrd, DIO and Blackfoot.
What happened after the release of the EP and how come you decided to relocate to Arizona? During the time in Arizona the band was staying in the same house? And also, did you write any songs while being there?
Joe: We decided to move out of Pittsburgh. We had bigger plans. Original metal music was our passion. We were shooting for Los Angeles, but it was very expensive to move to there. Dave and his wife had friends in Phoenix and loved the area. It ended up being a great move. Bill left the band a few months into the relocation and the writing kinda stopped.
David: After the EP was released we continued playing live and writing new music. We had built a considerable following but had zero success finding a record label so we decided to move to Los Angeles were heavy metal ruled at the time. The move was more costly than expected so with a few friends in Phoenix Arizona we decided we could live there and still be close enough to play shows in Hollywood. We rented a house together in Phoenix and any of the music written there has been lost over time.
What led to the end of VALHALLA? Was there any friction among the band members or you simply decided to part ways?
Joe: Bill was never really comfortable with the move to Phoenix. This led to him leaving the band about 2 months after we got there.
David: Living with a band all under one roof is much different than just being in a band. Everyone has their idiosyncrasies and different ways of just living day to day. Bill was the least happy about the living arrangements so after a couple of months he decided to return to Pittsburgh. Joe, Ed, and myself started looking for a replacement guitarist but then Ed became ill and had to return home as well. About that same time, I got a call from Doug Marks to join his band Hawk in LA so it was a sad, slow motion death for the band.
Posthumously VALHALLA have gained a big cult audience that considers your EP and unreleased songs to be among the greatest music ever written by an indy U.S. metal band. Would you consider reuniting or just doing some shows? I know Ed was fond of the idea of maybe doing some reunion shows.
Joe: I was always fine with the great memories and music we created together without a reunion show. I would never do a show without Ed. He was the heart and soul of the band.
David: One of Ed's greatest passions was keeping the Valhalla name alive and one of his dreams was to play live in Greece. I am going to look into somehow getting Valhalla to Greece to play and record a live tribute album in the next couple of years. I'm going to ask my friend Rhino, drummer from Manowar, to sit in for Ed. Ed loved Manowar so I think he would approve. If any or all of the other original members want to join me that would be fantastic and preferred but I will respect their decisions when the time comes. I would just like to do it one more time for Ed and record it for posterity.
After the end of VALHALLA did you keep in touch with Ed and the other guys? I know you (Dave) relocated to Arizona permanently and since then you've played in many notable bands such as MASI, HAWK, FORGOTTEN REALM, FIREWOLFE etc. Ed played in French Kiss for a while. Were you familiar with that band and did you ever see them live?
Joe: We stayed in touch as much as possible. Everyone raised families, worked full time jobs and got busy with life challenges. Dave actually recorded a lot with various bands and projects. I played bass in French kiss with Ed. It was very cool.
David: I mostly kept in touch with Ed and he would keep me up to date with the bands he and Joe were playing in and even send me recordings of them playing live. Regrettably I never had the chance to see them myself. I didn't talk to Bill for over 20 years and then one year he was in Phoenix on business and he came to my house so we sat by my firepit and reminisced over beers for most of the night. I lost contact with John Merkt (keyboards).
The news of Ed's passing away came as a great shock to us. He was a friend and a big inspiration for us. He basically gave us the idea to start Cult Metal Classics back in 2000. I suppose it must have been extremely difficult having to cope with the loss of such a great person that you've known for so many years.
Joe: Yes, it was! it was just shocking and still is. Great memories. Greater person.
David: I still can't believe it. Ed, Joe, and myself were talking and laughing on New Year's eve four days before he died. It's one of those things that you are never ready for and it affects you so deeply. I was very depressed for weeks. People say it all the time but Ed -was- taken way too early.
Ed had a big archive of almost all songs VALHALLA ever recorded. Do you know if he still has any unfinished songs recorded in various reels that never saw the light of day? If so, do you think it would be a cool idea to record a full-length VALHALLA album with old and new songs in memory of Ed? Would all the guys in the band be on board?
Joe: I believe the songs we have recorded were the only songs.
David: I don't think there are any more unreleased songs but I could be wrong. I don't think there will be any new material written either. We tried a few years back and had five or six new song ideas but it never came to fruition so I think that idea is over.
If you had the chance to meet Ed for one more time, what would you say to him? If you were asked to describe him with a few words, what would they be?
Joe: Ed, you were an inspiration to all that loved you! CLASS ACT.
David: If I could see him once more I would thank him for his friendship and the absolute joy he brought into my life. Words to describe him: True friend
I want to thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts and recollections of one of the coolest dudes ever. Feel free to end this interview / chat as you wish.
Joe: This was cool. Thanks for remembering Ed. He was a special friend. His memory will live forever.
David: Ed truly was a special friend and band mate that I will miss for the rest of my life. I have been in many bands over many years but I have never had the amount of pure fun and felt the true magic of making music like I did with Ed and the guys in Valhalla. It was a mystical time and we created something special straight from our heart that will live forever just like Ed. I thank you and everyone who keeps Ed's memory alive by listening to Valhalla.