With a new compilation album ‘TO HELLION AND BACK’ and new songs in the pipeline, it seems that the witching hour is upon us once more, with the unstoppable queen of hell ANN BOLEYN back from the depths. IAN RAVENDALE tried not to lose his head back in Issue 10.
With a music career that stretches back to playing gigs at 14 (“I looked much older!” she says) Hellion vocalist Ann Boleyn has seen it all. Including an attempted break in of her house by a band manager, later jailed in a murder-for- hire case. “James Howard Paul Jr was charged with trying to hire someone to kill his wife,” recounts Ann. “He’d been brought in as an accountant for Hellion. I was approached by the District Attorney and asked to testify. And of course I was going to tell the truth. At that time it became a very dangerous situation for me. Very scary. After I talked to the police he attempted to break into my house when I was by myself. He ended up serving prison time.” Hellion was formed by Boleyn, at that point primarily a keyboard player, guitarist Ray Schenck, bassist Peyton Tuthill and drummer Sean Kelley in late 1981/early 1982. Unable to find singer, Schenck, Tuthill and Boleyn shared vocals with the latter eventually stepping out from behind the keyboard to become lead vocalist by default, as she explains: “I’d done some back-up singing when I was at high school, but never was a lead singer. Particularly a lead singer that isn’t attached to a musical instrument!” When they started Hellion didn’t have any sort of master plan as to the direction the music was going to take, as Boleyn relates: “All of us had come out of bands who’d been trying for a number of years to write our own music and not play cover songs. You get to a point where you’ve got great songs and try to get a record deal and time after time after time things just seem to fall apart and all the work everyone had done would be wasted. All of us decided that we just wanted to get out and play. We were so sick of trying to write the ultimate song to get us the record deal. So it was like, ‘Let’s go out and play some covers. We’ll worry about writing our own songs later. We were playing AC/DC, Krokus, Rainbow, Sabbath and Priest.”
Hellion built up a following around Los Angeles and in 1983 put out a four original song EP on their own Bongus Loadus Records. UK rock label Music For Nations heard the EP and gave Hellion enough money to record two additional tracks so they could issue it in the UK as the ‘Hellion’ mini-LP. Recalls Boleyn: “It started to gel after we got the Music For Nations deal. We were at the point where we no longer had to fit our music into the cove tunes set. That’s when we came up with ‘Break The Spell’, ‘Up From The Depths’ and ‘Backstabber’, where we were really going on our own path.” Part of Hellion’s problem was that the niche-obsessed US record and radio industries couldn’t make up their minds where Hellion should be slotted into, as Boleyn acknowledges: “When we started out people didn’t know how to categorise Hellion, especially my singing! They weren’t used to having a female who sang with as much power and intensity. Some people were saying we were a punk band, which we obviously weren’t! We approached a number of labels, trying to get a deal like everybody else was in Los Angeles. There was such stereotyping with regard to females in music – especially singers – that the people who had the power to do anything just didn’t know what to do. “Having come up as a musician rather than a singer I wasn’t into wearing garter belts on stage to get attention. I figured if the music was good enough people would like it. It was offensive having people tell me that I had to dress in lingerie. Ed Leffler, the manager of Van Halen, had offered to put me on a retainer salary, which would have been very good considering how broke I was at that time! But it was on the condition that we fire Ray and that I get fake boobs, my teeth fixed and plastic surgery! I found it horribly insulting because that isn’t going to make the music better!”At this point, Hellion were creating more waves in the UK than they were back at home. Both Sounds and Kerrang! had latched onto the band and the Music For Nations mini-LP made #6 on the papers’ rock chart. Ronnie James Dio heard and liked Hellion and offered to produce a couple of tracks with the band – ‘Run For Your Life’ and ‘Get Ready’ – both of which appear on the new ‘To Hellion And Back’ compilation. Niji Management, run by Ronnie’s wife Wendy, took over Hellion’s management.
Support shows with Dio, WASP and Whitesnake followed and this should have been the start of bigger and better things for Ann Boleyn and Hellion. Not the case, as she explains: “There was a lot of political things going on at the time. I was told that record companies weren’t interested in a metal band whose singer sang as heavy as me. Other people, including Ronnie, said they couldn’t believe it. I was happy to carry on and continue but in early 1985 I was called into the management office and told that my services were no longe required for the band. “At the time Hellion was friends with a lot of the bands from ‘84-85 that got major record deals. Some of those bands had a fraction of the following that Hellion did! As time passed, the guys in the band were getting very frustrated. Ronnie was doing wonderful things for us but when he went out of town he wasn’t there to make sure things went through. It was going month after month without any record deal.” Boleyn’s former bandmates drafted in vocalist Richard Parrico and re-christened themselves Burn when the tenacious Boleyn won back the Hellion name. She immediately put Hellion Mk2 together, making sure that she was in control this time round: “Initially Hellion was a band where we were all equal, with equal voting rights, which is how I ended up out of the band! Beginning with the Mk2 line-up with Alex Campbell, Chet Thompson and Greg Pecka I required the other members to sign an agreement acknowledging that they didn’t own the band name and don’t own the logo. From that point forward I said ‘I’m quality control and have a veto!’ They get songwriting royalties but when it comes to the ownership of the name and business rights they have no option on that.” A split with Niji Management followed shortly after. In 1986 Hellion’s new album ‘Screams In The Night’ was released by Music For Nations in the UK and Roadrunner Records in Europe.
The outfit were still being ignored b the major US labels at least in part because of their uncompromising ultra-heavy musical direction and Boleyn’s interest in the occult, which was a recurring theme in Hellion’s lyrics. The lack of a deal caused the disintegration of Hellion Mk2 and most of the bands original line-up returned following the demise of Burn.In the mid-’80s bands like Heart and Starship had brought in outside mainstream songwriters like Diane Warren, Albert Hammond and Bernie Taupin to come up with the hit singles needed to give their careers a kick in the pants. Hellion never contemplated doing the same, for reasons that Boleyn is happy to reveal: “You’ve got to remember who my mentor is! Working with Ronnie he’d say; as a singer if you’re going to be worth anything you need to be writing your own lyrics and your own melodies. It was never a consideration to bring in outside songwriters!”
To get the ‘Screams In The Night’ album a US release Boleyn decided to form New Renaissance Records, as she remembers: “The first Hellion mini LP sold very well on import and the record’s distributors wanted me to bring them more similar music. I didn’t have any money – I could barely pay my rent and half the time my electricity was off. I had this established relationship with these independent record distributors so why not press our own record and put it out? I was surrounded and supported by a number of people allowing Hellion to do things like get a video filmed tha was good enough to be on MTV. “I was literally running a record company from my living room! After that I was approached by a number of other bands that wanted help. They were in the same position. They had demos that they wanted distribution for. I tried to help them as best I could. A number of people that had bands on New Renaissance worked at the label. It was very much a co-op, people would come in from some of the better-known bands and then call radio stations and magazines to help the lesser-known bands. I’d be on the phone trying to get a magazine to do an article on Prong or Sepultura. Then those guys would come in and help with Hellion.”
Several further Hellion albums, including ‘Postcards From The Asylum’ and ‘The Black Book’ followed along with gigs in the UK, the first ‘Monsters Of Rock’ festival in the former USSR and an Ann Boleyn solo tour of Japan. Hellion were then put on hold as Ann went to university. She graduated from law school with a degree in Germanic languages from UCLA in 2003 and a law degree in 2007. This decision to re-start her life went deeper than wanting an alternative to the music business as Boleyn reveals: “I’ve had problems with stalkers from the 1980s onwards. There were three in particular. There was one who was much more of a threat. He was a Middle Eastern gentleman from Egypt who hired private investigators to follow me to the point where I was having to live in a high security apartment building. He was very concerning and I realised I had to alter my lifestyle.” Boleyn knew she had to evaluate her options very carefully. Did she consider relocating? “I didn’t, because I figured that with the type of investigators that this very wealthy guy had hired they would find me anyway. S I went to law school and surrounded myself all the time with people that knew about the problem and were supportive. I ran marathons and a lot of the people I ran with were police officers. I had a person that I car pooled wit who was married to a police officer also. S from the time I left my house I felt pretty safe. It was made clear to me by some people that worked for the police department that if I was going to hang out in Hollywood and did what I usually did with regard to rehearsals and shows they didn’t think my outcome would be very good. “I haven’t heard anything from the guy in a very long time. I’ve always had a pretty good sense of when people are following me. [Hellion drummer] Simon Wright is my boyfriend and I think when people realise I’m not just this lonely person that’s out there, that’s made a difference. There’s been not one peep from anybody for years.”Following on from her studies, in addition to playing with Hellion, Boleyn practices law. “I’m a civil rights attorney. I run my own practice and take on my own cases. I work out of my home, which has an office attache to it. I represent individuals – workers usually – against major corporations where they’ve been done wrong. I’ve represented a number of female clients, a couple of whom were sexually assaulted by their bosses then reported it to Human Resources and got fired! I lov representing individuals in those kinds of cases. I don’t generally represent corporations. I can set my own hours and sometimes I’ll work 20 hours a day on a case.”
It all sounds very Erin Brockovic, as Boleyn agrees: “It is! To be honest I hate most attorneys. Can’t stand them! I had to do something for a few years because my life was in danger. I figured the option where I could work on my own without having to have an 8 to 5 job was law. But if I’m going to do it, I’m not going to represent some horrible insurance company trying to cheat somebody. I take my own cases and decide which ones I want and which ones I don’t. I can go on tour for a couple of months and another attorney will take my cases.” Being Ann Boleyn from Hellion is a plus with many of the clients she represents: “A lot of the people I know don’t trust attorneys. And rightfully so! They can talk to me about situations that they may not be comfortable talking to a typical attorney. I’ve got a number of cases from people who are peripherally involved in the music or entertainment businesses. They can come to me and tell me anything and I’m not going to be surprised!”
Hellion had recorded some demos in the 1980s with legendary producer/engineer Ken Scott who had worked with David Bowie, The Beatles and Elton John. The new line-up of the band with Ann, Simon Wright, guitarist Maxxxwell Carlisle and keyboard player Scott Warren are planning to release ‘Karma’s A Bitch’, a mini LP produced by Ken Scott later in the year with the taster track ‘Hell Hath No Fury’ appearing on the new ‘To Hellion And Back’ compilation. Says Boleyn: “Ken Scott is a wonderful, wonderful man! And an incredibly talented engineer and producer. I can’t emphasise that enough. We had worked with him early on after the demos we’d done with Ronnie. We went in with three days rehearsal and musicians who had never played together and somehow it came together! It was pretty surprising to me! Ken’s experience really showed!”
Ann Boleyn has always stuck to her principles and followed her own course. But she’s under no illusions about how the music business works: “It’s always been very male dominated. And with heavy metal videos in the 1980s you almost couldn’t not have a female model in a swimsuit crawling over a car! “Even now there’s still a lot of undue focus of image over substance. I’ve learned that on Facebook. If I put a picture of the guys in the band up we’ll get a certain number of ‘Likes’. Put a picture of me in my leather pants and we’ll get four or five times the amount I’ve always been appreciative of the fans but ultimately it’s about the music.”Hellion tour Europe and the UK later this year and are expected to play several major festivals‘
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