ANN BOLEYN (HELLION)

Everybody with the slightest of interest in heavy metal should know the name ANN BOLEYN. If not it’s about time you got to know of her and the band she’s fronted for many years; Hellion. Anders Ekdahl ©2012

You’ve been in my conscious ever since that first Hellion MLP. What are you up to now?
-I live in the Los Angeles area and am involved in many things. First, I have run about 30 marathons and was a marathon coach for about ten years. I am getting ready for the Los Angeles Marathon and am helping a friend train to complete her first one. I am also a trial attorney. I spend a lot of time helping people who have been treated badly by their employers and bosses. In the Los Angeles area there are many people who come to the USA from different countries. Employers often take advantage of these people, especially when they are from Mexico or South America. Sometimes companies will fire workers who are injured at work. Other times the company won’t pay their employees fairly. I help people in those situations. I also occasionally write music, still.

From what I understand Hellion has been an on/off thing for the past couple of years. Do you notice that Hellion has made an imprint in the history book of heavy metal?
-Thank you for that. I appreciate that people are still interested in our music.

With a career spanning 4 decades (or more) you’ve been through both highs and lows. What would you say has been the high-points/low-points of that career?
-There were a number of high points, so it is hard to talk about just one. First, it was an honor to be able to tour in the former Soviet Union and do the Monsters of Rock in Moscow. No American bands had ever toured in the USSR at that time, so it was really exciting. I met Valeri Gaina from the band Kruiz, who is still a friend of mine. Those were really exciting times. When the Soviet Union finally collapsed, and the tanks came into Moscow, the people who owned stereos put their speakers them in the windows of their apartments and protested by blasting heavy metal into the streets. Most heavy metal music was banned, or was only available in the black market then. So this was really amazing. People often forget the importance of music and how, especially in the case of the former Soviet Union, it was used for protest. A second high point would be working with Ronnie James Dio. I know everybody has told many stories about him, but, for the record, he was a really nice guy. Because of Ronnie, Hellion was able to perform with Whitesnake. I met Cozy Powell, who was one of my favorite drummers. And, I remember singing on stage and having David Coverdale and Ronnie James Dio both watching me and giving me thumbs up. They were two of my favorite singers, so that was thrilling. As far as low points, there were quite a few, also. Most were in the early 1990s. I remember one time when myself and Lita Ford were voted by the viewers of VH-1 TV channel as the Top 100 Women in Music. Both of us placed in the top-40, if I recall correctly. VH-1 was doing a TV special with short interviews of the winners. I did not know that I had made the list until when the manager of Lita Ford called me and told me I was on the list. I had my publicist at the time call and introduce herself, in case they did not know how to contact me and wanted an interview since Hellion had just been dropped from Enigma Records. The person at VH-1 told my assistant that VH-1 was not going to feature any of the “toilet mouth heavy metal women from the 80’s” and that they were only focusing on the up and coming artists, such as Sheryl Crow, and the “dead ones.” That was pretty depressing. After all of the hard work, and the discrimination that the female musicians of the 70’s and 80’s were faced with, it was sad to finally be recognized by the viewers of a national TV station, then be ignored because we were no longer the flavor of the day.”

I’ve always wondered about your alter-ego. What was it that made you choose this as your stage name?
-I have a lot of friends from England, and some like to call me “Annie”. My legal name is the name of a character in a movie, and some people used to think that my real name was fake. I chose to use the name Ann Boleyn because my family line is traced back to the royalty of England and Scotland, and because I am a fan of history. Also, Anne Boleyn was accused of being a witch, and I have been called far worse things, so we had that in common.

When was the first time you became aware of hardrock/heavy metal and what was it that made you devote your life to it?
-I started playing music when I was 13 or 14. I was a big fan of Deep Purple and had a Hammond Organ by the time I was about 15 or 16. I was initially recruited by Tommy Bolin to play in a band called Zephyr, but my parents would not allow me to go because I was too young. A while later, I was recruited by Kim Fowley to go to Hollywood and play in the Runaways.

You’re not only a famous musician. You’re also are (was) a label manager. What was it that made you start New Renaissance Records?
-Hellion made a demo and we started selling cassettes of the demo at our shows. Making copies of the demo eventually burned up too many cassette recorders, so I decided it was cheaper to just press the demo onto a 12-inch record. A distributor ordered lots of those records and shipped them to Europe. A while later the mini-LP was a top selling import in England. Hellion next signed a record deal with Music For Nations, who also signed Metallica, Anthrax, and Merciful Fate. We ended up with a Record of the Year award in Kerrang Magazine, and in Sounds, which were the important magazines then. But, we could not get a record deal in the USA. Due to the success in Europe, the distributors wanted me to bring them more heavy metal. I didn’t have the money to put bands into the studio initially, so I started releasing people’s demos.”

With the label you built a reputation as a label releasing albums by a variety of bands, not always to great reviews. What did you think about the reactions some of your releases received when released and the accolade some of them receive today?
-It is very funny. The bands that received the worst reviews are often regarded as the most innovative bands today. Sepultura is a great example. The critics hated Sepultura. But, I liked the music, and Max and the guys in the band were really nice. Myself and my staff then spent hours and hours promoting the band to the magazines and to college radio stations. The reviews were terrible. I lost a lot of money on Sepultura. Then, just as they was starting to be appreciated and we were getting orders, they went to Roadrunner.”

During the 80s you were very much a part in bringing the second wave of thrash metal to the masses. What memories do you have of that time?
-I don’t know what you mean by the “second wave of thrash metal.” New Renaissance Records was releasing thrash bands right from the beginning.”

This is a gender specific question that I feel even in this day and age is relevant as women making a name for themselves in all branches of life often are looked upon as strange. As a woman you have most probably faced a lot of doubt and critical voices doing the things you do. What advice do you have to bands/artists facing adversary?
-Anything that is worth doing, is hard. If it was easy, everyone would do it and the result would not mean much. Gender should have nothing to do with it. As a performer, or even as a professional in business, you are competent — or you are not. And, even if you are very good at what you do, there are going to be people who don’t like you. That is just life. As a singer, there are people who like my voice — and who hate my voice. For example, Ronnie James Dio liked my voice. On the other hand, I was told that Gene Simmons from Kiss hated my voice. And, it is my opinion that if you are hated and loved at the same time, you are probably on the right path! However, no matter what you do, you should always be trying to improve.

Where do you see the future taking you?
-I have been talking with some of the people that I know from the 80’s, some of whom were involved in Dio. Angelo Arcuri, the sound engineer for Holy Diver and Last In Line, among others, has been encouraging me to do some recording with some of the guys who played with Ronnie. I am also still in contact with some of the guys from Hellion. There are no concrete plans yet, but there is a good chance that I will be doing some recording soon, and maybe a couple festival appearances.”

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