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New Jersey was always a good ground for heavy rock. Solace, Solarized, or The Atomic Bitchwax are just a few bands from there. And there's Halfway To Gone, but it's been a few years ago since their last album. So what happened with the band? Out of the ashes of Halfway To Gone have risen A THOUSAND KNIVES OF FIRE, a band that was founded by HTG guitarist/vocalist Lee Stuart and Raging Slab/Monster Magnet drummer Bob Pantella. At the beginning of 2008 they recorded their debut full-length for Small Stone Records and we decided to do an interview with Lee Stuart. Thanks to Gideon Smith for doing this!


Hey man, tell us about the time period that brought the break up of Halfway To Gone and then the coming together of A THOUSAND KNIVES OF FIRE with you and Bob Pantella and Taj Briggles and Paul Weigand?

Lou basically got a great day job that pretty much put an end to us touring. Since I was in  it for the long haul and hoped to make a living at playing it was decided that HTG would be a part time thing. I had been talking to Bob Pantella about playing and recording for a while and infact he was considered for the drum chair in Halfway. Taj was a close friend and I was interested in doing some work with him as well. Taj introduced me to Paul and the rest is history.

The CD 'The Last Train to Scornsville' is out on Small Stone Records. How did the writing and the recording of the CD go?

The whole process was difficult from the begining with Bob leaving to join Monster Magnet and us needing to record in differant studios. It became a real problem at mix-down. It was nearly impossible to reconcile all the differant production styles and drum sounds.

What inspired you to be in a rock band?

After spending alot of time playing Jazz and R&B in Philly I was burnt on music in general. This will sound pretty weak, but in 199something, I saw Pantera at the Trocadero in Philly and just thought "WOW I want to do THIS!" I got into the thrash scene for quite a while. At some point I was offered the guitar spot in Solarized. I had played rock guitar in the 70's as a kid and it was actually much more natural than  the Metal , for me. I found that I already had a pretty good grasp on it and got totally turned on to the Stoner scene and all the rock bands there.

What are some of the albums you spin regularly and some of your favorite bands?

I still like the old standbys, Black Sabbath, Cream, Deep Purple etc. I really dig the Faces and Humble Pie. The new Puny Human just slays and I'm currently just digging on Burnt By the Sun.
You guys have shared the stage with bands like Bongzilla and Solace, what have been some of your favorite shows so far that stand out in your memory?

I'd say one show that stands out was when Bongzilla was touring with Monster Magnet, they had a bunch of cancellations and I think we jumped on a last minute show with them with Dixie Dave on bass. Those guys were just great! I also enjoyed the CMJ where we were added at the last minute. Lou joined us onstage for a few Halfway to Gone tunes. Everyone seemed to have some fun at that one!
I hate to ask you this because it's such a worn out question, but man, that is a cool name for your band, where did you get the name?

I came up  with the name when one of my coworkers got mono and told me his stomach felt like it was being stabbed by "a thousand knives of fire" He indirectly stole it from the Simpsons!

As a guitarist, what players inspired you when you were growing up and who inspires you today?
I really just LOVED Jan Akkerman from Focus (Hocus Pocus by Focus!) for the longest time. Steve Howe, Allan Holdsworth etc. Eventually though I returned to my roots and really dug into Johnny Winter, Hendrix, Skynyrd and the rest.

Isn't there a live DVD of the last Halfway show being released soon?
There was a really elaborate live shoot at our "farewell show." For all the planning it just has been difficult. The band had been on hiatus for a while and mixing it has been tough as well. There are actually a couple of live videos of HTG floating around that I'd prefer to release where the band is just in full stride. I'm not sure what ever came of the HTG DVD/CD thing. Who knows?

What are the plans for ATKOF in the summer and next year?
At the present ATKOF has been working with Kenny Wagner on drums. We've been writing a bit and things are looking promising for the next CD. There are tentative plans to do a west coast tour with Superheavy Goatass this fall. We're also lookin ahead to a European tour eventually...

To someone who is waiting on the new CD to get an idea of what its like, how would you describe the music?
I think the new CD is straight up underground rock. Simple. Modest production. I wanted to make a no-frills rock cd with plenty of guitar playing (it's what I do).

Tell me about your songwriting and what inspired you with the new record?
I try to write songs that people can relate to. I hate when bands reveal there "inner demons" and other crap. We all have inner demons, and I quite honestly am sick of hearing about some inexperienced young guy's life after rehab or a bad breakup. Boring! I really got a lot of inspiration from the Blues and honest to goodness Rock and Roll!

Any last words?
See you soon!

(Gideon Smith)