In 1987, bass guitarist and vocalist Steve Rowe formed the Australian power metal band LightForce with Murray Adams on guitar, Steve Johnson on vocals and Errol Willenberg on drums. The group played on the local metal scene and signed with American label Pure Metal Records to release their debut album, Mystical Thieves in May 1989.
Below you can read an interview with Steve Rowe, bassist and co-founder of Lightforce, originally done by the Brazilian webzine Mortifination.
Steve, starting from the end: what was the real motive of the break-up of Lightforce? I remember I read somewhere that there were serious debates about the musical path you wanted to adopt, hence the break-up. Was that true?
Steve: The main reason for Lightforce finishing was that The Guitarist & Singer both left the Band in late 1989. I liked the Straight Forward Traditional Heavy Metal approach of Battlezone & Mystical Thieves. The Guitarist & Drummer wanted to be more progressive but my new songs from 1989 remained Straight forward. So a clash of direction there. But If the guitarist & Singer had not left I would never have stopped that format of Lightforce in A Million Years!!! But it happened & I regrouped with early Lightforce Guitarist Cameron & Jayson Sherlock on Drums. We Recorded Break The Curse in May 1990 & so everything moved on very quickly to what soon became Mortification!
In 2001, after the Mortification concerts in Brazil, some magazines and websites claimed that you would return with Lightforce and end up with Mortification. Do you have any idea how this hearsay could’ve come up?
Steve: I think some people heard the 2001 Demo Songs for Relentless that were more Trad Metal but Relentless had those Songs but Heavier ones as well. I think I joked that I should call it Lightforce. HaHa! But it was always staying Mort. Those Demo Songs will be a part pf The Relentless CD re- issue coming out on Soundmass this year.
Is there any outstanding gig/event of Lightforce that you keep in your mind?
Steve: Supporting Stryper for 5000 people here in Melbourne in early 1989.
I noticed that, since the hearsays about the end of Mortification and the return of Lightforce, there’s an extensive hiatus. In that meantime, did you contact the former members of the group, or think of getting the old line-up of Lightforce together and keep the band as a side project, like Wonrowe Vision?
Steve: No there was no hiatus? -& ALL the Ex Members from Lightforce 1987 to 1989 have now been Non Christians for the last 15 years plus. So I would never have re-grouped with them. Sad But True! The Great Falling Away from from The Faith!!! The early members of Lightforce from 1986 are all still very strong Christians but Guitarist Chris Miiler had a Heart Attack & went home to heaven in 2006.
When Mortification started, did you regret that the LF has ended? Or you simply considered as the end of a period of your musical experience and the beginning of another one?
Steve: Lightforce finishing was the BEST thing that EVER HAPPENED in playing Christian Metal for 28 Years because Mort started!
Wonrowe Vision will record some tracks of LF. Do you intend to rehash the songs following the same heavy metal lines of the ‘80s garage bands or you’ll try to put more influences from Classic Rock, Punk Rock, etc?
Steve: The 2 Lightforce Songs that we are doing & will Record on The 2nd Wonrowe Vision Album are from 1986. Lightforce 1986 was more Heavy Rock in approach & so perfect for WV.
Mystical Thieves was the most successful album of the band. 13,000 copies were sold and it has some of the greatest classics of Lightforce. What are your remembrances about the writing process of this record and its promotional touring?
Steve: We all wrote together & individually. It was a fun time & we Toured A Lot around Australia. We supported Whitcross Twice, Leviticus & as mentioned before Stryper! Mystical Thieves was released by Pure Metal Records in The US. We got ripped off like everyone else on the label. The Recording & Album Cover cost us $11,000 & so we signed a contract that we would receive $8000 upon release of The Album on Vinyl, CD & Cassette. We never saw a cent! I confronted Ray Nenow The Owner in 1993 through a mutual friend in Nashville & he sent me $300. HaHa!
Almost as bad as The Rip off that was & is FMG/ Intense Records! FMG/ Intense went Bankrupt in 1997 but we had never seen a cent from them except for Recording. Plus they received $32,000 from Nuclear Blast Germany over 4 years of which we saw ZERO! Owner Jimmy Kempner sold the rights to our 6 Mort Albums & The Live Planetarium Video in 2000 to KMG. KMG still “owns?????” the Albums & Video & they safe Sold through ripoff Label Meis Music Group! Please NEVER buy anything from those people! They tried to buy us off for 15% of Digital sales & I told them to keep their ill-gotton gain embarrassing offer. All I want is The Rights to our Albums back!!
If I had the money I would take them to Court in The US because there is NO WAY Adel Meisenheimer, Carolyn Killen or Jimmy Kempner are True Christian people! The contract from 1991 is morally, ethically & contractually COMPLETELY flawed. But what can I do? They are greedy people with no sense of what is THE RIGHT THING TO DO. I hand them over to satan in a hope that they will repent before they die! If they really examined themselves in this situation then they would know that those Albums & the Video belong to us. But it is way too easy to push conviction of The Holy Spirit away, thus blaspheming The Holy Spirit & just keep making money of Classic Christian Rock & Metal for the rest of their lives. THE GREAT FALLING AWAY! Sad BUT TRUE!!
There’s a new fanbase of Mortification that are too young and they didn’t follow the career of Lightforce. Is there any possibility of a re-release of some digipak with the original cover art and liner notes, including live tracks, and things like that?
Steve: I have had a offer on that from Europe. So it might happen?
Steve: We belonged to a Church that really supported us & were The Covering of The Lightfiorce Mission. They were some what controlling of us that I did not like. But that sad, it was good to have people keeping us accountable! Dave & Rosanna Palmer were assistant pastors at that Church & so Rosanna’s Raiders really paved the way for Lightforce & also Mort. The Christian Metal Scene here was huge in The late 80’s & early 90’s. But now because of THE GREAT FALLING AWAY there really is not a Christian Metal Scene here at all. Not a True One anyway! A few Positive World View/ Social Commentary Bands that have no Mission other than to be famous & try & be Rock Stars. Sad But True!
What are your favorite songs of Lightforce?
Steve: Choose To Win, Crossfire, Eyes Of Destruction, Mystical Thieves, City Streets, Your So Kind You re’s & Mine & Pictures.
Some people say that Lightforce was a bit underrated. What’s your opinion about that?
Steve: Yes I think being from Australia the Bands potential was over looked generally by the rest the world.
Did you already think of a reunion gig with the band’s classic line-up?
Steve: I would never do it. Just like I would never do a reunion of the Mort lineup from 20 Years ago. We are all on different pages in life but I still love all those involved as good friends & part of my Musical Journey.
Thank you for giving us the opportunity to interview you once again. Feel free to say some words to the true metal fans that follow your work and ministry for all these years.
Steve: Stay strong in Faith In Jesus & only support True Jesus Metal Bands like Anti Demon & Jerusalem. If Bands are Positive World View, Social Commentary or do satanic practise like using the devil horns hand signal or worse still the occult practise of corpse paint on their faces run away from those Bands!! You might as well spend your money supporting quality mainstream Bands like Megadeth for example!
Blessings & Prayers. Steve.
Blue Demo, Demo, 1986
Battlezone, Full-length, 1987
Lightforce Demo (Angel Rocker), Demo, 1987
Mystical Thieves, Full-length, 1988
Break the Curse, Demo, 1990
The Best of Lightforce – Mortification’s Beginnings, Compilation, 1994
Lightforce 1986 to 1989, Compilation, 2003
Written by Márllon “Roxx” Mátos
Translation by Carol Mariana
Video below: Lightforce: Crossfire – Live 1989
Video below: Lightforce: Atomic Decay – Live 1989