Glenn Hughes

THOR and Mick Hoffman
Beastwoman From The Center Of The Earth
ThorToem/Scratch Records
by Todd K. Smith

I wanted to go into England like the Vikings did a thousand years ago and conquer the place with reckless abandon Thor

The Cutting Edge sits down with the mighty Thundergod to talk about fantasy art, bodybuilding and muscle rock.

Open any book about the Hard Rock genre and you’ll likely find the name Thor sandwiched between Thin Lizzy and Thunder. Twenty-five years ago Mr. Universe competitor Jon Mikl Thor came up with a gimmick to promote his music. A fan of Alice Cooper, Kiss and David Bowie, he put together a one off high-tech laser stage show exploiting his Nordic good looks and adequate vocal ability. After recording the Grand Funk sounding Keep The Dogs Away (1978) he came to the attention of famed concert promoter Bill Graham who set about organizing a multi-million dollar spectacle based on the mythical thundergod.

“We thought it was going to be our ticket,” says Thor calling from his Vancouver, BC home. “We were sure this was it. But we ended up having production trouble - the lasers wouldn’t work right. It ended up not happening so I just scaled down and toured like a madman.” It wasn’t the first time Thor would have to reconsider his plans to stardom.

After three years of constant, steady roadwork the buzz finally hit England. The birth of the New Wave Of Heavy Metal (NWOHM) was all the rave and the British press was attracted by the Thor phenomenon happening across the pond. “We, as a band, had been getting heavier and heavier,” remembers Thor. “Judas Priest were really starting to arrive and there were all these young band like Iron Maiden and Saxon playing hard rock music. It was the perfect time for Thor to strike the hammer.”

“We were getting all this press in a new magazine called Kerrang!” He continues. “We had just recorded our heaviest album to date, the Unchained (1983) album. The UK press buildup was so big that the kids were hungry for us. By the time we stepped on the stage at the London Marquee, the crowd went crazy. The place was jam-packed. Some came to scoff at us so I threw everything at them. I mean I went berserk. I gave them the greatest show ever. I pulled people on stage and lifted them over my head, I bent steel bars, blew up hot-water bottles like balloons. It was the greatest thing that ever happened to us.”

The show put Thor on the map and landed them an international deal with Mongol Horde Records (Island Park, NY) which, for a time, also boasted Queensryche among their roster. Another year of steady work yielded a string of hits including “Thunder In The Tundra” and “Let The Blood Run Red” Tours with Metallica, Manowar and Motörhead put Thor in front of legions of fans. By then his shows were becoming legendary with wiz-kid guitarist Steve Price, bassist Keith Zazzi, drummer Mike Favata and then wife, uber-hottie, Pantera. They recorded Only The Strong (Roadrunner, 1985) in England and moved from putting photos of Thor on the cover to fantasy paintings like the ones on Molly Hatchet and Nazareth records.

“I’ve always loved the fantasy art of Frank Frazetta and Neil Adams,” explains Thor. “I was obsessed with comics as a kid and even jumped out of the first-floor window of my school dressed in a superman costume. I thought switching to fantasy paintings for the cover was better than a photo and, it seemed, everyone in metal was doing it at the time.” Only The Strong featured the artwork of Danny Johnson later used for Thor’s live platter Live In Detroit (Raw Power Records, 1985).

The same year saw Thor embark on an acting career. He appearing in and wrote the soundtrack for the low-budget comedy Recruits. The movie featured Tony Travis (Flesh Gordon 2, Die Hard 3) and Carolyn Tweedle (Dark Angel, Dreamcatcher) and led to his next opus Wild In The Streets (Roadrunner, 1986). The lure of Hollywood proved too much and he set aside his musical aspirations to star in a string of B movies including Zombie Nightmare (1993) with Batman star, Adam West. Then it all came to a head.

“I moved to Charlotte, NC for a few years,” says Thor. “I wanted to step away from it all. I purchased some business and developed those for about ten years then found myself slowing returning to music. I started writing songs in the supermarket, developed a music label and signed and produced some local bands. It was time for me to comeback.”

Thor relocated to Vancouver, BC and started working on new material. One of his greatest passions led him to an appearance at Comic-con 2002 in San Diego where he met “the second-coming of Frazetta” Mick Hoffman. “I was really impressed by Mick’s art,” says Thor, “then I found out he play guitar and we went from there.” The pair worked up a combination deal where Thor would create a soundtrack for a Hoffman produced comic. That led to Beastwoman From The Center Of The Earth.

“It had been a long time coming,” explains Thor. “I’d been writing and had some success with ‘We Are The Panthers’ a song I wrote about the Carolina Panthers (NFL team) which they actually played during a game. I wanted to build on that type of stadium chant. Sports and rock go hand and hand for me – kind of like the clash of the titans – a gladiator type thing.” The two built upon their relationship and produced a record that showcased both Hoffman’s art and Thor’s muscular vocals.

Beastwoman From The Center Of The Earth is a power-metal affair with Hoffman writing and/or playing on half of the 12 tracks. The mix is rough and ready with Thor’s vocals mixed upfront. Yes, as the cover suggests, it’s a rock odyssey so it follows a storyline. Yet the muscle is in all the right places. Influences range from the Bowie-esque “Mushroom World” to the heavy-handed “Break The Ice” and the reworking of “The Sleeping Giant” off his first LP Keep The Dogs Way (1978). “On the new record I was experimenting with a lot of my influences,” says Thor. “You’ll hear Bowie, Alice Cooper, Motörhead – even the Beatles.”

Thor continues to tour, primarily in Canada, maintains a rigorous workout schedule, and has just finished another movie and documentary as well as writing his biography. He recently made the July issue of Classic Rock’s top 100 singers of all time with a respectable 75 slot – beating out both Blackie Lawless and Glen Danzig. For all the latest on what’s happening in Thor’s world and to order his current disc online visit his website below.


Images taken from Thor Central by permission.