PORT ARTHUR —
At Xcel’s first show in the Robert A. “Bob” Bowers Civic Center, the ticket holders ran out of tickets and resorted to stamping hands in order to admit the more than 1,000 people who lined up outside the door to see the band.
It was the mid-80s, and the five young men who made up the metal band had long hair and a dream: to become rock stars.
Fast forward 24 years. It’s 2010, and the members of the Midcounty-based band Xcel live in separate cities and hold down day jobs. They seldom if ever pick up their instruments to pluck a few chords. But the Internet buzzes about the first and only album the band released in 1986, “Deliver This Dream.”
One night when the band members got together, they found mention of Xcel and its only album spanning more than 10 pages of Google results. Several metal blogs had reviewed the album and commended the band’s initiative. One of the bloggers was in Greece.
Kevin Cox, one of Xcel’s guitarists, dropped the Greek blogger, Chris Papadakis, a note to thank him for the review, and that was the start of a conversation that would result in a deal to re-release “Deliver This Dream.”
A dream begins
Rewind back to 1985 before “Deliver This Dream.” Xcel was born out of a cover band, Wizzard, in which four of the five Xcel members played. When Wizzard fell apart, Xcel formed with the addition of guitarist Barry Duncan.
“That’s when we decided to change the look and direction of the band,” Duncan said.
They tossed out the old, recycled music sheets and picked up their pens and instruments, ready and eager to write something original. Duncan and bassist Peter Voight said they found inspiration in Kiss and several other bands, like Van Halen, Queensryche, Iron Maiden and Led Zeppelin.
“We all listened to very similar music, but we all listened to different stuff, too,” Voight said. “We would blend it all together.”
Together, Duncan, Voight, Cox and singer Kevin Luke and drummer Dag Gabourel would work on the songs, careful to stick to their sound. Because if something did not sound like Xcel, it would be thrown out through a somewhat democratic process, Duncan said.
“We knew we were better together,” he said. “The whole point was not us. It was the song.”
Where did the name come from? It’s hard to say, Duncan said.
“It kind of fit what we were trying to do,” he said. “It came to mean something to us.”
Xcel was not a typical garage band though. The band members treated it like a job, like a business, practicing every day of the week and seeking out opportunities to play gigs nearby, such as their first show at the civic center.
The band garnered the attention of a manager and promoter after playing a show at Phideaux’s in Houston one night, and all of a sudden Xcel had investors. Collectively, the band members started saving the money they had earned from their shows so they could produce an album, but the recording process was something they had not expected.
“It was atrocious,” Duncan said.
They were nervous, never having set foot in a recording studio before, he said. It was a lot of pressure with everyone watching from the control room, he said, but they wanted to produce an album in the hopes of getting signed to a major record label.
“We were young and inexperienced in a studio,” Voight said. “I can remember just going in and almost being scared.”
But they did it and recorded the eight songs that constitute “Deliver This Dream.” They sent 500 copies to radio stations across the country to “see if they would bite” and ended up getting some positive feedback from California, the Seattle area and the Eastern Seaboard, Duncan said. But nothing ever happened.
“I’m sure that’s the story of thousands of bands,” he said.