It is a very common misconception that the mighty Titan Force were “Harry Conklin's band”. Although “The Tyrant” did a fantastic job recording the vocals for the band's self-titled debut album in 1987, the history of Titan Force goes way back (to 1983). The true brainchild in this case is guitarist Mario Flores. He had the vision, wrote all the songs and is responsible for two of the greatest US Metal records of all time.
When asked about the mentioned “misconception” Flores states: “Indeed Titan Force was a band before Harry joined and nearly all the music ideas started and still do start with myself and with the other guitarist Bill Richardson when he was with us. Harry has always added his parts after the musical ideas were formed. Each member has an important role to play, so I wouldn't call it any one person's band. That being said, it is true that most things that happen with the band are initiated by me. For better or worse.”
Although their debut album was released as late as 1987, Titan Force originally formed in 1983, as Mario Flores explains: “The early years were a fun time. We were Titan initially, then changed to Titan Force in '86 or '87 I think. We were playing covers by Van Halen, Rush, Sabbath, Priest, Maiden, Def Leppard, Scorpions, Raven and many other bands, plus a few originals. But we really wanted to write and perform our own music exclusively. We slowly started shaping what would eventually become our style/sound musically. Later, we realized we needed a great vocalist to complete the vision we had for our sound. We did record some 'demos' early on and I still have much of that material. But they weren't demos in the sense that we had a goal of shopping them to a label to get some kind of record deal. That never really crossed our minds. We didn't know it was even possible. We recorded those early songs just because we wanted to. Also, until we did the 1985 »Too Late« demo, we never felt strongly about our original songs. Once we did that demo, we really thought we could do something with our music if we could find the right vocalist, one whose voice could match the power of the music we were writing. That led to the 1987 demo to get Harry and a record deal. We weren't ready before Harry joined the band. We weren't really trying to do anything but play music for fun and gain a local following. But the timing ended up being perfect for us. We were ready to move to another level musically at the same time Harry became available to join us.”
When Titan Force signed with a German label, ironically called US Metal Records, the first (or even the second wave) of American metal had already passed. So it was that tiny bit more difficult for Titan Force to get recognition. Thinks Mario Flores as well: “Yes, I guess it was. Hair metal was all the rage and the heavier bands like Metallica and Slayer didn't appeal to us. And we sounded nothing like hair metal or thrash. But during the first album era, we were just very happy to have a label and a good sounding record out. That soon gave way to hoping and dreaming of being a band who could tour and make a living doing it. And we all know how that worked out.”
US Metal Records did quite a good job for Titan Force in Germany and mainland Europe but their impact in the States was zero. “In hindsight, I would agree,” says the guitarist. “They got our name and our albums out there. We had a good recording budget and the albums sounded professional. And it eventually led to our 1993 tour with Anvil. But there was no distribution in the USA, therefore no impact here whatsoever.”
As mentioned earlier, only when Harry Conklin joined the band, things started to happen for Titan Force. “Getting Harry was key to label interest,” knows Mario Flores. “We knew that because of his history with Jag Panzer and his amazing voice, labels would at least listen to our demos. And we were confident once they did, they would like the music. How we got Harry? We were friends with the rest of Jag Panzer but never really knew Harry very well. He had left Jag Panzer and ended up in Satan's Host. I called up Mark Briody one day and asked if he thought Harry would sing on a cover of 'Immigrant Song' we had recorded. He said 'why don't you ask him?' and gave me his number. Harry agreed and when he showed up for the session, we showed him four other original songs we had already recorded and asked him if he wanted to sing on them as well. He agreed and that's where it started.”
“I do like the way the first album turned out,” says Mario Flores today. “Some of the production sounds a bit dated to me, but those were the times and the sound we wanted. There are always little things I would change but overall I am still happy with sound and the songwriting. The first four songs on the initial session ('Chase Your Dreams', 'Master Of Disguise', 'Fool On The Run', 'Blaze Of Glory') were maybe a few months old at most. The rest of the album was written after Harry had joined the band, except for 'Will-O-The-Wisp'. We had been playing a version of that song for a year or two.”
So maybe after all the »Titan Force« album came out at the wrong moment in time, too late for the original first wave of US Metal and too early for the renaissance of traditional US Metal here in Europe. “I never thought about it that way,” reflects the guitarist. “But it may be true. But if the timing were different, we may not have gotten Harry. And who knows if I would be doing this interview if things didn't happen as they did. I am pleasantly surprised and extremely grateful that people still care about the music we created. But I try not to spend too much time analyzing the past and thinking what could have been. We can't control the past - only our future.”