Ted Pilot Explains Fifth Angel's Demise and Aborted Reunion
By BRIAN HEATON
For years, fans of Fifth Angel have been clamoring for the band to reunite. Having split in 1989, after two highly regarded albums, the band chose to remain silent, with each of its members pursuing other interests.
In 2007, Fifth Angel finally relented and explored the possibility of playing some festival dates in Europe. Unfortunately for the band's followers, the plans were short-lived. As vocalist Ted Pilot revealed, touring just wasn't practical, given the band members' other commitments.
"I discussed touring with Ed [Archer, rhythm guitar] at length and he felt that touring, especially the preparation, would result in too much time being taken away from his sons," the singer explained. "He's a good father and has a nice family. I think that's a justifiably good reason not to tour."
In addition to family considerations, the time needed to get Fifth Angel ready to play live was too cumbersome. Although lead guitarist Kendall Bechtel and bassist John Macko were dedicated to the work, drummer Ken Mary was unavailable, so a drummer audition would have been needed. In addition, Pilot runs his own business as an endodontist in Seattle, Wash., -- a profession without much downtime.
"It's maybe not as noble [as Archer's reason], but I am busy running my practice," he said. "If everything is not lined up, the additional time I would be required to spend would not be do-able."
Fifth Angel's Crash
Ironically, not playing live was also a critical factor in Pilot's decision to not continue Fifth Angel after its 1989 release, Time Will Tell. The early incarnation of the band, called "Ridge" (which consisted of Pilot, Archer and Mary during high school), played often in local clubs around Bellevue, Wash., the band's hometown. But under the name "Fifth Angel," the band never played a live show, something the vocalist regrets.
After releasing its debut self-titled album on an independent label (Shrapnel Records) in 1986, Fifth Angel signed its major record deal with Epic Records. The label then re-released the band's debut and decided the group should wait to tour until it did a second record.
Combined with some label changes, Fifth Angel simply couldn't get off the ground.
"We lost tour support and some of our key people at the label during the turnover," Pilot explained, referring to the CBS/Sony buyout during that time. "It was disappointing to say the least. This was also how we lost financial support for the second MTV video, ['Broken Dreams'], which was to be the follow up to 'Time Will Tell.'"
Internal turmoil also had an impact on Fifth Angel. Ken Mary had left the band and both Pilot and Archer were faced with a decision to continue their non-musical careers or push on with Fifth Angel. All of this happened roughly at the same time that Time Will Tell made its debut.
Ultimately, the decision to end the band came down to continuing problems with the record label.
"Ed and I just felt that we weren't getting the backing from the label that we were promised," Pilot recalled. "It was always 'next time' or 'next album' and we didn't really have the control of the project that we wanted. The best way to describe it is we felt powerless to improve our situation.
"I did feel bad for the other guys," the singer added. "They really wanted to stick with it."
From Pilot's perspective, future albums from Fifth Angel are unlikely. Although the vocalist acknowledged that given advances in technology, a record could be written and recorded at home, it's performing that really makes it worth it for him as an artist.
"Without the performance aspect, I would not really be that interested," Pilot admitted. "I guess that's why I lost some of my passion for music. When you don't perform for a long time, it begins to feel more like a job … where you have to deal with record labels, lawyers, managers and all the other 'behind the scenes' crap."
Despite there not being much of a foreseeable future for Fifth Angel, the vocalist was grateful to fans for their interest over the years.
"When I hear that there are still people out there who enjoy our music, it really makes me feel great," Pilot said. "I can't express how much I and the rest of the band members appreciate hearing from fans, especially after all this time. I hope we've made some difference."
Editor's Note: The members of Fifth Angel changed their minds in 2009, reuniting the band. Fifth Angel has committed to recording a new album and playing various dates in Europe, including Germany's "Keep it True" festival in April 2010.
Copyright 2009, Brian Heaton. All Rights Reserved.