NACHO VARA (BYFIST): “I Remember [DAVID WAYNE] Asking Us… Who The F*** Is This Chick With All The Muscles And Where Did You Guys Pick Her Up”

Byfist Group Photo

Texas Power Metal Soldiers Fueled by Heartbreak, Rise From the Ashes to Honor Their Fallen Family

Byfist was rocking all across the San Antonio, Texas area 1987 to 1991.  While they teared up many stages, they didn’t hit the recording studio too often.  Byfist recorded demos, released a single and an EP, but major record deals just didn’t pan out.  The band broke up in the early ’90s.  Founding guitarists Davey Lee and Nacho Vara went on to play with ex-Metal Church vocalist David Wayne in Reverend. Around the year 2000 Byfist attempted to get the gang back together.  It wasn’t easy.  As you will read below, a lot of tragedy has befallen the group. Guitarist Nacho Vara has carried on through pain, forging a new lineup of Byfist, and releasing the band’s first proper full-length album In the End [review].

Metal Express Radio:  If I knew absolutely nothing about ByFist, how would you describe the band’s music to me?

Nacho Vara:  Byfist is an American power metal band hailing from the ’80s Heavy Metal Capital of the World, San Antonio, Texas! The music consists of energetic, aggressive, crunchy, head banging rhythms with melodic, high pitched screaming vocals, expressive lead guitars, and powerful bass lines that complement the thunderous drumming. A style with clear influences from Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Metallica, Saxon, Metal Church and Riot to name a few.

MER:  Your first full-length album In the End was released on September 25, 2020. Can you discuss the story behind each song…

Universal Metal – This describes how Heavy Metal music brings people from all over the world and from all walks of life together. Attending concerts with fists and Metal horns in the air, united as they listen and watch their favorite bands perform, getting possessed by the driving rhythms.

In the End –Is about a con-man who puts on a front. He’s a great friend to all with his wit and charm, but all along is planning to steal from you. He truly is the scum of the earth, gaining your trust, then boom! He has stolen your valuables and flees without a trace, like a thief in the night! But Karma’s a bitch!

Unconscious Suicide – Blinded by alcoholism, this person drinks to the point of losing control of his mind, blacking out and not caring for his life anymore. His body seizes and is dying. Without intervention, death from his drinking will surely take him to his grave.

Guaranteed Death –There’s no guarantee what you’ll be dealt in life, regardless if you live by the golden rule and treat others well or if you’re evil and treat others badly, but the only thing that is certain is that we’re all guaranteed death!

With This Needle I Thee Wed – A person who was once respected is seduced and delves into the dark world of intravenous drugs. Soon it’s all he thinks about. The needle is his only love. With arms full of tracks and scars, he’s writhing in pain and needs another fix. She’ll never divorce him and he remembers the vow he heard as she ingresses for the first time while sitting on the side of his bed years earlier, “With this needle I thee wed.”

Ship of Illusion – A man falls in love with a woman, but unbeknownst to him, she is a sociopath who pulls him deep into her spell of believing he is the only one she could ever love. Then all of a sudden, for no reason she tells him to stay away from her. This maelstrom continues for quite some time, but then he finally sees that it was all an illusion. She has fooled him like many others before, but he now realizes she was so full of lies and deceit, so he lets her go, forever.

Epitaph –We’ve all gone to funerals, and cemeteries are full of tombstones that have all sorts of inscriptions on them. Will you write your own epitaph or will someone else write one for you? What will it say?

MER:  In the End is being released on Pure Steel Records. Did they find you or did you find them?

NV:  Our bassist, Stony Grantham plays with Shadowkeep from England and they are a Pure Steel Records artist. We learned of them through him. However in the summer of 2017, we met Bob Mitchell when we opened for Savior from Anger in Houston, Texas. At that time, Bob was their vocalist and also the U.S. rep for Pure Steel. We gave him a demo to listen to, and shortly after that, we were in negotiations with Pure Steel Records.

MER:  Byfist was originally formed in 1987 and broke up in 1991. In that time you recorded a single, demos, and EPs. Did you meet with any major labels during that time and what was the result?

NV:  Back in 1989, Byfist was approached by MCA Records. After some negotiating we received a great recording contract. However, behind our back, our manager partnered with an attorney from L.A. and attempted to get even more money. Therefore, MCA revoked on the deal, thus ruining our chances with a major label.

MER:  Did Byfist tour with any notable bands back in the early days or was the band more of a poplar local act in Texas?

NV:  We didn’t tour with any notable bands, however we did get to open for several acts that came through Texas such as MSG, Fates Warning, Reverend, Savatage, Trouble, Killer Dwarfs, Kings X, Man O War, Helstar, Frank Marino, Danzig, Drive, and many more.

MER:  The ’80s Rock scene was known for its excess and debauchery. What’s the craziest “rockstar” thing any member of Byfist had done during the early days that lives up to the standard of that era?

NV:  There are just too many stories to tell, and not enough time to tell them! But we do have a lot of nicknames of these stories that Dave Lee would often tell, such as:

“Tin Man”
“The Deaf, the Mute and the Thief”
“Jail Bailout with Man of Many Hats”
“Speedo Incident”
“Pee and Roll Over”
“Tar Baby”
“Happy F***ing New Year Mother F***ers!”
“Burbank Fire Marshall Bill”
“Tripping on stage props and really breaking a leg during a show”
“Escape from Hospital to Jam”
“Samuel Adams Beer Guy Trade Off”
“Not You!”

… just to name a few.

MER:  How did you decided on the band name Byfist?

NV:  This is the story that Dave [Lee] liked to tell – Back in the early ‘80s, Dave was in The Dave Lee Band and Sabatazh (pronounced Sabotage) and I was in Séance. We were two rival San Antonio bands that really had a hatred for each other. When we would see each other we would lift our two fists like a boxer at each other.

We settled our differences and I joined Sabatazh for a Halloween gig in ’82. A few years later, I left Séance and rejoined Sabatazh (now named Sabre Sabatazh) in May 1987. We decided to name the band Byfist, to reflect the two boxing fists of two rival bands merging.

How it really happened – Dave was in Sabre Sabatazh, and I was in Séance. I quit the band, and vocalist Bill Lopez asked if I wanted to play with them (Sabre Sabatazh) again, and I said, “sure”. Soon afterwards, the drummer and bassist quit, so I brought in members from my old band Séance to fill the empty spots. I asked Dave if we were going to keep the current name or change it.

He said that Bill wanted to call the band after his stage name, “Bifist”. After talking about it for a while, we both agreed that we should change the spelling to “BY” instead of “BI” to make it look more like Saxon’s vocalist Biff Byford. We wanted to do this so that we could carry on with the name Byfist just in case anything happened to Bill. So, we named the band Byfist in June 1987.

MER:  The late David Wayne of Metal Church produced your Adrenaline EP and Joe Floyd of Warrior did the engineering. How did their participation come about and what do you remember about the recording sessions?

NV:  We met David Wayne sometime in late 1988 or early 1989. Our manager at the time met D.W. at a music convention on one of his trips to Los Angeles that we sent him on. He asked D.W. if he would like to come to San Antonio and hang out with Byfist on our dime and he agreed.

D.W. visited a few times and would hang out at our rehearsals and stay at Dave Lee’s home. One day, D.W. went with us to a small recording studio close to our rehearsal place and he was totally displeased with the studio. He told us we were not getting the justice we deserved at that studio and that we needed to pack up and go to the city of Angels and record @ Joe Floyd’s Silvercloud studio in Burbank with Sean Kenisie helping to engineer.

So, in August ’89, that’s what we did. We had a great time recording the Adrenaline EP there. It was our first trip to the west coast and we enjoyed the experience very much. We met a couple of guys from Fates Warning at the studio and they participated in some gang vocals along with D.W. doing some backing vocals as well.

While there, we met Tomi, a female body builder from Louisiana. She was living in Venice Beach, and we stayed with her while we were there. She wanted to be our body guard, so took her with us to the sessions. I remember D.W. asking us with a strange look and smile on his face, “Who the f*** is this chick with all the muscles and where did you guys pick her up?” The look on his face was priceless!

MER:  Was this experience a factor in you joining Wayne’s band Reverend in 2002?

NV:  I believe it was the beginning of a great friendship with David Wayne. Dave Lee and I made sure to keep up with D.W. with phone calls every now and then and we mentioned D.W. a lot during interviews. I remember D.W. calling us and asking what we were up to because he was getting asked about Byfist in many of his own interviews. So when D.W. asked Dave if he wanted to join Reverend, he replied, “I’m not going anywhere without Nacho”, to which D.W. replied, “There’s plenty of room for Nacho.”

MER:  What lead to Byfist’s break-up in 1991?

NV:  The band found itself beginning to disintegrate, and because of poor management and bad decisions, we broke up with many unfulfilled dreams and broken promises.

MER:  What year was Byfist reactivated and what lead to that decision?

NV:  Sometime in 2000, Dave Lee and his wife came over and asked if I’d be willing to get Byfist back together to record a full length album and a live recording which we never got to do the first time around. I told him it would be cool if we could get the same lineup as when we stopped playing back in 1991. We got a hold of everyone and all were available and anxious to get back together. We also added a third guitarist to fill my place for live shows just in case I couldn’t make it since I was in another band called Igniter for the past couple of years at the time, but that band ended shortly after Byfist reunited.

MER:  You must be dying to get back out and play live in support of In the End once the lockdowns are over. Where would you like to tour and what other bands would you like to share the stage with?

NV:  We are all definitely ready to go out and play live again! We’d love to go to Europe and play some festivals, South America, Japan, U.S.A., Canada, Australia, or anywhere we are invited! Sharing the stage with any of the Metal greats like Judas Priest, Scorpions, Iron Maiden, Metallica, etc., would be amazing for us!

Byfist – 1989

MER:  Is there anything I missed you wanted to talk about?

NV:  I would like to share a little more about Byfist and our history. Byfist originated from June 1987 – June 1991 on its first go round. After a 9 year hiatus we reformed in 2000 until October 2010 when Dave Lee passed away. Dave and I were the main songwriters for the songs that are featured on our first full length album In The End, with the exception of “Scattered Wits,” which is a song we covered from Reverend to honor the late legendary vocalist and friend David Wayne.

Dave Lee, “The Tasmanian Devil,” was the driving force and led Byfist from the beginning. I have so many good memories of Dave! He had such an intense love for our music and wanted everyone to hear it. He loved to perform on stage. He was also a very good friend to me and was my older brother in Metal. He was such a great storyteller, so funny, and I learned so much from him. I really miss my friend, and it is still very hard to play without him.

However, to add to the pain is the loss of two other Byfist family members. A little more history – as early as 2009, our old vocalist Vikk Real did a show with us which started conversations of his rejoining Byfist with his wife Jeska’s encouragement. We knew her for years and she was a really great friend. Conversations increased in mid-2010 and we were making plans to welcome him back into the band when tragically, Jeska passed away from a motorcycle accident. To honor her wish, Vikk did rejoin Byfist and we did a few benefit shows for Jeska.

Then, a little over 2 months later, Dave suddenly passed away. We just lost Jeska, now we lost Dave! This was tragic and very heartbreaking for us. After Dave passed away, Vikk and I enlisted help from several friends to honor upcoming shows and did a couple more benefit shows for Jeska and the Lee Family.

Vikk and I leaned on each other for a few months, then finally decided to start writing again. Sadly, almost a year after Jeska’s death, we got the heartbreaking news that Vikk was also in a tragic accident and passed away. After losing so many people I loved, I took some time to grieve and reflect on things. In October 2012, I decided to form Byfist again to honor Dave, Vikk, Jeska and David Wayne. So with help from a previous drummer and bassist and new lead guitarist Ernie B., things started looking up.

Vocalist Raul “Diablo” Garcia joined in March 2013, bassist, Stony Grantham in January 2016, and then drummer, Scott Palmer in August 2016. These guys are great, and I feel that if Dave, Vikk, Jeska, and David Wayne could speak to us, they’d be proud and honored to call them family.

ByFist is:

Raul “Diablo” Garcia – Vocals
Nacho Vara – Guitar
Ernie B – Guitar
Stony Grantham – Bass
Scott Palmer – Drums

Band Links:

Official Website
Buy The Album


  • George Dionne

    George was a contributor here at Metal Express Radio, reviewing albums and conducting interviews, out of Massachusetts, USA. George has contributed to numerous music related websites and blogs, and even managed his own from 2004-2009. George's first assignment was covering a live show by the mighty GWAR. By contrast his later assignments featured Judas Priest, Van Halen, and Bon Jovi. George was also the front man for the South Eastern Massachusetts cover band Sound Tower from 2009-2015.  Sound Tower played 300+ shows across MA and had two original songs on the Cape Cod radio station PIXY 103. George enjoys a good whiskey, scotch, and/or bourbon and fights crime in his spare time.

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