In discussions on Hard Rock and Heavy Metal, the phrase “veteran rockers” basically means “old dudes with electric guitars” (or “badasses turned corporate vacuoles turned money-hungry corpses in makeup writhing around on a stage” if we’re talking about Aerosmith), but as long as they’re playin’ it loud and proud, age ain’t nothin’ but a number, right?
Kinda like Thruster, The Mighty Swine never fully grew out of those leather-clad and poodle-headed ‘80s Metal days of yore, a time when the guitars ran wild and so did the groupies and the V.D.
Red is a Christian Rock band that has ascended into the mainstream alongside Rock acts like Papa Roach and Korn. The band members let their faith creep into their music and their message, but do not let it define them. Earlier this year Red released its fourth studio album, Release the Panic. The album debuted in the Top 10 of the Billboard album chart, showing their strength as a national act (Red's previous release, Until We Have Faces, debuted at No. 2 in 2011).
CityBeat recently caught up with Anthony Armstrong, the band’s guitar player, who spoke about the band’s inspirations and vision for the future of Rock music. Red is playing on Friday at King’s Island in Cincinnati for Spirit Song 2013, which runs Thursday-Saturday and features some of the biggest names in Contemporary Christian music.
CityBeat: I saw you guys at (Columbus, Ohio, Hard Rock fest) Rock on the Range. What was your favorite Rock on the Range moment this year?
Anthony Armstrong: That’s a tough one. You know what is really sad, our good buddies Sevendust played right before us and we didn’t get to see their set so I was really disappointed. Papa Roach put on an incredible show every single time they take the stage, so I would say they are up there as one of the best. It was cool to see Bush. That was really cool to feel like I was in high school and to see those guys doing their thing. When they started playing “Come Down” I felt like I was right there back watching. There was an old movie from the ‘90s called Fear with Reese Witherspoon and Mark Wahlberg, and I think Bush was the entire soundtrack to that movie. I just felt like I was back in the ‘90s and high school listening to Bush records. It was cool.
CB: You guys play Christian music and are a Christian band. Is it ever hard to be on tour or at these festivals in this non-Christian atmosphere?
AA: It’s never for us. I think media outlets and sources, even in interviews like this, people are so curious about that. They ask the question because they want to understand and know the answer to how we deal with that. For us, we don’t see it any different than if we are playing a Christian show. We are all just people in general. You are going to see crazy stuff happen at those shows too. We like to hangout and we like to have a good time. We don’t get too out of control. We hang out with all these guys. We love these guys and they love us. We just show them we aren’t any different than them because we love God and we believe in God. We don’t feel like it should be something that draws a line or creates a wall that we can’t get past. It is just what we believe. There are plenty of guys up on those stages in all the different bands that believe different stuff. I say come see one of our shows. We are going to do exactly what those bands do just as good if not better. We aim high and we really try not to focus on that kind of stuff. It just complicates things. We are just a Rock band.
CB: I have seen you tour three times over the years and you never look any different or sound any different than the other bands. It is just a different message through the words.
AA: Yeah, that’s the thing with the message. We are not going in there with some sort of agenda. We are not going into these shows with some sort of recruiting mentality. We are just going to play some Rock songs. Wherever these songs reach, wherever they are in their life, if these songs inspire them, then we did our job. That’s all we care about doing. We’ve done many of the things people standing in the crowd are doing. We know they don’t work out for us. We know they are bad for us. We know the one thing that works for us is our faith. A lot of people want to hold you over the coals for it because they think it’s lame; they think it’s cheesy and you are not hardcore if you believe in God. I know more crazy, jacked-up people that believe in God than I know that don’t believe in God. We are the ones that are here because we need God because we can’t get out of our own way. A lot of the guys that turn to God and live that lifestyle were at that point. Brian (“Head” Welch) from Korn is a perfect example of that. The guy was literally on his death bed constantly getting high. He reached out and said, “If you are real I want to know. I want you to show it to me.” And God did that for him. That was just a cool story for him to hear.
CB: I know you tour a lot over the years. Do you take time out to write as a band or do you write when you are on the road?
AA: We write so much it’s ridiculous. It’s a love-hate relationship. It takes more love than anything. It’s really cool. We just released a record. We probably won’t really start diving into writing until about January or February of 2014. We usually put records out about every two and a half years. That’s about the time you start digging into the new stuff. You take this first part of a new record release to key in on the new songs and translate and see how everything goes, start paying attention to what is going on in the world. You start collecting the inspiration you need to write another record. That’s one of the things we’ve always focused on.
CB: One of my favorite songs that you guys have was your first single, “Perfect Life” — could you tell me the story behind that song?
AA: Yeah, we were out in L.A. with our new producer, we had never used him before, his name was Howard Benson. We had three records with the same guy that we still love. We will probably do another record with Rob Graves. It was just a transition for us. We wanted to try something new. We were out there in the Hollywood hills hanging out at Howard’s huge house. You could probably fit our tour bus in there three times. We were hanging out on his back patio talking about the record and what we were about to do. He said, “Check this out guys,” and we look out and there is Kim Kardashian in the compound in front of us. We started talking about that TV show and that transitioned into what it is really like out in Hollywood and what the media projects as what life really is on the Jersey Shore and all this other stuff. What life is all about when you can have these things and be this glamorous and have this lifestyle. This is the perfect life. This is what you want. This is what you can attain. We were like, “This is complete bull. You can be happy no matter what you are doing” It’s about chasing down the things people think are important. The perfect life is projected to us in a certain way. For us we are saying, find out for yourself. What is the perfect life for you? It shouldn’t be what other people do. It should be what you do.
CB: Is it hard being on the road with your brother?
AA: No, it’s not. It’s amazing. It’s really cool because in a band, when you have a band of four individuals, when you have a fight or an argument it gets pretty awkward. Randy and I are like the unofficial leaders of Red. We take care of everything from the administration to the music. I am really involved with the writing side of things. Randy is really involved in managing our affairs. When something goes down, Randy and I can usually sort it out between the two of us. We will discuss things together as a band and a group of guys. Ultimately, Randy and I can bounce things off each other and get a little heated but the guys just know we are brothers and that’s the way brothers are. We have been competitive towards each other our whole lives and now we are in a rock band together. We have never been separated. We have always been together. We went to college together. We roomed together for four years. We might as well have dated the same girls. It was just wild. I love the dynamic. They say never mix business with family, and I haven’t really experienced it being a bad thing with me and Randy being in the band together.
CB: I hear also that you cause the occasional accident over the years on stage. Any new accidents lately? I am personally surprised Michael doesn’t hurt himself more jumping around the way he does.
AA: We are more afraid of the fire now. We are pretty scared of getting burned. We have had a couple near accidents. If you get too close to the flames, it singes all the hair off your arms. Nothing has been like it used to be with injuries. I hit Michael in the head twice, sent him to the hospital once. I opened his eye and had seven staples in his head with my guitar. My brother has hit me in the face with his bass guitar and cut my eye wide open. Rock & Roll.
CB: What is your favorite guitar to play?
AA: I have a custom 24 PRS that I named Vegas after my Bulldog. It was my first PRS guitar they made for me and only me. I have a love affair with that guitar.
CB: A lot of people right now are saying that Rock is dead and Rock music is dying, that Country is the new thing selling out the stadium, it’s the new Rock. Do you believe that?
AA: I don’t believe it because when I went to Rock on the Range and I saw it is alive and well. I don’t believe that Rock & Roll has its act together. We live in Nashville, Tenn. We see the CMA Awards and the CMT Awards. You see how it is such a different animal. It would be really cool to see Rock get its act together and have that sort of Rock N Roll Awards. The MTV Awards used to be about Rock. We don’t have anything specific to us. We don’t have anything specific to Rock Music in general. It’s the Grammys or we are part of something. I would love to see that sort of thing happen. Other than that, I don’t think in a million years the world would be livable without Rock N Roll. It’s something in Rock music makes you feel. It gets you fired up and people love that feeling. It’s like drugs.
CB: What current music is inspiring you guys or you personally?
AA: There is such great music right now. In Rock N Roll right now, I’d say, we are big Muse fans. We have always been huge Sevendust fans. When we first moved here, I think I had to buy their record three times because I listened to it over and over and over. We are inspired by not just the music. We get out on the road with these guys and see what kind of guys they are. They work their tails off. We are all scratching for our place and hoping things just work out and it is just cool to see other bands doing things we do.
CB: I am sure you guys are going to have a great set here in Cincinnati at Kings Island.
AA: They won’t let us use fire this weekend.
CB: I have seen your show with fire and without fire and it is always good.
AA: We consider it icing on the cake, another cool thing. We want to be able to stand alone without it. When we can use it, we use a lot of it. What is funny, Rock on the Range, this summer when we play festivals, we do 28 points of flames, 28 different nozzles of fire. It’s just fire but it is so much fun. It is such a cool thing.
CB: After that show, are you going back on tour this summer?
AA: Yeah. Right now, the summer is chalked full of festivals. We will play festival dates and it is really cool for us because we play the big late night stages where we can do the pyro and stuff. After that we will get into the fall and have a couple tour options but we are not allowed to talk about the yet because they haven’t been announced. We are going overseas. We are going to Europe for three weeks right before Thanksgiving. We have some stuff happening.
Anthrax has shaped the heavy metal movement in America. The band recently released its 10th studio album, Worship Music, which brings back the band’s early sound with the re-emergence of lead vocalist Joey Belladonna. I love heavy metal guitars, so it was a privilege to speak to one of the all time metal guitar greats, Scott Ian, to preview their performance at Mayhem Fest Tuesday at Riverbend Music Center.
CityBeat caught up with Ian to discuss the highlights of Mayhem so far and how being a father has changed his perspective on life and music.
CityBeat: What has been the highlight of Mayhem Fest so far for you?
Scott Ian: For me personally it is just the overall vibe. This is the first time we have done a U.S. festival traveling tour in the summer. We kind of knew what to expect since we are friends with Slayer, Slipknot and Motorhead, but it has been so much fun to hang with our friends. The crew and everyone who works with Mayhem have been great and it really is a big family vibe out here. It is a really great place to show up for work.
CB: What has it been like having Joey back the past few tours with the band?
SI: It’s been like two and a half years already. Hopefully that answers the question. It is obviously been going great. We couldn’t be happier with the record we made. We couldn’t be happier with the way shows have been going. I think this is by far the best version of Anthrax that we have ever had.
CB: You became a father last year for the first time. Has this changed your perspective on writing music or life in general?
SI: I haven’t really written yet since he was born because we have been in touring mode. One way that my perspective overall has changed is now having this person in my life that I love beyond anything I can comprehend. It makes me hate the human race even more because of all the pressure that comes with raising a child and wanting to protect him. People ask what do you have to be angry about and there is plenty to be pissed off about now. Look at what happened in Colorado last night with the guy shooting people in a movie theater. It sickens me to the pit of my stomach for a million reasons. What if that was my child in the movie theater?
CB: It is terrible and it is beyond my comprehension how that can happen.
SI: Up until he was born, I had my wife and close family but they are adults and are responsible for themselves. Now we have this person that is 100 percent helpless and relies on us to take care of him, so there is this protective instinct that showed up as soon as he was born. I think that will have a big impact on my writing in the future when the time comes.
CB: Do they come visit you on the road?
SI: Yes they are here right now and have been with me for 10 days.
CB: What is the longest you have gone without playing guitar?
SI: Probably way back in 1977 when I broke my wrist at a skateboard park and I couldn’t play guitar for two months because I had a cast on. I was so bummed that I couldn’t play guitar that I pretty much gave up any type of fancy skateboarding on ramps or pools. The guitar was definitely more of a priority.
CB: What is the biggest difference for you touring versus in the 1980s?
SI: Sometimes we sit around and talk about how did we ever get anything done before we had cell phones and laptops? In the ’80s no one even knew what a cell phone was. I remember the first time a tour manager had that big briefcase thing with a phone in it and it was something like $18 a minute to use it. The idea that we were able to do stuff back then and everything got done is amazing. I try to think about how it got done and I have no idea how we made it through one day let alone a whole tour without the technology.
CB: What habit would you like to break?
SI: I don’t know. I don’t smoke. I don’t drink excessively. My wife is saying talking with my mouth full so I guess I will go with that as a born and bred New Yorker.
CB: What adjectives do you hope describe you at 75?
SI: I hope when I am 75 no one has anything to say about me. I hope the only thing they say is “What ever happened to that guy?” because I am so far off the grid by that point.
CB: I doubt that will happen.
SI: No, we will probably still be playing music and people will say “I can’t believe he is still banging his head.”
CB: What has been your craziest fan story over the past few years?
SI: The craziest audiences in the world are in South America in Chile with the craziest fans overall. We do a signing every day at the Rockstar Energy Drink tent and we get to meet a lot of fans every day on this tour. Anyone who would get anything Anthrax related tattooed on their body is amazing to me. I can’t really call it too crazy because I have Gene Simmons and Angus from AC/DC tattooed on me. I understand that point of view of being such a fan that you would be willing to make that commitment but being the guy in Anthrax and seeing an Anthrax-related tattoo makes you feel great because I know the commitment and I know how much Anthrax must mean to them.
CB: What is the best guitar solo of all time?
SI: Eddie Van Halen “Eruption.”
Anthrax performs July 24 at Mayhem Fest at Riverbend Music Center. More information: rockstarmayhemfest.com.
Music Tonight: Popular Detroit Psychobilly/Punkabilly/Powerbilly trio The Koffin Kats hot-rod it into Newport for a show at the Southgate House. While the band, which formed in 2003, has done the Psychobilly schtick, writing songs with Horror and Sci Fi themes, the Kats' more "real life" songs have always been around and, over the years, become more dominant in KK sets and on albums. That should be especially evident on the upcoming Our Way & The Highway, due in mid-January, which reflects what singer/bassist Zac Victor told CityBeat was a general move towards a "Bruce Springsteen approach more than a Dracula approach" and even more reflective of their broad musical influences. Read the entire interview with Victor at citybeat.com, then catch the band tonight at SGH with Dr. Bombay, The Returners, Vice Tricks and Switchblade Syndicate. Showtime is 9 p.m. Tickets are $10 ($13 for those ages 18-20). Below, check out the great, swoony track (anybody else hear some Smiths in there?) "The Bottle Called" from last year's "split album" with 12 Step Rebels called From Our Hands to Yours (it will also be on the new album).
John 5 has seen almost everything in Rock music. He's toured with David Lee Roth, Marilyn Manson and Rob Zombie (with whom he's currently rockin') and been credited on songs from a wide range of artists — from Saliva to Salt n Pepa to k.d. lang to an upcoming collaboration with Rod Stewart. The guitarist has gained the reputation as a musical genius and one of the most action-packed guitarists in the world. He has just released his sixth solo album, God Told Me To, which mixes acoustic Spanish guitar along with Metal riffs.
CityBeat caught up with the guitar player to talk about the new album and some of the darker aspects of what goes into his writing, as well as the lighter aspects help put him to sleep every night. John 5 will take the stage with headliner Rob Zombie this Sunday at Rock on the Range in Columbus.
CityBeat: Can you tell us about the name of your album, God Told Me To?
John 5: The name, it is funny because … I am from Michigan, I am from Grosse Pointe. I was upper class growing up there. I was brought up in a really nice environment and home and I remember the night before I was leaving for California to really give it my shot saying, “I am going to try this. I am going to try to be this musician type of thing.” I remember I was saying my little prayer. I never wished to be a “rock star.” I just wanted to be a working musician. My dreams didn’t even go past a session player or a working musician. It was too far beyond my dreams. That’s kind of what the title means, that kind of thing, but also you can look at in the negative way, like when someone does a horrific murder, they always say, “Oh, God told me to.”
CB: I have read a lot of discussion in your recent interviews about serial killers and even the song “Night Stalker” being written about Richard Ramirez. Do you have an interest in serial killers and the history and stories behind them?
J5: I think it is interesting to me about how the mind works and how someone is wired, how their mind works, how it is completely OK to do these things, which I could never even think of doing something like that. It was always so interesting to read about this or watch documentaries. It is so odd for something like that to happen, so I have always had this little fascination with it — not that I am pro-for that kind of thing or anything but it is just very interesting to see something like that.
CB: I got a copy of the album and have been listening to it today. I love the acoustic Spanish-style versions on some of the songs. I know you are a lifelong learner. Did you take specific lessons around Flamenco or Spanish-style guitar lessons?
J5: Yes, I have always tried to learn, it is what keeps me sane. I love to learn and I started doing a lot of studying of Spanish-style music and really started getting into it and how it is just a completely different form of guitar playing. It is just like if you started speaking in a different language like Japanese or something. It is something that you have to study and work at a lot. That is what I enjoy because I love the guitar so much. Yes, I did a lot of studying and research on that.
CB: What current music is inspiring me right now?
J5: What current music is inspiring? You know what, and this will be a surprise, but I usually am very honest. I have had a little epiphany and this is very shocking. I was watching some movie or something like that and a N.W.A. song was on and I am no fan of Rap music, I really am not because I like the guitar. So I heard this N.W.A. song, I think it was “Gangsta Gangsta,” and I was like, “This is really, really, really good.” It was eye-opening to me and I appreciate it now. I was pretty taken back by it. I would have to say N.W.A. (is a current inspiration), which I can’t believe I am saying but it is the truth.
CB: There are a lot of bands right now collaborating outside their genres. Korn has collaborated with Skrillex and trying to create a lot of different sounds which would traditionally maybe not be in Metal music.
J5: Sure, and I think it is very important for that to happen because of the fact music has to always evolve and if it doesn’t, it has failed. It is good that it is evolving.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve heard the buzz about the World Choir Games, which will feature 20,000 participants from across the globe representing cultural singing traditions and some serious musical expertise competing right here in Cincinnati.
So, this July, it’s going to be the summer of song in Cincinnati, thanks to the massive influx of singing professionals for the 2012 World Choir Games. But even those who can’t afford tickets for the games will be able to engage in 11-day musical celebration, thanks to the “Friendship Concerts.”
The fruitcakes have been throw away, the eggnog is spoiled, the big ball dropped, the champagne is gone and we’ve all had time to reflect on 2008. Now, chin up, sport — it’s time to start looking ahead to 2009 and what lies ahead for Cincinnati’s local music scene.
If the first release of 2009 (well, the first to cross my desk anyway) is any indication, we’re in for another great year for locally crafted CDs. The “New Year’s Eve baby” of the local CD world comes from newcomers Hazle Weatherfield, a promising trio that celebrates its debut release with a show this Saturday at The Mad Hatter in Covington.
It was the keen eye of photographer and close friend Chuck Madden who first caught the clues on Walk The Moon's Facebook page that seemed to indicate the band would be doing something special for their fans at Bonnaroo this weekend.
On little more than a hunch Chuck insisted that we check out "Kaleidoscope Space Tribe" at 3 p.m. on the Sonic Stage. Sure enough, at five past the hour WTM bounded out on stage and proceeded to artfully bash through a 30 minute set of Talking Heads songs including "Girlfriend Is Better," "Burning Down The House," "Psycho Killer" and more. Considering the huge crowd they played to just two nights ago in the Other Tent, this performance was an ultra rare treat for the clever and faithful two or three hundred fans who figured it out.
Dwight Yoakam seemed mildly irritated at Saturday's 4 p.m. press conference. Perhaps sensing that the Bonnaroo press corps might be too young to know his story, Yoakam quickly sketched a casual crash course on his career dating back to the ’80s. Rather unexpectedly, Dwight struck up a rapport with fellow panelist, comedian Reggie Watts, as the two of them discussed their mutual love of Hee Haw.
Dwight's 7 p.m. performance in That Tent began with an eight-song medley during which the band never paused for a breath, rocking through one continuous segue that included the songs "Please Please Baby," "Little Sister," "Streets Of Bakersfield" and Buck Owens' classic, "Act Naturally."