Hi Richard! Tell me about CHARRED WALLS OF THE DAMNED, what the name means and how you came up with it?
Thank you very much for interviewing me and being interested in my band! I love telling the story about the band name because it came about in a very unique way. Last year I was trying for about two months to come up with a band name. It is nearly impossible to come up with a cool band name nowadays because every cool name has already been taken! Every time I would think of a cool band name I would Google it and find out that another band already had the name! I had a list of about 100 possible names and none of them really grabbed me, it was getting very frustrating. Then one day something magical happened and I found my band name. I was working at my day job on The Howard Stern Show which is a popular comedy radio show in America. My job there is very fun, I get paid to write funny songs and comedy bits and also make prank phone calls! One day my comedy partner Sal Governale and I were prank calling a Religious Christian Radio Station in the southern part of America. The Religious DJ found out that Sal and I were prank calling his radio station and started yelling on the air at us and said that because we were prank calling him we were going to hell and we would be scratching our nails on the Charred Walls of the Damned! Sal and I looked at each other and both said - That's an awesome band name! I immediately Google the name and nobody had it! So that's how I got the band name!
Your self titled debut album sounds like a killer! Tell me a little bit about the writing process.
Thank you very much, I'm glad you like it! I started writing the songs about two years ago and after writing several songs I decided that I wanted to put together a band and record an album. I would record the guitars, bass, drums and also sing my vocal ideas on all of the songs. I finished nine songs before we went in the studio. I did about two days of preproduction with my producer/guitar player Jason Suecof and we rearranged some of the songs and also made some of the songs a little shorter and tighter. Jason is a great songwriter and he had some excellent ideas about how to improve the songs and make them even better. The songs on the album are pretty close to what they sound like on the demos but they're much better because I told Jason, Steve, and Tim to also use some of their ideas and suggestions. It was so exciting to hear the songs progress from the demo stage to the actual album.
How you got Tim “Ripper” Owens, Steve DiGiorgio and Jason Suecof to form with you?
I've known Jason for over ten years now. I met him in 1999 when I was living in Florida. We've been really good friends since we met and we've also been writing songs together for many years. Jason and I have been talking about putting a band together for a long time. Jason is an amazing songwriter and killer guitar player so he was definitely my first choice for producer and guitar player and I knew he would really be into it. I've also known Steve for over ten years and he's my favorite bass player ever. The stuff he did with Sadus and Death is legendary. We had a blast recording the Control Denied album together and I knew we would have a lot of fun in the studio together, he has a great sense of humor and he's also friends with Jason so I knew we would all have a lot of fun together recording the album. Same with Tim, he has a great sense of humor and he's my favorite singer so I was so excited when he said he would join my band. We had a lot of fun touring together in Iced Earth and his voice sounded amazing every night so I couldn't wait to hear him singing on the Charred Walls of the Damned songs.
When comparing CHARRED WALLS OF THE DAMNED to your past bands (ICED EARTH, DEASTH, CONTROL DENIED), in my opinion the album is a sequel of these bands and adds on the majesty of MERCYFUL FATE. Did you agree with that?
Yes I definitely agree with that and it is an honor to be compared to all of those bands! I was a huge Death and Iced Earth fan even before I played in the bands so they are definitely an influence on me. I've also been a huge King Diamond and Mercyful Fate fan since I was 12 years old so they're a huge influence on me also. I love metal music that is super heavy but also melodic. A lot of the late eighties and early nineties death metal is so amazing because the bands were super heavy but also had a catchiness to their songs and a lot of melody like Morbid Angel, Malevolent Creation and Dismember. Nowadays there are still some bands that mix melody with super heavy music and vocals like Amon Amarth, I love them and they're one of my favorite bands because they're super heavy but also very melodic. I wanted the Charred Walls of the Damned album to be super heavy but also have a lot of melody and catchy songs where people could sing along to them.
Which bands have inspired your music and your drumming?
King Diamond is definitely one of the biggest influences on my drumming and also my songwriting. Mikkey Dee's drumming is so incredible on all of King's albums and I've been practicing the drums to those albums since I was 12 years old. I also love the riffs in King Diamond's music. The riffs are all very memorable, heavy and very melodic. Wrathchild America is also a huge influence on my songwriting and drumming. Their drummer Shannon Larkin is probably the biggest influence on my drumming and he's also a really cool guy, I've met him and we've become friends and talk about horror movies alot because we're both huge horror movie fans. Wrathchild America's songs are so technical, heavy and catchy and I love them so much. Their two albums Climbin' The Walls and 3-D are classics and I wish more people knew about them because they are one of the most incredible metal bands ever!
Your first record will be released by Metal Blade Records. How do you feel about that?
I am so honored and excited to have Metal Blade Records releasing my album! I've been a huge fan of the label since I was a little kid living in Kansas. I used to order the Metal Massacre cassette tapes through the mail back in the 1980's and I discovered so many great bands through those compilations. Brian Slagel is such a great guy, we're really good friends and he's also a metal legend so I'm honored to be working with him! There are so many awesome bands on the label right now like Amon Amarth, King Diamond, Lizzy Borden, Cannibal Corpse and so many others! I would love to tour with any of the Metal Blade bands because I'm a huge fan of most of them!
Where do you draw your inspiration from when you write the lyrics?
All of my lyrics are very personal. It's much easier for me to write lyrics about things that are very personal for me and things that are true in my life than to create stories that are fictional. My lyrics are mostly positive too because I love writing about things that make me happy and have inspired me in life. One song "Blood On Wood" is about my love for drumming and how I work so hard at practicing the drums that sometimes I bleed for it. One day I was rehearsing the drums for the Charred Walls of the Damned album and I looked down and one of my drumsticks was covered in blood because a blood blister on my finger popped. Then I thought about how much I love drumming and how because of drumming I've been able to travel the world and make music with my friends. That night I wrote the lyrics for "Blood on Wood". I also wrote a song called "Fear in the Sky" that is about my fear of flying which is a very personal thing for me. One day after taking a flight that was very turbulent and very scary I wrote down the lyrics for "Fear in the Sky" about how I feel when I fly on an airplane. The song "Manifestations" is about my fear of dying and how I would love to see a Ghost because it would show to me that there is an afterlife and I wouldn't be scared of dying. Hopefully a lot of people will be able to relate to my lyrics because they're about very personal things that a lot of people deal with.
Who did the artwork on your debut album?
Chet Zar. He is an artist in California who I'm a huge fan of. I was so excited when he emailed me and said he would like to do my album cover. The cover that is on the Digi Pack isn't actually the full cover also. Most people have seen that picture of shadows scratching on wall and they don't know that it's only a small portion of the cover. On the cover of the actual booklet inside the Digi Pack is the full artwork for the album which also includes some really cool looking creatures waiting for the Damned souls who are scratching on the Charred Walls of the Damned. We'll be releasing the full artwork to the public soon and hopefully we'll be doing some vinyl albums and picture discs with the full artwork on them!
Most of the people in the USA know who you are because working on the Howard Stern show, but not as an awesome metal drummer. Are people surprised when they find out you played drums in Heavy Metal bands like DEATH or ICED EARTH?
Yes I do get a lot of emails from fans of the Howard Stern Show who say they knew me from Howard but then they found out I was also the drummer from Death and Iced Earth and they are very surprised! I'm very lucky to be working on a very popular radio show where I get to talk about metal and also I've introduced Howard to some really heavy bands like Six Feet Under and Cannibal Corpse that he's played on the air! Howard is very nice and he's let me play drums on the air and also he's played some of the music I've done with Death and Iced Earth which is very cool. He also played the song "Ghost Town" from Charred Walls of the Damned last month which was very cool of him, he said he really liked the song which made me very happy! Howard Stern's TV channel called Howard TV also did a drumming special about me a few years ago and they talked alot about my past with Death and Iced Earth. I also wrote an original instrumental for the Howard TV drumming special entitled "Frost" which helped inspire me to keep writing music and put together a band.
Are you already planning a tour through Europe and especially Germany?
Yes definitely, I'm so excited to get back on stage and play these songs! I'm working with a management company here in New York City and we're talking with some booking agents about doing some festivals this summer in Europe. It's been eight years since I've been on tour in Europe and I want to come back so much! The metal fans in Europe are so amazing and the shows are always incredible there!
What do you think is the difference between the Metal scene today and the scene of the 80/90s?
I'm very excited that Metal is very popular at the moment and a lot of metal bands from the 80's that I love are still playing arenas around the world like Slayer, Megadeth, Anthrax and Metallica. I know that all four of those bands are playing festivals in Europe this summer and I want to see some of those shows so bad! The fact that all four of those bands will be touring together lets everyone know that Metal is alive and well in 2010! I think the internet helps a lot of bands because they can promote their albums and music all over the world for free through websites like Facebook and Myspace but the internet has also hurt the music business very much in terms of album sales and illegal downloading which is a shame. I love that a lot of my favorite bands from the 80's are reuniting and playing shows because I was too young in the 1980's to see a lot of them in concert. My dream come true would be if Wrathchild America reformed and went on tour, I would go see every show! I never got to see them live although one of my favorite concert moments ever is when I saw Souls at Zero in 1995. Souls at Zero had several members of Wrathchild America in the band so me and three of my friends started yelling out "Silent Darkness" which is my favorite Wrathchild America song and they played it just for us! It was incredible! Metal is something that will be around forever and I'm so happy for that because I will be a Metal fan forever!
Which are your favourite bands out there right now?
I love Amon Amarth very much. I think their album With Oden On Our Side is one of the greatest albums ever. Every song is so heavy and catchy and it really is a perfect album. I'm a huge fan of Nevermore and I can't wait for their new album. They're working with Peter from Soilwork and I'm also a big Soilwork fan so I can't wait to hear their work together! I love Coheed and Cambria too. I think they write amazing songs and now they have one of my favorite drummers playing with them Chris Pennie. They let me introduce them when they played at Madison Square Garden in New York City which was a huge honor! The video is on Youtube.com and it really was one of the most exciting nights of my life because I got to introduce one of my favorite bands in front of 15,000 people! I also love the new Volbeat album. I just saw them at Madison Square Garden opening for Metallica and they were amazing!
Do you have anything else to add?
Thank you very much for interviewing me! It is honor to know that metal fans in Europe will be listening to my album! Europe has always been very supportive of heavy metal and I'm very excited for all of the fans to hear my album. It comes out Tuesday February 2nd on Metal Blade Records and if you go to the online store at MetalBlade.com you can order copies of the album autographed by the whole band! If you want to keep up with news about Charred Walls of the Damned you can go to CharredWallsoftheDamned.com and I'll be posting updates about touring and other news about the band! Thank you and always Keep It Metal!!!