Monday, October 18, 2010

Byron Stroud: City of Fire

Lisa Selvaggio: So you’re keeping really busy lately with all of your bands, particularly being on tour right now for Fear Factory and doing interviews for City of Fire. How’s everything been overall?

Byron Stroud: I’m kinda used to it because back in the day I’d do Strapping Young Lad and Zimmer’s Hole, my two bands. We’d tour together. And then I joined Fear Factory, and I had three bands. So I’ve been pretty used to it. In the last few years, we’ve had some time off, concentrating on getting things going with City of Fire. And now it’s coming up again where all of a sudden I have to think about scheduling City of Fire around Fear Factory. I think as long as you communicate with all the people involved (agents, managers, and band members) and let everybody know what your plans are, you can make anything work. The good thing about Fear Factory is that Dino’s got Divine Heresy so he’s got that as well, and, of course, Burton’s got Ascension of the Watchers, and Gene plays in like every single metal band on the planet ::laughs:: so there’s tons of shit going on. So we just basically try to figure out what’s happening as much as possible, make sure everyone knows what our plans are, and it’s actually pretty manageable.

LS: Is it any easier or harder to establish a new group like City of Fire when you are already so well known in the scene (any more pressure; easier to get your music out there; etc.)?

BS: I thought it would be a little harder, but I think because the record is nothing like the other bands we play in, and people seem to be really enjoying it, it’s been pretty easy. The Strapping fans, the Fear Factory fans, are all digging this, which is kinda surprising. I can see how some guys leave bands and have a really hard time getting a new band together and off the ground, but this one seems the music speaks for itself and people are really enjoying it, and it’s coming together quite easily. I’m a little surprised about that, actually. I think if we had made a full-on metal album, a bit of Fear Factory sound in it and stuff, I don’t think people would be behind it as much as they are.

LS: The band itself seems to be based upon the idea of internal, driving fire and creative expression. For those readers who haven’t yet heard the album or read the lyrics, what can you tell us about the meanings behind the songs themselves, individually and/or collectively?

BS: Musically, we just wanted to do something that was, like I said, that wasn’t like the other bands we played in. We wanted to make a record that was something we were all into. Burton and I had been discussing it for a long time, since I joined Fear Factory, that we had a lot of the same influences and stuff, so musically, we wanted to explore our influences and from bands we were really into. So we started writing songs and they started coming together that way, and we were really happy. And lyrically, Burton wrote a love record; it’s about life, love, and losses, and that’s something he’s never really had the chance to write before. It really was quite emotional for him on a lot of the songs on the record.

LS: So, being that you’re promoting the band, what can we expect from City of Fire in the near future?

BS: We’re looking at doing a tour in the States in December/January. We’re gonna tour as much as possible and then next year we’ll probably take 6 months before we settle down to do a new Fear Factory album or whatever and then we’re gonna tour the hell out of it. We got so many songs down. The cool thing about City of Fire is that it’s not just a project, this is a band, and we knew that from the first song we recorded together. We were like, oh my god, there’s so much creativity with this band; we could’ve recorded 30, 40 songs. So there’s gonna be lots more from us in the future.

LS: Based on your experience, now that CDs aren’t really selling, what are the best ways for bands to make money?

BS: Definitely touring. I haven’t been home pretty much since December, because of the Fear Factory stuff that’s coming out. We hit the road and it’s like you gotta make it up on touring. We’re playing the same size shows, the same amount of people come out and know the songs but a 1/3 of them, or less than that even, 1/4 of ‘em, actually bought the record. So you gotta get out there and collect money from the door, them buying tickets and t-shirts and whatever else you’re supplying them with.

Rob Acocella: Now that they’re saving money not buying music, are they spending more on t-shirts?

BS: Yeah, I think so.

RA: At least you make it up then.

BS: Yeah, it’s harder work, but it’s fine. You have to get out there and make other stuff available. So you have bands now that have 10 different t-shirt designs, underwear, stickers, socks ::laughs:: because people will buy it. It’s not unheard of for somebody to drop their credit card on the table and say “gimme one of everything.” That happens often. You can make money but you have to get out there and work it.

LS: Do you find that social media now allows you to get any closer to fans, or is it simply nothing more than a promotional outlet to advertise what you’re up to?

BS: Well, when it really started to come about, I thought I’d get closer to the fans, but then you find out a lot of them aren’t really fans, and once you start hearing all that hurtful shit, ::laughs:: it’s like, you don’t even fuckin’ know me, what are you talking about? They get personal or they tell you you suck or you hear 10 times that you’re fat, you say fuck it, I don’t even wanna go on this thing anymore. ::laughs:: So now it just ends up being a promotional tool. You just don’t wanna deal with these 12-year-old kids in their parents’ basement talkin’ shit. In one case, I love it because it gets my music out there, and on the other hand, I hate it because I don’t want to deal with it; I don’t have time for it in my life. I don’t have Facebook anymore for that reason, because it just got so clogged up with fans, and I appreciate it and I try to be on top of it, but when people start talking shit about you because you’re not replying to emails or posts on the wall, it becomes a pain in the ass. It’s like, I don’t have time for that, I have multiple bands and I have businesses to run. I have a motorcycle shop, a rehearsal studio, a production company. I don’t have time to be on my computer all day checking my Facebook. ::laughs::

RA: I never knew you had a motorcycle shop.

BS: Yeah, myself and the singer from Zimmer’s Hole, he built custom choppers, and I love to ride bikes, and when we had extra time after Fear Factory and Strapping; so first thing I did was got a record deal for Zimmer’s Hole so we could do a new record and then we talked about putting a motorcycle shop together. I thought to myself, what do I love to do? I love playing music, I love riding motorcycles. So we found a space where we could have some rehearsal spaces and bands could jam (3 Inches of Blood is one of our bands in there), and on the other half of the shop we had a motorcycle shop and a couple friends of ours could build bikes. It’s an awesome little complex.

LS: Going back to what City of Fire is all about – finding inspiration even in a bleak environment – I’m sure you can find inspiration pretty much wherever you go in the world we currently live in. Is there anything going on right now, nationally or globally even, that really gets your fire burning?

BS: Obviously, the oil spill in the Gulf is making everybody so angry, especially Burton is losing his fuckin’ mind off it. He’s going off every night and making a speech on stage and whatnot. We end up talking about boycotting oil and stuff like that. We were talking about them (BP) being held accountable for what they’ve done. We still like to drive our cars and tour busses ::laughs:: but there’s gotta be something done. Somebody’s gotta be held accountable, somebody’s gotta pay, go to jail; something’s gotta happen. It’s driving us crazy. So I’m sure the next City of Fire of Fear Factory record will be full of that stuff.

LS: You guys are signed to your own indy record label, correct?

BS: It is. I put together a production company, and our first project was City of Fire. The idea was to start our own thing and get it rolling, try to figure out this business and try to do it a different way. So we made a record and put it on the Internet and did some self-promotion and sold a few copies online and whatnot, and realized it’s not quite there yet, you still need to get the stores, still need to get the distribution. So we started talking to Candlelight about a licensing deal and basically we recorded 3 extra tracks for people to hopefully want to pick up the record again. And Candlelight is super behind it, cross-promotion with Fear Factory and everything, and they loved the record. So that’s the route we’re gonna go with now.

LS: With being on an indy label, what are the benefits and drawbacks as opposed to being on a well-established label?

BS: Pretty much we get to whatever the hell we want. This is my thing, we’re gonna do this, and that’s the way it’s gonna be. There’s no pressure, timelines, or all that stuff. The downfall to that is you don’t have the networking that a lot of labels have. Candlelight, Century Media, and all those labels, they have all these people getting records from them and the media’s in their back pockets. We didn’t have that so we had to outsource for that stuff. That’s why we ended up going to Candlelight for licensing because we just couldn’t do it on our own; it was too much work for myself and three partners. But we got to do what we wanted and make a record we wanted. Whereas a lot of times, before any recording money is given, they wanna hear demos and they’re a little taken aback like “oh you’re a little more serious this time with the music.” With City of Fire we didn’t have to worry about what anybody else thought about it.

LS: Lots of luck on the rest of your tour with Fear Factory. It’s always a great show when you guys play. Do you guys change-up the setlist?

BS: There’s obviously the same songs we play every night, like “Edgecrusher” and “Mechanize” and “Powershifter” and “Fear Campaign” and “Demanufacture” and “Replica.” But then everything else kinda gets moved around. It depends on how many bands are on the bill and how long we can play for.

LS: Anything else you wanna add?

BS: We want people to know this isn’t a side project, it’s an actual band. Burton and I look at this as our future, and there’s gonna be more records to come and more touring. It’s gonna be a good time.

For more photos: DIGImmortal Photo

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Guitarist John 5

Rob Acocella: On your new solo album, The Art of Malice, you've really captured a bunch of different styles of playing. Aside from obviously being a fan of these genres, what made you want to put out something so eclectic?

John 5: To show my appreciation for different styles of music and to have a little variety instead of the same thing over and over again. You won't get tired listening to the cd because you never know what you are going to get next.

RA: You've worked with a lot of big names that would probably surprise some people who weren't familiar with your extensive array of work. Of all those collaborations, writing gigs, recording gigs, etc., who surprised you the most? Meaning, who turned out to be completely different than you had expected going in to the project?

J5: I would say Lynyrd Skynyrd. I had no idea I’d ever get a chance to play with them. That was one of the shinning moments of working with artists. Also playing live with K.D. Lang. I never thought I’d do something for such a great artist as her.

RA: You get quite a lot of sound out of your gear, what does your pedalboard setup look like?

J5: My pedal board setup is almost comical because it’s all Boss pedals except for wah wah
1st I have a noise supressor, 2nd chord, 3rd super overdrive, 4th crybaby wah wah. It’s very simple because I like to have the sound, and do everything with my fingers instead.

RA: Bringing Joey from Slipknot on tour with Rob Zombie seems like a good choice to us. Do you foresee this being somewhat of a permanent position for him despite obvious priorities with Slipknot down the road? Have you guys talked at all about if he's just doing the tour or if he'll be involved in anything more in the future?

J5: We’ve had a great time playing shows and doing the tour with Joey. It’s a great fit and the fans love it a lot. I’ve known him for 10 years and this is the first time we’ve played together so it’s a lot of fun for me.

RA: This is not meant to start any fires, jut an honest, innocent question, but what's it like working for someone like Rob Zombie, who is so involved in many aspects of art? The man makes music, movies, comics... he's probably got a very clear vision of how he wants ever y aspect of the live performance to look. Do you guys get any say regarding the creative process, or do you all pretty much know to step back and let him mastermind the whole thing?

J5: He definitely is the mastermind behind the stage and everything. He does ask our opinions. “What do you guys think, how can we make it better?” It’s never good enough, that’s for sure. I learn a lot watching and hearing what he has to stay about the stage show the look. It’s all a learning process and it’s great.

RA: Your stage image really seemed, to me anyway, to take form during your time with Marilyn Manson. Obviously Rob Zombie is the perfect place to continue your look, but what did you look like before the Manson years? Were you always into the face painting and all that or is that something that became a part of your identity as an artist later on?

J5: I’ve always been into the face painting, as you call it, because of Kiss and things like that. I look at it as entertainment. It’s really a lot of fun to put on war paint before we go onstage.

Lisa Selvaggio: You've worked both as part of a band and as a solo artist. What insight can you give about the advantages and drawbacks of each of those scenarios in today's music industry?

J5: It is tough in today’s industry. There are less and less places to buy music. Record stores are going out of business and it’s harder and harder to buy a CD. But the one saving grace is that music will always be here.

LS: Some of our favorite musicians have said that they don't really listen to the radio because they don't like the music that's out there now. Is that the case with you, or are you more of a fan of today's above-ground bands?

J5: I’m a fan of music, so whatever is good I listen to. Doesn’t matter if it’s new or old. If someone has a great song I am the first to listen and appreciate. How can I keep growing and learning as an artist if I don’t find out what the competition is out there?

LS: How important do you think it is for a musician to be classically trained (i.e. go to college and pursue a degree in music)? We've seen that in some cases, the training stifles the musician's creativity. How much do you think the music classroom hinders or helps a creative spirit?

J5: I don’t think it really affects that much. I’ve only had to read music in a handful of situations. I wish I had more reading gigs, but I am happy with the school I’ve received early on learning music and learning theory.

LS: Seems the music industry is gearing up for a total transition from CDs to digital tracks. How do you feel about this?

J5: I like cds, the physical product of a cd, but on the other hand, I don’t know when the last time I was that I purchased a cd. I go to iTunes and download. Either way I’m fine with it.

LS: Well, John, thanks again for taking the time to do this interview. Is there anything else you'd like to add or promote before we close this interview?

J5: Check out my new solo CD, “Art of Malice” and come see me on tour!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Get to Know Independent Band: Had Enough

Lisa Selvaggio: How long have you been working on this project, and what was the inspiration behind it?
Had Enough: Two years. Reality is my main inspiration; my music takes on many different topics such as my personal life, politics, the music industry, etc.

LS: How would you describe your image and your sound?
HAD ENOUGH: I don't really have an image. I don't focus too much on that. My sound can be best described as Lyrical Hip-Hop.

LS: Who are you most influenced by musicially as well as lyrically?
HAD ENOUGH: Mostly Immortal Technique, Jedi Mind Tricks, Ill Bill, Diabolic, and the older work of Eminem.

LS: What excites you and/or scares you the most about the music industry as we know it today?
HAD ENOUGH: What scares me the most is how much "puppet work" is being put into place. Too many artists that are huge today are just copy and paste artists, not very much originality is being put out there. And the mainstream cats that do have some sort of original style are half-assing it. But I'm excited to see today marks a great time for independent artists to break through; if they just stay true to themselves and continue to work harder and release quality music, they have a bright future ahead of them. And I'm stoked to see that indie labels are helping small-time artists progress. I always tell people, the best music is in the underground.

LS: What do you have coming up in the near future (ex: album, tour, etc.)?
HAD ENOUGH: My debut album, No American Dream Left is set to drop on iTunes May 21st following a few Midwest tours. I'm also dropping a couple of mixtapes on my page ( in November, and then I'll be hitting the studio for my second album, Death to Prima Donnas. Yeah, I'm always working! ::laughs::

Monday, July 12, 2010

Get to Know Independent Band: Man and Machines

Lisa Selvaggio: How long have you been working on this project, and what was the inspiration behind it?
Ricki Gunz: Me and Angi have been working together on Man and Machines since 2002. In the beginning, Man and Machines was just me doing live Techno/Industrial shows at clubs. Then in early 2002, Angi Gunz joined the band to help write lyrics and then would later become the second vocalist. In the beginning, the theme was very theatrical with many props. Later on, from 2003-2008 the sound changed to a more polished EBM edge. What inspires us is life, politics, and the dark side of the human mind. The new sound of Man and Machines will be very different from previous works.

LS: How would you describe your image and your sound?
Ricki Gunz: In the beginning, I guess you could describe Man and Machine's sound as Dance Techno/Industrial. Later on, Man and Machine’s sound turned to a more harsh, abrasive sound with a tendency towards EBM elements. The new sound will be something even different and we are excited about that!
Angi Gunz: Our new sound is going to reflect our love for different genres of music, and will showcase live instruments. We made what we feel is an amazing EBM album with Analog Hearts, Digital Minds, so now we're working on making something no one has heard before. In addition, to Industrial, Rick is a huge fan of Glam and ‘70s Rock, and I love Rockabilly and Psychobilly, and we're going to put elements of just about everything in the new album. Probably something we can't really describe!

LS: Who are you most influenced by musicially as well as lyrically?
Ricki Gunz: What inspired me to do Electronic/Industrial music was bands such as Frontline Assembly, Skinny Puppy, Front 242, The Human League, Nine Inch Nails, and so many others to mention. Lately, I am really inspired by bands such as Goblin, Libra, Alice Cooper, and a lot of ‘70s Rock.
Angi Gunz: Lyrically, I am inspired by bands that have the capacity to send a message and to make a song that is fun and makes people have a good time. I believe a good band sends you through a lot of emotions in one album. KMFDM, Demented Are Go, Atari Teenage Riot, KLF, Morrissey, Siouxsie and the Banshees. Even though a band may not be the genre you're making, you can still take some influence from the way they make songs and perform.

LS: What excites you and/or scares you the most about the music industry as we know it today?
Ricki Gunz: What is most exciting is being able to re-invent ourselves after years of musical experience. In these times, things can seem negative with the economy and all the free downloading going on. Man and Machines is looking forward to making up for that by doing many live shows, giving the audience the best stage show for their money and time, and maybe selling some music as well. We just love being creative and expressing that through our art.
Angi Gunz: It is both scary and exciting that anyone can start a band by just posting some photos on Myspace with a couple songs, but it's even more frightening how much work it really takes to stick around. There isn't much that can be done about people downloading your music for free. There are other ways of being successful that take an enormous amount of work, and we will never stop!

LS: What do you have coming up in the near future (ex: album, tour, etc.)?
Ricki Gunz: We are working on our second release The New Flesh, which will be out sometime in early 2011. With the release of the album, we will book a tour supporting it, look into making videos for some of the songs. Our fans will notice on The New Flesh a lot more talent we have as musicians, given there will be a lot of acoustic instruments as well as mixing of electronic ones.
Angi Gunz: Our stage show will be explosive, and fans will get a full show with live instruments. Our new music will be genre-busting and innovative!

Visit for more on this band