I was really taken by surprise when I found out that Armored Saint were to give a performance at the London Underworld.
Having not released an album for the last five years, this gig raised not only hopes for a most-desired comeback, but also my curiosity. An hour after the show was over, I found myself doing an interview with the band's bassist Joey Vera, who had quite a few interesting things to say!
Hi Joey. Thank you for taking the time to do this interview. I was quite surprised to see Armored Saint here in London, having not heard anything about the band since the release of "Revelation" back in 2001. You, on the other hand, have been quite busy performing with Fates Warning and Anthrax. So my first question really is: what brings you here to the UK, and is there a new album in the works?
Joey: This basically all started from an offer we got to play at the Bang Your Head festival in Germany. That came last fall, so we decided that we were going to do that festival. It all started as one show, but then the guys from Graspop festival in Belgium called us the very next day, and said that, seeing as we were doing a show in Germany, could we do Belgium the very next day. Graspop is a well-known and respected festival, so we said "sure-great". Once we decided to do these two shows, we thought that it would be a shame not to do more shows. You see, we have this re-issue with Rock Candy records of the album "March of the Saint", and seeing as this album has not been available in the UK for quite a long time now, we decided to add some UK dates and do a small tour. We have only played in the UK once, in the old Marquee, back in 1991-92, so we decided to do some more shows. We played in Shefield, Glasgow, Belfast and now in London. Now that I think of it, it makes sense that we ended up playing here.
It's been five whole years since you last released an album, yet today you witnessed a very good reception from the crowd. You, more than anyone, know how the music industry works, so I believe that you must feel really proud of yourselves for tonight's show.
Joey: Yeah, it was a great treat, and we didn't really know what to expect. The reaction has been similar for all the shows - both Glasgow and Belfast gigs were also really good. It makes us feel vindicated in a way, because it took us twenty four fu*king years to get here. We've been a band for such a long time, and you've obviously heard John (Bush / vocals) on stage tonight explaining that. We should have been here so many years ago, touring and playing, but we didn't do that due to circumstances that were out of our control. Even in 2000, when "Revelation" came out, we did a tour in Europe, but it didn't include any UK dates. This was always an issue and a problem for some reason (coming to the UK), so it made us feel amazing that after all that time, at least 200 people in London on this particular night that England exits the World Cup, still gives a sh*t about us. It makes us feel amazing to know that we have such loyal fans.
OK, let me get straight to the point: was tonight's show enough of a motivation to convince you that a new album needs to be recorded?
Joey: (laughs)...your tactics...you are very devious...We haven't made any decisions as to what we want to do yet with that. The main thing is for us to concentrate on these dates, without having any pressure of what we have to live up to or work towards anything in the future. On the other hand, they've been quite a few people asking us if we will be recording another album. We've talked about it a little bit. For us, it is quite simple: if we decide to do another record, we will have to be in the same frame of mind that we are now. We have to make a record for the love of making good music, and for nothing else. We don't want to have to worry about selling anything or playing the game of having to conquer the world - trying to make the record labels happy by selling unites and other sh*t that goes along with it. It takes away a lot of the reason that we started this business to begin with, which is to make good music and have a great time doing it, so...I don't know. I don't know if we are or not, but...maybe in the future.
One thing that I've always wanted to ask you, seeing as you are involved in to so many different projects: tonight I saw Joey Vera performing in a totally different way than when on stage with Anthrax or Fates Warning. How do you manage to separate your duties between the above-mentioned bands and end up sounding different in each case?
Joey: Well, Armored Saint has a very special place in my heart. I've known these guys since we were eight years old. We have a very long history together, and this was our first serious group. We've been through a lot together: major labels, indie labels, seeing our best friend and band member dying of leukaemia (Dave Prichard / guitars. Died 27 February 1990 - R.I.P)...we've been through so much sh*t together. For me, this is more like going home and being with your family. That is the feeling that I have when I play with Armored Saint. What is different when I play with other groups is that...I get asked this thing a lot, and it is kind of a strange question...I think that I listen and I can play so many different kinds of music convincingly, and that is probably the reason why this is so easy for me to do.
With Fates Warning, I play completely different that when I play with Anthrax. I have played in another group called Tribe After Tribe, and I sound completely different there too. I believe that this comes from my love of playing different kinds of music. I've been in bands back home that play Reggae, or music from countries like Cameroon and South America, and I have also been in groups that play Pop RnB, Funk and even some Jazz. I can understand all these different styles and incorporate them in whatever I am playing. For me, playing in Fates Warning is easy, but it requires the use of a certain part of my brain that's different from the part I use when I am playing with Armored Saint, where I don't really use so much of it...(laughs). Playing with Armored Saint is more like a second nature to me.
I actually saw you playing with Fates Warning a few weeks ago, at the Rock Hard festival in Germany.
Joey: That was a great show indeed - we had a really good time there.
So, seeing as you haven't yet decided what the future holds for Armored Saint, are you currently involved in any other projects?
Joey: I have just finished recording my second solo record, which is called "A Chinese Firedrill". I am going to make this one available through my website www.joeyvera.com first, and I am also looking for someone to handle the distribution - someone who can do it better than me (laughs). This is something that I've been working in my head for quite a long time now, and I finally got a chance to start working on it last summer. I play all the instruments and I sing, and it's a kind of a Pink Floydy...
Aha, you just said the magic word there!
Joey: (laughs) it's kind of both mellow and progressive...I don't know - it's really hard to describe it. I am proud of it and happy to have gotten it of my chest, so as to do other things. I really don't know what's in store for me now...I will start doing some writing and see what comes out of it - maybe even for Armored Saint. Fates Warning are thinking of doing some more shows in Europe in the fall, but it's only an idea and a very unofficial one too. Tribe After Tribe are also going on tour in late July, for three or four weeks, so I might be doing that as well.
Joey, do you manage to sleep at all?
Joey: (laughs) Well, I definitely need sleep!
And you haven't even mentioned Engine yet...
Joey: You know, it's funny because we pretty much like left it alone like to fizzle out, but recently I was talking to Ray (Adler / vocals, also in Fates Warning) again about starting Engine back up, so that would be cool.
You are also a well-known and quite respected producer. Do you work with any specific band at the moment?
Joey: I've been pretty busy with so many other things, mainly with my own record, trying to get it done, that I haven't had time to do anything with anybody else. I did some mixing last summer. I mixed a couple of songs for this group called Mother Superior - an amazing bands from LA which you should definitely check out. This is typical 70's great song writing - not like trendy sh*t. They sound quite bluesy and their music is killer! I haven't done anything else since then, except from the new OSI record, which I did in January.
For a guy like you who has played and done almost anything, what else is out there to achieve?
Joey: I like playing with a lot of different musicians. There are a lot of great players out there and I love the idea of being in some projects that are not Rock or Metal related. I'd love to do some RnB or Funk stuff - there is a lot of stuff to do, for sure.
Well, we do hope that you'll continue having such great inspirations in the future.
Joey: Thank you for both your wishes and the interview - have a good night.
Interview © 2006 John Stefanis