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Interview: Fireball Ministry

Pure metal...interviews

I was assigned to meet up with a band called Fireball Ministry, a band that Iíve never heard before. When I saw them on the stage of the London Asoria, the quite energetic quartet managed to blow me away with their dynamic performance. One hour after the end of the show I met up with Janice (bass) and John (drums), and this is exactly what was said.

Hi guys, talk to me about the band and its history, how you started...

John: Well, Jim and Emily started the band. They met at school in Ohio and they moved to New York together. They were just making demos...The New York Scene at the time was just mainly Hip Hop and Dance so they decided to move to LA in í98. So once they got to LA, they were shopping demos around to different labels and one of the labels they sent their demo to was Bondload records, which I was actually running - I was the general manager at the time.

So we got the demo and we liked it a lot and called them in to meet them and for an interview. When they came round, we asked them when we could see them play and they said they didnít really have a band. We were like ĎWhat?!í, but we liked the demo so much that we said weíd release the demo as they were looking for a drummer and a bass player at the time. I sais Iíd play drums on it for now until they found a drummer and Jim plays bass. We had Geek From the Obsessed come in and play bass on it too so we released the first album. I wanted to play drums in the band but I couldnít because of conflicts of interest, but then the label kind of fizzled out and I must have joined...

Janice: Before me...I must have joined in about 2000

John: Yeah, I think that was about í99..

Janice: Yeah, Ďcause thatís when I stopped playing with L7 and thatís why they were so manic...Then they phoned me up Ďcause a friend of a friend told me they were looking for a bass player and sheíd told them ĎJanice would be perfect, she loves this kind of musicí... So I was talking to Jim and said, ĎSend me CDí to see if I want to play it and his last name is Roda and I asked if he was related to Neil Roda and he said Neil Roda was his grandfather, so I said Iíd play, just Ďcause I wanted to play with Neil Rodaís descendant. Then I heard the stuff and thought, ĎThis stuff is awesomeí and so fun to play. So they started flying me to rehearsals to LA Ďcause I lived in San Francisco and I thought they had a deal, but then I discovered that they were paying for the flights out of their own pockets and I said: ĎI can pay out of my own pocket, too, guys, I love playing with you. And Iíd been playing with the band for a while, but when I couldnít make it theyíd get Dee or Brad Davis...they had a bunch of bass players...oh and you have to mention cute girl Ė Helen.

John: Helen was our first bass player and actually the road tours started with Helen.

Janice: Yeah, and then I moved down to LA eventually, when Fireball Ministry was the only band I was playing with and it was a hard move...I love San Francisco.

John: But we did an EP for Smallstone records too...the first full-length was for Bondload, but we did this EP for SmallStone, but we demoíd some of these songs and then went back to re-record the full length. We didnít really have a deal yet, but a friend of ours who is a producer and has worked for the Foo Fighters wanted to re-record some of the old songs and then Nuclear Blast gave us a deal and put the record out, so here we are now!

Quite heavy the sound, though, huh? Sabbath meets Trouble meets...

Janice: Well yeah, thank you

John: We basically rely on our old roots

Janice: Well yeah, for you and me that stuff is the easiest to play Ďcause thatís what we grew up listening too...

Itís also sometimes the most difficult style to play if you donít have the feeling for it.

Janice: Definitely, but itís also a great release, so if youíre having a bad day, itís the best way of getting rid of some negative emotions.

The album was released somewhere at the end of November/December?

Janice: Yeah, youíre right!

I consider that to be quite an achievement, especially since I know you guys only for the last three hours!

Janice: Yeah, it came just after that in Europe.

John: It came like end of October, beginning of November in the States, and two months later in Europe.

After four months touring for this album, does it still sound as good as it did while you were recording it in the studio?

Janice: Itís one of my favourite albums. Iíve been to a lot of bands, and I usually donít like listening to their albums, but this one is totally different. Itís really nice to see that people are liking it too.

Anything that you would have changed if given the chance?

Janice: Anything that I would have changed in that album?

John: You could have played a bit more.

Janice: Yeah, I would have played in more songs than the ones I did (laughs).

John: We had a little small window of opportunity to work with our friend Nick. We didnít even had a deal yet, we were just recording tracks he would just urge us to go to the studio and play.

Janice: You couldnít just say no.

John: Itís not easy to find a cheap recording studio in L.A, so this was a good opportunity for us to do the rehearsal we needed.

What are the plans that you have for the rest of the year? You are currently touring Europe, whatís next?

John: We are finishing up this tour next week. We did three weeks in December with Blue Oyster Cult and Uriah Heep in Germany. We are going back to the States for a small tour for April and May...

Janice: And then we re going back to Germany for a couple of festivals. After that, straight home to write some new material.

John: We want, and we would love to come back to the UK, maybe this coming September.

How did you guys feel about playing with a band like CKY today? Theyíre obviously targeting a far younger crowd. On the other hand, I would probably expect to find bikers watching a Fireball Ministry show rather that seventeen year-olds.

John: You know itís really funny, because this is the youngest audience that weíve ever played to. In the States, the venues that we normally play at, are 18 years and over, or even 21 years and over. Here we saw something like 9 year-olds coming to see CKY Ė they bring a lot of kids

Janice: I love it. CKY are great, and their audience is so funny. Itís so exciting when you play in front of an audience that really getís into the music. Itís great, I love the energy.

Was that the singer of CKY that came on stage while you were performing your last song, and started playing with Janiceís bass?

Janice: Oh yeah, that was Daren (laughs).

John: He came to see us in one of our shows in L.A, in a place called "The Viper Room", and after the show he said: "Iíll take you guys with me to my UK tour", and we were like "Yeah, sure Ė great to meet you", and then a week later his management called our management, and here we are.

Janice: That was really nice of them, theyíre great guys!

John: Weíre talking about us but their influences are really hard to be pointed out too. They just go on stage and they Rock, thatís it. Sometimes they sound like old school Heavy Metal, and some other times like Nu Metal, itís all mixed up.

How about your influences? I saw some of you dancing to the tunes of Megadeth right after the show.

Janice: Oh, yeah. We have a lot of Metal influences, but tones of other influences too. John and I went through the Hard Core scene, and Jim and Emily are totally Metal. Everyone gets confused when I say that I love Blue Grass.

John: I love bluegrass. I could stay here all night naming the bands that I really like...

Janice: We have to admit though that the main influence of this band is Black Sabbath.

John: Sometimes it works totally subconsciously. You get a tune and you cannot understand where it came from. Sometimes an idea of yours sounds exactly like a song thatís already out there, and itís really hard to prove that youíre honest about what youíre doing, but thatís how music works I guess. Weíre not trying to write a specific kind of songs, it just happens. Same thing happens with writers.

What is normally the songwriting process that the band follows? I there a specific formula that you use?

John: Jim and Emily live together in L.A, they are the riff masters. Jim can play almost every instrument, so he'í good at showing us an idea.

Janice: It was him who played the bass in the demo and when I listened to it I was really impressed.

John: This is a family band, because after all is done, we all get our two seconds.

Janice: Thatís what I really like about us. I havenít been in a family band for almost eight years, and I grew up being a part of them.

John: I donít play the guitar, so I cannot contribute as much as the rest of the guys, but when the main riff is prepared, I can always say how the drums should sound, or if the chorus is right or not.

How about the lyrics?

John: Lyrics wise? Jim is pretty much responsible for the lyrics of the album, and Emily would help him when needed.

Janice: Yeah, I think that Emily did much more work than we noticed. These two are pretty tight as people. The lyrics of the album are quite complex and can get various of different interpretations.

John: He has a nice way of writing lyrics, which can talk about how he broke his coffee maker. People sometimes give us their own ideas as to what the lyrics of a song are about, and believe me when I say that theyíre miles away (laughs).

You have been member of the music scene for quite a while now. What made you become involved to this strange world in the first place?

Janice: I used to go to many live shows, I used to see the bands and though: "I want to be like that", which was probably drugs at that point (laughs). I love music, and I really enjoyed the Metal community that I was hanging out at the time. I just wanted to become part of that and contribute to it.

John: I just started punching the drums when I was eight, and after that I never wanted to stop. Itís a good release! Even at Sunday mornings that everyone was going to the church, I used to walk up the stairs in order to set up my drum kit and start making some noise (laughs).

I have to admit that before I came to the show, I didnít know what to expect of you guys, and when you came on stage, I saw a band of four members having fun, something thatís really rare nowadays.

Janice: Why donít they have fun on stage, whatís their problem (laughs). Touring is not the easiest thing to do, but I donít think that we allow ourselves to become grumpy.

John: Well, we were a bit today, because we had a terrible time trying to find the club today, it took us something like an hour and twenty minutes to get there (laughs).

Janice: By the time we got there I was feeling so ill, driving around London, plus everyone was shouting at Jim all the time Ė he was doing all the driving (laughs).

I cannot even begin to imagine then how you guys will be on stage if you were in a good mood tonight!

Janice: Oh no, by the time we played we were in a really good mood.

John: We had some time to sit back and enjoy a nice slice of Pizza. If we went straight to the stage, it would all have been really wrong.

Janice: Yeah, probably I would have trashed all my equipment (laughs). We have fun in the band, everyone loves being a member of it.

John: I couldnít be in the band if I wasnít having a good time, or if I couldnít even sing the songs.

What about the future then, any specific plans?

Janice: I donít think about it. I need to make enough money to pay the rent, apart from that I donít want to think about it. Here on tour Iím having fun, no worries...

John: And then we have to go back home and face reality (laughs).

Janice: I donít really know about the future, maybe you should ask Jim and Emily about it.

John: We are going to come back, and we would like to start recording some new material at some point. ?here are also some gigs lined up for the States, but thatís as far as I remember.

Do you prefer touring in Europe, or in the Sates then? Where is it that you feel more welcomed?

Janice: I think that I kind of prefer touring in Europe. I like the food better, and the audience is nicer. In the States, the drives from venue to venue are much longer and that makes it a lot more tiring.

John: Sometimes you get eight-hour drives between the places that you must play! Here thing are much more organized. We have been in venues back home that when we arrived people didnít even know that we were playing that night! People in the States are quite passionate with what theyíre listening to.

Janice: Yeah, if they like something, they like it a lot, but sometimes they can be quite narrow-minded.

John: Yeah, itís the typical MTV generation, they will listen only to whatís really popular.

Still you guys chose to continue doing what you love, and thatís quite amazing.

Janice: See thatís another thing. Europeans do admire bands that are devoted to what theyíre doing. In the States, theyíll only like you if they like you, and thatís all. In America you will listen to people saying: "I used to like them, but I donít like them any more" Ė you will never listen to something similar in Europe.

I hope you guys will enjoy the rest of the tour, maybe even got to Greece for a couple of shows - you will love it down there.

Janice: Iíve never been down there, I would love to go.

The last words are yours.

John: Oh boy, what do you say?

Janice: Youíll have to do it, cause I always like to quote Spinal Tap at the end of every interview (laughs). Ok here it goes: Donít play in a band unless you have to, donít tour unless you have to. If youíre feeling driven to play music, donít give it up! Play it at home, play for yourself, but if you want to play in a band and be on tour, you do it. But only do it if you have to.

John: Yeah, cause otherwise it will mess up your life!

Janice: Yes, itís a terrible life.

Interview © 2004 John Stefanis

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