interview by Michael McCarthy
There are three songs I’ve been listening to on a loop lately. “Chasing the Dragon,” “King of the Ring,” and “Lords of Thunder.” These are the songs the press was allowed to hear prior to interviewing members of the band Adrenaline Mob about their forthcoming new album We the People, which drops on June 2nd via Century Media Records. And if these songs are any indication, it’s going to be one of the biggest metal albums of the year, if not the biggest. I’ve always been a fan of Adrenaline Mob, but if I’m being honest they weren’t one of my favorite groups. You could say I liked them well enough to listen to each of their albums a half dozen times when they first came out but then I moved onto other things. Just being honest. But these three new songs are all brilliant. Seriously. Kick ass heavy metal songs that split the difference between Black Sabbath, Dio, Metallica and Motley Crue. Powerful vocals, intricate guitars, smooth bass, and drums that practically leap out of your speakers and smack you across the face. Perfect head banging music. To that end, there’s definitely an old school metal vibe to these songs. You could play them on modern rock radio, a regular metal station, and even a hair metal station. They would fit in nicely on all of them. Harder, faster, stronger, louder – they’ve taken everything they do and amplified it x10.
MM: Your new album is called We the People, which is obviously a very political title. Was that the title when you were writing the album or did that come later?
MO: We knew what we kind of wanted to say with this album. Inadvertently, yeah, it was there. There are definitely some tracks that are leaning toward the political view. So, yeah, We the People was the obvious choice.
MM: Which one of you suggested it?
MO: You know what that just came from me and Russ working on the song. Yeah, that song just became the stand-out track and the title just really fit the title of the album.
MM: Who produced the new album?
MO: I produced. Myself and Russ.
MM: I have to say, the production is incredible. I’ve only heard the three songs they’ve let us hear, but it sounds brilliant.
MO: Oh, thank you. I mix the albums and master them myself. I always do that. I’ve engineered and tracked every one at Sonic Stomp studios, which is my studio, and I’ve mixed and mastered Omerta, Men of Honor, Dearly Departed and this new one, We the People.
MM: Cool. Have you ever produced other artists?
MO: You know, some people. I mean, that’s what I do in my studio when I’m not doing Adrenaline Mob. Whoever comes down to the studio, I always lend a hand. It’s kind of like the production, me and Russ have the same method always. I’ll do all the music and write all the drums, bass and guitars. Get it all ready and then we meet up and we work on all the vocals and lyrics together. That’s been the process since Omerta.
MM: When you’re first writing the songs, do you use a drum machine or loops to do the beats?
MO: I just write everything, actually. I start writing drums. I do all the guitars. I’ll lay the bass down. I don’t use any pre-made stuff because I’m creating from literally nothing. By the time I get to Russell the whole album is already musically produced and written. I’ll just kind of sit in my world in my studio for a couple of months and write a ridiculous amount of songs. I mean, there were 20 some odd tracks for this album. So many that we didn’t get to.
MM: How long does it usually take for the lyrics? Does he write them all or do you participate in that, too?
MO: Yeah, no, we do them together. As soon as I go to him with the musical bed of the whole album we just sit for – I don’t know maybe it was a month. We’d just sit there and we talk about each song. Some stuff I had written prior. I’ll sing any of my vocal ideas. And I’ll write down any of the topics that I want to talk about when I’m doing the music and then when it’s me and Russell working on all the lyrics together we have something to start on, but then it’s always like, let’s do this, or let’s take it there, and together we create the lyrical visions of the songs.
MM: I read that the first song you wrote for the new album is “Blind Leading the Blind,” which is said to be a politically charged song. What can you tell us about that one?
MO: Yeah, that was actually the first track that I did and at the beginning of the whole song I just had the vision for it. You see what’s going on out in the world today so it’s easy to, you know, to see that that song is the climate of the world or at least my outlook on it. I’m not one to fly a flag for this side or that side. It’s just my outlook on the whole thing.
MM: Can I at least ask you if you’re happy about who is president right now or not?
MO: [Laughs] You know, I think it’s too early to tell. You want to back your president. No matter who. I mean, it’s our president. I don’t like to take sides. Because everyone is very much entitled to their opinion and I think he needs some time to be in office. You’ve gotta give him a chance. He’s our president. None of us are gonna change it. So, yeah, that’s how I feel about it. [Laughs]
MM: Musically, they say “Blind Leading the Blind” is the heaviest track on them album. Is it really heavier than the three tracks they let us [press] hear because, musically, I can’t imagine heavier than that.
MO: I don’t know, man. I’m not sure what they sent out. There’s some pretty heavy stuff on it. There’s a song called “Ignorance and Greed,” which is pretty damn heavy, I have to say. Tracks like “Lords Of Thunder,” a real throwback metal track. So, it depends on what the listener’s version of heavy is.
MM: The ones they let us hear are “King of the Ring,” “Chasing Dragons” and “Lords of Thunder.”
MO: Oh, OK, cool. Definitely some heavy tracks there, man. “Blind Leading the Blind” is heavy in a different way. It sets the vibe. And Russell just tears it apart with his vocals. He’s intense on that track. So, that has a lot to do with it. It’s a very primal feel. The groove, as far as the music, I could see why they would say that.
MM: Near the end of “King of the Ring” this beautiful, melodic part comes on. Completely unexpectedly. Was that part of your vision when you first wrote it or did that come more as an after thought?
MO: You know, that part, it just came about. It was a musical section that I had and I had been deciding where I wanted to place it musically. ‘Cause it’s different than the rest of the song. Even musically, without vocals. And then we just decided to play it as a release after the solo and kind of uplift the song. Russell’s doing this really beautiful three part harmony. So, that really, really jumps out of the track.
MM: The first time I heard it, I was like, what was that? But now that I’ve heard it a few times I really like it.
MO: Yeah. It’s different. It’s like the Queen approach. A big vocal harmony blend.
MM: “Lords of Thunder” is an incredible one. It’s very epic and even has a prog metal vibe to it. So, I was curious if you were listening to prog or if you’re into prog at all?
MO: I love the genre. I’m not a huge fan where I could rattle off everything about it. I would not say I’m very well-versed in it. To me, the track has got more of an old school Dio metal vibe. I have the haunting guitar lick in the beginning of the song. Before the song starts. Russell created this whole symphonic thing, which is great. It sets the track up intense. It’s one of the first tracks that me and Russell ever did together, ever. And we always held onto it and always held onto it and never did [put it on an album] and then it was just like, man, this is now the time. The time is now.
MM: “Chasing the Dragon” really reminds me of Dio. Was he an influence on that one?
MO: Um, I don’t know. This is what’s great about music. Everyone hears a different influence. That is awesome. I love it. I mean, I love Dio. So does Russell. It’s one of his favorite singers. We’ve covered Rainbow with Dio. We’ve covered “Stand up and Shout.” We covered “Mob Rules.” We love Dio. He’s one of the best. I don’t know if it was a direct influence but when I just was crafting the song I guess it was one of the influences that might’ve crept into my brain because it’s always there. [Laughs]
MM: Sure. Now what is that song about? What’s your interpretation?
MO: That’s a really cool story. Well, I won’t say it’s a cool story. It’s a story well said about drug addiction. Chasing dragons is…
MM: Smoking heroin, right?
MO: Yeah. We all have had people that have succumbed to that. And it’s pretty bad. Especially the East Coast. Jersey and stuff. Everyone’s dealt with it. Everyone knows someone that was chasing that dragon. Even if it wasn’t heroin or whatever.
MM: Yeah. Prescription painkillers and whatever.
MO: Yeah. Pretty much. It really is a cool kind of look on – and I say cool only as a lyrical approach, not as a topic – someone who’s meeting their maker. The grim reaper is gonna knock on your door, man, when you do that. There’s no if. It’s just when.
MM: From when to when was We the People written and recorded?
MO: Well, I started the music probably last June. I spent about two months on the music then me and Russell met up and we started the process of what we do, as I explained before.
MO: It took, you know, a good five month span, maybe, to track it and then I mixed it. A few weeks, I took to mix it and master it.
MM: You guys are known for your kick ass covers. Do you have any covers planned to release as an EP or anything after We the People has been out for a while?
MO: [Laughs] We do love covers. Thank you. We have a ball doing them, man. There is a cover on the album. There’s a bonus track on the album of “Rebel Yell” and we put it on there. We dedicated the album to our buddy A.J. Pero [Ed. Note: A.J. Pero passed away on March 20, 2015; he was also known as the drummer of Twisted Sister.]. It was, as far as I know, the last track he ever recorded.
MM: Oh, OK, so he’s on it?
MO: Yeah. That’s where “Rebel Yell” comes into it. It’s a great version. He kills it. He always did, God rest his soul. But, yeah, we always love doing the cover thing. So, we’ve been in that mode, like full-length album covers. Or, I’ll say, covers EP. We’ll see. We don’t know.
MM: Do you generally prefer performing live or writing and recording music?
MO: I love them both, man. There’s no… Nothing is like live. Wow. Those are two totally different beasts. Getting into the studio world, and studio mode, I get in there and don’t come out for a couple of months. [Laughs] It’s a little different but there is nothing like playing live. That really is the best interacting with the fans. Meeting them across the world. Whether it’s 100 or 1000 or 10,000 or 60,000 or 100,000 – it doesn’t matter. It’s great. Every time. It’s great.
MM: You guys have had a lot of line-up changes over the years. How stable is the current line up?
MO: Yeah, you know, we’ve had some drummer and bass player changes. Unfortunately, our drummer change at this point was not a change. Our drummer [A.J. Pero] passed away. The big man upstairs just said it’s your time. We don’t consider it a change. We just had no choice. But we are so excited about this new line up. We have two killer guys, Jordan Cannata [drums] and Dave Z [bass; that’s short for Zablidowsky] Jordan is an unknown guy that we found. Russell got him through the Twisted camp and he blew our brains out. Incredible. And Dave Z, same thing, man. He’s a great performer. Great person. Great vibe. I mean, they both are. So, we’re really excited to take this line-up for quite some time.
MM: Did both of the new guys play on the album?
MO: Jordan played on the album. [Dave] joined the band after the album was already way in its advanced stage. But, yeah, Jordan did an amazing job on the drum tracks as he will when people see him live. People will be blown away.
MM: Who did play bass on the album then?
MO: I played bass on the album. I’ve done the bass on Omerta, and Dearly Departed EP. So, yeah, but Dave’s incredible and same thing with Jordan. These two guys are really gonna blow people away.
MM: You ever think about doing a solo album where you can play everything yourself?
MO: [Laughs] Well, I do have two solo albums out. That are being, actually, re-released this year. I did them before Adrenaline Mob was a band. It’s called Sonic Stomp and I always tour with it. I toured a lot overseas with it. In South America a lot. I have a DVD as well coming out this October, Sonic Stomp live in Brazil. It’s all instrumental guitar stuff.
MM: You ever think you’ll do a solo album with guest singers on it or something?
MO: I would love to. It would be a great thing. But usually I’ll be doing Sonic Stomp or Noturnall, which is my whole Brazil band that I’m in that’s also in Sonic Stomp. Those guys are also in my Sonic Stomp band. So, totally different stuff, man. Totally different than Adrenaline Mob.
MM: What are your plans to tour behind the new album?
MO: We are releasing the tour dates for the first U.S. leg any day now. We’re gonna start off with 30 major cities across the U.S. then we’re gonna do a second leg in September and October, the same thing, and we’ll probably head over to Canada as well. We already have a great, big tour booked overseas that we can’t say anything about but we will be soon. The cycle is gonna go clear into the summer of ’18. We’ll be doing South America with Adrenaline Mob at the beginning of the year then we’ll come back to the States after April and we’ll do a third leg of the States. I’m excited, man. It’s gonna be our biggest trek and we’re just stoked.
MM: What was the first album you ever bought with your own money?
MO: Probably The Wizard of Oz.
MM: Name three artists from your parents record collection who you actually liked? Or still like.
MO: The first one’s easy. Les Paul, my Dad’s favorite, which is the reason I play guitar. Let’s see… Johnny Cash. And… That’s a tough one. From my Dad’s collection. The Bee Gees. My Mom has always loved the Bee Gees. They’re amazing.
MM: If someone was giving you a million dollars to give to charity and you could only give it to one charity or cause, which would you give it to?
MO: Wow, that’s a tough one, man. That’s really hard. I’d have to think long and hard about that one, man, ’cause there’s too many different things. Cancer is a horrible disease, which we’ve all been surrounded by way too many times, so probably that.
MM: What was the first concert you attended?
MO: [It was at] L’Amours. Slayer and Megadeth. It was in Brooklyn. The rock capital of Brooklyn.
MM: I’ll ask you one last question. If you could resurrect any one musician from the dead, who would you bring back?
MO: Randy Rhoads.
MM: Cool. That’s a good one. Is he one of your biggest influences?
MO: Yeah, I love him. What rock guitarist doesn’t, you know? I’m blessed to be part of the Randy Rhoads Remembered organization where, along with his family, we do tons of shows all the time. It’s just such an honor. One of the greatest ever.
Much thanks to Mike for taking the time to speak with me and to David McDonald at Century Media for setting it up!