With Armored Saint having successfully completed a string of summer European dates to back up their triumphant Win Hands Down (released by Metal Blade) founding member and bassist Joey Vera was free for a chat, luckily, at London’s Camden Underworld gig before stage time.
Interview by Mark Freebase
MM: So overall Joey, how has the new album been received?
Joey: “Well it’s been amazing really. It far exceeded any expectations we had. We had written this album because we wanted to; we honestly hadn’t bought into account about furthering the bands career. We wanted to have a good time, and do what we do; kinda on our own terms. Already this record is doing better than the last one. We have seen some fantastic reviews for it and I think we have really connected a lot closer than the last record. The song acceptance has been great, and that goes for live also. I don’t know why?”
MM: Anything to do with musical style..?
Joey “I don’t know. I can honestly say we have not changed anything drastically with our styles, but maybe Armored Saint is gaining some recognition again? Each record does represent a snapshot in time of where we are, and possibly that honesty counts. Win Hands Down does have a little more pull from our past, and it could have a hint of older stuff. I have been told there was a little bit of a buzz surrounding this release. Maybe because we only kept people waiting five years for its arrival this time!” [laughs].
MM: So as far as new songs included in the live set… what can you tell us?
Joey: “There is a high proportion of new songs in the set, yes. The reason for this is because we are totally pleased with how they have turned out, and we want to play them live. We want to get them out there and see if people appreciate them. We enjoy playing these new tunes, and people seem to be singing along, so that speaks for itself. It proves it works. It feels a pretty big pat on our back when we can comfortably place the new songs alongside Armoured Saint classics”.
MM: How has the writing dynamic changed for the band now?
Joey: “It’s certainly different now, from when we first started for sure! Well we have gone through this whole metamorphosis in the band, just growing up, we have known each other for such a long time now. I mean when we started out it was really just about five guys in a room, smoking pot, and playing riffs with each other. That was the way we operated, and all in the same room. These days it’s changed due to technology. We tend to do more isolated writing. I write by myself at home almost 100% of the time. I suppose for lack of better wording, these days, I have become the primary director of the group, where I begin the process of writing a few tunes, and it kind of sustains the direction we head in. Then the demos get handed over to John where he writes all the lyrics and melodies. That’s how it all works, and then we share stuff via e-mail and move on from there. For the early part of our career we were searching for something… and I think we got distracted by a lot of business, and maybe we did some things out of naivety? These days its way more humbling and we can work on our own terms, and we have Metal Blade Records behind us that let us control the band, and work on our own terms. That in itself gives us a tremendous amount of freedom. This is the music that we want to write and we don’t need to worry about anything else. Thankfully the fans have come along for the ride, and support what we do. Age and experience has a lot to do with it.”
MM: On a par with March Of The Saint, Delirious Nomad and Raising Fear how does Win Hands Down sit with you personally?
Joey: “It feels accomplished. The earlier albums are very close to my heart. I remember being in this place, influenced by so much stuff, and not really knowing where we were going, and I didn’t think I was going to live past 30! It was a great time obviously, but when I look at the work… there is shades of things that I am proud of obviously, and there is shades of things I am embarrassed about, like looking at that old photo where you had a funny haircut, so being here now, with this record, I feel much more accomplished. I feel I am a much better musician and songwriter”.
MM: So with age, comes… Vintage?
Joey: “Yeah, I hope it does. I think most musicians would agree so. I guess if you reach perfection, then that’s the time to hang up your boots! Part of me knows how we achieved kudos this time, and we still have a solid connection with 1984… The things that we do well, let’s do it all again. But let’s never do those bad things again [laughter all-round].
MM: What would you say the key elements are for making a great Armored Saint record in this day and age?
Joey: “Firstly it has to be enjoying what we are doing. We have to have fun. We are fortunate that we don’t have the pressure or label stress some bands incur, so we can focus on our music”.
MM: Will this be a tough album to follow up then?
Joey: “You know, people keep asking me what’s on the horizon, when will you start writing again etc, but we don’t think about that at all. At the present it’s not in our thoughts. We are enjoying playing shows for this record, we are having fun at the moment. I mean we have done two different tours with Saxon in the U.S. and we done a run of dates with Queensryche in Europe, and a load of festivals, some great things, and they are still coming up. We hit Tokyo later this year, and that’s a first for the band, so it’s cool for us and we have to keep perspective on the present. The love we are getting from the press and the fans is far beyond anything we anticipated. We are working on something for 2017, but that’s all I can let you know for now!
Win Hands Down is out now on Metal Blade Records.