Interviewer: Cameron Edney - http://insideout666.mysite.freeserve.com
All-round musician Joey Vera recently
put some time aside to speak with us here at Metal Fanatix. Joey who
has been thrashing away on bass for more then twenty years is best
known for his work with eighties thrash rockers Armored Saint. Over
the years Joey has been fortunate enough to tour the world, write
& record alongside some fantastic bands such as Armored Saint,
Fates Warning, Seven Witches and Anthrax. I spoke with Joey about
his time with Anthrax & the whirl wind Australian 2004 tour, we
also spoke about the very early days of Armored Saint, bass playing
legend Cliff Burton. The interview kicks off taking a look at Joey
who is currently in the studio adding the final touches to his second
solo album which is still untitled at this stage! Enough from me let’s
March with the Saint’s!
Fanatix: Hi Joey how's things mate? Thanks so much for taking
time out to speak with us today. I’d like to start by talking
about some of the latest projects in your life. First off I believe
you are in the studio finishing up your next solo CD, what can you
tell us about that?
Joey Vera: Yes,
I’ve wanted to do this thing for quite some time but until spring
of 2005 I really hadn’t enough time to dedicate to it. I had
a few things lying around I had written over the years so I decided
to start writing again. I hadn’t had the chance to do much writing
in quite a long time & so it’s been quite a good medicinal
experience. I found myself writing in a certain direction that I had
not really explored before & I kept my boundaries fairly wide
open. As a result the songs are a bit longer than I usually write
(about 7 minutes average) & I’ve been having fun with the
orchestrating instruments side of things. Strings, Synthesizers, Piano,
Percussion as well as various bass & guitars set ups. Looking
back into it, this has been sort of an exploration for me as a songwriter.
Metal Fanatix: Wow Joey as you
just mentioned you are doing the bass, vocals, piano, guitars among
others yourself. Why did you decide to take on so much of it yourself?
Joey Vera: More than anything really
it’s because I was writing & recording as I was going along.
Also, this particular experience is pretty personal & I just felt
that I wanted to play all of the performances in order for my point
to get across. In short, this is for me. I did leave myself open to
have some friends play on it & I had many kind offers, but in
the end I think I felt like it was my voice that I wanted to get out
of my system. Selfish perhaps, but the truth.
Fanatix: Has a release date been set yet?
Joey Vera: No. Actually I still need
to find someone to put it out. But I am intent on finishing it to
a standard I see fit before I shop it to anyone. I really hope to
have it out of my hair (what little is left) [laughs] by Summer.
Metal Fanatix: Mate, I recently read
that yourself, Scott Ian & Joey Tempesta were all involved in
recording an album with comedian/actor Brian Posehn. How did that
all come about?
Vera: Brian has just recently signed a deal with Relapse Records
to distribute his most recent record “Live in: Nerd Rage”
which is a live stand up performance he recorded in 2005. As bonus
tracks for this record he wanted to do some joke metal songs so he
recruited us to do it. We’ve been friends with Brian for sometime,
he’s a huge metal head & Anthrax fan. Brian & Scott
put the music together & we rehearsed once & just did it.
It was a really fun session as you can imagine.
Fanatix: Joey if you don’t mind I want to go way back
for a minute, I believe you went to the same school as Gonzo &
John. What comes to mind when you look back on those school days?
Joey Vera: Ignorance is bliss.
Ah, it was so nice to be innocent & not tampered with. Our problems
were so small in retrospect & getting in tons of trouble was so
much fun. We had a great classic boys youth, filled with danger &
curiosity. I’d love to go back.
Fanatix: Looking back, did you ever think you guys would still
be going out on tour together all these years later?
Vera: Not really. I didn’t imagine I’d live past
30 to be honest. When you’re young you can’t think about
what your life will be like 20 years later, you’re living for
I know that the first bass you got, you purchased from John Bush,
did you always want to be a bass player or did you buy it from John
just because the opportunity was there to own one?
Vera: Yeah it was more of an opportunity thing. I had been
playing guitar for about two years by that time & John, Gonzo,
Phil & myself started a band called Royal Decree (we were huge
Queen fans eh?) & we needed a bass player. Well Phil was a much
better guitar player than me so I picked up John’s bass &
we started jamming, right away it felt totally natural & I was
quite good at it for having just picked it up. So it stuck. About
six months later I bought John’s 1972 PBass for $200.00 &
it’s the same one I’ve used for ever. It’s retired
from touring now & I only use it when recording here in Los Angeles.
I just used it the other day. The thing just feels & sounds amazing.
Metal Fanatix: Over the years
you have had the pleasure of sharing the stage with so many great
bands such as: Soilwork, Helloween, Metallica, W.A.S.P. just to name
a few. Who have you enjoyed touring with the most & can you share
a funny road story with us?
I have had many good times & with many good people. It’s
really hard to say who was the most fun. I get asked a lot about road
stories & there are again, so many. But since you mentioned WASP:
before the days of AIDS, all anyone had to worry about was STD’s
that were usually fixable with a shot in the ass. Remember that WASP
used to wear chaps without anything underneath? So halfway through
one of our tours with WASP we’re watching the band from side
stage & we notice a couple of the guys have small round bruises
on their butt cheeks from a shot earlier in the day. It was a riot!
I’m not saying they were the only one’s on the tour that
got shots, but they were the only one’s that you could see!
Metal Fanatix: [laughs] During those
early days on tour, you got to spend time with the late great Cliff
Burton, on the Armored Saint DVD ‘A Trip Through Red Times’
we get to hear Gonzo’s thoughts on Cliff but not yours, what
memories do you have of Cliff from those early tours?
Vera: Cliff was truly a one of a kind person. I’ve never
met anyone since that had such a huge persona. He was pretty multifaceted
too. He could be really kind & considerate & also really headstrong
& stubborn. Cliff was highly intelligent & very creative.
He was a bigger force in Metallica than anyone really realizes. He
was really funny too. You know how he used to wear that denim jacket
all the time? Well on tour he would carry this little ball-peen hammer
on the inside pocket for protection. He used to whip it out on occasion.
I never imagined him ever using it as he was not a violent guy at
all. It wasn’t a knife or a gun. It was a little hammer. That
was so Cliff.
Joey, you were heavily influenced by a lot of the same bands I grew
up listening to like Kiss, Iron Maiden , Black Sabbath etc. Do you
feel you have played a large role in influencing a lot of the newer
Joey Vera: Oh,
I don’t know about a large role but maybe a small one.
Metal Fanatix: Joey if you don’t
mind, I want to talk to you about your time in Anthrax. I guess John
had something to do with you getting the gig, did you have to audition
for the guys? If so what did you play?
Vera: Of course there was the association thing & through
the years I would go see the band whenever they were in LA. Over the
years I became friends with the rest of the band so it wasn’t
like they didn’t know anything about me or whether or not I
could play bass. As a result there was no audition. They gave me twenty
songs plus to learn in three weeks so that’s what I did.
Metal Fanatix: Shortly after you
joined in 2004 Anthrax hit Australia for the first time in eight years,
what memories do you have from the tour?
Vera: First off, I had an amazing time there. I was blown
away by how cool everyone was & the shows were just some of the
best, most crazy I’ve ever played. I just wish I wasn’t
so tired & ill from the two weeks in Japan just prior. Most of
us got sick right before we landed in Sydney. Then we did five shows
in a row flying every day. Physically I was spent but the shows made
it all worth it. I can’t wait to go back!
Metal Fanatix: What are your thoughts
on the reunion tour?
Joey Vera: I have to admit that as a
fan I was a bit confused when I heard about what they were doing.
After making W.C.F.Y.A. which I thought was their best record since
S.O.W.N. it seemed like odd timing. But who am I to say?
Metal Fanatix: Armored Saint are booked
to play the bang your head festival in Germany 06, can we expect to
see you guys playing shows in Australia anytime soon?
Joey Vera: Man, I wish. I’m gonna
Fanatix: Many fans want to know & I know you would get
asked this all the time but, will there be any new Armored Saint material
released this year?
Joey Vera: Honestly,
probably not this year. We have started talking but there’s
no real plans for anything & if there is we wouldn’t have
enough time to get it out in 2006.
Fanatix: What is the most ridiculous thing you have ever asked
for on a tour rider?
Joey Vera: Nothing
but the bare necessities. Cuban Cigars, Dom Perignon, Glow in the
dark condoms, you know, the usual.
Fanatix: [laughs] Do you do anything specific to warm up &
prepare for a show?
Joey Vera: As
I’ve gotten older I’ve found it really helpful to stretch
out. Neck, arms, legs, back, fingers. Get the blood moving in your
Metal Fanatix: Joey
you have worked with Seven Witches, Fates Warning, Armored Saint etc.
From all the albums you have appeared on what one would be your favorite
to listen to & why?
I’m weird about listening to records I play on. I don’t
like listening to them. But there are a few songs I can listen to
on Symbol, Delirious, Revelation & I like A.P.S.O.G. from Fates.
I guess if you catch me with a few drinks in me I could rock out to
most of the records I play on.
Fanatix: In your honest opinion what do you think about the
direction that hard rock & heavy metal music has taken over the
last few years?
Joey Vera: There
are some interesting bands out there, Opeth, System of a Down, Audioslave
& Queens of the Stone Age to name a few. As with most movements
in history, there are always a decent handful of bands that really
stand out & most of the rest is just regurgitated & formula
driven corporate crap. This new wave of MetalCore bands is getting
a bit silly already but I have to tip my hat to bands like Killswitch,
Shadows Fall, Slipknot, they are just awesome & As I Lay Dying
are good up and comers.
Are you currently listening to any of the newer bands?
Joey Vera: By newer you mean a
band that has only been together a short time?
Fanatix: Yeah recently established bands that are making their
way into the biz!
Joey Vera: I’m not one who really
searches for a new thing. But I’ve recently discovered Sigur
Ros which is really cool. As for new records, I’ve been listening
to the new NIN, Porcupine Tree, Opeth. But to be honest when I’m
recording I don’t listen to too much music especially new music.
I’ll tend to reference old records if I’m looking for
something to listen to.
Fanatix: Which record/song would define Joey Vera to a complete
Joey Vera: Motorhead,
Ace of Spades
Metal Fanatix: There has been so many
highlights in your career, what would you say have been your greatest
achievements to date?
Vera: I think the mere fact that I’m still working as
a musician after twenty two years is my biggest accomplishment.
Metal Fanatix: What advice would you
give to up and coming rock/metal bands?
Vera: Be adventurous & dangerous. Take chances & also
know when it’s right to be calculating. Most of all do it for
the love of music & nothing else.
Fanatix: If you could put a band together consisting of musicians
passed and/or present who would they be & what would you call
Joey Vera: I hate
these questions but all I know is it would be great to have Lemmy
as our manager!
[laughs] oh yeah that would be killer dude, Joey thanks so much for
taking the time out to answer these questions for our readers. Do
you have any last words?
Thanks to you Cameron for the questions & I thank everyone
who has shown support for the things I’ve been involved in.
It truly gives me the fuel to keep going. Hope to see you soon! Until
then keep in touch, Cheers!
up with all the latest news & much more on Joey & any of the
bands he works with check out the following websites:
- Official Joey Vera Site
- Official Armored Saint Site
- Dedicated to 40 years of hard rock & metal music
forget to check out Armored Saint ripping it up live at Germany’s
Bang Your Head Festival. For all other tour dates check the above
© Cameron Edney January, February 2006
Not to be re-printed in any form without written permission.