Joey Vera - Armored Saint, Anthrax, Fates Warning, Seven Witches - Back
Interviewer: Cameron Edney -

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!

Metal 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.

Metal 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?

Joey 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.

Metal 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.

Metal Fanatix: Looking back, did you ever think you guys would still be going out on tour together all these years later?

Joey 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 the moment.

Metal Fanatix: 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?

Joey 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?

Joey Vera: 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?

Joey 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.

Metal Fanatix: 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 metal bands?

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?

Joey 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?

Joey 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 try.

Metal 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.

Metal 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.

Metal 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 limbs.

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?

Joey Vera: 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.

Metal 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.

Metal Fanatix: 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?

Metal 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.

Metal Fanatix: Which record/song would define Joey Vera to a complete stranger?

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?

Joey 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?

Joey 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.

Metal Fanatix: If you could put a band together consisting of musicians passed and/or present who would they be & what would you call the band?

Joey Vera: I hate these questions but all I know is it would be great to have Lemmy as our manager!

Metal Fanatix: [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?

Joey Vera: 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!

To keep 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

Don’t 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 links.

© Cameron Edney January, February 2006 Not to be re-printed in any form without written permission.