Category Archives: Hard Rock Daddy Interviews

Exclusive Interview with Legendary Drummer – Mike Portnoy

Photo by Rob Dell'Aquila

Photo by Rob Dell’Aquila

In a recent edition of Music Discovery Monday, legendary drummer Mike Portnoy shared the story behind The Winery Dogs’ latest single (“Oblivion”) and the stories behind the Dream Theater songs that he wrote for each of his departed parents.

The rest of the interview features a discussion about The Winery Dogs latest album, tour and more…


Hot Streak is an incredible album (see Hard Rock Daddy review).  What was the writing process like this time around?

“Thank you!  The formula was the same as the first album.  We kind of just get together in a room and the three of us bounce musical ideas off of each other.  We can pretty much bang out a song (musically) in an hour.  For Hot Streak, we wrote around 15 songs in 5 days.  We just really have a very quick working chemistry.

The music comes first, and that’s the aspect that is completely collaborated on.  And then, once we have the music, Richie (Kotzen) goes off on his own and takes care of the painstaking process of writing the words, which obviously takes a little longer.

The next stage is getting back together to properly record the songs.  But you know, the process is the same as it was when we first recorded together.  The style of the music is very similar also.  We kind of just do what we do.  The only thing that was very different this time around was the internal chemistry.  When we made the first record, there was no history to the band.  It was more of an experiment, and we had no idea if anybody would be listening, or what it would become.  This time around, we had a real band history between the three of us.  That was the only real difference.”


You guys have cultivated a sound that transcends genres.  There is no real natural radio format fit, and yet everybody loves the band.  How do you explain peoples’ reaction to The Winery Dogs?

“I think that’s a sign of a great band.  You can say the same thing about Van Halen.  I mean, what is Van Halen?  Are they metal?  Are they rock?

You know, we’re just one of those bands that somehow speaks to, and connects with, everybody…metal fans, prog fans, rock fans.  Even people that aren’t necessarily rock fans seem to just embrace this band, which is awesome.”


Having seen The Winery Dogs in a live setting (see concert review), I have to say that you have an incredible chemistry that is unlike any other band that I’ve ever seen…

“I think that we’re like a three-headed beast on stage, and no matter who you’re watching, you’re going to be entertained.

It’s kind of strange in a way.  In most bands, the rhythm section would be the anchor, and then you’d have the singer and the guitar player going around them.  In our case, it’s the opposite.  Richie is actually the anchor, and Billy (Sheehan) and I are running circles around him.  You have Richie – who is such a soulful entity – holding down the song as the singer and the guitar player.  He does his thing, and then Billy and I are like the rhythm section from hell.  We love playing off of each other and being very spontaneous.  I don’t think that either one of us has ever played the same fills two nights in a row.  We’re also both animated and entertaining on stage, and are the sort of players that enjoy being up there.  So, it’s definitely like a three-ring circus when you see us.”


Often times, seeing a group of virtuosos together can result in a lack of warmth, and go over the heads of the average fan, but The Winery Dogs have a way of creating a sound that is accessible to the masses…

“The Winery Dogs are about simplistic songs and catchy melodies.  What each of us does have is an extended background in musicality, and we all spend a lot of time on our instruments to get as good as we can.  It’s straight-ahead rock, but I think that you have this musicianship that’s sprinkled on top which is what maybe sets it apart.”


What is different about touring together the second time around?

“The first time around, we didn’t know what to expect, so we were playing small clubs and feeling it out.  We did really well, so this time around, we’re taking the next logical step, playing some bigger clubs and small theaters.  But, the reality is that we’re still a new band.  Even though the three of us have 30+ years of experience under our individual belts, the reality is that this is a brand new band that is only on our second album, so we’ve got to take baby steps.  I think that a band like this kind of works in the clubs anyway.  We’re all about sweating it out on stage and having a good time, so I think that it works for us.”


This tour is covering a lot of ground with a number of international dates included.  Are your touring plans this time around less focused on the United States?

“Well, you know, the earth is a big place to cover, and it takes time.  After spending the first month-and-a-half in the states, we’ll be taking a break for the holidays and then head out to Europe in February.  We have South America in March and Asia in April.  At that point, we will have pretty much covered all of the major markets, and then we can come back around and do a repeat throughout the spring and summer of next year in the United States.  We’re the kind of band that wants to spread ourselves all across the world, and give everybody a taste of what we’re all about.”


Especially with all of your busy schedules…

“Yeah, well, all of our busy schedules aside, when it comes time for The Winery Dogs, that’s our focus.  I’m in five other bands, and over the past year, have been jumping from band to band and tour to tour.  Now that The Winery Dogs are back, that’s the focus for all three of us.  It’s what we’re going to be doing pretty much exclusively for the next year.”


It’s great to see that The Winery Dogs are moving ahead as a real band, and not just a one-off project…

“The Winery Dogs is definitely a full-time thing for all three of us.”


Long before The Winery Dogs, you spent the majority of 25 years with Dream Theater.  Nowadays, you’re known for not only being one of the best drummers in rock, but also one of the busiest.  What was the thought process in deciding to play with multiple projects after leaving Dream Theater?

“To me, it’s natural.  I see a lot of commentary online with people questioning why I jump from band to band, and how they can’t keep track of what I’m up to today.  In the rock and metal world, maybe it’s not a normal thing, but I don’t play by the rules; I just follow my heart.

When I left Dream Theater (which was my baby for 25 years), I wanted to spread my wings and play with as many different people and do as many different styles as possible.  I’m just a passionate, workaholic, music lover.  After being tied down to one band for 25 years, I’m enjoying spreading myself around to all of these things, and it confuses a lot of people.  They just can’t understand it.

If you look at actors in films, they want to work with different directors and screenwriters, and make different kinds of films.  That’s the way that I treat being a drummer and a musician.  As long as I’m willing to put in the work, fill up my schedule and devote myself to all of these different bands and projects, then, why not?  Life is too short not to take these opportunities.”


I marvel at the energy that you have to be able to keep going at this pace…

“I’ve always had it, even during all of those years in Dream Theater.  I was the one that was overseeing every aspect of the band.  I oversaw the music, melodies, lyrics, video production, fan club, websites and merchandise.  So, I always have had this abundance of energy.  Now, I’m just utilizing it in a different way, in many different bands.”


You’ve talked about Metal Allegiance being a brotherhood of metal with kind of a revolving door policy.  Now that you’re out with The Winery Dogs for the next year or so, does that revolving door include bringing in other drummers as well?

“Yeah, well, Metal Allegiance is bigger than any of its parts.  It started with me, Charlie Benante (Anthrax), Frankie Bello (Anthrax) and David Ellefson (Megadeth).  From the four of us, it’s now grown into something that includes over 20 different people within the roster.  Any of us can come and go, and Metal Allegiance is something that kind of just revolves around the availability of this brotherhood.  For instance, we did a gig in New York City with around 12 of us on stage (2 drummers, 3 bass players, 4 guitar players, and 3 or 4 different singers).  A couple of nights later, we played a version of Metal Allegiance in Mexico City where it was just five of us, so it’s a constantly rotating lineup.  When I can’t be there because I’m on tour with The Winery Dogs, like the show at Loud Park in Japan, it’s just Charlie Benante on drums.  Metal Allegiance is like a box of chocolates (like Forest Gump once said), you never know what you’re going to get.”


So every show is really a unique experience.  It’s kind of like Grateful Dead (only with music that I would actually listen to)….

“I think Metal Allegiance has probably done about a dozen shows through the years, and I don’t think that we’ve ever once had the same lineup or set list.  That is what makes it pretty cool, unique and exciting.”


Earlier in the year, you did dates with Twisted Sister and filled in with your old band (Adrenaline Mob) after AJ Pero’s untimely passing.  What was your relationship with AJ like?

“Well, AJ was just one of the sweetest guys in the business; he really was.  I had known him just from the drummer-to-drummer connection for the last 20 years or so.  Most drummers kind of get to know each other and become friendly.  AJ and I became friends many years ago.  When I left Adrenaline Mob, he stepped in and took over, and sadly, when he passed, I stepped in to help out his band.  So, we kind of both helped each other out in different ways.  He was such a kind soul, and such a great, underrated drummer.  It was such a loss to see him go.  It was a huge honor for me to step in and play with Twisted because I grew up seeing them in the clubs when I was a teenager on Long Island.  I have a deep history with those guys that goes way beyond just the MTV videos of the ‘80s.”


What was it like playing with Adrenaline Mob again after leaving the band a few years earlier?

“Believe it or not, I really love that band.  It was hard for me to leave them, but I just couldn’t do that and The Winery Dogs at the same time because our album was just coming out.  I had to make a choice, but it was sad for me to leave those guys.  They’re still my friends, so when AJ passed away, and they asked if I could help out with the gig, (literally the night after AJ passed), I didn’t even think twice about stepping in to help them.  Those guys are my brothers, and I wanted to do whatever I could to help them.

The first gig was literally 24 hours later, so the emotions were unbelievably strong and sad.  We were waiting to hit the stage in the RV where AJ had just passed away not even 24 hours earlier, so you can imagine that it was incredibly emotional.  I’m just glad that I was able to help them, and be there to help get them back on their feet after such a devastating blow.”


What was it like getting acclimated with Twisted Sister to play those shows?

“Well, I’m in six bands now, and at this point, I think that my master list of bands that I’ve played with is over 25.  I’m a professional, so it’s easy for me to step in and play with anybody on an hour’s notice.  But beyond being a professional, I’m also a Twisted fan.  I can jump in easily because I know the music; it’s embedded in my brain, and in my heart and soul.  When I stepped in to play with Twisted, it was easy for me.  I think that it was harder for those guys.  I’m used to playing with different bands, and jumping in and doing gigs.  I think for Jay Jay, Mark, Eddie and Dee, it was harder because they had only played with AJ for all those years.  We had a couple of rehearsals for them to get comfortable.  Within the first hour, it was already comfortable, and we were ready to get on stage and do it.


Thanks for taking the time to talk about everything Mike.  Best of luck with Hot Streak and the rest of the tour.


***Be sure to check Hard Rock Daddy on Friday, November 13th for the launch of a new feature called “Generations Of Rock.”  The first installment features Mike Portnoy and his son, Max.***

Interview with Sons Of Texas’ Jes De Hoyos

Photo courtesy of Bobby Villareal/Nazvil Photos

Photo courtesy of Bobby Villareal/Nazvil Photos


In early February, when Sons Of Texas was the featured artist on Hard Rock Daddy’s Music Discovery Monday, guitarist Jes De Hoyos shared the inspiration behind the band’s debut single, “Baptized In The Rio Grande.” The album of the same name was released on March 3rd, and immediately rocketed into the Top 10 on the Billboard Hard Rock Album Chart. Check out the rest of the interview with De Hoyos below to learn more about this band on the rise!



You guys come from an area that is not exactly a musical hotbed.  How did you manage to put together such a powerful lineup in such a small area?

Because it is such a small area, it wasn’t hard to find musicians that we liked. The first band that our singer (Mark Morales) was in was with our drummer and bass player (brothers Mike and Nick Villareal).  The band was put together for the sake of a talent show, and then Mark left to pursue music on his own. Nick and Mike continued Lay In Ruins, and gained momentum through the years on the local circuit.

Jon Olivares (guitar) and I were in a band together with former members of Texas.   Lay In Ruins was looking for a second guitarist, so Jon joined at that point, and I jumped in because they needed a bass player.  Eventually, I worked on another project called Machete with Mark because I wanted to go back to guitar.  We went through a long list of trial and error before finalizing the lineup that eventually became Sons Of Texas.



So is it fair to say that you guys came together naturally by being on the scene together?

Yes, but we were playing in different genres of music though.  Machete was more straight-up metal, and Lay In Ruins was heavier and darker, closer to death core.  I’ve always wanted to do something that had a more rock and roll feel to it, but with the liberty to add in metal and blues.



Since you and Mark worked together in Machete, did you bring any of that material to Sons Of Texas? 

No, it’s all fresh material.



You guys are living proof that location is less important than writing great songs.  Despite living in an area not known for its music scene, the band was actually discovered pretty quickly.  How did your label (Razor & Tie) discover you?

We had gone up to play SXSW in 2012 with our original lineup (as Texas) which had two other guys on bass and drums.  We were approached by someone from a different label who liked the music and asked us for a CD.  He pitched it to his label and there was interest. He kept tabs on us for a while, but I guess it didn’t work out.

A while later, the head of A&R for that label had lunch with our current attorney who said that he was looking for a band with a certain “sound.”  She told him about us, and gave him our EP. Fast forward to me in bed with my wife at 11 fucking PM, when I receive what I can only describe as a strange phone call from an L.A. number.  I answered the call and he goes…

“Hi, I’m looking for someone from the band Texas.”

I thought to myself…“Who the fuck is this!?  I’m about to go to bed and you’re calling me now?” (laughs)

He told me that his name was Eric German, and said…“I fuckin’ love your music!”

We were having this long conversation, so as we’re talking, I had my wife Google him to see if he was legit.  When she told me who he was, I thought to myself…holy fuck!  This guy’s the real deal!

He said… “I want to represent you.  I’m going to get you a record deal.”

Mike Gitter from Razor & Tie was in Eric’s office one day when he was playing our stuff, and he said…“what is this!?”

So, Eric calls me while Gitter is in his office, and Gitter yells in the background “I love your music!”  Sure enough, a few months down the road, we had a record deal.



I agree, the whole album kicks ass!  I was drawn to you guys right away when I heard “Baptized In The Rio Grande” on Octane.  About 10 seconds in, I knew that it was going to be a killer track.  And, the album has no filler whatsoever, which is amazing considering that none of you really had studio recording experience outside of making your own demos.

The whole experience was fucking amazing!  I don’t know what we would have done if we didn’t have our producer (Josh Wilbur) and his wife taking us in and helping us out while we were out in California recording the album.  We actually breezed through the entire fucking album in like a month.  Although it had its ups and downs, it didn’t feel like work at all.  I loved every minute of it!



It sounds like it came naturally to all of you.  The album has a really cool, live vibe that doesn’t sound overproduced at all.  Josh did a great job of capturing your sound, which I’m sure will translate really well in concert.

The thing about the live experience is, like I mentioned before, we don’t really have a lot of recording experience, so we’ve always focused on being as tight as we can be when performing live.  I think that translated to the recording experience.



You guys definitely have your own distinct sound, but if I had to pick a couple of influences that I hear on the record, I’d say Sevendust and Black Label Society…

That’s fuckin’ awesome!



What bands would you say have the most influence on you as musicians and songwriters?

Definitely those two (Sevendust and Black Label Society).  Mark was influenced by Zakk Wylde, vocally, as well as a few others. As far as the rest of us, we all meet in the middle at Pantera.  That’s my personal poison of choice.  I fucking love them!  Our bass player (Nick) and Mark are also heavily into Mudvayne.  We have a little bit of a ZZ Top influence in there, and we fuckin’ love Stevie Ray Vaughn!



So, basically, anybody that comes from Texas, right?

(laughs)  Pretty much.  That’s one of the reasons why we feel the name Sons Of Texas fits us so well.



And you definitely have a big sound, so you did Texas proud…

Thank you.



You have a modern hard rock sound, but your shredding dual guitars are kind of a throwback to 80s metal. You’ve talked about your overall influences.  Can you talk about some of the guitar duos that have inspired you?

Pretty much any heavy guitar duos, but I’d say that the major one would be Willie Adler and Mark Morton from Lamb Of God, just because they were so tight from the very beginning.  It was different than a lot of the 80s stuff that I listened to when I was growing up.  It wasn’t just the leads; the riffs and everything they did was tight.

Jon and I both followed them on our own before we met, and we actually did some Lamb Of God covers when we first started playing together.



Do you have any other personal guitar influences that are specific to your style of playing lead?

I’d say that it boils down to four guys…

Dimebag Darrell – I still try my ass off to play with his style and soul.  That ties into Stevie Ray Vaughn, who also has a lot of soul, and could just manhandle the guitar.  It was amazing watching him play.  And, the other two would be Zakk Wylde and Paul Gilbert.



I think that your influences might be why you guys have such a seasoned sound already, despite your age and this being your first album…

Thank you.  Mark is an old soul too.  He listens to older stuff like Bob Seger and old Marshall Tucker Band, and he’s a HUGE Beatles fan!



You describe “Baptized In The Rio Grande” as an album about raising hell and surviving hard times.  Can you talk about what that means?

The song is gospel from the south, no doubt, but it’s got nothing to do with religion.  We come from a place way down at the southern tip of Texas called the Rio Grande Valley.  It’s not exactly known as a hotbed for rock/metal music.  There are some highly talented musicians and acts that are from here, but you don’t come here to get discovered.  We were told by a lot of people that we had to move to a place like Austin or L.A. if we wanted to make it in music.  The mentality that we had is that it shouldn’t matter where you’re from; you should be able to expose yourself to the world no matter where you live.  Ultimately, the song is really an homage to where we’re from.



Do you feel like being an all-Hispanic band made things more challenging because that isn’t very common in hard rock?

I kind of felt like it might have been an issue at one point.  I thought that to be in a band, you had to be from a music hotbed (like Austin or L.A.)  That’s why the song “Baptized In The Rio Grande” is kind of a big thing for us.  It’s where we’re from, and it’s where we were “baptized” musically.  It has nothing to do with being baptized in a river. (laughs)



One of my favorite tracks on the album is “Texas Trim.”  I’d say that song is also about “hard” times, but not necessarily enduring difficulties if you know what I mean….

(laughs) A lot of times we hear people who come from other areas tell us that we have some of the best looking women that they’ve ever seen.  That’s what “Texas Trim” is all about, kind of paying tribute to the ladies from our great state.



So, are you guys married or single?

Two of us are single and two are married.  I’m married, and I have a daughter and a son on the way.



Is it going to be hard for you to go on the road with two little kids at home?

Absolutely!  And the crazy part is that we’re expected to hit the road right after my son is born.  It’s going to be kind of shitty, but there really isn’t any alternative.



Is your wife supportive of you going out on the road?

Oh yeah.  She’s always been supportive of everything I do musically.  She does everything that she can to help promote us.  She’s a sweetheart, and I don’t know what the fuck I’d do without her!



What are your touring plans to support the album?

We’re going to be doing some of the festivals, and getting on some kind of tour in late April, but the details haven’t been confirmed yet.  We also did some dates with our label-mates, All That Remains.



I could definitely see you guys opening up for Black Label Society one day…

Thanks man.  That would be a huge honor!



Thanks for taking the time to talk, Jes.  I wish you the best of luck with the album and your new baby. Definitely looking forward to checking out the live show when you guys are in my neck of the woods!

Interview with Crash Midnight’s Shaun Soho

Shaun Soho Photo

Photo courtesy of John Caruso


Hard Rock Daddy recently featured Crash Midnight’s single – “151” – on Music Discovery Monday, and a brief interview with frontman, Shaun Soho.  The song was also featured on the Top 100 Hard Rock Songs of 2014.  Buckle up your seat belts, and get ready to take an entertaining ride with Soho as we talk about the origin of the band’s name, the impact that they are having in their hometown of Boston and more!


The story behind the naming of Crash Midnight definitely fits with the vibe of your music.  Let’s talk about how the name came to be…

It actually happened before we were even a band, when it was just Bo, Alex and me.  Alex had only moved out to Boston from Columbus, OH two weeks earlier.  We decided that we would start a hard rock, blues-based band that would capture the stuff that Aerosmith was doing way back when, and what Guns N’ Roses hit on with Appetite For Destruction.  We had that idea in our heads, but no idea for a band name yet.

You have to know Bo to really appreciate this story.  Bo’s the kind of guy that will break an expensive vase and then be proud of himself for sweeping up the floor afterwards. (laughs)

Anyway, it was the middle of the damn night, and I was dead asleep.  Bo calls me all fired up, and I think that something exciting has happened.  I’m groggily trying to process what he’s saying as he tells me that he’s got a great idea for the band, and that he captured what we were going for.

He said…“what do you think of the name Crash Midnight?”

I’ve got one eye open and I’m half asleep, so I told him that it sounded like a cool name, and asked him if that was it.  He told me that he needed a ride.  I asked him where he was.  Thankfully, he was close to home.  He said that his car was up on this rubble after hitting a tree, and that it was leaking gasoline.  The tow truck driver said that he couldn’t pull it off because it would drag over the rocks and make sparks, and that they needed to get a crane to the car off.

So, Bo casually told me that he needed a ride. (laughs) And that’s how we got the band name.  It’s been a chaotic disaster ever since, but we’ve all managed to stay alive.


Sounds like a throwback to the recklessness of 80s bands…

If there is anything that we took from the 80s bands, it’s that leap-before-you-look mentality.  We get ourselves into situations with no thought as to how we will get out of them, but it always ends up working out, so I guess somebody’s looking out for us. (laughs)


How would you define Crash Midnight’s sound?

Old Aerosmith with a little bit of the GNR mentality (but not really as heavy as Appetite For Destruction), mixed with the punk stuff that we are into like Iggy Pop, the New York Dolls, and especially, a band called The Dead Boys out of Cleveland.  They really have this great way of making the subject matter sound really authentic.


You mentioned a number of different influences, but when I listened to the album, the one that struck me was vintage Def Leppard, specifically their debut album, On Through The Night, which had a very raw sound…

That’s actually really funny that you came up with that.  When I was a little kid getting into music, the two bands that made me pick up the guitar were KISS and Def Leppard (back when they had some “nuts” to them).


As much as I like the record, I can tell that you guys have a sound that really comes alive on stage…

That’s something that makes us feel good out on tour.  People come up to us and tell us about how much they like the album, but that seeing us live is just a totally different animal.  With so many bands out there not able to live up to their albums in concert, I really like that we are able to surpass ours when we play live.  Maybe it just says something about our lack of prowess in the studio. (laughs)

I think that it’s just so hard for us to capture the sound that we’re looking for in the studio.  Even though I love Mutt Lange, we weren’t trying to come out with a super-polished sounding album.  We wanted something a little more edgy, but it’s really a fine line between sounding over-produced and sounding like a demo recorded in a garage.


I think that you managed to walk that fine line…

Our producer Kenny Lewis of Mixed Emotion Studios here in Boston ended up really helping us nail it.  He’s a huge fan of 70s, sludgy sounding Aerosmith tunes.  We tried to capture the sound as if that band stepped out of the 70s into a studio today and recorded an album.


You definitely did.  It’s great to hear that classic “dirty” rock sound that makes you feel good and want to go out and have a shot and party.  And the funny thing is, I’m not really much of a drinker, but your music makes me want to go drink…

That’s what we’re going for.  We’re trying to create a nation of alcoholics, one person at a time.  (laughs)  A lot of our stuff on the album is very up-tempo and energetic, and lends itself to partying.  We were able to capture something with this band that none of us have been able to capture with our previous bands.


Why do you think that is?

We really dissected what we like about all of our influences.  Because of that, people tend to reference 80s bands when it comes to us, but we really didn’t draw that much out of the 80s, although I learned to sing along to Joe Elliott (Def Leppard) and Brad Delp (Boston), and we did take a page out of Motley Crue’s social playbook. (laughs)


I really feel like Active Rock radio needs to incorporate more stuff like Crash Midnight into their rotation, but I guess we’ll see if they are forward-thinking enough to push the envelope.  Was radio ever a concern when writing the album?

You can try to copy what’s out there the way that bands did the 80s trying to be like Def Leppard, or today where there are a lot of generic hard rock bands with the Nickelback sound, but that was never for us.

If you’re going to get into the music business today, especially rock music, there’s just not the money that there once was back in the day.  So, if you’re doing this, you better be dedicated and believe in what you’re doing.  I’d rather just do something else than to play stuff that sounds generic to me.


I agree, but it definitely makes things more challenging to push the envelope with your sound…

We were very lucky to get signed by our label (Bronx Bridge).  They recognized that we had a lot of momentum going regionally, so they let us record the album on our terms, from the sound of the songs to song selection.

We’re not wildly far off from some of the stuff that’s out there, and I’m happy to see bands like Royal Blood having success with a sound that is not at all generic.  Our stuff will stand out (for better or worse), and it’s going to be up to our fans to push it on through.


One of the songs that seems to really capture the essence of the band is “Welcome To Boston,” but you almost left it off of the album.  Why is that?

The song was only added as a last-minute switch.  It was originally called “Nothing To Lose,” and it was written about the general mentality of people from Boston.  We have a chip on our shoulders, and to use a hockey metaphor, we’re always ready to “drop the gloves” at a moment’s notice if somebody looks at us the wrong way.

We originally left it off of the album because it was a little bit “metal-y” compared to the rest of the songs, and we thought that the title was a little trite because many other bands have songs with similar ideas.

Some of our friends in the sports world here asked us if we had any songs about Boston that they could use.  Even though it didn’t say it directly when it was called “Nothing To Lose,” the song was always about Boston; I don’t know why we never thought of it before.  So, we stopped beating around the bush and just renamed it “Welcome To Boston.”

The song has really taken off.  We’ve got the Patriots and Boston College playing it, and we’re working on some stuff with the Red Sox and the Bruins.  It kind of became a really galvanizing thing around here for us, and it’s very cool that it became sort of this hometown anthem.


You guys have done support dates with The Pretty Reckless and Adelita’s Way.  Do you have any tours lined up to support the album?

We also did a run with Sevendust and Gemini Syndrome.  Now, with radio starting, we’re keeping ourselves open to do sponsored concerts and in-studios for rest of the winter.  We’re going to be looking to jump on something to the equivalent of The Pretty Reckless in the spring.


If you had your choice of a few bands, who would you like to play with ideally?

You know what’s funny?  I get that question most from my mom more than anyone else.


I’m very thorough.  I do my research.  I called your mom before this interview, and she told me to get this question answered for her.

(Laughs) We got to go out with a heavy hitter who we grew up with in Sevendust, and a relatively newer act in The Pretty Reckless.  Each had very different fanbases, which I’m sure had to do with one being younger and female-fronted.

I think that the energy from younger fans makes for a better show from us.  Most of the people on The Pretty Reckless shows hadn’t heard a thing from us, but they gave us an incredible amount of support.  It was very validating to have all of those kids come up to us after the concert, buying our stuff and asking us to take pictures with them.


That gives me hope for the younger generation!  I feel like most rock shows that I go to these days skew a bit older…

It was a really interesting crowd with The Pretty Reckless.  You had some young teenage girls, and sometimes even younger than that because of the all-ages shows.  They would show up with their dads wearing a Guns N’ Roses t-shirt or something similar.  The dads had us take pictures with their daughters, which in my mind, would be the last thing that you’d want to do if you had a daughter. (laughs)


Thanks for a very entertaining interview, Shaun.  Looking forward to seeing you guys live when you come to town.

Interview with Like A Storm’s Matt Brooks – National Bullying Prevention Month

Matt Brooks - Like A Storm

Can you talk a little bit about the bullying incidents that you had in high school in New Zealand?

It’s funny, you and I were talking after our show at The Paramount about bullying, and “Love The Way You Hate Me,” (which is a song about having the strength to be yourself and embrace the things that make you unique).  It got me to thinking about something that happened in high school that I haven’t thought about for a long time.

I went to the same school from the time that I was in Kindergarten right up until my high school graduation.  I started high school in 9th grade, and I was basically with the same group of people that I had been in school with my entire life.

I had the same group of friends for a long time, and then when I got to 9th grade, all of these new kids came along, and the school reshuffled everyone into classes based on how well we had done in school.  In hindsight, it wasn’t a great idea because it set people up to be picked on.


It’s easy to see how that could happen when they make it so easy to target people…

You know, we all grew up together in the same classes, and then all of a sudden, we were slotted into classes based solely on how well we did on tests and stuff.

I remember at the start of 9th grade being given a real hard time, both by people that I’d known my whole life, and then by all of these new people who had come into the school.  It was the first time that people started to criticize other peoples’ differences.


I’m surprised that it took so long for that to happen.  Usually, it starts at an even younger age…

I was never really aware of that growing up.  It was like the first day of high school was the first day of this new universe where everyone’s differences were under the microscope.

I was never the most athletic guy (and I’m still not), so it wasn’t like I was going to go out there and be the star of the rugby team.  All of a sudden, I was in class with the other kids who did really well in school, and that didn’t make me very popular.

It was only when I started playing in bands (as a drummer), that people started to understand that just because you do well in school, it doesn’t mean that there’s anything wrong with you.  And if you’re not the most athletic, there’s nothing wrong with that either.


It sounds like music helped you to somewhat shed the “geek” label that you were being given…

Definitely!  I just loved music so much. Once I started playing in bands, I became friends with some of the people who initially were giving me a hard time.  Being different and not quite fitting into any mold that people expected, ended up becoming a positive thing in my later years of high school.


I guess people start to mature as they go through high school, but it seems like 9th grade was no picnic…

I still remember what a shock it was to be written off by people that I’d known my whole life because the school placed me into a different level of classes.


It sounds like the school created a kind of class warfare with their system…

Yeah, it was.  In hindsight, it was a terrible system.  Nobody wants to be labeled as a “geek” when they are 13-yrs old, but it came with the territory when you were put into the advanced classes.  And, the system also seemed pretty insensitive to the kids who were separated out because they may have been having a hard time in school.

I’m not surprised that there were issues at school.  I remember that being something that I hadn’t expected.  It took me a while to wrap my head around it because I was the same person that I always was, but I was being treated differently by the people that I hung out with the year before.


When you were bullied in school, was it physical or just verbal?

It wasn’t really physical, mostly verbal, although there was a guy in my class who always wanted to fight me for some reason.  I’d never done anything to him, and we’d never had any sort of altercation.

For the whole year, he thought that he was going to fight me, but I never made too much of it because I never thought that it was going to happen.


It must have been strange for you to be dealing with the abuse, given that you never had any issues until you got to high school…

Don’t get me wrong.  I don’t think for a second that I was the only one being given a hard time in high school.  It’s just that up until then, I felt like everyone had got on pretty well.

For me, there was a gap between the start of high school and the time that I started playing in bands and doing shows.  During that time, people didn’t really know quite where I fit in.  I was doing well in school, so I guess that made me a geek, especially since I wasn’t athletic at all.  I was terrible at every sport that I played, so I was always convinced that I was the most uncoordinated person on earth.

The turning point in my life came when I started playing drums.  I can’t overstate the importance of music in my life because it gave me a sense of belonging.  It also made me realize that I could do something physical (even if it wasn’t sports).


I think that it takes more coordination to play drums than it does to play a lot of sports…

Yeah, and it came pretty naturally for me.  Being able to play the drums definitely gave me self-confidence in addition to a sense of belonging.

Once I started to gain self-confidence, it mattered less what other people thought about me.  I think that people started to see that not everyone was either a geek or a jock, that there was something in between.


Was music an escape for you during the times when you were being picked on?

Yeah, absolutely!  Music has always been an escape for me from the time that I started really getting into it when I was about 13.  It’s basically become all-consuming.  I think that it gave me a great sense of confidence and self-worth.  It’s also just a great way to express how you’re feeling.

It’s no secret that a lot of creative people don’t necessarily have a feeling that they belong.  I think that’s one of the great things about music, and one of the things that it’s certainly given me is a way to express myself in a constructive way.


Do you think that playing drums gave you a sort of cool factor and helped you to shed the “geek” label?

I guess it did, but more than that, I just felt that I was where I belonged.  My friends and I would spend all weekend listening to records, going to concerts and jamming.  Playing in bands helped me to find my place amidst the major social reshuffling that was going on when I got to high school.


Did you end up becoming friendly with the kids in your class who also had good grades, and maybe weren’t too athletic? 

Yeah, I did, and that was one of the positives of the reshuffling that took place.  Maybe the only positive of being sort of categorized, was that I did get to spend time getting to know people that maybe I wouldn’t have before.  Not that I would have picked on them, I just wouldn’t have gotten to know them.


Because they weren’t in your circle of friends, right?

Exactly! You would get to know people on a much deeper level than just seeing them outside on the playground or whatever.  It certainly gave me a lot more empathy for the kids who had been getting a hard time throughout our school years after being on the receiving end of it.


Things obviously got better for you because of music.  Did your friends get hassled less by associating with you?

One of the things that I think was cool about our high school is that, as time went on, those cliques and those categories kind of crumbled away and people were much more accepting of one another.  That was a huge positive.

It’s kind of like the start of high school was like the movie “Mean Girls,” or something similar, but by the end of it, people were much cooler to each other.  I think that it became obvious that you can’t just tag someone with one of two labels and expect them to really fit.


Your brothers went through school before you.  Did they have any issues with bullying during their high school years?

I think that we all kind of had the same thing.  There’s a weird irony in school.  The things that people value about us now (being musicians, being creative, being a bit different and not really fitting into the mold), are the things that people made fun of back then.

I know that Kent and Chris had similar issues, and so did a lot of my musician friends.  I suppose that when you’re in those dog-eat-dog formative years, there’s not always a lot of tolerance for people who are outside the mainstream.

One of the things about being a creative person is that you don’t necessarily fit in (or want to for that matter).  That can definitely create some tension with people who have an idea of what they think you should be.


That’s something that I spoke about with Andy from Black Veil Brides.  We talked about embracing your individuality and not trying to conform to what everyone else wants you to be. 

That’s exactly right!  You know, I always thought that one of the craziest things about the group mentality is that the group is made up of individuals, and every single person in the group is just hoping like hell that no one else finds out that they’re different.  It reminds me of the saying that goes “a person is smart, but people are stupid.”

I always thought that it was strange in high school that groups of kids picked on other kids for being a little bit different, because every kid in the group was a little bit different in their own way.

I think that part of why people pick on others to start with is because they’re just glad that it’s not being done to them.


We’ve discussed that “Love The Way You Hate Me” isn’t about childhood bullying, but the song was inspired by a different type of bullying, right?

Yeah, the song was inspired by a specific event.  It was something that we’d been feeling for a while because, unfortunately, there are a lot of haters out there.

I think that the second that you stick your head above the trenches, someone is going to take a shot at you.  That’s certainly how it’s been for us.  You make fans when you start releasing music, which is amazing, but there are people out there who will criticize you just for the sake of doing it.


I believe the word for them is trolls, at least when it comes to the Internet!

Exactly!  Although “Love The Way You Hate Me” was actually inspired by something that happened face-to-face.

We had an incident when we were on tour down in the south.  Now, we have a lot of fans and friends in the south, so this is certainly not a criticism of the south as a whole.  We were at a truck stop in a really small town.  It was the kind of place that when you walk through the door, the record player stops.  That is literally what happened.  It was like they had never seen anyone that looked like us in their lives.

This guy came up to Kent, who is a pretty tall guy with black and red spikey hair, and called him a “freak” to his face, and then just walked off.  We were kind of stunned initially, because we had never come across anyone like that before.

It got us thinking about how we’ve felt for a while.  There are people who will cut you down no matter what you do, so you’re much better off being who you are, and doing what you want to do, because you’re not going to please those people anyway.  They’re going to give you a hard time no matter what.

“Love The Way You Hate Me” actually started as a song that Kent had, but when we start working on it together, it became a group thing.  The three of us were just talking about the feeling of people criticizing you for being exactly who you are, and we came up with the line “you say I’m a freak, I say I am free.” 


I love that line!

Thanks man! To us, that was really what we had been talking about.  Someone who hates you is going to go after the things that make you the most unique.  Those are the things that define you and make you an individual.  That was really the central idea of the song.


I’m kind of glad that some idiot called Kent a “freak” because a great song came out of it, and it kind of helped launch your career.

Well thank you, dude!  You know, I wouldn’t change any of it now.  It’s funny because once you really don’t care about what the haters think, it’s actually pretty entertaining (especially the online trolls).  There’s nothing more empowering than looking at what someone wrote (which is supposed to ruin your life) and just laughing at it.


It’s happened to me a number of times.  I even showed the comments to my kids, and they asked me why I wasn’t writing back. I told them that if you fight back, you’re giving the trolls exactly what they want, but if you ignore them, it makes them angry because they didn’t get to you.

Exactly!  The Internet has given a soapbox to a lot of angry people.  You definitely can’t please everybody, and if you tried to please those people, they wouldn’t like you anyway.  The best thing to do is to be true to yourself, and ignore the noise.


So true!  I almost feel that the person that criticized Kent to his face deserves some credit, because at least he had the balls to not hide behind a computer screen.  It’s easy to be confrontational online, not so much when you’re in front of the person…

Absolutely! (LOL)  The person who said that to Kent should actually get some sort of award.  I guess to those people, we must have looked like we came from Mars.  We have these weird accents and play in a rock and roll band.  It was probably like something from the “X-Files” for those people.

I have to say that being in a band is just fascinating in the way that people react to you.  You see the absolute best and the worst of humanity.  People are so nice and generous and come and support you and tell you what your music means to them.  On the flip side, a very small percentage of people feel like they have the right to say the most insulting and inappropriate things to you.


You and your brothers are living proof that things get better when you believe in yourself and ignore the ignorant people that you come across in life.  Thanks for sharing your story, Matt.  I’m sure that it will help others who find themselves in trying situations.

Interview with DJ Ashba (Guns ‘N Roses, Sixx:A.M.) – National Bullying Prevention Month

DJ Ashba

Can you talk about your childhood bullying experience?

It’s kind of hard to talk about.  I grew up in a very religious family where my dad was kind of against the church.  In one ear he’d be telling me that the church is all about brainwashing, and in the other ear, my mom was saying that it’s the only way to heaven.  It was a real push and pull situation that I grew up in.

My dad definitely had anger issues.  I remember falling down the steps as a little kid around Christmas time, and I started crying at the bottom of the stairs.  My dad got off of the couch, picked me up, and said…

“Real men don’t cry.  If you want to be a little baby, I’ll give you something to cry about.” 

And then he just beat the shit out of me!

In those situations, I found a safe spot underneath the stairs in my house where I would draw all kinds of demonic pictures.  I’m sure that they’re still there to this day.


I guess you needed something to cling to in a terrible situation…

I was so angry!  When you can’t turn to your dad for guidance, who do you turn to?  The craziest part was that, in my head, I still made him out to be my hero.

Everything that I was doing wasn’t good enough for his approval, so it made me try harder to become the person that I thought he wanted me to be.  It was a very confusing time.

My dad was very sadistic, and kind of felt power in bullying me for whatever reason.  It made it really tough, because I think that he always saw me as kind of a card that he could play against my mom.


That must have been very tough on you and your mom…

Looking back now, I know that my mom truly loved me, and was trying to protect me.

I remember one time when they were fighting.  My dad had one of my arms as he tried to pull me out the front door while screaming at my mom.  She was pulling my other arm trying to stop him.  Basically, in his eyes, I was probably nothing more than a piece of jewelry that he was trying to take back from my mom. It was a very hard situation.


I can only imagine.  Did you gravitate towards your mom and away from your dad?

Despite everything that my dad did to me, I would still sit by the living room window every night waiting for him to come home from the grocery store where he was a butcher.

Every time that he came home, I would try and impress him, and get in good with him, because it was the only way that I figured he would stop being mean to me.


Did you have any place where you felt safe when your dad was around?

I would literally sit in the back of a closet as I listened to him scream.  One time, he put his fist through the door of the closet.  It was very scary!


No kid should have to live in the fear that you lived in.  Did that go on throughout your whole childhood?

One night, I fell asleep by the window waiting for my dad to come home.  When I woke up the next morning, he had never shown up, and I couldn’t understand why.  It was one of those things where I was really confused, and I kind of took it out on my mom for some reason, because I had no idea where he went.


How long was he gone?

He was literally gone a year or two before I even heard from him (or of him).  I came to find out that he was married to somebody else who lived around two blocks from my house.  It was just a weird situation, and I kind of took it out on my mom, so I didn’t have anybody in my life.


Did you speak to your dad after you discovered that he was living nearby?

I would very rarely go visit him, but eventually, I actually ended up moving into his house when I was in junior high because I was mad at my mom, and I took things out on her.  I lived with him for around a year until I realized that I couldn’t stay there.

I was a little older then and I understood things better.  When I told him that I wanted to move back home with my mom, he just lost his mind and smashed my dressers.


It sounds like your childhood was not only difficult, but also very lonely…

I hated the town that I grew up in, because I felt like I didn’t fit in.  It was a very small, country town, you know, very religious.  You’re either a Christian, a farmer or both.  I was born into a world where we had no TVs in the house.


How long did you stay at home?

I moved out when I was 16, and I’ve been on my own ever since.  I moved out to L.A. right before my 21st birthday.  When I got there, I spent my first Christmas by myself because I didn’t know anyone.


It’s understandable why you wanted to break away from your torment…

I’m not trying to paint my dad out to be this monster.  He’s older now, and we’ve never really talked about all this stuff.  It’s one of those things where maybe we’ll talk one day and maybe we won’t.  I’ve forgiven him.  I don’t look at him as a bad person.

He was young when he had me, and nobody hands you a book on how to be a good parent.  By no means am I making excuses for him, because hitting a child is not right, but back then, I think that it was a lot more accepted (at least where I grew up).  That’s all that I knew.  I just figured “ok, I fucked up and this is my punishment.”

I’ve had everything broken over me, from broom handles to wooden spoons.  I’ve even had perfect handprint welts on me that lasted for a solid week.


It’s tragic that you blamed yourself for the abuse that you were receiving…

To me that was normal.  I didn’t know what was going on in other households.  In my mind, I still thought that was the way that everybody was raised.  I’m finding out now that it wasn’t.


Can you talk about how you got started with Bullyville and what your relationship is with them now?

I was the spokesperson for a moment, but I’m no longer a part of Bullyville.  But I think that it’s a great thing, and James McGibney has his heart in the right place.


What was your family’s reaction when you shared your story on Bullyville?

It upset everybody in my family because they all knew, but nobody talked about it.  I’m not trying to air the family laundry at all.  I’m doing it more because of what I’ve had to go through, and if I can help one kid out there, then it was worth it.

When James approached me and asked me about it, I just felt like it was time to get my story out there.  I really struggled with it because I don’t want anybody to look at my dad in a negative light.  That wasn’t my purpose at all.  My purpose was to share my personal story in the hopes that it would help people.


Are you a part of any other anti-bullying movements?

I’m always looking to partner up with different bullying things because it’s just so important to me to help as many kids as I can by sharing my experiences.  Hopefully, that will help inspire and help people.


Was your school life any better than your home life, or were you bullied there too?

I was a loner.  I got into fights in school and was bullied, especially when I moved to Indiana.  I saw kids there who were terrible bullies.  One kid lit another kid on fire, and then kicked him while he was on the ground.


That’s insane!  My only dealings with bullying when I was in school was of the more traditional kind, where I feared getting beaten up.  I remember the terror that I felt, and it was just one or two incidents when I was young.  Nowadays, as a parent, I live in constant fear of the carnage that comes as the result of bullying.

I know what you mean.  When I grew up, school generally wasn’t a place that you feared.  Even if there were fights, it was still a safe place.  You didn’t fear for your life going to school.

The thing about bullying is that it’s always been there and it’s always been bad.  It’s just the fact that we have the Internet now, and so many eyes are watching that society has become more aware of it.

I think that the only thing that’s worse is that social media has turned it into a 24/7 problem.


What advice would you give to any kids who find themselves in a similar situation as yours?

There is light at the end of the tunnel.  Getting abused by adults is not normal, and if any kids out there are experiencing it, they need to let someone know.  It’s just not right. Nobody will ever know what it does mentally to someone.  To this day, it still fucks with my head.


Did things with your dad ever get any better since you’re an adult?

We’ve kind of made amends.  We never will be close because I grew up without him, but I don’t hate him.  I forgive him for everything.

At the end of the day you just have to be the bigger person.  The only thing that I can do, the way that I can beat this is not have a kid too soon, and understand everything before I pass that along.  The only way that I can try to help fix the world is to do things differently.  If I have a kid, I’m going to give it the loving, caring life that I never had.


The best thing to do is to break the cycle.  This shouldn’t be passed from one generation to the next.

Yeah, absolutely.  Because I wasn’t around yet, I don’t know how my grandparents were to my dad.  I do know that you don’t just wake up one day as an asshole.  I think that if you look back, it probably trickled down, and that he got it from somewhere.  The only thing that I can do is learn from his mistakes and not pass it along to my kids.  Like you said, the best thing that can be done is to break the cycle.


It reminds me of the whole Adrian Peterson situation.  Maybe he was physically disciplined in a very harsh way, but that doesn’t mean that he had to do the same thing to his children.  I mean, he is a very strong NFL player, and yet, he was beating his 4-yr old with a tree branch.  I imagine that hit very close to home for you…

Yeah, I see that as so wrong now, but only because I took the time to really try to fix myself (which didn’t happen overnight).  I’ve even tried to put myself in my dad’s shoes to understand his side.  Like I said earlier, he was young, and there is no handbook that teaches you how to be a great parent.  I’m sure he didn’t set out thinking…“hey, I’m going to be a fuckin’ asshole and hit my kid.”

If I hadn’t taken the time to fix myself, I’d probably do the same thing if I had a kid, because I wouldn’t know any different.  If he grew up anything like me, and didn’t take the time to fix himself, I truly believe he might not know that what he did was wrong.


It’s good to see that a change has happened with our generation (Adrian Peterson aside)…

I almost think that it was worse growing up in some ways back then because it was more acceptable in certain places in the country to literally beat your kids with a belt.  That was considered punishment, and nobody really did anything about it.


Sixx: A.M. has a lot of message-driven songs, but were any inspired directly by bullying?

You know, we kind of just put a lot of our emotions into everything that we do.  For instance, on our first album (The Heroin Diaries), I put myself emotionally into those songs by tapping into the physical abuse that I’ve been through.  Even though it wasn’t heroin abuse, for a while, the physical abuse did lead to a really bad cocaine problem.  I was able to plug myself into that story in my own way.


Do you have any memorable stories that kids have shared with you because of your anti-bullying involvement?

There were a ton of comments on my story on Bullyville.  The part that’s so moving is how many people the story touched.  I couldn’t have dreamt that so many people would feel connected to it.  There were thousands of comments and e-mails from people who were going through similar situations.


It must have felt good to know that sharing such a deeply personal and painful story was not done in vain. 

It was very touching to know that one person really can make a difference. And if we all stand up and speak our minds, this world will slowly become a better world to live in.

Interview with Jeff Scott Soto of Artists United Against Bullying – National Bullying Prevention Month

Jeff Scott Soto

What was the inspiration for creating Artists United Against Bullying?

The whole thing really started with one of our main guys, Paulo Mendonca.  He’s got a young son who was being bullied at school.  He and I happened to be talking on a day that he was fuming mad about the situation.  He said to me…

“Man, I’m so angry.  I just don’t tolerate this stuff, and I want to do something about it to help raise awareness about bullying.”

Even though there are a lot of things being done to raise bullying awareness, he wanted to create his own personal message to deliver through music.

I was on board with him right away.  He got the guys from In Flames, and some friends from Sweden involved as well.  The only drag for me is that they get to do everything together in Sweden, and I get stuff after the fact being in L.A.


Since bullying is such a widespread problem, I think that there is always room for anyone (particularly artists) to get involved with doing their part to raise awareness.

One of the reasons that it was an immediate “yes” for me to be involved in this thing with Paulo and the guys, is that everybody in one sense or another has been bullied when they were kids.

There are so many different levels of bullying.  Bullying in life goes beyond kids being teased in school, although the majority of it starts there.  You get people who just carry it through their lives into adulthood.  I have even had instances of bullying in the music business from former bandmates (who I’ll leave nameless).


How did you get involved with Paulo initially?

I was a big fan of his music.  No one really knows him in the U.S., and even in Europe, only a small core of people know him.  He was an artist in the early 90s who was successful in pockets of Europe. He started to sour on the performing side of the business, and ended up just writing and producing for a number of years.

I was such a fan that I sought after him to record with him.  He is the one who produced my solo album, Beautiful Mess, in 2008.  Thankfully, he got the bug again and decided that he wanted to start recording music.


Have you recorded any anti-bullying songs yet?

The first song that we came up with is a song called “Hero,” which hasn’t been released yet.  I wrote the lyrics as if I were writing it to my own son, but it is meant to be a message to Paulo’s son.

The message of the song is that, as your parent, I don’t want to be your hero; I just want to be the one that sets you on the right path and makes sure that you know what’s going on in the world.  Instead of me always being there to protect you, I want to show you that you can actually stand up for yourself.


That’s a really interesting take on being a “hero,” and also about being empowered to stand up for yourself in difficult situations.

You know, there’s so many ways that I could have gone with the whole “hero” side of things, but those types have songs have been done already.  I wanted to put a different angle on it.

NOTE:  “Hero” will make its debut on Hard Rock Daddy when it is completed!


One of the things that I’m finding interesting about this awareness campaign is that as Americans, we tend to think of bullying as an American problem, but clearly, it’s a worldwide problem. 

A lot of people get into music around the world because they have been bullied, and it’s a way to express themselves.  They have dealt with some sort of oppression in their lives, from people in school to people at work, and even their own families at times.

They end up taking their painful experiences and putting it into their music.  One of the reasons that we have such amazing music is because there are a lot of tortured artists out there who are able to share their pain and connect with others who are going through the same things themselves.


I couldn’t agree more, especially when it comes to hard rock because it’s a way to get out your aggression, at least it was for me when I was growing up.  I think that it’s much tougher today for kids in a lot of ways.

There are so many extremes now.  We used to worry about different things when we were kids. I’m going to be 49 next week, and things have changed so much since I was a kid with regard to what is safe and what isn’t.  It’s a great world, but it’s so much more dangerous than it was when I was growing up.


Did you have any personal bullying experiences that inspired you to join Paulo in launching this project?

Absolutely!  Being a gawky kid, I dealt with bullying growing up.  Luckily, my height surpassed what I was supposed to be for my age bracket, and that helped the bullying stop.  Obviously, they weren’t going to physically pick on the bigger kid.  However, there was another sense of bullying because I was a bit nerdy.  I wasn’t confident with my looks, and didn’t know what do to them, so I would get teased.


Did you have any physical bullying experiences?

I remember getting into a fight in summer camp when I was around 8-yrs old.  I’m not a violent person, but this kid just kept teasing and teasing and teasing, and my older brother said that you’ve got to stand up for yourself.  He told me that he couldn’t always be there to fight my battles.

This kid taunted me enough that I put him in a headlock and just held him there while I was banging on the counselor’s door to come and break us up, because I knew that if I let him go, he was going to beat my ass!  I knew that I had to shut him down; otherwise, he was just going to keep taunting me.


I guess you sometimes you have to resort to physically standing up for yourself, even if it’s not in your nature.

Violence isn’t the best way to get through the teasing and the bullying.  You can fight your “war” with words if you can find the right words to say to shut them down.  It can actually work more effectively than punching their lights out, but you also have to be careful, because shutting them down verbally can make them more aggressive and then they’ll come after you.


Have your kids dealt with bullying? 

My son is 26-yrs old now, but he did go through some things when he was in school.  However, he had such a strong personality that he was able to curb it pretty much immediately.

He was kind of the cool kid, who went through a phase himself where he was verbally bullying another kid by telling him that he looked “gay” in what he was wearing.  I had to sit him down and tell him that it’s not ok to use that word in that context.  I told him that we had the same issues when someone was doing it to him, so he shouldn’t turn around and do it to someone else.  He ended up apologizing to the kid and using his influence to stop others from doing the same.

Nowadays, I’m dealing with my wife’s kids who are still in school, and luckily, they haven’t had to deal with anything like this yet.  We have talks with them all the time telling them that if any bullying happens, that they have to tell us.  It’s not that we’re going to step in, but we’ll be there to help them know how to deal with it.


I think that is one of the keys to dealing with bullying.  Not to excuse the kids that do it in any way whatsoever, but parenting is a key to making sure that your kids behave properly.  If parents stepped in more, we would have a better chance of solving this problem instead of relying on the schools, who are already overwhelmed. 


Can you talk about the mission of Artists United Against Bullying?

Well, it’s still in the embryonic stages.  So far, it’s just been about coming up with the idea for the song and working on it together.  We’re still at the early stages of how involved everyone will be, and how far we’ll be able to take it.

We decided to start with what we do best, which was to record a song.  If we like where it’s going, we’ll do more songs, and maybe even eventually record an entire album.  Ultimately, this is more than a band; it’s a cause.  If we do get funding, it will all go towards the cause.


Thanks for taking the time to share your story, Jeff.  I’m really looking forward to the debut of “Hero” and seeing all of the good that I think you will do with Artists United Against Bullying!

Interview with Black Veil Brides’ Andy Biersack – National Bullying Prevention Month

Andy Biersack Black Veil Brides

Can you talk a little bit about the bullying that you experienced as a kid and how you handled it?

When I was growing up in school, I wasn’t the archetype of the classic American nerd; I was just different.  I had a certain kind of disassociation from the other kids because I had more interest in sociology, ideas and trying to communicate those ideas to the kids around me.  It wasn’t that I thought that I was better than them; I just didn’t associate with them in any way.

Because of the kind of music that I liked, and the different way that I dressed, it was kind of a perfect storm, creating a situation where I existed on my own throughout my schooling.  And the times when I wasn’t on my own, I faced some sort of derision from someone around me.  This was due either to the way that I dressed, or because I was a little bit overweight when I was a kid, so I would get made fun of for being chubby.


Wow, that’s shocking!  I never would have guessed that you would have been overweight.

I fluctuated in weight all through my adolescence.  From 4th grade to 7th grade, I was overweight, and the kids would say that I looked like Chunk from The Goonies.  They would always ask me to do the “Truffle Shuffle.”

It was a great cause of pain for me, and because of that, I didn’t really get the chance to talk to girls. I was a straight boy with hormones kicking in, and I wanted to talk to girls, but they weren’t interested in talking back to me, so there was a real sense of loneliness.


Did you end up resenting the girls for ignoring you?

Pretty early on, I just started to believe that they didn’t understand me.  There was something intrinsic to me that they just didn’t get, which was ok.  It didn’t make me hate them though.

It’s interesting that you had the awareness at such a young age of having something to offer that others just didn’t get it. 


There have been a number of artists who have written songs about bullying, but your songs seem to be more about empowerment.  Do you find that your songs have been especially helpful to your fans that are being bullied or feel like outcasts?

Absolutely!  I think that it’s important to note that you touched on how a lot of artists are writing songs about bullying.  That is something that causes great concern for me.

I feel that there is a culture being built that is a celebration of agony.  There is also a celebration of being an outcast, to the degree that you are segregating yourself in a negative way from people who may want to be your friend.  I never advocate that you should be lonely, or come to my shows and bring me your razor blade to show me that you don’t cut anymore.


So, what is your advice to your fans?

I would advocate that you show me your smiling face, and how happy you can make your life.  I know that isn’t always easy and that there is self-harm in the world.  Sometimes it’s hard for people to rise above things.


Last year, you guys did a special shirt for the song “Unbroken,” and donated all the proceeds to The Bully Project.  How did you get involved with The Bully Project, and how much did you end up raising for them?

I’m not entirely sure about the actual amount that we raised off the top of my head, but I know that it was quite a bit, and we were very happy to do it.

What happened was, one of the kids in the bully documentary had expressed interest in our band, and it was really touching.  His parents reached out to our management about autographs and stuff, and I thought that it was a logical thing to try and get involved with their whole project.

It was beneficial for us because it showed that we wanted to get involved with a good cause and beneficial for them because we raised a lot of money for the organization.


The powerful video that you made for the song had all of your fans wearing the shirts.  Were you able to include everyone, or were there just too many submissions?

I wish that we could have included everyone.  We tried our best, but there’s only so much time in the song.  We were able to get a lot of fans in there though.


Can you share a story or two about a fan who credits your music for helping to get them through tough times?

It would be very hard to specify a particular story because we get them all of the time.  Unfortunately, the stories are often all too familiar.  I’ll hear the same tales from Dublin, Ireland that I hear in Louisville, KY.

More than anything, I think that there is a common thread that runs through everything.  We have been able to strike a chord with people who have their own sense of self, but were unable to access it.  Our music helped them to feel something positive.

A good example of this would be this kid in London.  He’s been covering our songs on YouTube from the time that he was around 12-yrs old.  It’s been a lot of fun to watch someone who was an awkward, kind of shy and introverted kid, end up in his own band with a record deal.


Can you talk about the inspiration and meaning behind “Heart Of Fire?”

“Heart Of Fire” is essentially the idea that time and circumstance changes how you see things.

We like to believe that when we’re young, and we have this idea that we want to fight for something, that it will be that way forever, when in reality, sometimes it will change.

It would be weird for me to be raging against all of the bullies in my life because it would be disingenuous at this point in time.  I’ve gotten through all of that and I’m living a wonderful life now, but that doesn’t mean that people aren’t mean to me.  Every day, people say crappy things about my band or whatever, but I live a positive existence.  I got through everything by virtue of having that same passion that I’ve had through the years.

“Heart Of Fire” is about holding onto that fire or passion that you had when you were a kid, even though you may change as a person or your circumstances may change.  It’s saying that even though I’m more weathered and stronger now, that I still have that feeling of wanting to be that passionate individual that I’ve always been.


Thanks for taking the time to talk today, Andy.  You’ve given some great insight into how to rise above being bullied, finding your passion and living a happy life.  Best of luck with the new album.  I’m looking forward to reviewing it for Hard Rock Daddy and speaking to you again in the near future.

Interview with Charm City Devils’ John Allen – National Bullying Prevention Month

John Allen Charm City Devils

Were you bullied when you were growing up?

Oh yeah.  I grew up in a blue collar area, and that was part of the way of life there.  I think that the older kids thought that it was their job to terrorize the younger kids, especially the ones who were undersized.  Even though I consider my childhood to be pretty idyllic for the most part, and I wasn’t bullied constantly, it definitely started happening during my pre-teen years as I was going into junior high school.

Being undersized, and not particularly athletic, it was hard to find a place where I fit in, so I was an easy target.  As the saying goes, “shit rolls downhill,” and I think that some of the people who were doing the bullying were bullied themselves.  I think that it would be great to stop the cycle of bullying.  Just because it happened to you, it doesn’t make it right to do it to others.  If we all lived by that type of logic, we would still be riding horses and taking wagons everywhere.


When you were bullied was it more verbal, physical or both?

Both, but I remember the physical more than the verbal.  One incident in particular comes to mind.  There was a kid who was much older than us sitting on the bleachers.  We weren’t sitting too far away from him, and out of nowhere, he picked up a rock and just winged it really hard right into my thigh.  I guess it was his way of telling us to get away from him.  He was a pitcher who threw very hard, so it was pretty painful.


Others musicians that I’ve spoken with about bullying have told me that they used music as an escape.  Do you feel that bullying helped drive you to playing music as an escape? 

I don’t think that it necessarily drove me to music because I loved it at a really early age.  It wasn’t an escape from bullying per se, because it didn’t happen constantly.  However, I think that our insecurities play a big part into playing music.  If I was completely well-adjusted, I wouldn’t want to get on stage and seek the adulation, acceptance and love from strangers that I do now.  I’m sure it played some part, but I don’t think that bullying consciously drove me to music.  That being said, I think that all experiences that you go through help shape you into who you are, and dealing with bullying was just part of it.


Have you heard from any fans about how your music helped them deal with bullying or other difficult situations?

We did a show back in July in Texas.  At the show, we met an undersized high school kid, with longer hair who was there with his dad. The kid is a drummer, so he spent a good amount of time talking to our drummer, Jason. Before he left, Jason gave him a drumstick to take home with him, and the kid left happy.  The next day, the kid’s dad sent us a letter on Facebook telling us about his son, and how much it meant to him to meet us.

It turns out that because of his size, his hair, the clothes that he wears (concert shirts) and the music that he likes (hard rock and metal), he is bullied in school.  His musical taste doesn’t fit in where he lives.  When I read the letter about how a lot of the kids pick on him, it broke my heart, because he was a really nice kid.

I had no idea that he was going through all of that when we met him.  As I read the letter in the van, I said to the guys in the band that I wished that there was more that we could do for him, but I’m glad that coming to our show and meeting us gave him a respite from all of the stuff that he’s going through.


Thanks for taking the time to share your story, John.  I’m sure that it will help others to see that you can rise above it and become a success in life.

Interview with Tom Keifer (Part 2 of 2)

Tom Keifer Headshot

In part 1 of the interview with Tom Keifer, we discussed his latest album The Way Life Goes.  In part 2, we discuss his relocation to Nashville, the vocal cord problems that nearly ended his singing career, his duet with Lzzy Hale and the future plans for Cinderella.


You’ve relocated to Tennessee now.  How did you end up leaving the northeast for the south?

I moved here in the 90’s when the whole music scene changed.  Cinderella had lost the deal with Mercury Records, and we didn’t have an outlet for our music anymore, at least, not the kind we were used to having.  We started drifting apart, and I was looking to do something new.  That’s when the idea of a solo record first hit me, and I moved to Nashville, and started working and writing with people here.  It’s been a very inspirational town…the musicianship, the songwriters, engineers and studios here are just the best of the best, so it’s a good place to be.  I was up in Philly and New Jersey when Cinderella drifted apart and we lost our deal.  It was the first time in years that I wasn’t part of a band.  We were constantly working, so I never really thought about my environment in terms of inspiration.  I found myself just sitting in the house in Jersey, and decided that I had to get somewhere to get inspired.


Is there anything that you miss about the northeast?

(Laughs) Well, Tastykakes, cheesesteaks.  It always comes down to food, right?  Things that you grow up on as a kid, you think that they have everywhere, and then you go out and travel the world, you realize that’s not the case.  I remember the first time that I had a cheesesteak in San Francisco, and it was like an open-faced French bread with a filet mignon on it.  I was like…“that’s not a cheesesteak!”

So I definitely miss that stuff, but my family is kind of spread out all over the place.  My dad and one of my sisters still live up there, but they’re kind of spread out too.  It used to be about missing the family because there was a unit there, but since we’re all spread out, it comes down to the food, I guess (laughs).

Nashville’s landscape is actually very similar to what I’m used to, and we have the four seasons of weather changes, so in that respect, there are a lot of similarities, which is probably why I like it here.


You recently had an interesting trip back to the northeast singing with Lzzy Hale at the York County Fair.  She’s clearly a huge fan of yours.  What was it like doing a duet with her?

It was awesome!  That was so much fun.  We actually did two shows with them.  We did the night before in Atlantic City at the House Of Blues.  They’re just great people.  I really love the band and their music, and her voice, so getting to sing with her was pretty cool.  She’s a great talent.  Her voice is insanely good.  I really enjoyed doing the shows with them and getting to see them live because I’ve heard really good things about them over the years.  That was actually the first time that I’ve gotten to see them live.


Are there any other new bands that you’re into?

I’ve been digging this “Radioactive” tune by Imagine Dragons.  I love that track.  I like Bruno Mars, and specifically of late, that piano ballad that he has is just classic, you know, “When I Was Your Man.”  I just think that he’s an incredible singer.  I’m drawn to really great singers because it’s an inspiration to me after what I’ve been through.  It’s something to aspire to, when you hear someone like Bruno Mars sing like that.


How did you get into singing?

I kind of fell into it.  I started off singing and playing together when I was really young on acoustic guitar…Beatles songs and American folk songs.  That’s what my teacher taught me.  And then as soon as I heard Led Zeppelin and the Rolling Stones, I gravitated more towards the guitar, and then I came back to singing and playing when I started writing my own music.


You touched upon the vocal cord problems that you’ve had.  Do you feel like you’re back to where you were before the problems with your vocal cords?

In a lot of ways I am.  It’s not 100%, because where I once was, I didn’t have to maintain it for an hour-and-a-half every day.  I have to do an incredible amount of therapy and voice exercises to keep it in this place.  I thank God every day that I was able to figure out a way to get around this, but it’s not an exact science learning how to sing again.  I was told that I would never sing again, so I’m more than happy to do the work in therapy that I need to do.  It’s pretty much every day whether I’m on the road or not.  And even on a show day, my warm-ups and exercises are usually longer than the show, but it’s worth it.


How do you usually feel when the show is over?

(Laughs)  It depends on how I sang.  Most nights pretty good, because it’s gotten more and more consistent.  It’s not something that I have 100% control over.  I can do everything right, get all the rest that I need, and eat all the right things, and hydrate and do all of the exercises.  When I’m about to walk on stage, my voice can feel like a million bucks, and then at some point in the show, the neurological condition can rear its ugly head.  It’s hard to determine night to night why that happens.  Some nights I kind of struggle a little bit, but for the most part, it’s pretty stable.  Most nights I come off feeling really good and really grateful, and then there are other nights I come off a little frustrated thinking… “man I thought I was gonna soar tonight” (laughs) and then it kind of just doesn’t happen.


Do you find that it’s more of a challenge hitting the higher notes on the Cinderella songs?

No, it really affects all areas of my voice.  Really, the area most affected is the middle part of the voice more than anything.  But overall, it’s really been stable in the last three of four years.  It’s just occasionally still frustrating when you do all the therapy and exercises and you still have those challenging moments.  And you never know when it’s going to hit.  The same notes that you hit one night might not be there the next.


What’s going on with the legal issues that prevented you from making a new Cinderella record?

That’s clear now.  It was a re-record restriction surrounding the record deal that went south, but that’s all behind us now.  During the course of the re-record restriction period, we all started working on individual projects.  Mine took 10 years, so in terms of new music, I was really just focused on this record.  The band has just toured in recent years.  Now it’s more a situation that if we were to make a new record, it would just have to be the right label and the right deal before we jump into that pool again.


You made “The Way Life Goes” before you had the record deal.  Did you find the creative process to be more liberating without having to worry about what the record label thought?

Well, yeah.  The reason that I made that decision was because of the record deal that went bad with Cinderella.  I just didn’t want to deal with a record company, with lawyers or any of that bullshit.  I just wanted to make music.  This record really was about the music and having fun.  I made it with Savannah.  She wrote a lot of the record and it was co-produced with Chuck Turner and me.  It was about just making music, and to make it as good as we could make it.  We didn’t care how long it took, and we didn’t care if it ever came out.


Crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo, and the direct connection that artists have with fans now through social media has allowed bands to bypass the labels altogether if they choose.  Is that something that you ever considered?

I didn’t want to do that for the release or the marketing or any of that, so the idea was, if we ever got the record finished (laughs) – like I said, we took a long time making it – that once we got it to something that we felt was something, the idea was to eventually take it to a label, and find a home for it with a label that believes in it, and really wants to go to the wall for it, and we found that with Merovee Records.  They’ve been incredible.  They really believe in the record, and have really supported it, so we’ve got a great home there.


What are you future solo tour plans?

We’ve just been doing some one-offs  here and there right now, but we’re looking to get back on the road full bore at the end of the year or early next year, and tour through the year supporting “The Way Life Goes.”


I’m looking forward to catching the show when you come around next time.  Congratulations on finally getting your record out there.  I think that I speak for all fans when I say that it was definitely worth the wait!



Tom Keifer – “The Way Life Goes”:  Hard Rock Daddy Album Review

Interview with Tom Keifer (Part 1 of 2)

Tom Keifer Headshot

Hard Rock Daddy recently spoke to Tom Keifer about his solo album entitled The Way Life Goes (see album review).  The posting of the interview was delayed due to unforeseen circumstances, but that’s “the way life goes” sometimes.


Given the amount of time that it took to complete “The Way Life Goes,” was it difficult to settle upon the final tracks?

Well, most of the songs were selected when we started to cut the tracks and produce the record.  We didn’t over-record and then select the songs.  It was probably harder at the beginning of the process to say which 14 songs we would choose.  Actually, it started out being more like 12, and then there were a couple that we added in.  “Mood Elevator” and “Welcome To My Mind” were later additions when we were actually in the middle of recording.


With 10 years of material to choose from, it couldn’t have been easy picking the final cuts for the album…

A lot of the writing was done prior to the recording, but as I mentioned, some of the songs were written during the recording.  It’s always hard, because I had a lot of songs to choose from and sometimes you just don’t know which ones are going to come out the best until you actually start recording and producing them, so it’s always a tricky process.  I like to pick of mix of songs that create dynamics and give you some variety.


Lyrically, the album shows the highs and lows that you’ve been through as far as relationships are concerned.  Your wife, Savannah, is a big part of this record.  You seem to have great musical chemistry with her.  What was it like working with her on the record?

Very easy.  She’s so talented, and an amazing songwriter and producer.  She co-produced and co-wrote a lot of the songs.  What’s really cool is that we approach music the same way.  I know some songwriters who feel that they always have to be writing a song, and kind of forcing it, but I’ve never been that way.  I’m very happy not to write a song for a year-and-a-half, because I just figure that I’m not supposed to be writing one at that moment.  Sometimes, the break allows you to fill the well and get inspiration.  Savannah approaches songwriting the same way.  I don’t think that either one of us could stand living in the house together if one of us was a pushy songwriter.


You can definitely feel the love between you and Savannah on the album, but there is also some hate on various songs.  Were those inspired by one bad relationship or several?

I think when those things get written, it’s cumulative.  Those are feelings that we’ve all felt throughout our lives many times.  From high school on, we all experience many heartaches and anger about bad relationships.  With songs like “Cold Day In Hell” and “Ain’t That A Bitch,” I can’t really point to any one person in particular.  It just builds up in you through the years from the time that you’re an adolescent.  “Nobody’s Fool” was like that too.  It wasn’t about one thing.  It’s more about capturing an emotion that we all go through many times over in our lifetimes.


There’s a disclaimer on “The Way Life Goes“ about someone from high school not really becoming a drag queen. 

(Laughs) – Well the title track is a little tongue-in-cheek about the irony of life.  There are real people in that song, people that I grew up with in high school, but as far as I know, he did not become a drag queen.  It was kind of a funny way to make a point because they were the all-American couple, you know, the prom queen and captain of the football team.  I had to find a way to have it end in despair in an ironic way, so it was pure fiction.


The storyline of the song actually reminded me of Billy Joel’s “Scenes From An Italian Restaurant.”

Oh, well, thank you!  That’s a compliment.  I love Billy Joel, and his ability to write about the slice of life.  I’ve always been a big fan of his. Growing up in high school, The Stranger was huge album that I loved.


You do a great job of capturing a slice of life on this record.  One of the things that I appreciated most is the way that you do it with a social conscience, while hitting on things going on in society today.  For example, the way that you highlight the short attention span that exists today due to technology on “Fool’s Paradise.”

I think that technology is a catch-22.  Good or bad, it’s changing our society drastically.  I think that a lot of our modern conveniences are opening the door to not such good things.


On the song “A Different Light,” I think that you really captured a lot of what is going on in America today, in a sympathetic, positive kind of way.

I’ve been asked about the meaning of that song a few times.  To me it comes down to non-judgment.  People are sometimes guilty of looking at someone’s situation, and judging them on the situation while forgetting that there is a real person there, and maybe there were circumstances that were out of their control.  You might see them very differently if you look at their situation in a different light.  Basically, we all want the same things out of life, and sometimes people end up in unfortunate circumstances that are beyond their control.


Check back on Friday for part 2 of the interview with Tom Keifer to read about the vocal cord problems that nearly ended his singing career, his duet with with Lzzy Hale and the future plans for Cinderella.