There is no doubting that the new album from Armored Saint was one of the most highly anticipated albums of 2015, and in turn no surprise certainly to fans, that it showed the band like all the best malts, just keener and more flavoursome over the years, simply better with age. Win Hands Down is a proposition distinctly Armored Saint but ripe with stirring invention and adventurous attitude aligned to maybe their most explosive craft yet. It is beast of a release which meant we did not have to be asked twice when given the opportunity to talk with the band about their new triumph. So with thanks to bassist Joey Vera, we looked in on the making of Win Hands Down, the new freedom seemingly flowing through songwriting and invention, the band in the modern metal scene and…
Hi Joey and many thanks for taking time out to talk with us.
Let’s get straight to the chase and talk about new album Win Hands Down which is deservedly earning strong acclaim since its recent release. Do you find you have the same emotions and excitement with each record you unleash or does it vary with each release and situation?
Yeah the feelings are generally the same. We’re very proud each time we finish a record. But must say this time the fallout is somewhat more electric I have to admit.
In regard to creating the album, Jon (Bush) was quoted on the albums press release as saying, “When we started work on this record, I said, ‘Let’s pretend we are a really big band and can do whatever we want’.” Now I find it hard to believe Armoured Saint as a band and as individual musicians would allow restrictions to deflect ideas and intentions or have thoughts of being anything less than a ‘big band’ creatively. So could you elaborate on what he meant and how you used it as a spark in the creation of Win Hands Down?
We’ve pretty much done our own thing this whole time. But we always have this reminder over our shoulder that there’s some kind of expectation from us. But I think we started to feel freer from that starting with La Raza. We feel more than ever that we can do whatever we really want. But let’s be frank, there are SOME confines that we live in, but it’s a matter of how much you are willing to elaborate from those confines. It takes balls to go outside a comfort zone and we felt like we had to go past that this time.
Did you approach the writing and recording of Win Hands Down with any major differences to how for example you made last album La Raza?
Not really. The bottom line with us in the past 10 years is, just write great songs. When we were younger we were more likely to be concerned with making some kind of impression. But that’s all out the window now. We have nothing to prove to anyone.
There is a freedom in the songwriting of the new album, a more adventurous bucking of expected structures in metal and heavy rock songs. This in turn gave it a bolder energy and unpredictability which was maybe less pronounced in its predecessor; something you would agree with?
Absolutely, again, we’re at a point where we need to push ourselves and see what we’re capable of. We get very tired and restless if we feel like we are not moving in a forward direction, for better or worse.
What primarily sparked this different intent and exploration in the writing of songs?
Maybe our age? We truly enjoy making music. But we have to create something that is interesting and fun for us first. Seems obvious when I say it, but it’s fun and exciting to take chances, and horribly boring playing it safe.
This freedom in exploration will be continuing in future releases we can assume such the potency it gave Win Hands Down?
Well I sure hope we continue to explore what we are capable of. Otherwise, time to hang it up.
How so does the songwriting process generally emerge within the band?
They last two records have pretty much been done by John and myself. There’s just some kind of snow ball effect that happens when the two of us start writing. It’s genuine and honest and the results are great, at least to us. We take contributions from the other guys of course but the shapes have to fit inside the puzzle. It can be difficult sometimes but the guys all know what’s right.
Were there any specific inspirations fuelling the lyrical side of the album and its tracks?
Well as John writes, some of it comes from a personal place and some it reads like fiction. But in either case John has written this one wearing his heart further down his sleeve than in the past. A lot of it hits home.
Going back to that freedom point, and I guess you have already answered this but I get the feeling that the band and again you all as individuals are now in a place where you primarily do, write, and create things for you rather than when expectations of others whether it be fans, labels etc.?
Ha, you’d think I’d read ahead on these questions but I didn’t. Yes, we have to please ourselves first. We are very fortunate that we have a loyal fan base and loyal support from our label that allows us to do this.
This also allows other projects and opportunities to fit in with the band’s ‘exploits’ without difficulties I assume?
Managing our lives is tricky these days, no matter what.
Armored Saint has been a greedily devoured and potent proposition within metal since the early eighties and over three different ‘chapters’. I wonder though that even with all the thrilling and impressive releases you have given us, hi-energy quality shows you have played, that the band is the most relaxed with itself right now and subsequently blossoming even more creatively taking Win Hands Down as evidence?
Perhaps, we are in our golden years. We’re very tired of stressing the small stuff.
Where would you say the band has most dramatically changed since its early days?
Well I guess the fact that we are more at ease now, more than ever.
And where do you see Armored Saint in the landscape of metal today?
Just recently I began to think that we’ve always been on our own island and in the past, that bothered us a little. But now we love it and embrace it.
As mentioned you have been and are involved in numerous other projects and bands, would you say this has also played a big part in the evolution of the band’s sound and in your albums consistently having a fresh and modern feel whilst retaining that distinct Armored Saint sound?
Sure. I’ve become a better player and musician all around, largely due to all of the amazing musicians I’ve have the pleasure of being with. I learn so much from each guy I jam with, I listen and learn.
What is next for Armored Saints?
We will be playing some great shows the rest of this year and into 2016. We will be shooting a new video in late summer and more tour dates. A live DVD is also in discussion.
Big thanks again for chatting with us, any last words for the readers?
We must give thanks to our fans that have followed us since day one, and since they’ve come on board. We cannot do any of this without them. Thank you for coming with us.
Read our review of Win Hands Down @ https://ringmasterreviewintroduces.wordpress.com/2015/06/05/armored-saint-win-hands-down/
Thanks to Andy at Metal Blade for arranging the interview.
The RingMaster Review 19/06/2015