When and how did you get into
"My uncle had come
back from the Vietnam war and was living with us and he turned
me on to Black Sabbath and Uriah Heep and Hendrix when I was around
9. That was about the same time my music training began in elementary
school. But it was about 6 years later that I discovered my true
passion for heavy metal.I used to sit next to this guy named Dallas
Perkins in 10th grade algebra class and talk about aerosmith and
led zep and ac/dc. He heard me singing along to my 8-track (I'm
dating myself here) and it was like a day or two after I'd just
gone to my first rock concert (Golden Earring and Aerosmith) when
he asked me if I'd be interested in singing with his band, Sweet
Destruction, which was changed later to Aladdinsane and then to
Overlord. He didn't even get the question out of his mouth and
I said, abso-fucking -lutely. That band turned out to be a major
turning point in my life. I turned from an extremely shy kid to
the frontman of the most popular band in the area.
The band members were from
2 different area's, Dallas and I were from a lower middle class town
called Hampton and the other half of the band was from upper class Fox
Chapel.Despite the differences in our upbringings we were all very good
friends and had a common ground....Metal. Our set list was mostly Judas
Priest, Scorpions, Aerosmith , Iron Maiden, that kind of stuff. We were
like 15 years old and playing for all these parties and festivals and
then in the clubs. I was a bit jaded, though. I thought all bands were
supposed to be that talented, and didn't quite understand why everyone
made such a big deal about us. Despite the wealth of talent in that
band we all still pushed ourselves very hard to become better and better
and to keep up with the other bands in the area who were twice our age.
Dallas is now, one of the best classical metal guitarists in the universe
and I hope someday to reunite with him and record something. We have
talked about it already."
When did you start singing?
"I started when I was
very young, in the school chorus. Of course the teacher was always disappointed
in me for not taking it seriously. I was kicked out of Choir in 9th
grade because I refused to sing baritone. My voice was not made to sing
so low, especially at that age. So when she saw that I was not singing
my parts she ejected me and never asked why I wasn't singing. The spitball
between her eyes helped her decision too, I think. Oh well."
What other instruments
do you play?
"I started playing the
trumpet (Bflat Cornet) when I was in 4th grade. They placed me in the
5th grade band then and I challenged my way up to first seat. I was
hated. My father really made me hate the horn, too. There was always
this power struggle over practicing. I'm glad he forced me to learn,
but it was hard to play with a bloody lip , when I didn't do as he said.
Then, we had a pool in our back yard and some of the girls from school
used to come over to swim, and I'd be in my room practicing on the trumpet.....what
was I thinking? After the first time I sang with Sweet Destruction I
realized that the trumpet was not going to get me what I wanted. I did
the equasion and it was obvious. talent + trumpet = pain, and talent
+ microphone = girls in bikinis. The bikinis won."
What other bands have
you been in (Psycho Scream, etc.)?
"Well, the one(s) I mentioned
and then when I was 19 I moved to Florida and sang with a few bands.
There was Griffin and then Axis and then Act Of God, which was a studio
project. In Axis I was the rookie in the band and had these killer veteran
musicians twice my age all around me, teaching me the art of entertainment.
Another major experience for me. When I moved to Pittsburgh again after
a motorcycle accident, I went to broadcasting school and audio school
simultaniously. I joined back up with Overlord and the lead guitarist
quit, so the bass player and I hooked up with some guys across town,
and that band was called 313 (three-thirteen). We almost had a record
deal with CBS but our master tapes were so fucked up, they told us to
redo the recording at our own expense and that just about killed the
band right there. I got disgusted with the whole thing and I took a
break from singing and bands and worked at learning the keyboard and
got better at the guitar and studied more music theory and songwriting.
Then I got a call from a local promoter about singing for this group,
and tried to politely decline, but he insisted i give them a chance.
So I went to this audition and found that everybody could sing pretty
well, so I joined up with them and we called the new band Dr.No., They
encouraged me to become a voice teacher. We had a mentor, a music teacher
named Sam Hazo who wrote songs for us and taught me more about voice
and I was interested enough to study further on my own. We had a unique
problem though. Our vocals and the whole production was so good , thanks
to Matt Harrington, who now produces at Soundscape, that people would
stand outside the clubs thinking we were just playing CDs and they waited
for the band to come on, not knowing that what they heard was the band.
We did pretty well, and that band became a springboard for all of us.
Then I got stolen by another band called Triple-X. We were Pittsburgh's
best drawing rock band for about 4 years , tried to get a record deal,
but couldn't, and then I got the itch to play the heavier stuff I'd
been writing , and keep persuing a record deal. Right when I joined
that band was when Jim Dofka had approached me about his solo album,
but my manager didn't want me to do it, so I had to pass....I've always
regretted it, although I think Scott Edgell did an awesome job. And
when I started looking for members to line-up a new band, I ran into
Brian Mihalovich from Dofka, he and Jim were in the middle of recording
when their singer quit and we formed the band Psycho Scream. I've also
done a few projects like the Pharaoh tunes on 2 Maiden Tributes and
I've done lots of session work."
Are you going to continue
with Psycho Scream (since Chuck is out for a while)?
"Yes, actually it's been
almost 2 years since I sang with them, but we are working together on
the second album right now. The music was mostly written by myself and
Jim while Brian took a break, and our drummer had left to tour with
Trouble. We had some collaboration with our friends in Scott Edgell's
old band, This Tortured Soul as well. There's alot of inbreeding in
metal these days. Jim and Brian and Jeff are helping our friend DC Cooper
write some songs for his upcoming album and Scott is back in Dofka working
on a new album and he just joined up with my favorite Cleveland band
called Mushroomhead. I also talked to Shannon Hamm and he asked if I'd
work with him and Richard on a project, which I hope we will do. Pharaoh
in Philly asked me to sing on their upcoming album which is almost ready
for me to sing on very soon. I'd also like to record some of my own
material that's been on the back burner if anyone's interested in playing
on it and if I can find a good label to push it. I have plenty of work
to keep me occupied til Chuck's back to 100% crushing mode."
What other bands do you
like? Any favorite albums/bands?
"In any band, Dio Fucking
Rules!!!! I have a picture of him looming over my studio, and the only
music in my car is old Rainbow...yes, really. But,I like a lot of different
kinds of music, so there are so many bands on my favorites list. I love
the new Symphony-X and I just heard one cut from the new Nevermore CD,
and I like it a lot. Mundanus Imperium is pretty cool too. Then again
I like J.S. Bach and Brahms , especially violin pieces. And I like jazz.
John Henricks is one of my favorites as well as Sarah Vaughn. I'm a
Beatles fanatic through and through. I think my all time favorite albums
are Queensreich-Rage For Order, Judas Priest- Screaming For Vengeance,
Black Sabbath- Heaven And Hell, Metallica- Master Of Puppets and Crimson
Glory- Transcendance. As far as artistic quality and production, those
albums in particular really made a big difference in heavy metal in
the way it's played and sung and produced. Not to mention the voice
training I got singing along."
How did you get into
"That all started when I lived
in Orlando in the early 80's. I was in Act Of God and we recorded every
night in this old farm house. The engineer there and my bass player
, who is also an engineer, were both influential in my decision to learn
about audio recording and production. Then, when I landed back in Pittsburgh,
I hooked up with the old drummer from Overlord, Robert Deaner,to write
a slew of songs and we started our first home recording studio together.
I called it the Spaghetti Farm. He had been interning at a few studios
and I was interested enough to take some classes in audio recording
and production techniques through a local college. Rob is a producer
now also. With the bands I was in , I always had these killer sound
guys, and was always asking questions and going home to read more and
more about it. Then one night Psycho Scream were opening for Yngwie
Malmstein and an old friend of mine re-introduced me to her boyfriend
, Doug Kasper, and he asked me if I'd be interested in helping him get
a recording studio off the ground. I worked for free for the first few
years and eventually became a staff engineer, then started producing
some of the heavier bands that appreciated the extra attention I could
give them. I'm one of the only engineer/producers around who also coaches
the vocalists I am working with. Sometimes they can't believe it's really
them, after they hear the playback. I've even been accused of singing
over the vocalists tracks to get a better take, but really it was just
that they did such a good job and learned from the experience. Knowing
the instrument and how to record it right, makes all the difference
in the world."
Anything else you want
to add about your background?
"Yes, I did inhale, and I'll
never pretend I regretted it, and if that makes your sphincter wink,
maybe you should smoke some too."
How did you get hooked
up with Chuck?
"Actually, Jim Dofka helped
in teaming us up together. I was away in Denmark to sing for a project
with members of Narita and Royal Hunt, and I got sick and couldn't sing
, and I came home and Jim had a message for me from Chuck. He'd asked
to borrow me for a new project he was experimenting with and Jim handed
me over, knowing it would be a great match. It was a little scary knowing
that Rob Halford was invited to sing for this band before me, but also
a great honor. Jim has always left the door open for all the people
he works with , and I think it's a very noble policy. I can't thank
him enough for that. In some situations it's considered treason to work
on outside projects, but this was different. I feel it's a priveledge
to be working with both of them."
Are you a fan of Death?
Any favorite album by Death?
"Yes, I've been a fan since
Jim turned me on to them , which was before we had any idea that Chuck
was going to invite me to do this album. We would listen to them in
the car in amazement, trying to disect the rhythms and melodies Chuck
was using. I could hardly believe that the drums were not a machine
or some kind of tape speed trick. And that fucking voice of his is just
totally brutal. I could just picture Chuck whipping this guy like a
mule to make him play so hard and fast and pulling it off perfectly.
One would assume that he was a slavedriver and a tyrant in order to
get those results, but he's not at all. Chuck's band members and music
get better and better with every album so I have to say The Sound Of
Perseverance is my favorite, and Spirit Crusher is the one Chuck and
I have both lived."
When you joined Control
Denied, were the songs already written?
"Yes, I had to do my homework
before I got down to Orlando to do the demo sessions in 97. He sent
me tapes of the tunes with his vocals and I had to learn a whole different
approach to phrasing. He has a totally unique way of setting the lyrics
to the melody. It was a new challenge and enlightening experience that
I'm totally grateful for."
So you didn't have much
"I thought it best to leave
that all up to Chuck. This was his vision, and I can appreciate that.
Besides that, I didn't see any reason to change what was already there.
I don't get off on fixing things unless they are broken."
Did you write any lyrics?
"Lyrically , I just tweaked
a word here and there to make the lines flow more gracefully, and mostly
the melodies were all I fucked with, but not very much. Most of the
harmony arrangements were mine by Chuck's approval.We experimented together
with different scales and harmonies in the demo process and I had plenty
of artistic freedom. I worked pretty hard, taking direction from Chuck
on getting the phrasing down tight because it is deceivingly very technical.
Then Jim Morris helped when we finally recorded the album. We did some
more experimenting there too, with different tones and mic placements
for different emotional effects. We wanted the vocals to be so exact,
that we actually used a strobe tuner to check the pitch. This was definitely
the most artistic and technical project I've ever been involved with
besides Psycho Scream."
How long were you in
the studio? Was the rest of the band there?
"Naturally, Richard was up
to bat first, and it was a strange situation for me, not as a singer,
but as an engineer. I'm so used to being the guy who sets up the mics
and patches the cables and does all the work, that I was feeling sort
of guilty watching someone else do it. Chuck reminded me how much that
record was costing us, and that if I wanted anything, to not hesitate
to ask.I was in Tampa the whole time we recorded, except for when Shannon
came in to track his solos , and I was home for a month already, when
Steve was called in. I was not always in the studio during the time
I was there , though. Waiting around in the studio all day wears a singer
out alot more than singing all day. So, while Chuck was in the studio
in the morning I was resting up from the previous night's session, and
going out on daily walks and checking out the girls by the pool at the
hotel. Sometimes I'd go in early and shoot the breeze with the guys
from Primal Fear or with the interns there, when they took their breaks.
Then when Chuck was done for the day, he and Jim and I had dinner together,
which gave Jim some time to relax a bit. Then, we went in and let the
tubes in the mic pre-amp heat up for half an hour or so, while i warmed
up my voice. I'd sing each lead vocal about 10 times and go over it
with Jim , picking out the best takes."
What was it like working
with Chuck, Jim, etc.?
"It was awesome working with
all of them. We had a great time and we all worked together very well.
I felt like I was working with old friends the whole time. I tried not
to be a pain in the ass by being in the control room all the time and
I paid close attention to the way Jim does his job when I was in. I
didn't tell him anything about being an engineer at first because other
engineers are usually the worst clients, and I didn't want him to worry
that I'd be hard to work with. I know exactly what it's like to try
producing someone who insists on trying to control things without knowing
how; it always turns into a clusterfuck and ruins the record. When I
had ideas, they were always willing to try them out, as I was theirs.
I had complete trust in everyone involved, I totally enjoyed watching
everybody do there thing and the whole process went like clockwork.
Except when Chuck started getting headaches, and at that time , we thought
it was probably the stress from working so hard."
Describe the new album
a little bit, does it compare to anything else out there? Any favorite
songs off the album?
"Well it's a new breed of
metal. The elements of the more classical and traditonal forms, mixed
with the modern style and then the abstract ideas which make it progressive.
And comparing it with anyone elses music would be like comparing apples
to oranges. I can't say I have a favorite song on the album because
each tune is an entity on it's own and I love them all. But if you were
to put a gun to my head and ask which one I believe in, I'd have to
Did the band ever get
a chance to play any of the songs live, or was it just rehersal and
"So far the only time we've
played these songs together as a band has been in the rehearsal room.
We're all waiting for Chuck right now, and when it happens it will definitely
be the greatest experience in our lives since recording them."
How did you take the
news about Chuck?
"It was absolutely devastating.
I came close to passing out when I got the news, and i cried all day.
I had just lost my mother to cancer in September and my aunt died a
week later unexpectedly, and their stepmother died the same day. Then
my cousin's boyfriend hung himself for Christmas. During the rehearsals
in February, my youngest brother died of a drug overdose and I had to
go home and bury him. I got through all of that without a breakdown,
but then after I got back from recording in late march, I was feeling
a bit depressed and decided to take a vacation in Gainesville, Florida
for memorial day weekend to clear my mind of all of it. I had been trying
to get ahold of Chuck in Orlando while i was down there, but there was
never any answer at his place. When I got home I had a slew of messages
on my machine. My Dad had informed me that his close friend committed
suicide, and Chuck called to tell me he was diagnosed with a brainstem
tumor. At the time, I just felt for him and his family, and for my Dad,
and forgot about my own troubles. I wanted to drive up to NYC to stand
by Chuck, because I knew what he was about to go through would be very
frightning to do alone, and I owed it to him and his family for making
sure I got home when my brother died, and all that he's done for me,
but circumstances kept me from going. Life's just been a ballbuster
this past year or so, but it's made me realize how strong I really am
inside as a person, and I am sure now of who my real friends are. I
personally, and literally understand the fragile art of existence, so
this album means that much more to me than the music. You get 2 choices
in life, to be a coward and live in denial, or take it like a man and
deal with it. Well, that's how I took it."
Have you spoken to him
"Not a whole lot, but I think
it's more important right now that he focuses on bouncing back from
this. He will. From what I've heard, the outlook is extremely positive.
I've moved twice now and I'll be moving again soon, so he may have tried
to get ahold of me. Right now the best way to find me is in cyberspace.
Chuck's not into the "evilnet" though, so I usually talk to
Shannon when he's online, and he keeps me up to date."
If it becomes possible,
are you up for more albums and maybe touring?
"I'd give anything right now
to be touring with Chuck and all my brothers in Control Denied. And
I hope we get to do a thousand more albums together."
Any last words to say
about Control Denied or metal in general.
"I've said plenty about Control
Denied, and probably a lot more than you'd expected. As for metal, I
don't have to say much at all, except... welcome to the future and buckle
up, it's gonna be one hell of a ride."