Armored Saint, Fates Warning, Anthrax bassist
Joey Vera

FIBM:   What's new, what have you been up to lately and what's in the future?

Joey:  I've had some time off from touring since the last tour I did with Anthrax which ended last March. I've since been writing and recording my second solo record which I hope to have done by this summer. The music is something I've been wanting to do for a very long time and the influences are a range from just about everyone I've been playing with over the last 10 years. The future? In the immediate future I'll be doing some touring first a few shows with Fates Warning here in Los Angeles and then a show in Germany. In June and July I'll be doing a short tour with Armored Saint. We're doing a few warm up shows here in Los Angeles and then some shows in Europe. Please visit my site for more details.

FIBM:   Let's go ahead and get this one out of the way. Will there be a new cd release by Armored Saint?

Joey:  I don't know. We have started talking about it but we haven't gone beyond that. I'm still in my solo record mode at the moment. I think we'd all like to but we have to make the time and dedicate ourselves to it first.

FIBM:   Why hasn't there been a reunion up to this point?

Joey:  I think there sort of was when we did Revelation back in 2000. We did some touring for that and it was really a good time. But some of us still have other groups we play in and to make Saint our One and Only is a big commitment that none of us are willing to do right now. Saint is kind of like something we do when we have time. There's a ton of pressure that goes with having something be your be all, end all and we'd rather keep Saint a fun thing rather than a big serious thing. We already did that.

FIBM:   How many dates have been added for the new tour? Will there be more future dates added?

Joey:  So far Saint is doing 3 shows in California and seven shows including 2 festivals in Europe. Then we're doing one festival in Italy in July. There's a slight chance we might be doing a few more before the end of the year.

FIBM:   Can you give us a little history on how Armored Saint formed and how long it was before you signed your deal with Chrysalis.

Joey:  Saint was formed with John, Gonzo, Phil and Dave. John, Gonzo and myself have known each other since we were about 8 years old. We were friends that hung out together since we were 13. So it was natural to start a band. Gonzo, John, Phil and myself had a band in High School called Royal Decree. After High School, I was playing with another band when they got together with another bass player. After about 5 months I quit my band and joined with Saint. This was 1982. We started playing the clubs in LA and after a year of doing that we started to get calls from the Labels. It all sounds unreal and it was but you have to understand that it was 1983 and Heavy Metal was becoming a new big genre of music. We got a record deal in less than 50 gigs. Soon after that everyone was getting signed.

FIBM:   Any memories stand out from the March of the Saint recording sessions? Where was it recorded? What was the Budget? Any cool, sucked, brilliant moments stand out?

Joey:  By the time we were to record March, our recording experience was very limited. We had done a drunken and stoned session which was our first EP and then we did 2 sessions with our A&R guy at Chrysalis (Ron Fair) which led to us getting signed. So, we went in to Ocean Way Studios home of such heavies as AC/DC, BB King, Eric Clapton, Elton John, Supertramp, Barbara Streisand, Tom Petty, Rolling Stones....Well, you get the picture. In fact, we were there for 2 and a half months and during that time, Supertramp was recording in the studio on one side and Barbara Streisand was in the other. And there we were making March, bringing our friends over, drinking beer and just having a party. We were 21 years old. Little did we understand though that this studio was costing us 300.00 an hour (by now it must be more like 600.00 an hour) or 2500.00 a day. And we missed the part about having to pay that back to the record company. Our producer Michael James Jackson (KISS, Creatures of the Night) was never there or always on the phone. But we didn't quite see eye to eye with him anyway. One day he told us that he didn't like Black Sabbath. From that day on it was like "you just don't get it". The whole thing was a great big slap in the face. Suddenly we had all of these outside people fucking with our thing, slowing tempos down, making things overly polished, trying to manufacture a "sellable item". It was the first time we felt like we were losing control. At the end of the record we were very unhappy with the production, the mix, the way we worked and who we worked with. And the producer and our manager let us spend over 300,000 on our first record. To this day we are still in debt for that one.

FIBM:   Your video for Can U Deliver received a lot of airplay on MTV? What was that following year like for you? What kind of effect did MTV have on the band?

Joey:  Aside from the nightmare we endured making March, we already had a buzz around from our EP and just being the heaviest band at the time to come out of LA. So, after March came out the benefits of being on a major label kicked in. We got a good tour, and we had a video on MTV. It did a lot for us. It just kicked it home for people who saw us on tour or had heard of us from press. As silly as it is, the video did a lot for the record.

FIBM:  Anything stand out from the video shoot for Can U Deliver?

Joey:  Again, I personally thought some of it was really silly. We had a pretty good time shooting it though, doing the Road Warrior thing. We were so into it back then. I remember hating this sort of demon/monster head they put behind the drum kit. I thought, c'mon guys, Iron Maiden already has Eddie!

FIBM:  Who were some of the bands that you toured with for that release? Who were your favorites to tour with?

Joey:   Our very first tour was with Quiet Riot (Condition Critical) and Whitesnake (Slide it In) playing all arenas. It was great. Our next tour was with WASP and Metallica. Obviously, we were way more at home on this tour. Although we played smaller venues and to less people, it was the right people. These guys were our contemporaries and it was just an amazing tour.

FIBM:  Please share one of your favorite stories / memories from that tour?

Joey:  One day on the Quiet Riot tour, David Coverdale came into our dressing room and said "Hey mates, have a kick-ahss show". We were like, holy shit that was David Coverdale! From that day on, he made it like a ritual. We were completely honored.

FIBM:   How many copies of March of the Saint were sold back then?

Joey:   Initially a year after it's release it had sold 125,000 copies.

FIBM:   You were good friends with Cliff Burton. How would you describe him as a person, friend, musician.

   Cliff was a very down to earth guy who had a personality unlike anyone I've ever met, still to this day. He was a character for sure. He was very cool and funny. He'd always carry this little ball peen hammer in his inside pocket of his denim jacket. He'd keep it there in case he needed to protect himself. Funny thing is that he was not a violent guy at all, it was just funny. Bedsides the fact that I never thought he'd actually use it, well…it was just a little ball peen hammer! As musician Cliff was beyond most of us. He was a bigger influence on Metallica than most realize. It would have been interesting to see where the band would have gone musically had he not been tragically taken. We used to talk about some of our favorite influences from The Subhumans to Stanley Clarke.

FIBM:  Any good Cliff stories that you would be cool enough to share?

  Some of us use a saying he said once. We were playing in El Paso, Texas and we were just about to go on. Cliff comes in our dressing room and we ask him, "How's it look tonight?" He says, "Weakness is emanating from the crowd!" We thought it was hilarious. I still use that quote.

FIBM:   When you guys went in to record Delirious Nomad, did you have full support from the record label? Were they behind you guys? Did you have a bigger budget? Did they consider March of the Saint a successful debut?

Joey:   It was interesting because after March we were extremely set on doing things different. We wanted to do things our way and have way more control. I think March was pretty successful in their eyes although they always want more. But we had made it clear to our managers that we wanted to make "our" record this time. A heavier one which is why we wanted and got Max Norman to produce it. And we could have had just as big a budget but we knew better then and wanted to make a cheaper record. I think we spent 150,000 on it but to me it sounds way better than March. Another note: We wanted to tour more. Just as Delirious was being finished, MTV cancelled their Heavy Metal Programming. So we decide to not make a video at all. Save the money and put it towards tour support. 6 months after Delirious came out, MTV added Metal programming back into their program. We were pissed.

FIBM:  Anything stand out from those recording sessions?

Joey:   We had a good time because we felt like we were making our record this time. Dave had read the book Hammer of the Gods and was all into being all Zeppelin like, and we were way into U2 at the time so we had this kind of anything goes attitude. We had worked on the song Over the Edge in rehearsal but John never wrote lyrics for it. He wanted to just wing it in the studio and sing whatever came to mind like Bono does sometimes. Well it wasn't going so good according to Max so he sent John out to the parking lot of the studio and John wrote the lyrics for Over the Edge in about 30 minutes.

FIBM:  By this point are you able to support yourself as a musician? Had the band recouped expenses on the first album?

Joey:   We all put ourselves on a salary but trust me, it was barely enough to make ends meet. But had we just taken all the money we wanted, we would have been broke in no time. We were fortunate enough to live very modestly and not work from 1984 to 1989. We were deep in debt from March, touring and the video. We still are.

FIBM:  Who were some of the bands you toured with to support Delirious Nomad?

Joey:  Saxon, Michael Schenker Group, Ted Nugent and some one off shows with Judas Priest and Aerosmith.

FIBM:   How did that record sell? How many copies?

Joey:   Delirious after about a year had sold about 65,000 copies.

FIBM:   Anything stand out from the Raising Fear era? From the recording sessions, or tour?

Joey:  Raising era was the most confusing of all. We had been having problems with our label, we lost our A&R man there and they changed executives like dirty underwear. Also we had trouble with management. We had gone through a lot of changes within our business structure and it was having an effect on us. Most of the problems were due to the fact that we were not selling records. We blamed it on them mostly. They kept us from touring in Europe and we felt it was necessary to do so in order to further our careers here. They disagreed. We knew during Raising that getting dropped was imminent. We wrote forever. And when it came time to record, the label said "record half the record, and let us hear it". We did, and they said "OK, you made side 2 (back in side 1, side 2 days), now go back and write and record side 1". We were floored. So we went back into rehearsals. They hired a guy to help us write songs, this guy was a moron. We hated him and didn't relate to him at all. But we did it for a while and finally we told the record company that we'd had enough. So we went back in and recorded the rest of Raising. During the making of it, we were like, fuck em! And we thought we made a great record. When I hear it now, I can hear all of the confusion and second guessing. It's my least favorite of all of our catalog. The best thing about that time was the Hell on Wheels tour we were on with Grim Reaper and Helloween. We did some good shows including one that was filmed at First Avenue in Minneapolis which was aired on MTV on Halloween in 1987. VH1 Classics still plays Madhouse live which is from that show, I saw it the other night.

FIBM:  At that point why does it take Armored Saint 3 to 4 years to release another studio album?

Joey:   First we got dropped by Chrysalis in early 1988. So, we went to the drawing board and started writing. We had an offer from Metal Blade fairly soon after but we decided to put out the live EP Saints Will Conquer as a one record deal while we shopped for a bigger record company. This went on for 3 years. We wrote, recorded demos, got demo deals with other people, played showcases for labels and nobody was interested. Then Dave told us he had Leukemia. We kept it hidden for a while but then he decided to have a bone marrow transplant which in the end did not take. He died on February 22 1990. We were just about to quit altogether but Metal Blade came back and told us that we had to put out this record which Dave had also worked so hard on writing. We regrouped, got Phil Sandoval back in the band and Jeff Duncan and made Symbol of Salvation in 1991.

FIBM:  3 fond memories from your days in Armored Saint?

Joey:  Playing in LA in 1983, selling out the clubs and being a part of the new Heavy Metal Scene. The WASP, Metallica Tour. The Revelation 2000 tour.

FIBM:  How did you feel, at that time, when John Bush joined Anthrax?

Joey:  After Symbol was out for a year we started to have problems in the band. We also began to have more problems with management and a general sense of more stress was in the air. We were at a point where we were not sure if we could keep going. Then John got the call. He originally said NO. But they called him back. He had to reconsider and he and I had many conversations about it. I felt that he might regret not taking the offer if our band just fizzled out so I gave him my blessing to make a move. Once he did, I was quite relieved as I was so tired of the frustration surrounding Saint. It was time to move on.

FIBM:  How would you describe John Bush as a musician, friend, bandmate?

Joey:   Aside from my wife, John is my best friend. We've known each other really well for over 30 years. He's my brother. He's also one the best singers in Hard Rock in my opinion. Nobody sounds like John, he's an original and in my book that makes a great singer. He's got his own style and trust me, these days that is a huge asset. As a bandmate he's great. We get along really well and although we maybe don't always agree, we work really well together. We understand each other and we've learned how to communicate in the musical language.

FIBM:  How did you end up working with Lizzy Borden on Visual Lies? Did you tour with the band?

Joey:   Lizzy is from LA also so we became friends from just being in bands in LA. He's asked me to play on several records for just a good time. He's a good guy. I've never toured with them; I just jam with them in the studio for fun.

FIBM:  How was it to work with Lizzy? Anything stand out?

Joey:   It's always easy for me. I'll get a demo of a song or two, go to the studio, listen to it a few times and then roll tape. We hang out, drink beer and eat pizza. It's like hanging out with friends.

FIBM:   How did you end up joining Fates Warning?

Joey:  We became friends from the Metal Blade connection. We first met when Saint was on tour in 1985 and we played in Connecticut where they are from. We just hit it off. In late 1989, bassist Joe DiBiase had to leave their tour for a few days for a family emergency. They called me and asked if I'd fill in and with really late notice I was on a plane to the east coast to play 3 shows with them. I had a basic idea of the songs they were doing but I spent the entire first day in the back of the bus with Jim Matheos learning the set. It was quite a crash course. A few years later, Joe decided he didn't want to tour anymore so they called me and asked if I would join, I said Yes. This was in 1995.

FIBM:  Anything stand out from the A Pleasant Shade of Grey recording sessions?

Joey:  It was my first session where I just showed up, played my parts and went home. They live bi-coastally so they send demos back and forth for the music. Drummer Mark Zonder and I would practice together with headphones playing along with a click track and all the music. This is how we wrote our parts. Then we'd make our own demo, send it back and get feedback. We never actually ever rehearsed as a band before the recording. So, I stayed home until they were ready for bass parts. I flew in to Connecticut, did my bass parts in 3 days and went home. It was a challenge because I had to really know what I was doing. It was a bit strange but I loved it. I've done every record with them since like this.

FIBM:  How long did the band tour to support that release? Who did you tour with? Any cool memories?

Joey:  We did 2 tours of the US and of Europe. We headlined only. The best thing about it was playing the record in its entirety. That was incredible. We had some really magical nights where everything was perfect and that was just great.

FIBM:  You filled in for Frank Bello when he left Anthrax, just before the recent reunion. Why did Frank leave? How long did you end up playing with them?

Joey:  Frank left I think because he wanted a break and to play with Helmut. I was with Anthrax for a year.

FIBM:  How was it playing in Anthrax with your former singer and not singing Armored Saint songs? Did you guys ever bust into any classic Armored Saint songs?

Joey:  I had a great time with Anthrax. I got to play tons of places I'd never been to let alone played at. Also, so many of the shows were just sick. The crowds are completely insane. There were moments when your energy level gets to a place where combustion is near. I've never had that much energy onstage, ever. And to boot, I got to rock out with my best friend. John was really supportive and we just had fun with it. One night, the band did play several bars of Can U Deliver as a joke.

FIBM:  You are also a Producer? Any new bands you're working with or that you would like to plug?

Joey:  Yes, I produced my first band in 1989 called MX Machine who are friends of ours. But it wasn't until about 1995 that I started getting really into it and learning more about engineering. It's hard for me to do a lot of records being involved with so many other bands. So, I try to do some producing when I'm not touring. I really like it though, the process of recording music. I did some mixing for a band here in LA over last summer called Mother Superior and they are just awesome.

FIBM:  What are some of the things, that you as a Producer, bring to the table? What do you feel is the role of a producer? Do you also engineer?

Joey:   I also engineer, yes but I'm always learning. Mostly I try to bring out the best in the band. I feel like it's their thing and I try to help them see that their potential sometimes exceeds their own expectations. I try not to make each record with the intention of having my personal stamp on it and I like that every record I've produced is completely different. The role of producer has several roles. You have to keep everything running on track with the budget, studio owners, the label etc. You also have to make sure the band is comfortable; you have to be a psychologist, a mediator, a listener and a leader. You have to know when to push, how much to and when not to. Sometimes it's quite taxing but what you are essentially doing is trouble shooting a series of problems. You have to be up for the challenge.

FIBM:  Tell us a little about your new solo cd.

Joey:  I'm getting close to finishing it. I have no record label yet but I plan on getting someone to put it out. When I first finish it though, I plan to make it available on my website. I don't think most people will expect the music I've written when they hear it though. It won't be for everyone. I'd have to say that I've picked up a lot of influences from some of the people I've worked with along with several records and bands from the past. Some the influences are: Tribe After Tribe, Kevin Moore, Jim Matheos, Spocks Beard, King's X, Opeth, Pink Floyd. I made this record for me. It's very selfish maybe but ultimately it's made by me and for me. I play all the instruments and I sing. The subject matter is personal and in a nutshell this record has been a long time coming. I'm pretty pleased with it so far. Ask me in a year though and I'll be sure to hate it.


FIBM:  What is your most disgusting habit?

Joey:  I have no disgusting habits. All of my habits are very pleasing.

FIBM:  What is the most feminine thing you do?

Joey:  I like chicks.

FIBM:  If there is a God, what is the first question you would ask God when you arrive?

Joey:  You suck. Oh, a question? "How come you suck?"

FIBM:  Greatest Rock band of all time?

Joey:  Led Zeppelin

FIBM:  What were you doing 40 minutes before you sat down to do this interview?

Joey:  Changing Diapers.

Great interview. Don't forget to visit Joey at the website below. Maybe even have him engineer and produce your next cd. See you next week. -AI

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