Riot V


10 Octobre 2018


Blaster Of Muppets

Interview Don, Mike, Nick & Frank (face to face)

Hi guys, thank you for taking some time to answer a few questions for

Don : That's cool man, thanks for having us.

How’s this tour with Primal Fear going so far?

Don : It's been great. It's one of the steps we wanted to take to move the legacy forward. When you're on a label such as Nuclear Blast, you start to get better tours and it gets you where you need to be rather than in a stagnant position. And the guys from Primal Fear are super guys, the crew is great too... We're very happy, we think the bands complement each other... we're heavy metal but not exactly the same style. We're very fortunate to be part of this tour and we want to keep things moving in that direction.

Except for one show at the Fall Of Summer Festival a couple of years ago, you haven’t toured our country or Europe much for a long time… it looks like this new deal with Nuclear Blast has really helped you to come back...

Don : Yes, it definitely helps. SPV was a great label, they did a good job but you want a label that can push you further and take you to the next level. We wanted better tours, we wanted to be able to be up there with other bands such as Arch Enemy, Hammerfall or Nightwish you know... and Nuclear Blast can give you that. We've been in the charts now, 22 in Germany, number one in Japan... They give you a bigger exposure. And all that is gonna lead to more opportunities for us : better agents, better tours... this one is one of the biggest tours we've done since the late 80s / early 90s. It's definitely a step in the right direction. After this tour, we'll do another one and then we have another record planned with Nuclear Blast in 2020 and then we're coming back with another tour. That's what happens with a label like that, you stay visible and they want you to work the record.

Any headlining tour in the making or is it too early?

Mike : We might have a headlining tour but rather in the States and South America for the moment. It's not done yet but we're working on it.

Don : prior to this tour, we've had some dates but it was a small tour you know, just between European festivals like Wacken... But in 2019, after this, we'll go back home, we'll have dates there and also South America, we'll also be on the 70000 Tons Of Metal cruise... that's what we got so far and we also have a couple of things we can't really let the cat out of the bag right now but that could be great, ha ha...

Cool. I was wondering how you’ve been embraced by old die-hard fans of the band since you’ve decided to continue without any founding members left. It looks like it’s been well accepted but were you afraid some people would give you a hard time or not take the band seriously because Mark Reale was not part of it anymore?

Mike : hmm... a little bit. I was afraid or worried about that myself, actually. I asked myself "how can we do this without Mark?", you know... not just one founding member, but the most important one... he really was the spirit of Riot. But, you know, I still take care of Mr. Reale, Mark's father, because he didn't have other children so I'm there for him a lot and he asked me to keep the band going... so that was my push to keep it going. And then Donnie was a big part of that being able to happen, he wrote songs right away, he's a great songwriter... and he found Todd Michael Hall, our new singer.

Don : You know, when something like that happens, in our case, it's not just a member of the band that you lose, but more like a brother, a family member... At first, Mike didn't want to go on and I was really apprehensive myself... And then there was the talk with Mark's father and later, we decided to test ourselves and give test shows with Frank, Nick and Todd... and it went great, we got great reactions, there was a really positive vibe. So we started writing music, the label was still interested in putting a record out, so we said "let's see where this is going".

Mike : Yeah, we were like "Can we do this?"... We had these shows, and they went over great... and then we wrote an album and it went over great too and people really seemed to like it... So we did it step by step, really.

Don : We were really fortunate to find the right people to do this, you know. You need chemistry for great things to happen. Frank had already played in the band before, on the record "Army Of One", Nick was a former student of Mike's and they got along great, then I found Todd Michael Hall... and all these elements just clicked... and I think it sounds phenomenal. I mean, this is a powerhouse lineup... That's what got the attention of Nuclear Blast actually. They saw us at the Bang Your Head festival and said they were interested.

There are religious / biblical references in "Armor Of Light", would you say that religion plays a more important part in your lyrics now?

Mike : Not so much for me. I don't mind it... I'm spiritual myself, not religious but spiritual. It has more to do with Todd. He's religious, he carries a bible with him all the time... so it's gonna come out more in his lyrics.

Don : Todd wrote more lyrics for this record, we let him do his thing... and most of the time, I think he's got great ideas. Of course, we're not going down a path that does not fit the band's style you know... But when I heard "Messiah" or "Armor Of Light', the lyrics sounded really cool and carried a positive message. So that's cool.

Do you have any songs left written with Mark Reale before he passed away that you could use for a future release?

Don : Actually, we do have some stuff, some bits here and there. On "Armor Of Light", the song "San Antonio" was something we wrote with Mark back when we did the album "Immortal Soul". We decided to revamp it and Frank came up with ideas and helped arrange it... I'm actually from San Antonio and Frank wrote the lyrics, he's from New Jersey. So, on the next record, I'm gonna write a song called "New Jersey", ha ha... Well, so yes, this one was originally co-written with Mark and we have a few other ones, there's always like little bits and pieces of songs we might work on later...

Mike : On the previous album, I wrote a song for Mark, Donnie wrote a song for Mark... and Frank wanted to write a song for Mark as well because Mark loved San Antonio, he was buried there...

Frank : Yes, pretty much... San Antonio was a city that he loved, it was really like his second home so to speak...

Don : Yes, it was, he lived with me there for a while, that's where my beginnings with Riot started when I joined the band in 1984. I met Mark in San Antonio... It's a good place you know, there's a lot of fans there. Riot got airplayed on the radio there... I grew up there, I went to school listening to Riot on the radio, you know... I was a fan first before I joined the band.

I think it was pretty much the same thing for you Mike, you were a fan before you joined the band, weren't you?

Mike : Oh yeah, I saw them at a club in Brooklyn... I went there and got their autographs... I played one of their songs, "Gunfighter", with my cover band at the time... And then later, I got to join the band that I loved. Frank did that too, he played "Swords And Tequila" with his band before he played in Riot...

Frank : That's right, I played "Swords And Tequila" as a young man with some guys who would eventually become members of Dream Theater, I grew up with them. In New York, I saw Riot open for Rush at the Madison Square Garden. I was a huge Rush fan and I felt sorry for any band opening for them you know... but man, when they got on that stage, they kicked our asses, they were just great.

Metal Blade is about to release a deluxe edition of "Thundersteel", celebrating the 30 year anniversary of that album. Did you have anything to do with this reissue ?

Don : We were approached by one of the heads of Metal Blade who wanted to re-release "Thundersteel" and they also wanted to sign the band actually, just before Nuclear Blast did. "Thundersteel" is a big record for me, I wrote more than half of the record but unfortunately, the rights belong to former management, Sony music and stuff... so that deal was done without us. But we were still contacted to put bonus material on this reissue. So there's gonna be some outtakes, different endings on some songs, a DVD with shows of us on the Thundersteel tour... we were part of that.

"Armor Of Light" is a great record, full of energetic songs with cool melodies but on the other hand it does not sound as diverse as "Unleash The Fire" (which had some hard rock songs and ballads in the mix), was that a conscious move to turn the page of the pre-"Thundersteel" era?

Don : "Unleash The Fire" was diverse, you're right. It was a good tribute record, I wrote a ballad for Mark, Mike wrote one too... we had some hard rock songs, that's true, this was the last record we made for SPV and it included everything Riot was about. Then we signed with Nuclear Blast and we moved forward. We thought "we have to find our own mix now". It was a bit like making a statement. We're on Nuclear Blast now, we worked with a new young producer who does modern metal and the production is very dry and in your face and it just says "here we are, this is what we're about, we're moving forward". "Armor Of Light" is really cohesive, the next one might be a little more diverse but with this one, we wanted to make a point.

Is the purpose of Riot V to pay tribute to the different incarnations of Riot and perpetuate Mark Reale’s legacy or would you like to take this band somewhere else, some place new in the future?

Don : Moving forward is pretty much the plan. We never lose sight of where the band came from but I think Riot V needs to be its own, you know what I mean? We want to move forward, we'll never forget the band's history, we're still playing classics that we love and people want to hear, but we're not going to be just a nostalgia act.

Mike : You know, when we write songs, what's gonna come out of it is who we are. It's not like "I wanna do this and then I'd like to do that" so much... my history with Riot for 29 years, I just have it in me, it's in my blood... so what comes out comes out naturally, but when you add Nick, Frank and Todd to the mix, it's gonna have a sound of its own.

What’s next for Riot V right after this European tour with Primal Fear?

Mike : We've started the writing process for the next record already, so we're going to continue writing and then we have shows coming at the end of January. In between touring, we'll be recording the next album...

Don : Yes, because we have to deliver the album in 2019 as the label would like to release it early 2020.

Any projects on the side, from any of you guys?

Don : We got little things here and there but Riot got moving and we're focused on it at the moment, it does not leave much time for anything else. Nick's got a band, Mike and I do some cover stuff also but Riot is really what we do right now.

Mike : Yeah, I play in a cover band just to make money but Riot V is the only project as far as writing and recording are concerned.

What’s in your playlist these days?

Don : I listen to a lot of different styles. In my car, I listen to R'n'B oldies... But for the most part, my favorite bands have always been Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, Judas Priest or Thin Lizzy. I listen to these bands all the time. I also get turned on to new things... For example, Primal Fear. I was not really familiar with their style, now I hear their stuff, I wanna go get their records, they're a great band. I also like bands like Hammerfall.

Frank : I have the weirdest taste... I like listen to 200 year old music or even medieval music, stuff that does not have any guitars or drums. I love classical music, Mozart, Beethoven... I play the piano at home, I also teach kids how to play the piano. Heavy Metal is in my blood. I don't need to listen to it, I don't need to get inspired, it's just who I am... So when I want to listen to music, I just wanna go somewhere else, you know what I mean?

Mike : I love The Beach Boys, The Beatles... I really love the harmonies these bands develop. I really like Doo-wop stuff. I like John Mayer guitar playing, anything with a lot of soul and harmony... And of course, I still have the classics like Van Halen, Queen, Brian May, Michael Schenker, Gary Moore, Jeff Beck, Ritchie Blackmore... Not too much new stuff... a lot of classical music too : Bach, Mozart, Paganini... that's what's on my playlist.

Nick : I also listen a lot to The Beach Boys actually. I also like Emma Ruth Rundle, sort of folky psychedelic music... I also recently got introduced to older Australian bands like Rose Tattoo, great stuff, so I really listen to that these days...

The last word is yours :

Don : I really want to thank people for the support, like yourself, media, people believing in the band... Riot has had this great history for 40 years and we're able to keep on moving forward because people keep listening to us... so that's why we're here. If people didn't care about us, we wouldn't be here... so really, thank you to all the people who care about us and enable us to do what we love.

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