With a brand-new contract signed with Nuclear Blast Records and a new studio album coming in early 2018, next week Riot will be in Greek soil in order to prove for once more why they can never surrender, in the night they stand tall…
Well, first of all, thank you for taking the time to do this interview, Todd. It really is a pleasure. Tell us more about your new contract with Nuclear Blast Records.
Well we‘ve been working on the new album for a while and we have already had a bunch of songs ready. We have written the lyrics and the music for 20 songs and we are currently trying to pick the right ones for the album. We want 10-12 tracks for the record. Nuclear Blast reached out to us this summer with an offer and it seemed like the right move for us. We had just finished our contract with SPV and we were in between labels when NB approached us. NB is the biggest record label in the world for metal, so we thought they might be able to help us take Riot V to a higher level.
How soon we should expect your new record?
We hope to release a new album by the end of March 2018.
Have your written any new material? And if yes, shall we have the chance on listening any of them in your tour that will pass from 3 cities of Greece?
Yes, we have quite a few new songs written and are close to finish the recording process on at least 12 of them. I don’t think we will be playing any new songs while we are in Greece, because we would like to have the new album out before we start playing the songs live.
Let’s talk about Unleash The Fire. Would you change anything from this album?
Hmm… this album has been very special to me, so it is hard to want to change anything. However, if I had to change something, I would probably choose a slightly different direction for the lyrics for the song “Fight Fight Fight”. In hind sight, it seems a little too much like a Manowar theme to me. I am a big fan of Manowar though, so I guess they influenced me.
Definitely ‘Unleash the Fire’ was a great way to introduce yourself to a Riot fan base that didn’t know what to expect of this new incarnation of the band. How do you feel by taking such an important role as the lead singer of Riot?
I was rather worried at first as to how things would go and if I would be accepted, but people quickly made me feel right at home as soon as we started playing live. For some reason, the vocal styles of most of the Riot catalog are right in my vocal pocket, so I feel very natural singing with the band. It also helps that my older brother, Jon, turned me on to Riot way back in the early 80’s when Fire Down Under was released. There is definitely a sense of maintaining a legacy when we play and I take that role very seriously. I try hard to reproduce the songs faithfully. I feel completely blessed to be in Riot V. The guys in the band are not only great people, but also incredible musicians and playing live with them is an absolute treat.
What was your input in the album and in which songs?
My contributions are mainly in the form of writing lyrics and some of the vocal melodies, while the music is written by Donnie or Mike. However, we all make suggestions and add our flavor to the music. I wrote lyrics for 8 of the 12 songs on Unleash The Fire.
Beyond Riot you are singing also on the new Jack Starr’s Burning Starr album. Tell us more about the album.
I did sing on the latest Burning Starr album, Stand Your Ground. We spent four years working on that album and it was a lot of work, but I think the end result is a success and anyone that liked Land of the Dead should be very happy with Stand Your Ground.
How is to work with Jack or Donnie, I mean iconic figures of Heavy Metal that have lived the golden years of the genre?
Both Jack and Donnie have pretty strong opinions about how they want things to sound, but they are also willing to let others contribute also, so I enjoy working with them. Sometimes they don’t like my suggestions, which can be irritating, but I get over it.
How easy is to find time for being on 2 major bands and also sing on a third one Reverence and find time for you and your family?
I can really see only now how difficult it is to divide my time among three bands. I am not in Reverence any more, so that helped make things easier for me. Writing songs can be difficult when I am in more than one band, because I need to create some head space to get in the frame of that band. Consequently, I need to find little breaks where I don’t do anything in order to get in the right frame of mind. Live shows are a potential problem and I am still figuring out how to handle it. I work for a living, so I cannot be gone all the time. Also, it is very likely the bands will get offers at the same time and if that happens, clearly, someone will not be happy with whatever choice I make. I am still figuring it out and hoping that everyone else will show understanding. I tend to burn the candle at both ends, because there are so many things that I want to do. I often worry that I am not good about knowing the difference between following my passions and being selfish. Most of my time is spent with my family and on my job, but I do spend a fair amount of time on music. The positive thing about music is that I get to record and release albums and play shows around the world. I think the biggest drawback is family related. Fortunately, I am not away doing music too much. I was only gone about six weeks this year, but it is still easy to feel guilty when I have to be away. I had to miss some of my daughter’s soccer games and that breaks my heart, because I know there will only be so many of them to see. As far as other things I like to do, I exercise to stay in shape and also have my own rock climbing gym, but outdoor rock climbing has disappeared from my life. I do not want to take more time away from my family. I like to read books and watch movies too, but it is hard to find time for that.
Back again to Riot. Riot V is based off the Thundersteel era Riot, because Donnie was a principal writer on Thundersteel and Privilege of Power. Do you want to add more tracks from eras that we haven’t heard for years on your setlist?
Mike and Donnie have the biggest say in what we play live, but Riot V is based off the Thundersteel era Riot, because Donnie was a principal writer of Thundersteel and Privilege of Power, so that is a big factor in determining the songs we play. With one or two exceptions, we have not been selecting songs based on how difficult they are for me to sing. It is more a matter of us trying to decide what the people want to hear and what makes sense for this version of the band. The Riot catalog is so large that there will always be that one song someone wanted to hear that we did not play. We played 27 songs in one night in Japan and people still mentioned other songs they wanted to hear.
Of all the albums you have done, which ones are your favorites?
When I consider my past recordings, it is difficult to rate them, because the songs you have written are kind of like your children. You cannot really pick a favorite, because they all have a special place in your heart. There is no doubt in my mind that Unleash The Fire with Riot V is a special album. It happened so quickly, but came out so good and received such a great response, that it will always hold a special place in my heart. I also got to play quite a few great shows with the guys and the people in the audience were singing back my own songs to me. That is an awesome feeling.
One last question about the shows in Greece. It’s the 3rd time in 4 years you are visiting our country. Please give a message to our readers that may hesitate to see you one more time or the ones that have missed you the previous times and now think of it. (I guess a video message with you singing would do the job…)
The Greek audience is actually one of our favorites. They are so lively and energetic and they sing along very loudly, which always makes for a lot of fun. That kind of energy really helps bring out the best show from the band. People need to come see us live, because they get to experience a kind of energy that you just cannot get from a recording or watching a video on Youtube.
The closing is yours.
Thank you so much for the invitation. We are all very excited to return to Greece and spend more time with all of our great friends.