Ahead of the release of their brand new album, Punching the Sky, Games, Brrraaains & A Head-Banging Life had the pleasure of chatting with John Bush (Vocals) of legendary heavy metal band, Armored Saint. What follows is a transcript of some of the talking points from the interview. The full thing can be heard on YouTube, Soundcloud, Apple Podcasts and Spotify.
Hi John. Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with us. How has your day been?
Well, I’ve only been out of bed for about an hour now. I did one interview before this, I have my coffee and that’s important. I washed dishes and, you know, did some chores around the house and now I’m on interview number two with you. So I’m excited. It’s normal life.
It’s not very rock star, but it is life, you know, and it is my life. People think in their fantasy world that John doesn’t do dishes or take out the garbage. But these are things that I really do!
How have you been holding up throughout 2020?
I’ve been holding up fine. You know, those first three months were a little bit different, of course, for everybody. But we were trying to be as productive as possible and take advantage of spending a lot of time with our family. You know, making meals, going in our backyard, eating and hanging out with our kids. A lot of movies, but we do that anyway, just really trying to stay low and do our best to kind of help beat this thing.
As the months have gone on, it’s been a little bit easier on our business. That is, my wife’s business has picked up steam and we’ve been working more. But everyone’s trying to still be safe. And luckily, we are able to put our record out this year. So I guess in a way that’s a major accomplishment considering the circumstances.
Did you find it took pressure off yourself and the rest of the band?
Well, obviously, Armored Saint has a history of having some questionable luck, that’s for sure. But this time we had some really good luck because we actually done with the recording. If it was like the old bad luck days we would have gotten right in the studio like the day the quarantine happened, and then nobody could be together and we would have to be just trying to figure out what to do.
But like I said, we were done. We were done with the actual recording of it. So it was as simple as just giving it to be mixed. He didn’t want us to be present anyway. We would just be a nuisance. He sent us stuff online and we listen to it and we give the thumbs up because it sounded amazing. So we were real fortunate with that. You know, it would have really been a bummer to have this kind of prevent that from continuing. We were lucky!
Armored Saint are a beloved band. Does that add any weight of expectation on you or is that something you guys do to yourselves?
Well, I think that we’re honest with ourselves about the music that people want to hear from us. Also we are all musicians, and so we want to do the things that are fulfilling to us. So I think that combination works because we write songs that we think are pushing us, pushing the boundaries further, taking chances, sticking our neck out there and doing things that maybe are a little unusual or something we haven’t done before.
At the same time, writing songs and making music that is is right in the wheelhouse of what people expect from us. So I think it’s that combination that I think has really been effective for us. I don’t want to just write a bunch of songs that people expect from us because I think that would be conservative in a way. At the same time, you know, I’m not going to try to convince you, that this new hip hop coffeehouse, Bluegrass metal tune, is on the new record and is really going to work.
I think we know somewhat of the limitations of the band, but if we can incorporate different instruments and take an idea from something like that and then bring it in with a cool riff and a big vocal part, you know what I mean? It’s like sliding in these ideas where you can just kind of make the record have a different colour. I think those are the things that we do.
Still very much Armored Saint but fresh and interesting for you guys?
I was raised on metal and and I owe my music career to metal, basically. I mean, it’s in my blood but but I love all kinds of music, we all do. I think we always have and we always want it to kind of use those ideas from from other things.
It’s taking those different ideas of all the different music that we like, injecting it and finding a way for it to work within the Armored Saint sound. I think that’s what is going to separate us and and make us be the band that we want to be. So as well as, you know, just a great heavy riff that is just very memorable or a big chorus part or a really cool bluesy verse section. I mean, I founded my own career on trying to sing that way.
It’s you know, it’s fun to write music and it’s fun to make music and and see where you are musically in comparison to where you were, you know, 15 years ago, 20 years ago, 40 years ago!
Was there one specific thing you focused on when it came to lyrics?
Well, there’s a lot of things to choose from out there in the world and what’s happening in our lives right now. I mean, there’s a whole plethora of ideas out there to look at, but I try to write in a way lyrically where there’s some specific ideas and yet some stuff you have to read between the lines. I always find it interesting if somebody tells me “I get this from that song or I think that’s the particular idea behind it. Am I right?”
I always say, yeah, you’re always right, if that’s what you get from it. So I like to write that way. I like to write in a way where sometimes the meaning can change or the meaning is a little unsure. Certainly some songs are more specific than others and sometimes they’re a little more direct, but looking out on the world, living in the now and seeing how that kind of equates with maybe the future or even the past, those are the kind of things that make it interesting.
So pushing myself in a way to use different words, always trying to make sure I don’t repeat lyrics, although I do sometimes, things I’ve read, conversations I have. These are the things that are inspirational to me.
This Saturday, October 10th, you’re doing a live record release show, at the Whisky A-GO-GO, online streaming. How are you feeling about this?
It’s going to be fine. It’s going to be a little unusual because you’re really just playing to cameras and there’s not going to be anybody there but it will be fun. It’s going to be cool to play new songs. We’ve been rehearsing them and they sound great. And so that’s going to be exciting. Any time you play new songs for the first time it gives you a new kick of freshness.
So it’s going to be fun. I guess it’s going to be a little unusual and a little weird just because playing in front of nobody, it’s going to be a little bit like playing a rehearsal. Yet you’ve got to really got to go for it because people are watching it. So you can’t just stand there. We’re playing 4 new songs and we’re going to play some deep tracks, a couple of unusual ones, and then we’re going to play some some more of the hits. It’ll be fun.
So considering you’re doing this live stream show, do you think Armored Saint are in a good place with the modern trappings of being in a band? We are talking the social media aspect and the long builds to a release where you have to drip feed content?
Well, I’m probably not a good example of that because I, I don’t have any social media. I’ve chosen not to do that. It’s just a preference. I just would rather be a little bit more private about my life. of course, the band needs it. The band has to be very prevalent on social media and Instagram. And luckily, Joey is very active when it comes to that. Like I said, we know we need that.
There’s great aspects of social media and it really it makes a band global immediately. It’s a different world and you realise the strengths of it and the good things about it and then maybe some of the the crappy things.
I wouldn’t even know where to start if I was, you know, beginning in a band these days. And thankfully, I’m not. I tell the band members that I’m willing to do as many interviews as you guys want. You know, I love talking about the music we make. I just don’t necessarily want to go and post something of like, hey, today I had this coffee today and normally I drink, you know, this other coffee, but this is my new brand.