Interview with drummer Shannon Frye
Interview conducted by Luxi Lahtinen
Date online: February 2, 2013
Las Vegas, Nevada's Avenger of Blood has kept quiet for quite some time. While the band's second album, Death Brigade, was waiting for release in 2007, the foundation started crumbling, resulting in the whole band falling apart.
After a 3-year hiatus, the band re-formed with a new line-up that is angrier and possessing even more determination to kill, music-wise. Avenger of Blood recorded a 3-song EP, Spawn of Evil, that they made available for everyone for free just to get the band's name back on people's lips.
In order to get some facts straight, The Metal Crypt contacted one of the original members of the band, drummer Shannon Frye, to get up to speed with the recent comings and goings of Avenger of Blood...
Luxi: Avenger of Blood is back, so you must feel pretty excited about this after all the struggles the band went through back in 2008, right?
Shannon: Oh, definitely bro! I have been through hell and back with this band. I've been living and breathing it for almost 10 years now and man, I haven't been this happy in the band ever! It's a new start for me and the other guys in the band and things are really going well for us again. I couldn't be happier!
Luxi: How hard (or easy) was it for you to find new members to complete the line-up (R.A. Carnage for vocals, Brandon Gulling for 2nd guitar and Jeremy Hamilton for bass)? Do you feel like the guys have the determination to pull it off and become part of Avenger of Blood?
Shannon: Well, Brandon wanted to be in the band as far back as 2008 when the original singer/guitarist quit. He was just too young at the time! Hahah! It is quite funny how things have worked out. He's been my right hand man in the band since he joined. Brandon brought Jeremy in about a year after he joined. Jeremy is a killer bassist! Probably the best I have had in the band. If we didn't have him, we probably would be a band without a bassist. R.A. Carnage has been a friend since 2004 and he's always been in different bands. We lost touch for 2 years or so but when he moved back to Vegas from Florida we reconnected and within a month he was our vocalist. When he came in to audition, it was dead on and we knew right then and there he was perfect for the job! Finding the vocalist was a task that was really difficult. The new guys really push themselves to make this band the way it is now and we get along better than anything! They definitely all have the determination and the dedication for sure!
Luxi: What kinds of things ripped the band apart in the first place? What was the ultimate deathblow that made it happen?
Shannon: You know I have wanted to answer this for a long time and finally get the chance, thank you! When the main line-up broke up, Eric, the singer/guitarist that I formed the band with, had a lot of personal issues to take care of. We had just finished recording Death Brigade and the album wasn't even released yet when Eric decided to quit. We had a European tour we were asked to do and Eric couldn't leave the country. Well he COULD have, but there were some obstacles in the way and he just decided to bow out instead of being a man and taking care of business. Shortly after, I'd say a month after Eric quit, Shawn (bassist) pulled some stupid whiny crybaby bullshit and he quit because he didn't feel that he should continue without Eric. Shawn was initially going to become the vocalist after Eric quit since he sang one song on the Death Brigade release titled "Mortally Wounded". But since he's a damn sissy, he quit and it really fucked things up in a LOT of ways. I am still really pissed about it, but whatever. Fuck them! When bad things happen as they do, in three's, everything just started falling apart. We (Marc and I) wanted to carry on and we hired probably the biggest dumbass in the history of the universe to replace Eric, a guy named Sal. He ended up being a junked-out alcoholic, liar and druggy with a huge drama queen, bitch-ass girlfriend who also started a bunch of drama. You can only imagine those problems! We also hired a guy named Chris to take the vacant bassist position. We ended up booting Sal but made a bad decision bringing him back as we had THOUGHT he straightened his act up. When Sal was out of the band we had a guy named Mike replace him but his attitude wasn't right although he was a bitchin guitarist. During Sal's time away, Chris took over vocals but it just wasn't the same. We managed to record a song for a split 7" on Relapse Records as part of their Speed N' Spikes series with Mike and Chris in the band but we HATE the song and never play it live or even listen to it. You can sort of tell that it was the beginning of the end for us at that time. Things really came to a head when Sal suffered a drug-related seizure the day before we were to travel to play a few shows and that was it. I put the band on hiatus right then and there!!! After 3 years away, we were again itching to get this back on track and continue as a band. Eric and Shawn are both religious fanatics now, Chris moved away to Texas where most of his family relocated. Mike fell off the face of the earth and I haven't heard from him in almost 3 years now, and with Sal I don't know or even care what he's doing... probably dead or something. What really angers me is that when they refer to Eric's vocals in the reviews I have seen for Death Brigade, they all refer to Sal thinking he is Eric. Obviously those lame asses downloaded to review without getting their facts straight.
Luxi: What are the best assets of the new Avenger of Blood members?
Shannon: Brandon is a riff monster. He's pretty much the main songwriter right now. He's also been my right-hand man in the business side of things. Jeremy brings a lot of talent and musical knowledge into the band, so he helps Brandon out a lot! R.A. Carnage has a great voice and he helped step up the band's aggressiveness. He helps contribute lyrics and some song ideas. R.A. Carnage also plays guitar and drums so sometimes he offers up ideas that we try. Good to have that aspect available. These three new guys really helped us step our game up just like I wanted it to be! It would have come out that way anyways, but just not the same way I guess. Haha! All the guys have great senses of humor too! We always have a great time and that really eases the tension and pressure we all put on ourselves! All of us are perfectionists too, so I am sure you can only imagine! Hahaha!
Luxi: Would you say the current line-up has the highest dedication to work hard for Avenger of Blood?
Shannon: Absolutely without a doubt! They all know that this requires a lot of hard work and dedication! We all want to succeed beyond what we have already done! Everyone works hard to achieve that goal and we also set goals beyond that and work to accomplish them. As long as we are all on the same page, things will work out great! I really hope it stays that way this time! We definitely have some work cut out for us, though.
Luxi: Avenger of Blood released a new 3-song EP in 2012, Spawn of Evil. What could you tell about the whole process of creating the songs? Were you guys on the same page for the musical direction of the EP?
Shannon: Well I pretty much said what I wanted in regards to the direction the band was going to go this time around. Luckily everyone was on board with it and we did share the same opinions. We worked for about a year, just Brandon, Marc and I writing and rehearsing until we found the final pieces of the puzzle. I think we wrote and rejected about 4 or 5 songs before things really started coming together. We had "Centuries of Hell" written way back in 2008 and we reworked a few things and it came out the way it is now. That was the only left over song or series of riffs that were kept from the past. So when you hear that song, it is almost a continuation of Death Brigade. The other 2 songs, "Aggressive Psychotic Behavior" and the title track, "Spawn of Evil," both came together about two months before we recorded them. It was quite the task getting them there because it's a different way of working together and plus not really knowing each other all that well musically. I think all 3 songs turned out awesome though!!
Luxi: How pleased are you with the response to Spawn of Evil?
Shannon: I have not seen anything bad said about it yet so I guess that is a good thing, haha!! I really haven't paid a lot of attention to that. What I have seen and heard definitely makes me happy! I am glad the people that like it, do actually like it! It's still catching on and I would love to see more opinions on it!
Luxi: You also chose to use Mark Riddick's artwork for the cover of Spawn of Evil. Was he your #1 choice for the cover or did you discuss using other artists' work?
Shannon: He was actually our first and last choice! I have always liked his work. He is such a brutal artist! He is also a fan of AoB as well so that to me is a big honor! We plan on getting him to do more for us in the near future! We'll probably use someone else for the next full-length, but I definitely want more Riddick Art for the things we do!
Luxi: How important is it for the band to find the type of art that reflects what Avenger of Blood's music is all about?
Shannon: I think it is really important! To me the art has to resemble the music and the lyrical content as well. They go hand in hand to me and I wouldn't want it any other way! I just hope the cover and the music go together for those that buy it or even listen to what we do.
Luxi: Is it important what you wear on stage when performing in front of an audience?
Shannon: Yes! I don't like the street image because anyone can do that. To me, this band is entertainment and we are there to entertain. Not just be that band people watch while they play their instruments. It is like a movie in that regard. If you were to watch a movie based on Tarzan and the main character is wearing cowboy boots, chaps, spurs and the whole wild-west getup, it's just not right. That's exactly how I see this! We have pretty much always been a band with an image. The image reflects the music and vice versa.
Luxi: I understand that you have a couple of new Avenger of Blood songs ready that you are eagerly waiting to play live. Would you enlighten us a bit more about these songs? Would you say they are some of the best songs you have penned thus far?
Shannon: HAHAHA! Well both songs evolved from the Spawn of Evil EP. Advancing what we did with those three songs, picking the strongest parts and utilizing more of that! The songs are real catchy, fast, aggressive, and utterly pissed off! They are two very strong songs! One song is tentatively titled "Pain 666" and the other doesn't have a title yet. These two new songs will be played live for the first time next month. We may even put in a 3rd new one, depending on how we feel. I wouldn't say they are our best songs ever, because to me the song "When Will You Die?" from the Death Brigade release is by far my favorite personally! I can guarantee that people will like these 2 new songs though!
Luxi: Avenger of Blood played a comeback show at The Cheyenne Saloon in your hometown of Las Vegas on September 15th 2012. Did the show go well for you guys?
Shannon: That was a great show!!! We were able to pack the place and we put on one hell of a show! We floored a lot of people and we were hoping that that would be the case! We started utilizing blood in our performances at this show and that sort of back fired on us! Hahaha! But we have that down now!!
Luxi: You also had three local bands playing there with you: Mynas, Spun in Darkness and Predatorial. Did you personally invite these bands to play that night or was the club owner responsible for booking them?
Shannon: They were all chosen by me to play the show! Spun in Darkness is a great old school Death Metal band with a few Vegas Metal legends in the band. The drummer Jeff is known for his time in legendary Death/Doom band Goatlord and the bassist Paul is known from the Death/Doom band Doom Snake Cult. We support each other in the highest regards and we are very good friends. To me Spun in Darkness are one of the best newer Death Metal bands to come out in some recent years! They really remind me of Asphyx and that sort of thing! A Real crushing band! Predatorial are another fairly good band. This is a band that constantly breaks up and reunites, but I do like them and they have really improved! They are more along the lines of old Sinister and Morbid Angel I guess. Hard to describe but a real good band nonetheless! Mynas were kind of the odd band at this show as they are more of a modern Metal band but the guitarist is like a little brother to me and I knew it would mean a lot to him if they played a REAL Metal show. I guess you could say Mynas are a cross between Metallica, In Flames and something like Machine Head. Overall though, it was a great time and I am glad it happened!
Luxi: How essential is performing live for getting the band promoted? Do you see playing gigs equally as important as advertising the band via the Internet?
Shannon: Well that's kind of a catch-22 sort of thing. The band has to play live to keep themselves stage-ready, and in the eye of the Metal public, but at the same time, I don't feel it's the be all, end all of being in a band. With a band like ours, the word spreads like mad and that is really good so we do like to play, just don't like to play a lot locally. Social media is like "whatever..." It has some positives but I don't know. I really have a hard time understanding it and now that EVERYTHING seems to connect to Facebook, I don't get it. I'm sort of older so I am not very technologically advanced, hahaha!!!
Luxi: You also have a gig with Overkill coming up in the beginning of February 2013. Is this your first time sharing a stage with them? How much are you looking forward to playing with those guys?
Shannon: Yeah this will be our first time playing with them. I've never even seen them before. I was never really that big of a fan of theirs. I liked them back in the 80's and I think their recent stuff is pretty good. They were never in fashion for me. I was always more into European bands than American bands. I do like Taking Over, Feel the Fire and the other 80's releases. I never cared for their 90's releases but it will be real cool to see them and play the show!
Luxi: Talking about playing gigs for just one more question, does Avenger of Blood have a domestic tour in the works, and if so, when and where will it kick off?
Shannon: No tour is planned at the moment. We are working on our next album and getting all our other business together before we take that route. The US is real fickle and I really don't want to go out and lose money doing this. I'd love to do some touring but I really want it to basically cover itself. Easier said than done I know.
Luxi: It's just the beginning of 2013, but I have to assume you guys are getting songs written for the band's 3rd full-length studio album. What are your plans regarding that?
Shannon: As of right now, we are about half done writing the album's music. Our talks on it are happening a little more as we go. Our realistic plans are to get this started recording in March/April and get it out in the mid-late summer. No idea on a title, cover artist or any of that jazz yet. We are talking about where to go to record it though and there are a few places in mind.
Luxi: Death Brigade, the band's second album, was recorded at Sound Vision Studios in Las Vegas. Do you think you might record your next album there?
Shannon: No, we all decided that we will never record there again. The engineer always puts things on hold and when things need to be fixed, we'd get the "I'll do it later" routine and it never got done, resulting in production flaws and anger amongst the band. Things would happen so that as soon as we'd get warmed up or on a roll for the day, we'd have to stop. It was just a very unprofessional setting and an unprofessional way of doing things while we were recording there. The same shit happened to the band Marc and I joined after we put AoB on hold too. I honestly don't think it's in business any longer anyways.
Luxi: Videos are an important tool for bands to get the word out. Do you have plans to get a professional video shot for one of your new songs?
Shannon: That is something that is in the works! We have plans for 2 videos actually! That is something we have always wanted to do in the past but things always got in the way. Well not this time! We want at least two videos for this next album and a third would be great! I am real excited for that to happen. The ideas are pretty brutal!! Not sure what songs yet because we are still writing. They'll be great though I am sure!
Luxi: You are also the manager for Avenger of Blood. Isn't it a tough job all by itself? I can only imagine how much time and energy it takes to write songs for the band? Will you try to get outsider to take over the manager's role in the future, which would allow you more time to concentrate on being just a musician in the band?
Shannon: We have tried an outside source a few times and to me they don't do things right. Nothing against them as people and each person in the past has done a little, but they don't understand the whole package. I think it would be great to have someone take that role, but then I'd lose control, something I have had all along with the band. I honestly don't know what the hell I did to get this far but whatever it was, it worked. Haha! It is very time consuming though, you are right about that. I guess right now I am lucky that I have Brandon helping me out (especially lately as I have been working 10+ hour days) and we also have a good friend named Marco Barbieri helping us with things as well.
Luxi: What are some of your hopes for Avenger of Blood before this year comes to an end?
Shannon: To record this new album, get these videos completed, play some good successful shows, get more merchandise made, and get great reactions from fans and friends on the band's new material. That's really all I have hopes for. If more things happen, then that is icing on the cake, but those are the things that would make me a happy camper. I just try to be as realistic as possible.
Luxi: Alright, I guess we just crossed the final chalk lines and got this interview finished. Thank you Shannon for your precious time and I wish you all the best with the band in the future. If there's still anything that you'd like to say to conclude this nice chat properly, then be my guest...
Shannon: Thanks Luxi for the awesome chat! It's always a pleasure talking with you! Thanks to the readers for reading and be sure to listen to our Spawn of Evil release as well as the older stuff. Lots to enjoy. Look out for the new album this summer! Add us on Facebook if you'd like! We salute you all!!!
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|Review: Death Brigade|
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