By Andrew Bansal
Heavy metal supergroup Adrenaline Mob, consisting of Russell Allen on vocals, Mike Orlando on guitar, John Moyer on bass and Mike Portnoy on drums, released their debut album Omerta early last year and got a positive response from heavy music lovers worldwide. This year, they’re following it up with a covers album titled ‘Coverta’, set to release on March 12th via Elm City Music/EMI. This is a rather enjoyable offering for any hard rock/heavy metal fan, with covers of some truly classic tunes. To celebrate this release, the band is embarking on a North American tour, the first leg of which begins on March 12th and ends on April 7th. A couple of days ago, I spoke to Mike Orlando to discuss Coverta, touring and more. Check out the interview and other goodies below, and visit AMob online using links at the bottom.
Last year you released ‘Omerta’ and you’ve been doing a lot of touring since then. It must have been a pretty busy year.
Yeah, it was great! After releasing the album we did some warm-up gigs in the States but then we went over to Europe for about four-five weeks and did all kinds of festivals, Sweden Rock, Graspop and all that. It was incredible. But basically, we didn’t do a ton of touring. We took a little break as Mike had to go out and fulfill some other obligations that he had to get to. So, this year we’re playing a good deal, obviously. We’ve got a lot coming out in 2013. This is definitely the year of the Mob for us (laughs).
You mentioned Mike Portnoy’s commitments. He’s doing a ton of different projects. The man is literally non-stop! This year, is he more committed to Adrenaline Mob touring?
I can’t speak for Mike personally (laughs), but I do know that for Adrenaline Mob we do have a good amount planned right now. We have the first US tour leg starting on March 12th which is also the release date of our new Coverta CD, and we’re going for about four weeks. Then we take a quick break for about 10 days and then we’ll go out and do a second US leg as well for another four weeks. And then I think we’ll be off to South America, and of course we have to get back to Europe again. So we’re definitely going to have a lot busier of a year this time around than we did in 2012.
It seems like a lot of bands are releasing covers albums these days. Anthrax is going to release one, and the Melvins are also doing it. How did the idea for Coverta come about?
You know, it got presented to us by management. From my recollection, we all had a big meeting with the record companies, and our new manager came up with this whole plan. It’s not like we ever envisioned doing it, but what a great opportunity to get to pay tribute to some of the greatest rock bands out there! They’re some of our idols and for me it’s an honor doing Eddie Van Halen and all these greats like Sabbath, Zeppelin, Dio and Heart. There is so much great music and history, it was such a blast for me personally.
The track listing is very cool. It has great songs from start to finish. How did you pick that? Did everyone get a say in it?
Some of them were no-brainers. Myself and Russell Allen had been performing ‘High Wire’ (Badlands) for years together before Adrenaline Mob existed. He used to come up in my Sonic Stomp shows, my instrumental band, and he would close the night and just rip people’s faces off singing that tune (laughs). So we’ve been doing that for a while, and Jake E Lee is one of my hugest influences, one of my favorite guitar players, and same goes with Ray Gillen for Russell. So that was a no-brainer. ‘Stand Up And Shout’ (Dio) we’ve been doing in the Adrenaline Mob set since the first show we ever did, and the same with ‘Mob Rules’ (Black Sabbath), obviously. Mike came up with some really cool things from left field. ‘Kill The King’ (Rainbow) me and Russ had been playing as well, and it’s one of our favorites as well. ‘Barracuda’ (Heart) was from left field. Mike picked a great tune there that I wouldn’t have envisioned us doing but once we got into it, it was great. ‘Break On Through’ (The Doors) was a track picked it just because I’m a huge fan of The Doors. I grew up on them since I was a little kid and I’m still a big fan. I always wanted to record a slammin’ version of it. ‘The Lemon Song’ (Led Zeppelin) was Russell’s. He’s a huge Robert Plant fan and we’re all huge Led Zeppelin fans. And ‘Romeo Delight’ (Van Halen) was a great pick and I’m really glad Mike picked that one, but I wouldn’t say no to any Eddie Van Halen/David Lee Roth track (laughs). To me that’s like holy grail territory right there. Pick anyone, go for it! I love Eddie.
I’m glad you brought up the Doors track because I love The Doors, but oftentimes people in the hard rock and metal world have the opinion that The Doors were not really rock, because of the poetry-based nature of their music. Do you think they actually influenced rock and metal in the way that people may not realize?
I think so, for sure. Jim Morrison is somebody you can hear in Glen Danzig’s voice, or even sometimes the guy from Volbeat sounds like him. I hear a lot of Jim Morrison peaking through in various places. Nobody is doing blatant covers of him, but I hear him influencing a lot of people. Th Doors have so many incredible songs, it was such an honor. I certainly got a kick out of doing the keyboard solo on the guitar too. I’m a big Manzarek fan. He’s got such great feel.
That’s cool, man. So, guitar-wise what was it like for you to be playing these covers as compared to playing your other stuff?
Yeah, it was just a huge honor to do every track. You get to pay tribute and do your best at doing all these incredible guitar players. I grew up on all of them! Obviously Jake E Lee being my favorite. Ritchie Blackmore, that was just .. I had a great time picking up my old Yngwie Fender strat, plugging it right into the Marshall and cranking it up. I really liked getting into each different guitar player, because I’ll do a lick and if I try to add something of my own to a song like ‘Kill The King’, I’d go like, ‘Naah, what would Ritchie Blackmore do?’ You’ve got to try and think a little more along those lines because you can’t mess with greatness and all these tracks and all these bands are just phenomenal. So I paid tribute as best I can and kept it pretty straightforward, but I took a few things out from my bag of tricks.
And obviously there are three Dio-fronted songs on the album. I really feel that Russell Allen is the closest you can get to matching Ronnie James Dio. Do you also think he’s the perfect guy to do such songs?
Yeah! Without a doubt. Some people say you should play to your strength, and to me it’s kind of like that but Russell can do so many different things. In one breath he sounds just like Robert Plant doing the Zeppelin song, but honestly Ronnie James Dio has got to be one of the greatest voices ever in rock, and I’ve got to say, I don’t know if I’ve ever heard anyone do it like Russell does. I shut my eyes and sometimes I feel like I’m listening to Ronnie. It was so cool to do each of Ronnie’s respective careers and highlight them, something from Sabbath, Rainbow and his solo career. Russell does an amazing job. Jaw-dropping, in my opinion.
You mentioned some of the guitars and amps you used for the covers. Gear-wise did you actually bring out different stuff to use on these recordings as compared to the Adrenaline Mob songs, just to give it a classic feel?
Yeah, you know, these songs are more classic rock. I have a lot of Marshalls in my live rig. I use three different Marshalls combined for my one sound. But in Coverta, I just plugged into an old JSM 800 of mine, one of my favorite amps of all time. Guitar-wise, I definitely used the light So-Cals for ‘Romeo Delight’, because that guitar is just so Van Halen (laughs). It has that tone. I use some different Charvel for ‘Barracuda’, a Les Paul-type for ‘Stand Up And Shout’, and my So-Cal strat for ‘High Wire’ because it’s almost exactly like the Jake E Lee guitar. So yeah, guitar-wise I tried to do lots of things but for the whole album the amp if my old Marshall JSM 800. Of course for ‘Romeo Delight’ you pull out the old Phase 90, you have to (laughs).
Coming to Adrenaline Mob, you’ve been a guy who has done so much instrumental stuff and other projects. But the music of Adrenaline Mob is more like a simple, groovy style. How different of a challenge is it for you? Is it more like a fun thing to do?
Yeah, I love it! Even the Sonic Stomp instrumental CDs I do, even though they are instrumental they are still song-oriented. I’ve always a song-oriented guy. If you listen to Sonic Stomp 1 & 2, you’ll notice the grooves and the song structures. And then I come up with the cool crazy solo stuff over it. But if there’s no groove or beat or something that’s going to grab the listener of a song in any genre, then you’ve got a battle ahead of you. So I’ve always been into the ‘song first’ aspect. Adrenaline Mob is a song band. This is not a collection of just everyone playing everything they could play. It’s not like all drums from Mike, all screaming from Russell, or all guitar solos. It’s the song first and foremost.
Coming to the tour you’re going to do very soon, you’ll play LA on March 30th at the Roxy. That’s awesome because it’s a cool venue and everything. Have you done any AMob shows in LA in the past? I think LA would be the best for this band because there’s such a big fan-following for simple classic hard rock.
We actually did the Key Club last year at an event called Metal Masters, which was incredible. It was a packed house with people just going nuts. It was a great event put together by Zoom and Samson. So that was the only LA show we did, I think. Like I said we did only a few US shows and went right over to Europe. So I’m really looking forward to hitting the Roxy and just doing a longer show, our own show. We opened up the Metal Masters so it was a little different, you know.
I think this time you’ll do a longer encore as well.
Oh yeah, I can go all damn night, man. You’d have to pull me off that stage (laughs).
Another thing I read about this tour is, you’re doing some kind of a meet-n-greet contest through facebook? Could you tell me more about that?
Yeah, it’s a really cool thing. It’s just basically picking five random people from each show. Just prove to us that you got your tickets and then we’ll get you to meet us. It’s really random and we’re just picking them. We’re going to hang out with these people before each show. They can come backstage, meet the band and kind of shoot the shit a little bit. That’s pretty much it. I thought it was a great idea just to get to talk to some fans one-on-one in a really laid-back, not a big VIP meet-n-greet thing. Just a down-to-earth thing.