By Andrew Bansal
Los Angeles-based classic metal band White Wizzard released a fantastic new album this year called The Devils Cut on Century Media and Earache Records, have a stable lineup of great musicians in the band now and are playing excellent gigs like the show at the Roxy last month. We’ve already spoken to most of the band members about this album and the rejuvenation of White Wizzard, but last Wednesday July 31st at the Joint I had the pleasure of talking one-on-one with singer Joseph Michael as he was the special guest on my weekly Wednesday 4-6 PM PST radio show on the Razor KXRZ station. We played some tunes, talked about all things White Wizzard, and then some more. Enjoy the hilarious conversation below and LA folks should check out White Wizzard at the Joint tomorrow, Monday August 5th!
Joseph, it’s good to have you here, man. How are you doing today?
I’m doing great! I’ve just been hanging out today and doing some interviews. Drinking now. Thank you! (laughs)
I saw you guys at the Roxy on July 9th and after that I believe you’ve done a few shows as well. You played Vegas too, right?
Oh yeah, we did a show with Jack Russell’s Great White in Las Vegas. It was cool, it was alright. They wouldn’t let us in their dressing room, but that’s okay. We forgive them.
So, what I really wanted to ask you first in this interview is, what was it like for you to join White Wizzard and how has the journey been so far?
I’ve been in the band a little over a year. At first, me and Jon butted heads because we’re both control freaks and we’re both a little nuts. We’d get into an argument and I’d wake up in the morning with a picture of his balls in my fucking phone, and shit like that. It’s been a fucking ride, but eventually we figured out that if we’re just going to fucking argue, we might as well do it like brothers, get on with it and keep making music.
Obviously you sang on the new White Wizzard album The Devils Cut which came out on Earache/Century Media on June 25th, and you’ve already announced a European headline tour that’s coming up in the fall, for which you’re running an IndieGoGo campaign. Tell me how that’s going.
It’s going good. Basically we need the money just for upfront cost. The band is big enough in Europe where our guarantees are great. We’re going to make money on the tour, but the problem is we don’t really know any investment bankers that would loan us $10k for the fucking flights and merch, to go over there and actually make this a success. I think we’re up to about $8200 now and that’s going to cover our flights. We also have this other run of US West Coast dates starting now, so it should be fine.
What I’m going to do in this interview is run through White Wizzard’s discography to give everybody a taste of the different albums and to get your opinion on all the previous singers, and how you deal with singing your songs.
[High Speed GTO title track is played]
So that the High Speed GTO title song, from the EP that came out in 2009. You sing songs from this record live. What do you think of Luna’s vocals and how do you match up to it?
I knew you were drag me into this (laughs). I mean, yeah his vocals totally work for the song you just played. I don’t think anything else would fit. It’s a good melody, Luna’s got a good tone on that track. What else do you want from me? (laughs). But no, Luna is a good singer, he’s gotten a lot better. I really don’t like the vocal production on the new Holy Grail album though. I think it’s absolute shit, and that’s me being candid. He’s better than that, I think.
When they play the new songs live, it’s better isn’t it?
Yeah, it is way better. I mean, he’s not Sebastian Bach but he’s fucking good and that album’s production just drowns out the voice completely. To answer the other part of your question, I have no problem hitting the notes on the songs he sang when I play them live.
['High Roller' from Over The Top is played next]
I think of ‘High Roller’ from the Over The Top album as a real cult song. It doesn’t really get talked about. People always mention the title song and 40 Deuces. You don’t play it live either. What do you think of the tune?
I think it’s one of Jon’s worst songs, actually (laughs). I fucking hate that song. Don’t download that song! I would never play it live. I hate Wyatt Anderson’s vocals on there.
Really? Interesting! But in general, what’s your opinion of Wyatt’s vocals?
Well, if Wyatt had Luna’s work ethic he’d be somewhere. But now he’s stuck fucking under glass tables in Florida. The Wyatt thing is really a shame because he almost ruined a good band. He refused to go and do the actual work. He just went in, made a great record, didn’t do the touring, then does the same thing again with the next record, fucks the band and the label, fucks his career. Wyatt doesn’t deserve anything but disdain. He’s a good singer, he’s got a great mid-range but his high notes are just so whiny. I’m not going to sit here and say Wyatt is a shitty singer. He’s done some good songs for the band. 40 Deuces is a great tune for its vocals and the Over The Top title song is really good too. The thing about the voice is, it’s like a little wind instrument and there’s this little pocket where his range is just perfect for that song. The melody doesn’t go anywhere and it’s not even an octave range, but it just sounds great.
You have all these different eras of White Wizzard which you are covering in your shows now, which I appreciate. Sometimes a band gets a new singer and they don’t really do the older songs. I’m glad you guys are covering everything, but are you personally enjoying switching between your songs and the others?
Yeah, that’s kind of my thing, I’m like a chameleon. My voice does so many fucking things. Oh God, people are going to hate me for saying this, but before I came into the band the only real good live singer White Wizzard ever had was Mikey Germino. He was good, and the other guys not so much. Don’t get mad at me, just go check the fucking tapes. It’s all over YouTube and it’s terrible, it’s a shame. Mikey is a good live singer because he has a lot of techniques and he can pull off all of the stuff. Surprisingly, he had the best breath control and stamina as compared to the other singers which is weird because he’s a bigger guy (laughs). I think he’s got some death metal project going on now. But yeah, for me this is like cake. I’ve made my living for the past six years doing the cover circuit in Vegas. We go to Queensryche to Sebastian Bach to Pantera. I’ve got no problem singing this shit. Pick three songs on The Devils Cut and there’s more diversity in those three songs than the last three White Wizzard records.
Which covers do you enjoy playing the most?
You know, I’m out there performing and playing music, I don’t have to fucking work at a Walmart or whatever. I’m singing, playing guitar or bass or whatever it is I’m paid to do. I really enjoy stuff that’s challenging, like I do with this one band whenever I need money to pay my electricity bill. We do ‘Monkey Business’ by Skid Row, then we go into ‘I Don’t Believe In Love’ and then straight into ‘Cowboys From Hell’ on the same little push. We got a name out there doing Steelheart, the song called ‘Never Let You Go’. Whenever we play that, people are like ‘what the fuck is going on?’ I’ve also done King Diamond cover bands, Iron Maiden, and I’ve been three members of a KISS cover band. So, it works! If you have this skill set, what else are you doing to do?
I’m glad you mentioned Skid Row. Last Monday night I was at a Steel Panther show and they played ‘Youth Gone Wild’. I just lost my shit. How can anyone not rock out to that song, right?
Yeah, exactly man. I’m just so sick of the backlash against the 80s metal that happens within the metal community. It’s fucking dumb. Sorry, you’re just jealous because those guys can sing and shred! People label it as too ‘epic’ or ‘cheesy’ because they can’t do it themselves. It’s like the Megadeth bullshit when Dave Mustaine knocked Winger. It’s music. It’s supposed to be cheesy if it’s written that way, like Mozart for example. All that shit was cheesy! The Magic Flute is all cheese but are you going to tell me that it’s not good music? It’s fucking Mozart, so fuck off!
Yeah I agree, and that brings me to my next question. Do you think metal has become too serious?
It has become shit (laughs). Even if we’re talking about a band like Vektor, you could say they’re like a hardcore band because they’re not talking about girls and their vocals aren’t pretty, but if you go to their show it’s fun. They’re having fun. It’s like Tom Kiefer on crystal meth (laughs). Even a band like Oceano, they’re talking about murdering people but their bass player has one of the best stage presence I’ve ever seen on stage, and you could tell they’re having a blast. He might look like he must have molested and murdered a 6-year old girl, but it’s still fun. Like horror movies, you can’t say they are serious. They are fun, and it’s a different artistic approach. ‘Cheesy’ is a stupid term. Cheesy to me is like Stryper, when you’re trying to be serious but it sounds like you’re not (laughs). Or Vains Of Jenna. Now that’s stupid. Don’t get me even started on the new wave of glam bands trying to be like Appetite-era Guns N’ Roses but can’t write songs or sing. There is a long list of bands I hate.
Why don’t you throw some light on that list of bands then?
Well, Black Veil Brides is the go-to band for us to hate, when we don’t know what to say and just want to make fun of somebody. They’re fucking idiots. The Butcher Babies is another one, although they were actually nice when we were hanging out at Century Media. They can’t sing, but when you got fake tits like that, you don’t need to sing. Like you don’t criticize a stripper if she can’t dance when she looks hot (laughs).
What I wanted to ask you leading into this next song is about your other projects. What are you doing currently aside from White Wizzard?
Well, I’m doing a Christmas record. It’s my 3rd Christmas record for my own record label HRX Records. I’m doing a second Midnight Reign record, and a second solo record. We just released a version of ‘Power Of Love’ with artists I write and produce for. I’m also re-recording this Neil Diamond cover I did. It’s pretty epic.
['Breathe On Me' from the Midnight Reign album 'Never Look Back' is played]
Tell me what this Midnight Reign band is all about!
Well, there’s a story to that record. It was written in 2001. I was on a shit ton of LSD. The whole thing took place after I drank a bottle of Snapple filled with 200 hits of acid. I mean, that really happened. I was working at a phone sex place. It was my first job out here. I would just sit there because there was nothing to do for 6 hours. One of the guys in the next cubicle started giving me all this acid. We were going to party with the soft patch kids. So they called me up and asked me to come over. I was wearing tons of makeup, a shirt that’s ripped to shreds, and very tall heels. Cops must have been looking at me, and I got this bottle of fucking fruit punch Snapple, but it’s not Snapple, it’s 200 hits of liquid acid. So I’m walking over there and I meet up with them at Hobart & Sunset by the Food 4 Less. Seven days later, I had that record. We were doing meth, smoking heroine and all of that. I had to go back to New York and dry out for a couple of months and was wondering what to do with this record because I knew I would never find a band to jam on this shit. That’s how me and Jon Leon bond. We know the trials and tribulations of this fucking band bullshit. So anyway, I would start working 50-60 hours a week, went back in the studio and tracked all the shit myself. It took me about a year-and-a-half of doing that and I finally had that record and put together a label around it.
Good story man, all I heard was acid. I’m glad I brought it up. But moving along, talking about the show you’re playing here at the Joint next Monday August 5th, have you played here before?
Yes, and you’re going to laugh at me because when I was 20 I was in a band called Steel Mullet. We were a cover band and we used to play here. It was pretty intense. We had this group of big fake titty chicks who made their own shirts of our band. They cut parts of their shirt so you could see their nipples and they would stand in the front row like bouncers. It was fucking weird! So yeah, that was the last time I was here. It was the year 2001, I think.
What do you feel about the place now?
It looks great! It looks like they’re getting a much higher grade of whore coming in right now (laughs). The owner gave me a beer and she’s attractive, so that helps the atmosphere. That’s good enough. I didn’t even notice the stage yet. But I’m going to tell you this, bars usually have that nasty Guinness Draught with the Nitrous. Fuck that! These guys have actual fucking Guinness Stout, real stout beer, not that draught nonsense.
['West LA Nights' from the Flying Tigers album is played]
Flying Tigers is an album that kind of went unnoticed, didn’t it?
Yeah, but I can’t blame Earache for that. They probably knew Wyatt was going to fucking flake out again and they were only going to waste more money promoting something that the guy wouldn’t even promote it himself. It’s funny and I see it all the time now. When you go to the White Wizzard facebook page, it’s like archeology. You go back to 2008 and you can see the origins of the band and all the posts. In the last 4 or 5 months, we’ve had more things going on than the entire history of the band! Those guys did jack shit. If you look, you’d always see Erik from the Over The Top lineup doing stuff even though him and Jon butt heads. But you could tell he was totally busting his ass. The other guys in the band just didn’t give a shit. They were along for the ride and that was it. It’s sad because they had a huge push for Over The Top.
But musically, do you enjoy Flying Tigers?
Yeah I do! I give Jon shit because that’s my job. The biggest issue with all those lineup changes was, Jon is a hard-ass. Trying to get your way with him takes a lot of work. But I think 9 out of the 10 band members that left, they were just pussies! It’s like I can look back in time and see all the whining. I didn’t see anyone doing any work but everyone wanted to write. I just see it as people not willing to do any work or fight to get their way. Jon obviously has a lot of time invested in this and he’s not just going to give in unless he really thinks someone is passionate about it. And that’s happening with this lineup. We’ve already gotten three songs written for the next record. All the problems from the Flying Tigers era have been fixed. He has relinquished a lot of the studio stuff that was bugging people. I think there’s a couple of good guitar solos on Flying Tigers. ‘Starchild’ is great and the title song itself has a pretty cool solo. But the album is what you call as ‘stopgap’ in the industry. It has some really great songs and it’s not a bad record. We play at least three songs from it in our shows even now.
We’re coming to the end of the White Wizzard discography and we’ll play two songs from The Devils Cut. Finally you can breathe easy and stop talking shit about other singers and albums now!
I don’t think I talk shit. I’m speaking the truth here. I mean, I could talk some more shit if you want to name some other names and we can just keep going (laughs). But talking of The Devils Cut, Jon is going to fucking argue, bicker and bitch but I’ll give him the fact that he wrote about 95 to 97 per cent of it. What happened was, we didn’t really have much time to finish the record so we couldn’t sit together and go through everything. We didn’t know each other musically that well. So he already had these songs done and the label wanted a record in a couple of months. It did result into this big fucking argument, it almost broke up the band but if I want I’m going to fucking sit and argue with you, sure (laughs). I’m not afraid of an argument. But yeah, he sent me the songs and they sounded good so I agreed to sing them. I rewrote a bunch of melodies but he wrote all the songs. We all had input on the album and everybody wrote something on there, whether Jon admits it or not (laughs).
[We ended the show with 'Torpedo Of Truth' and 'Lightning In My Hands' from The Devils Cut album]