How and when was your interest in music sparked?
When I was around 12 years old, there was a confluence of a few events: The “Bohemian’s Rhapsody” scene in the film Wayne’s World struck my core, especially that the peak of the song was led by a big guitar riff. The power of that stuck with me. My curiosity was peaked. The 2nd event was going over a neighbor’s house and they were watching MTV and specifically the music video for “Symphony of Destruction” by Megadeth. It was my Eureka, “light bulb” moment. I became immediately obsessed with watching MTV and discovering more rock/metal music. This eventually led to discovering Guns N Roses and Metallica, which both inspired me to learn guitar. Especially Slash in the “November Rain” video. Both my parents are musicians so I’m sure I was inspired through just being around that environment.
Was playing guitar always your first and only choice or did it start with something else?
I played saxophone briefly in school, but I think I only did it because it seemed like the coolest instrument in the school jazz band. I don’t think I was very good at all. I didn’t take it seriously. Guitar was like a calling. I found a beat-up, old acoustic somewhere and just started messing with it. Plucking away with no instruction or outside encouragement. My dad saw my interest and eventually got a loaner guitar for me that was actually playable. It was an Ibanez Les Paul copy.
Your first album “Disobey” with Bad Wolves has charted around the world and been an amazing success. This must be an exciting start to a new band!
It’s completely overwhelming and surprising. We all had a good feeling that the band was on to something and would do well, but the meteoric rise so quickly certainly took me off guard. I’ve been used to struggling for so long just to get by as a musician, it’s an adjustment mentally to accept success. It’s exciting, but there have also been growing pains. I am primarily fixated on gratitude and not taking for granted the fortune we’ve experienced and using that as fuel to work hard to keep the success going. Not getting too complacent.
Although you’re “new” in the sense of albums, the band consists of members that all have had long careers in established bands. How did it all come about when you guys formed the band?
I’ve known John and Tommy for around 15 years and Kyle since 2010. Tommy and I have been playing in bands together in some form or another since we met. I moved to LA right around the time John quit Devildriver, and he was pretty much my best friend in town. He immediately started working on the music that would ultimately become Bad Wolves, and I got to hear every step of the evolution. He hinted that he wanted me to join the band for a while, but I was really focused on other, more rock-oriented projects at the time. When Tommy came into the fold as the singer in 2016, it coincided with me having some free time in my schedule, and I was also blown away by the demos, and they happened to need a guitar player, so I joined up. Our other guitarist had been playing with John since the early days of the writing. Our 5-man lineup was solidified on the day we shot the music video for “Learn to Live”. We had auditioned bass players, but couldn’t lock down anyone. We always Kyle to join the band, and the day of the video shoot, he called just to chat and ask if anyone was looking for a bassist. I told him we needed one that day, and he came down to be in the music video. That music video launched everything for the band, so it was fitting that was the day the full lineup came together.
Since launching the band and based on your journey so far, what are some of your personal standout moments?
The day Howard Stern played “Zombie” on his show, the day the song hit #1 on iTunes, playing on the Late Late Show in Dublin, Ireland, playing the first show of our run for Jose Mangin’s birthday party – there are almost too many moments to name. We’ve had some incredible moments playing festivals, and playing these giant arenas. So many of our headline shows have been really special.
Out of everything that comes with being in a band – writing, recording, jamming, touring, traveling…and the list goes on – what is your favorite part of being in a group?
I think that time performing on stage is truly special. It’s called playing music because it’s supposed to be fun. It really is the best part of the day. Watching a song come together is right there though. I am lucky to be in a band with such talented people.
What Toontrack products do you use and where in the creative process do they come in?
I use EZ Drummer, Superior Drummer, EZ Mix and EZ Keys. I don’t know if I would be able to write songs at anywhere near the level I do without Toontrack software. Before Toontrack, I was literally recording stuff on a tape 4 track (to give you an idea of how old I am). I am not some recording expert, so when I first got EZ drummer it allowed me to get my ideas down in a way that was presentable. It’s very easy to use, very intuitive, and the creative process is all about being able to get ideas down in a quick workflow. I really believe that if I can use it, anyone can use it. I also really love the updates with EZ Drummer 2 and the multiple presets, and having access to a diversity of sounds. EZ Mix has been an invaluable tool because of it’s simplicity. Most plugins, you have to sit there and tweak things for hours, and can be seriously limited if you lack technical prowess. I even use the mastering in EZ Mix for my podcast, the Ex Man. This software is indispenible for my process.
If you weren’t a musician, what do you think you’d do for a career?
As I mentioned, I have a podcast and have also done freelance writing professionally. I would imagine I would focus on multi-media. I really love thinking deeply about subject matter and writing and/or having serious conversations about these topics. Whether it’s politics, philosophy, sports, film, music, culture, I’m endlessly fascinated.
You’re also producing your own podcast. How did you get started doing this?
I am a huge fan of podcasts. When I discovered the medium around 8 years ago, it completely transformed the way I think about the world. Being able to be a fly on the wall for long-form conversations with some of the smartest, most talented, and accomplished people in the world is a tremendous resource. And it’s free for the most part. I loved the freedom of expression. So, I thought I would love to do one for years, and even had a failed attempt in 2012. Eventually, the timing seemed to be right, and I thought of a cool idea – I’m an ex-member of a band, and how interesting would it be to speak with other ex-members of bands or just creative professionals who have made big transitions. It’s been a great experience from day one, to have a platform to have connective conversations and hopefully inform and entertain others.
Best studio or stage moment ever?
Best stage moment was probably when I got to play with Lamb of God opening for Metallica in 2009. The first show was in Nashville, TN and Lemmy played with Metallica. It was the most nervous I’d ever been, but I shot out of a cannon once I got out there and it was a blast.
…and on the slip-side: Worst studio or stage moment ever?
Worst studio moment was the first God Forbid EP recording ever, we set up, get everything ready to go, record a song, and it sounds great. Then, the studio engineer tells us that his whole system went down and that we have to pack up everything and come back another day when he fixes the problem. My worst stage moment was when I was opening for Gwar back in 2002 in Dallas, TX. I had a fever, and the worst monitor mix of all time where the other guitar was so loud it was hurting my ears. It led to a performance so bad that people were throwing change at me.
Studio computer: Macbook Pro with Soildstate Drive
DAW: Apogee Duet
Main guitar: ESP E-II FR-7 with Floyd Rose and Lundgren Pickups
String gauge and tuning: 68 52 42 30 17 13 10 GCGCFAD
Amp of choice: EVH 5150 III and Kemper Profiling Amp
FIVE QUICK QUESTIONS.
If you could only keep/play one guitar moving forward…which one in your collection would you pick and why?
Probably my ESP Eclipse I got in 2009 before the Lamb of God tour. I eventually put Bare Knuckle Aftermath pickups in it and recorded all of the rhythm guitar tracks for the last God Forbid album, Equilibrium. The guitar is just a workhorse and it just keeps getting better with age.
You could only bring one record to listen to during a massively long tour, which one would it be and why?
My favorite album of all time is Abbey Road by the Beatles. It covers so much ground musically. Diversity and peaks and valleys are important to me. I think it’s perfect and moves me every time. It really brings me joy.
Big festival or club show?
If I had to choose one, it would probably be a big festival. I love the idea of grand scale. One great performance at a festival can change your career, can become legendary. That’s a lot tougher to do in a club.
Name one piece of gear you can’t live without in your studio (and it can’t be the guitar or the computer!).
Probably my Kemper profiling amp. It was first time I’ve gotten tone at home that I was truly happy with. I love that I can just dig around use my creativity to find any weird, crazy sound to fit whatever project I’m working on.
Your all-time top five list of albums!
The Beatles “Abby Road”
Amy Winehouse “Back to Black”
Michael Jackson “Bad”