ROCK IN THE FASTLANE: Who are some of your influences as a Vocalist/Musician/Songwriter?
AZ: My Dad was a minister when I was growing up and he and my Mom listened to an Christian artist named Don Francisco who wrote, like a Christian Folk Rock type stuff. He was a really good guitar player and a really good story teller in his songs. I like stories in songs, I don’t like songs really that I gotta listen too and figure out an interpretation for. I just like people to tell me what they are singing about. I really liked his stuff when I was a kid. My Dad used to listen to a lot of Johnny Cash and stuff, so I liked that. Then I got into Rock N’ Roll and I remember my first album was Quiet Riot “Metal Health.” Then I got into Motley Crue and Alice Cooper…….you know. Well, at that time my parents sent me to a private school. When I was in my teens they started having these guys come in and do these seminars telling everyone about how rock n roll was the devils music and what not. To prove their point they would play you clips of these songs that they thought were particularly satanic or evil. I was hearing clips of these songs and thinking “Wow that’s really cool, I should check this out.” Some of it was like “God Of Thunder” by Kiss and Alice Cooper, “I gotta check this stuff out.” That’s really what started it. So, if it wasn’t for them I probably would’ve never really discovered rock n’ roll. I really owe those guys.
ROCK IN THE FASTLANE: LOL. They did their job.
AZ: Who’s knows they probably did that for someone else too. LOL.
AZ: I will say one thing about that era, I think there was more of a feeling with music then than what you are getting now, especially in the main stream; not just because I was a kid growing up in that time. When I got into rock n’ roll in the late 80’s, I moved away from home and started playing in bands at 16, the 80’s were pretty much over. Me personally, I never really dug the 90’s all that much. At least during that time, rock was big because a lot of people were against it. There were a lot of things that were taboo that now nobody thinks twice about. I think nowadays if you’re thinking about going into shock rock, it’s probably a bad decision. People have already seen about everything that can be done in music. Really I think that even religious groups have even given up. I think that nowadays that its even more important to do what works best for you. Whatever kind of music is popular on the radio now, there will be 50 other bands in the next 6 months that will sound exactly like it and 6 months later its gonna be something else and you’ll never hear from those bands again. One person does something that is successful for a while and everyone jumps on it. Every era is like that. Right now to me, there is so much music right now that has no heart and soul to it. I got into rock n roll because it struck a chord with me. It was about being that individual and basically saying fuck you to everybody and everything that stood in your way from doing what you wanted to do. I don’t get that now. When I got into rock n roll, the bands were in your face and they looked like bands and there was danger to that. The attitude. Now there is no attitude, no danger, no heart and soul. It’s just about how can we write a song and sell lots of singles and get it on the radio enough that we can afford to do a tour. I can’t dig that.
ROCK IN THE FASTLANE: That was perfectly put. You are exactly right. Everything now lacks everything. The best way to say is that they are robotic.
AZ: It is. I like Buck Cherry. What I like about them is that they are a hard working band and they lay it out there every night. Its just balls-out rock n roll. It’s not Nickelback. Its not all pre-recorded live. When I go to a concert and I hear backwards reverb in the mix I know somethings not right. I’ve always preferred live music over anything else whether it’s me playing it or whatever. Its where the energy is at. I like the raw side of the music, I don’t go much for the polish and everything else. I like the rawer stuff.
ROCK IN THE FASTLANE: That’s one thing about the metal and hard rock fans is that they are very loyal. They’re still listening to the same stuff that they did back then. One thing that I’ve noticed is that there are not a lot of new bands that are stepping up to carry the torch. We just aren’t seeing that.
AZ: Well, there is actually a two-fold problem there, that I see. Number 1 is: Yes, the fans are very loyal, but there are a lot of fans that don’t buy the new stuff. Like say, Jeff and I recorded with Tracy G., who played for Dio and was Dio’s longest running guitarist. There’s a guy that I know that said ” I’m the biggest Dio fan ever and I’ve never heard of Tracy G.” I said well, then you’r not much of a Dio fan. After 1990 or something, he never bought any of the other albums. When the music industry stopped pushing rock and metal and started pushing grunge, people were not out there looking for the stuff because it wasn’t in their face. Nirvana and Soundgarden and Alice N Chains were being shoved in everyone’s face. A lot of people just thought “My favorite band doesn’t have any albums out now,” but that’s not true. Whitesnake for example had a ton of albums out since the 1987 album. Sure they’ve kinda changed and progressed. I understand like with Aerosmith, I can understand why they don’t want to put any new album’s out. They area classic band and everyone still want’s to go see them. They don’t care if they put out any new album’s. As far as anyone carrying the torch, it’s hard to find new bands that are influenced by bands that will carry that on. So many of them are being influenced by what they are hearing on the radio. There are younger musicians that are into that bands that I grew up listening to. There has to be that influence that they get by what they listen too. You’re not going to carry on the torch by what you are hearing on the radio. It’s also a matter of like, when I was growing up, we didn’t have cellphones and video games. We spent a lot of time in our bedrooms with a guitar. I’ve talked to some guitar players who say “Zakk Wylde is my favorite guitarist or DJ Ashbah.” I ask them to play something and they can’t. I say, well you can if you sit down and practice it. That’s what we used to do. Now, they have social lives and video games and everything else so they spend less time practicing their instruments and more time on social media. Even as a musician, there’s a big pitfall with social media where you spend more time trying to promote your music than writing new music and following it up.
ROCK IN THE FASTLANE: It doesn’t seem like people in the scene anymore try to help each other. There is a lot of bad mouthing and bands not supporting each other and trying to get the word out there.
AZ: I know that there are people that are critical of other people and I am guilty of it sometimes too. The thing is that there are a lot of people that would love to get on stage and sing and they can’t or play guitar, they are just scared to perform in front of people. You see so many bands and some of them are horrible and some are great. It’s easy to make fun of a bad band, but the truth of the matter is that they are doing it, they are trying. For some people, it takes a lot of courage to do that. I know that when I started playing music, when I got on stage I would tremble, I would shake, I was terrified of playing in front of people. Then I made up my mind and decided that this was what I was going to do. I got rid of everything I owned and just took my guitar and left home and started playing in bands. I set my mind in that direction and I had nothing, but me and my guitar, I was no longer afraid to be on stage, I was thrilled to be on stage. It’s different things for different people. All I’m saying is that it does take a lot of courage to get up there, but at least they’re trying. A lot of independent musicians put out an album and it never goes anywhere and that’s the end of their career and they think they’ve failed. Then there’s millions of people that would love to be in that position as well. Like, I don’t consider myself a success in music, but there are other people that may consider me a success and others may not.
ROCK IN THE FASTLANE: What about an artist or band that people would be surprised that you listened too?
AZ: When I wrote the first album, I was actually listening a lot to the Nickelback album, “The Long Road.” I was listening a lot to that because the producer that I was working with had done a lot of vocal editing on Nickelback’s albums up to that point. I listen to the Def Tones, that “White Pony” album, I love that album. You won’t hear anything on the album that sounds like the Def Tones or Nickelback or anything. I even had an Avril Lavigne cd there at one point. I was listening to a lot of the current stuff just to get some ideas about mixing a stuff like that. Stuff like the Def Tones, I love all of the different sounds that they use and the chord progressions and stuff like that. I grew up on Motley Crue and Bon Jovi, Poison, Skid Row and Guns N Roses. I remember buying the first Guns N roses album thru mail order, it wasn’t even released in Canada yet. Nobody even knew who they were up here. I grew up listening to that stuff and there was some gospel music thrown in there an what not. It all kinda mixes together, you know.
ROCK IN THE FASTLANE: You can hear it in what you release, the different influences. It comes together really cool.
AZ: I was a big Dokken fan, not really because of Don, but because of George’s guitar playing. I loved the music too.
ROCK IN THE FASTLANE: George is awesome. He’s definitely my favorite guitarist.
AZ: He’s one of my all time favorites as well. Him and Reb Beach.
ROCK IN THE FASTLANE: Reb is awesome as well. He’s from Fox Chapel about 10 minutes outside of Pittsburgh. He different and that’s what sets him apart. He should be mentioned among the great guitarists.
AZ: Oh yeah. I love his feel. It was really unfortunate that Winger got such a bad wrap form a biased media. Kip Winger is an incredible musician and writer. There wasn’t a musical flaw with any of those guys, they were all top notch musicians. Like Rod Morgenstein is an incredible drummer. That band had nothing, but talent in it. One of my biggest influences as a singer is David Coverdale. I got to see them for the first time with Jeff actually in Vegas last year with Reb Beach playing guitar. I got to meet their other guitarist Joel Hoekstra while we were out there. Really cool guy and I also met Doug Aldritch the same night. Whitesnake were awesome. It was so incredible to see someone that was my favorite singer since I was a teenager. He really pulled it off so awesome live. I hope he keeps doing it till he’s 80’s. He keeps saying he’s gonna quit and then he gets a new guitarist and their ready to put out another album. LOL.
ROCK IN THE FASTLANE: I am glad that these bands are still doing it and nailing it. Like Lynch Mob. I saw them last year and they were incredible. Didn’t skip a beat.
AZ: I never seen them yet. I am going to be seeing them on a rock cruise. I remember on the first album that they did, Oni Logan got kicked out or whatever and they were auditioning singers. I tried everything that I possibly could to audition for them and I just couldn’t do it at the time. Nowadays with internet and stuff I could probably do it, but back then all I knew was that George lived in Phoenix. LOL.
ROCK IN THE FASTLANE: You would’ve been a damn good fit for them.
AZ: I had a much higher range back then. I have lost my range over the years. I mean not that his range on those albums was that much higher than mine is now, but still you know what I mean. I would’ve done it for just “Food and Water.” LOL.
AZ: Ever since I saw Nightmare On Elm Street 3. Actually I was playing in bands before that for 2 or 3 years before and I had an acoustic electric guitar. I was over my buddies place, he was drummer and I was playing in a band with him. I saw Nightmare on Elm Street 3 and the next day I went out and bought an electric guitar and amp. That was it.
ROCK IN THE FASTLANE: He has influenced a lot of people. I have never seen a guitarist play cooler than he does. It just another thing that sets him apart.
AZ: There’s such an intensity about him when he’s playing. He incredible; an iconic guitar player.
ROCK IN THE FASTLANE: Is there anything that you would like to promote? Any shows that you are playing or projects that you are working on?
AZ: I am playing bass in a Motley Crue tribute band, it’s actually the drummers band. He’s the drummer from Jezebel’s Kiss, Byron Black. I am a big Crue fan and everything, but I never imagined that I’d be playing in a Crue tribute ever, especially Nikki Sixx. It’s actually a lot of fun. There are a lot of Tribute bands out there; The Ultimate Tribute to this, in this band nobody wanted to go that direction. It’s called All Bad Things. The whole idea of it, there has been quite a lot of planning, preparation and detail put into it. We are going with the “Theater of Pain” and “Shout At The Devil” look. With the drum riser that goes up 90 degrees. We are doing it with that era of look, but with a state of the art light show, fog, CO2, pyro, with the hydraulic drum riser and stuff. We are doing all the hits from their entire career with all the fan favorites. If we are playing a casino and we have an hour and a half, we are going to play a different set every night and change it up to keep it different. We have put a lot of time and effort into it, especially with the LED screens and stuff. I am just the bass player and I do what I do. This is the first band ever that I have played bass in.
ROCK IN THE FASTLANE: Do you enjoy playing bass?
AZ: Yeah. Sometimes its kinda cool to sit back and be the bass player. I’ve been a lead singer and guitar player my whole life so its fun and I don’t have to worry about my voice getting blown out. LOL.
ROCK IN THE FASTLANE: How about any last words? Anything that we missed?
AZ: I don’t know, we covered a lot of territory, didn’t we? LOL. I just want to say I’d like for people to check out our stuff, check out Jeff’s stuff. Listen to our music if you can.
ROCK IN THE FASTLANE: It has been an absolute pleasure to speak with you.
AZ: I really appreciate that and appreciate the support and encouragement. It’s really great getting to know you. I’m really happy that you love the music and stuff.
I would like to thank AZ for taking the time to sit and chat with me. I have to honestly say that it was an absolute pleasure to do this interview and speak with a truly nice guy and mega talented musician. Please check out Azriel St. Michael at:
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