Interviewed by Mark Dean (Journalist/Writer/Contributor) Myglobalmind Webzine
I had the recent opportunity to discuss the Motor Sister musical project with legendary bassist Joey Vera.
Hi Joey after a full day of interviews I am sure that you are tired answering the same routine questions (I was the last interview slot). I thought I would change it up a little and ask you some general questions first. Then we can move on to discuss Motor Sister if that’s fine with you?
Joey: ”That sounds great to me, (sighs) it’s expected so it’s OK.”
What’s the best feeling in the world?
Joey: ”I would have to say pleasure”
Is there something about you that might surprise people?
Joey: ”Maybe, I have been a vegetarian for almost twenty years and I make a great steak.”
Looking back over your musical career what would be your greatest regret?
Joey: ”No not really, you know I kinda feel that even some of the mistakes that you make early in your career are necessary in order for you to learn. So if you go back it’s hard to regret things like that you know. You would never learn if you didn’t make those mistakes. I don’t feel like I really made any mistakes. There are some things that maybe when I was younger and getting into the business maybe I regret paying enough close attention to the way that the business worked and the business in my own world like the Armored Saint days. The way that business was conducted in the early years but I hardly blame myself really. I was twenty-one years old, on a major label and having fun. I had fun! It is hard to regret not paying attention and whatever…I didn’t sign my life away and lose millions of dollars in the process. I just think that maybe I would have been a little more savvy when it came to business but again not too much regret.”
Do you still have any unfulfilled ambitions?
Joey: ”I don’t know, I am working on a few things, I have always wanted to publish a book of some sort. I am just starting to do that now. It’s not enough that I could tell you about it. I am just starting to work on that “
Any clues with regard to that is it an autobiography/fiction?
Joey: ”No, it may be something totally unrelated. (laughs)I don’t think that the world needs another autobiography especially from me. You never know, I might find a clever way to incorporate it into something different.”
How have you changed since you first started out in the music business?
Joey: “I think that when I first started out I was very much. As I said before I didn’t care very much about the business. My involvement was very much as an observer, I guess. In the past 15-20 years I have become much more pro active in the way that I conduct everything that I do. As far as spreading music to working with other people, producing other bands, producing the bands that I work with. It’s almost to the point where I almost become, in the case of Armored Saint the bands manager. That’s a big change, I never had that type of personality when I was younger.”
How do you view your own musical legacy? Does it fill you with a sense of pride?
Joey: ”Yeah, I am very proud of everything that I have done. I am proud of the fact that I have done a lot of different things too. I have got a lot of recording credits under my belt and they are pretty varied. There are a lot of different things that I have been involved with. I am proud of the fact that I have got a lot of it and that I’ve got variety in there to.”
How can you attempt to explain the enduring popularity and longevity of a band like Armored Saint?
Joey: ”I’m not sure but I think that we were able to keep this thing in this kind of strange cult status. The fans that we have, they may not be in the millions but they are very, very dedicated. I don’t know, part of it is luck. We are lucky to have and be able to reach people. We are lucky enough to have people care and follow us for so long. I think that part of our legacy is just that we have always just tried to put out good music. This may be something that has hindered our career but we never really put out the same record twice. We have always been a band that has evolved a little bit with each record. For some people that is the thing that turns then off, but for the people that have stuck with us that are the diehard fans that is something that I think appeals to them and they appreciate that. I don’t know it is a little bit of a mystery, as a lot of things in the business are a mystery. I think that would be it.”
What would be your career high and low points?
Joey: ”…I don’t know we have had some pretty good ones. The low will always be losing our dear friend and guitar player Dave Pritchard .The lowest of the whole thing. Having to go through that was probably one of the most difficult things that we have all had to do. That was by far the lowest for sure. We have had a whole bunch of highs at various points. I was just talking to my good friend John Tempesta and he is a huge Cozy Powell fan. I was telling him stories about when my very first tour in the United States with Armored Saint when “March of the Saint “came out. We toured with Quiet Riot and Whitesnake was supporting. It was on the “Slide It In “tour and I got to watch Cozy Powell play every night. He was almost in tears because he is such a huge Cozy Powell fan. That kind of a story makes me remember, that was a high point for sure. We have had lots of high points since then; we have played some major festivals with Armored Saint. We played Dynamo Festival in Europe; we got to play Wacken when we reformed in the mid 2,000.s. That was completely unreal. We got to play Greece, where most of the guys had never even been before. That was just an insane show. All kinds of things like that .I had a great year when I toured with Anthrax as well when I replaced Frankie for that year. Between 2004/2005, I got to go to places that I had never been before. All over Japan, and Australia, South America. I got to play in front of like 30,000 people in Hungary. It was just incredible times on that tour as well. I have had some great gigs with Fates Warning as well, a lot of high points with Fates Warning for me. I don’t know just so many great things and I have played with so many great musicians. Some great drummers, I am a big fan of drummers obviously as a bass player. I have had the pleasure of working with some of the best players in this industry. That for me is another highlight. Those guys know who they are. I don’t want to drop names and leave somebody out. (laughs) I have played with some amazing drummers. All around I get highs all the time you know…”
Just a final general question Joey before we move on to talk about Motor Sister. Do you have any spare time hobbies or pursuits that you follow when you are not involved with music?
Joey: “I am really just so busy all the time, generally I don’t really have time for a hobby. I wish I did, but I do enjoy travelling for fun. Not travelling for business but I do like travelling with my family. Getting into the culture of different cities and I enjoy going to see great art in different parts of the world. My wife and I are big art fanatics; my wife is actually an artist. That’s really about it. We try to do outside activities as much as we can. We live in Southern California so there are a lot of great hiking trails around here so we try to do that as much as possible. As far as tinkering with things and making things I love to do it. I think of myself as a pretty creative person .I enjoy building things but I don’t have a lot of time to do it.”
Onto the Motor Sister questions now. How did the band move from playing Scott Ian’s birthday party to releasing a CD on Metal Blade Records?
Joey: ”(laughs) Yeah it’s pretty nutty because, you know from the press release how it all came about?”
Yeah I do.
Joey: “We got together and played this party at Scott’s house and it really kind of spread by word of mouth to be honest with you. One of the guys who was at the party, a friend of ours who is a photographer just happened to be in a conversation with Michael from Metal Blade records a few days later. In the conversation he went “On Saturday I went to this party, for Scott Ian’s birthday and it was great “He told him all about it and how magical it was. He happens to be a Mother Superior fan himself so he was totally elated to have witnessed this party as well. He really told him the whole back-story on it, the whole thing. Next thing you know Mike, (well my wife works for Metal Blade Records as well) he went into her office and said ”Hey, why didn’t you tell me about this party? “Why didn’t you invite me?“ sort of thing. First of all it was just a private party, it was not a business thing, and just for fun. She told him her side of the story basically the same that it was incredible and unbelievable. They eventually decided ask them did they want to do something…like maybe make a record. They brought the idea to the five of us. At first we were “we didn’t really do this to get a record deal”…We only did it because we are friends and we wanted to drink beer and play songs of one of our favourite bands…”
I was just going to ask collectively were you all fans originally of Mother Superior?
Joey: “We were, it kind of came through Scott, because he had got introduced to them just after they did the two records with Henry Rollins. Which I believe was around 199/200 somewhere around there. He then became friends with them. It wasn’t until I was playing with Anthrax in 2004 that he turned me onto this band. They were an LA band so every time they played there I would go see them and I was completely hooked.”
Were they hugely popular in the US? As they didn’t really make in roads and attain any level of popularity in the UK.
Joey: “No they weren’t, because they were an LA band, although they came from out of state they pretty much formed here, and have lived here ever since. It was a weird thing because they were a band that put out eight or nine records .I would go and see them every time they played and if you were lucky there would be a hundred people in the venue. They were not known even in their own city. It was a very strange thing and I never got it because I thought that they were the best things ever. The only place that they had some success or following was in Spain of all places. They would release their records independently and several came out on a Spanish label. Then they would go and tour, and they would play in Spain maybe 10 shows in Spain alone. There they would do great play to perhaps 100-150 people each night, which was unheard of. I don’t even think that Armored Saint could go there and play to 150 people.(laughs)Certainly not in ten cities. It is a strange phenomena, I just think that they got lost in the mix of too many bands. The label didn’t know what to do with them because stylistically they are a bit all over the place. Seventies/Brit pop/classic rock.”
Bit of that raw energy of punk also that I picked up on?
Joey: “There’s punk, there’s Motorhead, there’s Black Flag…ACDC, Thin Lizzy all kinds of things in there. I think maybe that confused most people. To me I love Thin Lizzy they are one of my all time favourite bands. To me Thin Lizzy were that kind of a band, I mean their records were all over the place and they appealed to me.”
Regarding the song selection was that solely Scott’s choices or a collective thing?
Joey: “Well it was Scott’s birthday so he had to make his own wish-list .I think it started with a list which was around twenty songs. They have so many great songs. Between him, his wife Pearl and Jim they probably whittled it down to about twelve. It was mostly Scott, there may have been a couple of suggestions from Jim.”
Does the album then effectively mirror the set that you played that night?
Joey: ”Yep the same 12 songs on the record are the same 12 songs that we played at the party. We played our very first gig last Thursday. It was in Brooklyn New York and it was just the best time ever. So fucking good it was.”
It does sound like a lot of fun; the production is very loose and comes across as a jam in a garage type of feel.
Joey: ”Yeah, well we played those songs the way that we play them live at rehearsal. The recording is a live recording. We didn’t do the drums first, and then the bass…and then the guitars. We played all together and at the same time. That’s why it sounds like that and that was what we were trying to do. Trying to recapture the vibe of the party you know. Now we are trying to recapture that whole vibe on stage Its a complete blast you know. Playing 12 songs we are basically going out and playing the entire record, which is something that I, haven’t done in like thirty years. We added another song that we didn’t record its on another Mother Superior record. We just added that in, as the encore. We have a couple more shows coming up so we are going to do this again on the West Coast.”
Obviously all the band members are busy with various other bands, what’s next though for Motor Sister? Will there be another album of Mother Superior songs? More Live dates? Maybe even an original album?
Joey: “To be honest with you, up until recently we haven’t really thought about that. We did discuss this last week and we decided that we do want to keep going with this and see where it goes. I think that the important thing for us is to keep it organic, which it has up until now. None of this has been planned out so we just want to that there. As long as we can do that…We do want to write some original material to see. Who knows it may not work out. We want to see what we can do as we are all on the same page with this particular thing. I think that we want to do that, yeah maybe it will be a mix of old Mother Superior and some new Motor Sister I don’t know just see where it goes.”
It won’t affect your other bands then?
Joey: “I have a schedule with Armored Saint, we have six shows with Saxon in the States in May. In June we are going to play Hellfest in France. Late July is a little European festival run, Wacken; we are doing Bloodstock and a few others. Four Queensryche shows, of which one is in the UK. In between all this Scott is going out with Volbeat I think in the next two months. I think that we may have some down time in June, we might try to get together and do some more live shows. That’s the plan right now to get some more Motor Sister out there”
Joey thanks for talking to me this evening, hopefully the UK will get to witness some Motor Sister Live shows this year?
Joey: ”Yeah I hope so too Mark, thank you very much for calling. The pleasure has been mine.