Interviews Photos

Interview with AJ Channer – Vocalist, Fire From The Gods

Words and Pictures: Adrian Hextall / MindHex Media

“Fire From The Gods Are My New Favourite Band”, said Zoltan Bathory when we spoke to him recently. He likes the band so much, he’s even signed them to his management team. When you’ve got the backing of one of the biggest metal acts on the planet at the moment, you know you’re onto a good thing!

Fire from the Gods was formed in Austin, Texas in 2010 and have gone through a handful of lineup changes including moving from dual vocalists in A. J. Channer and Chris Mardis to just A.J. when Mardis left the band in 2016.

Touring in support of Mongolian sensations The Hu, the band have made big inroads recently, garnering support from an army of new fans as they toured around Europe. We were lucky enough to be able to catch them in London when they and The Hu played at the Electric Ballroom in Camden.

AH: Time time involved in creating a n album, releasing it and being able to tour it over hear is quite a lengthy one? The album’s been out for some three months now and this is the first chance we get to hear it live I think? 

AJ: Yes, it came out on 1 November 2019 but we’d recorded and produced it in the previous February \ March time. [Making it almost a year from conception to us seeing the band perform live in London]

AH: Is it tough for you, having been focused on it for a year to see the album as new and fresh? Are you tired of hearing it? 

AJ: No no no, not at all. I would say that each of us has probably listened to it one hundred times plus and every time we do, I think each of us still finds something new in there.

AH: To the uninitiated you’re called a heavy metal band but you’re clearly, style wise, so much more than that. How do you define the band’s signature sound when asked about it? 

AJ: We’re a rock band, but we have a hip-hop ethos. A rock band at the core, we’re still very heavy, we’ve still got the ferocity that we had on the first two recordings, that’s still there.. BUT… we are a little bit more than that, we have a lot more to offer to audiences than just ‘nu-metal revivalists’ that we’ve been tagged as before now. We’re a rock band, it’s a simple title.

AH: I think the only time I even considered nu-metal, I was listening to ‘Fight The World’, with elements on the bass runs that reminded me of Korn. But otherwise, not at all.. you’ve a very unique sound. That is exemplified as well with the track following Fight The World’, namely ‘Victory’. 

AJ: We add some electronic elements to our sound because if we didn’t, I can imagine people saying ‘hmm… you know that sounds a little bit like Limp Bizkit’ or something. So by adding the extra elements to it, we get what is still essentially a rock sound, guitar driven but with something more. We’ve really tried to modernize everything and keep it fresh.

The other influences that drive our sound really originated in Trap Music. That’s where a lot of it comes from.

For those of you (including me at the time) not in the know, Trap music is a style of hip hop music that originated in the Southern United States during the late 1990s. The term trap refers to buildings where drugs are sold illegally. Early producers creating trap music included Lil Jon from Atlanta, Georgia, where the term originated, who along with Mannie Fresh from New Orleans and DJ Paul from Memphis, Tennessee worked with local acts in Atlanta including Dungeon Family, Outkast, Goodie Mob, and Ghetto Mafia. The genre is typified by sub-divided hi-hats, heavy, sub-bass layered kick drums in the style of the Roland TR-808 drum machine, typically in half time syncopated rhythms, layered with abstract or orchestral synthesizers and an overall melancholy to dark ambience and lyrical content.

AJ: The sound we have has the deep 808 drum sound, heavy beats, dark lyrics, it’s really about the sonics. That all combines to stop us being just another rock band and the message in itself is still fresh as well. Yes, we talk about environmental issues, we talk about social awareness, we are socially conscious and whilst that’s been around since the dawn of time, you know.. as long as there’s been a King, there have been protests. ever since war has existed, we’ve also had revolutions, that’s nothing new but what makes it modern is that a lot more people understand our message. It’s definitely a factor as to why the band is gaining more and more popularity as we go on.

The blend of styles, rock music, hip hop combined with the socially aware messaging mean that people from all walks of life and those that listen to different genres of music will probably listen to what we have and think , yeah I can get behind this, I’ll try this out.

That’s what’s happened whilst we’ve been touring with The Hu. Our music and style is so different to what they play in sonics, in delivery and in the energy that we bring on stage, and what we are hearing from people is ‘I came here to listen to The Hu, I don’t typically like your style of music but I really enjoyed your set and the messages you send.‘ For that reason we keep it and it keeps us fresh.

AH: You’ll be helped I imagine by an audience that want’s to experience something different, because that’s what they expect from a show by The Hu? 

AJ: Yes, yes.. that. You make a great point. People come to see The Hu and they expect a cultural experience. They’re going to get that as well. They hear this throat singing from Mongolia, and I imagine previously they’ll have only heard it on a documentary or in the movies. What do we know about Mongolia, maybe a little on Genghis Khan but not much else. Now that expands with a band like The Hu. People are open to increasing what they know with their music.

With a crowd willing to be open to new experiences, it really allows us to play our best and really express ourselves in front of a different group of people and can I just say… it’s been fantastic.

AH: The Hu of course have multiple vocalists in place, something that Fire From The Gods used to have. When Chris [Mardis] left and you remained sole vocalist in the band, did it feel like a heavy weight on the shoulders or did it free you up to be more expressive and try different things as well? 

AJ: Expression for sure. This band has… evolved. We’ve been around for about ten years now but this lineup, this very stable lineup, has been together since 2014. Chris was very much a part of that at the time, the music had clearly been written to support that dual vocal style. When we started writing again for American Sun, the style evolved and it just fell in to place to work with just one person singing. I’m very fortunate to be able to do the rock singing, the metal core screams, the rapping and the it’s thanks to the guys in the band who have helped me evolve into a better singer as well. In bands I’ve been in before, I was just screaming.

AH: On ‘Make You Feel It’, you’re doing anything but screaming. It’s a vocal performance bar none. How do you manage to get from one end of the spectrum where you are still screaming, roaring to the other end where it’s the smoothest of vocal performances? 

AJ: Well, that was definitely an experiment. We’d never tried that sort of sound before. But that’s also the beauty of our band, we don’t pigeonhole ourselves in any way. We can and we want to do it all. On the next album, we want to experiment even more, maybe give the sound a real indie vibe, who knows. If we can keep reaching whilst staying within the ethos of the band which is a rock act with hip hop overtones.

The experimentation, the desire to evolve has clearly worked for the band in the states, where they are now playing arenas and have also had their first Top 10 single as well. The desire is there according to AJ and the hope that they can replicate that success in Europe as well is apparent.

AJ: All of the effort, all of the work that we’ve put into American Sun, it’s definitely bearing fruit now.

As a final comment, AJ then spoke out about the management team behind them and the support that Zoltan Bathory has provided. Zoltan telling us that he advises his bands on what not to do to be able to succeed rather than simply telling them what they need to so. 

AJ: The think about Zo is that he’s been around for some time now and he knows the music industry as it is at the moment. the programme that he has in place with FFDP is a winning one. They just headlined Wembley again and their style is this heavy, military style rock, overtly patriotic American band but they are selling out arenas across the world.

When I first met him, both of us knew it was going to work out because when ‘Narrative’ came out in 2016, people wrote us off as another political band, comparing us to Rage Against The Machine and say “Oh yeah I get it”.

They don’t. We’re not political. We’re a socially conscious band. We’re looking at humanity not politics. Politics are a part of life, we want to look at everything there is to life. That’s what matters to us, humanity and the survival of humanity.  Zo understood that and he even described us that way when we met. It’s the same way we’d been trying to explain ourselves that way to others.

When you’re working with someone that understands you the way you understand yourself, it’s going to work. He knows exactly what he and we need to do.

Fire From The Gods are:

AJ Channer – lead vocals
Jameson Teat – rhythm guitar, backing vocals
Drew Walker – lead guitar
Bonner Baker – bass guitar
Richard Wicander – drums, percussion
Bruiser Fox – backing vocals

You can catch the band on tour in the US in April. Dates and tickets can be found here: 

https://www.firefromthegods.com/

Apr 4 Tempe, AZ, US
Big Surf Waterpark

May 1 Concord, NC, US
Epicenter Festival

May 5 Fort Wayne, IN, US
Clyde Theatre

May 7 Chattanooga, TN, US
The Signal

May 8 Huntsville, AL, US
Mars Music Hall

May 8 Daytona Beach, FL, US
Welcome to Rockville

May 12 Milwaukee, WI, US
The Rave/Eagles Club

May 13 Grand Rapids, MI, US
20 Monroe Live

May 15 Kansas City, MO, US
Crossroads KC at Grinders

May 15 Columbus, OH, US
Sonic Temple Art & Music Festival

May 19 Sioux Falls, SD, US
The District

May 20 Cedar Rapids, IA, US
Club 5 at U.S. Cellular Center

May 22 Pryor, OK, US
Rocklahoma Festival

May 24 Wichita, KS, US
The Cotillion

Jun 5 Nuremberg, Germany
Rock im Park

Jun 5 Nürburg, Germany
Rock am Ring

Jun 10 Segrate, Italy
Infest Festival

Jun 10Nickelsdorf, Austria
Nova Rock Festival

Jun 12 Castle Donington, UK
Download Festival

Jun 13Naas, Ireland
Sunstroke

Jun 18 Dessel, Belgium
Graspop

Jun 19 Clisson, France
Hellfest Open Air

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