Hanna Tsepesh: Hello there John! Thanks so much for accepting this interview and Welcome to THE GATES OF METAL!
John: The thanks are all ours, Hanna! We really appreciate having this opportunity to talk with The Gates of Metal.
Hanna Tsepesh: You are very welcome John! How are you and how are the things doing with your concerts?
John: The shows have been terrific. We just finished playing out a string of shows in the Midwestern United States. We are taking some time off for the next month or so to revamp the set list and we’re looking to be back out on the road in early 2010. We also hope to expand the tour to some cities we have not yet played. We would like to eventually work our way to Europe.
Hanna Tsepesh: for those who do not know the band, could tell us a little how it all started?
John: The Crossing was actually just Steve Lazzara (lead vocals) and myself playing in several bands and working as a studio project for a long time. It wasn’t until Denny Jett (bass) came on board about three or four years ago that The Crossing really took shape. Denny was brought in by our old keyboardist as a temporary replacement for our previous bass player. The keyboardist left the band but Denny stayed on. With what Denny had in chops and songwriting, we kind of knew right way that we might have something permanent happening. The songs Denny has brought to the table really transformed what the band was all about. Pat Ring joined the party on drums about eight months ago and we really hit it off with him personally and musically. So, with this lineup, we like to think of the band as less than a year old.
Hanna Tsepesh: What inspired you the most to create the lyrics and what process the band use to create the riffs to comply with the lyrics?
John: More often than not, the lyrics come after the song has been roughly worked out. The feel of the song is usually what determines where the lyrics should be going. Most of our stuff falls in the rock, metal, and alternative range, but we don’t set out to write songs in any particular style. We write and record whatever we think can be a great song, and we try to get the words to match the feel of the tune. It may be a bass line, a guitar riff, a drum groove, a vocal melody, or a lyric that gets the process started, but it becomes pretty clear early on where the song is going stylistically. It doesn’t stop us from developing a song just because it isn’t going to be a heavy rock song or a “single“. We also spend a lot of time on trying to do different things with the lyrics which hopefully keep the cuts interesting. Steve, Denny, and I all write, so there’s never a lack of good ideas and variety. And while Steve and I write a ton of lyrics, I would consider Denny to be a premiere lyricist. He has a way of drawing on personal experience and making it really universal. There is a very clever way Denny uses language and his stuff ranges between very poignant and really funny. He has a real talent for words, and he has really become the primary lyricist for the band. In the end, we hope that our lyrics offer something a little more diverse to a listener.
Hanna Tsepesh: What are your favorite bands? You have any musician that you admire the most?
John: Everyone in the band has their own all time favorites. For me, it’s an easy answer. My favorite acts of all time are still the same: Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, and Rush. But I pretty much dig all things rock. There’s way too many bands and artists to mention, but some of the other groups we dig: Alice In Chains, S.T.P., Zeppelin, The Stones, Prince, Sabbath, Tool, The Cars, Pink Floyd, Slayer, The Red Hots, The Cult, Emperor, The Beatles, AC/DC, etc. As you can see, we all like a pretty wide variety of rock. As a guitarist, I dig a lot of players like Vai, Satriani, and Malmsteen. Personally, I’m more of an old school metal guy, but I’m also really into old pop and classic rock. It bears mentioning that I also am a really big ABBA fan! Go figure!
Hanna Tsepesh: When you start to play guitar? It was difficult to learn? What brand guitar you prefer?
John: I think I was about 14 or 15 years old. I never took lessons, and that is something I kind of regret. I’ve developed a lot of bad habits on the guitar over the years and there a million techniques that still elude me. At this point, I would hardly consider myself a complete player. It’s a work in progress. But I wouldn’t necessarily consider myself self taught, either. Pretty much everyone I was growing up with was playing guitar, so I fortunately just picked up stuff from a lot of different people. Regarding instruments, I have a nice Fender American Stratocaster I like, but I have owned and played guitars from a lot of different manufacturers. I have yet to play a guitar I have fallen in love with. The search goes on for that “one“ special instrument!
Hanna Tsepesh: What was the highest and lowest point of your career as a musician?
John: That is a tough one to answer. The highest points usually involve the writing or recording process where things are just clicking for the band. That feeling of things coming together is why we do what we do. We have also played some great shows where the band is on and the crowd is really into it. But I hope our high point as a band is yet to come! On the other side of things, I think we have been lucky not to have experienced a real low point yet. We have faced some tough times with line up changes or things going poorly on the business side of things, but so far, it’s nothing that we haven’t been able to overcome or something that has torn the band apart. In any band, like life, you have to take the highs with the lows anyway! We’re ready for it!
Hanna Tsepesh: Let’s talk about the “Chemical Gods” album. For people who don’t listen yet can you tell to us about this album?
John: “Chemical Gods” has forty songs on two cd’s, so working between two studios, it took the better part of a year to record, mix, and master. The title comes from one of the cuts on the recording. We thought that title sounded cool and interesting. Plus, once the album art was chosen, it really clicked for us. With that many tunes being recorded, it’s hard to remember individual moments, but it was a whirlwind experience and a lot of ideas were just coming together. We had what we considered to be the songs and main styles we were looking to record, but as the writing progressed, we found we had over forty tunes that we really felt strongly about. Disc one became the rock disc we were originally shooting for, but we were convinced the songs that became disc two had to be recorded and released. The second disc is a lot of A/C, pop, and experimental stuff that is a world apart from the usual sound we do live. We probably wouldn’t try it again, but the way the tracks turned out made it totally worth it, and so far, it’s been pretty well received.
Hanna Tsepesh: at recording studio, you guys faced with difficulties? If yes, tell which was and how as the whole process?
John: We had been working on some of the tunes for a long time prior to hitting the studio, so we had a good game plan for getting many of the tracks on tape. But once we committed to doing all forty songs, we were forced to put the writing into high gear even while we were in the process of recording. There are always occasional problems in the studio, and after recording them, several songs needed to be revisited and reworked. A lot of times we would go back in and add something to a track at the last minute. It’s funny, but a couple of other tunes we were working on actually didn’t even make it on to the disc. We really had more than 40! But some songs were just not ready for one reason or another. It’s not that unusual for us. Personally, there are still a ton of tunes I have been trying to put to bed for years!
Hanna Tsepesh: How has the response been to the album by the fans and media?
John: Both the press and the fans have received the disc great! Everyone seems to find something they can really dig on this cd. It has a real big crossover appeal. If you like a lot of different styles of rock, it’s worth checking out.
Hanna Tsepesh: If one of our readers wants to buy your album, what they can do?
John: It is available almost everywhere! You can pick it up at any of these online outlets:
I-TUNES - itunes.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewAlbum?id=290336449&s=143441
AMAZON - www.amazon.com/Chemical-Gods/dp/B001VG877A/ref=dm_ap_alb4
LALA - www.lala.com/album/28105276424981 93004
CDBABY - www.cdbaby.com/cd/crossing3
THE CROSSING OFFICIAL WEBSITE - www.thecrossing.info
Hanna Tsepesh: what is your favorite music in this album and why?
John: There is no favorite for me! We worked each song as thoroughly as every other song. Every track got the same attention to design and arrangement. I personally enjoy each track for different reasons. A lot of this material we don’t bring to the live set, but it is all stuff I stand behind.
Hanna Tsepesh: What is your opinion about the metal in your country (United States)? It is easy to get some support?
John: There are some terrific metal acts coming out of the states. There are also some really dedicated DJ’s who continue to support new bands on the radio. And all the bands we have played with have been great people to work with. But personally, I have always been more a fan of the European metal. And it often seems like Europe is a little ahead of the game in terms of checking out and accepting new metal. And there always seems to be a tremendous variety of music within the European metal scene. But whether it is here or abroad, as long as new bands keep coming along and trying new and different things, metal will always survive.
Hanna Tsepesh: What is your big advice for a young musician?
John: Easy answer. Have some fun with it. I’ve seen a lot of guys get burned out or disillusioned by the nature of the industry. I’ve seen other guys spend all their time practicing but never really enjoying the instrument they play. We are deadly serious about what we do, but we always make sure to keep things light and enjoy what we do. Hey, one day you might not be able to do it anymore, so it’s important to keep things in perspective. Have fun with it - it’s music!
Hanna Tsepesh: Do you want to send any message for the people who going to read this interview?
John: Absolutely! I would like to send my sincerest thanks! Whether you’re into The Crossing or not, at least you’re into music and supporting the bands you dig! It’s the support of people like you that make doing music worthwhile! If you’re reading this interview, it probably means that you actually care about what’s going on in the music scene and that you are the main reason bands are still able to make music. You rock!
Hanna Tsepesh: Thanks o much for your answers and time. THE GATES OF METAL wishes the entire band a big success and a great 2010! Hope to see you guys very soon in here…
John: The thanks are all ours, Hanna, because you‘re doing good work! I appreciate your time! Rock on.
Hanna Tsepesh: Thank you so much for your words! I am very happy that you like my work! All the best...
By: Hanna Tsepesh
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