Armored Saint – Still Delivering

Friday, 29th March 2013

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After being sucked in and spit out by the music industry grinder in the 80’s and overwhelmed by the grunge explosion in the early 90’s, Armored Saint has opted to gracefully waltz to the career finish line as opposed to limp to it. The Saint has no delusions of matching their ridiculous touring output of its yesteryear, which probably explains why their 2000 comeback Revelation and upcoming La Raza are the type of raw, classic metal shards that are an unfiltered representation of what Armored Saint should have always sounded like.

By now, those “in the know” are fully aware of the story of Armored Saint. Hailing from the glam-infested region of Los Angeles, the band was neither thrash or hair metal and were grossly mishandled by then-label Chrysalis. Their 1983 March of the Saint debut was spunky, but juvenile, while subsequent Delirious Nomad and Raising Fear efforts were worthy, but all over the map.

Not until its 1991 watershed Symbol of Salvation did Armored Saint find its stride. Brimming with bent frustration, the Saint reeled off a dozen festival-ready numbers like “Reign In Fire,” “Last Train Home,” “Tainted Past,” and “Hanging Judge” that still stand firm today. Of course, having the roving vocals of John Bush (later of Anthrax) fronting the band can’t hurt matters either.

Armored Saint circa 2010 is a hardened, revitalized shell of its active era, thus prompting Blistering to catch up with bass player Joey Vera for a chat on the return of the Saint, career missteps, hair sizes, and what it’s in store for La Raza… Any consideration to the fact that you’re now on a near 10-year release schedule with Symbol coming out in 1991, Revelation in 2000 and now La Raza in 2010?

Joey Vera: [laughs] It is an unusual schedule we’re on, definitely. What stoked the creative juices to do another Armored Saint album?

Vera: The writing first started with John and I in late spring of 2008 and we wrote a few songs together for fun. There was no intention of doing anything. After we had written about four or five songs, we decided we should do something with this and the music was starting to sound Armored Saint-ish and thought that we should turn this into an Armored Saint record. We went to the other guys and everyone was into it. Do you think having such a casual approach to the band would produce something more inspired as opposed to having a record company breathing down your neck?

Vera: No question. One of the reasons that we take this long to write records is the fact is that we do it when we can find time to do it and dedicate our time to it and have it still be fun. Without any obligation to anyone, no one breathing down our neck, no managers, no labels or anyone like that trying to keep us on schedule. We don’t have a schedule. There’s no doubt we find it extremely liberating and we still feel like we can make honest music that way. It’s not like we’re trying to revitalize our career or sustain anything. We’re just doing it because we love to do this. This is the only reason we’re able to do it. I guess this ties into why you went on hiatus in the early 90’s. Can you reflect upon how burnt out the band was around ’91-’92?

Vera: You have to take into consideration we’d been together for 10 years and we did a few records for Chrysalis and we were dropped for two years. We lost our guitar player and main songwriter [Dave Pritchard, who passed away in 1990 due to Leukemia]. Making Symbol… it took a lot for us to move forward and get that record done. At that point, by the time Symbol came out, heavy metal was a bad word in the US. The grunge thing started to take off and Nirvana put a nail in the coffin. It was over. Although we got a lot of critical acclaim, it didn’t sell, nobody bought it because interests changed. We had a hard time. It was very frustrating.

At this point in the band, we’re all pointing fingers at each other and at the label, at management, “It’s your fault! It’s your fault!” It was like…it just wasn’t a fun time. That record came out in ’91 and we did a bunch of touring for it, by the time tours were done, we were just done with it. I remember the day we came back from tour. We felt like there was more life to the record, but the label came to us and told us we had to go back and start writing another record. We were like “Fuck!” It was an uphill battle. I’d say the whole 10 years was an uphill battle. Had Symbol been released earlier in your career, would have things gone differently?

Vera: I don’t know if I agree with that. That album represents the songwriting we were at for that time. If that record would have came out in ’85, no one would have got it. You have to keep in mind about what was happening at the time in ’84, ’85, ’86. Things started to change around ’88 and ’89. In the early days…that’s the reason why March of the Saint came out. It was indicative of the times…a little bit of juvenile record for us, but we wrote the songs when we 19 [laughs]. We were influenced by European bands and it sold really well. Then we changed our format and put out Delirious Nomad and got all artsy. Then you had the thrash movement getting popular on one side and hair bands getting popular on the other. And you guys were neither.

Vera: We were neither. We were stuck in the middle and that hurt us too because we didn’t fit in anywhere and no one knew what to make of us. It was very confusing.

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