Thunderforge – Answer the CallTuesday, 6th September 2016
Witnessing a show from East Longmeadow, Massachusetts power metal band Thunderforge is a sight rarely seeing on a local, underground level. Beyond the stellar songwriting skills on display, the energy that swirls about from the band members is unparalleled. Guitarist CJ Morini and bassist John McLaughlin will often jump out with their wireless instruments into the crowd, playing toe to toe with the audience – while vocalist Adam Morini leads the crowd in unison sing-a-longs or clapping/fist pumping glory.
Their first EP Call of the Conqueror hit the streets in late June 2016 – already earning them massive kudos and big sales digitally and physically around the globe. After taking in another tremendous performance at Cherry Street Station in Wallingford, CT as openers for the Virus of Ideals CD release show, we felt it was time to catch up on the goings-on for the band. Conducting this interview with vocalist Adam Morini, guitarist CJ Morini, bassist John McLaughin, and drummer Zac Curylo – the topics would promote a lot of laughter while gaining insight into a young act who are hitting their stride and ready to ascend up the ranks of the power metal world.
Where else are you going to hear discussions about shoegaze, Rammstein, Brad Paisley, and hardcore beyond your normal power talk? Read on and enjoy…
Dead Rhetoric: You have a new EP that just came out called Call of the Conqueror. This has been long in the making – can you tell us how the recording process went and what you think you learned most from this recording?
Adam Morini: Oh absolutely. So we ended up recording it, like three times?
John McLaughlin: Pretty much.
Adam: We recorded it about three times because Jules (Conroy- guitars) ends up doing our EQ’ing and production, and he ended up getting a new way of recording that worked so much better.
John: He got an Axe-Fx 2 guitar processor after using all live software stuff before. So he ended up recording the guitars through that, and it ended up a whole lot better.
Adam: He also started using Mixcraft, and now he’s using Cubase. And he has everything that goes with that, so his abilities in recording went up way more than before. So as a result we ended up recording this EP three times, which is why it took so long to come out.
Zac Curylo: Also, the first time we recorded drums, we ended up doing them in my basement. The sound just wasn’t very good there, so we ended up doing the drums in Adam and CJ’s basement with their kit and I just brought my cymbals, along with using Adam’s cymbals.
CJ Morini: In the time between we first became a band and first started gigging, we were already on our third drummer so that slowed things down for a while.
Dead Rhetoric: Because at one point, weren’t you, Adam, doing drums and singing?
John: We did that for like two gigs…we started out with one drummer, he flaked out. We found our second drummer and did our first two or three gigs with him. We had a disagreement which led to him leaving right before a few gigs. We had to cancel one but we had a couple of more gigs the following weekend.
Adam: That weekend we had two shows in a row and we had to drop off one of them. That whole week I just decided that I would drum and sing- the singing wasn’t an issue but trying to play what (Zac) now plays, it’s kind of a pain in the ass. I’ve done that for southern rock stuff, but not 200 BPM all the time. So that’s where that was.
Dead Rhetoric: (Guitarist) Jules (Conroy) now lives in San Diego and is pursuing a lot of his career goals in the video game music field. Was it a surprise to you, and what’s his status in the band?
Adam: He’s still exactly where he was before. He’s just not here as much, which is why we’ll sometimes be playing as a four-piece or having our buddies fill in on second guitar. He just lives out there, it was a career move and he’s fine.
John: He warned us before he did it, and he told us if we weren’t okay with that he wouldn’t do it. We are totally fine with it.
CJ: He’s still writing with us, he’s going to be doing the recordings with us. The internet is a magical thing- you can just track and share all kinds of stuff.
Adam: He’ll come back here when he can, he was here for the EP release show a couple of weeks back.
John: He’ll be back now and then so we will try to book shows when he’ll be around, and see what happens.
Dead Rhetoric: Over the past couple of years you’ve been able to open for some great national tours in Worcester, MA and Hartford, CT. Which of the shows do you think went the best?
John: I’m going to go Symphony X and Overkill for the best one. The Dragonforce/ Kamelot gig went well also, but the Palladium in Worcester is…less bad than the Webster.
Adam: The Dragonforce/Kamelot show, we had a blast and there were a significant amount of people for us. There was nobody there for the rest of the show.
John: We wound up getting the perfect time slot for the local openers. Right as we were finishing they were opening up the doors to the main stage and everybody flocked to that open area. That’s always a problem with those kind of gigs, you get people that if there’s more than one room, they don’t care about the locals they just go hang out in the giant, empty big stage room.
Zac: Still regardless, it is always cool to be opening up for some of our biggest influences.
CJ: Dragonforce and Symphony X are like the two big ones for us.
John: As much of a pain as it is to sell tickets for those shows, you can’t complain about playing for 20 minutes and then seeing Symphony X for free.
Adam: I would never say no to that. They are some of my favorite bands and we’ve already been able to play with them.
Dead Rhetoric: Are you already hard at work on the next product considering how long this EP took to complete?
Adam: It’s essentially going at light speed.
CJ: We are literally going at breakneck pace trying to get this out.
Adam: Literally as soon as possible.
John: We are working on pre-production stuff right now.
CJ: We are recording faster than I can write stuff right now.
Zac: Jules is supposed to be coming up to our area around Christmas-time, and we want to get as much ready for him as possible.
Adam: In fact, he’s said he’s also got some stuff done on his own.
John: We aren’t guaranteeing anything yet…but.
Dead Rhetoric: It’s going to come out much faster than Def Leppard albums in the 80’s and 90’s…
John: We might have the new full-length out before the new Tool album (laughs).
CJ: And definitely it’s going to come out before (Wintersun’s) Time 2.
Adam: It will be a full-length. Some of the material people may have heard a few songs at the live shows, but nothing that’s been already recorded like the EP. All new material. There are a few things we haven’t even whipped out.
John: Stuff we haven’t even learned yet.
Dead Rhetoric: Is the goal to get on a record label within the next year or two, or do you prefer continuing to build things up on a grassroots level?
Adam: If an opportunity presents itself, and it’s something that we are really into, then sure- why not? We are doing a good thing – we’d like to get as much well recorded stuff out there that we can send out to places kind of on our terms.
John: If we end up going with a label- signing with a label that can help us do things that we aren’t able to do ourselves. As hard as it is for bands in the internet age to stand out these days, one of the glorious things is that you can put your own stuff out there and not have to worry about the label interfering and that you get to keep all the money that you make. It’s harder because you have to do all the work yourself, but a lot of the smaller labels can’t expose you to any more people than you could do by yourself, you know?
Zac: Forget the label, we haven’t even gone on a mini-tour yet.
CJ: A serious tour is going to be in order before we even think about a label.
John: Most labels won’t even think about signing you without a band doing some touring on their own these days.
Dead Rhetoric: With your digital release and going through Bandcamp, are you surprised at where some of the people that are finding your music are coming from?
Adam: I had to ship product out to Spain yesterday. Canada, Israel.
Zac: I have a friend in Japan that I sent them the link, told them to share it to friends out there.
Adam: It’s reached farther than we expected.
John: It’s not a whole lot of people from weird random corners of the Earth. But the fact that people in Europe know who we are, holy crap.
Adam: Like Sweden…
CJ: I don’t know if you guys have done this, but if you go onto the band’s Facebook page you can look at the stats of our audience.
John: Oh yeah, I’ve done that.
CJ: You can see the percentages and literally the number of fans that we have in every country. It’s kinda crazy to see that from Poland, Sweden, Japan.
Dead Rhetoric: Do you still think Facebook is the most important tool to use to promote your activities on social media, or have you gravitated towards Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, etc.?
John: We are definitely heavier on Instagram. Facebook is important just because none of the other social media outlets have a good way of keeping track of shows. They are also really cracking down on reaching people without paying, if a viable opportunity presents itself we will jump ship immediately. As for right now, you need to be on Facebook.
CJ: The entire Earth is on Facebook, so it helps. Granted if you have 1,000 people that like your page, a post is only going to reach 50-100 of them.
Adam: And they always have, if you want more people to see this… that’s the downside I see.
CJ: But that’s where you end up filling in the gaps with Twitter and Instagram. Word of mouth, flyering around town.
Adam: We are all involved in a bunch of different musical institutions so we just end up putting flyers up everywhere.
Dead Rhetoric: What types of goals do you set for yourselves over the next year or two- where would you like to see Thunderforge as far as success?
Adam: Album! Tour!
John: Yeah, pretty much what he said.
CJ: Getting concrete things under our belt. We did this tour, we have this recording under way. Real concrete things like that.
Zac: Maybe some…endorsements.
CJ: Definitely finding some gear endorsements is going to be huge. It will benefit us and having a relationship with those manufacturers will help. Resume building kind of stuff that would make us look better for labels.
Dead Rhetoric: What do you consider as some of the challenges for an independent band to work your way through?
CJ: Being broke. (laughs)
Zac: Being broke and only playing in our general area. We aren’t able to spread out for shows as much as we would like to, as we all have other jobs and lives. Finding time is hard sometimes.
John: Branching out is definitely on the docket.
CJ: It’s tough because we are all either in school or working, so we get maybe 1-2 gigs a weekend to go find 5-10 new fans and do things one person at a time.
Zac: That’s why our recordings seem to be going slower. We don’t have the time to come together and practice as much as we should. I live pretty far away, it takes me 50 minutes just to get to Adam and CJ’s house. You have to find time to practice the songs.
Adam: And the music scene being what it is now, it’s not as conducive to promote music to as many people as say 10-15 years ago.
CJ: Not a lot of people support local music, much less local metal. It’s really sad. They are all going to see Brad Paisley at the Comcast stadium, where they are spending more money than dropping $5 for a weekend to see 5 awesome local bands.
Zac: They don’t even watch the guy, they just like to tailgate in the parking lot. (laughs)
John: And we are coming from a place that has a good metal scene.
CJ: There’s a strong underground metal scene in New England, and even here it can be difficult.
Dead Rhetoric: One of the great things about Thunderforge is you’ve been able to put yourselves on a number of different bills, because there aren’t a lot of power metal bands in New England.
CJ: You have Armory who is all the way out on the other end of Massachusetts.
Adam: And then you have Seven Spires all the way out near the Boston area. They are great bands, but there are very few.
Zac: Remember the hardcore show that we played?
John: Oh God…
CJ: We played a legit, Hard Times.com style hardcore show in a community college basement. That was a spectacular moment (laughs).
John: Nobody liked us. It was so weird.
Adam: They had the ‘too many notes’ looks on their faces.
Dead Rhetoric: Where does your outlook on live performance come from? You’ve always been the type of band that goes out to the people…
John: We are just goofy as fuck.
Adam: We are as obnoxious as possible.
CJ: When Adam and I were tiny tykes in high school, there was this talent show called Spartanum every year. We would see the bands that play, and they would be the type that would stand and stare at their guitars type of thing. We decided we were going to do the exact opposite of that- we would play and just run around like crazy. So when we started Thunderforge, we had the same thing- and then everybody ended up being wireless, which took it to a whole new ridiculous level.
Zac: Plus, it’s power metal.
CJ: Once you start doing that and you get used to it, it’s very fun and you can’t not do it.
Adam: I don’t feel we are doing our music any justice if I’m not putting the same amount of energy that the music is supposed to be creating. Otherwise it doesn’t have a point. Playing fast, you have to be fast.
CJ: Plus, people are there to see you perform, not just hear you. It’s playing a show, not a recital.
John: If you don’t look like you are having fun, why should you expect the people have fun watching you?
Zac: Unless you are playing shoegaze or something. (everyone laughs).
Dead Rhetoric: What are some of the bands that you can all agree on as models for what you would like Thunderforge to become?
Adam: Auditory or visually or both?
Dead Rhetoric: Both.
John: Symphony X, Iron Maiden, Grave Digger.
Adam: Yeah, Grave Digger is a lot of fun.
CJ: Dragonforce was the initial inspiration when I brought all these guys together. Let’s just play wicked fast… and then we decided that 200 BPM was just too much, let’s back it off to 170 and we are cool there. Now we are back up to 200 BPM!.
Adam: Dragonforce was a big thing, Helloween.
Zac: I think we need a Rammstein influence… we need fire!
John: For the stage show, yeah- musically, no.
Dead Rhetoric: The stage is yours to close this interview…
CJ: Go to our bandcamp, go find our EP. Share it, show it to everyone you know, we hope you enjoy it, we will be coming out with more stuff hopefully soon.
Zac: And a new order of CD’s is on the way.
John: The CD sounds a lot better if you drink a lot of beer while you are listening to it. (laughs)
Adam: And honestly, just keep supporting local music. We do it for a reason, and you guys are there to hear it.
John: It’s often $5 on a Friday night to see a local show, drink with your friends.