JOE STUMP INTERVIEW
By Steve Cannon from Vibrations of Doom
JOE STUMP'S REIGN OF TERROR
Conquer and Divide
# So where are you calling from?
I'm in Boston now, but originally I'm from New York. I've lived in Boston for awhile.
# Do you like it up there?
It's okay, I'm a New Yorker though but Boston is close enough.
# Are you a Red Sox fan?
No, I'm a Yankee fan. I don't like any of the Boston teams. I have nothing against them but being born and raised in New York, I go back all the time, so I'm a huge Yankees fan.
# You guys give us trouble every year it seems; I'm a very big Braves fan.
Yeah, well the Braves and the Yankees both got knocked out early this year.
# You know, sometimes I wonder if baseball is scripted out like pro Wrestling, I mean how could you explain the biggest teams in baseball all getting knocked out of the playoffs so early this year? Can you see where I'm going with this?
No, I don't think so because two big market teams like the Yankees and the Braves, obviously you'd want them in the playoffs because those are two teams that would contribute to higher TV ratings, you know what I mean. Even though most people would go, "those guys are always in the playoffs," they kind of expect to see them, they're used to seeing them there. Not just in Atlanta but I know a lot of people all over the country like the Braves.
# Yeah, it's always been amazing to me to see the Braves playing in other people's stadiums and seeing the crowds go nuts for a visiting team!
Exactly. I think two big market teams, everyone wants to see them in the playoffs.
# I got the new record, and I'm really impressed with it because I loved "Sacred Ground," and the new album is darker and heavier in many spots.
It's definitely heavier. All the stuff that I write still has the Blackmore and Malmsteen influence, or like all my favorite guitar players who usually are the old school European players. Some of the writing has that Euro kind of vibe to it, and in the past on my solo records and various things I've always had elements of either that old school traditional style British metal or the thrash style stuff in there. You take some of those dark, classical kinds of things and mix them in there with some progressive thrash type elements.
# There is a good mixture of styles in that record, "Sacred Ground" wasn't your first release with Reign Of Terror was it?
No, the first two Reign Of Terror records were released in Japan and then released in Europe on Limb Music. Limb is a much bigger label in Europe so "Sacred Ground" really got a lot more press in Europe than the previous two Reign Of Terror records.
# "Sacred Ground" got some good press over here, especially in my own publication. Were your first two records on Leviathan here in the States as well?
No, Leviathan would take the import versions of Reign Of Terror's first two albums and sell them in small bits, mostly through the mail and to some stores. They were never officially released in the States. Limb officially released "Sacred Ground" here in the States and Limb is a great company over in Germany but they didn't do the greatest job with the record here in the States. One of the companies they used for distribution went out of business shortly after the record came out. Obviously though the record got a lot more of a buzz than the other two Reign Of Terror records.
# What were the first two records like compared to the last two? Album title names would help too, since I didn't even know about you until "Sacred Ground."
Up until "Sacred Ground," the band was always known as Joe Stump's Reign Of Terror. And then on "Sacred Ground," I changed it to just Reign Of Terror without my name in it because in Europe there's been a lot of connotation that it's just a guitar hero record. The "guitar hero" thing is not that huge in Europe, and someone would be more apt to buy the record if it was somewhat power metal oriented. The first record was called "Light The Sky" and the second one was called "Second Coming." And the first one was kinda similar to "Sacred Ground" but maybe even heavier.
# Wow, now I have GOT to hear those records.
Maybe with some thrash stuff, double bass stuff, some Malmsteen and Impelliteri stuff going on, some heavy Deep Purple and Rainbow influences. The first one actually had a cool cover of 'Highway Star.'
# Wow, I remember when Metal Church did a cover of that song, it was really cool.
Yeah, I remember them doing that too. This kid Brian Sarvela sang on it and he was a good singer, he was one of those guys where on some of the stuff he'd sound like Bruce Dickinson, and on some of the other stuff he'd sound like Sebastian Bach from Skid Row or something. He'd mix it up and he had that high register like Mike did. And on the second record I had a different singer, Brian, who was darker and heavier, sounding a bit like Ian Gillian in spots. A bit raspier he was, with a thicker sound to his voice. It was neat in a more retro, Deep Purple'ish/Rainbow vibe. But there was speed metal stuff in there too.
# Now I know you said you had a different singer on each of the first two records. What happened with them, because you don't seem to have the elitist/ego personality like Yngwie Malmsteen has. I don't know if you read all the way through the review, I've had a BIG problem with Yngwie in the past.
Yeah, I read the review. Did you mean personally with him or...
# Well, I was pissed off at the interview we did with Lizzy Borden, and he was pissed that he wasn't able to do a full show, Yngwie had to control (see issue #27) every aspect of his performance, right down to the stage show! That's just wrong.
That does seem wrong, especially because for so many years when Yngwie was younger, he was always touring and opening for bigger bands in the 80's, like bands like AC/DC and Triumph, where he was the opening act. You'd think he would remember back when the shoe was on the other foot. Obviously Yngwie is doing his thing and he's a monster in that style of music; it's rather ridiculous to think Lizzy Borden could be threatening Yngwie's thing... All the Lizzy guys from what other people have told me were totally disgusted by the whole tour.
# I was disgusted just by watching him play. I saw Yngwie recently before the Lizzy show when he opened up for Dio and he was more humble on that tour, but when he headlined and had Lizzy opening for him, he was just wanking all over himself. He was saying shit like "I wrote this song myself, about myself," and just being a jackass. I left the show after like half the set because I was disgusted with him. I hate that son of a bitch, and everything he stands for. That's ridiculous when you suppress talent like that. If a band comes out and kicks your ass then you should respect that fact and understand that THAT is the nature of the business. You should be willing to work harder to put on a better show.
It definitely helps if you give the guys who play with you some room to do their thing, it's only going to make the tour come off stronger.
# I mean, if Yngwie is the headliner, people are coming to see him anyway. The people I talked to were there to see Yngwie anyway, I mean it's his name on the tickets, his name is what is selling the show. It's not Lizzy's name on the ticket that is making the big draw, right? I respect what Yngwie does as a guitar player, as a human being I think he SUCKS. And I'll be very honest about this.
I know a lot of people I have run into have had really bad experiences with Malmsteen anyway.
# With your new album, I will say I prefer your style of guitar playing a lot better. There's some solos I'm hearing off the record that just have my jaw on the floor. It's one amazing fucking record.
Thanks, man, thanks a lot. With this record there's a ton of guitar stuff crammed in there. There's very lengthy solos and very lengthy instrumental sections. With this record I definitely wanted more of a "guitar hero" record. Still, it's a band thing but it's my record. So I want to do my thing obviously.
# Yngwie had a killer vocalist on tour that I really liked when I saw him with Dio, and by the time the next Yngwie tour rolled around, that singer was gone! The guy had long blond hair and he was kick ass, I guess he had too much of a stage presence and Yngwie fired him! Just something else that pissed me off about the guy.
Yeah, that was Jorn Lande from Ark. Our keyboard player played with Yngwie for a while, and he was there when that whole thing happened with Jorne and Yngwie. That was actually over getting paid, those guys were out on the road doing the Dio thing, or it was after the Dio tour and Yngwie was headlining. They were dicking Jorne around for money and he was supposed to get a weekly salary. It was like 3 weeks since he got paid and he said he wasn't going back onstage until somebody cut him a check. He had finally had enough. So that's actually what happened.
# Oh, well, I had heard it was over egos and what not.
The whole band, other than Yngwie, they were all in this band together called Ark. And I don't think Yngwie liked that. Ark was supposed to do a tour that was going to intersect with part of the Malmsteen solo tour, and I think there was a lot of crap over that as well.
# I remember "Sacred Ground" having like two or three bonus tracks, but weren't most of the extra tracks instrumentals?
WHat happened was there was Limb Music wanting different tracks, so I actually recorded the two instrumental tracks after the record was already done. Japan had gotten two vocal bonus tracks, and Limb said "where's my extra tracks?" So that's when I went in and recorded the extra stuff.
# Well, you know how the Japanese are, they demand that they have bonus tracks on just about EVERY CD release that's released everywhere else. I can't tell you how many CD's I have seen over in Japan that have so much extra stuff.
Well, do you know why that is?
# Well, I've been told it's because the Japanese have problems with piracy and the high cost of imports overseas.
Well, what it is, a CD in Japan costs like 30 or 35 bucks, you know? So what they like to do, the Japanese always demand that the release of the record there comes out first, because if a CD comes out in Europe or the States at the same time, the Japanese will buy the import version (European or American) of the record because it's cheaper. So that's why they give them the extra tracks and the nicer packaging as incentives so people in Japan won't buy the import versions.
# I know that the Japanese people also are a lot more dedicated to this style of music. Have you played over in Japan?
I was over there in 1997 and did some clinics and press stuff. Not like a full band tour, but doing some solo playing and what not. It was cool to be over there, but the bottom dropped out of the economy in Japan several years ago, so everybody is making a lot less money over there. With the last two Reign Of Terror records, if I had released those records over 5 years ago, my advance would have probably been twice or three times as much. I think Dave told me record sales are down like over 50 percent in the last few years.
# From what I hear, Japan doesn't seem to be a difficult market to break into. I know Soilwork and Dark Tranquillity have already toured over there a few times, and Dark Tranquillity has yet to make a full U.S. tour here (but they will have by the time you read this).
Actually, things are really gravitating towards the heavier bands in Japan; a lot of the power and neoclassical metal used to be bigger over there, but now it's bands like Arch Enemy and Children Of Bodom, Soilwork and In Flames.
# Do you like bands like that?
Yeah, I like Arch Enemy quite a bit, Children Of Bodom is cool.
# You seem to give the people in your band free reign to bring out their best qualities. I'm especially glad you brought that vocalist from "Sacred Ground" back for the new record, because he definitely fits the heavier and darker stuff you're playing now. It's obvious to me that egos definitely aren't getting in the way! (laughs).
Mike's a great singer to work with. He had his own band Obsession that...
# Wow, was that the same Obsession from the 80's?
Yeah, I mean especially people that know about metal, that's where he came from, he's almost returning to that kind of vibe for the new album, and he even sang on three Yngwie records. Before he sang with Yngwie, he also sang on a few Loudness records, late 80's to early 90's period. "Soldier Of Fortune" and "On The Prowl" kind of thing. He did the Obsession and the Loudness thing before he sang with Yngwie, and I was really happy when he got together with Yngwie. I thought that was a perfect match. So he's done a ton of stuff, he's a world class guy as far as singing goes. I've been hanging with him and have been friends with him since 1998 or 1999.
# So who writes the lyrics and comes up with the themes?
Mike does. I write the riffs and where everything is going, you know "This is the chorus, the prechorus, the verse." The whole thing is set in stone, arranged and finished, and then Mike write the lyrics and melody lines. And of course like certain kinds of chords and the way the riffs are going lend themselves to certain melodies and all that. Mike is a pro so he's great at that type of thing, and of course he did the same thing with Yngwie too.
# Did he tell you anything about what some of his lyrical influences and topics were? You see songs like 'Mark Of The Devil' and 'Sacrifice' and stuff.
'Mark Of The Devil' is influences by this old, 1970's horror movie named 'Mark Of The Devil.' It was like before The Exorcist. And I think he was watching it one night on T.V. when he was writing lyrics for the record. I'm trying to think, I don't know what 'Sacrifice' is about. Mike has a good way of writing some of those gothic kinds of things but not in a way that sounds too goofy, Dungeons And Dragons type of things (laughs). You know what I mean? It's not over the top as far as that whole thing goes.
# I actually like the title track 'Conquer And Divide.' But I really like 'No Limits' where it says 'If you don't like what you see come and kiss my ass.'
I think that's cool, that's one of my favorites on the record too, somewhat an old style Rainbow/Deep Purple kind of thing, the riff rock kind of thing, except it's more speed metal.
# The one track I couldn't really get into from "Sacred Ground" was 'When Will We Know.' I guess it was just too slow for me compared to the rest of the album.
It's one of those midtempo, sludgy kind of gothic kind of things.
# It's funny because 'The Meaning' off of the new record "Conquer And Divide" reminds me a bit of 'When Will We Know,' except I like it more for some reason, I guess because there's a lot of kick ass guitar work on it.
(laughs). I think 'The Meaning' has that nice melody and the interesting instrumental section, and the lengthy solo bit, and then some of the riffs are cool. I mean 'The Meaning' is definitely a stronger tune than 'When Will We Know.'
# So has Reign Of Terror played out live lately?
Not lately but like on the last record we toured a bunch. We went out by ourselves for awhile and that was okay. Then we went out with Steel Prophet and Helstar for a bit and that was okay too. (He puts emphasis on "okay").
# That sounds like an 80's revival right there.
It's a bit tough in the States, so it would be great, we would destroy on something like the Hammerfall/Dio tour. That would have been awesome. Something along those lines. And plus I tour by myself too with the instrumental thing. If you go out in a package you have a bigger audience, you have a few people bringing in outside fans.