Interview With AJ Of Mutiny
Edison, New Jersey's MUTINY is a young group making its way up through the muck and myre of the metal underground scene. They have been working hard to find that defining sound for themselves and are currently in the midst of looking for a new lead vocalist, though they will continue with their current lineup through year's end. One thing you can't say about these guys is that they don't have drive and determination. Because they do. And that's what it takes, no matter what pitfalls you come across when developing your band along the way, it's the guys that keep their nose to the grind even when it's literally being grinded down to a bloody nub that makes it truly happen for themselves in the music world. I took some time recently to get a round of more than entertaining Q&A in with Mutiny's bass guitar player , AJ.
Rocket: Where were you born and raised?
AJ: Born in Princeton, raised in Edison, then Bridgewater, then back to Edison... all New Jersey.
Rocket: So when did you start playing bass guitar, brother?
AJ: It was sixth or seventh grade, somewhere around there.
Rocket: Who are some of your biggest playing influences? Past or present.
AJ: When I first started playing, I listened to Green Day, NoFx, Strung Out, Bad Religion, Lagwagon, Frenzal Rhomb...um...Rancid, Nirvana and Red Hot Chili Peppers.
Rocket: What the hell?! I thought we were talkin metal around here!! Haha!
AJ: My influences today include Symphony X, Necrophagist, and Sikth. Although, those bands are not my favorite kind of music. Children of Bodom is my fuckin style, aggressive neo-classical melodic metal with screaming.
Rocket: Now we're talkin, man. I was about to split and go grab some beer!
AJ: Sucks though, it's not what it used to be.
Rocket: What kind of basses are you playing live and in the studio?
AJ: My first bass was a Dean: cheap, yet durable. Now I have two Ibanez EDC700s. The one in vampire kiss red is tuned from low to high: C G C F I use a 5-string set and discard the high string. The black bass is tuned to D G C F I used a regular 4-string set. These EDC700's are discontinued, don't know why. I'm lucky to have them. Not made from basswood but a man made wood called Ergodyne or Luthite I think, sounds great.
Rocket: Now you're speaking my language. Myself I prefer the tone of the American Fender P-Bass. Period. Nothing touches them. Though the weigh about fifty pounds too much and break your ass after a two hour practice session! Haha. What kind of amp rig you playing out of?
AJ: George Dennis head, handmade in England, only a few in the world. It gives you many sound options... balls or bass, heat or gain, volume or master juice. Aguilar cab 1400 watts, eight 10".
Rocket: In all my years of playing, working as a bass-tech and selling for Guitar Center, I have never heard of George Dennis heads. Haha. But I'll take your word for it, brother! No, that's actually really killer sounding. Gotta be able to catch both the clean and the ugly.
I always prefer Ampeg product though. So do you play with your fingers or a pick or like many today 'both'?
AJ: I play with picks, I like the sounds I get using them, bright and powerful.
Rocket: Nikki Sixx plays with picks. Jerry Montano alternates between both he tells me. But again, I go the way of the monster tone and that cannot be touched when playing with your fingers. I have heard everyone's position in this, but I just always saw the pick as like having sex with a jimmy on. Even in the speed playing scenarios... I could play all the old school Clff Burton stuff and it doesnt' get faster than that.
AJ: I played with fingers for about a year back in my Californication days. Finger players usually sound muddy except for Flea, Lepond (SX), Leach (Sikth), Andreoli (Angra), Fimmers (Necrophagist), and, of course, Victor Wooten.
Rocket: Well, they'll sound 'muddy' only because they are playing the string too hard, you know? I took one bass lesson from John of the legendary punk band NEIGHBORHOOD WATCH several years back after I had already been playing some fifteen plus years and I could not believe the technique this guy involved in regard to how much pressure you apply to picking through the strings. It was the most amazing hour of my life. Thanks, John! Best fifty bucks I ever spent! Now, along the way did you ever take any formal bass playing lessons? Let us know if there's a teacher out there that deserves some credit. Or like me, did you pretty much do it all self-taught from them damn tablature books? Haha.
AJ: Haha, well, here's the story. It was a Wednesday and two of my friends need a bass player for a show that Friday. I bought a Dean, learned Smells Like Teen Spirit, All I Want (The Offspring), and Chick Magnet (MxPx) and played the show. After that, I used the Californication tab book and learned every song, teaching myself technique as I went along. I also used Dream Theater's book for Train Of Thought.
Rocket: Right on. Now I know Mutiny has a pretty big show coming up on Dec 26th, right? You're opening up for some dude that wears a lot of black, huh? Ha! Tell us about it.
AJ: Some guy named DANZIG! We've got three video cameras and the Starland Ballroom's soundboard mix so we're gonna get a live CD and DVD out of it.
Rocket: Horns up to all the worldwide metal brethren right there, man. Outstanding! You say that you are involved in the songwriting for this band, right? How exactly do you guys go about writing your songs?
AJ: How "exactly" do we write? Let me take a deep breath for this one...
Rocket: Well, some little old lady in a leather jacket and tatt'd down face doesn't roll through at the strike of midnight and leave the finished product underneath your bed, does she? Hahaha.
AJ: Haha. Well, for our current songs, excluding "Mutiny", that's all Lu. I started out by writing an intro theme on my keyboard and/or guitar. I'll know if it's good enough because I'll show somebody in the band the idea, and if they aren't immediately rockin that shit, I'll toss the riff out or save it for a side project or something. After that, we'll all start tossing around riffs that would work well surrounding the theme idea. We then somehow orchestrate a song, which most often will take months. Lately, my bro and I have been writing together, both of us playing guitars, with a keyboard nearby. When Samus, Drew, and Lu hear our stuff, that's when the second part of the writing begins. Samus will often take our music and program it into Guitar Pro so we all can analyze from a listener's perspective. It's very exciting for me to be able to hear an idea in it's beginning stages and then to hear it after it's been through the hands of the rest of the band, always an overwhelming result.
Rocket: Very cool. I like to have fun with this next one. What's the funniest thing that's happened to you while performing on the stage?
AJ: Mutiny is not a comedy act, okay?! Haha.
Rocket: It's not? Well, what the hell? Now I am really splitting for beer! Fuck this!!
AJ: Haha. Well, Rocket... okay, when Kaan spins his hair around and it gets caught on my bass headstock, he rips it right out and keeps going! Also, our most recent show, Kaan was late and I had to scream for the first half of Nightshade! I'd never screamed before in my life...
Rocket: You haven't ever screamed in your life? Ever? Come on now. There wasn't that one time when you were a little kid and you walked around a dark corner in your home into some stranger that frightened you so bad you wet your underroos! Til you figured out it was just Grandpa coming out of the bathroom having just cleaned his dentures! Christ, where am I going with all of this? Alright, dude, it's been a great year for metal in 2006. What's been your personal favorite of albums?
AJ: Of 2006? Let's see... In Flames - Come Clarity, Dissection - Reinkaos, Eternal Tears Of Sorrow - Before The Bleeding Sun, Kalmah -The Black Waltz, Norther - Till Death Unites Us, Insomnium - Above The Weeping Sun...
Rocket: Should I just order a pizza while you finish up? Haha.
AJ: ...All Shall Perish - The Price Of Existence, Sikth - Death Of A Dead Day, Nightwish - End Of An Era, Angra - Aurora Consurgens, Paul Gilbert - Get Out Of My Yard...
Rocket: I didn't know Paul Gilbert was still alive!
AJ: Marty Friedman - Loudspeaker, Dragonforce - Inhuman Rampage...
Rocket: Hold up. I think I hear the pizza delivery guy at the front door!
AJ: Blind Guardian - A Twist In The Myth, Dream Theater - Score...
Rocket: You're leaving out Twisted Sister's Christmas album.
AJ: Sleep Terror - Probing Tranquility and Sinergy - Beware The Heavens (Deluxe Edition).
Rocket: In the time that it took you to rattle of that super delicious list of yours I became the first man to conceive and give birth to a child! Haha! I'm having too much fun here. Okay, listen up.. so who are some of the other local metal bands that you've shared the stage with that impressed you?
AJ: Through The Grey is fuckin amazing, Sacred Hatred and Seventh Void, not so local though.
Rocket: Besides the upcoming Danzig gig what are some of the other Mutiny shows we need to watchout for?
AJ: Maybe at Starland Ballroom again with Powerman 5000. We've got Drew and Brandon in high school so our schedule is limited... but come June, we'll have more songs and we're gonna hit the road for life!
Rocket: Listen, bro, all kidding and having fun with this aside... thanks so much for your time on this. Good luck with it all. I really do expect big time things to come for this band. You guys are flatout making it happen for yourselves and that's what separates the men from the boys playing with their tinker toys in the metal game. Go ahead and give a shout out to your biggest supporters.
AJ: Shout out to you Rocket and The Metal Den, Metal Underground, Tony and Junior from Starland, all the fans worldwide, and to the rest of Mutiny. Those guys make this music a reality.
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