Interview With Metallica Tribute Band Battery In Binghamton, New York
I was fortunate to catch up with Metallica Tribute band Battery on October 17th, 2008 at Magic City Music Hall in Binghamton, New York. Although I wasn't able to meet with all of the band because the drummer had to run across the street to guitar center and get "fog juice" as he put it, I was still able to meet with guitarist/singer Jason, lead guitarist Jay, and bass player Phil. Here's what they had to say:
Skylark: How is the tour going so far?
Jason: It's a never-ending process, we never take any breaks. Around the holidays shows get harder to find, so everything slows down a bit but picks right up within a week.
Skylark: Are there any moments that really stick out on this tour to make it memorable?
Jay: Well actually there was the tire popping off the trailer back in Virginia.
Jason: We play a Harley-Davidson dealership out there., but yeah Jason was driving when that happened, I was with my girlfriend about 6 or 7 miles ahead of them in the Camaro.
Jay: Yeah well what actually happened is we were just driving down the road and I felt the trailer tug hard on the truck, and I thought something hit us. So I looked in my passenger side mirror and I see smoke and the fender is all torn up on the side of the trailer. Then I looked at the other mirror and I see the trailer tire rolling up past us. So we ended up pulling over on the side of the road and having to get it fixed.
Skylark: Sounds like quite a time...
Jay: Yes it was.
Skylark: So what kinds of music do you guys listen to outside of the genre that you play?
Jay: Testament. I listen to those guys all the time, and I listen to a lot of European metal too.
Phil: I listen to black metal, death metal... I'm into the heavier stuff.
Jason: I listen to all kinds of shit. If I had to classify my favorite bans, it would be you know Metallica, Megadeth, Pantera, Slayer... you should have seen me in my senior year of high-school, I was a Dave Mustaine look-a-like (laughs). I have a pretty good taste for country music.
Jay: Yeah we can't figure that one out (laughs).
Jason: Yeah I also listen to jazz, and even some classical. I like classical sounds.
(At this point Jay is switching through TV channels on a nearby TV and "Family Guy" comes on).
Skylark: You like "Family Guy" Jay? Well you're not alone (laughs).
Jay: Yeah this is the band show man, we watch it every chance we get.
Jason: Yeah, that and "The Simpsons" (laughs).
Skylark: So let me guess this straight, you guys originally had a band named "Disaster Area," and then you started playing in "Battery" as a ploy to gain popularity?
Jason: Well you really would have to ask Laurence about that one, we weren't here during "Disaster Area."
Phil: Yeah well Laurence started a band back in Canada called "Disaster Area," and they started getting gigs down in the states here and one of the promoters here in the states said "you guys originally sounds a lot like Metallica, so why don't you do a Metallica tribute here in the states to gain some popularity." So then our first singer quit, so we just ended up sticking with "Battery," not to mention that it was really hitting off big here in the states and bringing in money for the band.
Skylark: So is it fair to say that the popularity of "Battery" was unexpected?
Phil: Yeah absolutely. I mean, we knew that Metallica was getting big, but nobody thought that they would take off the way that they did.
Jay: Yeah the band was originally just something to draw a crowd for "Disaster Area," but we never expected it to take off the way it did.
Skylark: Were you hesitant about pursuing Battery?
Jason: See it's kind of hard to say because I think Phil and Laurence were the only ones that were in the band at that point.
Phil: Yeah you'd really have to ask Laurence because I wasn't really with Battery just then. I don't know where he is though, he's probably mulling around doing drummer stuff (laughs).
Skylark: Are you guys ever criticized for being a tribute band?
Jay: Oh yeah there's always criticism.
Jason: You know you'll get a person here or there that say "why do you have to play other peoples' music. Why can't you play your own?"
Jay: Yeah people say "why can't you play originals" or something like that.
Jason: You know it's like every time you walk onstage there's always someone out there that yell "Freebird!!!"
Jay: Yeah and we sometimes will play little bits and pieces of them just to fuck with people. We usually do our own little Pantera bit.
Skylark: Really? That'd be awesome to hear tonight guys.
Jay: Yeah we'll see if we can't squeeze it in. It's usually the last part of Cemetary Gates.
Jason: After about three shows in a row, we tend to shorten the set list down just a little bit to help preserve the voice. After ripping your throat out for three nights, it starts to kill you know? We usually play about a 3 or 3 and ½ hour set, but when we shorten it down, it goes down to about 2 and ½ to 3.
Skylark: So guys, if you weren't on tour playing with Battery right now, what do you think you would be doing instead?
Jason: Well, I myself have a small diving business down in Florida so I'd probably be doing something with that. I used to makes yachts in St. Pete's, so I'd probably be welding or something like that. I actually almost became a St. Pete's police officer if you can imagine that (laughs). I'd probably end up pulling over chicks just to look at their tits and get their phone numbers (band laughs).
Skylark: How about you Jay?
Jay: I work for a landscaping business right now. I actually had the opportunity to buy it out, but I really don't want to run a business right now, especially while I'm on tour. But that's my other passion; landscaping.
Phil: I'd probably be working in aviation mechanics. I was big into that field before I started touring with Battery. I think that we'd all still be playing music, just not as much as we are not.
Skylark: So where do you guys see Battery in ten years?
Jason: I don't (laughs).
Phil: I don't think that far ahead, I mean, ten years is a long time.
Skylark: Well how about a year from now then?
Jason: A year? Well, probably doing the same thing. We've got three more years to pay off the truck so....
Skylark: So back to touring, if you could perform in any venue in the world right now, national or international, where would you perform?
Jason, Jay, Phil: Ozzfest (in unison, laughs).
Skylark: Do you guys ever perform internationally?
Jason: Well, we do Puerto Rico. We get the chances, but it just such a hassle. Everybody's got to have passports at the same time, and then you get one that runs out and you end up waiting on that. It's just a pain in the ass.
Jay: Yeah we've had guys try to get us into Germany before.
Jason: Yeah, Europe, Japan, Trinidad, Amsterdam... they're trying like hell to get us down to the Dominican Republic right now. The guy calls every two weeks trying to get us down there, but the schedules never quite align just right. We book through "Suncoast Booking" down in Florida.
Skylark: What kind of venues do you guys prefer to play at; smaller ones like this place, or larger venues?
Jay: I like outdoor gigs personally.
Jason: This place here (Magic City Music Hall- Binghamton, New York) I consider to be a pretty decent size. There are times when we play bars that only fit 50-75 people. It's like a little two-room thing.
Jay: Yeah we play this one bar in Jersey. It's so small that I don't even play onstage during the show. It's good that I have a wireless pack.
Jason: You can probably only fit like 35 people in that place. We play a huge place out during Sturgis, and the place is huge. It fits like 20,000 people it's crazy.
Skylark: Well I ask because there are a lot of bands that would argue that you can't get the same level of energy off a big place that you get from a little place. Just the whole close-quarters thing I guess.
Jason: Yeah, I'd have to say that we prefer to play larger places. I think we get better energy there.
Skylark: So before a show, what do you guys do to physically and mentally prepare... besides sit around and get interviewed and drink beer.
Jason: Yeah drink beer and Yeager (band laughs).
Jay: Well we always have our band moment right before the show. We have our band toast with each other, we have to do that you know? We like to have about five minutes alone to ourselves right before the start of the show to, you know, just relax and get into our mind set.
Skylark: Yeah definitely. So how many times have you guys actually met Metallica?
Jason: Well I myself met them five times at the five shows we played with them in '98.
Phil: They came out a few times to see us, once in Buffalo actually. We've all met most of them. They're pretty cool guys.
Jason: Yeah I met Rob actually back in November of '04. We kind of talked for a few minutes back and forth and he said that he remembered us from when we toured with Metallica during "Garage Inc." But yeah, that was pretty cool.
Skylark: What do you guys think of the new album "Death Magnetic?"
Jason: We love it. We're really happy that they were able to pull off a good album.
Jay: We were actually sitting here right before you came in, just brushing up on a few parts to the one song that we played, "Cyanide." We're going to try and do it tonight during our set.
Jason: We all know a little bit of different songs, but we all know "Cyanide" pretty well. We listened to it all the way up.
Jay: Yeah our girlfriends we're sitting there like "ooooh my goooood" (laughs). And the we get there and just put it together and play it in five minutes and they're like "I wish I could do that by listening to the damn thing!!" (laughs).
Skylark: Are you guys playing anything off "St. Anger" tonight?
Jason: Well, no. Before Jay and I came back about three years ago, I guess these guys used to play it and they got booed off stage so yeah, we don't play it anymore.
Jay: We try to do something from every album. We do one song from "Load," one song from "Reload," and then the "Cyanide" song. Everything else is "Black Album" and back.
Jason: Yeah and then we do a little bit off Garage Inc. One of our favorite songs to play together is "Orion." We play the whole thing, and it sounds really cool. Every night we play, we play "Orion." We've been places where they even chant it.
Skylark: What would be the most valuable piece of information that you would pass on to bands that are just starting out?
Jason: Well, I don't know (laughs).
Jay: Just keep working at it.
Jason: Try and be tolerant of your band mates, and try not to fight. You have to agree on everything. You'll always have problems and disagreements. It sucks when you spend the day with your band and you're all fighting with each other all the time.
Jay: We've had days where we're all fighting with each other, and the day is really just super horrible. We'll get to the gig, and we go on at 10:30 and we've just shown up at 9:30 and everybody is stressed and yelling at each other. It's just really shitty. But on thing that is kind of cool is that the more worse the day gets, the better it feels to just get on stage and jam out you know?
Jason: If you're driving the truck, make sure that you hit the window lock so nobody can roll down the windows. Then just let a nice gassy fart loose (laughs).
Jay: Spoken from a true asshole (band laughs).
Skylark: So my last question is just a quick equipment question. What do you guys run for gear?
Jay: Peavey XXX, and Jackson and Ibanez guitars. Oh and duel processors.
Jason: I run a Sennheiser Wireless system, Kramer, Jackson, and ESP guitars. I also build guitars. You'll notice I have one that resembles a dragon out there on stage. I'll play that during "Orion." I built it out of an old Harmony. I run through Crate amplification, and B-52's (cabinets). I run digitech processors, and I'm looking at a Mesa/Boogie power amp for guitar. I hate using a bunch of different pedals because it makes a lot of background noise. Phil uses a bunch of different pedals though. Oh and I use Ernie ball strings.
Phil: Yea I use Ampeg tube amps, rock-tron preamp for distortion, and I have a Boss chorus pedal. I use Dean and Ibanez guitars. Dean Markley strings.
Jason: Laurence uses Pearl drums, some Zildjian cymbals, some Sabian cymbals, a cracked one here, a broken one there (laughs). Basically whatever used cymbal is the cheapest. Oh and he uses Pro-mark sticks, nylon type, hickory.
Skylark: Well guys, that's about all the questions I have for you. I appreciate you taking the time to meet with me. Have a great show tonight; I look forward to seeing it!
Jason: Thank you.
Jay: Thank you.
Phil: Thank you.
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