Armored Saint’s John Bush Talks ‘Win Hands Down’ Album, Doing Session Work for TV
Armored Saint frontman John Bush was the guest on Full Metal Jackie's radio show this past weekend. The vocalist spoke about the process of putting together the band's new 'Win Hands Down' album and also discussed a bit about his side career doing session work for TV commercials. Check out the full interview below:
How are you?
What's happening, Jackie?
Great to hear from you. I feel like I haven't talked to you in a long time.
It's probably been a while. I don't recall the last time, but I'll just go out on a limb and say it's been too long. How about that?
It has been. Happy to be here to talk about a new Armored Saint album.
Win Hands Down. So John, you suggested to Joey Vera that the mindset for this album would be that you're the biggest band in the world, able to do whatever you want. How necessary was that attitude to being able to feel creative freedom?
I think it was real important. It kind of, you know, without sounding arrogant or pompous, because I don't think we've ever been that. We're actually quite humble and have been through the years because of rock 'n' roll and heavy medal has humbled us, but the reality is because of the way technology has kind of advanced, and that coupled with our scenario and the way we work and our timeline, which is not so fast, probably along the lines of a snail, it kind of was the mindset to have.
To go into it saying look, "We can do this, it's our thing, we're doing it on our time, on our pace." Basically have full support from Brian Slagel and Metal Blade and Joey has a home studio that we spent hours working together in, and again at our leisure. It was just the right mindset to have and it seemed to work out well and it was kind of pretending -- I don't know if I ever used the term "the biggest band in the world," but I did say imagine that we were like huge and along the lines of Zeppelin or something and we could just do what we want and have that state of mind, especially when it came to writing as well so it didn't put any kind of limitations on what we could do.
How much easier is the creative process because Armored Saint is no more in the constant grind, album and touring cycle?
Well, I think it goes along the whole lines of what I said earlier in terms of we kind of do it our way, at our pace. I know people probably would like to hear records from us more often from us perhaps. You know, we have lots of things going on in our lives that were kind of occupying time. When I was kind of doomed with Armored Saint after leaving on a permanent basis, it wasn't the mindset of "Okay, I've got to get back here and get Armored Saint going back again." I didn't want it to be this thing where I personally felt like I had to kind of have a home again because if not, I was going to feel like I was in some kind of limbo state. I didn't want to do that.
I wanted to do it for the right reasons because of the love of the band and for the camaraderie of the members of the band. We have a lot of that. We have a lot of history and friendship that goes way, way deep for many years. So I just wanted it to be for the right reasons. And also when it came to writing a record, I wanted that to be for the right reasons. And not just say, "Well, okay. We can do a record and Metal Blade will put it out and you know we can make a little bit of money and this and that." That wasn't the state of mind at all. It was about doing a great record, writing some really awesome songs, and having that be the main focus of that and everything else is kind of secondary. Again using that as the catalyst to making something that is -- the most important part of it is cool music and everything else is kind of secondary. Now that the records out or is coming out, and we'll do some shows and follow along as it goes.
Not every band puts out new music that rivals the quality of their classic albums, but Armored Saint continually do that. What factors affect maintaining such a high standard?
Well, thank you. I think we just want to keep progressing as musicians and writers. I think we were pretty set in knowing what we're all about, maybe more than ever in our life. Sometimes in the past, I think we got confused where our roles were in heavy metal and hard rock. Sometimes we didn't always fit in with a particular genre, even going back to the '80s when there was this separation with types of music where you had a lot of the hair bands, that were getting big. Then you had the thrash bands that were getting big. We were too heavy for the hair bands but we weren't quite a thrash band, so we never really quite fit in. We were like on our own island out there. In the end, as time went on, we became more comfortable with that and now I think our objective is to make Armored Saint sound like Armored Saint.
That said, we want to do it in a way where it sounds like Armored Saint in the year 2015, taking the roots of what we've done but trying to make sure that we are growing. Otherwise, we don't want to sound like a band that's from the '80s like we're still in the '80s. I love the '80s, and I love our past, don't get me wrong. I'm proud of everything we've done, but I also want to make sure me personally as a musician and writer, I just want to grow. If not, we're just stuck in time and I don't want to do it like that. We're not some giant band that puts out a record because we want to get a nice beach house somewhere in Miami. That's not the scenario here. We do it for the labor of love and it's gotta show that we're progressing and getting better, at least in our eyes and minds. Being the best writers we are at this point in our lives. I think that helps a lot when we went into this and motivated us.
You've done session work for TV commercials. What are the differences between commercials and making an album? What's similar?
It's funny, there are a lot of parallels. You're in the studio using your voice, you're dealing (sometimes) with corporations that are determining what they want. I've certainly had that kind of feeling making records at times. Not necessarily lately, but I just wanted to use my voice and transfer it into a different style. I had a friend who tried doing some voiceover work and luckily I had a pretty good career, it's a competitive world. You have a lot of heavy hitter actors who are doing voiceovers now. So, competing with someone like George Clooney and Robert Downey. It's pretty hard if you're John Bush. I do my best and I do enjoy doing it. It's a lot of fun. It can be real lucrative when you have a lot of success, or it can be at times you're out in a desert and it's a lot of auditions and no jobs. I like it. I don't have to worry about getting dressed up, I can go into the studio in my sweatpants and do the voiceover because it's all about voice, nothing visual about it. I dig it. It's fun.
Pick up the new Armored Saint album, Win Hands Down, and I know you guys have this run of touring dates coming up. Tell us what's to come for the rest of the year.
Well, we're open minded to whatever good things might come our way. We're obviously doing these shows with Saxon here in the States, a few on the East Coast, West Coast, a couple in Texas. I just have a ton of respect for the band Saxon, they've been around for years. People still dig them. Then we're going to Europe and doing a combination of some festivals. Wacken Festival outside of Hamburg, Germany. Bloodstock, which is in Britain. Hellfest in France. We got some dates that we're doing with Queensryche, which will be a lot of fun. I've always respected that band. Then, at the end of the year we're doing some shows with, some festival stuff, with Accept which is also a classic heavy metal band in Germany.
I'm sure we'll find our way to be playing some various territories throughout the U.S.A. I don't know where yet, with whom, but hopefully we'll be able to get to a lot of cool cities that we haven't played throughout America in years. Some longer than others. We're excited about doing it. We just want to make sure we can find the right combinations of bands to get together with and do something that would be a good ticket price for somebody to see various bands. We might be in an opening slot, or maybe headlining. I prefer to open, actually, but we'll see. We'll see what comes our way.
Thanks to Armored Saint vocalist John Bush for the interview. The band's Win Hands Down album is available now and can be ordered via Amazon or iTunes. Catch Armored Saint on tour at these locations. Full Metal Jackie’s weekend show can be heard on radio stations around the country — for a full list of stations, go to fullmetaljackieradio.com.