AJ Fedz - Snakeryder
Interview By Steve Cummings
Can you give me a history lesson with regard to AJ Fedz, your musical influences, when and how you started playing guitar, your first bands and apart from music what else do you do to make a living?
AJ: I started to play the guitar when I was nine y/o. I remember taking guitar lessons and not practicing all week. My father would ask my teacher how I was progressing and my teacher would say ďheís doing greatĒ I would think to myself, this fucking guys a bull shitter. I got a little more serious at 12 y/o. when I got my first electric guitar. I joined my first band when I was in the 9th grade. The band was pretty much a garage band. We got a little brave after a few months of practice and would open the garage door. All the kids in the neighborhood would come over to hear us. We eventually did our first gig at a high school dance. My first major influence was my Uncle Jim Curtin. He was an Elvis impersonator. My second was a guy my father played golf with. His name was John Carpeneta; he was a bass player and vocalist. From there I moved on to bands like Kiss, Aerosmith, Boston, Styxís, The Cars, I dabbled with a little southern rock, some blues & Jazz also. As far as earning a living, shit I seem to have a knack for finding woman that makes big bucks. I never worked a day in my life! LOL. No! Actually a worked in music stores, did studio, & live sound, worked as a tradesman. In my free time; I enjoy the gym, computers, riding motorcycles, movies, the company of a hot babe and waking up the neighbors. LOL
Reading through the website there is the whole Adriangale/Kivel Records affair that came before the formation of Snakeryder, can you let me have a brief synopsis of events please?
AJ: Let me say this for starters; If it wasnít for me, there probable would not be an Adriangale. I had a deal with Kivel Records in 1999. We were going to do a record for his label under the band name AdrianGale. The Snakeryder DOA album was supposed to be the first Adriangale album. After six months of recording, I got to know Mr. John Kivel pretty well. We had plenty of phone conversations. The down fall between John and I was his controlling personality. John knows more about every thing under the sun then GOD himself. John will even tell you what to wear on stage. The last straw between John & I was when he handled a business deal. On April 21 2000, The original Adriangale line up (AJ FedZ, Dino Castano, Vic Rivera, and Ed Campbell) did an opening show for Warrant. The band went home penniless. Thatís when I decided to switch labels. Kivel ended up stealing the band name from us, and the rest is history.
Can you give me a quick overview of how Snakeryder came together and originally were signed with Metal Mayhem?
AJ: After the Kivel deal went sour I contacted Ryan Northrop at MMM and asked him if he would be interested in releasing my music. He said ď I was going to give you a call in the beginning of the year to offer you a deal. He said he had been driving around for a year listening to my demo in his car stereo. Turns out Kivel and MMM were good friends. After the deal with MMM was secured, the band fell quickly into place.
The album was initially recorded and mixed between April & December 2002 and yet wasn't actually released until December 2003, what was the cause of this delay and how frustrating was it for you knowing that the record was sitting there waiting to be heard?
AJ: The record was scheduled to be released in March 2002. When the war begun, they thought it was best to put a hold on its release. It was a very disappointing time for the members of the band and I. At one point, I had given up hope.
How long after the release of D.O.A did you realize that things were going wrong between the band and Metal Mayhem?
AJ: We were not happy with MMM long before DOA was released. The earliest personal issue I with MMM was their lack of communication. Trying to get a return phone call or email was futile. They had a tendency to treat our phone calls like we were bill collectors and emails like they were Spam. When you run any type of business, it is a good practice and common courtesy to be quick to return phone calls. There is no excuse.
What was the process for getting out of the deal with Metal Mayhem, did you get the master tapes back and the rights to the sound recordings etc?
AJ: Oh, that was easy! I called Ryan Northrop at 2:00am to tell him I was coming over. I said I wanted to go skinny dipping in their pool with his wife. LOL. He had the cops call me and tell me not to contact him again. I got my walking papers shortly after. LOL. Actually I was unhappy about the whole grueling process making this release a reality. The kicker was I found out that MMM had a silent partner in the Snakeryder DOA CD. GUESS WHO? KIVEL RECORDS. What a slap in the face that was. I latter learned that Johnny Kivel was the DOA CD artwork director. It was Johnís brilliant idea to put a bullet through the Snakeryder logo and a bulls eye around our faces. He was only being a ball buster. Kivelís involvement after we left his label was disrespectful on MMMís part . Getting out of the deal was like taking candy from a baby. When you make noise, the squeaky wheel gets greased. I always had the masters multi track recordings in my possession.
How did the deal with Z Records come about?
AJ: Nicky at aor dreamzones told me Mark Alger was interested in the album. I then offered Mark at Z a proposal to re-release the record. He told me to send him a copy of the album. I sent it to him on a Wednesday and by Monday of the following week he offered us a deal. Less than one week latter Mark sent me three drafts for the new CD artwork. Things happened real quick.
Before you signed with Z, were you aware of some of the bad publicity that the label has had in the past and did that make you wary given past experiences with record labels?
AJ: Sure I heard the shit! You have to understand this; Z Records is a business and when running a business, you will always have a percentage of dissatisfied customers and disgruntled former workers. It is not fair to make a conclusive decision with out knowing all the facts. I know from life experiences that some people are selfish and unreasonable. People have a tendency to see issues in their favor and remain clueless. Even in a court of law there are cases were innocent people get convicted of a crime and the guilty walk. Itís a risk for any band to sign a record deal and itís a risk for the label. I am certainly willing to give Z records the benefit of doubt.
Although the songs on the Z Records release are identical to those on the Metal Mayhem version of the album, the album titled changed, the artwork changed, the running order of the songs on the CD changed. What was the thinking behind all of these changes?
AJ: MMM owns the artwork for DOA. We had no choice in the matter. From the get go we hated the DOA cover artwork and logo. You canít even read the credits. The title DOA was the idea of MMM and had been used a zillion times on other albums. We also felt the artwork had no relation to the music whatsoever. We view the new artwork as a fresh new start and a means to correctly set our debut right.
In effect you are promoting the release of the album for the second time, and with the songs on the record being quite old do you still have the same enthusiasm that you initially had?
AJ: DOA was released DEC 21, 2003 and we were released from the MMM agreement on May 17, 2004. Many years of hard work went into the making of the CD, not to mention one year waiting to bring it to the masses. At that point we felt this release hadnít seen the light of day. Itís only natural for older material to be less appealing to the artist. By the time the public gets the finished release, the band has played the songs to death. However in a live situation, the songs are 100% adrenaline, fresh and pure to us again.
With all of the ups and downs in dealings with record companies etc have you ever felt like giving up on music?
AJ: Yes, After MMM I couldnít picture repeating the recording then waiting process ever again. Between Kivel & MMM, I feel like they sucked the life out of me.
Snakeryder recently changed bass player with the departure of original bassist Jay Reno and the arrival of Mikk Black, what is the story behind the change and how did you go about finding Mikk?
AJ: Joey Reno is a good friend and like a brother to us. He was at a cross roads in his life and felt it was time for the family life and that stable career to be the priority. Mikk and my drummer Dino have been room mates for over a year, so he was already on the scene and fit in perfectly.Your music is very much influenced by the whole 1980's hard rock scene, given the fact that this type of music now sits very much in a niche market, have you ever been tempted to change your style in order to appeal perhaps to a more mainstream audience?
AJ: I come from the 80ís and was disappointed to see it end. I continued to write in this style for one reason. I was, and am not done with this style and sound. I have very little Interested in writing to satisfy the current trends of fades. There are people out theyíre who miss this type of music and were here to bring a slice of it back to them.
Talking about the songs on the album, could you give us an insight into your writing process and a brief rundown on the tracks that appear on the CD?
AJ: I prefer to write my lyrics while on the hopper. LOL. Canít say it hasnít happened. I call my writing process, ďevolutionĒ. You start with a piece of clay working & shaping till it starts to become a clear picture. I usually strum an acoustic guitar and scat with a melody. When I find something that clicks, I have my clay. I usually write my lyrics after I have my melodies. I like to sculpt my lyrics around the melody. Sometimes Iíll write three different instrument parts, then try to write my melody. When I come up with a melody, very often I have to revise the music to fit the melody better. Sometimes a part gets kicked a side then replaced with a better part. This section many times is the chorus. ďA song has to have a big hook.Ē Once I have the majority of the arrangement complete, I always find ways to refine the composition. Here are some of the song titles: 1. Shake for a shake 2. Got no time for romance 3 Love it bites 4. Donít wanna let go 5. Price you have to pay 6. The USA 7. Long way home 8. Road to ruin 9. Stick to your guns 10. Danger zone.
Are there any plans for Snakeryder live shows, either in America or Europe to promote the album?
AJ: No plans as of yet. Mark did mention bringing us to Z rock in April. We would love to tour Europe. The number of CDís we sell will be the determining factor.
Given that you have signed a two album deal with Z Records, what are the plans for the next album, are the songs already written, or is it your intention to write the album from scratch when the time comes?
AJ: We have already started to record the album using several new tunes and songs that were written over the years. Of course they are all new song to the public. One thing I want to avoid, is repeating DOA. The songs we chose for our sophomore album are higher octane (then our debut release) and yet still commercially appealing. Itís too early to give a release date. We also have to discuss details with Mark.
Finally is there anything else you would like to add..
AJ: Steve, thank you for the review. I hope my answers to your questions were helpful. I spoke to the boyz in the band tonight, (Dino, Mikk & Karl) they wanted to give a big hello to all the Snakeryder Fans past present and future. I would also like to tell everyone round the world, the snake is coming to your town soon. Thanks again Steve