John Bush is one of metal’s premier vocalists. Having performed with his own band Armored Saint & then Anthrax, John has also done voice over work.
Taking time out of his very busy work schedule (juggling Armored Saints day-to-day as well as running a business with his wife, Tori & being a father) he kindly granted an interview with AATR.
What made you decide to put out a live record at this stage of Armored Saints career?
Live records are sometimes a bridge from one record to another & the funny thing is live records really aren’t happening anymore so it’s cool to kinda do one & I think this one sounds great.
It seemed a good time to release one & I’m not going to lie but also buy a little time. Some live records are like a greatest hits. It’s not as tho Armored Saint has any greatest hits, if we do then it’s going to be a pretty short record (laughs)
Nod To The Old School was kind of a greatest hits record even tho it was made up of demos, some of those tracks had appeared in a finished format along the way.
Yeah, a lot of those were 4 track demos & had Dave Pritchard (passed away from leukaemia during the recording of the 1990 album Symbol of Salvation) & it was more of a rarities record. There was live stuff, a couple of covers, re-recordings & a few demos of tracks that we never recorded fully as we didn’t feel they were of the highest quality to be put on a finished record.
Going back briefly to Symbol of Salvation, I have, in my vast CD collection, the 3CD box of that album with the demos on the 2nd disc.. That is a pretty special album as it does have Dave playing on those recordings.
Yeah, it was cool to release that as it had more stuff for people to hear with Dave on. That was also the version we put out with Brian Slagel doing the interview & talking about each track.
We try to do interesting things & I think this live record is a continuation of that. We’ve had some complaints about it being a little short (laughs) but the reason behind that is, we were only originally going to put that out to people who were involved in the Pledge Music campaign which was something that helped fund the Queensryche tour that we did back in November/December time & quite frankly if it hadn’t been for that funding there was no way we could’ve done that tour.
In the old days you’d take tour support & these days you do something like Pledge Music.
So originally it was just meant to be for those people who were part of the campaign & then we realised ‘Why are we making it just for them?’ Why don’t we give it to them first & then eventually release it to the rest of the fan base?
So that’s why it’s a little short. There was only 2 shows that we actually recorded. 1 of them was Wacken where we only played like 9 songs & then we did a headline show in Waffen-Bock just outside of Frankfurt. So we had to choose from those songs & make sure there weren’t too many blunders & off notes & key sour things, drum fluctuations so that’s what we had remaining (laughs) & those songs sound pretty good.
Did you go back into the studio to fix things?
I must admit, there were a couple of things that we did fix that if we didn’t then that would have to be something we’d have to live with for the rest of our lives. There weren’t too many things that needed to be fixed. I’m not going to lie, as I’m not a liar there were a couple of things to fix. Over all, it’s pretty much the raw recordings of those shows.
It’s not as tho I have a problem with mistakes & everything has to be perfect. I think it’s kind of cool to have that & something that doesn’t sound as perfect.
I personally think that there’s to much pressure on live recordings to sound perfect. It’s not as tho you’re listening to the studio album where everything is polished, it’s nice to have a raw & unpolished live recording.
Yeah, there’s a few with piped in audience noise. I like to play that ignorance is bliss. There are live records that I grew up with as a kid. Whether they’re 100% live I don’t know, I’d just rather not know (laughs)
How do you look after your voice these days?
I don’t drink as much as I used to, I watch what I eat when I’m on tour. I’ve still gotta drink coffee tho as I love coffee.
I must have my coffee otherwise, there would be stray bullets flying around the place (laughs)
(laughs) I try to get a proper amount of sleep. I’m an older guy now & the things I used to do when I was younger don’t seem to fly anymore. Not as tho I want to do that anyway, as to be quite honestly, I don’t need to get hammered every night on the road. I’ve already gone down that road & I had a lot of fun but I certainly don’t need to continue to do it.
My main objective these days is to have a killer gig & have that be the thing I remember most. Don’t get me wrong, being on tour is a fun thing & you try & take in everything that it offers. Sometimes that means having a great time & partying. We did that one show with Anthrax & Pantera where we just got hammered every night & a lot of the times it was before a show & that’s the way we had to live on that tour. I don’t think the Pantera guys would’ve allowed us to do anything but. That’s just the way that they rolled.
Now it’s just a different place & what I try & do is take better care of myself. I’m not a perfect singer, I have my off nights, it’s just the way I sing & my approach to singing is pretty full throttle. I finally invested in some in ears (monitors) which will hopefully preserve my voice a little longer. But I’m not a perfect singer & I don’t think anything about Armored Saint is either. Sometimes we may hit the bull’s eye & others we may have a plethora of mistakes. But what you will always get from us live is sincerity, a lot of emotion & heart felt feeling coming from the band & I think that kind of means more than watching a bunch of guys who are an incredible bunch of musicians.
I know what ya mean. Nothing worse than watching a band standing there just going through the motions & trying to make it sound like the record. If I wanted to listen to the record I would’ve stayed at home. I go to shows for the experience & something that you just don’t get from listening to a record at home.
Speaking of live shows, you’ve got a mini UK tour coming up right around the time you play Hammerfest. But you’re not going to Scotland.There’s going to be some upset people there.
Armored Saint tour dates
Mar. 20 – Voodoo – Dublin, Ireland
Mar. 21 – The Limelight – Belfast, Ireland
Mar. 23 – Hammerfest – Gwynedd, N. Wales, UK
Mar. 24 – The Rebellion – Manchester, UK
Mar. 25 – O2 Academy 3 – Birmingham, UK
May 18 – Route 20 Outhouse – Sturtevant, WI
May 19 – Q and Z Expo Center – Ringle, WI
May 20 – Reggie’s Rock Club – Chicago, IL
Sadly we’re not, I’ve played some incredible shows in Glasgow. In fact, some of the best UK shows I’ve done have been in Scotland.
I’ve played with Anthrax a bunch of times & Armored Saint have only played once. It wasn’t a particularly bad show it was just poorly attended.
I don’t think that would be the case now John.
Yeah, it’s a bit of a bummer we’re not playing Scotland. I want to get back up there as some of the as some of the best shows & the worlds greatest audiences have been up in Scotland.
Is there a particular reason why you’re not?
Basically, we’ve tried to book shows around our Hammerfest commitment so it’s cool we’re playing Birmingham & Manchester & we ‘ve never played those places either. So we’re playing in some places that Armored Saint have never played before & hopefully, we make some people happy.
Have you got anything else lined up after this run of live shows?
For now, no. We don’t tour in the road dog, onslaught kinda way that we used to. We try & make it work around our lives & me imparticular as I run a business with my wife, a couple of kids & it’s kinda hard to leave for long stretches at a time & quite honestly I don’t like to. I do like playing live, it’s one of my favorite things to do & one of the few things I think I do pretty well in my life (laughs), but it’s trying to make it work with everything else I have going on & it’s a tall order sometimes.
Do you prefer being in the studio or being on stage
I love both. There’s nothing quite like creating & then recording the songs & seeing them develop & that’s a pretty rewarding circumstance.
Playing live is like having fun & trying to bond with the audience & certainly get a vibe that can be magical at times & the studio can be as well, but it’s a different kind of magical.
They’re both great in their own kind of ways.
What’s been your proudest moment to date?
I’d probably say longevity is maybe one of the keys. Obviously, I think I’ve written some pretty great songs over the years & certainly, some songs & records are better than others. But I think being around as long as I have & Armored Saint has is quite a testament to a lot of persistence.
You can’t always control the success of your band. There’s just too many circumstances that are outside of your control, you hope for the best & life hits you on the head & you realize that ‘hey, maybe we’re not going to be as big as Metallica’ but that’s ok, you just gotta do your own thing & your best, control the things that you can like your performances & songwriting. We learnt that early on. We’d made our 3rd album & then were dropped by Chrysalis by the time we were all like 25 years old.
So when other bands started we were like already 3 records in & dropped, looking for a new record deal. It can be a tough world but I think it gave us a new perspective & I think that’s carried on until now.
I think still being able to make music & still write records, getting people excited by still making music & records as well as still getting to play live & overseas & making people still come, well hopefully (laughs). I think that’s something that you should just take with you & make that be the primary motivation for continuing on & making you happy about your career.
Record sales & all that other stuff is out of your hands so you can’t really worry about it much.
I’m guessing that being dropped by Chrysalis Records was one of the lowest points of Armored Saints career.
There were a couple of low points. Certainly, Dave Pritchard dying was a huge low point & probably the biggest. We made mistakes along the way. Maybe we had some bad advice, maybe we didn’t have the best identity at times in the early days of Armored Saint. We weren’t a thrash band or a hair band people were often like ‘who are you guys?’ Maybe that created some identity issues back in the early days of Armored Saint.
At the end of the day, it all comes down to focusing on what you do best. I think we learned that but it took awhile.
How about putting a book out?
I’ve thought about it & that’s about as far as it’s gone.
There’s a lot of cool history that’s gone on with Armored Saint & John Bush imparticular.I’d have to go back into the annals of my mind & memory banks & kind of dig it all up. I haven’t really jotted any of that stuff down at this point. I’d have to put it all together. So maybe, I haven’t ruled it out.
I think the John Bush story is one that should be told. It would be an interesting read.
(laughs) I dunno, maybe. I’d have to tackle it one day.
What about coming out on the road & doing a kinda Q&A, story telling type tour?
Sometimes I have a hard time just doing stuff that’s just me. It’s the same way I look at doing a solo record or something like that.
As much as I think it would be cool to do that, I think maybe I’m a little scared, it’s just something that doesn’t feel all that right to me
I’m not trying to come off like I’m the ultimate team guy but it’s probably more out of insecurity than anything else to tell you the truth.
The reality is, I just like being part of the crew. I’ve always made the joke about being more like a bass player than a singer as I’m more kinda like a mellow dude for the most part & front men are considered to be a little more out of their minds, not to say that I can’t do that too because I certainly can & I’ve certainly had my moments(laughs), but over all I don’t have the L.S.D (Lead Singers Disease)
I think that’s why success has kind of escaped me as I’ve not been enough of a dick in my life (laughs)
You’re certainly anything but a dick.
I’m grateful for all your support & your endorsement brother, you’ve certainly planted some seeds in my mind.
I’m very good at planting seeds (laughs)
Well, maybe one day who knows. you’ve been helpful to reaffirm & support my ego (laughs)
Cheers John it’s been great to chat with you.
You too & hopefully see you one day very soon
Check out John Bush & Armored Saint HERE