March 12 was a big day in the Adrenaline Mob camp for three reasons. First, the group featuring Symphony X vocalist Russell Allen, Sonic Stomp guitarist Mike Orlando, former Dream Theater drummer Mike Portnoy and Disturbed bassist John Moyer released Coverta, an eight-song EP of cover tunes ranging from somewhat obscure to well-known tracks -- all originally done by some of rock and metal's most famous musicians.
Secondly, March 12 marked The Mob's tour kickoff in New Haven, Conn., with San Antonio's Nothing More opening the first leg. The tour stops at Backstage Live this Saturday (details and related coverage at bottom). Adrenaline Mob came to San Antonio twice within a 40-day span last spring. That included a performance at the Rampage hockey game, where I interviewed Allen, Orlando and Moyer (click here).
Coverta, a strictly-for-fun follow-up to original debut album Omerta, starts with Orlando channeling his inner Jake E. Lee on Badlands' "High Wire." From there, it's a tribute to Ronnie James Dio with "Stand Up And Shout," followed by The Doors' "Break On Through," Van Halen's "Romeo Delight," Heart's "Barracuda," Rainbow's "Kill The King," Led Zeppelin's "The Lemon Song" and the Dio era of Black Sabbath on "The Mob Rules." Fans in each city of the tour can go to Adrenaline Mob's Facebook page to vote for the two cover tunes they want to hear live.
And the third reason? It was the day Orlando and I spoke by phone to discuss all going on in The Mob's world:
Hi Mike, How are you?
How's it going, Jay? Good to hear from you.
Good to hear you. Thanks for taking the time.
It's my pleasure.
It's great talking to you. First time since the hockey game last April.
Yeah, that was definitely a great time.
Congratulations on Coverta. I know you guys have a lot going on with that and the tour kicking off tonight. I've been listening to it for about a week now.
It's a real fun blend of hard rock and metal that you guys seem to be having a lot of fun with.
Yeah, it's a kick-ass collection of some real classics that got us going, and still going. Gets the blood boiling, you know?
Q: The mixture of songs you have on there -- was that a conscious effort, or was the emphasis simply on covering tunes you guys enjoyed and were influenced by?
A: There was no preconceived, "Let's make this one sound heavy, let's make this one sound more like rock." None of that. That's just us playing those songs, and it's just the way it came out. We didn't rehearse it. We didn't do anything. We walked in the studio, in my Sonic Stomp studios, and we just pressed "record," and we went for it. The stuff on the album is like, maybe first or second take. Boom. Done. It was like a record time. We did it in 18 days. Tracked the whole album. I mixed it and mastered it and handed it in. Done.
Q: Was there one song that was most challenging, and if so, why?
A: You know, I don't think any were so much of a challenge. I think we took it on as just something fun. I love "Break On Through." It's one of my favorites, because it's the one song on the album that we actually made it our own. You know, in a lot of aspects. There's a really slammin' lead break where me and Portnoy just go off. Double-bass/guitar stuff. Kind of like an Adrenaline Mob-ish type vibe that we threw into it. I think it came out great, and it shows that we just had fun with the songs.
Q: I'm wondering if you're friends with, or acquaintances of, (guitarist) Jeff Waters from Annihilator. They covered "Romeo Delight" in 2010. Have you heard that version, or were you aware of it?
A: No! I did not hear that. I'd love to hear that. An incredible song. You know, when Mike threw out "Romeo Delight" to me, it's like, anything with Eddie and David Lee Roth is Holy Grail territory.
Well, I do like your version, and I like theirs, but if I had to give the edge to one, yours has the nice "Top Jimmy" touch at the end.
Ahhhh! (Laughs) There's I think five songs within that one song. We actually livened it with a little treat we do at the end to make it six now, so . . . (laughs)
Q: Was it difficult for Russell to do a song with female vocals in "Barracuda" as far as striking a balance between keeping the original sound but also putting his own spin on it?
A: You know, that's one good thing about Russell. Russ puts on a different hat for each song. He seems to be able to channel any singer, and nail it, yet at the same time, he still sounds like Russell Allen. It's a very strange thing. He has absolutely an amazing voice, and he could do so much with it. Same with me on the guitar. It was an honor and a blast to put on so many hats and pay tribute to so many great musicians.
Q: Give me a sense of the band's outlook and mood as the tour kicks off tonight as far as where things are headed.
A: Oh, we're psyched. We're having a ball. I'm just hanging here in the back lounge. We're just all chilling out, going over the tunes, really psyched about getting out there and hitting it really hard. Not just this tour but the whole year. This is definitely the year of The Mob. The albums are great, and they came out great -- Omerta and Coverta -- but this band lives and breathes on stage live, and that's where we feel each other. It just comes to life.
Q: That includes next Saturday here at Backstage Live. Do you have any special memories of San Antonio or favorite things to do here?
A: One of the greatest Mexican restaurants -- Mi Tierra. It's incredible! Me and Russ have been there plenty of times. I love San Antonio. Last time, me and Russ just walked around everywhere and enjoyed the place. It's beautiful. We love it. Cannot wait to come back there.
Q: San Antonio's Nothing More is opening the first leg of the tour. What do you know about them? Did you hear any of their material before they were selected?
A: Yeah, I mean, I don't know much about the history. But of course I've heard the band, and I think they're going to add something really cool to the show. Definitely playing in their hometown, it's going to be great. They're going to blow the roof off of Backstage Live.
Q: I have a couple of questions from my social media readers. Steve from San Antonio sings in Destruction Evolution, which opened for you guys last May. He says you are "obviously an underrated guitarist." Why do you think that is?
A: I don't know if I'd say underrated. I think maybe just unknown is what I get from a lot of people. And then when they experience it, they get it. I'm from a different world. The instrumental whole rock and shredder thing. I spent a lot of my time overseas in China and Japan and done a lot of stuff over there touring for my albums Sonic Stomp I and II. As far as the rock context, I'm definitely one of those guys on the block. So I hear more unknown than underrated. But it's a pleasure for me just to be out here making music for everybody. Hopefully everybody enjoys it. That's what it's all about.
I think what he was getting at was anytime people discuss the best guitarists, the usual suspects come up. Maybe he was saying your name needs to come up more often.
Oh, that's cool, and I very much appreciate that. In due time. But that's a pleasure.
Q: Joe from San Antonio wants to know if the band prefers having the artistic freedom to create the type of music you like and the ability to do an all-covers album, or the backing and the money that comes with a major label but losing some of that creative freedom?
A: I think we've had complete creative freedom. Omerta was 1,000 percent written by myself and Russell Allen. There wasn't an ounce of music that we had to worry about. Coverta wasn't about creative freedom. It was kind of thrown at us by our new management and our new team surrounding Adrenaline Mob, which is incredible. It's why we're doing so much stuff this year. We maintain 100 percent creative freedom with the writing with me and Russ. That would not change with the label that we were on, if that's what he's going for. Hopefully I answered your question.
Q: What is the progress of the follow-up album, and will you be playing new original material on tour?
A: No. We have two albums. We are fully supporting Omerta still. We have (Duran Duran cover) "Come Undone" on radio out now with a very special, amazing, Grammy award-winning artist, and the fans know who she is (Halestorm singer/guitarist Lzzy Hale). And if not, go check out Omerta, and you'll find out who. And we have Coverta that we're pushing 100 percent too. So there is way too much material to cover at this point in one show. You're talking over 20 songs. So no, no (new original) material, but I have tons of stuff raring to go, and me and Russell will be hitting that soon. This year is going to be all about still supporting Omerta and Coverta.
Q: Well, Mike, it's always a pleasure talking to you, and I wish you guys the best of luck with the tour kicking off tonight and of course coming here next week. Best of luck with Coverta. You know you guys are always welcome in San Antonio. Do you have any final words for those who might be thinking of coming out to the show?
A: Yeah! First off, thank you for having me. It was a pleasure. Always love talking to the San Antonio fans, and you guys kick ass. I hope you all come out, and come hang with The Mob that night. Support Coverta, go get it. Go get Omerta, and let's blow the damn roof off of Backstage Live and have a night to remember.
- WHO: Adrenaline Mob with Nothing More, Top Dead Center, Last We Fall
- WHEN: Saturday, March 23
- WHERE: Backstage Live (1305 E. Houston St.)
- TICKETS: $16-$20, click here
- OF NOTE: For more of the SAMME's Adrenaline Mob and Nothing More coverage, click on the "suggested" links in blue below. For a review of the March 13 show by New York Hard Rock Music Examiner Elliot Levin, click here.
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