With the release of their new album, Don Chaffin, the lead vocalist of Voices of Extreme will Break the Silence on working with Dan Spitz of Anthrax in a side project that is produced by Dave Mustaine of Megadeth. Voices of Extreme is comprised of Chaffin, bassist Bob Brennan, guitarist Nick Gertsson, and drummer John Cappadona, each with a talented history that varies from working with musicians in Iron Maiden, to Yngwie Malmsteen, Black Sabbath, Great White, Thin Lizzy, KISS, and Steel Heart. In support of their album Break the Silence, Voices of Extreme will go on tour; Break the Silence will be available October 29th, and Voices of Extreme will soon be rolling through the area.
Author Marisa Williams: It says your home town is Huntington, NY; is that where you grew up and still live now?
Don Chaffin, lead vocalist for Voices of Extreme: I grew up in the South Shore, Lindenhurst, NY, same island, but we just went on the North Shore and set home base up there.
Marisa: How did you get started in music? Did you come from a musical family? What were your biggest musical influences?
Voices of Extreme: When I first got into music, I think basically, I'd sit and watch shows. Midnight Special was one of them, way back, with Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard, and Chuck Berry. I was infatuated and mesmerized with them, then KISS and Led Zeppelin. I'm not so much from a musical family. My mom sings a little, but I'm the musical pioneer of the family. I got a guitar at age 14, and I started in the industry as a guitar player first. I wanted to be like Ace Frehly, and I got to play on his album later on. The Arion guitar I remember very well, played all the frets off.
Marisa: Do you play any other instruments?
Voices of Extreme: I've been playing guitar and piano since I was a kid, vocals came later, when my band lost its vocalist. I was singing in the background, and I was asked to come from the background to lead. In studio, I play many instruments, but my main are vocals, guitar and piano.
Marisa: What was your first concert that you attended, and how did that compare to the first concert that you played?
Voices of Extreme: Was it Ted Nugent? Might have been. Watching that energy on stage was fascinating. The first concert I played was not as thrilling, a bar of some sort, but that first big concert I played, you could feel that childhood dream coming true within yourself, so it was a great feeling.
Marisa: How do you go about writing music? What comes first for you: drums, guitars, vocals or something else? Has the process of writing changed for you over the years at all?
Voices of Extreme: As far as writing music, it comes from various inspirations. It could be personal, emotional; it's multifaceted as far as inspiration. What comes first is a common question for all of us, and I ask people I look up to, so I'll say what they say. It varies from song to song. It could be a melody you're humming that you put words to, or it could be something you wrote that stands out as a song title or something. I think the more affluent I come in my instruments, the more diverse the could be a new scale on a guitar, new melody or strong structure, changes as you progress in your own instruments.
Marisa: What is your favorite musical technique?
Voices of Extreme: Technique on the vocals is to hit some of the higher notes and incorporate the gritty with it. I find myself, even just at sound check, showing the guys a little gas and horse power.
Marisa: Going back to your days in Red Lamb, how did you get hooked up with Dan Spitz from Anthrax and Dave Mustaine of Megadeth?
Voices of Extreme: Those days are not so distant; it's a long, story short. Danny produced Voices of Extreme in 2004. Two or three years ago, he called me up, and he was looking for a singer for his new band. We fly to his dear friend's house, Dave, and started recording. I'll tell ya, Marisa, to sit with those kinds of legends and work that close on the project was quite fascinating. I got a chance to tour with Danny, seven weeks in the central part of America, and every single minute was a learning experience. It's something to treasure going down the road in music history.
Marisa: What's the coolest thing about your latest project, and what can people expect in the future?
Voices of Extreme: The coolest thing is that we've been around for nine years, so it's very dear to me. We have our first USA release, on Smash-Mouth Records, which is distributed by Sony Red. It will be our first tour in America, so that's very special for us. We've been together nine years, and we've been playing festivals, or one offs, or whatever it may be, but this is extremely exciting; because, it's an actual tour with dates playing six nights a week or something like that.
Marisa: What is the scariest thing about being on the road?
Voices of Extreme: Lack of control. I would have to say who's driving, where are they taking us, when are we getting there, and when do we get to eat? I'm a control freak, so that's why that's the scariest.
Marisa: Best or worst tour moment?
Voices of Extreme: As far as best, I think one of my most memorable moments was having the chance to open up for Foreigner. I was playing with my dear friend, Larry Meyer, at the Westbury on Long Island; it was their 25th Anniversary Tour. I remember being on sound check, and I looked down at the set list, which was taped to stage, and I realized it was Foreigner's set list. I was looking down, and every, single song is a major smash hit. These were songs that I grew up listening to; I was wowed by the experience. It's pretty cool sharing the same stage with gentlemen that you've been listening to for so long. It's all good stuff.
Marisa: What's your favorite way to travel and why?
Voices of Extreme: As we discussed, I am a control freak, so I like to drive: it's hypnotic, relaxing, and that's when song melodies come to mind. I try to drive any time I get a chance, whether it's with family, friends, or the ban. “I'll, drive. I'll drive;” you'll hear that out of me quite often.
Marisa: What's your favorite place to travel to, and is there anywhere you have not been to that you would like to go to?
Voices of Extreme: My wife and I got a chance to go to London, England, and Tokyo to do some music videos, and it was fascinating. Those two are on top. I love London, but Tokyo was jaw dropping. I wanted to go to Paris, but I didn't get a chance. That, or Italy would be next.
Marisa: Oh, Italy is great. I went to the Johns Hopkins University Writing Conference in Florence, Italy, and if you ever visit the Tuscany region, if you get a chance, there's a place you have to check out. I don't know if you're into things like this or not, but maybe your wife is: it's the Boboli Gardens in Florence, Italy. It used to be the gardens for the Royal Palace, and they still keep it up today. It was actually the inspiration for some of the layout in the Longwood Gardens, located near Philadelphia. The place is just breathtaking. I'm not sure if you're into things like that, but it's worth checking out.
Voices of Extreme: I am definitely into things like that. Personally, Italy would be on top for me, but Paris is so romantic, I'd love to see it, too.
Marisa: What's your biggest musical fantasy?
Voices of Extreme: I would have to say either sharing stage, or having conversation, with Robert Plant, Jimmy Page and Paul McCartney. Just hanging out, singing, including Elton John in the mix, talking of Eddie Mercury, God bless. Most of my influences are English it seems.
Marisa: I have three personality questions that I ask everyone. They might sound like hogwash, but I promise, there is a psychological basis to the answers ;-) First, if you were an unicorn, and you could be any color but white, what color would you be and would you have any special powers?
Voices of Extreme: Black, and the ability to make people smile at any given time.
Marisa: If you were yogurt, would you be mixed fruit, fruit on the bottom, what flavor and why?
Voices of Extreme: I'm absolutely a mixed bunch with nuts, and I have to be served chilled.
Marisa: Describe yourself as either a dog, a cat or a cartoon.
Voices of Extreme: I'd have to say a German Shepard, extremely loyal. You don't want to mess with me, or my owner. I'd know what's going on, be in touch with my surroundings at all times.
Marisa: Do you collect anything?
Voices of Extreme: My wife says I collect guitars, because they're all over the place. I collect guitars, but I have endorsements, and play a lot of different styles. That and Apple products.
Marisa: What's your biggest guilty pleasure?
Voices of Extreme: Chocolate. We do a Hershey trip every year with the family. It's in the fridge right now, ready to eat.
Marisa: Do you have any hidden talents or special skills?
Voices of Extreme: Not hidden; I try to put them out there as much as I can. We shoot our own videos, and we have our own video company, doing graphic arts and things like that with Bobby.
Marisa: Bobby is from Boca, right? I think he actually may have known my ex, Matty Sullivan. He was a drummer, originally from New York, did L.A. in the 80s, and spent the latter part of his life in southern Florida, though he is dead now.
Voices of Extreme: Oh, I'm sorry to hear. What did you say his name was? Matty? I'm texting him right now to see.
Marisa: Yeah. I'm not sure if he had introduced us, or just talked about him in passing, but when I saw his name, that light clicked on inside of my head, like ah, I think they may have known each other. I'm thinking something like 2004-ish, maybe somewhere off the wall like the Ugly Mug in Del Ray Beach, or something. I'm thinking it was around the time I covered the first Jam Cruise for High Times. Matty used to play a lot with this dude named Rosco Martinez; I forgot if he was on like Columbia or Universal Records, but something like that.
Voices of Extreme: He just texted me back. He not only knew Matty, but he actually played with him a few times. He said Matty had played in that band Bologna Sandwich.
Marisa: Yup, that's the one. Small world; I just knew they knew each other. Anywhoodles, getting back to the questions, this next one is pretty basic. What's the most important thing to remember?
Voices of Extreme: Family and the loyalty of that family.
Marisa: What was your most influential moment?
Voices of Extreme: I would have to say, in regard to music, would be watching the Midnight Special with Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis and Chuck Berry; at that point, it clicked like, “hey, I want to do that.” My parents were into the 50s, all the music, and I just remember being mesmerized, the energy.
Marisa: I can feel you on that energy. I remember when I went to the opening concert for the Rock N' Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, OH. When Little Richard took the stage, he had so much energy that he actually startled me. I literally jumped out of my seat. I could only imagine the three of them. Getting back to you though, if you were not doing music, what would you be doing?
Voices of Extreme: I'd be doing something creative in regard to photography or video.
Marisa: What are three things you must have with you when you are on the road?
Voices of Extreme: Toothbrush, let's see, toothpaste and my microphone, because I won't share my mic with anyone else on stage. I won't even share a glass with my wife, so as soon as I come off stage, my microphone goes in my pocket.
Marisa: Any advice for musicians starting out?
Voices of Extreme: It's a great business, and it's competitive. You don't have to have all the answers at the beginning. You'll know if you want it deep down. Do it because you love it, and if you want to do it professionally, watch the people you admire and always keep focused on the dream. The dream started, because of love of the art or the field. There will be ups and downs, but the initial spark will carry you through.
Marisa: Where can people find your music?
Marisa: Closing thoughts and additional comments?
Voices of Extreme: I want to thank you for the interview and for letting everyone know that we're excited to see them when we are on the road, starting on Oct. 29.
The author of more than 100 books, Marisa Williams earned her Master's in Writing from the Johns Hopkins University; for more on Marisa, visit www.lulu.com/spotlight/thorisaz.