Like the low rumble of thunder on the horizon, White Wizzard is a strong musical force. As powerful as a lightning strike, White Wizzard garners strength with vocalist Joseph Michael; lead guitarist Jake Dreyer, and guitar player Will Wallner. From pies in the face and sawing guitars, White Wizzard is a surprising band you will want to check out live.
Author Marisa Williams: What is your home town, and is that where you live now?
Will: Hometown is Devon, England. Now I live in Hollywood, California.
Joseph: I was born in UTICA, NY, and I now have residences in both Los Angeles and Las Vegas.
Jake: I am originally from Panama City Beach, Florida, but moved to Los Angeles in September of 2010 to attend school at Musicians Institute.
Marisa: How did you get started in music? Did you come from a musical family? What were your biggest musical influences?
Will: My family is not musical. I got started in music, because someone told me Deep Purple singer Ian Gillan lived in my hometown. I checked them out and was instantly hooked. My biggest influences are Ritchie Blackmore and Gary Moore.
Joseph: I had a guitar when I was very young. My parents’ friend Buddy had a record out with the song “Sneaky Snake” on it. My first serious musical inspiration was Slash’s solo in “November Rain.” I bought a guitar within a month.
Jake: My dad always had music around our house growing up; and occasionally, he would play his Black Stratocaster to Aerosmith tunes, and I thought it was the coolest thing in the world. When I was 8 years old, I heard AC/DC’s “Hells Bells,” and at that moment, I knew I wanted to learn that intro and start playing guitar. My influences have changed throughout the years; however, I am still a huge fan of Jason Becker, Paul Gilbert and Marty Friedman. I would like to start incorporating influences from the Romantic era of music composers like Chopin and Franz Litsz who are complete masters of composition.
Marisa: What instruments do you play, and how old were you when you learned to play them?
Will: I play guitar and started when I was about 16.
Joseph: Give me a week and I can play anything, but right now I focus on Vocals, Guitar, Bass, Percussion and Keys.
Jake: The only instrument I can play is guitar. I am not one of those guys that states that just because I can play guitar, I can play bass, or vice versa. I am still learning how to play the guitar.
Marisa: What was your first concert that you attended, and how did that compare to the first concert that you played?
Will: My first concert was Motorhead in Exeter, England. My first concert was in England when I was 17. We played to about 15 people.
Joseph: First Concert was Kenny Rogers at the Utica Auditorium. We didn’t have a descending platform from ceiling to stage like the gambler that is for sure.
Jake: My old man took me to my first concert when I was around four years old. It was a KISS tribute band called Strutter, and when they came on “Gene Simmons” scared the hell out of me, and I started crying. (No it was not during the song “Tears Are Falling.”) My take at humor, I apologize. Fast forward to 2003, and I am at an Aerosmith and Cheap Trick concert that I actually stayed for the entire thing. When I was 11-years-old, I had a “band” with my friend who played drums. We were the worst thing in the world. Our first show was at a Halloween school dance. I dressed up as Angus Young, and we played the verse and chorus to “Back In Black,” and then it would cut to me doing a solo that was completely out of key. Just imagine that; a guitar solo going nowhere with all sorts of “interesting” note choices and a drum beat that was constantly out of time. We did that probably four times throughout the night. I think afterwards all the chaperones went home and downed a bottle of whiskey. My first real show with a full band was at a Halloween party at my house. We did a ton of cover tunes. Five people were in attendance. Not much has changed since then.
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?
Will: When I write music, I have my way of doing things, but in White Wizzard, I don't write any of the music. I just write my guitar solos, which are usually improvised. For my music, I start with a riff and then work on the chord progressions and melody.
Joseph: My writing process hasn’t changed. I sit somewhere with a piece of paper and write, doesn’t matter where, or with whom, or with what inebriants.
Jake: Usually, it’s either two things; I will sometimes just stumble upon an idea and/or riff just jamming along, and from there, it will slowly spawn other ideas that create the song. Recently, I have been diving into some theory concepts that are influenced highly from the Romantic era of music.
Marisa: What is your favorite musical technique?
Will: Sawing the guitar upside-down on the stage monitor.
Jake: All nerdy guitar techniques that I would spend 8 hours a day on in High School, completely taking me away from any social life. These would include Sweep Picked Arpeggios, Alternate Picking and, of course, Vibrato. As far as on a music theory side, I have recently got into the Neapolitan chord, as well as the Augmented Sixth chord.
Marisa: What's the coolest thing about your latest project, and what can people expect in the future?
Will: The coolest thing is the guitar solos of course!
Joseph: White Wizzard Devil’s Cut? Working with Producer Ralph Patlan. Expect another record soon from Midnight Reign.
Jake: White Wizzard is cool, because it is positive music that has given me a nice palate to completely ruin by trying to show off how many arpeggios or string skipping licks I can throw in. A European tour is set for September 27th-October 22nd, followed by a few select dates on the East Coast, including Rock Harvest II festival on November 7th, and The Studio at Webster Hall in New York City on November 9th.
Marisa: What is the scariest thing about being on the road?
Will: Joseph Michael.
Joseph: Jake Dreyer and “The Brain”!
Jake: Everything is scary about being on the road: the food, lack of sleep, waking up on the wrong side of the highway while you are the one driving.
Marisa: Best or worst tour moment?
Will: The best was when we played in Japan. The treatment was excellent, and the whole experience was very special. The worst was in 2012 when on the last day of the tour, the opening band 'Icarus Witch' put a pie in my face. The cream went all over my guitar and took weeks to clean off.
Joseph: Best Moment? Sold out show in NYC last August. Worst? MONTREAL!
Jake: Best moment was playing to a sold out crowd in Athens, Greece, two nights in a row, topped only by a sold out show in Shibuya, Japan. Those were both incredible experiences. The worst tour moments are sleeping in a van with no A/C in the middle of Arizona in August, running out of gas in the middle of the Canadian mountains, having some crazy Polish driver leave you stranded in Amsterdam with no way to get into the van, having same driver leave you the next show in the van freezing in Uden, two members getting into a screaming match in the middle of Montreal and having the cops called, having a band member be so pissed that he punches out the back window 500 feet from the US border, and finally, losing my passport tops it off.
Marisa: What's your favorite way to travel and why?
Will: Favorite way to travel is on my own. As for why see previous question: 'Scariest thing about being on tour'. Joking he's a nice guy really.
Joseph: I don’t have one. I just love to be on the road.
Jake: Airplane for sure. I can chill out and not have to worry about anything, except for what song I am going to listen to next on my iPod. I have no control over what my fate is at that point. It is up to the pilot if he wants to take us all out or not.
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?
Will: So far my favorite has been Japan. I would really like to go to India, as it’s probably my favorite style of food.
Joseph: I am going to Europe in a few days. That is it. Of course, Japan and Central America as well.
Jake: My favorite place I have toured (well technically one show is not a “tour”) is Japan. Unfortunately, I was only over there for three days but I would go back at any time to do another tour or show. Croatia is a country I would love to visit. The food and scenery look absolutely mind blowing.
Marisa: What's your biggest musical fantasy?
Will: To play guitar on William Shatner’s next album.
Joseph: Having Mozart arrange strings for my next solo record.
Jake: To someday compose something where a kid in his bedroom somewhere would care so much to try and learn it. Or to write a piece where when people hear it they get goosebumps or the hair on their arm stands up.
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?
Will: I would be a blue Unicorn with wings and a golden horn. My special ability would be let people know if they are a robot like in Blade Runner.
Joseph: If I was a Unicorn and could be any color? Black and the power to fly.
Jake: I would be a Bengal-striped unicorn, and my super power would be to transform back into myself. It would be a good marketing tool. When I play onstage there can be a part of the set where I go from human to unicorn. Maybe then people would actually come to our shows.
Marisa: If you were yogurt, would you be mixed fruit, fruit on the bottom, what flavor and why?
Will: I don't eat yogurt except Pinkberry so I would probably be Pomegranate flavored with chocolate sprinkles.
Joseph: Mixed Berries because that is the healthiest choice, though I don’t eat packaged crap like yogurt.
Jake: I would be Plain Greek Yogurt because no one likes me.
Marisa: Describe yourself as a dog, a cat or a cartoon.
Will: I'm a British Bulldog!
Joseph: I can’t.
Jake: Neither. I think I would be a warthog. They seem content living in a world amongst Lions and Hyenas which I think is a perfect metaphor for how I feel in the current state of the music industry.
Marisa: Do you collect anything?
Will: Comics, most specifically the X-Files comics.
Jake: I collected a bunch of music memorabilia for a few years, as well as vinyls, although my collection is pretty standard; nothing too out of the ordinary, as compared to some people’s collections. I do have both Racer X and Cacophony records on Vinyl which is pretty rad.
Marisa: What's your biggest guilty pleasure?
Will: The Real Housewives of Orange County.
Joseph: Touching myself while answering interview questions.
Jake: I am addicted to the Food Network or any show regarding food. I believe they call it “Food Porn;” although, I agree with Anthony Bourdain when he said if “food and sex are together, you are not doing it right.”
Marisa: Do you have any hidden talents or special skills?
Will: I am a master of poaching eggs.
Joseph: I lay it all out there, nothing hidden, though I am a great cook.
Jake: I wish. I am still trying to work on the guitar playing side of things.
Marisa: What's the most important thing to remember?
Will: Serious answer now, for all musicians the most important thing to remember is to learn how to express yourself through your instrument. Don't worry about being famous, because you probably won't be.
Joseph: Don’t forget that this will all be over soon.
Jake: Have fun with music! I do it because my passion for it is so strong and love it dearly that without it I would be miserable. Sure as hell is no money in it. If you want money go to law school.
Marisa: What was your most influential moment?
Will: Hearing Gary Moore for the first time.
Jake: Playing with Chris Broderick at his guitar retreat. We did a cover of Jason Becker’s “Perpetual Burn.” It was a dream come true; although, I made too many mistakes to count. I hope he does not hold it against me.
Marisa: If you were not doing music, what would you be doing?
Will: Probably something to do with Mathematics and Physics.
Joseph: I’d be a baseball player, and if I didn’t make the draft, a constitutional lawyer.
Jake: Psychology. Actually, I say that, but to be honest, I would have to be doing something creative. So, I would probably have studied Journalism with the idea that I would end up being a novelist, having to support my failed attempt at a book by making coffee for guys with beards who wear ski caps in the summer.
Marisa: What are three things you must have with you when you are on the road?
Will: A cell phone, my wife's number and a large amount of patience.
Joseph: My chain belt, my composition book and my laptop.
Jake: Guitar, tons of strings, some type of device for listening to music, so I can escape from the horrors of the evening.
Marisa: Any advice for musicians starting out?
Will: See my answer for most important thing to remember. Also focus on making music you really like. Don't worry about selling out, because you won't make any money either way.
Joseph: You are never good enough. If you think you are, you are wrong, and stupid, and should quit now.
Jake: To quote the great Paul Gilbert: “Practice one thousand hours a day.” If you are not already jamming with people, start playing with some friends or local musicians. Get out and play some shows. Being a rock star in your bedroom can only get you so far. Also, be cool to anyone you meet. Hell, not just in the music industry, but everywhere. That is life advice. There are already too many assholes in this world; please do not be one of them.
Marisa: Where can people find your music?
Jake: The new White Wizzard record “The Devil’s Cut” is out everywhere via Earache records/Century Media. I released an instrumental guitar nerdy type EP, “In the Shadows of Madness” back in 2011 featuring Adam Sagan and Noah Martin on drums and bass respectively. That can be found at the standard online distribution stores i.e., iTunes, CD Baby, Amazon, etc.
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Marisa: Closing thoughts and additional comments?
Will: Can you tell me what your answer would be to the unicorn question? Cheers!
Joseph: … (ellipsis)
Jake: Thank you to everyone for reading through my incoherent ramblings. I hope to see you at some upcoming shows and again, “practice one thousand hours a day.”
The author of more than 100 books, Marisa Williams earned her Master's in Writing at the Johns Hopkins University. For more on Marisa, visit www.lulu.com/spotlight/thorisaz. For more articles by Marisa, visit http://www.examiner.com/tourism-in-detroit/marisa-williams.