Armored Saint rolled into Belfast last night and brought with them all their 35 years of class and experience as they ripped their way through an energetic and enigmatic set at the Limelight Belfast. The night was kicked off by Northern Irelands premier metal band Sinocence with an all out, high intensity performance to set the bar. Moro, Anto, Jim and Ben gave it hell for leather to warm up a packed house that was there to rock!
Rock it did, by the time Armored Saint hit the stage the energy in the room was palpable and could have lifted the roof off the floor, now it all got serious. I interviewed John Bush two weeks prior to the tour starting. So I was really looking forward to seeing the man himself do what he does best, living it up loud and proud on stage. A voice from the metal history books honouring this humble Belfast stage. The guys stride up with a roar from the crowd, with a twinge of feedback and a rake of the guitar we’re off! The set gets kicked off with ‘Win Hands Down’ high energy, high impact to get the already savage crowd baiting for blood.
‘March Of The Saint’ follows and as John rushes from side to side pumping with energy, Phil, Joey and Jeff throwing themselves around in the mix, the crowd feeding of their full on industrious performance. ‘Nervous Man’ kicks in with a mighty roar, a crowd favourite obviously and a classic from this seasoned band. John takes the time to address the crow and remind them that is only their second time playing I front of this delirious gathering, “We don’t care it’s a fucking school night, we’re gonna rock!”
‘Exercise In Debauchery’ from the ‘Win Hands Down’ album reminds us that Armored Saint aren’t just about the classics here, they’re still ripping it up with the best of them with a high quality studio albums even today 35 years on. Its fair to say these guys have done it all and seen it all, from the crazy hay days of metal back in the late 80’s and early 90’s when these guys already rolled out 3 studio albums and been dropped by 25! These guys have been playing with the biggest names in rock and metal history for decades, bringing the noise worldwide to millions reinforcing their quality and longevity, as they only know how, one song at a time.
Time has no meaning at a gig like this; the 90-minute set flies by song by rock as we watched the guys thrash out a lifetime of song writing in our home town. But every single person who attended that gig in Belfast last night will not forget it anytime soon. As John himself told me “ You may not get a flawless performance, but you’ll get an honest and authentic one” and we definitely got that, the guys were dripping in sweat with the aggressive and dynamic performance. No holes barred here, no quarter given it was as pure and personal experience and you’ll see from a band live.
All the greats were played and of course the crowd favourites like ‘Last Train Home’, ‘Aftermath’ and of course ‘Reign Of Fire’ leaving their fans delirious and fulfilled.By the time the guys finally walked off the stage the venue was bouncing and filled with an ecstatic, devoted and jubilant crowd gasping for more. It was another fine show put on by the Distortion Project in Belfast, keeping the metal scene alive and well which is greatly appreciated by both touring bands and their fans alike. The guys now move onto the UK from Ireland for a bespoke set of dates, I urge you to get yo asses off yo seats and embrace this historic band.
Interview with John Bush prior to the tour – Gentleman and a scholar and I’d like to thank him for taking the time to chat to us here @RnL.
RnL – So John, Armored Saint formed back in 1982, 35yrs ago now it must surprise even yourself that after all these years you’re still pounding the pavements doing your thing with the gang ?
JB – “We always aimed for longevity, you never really know how much success you’re gonna have in the entertainment industry or the arts in general as there are so many factors, but you just have to focus on what you do have control over and thats the most important thing. Quality control over the things you do have in your own hands and the longevity will follow, a great this is that its with the original bunch of guys too and we really take pride in that.”
RnL – Who were your influences back then in the 80′s who pushed you to start your own band?
JB – We were really influenced by UK & European bands, Judas Priest, Sabbath, UFO & Thin Lizzy. They helped make ourselves sound different from the other LA bands on the scene at the time.
RnL – Would Americans look overseas for influence rather than on their doorstop, as I know a lot of Irish & UK kids are heavily influenced by US sounds etc?
JB – There were a lot of great bands locally at that time, Ratt, Wasp, Steeler etc but we didn’t want t replicate that LA sound, don’t get me wrong we were as much influenced by US bands like Aerosmith and Ted Nudgent Etc but also the likes of the Commodores and Earth Wind and Fire as well as hard rock.
RnL – The 1980′s scene in LA must have been a crazy time for a young metal band like yourselves?
JB – Yeah it was, being part of a scene creates a movement. I think a lot of times something is missing somewhere, one of the last great movements was in Seattle, it was a movement of a city. You can look at Sabbath and Priest from Birmingham and the other UK bands of the 80′s like Motorhead, Maiden and Saxon and you could also say that was a movement. So that was definitely something LA had, then you also had the negative connotations along with that with its hockey cock rocky side which weren’t maybe the most integrity driven style out there, but there were a lot of killer players and killer bands too, so we were really proud to have been part of that movement and scene at that time for sure.
RnL – So you guys recorded your 1st album in 1984 – Only 2 years after forming – that was some achievement, what was the catalyst ?
JB – We were a local band, Pasadena, East St Gabriel Valley certainly not a mecca for Rock although Van Halen were from here! We mostly came from El Sorino and we had a lot of friends from our peer group and we’d ask them to come to our shows, “It’ll be crazy etc” and we’d make it seem to be a more grandiose event that maybe it actually was. So we owe a lot to our friends and family at that time for helping us create a buzz around the band, it created a domino effect and it gave us a aurora around Armoured Saint and thats kinda how it all started.
RnL – What was that experience like for you guys then – 19 or 20 years of age recording your 1st album ?
JB – It was great! Our 1st recording experience was of the EP initially and I can remember we arrived late, stopped off for a keg or two of beer, honey oil and score some hash to help drag out every second of this experience of being in a studio. We used Track Record Studio which has long since gone now but moved elsewhere, it was awesome we were so young, just kids and I think some of us even fell asleep during cutting, but there was just something magical about the whole experience. If you listen to those 1st five songs it was live n’ gritty, there was just a vibe about it which kickstarted our whole career. I always say some of our best time were when we didn’t have a band manager or a record company to worry about, we were just doing it all in more of a grass roots / organic way. But hey you mature and you get yourself a booking agent, a manager and you kinda need these things if you wanna grow and be more than just a local band which we certainly didn’t want to be.
RnL – So 1984-87 you guys released consistent studio albums and started touring – It must have been an exciting time for you all?
JB – It was for sure, we just finished ‘March of The Saint’ and went out on tour with Quiet Riot and Whitesnake in the Fall of 84, we were playing arenas and it was an amazing time for us, especially playing with Whitesnake, they had just release the Slid it In record and to see Coverdale, John Sykes, Cozy Powell up close it was just awesome, we were just kids and here we were playing arenas.
RnL – Around this time then you also moved back from Chrysalis to Metal Blade once again, What prompted this?
JB – We got dropped, we had 3 records done under the age of 25, it was a funny time cos we were fearful of our futures for sure but I crack up now laughing as most bands only start to make it at 25 yet we had 3 albums, toured and been dropped. We really shouldn’t have panicked at all, we went back to Metal Blade where we should have stayed, but who knows what would have been if we stayed, I guess it was all part of the journey of Armored Saint.
RnL – Sadly in 1990 you lost one of your members Dave Prichard, that must have been a difficult time for the band?
JB – Yeah for sure, it was one of the toughest times we had to endure as a band. More so for Dave as he had to live with it, he had succumbed to Lukemia and at least now you have more of a fighting chance, better opportunities for survival but back then it pretty much was a death sentence. He went through a lot to try find a suitable match for a bone marrow transplant but to no avail and eventually lost the battle, so it was a pretty awful time.
RnL – It sounds awful, it must have left you guys with some pretty hefty decisions to make at that time?
JB – Yeah it was, we had already recorded tracks for ‘Symbol Of Salvation’ and looking back on it, releasing it was the right thing to do. To put it out there was kinda of a phoenix rising from the flames moment for us, cos we weren’t sure it was gonna happen. Dave wrote the bulk of the tracks so we had to do it, get it out there and still today it was one of our most emotional albums. As I’ve said before it was all part of the road we had to take as a band.
RnL – Shortly after Armoured Saint disbanded & you joined Anthrax, how would you sum up your time in Anthrax?
JB – Great! We had some incredible times together and made some incredible albums, all the tours we did together and all n’all I was in the band for about 13yrs so it was a big part of my life, we made 4 studio albums too which are great in their own way. Im really proud of that time and of course like any band there are up’s and downs but nothing more that any other band goes through and towards the end when Joey Belladonna rejoined, I feel that was probably the right decision for the band.
RnL – So between the time Anthrax and yourself had wrapped up there was a gap between the arrival of ‘La Razza’ what was the delay?
JB – Life, I guess everybody was just busy living their lives, I run a family business with my wife running a casting agency, writing songs, we kinda work at our pace which is slightly a snails pace. I joke about that but the reality is time is not on our side anymore, I’m 53 years old now and I’m aware of my age. How long can I get up on stage and sing ‘Reign Of Fire’ which I started singing in my 20′s. Im conscious that whilst there is a sense of urgency to get new music out, quality is 1st and foremost on my mind. Armoured Saints philosophy is write the best material and when we have enough material release and album, its nice to release new music but the reality of it is we are a 35 yr old band so we don’t have to do that. We honestly want to make records that will stand the test of time, after all they will be around a lot long than us.
RnL – Do you feel as a band of 35yrs you have to work harder now to get your music out to your audience?
JB – It’s where we are now, I don’t know what it would be like to be in a band now at 25 trying to get our music out on various platforms. Im old school and this is all i know and I’m happy with that. People long for nostalgia, so were seeing bands form the 80′s and god even the 70′s now making a resurgence, people still care and I’m grateful for that. Man I’m so un-computer savvy, I don’t have Facebook but thats a choice, and I’ve managed to keep some of my private life my own which I like to do.
RnL – So john, Whats your thoughts on the industry today with its digital age and immediacy for pumping out music?
JB – It’s a new world, People gotta do what they gotta do to get their stuff out there now, I still do it old school on the ground busting my balls and theres till a lot of sincerity from Armoured Saint in our performances for sure.
RnL – You recently released your 2nd Live Album – ‘Carpe Noctum’- I guess for a band like Armored Saint live is what its all about?
JB – Absolutely! Thats how Armored Saint’s bread is buttered. What you see if what you get, I’ve said it before what you see if what you get, it’ll never be a flawless performance but you’ll get something authentic, thats why we made the live album to capture just that.
RnL – Your UK/IRELAND Tour is just around the corner, you must be looking forward to that?
JB – It’s gonna be great to play all these places we haven’t played before, Dublin, Birmingham etc all our heres come from these places, Thin Lizzy, Sabbath, Zepplin, so its going to be awesome to come to these cities and rock out.
RnL – Do you have a message for your Irish and British Fans coming to the shows?
JB – Thanks for all the love and support over the years, everyones real excited and we always appreciate the loyalty. We’re gonna come give you guys a great show and we’ll see you all in a couple of weeks!
RnL – I was watching the Reign Of Fire video circa 1991 – I hardly recognised you! Do you miss the aul hair?
JB – Laughing – I do at times, being in a metal band you kinda miss the locks from time to time but I’ve accepted my new streamline look, tho a little hair wouldn’t go a miss, funny tho my wife said if I still had it she wouldn’t be with me!
RnL – One final question John, If you ran into a 23yr old John Bush what sage advice would you have for him?
JB – I would say follow your heart, your heart, your soul. When it comes to music that’ll give you the right answers you need so thats what Id tell that person. Also have some bravado, have some balls! Do things your way, be original and I’m sure that person of 23 would say the same thing to me at 53 so that would be a pretty ironic conversation.
I wanna thank John Bush for taking the time to chat to us here at Rock n’ Load and wish the guys all the best for their upcoming tour!
20th DUBLIN – Voodoo Lounge
21st BELFAST – Limelight 2
23rd HAMMERFEST @ Hafan Mor Goliday Park
24th MANCHESTER – Rebellion
25th BIRMINGHAM – O2 Institute 3