Mike Vescera and Joe Stump
of The Reign of Terror
Interviewed by Rick
Additional questions by JP
The Reign of Terror recently released their latest CD CONQUER AND
DIVIDE on Leviathan Records. I recently had the opportunity to pose
these questions to both vocalist Mike Vescera and guitar player Joe
new CD is called CONQUER AND DIVIDE. Its a more aggressive CD than 2001s
SACRED GROUND. What accounts for the harder edge to the music?
Mike: It just sort of happened that way. We knew we wanted to make a
heavier more aggressive CD this time out.
Joe: I just let everything flow and see what happens. The tracks for
Conquer and Divide just happen to turn out this way. I didn't have a
particular vision or concept other than I wanted the tunes to be heavy,
fast and quite dark and also have the over the top guitar vibe that all
my solo records do
The CD is getting rave reviews and I have seen it in a number of
top 20 lists of the best CDs of 2002. Are you happy with the way CONQUER
AND DIVIDE came out and how do you feel it compares to SACRED GROUND?
Mike: I am very pleased with the reviews I have seen so far. I am happy the
way it came out, I just think it is a heavier record than Sacred Ground
and much more in your face sounding.
Joe: Well I think with every record you always look back and think
about aspects of it you wish turned out better. But guitar-wise it's
definitely my finest hour. I couldn't be more pleased with my work in
that regard. Sacred Ground had it's moments but it was a bit sterile and
to polished. A lot of the Euro-power metal stuff is all kind of like
that, too generic sounding. I think I was trying a bit too hard to fit
into that niche with Sacred Ground. Conquer and Divide is way more in
One of my favourite songs on the CD is "No Limits". To
me it sounds like an aggressive update of 70s Rainbowesque metal. Was
that a conscious decision or was it merely how the song came out?
Mike: Merely how the song came out. I think the fact the Joe and I are such
big fans of Rainbow (Dio era more so) it really shows in a song like
Joe: Yes that's the Rainbow vibe all the way, any excuse for me to
utilize my obvious Blackmore influences. I made it a bit derivative on
purpose, but just like you said an aggressive speed metal updated
version of Rainbow.
Some of the other great songs on the CD are "Forsaken",
"No Limits" and the title track. Do you have any favourites?
Mike: No, not really. I like them all about the same
Joe: I love those and another favorite of mine is "No
Forgiving", that and "Forsaken" might be the two
best guitar solos I've ever recorded. Just like No Limits has the
Rainbow vibe, No Forgiving is a page right out of Yngwie's book. A nod
to his great influence if you will. To me it sounds like an updated
aggressive version of something you'd hear on Trilogy.
There isn't a cover song on this CD like the last couple of Reign
of Terror discs. Were you working on any in the studio and they just
didn't make the CD or did you guys decide to stay away from a cover for
Mike: Actually, we did 2 covers, both Rainbow tunes, "Sixteenth
Century Greensleeves" and "Starstruck". They are bonus
tracks on the Japanese versions (or at least one of them is (I think).
Joe: There are two covers, just not on the American release. Both
Rainbow (of course) "Starstruck" on the Japanese version, that
was Mike's idea he really wanted to sing that one. I wanted to do Light
in the Black also from Rising but it's a fast tune and just about every
tune of ours on the disc is up tempo. And "16th Century
Greensleeves" for Europe complete with a lengthy guitar intro
that's based on the Live On Stage rendition of that track. That came out
CONQUER AND DIVIDE was released on Leviathan Records while SACRED
GROUND was on LMP. Why isn't LMP involved this time around?
Mike: I am not really sure what happened with LMP. I think it started
getting a bit strange there and we decided it was in out best interest
to no release it with them.
Joe: LMP wanted first release and couldn't put it out until next
year, meaning no one else could release it either. It came out in Japan
in Oct. and the states in Nov.
For the SCARED GROUND CD I interviewed Joe and he seems to be very
passionate about his music with a definite idea about what he wants The
Reign of Terror to sound like. Was it difficult to join a band with a
such an impassioned and meticulous leader?
No, not at all. Joe and I met when I was with Yngwie. We became
friends before anything, so it was quite easy.
You originally were going to only produce SACRED GROUND? But you
ended up as a member of The Reign of Terror. Can you tell us how that
Joe originally asked me to guest on the CD (1 or 2 songs) and record
and produce it with him. As time went on, it just sort of happened that
The production on CONQUER AND DIVIDE is much rawer than on SACRED
GROUND. Was it a conscious decision to move away from the slicker sound
of the last disc?
Yes, we decided early on that we wanted a more raw and aggressive
sounding CD this time. We kept that frame of mind through the whole
recording process. There is really not a ton of overdubs and tracks,
just really straightforward.
How did you get into producing? What other bands besides The Reign
of Terror have you produced?
I have always had a part in the production of every record I've made,
from Obsession, to Loudness to Yngwie. When I left Yngiwie I just got
more serious about producing. I've produced to date: Dr. Sin (Insinity
and II), Ron Keel's Iron Horse, Bobby Blotzer and John
Corabi's Twenty4Seven CD, I mixed Jamie St. James recent CD
(American Man), Crucible (prog band from here in the Northeast) 2
CDs of theirs (Tall Tales and Curtains), of course my solo CDs and I am
presently working on Mike Chlasiak's Pain Museum CD.
How is the creative process different from behind the microphone
as compared to behind the mixing board? Which do you prefer, singing or
I honestly like both about the same. Of course my main thing is being
a singer and there is nothing like playing for people all over the
world. Being behind the desk is a great deal more work, there's much
more to think about (technically and creatively). You have to be very
open minded when working with other artist as well.
Will the band be touring behind this release and if so who will
you be going on the road with?
We may do a few shows here in the Northeast, but we would like to
tour Europe if the right offer comes up.
For the last tour you went out with Steel Prophet and Helstar. How
was that tour and do you feel it raised the profile of The Reign of
That tour was a lot of fun, both of the other groups were very cool
and everyone worked together quite well. I'm not sure if it raised the
profile of the group.
In live situations, do you do any of your solo material or
material from your other bands such as Loudness or Obsession? Or do you
keep strictly to The Reign of Terror material?
Once in a while we will do "Soldier of Fortune" (Loudness),
"Crash and Burn" (Yngwie) or "Strawberry Fields"
(MVP) , but we've never done any Obsession.
You have been one of the premier vocalists in metal for
quite a number of years. To what do you credit your longevity and how do
you keep your voice in tip top shape?
I'm not really sure, I guess I just hang in there and never give up.
I sing quite a bit, I think that's the most important thing for keeping
my voice in shape.
Tell us about Obsession. Have you guys had an offers to reform?
We have had offers, and if the right offer was presented we would
love to make another Obsession CD. I still see Jay Mezias, the
drummer quite a bit and we've spoken about it. The other members would
most likely only guest on the CD but we would try to get them involved
as much as possible.
You were the vocalist for Yngwie Malmsteen for a couple of albums.
The story is that he is a very hard man to work with. What was your
relationship like with Yngwie and would you consider working with him
I am not sure if I would work with Yngwie again. Musically it's quite
easy to work with Yngiwe, it's the outside bullshit that is very
difficult. My relationship with Yngwie at the time I sang with him was
very good. I have not spoken with him in some time so I couldn't really
say for now.
You were also briefly a member of the Japanese band Loudness. Can
you tell our readers how you came about joining that band and what were
the high points of working with them and recording the classic album
SOLDIER OF FORTUNE.?
The co-producer of Soldier (Roger Probert) had approached Enigma
Records (my label at the time) to find a singer for Loudness. They had
auditioned many people and been thru a thousand demos of guys but
weren't happy about any of them. Enigma suggested me for the gig.
Loudness already had known of me and were very interested when they
found out I might be interested in the gig. They flew me to Tokyo for
and audition and the rest is history. The high point of Soldier was
probably the fact that I was singing for Loudness and Max Norman. Max
was a great producer and I learned a lot from him.
On your MVP CD WINDOWS you covered "Strawberry Fields"
which was originally written by the Beatles. Have you thought about
doing an album covering some of your favourite tunes?
Possibly at one point in time that would be cool. I have thought
about it but always seem to be too involved with something else.
Do you have a favourite (or least favourite) project that you have
worked on? And do you have any other projects that you are working on
that you would like to share with the readers of Metal-Rules.com
Not really, all of them are special in some way. I'm just now
releasing my 3rd solo CD The Altar It will released by
Mascot Records in Europe, Avalon in Japan and we're still working on the
States. I will be supporting that this year.
Thanks Mike, If there is anything else you would like to say to
the readers of Metal-Rules.com now is the time!
I would just like to say "Thank You" to everyone who has
supported me through the years and hopefully I'll see on tour this year.
The cover for CONQUER AND DIVIDE is an interesting picture which
seems to be Satan on his throne? Who did the artwork and how does it tie
in with the concept of the album?
Chris Mcarvill did the cover, it's an adaptation of a 16th century
Gustaf Dore painting. I just told him I wanted something very dark and
gothic and pointed him in the right direction.
Your last solo CD 2001: A SHRED ODYSSEY is getting rave reviews.
Do you have any plans to release another instrumental solo CD?
Yes I'll be doing a new full on studio instrumental album to be
released later in 2003. I've got all the music written. It's gonna be
some of the usual totally sick neo-classical and speed metal stuff mixed
with a healthy dose of retro type Hendrix influenced material.
I know you are a big fan of Yngwie Malmsteen. He has just released
his latest CD ATTACK. Have you heard it and what do you think of it?
Yes of course, I think it's a real strong record. Yngwie's been
bringing it since 83-84 and 20 years later his playing still has that
killer instinct. Overall it's a great effort, great tone, heavy tunes
and some killer instrumentals. He's gone back to making darker, heavier
guitar dominated records and as a fan I think it's great.
How did you get your start in the music business?
Ever since I was 15 I've never wanted to do anything else but
play guitar. I grew up in New York played clubs and bars all throughout
high school. After that went to music College at Berklee. After that
toured around in various cover bands working 4-5 nights a week. Then I
was in a metal band Trash Broadway back in 87-90 we were signed then to
Torrid records, they put out the first Exodus and Hades albums. After
that disbanded I started to solicit my solo material to labels myself
and got the deal with Leviathan. And I've been making records ever
since, almost 10 years now.
Your career started to take off in an age of down tuned angst
ridden teen rock and alternative. How did you prevail playing a style
that is commercially unpopular?
I thought all that stuff sounded like shit. Not too many people
were making cool guitar records back then so I guess I started to make
the kinds of albums that as a fan I would've liked to listen to. And as
it turned out there were quite a few people who still wanted to hear
great guitar even during that period of alterna-crap.
Do you listen to or admire other shredders in the guitar world,
artists like Michael Angelo or Dr. Frankenshred?
Both Mike and the good Dr. Frankenshred are both monster players. And
there are a ton of great shredders and I've heard quite a few of them.
But when I go to listen to guitar it's usually one of my favorite
players that I'll put on -Blackmore, Hendrix, Yngwie, Michael Schenker,
Uli Jon Roth, Gary Moore. I've been listening to all those guys for over
20 years now.
For all the guitarists out there can you tell us a bit about your
I have an ESP endorsement. They've built me five custom shop Strats
and those are my main guitars. They have scalloped fretboards, locking
tuners, Dimarzio pickups, alder bodies and are real nice incredibly well
made guitars. Amp wise I have a ton of old Marshalls, mostly 50 watt
Mark II`s from the 70`s .I also use an Engl Ritchie Blackmore signature
model head (great sounding amp). I've recently got an endorsement with
Rhino amplification and I'm using one of their amps called The
Beast, another great sounding amp. Effects include an old dod 250
preamp, dunlop cry baby and roto-vibe, a old Korg sdd 3000 digital delay
and an array of Boss stompboxes, chorus, flanger, delay and octave box.
A more detailed equipment setup is listed in the gear section of Joe
Steve Vai, Paul Gilbert, Dave Mustaine and many other guitarists
have a signature series guitar. Do you have or have you thought about
having a signature series guitar line?
JOE STUMP: Well the last guitar ESP built me was one they called the
Joe Stump custom S. And many fans have emailed me asking if they would
make a production model, but I think I'd have to be selling a lot more
records before that happens.
What made you want to form a band? With your solo career I assume
you would have more flexibility and creative control?
Well I have just as much control over the band as I do my solo
projects. One's just with vocals as opposed to instrumental.
Is there anything else you would like to say to the readers of
Just a sincere thanks to all the fans who've supported my past
efforts and please check out Conquer and Divide, if you love guitar then
I'm sure you'll really enjoy it.