John Bush of Armored Saint – Carpe Noctum is Giving Fans our Best Live Performances
Interviewed by Robert Cavuoto
Armored Saint has been delivering their heavy metal mastery around the globe, joining the likes of Saxon, Metal Church – and even Queensryche in November/December 2016 – on the road. In order to capture Armored Saint’s powerful live show the band recorded their 2015 Wacken Festival set as well as their headlining show in Aschaffenburg, Germany. The original intent was to only offer it to the Pledge Music Campaign but after hearing it and feeling the raw energy the band decided to make it a proper release and let everyone have it.
I caught up with John Bush; full time rocker, husband and father to talk about the history behind this release and what lies ahead for the band.
John Bush: We recorded two shows; our 2015 Wacken Festival set and our headlining club show in Aschaffenburg, Germany. They were both great gigs yet different from each other. It was cool to be able to have a different types of musical selections. Aschaffenburg was the longer show and Wacken we were one of 50 bands allowed ten songs in a tent. There was still about 6,000-8,000 people there which was a good gig. The most important things when it comes to live video or audio recording is you can’t get distracted by the fact that you are recording or try too hard to be on your best behavior.
Robert Cavuoto: What’s it like playing in front of that many people at a festival show?
John Bush: What was really amazing was the first time we were scheduled to play Wacken in 2000. I was still in Anthrax and we had just got offered the third slot on the Maximum Rock tour with Motley Crue and Megadeth which would have lasted about 2 ½ months. We had to cancel the Wacken show because of the new tour. We were so bummed. Turns out we ended up leaving the Maximum Rock tour over logistics and financial bullshit. Now our Wacken gig is cancelled and the tour is over. Somehow our agent was able to get us back on Wacken. Another band, Overkill [I think] cancelled and we got their slot which was pretty high up on the bill. We got the Main Stage at 9:30 at night. It was awesome to play the perfect set at the perfect time. It was off the charts. That was probably 30,000 people, now it’s like double or triple.
Robert Cavuoto: Why were there only eight songs on the live CDs? Most live CDs are typically double CDs?
John Bush: That’s one of the complaints we have been getting about this CD that we didn’t have enough materials on it. I completely agree and don’t blame people for feeling that way. It never started out as being a proper release. It was going to be for the people who joined the Pledge Music Campaign. As time went by we said why not put this out for everybody? Only then did it become a proper CD and release. I think Armored Saint is a cool band and sometimes we make mistakes I embrace it because everything usually has to be so fucking perfect nowadays. Were not a flawless band and never will be, so that’s what makes it sound raw, live, and genuine. At the same time you don’t want to put out something that is going to make you cringe when you hear it down the road. The songs on their sound great but I do apologize to the fans who may have wanted to have more.
Robert Cavuoto: Many times live CDs have a lot of overdubs and edits, was that the case with Carpe Noctum?
John Bush: We corrected a couple of things. We didn’t re-record the songs over. Just things you can stand by for the next 30 years. Armored Saint is not a perfect, I’ve said it before that we are like a glorified garage band. That’s where were started and stayed true to the type of music.
Robert Cavuoto: Win Hands Down came out in 2015, are there any plans for a follow-up studio CD?
John Bush: We just got off tour with Queensryche a few weeks ago and we are taking a break. We are gathering ourselves as it was a great run so we haven’t started anything yet. It would be great to make a new CD and I’m extremely proud of Win Hands Down as it may be one of our best. To follow that up is a challenge; we set the bar really high. The next CD would have to be for the right reasons with highest caliber of songwriting for Armored Saint, not for the money. I would like to do something sooner than later. I see the clock ticking and I know I’m not 25 years old anymore. Singing songs like “Last Train Home” would be damn near impossible when I’m 65. [Laughing]. I think there is a slight sense of urgency to do one. We can’t do a CD in the typical Armored Saint manner of every 5-10 years. We would want to move a little quicker than that. The main objective is that we have really good material. That’s the most important reason.
Robert Cavuoto: How have you managed to balance a rock lifestyle and a family life?
John Bush: When I left Anthrax in 2005 we had just had my son. It was perfect timing to take a break from the world of heavy metal and focus on something that was a new priority in my life. As time went on and he got older I wanted to make music again and put that back into my new life which by the way, I’m still figuring it out. It’s not easy. My wife and I are joint parents and both share in the duties of raising our kids with all their activities. Their lives are so much busier than mine. When I tell my wife I’m leaving on tour for four weeks, she wants to hit me in the head with a frying pan [laughing]. I get it and that’s not what we agreed to in 2005 when we had our first child; now we have two. She knows music is important to me and my kids came out on the road for about a week with Queensryche, they loved it. We just try to make it work.
Robert Cavuoto: Are you satisfied with Armored Saint’s place in metal history?
John Bush: I’m a person who has very few regrets in life and would have done some things differently in my career. I don’t look back and say if I had done this or that my whole would have changed. All the guys in Armored Saint have always believed that longevity was the most important thing to us. Here we are 35 years later…with a big break right smack in the middle. When it comes to record sales or number of t-shirts we sold or how much money we have earned never determined our career. There are too many factors out of our control and we learned that early on and first hand. I think the most important thing is focus on the things you can control. To do your best with songwriting, giving fans our best during live performances, and being sincere. I think we have achieved that. There are always things that could be better and different like hearing more Armored Saints on the Sirius Radio channels. Songs like “Last Train Home” and “Reign in Fire” should be all over those stations; more than they are. That’s my slight complaint today. At the end of the day it’s not keeping me up at night, I sleep pretty well.