Interview With Johnny Stoj of Pegazus
Interview By EvilG, Transcription By Joel
– The Headless Horseman –
What inspired you to name the album The Headless Horseman? Was it the story, or was it a movie like “Sleepy Hollow” or something like that?
Well, the song itself was basically written from inspiration from watching the movie Sleepy Hollow. Myself personally being one of the main writers in the band, I’ve always basically had a lot of inspiration to write songs from movies. I’ve done that on basically all our albums. I just thought it was a really cool idea, and it also gives a good opportunity to another great idea for an album cover. It worked like that pretty well, we got a pretty good song out of it and a pretty cool album cover, Haha!
The album came out in March, yet there doesn’t seem to have been a lot of activity since the release. I was wondering if you’ve done any tour dates in Australia and has it been hard getting on a world tour?
Well we actually did an album launch for the release in Australia back in April, but we’re still not satisfied with the fact we haven’t done enough touring for the album because we really want to try and go with all avenues for it, because it’s getting great feedback from everywhere basically. Better than any of our albums prior. So we intend to be doing a lot more promotion and work in regard to this album in the next six to nine months, during which we’re going to start playing a lot more shows here in Melbourne in November. Then we’re possibly going to be doing a national tour of the east coast of Australia, in like January, early February. Then there’s a possibility for us to go to Japan in March for a one week tour or something, and we’ll also probably be going to New Zealand, which is a country off of Australia on the east coast. And at the moment we’re negotiating a possible appearance at some festivals in Europe, where we’ll also do some club shows within Europe, if that all turns out. You know, we’ll work to plan I guess. We’ve done a lot of promotion for the album quite a few months ago, a lot of them were interviews like this, and the feedback and everything has been fantastic so we’re pretty happy with it.
Well I think it’s the best album you’ve done so far, so I’d like to know , has the album been your best selling album so far?
Ummm, probably not because of the fact our record label really promoted the hell out of us when we first signed to them. And what the record labels usually do, they get excited about a new band and that first release is basically going to get a real big push. But our previous albums, the last two, have had pretty low key sort of promotion, so it may not have been as great as “Wings of Destiny” back in ’98. They’ve been pretty good, but when your label is only releasing albums in Europe and not pushing it for release in America or Canada or South America or Japan, then you really are starting to struggle I guess. Those are things we’re trying to overcome at the moment, we’re trying to find a label in the US basically.
That’s what I was going to ask. You are hoping to release it in these other countries like North America.
Yeah well, I mean the album is available basically anywhere in the world, but you have to order it, and I really don’t like the idea of fans having to pay a really high price to get their album as an import from Germany or wherever, it’s ridiculous. The label has an office already established in the US, and really they should have made a decision to release it in the US. They did it with “Wings of Destiny” and it was considered quite a reasonable success because it did sell quite a number of copies in the US. But there’s certain internal politics at labels that sometimes come to play that don’t always work out to your liking I guess. But yeah, we are looking for a new label in the US for this album if possible. If not, then for the next release that we end up doing.
Again about the new album, the band’s sound overall has slightly changed. Some have compared Pegazus in the past, especially with your last album I guess there was a Manowar comparison. This comparison doesn’t seem as valid anymore now. Did you mind that comparison or do you even notice it?
Not really. I think sometimes when people hear a typical sort of battle type of song or a crusade, or like “Metal Forever”, a real sort of Metal fan anthem type thing, they automatically think Manowar because Manowar are really known for doing great songs in that genre and style. But we’ve always had a very varied sort of approach to our song writing, and you know, we like to mix it up a little bit. Like a Metal anthem or a battle song, or something about fantasy or mythological or whatever you know. We’ve never really been one dimensional about it, and that’s why there’s a lot of variety on the new album I think. The great thing is that the song writing has really matured and so has the playing. We’ve always have I guess, comments from reviewers and interviewers that say, you know “You sound influenced to me by Maiden or Priest or Manowar” a lot, and I take that to a certain degree as a compliment because those bands are pretty much in the top ten Metal bands in the world, for me anyway. I’ve been a fan of Manowar but not as great as people might think. I’d say Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Ozzy Osbourne, people like that are probably a bigger inspiration musically for me because they’re the bands I really grew up on, being a big fan of NWOBHM.
You traditionally have been the main songwriter for Pegazus, but on this CD there was a little bit more input from your new vocalist Rob Thompson. How do you feel he has influenced the sound, or what do you think his input brought to the band?
Well, first of all Rob is a fantastic guy, he’s got a great character and personality. That’s probably the first thing that really sort of [picked up on]. We knew that we were on the same wavelength because one thing you try to eliminate in a band is egos and shit. But yeah, this guy is definitely on a similar wavelength when it comes to the style of bands and music that we are into, and he’s got a great knack for writing songs as well, and it was a real revelation because, even in the past everybody was basically seeing Pegazus as “Johnny Stoj writing all the songs”, and I didn’t really want it to come across like that because while I enjoy writing songs and it’s a great passion of mine. I never wanted it to come across like I’m the only writer, because one thing I wanted to start with the band in the early days was that the other guys would write too. But no one was all that curious about it. At the same time, which was a compliment to me, they really liked what I was writing and coming up with, so they sort of just left it to me. I’m really revved that Rob is actually writing. We really clicked together working on a couple of songs there, and I know that we’ll end up writing a lot more together and he’ll end up writing a lot more songs on his own too, because we like his ideas.
Does he have much of a different background in terms of his musical influences than yourself, or is it kind of similar?
I wouldn’t say it’s exactly the same. It would probably be similar. I mean, he loves Judas Priest and I love Judas Priest. My brother Robbie and I are huge Iron Maiden fans, where Rob is sort of 50/50 on Iron Maiden. He is more into bands like Fates Warning, Judas Priest, some of the more, I’d say American sort of Metal/Thrash type bands. He’s not so much a big British Heavy Metal fan, whereas Robbie and I have always been into the NWOBHM of stuff like what I mentioned before. You know like Saxon and Black Sabbath. Thin Lizzy even though they’re not English, they’re Irish but they’re all part of that same big circle.
L-R: Hammy, Rob, Johnny
Another new member in your band is bassist Hammy Mohamed So can you tell me a little bit about how you found him, and was it his playing or his personality that made you know that he was the man for the job?
Well Hammy is actually an old friend of ours, basically like everybody that’s been in this band, Hahaha! That’s definitely the case actually. But Hammy is a fantastic guy, and first and foremost he was a die-hard fan of the band. He was coming to our live shows ever since he was like sixteen. He’s the youngest guy in the band now, he’s twenty four. When we first started back in ’94 I remember he was always right up the front of the stage and just head banging like crazy from start to finish of the show. We got to know each other very well over the years. He’d played in a couple local bands as a guitarist because he’s actually a rhythm and lead guitarist by nature, but he has filled in for some bands as a bass player from time to time, and he’s been sort of moving and floating in and out of bands in the last few years. I actually had a good talk to him and gave him the opportunity. I said “Look you know, we’re sick and tired of auditioning bass players and band members and I know that you’re the right guy for the job. Your personality and your nature is basically very much like the rest of us.” It was to not have to put up with all the bullshit of auditions and the egos and getting to know guys and stuff like that. We felt it was right to give this guy a shot and see if he likes it you know, we’ll see how it goes. Basically we did probably two months of rehearsals and things went down great. We did a show, and we basically said you know, “If you want a gig it’s yours”, and he was totally over the moon about it. So he’s still playing with us. I’m not going to pressure him into being a member forever if that’s not really what he wants to do, because like I said he’s really a guitar player not a bass player. But it’s going to be his choice in the end. So far so good, and he’s happy so far and so are we. We’ll see what happens.
One of the album’s very catchy tracks is a tribute song that was written about Phil, from Thin Lizzy of course. First of all, can you tell me a little bit about how you put the lyrics together for the song, because there’s a lot of references to Thin Lizzy and their songs in the lyrics.
Yeah, Haha. Well for me personally Thin Lizzy is probably about my second favourite band in the whole world, next to Iron Maiden. So I mean, I already had a very good knowledge of the song titles and the lyrics and all sorts of stuff. My brother and I actually used to play in a Thin Lizzy tribute band called Live And Dangerous back in the very early nineties. And it was just a real honour to do something like this and it initially came up from an idea that I had when Nuclear Blast contacted us and said “We’re doing a Thin Lizzy tribute album, are you interested in doing a song?” and I sad “Hell yes!” Robbie and I are big fans and it would have been an honour for us. At the time Rob Thompson wasn’t in the band yet, we hadn’t had a new singer, and Nuclear Blast was worried that we didn’t have a singer. They said “Who’s going to sing in it?”, I said “Well, we don’t have a singer but I used to sing lead vocals from earlier bands, and Thin Lizzy songs were the majority of our repertoire back in those days”, so I said “I’ll do it.” We ended up recording “Jailbreak” and “Warriors” and submitted the songs and they really dug the songs. And at the same time I thought to myself, I would love to do something a little bit off the wall and totally different to what is happening at the moment, because there’s a trend for tribute albums and everybody is just doing cover and cover and covers. We’ve done them ourselves, we’ve done Accept and Helloween and Thin Lizzy and Black Sabbath, and I just thought, you know, Phil Lynott was such an inspiration to me as a songwriter, and I would really be honoured to try and write and original song, so actually I did get to write a song called “Ballad Of A Thin Man” I started having these thoughts about creating lyrics from song titles and stuff, and that’s where it sort of started, and was rolling along pretty well. By the time I had a finished demo version of it, everybody really loved it, so we decided to record it. That was it basically.
You did a great job on the vocals. I’m hoping that perhaps from now on you’ll sing one song per album or something. Hehe
Hahaha! The record label would probably like that too. Yeah, that song got a lot of good feedback. Originally what we wanted to do was release an EP sort of thing as a tribute to Phil Lynott, and my personal idea was to release an EP with “Ballad Of A Thin Man” plus the two Thin Lizzy covers, and try and have something out there for the fans until we came out with a new album, but Nuclear Blast wasn’t interested. They said “We’re not interested in doing that, but we love the song and want you to have it on the next album.” I never had any intention of that song being on the album because for one, it had me singing on it, and I really wanted the new album to be something that was going to be the whole band, and Rob Thompson would be singing the whole album. But Nuclear Blast insisted and said “It must be on the new album. We really like it a lot”, and they insisted and I guess in the end it was probably a good idea because a lot of people really dig the song. I got in touch even with Phil Lynott’s mom, Ms Philomena Lynott, and basically I wanted to find out what she thought of the song, whether she thought it was a great tribute type of song. I was really overwhelmed because a couple weeks later in the mail came a letter written by her, praising the song totally. That was probably one on the biggest compliments I’ve received in years, just getting a hand-written letter from, you know, a legends mother basically, someone you’re totally in awe about. To this day we still keep in touch by phone and that’s fantastic because it’s really opened up a friendship between the band and Mrs Lynott and I feel grateful for that.
Have you thought about in the future continuing to sing a song here or there on an album or what?
I think it’s a possibility that we might, and there’s also a possibility of a few other things too. One of the great things is that Rob Thompson also a very, very good guitar player, and we might even look at the possibility of a bit more vocals by me from time to time, as well as a few songs on albums with double guitar – like real twin guitar harmonies and stuff like that. We want to really sort of open up and probably keep people surprised a little bit, with what this band is capable of doing. But yeah, these aren’t certainties they’re only possibilities. There’s a possibility also that I’ve been planning for a long time, that I will end up doing a solo project, basically just a recording project. Just something to record the songs that I do outside Pegazus which are more in a Hard Rock sort of vein. And that would be basically myself singing on all of them, and playing the guitar and playing the bass, and eventually I’ll get my brother to come in and do the drums.
Cool! That was one of the questions I was going to ask. I know you’re a big fan of bands with twin guitars like Thin Lizzy and Iron Maiden, so I was just wondering, have you always wanted to have the twin lead thing going on in Pegazus?
Ummm, not necessarily because my favourite bands do have twin guitars but a lot of my favourite bands also don’t, like Black Sabbath, Ozzy Osbourne, Dio, Garry Moore and all these guys got away with the fact that they’re single guitar bands. I really sort of respect that, and think it makes it a little harder job actually, for each individual in the band to play in that type of line-up. It makes it harder not just on the guitarist but also on the bass player and the drummer because they really have to fill in the music, where a second rhythm guitar would really keep it full sounding. Ritchie Blackmoore is another favourite of mine. I always basically wanted to keep a very traditional four piece band, but it’s really great now like I said with Rob Thompson also having the capability of playing guitar in the band as well. I think we might surprise some people in the future by playing some twin guitar from time to time.
There’s a lot a really good songs on the new album and I won’t ask you about every single one of them. But to save time, can you perhaps pick out two or three of the songs on here that mean something special to you, more than maybe some of the others? And tell me a bit about what inspired the song and how it took shape.
Well for instance, “The Patriot” is probably one of the closest ones to my heart basically because it was one of the first songs that was coming together in the writing process for the album and it seemed, to this day I still hear it and from time to time, I don’t normally listen to our albums after they’ve been recorded, but I do hear it from time to time and it still sort of has a special feeling about it. Just the way it sounds, especially the intro. It’s got a lot of feel and emotion in it I guess, and it’s one of those songs that we can have our fans at gigs, singing along with the band. Very anthemic, very powerful, it’s full of passion I guess.
Definitely, the intro especially eh?
Yeah, and one of the other songs that I really dig is “A Call To Arms”. It’s got a bit more of a traditional heavy rock type of feel about it but still it’s got the Metal edge to it. I think it’s a song in a similar vein to a song like “Metal Forever”, very much about the Metal fans. Very anthemic, very sing along type of Metal chant. And I very rarely ever praise my playing on anything, but the guitar solo on that particular song is possibly on of my favourites to this day, to listen to on the actual studio version, and also play live. The other song I guess would be “The Headless Horseman” which is great. Great riff, real heavy and goes down really well live, so I look forward to playing that at many shows in the future.
Yeah definitely. Your brother outdid himself on the drums on that one I think!?
Yeah he did actually, haha. Yeah, but he hated me for it, hahahaha!
Because he played faster?
You see, Robbie’s a fantastic drummer, very underrated in Australia basically, because I’ve never come across anyone in a local Metal band over here that has the style and playability of what he’s doing. He’s really, really quick on his feet when he wants to be. He’s doing something called triplets, or something on a single kick that made it sound like he was playing double bass. He has other drummers in awe at gigs watching his foot because they thought he was doing double kicks. I’ve got a lot of praise for my brother basically, not because he’s my brother but because he really puts in a lot of effort in what he does. Sometimes he does get a little annoyed with me because I have some suggestions sometimes, but not all the time. He generally has free feel to come up with whatever he wants to, in the songs. But “The Headless Horseman” in particular I had a vision of what I thought the drums, especially the kick drums, would be doing in this song. So that’s why it has that variation of three different kick speeds, sort of going in and out of the song. The start is super fast and then it goes to a normal beat during the verses and then in the chorus it’s just double beat, just sort of chugging along not as fast as the intro. It’s sort of hard to explain but really intricately well put together and he does it really well. So I was really really amazed.
Yeah definitely that’s really cool. You recently did a video for that song “The Headless Horseman”, and chances are where I’m from here in North American there’s not going to be any TV stations playing it because they don’t support much in the way of Heavy Metal. Perhaps you are thinking of putting a decent quality version of this online for people like myself to see?
Oh yeah! That’s the general idea that we had. When we were actually doing the clip we spoke to Nuclear Blast about it to see if we could get some help for it financially, and they basically weren’t interested in financially helping us make the clip. So we really struggled in making this clip on our own. We were persistent so we ended up doing it on our own. The results were pretty good, it’s probably something right up there being the best video clip we’ve done, and we’ve probably made about six now. Now the idea is to make it available for fans by having it on our web site, and to other Metal video web sites that are interested in having it on there. It’s not about anything else but the Metal fans from anywhere in the world being able to watch it. We hope it will be online sometime within the next month.
Okay cool! You did a video also for “Wings Of Steel” – any thoughts of making that one available as well!?
Hahaha. Yeah we do intend to probably make three video clips available. “Wings Of Steel” is one of them, and “Cryout” will be the other one along with “The Headless Horseman.” We plan to have those three available online on our web site and also anywhere else that will have video clips for the fans to watch. We also have a plan to release a video DVD package sometime within the next six to nine months, because the band does have a lot of history and a lot of people don’t realize that. Like we started back in late ’93, and we do have video footage from our very first ever live gig with the first line-up, right through the eight years, even the overseas touring and the festivals and everything. We have a lot of footage. We want to show the growth of the band from the beginning right to this day. So we’re looking forward to releasing a video, it’s probably going to be about two hours just showing snippets of live stuff, backstage stuff, funny off camera crap and all the video clips. The whole package is for people to really grasp the whole history sort of thing, sort of like an Iron Maiden “12 Wasted Years” type of video in a sense.
Is this something you’ve already discussed with you label, or are you going to do it yourselves anyway?
Well we haven’t discussed with the label yet. We plan on doing it ourselves, yeah. We’ll probably put the idea forward to them but whether they’re going to be interested or not does not matter because we will do it ourselves otherwise.
That would definitely be something to look forward to because I’m a big fan of bands doing DVDs, and putting their history together like that.
Well actually a friend of ours who does the CD layouts and stuff for us, he’s doing a pretty impressive multimedia thing and we’ll have “The Headless Horseman” video clip on it, a little bit of that actually. We were actually thinking if he had it done about six months ago we could have put it on the album.
You could always re-release it in North America with all the cool stuff on it, haha!
Yeah hahahaha! Actually if a record label in the US or North America was interested in actually releasing “The Headless Horseman” in the States it would definitely be an opportunity to put that multimedia with the video clip on there for sure.
Back to a little bit of history, I was wondering when you first started playing guitar and roughly how old you were, and who inspired you to pick up a guitar and play what you’re doing now.
Uhhh, well the first time I ever picked up a guitar I was about ten, and my inspiration back then was Elvis Presley and The Sweet. That was pretty short lived for about three months. I didn’t enjoy learning how to read music and stuff like that, so I really lost the spark pretty quick. I basically didn’t pick up a guitar again until I was about sixteen or seventeen, so I was pretty much a late bloomer. It was around 1985 that all my friends and I went to a concert here in Melbourne, the Iron Maiden Powerslave tour, and man, that experience just totally blew me away. I’ll say this in quotes in interviews, that was the gig that gave me the spark to want to do what those guys are doing on stage, and I’ve never looked back. Yeah that’s been seventeen years down the track now, so it was a long time ago. That tour actually gave me the inspiration and influence to do a Heavy Metal band in a similar sort of vein as Iron Maiden.
Did you and your brother start playing at the same time?
Well Robbie’s actually seven years younger than me, so he was always tagging along. Even when I was playing in garage bands in the mid to late eighties. I would have been in my late teens going on to early twenties. He was a very young teenager sort of turning up to our rehearsals on his bike, and being a pest and we were trying to get rid of him because we were doing some pretty experimental stuff as teenagers would back in those days, haha. We were trying to get rid of little brother. So he didn’t come into the picture until probably ’89 I think, and that’s when I basically bought him his first real serious drum kit because he really showed an interest in wanting to play drums. I never took notice of him practicing or anything for a year or so. Before I knew it he was actually auditioning for a Guns n’ Roses tribute band. I remember taking him to rehearsals for this GnR tribute band and I was just amazed by what he was doing. I mean he was only a kid. A year and a half before that, he was somebody who couldn’t play, to somebody who could play all these wicked drum licks and stuff. And yeah, he was really determined, I was impressed. We sort of started playing in the early nineties, that’s when we started playing in our own trio called Boys In Black, and then the Thin Lizzy cover band, and Pegazus was the next project that was coming to fruition in ’93. But yeah, it’s been a great journey playing alongside my brother.
From what I’ve read, you seem to have a preference for the Les Paul guitar although I have seen pictures of you playing a Jackson Flying V. So do you have a main guitar or a main preference?
Yeah. The Jackson guitar is owned by a friend of mine. I wish I owned that. He’s owned that for probably fifteen years. He’s been a good friend who’s let me use it live and for photo shoots from time to time, and he has let me become the next owner if I ever come up with the money for it, hahaha. But yeah, Les Pauls are really my passion. Gibson Les Pauls, and I’ve got a Gibson Flying V but I do prefer Les Pauls more than anything. They just have a fatter, nastier sound I think, especially in a one guitar band situation, it really suits that type of band line-up. A Strat would sound a bit too thin, so I haven’t really ever divulged into playing Fenders and stuff although I love the Fender Strats. It just wouldn’t suit what we’re doing.
In terms of other gear that you use, like amps and effects, could you give a brief rundown on the type of equipment you like to use?
Yeah, my set-up is really basic. A lot of people don’t realize that, I guess they hear the albums and they think, “There’s got to be this sound here” and this and that. But my basic set-up for live and in studio is just, I’ve got a ??? box with four 50 watt Celestion speakers in there. I use a Marshall JCM 900, and a 50 watt head. I’ve always found that 50 watt heads sound probably better when they’re sort of really overdriven but you don’t have to play them as loud. With a 100 watt head you really have to pull the volume up completely loud to get the same overdrive, and it’s not necessary because you’re just pissing people off and they start complaining and shit. So I keep it pretty simple in that sort of aspect. I just plug straight into my amp which goes into my classic crybaby wah pedal, and through in a chorus pedal and that’s it basically. Straight into the guitar. I’ve steered away completely from ever being interested or ever wanting to try rack mount digital processors and all that, I’m not interested in that sort of technology.
Do you have the same set-up live as you do when you’re recording or does it differ very much?
It doesn’t differ very much at all. I mean in the studio you can trick up things a little bit because the studio has got so many effects and stuff. I really aim to capture as close the sound in the studio as my live sound.
In the studio this time you had a big hand in the production of the album. Is this the biggest involvement you’ve had so far with your own recording for doing the production?
Yeah, I’d say so. But I’ve always been like a co-producer type of role on most of our albums. On BREAKING THE CHAINS, that was produced and mixed by Mat Sinner and a guy called Akim from Germany. But even our early stuff was co-produced by myself. I think with the experience and the knowledge from album to album I’ve really started to get a real good sort of feel for what is going on and understanding what features to get what I’m trying to achieve in the studio, whereas some guys don’t really care too much about that sort of thing, they just go in and play and go “bye bye” sort of thing. But I’ve always been the guy in the band who’s been in the studio from day one to the very last day, you know, finished recording down to the very last mixing and mastering, and that’s why I personally get sick of hearing our songs because I hear them more than anybody. The last thing I want to hear is our album. It takes me a few months to get to the point where I can put it on the CD player and just have a listen to it.
Haha! Did you take any courses or is this the kind of thing you learned from being around it for so long?
Nah, it’s just basically self taught, the same way as playing guitar. I always appreciated if you want to learn something you be around the right people and you will learn. I didn’t go to a course or nothing like that, I just gathered some information and ideas from people I’ve worked with. And We’ve always worked with the same guy, Mat McCormick in the studio. I got some ideas I guess and some knowledge when I flew to Germany, Matt Sinner mixed and produced the previous album, so I had a pretty good grasp of what was going on with this album. I think we got some pretty good results with it, and I know that we will get ever better in the future. It’s just like being a musician, producing is better with the more experience that you get with it.
Changing gears a bit now, I just wanted to ask you a couple questions about what your perception is on the Australian Metal scene. What is your take on the scene, its heath, and what is going on kind of thing?
Well, Australia is a really strange country when it comes to music because it usually follows trends, just like, what is the “In Thing” in Australia basically has been the in thing in America or England just previously, like within a few weeks or something. But speaking about Metal, it’s not as big here, nowhere at all, and probably, not being harsh about it, probably never will be. Some of the scenes overseas like in Europe, they’re just fanatical. We do have a sort of underground Metal scene here that seems to be thriving pretty well, there’s certain bands out they that are really starting to get their foot forward and accomplish things. We definitely didn’t notice anything of that nature in our early days, I mean when we first started it was basically Grunge, like Pearl Jam and stuff like that was the big thing, normal radio stuff. In the Metal sense it was the more extreme music like Machine Head and Fear Factory and that, so we were sort of caught in the middle. We were always getting mocked and laughed at because we were this band playing old school traditional Heavy Metal and wearing leathers and studs, and people kept saying “What are you doing that for? You’re just wasting your time.” and we were like “We don’t give a shit, we’re just playing it because we love it. We’re not playing this because we think we’re going to be the next big thing!!” But you know, we stuck to our guns, we played traditional Metal just like we’ve always believed and grew up doing, and I guess in the end we’re in the right place at the right time. We got a record deal, and now there’s a bandwagon and every Tom, Dick and Harry wants to be in a Power Metal band. That’s great thing you know, it revives a lot of interest in Heavy Metal in this country. But we know we’re genuine, where Power Metal really started, because it’s been gone for a long time and we just felt there’s a lack of it. This is what we love listening to and playing so we’re going to play what we, as Metal fans want to hear. And that’s why we created Pegazus.
Can a typical band, maybe not quite as well known as Pegazus, but an average Metal band in Australia make their living out of playing Heavy Metal, or is it still kind of a hard go for a band to be able to do that?
Oh, we’re not even making a living! Hahaha. So it’s definitely very hard. We have seen so many bands that had so much potential to be pretty well known, pretty much signed by labels like Nuclear Blast or whoever, in the early days, and a lot of them don’t survive because they see how hard it really is to maintain all the qualities that you need to have to be doing this. First of all, if you’re driven by money you’re going to fail miserably, instantly. You really have to be driven by the music and the passion that you are doing it for the right reasons. Like I said, a lot of bands just come and go. A lot of people think it’s easy “now we’re going to get signed, we’re going to do this and that”. I mean I’ve heard so many stories from international bands that you would think are probably financially well off, but they didn’t even make probably any money to basically just be able to live uncomfortably until about their fourth of fifth album. So it’s definitely not a life for just anybody man. I definitely wouldn’t be doing this for the money, that’s for sure.
Have you ever thought maybe Pegazus would be better off if they relocated somewhere else, or have you never considered that option?
I’ve thought about it but I’m very loyal to the people I’m with, and I would never do anything unless it was together, and that’s been always my attitude and mentality. And that’s the mentality we have for each other, the band. That’s why we work so well together. It’s basically like, all for one and one for all sort of thing. We know that if we did relocate to somewhere like Europe for instance we’d definitely have more opportunities to play tours and gigs. But the other side to that is there’s two members in this band, one being my brother Robbie and the singer Rob Thompson both have families. It would be very hard for those guys to just up and leave and be away for six or nine months or longer, just to play gigs and concerts. We’ve tried to balance it out to the point where we want to be based here in Melbourne Australia where everything is pretty comfortable for us, to get together, rehearse, play gigs here. Hopefully with the right structure and connections to keep this band going we can organize some overseas touring. Like I said, next year we plan to go for a week to Japan and a week in New Zealand. Arranging a tour and all that sort of stuff, that’s the hardest thing because there’s so many bands out there now.
Yeah. I’ve read about a festival that takes place in Australia, I don’t know how big it is or anything, it’s called Metal For The Brain [www.metalforthebrain.com]. I don’t know how many years it’s been on the go, but is that something you’ve played at, or would play at?
We’ve never played Metal For The Brain, but I guess if we were asked to play we would definitely play. It’s a charity festival basically, it’s for a good cause. I think it’s for a brain type of foundation or something. It stared off as a festival with mainly extreme Metal bands, probably about ten years ago or something, maybe even longer. It’s not that close to us, like it’s not just in the local city down here in Melbourne, it’s actually in Canberra which is probably about seven hours away or something like that. It’s on once a year, and it’s on I think in October or November. But yeah, it’s a very cool festival and in the last couple years they started to have Power Metal bands playing there. So I think we will get up there one day. There is an actual new festival starting up in February/March here in Australia, which plans to possibly be the biggest festival going basically. It’s called The Headbanger Ball summer festival, and it’s basically a festival that’s going to cater for all sorts of bands, not just Metal bands but heavy Rock bands, Power Metal, Black Metal, Death Metal, so it’s just going to be basically very broad in variety. It’s going to cater to everybody into loud music.
So what styles of Metal seem to be the most popular down there? Is it just straight-up Heavy Metal or is it more the extreme bands?
More the extreme. I mean Mayhem, from Norway I think, just played here last week. Bands like Cradle Of Filth, Mayhem, ummm. Gee. A lot of the Norwegian Black Metal stuff is really big over here. And then the atmospheric sounding stuff like Dimmu Borgir. But actually a lot of the Nuclear Blast extreme stuff is very big over here. Extreme Metal has always had a bigger following over here in Australia, that’s why Metal For The Brain started off as an extreme Metal type of festival because that music was always a stronger sort of thing really. Very underground but very very strong. And it’s just grown and gotten bigger anyway. Power Metal is sort of semi-popular I guess.
There’s a couple bands I’ve heard from there like Dark Order, Dungeon and Vanishing Point. They seem to be making a bit of a name for themselves outside of Australia. I think Vanishing Point toured with Sonata Arctica in Europe so that was pretty good to see, some bands from there getting a bit more recognition anyway.
Oh definitely. Actually those bands are doing quite well and they’ve probably done more than anybody else than I know of, in that part of Australia, in the last couple years. Those are the sort of things that are looking on the up for Australia I guess, bands like Vanishing Point and Dungeon are really starting to make a mark overseas too. It’s been fantastic.
When I was looking on your band’s website a few weeks ago I looked at the files for each of the members of the band, and I noticed I love all the same bands that everyone is listing as their favourite stuff. It’s stuff that I myself would list as some of my favourite all-time bands, like Maiden , Priest, Dio, W.A.S.P., Motley Crue, you know, all kinds of older school Metal bands…
Yeah, that’s the classic stuff isn’t it? Haha!
Oh it is, definitely. I think it’s probably the reason why you guys and myself would have a lot of that as being our classic bands is because we’re all pretty much in the same age range. So do you think this music speaks primarily to us older Metalheads, or do you think it transcends age, and younger Metalheads appreciate these bands as much?
I think it’s pretty open to everybody, even fans that contact us by e-mail or by actual snail mail, I mean the ages range from anywhere from like fourteen up to forty-five or something. That stuff shows at our gigs too, we don’t necessarily have people who are underage coming, we’re in licensed venues, there’s alcohol, but we have a really broad range fans. A lot eighteen year olds and a lot of mid-thirties, mid-forties type of people who just love that sort of music. I think it’s not just for the old crowd. There is a new crowd out there for it too. Like I mentioned the bands that we like and you like are classic. Classic bands and that’s one reason, or the only reason why a band like Pegazus exists. There was a time back in the early nineties when Metal was really fading out, and the last thing we wanted to do as Metal fans was to see it completely disappear. We wanted to play that style of music and keep it going. In the end that style of music has come along again in many forms, throughout so many bands in Europe now. So it’s a good thing.
Do you still keep up with the classic bands? Most of them are still on the go today of course, putting out new albums, like there’s the new Priest with “Demolition”, Dio with his new album and Wasp’s new album and Maiden’s “Brave New World”, even Saxon are still hard at it! Do you keep up with their new stuff or do you prefer listening to their classic material?
I did buy all their albums. I mean one of the most inspirational albums I’ve heard in the last couple years has to be Rob Halford’s “Resurrection.”
Right on, awesome.
The next greatest album I heard was basically Dio’s new one. Man, that was just awesome because it’s very much like the old Dio. I was really disappointed with certain favourite bands like Judas Priest and Iron Maiden because when I heard that Iron Maiden was getting Bruce and Adrian back, man I was just over the moon about it. I thought “Wow, these guys are going to recreate the magic of Powerslave”, which is one of my all-time favourites of theirs. But “Brave New World” for me, I mean it’s a great album, but it just didn’t have the power and the drive that the line-up was able to create. But I still appreciate it to this day. I mean, I love Iron Maiden, I’ll buy anything they release. I’ve been a die-hard fan for eighteen or nineteen years now. It took me awhile to get into “Demolition” though.
You DID get into it? Haha.
Yeah, I did actually. Still to this day I cannot really listen to “Jugulator.” That for me was too strange. It just wasn’t easy to get a grasp on. “Demolition” after a few listens I started to really dig it. Songs like Bloodsuckers” and “Metal Messiah.” I think having a new singer is always going to make a slight change to a band, I mean we know that ourselves. But I really don’t mind “Demolition”, I thought it was pretty cool.
Yeah, well, it’s not too bad but… Hehehe.
It’s just not what I prefer to hear them doing though.
Yeah. Oh look, I’ll tell you, I have not heard an album that has blown me away as much as Halford’s “Resurrection”.
Have you heard “Crucible” yet?
Yeah I have. It’s got an inkling of “Resurrection” but it just ain’t “Resurrection Part II”.
It’s still a great album. I still love “Crucible” but “Resurrection” just blows me away. And especially the Japanese bonus tracks. I just could not believe how they could leave those two songs off the album. They were killer! I don’t know if you ever heard the songs.
Yeah I heard them. I had to download them because I didn’t have the Japanese version, but I’ve heard them.
Yeah, you’d have to pay another $30 US on top of the normal price just to get those two bonus tracks!
Exactly. If you have the time I’d like to ask if you would give me a list of what your top five classic Metal albums are, and give a few brief words on what that album means to you.
You’d probably change it tomorrow if you had your time back.
#1. Thin Lizzy – JAILBREAK
#2. Iron Maiden – POWERSLAVE
#3. AC/DC – BACK IN BLACK
#4. Ozzy Osbourne – BLIZZARD OF OZ
#5. Judas Priest – SCREAMING FOR VENGEANCE
Yeah I know. I did a list of top twenty a few months back and even that was hard because there’s just so many albums. But I’d have to say Thin Lizzy’s “Jailbreak”. That was an album that I loved because just the consistency of it being a fantastic album. I basically love every song that Phil Lynott and Thin Lizzy have come up with, but that has got so many classic songs on it, like “The Boys Are Back In Town”, and “The Cowboy Song”, and “Warriors”, and “Emerald”, and “Fight Or Fall”, and “Romeo And The Lonely Girl”, and “Jailbreak”. I mean every song on that was just brilliant and very well recorded for it’s time I think. Back in 1975 it was recorded.
Iron Maiden “Powerslave” I would say. Even though I love “Number Of The Beast” and “Piece Of Mind”. “Piece Of Mind” comes very close as well, with “Powerslave.” I think the band really had one of the best sounding productions I’ve heard on any of their albums. On that particular album it just blew me away. The guitar sound, the drum sound. I still think the Powerslave drum sound is the best sound on any Metal album ever. These things are not triggered drums, they are real sounding drums, and just the way it was produced was brilliant. With the musicianship and everything I think the band was at it’s peak, even tough they created some great albums after that like “Seventh Son” you know. But “Powerslave” was so just hitting the bit for me.
AC/DC’s “Back In Black”, brilliant album. Even though I was a very big Bon Scott fan I was really amazed and overwhelmed by that release. That’s a classic even twenty two years down the track man. I still crank up “Hells Bells” and “You Shook Me All Night Long” in my car stereo, to the not-so-liking of the people around me in my neighborhood. But I don’t give a shit because AC/DC rocks.
I think Ozzy Osbourne’s “Blizzard Of Ozz” being a very big Randy Rhodes fan, another great album you know, song after song. Just so consistent and so fantastic, and so many classic songs. Timeless songs to this day, “I Don’t Know”, “Crazy Train”, “Mr. Crowley”, “Revelation Mother Earth”. That album just rocks. Very very impressive for a debut from Ozzy after his adjustment from becoming a singer out of Black Sabbath and starting up his own career. I was really impressed with that. What else? Uhhh….
One more and you’ll have a top five list here. Hehe.
Ahahaha! OK, probably Judas Priest “Screaming For Vengeance”. That was probably the first album of Priest that I ever heard, and that was through Robbie actually. He actually found the tape, basically being dumped somewhere in some rubbish. He was probably about eight years old at the time and I was fifteen. He came across a couple of tapes and I remember one of them was Heaven which was an Australian band, and the other was “Screaming For Vengeance”. I put it in the tape deck, and that tape did not leave the tape deck for weeks. And I got most of my friends that were already into Iron Maiden and Black Sabbath and bands like that, I got them hooked on Priest as well. It was awesome because of songs like “Screaming For Vengeance” and “Bloodstone” and “Riding On The Wind”, and all that was just wicked.
Is it your favourite Priest album?
Oh yeah! By far. You know how the first album that you heard of a band that gets you drawn into them is usually your favourite?
Yeah, it’s usually the first.
“Piece Of Mind” for me was the first one with Iron Maiden. That’s why I say it’s a very close first. Those two albums are number one albums for me with Iron Maiden, “Piece Of Mind” and “Powerslave”. But yeah, Priest “Screaming For Vengeance” is awesome. A lot of people didn’t like “Turbo” but I didn’t mind it! Haha.
You didn’t mind it?
Yeah, I didn’t mind it actually. Hahaha! So many bands were playing around with strange ideas at that point in the mid-eighties, like Maiden were playing with synthesizer and guitar with “Somewhere In Time”, so Priest obviously followed suit. But I didn’t mind it you know, I still find it as a pretty good album, great songs. Much more commercial and Rock in it, but still a far better album than “Ram It Down”, yeah?
You think so? Haha.
Don’t tell me you like “Ram It Down”?
Some of it. I like the song “Ram It Down.” That song alone I like better than everything on “Turbo”, but overall the album is weaker I guess, but it had some better songs I think.
Yeah. The other enjoyable thing about the “Turbo” album was they did a really big successful tour around the world, and the “Priest Live” video when you watch that it’s just awesome, for the show. I mean I’ve seen some bootlegs and stuff of Priest years before, of the Turbo tour, and some of the performances were sort of 50/50, very rough around the edges, whereas the band was very much at their peak, very polished around “Turbo” I think, and they really did it very well. I was really impressed.
Yeah, the new DVD that Priest have out now “Live In London”, they play “Turbo Lover” on it. It’s kind of funny to hear them playing that now, today, with Ripper singing it right? Haha.
Yeah, hahaha. I’ve been hearing rumours, I don’t really take much notice of rumours but I’ve been hearing something about the fact that Rob Halford may possibly be coming back to Priest sometime in the near future.
Everybody has been talking about that ever since the “Resurrection” album came out right? Hehe.
No, I remember hearing things back then too, but…
You’ve heard more recent ones.
Yeah more recently, especially in the way that I’ve been told about some possible side project of Rippers, in another band, so…
But I think that’s the ultimate destiny, you know it’s going to happen, is that Rob has got to go back to Judas Priest. You know that’s how they will end their career. They’re not going to end it apart I don’t think. They’ll play together and do a big reunion and we’ll see what happens.
They will for sure.
I think they will.
Like, nobody thought that Bruce would go back to Iron Maiden and look what happened, you know. It took him a period of maybe seven years to be apart, and they basically came to their senses. Maiden was sort of struggling without him I guess, compared to what they were together, and Bruce was doing quite well solo wise. Nobody wants to see them together more than the fans, and in the end the fans are the ones that make you or break you. And I think the Judas Priest/Rob Halford thing is going down a similar path. Rob is doing really well with his solo career in a similar sense that Bruce is. Bruce was gone and the band was probably suffering a little bit. So there might come to a time, maybe not right now, maybe in the next couple of years that it will be inevitable. There will be a reunion and nobody should stand in the way of that, not even Ripper, and he would probably know that anyway.
(We ranted a bit more about Priest for a while….
so getting back to the interview at hand Johnny asked me…)
So actually, what is your favourite song off our latest album?
Uhhh, today I’ll say “The Patriot”. Yesterday it was probably “Ballad Of A Thin Man”, and the day before it was probably “The Headless Horseman.” I’ve been listening to the album a lot, I’ve got it in my car CD changer, and it’s been on repeat since you sent me the CD. It’s one of those things where you stick it in the player with your other CDs and you rotate some of the other ones but there’s always three or four that you keep in there for like, a year. Hahaha. That’s the way I am, I rotate a lot of CDs but there’s like three or four albums a year that I play the shit out of.
And so far I’ve been playing the shit out of that a lot.
Oh cool man. I just wish we had so much more people behind us like yourself, in the US and North America…Canada and everywhere. It would be fantastic. I know that we do have quite a few fans over in that part of the world, and if it wasn’t the case we wouldn’t have had such good, constant feedback from fans over there. But we’ll overcome that, and with the willpower we have as a band and individual character that we have, we know that we’re going to prevail eventually. And that probably won’t be too far down the track. Like I said, we have a very strong will and we have a “Never give up – Never die” sort of attitude, and we’ll be around for many many years creating what we do as a band, whether there’s a trendy Metal scene out there or not. That’s basically the situation we were in when we started. There wasn’t any trendy scene until a few years later.
Right, well that’s cool. Hopefully you’re still here, that’s the main thing. Because we need more bands playing what I would just call “Heavy Metal” and not Death Metal, Black Metal or Speed Metal. Just Heavy Metal, right?
Yeah. Well you know I’m really sort of amazed by the terminology of how many…
It’s hard to keep up with. Hehe
“We’re not Symphonic Metal, we’re not Power Metal, we’re not anything else man. We’re just fucking Heavy Metal.”
Yeah. Even when we first signed you know, there was posters and advertisements everywhere in German magazine, it was all in German, and translated into English it was like “The new Power Metal sensation from down under.” But the word Power Metal, to me doesn’t go well. Like it’s just a new name that came up five years ago or something. With regard to what we do as a band, and this is something that we all agree on, is that Pegazus has always been just a plain, old, simple Heavy Metal band. Nothing else. We’re not Symphonic Metal, we’re not Power Metal, we’re not anything else man. We’re just fucking Heavy Metal!
Exactly, that’s it. I’ve read reviews and people call you Power Metal and I’m like, well, when I think Power Metal I think like Helloween or something, you know? If people were to call Judas Priest “Power Metal”, or Iron Maiden or Dio “Power Metal”, which it’s NOT. You know what I mean? People are trying to rewrite history here.
Well you’re right you know. Bands like Helloween and Gamma Ray, they’ve got that real up-tempo sounding Metal music with really upbeat drumming all the way through it, so you would call that Power you know, Power Metal. But bands that sort of kick back, a little bit back on the beat, bands like Maiden and Priest and Dio are basically along the same lines as what we’re doing as Pegazus. We have a more traditional approach to our Metal, which has even got a touch or heavy Rock influences through it. And that’s what traditional Metal really has. When you break it down, it has that quality. Yeah that’s what we are, just Heavy Metal. But yeah, you’ll never get away with it, I mean people will always come up with their own terminology and shit. I see reviews and that all the time, “Pegazus: Power Metal from Australia”, I’m like “Pffftt. Oh well”. Hahaha.
As long as they like it I guess.
The only section of any of our songs that come even close to being Power Metal, and that’s just a section of a song, would probably be the intro to “The Headless Horseman”. Hahaha! That’s about it. It’s only about ten or fifteen seconds of a song!!
Hehehe, yeah really. I think a lot of Power Metal fans are fans of traditional Metal because that’s the way I am. I like Power Metal because it’s the closest style, or “sub genre” I guess you could say, of Metal to straight Heavy Metal. That’s why I kind of like a lot of Power Metal because it reminds me of what I grew up with.
I know what you mean.
Anyway, is there any other news or things going on with the band that we didn’t cover that you would want me to pass along to people or what?
Well that’s basically it at the moment. Like I said we’re just getting ready to play some shows again in Melbourne starting in November, and in the meantime we’re trying to negotiate what touring possibilities we have over the next six to nine months. And we might even slip into the studio just to cut some demos I think, if we get some time, just after March. Probably April/May or something like that. Because we really really want to get something positive happening with the band in the US, and we’re not going to let up until we get what we’re out there to achieve, and that’s to get what this band rightfully deserves. Somebody to be behind us in the US. And we’re just going to keep pushing. We’re going to be pushing it in their face as hard as possible. It always helps to have the united support of our fellow Metal friends and fans around to help that cause in happening.
Right. Well you can count on Metal Rules, at least myself or whoever else here who’s into the classic Metal to be behind the band because it’s definitely one of my favourite albums of the year. It’ll be on my top list, I can guarantee you that.
Oh thank you so much, I really appreciate that. The guys in the band are really stoked because it was an album that we really did take our time on, creating. We didn’t want to get rushed, especially after changing vocalists. We knew that the critics can be very harsh when something like a line-up change with vocalist happens. So we really made sure that we were giving Rob Thompson enough time to really settle into the role as lead singer, and feel comfortable with the new songs that were getting created. So we knew what was possibly ahead of us in the face of criticism. It’s been overwhelming that this album has really surpassed any feedback from previous albums in most parts of the world. So we just want to take the show on the road now, and play for the fans and just have a good old Metal time I guess.
Right on. Well man, it’s been great talking to you finally.
Yeah I know, it’s been fantastic man. Like I say, I really do reckon you do a fantastic job on your website. I know so many people in Melbourne that are into Metal that are all big fans of your website. A lot of people out there in the world do know Metal Rules, believe me. And yeah that’s great, you have our support of your site and your passion to support Metal. The fact that you’ve been doing it for so long, you’ve done your web site since ’95. It’s definitely not something of a bandwagon trend hopping, you’re staying in it purely because you wear your heart on your sleeve just like we do. The fact that we play the music and create it and you support it like a true fucking fan man, I appreciate it.
Man, thanks. It’s not something I’m going to give up doing either, just like you with your band. I’m continue to promote and shove Metal in people’s faces. It’s something I’m going to do forever.