Interviewed by EvilG
Photos by R&S Photo
After seeing Ammo live recently, and picking up their new EP, I wanted to catch up with their guitarist, and backing vocalist, Brett. Here’s our list chat about the band, some short questions about his other band Manacle, and what’s next for Ammo in 2020.
Hi Brett, first let me say it was great to see you live again here in St. John’s! How was it to come back to NL, this time with Ammo?
Thanks man! It was an absolute blast. Newfoundland is an amazing place to play and it felt great to bring Ammo this time. I’ve been active with this project for many years now!
When you were here in 2018, it was with another band, Manacle. You were on vocals, and not playing guitar. I didn’t realize you were a deadly guitarist as well until I heard Ammo! How did you hog up all the awesome? Hah!
Oh you! My parents didn’t give me enough attention when I was a kid haha. I was previously the lead guitarist and vocalist in AMMO until recently. Jesse can sing the way I always dreamed of!
Did you start singing before playing guitar or start both at about the same time?
I definitely played guitar first. I started singing when I was around 20 years old mostly because there aren’t a lot of people who can sing this style of metal in this day and age. I was terrible at first but a lot of practice got me where I wanted to be. Unfortunately, I did always feel the limitations of doing both. I prefer shredding or being a stand alone singer!
Who have been some of your main musical inspirations and heroes both from the classic and current scene?
In terms of classic heroes: Grim Reaper, Helloween, Iron Maiden, Gamma Ray, and Axel Rudi Pell come first in my mind. Bands with amazing musicianship alongside memorable vocals that hit you right square in the chest. I strive for memorable and catchy riffs!
I may get some hate for some of these but hey! Modern day: Dragonforce (oh stop booing!), Gamma Bomb, Skull Fist (can we really say that they didn’t make traditional heavy metal what it is today?), and even Enforcer.
When Manacle was here, I bought the record and found that the entire band, minus the guitarist was new? So what was it like to step into lead the lead vocal role and perform without a guitar?
It was a challenge at first. Inti is a great song writer and they have some of the most unique songs in heavy metal right now. We put in a lot of work one on one and he really shaped me into a great front man. Usually I could play some guitar during instrumental parts but this time around I was just focusing on keeping the audience engaged by getting into the crowd. Headbanging with them, giving out high fives. I actually miss having that freedom to experience the show while I perform it.
There has been silence on the Manacle front for almost a year – is the band rehearsing, recording, on hiatus?
I don’t want to speak on behalf of Manacle, but the band is currently on hiatus.
Last Manacle question – This has been bugging me since I saw the video – Is that Inti (Manacle guitarist) in the Cauldron “Nitebreaker” video?
That is definitely Inti with Emily (drummer) from Axxion!
Onto Ammo… From what I’ve read, Ammo started in 2015 which predates your entry into Manacle. The Ammo lineup was different back then, and you were the lead vocalist. So what happened that now you are mainly playing guitar and doing mostly backing vocals?
It was a hard call, but Jesse is the stronger singer! He can sing the stuff that I try to do and his voice is a better representation of what our musical vision is. He’s Toronto’s Bob Rock! haha. It’s also freed me up to play the dumb leads I would write but couldn’t play while singing. It was in the best interest of the band and that’s something that is hella important!
Seeing you live, I really liked the song where you both sang together – if I had one wish for your other songs it would be that you’d do more of that please! Co-lead vocals or at least more choruses etc. sung together, trade off lines whatever…it would set you apart as there usually are not two killer vocalists in the one band! Thoughts? 🙂
It’s funny you mentioned that! A lot of people have told us to share the vocals but I do like the idea of a dedicated vocalist. Feels almost like a signature! I will say we have been playing with the idea of harmonizing vocals throughout a full track! Whether that manifests or not, it’s a goal for the full length!
Was it the line-up changes and/or band drama that delayed recording and release of your demo which is just out now in 2019?
hahahaha oh man I can’t even get fully into that! In the early years we all just didn’t see eye to eye on the end goal and how to get there. Most of the early years were spent jamming and then getting drunk as all hell so we didn’t progress the way we have in the past year and a half. Jesse had actually auditioned to replace a member of the band and he had also replied to a kijiji ad looking for a vocalist and guitar player. Sure enough he ended up in another band with Alex, Struan, and Megan (of Iron Kingdom). Things didn’t pan out for that line up and somehow we all ended up back together with Jesse in the line up. We had a 2 year hiatus while I was trying to write new material and find new bandmates. When you find those members that you vibe with and have that charisma…. they’re irreplaceable. There was also the grief about money going into recording since it is really expensive to live here, time (this EP was started over 2 years ago during the hiatus), changing singers, and self doubt. It’s hard to stay in the mindset when everything is going against you but we’re glad we pushed through. We’re anxious to write and record the full length as a unit so we can really show off what AMMO can really do! Doing things in pieces really made things move slow.
With 4 years of Ammo, and with the band getting to open for Grim Reaper, Flotsam and Jetsam, Anvil, Helix, Warbringer, and Enforcer…..you must have a great local reputation as a live band!!! There must also be more than the 4 songs that you are busting to record?
It’s been a killer year! Determination and discipline go a loooooong way. We love to engage the audience as if they’re all our best buddies. Classics like asking the audience how they’re feeling and then shutting them down as soon as they cheer hahaha. Toronto has a big void in the scene to fill and we hope that we can fill that and inspire people to help rebuild the scene since a lot of bands have gone on hiatus or moved on with their lives.
In terms of songs, we have a couple that we think y’all might like 😉 We are currently doing home demos and hashing out new ideas!
Onto the 4 song EP “Taking the Throne” – How did you go about selecting what songs to record?
Going into the EP, I had written a few songs with the intention of doing something bigger and badder than our old material. We used to make a lot of party like tracks and I felt like we needed to have songs with more beef that showed what we are capable of. Although, some of these songs are now becoming dated for us, they still pack the punch! Tombstone City is almost 9 years old! Taking the Throne came from the other project (Loaded) and when I heard the song, I was anxious to get it into our set. That song is an absolute banger. Alex is a great lyricist, Struan killed those drums, Jesse and Megan wrote some badass riffs to go along. I’m very pleased that it was able to see the light of day!
My favorite song is the anthemic “Too Metal For Metal” – what’s the song about?
I’ve had a lot of shitty bandmates in the past (pre-AMMO). One in particular was a nightmare to work with and he was generally a giant bag of dicks. These people tend to go to shows and just do not care about the music nut expect something big to happen to them because they have the “attitude.” Acting like a rockstar doesn’t make you one. Being an asshole will get you nowhere in life despite what pop culture tells you. You could spit on people and act like a drunk step dad in the 80s and they’d sign you. This formula doesn’t work anymore. That gets old quick. So, Too metal for metal is about acting too cool to be yourself. It’s about going out to the shows just so you can be seen and boast. It kills the community. We want to unite people!
Are you using this EP as a means to entice a record label to sign you? And if so, how has the response been so far?
We plan on staying unsigned at the moment. We want to build our brand and have the freedom to be ourselves. If someone offered us something, I would consider it. There’s a lot of ground to conquer before I seek out a label. I did send some out and I think the only person who responded was from No Remorse and he was very cool. Gave us some constructive criticism that has helped us think about moving forward!
How has the response been from fans and the press?
Press has been good so far. One person said the EP kicked ass and then somehow said Taking the Throne was a boring track. Which is fine. I don’t take that stuff to heart. I really love criticism. You’ll never strive to be better if you don’t take it in! When we released the EP we had a big response on Bandcamp. I only just caught up with the mail orders a month later. It was pretty overwhelming but I love getting personal with anyone who shares their attention and financially supports us. We wouldn’t do this otherwise. When we played in Saint Johns, we sold out of everything we brought. Everyone’s been kicking ass!
Are you planning on doing a music video from the EP?
We have plans but I wouldn’t expect anything until after January. We want to make something cool!
What’s next musically for you in both bands – what kinda upcoming shows, tours, or studio time do you foresee for 2020?
At the moment, AMMO will be taking a break from playing and will start focusing on writing new songs for a full length. We have plans to tour western Canada towards the early Summer (can’t really say what that’s about quite yet!) We would like to put out the full length as well, but I don’t like to put due dates on these things. There will be some big things happening in 2020 for sure 🙂
Back to the Newfoundland connection – as mentioned at the beginning, you’ve been here 2 times, both with bands that were at first unknown to the majority of metal fans here. So the local promoter (Make it so Productions) here seems to be a rarity – in that he (Justin), brings in newer bands with no established fan base and somehow makes it work! Are there people like that in all the big cities that fly your bands (Manacle and Ammo) in from away, put you up for a few nights etc…or is he one of a kind as I suspect he may be? LOL!
Oh you know damn well Justin is a rare gem! You can’t even get gas money from out of town promoters! We are really thankful for Justin flying us out and putting up with us playing Lick it up by KISS 200 times on his sound system haha. (Love you buddy!)
Thanks for your time, if there’s anything else that I missed or anything you’d like to share to potential fans – let ‘er rip here dude!
No thank you man! We’re coming to kick some ass and we wanna do it with you guys! Heavy metal is for everyone and you are one of us!
I do wanna say hey to our buddies in Newfoundland! We miss you guys! Think of us every time Lick it up plays at Vicki and Drew’s!
Soap is a government conspiracy. Use root beer. (Thanks Struan).
If you haven’t heard the EP yet, hit up our bandcamp here: www.ammo.bandcamp.com
And if you like total shit-posting, I suggest following us on Instagram if you want a laugh! @AMMOgram
Here’s to a wild 2020!