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RED: Witness to the Revelation – Interview with Anthony Armstrong

RED: Witness to the Revelation – Interview with Anthony Armstrong

By Jackie Lee King

RED, currently based in Nashville, is a five-member band: Mike Barnes (lead vocals), Anthony Armstrong (guitar, BGV's), Randy Armstrong (bass, piano, BGV's), Jasen Rauch, (guitar), and Hayden Lamb (drums) who are taking the mainstream music masses by storm. Their sound is a highly energetic blend of Industrial, Heavy Metal, and good ol' Rock-N-Roll, ala GOD.

According to Barnes, the name of the band stands for one's struggle with passion and pain, resulting in an ultimate, redemption. Their songs focus on the struggles of being human in a sometimes God-less world. Their sound is dark, heavy, and brooding but breaks the sound and light barrier. Their lyrics bring forth a ray of light in a dark world.

"Then I'll see your face
I know I'm finally yours
I find everything I thought I lost before
You call my name
I come to you in pieces
So you can make me whole!" -- Pieces

I recently spoke with lead guitarist Anthony, when they blew through Chicago in the midst of a 250-300 tour schedule, to discover the origins of their Metal.

Jackie Lee King: You're in the midst of writing your second album? What is your writing process?

Anthony Armstrong: We've kind of turned into audio nerds. We all have Macintosh computers, and our other guitar player, Jason, is pretty versed in pro-tools and other audio programs. We actually demo everything on those systems and record as many different parts as we can and then we go back to the program and cut-and-paste the ideas and form a song out of it. This record was a little different. We actually sat in a room and worked on our own instruments. It makes it a lot easier cause we're on the road so much that it's hard for all of us to set backgrounds and play. Putting the stuff on a computer and actually getting to listen to it over and over again you can have those ideas kind of seasoned in your head. It makes it easy. This process this time around was a lot easier cause we know ourselves as writers now and we know ourselves as a band and what we want to sound like and stuff, but as far as our what we like to call 'pre-production' we do it a lot different.

JLK: The music comes first and then the lyrics come later?

AA: It just depends. I guess I think sometimes songs are based on an idea, and also you're inspired. You've got to look for inspiration as far as lyrics and what you want to talk about. A lot of things we talk about are our experiences on the road, and we've had a couple of years on tour now, and we do a lot of things. Yeah it can start off with, 'I want this song to be a song about the rage that people experience in life having trials.' The voice of anger and this song would not necessarily be an acoustic song you know.

JLK: What music do you listen to?

AA: We all come from very different musical backgrounds. Jay actually grew up listening to mainstream American rock. We came from AUDIO ADELINE and DC TALK, the hard core Christian music. We all like modern rock. It's weird because when you're a musician, you're so jaded by music and you form so many opinions about bands and stuff like that, and it's awful. You go from being a listener, and then someone who enjoys being a fan, and then it's your job and what you do with the competitive atmosphere in some ways. You really become fans of a band you tour with.

JLK: What are your current favorites?

AA: We've always been huge fans of SEVENDUST. I think we wore out the Animosity record when we were growing up. Each guy in the band has his own thing. Right now I'm listening to CHEVELLE'S, new record. It's funny - I'm in a PANTERA phase right now. We play Walk during our set. We've got a musical medley that we do we play RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE (Killing in the Name of), DEFTONES (Shove it), PANTERA (Walk). We're playing a JOURNEY song, which is really funny [He hums a few bars and I determine that it's the song Separate Ways]. Yeah that's it. It depends on the audience, it's kind of like a joke but we don't want to leave them hanging.

JLK: How have these bands affected your music?

AA: We're pretty big fans of SLIPKNOT . We reference some of their music writing our records, you know some of the kind of things they do with their music. It's funny, too, because in a lot of ways people ask us 'Why do you like these bands that that are kind of just outright evil?' and we're just like 'What?' It just all comes down to the music, it doesn't necessarily mean that we agree with the content of what they are saying or whatever. I mean we're fans of MARILYN MANSON music. Just take all the lyrics out and that stuff and just listen to the music, it's amazing.

JLK: Have you had conversations about your beliefs with other bands?

AA: We've met bands that are like, 'Have you read the Black Bible yet?', and we're like, 'No.' It's like when you get into a deep conversation, and it doesn't happen very often, but when it does it always seems to just be the right time. And you sit down and you have this really cool conversation, like SEVENDUST was a good one for us. Lajon [Witherspoon] the lead singer would sit down with us. He's got all these biblical tattoos on his arms and all that stuff. And he's like, we need to sit down and talk about our faith and stuff like that. It's just neat to get into those conversations like that. Everybody has got their spin; this is what they believe in. It's neat to see where some people come from. People that worship the Black Bible, its scary compared to how we were raised and the things that we believe in but it's like it's also so interesting that the human brain goes there also.

JLK: Is it difficult working with your brother in the band?

AA: Oh no, not at all, we've always gotten along.

JLK: No brotherly rivalry?

AA: No, it's weird, we've always gotten along. We're not competitive in any way. Well sports--wise, yeah, and video games, but when it comes to music there's really no competing because we're all just doing it for the exact same reasons. We just want it to sound good, and be good.

JLK: Who's better at video games? You or him?

AA: Probably him.

JLK: That was a diplomatic answer.

AA: Yeah, yeah, definitely he is. That's why we were up so late last night - playing video games.

JLK: You mean it wasn't sex, drugs, and rock and roll?

AA: No, no, no, I think those days are over. For us, we're not coming from that kind of thing but there is lot of bands out there that used to be that way and are no longer that way.

JLK: Yeah I know. So what do you do for fun on the road?

AA: When we're on the road, decompressing is a day off to just hanging out together. We'll pull into a mall parking lot and walk though the mall you know, go shopping, play video games and just relax.

JLK: What do you do when you are off the road; how do you decompress?

AA: We're not big drinkers, not big partiers. We're more work oriented; we don't look forward to days off. We played 30 days straight one time and having a day off kind of throws a monkey wrench into the whole thing. You know you just want to be out there working and building your business kind of thing. It's no longer about partying because it will catch up to you really fast.

JLK: In other interviews it has been alluded to that several band members have suffered from some sort of addiction. Care to comment on that or should I just go to the next question?

AA: There are definitely drugs and alcohol issues with everybody, for the most part. That's the biggest thing, but there's also been some other stuff that we don't usually talk about. It's something that we all have dealt with early in our lives and it continued on when we first got together. We had things going on in our lives, and what we were doing was pretty much dragging us down in life. After you get though something like that you basically want to detach yourself from it, so when people ask that kind of question we kind of just say 'well yeah we've dealt with some pretty wild stuff that we don't like revisiting all the time.'

JLK: Do you think that touring is an addiction?

AA: Touring is an addiction, absolutely. I think that a lot of bands don't like touring, because touring is not that easy. It's not as glamorous as it seems. We're only at home for a short amount of time. Whether it'd be a week or two weeks where you get antsy and want to get back out on the road, you know, and keep building this.

JLK: Where does the term "flat meat" come from?

AA: Randy. We were on tour with SEVENDUST. There's footage on our video blog from the Nokia Theatre in New York City and the day sheet on the wall would always tell you what was for lunch, and it would say catering or buyout or whatever and one day it said flat meat. And we were like what the heck is flat meat, so Randy made a video blog out of it, though it was hilarious. We eventually found out that it was just show up and there's a platter of ham and turkey. Yeah that's funny, people ask us about that a lot.

JLK: What can't you stand to eat on the road now because you've eaten it so much?

AA: Mexican food. Any time we show up to and the venue has Mexican food has catering. Every one of us has gotten food poisoning at one point or another on Mexican food. And when you have food poising and you're playing 5 or 6 shows in a row you're literally like, it's coming out of both ends. It's awful and you double up with a gut-ache for a few days. I think the worse one that we ever had been when we went through El Paso, Texas, with traditional 'real deal' Mexican food. It wasn't Taco Bell; this was the real stuff.

JLK: Are you the one that's the Nurse?

AA: No that's Michael, our lead singer.

JLK: Does he keep everybody healthy?

AA: Nope, he gets sick more than anybody else in the band. I mean he takes all kinds of vitamins and crazy stuff and he always gets sick. He usually has to stay away from us when we're sick. You know, being a lead singer, he can't be sick. He'll get a nasal sound; his throat will be bad and just kind of thrash his voice. He has to be careful, he's actually sick right now. He's on antibiotics right now. He's got access to drugs, luckily we're over that crap and don't have to worry about it. Sort of like 'hey Mike can you get me some of that...'

JLK: What would you like for food on the road?

AA: We eat really healthy, believe it or not. We really try to take care of ourselves. We're big sandwich fans; I like hearty sandwiches, but if I could order something it would probably be something from The Cheesecake Factory.

JLK: So what cheesecake?

AA: The Adams peanut butter, something that starts with Adam [ADAM'S PEANUT BUTTER CUP FUDGE RIPPLE and the tour manger likes the GODIVA® CHOCOLATE CHEESECAKE].