Stimac Talks to Michael Andreas of Martyrd
Michael Andreas of Martyrd
Photo Credit: Matt McCune
Takes Manhattan with Mix of “Old School Thrash
and New School Edge”
Photo Credit Photosynthesis
get much heavier than Martyrd, a New York-based
band that combines the classic chaos of hard rock
with relentless rhythms and visceral vocals.
The five-man band recently played the Ace of Clubs
as part of their promotional tour for the release
of their debut CD “Maniac.” They have
also held court at B.B. King’s, opening for
for both Testament and Death Angel.
Guitarist Michael Andreas is the primary songwriter
and arranger for Martyrd. Michael’s writing
and playing techniques are influenced heavily by
Testament and Alex Skolnick, along with other successful
metal guitarists. By playing with Nuclear Assault's
John Connelly and taking lessons with Favored Nations
recording artist Rob Balducci, Mike has defined
his technique and continues to put it to good use.
Now he is enjoying his current gig with his fellow
members of Martyrd – singer Aaron Pollard,
guitarist Dan Agapitos, bass Kevin Nielsen, and
drummer Adam Birula.
New York Cool had
a chance to catch up with this multi-talented musician
and get a glimpse into the group’s metal misadventures.
Elias Stimac: Tell us about
your musical background.
Andreas: I was always around music growing
up. My mom used to play folk guitar, and she would
play me songs back when I was in diapers. I used
to have a little plastic guitar from Toys'R'Us and
play along to her songs with, and it just went from
there. I never really picked up the guitar with
the intention of playing until my first year of
Elias Stimac: Can you describe
your musical influences?
Michael Andreas: When I first started playing,
it was all about Metallica for me. I was big into
Metallica and I thought, “Hey, let me give
this a shot.” Hanging out in high school I
met Dan, who plays guitar with me in Martyrd. He
got me into Megadeth and Overkill. Some of my friends
were in a band called Viscid at the time, and they
got me into Testament, Exodus, and all the Bay Area
Thrash bands from the 1980s. That was what really
clicked for me. I loved the speed and aggression,
as well as the harmonies and guitar acrobatics.
Elias Stimac: How did taking
lessons with Favored Nations recording artist Rob
Balducci help you develop your technique?
Michael Andreas: Rob Balducci is an amazing
teacher. I had looked into some music theory on
my own before I went to take lessons from him, but
he helped me pull together all of the stuff I had
been researching into something more coherent. Not
only that, but he opened my eyes to things I didn’t
even know I didn’t know, and not to mention
put my overall playing under the microscope. Which
was kind of disappointing at first, because I’m
going in thinking I’m pretty good and I came
out of the first lesson thinking, “Wow, I
suck!” But you can’t fix what you can’t
see, and he helped me realize that every little
detail adds up to an overall effect.
Stimac: What was your experience like playing with
Nuclear Assault's John Connelly like?
Michael Andreas: As far as playing with John,
it’s been a blast. It’s a totally different
kind of songwriting than what I’m used to.
Rather than say “Hey, let’s try this
part here,” he’ll just give a wink or
something where he wants a change while we’re
playing and we’ll just kinda go and see what
happens. If you couldn’t figure it out from
listening to a Nuclear Assault tune, John’s
a hilarious guy, so every time we meet up we’re
all just having fun. I think the biggest influence
John and Rob have had on me, though, is to see that
here are these two guys who are releasing albums
and touring the world, but they’re just normal
guys. It’s not an impossible dream, it’s
within reach, you just have to want it bad enough.
Elias Stimac: How did you
form Martyrd, and what were the rewards and challenges
of starting a new band?
Michael Andreas: Me and a bunch of friends
threw a couple of songs together for a battle-of-the-bands
kind of show at our high school. We covered one
song by Megadeth and one by Metallica. We had a
blast and wanted to keep doing this, more than just
the once-a-year high school talent show kind of
thing, so we started writing original songs, pulled
together solid members who really wanted to do what
we were doing, and just played as much as we could.
It’s a huge challenge to start your own band
from scratch, because you’re really doing
everything from scratch. You’re coming up
with your own tunes, your own sound, your own unique
position, and you have to build up your reputation.
It would be a piece of cake to go join an established
band, learn their songs, and just go from there,
but it wouldn’t have been mine. That’s
the reward -- we’re doing what we love, we’re
not out playing hardcore or emo because that’s
what people are listening to, we’re playing
metal because that’s what we're listening
to. Not to mention we’ve been able to play
with and meet some of our favorite bands along the
way. Within the last year alone we’ve played
with Testament, Death Angel, God Forbid, Arsis,
Joey Belladonna, Lizzy Borden, and it just helps
reinforce that feeling of “Hey, these are
just normal guys getting up there and doing their
thing, we can do that!”
Elias Stimac: How do each
of the members contribute to the band's success?
Andreas: Everybody is really dedicated to
what we’re doing right now, and some people
have more time than others, but we’re all
focused on our goal of getting where we’re
going. I take care of most of the booking and the
promotional aspects, but everybody helps get people
down to shows and sell tickets when we have to.
It’s really an issue of all of us being proud
of what we do and wanting to spread the word. We’re
not just making fans, we’re making friends,
people who we’re hangin out with and are also
helping us get the word out.
Elias Stimac: Describe your
stage show, and what fans can expect when they come
to see you play.
Michael Andreas: Fans can expect to see five
drop-dead gorgeous guys on stage dancing in perfect
unison with the grace and poise of a synchronized
swim team… Except we trip over our own feet.
And none of us can swim. And I don’t think
any of us can spell ‘synchronized.' Really
we’re just five friends up on stage having
a lot of fun and doing what we love. We’re
passionate about the music we play, but none of
us take ourselves seriously. We’re not up
there sacrificing virgins to Zeus or anything, we’re
just trying not to bang our heads into each other’s
guitars. Same thing with our friends and fans, they’re
not having like violent circle pits or anything
like that, they’re more likely to start crowd
surfing and throwing people up in the air or just
run around and bang their heads. No one’s
out for blood, everybody knows everybody and they’re
just having a good time. Oh yeah, and you can expect
shameless promotion for whatever our next show is
and for our totally awesome T-shirts.
Elias Stimac: Tell us about
the process of getting your debut CD "Maniac"
written and recorded.
Michael Andreas: “Maniac” was
written over the course of six years. It’s
just a collection of our favorites that we’ve
been playing live all this time around NYC and the
East Coast. We’ve been playing some of them
for years, so to sit down and record them wasn’t
too big a deal. You can listen to the album and
even though it will flow and be continuous, you
can probably tell which songs are old and which
are new, there’s a lot of progression. We
were constantly writing though, we didn’t
sit down one day and write an album. In fact, we’ve
already got like half the songs for the second album,
so maybe you’ll catch a couple of new ones
on the road!
Elias Stimac: What was it
like playing at B.B. King’s, opening for Testament
and Death Angel?
Michael Andreas: Testament is one of my favorite
bands, so when I heard they were coming to B.B.
King’s, I did everything I could to get us
on that show. They gave us 100 tickets to sell,
we sold them out and went back for more. The show
was sold out overall, it was fantastic! B.B. King’s
is a killer venue. I’ve seen UFO, Y&T,
Kamelot, Yngwie Malmsteen, Overkill (many, many
times), Symphony X, tons of cool bands at B.B. King's,
and to be on the same stage as them was a real accomplishment.
All the people there were really cool -- the sound
and light guys were awesome, the food backstage
was great, and hanging out with Testament was awesome!
We’ve got pictures with them on our MySpace
at myspace.com/Martyrd. Playing with Death Angel
was really cool, I had never seen them live before
but they have such a unique sound, and I was so
amazed that Mark Osegueda could still hit the same
notes he did back on the UltraViolence album. They
put on a great show, and it was actually the last
show of their North American tour, so it was like
a big party on stage when they were playing, everyone
was having fun!
Elias Stimac: Tell us about
your shows with Metal Church.
Michael Andreas: We’re actually doing
double duty with Metal Church, we’re playing
with them August 7th at the ADC Performance Center
in Massachusetts and then again August 8th at the
Penny Arcade in Rochester, NY. Metal Church has
always been one of my favorites! I always loved
how they were so heavy, but still so melodic and
progressive. I’ve never heard a Metal Church
album I didn’t like, and even though they’ve
had to go through a bunch of singers, they always
find someone amazing to take over the vocals! I’ve
seen them three or four times, but the tours I saw
them on always had a fill-in guitarist, so I’ve
never actually seen them live with Kurdt Vanderhoof.
Unfortunately, Kirk Arrington isn’t playing
drums for them anymore. I met him a couple of times
and he was always a really cool guy. I can’t
wait to see them again, though, not to mention playing
with them this time! This show is also a really
big deal for us because we’re not an opening
act, we’re the first headliner, which is a
big step up! We’re expecting a huge turnout,
and I know we have a bunch of friends in Rochester
who have been bugging us to come and play out by
them, so we’re hoping there might be some
people who know our tunes before hand!
Elias Stimac: What are the
future goals of the band?
Andreas: Basically we wanna take over the
world. I mean at this point we’re all working,
some of us are in school still, but we want to go
as far as our music will take us. I’m hoping
that the “Maniac” album will get us
some attention. I think people will like the old
school metal kind of sound we’ve got on this
album. If people are into what we’re doing,
then that will let us keep going. There’s
6.5 billion people just hanging out right now, I’m
sure some of them will dig our stuff. Either way,
this is what we love. Whether we can make this something
huge or not, we’re all musicians first. I’ll
play music the rest of my life, regardless of what
else I have going on at the time.
Elias Stimac: How has the
heavy metal scene changed over the years you have
Michael Andreas: People have said that metal
died with the ’80s, but the scene has always
been there. Not everybody has long hair and skin-tight
jeans and leather jackets anymore, but there are
still people who love the music, and that’s
really what it’s all about. I used to get
disappointed when we’d have a show and there’d
only be a couple of really metal-looking guys there,
but eventually I realized these people are all here
because they love our music. They’re still
bangin’ their heads, they’re still getting
worked up and jumping around, causing trouble, that’s
what it’s all about. The ’80s were great,
but they’re not coming back no matter how
bad we want them to. The music is always gonna be
around though, and it’s always gonna have
its true believers. We’re at a point right
now where people are getting sick of this emo stuff,
this pop punk stuff, this hardcore stuff. They see
it for what it is, more business than art. Of course
you have to have a business sense to survive in
the music world but if you’re not playing
what you love then it’s still just a job,
and to be perfectly honest, there are plenty of
easier jobs out there if you’re only looking
for a paycheck.
taken more of a main stage in the public eye. Games
like Rock Band and Guitar Hero are getting young
kids to realize, “Hey, there’s great
music beyond what gets played on the radio.”
Rock Band was like last year’s Tickle-Me-Elmo,
they couldn’t keep them in stock! Stuff like
that is just helping to spread the word, and hopefully
that’s one more kid that picks up a guitar
instead of a Britney Spears album. Look at “Metalocalypse”
-- that show is hilarious, and even though it’s
making fun of the whole metal scene, people love
it, and it’s bringing attention back around.
If the metal idols have changed over from James
Hetfield and Ronny James Dio to Nathan Explosion
and William Murderface, I can deal with that.
Elias Stimac: How has the
Internet and having a MySpace page or website helped
promote the band?
Michael Andreas: The Internet has really
put everything we need at our fingertips. It’s
really pretty crazy when you think about it -- I
can sit at a computer, send some guy an email, and
make arrangements to go play with some of my favorite
bands. Then I can just put it up on MySpace or send
an email to my friends through Facebook or whatever
and that’s it, I have a venue, I have an audience,
just load up the car and go play! It’s made
finding people who are into our music way easier,
and of course, it’s also upped the competition.
As far as the whole downloading issue, it hasn’t
affected us really. Up until now, we’ve been
giving most of our demos and teasers away for free.
Once we start selling the album, I’m sure
we’ll have some loss to people who download
the album but really at this point, it’s all
about exposure. I just want people to hear our music,
no matter how they get their hands on it. I’ll
admit I’ve downloaded songs in the past, but
once I heard the songs I went and bought the albums.
Owning the album is a little different, you get
the full experience, the mood that the artwork sets,
the quality of the songs is better than the mp3s
you can usually download. For some people that’s
important, for others it’s not. As long as
they dig our tunes enough to listen I’m happy
Elias Stimac: What's it
like being in a working band in New York City?
Michael Andreas: It’s really cool actually.
We have these world-famous places in our backyard,
and it’s way easier for us to get a foot in
the door than for some guys out of like Wisconsin
or somewhere like that. I mean we’ve been
able to hit up CBGBs, the Continental, BB Kings,
the Crazy Donkey, the old Acme Underground (now
the Ace of Clubs) The Lion’s Den, not to mention
all the infamous little NYC dives. And it’s
like the song says, if you can make it here, you
can make it anywhere. There’s so much competition,
especially for bands, that if you can hold your
own around here you’re in pretty good shape.
Any big band that I’m a fan of almost certainly
passes through NYC or Long Island when they tour,
so that gives us a lot of opportunities to play
to with national acts and to fans of rock and metal
in general. I want to tour the world and play everywhere
I can, but when all is said and done, I’ll
always call New York home.
For more information on Martyrd and the bands upcoming
NYC shows, visit www.myspace.com/martyrd.
For booking inquiries please contact the band directly
by email at Martyrd13@yahoo.com