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New York Cool - Interview

Elias Stimac Talks to Michael Andreas of Martyrd

Opposite Photo:
Michael Andreas of Martyrd
Photo Credit: Matt McCune

 

Band Martyrd Takes Manhattan with Mix of “Old School Thrash and New School Edge”


Martyrd
Photo Credit Photosynthesis

Metal doesn’t 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.

Michael 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 high school.

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.

Elias 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?

Michael 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?

Michael 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 been performing?

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.

Lately, metal’s 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 though!

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


 



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