Friday, June 21, 2013

ORION Music + More: HappyHeadbanger's Interview with Tony Asta from BATTLECROSS

Post #254

On June 8th, the first day of Orion Music and More, I had an exciting opportunity to sit down and have a one-on-one interview with Tony Asta, the guitarist for the up-and-coming thrash band Battlecross from Detroit, Michigan. Here's what he had to say:
HappyHeadbanger: Joel Beverley for Heavy Metal 107 at, actually, and I'm speaking with...
Tony Asta: What's up! This is Tony from Battlecross.
HH: Okay Tony, so tell me just in a few words what does it mean for Battlecross to be selected for the list of bands here at Orion Music + More.
TA: It’s amazing, it’s surreal, it’s a great feeling to know we’re a part of something in our hometown, and we’re very excited to play. This is going to kick ass. All weekend we’re going to be hanging out, and I can’t wait to see Metallica, so.

HH: Awesome. All right. Now Metallica, legendary, one of the first thrash bands, been around 30 years.
TA: Yeah!
HH: Obviously everyone is looking forward to them. Who else on the bill are you personally excited to have a chance to see, or to meet, or catch their music?
TA: I really want to check out INFECTIOUS GROOVES. I really want to check out ALL SHALL PERISH. Those are the first two that come to mind, definitely, so.

HH: Awesome. Sweet. Tell me a little bit about each of your band mates. What are they like? What’s it like being in the band with those guys?
TA:  Well it’s awesome. First I gotta bring up my best friend Hiran Deraniyagala, the other guitar player. I’ve known him since I was like 4 or 5 years old. We grew up across the street from each other. He’s, you know, my brother from another mother, man. I love him to death. And anyway we’ve been jammin’ together since like ’97. He’s kinda like the smart, responsible one in the band. And I try my best to be. He’s always got our backs, you know?
And, up next I’d say Don Slater, he’s our bassist, cool dude. We actually stole him from another band a few years back, and since the moment I saw him play I just knew I had to have him in Battlecross*. Somehow along the way we finagled it. He’s a great dude I love him to death too, obviously.
HH: Okay, okay.
TA: Gumby, our singer, we stole him from another band too (laughs). He’s kind of another same case: where we saw him on stage. He used to play in a band called I Decay, from Flint, MI, and we used to share the same management with him, and we saw them play. We were like, "Dude, this guy captivates me! We gotta have him in out band!” And like 2 yrs later it just happened, things lined up, and we got him in, so...

HH: Yeah, particularly when you’re still on the underground, on the local scene, I know that happens a lot.
TA: Yeah.
HH: I followed a band from St. Louis when they played in ’09 and then when they broke up, 3 of the members formed new bands.
TA: Right!
HH: So, it’s like,  it’s a lot to follow.
TA: Yeah. It’s very true. Funny thing about that is me and Hiran have always played guitar in Battlecross, the whole time. So, I mean, we like never really dabbled in too much other things, that weren't really taken seriously anyway, so.
HH: So you were the ‘seed crystal' so to say, the 2 of you together.
TA: Yep, absolutely.

HH: As a band, do you guys have any like, pre-show rituals, or traditions that you do to get pumped up for a show or anything?
TA: Um, I mean, we’re ‘self-motivators’, let’s put it that way. (laughs) I mean sometimes we like, listen to music, but most of the time we just like to make sure we’re well prepared, and we walk on stage with no issues. We take care of most of our own stuff, but we like to warm-up a lot before we play. And just pump ourselves up, you know, amongst our crew.

HH: Okay. With this being Orion Fest, I imagine it’s gotta be one of the biggest shows you’ve ever played.
TA: Yeah Totally!
HH: Is your prep going to be any more intense, or more serious for this one? Or are you just going to do your thing?
TA: Actually we’ve been rehearsing straight for about a week with Kevin Tally who’s filling in on drums, for now, yeah.
HH: Alright.
TA: He’s great, dude. Who knows? We might try to kinda snag him too. We’ll see.
HH: Okay, so..
TA: So, he’s awesome. And Anyway we’ve been jamming  for about a week, getting everything together, and today we got here really early, and everything’s already ready, so all we gotta do now is just warm up and play and I can’t wait.

HH: Oh, sweet. Okay now, I’ve been reading up and you guys have already been featured on a number of pretty big tours, and coming up this summer you’ve got Mayhem Fest coming up, right?
HH: With Rob Zombie as a headliner, Five Finger Death Punch, tons of other bands.
TA: Yeah, man.
HH: That's gotta be a big lift, a big high to land a gig like that, too. How does that compare with this Orion Fest thing. ...Not to compare the two against each other, but...
TA: You know... I don't know. They're both amazing. I would never, I guess, expect to be, at this point, so I guess... It's not really early in our career, but it's early on in terms of how long we've been touring. We've only been touring for about a year and a half-to-two years. So, considering that, this is amazing. To be on Mayhem, you know, only within 2 years of touring is great! 'Cause I mean there are bands that have been pounding that pavement for years and years and years, you know? It's just crazy to really have the opportunity to really hop on to do something really awesome.
HH: It comes your way, take advantage of it, right?
TA: Absolutely, yeah!

HH: Alright. So, your new album is coming out next month in July. It's called War Of Will.
TA: Yes.
HH: And I was reading on your website which is, right?
TA: Yes.
HH: OK, reading on your website that you took the attitude of 'Deliver or be Delivered'.
TA: Yes!
HH: So... elaborate a bit on that.
TA: Well, that was more in... that was more to describe the atmosphere of being in the studio. We went to Audiohammer Studios in Florida, and worked with producers Eyal Levi and Mark Lewis and also with Jason Seucoff. And, they just had this way about them that was definitely 'Deliver or be delivered' because it's like you step up to the plate 'cause you know they work with professionals and you just gotta be your best. And if you flub, guess what? Now, you're... you gotta catch up, you know what I mean?
HH: Yeah.
TA: So, it's like a really kinda just walking into this world where it's just a really new professional experience which is kinda the best way I can describe it because our other experiences have been a lot more just kinda like finagley? You know, just kinda we'll just kind of make it work. As long as we prepare we'll just, you know, whatever. This time around it was just like you know, we gotta go in there, we gotta be the best. And if we're not then, you know...So that's kinda what it was mean to be like.
HH: A real, real top-notch kind of recording experience.
TA: Yeah, exactly. Those guys are great. I gotta really hand it to them. The album turned out fantastic. I can't wait for everybody to hear the rest of it, so.

HH: Sweet, I'm looking forward to it myself. So, you guys are the 'Hometown heroes'. You're from the Detroit area, or Detroit itself. I imagine you've been playing... you told me the other day, since '05, like local bars and stuff in the Detroit area, I assume.
TA: Yeah.
HH: Are there other local underground bands, independent metal bands you'd recommend, that are still you know, struggling on the scene?
TA: Yeah.
HH: Trying to get to where you guys have made it?
TA: I gotta give, definitely give a shout-out to the guys in Wulfhook. They're amazing. They're like if Dio was singing with like Priest and Maiden... Yeah, on crack! It's like, amazing. They're great, check out Wulfhook... It's kinda a funny spelling but also Nothing for Now. Also check out Imminent Sonic Destruction.
HH: Okay!
TA: Great bands, yeah for sure... Nurse Ratched...
HH: I definitely will.
TA: Yeah, for sure.

HH: Coming back to you, personally a little bit. Who do you cite as major inspirations for when you were first learning to play guitar. When you first had a love for music so much you wanted to pursue it.
TA: Um, it was a combination of a lot of stuff. Honestly just where I grew up, and my friends, and my dad's really into classic rock. So that kinda like started it, you know? Like, just being influenced, just being a victim of circumstance of where I grew up. But as far as like musicians, I definitely say Metallica, dude, is like the one band that really kicked it off. I had a best-friend who played guitar before I did, and he used to always play Metallica songs, like old-school stuff. And I heard it I was like, "Dude, that's sweet!" And then he played the CD and I'm like, "Dude, I'm in love with this band!" And then he showed me how to play it, and I ended up getting a guitar.
HH: Yeah, when you learn to play your first Metallica, it's like, "Wow! I did that!"
TA: Yeah yeah yeah! And it's GENIUS, man! I mean those guys were so young when they wrote that stuff, you know what I mean?
HH: It's amazing. They're such legends. Just anything... Now Battlecross is really, on the national scene kinda a new band. So like, any of my readers who may not know anything about you guys, in your own words what do you describe your music as. Like, genre or direction, stuff like that.
TA: I would say, I'd like to just keep it to 'we're metal'.
HH: Yeah.
TA: But, we're definitely really thrashy. So, thrash metal with a lot of elements of like death and power metal kind of stuff. There's a little bit of 'groove' in there. I really don't know how to describe ourselves just because I want to let other people to judge.
HH: To decide for themselves.
TA: Yeah. You know, whatever they want to stick us in, go for it. We have a lot of different influences. So I'm sure you could pick and whatever, whatever. This song sounds like this and this part sounds like that. So there's a nice mix.

HH: Ok, cool. And do you forsee if down the road if your sound may evolve in a certain direction? If you might do a little more of this or that? Or do you just like what you're doing right now?
TA: I think that we'll evolve in a way that I can't imagine. So I don't want to even speculate just because I want to let it happen.
HH: Okay, "Live in the moment". I definitely dig that. Okay, just a couple last questions to wrap it up. Do you have an all-time favorite band? Like a rock band, heavy metal band, or any other kind of band?
TA: It's going to be pretty obvious. Yeah, Metallica. Metallica and Pantera, yeah.
HH: Metallica and Pantera. Yeah, Okay.
TA: Yeah, for sure.
HH: Yeah man, I still miss Dimebag Darrell.
TA: Absolutely dude.
HH: It still seems like it just happened yesterday, losing him, but what a hero of metal that people have come to recognizing him.
TA: Absolutely, and when everything kinda went down, dude that was probably the most shocking day of my, you know of my... Well, I think I was like 16, no I was 20, and anyway, when that happened. But it also was an influence because it was, I just remember it so clearly, like "Holy shit, dude, this is fucked up."
HH: Yeah at that point you just take metal music so much more seriously.
TA: Yeah. And it's just like, "Who the fuck is gonna step up and play some shit. Some good 'ole shit that just, you know... It doesn't have to be the next fad. It doesn't have to be anything. It's just good-ole fuckin' metal." That's a really huge influence for us.
HH: Yeah, lead-guitar solos kinda almost disappeared there in the late '90s except for him.
TA: Totally dude.
HH: At least mainstream-wise.
TA: Yeah man, rest in peace, Dimebag!
HH: Yeah, Dimebag Darrell FOREVER!

HH: Do you have a favorite movie?
TA: Aliens.
HH: You like the Aliens movie?
TA: Aliens, the second one is the bomb-diggity
HH: Sweet, Okay. Sci-fi movies. How about a favorite book?
TA: Not really.
HH: Not much of a reader?
TA: Well I used to be but not so much anymore. I got scared out of that shit. I mean I'll read a line in a newspaper and shit like that.
HH: Okay, then. Cool. Well, Tony Asta from Battlecross, thanks for having a few minutes with, may name's Joel Beverley. I write It's called Heavy Metal 107 but the url is, so.
TA: Thanks, Joel!
HH: Thanks a lot!
TA: I appreciate it, brother. Yeah, man. Kick ass!

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