1. First of all, thank you for taking the time to do this interview with me. Before we really get rolling, please introduce yourself and can you please give us some information on your band and its background?
You’re welcome and thanks for doing 20 questions with us! This is James and I play guitar in the band TOWER with my partner in crime Zak. We’ve all been polluting the streets of Brooklyn for a while, so we knew each other before the band started. Our singer Sarabeth and I go back the longest and played in bands together since 2012. Me and Philippe had a project in 2013-14. Zak and Sarabeth were in a band just prior to TOWER which this band kinda sprung out of. Now we practice in a dilapidated ex-factory in Bushwick infested with junkie squatters who leave their dirty needles in the toilets.
2. Please describe your band’s style. Genre, similar bands, etc. What should a potential new fan expect upon hearing your music for the first time?
I just call it rock and roll. If it’s good enough for Motörhead it’s good enough for me. I would tell someone who hasn’t heard us yet to expect heavy and grimey guitars & bass, led by powerful and melodic vocals. We try to find the right mix of pretty and ugly, we don’t wanna tip the scale too much to one side. And we want each one of our songs stuck in your head. I think our record would fit right in to any classic metal playlist.
3. What other bands have you played in previously?
Too many, so I’ll mention just a few. Me and Sarabeth played in some cover bands together before Tower. The first was the Psycho Hippies and we did oldies and motown songs. After that we had Holy Diva, covering Dio stuff including Sabbath and Rainbow. The band I had with Philippe around then was good too, but the name sucked so bad I won't even say it. I played live guitar in Deceased for 5 years between 2011-15. Prior to that I was in Vermefüg which was a thrash band that put out one record on King Fowley’s label Old Metal Records. Nick from Mutoid Man played with me and Jeff, who produced Tower’s album, in Vermefüg and in another band called Bröhammer. Lastly I wanna send a shout to The Mugs who are a NYHC band I’ve been in and out of most of my life.
4. What are some of your musical influences both in metal and maybe in other styles of music?
I’m more into to substance than style, so my influences are all over the place. I like the same things in metal that I like in other genres, which I can only describe as good melodies matched with the right beat. Songs like “Prowler” and “Killers” are perfect to me. The Metal Massacre series would be a good example of my kind of metal. Lots of that old Metal Blade and Megaforce stuff is right up my alley, Shrapnel too. And there’s a lot of music I love besides metal, like freestyle which is New York based dance music that was popular in the late ‘80s and ‘90s. I love the oldies. I feel more power and energy from the Four Tops than I do from a lot of ‘extreme’ bands trying too hard with screams and blast beats and whatever. There was so much good shit between the ‘60s and ‘80s in all genres across the board. “Upside Down” by Diana Ross is one of my favorite drum tracks ever. I’m into old hardcore and punk, especially the Ramones, Misfits, Bad Brains, Dead Kennedys, Agnostic Front, Murphy’s Law, Cro Mags, Leeway and so on. We listen to Joe Walsh and Abba and Donnie Iris and Fleetwood Mac and Krokus and old school rap and all sorts of shit in the tour van.
5. Can you please share with us your band's recording history and any interesting stories and experiences from the studio?
All our recording so far has been with Jeff Filmer who works out of Best Instrument Rental now located in Carlstadt, NJ. Every time we’ve gone in to record it’s because a drummer is about to leave and we need to save our progress before they go. Our first drummer Joey Bouchard stepped down early on, staying just long enough to play on our first demo in May 2015. The album version of “Hold On To Me” was taken from this ancient session. We recorded again in January 2016 when the new drummer Justin Sherrell had to bow out before a tour that March. That's what ended up becoming the first album. We didn’t even have an album in mind when we did that. Most recently we did another demo last July and August with Justin’s temp replacement Jesse Bagels on drums. These recordings never had vocals and are in danger of being lost forever due to hard drive failure. Justin is back in the band now and we’re about to start another demo, this time with Phil San Giacomo of Justin's other band Somnuri doing the recording. I hope the demo is done by the time you read this.
6. How about your bands live experiences? Any amusing or memorable shows you would like to share with us?
We had to throw a crackhead out of a show in Pittsburgh a few months ago. I jumped off the stage so I could hit him with my guitar in case he came back. On the brighter side, the shows we did with Uli Jon Roth this past March were incredible. He’s one of our heroes and such a nice guy. His whole crew was super laid back and nice to us. Playing live is my favorite thing so I’m rarely disappointed with gigs. I’m looking forward to playing Europe again. I’ve been there before with Deceased and can’t wait to come back with Tower!!!
7. We have all heard of the big 4 of thrash. Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer and Anthrax. It has been talked about in the past and critiqued quite often. In your mind, what are the Big 4? You don't have to just list thrash bands, lets open it up to all metal genres, past or present, what is the big 4 in your mind?
This was the hardest question. I don’t know whether to name my favorite guitar players, bands, lineups, songwriters, personal influences, people without whom music would not be the same… so I’ll just throw out 4 names that mean a lot to me. Tony Iommi, Eddie Van Halen, Dee Dee Ramone, Cliff Burton
8. What would be your dream supergroup? Again lets open it up to past or present musicians, what would be the dream band lineup?
I wish we could have gotten more out of the lineups that did Blizzard of Ozz, Master of Puppets and Peace Sells. Those bands worked better than any daydream I could come up with on paper.
9. Now if you were to be a member of any band, who would you love to join up with?
If ANY band asked me to join full time I’d tell them I’m taken. I don’t give a fuck who they are. Tower is it!!! In fantasy-land it would be cool to get high and jam with Aerosmith and then fuck Liv Tyler.
10. Now it’s time to get philosophical. What IS heavy metal?
Hard rock on steroids. There are a few important distinctions that separate metal from hard rock. A lot of it has to do with note choices - sharps, flats and pedal tones you wouldn’t usually hear in regular rock ‘n roll. Deep Purple added neoclassical electric guitar scales and high speed double bass drums to the mix on “Fireball”, which is to me the first example of what would become thrash and power metal. And of course Black Sabbath offered up the evil, gloomy, pummeling guitars and drums which would mark all that is heavy from there on out. And sometimes a hard rock band can just be so fuckin’ badass that they cross the threshold into metal almost by accident, like The Rods or Twisted Sister.
11. What has heavy metal done for you thus far both in music and in your personal life?
From my earliest years it was both an escape and a legit way of life. And it still is. Metal exemplifies the attitude of “I’m doing it my way and if you don’t like it you can go fuck yourself.” It only takes one guitar chord to send that message. When everything and everyone else let me down, metal was still there. People like to ask the question “who will save rock n’ roll?” and I can only think they’ve got it backwards. Music saves people, not the other way around.
12. If you were not playing in a metal band, what do you think you would be doing currently?
My “real job” is construction. Don’t remind me
13. What is your heavy metal dream? I am not talking about goals here, I am talking about going to bed and dreaming...what is the dream you are having? Or is it a nightmare?
Make it real not fantasy! TOWER is bent on going worldwide and making a career out of it. Dreams are cool but action is what counts.
14. What is your view on the current state of heavy metal?
The state of music in general is a mess. The business is fucked, the art is fucked too. It’s a time of drastic change and upheaval. Support for underground metal bands comes from the die hards as always, especially in Europe and Japan. When it comes to new stuff I’m either out of touch or just not too interested in most new metal. Ghost and Enforcer caught my ear and I bought some albums but they haven’t maintained my interest. We toured with a band last year called R.I.P. from Portland, Oregon who are great. I love Sabbath, but most doom bands fall flat to me. It needs to be unique. Cirith Ungol and Trouble are exceptions, they don’t sound like anyone else and that’s why I like them so much. R.I.P. reminds me of that.
15. What are your thoughts concerning the digital era of metal. I am curious what you think of digital downloading, recording in the modern era and anything else that has changed since the early days of the industry.
Martin Birch is my favorite producer. I think studio recording hit a sweet spot from about ’78 to ’82. The boards they used, the tape they used, the vinyl it would be pressed on all played a role in the thick and real sounds you used to get. But more importantly, in those days bands used to be able to block out 3 months of studio time and not come out until they had a complete product. We’re talking records like Number of the Beast and Screaming for Vengeance. Bands need the time and space to focus and work properly. Meanwhile every experience I’ve had in the studio was something like 30 hours total, but spread over a handful of weekends. Sometimes it drags on for months. We’ll do a 5-hour day and then you don’t see the studio again for 10 days. It doesn’t help the artist. Bands used to be able to live on a salary from the record company and be free to work on their craft every day. Until conditions allow for that to happen again you just won’t get the same quality. As far as downloading, it’s tape trading made easy. I’m not against it at all! Fans who really want physical copies can still buy them, and everyone else can buy t-shirts and concert tickets if they’re more into streaming than buying. In the next 15 years I can see most record companies going by the wayside or just morphing into PR companies. Physical media as a big business is dead in the States.
16. Heavy metal has gone through some changes since the early days. New movements have come and gone as has its overall popularity. With that in mind, what direction do you see heavy metal going in the future?
I’d have a hard time describing where heavy metal is NOW! Is ‘djent’ heavy metal? Is super noodly power metal really heavy metal? What about symphonic black metal? Is it metal or some other style whose only thing in common with metal is distorted guitar? Hendrix and Zeppelin are no longer called heavy metal, but they used to be in the ‘70s. A lot of my favorite stuff is more and more being described as classic rock instead of heavy metal. It’s only a matter of time before somebody hears “Running Free” and says “that ain’t heavy, that’s classic rock!” It’s the same old story, definitions change and I stay the same. If I’m still here in 2067 I’ll still be wondering whether I really like In The Shadows better than Melissa and still going by the definition of metal I grew up with.
17. Several musicians have gone on record to say that the full length album is dead. That with the digital age there is no need to produce a full length release. What are your thoughts, is the full length dead or still viable?
We’ve grown up thinking that albums are normal but they’re really a recent innovation. The history of music goes back thousands of years and we’ve only had recorded music for around 100 years. Expectations evolved as technology allowed longer and longer album playback. The concept of filler music sprang up when artists were expected to fill a certain amount of time on a disc. Naturally I’m against filler music, I mean if you have 3 good songs, it sucks to have to surround them with 5 or 10 bullshit songs just to meet a contractual obligation. Then again, if it wasn’t for trying to fill up time on a record, “Paranoid” would never have been written. Pressure works sometimes. I think the classic LP format of 15-20 minutes per side is perfect and not too much to expect from a group every year or two.
18. Okay time to talk and promote your band some more. What is the current news coming from your camp. Any new music, tours, festivals or anything going on?
We’re getting a summer tour together in the US, which is great because it’ll be our first tour of any decent length since the album came out. Four or five weeks, and it’s about fuckin’ time. Of course we have our sights set on Europe and elsewhere! Songwriting is always happening and by the time we hit all the markets we’ll be ready to drop the second album.
19. What are the immediate short range goals for your group?
To out-do whatever we did last year. This can be extended into a long range goal.
20. What about ultimately any long range goals?
To have a career with as much longevity, originality, quality and integrity as Steve Harris and Lemmy
21. Finally if you have any last words you wish to express to your fans and the metal community in general please do so here.
Interviews are cool but live shows are way better. So if you liked this, definitely come see us when we’re in the neighborhood. Til then “Have a good time all the time!!!!!!”