Exclusive Interview with Symphony X’s Russell Allen (Part 2)

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Symphony X Russell Allen

Last week we brought you the first part of our very long exclusive interview with Symphony X’s singer and all around top guy Russell Allen. This is the second part of our interview with Mr Allen, so if you missed the first part you can read that by clicking the link here —> (Part 1 of Rocksins’ interview with Russell Allen from Symphony X). Please read on for more discussion on Adrenaline Mob, future plans for Symphony X and some of Russell’s other collaborations.

Jamie: How did it (Adrenaline Mob) all come about if you don’t mind me asking?

Russell: I started with Mike Orlando. A lot of the material that he had for Adrenaline Mob was from a project that he had going on and we were working on my solo album together which we’re still working on but I got sidetracked by this because like I said I really like the songs and I said “look man you’ve been helping me with my solo stuff let me see what I can do with some of your songs”. So I started working on it with him and re-writing some of the stuff and most of the vocal parts, rearranging some sections with him and we had gotten a few songs together which we sent off to some labels and the interest was immediate and it was like “oh boy”…
Jamie: Here we go…
Russell: Here we go! I’ve started something now I have to finish it. So I got Portnoy involved and Mike came in and within thirty seconds of me sending him the email with some songs attached he mailed me back “I’M IN” in capital letters. It just went from there. He and I started to talk about what kind of band we wanted to build here and he had some suggestions about people. We went to see Paul Di Leo play and he just blew us all away so we asked him to get in on it and then we got Rich Ward through Portnoy’s friend Chris Jericho with the whole Fozzy connection. Rich is an amazing guitarist and he’s a humble soul and he’s really, really cool and I can’t say enough about The Duke. He’s inspired me because I love his attitude, he’s in good shape, he takes good care of himself and he’s got the right attitude to do this line of work.
Jamie: I’ve been doing this for a couple of years now and Rich is probably the nicest guy I’ve ever interviewed, he’s a top, top guy.
Russell: I love him because he’s like me, what you see is what you get. You just don’t find too many folks like that, who can just be themselves and he’s like that and I like that about him. It’s cool because I don’t meet a lot of people like that in life and the ones I do meet I become really good friends with. You can say anything to each other, love it or hate it you’re gonna get the real story from him, he’s gonna tell you what he fuckin thinks and I like that.
Jamie: I think it’s healthy in a band to be able to tell each other what you think like if someone’s recorded a part that you don’t think it’s very good, if you can’t say so then it’s all going to blow up sooner or later.
Russell: Yeah, that’s true. You do have different personalities and you can be walking on egg shells with certain folks but I do appreciate having a real honest, objective person that just says what they feel. That’s worth it’s weight in gold. I’m always in a collaborative environment and that’s how I like to work so I’m always looking for input from others and I’m bouncing everything off of people. It doesn’t matter if it’s a guy in my band or the intern in the studio I’m always like “well I think this is good but what do you think?” “Yeah I think it’s great” ok good I’m onto something. I just need that little bit of validation or if someone’s got a good idea I can work with that. Or iff someone wants to bounce off me that’s great too so I love that, that’s my favourite way to work.

Jamie: Talking about other collaborations, are you and Jorn Lande likely to do anything else together?

Russell: Maybe tour. I don’t know if we’re going to do another record, I think we should tour first and get to know each other and all that good stuff and see if we’ve got something. I think it would be fun, I don’t know what he’s up to, we don’t talk, we have no relationship really so I don’t know what he’s up to but I think it would be a good idea for some touring. I do like doing records with him because its easy, the songs are great and his voice is great and I always look forward to doing it, “It’s Allen & Lande time” *laughs* so I can just get in the studio and do my thing and it’s a lot of fun. But there’s nothing currently on the slate coming up that I know of. We finished our contract run with that and I haven’t talked to Frontiers about it.
Jamie: Fair enough.

Jamie: Do you have any idea when the next time you’re likely to be back in the UK is? And if so whether it will be with Symphony X or Adrenaline Mob or anybody else?

Russell: Well that’s the thing, I really want to keep it to just the two things I’m doing, Symphony X and Adrenaline Mob. I’ve never done two bands so this is new for me. I’ve always done projects which have been one-off’s but never like this, another touring band. So I’m looking forward to it. I hope that I’m here with The Mob sooner or later and before I’m here with Symphony X again because Symphony X will probably not return for a minimum six months to a year I would say because that’s just the way it is, promoters aren’t going to book you because you were just here. I’d like to come back with The Mob and the whole thing for me is that I really wanna fill the time gaps that I’ve had with Symphony X.
Jamie: I know you guys (Symphony X) have had quite long gaps in-between recording the albums…
Russell: They’re brutal. I just can’t do it anymore so I really, really look forward to being with either band. I’ve had a great tour with Symphony X, it’s been a lot of fun and we’ve seen a lot of cool things. The Mob’s going to be a little rough in the beginning so it’s going to take a couple of years to really get it going. But they’re going to be a fast couple of years, The Mob’s a completely different animal. There are so many opportunities to play, we’ve been approached by so many different people and we’re just trying to get the money together to get it all happening.

Jamie: I know you’ve touched on the Symphony X recording cycle in other interviews, do you think there’s any chance of that getting sped up at all?

Russell: I would like to see it get sped up, my portion of it is always the same. It’s a few months with Romeo, this last one was four months and the reason was my son was born in the middle of the recording process so I had to take a couple weeks to spend with my wife and my new born kid. The other thing was that it was a double album which I’ve never had before, that’s the most recording for one record ever in my whole career so that was another issue. It took a long time to write and record all the vocal parts and arrangements on this one. But in the grand scheme of things it took me an extra five weeks compared to normal. My portion is always the same, I hope that we can get to me sooner and I think that’ll happen. It has to happen, I feel like it has to happen or the band’s going to lose all of it’s momentum. That’s what this band has always done. We’ve been in the clubs our whole career because we’ve never been able to maintain any momentum. We’ve had a lot of cool moments in the sun where we’ve had some nice shows and we did some really cool stuff but the reality is is that here’s a new fanbase again. I look out in the crowd and I recognise no-one. There’s always a few people you know and that you see over the years but nowadays they’re all young faces and fresh faces. It’s like wow it’s a whole new generation. In America it’s even crazier because we’ve never had success there until recently. Now we’re playing big places in the States and we’re having good shows and massive moshpits and security guards and it’s a crazy crazy scene at home but it’s a lot of fun. I think if we can stay on train and get another album out by, I’m gonna throw it out there now, if we can get an album out in say 2013 that would be the ideal time. We need to come back here I think one more time on another tour and tour maybe the UK a little better, try and go to Scotland, Ireland, go all over. We’d also like to get to Scandanavia for some shows and maybe make that happen for a portion of the tour, maybe into Russia, maybe just do the whole north part of Europe. We did the Southern part already we did Italy, maybe just to Paris is as far south as we’d go, maybe in six months and then in a year we’d come back and do the other places, divide it in two paths. And then when that’s done a new record and then a year out again. So that would be ideal, but we’ll see. I’m not going to hold my breath but I really am optimistic about it.
Jamie: Well like you say it would be a real shame for you to lose all this momentum that you have, it seems like it’s about as good as it’s ever been right now and it would nice if you could keep it up.
Russell: Yeah I think it would be great. I’m pretty much getting in the best shape of my life, I’ve really enjoyed this year, I’ve lost like fourty pounds.
Jamie: Wow, that’s awesome well done.
Russell: Thanks! But it’s been over time not like “Oh I’m on a diet”, it’s just touring and not eating a bunch of crap and trying to watch what I’ve been doing out here. I still like to have my rum and I still enjoy the vices that I like in moderation. But I’ve really benefitted from it, I’ve been singing really well and this tour has been nothing but walking, walking, walking. When I was doing this when I was younger you fall into the trap like every musician does, just being constantly annhiliated every night. You’re constantly tanked as we like to say, and I sucked half the shows. I was twenty four, twenty five years old, smoking cigarettes, drinking, hungover and just not really at my best and I’ve made a conscious effort pretty early on to try and change all that so I quit smoking cigarettes, and now I’m just enjoying the touring more in terms of actually seeing stuff, I passed all that up earlier on, but this tour especially I’ve really made a conscious effort to get out and just see the sites and take the walks, stuff like going to the Tower Of London. I used to do this medieval knight thing back in America and a lot of people talk about that.
Jamie: Yeah I thought I’d give you the night off from talking about that.
Russell: The only thing I’ll say about it is that it was really cool to go there (The Tower of London) and to see the real stuff and take a bunch of pictures and send back to all my old knight stunt buddies and they’ll get a real kick out of the photos. Stuff like that. You never know when you’re going to get here again or what you’re going to do in life so this whole touring thing I took for granted early on thinking “oh I’ll be back” but nowadays I think “I’ll be back but with two bands who the hell knows when, where, who with”. Also I have kids now so I’m really doing a lot for them, I’m taking pictures for them and I never really took pictures of all the guys I know. I know tons of people, people that are like stars or my idols and I never took a lot of pictures, I just wasn’t that guy. Now I try and do that more because my buddy Rayzy he was saying to me “you know man you gotta do that stuff”, he’s my best friend. We were sitting in my pirate studio – I have a pirate themed studio, it’s an old shack I built in my back yard so he comes and we were drinking Newcastle, we like Newcastle Brown Ale and we were kickin’ back and he was like “you’ve gotta take more pictures of all these people you know” and I’m like “I dunno man”, I never wanted to make people feel like I was a cling on or I dunno…
Jamie: You didn’t want to feel like you were bothering people?
Russell: Yeah. I didn’t want to be that guy. And he was like “you’re not bothering them man, you’re always gracious you always take pictures with everybody”. I don’t mind being in the photo but I always felt awkward asking for one and he was like “screw that you know, what are you gonna tell your kids when you’re old?” And I was like “oh damn you’re right” I didnt think about that so like a jackass I totally didnt think like that so I’m trying to make up for it so I’m putting it out there I’m just gonna take a picture with everybody, so don’t get mad as I’m going to be haunting everyone at the festivals next Summer. I need to do it, and it’s kinda cool I feel good now doing it because I’m not doing it for me I’m doing it for my family and my kids and when they’re old enough to see and understand everything hopefully they’ll get a kick out of it.

Jamie: Speaking of the festival season I don’t know if you’ve heard of a festival over here called High Voltage?

Russell: I’ve heard of it yeah.
Jamie: I think it’d be a pretty good fit for both Symphony X and Adrenaline Mob as it’s run by Classic Rock Magazine and it’s basically Classic Rock and Prog with a few metal bands.
Russell: When’s that happening?
Jamie: It was the end of July this year, it’s a two day weekend thing in London with no camping, just turn up on the day.
Russell: How many people showed up for that one?
Jamie: I’m not sure but it was pretty busy, it was headlined by Judas Priest’s “last UK festival appearance” (interviewers note – take that with a pinch of salt) and Dream Theater headlined the other day, that was pretty cool.
Russell: Yeah that sounds pretty cool, I’m sure Mike (Portnoy) would love to play that. We’ll see. I’m pretty optimistic that the festival season should be pretty good for me *laughs*, It might be too good for me that’s what I’m thinking *laughs*. I hope it’s good. I think The Mob needs the festivals more than anything, Symphony X doesn’t really need them. Symphony X has traditionally never succeeded or had life or death based on the festivals we’ve always just maintained our own touring. I think we’ll just continue to come around once a year and do our own thing. Festivals are just kinda a fun thing for us to do and feel like a big band for a day and play for a big audience.
Jamie: And a chance to catch up with your buddies.
Russell: Well that’s really what it’s all about for me. You can see old friends and be like “where we going tonight? Let’s go to my room, no let’s go to your room, no let’s go out!”. It’s a lot of fun and I really enjoy it, it’s a great chance to see a lot of people that you know and it’s really cool to catch up.

Jamie: Awesome, well I won’t keep you much longer but one thing I have to ask: Is there any word on any show, or shows or a mini tour with yourselves and an orchestra?

Russell: I’ve been wanting to do that for a long time. I put that out in the press on the last tour that I’d like to see the band record with an orchestra. Romeo’s talking about it, he wants to do it. It’s a lot of work for him – he has to hire a conductor and all that stuff but I’d like to do that coupled with a DVD shoot, that’s what I’m thinking and I think it would be great for Symphony X. I feel like the fans have waited this long for it, let’s give them something really really good. We wouldn’t make any money off it, with the DVD thing it’s so expensive to produce, I’d be shocked if we turned a profit on it I don’t really care if we do. I just feel like if the band is going to do it let’s do the biggest baddest thing we can do and then make it cool because I don’t want to do it playing down the street at Joe’s bar or whatever – I want to have the full orchestra and a proper venue for that. You need good production for that. All the stuff, so I’m really looking forward to doing it and I know the guys are too, it’s just a lot of logistics. We’re feeling out different people, different places and I would say it’s a year away realistically and if it doesn’t happen this cycle I would be shocked. But Symphony X is it’s own creature.
Jamie: Well there’s lots of nice places in London you could fit an orchestra in if you wanted to do it here!
Russell: Yeah, to do it in London would be great. I think it would be great to do it here or anywhere where there’s proper facilities and a good orchestra. I’m all about it but it’s not just me, it’s the time to sort these things out.

Jamie: Last question, I asked people on Twitter if they had any questions for you and someone said as it’s getting close to Christmas what would you want from Santa this Christmas?

Russell: Well if it was from Santa…
Jamie: A symphony orchestra? *laughs*
Russell: A symphony orchestra and a hit song for The Mob. That would be the perfect Christmas present for me. I would certainly love to have a brand new custom chopper as well but that’s definitely not going to happen any time soon. The wife will not want that until I get the new addition for the kids room, it’s all about the priorities in life you know, but actually what I want from Santa is for my kids to be happy, that’s what I want.

Symphony X’s most recent album Iconoclast is out now through Nuclear Blast Records. Symphony X are currently on tour throughout North America with Iced Earth. For more rock & metal interviews, as well as any further news from the Symphony X or Adrenaline Mob camps please check back with Rocksins on a regular basis.

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