Lunatic's Serenade

The Angus and Andrew interview

Angus: Well thanks. It’s always been a pleasure to work with Al. The way I have always seen it is people pay 60 to $120 or whatever to see the guy play live that plays on the record. There’s a lot of amazing guitar parts and there’s the guy on stage that plays those parts. I have fun doing the gig whether or not I’m in the featured solo spot. There’s plenty of challenging guitar parts to play just in the ensemble, whether I’m doubling the strings or anything. The show has improved in the way that it’s being mixed. You can hear what I’m playing more clearly and you can tell who’s doing what. There are certain lead parts that have switched chairs over from Al to me. I’m honored that I get entrusted with that. But at the same time there are a lot of things that I have been playing the whole time. It’s just; you can hear better (laughs). I’ve always been honored to be a part of it and pleased to be on stage with Al and the whole group. Andrew, how long have you been playing guitar more than just in “Christmas Eve Saraevo,12/24”? Is it four years now?

Andrew: Yeah, every year gets more. This year I could really hear myself more and it’s like,” Oh, man, I better not mess up” or “yeah I’m here.” You know random stuff. It’s like Angus said, even the smallest thing is really tight and Al is a perfectionist and he hears everything.

HMS: It was really cool seeing you out there more, Andrew. It was like a guitar army.

Andrew: Molly Hatchet style!

HMS: When you guys are gigging with DareDevil Squadron, what are the songs that get the most response?

Andrew: I don’t know about the most response, but one of my favorites to play live is the song “Power Trip”. Yeah, that’s a lot of fun! Also, the faster ones like “Forgotten Son”, “Out of the Sun”, but also “Chronicles”. People always get interested when they see a new instrument. I guess when they see a mandolin in a metal band it’s interesting. It’s also awesome when we nail the harmony vocals at the end.

Angus: What were we thinking when we came up with that?! Was it Jason? No…George our engineer came up with the new counter parts and we said “This is great! This is so crazy!” And we forgot that we have to play this LIVE! Oh my GOD! It’s in 5/4 time and those counter melodies end on an off-beat and Andrew’s trying to play and sing at the same time. Everybody is on a different note, no unisons is going on at all. All five guys are singing - it’s like The Eagles-meets-YES –kind of craziness and we just did it to ourselves. There’s no excuse. And the arrangement on the record; we came up with the parts. It was a combination of me and Jason. He’d say, “Here’s a note” and I would have to try and figure out how to put a lyric to it and make it work out. Then George, our engineer is the one playing that part and we’re like,”Dude, that’s AWESOME!” Then we tried to do it live and we were all, “What the HELL!” But it’s always amazing when we can nail those parts - and I also like doing the song “Hero Falls”. The chorus has a lot of punch to it.

Andrew: Sometimes we even throw in a cover every once in a while too. I really enjoy doing ‘Fairies Wear Boots” (Black Sabbath). We also do a Judas Priest cover.

HMS: Any chance of a tour?

Angus: There’ll be some support gigs for the record. These days it’s about getting on the right bill, partnering with the right other bands.

Andrew: That’s the way it goes a lot of times. You put out a record and get it in the right hands and a tour becomes available. Again it’s hard with five guys and getting them away from their kids and wives.

HMS: So you will be, more less gigging around New York and New Jersey?

Andrew: Yeah, NY, NJ, Pennsylvania, wherever else is close. Close enough where we could come back home the same night or the next day.

HMS: Maybe DareDevil Squadron could open up for TSO one of these days.(Laughter)

Angus: (ha) Yeah, they never had an opening band.

HMS: You can start a new trend then.

Angus: Uh, yeah. We’ll talk to Paul O’Neil about that. (ha)

HMS: Well, you know, what he doesn’t know won’t hurt him.

Angus: Ah! But that’s not true. He’s got video monitors at every single show and if he sees something he doesn’t like, you might get a phone call the next day!

Andrew: If there was an opening act, I think he’d catch it!

HMS: I notice that you both use Gibson SG models, but what are your main axes?

Angus: Well that’s mine. I do love my SG’s. I have a red ’61 reissue. I love that guitar and most of the new tracks are cut with that guitar. Andrew and I have a white one. Me and Andrew both have white SG’s that we use on stage for TSO. We do this little “bit act” and say “Come on! I’M playing the white SG. What’s up?”

Andrew: Then we both notice we’re both wearing tuxedos! (ha) We did the bit during the blackout in between songs, so that no one else can see it but me and Angus.

Angus: (ha) Yeah, but we do that for our own entertainment. But the ’61 reissue is a custom shop version. It’s a well-made guitar, but it doesn’t sound as good as the factory red SG. I also have a couple of Flying V’s. One’s a 2013 Gloss Series. I don’t know why they call it that. I think it has something to do with the fingerboard not actually being made of Rosewood. It’s some substitute ( Granadillo fretboard . Then I got a 2005 red Gibson Flying V, courtesy of that same engineer I spoke of earlier, George Pesios. Shout out to George, “Hey buddy!” That’s it for the Gibson side. I’ve also got a couple of Fender Stratocasters. One is a Floyd Rose Classic from ’92. That’s a great guitar.

"It’s always been a pleasure to work with Al."

Then I have a white ’62 reissue that I favor. For the TSO tour I have a white Telecaster Deluxe that I’m real happy with. I got it cause’ I saw an old picture of Paul O’Neil playing in a band and he was playing a Tele. I said,”Oh, I think Paul likes Tele’s!” Then I come out for this year’s tour, they gave us the program and there’s the picture of the Christmas Attic with all this stuff in there. And in the corner, there’s a white Telecaster. I said, “Ah. I chose right!” Al Pitrelli is the Les Paul guy. I have one, but I steer clear and not play it. But talking about the “V”, not many guys can get away with playing one. It’s one of those “Put up or shut up” kind of instruments. If you have a Flying V you better be able to, you know, shred!

HMS: Like that big blues guy…. I can’t remember his name…

Angus: Albert King! He plays left handed with a right hand guitar.

HMS: Just like Jimi Hendrix.

Angus: Well, Jimi swapped the strings. Albert didn’t. He just turned the guitar around. And he could play right handed also. He’s a Flying V monster!

HMS: Does The Atomic Guitar Works Co. make an Angus Clark signature guitar?

Angus: Those guys are a great shop. They’re in the Phoenix, AZ area and they made me some awesome guitars. I’m really happy working with them. I got to a point where on the TSO stage that I wanted a notion of relate-ability - like something universal for younger players. Like,”That guy up there is not playing a store bought guitar. It’s completely custom; that’s the kind of guitar I need to buy”. The Atomic guys do great stuff. The Atomic V is being played by my friend who runs a music program at a church. He does TSO tribute concerts. I’m really happy to spread the word about the Atomic family. They’re a good company.

Andrew: They even made a bass for Johnny (Lee Middleton, Savatage/TSO).

Angus: Yup! Johnny’s got one of their basses. I think it’s a Thunderbird style.

HMS: Going back to DareDevil Squadron, who came up with the art concept?

Andrew: Angus, was that you?

Angus: Ahh, I don’t know (ha). We were talking about the record and Andrew was like “I know this dude, he’s awesome and he’s gonna’ make it look awesome!” (laughs)

Andrew: I have this friend who’s an artist. What we were attracted to was the fact that he could paint the sky and horizon so well with the colors and glow effect. This is the guy!

Angus: I had the font from the Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos comic books and I had a guy morph it into the logo. Then we just modified it, like the curves in the “U” to look like devil horns - It’s amazing what the illustrator can do. He put the bullet streaks through it and we put the boarder on it. Then Kevin modified it more for the T-shirts. It wound up going through three or four hands before getting to the finished project. We’re real happy with it. It started out real comic bookish, but then it’s hard rock inspired.

Andrew: There was a conversation about the planes. There are five of them and they represent each member of the band. And Angus wanted them to be P-51 Mustangs with the “teeth”.

Angus: Yeah, we researched planes and got all into it. (ha) It was fun.

HMS: Will you keep the logo the same or change it up like what Rush does?

Angus: We might change colors and stuff. Or If we’re gonna’ get it redone, it would be because we had a mass marketing budget and took it to some award winning t-shirt artist we might change it or something.

Andrew: Have him create something that we can all sell back. (ha)

Angus: It will be the same but the colors will be slightly different.

Andrew: Kind of like the Iron Maiden records. The logo is the same but the colors are different… We keep going back to Iron Maiden, man, that’s weird. But that’s where it all comes back to! Even how me and Angus just started talking, more than a professional level. We just started connecting and hanging out in the Back Lounge.

Angus: Their work ethic is just grabby.

Andrew: And they manage to have fun! They manage to get away with having fun in a way that in a lot of bands in the same genre are extremely so serious. I think we’re serious when it’s time to be serious. But at the same time we like to have fun. Fun with each other’s company and playing music together. That’s what it’s about. And the guys in Maiden have a lot of fun. I mean, if Bruce Dickenson wants to fly the plane they take on tour, he’s gonna’ fly the plane! We keep talking about Iron Maiden, but we also have Black Sabbath influence, Thin Lizzy, pretty much all the classic metal that we all love and have in common - “This is the kind of music I wanna’ make” is what we think.

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