Rock Overdose and Pavlos Giannakopoulos had the pleasure to talk with bassist and founder of TYRANT band in view of the forthcoming Up The Hammers Festival, having the opportunity to ask him many questions about his band.
Let’s get started…
Rock Overdose: Hello Greg. How are you doin
Greg: Thanks for asking. Doing really well, living the dream. Band sounds better than ever; everybody’s healthy and playing great.
Rock Overdose: How are things going for Tyrant in 2016
Greg: Really well. Looking forward to Up the Hammers Fest next year. Also we’re recording new materials for a future new album; heavier than hell!
Rock Overdose: Can you introduce us the members of Tyrant?
Greg: Yes. My name is Greg May. I’m the original bassist and founding member. I had offers from bands like Metallica, WASP, Armored Saint, and Warlord, even the bass player for Van Halen’s little brother. My brother Glen May, has been with the group since the beginning, and former all-league football player turned heavy metal vocalist. He is very loud with a great range, and he also made his debut on Metal Massacre III with the song Battle of Armageddon. Rocky Rockwell is our lead guitarist. He is an original member. When I met him he was playing leads from Hendrix, Blackmore, and Uli Roth note for note, even in his early teens. A past group of his was called Visions and it also featured Stryper’s bass player, Timothy Gaines, and we always thought it was so ironic that Rocky would be in a band with a member of Stryper. Rocky is also one of the first guitar players other than Eddie Van Halen to be signed by Charvel Guitars and he was custom built his Black Star guitar, which he played on our debut album Legions of the Dead. We are now joined on drums by Ronnie Wallace, who has been with us since 2010. He has since played numerous festivals with us from Log Angeles to New York. He was brought up in the business by his father, who was the road crew manager for Iron Maiden and WASP during the Sanctuary Music era. He was able to get behind the drums with such player as Nicko McBrain of Iron Maiden and Frankie Banali, drummer for WASP and Quiet Riot. Both of these guys gave Ronnie his first training in drums and percussion that he’s carried with him today and helped in become the drummer he is today.
Rock Overdose: When did you start and what did you to play music?
Greg: I started taking guitar and bass lessons when I was 16. I grew up playing football and baseball, and before my games I would crank up classic rock like Black Sabbath, Jimi Hendrix, Deep Purple, and Led Zeppelin to fire up before m games. When my athletic days were over, my love for this music inspired me to do it myself. So I did, and the rest is history.
Rock Overdose: Can you teel us some words about Tyrant story? How did you all met?
Greg: Well, it’s a long story going back to 1978, but the Tyrant everyone would get to know worldwide really began in 1983 when we appeared on Metal Massacre, Volume III. Glen is my brother, and I brought him in when his football days were done. When he did the Battle of Armageddon, he was 20-years-old. Rocky was a known guitarist from the San Gabriel Valley (the same area as the Van Halen brothers). A mutual friend gave me his number, so I called him and he invited me over to his house. When I got there, he picked up a Strat, and started playing Richie Blackmore’s Stormbringer. By the time he was done with the lead, I knew he was the guy. He was really killer.
Rock Overdose: ‘Too Late to pray’ is a very nice album full of heavy music. Which are your memories from those days in mid 80s?
Greg: Thank you for mentioning Too Late to Pray. We will always be very proud of that record. We had more money, more time, and two record companies wanting to put it out. Metal Blade Records picked up our option and wanted to put it out, but also we were approached by Combat Records (who had Venom and Merciful Fate), so they worked together to get Too Late to Pray distributed, so it reached more people than ever, giving us a lot of exposure world-wide. But for us, our debut album Legions of the Dead was where most of our great memories come from, being it was the first album we had ever done. We were originally in Cherokee Studios in Hollywood and had our own financial backing (a friend of Rocky’s with connections). The studio would actually call us on Motley Crue’s down time during the recording of Shout at the Devil to fill in recording time when the Crue wouldn’t show up. The sound at Cherokee was unbelievable, but very expensive, and we ran out of money. At that time, we enlisted the help of Brian Slagel and Bill Metoyer, who brought us back to Track Record Recording Studio where we had just done the Battle of Armageddon a couple years earlier. Seeing these songs that we had been playing for a couple of years in the clubs become masterpieces – like Warriors of Metal, Legions of the Dead, and Listen to the Preacher, was really exciting. One of the coolest and scariest memories is when we recorded our heaviest song ever, Sacrifice. During the recording when Glen was doing his lyrics, the power went out in the studio, and we thought one of the engineers was playing a joke on us. However only Bill Metoyer was still there because everyone else that worked at the studio had left in terror. Luckily, the power came back on, we resumed recording the song, and it went out again. We found out that the power was only going out in the recording room, not in the rest of the studio. It was a pretty chilling feeling for us and Bill, so we just closed it down for the night. The next very early morning we got a phone call from Metoyer saying everything we had gotten recorded was backwards on the reel-to-reel. He was totally freaked out. This had never happened in all his years before. Cool stuff like that….
Rock Overdose: 80s were a great period to play good music, especially heavy metal. Do you agree?
Greg: Yes, I do agree. I was 23 in 1983. In those days, we were playing most of the Hollywood Sunset Strip clubs such as Gazzarri’s, The Roxy, and Troubadour. Tyrant, Slayer, Abbatoir, were playing at one club, and down the street hair bands like Motley Crue and Poison would be playing at another club on the same night. There were two factions of metal; the real hardcore metal fans that would come to our shows, and then the guys that we would call “poseurs” who had the big hair do’s that would follow around the hair bands. There was also a really cool place in Reseda, California called the Country Club, which was sort of a smaller arena and we would play with national acts coming through on tour. It was a real blast. These were the classic 80's metal days where L.A. was just blowing up in the music industry. It was amazing to be a part of it. My girlfriend who was there at the time is now my wife, and we tell our son about it all the time. He always says how he wished he could have experienced that legendary time. Here is a shameless plug for Bob Nalbandian, who released two documentaries on the L.A. metal scene called Inside Metal which documents the metal explosion in the 80's.
Rock Overdose: Which are your main influences as a band?
Greg: Well, being our age we’re influenced by the masters of metal; Hendrix, Blackmore, Tony Iommi, Michael Schenker, Uli Roth, and Eddie Van Halen. But then the NWOBM came along; groups like UFO, Scorpions, Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, who really carried on the tradition of great metal. But, I have to say that Van Halen is the band I was most able to see and draw influence from because they were playing in back yards around my city and I was seeing them live all the time.
Rock Overdose: Tyrant have a long time to release a full length album. Can you tell us some words about it?
Greg: When I got home from the KIT Festival in Germany in 2009, I realized making a new album could be a possibility, the fans were totally into it and asking for new music, so I wrote 10 new songs and were done with them in 2010. We went on and did two more festivals in New York and Baltimore, Maryland with Ronnie Wallace, and it looked like we could keep going. At that time, Rocky started writing too and he had about 10 songs, so we’ve just kept everything rolling since 2009 and we have now been working on our demo but we’ve just not found a suitable label yet.
Rock Overdose: Will we have in our hands a new Tyrant album someday ?
Greg: They say a picture is worth a thousand words. How about I send you a new instrumental track from our demo, and you can tell all your readers what you think of the new Tyrant material that’s been recorded this year, and put your review right here for everyone to read. We would love to hear what you think about it and tell all our fans. We are very proud of our new material and if anything, we are heavier now than we were before and are playing even better. We have been approached by many labels, but are still searching for the label who will be able to put out the metal album of the year.
Rock Overdose: Here in Greece we can’t wait to see Tyrant to Up The Hammers Fest. What about you ?
Greg: We know we have some big shoes to fill. There have been some great bands at Up the Hammers Fest before us over these last few years. Tyrant is ready to deliver big time. We are going to try to be the act that everyone will remember for years to come. We can't wait to play there!
Rock Overdose: If you want just send a message to your Greek fans 13)Thank you very much for doing this interview
Greg: From Tyrant to our Greek fans: we have seen your posts, we have gotten your messages, and we feel the love, and that is everything to us. We are going to drop the hammer, and we are so honored to be asked to play at Up the Hammers Festival in Athens, Greece. We can’t wait to meet the our long-time fans, the beautiful people of Greece, our long time fans, and see the beautiful city. Bring anything you have so we can sign it for you. You can also reach us on our Tyrant USA Facebook page on a daily basis. Stay tuned for merchandise that may be available soon as well.
Rock Overdose: Greg thank you for doing this interview
Greg: Oh, the pleasure is all mine. Thanks so much to Overdose, and the staff, and also to Manolis Karazeris for all the kind words, reviews, and making this all happen.
For Rock Overdose