INTERVIEW: Russell Allen (SYMPHONY X/ ADRENALINE MOB)
Levi: How did it go recording Underworld? How was it playing Symphony X after playing with Adrenaline Mob?
Russell: Getting back to Symphony X was pretty easy and straight forward. I worked with Mike (Michael Romeo) with his ideas we used for the record, I recorded everything pretty quickly, about 8 days. The Mob (Adrenaline Mob) kept me in good shape, those songs are really high energy, and I’ve been onstage the whole time. I was really able to go at this record in the best shape of my life. Physically and being able to go in and sing whenever I wanted to, wherever I wanted to and for as long as I wanted to. It was really cool, I didn’t have to take a break, no rests or anything. I’m at that point in my life where I need to stay active, I need to stay working. I can’t sit around for 5 years and do nothing, I just won’t be able to perform anymore. I did a lot of hard physical stuff when I was a kid, worked at stunt shows, played a lot of contact sports, It’s all catching up to me man. If I don’t stay in shape the old bones just don’t feel to good and I can’t move so the idea is to keep moving, stay motivated, keep creating and just keep going and that’s what my attitude. I think it really paid off on this record, it really brought a fresh life into it.
Levi: Since the Paradise Lost album you’re voice seems more aggressive, did you intentionally change your style?
Russell: The most aggressive album I’d say is Iconoclast, from beginning to end it’s just a solid performance. With this new record I just wanted to sing again like I used to when we started out. I wanted to have a more melodic focus, I wanted Michael to focus on songs that would be more melodic in nature and the vocal lines are hooky and just me being able to do what I do best and that is to sing melodic vocal lines. The new record is a bit of everything, it’s not all one sided, last album seemed to me like a lot of the same stuff you know. This record I am very happy with the variety and it’s a return to form so to speak for me as a singer. We definitely dabble a lot in the heavier stuff, I like it that the riffs are heavy but the singing is a little cleaner, it’s a little more emotional. It’s the lyrical content too, I don’t like to do stuff because it’s trendy. I’m not that kind of guy, I love what Randy Blyth does, and I think that guttural style is great but I’m not that pissed off to be honest with you. There are songs that need that to represent the lyrics and have that kind of vibe and it’s cool but I’ve never been a trendy dude. I deliver lyrics in the way I feel best represents the story. I want to make sure people understand the words and getting the story, so however that comes out is how it comes out. I don’t contrive anything to say “I’ve got to sound like this guy”.
Levi: I don’t think you’ve ever been to Australia before and if you did nobody told me. Have you been to Australia with Symphony X or Adrenaline Mob before?
Russell: No, I’ve never been, there was talk about going at one point I thought The Mob might be the one but that didn’t happen. Now the talk is Symphony X going next year and we are trying to book some dates and get some offers down there. We want to play and we want to do the whole world. It really comes down to people supporting the record, the more you play it, the more you talk about it, it just creates a demand for the band and that gets promoters attention and that’s what will bring Symphony X to Australia and because it’s so far I think it has to be a big deal. I want to put on a big show, so that’s the plan we were talking about bringing to life we want to bring the production of this record and try bring some visuals alive that will really help tell the story and it will be something really special for the Australian audience.
Levi: It was pretty tragic what happened to A.J Pero, was his the death the reason you put Adrenaline Mob on hold and went back to doing Symphony X stuff?
Russell: Well it wasn’t what stopped us, I finished the vocals for this album a year ago. We always knew Symphony X was going to be coming around with a release this year and a tour. Adrenaline Mob knew it was going to have its time then you know… Unless something phenomenal happened like a massive hit song or something crazy. It’s all been a black cloud around The Mob, with the passing of A.J it’s just really tough right now. I’m happy to have Symphony X to do some work with and concentrate on. I think out of respect for A.J too, even if Symphony X wasn’t around we’d still all need to take some time off to reflect and put The Mob a way for a while. We really tried with A.J to make it something special, he made that killer drum set and I thought we did a really strong album with him. We all had a lot of high hopes and of course you know the misfortune with that band and ultimately the passing of A.J… That was pretty much the icing on the cake for lake of a better metaphor. It sucked, it’s time for that to take a rest. We had a couple more commitments we had to fulfil that we had booked with A.J but it’s Symphony X time now and it’s time to let The Mob take a break in memory of A.J.
Levi: A.J Pero also played drums for Twisted Sister, were you a fan of them before he joined the band? Twisted Sister is very different from Symphony X and Adrenaline Mob, how did he end up becoming your drummer?
Russell: Of course, I grew up with those guys and listened to their songs, they were a big band when I was a kid. We all knew ‘we’re not gonna take it’, they are definitely a legacy band in heavy metal and I used to see Twisted Sister headline festivals when I was out with Symphony X. I’d see A.J out on the road here and there and I got to know him about 10 years ago. Just talking to the guy, I really liked him, he was a class act guy, a really straight shooter, honest… I loved him, I thought he was great. When the offer came out for him to be in the band I said “Yeah, I love him”, he fit The Mob, he’s a pounder, musically, professionally and as a person. He always made us laugh, really jolly guy, really genuine, an all-round good person to be around. I miss him a lot. The differences between the bands couldn’t be anymore… It’s just night and day. Adrenaline Mob was more of a straight forward rock band with a meal edge and Symphony X is epic metal, progressive, symphonic, theatrical at times and very dynamic. The Mob is just adrenaline, it’s full-fledged. With Michael Romeo he’s non-stop, he shreds and shreds that’s all he ever does. It’s a million notes as fast as he can play, it’s a different animal. I like the differences musically and artistically, there would be no point for me having two bands that are the same. It would be stupid, it would be dumb for me and for the fans to understand. I never did Adrenalin Mob for Symphony X fans, I know Symphony X fans realised this, it’s cool that some of them like it, but it’s not really for them, it was an adventure I did to do a different type of music and Adrenalin Mob found its own audience which is kind of cool. It’s kind of cool Mob fans don’t really know much about Symphony X and vice versa. For me it was great I could experiment and do things in Adrenalin Mob, write songs and hook lines and do different type of melodies, it was a lot of trial and error working with Mike Orlando.