Strike Up The Bands By Kathy
Interview with AJ FedZ of Snakeryder
They say you can’t always judge a book by its cover and with a band name as intriguing as Snakeryder and the lead guitarist going simply by the mysterious name AJ one has to wonder just what is in store… As the old adage suggests things turned out slightly different than I expected. I found AJ to be expressive, funny and a damn good guitar player! In addition he’s a motivated individual who has strong beliefs in his style of music and about what is right for the band. The debut album from Snakeryder has had some zigs and zags but has made its mark and has opened the door for the follow-up album. I’ve had the opportunity to hear some preliminary samples and without giving anything away just yet let me tell you … Get your tickets ready folks and get ready for the RYDE!!
1. Before we get into the interview and talking about Snakeryder and the news about the band I would like to take a moment in the beginning and ask you to introduce yourself to the readers; AJ FedZ, the man behind the music or is it the man behind the initials?
Hi Kathy! You are my first female interviewer and I like FEMALES. I have always loved to flirt with the ladies. Just in case I step over the soft female boundaries, (Yes I do watch Howard Stern) let me apologize now and get it out of the way. “I’m sorry sweetie”! LOL OK! Are you going to make me tell you the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth? Soooo you want to take off the mask of Zoro? LOL HUMM … The man behind the music or initials? OK, here goes - I think its about time to let my Italian heritage loose. The mysterious intials A. J. stand for – Anthony Joseph, plus I am a Jr. My true last name is “Federicastanomeani”. I thought it was a little too long to fit on the album or anywere else, so I shortened it! LOL NA! Just kidding. My full last name is Federico. I’ll tell you where and how I came up with FedZ - When I was a kid, the kids in the neighborhood for some reason would call me FedZ. They would say, “HEY FedZ, YO FedZ”. I though it was a pretty kool name and at the time, Happy Days (with The Fonz) was big on TV. I would wear the leather jacket, slick my hair back, do all the Fonzie moves, voice impressions, and the whole Fonz routine. There was the Fonz and then there was the FedZ. LOL The name has just stayed with me for years and by sheer coincidence, I’m now on Z records.
2. And now, to get the ball really rolling would you please take a moment to introduce Snakeryder, the band, the group and the movement…
We are an old school hard rock band that has not let go of our vision or dreams. Our movement is like a Kiss convention, annually and faithfully you can count on it! We have the same motivation and drive towards Snakeryder and its music.
3. The story of how a band was formed is always a fun one and can explain a lot about who a band really is so, if you would, please tell us how Snakeryder and it’s line up came to be…
Kathy if you don’t mind, I’m going to put a spin on this question. I will tell you how I met everybody in the band. Once upon a time I was looking in the personals in the Aquarian newspaper. NO, I wasn’t lookin at men’s personals ads. Hommie don’t play that game and he don’t swing on da vines! LOL I came across a FEMALES ad that called herself DYNASTY! She said she loved Kiss. Now me being a big Kiss fan and her having a name like Dynasty, I had to answer her ad. So Dynasty and I hooked up and had a night on the town and “What a night it was”. Now me being the typical rocker, I broke her heart and then she turned in to a fatal attraction. I know I’m bad! Now six months after our date, I get a call from I guy named Pete Cardone. Pete was living three hours away from me in Long Island New York. He introduced himself (co-writer of “Long Way Home” featured on our debut) as a guitarist/songwriter. Check this out – Pete was also a Kiss fan and guess what? Pete answered the same personal ad and also had a date with Dynasty. LOL I’ll be right back, I’m laughing so hard I think I’m gonna PEE myself. OK, I’m back! “Needless to say, Dynasty gave Pete my phone number”.
Sooo Pete and I exchanged demos and ended up having a lot in common. We respected each other’s songwriting skills, and it seemed like both of us were grown from the same rock and roll seed. We thought we should put a band together, so he says I’m gonna have my drummer call you. So I get a phone call from this cat named Dino Castano. Dino is from Jersey City, New Jersey and the first thing I noticed was his North Jersey/New York accent. Dino talks like he’s one of the Sopranos. You know; “Hey Joey, get the f*#% over here before I puts a bullet in ya head”! LOL Well that’s how I met Dino. About a year ago Dino said he had a side project which was an 80’s tribute band. They recruited Mikk Black as guitarist. It just so happens, that I saw Mikk fronting a different band six months prior to their 80’s tribute band. I remember thinking to myself “this guy is talented”. Mikk is an excellent showman. At that time Dino and Mikk had not met. Mikk has since moved in with Dino in Jersey City and they are now roommates. He was on the scene when we had to replace our original bass player Joey Reno and was the perfect choice. Karl and I met in 1996. I had a band doing my original material and need a rhythm guitarist. My bass player at the time “Kevin Mercer,” was a former member (signed to Metal Blade Records) of the 80’s band KranK. He called me one day and said he met this guitarist at a concert who would be perfect for the band. The man of the hour was Karl Karlston. Kevin gave me Karl’s phone number and I gave him a call. Karl and I rapped for a while then set up an audition. I thought he was a little strange at first, but I liked him. Karl had an Ace Frehley type of persona. I told him travel light to the audition, and just bring your axe. My reasoning was, I wanted him to have a quick set up and break down. A first audition should not take more than 30 minutes.
Well, he shows up with four Marshall Cabinets, a rack of affects, and three guitars. I told him to leave his amps in the car, and use the one we provided. The guy was so insistent on bringing his amps in, I said OK. But we were not happy! We were paying $15 per hour at a rehearsal studio! We had planned on doing the audition, then working on new material the remainder of the rehearsal. After 25 minutes, he was finally set up and then the craziness started. The first problem he had was tuning his guitar and then the battery was dead in his cordless system. He was then plugging directly to the amp, and his guitar started making all types of feedback and buzzing. By now, 45 minutes had gone by and everybody walked out of the room pissed. I walked back into the room and said into the mike, “The audition is over”! Karl looked at me like he was ready to cry. He seemed like he wanted the gig big time, and playing in the band meant the world to him. So I gave him more time and another chance. Finally all the lumps & bumps were ironed out and he was set up and ready to roll. We kicked into a song and I was floored, it sounded great! Karl had a presence about him that just plain & simple spelled out ROCK & ROLLER! Everybody in the band looked at Karl, then we looked at each other and were grinning from ear to ear. Everybody’s face read, “HE’S IN”! Getting back to the question! When I put Snakeryder together, I didn’t have to look far for members. They were there all along.
4. Your album D.O.A. has had some rocky times but seems to have found it’s feet on Z Records label, could you tell us a bit about this album, what the process has been like, the ups the downs and of course your take on the final version?
The process was a waiting game, unlike Z records! Metal Mayhem never gave the album a release date. Throughout the waiting game, I realized that MMM ran a half ass record label. The album took a year to release after it was mastered. At that point I told drummer Dino Castano that I didn’t give a shit if it ever got released. Ryan Northrop never answered my questions as to the delay. I honestly think their operations budget was over extended. The long delay, ignored phone calls & emails, only fueled our departure with the label. Guess who the artwork director for the MMM version of our CD was? Kivel Records! This newly found fact was another thorn in our side. Without our consent or knowledge, Metal Mayhem Music teamed up with Kivel records as 50/50 partners and released DOA. This was disrespectful on MMM’s part as we walked from Kivel Records in 1999. The final Z Records version of the album is more on the mark, and fits the name Snakeryder better. We felt the MMM cover artwork, logo and album concept sucked and had no relation to our music whatsoever. In all the years I hoped to get a record deal, I never envisioned my first release to have a detective on the cover with a gun. If the market were flooded with 12 year old boys, the DOA artwork would have been brilliant. The majority of our fans I believe are guys in their 30’s & 40’s. What appeals to men? Women! Put a hot looking babe on an album and that will get a guy’s attention. That will be the next Snakeryder album cover!
5. Each album an artist releases has special meaning and a special place in their heart, with the struggles of this album I can only imagine that the feeling is amplified, is there a song (or songs) on this album that you feel have a exceptional meaning to you and would you please share the story with us?
The music on the debut is very special and is like having our first child! The one song that is in the forefront is, Price You Have To Pay! This song was written to Kivel Records and Adriangale. I’ll tell you why I wrote this song! After our split with Kivel, he stole the name Adriangale from Dino and I. Truthfully, the name was a little too feminine for our personalities, so we had no problem with that issue. What got the fire burning was, our debut was originally supposed to be the first Adriangale album. On Adriangale’s “Feel The Fire” album, they wrote a song called “Reap What You So”! If you listen to the lyric, it says ”Your better days have passed – You’re going nowhere fast“ – “You can stop something your always starting”. After our split with Kivel, it was obvious the song was about me. The whole motive behind Adriangale’s “Feel The Fire” CD, was Kivel trying to show me that he did not need me. So when I signed a deal with MMM. It was touché! The song on our album “Price You Have To Pay” was written to yours truly, JOHN KIVEL! I even was slick and used the title, “Reap What You So” as a lyric in my song. LOL Now we’re on a bigger label than Kivel records and I’m sure John is still losing sleep over that fact. LOL
6. This is part one of two of the deal with Z Records, who it seems you have nothing but good things to say about. How is the second album coming along? I’ve read that Mark Alger is kicking your butt … How does one go about doing that?
We are currently in the studio recording all of the basic tracks; Drums, Bass & Rhythm guitars first. Then I will dub in lead guitars & lead vocals, (in that order) then finally backing vocals. So far we have the basic tracks recorded for eight songs. Mark is not literally kicking our ass’s, he just want’s us to get to work. He penciled in a release date for April or May, so that is basically the kick in the ass. I for one, always try to meet a deadline. It is just my nature! That puts the pressure on and in a sense; I end up kicking my own ass.
7. One of the first things I liked about this band was that you have a reputation and a feel of a good timing band that never bought into “the eighties is dead”, if you had to describe the mission of the band what would it be?
First of all I am not on any type of mission. I am someone who doesn’t live his life trying to fit in. When I grew up, I never experienced peer pressure. I just did not give a *#% what people thought of me, unlike so many kids today! The way I dressed, the shoes I wore didn’t have to be what everybody else had. We are just a group of guys that are stubborn, set in our ways and don’t like change. We play the type of music we do, because we have to like what we are doing. It would be a shame to release and promote an album that we hated!
8. There seems to be alot of talk in the industry about a resurgence of good ole rock-n-roll back to the 80's sound. I'd be interested in your thoughts and what you would like to see happen over the next few years?
I have not paid too much attention to the industry lately. I don’t think the 80’s will come back like the good ole days. There may be some similarity in the future, but there will always be a new twist. I think the industry is stuck in its present state and no one knows what to do to rejuvenate it. Through out the 60’s, 70’s & 80’s, the music industry seemed to become bigger and more exciting every year. When Kiss peaked in 1978, they had the biggest show in the world. To this day no band has toped Kiss’s stage show. Their show was a larger than life spectacle. At the end of the 80’s, the industry reached the top of the mountain. The only place you can go from there is DOWN. In the 80’s, if someone from the future would have told me “15 years from now a Rock & Roller’s image will be Curly from the Three Stooges on stage wearing baggie attire with a baseball or ski cap” I would have said what *#%ing planet are you from. LOL
9. Another artist that has a reputation for fun, energetic music is from your neck of the woods (New Jersey) and has also been featured on this site; this of course is Danny Danzi. D.O.A. was mastered in the Danziland Studios, how was it working with Danny and why do you think New Jersey bands are so much fun, is it something in the water?
I have known Danny since he was 15 years old. I’ll tell you how we met! Danny and I took guitar lessons from the same guitar teacher at a little music store called Old Town Music. I was in the store trying out a new guitar and had the amp cranked. Little did I know, Danny was in a back room taking his guitar lesson and heard every note I was playing. At that time I had been playing guitar longer than Danny and was at a more advanced level. So our teacher “John Carbo” came out of the back room and said “Hey FedZ, grab a guitar and come to the back with me”. I went to the back room and there sat little Danny Danzi. He had on a big ole smile and was very happy to meet me. The teacher then said AJ, play Eruption for Danny! I then said sure, and played my best interpretation of Eddie Van Halen’s Eruption. Danny was blown away! I didn’t see Danny again until 6 or 7 years later. I was in a rock club and this little guy came up to me and said “Hi I’m Danny, remember me?” We had only met briefly in our guitar teacher’s room and I didn’t recognize him. It turns out that we both had a band playing at the club that night. We have been friends ever since! We did the Mastering for the album (from 10:00 pm to 6:00 am on two consecutive evenings. Danny and I always have a good time when we hang out! New Jersey bands are always a good time because New Jersey ROCKS! However, the water here causes cancer, so we only drink Evian bottled water imported from Canada! Yes, I think the water we drink plays a big part in the roll. LOL
10. Getting back to the up coming album, can you give us any information on the song list, perhaps tell us the over all feel of the album, something to wet our appetite?
Here are the song titles; Back For The Kill, Wake Up The Nation, Can’t Stop The Insanity, Hard Life, Sweet Desire, You Never Knew Me, Money On Her Mind, Love Steals, Shot Gun, Break Out! This album will have different drum and guitar sounds, with new tonality in comparison to our debut. To categorize the music; I would say it will sound like 80’s Kiss with Meniketi/Keifer on vocals with a more modern production. We want to show a different side of The Snake and don’t want to release the same album twice. Some bands have all their songs at the same rock tempo, around 126 to 132 beats per minute. We want to vary songs from a balled at 117 to a fast paced rocker at 226 beats per minute. This album will be an ass kicker!
11. I think it’s great to see Snakeryder teaming up with Z Records and wish you all the best. Would you take a moment to give those visitors to the site who are themselves aspiring musicians some advice in this game called music?
Music is not a game to me but a life style. The only game is to be successful at whatever you do in general. My advice to musicians would be; if you’re in this for the money, GET OUT! Think of yourself as being a starving artist and if you make money at it, “That’s the icing on the cake”. Read industry books! I recommend “All You Need To Know About The Music Business” by: Donald Passman & “Get It In Writing” by: Brian McPherson. You should also check out “Song Writers Market” book. This book has a list of 1,300 places to market your songs. Try to do as much legwork as you can without a lawyer or manager. Remember; these high profile gentlemen are after one thing, YOUR MONEY!
12. And now for your moment to take control and leave a closing message to all of your fans...
Now how can we forget you guys! I only wish I knew how many of you there are driving around in your car with a Snakeryder CD! Don’t be a stranger; send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org This snake doesn’t bite unless we are provoked! LOL Don’t make Dino have to send one of his boys over there. LOL Thank you for your support, and most of all thanks for taking the time to READ THIS INTERVIEW!!!!
Kathy, thank you so much for any promo you can give us in your kool rock site. If you are ever in South Jersey, Look me up. We’ll have to do lunch!