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A Dirty Dozen with GARY VOSGANIAN from MAELSTROM – May 2020


According to a recent press release: “Epic thrash metal group MAELSTROM are excited to share another offering from their soon to be released debut album; an accomplishment more than three decades in the making. Today, the band has premiered their music video for “Th13teen Within A Circle” exclusively via Decibel Magazine. In addition to the new video, vocalist Gary Vosganian spoke with Decibel in one of the band’s most extensive interviews to date. Formed in the ferocious firestorm of the eighties thrash movement, MaelstroM began its storm surge by quickly dominating their local scene of Long Island, New York. Within a few years they expanded beyond regional borders and began to gain worldwide notoriety. Unfortunately, like many bands of that era, MaelstroM fell victim to the changing scene as harder metal gave way to Seattle grunge and the landscape of heavy music shifted.” We get Gary to discuss new music, influences, and even dropped some answers on behalf of Joey…

1. Tell us a little about your latest release.  What might a fan or listener not grab the first or second time they listen through?  Are there any hidden nuggets the band put in the material or that only diehard fans might find?

Thanks so much for the Dirty Dozen opportunity. Of Gods and Men is the debut MaelstroM album that is 32 years in the making! Like many bands from the late 80’s with the changing musical times, Joey Lodes and I disbanded MaelstroM in the very early 90’s. All the members went onto other musical projects, I concentrated on my career, started a family, and soon after Joey did the same. We had all gotten on with our lives but I’d say we always had this gnawing feeling MaelstroM’s story was left unfinished. Then, the single most important factor to resurrect MaelstroM happened. It was a review we received (literally out of nowhere) in the mid 2000’s from Germany from an online magazine named Forgotten Steel. It was for our second demo This Battle To Make History, Yet History Never Comes and that review really spoke to us… it was almost like reading something we had written ourselves because it was verbatim what Joey and I felt all along… that it really was unbelievable to us that MaelstroM never had the opportunity to release a full-length album. 32 YEARS after our very first jam, Of Gods And Men, is finally being released. There are literally hundreds of hidden nuggets throughout this 69-minute juggernaut. As our recording, mixing/mastering engineer Rich Liegey told us, he’s never recorded a band that paid so much attention to the finest of details before, or since. But we have to work that way since everything is done to draw an actual emotion out of the listener, to have impact. A couple of hidden nuggets: There are lyrics that mention a previous song’s title and lyrics as this is all a fantasy conceptual album and story based. “Arise” and “Lament of the Fallen” are the opening and closing of what is considered Part 1 of the story, or Side 1 on a vinyl. Both of those songs are exactly 6:18 in length, and the final song on what would be Side 2, the song “SonRise” – is 12:36, exactly the sum of “Arise” and “Lament.” It is balanced architecture in sound, you may not notice it but you will feel the symmetry. The album ends exactly how it begins so if looped it will blend perfectly.  “SonRise” ends with several call backs musically to the song “Arise”. There are a lot of little things going on – hopefully as people delve into this they will discover more! Some other things for the old-time Diehards – those who followed us in the late 80’s would recognize riffs from “An Ancient Art” were lifted from a song “That Which Followed” from our 2nd demo. “SonRise” has also been completely revamped from its original form we used to play live. “Army From Ash” completely borrows the song structure from “Bloody Remains” (from our 1st demo) albeit with completely new/much better riffs. Practically all the songs from our 2 demos and live shows have been retooled both musically and lyrically, to again, have the greatest impact.

2. What got you into music, and can you tell us about the moment you realized you wanted to be a musician?

For me, I loved KISS when I was very young. The whole thing was just so HUGE that I wanted to be a part of it. Me and some friends when we were 8 years old actually put on a KISS concert in my backyard and sold tickets to my neighbors. My dad even made a stage and set off fireworks. I think I got the rush of preforming at that moment. As I got older and into more heavy music, I used to perform EXODUS’ “Bonded By Blood” in a mirror singing with a hairbrush as a mic, I loved Paul Baloff on that album. Then I started going to local shows seeing Pete Kronin from the band KRONIN and Troy Norr from COLD STEEL singing on stage at the local metal club February’s. They both inspired me to do it myself.

For Joey, I know he’s mentioned in interviews the very first music he ever remembers hearing as a child was the original recording of Jesus Christ Superstar with Ian Gillan, and he’s actually since performed guitar for JCS on several off-Broadway productions. It was a huge influence on him, not in the “religious” sense, but in that grand Epic musical sense. Another huge influence on Joey as a child was James Horner’s work on Wrath Of Khan as well as John Williams’ score to Empire Strikes Back. He’s since done lessons for Guitar World Magazine specifically about these two scores. He’s also told me seeing Jake E. Lee perform with Ozzy on 84’s Bark At The Moon tour was life changing for him, as well as seeing Steve Vai in 86’ on the Eat Em And Smile tour. After seeing both of those shows I think he practiced like 12 hours straight through the rest of the night into the next day, skipping school. Just made him obsessed.

3. Building on that, is there a specific song, album, performer, or live show that guided your musical taste?

I built a lot of what I do around Bruce Dickinson, he is such a fantastic performer and so theatrical. He just has such a huge set of balls and leaves it all out every time, taking total command of the crowd. I cannot sing like him but I really love his way of performing. Album wise I was influenced a lot by SABBAT’s Dreamweaver, and Overkill’s Years of Decay. Both of those gems are so chock full of ideas and concepts.

I guess I answered some of that in the previous question for Joe, but one of his life changing albums was Perpetual Burn by Jason Becker. It still holds up today and I know several times he’s said in interviews that Becker was literally a prodigy in the truest sense of the word and was on track to be one of the undisputed Gods of the electric guitar. It was tragic that ALS took those gifts from Becker yet it’s incredible that he’s still able to create and compose with the use of today’s tech. It literally is a testament to the human spirit.

4. Who would be your main five musical influences?

John Wetton, Martin Walkyier, Bruce Dickinson, Mille Petrozza, and Johann Hegg.

For Joey, James Horner, JS Bach, Jimi Hendrix, Yngwie Malmsteen, and Jason Becker.

5. If you could call in any one collaborator to do a song with, who would it be, and why?

I would love to do a writing session with Martin Walkyier, and I would love to sing with Bruce Dickenson and perform with him.

Joe would love to have Yngwie play, but good luck with that, Lol. Maybe a Steve Vai collaboration could happen. He seems to be much more open minded and Vai and Joey could have a blast jamming and orchestrating together.

6. How would you describe your music to someone who’d never listened to you before? What is the one comparison a reviewer or fan has made that made you cringe or you disagreed with?

I think the term “genre-bending” is how most people out there describe MaelstroM. Joey and I have coined the term “cinemetal” for us, basically creating a visual soundscape in your head that plays out more like a movie than a bunch of songs. For us the adherence to a genre, does not matter, whatever the song needs, whatever it takes to coerce an actual feeling from our listener, that’s that we’re going to do. It goes beyond just having a good riff. It starts by having that good riff but If the song calls for beautiful orchestral work and choirs, it’s going to be there. If the song needs the most brutal death metal riffs and vocals we can do, then we’ll do it. If the song needs soaring melodies both vocally and musically, done. So, we’re actually borrowing from several genres like power metal, death metal, doom, European thrash, neo-classical, even some NWOBHM and classic Sabbath and mixing it all into one metal melting pot we call MaelstroM. A comparison that has made me cringe, well I was once described as sounding like a “sick diseased yelping dog” on an early review for our first demo ’88… but listening back, I can’t really disagree with that – lol. I was a kid in high school and up to that point had no formal musical training at all. I was just trying to channel the most Purest of Pure Evil. Haha!

I know Joe always questions the Jeff Waters comparisons he always gets. I think he’s heard one Annihilator song “Alison Hell” and that’s it. He digs it but he doesn’t know their catalog, at all. It’s probably an example of both Jeff Waters and Joey Lodes being inspired by the same stuff early on… so their styles developed along similar lines. But, yeah, he gets that comparison all the time, which I think is great. At least better than the dog thing, haha.

7. What’s the best thing about being a musician?

Easily, the best part is having a constructive outlet to not only express yourself but to also create something that has the potential to live on long after we’ve shuffled off this mortal coil. I think that is every artist’s dream, to be able to leave a legacy.

8. When the band are all hanging out together, who cooks; who gets the drinks in; and who is first to crack out the acoustic guitars for a singalong?

Ironically, I haven’t seen Joey in person in 2 years now, and with NY being on lockdown for Covid-19, who knows how long that will last. All the mixing and mastering for this album was done about 4 years ago, except for one song “A Futile Crusade” that was most recently mixed remotely about 2 months ago. It’s very difficult for Joey to socialize since he had to undergo open heart surgery in 2015 to replace a bad congenital valve that caused an aortic aneurysm. Also since that surgery, he has been dealing with flare ups of endocarditis (inflammation/infections) of the heart ever since. In 2018 at a hospital in Valley Stream, NY they gave him an I.V. of an antibiotic he had already warned them he was allergic to, and it left him with debilitating tinnitus, hyperacusis (loud sounds are painful to him), vertigo and hearing loss. He struggles with this every day. Thankfully every and all of the guitar and bass parts for the album were all recorded by him in 2014, way before any of this happened.

9. When was the last time you were star struck and who was it?

I really don’t know honestly, I guess I haven’t met too many celebrities.

I know Joey is a huge original Star Trek fan and has met William Shatner several times. The last time was just a couple of weeks after his ears were trashed by that medication, but he already had the tickets for a comic con that was happening in Long Island. He was going to cancel but his family talked him into going and it turned out great as he was able to talk to Bill Shatner about his tinnitus (Shatner, who also suffers from tinnitus for over 50 years was the former spokesperson for the American Tinnitus Association). Joe says they had an inspiring pep talk and that Bill told him to stay strong as there in a lot of research being done to find a treatment and eventual cure.

10. If you weren’t a musician, what would be your dream job?

I am a commercial artist so I am doing what I really love to do. I want to get into professional Voice Over as I really feel being behind a mic is a zen moment for me.  So if I could incorporate that into a side career I would be very psyched.

11. Looking back over your career, is there a single moment or situation you feel was a misstep or you would like to have a “do over”, even if it didn’t change your current situation?

I think the biggest detriment to MaelstroM back in the day was that we never just jumped into a van and played up and down the east coast and across the country. We had garnished a ton of local New York notoriety in the late 80’s and we were pretty respected in the worldwide underground through our demos. MaelstroM’s original shows in 88’-89’ at February’s / Hammer-Hedz in Elmont, NY and Sundance in Bay Shore with the likes of Winter, Demolition Hammer, Malevolent Creation, To The Pain, Sorrow, Kronin, Cold Steel and Suffocation have now become the stuff of legend. In ’88 and ’89, we were the top drawing band at Feb’s both years and the grand prize was recording time at Speed Of Sound Studios (SOS) in Franklin Square, those sessions became our This Battle To Make History demo. So locally on Long Island we were solid, doing great, but we never just went for it with a tour or a long-distance show to try to gain traction in another scene. That was a huge mistake back then. I think the furthest we every traveled was for a death metal fest in Buffalo with Sorrow and Suffocation. Not playing out in other areas when we really did have the chance… no kids, no career, no mortgage payments… not taking advantage of really having no responsibility back then is something I totally regret.

12. If you could magically go back in time and be a part of the recording sessions for any one record in history, which would you choose – and what does that record mean to you?

I think for me it would be Powerslave – that is the album that got me into metal and still has my all-time favorite metal song, “Rime of the Ancient Mariner.”

I know for Joe being able to sit in on Jimi’s recordings of Electric Ladyland or watching Randy Rhoads track songs from Diary Of A Madman would be his dream. Especially Diary, because in other interviews I know that our final song on Of Gods And Men, “SonRise” has been through so many re-writes and variations literally because of Diary! Joe just kept saying it has to be an Epic ending like Diary! He wanted it to feel just right. I think we pulled that off, “SonRise” is pretty damn Epic!





Category: Interviews

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ToddStar - that's me... just a rocking accountant who had dreams of being a rock star. I get to do the next best thing to rocking the globe - I get to take pictures of the lucky ones that do. I love to shoot all genres of music and different types of performers. If it is related to music, I love to photograph it. I get to shoot and hang with not only some of my friends and idols, but some of the coolest people around today.

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