Interview With Jeremy Goldberg of Age of Evil for House of Hair Online
By Ray Van Horn, Jr.
House of Hair Online: I’ve always said you can’t necessarily teach the old school way of playing heavy metal to other generations; it’s up those generations to find the chemistry of eighties metal on their own and they either have it inside them to replicate or they don’t. You guys have a remarkably large percentage of it nailed to the sheets. Coming out of your teens with a full-length album Living a Sick Dream from 2007 and now your Get Dead EP, have you felt Age of Evil has naturally assimilated the classic metal sound in what you’re hoping to achieve for your band?
Jeremy Goldberg: Yeah, absolutely, man. It is definitely not a type of music that can just be taught. You have to love it and feel a connection to it and bust your ass every waking moment. Shit, sometimes we feel we were born in the wrong decade, but hey, at least we can learn from some bands’ mistakes and hopefully won’t end up on Sunset selling guitars for coke! (laughs) But I definitely think we have achieved a sound that is modern, yet has an 80’s edge to it. It is very natural for us and we don’t do it because we are purposefully trying to revive what seems to be lost in metal or because some label thinks it would be a selling gimmick, but rather because we enjoy it and write what we ourselves would want to hear.
HOH: Putting the entire population of the world together, it’s appropriate to say only a handful of musicians coming up in their teens can claim to have already put out their first album, much less done the extensive touring Age of Evil has done to this point, including Europe. I don’t see you guys having sat in your studio trying to dub yourselves as young prodigies, but it’s undeniable Age of Evil is ahead of the curve with its proficiency, both on an individual and collective level. Still, you guys have to feel a little proud of what you’ve accomplished already to this point, yes?
JG: Yes, we feel proud of what we have done and accomplished and feel that if anything, because we are young, it means a longer career. It seems that most people mention our age when reviewing us or interviewing us which is cool, but to me it seems a little weird. Was anyone back in the 80’s always mentioning how young Tommy Lee was when he was in Motley Crue, or James Hetfield, or Dimebag Darrell, or Def Leppard? Kinda seems as though it was normal and no big deal. I don’t see why it should be any different from today—maybe the lack of these kinds of bands popping up? Who knows. All I know is music and live performances come first, not age.
HOH: How about the makeup of your band, a quartet featuring a pair of brothers and you’ve all been friends since childhood? Jeremy, last time we spoke, you mentionedbriefly about you guys doing Jackass stunts and stuff like that together before getting serious and putting Age of Evil together…
JG: Oh, if only you could see the Jackass videos! After we got all of that out of our system, Jordan (Ziff) and Garrett (Ziff) starting playing guitar and drums at age 7 and 9. Naturally, all of us being best friends, me and my brother Jacob followed and we formed a band. We actually jammed in Garrett’s room with little 12 inch amps when were just starting out and eventually moved it in to my garage. The garage is where the magic happened.
HOH: Let’s talk about what it took to get Living a Sick Dream written, recorded and mastered. You guys were what, seniors in high school or thereabouts at the time? Give us a bit of a journal of your lives while getting Living a Sick Dream under your belts.
JG: Well, I was probably about a freshman or sophomore in high school when we wrote and recorded the album. We basically had been working with this guy Slate since we were maybe 13 or 14 years old and he really whipped us into shape with our live shows and how we came across to people. He knew the producer we used, John Herrera, and when John heard our tracks, he saw potential. So we did pre-production in the garage during the summer in Arizona. Now, these pre-production days could sometimes last 6 to 8 hours per day in a garage with no air conditioning in the hottest time of the year in Arizona. Brutal! But we worked our asses off and made sure we would be ready to record a full-length album. We recorded the music from the album in three days. All four of us in a room for 12 to 14 hours a day playing the songs live, like a show. Since we were not seasoned professionals yet, we wanted to get that aggression and energy and so we did it that way recording analog. We were not allowed to jerk off or have sex for a week prior so that we would be on edge.
HOH: (laughs) Willpower!
JG: Our producer was even nice enough to bring some lovely ladies in to tease us, which for Garrett worked very well. The boxing gloves eventually broke out at the end of the session (laughs). The whole experience was awesome and really taught us a lot.
HOH: (laughs) Was the whole process of finishing Living a Sick Dream what you’d expected it to be like or not? What was on your minds while creating your debut album?
JG: I was basically going to John’s house after school every week to do the vocals. A lot of the songs that we thought were going be the best ended up still being really good, but not the ones that stood out. The songs that we thought would be less popular did quite the opposite. You never know what a song sounds like until it is recorded and done. We were getting roughs of the tracks every week and I’d be sitting in class not paying attention to the teacher but instead analyzing and critiquing everything about the songs: the mix, the master, and all that stuff. The album got pushed back a bit because we didn’t have a name, and once we figured it out, then we had to wait for artwork. Eventually we had the final product in our hands and it was really exciting for all of us. The first thing we did was send a bunch of them to Europe and that is how we started playing over there.
HOH: You have two new recordings for the Get Dead EP, the title track and “Cruel Intentions,” plus the Skid Row and Priest covers and two live tracks. Pretty shrewd package! The marketing angle—whether it was intentional or not—is ahead of your years. Tell us about your scheme and reasoning for this EP.
JG: We toured in Europe for two months this past summer and knew that we had some studio time. All we had prepared for was the two new songs, the Judas Priest cover and a few other fun ones. After we got the live recordings back from the shows in Germany, it all started to make sense. With the addition of the Skid Row cover, we were certain we had a slamming EP on our hands. Then when we teamed up with Chipster PR—who is one of the best in the business—we felt that an EP was actually a better decision than a full-length. The goal was to get everyone’s attention, build up a bigger fan base, tour, and then nail everyone with a full-length album. And we plan on doing just that. We already have a ton of material for a full-length and it’s just about doing it with the right people.
HOH: Both of the new songs are polished face-slammers with a good bit of thrash and toxic waltzing going on. What feels different to you guys on these songs versus Living a Sick Dream and is the Exodus and Overkill-like vibe of “Get Dead” the direction you feel Age of Evil should comfortably pursue?
JG: Overall, everything is just much more mature. I mean, especially my voice, and the composition, and the riffs, and every aspect that goes in to writing and playing songs. But live, they don’t sound as distant from each other because we play the Living a Sick Dream material better live than it is on the album and even made some changes that translate better live. I don’t necessarily seeing us going a whole lot heavier than this EP because it is already so heavy, but I do see us expanding our sound and style. We are writing new material now and some of the songs are like “Get Dead,” on steroids and others are a bit more of mixing heavy metal and rock n roll. We don’t like to limit ourselves by putting one or two genres on our music and the future of our music, and so I think we will probably do a melting pot of all that is metal and hard rock.
HOH: Jeremy, you once laid out the story behind the “Slave to the Grind” cover for me, but this being Dee Snider’s House of Hair Online, I feel we need to cover it again, if you’d please.
JG: Well, we had one day off in the studio while we were recording the EP and our engineer said that we should use the time to record another song. We didn’t know what to do and we were not that sober, but Garrett had the brilliant idea to add another cover to the mix and record “Slave to the Grind.” Because we only do something if it has melody, groove, and attitude, we knew that this cover would be a perfect marriage. But the problem was we didn’t know how to play it and didn’t have the lyrics. So my trusty iPhone got to work and we pulled up the song and the lyrics. We listened to it, played it on the guitar a few times, and then all watched eagerly as Garrett went in the isolation room to record his first take. It was so good, that he didn’t need to continue. Once we heard Garrett beat the shit out of the drums like that, we just knew. Next up, guitars. Me and Jordan recorded the guitars in a few takes all the way through and Jordanwrote his own solo kinda on the spot. After guitars and bass were done, it was my turn to finish up with the vocals. I didn’t really know the lyrics that well so it was very new to me. But I said fuck it and just went balls-out. I think all of this adds up and makes the song undeniably intense and raw, and that’s sometimes how things work in the studio. Something unexpected becomes great and then we play the song live.
HOH: You’ve had some seriously enviable gigs so far in your career with a couple coming up this month opening for Hail! What’s it been like from your perspectives getting booked for shows? Was it ever a pain in the ass getting taken seriously until the venues heard you play? Did you ever get hit with the dreaded pay-to-play demand from a venue?
JG: It doesn’t matter where we play or who we play with or how many people because we give it 150% every time. With that attitude, if you got the chops, you’re bound to get recognized someday. We have definitely played our fair share of shows that weren’t always in our favor, especially in LA. Once we had two sets in one night a place that was 21 and over. We were still in the middle of high school and definitely looked it, so we were kicked out of the venue for three hours in-between sets once they finally allowed us to even play. Again in LA, we paid to play, and were booked as a headliner before an all-star band with some of the guys from W.A.S.P., including Chris Holmes. Our time slot was running late because the first band didn’t show up on time and we ended up playing at the same time as the all-star band on a separate stage, who by the way had pole dancers and all kinds of cool shit. I mean, how do you compete with that? It was even on Jordan’s birthday. I could go on about shitty circumstances with shitty promoters and shitty venue (owners)who have absolutely no idea what they’re doing and only see green money signs in their minds. Anyways, we’ve paid a good percentage of our dues, we don’t complain, we learn from it, and it’s nice to know that it is starting to pay off.
HOH: I’d like to know more about the European leg you guys did, which we get to hear live cuts of “Eye For An Eye” and “Glimpse of Light” from that tour on the Get Dead EP. I mean, seriously, not everyone playing in a band gets to travel overseas! Put us into your minds, first to be invited over to Europe to play and two, what it must’ve felt like being a relatively new band getting a shot of a lifetime other groups never get.
JG: When we got word that we would be playing the Bang Your Head festival, a festival that we dreamed of, you can only imagine how crazy we were going. Our first album came out a few months before and here we would already be playing with bands like Heaven and Hell, W.A.S.P., Nazareth, Hammerfall, and many more. We obviously knew that it was a once in a lifetime opportunity and had two weeks to gear up for the most important shows of our lives. We worked with Tom Gattis (Deuce, Tension, Wardog, Ballistic) on stuff like stage sound, stage presence, translation of songs in a live setting, and a lot more so that we would stand out, and it paid off. Getting in to Germany was a trip. Dildo shops in the airport, no speed limit, BEER (legally), and great metal. It felt awesome to be there but we also knew that just because we were there, it didn’t really mean anything. We had to prove ourselves and win them over. Right after our set on this massive stage in front of tons of metalheads, the owner of the festival came up onstage, and announced us as the first confirmed band for 2008. If only you could have seen our faces. Grins all around. We knew it was just the start.
HOH: Any crazy war stories from the European trip you could share with us?
JG: The start of our tour this past summer kicked off with Jon Oliva’s Pain which has many war stories, but in summary, it was a lot of partying and car rides that were made longer due to excessive puking. At another show, a few girls traveled 9 hours to see us and so we felt like we owed it to them. Took them back to the apartment and you know how it goes. Then sent them on their way at 4:00 in the morning when the trains started back up.
Jacob switched beds that night with Garrett because of some foul play on the sheets with the girls. But you’ll never know who did what! If I had to guess, it was probably Garrett or Jordan. I don’t wanna give too many war stories away but at least you guys can get a taste of stuff that’s clean enough to get published.
HOH: (laughs) Woot! Things are different in today’s metal society—from my observations anyway—where I don’t see so much of the old band hazing and flier wars, particularly made famous on the Sunset Strip when west coast metal bands would be slugging it out on the streets to get people to their shows. Have you experienced any type of band rivalry or insane moments in putting your band out there?
JG: Even on the Atrip now there’s not a ton of that going on like it did. I was just at NAMM in Anaheim but went to the Rainbow one of the nights and it’s pretty sad. Gone are the days where you could walk in to that place and see Warrant in one booth, Van Halen in another, and Ratt right next to them. Now you pretty much just see Lemmy playing his video game at the bar, but he’s badass, so it’s all good. But there’s not a ton of real rockstars out there these days. We plan to change that, anyway. To answer your question, we never did a lot of passing out fliers and stuff like that. I mean yeah, we have done it and still do sometimes, but not like you’re talking about, especially in Arizona. There is no Sunset strip or a Times Square or anything like that, so it’s almost pointless to waste your gas money driving around this huge place. The money is better spent on gear or stage props. One time though, a band wanted to fight us because Garrett had done something with one of the guys’ sister, but the band backed off pretty quickly when our friends got wind of it.
HOH: Wowzers! Tell us about getting hooked up with these Hail! gigs. I interviewed Andreas Kisser last month and we talked about Hail! a bit, so it ought to be a few rad evenings of traditional power metal with you guys opening!
JG: Yeah dude, it’s gonna be an amazing show and anyone who lives in New York and Massachusetts that chooses not to come out is just lame! Basically I have to give praise to David Ellefson for opening the door for these shows. We’ve known him for a little while but he had never seen us live and finally came to one of our shows in December. He really enjoyed it and thought that we would be a perfect fit for the first ever HAIL! dates. We got to see HAIL! play a secret show at NAMM and it was so awesome and got us even more excited for these east coast dates.
HOH: There are many albums and artists which shape new musicians, but since Age of Evil’s lineup enjoys a unique bond I can picture there being a music listening session in your history together where a certain album solidified the glue, shall we say. Which album is it?
JG: It’s hard to say but a few come to mind: Blizzard of Ozz, Number of the Beast and Rust in Peace. I think these albums definitely helped solidify our love for metal and great music. Many came after these, but let’s just say that these were some of the first.