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Interview with Joey Vera: Armored Saint bassist talks about the band's history, touring, AI, and more

When Armored Saint started in 1982, even the band members couldn’t imagine still going strong more than 40 years later.

When Armored Saint began in 1982, even the band members couldn't predict still being successful more than 40 years later.

"No. So this serves as a great reminder of how grateful we are for this opportunity to still do this," said bassist Joey Vera.

But that's exactly what the long-standing heavy metal band from Los Angeles is doing, embarking on a tour in support of Queensryche. The tour, running from March 27 to May 21, will stop at the Roxian Theatre in McKees Rocks on April 24.

The band's current lineup, consisting of singer John Bush, guitarists Phil Sandoval and Jeff Duncan, drummer Gonzo Sandoval, and Vera, has been together since 1989 — aside from a few breaks while Bush was the lead singer of Anthrax.

Their first album, "March of the Saint," in 1984 helped them secure shows and tours with bands like Quiet Riot and Whitesnake (with a tour featuring all three of those bands stopping at the Syria Mosque in Pittsburgh on Nov. 30, 1984.) At various points in the 1980s, Bush and Vera had opportunities to audition for positions with thrash metal giants Metallica but opted to stay with Armored Saint.

Early albums like "Delirious Nomad" in 1985, "Raising Fear" in 1987, and "Symbol of Salvation" in 1991 solidified their position in the heavy metal scene. Their latest album, "Punching the Sky," released in 2020, received positive reviews, and they are working on more new music.

In an email interview in late February, Vera discussed the band's history, touring, artificial intelligence in music, and more:

Before the tour with Queensryche begins, you'll be on the Monsters of Rock cruise in early March. What's it like to be on a ship with so many metal fans?

This will be our fourth metal cruise, and it's always been a great time. It's like being at a music festival with all of your fans, friends from other bands, and crew. Everyone has a great time.

What do you consider the biggest changes to touring since you first started?

One big change is that it's much more expensive than before! Nowadays, bands are compelled to depend on merchandise sales and VIP experiences to make ends meet.

Being a part of the metal scene for decades, how do you think your music has changed over the years?

I believe we've managed to stay true to ourselves as songwriters while adapting to the changes in the music scene. I believe we've carved our own path.

How do you see Armored Saint's impact in the wider heavy metal context?

Once again, I view ourselves as a band that has largely pursued our musical desires and along the way, we've been fortunate to have connected with enough people to build a very loyal following.

Do you think the band has become more at ease over the years with its identity and place in the music scene?

Yes, I do. I think we began feeling most comfortable with our identity around the time of writing "La Raza" in 2009.

With "Punching the Sky," was there an overarching theme that the band wanted to explore with that album?

Not necessarily. We don't typically write with a specific theme. But one thing we're always aiming for is growth, expanding our knowledge, and taking risks. So "Punching the Sky" alludes to that.

It seems like with all the things happening in the world, you will never run out of material/inspiration for songs.

I don’t think so. There’s always something happening in life that either pleases you or annoys you.


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In “End of the Attention Span,” you criticized the distractions caused by electronic devices/technology/social media. With that in mind, how do you think AI is going to affect the music industry?

Kind of worried about that. Even with the rise of making recording music accessible to the general consumer, that was a two-sided situation. Now all it takes is a few prompts and you have a fully written and recorded song.

In a related question, do you wish you could go back to a time when you didn’t see a hundred phones in the air while you’re playing?

Ha. Yes, definitely. What ever happened to being present in the moment? People are forgetting about one of the greatest aspects of the life experience.

What can we expect from Armored Saint in the future? Are there any more albums/videos in the works?

We are currently writing new music for a new record. We’ve recorded a single along with a video for that single which should be released this summer. We have a European tour this summer and then we hope to go into the studio in late 2024.

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