Tell the readers how you got involved with Three Sixes. Were you previously acquainted with Damien LaVey or did you hear he was seeking new members and audition?
I had moved from Las Vegas to California in late 2000. I wanted to find the right fit for a group that had a solid background and was not exactly a start-up group. I put an ad out looking for a group and had different bands reply. Damien invited me in to audition after meeting and getting a disc for me to practice. I think I was working as a manager at Mars Music in Santa Ana at the time. He was a super cool dude and very upbeat. So I headed down with my stack, Les Paul in hand, to Francisco Studios in lovely Vernon, California, to audition for Three Sixes. Damien will tell the story WAY better then I will, but I roll in, and he asks me which song I learned. I reply "the first one, of course". I didn't have time to learn all the songs on the disc, but I figured I would nail this one. The audition went well, and soon after I was asked to join the band. It was a good chemistry. I felt they were a little too basic as far as the riffs went, but I knew I could contribute with what I brought to the table. I think I was really eager to get back on stage, as I knew Damien was too, and I booked us a show at the XTreme Motocross Festival in Irvine, California. It was us, a bunch of other bands I can't remember, and the dudes from Metal Mulisha. So from then on, the core of the Three Sixes songwriting team was established. The friendship, loyalty and honesty shows between Damien and myself with what we created (along with producer Marko Olson) on Know God, No Peace. Never been prouder of myself or the evolution of Three Sixes.
How did you know that chemistry existed during your rehearsal? How did your playing enhance the band when you tried out for them?\
I wasn't the most talented guitarist they tried out, but I damn sure was the baddest motherfucker they had auditioned to that point. No doubt. It was a good vibe in there, and they seemed very chill.
What had you been doing in Las Vegas before your move? Had you been searching for bands to join there?
I had been playing solo acoustic gigs, studying International Business at UNLV (where Coach John Robinson seemed to want me to play linebacker even though I was in my mid 20s).
How long has music been important in your life, and when did you decide to seriously pursue it as a career?
I had a promising baseball future ahead of me when I was growing up outside of Atlanta. What changed everything was seeing Pantera play at the Fox Theater when I was sixteen. Wow... Dimebag just made it seem like the best thing in the world to be on stage, and since I would like to think I'm an entertainer at heart... it made complete sense. I remember turning to my friend and saying "I wanna do THAT!” Baseball took a seat on the bench and although I already had this bad ass Harmony Explorer, I needed to play more. After a short stint in rehab, I hooked up with my buddy Ryan Wexler, and August Dawn was born. I grew up around Rich Ward and Bonz from Stuck Mojo, and I felt honored that Rich shared with me the news that they had signed with Century Media before going public with it. I still look up to him as a guitarist, although we don't talk much anymore. Ahh the good ol' Waffle House across the street from me.
How do you account for Dimebag and Pantera having that much of an impact on your career choice?
It just really hit me in the soft spot of my heart, witnessing how much passion and intensity one could have playing in a band. He really was able to connect with the crowd just using his six string. I've seen videos of Stevie Ray Vaughn doing just that too. I had the opportunity to meet Dime outside of a show setting... did a shot of Jager with him and was able to have a moment I'll never forget.
What was it like to meet in person someone you admired as much as Dimebag?
As much as I admired him just as a balls out guitarist - the dude was gold personally. He was cordial, welcoming to everyone. Called everyone bro or sister, no matter what race, creed or culture they were. Fucking LOVED that. Good soul. I don't believe the bullshit from Anselmo's mouth, this guy was a good fucking dude.
How long were you with August Dawn? Did you perform often and record a few albums with them?
That was my first band. Our first show was at the Wreck Room down by Georgia Tech with a band called Crawlspace, which ended up evolving into Sevendust. Good times. We we're awful, I am pretty sure.
How “green” were you as a musician with August Dawn? What sort of a learning experience was that band?
I learned how to play guitar by just reading tabs and listening to CDs over and over. I figured my ear was decent, and for some reason I keep pretty good time for a guitarist. I had a really old wooden metronome you see sitting on top of pianos and such. I was "green", yes, but I didn't give a fuck. I learned to play in drop-D tuning, so I'll play chords with one finger anyway. We were all young, and just piecing songs together. I had a blast though, and I have those three dudes still on my Facebook account, I keep in touch. Ryan and I talk regularly.
Whose CDs and tablatures did you refer to while learning guitar? Were there bands you listened to often?
I think the obligatory stuff: Led Zeppelin, Pantera, Metallica, Megadeth, John Sykes. I was into everything when I was younger. Metal, rap, pop, whatever sounded good. Never been much for country, but I do appreciate some of the better guitar players.
Did your education as a guitarist include learning to play solos as well as chord progressions?
All rhythm, all the time. Solos I learned just because I had to, or I made my own transposition of the original in a song. Jimi Hendrix said it best: "The world is full of lead guitar players, but the rhythm is the thing". I think he said it. Well, fuck it. I don't care if he did. It sounds like a great quote.
How did your solo playing grow from your learning rhythm guitar? Has Jimi Hendrix been influential on you?
I wouldn't say Hendrix was "influential" to me. He was very much out there, and groundbreaking at that. I enjoy his stuff, but not to the point of obsession. Nah, my solo playing still sucks haha!
Does being self-educated as a guitarist give you more room to invent your own style?
I think so, but I believe it limits me, at least on the basis of talent. I think I am a hell of a songwriter, but I am not a very good player. This convo tends to go in circles, but I just always feel lacking in the talent of playing the guitar.
What were you doing in Las Vegas before moving to California? What led to you working at Mars Music in Santa Ana?
I was a student at UNLV, and working as an assistant Dept. Manager at Mars Music in Las Vegas. Anyone who was in the industry in Vegas were at Guitar Center, Mars, Cowtown or various indie stores. We had a tight knit scene there. I was one of the guitarists in Conflict Of Interest, but we had disbanded and grown apart. Aside from doing acoustic gigs, I also contributed to an album by Zero Fingers, featuring Jazz Bender and Sean Whitcomb. Great guys, great vibe.
How many indie stores were around at the time and how tightly knit was the scene among the outlets you mentioned?
Criminal Records down at Little 5 Points in Atlanta was the place to be. Criminal Records was a retail record store, CDs, cassettes, and plenty of room for band flyers, posters and whatnot. Criminal was a good place to post band flyers and "musician wanted" ads, etc. It was located where the trains and Marta buses came together. HUB to get anywhere downtown.
Tell the readers some more about Conflict Of Interest and the Zero Fingers album you contributed to. How active was COI and what did you contribute to the full length?
Not too much to reveal on this one, COI never recorded a full length. I think we just played more shows then any frigging band in Vegas. We were definitely battle tested as far as showmanship. Our old drummer is in jail for murder now, too. With Zero Fingers, I don't even know if the album saw the light of day but man was it fun to play on it.
Are you still in touch with Jazz Bender and Sean Whitcomb of Zero Fingers? Are they involved in any new projects?
Don't speak much to Jazz; just got back in touch with him via Facebook recently. He's always been a great showman, and an exceptional songwriter. Sean is performing in a stage show of sorts in Deadwood, South Dakota. He plays music and entertains the masses that come to visit the old ghost town. Truly one of the best human beings I've ever met, and a hell of a musician.
What appealed to you about Three Sixes’ music and made you want to work with them professionally? How do your personal tastes in music fit with the band?
First off, I didn't really dig the Satan stuff, I found it humorous. But what made a HUGE difference was the loyalty to heavy music that Damien had. His drive, passion, organization and persistence go unrivaled in this industry. Any Three Sixes fan will know and agree with that. I really loved the fact that there were no fucks to give, whatsoever, from the very beginning. We have a very cohesive, loyal relationship when it comes to songwriting and structure. We respect each other greatly, and it shows with the chemistry we had. When we went on hiatus after our self-titled CD (with Paint it Black, Holy Man and Hell's Home), we both thought we were done. I was in talks with Barry Squier about working with other groups, and my Son was born, and getting interest from In This Moment (pre-Century Media) and Cold as far as being a replacement. I ended up doing a "pseudo-group" full length with A New Vice, produced by Ron Welty from The Offspring. We had a great CD, mainstream alternative, solid songwriting from Sash Kuzma (one of the top songwriters in Europe right now), Bryan Robidart, Kelly Hurst and Mike Crisis (later replaced by Matt Caskitt). Fun times, good shows, mini-tour, and outstanding reception from the public. Honestly though, my heart was and will always be heavy music. Metal, thrash, sludgy shit. Sevendust, Acacia Strain, Volumes, Bury Your Dead, Pantera, Stuck Mojo, Mudvayne, Godhead, Northlane, Pig Named Jodi, Face Down, Amos Lee, Fun, Pink, The Weeknd, Steve Poltz, Jewel, Sepultura and Soulfly, Snot, Death By Stereo, Helmet, Def Leppard, Slipknot, In Urgency, American Murder/Epidemic, Zakk Wylde and BLS, Jimi Hendrix, Al Di Meola, Dream Theater, Rodrigo y Gabriela, C.O.C., Frozen Sun, Hatebreed, Jay Z, hed(pe), Michael Ward, Anthrax, Run DMC, NWA, Suicidal Tendencies. In my eyes, Machine Head and Sevendust can do no wrong. Machine Head is getting better and it's scary how amazing and evolved they are as songwriters. My fave singer songwriter is Ben Harper. I apologize for anyone I might have left out. I really do have a lot of friends in the industry and love them all. But... I play and write for my favorite band, Three Sixes.
What about Ben Harper’s songwriting most speaks to you? Describe your experiences meeting him in person?
I think it's his ability to tell a story and be honest, not contriving anything just for the sake of the song. He's also one of the coolest guys I have ever met in my life. Just a good soul. I've only really "met" Ben at the Gibson trailer at NAMM one year. I've seen him a few times and just did the wave or nod and he's always smiled back, but that's the extent of it. His stories are all personal experiences from what I gather. Blessed to Be a Witness is still one of my fave songs. I am not religious whatsoever, but his gospel type writing is outstanding.
How did A New Vice form while you were on hiatus from Three Sixes? How many shows did they perform altogether?
A New Vice was put together by Ron Welty from the Offspring. It was his lovechild, bred from a mix of different genres of local and international talent. Bryan Robidart and Mike Crisis from Device (later replaced by Matt Caskitt), Kelly Hurst on bass, and top European singer and writer Sash Kuzma. The music was well received and we had a string of decent shows, along with radio airplay in various markets. While it was fun to put together a mainstream project for sheer profit potential, my heart was obviously with Three Sixes. We played various venues when Three Sixes was on hiatus (and even at the start of our recording), including the headlining slots at House of Blues, but I don't recall all the places at which we performed.
Describe the full length released by A New Vice. How much press did it receive? Name some stations that provided airplay.
From what I remember, it was well received by peers and press, but a little too grassroots for me. Something like that - recorded and made to market and sell - should have been, but wasn't. It might have been just two or three of us that were really focused on other things, and not wanting to put in the full effort that it deserved. I know I made it clear from the get-go that A New Vice was a side thing for me, even though I dedicated myself to the recording and performances that transpired. Didn't sign up to hand out flyers. I can't recall the actual call letters, but city-wise: LA, Jacksonville, FL, Las Vegas and San Fran. Ron Welty played a part in getting us on.
Do you have an easy time finding a balance between being a full time musician and a family man?
Well, I'm not a full time musician, just dedicated. I have a Real Estate business in Jacksonville, Florida, in addition to some acting roles. With regards to being a family man, my Son's Mom and I are divorced, but remain close. She's an amazing Mom, and I'm so proud to have such a badass kid in Dominic. He is an exceptional, super intelligent young man, and has unlimited potential in life. I am honored to be his Father. Hope he will take a bit more interest in music and martial arts!
Recount what you remember from playing the XTreme Motocross Festival in Irvine. Describe the weather and the atmosphere generated by the attendees. Did the audience respond to your set in way that bolstered your drive?
I definitely think it was a learning experience for us all. Damien forgot to come in at the beginning of the verse for Lord of the Dead, and I know I made a few mistakes, I'm sure the bass player was all over the place. This was after a really bad soundcheck - they couldn't get out samples to run clean thru the PA. Haha. It was fun though. We had a weird crowd watching us while the dudes from Metal Mulisha were flying thru the air.
Is Xtreme Motorcross a yearly festival? Would you want to perform there again? Are there other festival you would like to visit?
I really have no idea about the XTreme festival anymore. As far as other festivals I would like to perform at: Dynamo Open Air, Bloodstock, Hellfest, Wacken, Milwaukee Metal Fest. I'm down for anything as long as we get a place to shit, shower and shave.
Describe your practice and recording sessions with Damien and Three Sixes while you worked on the full length?
The recording of Know God, No Peace was a deep, lengthy process that tested our loyalty, friendship and perseverance (sp?) I bow in honor to Damien and Marko, as they worked - day in and day out - on the entire process. Whether it was tracking drums, guitars, working on the mixes. We all knew this was a guitar driven album, and knowing they both had my back, I felt assured that my tracks would best represent the songs. I was working as an actor in the film industry. Backing up in time, we started the process quite a while ago. Damien and I had already put together Lead Winged Angel, and played it live a few times along with Whiskey, our former bass player. We hit some walls with what we wanted to do, and then came the explosion of musical diarrhea, proceeding after we decided to make the most brutal, honest album we could. We were out of fucks to give and had nothing to lose at that point.
Having recorded full length releases together, does the band prefer working with outside parties or working independently?
I'm sure we would love to have Taylor Swift or Celine Dion swing by for some guest vocals. We've done everything independently to this point, let's see what the future holds.
How much work did you see Damien and Marko put into the full length during the recording sessions?
Know God, No Peace wouldn't have become a reality if it wasn't for Damien and Marko. They were literally there through the whole process. During recording, mixing, mastering, whatever. Can't give them enough credit for that...
Did you appear in any promotional videos by the band, such as Lead Winged Angel? How would you rate that video production-wise?
I was in the official video for Lead Winged Angel, but as far as promotional videos, I can't recall. Maybe my amazing glutes made an appearance?
How much of a hand did you have in Three Sixes’ cover of AC/DC’s Thunderstruck? Describe the creative input you had.
For the most part, Marko is the end all be all of how that song came to the table. We all thought it was a great idea, as we love the original. All I did was do what I do best: play tight ass rhythm tracks, and act like I know what I am doing when it comes to playing a guitar solo (or two).