Interview with Mike Paris (aka: G. Cyco) of STRYCTNYNE
How long before the formation of Stryctnyne were you interested in playing music before an audience? Who were the bands you most admired? Did anyone inspire you to play a specific instrument?
I studied music thru out my school years, playing several different instruments. I picked up the guitar in my early teens and started playing and applying what I learned in school. I just kept playing; I stayed in my room for hours learning how to play. Looking back I wish You Tube was around back then! I’m a huge King Diamond fan, Mercyful Fate (of course) Manowar, Black Sabbath, Judas Priest. I saw Randy Rhoads when Ozzy came out doing the Blizzard of Ozz after he left Black Sabbath; I was blown away by Randy. I think that show really inspired me to put all my effort into the guitar and develop my songwriting skills.
Did you have formal education? Were there guitarists you drew particular inspiration from?
I didn’t have any formal training; I taught myself. At one point I did take a few lessons to grow. I was inspired by Randy Rhoads, Iommi, Tipton, all the greats. Today it so easy to see other guitarists via Youtube or Facebook. There is just so much talent out there.
How did you discover the underground bands you grew up with? What sort of an impact did they have when you heard them? Are you discovering new bands worth mentioning?
Back then it was all word of mouth. I had a friend who collected Cassettes, Records, and CDs. His wall was covered with these and he would turn me on to them and now today I have another friend who does the same he will burn CDs and give them to me. Right now I listen to Five Finger Death Punch, Avenge Sevenfold, Volbeat, and I’m listening to the new stuff from Exodus, Slayer, Annhilator. The list goes on and on.
At which clubs did you most often appear in the beginning? Were these mostly local shows or did you open for national bands? How did starting out feel in the early years of the scene?
We played everywhere but there was one club we were fond of and that was Sundance in Bay Shore, N.Y. We actually opened up for Manowar there. We played there quite often. There were clubs such as CBGB, Hammerhedz, the Limelight, The Roxy. We did it all… local shows at hole in the wall bars to bigger venues. Some of the national acts include Manowar, Blue Oyster Cult, Flotsam and Jetsam, and recently we have opened for Diamond Head, Adrenalin Mob, Joe Lynn Turner just to name a few. It was great. We were a bit on the wild side, always pushing the envelope not only in the band but in our personal lives. The culture was much different. Looking back now I don’t think we could get away with half the shit we did back then, but as the saying goes “Boys will be Boys”.
Did you prefer playing the smaller and more intimate clubs or the larger venues? Which of each treated the band well?
I prefer the smaller clubs. I’m really not sure how the other guys feel about it. I would guess there would be a mix of answers to that. I like seeing people up close and feeling the raw energy being emulated. As far as the clubs go, we were for the most part treated well. There were always some clubs that had a reputation for being sketchy and there were times we lost money at the door from the head count etc… but it’s hard to stop some of that… at least at this level.
Stryctnyne was active at the time thrash metal was gaining notoriety in New York and across the country. Did this have an effect on the band’s songwriting in any way?
We were just having this discussion within the band. Our songs have a wide range of genre-ism (I just made that word up). We have songs like Blasphemer and Satan’s Ride that are Heavy and others like Line Them Up and Reality which seem to be more on the Hard Rock side. It’s funny we always ask people what their favorite Stryctnyne song is… and they all pick different songs. When we write, if it’s catchy and we like it we play it… we don’t try to stay to a strict genre whether it’s heavy or on the hard rock side.
What do you remember from the local scene when Stryctnyne formed in Long Island?
The 80’s was an epic time for Heavy Metal. You could play a venue every night of the week, and it was packed. The scene was happening and people were really into Hard Rock/Heavy Metal. The days started with Metal and the days ended with Metal! There were no “tribute” bands at that time, bands would play some covers now and then but it wasn’t like it is today. The scene now is saturated with “tribute” bands, and many of the musicians (good ones) are in multiple “tribute bands”. It almost seems like a waste of talent, but on the other hand I understand why they do it. Ticket prices were much more affordable back then, there were many venues to go to, catering to Metal. I think the music back then was not as influenced as today by trends or what’s supposedly what’s “In” at the time. For us we play what we want and we do what we want, I’m not saying this is the best approach but that’s the way we are. It’s either two ways with us: our way or our way. We play, write, and record because we love the music; that’s the way we were then and were still like that now. There just seems to be more scam artists out there now. So called promoters and booking agents. They prey on the bands offering openings for national acts, with the provision of: You must sell X number of tickets.
Tell more about what you know of this provision that promoters impose on bands these days?
Anything that is not sold the band has to dig into their pockets and cough up the difference. I don’t remember this being the case way back when. The bands and the venues always pushed the shows together, and of course bands want as many people there as do the clubs… but there seems to be some separation on this point now. We sell tickets when asked to, with the understanding that anything not sold goes back to the club… for us it’s not about hitting the X number of ticket sales… we have a great following with loyal fans and surpass those numbers every time we play. We just refuse to commit to this ideology, and we have turned down several opening slots, and just recently too.
I remember pay to play being an issue in the 90s. What changed from when venues dealt with bands more fairly?
I think the culture has changed; the bar business is a tough one. There overhead costs are high and they have to make every dime count, they need some insurance that they are going to make some type of money… some of them are fair and some are just greedy. Some help in the promotion and others don’t do a damn thing about it. For us we print the promo cards and hand them out, put them on cars in the clubs, tattoo shops, CD stores etc… we use social media to push the shows, email and word of mouth. If the club owner has a commercial on the radio we ask to have our name mentioned. We have a great following, but it still requires work to get the info out there and there is some cost involved. The other problem now on the island is during the summer there are free shows at the local beaches on Fri and Sat night. It’s usually with the tribute bands. So many people go to these and I think it hurts the clubs. It’s a free show at the beach, you can go with your family and friends… hard to beat that.
How beneficial has it been to the band not to participate in pay to play? How many clubs today don’t participate?
I don’t know if it’s beneficial, I mean we turned down some shows with great national acts. If other bands want to do that then let it be… we do not judge anyone or any bands. I’ll tell you what just happened recently, we have been trying to set up our CD release party and it kept turning out to be with a national act. It all sounds great at first but as you get more and more info it starts to suck. You find out tickets are going to be anywhere from twenty to thirty dollars because of the national act, we are only getting five. The booking agent knows we are going to draw because it’s our CD release party, so they’re happy because that’s money going to pay the national act. Then you find out you only get to play half an hour… then it’s you’re not going on before the national act because the other band paid to play, so they go on before the national act. This has happened several times. We talked amongst ourselves and decided we’re not doing it. We are not having our friends, family and fans pay this amount of money to see us play for half an hour at our release party. I think it’s more relevant to bands that have no following or unknown at the time, and that works for both of them. The band gets to play and the club is guaranteed some money. Bands that are established and draw don’t have this issue. It’s a touchy subject and we understand both sides. The Island is small and there are a lot of bands. The majority are good, and there are limited venues to play. What Long Island needs is a Metal Festival, what a concept!
What advice would you give new bands about avoiding the scam artists?
Do your research on who you’re dealing with. If they are going to scam you they have certainly done it or attempted to do it to others.
Do you know anyone who would be interested in organizing a fest today? How many bands would want to get involved?
I think there would be more than enough bands to do this on Long Island. The problem is finding someone to organize it, someone legit. There are festivals across the nation now with national acts and some local acts mixed in. Just recently in Connecticut the Revolution Rock Festival, Rock Allegiance in Pennsylvania, Rock Carnival in New Jersey etc… I think over the years the festivals are gaining momentum and growing… it’s a good sign.
There are also many metal festivals across the county offering a stage to underground extreme bands. Are there any you know of that you have attended or would like to attend?
Certainly the ones I just mentioned in the tri state area. We are interested in doing a short tour or festival in Europe, Unfortunately we are at square one, building the relationships and trying to find legit booking agents and so on.
In your search have you found any booking agents? Any European fest you’re particularly interested in playing?
We have not found anyone, I think the problem is fifteen years ago we lost a lot of our contacts. When the band broke up we all went our separate ways and really did not stay in touch with one another. Everyone grew individually and established careers. Now… we’re just four guys from Long Island making music. When we initially got together it was just to play the songs we wrote and reminisce about the past, it turned into getting a CD deal from Stormspell Records for two of our old demo tapes. We started playing some shows and decided to record our CD that’s just released now entitled Unfinished Business. Now we are in pre-production for our next CD. But again we all have established jobs and families the band is not in the forefront as it was fifteen years ago, for myself I am a single Dad with two amazing kids that I have custody of, so that’s my priority, and if you ask the other guys there going to give a similar answer. We all work hard and I have to say there is no arguing within the band, everyone’s on the same page basically.
So far the people we have met are basically scam artists, we haven’t met any legit booking agents. Long Island is a very “cliquey” area and there can be some Drama around. I see it and also here it when I go out. There is always some Moron that comes up to me and starts talking and it starts off good and then it’s by the way so and so doesn’t like your band… Blah Blah Blah… and I think really …Do you think I don’t know this?? Of course they don’t… because they don’t come to our shows. And I really couldn’t give a shit I just smile and walk away.
Any examples you can think of concerning that?
Unfortunately there are some people in bands like that also. We played with this band once; they were really good and I really liked them. So we play with them and afterwards if they were playing I would always plug their shows and actually went to see them several times. One day I’m having dinner with my kids, see the singer and start telling my kids that is so and so from the band. Dad played with them not so long ago and they are really good. The singer happens to walk by and I say hey what’s up? You’re so and so from Blank. And I saw you guys several times and was just telling my kids how awesome your band is and what a great singer you are… so we talk briefly and he says by the way do you play? And I say yes I do we actually played together at--- I’m in the band Stryctnyne… and he says Oh yea… I remember you guys… you were supposed to be something special but you’re not! I just said I saw you and wanted to say hello because I was telling my kids about your band. Have a great night… Even my kids asked what that was all about. That guy was rude! And I said to them... you know you’re going to meet people who are total morons and you just met one… and thought to myself go play in your shitty tribute band with your shitty attitude… I never plugged them ever again and would never go see them either. Wow I think talking about the scam artists set me off there for a moment… sorry about that!
How does it feel to be a veteran of the New York scene since the 80s? Do you sometimes feel you’re too old to continue or is age just a number? After all Metallica are in their fifties and Ozzy Osbourne must be in his seventies by now.
I feel more like we just missed the boat way back when, and if the grunge scene didn’t come along we would have had a good run at it. I think age-wise nothing affects me. I’m pretty much the same person, maybe a little wiser if anything, but there’s times when… At the Dojo we have a saying: “It’s a young man’s game”. Sometimes I feel that way about the music.
Explain how you landed that recording deal with Stormspell Records, and how they handled your material.
We actually were introduced to them through a mutual friend, they already knew of us. They put the entire CD together and we just supplied the photos and artwork. It was a short term deal and we got our foot out the door with them. It was nice to have them take care of everything even distribution.
How well has social media helped the band advertise their releases and live shows?
Social media has helped a lot. I think for all bands you can get your music out there worldwide. We get emails, posts, messages etc. from all over the world. We also see downloads from different countries. Facebook was great for generating events and sending invites out but unfortunately they are limiting the invites. Today you have more tools to promote your music, we are on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Tumblr and the list keeps growing. I really enjoy when I friend someone or vice versa and they post a video or link to one of their songs. There is so much music out there.
How about Bandcamp and Soundcloud which have sprung up since Reverbnation, where bands can stream material?
We are on those, Spotify, Reverbnation, CD Baby, Itunes, Amazon and Google Play. We have our own website and trying to use social media as much as possible. We have met a lot thru Social Media but to be honest it’s usually just a post of their song on your page, very limited face to face. I enjoy getting those posts and listening to what bands put out there.
How much of the band’s material is available on your official site? Which of your songs if any can be previewed there?
The Anthology CD that was released from Stormspell is on there and also our latest release entitled Unfinished Business. We also have merchandise. There are some videos, we did our distribution thru CD baby so previews can be done on there, also its all on I tunes, Amazon, Google Play etc.…
How much do you think cover bands and tribute bands have encroached on original bands in the island and the city?
I think a lot. I go out and see them, and as I stated before that’s all you see during the summer at the free beach shows. Ticket prices are thru the roof to see big bands, so why not see a tribute band on the weekend the cost is a fraction? It’s just the way it is now. The day our CD was released, the next day you could download it for free from torrent sites. Bands do not make money from CD sales, this drives ticket prices up. There is value to seeing a tribute band; it’s the “in” thing now, but I do believe it hurts the original acts. I would like to see some of the original acts worked into the free beach shows.
Including the time you opened for Manowar, which of your Sundance experiences do you most strongly remember?
Opening for Manowar was big for us back then; we are all huge fans. I remember arriving early and they were just finishing up their sound check. Marshall stacks were lined up everywhere on stage, it was loud! We met them during the show and actually hung out on their tour bus with them. During our show Joey DeMaio and Eric Adams watched our entire set. It was a good night.
We had another show there and we headlined with a few local bands, that weekend my girlfriend at the time wanted to go to Vermont to go skiing (I don’t know how to ski) right after our show and drive straight there. I talked her out of it; at least I thought I did. I was working on my car the morning of the show and cut my index finger really bad, I had wrapped it up and was going to cancel the show but decided to try and play. So we are hanging out checking out the bands and my finger was throbbing in pain. The girl I was with gave me a Percocet; she had had an operation and had it for pain, I figured it could only help, so I took it and after about an hour didn’t really feel anything so I had a Jack and Coke, which was unusual because I didn’t drink when I played. After that I don’t remember one thing about the entire night. I actually woke up in Vermont Sunday morning with the girlfriend, I asked where the fuck are we and what are we doing here? She said I changed my mind about coming here. So to make a long story short I tried to ski (I suck at it) and we drove back Sunday night. When I got back, my gear was all home and I opened my guitar case to see if my guitar was still there. The fret board was covered in dried blood… It look like someone got murdered with it. I had called some of the roadies to find out what happened and they said it was one of our best shows. They said I was bleeding all over the guitar while playing.
What do you remember of opening for Blue Oyster Cult and Flotsam and Jetsam? You also mentioned you recently opened for Diamond Head, Adrenalin Mob and Joe Lynn Turner. Were they one night deals or did you accompany them on tour?
Those were bands we admired and when you get to play with a band that you listened to growing up it’s just the icing on the cake. These were one night slots, we work with several different people when booking a show our bass player Vincent Carollo usually takes care of booking and interfacing with the clubs. At times it can be a frustrating job but he does a great job of it, we are selective where and when we play, we also draw very well when we play.
Who else has Vincent Carollo hooked Stryctnine up with for live appearances? Is he presently booking shows for the band?
Right now just locally on Long Island. We are currently looking for booking support, certainly in the tri-state area.
Share your memories of playing CBGB with the readers. Do you regret that the club was closed down in the late 2000s?
They had a great sound system and actually recorded our show. I still have the recording and it was awesome. The building and neighborhood had that ratty character and you think about the musicians that passed thru there. I was sorry to see it go.
Which of your shows were recorded at CBGB and who taped them? How many performances do you have on audio or video? Of the shows you and the band had recorded live, do you or would you consider uploading them to Youtube?
We do not have many, the CBGB’s show was recorded by the soundman. There might be a few more floating around but I’m not aware of any… we have recently streamed our last show live thru IRadioUSA, We have some videos on you tube also, but there not live performances. I haven’t checked You Tube lately but I wouldn’t be surprised if some fans posted clips.
How many demo recordings and full length albums have been released by the band this far?
We have the Anthology CD out and the newly released Unfinished Business CD. We are in pre-production for our next CD and we can actually crank out another three or four. We have a lot of material from years back and we are also writing current material.
Tell the readers about the new album you are working on, and how it will be a step forward for the band?
We are discussing what to put on the CD. We have so much material old and new that it’s becoming a challenge. When we started the Unfinished Business CD it was quite the learning curve for us. We hadn’t been in the studio in some time. Now with that one under our belt I really look forward to recording. There are several songs I really hope we get to record. My guess it will be the same type of songs, a mixture of Hard Rock and Power Metal.
How well was Unfinished Business received since its release? Any zines or webzines particularly enthusiastic about it?
We are getting some good reviews especially overseas, and have a bunch of inquiries out for reviews. It’s tough chasing down people, but overall it’s all been good.
Were there any promotional videos made for Unfinished Business? Are you considering a promotional video or two for the next full length?
Not yet. We have been talking about doing it and bringing in some digital marketing groups to help us push the CD but we do not have anything official yet.
Name some songs the band is considering for the next album, and the reasons you may choose them.
Some that come to mind are Battlecry- long considered the heavy metal Stairway To Heaven, Kiss of Death- its lyrics are rather dirty, Bitchin- self-explanatory, Open Highway-motorcycles and craziness, The Butcher Of Baghdad, and many more. I love the recording process and generating a digital artifact or document of our music that will be around for some time… hopefully!
Describe each song you listed and what they were inspired by. How good a chance do they have of being included?
Battlecry is a longtime favorite. We really want to record this one however it needs to be a production number so we have to think about it. Kiss Of Death is one of my favorites and we get good feedback when we play it live. I think this will make the cut. Open Highway is an older song of ours about riding, hanging out and craziness, it has this great line in it “If you’re looking for trouble… you better look again”. We recorded it many years ago’ not sure everyone will want to do it… We have so much new material. The Butcher Of Bagdad is about Saddam Hussein and the first war in the Middle East. Bitchin is really new! It’s one Vincent wrote and I have to say I think it’s a hit. It’s straight up hard rockin I am confident this will be on the new CD. He did a great job writing this one and were just adding our parts to bring it from the embryo stage to a completed song.
When do you expect the next full length to be released and how do you plan to promote it?
It’s all about compromise. You have four guys and throw in the producer, everyone may or may not have the same vision. We are talking or negotiating a better word on how many and what songs to put on this CD. My goal would be to have it complete by the end of 2017 but it’s hard to say. Things happen in life and there are always hurdles to get over. We will promote it on our own just like Unfinished Business.