1. It is clear that music is a huge part of your life. How long have you been playing guitar? And how do you think it has helped you grow as an individual?
Yikes... I've been playing guitar for... Jesus... almost 18 years! It feels weird adding all that time up. Playing guitar has had a HUGE impact on my development as a person. When I picked it up in high school, playing and writing music quickly became my safe space. It helped me get through the normal struggles of being a teenager, and also helped me work through my added struggles with anxiety. Having a way to focus my emotions let me come back and analyze them when I was in a more logical state.
2. Your band "Angels on the Battlefield" is described in your words as, "Conquering battlefields by teaching the balance between the light and the dark within us all."
How do you think your music helps in the battle between light and dark?
I believe that music has a way of speaking to us in a way that is hard to put into words. When we find a song, a band, or a genre that we connect with, it helps us find balance within ourselves. All people have light and dark within them, constantly trying to keep that balance. I believe that music helps us do so.
3. Bouncing off the last question, you are an advocate for mental health issues and speak openly about it. What do you think would be most beneficial to the aid of helping those with mental health issues?
There is an old stigma against speaking about our feelings that, thankfully, in recent years has begin to dissipate. There is still quite a ways to go, and the best way to normalize openly talking about our struggles is to simply do so. Everyone struggles with something at some point. Whether it be anxiety, depression, or borderline personality disorder. Some instances are more severe than others, and some last longer.
We should never be afraid of sharing our feelings, nor should we be afraid of helping those we care about when they reach out to us. The truth is that we are all here for one another and that we are never truly alone.
4. It seems that you have a lot of passion and curiosity for starting new avenues or side jobs including your guitar classes and also in joining BBR Productions. What can you tell us about BBR and your goals in helping others?
BBR Productions was started by my best friend and mentor, Thomas J. Bellezza, over twenty years ago. Originally it was the company he formed to handle all for the business for his band TENEbRAE. It quickly grew into a consulting company where he helped other bands find success, and then grew to include other forms of entertainers from comedians to actors. The main goal of the company is to help others find their yes, especially within the entertainment industry. Starting out can be confusing, and there is a lot of misinformation that gets circulated at the ground level.
Currently, the company has expanded into developing original projects. We were scheduled to shoot a feature film about an interracial couple during the 1960s, but we got delayed when COVID-19 hit. We also have two TV shows being shopped around with some studio interest as well.
And, since Thomas and I both have a deep love for music, we're also planning some things with Angels on the Battlefield and this ancient god named Altayon (he has his own doom metal band).
5. I know you have toured as both a musician and an actor (GOBLIN anyone)...what do you think you learned from those experiences? And maybe tell us something funny that happened to you while touring!
Touring has DEFINITELY been one of the wildest, most intense, and amazing things I've had the pleasure of doing as an entertainer. There are a LOT of lessons I've learned from being on the road. My favorite is that there is SO much cultural diversity in the world. Waking up in a different city each day really highlights that fact, even here in the United States. I love meeting people, and I love learning new things from people's perspectives. Touring has lead to the building of a LOT of wonderful friendships that I'm extremely grateful for.
Physically getting to tour cemented a lesson I was taught by several mentors, from Thomas to the Ziggy Marley management team. It goes against what most bands will tell you. You need to earn the right to tour. Touring is the reward a band gets to share with their true core fans that they put in hard work to build BEFORE even setting foot on the road. It can be tough for a band that's on the smaller, or even mid-level size to break even, let alone earn money. Part of the misconception comes from bands thinking that touring is the main way a band earns money, when in reality, they only earn money from touring once they've reached a mid-level or larger size.
I also learned that in order to be a tour manager, you must have an infinite amount a patience. Keeping things running smoothly, organized, and keeping track of everyone is like herding cats. I'd like to say a special shout out to Camden Cruz. Anyone that has been lucky enough to have that man as a tour manager knows exactly what I'm talking about. The man is a super hero, AND just so happens to play guitar in the band Seven Kingdoms!
6. Many times musicians feel they are not successful enough or make goals too high to reach too soon. What is your advice to those who feel like they are not reaching their goals or feel like they are struggling?
Being a professional artist is difficult. The most difficult part, for me personally, was learning that my art had nothing to do with me finding success. It's a crazy concept to hear, I know. Once I started to really listen to this lesson I started to see changes with my career. I also felt the freedom to create what I wanted, and I felt no pressure to “write the perfect song.” I created art for me.
That being said, I learned to treat my life like a business. I learned the value of building a brand that felt true to myself that invited people to connect with me. In turn it helped be build a brand for Angels on the Battlefield. A lot of bands and artists fail to find success because they focus on creating art and what they think people want to hear, when in reality, a powerful and successful band is in the strength of its brand.
Another thing I noticed is that within the metal community, a lot of bands set a glass ceiling for themselves because they play metal. A lot of bands feel as though they can only go so far because of the genre they play, when that is not the case. Heavy metal, according to statistics that can be easily Googled, has the most loyal fanbase AND is the fastest growing genre of music.
I truly believe that anyone, in any kind of band, playing any kind of music, can find success. My advice to bands would be to start practicing splitting your thinking into Artist Brain (where you write you music, and have free reign to be creative) and Business Brain (where you run your band like a business the same way Pepsi, or Starbucks would).
7. Where do you foresee the music industry heading due to the fact of Covid-19 and the basic lockdown of live shows?
I see there being a lot less live shows for quite some time. At least until there is a vaccine. I foresee a lot more streaming events happening, and perhaps some pretty inventive music video experiences on the way.
I don't think that COVID-19 and quarantine keeping bands and artists from releasing music. Like I said earlier, I believe music speaks to us on a super deep level, and in times like this, I think we NEED music. We need art to help us get through something so difficult and tragic as a worldwide pandemic.
8. What is the next goal or hope for you in your life and career?
Well, my goal, at its core, is staying the same: Help people, inspire people, and entertain people. I'm really looking forward to casting a wider net with BBR to do just that. Being in a position to CHOOSE the projects I work on feels freeing. I also feel like I can give back to those who have helped me along the way. And I'm excited to always work with my friends from here on out!