Thursday, April 13, 2017

interview: Wretch

Wretch is a traditional heavy metal band from Ohio, U.S. and they play what some Europeans call “U.S. metal.” Wretch is real heavy metal for people who want precisely that: traditional heavy metal. There was heavy metal in the 80s and there is heavy metal today, and that’s why Wretch exists. They play the music honestly and do it the best that they can. It’s about guitars, it’s about solos and it’s about singing. They are not a fancy, plastic, fake rock band and they are not full of themselves. They have been around the block a few times and they are stubborn and they believe in this music as a positive force in life, as they reveal in this interview. Their newest album is called The Hunt. Let’s find out more about it.
Hello! I am listening to your new album The Hunt now and I have been listening to it quite a bit for weeks now. Is it correct that Wretch recently played in Germany, in 2017? How was that experience for you, as an American band from Ohio? You played your new album material?
Hi, there! We actually did a 3-week European tour in March of 2017. We played shows in Germany, Belgium and Holland. It was a great experience for us; Europe is definitely our market. We played some new material, but we also played music from all of our releases, including Reborn (2006), the Make this Garden Burn EP (2007), the Rise to Power EP (2013) and the Warriors album (2014). This isn't the first time Wretch has played Germany, having appeared at the "Headbangers Open Air" festival in 2007, and Greece's "Up the Hammers" festival in 2013.
I am familiar with The Hunt and the previous album Warriors (2014). However, I did not realize that Wretch’s history goes back to 1984! Is that true? 1984?! So, who are the current members and how long has each current member been in the band?
Yeah, we've been around for quite a while. The only member that has been consistent throughout the life of the band is Nick Giannakos (guitars). Jeff Curenton (drums) from the original line-up has recently rejoined, though. He appeared on the Reborn album and now The Hunt. He's been with Wretch (1986-1990, 2003-2006, 2015-present) Tim Frederick (bass) has been with the band since 2006. Mike Stephenson (guitars) joined in 2011, and finally Juan Ricardo (vocals) joined in 2016.
For some European supporters of traditional heavy metal, the term “U.S. metal” means heavy metal from Ohio, a place that has quite a number of metal bands with cool histories, even though the metal music press in the U.S. does not cover it much. Do you all live in Ohio now? How is the Ohio metal scene for Wretch?
We all currently live in Ohio. We do have a lot of what they call "U.S. Metal" in Ohio, and yes, we are largely neglected by the U.S. metal press. We have a small metal scene in Ohio. We get some local support, but it's pretty limited. We do a few shows a year in the Cleveland area; usually try to limit it to the festival type events where a bunch of bands play or opening for larger acts like Fates Warning and Iced Earth.
Wretch has called Ohio an “industrial wasteland.” Can you explain what you mean by that?
Specifically in Northeast Ohio, specifically the Cleveland and Youngstown areas, just got wiped out in the mid-80s when the Steel Mills closed. We all grew up with that. There's not a lot of hope for the American dream when all the good paying jobs are wiped out and the infrastructure is just crumbling around you. A lot of crime and drugs and no jobs. That's what we mean by "industrial wasteland,” and for all of us through the years, playing music was our escape from that.
Coming back to The Hunt. This is your new album and I’m sure it took blood, sweat and tears to make it because I’m pretty sure that you are not rolling in the cash. Where does Wretch record its music?
Ha ha! We are definitely not rolling in the cash! Before this album, we'd pay to go into a studio to record. We finally wised up and put our own studio together (we call it "WRETCH's Bargain Basement Studio"). We invested in a top of the line mixing board, computer, monitors and we've been around long enough to be able to pull together any other odds and ends we need for a few weeks while we record. The Hunt is the first album we recorded all by ourselves and we think it came out great. We do pay to have the final mixing and mastering done by a great German sound engineer, Achim Kohler. He does all of Primal Fears albums, but has also worked with Amon Amarth and some other well-known bands.
I want to thank you for continuing to make music, especially traditional heavy metal, in age in which it is very underreported. You know that there are fashions and trends, but Wretch is swimming against the stream in the U.S. What makes you determined to keep going?
What keeps us going is that we love the music, and there are some people out there that still love the same music. Like we said, when we go to Europe, they really get what we are doing.
I have read the lyrics to the previous album Warriors. One theme that runs through those lyrics is the idea of being strong in the face of obstacles. Living in Ohio, do you see some people who are discouraged in life?
There are a lot of folks that live in despair in Ohio. Ohio currently has probably the worst heroin epidemic in the country (and that's saying something because it's bad all over). I guess when we write lyrics, we tend not to focus on the grim reality (although "Straight to Hell" kind of does just that), but in general, we just try to entertain, maybe give somebody something to forget for a while about the normal everyday s## they are dealing with.
On this album you have mostly rockers, as usual. “The Hunt” and “Throne of Poseidon” are uptempo songs. You also have some songs that have midtempo stomping rocking sound, that “U.S. metal.” These sounds are what Wretch is all about. “Once in a Lifetime” towards the end of the album is also an uptempo, rocking song, for instance. Yet, the new album has the acoustic song “She Waits.” What prompted you to do this track? It’s definitely different from the other songs.
Wretch is a pretty guitar-centric band, the twin lead guitars is pretty important to our sound. Nick and Mike have been playing together for years. Mike was actually Nick's guitar student some 30 years ago and then started playing in bands starting in the early 90s after WRETCH went dormant. Nick and Mike both have a love of classical and shred guitar, so there's always some kind of classical guitar thing getting noodled around in the background. That song was written by Nick and almost didn't appear on the album. We added it at the last minute because we didn't think there was enough material.
Now that you have the new album out, will you be able to play more shows in your region?
We'll definitely be playing some shows in the Midwest this year. We'll likely have a CD release party here in May (U.S. release hasn't occurred yet). We're hoping to get back to Europe again before too long, as well.
Do you do regular updates?
Most of our updates come out on Facebook and Twitter but we also have a webpage. The best news we can share is that we exist, hopefully some traditional metal fans find their way to us. Our album The Hunt will be out in the U.S. in April. We've also got a limited release of vinyl for both The Hunt and Warriors, in fact, the Warriors vinyl is a special double-vinyl that got new cover art. Those can be found here at the Pure Steel shop below.
Thanks again for your time and music.
Thanks for caring!
Heavy Metal from the Rust Belt of Ohio.

1 comment:

  1. I grew up with Nick. I used to go to his house after school and listen to him play. I am a metal head from way back. Stay hard my friends.