Interview by Tarja Virmakari
The remaining members of legendary metal pioneers RIOT are back with their new RIOT V album “Unleash The Fire”, released On October 2014 via SPV/Steamhammer. This marks the first release from the band without the late great founding guitarist Mark Reale who passed away in early 2012 and who was limited in his participation on Immortal Soul because of his health issues. “Unleash The Fire” features new vocalist Todd Michael Hall, known from Jack Starr’s Burning Starr. The band was encouraged at the request of Mark and the Reale estate to forge ahead in his honour and has dedicated this new offering to him. RIOT V truly are Metal Soldiers and will keep marching and fighting the good fight to bring you the music you’ve come to know, love and expect. Mark, Guy and Rhett are smiling down from rock n’ roll heaven as the RIOT legacy forever Shines On! LINE-UP: Don Van Stavern – bass, Mike Flyntz – guitars, Nick Lee – guitars, Todd Michael Hall – vocals, Frank Gilchriest – drums.
Prior to the album release, Tarja Virmakari had a chance to interview (for Truemetal.it) RIOT V Guitarist Mike Flyntz, talking about “Unleash The Fire” in detail and of course about the strong memory of Mark Reale. Please read below.
Hi Mike Flyntz, i’m Tarja, welcome to Truemetal.it, before we go to your upcoming album which comes out on the 27th October in Europe, please tell me about your feelings right now?
Hello Tarja. I am happy that everyone seems to like the new record. There was a lot of pressure on us in many respects. We asked ourselves if it was possible to do a record without Mark (physically and emotionally). We also asked ourselves if we could make a record with only 40% of the money we received from the record companies compared with Immortal Soul. I am feeling good and thankful that the reviews have been positive.
Mike, you joined RIOT in 1992. Can you tell me about those years, and how you got together with the band?
I went to college with Mark’s cousin John Dunne. We went to see Riot in 1984 and I became a fan. I met them and got their autographs. I received a call in 1989 from John saying that Riot was going to Japan and they needed a touring guitarist. I met Mark at my house and passed the audition. I was in Japan a few weeks later. I did a U.S. tour in 1990 and returned to Japan that year also. Tony Moore and Don left the band shortly after because of management and money issues. We then recorded Nightbreaker. Mark was nice enough to not only include me on the record but also let me write material. Mark always let everyone around him shine.
Always remaining in those years, which were the albums you loved the most, before you joint the band?
Fire Down Under and Born in America were the ones I listened to the most. They are all great as we know.
From where did you find the kind of singer what you have in Todd Michael Hall?
Don found him through a producer in Germany, Bart Gabriel. Todd sent us a demo of himself singing on “Still Your Man” and “Riot”. He sounded great and we decided to move ahead. He blew us away.
Listening to “Unleash the Fire” it seems like Todd has been in Riot for years … how do you explain this fact?
We got very lucky. Todd was already a Riot fan. He has an amazing range and doesn’t tire. He is a freak of nature. He is also a great human being.
What can you tell me about the songwriting process and topics, and how long it took?
Don wrote 8 tunes and I wrote 4. We demo’d them at our home studios and sent them out. A lot of changes were made on email and on phone calls. We went back and forth a lot. Not the greatest way to write but we did what we could with our budget.
Any special stories you want to tell me about the studio sessions?
We talked about Mark constantly. Nick and Todd learned a lot about Mark during recording and rehearsing. We constantly referenced Mark’s sayings and musical ideas. Mark would laugh a lot and love to tell stories. Every studio session was filled with Mark stories. There was also tears shed.
How “Unleash the Fire” differs to your latest Immortal Soul (2011)?
Unleash The Fire isn’t as progressive. I think it’s more straight forward. It also covers more of the different Riot styles and periods. We set out to honor Mark’s entire catalog.
The album coverart certainly does not leave you indifferent. How did the idea for it came up and who carried it out?
Don came up with the idea to combine the seal with the Thundersteel dude. He also added the street signs Bloodstreets and Reale Way and a building has Johnny on it. The artist did a fantastic job.
What is the song within Unleash the Fire which you feel the most “Mark Reale”?
I obviously think of Mark on “Until We Meet Again” I wrote that for him. I wrote it to him. I think every song on the record has a little Mark Reale in it.
Mike, in one of your interviews you stated that: “This record is for my friend Mark Reale.” What are your greatest memories of him? as a friend and musician…
Mark and I were friends. Not just band mates. We spent a lot of time together. We often listened to same ipod with dual headphones. I tell everyone about his laughter. He loved to have his fits of laughter and would push and push me to do something to get him to the point where he is lying on the floor belly laughing. Myself and the other guys would get him there often. He loved to make films and take photos also. He took the photo on the Inishmore album.
Can you tell me your feelings about your recent invasion of Italy in Brescia?
That was our test to see if we should and could really do this without Mark. Was it right? Could we do it? The people of Italy welcomed us and cheered us on. After that show we knew we were doing the right thing. A very important show for us.
What can you tell me about your upcoming shows and touring?
We are planning shows now but nothing is definite.
Mike, I thank-you for your time for this interview! Now the word is yours, what are your greetings to your fans and our readers?
Thank you to all our fans for the support. We can’t do it without you. We are here because of you. Shine on.
Visit the band: http://www.facebook.com/riotrockcity