Charred Walls of the Damned are a great band that I am surprised are not more well known. Their members’ respective histories are amazing (Death, Judas Priest, Iced Earth) and it is clear the four of them have good chemistry on and off stage. In November I got the chance to speak to the legendary drummer Richard Christy about the band’s origins, their new album, working with Metal Blade Records and the future of the band.
Jack: Hey, thanks for taking the time to speak to me. How are you?
Richard Christy (Drums): Hello! Thank you so much for interviewing me, I’m doing great, I’m really excited about the response and the reviews for the new Charred Walls of the Damned album Creatures Watching Over The Dead! Plus it’s the holidays and it’s so festive here in New York City so I’m very happy!
Jack: First of all, is it true you got your name from a Christian Radio show prank?
Richard: Yep! Where I work at The Howard Stern Show on Sirius-XM Satellite Radio we do a lot of prank calls, it’s a very fun job! Sometimes we prank religious Christian radio shows because most of the time they are very uptight, and we once pranked a radio show and the hosts got very angry. I can’t recall exactly what we pranked them with, but they found out it was me and my co-worker Sal and the next day on their show they said if we don’t stop making prank calls we’re going to hell and we’ll be scratching our fingernails on the “Charred Walls of the Damned”! Sal and I looked at each other and said “That’s an awesome band name!” So, thank you to those angry Christian radio hosts for helping me come up with a band name!
Jack: How did you all meet?
Richard: I met Jason Suecof in 1999 at a bar in Tampa, Florida called The Brass Mug. I was doing a gig there with my band at the time, Burning Inside. Jason was a Death fan and had just moved to Florida from Connecticut for the metal scene in Florida. He played me a demo tape of his band Caphernum and I was blown away. We started hanging out and writing music together for fun, I also helped him build his studio Audiohammer Studios in Sanford, Florida. I even laid down the wood flooring for the drum room at Audiohammer because I was a construction worker at the time! I met Steve DiGiorgio in 1997 when he flew down to Orlando to play on the demos for Death’s album The Sound of Perseverance, he wasn’t able to play on the actual album but we stayed in touch and played together again in Iced Earth on the Horror Show album. I met Tim “Ripper” Owens when he joined Iced Earth in 2004 and we stayed friends after I left the band that same year. I’m so lucky to have such great friends in my band!
Jack: How is the chemistry different in Charred Walls of the Damned to other bands?
Richard: We’ve all been in so many other bands that I think all of our influences combine to make the music of Charred Walls of the Damned something unique and original. You can hear the influence from our other bands but we definitely have our own sound. We’ve all been in many different types of metal bands so you’ll hear blast beats along with power metal screams. I think our music has elements of every different type of metal, and our main goal is just to write music that’s heavy, melodic, and catchy. We’re all very good friends too, which makes working together so much fun and I think you can listen to our music and hear how much fun we’re having.
Jack: You’ve just released your third album Creatures Watching Over The Dead. Are you happy with the response?
Richard: Yes, I’m very inspired and honored by the response. I usually start writing our next album right around when our current album is released because I get so inspired by the kind words about our music from the fans, reviewers, and interviewers like you! My main goal is that I just want people to listen to our music and bang their heads and have fun! The world is such a crazy place right now and metal is such a great release to try to forget about your worries and let the music take you to a place that makes you happy and inspires you. That’s what all of my favorite bands do to me, they make me so happy and bring back so many memories, since I’ve been a metal head from the age of 9 in 1983!
Jack: What was the recording process like?
Richard: It was amazing, very smooth. Jason Suecof owns and runs Audiohammer Studios so he knows that studio like the back of his hand. I’m so lucky that Jason is our guitar player, producer, and engineer. Jason knows exactly what we need to do to get a great sound and he’s also an amazing songwriter. I was able to record the drum parts in one day which I was very proud of, we spent one day getting the drum sounds and then banged out all of the songs the next day. I wanted to get a very natural and raw drum sound so I made sure I was very well rehearsed and things went so smoothly! Everybody was really well prepared, Steve’s bass tracks only took about 3 or 4 days, Jason’s guitar parts didn’t take very long either, and Tim’s vocals only took 4 days which is incredible for a vocalist to be able to do everything in such a short amount of time! Tim is a screaming machine!
Jack: Was it hard getting everyone’s schedules to align to record?
Richard: No, not really because Brian Slagel and Metal Blade were so awesome about letting us take our time to make sure that everybody was able to arrange their schedules to be able to come to Florida to record. I was able to fly to Florida over a weekend that I had off from my day job and record the drums in a short amount of time. Jason lives at the studio so he was able to record whenever he had a break from producing other bands. Tim and Steve were able to record between touring with their other bands like Testament, and Tim’s solo band.
Jack: Was scheduling the main reason for the five year delay in between albums?
Richard: Scheduling was part of it but I also purposely wanted to spend more time on this album to make sure we had excellent songs. I’ve always wanted to write more songs than we would need for an album and then pick the best ones but we never had time for that until now. I was able to write about 24 songs and then I sent them all to Jason Suecof and he picked out his favourite nine songs, and that’s what became the album. We then spent a lot of time on those 9 songs to make them as catchy and melodic as we could. Jason has such a great ear for songs so I was glad I was able to write a lot of songs and Jason could pick the ones that caught his ear right away.
Jack: How has your relationship with Metal Blade progressed?
Richard: Metal Blade is AMAZING! I’ve been a huge fan of the label since the early 1980s when they started putting out the Metal Massacre compilation cassettes. I would order them from the Enigma Records catalog and I was very proud because I could take the Metal Massacre cassettes to school in Kansas and introduce all of my friends to awesome new bands like Metallica, Slayer, and Lizzy Borden! It’s such an honor to be a part of the Metal Blade family because many of my favorite bands are on the label like Amon Amarth, King Diamond, and Cannibal Corpse! Brian Slagel is such an awesome guy and I trust his opinion so much because he’s a metal legend. Whenever it’s time to choose a single for Charred Walls or a song to do a video for, I just ask Brian to pick the song because he’s the man when it comes to knowing metal!
Jack: You said in an interview that you wanted the album “To bring the metal! I want people to listen to this album, bang their head, and have fun.” Is music too obsessed with politics and current events?
Richard: I think it depends on the band, it’s great that bands sing about what’s important to them, I love bands like Megadeth who sing about politics, but I’m not a very political person so I just don’t feel it would be right for me to write lyrics about politics and things like that. It’s like the old saying “Write about what you know” and I know very little about politics. [Laughs]. So I just write lyrics about personal experiences and things that I observe living here in New York City. Like the song “The Soulless” which is about how many people here in New York City stare down at their cell phones and walk into me on the sidewalk haha, rather than looking around and living life in the moment and enjoying the fact that New York City is a fascinating city and has many beautiful things to look at.
Jack: Has metal lost its fun side?
Richard: No I don’t think so, just look at bands like Steel Panther, they’re very fun! Also fellow Metal Blade labelmates GWAR are super fun! They just played where I work at Sirius-XM Satellite Radio on Halloween which was incredible! Plus I love thrash bands like Municipal Waste, their shows are so fun and I’m good friends with their drummer Dave Witte who’s a super amazing drummer and a craft beer genius! He’s my beer guru! I think there’s plenty of fun to go around in the metal community these days, most metalheads I know have a great sense of humor!
Jack: This is the third release from Charred Walls of the Damned. Is it hard to believe you’ve done three albums?
Richard: Yes, it is pretty crazy to think about it, I’m so proud that we’ve made it this far and I hope there are many more to come! I’m also proud that we’ve made three albums with the same line-up, a lot of bands have to change line-ups after that much time and I’m so happy that we’ve been able to keep the same line-up for all three of our albums. I think this is definitely our best album yet so I can’t wait to see what the future holds!
Jack: What is the thing you’re most proud of with Charred Walls of the Damned?
Richard: I think the fact that I’m 42 years old and I still get to make metal music with my friends that people all over the world get to hear thanks to Metal Blade Records is the thing I’m most proud of. It’s such an honour that someone like you from the UK wants to speak to me! When I was a 10 year old kid listening to Quiet Riot Metal Health in Kansas I could have never dreamed that one day I’d be interviewed about my music by someone from the UK! It’s so awesome and such an honour!
Jack: Thanks for that! Are there any plans to tour in the immediate future?
Richard: Yes, we’re hoping to tour next year! It will depend on everyone’s schedule but we’re really hoping to do some festival shows and maybe short tours as well. My dream is to play overseas with Charred Walls of the Damned. We’ve toured in the US and Canada but I would love to bring our music overseas, hopefully sometime next year we’ll see you in the UK!
Jack: Will you be playing music from your previous bands respective histories or will you just be sticking to Charred Walls of the Damned material?
Richard: We will probably just be sticking to Charred Walls of the Damned material, especially since we have three albums of material to choose from now. We also might do some cover songs. We did a cover of the Powermad songs Nice Dreams on our first album and that’s a song that goes over really well live. We also did See You In Hell by Grim Reaper on our first tour so we may pull that one out of our hat as well!
Jack: Do you have fond memories of playing Metallica’s Orion Fest in Atlantic City, NJ,
Richard: I have many fond memories of playing Metallica’s Orion Fest! The first memory being when Lars (Ulrich, Metallica drummer) personally asked us to be a part of the festival. He asked us on air where I work at the Howard Stern Show and I couldn’t believe what I was hearing! I was shocked that Lars even knew who our band was, and when he asked us to play I immediately called Tim to make sure he was available and when he said yes I was so excited! Lars also introduced us on stage which was incredible. Metallica is so supportive of their fellow metal bands and I love that they still care about newer metal bands and they help to give them exposure. Playing Orion Fest introduced us to many new people and I’m so thankful to Lars and Metallica for that!
Jack: Richard, you said that you have a lot of left overs from the writing sessions, do you have an estimate release for new material or is it too soon to be thinking of new material?
Richard: Yes, I do have some songs left over and I’m already working on new songs as well so even though it most likely won’t take us another five years to put out an album, it is probably too soon to give a time frame for the next album. If I would have to guess, probably around sometime in late 2018. I love writing music and I’ve been very inspired lately but I also want to take our time and make sure the album and the songs are the best they can be, like we did with our current album Creatures Watching Over The Dead.
Jack: Finally, what are your upcoming plans (Charred or otherwise)?
Richard: It looks like we’ll be filming a video for one of the songs off of the new album, hopefully that will be out sometime in January! I’m also hoping that we’ll be announcing some live Charred Walls shows early next year. My wife and I also love London so we’re hoping to come to the Hyde Park Christmas Market sometime this year, so if you’re reading this and you live in the UK, maybe I’ll see you there!
Jack: Thank you for your time and I hope to see you live in the UK soon!
Richard: Thank you so much for interviewing me and I hope to see you live in the UK soon too! Have awesome Holidays and take care!