Fire From the Gods: ‘We Want to Play Everywhere’
The Texas metal band’s vocalist AJ Channer talks about the gruelling Warped Tour, their recent extended album ‘Narrative Retold’ and working with Korn’s Jonathan Davis
One of the first things AJ Channer must address is the biggest misconception about his band. “We’re not a rap metal band,” he says hours after their performance at Rock On The Range in Columbus, Ohio.
The band – whose first iteration existed in 2010 and underwent a lineup overhaul in 2015 – have so much more in their armory than just their hit single “Excuse Me,” part of their 2016 album Narrative. There’s the punk rock energy of “Diversion,” while Channer brings a lot of vocal melodies familiar to djent fans on song like “The Taste.”
Riding a wave of major American festival appearances and currently on the months-long summer run of shows as part of the Warped Tour, Fire From the Gods released Narrative Retold to mark their Rock On The Range set this summer, including three new songs they worked on with Korn frontman Jonathan Davis at the producer console. In an interview with Rolling Stone India, Channer talks about working with Davis, Austin city and how he got into the band.
You guys had the tag of rap metal revivalists. It’s not really gone anywhere, right?
No, exactly, it’s been around. There’s been elements of rap and metal [in music] forever. We’ve only got one real rap song on the record, you know what I’m saying? We’re not a rap metal band.
But you guys do have rap metal influences.
Yeah, of course. All of us, me especially. I’m from New York City, so I come from a hip-hop background. I’m not a rapper, but I grew up on Nas, DMX, G-Unit, Jadakiss – all that big hip-hop – and I also happen to be a heavy metal fan. I mixed the two, because I like it.
And the rest of the band is from Texas, right?
Yeah, the rest of the band is from Texas. Richie [Richard Wicander, drummer] is from Germany, actually. I was born in New York City, but I lived in Ghana and West Africa for a little bit, and in the UK as well. I’ve got family from Jamaica as well. So I have a diverse background.
We met each other a management program that was managing a band that I was in, looking at a band that Richie was in, James was in, and working with Fire From the Gods. The guys in Fire From the Gods weren’t on the same page, so a lot of them got fired, some left and we all joined. It was all the elements that the band lacked and needed improvement in and we joined. Two years later, we’re at Rock on the fuckin’ Range, bro!
What is it like coming from Austin Texas and playing this kind of music? I assume Austin is the most open-minded about all music compared to the rest of Texas?
Extremely. To music and social interaction and life in general, Austin happens to be a very liberal city. But not liberal city in the political sense, but in the sense that people really respect each other. There’s open-mindedness and there’s a general respect for you and yours. You kind of keep to yourself.
There’s a lot of music, man, a lot of cool stuff to do.
Narrative Retold is out now and you’ve done a few different things. What pushed you to it?
When we released Narrative, we didn’t have much time and we rushed because the opportunity to record it with the person we recorded it with opened up. That was a blessing in disguise, because it saved us as a band. Who knows where we would be right now? We love what we did.
Jonathan Davis had heard about Fire from the Gods. He got in touch with management, whom he already knew and he said, ‘I want to work with these guys’. We wrote like three songs superfast and sent them out and said, ‘So what do you want to do?’
We thought it’d take until 2018, but he said, ‘No, come next week’. We recorded two songs and the label said they’ll do a deluxe version of the record, an extended version. So we ended up doing Narrative Retold with three new songs.
Are Korn a major influence?
We shared the stage with them at Carolina Rebellion [in May this year] and we also played Knotfest [in October 2015] in California. Yes, we’re all big Korn fans. Jonathan Davis is one of the best vocalists of our generation and probably of all time, along with so many other greats. It was an amazing experience to be around the guy. It’s given me a newfound love for Korn.
There’s the Warped Tour, which I’ve always heard about as one of the most gruelling tours for bands. How are you prepping for it?
It’s so hot, every day! There are very few days off, but we’re up to the challenge, man. We’ll make it. So we’re just taking a couple of days off and just going to hang out and take it light. We’ve all got personal lives back in Texas.
What else is coming up for the band?
We’re just going to be touring a lot more. I think we’re going to release one more single off of Narrative Retold–I can’t say which one, but I know we’re going to do a video–and then we’re going to release more music.
Maybe we’ll do a cover or two, man. We’ve got a few covers we’ve worked on. I’m not telling you which ones!
Do you think you’d want to play in India?
Hell yeah! What? I want to play everywhere, dude. Especially India, because I respect what you guys are doing down there with metal. The only time we’ve played outside the States was in Mexico, which was Knotfest, which was incredible. So there’s so many markets we really have to touch. Really want to get out there – we want to play in Australia, Africa. A lot of bands are playing in Africa; I want to play in Kenya.