Tyrant - Greg May

Tyrant - Greg May

Oh my goodness, after getting myself together hearing that Rob Lowe joined TYRANT as the new singer, I got super-excited on how the new album will sound. To learn more about this, and about the status of the new TYRANT album, METAL KAOZ got on the phone with bassist Greg May and hit him with a barrage of question to learn everything; how the band got back in the studio and how Rob took over the singing duties. Read on!

Tyrant - Greg May

Hi Greg, and welcome to METAL KAOZ!
Hey bud, what’s up?

I am good, what about yourself?
Really good, man, from a cloudy, overcast and doomy day here in Southern California.

We are pretty much in the same status here in Chicago. So, I think the Doom gods created the perfect setting for our discussion.
You got it, man!

We are really happy to have you in METAL KAOZ, especially due to the occasion with all the exciting news about TYRANT.
Yeah, there is a lot going on and I am really excited to talk to you.

First of all, how was the show in Brooklyn?
It was crazy, man! It has been a while since the last time we’ve been in New York; we were there doing the original ‘Defenders Of The Old’ festival and we got to hook up with King Fowley and the guys from BLOODFEAST at that time, and it was like a reunion show, like a high school reunion. We had a better time slot this time; usually, we go on like on 1am doing as headliners and it is pretty rough. So, this time we played earlier and just hit there people between the eyes. This was our first show with Rob [Lowe]. Well, we had done one more show when Rob went from the airport to stage, so we were not well-prepared. This was sort of christening last year at the ‘Frost And Fire’ festival where we had a blast. For this time and since we had been working on the album, we were ready and it was a killer.

Awesome, so let’s go back in time a bit and talk about how Rob joined the band or when did you decide to reactivate TYRANT.
In 2009, TYRANT was fully reactivated. We had been in hiatus with the last album being “King Of Kings” which we did in 1996. So, while being on hiatus, we were doing all those covers with Dwell Records with whom we had signed a ten-album deal to do tribute CDs and we had a lot of fun. That brought through the end of the ‘90s to the early ‘00s. In 2009, we came back together; ok, I see my brother [Glen May] all the time but we had lost touch with Rocky [Rockwell]. Once we chased him down and got him ready for ‘Keep It True’ and Rob Roy, our original drummer, was feeling really good, we went there [in Germany] and co-headline the festival with LIZZY BORDEN. So, the band was reactivated in 2009.

When did Rob come into the equation?
I was talking to him last year around the time we played in Greece with ROSS THE BOSS, CIRITH UNGOL and NIGHT DEMON among others. Around that time, I kind of knew that Glen had one foot in the band and the other on a banana peel… (laughs) Here’s the thing; myself and Rocky are really grinders and Ronnie Wallace, our drummer who has been with us for quite a while, is also a grinder. We are willing to work and put at least one week away from our families and jobs to meet up and start working on new material and Glen always has something going on. With that being said, he has a night job and is a brutal one, I cannot even go into this, but I totally get it. So, he had not been able to work with us and the next thing you know we got five new tracks that we had demoed up without lyrics and vocals - nothing. This was in the early 2017, and as weeks go by, we’ve got another song and we ended up with material for a whole album but still, no vocals. Every time I was leaving a disc with the new material at my mom’s house for Glen to take whenever he was visiting her, and he loved it, but he never sat down to write lyrics and come to practice to record it. I and Rocky had been working on this since ‘Keep It True’ because we knew we wanted to do a new album. We gave Glen a lot of rope being hopeful that he will grab it and pull himself in, but unfortunately what he did was wrapping it around his neck and jumped off the cliff and just killed it. He ended up not coming to the table with us but we did a make consecutive effort to let him know that we had the show in Ventura [‘Frost And Fire’ festival] coming up in October 2017 to unveil the new TYRANT and if Glen was not ready, then, guess what, he is done. I’ve been friends with Rob Lowe for quite a few years and we had actually talked about it. In fact, we had talked about doing a surprise show in Greece last year, but he was not ready because the plan was to do a lot of new songs with some of the old material.

Oh my, that would have been awesome!
Yeah, but unfortunately there was no time for Rob to get ready, so we agreed to do this in Ventura. He had the material a couple of weeks before that show and he loved it; he said “I’ve got this”. We know his background with CANDLEMASS and S.A. [SOLITUDE AETURNUS] and he has done great stuff with them; I love these guys. When he heard our new material, he loved it and said that this could be the heaviest stuff he had ever done.

Joining TYRANT is a significant change of music style for him, right? I mean, Rob is more into the classic Doom Metal… TYRANT is more into the classic Metal stuff, although you do touch upon Thrash. Although, you do have a bit of Doom in your music… So, it was a surprise hearing that he joined TYRANT.
(laughs) Well, thank you so much, and this is what we are trying to do; surprise the world and shake things up. That’s what the band is all about. What has been really cool is that TYRANT has never been put in a box and then on shelf with a label saying ‘Doom’, saying that’s what this band is. And listen to this band whenever you are ready to listen to that music style. TYRANT is TYRANT and this is plain and simple. We cannot be put in a box and be labelled because pretty much we do it all. If you listen to the song “Sacrifice” off the first album [“Legions Of The Dead”], you will kind of get the drift that we obviously could have been labeled ‘Doom’ easily. Some people have said that this song might have been the heaviest Doom Metal song ever written.

Well, Doom Metal as a genre came afterwards as “Legions Of The Dead” was released in the mid ‘80s but I definitely see what you’re saying.
Right, but I get it with Doom being heavy handed, slower style and more SABBATH-like but this is what we have always been brother. This how we have been since I picked up a bass. And that was in 1976 when I was sixteen years old; I wanted to take bass lessons to learn how to play like BLACK SABBATH, ZEPPELIN and DEEP PURPLE like all my heroes. And my teacher at that time was this tall black dude who said that he would teach me how to play Jazz and then I would be able to teach myself. I ended up getting bass lessons for probably three or four months and he was teaching Stanley Clark and all this incredible stuff. I mean, all these bassists were incredible but it was not Heavy Metal. The first record I got and put it on the turntable to start teaching myself was “Paranoid”. To me, BLACK SABBATH are the forefathers of Doom Metal and this is me since day one.

I totally get what you’re saying and, in fact, I am going to add JUDAS PRIEST’s “Rocka Rolla” in the Proto-Doom Metal list.
Absolutely, because, you know, they grew up down the street and their heroes were BLACK SABBATH. They just added an extra guitar.

Ok, we now sound like two old geezers talking about the old stuff… But TYRANT have a new album in the works, so my first question is in what stage you are.
As of right now we are laying down tracks. We are set to work with Bill Metoyer who has done our previous albums. I believe you have three songs, so what do you think of it?

I love it! Especially, “Dancing On Graves” is a killer. I did not expect to hear this kind of vocals by Rob; he has a singing power that I haven’t heard from him.
Oh my gosh, see, that’s a quote we need for the feedback. I’ve always heard Rob singing stuff from CANDLEMASS and S.A. and never really heard unleash his full power. He always sing really pretty and he is so great doing so but TYRANT is much more, how to say this, more brutal band. I mean, there is a lot more violence and brutality in what we do than S.A. and CANDLEMASS put together. Good friends of Rob have said that what these bands were doing is something like Progressive Doom; to be Progressive means bands like RUSH or something pretty technical but TYRANT is pretty much straight ahead. We are going to hit you in the forehead with a hammer and that’s where we are best at. And this really brought up his brutal side I think.

I’d love to hear Rob singing “Too Late To Pray”...
That is going to happen. He has to also do “Warriors Of Metal”, we have already been working on “The Battle Of Armageddon” and then probably “King Of Kings”; we’ve got to bring that back. Our fans everywhere we play, they keep asking for songs. Before the show in New York, people were coming to me asking about all these songs and I hate to disappoint them but our heads are not there right now. I mean, we have been playing the same set since 2009 both in Europe and in the States. So, our heads are really in moving on right now. I mean, any band is going to be like that. Sure, we had the hiatus period and this adds to those expectations but we want to show them where we are right now. Those songs where written in our early 20s and now we are in our 50s, so come on, guys…

Well, you have people who started listening to this stuff in their 20s but they are still listening to the same things in their 50s…
(laughs) I know and this is what I call the “payday” and we love that more than money.

The album’s title is “Hereafter” and you have signed with Shadow Kingdom Records, right?
Yes, you are right. We have signed a worldwide deal with Shadow Kingdom Records; a very good label that approached us to sign.

Is this a single-record deal?
No, it is a four-album deal. They are going to re-release “Legions Of The Dead”, “Too Late To Pay” and “King Of Kings” with a worldwide distribution. Those albums came out in the ‘80s and the ‘90s, so if you think about it were never given this type of exposure, even though Metal Blade had a great distribution all over the world but it was only for vinyl and cassette. So, now we have all these digital outlets that will be available to a wider audience and some of them may have never heard of us before. So, those three albums plus the new one will come out, and after that, we will talk.

Great, will you be adding bonus material on the re-releases?
Absolutely, there will be a special booklet with pictures people have never seen liner notes, bonus tracks… I cannot give away the house but we’ve put a lot of time on this. We practically spent last year doing this and I worked with a young lady by the name of Annick who showed real talent. Man, the Shadow Kingdom label is incredible and, as I said, they approached us. We were talking to Roadrunner, Nuclear Blast, Century Media and other labels you hear about, but nothing really happened and we just kept talking. And out of the blue, Shadow Kingdom comes and told us “Why are you going after those labels as they have 150 bands, so you can get lost in the shuffle. We can offer you anything they can’t.” They have a really good distribution through Red Distribution and I was not familiar with them. Back in the Metal Blade days, we had Capitol Records and Enigma… Anyway, all this is business stuff and we are happy with Shadow Kingdom.

Have you set a release date for the new album?
No, we cannot do that until we get it in the can or close into having it in the can.

What is your preference for the release date?
I would like to have the record out by fall, somewhere around October or November.

Will you play new songs during the shows in Germany?
The majority of the songs in the setlist will be new. I can tell you this; myself and Rocky are really excited with the new stuff. Ask Tony and Geezer how excited they are to get onstage and play “Paranoid”.

Yeah, I am sure they weren’t.
Right, this is something they had to do. Luckily, we have songs like “Warriors Of Metal”, “Listen To The Preacher” and those are real stompers and go really well live. And they are great to play live, don’t get me wrong, but to actually to have a new set based on a new album with a new singer... And we are also excited for Ronnie Wallace who we call The Pitbull (laughs)...

The Pitbull? Is he dangerous? (laughs)
If you meet him, you will understand why... No, he is a sweetheart but he is the hardest-hitting drummer we have ever had and he is probably the only drummer we had under six feet; all the other drummers we had were between 6’2’’ and 6’5’’; just monsters. Ronnie is the Pitbull as he is hitting the drums harder than those guys put together did. Anyway, we are also excited to have him in one of our records. He has been with us since 2010.

What are your plans playing live here in the States? Although, things are not the same, if you compared the shows here with those in Europe.
Hey, you’d be surprised, man. When we got back together in 2009, we all were busy with our families; I mean, we all are married guys and we have kids. You know, I have mortgage payment here in Southern California, so there are things that I hate to say they are of higher priority; family, kids, your wife, your house. And these are the things that took us away from the business for a while during the ‘90s; I got married in ’91 and the rest of the guys were married after that. So, that really became the priority, but we always had time in the chamber, we always wanted to pull the trigger again once given the time and the chance. But once we put everything back together in 2009, at ‘Keep It True’ – thank God for Oliver, because that was when he sent me the text saying “hey, any chance to get the band back together again and coming out to Germany?”, and that was awesome, that really gave us the chance to actually do it. But what I’m getting around to is that once we got back in 2009 and went to Germany we were blown away because that show was sold out - and I think ‘KIT’ is like 5000 people or something like that, and at that point we said “wow, there are still people around that like us” (laughs). But a lot of the people we were meeting over there, were from here! I mean, look at you, you say you’re from Chicago and you were there.

[interrupting] To be honest, I’m from Greece originally but I still make the trip from Chicago to Germany for ‘Keep It True’ – I also went there last year.
Oh my God, Greece is beautiful! We were in Athens there for quite a while, while we played ‘Up The Hammers’. I brought my beautiful wife with me because we had a plan; we jumped on a plane and went to Santorini – it was hard to come back, it was so beautiful there! Also, the people are so awesome there, and the food too. That was probably one of the best trips we had! That being said, so we came back to the US and we played in Milwaukee of all places, at ‘Spring Bash 2017’. So, the guys were excited about that, they’ve never been in Milwaukee before and went there and there were people there that saw us at ‘Keep It True’ – it was nuts. So, I think the United States, you know what, they are pretty much catching up over here; it’s the same people all the time, it’s almost the same fans, it’s like a fraternity. You know, they’re taking their vacation days to attend all these shows.

But the bad thing is that here in the States the distances are so big. Sure, there are fans here but they are scattered in the States, so sometimes it’s difficult to gather everyone in one spot. In Europe the distances are smaller, so it’s easy for a Greek or a fan from the UK or Sweden to go to Germany for a festival once a year.
Exactly, it’s like someone said to me “all of Europe would fit inside of Texas”. (laughs)

(laughs) Well, that’s true!
And that’s why it didn’t make sense for TYRANT; it’s like for flying 18 hours to get to Germany and doing one show and coming back, is almost like “why”. Let’s some more time off and try to travel around. In the future, and especially after the new album comes out - this is all pre-new album stuff, people are gonna get hit between the eyes with new material and they’re not gonna have an album to prepare for, ahead of time. And it’s kind of becoming of a drag people to sing along to some of the songs because they’re really hook-crazy. I mean, “Fire Burns” and “Dancing On Graves”, let me tell you, these songs really have the hooks which you’ve already heard. These are songs people would be singing with us. Those choruses have really strong hooks and are definitely the kind of stuff we’ve always done that goes back to “Warriors Of Metal” and “Too Late To Pray”.

That’s awesome! Greg, these were my questions. I believe we covered everything for the new era of TYRANT.
It was great talking to you, Dimitris. Once the new album comes out, we’d love to play to a festival in the Chicago area, we’ve never played there.

Hopefully we’ll see you here in Chicago, then!