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Unfinished Business: An Exclusive Interview With TREY GADLER Of AZRAEL'S BANE

By Larry Petro, News Monkey
Friday, July 8, 2016 @ 11:36 AM

"It felt great just playing those songs again.....but secondly, we realized 'holy shit, these songs are hard'!"

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Live Photos By Larry Petro/Petrofyed Photography

AZRAEL'S BANE is one of the best products to ever come out of the Houston, Texas Progressive/Heavy Metal music environs. Formed in 2002 from the ashes of another local act, UGLY WANDA, AZRAEL'S BANE set out to storm the national scene with their debut release, Wings Of Innocence, in 2004. Constant touring ensued, with the band playing alongside rock legends like MOTORHEAD, W.A.S.P. and METAL CHURCH and such prominent festivals as Monterrey Metal Fest, ProgPower West and Rocklahoma. The future seemed endless for these rising stars, that is, until the band set about the recording of their sophomore effort, Modern Day Babylon. A series of unfortunate events derailed the band's hard fought momentum, which resulted in the band taking a hiatus in 2010. AZRAEL'S BANE returned from hibernation in late 2015 and now, armed with a new record deal and a renewed energy, the band is ready to settle their unfinished business once again.

I had the pleasure of sitting down to chat with AZRAEL'S BANE vocalist Trey Gadler just prior to the band's CD release show performance recently to talk about the trials and tribulations of this great progressive rock machine. Check it out!

KNAC.COM: Congratulations on the CD release show! Are you excited?

GADLER: Oh yeah, yeah, yeah. You know, we haven't done this in so long, we've been on this gigantic hiatus forever so it just feels good to be back doing this.

KNAC.COM: You guys have been away for 5 years now but it wasn't really a break by choice, was it?

GADLER: Well....(laughs), the initial break was we were planning on maybe taking 6 months off and one thing led to another and we had a ton of things happen. We had issues with the label we were on, we had Rick (Ward, drummer) move to Missouri, which caused us issues having our drummer half way across the country. The way we work it's kind of hard to get anything done if we can't all get together in the same room to rehearse. So, we had conversations about getting another drummer and we just never did. It got to the point where we said 'let's just take a break for a while', everyone was getting burned out, we had been on the road a lot, all over the country for a while and we just decided to take a little time off. We had no plans that it would be this long. Six months turned into 5 years!

KNAC.COM: It had to be disappointing for you guys because it seemed that you had some momentum going.

GADLER: We did, we did. We just had a lot of bad luck all at the same time. But we went off and did our own things, pretty much everybody in the band did their own side projects. We always had the plan to get back to BANE, we just needed the right time and things to line up for everybody to be motivated to do it again. And then a friend of ours, Giovanni, passed away and we started having this conversation, you know we had always stayed friends and we talk all the time, always have, but when Gio died we all got together and talked about doing a benefit for him and that's what started the whole thing. We actually ran into Van (Turner, current drummer, also of Z-LOT-Z) at a KID ROCK show of all places and we pulled him aside and asked him if he might be interested in it, and he was so we got him in a rehearsal room and started banging some songs together and it felt really good. We were all looking around at each other with these shit-eating grins, you know it was awesome and that's what got it started.

KNAC.COM: You also within the last year or so had a personal tragedy of your own that you had to deal with, the death of your son. How are you doing these days with that?

GADLER: Uh, you know it's one day at a time. Some days are good, some days are bad. It was rough, it's still rough but it's been about a year and a half now. Initially it was horrible, I couldn't get out of bed but you know, life's gotta go on, we have two other kids and my wife and I are dealing with it the best we can. Our son Forrest that passed away had a son of his own, my grandson, so we spend a lot of time with him which helps us feel close to him (Forrest). So we're dealing with it you know, I don't think it's something that you ever get passed, you just have to learn how to deal with it.

KNAC.COM: Losing a child can certainly change a person's perspective on their life. Was there ever a point where you felt like giving up music?

GADLER: Yeah, oh yeah, most definitely yes. It has made me focus much more on my family to the point where I don't really plan on doing a whole ton of road stuff anymore like I used to. I'll do it here and there cuz you gotta do something, but yeah, I'm really focused on my remaining children and my grandkids. You know, I love playing music, I always have, always will and I'll still play but the venues will change, the style of music will probably change and be a little more laid back and such....

KNAC.COM: You'll probably be listening to Lawrence Welk (laughs)

GADLER: (Laughs) Yeah, but you know as far as touring and stuff goes I probably won't be doing a whole lot of that anymore. My youngest is 13, still at home, so I spend a lot of time with him and will continue to do so. He's super good in sports, plays like every sport there is to play and he's constantly out there doing that. I'm really involved with that and I love it so that's actually most of my time, where it used to be the band. Now it's this stuff that matters more.

KNAC.COM: So what was it like that first time you held practice with the guys after so long?

GADLER: Oh man, it was like....well, it was two things. First, it was FANTASTIC, cuz it felt great just playing those songs again. We were looking around and everyone was just smiling ear to ear, it was fantastic. But secondly, we realized 'holy shit, these songs are hard'! (hearty laughter) I just remember going 'I don't remember these songs being that difficult before' (more laughter). We looked around and we thought 'what the hell were we thinking when we wrote this?', I mean this song is the most complicated piece, you know? And there's some stuff we still haven't figured out how to play again. When you're in the moment and you're writing it and playing it all the time it's no big deal, but you let it sit for 5 years and come back to some of that stuff and you're going 'what the hell man? I don't have a clue how I did that'. So we're running into some of that, that part was weird but the rest of it has been a blast, fun as hell.

KNAC.COM: How did your recent deal with HighVolMusic transpire?

GADLER: Well, I was shopping around and actually had several offers and I called an old friend of mine (Bill Chavis), at a label, and asked him what his thoughts were on the terms that I was getting offered from some of these guys, you know, because I had been out of the industry for a while and it's a different paradigm now. So I'm looking at all these offers I'm gettin and I'm thinkin' I don't know if this is good or bad, no idea, everything's changed. So I called him up and we chatted for a couple hours and at the end of it he just says 'well shit man, why don't you just sign with me?'. I said 'Well, you know, let's talk.' We did and that's how it came to be. He's a good guy, I've known him a long time. WE had several other offers but this one was just better as far as the terms.

KNAC.COM: The first part of the deal was....it's a 3 record deal, but the first part of it was re-releasing the 2 CDs that you had and with Modern Day Babylon you had said that you were happy to see it finally get a proper release. What exactly did that mean?

GADLER: Well, when we recorded that in 2008 I think it was, and we had a whole bunch of stuff happen with the old label right in the middle of it. The deal blew up and everything. We got done with the album, I've got an album that's finished, done and I don't have a deal. At that point is when all this weird stuff happened with Rick moving and everything else. I personally was just like 'screw it', I got a press, printed a box of CDs, put 'em in my garage and there they sat. I put it out there on the internet, put 'em on iTunes and stuff but never promoted it at all, never sent out a single CD for review, nothing. At that point in time I was just kind of really disgusted with everything and I needed a break. So for all intents and purposes that album's never been released. There's a few copies floating out there that people have acquired but so now even though it's 'officially' a re-release the reality of it is it's a first release. It was pressed before but never released. There was no distribution on it at all.

KNAC.COM: One of the tracks on that CD, "Send Me", is one that you did in UGLY WANDA (pre-AZRAEL'S BANE band with Trey and AB guitarist Jeff Clifton). So what made you record that song with AZRAEL'S BANE?

GADLER: The story behind that song is the first time I met Jeff Clifton (guitarist), I was playing a show with this cover band I was in back in the day, PERSUADER, and the drummer from UGLY WANDA, Jeff Flournoy, was there and saw me and after the show, he came up and handed me his card and said 'hey man, we need a singer, we love for you to give us a listen', so I got a cassette from him. It was just a bunch of demos and one of those demos was "Send Me". I heard that song and I was absolutely floored. I thought it was amazing. That's what made me want to join that band, that one song. So I joined the band, we put out that album, which sold like, aluminum (laughs). So, when we were working on the Babylon record I told the guys, you know, that song's really good but only like 12 people have heard it. I want to redo it with BANE cuz it's such a great song. Jeff was like, 'man, I've been playing that song for 15 years, I'm sick of it.' (laughs) But it's such a great song, so we changed it up a little bit and rearranged it and what have you, a little bit different than it was originally but it's got that AZRAEL'S BANE spin on it. But that was completely my idea, that was the song that made we wanna play with the guy in the first place.

KNAC.COM: And in case you weren't aware of it, but the writer who reviewed it for us (review HERE) called that song a 'masterpiece'.

GADLER: Yeah, so I'm thinkin I made the right call (laughs).

KNAC.COM: That first album (Wings Of Innocence) was released on Chavis Records (the band's previous label), which is actually the same people, Bill and Lori Chavis, from HighVolMusic, correct?

GADLER: It is. But it's a different business model, different distro and all that stuff but the principles are the same.

KNAC.COM: Did you have any kind of reservations at all about working with them again?

GADLER: I did, yeah. But after the conversations that we had, I mean we had some really in depth conversations, I was convinced that it was the way to go.

KNAC.COM: The deal also includes a new album. Have you guys started writing for that yet?

GADLER: Yeah, we're playing one of those songs tonight for the first time ever. We're just starting to write and it's been slow but we're working on it. The plan is hopefully for some time next year, but we'll get there for sure.

KNAC.COM: Rumor has it that tonight's show is being recorded for a possible live CD or DVD or something like that.

GADLER: We're shooting video, I think we've got like 3 cameras and 8 or 9 go-pros out there and we're doing an auxiliary board as well so we can individually track each song. So hopefully, depending on how the show goes.....worst case scenario, we'll get some good promos out of it and best case scenario, we'll get a live DVD out of it. We'll see how it goes, but yeah, we're recording the whole thing tonight. (To see how the show actually went, read the review HERE)

KNAC.COM: So what's in the immediate future for you guys after this show?

GADLER: Well, we're gonna continue writing and just get out and play more. We're going to try and do some festivals and stuff like that over the summer. We don't have anything concrete booked yet but we're talking about booking some festivals and stuff.

KNAC.COM: But no long range touring plans or anything?

GADLER: For us it's gonna be flight out shows, festivals, things like that. Maybe while we're there we'll do a couple shows within a few hundred mile range, you know, flight out, rent a van, that's how we're gonna do it.

KNAC.COM: You've played with some pretty big name acts in the past and played some prestigious gigs like the Monterrey Music Festival (in Mexico) and ProgPower USA. What for you up to this point is your defining moment in AZRAEL'S BANE?

GADLER: The show was definitely Monterrey. Those people there treated us like we were THE BEATLES, it was amazing. The audience response was the coolest thing I've ever experienced in my life. It was so cool. We've played a lot of pretty great shows and done a lot of cool stuff but that one was....we got off the plane and we had just gotten through customs and stepped into the lobby and all of a sudden there's hundreds of people in the lobby of the airport screaming and we're looking behind us going 'who's behind us?' (laughs). But they were holding up signs saying 'AZRAEL'S BANE'. It freaked us out, we had no idea that we had any kind of fanbase down there! But they had been playing the "Shine" video on the station down there and I guess it hit pretty well and it was just tremendous, tremendous the way the fans treated us.

KNAC.COM: Hopefully there will be more defining moments like that.

GADLER: I hope so, that one was pretty cool, so hopefully there will be some more of that in the future.

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