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A New Kind Of Weapon: An Exclusive Interview With Vocalist RAY WEST Of WEAPONS OF ANEW And SPREAD EAGLE

By Krishta Abruzzini, Pacific Northwest Writer
Friday, August 9, 2019 @ 6:54 AM

"I love KNAC.COM! That was the bar back in the day. Always so much fun."

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WEAPONS OF ANEW Photos Credit: Scott Braun

Itís been a busy summer for the guys in WEAPONS OF ANEW, landing a tour with MESSER and Scott Stapp (CREED).

The band, Ray West - vocals, Freddy Ordine - guitars, Kris Norris - guitars, Stefan ďRenoĒ Cutrupi - bass and Chris Manfre - drums, have already toured and opened for ALTER BRIDGE, TESLA and METAL ALLEGIANCE. Their latest album, The Collision of Love and Hate, released on OK Good Records in Sept of 2017 is a representation of the band both musically and lyrically, with a new album in the works for 2020.

Ray West chatted with KNAC.COM recently.

KNAC.COM: You were with SPREAD EAGLE? I know Rob De Luca. They have a new album out, Subway To The Stars. Are you a part of that as well as WEAPONS OF ANEW?

WEST: Yeah! Rob is always super busy with his UFO thing, you know? We started SPREAD around 2009. We went out on a couple of tours. But me and Rob have always been the oneís putting this together.

KNAC.COM: How are you going to balance the two bands?

WEST: You know, thatís going to have to be some kind of time management Iím just going to have to deal with. [laughs] I mean, WEAPONS is still really, and not that SPREAD isnít still hungry, but WEAPONS is still a really fierce and hungry unity in the sense that we work well and play and write. The guitar player Freddy Ordine is as hungry as me, so heís always pushing to do more and more. Rob is understanding about my time with WEAPONS, and WEAPONS seems to be understanding about my time with SPREAD.

KNAC.COM: Seems to be? {laughing] I like that ďseemsĒ to be comment.

WEST: Yeah, letís see how that really works out. [laughing]

KNAC.COM: I know you were saying you were giving up on singing to raise your nephew, then you get a connection through Facebook, and here you are out on the road... tell me about that.

WEST: You know, my mother was raising my nephew. Itís my youngest brotherís child. I wonít really get into the whole backstory, but they just werenít really in a space to raise children. So my mother took charge of raising Brando. He became under her custody. But he wound up climbing her like monkey bars all the time. He became a lot for her to handle. The house situation they were living in became kind of rough. It just seemed like the kid wasnít happy. Except for Grandma. Something in one of my visits, I was just like, ďIíll take himĒ. It came out of nowhere. I had been selfish for so long. The kid needed someone. My mother made him feel safe, but like I said, he was a lot of work for her. He was open to come to New York City with me. He was 9-years-old, he didnít know any better. Next thing you know, I was raising this child. So much so to where he wanted to call me Dad. I was cool with that. So I got the adoption papers started, and heís now my son.

KNAC.COM: Awww, thatís so sweet! So when you decided to go back into singing, was that a scary thing with a child?

WEST: Yeah. But now heís sixteen. He goes to The School of Rock. I took him back to Florida. I have a woman in my life thatís crazy enough to help me. I have people that I trust, so thereís family around him. Iím able to leave. This is the longest Iíve ever been gone. Iím going to say thank you for even asking the question. People donít normally ask me about that.

KNAC.COM: Thatís a big part of our lives. Especially as we get older, many of us have children, the balance is tough, and traveling away from them can be such a challenge. I think that compared to what we all once were, being carefree, and our lives changing from it being about the party to having real responsibilities can be tough to maintain that balance. Kudos to you on all accounts!

WEST: Hereís a funny one for you. The School of Rock he goes to, does this summer tour. Heís in the house band. Heís going out on tour. So heís touring as I am touring.

KNAC.COM: How exciting! What instruments does he play?

WEST: If you go onto my Facebook account, heís about 5í10", heís got curly blond hair and he just looks really cool. Itís not a biased opinion, he is just a cool looking dude. If I met him, Iíd think, ďWhat a cool looking guyĒ. [Laughs] He plays bass. He fits his instrument really well. He doesnít want to do any singing yet, which is kind of annoying. Heíll get there. Heís playing some guitar too. Heís a lefty. I love this kid.

KNAC.COM: So, the debut CD for WEAPONS, titled The Collision of Love and Hate came out in September of 2017? Any more albums in the future?

WEST: We started writing sessions for the second record. Weíre actually looking at producers with our good friend Mike Ferretti (SEVENDUST, WARREN HAYNES). Mike mixed The Collision of Love and Hate. We did a little experimenting when we went into the studio with him. We wrote together, to see how he would do, and production ideas. Heís a perfect fit. I love this guy.

KNAC.COM: For Collision, you used James F. Murphy (ex-DEATH, TESTAMENT and CANCER). Would he still be a part of this new album?

WEST: You know, we might use Murphy for some sonic stuff. Iím not sure. Heís such a close friend. He was part of the first record. I donít know if heíll be part of the second. Because heís such a close friend, he might have something to do with it.

KNAC.COM: How do you choose your producers?

WEST: I have a different set of criteria than the rest of the guys. I think for me itís about who Iím really comfortable with. You get really emotionally...you go on this crazy frequency. You go to some really dark places and some really great places and you need someone you can trust with your emotions and your thoughts and your melody process, all that stuff. So you can connect on a really intense level.

KNAC.COM: What do you think separates you from other bands in the genre? And I mean, how would you categorize your music style? When I listen to it, I hear such a fusion of prog, melodies, rock and metal. I hear it all in there.

WEST: I think itís really organic. Live, the band is very organic. I know a lot of bands are out touring with tracks and stuff nowadays. We play our asses off live. The music itself? Itís a bit of a new school and old school charm to it. I think we can be as heavy as everybody else, but my sense of melody, the bandís sense of melody, sort of mixes really well. People try so hard to get a good blend going of things. I think if youíre just another modern band, youíre going to sound like everybody else. I think itís important to use all the influences. The band that gets the best mix, becomes the most interesting. I think weíre really trying to do that. Itís not contrived. I mean, I am who I am, I sing the way I do, and Freddy is who he is, and weíve just sort of evolved together into this really cool thing. Weíre just at the beginning of it. I think we have a lot of room left and writing potential to really nail what our sound is.

KNAC.COM: I read that you have a love for old school bands like VAN HALEN. But Freddy is into METALLICA and MEGADETH. Do you think these styles play out in this band?

WEST: Oh, big time. It can be quite volatile and I wear my emotions on my sleeve as well. So we have to meet in the middle without killing each other at times. Itís the craziest mix. Itís Yin and Yang. Itís salt and pepper. Whatever it is, we just work well together. I love VAN HALEN, I love QUEEN, but I also love the , I love TOOL. I love SADE. When I listen to music, itís always SADE, or something like that. Everyoneís like, ďWhat are you listening to, man? Thatís crazy.Ē Anyone who is human and doesnít like SADE, just doesnít count.

KNAC.COM: Or Prince!

WEST: Prince man! I like that kind of stuff. I think itís cool to have those kinds of sensibilities to bring into the hard rock environment.

KNAC.COM: You also stated that singing with this band is in your comfort zone. Is it the same with SPREAD EAGLE? Can you explain that?

WEST: Well, with WEAPONS, automatically with all the writing, things just felt easy. SPREAD is a situation where back in the day, I always felt like I had to be a one-hundred, and I thought I had to be like this screaming banshee, like a cat on helium going through a meat grinder, is how I described it. I just think that with [WESPONS], itís just a good vehicle for my voice. I feel comfortable singing this style of music. Itís rhythmic. I can scream when I need to. I only like to scream as an exclamation point. I donít have to do cookie monster vocals. I do like using some of it as a color.

KNAC.COM: Maybe Iíve got this wrong, but it seems like you guys kind of fast tracked this band into getting signed, youíve got a fantastic PR group, Chipster, love that guy and getting killer tours, ALTER BRIDGE, I mean Miles Kennedy, dude!, NONPOINT, TESLA and now Scott Stapp? How did all this come together? I mean, there are so many bands out there playing for their friends at local clubs, and here you guys are out touring and have support.

WEST: We just adopted the mentality that if weíre going to do this, weíre going to do it for real. We all have experience playing rock & roll, we all have experience playing at what I think is a high level, so why not just jump into the deep end of the pond which I think we can handle? To do that, the management around us, we got JP and Chipster. The stakes were higher. Weíre like, ďPut us into the deep end of the pool and weíll do our job.Ē We definitely made some connections, and a lot of it is about who you know. Youíve got to know the right people to make the call to get on the tour, and they have to like you. I think itís the luck of the draw. Our mentality is, letís just go for it and letís not waste any time. If weíre going to play, letís go somewhere where we really have an impact.

KNAC.COM: I hear that a lot from bands that have been successful, but I also know thereís bands out there that want to have that success, and have that hunger, as you say, but just canít quite get to that level.

WEST: You have to all be on the same page at the same time. This involves leaving your families and going into battle. This is a very competitive environment. If youíre weak, youíre not going to last. You have to go into it with everyone having a fighter mentality. Weíre all going into battle to vie for attention. That doesnít mean that you shouldnít play the local gigs too. Get your support for the clubs and get your local fan base. You need to have a foundation. You canít just go out and not have that. I think that because Iím from New York, and living in New Jersey, we have that sort of Northeast thing going on, where people are good to us.

KNAC.COM: Kind of like Goodfellas? [laughing] So, do you just call somebody up, like Chipster PR and tell them, ďHey, you need to take care of usĒ?

WEST: I wish it was that easy. Those phone calls involve a lot of finesse. People have to like the band to want to work with the band. The people Iím meeting are super sincere. Theyíre very soulful. They could easily just work with everybody, but theyíre very fickle with who they work with. Once again, itís a connection, but people have to like the band. I just talked to Chipster yesterday, and heís like, ďI really like this record.Ē He sees the potential.

KNAC.COM: Heís always been awesome to work with as far as being a journalist. Always excited about his bands, just a super pro. Thatís a great connection for you guys.

WEST: Oh yeah. Heís a very powerful, positive kind of light. You need that kind of person around you. Everyone has to believe.

KNAC.COM: Letís talk about your video, "Killshot". Were you guys involved in the process? The girl in the video seems to be kicking the poor guys ass.

WEST: She was really hitting him too! I donít know about that very last shot, if it was an angle, but she took a good shot at him. She was the directorís girlfriend. The boxer in that video, actually is a boxer that holds a title. Heís the real deal. We came up with the idea of people being in love and hate, and a couple being in a boxing ring. That meaning of love and hate going at it. It was made really fast, like everything else. Letís make a video, hereís the idea and the next day weíre shooting.

KNAC.COM: I really liked when she took the gloves off, kind of like the cliche of ĎGloves are offí, and then she just clocks him. Itís just like, ohhhh, such a dirty trick.

WEST: He just wants to be put out of his misery. You love something so much that itís not good for you.

KNAC.COM: She sucker punched him. She got him.

WEST: [laughing] Sheís a very nice person.

KNAC.COM: Well, she looks like a badass, nice person that shouldnít be messed with. [laughing] Iím not sure if your female fans like it more than the guys?

WEST: Oh yeah. The way the video looks is kind of cool. We did it on a shoestring budget. It was done quickly. Itís amazing what you can do with the right people.

KNAC.COM: How do you choose your director, photographer, artist, etc...for your albums, video and promo?

WEST: Thatís easy. Whoever can handle their liquor the most. You know, you get your wishlist. Itís like, who can we get with the budget we have? And you just try to make the most of it.

KNAC.COM: The tools that are available now, itís just amazing what you can do with a shoestring budget. As far as traveling for your gigs, you claim that days off can be just as crazy as gig days.

WEST: Oh yeah man. Because youíre sitting around, with all this great energy, and you donít know what to do with it. Ballbusting becomes an artform. Stopping for food. Talking about food. It all becomes a thing. Stopping at a go-kart track, or just something to let off steam. Things can get crazy. We brought a football. We just drive each other nuts, man. [laughing]

KNAC.COM: Do you guys travel pretty well together? I mean there always seems to be that one in the group that everyone wants to kill.

WEST: On any other day! On any given day, you want to kill somebody. But things are cool. We did a fourteen-hour drive the other night. I woke up at 4 or 5am, and everybody was quiet, the lights were out, and we were sitting up in the chairs in front, and it was just quiet. It was weird, kind of like the Twilight Zone shit. [Laughing] Everybody has their quirks and their stresses. If someone is about to be triggered, it gets stopped before it happens. Other than that, thereís a lot of like, ďIím not touching youĒ and stuff like that.[laughs]

KNAC.COM: Whatís your favorite and least favorite part of the travel?

WEST: Family is the roughest one. You have those times and youíre in your head, and thinking too much. I miss Brando, I miss Susan, it gets rough. But the best thing, oh man. I donít know if itís getting in the box for 30-minutes. I think the best part is making the connection. Because weíre the opening band. Even though the audience may not know our stuff, but the people that do know our stuff, theyíre a special breed, and weíre lucky to have them. But thereís that moment, after we break into the song called "Sundown", and people start moving, and weíre making eye contact, and the room just gets lighter and I just get the most shit-eatingest grin on my face. I get light. Itís like, itís working. This is why we do this. This is why we all do this. We were having dinner a while back, somewhere, maybe Wisconsin, just having a good time, and just laughing, and thatís when you realize you never want it to end. I think the biggest downpoint is when the AC goes down on the bus. Thatís a real bad one.

KNAC.COM: Is there someone who may be a little hygienically challenged? [laughing]

WEST: Iím just coming off three days. Thatís ripe. [laughs]

KNAC.COM: Do you watch and critique your performances nightly, taking notes? Are you a bit of a perfectionist? And does this drive your bandmates crazy?

WEST: Yeah, uh...hereís my thing. Iíve never been good at listening to myself, or watching myself. I donít like to do it. Everybody that Iíve ever worked with as musicians, seem to get off on doing it. Iíve only lately, able to really tune in now. Like the guys will be watching the show we did in Detroit, and Iím like, ah whatever, and I go off to sit in the back. It got louder and I actually heard myself singing in tune. So I was like, well, let me go check that out. [laughing] So I am paying a little more attention now. We donít have a lot of time to work the set. I want it to be smooth and sort of flawless. I donít think Iím a perfectionist, because I love adlibbing. I donít script anything really. I like to have fun with the audience. I did stand-up comedy a few years back and that was fun. I like to add a little of that. Not that Iím doing comedy. Just enough that I can take a few minutes and just talk and make a connection for myself and the band. I do tend to critique that.

KNAC.COM: Iíll tell you, I see a lot of shows. I saw MUSE, who I absolutely love. Seeing them live however was so sterile. Everything was choreographed so perfectly, and they sounded perfect, and I hated the show. Zero connection to the audience. I might as well have been seeing a Cirque du Soleil show.

WEST: Yeah man. Back in the day, like with VAN HALEN. It was just so fun. I like to make a connection for real. I think that everybody is too worried about being too perfect. The scripted shows get freaking boring. I love when somebody comes up to me, and I donít go fishing for compliments, because I donít take them well, but Iím getting better at them. This fifteen or sixteen-year-old kid came up to me, and he said, ďMan, you guys are fun.Ē He said I was a great entertainer. And I was like, really? Okay. I think if Iím having a good time and I can show people Iím having a good time, it can bleed through the room.

KNAC.COM: I completely agree. I go to a live show to see the human, otherwise why go? I can sip on a bottle of wine at home listening to the band on a stereo and be perfectly happy.

WEST: Right! Why should people come out and see us? Itís cool when as an opener, we gain a fan. Thatís such a game winner.

KNAC.COM: Iím sure itís hard at times to win those audiences over being in the opening slot.

WEST: You have to love doing this and take your shot for 30-minutes. Youíre rushed to get onstage. Luckily for us, with the Scott Stapp tour, and the band MESSER is great too, all great guys, but the crew, and Scottís TM , Kyle, has been really great to us. Weíre getting soundchecks. We have time to play after doors. Itís like theyíre really looking out for us. I think they like the band. Theyíve said nice things.

KNAC.COM: They like the band! Take the compliment! [laughs]

WEST: I hope this feeling lasts. Weíll do what we gotta do.

KNAC.COM: Well, thanks so much Ray for taking the time today to chat today with KNAC.COM.

WEST: I love KNAC.COM! That was the bar back in the day. Always so much fun.

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