The Rising of Flotzilla... Ken Mary Speaks Out..
Arizona Thrasher's 'Flotsam and Jetsam' are no strangers to the world of Thrash metal, having formed back in 81 under the names of 'Paradox', 'Dredlox' & 'Dogz' before changing their name in 84 to 'Flotsam and Jetsam'. With the original line-up consisting of Eric A.K., Jason Newsted, Kelly David Smith, Edward Carlson, Michael Gilbert when the band released their stunning cult classic album 'Doomsday for the Deceiver' in 86 through Metal Blade.
With this hard hitting debut released the world was at the bands hands, and having toured Europe supporting Megadeth was a superb opportunity for the band. It wasn't long before the band released their 2nd album 'No Place for Disgrace' in 88 through Metal Blade/ Elektra Records.
The band made some line up changes and moved to MCA Records, before resigning to Metal Blade once again. In 2016 the band signed to AFM Records and released their self titled album which saw the band hitting back hard and furious. This was followed by 'The End of Chaos' in 2019 which featured drummer Ken Mary (Fifth Angel), along with new guitarist Steve Conley. A very impressive album that saw the band ever moving forward.
Now the band have just released their new album 'Blood in the Water' which is in my opinion their finest work in some time, a super solid album mixing heavy thrashing riffs that are melodic and pack a punch. Whereas the vocals by A.K. are at his best, and the rhythm section by Ken Mary and new bassist Bill Bodily keep the train rolling fast and hard.
I managed to chat recently to Ken Mary to find out more about this incredible top notch album and to also talk about Ken's involvement with his previous bands. Here is what he had to say. In the meantime check out this awesome new album.. you won't be dissappointed.
Hi Ken, it's such a pleasure to finally chat with you, makes a change from Facebook. So thank you for taking you're time out and doing this interview, what a great new album you have created. I want to start by asking you as a drummer, which drummers inspired you to became a drummer?
Hey Jason, it's nice to finally chat with you and to put the voice to the face. To answer you're question I was inspired by Buddy Rich, Neil Peart and John Bonnman, because my drum teacher back then was into Jazz, Prog Rock, and bands like Yes, and I was also into Latin and Fusion so all of these were linked together. I think Neil Peart, Buddy Rich and John Banmann are totally different drummers and like Buddy Rich has nothing to do with Neil Peart and the same could be said for John Bonnam and they all play completely different styles (laughing).
So how old were you when you got your 1st drum kit and could you remember the make? What kit did you progress too after that?
"Yes I do, this is a story I have told a few journalists, I think I was 11 yrs old and we were a pretty poor family and my mother saw something in me and she took $150 which was a lot of money in those days and took a risk buying me a drum kit. She didn't know if I would pursue the drums and that is something I will never forget. When I was at school the teachers would take away the rulers and pencil from me because I was always banging on something and pots and pants, so when I got into high school the teachers would ask us what instruments we wanted to play...I said drums. My kit was a low budget it was called 'U.S. Mercury' kit which was made in Japan before Japanese kits were actually good. This was a used kit back in the 70's but it wasn't great but it made me learn how to play the drums.
The next kit I got was a Rogers kit, it was black with a 22" kit drum with 3 toms and a floor tom, and a snare. After that I went to Lugwig drums and I turned into a professional drummer at the age of 14 and I started to invest into drums at that point and I started to get some pretty nice kits."
So what was the 1st professional band you were in?
"I would have to say 'Fifth Angel', and we were under another name, there were 3 of us in the band at that time and we use to play in high school bands and later on we ended up buying a truck. We really did look like a real 'Rock Star' band with a road crew and who would of ever thought that we could of been a major band, the set up was very impressive for aq bunch of kids (laughing). This band had Ted, Ed and myself ad we had met when I was in junior high school and they were older than I was."
Those Fifth Angel albums are awesome, I know the debut album was re-issued with a different cover in later years, which was the original cover the one with the King Angel or the one with the 'Pegasus' type cover?
"I don't think the album was re-mastered, it was re issued by Metal Blade in 2018 I think and and the reissue that Metal Blade put out is the original cover with the Pegasus type cover and the 2nd album was released by Epic Records 'Time will Tell'. The debut album was released originally on Roadracer/ Roadrunner who know have Slipknot and bands like that. The King type cover was also on Epic in later years."
When you look back at the 1st 2 albums with Fifth Angel which is your favourite and why?
"Well for me I think it would have to be the debut album, because it was the 1st album I had ever done and we didn't have a lot of money, we just scrapped together enough money for the production like $10.000 back in 86 and we really put a lot of effort into that record taking our time getting the production and songs right. If you listen too it now it sounds like we used pro-tools and there were no Pro-Tools, it was a 2 inch tape and if you couldn't play or sing it then you couldn't record it, it had to be done on one take."
After Fifth Angel you joined House of Lords, were you still in Fifth Angel when you joined them?
Well it was an interesting thing, I don't think that Epic understood the bands music and I was progressing and I had toured with 'Alice Cooper' for years, so Fifth Angel had broke up and I played drums for Alice. (Ed: You also played drums for 'Impellitteri' band, what albums did you record for them?) I had recorded 5 albums for that band."
Looking back at the days with House of Lords days, which one of those albums is you're favourite and why?
"Well we had toured with 'The Scorpions' which was awesome and they were really nice guys to tour with, I would have to say my favourite album would be 'Sahara' because every song just seemed to jell well together and the chemistry was really good within the band."
Having been in those band I was rather pleasantly surprised that you joined Flotsam and Jetsam, absolutely no disrespect to you I really didn't know if you could play that sort of music, and I was blown away by the sheer power and energy you brought to the band. How did you feel when you auditioned and got the job?
"Well the thing with Flotsam and Jetsam is that I have had some of the most fun in my life playing the drums for them, I use to play this type of drumming at drum clinics and now I can actually play it for the 1st time in a band which is awesome!! For me it is a very logical thing to do, and yes I can understand who some people might think can he really do this type of music?
I don't know if you knew but the self titled album was recorded at my home studio 'SonicPhish' and I have always been a fan of the band, so that is how I was introduced to the band and I was a fan of the 1st 2 albums and when I heard the new stuff with Eric A.K. his voice was just killing the songs, they sounded awesome and I am a huge fan of the self titled album that I really enjoyed listen too that record. With the sales of tat record Jason had left the band to join 'Over Kill' and Steve Conley who is a friend of mine called me to ask if I would be interested in joining the band. They needed a drummer for 11 shows in Europe so and I went to their rehearsal studio and learnt the songs for the tour.
I got the play fast and hit hard so I really loved that experience, and to this day people ask me are you in the band? Well I toured with them and they still haven't said you're in the band (laughing)."
From the album 'The End of Chaos' album which was your debut album with the band, what songs are your favourites and why?
"Well I do like the songs 'Prisoner of Time', 'Control', 'Demolition Man', those are probably my favourite trax or some of my favourites on the record. I mean I really like every song on that record and when we were putting the record together we didn't want to put songs on the record that we didn't really feel strongly about. We made sure that every song we put on that we loved."
Let's talk about the new album 'Blood on the Water', what sort of press reviews have you been getting for this album so far?
"Well the reviews have been fantastic, they seem to really like it a lot and I saw one that was a little weird, the reviewer said a lot of good and bad stuff about the record he wasn't sure if he liked it or not. Other than that we have had some awesome reviews like 4/5, 10/10 and people are saying its the best album we have done in years. Thanks for the great review Jason it was killer!! The fans are really digging it too which is a great feeling."
Where did you find Billy Bodily?
"Well Bill had been touring with the band since the self titled album, he stood in for Mike when he couldn't do the U.S. tour and it just seemed the perfect choice to have him in the band as he was familiar with the bands music and he knew us all. So when it came to do the record he knew what the band was all about so it seemed like a very seamless transition and he is a fantastic player and he also sings. He plays bass in a band called 'Contrarian' who are a technical Death metal band."
How do you compare the new album to that of the last album 'The end of Chaos'?
"Well in my opinion I think it just shows chemistry going on within the band for the last few records and with the addition to Steve Conley and he is a great writer also so is A.K. With the new album I am also a writer too and between all of us we would write our own solo albums so when you take that many records with such talent within the band and put them together then sometimes you stumble upon some great chemistry and I think that has certainly happened within this band. If there is a tough part that somebody is trying to play then another member will come in and help out and that is a good way to write music, we are a team.
With the new album it is more of a team effort, I think that is the secret of 5 guys that have a lot of input to their music. When we finished the last album we we're concerned on how we could make a better album, you always want to match the last record in terms of quality and with 'Blood in the Water' we feel that we achieved that and I have to take my hat off to our mixing guy Jacob Hansen who I feel is an important part of the band and if you take out Jacob or a member of the band then something is going to happen, so i feel that there is a nice combination of technical ability that the whole car is fired up, sort of speak."
With the new album it certainly shows the strength of the input of all the band members and Jacobs mixing abilities that's for sure. So why the title for this album? What other names did you have for the album?
"Yes you are right there Jason. As for the title, the name came from Steve, it was his song title and we were talking about that song title as that song was not originally going to be on the record, and A.K was coming up with something that he liked and it was originally called 'The Omen' so I came up with the idea that we should come up with a title which is more sing able, so he said something about 'Blood in the Water' which we all thought was really cool. I wrote the lyrics and the melodies and that was a song made the album after the rest of the guys heard it, they knew it had to be on the record.
The other title was had for the album was 'Brace for Impact' and we had 2 sets of album artwork for this record and what it really came down to was the fact that we just liked the cover for 'Blood on the Water'."
The artwork was done by Andy Pilkington, has he worked with the band before?
"Yes he has, he also did the video for the song 'Blood in the Water', he is a super talented guy. I think the artwork we didn't use for the album maybe be used as a t shirt for the tour."
How long did it take to record this album it can't of been easy with lockdown.
"Well most of the album was done in my studio with the drums and vocals so A.K. would go into the vocal booth and I would be on the other side and it took about 3 months to record. After I assembled all the parts together and song I then sent them via the internet to Jacob to take care of the mixing."
On the new record do you have any favourites at this moment in time?
"Yes I do have some favourites, it is hard to pick some as they are all great songs I love all of the singles 'Blood in the Water', 'Burn the Sky', 'Brace for Impact', 'Seven seconds till the end of the World', 'Cry for the Dead', those are some of my favourites."
For those who don't know what is the name of your mascot?
"Well it's called 'Flotzilla', like any other band like 'Eddie' from Iron Maiden etc.. I think it was Steve that brought it up and we did some retro shirts with Flotzilla on it and they were loving it so maybe there is something to this Flotzilla thing so we brought it back to the bands albums."
Are you planning on doing a live DVD when you are able to tour again?
"Well yes we are planning on putting a live DVD together from various shows we have recorded. We recorded at 'Bang your Head' festival, 'Wacken' , so we are talking about assembling all of them for a DVD with 4-5 songs from each festival."
Do you think the band may tour this year? It's difficult to say really isn't it?
"Well we plan on announcing some days very shortly here in the U.S. but nothing planned for Europe or the UK until 2022 sadly."
Moving on now Ken, you recorded a song with Glen Drover, Dave Ellefson and Lita Ford how did that come about? What a great record was it only the one song? I was surprised that Lita never did a twin guitar duet with Glen
"Well we just asked her to sing on it and she did a fantastic job on the record. When you have Glen on the record I am not sure if you need another guitarist doing a solo. It would of been great to hear them both doing trade off solo's together that's for sure. I think it would of been a great idea we never thought of that.
It is a project called 'Northern Light Orchestra' that features a ray of people you will know from various bands so we just get various players from different bands coming together to play and sing on the records. We have recorded 4 albums and a EP so far between 2009 and 2017."
What's happening with Fifth Angel, are you planning on releasing an new album?
"Yes we are doing some writing right now for the next album and we have about 5 songs wrote so far and we hope to have something done by 2022."
Well Ken thank you for talking to me today, I want to wish you all the best, be safe and do you have anything too say to the readers reading this?
"Yes I want to thank you all for supporting the band, it means a lot to us, we hope you like the new album and I hope we can tour Europe and the UK in 2022. Thank you for the interview Jason, it's nice to put the face to who I have known for a while. See you all on tour.
Thank you to Judith @ BJF Media & Ken Mary. Interview conducted 10.6.21