Life on the road as a member of a band trying to crack the mainstream musical conscious is no walk in the park. Thousands of miles of endless highways. Shitty rest stop food. The pay (or lack thereof). Sleeping on the floor of a van with four others.
And that’s week one.
It is indeed a long way to the top if you want to rock n’ roll. Talent doesn’t necessarily equate success. It takes more than being good. Those who make the ascent get there with a combination of skill, perseverance, a large helping of good old-fashioned luck, and equally as important, a sense of humor.
While Lady Luck has yet to embrace vocalist Ray West, guitarists Freddy Ordine and Kris Norris, bassist Stefan “Reno” Cutrupi, drummer and Chris Manfre – aka Weapons of Anew – they’ve at least had her on the bus (not literally) and kissed her hand (sort of). Which is good. Ordine and West are hands-on types of guys (in a good way).
The band is currently on tour with Messer and former Creed vocalist Scott Stapp. The tour hits the Wild Rose Casino in Jefferson, Iowa this Saturday night for what should be one hell of an entertaining evening.
ListenIowa caught up with Ordine and West as they were cruising through Missouri with the rest of the band on a sweltering summer afternoon. Welcome to the Midwest, gentlemen, where if you don’t like the weather, wait a day.
“Yeah, we played Wisconsin last Wednesday, and when we got offstage, we were freezing our balls off,” Ordine said laughing. “We thought we were on tour in the summer. And then two days later, we walked off the bus (into the heat) and went, “What the hell just happened?”
ListenIowa: So how has the tour with Scott Stapp been going so far?
Freddy Ordine: Very good, man. The people have been good, the crowds have been really responsive to us. It’s been good.
LI: You’ve been landing some coveted slots, with this one, Alter Bridge, Tesla and so on.
Freddy: Yeah, we’ve had good management companies, PR people, booking agents. Ray gave a handjob a couple of weeks ago to get this one. (laughs)
LI: (laughs) That always helps. Hands aside, is an opening slot on tour with Scott Stapp more beneficial to you guys right now than going out on your own and headlining small clubs?
Freddy: We’ve done some local headline stuff in New York, and we’ve been lucky to get onto the packages we have. In some aspects it sucks being the opening band, and then in some aspects it’s awesome. You get opened up to a whole audience that may not have known you otherwise. But make no mistake, we have to go out there and earn it every day. These people aren’t going to just give it away.
LI: For the uninitiated, tell us about Weapons of Anew.
Freddy: Ray gives hand jobs to get us these tours.
Ray: You don’t want a handjob, do ya? (laughs)
LI: (laughs) I’m good right now, but thanks, Ray. (laughs)
Freddy: Our friends from Messer are right here, and they’re open up to mouth work. (laughs). Actually, we started in 2015, and our first record came out in 2017. We’ve been touring on and off, and are actually getting ready to go back in and do another record once we get off this tour.
LI: Speaking of your last album, “The Collision of Love and Hate,” James Murphy (Death, Testament and Cancer) produced it. How’d that come about?
Freddy: I’ve known James since I was 17 or 18 and my old band was on tour when he was in Testament. We became friends and have stayed in touch since then. When we started this band, I wanted someone we could trust, who could get the job done, and who we could all be in a room with and be comfortable.
LI: You had Murphy at the helm but I hear zero death metal influences on the record. How did that happen?
Freddy: The crazy thing is that, with as much death metal stuff as he’s been in, he’s a really well-rounded musician. He and I have been friends forever, and it’s not uncommon for us to be messing around and playing James Brown tunes on guitar. Or Michael Jackson tunes.
Ray: I was surprised with the same musical influences that we had. I like soul music, as does he.
LI: When you’re messing around with some of that non-rock stuff, do you ever think, “Hey, this might be a cool song to cover.”
Freddy: We talk about it all the time. We’re just going to compile a list and go in and do it all at once, I think.
LI: What’s at the top of your list?
Freddy: A couple of Johnny Cash tunes. “God’s Gonna Cut You Down,” I like that.
LI: Ray, tell me about your background.
Ray: Musically, I came up through the ranks with a band called Spread Eagle in the 90s.
LI: Ah yes. The band on MCA Records.
Ray: Yep, the Music Cemetery of America.
LI: What happened with that band? They generated at least a little buzz.
Ray: There were just a lot of bad decisions around the band, and I just thought that the only way to get out of it was to leave. They (MCA) just didn’t know what to do with a hard rock band. But we actually just did a new album on Frontiers (Records), and we’ll see how that goes.
LI: You have been on the scene for a “couple of years,” Ray, and have seen some big changes in the industry.
Ray: The business model has changed a lot. You definitely have to be more self-contained. Back then, you had the whole corporate structure with you — or you thought you did, anyway. Now you have to do a lot more legwork on your own, make the calls to the connections that are hopefully still there; it’s a different atmosphere out there. You have to work a lot harder. We just have to bust ass and keep working. I think you have to be organic and genuine to survive in this business now.
LI: And be hands on with things like your social media pages.
Ray: Very much so. You have to be active with the fans and answer the Facebook mail and all that stuff.
LI: Speaking of interacting with the fans, what are your opinions on paid meet and greets? It’s an extra revenue stream for bands, but it’s not like the old days where you could hang out after the show and meet band members.
Freddy: Fuck, I don’t even think my mom would come to see me at a paid meet and greet. (laughs)
Freddy: Record sales aren’t what they were, so bands that can do it.
Ray: Bands that can do it, great, but I don’t feel like I have to have my hand out every time.
LI: Any new music coming down the pipeline from Weapons of Anew?
Freddy: We were actually supposed to be in the studio now, but when this came up, we took it. We’re going to take a week off when we get off the road, and we’re hoping to have it finished by October. So we’re thinking early 2020.
LI: If I talk to you a year from now and you tell me things have gone perfectly, what’s going to have to have happened in order for you to be able to say that?
Freddy: We’re retired, and we don’t ever have to go out on tour again. (laughs) No, as long as we can keep doing this, and feel good physically, and people are connecting with it, to us, that’s success. We’ve both in other bands, and to be able to go out and start over from scratch and be able to tour, we’re lucky.
WEAPONS OF ANEW (On tour with Scott Stapp and Messer):
July 6 – Jefferson, Iowa @ Wild Rose Casino
July 10 – San Antonio, TX @ The Aztec Theatre
July 12 – Houston, TX @ House of Blues
July 13 – Dallas, TX @ House of Blues
July 14 – Oklahoma City, OK @ Tower Theatre
July 17 – Rocky Mount, VA @ Harvester Performance Center
July 19 – Mount Pocono, PA @ Mount Airy Casino Resort
July 20 – Millvale, NJ @ Levoy Theatre
July 21 – Huntington, NY @ The Paramount
July 24 – Salisbury, MA @ Blue Ocean Music Hall
July 25 – New York, NY @ Sony Hall
July 27 – Sayreville, NJ @ Starland Ballroom
July 30 – Greensburg, PA @The Palace Theatre
Aug. 2 – Boston, MA @ Wilbur Theatre
Aug. 3 – Portland, Maine @ AURA
Aug. 7 – Lexington, KY @ Manchester Music Hall
Aug. 8 – Nashville, TN @ Cannery Ballroom