Richard Christy is that rare entertainer with more than one cult following. He’s probably most known across the country for his work on The Howard Stern Show on Sirius/XM satellite radio. Along with his partner-in-crime, Sal Governale, Christy takes the world of prank calling and other assorted (get ready for the cliche) “hijinks”. But Christy is also an acclaimed heavy metal drummer, having gigged and recorded with such metal luminaries as Iced Earth, Death, Acheron and Control Denied.
Now, Christy has a new band, Charred Walls of the Damned, with a self-titled debut album on Metal Blade Records that is at once a throwback to the genre’s glories of the 1980s even while being an incredibly rich and rewarding listen in the modern day. Christy has assembled a veritable who’s who of the metal community to join him in Charred Walls of the Damned: Steve DiGiorgio was also in Death and Control Denied; Jason Seucof has engineered, mixed, played on and/or produced albums by such acts as Sevendust, Trivium, Chimaira, Black Tide and The Autumn Offering; while singer Tim “Ripper” Owens, most famous for his stint in Judas Priest as their vocalist after Rob Halford left, has also performed with Iced Earth, Yngwie Malmstein’s Rising Force and Winter’s Bane.
The band have never performed before an audience, and make their debut live performance TONIGHT (Thursday, July 01st) at Chicago’s The Empty Bottle (1035 N. Western Ave., Chicago, IL 60622). Tickets are still available for tonight’s performance and can be purchased at the door via TicketWeb here. Comedian Don Jamieson (VH1’s That Metal Show) is the opener for the entire tour (see full tour dates after the interview).
I spoke to Christy one afternoon after his workday on the Stern show and a quick one hour drum rehearsal at his space in Queens.
Christy, who grew up a fan of Stern, then began submitting song parodies and bits to the show, and, finally, became a full-fledged staff member, is extremely happy that he was given the opportunity and has nothing but gratitude to Stern for hiring him.
“I can never thank Howard enough. He gave me an amazing chance, an amazing life here in New York City. I still love listening to songs that fans send in, bits and things, because I remember when I was in that same position. I was just a fan sending in bits and CDs and Howard would play them. I love giving other fans that chance, too. I can’t thank Howard enough for what he’s given me. He’s given me a job that I always dreamed of. That I would wake up in the morning and love going to. I love working with Sal. My favorite thing is, I’ve been a prank caller since I was a little kid. So now I get to do it every day with Sal and do it for a living and we just laugh our asses off every day. It’s the greatest feeling in the world, definitely.”
Speaking of his “life-partner”, he and Governale hope to go back out on the road for a comedy tour this fall (perhaps November). Charred Walls of the Damned also have booked the end of the year to record the follow-up to their debut, so look for that in the Spring or Summer of 2011.
Below is my conversation with Richard Christy where he discusses Charred Walls of the Damned, Howard Stern’s possible retirement and his love for Halloween.
Rock ‘n Roll Ghost: Tell me about how you got Charred Walls of the Damned together?
Richard Christy: Well, the very origins of this band I could trace back to the year 2000 when Jason Suecof and I started writing music together. When he first built his studio, Audio Hammer Studios…I knew Jason back when I lived in Florida and I actually helped him build his studios. Once he got his studios running in the summer of 2000 we started jamming together and hanging out a lot on weekends, even when I was playing in Death and Iced Earth. When I was back home in Florida and not out on tour, I would hang out with Jason and just jam and write music and record at his studio. We had always talked about putting a band together for around ten years now.
So around 2007, 2008 I had been writing a lot of songs, playing a lot of guitar. I had about eight or nine songs written that I really liked, that I thought were really good. So I thought, why don’t I just put a band together of my friends and record it. So, the first person I called was Jason, because I know that Jason’s an amazing guitar player, he’s a great songwriter, he’s also a great singer and great about coming up with vocal melodies. I knew right away that I would want Jason. And then I thought of who I would want for bass and vocals and right away Steve (DiGiorgio) and Tim (“Ripper” Owens) came to mind because I had been in bands with them before. I really admire them as musicians and I know they’re a lot of fun to hang out with. That’s how the ball started rolling, just by contacting those guys and telling them that I wanted to put a band together and record an album. This is even before I had thought about approaching any record labels. They were all totally into it.
Has it been difficult to have a band when you have a full-time obligation like you do with the Howard Stern Show?
Richard Christy: No, not at all. That’s another reason I wanted those three guys for the band, because Tim, Steve and Jason are all really busy guys like me and they all have regular jobs. They come into this band understanding that it’s not going to be a thing where we’re going out on tour for two months at a time or that I’m going to need them all the time. When we can get a little bit of time off from what we’re all doing, we’ll arrange it and make it happen. That’s one thing that I love about this band and one of my goals. For this to just be a fun thing to do, for nobody to be stressed out. With me, once I’m done working, I head out and rehearse drums for about an hour and at night I play guitar and write a lot of, pretty much all of our music before we go into the studio.
I have a rehearsal room in Queens where I have my drums. Tim lives in Ohio, Steve lives in San Francisco and Jason lives in Florida. Unless we’re doing a tour, like for our upcoming tour, we’re rehearsing in Tim’s town of Akron, OH because we’re starting the tour in Chicago. We’ll just all learn our parts beforehand and rehearse for about three days before the tour. Just hit it real hard for three days in Akron. And then, when we get ready to record, we all just meet up in Florida and prepare at the actual studio. That’s a great thing about the guys in this band, they’re all very well prepared when they come in the studio and when we go on tour.
It all came together pretty quickly because we had all played together in different bands before. Steve and I and Tim had all been in Iced Earth and Jason and I had jammed before and Steve and Jason have known each other for a long time. So it all just fell together rather quickly. We had a rough blueprint of how things were gonna sound, but I knew it would improve 500% once Steve and Tim and Jason got a hold of the songs and put their own stamp on it. It went really smoothly.
Tell me a little bit about the upcoming tour.
Richard Christy: In Worcester, MA, the one we’re doing with Dream Theater on the 10th, that’s going to be the last show of the tour and we’re opening up for Dream Theater. They’re doing an off date for the Iron Maiden tour.
That’s a pretty impressive booking!
Richard Christy: Yeah! I’m really psyched for that. The venue holds about 2,500 people and I’m a big Dream Theater fan and I’m really good friends with Mike Portnoy. I really appreciate them putting us on this show. It’ll be cool to play for a crowd that maybe isn’t familiar with us and maybe get some new fans. It’s an unusual thing to do just a short tour like this, but with all of our circumstances, all of us being busy, it works out great. Our opening act, Don Jamieson of VH1’s That Metal Show, he’s going to be doing a comedy set on every date with us. That’ll be really cool. I love doing stuff that is a little unusual like that. I think it’s gonna be different and a lot of fun to have Don on the tour.
Do you have any plans after this tour?
Richard Christy: Yeah! We already have booked studio time for the end of the year. I already pretty much have ten songs written for the next album and I’m going to be writing more. We’ll pick the best out of all the songs. It’s coming along great. I’m very far along in the songwriting process. Hopefully by next summer or next spring we’ll have a new album.
Can you tell me what your drum set is?
Richard Christy: I’m really excited because I just got an endorsement with a great company called ddrum. And I am so psyched to be working with them. They have so many amazing metal drummers on their roster, like Vinnie Paul and Dave Lombardo from Slayer, Robert Sweet from Stryper, there’s tons of metal drummers playing ddrum now. They’re really reaching out to a lot of metal drummers. They’re really amazing. Speaking of Halloween, I call it my Halloween drum kit, they just sent me a drum kit that is an orange, see-through, wooden, lacquer with all black hardware. So it’s orange and black, which are my favorite colors, because I love Halloween. It’s a five-piece. It’s one bass drum, two toms, a floor tom and a snare drum. With this band I really scaled down my kit and I’m keeping it really basic because, in the studio especially, it seems like it’s easier to get a better drum sound. With the less drums you have you can get a fuller sound and it’s easy to separate everything. I know Jason, as the producer and engineer, loves it when I’m playing a smaller drum kit. On tour it’s going to be a lot easier, because we’re not going to have a drum tech, I’m going to be setting up and tearing down my own drums. I still have a ton of cymbals. I have ten or twelve cymbals, but a smaller, scaled down kit with a double bass drum pedal.
I know you are a big Halloween fan, do you have any trips planned?
Richard Christy: We’re going to Salem, MA, which we go to every year. We’re going to Halloween Horror Nights in Orlando, which is my favorite Halloween event of all time. We’re thinking about going to Savanna, GA, which I’ve heard is a really amazing town around Halloween. We’re doing a lot of stuff here locally, too. Like Pennsylvania we go to for a couple of weekends in October, they have some amazing haunted houses there. We’ll probably go to Connecticut where they have some incredible haunted houses up there. I pretty much have every weekend planned out.
Where’s your head at right now with what could potentially be happening or not happening after January with the Stern show?
Richard Christy: Well, you know, I’m just tryin’ not to worry about it too much. I know some people are stressin’. I’m like, it doesn’t do any good to stress over it, because whatever happens, happens. I can’t change what’s gonna happen. If he re-signs, I’ll be super, super happy and excited that I get to keep the greatest job I ever had and the funnest job in the world. If he doesn’t re-sign and Howard retires, then I’m gonna just have to find something else. And I’m sure I will. I’m not stressin’ out over it. Sal told me one of the greatest pieces of advice that I ever heard from anybody. He said, ‘most people spend 90% of their time worrying about things that are never even going to happen.’ I’m guessing that Howard is going to re-sign with Sirius because it seems like he loves it there. I’m not going to worry about it, because I don’t know what’s going to happen. That’s something that’s out of my control. Until it happens, then I’ll start thinking about it. For now, I’m just going with the flow. Just hoping that he stays with Sirius, ’cause I definitely love the job.
You know what helps me, too? I was an electrician for twelve years and we would always slow down in the winter time right after Christmas. Sometimes, I could go a month or two without work, because construction would slow way down. I would have to figure out some other way to make money. Sometimes, I’d go and set up stages in Florida for outdoor concerts. I’d always find a way to make some money somehow. I’ve been in that situation before where I literally had no warning that I was going to be out of work. At least with this, I’m kind of prepared mentally that there is a chance that I might have to go looking for a job in January.
Charred Walls of the Damned Tour Dates:
Jul 01 2010 – 9:00P – Empty Bottle – Chicago, IL
Jul 02 2010 – 6:00P – Harpo’s Concert Theatre – Detroit, MI
Jul 03 2010 – 8:00P – Les Foufounes Électriques – Montreal, QC
Jul 04 2010 – 8:00P – Opera House – Toronto, ON
Jul 06 2010 – 7:30P – Peabody’s Downunder – Cleveland, OH
Jul 07 2010 – 7:30P – Diesel – Pittsburgh, PA
Jul 08 2010 – 8:00P – The Gramercy Theatre – New York, NY
Jul 09 2010 – 8:00P – The Note – West Chester, PA
Jul 10 2010 -7:00P – The Palladiam – Worcester, MA