I finally got to sit down with my old singer and brother, Ray West, who used to sing for MCA recording artists, Spread Eagle and our old band Hostel Inc. In the past year I’ve been writing much about Ray’s new band, Weapons of Anew, in my column, North Jersey Notes, not only because Ray was in the band, but WOA also features my old Smoke Star drummer, Chris Manfre. This all-star band of sorts doesn’t just stop there, because it also features Havoc Hate guitarist, Freddy Ordine, and bassist, Stefan “Reno” Cutrupi, as well as the recent addition of guitarist, Kris Norris, from the band Darkest Hour.
Weapons of Anew didn’t start out small like most local bands coming out of the gate. They came out swinging with a support slot opening for Alter Bridge and Non-Point back in Mar. This month is a big one for the band as they embark on a U.S. tour with ‘80s icons, Tesla. But the biggest accomplishment for Weapons of Anew this month is the long-awaited release of the band’s debut CD, The Collision of Love and Hate, featuring the radio hit, “Killshot,” as well as songs like, “Blood From Stone,” “Speed (I Drive),” “Awake” and “This Moment.” I got to sit down with my rock‘n’roll big brother, Ray Ray, before he left for a few European dates with Spread Eagle to talk about Weapons of Anew. Here’s what we learned…
Welcome back to the music world, Ray Ray! Just when you thought you were out…They pulled you back in, huh?
It’s weird isn’t it? That I’m still kickin’, but I’m doing more work now than I did before…(laughs)
So, how did this collaboration with these Weapons of Anew guys happen?
Well, it’s the funniest thing. Your buddy, Chris (Manfre)…I was just on Facebook one day and he and I sort of connected……I don’t know if it was me reaching out to him. He said somebody had given him my name or something, so he messaged me through Facebook. So we started talking through Facebook and low and behold he told me he was looking for a singer.
I mean, I wasn’t going to do it anymore. I was happy raising my nephew, Brandon, and walk off into the sunset. That would be my legacy, but then Chris called. It was trippy, man. So, Manfre Facebooked me, I Facebooked him back, then he sent me a track through email. It was actually the rhythm ideas for “Killshot” and “Speed (I Drive).”
It was kind of weird because I didn’t really get it until we got in the room, but when I talked to him, he told me about Freddy and then Freddy called me right away. The funny thing about Freddy was that Freddy and I talked for like three hours, man. We were like two Chatty Cathys going at it, man. With his Havoc Hate background and my sense of melody, it’s the weirdest combination, but when we talked we realized that we had the same influences. But then when we came to what we liked, Metallica was his thing and Megadeth and Anthrax, and I’m like, “Oh, okay, well, I like old Van Halen. I’m from the old school and I like to have a good time.”
I remember him saying something about stepping out of his comfort zone and me sort of joining him. I just know that he’s been out of the music scene for like 10 years or something like that because he stepped back to raise his kids. We literally talked about family for like an hour or two. Music was a part of the conversation, but we just got along right away the way me and you clicked. Freddy is a super cool guy with an extreme personality. He can be either really sweet or if he don’t like ya, he’ll let you know it. So, I’m happy I’m on his good side, and it couldn’t come at a better time.
I know that Freddy, Reno and Chris come from more of a metal background. Was going hard rock a hard transition for them? I mean, I used to play with Chris, so I know it wasn’t for him, but what about Freddy and Reno?
It’s more intricate, especially when it comes to the timing. I’ve watched Chris progress from when I first met him. He was a great hard-hitting rock drummer, which is the drummer you know. I watched Chris progress with his feet. The way he worked on his timing and sticking to the tempo, working with the metronome and watching him really nail it down.
Now, I love the Deftones and Reno loves the Deftones. On long car rides, me and Reno listen to nothing but Charles Bradley and the blues and stuff like James Brown. We don’t even listen to metal or hard rock or whatever. Freddy is the catalyst for the metal part in this band. I think Reno just happens to be talented enough and to know his mindset. Then as you get to know Freddy, you realize that he’s into Latin jazz guitar. He is a Zeppelin-head, but he has all that. It’s like he’s opening a box of toys when we’re jamming. The boy is multi-faceted It’s incredible for me that he’s a virtuoso. He adapts to the rhythm and the melody that I’m doing, and he sort of makes it work. He says, “I’m gonna bring something to the table. Let me see what Ray is gonna do with it.” And then I’ll meet him halfway. We just sort of molded. So, Chris and Reno follow suit.
As a unit, yes, they were strong before I came along, and they had a specific direction, and I think they were just writing cool stuff. The music was heavy because that’s where their heads were at. Then when I came in, I just skatted all day, but I will not box myself in and sing on that beat. I fly over the music. So, somehow it works, man. Freddy’s sense of musicality meets my sense of melody and rhythm and it just works. Because some of the songs were trial and error; I haven’t hit my peak yet with them. We started writing a cool sound. Maybe there’s some acoustic stuff we can do, but I think we scratched the surface on some really cool writing styles.
So, on Sept. 15, the band released their debut CD, The Collision of Love and Hate. I’ve listened to the CD a whole bunch of times and haven’t really found any weaknesses on it. It’s powerful, riffy and thunderous…
It’s trippy and like I said before, we kind of wrote everything for this record. There was nothing thrown away. Like we didn’t write something and not use it. It was like “Let’s work on this piece of music, and if it’s cool, we just keep working on it in the room. If it’s not cool, then we’ll just get rid of it. But we’ll know right away if we should work on it or not.
The CD has this amazing stomp and groove to it. It’s got a certain rhythmic pull and push to it that is really cool, man. For me, I’m not singing my normal stuff. I’m trying different things. I’m singing in my normal register and a cool character voice, I never got to do that before with that tone of voice. I’ve done the cat going through the meat grinder wailing on helium, I’ve done the baritone stuff, but this is my comfort zone. Just going into the studio for the first time with these guys, they watched me find my vocal tone with them. They were all a part of it.
I told you in text messages that I felt this might be the best I’ve heard your voice yet. The songs, “Blood From Stone,” “Awake” and “This Moment” really showcase your voice in an honest way…
I’ll take that compliment. I’m feeling confident. I’m singing in the register and I’m able to do what I want. I don’t have someone telling me, “I think you should sing it this way.” I’m left to my own devices. Reno is usually the barometer on what’s cool or not. He’ll come in after you work really hard on something, and Reno comes in and goes, “Ah, it’s alright.” [Laughs] But he likes the same singers as I do. He turned me on to a lot of cool music that I wouldn’t listen to myself. Everybody in this band is a barometer because they are brutally honest. In the songs you mentioned, we found these cool melodic choruses. I’ve never really done that before. I started to on my stuff back in the day. I loved the look on their faces when I sang the chorus to “This Moment.” I think I was on my way as a singer. I just had to find a platform for it. I don’t think I’m the bees knees, but I think I’m comfortable with where I’m at as a singer.
The first single and music video for “Killshot” has earned the band some radio airplay. What will be the next video and single?
That’s a good question. I’m partial to “Awake” and “Blood From Stone.” But I think we’re thinking about doing “Speed (I Drive).” It might be “Speed” or it might be “Blood.” They both work really well. For “Speed” to go out, it may have to have a radio edit because of the intro. I’m not sure. They’re all my babies, man, so I don’t know which one I really want to put out there. I think they’re all cool.
Now, before The Collision of Love and Hate was even released, you had the chance to go on tour and open for Alter Bridge and Non-Point, and now you’re heading out with Tesla. What gives? You guys have a fairy godmother or something?
[Laughs] It’s been the weirdest thing, dude! Think about it. You can play these club gigs and all that stuff. We rehearse and we look at each other and you try to make everyone happy, but the balls of this band to go from a rehearsal room and never having done a gig at even Dingbatz, and then to go out in front of thousands of people, or whatever it was that first night, you just have to have a lot of faith. It was like everybody put on a parachute and we all had to jump out of a plane together.
There was a lot of anxiety that first night. It took about one song to realize, “Oh my God! This is so cool!” [Laughs] The songs are done and then I have to talk to people. I haven’t had to talk to a room of 2,000 people in a long time. I just pretended it was my living room, I relaxed and I just made people get into my trip, which was all about being positive and being in the moment, and it started to feel good.
It was probably one of the greatest life experiences I’ve ever had, but this was special because that Alter Bridge audience was probably one of the warmest and most receptive audiences I’ve ever had the pleasure of playing for. Then, the next night it happened again. Another receptive crowd, but you have to work at first. The first 20-30 seconds, you gotta work your ass off, stare at them in the face and let them know you’re not scared. It’s like a fight. You’re going to war to win over people. You’re the first band on a three-band bill, you have to really bring it.
You got to go to Europe and play some festivals with your old band Spread Eagle. How do you balance between the two projects?
Rob DeLuca (Spread Eagle bassist) is very compartmentalized and very organized. We put it out there that Spread Eagle is sort of a part-time band. Whereas, Weapons is this heavy-duty, 48-hour a day, eight-days a week commitment. I mean, we even went out and got tattoos. I’m lucky to have more than one thing because I just have to be organized. If I make time for it, I make time for it. I give it my all. I don’t do anything half-ass.
Look at singers who have different projects. I think if you organize and have your shit together, you can have it all. I don’t have to have to express myself in just one way. Plus, Spread is part of my history, so I don’t mind singing those songs. It’s who I am. I would love for Weapons to be my full-time thing, but until we make some real money, I have to be willing to experiment with other things. But I think we will do well, and we’re ready to go to war.
Weapons of Anew released The Collision of Love and Hate on Sept. 15. Catch Weapons of Anew on Sept. 20 at The Paramount in Huntington, NY. For more info on Weapons of Anew or to find out when they hit a venue near you, visit WeaponsofAnew.com.