Armored Saint’s Joey Vera Remembers ‘March of the Saint’ & “Can U Deliver?” – Fates Warning Bassist

Bassist Joey Vera
(Armored Saint, Fates Warning)

full in bloom:  Can you give us a little history on how Armored Saint formed and how long it was before you signed your deal with Chrysalis.

Joey Vera:    Armored Saint was formed with John, Gonzo, Phil and Dave.  John, Gonzo and myself have known each other since we were about 8 years old.  We were friends that hung out together since we were 13.  So it was natural to start a band.  Gonzo, John, Phil and myself had a band in high school called Royal Decree.  After high school, I was playing with another band, when they got together with another bass player.  After about 5 months, I quit my band and joined with Armored Saint.  This was 1982.  We started playing the clubs in L.A. and after a year of doing that we started to get calls from the labels.  It all sounds unreal, and it was, but you have to understand that it was 1983 and heavy metal was becoming a new big genre of music.  We got a record deal in less than 50 gigs.  Soon after that, everyone was getting signed.

full in bloom:  Any memories stand out from the March of the Saint recording sessions?

Joey:  By the time we were to record March of the Saint, our recording experience was very limited.  We had done a drunken and stoned session, which was our first EP, and then we did 2 sessions with our A&R guy at Chrysalis (Ron Fair) which led to us getting signed.  So, we went in to Ocean Way Studios home of such heavies as AC/DC, BB King, Eric Clapton, Elton John, Supertramp, Barbara Streisand, Tom Petty, Rolling Stones.   In fact, we were there for two and a half months and during that time, Supertramp was recording in the studio on one side and Barbara Streisand was in the other.  And there we were making March of the Saint, bringing our friends over, drinking beer and just having a party.  We were 21 years old.  Little did we understand though that this studio was costing us $300 an hour or $2500 a day.  And we missed the part about having to pay that back to the record company.  Our producer Michael James Jackson (KISS, Creatures of the Night) was never there or always on the phone.  But we didn’t quite see eye to eye with him anyway.  One day he told us that he didn’t like Black Sabbath.  From that day on it was like “you just don’t get it.”  The whole thing was a great big slap in the face. Suddenly we had all of these outside people fucking with our thing, slowing tempos down, making things overly polished, trying to manufacture a “sellable item.”  It was the first time we felt like we were losing control.  At the end of the record, we were very unhappy with the production, the mix, the way we worked and who we worked with.  And the producer and our manager let us spend over $300,000 on our first record.  To this day we are still in debt for that one.

full in bloom:  Your video for “Can U Deliver” received a lot of airplay on MTV?  What was that following year like for you and what kind of effect did MTV have on the band?

Joey:  Aside from the nightmare we endured making March of the Saint, we already had a buzz around from our EP and just being the heaviest band at the time to come out of Los Angeles.  So, after the album came out, the benefits of being on a major label kicked in.  We got a good tour, and we had a video on MTV.  It did a lot for us.  It just kicked it home for people who saw us on tour or had heard of us from press.  As silly as it is, the video did a lot for the record.

full in bloom:  Anything stand out from the video shoot for “Can U Deliver?”

Joey:  Again, I personally thought some of it was really silly.  We had a pretty good time shooting it though, doing the Road Warrior thing.  We were so into it back then. I remember hating this sort of demon/monster head they put behind the drum kit.  I thought, c’mon guys, Iron Maiden already has Eddie.

full in bloom:  Who were some of the bands that you toured with for that release?

Joey:  Our very first tour was with Quiet Riot (Condition Critical) and Whitesnake (Slide it In), playing all arenas.  It was great.  Our next tour was with W.A.S.P. and Metallica.  Obviously, we were way more at home on this tour.  Although we played smaller venues and to less people, it was the right people.  These guys were our contemporaries and it was just an amazing tour.

full in bloom:  Is there a memory that stands out from that tour?

Joey:  One day on the Quiet Riot tour, David Coverdale came into our dressing room and said “Hey mates, have a kick ass show.”   We were like, ‘holy shit that was David Coverdale!’  From that day on, he made it like a ritual.  We were completely honored.

full in bloom:  How many copies of March of the Saint were sold back then?

Joey:  Initially a year after it’s release it had sold 125,000 copies.