The story behind MAELSTROM and their upcoming debut full-length is parts both uncommon and unbelievable. Forged in the late 80’s from a friendship between lead vocalist Gary Vosganian and guitarist Joey Lodes, the band emerged from the Long Island scene and quickly began to gain notoriety on the national level. However, despite a pair of highly acclaimed early demos to their credit, Maelstrom would enter an indefinite hiatus in the 90’s as the music industry further turned its attention away from the heavy metal renaissance of the 80’s to the Seattle grunge movement.
Formed in the ferocious firestorm of the eighties thrash movement, MaelstroM began its storm surge by quickly dominating their local scene of Long Island, New York. Within a few years they expanded beyond regional borders and began to gain worldwide notoriety.
Ignite had the please of getting a few question to the band and the great answers are below
Interview with Gary Vosganian, vocalist and lyricist of MaelstroM
- Tell us a little bit about the band and how long you have been together for some of our readers that may not know about the band?
Thanks so much to everyone at Ignite Music Magazine for this interview and opportunity. MaelstroM was formed in the summer of 1988 by myself, Joey Lodes on guitar, Jonny Modell on bass, and John Koltai on drums. We originally went under the name Insurrection and had a second guitarist, Dan Sullivan who played our first show with us. He broke a string during the last song that night (our first original song) “Predestined” … stage dove into the crowd and no one has ever seen him since LoL. Seriously he completely disappeared that night. We soon changed our name to MaelstroM and then recruited second guitarist Anthony Martin who performed on our first demo in 1989 but left the band during the recordings of our second demo, which put us on the map in the underground metal scene, This Battle To Make History, Yet History Never Comes. After a couple of years original drummer John Koltai decided to leave the band and was replaced by drumming wunderkind, Elliot Hoffman. Like many heavy bands from the late 80’s, as styles began to change, we decided to disband in the very early 90’s. All the members went onto other musical projects (most notably Joey, Jonny, and Elliot went on the form Spooge), I concentrated on my career, started a family, soon after Joey did the same. Fast forward to today, 32 YEARS after our very first jam, our debut album, Of Gods And Men, is finally being released. It features myself on vocals, Joey Lodes on guitars and bass, Dan Kleffmann on drums, Ed Marks on keyboards, and my wife, Dawn, on female vocals.
2.What is new with the band? New Album out? New Videos?
Yes! Our debut album, Of Gods And Men, is finally being released on May, 22, 2020.
As I mentioned in the previous question, in the late 90’s we all had gotten on with our lives but I’d say Joey and I always had this gnawing feeling MaelstroM’s story was left unfinished. Then, the single most important factor to resurrect MaelstroM happened. It was a review we received (literally out of nowhere) in the mid 2000’s from German online magazine named Forgotten Steel. It was for our second demo This Battle To Make History… andthat review really spoke to us … it was almost like reading something we had written ourselves because it was verbatim what Joey and I felt all along … that it really Was unbelievable to us that MaelstroM never had the opportunity to release a full-length album. It was that Forgotten Steel review that ignited us to record our well received 3 song EP It Was Predestined in 2008 and finally now, Of Gods And Men.
We also debuted our first lyric videos this past month. “Army From Ash” produced by Jan Yrlund at Darkgrove.net and the second for “Th13teen Within A Circle” which I produced myself. Here are the links to both vids. More to come very soon.
“Army From Ash”
“Th13teen Within A Circle”
3.With all this madness going on with the virus…What do you think the music scene will be like in the future…and how are you prepared to make your music heard if there will not be any concerts or festivals for the year of 2020?
I think the live music scene will certainly suffer. For us it will not affect us nearly as much as so many bands that absolutely rely on touring and giging for their word to spread and to earn money. We have a pre-existing situation that precluded us from much of that already.
Unfortunately, right now with Joey’s hearing situation, shows and tours don’t seem to be on the horizon anytime soon. He had to undergo open heart surgery in 2015 to replace a bad congenital valve that caused an aortic aneurysm. Since that surgery, he has been dealing with flare ups of endocarditis (inflammation/infections) of the heart ever since. In 2018 at a hospital in Valley Stream, NY they gave him an I.V. of an antibiotic he had already warned them he was allergic to, and it left him with debilitating tinnitus, hyperacusis (loud sounds are painful to him), vertigo and hearing loss. He struggles with this every day. I know he is hopeful that an experimental injectable drug to restore hearing gets approved in the coming years, because no one would love to get out there more than him. One great thing about tech today is that bands can go onstage with little to no stage sound with the use of in-ear monitors and electronic drums and cymbals, so maybe there is a chance we could perform some shows or festivals but it would have to be done very carefully and in a way as to not put his hearing at any more risk. Thankfully all the guitar and bass parts for the album were all recorded in 2014, before any of this happened.
As far as making our music heard, we will continue to work the net, build our mailer, make cool videos and promote ourselves all through the net.
4.What got you into music and what is your earliest memory of when you told yourself…”THIS IS WHAT I WANT”?
For me – I loved KISS when I was very young, the whole thing was just so HUGE and I wanted to be a part of it, me and some friends when we were 8 years old actually put on a “kiss” concert in my backyard and sold tickets to my neighbors. My dad made a stage and set off fireworks. I think I got the rush of preforming at that moment.
I know Joe has mentioned in interviews the very first music he ever remembers hearing as a child was the original recording of Jesus Christ Superstar with Ian Gillan, and he’s actually since performed guitar for JCS on several off-Broadway productions. It was a huge influence on him, not in the “religious” sense, but in that grand Epic musical sense. Another huge influence on Joey as a child was James Horner’s work on Wrath Of Khan as well as John Williams’ score to Empire Strikes Back. He’s since done lessons for Guitar World Magazine specifically about these two scores. He’s also told me seeing Jake E. Lee perform with Ozzy on 84’s Bark At The Moon tour was life changing for him, as well as seeing Steve Vai in 86’ on the Eat Em And Smile tour.
5.Who was your first concert and what is your best memory
My first concert was KISS at Nassau coliseum when I was 8 in 1979. My dad took me and still blames me for his hearing loss LOL!
Best concert memory are probably any Iron Maiden shows and SLAYER on the Reign in Blood tour I saw them 3 times on that tour.
Also, ManowaR at a tiny bar in upstate Oswego, NY. There was no stage, I was arm in arm with Eric and Joey and could slap Rhino’s cymbals from where I stood.
It was a warm up show for the Triumph of Steel tour and there were maybe 80 people in the place. Totally amazing.
For Joey – Iron Maiden, Piece of Mind Tour in 1983 when he was 11 years old.
I know he also really remembers Aug 31, 1988 … Slayer at the Felt Forum for their South of Heaven tour, the infamous “Cushion Riot Concert” with all the flying, flaming seat cushions. It got Slayer banned from MSG for 25 years. We were both at that one, it’s considered one of Slayer’s most legendary shows.
6. If you didn’t become a musician, what would you be doing right now?
Ironically both Joey and I had career’s outside of music for the last 20+ years which is what allowed us to fund and self-produce Of Gods And Men. Joey is actually Dr. Joe, Chiropractor and Acupuncturist and I’m a graphic designer. But even though we’ve both had great careers outside of music, writing and recording is still where our heart’s at. The music isn’t only an escape for the listener, the production of this album from writing to recording and mixing also became an escape for us as well. Specifically, for me I design everything and deal with all the artwork and make the videos so it’s all catharsis for me to be able to do the visual part as well as the written and the vocal aspect of our material.
7. On a scale of 1 to 2593, How good is your newest single compared to your last single? (my attempt at humor, but please still answer)
Oh, that’s easy … 666. Everything we do comes down to 666! Lol. But actually, in this case, since “Th13teen Within A Circle” is our new single and really is the most “Evil” song on the album, that number does apply, Haha!
“Th13teen Within A Circle” it is the sixth song from Of Gods and Men. This is probably the Darkest song we have on the album both in terms of musicality and lyrical verse, the song is steeped in the concepts of sacrifice and blood rite. The forces of darkness here have won a decisive victory and are now about to sacrifice a newborn child. The infant is the progeny of the groups male leader and his concubine. This sacrifice is in thanks to the entity of evil they worship for their victory in battle. This will solidify their dominance over the world as an era of slavery and suffering will be ushered in, with these malevolent lieutenants at the helm. The child is one spoken of in prophecy and one that could potentially right the wrongs wrought within the story. It is his blood that must be shed to forever evade that prophetic possibility, and allow evil to rule. This song takes place at the same time but from a different perspective as the song which follows it, “Thief of Light”. If you were watching this as a movie – the events happening in each song would be happening simultaneously and you would see camera cuts illustrating the same situations from different perspectives.
8.What do you feel is the best song you have released to date and why?.
That’s a very difficult question because each song of the 10 songs is literally a separate chapter in this concept album. I know Joey is partial to “The Mirror Calls” and “SonRise” just for their epic, grandiose scale. But honestly, I think one of the great strengths of this album is that each song can easily stand on its own. A huge part of the idea behind Of Gods And Men is the fact that it IS truly an album. I mean that in the classic sense of the word. As a sonic piece of art. One of music and voice put together to make a cohesive body of work. Very specifically we wanted this to be a true album experience, like when we would go to a record store and buy a record and play it front to back, taking in the lyrics and art and photos. Albums were experiential back then. Now, very often people don’t buy an album, they simply stream a few select tracks. It was important to us to make something someone would want to experience as a whole complete piece.
I don’t think someone would buy a few chapters of a book, or watch a few random parts of a play or movie, so the idea is to take in Of Gods And Men as a front to back piece of work. The subtitle of the album is “An Allegory in an Abandoned Art”. The Allegory is the story itself which is about dogmatic religion and its manipulation over man versus the deeper sense of the true soul and the individual god in us all. The abandoned art is literally the lost art form of an album being a cohesive body of work.
9.Do you think you can get any better as a musician/singer? And if so, How would you achieve that?
Of course. There’s always room for improvement and to take in new influences and create new art. It’s a struggle for Joey because his hearing has been wrecked by that medication … so it’s particularly rough on him that he cannot play the guitar to the extent he used to. He still tries though, always will.
For myself, taking formal singing lessons for the first time in my life prepped me to record Of Gods And Men. In the past I would rely primarily on heavy vocals. It was during the recording of “A Futile Crusade” for our It Was Predestined EP that Joey first recommended I try melodic clean vocals for a few lines. It was a first for me and gave that section of the tune a whole different vibe. So, in preparation for Of Gods And Men, I took two solid years of vocal lessons while Joey was demoing ideas at home for the album. I’m very happy with the result as not only do I think the more melodic vocals add a whole new dimension to MaelstroM, but even my heavier growled vocals became more “on pitch” as a result.
If you could give your fans one random fact about you that you think they should (or should “not” know) about you what would that be?
I am a Master Mason (freemason) and some of the ideals and tenets of that path make it into my lyrics and artwork.
Joey used to do classical guitar guest lectures at Juilliard.
11. You’re a new addition to the crayon box. What color would you be and why?
12. Who are you inspired by?
What gave MaelstroM our identity, we always felt, was while most New York “thrash” bands from our era were influenced by the usual “Big 4” we were more heavily influenced by the European Thrash and Metal scene… Kreator, Coroner, Sabbat, Destruction, Celtic Frost, Sodom, … just to name a few. Even in writing the music for Of Gods And Men, Joey and I would have this saying, “WWKD -What Would Kreator Do.” But that European style was melded with what was happening in NY by bands like Overkill, and Joey would infuse his classical guitar training into it as well. On top of that I write conceptually and created this fantasy-based story that adds a somewhat power metal motif to our overall look and feel.
13. What’s an average day like one tour? and what about these days?
I think the biggest detriment to MaelstroM back in the day was that we never just jumped into a van and played up and down the east coast and across the country. We had garnished a ton of local New York notoriety in the late 80’s and we were pretty respected in the worldwide underground through our demos. In 88’ and 89’ we were the top drawing band at February’s / Hammer Hedz in Elmont, NY for both years and the grand prize was recording time at Speed Of Sound Studios (SOS) in Franklin Square, those sessions became our This Battle To Make History demo. So locally on Long Island we were solid, doing great, but we never just “went for it” with a tour or a long-distance show to try to gain traction in another scene. That was a huge mistake back then. I think the furthest we every traveled was for a death metal fest in Buffalo with Sorrow and Suffocation. Not playing out in other areas when we really did have the chance … no kids, no career, no mortgage payments … not taking advantage of really having no responsibility back then is something I really regret.
14.Please discuss how you interact with and respond to fans?
Most of the interaction is through our Facebook page, we have just created a mailer and a Facebook group “Maelstrom Stormbringers” as well these will be the major places we will interact with fans. We have a twitter presence and are really just getting on with Instagram. Both of those will pick up much more in the next few months.
15. Have you ever dealt with performance anxiety?
Sure – Many times before getting on stage I will get nervous. Before our first gig in October of 1988 I couldn’t eat for a whole week. Sometimes I still get nervous before I get up in front of people, but when I am up there a sort of rush of power comes over me and I just feel like this is where and why I belong.
The very first time Joey was on a stage, ever, was while he was at Berklee and the first song he ever performed was “Money” by Pink Floyd. He had this whole intricate solo all worked out in advanced but he said when those curtains opened and an auditorium was packed with actual people, he completely froze. When it came time to the solo he was so nervous he dropped his pick at the very beginning of his big moment, the solo, had no spare picks readily available, and spent the majority of the solo holding one note that’s going in and out of tune while bent over trying to retrieve his guitar pick with hands drenched in nervous sweat. If there was a YouTube back then, definitely would have had thousands of hits, lol.
16.Tell me about your favorite performance venues?
MaelstroM’s original shows in 88’-89’ at the aforementioned February’s / Hammer-Hedz in Elmont, NY and Sundance in Bay Shore with the likes of Winter, Demolition Hammer, Malevolent Creation, To The Pain, Sorrow, Kronin, Cold Steel and Suffocation have now become the stuff of legend. Speaking of Winter, Stephen Flam recruited Joey to perform some solos on his new Goden album, Beyond Darkness. It’s Beyond Heavy.
A few performance milestones that stick out for me … April 8th, 1989 at February’s … That bill was Demolition Hammer, MaelstroM, and Cold Steel. I think the legal capacity for Feb’s was like 80 people, maybe 100. Well 480 people showed up and were literally stacked on top of each other. It was an attendance record for that place and absolute, complete insanity. Other shows that stand out were the SOS parties at Feb’s and the Plattduetsche in Franklin Square. Everyone who recorded at Speed of Sound would come up and do 3-4 songs. I remember Winter specifically killing it at the Plattduetsche. Another show that stands out for me was Suffocation’s very first show was with MaelstroM at Sundance in Long Island. Those guys were brutal right from the get go.
17. What advice would you have for someone wanting to follow in your footsteps?
From a pragmatic sense –
There is the obvious, make sure your chops are good and the songs are well written and well recorded. Once that is covered, NEVER underestimate the power of a great PR Agent, Radio Guy and Social Media expert to create that demand. These people become your team and are doing what a record label would have been doing either in house or outsourcing. These people are there for you where you cannot be working the phones and the computers trying to get you exposed to the mags, stations and people that get your name and brand known. Currently we are using Jon Freeman of Freeman Productions For PR, Munsey and Skateboard Marketing for radio, and Matt from Dropout media for social initiatives. Just recently Wolf at Sure Shot Worx joined the team and will be handling all MaelstroM PR in Europe. Never underestimate the leverage people on your side can do with establishing inroads to the scene mags, sites, and radio stations.
From an idealistic sense – This is a tricky question because to simply say “Follow Your Dreams” is not a complete answer. The only reason why I’m able to talk to you today about this album was because we were able to fully self-produce Of Gods And Men. It truly was a labor of love that started when we were just kids in high school, but we were able to make our dream a reality, 32 Years Later, and self-produce this album because we both had careers outside of music. So it’s a double edged sword. Without the Dream there’s really nothing to strive for, but without the funding it is very difficult to make your Dream come true. I think in end that it what MaelstroM represents … that it is Never Too Late To Follow Your Dreams and make sure you do whatever it takes to bring that Dream to Fruition. Hopefully we inspire others who later in life have that unfulfilled dream, that feeling of “What If …”, hopefully our story inspires the completion of theirs.
Thanks again to everyone Ignite Music Magazine for this interview and helping to keep music alive and well. Of Gods And Men is available for streaming and download on May 22, 2020 on iTunes, Spotify, Bandcamp, Amazon and many more. Check us out at: