Ed Lafuentes, John Lafuentes, Al O'Neill, & Natalie Lafuentes - Pantheon

November 12, 2004

Tell me a little bit about yourselves.

Ed: We're all from The Bronx. Manhattan. Around that area. We're all pretty psychotic and into the music. We all have our different loves of music as well. For instance, myself, Ed Demon likes Black Sabbath, Slayer, Slipknot, and I think my sister is into Barry Manilow. I'd say my biggest influence in the music is definitely Black Sabbath.

John: My biggest influence is Korn, Metallica, and I love Type O Negative.

Natalie: Al, what kind of music do you like?

Al: I hate frigging music, especially live music. Oh God, music. So many. I like the bluesier stuff. I like old Led Zeppelin, The Black Crowes. I like listening to Stevie Ray Vaughn. I like playing along with his records a lot. I like southern rock and blues. I was a big Molly Hatchet fan when I was younger too. I love that shit. Weird, but that's my little quirks. I have to live with it.

Ed: That's why we love his guitar playing so much.

Al: We're not talking about ourselves. We're talking about the music we like.

The music you like is a big part of yourself as a person.

Ed: I completely agree. That's why I had my band name tattooed on my right arm. The only thing was my producer and my guitarist both said "okay, now what happens if you have to change the name of the band?"

Al: Do like what the guy from Element did. He had Element across his back and they changed their name. Could you imagine?

What did he do? Mark it out and put something else there?

Al: I don't know what he did but he had Element going from shoulder to shoulder clear across his back.

Natalie: I guess with Element, you can keep something like that. Something like Pantheon, you can keep that and say it means something else.

Ed: You can change element to elevator. Maybe he works in a public building downtown. Sis, what about you?

Natalie: I like everything. What I like changes all the time so I can't say that I like anything in particular. Right now it's Nickleback. Next month it'll be something else.

Barry Manilow?

Natalie: Not Barry Manilow. No, not really.

Al: I sang a Barry Manilow song at my company's Christmas party last year.

Natalie: Oh crap, that's right. You told me you did.

Ed: Well, that's your problem now, isn't it?

Al: I won first prize for best karaoke.

What song was it?

Al: I don't remember. You know what song it was? It was "I Write The Songs".

Oh no. Not that one.

Al: I didn't actually sing. I actually spoke the words kind of like Barry White because I didn't know how the melody went.

It's horrible. When I hear that song, I always sing along with it with "I write the songs that bore the world to tears."

Al: Yeah, that's pretty much it.

Ed: I like the version "I write the songs that make the whole world cry. I write the songs that make me want to die."

Tell me where the name Pantheon came from.

Ed: Well, that's kind of interesting because the idea was actually there before we knew what the hell to call it. There was a Black Sabbath reunion show out at I think it was Nassau Coliseum and for Christmas, I decided to treat everybody. We got out there to see it and we were all enjoying it and the opening band was Pantera. One of my closest friends got so damn drunk he couldn't say the word Pantera. He was like "that band that opened up for Black Sabbath. That band Panthon." I opened up the dictionary and the closest thing was pantheon. There it went. We decided to call ourselves Pantheon and the jokes proceeded. Panties on, panties off.

The Pantera guys are from my neck of the woods. Vinnie and Dime have a club called The Clubhouse down here. See if you come into town and they like you, you get to go to the Clubhouse.

Ed: I have heard from friends of mine who actually were on tour with Pantera, a buddy of mine who plays for the band Ill Nino, and he's a friend of mine who never drank as a kid. Even after he got his record deals he didn't drink but he called me from the road after partying one night with Pantera and said he never drank that much in his entire life.

They get people pretty wasted.

Ed: That's kind of cool.

How long have you guys been together?

Ed: I think it's five years now.

Three of you are related.

Ed: Al comes from planet Zipnot. The Zipnot is because his guitar is like a zipper. That shit just rips. It's like holy shit.

Where did you guys get the idea to just form a band and kick people's asses?

Al: It was all Ed's idea I think.

Ed: Sure, blame me for the chaos.

Natalie: Ed had asked me to sing a song for him and I never even really listened to rock and stuff at the time. I did it and it came out okay. I said what about trying to put a band together. He didn't really want to. He was into the recording and stuff. So I asked Al and Al played with another band called Big Whiskey so we took those members and that's how we originally had gotten started. Al had gotten his friends together and we all started playing.

Al: Then we got rid of those jerks.

Natalie: Then we got rid of them and we morphed into having John here do DJ stuff and synthesizing and drum machine and all that.

Al: The problem with Big Whiskey is that the drummer was so good, we still haven't been able to replace him.

Natalie: That's the problem. He was a great drummer but he had a little baggage. It's hard to find a good drummer because they all think that they're God's gift and it's terrible. We're like Spinal Tap. We get fed up and until somebody comes along, we're just going to use the drum machine. Because drummers think they can't be replaced. Maybe not 100 percent they can't be replaced but for now it's a good substitute.

Al: The drum machine is part of our sound now anyway.

They're in the drivers seat of the band so I guess they get a bit big headed.

Natalie: Yeah, they are. They're the backbone of the band definitely.

Ed: All right, all right. Stop it with the drummers. I'm a drummer too.

Natalie: Unfortunately Ed is a very good drummer and we can't have him play.

John: Every now and then you have to put those drum machines in their place though.

At least you don't have to pay the drum machine.

Ed: Yeah, but the best part about if a drum machine screws up, we just take the damn batteries out.

John: We were going to take a picture of Eric and just tape it to the drum machine at one time. Actually I was going to take a picture of Neil Peart and put it there.

Ed is a psycho.

Ed: I'm so harmless.

Natalie lives life as if she'll die tomorrow. Fucking A.

Ed: That's true. Sometimes the way she lives, she just might die tomorrow.

The way things are going, we might all die tomorrow. Al tells it like it is.

Al: Who me?

I respect that because I tell it like it is too.

Al: I know but I have to be nicer about it.

Natalie: Yeah, you do. Nah, sometimes you make me laugh my ass off so I can't even say that.

Nah, I like that New York attitude. Don't be nicer.

Al: Don't be nicer. Those southwestern people are too damn nice. They've got some nerve.

John, what do you say about a boy who plays with matches?

Al: Yeah, he scared me a few times. I started carrying around a fire extinguisher.

Natalie: My hair is very flammable at times because of hair products.

Al: I stopped because he's actually been good but that was weird at first.

Ed: We started the process of actually filming a video for one of our songs which got put on hold for now. In the studio, he decided to use actual gas fire pipe type things to give these flames that shot out about six feet in front of him so needless to say we couldn't be on the stage with him when he did it. He was pretty intense. It was a good shot until it decided to almost light his face on fire at one of the shows.

Do you think you're Gene Simmons?

John: No, better.

Natalie: Ed does the fire thing too. They make me nervous because I don't want my hair to go on fire like Michael Jackson.

Ed: Well, just look. If your hair goes on fire you'll look just like me.

Natalie: If my hair goes on fire, they're going to put me in jail for murder.

We'll be visiting her in Sing-Sing. Tell me a bit your musical style. It's described as a fusion of metal, rock, and hardcore hip hop.

Ed: Well, that's actually really interesting because I as a kid got torn between my heavy metal friends and my hip hop friends. In the city the guys on this side of the street like Run DMC and all the guys on this side of the street like Slayer and Black Sabbath. I was stuck in the middle because I liked them both. I decided to try to put it together a little bit and see how it worked out. Next thing I know something really strange happened. You guys decided to say this sounds pretty good. Let's make a band. I was like really? This guy Dennis who I used to serve coffee to in the morning at my job turns out to be this big shot producer. Produced U2 and Lenny Kravitz and his godson is DJ Lethal from Limp Bizkit. I showed it to him just as "check this out" not knowing who he was. He was like this could work. This could definitely work. I was like okay. I started getting all my roots from Run DMC and Eminen and Kid Rock and definitely my love for Zeppelin and Sabbath came through and came through with Slayer. Then Natalie's primal scream vocals which are kind of haunting and Al's screaming guitar and then now with my brother's uncontrollable keyboards and synthesizers and stuff came together with a mighty clash and sounds really interesting. At least all the kids love it. When we do a show, they go fucking crazy now which is nice.

I like the way your vocals and Natalie's interact together. That comes out pretty cool. Tell me a bit about Crush The Weak.

Ed: Actually I think it was a mistake just like half the songs were mistakes because Demon has a problem with spelling. He can't really spell that well. Weak was supposed to be week as in weekday and it turned out to be weak as in weak people. Then it just got blown out of proportion. It's pretty much just a misspelling of it and then it worked itself into being a powerful title.

I liked "Goldy Lox".

Ed: That's definitely a fun song to do. A huge misspelling.

Lox and bagels man.

Ed: It works. I guess I'll just keep misspelling stuff.

Yeah, you do that because it comes out cool. I also liked "Lucky Eyes". Another cool song.

Ed: The album itself, the songs have been redone a number of times just to get the feel that we wanted and try to come across with the point we wanted. The sound we wanted. It's really, really hard to duplicate what this band is in the recording studio because the sound that we have on stage is different than the sound we have in the studio. It's definitely different. We're still in the process of trying to capture that sound. We think this album is excellent by far in our opinions but it's like anything in music. It's a process. It's learning. Each album should get better and if they get worse, then it's time to say goodbye. I think Crush The Weak was an interesting stepping stone for Pantheon.

It's kind of hard to catch that live vibe when you're in the studio because a lot of it has to do with your audience. Everybody feeding off of each other.

Ed: Yeah, this is very true.

Some people manage to pull it off and I'm sure with a little more practice...

Ed: Definitely. A little bit more practice and a lot more vodka and anything can happen.

Al: Especially that live sound. That live sound is a lot more booming than our studio sound. With that studio sound you get that techno feel. It reminds of me Nine Inch Nails. Ever hear how technical they are? I don't know if you've ever seen Nine Inch Nails live, they play with a full live band. Drummer and all. He doesn't use a drum machine. They're out there booming like a heavy metal band. It was like Metallica on stage. It was amazing actually.

I'm seeing Metallica next week with Godsmack. I met those guys when they were playing clubs. Cool guys.

Ed: It's good to be cool. I know some dickheads in the music business. I won't mention any fucking names like Anthrax.

Al: In the music business? No way.

Ed: I don't understand where they really get off where they're like King Shit. These people love you and they're here to do anything for you. You have to be cool with them and be on their level because that's where you are no matter what. You get up on that stage and you're a king to them but when you get off that stage you're one of them. They love that. They appreciate that. With this band, everybody talks to everybody. Everybody has a good time at the shows. Even one time we had one of the kids brought up on stage to actually do a part in one of the songs. He's an old friend of ours but it was a shock to him. He was like holy shit. He was brought up on stage to introduce a song and I think that's cool because a lot of the stories come from them. That's the coolest part.

What's some of the inspiration behind your lyrics?

Ed: Crush the weak and breed the strong. People can take it a couple of different ways. It's definitely a code to live by. It's about standing for yourself and when people knock you down, you've got to get back up. You have to constantly move forward in life and better yourself and better the people around you. There are going to be people that are going to purposely get in your way and unfortunately you've got to walk right over those people and those people are the weak people because they can't stand up to life's challenges. Unfortunately if you can't help them, you've got to go without them. That's just the sad part of life but also it's the way we grow and learn. Al wasn't the greatest guitarist in the world always. To me now he is the greatest guitarist in the world. I really love his guitar playing but that's through years and years of hard work. Where other people would give up and that's sad. Natalie is tremendous. When she first started out, she sounded like fucking Mickey Mouse. But now she sounds like Minnie Mouse. DJ Pyro over here, he's a madman. He plays keyboards and all this stuff and it all comes from the pains within ourselves that we're putting out and making it into a joy. Sometimes it comes from the really good sides of us. I think the more powerful lyrics definitely come from our pain.

You grew up in The Bronx and I'm sure that's not an easy life down there.

Ed: No, it's definitely not.

Al: Yeah, it was kind of rough. It didn't seem it at the time but you think back to it and you're like "wow, how did I get through it undamaged?" It's amazing.

Ed: You take enough beatings as a kid, you start giving them later on in life.

Natalie: You realize how nasty your neighborhood was when you look back.

Ed: You look at those guys that were about six times your size when you were that young. Then you see them later on and you notice that they haven't grown any bigger and you're bigger than them now. You look at them and go "hell with it man, you ain't worth it." The songs are definitely streetwise songs, the lyrics anyway. They're inspired by ex-girlfriends. I'm not exactly the easiest guy in the world to get along with. I've dated some...oh man.

Al: Yeah, you've dated some winners man. We forbade him to bring any more women to the studio for rehearsal.

Natalie: He's not allowed to date any more fans.

Ed: Yes, I made these few mistakes but I will tell you this. We had done a CBGB show down in the City.

Al: Every single one of them were there, sitting at the table.

Ed: Al grabs me in the back room at CBGB's and he said "Ed, how many girls did you invite to the show?" I said all of them. All of my ex-girlfriends and new girlfriends were all sitting at the same table in front of the stage. I was like "this can get real ugly here."

New girlfriends in the plural? You dog you. I love you. That is cool.

Ed: Yeah, I gotta say that's another big one.

John: It's definitely a plus. If he didn't have all those girlfriends, we wouldn't have half the songs we have.

Al: That's true. I didn't think of that.

The trick to dating multiple people is to make sure they never find out about each other.

Natalie: That's why he can't date fans.

Ed: That's absolutely true but I try to make it kind of clear in the beginning that this is this way and don't take it this way.

John: This is going to suck because it's going to be in a magazine article and everyone is going to know.

Ed: My name is Barry Manilow.

The problem with that is sure, in the beginning this isn't going to be anything serious. This is just going to be a casual thing. Unfortunately the other person doesn't always see it and then when they find out about the others, that's when you start getting in trouble. I know about these things.

Ed: Yes, you're 100 percent right. That's why I try to walk the straight and narrow path now. I keep falling down the damn hill. I try to keep on my toes all the time and stay as psychotic as humanly possible. My very first girlfriend I ever dated in my life, I was 14 years old which was a little late for me to be dating considering I was looking at porno magazines while all the kids were looking at baseball cards. She told me if you're crazy, you're normal. If you're normal, you're fucking crazy. I've been living by that for a long time now. It's kind of hard to stay on the sane side.

Where do you guys play most of your gigs at?

Ed: Around the tri-state area. Around over near Connecticut, Manhattan, The Bronx, Staten Island.

Al: I forget about those shows. Connecticut is closer to Staten Island. It's amazing.

Ed: Yeah, it is isn't it?

Will you get to expand on your touring a bit?

Ed: Yeah, definitely eventually. As it starts to grow, we'll definitely have to start expanding and start growing with it.

Al: Unfortunately bands have to pay for these things themselves now. You have to work a little bit and work up to that. I love to travel.

Those million dollar contracts are a little hard to get a hold of now.

Al: They want done pieces already. They just want to take it out of your hands and distribute it and collect. That's all they want to do.

Ed: That's the way the business is today. Definitely true.

Al: No one's trying to recruit anybody or looking for new talent. They're just taking whatever's done and try to flip it into something.

Absolutely. Any other thoughts or comments?

Ed: Die hard!

John: Hopefully you can look for us at Ozzfest next year. If we can get on that show, we're set.

Ed: Also on a business note as my producer says, Pantheon albums are available on iTunes, CDBaby, Amazon.com, guavajamm.net, and pantheonrocks.com. Now that I've spoken for the record label.

Plug that shit.

Al: Tickets to Moshfest are available too if you like.

Tell us a little about Moshfest.

Al: Moshfest is a show I actually put on in The Village twice a year. I rent out one of the clubs down there called the Lions Den. It's right off Bleecker Street probably in the middle of everything down there. We hire six hardcore bands and put them up on stage and we have ourselves a little mosh fest. They don't do a lot of hard stuff down there. Not over there anymore really. Mostly like jazz and blues and stuff so we give them a little wake up call periodically. The producer loves the music. The guy who does the bookings for the place. He loves it when I rent the place out and I put my own bands because it takes all the heat off him. It give us a good headlining spot in the City every time I do it. It's a neat little thing. We've actually ran across a lot of good bands doing this. It's amazing. It's not even a money making venture. I just get back what I take and I give the rest all to the bands. That's just up to them. It's a good opportunity for some of them too.

Pantheon