Mike Martin - Stride

June 12, 2006

Photo Credit: www.strideonline.com

Tell me a little bit about Stride.

Well, itís been a long struggle. The band formed in the early Ď90s with our guitar player and drummer, Joel Gregoire and Matt Kanzler. Those guys met at Musicians Institute in Hollywood some time back before that. They started working together and they didnít really like the L.A. scene. They thought it was too cold in New York so they picked a middle ground and thatís how they ended up here in Houston. Those guys recruited and tried to find the right musicians and it was a long process until this point. They released Music Machine which was an instrumental album and I canít recall the year but I believe it was maybe 2002 or something to that effect. Maybe Ď03. They did that on their own and had an opportunity to play a ProgPower IV pre-show. It was really cool. They really got a lot of good responses and that kind of thing and thatís how they got interest from Laserís Edge and various other labels. Thatís what stemmed us to sign a deal with Sensory Records with Ken Golden and hooked up this Imagine album and here we are.

Thatís such a cool label.

Yeah, I know. I love their artists. I think they just donít sign somebody for the hell of it. Thereís some thought into it and so we feel like when we became a part of the label, it was an honor to us to be a part of it.

Everybody on that label just kicks ass.

I know. One of my favorite bands is on that label which is Redemption. Iím a big Redemption fan. Iíve been a big fan of Ray Alder all the way back from his Fateís Warning days. Just to see him keep on going is excellent.

Absolutely. You play bass in the band.

That is correct and some background vocals.

When did you get interested in music and what led you to get more involved in it as a career kind of thing?

Iíd say it started when I was about 13. My brother was really pushing for us to get a drum set so we were chipping away at our parents and the drums are the worst thing to get if youíre a parent because you can just kiss peace and quiet goodbye. We talked them into getting us a drum set and I started playing drums for about eight months and I wasnít any good but I had some other friends where we decided we wanted to start a metal band. The kind of music I was listening to at the time was Metallica, Megadeth, and basically that vein of music.

The good shit.

Oh, yeah. Thatís it. So my best friend said his dad wouldnít let him play bass so he has to play drums because his brother is a bass player. I said I had a drum set and he said he did too now because his dad bought him a drum set. I said we canít have two drummers in the band and he said heís a drummer though. So then his brother turned me onto bass and I bought one of his old basses and instantly I fell in love with the bass guitar. Iíve been playing bass ever since. Basically I think eight months after I picked up my bass, I played my first gig at this little club here in Houston and it was awful. We were a horrible band because we werenít any good yet. We played at this battle of the bands type thing and we played with Galactic Cowboys which those guys are awesome. We played after they did so they played their set and I was petrified to get on stage and play after that. Then that same night there were members of Testament there because they were doing a video shoot for a song called ďNobodyís FaultĒ and then they did this video shoot right there in Houston. I was again petrified because itís some of my idols and itís my very first gig. I never even looked up. I just stared at my bass the whole time and wouldnít look at anybody.

I think Iíd be scared too having those guys there.

Thatís how it all started for me and just been playing it ever since. Itís really more than just a career thing for me. Itís just a passion to do it and such a deep hobby that even if it wasnít a career and I didnít make a dime off of it, I would still play it. I would still do it.

Various friends of mine always talk about how bass must be the most boring instrument to play. I tell them some people turn that shit into an art.

Yeah, I guess it could be but it depends on the kind of music that youíre playing. Thatís for sure. Just look at Billy Sheehan when he was doing that stuff with David Lee Roth and Steve Vai and Mr. Big and those bands. I donít think he was bored at all.

I had the absolute pleasure of interviewing him once.

Heís awesome.

That was just killer and I told him about that comment. He said he didnít know why anybody would think thatís boring.

Yeah, I got a chance to meet him one time and talk to him a few hours right after a Steve Vai show in Houston. I couldnít believe that I was listening to stories from this guy about things that happened on the David Lee Roth tour and all these different things. I was like wow, this guy has just been around and heís as seasoned as it gets and knows everything there is to know. Heís been one of my major idols bass wise. Iíve just always looked up to him and Geddy Lee from Rush. A lot of those just really precise bass players.

Someone else I had the pleasure of talking to on a couple of occasions was Vinnie Moore.

Oh, man. Thatís awesome.

If you had told me 10 years ago that Iíd be talking to people like that, I would have said bullshit.

I can relate. I know what you mean exactly.

Some of the people Iíve talked to like Glenn Hughes from Deep Purple.

Thatís got to be an awesome job.

Itís not really a job. This is something I do as a hobby/tension reliever/promotional thing because I just love music.

I appreciate you doing it. Thatís excellent.

I feel fortunate because I canít sing and I canít play an instrument but I always wanted to be involved somehow.

That sounds like my dad. My dad always told me he didnít have a musical bone in his body to the point where he couldnít even play a radio without static but he guessed the best next thing he could do is make sure I have good equipment and get as good as I can so thatís exactly what he did.

There you go. Push the kids into it. Tell me about the new CD because that was some awesome shit.

Well, thank you. Thatís very much appreciative. Thank you for that comment. Joel did a lot of the writing on this album and we were time crunched. There wasnít a lot of time to put into it but we really had some fortunate people helping us out. One of them being Gregg Gill and Allison Gill over at Spyder Studios. Thatís where we recorded the album. They really did an awesome job on the production of it especially for the time frame we had. We didnít have a lot of time and we didnít have a big budget and they helped us out and accommodated us for everything for this. We tried to not just put an album and put as many songs as we wanted. We didnít have a lot of tracks to work with so we just put as much thought as we could into each track and tried to deliver as much as we could. Not just a ton of solos or anything like that but we tried to not only bring in the progressive element but bring in a real big melodic feel to it also. You can't only just feel it but hear the precision of it as well.

I popped the CD in and listened to it and all of a sudden it was over. I was like ďwhat?Ē

Wow, yeah itís like a roller coaster journey because the first song is a real driving song all the way through and the second song has got these crazy duel solos from Joel and Rick. Thatís the trademark of Stride. Those guys are just amazing, phenomenal players. The keyboards and the guitars doing dual solos. Then they do these really cool melodic verses and then real big AOR type style choruses. I love it. I was a big Stride fan before I ever joined so when I had the opportunity to audition I couldnít even believe I had the chance to audition and for them to get me on board, I was just thrilled and still am to this day.

Isnít that so cool to be a fan of a band and then all of a sudden youíre in the band?

Oh yeah, I know it. Iíve heard so many stories about it like Tim Owens and a lot of these other people but I just couldnít imagine what it would be like on a bigger level but Iíve always just admired these guys and thought that if there was any band that I wanted to be a part of, it would be them. For me to actually get in the band, I was like wow.

I always thought that Eric Singer was so fortunate because he was an Alice Cooper fan, a Black Sabbath fan, and a KISS fan. Damn if he didnít get to play drums for all three bands.

I know. Itís almost ironic. It almost seems surreal.

One thing I really loved also about your album is that the lyrical writing is just amazing.

Yeah, thatís one of the things that sold me on Stride is the real heavy, positive content. Itís not your typical song about anything. It seems like each song is somewhat in depth and on a positive note and I was really into that. Thatís a lot of Joel and everybody coming together trying to put together something. We felt like the lyrics were just as important as a guitar note or a solo. We tried to put just as much effort into that as anything else.

A lot of times people like to be able to sing along to stuff.

Yeah, I remember in the í80s sometimes Iíd listen to bands and I really didnít know what the hell they were saying. Iíd make up my own words that kind of sounded like what they were saying.

What three songs on the record do you feel really defines the band or really shows different styles that the band has?

I would have to say ďImagineĒ the title track being the first song because of its solid drive and variations on the vocal sounds. Then the second song I would have to say would be ďHow FarĒ for its melody and catchy hooks and choruses. Not the typical progressive element. A lot of progressive bands at times donít pull out these catchy hooks or choruses and that song brought in that different element. Then Iíd say the third song being ďTimeĒ which is the last song on the album. Itís more like a ballad type and I would say that one just because it shows a different side of Stride but between the three songs you hear ripping solos from both Joel and Rick. Then you hear a lot of melodic harmonies and choruses. Lots of vocal harmonies and everything. Between those three Iíd say that would define the band on that album.

I love all types of metal. Anything from back in the Ď70s up to whatís out now. Death metal and black metal. But also at the same time I love bands where thereís fast paced songs and then thereís mid-tempo and then thereís a ballad or two. People always whine about ballads but thatís how you basically balance an album.

Absolutely. If you never take the time to express yourself in every area, to me itís not real. Itís not that itís not real but if itís just metal at all speed all the time, I feel like youíre not expressing all the areas.

Yeah, thereís a time and a place to enjoy that but then thereís a time and a place to open up your horizons a little bit and enjoy some other shit.

Sure. I love a lot of those bands that want to kick any ballads to the curb and those are the bands that I listen to when Iím in those kinds of moods but I also get into the mood to listen to bands with a lot of melody too which is something I really dig about a lot of the Ď70s progressive rock bands like Kansas and Yes and Rush and some of those bands. They had all those elements. Thatís what I was a big fan of.

Rush has always amazed me because it was just these three guys.

With a wall of sound.

Yeah, this big, huge raw sound and itís only three guys doing this.

Oh, I know. On their albums every song would take you on a different journey. When you bought a Rush album back in the day you never knew what to expect. You didnít know if you were going to get a 20 minute epic or a three minute real catchy radio song. They had the ability to do whatever they wanted really.

Those guys always blew me away.

Yeah, Iíve only had the privilege of seeing those guys once live but that was enough for me to know that they were the band.

Somebody else I had the privilege of talking to and seeing live was Kingís X.

Oh, man that would be one of my all time favorite bands ever.

Those guys are the same way. Three dudes with this big sound to them.

They remind me of The Beatles of the modern day or Beatles on steroids or something. Theyíve got such amazing vocal ability, all three guys and their songs. There is no band that sounds like Kingís X. To me they were definitely a defining band that didnít follow any trends or anything. They became something of their own and to say that theyíre from Houston is another cool thing. I love Doug Pinnickís voice. Heís got an amazing vocal range and the way he sings just brings it to the song with all that soul.

That show was amazing. Something else I really loved about your CD, Iím really into colors and artwork, and I miss the vinyl era.

Yeah, that was a big thing for us too and we got this guy out of Europe to do this thing for us. Heís really known for this type of thing. He does ProgArt, thatís the name of his company, and he does this for a lot of bands like Stratovarius and so many other bands. Our label turned us onto this guy. We really didnít have him sketch anything out for us in particular. Heís got a lot of artwork and we looked through it and when we saw that particular artwork we thought this is what we need to use right here.

So he had already designed this.

This was designed and in a way it was like we went into a store and we were window shopping for our album cover but at the same time it was almost like it was destined to be the album cover for Imagine because it so much describes everything about the album just by looking at the cover in our opinion because of all the things that were going on.

Is that thing a telescope kind of deal?

Yeah, itís like a telescope and you look into it and you can see the logo of Stride and then you look out into space and thereís so many different things going on. You see other galaxies and the whole thing is dreamy and supposed to be like you can imagine something and it happens. It becomes reality.

Thereís a person with his finger over his mouth.

Yeah, that was supposed to be like a dreamy thing like youíre sleeping and thereís this state of mind. Itís like you donít know if itís real or a dream or something. For us it really caught our eye and we were the same way about the colors. We just really liked all the color and I know if I was walking in a music store and I saw that cover it would catch my eye. Thatís what I was looking for when I was looking at it.

I love that kind of shit. The only thing I donít like about CDs is that you have to compress that artwork down so much. If you were to put that on a vinyl record, what that LP cover would have been like. It probably would have been amazing.

I used to just stare at a lot of those Iron Maiden album covers because I was just going to try to analyze every little square inch. I know we didn't get quite that same effect but it was something similar we were trying to do.

Well, it got me. I thought it was so cool.

Thank you.

I love to look at artwork and read lyrics.

Absolutely. That's a big chunk of what it's all about.

Of course with a lot of the promos I get, they come in those cardboard sleeves. When I get something with a CD cover, I'm like a kid in a candy store.

It's just one of those little sleeves with a little plastic.

Have you guys thought about doing any kind of videos or anything?

Absolutely. We just as right now don't have a budget for it. It's limiting us but these are all things we're definitely trying to press towards is doing something like that and especially touring. That's a big important issue for us and we haven't really done that yet but it's something we're working on. We are working with a management company out in Denmark that is working on trying to get us onto to some festivals and things like that over in Europe. That would really be a big thing for us to try to get onto some of these big festivals and try to get out there.

No kidding. Those festivals over there are amazing. 500 different kinds of bands and you're never bored.

I would love just the experience of it all. Just to be able to be involved with it. That would be cool. We had the privilege of playing the ProgPower festival last year in Atlanta and that was an amazing thing because I just can't get over how loyal the progressive and power metal fan base is. It's phenomenal. Basically, it was like a venue of friends all together just jamming with people. It was cool.

I can imagine. I've heard a lot of cool stuff about ProgPower.

Yeah, it's a growing thing. It's really taking a lot of interest from a lot of people. When you go to one of those things, it's not just people from Atlanta but people travel from all over the world to go to this thing.

No shit. That's pretty amazing. I can imagine just packing up my bags and going to another country to see a festival. That's so cool and adventurous.

Absolutely and somebody must have a good sized pocketbook.

Undoubtedly. I'm envious of people who are traveling to Germany for the World Cup. I've been overdosing on soccer. 64 games and I get to see them all! Any other thoughts or comments?

Just check out the website, www.strideonline.com and we appreciate everybody who's been checking it out and giving us some good props and we're working on a new album right now as we speak. We're hoping to get into the studio by the end of the year and have it released next year sometime. All I can say about it is it's just going to continue where Imagine left off and we're going to evolve and do some different things with it. We just want each album that we do to evolve from the last one and not necessarily be more of the same but just expand.

People will be drooling now.

Yeah, we're excited to get this thing going. Right now we've got about three or four songs written and a lot of ideas and we're just cracking in the studio right now doing a lot of pre-production. No shows planned or anything right now but not saying that we won't break away to do one depending on what comes along our way.

Hopefully you guys can do a little Texas jaunt.

That would be cool. Absolutely.