It’s a little surreal to be sitting across from two musicians who are half my age and play energetic classic metal as if it never went out of style. But they do, and that’s what their band Age Of Evil thrives upon. They’re the new school of old school metal, a bombastic quartet that revels in slightly thrashy, somewhat dark and melodic heavy rock for fans from their generation. Frontman/rhythm guitarist Jeremy Goldberg (age 19) and lead guitarist Jordan Ziff (18) certainly have reverence for their genre and for classic rock in general, and during our interview over dinner they toss around influences as wide-spanning as Jimmy Page, Warren DeMartini, Nuno Bettencourt and George Harrison. Not only do they honor the greats, but they embrace diversity, having been weaned on a variety of rock influences throughout their childhoods.
Part of the key to their power is their chemistry. The Arizona-based Age Of Evil is comprised of two sets of brothers — bassist Jacob Goldberg and drummer Garrett Ziff round out the highly proficient group — who have pretty much known each other since they could walk. Get Dead is their new, six-song follow-up to their full-length debut Living A Sick Dream, which featured a guest appearance by shredding legend Marty Friedman. The recently released Get Dead features two new songs, two live tracks and lively covers of Skid Row’s “Slave To The Grind” and Judas Priest’s “The Hellion/Electric Eye”. And it proves that the members of AOE are primed and ready for a bigger career. For those in the New York and Boston areas, the group will be opening shows for all-star metal band HAIL! on January 26th (B.B. King’s) and 27th (Showcase Live).
Obviously this style of music was around before you were born, so I’m curious as to why it resonates with you today?
Jordan: To me that was the most badass era, the ’80s. They’re gone now so I like to kind of put myself in that world, that I do live in the ’80s. There are so many death metal bands out nowadays, and we didn’t want to be a part of that at all.
Jeremy: The genre of metal rock is so timeless that whether we had come out now or 30 years from now we’d still be playing the same music.
Metal has experienced a resurgence in recent years. I guess it’s not considered old hat anymore by many of your peers?
Jordan: A couple of them. We mostly hang out with metal kids, but obviously most kids my age listen to hip-hop and rap and all that bullshit. It’s in our blood to do this. You can’t ask why we think it’s cool. It is because that’s what we do.
Why did you guys choose to cover Judas Priest’s “Electric Eye” and Skid Row’s “Slave To The Grind”?
Jordan: There was no particular reason. We just thought that we play them really badass, and they sounded cool.
What about those songs did you identify with?
Jeremy: It’s all about the energy and attitude for us. With the Skid Row song, Garrett thought about doing that song when we were in the studio, so it was kind of an on-the-spot thing. Right when he suggested that song we knew that it was fast-paced and that we could make it really cool. And the Priest song we originally chose because we were playing in London with Girlschool, and we wanted to play a song that the fans there would appreciate because they wouldn’t necessarily know us that well or know us at all. We wanted to connect with them in that way, and it was really cool when we played it live — a good energy and a good vibe. So we knew that that was a song that we wanted to record. It’s a classic Judas Priest song that shows what we listen to and what we like. I think our tone makes the song heavier and a little more fresh for today.
How long have you guys been playing guitar?
Jordan: I’ve been playing guitar for 10 or 11 years.
Jeremy: And I started when I was 12. I’ve probably been playing for about six or seven years. Jordan does all the leads. We play dual harmonies together, which has become part of our sound, but I’m rhythm and Jordan’s lead.
Marty Friedman played on a song on your debut. How did that come about?
Jeremy: Marty became involved through our producer, John Herrera, and he basically sent the track to Marty in Japan saying, “I’ve got this band here. If you like them, let me know, and maybe we can work something out.” So Marty loved the song and wanted to play on it. He sent the tracks back to us from Japan, and it just made the song. It just finished it. Another guy that we worked with on the album was Tom Gattis from Deuce and Ballistic, and his first band was with Marty also. It was kind of cool. Small world, I guess.
Do you think that videogames like Guitar Hero are inspiring kids to go out and learn to play or are they just having fun mimicking people?
Jordan: Both. Some people have fun mimicking and some people are inspired to go play guitar, but that doesn’t mean they’re going to be good. This one chick came over to my house with her son, and she said, “Oh, my son can play Guitar Hero on expert, so I think he would be a really good candidate to take guitar lessons from you.” And I’m sitting there, really offended. I’m shocked that she’d say that. Then she asked me how much I’d charge, and I told her I charged more than I normally do because I was kind of pissed off by what she said.
You actually teach guitar?
Jordan: Sometimes, yeah.
Jeremy: I actually think kids will start writing songs in the key of blue one day. [laughter]
Jordan: Green sharp minor.
Jeremy: People practically record music today on the computer as it is with Pro Tools and all that stuff, which we do not do whatsoever. So many people program drums or punch in and punch out guitars, and our CD was pretty much recorded [live]. On the Skid Row song, Garrett [on drums], that was his first take. He played all the way through, and we were like, “You’re done.” Then guitar we played all the way through in one take. That’s it.
Jordan: We weren’t even planning on recording it because it was our day off, and we were stoned and drunk. The producer goes, “You guys want to track this today?” And we were like, “Yeah.” What you’re hearing is unsober Age Of Evil.
Jeremy: I was sitting in front of the mic with the lyrics on my iPhone because I pulled them up on the Internet. I was having to sing the lyrics while looking at them for the first time. It was really on the spot, just do it, basically not even learning it. And the vocals were only a couple of takes.
My old bandmate had a friend who didn’t really play drums very well, but he could play decently when he was stoned.
Jordan: If you only practice drums when you’re stoned then you’re going to play better when you’re stoned. It’s like when people say that if you study for a test [when you’re] high, it’s better to take the test when you’re high because you’ll remember it.
How much are young bands partying today?
Jeremy: I actually can’t tell because a lot of people take pills, so I don’t know. You can just pop a pill and be wasted.
Jordan: That’s what kids are doing nowadays.
So not a lot of craziness?
Jeremy: It is craziness, but you don’t necessarily see it happening. It’s really weird.
Jordan: At school, man, kids are fucked up all the time.
Jeremy: It’s hard to trace sometimes because you can take a lot of Advil or Tylenol or cough medicine, and then you’re wasted.
Why do you think that so many kids are on drugs now?
Jordan: Because they’re gay.
Jeremy: And they’re lazy. I actually think there’s a lot of social pressure.
To do drugs?
Jeremy: No, a lot of social pressure which makes kids take drugs. You have to look this way, you have to act this way, and if you’re part of the norm then…
Jordan: All the rappers are singing about that shit, and kids are like, “Oh, so it’s cool?” Everyone is so stupid, and they always follow blindly just what they see on TV or what they hear. Like idiots. The problem is that there are so many prescription drugs that kids are like, “Well, I can’t find any weed tonight, so I’m just going to go into my parents’ drug cabinet and get fucked up that way.” That’s just how it is.
Which bands have you toured with and which festivals have you played?
Jeremy: Bang Your Head [in 2007] was the first festival that we ever played. That was the show that opened the door for us. This past summer we toured with Jon Oliva’s Pain, and that was really cool. Then we played a show with Tesla in Switzerland, which was probably my favorite show of the tour. We also played with Soulfly and on some other festivals with bands like W.A.S.P., who are friends of ours, and Arch Enemy.
Jordan: [We played] the Metal Dayz Festival in Switzerland this past summer, and it was totally death metal.
Jeremy: Us and Jon were the only bands who sang, so we were probably the most well-liked, even though it was a death metal crowd. People were into it because all of the bands there sounded the same, so we were a breath of fresh air for those people.
How do people react when they see a band as young as you getting up on stage and doing this?
Jeremy: It’s always positive.
Jordan: It’s always really good. They are really happy that people are relighting the torch for metal because a lot of the old bands are just burnt out, dude, and someone who needs to come in and take over.
Jeremy: What happens when Maiden and Priest and Ozzy can’t play anymore? That’s a question I ask myself all the time. What happens to the genre?
Jordan [laughs]: We have to take over.
Obviously it’s a lot harder to sell albums these days. How are you going to market this EP, especially given that the whole industry is in a state of flux right now?
Jeremy: I don’t think we are worrying too much about the industry. It’s just about getting our name out there, laying the foundation and then building a career from there. There’s always things you can do. Me and the rest the guys have tons of ideas for ways to generate income, but touring and more touring is going to be the big thing for us. And video games and movies and stuff like that. We write our songs to be played live, and if they can’t be played live then we don’t record them. Again, the touring thing is going to be big for us.
What do you think fans would be surprised to learn about you?
Jeremy: Even though we’re a metal band, we have a lot of influences from the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s, and bands you might not think of when you think of metal bands. I think people will start hearing that being incorporated into our music more and more. I like Boston and Foreigner and Muse, who are amazing. We usually go where the melody and the great guitar singers and players are. I love Aerosmith, David Lee Roth, Van Halen, Guns ‘N’ Roses and all these bands, and while I think this CD is really metal, people will start hearing more of that other stuff come out in our new music. We also really like Extreme, and I wish a lot of kids our age knew more about bands like that with amazing guitar players and groove and originality. Extreme is so original to me, especially putting trumpets and funk into the music on Pornograffitti. It’s really cool. In our new music there is a groove to each song. I think that a lot of bands today think the heaviest thing to do is to scream and have blastbeats and play as fast as they can and drop low guitars, but the heaviest thing to me is the groove, especially [with] bands like Pantera. That groove to me is the heaviest thing you can do.