December 4, 2019 Interview – AJ Channer of Fire From the Gods
Formed in Austin, Texas, Hard Rock outfit Fire From The Gods loudly exclaim “In Us We Trust.” An interesting play on words, it is a motto of perseverance, defiance, and hope for a better tomorrow. With a history that dates back nearly 10 years, Fire From the Gods are made up of musicians from various backgrounds coming together for a diverse sound that shone through on their 2016 debut album Narrative, and once more on the recently released American Sun.
A bold step forward, American Sun is an album full of wise words, powerful, eclectic musical styles, and a unified statement that we can all do better. Currently wrapping up a 2019 arena tour with Five Finger Death Punch, Three Days Grace, and Bad Wolves, leading voice AJ Channer sat down to talk about the story behind Fire From The Gods, the work put into American Sun, spreading a truthful, yet positive message, plus much more.
Cryptic Rock – The story of Fire From the Gods started nearly 10 years ago. You have been a part of the band for five years now, and the group has really taken off with you as the lead vocalist. How would you describe your time in the band?
AJ Channer – It’s been a journey just like anything. A band with the history of Fire From the Gods has a lot of different stages. I think this is maybe the fall manifestation of this stage in the band’s history; it’s been the most stable stage the band has ever had. I think we’ve got a really good bunch of lads here that can write good music, work hard, and perform it.
Cryptic Rock – Yes, it is working well. You released Narrative in 2016, Narrative Retold in 2017, and now you are back with American Sun. This is the next step in the band’s evolution. What was the writing and recording like for the new album?
AJ Channer – Some of the music on American Sun was written around the same time we were writing stuff for Narrative, music-wise. Lyric-wise, I composed a lot of words with notes, etc.; I have compiled notes for another record for over about a two year span of time. Then we have a really good relationship with Black Book Sound, Robby Joyner, which is one of our main collaborators. The bulk of the record was put together in California at Grey Area Studios with Eric Ron. The meat and potatoes happened over a two month span of time in L.A., but all the work and a lot of the skeleton of the record we’ve been building over time.
Cryptic Rock – The end result is excellent, this is a very strong follow-up album. Obviously, Fire From the Gods have never shied away from social issues. That said, American Sun does that as well, but there is a positive outlook full of hope. Was that something important to the band to have a positive outlook and write something that talks about making a change for the better?
AJ Channer – Very much so. Narrative was written from a very real, but very dark place – it talks about struggle as well as internal and external strife. There is some light at the end of the tunnel, but with Narrative it was so much grittier and grimier. With American Sun, the steam of the record is basking in the new light of an American sun. The ‘American sun’ is kind of like the full manifestation of the American dream; aspiring to be better, aspiring for something better. I feel, as a nation, if we are going to continue to be this world leader, which we consider ourselves to be a cultural and social leader in the global community, then we have to be better; we have to live up to who we say we are.
American Sun is the realization of a new light and seeing yourself in a new light; it’s all encompassed. There’s a motto we have for the record that says, “In Us We Trust.” It’s kind of a play on words of the American motto of “In God We Trust.” I feel in order for us to be better we can change ourselves. By changing ourselves we change our community, and by changing our community we end up changing our country, and inadvertently, we change the world. American Sun is realizing yourself in a new light, hence that is where the hope aspect comes from as well.
Cryptic Rock – Beautifully said. You can feel that in the fabric of this album. As the vocalist, you can feel the emotion in your voice – you go from rapping to singing to some soaring vocalizations. You really seem to put your all into these songs.
AJ Channer – I feel like music should register an emotional response in the listener. When I’m listening to something like music and I am going to lay down vocals for it, I try and envision the emotion; I try and envision what emotion it evokes in me and I just sing from the heart. Sometimes you feel like you want to belt it out and scream it a little bit; I go through modes. If I feel like I want to say something, make a very profound statement, I want to rap it out.
It’s really weird writing with Fire From the Gods because we are all very different guys. We have a common love for heavy music, and that is what brought us all together, but we have different styles. I know when Jameson is going to do a certain part, and when Richie is going to create a certain beat. It’s all an emotional experience, and like you said, I try to put everything I’ve got into it.
Cryptic Rock – It certainly shows. That is what makes it that much more effective, that real emotion.
AJ Channer – Exactly. It’s Rock music – Rock music is all about emotion.
Cryptic Rock – The first two singles off the album, “Truth to the Weak” and “Right Now,” have done great. So where do we go from here with a third single?
AJ Channer – We are going to be announcing a new tour soon – I think we are going to be announcing another single with that. I can’t tell you what that is yet though.
Cryptic Rock – That is exciting news. Let’s talk about “They Don’t Like It,” which features Sonny Sandoval of P.O.D. What was it like working with him?
AJ Channer – When we went on tour with P.O.D. in September of 2017, Sonny and I vibed on Reggae music a lot. There is kind of a undertone of Reggae music when it came to P.O.D., so I knew he was into Reggae, but I never knew how extensive his knowledge was of Jamaican culture. We vibed real heavy over a couple of beers one night. Our manager, who worked with P.O.D. in the past, said, “Sonny would like to do a song with you guys.” I said, “Yes!” As soon as she said it, that day we started to get to work on music for it. The guy came in and absolutely smashed it!
I started working on the hook, did my verse, I left, and he went in the next day. We face-timed the whole time he was in the studio that he was doing his verse. I heard his verse and said, “I want to go back in the studio and make my verse better because Sonny crushed it!” It was an incredible experience. We talk on the phone all the time; Sonny is a very inspirational individual. When the record came out he texted me. It was a dream come true to have an OG, so to speak, on the track.
Cryptic Rock – That is awesome! You have Jamaican roots: you were born in the Bronx, but you have also lived in London as well as other places. How have your different experiences with different cultures shaped who you are and your world view?
AJ Channer – When you do that as a kid you sometimes look at it as, “Oh my god, why am I doing this traveling? Why can’t I have a normal life like a normal kid?” Then you get older, mature, and you look back on these times and you think, “Wow, I really took in and learned so much.” Sometimes when you don’t even know you’re learning as a child, you’re learning. I was picking up so many different aspects of life and so many different viewpoints and perspectives on life that I had no idea I was picking up on. Now that I’m older I look back and say, “I really had a fantastic childhood.” I’m able to draw from those experiences when I didn’t know I was learning and utilize that into shaping the person I am today.
It’s very difficult in modern times when you have a one-world view and myopic view of the world, which I think a lot of people have. I feel that with my experiences, and who I am, I can utilize that to give a different perspective, a multi-perspective, and try to open someone’s eyes a little bit.
Cryptic Rock – Could not have said it better. In life sometimes we have a myopic view. Many people live in one place their entire life, do not know any other culture of people, so they have nothing else to look upon in life. It’s sad because there are so many different things going on in the world beyond our little bubble. You experienced this as a child, but others are sometimes fortunate to experience this if they lucky to travel.
Back on topic, Fire From the Gods are on tour with Five Finger Death Punch, Three Days Grace, and Bad Wolves. How is this tour going?
AJ Channer – It’s going fantastic. We toured with Five Finger over the summer, so we just transitioned right back in. The way Zoltan is kind of curating the industry right now is a thing of beauty so to speak. Bad Wolves are doing so well. I look up to Doc and Tommy – I’ve know those guys forever, so it’s inspiring to be on the same bill as them. Three Days Grace are just absolute legends, they are kind of like an Offspring in my eyes sometimes because every song they’ve played has been a top single. Then you have the hardcore legion of Five Finger fans and they embrace Fire From the Gods.
I think people are starting to take the band a lot more serious. There is a contingent of Fire From the Gods fans who are showing up to these shows in these massive arenas. It’s a whole new ballgame for us, but it’s been a really good learning experience. We’re not spring chickens, we’re not young guys, but we’re a young band. Something like this is really eye opening and the opportunity is immense. A lot of that is filtered from the team behind us and Zoltan Bathory who is also our manager. It’s a family thing and really cool for us.
Cryptic Rock – That is great to hear. You mentioned you are veteran musicians who has done this a while. Would you say experiencing this level of success later on in your career is better than when you were younger, because sometimes when you are younger you cannot handle it well?
AJ Channer – You hit the nail on the head! One time, David Bendeth, who we did Narrative with, asked me, “Do you think this industry owes you something? Do you feel entitled because you’ve been doing this so long?” I said, “Absolutely not. Every time I’ve been in a new band it’s been a different experience and a new stage in my career.” Do I want it a little bit different now? Yeah. That, and being that I grew up in this business a bit, this has definitely been the best times for me personally. I feel like I’ve really become the artist I wanted to become. It’s still a learning process, but I feel like I’m definitely where I should be.
Cryptic Rock – That is really inspiring to hear your mature, intelligent perspective. Last question. What are some of your favorite Horror and Sci-Fi movies?
AJ Channer – That’s right up my alley. Over the last 4-5 years I’ve been feeling Interstellar (2014), there is something about that movie and story that does it for me. I love Starship Troopers (1997) too – it’s a classic. (Laughs) I just started getting back into Horror – I recently watched Seven (1995). I’m starting to get back into Horror movies after seeing The Witch (2015) and Hereditary (2018), which was fantastic.
Fire from the Gods Fall 2019 Tour Dates:
12/5 – Toledo, OH – The Huntington Center
12/6 – Lexington, KY – Rupp Arena
12/8 – Peoria, IL – Peoria Civic Center
12/9 – Fort Wayne, IN – Allen County War Memorial Coliseum
12/11 – Madison, WI – Alliant Energy Center
12/12 – Duluth, MN – Amsoil Arena
12/14 – Des Moines, IA – Wells Fargo Arena
12/15 – Omaha, NE – CHI Health Center
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