EMQ’s with AGE OF FIRE
Hi everyone! Welcome to our new EMQ’s interview with Charlottesville, Virginia based Progressive Thrash Metal band, Age Of Fire. Huge thanks to Michael Heck & Laura Viglione for taking part.
What is your name, what do you play, and can you tell us a little bit about the history of the band?
Michael Heck: I play a lot of instruments, but mostly guitar these days, and have covered guitar, bass, and production duties in Age of Fire. Age of Fire is really the brainchild of my friend Greg, sort of the rebirth of his old thrash band. Greg is an old friend of mine. When I first met him, I liked a few metal bands, like Metallica and Pantera, but I think my metal taste at the time was fairly limited to just a few bands. Greg expanded my metal vocabulary pretty drastically, introducing me to bands as diverse as Nevermore, to Queensrÿche, to Helloween, to King Diamond. Later, Greg was working on the Age of Fire music, and I heard some of it and liked it and offered to beef up the production a bit for him. This led to him saying he wanted a female singer on some songs, so we drafted Laura into the project, and the modern Age of Fire was born.
Laura Viglione: I’m the singer in Age of Fire. I’ve known Greg and Mike both for a long time, and when they asked me to be part of the project I jumped at the chance!
How did you come up with your band name?
Mike & Laura: That’s all Greg. He came up with it back in the 80’s, I think. I was surprised it wasn’t already taken!
What Country/Region are you from and what is the Metal/Rock scene like there?
Mike & Laura: We all live in central Virginia, near Charlottesville. The metal scene is pretty small, pretty underground. Richmond, which is about an hour away, has a bit more of a metal scene (Lamb of God and Gwar are from there), but even there it’s fairly dead. We’re trying to carry the torch haha.
What is your latest release? (Album, EP, Single, Video)
Mike: We put out our album “Shades Of Shadow” in 2020, right around the time COVID hit. Great timing!
‘Judgement Day’ (Lyric Video)
‘King Of Aquilonia’ (Lyric Video)
Who have been your greatest influences?
Mike: I play a ton of instruments and produce, so a ton of people across all those areas. For metal specifically, I’d say my earliest influences were probably Metallica and Pantera, but my biggest influence is probably Nevermore and Jeff Loomis, who I think is one of the best riff writers of all time.
Laura: My influences are a mixture of musical theatre and 90’s music growing up, followed by modern bad-ass female front-women like Lzzy Hale of Halestorm. Just like Mike learned a lot at the feet of Greg, Mike has, in turn, educated me.
What first got you into music?
Mike: My dad was in a band when I was very little, sort of a Styx rip off type thing, and he played keys, but I remember being very enamoured with the drums as a toddler. Later, I had a great music teacher in elementary school and loved that class, then continued into band in middle school. I wanted to play drums, but my parents wouldn’t let me, so they sort of forced me into my second choice, which was saxophone, but two years later I finally convinced them to let me switch to drums. I did drums in marching band and jazz band all through high school, was drum captain, and was in a rock/metal band with a couple high school friends, and from them I learned to play guitar just hanging out as a teenager. By my early 20’s I was playing guitar almost exclusively, although I still enjoy drumming.
Laura: My mom listened to music a lot growing up, lots of old R&B and cheesy pop ballads. My older sister was really into a bunch of 90’s bands, so that really got me into rock music. Then, I discovered Rush and fell in love with their early proto-metal sound. Later, this gradually evolved into more hard rock bands and metal bands.
If you could collaborate with a current band or musician who would it be?
Mike: Probably either Jeff Loomis or James Hetfield. Tony Iommi would be killer too.
Laura: Geddy Lee would be amazing to work with!
If you could play any festival in the world, which would you choose and why?
Mike & Laura: one of the big European festivals probably! We love visiting Europe and really want to get over there to play!
What’s the weirdest gift you have ever received from a fan?
Mike: I don’t remember too many weird gifts. A lot of times people just want to give you something they made or something like that which I always enjoy. I especially enjoy getting music from fans that they made that was inspired by us.
If you had one message for your fans, what would it be?
Thank you for all the support and please keep following and sharing our stuff!
If you could bring one rock star back from the dead, who would it be?
Mike: This is a really tough question. I’d say it’s a toss-up between Randy Rhoads, one of my all-time favourite guitar players, and a huge lead influence on me, or Dimebag Darrell, whose death was just so unfair. Both of those guys died too early and music would’ve been very different had they had more time on this Earth.
What do you enjoy the most about being a musician? And what do you hate?
Mike: I love writing, recording, and playing music. Hanging out with friends and talking about gear or songs. Listening to music. I hate the business side of the industry. Having to do promotions and shop around for deals/gigs/etc. It can be gruelling. I just want to play lol.
Laura: I love singing and performing. Recording can be draining depending on how it’s going though. Mike can be kind of a perfectionist, so when we’re doing vocals and I’m on the 20th take , trying to get it “just right” and I’m about to murder him that can be taxing sometimes haha.
If you could change one thing about the music industry, what would it be?
Mike: I’d probably do away with labels all together. I don’t think they have a future, but I would like it to be easier to discover new music. I think the big media companies need to be broken up. Some crazy percentage of US media are owned by a very small number of companies, and this creates problems with radio and TV (and news) where we are all force fed the same 20 songs/artists all month or whatever. With more independent stations this would be less of a problem. I’d like to see more of that, and more bands doing it DIY without major label help. Smaller labels like our label, Sliptrick, can be helpful for taking over some promotional duties, video production, etc, like they have for us though!
Name one of your all-time favourite albums?
Mike: Nevermore’s “Dreaming Neon Black”. Probably my #1 all-time favourite metal album and one of my favourite albums of any genre.
Laura: Coheed and Cambria, “In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth 3”. It’s just perfection from the first note to the last. Dynamic, massive orchestration, hard guitars and soaring vocals.
What’s best? Vinyl, Cassettes, CD’s or Downloads?
Mike: Streaming is the most convenient for sure, but you have to make sure to go into your settings and set it to the highest quality (320kbs if you have it) so the audio doesn’t suck. CD’s are alright, but a lot of stuff that was mastered for CD, especially early on, wasn’t mastered well for the medium and sounds awful. Cassettes were just a pain; I hate them lol. Vinyl is great, and I hope we are able to put out some stuff on vinyl one day. I think the big thing about vinyl is that it sort of forces you to listen to an entire side of an album, because you can’t just skip to the next track like you can for CD’s and streaming. You just put the record on and let it play, and I think this is better/healthier in many ways for our modern short attention spans.
Laura: I’m too lazy for all that, give me streaming all day. Mike is such an audiophile, he’s picky, but I can get down to any quality of sound as long as something is playing.
What’s the best gig that you have played to date?
Mike: We’ve played so many shows over the years it’s hard to pick one. I like most any gig where the crowd is into it and moving around. When people are just standing there staring and giving no sign that they’re into what you’re doing, those shows can be hard.
Laura: For sure, I remember a magical night in this dive bar where everything just aligned, and the crowd and I were completely synergistic…I’ll always remember it.
If you weren’t a musician, what else would you be doing?
Mike: Well, we all have day jobs, so we’d be doing those things haha. Artistically, if I couldn’t play music, I would probably write stories/books. I’m (very slowly) working on a sci-fi book, but who knows if I’ll ever finish it. It’s pretty epic though!
Laura: I’m a giant theatre nerd: I have a regular Shakespeare study group I might have done some community theatre stuff, but would love to do more!
Which five people would you invite to a dinner party?
Mike: Living or Dead? Probably people that like good food. I hear Dave Grohl and Dimebag make/made mean BBQ, so they’re totally in. Probably James Hetfield, cause he seems like a cool guy. Lzzy Hale seems like she could throw down with these guys. And last but not least, let’s throw Zac Wylde in the mix. I think this would be a fun backyard BBQ throw down!
Laura: I’m kinda with Mike, I enjoy hanging with people who can just be low key and real. Some tunes, some brews and good food, come one over!
What’s next for the band?
Mike: We are hard at work on our next album, and working on being more active on social media. We’re deep in the writing process now, with a lot of awesome riffs and ideas, writing lyrics. I’m building a new 7 string multi-scale guitar from scratch, and a new studio production desk in my workshop, which may come in handy on the new record as well. Laura and I also have another band called Supervixen (less metal and more straight up rock) that has its own record nearing the end of production as we transition to working on the next Age of Fire record.
What Social Media/Website links do you use to get your music out to people?
Mike: We have all the things haha. Facebook, Youtube, etc. I let Greg handle most of that stuff.
Laura: I gotcha- I’ve recently discovered that many fans think of me as “illusive” so I’m making an effort to be more present on social media – it’s just life is so boring right now during the pandemic 😊.
Jaffa Cakes! Are they a cake or a biscuit?
Mike: I love British culture and snacks and whatnot, but I don’t think I’ve had one! I need to go get some haha. Wikipedia says they’re “biscuit sized cakes”, so I’ll go with that haha.
Laura: I think it all depends on what you’re eating them with. By themselves, cake. With tea – biscuit.
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