Exclusive Interview: Russell Allen of Adrenaline Mob & Symphony X

One of my favorite new bands is Adrenaline Mob. I was really bummed when Mike Portnoy left, but that doesn’t make Adrenaline Mob any less kick ass. Portnoy will always be family. They released the cover album “Coverta” earlier this year and are now out being road dogs and doing it the old fashion way. Earlier this year I got the chance to chat with front man Russell Allen...in the middle of a round of golf.

Bob Zerull (BZ): Thank you so much for taking the time to do this with me. I’m a big fan of you guys.

Russell Allen (RA): Cool, man! I’m actually playing golf right now, so if you don’t mind I just have to take a couple pauses to hit the ball.

BZ: That sounds good.

RA: Alrighty, cool! Actually, I’m going to do that right now, so just give me one second.

BZ: Sounds good.

RA: I’ll let you know if I hit it good or fuck it up totally. (Pause while he shoots) 

BZ: How’d you do?

RA: Ah, I pulled it. I’ve got the perfect excuse, I’m just going to blame you from here on out. So, what’s going on man?

BZ: Not much. So you guys have a new EP out now full of covers called “Covert.” I picked it up earlier this week and noticed that you must be a big fan of Ronnie James Dio?

RA: Yeah, that kind of goes without saying I guess. Yep. (laughs) You got it!

BZ: Most bands that I’ve talked to who have done cover albums, usually the singer has the final say on what songs to cover. Being that you can sing anything, what was the selection process like for you guys?

RA: You know it started out like that. You know, I was picking stuff when we were talking about doing covers for the tours. Badlands is something that I have been doing forever, the “High Wire” song, Ray (Gillen) was a big influence on me. Of course Dio we’re doing “Stand Up and Shout” and “Mob Rules” was an obvious pick by (Mike) Portnoy with the bands name and everything. That was kind of like our little anthem early on. I was open to the guys’ suggestions and one of them, for example “Barracuda,” I don’t think I’ve ever heard a guy do that track and Portnoy suggested it and I said okay, we’ll give it a shot. Everything we tried seemed to work really good and we kind of got lucky I think. I don’t know if everything matches my voice, but I’m willing to give it a go, you know? That’s my attitude.

BZ: That was going to be my next question. Is there anything that’s intimidating, or do you always give it a shot?

RA: I always try to give them a shot. I mean, it’s really more of a range thing. I have a little bit of a deeper voice, so if we do it in a key I am comfortable with, I will give it a go. Speaking of shots, I’m gonna take another one. Hold on a second. (Pause while he takes a shot, then he accidentally hung up on me)

RA: Sorry about that Bob.

BZ: Not a problem.

RA: Well, it was a beautiful shot.

BZ: That’s good!

RA: Even though I butt hung up on you. Some people butt dial. I butt hang up.

BZ: (laughs) That’s cool!

RA: As an artist, I’m always interested in expanding my horizons. You know, trying new stuff. Most of my career I never recorded any covers until this day. So, that was the real exciting part to tip my hat, no pun intended with the fedora and everything, I tip my hat literally to my inspirations, artists and bands I grew up with, for all of us really.

BZ: You’ve got a new video out there on YouTube for tracking of “Romeo Delight.” Whose idea was it to put that Van Halen medley followed by the Zeppelin thing in the midsection?

RA: That was Portnoy, he had the idea to put the drum stuff in there. I just flavored it with some Rothisms and a little Plantisms here. It was fun we had a good time with it. I feel like music its fun to even try to reimagine a VH song is a cool thing to do, this is classic music and we just had a good time with it. Portnoy put the Zeppelin thing in there and it was great.

BZ: Your current single isn’t on “Covera,” but it’s on your debut album “Omerta” and it’s the cover of the Duran Duran song “Come Undone” featuring Lzzy Hale. How did you guys get her involved?

RA: She was my first choice when we were talking about female singers doing the track. I was just so elated when Portnoy said, ‘hey I know her, I toured with her on Uproar, I got her number.’ I asked him to reach out to her and see if she’d do it and he made that connection happen and I was so excited she said yes. She’s in my opinion the greatest female voice out there right now; the girl is just incredibly good.

BZ: You guys come from bigger more established bands that can play bigger venues, is it kind of fun and refreshing to go back to the clubs where you all started from?

RA: Yeah it’s great. It doesn’t really faze me too much, I just need a microphone and a couple people out there, and I don’t need much man. I really enjoy singing, it’s my passion and if I can pay the bills and keep the kids fed and whatnot then I’m a happy man. Honestly it’s a challenge to get out and do it every night period, because I’m a 110%er, that’s just me. Whether there are 100 people or 10,000 people, that’s just me. I do my best every night. For me it’s like getting on the treadmill every day, I’ve gotta do it, that’s just how I am. It doesn’t mentally get in my head either way. I think you can flex a little more with the intimate stuff in a smaller setting and open up and stretch out; I can talk to the crowd a little more intimately. When it’s a big show you’re talking at them more than to them. You’re trying to project what you’re trying to say to all these people and you’re trying to project all this energy, but when you’re in a smaller place with three to four hundred people like we’ve been playing so far, it’s easier to make a one on one connection. I can make some eye contact and feel like I’m talking to a person.

BZ: Between the four of you there are several projects going on not to mention families, how difficult is it coordinate around everyone’s schedules.

RA: It has not been easy. I think it’s been the number 1 challenge of the band for sure. With the recent developments in my other band with Jason Rullo’s health for whatever reason fate is playing its hand and my schedule is very open for Adrenaline Mob. I’m 100% going forward with this. Hopefully we can make out commitments with the other dates with Symphony X because we don’t have a lot on our schedule this year. Portnoy of course…he tried man, he wanted to stick around and make it work, but he is just a man in demand. This band is a band that needs to be road dogs right now and do it the old school way and get that radio play and hit every club and tour tour tour so we can build it up, it’s going to take a few years just like anything else. The response has been great and I hope everyone hangs in there because I definitely believe this could be something great.

BZ: Do you find being in two bands exhausting or when you get burnt out on one does the other band refresh you to the old band and vice versa.

RA: Yeah you nailed it right on the head, I never was in two bands at one time and the Mob is kind of like a Mob movie. There’s a shit load of drama sometimes. The other band has been a well oiled machine for years, so when I go over to that camp it runs like clockwork, but it is kind of like going home, but that can get dull, so like you said I got to my old band for awhile, it gets dull, I come back to these guys (Adrenaline Mob) and it’s exciting, there’s challenges and vice versa. It is like two things and I do like the fact that I can go to each one and get a positive thing out of it. If ones too crazy I can go to the other one and relax, if the other one is boring me to tears then the other one is kicking me in the ass.

Bob Zerull is the Managing Editor of Zoiks! Online. He writes pop culture commentary, does interviews with bands, and reviews music and stand-up concerts. He also administers Zoiks! Online's Facebook page. Follow Bob on twitter at bzerull. Email Bob at bob@zoiksonline.com.
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