When speaking to Mike Orlando about his heavy metal project Adrenaline Mob, it's easy to see why the band was given that name.
The guitarist, selected as a top ten finalist for Guitar Player magazine's Guitar Superstar of the Year in 2008, can't hide his excitement when talking about the “supergroup,” which includes singer Russell Allen of Symphony X; drummer Mike Portnoy, formerly of Dream Theater; and bassist John Moyer of Disturbed. They'll be playing at Goodfellas Café (1105 S Centre St., Pottsville) on Friday, March 15 with Nothing More and True Becoming, so The Weekender asked the New Yorker about his solo work, playing alongside respected musicians, and paying tribute to others.
THE WEEKENDER: After playing in so many bands over the years, what made you go solo in 2006 with “Sonic Stomp?”
MIKE ORLANDO: A dear friend of mine, Zakk Wylde, and my buddy Phil, who's worked with Zakk for forever, just pushed me to do a solo album. I had been doing so much stuff before that, a lot of touring in different bands. I played with a ton of different people…but nothing that took off. I was always a working musician. But once I got pushed from Phil and Zakk to do the instrumental stuff – they're like, 'You know, you should just do what you do, Mike,” – that got me going on “Sonic Stomp I.” I recorded it and that really opened up so many different doors and took me to a different level and got me to travel all over the world… It took me out of the unknown, so to say, and got me going.
W: And then you released “Sonic Stomp II” in 2010. What did you do differently on that record?
MO: I just wanted to take it to the next level of playing. I think my lead playing was a big leap from “Sonic Stomp I” to “Sonic Stomp II,” and the songs, although they're still cool and they're grooving and that's always the same because I am about songs, I think the playing just stepped up, and there's some really crazy parts.
W: How often do you have to practice to get to that level?
MO: I wish I could practice as much as I should. I should practice more these days, but it's tough. I'm in the studio and I own a recording studio, Sonic Stomp Studios, where we track everything… I'm not an avid practicer. I would love to be.
I kind of play in the moment, more passion than technique. I feel that it's kind of more in your heart and your mind than just so much in your fingers and the technical aspect of it… That kind of keeps me going.
W: What is it like working with the guys in Adrenaline Mob, all accomplished musicians in their own right?
MO: I'm respectively not from the prog world, and it's incredible – they're from two giants of the prog world, Dream Theater and Symphony X, amazing bands at what they do. I'm brought up on Randy Rhoads, Eddie Van Halen, and rock, so seeing two prog guys and kind of pulling them into this rock world – it's like, “Hey, guys, I've got something else that can be amazing,” – it's great to see them do it because it's something that you wouldn't think they would do. We definitely turn it up in certain areas, but Adrenaline Mob is about the song; it's not about my guitar playing or Mike's drumming or Russell's singing – it is the sum of the parts putting together a great performance to a great song. Well, hopefully people think it's great; we definitely do. We think everybody's going to love it, but that's what it's really about.
W: Do you guys shy away from the term “supergroup,” or do you not mind that?
MO: I can only speak for myself – I don't mind it. I get it. Mike's from this prog supergroup for 25 years, and Russell from Symphony X – I mean, those guys are monsters. And I get that everyone can take their respective instrument to a really crazy place, let's say, but we don't abuse it.
Live we definitely turn up the fire. We turn that thermostat up to 120, and we definitely pull out some really cool stuff live. We're way more of a live band. The album is cool, but when you see us live, that's where we live.
wW: Why did you release a cover of Black Sabbath's “Mob Rules” before your first album came out?
MO: That was a funny thing. I had the original name, the Adrenaline Fueled Junkies, that I was rolling with for a while, and Mike had come up with the whole “mob” feeling because with the three of us, it just kind of felt like that. We're East Coasters, we're kind of having fun with the “mob” thing; you feel like brothers, like a gang. It's a great play on it, and we just combined it and worlds collided – “Adrenaline Mob.” Mike was like, “That's it – we've got to do 'Mob Rules' now.”
W: You have a new record, “Covertá,” that includes more covers. Why do a cover album?
MO: It was a great idea that got thrown at us from our whole new team. We have a great new manager, Larry Mazer, and they all teamed together and we came up with this idea. I had such a blast doing it, paying tribute to some of the greatest rock bands there are. What an honor to put on a different hat in each song and kind of just pay homage and do your best to pay tribute to such greats like Ritchie Blackmore and Eddie Van Halen and all these great bands like Led Zeppelin. It was an honor for me, and I think it came out amazing and I really hope people really enjoy it.
People know me for the crazy “Sonic Stomp” stuff and the over-the-top stuff, but to get to lay back and do Page and “The Lemon Song,” and one of my all-time favorite guitar heroes is Jake E. Lee, so to pay tribute to him and “Hire Wire” – I think people are going to really like the bluesy side of Adrenaline Mob.
W: What are you looking forward to most about these upcoming Mob shows?
MO: Every area, every show is dear and close to me with Adrenaline Mob because I have such a great time playing and doing it. That's one thing everybody says to me: “You smile the whole damn set.” Well, I'm having blast! How could I not? I've got one of the most ferocious bands behind me. I mean, jeez.