Posted on by Oran

With the most glorious weather shining down on the hallowed grounds of Catton Hall for this years mighty Bloodstock Festival, Overdrive was giving the honour of sitting down with the legendary Phil Sandoval of Armored Saint, to discuss the bands iconic career and the incredible new album “Win Hands Down” which is out now via Metal Blade Records.

Armored Saint live DTB copy

In the bustling backstage catering area, on a very metal Friday afternoon, Phil Sandoval is in exceptional form, as his band Armored Saint, just ripped Bloodstock a new one with their flawless set on the Ronnie James Dio stage (see review here). Having just released their latest record ‘WIN HANDS DOWN’, to rave reviews across the metal globe, Mr. Sandoval gives Overdrive the full breakdown on the recording of the album, his memories of starting out 33 years ago and that one time they opened for Metallica on their 30th anniversary in San Francisco’s Fillmore theatre.

OD – You just got off stage at this years Bloodstock, can you tell me what you think about festivals like this and why there are not enough of them happening in America?

PHIL – I love Bloodstock, it was a great show thank you to all for coming. There’s not a lot of festivals like this and we appreciate being able to come to Europe and do these festivals because the fans love us and we appreciate the fans. It was a great show and I wish that the US was so much more loyal and into metal like the Europeans. The English are serious about their metal , it’s like breakfast tea and metal, what’s not to like?!

OD – Armored Saint have been active now for more than 30 years and in that time you must have seen quite a few bands come and go over the years. What is your perception of the current state of metal today?

PHIL – When Armored Saint started back in the 80s, there were no mosh-pits at all, it had not been invented and when we toured with Metallica and W.A.S.P back in ’85, we knew that Metallica was on to something big, because “Thrash” hadn’t been invented yet. They kind of put the stampede on that and when we did that tour, we noticed that people were getting a little crazier and stuff, so we were a part of that whole scene before even Metallica made it big. We stuck to our guns because we didn’t wanna like just join the bandwagon and be “Thrash”. Armored Saint is more of a metal band and we just stuck to our guns and that’s what we do.

I love being a part of this whole scene and I really wouldn’t know where to start nowadays because of the internet. We used to be signed to Chrysalis records and that’s a major label, but there’s no bands being signed by major labels today, you gotta be like a Beyonce or Justin Bieber or something like that. But that’s not happening anymore! It’s all the internet and I wouldn’t know what to do now (laughs), we used to go pass out flyers back in the 80s and meet our fans. Now it’s all Facebook and all that stuff, people don’t even use myspace anymore, that’s all evolving through the internet and you don’t even know whats gonna happen anymore.

OD – The new album Win Hands Down is now out, can you talk a bit about the concept of the album and the reasoning behind the title?

Armored Saint Win Hands Down

PHIL – It’s mostly all through John (Bush, vocals). You see, John writes a large portion of the lyrics, which are very current and very heartfelt to him and somewhat thought provoking, it’s not just “hey baby let get in the back of the car and do it”. Its a little more thought provoking, if you know what I mean. The album was written in about a year and the lyrics were mostly written by John as I said and Joey (Vera, Bass) together. I do have a writing credit on Full Head of Steam, as I always love to contribute to Armored Saint, song writing when I can. The concept is basically in life you have ‘win hands down’ you know, you’re not gonna loose if you get the new album from Armored Saint you know,  Why? Because you’re gonna “Win Hands Down” (ha ha)!

OD – This is the band’s 7th studio album in the band’s career, can you talk a little about what it’s like to release an album today, as it was say 10 / 15 years ago?

PHIL – When Armored Saint started believe it or not, the internet didn’t even exist. Things were really hands on you know,  you’d go meet the fans, now everybody’s on Facebook. You can find anything on Youtube so its a lot different when releasing an album nowadays, but I think with releasing this album, we’ve picked up momentum and hopefully its not gonna be another 5 years before we release another album. In a perfect situation, we should be releasing another album in a year or two, at the most. Hopefully that’s gonna happen. It’s just such a different scene now, that one doesn’t know what’s gonna happen, we’re thankful for Metal Blade Records for pushing this 100% and giving us press and support. I appreciate everything that’s happening now and I’m just very thankful and grateful for the fans that have stuck with us and the new one’s that we are picking up along the way.

Armored Saint

OD – Regarding Armored Saint’s past with all the things that happened, how are things in the band today? Are you all feeling a little more settled now that you’re older?

PHIL – I think when you’re young you make mistakes and stuff in life, but I think are now a little more mature and very focused. It’s all about the music for sure. It’s not all about picking up chicks, partying and stuff. I just love being focused on playing the guitar, playing music and getting out there and doing it and connecting with the fans.

OD – What is next on the horizon for the band?

PHIL – Joey (Vera) is a producer and also in a band called Fates Warning. John (Bush) has a family and I also have a son and these things keep us all busy. We have some more dates next year, for example we’re doing a cruise in February, which is going to be fantastic. Hopefully its not gonna take another 5 years for the next album. I’m actually currently writing little riffs here and there, but everything has to pass through John and Joey first, as that’s just our system for writing. They are like the Lennon and McCartney, or at least Armored Saint’s version of them (ha ha), so you don’t wanna mess with that chemistry, if you know what I mean. For me, I’m also in a side project called Black Raven, which has an American-Indian flute and a David Gilmore (Pink Floyd) style of guitar playing, which I play, it’s just very different from the Armored Saint stuff. But other than that, I just keep playing guitar and just keep rocking! That’s why I’m here and that is my job.

OD – Some of the comments that have been appearing in the press from the likes of Gene Simmons (KISS) saying that ‘rock is dead’ and more recently Kevin Lyman of Rockstar Mayhem Festival, saying that metal is getting “old and grey”. What are your thoughts on this?

PHIL – Rock is not dead, because Armored Saint just released an new album called Win Hands Down, so go buy it and liven your ass up (ha ha)! Seriously though, maybe it’s dead in Gene Simmons’s eyes, because they haven’t released any stuff like they did back when I loved KISS. You would never catch me saying that “rock is dead”,  because when I get on stage the proof is in the pudding. Just look at this festival (Bloodstock) and tell me that rock or metal is dead! Just take a look around and you will realise pretty quick that it isn’t dead, it’s very much alive and in rude health! Look at us, we are Armored Saint and we just played the main stage at Bloodstock in 2015 and are still rocking it . There’s an energy in this band that is electric and we’re not gonna stop doing what we do.

OD – Back when you started, there was a real excitement with the metal scene, do you feel that you were part of something very special when you compare it to the ‘over saturation’ of music today?

PHIL – There was something special happening back then that’s for sure, there was just something the the air. You could go to a club, any night of the week and see the likes of Mötley Crüe, Armored Saint, Lita Ford, Metallica and Overkill, to name but a few. Nowadays, there are clubs being closed down in Hollywood and everywhere else. L.A. isn’t what it used to be and I actually think Camden in London has more of a rocking nightlife than L.A. does now. There is actually more happening in Europe than the U.S as far as rock and metal goes. I really think Europeans just seem to know how to live a little bit better, instead of careing about the superficial things in life like they do in L.A and Hollywood which come and go so quickly.

Wasp Show '85

Doing that tour with Metallica and W.A.S.P was just a incredible crazy time. I remember at one point, the barricades were broken because the crowd we just so out of control. You have to remember, this was a time when people had no idea what was happening with the music, it was just so new and different to anything that had been around in the past. Some of the show’s were just beyond crazy, with sweat pouring down the walls in some of the clubs and the audience just totally 100% connected to the bands. armorI really do feel that we were part of something special and I think we still are. We continue to make music and and rock ‘n’ roll, still to this day and I am very thankful for the fans of Armored Saint and the fans of metal in general, for making this happen. I think the English and Europeans know how to love their metal and they do it well. Respect!

OD – Can you talk a little about the opening for Metallica’s 30th anniversary in the Fillmore? That must have been an amazing show to do.

PHIL – Oh man, opening for Metallica for the 30th anniversary at the Fillmore in San Francisco, was one of life’s gifts and for them to ask us to do that, was such an honour. To go on and see Kirk,  James and Lars checking us out from the side of the stage, smiling and totally digging what we were doing, was just incredible. I remember hanging out with those guys back in the day and it was just a really cool event to be part of and one that I will remember forever. In a perfect world this is how you want everything to be, old friends catching up and coming full circle after so much time.

I remember around that time when we were asked to do that show and it was like something from a James Bond movie! They said “do not tell anybody that you’re doing this”. We had to make up some bullshit as to why we were could not tour for those dates or commit to any other performances or events. It was really difficult as we were just so excited and were bursting to let it out. They actually asked us about 3 months before the show and we had to keep our mouths shut, for that amount of time and not mention anything. It was an amazing night, it really was and there was just such a good vibe backstage between everyone. It was just so good to see old friends.

OD – Has there been any material written since the release of the new album, or are you just concentrating on what’s happening now?

PHIL – I’m praying that it doesn’t take another 5 years, because we’re experiencing such great momentum right now. I’m personally writing little riffs here and there, so come the New Year, I’m gonna hit Joey up and send him some mp3’s and see what he likes. Its gotta pass through the captain of the boat and then hopefully, everything works out and it will be out in a year or two.

OD – When you look back over the band’s history and your involvement in this industry, what would be the most sensible advice you would have given the 20 year old you?

PHIL – Just keep practicing. Keep your heart into the music, because that’s what it’s all about. Not the girls, not the fucking party or Facebook. Don’t get distracted just learn your instrument, keep practicing and that’s pretty much it. With all the modern technology out there today, it’s easy to find out how to play to improve your game. It’s up to you to look through Youtube or whatever and learn what you need to do. If you wanna learn the harmonic scale, or start off learning different chords and stuff, then just learn it and everything else will come naturally. Hard work, perseverance and dedication are the main things that will see you through in this industry. Keep on rocking!

To order your copy of the blistering new album “Win Hands Down” get your ass over to Metal Blade Records and secure your copy now!

Catch Armored Saint on tour this Autumn, on select dates in North America. See here for details.

For more information on Armored Saint hit this link.


Interview – Oran O’Beirne

Transcription – Katie McGarr

Photography – Steve Dempsey – Down The Barrel Photography

* Group shot – Rosaura Sandoval Photography © 2015



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