A Talk with White Wizzard’s New Vocalist Joseph Michael

Interview with Joseph Michael  |  By Dane Prokofiev

Few singers can make classic heavy metal singing sound fresh, but White Wizzard’s new vocalist Joseph Michael does just that on the band’s third studio album, The Devils Cut. If you ever thought that it was impossible for anyone to sound quite like Bruce Dickinson while, at the same time, having the uncanny ability to perform uvula-quivering operatic singing, think again. And with the Los Angeles heavy metal quintet’s position at the forefront of the NWoAHM (New Wave of American Heavy Metal) now, Michael’s career looks set to go nowhere but over the top.

As briefly as you can recount, what were you doing before joining White Wizzard?

I was and still am the principal at HRX Records. It’s like my own little Motown where I write and produce my projects, which include Midnight Reign. I also write for other people; one of the songs was picked up by Fox to be used in the new Fright Night 2 movie.

What is the name of the song picked up by Fox?

LMFAO” by Dez Cleo. It was one of the songs on the album I co-wrote and produced with David Chamberlin (Entrzelle). If you listen closely, you can hear my background vocals at the high part.

Were you a fan of White Wizzard before joining them?

Honestly, I had not heard any of their music then. But that isn’t surprising since I hadn’t been listening to much music outside the studio. For me, it is all about music creation. I had heard of them before. In fact, when Wyatt first quit, Jon and I had a brief email conversation. But I had prior commitments then that wouldn’t enable it to work at that time.

So Jon discovered you via email?

Not really. I was working with another prog band when they kept talking about White Wizzard and how they needed a singer. So I messaged Jon, but I was only taking on paid studio work and not interested in going out on the road and supporting a record that I didn’t have a hand in without a guarantee. Fast-forward a couple of years and I ended up working with guitarist Will Wallner on a project he was producing. A few months went by and he called me up out of the blue talking about White Wizzard needing a singer again. [Laughs]

So I sat down with Jon and we ironed out a deal. I had been doing studio work non-stop for over two years and hardly any live shows then, and he told me they were two weeks out from a tour. The timing couldn’t have been better.

White Wizzard - The Devils Cut cover

The Devils Cut is your first studio album with White Wizzard. As a fairly new member of the band, did you have much say in the artistic direction of the album material?

This record was pretty much in the bag as far as songwriting went. I joined the band two weeks or so before the first tour, so I didn’t have time to dig in with Jon. We started recording a month after that. I had complete control over my vocals going into the studio, though. We have started work on the next record and the band is a lot more unified.

So I guess you will have more say in songwriting for the next album?

Yeah… I was tapped to be in this band for a few reasons. One of them happened to be my voice. I mean, I have written a lot of songs with a lot of great writers. Jon is definitely there, and I think that he recognized what I did; that we would be an unstoppable force.

Fans and reviewers have compared your singing to Bruce Dickinson (Iron Maiden), Rob Halford (Judas Priest) and Tony Moore (Riot). Were you consciously trying to emulate these old singers?

Well, I’ve always been a Dickinson fan. But I am not sure where they get those comparisons from. If you listen line by line, you can probably come up with a million more singers that it reminds you of. I’m a very schizophrenic artist.

You mean you incorporate so many different singing styles into your own that you sound like everyone yet don’t sound like anyone?

No, I don’t intentionally sound like anyone. I think I have a distinct sound, but that being said, physics is what it is. We all have the same throats. You sing a note a certain way in a certain register within a certain range and it’s going to remind you of someone. You never hear this with guitarists or violinists — “Oh, that Itzhak Perlman, he sounds like Mischa Elman.” Of course, you’re going to hear heavy metal influences when someone is singing a heavy metal type of song.

How long did it take for you to get your singing to the level where you can execute operatic screams?

It took a while to build the range. People don’t really understand that the screams aren’t extra. They aren’t really screams if done correctly. It’s the same technique and control involved but only with a different attitude projected. There are a lot of metal singers who can do “screams” to the point where they are just a part of their singing range and they can use them in the context of melodies.

You are also a multi-instrumentalist, so did you contribute any instrumentals to The Devils Cut?

I tried… [Laughs] There was a part of the song I didn’t like as it felt like it was missing something. All the guitar players were gone and I was pleading my case. But it was a no-go.

Is there supposed to be an apostrophe between the “l” and “s” in the word “Devils” in the album title?

You know Jon came up with that… I have no idea. He is kind of a loose screw.

Apart from some of the lyrics lampooning the herd mentality that organized religion typically encourage their followers to have, what else does the lyrics on The Devils Cut deal with?

Jon wrote the lyrics. I acted as editor, going through the lyrics and making them fit with my melodic scheme. I also didn’t ask what they were about, so I was able to interpret them according to my sensibilities. The main themes are Freedom, Truth, and Legacy. At least that’s what I was singing about. “The Sun also Rises” was taken from Hemingway’s novel, but I think the real story behind it is deeper; seems to me to be a non-sexual double entendre.

Any special reasons why you guys chose a video game artist to design the album artwork this time round?

It is because we are huge King Diamond fans and Cameron Davis has done some Guitar Hero drawings of the King. I believe he also designed the Over the Top cover as well.

So how different is playing Guitar Hero as a band compared to playing as a band in real life?

I hate that game… [Laughs]

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