Editor’s Note: Fire From The Gods vocalist A.J. Channer sat down with Madness To Creation to discuss coping with the worldwide pandemic known as Covid-19, along with their latest album entitled “American Sun” and brought up the recent passing of his father. A.J. really wanted to stress the importance of social distancing along with practicing good hygiene, and especially having unity no matter what religious or political beliefs someone may have during this pandemic. A.J. was absolutely a passionate and genuine person to talk to. Madness To Creation can’t wait to see Fire From The Gods out on the road again. Fans can find Fire From The Gods at the following locations:
Madness To Creation: A.J., thank you so much for taking the time with me today, how are you doing today my man?
A.J.: I’m doing good, how are you doing my friend?
Madness To Creation: How are you handling all of this quarantining and social distancing due to the pandemic?
A.J.: Unfortunately, I have to travel, I have to leave Texas to go to New York for a family matter. For the most part, I’m stay as much self-isolated and try to adhere to social distancing as much as possible because I think that’s kind of the only real viable thing that we’ve heard when this whole Corona and COVID-19 issue started. We started hearing about this months ago. We kind of walked around in our usual American arrogance way, and we were thinking that we got the best doctors and the best scientists in the world and the best technology and best facilities in the world, this should be a blip, and now that it’s been politicized and all that, and now we got so many mixed stories and so many mixed ideas of what this really is, but the only viable thing that we’ve heard thus far has been social distancing.
I’m trying to adhere to it as much as possible, like you said, anyone can get stir crazy from this, we’re such an interactive society that people want to be out and about doing things and I want my band to be playing shows, but unfortunately that’s just not the case. For me, the only positive that I can speak on that if we adhere to social distancing and these regulations, I think it’ll shorten the time that we have to deal with this issue. Hopefully within one month or two months, or however long, I just hope that we can get through this as quickly and efficiently as possible.
Madness To Creation: I agree 100%. Is that what you miss the most is playing shows right now?
A.J.: Yeah, I mean the most important thing that I’m missing right now is being out there on the road. I want to be out on the road, I want to be playing music but you can’t do it in the most conventional way, so I think the scene is about to pivot. I mean Metallica is doing a live show every Monday, a lot of bands and cool artists did their record debut online, so I think we’re seeing the shift in the way people get to see them and the way people get to interact with their favorite bands, and with Fire From The Gods, we’re going to start doing a lot of stuff, we’re going to just put up a lot of content and just try to be in front of people, so since we can’t tour, we’re going to find a way to get you the music and the interaction with your favorite bands, we gotta do something.
Madness To Creation: Speaking of your music, we absolutely love the “American Sun” album. In creating the album, did you hit any roadblocks in the writing process or was it a pretty smooth process?
A.J.: You know, it was very smooth, in the fact that working with Erik Ron, the producer, really got and dug what we were trying to create, which is a heavy rock record, but I wanted to give it a hip-hop feel, an era of hip-hop delivery, and I think he really understood that, and the content of the record, it’s just the way I’m filtering my feelings and my ideas about the way I grew up, the things that life has dealt me, and also speaking on a lot of current events and tying the theme of “American Sun” to today’s climate and today’s atmosphere so to speak. It’s about going through dark times and coming out on the other end and witnessing the light of a new day and the light of a new dawn, and we are in a very dark time. The recession of ’08 was a dark time, the Black Tuesdays of the past, and wars and stuff like that.
Our generation grew up in a crisis and this crisis is going to teach us a lot, and the fact that we are so interactive and so many ideas are shared between people every day and every second of the day, I think that this is going to give us a lot of time to think about who we are as a people and who we are as a society. “American Sun” is a soundtrack to that and in my humble opinion, Fire From The Gods creates that soundtrack to the dark times and trying to find that light at the end of the tunnel, and we’re going to have to find the light, so I hope that people listen to “American Sun” and can see that and see how relevant it is to our situation.
Madness To Creation: Based on all of this, what is something that you have learned or going to take away from this pandemic?
A.J.: Unfortunately, I’ve learned the people really need to start reading more. The idea of speaking freely is very different from the idea of thinking freely because speaking freely is just saying whatever is on your mind, and I completely commend people for trying to step up and saying what the feel because if we don’t discuss it, then how can we figure it out. But, thinking freely is very different from speaking freely because thinking freely, you are now thinking outside of the box and outside of the norm. The norm, especially here in the States, the norm seems to be, “let me attack someone else’s idea of how they speak freely, which is my version of speaking freely”. Thinking freely is that you’re thinking outside of that and seeing that there’s something else that’s bigger in how the issues are dividing us, the unity and really trying to, and be that united, and that’s who I try to be.
I have my qualms with politicians on both sides of the coin that I can’t stand or appreciate, and so I do bash Trump and I do bash the Bidens of the world, and I bash the politicians and Angela Merkel or Boris Johnson. I bash the politicians because I feel like they’re leading us astray with this game that they play, but I think the people can come together, and the people can learn from this and really buckle down by voting in the right people, and really assessing who we are as a people by taking the politics out of the situation. But think about it. Do you really want to treat people that way?
The hoarding of the food and the hoarding of toilet paper and toiletries and basic household necessities. Do you really want people to go through that, to feel that panic every day? Because that’s how some people live their lives, with the panic, people live their lives like that every day, living paycheck to paycheck, not knowing how they’re going to feed their families, don’t know if they can buy a small meal even a five dollar box of chicken or something like that, and people are scrambling and stuck in their homes and freaking out. People are stuck in their homes every day because they can’t get out because they’re invalid or because they’re older and they don’t have the pension or they didn’t make the right choices in life, or maybe they were dealt a shitty hand. That’s how some people feel every day, despite this crisis and despite a recession. You know what? Maybe people feeling a little bit of that, an ounce of that, maybe that will help them and maybe turn their ideas around about how to treat people, and when we come out of this, I hope and I pray that people do treat people better.
Madness To Creation: You hit the nail on the head in that one. I hope that I can do a better job of helping my fellow human being. I love the video to “American Sun”, which is kind of a segue to this conversation. “I am the refugee/I’m the poster child of tragedy”, is that what you’re talking about, taking care of those we leave behind?
A.J.: Very much so! It’s supposed to be thought provoking. I try to make music as thought provoking as possible, and sometimes that can be hard to do in this current environment because everyone thinks that you just write a catchy hook and you sell it, and you make millions of dollars, but the thing is, to write thought provoking music that actually sounds good, and the thought provoking aspect that you’re talking about is us ALL being the refugee. We’re all running away from something, we’re all leaving something behind. Right now, the political buzzword was refugees and immigrants and immigration, but the aspect of “American Sun” is that we all come from somewhere, every person that inhabits this land, and every person that inhabits every country in the world has an indigenous people, they had ancestors that came from somewhere, their immediate family came from somewhere looking for something better in life, and “American Sun” the aspect of it, we are that tragedy, we are that refugee, we are that prisoner that’s locked in this vicious cycle of hatred, this cycle of violence, we are the refugees that are running away from it. Like I said before, no one wants to be treated like they’re the lower rung of society, no one wants to live like that, so that’s the thing, if you don’t want to live like that, why should someone else have to live like that?
Madness To Creation: Not sure if you remember interviewing with us back a couple of years ago at Warped Tour, but we remember your live show and there was a sense of unity in the crowd and the way you engaged the crowd, is that your main goal in your live performance?
A.J.: 100%! The message is so much more important than anything. I want people to feel safe when they come to a Fire From The Gods show, be who you wanna be, it doesn’t matter. You can come there with that hatred in your heart, you can come there with that division in your heart and in your mind, but once you see the amount of people there having fun, seeing them having a good time. You see the metalheads headbanging, you see people that are looking for interpretative dance. It’s about unity, and that’s what heavy music has always meant to me. I’ve never felt out of place when it came to heavy music, I might have gone to certain places and seen shows, and gone, “maybe this is not for me because of the obvious”, but I want people to feel that this is a family, we are a family, we’re out here just praising the universe and doing it for fucking heavy music, you know what I’m saying?
Madness To Creation: I totally felt that energy at your show up in Shakopee. At Madness To Creation, we focus on mental health awareness and normalizing mental health conversations. What are some things you do when times get tough and what makes A.J. happy?
A.J.: Man, I think of a lot in my personal life, not to change the subject or to bring the conversation down, but in two hours, I’m going to my dad’s funeral.
Madness To Creation: I am so sorry to hear of your loss.
A.J.: Yeah man, but even in that it’s such a heavy day and I’m not mourning him, I’m carrying this heavy sadness on my heart and when you feel that way, and you know how depression can do that to a person or bipolar disorder, it can do that to people, it can tear you apart, where you don’t know what’s going on, or where to direct your anger or to direct your fear, you just know that you’re in fear, you know that you’re angry and you know that you’re sad, and you can get trapped in this hole, and it can tear you down. But the thing that I do to bring myself out of that, it sounds cliche but I try be as positive as possible. I look at myself in the mirror and I just say, “today is going to be a good day, I have to turn this day around, I have to turn myself around, I have to get up”. I’ve been there in that hole and I’ve sunk and my depression has torn me apart, and I looked to drugs and alcohol to try to alleviate that pain and to try to escape that pain. But a lot of the way that you’re going to get yourself out of that is to really believe in the strength inside of you and there are outside forces out there. People run to religion, which is okay, that’s their thing, people run to their friends, which is always very good to have that support around you, it’s really going to depend on how you react, and how you fight back. It’s a fight, but you gotta fight back. Sometimes you just gotta envision yourself crawling out of a hole and sometimes that helps too and try to see that light, and hopefully you can bask in that light of the sun, the “American Sun” my friend.
Madness To Creation: That was heavy to listen to and just want to say that I’m sending good vibes and prayers your way. I’m very sorry to hear of your loss.
A.J.: I appreciate that my friend.
Madness To Creation: I know that you have a lot going on, is there anything else you would like to add?
A.J.: Just try to be as awesome and positive about who you are because a better you makes a better world. A better me makes a better community and a better community ultimately makes a better world. I think that people are starting to realize how much community and how much unity really does matter, and it’s unfolding right in front of our eyes, and hopefully going forward, we can teach our children, that unity and understanding is really what’s going to push the world forward. Hatred, division and violence are just things of the past, it’s barbaric, it’s archaic, and it’s run its course, it’s time to try something different.
Madness To Creation: Thank you so much A.J. We’re thinking about you today.
A.J.: Cheers to you my friend, thank you.
And there you have it! Sadly, their tour with Hollywood Undead, Bad Wolves and From Ashes To New has been either postponed or cancelled due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Let’s keep in mind of social distancing and let’s flatten this curve. The sooner we all do this, the sooner we can get back to our normal lives.
On Saturday, October 17th, Fire From The Gods has a gig in Tempe, Arizona. Check here for tickets and further information on the show.
Please stream “American Sun” on Spotify:
Photo Credit: Nik Heftman