Interview with Mikey Vujasin from CHAINS OVER RAZORS

Interview by Mark Dean

How did the Vapor Brothers and Beneathme evolve to become Chains Over Razors?

Beneath Me was originally a 5-piece group, to a 4-piece group with my twin brother, Andy Vapor on drums, and Franco “V” Roc on vocals, and of course, me on the guitar and backing vocals. The most difficult part about keeping a group together is having members that are on the same page with the same overall goals. As time passes, band members can drop out, whether musically, personal problems, business, or all the above, which is unfortunate and this was the case. So Andy, Franco, and I felt that we were on the same page and could count on each other, which eliminated the idea of trying to find new members. We’ll stay as a 3-piece and start fresh. The result became Chains Over Razors.

How did Carmine Appice come to be involved and produce the debut album?

When we started over we knew the “idea” of what kind of record we wanted to write but didn’t have an album written. We did have a couple rough ideas but that was it. We decided that a producer was a necessity since writing and recording a record would need an outside ear and guidance, since it is very easy to become numb with the whole process and lose focus of what the song should become. Through a degree of separation through an agent we met, our rough cuts were sent to him. At first we weren’t sure if this was going to happen. Weeks went by before I got a phone call saying that Carmine is interested and to expect a call from him. Sure enough, the call came in and I spoke to him for a bit. He was very excited with what he heard. We knew that an artist of his caliber and the years of experience he has as a musician and producer made us a perfect fit. This guy performed with the best of the best and has written many hits! Our singer Franco V Roc then flew out to Manhattan and discussed with Carmine our vision and to listen to Carmine’s thoughts on it. With everyone on the same page, as if the stars and planets aligned, it was pedal to the metal high-speed racing.

With two band members based in Chicago and one from Montreal, logistically was it not difficult to record the album? Was it created by swapping online ideas and demos, or did the band actually get together and record and play the tracks in a studio?

It wasn’t difficult at all since a schedule was made with an itinerary of when and where the recording process was to begin. The recording initially began in New Jersey and we all drove or flew to the state. Towards the end of the recording, we ended up finishing the record in Chicago. We did write as we recorded in the studio with real instruments of course. Everyone wanted to capture unexpected performances or magic that can happen at any moment. So “Tape” as they say was always rolling, and through Carmine’s knowledge of writing, spontaneity of arrangements, open creative freedom, and pushing us passed our comfort zone, brought an element which once again eliminated us from becoming numb to the songwriting process. The internet was an advantage to send ideas or entire scratch ideas of songs to either member to prep them before they were scheduled to arrive for recording. Obviously, this is much easier than sending Quantegy 2” reel-to-reel tape through UPS or FedEx. And yes, we have recorded on tape too, but we just treated digital as if it were tape. We would start from the top of the song and jam it out!

The band have already played a few live shows. How were they received? Any plans for a full tour? Will that be in a support capacity initially?

We were well received and gained many fans instantly. It is a great feeling to know that they had fun, as well as connecting immediately with them. We noticed the audience related to our songs on a personal level. A lot of comments from the audience were “How could three guys have such a full large sound?” Or, “How do three guys make so much noise?” Which always makes me crack a smile, lol. For saying such cool words about us like that? Awesome and Thank You!!! That’s when I buy you a shot and say cheers!! Lol! We are planning on touring some more, especially in the New Year, in support of our record and being the new blood on the block as this incarnation of the band. We will be in the support capacity in the beginning, but we will definitely work our way up to a headlining slot. The best part about that is we get to rock out early, meet new fans or familiar faces and hang with everyone after the show.

Do you see Chains Over Razors as a band with a long-term future or was it something just created for a single album?

Absolutely, Chains Over Razors will be a lifelong rock n’ roll journey. We’re here to stay and we’ll continue to write songs to share with the world.

To someone who is not familiar with you how would you sell what you do to them? What would be your sales pitch?

I would sit them in their car or whatever they drive, drop the cd in the player, turn up the volume and say, “See ya in an hour,” and shut the door. Haha! Metal Overload!

Taking you right back, what would have been your first introduction to music? Your parents’ record collection, a song on the radio, or a first gig attended?

For my brother and I, we were always surrounded by ethnic music from our heritage or listening to more mainstream music such as the Beatles, Elvis, or even Motown. My brother and I do remember wearing out a Beatles vinyl until it couldn’t play anymore! Oh yeah, and seeing Kiss for the first time on the Tele. Rock n’ Roll path established? I think so. LOL. And every rock/metal band after that we listened to.

Have your goals and ambitions changed since you first started playing music?

Our ambition and goals definitely grew throughout the years with higher expectations amongst each other and personally. But the first-hand experience has opened our eyes to such a dirty and difficult business.

You’re on a desert island and you can only have two albums, one that you have created and one other. What would you choose, and what would be the reason for your choices?

Does having a cd mix of multiple artists count? I would rather do that and fit as many artists throughout the generations that inspired me and just straight up rock. There are too many great artists to list.  Can I hear a Touché? Haha!

The music industry is a difficult one to make a living in. How do you personally cope with obstacles and difficulties that are placed in your path?

I try not to let it get to me even though it can be frustrating at times. Hopefully, the industry will find a way that will benefit the companies, artists, and the listeners without stealing music due to piracy or streaming. I cope by continuing to create music that makes me feel good and that will inspire others.

Any new or current bands that you can recommend to me?

I’ve been really into Zac Brown Band lately. They’re incredible songwriters and musicians.

When you take a break from music how do you like to spend your spare time? Any interests and hobbies?

Unfortunately, there is no such thing as taking a break from music. You have to keep going and grind away. But if I do get a chance to break away, fishing, hunting or ice hockey would be nice.

Which new song do you love to perform the most from the new album? Can you discuss the songs creation and recording process?

I love to perform them all since each song is personal for all of us. Depending on the vibe of the crowd, we can change up our set list and redirect their emotion. Of course, I would like to play all the heaviest tracks since it’s fun to just rage on stage, i.e. “Devil’s Eyes,” “Damnation,” or “Center Line of a Lie,” etc. But “Damnation” was one of those songs that just popped out in the studio and one of the first few tracks to be written and recorded. And the meaning of the song came about through friends or family who have been in the military. And when I was writing the song, I remembered back to a time I was working in a music store quite a few years ago and this soldier came into the store and he had just returned from Afghanistan. He had shrapnel in his head, in his side by his ribs, in his leg, and a chunk of his leg was missing too. He was also having chronic migraines. And I asked him why he wasn’t getting treatment and he said he was denied. He said he tried everything and couldn’t seem to get any help. And that angered me because here’s a guy who was putting his life on the line for us and he can’t get anyone to help him.

And as I met other soldiers, I started to hear this pattern of anger towards our government for not backing them and how we were in this war that we shouldn’t have been in the first place. When “Damnation” was being recorded these words were repeating in my head. It seemed that these people were just disposable to the government. But in our eyes these soldiers are our heroes. I never really heard anybody wanting to talk about this and I told the guys and Carmine that I wanted to write a song to address how soldiers are really feeling and to get the message out there. I wanted the servicemen and women to know that we’re here to support them and haven’t forgotten about them and will help them out any way we possibly can.

Do you have any guilty musical pleasures, maybe some artists from different musical genres outside what you do with Chains Over Razors?

Does Taylor Swift count? Haha! Great songs (not Max Martin related), great musicians backing her, the production is great, and she is Sexy and I’m single. Haha! And that makes me guilty. Yo, Taylor, call me!!! 8**-***-****

If the roles were reversed and you personally could interview a personal icon or inspiration, who would you choose and why?

Of course, Carmine Appice, I’ve built a brotherhood with that rocker and picked his brain multiple times, and I think the rest of the world should hear his thoughts with the way things are in the industry today.

About Author

I'm a 40+ music fan. Fond mostly of rock and metal - my staple musical food delights. Originally from Northern Ireland, I am now based in the UK-Manchester. I have a hectic musical existence with regular shows and interviews. Been writing freelance for five years now with several international websites. Passionate about what I do, I have been fortunate already to interview many of my all-time musical heroes. My music passion was first created by seeing Status Quo at the tender age of 15. While I still am passionate about my rock and metal, I have found that with age my taste has diversified so that now I am actually dipping into different musical genres and styles for the first time. Photo: Mark Dean with Jeff Kendrick of Devildriver - Photography by Olga Kuzmenko