John Besser has certainly done the rounds and earned the plaudits, including drumming for long-time act Warrior Soul. Gary had a chance to talk to him about all things rock, including Besser’s new video for his cover of “Metal Daze”.
Hi John, thanks for taking the time to talk to us at The Moshville Times, hope you have been keeping well during these strange times.
Thank you, my pleasure. Strange times, indeed. Thank God for music!
For our readers can you give us a little background on yourself and your musical influences.
I am a drummer, I’ve been playing since I was 5yrs old. My biggest influences are The Beatles, Judas Priest, Black Sabbath and Led Zep. I am also a Producer/engineer and own a recording studio and indie label called OTTO Records & Filmworks, located in Staten Island, NY.
As well as drumming for the fabulous Kory Clarke with Warrior Soul you seem to be pretty busy with The Fabulous Mercenaries as well as your producing/engineering, how did the band/concept come about?
Well, The Fabulous Mercenaries started as an actual band, but crazy shit would happen whenever we tried to rehearse. Whether it be a tree falling and blocking access to my studio an hour before a rehearsal, or all the power going out as we walked into the studio to rehearse, just a bunch of acts of God. It was strange. That version of the band ended due to fear of God! After a few months, I asked the singer/guitarist Rudy Baker if he wanted to do covers of classic tunes and I’d make a video of us recording our parts. We did a bunch of those, and then my other musician friends would reach out to me and suggest songs we should do, or ask to be a part of the next one. It just built up from there.
Why did you go for “Metal Daze” from the classic Manowar album Battle Hymns from 1982 (apart from it being a fabulous track from the golden era of metal, obviously)?
We were talking about doing a song with Ron Thal, and he suggested a Manowar song, so I suggested “Metal Daze”. It’s just a great metal song. I have always been a fan of the Battle Hymns album, especially because of Donnie Hamzek’s drum parts. Great player.
The guest list on the single is quite amazing, how did you manage to get all this talent together not to mention the man himself “Ross the Boss”.
Crazy, right? Most of us are friends so that was actually the easy part. Not sure which one of us said, “Hey we should get Ross The Boss on this.” About a week later, I happen to mention this to my buddy, who unbeknownst to me, happens to be friends with Mike Lepond (Ross’ bassist), and the next thing I know I am emailing ROSS THE FUCKIN BOSS. – (Amazing, the power of positive thinking!!) – and Ross, could not have been nicer. He was totally into it!
The vocals from “Hollywood How” are simply fantastic and Ron’s guitar work is stunning… Your version of this track is simply fabulous, a big credit to you for the production, etc.
Thank you. We all know and love the song. We just tried to not hurt it. Hollywood How and I have known each other since high school. He is also the singer for my metal band, A.D.4, and while singing on our soon to be released E.P., I noticed he could sing a wee bit like Eric Adams. Not an easy task! And Ron’s playing is just brilliant. Great solo.
How did the video come about with all that is going on and would you consider a tour of some type with a version of the band or is this simply a record/video project.
The Fabulous Mercenaries have been making “quarantine-style music” since before “quarantine-style music videos” were a thing, lol. As long as everyone involved has a way to record themselves (well) it’s not too difficult of a process. I love performing live, so I’d like to somehow bring a version of this to the stage some day.Don’t fancy Patreon? Buy us a one-off beverage!
You’ve done a number of videos now, is there a theme to what you pick to cover?
I think I just like to pick songs that either mean something to me, whether it’s the music, the lyrics and/or the artist, or it’s a great song. I also extend that to the other guys’ suggestions, as well.
What are your upcoming plans as regards Warrior Soul & The Fabulous Mercenaries.
I just spoke to Kory about a week ago, and I am tracking drums for a few songs on the upcoming WS covers record. Very psyched about that! And currently, there are about 5 or 6 Fabulous Mercenaries videos I am either mixing or editing, all to be released in the next few weeks. So keep an eye out for those.
Thanks for talking to us and stay safe, we hope to see you over in the UK/Scotland at some point soon.
Thank you. I love Scotland! I can’t wait to come back. Stay safe and be well!
Header image by Dee Fago
John Besser: official