White Wizzard interview with Jon Leon and Joseph Michael
Call them a throwback to the New Wave of British Heavy Metal or the purveyors of the New Wave of Traditional Metal, but Southern California’s White Wizzard has been creating a buzz for several years now. The band’s style fits in with the likes of early Iron Maiden and bands of that ilk, and with their third full length studio album, “The Devil’s Cut”, the quintet has finally hit its stride. This week we sat down with founder and bassist Jon Leon and frontman, Joseph Michael.
Born of Leon’s frustration with the current state of metal some six years ago, White Wizzard was created to right a rock and roll wrong. The war against the “core” began with the band’s “Highspeed GTO” E.P. Immediately the metal underground was abuzz with the group’s traditional sound. Unfortunately war is not without its casualties, and the ubiquitous “artistic differences” led to Leon scrapping the initial line-up and beginning from scratch.
Drummer Giovanni Durst would join the battle in 2009, and remains the band’s foundation and Leon’s long time battery partner. Guitarists have come and gone at a Spinal Tappish rate. Vocalist Wyatt Anderson, who looks like a twin brother to television actor Walter Goggins, Jr. (The Shield, Justified), joined the band for White Wizzard‘s sophomore album, “Over the Top”. The record was a confirmation of Leon’s vision and the record garnered the band wide-spread acclaim among the metal community. Songs like the title track, and “40 Deuces” became instant addictive classics. Anderson left soon after.
As Leon and Durst cobbled together 2011’s “Flying Tigers“, Anderson made a temporary return. The album mixed the band’s traditional sound with more progressive elements, and while not as powerful as its predecessor it gave us a glimpse into Leon’s expanding writing vocabulary.
Frustrated but determined, Leon redoubled his efforts and soon found Midnight Reign vocalist Joseph Michael. The vocalist not only brings the chops to match the band’s former vocalists, but the ability to take songs in exciting new directions. Then came the deadly six string duo of Jake Dreyer and Will Wallner. The 21-year-old Dreyer comes from the American school of Shrapnel style shredders (Jason Becker, Marty Friedman) and was taught by legendary guitarists Chris Broderick (Megadeth) and David Shankle (Manowar). On the other side, Wallner hails from England and brings a bluesy, neo-classical style to the table. The two blend amazingly well.
One listen to “The Devil’s Cut” and it seems apparent that Leon has finally found a cohesive unit to take White Wizzard to the proverbial next level. His songwriting continues to get stronger, and now he has a pack of talented metal soldiers to take some of the weight off his shoulders. Check out our interview with Jon and Joseph below as they talk about the new record, the new guitarists, and discover how Rush‘s “Permanent Waves” and the 420 connection led to the seeds of White Wizzard.
“The Devil’s Cut” is out now in Europe on Earache and will be released on June 25 in North America via Century Media. Go pre-order your copy here.