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For nearly 10 years now, Striker has been keeping the flag of traditional heavy metal flying high and proud.  Considered to be among bands such as Widow, Holy Grail, and Enforcer as forefathers of the New Wave of Traditional Heavy Metal movement, Striker continue to fight the good fight for metal by putting out amazing albums and hitting the road with relentless passion putting on one of the best shows your money can buy.

On their recent stop in Atlanta, GA as part of their Out for Blood North American Tour, I had the opportunity to talk to Striker lead singer, Dan Cleary.  Dan is a really cool, soft spoken guy which was surprising to me being that he’s such a madman on stage.  Dan really opened up to me and we talked about all things Striker, what’s the least metal thing about him, and his love of UFO/Alien conspiracy theories.  Enjoy this one and jam you some Striker while you’re at it!

 

Dan thanks so much for taking the time to do this interview.  Do you like doing interviews?

No problem, Don. Yeah, I don’t mind them at all.  It’s cool actually.

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What is one question you get asked so much that if you hear it again you’ll kick something or someone?

I think the only thing is when people are like, “Tell us about your band.”  It’s like, damn dude.  That’s all over the internet.  You can find that shit everywhere [laughs].  That’s just the most amount of explaining and it’s all over the place.  When we get magazine interviews where we do e-mail interviews, you just have to write all this shit and I’m like, “We’ve been around for 10 years.  Where do I even start?” [laughs]

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Do you have a preference between e-mail interviews and person to person interviews?

I prefer talking person to person.  It’s less work for me and it’s less like homework to just talk [laughs].  I was doing some e-mail interviews in the van on this tour and I was getting kind of car sick looking at the computer screen.

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I missed you guys the last time you guys were here and I’m so fucking pumped.  What can I expect from my first live Striker experience?

Just a whole lot of shred!  It’s been funny on this tour.  I think people are really noticing the guitar playing a lot.  Maybe it’s just the songs that we picked that are just heavy with the guitar solos.  We do that a lot of on this tour in particularly we’ve been getting a lot of comments like, “Damn.  That’s a lot of shredding.” [laughs]

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Do you have a particular song then whenever you see it on the setlist you’re like, “Fuck yes!”

Well, I actually like them all but I do like “Escape from Shred City” because I get to take a break while they play, take a leak, and come back on stage [laughs].

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Do you ever get pissed off when people accidently call you guys Stryper?

[Laughs] Dude, it happens so much but it’s kind of ok.  At every single border crossing we come to we’ll say that we’re in Striker and they’ll be like, “Oh, I think I’ve heard of you guys from the 80’s.”  We’re just like, “Yeah man” and they’re like, “Go ahead.  I’ve heard of you guys.” [laughs]

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My good friend and site contributor Taylor saw you guys in Texas.  She said that there were like five people there but you played like there were 5,000 there.  Does it ever get hard to maintain that?

I think we’re all on the same page that once you start playing, you’re just into it.  It’s not super easy to just phone in a set.  I think it’s also just the style of music we do.  This kind of music is fun to play and it’s why we’re on tour.  We love to play.  Sometimes we’re tired but it just goes away after a bit.  Tonight we’re playing after just getting off of the 70,000 Tons of Metal cruise and we’re all pretty bagged from that [laughs].

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Did you guys have a blast on 70,000 Tons of Metal?

Oh yeah.  Being on that cruise ship was just totally crazy.  It was just so weird to be like, “Oh hey.  What’s up Joey Belladonna… hanging out by the buffet?” [laughs]  It was crazy.

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Striker has had some lineup changes.  Are things a bit more solidified now?

Yeah, this is the most stable it’s been in a while.  We had a good group of guys early on.

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What was it that made things fall apart with them?

I think it’s easy to get discouraged earlier on.  When we first started, the shows weren’t as big.  Now we’re doing some bigger tours and I think that maybe it’s a little bit more rewarding.  It’s tough to stick it out but the group we have now is really solid

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Did this solidity come through for you guys in the process of making the new album?

Yeah.  It was like fairly painless doing this album.  It was easy to do.  Everybody is one the same page so that made things really easy.

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You have a new album coming out at the end of the month and it’s just called Striker.  It bugs the fuck out of me when bands name their later albums self titled.  Did you just run out of ideas?

[laughs] Well, I don’t know.  To be perfectly honest, it’s more that we wanted to get artwork done in time.  We had an idea for the artwork and we were just like, “This could be called anything” so we just decided to call it Striker.  Lots of bands do that and we think it’s cool [laughs].  We don’t have a song called “Striker” yet.  I always thought it was funny that the band Blue Murder had a video.  It’s like they were saying, “We’re Blue Murder.  This song’s called “Blue Murder” off of the album Blue Murder [laughs].  It’s just super funny.  We should’ve done a “Striker” song but we fucked up.

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Stand in the Fire was the album that really pulled me in as a fan.  Did that album bring you guys a number of new fans and if so, what do you think it was about that album that drew people in?

That was the first album we did independently so we threw ourselves into it a lot more than before.

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That’s so surprising to me because you think it would be the other way around in that more people would’ve heard of you being on a label.

Yeah, it’s a weird thing.  Being on a label, we thought they were going to do all this shit for us.  You just sit back and wait a while for them to do anything and they don’t do it.  You have to work twice as hard as a band and then the label just takes your money.  We weren’t contractually obligated to work with the label again so we just decided to do it on our own.  We’ve been able to save some money to be able to fund things ourselves.  If you’re smart about it, you can make enough money.  Anybody a label is paying you can pay them as well.

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And you can probably get the fucking job done better.

Exactly.  Usually if they’re working directly with you, it’s easier and they’re more accountable to the band since we’re the ones paying them so we’re like, “You better fucking work.” [laughs]

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You actually have one of the best PR people working for you in Jon Freeman.

Yeah, he’s fucking great.  We hooked up with him through Napalm Records so we were just like, “Why don’t we just hire that guy?”

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I love that you have a song called “Phoenix Lights.”  Are you a UFO/Alien buff at all?

Oh yeah.  I got pretty big into conspiracies and shit for a while.  I got really into it but after a while everyone starts rolling their eyes at you because you’re “that guy.” The most brutal thing about that is that the more you read, the more conflicting theories there are about stuff.  It’s like every angle is there so it’s like, who knows?

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Man, we could talk about this shit for hours!  I’m so into Ancient Aliens.

[laughs] Yeah, dude.  That’s where that all came from.  We used to watch that while on tour.  I just thought the story of the Phoenix Lights was a cool story.  Nobody knows what it was but it’s fucking sick.

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You should do a song called “The Battle of Los Angeles.”

[laughs] Oh hell yeah.  We could just have one on every album just like some sort of alien trilogy.  You know there’s that one story of a UFO landing on some military base in the UK in the forest?

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Yeah, apparently some military dude touched the UFO and his brain got embedded with binary code.

He was probably doing acid in the forest [laughs].

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You guys are touring the US in the midst of all this insanity with this Orange Goblin now running our country.  What’s your take on this shit storm that’s occurring in the US right now?

I don’t know to be honest.  It’s a really strange thing actually.  The first show we played on this tour was in Seattle which is a pretty big hub for liberal thinking.  I was talking to some people after the show and they were saying how fucking terrible it is.  Then we go down to Texas, are the complete opposite but still at our show and it’s really weird.  We have a real outside perspective of it all. We see all the American stuff and get a lot of the same TV in Canada.  It seems like rural people are tired of being shit on but on the other hand, nobody voted [laughs].  I saw where something like 46% of the people didn’t even vote so how you can you complain at all?

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What role does metal music in general play in trying to keep some sanity in our world right now?

I kind of like both.  Obviously I listen to a lot of Megadeth and stuff like that.  For what we do, I don’t think that politics bother us as much as it does some other people.  The music we love the most is like Manowar.  They’re not out there singing about politics.  It’s just fun music.

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You guys have been at this for nearly 10 years and are even considered part of the early NWOTHM movement.  How does it feel to be considered part of a whole new metal movement?

Yeah, it’s really cool.  I remember when we were in the studio recording our first EP, our buddy had just brought the first Enforcer album over and we listened to it.  It was so sick.  We don’t want to be called retro but at the same time, that was the thing with the label.  All the ads were retro, retro, retro 80’s fucking whatever [laughs].  I mean, we love that stuff but it’s not purposely geared towards that.  That’s just the type of music we end up writing because that’s the type of music we listen to.  It just comes to us organically which people notice.

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That’s why I love that whole tag of New Wave of Traditional Heavy Metal.  As much as I hate genre tags, it’s such an appropriate title for what bands like Striker is doing.

One thing we never really did was dress super 80’s like Enforcer and Skull Fist.  Those guys are really going for that.  It just sort of never fit with us.  We don’t dress like that outside of the band.  It just wasn’t authentic for us to do that.  I think that was part of that “retro” thing.  If you dress like that, you’re going to get labeled that.  You’re wearing a Halloween costume at that point since its so cliché now.  I’m down with it though and I think it’s cool but it just doesn’t fit with how we are.

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Ok, let’s go back in time a bit.  What was it that made a young Dan want to play music?

The first thing really was that I liked playing guitar.  The kind of guitarists I was drawn to was the shred stuff.  We were always listening to classic rock and then I got really into the Shrapnel Records stuff like Cacophony.  It’s all super guitar stuff but it’s also like good classic heavy metal.

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But you’re a fucking powerhouse singer.  When did you find that voice?

[laughs] Thanks.  Well, I was in choir for a bit when I was a kid but I don’t know if that counts.  The only reason I started singing was because nobody else wanted to.  I couldn’t sing and play guitar at the same time so I just said, “Fuck it.  I’ll just sing.”  At the time I was in another band playing guitar and that band disbanded and then Striker was the one.  I feel like a lot of people get into it that way.  They start out wanting to play guitar and for whatever reason they do something else.  I was never really looking to be a singer.  Sometimes is sucks [laughs].  It’s hard to be a singer, especially being on tour when you get sick.  It’s so easy to fuck yourself up.

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Do you still play guitar a good bit?

Oh yeah.  I still write a lot of riffs and I’ve done some solos on the albums.

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If you could sing for any metal band for just one night, who would it be?

Oh, Iron Maiden.  We actually did a cover band where we did all of Live After Death.  We practiced for a couple of months and did shows and we never did it again for whatever reason.  It was sick.  It was so much fun.

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If you could have dinner with any singer alive or dead who would it be?

Man, that’s a hard one.  I feel like I would probably have steak with Dio [laughs].  It’s funny because I’m drinking a Guinness right now because there’s this old video of Dio in the studio just hanging out and drinking a Guinness.  I was like, “Damn.  I guess I should drink Guinness.” [laughs]

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Last year, some of the elders of metal were making comments about there not being any bands to carry the torch for them when they’re gone yet I’m talking to one right now.

I think a lot of people don’t get that metal is super popular right now.  There are some younger bands that are super popular but they’re just not doing the traditional style of metal.  Like metalcore, it’s the same spirit there.  I just think that on the spectrum of metal, there’s a magnifying glass on a different area of it right now.  I mean, those bands are out there doing it and playing huge shows.  Bands like Avenged Sevenfold and Volbeat are fucking huge and playing stadiums where we’re from.  In terms of like thrash metal, I don’t think a band can get that big because the spotlight isn’t on that genre anymore.

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Do you think it might also be a lack of “ear to the ground” or something like that?

Oh yeah.  I mean, fuck, everybody gets that way after a while.  Like how you might listen to the same albums over and over again.  It’s hard to find new music unless you’re really trying to find new shit.  It’s easy to just say, “Well, I’ve already got 100 albums, I’ll just listen to one of these.”

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It just drives me nuts when I see bands like you guys, Holy Grail, and Enforcer out there killing it and then Judas Priest takes out a band like Steel Panther as their support act.

Yeah, it’s all about money.  A lot of this shit is.  Man, we’d love to open for those fucking bands like Iron Maiden but man, it’s probably a buy on tour (when an artist pays to open for a band) and it probably has nothing to do with Iron Maiden.  I mean, in the end it’s a business.  It would be really cool if those bands were able to put their foot down and pick their own opening bands.

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Have you ever thought about what a Striker show would look like if you guys were headlining an arena?

[laughs] Oh yeah.  Man, we would want to do something like Iron Maiden, Dio, shows like that.  Crazy stage set ups with a dragon coming out of the stage and shit like that.  Something like that would be so sick and bad ass.  We’d want to do something totally ridiculous like that.  When we opened for Metallica in Edmonton, their stage was insane.  It was fucking great.  Good for them for pushing the boundaries of what a stage show can be.  They’re still interested in putting on an awesome show.

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Getting to open for Metallica in an arena is pretty fucking huge.  What did you get out of that experience?

That it’s really sweet to play in an arena [laughs].  It was crazy.

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I bet your merch sales were pretty good that night.

[laughs] Yeah, they were pretty good.  The Metallica guys were super chill.  They just let us do whatever.  They came by and talked to us a whole bunch and they signed my guitar.  Man, people shit on Metallica but they were so nice.  They talked to us the whole time.  Maybe that was part of their agenda or something but it seemed pretty genuine.

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What is the least metal thing about you?

That I love listening to rap music.  I mean, I think that anybody who grew up being a teenager in the late 90’s, early 2000’s, rap was huge and as a kid I was just sucked into it.  I really enjoy it.  It’s just different.  Sometimes it’s nice to not listen to metal, especially if you’re touring and you’re always listening to it.  Sometimes you just need a break and need to listen to something totally different.

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Let’s play word association.  I’m going to name 5 singers and I want you to tell me the first word that comes to your mind.
Bruce Dickinson: Garbage bag pants.

Geoff Tate: Saxaphone

Udo Dirkschneider: German

Vince Neil: Simon Fallon, our guitar player [laughs]

Axl Rose: White leather jacket

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What is one metal album that nobody should ever go through life without owning?

Street Ready by Leatherwolf.  That album is so sick and nobody knows about it.  It took me forever to actually listen to it.  It’s such a mountain of work to get through all of these old 80’s metal bands.  That album just shreds so hard and I feel like they were victim of bad timing or something.  I always feel a connection with those guys because I saw a YouTube comment that was like, “I saw this band play to 5 people in 1989 and it was awesome.”  I was like, “Damn.  Everybody goes through that.”  It’s just the nature of what it is.

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If Hollywood was to make a movie about you, who would play you?

Brendan Frasier!

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If I wasn’t a musician, I would be _________________.

I would want to work in a studio.  I mean, I’ve thought about it before but I would love to work in a studio.  It’s a lot of work and you really have to be a nerd about it.  I recorded our last two albums and it’s a lot of work but I didn’t mix it.  That’s some hard shit to do.

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Dan, this was fun dude.  Thanks so much for doing this interview and good luck on the rest of the tour.

Right on, Don.  Thanks a lot.

 

For more on Striker, head over to http://www.striker-metal.com

About Don de Leaumont

Don (aka. The Brainfart) has been a heavy metal fan since hearing it for the first time in 1983. Don is also repsonsible for all of the typos, shitty grammar, and kick ass content on this site. Don likes cheap beer, whiskey, Coca Cola Icees, going to shows, and hanging with his kick ass wife, two cats and dog. He originally wanted to name his dog Shandi but his wife said, “No fucking way.”

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