AFTERSHOK is a melodic traditional metal band fronted by former SHOK PARIS vocalist Vic Hix. Their long-awaited debut CD Unfinished Business has just recently been released and they are already working on new material as well. Vocalist Vic and guitarist George Mihalovich were glad to answer all of my questions.
George, please give us a brief history of the band?
George : We consider ourselves a Pittsburgh-based band, but I am really the only one from the Pittsburgh, PA area. The rest of the band all hail from Steubenville, Ohio, about 45 miles west of the city. Vic and I got together around the fall of 1997 and began writing together. We worked with some other people, but really just focused on songwriting until we found just the right musicians. Drummer George B. came aboard in late 1999, and with the addition of Nick G. on bass in early 2000 the line-up was complete. After months of rehearsal, AFTERSHOK began to record and perform in late 2000.
What have you guys been doing prior to AFTERSHOK? We all know that Vic was fronting SHOK PARIS in the mid to late 1980’s, but what did the others do, as far as bands, recordings, releases, ... goes. And what did Vic do in between the demise of SHOK PARIS and the formation of AFTERSHOK?
Vic : After I was thrown out of SHOK PARIS it was right about the time the ‘new metal’ was coming out; one listen to that stuff and I was kinda glad it was all over for a while. I took some time off to think, like several years, then I decided to go to some jam sessions around the area, and that started to get my blood going again. I started working with some guys I know around here, notably Jim Dofka of PSYCHO SCREAM, and just went from there, trying different guitar players until I found one that fit my style. George : George B. knocked around in several bands in Los Angeles in the late 1980’s, then returned to Ohio and continued to play in a variety of cover bands as he finished his education. Nick was in a Top 40/dance band called SHOCKWAVE for about ten years, and then he took a break from music, to focus on his career for several years. Luckily George B., Vic and I were able to convince him to come out of retirement and join AFTERSHOK. As for me, I worked with some really good musicians around Pittsburgh, PA, writing songs and playing the odd gig here and there. My buddy Mitch Dupree (vocalist) and I wrote some good material, but ultimately he had to leave the area and we decided to archive the stuff. Other than that, to make a long story short, nothing stuck, so until the time that Vic and I hooked up I just sort of bided my time, practising and writing, waiting for the right situation to come along. In that sense, AFTERSHOK has been monumental for me; it’s the opportunity that I have always wanted, to write and play my favourite style of music.
Who came up with the AFTERSHOK moniker? It seems a logical bandname, from Vic’s point of view ... Or is there another meaning behind it all?
George : All of the above! Several years ago we were trying to think of a good name for the project. At the time it was just Vic, George B. and yours truly rehearsing in Vic’s basement, and I finally spit the idea out, as kind of a joke, one evening. It had been in my head for a while, but it was the first time that I decided to mention it. George B. really liked it, and even though Vic and I resisted for a while, AFTERSHOK just made sense and kind of stuck. As you mentioned, the first and most obvious reference is to Vic and his old band : that this is what he is doing now, after quite a few years away from the scene. Basic marketing 101, I guess. The other meaning is also kind of obvious : you know, ‘shok’waves from earthquakes sort of shaking up the place, the only difference being that they are now created by a loud rock band. All I can say is that we do our very best!
Has AFTERSHOK released anything else prior to the Unfinished Business CD?
George : Unfinished Business, that’s it so far! Well, I take that back : we were on a Best Buy sampler back in November of 2000, along with BREAKER and MANIMALS. It was released in conjunction with our first gig and the recording of BREAKER’s live show at the Odeon in Cleveland, Ohio.
How did you end up on that Best Buy compilation? What label was it on? And which AFTERSHOK songs are on there?
George : I have to give all the credit to our buddy Bill Peters (Auburn Records) on that one, he put it together. We were just getting started on the recording of Unfinished Business, and he contacted us to see if we would like to participate in a BREAKER/AFTERSHOK/MANIMALS show at the Odeon. We hadn’t played out prior to this, but how could we pass up an opportunity like that? It turned out to be a great show, and what a tremendous venue and line-up for our first gig! Anyway, Bill created a compilation CD featuring two songs from each band to give away at the event, sponsored by Best Buy. Our contributions were Armed And Dangerous and War Machine, the first two tracks that we completed for Unfinished Business. It was released on Auburn Records, but it was a promo-only kind of thing, none of them were sold. The rest were given away at local Best Buy shops. For those of you who aren’t from the States, Best Buy is a nationwide electronics chain.
How would you describe your style?
George : It’s all AFTERSHOK! Just kidding! Seriously, I hate to categorize, but here are some phrases that might help : classic metal; melodic hard rock; melodic power metal. We just play what we want to hear and try to write strong material.
What has AFTERSHOK been up to lately?
George : Getting our website ready to sell our just released debut CD, Unfinished Business, has been our main project. We have only done a few gigs in 2002, but we are always open to new opportunities. As always, the focus is on songwriting and staying sharp as a band.
Unfinished Business was initially set for a mid June 2001 release already. What caused the delay, as it wasn’t released until March 2002?
George : We all have fulltime jobs and many other responsibilities, so sometimes these things must take priority. We’re not making excuses, we just recorded and mixed when we could and didn’t rush. We refused to compromise the quality of the product, and since we did everything ourselves, production, artwork, layout, etc., we ran into some unexpected delays. Even though we were very frustrated by the roadblocks, in the end we are happy with the way it turned out. In retrospect, I think rushing it would have been a mistake.
Care to elaborate why you chose Unfinished Business as a CD title?
George : In the CD booklet we included the following caption: ‘Despite what today’s pop culture trends and corporate marketing strategies try to tell us, many people still believe that music can and should be done for its own sake. The CD was created by four musicians with a passion to rock their way, with no compromises and no regrets; just a little Unfinished Business.’ That basically says it all. It was Vic’s return to music after a long hiatus, and George B. and Nick had been out of it for a while, but always retained that passion for this music. In fact, Nick and George B. both have long-standing connections to Vic. George B. actually tried out for SHOK PARIS at one time, and Nick and Vic were in a cover band called BANGER prior to Vic getting the SHOK PARIS gig. As I mentioned before, writing and playing in an original metal band was always something that I was working towards, no matter what else I was doing in my life. We all felt that even though we aren’t kids or fulltime musicians anymore, we still had something relevant to be heard. Vic : The name Unfinished Business came from the idea that when I left the music business in the 1980’s, that my time was cut short and that there were bigger and better things to come, and with all the other guys in the band not getting to finish their projects, this title just seemed to fit.
And what about the lyrical content on Unfinished Business?
Vic : The lyrics just seem to fit the music; I like hearing the hook or the music before I start working on the lyrics, so we never have lyrics before the music. I want to write good songs, just not about the same things that everyone else writes about. George : I agree with Vic; although we may be writing ‘classic’ metal and not necessarily ‘classic’ American poetry or literature, we do give the lyrics quite a bit of consideration! It’s really important for us to express ourselves, both musically and lyrically, but as Vic mentioned, the melody is first and foremost. After we establish that, then we tailor the lyrics to the vibe of the song and what we feel it’s about. As individuals, since Vic and I obviously have certain ideas and thoughts that are important to us, you may hear certain threads or ideas that kind of cross over from song to song. But we also want to emphasize that, to us, each song is its own little story, and we want each one to stand on its own lyrically, while still complementing the music.
Is Unfinished Business a self-released effort, or is it on a proper label? Why that choice?
George : Initially, because of Vic’s reputation, we contacted some labels to see if anyone would be interested in backing us. We always got pretty much the same answer : ‘We would love to hear it when it’s finished.’ I got the message, and being the stubborn guy that I am, I just said to myself ‘Fine, we’ll do it on our own’, and here we are. By the time we finished the disc, pressing some copies was a small expense, compared to the overall cost of the project, so we went the rest of the way. Also, we were anxious to get it out to people because we were way behind schedule, and it would have taken forever by the time we would have sent it to all of the appropriate labels and waited for an answer. Even if someone had been interested, it would have been released in an unacceptable time frame. So, by default we decided that we at least had to do the initial pressing ourselves and make the other decisions if the opportunities presented themselves. Right now we are very happy that things went this way, because we had no pressure and retained total creative control during the recording. Also, we are excited about the fact that we can manage the business end of things as we see fit.
So are you still searching for a proper release or a distribution deal? Current standings?
George : Funny you should ask that question; I’m struggling with it right now. My attitude at this point is almost ‘Why bother?’ In this day and age, what constitutes a ‘proper release’? There are many ways of doing things, and technology has made them all legitimate. It will take us some time to find the best ways to reach people, but I am confident that we ultimately will find the fans. I have been spending my time filling orders from our website and getting copies to people who have supported us and requested a disc for review and promotion. The Internet is a very powerful tool to use in reaching people, and we have done pretty well with it so far. The disc has barely been out for four months, so we really feel that we have just gotten started, and this process works with our ‘do-it-yourself’ ethic. Getting back to the labels, I have tried to reach the people who have been on our side from the start, and since they definitely weren’t interested, they are now kind of the lowest priority. Not that we’re a big deal or anything, but several of them had their chance to help us get started. Now, all of the money is spent, so why should someone get to come in and take away a lot of the control and make a profit? Let’s face it : a lot of metal is put out on small indie labels that try to do a lot on a limited budget. I’m not knocking them, because some of them do a tremendous job. What it means to AFTERSHOK however, is that if anyone wants to pick us up, it will probably be with a small advance that might not even cover our initial investment. After that, it’s very unlikely that you will see any royalties for a long time, and if you do, it will be a small percentage of the actual sales. I just can’t see doing that right now. I will eventually get around to sending it out to some of the labels that I feel might be interested in us, and see what happens. In all honesty however, it would have to be a really good deal for me to want to go this route. As for traditional distribution, it’s more clear-cut. You do the deal, get paid for the discs, and that’s it. It can be very helpful when you work with the right individuals, so we are looking into it.
What do you think about the idea behind the Classic Metal Festival, which is to be an old school, true metal festival, staying away from ridiculous black or rap metal trends?
George : I think it’s a great idea. It helps to support these bands in their current efforts and deliver to their true fans.
Do you think this festival helps keep the 1980’s underground alive?
George : Yes, and it also, hopefully, creates a higher level of awareness for this style of music, to start bringing new listeners in. It’s all about exposure. If people have the opportunity to hear it, they will be drawn in. The music industry really upsets me, in the sense that only certain bands get pushed by the labels, and radio and MTV provide a very limited vision of what’s actually out there. It’s very hard for people to hear new things, because programming and promotion in all aspects of the business are so strictly controlled and very expensive.
What do you expect from (your performance at) the Classic Metal Festival?
George : As always, to do our very best for the audience. We want some old friends from overseas to have the chance to see us, just as a thank you for all that they have done for us. We also hope that we can make some new connections along the way.
What will AFTERSHOK’s setlist be like for this year’s CMF? Are you planning on performing any classic SHOK PARIS tunes as well?
Vic : As for a songlist, you can bet your ass it will be all about AFTERSHOK and this CD. I want to make sure we have a strong fanbase with what we are doing as a band, by playing the music they want to hear. Down the road, when we have done a few more CD’s, who knows what we will whip up, but for now it’s just Unfinished Business ... plain and simple …
On March 22nd AFTERSHOK participated in the WJCU benefit show. What was that all about? Which other bands did participate? How did things work out?
George : Once again, this show was due to our good buddy Bill Peters. He’s a fixture on the Cleveland metal scene, and in many ways is responsible for much of its success and longevity. He has been doing his local radio show Metal On Metal forever, and he plays a lot of local and unsigned bands and really helps them to get their music out there. He put together this show at the Revolution in Parma, Ohio to raise money to assist in keeping WJCU up-to-date, and when he asked us to participate, we said ‘Sure, no problem.’ It’s a small thing to do to help re-pay some of his hard work and dedication. The line-up was DIGITAL NERVE, AFTERSHOK, ANTITHESIS and GROUND ZERO. We had a great time, the turnout was good and overall the show was a success.
What do you think of the nowadays Cleveland/Ohio metal scene in general? Bands, venues, media, fans, ...?
George : I really love Cleveland, and I like to refer to it as the ‘Metal Capital of the East Coast.’ That city has really been great to us, no questions asked, from the very start. They embraced us with an open mind and that meant a lot to the whole band. It’s not hard to figure out that Vic has a great history and fanbase there, but I think it’s more than that. Cleveland is a city that loves live music of all kinds and really has an appreciation for bands and musicians; very gracious audiences. Specifically, it is a place where metal thrives. There are just a lot of die-hard fans there and the attitude is different. In Cleveland, metal is just another valid style of music and you see a good cross-section of people at the shows; fans who will also go to other events, but still want to rock out once in a while. To them it is not ‘dated’, or ‘uncool’, it’s just good music, and they love it. Drew Carey said it best : ‘Cleveland Rocks!’
What are AFTERSHOK’s plans for the rest of 2002?
George : To keep writing, playing and supporting our CD. We will do our best to play the best shows that we can get on the East Coast. We’re very comfortable in a concert situation with bands from our genre. We feel that the audience understands the music and they are in the frame of mind to listen to an original band. People in a club don’t always want to pay attention!
What can you tell us about the material you’re already working on for the second release? How will it compare to or differ from the material on Unfinished Business?
Vic : As we speak we are at work on material for the next one. The songs are different of course, but they will remain in the same style. No changes in store from us, just good old-fashioned old school metal. George : I would say that it will be more of the same, but in a very positive sense, meaning that we will do our best to pump out another disc of loud, proud and no-holds-barred metal! For anyone who is familiar with our current material, and into our style and direction, it will not disappoint. Not to mention that we still have a few tricks up our sleeve, just to keep things interesting!
Any plans as far as touring is concerned?
George : We all have fulltime jobs, so touring per se is difficult, but when the gig is right we make every effort to follow through.
And what about available AFTERSHOK merchandise?
George : Currently just our CD. We will only do t-shirts, mugs, floral arrangements, frisbees and whatever else when we feel that we can produce a high-quality product. We would rather just sell the disc if it means disappointing anyone, and we’re not quite there yet. The main thing is the music.
List your contact address, email, website, etc.?
George : Our individual e-mail addresses are all at www.aftershok.com under ‘Contact’, but a good default is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Any final comments?
George : Glad to be out there playing the music that we love! Thanks to all of the fans and friends that have supported and encouraged us, and here’s to making the Classic Metal Festival II a big success!