Before Richard Christy was known to many for his daily contributions as a writer/prankster on the legendary Howard Stern Show, he laid his roots in the world of heavy metal. Music was in his blood at and early age and became something that he pursued with a passion. All of his hard work behind the drum kit paid off as he quickly built a reputation as one of the scene’s most revered drummers, landing him gigs in such genre-defining bands as Death and Iced Earth. With musical success under his belt, Christy set his sights on a surprising new career and left the metal scene behind to pursue what he calls his “dream job.”
In 2004, he joined forces with Howard Stern after winning a listener contest to replace “Stuttering John” Melendez, who had departed to join the Jay Leno Show. A fan favorite, Christy has spent the past several years entertaining the masses with a wide variety of phony phone calls and wacky on-air stunts that have brought tears to eyes of listeners nationwide. Even though his career change has kept him quite content creatively, there was no fighting the undeniable urge to return to his metal roots. It was that urge that would spark the creation of his new band, Charred Walls of the Damned, which boasts an impressive lineup of guitarist Jason Suecof, bass player Steve DiGiorgio and vocalist Tim “Ripper” Owens.
Steve Johnson and Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently caught up with Richard Christy to discuss his musical journey, Charred Walls of The Damned’s debut album and the challenges in making it, as well as what life may hold for him after The Howard Stern Show.
For the people that might not know about the musical side of Richard Christy, we wanted to give them some background. How did music first come into your life?
Well, I specifically remember that the first music that ever really made an impression on me was KISS. I was four years old, I think. It was the first time that I had seen them and I really got into them. For a four year old, KISS was pretty scary looking! I remember being scared by them but really liking them. I remember for my fifth birthday, my Aunt Theresa got me the KISS ‘Alive I’ album, the Peter Criss solo album and a Johnny Cash ‘Greatest Hits’ record. Those are the three albums that I really listened to a lot from the age of 5 until I was about ten years old. When I was ten years old, I moved out into the country with my family and we had a neighbor named Larry Bierbauer. He was a couple of years older than me and a metalhead. We got to be good friends. He is the one that I can say was really responsible for turning me into a metalhead. I remember he had the Quiet Riot ‘Metal Health’ album, he had Twisted Sister ‘Stay Hungry’, Iron Maiden ‘Power Slave’, Van Halen ’1984′ — this was all stuff that was out when I was ten years old. It really blew my mind and made a huge impression on me and I have been a big metalhead ever since!
You left the metal scene many years ago to take a shot at your dream job on The Howard Stern show and have been hard at work there ever since. When did you get the itch to dive into a new musical project?
I have had the itch for a long time and it is was something that I was really waiting until the time was right and that I felt that as a songwriter, I felt confident enough to write the music and write a full album. Ya know, in the past five and a half years that I have lived in New York City, I have still been involved in the metal scene. I have gone to every metal show that is around and have done a lot of articles in metal magazines. I continued to play the drums everyday and I have really gotten into playing guitar a lot more since I have been living here in New York, playing an hour or two a night. I would say it was about two years ago that I really started wanting to put a band together and put an album out. That was because I had written several songs that I felt were really, really good and I finally felt confident in my songwriting that I started to make a few phone calls to put a band together. That is when I called Jason Suecof, Tim “Ripper” Owens and Steve DiGiorgio. They were all into it! I was really psyched! It was all about doing it for the love of making metal! I just wanted to go into Audio Hammer Studios in Florida and record an album.
I had written a whole album and I had a demo version of it. One night at the Gigantour concert, I told Brian Flagel that I was putting together a band and he was really interested in hearing it. About a year ago, I sent him the demo and he really liked it. That is kinda how we got the ball rolling. We signed with Metal Blade Records and then headed down to Florida to record our album!
What was the biggest challenge in making the record?
The biggest challenge was my schedule. Where I work, on The Howard Stern Show, it is a day job, so I can’t take off while the show is live. So I had to work the recording schedule around my vacation time. Honestly, it wasn’t that big of a challenge… it was a little bit of a challenge. That was really the only issue that we had. We had to make sure that Jason Suecof and his studio was available for the times that I was on vacation from the show. Normally, when you book studio time you book a whole month at a time to do the whole album. We had to book a week at a time and then take two off and book another week in the studio. It was kind of an odd way to do it. It was kind of scattered but it ended up working out great! Luckily, Jason had the time available and he was pretty excited about doing it like this because he would have a week or two to rest in between sessions. Then when I would fly back to Florida, his ears were very fresh.
It also worked out great because we were able to work around Steve DiGiorgio’s schedule. He has a regular job like me, so had to work around when he was able to take some vacation time as well. Tim Owens is also very busy with a lot of his bands and has done a lot of touring in Europe and South America this year, so luckily we were able to work out his schedule. So yeah, the biggest challenge was just making sure everybody’s schedules worked out and that we were all able to meet down in Florida at the right times and get it done! Luckily, the short time that we were able to record, we were able to pound everything out, everybody knew their parts and things went really smooth! All the music and the vocals were recorded in about three weeks time. Then we took another week or two for the mix. So again, timing was the biggest challenge… and maybe the Florida heat! July there is a little bit brutal, so that was a challenge. I gotta stay out of the sun because I am very fair skinned! [laughs] I spent a lot of time under the awning by Jason’s pool!
With all of the busy schedules involved, how will that affect your touring plans? Is their anything set in stone at this point?
There is nothing set in stone yet. We are gonna approach it very much in the way we recorded the album. We will get a feeling of when Tim, Steve and Jason are going to be available. I am meeting with some booking agents next week and we definitely plan on doing some shows. I am sure it will work out, we just have to do a bit of planning ahead. I imagine we will probably plan some shows for this summer. We won’t be able to do a month or a two month long tour like a lot of bands, unfortunately, but we will be able to go a week or a couple of weeks at a time. It will be a special thing because we won’t be able to go everywhere but when we do a show it will be a very special and unique thing. I am looking forward to it.
It is cool to hear that you all are so excited about the project. Is it safe to say that Charred Walls of The Damned is more than a one-off gig? Will we be hearing more from you guys in the future?
Absolutely! I want to continue this forever if I can! Metal is something that I love and I want to keep doing it until I am an old decrepit man and I can’t move anymore! [laughs] I love it and I have already written about six songs for the next Charred Walls of The Damned album. I am super, super psyched about these new songs! I was very, very inspired by recording at Jason’s studio, Audio Hammer Studios, down in Florida. I had so much fun in the studio and it was so rewarding to hear the final album. When I came back to New York City, I was totally inspired and I was playing guitar two or three hours a night, so I just started writing. I have six songs already. They are really amazing songs and I would imagine that in the next two to three months, I will have an entire album written. I would really like to go back and maybe even do some more recording before the end of the year.
We wanted to ask you about the unreleased Control Denied record. I know that you and some other band members were still looking to make that happen. What is the status of that?
I am really psyched about that! That is another thing that I will be working on this year! I am so happy that I can finally say that we are finally moving forward on that! I have been getting a lot of email and questions over the past few years from fans asking when that album is going to come out. Unfortunately, there were some legal issues with the label that had signed that album. To my knowledge, the label doesn’t exist anymore and all the legal issues have been cleared up and we are able to move forward! I am very close with Chuck Schuldiner’s family and I talk with them often. They are very excited about this moving forward as well. We are going to get everybody together up in Morristown, NJ and finish the record this year. We just have to talk to everybody about their schedules, Steve DiGiorgio, Shannon Hamm and Tim Aymar. Also, Jim Morris (of Morrissound Studio) because he is really excited to do it too! The drums and Chuck’s guitar parts are recorded, we just have to go in and finish the rest. I can’t wait because the music is incredible! People are going to be so psyched when they hear this album because it is monstrous! It is really going to be amazing. I am really excited to finish that because that was one of Chuck’s last wishes, that fans would get to hear the second Control Denied album and I am so glad that we can finally make that happen!
It is exciting to hear that it is finally going to happen.
Oh yeah! I am hoping that by the end of the year we will be able to finish it.
Since you have a larger-than-life persona on The Howard Stern Show. Do you feel that there are any misconceptions about yourself that you can clear up?
Ya know, I am known on the show for only showering once every two weeks! [laughs] I guess that is a misconception! That used to be true when I lived in Florida and I lived in a storage unit. I didn’t get to shower much because my shower was an outdoor garden hose! Now, I am actually able to shower a little bit more often! I do have an indoor shower, so I guess that could be called a misconception!
Probably another misconception is, if people listen to The Howard Stern Show or watch Howard TV, they see a lot of me nude. [chuckles] Because we do a lot of crazy stunts and things for the show. So they probably picture me as this guy who runs around New York City and swings his dong around but that’s not quite true either. Outside of the show, I am pretty calm and mellow. I like to enjoy a nice, calm dinner and a few drinks. I am not really as crazy as I get on the Stern Show, so that’s another one.
People that listen to The Howard Stern Show know that I am really into heavy metal. It is a passion of mine, a lifelong passion. Hopefully, from working on that show, I have been able to introduce some people to heavy metal because we have played Six Feet Under, Cannibal Corpse and a lot of other metal that you wouldn’t normally hear on popular radio. I am psyched about that. I get to work with the guy who does the bumpers for the show and I give him a lot of music. For example, Wrathchild America will pop up in a bumper or Amon Amarth or Mercyful Faith or King Diamond. I love that! I love being able to get some metal played to the masses!
You mentioned your passions. As fans of The Howard Stern Show, we are well aware of your love for all things horror. We were curious with the show possibly ending it’s run this year and the future being uncertain, is pursuing a career in that genre, be it writing, acting or maybe even being behind the camera, something that you see in your future?
You must be able to read my mind because that is definitely something that I would love to be involved in. On “The Wrap Up Show” that we do after the Stern Show each day, I have been asked, we all have been asked what are we going to do if Howard Stern retires. I would say that I definitely want to keep Charred Walls of The Damned going but I would love to work in the world of horror. Like I said, it is a passion of mine. I am writing a horror article for Decibel Magazine. It is called “Richard Christy’s Horrorscope” and that is really exciting for me.
I got to appear at the Fangoria Weekend of Horrors last Halloween in Las Vegas, which was awesome! While I was there I got to hang out with one of my heroes, Tom Atkins from ‘Halloween III: Season of The Witch’, ‘The Fog’ and ‘Night of The Creeps’. I have been lucky enough to become friends with a couple of people in the horror industry like James Gunn who directed ‘Slither’ and directed the ‘Dawn of The Dead’ remake. He is a really, really super cool guy. I am a big fan of his. I also am friends with the writer Brian Keene who is a very well-known horror writer and he is my favorite horror writer. He even put Sal (Governale) and I in his book ‘Castaways’ which was really cool. I got to be ripped apart by these savage creatures in the book which was pretty awesome.
I would definitely love to be involved in the world of horror. I have made a few low budget horror comedy movies back in the day when I lived in Missouri and Florida. I had a lot of fun doing it. I have even had the opportunity to act in a few horror movies. I was in one last year called ‘Albino Farm’. I played a creepy religious guy from a small town in the film, which was a lot of fun! I got the chance to have some special effects makeup done for that which was awesome! Our first video for Charred Walls of The Damned, “Ghost Town”, was almost like filming a mini horror movie. We filmed for an entire day at a haunted attraction called Shocktoberfest in Pennsylvania. Myself and a good friend of mine named Mike Schiff, who I work with on Howard TV, went there on a Sunday. Mike is super talented. He and I are both huge horror fans and we have been talking about doing some horror shorts, doing some horror writing and filming some stuff together.
My main thing is that I hoping that Howard will stay in radio forever. I would love to work there forever and do metal and horror in my free time. But if Howard does decide to retire, I would definitely consider going into the horror field.
What is the best piece of advice that someone has given you in regards to your career?
Something that really, really effected me was when I was about thirteen or fourteen years old. I played in the school band from the time that I was ten. I always played the snare drum and timpanies. I did a lot of marching band stuff when I was in grade school and high school, but I had a drum set at home where I would play along to metal albums and things like that. There was a drummer older than me that played the full drum set for the school band, and I was just playing the snare drum or some other percussion instrument. One day, that drummer was gone, so I stepped in on the drum set and I don’t think the band teacher even knew that I played a full drum set. I started playing and I remember some of the flute and clarinet players looking back at me as I pounded out metal beats while I was playing along with a Beatles song or whatever we where playing in the school band at the time. Everybody was kinda surprised that I was good at playing a full drum set. I remember my band teacher coming up to me after class that day. He said “I didn’t realize you were that good at the drums. You should definitely think about sticking with it, maybe even as a career.” It was really cool. Everybody says that things that teachers say to you when you are young makes an impression and that is so true. It really inspired me to take drumming very, very seriously and treat it as a career opportunity. Luckily, I was able to do that and I can trace it back to that day.
It is definitely paying off for you. We have heard the album and think that it is amazing. You mentioned the video for “Ghost Town” and that was very cool as well. Great work!
Thank you very much! That is so awesome. The best reward a guy can get from this is having someone say that they love the album. I love to hear that and it is really inspiring. I have to thank you very, very much for that!
Before I let you go, I just wanted to mention that we are both big fans of your work on The Howard Stern Show but Steve Johnson here is an even bigger fan of the “Chocolate Bandit Mask”!
Hey Steve! You know, maybe one day if you wanna come on the show for a plug, Sal can give you a chocolate bandit mask! I have had it done to me and it doesn’t hurt very much but it is very gross.
We will see! [laughs] Thanks again, Richard! All the best to you and the guys in the band. We will be spreading the word!
Alright, thanks guys! Take care!
Charred Walls of The Damned’s self-titled debut album is scheduled for release on February 2 via Metal Blade Records.