Interview: Sean Maier

Blessed By A Broken Heart are one of those bands I can’t stop listening too. I was introduced to "She Wolf" by my friend about six years ago and I was heavily hooked onto Pedal to the Metal. A musical journey that has seen them change genres from a deathcore sound to a glam rock approach, their whole discography has been great to listen to and to witness the change of sound. Sean Maier appeared on their last two albums and has since then got some solo stuff to check out, so I thought I’d speak to him about his upcoming solo stuff and also the adversity and heartbreak behind the fall of Blessed By A Broken Heart.
~Matthew Clewley

Music Review Database: First of all, what happened to Blessed By A Broken Heart?

Sean Maier: I actually posted on my Facebook account about this recently.  Here's what it said:

Hey everyone, I just felt compelled to let anyone interested in seeing Blessed hit the road again, it's not going to be happening and I'm very sorry about that. There was much leading up the eventual stop to this train. I'll just be blunt, honest, and cut to the chase as best I can here yet tell the story of what happened and why for those who care to know.

For "Pedal To The Metal" we were with Century Media Records. Our management/attorney & label at that time got in quite the quarrel about owning band rights. Unfortunately CM at that time used fear tactics to try to get the job done. The kind where the president calls you guys on tour and tells you to fire your whole management and attorney team and sign here or else you'll be a "C" priority--basically shelved. Needless to say we had trust issues on seeing eye to eye with the label after that and the relationship tarnished.

In hindsight CM put the best deal of backing and money into the band and knowing what I know now about how little musicians & bands make on there recorded music… I think it may have been wiser to sign the publishing deal with CM but one can never be sure… Oh the tyranny of what if! Having said that I still think quite fondly of the past & present A&R branch over at CM in USA & Europe. Those very good and honest hard working people you know who you are thank you for all your efforts.

Blessed was to date some of the most amazing and fun times of my life. I'll never forget from joining in 2005, eating banana egg rolls at Frank's house with Tyler to eventually rocking 15,000 people at Loud Park in Japan and everything in between… Far too many stories to tell but let me just say it's really been something.

This leaves us at the second chapter, leaving CM and signing with Tooth & Nail. After what I believe was like a year of back and forth lawyer bicker & banter we did get 'er done. We signed a not so good but better than some deal with T&N and were set to enter the studio for "Feel The Power". We spent the better part of 2 years writing on and off and we recorded a killer record that surpassed Pedal (in my opinion) and without a doubt factual if you're talking about the music and lead guitar playing.

We were all set to go full force on the FTP record I was very excited to perform the new songs live. We shot 2 new music videos and then our frontman Tony leaves a week before the record drops. To be totally honest this is where it ends but none of us 100% knew it yet. We figured we still had Sam "Ryder" Robinson who to be honest (Tony would have no gripes to admit this) is a better singer technically and sang almost all the harmonies and some of the leads for the FTP record. At this point our new booking agent in Europe Xray drops us and Japan becomes disinterested.

Unfortunately our label had pretty much washed their hands of us as well as all legit booking agents the band had. I couldn't exactly blame them, the label spent good money on the record and music videos with Tony's face and vocals and now we're gonna tell them the guy up and left a week before the release. We did do 1 tour (if it can even be considered that) last summer for the only booking agency who would touch us. We along with the entire tour package, "Write This Down" and "Children 18:3" could not continue the tour due to the fact that through some sort of contract screw up we were taking in less money at the shows than it cost on transport to get to them.

By the end of 2 Weeks we had gone though our entire publishing advance, losing thousands. It was at that point that I told the other guys that I no longer could continue. We had exhausted all our contacts, support system and money so there was really nothing left so to speak. I'm sorry it took so long for an update, I know there have been some people wondering what is going on with the band. I guess some of us were still waiting to see if by some miracle the album would start selling a ton or some overseas offer would come in and we would have the money from show guarantees to tour but none of that came true.

I just wanna end with thanking anyone who ever came out to a show, bought a record or T-shirt, fed us, or put us up for a night or more all those years Blessed was out on the road. Without you, this crazy ride would have never been possible and I'm grateful for that. Please be sure to support the members in our new musical projects and bands. Sam is now the singer for "Close Your Eyes" so be sure to check them out to hear the amazing talent that Sam is. I am currently doing a shred guitar project called Shred Starz. Be sure to check that out and add us if you dig my playing. I'm also taking on new projects so if anyone feels there's something that would fit my style I'm now available and can be reached here.

How influential was your time with BBABH on your playing style, as they have previously experimented with different sub genres of rock and metal? 

Blessed has had so much influence on my life.  The guys, the times we shared, the whole experience.  As far as the band influencing my playing-- not very much.  I mean, my playing has always been very much influenced by iconic guitar heroes more so than the guys.  Although a song that say Frank wrote on "Pedal" or that Ian “Slater” wrote on "Feel The Power" would influence different ideas that I may not have arrived at without their musical contribution. Thank you for that guys.     

How did you meet James J LaRue and come up with the idea of Shred Starz? 

I  came to know of James through his former band Holy Grail.  When James left Grail I was asked to fill in for a tour.  I ended up passing the offer along to a dear friend who was in need of a gig, Ian Scott.  After listening to Grail with Ian and coming to admire LaRue’s playing style.

I added him on Facebook and we began talking here and there.  Our first face to face was at NAMM 2011 by chance.  The idea of Shred Starz came from the mutual adoration of the classic “golden era” of shred we love so much.  The style, the attitude, the guitars, the tones, the colors, THE ERA.  We had tossed names back and forth, then Shred Starz came to my mind. I remember telling James.   He loved it, I loved it, and that was that.         

How far are you willing to go with Shred Starz, have you performed live with James J Larue? 

I'd be willing to take Shred Starz to da moon and back if I could. I love It!  The reality of that happening is highly unlikely.  First off James is not a fan of the touring life and its reality, meaning the hardships and struggle of being a starter group on the road.  Most people who don’t tour don’t understand how hard or expensive it is.  It is not simply just hit the road and play the music.  It's a lot of money and sacrifice. 

I love and miss performing live.  I don’t like 12 hour drives or sleeping in a van but I love performing my music for people who enjoy listening to it.  Nothing compares other than maybe the joy of creating it and the excitement of the musical idea coming to life.  The only way I see Shred Starz becoming more is maybe a Kickstarter campaign.   Even with that, I’m not sure if we're large enough at this point to get proper funding for any sort of tour.  However, we are interested in trying to fund our next video with Kickstarter and coming up with cool perks for contributions.

Do Shred Starz plan on releasing an EP or an album?

We plan on releasing singles with rad/creative music videos.  We have about 5 or 6 tunes that we started almost 2 years ago.  It's really tough to release a video the way we try to do things.   We're trying to be more than just the average self-made guitar video.  Our thing is shred guitar music with a real cool music video.  Almost all guitar music is pretty exclusive in videos as either instructional or “play-thru videos” where it's not much more than dude+guitar+different angle.  We try to be more than just the guitar in videos by incorporating a creative fun music video theme.         

How was the music video for Midnight Ladies Sonata created, and who wrote the idea? 

The idea for Lady was born of the mutual adoration for 80’s era film and style.  Patrick McDevitt produced it & Anthony Carella assisted.  The video features my girlfriend, Lindsay Marie Deluca and her friend Maytal Angel as the “babes”.  My friend Derek is the bad guy and George Papadimatos is the other shady character who deals drugs and babes for a price…  The video was shot at SVA Studios on the lower east side of Manhattan.  It was super cool to have access to all that equipment.       

You seem to be influenced by 80s glam metal, if so, who is the guitarist you favorite the most from that era?

There's so many rad players from that era it's tough to narrow it to just one guy.  How about a list of dudes who are rad from that era whose playing I really dig?    

1) Paul Gilbert — Anything by Racer X and ‘Mr. Big’
2) Nuno Bettencourt — w/ Extreme: ‘Extreme’ and ‘Pornograffiti’
3) Greg Howe — ‘Introspection’
4) Richie Kotzen — ‘Electric Joy’
5) Guthrie Govan — ‘Erotic Cakes’
6) Steve Vai — solo: ‘Passion and Warfare’ and w/ DLR: ‘Eat ‘Em and Smile’
7) Michael Lee Firkins — ‘Michael Lee Firkins’
8) Yngwie Malmsteen — ‘Rising Force’
9) Chris Impellitteri — ‘Screaming Symphony’
10) Jason Becker — ‘Perpetual Burn’
11) Marty Freidman — w/ Megadeth: ‘Rust in Peace’ and solo: ‘Dragon Kiss’
12) Reb Beach — w/ Winger: ‘Winger’
13) John Sykes — w/ Blue Murder: ‘Blue Murder’
14) Akira Takasaki — w/ Loudness: ‘Dissilution’
15) John Petrucci — w/ Dream Theater: ‘Awake’ and ‘Scenes From A Memory’
16) George Lynch — w/ Dokken: ‘Under Lock & Key’ and ‘Back For The Attack’ and w/ Lynch Mob: ‘Wicked Sensation’
17) Michael Romeo — w/ Symphony X: ‘Odyssey’
18) Vinnie Moore — ‘Meltdown’ and ‘Defying Gravity’
19) Tony MacAlpine — ‘Chromacity’ and ‘Evolution’
20) Randy Rhoads — w/ Ozzy Osbourne: ‘Blizzard of Ozz’ and ‘Diary Of A Madman’
21) Blues Saraceno — ‘Hairpick’
22) Shawn Lane — ‘Powers Of 10′
23) Frank Gambale — ‘Passages’
24) Alex Skolnick — w/ Testament: ‘The New Order’ and ‘Practice What You Preach’
25) Jeff Loomis — w/ Nevermore: ‘This Godless Endeavor’ and solo: ‘Zero Phase Order’
26) Dimebag Darrell — w/ Pantera: ‘Cowboys From Hell’
27) Ron Thal, a.k.a. Bumblefoot — ’911′
28) Allan Holdsworth — ‘Against The Clock’
29) Kiko Loureiro – w/ Angra: ‘Temple Of Shadows’
30) Vito Bratta — w/ White Lion: ‘Pride’

How was the writing experience working with James J LaRue?

Working with James has been one of the best decisions I have ever made.  He has taught me so much in the ways of recording and work ethic.  He puts 100% into everything he does and follows through even if it takes a long time and he always does killer work.  Shred Starz would not sound the way it does if not for his creativity, hard work,  and know how of sound and recording.  When I flew him out to NY to write with me for the first time I really wasn’t very good at tracking my own guitars.  He researched a good interface that we both ended up getting and got me familiar with the recording program Reaper and some plugins to get my guitar tone good enough using software.  If it wasn’t for James helping me along with recording and my rig I don’t know where I'd be now.  In a way, he made all the “Shred Sean” videos and content I put out over this past year or so possible.  He showed me how to be more precise about my playing.  Thanks James.

How many bands and musicians have you collaborated with since you started being a guitarist, besides from BBABH and Shred Starz, what other bands helped you with your playing style?

I really haven’t played with that many bands.  The first song I performed was “Crazy Train” with a group of high school buddies I believe we called ourselves “Minds Of Malice”.  Other than that really just high school buddies and even performing with my middle school teacher on drums for “Mr Crowley” and my guitar teacher Jaf on bass.

Do you think the music industry could be saved from piracy in terms of profit for musicians?

I don't think piracy and be prevented.  This train is going one way and it ain't coming back.  That being said, I do think there are some new cool ways that bands/artists are funding the creation of their work.  The whole crowd funding thing is great!  Ask fans and people who care to help and provide perks for that, the more personal the better.  

And finally, have you got enough material for a full solo album? Would you want to release something like that?

I have a good stockpile of ideas for songs.  I find I work best and am most inspired bouncing ideas off other musicians in a shared writing situation.  I'm not sure how interested I am in writing a full-length currently.  My interest now is more collaborating with different guitar players and musicians and releasing singles or a few tracks at a time maybe a video. If it's an established act that has a working tour engine (booking agent/agents, fans in every city attending shows, tour transport, bus or fly in dates etc) happens to loose a guitar player and are in need of say me…  Fuck yea let's quit the current day job and put everything into writing/touring.  If those cards get dealt to me fantastic!  I might not wanna hold my breath though…

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Discovery: Interview: Sean Maier
Interview: Sean Maier
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