Fire From the Gods frontman AJ Channer has a lot to say, and you hear it in their latest effort American Sun (order here). We spoke to AJ to discuss the record, reflecting on the last ten years and looking forward to what’s next to come.
What made you decide to have American Sun more politically driven?
I really don’t think we’re a political band by any means. I know that mentioning certain things can strike a chord, but that’s what we’re trying to do. And I think we’re a lot more socially conscious. It’s more about the people than it is the politics. You can’t deny there’s an air of politics, but I don’t think we’re a political band.
Can you just describe a few themes in the album?
100%. The themes are mostly about leaving the past behind and what I like to say, is basking in the light of a new American Sun. The American Sun encompasses the idea of a better future, of a better dawning of a better day, a new day. And so, there is so much darkness that we have in this world, there’s so much division, so many dark times, and the American Sun is essentially the full manifestation of our future.
Throughout the darkness, the sun is still there for us to make a change and learn let go.
How long have you worked on this record?
It was a span over about a year or so. As soon as we stopped working on, Narrative Retold, we essentially started laying the groundwork for a potential second recording. But the meat and potatoes of it, the actual, bulk of the record was just done over a span of two months in L.A. I would say this record, it really just flowed. You know? People have asked that before. But essentially… I think making a political statement is polarizing. And it sets people up to choose a side. And Fire From the Gods, we’re not looking to choose a side. We’re only looking to choose a survival of humanity through peace, through understanding, through education. Instead of the violence and the anger. We’ve tried all of those avenues to promote peace and to promote unity. And none of them have worked. And so, American Sun is essentially a testament to that from the viewpoint, just like our record, Narrative, from the viewpoint of someone that’s been through a struggle, someone that understands what darkness is.
We often made songs through the idea of breaking the cycle, where it’s more of just socially unifying the global idea of breaking the cycle of hatred, breaking the cycle of pain. Then you have a song like, “Another Level” on American Sun, which basically describes the solitude of a person on the brink of disaster. The speaker talks about turning off the madness in my headphones, and me being the vocalist speaker, I’m talking basically about turning off the madness in my mind, turn off the madness, that I’ve experienced. My fucked up job, my fucked up relationship, while all this, my mental health about to crumble. And he opens up and he screams. “I’m out here wildin’ the fuck out like a mad man, a sad man, without a plan, man, I’m a dead man.” That is the mind of a person that exists today. And that’s the outlook of the world. We are on the brink of disaster and American Sun is about unifying under one flag. And not globalization from a political standpoint, but one flag of understanding. Because no one needs to give up their identity in order to respect the individuality of another.
It’s difficult, when you’re writing about the pain and disaster at the same time showing how it’s a way to unify and have people understand each other better.
Yes, because we all go through the same pain. It doesn’t matter how rich we are, it doesn’t matter how poor we are. People go through shit. And all I want is understanding. And if we start to understand each other, maybe then we can break down the line politically, then we can start talking about politics. But you know, there’s something I’ve been saying on this tour, which has sat heavy on my heart, because I’ve had a very diverse background and everyone knows that. But I’m an American, I was born here. So I understand that the wants and needs of, not every American, but I know that we do want the same thing. And that’s life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
I tell people before I’m red, I’m an American. Before I’m blue, I’m an American. Before I’m left, I’m in American, before I’m right, I’m an American. And that’s what matters. Unity and a united front. Because if you don’t unite under the same ideals, we won’t survive, and we’ll continue to kill each other. And what future are we going to give our kids? How are we going to let our children bask in the light of the new American Sun?
That’s very well said, and hopefully people will learn to unify and put differences aside and accept people for who they are.
It’s communicating. Yes.
Yes, communication is definitely one of the biggest issues.
100%. We fell from the very small level from the way we talked to our boyfriends, or girlfriends. The way we talk to our children, the way we talk to our moms and dads. We sometimes miss those very key vital parts of communication. And it’s very simply opening your mouth and telling somebody yourself.
Exactly. And then what happens when you realize that you communicated wrong or did something wrong, you end up holding that and regret it in your own life and then you learn. It’s a very powerful message that you’re bringing to your fans and to people in general.
Can you talk more about the video for, “Right Now?”
“Right Now,” the main character is in a huge city of New York. New York is a massive melting pot of culture. It’s kind of a microcosm of what the greater world looks like. You’ve got so much and during the video, the characters walking through this city and all these things are happening around them. Like, war, destruction, destruction of the environment, the breakdown. And there are a few people from different walks of life who get this message on their phone. And then you see their heads light up a little bit, there’s kind of an orb around their heads. Which means that, in the digital age, that’s how it would look if someone had an idea. You know, like the light bulb? Back in the day you have an idea and the light bulb goes off.
But in the digital age there’s an orb, a ping. That’s why they get a text message and not like a letter in the mail or something. They’ve got a text message sent to their phone. And that’s how we communicate now. So, the medium that they get that message is through their phones, and it sparks an idea in their minds. That’s why they meet up. And they meet up at the end of the video and that message that they got is that message that leading me to change right now. You know, Tupac used to say, “I know that I won’t see change today in my lifetime, but I will influence the mind that will enact change.” And I believe that, yes. I will influence the minds that will enact change. But really and truly you need to change today because if we don’t start right now, when are we ever going to see it? If not now, then when?
Exactly. Yeah, I’m with you on that. And people always hold things off until tomorrow or they’re just content with their lives or something, not realizing the big picture.
What are your plans for 2020r?
Well, as you might’ve seen already, we’ve been announced for the spring festivals. Not all of them, but three of them. We’ve got Rockville, Epicenter, and Sonic Temple, which we’re really stoked about because again, that’s another way to get out there and spread this message. And man, rock shows are the shit. Like it’s great listening to a CD and watching a video, but it’s nothing like being there in front of so many people and everyone’s just having a good fucking time, man. That’s what rock shows are about. So we got those, and then we’ll be over in Europe for a few of the European festivals, which is a first for us. We’re really stoked. Ritchie, in our band is from Germany and his dad lives in London. And I spent some time in the UK as a kid. So, this is really huge for us to get over to Europe and finally test our metal in the European market. We have those festivals over there. We’re going to be touring and working really hard to get this message out there.
I can actually picture you guys touring with Nothing More, in a way.
Oh yeah. Hell yeah, man, we love those dudes. They’re big fans of us. We’re big fans of them. We have a little Texas connection with those guys.
You guys are both putting out powerful messages and I can see you two working well together on a tour.
Hell, yeah, I would love to do something with Jonny, he’s got such a great voice.
As we just wrapped up an entire decade, are there any artists that stand out the most that came out within the last 10 years?
Wow. From a rock standpoint, I think Five Finger, despite what people might think of them and feel about them, I think they’re a very, very important band for their genre. Albeit they have a very particular fan base. Their fan base is huge and it makes up a group of people that probably feel like they don’t have a voice, which is retarded, because they have the biggest voice in the world. And, Five Finger being super important. Obviously, I mean not from an egotistical standpoint, I think we are a very important band, to music because we aren’t just a metal band. We are a rock band, we’ve got hip hop elements, reggae elements. I think we’ve really touched a place where a lot of bands want to go but don’t, and we’ve gone there.
From a hip hop standpoint, I mean Kanye’s been around longer than 10 years, but his madness has probably entertained us for the last 10 years. And we see his madness in many forms. I think Kanye is a fantastic performer, fantastic artist. A lot of people don’t see the genius through the madness, but maybe there’s something there. And there’s a lot of sick reggae artists coming up, right now. Young reggae artists. There’s this chick called Koffee who is insane. She’s got this naked soul, but a little pop sound to her man, she’s sick dude. Her name’s Koffee. This is a very good time for music. So the last 10 years has been real good, man, we’ve seen a power step in the thought process and the artistry. And it’s sick to watch. I’m really excited for the next 10 years.