The ‘Paradise City’ crew didn’t know Andy Black and Ben Bruce are musicians
The Black Veil Brides frontman and Asking Alexandria guitarist tell us some stories about the making of the ‘American Satan’ television spinoff.May 11, 2020
Man, have we got an exclusive episode of AP Phoner for you. Last week, the trailer for the rock ’n’ roll drama series Paradise City was released. The spin-off television series taken from the movie American Satan will soon be announcing its premiere date and network. Content Director Paige Owens spoke with two of the series’ characters, two gentlemen quite familiar to readers of AltPress, Black Veil Brides/Andy Black founder Andy Biersack and Ben Bruce of Asking Alexandria.
Both Biersack and Bruce enthusiastically talk about the differences between the movie and Paradise City. Biersack says the series goes into the lives of the individual members more so than the collective. Bruce reveals that he suggested a potential plotline to series creator/director Ash Avildsen. And both of them respectfully miss Cameron Boyce, the young actor who passed away after the filming had wrapped.
You can watch the whole interview above. Below is an excerpt from the conversation. Here Biersack (frontman Johnny Faust) and Bruce (guitarist Leo Donovan) compare and contrast their roles as professional musicians while appearing as “pretend” ones as the Relentless, the unit whose adventures are detailed in Paradise City. Biersack also takes the deeper dive regarding the participation of Palaye Royale’s Remington Leith as his proverbial stunt vocalist.
I want to talk to you about performing with the Relentless. Andy, obviously your vocals are lent to you for the series from Remington Leith. I don’t want to say you aren’t performing because you’re performing, but it’s not [from] the musician standpoint that you’re usually performing in. Was it strange for you to continuously revisit being onstage and not playing your instruments and not actually singing?
ANDY BIERSACK: I find it interesting because Ben and I are not on these songs. But we are representing it. I want to get to the actual answer, but a little side thing I always laugh at happened on both American Satan and Paradise City. The first day that we filmed the live performance stuff, the crew and the actors were mainly people who didn’t know what Ben and I do for a living. I remember both times everyone going, “Wow, you guys really killed it.” And both of us [were] laughing like, “Well, we didn’t.” This is us miming what we do in real life. You should see what we do at shows. But it’s bizarre to get used to the idea that you’re playing material that is not your own. Not [being] present in the recordings that you’re mimicking is a weird thing.
We’re used to doing music videos. But that’s our shit that we’re doing. But I have found that it has been beneficial in that it separates for me my persona in my band or my solo career or whatever else from my persona as Johnny. It’s the way that Remington will say a word, but I might have done it different. So the shape my mouth has to make to make that word happen would be different. Little mannerisms and things that are part of performing or being a frontperson or whatever else have to change just by virtue of the fact that it’s not my voice or how I would do it.
For me, it’s been beneficial. It’s certainly interesting. It’s a different experience to go up onstage and to not have it be you. We didn’t write the songs, and we’re not performing them. But you’re out there doing it, and people watching you go, “Yeah, we’re doing a great job.” But you’re hoping that you can sell it to the audience, that this is what you’re doing, despite the fact that you didn’t have a direct relationship with the recording of the song. But I think it’s so good. The music they have done for the Relentless is so good. Remington’s voice is so fantastic. I remember when I first heard the songs, I was a little worried. Like, “Oh, who are they gonna get to do the vocals? I hope it’s cool.” And I was immediately just so thrilled because I think his voice is very personal, very cool. But also the raspiness and everything else is complementary to my speaking voice. It makes sense. It doesn’t seem out of left field.
BEN BRUCE: For me, it was weird. I don’t know [if] I enjoyed it quite as much as Andy seemed to have. I found it very hard to switch off when I was put onstage and that guitar got on me. That was honestly my least favorite part of filming the movie and the television show. And I think it’s because I didn’t get that instant gratification that I’m used to getting when I’m onstage in my element. Like you go out onstage, and it’s like, ”Oh, my whole day has led to this moment.” And you hit that first note, and the lights go on. It’s like, “Whoa, this is unreal. This is unlike anything I’ve ever felt.” And then when we were filming for the TV show and the movie, it was the opposite. It was very like, “Oh, this is not real.”
BIERSACK: Like you said though, when you’re acting, we’re making those choices. It’s our voices. It’s our choice [that] we’re making something that wasn’t there before. The words weren’t written by us. But we’re making the thing happen in real life when we go to perform these songs as the Relentless. We didn’t make shit happen at any point, you know?
BRUCE: Yeah, it’s very weird. It’s a strange situation to be in, for sure. But you would think it would be the easiest. Which I guess it was, hence people saying how good we were at it, which is great. But it definitely wasn’t my most favorite thing about the experience.
BIERSACK: I don’t know if people understand that the movie is a little different. But for the series, they were making songs constantly through[out] the course of the series. So we would be learning our lines. And then also…
BRUCE: “Here’s a song!”
BIERSACK: Yeah, we would be given a song, so we would have to go to our trailers and learn at least a reasonable facsimile to be able to perform it that day. And [the directors] would change it. “Oh well, we went and recorded this new song, and we’re gonna do the scene where you’re doing this.”
With this, [it’s] a song you never even heard before that you got to learn and then do in front of a crowd that night onstage and make it look convincing for cameras that are right here. So it’s certainly a more arduous process in the interim than people would necessarily think, because we are professional musicians. But there is that developmental era of it where you’re going, “How do you do this? How do you make this look convincing like it’s coming out of us?”
BRUCE: As a musician, too, I don’t know if people were just expecting me to be able to hear a song and then automatically know how to play it correctly on my instrument. Let me tell you, I’m not that good. And so that was not the case. So they’ll be like, “OK, let’s play the song.” I don’t know how. And so for Andy, I’m not saying singing these songs you didn’t know was easy by any means. But at least if it was like, “OK, I can get through these lines, and then maybe there’s a cheap trick where I put my arm here…”
BIERSACK: I do the full hands in front of my face like this for the whole time.
BRUCE: The whole time. So I tried to do the same thing, but people could figure out I wasn’t playing guitar. Cuddling it. But it was hard.
BIERSACK: Because you’ll see, Leo has his back to the audience 100% of the time, like the singer from the Cranberries used to…
BRUCE: Except when the song finishes, it’s the ringer. I turn around. “Thank you!”
For the process to have your voice be somebody else, it does seem like you would be able to create this fictitious character and separate Johnny from Andy. Versus if you were singing, it would be hard to differentiate. And it made sense to me when it came out.
BIERSACK: There is a fair amount of confusion about why that happened and why it has continued to happen. When it first went down, it was just as simple as going into the process before the movie had even gotten legs. I was in a record deal with Universal Republic at the time where they were not interested in selling the rights to my voice to anybody. And, you know, that’s not something that you want to put on a production, particularly an independent movie. “Hey, you know all the money you have to spend? You also have to buy my voice to be able to do that.” It’s a weird thing. People don’t necessarily understand, particularly if you’re in a major-label 360-deal type thing. You don’t really own a lot of yourself as an artist.
So the decision was made pretty early on that somebody else is going to sing it. People ask, will I be singing now in this show? Because now I’m on the label. The difference here is that we all felt like Remington’s voice is the singing voice of the character. It just felt natural that it would just continue in that path. While I’m fine with my voice and I like the way I sing, I have plenty of opportunities to do so in my band and my solo music. Whatever else, this character has that voice. I don’t know if anything would ever change in the future. But right now, it seems to me that the most logical thing for everyone was to continue on. Remington does an amazing job and has an incredible voice. He’s got a great tone, and it fits so well with the character that it would make no sense really to stray from that just because the shackles of a record label deal have changed.
American Satan, the way it picked up traction, became this cult classic. Like they used to do in the ’80s where something would pick up and fans went completely berserk over it. I feel like for those fans, it would almost come off as inauthentic for that voice to change after they’re accustomed to it. Like, “This is Johnny.” It would seem weird for the band to have so much change in difference and dynamic.
BIERSACK: And also the songs are fucking great, and I’ve got to say regardless, while yes, there initially were some ego issues for me of like, “Oh, but I’m also a singer,” and it was just weird. Those were pretty easily quelled just because of the songs being so good and Remington being as good as he is. So people are going to be very excited. You’ve already heard the new Palaye song that’s in the teaser. There’s so much good shit that [to] me, just as a fan of music, I’m excited to hear it and to be a part of it. So I got plenty of opportunities to sing in my life. This is Johnny. Johnny’s voice is Remington’s singing voice. And so that’s just the way it is, but it works.