RIOT V has been through hell and back over a career spanning more than 30 years. Between members coming and going and the deaths of Rhett Forrester, Guy Speranza, and in 2012, guitarist and founding member Mark Reale’s passing from complications due to Crohn’s Disease, things have certainly taken a toll. But from the ashes rises the Phoenix, and at the urging of Mark’s father, guitarist Mike Flyntz, bassist Don Van Stavern, drummer Frank Gilchriest, and new vocalist Todd Michael Hall, along with Flyntz’s former guitar student Nick Lee have thankfully decided to grace us with Unleash the Fire. It is an album that is not only a fitting tribute to Mark but also a true testament to the power of Heavy Metal music. I had a chance to sit down with Mike Flyntz, a fellow Long Islander, and we talked about that, among other things. Have a look:
Amps: First off, I can think of no better way to honor Guy, Rhett, and Mark than with this POWERHOUSE of an album!! “Metal Warrior” they don’t get any more metal than that, man!!
Mike: Thank you! That’s so great to hear, man.
Amps: You’ll laugh; I was waiting to take a drug test for my new day job, and had on an ANVIL shirt. Some old-school metalhead complimented me, we’re talking, and this promo hits my e-mail. I screamed, “YESSSS!’ and had everyone in the fuckin’ waiting room looking!!
Mike: (Laughing) Wow!! That’s awesome!
Amps: What was the impetus for Unleash the Fire?
Mike: Well we really didn’t know if we should continue or not and through me hanging out with Mark Reale’s father a lot, he asked me to continue with the band to keep Mark alive through music. And we didn’t know how we were gonna approach it. We had all these ideas, so we set out to write some good songs and have a lot of people sing and play on it, have old singers and pretty much do a dedication to Mark with a lot of guests. We started writing the tunes, and Donnie (Van Stavern) wrote most of his songs when Mark passed, it took me about a year. After we had the songs in place we did some live shows in February and when we got back from the shows Greece and Italy we were like, “Wow, this is some band we put together ourselves. Let’s do a record instead of having a whole bunch of guests. We can do our own tribute to Mark with this band right here.” And we decided to write songs in all of the different styles, something that could be on Narita, or Rock City, and I wrote “Take Me Back” making believe I was in RIOT during Fire Down Under and Donnie went into the writing with the same ideas. Let’s honor Mark’s entire career and make songs that could be on any RIOT record, and that was our main focus.
Amps: How does RIOT V write songs? What was the breakdown for this record?
Amps: Wow…just…I hate to keep fanboying, but what a record!!
Mike: No, that’s so great to hear, thank you. We really didn’t know what we had and we’re getting a lot of nice compliments on it. Everyone’s positive with it.
Amps: But when you were sitting listening to the final masters and you heard it coming out of the speakers didn’t you know what you had on your hands??
Mike: Yeah, but by that time we’ve heard it 30,000 times and we really focused on making the songs perfect so we changed things a hundred times, kept on adding and taking away parts. After you’re sitting with the same album for four months straight you lose track of what you have. (Laughs) you don’t know if it’s good anymore, so it’s nice to hear that.
Amps: Let’s talk live shows…TELL me there’s gonna be a tour.
Mike: We’re talking about maybe doing a States tour with ACCEPT, ANVIL is looking to go out again, so something might happen there. Everybody just wants to go out, have fun, and make a little bit of money if we can. ‘Cause these days it’s hard to go out and not lose your shirt, you know? We just booked a couple of festivals in Spain and Germany. And our album release party is the weekend we get back from Japan, October 25 in New York. We’re playing Fingers Metal Shop’s 31 Anniversary Party at Revolution in Amityville, NY, right down the street from me. That’s gonna be crazy ’cause that’s a small place and he already has DORO coming and he added us so it’s gonna be a madhouse!
Amps: I used to live right there off of Division Ave, I know Revolution well.
Mike: Oh yeah, right over by All-American Burger.
Amps: Ohhhh, I miss it so much! How cool is having your student, Nick (Lee), sharing guitar duties in your band? What do you think he brings to the table that’s the same as well as different from you?
Mike: One of the things that’s great about it is that, you know, when Mark passed away I lost a guy that’s impossible to replace. Mark is a companion of mine for so many years that he’s just irreplaceable. I taught Nick from the time he was nine till he was 17, and he teaches at my school, and while we can never replace Mark, Nick has been playing RIOT songs with me since he was 15. It was a natural thing for me to do. I had a lot of people call wanting to join but I said, “No, I’m going with Nick. He plays like me already.”
Differently, he’s more of a new metal player, legato sweeping arpeggios. If you listen to “Metal Warrior” nick comes in with this weird arpeggio sweeping thing. On “Bring the Hammer Down” he does an incredible solo that I would never do. He’s hungry and he’s an animal onstage. He’s a natural, he’s the real deal.
Amps: How is life for Mike Flyntz, personally as well as professionally?
Mike: (Starts laughing) Oh boy, that’s a great question! Life’s been a crazy time. Losing Mark Reale was one of the most devastating things that could ever happen to me. I went on a bit of a downward spiral. I lost a lot of weight and went a little crazy.
I just didn’t know how to deal with losing him. He was a true friend of mine. Once I realized that we were gonna put the band back together, all the time I spend with his father, and getting Nick up there. You know, I don’t think I could have done this with anybody else. Life is OK, we’re all working hard.
Amps: Say something to all the RIOT V fans all over the world.
Mike: Thank you for your support. With all the support from the fans, that’s the only way we can continue doing this. It was the suggestion of Mr. Reale, him and the fans that made this possible. RIOT has never had big audiences, but the people who show up are supportive and loyal, and I truly think we have the best fans in the world. The few people that like our band LOVE it. We know that, and we appreciate that, so thank you to everyone.
Very well-stated by a true gentleman. Mike Flyntz is more than a hometown boy made good. He is forever a part of Heavy Metal History, and is currently writing more of it as RIOT V blazes ahead into 2015 and beyond. Unleash the Fire is available on October 28 via Steamhammer/SPV… OR you can get your asses to Revolution tonight and pick one up at the CD release. Grab tickets HERE, and go out and rage with RIOT V, DORO, and my boys in KILLCODE for me since I’m way down here in Dallas and can’t be there, willya?