By: Rob Cavuoto
Adrenaline Mob returns with their new full-length album, Omertá due out March 13th. The “supergroup” with powerhouse vocals of Russell Allen of Symphony X, the shredding guitar attack of Mike Orlando and the drumming virtuosity of Mike Portnoy from Dream Theater. The album builds upon the sound developed on the EP with 11 crushing tracks. Omertá also features a blistering reinterpretation of Duran Duran’s classic “Come Undone” featuring guest vocals by Lzzy Hale of Halestorm.
Adrenaline Mob was formed in 2011 when Mike Orlando, who had been working on a collection of songs, approached Russell with a concept for a band. Together they joined forces and refined those ideas. Russell then reached out to long-time friend Mike Portnoy to see if he had any interest in playing with them. He jumped on-board and from the very first note, the chemistry and sound was apparent. The beast that is known as Adrenaline Mob was born.
I had the great pleasure of sitting down with Mike Orlando. An amazingly talented guitarist and songwriter to talk about Omertá, his guitar shredding beginnings and about his “beast of a band” that everyone is calling a “Super Group!”
Robert Cavuoto: Adrenaline Mob has been called a “Super Group.” What do you think about that moniker?
Mike Orlando: I get it and don’t mind. To me, I’m just a guitar player and I do my thing. I have the highest respect for my members and they are amazing, so I get where the word comes from, but to me, we’re a rock band. That’s it. We are out there to just play killer, hard-rocking stuff that gets the crowd bouncing and hopping. Music that you feel in your bones and raises the hair on your back of your neck.
Robert: The new CD is a perfect combination of hard and melodic rock from the Duran Duran cover “Come Undone” to the last angry song “Freight Train.”
Mike Orlando: I’m thrilled to death to hear that. “Freight Train” was a song that Russell and I banged out in one night. I had this riff, then boom – it hit. We put the verse down. We put the chorus down. We put the drums down and it was done. It was awesome. I remember Russ being like “Lay some crazy solos down,” and I just went for it. That’s one of my favorite solos on the CD. It’s got this really cool, fast, muted, catatonic picking at the end.
Robert: I can’t get the Duran Duran song out of my head now with Lzzy Hale of Halestorm on haunting backing vocals.
Mike Orlando: You know, it’s been engraved in my head since it came out too. It was my favorite song and I always said I was gonna redo it. I waited till the right lineup and finally sprung it on them. I remember their reaction, “Huh?” [Laughing] “Don’t worry” I said. Listen to this,” because I had already pre-recorded everything. And Russ said, “Okay, I get it.”
Lzzy is a female Russell, she is unbelievable. They have the same attack. There’s nothing she can’t do. Everything she does, she does with this fire.
Robert: Were you a Duran Duran fan?
Mike Orlando: Sort of. I’m a fan of all music. I never stick myself in one genre. I listen to every style of music and I am just a huge fan of music.
Robert: With everyone having a foot in other bands, is it difficult for everybody to juggle A Mob?
Mike Orlando: No. we all know what we’re doing. Mike Portnoy has always had his side projects throughout his career even in Dream Theater. Russ has Symphony X and I have Tred. We all want to live in perfect harmony. If we’re off on a break with A Mob, then I go out with Tred. Symphony X has been touring a lot since Iconoclast, which is awesome. I’m very close friends with Michael Romeo (guitarist for Symphony X). It just kind of goes back and forth and being a good flow.
Robert: So I take it there is no animosity about sharing Russell since you and Michael are friends?
Mike Orlando: No, not at all. Michael is a dear friend. I just saw him play in Philly. We’re the same. We’re gear heads. We’re guitarists. We both have recording studios.
And who knows Russ better than us? [Laughing] I consider Russ one of my dearest/closest friends. He is my comrade in music. We started A Mob together. He is the one who turned the key for the band. I had been working on this project with different members under the name Adrenaline. When I brought it to Russ and we started to work on it together, that’s when Adrenaline Mob was born.
Robert: I’m interviewing Michael Romeo next week so I will ask him the same question to see what he has to say about the situation! [Both Laughing].
Mike Orlando: I’m gonna call him after it and say, “All right, brother. What the hell did you say about me?” [Laughing]
Robert: I’ll be the guy who started an online feud destroying multiple bands. [Laughing]
Mike Orlando: You know, we would have the biggest kick out of that. That would be funny.
Mike Orlando: Well, you cut your finger and you burn the card. Our mascot on the cover, Bone Daddy, is basically trying to pull you in with the card, the way he’s holding it. “Look here. I have something to offer you. Come join our family.” That’s basically a shout-out to everyone in the world, “Hey, come join the mob.” He ties in perfect. It couldn’t have had a more perfect angle. You collect your family, your soldiers, you’re a mobster. Come join our family
Robert: John Moyer from Disturbed on bass is a great choice. Tell me a little bit about how you found him.
Mike Orlando: He was recommended to Mike and basically the sell was simple. I have seen Disturbed a million times when I traveled on OzzFest and I’m a huge fan. The genre is definitely similar between the two bands. Not that we sound exactly alike, but I consider us in the same genre. We flew him in and we played for a few days. It was instant. You basically know within one song.
Robert: Any plans to add a second guitarist to replace Rich Ward?
Mike Orlando: No. We’re gonna roll as a four-piece. The band sounds huge, and better than ever. It has a more open, more classic, and bigger sounding to the likes of Pantera, Van Halen, and Ozzy/Sabbath.
Robert: I recently saw you on YouTube doing a demo for Charvel. You were showcasing some of your Charvel guitars. Did you use any of those to track Omertá?
Mike Orlando: Actually, I had signed with Charvel after the album was done. I signed with them basically right before we went on the last US tour with Godsmack, maybe last August. I had always loved Charvels and Jacksons. The Jackson Soloist is one of my all-time favorite guitars. One of my top five favorite guitar players ever is Jake E. Lee.
Robert: I had a feeling when I saw the white and black Chavel So-Cal model.
Mike Orlando: There’s my homage. I’m tipping my hat off to Jake. He is the master. He was supposed to come up and play “Highwire” on the last show of our last A Mob tour. We had horrible trouble with our trailer and got derailed in San Francisco. The next night it was supposed to happen and we missed the show. They promised us that when we get out there again they will set it up – thank God. I’ve never met Jake. He doesn’t really surface that much anymore.
Robert: On the Charvel So-Cal, why do you have the tape on the bottom of the pickups?
Mike Orlando: Because I am a very heavy picker. Sometimes I will actually pick so hard, I make the string get caught under the pickup. If you look on all of my main guitars, I add the tape. It happens a lot. It’s a pain in the neck.
Robert: What about the new Charvel Desolation?
Mike Orlando: They are amazing too, I love them. They’re like a Les Paul style, but they’re lightweight with the 24 frets. I like the neck, too, very thin. It’s a shredding guitar, but it doesn’t have the weight of a Les Paul. I’ve played Les Pauls my whole life, but it’s kind of a cool throw on it.
Robert: You’re an amazing player, are you schooled in theory?
Mike Orlando: Yeah, I’ve been playing since 8 or 9. I started with a teacher for a couple of years. Then did a bunch of years with classical training on classical guitar. I was very into that and I still love it. I got most of my schooling right there, but then I would just go by my ear and figure out everything. When I was a little kid, my teacher would try to show me a part of the “Mr. Crowley” solo. “Here’s the beginning of the arpeggio.” The next week I’d come back and had basically figured out the whole solo. “How’d you do that?” “Well, I just heard it.” I’d try and emulate what I hear.
That’s the biggest thing to me that I try and tell people. It’s great to read tablature. It’s great to know exactly what they’re playing, but the coolest thing to me is to try and learn what your hero is playing without knowing what he’s playing, because you’re gonna develop something weird along the way or something great along the way that you’re gonna make your own.
I always say that to kids, and I get that the most. “How did you learn how to do that technique?” Because this is what I thought my heroes were doing when I was a kid. [Both Laughing] I just didn’t stop. Then when the kids think about it, they go, “That’s a great concept. That’s how you come up with original, cool stuff.”
I’m more for, “goddamn man,” try and figure out what the heck they’re doing.
Robert: What is the one question most asked of you about your playing and style?
Mike Orlando: [Laughing] I always get asked, “How did you get into the speed?” I have listened to fast playing since I was probably five. Maybe four, because my father was a huge Les Paul fan. Back in the day, Les was just shreddin’ it, rippin’ it up. That’s how I became a part of it. It was always kind of natural to my ear to hear very fast, clean playing. You can go back and listen to anything from Les Paul from the ‘50s, the ‘60s, all the stuff he did with Mary Ford. It was kind of like once I heard Malmsteen and Van Halen. I realized they were doing what Les was doing with distortion. I got it! To my ear it was cool. I just had to put it to a fretboard.
Robert: In an ever changing environment of technological and digital advances in guitars, amps and effects, how do you stay current with it all and stay true to you sound? Or are you evolving all the time?
Mike Orlando: I’m definitely a tech head. I love equipment. I love the evolution of it and everything about it from pedals to racks to guitars, amps, everything. But I always come back to my original rig. I’m endorsing Marshall amps now. I’ve been playing Marshall since I was 13. I had a JCM-800 back then and I still have a JCM-800. I love rack gear. Don’t get me wrong. I have a big system. But, yeah, I embrace the full spectrum of a great rig. Like I have a switching system now made by Rocktron where they’re doing all these loops and switches and the rack with a loop system in it where I can put my pedals in my rack and have them through-bypassed, not on my pedal board. I embrace all that stuff. It’s just incredible. It’s a great rig. It gives you a nice clean path to your amps. I’m all for that and all the technology. I have some rack units that give me some nice big delays. I love all that stuff. I’m a huge tech head.
Robert: Are you more of a pedal guy or a rack guy?
Mike Orlando: More pedal guy, but I do have the rig. We’re currently building a Rocktron Midi Raider switching system, which replaced their All Access. It’s kind of like a big Bradshaw switching system and I have my Rocktron signature wah pedal that we just put out and are gonna be pushing this year. I use a whammy pedal basically on the floor. Then it goes to a rack and I have a Rocktron Xpression rack, but I have a lot of pedals in a drawer. I keep my Overdrive and BOSS pedals. I love the MXRs, distortions, Overdrives, everything. I have Chorus pedals in there. I have Flanges. Some classic pedals and some new pedals. You could consider me a pedal guy. I still have my MXR Phase 90 from when I was 10. The orange one with the script. I’m totally into it and I love the new Eddie Van Halen pedal.
Robert: Cool. What was your first major guitar purchase when you were a kid?
Mike Orlando: Fender Squier Stratocaster. That was my really first good guitar I think I got when I was about 12. My father and I bought it. I saved up whatever I could save from delivering papers and whatnot. Then he paid the rest and that was it. I still have it. Cream white Fender Squier Stratocaster. Back then it wasn’t a light one or a cheap one. It cost a good amount of money back then like $750. It was a really heavy, solid Squier. I played Strats for years after that. I just fell in love with it. That was my first one.