MERCY RULE: Interview
Special thanks to Olaf Becker and the dudes at Roxx Records for the opportunity to publish this INTERVIEW WITH MERCY RULE. Get the new album re-issue now.
Olaf: Hi Aaron! After all these years of friendship we finally are doing an interview together, how
crazy is that?
Aaron: Haha for sure it’s pretty cool!
Olaf: We need to dig deep I think and will go back to your first musical steps. Where you grew
up and what music or bands caught your attention while you developed your taste?
Aaron: Well we were all barely teenagers but I know Rich, and George were big Rush fans.
Bruce was a little older than us and loved Yes, Kansas, and early Genesis. For me It started
with the Beatles when I was about 12… That got me playing guitar. Then it was seeing the
movie “The Kids are Alright” by The Who… I was blown away. They were like a punk rock
version of the Beatles that smashed all of their instruments!… For whatever reason that
resonated LOL… Then It was Eddy VanHalen, and Randy Rhodes.. I’m like, that doesn’t even
sound like a guitar. It sounds like a machine LOL That opened the door to the whole guitar
shredder thing LOL Then it was Iron Maiden , Ronnie James Dio, and Judas Priest that showed
me what Metal could be. Finally, years later, it was Stryper that showed us as what Metal could
be like with a Christian message. It’s probably hard for people that weren’t young Christian
musicians back in those days to understand what Stryper meant to us all. They changed far
more than Christian Metal. Up until Stryper, Christian rock was weak and watered down. There
was intense criticism and condemnation brought against it by many of the leaders of the day.
This caused people to essentially be afraid to play rock music for fear of hell… which is a pretty
heavy trip for a young rocker who wanted to play music for Christ… not to mention not very
fertile ground for artistic creativity and musical excellence. Stryper changed all of that. It was a
literal freeing of the slaves!
Olaf: I fully understand this, STRYPER, BARREN CROSS, BLOODGOOD….changed our world
in 1985 & 1986. I am still a STRYPER fan. When (& who) raised the idea of founding your own band? And did you have any previous bands
before MERCY RULE?
Aaron: I don’t know Rich’s, George’s, or Bruce’s exact stories but mine started in Junior High
School with my friend Dean. We formed a “band” with a couple of other kids, Randy and Gary,
from school… We were quite bad… I don’t even remember our name… We attempted to play
two songs, “My Generation” and “My Sharona”! It was horrific! It was painful! I didn’t even know
what a bar chord was! For those who don’t know what a bar or “power chord” is , it is basically
the fundamental type of chord used in all rock music, and is essential to achieving any
semblance of a rock guitar sound… so the idea of playing rock guitar without knowing this
fundamental chord is hilarious to me! So anyway, that’s when we heard of these other dudes
from across town that were in a band, and we went to one of their practices. It was George
(guitar), Rich (drums), and their brother John on Bass. They played “Jumping Jack Flash” and I
was blown away! They were soooooo much better than us! George was playing bar chords! It
sounded amazing! I was like “So that’s how “The Who” gets that guitar sound, it’s bar chords!
LOL … I quickly adapted and practiced Who songs, playing bar chords (for the first time LOL)
until I got blisters on my fingers!
Anyway, someone had the bright idea of our two bands joining forces, and we became, “Double
Trouble”. This is because we had two guitar players, two singers, two drummers, and two bass
Over the next year or so we shed all members except for Rich, George, their brother John,
Randy and me, and we became “Black Ace.” We were not terrible at all! Our biggest claim to
fame was winning the Wayne Michigan, Battle of the Bands in the fall of ’81, stealing the title
from local hard rock heroes, “Joker”! Now Joker was a big deal! They were a few years older
than us, but they didn’t look like high school kids… they looked like men… They had long hair!
They had ripped abs…. They wore sleeveless shirts and had muscles!!! The guitar player was
like a ripped, blonde, Eddie Van Halen, and played without a shirt! Oh, and he could play with
his teeth!! They looked like Led Zeppelin, meets Van Halen, meets Aerosmith! We just looked like a bunch of barely pubescent goons! We were super intimidated… But somehow…by some
miracle… and with the strange twist of a local sound company, offering us the use of their
professional Soundsystem and supplying us with a professional sound man… We won! The
crowd went nuts, and we won! We went from nobody nerds to instant high school rock stars! Im
not kidding! It was an Instant dynamic change! No more getting smashed into lockers for us!
Olaf: I guess the wider Detroit area was an exciting place to be during the 70`s and 80 ́s, many
bands formed during these times for example MESSIAH (MI version), SWEET CRYSTAL,
HALLOWEEN and many more. What kind of influece had this on you? Where you around often
and saw several of the bands live in the scene back then?
Aaron: That’s interesting that you see things that way. It’s a testament to the music of those few
good bands that you mentioned. However, the reality was much different. Although Detroit had
a rich musical history with the massive Motown, and ground-breaking rock acts like, Alice
Cooper, MC-5, The Stooges, Bob Seger and Ted Nugent, the post Motown, pre hip hop years
were very dark in the Detroit area music scene. In the seventies it had become completely
fragmented with almost all of that industry leaving the area for New York, and LA. It had
essentially become a musical ghost town.
You did mention a few bands that were good but those were very isolated instances of talent
spread out over a massive urban sprawl with no way to bring them together. Remember no
internet, no Facebook, no Spotify etc… with the industry gone, and local rock radio completely
uninterested in local talent, every band was on their own. Many bands moved to LA instead to
find their fame and fortune. Detroit was labeled “Rock City” because of its world renowned Rock
Music fans and not because of its rock music scene in the seventies and the eighties.
Then for kids our age 14-15 years old, it was just a typical suburban life-style like portrayed in
many movies and TV shows over the years. The suburbs in Detroit were a massive sprawl,
made up of hundreds of cities, and communities. We were too young, and couldn’t drive so we
were completely unaware of anything gong on in the Detroit area music scene. I’m not even
sure there was one… we had never even heard of any of those bands… ALL of our influences
were outside of the Detroit area.
Olaf: When then MERCY RULE appeared? Did you directly dived in?
Aaron: It was quite a journey but essentially Mercy Rule evolved from our high school band
“Black Ace”. Shortly after our big Battle of The Bands win in 1981, George, Rich, their brother
John and myself had secretly become Christians at the same time… which is kinda funny. We
actually used to go to Friday night football games at our high school together, and drive around
doing stupid stuff afterwards LOL I remember coming over one Friday night and talking to the
guys, “coming out” so to speak, and telling them that I was a Christian and didn’t want to play
music that sang about bad things! They were like, “Say what? We were sort of thinking the
same thing!”. So that was the start of trying to find our new path!
We didn’t know too much about any Christian Rock so instead we cut all of our bad lyric songs
out and pretty much just played Rush LOL. We were still in High School and that was about the
end of 1981. I think we changed our name to “The Return”. Thats about the time when Bruce
Tordrup came along. He was this Christian dude that was going out with George and Rich’s
sister. Bruce and their sister used to take us to see local Christian rock bands. The bands were
sort of like left over from the Jesus movement of the early 70s, and we’re real spacey LOL Well
one night Bruce met us at a show and told us he had had a vision for our band doing a rock
opera… with us sort of being lost, and only playing Rush songs, We were like “Yeah man, let’s
do it!” and we did! We then asked Bruce to join and he played keyboards. We eventually
changed our name to Aziz, and that was about 1982. Aziz struggled for a few years with its
identity. Metal was just trickling into our area, then Judas Priest broke through with “You’ve got
another thing coming”. That was huge! Definitely influential but, at the time Christians weren’t
supposed to play music like that… so we played something more subdued… which I was not
nuts about… Then it happened….. Stryper came along! We saw them at Greenfest in Kitchner,
Ontario July 1985 on their pre-Soldiers Under Command Tour…. And it all became clear! Within
a year we totally transformed with a new name thanks to Bruce “Mercy Rule”, new walls of amps and speakers, pointy guitars, a massive drum set, new cloths (thanks to our pizza delivery
jobs lol. ) and of course HAIR! Also in that time we went from five members to four with John
Favazza (bass and vocals) leaving the band with Bruce moving from keyboards to bass, and me
and George moving to vocals still playing guitar and Rich on drums. Mercy Rule had emerged!
Olaf: Where there other christian Metal bands around that time?
Aaron: Yes, there were many local Christian bands of many genres around at that time. The
local Christian music scene in the mid to late 80’s was actually pretty cool. We met a lot of
great people back in those days many of whom I am still friends with. Also with the little bit of
success Mercy Rule was having a handful of other Christian Metal bands popped up:
Acceptance, Code Blue, and a few others. This Created a mini Christian Metal scene. We used
to do shows called Band Bashes with hundreds of people showing up and rocking out all over
the area. Good times for sure!
Olaf: Very cool! In Germany we also had a some great acts back in the days.
But back to MERCY RULE, how did the story went on? As mentioned for me it was the song on
Underground Metal which caught my attention. And maybe around that time you also did some
interviews for a few European mags. For example ADONAI METAL ROXX, the owner of the
mag also had a radioshow in France. Do you know if he played your Demo?
Aaron – no I can’t say that I do. The name sounds a little familiar but the big deal for us was the
Kerrang magazine review. That was a huge boost.
Olaf: I can imagine, KERRANG was huge back in the day. BTW what lead to the apperance on the Compilation Album?
Aaron: Pretty wild none of us can really remember the details. L O L but there was a fanzine that
really liked our demo tape (sadly, none of us can remember the name… ) and I think he
might’ve had something to do with getting the demo tape to Regency records.
Olaf: Yes I think there is something mentioned in the booklet of the Compilation CD or on the LP
sleeve. And after that, how did you get your record deal?
Aaron: Honestly, it’s hard to remember the details. I think we may have suppressed those
memories… LOL I believe REX contacted us because of Cities are Burning on underground
metal. We did have a guy that we were trying to use as a manager at the time and he handled a
lot of the details so that is probably why we don’t remember much also…
Olaf: Got you. And why it seems that the first record also killed the band. I think of course what
R.E.X. did with the album was a shame.
Aaron: Well a lot of years have passed and everything has worked out great for us in our
personal lives so it’s not something that we think about anymore. Not to mention that Grunge
came around two years later and obliterated everything anyway L O L.
I suppose it’s not at all that original of a story as it has probably happened thousands of times to
thousands of bands. Just basically a naïve young band (20 years old… children by todays
standards LOL) getting involved with the wrong record company.
At the time though, the band was everything to us. Just because we didn’t know how to navigate
the music industry didn’t mean we weren’t doing everything that we knew to do. We worked very
very hard. We put our blood and guts into that band for years practicing, writing, playing endless
gigs in VFW halls and run down dive rock clubs, to build a local following. To see things so
mismanaged, misrepresented… it was completely demoralizing.
It’s funny, years later after being successful in business myself when people ask me about the
band days, I compare the music business to taking your life savings and throwing it into flipping
a home, working your tail off 16 hour days and when you’re almost finished, someone coming
along and burning it to the ground LOL.
With all that said, that massive failure and the lessons learned in that time prepared me and
motivated me to be successful in life. I believe all of the guys in the band have similar stories.
For me the biggest takeaway for me was: if opportunity comes your way, be sure to put your
best foot forward no matter what it takes. Maintain as much control as you can and make sure
things get done right because you may not ever get another shot. People only reward
perfectionism, and never subpar work (even if you have legitimate reasons.) This one take
away, has led to much success in my life.
So if you can learn from adversity, it doesn’t destroy you. It just makes you stronger.
Olaf (NQ) Was there any support by them regarding album promotion? Tour support?
Aaron – I think there might’ve been one or two ads in Heavens Metal or something like that but
overall nothing that I was aware of. Like everything else we were on our own…
Olaf (NQ) Where there any festival offers?
Aaron: Nope. We had become friends with the guys in Sacred Warrior and there was talk of us
touring together, but that never panned out. We played a lot of local gigs and did a small amount
of touring on our own. We did have fun at least playing live shows for the fans. We had worked
hard on our live shows over the years and that was what we were good at and it was fun doing
Olaf (NQ) Later on, where there any talks about a second album? Where there any new Demos
Aaron: Well, originally we didn’t even want to release „Overuled“ the way it was. When we
recorded Cities are burning, we recorded it mixed and mastered it in one night… Rick Young
was one of the owners of the studio that we had recorded in was on fire. He pretty much just
knocked it out. With „Overuled“ however it was like dealing with a completely different guy. He
just couldn’t for the life of him, reproduce any of the tones that we had gotten on “Cities” and we
were so frustrated. We we’re considering just redoing the whole thing. However, We were told
by our “manager” (that is a long story L0L) that REX thought it sounded great…and to let go of
the release the way it was as they would get everything perfect on the second album… Which of
course they backed out of… yeah, that was the final nail, and a rude awakening to the realities
of the music business…
Again on the positive side, there are many other businesses that are much,…. MUCH better
than the music business, and the lessons that we learned back then helped us all to become
successful in our lives…
Olaf (NQ) When did the band Split?
Aaron: July 1990
Olaf (NQ) And how did you guys moved on? I mean of course I know you have had some new
Aaron: Well I know Rich and George play a lot of music with the church they go to. They actually
had a pretty big thing going, and I’m pretty sure it’s still all going to this day. I know Rich won a
contest for being the best drummer in Michigan and went onto the Midwest regionals. I know
Bruce was in a bunch of different local bands, and he’s done quite a bit of recording himself at
his home studio. He pretty much just does it for himself though as he has not released any of
I myself went on immediately to play with Bruce and friends Luke, and Matt in a band, called
Jigsaw Jungle, which was sort of a grunge metal thing in the early 90s. From there I took a
break from music, but did do a few things at my local church. Then in 2011 I started jamming
with the guys in Feast Eternal for a few years and we put out an EP called “Forward through
blood” which is currently on Spotify, Apple Music, etc.
After that I started doing my own thing and building my own home studio. I spent years just
studying, studio gear, recording, mixing techniques, virtual instruments plug-ins, etc. I’ve always
loved cinematic, and orchestral music. I spent a couple of years studying orchestral, and hybrid
cinematic music and arrangements. It was actually quite revolutionary to learn all of these
things, and it completely transformed my perspective on music and the way I write music. I started writing new songs about six years ago and I now go by the artist name “Neosentient”.
Neosentient is a combination of Metal, cinematic, orchestral and even some ambient music. I
guess if you wanted to categorize it, it would be sort of a Cinematic Melodic Death Metal. I play
all of the rhythm, metal guitar. Everything else is either virtual instruments played or
programmed by me. I also produce, mix, and master all of it. I just released “Neosentients” first
EP “So it begins”, on Spotify, Apple Music, YouTube, etc. this last January (Here’s a link for the full EP). I will be releasing another Neosentient EP this coming January 2024 if all goes as planned.
Olaf (NQ): Actually now it seems MERCY RRULE will get some press again. I am so happy that
the re-release will finally happen! How that came together? Are there any ideas, plans… for now touring the world…releasing a new album……. ;-). As you know I am of course still dreaming of standing in the front row at the MERCY RULE concert, bang my head and scream the lyrics…. 🙂
Aaron: So the way it came together with Roxx seems like a combination of things. I know you’ve
been a real diehard fan and have probably been pitching us all these years, but I know last year
a guy who calls himself Mr. P texted me saying that he’s been looking for a re-issue of
„Overruled“ for a long time and couldn’t find one. Well, basically, he started inquiring with some
record companies that do re-issues until Bill from Roxx called and that seems like pretty much it.
So shout out to Joseph P!
Hard to say, what’s in the future for Mercy Rule as we live pretty far apart. I know George and
Rich (not sure about Bruce) seem pretty keen on recording some new material so I suppose we
can’t rule that out. Not sure I would be able to be a part of it as I am having a lot of fun doing my
Neosentient stuff right now but you never know I guess.
Olaf (NQ) Sounds great. Thank you so much for this great Interview. Now do you like to add
some final words?
Aaron: Aside from some fun memories playing to fans back in the day, and the important
lessons that we all learned through our bad experience, the biggest good thing that came from
„Overuled“ was being able to eventually get in touch with you and be friends over these many
years. We have had some great times! Thanks, Olaf! Thanks Bill at Roxx Records and thanks to everyone for their interest in the re-issue of “Mercy Rule’s“ “Overuled”!
Oh, and PS, If anyone is interested in hearing any new music from me, please be sure to check
out “Neosentient’s” new EP “So it Begins” on Spotify, apple music, YouTube, etc.!
Thank you everyone!