APPLEHEAD: The Anatomy of an Apple Assault

After a 31-year hiatus, the new Applehead album – The Light Side of the Apple was just released on Roxx Records and it’s sounding pretty fantastic. How long have you been actively working on album #2?

(Greg) Thanks Chris! Not sure exactly how long, but probably about two years. It was when ROXX Records re-released the 1992 Meaning album that I decided to write and record a new record. I had most everything recorded by the time I met Jaymi Millard in June of 2022. He commented on a random FB post about the Meaning re-release and said that if I ever wanted to play those old tunes live, he’d be down for playing bass. To make a long story short, we became fast friends and he replaced all the bass tracks I had recorded for The Light Side Of The Apple

One of the most noticeable differences from the first Applehead album or the Minier album is that this is not just the Greg Minier solo show anymore. Welcome to the fold Mr. Jaymi “Pink Bassman” Millard. Jaymi, what’s your metal pedigree and how did you come to be involved on this album?

(Jaymi) I found metal around the age of 11 and it started with Black Sabbath, Rush and KISS. I was strictly a metal player until I moved to Nashville to go to school. That was quite a musical eye opener! Through the years, I have been a session player and a road dog and have played with bands and artists of all styles. My favorite shows to play more recently have been with Mark Slaughter doing his 2017 album Halfway There and the dates that went with it live, and I played some Slaughter band shows in 2019. YouTube has videos (laughs). Greg spelled it out as far as how I got involved. He was shredding on a post online and I commented …. I still have my original copy of Meaning on CD as well. We met for tacos and it started with a song. Some apples are pink so The Light Side of the Apple could be a pink one!! 

Did you set out to create a new Applehead album, or just write and let the music dictate what the name on the cover would be?

(Greg) It was not completely intentional. I had recorded several of the songs (music only) as “jam ideas” in Garageband. Actually, half the record was recorded in Garageband on a laptop. I hadn’t owned much recording gear in decades and was just starting to fool around with recording digitally. Once I decided to record a whole record, I bought a new Mac Mini and upgraded to Logic Pro X. It was an easy switch for me since it’s just an enhanced version of Garageband. I’d say, when I started to work on writing “The Destiny” is when I really began to envision a whole album. That song wasn’t intended to be what it became and it had a large part in driving the whole project. I had the music to the middle section and my neighbor Chuck Stanec wrote the lyrics for me. Then I wrote the last section and asked him to write lyrics that explained what happens after the middle part. Then I decided that I needed to have a section that explains everything that leads up to the middle section. So, I wrote the first section and Chuck and I cowrote the lyrics for it. It was a long process (laughs).

Let me get a couple questions about the first Applehead album Meaning out of the way first. What is an applehead? What the heck was the first cover supposed to be? And do you feel that first album was lost in the shuffle due to the unnatural death of the Headbanger’s Ball era in the early 90’s?

(Greg) It’s a mystery as to what an Applehead is! I’ve let the cat out of the bag a couple times, but we’ll keep it the mystery that it is. However, I will say that there’s no deep meaning to the name. The first album’s cover was just a cool thing that the photographer did. No big “meaning” (no pun intended) there either. Meaning did quite well back then, at least on Christian heavy radio. I have no idea what it did as far as sales, though. The record labels of the day weren’t always so honest and forthright. And yes, it was a strange time for music in 1992 with Grunge taking over. Meaning was likened to Grunge and I can see the comparison. Maybe that’s what drew people to the album. Most of those songs were actually written and demoed on my 4-track before Grunge even happened though. Instead of following up with a second Minier record, I wanted to do something different. That’s how Applehead came about. 

(Jaymi) and remember, Eve took a bite of the apple and the world was never the same!  

Greg, have you ever felt pigeon-holed as a musician from your history with The Crucified?

(Greg) Not too much. I was fortunate enough to have R.E.X. and Ocean Records let me do what I wanted and put those solo projects out. With this new one, I really felt free because I was writing / recording / producing by myself for the most part. That’s the beauty of being able to do this all at home now. Not having three other band guys to tell you what they like or don’t like allows you to try things that you might not have tried with other people in the fold. The flip side though is that you typically love all your own stuff and might not realize if something is great or if it sucks. 

What I hear on the new album does not sound like someone stuck in a niche. I heard some of the songs in utero and I’m blown away by the production on this disc. If I had to make comparisons, I’d say it’s more modern metal with a sonic resemblance to Avenged Sevenfold, even the vocals sound a bit like M. Shadows’ raspy melodic delivery. There’s a variety of styles represented here, and all done extremely well, whether it’s the heavy numbers like “Raze Hell,” “Worthless Words,” and “A Harmonic Minor,” ballads like the two Rain songs, or the rock opera called “The Destiny.” What made now the time to do a new album and what birthed some of these songs?

(Greg) I had a “no rules” approach with this album. I’m a Queen fan and since I was a kid I always loved how they would have albums where all the songs were so different stylistically. It was almost like some of their songs didn’t even belong on the same record. With The Light Side Of The Apple, I knew that I wanted it to be retro(ish) metal / hard rock. My mix guy, Caleb Stevens, is a young cat and he definitely gave it a more modern sound than I had originally intended. In retrospect, it’s probably a good thing that he did. To answer your question about “why now?” … Well, that’s interesting. When we moved out to the Nashville area three years ago, I had no intentions of doing music. We moved from California for the typical reasons that people leave, and we found our “better quality of life” here for sure. The interesting thing though is that some heavy hitter Christian artists live in my neighborhood. Meeting and hanging out with some of them gave me some of that old fire back. But I need to confess something here. The Nashville area can be “too cool for school.” It’s like L.A. in the 80s. This is where music happens, and a lot of people won’t give you the time of day. So, there may have been some mild spite that drove this album in the beginning (laughs). Kinda like “Oh yeah? Watch this… I’ll do it at home, without a room full of songwriters, without studio musicians, without a producer, without a studio…”  However, that spite didn’t last too long. I began to pray for the record daily and thank God for the opportunity to do it. Along with that prayer, pieces of the puzzle started coming together and I began to see God’s hand in it. Personally, this record has been the most rewarding one I’ve ever done. I have more time, emotion, thought and prayer invested than ever before. 

(Jaymi) and the most tacos consumed! Ask him about the Indian food next!  

The music business is very different than it was 30 years ago and while that could be a discussion all on its own, how did releasing “Down” prior to the album itself hype the whole project? How has the response been to” Down?”

(Greg) I think it has helped for sure. To what extent, I don’t know. Jaymi and I just thought it would be super fun to make a video. It was like a trial run and we wanted to see if we could do it ourselves. Jaymi’s two sons did the filming (mostly with an iPhone) and editing. Total budget – $250 paid to Sean for editing. Oh, and I gave them $40 to go get tacos after we filmed the outdoor stuff (laughs). 

(Jaymi) The music industry has changed to actually show the hidden stuff that labels were paying for, instead of the label doing it – the bands themselves do it now upfront. I think “Down” surprised some listeners as it is not the Crucified and speaks differently than many of the things Greg has done in the past. The video process was fun to go through because it had to start with the storyline and explain it in visual form (kinda like music videos USED to do). I have had a number of fans tell me they like the song / video and some were actually quite surprised that we were so blunt with the meaning of it in image form. See the taco trend?

One of the great strengths of the Light Side is the storytelling. Whether it’s the entanglement of sin with “Down,” the Alice Cooperesque tale of Samson in “Pretty Creepy” or your rock opera “The Destiny”- the storytelling pushes the music along as much as the crunchy riffing. It seems you have a lot to say here. Does this collection of songs have a theme or a common element weaving through it?

(Greg) Yes, there’s quite a bit of storytelling there. I already explained the long process of how “The Destiny” came about. I wrote “Down” from my own personal experience with substance abuse. “Pretty Creepy” came to me after I saw some guy on FB ask why no one writes Bible story songs anymore. I had recorded the music about a year before and had the chorus idea from the get-go. It was supposed to be about some hot but creepy chick. After seeing that guy’s post, it hit me. The theme throughout the album is faith in God and redemption through Jesus Christ. The exception is “A Harmonic Minor” – that jam is about Metal!

(Jaymi) Think of it like this, “Reading Rainbow with Greg Minier!” 

There are definitely some passages on this disc that beg to be played loudly or at least enjoyed with headphones – powerful leads, rumbling bass, and some classy soloing – that will soothe the metal addict in us all. What were some of your favorite songs or moments to perform on this album?  

(Greg) I thoroughly enjoyed recording the whole thing, but I’m pretty burnt out on listening to these songs as I’ve heard them all a million times! I think the best song on the record is “The Destiny.” It’s a good ride in the headphones with all the ups and downs. And I’m not aware of any song that has ever covered that much content lyrically. One of the first guys I sent it to after recording it said, “Wow. You covered the whole Bible in 13 minutes and 27 riffs.” I don’t know if he was impressed or annoyed!  

(Jaymi) I had fun with all of it as well. Played loudly is an understatement! Needs to be Motorhead loud! I had fun with all of them because I took what Greg had started with bass-wise and added some notes here and there … I can pick moments from different songs that kicked it up for me a bit. I think the more unusual parts are the most fun, like the little slap part in “A Harmonic Minor” – no one would expect that in such a heavy, fast song.

What songs must be played live? Will the band ever play live? Has there been any thought to that? And what is next for you guys?

(Greg) Yes, we will play live. The plan is to take this as far as we can and our goal is to play in “dark places” with secular bands. We don’t have any aversion to playing Christian-billed shows, but that’s not our vision. Jaymi and I have been searching for the right people to be in the band. It’s been a struggle and a constant prayer request. It’s possible that we already have the members, but we haven’t all been in a room together yet to jam and hang. But yes, there will be an Applehead assault coming soon!

(Jaymi) The live environment is one of my personal favorites. Whether it is 5 people or 50,000, the delivery is the same. As far as what songs to play live, the new album is chock full of goodness, so we are looking at playing most of it as well as something from Meaning and maybe, just maybe, a Crucified tune for certain arenas. We could call the tour dates, “Pummeled by Apples” or ” Who is the Apple of your eye?” We have some fun things prepared for the live show, but you will have to be at the live show to know what I am referring to! 

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