Pencilstorm Interview: Columbus' Armada

Columbus' Armada will play one of its final shows this Saturday, Sept. 30 at King Avenue 5 rock and sports bar at 9:00pm. The Buckeyes will be on the TVs with a killer soundtrack provided by Armada. Pencilstorm sat down with Armada's lead singer, Wal Ozello, to find out more about the show and the band.

Tell me about how Armada met and your first gig?
Steve and Ted met in high school at Worthington and played in a band called Signals, inspired by their love of Rush.  Steve and I met at a bar called Jousters on North Campus where BW3s is now and hit it off when he found out I was a singer. Ted and Dave knew each other from church of all places, but Ted knew Dave played a killer guitar.  We all had a love of complex and rocking music like Rush, Journey, Triumph and Tesla.  We clicked from day one. Our first gig was opening up for Zaza at the Alrosa Villa on a Sunday night.  Sundays were commonly known as employee nights since that’s really all who were in the audience.  But it was our first show and a ton of people came out to see us.  We had this eclectic group of fans. Dave was well known at the Alrosa so many of the regulars came out to see him.  Ted and Steve had their followers from the Signal days and were in a Fraternity on campus. I knew a bunch of people from OSU that drove out for the show, plus a few friends came down from Cleveland.  We asked all of our fans to leave the stage after the show and head up to the bar area so Rick would know how many of our fans showed up.  Needless to say, after we played our set the floor was empty but the bar was packed.  Rick seemed to love us so it was off to the races after that.
Eventually you guys were headlining weekends at the Alrosa Villa which is no small feat. How did you get to that point? What did those fans dig about you guys?
After the first opening gig with Zaza we played a Friday/Saturday opening with a band called Sgt. Roxx from Chicago.  After two opening gigs, Rick started us as headliners.  Rumor has it that Armada was the quickest band to go from openers to headliners in the history of the Alrosa.  I think it was because we were doing stuff no one else was. People came out to see us play Rush, note for note, followed by Journey and Tesla along with originals that were a mix of all three styles. We brought in such different fans that it was crazy.  I’d look out in the audience to see some long-hair leather jacket wearing Alrosa regular rocking out next to a campus sorority girl in an ΑΧΩ shirt dancing to Any Way You Want It. It was insane.  We really fed off the crowd and it became about making sure they were having a good time and forgetting about the bullshit of life for two hours.  That’s what a real rock show should be about – forgetting about your troubles and enjoying life.  That’s what I think people dug the most.
Unlike many bands from that scene, you guys also played originals and cut some records. Did Armada ever have any labels sniffing around considering signing the band?
We released our first album, Don’t Give Up The Ship, in 1992.  It was a mix of our best originals.  Some leaned more towards Progressive Rock, some leaned more towards Mtv Hard Rock.  The guys from Dream Theater loved our sound when we opened for them during their Images and Words tour. We were able to get Don’t Give Up The Ship in front of a few A&R guys but never got any traction.  The reality was that a year earlier Nirvana had released Nevermind and Smells Like Teen Spirit was huge. In shuffled the Seattle sound and everything remotely connected with Hard Rock went in the trash. It was the only era in rock history where no one was looking for that high tenor voice like Geddy Lee, Rik Emmett or Steve Perry. Five years earlier or later, we might have had our chance but in 1992 is was not meant to be.
Did you ever imagine standing onstage at the Alrosa Villa in 1992 you would be taking the stage with the same band in 2017?
Yes. I did. I knew we had magic going on.  It was more than the music. We were four guys that wanted to make the best music while making sure our fans had a blast during our shows.  Plus, we had each other’s backs. Always.  It’s great we can make some awesome music that fans love and come out to see us over and over again. Eventually, Armada became very much like a family.  We’re all brothers. One of the songs on Don’t Give Up The Ship is called Blood Brothers which we wrote about us.  The chorus ends, “Blood Brothers… and friends to the end.” There will always be an Armada to me. I can’t imagine life without it.

Armada will be playing a mix of their originals and covers by Rush, Journey, Guns N Roses, Motley Crue, Whitesnake, Ozzy Osbourne and more this Saturday, September 30 at 9:00pm at King Avenue 5 in Grandview Hts.  Check out the details here.