Nik Heftman/ Daily Times Herald

AJ Channer was born in the Bronx to a single mother of Jamaican descent. He spent his childhood moving between London, New York City, Los Angeles, Norfolk and Ghana. Today, he’s the fifth vocalist of socially conscious metal band Fire from the Gods. Channer sat down with us and talked about Narrative Retold, the band’s latest studio release, and the impact of police brutality on society.

M.T.C: How’s the Warped Tour treating you all?

Channer: Not bad man. I mean, it’s Warped Tour, so it’s a whole different animal. From day one, the experience has provided a welcoming, friendly atmosphere. We’ve been through some ups and downs. We had some bus issues. We’re on our third bus. As far as playing the shows, the love has been immense. It’s been an amazing experience.

M.T.C: How did you joining the band come about?

Channer: The band has been around for 10 years now. I am the fifth vocalist. I was in a band called Ashes Within in Brooklyn. We had got signed to a label and we were working, creating music to release and the label just wasn’t feeling it. That label had approached me with some other ideas and I wasn’t really feeling that. The gentleman who was managing Fire from the Gods and my band had said that theres a band in Texas would be perfect for me. He said they had a guy that wasn’t getting along with the bad and he wasn’t very good. The band recruited a stand in, and it ended up being a dual vocalist situation for about a year. I joined the band in August 2014. Once we released Narrative, we decided to go with a single vocalist. 

M.T.C: What was it like meeting the band?

Channer: I’m from New York. When I first met the dudes, I flew down to Austin, Texas. It was my first time in Austin, per say, to hang out. I played shows there before, but I never got a feel for the city. It was mad hot, first of all, and I was like “I don’t know about this.” The band said they had a show the next day and they were going to announce that they were going to have another vocalist and try to do the dual vocalist thing.  So, started jamming because I knew all the words to their songs. After the set, our guitarist, Drew, who was pretty much the only original band member, asked if I wanted to play the whole set next time. Almost three years later, we’re at Warped Tour.

M.T.C: Your videos have garnered millions of views on YouTube. How are you taking the recent success?

Channer: We’re like the new toy, man. I just don’t want us to be the flavor of the week.

M.T.C: How have the fans responded to Narrative?

Channer: It was awkward at first. We hadn’t released Narrative, but we had been playing the songs for half a year. People were like “What is this?” Because one song sounded like “rap metal,” as some would call it, then you have one song that sounded like straight up rock, then you had a metal song. The response was here and there, but once we started playing the songs more, and released the record, everyone started feeling it. Kids are coming up to the merchandise tent saying, “Wow, I didn’t think you guys were going to be that good live. It’s better live than on the record!”

M.T.C: “The Voiceless” speaks on a very powerful message. Tell us about the issue of police brutality and how it inspired the song. 

Channer: Here in America, we’re blue in the face about talking about police brutality and the effect of the prison industrial complex on our communities. Specifically, from my own perspective, which I speak through my music, hence the name “Narrative,” it’s kind of saying voiceless sarcastically. People want to brush (instances of police brutality) off like, “Maybe if the guy had listened; maybe if he stopped moving.” I don’t think there should be a situation where a civilian is killed by a police officer unless the use of deadly force comes at him and he has to protect himself.

“The Voiceless” by Fire From The Gods

M.T.C: Since we’re so close to Minneapolis, would you provide some commentary on Philando Castile and the recent killing of Justine Damond? 

Channer: It’s manic. It’s crazy. Police are supposed to be here to support and protect, but we’re afraid of them. They’re killing us. Growing up as a black man in America, my mother always told me that I have to walk a fine line. She told me that I would have to “watch out.” I don’t think police police are waking up in the morning saying, “I’m gonna’ go out there and I’m gonna kill a n—-r.” I don’t think anyone wakes up like that. What I do know is the national attitude of racism, classism and socio economics has provided a hostile environment for police officers and citizens. I want to believe in the greater spirit of humanity. That’s what “The Voiceless” was about. You aren’t listening, so we think that we’re voiceless.

M.T.C: As I’m sure you know, Chester Bennington of Linkin Park recently passed away. Did you have any personal interaction with him? 

Channer: I met the guy in California and I was like, “Dude, I’m a massive fan.” There is not one fan, or one band here, who hasn’t been touched by that guy. I woke up in the morning and got ready for school watching MTV 2 and “One Step Closer” would be on. That was part of the reason I wanted to do this. Everyone’s known that he dealt with demons. That’s never been a secret. To see him go out the way he did was very sad. It raises a national question. What’s going on with mental health? It’s a real thing, and we have to raise awareness.

M.T.C: What’s next for Fire from the Gods?

Channer: We have a few tours coming up, but nothing is set in stone. We’ll keep everyone posted. 

Nik Heftman/ Madness to Creation

Warped Tour Review

Fire from the Gods headlined the Hard Rock stage of the Vans 2017 Warped Tour in Shakopee. With Channer leading the charge, the band performed the most popular tracks on the their recently release, “Narrative Retold,” like “The Voiceless,” “Excuse me: and “End Transmission.” Channer and the band connected with the crowd from the first song. A majority of the audience members challenged Channer’s strong voice as they sang along with most of the songs word for word. During his performance of “The Voicless,” Channer jumped onto the barricade separating the audience from the stage and remained there for the rest of their performance. He raised his fist several times, and the audience mimicked the gesture. Fire from the Gods established spiritual and emotional connection with their audience that transcended entertainment value. Fire from the Gods gained a number of new fans as a result of a heartfelt conclusion to a long day at Warped Tour, including myself.

Fire From The Gods has several tour dates coming up, including wrapping up Vans Warped Tour and a couple of one-off shows, check out the tour dates below:

Friday, August 4th- Shoreline Amphitheater in Mountain View, California

Saturday, August 5th- Qualcomm Stadium at Jack Murphy Field in San Diego, California

Sunday, August 6th- Pomona Fairplex in Pomona, California

Thursday, September 14th- House of Blues Orlando in Lake Buena Vista, Florida

Saturday, October 28th- Come And Take It Live in Austin, Texas (appearing with Upon A Burning Body, Rivers Of Nihil, Enterprise Earth, Darke Complex, Bodysnatcher, and Reign)

Check out Fire From The Gods at the following locations:

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