Drummer/Howard Stern Show personality Richard Christy's band, Charred Walls of the Damned, performs at this weekend's Metallica Orion Music + More Festival in Atlantic City
Richard Christy was sitting in his office at The Howard Stern Show studios in March, listening to his boss interview Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich on his radio show.
Suddenly, Ulrich made a surprise announcement: Christy’s band, Charred Walls of the Damned, would be playing Metallica’s Orion Music + More festival this weekend (June 23-24) at Bader Field in Atlantic City.
“I was shocked that he would even know my name, let alone Charred Walls of the Damned,” Christy said by phone last week from his home in Queens. “I was in total shock and ready to start jumping up and down. Howard was surprised I didn’t know.”
It turns out that Brian Slagel, head of Charred Walls of the Damned’s label, Metal Blade Records, and an old friend of Ulrich’s, helped set up the on-air broadcast.
Charred Walls of the Damned performs its brand of powerful, driving, melodic metal at 6 p.m. Sunday. Orion Music + More features more than 40 bands covering a wide range of genres, including indie, alternative, rock and metal.
“Metallica hand-picked every band for this festival,” Christy said. “It blows my mind. Metallica has influenced every metal band around today.”
Playing the Orion Festival takes Christy back to his days as an 11-year-old in rural Kansas listening to Metallica’s 1983 debut album, “Kill ‘Em All,” and emulating Ulrich’s drum technique from watching Metallica’s “One” video on MTV’s “Headbangers Ball” program a few years later.
Christy has had his own effect on metal drummers through his precise and creative performances with such bands as Death and Iced Earth in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
Charred Walls of the Damned formed in 2009 and also features ex-Judas Priest and Iced Earth singer Tim “Ripper” Owens, virtuoso bassist Steve DiGiorgio, who also played with Christy in Iced Earth, and guitarist Jason Suecof, a well sought-after record producer.
Due to scheduling conflicts, guitarists John Comprix and Matt Sorg and bassist Ed Stephens will join Christy and Owens in Atlantic City in place of Suecof and DiGiorgio, respectively.
The performance will be the band’s first supporting Charred Walls’ second album, “Cold Winds on Timeless Days,” which was released in October. Band members all have other commitments and Christy works full- time on the Howard Stern Show, making extended touring difficult.
Christy won a competition to replace former Stern sidekick “Stuttering John” Melendez in 2004. He is known for his prank calls and song parodies, has acted in several low-budget horror movies and performs stand-up comic gigs.
“It’s amazing,” Christie said of working for Stern. “I’ve been a fan since I used to watch his Channel 9 [television] show” in the early 1990s.
Christy made himself known to Stern by sending comic bits and song parodies to the radio show, some of which Stern would play on the air.
“To hear them play my stuff was the ultimate rush,” Christy said. “I have fun every day. I love what I’m doing and get paid to do what I did as a little kid, which is be a goofball.”
Christie keeps a rigorous schedule, working at the Stern show from 5:30 a.m. until at least 3 p.m. He then practices drums for at least two hours.
“You always want to do better, and I still practice every day,” Christy said. “I still consider myself a struggling artist.”
Charred Walls of the Damned toured for two weeks supporting its 2010 self-titled debut while the Stern show was on break. Christy said he hopes to do more touring in the U.S. and beyond for “Cold Winds on Timeless Days.”
“My dream is to take Charred Walls of the Damned to Europe, Japan and Australia,” he said.
For now, a trip to Atlantic City this weekend is more than
IF YOU GO: Metallica Orion Music + More festival, 1 to 11 p.m. Saturday, June 23, and Sunday, June 24. Featuring Metallica, Charred Walls of the Damned, Sepultura, Titus Andronicus, Gaslight Anthem, Modest Mouse, Avenged Sevenfold and more. Bader Field, Atlantic City. $90 Saturday, $90 Sunday, two-day pass $150 (advanced purchase only). For more information, including a FAQ section, visit www.orionmusicandmore.com.
Fans can also see Christy perform at the “Death to All” benefit show on June 28 at Irving Plaza in New York City – visit www.irvingplaza.com, for more information.
The concert is a tribute to late Death frontman Chuck Schuldiner, who died of brain cancer in 2001. Proceeds benefit Sweet Relief, a charitable foundation that provides financial assistance to professional musicians with health issues, disabilities or age-related problems.
Christy played on Death’s final album, “The Sound of Perseverance,” and on “The Fragile Art of Existence,” Schuldiner’s first album with his new project, Control Denied.
“Chuck was so inspiring,” Christy said. “He was a musical genius. We were best friends and hung out all the time. He’s the nicest guy I’ve ever met and I think about and miss him every day.”
Christy said there’s good news on the horizon for fans who have been waiting for the posthumous release of the second Control Denied album.
“We hope to get it out early next year,” Christy said. “It’s worth the wait. The music is incredible and it’s going to be amazing.”
More info: www.richardchristy.com and www.myspace.com/charredwallsofthedamned