Howard Stern fans know him as Rod Stiffington, a practitioner of practical jokes willing to endure Brazilian waxes and nationally televised same-sex make-out sessions, all for the benefit of the show. But heavy metal fans have been following Richard Christy’s work for years, since he punished his drumkit for the likes of Death, Incantation, and Iced Earth, long before he joined Stern’s menagerie of merry misfits. And this summer, Christy plans to return to his first love.
Earlier this week, Metal Blade Records inked a deal with Christy’s latest project, Charred Walls of the Damned. Christy has been writing material for the band’s debut album for months, and will hit the studio with his former roommate and metal producer du jour Jason Suecof (God Forbid, Black Dahlia Murder, Trivium) to record the set, which is slated for release this fall.
Despite his penchant for tomfoolery, Christy says Charred Walls of the Damned’s self-titled debut will be as serious a metal album as they come, and he’s assembled an all-star lineup. In addition to producing, Suecof will play guitar on the album, while former Death, Autopsy and Iced Earth member Steve Digiorgio will handle bass. Providing vocals will be another of his former Iced Earth bandmates, Tim “Ripper” Owens, who is perhaps best known for his work with Judas Priest during the late 1990s.
The name of the band, he says, was inspired by his unrelenting assault on various Christian swap-and-shop radio hosts. Christy says one of them caught on to his larks, and lambasted the drummer and his cohort, Sal Governale, on the air, saying he wanted to “see you sitting beside us there, at the marriage supper of the lamb, saved by God’s grace and not in a Devil’s hell, where you’d be putting your nails into charred walls of the damned.”
“Right away, Sal looked at me and said, ‘That would make a great name for your band,’ ” Christy says. “I Googled it, and sure enough, there were no bands called that and nothing close to that, so, that was it.”
Christy, who hopes to tour with Charred Walls of the Damned this fall, tells Rolling Stone that he’s always known he’d return to heavy metal, and about a year ago, began writing material for Charred Walls.
“I got inspired when I did a Howard TV drumming special, and it was really cool,” he recalls. “They filmed a lot of new footage of me doing drum solos, and I wrote an original song. They started playing it on [Sirius’ defunct metal station] Hard Attack, and I started getting emails from people saying they really liked it, so I was like, ‘Man, maybe I should keep writing some tunes.’ “
He missed metal, and says he’d attend concerts in New York. “I’d hang out with a lot of my friends who I used to tour with,” Christy says, which made him recall the “good old days when I used to be on tour.” But he didn’t want to release a solo LP. “I always wanted it to be a band concept,” he says. “I wrote the skeleton of the songs, the riffs, the drum parts, some of the vocal melodies, and I’ll get together with Jason, and we’ll fine tune that. I like having several hands in the pot, and I think that always just helps to make things even better.”
Christy says he’ll be flying down to Suecof’s Audiohammer Studios in Florida on weekends, starting in July, to record the disc. “Because of my job with the Stern show, my time is really limited, and we’re going to have to do a marathon studio run with this album and get it done pretty quickly,” he says. “Just pound out the songs.”
For his second album, though, he’s hoping for some guest appearances — not from Artie Lange or Bababooey, but some of his favorite drummers. Christy said he’d like to get 15 or 20 of his idols in one room, to record “this crazy, instrumental drum song.” The tunes he has crafted are based on his life experiences, he says. “I have a song called ‘Blood on Wood’ that’s about this time I was rehearsing, playing drums, and I popped this blood blister and my drum stick was covered in blood,” Christy says.
While he’s not so sure his boss is going to love the record, he does think Charred Walls of the Damned will attract metal and hard rock fans alike.
“I tried to put everything in there, and not have any kind of limitations,” he says. “There’s blast beats, and super fast double bass, but there’s also real slow, dirge-type parts. I didn’t think about what style I wanted it to be, I just want it to be metal. Fans of death metal will be into it, because its super heavy, but it’s also melodic, so if you’re into Iron Maiden, you’ll like it. I don’t want to classify it. I just wanted to write something that was really heavy, but catchy, like some of the early ’90s death metal, like Dismember and Morbid Angel. I want people to remember every song after they hear it.”