Interview: Johnny DeAngelis of Oni

I’m Chris… I’m with Damnation Magazine, and I’m here with John from ONI (“oh-knee”)

Hello hello…

And just witnessed an awesome show here at the Ready Room opening up for Devin Townsend… I guess, the first question would be, since you play Xylophone – which there’s not many people in the metal scene that do that – what led you to do that and how did you guys decide to bring that as part of the band?

Well, you know what, it just kind of started with my schooling. When I was a teenager, I did percussion in high school and essentially I had this teacher preparing me for my university auditions and I caught him one day playing a classical guitar piece on a “malletKAT”, which is similar to the xylosynth, it’s kind of like a different model, different comapny. I’m obsessed with, not just metal, but the guitar playing, guitar players; especially the soloist-ic playing… And I kind of regret it – not regret it, I love playing drums and percussion – but I was like “ahh, you guys are so rad” and I saw that and thought “hmm, maybe I could try something like that.”

So, my band in high school was a keyboard metal band, and I brought the idea to my singer who played piano. There was no guitar player in the band so I was like, “you know, maybe we could have some guitar tones in our music but I’ll play it on this xylophone thing”. He was OK with it, and we just went from there. These guys, we all went to school together so they bore witness to that band, and we all just kind of made this band (now Oni) from that.

Do you play drums as well?

I do, I started on drums but when I started doing this I pretty much stopped. You know, I’ll still play for fun; my drum kit’s been in storage for a long time so I’m not quite as good as I used to but…

I hear ya, it is kind of different…

So as far as the tour, currently – obviously – you’re with Devin Townsend and it looks like it’s going for another couple weeks… Do you guys have any other plans after that for more tours, or taking a break?

Yeah, it’s kind of all over the place for the rest of the year. We have a few shows with Gojira at the end of the month… And then we have TechFest and Bloodstock (Open Air) in the UK… And a little short tour with Death Angel in France.

Death Angel’s awesome… So that’ll be great. For BloodStock, will you be there for the whole festival or do you just show up for the one day you guys play?

Well, we do like to hang out when we do festivals, I mean, if it’s more than a day. We haven’t done many, so far we haven’t gotten to hang. I hope we get to stay for the whole thing because it’s such a good one.

Is it three or four days?

Uh… I’m not sure… Sorry… I’m pretty sure we’re gonna get to hang, see all of the bands and it’s going to be great.

Well, anytime you’re going to fly across the ocean it makes sense to stay for as long as you can too, so… It’s definitely a festival that’s on my “wish list”… sometime… so, that’s awesome. I haven’t looked at the list, do you know who’s there?

We’ve got Megadeth, one of our favorites of course. They’re headlining, that’s going to be awesome. We got to see them when we played “Ozzfest/Knotfest” festival last year and they were playing the fest that night, so we got to see that. That was awesome. A lot of good bands on that one… Too many to name! Haha…

As far as the album, it came out last summer?

It came out last November…

Fall… OK, last fall… and it’s with Metal Blade?


So, are they the ones that help you promoting the tours and stuff, or do they do a whole lot as far as that goes?

Ah nah, they’ve been great, and it’s also through Blacklight Media. It’s us and bands like Good Tiger. It’s kind of a new thing, its metal but kind of like prog metal off-shoot. But yeah, Metal Blade’s been awesome. We also have great management and just a lot of great people helping us along the way. Yeah, it’s been really nice.

That’s always good to have.

Yeah, haha.

Obviously the record’s still fairly new, but have you guys thought about anymore writing or new material? Or is that something you’ll worry about way down the line? How exactly does that work for you guys?

Funny enough, its coming up on it real soon; right after the Gojira dates, we’re getting back to writing together. We all just meet up at a spot, just camp out for weeks or however long and hang out, chill, throw ideas around… Do some demos… So yeah, we are very much starting to think about the next album very soon.

Do any of you guys have a studio? Or have access to a studio?

Yeah… we have a jam space and we’re fortunate enough to know so many talented engineers and producers and guys that are so well-versed in the logics. They just come in and help us demo it, even help with some structuring and ideas sometimes… We have a really good support system around us.

On performing with the Xylosynth live, and the challenges that arise…

Not necessarily venue to venue, but the instrument itself it is a special, unique thing. The rig that we built is literally built from scratch, obviously. The guy that built the Xylosynth, Will Wernick, it’s a beautiful instrument. It’s more of a convenience thing; it folds up nicely into a case, this and that. But then the rig we kind of built ourselves just with different elements. My pedalboard… into the xylo… into the rig, in the back, that we built with Ableton Live… It’s complex but it’s not… We have had issues in the past, nothing to do with any of the programs or the instruments or anything. Sometimes, there is a margin for error, but we’ve got it running pretty good now. This goes way back to my last band. It’s been ten years in the making, you know, it’s been such a development… such a journey getting it to where it is now.

Certainly, and obviously it’s going to be a main element of the music moving forward for your band as well, I would assume…

I hope so… haha.

Bands you’d like to tour with?

Oh my god, maybe too many to even name? What I like about us is we kind of have the prog element and then we’ll keep it in the metal vein so we can play with so many… I’d love to play with prog metal bands like Dream Theater, obviously we love them… That might be a little ways off… Actually most of them are probably a ways off, haha… Animals As Leaders would be awesome… Periphery… And on the other end, I mean, we’ve mainly played metal shows… We’re good buddies with Randy Blythe of Lamb of God, who played on our one song, it would be awesome to play with them. We did, kind of, get to play with a lot of those bands at Ozzfest/Knotfest, but it’s tough to say.

Being with Devin has really… it is one that I didn’t expect… Go back to Strapping Young Lad and having such a solid Canadian metal band like that just wrapped in heart… then he went off to what he’s doing now and it’s so awesome… to see it live it’s just like “oh my god”… It’s so good, haha. It’s been special, for sure.

How much time do you spend with the other bands on tour?

We do make an effort to socialize with the other bands and be buddies and make the tour a big tour of bros hanging out, having fun. We’ve all met, everyone’s cool, everyone’s good. Thank You Scientist, awesome guys. We like to hang… whoever wants to hang with ONI, we’re here, haha. We’re pretty much good friends with anyone we’ve played with.

Any additional Euro tours coming up?

I don’t know… We did two European tours this year already. We did a UK tour with Devil You Know, and then we just did a month or so run, mainly in Europe, with Children of Bodom. That was awesome… Those guys are awesome… We got to go to some great places… Other than the ones I told you, which are “for sure”s… I don’t even know any other tentative, kind of… Ya know, they might try to fill in the blanks there a bit, but… Yeah… I can’t wait to get back… It was awesome… It’s amazing…

Metal is a big thing over there for sure…

Oh yeah, the shows over there were (awesome)… Especially when we got to play in Finland with Children of Bodom, with them being from Finland, it was pretty mind-blowing playing on a show like that.

They place pretty big places, obviously, probably a lot bigger than the Ready Room… Were they actual arena-type places or…?

Not quite arena… We did a U.S. tour with them as well, it was comparable to this tour. We still got to place amazing places, like these great theaters and we love touring the States as well. It’s our home away from home, not too from where we’re at. We’ve pretty much been all over the country now… its just a subtle difference between the States and Europe… it’s not necessarily arenas on one side or the other… Some nights will be huge, some night will be not as good – well, not not as good, they’re all great, they’re amazing – but we’re not too picky.

Here in the States during the week, the draw is going to be a lot less because most people work… is it similar anywhere you go?

Yeah… you’ll definitely see the work week and weekend differences, but then sometimes you’ll be surprised. We played in Milan, Italy on a Wednesday night and it was insane… Huge room, huge crowd, super enthusiastic, it was a great night. So, you never know. You really never know what you’re going to get. Usually weekends are pretty spot-on.

On forthcoming music videos, and the role of music videos in today’s industry…

Oh yes, it is expected… You don’t have your Much Music or your MTV’s just playing videos all the time, especially metal, so YouTube is the new medium for that. I do like to get our videos up there. Especially for us, it lets people know what’s going on instrumentally. Most people assume it’s a keyboard, which it is; I use it as a keyboard, when they see the video. We have a bunch of play through videos of just us playing through the songs and a live video for “Spawn and Feed” which was taken from all of our Children of Bodom tour footage; that just dropped. I think that’ll be it for this album cycle. Then I think we’ll go forward with the next one…


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