Anthony’s Airwaves – Transmissions From Mike Floros of SteelCity

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Image Credit: Joe Schaeffer Photography

Today I have the honor of speaking with Mike Floros, founder, lead guitarist and songwriter for the band SteelCity. Even though I was born just a few years too late to reminisce about the golden days of 80s Hard Rock, Metal and Power Ballads, listening to SteelCity music instantly brought me back to a time of late night infomercials of “for just 4 easy payments of $9.99, this 15 CD collection, of all the 80s hits could be yours today!” SteelCity brings a new, yet familiar, sound from arguably one of the best eras of music, and ushers it into the current age. What started off as a solo project has turned into a face melting quartet of power and ferocity! If you would like to learn more, head over to their website here, and check them out today! I can’t wait to see these guys live, so, enough of me, let’s hear from Mike!

Anthony:
Mike, thank you so much for taking the time for this interview with us. It sure has been a crazy year. How have you been holding up? Seems like you’ve been busy with SteelCity!

Mike:
Anthony, thanks for the time, man. It’s both an honor and my pleasure to speak with Vinyl Writer. The band? Considering the times we’re in, we’re holding up pretty well. We released our album almost to the day that the world locked down due to COVID-19, so it’s been a bit of a challenge getting our name out there. Through some strong marketing, a fortuitous concert with Monsters of Rock Cruise, and what we feel is a very strong album, we’re weathering the storm, however. Big thanks to our fan family for helping us move forward, as well. Their word-of-mouth advertising sure goes a long way.

Anthony:
I wanna get right into this, because I’m excited about this one! I love how you’ve brought the best of the 80s Hard Rock/Power Ballad sounds straight into the 2010s and 2020s. SteelCity was formed in 2018, correct? How did you come to assemble such a great sounding group of players, which seem to perfectly mesh well together? It sounds vintage, yet current.

Mike:
Smoke and mirrors, my friend! All kidding aside, SteelCity started off as a solo project for me. With exception of Tony Stahl being our sole holdover from the Fortress album, we assembled an entirely new band for the release of Mach II. That was due, in large part, to our old record label, Kivel Records. Once we had our cast of characters, we went head first into recording, mixing, and mastering with production duo extraordinaire Ty Sims and Erik Johnson. Between their prowess behind the board and having the new band, we were able to craft an album we loved and thought others might, as well.  

Anthony:
You currently have 2 albums out with SteelCity. So, what do you see in the future for the band as far as recording? How about more music, or possibly a tour when COVID calms down?

Mike:
Strange that you should ask that. I can assure you that a new album will be on its way in 2022, though I can’t exactly determine at what time next year. That’ll be a discussion we have with our current label, Perris Records. Tom Mathers has been extremely supportive and we’ll want to work in tandem with him, forging a plan best suited for both label and band.  

Touring? Well, that’s a bit of a challenge for us because we are pretty spread out. However, we are signed to Brad Lee Entertainment. Brad and his staff are hard-pressed to land us some significant shows and have already gotten some great stuff lined up for us in 2021. I’m not at liberty to divulge those dates just yet, but I can tell you that we’ll be in multiple states and we’ll likely be stringing dates together by region. Once we can announce things a bit more formally, it will be on our website, www.steelcityband.com.  

Image Credit: Joe Schaeffer Photography

Anthony:
Can you tell us a bit more about the members? Let’s talk about who they are, where they come from and some of their musical backgrounds, as well as yours.

Mike:
Absolutely! I can tell you and it would be my pleasure. First up, the Mouth of the South, Roy Cathey. He’s pretty well known for being the lead singer in early 90s sensation, Cold Sweat. They were signed with MCA Records and toured the world with Dio. He’s also currently fronting his own band, The Fifth, and enjoys fronting a Boston Tribute band called “Don’t Look Back.” I’ve seen the latter recently and they are a-ma-zing, as is The Fifth!  

Next, we’ve got the Boston Bassman, Jason Cornwell. JC is pretty special. He’s a Berklee guy and has shared the stage with Eric Martin, as well as being the bassist in Chas West’s “West Bound.”  

BJ Zampa is our drummer and needs no introduction, playing with multiple world-renowned artists over the years.  

Tony Stahl is one of the best keyboard players I’ve ever met and my Respiratory Therapy brother from another mother (we’re both RRT’s). He’s played in bands like DeadRisen, Livesay, and Mike LePond’s Silent Assassins.  

Finally, me. I am the Barry Manilow of the group, as “I write the songs,” LOL. I also play guitar for the band. Musical background? I don’t have much of one. I started playing again in 2014 after a 15 year layoff. True story? I hadn’t played a show in 31 years before playing the New England Rock Fest in 2018, sharing the stage with Firehouse. Yeah…that wasn’t intimidating at all!     

Anthony:
How did you get into music? What got you into playing guitar? How did it all begin? Who were your inspirations?

Mike:
I don’t think I “got into music.” I believe it was just something intrinsically there. My dad was a top-shelf Jazz keyboardist and my mom just LOVED music, so I don’t think I had much of a choice but to be a musician.  

I fell in love with guitar playing after discovering the Rock band, KISS, as I’m sure 90% of the guys my age did. I finally got my first guitar at 13. Ace Frehley was my first guitar God and to some extent, I’m pretty sure it shows in my playing. In addition to Ace, all of the KISS guys had a heavy influence on me. The one that I connected with the most, however, was Vinnie Vincent. I know he gets a lot of flack for his constant “shred,” but on his stuff, it just fits. Also, the Europe guys, John Norum and Kee Marcello, had a massive impact on not only my lead playing, but I think the songwriting, as well. By the way, I’ll never pick up a guitar in front of any of these people, but I digress! 😉  

Anthony:
Aside from SteelCity, you’ve mentioned in our emails back and forth you have “real job.” Can you tell us a bit about what you do? Do you feel like you can make SteelCity a full time gig at some point?

Mike:
Ahh, the “day job.” Yep. I have one. I’m a Registered Respiratory Therapist. I work primarily in the neonatal (babies) and pediatric intensive care areas, managing patients on life support and also caring for people with respiratory insufficiencies. It’s a very rewarding profession and I value the relationships built in my time doing the job. As for making SteelCity a full-time gig? I believe if SteelCity came out in 1986, it might be a possibility as we’d be an established act. We all have day jobs, though, so it would be tough. The only guy doing music full-time is BJ.    

Image Credit: Joe Schaeffer Photography

Anthony:
With streaming services popping up seemingly everywhere, how do you feel about the state of the music industry and how music is consumed and perceived?

Mike:
Man, that’s a tough question. I think most artists have a love/hate relationship with streaming. On one hand, it really makes getting music to the ears of your fans relatively easy. While I still support bands I like through CD and download purchases, I also stream music. The downside is that it takes millions of streams to earn anything of relevance for your artistic efforts. It’s also the reason why most musicians these days also still have…wait for it…day jobs! The best thing someone can do these days, if they want to show support, is to buy merch from the band. If they’re on a label, they’ll see more of that money and it’s great advertising.  

One of the biggest pitfalls that I see from streaming is a sensical loss with the music. There’s something about holding that physical copy in your hands that just made things, well, different. And better. While this may sound crazy, opening an album, cassette, or CD and reading the liner notes was almost as fun as listening to the music itself. I’m not sure if it’s the right term to use but there was something…romantic…about that. 

With SteelCity, we still try to have that relationship with our fan family, doing things like creating a blog called Behind the Song on our website is one of those things that helps take the listener on a liner note-esque journey with each listen. By sharing a bit of the writing process, we are trying to bring our audience in closer. We want them to know us and more importantly, we want to know them. Maybe I’ve gotten a little off track but, uh…you asked!

Anthony:
Here’s a couple easy ones for you. What are your favorite guitars to play and which ones do you personally own?

Mike:
Well, that’s actually a tough question, too! I’ve got nine guitars, currently, and that includes one bass. No acoustics yet. As for favorites? They all have something unique about them that sets them apart. My go-to axes for the stage are my Schecter Hellraiser FR-S and my Fernandes Ravelle Deluxe with Sustainer. With the Sustainiac being a large part of my sound, those two usually are the ones in my travel case. I do love my very first REAL guitar, a 1986 Jackson Soloist San Dimas, as well as the 1987 Washburn Ace Frehley. I think everyone’s favorite guitar of mine, however, is Marilyn. It’s a one-off by Halo Guitars and features a custom-wound set of triple humbuckers from my endorsement with Joshua Hernandez’ company, Homewrecker Pickups. With custom Marilyn Monroe artwork, she’s absolutely beautiful and that guitar totally screams. I’m  currently in the process of hot rodding a Jackson Monarkh to compliment Marilyn but the rest is a surprise!

Anthony:
Are you into collecting music? Vinyl, tapes, CDs, cassettes? Where do you like to shop for your music?

Mike:
I used to be an avid collector, for sure. I had my mom’s old collection, as well as my own and at one time, had albums, cassettes, and CDs into the thousands. For different reasons over the years, including a flood at my dad’s old office, that number has dwindled. With the exception of the indie CDs that I buy when my friends release great music, most everything is boxed up now. I shop online and when I can, swing by Amoeba Music in Hollywood. It’s literally down the street from my workplace.

Anthony:
What are a few albums that mean the most to you?

Mike:
I think bands influence me more than specific albums. Bands like KISS, Boston, Heart, Bad Company, Queen, Journey, and Foghat from the 70s. Bands like Honeymoon Suite, Survivor, Brighton Rock, Warrant, Whitesnake, and Winger from the 80s. What’s the one thing that all of those bands have? GREAT songwriting. If I had to pick, let’s say FIVE albums from those bands that I found most influential? KISS, Revenge; Boston, S/T; Journey, Evolution; Honeymoon Suite, The Big Prize; and Survivor, Eye of the Tiger. All are still in heavy rotation on my drives to and from work.  

Anthony:
As mentioned earlier that you have 2 albums out (listening to Mach II as I write these questions and I’m absolutely blown away by it) and you can buy the CDs on your site. With the resurgence in vinyl being stronger than ever, do you have plans to release any of your music on vinyl?

Mike:
Well, first, thank you for the compliment. We feel it’s a strong album and a definite compliment to Fortress. There were several doubters as to whether Mach II would be able to match its predecessor and from the feedback we’ve received, I think it’s safe to say those doubters were wrong. We are very thankful for the opportunity to create and share with whomever is willing to listen. As for vinyl, it’s a tough call. We may consider it for album 3. If we do, it will be in limited number, as we’d want it to be something special for the family. 

Anthony:
Do you have any advice for any of our readers that may want to learn guitar? Personally, I tried learning for a few years by taking in-person lessons, YouTube tutorials and even games like Rocksmith, where you plug a real guitar into your game system, and play and learn. Sadly, nothing seemed to click with me.

Mike:
The first piece of advice I can give about playing guitar is to exercise patience. I put down my guitars for nearly 15 years and only after picking them up again in 2014 did things really begin to “click.” Next, YouTube is a godsend to both new and old guitarists alike and there are many great instructors out there offering FREE content. Find the good ones and if they offer private lessons via Skype or Zoom, invest. Finally and perhaps most importantly, find someone who is willing to teach at your pace and in a style that you feel comfortable. A lot of these “one-size-fits-all” guys just can’t relate to the person that’s paying them for knowledge.

Anthony:
Last question. Mike, thank again for doing this with us, is there anything else you’d like to mention that we may not have mentioned, or covered here today?

Mike:
Thank you again for the time and the opportunity. Also, thank you to all of our fan family for spreading the word and “a little love” for SteelCity. 2021 is opening up and we’ll see y’all soon. For those new to the band, please visit our Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube pages, as well as our website, www.steelcityband.com, for cool info about the band.  Peace to all! 

Interested in learning more about the music of SteelCity? Check out the link below:

Dig this? Check out the full archives of A.M. Radio, by Anthony Montalbano, here: https://vinylwritermusic.com/a-m-radio-archives/

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