Photo credit: Janet Mayson
Interview with Tony from Veilside
By: Dennis M. Kelly
DK: Hey Tony, How’s it going?
TE: Things are going well! We do a pretty solid job at keeping busy.
DK: That is true… I always hear great things about the band and am so happy to finally catch up with you and learn more about the band, and thanks for taking the time to chat, I appreciate it! Veilside has quite the history here, lots of shows, lots of great music and lots of money raised for children’s charities. What would you sum up to be the overall vision of the band?
TE: We originally set out to play between 6 and 8 shows a year. From there, things took off. Our “high water mark” is 71 shows. This year we’ll end up with around 25. It’s tough getting older! The overall vision of the band is simply to keep at it, SOMETHING is working.
DK: For all the years that the band has been around, what would you say has been the toughest challenge the band has faced and how did the band surpass it?
TE: Monetization of the product would be number one. And even to this day, we’re consistently looking for ways to be innovative that would lead to income streams. While money has never been the prime focus of the band, it costs to record, advertise, etc. And I’d lament that we’ve not surpassed it. Things will work for awhile, and then you have to switch gears. That’s a constant.
DK: That is certainly true for a lot of people these days… sites like Spotify certainly don’t help with checks being mailed out for less than a dollar and stuff like that. Tell me about Eclipse, what I’ve heard of it is most impressive. How has it been received by your fans?
TE: Our first full length disc! (Veilside has released 4 EP’s prior) The feedback has been tremendous. Long time friends are literally telling me “I can’t believe this is you guys!”. I mean we put our life-force on this thing, and it shows. This is also the first CD with guitarist Sharon Cline on board, and she absolutely kills on this thing!
DK: Yeah, I am really digging it too! Tell me about the background behind “Things You Said” and “The Loss Forgotten”.
TE: I’ll start with “The Loss Forgotten” since I wrote it. Inspired by a friend who was going through a pretty rough time. In the demos it just didn’t seem like the hook was strong enough on this song, and this was a candidate to get dropped from the record, but I worked at it until I was satisfied with it and it quickly became a favorite. “Things You Said” has one of my favorite hooks, written by drummer Ron Thomas. I found the lyrics while going through some of his old lyric journals and once we decided to finish the song, it came together rather quickly.
DK: How long did it take to write and record Eclipse?
TE: We recorded March to June – we had label interest and sent them the nine songs we had done. They gave us an offer that we mulled for another couple of weeks or so, and then went back into the studio to finish up the last four tunes. We completed it in August and released it in October 2017.
DK: Nice! I know songwriting typically (at least used to) start acoustically and then it is shared with the band from there. But, how does the band take those riffs and turn it into a full (awesome, I might add) song?
TE: Most of our songs start with a riff and I’ll start writing lyrics based on how that riff makes me feel. Sometimes Ron will say “I got lyrics that will fit that” and we wait for him to pour through the volumes (seriously, dude has volumes of lyric books) to find the exact one. Then we move on to demos so that everyone can tinker with their parts and bring it together as a full band.
DK: Where do you get your inspirations for lyrics?
TE: Almost everything I write about are things that go on around me. I try not to make my lyrics TOO specific, because if you make them broad-based enough, many people can relate to them, internalize them, and make them personal. I can’t count how many times people have said “This song touched my heart, it was about ‘x'” and truth be told, it was written about something else entirely. But I like that aspect of lyric writing.
DK: You’re spot on about what makes a great song! I believe too that the listener has to be able to connect with it, otherwise it will literally go in one ear and out the other. How has the band marketed themselves primarily and what has proven to work best for you so far?
TE: We’ve done a little bit of everything – social media, traditional media, television, and radio. What’s worked best is the word of mouth of our fanbase.
DK: Looking over all of your releases objectively, how would you say the band’s music has evolved?
TE: Raw with promise in the beginning to polished, mature, and not afraid to take chances.
DK: Of all the charities that are out there, is there a particular reason Veilside leans more towards children’s charities?
TE: We’re all parents. I think that’s the driving force behind it. And since we all have children of our own, we understand that feeling of helplessness that comes down when some parent is being told their child has an affliction. It’s the driving force behind Ron and his wife Jean starting Breaking the Silence (in 10 years hosting BTS, Veilside and friends have raised over $142,000 for the cause!!)
DK: Congratulations for all the great work the band has done for that! That is amazing! Of all the bands Veilside has opened for, are there any artists that you were ‘starstruck’ with?
TE: We’ve been fortunate enough to share the stage with many of the artists we’ve admired while growing up. Guitarist Russ Odean and I got to join Eric Martin (Mr. Big) on stage during his set to do a tune…..I remember my leg shaking because I didn’t want to screw up on his set!! At our 8th Breaking the Silence, Mark Slaughter joined us on stage and the band did “Fly to the Angels” with him. I think it’s great that after so many years, they got a REAL singer to do a tune with them! (LOL)
DK: Veilside has performed outside of IL many times before, but has the band been on full-fledged tours as yet?
TE: Not a traditional tour. We’re too old for bus living! But we did once do 4 shows in 3 states in 3 days. It was pretty taxing and I remember getting home, hitting the pillow and going right to sleep when we finally got home. We also did a swing through Arizona with Queensryche and Warrant a couple years ago. That was a lot of fun.
DK: Being more of a family-orientated band, has that strengthened the band or (perhaps) hindered the band’s growth in any way? (By the way, I fully support family orientated bands)
TE: It certainly hasn’t hindered us. If anything, it’s afforded us opportunities to play festivals that maybe wouldn’t look toward a band who plays hard rock. Those guys want SAFE, reliable, entertainment when they put the lineups together. I think we fit the bill. We didn’t set out to be that way, we just morphed into it….and each of the members and our significant others have become family as well.
DK: How would you describe Chicago’s music scene…? Is it healthy and vibrant for the band or could there be improvements?
TE: I might be a bit biased, but I remember a time years ago when bands had a real buzz about them. People would show up at the “hot” club not even knowing who the bands playing were. With the plethora of entertainment vehicles available to people today, that has seriously allowed the scene to degrade. The money is in doing the tributes and covers, and those bands have taken that niche to great heights, but for the original bands, I just don’t see the excitement. Which is a shame, really, there are some bands doing some fantastic work that just isn’t getting noticed.
DK: Has there been a favorite venue that the band has played at?
TE: On the road – The Music Factory in Battle Creek, MI. The whole crew there has treated us like family. At home, we have a handful of venues we absolutely love – and I’d be paranoid I’d leave someone out by accident so I won’t name them!
DK: No worries and I completely understand. How ‘connected’ is the band with social media, are you all glued to your phones?
TE: Not glued. But we try to be responsive when people ask questions on our Facebook page or website. Our bassist Bob Hilton does the majority of our social media work. He’s on Facebook quite a bit getting into trouble.
DK: What is the best way for people to connect with you?
DK: Thanks so much Tony for taking the time with me again, I really respect you and the band for not only making great music, but making a great difference for children. Keep up the amazing work!
Biography: Hailing from the city of Chicago (and a few of the burbs), Veilside in its’ current form has been a force on the Chicago music scene since 2006. Combining influences from across the musical spectrum, Veilside is a modern melodic rock band in the vein of their influences Shinedown, Black Stone Cherry, and some of the “hair band ” era mixed in. In March 2009, the band was named “Best Original Band” by Suburban Nitelife Magazine. Their first EP, “Chapter One” was released in 2008 and to date has sold over 4000 copies. Not resting on their laurels, Veilside once again entered the studio to begin recording a much more ambitious CD titled “This Time…” with producer Chuck Alkazian (Slipknot, Elton John, Cristina Aguilera) at Pearl Sound Studios which was released in 2011. The CD featured 5 new Veilside originals and their popular hard rock cover of the Kansas mega-hit “Dust in the Wind”. In May 2013, the band decided to work with Subclass Studios in Chicago to record their highly anticipated 3rd EP “Meanwhile…” which was released in Sept 2013. The band also worked with producer Joe Tiberi (Mechina) on an acoustic EP titled “Intermission” was released in September 2015. In 2017, the band went yet again to Apothica Studios to release their first full-length album “Eclipse”. Veilside also won the 2011 “Bandemonium” hosted by 95 WIIL Rock (Kenosha) FM Radio, and has shared the stage with many notable national acts including current powerhouses Five Finger Death Punch, Halestorm, Alter Bridge, Hinder, and Black Stone Cherry, to classic rock acts like Dokken, Nelson, Great White, Sebastian Bach, Warrant, Skid Row, and Lita Ford. Veilside is a very strong supporter of children’s charities, having donated time and money to the Kelsey Briggs Foundation Against Child Abuse, Headstones for Angels, and the National SIDS Organization, as well as hosts the annual “Breaking the Silence” Autism Awareness benefit show which raises funds for autism awareness. Now going on its TENTH year, the event has raised over $116,000 for the cause!
Tony Engel – Lead Vocals
Russ Odean – Guitars & Vocals
Bob “Cabo” Hilton – Bass
Ron Thomas – Drums, Percussion, & Vocals
Sharon Cline – Guitars & Vocals
Veilside began as a group in 2004, with Ron Thomas, Bob “Cabo” Hilton, guitarist Jon Badalamenti and vocalist Chris Heller. Chris’s deep religious beliefs offered the sound of Veilside more of a “Creed” feel to the band, with the band’s apex being opening a sold-out show for the cover group ARRA. In 2005, Cabo left the group to join metal rockers KHAOS THEORY, but realized his heart was with Veilside. The problem was, Chris didn’t want to continue, so a new vocalist would have to be found. Bob introduced potential recruit Tony Engel to Jon Badalamenti and Ron Thomas in the summer of 2006. The band’s first rehearsals took place in November of that year, with their first show in May 2007. Throughout the rest of 2007, the band worked on aspects of their live show and writing new songs, while also performing some of the more popular songs that were written with Chris in the band.
In early 2008, the band put their efforts into recording their first E.P. – the long sold-out “Chapter One”. The band recorded the disc themselves, as well as mixing and mastering it. The artwork was done by unofficial “5th member” Mike Greninger, who would later go on to handle the artwork for all of the CDs. The CD was released in June, with a fantastic crowd at Chicago City Limits in Schaumburg, IL on hand to watch and get their hands on a copy of Veilside’s first commercial work. The CD has gone on to sell out two printings and is now only available via digital retailers. Later that year, a song that the band had recorded with early on with Chris Heller would end up in the horror film “Secrets of the Clown”. The band played all over Chicagoland to support the CD and build their fanbase, often performing shows with another local band on the circuit, RAINE.
In 2009, Raine broke up and the 4 piece that was Veilside was soon to become five. Guitarist Russ Odean joined in the late summer, and Veilside was offered their first opportunity to open for a “national act” with their show alongside 80’s rockers DOKKEN at Tailgaters in Bolingbrook. Russ had only been in the band for a few days, so he was unable to perform that night, but within a month the band was headed down to St. Louis to work on aspects of their show with the new “twin guitar attack”. The band also put together their first “Breaking the Silence” concert that year at Shark City, which raised just over $1000 (and they were excited about that!)
In 2010, the band began the year by attending the NAMM Convention in California with all five members, and continued working on building their fanbase. They also played shows with early 90’s rockers NELSON, Tracii Guns’ LA GUNS, and Chicago-based national SOiL that year. They also began playing shows out of their native Chicagoland area with shows in Wisconsin, Indiana, and Michigan. By the end of the year, it became apparent that the band had to write and release new material.
So 2011 began with a bang. The band decided to record their own material again like they had on “Chapter One”, but this time, pass it off to Chuck Alkazian at Pearl Sound studios (Pop Evil, Trixter) to handle the mixing and mastering. The new EP would also include their popular cover of the Kansas mega-hit “Dust in the Wind”. After skipping that year’s NAMM Convention to get the work on the disc completed, “This Time…” was released in March at Blur Nightclub, a club that didn’t even host live music and had a stage built and sound system put in just for the occasion. “This Time…” was released to critical acclaim and moved the band into “the next level” with a radio-ready disc. Later that summer, the band entered into 95 WIIL Rock’s “Bandemonium” contest against almost 200 bands and emerged victorious. This allowed the band to open the “Rock the Ranch” show on the main stage to thousands of fans, and play alongside some of the industry’s heaviest hitters: FIVE FINGER DEATH PUNCH, THEORY OF A DEADMAN, BLACK STONE CHERRY, CANDLEBOX, HINDER, ALTER BRIDGE, CROSSFADE, SALIVA, and Grammy award winning artist, HALESTORM. The band was riding a wave of popularity with a new disc, and bigger show opportunities. Things were going great…until they weren’t. Guitarist Jon Badalameti informed the band he’d be leaving to pursue family and career and wanted to end on a high note. Thankfully, guitarist John Craig, perhaps one of the most respected guitarists in Chicago offered to fill in until a permanent replacement could be found. John gained notoriety with the band O’DETTE and later LOVEBLAST. While John’s time with the band would only last for 3 months, the band did open for LITA FORD to a near sold-out crowd in November and opened for SHINEDOWN’S ZACK MYERS in December. The band also went through numerous auditions to find the permanent guitarist, but it turns out, they didn’t have to look that far.
The band began 2012 after attending the NAMM Convention by announcing that another former RAINE guitarist, Mo Ismail, had joined Veilside, and shortly after opened for JACK RUSSELL’S GREAT WHITE at Tailgaters to a near capacity crowd. They also played their fourth annual “Breaking the Silence” show for autism awareness, and raised just short of $9000. The band also played “Rock’n The Valley Fest” alongside 80’s heavy hitters SKID ROW, WARRANT, and TRIXTER, and were invited back to the Ranch for that year’s WIIL ROCK FEST alongside BLACK STONE CHERRY, SAVING ABEL, STATIC X, and TEXAS HIPPIE COALITION, and closed out the year by having Jon Badalamenti join the group on stage for an acoustic performance at the Hemmens Cultural Center opening for the Trans Infinity Orchestra. The momentum back in their direction, they began writing new songs with Mo Ismail on guitar alongside Russ Odean and planned their next EP for a 2013 release.
2013 began in earnest after the NAMM Convention that year, with a February appearance alongside Swedish rockers AVATAR that included an on-air acoustic performance. The show itself ended up being cancelled due to the blizzard that hit that day. In April, the band played Bobby McGee’s in the south Chicago burbs alongside touring artists WAYLAND and EYE EMPIRE, as well as the band’s first national television appearance on WGN to promote their 5th annual “Breaking the Silence”, which raised a record $13,000 for the cause. The band began recording their 3rd EP at Subclass Studios in Chicago with engineer Joe Tiberi. The recording stopped in July so the band could do a 4 shows in 3 states in 3 days mini-tour, and continued through August until the band played “Rockin’ The Farm” alongside RATT, SEBASTIAN BACH, DOKKEN, LITA FORD, WARRANT, and KIP WINGER, and then did an acoustic set alongside WHITE LION’S MIKE TRAMP, followed by a show with TRIXTER . In September, the band released their third EP “Meanwhile…” at Shark City in Glendale Heights, IL. The band also opened a sold out show with STRYPER that fall.
2014 started out much like prior years, with the annual trip to the NAMM Convention. In March, the band announced they’d be heading to Arizona for Memorial Day weekend to do a series of shows called The Desert Rocks Concert Series alongside QUEENSRYCHE and WARRANT. In April, the band played their 6th annual “Breaking the Silence” autism awareness show and raised just under $10,000 for the cause, bringing the total raised to over $50,000 since the annual show started. In May, the band announced they would be once again be at the Golf Farm in August – this time with QUEENSRYCHE, SEBASTIAN BACH, WARRANT, GREAT WHITE, LA GUNS, and ENUFF Z’NUFF. In June, the band released a new single “Barrel of the Gun” to go along with the digital release of the “Meanwhile…” EP. In July, the band played the annual “Breast Fest” with HEAD EAST and later appeared on the “Mancow Show” on TV and radio and played a show alongside ENUFF Z’NUFF at Tailgaters. At the end of July, the band announced they’d parted ways with guitarist Mo Ismail, and after finishing their summer schedule with the Shred Demon David Shankle on guitar (ex Manowar, DSG) the band announced that they had brought on new guitarist: Tom Finnelly.
2015 started once again with a trip to the annual NAMM Convention in California, followed by several notable shows at Tailgaters with Pamela Moore (Queensryche), Jack Russell’s Great White, and then at Wire in Berwyn alongside Damon Johnson (Brother Cain, Thin Lizzy). The band won 97.9 The Loop’s Battle of the Band contest in April. The band restarted their anticipated acoustic CD “Intermission” at Apothica studios in March. Memorial Day saw the band at The Back Bar in Janesville alongside BOBAFLEX, and the band played an acoustic set in August alongside MR. BIG’s ERIC MARTIN. Russ Odean and Tony Engel joined Eric on stage during his set for a cover of “30 Days in the Hole”. The band also played Beamanfest……and then the unthinkable happened: guitarist Tom Finnelly’s sudden death. Shaken, the band cancelled most of their immediate schedule and what wasn’t cancelled was played as a four-piece, the first shows of that kind since 2009. The band released their acoustic EP “INTERMISSION” in September of that year and dedicated it to Tom’s memory. Rather than go through an exhaustive audition process, the band put together a very short list of eight potential recruits, and in October announced that Wisconsin-based guitarist Sharon Cline had joined the band. Sharon’s first show with the band was unannounced as the band played in Rockford with FLAW. Her position was officially announced following that show and the band ventured to Atlanta to play the FARM ROCK Concert series alongside TOM KEIFER, NIGHT RANGER, LYNCH MOB, and GREAT WHITE. The band closed out the year as direct support for BRET MICHAELS.
2016 started out quietly….and the (sans Sharon) went to the NAMM convention in January. With a new guitarist in place, and a newly released disc just months old, the band gave Sharon some time to learn the material and opened for GEOFF TATE that spring. For the 8th annual BREAKING THE SILENCE fundraiser, the band was surprised to have MARK SLAUGHTER join them onstage for a rendition of “Fly to the Angels”, with the concert raising $26,000. Later in the summer the band was direct support for VINCE NEIL in Kalamazoo, MI. The band also started writing and went to a studio to demo the new material featuring Sharon, but something was missing, so plans were put on hold and the band instead began writing in earnest for their next EP. In the fall, it was determined that an EP wouldn’t do, the band instead deciding to go further and release their first full length disc at some point the following year
2017 started with the band bringing Sharon out of the NAMM convention, and an opening set for 80’s rockers AUTOGRAPH. The band scaled back their touring schedule to allow for as much time at APOTHICA STUDIO as possible. They also had their second year at CADOTT ROCKFEST, this time alongside HELLYEAH and SHINEDOWN in the summer, and were direct support for ART OF ANARCHY, a new band with some very familiar faces (Scott Stapp, Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal, John Moyer of Disturbed) as well. Finally, at the end of September, the band released their first full length disc, “ECLIPSE”, with 13 tracks at a two-pronged CD release with shows at Tailgaters in Bolingbrook, IL and The Music Factory in Battle Creek, MI. The band intends to ramp up their touring in support of this new disc, and after playing ROCK N’ SKULL in downstate, Illinois, the band also opened at the Arcada Theater in St. Charles for legendary 80’s rockers FIREHOUSE and WINGER.
2018 began with shows in support of the recently released “Eclipse”. In January, the band opened for the legendary rocker, Graham Bonnet of RAINBOW fame, and in February, their first trip to Iowa in some time. In March, the band performed an acoustic set with TRAPT, and announced the lineup for their TENTH annual “Breaking the Silence” fundraiser to take place on April 29th.