Chicago based Metal Band BEDLEM, founded by ex TRIVIUM touring powerhouse PAUL WANDTKE, has released their first single, “Epidemic,” off of their upcoming debut LP BACK TO BEDLEM.
Bedlem is a bombastic display of groove via Joey Brassal’s catchy guitar style and Paul Wandtke’s monstrous drum kit abilities complimented by Brian Ahern’s bass lines. Their melodic hooks are stringed in with poetic lyric content via vocalist Mike Petrasek’s lyrical vision. There’s no doubt that this quartet from Chicago, IL is the next up and coming act from the Windy City.
XS ROCK: Tell me about the latest band news? Any new projects coming out, live shows or announcements?
Mike: We just finished our debut album, titled “Back To Bedlem”. It will be released October 31st. We have an album release show November 16th in Braidwood at Top Fuel Saloon. The focus has been the album, and now that that’s finished, we can start working on setting up tours, etc.
XS ROCK: So how long has the band been together?
Mike: I’ve been with the band since 2017. Bedlem was started by Joe, Paul, and Brian years ago when we were all kids. We all grew up together in elementary school. I moved away I think in 8th grade and visited periodically. When I visited, I’d watch them practice or watch them live at Romeofest or somewhere. They kind of disbanded when Paul was doing his thing. It was late 2016, Paul made a post about wanting to get Bedlem back together with a singer and I messaged him. He called me immediately and the rest is, as they say, history.
XS ROCK: What was your main motivation for originally starting or being in a band?
Mike: Iron Maiden in my family is like a religion. My older brother’s name is Eddie just to give you an idea. So growing up, I wanted to play bass like Steve Harris and sing like Bruce. As a kid, I couldn’t sing for shit though. So I focused on guitars and every instrument I could get my hands on. It wasn’t until I started listening to The Temptations and more soul-type music that I found my voice. I hit karaoke bars up all the time and just that feeling; it’s intoxicating. I thought “I could do this every day!”.
XS ROCK: What is your music background?
Mike: I think besides Paul with going to Berklee, all of us have no official music training. We all just love music. I will say, Joe has this crazy producer’s ear. He can just hear a song and just play it. And I know too well, he can hear a flat note always! Paul, man I’ve learned so much about musical theory, recording, you name it. I think it’s probably the best thing. I always say it’s like Jordan with the Bulls. He is the best player period. His teammates practiced with the best ever and it made them all great players. Working with these guys, it makes the end product really shine. I think you’ll be able to hear that on this record.
XS ROCK: What image do you think your music conveys?
Mike: Well it’s not a clean cut image haha. I think it’s a serious brand. The lyrics are super personal and can tell multiple stories. The music crushing and melodic. But we don’t take ourselves too seriously. When we play, we have fun. It’s a party. That’s the image I think. Life is serious; it’s good to get out and have a good time with people who understand the rat race.
XS ROCK: What are your current music career goals?
Mike: Goals. I want to take over the world. To tour endlessly and be on every festival available. I think we have the drive for it and I think, over time, our music will speak for itself.
XS ROCK: Which do you prefer? Writing new songs and recording or playing for a live audience?
Mike: That’s a tough one. I really enjoy the creative process. Working with these guys, like I said earlier, we all have a standard. They could hear a sour note or think a song is headed in a negative direction and address it right away. There’s an added benefit that we’ve all been friends forever. So we can just say “no, sucks” or “awesome!” and there’s no walking on egg shells or checking egos. It’s very fluid. On the other hand, live is just the reward. You spend all this time to make music to play live. And again, I’m playing with my bros. So we joke around quite a bit (not too much). It’s fun and that energy transfers to the crowd. It’s a massive party and we can’t wait to get every city so we can share that with everyone.
XS ROCK: What are your songs’ lyrics about? (What specific themes do they cover?)
Mike: There is a theme with the music on a lyrical standpoint. I think as a free-thinking society we’ve evolved to this stage of needing proof; to having a better understanding of cause and effect. We question everything and don’t just accept what is fed to us. The lyrics really invoke that mindset. Why? It’s an extreme want of answers for why things are the way they are. I don’t have the answers. I don’t know how. I just know that frustration is there and I’m tired of it.
XS ROCK: What is the single most important thing to you as a musician?
Mike: For me, standing out lyrically. There are SO many songs out there. Some beautiful lyrics paired with awful songs or vice-versa. I want people to read them and just… having the potential of speaking to someone on a personal level and helping them? That’s huge.
XS ROCK: Do you have any outrageous tour stories from the road?
Mike: Hanging out with radio DJ Freak the day before filming our music video. One word: Spirytus
XS ROCK: What’s the strangest request that you’ve ever received from one of your fans?
Mike: Haven’t had too many off the wall requests. People want memorabilia of course. I’ve had people ask for my hat that’s about it.
XS ROCK: Are your friends and family supportive of your choice to play in a rock band?
Mike: I’ve had no negative comments on this. My family thinks it’s cool. Friends think the same. I think in order for us to do this album on our own over the course of 1-1/2 years, I had to sacrifice a lot of time to see all of them. I think most of them are understanding of that though.
XS ROCK: What advice do you have for new bands trying to get started?
Mike: I think the best thing is drive. I think this misconception is you get signed to a label and tour and you’ve made it. I think anyone investing their time and money into you want you to work for it also. Don’t ever take your foot off the gas.
XS ROCK: What are your favorite tracks to play live?
Mike: I love singing don’t get me wrong. Sometimes though, it’s fun to just scream and jump around like a crazy. Violence, the middle of Epidemic… that’s like my break from singing. No focus. Just unleashed. I also love Revelation. Crowd sings back on that one and it’s just cool!
XS ROCK: Which band or artist inspired you to perform? Why?
Mike: Iron Maiden for me. They play into their 50/60s and still have an amazing stage show, while playing in front of thousands. It gives me chills to think about that. I would love to be in that position one day. I think the formula they have is great.
XS ROCK: If you could design a dream tour for your band, who would be on the bill?
Mike: I don’t like to do the “if I won the lottery I’d do this”. Statistically I’ve been eliminated from ever winning haha. That being said, not throwing in a huge name, I’d say The Crowned. Those guys are real cool dudes. I think a tour through the states would lead to some misdemeanors and destroyed livers. Them or Bad Wolves just because Tommy is awesome and Doc destroys the guitar
XS ROCK: What do you consider your greatest accomplishment so far?
Mike: Have to be our debut show. We opened for Saliva. It was a really good showing for not knowing what to expect. It was just a “this is really happening” type of moment for me.
XS ROCK: If you weren’t performing in a band what kind of career do you think you would have?
Mike: I am the type of person that will never be satisfied. I want to learn every craft I can. Every instrument I can. Everything! So if there was no music career, I’d probably be cycling job-to-job, trying to find my place. That’s super depressing haha.
XS ROCK: What type of equipment do you use for live shows?
Mike: Microphones? Shure is always a go to for anybody. I destroy mics constantly. I play guitar live only on a song, but for that I use my Ibanez AEG20 Acoustic/Electric. I love it.
XS ROCK: What do you think of the current music scene?
Mike: Music scene is alive and kicking. There are so many good bands out there. One thing I have discovered is that mostly everyone is super supportive of each other. There will always be that competitive thing and I get that. I will add Chicago’s hardcore scene is criminally underrated!
XS ROCK: For anyone that doesn’t know you, what would they be surprised to know about you?
Mike: I have never come out and said it, I was hoping my lyrics could have done this for me, but I am bipolar/major depression and have been almost my whole life. We live in a time where that negative stigma is no longer there and I think it’s cool we’re more educated. There is still more to be understood in this regard though. I should be doing more in this field to help. I think acknowledgment is the first step so there’s that.
XS ROCK: Is there anything that you’d like to promote or say to your fans out there?
Mike: Bedlem will be touring the world and we’re not stopping until that’s done. On a more direct note, don’t ever be afraid to be yourself. And don’t hold everything in. Life’s too short!