Live Troop Talk with President Obama

It’s not every day that military people get to ask the Commander-in-Chief a question. But that’s exactly what Soldiers, Sailors, Marines and Airmen from around the globe did during a live Troop Talk with President Barack Obama that the Defense Media Activity broadcast live to a world-wide audience on September 11, 2015.

AFN radio played a key role in getting the president’s message to military people in all corners of the globe. We carried the event live on our AFN the Eagle and Power Talk services as well as on the AFN 360 app. For listeners who may have missed the live show, the troop talk was also rebroadcast the following day on AFN the Eagle in Japan, Korea and Europe. The troop talk was also heavily promoted on all AFN radio services in the days leading up to the broadcast.

The Director of AFN Radio, Scott Stover, was proud of the role his team played in the broadcast. “Today’s broadcast showed that radio remains a powerful tool for reaching a world-wide audience with a live message,” Stover said. “It also continues the AFN Radio tradition of serving those who serve overseas.”

President Barack Obama sits with Air Force Tech Sgt. Nathan Parry, the moderator of the president's worldwide troop talk, on a set from Fort Meade, Md., Sept. 11, 2015. DoD photo by Marvin Lynchard.
President Barack Obama sits with Air Force Tech Sgt. Nathan Parry, the moderator of the president’s worldwide troop talk, on Sept. 11, 2015. DoD photo by Marvin Lynchard.

The broadcast was ground breaking for DMA in that this was the first time that a president had agreed to do a live broadcast with the DoD’s flagship communication resource. The event also showcased DMA’s ability to simulcast across multiple platforms as the troop talk was carried live on AFN TV and radio while also streaming on and the AFN360 mobile app. Troops world-wide submitted questions via Facebook and Twitter while social media specialists live tweeted the event. President Obama also answered questions live from military people stationed in Germany, Belgium, Afghanistan, Joint Base Lewis McCord in Washington State and from a Sailor deployed on board the US Navy Aircraft Carrier the USS Theodore Roosevelt. A standing-room-only crowd packed into the DMA studios located at Fort Meade, Maryland to hear their commander-in-chief speak.

You can click below to hear the radio broadcast.

Propelled Into Deep Space: The Devil Wears Prada

When you think of the lead singer of a famous rock band you tend to envision a person that is full of rock- star swagger and has self-confidence oozing out of every tattooed pore. If you’ve ever seen The Devil Wears Prada band perform live, my guess is you’d probably think that their front man Mike Hranica fits the bill perfectly and you’d be correct or at least partially right.

The vocalist from Dayton, Ohio called the radio studios at the AFN Broadcast Center to talk about the band’s first official release since 2013, the conceptual “Space” EP and although the conversation did start in outer space it eventually gravitated into a more down to Earth chat.

Hranica: “I didn’t like high school at all.”

(audio quote)
The Devil Wears Prada
From left to right: Daniel Williams, Mike Hranica, Andy Trick, Jeremy Depoyster • photo by Anthony Barlich

As The Devil Wears Prada embarks on their 10th year as a band they have emerged as leaders in the heavy metal subgenre called metalcore. Although the core of TDWP remains intact, the decibel defying group from the Midwest has undergone some lineup changes in the past couple of years when long time keyboardist James Baney departed the band in 2012, followed by the exit of founding member/guitarist Chris Rubey in 2014.

The “Space” EP is a collaborative 6 song effort that includes contributions from the old guard and the new, so to speak. Jeremy Depoyster (rhythm guitar, clean vocals), Andy Tick (bass), Daniel Williams (drums), Mike Hranica (vocals) and touring musicians Jonathan Gering (keyboards) and Kyle Sipress (lead guitar) have taken an astrological theme and created a collection of songs that each explores a different point of view of space and those things that exist out of the Earth’s province. “Space” is a refreshing offering that is engulfed in lyrical depth and musical mastery. We talk with Mike Hranica about the concept of the EP, his eloquent writing, his spirit animal and why he didn’t like high school, at all.

Angel Orozco: Exciting times right now for you and your band The Devil Wears Prada, how thrilled are you to drop the new “Space” EP?

Mike Hranica: We’re all really like anxious, we recorded the EP earlier in the year, we wanted to have the EP out sooner than August 21st but we’ve really been looking forward to it, it feels like we’ve been sitting on it forever and so far the reviews have seemed really positive, the folks that have been able to hear it seemed pretty pumped, so we’re just excited for the fans to give it a listen and kinda turn the next page for a band as we’ve gotten much older and are coming up on the 10 year mark and what not.

Angel Orozco: There’s this whole astrological theme going on with the EP, so what made you guys decide to write about Space, Aliens and Supernovas?

Mike Hranica: The EP was very much built off of what thought went really well with the Zombie EP back in 2010 so we had joked about doing something where each song was a different concept, there’s an alien song, there’s a pirate song etc. etc. I kinda sort of obtained the responsibility of giving the very strict concepts to each song and I was confident, I knew I was totally capable to be able to give different ideas and each song has a different meaning and nothing that feels to cliché or monotonous.

Angel Orozco: Lyrically there’s a lot of depth in there, when I read the lyrics I feel like I’m reading a hybrid book of science and poetry, how did you develop the ability to write so eloquently …or does it just come natural to you?

Mike Hranica: Thank you. I’ve always prided myself on being more of a lyricist than musicians and bands, before I joined the band I’ve always had very much an attachment and a sincere enjoyment to writing. As a young kid I was already writing short stories and poems and what not. I think with my joining the band 10 years ago as well it was very much an exercise in being able to apply my writing just as much as it was to play in a band or to make music and scream words, so yea I very much enjoy it, I’ve had some self-published releases and I hope to write more outside of the band as well but yea sincerely very much one of my favorite things to do is to write.

Angel Orozco: Speaking of writing, school is just starting for a lot of kids across the country, what type of student was Mike Hranica?

Mike Hranica: [Apprehensive chuckle]…A quiet one, very very shy, I didn’t have a lot of friends in school, I was very scared of people and that kinda made people scared of me. I didn’t like High School at all. I was a bit of a misfit but I did well, I was an A’s and B’s student, I can’t remember my GPA but I was alright, I was most attached to the writing and I think my fondest memory was whatever art I was able to do in school, I remember really having an attachment to my ceramics class and even more so than that was like my English literature. I was quiet and shy and again not a lot of friends. I was very excited to leave High School and get out on the road with the band when that time came which was like 8 years ago which makes me feel terribly old.

Angel Orozco: Would you change any of that knowing what your shyness and all that stuff may have gotten you today, would you have rather have been more outgoing and the popular cool kid?

Mike Hranica: I don’t think not be outgoing enough, I think I regret…well I know I regret just not having any sort of confidence which was something that I’ve always struggled with and I still struggle with it to this day but I can say that I’ve gotten better with it. I just didn’t have enough of a self-worth at all and you know I imagine or I know that tons and tons of kids have the same problem and it’s certainly a difficult obstacle to overcome. I think that’s a predominant regret of mine from school is just not having enough worth, enough faith in myself.

Angel Orozco: Well Mike, I hope you know now that you’re cool as hell.

Mike Hranica: Thanks, thank you so much.

Angel Orozco: Hey man, if you had a spirit animal what would it be?

Mike Hranica: When we were in the studio recording the Space EP my girlfriend came out for a few days, she actually got snowed in during that crazy weather in Long Island when we recorded in the winter, she’s all about spirit animals and we’ve done these stupid online quizzes, I think one was Buzzfeed and now I can’t remember what my animals were, I know I was bummed because it wasn’t a bear, I really like bears.

Angel Orozco: So you would want to be a bear?

Mike Hranica: I wanted to be a bear yes, cause they’re so cool. I can’t remember if I was a sloth or everyone else was a sloth…oh I was an owl, owl was one of them, which is I think a little more dramatic than me.

Angel Orozco: I was listening to an interview with your band mate Jeremy Depoyster and he was asked who was the most extreme performer out of all you guys in the band and they said it was you, so I could see you being a wild bear on stage, man.

Mike Hranica: only on stage, otherwise not so much.

Angel Orozco: Mike, finally I’d love for you to talk about and introduce the new Devil Wears Prada song but first I want to thank you for taking the time to talk to our brave men and women serving overseas and underway, as always it’s been a pleasure speaking with you. AFN wishes you and the band continued success.

Mike Hranica: Thank you so much for having me and you know a huge shout out to the troops and saying thank you really doesn’t do anything nearly enough to express how much gratitude all of us have, I have, the band has, I send my best wishes to those serving. Supernova that’s our first single from the EP, it’s a song that kinda just chronicles floating way deep in space, I kinda consider it one of our more romantic songs, it follows basically the inevitability of a relationship destroying and I kinda put myself in this situation of floating far away across the Universe and having this attachment, this love and relationship to something that will soon explode and disintegrate away very beautifully . Yea I mean it’s a little bit more of an upbeat one instead of a hooky chorus; check it out our new song Supernova.

Angel Orozco, Contributing Writer
Angel Orozco, Contributing Writer

Interview: Pat Benatar and Neil Giraldo

Wow.  What a voice.  Even now.

However, that’s not what impressed me most as I watched Pat Benatar and Neil “Spyder” Giraldo perform at Pechanga Resort and Casino.  They belong together.  It’s just that simple.

Everyone is a unique combination of special talents and abilities.  Those who find a perfect place in life to maximize those talents are very fortunate.  Benatar and Giraldo found their perfect place 36 years ago.  Even more special, they found the perfect partner to join them along the way.

Pat & NeilWhile I was interviewing them earlier in the evening, they bickered like an old married couple…which is exactly what they are.  As Forrest Gump would describe them, they fit together like peas and carrots. Their connection is obvious after talking to them for 30 seconds.

As I ask the same questions they’ve been asked a million times, they employ a few of the old tried and true interview techniques.  Musician A compliments the talents of Musician B and Musician B reciprocates.  It’s a way to remind the interviewer of their talents without sounding like they’re bragging.  (Side note:  I was convinced long before this interview.)

However, it doesn’t take long before the true nature of their relationship reveals itself.  I ask how they met.

Benatar to Giraldo, “I’ll tell it because I tell it better.”

Giraldo says, “Tell the truth this time.”

Benatar replies, “I always tell the truth.  You’re the one who tells it wrong.”

As they talk about their first meeting, they squabble over the exact details.  Benatar says she was looking to hire a guitar player.  Giraldo, already an established musician, says he was asked to form a partnership with a young, unknown singer.  Benatar calls that first get-together an “audition.”  Giraldo calls it a “meeting.”

“He didn’t even bring his guitar,” Benatar adds incredulously, “I mean come on.”  She sounds like a wife who can’t believe her husband left his socks on the floor….AGAIN!  However, instead of stinky clothing, they’re discussing the creation of one of music’s most successful careers.

There’s no malice, of course.  They just seem to enjoy the back and forth.  As I watch them rehash that first meeting for the umpteenth time, one thought pops into my mind.  They’re flirting with each other.  That’s how they keep the sparks flying after all these years.

Sparks are one thing they can both agree on.  There were definitely sparks from day one.  “Love at first sight” as some might call it, but it wasn’t that simple.  Benatar was a military spouse.  She was married to a soldier.  As her career heated up, her marriage began to end.  Playing guitar right next to her was Giraldo.

Their musical chemistry was immediate as well.  From the very first time they sat down to create music, it just worked.  Giraldo was the guitar player Benatar desperately wanted to find. Benatar was the singer of Giraldo’s dreams.  They were and continue to be each other’s muse to this very day.

However, their story is not without its challenges.  When you read the lyrics of their songs, you see the story of a couple who faced and overcame many difficulties.  “Heartache to heartache, we stand.”  Song after song, you begin to realize how hard they worked to stay together.  “You want to be lovers.  You want to be friends.  I’m losing my patience.  You’re nearing the end.”  Through everything, they found a way to stay where they belonged.  Together.  The hardest fought victories are always the sweetest and most cherished.

The opening notes of, “We Live for Love,” explode across the audience.  I was hoping they would play this song tonight.  It’s one of their lesser hits, but it’s probably my favorite.  As Benatar and Giraldo perform, they interact with each other a great deal.  They sound great.  They look happy.  The strength of their relationship is obvious to all who watch them.  They are two people who were meant to spend a lifetime together.  I am witness to one of rock and roll’s great love stories.

Pat Benatar and Neil Giraldo are currently performing across the United States on their 35th Anniversary Tour.

George Maurer, Contributing Writer
George Maurer, Contributing Writer