Ex-Threatin Guitarist Joe Prunera Tells All in Exclusive Interview
Update, 1:04pm EST, November 14th: MetalSucks has released an exclusive report revealing the true identity and history of “Jered Threatin,” including his home town, past bands are more. You can read that right here.
In July of this year, guitarist Joe Prunera, a 36-year-old resident of Las Vegas, NV, received a friend request on Facebook from a representative at Aligned Artist Management — a “full service talent management agency” whose website claims offices in Beverly Hills, Nashville and New York — followed by a message:
“My name is Lisa Golding. I am an artist manager at Aligned Artist Management in Beverly Hills, CA. We have a signed hard rock artist on our roster that is looking for a new rhythm guitarist for their upcoming tour in Europe this November. After seeing some videos of your playing I believe you would be a good fit. If you are interested I would like to set you up with an audition/meeting with the band in Los Angeles. Let me know if you are available and I’ll send you the details.
Aligned Artist Management
Aligned Artist Management: www.alignedartist.com“
For Prunera, whose YouTube channel has seven subscribers and contains nine videos, the message seemed like a dream come true. A chance to tour Europe with a signed band? What young musician wouldn’t jump at such a chance?
But the band in question was Threatin, and what Prunera had no way of knowing was that he was about to be at the center of one of the music industry’s biggest scandals in recent memory. Then news of Jered Threatin’s elaborate scheme to book a European tour based on forgeries and inflated social media stats started making the rounds last Friday, while the band was staying at a rented house in Belfast.
“Over the next couple of hours after that, the whole thing just blew up, I mean tremendously,” Prunera tells MetalSucks by phone from his home in Las Vegas. “We just kept watching the media over the next few hours. Jered came downstairs and we were talking about everything and he basically said ‘I don’t know what to do.’ We were like, ‘We’re not going to play. We should not be playing.'”
How did Prunera and the other musicians recruited for the tour — drummer Dane Davis and bassist Gavin Carney — come to be duped so badly? And what light can Prunera shed on Jered Threatin, the mysterious figure around whom this entire debacle revolves?
After receiving that Facebook message, Prunera then spoke with Lisa Golding by phone. “I reached out right away saying that it was great. I talked on the phone to the woman and basically asked all of the questions: what are the dates, who is the artist, what’s going to be provided, how much is the pay – all the little minute details about it. She told me about Threatin and that she didn’t know all of the details but to email the company and they would get back to me.”
To this day, Prunera isn’t sure how Threatin — or “Lisa” — discovered him. “We were all a little puzzled as to where and how they found us. Nothing was ever mentioned specifically. We were all guessing [they found us via] some YouTube videos.” Joe’s videos — including a cover of U2’s “Where the Streets Have No Name” performed while walking on a treadmill (52 views as of this writing) and some clipped-together footage of him performing with his Iron Maiden tribute act (49 views) — show that he is a talented guitarist, to be sure, but hardly the kind of Internet presence one would expect to attract attention from someone seeking a band member for an international tour, let alone from 270 miles away.
Additional research has uncovered this Facebook profile belonging to Lisa Golding at Aligned Artist Management with little else on it other than what appears to be a stock photo. After their call, “Lisa” handed off matters to a man named Joe Abrams, who would respond to any questions Prunera had via email. Abrams invited Prunera to audition the following week at S.I.R. Studios in Hollywood.
Lisa got in touch one more time via Facebook asking Prunera to shoot her a text when he arrived, which he did, but he never received a response. Lisa was not present at the audition, but Jered’s wife, Kelsey, was there filming, along with another woman. Of Lisa’s no-show, Prunera tells us, “I thought it was strange, but people flake out so it was not completely out of the ordinary, just unprofessional.” Abrams was also not present; Jered informed Prunera that Abrams decided not to attend the auditions because he had other matters with which to deal.
Joe was asked to learn two songs but mastered seven just in case, and he nailed the gig over the two other guitarists in attendance: “They contacted me right away and I went out there and that was that. I was onboard now.”
A post on Prunera’s Instagram shows photos from L.A., including at famed metal stomping grounds The Rainbow Bar & Grill, on July 21st. On July 28th he made the announcement on his Facebook page that he’d be joining Threatin.
If the name Lisa Golding sounds familiar, that’s because it’s appeared in this saga before: someone purporting to be Lisa Golding spent a whole lot of time creating Threatin’s Wikipedia page and then defending it from moderators who sought to delete the page for all the complete and utter bullshit within. She was unsuccessful. Meanwhile, MetalSucks has not been able to find any mention of Lisa’s company, Aligned Artist Management, on the internet outside of its own website, much like all of the other companies involved in this narcissistic scheme.
Prunera would never hear from Lisa Golding again. Joe Abrams handled some logistical matters relating to the tour, including obtaining passport information to book flights. Questions Prunera asked Abrams about insurance in case of emergency on the upcoming tour went unanswered. When Prunera confronted Jered about Joe Abrams’ lack of response, the band leader offered, “He deals with so many major clients and major acts and probably just didn’t have time or missed the email.” Abrams, too, would eventually disappear.
When we asked him if he’d considered in hindsight whether the woman on the phone was Jered’s wife, he replied, “I honestly have no idea. Who’s to say at this point? With everything that’s been breaking with the media, that’s one of those things that I may never know.”
A Private Man
The rehearsal schedule in advance of the tour was rigorous. “Basically, I went down there to L.A. the following two weekends. The first weekend I went down, it was just him and I going over guitar parts. The weekend after was a full band practice. Essentially we rehearsed every two weeks down there. We would show up on a Friday evening, run through some songs, maybe learn a new song, spend the night, Saturday we’d rehearse for about six or seven hours and then go home Saturday night or Sunday. We had about six weekend rehearsals and the week before we flew out to London, we were there the entire week and rehearsed the set four times every single day.”
Prunera didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary or think anything about Jered was off. “The only thing I thought was odd was that we weren’t going to be signing any performance contracts or for hire contracts. Obviously that’s not a good move to make, but we all were thinking that everything that we’d been seeing was legit so far, so we’re still going to take the risk and we’re not going to worry too much about it.” Indeed, many agreements within bands exist on a handshake basis; the lack of paperwork is not particularly noteworthy here.
“No, nothing out of the ordinary seemed odd or that this may not be true or anything like that. Everything always seemed like it was on the up and up.”
But despite this grueling rehearsal schedule that required several multiple-night stays, and, later, many long drives spent in the touring van together, Prunera knows shockingly little about Jered’s history or personal life.
Prunera tells us that Jered grew up in the Midwest, although he can’t recall exactly where. “He moved out and basically he’s been doing it ever since all on his own. Other than that, I don’t really know anything about his background or his upbringing or anything like that.” As far as Prunera knows, Jered does not have a day job.
For a couple that paid for thousands of Facebook likes and YouTube views, and that sprang for five round-trip plane tickets to Europe, a top-of-the-line touring vehicle and hotels for everyone, Jered and Kelsey do not give off the appearance of being monied. “They don’t live lavishly or anything like that,” Joe tells us. “It’s just a typical house for a young couple and everything. I never got the impression that he was really wealthy.”
Threatin’s identity — or if in fact he is not who he claims — was never discussed. It never came up in conversation, and Prunera was never able to sneak a peak at a driver’s license or passport. “I’m not sure if Threatin is his real last name or not. That was something that was never talked about. I would assume not, but you see random last names these days, so who knows for sure what it really is, or whether Threatin is his real last name or not?”
Throughout the duration of the tour, the band — along with Jered’s wife Kelsey, who was acting as their tour manager — traveled in a rented Mercedes Sprinter van designed to seat nine and stayed in what’s known in Europe as “aparthotels,” which are individual, fully furnished apartments rented via a hotel-style booking system. Most of these had two bedrooms, with Jered and his wife taking the master bedroom while two band members shared a bed in the other room and one slept on the couch.
Despite such luxury, when the band showed up to the first gig of the tour, at the Underworld in London, Prunera got his first inklings that something was amiss. “We were under the impression that all of the venues were going to be a 1,000 to 1,500 seat venues and then as soon as we showed up to the Underworld in London and walked in the back door, it was very apparent that this was not going to be the case. Jered said that these venues were going to be 1,000 to 1,500 seat venues.”
Kelsey’s continued presence also set off alarm bells for Prunera. While it’s not uncommon for American bands traveling abroad to carry a tour manager, it’s exceedingly rare for bands at Threatin’s level (with the majority of dates in English-speaking countries, no less), and it’s certainly not the norm for significant others to travel with bands. While there’s nothing inherently wrong with any of that, Kelsey’s presence 1) was an added expense for an endless money-pit of a tour, 2) underscores the idea that Jered treated this tour as an extended, fantasy-land vacation with little regard for expenses.
Kelsey filmed all of the band’s performances, but it soon became apparent that she only pointed her camera at Jered (you can see her up front doing exactly this in a live video we’ve obtained from Manchester). Kelsey also hung the band’s backdrop, put up their scrims on stage and handled their merchandise. After the second or third show they stopped putting the merchandise out altogether because no one was there to buy it.
Jered and Kelsey mostly kept to themselves while the other three members hung out — but never too far from Jered’s gaze. “They wanted to keep us close by and under wraps. One morning the three of us went down to breakfast and then went next door to get groceries, and when we returned we got yelled at for not knowing where we were and straying from the group. We were expected to keep close and for them to know where we were at all times. In London, we went to the shops in Camden, and we stuck together as a group. It would’ve been nice to be treated as an adult — ‘Be back here by a certain time.'”
Threatin paid for his band members’ basic touring expenses — flights, accommodations, local transport — but left them to fend for themselves for everything else, including food. The band members were told they’d each be receiving a $300 lump sum stipend, paid in advance, for their participation in the tour (a meager sum for hired guns, but hey, free trip to Europe), but the day before their flight to London, Jered informed them that the $300 was intended to pay for all of their food while on tour.
Neither Jered nor Kelsey drink at all or do drugs. Nightlife on the tour outside of the band’s shows was nonexistent.
Then, in Belfast, Prunera and his bandmates read the bad news online, and shit hit the fan.
When Jered came downstairs from his room at the house in Belfast, he was the one to broach the topic on everyone’s minds. Davis had gone to visit family for the afternoon to talk about what to do — his mom had flown out to see the show — so Prunera and Carney were left to discuss the issue with Jered and Kelsey without him.
Jered dug in further on his lies, claiming innocence, playing the victim, and blaming his imaginary empire of industry gunslingers for the tour’s problems. “I’m the guy, I’m the artist, I just show up and play. Everyone else takes care of the other stuff,” Jered told the band. Says Joe, “He was very adamantly going on and on and on about how he’s the victim, they’re making all this up, the record label exists, how could it be fake if the Scorpions are on the label?” (The Scorpions are on the label SPV, whose nebulous association with Threatin’s imaginary label, Superlative Music Recordings, appears on the latter’s website.)
Jered placed special emphasis on blaming the promoter and his manager, who he insisted had screwed up. Joe tells us, “I asked him if he’d tried calling them, and he said, ‘Well, I emailed them.’ I’m thinking, ‘Dude, this an emergency, you need to get on the phone and call them!'” By this time Davis had returned to the house and pressed Jered for the promoter’s phone number. Jered skirted around the issue by saying they had only ever been in contact by email, and he offered the promoter’s email address to his distressed bandmates.
Prunera continued, “We told Jered, ‘We should not be playing and should not continue on. We don’t want to be part of the media backlash until we can get to the bottom of this. There’s no reason to continue on.’ At that point, too, [the news] was all still brand new. We’re still trying to process everything and figure out what’s real and what’s not real, what’s true and what’s not true. The articles that we’d seen with more people digging up information, researching everything and doing research on my own, it became more and more clear that I needed to get out of there and that I didn’t want to be a part of this anymore.”
Prunera and Davis decided to quit then and there. “I decided that there is no point in traveling over to Germany. I had a nasty, nasty cold. I felt like utter shit, so I told them that I was going to be leaving from Belfast as soon as I can.” He would board a plane the next day, while Davis went to stay with his mom, where he’ll remain until he flies home with her later this week. Gavin Carney, unwilling or unable to muster funds to book a new flight home and without the good fortune of family in the area, decided to ride out the remainder of the tour.
In spite of all his claims that he was the victim, Jered was quick to accept his hired bandmates’ resignations. “Dane was the first one to let them know that he was leaving that night. Jered was like, ‘Yeah, I completely understand.’ I can’t remember what else he said. He was pretty quick to be like, ‘Okay, that’s fine.'”
Kelsey was less understanding. “She was not happy. I know she was upset about the media backlash, the personal attacks and everything. She was upset.” Joe couldn’t get a good read on whether Kelsey was in on the scheme or had been broadsided by all this new information that had just come to light.
Physically exhausted, mentally spent, and in the throes of a horrible cold he’d contracted shortly after the tour began, Joe decided not to press Jered any further and went to bed. “What’s the point? He’s already denying it right here and now. I just wanted to get out of there.” The next morning he would board a plane and fly home.
Back to Real Life
For someone who’s at the center of one of the biggest scandals to rock the music industry all year, Prunera is remarkably zen about the whole experience, laughing at the ordeal and viewing it as a lesson learned. “When I first was reading about it, I was pretty shocked. When it blew up all over the internet, I was like ‘Wow, this is some heavy shit here,'” he says of his initial reaction. “Now, I’m honestly just kind of chuckling over it. It’s like, ‘Wow, that’s amazing.’ In reality, this whole experience has taught me what not to do on tour, been a huge inspiration to really get my music out there even more and finish all the songs I’ve been writing. Honestly, I’m just inspired to move forward and keep pressing forward and get out there and perform and look at it as a big lesson learned.”
For Prunera, the return to Las Vegas and the implosion of Threatin means back to work at the Wynn Las Vegas Resort convention area handling A/V, lighting, sound and video, where he says his co-workers were incredibly supportive of his endeavor with Threatin. He tells us that his original music is “along the lines of Maiden, Priest, Dio, Savatage, Doro, Queensrÿche that kind of stuff.” As soon as he finishes writing the songs that are currently in the works, he’ll be looking for a band with the goal of getting back on stage as soon as possible. “I live for that kind of stuff,” he enthuses. He had previously been involved in “an Elvis-based” stage production in Vegas, but that fell apart before it could get off the ground.
I tell Prunera that I admire his ability to roll with the punches instead of letting the situation get him down. “Oh yeah, there’s opportunity in everything. Everything works out to your advantage if you let it. This is just the next step in the right direction.”
“Like I said earlier, it’s so crazy you can’t help but chuckle a little bit. It’s insane.”