Maximum Metal Interview With Rob Rock by Susan Wright 4/19/05

How'd the tour go? Flying Aces '05 w/Masterplan, Circle II Circle, Pure Inc.?

Rob Rock: The tour went great. It's amazing that four bands could get along so well.

And you say the album "Holy Hell" is doing well over there in Europe?

RR: Yeah... it's doing good! It's sold out...the first pressing, in 3 days.

In 3 days?

RR: Yeah, then they had to go and manufacture more discs.

When they do the next pressing, will it still have the bonus track?

RR: Yeah, yeah.

It seems like you went through a lot to get this one out; hurricanes, concerns about your voice, early on. This one was a kind of rough one for you to get out there, right?

RR: Yeah, yeah. It's been a tough year. All kinds of deaths in the family. All kinds of...just one thing after the other.

But the end results went well. I guess you have to go through some things to get to the end product. This is kind of like a 'therapy' to get it out this way.

RR: Yeah, it was a rough year. I mean, I dont know why things always get difficult when I'm trying to record. The more problems tend to create different tensions. I just focus on the album and it works out in the end.

Do you think maybe, in a way, that gives you fuel to push on... when you've got things to get past?

RR: Yeah, I think so.

Let's talk about the title "Holy Hell". I know it caused a little bit of a stir amongst some of your fans early on. I know you posted about it, but for the benefit of those who havent read the lyrics yet, or hadn't heard your earlier explanation, why did you go with that title?

RR: Well, when I first heard the term, "Holy Hell", I loved the way it sounded. I thought it was powerful and striking. I thought it was contradictory, like, two opposites together, you know, 'Holy' and 'Hell.' And, without an obvious meaning, I thought it gave it a more interesting title... something you don't obviously understand at first. "Holy Hell" to me, is, I felt like I've been going through Hell this past year and trying to be holy while I go through it. Trying to live my faith though it is a daily battle. Sometimes you have a tendency to lose sight of what you're doing, you know? So it's that struggle I'm going through that kind of went into the songs, and I'm not here to say the Christian life is an easy life. In fact, I think it's very difficult. I think people that don't understand it or are not into it, or just sit back and ridicule it or whatever... they just don't understand that it's not an easy way out or a 'cop out' or whatever other lame terms I've heard about it before from people that dont know.

I think a lot of people have this 'image' in their minds of Christians living in this sappy, happy-go-lucky, better-than-everybody thing, like they've got it made, and they don't realize that it is a struggle to live with the faith and keep above some of the things going on in the world.

RR: Well, to me, it's kind of like TV and the movies... people live in their fairytale lands, fairytale lives and people in their daily lives attain to it and want to get that in life, but to me, there's a lot of bad stuff that goes on with tv shows, tv preachers, abortionists and all this crazy stuff that goes on that has nothing to do with my personal relationship with Jesus Christ, you know? People come up with all the lamest excuses in the world; all the wars are started over religion and all this other ignorant stuff. I mentioned that in an earlier article and some guy went on a tirade on a forum about it. It's just three pages of ranting and raving. It's like, 'Dude... you've got some anger issues, man! That has nothing to do with the topic we were talking about!' [laughs]

Yeah, they'll say it's because of religion, but if you peeled back and look at what's going on with these people, you'd see they have some other issues going on.

RR: Yeah... some serious issues, and today's society is pretty messed up. Even a regular mom and dad family is kinda getting rare. There's a lot of stuff going on that isn't cool. Anyway, the fans who are Christian that worry about the lyrics... I just have to say, you dont have to worry about the lyrics and the fans that aren't Christian, you dont have to worry about being preached to or condemned or put down because you don't have faith. This is a metal album, first, and the lyrics have double meaning and if you are Christian, you'll get it and if you're not, I hope you'll get it, eventually, but you're still going to enjoy the music and you're going to enjoy the album. Don't run away scared!

That's actually something I mentioned in my review of the album. Even if you're not receptive to the message, you're still going to love it for the musical aspect of it.

RR: A lot of the lyrics have Biblical themes. People are like: 'OH, I dont want to hear that,' but every movie you see, every weekend when you go watch a movie, everything you see on that screen is in the Bible. "Slayer of Souls" is about Satan... about a demon deceiving people. That is like every horror movie in the theater. You're not getting stuff you're not used to getting. You're getting a different angle than you're used to getting. "First Winds Of The End Of Time" is about Armageddon. How many movies about Armageddon do you need with Bruce Willis? This is a Bruce Willis movie in music, coming at you, with a little more in-depth information than the movie. That's what it's about. It's entertainment, but yet, it's Biblically based and it has a lot of truth in it. That's the difference between that, and a Hollywood movie that has a lot of made-up stuff for shock value. I don't know if people understand what I'm talking about, but, I get tired of people trying to put me in a box. It seems like if you're a Christian, you're going to try and tell me what I can and cannot sing about. If you're a non-Christian, you're gonna turn me off and say, 'I dont want to hear your stuff' without even knowing what it's about, and you're missing a lot of great stuff, from some of the greatest players in the world. Roy Z, Bobby Jarzombek... these are the cream of the crop of metal players. Music is entertainment and I'm not on a Christian label, making music for a Christian church. I'm on a secular label making rock 'n roll music. All I do is, I just write songs and my heart comes through the music and the lyrics. I'm not about to sit up there and fake it. People know when you're faking it. That's who I am. I just think if they gave it a shot, they'd like it.

This one seems to have heavier tunes, with the exception of the cover with Tobias Sammet ['Move On'] and the bonus track, 'I'll be Waiting for You.' I thought that was a really, really beautiful song. I know it's for your Dad.

RR: That's a love or hate song. Most people really love it, and then there's other people that I've heard from that are like, 'Oh, no, it's too weak or too slow! This album is kicking butt, except for that...' and I'm like, 'So you want to put me in a box again? Telling me how I can sing and can't sing... why can't I do something heavy AND something nice? I have the ability to sing many different ways and I don't want to sing one way, album after album after album, song after song. To me, that would be boring. I try to spread it out and sing different ways.

What I'm hearing is that it was on such a fast-pace... heavy, heavy, heavy, and then the 'I'll be Waiting for You,' it was something to catch your breath on. I loved it, but I think some were expecting it to be hard from beginning to end.

RR: Yeah, yeah... that's good. That's what I thought, too. I thought that after six songs of serious metal beatings people might want a break! [laughs]

'Move On,' that's one I just love! I actually go back and play this one over and over again. Your's and Tobias Sammet's voices go so well together. How did you get Tobias Sammet in on this?

RR: Well, when I was on the Axel Rudi Pell tour in '91... I've been in contact with Tobias since I participated with 'Avantasia,' and then when I was on tour, he was in the studio for the 'Mandrake' album. He said, 'Oh, come on down to the studio!' So I came down and visited him and then he's like, 'Oh, why dont you sing some backing vocals for me?' So I ended up singing some backing vocals for him that day, too. So then, when he was out in California, doing shows... I think Edguy did shows in New York and California, and then to Mexico... but when he was out there, he stopped by the studio where Roy and I work and we were working on this song and it was just like, 'Hey, you wanna sing on this song with me?' and he said 'Yeah, sure!' If you listen to the original version it is quite different from this one. I ended up singing my parts later on, but it was great having him on there.

"...you dont have to worry about being preached to or condemned or put down because you don't have faith. This is a metal album, first..."
Why did you choose this particular song?

RR: Roy Z was actually very familiar with that song. He said it's a HUGE hit in Portugal and Spain and Brazil... all the Spanish-speaking countries, I guess on pop radio that play ABBA, they play that song, which was never a big hit in the USA, but it is a hit song elsewhere, so we thought, if it is a hit song, which I believe it is, we can do it, in our own way, and bring it to other people that might never hear it.

The Rage of Creation band... there's limited involvement on this album from those guys. What's going on there?

RR: About a year ago my drummer decided he wanted to focus on his family. He'd just had a child, so he couldnt do anymore touring. I really haven't had a drummer for over a year with the Rage of Creation band. Then, when I started in the studio with Roy Z again, I had a chance to play with Bobby Jarzombek. Rob Halford had just went back to Priest, so Bobby had time and he was willing to play on the record and I think Bobby is one of the greatest drummers there is so I asked him to play on the album, which he did. From there, Roy had demo'd up the songs and the plan was to re-record the songs, but Roy ended up getting really busy with Judas Priest and Bruce Dickinson later in the year, so the time we'd set aside for my album kinda got bumped around, so I had to come up with alternative plans. We had Bob Rossi and Rick Renstrom doing a bunch of solos on there, and then I had my friends from Narnia, Carl Grimmark and Andreas Olsson playing some guitars and bass, as well. What happened was, Carl and Andreas Olsson did really, really good. They're really good studio musicians, as well as live players and I ended up, basically using the best tracks that I had. You know, it's tough not using tracks when you're working with somebody, like, 'Oh, you dont have the take that we need here, you know?' So it was between me and Roy deciding on what solos we were going to use. We basically just wanted to make the best record possible so we ended up with what we ended up with. For the tour, it started only two weeks after I finished the album, partly due to my fault for taking so long with the mix. I was in Denmark for like a week, ten days doing the mix and I didnt have time to find a new drummer, and Rick Renstrom was unable to go on the three week tour, so it just made more sense to me to use the Swedish band, which was Carl and Andreas, and the drummer from Narnia and then Daniel Hall, a guitar player from Platitude that lives close by to Carl. I came home between the mix and the tour, but then I flew to Sweden a couple of days before the tour and rehearsed with that band and then we went out on tour and it worked out really good.

So you'll work again with Rick Renstrom and the others?

RR: Yeah, I foresee us working again together. Right now, I don't know what's gonna go on. I do have a few more shows in Europe and it makes more sense for me to use the Swedish band for the Europe shows because it saves a lot of money and I'm able to do a lot more shows, because the promoters don't have to pay for five US flights and five US hotels and food and all that, so it makes me more available to the bigger venues and the bigger shows.

You do have some more shows set up. What have you got coming up?

RR: Well, we have SwedenRock in June and the Metalfest in October. Actually, there's a couple gigs as early as late September, early October that are waiting to be confirmed. One that is confirmed is October 1, Metalfest in Germany. We're working on shows for the States. I'm not sure yet what's going to happen with that. We're actually trying to get on some kind of touring situation. AFM will be releasing "Holy Hell" in the United States, so right now they're working on that deal. I think touring dates for the USA will be in coordination with the release of the album here, so I have to be a little patient on that.

You answered my next question. I was going to ask about the American distribution and if anything had been worked out, yet, and when that comes about, will the American version have any bonus tracks?

RR: I don't know yet. I think so. I think that would be a good idea. I think it depends on what label and distribution they use. Right now, they're dealing with legalities, you know. They will have a US distribution, because they have a lot of bands they want to release here, like Masterplan and Circle II Circle, Pure Inc... all the bands from the tour are waiting for their albums to be released here.

The multimedia extras on the album, will those be on the American version?

RR: Yeah. I think so.

I really liked the video to "I'm a Warrior" thats' on this cd!

RR: [laughs] Oh, yeah?

Yeah! Since the album is doing so well in Europe, at least, and if it gets proper push here, do you think AFM would spring for a full-length concert dvd?

RR: I think we're looking at next year for that.

I saw the setlist for the tour you just got back from. You did "Slayer of Souls" and "I'm A Warrior". Do you think that once the album is out there for awhile that you'll put more of the new material into your setlist or are you going to keep it basically the same?

RR: No, we'll probably expand the setlist, depending on the show and how much time we can play. I play a lot of Impellitteri songs live, too, I just didnt have a lot of time on the Masterplan tour. I only had thirty minutes, so I ended up playing stuff from my solo albums, instead of trying to go back and dig out the whole history. I've played Axel Rudi Pell, I've played Warrior songs, I've played Mars Project: Driver songs, a lot of Impellitteri stuff live. I'd love to do a lot more that that but I need a good hour, hour and a half to play, at least [laughs]. I'd like to do a two or three hour show!

Have you heard the new Impellitteri? I think it's called "Pedal to the Metal"?

RR: Yes I did!

What do you think?

RR: I think it's pretty different than what I'm used to hearing from Chris. I thought it was pretty modern sounding...a lot of MTV influences.

Do you know anything about plans to reissue the Project: Driver and Angelica?

RR: No, I'd love to do that. I'd like to re-record it, actually [laughs]. Somebody loan us some money and we'll re-record it and do some bonus tracks or something and reissue that thing!

I want to give you the last word.

RR: Well, I just think "Holy Hell" is my best album that I've done, so far, because of the songs. I think songs are what stand the test of time, so I just encourage people to pick up this album and enjoy it, enjoy the songs...a lot of hard work in there. I think Jacob Hansen in Denmark did a great mix on the album. I just think people will enjoy it, and don't be scared of the title. Enjoy the metal!

Band Site - www.robrock.com

Rob RockSusan Wright4/27/2005

Eyes Of Eternity
Eric Compton12/5/2003
Holy Hell
Susan Wright5/4/2005

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