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Rob Rock

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"That feels great! It's really a long time dream come true for me to finally do a solo album. I'm really happy that Massacre is promoting it well in getting it out."

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Thus replied Rob Rock to the question how he feels about having his first solo record out. His career in music is impressive. He has been active as a recording artist for almost fifteen years now. In those years he sang for several melodic metal bands. However, he never did an album on his own. Until now! On the day his solo album, Rage Of Creation, is released in Europe by Massacre Records, I spoke with him over the phone. Here's what he has to say about the album, his departure from the band Impellitteri and metal in general.

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Discography: M.A.R.S. /Project Driver (1986); Impellitteri - Selftitled (1987);   Joshua - Intense Defense (1988); Angelica - Selftitled (1989); Driver - Selftitled (1990); Axel Rudi Pell - Nasty Reputation (1991); Impellitteri - Grin And Bear It (1992); Impellitteri - Victim Of The System (1993); Impellitteri - Answer To The Master (1994); Impellitteri - Screaming Symphony (1996); Impellitteri - Fuel For The Fire (1997); Impellitteri - Eye Of The Hurricane (1998); Impellitteri - Crunch (1999); Various Artists - Randy Rhoads Tribute (2000); Rob Rock - Rage Of Creation (2000). Available through: Massacre RecordsRob Rock website:Rob Rock Interview by:  mpo Date: November 27th 2000

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Before you did this solo album you sang for several bands including Driver, Joshua and Impellitteri. Does it feel different doing a solo album compared to just doing the vocals for bands?

Yeah, I think when you're doing a solo album it's a lot more pressure. It's a lot more responsibility when it's only your opinion that matters. So when I was deciding what tracks would stay and what tracks would go and how the mix would sound there was a lot of anxiety because you want to get it right because your name is on it. So, I worked really hard where I felt it's right and I think it's right and I'm very happy with the record. So, it's different than just being in a band situation where it's not your responsibility, where it's someone else's responsibility.

In a band situation you just did your thing and that's it. With the solo album you're responsible for everything. How exactly did the album come about? How did the songs come together and how did you get the line-up of musicians?

It was a few years ago, almost since 1996, when I was talking with JVC (Rob's Japanese label, mpo) about doing a solo album. And when I discussed with them in what direction I would go in, I told them about the thirty songs that I had demoed with Roy Z back in 1990 when we were together in Driver. So, I picked three or four songs from there that stood the test of time, that are still strong today. And then we re-wrote those songs and used that as the seed of the new album. It showed the direction that we were going to go in. And then we wrote some more songs to make the album together. I had always had Roy Z in mind for doing a solo album 'cause we always wanted to make a real full album together 'cause we didn't get the chance in 1990. But we finally got the chance with the solo album. And we also used Butch Carlson who was in Driver with us at that time. And the Driver I'm talking about is the second Driver. The first Driver was M.A.R.S. Project - Driver; Rudy Sarzo, Tommy Aldridge and Tony MacAlpine. That came out in 1986. But the Driver line-up I'm talking about here is the one I put together after I left the Joshua band. And in 1990 we did some recordings and some demos. So, I used that base for my solo album in 2000.

You wanted to work with Roy Z. And what about the other musicians you were talking about? Did you pick them because they would fit the music the best or were there other reasons?

Basically I picked them because they are my friends and I think they are great musicians as well. I have a friend, Ray Burke, he played some bass on the record. And of course Jake E Lee who was a mutual friend of Roy and I. And he played some solos on All I Need and Media Machine. Those two songs.

So, you've made the album together with friends. Okay. A lot of the music is written by Roy. In how far is it really a Rob Rock album as it's Roy's music trademarked by your voice? So, is it really a Rob Rock album or is it a Rob Rock and Roy Z album?

Well, it's really a Rob Rock album with Roy Z because I think together with Roy Z we tried to make the end result. Something we were both shooting for, you know. But it was my original vision and then Roy Z helped me to achieve it. And with the songwriting I would sing vocal parts and melodies to Roy Z and he would put music to them. That was a different way of writing songs as opposed to me just getting music.....Like in Impellitteri I would get the music already recorded and I would come up with melodies and lyrics over the music. To me it was a fresh album written around the songs and written around the voice as opposed to the old way I used to do it.

So, there's more of Rob Rock into the album and into the music.

Yeah, because Rob Rock was more the focus, the voice, instead of the guitars.

Okay. The album was first released in Japan through JVC. The Japanese version also contains the ballad Beautiful Lady. This song is not on the European version. Why is that song not on the European release?

With my original contract with JVC/Victor they have a provision in there to have a bonus track because they have a big problem with import sales there. That once an album comes out in the rest of the world, they have a glut of imports so they cannot sell records after that. They made a few provisions in their contract where they get the release three months ahead of time plus they would have a bonustrack. So, as Japan is so familiar with my singing through the Impellitteri records, that I've been released there, I thought that it would go well in Japan and in the Asia countries because they're really familiar with my voice as far as ballads are concerned. With Impellitteri we've done eight records in the last eight or nine years. And Beautiful Lady is a very soft ballad with just acoustic guitar and the voice. And to me, my solo album coming out in Europe is a new thing because the other Impellitteri album were never really properly released in Europe. So this was like a new thing to me and I wanted to make sure that this album was very strong. And I think on future releases I could include maybe more of the ballad stuff. But I didn't want to start out that way.

And this ballad, Beautiful Lady, might it resurface here in Europe in the future?

Ah, yes, I think it's probably gonna resurface maybe in a couple of years. It's a good song and they liked it really much. Like in the Philippines they are playing it on the radio even. In the Philippines! So, they really like that soft ballad stuff. But for Europe, I really like the hard rock, I wanted to make sure that Europe understood that I'm still singing metal.

One of my favorite songs on the album is Streets Of Madness. Can you tell what this song is about?

(laughs) Yeah, that's my favorite song too! I really like that one!

Cool!

Streets Of Madness is about how crazy society is here in America. How there's people out on the streets that are basically insane, doing what they're wanting to do. Committing crimes and stuff. A lot of evil things go on. And that song is more like a painting, or a moviescript for that scene, of all the bad stuff that goes on around there. You know, I see things on the news every night, about killings, about crimes. So, I took those ideas and put them in a song and called it Streets Of Madness.

It is sort of like a soundtrack for the book Street Lawyer by John Grisham. I don't know if you know this book?

No, I don't know that. I've heard that name, John Grisham. I think he has made some movies, right?

Yeah, that's right. He wrote books and a couple of those books were made into moves. Well, anyway, that was a comparison that I saw. Okay, another question, are there plans to bring out a video for one of the songs?

At this point, I don't think so. Right now we're putting out the album and see how it goes. Then, if all goes well, I'll be coming for a tour at first. They wanna push a tour before a video. I'm actually coming in December but I wanna return again in March for a full tour.

So, there might be a video recording of a live show?

Yes, at that time.

Until recently you were the lead singer for the band Impellitteri. As I understand it you were dropped by the band because of the solo album. Chris Impellitteri gave you an ultimatum to either continue his band or to pursue a solo career. How do you look upon that situation?

I think it was unfair because I told Chris all along about the solo album. It took a few years to come about. And he was okay with it. But once he found out it was a very strong album and a very heavy album, he thought that it would compete with Impellitteri. But I have a different opinion. I thought that it would only make more fans for Impellitteri. So, we have two opposing ideas. So, he said "no you cannot do both", and I said "I wanna do both". And from that conflict we decided to just pursue our careers separately from now on.

So, there was a competitive situation to his idea.

Yes. We are still friends and everything, but I could see no reason why I could not do both. I think Chris was just worried that the Rage Of Creation album would compete with the Impellitteri albums.

Another question now. You will be playing in Europe on the Christmas Rock Night. Can you tell me about the line-up of your live-band?

It took me three or four months and I found some great players here from the central Florida area that I have been rehearsing with. We've been rehearsing the album for the live-set. And it's going very well and I'm very happy with the players that I have. I originally wanted to get the players that were on the record. But all of the players on the record have other things going on. And especially Roy Z being such an in demand producer. He was not abled to make a commitment to the time because he's gonna be in the studio. So I had to find people locally that I could play with live. So, we're gonna go over in December and play Germany and then go back to Orlando and play some shows here. And then hopefully go back in March for a tour.

One of the things you can do now as a solo artist is do outside projects. Like you're helping the LA band Warrior with the vocals and you're working on the Tobias Sammet CD.  With what artists would you like together with?

Uh, I don't know! (laughs). Right now I'm really focused on the solo career. But Tobias Sammet contacted me and I thought it was a great idea with all the great players on the album. I wanted to participate. And then Joe Floyd, he had helped Roy Z and myself mixing the Rage Of Creation album. So, after that he said "would you please help me with writing and recording the next Warrior album?" And because I was not in Impellitteri anymore I said "okay, I think that's a great idea because I have a lot of respect for Warrior." So, the Warrior album will be coming out some time next year. And I think right now I'm just kind of waiting to see what happens with Warrior. Maybe I can tour Rob Rock solo album and then after that go and do Warrior tour or something. I'll have to wait and see.

And are there other musicians you would like to work with? Someone you've got in mind?

Uh, at the top of my head I actually don't know anyone offhand. But I do have some ideas. Do you want to know my ideas?

Yeah, of course!

Actually, there's a great guitar player that's on Shrapnel Records. His name is Borislav Mitic. I've talked to him about maybe singing a track for him on his next album. But he's mainly an instrumental player. And he wanted to have a vocal or two on his album. So, I thought I would maybe try to write songs with him and see how that works. But I have made no commitments yet.

Okay. In several interviews you've said that you're a Christian.

Yeah.

Are you also considering working with Christian artists like Ken Tamplin?

I think, maybe, if the right opportunity comes up. But I'm not interested in being labeled a Christian because in America a Christian seems to be only be abled to play Christian audiences. And I wanna play for rock 'n roll audiences, you know. So, I try to avoid that label. And I don't have a Christian label, only a metal label. And that's the way I like it. So, I don't wanna be put into a Christian audience only. But I think if the right opportunity arose, maybe working with Ken Tamplin would be great. I did work with Ken Tamplin before with Joshua. He wrote a lot of good songs for the Joshua Intense Defense album that I ended up singing.

And you also did Angelica.

Yeah, Ken was producing that album. I guess the singer for Angelica couldn't sing in the studio for some reason. So, Ken asked me for a favor so I went in and sang the album for him. And in return he came and sang backing vocals on the Victim Of The System EP for Impellitteri. Both times it was very fun to be with Ken. And maybe in the future, I didn't think of that, but now that you mention it that might be a good idea.

Within a month it will be Christmas. What would be the ultimate Christmas present for your career in music? What is your biggest dream?

My biggest dream is to get signed to a US label. A big US label that would put a lot of money behind the album and make it very known in the United States. But another good Christmas dream for me would be to have the album do great in Europe so I can come to Europe and play live and get down some very good tours. Because I know the Europeans really appreciate the melodic metal that I write. I would rather play for an audience that really appreciates it, you know. Where America is so trendy. You know, right now they do the rap-metal and all these girl-bands and boy-bands. And that's gonna burn out and something else will be big and everybody will copy that. So, that's not really a long term thing for me. But it would be great to be very well known in your own country. But I have a lot of respect for Europe and for Japan, because they go for quality music and not the trends. That would be a great gift, if I could do very well in Europe.

Yeah, and how do you feel about the fact that America is not really melodic metal minded nowadays?

Of course I'm disappointed. But I also understand that a lot of the young artists today grew up hearing the rap music. And so now they naturally take the rap music and infuse it with hard rock. There's a lot of hybrid going on. I'm hoping that it will come back to melodic metal again. Because I think it's great music and it would stand the test of time and not be put away like disco was.

And what do you think the future of metal is in the United States? Do you have hope that it will come back within a few years?

Yeah, I do. Right now it's underground and very strong. So, I think it's rising up. But I would like to see a major label or MTV putting some money behind it. You know, put your money where your mouth is and make it happen in a big way. That would be great!

But then there's the risk that it becomes a trend, just like there are trends right now....

Right! That's the bad part. Like I said, it would probably become another trend and then maybe die out again. I don't know. The best thing about it is with the internet now. It seems to me that the internet allows people to get the music that they really want. And that's why metal seems to be on the increase because I think there's a great demand for it even though the record companies here do not realize it.

So, that's why you have good hopes that it will come back within a few years.

Yes.

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