Exclusive interview for hellfest.fr: Rob Caggiano (VOLBEAT)
“Hellfest, and I’ve said it a few times today – I’m not saying that because I’m in France right now! – is probably my favourite festival” – Rob Caggiano – 05.19.2016 – Paris
What’s a promo day like today? A great opportunity so as to gather opinions regarding the new album (Seal The Deal & Let’s Boogie – out June 3) ? Or just something necessary evil? Or both?
So far, it’s been really cool. A lot of fun. We’ve talked about different stuffs. Usually it gets a little bit annoying: you get to answer the same questions over and over. For me, it’s a bit of laziness on the journalist part sometimes, you know. Because you know the answer, don’t you? (laughter) But today, it’s been really cool.
Are you satisfied with the response so far?
So far, the response has been really positive from everyone I’ve talked to so it feels really good. We’re very proud of the album, we feel really strongly about it. Obviously, the fans haven’t heard it yet but for the journalists, magazines, the media, the response has been great.
What’s your main state of mind? Excitement? Fear? Impatience ?
Of course, we’re excited. We’re a little bit anxious because we worked really hard on it. We can’t wait for it to be released and we can’t wait to get back on the road and do our thing.
Can you enlighten me with that choice: Seal The Deal & Let’s Boogie?
That’s a title Michael came up with a while ago, actually. I thought it was brilliant. As soon as I heard it, I thought “This is great!”. (laughter) I think it really fits the Volbeat sound and vibe and also kind of sums up what this record is.
This is Volbeat’s sixth album. What’s the ambition behind it?
One thing about Volbeat is that there is no formula, no rules to follow when coming up with songs and ideas and music. I don’t think any one of us went into this thinking “Oh, it’s gonna be like this, this and that”. I think we knew we didn’t want to go down the whole road of the Western outlaws and stuff like we did on the last record. We wanted that one to be a little bit different, musically and also lyrically. That’s really the only thing I think we thought about. Other than that, it was just the best songs that we could do together and that’s what we did.
What about the writing/recording experience for you? Was it different from the previous one as you were a full-time member this time?
I wouldn’t say it was very different. Obviously, being in the band for a while, we felt very comfortable with each other. One cool thing about this time around was that I was there from the beginning with the writing process and pre-production. We were all in the rehearsing room, working on these songs together. I think it really affected and enhanced the end result. And I think it came out really good and really powerful.
To many people, Michael (Poulsen – vocals & guitar) is the creative force of Volbeat. Is it easy for you to exist next to him?
We totally connect musically. I’m also a creative force and we work really good together. Putting out that album together was a lot of fun.
You just announced a brand new bassist (Kaspar Boye Larsen). What are the qualities required to join Volbeat?
I guess this is for any band: personality is one thing. Being on the same page musically. Being in a band is like a marriage. Obviously marriages more often than not don’t work! (laughter) So being in a band is a difficult relationship, you know? And that’s why I have so much respect for some of the classic bands that have been around for ever: it’s amazing.
You’re to promote the album through festivals first. I guess you’re planning a proper headlining tour afterwards?
Yeah, we’re putting everything together right now. We’re gonna take this as far as we can take it, all over the world. We’re gonna work very hard and we’re very excited about it. We’re definitely gonna do a headlining tour in the States after the festival run out here in Europe. And the, at some point, we’re gonna be in Europe doing an arena tour.
Can you actually remember the very first day you met the guys?
I met the guys for the first time when I was with Anthrax, doing the Big Four and we were in Switzerland, I think, for Sonisphere. I don’t know why Volbeat was there, maybe they were on the bill or on a different stage, I don’t remember. But they were there and someone introduced us. And I met Michael and Jon (Larsen – bass) and they were big Anthrax fans and we talked for a few minutes. I had never heard of them before and I didn’t know the music at all. But like I said, somebody introduced us, we shook hands, had a beer and that was it. Soon after that, we had been working on a record – the band called The Damned Things – and… We finished that record and the album came out and we went on tour and Volbeat was nice enough to take us out on the road. That’s when we really connected and became good friends and… Here we are! (laughter)
Who’s Rob Caggiano? A musician that produced bands or a producer that happens to play in a band?
I’m both. I’m a musician. The definition of a musician is someone who makes music. If I’m producing a record, I’m making music. If I’m playing guitar, I’m also making music. To me, it’s the same.
I guess you production job will be quite impacted by your agenda with Volbeat in the next couple of months/years…
Yeah, I made a conscious decision a few years ago to only take on production projects that I really… Something special or something I really believe in or something I’m in or playing guitar. I just finished the Jimmy Breuer (Song From The Garage – out 05.27) record and I’m very excited about that. It’s a really special album. I wrote pretty much all the music and played all the guitar. It’s some of my best guitar playing and I’m really proud of it. Jim is an amazing singer, people don’t know that side of him at all. He’s one of the funniest comedians of all times and he’s also a kick-ass fucking rock singer. And there’s also a song that features Brian Johnson from AC/DC, which is pretty exciting. One of the highlights of my musical career, for sure. Having that guy in the studio, getting to produce him and work with him was awesome.
Any plans to do some gigs?
I don’t know. We talked about doing shows, maybe here and there if my schedule permits. There might be some TV appearances, we’ll see. That would be cool.
What’s your opinion about Anthrax’s latest release, For All Kings?
It’s a great record. And it’s a great band, yeah.
Is there any future for The Damned Things?
I hope so. I think it’s something that we all would like to do again because it was so much fun. That band is a little bit difficult only because of the scheduling. At the time of the record, Anthrax was having some down time, Fall Out Boy had broken up, so the scheduling wasn’t as difficult. Now, it’s totally different as everybody is so active. I’m really busy with Volbeat, Anthrax is doing their thing – they’re super-busy – Fall Out Boy is doing better than ever, Keith Buckley is still doing Every Time I Die… So everyone is really busy. Hopefully we can do it, we can pull together at some point. I would love that.
Hellfest now. Anything to say about it?
Hellfest, and I’ve said it a few times today – I’m not saying that because I’m in France right now! (laughter) – is probably my favourite festival. Because of the way it’s put together and because of the line-up. Everybody in Volbeat is a huge music fan and when we’re playing a festival like this we try to check out as many bands as we can. Hellfest is always one of those festivals where every band you wanna see is on the same bill! (laughter) It’s really cool. We always look forward to playing Hellfest. It looks awesome too from the stage, with the fire and all that shit! (laughter)
Any bands you’d like to check out in 2016?
I really want to see Ghost this year. I really wanna see that crazy black metal band, Inquisition: that’s gonna be really good. Of course, Rammstein: they’re always amazing. Hopefully, I’ll get a chance to see their whole set: they’re awesome.
Primordial’s Nemtheanga thinks that festival culture is killing touring. Do you share that point of view?
That’s interesting… I don’t know… I don’t necessarily think so. If anything, festivals are great, you know? For example, rock festivals are amazing for rock music. I think that if the festivals didn’t exist, rock music wouldn’t be as strong as it is. I think that Europe is doing it for a while, the festivals out here have been great for a long time and there’s a lot of them. There’s something to be said, for going on stage and seeing that many people, it’s awesome. I think that America right now is catching up. You start to see more and more festivals in America. And they’re all doing very well. It’s a good thing: I don’t think it’s killing touring, to be honest. I think that’s more about : “If you’re a band you’re playing a lot of festivals, you gotta really have a solid plan, a solid team: you gotta be on point with it”. In other words, if you play a string of festivals and you do a headlining tour a month later, you have to be smart about it and you have to create the demand. You want people to have some withdrawals and then you can go out and start playing again! (laughter)
To conclude, please, finish that sentence for me: “I have never told that story before and I probably shouldn’t but…”
(laughter) Wow! I don’t know… That’s a weird one… Well, I don’t know if this is a surprise as I’ve told the story a few times… It’s just a funny thing that happened to us (with Anthrax) when we were doing the Big Four tour. Obviously, there was this one special day in Sofia, Bulgaria. That was the most important show of the tour because it was gonna be broadcasted in movie theatres and turned into a DVD. I remember that we went onstage and it was for me the worst show of my career as a guitar player! (laughter) And we all had a bad show. The problem was the sound: we couldn’t hear anything onstage and the stage was very big, very long. There was something wrong with the monitors. For example, all I heard was Charlie (Benante – drums). Fucking crazy! (laughter) Scott (Ian – guitar) had Frankie’s (Bello) bass blasting out of his wedges, which he never does. The whole stage was upside down. And we were just not having fun. It’s very hard to have fun when you are in that situation. It’s interesting when that kind of thing happens because it’s always at the most important show, you know? The night before, it was perfect, awesome. The night after? It was perfect. But that particular show, it was a fucking nightmare! (laughter) I’ll never forget that… We were all walking back to the dressing room, all depressed: “What happened, that was terrible!”. So we were in the dressing room, like changing, and Metallica’s guy who recorded the show came in – because the idea was that each band that played, after their set, they’d get a DVD to watch and approve before it went to movie theatres and we didn’t have much time to do it. So the guy came in with the DVD and we were like: “We don’t want to watch that! Fucking terrible!”. I’ll never forget: we put the DVD on my computer and we watched it and it was pretty fucking good! (laughter) You couldn’t tell there was an issue! It almost looked like a different show from what we experienced onstage. I think it just comes from experience and having played together for a long time and really knowing the songs. Somehow, we ended pulling through that and being very tight. The solos weren’t played the way they were supposed to be played because I couldn’t hear anything! (laughter) It was more about I had to kind of try to jam my way through them, you know? But the rhythms, somehow, we all locked, we all locked together. Not a lot of people know that story, I guess… That performance is untouched, you know: we didn’t touch anything. Definitely sounds like a killer rock band! (laughter)
05/19/2016 – Hotel Renaissance, Paris.
Many thanks to Olivier (Replica).