Bad and Nationwide
David Lee Beowülf
A funny thing happened back in late 1998: new bands were playing loud, extremely heavy metal blues music. I was driving around one day and heard an interview on WSOU (South Orange, NJ-all metal radio) with “stoner” band Nebula, who I’d never heard of before. And I didn’t know what to expect, but they were talking about being influenced by bands like Blue Cheer and Black Sabbath. That’s all I needed to keep my hand off the dial…
I was pretty amazed — I mean, “new” bands going back to the real roots of metal? Hard, loud vocals, insane guitar solos, pounding rhythms and genuine blues melody instead of the metal/rap hybrids that are getting entirely too much “buzz” these days? What is up with this?
So I kept my eyes and ears out for more of this “new” genre, and found out that it’s referred to as “stoner rock,” which needs no explanation. A couple of months ago, my pal Gordon over at MIA Records slipped me the new disc from Boston foursome Roadsaw, called Nationwide , and completely ignoring the promo material, I gave it a spin. Damn! It was heavy . Heavy in the way that you’d like to imagine the American bands of the early 1970s should have been. Wouldn’t it have been a trip if, say Black Oak Arkansas mixed their “outlaw rock and roll” sound with, say, the intense doom of Cathedral? Needless to say, that’s what I got out of Roadsaw.
I learned just exactly what “stoner rock” is from speaking to Roadsaw’s vocalist, Craig Riggs and asking about what I consider to be the “stoner” anthem, an amazing song called “Black Flower,” which you’ll find about halfway through the interview. Now, just imagine that you’re 13 and you’ve got the attic all to yourself for a bedroom. Mom and Dad are out, so it’s time to turn on the black lights, crank up the tunes and light up a bowl of oregano (unless you have a delinquent older brother…).
Hi, Craig! What’s up?
Craig Riggs : As I talk to you right now I’m going downstairs to get a beer and that means I AM READY! How’s it going?
OK. Whad’ya have, a cell-phone?
No, it’s a cordless.
Ahh… I was thinking if you were running down the stairs the cord would get in the way. Do you have a beer yet?
I have a beer and the beautiful sound of… [opens beer] ahhh, there it goes!
What kind of beer?
Bud in a can, my friend!
How can you drink that shit?
After you drink beer for a long time and you start going for those heavy fuckin’ microbrewery things and you realize you can’t drink too many of those…
Also, the other reason mainly is when you’re in the van on tour they crush up so you can stash ’em real easy. You don’t have bottles lying all over the place.
That’s really an impressive point, too.
You can say that Roadsaw are beer-savvy.
And you’ll never be out of Budweiser wherever you go.
Every place you go.
So, Craig, you’re listed as the person who does the “singing and yelling.”
Are you comfortable in that role?
I really dug the music on Nationwide and I figured Roadsaw comprised some serious, experienced musicians, how long have you been together, playing this heavy music?
This is our second album and we have been around for three and four years. The first album was called One Million Dollars . It’s on [local Boston label] Curve of the Earth.
That’s [now non-existent] 8-Ball Shifter’s label…
Yeah! Now the front for that band, Ian, is in a band called RC Crimewave, and they’re kicking ass! We’re playing with them this weekend!
How did you go from Curve of the Earth, a local Boston label, to MIA?
Rob Fiend, the A&R guy for MIA, used to work at Gavin , and we, during one of our many tours, did a couple of shows in San Francisco. And one time, after he’d seen us, I called him and said, “Rob, man, you gotta do something, man, hook us up do something, we need to take this up to another level!” And Rob goes, “yeah, don’t worry about it.” He kept us in his back pocket for a while, but when he got his A&R job, we’re the first band that he called up.
Was Curve of the Earth good to you?
Yeah, they’re great, they’re the coolest people you’ll be on a label with.
How long ago did the first album come out?
We put out the record after we were together about a year. Tim [Catz], the bass player was already in a band signed to a major label [Stripmine]. And we were just jamming for the hell of it, nothing serious… Then Tim’s band broke up pretty quick and we got more into what we’re doing now. Before Roadsaw I was in a local band called Joe, then X-15, kind of punk rock stuff, we had singles.
What kind of radio exposure is Roadsaw getting?
We’re getting killer radio all over right now. We’re in heavy rotation at KUPD in Phoenix, R&R magazine likes us.
People are into this heavy shit, then?
Yeah, man, I think people just want honest rock. There’s a difference between honest rock and all the crap that’s out there. I like to think we play honest rock. I don’t even know if it’s this “stoner rock” thing, I think it’s just honest rock.
I understand you toured with Nebula. The days of just getting out there and playing, I think, are long gone. I think you have to get on a tour or a bill where people who want to hear what you’re playing are going to be. For example, Roadsaw and Nebula is a good match, it’s heavy and it rocks. There are so many bands out there that do not rock, I’d be careful about who I play with.
I agree completely. We just did three or four shows with Leadfoot, too, who are awesome! And they’re the coolest guys, and when you have that kind of thing going on where the bands all know each other in the inner circle of bands the shows are always great. We’re psyched to see the guys and if they go on before us and do a great show then we have to go on and do an even better show! And vice versa, if we’re on first, then they go on later and rock it out! There’s a good, friendly battle to kick the other band’s ass while smiling at each other!
The people who benefit from that are the audience, too. Are there a lot of chicks at these shows?
Ahhh, there can always be more… The ladies come out, there’s no doubt about it.
Speaking of Leadfoot, were you into COC?
I was really into Blind , that’s their best record. I’ve always been… We’re a weird combination… Like Tim, the bass player, was always into the heavy stuff, like Sabbath, the major heavy shit. And then I always listened to the Beatles, then the Who then the Allman Brothers; Ted Nugent was more my style. But it made for a good combination. Man, it’s all about being into Mötörhead, MC5, Ramones…
It’s all in your band. I didn’t want to mention the MC5 but…
They were doing that shit before anybody.
I hear their loud heavy fuzz guitar…
I just need to grow an afro and I’m in!
Don’t go crazy with the drugs… That comes out in your music, with the heavy riffs and the Nugent “sensibility.”
Not many of those bands like Korn have a ripping guitar…
I don’t know what those bands do! They can’t even tie their own shoelaces! That’s why I like Roadsaw, because you’re heavy, and you have guitars, and lyrics and abuse and hair! You can bang your head to your music! But anyway, you’re obviously not a “kid,” being into the Who and the Allman Brothers…
I’m 30 years old. You’ll find that a lot of these bands in our genre are people right around 30 years old. Nebula and the other “stoner” rock bands they’re all right around 30. Ian [Ross], the guitar player is 24, so, Tim and I are at 30, and when the last guitar player split, Daryll, our original guitar player, reached the point of either “throw your life away and try to become a rock star” or “take the job offered you.” He opted for the job. He had a job staring him in the face and he was at the age of 26, where you flip the coin and go “all right, either I’m not going to find a wife and go for this, or they offer me a great job and I take it.” It’s a shame, because he’s a great guitar player and still a good friend. But when we needed a new guitar player, and we figured we needed the young kid. But you have to be this old to like Grand Funk Railroad.
You’re an American Band.
Fuck yeah! We lucked out with this kid Ian.
Where’s he from?
He was up in Maine.
Ohh, boy. Land of lunatics.
He was in this band Rumford, and we thought he was a bass player, and we’d never heard him play much guitar. Before Daryll split, Ian moved down here [Boston] and moved into my apartment and said, “hey, I’ll play guitar,” and at first we were like “fuck it, we’ll give him a chance,” and he ends up being the ripping guitar player, we scored in a big way.
Now, I hear a lot of Sabbath, fuzz, acid rock. You rock! Who writes?
Mainly Tim and I, but Hari [Hassen], the drummer comes up with the ranges. Tim will come up with the basic riff, I’ll come up with most of the lyrics and most of the melody, and Hari’s there and he puts out great arrangement. Like, we’ve got some really whack shit coming out soon and so Hari is the arrangement master.
What kinds of words and feelings are behind the music?
They’re all about sex, drugs, and aliens.
“Van-O-Rama” is a ripping song, great guitars and pounding drums that go perfectly with your voice.
That’s about getting the van. Giving it all up to go sit in a van on tour. It’s about touring, You give up your girlfriend back home for some slut on the road.
Tell me about “Black Flower.” Man, that’s got one of the best lines I’ve ever heard: “When the black flower blooms in the light of the moon, I’ll be in the back of my room with the headphones blasting!” What’s the story behind that, dude? What’s a “Black Flower”? Is it a record? Loud as I want to be? This is incredible!
Ahhh, the “Black Flower.” The song that all the kids get behind and chant. Everybody hears that and goes berserk. It’s Tim’s song… It’s pretty simple, nothing but the old sitting in your room with all the black light posters… And you got the ‘Floyd cranking in your headphones and you’re sitting there freaking out all stoned! That’s all it’s about!
It’s heavy with a capital “H.”
“Not Today” is our single that’s getting airplay. It’s got the most deep, fucked-up meaning behind it that’s just flipped out and weird. It would either make sense to you or it doesn’t — it’s pretty complex.
“All Shriveled Up” is haunting.
Tim’s from New Hampshire where you go up there and see some old dude who looks at you and goes “aaargh!” you know? I could picture it down south, too. An old man sitting there with his gun looking over his land, and his land is all barren and he’s protecting nothing.
What are the “alien” songs?
“Satellite” is an alien song. “Overspill” is definitely about aliens.
What’s so big about aliens?
Let’s see… I don’t know, we got sick of writing the same songs about “girls leaving me” or “life sucks.” We’re just trying to write things that aren’t a huge bummer. We just want people to get excited about hearing rock as opposed to being a bummer and everything. It all goes along with “Black Flower,” with the headphones.
Have you ever been abducted by aliens?
Not that I know of. How about you?
I don’t know either.
I would like to think that Ian and Hari definitely have been.
What’s up for touring in the near future?
We’re playing with Scissorfight in a couple of days, I played drums with them for a little while, too.
Those dudes are insane! What’s a Roadsaw show like?
When we’re live, we breathe fire and spit blood! We’ve done five loops of the country, we just did a trip to Texas, we just went down to Baltimore. We’ll be in Phoenix in June. The record comes out May 18th, and I hope we go on the road for two years at least!