ROB ROCK: Driven & Counting Down
Rob Rock, the melodic voice behind some of the best metal releases, stays busy singing on so many great releases between his solo work, the band Driver, the band Impellitteri, and his many guest appearances for other artist releases. We had the chance recently to dialog with him regarding one of those recent releases, the new one by Driver entitled "Countdown."
JM: On Countdown, the lyrical content is more up-front and obviously of Christian nature than the previous Driver album. How does the rest of the band feel about your lyrical approach?
RR: I actually think that they don't mind at all. Considering the band atmosphere and talent, it's always fun when we're together, and the lyrics are in my hands so they don't even worry about that. I think they trust Roy Z and I to make really good songs and they know the message has been there from the beginning, but they also know that we are all professional musicians, and in the end, it rocks to the hard rock/metal audience we have.
JM: I have owned that original Driver cassette tape EP since it came out way back when. The Sons of Thunder release was basically a vindication of that old tape, by finally bringing it to the public in all its amazing glory. With the release of Countdown, it appears Driver is becoming more of a permanent musical fixture. In our interview last time I asked if you considered Driver a band or a project, and you said it is a band. Since that time, what do you feel Driver has done to solidify that idea? Was there much touring as a band?
RR: Well, we've done some gigs since then, we did the Bang Your Head festival in Germany, and some gigs in the Los Angeles area as well. That's when the glue came together and really helped us gel when we were recording the Countdown album.
JM: You have released some amazing work under your own solo project and Driver is just as amazing though very similar in style to your solo releases. What would you consider the main difference between the two bands, and do you see a need for any further solo releases, or could it all be done under the Driver umbrella?
RR: I see Driver and Rob Rock as two different sounds and styles. Driver is more "live" and relaxed and Rob Rock Band is more heavy and polished. I also think Impellitteri is more technical and a whole other trip. I have three active bands and they are all different to me, and all release a different side of my writing and voice. I see another solo release in my crystal ball, Lord willing, as well as a future Impellitteri release when the time is right. Meanwhile, I am enjoying the new Driver Countdown CD and the warm welcome it is receiving.
I suppose the main difference is that Driver is more AOR and Rob Rock is more melodic metal with emphasis on heavier tones and riffs, and more backing vocals in the mix. I'm a bit more microscopic with my solo releases, and I let the "live" performances that have been captured speak in the Driver material. These different approaches make a difference to me, as well as the song selections and writing goals that I set for each album.
JM: Since much of the Sons of Thunder release came from re-recording the old catalog and adding some new songs, how was approaching this new Driver album different this time around? You mentioned in our last interview that you all had about 30 songs before Sons of Thunder, did you bring those to life this time around, or was it starting from scratch?
RR: We started with three or four more songs from the vault, and then we proceeded to write more new songs from there. We focused on a classic production approach in the early Ozzy, early Dio vein, using acoustic drums and little modern effects to capture the timeless sound of those albums, as opposed to trying to make a super modern 2012 recording. The music is more fitting to the hard rock sound that people know and love back when the band was first formed. We wrote the new songs with an entire album in mind and wanted to capture the band as true as it is live, so the approach was not much different than the Sons of Thunder album in that respect.
JM: Your album with Joshua is one of the most sought after and loved in the Joshua catalog. Now, he is about to reissue a remixed and remastered edition of the Intense Defense album. Have you had any contact with him on this reissue, or any plans to work with him again in the future?
RR: There's been little contact concerning the re-issue, but we do keep in touch on Facebook and talk of working together again someday. The Lord's timing is best.
JM: Your last album with Impellitteri (Wicked Maiden) was amazing - as predicted; have there been any plans for another album with them soon?
RR: Chris is busy with Animetal USA, a Japanese based super-group type band. It is doing well so they will run with that for as long as possible I suppose. We have talked of recording another Impellitteri album together again in the future, but we don't know when that will be at this point. We are both very happy with our last Wicked Maiden CD.
JM: When the first Project: Driver release came about, you were a new name to the scene. Now you have spent 25 years making a name for yourself - has there ever been any talk at any time over the years of a possible second M.A.R.S. project album? If approached would you be interested – and why/why not?
RR: That would be very cool to me. I haven't heard any talk over the years from the band, but I have heard inquiries from labels and industry people, but it never materialized. I'm not sure what everybody is doing now, except for Rudy Sarzo, who is playing with Chris Impellitteri in the Animetal USA band. Because of the experience and following I have now, I'd be very interested in making another record with the M.A.R.S. Project, and I think it would be a blast to finally tour with that band.
JM: If you had a chance to put together and sing with your own super group today, who would some of those musicians be?
RR: Oh man, I don't know....I'd have to think long and hard about that one...
JM: Who are some of your favorite modern bands these days?
RR: Disturbed, Godsmack, Nickelback...I like the energy and sound of these bands, although I don't necessarily appreciate some of the lyrics if you know what I mean.
JM: You have done a lot of guest work with other bands. Have you ever been asked to work on a project but decided to pass or have backed out on it later? Without naming names, what kinds of reasons have/would you pass on participating in a project?
RR: I would definitely pass on a project for lyrical reasons, being the singer you have to perform those lyrics in the songs, and if I don't believe or condone the content then I'm not doing it.
I'm not a black and white word for word judge on lyrics, but I won't do it if I feel uncomfortable. Not everything has to be blatant either, in my estimation. I try to reach people that have never heard of me or situations where awareness can happen. I also have to like the music and melodies. Well, the music and the main writer I suppose. I also seem to adjust melodies to make them my own, as well as some lyric adjustments here and there too. If I have freedom to put myself into my performance, that's when things work out best.
JM: You are known for your melodic metal sound musically which is consistent on pretty much everything you have done. Have you ever tried, considered, or desired to try something in a totally different direction? If so, what style have/would you like to try your hand at?
RR: That would be country first, then rap! Ah...no! I really love to rock so that's what I do. I like to be versatile in my music, with ballads and speed metal type vibes, or classical vibes, but in the end, I think I would still be Rob Rock, in whatever I do. I wouldn't mind a try at Gospel type music, but I'd still need some kind of meat to it because I want to make music that I enjoy listening to myself.
JM: How often do you get to play out live (with any of your bands/projects)?
RR: Definitely not enough. I've been all over the world and have done shows in amazing places and with many great bands on the bill, playing festivals and tours, but I am not tired or bored, so I'm still eager to play live, especially in North and South America.
Europe and Japan have been great to me and I'd like the chance to perform more in the Americas, and I hope the doors will open soon for that to happen.
If you haven't yet, check out the new one from Driver, Countdown, it is one amazing slab of melodic metal.