Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Rawk In A Place Called Richmond! The RPG interview!

RPG is a kick-ass rawk band from Richmond, VA. That may sound pretty simple, but you know what? It’s a pretty high compliment. Their new disc, “Worth The Weight” doesn’t give you one minute to take cover. Much like “Kick Out The Jams”-era MC5 or the real Acca Dacca with Bon, this record impressed me with it’s ability to simply beat me senseless with raw, no frills hard rock, front-to-back. Nary a ballad in sight and short on apologies to the mainstream, this is the sonic equivalent of a punch to the gut…with melody! Read my interview with lead guitarist/vocalist Matt Conner below to find out more about what makes this musical grenade explode.

RAY - You guys are from Richmond, VA. I can honestly say I don’t know a whole lot about Richmond. I went through it a couple times on my way south and what I could see from I-95 hit me as looking something like Baltimore. Christ, for your sake, I hope it’s better than that, as Baltimore has never been a great music city (a few good bands over the years). Tell us something about Richmond?

MATT - Richmond is home to lots of great bands, great people, great food, great drugs, great booze, etc. Basically the polar opposite of Baltimore. You can get anywhere in the city from anywhere in the city in twenty minutes or less, which is great if you deliver pizzas.

RAY - What on earth possessed you to all come together into the current RPG format with what seems to be the express purpose of creating an unholy racket like “Worth The Weight?” Hey, you know, it’s the old “influences” question in sheep’s clothing! Hell, even go back to your childhood. Might work as some sort of therapy, never know.

MATT - As a collective band we like music such as Silverhead, 45 Grave, Fear, Grand Funk, Aerosmith, ZZ Top, The Frogs, Pocket Fishermen, Spirit, The Wipers, The Saints, James Gang, Feederz and many others that we will keep in the holds of secrecy.

RAY - Does the name RPG mean something I should know about?

MATT - The name RPG stands for Rocket Propelled Grenade. It might also stand for truth, justice and the american way.

RAY - Is “Worth The Weight” your 2nd disc? I haven’t heard the previous one(s). Tell me what your impressions are of the differences, progressions, etc. from the last one to this one.

MATT - "Worth the Weight" is our second official release. The first one is titled "Full Time" and was released by Arclight Records in 2003. WTW is a little more involved as far as songwriting is concerned, but considering that it took us almost two entire years to complete as opposed to "Full Time", which was done in a week, we got a lot more critical of making sure that everything was the exact way we thought it should be. We really wanted to take our time and make a record that we wouldn't listen to later and think "Man, I wish that was different" or "I wish that wasn't there" or what have you. I think we met our goal. We may have lost our minds a few times when we were making it, but sometimes that's what you have to go through to get what you want.

RAY - Did you know that Canadian metal band ANVIL had an album called “Worth The Weight?” They had this whole thing going with alliteration, like “Forged In Fire,” “Metal On Metal,” etc. Think you might adopt this with something like “Richmond Is Radical” the next time?

MATT - Never really got into ANVIL, but love the homoerotic tribute band MANVIL. If we adopt anything, it will be children from foreign lands. These dishes aren't washing themselves.

RAY - I dig the whole vibe of “Worth…” but the thing that struck me the most is the absolute relentlessness of it. It just goes from one song to the next, without hardly any break, no time to think, no loss of energy. It’s kinda like a couple times when I was a kid, watching Muhammed Ali and he hit a guy, and as he was falling to the mat he actually hit him like 2 or 3 more times on the way down, he was swinging so fast. Obviously I have such pleasant childhood memories. Any comments on this or just relentlessness in general?

MATT - The name Rocket Propelled Grenade is no coincidence. It would be unfortunate to have a band named after a weapon that can blow up a tank making music that was anything less than relentless. Also keep in mind that this music is one hundred percent based on hate.

RAY - I saw a quote in some review about “Worth The Weight” online that cracked me up. It said something to the effect that they lyrics were surprising for a bunch of southern hair farmers. What say you on that one?

MATT - I'm glad the man that wrote that review was smart enough to figure that out. I've always been of the opinion that it's better to be smarter than you look. It's much better than being less intelligent than you look, which unfortunately is much more common.

RAY - In line with the last one, do you consider yourselves as having any connection to southern rock? Do you think southern rock is ever stereotyped unfairly? I’ve seen it connected with terms like racism, bigotry, old-boy ideologies, etc.

MATT - We are southern rock to the extent that we are a rock band that lives in the southern portion of the United States. Ever been to a Skynyrd show? Take a look at the crowd and you'll see why those terms are thrown around. Of course, those terms don't apply to every fan or member of every Capricorn Records release, but it's much easier to focus on the negative. People love blanket statements. They keep them warm.

RAY - Speaking of lyrics, could you take a couple of your songs and give us a little insight into them? If you don’t want to, that is understandable, I know some writers don’t like to do this. One I was wondering about in particular is “Joanne & Joshua.” The Soviet Union-Afghanistan reference is interesting.

MATT - "Joanne and Joshua" is an analogy. Joanne is to Joshua as Afghanistan is to the former Soviet Union. It's also quite similar to the myth of Sisyphus. Joshua would really like Joanne to accept his numerous advances, and even though he is a bigger, stronger entity, he just can't seem to make it come to fruition. He gets close, but the stone just rolls back down the hill. Not presenting anything new here, just putting it in an 80's context so kids with tight pants will like it. I hear the 80's are popular now.

RAY - RED LIGHT CHALLENGE: Choice here. RPG is playing a kick-ass set at some dive and in walks A) Angelina Jolie and B) The President of Budweiser. A) Angelina Jolie says, “Matt, I’m done with Brad Pitt and I worship RPG. I want to go home with you after the set.” B) The P of B says “If you come with me after the set, I’m going to drive you to my office and give you a voucher for a lifetime of free Bud.” Which one do you choose?

MATT - Beer trumps all. Exept vodka.

RAY - The internet has made a serious impact on the music scene, according to a lot of people. What do you make of all this? What do you think of all the downloading, mp3’s, all that as opposed to CD’s, vinyl, etc. Is the physical musical medium as we know it in jeopardy?

MATT - The internet makes this whole music thing a lot easier. I think downloads are great because it levels the field tremendously. If you can get our record for free somewhere, do it. If you can get a major label release for free, absolutely do it. I honestly hope it brings the music industry to its knees. CD's will soon be souveniers you get from going to shows. Vinyl will always be the best way to listen to and visually delight yourself musically.

RAY - On a related note, what are your plans for the next project RPG undertakes? Are you going to go full-force into another self-released disc or are you going to shop anything to a label? Do you think that the “self-release” route is more attractive these days than several years back?

MATT - Most likely it will be self-released, but anything is possible. We all have a pretty hearty disdain for record labels and all they entail, although if the right situation came along we'd be willing to negotiate I'd imagine. We make music that we like to make; if there are people out there that enjoy it and like hearing it that is great. If not, the songs will still get made. If they don't, they'll get all wadded up in our heads and we'll end up killing people.

RAY - RED LIGHT CHALLENGE: Do they still have these restaurants called AUNT SARAHS along I-95 when you head down into the south? If so, do they still have those games on the tables where you try to jump the golf tees and end up with just one left? Name a comical alternate use for the game board and golf tees?

MATT - Yes, Aunt Sarah's still exists, complete with those golf tee games. I'm pretty sure those games could be made into some type of marijuana smoking utensil without much effort.

RAY - What’s on the agenda for live work by RPG? Have you been to the Baltimore area? Please?

MATT - We play as many live shows as we can. Turn us on to somewhere worthwhile to play in Baltimore and we'll be there. Our efforts thus far have been unfruitful. We played the Ottobar with Ironboss years ago. It was less than successful.

RAY - Here’s one I always laugh about. They then usually put me in my “room” for awhile to calm down. Grace us with one of the most funny, revolting, hideous or just plain hilarious things that has ever happened to you guys, either on the road, in the studio, at a 7-11, whatever.

MATT - On tour in Albequreque, NM a few years back. We pull up to the bar with zero dollars. They said that we couldn't come in until they remodeled the bathroom. Being the resourceful, handsome young men that we are, we offered to do it for them for the paltry sum of two pizzas and two cases of beer. We demoed all the walls of the men's room and hung new walls just in time for the club to open and have a stunning rock show. Then the cops shot some guy out front later in the evening. There was also the time when we were on our way from Oakland to Salt Lake City on Easter Sunday and we got pulled over in Carlin, NV under the suspicion of being meth mules. It did not help that our drummer didn't have the registration for our van, but for a truck he no longer owned. We told the DEA guys that we liked Grand Funk and that was essentially our ticket to freedom. Happy Easter, Carlin.

RAY - Any final comments?

MATT - Don't Fuck With Us.

Sounds like a warning to me! But I think what you all better do, that is if you claim to be real bona fide readers of this here RAYSREALM site is to go to RPG’s site and hit it hard! Order “Worth The Weight” and crank it to 11 ½ because a finer slab of in-your-face, unadulterated rawk is pretty damn hard to find! And don’t fuck with me, either!


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