MM: (Laughter) Yeah that was a good answer. Ain't no use in talking to me‚ it's just the same as talking with you. Don't you hate that when you answer your own question? Yeah‚ I hate that.
Well‚ let's talk about what's going on with the band now. It seems that the line-up has solidified and the band is beginning to break new ground together.
RB: Yeah‚ this has morphed into a band. I just really dig it. I think the rhythm section is so great with Scott Apicelli on drums and the Old TP (Tom Pirozzi) on bass. I've been playing with Brian (Mangini) for a couple of years now‚ and then we have two lead singers that are not on the record. Every once in a while they'll let me sing a tune. You know‚ when everyone is tired out they'll let me squeak off a tune (laughs). I'm really digging it though‚ and like I said‚ everyone comes from different places and influences. Our plan right now is to cut a live record. I have some tunes that we've been playing that aren't on Back to the Tracks. We play some Seapods' tunes‚ Ted (Gray) has some tunes‚ Chris (Scanlan) has some tunes‚ and then we'll probably use one or two live renditions of songs that are on the original album. So that's the next thing on the horizon.
MM: So‚ a live album in the moment‚ with a little more…
RB: (Laughing) Yeah‚ kind of the same thing.
MM: Right.
RB: Honestly‚ it's a cheap way to get a record out. We're playing a lot right now and it takes a lot of time to pull everyone away from what they're doing and get them in the studio for two or three weeks. We've been playing a lot of these songs live for a year and a half now and they're ready! They're ready to be recorded. I'm a slave to the live thing; you know‚ I live and die there. That's the setting that really works for me and that's where the best stuff comes out.
MM: One of things that I find to be interesting is that you write a lot of the songs‚ but you don't sing them. Well‚ actually you don't sing them in the live setting‚ so how does that process work with a song that you write‚ and then having someone else in the band take it on vocally?
RB: Yeah‚ I don't sing as well as the other guys. I know where my spots are. I'll come up with a melody or two for different parts of a song and I'll give whoever is singing it a guide on what I hear. If there's something at the end of the day that isn't happening for me‚ I'll let them know it‚ but I pretty much let them do what they want. If they hear a different melody or different phrasing‚ it's their tune at that point as the singer. When I'm singing it I'll have my own interpretation of it. Lately‚ with two singers in the band‚ when I've been writing I hear their voices for different parts. That wasn't the case for most of the tunes on the record...or the CD - I still call them records (laughs). I'm dating myself here...
MM: (Laughing) Well‚ you're a purist‚ man.
RB: (Laughing) I'm old. So anyway‚ that's what's been happening recently; when I'm writing I recognize whether this is a Chris song or this is a Ted song.
MM: So that kind of writing collaboration is working for you?
RB: Totally. It's opened up a whole new thing. I'm getting to know how these guys sing and play‚ and I'll hear a melody that I wouldn't have heard if it was just me. I'm taking what they do and now I can hear it when I write. So I'm psyched about that. It's great to learn like that and have that influence on the writing process. It's not something I would normally think of.
MM: Does that work when you're writing the music - where you might hear different rhythmic ideas or melodies from the rest of the band and the way they play?
RB: Actually‚ as much as possible I try to stay away from that. Sometimes I have really specific ideas‚ but the other guys in the band that write do as well. What we do when we get together is go over the structure of the tune‚ and I might have something in my head about the groove‚ but I want to hear what the rhythm section is going to do with it; it's their thing‚ you know? Because Tom is a way better bass player than me‚ and Scott is a way better drummer than me (laughs)‚ they're going to approach it from a much better place than me. It's really a letting-go process. It's easy for me now‚ but at first it was hard because it's like‚ "Okay‚ that's not what I heard at all‚ but maybe its better." It's been about letting go of my small view or of my ego and letting the other musicians put their spin on it. I found for me that I'm 99% amazed about how better it is than if I wrote all the parts in my basement. For some people that's not true‚ like Paul Simon‚ not that I'm comparing myself to him‚ but he writes every part on every tune. It seems to work really well for him (laughs). For me‚ this is something I've fallen into‚ at least for the time being‚ and everyone in the band seems to like it. We're all doing our own thing‚ we all really like it‚ and this a great group to work with. Sure‚ there are moments where things happen that don't work for me‚ but it's not a big deal. Maybe I want to try something else‚ but it's not like we're a band that gets really pissed off at each other (laughs). It's a real free flowing thing - it's great that way.
MM: It seems to me that with this band‚ based on experience and the appreciation for the music‚ there's less ego involved and it's more about just making it happen.
RB: Yeah‚ that's totally how I'm feeling right now. I'm always rooting for everyone in this band‚ and sometimes I can hear one of the guys just totally going for it when they're singing a tune. I just hold my breath and hope they nail it...and that's just a great feeling. That's really the feeling‚ you know‚ where everyone's behind each other. That makes me play better.
At this level I would have to think that's what you're doing it for; loving music and having a great time. I mean nobody's getting rich playing bars right now and that's just the way it is.
MM: That's great that you're doing it. You have to feed the love. So let's talk about your history; give me the run-through of your musical life.
RB: In high school and in college I was a hockey player. That was my job back then (laughs). I was a music enthusiast‚ but I never played a note. In late college I picked up a guitar and would play "Sugar Mountain" and stuff like that - acoustic camp fire tunes. It was really after the realization that I wouldn't be playing in the NHL that I came to the conclusion that I always wanted to play music. So I started focusing on playing guitar. My influences are just all over the map...I grew up in the eighties and I graduated from college in '89‚ so I was really into the reemergence of classic rock. It was that and the Flock of Seagulls‚ you know? It was all New Wave music and post-disco stuff‚ and some of that was really cool‚ like the Talking Heads and The Police. But at that time I was going to see Eric Clapton and the Doobie Brothers - you know these huge classic rock tours. I was really into music‚ just a total geek about it (laughs). I just couldn't understand why people didn't get it. So then I went to my first Dead show in 1983 and I felt like‚ "Oh boy‚ everyone here is like me." (Laughter) Wow‚ everyone here is hearing the same thing I'm hearing. That was a real eye-opener and I got really into that. Through the Dead‚ what I really loved about them is they were steeped in so much of the American traditions of music‚ like folk‚ the blues and gospel.
MM: And experimental jazz.
RB: Through them I learned about Miles Davis. They played shows together at the Fillmore and I was interested to see what he was about. Wow‚ that was a year spent listening to him (laughs).