Relaxing in the backstage comfort of Ireland’s iconic Olympia Theatre ahead of tonights show, guitarist Rob Caggiano can be found lounging in a deep leather sofa, surrounded by a modest selection of guitars; and is more than happy to wax-lyrical about many topics concerning his own personal highlights, the reaction of the new album, the prospect of being a Download UK headliner and much more. Dive in….
OD – Let’s talk about the new album ‘Rewind, Replay, Rebound’. I was talking to Michael (Poulsen) the last time you were here (Ireland) back in 2018 and he told me then that you were very much in the writing process. Looking back now, was it a seamless process putting this album together; or did you experience any difficulties?
ROB – Well, ahhhh ‘seamless‘ is not a word I would use [Laughing]. We put a lot of time and hard work into the writing and pre-production in rehearsals. Trying to find out what the sound of this album was gonna be.
We were essentially hashing out lots of different ideas from everybody and seeing what works best. It took a while, with some songs coming together a little longer than others, that’s just normal and is pretty much always the case with new albums.
We did what we did on the last two albums as far as the process goes, and it seems to be working well. For us, we feel that we are definitely evolving as a band and we certainly don’t want to repeat what we have done on previous albums.
What the goal was was to make a decision to take the strong elements of the Volbeat sound and push a little bit further, which I think we’ve done; and we’re very proud of the new album.
OD – It’s been nearly 7 years now that you’ve been in Volbeat and in some ways, it feel like only yesterday that the news broke. Do you find time has flown by?
ROB – Yeah, your telling me! [Laughing] To be honest the last 20 years has been a fucking blur. I’m very grateful for everything that’s happed for me.
OD – Volbeat are a band that are on various levels of popularity depending on where you are touring. I don’t know of any other bands that are playing stadiums in one country and theatres in others. Does it feel strange going from one extreme to the other?
ROB – It’s not ever something that we think about really. I know what you’re getting at but it’s not really a thing for us. All the other countries that were kind of interested in us seem to be getting a little more excited with this record; and we can certainly feel that.
Especially in the UK and Ireland. We can see it from the album reviews and talking to fans. Things are getting better with regards to interest in the band in general. I feel like we finally got something right here. [Laughing]
OD – There’s no question that Volbeat write huge fuck-off anthems, that was one of the things that really grabbed me when I saw you live. It’s like the music is almost tailored for huge arenas, festival stages etc. When you hear people commenting that the band is big enough, or becoming big enough to headline the likes of Download UK in the near future, do you feel that this could become a reality sooner rather than later?
ROB – Yes, just hearing you say that stuff is exciting. For me, the UK and Ireland is very special because so many of my favourite bands come from these parts of the world. Thin Lizzy for example! That band were just so incredible. I’ve actually just come from visiting the Phil Lynott statue here in Dublin; and it was awesome.
U2, The Stones, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest etc.. Ireland and the UK have given the world so much incredible music and to be able to come to these countries and do what we do, is a real honour.
We have headlined many festivals and our legacy and to be asked to headline something like Download would be a huge achievement.
OD – You’ve commented on working with Brian Johnson (AC/DC). Was that a ‘Bucket-List’ moment for you?
ROB – I was incredible, just incredible. It was totally surreal for me because one of my all-time favourite albums is ‘Back in Black‘.
I remember when that record came out, so, all those years later to be able to work with Brian in the studio was fucking mind-blowing for me. He’s such a class-act and is just so funny. He talks like a pirate and is also just beyond professional at what he does.
He came in and nailed his vocal tracks in like, 30 mins. The fact that he was also singing my lyrics also was just so hard for me to process. This legend was in the studio with me, working on music that I had written! It was a pretty insane experience. The whole thing for me was insane, and to have that experience; is very special to me.
After we were done he invited us back to his house and he and his wife cooked us steaks! It was the most insane day. [Laughing] Check out one of the tracks featuring Brian Johnson below. Taken from comedian, Jim Breuer and the Loud & Rowdy album ‘Songs from the Garage‘ 2016.
OD – Tell me how Gary (Holt, Exodus, Slayer) came to be on “Cheapside Sloggers”, because that caught everyone by surprise?
ROB – We had actually talked about doing this on the last album also, but there wasn’t any tracks that worked well for Gary on that album. We all love what he does and this song just worked so well for him; and he totally nailed it.
OD – When playing on a bill such as Knotfest (Slipknot, Gjoira, Behemoth), do you find that crowds are somewhat on the fence, and then by the time you finish the set, you’ve converted them?
ROB – Yes, that happened every night! We felt like The Beach Boys on the Knotfest Tour. [Laughing]
But at the same time, I feel that it worked to our advantage because it was Behemoth, then Gojira, then us and finally Slipknot. If our slot was another heavy, brutal band, the crowd would have been numb by the time Slipknot took to the stage.
I feel like we brought something different to that tour. By the end of our set, we see a lot of people, nearly everyone out there with their hands up, dancing or whatever. Just really enjoying what we were doing.
Sometimes on that tour when we would walk out on stage we’d see some fucking dude with his middle finger in the air for the whole show, and then by the end of the show, he’s going crazy and is totally into what we’re doing. And if he’s not, his girlfriend is. [Laughing]
OD – With your own personal projects and musical endeavours, are you concentrating fully on Volbeat now; or do you have any other side projects happening like The Damned Things etc?
ROB – Right now it’s just Volbeat but there’s definitely some other stuff in the pipeline. You will most likely be seeing something by the end of this year or the beginning of 2020, so keep your eyes and ears open for news coming soon.
OD – You’ve had a very successful career to date, is there anything that sticks out as a very defining moment for you?
ROB – I’ve been very blessed with this whole thing. It’s been a very wild ride. We’ve already spoken about working with Brian Johnson, but I also was very fortunate to have worked with Bruce Springsteen.
OD – How did that come about?
ROB – I was producing an album for a musician called Jesse Malin who’s a great friend and fantastic musician from New York City. Basically Bruce is a fan of Jesse’s music and originally he was going to be playing guitar on the record, and I was like: ‘No fucking way! Are you kidding me?”
So, we have this B-Side tune that Jesse played for me during the pre-production. The track was called ‘Broken Radio‘ (streaming below) and he was saying: “It’s not gonna be on the album, it just doesn’t fit“. So, he plays me this song, and not only was it the best song out of the lot, it was absolutely perfect for Springsteen.
I suggested that Jesse record the track and send it to Bruce with a hand-written letter and let’s just see what happens. So, months and months go by and we’re almost done with the record and about to mix. Jesse was in the vocal booth and I heard the phone ring and I knew instantly who it was. It was Bruce Springsteen.
OD – It wasn’t one of his people, it was actually Bruce himself?
ROB – Yes, it was really him and he was saying how much he loved the song and invited Jesse and I up to his house in New Jersey to record. He has many houses, but this is his ‘studio house‘, if you know what I mean.
His engineer Toby Scott, (who has been Bruce’s engineer since back to ‘Born in The USA‘) lives in this house. We showed up early and we’re setting everything up and Toby (who’s a legendary engineer) says; “How did you arrange this with Bruce?” and I said; “What do you mean?” and his response was; “This has never happened before! Like, NEVER!” Apparently when Bruce guests on an album (which is not that much) he asks for the tapes to be sent to him and he records his parts and send them back. So, that was a pretty incredible experience for me personally.
OD – Of all the albums you own, what is your go to that you think is flawless in every way?
ROB – There are so many but as I spoke earlier AC/DC ‘Back in Black‘ also Pink Floyd ‘The Wall‘ and Van Halen ‘1984′. Those albums are just flawless for me. Eddie’s (Van Halen) guitar work on that album is out of this world. He’s on peak form on that album and his tone is perfect.
OD – Are you a fan of Montrose?
ROB – Yeah, I’m a huge Sammy Hagar fan and loved his time in Van Halen, as well as his solo stuff.
OD – Have you ever tried his Tequila?
ROB – I’ve got a very funny story for you about Sammy. So, we’re playing this Festival a while back and Sammy Hagar is on the same bill, but playing a different stage. At the time he was doing some kind of show and had a camera crew with him as he was wondering around backstage.
Our production guy had also been VH’s production guy for years and I said to him; “I really want to meet Sammy“, so anyway, it turns out that Van Halen was not really that big in Denmark, so the other guys were not really familiar with Sammy and we’re just hanging out in our dressing room and all of a sudden, fucking Sammy Hagar bursts into our room, and the other guys were just looking at him going “who’s this guy?” and I’m like; “H0-ly shit! It’s fucking Sammy Hagar!!!” It was a very funny situation.
Anyway, I got to check out a couple of their songs live and even Michael Anthony (Van Halen, Bass) came over to me and gave me a hug! He was like; “Dude! I love Volbeat!” I had a couple of shots of the Tequila with them from the side of the stage in-between songs, actually is wasn’t Tequila, is was some kind of shot anyway, but it was very cool and totally surreal. There’s photos on my instagram of that day. Good time!
Volbeat are currently on tour with Baroness and Danko Jones across Europe. Check out this link for tickets. The new album ‘Rewind, Replay, Rebound‘ is out NOW via Universal, Vertigo.
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