CitySearchNYC Explore the city with our editors
Whaddya want?
Nothing Now

June 23, 1998

CitySearch Music

by Lissa Townsend Rodgers

To get right to the point, I will swear on a stack of Gideon bibles topped with a copy of "My Way" that Rocket From the Crypt is one of the best live acts anywhere. Yeah, I know, you've heard of them, but you've never heard them. Too bad, pal. Unlike many bands these days, who mistake self-indulgence for entertainment, the boys of Rocket From the Crypt get up there and work. They've got musicianship, showmanship, and look like the Flying Elvises got drunk at a tattoo convention and mugged the Spinners for their sequins--yes, you heard me right: matching outfits, the true and final mark of quality. If you don't believe me, consider this: my esteemed colleague Kerry Burke has been a fan "since they were less than nobody" and he hates almost everything.

But what does Rocket From the Crypt sound like? Imagine the speed of punk, the grind of garage, the hooks of '60s pop, and the horns and call-and-response vocals of soul all wrapped up in one big, noisy package. Their seventh and most recent album, "RFTC" (Interscope), delivers heaping helpings of old-school rock with more grease than a taco 'n' fries platter and possessed of that same drunk at 3am appeal. The album was recorded here in our fair city and the band used a producer for the first time, namely one Kevin Shirley, who has worked with (gak!) Aerosmith and (eeych!) Journey. You can hear that '80s touch in the ostentatious use of stereo, with everything moving from one speaker to another and back again. But fear not, this record is still as primal as the rest of the Rocket oeuvre. There's lots of places where you can sing along and wave your fist in the air and elbow the people next to you. It even has a nice couples-skate-only ballad for those introspective moments and minor wrestling matches.

Rocket From the Crypt have been criss-crossing our great nation this summer and will make a local stop to celebrate July 4 with you, me, and ? and the Mysterians at Summerstage. (Not only is this Independence Day, but also the seventh anniversary of the horn section.) I recently had the privilege of discussing these and other developments with ND (guitarist, reckless driver) and Petey X. (bass player, strip-club expert) over a few cigarettes in Central Park...

CitySearch: So, how've the shows with the Foo Fighters been?
ND: The crowds have been good. The shows have been good, the crowds have been pretty OK. You know, after the last couple gigs I think it's been bigger and better.

CS: The crowds have gotten bigger?
ND: Actually, yeah, they're not as big as I thought, like some of these places are not sold out. I thought the Foo Fighters were gigantic, it seems like they're gigantic.

PX: Yeah, in some of the cities definitely it's undersold, but then in some cities they definitely could've sold it three times. I'm sure they could've done three nights at Roseland.

CS: Probably. How was that show?
PX: It was okay. It was good. That was on the turning point of the shows starting to get a little bit better. The first couple were a little rough, like Philadelphia. It was our first couple shows so we were just warming up in front of the crowds.... The crowds are definitely better when we're playing by ourselves, when we're headlining, it's our crowd and they're having a good time.

CS: As opposed to just sitting there waiting for Dave Grohl or something?
PX: Not to say that they don't like us or whatever, but they get so excited and all they wanna do is see the Foo Fighters. Most of them are pretty young kids.

ND: Yeah, it's crazy, it's like Beatlemania sometimes. You go out the back door and it's a hundred kids going "Oooh! Dave!"

PX: It's like "Dave! Taylor!"--uh, who are the other guys?

CS: So you did the new record in New York?
ND: Yeah. At Avatar on West 53rd.

CS: What was the process in the studio? Like, what do you do when you show up?
ND: This record was 100 percent live, which was not a first for us--I mean, our first record was almost live, but this one was completely live, which was a lot of fun. It was what we wanted to do with it.

PX: Yeah, we were there for maybe two weeks. I got there two hours late--I took a different flight, I was at a wedding.... Usually when we record, the first couple days are getting sound. This time I walked in two hours late and we were ready to record. Kevin Shirley, who produced it, was just like "Sounds good, let's do it."

CS: So did you go somewhere and rehearse all the songs beforehand so you'd be ready or...
PX: You know, just our normal practice schedule. We practice five days a week, six, seven hours. We all enjoy the practicing, we like to play.

CS: Is this a better hotel than you usually stay in?
ND: Much, much better. Doing the Days Inn thing. We had a day off yesterday so we kinda treated ourselves to a nice room in the city.

CS: What's the worst hotel you've stayed in?
ND: Oh man, there's been ones where we walk in and set down our bags and just leave right away. A lot of ‘em are pretty bad. There's like big bloodstains on the carpet, roaches, and stuff. You'd be surprised. You get out in the middle of this country and there's some scary spots. We had ones where, like, a cat came in the room in the middle of the night--remember that? There's some bad, bad hotels out there.

PX: The doors don't lock, the knobs fall off.

CS: So when you're recording you're just trying to capture the live sound, or are you trying to do something different, or...
PX: We did try to do that with this record in a couple different ways but I think the main thing with this record was to try to capture the live band ‘cause we seem to have a little more of a reputation as being a live band. So we really want to capture that sound we have, the energy.

CS: If you had to just play live or record, which would you do?
ND: It's a lot of fun to do both. That was one of the reasons why we signed to a major label years ago. To have the opportunity to spend ridiculous amounts of money in the studio if we wanted to, and try out all the things we were never able to do before for a lack of money and everything. Just experiment with sounds and everything.

CS: What's the most reckless waste of big-label money you've committed?
ND: Well, just like what we were talking about before, where you can spend four hours trying to get, you know, a kick drum to sound right. Or all day trying to get drums to sound good or a guitar to sound good or this and that. We've always done our records in the past like that and, while it's fun, sometimes it gets kinda tedious.

PX: Tedious.

ND: We used a producer for the first time ever, Kevin Shirley, just to help on the technical levels, so we can just focus on playing music, you know, doing what we want. We need help on that, in that area, sometimes you're like "I wanna do this, try this out" and it'll take, like, an hour and a half to get the guitar to sound right and then at that point you've forgotten what you wanted to do in the first place, you don't care anymore. So this is just like, "does that sound good?" and he's like, "yeah, it sounds great, go for it." And you're like "you sure?" and he's like "yeah, do it, you know, let's go, sounds good." There's a lot of trust, it was a lot of fun. I think it sorta came out, like, almost innocent to the stuff we've done. It's almost like the band five years ago, you know--some of the songs were written a lot faster and with a lot more, a lot, some of the stuff isn't so...thick and there's a lot more space where things can be heard. You know, not just everybody doing all they can constantly, it's like everybody do less so everything else can.... It's taken us a few years to get to that point.

CS: So, you guys are gonna play in the park. You looking forward to it?
ND: Yeah. I think that's just gonna be the coolest thing ever. It's gonna be with Question Mark and the Mysterians. They've been playing around lately--I don't know if you saw that--but they're awesome.

CS: You fans?
ND: Yeah, big time. And I was amazed at how good they still were. Not like I saw them before, but it was a really good show.

CS: So were you, like, fans of theirs in the past?
PX: Not hardcore, I mean, I like some of the songs.

ND: Yeah, definitely, "96 Tears" is just a classic.

CS: Yeah, if they'd just written that song that would be enough.
ND: Yeah, and it's some Mexicans from Detroit, right? It's just a weird thing to happen.

CS: So what records were you into when you were a teenager, like during the gestation period?
ND: I think we were all pretty much into a bunch of punk rock at that point, you know, when we started this band. Like Black Flag and the Misfits and stuff like that. Since then, we've gotten into just about everything. You know, there's six of us, so there's all kinds of stuff comin' from all different directions. Everybody's into different stuff.

CS: With six people in the band is it harder to get a consensus or are you usually just of the same mind on things?
ND: I think it helps, actually. I mean, once you get used to it.

PX: It seems to really flow. You just kinda know what's gonna work. Rather than have two people arguing over one thing....

ND: If five people tell you what you're doin' is dumb, then you pretty much believe that it's true.

CS: What was the worst show you ever played?
ND: Uh, I think it was in Hawaii, the worst show we ever played. But it didn't matter ‘cause we were in Hawaii. It was just on the end of the "Scream, Dracula, Scream" tour and we'd never been there, and it was the end of a really long tour, like "Yeah! Hawaii's last! Hawaii's last!" and we had, like, three days to be there. And we showed up at the club. The venue had been bouncing around to five different clubs, as we're finding out over the phone before we got there. And it finally landed in this place that was the first show at the venue. And the PA was just brought in that morning and it was just a piece of shit and it sounded terrible and we had all this borrowed equipment from the bands that were opening up. And we borrowed equipment from the soundman, who was just this speedfreak... And there was no publicity at all just because the venue had been moved around so much that nobody even knew where the hell we ended up actually doing it at. But, uh, it didn't matter ‘cause we were in Hawaii, so it was alright.

PX: And the worst part was that the guy who booked that whole tour kinda like took the same opinion of the show, like "Hey! At least you're in Hawaii." And, it's like, "you don't understand we've been touring and this is our first time here, we wanna make a good impression and we want to be able to at least sound good." And he's like "Oh, well, you're in Hawaii, you know. I got you a good room near the beach, what else do you guys need?"

CS: Let's see... anything else? Either of you got a criminal record?
ND: That all gets erased at age 18. It's my second chance.

PX: I don't even have any tickets driving.

CS: Really? Do you?
ND: Oh yeah.

CS: Are you a bad driver?
ND: No, I'm a great driver, I just like to drive fast.

PX: Run red lights.

ND: I like to do what I want, you know.

CS: What kind of car do you have?
ND: I have a '68 Ford pickup. Actually.

PX: '71 Chevy Bronco. Blazer. Chevy Blazer.

CS: Is this sort of like an off-roading utility vehicle kind of thing?
PX: Mine is ‘cause, like, it's jacked up, huge tires.

CS: You guys ever go to Vegas? What's your favorite casino?
ND: Um, Slots o' Fun. Caesar's Palace a lot. All the holograms and stuff like that.... That's really cool. They've got a good buffet too. And, I uh..., like the Flamingo. The one with that big flower in front of it. I won 250 bucks there once. It was pretty good. Slot machines.

CS: So you're a slots person?
ND: Nah, it was just one of those walkin' out with, like, my last three dollars kind of thing and waiting for somebody by the door and I just played some.

CS: So you just lucked out in a serious way?
ND: Yeah, and I was underage so I had to get my sister to stand there really quick while I had to stay away from it while the guy came and gave her the money.

CS: You know, that exact thing happened to one of my friends. She was at a casino with her little brother and he won, like, a hundred bucks or something on the slots and he had to go hide behind the machine while she stood there going "I won! I won!"
ND: Yeah. And the people next to you, like, saw me win and they're like "Where'd he go?" And she's like "Shut up!"

CS: What about you? Do you like Vegas?
PX: Yeah, I love it. I like, I like the downtown casinos. Like Four Queens, like Horseshoe....

ND: Yeah, that's the best.

PX: 'Cause, like, the odds are better--I like to play craps. The odds are better--

ND: There's dollar tables as opposed to, like, five dollar....

PX: Yeah, it's a good place to learn. And then when you get rolling.... Usually the dealers and the people at the tables are pretty helpful. ‘Cause it's nice to have someone.... I hate casinos where they're just grumpy and they don't care. You know, you're giving ‘em all your money....

ND: Which is most of the ones on the Strip. They're just like "whamwhamwhamwhamwham" going through hands like lightning. Don't even talk to you, like, 50 bucks is gone....

PX: Next, next. Your money's gone. I enjoy downtown, it's a lot more....

CS: You been to any of the strip clubs out there?
ND: I been to that one, Glitter Gulch, it's right there. With the neon cowgirl. It's, uh.... [Editor's Note: Some of the skankiest women in the world work at Glitter Gulch.] There's, like, some of the best in the world--if you're into that kind of thing--there.

PX: Olympic Gardens is one of the best in the world. As far as strip clubs, there's like five girls to every guy there.

ND: I don't really go to 'em.... It's a big waste of, you know, spending money really fast and it's really stupid. But in Vegas it's actually, like, take a breather. Spending money at a slower pace, just sit down and have a drink in one of those places.

CS: That's true. I'll let you guys go and enjoy the remains of your day. Where you headed next?
ND: We're playing in Wayne, New Jersey.

CS: Wayne, New Jersey? Where the hell is that?
ND: I don't know.

Send feedback here.