DUST TO DUST
TARTAREAN DESIRE WEBZINE
This phone interview with the band leader Rob Traynor of the American heavy rock band Dust To Dust was done by Sam Chronic in June 2003.
I wanted to start off by talking a little bit about the new album "Sick". You were responsible for all of the samples, bass and most of the guitar, how does everything come together?
I just sit down at my home studio and I just come up with ideas and riffs. Lyrically, it is just anything that I hear that inspires me like the news and anything that I encounter on a daily basis. When I sit down and write something it really depends on the mood that I am in. For the music, I come up with a cool riff and basically work off of that.
What kind of software do you use for your studio?
I use Roland ZF1680 and I “MIDI” it up and I have two ZF880’s that are rack mountable. So I have like 32 tracks hard disk recording but I only about 20-24 tracks recording on the sound.
Did it take you a while to get that built up because a lot of that equipment is very expensive?
Yeah, the studio did not come over night, it just took a good couple years of recording and building up gear. It’s really not that expensive when you consider what other studios have…. but nowadays everything is expensive. (Laughs)
That is certainly true. What made you call in Kenny Hickey from Type O Negative?
I needed somebody to lay down the leads on the album and I did not have a lead guitarist at the time. I had started working on a side project with Kenny and Johnny from Type-O and you should be hearing something about that come like the fall and we are in the studio right now recording that stuff. But I did not have anyone to lay down the leads so I just told Kenny that I needed somebody to lay down the leads and he was like no problem. I just gave him the songs and he played the leads.
Did he do the leads on all the songs?
He did the leads on four of the songs, there were two songs that I did the leads on and one song, “Sick” had the leads done by my old guitarist.
The percussion is very impressive; did you ever toy with the notion of using synthesized drums instead of live drums?
No, live drums is the way to go. I used to be like “Drum master king” and all I did was record everything with drum machines, I had every drum machine you can ever imagine having and it was mainly because that was how I laid down my ideas at home. But once I started recording live drums nothing comes close to having the feel of a real drum. There is an energy and a third dimension that you cannot capture with synthetic drums and sampling.
How long has drummer Steve Tobin been with the band?
He has been with the band since the beginning. Steve is just a great drummer and he brings a really good feel to the table, besides he would kill me if I used fake drums. (Both of us laugh)
You have certainly had some label problems in the past.
Yeah me and everybody else. (Laughs)
Are you happy with your current situation now?
Oh yeah, like I have said before if I am going to crash into a wall I would rather be the one behind the wheel than have somebody else driving the car. I am in full control of the situation and it is a lot better than having to rely on someone else. I may not sell as many albums as I did before because I do not have the same finances and distribution that I had with a bigger label. But I am covering a lot of ground doing it on my own and the reward at the end will be greater than having some label controlling the album and doing pretty much whatever they want with it. I have pretty much lost a lot of crap over that and this time I have a lot more control and it is a better feeling.
I hate to walk back into the past but at one point you walked away from the music business and went back to working a full time job. What made you come back?
That was before I even recorded the first record deal. I was always recording in my house and I never expected to shop for a record deal with that stuff…it just kind of happened. A friend of mine was in a band called Boiler Room and he had just gotten a record deal with Roadrunner. They always listened to my material and dug the stuff that I did and my friend was like “Listen man let me run some of this stuff by my manager”. Two days later I got a phone call from the manager and he was like “This stuff is great I can get you a record deal. Do you mind if I shop around?” I was like sure man, go ahead-knock yourself out! A couple weeks later he got back to me and there was a whole lot of interest from labels that wanted to sign my band but the only problem was that there was no band! (Laughs) It was just me so I had to get a band together and showcase some stuff and that is how it came to be. I was in a band a while back and I knew about the industry and how tough it can be and how discouraging it can be no matter how well you do. I have always recorded and made music because it is my hobby and it is my thing, which I hope that I can make a career out of. But whether I do or not I will always play music because writing songs and playing music is just something that I love to do. So I got a record deal and I jumped on it. Sanctuary signed us without even seeing the band before so I guess it was kind of a blessing, Things did not work out with Sanctuary but I still sold 15,000 albums with no touring, no videos, no nothing…. they really did not put anything into the band. For an Indie band to sell 15,000 albums that is actually really good. It put Dust to Dust on the underground map and I am in a better position because of it and I have a good band together. Now I am able to put something out there and generate some sales so it helped me I that respect.
What actually got you started into music?
Just growing up around it as a little kid my father was playing Sabbath and all that other stuff and I was always listening to it and always had a love for it. Music is an incredible thing to me and it is almost like magic. It is just something that I always have wanted to do and it was like my calling. Like I said, you do this because you love doing it, if you do it because you think you are going to be a rock star and you are going to make a lot of money than you are in the wrong business.
So you would be doing this no matter if you were making money or not.
Exactly, before I signed the deal with Sanctuary I was just a dude in his bedroom making music and it just happened to fall into the right hands. It was not kind of the thing I was looking for it just happened. I was looking for a record deal when I was 17 or 18 because I just wanted to go on tour and get laid and have a good time! (Both of us laugh) As soon as the business end of everything came into play I became very discouraged. I actually almost had a record deal because I was being managed by Loud and Proud management and things were very promising. It was right around the whole grunge thing when bands like Nirvana were coming up and it pretty much crushed metal. I got a real taste of what the music business was all about and how fucked up it is and it all became very discouraging. I pretty much bailed out but I was still writing music, I was not out there playing or shopping for a record deal and that was when Sanctuary stepped in and it all sort of happened. I had all this interest from these record labels that actually wanted to sign the band because they were interested in what I was doing. So I jumped on it and today I am doing it on my own because I feel like that is the future of music and it is going to be artists taking control of the music and doing it on their own. I think that a lot of the major labels you see now are all going to be history, I guarantee you that ten years from now you will not see any of these major labels and you will see a lot of stuff sold online…record stores will start disappearing. Now with the Apple I Pods you can download all of these songs and the thing is about the size of your wallet yet it can hold all these files. I definitely think things are going to change and artists will have more control.
The artists should have more control because I feel that everything is so chaotic with all of these download programs and everyone is getting music for free.
Which is really not a problem with either because when it boils down to it I have downloaded stuff off the Internet to check out a band. But if I like it I will go out and buy the album and I have done that with a bunch of bands. Ultimately artists make the majority of their money when they are touring and selling merchandise and they really don’t make that much money of the sales of CD’s. The record labels are the ones that make that money so they are the ones that are really bitching and complaining about downloading because they are the ones that are losing their money. If I make 4 new fans because they went and downloaded my music off of Napster to me that is worth it because those 4 kids are going to pay to see me play or buy a t-shirt or support the band in another way by spreading the word about the band. It hurts the record companies the most but it hurts the artist too like an artist like myself that is putting out his own stuff but I am flying so low on the radar that it really won’t have that much affect on me.
I definitely agree with your point and I also check out bands that way but I was talking more about people like my friends that download whole albums and have not paid money for an album in years. To me when you get the album you get the packaging, the liner notes, the artwork and it really completes the album.
And you get a much better sound quality, MP3’s are not as good as a WAV file or an actual recording. Most people don’t give a shit and the bottom line is that we will never be able to stop that from happening. When I used to go out to the record stores and buy an album and my friend wanted a copy of it I would just throw in a cassette and make him a copy. Is it really going to have that much of an effect? I think it does and doesn’t. I don’t want every kid to just go out and download my album but if it is a percentage of those kids and they are saying “I don’t have any money, I don’t have 5 dollars in my pocket to buy an album” and it is the difference between that kid having my music or not having it, I would rather him have it. That is why I have samples of all the songs online as well. It is not a big deal to me, if people want to get it for free they are going to get it for free and there is nothing that you can do about it. Like I said when I was younger, I would get a Metallica tape and my friend would get an Exodus tape and we would make each other copies it is pretty much the same.
That is a good way of looking at it.
Let’s face it metal and rock is very popular now but it has always been kind of an underground thing and that is how people trade shit in the underground. A lot of record stores don’t carry artists like myself and there is no other way for people to get a hold of it. There are a lot of arguments for it and there are a lot of arguments against, I am kind of torn on the whole issue. I really do believe that people should not download ultimately because it is an intellectual property but it is like jaywalking…are you going to give everyone a ticket for jaywalking? (Laughs) Well if you live in New York maybe.
I live in Atlanta, which is also a big city so we get tickets for jaywalking too.
You know a cop that gives out a ticket for jaywalking is a scumbag. (Both of us laugh)
You talked about Metallica and Exodus but who would site as some of your other influences?
Anything and everything, I love music and that is it that is just what I grew up on. I listened to a lot thrash metal and I went through my eighties thing and you had to be into the hair metal because that is where the girls are so you had to like hair metal. I think that the best way to be a musician is to have an appreciation for all kinds of music. When I sit down and I am inspired it is by hard rock because that is the kind of music that I do but I listen to all kinds of music and I try to take inspiration from them and put that into my music. I am into everything except for maybe rap. Growing up if you were into metal you did not listen to disco and rap and there was no tolerance for it. I foresaw the whole metal/rap thing and it was cool at the beginning but it really became a joke after a while. The main thing that appealed to me with metal and rock was that it stood for an attitude and it stood for an honesty and a lot of the stuff that you are hearing now is not like that. I’m sorry but when you hear a band come out and they start rapping and they are doing the metal thing and rapping it is just a fucking joke. I have no respect for it and they are doing something that has been done a million times and they are only doing it because it is popular. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with being inspired and I am not claiming to be groundbreaking and I am not doing anything that is ground breaking I am just playing what I like to hear. But I am not going to sit down and write a rap because that is what the record companies are looking for…to me that is just being a sell out.
You were once in a Metallica cover band right?
Yeah, I was in a couple of them (Laughs). Back in the day I was a big Cliff Burton fan. I had the “Rick’s” and I was playing in a bunch of different Metallica cover bands and one of the bands I was in with John Kelly from Type O Negative. We were in the band for about a year and a half and all we did was play Metallica cover tunes. We never even played out, we just rented a studio for a couple hours and just play Metallica songs…it was a lot of fun. That is how you start out.
Yeah, don’t get me wrong I love the old stuff but with their new album being released I have really been into Metallica bashing (Laughs). How do you fell about them currently?
Hmmm that is tough. I don’t think that the Metallica now is the Metallica I grew up with. I don’t knock them for it, those guys have been around a long time and they have been absorbed by the music industry and what you are seeing is just a shadow of what they were. I lost it for Metallica after Cliff Burton died…that kind of did it for me. When Jason Newstead came into the band I did not like that he played with a pick and I just thought that Cliff Burton was the shit as a musician and a songwriter. I don’t know about you I thought the Black album was their last great album but if you ask me it was “Kill Em All”, “Ride the Lightning”…that was Metallica. The new stuff “Load” and “Re-Load”, I did not like it and I tried but I could not get into it. Even “And Justice For All…” there was no bass in the album!
Yeah, it was very dry for sure.
You find the bass in that album because there is no bass guitar. I think that they did that because Cliff died and they did not want to put bass in the album. It is like mixed out of the mix, there is like a “clicky” kick drum and that is it. Don’t get me wrong it is a great album.
That to me was their last real album.
I liked the Black album, it was produced so well and it was so heavy and there were just great songs. But after that the “Load” and the “Re-load” that was just crap. They just got absorbed and plus the whole MTV thing that they just did it was disgusting…did you see that thing?
It was horrible, what the fuck was that!?! (Both of us laugh). Fucking Snoop Doggy Dogg coming out and doing some crap…you know what MTV did? They bent Metallica over and stuck it straight up their ass. They totally reamed them. It is just big business…that is all it is. If Metallica would have gone out and out up press release saying: “Fuck MTV, fuck all this bullshit we are going to write some heavy ass fucking songs” and just go at it with that attitude and bashed this whole corporate bullshit. Places like MTV are destroying music, any kind of underground or anything that was cool about metal MTV destroyed. What they do is they bring the business and the politic end to the forefront and when MTV came into being you started to seeing all of this shit being ruined. What are you going to do?
I’m like; does MTV even play music anymore? It is a bunch of soap operas and other crap.
The only music that MTV plays is big money music. If it is not a major label getting behind it sticking million of dollars and payola up the wazoo of these fucking MTV people they won’t play it. They don’t even pay their employees well at MTV, you ask the employees and they will tell you that they get paid like shit and MTV makes tons of money. It is the reality of this business…it is really bad. Unless you are rolling in the dough and you have a lot of talent you are not going to be on MTV.
Do you think that Dust to Dust could ever makes it’s way onto MTV?
Doubtful (laughs). Don’t get me wrong if they ever wanted to put a video on MTV I would let them use my music. On the last album they had clips on the Real World and they had clips on the “Tough Enuff” video, they used my entire soundtrack for the video.
You have to feel good about that?
Yeah it is cool but I know the people that work there so they used my material because they liked it. I did not get paid or anything…they don’t pay anybody.
At least it is good exposure.
It is and it isn’t but every little thing helps.
I wanted to talk about two songs in particular the first one being “Rot” which I believe is about addiction.
That song is really about you don’t have anyone to blame but yourself and that you worst enemy is yourself and I wrote the song from that standpoint. We all go through things and I have gone through things in my life where I have been a little out of control. So that is the basis of the song.
All right, the next song is “Pusher” that seems to deal with organized religion. I wanted to get your opinion about organized religion as a whole and not being a fan of religion personally please feel free to let loose.
(Laughs) I think that it is the downfall of this planet. You really just have to see how religion is just tearing this planet apart…these people are just nuts out there. That is pretty much why I wrote this song. These evangelists they are pushers, they are pushing drugs and the drugs is selling people false hope-it is just like selling dope. That is just how the songs are and it is how I have always viewed religion. I grew up in a household where my mother is Jewish and my father is a Protestant Catholic and I was raised under both religions. The coolest thing that parents had done was they never imposed either religion on me. We would celebrate Christmas and we would celebrate Passover, we would celebrate both religions and holidays. Nobody ever pushed anything on me and I never went to religious schools or anything. I think that I am a good example of someone that does not have a religion although they are given an opportunity to follow a religion. Religions are just a bunch of bullshit and it does not take a genius to figure it out. I consider myself agnostic because I am not going to say that there is no god the same way I am not going to say that there are not any aliens. If there was one religion and there was this god than why does he part the sky right now and say so and then the whole world would straighten up. If there is this god than why does he not do that? I started that with the first album with the song “If I was God” and it sort of questioned the existence of there being a god. After that I got so many e-mails from like born again Christians and thinking this was a religious band…I try to stay away from that shit now (laughs).
You don’t want those people e-mailing you!
No, that was funny though. I also feel that people should follow religion if that is what they want to do I am not going to say that it is a good thing because I don’t believe that it is. I feel that it is just one more thing to divide people and to make people say “Hey you are not like me”. But what are you going to do?
What else would you say makes you angry?
What would I say doesn’t make me angry? Everything and anything…all you have to do is turn on the news. I live in New York City so there is plenty of stuff there to piss me off. But at the same time I like to sit back and spark up a fatty sometimes and just reflect on the good things in my life (laughs). Then I can write about the things that piss me off in music, that is my therapy and that is why I do what I do. If people dig it, they dig it and if they don’t, they don’t but it is an outlet for me.
I know you talked about working some but what does your everyday life consist of?
My normal everyday life is a mailman. I am about to go postal (both of us laugh). That is what I do man, just a regular blue collar Joe trying to make a living. But it is a good job and there is a lot of flexibility and there are no benefits. There are no benefits in the record business. I know a lot of people that are in successful bands and you should only see what they are doing when they are not recording trying to make ends meet. People think that if you have a record in the store than you are automatically a rock star and people don’t really have a grasp about what this business is all about. They can’t or don’t want to believe that you are an average guy, maybe that is just part of the appeal and people like to think that the artist they are listening to is this rock star but it is not reality. It is reality to these people that are on MTV but it is not for everyone else.
Well look at MTV right now, you have these rappers with whatever carat diamond earrings and they are driving Rolls Royces but in reality they just rent it all.
Yeah and look at MTV Cribs, they are living phat now but go visit them in five years when they are selling their fucking house because they are not making any money anymore or they just went out and spent their advance. The one thing about this record business that you learn right away is number it is a business and no matter what these people at the record companies say…they are your uncle (Both of us laugh). They are in it to make money, they aren’t there because they like you, they are not there to be your friend, they are there to make money. If it is you farting into the microphone that will make them money they will send you that advance but once you are not making money they don’t want anything to do with you.
You are just irrelevant.
Yup, you are irrelevant and a piece of trash is worth more to them. That is why I decided to do it on my own and don’t get me wrong I am looking for a licensing deal but as for signing to a label I don’t think that I would ever do it again. I don’t need to do it; I can do it on my own. It ain’t the Black album by Metallica but it sounds damn good, it sounds as good as half the stuff out there that people spend hundreds and thousands of dollars on so why do I need to do it? The only thing a record label could do is help to put me on the road and that is why I am looking for a licensing deal. But I am going to see what happens and how far I can go on my own. I would like to see more artists do it themselves and build it up themselves so they are in power and they are not getting reamed by a record company.
So what is next for Dust to Dust?
Right now I am working a new guitar player into the band and we are playing as much as possible and we should be looking at some sort of tour in the early summer or spring. I am also working on this other project, which is going very good, and I am probably going to put some MP3’s on the Dust to Dust site just to spread the word. I know that Type-O is going out to Europe this summer and they are in the studio to get that happening so I am going to give them some CD’s to take with them. We are trying o get things going but the stuff is killer…it is interesting because there are two vocalists because Kenny sings and I sing too. I am psyched about Dust to Dust too; the album just cam out today so maybe I will sell 5 to 10 copies (Laughs).
Hopefully more like 5 to 10 thousand.
That would be nice and we’ll see. This is the bottom of the barrel; I am the Indie of the Indies for sure so we’ll see maybe it will move. I am getting a lot of exposure thankfully so it is a good thing so far the response to the album has been great. You know what man, it comes to the point where you have to take things one day at a time and that is the point I am it. My publicist Chipster would not send me the negative reviews and I am like send me the reviews I don’t care. I read them too and I get a laugh out of them. I am the same type of kid and the album is not for everyone so I am not offended by it. There is a lot of stuff on the radio that I could tear a new ass in but that does not mean that I am right. This is art and some people like Picasso and some people don’t; it does not mean that Picasso was not a good artist.
As an artist you should not get offended.
Definitely, that is why I said send me everything. I want to see what people say.
To wrap things up would you like to say anything to all the readers out there?
Just support the local scene and your local bands. In some places there seem to be a dying scene so support the metal and support the rock!
Thanks to Rob for taking so much of his time to answer all my questions and for being a damn cool guest…I have to say that I finally found my match in the talking department! The new Dust to Dust album is out now so go buy it! A special thanks goes to Mark Morton at Chipster PR for hooking the whole things.
Links of interest:
Dust To Dust