One of the total surprises so far this year has been my discovery of Chris Rolling Squad and their impossible brilliant EP. A short yet profound look at what is right in current rock ‘n’ roll.
Well, here is some of what I said not long ago, “Traveling through these five tracks I am immediately reminded of early Rev. Horton Heat as he (they) took rockabilly and the way those cats morphed metal, blues, punk and whatever else was at hand and morphed into that hard to resist psychobilly sound. They still do.
“The Chris Rolling Squad are doing the very same. You have no doubt these players have moved in and out of music scenes collecting and re imagining what they have collected along the way. What is their genius here is the blues aspect of their wares; pulling and dirtying up songs that could otherwise be categorized in standalone genre but no no no…these brilliant players want their audience to feel something so hard and deep they’ll addictively want more”.
And all of that is true but since I will add I’ve had brief chats with the band’s namesake and he is a pleasant guy and appreciative that folks are hearing the band’s music. That goes a long way in a new world were some up and comers walk in clouds of tinging arrogance. It was a pleasure going a few questions with Chris Rolling.
1. Chris, the new EP is a blend of styles but the blues elements are killer. What is your background and where did you accumulate such a diverse array of sounds ?
Well I started to play guitar quite late, around 18 or something, back then I was obsessed with two things The Ramones and Van Halen (but my secret dream was Jimi Hendrix), I loved the Ramones stuff cause’ it was great rhythm stuff with power chords so I’ve been able quickly to play their songs and god I don’t know how much hours I spent in my bedroom playing over their records it was heaven, to me The Ramones were The Beach Boys with a big Marshall, about Van Halen when I started to play a guy in my neighborhood showed me some open chords and stuff and a couple of licks including the beginning tapping part of “Eruption” so it started from there,
I loved Eddie Van Halen, he was different, he had an incredible swing in his playing but as I said my secret dream was Jimi Hendrix, I don’t know why but to play in the style of Van Halen even if it was complicated, with work it seemed possible, but with Hendrix, man it seemed unreal, my 1st Hendrix record was “Electric Ladyland” and when I heard “Voodoo Child” I instantly think “hell, there’s no chance to reproduce such a thing”.
It was the Blues, Hendrix lead me to the Blues, after that I started to buy many Blues records to really understand this music, I had the chance to met an English player (John Prendo) who lived in France for a while, he showed me some stuff and I spent hours to watch him, learning and try to steal as many things as I could. But in parallel I was also into Punk Rock, Metal, Rockabilly, Country and many other stuff, back then I was buying at least ten records per week and moving to every gigs I could.
But since then the Blues always stayed my roots, my basis, if I grab a guitar, naturally it’s the kind of things I play first, but I love many other things, I love distortion, loud volume and stuff, I like different dynamics, I need that, I can’t play strictly Blues/Rock Stuff, like all these SRV copycats whom scratch shuffle after shuffle, always twelve bar things and that’s just not me. Some people tell me I have to choose, I must pick up a style and get straight with it, you know what, “fuck that”, really, I don’t care, it’s the way I do things, it’s not consciously developed, there’s no strategy, songs, riffs, lyrics and so on come to me as they are, that’s why sometimes it sounds a way or another, sometimes it’s speed, other times it’s slow, angry, sweet, melodramatic, happy, sad, it’s all about emotions, it’s like life, anything but black and white, there are many shades. We’ll record a full new record this year and I can tell you it will be really diversified.
2. What can you tell me about the other band members? Have you guys been together long?
On Bass there’s Brice Duval, he’s with me from the beginning of The Chris Rolling Squad so 2 years now, we started playing music together more than 20 years ago, we lost touch with each other for a while, I moved to Paris and Vienna (Austria) after, when I got back to France one day I was recording some vocals stuff at the studio of a common friend and Brice was there that day and it was exactly the moment I was creating my new thing, so I asked him if he’s interested for the job, he said yes and here we are (Lol !), seriously we get along really well, it’s so easy to work with him, he’s a really open-minded guy, he’s hardworking, passionate, dedicate, completely reliable, he’s a smart cat, as I he kept his child dreams (you need it to do that kind of job), on Drums it’s Romain Cauneau, he comes from Metal but he’s no longer with us, don’t get me wrong he’s super great drummer without a doubt but our personalities couldn’t agree, we didn’t want the same thing, I wish him the best, we already got a new guy on drums, you’ll hear about him soon.
3. France has been known for a wide range of music, mostly quirky pop, what’s the rock n roll scene like ?
Hummmm, Rock n’ Roll scene in France, I don’t know if there’s a Rock n’ Roll scene in France ? Maybe, I mean there’re many bands for sure but is that makes a scene ? Nothing comparable with Sweden or Germany for example, except maybe for Metal, many great Metal bands in France for sure but outside it there’s not much, you’ll find exceptions with isolated elements like “The Inspector Cluzo” , 5 records, they tour the whole world, they’re determined as are “Triggerfinger” or “Blues Pills in other countries, by the way Dorian Sorriaux (Blues Pills guitar player) is a french guy who did what it needs to make the things work.
There’s something concerning Rock n’ Roll many people didn’t understand, music in general but Rock n’ Roll especially, is that it requires a lot a lot a lot of work, a total dedication if you want to be enough successful, “it’s a long way to the top if you wanna Rock n’ Roll” as Bon Scott said and in France I rarely see that, I see many amazing musicians but those who are ready to work their asses off to get somewhere are pretty rare, there’re few but it’s not the general tendency. I talk especially about people off my age, my generation, but fortunately it seems pretty different with the new one, young cats around twenties who start now seem more focus on the reality of this business, they’re more hard workers, they know that you must dedicate your life to achieve your goals, they stay away from drugs & alcohol cause now they know it could ruin your work super quickly, they’re smarter, got more knowledge, so soon I expect to see some really killer new bands.
4. What are five things the world needs to know about the Chris Rolling Squad ?
Ok I’m gonna try to find five things!
1) I want, we want to tour as most as possible, so I take advantage of this interview to say to everyone, everywhere in the world, whoever you are, organisier, promoter, booking agencies, festivals, associations, do not hesitate to get in touch with me, we’re really open to any proposals!
2) As I said before, this year we’ll make a new full record, I’m already in touch with a big guy to produce it, I mean a really big one (I cannot say anything more at this time), it would be a dream to me, but for sure this guy ain’t cheap so we’ll need money, and I’m not really into crowdfunding stuff, so people who are interested by my music see the fact to buy a record as a real support act, I don’t give a damn about downloads, legal/illegal, I’m not interested to debate about a thing that will not change, the point is not there, the last EP cost less than a pack of smoke or at least is cheaper than 2 beers, concerning downloading I let a “name your price” voluntary on Basiscamp, like that people can download it for free if they want, but please if you really like it come back and let few cents (:D) if you don’t have the money no problem, just share it with your friends by mail, Facebook, twitter & co !
3) About the “EP” I can talk a bit about the making cause It was really a quick make,, so the 1st day we settled the gear in the morning, the afternoon we played the songs live during approximately 1:30, “Whore” is a first shot for example, the next day I did the solos in the morning (during 1:00) and vocals in the afternoon (during 1:30) and it was done, the guy who recorded it (Fabien Guilloteau at NomadAudio) made a super great job, it was really easy to work with him, I didn’t know him before but definitively it was great to get together!
4) I can talk about few secret things concerning us, let’s talk about Brice, he was a skater and a big Thrash Metal fan in his youth, he loves the ocean and still surf these days, he always keep his glasses and put only Converse shoes, he’s also a great double bass player, he started cello recently, he plays a bit of guitar and drums too and he hates snakes! Even if he’s not with us anymore, I’d like to say something about Romain, he’s a great drummer but also a great guitar player especially with those finger-picking stuffs, he plays things I wouldn’t be able to do. What can I say about myself ? Well as well as music I’m also a big movies fan, when I was a kid I wanted to be a movie maker but back then it looked like going on Mars, I’m huge Chuck Prophet fan and I do a lot of his songs just guitar and vocal, I’ve got the project to make a tribute record with 15 of his songs (so please Chuck don’t say no :D), I was a big mountain bike rider until a big crash last year, I know Los Angeles quite well, I love hot deserts and got nothing against snakes.
5) To finish I’d like to talk about a funny thing, when I started to play guitar I went to see the only guy I knew who played electric guitar in my hometown to ask him advice and if he was ok to show me some chords and licks, he was really cool with me, (he had a Van Halen tattoo, how a guy like that cannot be cool but quickly he asked me “you got an amp?” and I say no I put almost all my money into the guitar, then he said “if you want I can sell you one of mine for a really good price” and he sold me my 1st amp for the amount I had on me, so I came back home with my 1st amp, it was a solid state amp, looked like an old Mesa Boogie copy and believe it or not the amp brand was “Rolling”.
5. Punk rock vs. classic rock?
This is one of the hardest question someone ever asked me!
I don’t know, I like both, I mean if you ask me if I prefer Black Flag or Grand Funk Railroad, I’d answer both, really it’s impossible to choose, both have qualities and defaults, things I loved first in Punk Rock was this sort of “go fuck yourself” stuff, that kind of vibe “I am as I am and I do what I want” without any concessions and also the fact you don’t need to be a virtuoso to make music, I like to think what I do as Blues/Punk, on one side you got the music of misery and complaint, the other side is the one of anger and rebellion, like question and answer, like a duality, it looks like both musics are the opposites of each other but to me they’re complementary, they goes together, Rock n’ Roll came musically from the Blues and had this attitude of freedom from the beginning, back then parents, teachers, priests and the others said to the kids “you cannot dance that way, it’s obscene” and kids answered “I don’t give a shit, I want to dance that way cause it’s fun”, at the basics Punk Rock went the same direction “let me do what I want and like I want”.
About what we call “Classic Rock” his big strength from my point of view are the songs, I mean the songwriting, it can be Aerosmith, Fleetwood Mac, AC/DC, Eagles or any stuff considered as “classic rock” (even Metallica is considered as classic rock today !) and to me there’s a canyon between Supertramp and Metallica (:D) but they all wrote songs that talk to the entire world and that’s just huge, I mean you can be a Metal Head, a Psychobilly freak, a hardcore fan of Blues, a pure Punk Rocker or just a simple fan of music but when you hear “Back in Black” man, it’s bigger than you, or you shake your head or beat the rhythm with your foot, It’s this dimension to write things that goes beyond all the barriers, it’s fascinating !
Nasty title, isn’t it 😀 ? So, it’s about a girl I met at the end of the 90’s, back then I wasn’t single and I was drinking quite a lot (:D), my relationship with my girlfriend wasn’t that good and this girl tried to seduce me and, fuck she did and I really felt in love with her, she let me believe everything I wanted, she was a cheater, a liar and a brilliant manipulator (at this level it’s art), she left me two months after, with a totally broken heart and the short time we’ve been together she burned all my money. I was devastated, I really thought of dying, since this period if someone tells me “I love you” I’m a bit suspicious (:D). Anyway she inspired me that song, so maybe she wasn’t so bad after all.
This one is about something many of us have experienced, you know that sensation of being lost, empty, to be at the end of the road, well it’s sounds like a manic depression and I guess I had several of them in the past, I was miserable, sad, and to help I was drinking like mad, taking drugs and shit, and the result was like visiting the kingdom of Satan, I was asking the others to help me and I made them responsible for all my misfortunes, you know it’s like whatever happens it’s always others fault, it’s more easy to react that way rather than face yourself and watch where you’re guilty, this state lasted a while before I wake up and start to change it, so a really bad trip but at the end it gave me a song, again maybe I had to go through this.
And here’s the answer to previous song, after the big depression you face whom you really are, you understand exactly things you did wrong, everything, mistakes, failures, “Looking for my redemption, escape from the lie” you facing down your own redemption and you realize you were living in a lie, your own lie, the biggest liar was myself, I was the only responsible of my state and when you’re there, the real fight just starts, and it’s fucking hard, naturally first you hate yourself like never because first you only see the wasted time not the lesson that will appear later, I was so nervous and didn’t really know where to start so “Repelling the tension, maybe say goodbye” I had to find a way to calm me down and perhaps say goodbye, yeah maybe living this world cause I was afraid of not having enough strength to continue to live, but I did and I’m happy about it, so this song talks a bit about me but it’s also more general, I mean about facing our own fears and mistakes, we all have the power to change our lives, sometimes it’s long, hard and messy but it’s possible, believe me, if you knew where I come from, what I’ve been through and who I am and what I do now, it’s the proof that anything is possible.
It’s a metaphoric, a drawers song, I choose vampire cause in the collective unconscious a vampire is a super strong creature, he can turn into a bat, he can fly, he’s immortal, you know immortality the secret dream of every human being but he needs blood, he can’t go out during the day, (never seeing the sun and feel the heat must be really cruel), it’s hard for him to fall in love with human, and he have to take care and protect himself from all the people who hate him and want to kill him at any price, so you see even vampires can have the Blues but as everybody know vampires doesn’t exist (well I guess, maybe they’re real, it will be the coolest thing ever so in reality this song is about some people we see as strong, rich, successful, it’s common here in France to hate them but the tendency grows up in Europe and however surprising that can appear it’s started also in the US, you know the 1% who take everything, movie stars, politicians and so on, the guys we generally see as so rich, so famous, so full of success that for sure they’re all happy while we (the people) suffer but I’m sorry to say that but money, celebrity and power will never protect you from the sadness or the misfortune, what we see are screen pictures, it’s a frontage, we don’t see what’s behind, for the little story I met a guy during a diner in Paris few years back, this guy had just enter the music charts at the second position with one of his song, but he spent the entire night to moan and complain about this and that, that he was misunderstood by people and stuff, what’s the point of doing all of this, to get there and finally crying like a baby, when I saw that I really asked myself if I’d like to be in his shoes, you know as a musician who play live shows and release records for sure I expect to make enough to live but I know that playing stadiums and selling thousand records (yes concerning records we don’t say millions anymore, nobody sells millions records in 2016 are not a guarantee to happiness. I know some will disagree with me but I’m convinced about it, maybe because I’ve seen several cases like that.
What can I say about this sacred Janet, it’s a bit delicate cause I’m not the writer of this one, we should ask Karl Samuelsson (Indian Red’s guitar player/singer) but as he’s not here I’m gonna give you my point of view but maybe it’s a trap, again maybe it’s a drawers song and I understood nothing about it !
Ok to me it’s the perfect Rock n’ Roll song, a guy talks about “Janet” certainly the most beautiful girl in town (“she’s the queen of my hometown”), and this guy never can’t say no to her, cause she’s so sweet, they dance, they have good time, you know typical story, a guy in love with a beautiful girl, he works his ass of during the week and after it’s the week end and the party goes on and she brings everybody with her (“I say brothers and sisters you better get ready when Janet says go go go”). We can easily imagine that kind of scene in a mid 50’s movie when it was big time in every cities in America, world war II just ended, work for everybody, Rock n’ Roll just went out, so yeah full time party!
It’s a super catchy song, simple, fast, with a great swing, you have to be fuckin’ good to write such a tune, and god knows the guys of Indian Red are well beyond than good ! This song is from the record “You can’t do, that’s why we do it” so people do yourself a favor and check them out, “Indian Red” from Stockholm, Sweden!