Rob Rock - Impellitteri, M.A.R.S. Project Driver, Vice, Solo, etc - Back
Interviewer: Cameron Edney -

One of the most powerful voices in heavy metal music belongs to a man who has survived in the business for more then twenty years now fronting hard hitting acts such as Impellitteri, Vice, M.A.R.S. project Driver just to name a few. Yes I am talking about the one & only Rob Rock. Rob has been screaming his lungs out & entertaining audiences around the world released one of this year’s greatest heavy metal albums ‘Holy Hell’. ‘Holy Hell’ Which is out now on Candlelight records is a must have for any metal fans CD collection with song after song of pure passion, energy & metal melodies that many of today’s harder acts no longer care to use. An album which to date is by far the most personal of Rob’s career. Rob who has worked along side some of the greatest rock & metal musicians recently put some time aside to speak with me about his latest solo masterpiece, the recent Vice reunion, touring, religion among other things. Rob also gave us an exclusive but to find out what that is you will have to read on.

Metal Fanatix: Hi Rob first of all I want to thank you for putting some time aside to answer the following questions for our readers. How have you been mate?

Rob Rock: Hi Cameron, I have been really good thanks.

Metal Fanatix: A few days ago you played a show with Vice tell me about that?

Rob Rock: Yeah, that was a great show actually. A friend of mine from back in the mid-eighties who was following the band named Tim Young was having his 40th birthday, so his wife asked him what he wanted for his birthday & he said “I want a vice reunion” [laughs]. He ended up turning into a promoter for the day & putting on a great show, with all the big lights & sound from back in the day & custom staging. There were about 450 people in this local club there. It was very exciting a lot of old friends came out of the wood work & we all had a great time.

Metal Fanatix: Will there be more shows planned for the future?

Rob Rock: I don’t know everybody wants to do it, but there are not really any plans. Right now we’re filming our DVD so we’ll get together in a few weeks & see if we can put it together.

Metal Fanatix: Now Rob I want to talk to you about your latest album ‘Holy Hell’, congratulations on a job well done, it’s nice to hear a metal album that makes you want to hurt your neck & throw your fist in the air. Were you happy with the overall product?

Rob Rock: [Laughs] Yeah very happy, there was a lot of tough times recording it because the original plans kept changing & in the end I ended up going to Denmark & mixing the album over the with Jacob Hansen & before this album I hadn’t even heard oh Jacob Hansen but a friend of mine had told me about some of the other work that he had done, so I basically hired him blind folded.

Metal Fanatix: When you prepare to do an album such as ‘Holy Hell’, what comes first the lyrics or the music?

Rob Rock: Mainly the music, I’ll sit down with Roy Z we’ll actually discuss what we want the album to sound like & what we don’t want it to sound like. Usually he’s got a few riffs lying around & I’ll throw in a few vocal melodies that I might be working on at the time, we normally start like that. Throughout the year we never really stop writing we both have tape recorders & if Roy comes up with a riff he thinks I’ll like he records it & plays it back for me when the writing session day comes.

Metal Fanatix: What different factors surrounded writing the material for this album?

Rob Rock: Well the main different factor was that we knew we had Bobby Jarzombek back on board who just finished the Rob Halford solo album. He was available to work so we got him back on for the record, we had already worked out all the songs for the album, so we gave him a tape with them all for him to learn & we recorded the drums, then it took about eight or nine months for Roy & I to get back together again to listen to the overdubs. It took a long time [laughs].

Metal Fanatix: I’ve seen quotes where you’ve said “writing for this album was good therapy for you”. In terms of the writing, would you say this is the most personal album you have done so far?

Rob Rock: Yeah I think so, in some respects I think it’s more personal because I was more open to, you live your life & year after year you do the same thing & you have this level that you’re comfortable with. You still have the good & bad things that go on in life but you have this steady underline pulse, but the last year & a half that totally crumbled me. When my dad died that really affected me in a sad way, all of a sudden my “comfortable line” wasn’t there anymore, it made me open up my heart a little more when I was doing this album everything seemed to come a little more emotional for me if that makes any sense [laughs]. It was a different place to write from & that’s why this album means so much to me!

Metal Fanatix: After all these years of writing & recording how do you constantly come up with new fresh sounding material without falling into the trap a lot of other bands do of repeating themselves?

Rob Rock: I think that’s one thing that Roy & I really concentrate on. We sit down & say “ok first thing is we’re not gonna repeat what we just did” [laughs]. We always try to take every album in a slightly different direction from the last. When I did rage of creation it was like ok you’re on your own now, who is Rob Rock? Then when eyes of eternity came around we decided to do add more power metal to the mix & the European styles, after that I wanted to go heavier, we almost got into the whole thrash mode when we were writing anything that would live up to a lot of energy. I think that’s how I try to keep it fresh. I learnt with Impellitteri that you can write safe albums one after another you think they’re safe but they’re doing the same thing, the world view isn’t always good. I don’t want to make the same record but I want to make enough of the same record so people can recognize it as Rob Rock.

Metal Fanatix: Now, Roy Z is one of the great guitarists you have worked with through out the years, he has also produced all of your solo albums. Why do you think Roy has been the perfect choice for that?

Rob Rock: Well I’ve known Roy since 1988, when I started the second incarnation of Driver after I left Joshua. We were great friends in that band & when we wrote songs together it was really good & natural. The minute I did a solo album I immediately thought of Roy Z because we had 30 or 40 songs written together that had never seen it past a four track recorder. Roy’s vision is that it’s my album & it’s about my voice. He revolves the guitar parts around my vocals, where when I worked with Chris [Impellitteri] for 8 – 9 years he would come in with the songs & say “here are the songs they’re done musically don’t change a thing” then I would have to change my vocal lines to fit around them. With Roy he is molding the music around me which is great. I feel like it’s more my album.

Metal Fanatix: In a few words can you tell us the 1st thing that comes to mind when I mention the following tracks from Holy Hell!

Rob Rock:

Slayer of Souls: Satan on the loose [laughs].

When Darkness Reigns: That’s like an old Driver song to me this was on the same EP as ‘I’m a Warrior’, the never album was never officially released so I wanted to put them out under my own name!

Move on: That’s a nice song; there are a lot of vocal tracks on that song.

Metal Fanatix: Rob ‘Move On’ is a song I wanted to know a little more about. Out of all the songs in the world why did you choose to cover an Abba song?

Rob Rock: Well, Roy Z suggested it. I heard the original & said no way, on the original the guy is talking the whole first verse, when we started that song I started doing all the backing vocals first. There were about 96 vocal tracks for that song, I said “put it away”, I got tired of singing it [laughs], over & over again. That song was a lot of work for me. We put it away & as I said we had that eight month break then I went back & did the album, then finished up with Move On.

Metal Fanatix: Speaking of covers a few years back you recorded ‘Goodbye to Romance’ for the Randy Rhoads tribute CD, how did you get involved with that project?

Rob Rock: Well Michael Wagner who produced that Cd called me up actually. He knew me from Impellitteri since he mixed a couple of the albums that I did with Chris. He asked me if I wanted to do a couple of tracks. I said yeah, flew out to Nashville for the day to belt out a couple of songs for him & that’s pretty much how it happened.

Metal Fanatix: Is there one song you have always wanted to cover but haven’t had the opportunity to do as yet?

Rob Rock: Not really, I’ve always been a big Dio fan & when I did a cover of ‘Eagle’ on Rage of Creation I felt pretty fulfilled, I mean I did an Abba song in the way I’d think Dio might sing it but my own way, I don’t think he’s ever sang an Abba song [laughs].

Metal Fanatix: What are the biggest differences you notice these days in the business compared to when you were starting out?

Rob Rock: Money! Money is small now, when it comes to recording.

Metal Fanatix: Money wow really, I’ve always had this image that bands are given truck load of money to make the greatest albums & with the technology that we have today I would think that it cost just as much as the early days if not more to record now!

Rob Rock: Well back in the eighties they had these huge budgets & they sent you into these huge studios & spent a lot of money on making your record. Now they give you small budgets & tell you they want the same quality [laughs]. Tell you to go home do it on pro tools then go back & mix it in a big studio. Then they blame downloads & Cd burners for destroying there sales, they’re like “the entire sales are 30% down this year overall, it’s not your fault it’s because everyone’s burners & industry downloads etc”. I think money & by money I mean having big budgets to work with has really gotten a lot smaller. That is one of the biggest differences I have noticed.

Metal Fanatix: Well speaking of downloads, what’s your take on the whole situation. Do you think it hurts artist’s sales or do you think it’s a great way for an artist to get their music out to people in all parts of the world?

Rob Rock: I think it works both ways, I think it’s great for a lot of bands but then you need to follow it up with touring. I'm not the biggest artists in the world, I’ m not the smallest in the world, but unless I can capitalize on the free downloads I don’t think it will to good for me in the long run. If sales are not big then your budget doesn’t get any bigger. Touring is becoming a very important part of it, in order to take advantage of that exposure that you have gotten for free.

Metal Fanatix: Rob you’re an incredible vocalist & you have been singing for years now. Does metal music still give you a personal challenge?

Rob Rock: Yeah it does & sometimes I wonder why I push myself like that [laughs]. I worry about how much sleep I get & getting colds. Some days I say to myself “why did I record these notes so high” [laughs]. I’ve always tried to push myself as hard as I can to make the best songs & push my voice & give 110%, It’s the way I was raised.

Metal Fanatix: Who are some of your biggest influences?

Rob Rock: Well Dio definitely. His solo career was a big influence on me, obviously he was in Black Sabbath but I was really into his own stuff. I was just starting to sing then, I started out as a drummer singing backing vocals on a lot of Styx & Kansas style songs. When I come out front as a singer Ronnie Dio was the guy I was listening too the most, trying to figure out how to get that power & that tone.

Metal Fanatix: After all these years & success what goals have you set for yourself these days?

Rob Rock: Just to keep movin' forward I guess. I want to keep on recording & making records & touring as much as I can, meanwhile I have a child on the way. I think my world might be changing soon [laughs]. Well so everyone tells me!

Metal Fanatix: [Laughs] congratulations mate, that’s great news. Is this your first child?

Rob Rock: Yeah!

Metal Fanatix: Oh wow, this is going to be a whole new world isn’t it, the late nights of a different kind, screaming baby [laughs]

Rob Rock: [Laughs] yeah definitely, there was a time where I thought I wouldn’t get into that game, in that world & here I am [laughs].

Metal Fanatix: Rob I’d like to talk to you a bit about life on the road, do you do anything specific to warm up & prepare for a show?

Rob Rock: I try to rest my voice & sleep as much as I can. Before I go onstage I’ll do ten to fifteen minutes of scales about an hour before I go on.

Metal Fanatix: Over the years you have shared the stage with so many great bands. Who have you enjoyed touring with the most & could you share a funny road story with us from the tour?

Rob Rock: Well I think my last tour with Masterplan was the funniest tour, I could finally sleep on the bus. There were three bands on the bus & somehow I got to sleep on the bus [laughs]. I was having fun & singing well, the only negative thing about being on the bus, is that the bus driver never empties the toilet. From day one that basin underneath was filling up with well [laughs] all kinds of human excrement & it starts to smell really bad. After three days we start begging the driver “please empty the toilet”. About a week after that we pulled into this road side stop in the middle of the night, everyone was out of the bus & started peeing on the side of the road, meanwhile unbeknown to us the driver had emptied the toilet basin underneath, all of a sudden everyone was like oh what’s that smell? We all started running & behind us, a big cloud of vapor [laughs]. He came after us down the road saying get in the bus, get in the bus. I guess it was illegal for him to do that [laughs].

Metal Fanatix: From what I have read in past interviews etc, you have played quite a few shows overseas & yet you tend to stay confined to a small are of the United States, why is that?

Rob Rock: I don’t know why [laughs]. I just go where I know I can sell tickets. There are a lot of fans on the internet that are spread out all over the place but usually we just end up doing shows in the bigger cities or in the south or north east.

Metal Fanatix: Do you have any plans to tour Australia in the future?

Rob Rock: I would love to come down. I just need a promoter to put it together for us.

Metal Fanatix: On more of a personal level Rob does it bother you that people tend to focus on the religious aspects of your lyrics more than focusing on the music as an overall creation?

Rob Rock: Uh no, it’s good. I'm glad they do focus on the lyrics because I write the lyrics & I hope that they mean something [laughs]. I think it’s equally important the message in the music & I’ve always been on secular labels & I don’t try to be a preacher or anything like that. To me I read the bible on a daily basis, so it’s really a big influence on my world views & that’s where I write from. A lot of people dig it because it’s not all about the sex & drugs that everyone else in rock writes about [laughs].

Metal Fanatix: Megadeth front-man Dave Mustaine has refused to play on some bills because members of other bands on the bill may have different religious beliefs to his, do you share that same view, what I mean by that is would you refuse to share a stage with Deicide, Marilyn Manson or any other band of that status?

Rob Rock: No I don’t think I would. I think I would go to those extremes if a band was going to sacrifice animals onstage or make people bow down to Satan or something [laughs]. If there was going to be some massive ritual blasphemous situation about what I believe then I wouldn’t want to be around it. I think that people are into metal & the whole metal trip & they’re not Satan worshippers, those are the people that I came from & now that I believe in the bible I want them to have the chance to read it too but I’m not going to sit there & condemn them if they don’t. I don’t want to preach to the choir. I not on a Christian label singing to a Christian audience. I would much rather be on a secular label & playing with those bigger bands so that the world can enjoy my music, because ultimately that’s why it’s written.

Metal Fanatix: What would you be doing if you stopped playing?

Rob Rock: I have no idea, I would probably be working in the studio, I thought about being a vocal coach or a vocal producer in a recording atmosphere. I have so much experience in the studio that when I hear other people’s recordings I think to myself oh he could have done it this way or that way. That might be something I can do later on, I have no plans on stopping anytime soon.

Metal Fanatix: You have worked with some of the greatest guitar players in the rock & metal genres, one of my personal faves is Jake E Lee, how did you guys come to work together?

Rob Rock: Through a good friend of both Roy Z & myself from back in the Driver days, I was living out in Los Angeles & was doing my solo album. He was always there to encourage me, he said “you need a couple of good guests on the album, I know Jake E Lee”. “Do you wanna get Jake E Lee on there”? He knows Jake personally & I guess he went over to his house & played him some of the demos that I had been working on with Roy. Jake came down to the studio two days later & tracked a couple of songs for us, it was very cool.

Metal Fanatix: Another on of the projects that you have been apart of was Avantasia which really was an all-star project featuring yourself along side members of Angra, Helloween, Gamma Ray to name a few, what can you tell us about that.

Rob Rock: That was a great cast, Tobias Sammet [Edguy] contacted me, he said “I’ve been a fan of yours since M.A.R.S. Project Driver & would you be interested in singing on this metal opera album I am doing”? It was in the very early stages then & I said “yeah sure I’ll do it”. When I heard the demos I knew they were really good songs & I didn’t know that all those other people were going to be on there at the time. I had sung parts on four songs & when I had done it I had no idea at that time that it was going to be in two parts. What was one album turned into two albums. I was happy to be a part of both Cd’s.

Metal Fanatix: Do you think we will see a third part?

Rob Rock: Yeah, I have heard rumors about it, but I haven’t heard rum ours from Tobias [laughs]. I hope he calls me [laughs]. It would be nice to do number three, I love him as a person & I think he is a great composer, we’ll see what happens.

Metal Fanatix: From the many albums you have recorded & appeared on what one would be your favorite to listen to & why?

Rob Rock: Well, I’m still high on Holy Hell. I really like Impellitteri ‘Screaming Symphony’ that’s one of my faves and I also like Warrior ‘Code of Life’.

Metal Fanatix: You have worked with so many talented musicians through out your career, who have you learnt the most from?

Rob Rock: I would say first Roy Z then I would say Mike Varney who recorded the first M.A.R.S. Project Driver album. That first album was a massive learning experience for me. I came from singing in bars with Vice & went to California to do that record & I was singing high & clean. They said “no, no this is a metal record dude” [laughs]. Mike Varney basically kicked my butt the whole time, I didn’t like him for it at first but afterwards I learned to apply everything that he was shoving down my throat, the fact is that it helped develop my style.

Metal Fanatix: [Laughs] that’s another of those great stories isn’t it, this is one of the guys I have learnt the most from but I really didn’t like him [laughs].

Rob Rock: [Laughs] yep & that’s putting it nicely [laughs].

Metal Fanatix: [Laughs] What do you think about the direction heavy metal music has taken over the last few years?

Rob Rock: It’s gone off on my radar a little bit; with the cookie monster vocals. I am amazed that they can do that night after night. I miss the Lou Grams & the Ronnie James Dio’s that just wow you with there real talent.

Metal Fanatix: Are you currently listening to any of the newer hard rock/metal bands? If so who?

Rob Rock: I’ve been listening to Arch Enemy. I like a lot of there new stuff, as I said I’m not a big fan of the growl singing but I do like the music behind it.

Metal Fanatix: What advice do you have for up & coming rock/metal bands?

Rob Rock: Concentrate on song writing, the main thing I have learnt over the years is that I put my hardest work into writing the songs & when you listen to an album ten years & it still sounds good & the songs still mean something then you know you have got a good album. A lot of the late eighties bands that are putting out albums now just don’t stand up. Sometimes I hear them on satellite radio. I think song writing is more important then just tearing out albums.

Metal Fanatix: I remember reading a story about Tommy lee has said he received a large package of mail from Tommy lee Jones’ agency with a note saying I think this is for you. How often do people confuse you for Bobby Rock [Drummer] & Bob Rock [Producer] considering you’re all in the same industry?

Rob Rock: Quite often, “hey you’re the guy that ruined Metallica” no, no that’s not me [laughs]. True story my aunt called my mother about three years ago & said “your son won a Grammy, I heard it on TV”. She’s like he did, he did. I sad “nuh mum it’s not me, that’s Bob Rock” [laughs]. Oh man I’m never getting away from this [laughs].

Metal Fanatix: Rob I have plenty of other questions for you but we should probably leave it there [laughs]. Thanks again for taking the time out today mate to speak with me; and I wish you all the best of luck with the parenting. Do you have any last words you want to share with our readers?

Rob Rock: Oh it’s been great. I’ve had a lot of fun. It was great talking to ya. I just want to come to Australia & see kangaroos [laughs]. Thanks to everyone in Australia who has supported me hopefully I will see you all soon.

Rob Rock’s ‘Holy Hell’ is out now through candlelight records! Buy it where all rockin' albums are sold.

To keep up to date with all the latest news on Rob Rock check out the following websites - Official Rob Rock website - Candlelight Records UK website - Candlelight Records US website - AFM Records website - Dedicated to 40 years of pure hard rock & metal music

© Cameron Edney November, December 2005 Not to be re-printed in any form without written permission.