I enjoy chatting with interesting people, Danish metal band, Volbeat, guitarist Rob Caggiano is definitely one. His first band was nu-metalers, Boiler Room, he then went on to play guitar for Anthrax before finally joining, Volbeat, in 2013. Rob has produced music for Cradle of Filth, Bleeding Through, H20, Machine Head and more. He recently completed a project featuring AC/DC’s Brian Johnson. Creative freedom is important to Rob in all he does, which contributed to him joining Volbeat. We chat about the latest record, song writing, recording with comedian Jim Breuer, The Big 4 Tour and more. Enjoy!
I love that there’s so much variety on the new Volbeat record, Seal the Deal & Let’s Boogie!
ROB CAGGIANO: Yeah, it’s a really well-rounded record top to bottom. All the Volbeat-style elements are there, and then some. It’s a cool diverse record.
I read in an interview once with you, you commented that you feel with every recording session, you learn something and that you grow and evolve as a musician; what did you learn from making this album?
RC: That’s an interesting one. I think I was more talking about working with different artists and putting yourself in different musical situations. Playing with Volbeat and making records with Volbeat is an evolving thing, the band and music is always evolving. I’m just really happy to be a part of that. I think what I bring to that, as a record producer and a guitar player, works really well with the Volbeat sound and the guys; I’ve been playing with them for a while now. We’re learning from each other constantly.
One of the things that I have learned from playing with Volbeat, it goes back to what attracted me to this band in the first place, is the fact that there are no boundaries musically and creatively—anything goes. Just to have that fearless ‘don’t give a fuck’ attitude towards making music and really following your heart, for me, it’s really inspiring and very refreshing. I know that for sure.
I know a part of why you left Anthrax is because you didn’t feel that you could contribute to the creative process or have a hand in the songwriting; do you feel you finally have that creative freedom and opportunity to contribute with Volbeat?
RC: Yeah, absolutely! It’s definitely a creative outlet for me. We’re shaping new songs together. With Anthrax, it was always a glass ceiling for me—it was just solos. Don’t get me wrong, I love playing guitar solos, that’s what I do but, I’m so much more than that and I have so much more to say than just that. That musical environment became really stale and boring for me, it had been that way for a while. I had to find a way to change that so, I finally decided that moving on from them was the best thing. I think they understood that, we’re still good friends. I just saw them a few days ago actually. I love those guys dearly. I basically grew up on that band. Anthrax are a killer, killer band.
Having wanted to be involved more in the creative process with bands you’re been in; I’m curious if you write songs when you’re by yourself?
RC: I come up with stuff all the time, whether it’s a riff or a drumbeat, whatever it is. I’m constantly think about music. There’s always something going on in my head [laughs].
What are some elements that you think make a great song?
RC: That’s a good question! For me it can be a lot of different things, depending on the band, depending on my mood [laughs], what I’m looking for at the time. I love crafted songs, whether it’s’ pop music or metal it doesn’t really matter. I think lyrically it needs to be strong. For me, I love hooks! I love melodies that stick in your head, vocally and on the guitar. It’s something that I like to do with my solos as well, I’m always trying to put hooks in there. It’s always been hooks over flash for me with solos. Good song writing, The Beatles, pretty much nailed it! [laughs]. It has to be honest as well, otherwise it’s just… I think fans of music really see through all that stuff, the pop formula sound, everyone chasing after a hit. That’s so not the way to go about it, you have to be honest.
Seal the Deal & Let’s Boogie has been doing well worldwide – #1 in Denmark, #4 on the Billboard charts in the U.S. when it debuted & more; does that kind of stuff ultimately matter to you?
RC: Ultimately no, but it’s an amazing thing to have all this stuff going on right now. Obviously it’s a really exciting story. Right now going on eight week’s we’ve been #1 on active rock radio in America with song ‘The Devil’s Bleeding Crown’. For me, as an American, that’s a huge deal! It seems like the excitement and buzz is really worldwide at this point, it feels really, really good.
Song ‘Gates of Babylon’ on the new record, I know you helped right that; give us an insight into it.
RC: Michael [Poulsen; vocalist-guitarist] came in the rehearsal room with that opening guitar idea and we built the song around that. He had a chorus that wasn’t really working so we changed it around in rehearsal, I had some ideas for that. It came together really easily.
Were there any songs that were challenging to make?
RC: there was one song that was so challenging that we never even finished it [laughs]. It ended up being a short little instrumental riff. We had it for a while and we tried to make it into a full song but it just never happened.
There’s a Teenage Bottlerocket cover on the album; what inspired you to choose that song to cover?
RC: They’re good friends of ours, we took them on tour with us last time we did our European tour, and they were the opening band. We just love what they do! The thing is, we love that song in particular and we talked about covering it just for fun, playing it live every now and again; we thought it’d be cool to do. When we were in the studio the drummer of that band passed away…
RC: Yes. It happened literally the first week we were in the studio. We thought it’d be a good thing to do as tribute to them and Brandon especially. It came out so good it ended up on the record.
What about the song ‘Battleship Chains’ made famous by The Georgia Satellites and written by Terry Anderson [the Woods, the Fabulous Knobs, the Yayhoos & Terry Anderson and The Olympic Ass-Kickin Team]?
RC: That’s something that Michael brought into the studio and ask us what we think about covering it. I’ve known the song for a while, it’s a great tune. Musically it’s kind of deceptive, there’s only two chords in the whole song. It’s extremely easy to play but it’s the melody that really turns into what it is. It’s a brilliant song. We had fun making that one.
On this record you worked with Danko Jones, right?
RC: Yeah. We’re friends. He was on stage with us two nights ago when we played a show in Norway. We did the song ‘Black Rose’ with him. As well as being friends we’re a huge fan of what Danko does. We had that song where the vocal part, was kind of scream-y for Danko’s voice. We always thought it would be amazing if he did the part. We asked him and he was totally up for it.
Johan Olsen [Magtens Korridorer] guests on it as well, for song ‘For Evigt’ that’s sang in half English and half Danish.
RC: Yes. It’s the ten year anniversary for the song ‘The Garden’s Tale’ which is a song that Johan sang back in the day and was a big hit for Volbeat, especially in Denmark. It marks the anniversary for that, but ultimately we thought his voice would take that song to the next level. He’s a great singer.
Do you speak any Danish yourself?
RC: Hell no! [laughs]. I don’t speak any.
Do you live in Denmark now or still in the US?
RC: That’s a good question. I don’t know exactly. I spend a lot of time in Copenhagen, I don’t know if I could call it home though at this point yet.
Where is home to you?
RC: New York City is my real home.
What feeling do you get from performing?
RC: Oh, a lot of different feelings. There’s the adrenaline rush. There’s a certain energy, a certain ‘magic’ I guess, that happens when a band is on stage, especially if they’re tight and they’re all friends. Everyone in the band liking each other is an important thing [laughs]. It creates a magical thing that’s almost indescribable. I love being on stage! I love the interaction between the fans and what we’re doing, we feed off their energy—it’s a give and take kind of thing.
With social media now, fans have a more direct access to their favourite bands too…
RC: It’s great to have the ability to interact like that with fans but at the same time, I feel it’s taken a lot of the mystery away. Back in the day, a lot of artists had this mysterious aura. They were untouchable, unreachable. Other than seeing them on stage, you might only get to see them walking to the tour bus, other than that you couldn’t see them. Things were very, very different before the internet and social media, there’s something to be said for that as well.
Last question, I love asking people I chat with this one; have you ever had a truly life changing moment?
RC: I’ve had many. One of them is when we did The Big 4 tour [Metallica, Slayer, Megadeath, Anthrax]. I was in Anthrax and getting on stage with Metallica was a pretty epic, amazing thing! Just recently, another one that comes to mind, I just got to work with Brian Johnson from AC/DC who is one of my favourite singers of all-time. He sings on a record that I just produced, his name is Jim Breuer [actor-author-comedian]. He’s an amazing comedian, he’s also a killer rocker—we did an awesome record together. I wrote all the music and played all of the guitars. There’s a song called ‘Mr Rock n Roll’ that Brian sings on, for me that was life changing. For me, that was the first record I ever got as a kid – AC/DC Back in Black. After all these years to have the opportunity to work with was totally surreal. It’s a great record, check it out, it’s called, Songs From the Garage by Jim Breuer and the Loud & Rowdy.
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Have a rad day guys!
**Images: courtesy of Rob’s IG: @robcaggiano; collage art by me.