Most people may know Rob Caggiano from his days with Anthrax or even The Damned Things, but now he’s part of the Volbeat camp. I spent some time talking with Rob about joining the band, producing and playing on the new Volbeat album Outlaw Gentlemen and Shady Ladies, along with details on some specific tracks and special guests, touring, and what he’d be notorious for if he were an outlaw.
Listen to the entire Rob Caggiano interivew below:
Today I’m joined by Rob Caggiano. Thank you for taking the time to speak with Unsung Melody.
Cool man, no worries.
Your involvement with Volbeat started off in one direction with producing, but then took an unexpected turn and you ended up joining the band.
Seems like the best of both worlds, the best side of the coin, to play both roles. Would you agree?
Yeah. I mean it’s just been a pretty crazy turn of events. (Laughter) Yeah, it just kind of feels like a tornado of sorts. When the whole thing went down with Anthrax, these guys asked me if I would be interested in coming on board as a producer on the new record, and I said yes and that turned into a totally different thing. Which is, I mean, it’s killer. I’m really happy. I think the vibe is great and the shows have been great so far. I’m really excited about it. I’m really proud of the record too. I feel like we made a really strong, strong album.
Well awesome. How was it working alongside Jacob Hansen for the new album, Outlaw Gentlemen and Shady Ladies? Was the process different from the other albums you had produced?
In a certain way, but we basically had a really cool team. It was me, it was Jacob and I had my engineer Brian Russell out there as well. So we were all kind of working together and it actually enabled us to really get things done rather quickly.
Well that’s good. How long was the whole process?
I’d say the bulk of the tracking was about a month, say a month and a half.
Is that pretty average?
I usually take a little bit longer. (Laughter) But it was cool. It definitely worked great. We met the schedule, we met the deadlines and everything was perfect on that front.
Well cool. I actually had the opportunity to preview the album and it’s kind of cool to hear some different unexpected instruments like banjo and harmonica and acoustic guitar, obviously, but then there’s also some pretty heavy riffs. I think it’s a good mix, it’s not all one style.
When you first were brought on board to be in the band, was everything pretty much written or did you have creative freedom to do what you wanted?
I think that’s really what lead me to where I’m at right now. Basically what happened was, when I got to Copenhagen, I sat down with Michael and started going over the new material and all the new ideas and a lot of it was already written, but there were a few songs that weren’t. So Michael would say, “Rob, do you have any ideas for this section? What would you do here?” and stuff like that, and of course I had tons of ideas, so we would go back and forth. We ended up collaborating and I was being creative and it was killer. The chemistry was great and the songs came out great and I think that was really what turned this relationship into what it is now. (Laughter) Because then we started recording and everything started taking shape, and like I said, the vibe was really great and that’s when the guys asked me to join. So yeah, there was definitely some collaboration.
Now, did you approach it differently to the way you would for Anthrax songs or did you just play what you play and see what…you know, did you experiment? Maybe something you wouldn’t do with Anthrax you could maybe try with Volbeat?
I’m playing a lot of stuff on this Volbeat record that I would never do with Anthrax just because it’s not that kind of band. You know what I mean? But I have a lot of different influences. I’m not just a “metal guy” or whatever. I’m always listening to different stuff and different genres and kind of absorb all of this stuff and I guess it comes out at certain times, and making a record is one of those times, and I’ve always been like that. So I found that when we were working on this record that certain things were coming out of my guitar playing that, I almost surprised myself in some ways.
That’s good though. I think the longer you play, maybe you get stuck in a rut or something, so if you can come up with something new.
Totally, totally, and I think one cool thing for me on this record is I think people are going to hear a totally different side of my playing. There is a lot of cool acoustic stuff on this record and there’s definitely a strong western theme throughout the whole record and I’m just real proud of it.
That actually leads into my next question. Was that the plan all along to have that theme running through it or was somebody inspired by something, whether a movie or a book?
Well lyrically, in general the lyrics, there’s a lot of stuff about actual characters from back in the day, real outlaws and shady ladies (Laughter). There’s that lyrical theme throughout and the music kind of works in synergy with that. When you listen to the record as a whole, it all makes sense.
But I mean, was somebody like, “Oh, let’s write a western themed album.” How did that whole concept even come up?
I think Michael got real into the whole thing and the concept and those stories and he was really into that for a little while and I think that just kind of turned into this record, basically.
Gotcha. So there are some special guests on the new album, namely King Diamond. I think he’s a perfect fit for Room 24.
That song is very ominous and evil sounding, and I think he’s just a great fit. What was that experience like working with him?
Well, he did his vocals in Texas while we were in Copenhagen. It would have been great to have him in the studio, but he did it at his studio in Texas and he sent us the files and he nailed it. We listened to it for the first time when we got the track and I think we all got goosebumps. It was pretty awesome.
So another guest is Sarah Blackwood from Walk Off the Earth, and she sings with Michael in The Lonesome Rider.
And again, a perfect fit vocally.
Who was like, “Oh, let’s get her to do this?”
It was Michael’s idea.
Yeah, okay. Did he work with her before on anything else?
No, I’m not sure if they met each other before, I’m not sure. But I know they were kind of corresponding. He was a fan of her old band Creepshow for a long time, so that’s where that came from. But she nailed it too. She did an amazing job.
Yeah. She totally did. So, then there’s the cover that’s on the album…
Which when I heard it, I was like, “I know this song. Why do I know this song?”
So it’s Young the Giant’s My Body. If I didn’t already know it was their song, I would have thought, “This is a Volbeat song.”
They totally made it their own. How did that come up?
It’s definitely a great tune. Michael I guess heard the song somewhere, I think he was in a taxi cab, he told me, somewhere on tour and he heard that tune and he was really, really into it. When I got to Denmark, we talked about the possibility of doing that tune, so we jammed it in the rehearsal room and it just felt perfect. Even the vocal range is perfect for him and he really sings it well. And we definitely did it, we put our own spin on it for sure. There is no doubt about it.
Are you guys playing that one live?
Maybe. (Laughter) So, the first single is Cape of Our Hero. Can you give us some insight into that song?
Insight into the song…
Because the video that goes along with it is very moving. So I wasn’t sure if it mirrors the lyrics exactly, like the idea behind it or if there was another initial meaning and then the video portrayed something else.
No, no. The video definitely goes right along with the lyrics. There’s definitely a story and a message and a feeling that the video represents. I think lyrically, the song definitely has something to do with Michael’s dad and that whole thing. It’s a real personal tune.
Yeah, because he has another song that he had written about his dad on a previous album. It’s kind of cool that you can pay tribute to family and friends and things like that. Now did the band come up with the concept idea of the video or did someone bring the idea to you guys?
I’m not sure actually, as far as the video concept goes. It’s probably the result of a few different conversations with a few different people, mainly the video director. I know he’s real creative. He had some really cool ideas and stuff. The kid in the video is amazing too. He’s a great little actor. (Laughter)
Yeah, I think he plays that role really well. So I want to talk a little bit about the various packaging. There’s a CD format and iTunes and there’s a vinyl, but I recently found out that there is an import version that has a 60-page hard cover book of the artwork.
Are you familiar with who the artist is and who does the artwork to represent the songs? Is it telling the story of the songs?
The artwork, like I said, there’s definitely songs on the record that are based on real characters that lived years ago. One of them is Lola Montez, who would definitely be considered a Shady Lady (Laughter) back in the day. Doc Holliday, Black Bart, so the artwork, they’re just basically, they represent, the artwork represents those characters.
Right. I actually had gotten an email earlier. They released the Room 24 as the free download.
Today, I think they did that.
Yeah. There was a picture and it looked like a guy, and I don’t know if he was starting to strangle her or something, but it was a piece of art that I hadn’t seen so far.
Well, I haven’t seen it either. (Laughter) It just came out today.
It was actually pretty cool. It was very intriguing. So I think between the two or three pieces that I’ve seen so far, I’m excited to see the rest.
It’s always interesting when people take and interpret their own artistic side to whatever it is their needing to do. Alright, so you’ve been playing live with Volbeat for a little bit now. Were you already familiar with their stuff or did you have a lot of homework to do before touring started?
I mean, of course I was familiar with the band and familiar with the music. I first met the guys, I think it was 2010, when they took my other band The Damned Things on tour in the States. That’s when I met them for the first time, got to know their music really well. I didn’t know how to play the songs, I never learned them or anything. But you know, when we were in the studio and they asked me to join the band and I said yes, then it put me in kind of a, you know, it was a bit of a stressful spot because I was still in the middle of working on the album and then there was a bunch of shows that they had booked in Denmark. It was supposed to be an intimate five show tour for the Danish fans because the band hadn’t been there in a long time. So when I agreed to be in the band, and then I had to learn a two hour set in like 7 days. (Laughter) So it was pretty intense and, and you know, at the same time I was finishing the record and doing all the editing and listening to mixes, it was, it got…
So basically it was eat, sleep and breathe Volbeat?
Yeah, totally. It got real crazy for a couple weeks there. (Laughter)
So how were the fans with you in the band? Were they really receptive?
It’s been amazing so far. It’s been killer. It just feels right. The shows have been awesome. The vibe on stage is great. We’re having fun. You know, so, it’s a good thing.
Do you have a favorite song from their previous albums that you like to play?
They’re all a blast to play.
Was there one that was hard for you to learn?
Mmm, no. It’s just a lot of memory stuff. When you’re learning a bunch of, a block of songs like that.
Now are you doing any backing vocals too?
Some. I basically told them let’s get the ball rolling. Let me get comfortable with the music and then we’ll start working in some of the background vocals. But yeah, I started doing a little bit the other night. We’ll work all that stuff in.
So, how many new songs are being added to the set?
We’re doing about two or three a night. Obviously when…
Does it change up or the same ones?
For now, it’s the same ones. But we’re talking about, obviously the record is coming out in a few days so we’re going to be working some newer stuff in there as well and possibly some different old songs. I’m not sure.
Last year I saw Volbeat at Rock On the Range and they played a snippet they were calling Sweet Unicorn. Did that turn into one of those songs?
I was there. I don’t remember what riff that was though. I think it did turn into one of the new songs. But I don’t remember…
Okay, because I was trying to listen and see if I could figure out, but I was like, yeah I can’t.
Yeah, I was at that show too. Because we, Anthrax, were also playing, but I remember they did a riff. It was like a whole intro.
But I don’t remember what riff that was. (Laughter)
Okay. Well dang! You didn’t answer my question. (Laughter)
No, I’m just kidding. And actually, I saw the last song of the set for you guys.
Because you know with all the stages and running around and trying to see…
Yeah, it’s crazy.
…a couple bands here and there. So you guys are going to be back there again this year. Are you looking forward to playing there again?
Totally. Yeah. That’s a really cool US festival.
I know it’s kind of crazy it started in 2007 and I had gone that first year just to go check it out and I’ve actually been every year since. I think it’s a great mix of…
…newer bands, older bands, bands that are current now. But it is kind of an insane day. Three stages, certain bands play at the same time.
Well, that’s how it is Europe. They’ve been doing it for years like that.
Oh, is it? Okay.
All the European festivals are all like that. There’s more stages usually. (Laughter) Like five or six stages sometimes.
Crazy. So, you’re currently with Danko Jones as direct support. I was reading some of the, I think it was the last setlist, that he’s actually singing Angelfuck. How’d that come up?
He’s a huge Misfits fan like the rest of us. (Laughter) We just asked him if he’d be into doing that. It’s fun. He comes up and does his thing.
Well that’s cool.
So, I thought I’d end on a random question and keep in the western theme. If you were an outlaw, what would your name be and why?
(Laughter) Wow, if I was an outlaw. I don’t know, I’d have to think about that. I think I am an outlaw. I’m a New York outlaw. (Laughter) A New York City outlaw.
So what would you be notorious for then? (He pauses, then laughter) You can’t say? No, I’m just kidding.
(Laughter) He’s looking at me. (Laughter) (Note: Rob was referring to his tour manager) (Laughter) I don’t know, making noise probably.
Okay. Alright, well that’s all I have, so I just want to thank you again for talking to me.
We’ll just call him Righteous Rob for his mad guitar skills.
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Check out the video for Cape of Our Hero below: