Legendary pre-punk rockers, Rocket From The Tombs are coming to Pontiac’s Pike Room on December 2nd! Rocket’s genesis came in 1974 in Cleveland, and the band subsequently disbanded after less than a year rocking with the classic lineup. Their mark on music was a profound one, despite their short existence – with members branching off down their own creative avenues, and coming back together in 2003 for a US tour. Their music has been covered by the likes of Pearl Jam and Guns ‘N Roses, with their song “Sonic Reducer” being widely hailed as a punk staple. Rocket From The Tombs released their latest LP, “Black Record” on November 13th, 2015, and will be subsequently hitting the road in support starting December 1st in Chicago.
Lead singer, David Thomas was kind enough to answer some questions about the band, new record, and what’s ahead:
Phoenixx Music Magazine (PMM): First and foremost, “Black Record” is incredible. Are you anxious to get back on the road and play this music for fans?
David Thomas (DM): I don’t have an anxious personality. I hope to look back on the tour with a sense of accomplishment. That’s about as far as it goes. I know I’m supposed to feed you the line about how great it is to play your town and how wonderful it will be to get in front of the fans, blah blah. The only thing I care about is being the most brutal and uncompromising rock band you’ve ever experienced. I will drive myself and my band mates mercilessly to achieve that. But I am frankly uninterested in the audience. They are there simply to observe us driving ourselves to achieve that experience. If that’s not worth the price of a ticket…
PMM: What can the crowd expect this tour in terms of material from you guys, or would you prefer for us to wait and see?
DT: I posted the set list on the RFTT Facebook page. Basically it covers the history of the band with an emphasis on the new album, a sample of the ‘Barfly’ album and a ‘hits’ package of things from 1975.
PMM: On “Black Record”, you released a new version of “Sonic Reducer”. A version, I must say, that absolutely slays and rocks harder than ever. What prompted a different recording of the song?
DT: Well, it’s MY first recording of it, if you think about it. I wrote the song with Cheetah, as you know, but I never got to record it the way I thought it should be recorded, how I intended it to be sung. I have a vague notion of doing the same with ‘So Cold’ because I love that song and I’d like to get it to tape as it should be. It might have been the first song I wrote, though I suspect maybe ‘Tokyo’ came first. It was certainly the first song that made me think maybe I had a grip on being able to write in a certain way.
PMM: The new record features contributions by members from fellow Cleveland band, This Moment In Black History. What sparked the collaboration? It sounds like it’s been a while in the making.
DT: TMIBH are fans of Pere Ubu. They even kicked around the idea of doing an Ubu covers project at one point, I’m told. So we’ve had a mutual admiration thing going for some time. As I considered the consequences of the globalization of Pere Ubu (2-3 members, depending, are British), I considered ways of ameliorating that effect. I had intended the experiment for Pere Ubu but the RFTT project was next in line so I went with it. The idea was to replicate the experience of the Cle scene of the 70s in which you felt the eyes of your rivals on you at all times. That feeling helps focus the mind. We gave them demo tapes all along the process as the songs were being composed and then on the last day of tracking we had them come in and told them to do what they wanted. It was intense. I wish we had filmed it.
PMM: I very much love the thought-provoking line, “Buy me a ticket to a sonic reduction, guitars gonna sound like a nuclear destruction”. It paints a very profound, yet abstract picture.
You’ve mentioned, in other words, that the resolution-seeking “Final Solution” is very much in the same vein as Blue Cheer’s version of “Summertime Blues”.
Are there any other songs or musicians that really stand out that have had an impact on you on an inspirational level?
DT: Everything I’ve heard – good, bad, indifferent. As simple as that sounds, that’s the truth. Rock music is a folk music, which means there is a continuum stretching back not just to Elvis (or whoever). I will often write songs in response to what someone else has done or as a continuation or correction, or re-evaluation. Sometimes it’s obvious, sometimes not.
PMM: Was there a distinctive moment you remember, and would care to share that you decided to make music?
DT: Some time in 1974, maybe late 1973, I was interviewing Jim Dandy of Black Oak Arkansas when I realized as an epiphany that I didn’t care what his answers might be, that I didn’t want or need to know anything he had to say. I thought to myself, ‘If I’m so smart, I oughta do this myself.’ [Please note this is no criticism of Jim Dandy. He was undoubtedly a fine fellow – he just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.]
PMM: There’s a lyric in “Butcherhouse 4” that says, “All is clean, and alles klar”. A German phrase I probably caught from taking the language from too long! Do you speak any other languages, and have there been any cultures that have inspired the way you make music?
DT: I took French for many years but was never any good at it because I never had a real chance to use it. I wrote a song once in French for the sheer hell of it. I’m no good on this business of what is an influence. Of course it’s an influence. It all is.
PMM: Also, could you say whether or not the title was even loosely Vonnegut derived?
DT: Of course.
PMM: Additionally, are there any novels or authors that have inspired your work?
PMM: Do you know what’s next for the band? Or are you just looking ahead to the upcoming tour?
DT: We will tour again later next year more extensively. At some point we will think about another album. I have shot some interview footage for a documentary someone wants to do. Usual procedures.
Be sure to catch Rocket From The Tombs at the Pike Room in Pontiac on December 2nd!
Review and interview by: Tiffany Cuthrell