The Rock Pit - Hard rock, Metal and Blues Interviews, news & reviews from Australia and around the world

The Rock Pit - Hard rock, Metal and Blues Interviews, news & reviews from Australia and around the world
RUBICON CROSS CHRIS GREEN INTERVIEW 2014

HARD ROCK INTERVIEWS 2014 - RUBICON CROSS GUITARIST CHRIS GREEN

RUBICON CROSS

CHRIS GREEN

We talk at length with axeman Chris Green about the first full-length release from his and CJ Snare's new Rock project...

 

MAY 2014

Anyone who was impressed by Rubicon Cross’ debut EP back in 2011 will probably have been eagerly anticipating the new full-length release – due to hit on May 19th. Collecting the four songs from the EP with six additional tracks it’s an album of great depth and diversity, but also of overriding quality. The song-writing partnership of Firehouse’ CJ Snare and ex-Furyon’s Chris Green is both a match of like minds and great talents. We caught up with Chris for an in-depth chat about life and the new album...

Mark: Hi, Chris thanks for talking to us this morning. We’ve had a lot of questions sent from fans to ask you, which is great; there are a lot of people out there looking forward to the release of the album. I guess the first thing is that things really seem to be stepping up for you now, the new album is coming out, the new web site is nearly ready, do you feel that momentum picking up?


Chris: Yeah, the band’s very excited at the moment, the momentum has built very gradually, it’s been a long time for us, the album has been ready for nearly a year now and we nearly actually released it last October. We met up with a good friend of ours called Mark Schindler, at Universal, and he decided to really step in and help us out, so everything changed really quickly, so although it got delayed, it’s really improved what’s going to happen for the release of this record. So, before it would have been self-released, it’s now going to be a worldwide release, we have some good people behind us, and every week something new is happening.

Mark: It’s an interesting label, INgrooves, being distributed as it is by Universal, it looks like you have great distribution, and also control of your product as well.


Chris: That’s exactly what we have; we decided we wanted complete control over how we wanted to do this. To sign up to a major label would mean they would call a PR company, radio people and lots more other people, but it just so happened that in a very short amount of time, we managed to get a really fantastic team together, and we thought this is exactly what we need, we basically are the record company, and so instead of squabbling over money, we are in complete control of where it’s all going. The downside is, you have to put your blood, sweat, and whatever else it takes, selling your children, to try and make it happen!!!


Mark: So, give us a little bit of background for the Australian audience here who have never heard of the band before. The story of you meeting is quite interesting.


Chris: For those of you, who don’t know about the band, Rubicon Cross, the singer is C.J. Snare who was and still is the singer for a multi-platinum rock band called Firehouse, that had some huge hits in the early nineties, and they remain very active through the year. They were playing a tour over in England in 2003, and my band at the time were called Pride, and we had a great opportunity to go on with them as the first band, Danny Vaughan from Tyketto was the main support, so Pride were the opening slot, the dogsbody slot, where you had to struggle to get a beer out of anyone!! So, in 2003, the first show, I was on bass and a mutual friend who runs the Firefest Festival (a Melodic Rock Festival in Nottingham UK) was speaking to CJ, and said you should check out this guitar player whilst he’s playing this track, it’s called “Still Raining” where I have this epic guitar solo, CJ came out to watch me play and said he’d been thinking of doing a solo album, and after listening to that song he said and that’s the sound I want! So he asked me if I’d be the guitarist on his solo record, and it was that quick, and my head was spinning, I’d downed a couple of beers, and said “Yeah, of course!!” This was during our set he asked me, and when I went back up on stage I felt like I’d cheated on my girlfriend or something, so I went on to do the second half of the set, with Pride, thinking I’d just agreed to be in CJ’s band, but they were absolutely cool about it! CJ came and crashed at my bedsit in the south of England, and the first track that we wrote was “Movin’ On”, and we knew from that point there was going to be some chemistry and we were going to get some good material out of it. The bass player is Simon Farmery, who was actually the bass player in Pride.


Mark: He was actually in your other band too, Furyon.


Chris: Yes, he was, and through a completely different set of circumstances, we both ended up in Chicago, and so it was a logical choice, when the band looked like it was going to become a live entity, we didn’t do auditions we just asked Simon to do it, we dragged him in and then got Jeff and Robert.


Mark: It’s a great story and I didn’t realise it went so far back, 2003.


Chris: Oh, yeah, Def Leppard has got nothing on us when it comes to writing albums!!! It’s taken ten years for this album to come out, which averages out about a song a year!! It’s not that we’re slow, it’s just we’ve both got married and had kids, deaths in the families, relocations across the pond, life gets in the way, especially when there’s 4000 miles between you! Although technology is really good for setting up music, it’s not really practical when you want to do some writing. There was a lot of travelling involved to do writing sessions, and the music does change over the years, there was a lot of stuff that didn’t see the light of day, and looking back on it now, if we’d have released it, in say, 2006, it just wouldn’t have been relevant. So we sort of feel the stars have aligned a little, the music, for those who don’t know it, Rubicon Cross, is very melodic, heavy, driven music, there’s a lot of heavy guitars, with CJ’s vocals over the top, and he has a very signature voice.

Mark: The song you were talking about there, “Movin’ On”, is I guess the bluesiest song on the album. How do you see your sound? Is a hard rock, melodic band enough, or is there something more?


Chris: Being pin holed in a genre is really difficult, I think it causes more problems than it’s sorted out, trying to create all of these different genres of rock music, whether you’re melodic core, metal core, new metal, old metal, I don’t know!! Really, what it is, to us, is it’s just rock music! Its rock and roll, up tempo rock tracks with shredding solo’s with great vocals and great melodies. The lyrics are about real things that have happened to the guys in the band, I guess its new melodic hard rock, and it’s up there next to any modern active rock band like Shinedown, any of those kinds of bands, if we were billed with Skid Row or Metallica, we’d be able to fit in with any of these bands. It’s rock music when rock music was just rock music!!


Mark: It’s refreshing to hear someone say that! Last week I spoke to an industrial folk metal band, for example!


Chris: Yeah, people come out with all these new genres of their music and I’m like, “What!!” Sounds like a town in Wales or something, or a bad hand at Scrabble!! What are they on about? Then you listen to it and it’s just Heavy Metal!!


Mark: Is there a story behind the name, Rubicon Cross?


Chris: Yeah, there is quite an interesting story behind it. My father passed away a couple of years ago unfortunately, and he was very close to me obviously and to CJ as well, he was a musician, and he was in Cliff Richard’s band back in the day, and I’d grown up with musicians throughout my life, and he had a lot of fantastic jokes and analogies, and stuff like that, that he’d picked up. One that he used all the time was the term “crossing the Rubicon”, which is from when Julius Caesar took his army across the Rubicon River in Northern Italy, and it was basically a point of no return, if he committed to crossing the river, he was committed to battle. This became an analogy for all kinds of people from all walks of life in different situations, where they get to the point of no return, no turning back. To cross the Rubicon means once you are committed to doing something, you can’t back out of it. So, me and CJ were chatting about my dad one day, and “crossing the Rubicon” and it was cheesy as you can imagine, we looked at each other and said Rubicon Cross! It just seemed like the right thing, the right thing to chat about and it just blurted out of us! So, even though we switched it around, that’s where the name came from. My dad was a boozer and he dried out in a clinic, and in alcohol terms crossing the Rubicon is a term used by the doctors there, to cross over to be sober and never turn back again. Then we bastardised it by putting a cross on there, which made no sense whatsoever!! But, we thought it looked cool!


Mark: It does look cool, that’s right!! The biggest question we had on the internet was when are the live dates being announced??


Chris: The situation is, we are being much more calculated with this release. Over here in the States, with the kind of music we play, it’s difficult to get the right kind of gigs, to get out there as a band and sell ourselves. To get out there with bands that we think we’d be well paired with is hard, the bands aren’t packing venues like they used to, so they are charging bands to have the privilege of playing with them as support. That is not something that we want to do, in order for us to know where our market is at, so as we go we will work very closely on the radio campaign, then we’ll find out where our radio followers are and where the records are selling the best, and then we’ll put on a tour around where we know we have a fan base happening. Trust me, I’ve played in many places over the years, where you psych yourself up backstage, and you run out on stage and there are three guys and it’s pretty disconcerting! So, we are going to make sure we do this properly, that we have a fan base to play to.


Mark: Yeah, sadly, it’s a familiar story these days.


Chris:  Yeah, LA is pretty dead for that sort of music now. The mid-west has a very thriving scene, right here in Chicago where I am right now, , I could go to one of fifteen designated rock venues tonight and be guaranteed to see a band! And I’m not talking about a club that’s decided to put on a rock night, this is every night, so, it’s a great scene here, and a great place for the band to unfold. Who knows we may get over to Australia one day! You’ve got to be getting a lot more tour packages over there right now?

Mark: We are, it’s funny you mention Skid Row; they were here a couple of weeks ago. There is stuff out there; it’s just a harder slog!! We’d love to see you down here, there is a burgeoning market, because we didn’t see a lot of these bands back in the day in Australia. Getting on to the new record, you have ten tracks on there, four of them we’ve heard before on the EP, which we loved back in 2011, but the songs you’ve added, are they old songs too?


Chris: No. The point of us doing the EP was to put the feelers out and see if people were going to like the style of music that we were doing. To us, it was putting heavy music underneath melodic vocals we weren’t aware of too many bands doing that sound, so we didn’t know if it was going to tank, or whether people were going to like what was going on. Whether people were going to see it as a horrible version of Firehouse, or a great, fresh band, but, the EP was accepted really well, and that’s why we put the tracks on the album, they were great tracks and we didn’t want them wasted on a limited edition EP, and they stood up well with the other tracks on the album. They were re-recorded in the studio anyway, all the guitars and they sound much more fresh. In answer to your question, it was progressively written. The last track we wrote “You Will Remember Me”, was written about three months before the album was recorded; the ballads were probably more of the earlier tracks, we could’ve released a whole album of ballads!

Mark: I guess the ballads bring in the Firehouse audience. How hard was it to pick the lead track and video, “Bleed With Me”?


Chris: It was hard, really in the end it was a case of pulling straws! The reason for that track, “Bleed With Me”, it’s one of the heavier tracks on the album, and because we were releasing the album with the biggest push, here in America, we didn’t want any confusion over what the band was doing. If we had have put up a track like  “You Will Remember Me”, it is much more in keeping with what people would’ve known CJ to have done before, so we wanted something that was going to sound fresh and new, and that’s really why we went for that song.


Mark: The album’s out on the 19th of May, and you stayed with Rick Beato (as Producer), who did a great job on the EP as well.


Chris: Yeah, Rick was able to get that modern sound, he’s produced Shinedown, worked with Bullet for my Valentine, Fozzy, he’s a great, diverse producer, he’s just had a number one in the country charts, here in America, and he knows how to get the best out of me and my guitar playing and stuff. CJ records his own vocals in his recording studio, just outside Milwaukee.


Mark: As a song writing partnership, it sounds like you’ve hit gold, as far as the chemistry goes, how do you write the songs? Do you both bring ideas to the table?


Chris: It’s been different every time, actually. At first it started with the classic song writing formula, I’d write the music, put it together and give it to CJ, and he’d put in the melodies and vocals, and then we’d make changes, if needed, and bang, we had a song! Then as we went along, CJ is an extremely proficient musician, especially at piano, so there was a lot of times, where he’d come with complete songs, and then I would have to take the piano interpretation and try and make it into a rock track. Some of the tracks like “Save me Within”, which was a very personal track to me, which was about my dad, I wrote, CJ didn’t really have a hand in the music or the vocals for that, the lyrics just came from me. Our curve ball track that’s on the end of the album, “All the Little Things”, CJ wrote that entirely on the piano.


Mark: “Save me Within”, is a very personal song to you, about your father, it is a beautiful statement, was it a difficult song for you to write?


Chris: It was difficult. I think I wrote the lyrics for that track the morning after my dad’s funeral, I was a bundle of mixed emotions, and it came out very, very quickly. Simon, our bass player, had come up with the lead arpeggio line, and it all turned out in to the big opus that it is really quickly. I was out on a run at the time, the worst place for it to happen, the furthest part of my run, and you don’t have a pen or paper, or a phone, so I looked like a mad man talking to myself, to try and remember all these lyrics and running as fast as I could to get back to the house to jot it all down, and it just happened very quickly. So, it was difficult to write, and difficult to listen to the lyrics, I was surprised that I let lyrics that were that close to the bone, out there for the public to see. As it turns out, I’ve heard people say that it has really helped them, and for people that have lost someone close to them, it is one of those tracks that can be really helpful to them.


Mark: It is an amazing song, and certainly one of my favourites on the album.


Chris: I have to say, CJ, was extremely gracious, because he knew that song meant so much to me, I gave him the entire song and the melodies, and he would call me up from the studio and say do you mind if change this melody very slightly from this to this, he knew how much it meant to me, and he was really close to my dad. He was very gracious, a lot of singers would’ve said, oh, yeah, that’s great, and changed it, but he was really good like that. Then the polar opposite song, our curve ball, “All the Little Things”, which is almost like a pop/punk track on the end of the album, sticks out like a sore thumb, it’s there for a reason, lyrically it’s about the breakdown one of CJ’s most horrendous relationships, and it’s just a fun track!! The more people listen to it, the more they like it, it’s just fun, and people say what are they doing? Why did they put that on there?? But the answer is, it’s our album, bugger off!!


Mark: I must admit, that was the first thing that went through my mind, when I heard it, but I love a band to do a track that sticks out so much from the rest of the album, and you think, shit, what are these guys going to do next!!


Chris: Yeah, exactly!! It’s an up tempo kind of punky style tune, but that’s why we put it last! If you listen to the lyrics, the style of the music makes more sense, it’s like a big middle finger stuck up at someone!!

Mark: So, aside from that track, there’s obviously the ballads and the more up tempo ones, but there’s blues also, it’s a great album with a lot of variety, and I guess that comes from being written over a few years. “Locked and Loaded”, fantastic track, pedal to the metal style, but for me my favourite is “Next Worst Enemy”, tell us a little bit about that, that’s also a personal song for you too.


Chris: Yeah, I still think to myself, how I put that out as a single!! It has a very heavy driving force, and kicks off with a Velvet Revolver kind of feel, just a straight forward Blues, Heavy/Hard Rock. Lyrically, CJ wrote it back in the day, I had gone through a horrible, horrible break up with a girl from hell, and I’d been out on tour, and when I got back it was like “get out, I don’t want you here anymore!!” She literally threw me out on the street, and then I found out she’d been banging the sound guy!! It was literally the most horrible break up ever, and CJ said come over and stay with me in Wisconsin, and one day we were just chatting about it, and putting the world to right, and he said to me, it’s like every time you talk to a girl, it’s like your next worse enemy!! It was a “Bing!”, and we legged it up to the studio, it was a great phrase, there are a lot of people who are unlucky in love, and that’s basically what that track’s about! Admittedly, a lot of tracks on the album relate to me and CJ, we have been through our share of turbulent relationships!!

Mark: There are a few big ballads on there that are bound to please fans of Firehouse, probably more than anything, “Shine” which has that sound that CJ is famous for. It was funny, we went to a mates wedding a few years ago, and he played three ballads through the ceremony, two were Firehouse, and one, White Lion!


Chris: That’s funny; I did a tour playing guitar with Firehouse, with White Lion, back in 2008.


Mark: My next question is do you and CJ have any personal favourites?


Chris: We talk about this all the time, actually. When we did the radio campaign we always question if we made the right decisions putting out the songs, it comes up all the time! To me at the moment, “You Will Remember Me” is my favourite track, probably because I’m a very typical guitar player and I look forwards instead of backwards, so, because that’s the last track we wrote, I’ve always got my head in the front windscreen looking forward, and also it’s got loads of solos on it, so from a self-indulgent point of view, I like that track. Purely selfish reasons!! For CJ, he’s just gone through the tail end of a horrible divorce again, so I would hazard a guess he’s listening to “All the Little Things”. But like I say there’s a song on there for every emotion you can go through.


Mark: There certainly is! You did a fantastic job on the guitar on the album, who are your main inspirations?


Chris: Funnily enough, you mentioned White Lion, Vito Bratta was probably one of my first influences, the thing about him, that people just completely overlooked, is that he used to write guitar solos, he like wrote songs within songs! So, the solo was almost like a classical movement, within the track, and there are a lot of guitar players out there, I think, who could do that as well, but I think, Vito Bratta is the absolute best. It’s absolutely tragic that the guy doesn’t play anymore, and if you chat to the guys from Tyketto, they were very close to Vito. Mike, the drummer in Tyketto, was in a cover band when he was 14 years old, with Vito, and he was chatting to me on this last tour about how they had to sit backstage, because they weren’t old enough to be in the club, that they were playing in. They would play for six hours while they were waiting to go on stage! The way he crafted guitar solos, made me think extremely seriously about how to not go off topic, with a song, but to take it to another level, and somehow manage to make it come back again to make sense of where the song’s coming in. He was a huge influence.

Mark: It’s such a shame that guitarists from that sort of era don’t really get the recognition they deserve.

Chris: That’s right! Look at Andy Timmons; he’s probably one of the best guitarists on the planet! He doesn’t need an “Affliction” shirt and lots of leather bracelets to make him play good, he just plays like an absolute demon, all the time!! And, again, that guy had a huge influence in my playing. Also, Eric Johnson, and a couple of the more obvious ones, Paul Gilbert, John Petrucci, those guys were responsible for me not getting laid for a lot of my life, when I was in my bedroom trying to perfect my technique!!

Mark: Taking it even further back, to your earliest memories of music, what was it that first made you decide you wanted to be in a rock and roll band?


Chris: I mentioned before, that my old man had been in Cliff Richard’s band, and so I grew up around music a lot. I badgered him about playing the guitar, probably from about the age of 11, and my first concert was going to see The Shadows, and I remember he took me back stage and there was Hank Marvin, and he showed me a couple of things on the guitar. It’s bizarre!! I know it’s not very rock and roll!! But, back in the day, I couldn’t understand why people wouldn’t want to listen to it! All, it is, is lead guitar, what’s not to like about a catchy, foot tapping tune?!! I was really into that stuff, I was into going out and playing the pubs with my dad in the south of England, when I was 12 years old. I would get up and do a half an hour Shadow’s set, with some backing tracks! I was also into Mark Knopfler, The Kinks, and The Small Faces.

 

Mark: You can’t beat those bands. I remember the favourite moment of my life, was having a beer with Steve Marriott, two or three years before he died, he was playing a show with his band in Nottingham, where I’m from.


Chris: Oh, you’re from Nottingham?


Mark: Yeah, I practically lived at Rock City back in the day!


Chris: You have to tell me something. Back in the day, when I was coming up through the ranks, and listening to metal albums, I heard of this infamous place called “Rock City”, and the ratio of hot women to blokes was about 7:1, I’m interviewing you now!! Is there any truth to this?


Mark: There’s a little bit of truth to it, I went to college in Nottingham, purely because I read there was the greatest inequality of males to females in Nottingham, than anywhere else in the world!!!

Chris: There you go Mark! I’m almost glad I didn’t go there back in the day because I wouldn’t have wanted to have anything rock my belief in those myths and urban legends! That’s good; you’ve kept the dream alive, man, and so thank you for that!!

Mark; Yeah, I can’t complain!! A couple of quick questions to end with if we have time... Can music change the world?


Chris: You know what, music like mathematics has no language whatsoever, so especially as a guitar player I can play a piece of music and it can move someone without them understanding my language at all. I think without music the world would be in absolute turmoil. I don’t know if you know this but, I actually found it on NASA’s website: there is a resonating sea running through the Universe at 57 octaves below middle C. So the Universe actually has a ‘hum’ so there is definitely something about music and the fabric of the universe if you ask me.


Mark: The next question is: If you could have been a fly on the wall for the creation of any great album at any point in time, just to see how the musicians interacted and how the music came together, what would it have been for you? What is the one album that completely blew you away?


Chris: That is a good one…. You know what I think it would have to have been to be there at Sound City when Fleetwood Mac recorded Rumours. Do you know why? There were loads of albums I would have love to have been there for – like Back in Black, I’d love to have seen how that went down, Appetite for Destruction – I’d have loved to have seen how that came together…. But Rumours by Fleetwood Mac is to me, like my old man used to say, like an album of singles. It’s such a ‘perfect’ album it’s like a lesson in song-writing and because of the turmoil that the band was famous for it would have been amazing to see. I would have loved it.


Mark: We always end with a really question though, and that is ‘What is the meaning of life?’


Chris: The meaning of life – 42! <<Laughs>> I’ll tell you what you’ve got my number – give me a call back when you find out! I can’t tell you what it is, but I can tell you what it isn’t – and that’s just working your arse off through some 9 to 5 job where you can work your years away, to get two weeks off and just get hammered at the weekends. I’ve done that a lot; I’ve seen a lot of other people do that and that doesn’t seem to make anyone happy. So maybe the meaning of life is to find the perfect song that will make you feel like none of that goes on.


Mark: It’s been an absolute pleasure to talk to you Chris, thank you for your time and good luck for the album release. It’s a wonderful album.


Chris: You too mate, it’s been great. I really appreciate that and thank you because it is down to people like yourself that allows us to hopefully get heard by more people across the planet. 19th May it’s out – check it out on rubiconcross.net!

 

www.rubiconcross.net

 

 

Chris Green spoke to Mark Diggins April 2014

 

 

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