Mon, 10 Feb 2014 09:28:25
"It was my first Grammy adventure so it was cool," says Volbeat guitarist Rob Caggiano of this year's awards ceremony. "I was up for Anthrax and Volbeat in the 'Heavy Metal Performance' category. I'm the Pharrell Williams of the heavy metal world except I didn't win!"
Caggiano's got time, and he'll more than likely have a few gold statues in the future. His production and guitar work on Volbeat's latest opus, Outlaw Gentlemen & Shady Ladies, is the stuff of legend. Alongside frontman Michael Poulsen, he tears up Spaghetti Western-ized thrash like a gunslinger with an endless supply of ammo. Sonically rich and pulverizingly poignant, it's not only Volbeat's crowning statement to date, but a landmark for metal.
In this exclusive interview with ARTISTdirect.com editor in chief Rick Florino, Rob Caggiano talks Outlaw Gentlemen & Shady Ladies and so much more.
Do you feel like Outlaw Gentlemen & Shady Ladies focused the Volbeat sound?
Yeah, I definitely feel like the sound is really focused. From my perspective as a producer, I feel like we certainly hit the mark as far as what I wanted to accomplish the record. The main thing I wanted to do with this new Volbeat record was to capture the band's live magic and energy. Going for that and trying to reach that goal, we actually ended up trying a bunch of different things in the studio that the guys hadn't done before. It was a little bit out of their comfort zone, but it worked out really well in the end for the big picture.
Did you and Michael Poulsen discuss capturing that live feeling at the beginning?
We touched upon it. Basically, they had worked with Jacob Hansen on all of their previous records. They would go to his studio. As a band, they wanted to do something different as well. They wanted to try some new ideas and things and push themselves, which I think was a really healthy attitude going into the record. That's one of the reasons the album came out great. We used a different studio. We tried things a little bit differently here and there as far as the recording process, tracking, and all of that. I think the end result speaks for itself. We're all very proud of it.
When was the moment you felt like you became a part of Volbeat?
It was about two weeks into the recording. That's when they approached me and asked if I'd consider joining the band. You've got to understand too. I'm friends with these guys, and I've known them for a few years now—ever since The Damned Things went on to with Volbeat in like 2010 or 2011. We stayed in touch and all of that. It definitely took me by surprise when they asked me. Coincidentally, it was right around the time we hadn't started tracking guitars yet [Laughs]. So, it actually worked out perfectly.
Was it an easy transition from going to producer to guitarist? Or, are producing and playing two totally different mindsets?
Producing and playing are two totally different things, but at the same time, I've been blurring the lines with that stuff for a long time now. One thing for me is when I finally said, "Yes, let's do this. I want to be the guitar player", it changed my approach to the record. Basically, I'm going from the mindset of looking at this thing as a producer, getting the best takes out of the guys, and pushing them to now, all of a sudden, I'm the guitar player and I've got to push myself and asking, "How am I going to put my stamp on this record?" It changed my thought process a little bit. We ended up actually doing things in a really cool way on this record. Basically, my guitar's on the left speaker, and Michael's is on the right speaker. That's something they've never done before because it's always been Michael playing all the guitars on the previous albums—rhythm guitars at least. For this one, it's me on the left and him on the right. There are obviously a million overdubs and solos. There's tons of guitar playing on this album. I really had a blast when we were in the studio. It was totally a lot of fun recording this thing.
How did "Doc Holliday" come together?
That song was pretty much together when I came on board as a producer. Obviously, we added all of the bells and whistles in the studio like the slide guitar and the banjo as well as the leads. The structure was pretty much set. We play that live, and it's actually one of my favorites in the set.
What song from the album resonates with you the most right now?
I love "Doc Holliday". I love "Hangman's Body Count". "Dead But Rising" is another favorite. We played this other song "The Lonesome Rider" a few times this year. It's a weird one because there's a female vocalist on the track. Sarah Blackwood is on the record. It's a special tune. We played it in Toronto, and she got up on stage with us. We did it in Copenhagen with our friend Camila on vocals. That was really cool.
It seems like an exact science to infuse the slide guitars and other "Spaghetti Western" instruments so they're not intrusive on the main riffs. What goes into that? All of the sounds come together naturally without impeding upon each other.
That's a good question. One thing about Volbeat is there are no rules or boundaries. It's all about trying different things. Who would ever think to put a banjo on a fucking heavy metal song? [Laughs] It works great, especially considering the lyrical theme of this album and the western vibe of the whole thing. That's also a production question. It's having the ear to see how it works or how it doesn't work as well as how it fits together in the big picture. I've been doing that for a really long time. I guess I'm used to it.
Were you in the studio when King Diamond was there?
He actually did his vocals in Texas at his own studio. We sent him the track. He did his vocals and sent them back to us, and we were blown away. We're all huge King Diamond fans. For me, he's one of my biggest influences. To this day, I still think Abigail is one of the best metal records of all time. It was killer to just be a part of something he sang on. It was such a surreal feeling.
Have you guys been writing at all?
We're very much in touring mode. We're really focused on that. It's been very intense with the whole schedule. We basically decided this year is going to be more touring. We're going to go places the band hasn't been like Australia. We're headed there this month. We're going to Japan again. There's more in the U.S. and Europe. We're going to take it as far as we can take it. That's what everyone's plan is.
What have you been listening to?
My favorite record of last year is The National, Trouble Will Find Me. I think that record is incredible with the production and songs. I love everything about it. I like the Chvrches record The Bones of What You Believe a lot.
Do you have any producing gigs lined up?
It's hard to book any producing gigs because the touring schedule is so crazy. As soon as there's an opportunity and time to do something, I will.
What's the first thing that comes to mind when you think of We Have Come For You All?
The first thing that comes to mind is, "I miss John Bush". I haven't spoken to him in years now. He's such a cool guy, and I respect him so much as a vocalist. He's amazing. That record was a lot of fun to make. Obviously, it was my first with the band. It was right around the time my producing career was developing. It was a really cool and special time for me.
What's your favorite Volbeat song?