World Domination and Wedding Gigs with RAQ
Without question RAQ’s sound is maturing. In the past year the Vermont quartet has not maintained its self-described “high performance rock and roll” but also learned to how to translate its live energy into the studio. Fresh off an eventful fall tour, RAQ drummer Greg Stukey and guitarist Chris Michetti sat down with Jambands.com to talk about their new album, Ton These, life on the road, and plans for next year.
Jambands.com: Let’s start by talking about Ton These. I’d love to hear your personal feelings about the record. How were the sessions, especially in comparison with Carbohydrates?
C.M. You know, it’s like everything else. We get exponentially more experience and it gets better. Carbohydrates was rough, we were all by ourselves, it was rushed, we used crappy equipment, but the music was good. It was still fun though. Carbohydrates was too quick, and this was the next level, we had more time and a better environment.
JB: Where was it recorded?
C.M.: At the Barn actually, in Vermont, which added a cool element to it. We’re all really happy about what we got out of it. We’re never very satisfied with much that we do. In terms of listening to stuff again, both the album and our shows, we tend to say “This part sucks, we need to work on this.” It’s a result of still growing, still learning. I love that Ton These is doing pretty well. It has gotten good reviews and some bad reviews. The next one hopefully will be even better.
JB: Being an improvisational rock band, how often do you guys actually listen back to your shows? Does that happen on a daily basis or only after a gig that you all perceived as bad? Do you go back and analyze what went wrong and what happened with the communication?
C.M.: It’s more of an off-the-road kind of thing. When we’re on tour it’s kind of not in a bus, it’s still a van still so you have to find your sleep time. I mean you wake up and you’re basically setting up the gear again and it’s just a continuous cycle.
JB: So, who does most of the driving?
G.S. I definitely probably do most of the driving, if we were to put it out on a pie chart, sure I'm clocking in more hours, but it’s pretty well balanced. Everyone fits a different function, one guy is really good at overnights, and one guy is really good at long haul, early morning.
JB: I noticed that you guys don’t have any dates scheduled for after New Years, what’s you plan?
C.M.: Complete and total world domination.
JB: Well besides that, what do you have on your plate?
C.M.: Were going to be ripping it up, we got dates being set up as we speak actually, everywhere but Canada, excluding Vancouver. We just got a new booking agent so things are a little volatile right not so I'm not sure if we're at liberty to say anything.
G.S.: We are with Madison House now, and Harmonized is our record label.
JB: Congratulations about that as well. Is there any weird feeling of switching administrations and management?
C.M.: It makes it crazy, but having a legitimate agency behind us provides a little bit of needed stability. I foresee us being good together with Madison House most definitely.
JB: You used backup singer at your On the L gig [on the Friday after Thanksgiving] and I heard some mixed reviews. I know a lot of people were expecting a real blow out surprise and I think maybe the backup vocalists weren’t quite it. Overall, though, the word was that the general vibe at On the L was energetic and that the actual music was fantastic.
C.M.: Yeah, you know, I really like that stuff [background vocalists], but you know we’ll do something cool and try to make it as bitchin’ as we can. The normal hoopla that goes along with that show or New Years Eve makes it exciting anyways.
JB: One thing I appreciate is that you guys are keeping the ticket prices relatively low as well, so that most people can make the show despite financial situations.
C.M.: Yeah, for sure, the cool think I think about RAQ at this point is that it is not so out of hand, it’s not like a gigantic arena band. We are still a small club type band that does pack in those clubs and you know, we do what we do and in those situations we have the ability to relax a little bit and know that everything is going to be good and that everything will be fun. With that vibe we can relax and have a good time too. I mean, we’re crazy people so when we get to have a good time shit is going to go berserk and people are going to be freaking out and laser beams are going to be shitting out of heads to other people in the audience and maybe someone will explode (laughs).
JB: Chris, having moved away from your telecaster as the primary axe in turn for a sunburst Strat, I was wondering if there has been any significant change in the sound of the lead guitar parts in RAQ as a whole?
CM: Hmm, well I always like to play new guitars and if I had my way I’d buy many, many, many guitars. I guess if I had money I would (laughs). When we get to arenas it would be fun to have many guitars. The trick is with the Strat is that I have more aggressive pick ups in there its got a more of an aggressive tone.
JB: Are they humbuckers?
C.M.: Yeah, they are actually humbuckers, designed to find into a single coil slot. DiMarzio makes them and they’re called the Tone Zone. Yeah, they’re pretty cool. There’s always a quest to help one’s tone out and kind of advance. We’ve been actually talking to some other people about getting another guitar but we’ll see about that.
JB: And Stukey how about that drum pad that you got there on your rig, how do you implement that? Is it used primarily for late second set space? Sort of a trance thing, or is it used for most of the tunes?
G.S.: Well, it’s a little bit of both. Some tunes I rely on it pretty heavily but with other tunes it’s not used at all. I used it more for drones and stuff, keyboard drones behind a lot of the jams. And I also have quite a few samples from horror movies and stuff like that kind of to just freak with the kids. Weird percussion too, gongs, bongos. What I am going to be doing more with that is arrange a group of loops on garage band and have that sampled into the pad, becoming the basis for a solo. Kind of branching out on the use of the pad, which will be used more exclusively on the next couple of tours.
JB: Let’s change course for a second. I’d like to talk about 10KLF. That was a pretty big gig for you guys as you closed out the festival in the Shed and they weren’t allowing any more people into the shed because it was over capacity. Can you talk a bit about that show?
C.M.: Well that was an interesting show because, being RAQ, I mean, we came a long distance for that show and there were a couple of weird things that went on. When we pulled in we saw the main stage and someone big playing and then another stage, and then we kept driving and driving away from everything saying, “Where are we going?” Then it was like, “You guys are in here.” And we were like, “Oh shit it’s a bar, great.” That’s the selfish part about this, but it was still fun, the guy we talked to was basically like, “Hey, you guys are the last band to play the festival, not a big deal.” Then the guy was like, “I’ve been here for 6 days, sorry, I’m tired.” I mean, come on, we drove from Vermont. He said, “if you could just stop after 30 or 45 minutes I’d really appreciate it” and I was in the back like, “Fuck this guy,” I wanted to get out and kill the guy and tell him we were going to play forever and shut up. So that was kind of weird. Soon enough it was rocking, and then they turned on the lights at the end.
JB: Closing out the summer at Nu Groove you began preparing for the fall tour, which you just came off. I apologize for asking about a sore topic but what happened in Durango, NM?
C.M.: Well, yeah, I got a guitar stolen, luckily one that I didn’t use too much but I lost some clothes too.
JB: But your fans responded with the Stukey fund? Money was donated almost immediately, right?
G.S.: They raised a thousand dollars, what do you say about that? I mean even if it was ten dollars the fact that they would do that is epic. I’m humbled and grateful; it picked me up when I was down.
JB: Stukey why don’t you talk a little bit about being married and what it’s like being married on tour. [Michetti interjects; “Yeah, Greg, why don’t you talk about that”] (laughs)
G.S.: Well, being married, the relationship I have with my wife, I mean, we have essentially been married for a couple years now. It’s black and white – ying and yang. We get along so well. Where I lack she picks up and vice versa, except I have a ring on my finger now.
JB: How was the party at the wedding? Did you guys play at all?
G.S. Oh yea definitely, we got up there and jammed for a while, I think we played “Funk 49,” it was rocking. I mean it was our reception, drinks were flowing, had fun with it, cut loose, good vibes were being felt.
JB: Lets move on to a couple of closing questions. What will you remember most about 2006?
C.M.: 2006, I might have to say that I remember Greg Stukey getting married and the GWAR concert we saw the other night as well.
G.S. Obviously getting married was the most important thing for me, but the GWAR show was def a close second.
JB: What the goriest scene from the concert?
G.S.: The beheading. The music was wild too. Every song something was severed, mutilation.
JB: Who will be the band to see in 2007?
C.M.: I believe RAQ will be the band to see in 2007. We might not be the in-crowd band to see, not the coolest band of dudes, but if you come to our shows you going to see some shit go down that’s just the way is. Unadulterated crushing jam rock with a little fun, great songs, we have a lot to offer, I mean being a member of this organization we would be honestly leading people astray to say that we’re not the band to look out for. What does that mean? Will we be playing arenas and on a tour bus? Probably not, but we’ll being having a damn good time. We invite people to join us.
Jay Rogovin and Owen Canavan are the founders of Headylife.com, a comprehensive online music magazine that will be fully operational this winter.