Speedo, frontman for San Diego punkabilly act Rocket From The Crypt,
knows exactly what distinguishes the six-piece's latest recording,
R.F.T.C., from the group's previous efforts.
"Tedium. It was just complete tedium," said Speedo, a.k.a. John Reis, of
Rocket's previous, self-produced recordings. "It starts out being so
much fun, with so many good ideas coming out, but then, by the end, when
it comes down to mixing, it's like, 'I've got an ulcer and I'm stressed
out and I think this sucks.'"
This time out, Rocket turned to producer Kevin Shirley (Dream Theater,
Aerosmith), who encouraged them to try and capture the frantic feeling
of their live shows for the 13 songs on this album, which was recorded
at Avatar Studios in New York and will be released on June 2.
"I think I brought out the best in them by maximizing and optimizing
their live performance," said Shirley. "For me, listening to their
previous albums, I didn't get the sense of urgency I felt when I saw
them live. I think you can hear it more on the new album."
While Rocket From The Crypt's previous records established their sound
as a hectic blend of dirty punk with a touch of brass, R.F.T.C.
-- their fifth -- comes with a more subdued sound. It continues in a
direction indicated on the band's 1995 album, Scream, Dracula,
Scream!, with new tracks such as "Break It Up," "Lipstick" and
"Let's Get Busy" drawing on a sound that's more Motown than earlier
"The band has always evolved and always was kinda pushing in this
direction that we're in," Speedo said. "Right now, we're even pushing
further [into a soul-music sound]. I think a lot of that music
represents good times. Soul music -- unlike other kinds of music that
could be called good-time music, like AC/DC -- offers ... an emotional
heaviness that ... can be so much more appealing."
Shirley said the San Diego sextet brought in noted producer Jim
Dickinson (Big Star) to play organ and Dream Theater's Derek Sherinian
to handle keyboards, complimenting a lineup that usually features Speedo
and N.D. on guitar, Petey X on bass, Atom on drums, Apollo 9 on
saxophone and J.C. 2000 playing trumpet.
"'Break It Up' sounds huge," said Shirley about one of his favorite
tracks on the album. "I love the way the horns interact with the
guitars, and you almost can't tell the difference between them. It's
kind of like the Phil Spector 'wall of sound.'"
Bill Litfin, 26, a resident of Columbus, Ohio, webmaster of the RFTC
website and an avid fan of the band, has already seen the group play six
songs off the new LP in concert and thinks the album might catapult
Rocket From The Crypt toward the kind of commercial success that has
previously eluded them.
"I'm excited to see if they can make it to the next level," said Litfin.
"They've worked really hard for a long time, but they haven't made that
leap yet. I think a couple of the new songs have that accessibility that
other stuff has lacked and can get [the band's music] played on the
"Live, they're amazing," said Litfin. "It's a full rock 'n' roll show,
loud blazing music with all the showmanship that goes with it. They all
wear uniforms, and they have a schtick that they do, where ... Speedo
and N.D. [have a guitar duel]. It's scripted, but they make it seem like
the show you're at is the only show [where] they do it."
Speedo endorsed Litfin's sentiments and listed the key ingredients for a
quality Rocket From The Crypt live performance.
"To us, a great show is not necessarily three hours with a bass solo, a
drum solo, two guitar solos and a whole bunch of 'How you doin'
Clevelands.' It's 45 minutes to an hour of over-the-top music with
sincerity and integrity that can entertain on more than a musical level,
that can be a spectacle or can be something that draws people in --
maybe even scares them."
The complete track listing for R.F.T.C. is as follows: "Eye On
You"; "Break It Up"; "I Know"; "Panic Scam"; "Made For You"; "Lipstick";
"You Gotta Move"; "Your Touch"; "Let's Get Busy"; "Dick On A Dog"; "Back
In The State"; "When In Rome, Do The Jerk"; and "Run Kid Run."