Rocket From The Crypt, interview with John Reis (AKA: Speedo) on March 31, 2003 on the streets of Lawrence, Kansas. What can you say about RFTC that hasn't already been said? Since 1990 they have been playing & recording their unique brand of music that has seen them go from independent label to a run in the mid '90s with a major label, and finally back to the indies where they have released two of the best albums of their career, "Group Sounds", and "Live From Camp X-Ray". Both these albums showcase a new freedom and a fresh life for this long running band. Fungus Boy & Rocket From The Crypt first met in the Spring of 1993 when we were first starting the magazine. Rocket was only the third interview that I had ever done, the first two were done the previous night, we next met up the guys while on their free tour of the US in 1995, this interview marks almost 10 years to the date of the first one.

FB: Let’s kinda talk about the history of the band, it’s history with Fungus Boy, as I mentioned earlier the third interview we ever did was with you guys and the first two were done the night before. So you guys have been around for a long time as we have. How do you think the band has changed over the last ten years since we first saw you?

Speedo: Uhm, well we have some different members from the first time you saw us. I don’t know, Jason, was he with the band, JC 2000?

FB: No.

Speedo: JC 2000 joined about seven or eight years ago, probably more like eight years ago. And Ruby Mars joined about three and a half years ago, so those would be the two biggest changes over the last ten or so years since we first spoke. As far as the sound, how has the sound changed? I don’t really know, I think it has but I can’t really describe the way that it has. It hasn’t necessarily gone forward or backwards, it’s going somewhere. We’re just kind of along for the ride I guess.

FB: I’ve been reading a lot over the last several years about the different types of recording techniques that you have been trying out. Explain some of the things that you guys have tried on the last few albums.

Speedo: I think we’ve tried everything you can think of, we’ve tried it. We’ve recorded from everything from studios that were like multi-million dollar facilities to recording on boom boxes and putting them out, putting out those recordings. So, and everything in between we’ve tried, we’ve tried hanging amps from the wall suspended with rope, we’ve tried recording things under water, we’ve tried recording things live out in open fields, we recorded some things live at Graceland. We’ve done everything pretty much except for actually record an actual live record. We’ve done everything that we can think of and I’m sure there’s other possibilities out there. I think on this last record it seemed like we kind of exhausted everything so we just kinda went and did it ourselves on this last record. We just bought ourselves some gear and just went and just kind of pressed play and record and let it fly. You know we didn’t spend a lot of time on it and we just banged it out. I like the way it came out.

FB: I think you just answered this question but I had heard the vocals on “Ghost Shark” were recorded at the grave of Elvis.

Speedo: Yeah, that’s true. We hired a mobile unit and a friend of ours, it wasn’t even a friend of ours, it was a cousin of a friend of ours, was one of the caretakers there and allowed us to go in after hours, opened the gates and we recorded the vocals to that song there. It was pretty cool, you know, a pretty cool thing to be able to say that you did too.

FB: I noticed that Group Sounds was recorded in like what four different places?

Speedo: Yeah, three of four different places.

FB: Yet you can’t really tell, it works together so much as a full album.

Speedo: Yeah, I mean we can kind of tell, but overall once it’s mastered everything was kinda brought into the same realm, so that yeah it made it seem a lot more similar, the recordings. Yeah, yeah you’re right, you can’t really tell that much.

FB: Is that a little different type of recording versus going to a studio where you know you’re going to do a full album, where you just go and do a set of tracks and then go somewhere else?

Speedo: Well Group Sounds we recorded some of the same songs more than once. We recorded them several times at different studios just trying to find the best version of it. And then Ruby Mars joined the band about halfway through the recording of that album, so then we wanted to get him to re-do some of the stuff so that we could have him on the record. But yeah, it’s a little bit different, it’s kinda neat to know that you’re only gonna do a couple of songs in a place because basically there’s not that pressure to really produce a complete thing. You can go and concentrate on doing less.

FB: Wasn’t there suppose to be, I think on one of your Interscope albums, like some stuff going on between the songs, is that right?

Speedo: Yeah, we had like full symphony. I fancy myself as a junior conductor and so I conducted the San Diego Symphony and did these interludes that kind of link some of the songs together and they didn’t really like it that much. It’s probably cool that it didn’t come out that way because we felt that it kinda took away from the songs, it made it a little hokey. It was a little too campy, so that’s why decided to ditch it.

FB: Speaking as a fan of the band for a long time I feel like your last two albums have been a lot more energetic. It seems like maybe you have a new freedom.....

Speedo: I think that’s exactly what it is, a new freedom. Yeah, we’re just like inspired by our freedom and just make music on our own terms. We always have been, I kinda spoke out of context because we’ve always had that freedom but there was always a certain amount of weight because there was the whole bureaucracy that we had to involve in order to put out a record. Now it’s like we do our shit, we fuckin’ give to Vagrant, they put it out, they don’t ask any questions, and that’s the way it should be.

FB: There was a pretty quick turn around from Group Sounds to the new one.

Speedo: Yeah, and there will be even a quicker one for the next one now that we’ve got our own place up and running.

FB: Let’s talk a little bit about Camp X-Ray, I’m sure that’s a response to September 11th, not only the title but some of the songs.

Speedo: Yeah the title would have never existed if it wasn’t for George Bush naming the holding facility at Guantanamo Bay Camp X-Ray. I think ultimately we just liked the way it sounded, it’s not necessarily a political statement but it obviously can be taken as one People are always asking us to do a live record so we did Live From Camp X-Ray.

FB: You have a song like “Outsider”, is that a direct relation to September 11th and to all the media attention?

Speedo: I think it’s more just yet another song by Rocket From The Crypt. It’s just about the alienation, not knowing what to do, where you belong, where you fit in on this planet and life. What you’re suppose to be doing, how come you don’t like all the things that everybody else likes, how come you don’t like all the big movies, how come you don’t like the best seller books that come out, how come you don’t like all the radio stations. Am I being negative? How come I don’t feel like a lot of the times I fit in you know. I think a lot of people feel that way, you know, and that song in particular is just like wanna be left alone because it feels like nothing really relates to you, you just want to do your own thing. I think a lot of people feel that way politically or non politically, you know. Whether it’s politics and you feel like you’re not being represented or it’s the fact that you turn on the radio and can’t stand the shit that you’re hearing. It’s the same feeling just not knowing where you fit in in the scheme of things.

FB: Has anybody asked you about the cryptic writing an you had the “Long live the dead” above the picture on the album. Has anybody asked you what that is suppose to mean?

Speedo: Yeah, well it’s just more of my rambling you know, I didn’t write the liner notes but I wrote those, the “Long live the dead” and it was specifically about punk rock music. It is a dead music in the sense that its something that happened, you know punk rock was about that late seventies explosion of music and yet it was basically just rock ‘n roll but maybe a little bit more rebellious, a little bit more direct. It didn’t have the symbolism, people just came out and said what they wanted and there was no rules just different people doing what ever they wanted. That freedom of expression that came with punk rock and that's gone you know, and for people to say like punk rock music it’s just kind of like well punk rock music now is like bands on MTV, on the radio, they’re using those songs to sell tampons and Budweiser, how can that be punk? I don’t know how it can so I say it’s a dead music and only lives in the people that are re-living it like our band. Our band Rocket is inspired by and we’re just like feeling, what we are is the shock waves from the initial punk epicenter that happened, these are the shock waves. It’s basically just rock ‘n roll music. I don’t like to really like pigeonhole or even think about it too much because I’m not the Einstien of punk rock, it’s not up to me to say this is the dictionary definition of what it is. But I do know it’s not about a drum beat, and it’s not about a hairstyle, and it’s a lot more than that,and so when I see it become something like a mockery it pisses me off and maybe makes me want to play music that sounds a little bit more pissed off.

FB: I’m sure you guy have never really cared about this but you guys have never really gotten the attention that you deserve. On TV you........(Speedo cuts me off)

Speedo: I think we did, I think we do. I think we play nasty music and I don’t think it’s really suitable for all audiences.

FB: I was kind of surprised when I found out that you were going to be on the Craig Killborn show...

Speedo: Yeah, I was surprised too and I was glad that we did it, it was fun, really fun. And I take the opportunities to do stuff like that because I want to spread the word of what we’re doing, you know, I want to infect people but at the same token there is definitely some things we won’t do. I think we got good attention and I think still think we get good attention. The people who come out, they may not be huge crowds but there’s an importance behind it, people think what we are doing is important and we feel what we’re doing is important. There’s definitely no regrets and there’s definitely no jaded like kind of animosity or any cynicism, we’re still very positive about what we’re doing.


FB: Being that you guys have been around forever, and speaking from the fan perspective....

Speedo: Thirteen years.

FB: Have you ever thought about doing a home video?

Speedo: We certainly have like trash bags full of video footage, we have so much shit. And we haven’t made a video in a couple of records, we haven’t made videos and we were thinking of making actual videos for our next record just because since we make these short CDs and people are always saying, “Oh, they’re so short”, we’re thinking of putting other information on the disc. Just because you can fit seventy four minutes on a CD I’m not gonna do that, I don’t have that kind of attention span. I want to make something that someone can sit down and listen to in one sitting, not like get halfway through and go, “OK, now I’ve gonna go to work”, and come back and, “hey where was I?” I want to be like where someone can just put it in and blast it, if they want to hear more play it again. So maybe the next time around we’ll do some more stuff like that, just because it’s fun and if we can do it cheap and inexpensively and have with it then we might consider doing something like that.

FB: This next question a lot of bands cringe when I ask, have you ever thought about a live album?

Speedo: I do cringe because I don’t think you can capture what we do live just by rolling tape because you’ve got to be there. So I do cringe a bit. I know a lot of people love the band live and think the band is better live than on record, a lot of fans even say that they’re like, “You know I love your records but live it’s just really slammin’, nothings like that”. I try to tell the people that if we just put up the mics and just roll tape it’s not like you’re gonna want to listen to it again and again. It’s gonna be worse than the records.

FB: I interviewed a band one time that were like “Well we knew that we were recording so just knowing that fact we played terrible and we just trashed the tapes”.

Speedo: Yeah, we’ve tried a couple times but it never came out very good.

FB: Any plans for All Systems Go 3? I’m sure you have enough stuff.

Speedo: Yeah we have enough stuff for it so we’re gonna start working on it this year, maybe have it out by the end of the year. Maybe have it out by October or November.

FB: Are you having a good time doing the label? I know you have a lot of releases coming out.

Speedo: Yeah, I’m really pumping the Swami stuff really hard. I’m really psyched with the Hot Snakes, Beehive & The
Barracudas, the Husbands, this guy Dan Sartain from Birmingham, Alabama, uhm the Sultans, All Systems Go 3, all stuff that I’m gonna be doing. The Testors, which are a New York punk band from 1977 to 1979, we’re actually backing up Sonny Vincent who was the lead singer and guitar player for the Testors. It’s just been great doing the label, there is a sampler coming out in May with all unreleased tracks from Rocket, and Beehive, and Hot Snakes, and Husbands, all of stuff I’m doing. It’s just been a blast to be involved with recording music and putting out—just every facet of making and putting out records, it’s fascinating and I love it, I enjoy it.

FB: We were kind of curious why you haven’t played in the area in a while. Last time you played here (Lawrence, KS) was ‘95 then you played the Warped Tour after that (1996 in KC). We kind of missed you.

Speedo: Yeah, we don’t tour as much as we used to. We went a three year period where we were on the road for pretty much the entire time, I think we were home for three months out of that three year period. So we don’t do that any more, we’ve got other stuff going on, so that’s the main reason. It didn’t seem like that long, maybe just because I was just here with Hot Snakes not too long ago.

FB: Probably so. Hot Hot Heat were here a few weeks ago and we told them about the free tour that you guys did and they thought it was the most crazy thing they had ever heard.

Speedo: Oh yeah man, it was one of the coolest things we ever did as far as I’m concerned. Toured the whole country for free, it was fucking awesome. People come out and they really appreciated the fact that we were just like put our money where our mouth was. A lot of people talk the talk, we actually walked it. We so dedicated to have people having a good time and we wanted just to have everyone coming out and we wanted the vibes to be good that we were like, “Fuck it, we’re gonna play for free!”, we’re gonna do the whole tour. We got signed to Interscope so it’s like we can afford to do a tour and not make any money so we’re gonna do it. We used their money to do something like that as opposed to buying houses, (laughs) we played for free!

FB: Last question, when can we expect a new album and do you have a title for it yet?

Speedo: No title, only a couple of songs. We’re gonna start working on it right when we get back home.