ROCKET FROM THE CRYPT’s Petey X

We caught up with Petey X of Rocket From the Crypt a few hours before their show in Nashville. It was a moist 105 degrees as it often is in Nashville in July. To avoid the heat (and the noise of the opening band’s soundcheck), we entered Rocket’s spacious mobile home to conduct the interview.

I got some dumb questions for you.
Well, I got some dumb answers.

Are you guys picking up local bands at every show?
No, the last week we’ve been playing with the Charger Street Gang from Cleveland Ohio and the Selby Tigers from uh, somewhere else. Tonight’s the first night we’ve been playing with local bands.

How’s the tour going so far?
Good. It’s going pretty good. You know, we’ve had some good shows and some weird shows. Playing a lot of college towns in the middle of summer which is kind of a dumb idea, but, you know, people are coming out and it’s pretty good, so…

Have you been out since the album came out?
This is our third tour. We did a two week tour right when the album came out and then we did a five-week tour with the International Noise Conspiracy and the Explosion, and now it’s our third time out.

Where’d you go with International Noise Conspiracy?
We did five weeks in the US but all major cities.

That would be really nice.
Yeh, it was actually a really great tour. Both bands, the Explosion and the International Noise Conspiracy, awesome bands, fun to play with, really cool people. We had a great time; it was cool.

Nice mixture
Yeh, it was. It was cool.

Have you been overseas for the album?
Yeh, we’ve done one European tour and we’ve done one little . . just a weekend in the UK. And we go back after this to do all the festivals. And then we have a tour we’re booking right now in November to do another proper European tour.

How has the response been for the album?
Over there?

Just in general.
Great. Actually, I think it’s… Personally I think it’s the best response we’ve had to a record. People always come out. But, like watching the crowd, people actually know the songs and are excited about the new songs. I think it’s the best of our records.

Is Vagrant distributed in Europe?
No. This label called Be Unique is putting it out over there. Our old label had some problems so we had to find somebody quick, and they stepped up to the plate at the last minute. So they’re putting it out.

How is Vagrant?
So far, so good. They’re really good. As far as promotion goes, and letting people know it’s out and what’s happening, they’ve been great. So far I can’t complain. They’re really cool.

Are you planning on putting another record out with them or are you just taking it as it comes?
No, we’ll probably do another one with Vagrant. Probably do another one. Hopefully by next summer. Probably get one out a little quicker than we did last time. Three and a half years, that’s…

How was recording in Memphis? Did you guys have a good time?
It was really awesome. We had a really good time. There was nothing better than waking up every morning and eating barbecue. That was great and Easley Studios was an amazing studio. [inaudible] Stewart’s an amazing guy. We had a really good time.

Did ya’ll have a chance to hang out in Memphis?
Yeh, totally. We got to go to Graceland. Some of us had already been a couple of times. I hadn’t. So, it was my first time. We have a lot of friends there. The Grifters and stuff and we got to hang out with them and just go out at night and have a good time. All in all, it was a really good time.

Did you do the record for Vagrant or did you have it in the can before Vagrant came along?
We did it for Vagrant. We’d gotten to the point where it’d been so long and we’d been trying out drummers, and we just figured if we waited any longer… You know, we’d already made the deal with Vagrant that’s why we used Jon Wurster on most of the drumming. We felt like if we waited any longer it would just be too, too long. So, we just decided to use Jon and get in the studio and get it done.

Is it still like he’s the new drummer or is he just part of the band now?
He’s the drummer. Yeh, he’s part of the band. It really was a really simple, a really easy transition. After about a week, it didn’t even seem like there were any changes. It was really, really simple.

Have you started writing any new songs?
Um, a little bit.

How do you guys write? Do you write all together or is it all separately done?
Pretty different. Each song just depends. Sometimes it’s all separately done and brought into practice. Like, “Here’s a new song. Here’s the drumbeat; here’s the bassline; here’s the horn line; here’s the backing vocals.” And two hours later we gotta new song. Sometimes it’s a part we all sit around and play. Some people put their input in; others put their input in. Change it a hundred million times and three months later it’s a new song. I like the first… a little bit easier. It’s a lot easier; it’s a lot quicker. But it’s always different. When you’re dealing with six people and six pretty different influences, it can be pretty hectic sometimes.

It all sounds so cohesive.
Even if you write a song on guitar and it’s done, it’s going to change a lot when you add bass or especially horns to it and then…
[At this moment, one of the horn players, walks in]
HP: And then it gets gay.
PX: …And all the vocals and stuff. You’re gonna go back and go, “Well, maybe this guitar doesn’t really go with that horn line, but that horn line is better than this guitar line, so let’s change the guitar line.” It’s a huge process. Sometimes. And like I said, sometimes it’s really easy.

I’ve read it a lot — I don’t know if it’s true — that straight-ahead rock ‘n’ roll is coming back. You guys are out there touring. Do you think that’s true? Are people’s attitudes changing? Are they more open to it? Or they just don’t give a shit?
It’s very hard to say. I think looking around and seeing what kind of bands are playing and stuff — there are a lot more rock bands. And it looks like it is coming back. But if people are going to accept it or do they still want to listen to all the crap that’s out there on the radio, it’s really hard for me to say, you know. Of course, I would love [more people] to hop on the rock ‘n’ roll wagon and make that happen but… wishful thinking, you know. There’s just so much crap out there and for me to answer that question I’d have to understand first why people like… crap. And I don’t understand. I don’t even try to understand. I don’t even really care anymore. I used to care and it used to bother me. Now it’s just like, they can do what they want, you know. But until I know why they like that crap, I’m never going to know if rock ‘n’ roll’s coming back.

Is it getting easier for you guys having been around for as long as you have?
Easier in what sense?

It seems like when you guys came out in the early nineties, there was a sort of grunge explosion going on and it was sort of hard for independent bands to assert themselves in that noise.
Yeh. I don’t know, you know.

But I know with the label difficulties [having switched to an indie] and things like that, is it feeling harder now?
When Nirvana was going on, it was a good time for us ‘cos we were kinda in the same vein. And we were getting a lot of attention from it. A lot of the major labels said, you know, Rocket From the Crypt’s going to be the next Nirvana. Look at them go. And we just kept going. And I don’t know, it’s not… Nothing’s really been easy. We have a really great fan base from the ten years we’ve been playing… twelve years… well, ten years, we’ve been touring. And that’s good. But there’s definitely a change in the amount of people that actually go out and see bands. It doesn’t seem like there’s as many as there used to be. The people that used to go out are growing up. Maybe they have more going on; they just can’t go out as much. The younger people are the ones that aren’t really catching on to the rock ‘n’ roll thing. So it’s weird. Sometimes you think it’s easy when it’s the hardest it’s been. And sometimes it’s just hard.

What music are you listening to?
Ahh, Jeez. I listen to the same old shit. I haven’t bought a new CD… well, the last new CD was the new Old 97’s. I dig that. I really like them. I think they’re really good. I really like this Australian band, UMI. Besides that, I pretty much just listen to the Clash and the Ramones. You know, a little bit of Neil Diamond here and there. Just to break it up.

I think he’s coming soon.
I just got tickets for San Diego.

Really?
I’m taking my mom. I’m gonna watch her cry.

Is there a good scene in San Diego or is it just a bunch of bands competing?
We have a pretty good scene. There’s really not a lot of competition. Most of the bands are friends with each other. Somebody gets a show; they put as many bands on the bill as possible just to make it fun for everyone. It’s not a really thriving music scene right now. Same thing, a lot of people don’t go out as much as they used to. But it’s pretty good. There are more places to play for smaller bands, which usually there aren’t. There’re more bars and stuff that are having bands more often. But if you’re in a small band, it’s a pretty good scene right now. Still, San Diego’s always a bit weird.

I’ve asked people what the best show they ever played was and they usually can’t remember. So I’ll ask what’s the worst show you’ve ever played
I can’t remember but I’ll tell you the best show I ever played. The best show, as far as just being excited about playing, I’d have to say the Reading festival. Like 40,000 people and watching… I would say not every single one of those 40,000 were Rocket from the Crypt fans when they got there, but I think they left being Rocket From the Crypt fans. I think, yeh, it was one of the most exciting shows I’ve ever played.

What has been your favorite band to open for?
Maybe, uh, the Foo Fighters. As far as opening tours we’ve done, that’s been the best. It was the best for the band to do; they’re great people and great to hang out and that kinda thing. I’d say as a whole, I think the Foo Fighters were the best.

–Interview by Ryan Ervin and Todd A