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Interview: Stone Robot
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What got you into music, and if you had not gotten into music what would you be doing today?
Bobby Steels: Well, we all have established careers outside of music. I am a Water Treatment Operator by trade, so…that.
Johnnie Walker, esq: I’ve been in the military in some form or fashion for over twenty years, so I suppose I’ve found my niche.
JAMessiah Rockwell: I got into music because the style, attitude, and image that resonated from the heavy doses of MTV I was inundated with from a very young age. Fortunately, I quickly started coming up with my own jingles and stopped emulating hair-metal glam bands once I figured out how to record over my sister’s tapes. Otherwise, I might be a cosmetologist now. Instead, I just change my 9-to-5 every few years.
What do you like to do when you're not playing music and how does that influence your creativity?
Steels: I am only happy if I am mentally stretched as thin as possible it seems. So, outside of my family life, I have a bunch of hobbies and creative outlets that I can use to further inspire my songwriting. The book I’m writing is one thing, the video editing I’m working on for our next music video is fun. I’m playing around with graphic design now, and since I am a white male of a certain age with a beard I, of course, brew my own beer.
JW: I really enjoy being outdoors hunting, fishing, and hiking, which are all hobbies that involve being very quiet. In that respect, I get a lot of time to let inspiration come to me when I am least expecting it.
JAM: I enjoy anything I can do with my kids. They’re a blast to play and learn with. Yeah, I have to admit that I find myself learning from children and being inspired by them and the stuff they are into.
How long has your band been around?
Steels: Technically this iteration of the band is only a year old, but the three of us have been playing together for much longer than any of us would probably like to admit.
JAM: Yeah, we’ve been playing music together since Myspace was a thing. And we can’t find any reasons not to keep writing and creating together. Hence the Planned Obsolescence spawned during the pandemic.
Where are you based out of and how did that influence your music?
Steels: We originally hail from the extremely diverse Western Massachusetts music scene. So many great, eclectic styles of music come from that area and I think it’s definitely shaped how we play. It allowed us to take a little of our favorite nuances from each artist and mold them into our own sound.
JW: I really grew up in the W-Mass hardcore scene. Some of my favorite memories involve going to local venues and listening to all of the great heavy music that area produced.
JAM: As a youngster, meeting other kids to jam and see shows with was huge. It was like instant kinship between most of us. The scene seemed to be rapidly expanding and it still felt like hangin’ in a basement at the same time.
How did you come up with the name of your band and what does it mean to you?
JW: The name was a happy accident. Years ago, I was in my boss’s office, and I saw the words “Stone” and “Robot” on two pieces of paper next to one another. I thought they sounded really cool together and determined that if I ever got involved in another musical project, that would be the name. In reflecting on the name now, I do think it represents some nice juxtaposition between man’s early stone age with his future of mindless, robotic automation.
JAM: For me it’s kind of a parallel between the human condition, that baseline common denominator of emotion and wonder, contrasted with the stark inorganic precision of solid beats and riffs. Stone cold robotic accuracy electrified by the human spirit, which feels like a voice of reason screaming through the desolation of technology. And I think it sounds cool.
Steels: These guys covered the band name pretty well, the album was aptly named, “Planned Obsolescence,” when the technology we were working with failed to keep pace with our creative intensity. We all spent a few more bills than we originally intended on for this project, but its intrinsic value made it totally worth it.
Tell me about the best and worst shows you have played.
JW: I’ll let you know if and when we ever get around to doing that. When you start a remote collaboration project across three states in the middle of a global pandemic, you’d be hard pressed to find an opportunity to hit the road.
JAM: We’ll get back to you on that. For now, we’ve got more creating to do.
Tell me about your favorite venue to play at, and do you have any places you want to play that you haven't already?
JW: I loved playing at Pearl St. in Northampton, MA in a previous iteration of our collaboration. That was the venue I spent most of my formative years frequenting, so it was cool to be able to take the same stage. I also enjoyed playing at a now-defunct club in Manhattan when we are all in Independent Idiot together. Taking a school bus from W-Mass to NYC with a group of our friends left us a lot of time to get good and primed for the show.
JAM: Nothing beats a school bus trip to NYC. But I really like the variety of playing on a big stage in an open field, like at the Spinning Monkey festival, and then bouncing to small rock clubs and dive bars.
Steels: Oh yeah, the New York boozy bus trip was amazing. Playing the Webster Theater in Worcester, MA opening for Psychostick was a pretty killer experience as well. I believe that was with, “My New Shell.”
If you could play any show with any lineup who would be on the ticket?
Steels: Tool and Failure used to tour together, that would be an awesome bill to be on. Faith No more, Queens of the Stone Age, and/or Deftones for sure.
JW: My favorite bands working today are Baroness, Mastodon, and Royal Blood, so I’ll just go with them.
JAM: Pretty much anyone. I would love to shock an audience expecting us to warm them up for a pop-country star just as much as I would love to vibe with ravers or rage with punks. For me live shows are more about reciprocating energy with the crowd than the other bands on the ticket. Although, I had a blast opening for Planetoid!
What is some advice that you would give to someone who is just getting into playing in a band?
Steels: Listen to your band mates, good collaboration makes better music.
JW: Learn SOME music theory. 99% of music is vibe, feel, and inspiration, but having some idea as to what is supposed to go with what sure might help songwriting.
Steels: What’s music theory?
JAM: Record every idea you have, keep them organized, and share with your bandmates for help. The smallest spark or seed can grow into a wildfire someday. Never wake up from a dream with an anthem playing in your head and say, “oh I’ll definitely remember this later.” You won’t.
If you could go back in time and give yourselves advice, what would it be?
Steels: I’d say it would be to listen to the advice and criticisms given by others, but since I didn’t take advice back then, it would probably fall on deaf ears.
JW: Experiment always. Keep learning to incorporate new ideas / techniques and avoid formulas at all costs! I think JAM really helps with that now.
JAM: Keep dreaming. If you want it bad enough, you will find a way to make it happen.
Of your songs which one means the most to you and why?
Steels: All our songs resonate with us because they are an extension of ourselves, but if I had to pick one it would probably be, “Flip the Table; Flip the Script,” because it’s a message of self-improvement and that’s something everyone should strive for.
JW: “8645,” for sure. Even though “Flip the Table” took me forever to stitch together, “8645” represents the best collaborative work we’ve done. If you had to whiteboard out the workflow for getting that track together, it would make your head spin.
JAM: Each one conjures a special feel and unique memory for me. Sometimes it’s about the process, like JW said. With other songs it’s like realizing that those crusty nick-nacks you inherited are priceless antiques… like when I suddenly realize the brilliance of a lyric or musical transition.
Which songs are your favorite to play, and which get requested the most?
Steels: Subliminal has well over 2,400 streams on Spotify right now, so it’s safe to say that is our most popular tune, and for good reason. It’s catchy as hell.
JAM: Our songs are pretty diverse, so they enhance different moods. I can find a song off of Planned Obsolescence to fit almost any playlist. But to actually pick up an instrument and jam along with, I love Oxygen Mask. I still can’t believe I came up with a bass line that works with the barrage of guitar that is so damn gnarly.
What is the creative process for the band, and what inspires you to write your music?
Steels: It would be easier to list the things that don’t inspire us. We like to explore all facets of existence in our writing and our creative process is simple; something pops in your head (a riff, a melody, a lyric or just a unique sound), lay it down and upload it to the drive, figure out later if it’s trash or treasure.
What kinds of messages do you like to get across in your music?
JW: I’ll defer to Steels and JAM on this one. It honestly takes me three listens to any song before I begin to give a shit about the lyrical content. If I don’t like the tune, I am never going to concern myself with the song’s “message.” Like Jules said, “sewer rat might taste like pumpkin pie, but I won’t ever know, cause I ain’t gonna eat the filthy motherfucker.”
JAM: The creative process is everything for Stone Robot. It’s our own thing, and it’s how we came about and why Planned Obsolescence exists. It’s just organic and punk DIY but done remotely and digitally. Which is why our name fits.
Steels: Every song on this album has its original intent, social commentary, human emotional growth, personal experience, et cetera. But in the end, the listener determines what the song means to them and I’m good with that.
Do you ever have disagreements in your band, and how do you get past them?
JW: We are old enough now where there is zero ego involved in creating music. If one of us doesn’t like something, we say so. Nobody gets hurt about it. And if one of us is really in love with something the other dudes hate, we will just use it for our own projects.
JAM: Yeah, usually with a little time every idea works out better than we could have individually imagined. That’s why I think we have all bought-in to trust the process.
What are your plans for the future, and do you have anything that you want to spotlight that's coming up?
JW: Already started working on the next album. Looking forward to really pushing the effort in September. Also, if we can actually find someone to play drums for a few live shows when the world opens back up, I’d be into that.
JAM: Word, I agree with JW. We’re going to keep creating and take any opportunity to get our music out. Trust and believe, it will be unique - because we don’t even know what will blossom next season.
Steels: What these guys said. I know JW just hit us with a doozy of a song that I cannot wait to sink my teeth into. Keep checkin in with us, we can’t/won’t stop writing new material.