Interview with RivetSkull
Answers by Mark X. Plog, Guitar
What got you into music, and if you had not gotten into music what would you be doing today?
I was lucky to see the first Van Halen world tour in 1978 where they opened for Black Sabbath. I went there to see and feel the heaviness of Iommi and crew and ended up inspired by the energy of Eddie Van Halen. I went out the next week and purchased my first guitar.
What do you like to do when you are not playing music and how does that influence your creativity?
I love to travel; experiencing new places, cultures, and environments knocks us out of our comfort zone. It teaches us to think outside of our little world. That same stretching of your boundaries applies to creativity in music. Let go of the familiar and see what happens.
How long has your band been around?
Where are you based out of and how did that influence your music?
We are based out of Seattle, although our vocalist, Chad McMurray, now lives in Los Angeles. I spent most of my musical growing years in Texas surrounded by metal, blues, and country musicians. Seattle seems more diverse musically and there’s a lot of cross-pollination of styles which finds its way into the creative process.
How did you come up with the name of your band and what does it mean to you?
RivetSkull is a name I came up with long before the band existed. It was a made-up word that is meant to be synonymous with “Metal Head.”
Tell me about your most memorable shows.
That would have to be the time I saw Black Sabbath on the Heaven and Hell tour in 1980. I saw them in Corpus Christi, Texas and it was very memorable for two reasons. It was the first time I had seen Dio live. It was such an amazing performance that it cemented my love for heavy metal forever going forward. The other was seeing Bill Ward get out from behind the drums when someone threw something at him. He dove into the crowd to give that person a beating until security pulled him off.
What is your favorite venue to play at, and do you have any places you want to play that you have not already?
When I was in another band with Michael Robson (RivetSkull’s drummer) and Chad we played at the Button Factory in Dublin, Ireland on two different occasions. I think it was more about that city than the venue, but we loved playing there – and staying at the Mercantile across the road.
If you could play any show with any lineup, who would be on the ticket?
It would have to be a multi-day festival to get everyone on the ticket! Headliners would certainly be Sabbath, Priest and Maiden though.
What is some advice that you would give to someone who is just getting into playing in a band and some advice that you would give to your younger self?
When I was starting out in the 80’s in Houston, Texas, it seemed like all the musicians were in competition with each other and not particularly friendly. The one person that was always kind and friendly to other musicians was Dimebag. He wasn’t the mega star he became at the time. He was always humble and kind. My advice is, be like Darrell. You get farther and can relax as a player being yourself rather than competing with the “other guy”. Be the good guy not the cocky a-hole.
If you could go back in time and give yourselves advice, what would it be?
Focus on the music, not all the stuff that surrounds it.
Of your songs which one means the most to you and why?
Probably “Another Way to Heaven.” I wrote the intro guitar part back in the 80’s and it has finally seen the light of day.
Which songs are your favorite to play and which get requested the most?
I think people gravitate to “Forever” but my favorite to play is “Another Way To Heaven.”
What is the creative process for the band, and what inspires you to write your music?
Myself and Mark Hopkins (RivetSkull’s bassist) write most of the basic tunes and then flesh them out with the drummer, Michael. After that Chad gets his hands on them to slice and dice the arrangements and also suggests/writes new parts. Everytime I pick up the guitar I am writing. I never play “songs” unless we are rehearsing or recording – I just make stuff up and if I remember it, or it gets captured or if someone is like, “Hey that’s cool!” then maybe it gets to be an idea for a song down the road.
What kinds of messages do you like to get across in your music?
We are not a party band :-). Heavy metal music for us and the majority of metalheads, is a catharsis. We write about things that piss us off, life struggles, overcoming adversity, world events, and our own personal triumphs and struggles as fellow humans.
Do you ever have disagreements in your band, and how do you get past them?
Oddly enough, we don’t ever have major disagreements. We all communicate all the time and have enough years under our belts to not take ourselves and life too seriously. Check your ego at the door and listen as much as you talk – the key to any relationship.
What are your plans for the future, and do you have anything that you want to spotlight that is coming up?
We are currently working on our second album with a target release date of early next year. The music is written and Chad is doing his thing. Later this year, we’ll be in pre-production with our producer Matt Hyde (www.matthyde.com) with final recording and production finished by January/February.