Five years into a career with one of Denmark’s biggest musical exports, Volbeat guitarist Rob Caggiano looks relaxed and perfectly at home as we greet him in the band’s Dublin dressing room. Joining first as producer, and then as a fully-fledged member for 2013’s ‘Outlaw Gentlemen & Shady Ladies’, the New Yorker stepped straight into the band following his shock exit from Anthrax. It was, however, an effortless transition, as he tells us; “We have a lot of Anthrax fans out there too in the crowd”. We sat down with Rob to talk life in Volbeat, changing times in Anthrax, and the future for The Damned Things. Outlaw gentleman; Eamon O’Neill.
Hi Rob, how are you today?
I’m good, man. It’s been a long time since I’ve been in Ireland, so I’m excited to be here. It was probably six or seven years ago. Time’s flying.
The tour’s just kicked off; how’s it been going?
Well, we’ve only had the one show so far, and that was last night in Belfast, and that was great. Again, that’s another place I haven’t been to in ages. I think I’ve only been there once with Anthrax, and that was with John Bush, I believe. It was way back in the day; 2002, or 2003, I think. I can’t really remember, but yeah, it was good to be back there, the show was great last night, and the crowd was awesome.
How do you find the Dublin crowd?
Every time I’ve ever played Dublin it’s been awesome. I love this city. It really feels like they appreciate rock music and they’re really passionate about it, so it’s cool.
Going back to the start of your time with Volbeat, and you were already working with them as a producer when you left Anthrax.
No, what ended up happening was I quit Anthrax just because I felt like I needed a change, and it’s a bit of a long story, but basically, I’d known the Volbeat guys a while, since we did The Damned Things. We did a big tour with Volbeat back then, we all clicked, we became really good friends and we stayed in touch. And these guys were really big fans of The Damned Things record, and also the Anthrax stuff, so we talked about the possibility of going into the studio and recording. I was totally keen on that, and I always knew we could make a great record. Anyway, fast forward a number of years, and I decided to leave Anthrax, and I guess just the timing was perfect.
So how did you make the jump from band producer, to band member with Volbeat?
I talked to Michael, he gave me a ring, and he asked me if I was interested in producing the record, and of course I was interested – the timing was perfect. So a few days later, I found myself in Copenhagen, we got together in the rehearsal room, and they were playing me the new ideas and stuff. A few of the songs weren’t totally finished, and we kind of wrote them together, finished them together on the spot. So we just kind of had that chemistry. But as far as me joining the band being the guitar player, that didn’t happen until a few weeks later, until we were actually in the studio. That’s when it happened.
Did you have any trepidation, because obviously, you’d just stepped away from Anthrax, who you’d been with for over a decade?
It was like twelve years in total. There was that little stint where they did the reunion tour [in 2005 – 2006, when the ‘Among The Living line-up got back together], but overall it was a long time. But I was totally up for it, because I loved the band, I loved the sound of the music and what these guys had been doing, and you know, I think people misunderstood the whole press release thing when I was leaving Anthrax. It wasn’t about; “Oh, I’m going to give up playing guitar and I’m going to be a producer”, it was more about; “I need to move on from this. In the interim, until I figure out what my next move is as a guitar player, I’m going to produce some records” – that’s really what I meant to say.
You never got to write with Anthrax, so how important was the creative outlet for you in Volbeat?
It was super important. [With Anthrax], that became a boring gig, ultimately. I just felt like I took it as far as I could take it. But yeah, totally, I’m a musician; I like to create, I like to work with different people. I’m always collaborating and working with different artists, or producing, or co-writing.
Was it a big change, coming from Anthrax to Volbeat?
Not really. First of all, the Volbeat fan base is very diverse; we have a lot of Anthrax fans out there too in the crowd. There’s something for everyone in the Volbeat sound, and that’s what draws people in. So it wasn’t that much of an adjustment for me, even stylistically as a guitar player. This is more me than Anthrax, just because there’s more guitar. It’s not just solos; it’s acoustic parts, it’s overdubs, there’s melodic things, and harmonies, and all kinds of cool stuff.
You seem to have brought a heavier edge to the band since you joined.
I’d like to think so. We’ve definitely got louder!
You mentioned The Damned Things earlier, who musically fall somewhere between Anthrax and Volbeat; what was it like making that album?
That was a lot of fun. I’m really proud of that record. We just basically went in to try to make a really fun, cool record. We were all friends at the time, and the vibe was great. I’m really proud of that album, and proud of the songs. I did a lot of the writing on the record, and I think it’s a killer band. We toured around the world, and we did our thing. It was great.
Is a second Damned Things record likely?
Yeah, there might be. Whether or not I’m a part of it, I’m not sure; we’ll see. We shall see!
Volbeat have a big touring schedule ahead over the summer; are you looking forward to returning to Download festival?
I’ve played Download a gazillion times; with Anthrax, with The Damned Things, with Volbeat – I love that festival. I love the U.K. in general, but I think Download is a great festival. It’s just such a cool festival, it’s usually an amazing line-up, and I think the fans really get into and appreciate it. It’s cool as long as it doesn’t rain; when it rains it kind of kills the vibe a bit!
Do you get to hang around and check out some of the other bands that are playing?
Yeah, I get to, and as much as possible we like to see as many bands as we can, especially if we’re fans of the other bands. If we get a chance to, it’s amazing, and it’s a bonus.
There’s also a jaunt around some of the Euro festivals.
Yes, we’re doing Download Paris too. I love the Euro festival season. It’s amazing, and it’s a lot of fun.
Going back to your career with Anthrax, and you produced both ‘We’ve Come For You All’, and ‘Worship Music’; which are two very different albums.
Well, yes and no. I mean, I know why you would say, and I kind of get that vibe too, but there is a common thread, and that sound is still there. There is a consistency, but the two singers are completely different, so it’s like musically it has to be different; it has to be tailored to their voices. So I think that’s what it boils down to.
How was it working with Joey Belladonna on ‘Worship Music’?
Me being a huge Anthrax fan, long before I was in the band, I loved both singers. But having been in the band with John Bush, I mean, I love his voice – he’s one of my favourite rock singers. At the time, for me, it just felt that we were in a really good groove; ‘We’ve Come For You All’ was a really strong record, and I feel like the tour, we just went all over the world and the shows were great, everywhere, and it just seemed like it was building and building and building. At the time, it felt like a mis-step…
You’re talking about the reunion tour?
Yeah, just even for me, separating myself from the band as a fan, it was confusing. But, after the reunion tour when Joey came back, and then they asked me back, and the whole thing, my first show with Belladonna was with the Big Four, at the first Big Four show in Poland. And that was my first time really experiencing what he does on stage, and he’s amazing, he’s great. So all my doubts and whatever, they just kind of disappeared, instantly. He’s amazing; he’s singing better now than he ever sang, and he’s just got this vibe on stage that is just fuckin’ great – it works perfectly for the music.
Back to Volbeat, and looking forward, what stage is the follow-up to ‘Seal The Deal & Let’s Boogie’ at?
There’s some song ideas. Everything is very much in the infant stages, so the lyrics aren’t done yet, arrangements are still being worked on, and everything is kind of like subject to change at this point. But we’ve got a lot of cool ideas in the bag so far.
Have you any idea when can fans expect to see the next Volbeat album?
There’s no release date yet. We’re going into the studio, and we’re probably going to do the record in two halves; we’re going to do a little bit towards the holidays and finish it after the holidays, so depending on how everything goes, we’ll see how the schedule shapes up. But that’s the most immediate thing in the future; starting and finishing the record. That’s when it all starts again.
Would you like to see it out in 2019?
Oh it will be. Exactly when, I don’t know, but it will be in that year!
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