I was recently interviewed about my latest project, The RockTronix. The interview can be read here. Some bits were edited and my attempts at humor don't seem to have translated as a result but it's still pretty solid info. Check it out and let me know what you think!
“Reckless abandon rock mixed with some ‘jazzish’ elements of stretching and improvisation” – Interview with The RockTronix drummer Wayne Viar
Wayne Viar is a drummer/musician/songwriter from Atlanta, Georgia, USA. In this interview he talks about his band The RockTronix, their upcoming CD album ‘Magnificent Obsession’ and music documentary.
Music is your passion. How did it all start?
I don’t actually recall a time where music wasn’t my primary interest, focus, hobby, and eventually my obsession. My family wasn’t made up of “official” musicians, like so many musicians I know, but they’ve always loved music and it was always happening. My mom played a little piano, my dad was always whistling and singing and tinkering with various instruments, and my older brother played saxophone and some keys. Those early memories of the family gathered around a piano or a Magic Genie Organ singing old time songs, laughing and having a ball are some of my all time favorite memories of childhood.
My brother and I would sit and listen to records (yeah, records… vinyl – complete with big album artwork and sleeves full of info, etc.) for hours. We’d make up our own songs and record them with our old rectangular Realistic cassette tape recorder. Anyway, it all started, was fostered and grown at home. It started as a fun hobby/interest and turned obsession and at times even an escape from reality.
You are planning to release ‘Magnificent Obsession,’ your first album with The RockTronix. Tell us about this project.
This rock project was started by Joseph Patrick Moore (JPM), Chris Blackwell and myself in an effort to play some different music from what we were playing (and still do) together professionally in the Atlanta scene. The “official” album release date is September 30, 2014! Check it out!
Where did the inspiration for this album come from?
The inspiration for the album came from JPM initially. He officially set it into motion. He commissioned Chris and me to bring tunes to the table as would he. We would then get together and hash out ideas, collaborate and ultimately see what happened. We would bring in sketches of ideas, grooves, progressions, programmed elements, etc. Then, we would build, add to, alter, reconfigure, retreat, until we had something… a tune… or almost a tune. It was truly a collaborative process. It was a lot of fun to see and hear the tunes start as one idea and gradually turn into what they are now.
So the idea of ‘Magnificent Obsession’, the project, is multi-layered. It’s about our collective obsession as musicians. We are what we are and never had any other life plans. Kinda irresponsible and dangerous but we, all three, never thought about or considered anything else. We transitioned into adulthood doing what we knew how to do without the slightest hesitation or thought of a “plan B”. Also, this project was an obsession about us getting together to do a project that was uniquely our own. A labor of love.
Who are the other members of the band? How long have you been together?
Members of the RockTronix are:
– Wayne Viar: drums, programming, laptop racket/noise, self-loathing.
- Joseph Patrick Moore: bass, programming, adulthood responsibilities, motivator and fearless leader.
- Chris Blackwell: guitar, comedian, ultra-realist.
We met at different times on various gigs and made connections musically and personally that were a little more than the typical – “sounds good man/I enjoyed playing with you” you get as a hired sideman.
I’ve known JPM since 2005 and we met on some jazz gigs via a mutual friend. Then we seemed to keep ending up more and more in different situations together. I’ve known Chris only about five years but it seems like a lot longer. Chris and I met on a church gig initially. I mentioned Wayne Krantz in the green room and he was the only guy, in that realm, who had ever heard of Wayne Krantz, let alone liked him, so I was determined to play with him in some other situations. Krantz is my litmus test with all guitarists. If you know of him, that’s five points. If you like him at all, that’s another five. If you know his stuff and are a fan like myself, you’re an instant friend!
So the three of us, our bond went beyond the “what time, where and how much” into the, “Hey, we should consider getting together for fun and FREE”! Let’s jam, as the kids used to say! So, being pros and the fact we all live about an hour apart from each other (not counting Atlanta traffic)… it never happened. BUT, in true professional musician form, a gig popped up that allowed us an opportunity to get together and play some very cool and challenging music for a change. Joseph was invited to play for the summer NAMM ‘Bass Bash’ in Nashville and he asked Chris and myself to join him. That was technically the birth of the RockTronix in my opinion.
We had actually played quite a bit together in some different groups around Atlanta prior to the Bass Bash but this was the first actual trio job with all original music. It was all JPM tunes that we retreated in trio format with our actual personalities and styles. He also tortured us with one non-JPM tune called ‘Creatures of Conscience’, a Tony Williams tune.
This sounds interesting… Tell us more about this tune.
That is an amazing tune that I had no business attempting. Nonetheless, it was a blast. And for me, it was the first time I trusted guys enough to venture into such dangerous waters without being overly safe or worried. I went for stuff I had no business going for but I didn’t worry because I felt secure with those guys – musically and personally. Either they would hold it down for me or they would rescue me. I wasn’t concerned about sounding a certain way or being “accurate” or “correct”. I was like, “F’ it! Here goes nothing!” I hadn’t had that kind of trust since moving to Atlanta with anyone and it was so nice and different from all the polished stuff I mostly do. So anyway, that gig was well received and we had a blast doing it. After that gig, we made a vow to actually make some kind of project happen for real. And here it is – The RockTronix!
How would you describe your music philosophy and style?
The band’s music philosophy is still in development at this point. We didn’t even know what the album was going to sound like until we got the preliminary mixes! We had recorded what we had been working on (and never quite locked into!) and only discovered what the product was after it was all in the can! It was a very interesting process and learning curve. We’ve all recorded a bunch and know the process plenty well. But this was the first truly collaborative project that steadily took shape to the very end… and beyond. We’re already talking about future ideas and the furthering of ideas and concepts that were started with this yet to be released album!
The style is definitely a mixed bag. It definitely has elements of reckless abandon rock mixed with some “jazzish” elements of stretching and improvisation. There’s also some laptop/programming/loopy kind of electronic elements. The name describes it pretty well. Rock… Tronix… with some “jazz-like” sensibilities. The tunes widely varied in terms of “styles” yet they seem to all fit into a unique thing that has an identifiable personality unique to the RockTronix.
Who influenced you the most in your music career?
I have a rather eccentric/eclectic musical history. No one person or group or experience defined my musical direction. A lot of folks say things like, Ringo and the Beatles are responsible for me being a drummer/etc. I simply loved music. All kinds of music. I picked out all the elements, the different instruments and lines happening. I was always fascinated by all of the parts that made up a tune. Not just the drums and almost never the words. Melody, yes. Words, only a few on occasion, unfortunately.
I grew up listening to country and bluegrass (thanks to my dad), old time gospel and oldies (thanks to my mom), pop music of the 70’s & 80’s (thanks to my brother), and then whatever I happened upon via friends, TV, radio, public library, etc. My record collection included, Sandy Nelson, Elvis, Scruggs and Flatt, Sandy Patti, KISS, Cyndi Lauper, Men at Work, Metallica, Corrosion of Conformity, Iron Maiden, Midnight Star, Stevie Wonder, Parliament, Rush, Buddy Rich Big Band, Gene Krupa, Alan Holdsworth, Yellowjackets, Chick Corea, Jan & Dean, Harrison and Blanchard, Sting, Genesis, and on and on. Seemingly no rhyme or reason. All good, but all radically different.
I recently traced back my musical upbringing in detail and really tried to figure out my trajectory from a musical and professional perspective. I realized I was extremely unfocused, but I kind of consider most of that a good and lucky thing. I honestly love any kind of music if it’s performed exceptionally well, has heart and balls… real passion, and finally, the secret ingredient in my book, vulnerability. Heart balls and vulnerability trumps execution in my book every time. Every exceptional artist in any field, whether intentionally or not, has an element of vulnerability. To me, that’s the element that makes it art and not simply entertainment or showbiz.
Later on I did the school music scene and eventually went to college as a music major. I went to East Carolina University where I studied with Mark Ford, who is now the director of percussion studies at University of North Texas, and musical phenom Carroll Dashiell. I was all into that world at the time; Marimba, Timpani, Drum Corps, Orchestra, Contemporary Chamber Music, Jazz, and of course my “leisurely pursuits”. The individuals who most directly influenced me were always friends. Specifically, Todd Proctor, Shane Fowlkes, Joe Lee, Wes Little, Rodney Howard, Scotty Sells, and Damon Brown kicked my ass in different ways at different times. Some of those names you may recognize as they are all badasses and some have gotten some justified notoriety. We all hung out, lived together and shared everything with each other at some point along the way.
Do you have any planned appearances or gigs for the near future?
The RockTronix actually doesn’t have any official tours/gigs booked at the moment, however we are in discussions with several booking agents via our record label, Blue Canoe Records. All our time and energy has been spent focused on getting the DVD and CD ready for release and, unfortunately, we haven’t been focusing on booking tour/show dates. However, our main goal, besides getting this project rolling and having a product to share, is playing live any and everywhere possible. Stay tuned, as we hope to post future dates… That said, anyone reading this should reach out to us via our contact form on our website if you are interested in having us in your area.
You’re also working on releasing a movie documentary. Can you give us more details.
As we were discussing this project in its infancy, we were all in agreement that these days an album, alone, doesn’t cut it. This is the age of content, especially as a “new” artist or group. You have to disseminate content to be noticed. Good or bad, that’s where we are as a culture. Media is as much (or more) visual than anything. So we decided to document the process of starting this band from ground zero all the way through the completion of recording the tunes.
JPM took on the project with an insane amount of dedication. I have had to insist he get sleep and visit his wife at various times since this project begun! He poured over and edited the footage and basically created the entire documentary all by himself. Chris and I were astonished to learn there was even enough footage to use! We had forgotten about the filming throughout and eventually didn’t even notice the cameras. When I saw the first draft I was very impressed with all of JPM’s work. It was extremely well done, especially knowing what I know about us, the amount of usable footage, etc. He does a fantastic job of telling the story of the inception of the RockTronix.
What else is included in the documentary?
It has a lot of the music throughout, including two full-length videos. One is a full on music video, a la MTV. The other is a full studio performance of another song. Both very cool. The film aspect is completely brand new for all of us. We are really quite curious how it will go over with audiences. “I laughed, I cried, it became a part of me…”
So the official release date of the movie and CD is September 30, 2014! Stay tuned for more by following the movie website.
With the advent of so many ways to promote and sell your product, do you think it’s possible for Indy musicians to make a name of themselves even if they don’t have a big record company behind them?
I’m the wrong guy to ask that question for several reasons. JPM would have a better answer but I’ll ramble on this topic for a bit since you asked.
If you are not delusional, are doing something that is honest and born and cultivated from passion, behave and live in a responsible way based on your life decisions then you should be able to make enough of a name to do what you love and not be homeless. That’s the safest guaranteed-of-sorts I can offer. You can love your job, love your work and be blessed to do what you love for a living and not have a job that will hopefully allow you to do something half-assed on the side. That’s the most basic possibility in my opinion. That’s a very localized regional possibility. That’s the pre-social media answer.
With the advent of social media and the seemingly endless digital avenues to utilize I think you can expect to do pretty well but it takes a lot of time and devotion to the propagating of content. That takes way from shed time, gig time, etc. Some people are weird about the level of self-promotion necessary. I’m one of those people. But it is what it is now. You either do it or don’t bother playing the game by old time rules that will almost insure that X project never gets off the ground. And what’s worse, even going through all the trouble of the social media promotion it STILL may never get off the ground. The point is, you have to commit to some level of it to even have a fighting chance.
More than ever groups have the ability to be seen by huge numbers of potential fans. It’s a numbers game to a degree. If XXXXX number of people see you, you can expect a small percentage to check you out further. A small percentage of that may really dig it and go in deeper. So the more people you can be seen by, the greater your chances of becoming some level of a commodity. Ultimately it’s a crap shoot but the potential to do so has never been more possible. If you have digital content you have a better shot then just a live act.
What are some of the promotional tools a musician can use to find listeners?
Again, I am such a newbie at using most of these tools I can’t give any solid tried and true methods. The most basic and obvious tools are all the social media avenues (Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, YouTube, Vimeo, Reddit, Vine +)
Although all of those are considered a type of social media – and nearly the same thing – they can and should be used differently to target different demographics by different methods. There are some strategies that require a little research but if used strategically can be effective ways to spread the word. Then there’s maintenance. Again, spreading the word means you have the chance of working the numbers game to your advantage in hopes of targeting listeners.
Voicu Mihnea Simandan
is a Bangkok-based Romanian expatriate who lives in Thailand. View all posts by Voicu Mihnea Simandan →