I first discovered Black Water Rising on a Metal Edge sampler CD being handed out as I was leaving a Judas Priest concert at Jones Beach, NY in summer 2008. I was 10 tracks in and about to throw the thing out the window and something told me to go for one more song. Well that song was “Brother Go On” from Black Water Rising, out of Brooklyn, NY, and thus a love affair was born. Four months later I was able to catch them live opening for King’s X (more on that in a bit), and was blown away. Fast forward to nearly five years later, and I finally got the chance to interview Rob Traynor, singer/songwriter/guitarist by telephone. We spoke about the evolution of BWR, guitarist Dennis Kimak joining the band, the new album, and some other cool stuff. He was very easy-going, and a lot of fun to talk to. I hope you guys enjoy reading this as much as I enjoyed speaking with him. So, here it is, my interview with Rob:
Amps: So Rob, you had a lineup change on guitar, and had to address that. What does Dennis bring to the table, guitar-wise?
Rob: Well, we knew Dennis for a long time and not only is he an incredible lead player, but he’s also a great guy all around. We knew him from the local scene, and knew he’d be a great fit for this band, and he has been. He’s got great presence, too, so it’s a lot of fun.
Amps: Tell me about that guitar sound. How do you get it so rich, and thick as molasses?
Rob: Well, on the first record I used a Les Paul straight into an Orange Amp, with a Shure SM-57 mic on the amp for a lot of the rhythms. We do have that two Les Paul sound. We’re a band of limited means, so I worked with what I had (laughing). We keep everything in-house to cut costs. We’re like a Mom and Pop store, ya know? No frills. We do everything from scratch. Recording, marketing, etc. We recorded this one ourselves again, and we used ribbon mics, which gave it a warmer tone. I think it really captured it well.
Amps: Obviously, you’ve got Clutch and Black Sabbath influences, and it comes across in the music, but, what is it that makes the BWR sound so unique, so different from ANYTHING else out there?
Rob: I dunno. Maybe that’s why we’re havin’ so many problems (laughs), ’cause we sound different. To me it’s kind of ironic, because when I was in Dust To Dust, the whole nu-metal thing was hot, and everyone wanted to do that, so when I sat down to write music for BWR, it was “I’m not gonna try to do anything different. I wanna write straight-up hard rock. Bluesy, Sabbathy, riff-oriented.” I love to write riffs. But a lot of people tell us we sound different. I guess, because we tried to capture an older sound without breaking any new ground, and people say it’s different. Me. I don’t really see it.
Amps: What’s the title of the new record you have for us this summer?
Rob: It’s called Pissed and Driven. It’s a bit of a play on words, and comes out July 30. It’s got a killer album cover, and we’re excited about it. It’s got 10 tracks, with some bonus tracks on iTunes. The first single “Show No Mercy” was a song where we wanted to come out swingin’, and we feel like the song has got that attitude. All in all, I feel it’s a continuation of the first album, for better or for worse, and we’re getting positive reactions so far from the people we’ve bounced it off of.
Amps: Any chance of a national tour? MORE IMPORTANTLY, are you coming to see us in Texas??
Rob: There’s nothing this band wants more than to do a big tour, get out on the road, and come see everybody. We are working diligently to make that happen. We have been working for the past year on trying to get a tour happening. We’re a band of limited means, we don’t have a lot of money, we don’t have a label, we do everything ourselves. We do have major distribution, so we are in the record stores, and everything’s out there, but part of the problem with doing things on your own, it’s tough to have the pull to get on some tours and have the money to support it. So that’s kind of where we’ve been having some trouble but we are working with some new people for this album, and things are looking promising for us. One way or another we’re gonna get out there, I mean we HAVE to with a new record comin’ out.
Amps: I first saw you guys on tour with King’s X at The Crazy Donkey in NY. How was that for you?
Rob: We were nervous about the King’s X tour. When we got offered the gig, and I’m a huge fan since back in the day, I still have the first record on vinyl, I was very excited,but very nervous. I thought, “These people (the fans) are gonna eat us alive”, because these guys are such incredible musicians and songwriters, and it’s a scary thing to open for them, but we went over great, man. Their crowds embraced us and that really put a lot of fuel in my tank. I just felt like we came full circle as musicians. To play with a band like that, and be accepted by their fans was an awesome experience. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to do another big tour like that for the first album, which I think we needed, but hopefully we will this time around.
Amps: Well look, you find a way down here, and you can stay at my house! I’ll get the air mattresses now, and cook all you guys breakfast!
Rob: (Laughing) Well, Texas is awesome, man! We played two shows at SXSW there in one day.We played the High Times Doobie Awards Show early in the day, and dUg (from King’s X) presented us with the High Times Doobie Award for Best New Rock Band, so that was an awesome experience! And then that evening we played another SXSW show, and that went over really well. We had such a good time. We seem to go over really well in Texas, and we love it there. Folks out in Texas, THEY KNOW THEIR ROCK. They know the riff-driven, hard rock, ya know, shit-kickin’ stuff that needs to be played!! So, come Hell or high water, if I have to just do a tour of NY and Texas, I’ll be happy.
Amps: What’s in your CD player, or iPod these days?
Rob: I’m really into the latest Periphery album. Playin’ that one a lot.I really dig them, kind of like Meshuggah. Just, in your face, with cool time changes. They have a new record comin’ out later this year, and I will definitely be picking that up.
Amps: You’re a big Black Sabbath guy. Any thoughts on the new stuff you’ve heard?
Rob: I’ve only gotten to hear “God Is Dead?”, and I dug it. I mean, come on, it’s Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler, and OZZY, the Voice of Rock & Roll, so what’s not to love, right?
Amps: Last question..so you’re a Dad to twins, huh?
Rob: Yep. Fraternal twins, a boy and a girl named Thomas and Taylor, age 9. I got TNT!! I had a boy and a girl, so that’s it, I’m done (laughing)!
Amps: Hey Rob, thanks so much for taking time out to do this, and I can’t wait for the new record.
Rob: My pleasure, Damian. Take care!
Black Water Rising’s debut CD is in stores and on iTunes now. New album Pissed and Driven comes out July 30.