When POP EVIL hit Dallas earlier in 2014 I managed to snag an interview with drummer Chachi Riot on the bus a few hours before showtime. He had just come back from working out so he was all revved up, and ready to rock. He’s also pretty funny and a great guy to talk to. He’s the kind of guy you could watch a game with and/or talk sports with all night long. Just a really cool person, and I’m so glad I got to do this. Check it:
Amps: First up, since you’re a Michigan fan…what your thoughts on the Wolverines’ 2014 football season?
Chachi: Man, you know this coming season we got his young kid at quarterback. We need to rebound. I’m not a huge dual threat quarterback kind of guy. I call those guys coach killers, even in the NFL. Everyone can be all “RGIII” this and “Michael Vick” that, but answer this: how many Super Bowl wins do they have? Zero. Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Joe Montana…look at all those guys who have gotten it done. Even Colin Kaepernick now, yeah he’s good, but he’s better since he started THROWING the ball. If your last resort is to run I’m cool with that, but you need to be a passing quarterback to succeed. The Big 10 conference is kind of weak, so Michigan shouldn’t lose more than three games. The conference DID show up for bowl games though, I was surprised! And I hate Ohio State. (Amps vigorously agrees!)
I don’t know if you’ve seen my kit but I’m a HUUUUGE Red Wings fan and the front of my drum head is their logo. And we played Chicago and it was like three nights after we beat the Blackhawks, and my manager’s like, “You gotta take that off, man.” I said, “No way!” I’m not gonna change who I am to please somebody else. That’s not Rock & Roll, man. People who are hockey fans will respect that I’m a Wings fan. You don’t back down, man. This is Hockeytown, c’mon!
Chachi: It’s good! We’ve e been slowly progressing on a very steady incline, no flash in the pan, which is good. I grew up like these guys, I’m from Michigan, I was in a band that was chasing them out of Grand Rapids, and I did the van thing, I’ve worked hard, I paid my dues and the band collectively has done so. It’s really starting to take shape and come to fruition. Onyx is obviously the first album I’ve been a part of the writing. I came on before War of Angels was out but I didn’t write on the record, so it’s exciting.
I’m still very, very hungry and this album if anything has motivated me. People ask me, “What is it like to have two #1 singles,” and I’m like, “I’m starving!” (laughs). It doesn’t feel like I’ve accomplished anything yet in the grand scheme of things. We’re still a very young baby band and I think all of us individually and collectively grew up. We’re no longer out her trying to pour four shots a day and go onstage hammered and play like shit. We’re here to work hard and pave the road for other bands and show that good songwriting, hard work, and a good live show are what it takes to get to the top.
Amps: I have to be honest with you. The first two POP EVIL records didn’t really do it for me. It wasn’t until Onyx that I feel you guys really hit your stride.
Chachi: (Clapping) thank you! Obviously I’m biased, but I think the same thing. Even when I got the call asking me to join, I was like, “Dave (Grahs, guitar) I don’t love all of POP EVIL’S stuff, man.” I was into more of a dirtier QOTSA, Zeppelin kind of feel. POP EVIL was known for very radio-safe, safe is the word I’m gonna use. Nothing about them on record was really doing it for me. Their live show was always insane though, and they were true road dogs, which I loved and respected. They could throw down live, but none of their songs really stood out to me. “100 in a 55” was pretty great but it was a ballad, so it wasn’t getting as much rock love as it should have. On this record I brought Nick (Fuelling, guitar) in the band, he’s one of my best friends for the last 10 years. And we really only got the tip of the iceberg. I was in the band a little over a year and Nick was in the band three months when we wrote the record.
So this is only a taste of our efforts in this band. If anything my major contribution was collaborating with Matt on some of the more industrial feels, but also morale. I’m younger, I’m high-energy. We use a lot of sports references in the band because a lot of us were athletes growing up. Leigh (Kakaty, vocals) is notorious for saying that we can’t all be LeBron. He’s the lead singer, so he’s LeBron. My guy, on the field, in the band, whatever, I wanna be the guy that makes everyone in the band around me better.
Shane Battier, he may not be the best player in the NBA but how many rings does he have? Two. And that’s because he makes the people around him better. We can’t all be the stud. It takes a level of maturity to sit back and be like, “Dude, relax. Everyone will get their time to shine.”
Amps: Onyx will be out a year in May. Are you at all surprised by the legs this record has?
Chachi: I think even when you’re confident in your own work you still get surprised. I honestly felt really great about this record. I thought that we hadn’t necessarily broken in completely what we’re all capable of but we finally stepped our foot out of the box. As soon as we cut “Trenches” and “Deal With the Devil” I was like, “These might have some legs. These might do something.” And the farther they got into production and the closer they came to a finished product I was like, “Dude…what if this is it? What if this is our first #1??” And of course I’m a massive dreamer, but it happened. And that just sets the bar higher. It adds pressure, but a good and competitive pressure. War of Angels was a lot to live up to for me because I wasn’t on it. I wanted the first record I played on to be better. If the next record was less successful I probably would’ve thought, “Well, shit. Maybe I shouldn’t be in the band!” I mean, that’s not solely the case, but War of Angels had four songs that charted and three of ‘em went Top 10. That was a lot to live up to. But then we came out with this one, two #1’s in a row, so now I think our expectations are getting higher, fans are starting to know who we are. And that’s a very good feeling to have. We’re comin’!
Amps: “Deal With the Devil” is my favorite off Onyx with “Flawed” right behind it. And my reasoning for that is I feel the opening one-two and the closer of an album are SO important. And “Flawed” is the perfect closer.
Chachi: It’s so funny you say that because I thought “Flawed” was the album opener, or at least our live opener. And George (Cappellini, G&G Entertainment) our manager immediately upon choosing songs goes, “’Flawed’ is a killer ending.” And it has gone over extremely well live. I don’t know if we’ll be lucky enough to have potential for a single, but I love playing it. “Trenches” is one of my favorites and “Torn” might be the best lyrical song Leigh’s ever written. I lost my grandmother so that’s a very personal song for me. I also really like playing “Sixth Sense”. That’s kind of a dark horse on the record.
Amps: How long are we planning to tour and what’s the timetable for a new record?
Chachi: Whew, I don’t know. We talked about that today and there’s some ideas being thrown around. Definitely not this year as far as a record goes. We’re touring like crazy for the rest of 2014 and probably headlining a really great package. I can’t say what, but it’ll be awesome.
Amps: Of course you’ll have to come back here to Dallas then.
Chachi: We don’t come to Texas enough! Texas is tough in that some cities are a lot more open and more metal than others. I remember San Antonio was a tough city for us, but that makes me hungry to come back and prove myself. I’ll never run from a city that didn’t like us. We have five different ethnicities in our band, we have the word POP in our band, so we have a ton of reasons to hate on us (laughs). So I’m all about walking up to ‘em and saying, “You can hate us all you want, but what about our live show?”
Chachi: Ohhhh, this could get embarrassing. I have everything from ABBA to Michael Bublé to METALLICA, Norah Jones, 3 INCHES OF BLOOD, RASCAL FLATTS, LADY GAGA, I have every ZEPPELIN album in there. I’m ALL OVER the place!!
Amps: Tell me ONE thing about you that people might not know.
Chachi: I have a “Mom” tattoo on my leg but I have to have some really short shorts on for people to see that. I don’t know, man. I don’t have any deep, dark secrets. I’m so active on social media, I ho it out (laughs). Other than my family and my girlfriend, the two most important things in my life, I’m a Cross Fit maniac, but you guys all know that. You CAN’T get people that like to Cross Fit started, because it’s like “Whoa! Pump your brakes!!” (laughs).
Amps: What would you like to say to all the POP EVIL fans?
Chachi: Thank you guys so much for an insane 2013 and 2014 so far! I can’t thank you guys enough, and I’m so humbled by the success of this record, and I promise you this is only the beginning, the tip of the iceberg of what this band can do. Thank you, guys!
As I write this I’m just found out that POP EVIL will be back here in Dallas for our rock radio station 97.1’s BFD show on June 1, and I can’t wait! Chachi is definitely one of the most fun interviews I’ve had, and I also loved his honesty about his own band’s work. I do have to say though, things get UUUUGLY if you bring up the Chicago Blackhawks, as I learned after the recorder was off. He hates them like I hate the NJ Devils. Great guy, killer live band, POP EVIL is hell-bent on World Domination. Watch out, ‘cause they just might get it!