CJ Snare, frontman for 25 years now in FIREHOUSE, has a new band featuring his best friend, virtuoso guitarist Chris Green (PRIDE and FURYON). They are RUBICON CROSS and quite frankly, they fucking kick ass. Our review of the self-titled record which is due out on May 19 will be up soon. In the meantime I was able to get CJ on the phone to talk about all that’s going on with RUBICON CROSS and a little bit about what FIREHOUSE is up to as well. Lookee:
Amps: So, this is a bit heavier than previous work. How’d that feel to flex the musical muscles a bit?
CJ: It is flexing the muscles in a way, but I wanted to do a departure from FIREHOUSE. I mean, my voice is my voice, so instead of higher harmonies I would do some lower stuff, maybe use a different effect on my vocals here or there. And you know I’ve got this very aggressive band behind me. My roots are in metal. FIREHOUSE started out as a hard rock/heavy metal outfit for its time. I wanted to do something more between hard rock and heavy metal for 2014. We released an EP a year or two ago and not a lot of journalists wrote about it, but it allowed me to do something very special, and that was to jump genres and get out of that melodic hard rock mold for a bit. FIREHOUSE is still there, and we’re still touring, but this is my artistic expression and that means I’ve been able to achieve my goal of establishing a new entity with RUBICON CROSS.
Amps: I do love the name, by the way. That’s a name made for t-shirts everywhere!
CJ: (Laughing) yeah, people have said to me, “Is this a religious band?” and I say, “Fuck, no!” It’s actually something that our guitar player Chris’ (Green) dad says, who’s English. It’s from back in ancient Rome. Crossing the Rubicon was an inexorable act and you’ve gone past the point of no return. There IS no turning back. And that’s how we felt with this project. It HAD to be made because when Chris and I got together it was a natural chemistry. We’ve been Best Man at each other’s weddings, been through break-ups, deaths, divorces, births, everything! We’re family members and all of those emotions are expressed in this record. And we’re not trying to play off the backs of past successes or anything like that. We want this to be more of a discovery to the listening audience.
Amps: Do you feel that the close bond you and Chris (Green, guitar) had as friends helped make the creative process easier as bandmates?
CJ: Oh, absolutely. We started writing before, and it was gonna be a CJ Snare solo project, but it was just like, “Man I can’t do that. You’re contributing so much. Our lives are reflected in these songs.” And THAT’S where I think the audience is gonna connect because it’s real everyday stuff. “Bleed With Me” is about people coming together in the face of adversity and coming out better for it. In our case a band of brothers, a band doing what we have to do. And in researching for the lyrics I found that the term was used in the movie Braveheart, and was also used by William Shakespeare, and the United States Marine Corps has a saying that they tattoo on themselves; “Bleed with me and you will forever be my brother.” So yes the relationship made it easier because a lot of these songs are about what happened to us. Being dumped, having someone close to us die, children being born, adversity, things like that.
Amps: How excited are you for the world to hear this band?
CJ: I’m kind of holding my breath. It’s different and I certainly don’t want people to pigeonhole us with my Mothership band. There’s obviously gonna be people who hate it and some who love it, and we’ll bring some of our old crowd along as well as a newer demographic. I’ve been looking at some of the initial reactions to the video and we have a real good batting average of 90-95% of people who are diggin’ it. I’m real pumped about it and real excited. We have a lot of things going for us right now.
CJ: Oh yeah, we’re gonna hit the road. We just can’t conflict with any of the other projects we have going on. Also we want to assess where the best places to play are after we see the radio reaction and sales response. We’ll go to these markets hopefully in the fall.
Amps: *Dallas* *cough, cough* *Dallas* I’m sorry, must be getting a cold!
CJ: (Laughing) we’ll come to Dallas, dude.
Amps: If you HAD to pick one song as a favorite, what would it be and why?
CJ: It would probably be a different song on a different day because that’s how I feel. Right now we have a song called “Next Worst Enemy” and I’m recently divorced and I moved back to Florida where my family is and that song wasn’t written about her, but about someone that Chris had a break-up with. She dumped him and started dating someone else so I told him to fly over from England and come stay with me. We’re standing in my kitchen and he looks at me and says, “Mate, I feel like I’ve been the victim of hit-and-run, serial monogamy.” And then I said, “It’s like you meet a new lover, they can become your best friend and then suddenly they’re your next worst enemy“ And we looked at each other and went right to my studio and wrote it.
You know it’s over, she’s checked out, but you still wanna work on it, but she’s not having any of it, then all of a sudden she’s your adversary when she was once your best friend and lover. There’s another one called “You Will Remember Me” that’s more of a Fuck You song. Then again there’s a song like “Bleed With Me” that’s about a bond between brothers, the guys in the band. We go out to bring our A-game! You bought a ticket? Then we’re gonna entertain you and leave it all on the stage and we want you to walk away like, “Holy shit! What just happened?”
Amps: You’ve toured all over the world. Do you have a favorite country, city, or venue to play? Any one that stands out?
CJ: There are so many cool ones. We were just in Southeast Asia. I’m particularly fond of Thailand. We did Arthur’s Day in Indonesia for Arthur Guinness. Guinness beer sponsored us, and it was really cool. I love Southeast Asia, I really do. But then again I really loved Egypt before all the shit went down. Beijing was great, too because there’s so much history there. Prague is great because of all the castles…it’s hard to pick just one, you know? And I don’t wanna alienate any other country or they might beat my ass (laughs)!!
Amps: With all that you’ve experienced, how have you changed, as a writer/performer, and as a person?
CJ: As a writer and performer I think it’s made me…well here’s the thing. This has given me a renewed hunger and a renewed intensity to start over again and have that same sense of excitement like when that first FIREHOUSE record was coming out. All these experiences that became fodder for these songs have helped me grow as a person and as a performer. When I step behind the microphone and onto a stage I consider myself a vocal actor, but those emotions have to come from a real place. I have to feel what I’m singing about. I had someone tell me years ago, a famous singer, and it was the best thing he said singer to singer. He said, “Just. Sing. With. Emotion.” And that has always stuck with me. And with the passage of time you have a larger palette of emotions to draw from.
Amps: After the album/tour cycle is complete, what’s next for RUBICON CROSS, and CJ Snare?
CJ: That’s a good question, ’cause in this day and age with the music industry it’s a roll of the dice, isn’t it? This could fall flat on its face, or it could take off or something in between. So that’s a very difficult question for me to answer without a crystal ball. I can tell you what I will do, and that is continue making music through any vehicle that I can, be it FIREHOUSE, be it RUBICON CROSS, be it my own things; I’ve mixed for other artists, too. I’ll keep making music for as long as I’m able to and as far as live stuff I’ll keep doing it as long as people keep coming out and supporting it.
Amps: By the way, on the FIREHOUSE FRONT, I think 3 is THE best record you guys ever did.
CJ: Thank you!! Bill (Leverty, FIREHOUSE guitarist) and I are so proud of that record! I was proud of all the writing that we did, but that was when there was a big upheaval in the music industry, and it was evolutionary like any art. So we were trying to stay true to our roots, yet somehow grow artistically and Bill and I put so much into the writing of that. So, thanks man! Thank you very much! That means a lot. I can’t wait to pass that onto Bill.
Amps: Say something to the fans out there.
CJ: Come to a show. And on May 19, it’s important for you to get this music in your ears, and bleed with RUBICON CROSS. You’ve gotta cast your vote. We get pennies and dimes on each sale, but you know what? That’s how we make our living. And the more votes that are cast the more dimes we make. If you love music go out and support your favorite bands otherwise you’re gonna end up with a lot of hacks out there and we’re gonna lose the arts. Like Uncle Sam, RUBICON CROSS WANTS YOU!
I’ll just wrap it up here, because CJ said it best. Get out and BUY music, people!!! Support your bands or they’ll be gone! RUBICON CROSS comes out May 19. Head on over to your local retailer, iTunes, wherever, just DO it!!