A&GS was able to sit down with BLACK SWAN singer Robin McAuley to talk about their debut album Shake the World among other things. A very pleasant man to chat with, he broke down how the band came to be as well as the process behind the group’s songwriting. He also had a lot of nice things to say about bandmates Jeff Pilson, Reb Beach, and Matt Starr. Pull up a chair and join us, won’t you?
Amps: I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I can’t believe the way you’re singing this many years into your career. It is truly amazing!
Robin: I don’t think I’m supposed to be doing this at this stage in my career (laughs)! Shouldn’t I be gardening or something?
I gotta tell ya Damian, I’m blessed, it’s my instrument, and I pay a lot of attention to how I sing, and I don’t know if you know this, but I am Irish. I am fiercely proud and I would hate for people to be standing at the back of the room whispering, “Somebody should tell this guy he needs to give this up.” And if the day comes when I see those little elbows and nudges I’ll take a very dignified exit. But not just yet.
Amps: Robin, what part of Ireland are you from? My parents emigrated to the U.S. from Belfast in 1964. And since my late father worked for American Airlines I spent a lot of my childhood there.
Robin: I’m from County Meath, and where I come from is famous for our patron saint, Saint Patrick. I was born very close to where he stood up on the hill and cast out all the snakes. There’s no snakes in Ireland, well except for the two-legged ones (laughs). Belfast is a great city, glad to hear that! Have you ever had the chance to get down south?
Amps: I have been to Dublin many times. My coolest memory is watching the 1994 World Cup match in a bar down there as Ireland downed Italy 1-0. I bought a cool t-shirt that said, “We kicked Italian ass on American Grass!!”
Robin: When I saw your name on the interview sheet I said, “Damian…he’s gotta be Irish.”
Amps: Yeah, I was named after Saint Damien, the Belgian priest who died trying to cure leprosy.
Robin: Oh shit, that didn’t work out too well for him.
Amps: Hey, it could have been worse. My father was Hell-bent on naming me Horatio after Lord Horatio Nelson! My father and my uncle were fighting for Horatio, and my mom and aunt were fighting for Damian or John!
Robin: Whoa! That’s quite a jump! Wow!
Amps: So let’s get into this BLACK SWAN albu-
Robin: (interrupting) No, no let’s stick with this Horatio thing (both of us laughing)! I’m sorry, it’s funny!
Amps: I know it is! But this record is very, very good. There is some truly great stuff going on.
Robin: To get a chance at this stage in my career to work with heavy hitters like Reb Beach and Jeff Pilson, it’s scary. Jeff and I go back a very long way. He was Best Man at my wedding 27 years ago this October. So we have a great history. He also played on the last McAuley Schenker Group studio album with James Kottak on drums and he did a big portion of the U.S. Unplugged tour. Frontiers Music asked him to put a band together and he called Reb because of their work in DOKKEN together. Then he called me and told me he wanted me to sing on it. I asked, “Are you playing bass on it?” And he replied, “No, I’m producing it and getting involved with the songwriting.” I said, “Ehhh, you need to play bass on this.”
Now he had a whole bunch of bass players, good bass players lined up at the time, but as we got deeper into the writing on the album, they became less available. The same thing happened with his list of drummers. But I knew Matt from Raiding the Rock Vault here in Vegas. And I’ve done some events in Hollywood with him, so I mentioned that to Jeff. I texted Jeff and Matt, Matt got the tracks on the back end, and with his playing he absolutely brought the thunder on this thing! So killer, and the production is true Jeff Pilson, the songs are very organic, and I think it’s the best thing I’ve ever done, Damian. That’s how I feel about it.
Amps: Well, four heavy hitters in the band, plus Jeff’s great ear for production, that’s a recipe for success.
Robin: He’s so great, and he’s on ten all the time! There is so much energy that exudes from this man, and you can’t help but get fired up in his presence. He’s just fired up and it’s a great atmosphere to work in. i can’t say enough good things, and Reb, dude, his playing is on fire. It’s just nasty.
Amps: Song-wise the hooks on “Big Disaster”, and “The Rock That Rolled Away” blew me away from the start. The latter is such a driving song! And “Divided United” was one I didn’t see comin’.
Robin: “The Rock”, that was a Pilson idea. He did a guide vocal on it, and it just turned out killer. You’ve gotta play that one LOUD. With “Divided” He had just seen Bohemian Rhapsody, so at midnight my phone starts jumping off the shelf. Jeff sends me an mp3 and asked what I thought. I went in to do it, and he says, “OK. That’s Part A.” And I said, “Part A? What the Hell?” Then Reb came in and nailed Part B and it took the song to another level.
Amps: Your personal favorite – don’t think…GO!
Robin: “Shake the World,” no question.
Amps: Away from your own stuff, what are you listening to these days?
Robin: Being Irish I love THE CHIEFTAINS. I recently discovered on YouTube the band DYNAZTY. They are amazing! I am also a big SABATON and NIGHTWISH fan. Have you seen SABATON live?
Amps: All bands I love very much. I’ve seen SABATON several times. They are one of the most high-energy bands I’ve ever witnessed live!
Robin: Dude, they are awesome! So that’s my kind of go-to stuff.
Amps: What would Robin McAuley, world-renowned singer and recording artist, like to say to all his fans out there?
Robin: Oh my God, make it easy, huh? Very simple, and I mean this. I know it sounds cheesy but I am very blessed and very grateful that anyone would even waste their time listening to me singing. But BLACK SWAN is just a great band. I never expected for a second that at this stage of my career I would be recording something as powerful and heartfelt. Family is great, God is good, and keep your rock hard!
There you have it. My conversation with Robin McAuley. I hope you all can get a feel for how much fun this interview was for me, and there was quite a bit of laughter. That’s what happens when you get two Irish guys on the line! Seriously though, if you haven’t already, go out and buy BLACK SWAN’S debut Shake the World, out now on Frontiers Music. You’ll be glad you did.