Rob Caggiano Opens Up About Anthrax Split, Joining Volbeat + His Proudest Moments (EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW)
Since vacating his spot as lead guitarist in Anthrax on January 4th, Rob Caggiano‘s stock-in-metal has only gone up. The New York-bred guitarist, who has also made a name for himself behind the boards, producing records for the likes of Cradle of Filth, A Life Once Lost, singer-songwriter Jesse Malin, themselves, hit the metal world’s collective radar when he headed to Denmark shortly after leaving to produce the upcoming record from Volbeat – but became the band’s lead guitarist in the process!
Not a surprise, really, when you take into account just how prolific, Caggiano has been over the course of his career. In addition to playing in Anthrax, he formed The Damned Things with fellow ‘Thrax-er Scott Ian and members of Everytime I Die and Fall Out Boy. He’s stuck his thumb into the world of black metal, helping to mix records by the likes of God Seed and even contributing a solo to the latest album from Sweden’s notorious, The Shining. There’s even a long-threatened collaboration between black metal mainstay, Tom “King Ov Hell” Cato and Cradle’s Dani Filth called Temple of the Black Moon on the horizon. The guy practically eats metal for breakfast!
Noisecreep caught up with Rob in scenic Lubbock, Texas on Volbeat’s current U.S. tour to talk about everything from his first band to producing a track with none other than Bruce Springsteen.
How did you end up joining Volbeat so soon after leaving Anthrax?
When I left Anthrax, Michael (Poulsen-Volbeat singer, guitarist and mainguy) caught wind of things and called me up to see if I was interested in flying over to Copenhagen to produce their new record. When the Damned Things were opening for Volbeat a few years ago, those guys really liked the way the Damned things record sounded and we flirted around with the idea of us working together back then but my schedule being what it was it just never seemed likely to happen.
But now it was perfect timing. I’m a huge fan of the band. Michael also asked me if I would jam a couple solos on the record and of course I said yes. When I finally got to Copenhagen though and we finally started going over the songs for the new record, a bunch of stuff was already finished but there were also a few songs that weren’t. Michael would ask me ‘What do you hear in this section Rob? What would you do here?’ We started collaborating. Of course I had tons of ideas and everything we tried really seemed to work great for the songs. We were having fun! The vibe and chemistry was just killer and I was being creative again which is something I haven’t been able to do in a long time.
Shortly after this we started the actual tracking and as the record starting to take shape I ended up playing more and more guitar on the songs. One thing led to another and a little more than two weeks into the process, Michael and the guys asked me: ‘Would you consider being in the band?’ I didn’t expect that at all and I basically told them I was flattered but I wanted to sleep on it and continue that conversation in the morning. [laughs] When I went back to my room that night I seriously thought about things and it definitely didn’t take me long to realize this was the perfect situation for me. I came in the next morning and told everyone ‘I’m in!’ That’s basically how it went down.
From there, my role changed dramatically. I went from being the producer on the album to now being the new guitar player in the band as well. My guitar playing duties were greatly multiplied and rightfully so but it also opened up a lot of musical doors for me so to speak. We were able to try lots of different things in the studio even down to the guitar arrangement throughout the album. As it turns out my guitar is on the Left, Michael is on Right, Anders is in the middle and Jon is everywhere…..it’s the full sound of a band in high gear. This also goes along with what I wanted to accomplish as a producer on this record and what I wanted to capture on tape. Anyway, that’s basically how it all went down.
The obvious question: why did you leave Anthrax?
I felt like I was spinning my wheels to be honest. My heart wasn’t into it anymore. I think the main reason is that Anthrax was never a creative outlet and it just got to a point where I realized there was no emotional attachment to the music for me at all. It wasn’t by any choice of my own. It’s just simply the way those guys roll and that’s how they do their thing. There’s nothing wrong with that but at the same time, I needed to make a change for myself. I just wasn’t happy. I’m a musician and I’m a creative person. At the end of the day, I think they really understand why I left. I’m extremely proud of everything we accomplished together over the years. I love everything I did with them. We made 2 great records together. We played tons of killer shows all over the world but the fact that there was no emotional investment in it for me became more and more obvious.
What are some of your best memories of being in Anthrax?
Well, we did play Yankee Stadium, which was insane. That’s something I never dreamed that I would do.. It was a great day. I’m also really proud of the latest Anthrax record, Worship Music. I think it’s a very strong record and the fan response has been amazing. I really think I left those guys on a high note. The band is definitely on fire right now and they’re kicking ass all over the place.
Watch Anthrax’s ‘The Devil You Know’ Video
OK, let’s go back 12 years. How did you come to join Anthrax?
Well I was a humungous Anthrax fan when I was a kid. The whole New York music scene is pretty small and we had a lot of the same friends and I definitely let it be known that I wanted to play with those guys. One thing led to another and we did an audition. I was pretty nervous! [laughs] With those guys it clicked from the beginning though and it went on from there. They’re like my second family. I love those guys!
As a producer, who is very involved in the production and songwriting aspects of bands, what is it you “go for” when making records?
Every band is different and every record is different. I take the approach that I think people used to take years ago. Back in the day, you’d buy a Van Halen record or a Metallica record and all of those records sounded completely different but they each sounded like their own thing. They sounded like the band! A lot of times today, you buy a record and more often than not you get the sound of the producer or worse…the sound of the producer’s computer!! To me that’s lame. I think that every record should have it’s own vibe and character. That’s what I try to do from record to record. With Volbeat, what I really wanted to do was capture the energy and vibe of the live show, which I feel was something lacking a little bit on their previous records. I feel like on this one we really did capture a vibe and some moo.
What was your goal as a producer on the two Anthrax records – We’ve Come For You All and Worship Music – that you worked on?
The thing with Anthrax is that you’re dealing with a band that’s been around for so long and they’ve been doing things a certain way for so long. There’s a certain magic that happens when those guys are playing together. With them it’s a matter of just capturing that on tape, making sure the performances are cool and everything feels good. As a producer there’s a fine line between things having soul and vibe or overproducing the life out of something, which I feel happens a lot today with technology being what it is. It’s a hard thing. It’s hard to have that kind of restraint and let things get loose. It definitely took me quite a while to learn that. Again, Anthrax is one of those bands where if you don’t capture the energy it’s not going to work. I think we did that on Worship Music.
What did you learn from some of the other records you’ve worked on: Cradle of Filth’s Nymphetamine, the Jesse Malin record you worked on (2007’s Glitter in the Gutter) for example.
The Cradle record was a huge learning experience. I love those guys. But making that record really was about approaching music from a different angle than what I was previously used to. That record made me a better producer and musician. I think we made a phenomenal record. We tried a lot of different stuff for them. I think I made those guys go down a road or two they normally wouldn’t have and I think the record came out stronger for that. It was a real collaboration. That song ‘Nymphetamine’ really came together in the studio. It was originally a lot slower and I was like “you gotta move people here!” So we sped it up a bit and tried it a few different ways and the one we ended up with worked really well. It got nominated for a Grammy in 2005.
The Jesse Malin record was another amazing experience. It showed a different side of me on many levels. Musically it was very different to anything I had done up until that point. There were also a lot of killer guest artists (Ryan Adams, Josh Homme, Bruce Springsteen) on that one. I got to produce and record Bruce Springsteen! Other than a handful of people out there, who else can say that?? It’s crazy when I think about it. I truly feel blessed for some of things I’ve accomplished and the opportunities I’ve had over the years. Anyway Jesse’s a phenomenal songwriter. I love what he does and I have a huge respect for him. He’s a killer lyricist and writes beautiful tunes that are haunted by the spirit of New York City. I was honored to be a part of that record.
Watch ‘We’ve Got a Situation Here’ Video
What’s up with the Damned Things right now?
That’s a good question! I’m not really sure. It’s a bit of a scheduling fiasco. Fall Out Boy is doing their thing right now and they’re getting really busy with that stuff. Anthrax is also doing their thing and I’m about to start some heavy touring with Volbeat. There are some emails going back and forth about the possibility of doing a new record and I definitely think it will happen at some point. I think it’s something we would all like to do because we had a blast making the last one and playing shows together. It’s just a question of when, where and how.
You’ve been working on a band called Temple of the Black Moon with King Ov Hell from Gorgoroth/God Seed and Dani Filth for quite some time now. What’s going on with that?
Temple of the Black Moon is something that Tom AKA King and I have been trying to put together for some time now. Musically, it’s a melting pot of a lot of different styles. Tom and I write and approach music from two different angles and it seems to work really well. There’s a dark energy about the writing, the tunes and the riffs. Of course, Dani Filth is involved and he has his own trip and a very unique approach as well. We wrote a lot of that music on Skype over the last 6 years or so while also getting together a bunch of times. It’s a hard one because we all live in different countries but I think at some point we’re going to be putting something out. We have enough material for two records at this point!
Right now my priority is Volbeat and I’m going to be crazy busy with this album cycle and beyond. There is somewhat of a plan. I’m just not sure what it is! [laughs] What would you like to accomplish that you haven’t done so far? Two things come to mind. I’d like to finally win a Grammy after being nominated twice now! (For producing Cradle of Filth and Anthrax) [laughs] Not that it really means a huge amount at the end of the day. It’s just something cool. It’s not a validation of anything. It’s just kind of annoying to have been nominated twice already without winning! (laughs). I also think a Grammy with my name on it would make the most amazing gift for my mom and dad….I’m working on it! [laughs]
The second thing that comes to mind is that it’s always been one of my dreams to play Madison Square Garden in New York City. That’s one of those venues, that’s a dream for any musician growing up in New York. It’s also a legendary venue on a worldwide level. But we did end up playing Yankee Stadium on ‘The Big Four’ show with Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth and Anthrax, which I think even trumps the Garden! Being a Yankees fan and being from New York, being able to play Yankee Stadium is almost unbelievable but the Garden is still on my list.
It’s funny, it seems more people know your name now since you’ve left Anthrax and joined Volbeat, than every before. Does that surprise you?
Really?! I never thought about that. It’s so crazy the way this whole thing rolled out. I feel like my life has been a tornado over the past few months. For me, it was a very emotional and scary step leaving Anthrax and then not knowing what I was going to do next. I feel extremely lucky and blessed by the way things panned out. I haven’t really stopped to think about what people are saying out there. I’m just following my heart. If what you say is true, then that’s cool. At least they’re talking.
Volbeat’s new album, Outlaw Gentlemen & Shady Ladies, on April 9 and can be pre-ordered here.