Interview with guitarist Dave Raymond | By Charlie Steffens
Rubikon is an emerging band made up of five musicians with a blues, metal, and stoner rock vibe: like a big swig of Queens of the Stone Age with a Led Zeppelin back chaser. If limited to genre descriptions and band names, however, does not do them justice.
Rubikon’s new album, Delta, was recorded in Nashville at Quad Studios (Neil Young, Steve Winwood, Taylor Swift), produced by Marti Frederiksen (Aerosmith, Brother Cane), mixed by Alain Johannes (Queens of the Stone Age, Them Crooked Vultures), and mastered by by Howie Weinberg (Metallica, Nirvana). The album drops on August 21, 2015 on Round Hill Records.
Guitarist Dave Raymond checks in to talk about the new record.
When Rubikon reformed in 2009, did you have a different kind of zeal than before—like a brand new band does before the inevitable post-honeymoon feeling fades?
Oh yes, absolutely. We stopped touring full-time in late 2005, and soon after some of us moved around the country for various reasons. To be honest though, we never really stopped jamming during those years – it was just much less frequent than what we were used to. However, once Josh joined the squad we were absolutely reinvigorated. There’s no question about that. He brought new energy into the band, and we’ve been having a great time playing together since then.
When you began the writing process of Delta, kicking around ideas, was it a collaborative thing where each person contributed in the music and lyrics? Or, is there one lyricist, one riffmaster, etc.?
We all kick ideas around until we either hit that “ah-ha!” moment or we’re beating a dead horse. And trust me, we will absolutely whale on that dead horse for HOURS. It can be challenging, but when you find the right riff or part, it’s a great feeling. Sometimes folks come in with fully formed ideas, but even then, we put them into the meat grinder and they come out differently at the other end. Luckily we are all rather respectful of each other, so we don’t take it personally when something doesn’t quite cut it.
The record was produced, mixed, and mastered by three of the industry’s best. How was the overall experience working with Marti Frederiksen in the studio?
Marti’s great, he’s easygoing and a lot of fun to work with. When something isn’t quite to his ears though, he can be tenacious – for example, the initial snare sound on a few tunes was bugging him. We tried some things, moved on, and then the next day he’d come back and say, “That snare is still bugging me, we have to try again,” so we’d go back and track the tune again. I really appreciated having a set of ears like that in our corner while we made this album, I can tell you that much.
Did Marti say something like, “Hey, I think Suzie McNeill would be perfect for “Sermon,” or were you already acquainted with her?
Marti was working down the hall with Suzie, a wonderful mandolin player named Elisha Hoffman (who jammed with us on “Wasting Time”), and a bunch of other super talented artists – they were prepping for an upcoming performance they had with Steven Tyler, where they did countrified takes on a bunch of Aerosmith classics. We met them all, had some laughs, and our drummer even sang with them while they jammed on “What It Takes.” So, we became fast friends and simply asked Suzie and Elisha if they would help us out – it was that easy. Suzie played harmonica on “Swingers” for us as well, which was fantastic.
How are guitar duties distributed between you and Josh?
Generally, I hold down the rhythm and he provides counterpoints, textures, and most of the solos. It depends on what kind of feel we’re going for. We wanted a raw, gritty feel on the “Three Days” solo, so I did that one. For “Live That Lie,” we wanted a bluesy, almost jam-band vibe, and Josh killed that one. It really depends on the tune.
Your banjo-playing abilities really shine on “Wasting Time.” When did you start playing banjo? Guitar? Who are the players that influenced you?
Thanks, I appreciate that! I’ve been playing banjo for about a year, but I’ve been playing guitar for more than twenty years so I think that helped me pick up the banjo. My influences range from Dimebag, Eddie Van Halen, Randy Rhoads, Steve Vai and Tom Morello to Trey Anastasio, John Scofield and Dave Knudsen (he’s criminally underrated, plays with Minus the Bear, formerly of mathcore geniuses Botch). There are a ton of other players I could add to that list, too; those are just the first few that pop into my head right now.
Rubikon’s musical range is varied, for sure. Delta has so many elements, yet track-to-track it’s a really cohesive album. What flavor/influence does each member bring to the band?
We all share a deep, abiding love of rock and roll, and I mean that in the broadest way possible. If I had to get specific, I’d say Jae brings the Southern rock and gospel flavor, Doug brings the hip-hop and old soul, Hughie is the funk master, Josh is the jam band and blues vibe, and I’m the metalhead. And I’m a very proud metalhead, at that.
“Through the Looking Glass” is so Steely Dan-sounding. It has a Gerry Rafferty vibe with the keys and vocals, too. Are you guys all ’70s rock heads?
You know that dead horse thing I mentioned? “Through the Looking Glass” was one of the tunes that almost got sent to the glue factory. We were bouncing all sorts of ideas around for that one, and what really tied it together in the end were the keyboards. We were fortunate enough to have the legendary Reese Wynans of Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble sit in and play Fender Rhoads and Hammond B3 with us. Man, what a treat THAT was, just watching a real pro at work. Awesome guy as well. He’s really the guy that made that song work for all of us – the feeling he adds to the track is just amazing.
We are all bananas about Steely Dan (and ’70s rock in general) as well, glad it seems to have rubbed off on us a little.
Any summer touring plans?
By touring do you mean, “Drinking canned beer out in the sun”? Then yes, we are touring all summer. Kidding – actually, we are looking to do some touring this fall so we’re basically hanging out and preparing for that.
In closing, what would you like to say about the album?
First, thanks for your great questions, I really enjoyed answering them. I am most interested in folks hearing our music and seeing what people think. We had a great time writing and recording Delta, so I’m hoping people can feel that in the music.