Grand Rapids, MI rocker Pop Evil are on the road promoting their latest release, "Onyx." In anticipation of two special home state shows coming up at The Machine Shop, drummer Chachi Riot and guitarist Nick Fuelling took some time out of their day to talk to us regarding these shows, their influences, and Carly Rae Jepson...
Chachi: Hey, what's up?
Todd: Hey, what's going on? This is Todd.
Chachi: This is Chachi and this is Pop Evil.
Todd: Oh, awesome, Chachi. How you doing?
Chachi: I'm doing very well.
Todd: Is Nick going to join or just you and I?
Chachi: No, Nick is here - Nick is right here also.
Todd: Oh, okay, cool. How you doing, Nick?
Todd: Awesome. Well, let's jump into this, guys. You guys are out on the road touring, and it looks like most of these shows are sell-outs. How's the tour going so far?
Chachi: It's been pretty insane, man. The guys from Stone Sour are stand-up guys, they're super accommodating and polite, and the shows have been awesome. A lot of markets we've seen before and a few new ones, and, like you said already, you can't complain with sold-out shows.
Todd: Like you said, you're out with Stone Sour. In this day and age, so many people are so protective of their bands. Do you find yourself winning over some of those crowds that maybe went to see Stone Sour, that they're walking away a Pop Evil fan?
Nick: Yeah, I mean, the response has been really good. You kind of go into this without many expectations at all, just kind of keep your mind open, and I think the response has been better than any of us expected, you know? The crowds have been getting amped. They're singing the words back, and it's just been awesome.
Todd: Okay. This kind of tour, again, you've got something like Stone Sour and they got Corey, and they bring a big following. But you guys are doing some one-off shows, I know you guys got one coming up at The Machine Shop and I want to talk about that. But that show is sold out. I mean, when you guys are holding your own weight, how good does that feel to know that you guys are doing sell-outs on your own as well, it's not anyone else's draw, it's not anyone else's crowd, it's you guys doing it?
Chachi: It's humbling, man. It's really exciting. We've also kind of been told we had a really good following coming to these shows as well. Obviously Corey is a phenom, and what he's done for the rock and metal world is amazing, and that's something I think all of us originally aspire to do but we are here, and hopefully we're still working on paying our dues. We are very thankful for the response we've been given and hopefully 2014 just keeps continuing on from where we're starting it off with.
Todd: You guys are out touring behind "Onyx," which is the first album to feature both of you guys in the band. Take us through that process. What was it like to actually go into a studio and put your thoughts and your feelings and your emotions into a product? Especially you, Nick, who actually had a songwriting credit on the opening track, "Goodbye My Friend"?
Nick: It's kind of ridiculous when I look back on it. You know, when I got into this project there were no expectations, again. I was just the filling, you know? They were auditioning other players and I ended up sticking around. And just to go into the studio and actually have some of my riffs that actually made the record, it was, I don't know. I look back on it and it's definitely humbling. It's just really cool to see your name on that kind of finished product, and to see the response that it's getting.
Todd: And we want to get you, Chachi. It takes a lot for someone to keep a band like Pop Evil on time and moving. So what was your thought to go into the studio and also put your two cents on it?
Chachi: I was excited, man. I was nervous. I had pretty high expectations of myself and of the band. "War of Angels" was a pretty successful record, and I wanted to make sure that my first effort with the band ideally would do better. Whether that means in sales or however you can measure success in art, but I'm very competitive and I have a pretty good work ethic. We do a lot of sports comparisons and I didn't expect to go in to the studio and be LeBron James, but I wanted to be the guy that got into the studio and made everyone else around me better; whether that was from work ethic, or just a positive attitude, whatever I could do to make everyone else better, in the long run is going to make the album that much better. We were just all there. Everyone was very supportive and it was a great opportunity and experience, and a learning and growing experience that has me looking forward to the next record that much more.
Todd: Cool. You guys, now you got really big shoes to fill. "Onyx" is huge, a great another rock record, but more than that, you guys put the single "Trenches." On this thing, you got the Radio Contraband song of the year for 2013. It's a cohesive album from the first note to the last, the songwriting is there. It's not an album with one or two good songs, it's an album full of just great songs. How do you guys follow that up? Have you guys already put some thought into that? Have you put any creative juices towards the next effort yet?
Nick: Out on the road you're even, we're constantly writing. All individually, you know, we kind of do our own thing, just kind of getting ideas put together and we're pitching them back and forth to each other already. I think already we're pretty excited about just to get back in there. Who knows when that's going to be, but we're confident and we're ready to go.
Chachi: We kind of feel like "Onyx" was really just the tip of the iceberg with this team of five that we have. We were put in there, with Nick and I especially maybe lacking some of the confidence that we have now in the band. I don't know if we were rushed, but we definitely weren't given a lot of time to write that record. You know, we had just changed half the members, we went in there, didn't know what the cohesiveness would be like, and now we're going to have at least a year plus, maybe two years under our belt together and be that much more comfortable and confident for this next record.
Todd: Cool. We mentioned touring. We mentioned The Machine Shop. I know that we're looking forward to The Machine Shop show. So let's talk about the one here at the end of the month first, sold out show. The Machine Shop loves you guys and you guys have a love affair with The Machine Shop. What is it about The Machine Shop (www.themachineshop.info)?
Chachi: It's everything, man! It's Michigan, it's the Zink Brothers. I can't say enough about that place. From the warm welcome and having those guys there -- you know, those are the guys that just really understand how to run a business, how to take care of people, how to support other local business. Front of house sound is killer, you know, having The Banana there and Tony LaBrie's support. The fans are insane, they don't just sing "Trenches," they sing every single word to every song. It's unrivaled one of the best places to play in the country, period.
Nick: I think he said it, man. He touched on all the points I was going to touch on. It really is -- there's just some sort of atmosphere about that place. When you walk in there, you just know it's got some history behind it. You know it's going to be one of those legendary places.
Chachi: And it has tons of great Michigan beer! That's awesome!
Todd: That's true. The bonus in this whole thing is next month you guys are bringing it back for an acoustic show. Tell us about that whole project.
Chachi: We wanted to do something different for the fans, you know? And we definitely, as much as we all like to get up there and whip our hair back and forth and throw down, there is another side of us that likes to come out and be more of a storyteller and really get intimate with the fans, give them something special, something different, and show them stripped down that we're still capable of putting on what I consider to be a pretty entertaining and unique show. That's something we don't get to do very often, and I'm very, very excited we can do that at a place like The Machine Shop.
Todd: Cool. Again, I know the crowd is definitely looking forward to it. I know I'm looking forward to it. I talked to Kevin and Minty last night and they're pumped about these shows. Let's talk about you guys for a minute. You're out on tour. What were the one or two things that you guys, when you were thinking about going out on the road, you thought to yourself, I cannot leave home without blank?
Chachi: My day to day pretty much revolves around the iPhone with the girlfriend and family, and CrossFit. I do CrossFit every single place I go. I travel with my own weights, like kettlebell and jump rope, but otherwise it's contact with family and some reading now and then, but CrossFit, dude. It's my thing.
Nick: And music, movies and video games, man. I don't know how you live without any of those things on the road anymore.
Todd: Let's bring it back as far as your iPhones, since you hit on it, Chachi. What album or collection of songs would somebody maybe find on either of your iPhone?
Nick: That's a really embarrassing question.
Todd: What would somebody find on there that your fans would go, what the hell?
Chachi: I don't know that I listen to necessarily the most music on the bus. I do listen to a ton, but I don't know if I'm trying to say that I listen to more than anyone else, but I probably have one of the most diverse lists. I mean, my phone's right next to us, so just for fun I'll open it up and go to my music and I'll just read it off in alphabetical order, and that should give you a pretty good description of how ridiculous my list is. I mean, starting from the top, I have Abba, AC/DC, Adam Lambert, Adele, Adelitas Way, Aerosmith, AFI, Alan Jackson. I mean, I haven't even gone into the B's and it's already ridiculous.
Todd: Wow, yeah. Well, what's the one piece you think a fan would look at you and go, what were you thinking?
Chachi: I have "Call Me Maybe" on my phone, so probably that too.
Nick: Man, Carly Rae Jepsen. That shit is catchy!
Todd: I've got it on mine, I run to it, so... One of you is a drummer and one of you is a guitar player, so you obviously have different influences. When you thought about this whole career path, who influenced you? Who made you want to either pick up a drum, a pair of drumsticks, or pick up a guitar and do this?
Nick: For me, I know it was my dad. He played guitar when he was younger and actually started getting into it about a year before I did, back into it so to speak. You know, he picked it up and started showing me kind of the ropes and I kind of took over from there. It was kind of a good bonding moment for he and I, he'd come home from work and I'd come home from school and we'd go down in the basement and just jam together. I think that was it for me, man, definitely my dad.
Chachi: I actually started playing the drums as a fluke after starting a cover band that I was singing in. I had some close friends, one of my best friends at the time, Steve Wagner. We basically just started a cover band to make money and drink for free in college. But the first drummer I watched on TV was Blas Elias from Slaughter in the "Up All Night" video and "Fly to the Angels" video, when he's just whipping his hair around and spinning the sticks. Him and Tommy Lee and more recently Dave Grohl, those three are really my pinnacle guys I look up to.
Todd: Okay, very cool. When it comes to doing what you do, doing the music, are there other outside bands that you guys see on the road or you listen to, and you think, eh, I really like that? Do you find other bands influence the way you play or the way you perform?
Chachi: Absolutely. There's a ton of old and new bands, man, that we hear I think that change and affect probably both of us individually and together. Nick and I are pretty inseparable on the road, but usually if one of us hears something we both hear it. When we get in the metal phases together, we might listen to something that's heavy and it's like Emmure, love those guys, or another Georgia band, Avatar, and then we'll go through pop phases where we listen to the new JT record or new Bruno Mars for two weeks straight. And our writing definitely reflects that.
Todd: Okay. Speaking of writing, if you guys could go back through the history of time and be involved in a song, whether it be writing it, recording on it, or just being in the room when it was recorded by the original artist, what song or album would you guys wanted to have been a part of?
Chachi: Wow. I think for me, if you're going to let me have a whole album, I'm going to say "Appetite for Destruction." I can't really think of a -- I mean, that's a pretty epic album with the guys that were there to create that. I would say it's either that or Michael Jackson, maybe "Off the Wall," those are pretty huge for me.
Nick: I would say probably for me, Metallica's "Black Album." Probably the album that changed it all.
Todd: I'll give you that. If you guys could jump in and form a perfect lineup for a Pop Evil tour, whether you guys were headlining or opening or supporting, who would you guys want to see on that tour?
Nick: Holy shit, wow.
Chachi: How many bands do we get? Would it have to be a live show?
Todd: Let's do it two ways. Let's say just alternate ever, it's you guys and one other of anybody, and then we'll say of current bands, put a three-band bill together.
Chachi: Favoritism and still being a businessman included in that, for me a three-band bill would be us accompanied with, we'd open for, I would probably put Foo Fighters on there, and maybe Kid Rock, man. That might be my top other two for right now. I would love to see that. If you're going to do past bands, hands down Led Zeppelin. I want to go on tour with Led Zeppelin.
Todd: Okay. How about you?
Nick: Man, I don't know.
Chachi: It's hard.
Nick: It is hard. Yeah, I don't know.
Todd: Okay. I know you guys are getting ready for a show, so I appreciate you guys taking the time out for us, and The Machine Shop. I got one more for you before we cut you loose. You put out "Onyx," you've had a song of the year, you guys are out on this sold out tour, you guys are going to do a couple big shows in your home state here within the next month. At this point, you guys are doing so well. What is the meaning of life?
Chachi: I don't know, man. You want to field that?
Nick: You have to ask what the meaning of life is?
Chachi: How do you answer that? Your life is constantly a roller coaster, you never get too high on your highs or low on your lows regardless. Whether it's your career or your personal life, it doesn't matter. Just stay grounded, keep those close to you close, and enjoy the ride but continue to work hard. We're never satisfied. We always want to be better.
Nick: Take what life is dealing you and kind of make the best of everything that it gives you.
Chachi: Sometimes you got to bluff. Sometimes you got to fold.
Todd: Very cool. Again, thank you so much for your time, guys. We can't wait to see you guys play the sold-out show on January 26th, and again February 21st. Any parting words for The Machine Shop and their fans?
Chachi: I cannot wait to see you guys. We miss you, Michigan, and everyone else there. We love you. We love The Machine Shop. Huge shout-out to Kevin of the Zink Brothers. We can't wait to be back, guys. Thank you so much for bringing us.
Todd: All right, thanks guys. Have a good night. Have a killer show in Philly tonight.
Chachi: Thank you, man. Later.