You might no be so familiar with new band RIOTGOD at the moment, but give the New Jersey-based band’s self-titled debut album a listen, and you’ll be fully hooked.
MONSTER MAGNET’s Bob Pantella (drums) and Jim Baglino (bass) have created an awesome musical alter ego with their new project. If you like great rock with meaty riffs and soaring vocals in the classic or stoner rock vein, then RIOTGOD is for you.
Along with vocalist Mark Sunshine and guitarist Garrett Sweeny, the band has a modest attitude and a great rock ‘n’ roll spirit. Once you hear them, their infectious melodies will be with you from here on out. Calling from his home in New Jersey, Bob spoke about the band’s formation, the new album and their touring plans.
Read SMN’s review of Riotgod
We just tried to see where it went as it went along. It’s our first record, and we didn’t really know where it was going to go. Our singer, Sunshine, I had worked with before, so we work together really well. I started writing some cool riffs by myself, I have a recording studio at home. I’d written three or four songs and gave them to him to see what he’d do with them. And when he brought the stuff back to me, I was blown away. It was much better than what I’d expected. Really, they’re just cool riffs, it’s as simple as that. … just trying to make it as big and as powerful as possible. There was no real direction in mind, honestly, just stuff that turns me on the most. That’s pretty much how it started. Almost 90% of all the guitars and bass on the record I play, too, besides the drums. As I write, I record. It all happens on the spot and I kind of steer it along as it goes. I’ll write the music and Sunshine will write the vocal melody and lyrics.
Is MONSTER MAGNET still your full-time gig?
Yes, it still is. I don’t just play in MONSTER MAGNET, which has a new record coming out too. We got a big tour coming up in November. But I also play in ATOMIC BITCHWAX and another band called CYCLE OF PAIN, which is the bass player of BLACK LABEL SOCIETY, JD, his side band.
When did you and Jim talk about the idea of doing RIOTGOD and how did you guys decide the concept and how it would sound like?
Me and Jim are still both in MONSTER MAGNET. MONSTER MAGNET is really Dave Wyndorf’s brainchild, and we just wanted to do something that’s more creative on our own. To call the shots and make the decisions on our own. So we talked about it for years but we didn’t have anybody in mind or a concept or anything. MONSTER MAGNET had a little hiatus a few years ago and it gave us the opportunity to get the ball rolling with RIOTGOD. So, I just started writing stuff by myself. I had Mark as a singer in mind. Which, I didn’t say anything to Jim, I didn’t say anything to anybody. I wanted to see how it would sound first. The first song was “Light of the Sun,” it’s the first song we ever did, which happens to be the first song on the record. I had Jim come over, I had recorded it and mixed it with no leads on it, Garrett had to come in and do all the leads. He was blown away. He had no idea what to expect. We just wanted something that would rock and that would be fun and the same kind of music we all like.
In some ways, your brand of stoner rock is different than what you do in MONSTER MAGNET. Were you trying to be as totally opposite or vaguely familiar with RIOTGOD?
It’s just rock. We weren’t trying to be any which way, or trying to veer away from MONSTER MAGNET. Obviously MONSTER MAGNET is a big influence on us because we’re in it (laughing). I’m not trying to go either way with it. We just came up with riffs that we like, classic rock, simple rock riffs, but with a good singer. Mark is a pretty rare find, around here anyway. It just gave us a lot of options of what to do. There’s not a ton of thought behind it, it’s just good rock.
Mark’s voice is so great. To me, it’s a cross between Chris Cornell and Robert Plant, and the music is so memorable and catchy. Were you writing catering to his voice, or did you have the songs all ready beforehand?
No. I just came up with a cool riff. Honest to God, it was so simple … I just came up with a cool riff and gave it to him to see what he could do with it. It was trial and error really. There was no formula. Other than a couple of songs, Garrett had written in a band he was in years ago called CRUSADER. There were vocal melodies and lyrics to them already. Then we re-recorded the music and gave it to Mark. “Pinata,” Jim had written. And basically it was just a riff and then I took it home and worked on it and gave it to Mark. I just tried to turn into to something.
Any plans to tour with RIOTGOD?
In September we’re going to Europe. Germany, Belgium, Holland, Switzerland, Austria … about a three week tour. We’ll probably do something in the States maybe in late January, maybe down south and the west coast. It’s not a good idea to tour in January on a bus (laughing).
Any chance you’ll hook up with a major band or pull double duty opening up for MONSTER MAGNET?
We talked about it and it doesn’t sound like it’s really in the cards. We’re just going to do our own thing in the States, unless a major tour like that comes along. I kind of like going out by ourselves. It kind of sucks opening up for other bands. You really get no love at all. I mean, we would do it. But first of of all, it’s a lot more fun headlining. As far as the show goes, you get to do your own lighting and all that kind of stuff. Even if it’s just a tiny little place, who cares? It’s just a lot more fun.
Has RIOTGOD been going as expected when you first talked about it?
It’s pretty much going as I expected. I kind of had a vision from the get-go. It’s pretty much on track to where it should be. Nothing’s blowing my mind, but it’s going pretty much as I expected.
What’s next for RIOTGOD?
We got a new record label, so the album is in the stores now and we hope people enjoy it. We’ve already started working on a new one already. It will probably be a year, year and a half before it’s actually done. We’re going to expand on what we did, spend a little more money recording it and just take it to the next level. I’m looking forward to that, we all are. These songs to us are already old.
By Kelley Simms