Pop Evil fans are set to rejoice on May 14th as the band’s latest album, Onyx, will hit the stores and the internet. During a recent tour stop, Hard Rock Hideout had the opportunity to sit down with drummer Chachi Riot and discuss the new album, Pop Evil’s grueling tour schedule, where the nickname Chachi came from, paying a lot to see Lady Gaga, and what the best shot to drink is. Read on to learn all this and more…
Hard Rock Hideout: The new album, Onyx, is due for release on May 14th and I think everyone is holding their breath to make sure there are no last minute changes to the scheduled release date. Can you confirm that fans will be happy and there are no delays come May 14 th?
Chachi Riot: No delays. Finally everything is lining up. Promotion, release dates, artwork. We already had the final copies sent to us. Everything is clicking on all eight cylinders. We’re ready to go.
HRH: So it’s not going to be like when War Of Angels was ready to come out?
CR: No. No. And that was right at the time when I first joined the band. There was a lot of turmoil and chaos. I had known the guys for like five years prior, but it was a really difficult time for the band, for the label, and we’re really glad that we are not dealing with that this time. E-one has been really great, really supportive and there are pretty high hopes and expectations for this album.
HRH: Lead single “Trenches” is already charting, it’s 11 on the charts, moving up. Are we going to expect to hear more songs like “Trenches” on this album, or songs that are more like “Purple?” What
type of music are we looking at?
CR: We were kind of nervous going into the writing process, just because we have a group of five guys that as a group of five had never written together. We didn’t know what to expect as far as recording, writing, tracking…however we wanted to go over it.
We finished the album instrumentally in almost two weeks. Everything clicked and we kind of, unintentionally…I don’t want to use the word concept album because that’s wrong. But, you know, the whole album has a certain vibe to it. Remorse is probably too strong. “Trenches” is a great lead-off single to describe the album. We’ve been fighting, we’re digging, we’re ready to get out of this…I don’t want to give away too much.
I think anybody would be crazy to say it’s not our greatest album hands down. It’s probably a little bit heavier than the last albums collectively. Songwriting didn’t suffer. We didn’t go in there and just try to write heavy stuff and throw away the songwriting, because we’re known for songwriting. I think the band in this album…one little tease…there’s no acoustic guitar on the whole album.
HRH: Wow. Really?
CR: Yeah, and our two biggest hits, Monster and 100, we just decided that we’re not leaning on that. There are still some mid-tempos, but we were aware of what we wanted to achieve as a band and the message we wanted to portray. We wanted to be respected as musicians and show that we can play.
HRH: Onyx is the first album that you were in the studio for. Were you worried about your contributions and not being able to give as much as you would have liked?
CR: Not really. My goal coming in was to do whatever it took to make the band better. I was prepared for any and all responsibilities. Whether that be lyric writing, song writing, just drumming, even if I was just there to cheer on the band… mentally I was there to be a team player.
Leigh (lead singer Leigh Kakaty) likes to use a lot of athletic metaphors for the band and everyone can’t be Lebron James. To be successful you have to have other players. So I was prepared to be whatever the band needed me to be. I’m one of the youngest guys in the band. I’m pretty energetic, and I try to be a positive influence on the band. When you’re in the studio, the vibe is very important, and so keeping the moral up, the work ethic, it’s all important.
HRH: Now would you say that the rest of the band feels the same way as far as team effort? Everyone shares that same vision? There are no egos?
CR: You’re in a band with five guys, there’s going to be some egos. But the band is a collective writing entity. Not one sole person does the writing. Just because Leigh’s the singer doesn’t mean that he doesn’t listen to our lyrics. Just because Matt (DiRito) is the bass player doesn’t mean that I don’t listen to him as a drummer. Everyone is a musician and everyone is respected. So, the best songs win. We are all here to make the band the best it can be.
HRH: Given the huge success of War Of Angels, were you tempted to go into the studio and just try to make a record that followed the same exact format?
CR: I don’t think so. I don’t think any of us were satisfied with War Of Angels. I think we’re very proud and humbled and appreciative and…thankful is an understatement for the success of that album.
HRH: Wow. Four huge chart topping singles. We rated it best album of that year. A lot of rock websites and magazines did.
CR: We got a lot love. But when we got in the studio and reflected back it was still very much a learning curve for everyone. Everyone went in and no one wanted to match War Of Angels. It was
unquestionable that we needed to destroy that album and blow it out of the water. We’re very competitive with ourselves and mediocrity and good is not going to be good enough.
HRH: Are you nervous about the release of this album?
CR: Nervous excitement. We have very high goals for ourselves internally. Things we want to see done. Fans we want to reach. And I hate to make it a numbers game, but of course you want to see good numbers. You want to prove people wrong and you want to prove yourselves wrong. Sometimes you get down when you think that maybe album sales are dead, and it’s kind of a scary thought. I think we can prove that to be wrong. I mean rock is not dead. There’s great bands out there…new bands like Volbeat and they’re still selling a lot of records. In terms of album sales success, Justin Timberlake’s new album went platinum in its debut week of release. So people still do buy CDs. People are buying albums. If you make good music, they will buy it. And I’m excited to see the response.
HRH: As usual, the Pop Evil touring schedule is grueling and vigorous. Currently you’re out on the road with Three Days Grace and then there is a run of dates with Sevendust, followed by the Shiprocked summer camp in June (14 – 16). Are there any additional tour plans after that?
CR: We have dates coming up after that. The Three Days Grace tour is going great, and the Sevendust tour, we can’t wait for that. I can’t say enough about those guys as friends and congratulations on their new single and album. I think a lot of people were just writing them off to just come back and play their old stuff. We have some dates coming up after that. Some festivals. We do have some dates with some other bands…
CR: We do have some headlining, but I don’t think we’re doing a full headline run in the summertime. But definitely teaming up with some bands that are worthwhile. We’re still new and we’re still young and we did some shows where there was just us on the bill and I don’t think there is any of that for the foreseeable future.
HRH: Did you know how intense Pop Evil’s touring schedule was prior to joining the band?
CR: Yeah. I mean it’s one thing to know and then another thing to experience it. The band I was in prior, which is how I met Pop Evil, we were completely independent, and we did about 170 shows the one year, and then our singer decided he was no longer interested in playing that many shows. So that set us back a bit. And we played about 70 shows the next year. And then Pop Evil called and we did about 265, 275 shows. And that’s what I’m here for. I signed up for a band to play music and live is my favorite part.
Everyone has different favorites, I love traveling. If I wasn’t doing this I would still be traveling, now I get to do what and I love and play drums. I’m very thankful for what I get to do.
HRH: How is the band getting along with Three Days Grace on this tour?
CR: It’s still been pretty new. We’ve spoke a few times. I stayed the other night and watched their performance. Everybody did a great job. (New lead singer) Matt (Walst) did a great job, their drummer (Neil Sanderson) did a great job. Obviously I’m a drummer, so I watched that. Everyone’s been extremely nice, their crew included, and that’s not something you can always expect.
HRH: Do you think when you get on a bill like this that you help push the ticket sales up?
CR: Obviously I would like to think that. One of the biggest compliments I’ve ever had from a band that I look up to was last year on the Theory of a Deadman tour. And Tyler (Connolly) came on our bus and was like “I want to let you guys know that this tour would not have been as good without you. We know what we draw and we know what we’ve drawn since you’ve been on the bill, so we want to thank you
for your contribution.” And to have a band tell you that is one thing, but to have the lead singer come on your bus and tell you that is a pretty awesome feeling. And we hope that we can do whatever it is to make everyone successful. I mean if nobody is coming to the show then nobody wins. We want to entertain their fans and if for some crazy reason nobody has seen or heard Three Days Grace and is a Pop Evil fan hopefully we are introducing them to new bands as well.
Now, a lot of bands argue over what songs to include in sets and how often to play them. Who makes the set lists for Pop Evil shows?
CR: We all get to contribute to what songs are going to be played every night, but a lot of it depends on the what the fans want to hear and what’s working. I mean, there are songs that I don’t want to play that the fans want to hear and really get into, so we have to play those, and then there’s songs that I really want to play, that fans may not be that into, so we don’t play it. For example, we’ve played four shows in a row and we’ve changed the set list every single night.
HRH: Are there audible calls in the middle of the set?
CR: It’s definitely not the regular, but it’s happened. You know, things happen, or set times will cut things. Sometimes Leigh will just pop up and be like “we’re gonna play ‘Stepping Stone’ acoustic tonight” because it’s an intimate show and he wants to just throw down on guitar. And that’s cool, I think there should be some sort of mystery to it all. I mean, the White Stripes do that, they don’t make a set list. I think there’s something really cool about that.
HRH: Where have you not yet performed that you would love to play?
CR: Probably Portland, Oregon. San Francisco is up there. The northwest is an area that I really love and we haven’t gotten to play there a whole lot. Spokane has been great to us. It’s a beautiful city, I love it. Those are cities, as far as venues, I’m from Grand Rapids (Michigan), so I want to play Van Andel arena really bad. And that’s a pretty high goal to set.
HRH: What about the Big House?
CR: Oh man. Playing at the Big House? I mean that’s 120,000 people. I don’t even know if they ever had a show there. I’d be happy to just go and watch a game there for now.
HRH: So you’re favorite Pop Evil song is…?
CR: To play, or to listen to? Because I think they’re different.
HRH: Let’s go with to play first.
CR: I think my favorite song to play live is “Hero.” But it can depend on the night. I’m pretty notorious for playing songs different every night. I think that an album exists for a reason and if you want to hear the song played the “right” way you can go buy the album.
HRH: And you’re favorite song to listen to?
CR: I can tell you it’s one of the ones from the new album.
HRH: But you can’t say which one?
CR: I can tell you that it’s not “Trenches.”
HRH: Okay, when the album is released, I’ll come back and due a follow up. See if I can guess which one it is. Now the band recently traveled to Sweden to film a music video trilogy. What can you tell us about that?
CR: They are very different, but they are all connected. It’s a really cool cinematic experience where they are all tied together. Other than that we are leaving it pretty mysterious.
HRH: No chance you will reveal the songs that are in that trilogy?
CR: “Trenches” is one. I will tell you that. And the other two, I can say, weren’t done specifically because of thoughts of them being a single. We just picked three songs that tied together really well and sent a message and were what we wanted to portray. They may be singles, they may not be, it’s not something
that we have really considered yet. And “Trenches” should be out around the album release date.
HRH: The new press photos have the band all dressed up in black, which obviously ties in with the new album title. Who came up with this concept?
CR: It was kind of a collective thing. I try to be pretty in touch with fashion and our manager and Leigh get involved. And branding is very important and sometimes gets overlooked in any business, not just bands, and we were branding the band with the message that this is a mature album, it’s dark, we are taking it seriously and we need to reflect that. And it begins with photos. So many bands, you just look at a picture of them and you immediately know if you do or do not want to listen to them. And that’s unfortunate. Before I was in this band, I looked at their last press photo and I told management, I don’t really like this picture, looks like you guys are in Motley Crue. It looks like you’re stuck in the eighties. So if you don’t like Motley Crue, even though our music sounds nothing like that, you won’t even get the chance. It’s a shame, but people judge books by their cover.
HRH: In 2004, Pop Evil released an independent album, War Of The Roses. Will any of that material ever be covered live, re-released, or in any way revisited by the band?
CR: It was basically a collection of demos that the band put together. When you play around the bars, you need to have a collection of demos, so the guys put it together to submit to the bars and then it leaked, and released, and now it exists. And I don’t think that it will be revisited again. I would hate to be proven wrong somewhere down the line, but not in the near future, no.
HRH: What’s the story behind your nickname, Chachi Riot?
CR: Chachi… a guy gave it to me in Freshman year of high school. I come from a very small village, and so… I worked for the dad of this girl I was dating. I started out doing some odd jobs, physical labor. And people would ask him, “Hey who’s the new guy you got in the back?” And he would be like, “Oh that’s Chachi, we hired him, he works for lunch every day, we got him over here illegally…” and it was like this big joke telling everyone that I was this illegal immigrant. And he was close to my wrestling coach. So my coach picked it up. And once a team picks it up you arepretty much done. I’ve had the nickname between ten and fifteen years now. I tried to lose it when I lefthigh school, but I had my four best friends go to the same college as me. So even if I introduced myself as Josh, it’s inevitable that someone is going to say Chachi. And a lot of people think it’s a made up stage name. The Riot thing was an add-on because on stage I’m always out of control, but Chachi is pre-music and has been around for a long time. I wish I could have gotten rid of it, but I can’t.
HRH: You joined the band after Dylan Allison had to undergo neck surgery. As far as we know there are no plans for him to come back. We hope that his health is okay, but we don’t know.
CR: I don’t know if he’ll ever be one hundred percent. I’ve known Dylan probably the second longest out of anyone in the band. He was experiencing mild paralysis which is better now, but as far as what his physical limitations are, I don’t think he was ever released for one hundred percent, and I don’t think he’ll ever be returning.
HRH: And did he introduce you to the band?
CR: I was hooked up with the band just from my old band playing with them (Pop Evil). I was the drummer in my old band, I was our booking agent, our manager, I was everything business related…a networker. And so…I networked myself to the next hottest band in Grand Rapids, which was Pop Evil. And we did some local shows and some regional shows with them.
I got to know the guys pretty well, we were hanging out together when they were off tour and they were home and I was home and when they needed a drummer I got kind of pushed in by the personal connection. And it wasn’t the first choice by the label or the management. I don’t know if they will tell you that now that I’m in (laughs), but everyone was like oh this is some local kid we don’t know about this. And I was pretty green as far as national touring and the whole scheme of being with a signed artist, and a couple of the guys in the band stood up for me and gave me a chance.
HRH: I heard that you were the one to bring Nick Fueling into the band.
CR: Yeah, Nick has been a best friend of mine for ten years, we’re very close.
HRH: And what made you think of him as Tony’s (Greve) replacement?
CR: It didn’t even start as that. It started as we had some internal issues and there was potentially somebody in the band was going to be stepping out for what we thought would be temporary…could be longer…and we were looking at what we thought would be needing a guitar player as a fill in for internal reasons. And so I called Nick, and I was like we might need a guitar player, so you need to learn some Pop Evil songs. And he’s a big fan of the band so he went and learned the songs. And then it turned out that we didn’t need Nick.
And then Tony started hinting around that he was going to leave the band, and I was like, Nick, you need to learn those guitar parts again. Obviously, just being his friend… I mean, he’s a phenomenal guitar player. It wasn’t about being his friend. I mean, if he’s not good enough, then the band’s not good enough. And so, I was like, I want to give you a shot, at least…and Tony left and gave us about 36 hours notice before the Theory of a Deadman tour. We left Monday night, the show was Tuesday, and he e-mailed us on Sunday. And he told us that he was leaving the band. And everyone was flipping out. No one knows the songs. We can’t afford to hire anybody…what are we going to do? And I was like, I have a guy.
I got Nick a foot in the door and I did what I could for him. And I’ll be honest…it wasn’t a right away thing that the guys wanted to keep him. Nick’s not me on stage. Which is not a good or bad thing, it’s just different. And so, Nick’s playing, immediately everyone loved, without question. But people were like, well Nick doesn’t dress like a rock star, or he doesn’t look like a rock star… and I was like, look, Nick was working at Best Buy, he has to look presentable…give him a chance to grow into the position. So I kept fighting for him and then slowly people were joining his team. And nobody wasn’t on his team, but you want what’s best for the band. And then we had guys from Theory of a Deadman step in during the tour and say “Hey, you’re new guitar player is really great. Congratulations.” And when you have guys like that going to bat for you, it’s kind of a no brainer. And then I started working with him on his wardrobe, I got him this slick little haircut (laughs).
HRH: A lot of fans feel that they don’t have closure, because they didn’t get a pure answer as to why Tony left.
CR: I don’t know that we as a band do. I mean, I’m not here to say anything good or bad about anybody, or to slander anyone’s name, but Tony is a very unique individual and character and Tony felt like there were some things that he needed to do in his life and he went to do those.
HRH: And if he were to come back a year from now and say hey, I’d like to play a few shows with you guys, do you think the band would be open to that?
CR: I don’t think they would. I mean, I don’t think there are any negative feelings, but some of us felt a little let down the way things were handled. I mean it’s a tough situation. It’s not fun, ever, when you lose someone from the band. And I think that this is a really special group of five guys that we have now and I’m really excited.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Tony has since dedicated his life to serving the Lord. For a full update on what he has been up to since leaving Pop Evil, you can see check out his Facebook pages Guitar Slinger Tony Greve, or Anthony Greve.
HRH: What did you listen to growing up?
CR: I mean, I listen to everything. I know everyone says they listen to everything, but my IPhone is right here so just for fun… my mom raised me on everything from Top 40 to country. I got into metal… I’m in the K’s right now and I got Kansas, Kanye West, Karnival, Katy Perry, KC & JoJo, Keith Urban, Kelly Pickler, Kid Rock, Kings of Leon, the band King… I have anything and everything. Some of the last artists I went and saw…Nora Jones, I’m a huge Nora Jones fan, I saw Michael Buble, I paid pretty good money to see Lady Gaga…
HRH: I’ve heard she’s good in concert.
CR: It’s a great show. I really try hard to be an appreciator of all music. I don’t really put any boxes or genres around anything, there’s really not a genre that I don’t like. I played saxophone for eight years, I love jazz, swing, big band…
HRH: Any chance that a sax solo will show up on a future song?
CR: I don’t think so…not for Pop Evil (laughs).
HRH: So, Who inspired you to become a drummer?
CR: A lot of people have this really cool story like they saw some video or something, and I don’t know that I did. I started playing drums because I got into a band with my best friends, and I was singing. And we wanted to make a cover band in college to make extra money and get drunk on the weekends…I’m being honest.
And I figured I can sing well enough to cover some songs. Let’s just play some songs. We were looking for a drummer and this kid tried out and I thought he was okay, and he was like, “well I’ve always wanted to try singing.”
And I was like, yeah, everyone always wants to be the singer, whatever…we let him try singing and the kid was a great singer. So it was never even discussed that we need to find a drummer they were like let’s switch, Chachi can play drums. And I was like, I don’t know how to play drums. And they said, well you can learn. And I just learned.
I think looking back now, I was influenced by one of the first drummers I ever watched in a music video…Blas Elias of Slaughter. One of my favorites! “Up All Night” video, the “Fly To The Angels” video…I’m a huge Dave Grohl fan…I just kind of draw influence from everybody. Even if they’re not drummers, I think everybody has something to offer that you can learn.
HRH: If you had 24 hours to spend with any drummer, living or dead, to seek advice from, who would you choose?
CR: Only because he’s dead, I mean, if I could bring him back to life, I’d have to say Bonham. Dave Grohl would probably be my next choice.
HRH: Neil Peart’s not up there, huh?
CR: I think Neil Peart’s a phenomenal drummer, but not my flavor. There’s a definite appreciation I have for him…
HRH: He doesn’t give interviews anyway, so the hell with him.
CR: (Laughs). Yeah, and he plays Pearl drums, so what do you want?
HRH: So that leads to another good question. What drums do you play and what cymbals?
CD: Ludwig always man. I mean Ludwig’s offices are about thirty miles from my hometown, I mean it’s Midwest, it’s Bonham, it’s blue collar, and they’re phenomenal drums. They’re everything I could ever imagine in a drum company. I am so honored to play Ludwig drums, I can’t say enough about them.
Cymbals is a cool story. I played Zildjian my whole life and then I was approached by Meinl about three years ago. Chris Brewer’s a great guy and I’ll never forget him calling me and saying so what do you like? How about Meinl cymbals, and I was like absolutely not. I’ve seen your name all over and I’m sure you make quality stuff, but I’ve never played your cymbal in my life. And he’s like would you be interested in trying them? And I was like, sure.
And I have never been happier with a personal relationship with a rep I’ve ever had. And they are phenomenal cymbals, I play the MB20 series if anybody’s curious…they are brilliant, and Meinl is really groundbreaking. They try a lot of new stuff. They have your classic cymbals, your vintage, your brilliant, your thin, your heavy… music changes, genres change, sounds change, and I think Meinl is on the front end of staying with that…they are a great, great company with great people.
It’s one thing to have a company discount you gear, or send you gear, but Chris goes above and beyond and I have a lot of respect and love for that guy. He comes to the shows, he hangs out after the shows, he spoils me rotten…and Menl and Ludwig are just both great companies.
HRH: All right, let’s have some fun now. You would most like to have: A Grammy, a multi-platinum album, or a sold out world tour headlining arenas?
CR: (long pause)… That’ s tough. Definitely not the Grammy. I think that’s the least favorite. The sold out world tour is pretty tempting because I like live shows so much, but a platinum album is kind of a timeless thing. But I’ll go with the live tour.
HRH: Best shot is Jagermeister, Jack Daniels, Crown Royal, or Other?
CR: I’m not a huge shot guy, but Crown’s pretty high up there, that’s a nice shot. I can drink that. I’m not a Jager dude, if I really wanted to get wild, which doesn’t happen very often, but the girlfriend and I definitely indulge in Fireball occasionally.
HRH: That’s the cinnamon whiskey, right? That’s good stuff.
CR: Yes. And she’s from the south so whiskey is her flavor. She can be a bad influence on me (laughs). Everyone thinks they are all southern belles down there and I know the truth. And Crown’s pretty great. I mean the maple Crown is phenomenal.
HRH: I haven’t tried that yet.
CR: It’s worth a shot. Bud-dum-dump!
HRH: So, you mentioned your girlfriend…how do you balance life on the road, with a girl that you obviously love…how do you balance that with this?
CR: She is phenomenal. I can’t say enough about her or her strength. I guess the only way to really explain it is that if you want something bad enough you will do whatever it takes to make it work.
HRH: And she’s obviously understanding and very supportive?
CR: Yeah. I mean, it’s not easy always, it’s definitely not. I’m in the public eye constantly. I’m gone all the time. There are individuals out there that don’t make it easy. Whether it be overly excited fans…but they’re supporters. And I hate to be the guy that’s like hey… I mean a girl got mad because I wouldn’t sign her bra. There’s just this line. I’ll gladly sign your poster, your T-shirt, I’ll take a photo with you…and they were like, “Well, this isn’t rock and roll.” And I’m just like, look I’m not here to sleep with chicks, I’m here to drum and play music.
HRH: Your guilty music pleasure is…?
CR: Oh man, my guiltiest music pleasure? I can probably sing every lyric off an NSync album to you. I’m also a huge Bruno Mars fan…I have been since the first record. I think he’s a phenomenal musician and I don’ think he’s as respected as he should be. I think people like him, but I don’t think they appreciate how talented he is.
HRH: You are a fan of all Detroit sports teams as well, or do you have other allegiances?
CR: The only one that I think would waver is… I was forever a Braves fan in baseball. Ted Turner owned TNT and as a kid they were always on TV and they were on fire. They had Smoltz and Glavin and Chipper Jones, who was my favorite player until he retired, and now they have the Upton Brothers who are on fire, shout out to the Braves, but other than baseball I am die hard Red Wings, Lions, and Michigan Wolverines. I’m not really a basketball fan. I’ll watch it, but I wouldn’t call myself a Pistons fan, I’d be ahuge poser to say that.
HRH: Your Facebook friends are real friends, fans, music journalists, of a mix of everything?
CR: All of the above, definitely. I had Facebook for two years before I joined the band so I already had a collection of colleagues, associates, and close friends and family. And I made Nick aware of this since I joined the band so much earlier than him. I was like, listen, if you’re gonna have a Facebook page, you need to decide right now if it’s going to be public or private. Don’t do half of it. You have to commit. And I committed to making mine completely public. And it’s stressful at times. I really try hard to answer every message, and I get backed up. And I do my best to get on comments. My only regret is that I don’t get to see what my family is up to as much because my feed has become so overrun. It’s almost like a Twitter to me. I love Twitter. But you can control that. I’m glad that fans can indulge in that and kind of experience my day to day.
HRH: So if a fan sends a friend request…?
CR: I will add them right away. I do daily video updates on my Facebook for fans to watch. It goes from anything from what I’m doing that day, or a shout out to the fan of the day or maybe just a backstage look at the venue or the green room. There’s definitely days when you don’t want to do that, I’m not going to lie, but that’s part of the gig. If you’re going to do that, then you definitely have to do it.
HRH: Chachi, thank you so much. I really appreciate your time and thanks for agreeing to the
CR: Absolutely. Thank you for having me.