RIVERDOGS – The Usual Suspects

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When formed in Los Angeles at the end of the 80’s they were determined to avoid the cliché of glam rock.  They wanted a sound that was all their own and they wanted to follow the beat of their own drum.  The band’s sound was created by combining the sounds of both rock and blues.  Their sound became highly regarded in the early years with the soulful vocals, edgy guitar and a solid rhythm section. They have continued to stay true to their sound even today, and that was something that they kept in mind while recording their latest album.  In fact, it was very important for them to do so.

Original band members Rob Lamothe, vocals and guitar, Nick Brophy, bass and vocals, Vivian Campbell, lead guitar and backing vocals, (Def Leppard, DIO, Whitesnake, Last in Line) along with drummer Marc Danzeisen (Gilby Clarke, Little Caesar) recently reunited to record their fifth album, California (Frontier Records), which was released on July 7th.  The album has received rave reviews from critics and fans alike. The release has debuted at #17 as a “new” artist and #53 for independent albums on the Billboard charts.  It has become another great album for the band.  In a recent interview with Screamer, Danzeisen discussed how he got his start in the music business, the band’s history, how the band has evolved over the years, plus much more.

A California native, Danzeisen has had a passion for music for as long as he can remember. His first instruments were piano and trumpet until he discovered his love for the drums. He started playing drums when he was around 8 years of age and never looked back.  The rest is musical history. His father was a jazz and big band musician and was a big influence on him. As a young child, one of his very first influence drummer Gene Krupa, whom his father played with. He explained, “Krupa brought drums to the foreground. He made it to where drums weren’t just a part of the background.” Krupa’s drumming techniques left an impression on the young Danzeisen. Other major influences include Tony Brock (The Babys), who he thinks is one of the most underrated drummers out there, John Bonham (Led Zeppelin), Ringo Starr (The Beatles) and Stewart Copeland (The Police). His greatest influences come from a wide range of genres, which is evident in the eclectic music he creates today.

Since Danzeisen grew up around music, he always knew that he wanted to be a professional musician. It was in his blood from a very young age and there was no ignoring the strong pull of the music world. Growing up fifty-five miles away from Los Angeles, he decided to take his chance and move there when he turned eighteen. His father told him, “It’s a rough life, you can always come home when you want to.” However, Danzeisen never had to go back home because he went from one band to the next with much success. His music career soared as each new project brought even more success than the last. He has kept very busy over the years with not only playing drums, but also being one of the top go to session players as well as producing and writing songs for commercials, television and film.

Danzeisen joined in 1990, so he has been with the band practically from the very beginning. He joined right after the self-titled first album, , was completed. The band went on to record the albums Absolutely Live (1993), Bone (1993) and World Gone Mad (2011) over the next few years with some breaks over those years. No matter where the band members finds themselves, they are never away from each other for too long because of the obvious relationships they have with one another. The band has evolved a great deal over the years.

“It’s one of those magical things that is hard to put into words.  All of us were doing completely different things than the Riverdogs…I went and played with them for the day and it just worked. We all kind of looked at each other and said ‘this is a great vibe.’ It was the kind of music that I wanted to play drums on because the songwriting was so good,” Danzeisen stated.

Over the years, the band members have each taken the time to do their own things. In fact, there was much time that passed when the band split up and the years went by.  Everyone went in their own directions.  However, in 2004 they began recording at Brophy’s house and played four shows just for the fun of it. “We had a great time. It was like nothing had ever changed…it was like we’d never stopped playing,” Danzeisen said. Fast forward to 2011 when World Gone Mad was released. Once the album was released, they began working on their own projects again before connecting for this most recent release.

The latest album came about because Frontier Records approached the band and asked them to do an album, and they just couldn’t pass on it. “Again, it was just magical,” Danzeisen stated, “For all of us to get back in a room after twenty-seven years to do what we did in 1990, it’s really trippy for all of us.” California was completed in six months with the band members working together in spite of the distance between them.  They spent two weeks over a span of two months to get together in person to write and work closely together.  The rest of the recording process was done using ProTools and sending each of their parts back and forth among each other.  The basis of the album was created while they spent those two weeks together and that set the basis for which the album was born.

“The band has morphed into what it is now and we just dig playing with each other…it’s evolved more to where we are all writing,” he said. The band members respect each other and all of them share the writing duties now.  Their main focus is to keep the original Riverdogs sound, which they have definitely done with this new album.

The Riverdogs sound is all its own and the new album is undeniably one of their best.  It’s been six years since Riverdog’s last album, so a new album was long overdue. The band’s goal was to make California as reminiscent as possible to their very first self-titled album, Riverdogs. “We were trying to keep it the same flavor as the first record. The first record was very acoustic based and it was Rob bringing folkish singer-songwriter songs and then Viv throwing lead guitar on it,” Danzeisen said. They didn’t want to copy the first album but also didn’t want to lose the sound.  It was a delicate balance between the two.

In twenty-seven years he explained that both production and songwriting has changed. He explained, “You want to keep the same feel and we were very adamant about it.  It’s way heavier than the first album because of the thickness of the guitars.” The first single off the album is American Dream and it’s a solid rock song that shows the musicianship of the members. It’s a very upbeat radio friendly song that has gone over well with fans. Another great song from the new album is Welcome to the New Disaster. These are two of the stand out songs on the album. Overall, the album is a solid album with a modern spin on their sound.

The songwriting process can be cumbersome with everyone in different cities. “We all just got into a room and we had one week in May and one week in June. Nick and Rob flew into LA. We just started playing and recorded all their ideas on their iPhones and then they started to add structure to it. Six songs in one month. “There was magic between the four of us and it just worked,” Danzeisen said of the songwriting process.  There are definite similarities between the first album and this latest release; however, the new album has been modernized and letting the band show off their sound.  The band had a lot of fun making this album and was able to get it finished amidst the crazy schedules and logistics. The album is something they have clearly put their heart and soul into. This shows in both the songwriting and the musicianship.

As of now there are no shows scheduled; however, they would like to play a few select shows but it all depends on their different schedules. “We just have to see if the stars align properly,” Danzeisen said. It is something that they hope works out for the fans.

There is much more to come from Riverdogs in the future. California will surely make their fans happy as well as allow the band to gain new fans along the way.

The American Dream official video can be seen here:  https://youtu.be/1k4ODdznGGo

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