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INTERVIEW: ROB CARLYLE of The Compulsions – April 2015

| 2 April 2015 | Reply

What happens when you hear about a new disc from a band that has put out a few EP’s and a prior disc, yet they still seem relatively unknown in most musical circles?  They put out one of the best discs anyone has heard in a long time.  Rob Carlyle fronts The Compulsions and he could be more excited to be unleashing new music on the rock scene.  We got to chat with Rob about his take on Purple Rain, his favorite singers, and the new disc…  


Toddstar: Rob Carlyle. How are you, sir?

Rob: I’m good, man. How’re you doing?

Toddstar: Good. I’m excited to talk to you about The Compulsions and everything you guys have going on.

Rob: Awesome. Awesome.

Toddstar: First, thank you so much for taking time out of your schedule for us. We really appreciate it.

Rob: Oh, likewise.

Toddstar: Let’s talk about it, man. Dirty Fun. This is the sexiest, dirtiest, most fun record I’ve listened to in a long time.

Rob: Wow. That means a lot. Thanks for that.

Toddstar: When you’re an accountant sitting in an office and you get this cranking through, you’d be amazed at how fast you get through work.

Rob: (Laughs.) Cool.

Toddstar: What can you tell us about the disc? It’s been a long time coming. What are some of the things we might not pick up on, but what are some things you want the fans to know?

Rob: Actually, that’s interesting. There’s a story line that runs through the album that, it’s probably not that obvious, but believe it or not, I based the story line on… and don’t laugh… on Purple Rain, which was basically one band or one artist versus another artist with some girl in the middle of the whole thing. That’s like the thread that runs through the album. In my mind, there’s like two or three different bands being represented on the album and, of course, you’ve got to have the female love interest in the middle of it all, and the whole thing is taking place, I guess, in this New York City rock and roll underworld type of thing. That’s probably something that’s probably not obvious to people, but it was in my mind as the songs were starting to come together. Does that make sense?

Toddstar: Yeah, it does. It does. It really comes to light if you listen to the album, say, 40 times like I have.

Rob: (Laughs.) Yeah, and it’s not really in chronological… I’m not really sure what the order… I thought “House of Rock” was going to be opener of the album, and I really wanted it to be. I love that song, and it definitely sets the stage for the whole reset of it, but I had to chop everything and put everything in a different order. First and foremost is the listener’s got to be really… it’s got to be a roller coaster ride, and that opening song, “Hellbound Babies” just grabs you by the throat more than any of the other songs, and so that’s why that became the first song, and then it was like, ‘How do you pace it out after that?’ To keep that listener guessing the whole time, not knowing where is this thing going. Yeah, to answer your question, there’s a little plot that runs through it all. There’s a little movie running through my head when I hear it. Maybe that’s weird. I don’t know.

Toddstar: How crazy is it that Little Richard’s “Long Tall Sally” is the woman in the middle of your triangle?

Rob: Actually, I don’t know if that is the woman. Obviously, the “Silly Little Woman,” she’s definitely the one, but in my mind, there’s like three different bands that… this is going to get into weird territory, but you started it. In my mind, it’s like three bands that are represented on the album, and in a weird way, the Long Tall Sally is one of them performing, but you can read into it however you want, man. It doesn’t really matter. If you just take them song by song for what it is, but on all the releases, we put out three EP’s and a full length, and this is another full length, and there’s still, I guess a similar plot running through all of them. It’s artist versus artist. It’s like guy versus guy for the love of a woman, and that’s probably on most people’s records. They just don’t talk about it. You sort of have to have a theme, like a thing that guides you as you’re writing and putting it all together, and so that’s just a classic. That’s the classic conflict, so it works every time.

Toddstar: What about “Lucky” stood out to you to make that jump as a first single for you guys?


Rob: Actually, it didn’t stick out to me. It was everybody around me. The band seemed to really love that one. The producers loved that one, and they were like, “Yeah. That’s your best one,” and I was like, “Really?” Because to me, it was the most obvious song for me to write. It’s easy to play. It was written pretty quickly from what I remember, and I didn’t think that was going to be a “single,” but everybody around me seemed to like it, and then one late night, a really good friend of mine was over, and we were out. I’m just going to say that we were out until the wee hours of the morning, and so he came over, and I was like, “I want to play you the record. I want to know what you think,” and he literally just leaned over the laptop in whatever state he was in, and he gave each song like 10 seconds. He loved all of them. He went through all the songs, and then he went over them again, and then like, in this bleary-eyed state, he was like, “Lucky is the single.” I was like, “Wow. That’s really interesting that you say that, because that’s everybody else’s favorite behind the scenes, and that was the one that he picked, and I was like, “All right. If that’s the way it’s going, then that’s fine.” I’m happy with it. I think it’s a cool song, and what I do like about it, too, is that so much of the past material has been so dark and negative, and this is like the first time trying to write… actually, on this record, there’s a few more positive songs, and this one probably the most positive. I was like, “All right.” I keep saying this because you always want to surprise the listeners and the fans and stuff, and you just do another song about being down and out. “Okay. We’ve heard that already,” but to do something like this seemed actually the most surprising thing to do.

Toddstar: It definitely does. I like the roller coaster that you alluded to. You get something like “Long Tall Sally” in the play order the disc is in in its final incarnation, and then you get “The Feel” right after it, but for me, you got the best coast to the finish line with the last two songs, “Stay Eazy” and “Buzz Awhile.”

Rob: Oh, cool.

Toddstar: I could listen to those songs for hours, man. Those two songs…

Rob: Oh, that’s great.

Todd: How is it you go for something like “Lucky” or “Hellbound Babies” where it’s just got that in-your-face, good, hard, dirty rock sound, and then you get something like “Stay Eazy” or “Buzz Awhile” where it’s just that mellow, feel good rock groove?

Rob: I don’t know how we do it. I guess it’s just because me and everybody involved, and we just listened to so much music growing up, and it wasn’t just one type of music, and also, the big heroes, speaking for myself, but like Led Zeppelin and the Rolling Stones. Those guys, they did everything. They did every kind of feel and vibe that you could possibly imagine. They weren’t relegated to just one type of sound. I guess it’s always been the way that I put together releases is just with different styles and putting them back to back. To go back on the thing that you said, on the last album, there was a song called “Beat the Devil,” it’s literally 45 seconds long, this 45-second long song, and it’s in the vein of Motorhead. Obviously, it’s really fast. It’s really hard. It’s really heavy, but we squeeze in three choruses, two verses, and a guitar solo in 45 seconds. I don’t know how we did it, but I sandwiched that song in between the two mellowest songs on the album, so it really messes with the listener’s head in, I think, a really good way. I did a similar trick on this album. Getting back to what you said, yeah. The last two songs are pretty mellow, and they come at you, two mellow songs in a row at the end, which hopefully, the effect is trying to leave you with literally a hypnotic buzz, which is what those two songs are about. Seems like you picked up on that, which is really cool.

Toddstar: I’m telling you, not only that, but it gets the listener to go ahead and click back to the beginning of the disc to go back to the heavier stuff, if that’s what you’re into. I can’t find a bad track on the album.

Rob: That means a lot, man. I really appreciate it. I was a little worried about the two mellow songs at the end idea, because I didn’t want anybody to say, “I’m sleeping by the end.” I want you to be in a trance by the end and do exactly what you said. “I’ve got to go through that. I’ve got to go hear that one more time.” If that was the effect, that means everything for me.

Toddstar: You hit a home run with this one. You mentioned some of your heroes. You’ve mentioned Led Zeppelin, and you talk about Led Zeppelin a lot in different interviews and different things I see with you in it. That aside, what in your youth really drove you to the point where you said, “I want to pick up a guitar. I want to stand behind a microphone, and this is what I have to do with my life.”

Rob: Yeah. That’s a good question. I’ll answer it in two parts. I never wanted to be a lead singer. I just couldn’t really find anybody around town that got what I was after, and so I was like, “I know I’m never going to sing like Steven Tyler or Freddie Mercury or Robert Plant or any of those guys, but some of my other favorite singers, Bob Dylan and Keith Richards and Izzy Stradlin, those guys are a little bit more like, almost like conversational, a little bit gruff and growly, depending. Tom Waits is another one. I was like, “I’m not saying I’m as good as those guys, but I think I can see myself pulling that off more than the vocal acrobatics of the previous guys that I mentioned,” so I just started to do it myself. Back then, I was making little demos on four-tracks and trying to get your voice to do certain things, and that was the inspiration behind… again, I never wanted to be a lead singer. It was just literally because I couldn’t find anybody. As far as picking up the guitar, there was definitely a moment. I grew up as a little kid listening to music my whole life and never once thought about picking up a guitar until… I must have been about 12 or 13 or whatever, and I’d been a huge Stones fan, but I never really saw what they looked like on stage, how they performed and stuff. Just to date myself a little bit, this is before MTV exploded, and now we have access to everything. Just seeing the Stones live was not something that I had done by the time I was 12 until I saw that movie, Let’s Spend the Night Together on HBO, which is a concert movie. I think they were touring on Taxi You. I remember seeing Keith and Ronnie up there, and it just looked like so much fun, and it sounded really cool, and it looked like they were having the times of their lives, and I was like, “Man, I’ve got to try and figure out how to do something at least a little bit close to that,” and that was the inspiration was seeing those guys live. Like I said, I’ve been listening to their albums and everybody else’s albums for years, but it just didn’t really dawn on me to pick up a guitar until I saw that.


Toddstar: Okay. Fair enough. You’re getting this out there a little bit before the drop date. The drop date is April 14th, I believe. That’s when the rest of the world gets to enjoy this thing. What about tour dates, man? What are we doing about live shows?

Rob: That’s always a tough predicament because the other guys do play in other bands that have way more financial fire power than my humble little outfit, but that’s something we’re always working on, and we’re talking about taking the band out there and possibly opening up for a band that we’ve always loved growing up. I can’t really say much more than that, but hopefully, it’ll come to fruition. Yeah. I would love to take this band out on the road. I really think that it would resonate with people, and I think people are dying to hear some blood and guts rock and roll, and I’d love to give it to them.

Toddstar: Hmm. The Rolling Stones just announced a tour. (Laughter) Anyway, like you said, it’s got to be hard in a situation where you’re in where the guys have other bands, other projects. What is it that you find yourself doing… I don’t want to use the term, “waiting around,” but when the other guys in the band have other commitments away form The Compulsions, what’s Rob Carlyle out there doing to kill time?

Rob: Yeah, man. It’s excruciating sometimes. I’m not going to lie. It’s frustrating. It sucks. In the meantime, I just have to do whatever I can to make ends meet, stay occupied, and keep the home fires burning, but it’s not easy. It’s not easy. I guess, to answer your question a little more specifically, I’m always writing songs. I’m always thinking about what the next record is going to be, stuff like that, and always trying to brainstorm on other ways to get the music out there. There’s a lot of financial restrictions, because I don’t have a label. I don’t have management. It’s completely self financed, so any support from the fans is hugely appreciated and goes a long way, just really goes a long way.

Toddstar: I can’t wait to be able to go out and do my part and pick this up when I can put my hands on an actual piece of plastic with liner notes and all that good stuff.

Rob: Yeah. People are always asking about that. That’s really cool.

Toddstar: Yeah. I’m like you. I might be dating myself here, but I’d rather have a CD in my hands then a download in my phone. That’s me. That’s just the way I am. Forget streaming and all the other controversy right now. Just download, paid for or not paid for. I’d rather have the piece of plastic.

Rob: Yeah, I know. A lot of people seem to feel that way. Yeah. I don’t know what to say. I don’t know if it’s ever going to go back that way, but certainly bands could keep making CDs and so on at shows and stuff.

Toddstar: Sure. That said, with everything you have done, like you said, numerous EPs. This is the second full length from The Compulsions, and everything you’ve done, if there’s one or two things in your professional career that you’re hoping you’re remembered for or that you want to be remembered for, what would those things be, Rob?

Rob: Oh, man. I have no idea. Just the fact that we played rock and roll when nobody else out there was really doing it. I don’t really hear a lot of what we’re doing, and it’s weird to me because when people hear it, they seem to love it. It’s rock and roll. It’s like pizza and a coke. What’s not to like? Yeah, there’s all these little niche bands that are huge right now, that never would have been huge back in the day, and they’re dominating the scene right now. They’re the ones that have those high-powered labels and managers and stuff behind them, and I don’t really know how it got to that point, so how would I like to be remembered? I don’t know else to say except that maybe I kept the fire burning for the next generation to come up and blow all this nonsense away. That’s all I could really say.

Toddstar: You’re speaking to my heart, Rob. You really are. Really. Music is too disposable. Rock stars aren’t rock stars anymore. Thank you for carrying that torch, man, because it means a lot to us rockers that are still looking for that sexy, dirty fun rock record that doesn’t give a damn about the trends, doesn’t give a damn about anything except, “Here’s the chords. Here’s the tempo. Here’s the vocals, and away we go.”

Rob: Right. Thank you so much, man. That’s fucking awesome.

Toddstar: Rob, hopefully we’ll see you swing through Detroit sometime soon, and… 

Rob: That would be great. That would be great.

Toddstar: We’ll get a chance to throw back a drink and talk at length about this.

Rob: For sure. For sure.

Toddstar: All right, Rob. Hang tight, and hopefully, we’ll see you on the road soon.

Rob: Thank you so much, Todd. Take care now.





Category: Interviews

About the Author ()

ToddStar - that's me... just a rocking accountant who had dreams of being a rock star. I get to do the next best thing to rocking the globe - I get to take pictures of the lucky ones that do. I love to shoot all genres of music and different types of performers. If it is related to music, I love to photograph it. I get to shoot and hang with not only some of my friends and idols, but some of the coolest people around today.

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