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INTERVIEW: C.J. SNARE of RUBICON CROSS, May 2014

Sometimes when an artist starts to split time in projects, I wonder what will become of both projects.  In the case of Firehouse frontman C.J. Snare, he is perfectly balancing his efforts between the multi-platinum act that put him on the map and his latest project, Rubicon Cross.  The latter of the two independently released an EP back in 2010 or 2011 that has been in my collection since.  The new release from the group hitting the street May 19 is a revamped lineup, tracklist, and sound that will surprise many and should enthuse most!

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Toddstar:  I appreciate you taking time out for us today.

CJ: Hey, it’s my pleasure, man. I know you’re doing the same, so I really, really appreciate it as well. Thank you.

Toddstar: Let’s jump into this. Rubicon Cross, it’s a killer release, heavier than most of the things you’ve done in the past. What can you tell us about this project that you might not catch on to the first or second time listening through?

CJ: Well, I would say that this is the artistic manifestation of the raw emotions that were experienced over the last decade or less through Chris Green, my co-writer and cohort in crime, and me, CJ Snare.  I met him overseas in Spain. He was touring with a band that was touring with Firehouse. By the way, I just would like everybody to know that Firehouse is still alive and well, a touring entity. It’s not a breakup and another project to get in the way of. It’s just another artistic expression, which brings me back around to Chris and myself.  He was best man at my wedding. I was best man at his wedding. But before all that we went through breakups and divorces, and I am Godfather to his son, his toddler son. We just went through so many trials and tribulations and things that, as we were together and writing and both being artists, it’s just, this had to be made. We had to express this artistically. I think that’s what you’ll find that’s different.  This is a range of emotions, from the rage you might feel after having been dumped to the elation you might feel of meeting what you think is that right someone to death, you know, to birth. That’s why I think it’s so important. That’s the underlying theme. There’s got to be something that everyone can relate to or has gone through in the Rubicon Cross CD.

​Toddstar: Well, very cool. This is something that I personally have been waiting a long time for because there was an EP Limited Edition that came out a couple of years ago. How much has the material changed? You guys really started putting this together, like I said, the EP was 2010 or 2011. How much has this been really morphed in that time?

CJ: Well, quite a bit. We had a lot of the material that was coming along and we were experimenting and we went in many different directions. We finally found just the right track for us, the right direction, if you will. We knew it had to be different from Firehouse, because if you want Firehouse, you go see Firehouse.  And here we are. It’s kind of a challenge too with my voice being the way it is. It’s a difficult thing to try and change up, so I tried to stylistically and tonally and lyrically do things a bit different than I normally would if it were a Firehouse project.  You know, you’ll find a couple of those songs from the EP on here with not only a fresh coat of paint but we have a full band. You may not realize this but on the EP, those are programmed drums. It’s sick. You can’t even tell anymore these days. We have Robert Bhenke from Seventh Omen, which they were nominated for two Grammy awards, and he’s just a monster. We have Simon Farmery, who’s also another Englishman, on bass, and we have Jeff Lerman playing our rhythm and also dual leads along with Chris when called for, guitar.  They’re all on this, and it just has that live feel to it. It’s really aggressive. I’ve heard a lot of different albums, and when you hear the band live if it’s not quite as edgy or … Live is more edgy than the recording. This recording is pretty raw. It’s pretty edgy. It’s a lot heavier, as you said, than things I had done in the past, yet it’s still eclectic, so if any Firehouse fans were to want to come along, I’d say, listen with an open mind.  I think we’ll get some new people too because, wonder of wonders, the people that did listen to the EP and categorically wrote about it or spoke about it or blogged about it, whatever they did, they were able to allow me to jump genres from what my main project is with Firehouse and everything like that, which is sort of classic rock or hair metal or melodic rock or whatever you want to call it. They put Rubicon Cross in a modern rock category, modern hard rock/heavy metal. It sits somewhere in the fence between those two.  Some of the songs would sit very comfortably alongside some classic tracks and some very much so with active rock, modern bands.

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Toddstar: I’d tend to agree with that. Your voice has that classic rock sound and that’s just your voice regardless of whether it is in Rubicon Cross or other projects. You just have that sound. You automatically know that’s CJ Snare. Is that something that you went into this project knowing that the songs might be a little heavier, knowing that there’s a different approach obviously, because you’re writing with Chris instead of other people?  Is there somewhere you said, okay, my voice is what it is, let’s just make this the best rock record without leaning towards any genre?

CJ: That’s part of it. It wasn’t really formulaic. Like I said, we did a lot of experimentation to find the right direction, and I am singing raspier, if you will, on some things, some in a lower register. I try to avoid a lot of the higher harmonies that are really a trademark sound of the other band and I would sing a lower harmony if it was called for. Then of course, there’s the stylistic difference between the guitarists and our chord structure as we were writing the songs. Yeah, it was very different in that way, and there was certainly, for the most part … Like you said, there’s just sometimes when a potato is a potato, an apple is an apple, and you just can’t help it. You’ll hear that shine through on occasion, but we really did try to make it something, a different side. If you’re looking for that, it’s a different side. You’ll still find the melodies and the hooks. That’s in there, but you’re also going to find a different style of music, and you’ll listen to it and you will know that this is not Firehouse, I think. You’ve listened to both. What do you think?

Toddstar: Again, I still have the EP that I purchased in 2011 from your website back then. I think they each hold their own, but I think this new release just gives an edge to your voice and to your music and to your writing that I think … I don’t want to say Firehouse lacked … but I think could have been different. It’s a different project. I think anybody that lumped these together would be remiss and would be huge mistaken to not give this a fair shake, because it deserves more than that.

CJ: That was the point. That really was the point. I didn’t want to just replicate the mother ship with a different set of musicians behind me. I wanted to really show some artistic expression and creativity and sort of expand my musical horizons. Here it is. I invite people on May 19th, when it comes out, to be the judge.

Toddstar: If they give that opportunity, they’ll fall in love with it, that’s for sure. But you mentioned May 19th as a drop date. What can we expect after that? What’s next for Rubicon Cross? Are we talking about a tour? Are you going to take this up so everybody can hear it live and personal?

CJ: We are. We’re still in the gear-up stages. Chris and I had been out on the Monsters of Rock Cruise. I was out with Firehouse and he was out with Tyketto. We got back and the video had already dropped, and people can see the video at Facebook, if they’re on Facebook. I think one in 12 people on the planet, one out of every 12 people on the planet, are on Facebook. That’s Facebook.com/RubiconCrossBand. You can also find it on YouTube, or you can go right to our website, which is RubiconCross.net and you can hear a song and see a video, see the guys in the band. Now we’re starting our press junket and we’re going around and we’re talking about it and we’re telling everybody. It goes to radio next week, and then people will start hearing it that way as well. On the 19th, as you called the drop date, it will be available through Best Buy as a deluxe exclusive edition to Best Buy that’s going to be on the Nikki Sixx Sense displays, and that contains a couple of extra tracks and a poster and the lyrics and things like that. Then there’s the standard edition, and they can get it also at all the usual suspects like INgrooves is the label. They’re the company, which is done through Universal Music Group. For physical CDs it will be Universal INgrooves and they can get it at iTunes, Amazon, all the usual digital download places. I ask them to cast their vote, cast their vote, and keep rock alive.

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Toddstar: I agree with you. I dread the day that I won’t be able to walk in the store and purchase a physical CD. Let’s talk about you for a minute, CJ. Looking back, who made you want to stand behind a microphone and do this for a living?

CJ: God help me. I don’t know. I started playing piano when I was five, and I was playing classical, not at five. I was playing all the simple little stuff that everybody does, but my mother kind of pushed me towards that, saying if I could play that, I could play anything. Then I branched out into stuff like Kiss and then of course Judas Priest and the Scorpions and Iron Maiden. Those were big influences on me. I liked more the European kind of metal sound of that day, and that’s where the sense of melody came. I think I started singing and playing piano, doing little solo gigs, when I was about 18. I had played in little bands and stuff like that before that in my local town and it just kind of morphed into that. As I’ve said, I was a keyboard player, but something weird happened to my voice and it just kept developing and, “Oh, I can do that,” “Oh, I can do that,” “I can do that too.” “I can do kind of a scream like David Lee Roth. How about that?” Well, hmm. It was a discovery process and I guess it was a calling.

Toddstar: Very cool. I can say that I was one of those guys that got to see you before you blew up in any band. I was in the military back in the late ‘80’s and I got to see you swing through the Norfolk area several times before you and any of your bands took off huge. It’s always been a pleasure watching you, because you’re a very energetic performer. You always have a smile on your face; you always give your all. Is that a sense of pride for you, your live delivery?

CJ: Oh, absolutely. That’s like a professional athlete. You’ve got to always try to bring you’re A Game, and for me it’s like every time there’s something to prove. You never know who’s going to be in the audience or who’s never heard you before. I have my own kind of style, which goes through … a front man style, if you will, I think that’s kind of evolved over the years, but there’s still elements that have remained the same from the beginning. Yet, it’s not only a sense of pride, it’s the payoff, because there’s so many other things to do, like the interviews and the loading up the metadata now and the songs and making sure that the IRSC codes are embedded in each song and the artwork is completed and the UPC codes are different for all the countries but they all come back home, and it’s registered with Sound Exchange and the heading up of the video treatment and direction and editing and the same thing with the music itself down to the writing process. It’s quite involved. So to get up there and finally get that circle of energy going, that exchange when you can look into an actual listener’s eyes and see them singing the words to the songs that you wrote and all that work that you had done, coming right back at you, and it’s an immediate sort of thing. That’s what it’s all about.

Toddstar: Well, listen; you have everything ahead of you. I know you’ve got those summer dates lined up. You’ve got Rubicon Cross coming out May 19th. You’ve got hopefully some tour dates with that coming up. Everything seems to be moving full swing for CJ Snare. At this point, what’s the meaning of life for you, CJ?

CJ: The meaning of life for me? Wow, that’s a deep question. Todd, go for the jugular. Ready? Oh, okay. The meaning of life. I think Monty Python addressed that, didn’t they?

Toddstar: They did.

CJ: The meaning of life for me is multi-faceted, but I would say that the main thing that it boils down to is gratitude and happiness. I’m very grateful to have been allowed to enjoy my art as a way to make my living, and it’s the people that you’re going to write to and who will read this, who have allowed me to do that, so that’s the gratitude. I’d say, thank you, thank you, thank you very much for that. And the happiness of just being content with yourself and enjoying family and friends and making the most out of your life and the travels that come along with my job and meeting people, all of those things. Giving, thankfulness and happiness, that’s probably the meaning of life for me, and being able to create my art and have people actually appreciate it all around the world is a blessing.

Toddstar: Well, cool. Again, thank you so much for taking time out for us, CJ. I can’t wait to see you bring this to the masses, and I can’t wait for the listeners to be able to get their hands on this May 19th when they reach out to their Best Buy and pick up their deluxe edition of Rubicon Cross.

CJ: We have a deluxe, we have a standard. It’s also going to be … Well, yeah, that’s the only place you’ll be able to get it physical in the United States, a physical product, I should say. You can get physical wherever the heck you want to. Yeah, I mean you’ll also be able to download the records as well. So there you go. Then you’ll be seeing Rubicon Cross coming to certain towns where we’re getting good radio airplay, we’re generating good sales and things like that. Obviously, the face of the music industry has changed a little bit from when I started, so it will be, unless this thing blows up, wouldn’t that be something, huh? If it really blows up, then we’ll be more widespread. The more people that go out there and put a little tiny bit of money down and get this in their ears and then come out and see us, the better chance we have of perpetuating this. You know what? If you like rock and roll music, you support it by going to see it live. You support it by putting down … Music is so devalued now. I mean, you can get a full deluxe edition CD for $8 or $10. So go out there, because you know what? The artist is getting pennies from that. All your pennies add up, so the more votes you cast, the more it allows us to continue to do this.

Toddstar: Hopefully, you’ll give us an opportunity here in Detroit and we’ll make sure we do it.

CJ: All right. Well, thanks so much, Todd.  A pleasure speaking with you. Thank you.

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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  1. Ivette Martinez says:

    Muchas gracias por compartir esta interesante entrevista con uno de mis favoritos C.J.Snare. Un extraordinario ser humano, sencillo y muy simpatico. Soy una fiel fans del excelente grupo Fire House.Un saludo a todos los chicos del grupo.

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