Bob Pantella has always been an unassuming guy. Good natured and humble, no one would even know that he is part of the heavy-duty world of Monster Magnet unless they actually knew him or saw his powerhouse drumming with Dave Wyndorf and crew on the big stage. The same goes for Monster Magnet/Riotgod bassist Jim Baglino, who comes in at one point at their recent Stone Pony show to say hello before vanishing into the equipment truck and the never-ending load out. The outlook of these rock and rollers is what has driven Riotgod to new places and their eloquent 1960s and 1970s hard rock style mixes them in alongside greats such as Steppenwolf, Blue Cheer and Deep Purple.
The band has been quite active, signing with German-based label Metalville Records and gearing up for road duty behind their latest self-titled disk due out at the end of the month. Their live show of these songs as well as others is an exhaustive outpouring of everything they have, going thru a full hour set and driving home the point that they have created their own universe outside of other bands and they have something to say on their own with Riotgod. Pantella recently spoke with me by phone and explained some of the inside workings of the group.
What led to the transformation from long time position in Monster Magnet to starting your own side group?
It was just Jim and myself, you know, just spending a lot of time on the road and we just had a lot of music that we wanted to create. With Monster Magnet, that’s not really the case for us sometimes. That’s more of Dave’s thing, so we really just wanted to get together and do something a bit more on our own. Being in Monster Magnet, we don’t really know how long it’s going to last, you know? And not only that, but there’s a lot of time off and personally we like to work a lot so, the desire to do more began building up over the last couple of years.
We wanted to try our own thing and call our own shots with musical direction and stuff. We talked about for years and it took a long time to really find the right people and get going. I’ve always had my recording studio, so it was easy in that aspect but it was hard to find the right ingredients—you know, sounds, personalities and such. We know nothing’s perfect but you want to get people into the same head space. My singer Sunshine, who I love, the guy is a crazy son of a bitch (laughs), but musically we’re in the same place. His lyrics are amazing, and he’s got a great voice. He can pretty much sing anything that you can think of. I give him the music, and by the next day, it’s ready to be recorded. It gels with what I’m writing perfectly. This is a great band to take us to a different level. Being in Monster Magnet is an awesome opportunity to launch other things for us.
You have a new self-titled CD coming out later this month on Metalville Records. How has a foreign label helped raise awareness for the band both here and abroad?
I guess the publicity machine and the fact that we’ve been signed spreads quickly. It’s made us more legitimate in the fan’s eyes I think. This release is actually a second release. We put it out on our own earlier, but now it’s really official, and the label has been great to us so far. They are releasing this in a limited edition digi-pak as well as cd later on. There will be unreleased songs and other surprises on the digi as well as the CD packaging. And that’s due around Aug. 1.
You have interesting backgrounds; tell me about the bands you have come from?
Well, Jim played in Dead Guy and Human Remains. I was in Raging Slab in the late ’80s, and then Love Among Freaks, we did all that stuff for the movie Clerks. Also, I’ve been with Atomic Bitchwax since 2007. Garrett Sweeny came from of Psycho Daisy and of course there’s Sunshine, who is an entity unto his own.
How did these backgrounds contribute to the over all writing without confusing the direction of your music?
Well, different yes, but not so defined as to be far apart. It kind of just goes the same way for all of us. I mean, Jim has more of a garage and punk background, I’m more of a classic rock dude, and so is Garrett. We grew up on Kiss and Aerosmith, Alice Cooper, all that Zeppelin stuff. John Bonham, Ian Pace and Bill Ward, that’s my thing. If I could be a combination of all three that would be great (laughs.) But we blend our influences easily and it tunes us into the same unified direction in the studio and on stage.
I hear a lot of people throwing musical clichés at the band such as Soundgarden and Zeppelin, do you agree with that comparison or do you feel that you’re headed down much different musical pathway?
Hey, I don’t really know. We kind of just do what we do, you know? It’s not a horrible comparison to me. I love Soundgarden and Zeppelin, but I don’t care who you are, you really can’t escape musical comparisons if you’re in a band. Take the Beatles; no one can get around that inspirational vice grip and still be a musician. As far as what people see, it’s not necessarily what were going for, but it just comes out that way and we don’t really mind those comparisons.
What the craziest thing that’s ever happened on the road?
I can’t tell you that! (Laughs) You don’t even want to know that one.
I’m sure I do.
Putting it into print, I don’t know man. If I say it everybody’s going to know who it is. Ok, let’s see. We were on the road in Los Angeles and one of the guitar players knocked on my door to go out partying—in a dress. I’m talking full makeup and a dress at 5 o’clock in the morning.
Is there a tour in the mix as well with this upcoming release?
Of course! First of all, in August, Monster Magnet is going on the road for a bunch of European festival dates, and then Riotgod is going to tour consecutively right behind them. Were going to do three or four weeks in Europe. And then I’m back out with Atomic Bitchwax for three weeks (back in Europe) and then Monster Magnet will do another November to December run. Also, the Monster Magnet record will be out in October.
So you’re pretty damn busy huh?
Oh yea dude, and I’m also working on the next Atomic Bitchwax record now as well. I told you, I like to be really busy (laughs).
If there was one thing you wanted to convey to possible new listeners about Riotgod, what would that be?
We just want it to be a fun cool band and record. I want people to know us as a real rock and roll band. I don’t want to try to reinvent the wheel; I just want to sound fucking cool, you know? Like I felt when I was 15-years-old and I put on a record, smoked a joint and said, ‘Yeah this is fucking great!’ from the beginning to the end, you know? We want the listeners to have their cake and eat it too. I think that would be the sentiment from Riotgod.