Rattlehead are a thrash metal band from Hollywood, California. Their most recent album is The Blackout Brigade, which was released last November. Rattlehead’s lineup currently consists of vocalist/guitarist Nick Baranov, guitarist Francis Ausley, bassist CJ “Shadow” Valtierra and drummer Hector “The Butcher” Llentillin.
Rattlehead will be playing Philly’s Finnigan’s Wake July 9, Trenton, New Jersey’s Championship Bar And Grill July 11, New York City’s Even Flow July 12 and NYC’s Tobacco Road July 18. The Aquarian got to speak with Rattlehead lead guitarist Francis Ausley about The Blackout Brigade, touring and more. The transcription is below:
You’ve got some real monster drives throughout the tour. What do you guys do to stay motivated throughout these epic drives?
On the longer ones we try to get a good night’s rest. We make sure whoever is going to do a shift the next day does not get too drunk the night before. Then we just switch off and make sure no one gets so tired that it makes the driving unsafe. We party in the van occasionally (laughs). We just knock it out and look forward to the shorter drives. We try to stay cool. We are getting our air conditioning fixed right now (laughs). We could do this all year if we could keep playing shows. 50 days is about all we got this time. We could tour without end if we didn’t have any responsibilities to take care of back home.
What albums will be featured most prominently in your setlists?
Our new EP, The Blackout Brigade, is going to be heavily featured. We will be playing nearly the whole thing every night. Of course, we are going to throw in some tunes from the other two albums, a cover here and there. Definitely a lot of The Blackout Brigade. We pretty much play it in its entirety every night give or take a song. We do have a fairly new drummer. He hasn’t learned all the tracks but he knows a lot of them. We are going to be playing “Just Stay Down,” “AWOL,” “Walk With The Dead,” “Crack A Cold One,” “Bottom Shelf Shuffle,” and I know I am leaving out a couple. He also is going to be working on learning a few of the older tracks on the road as well so we can add to the setlist as we move along. I would love to play “The Losing Hand” on this tour.
Can you speak about how the studio experience was for your band while recording The Blackout Brigade?
We did it almost entirely in Nick’s home studio. We recorded all the guitars and bass through his setup that he has. We built a recording booth for the vocals in his closet and they turned out really well. Nick doesn’t have a specific area or anything like that in a typical home where you would keep your TV and couch. It’s just a big office area of computers, soundboards and pods that you would need to do a full-on recording mix. For me, all the songs went pretty smoothly. Nick mixed the album himself.
At your concerts, what songs from The Blackout Brigade get the best reception?
The single is “My Sweet Sally.” It’s a really fast, solo-driven song with a heavy chorus. People seem to be liking that a lot! We play it fast but very melodic. I think this album has a lot more mature songwriting than our previous albums. For legal reasons, we are unable to disclose the metaphor of “My Sweet Sally” at this time (laughs).
“Live A Lie” is a much softer-toned track, and comes off in a personal way. What was going on with Rattlehead when you guys got the idea for that track?
It was about a very stormy relationship that Nick had gotten out of. That was the basis for most of the inspiration for the lyrics in this album. That had a direct correlation with him and his ex that ended quite turbulently. Nick had been going through a lot of emotional turmoil over this breakup that he suffered; he had a lot of problems with that breakup. It was a real shitstorm of drama. It really set us back a ways. He was really venting a lot of frustration and heartbreak throughout the whole album.
Was your song “Get In The Van” about your time on the road, or the crazy adventures your van has lived through?
I would say both. “Get In The Van” has sort of become our motto about the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle. It’s about the crazy antics that we get into. We are going to tell you about a story from touring in America in the past few years:
One time, we rolled up to this place with a guarantee of $400 and had sound guys brought in from another city with guarantees as well. A lot of promises were said. We get into town and the promoter is nowhere to be found. He had gotten us some hotel rooms under his credit card. We check into the hotel and he is nowhere to be found. We found out this guy is infamous for screwing over bands.
No one shows up. We go to his house to see if he is there. There is no one there and there is an eviction notice on his front door. We go down to the local strip. We go into this bar that is just packed full of people. We tell the owner our situation and they just let us play. Everybody knew this guy. Somebody knocked his teeth out for the same shit the week before. They let us set up and play some songs. We sold a ton of merch, drank and partied with basically the whole town. Then we invited everybody back to the hotel. We ended up partying in the hotel and completely destroyed all of the rooms, which was like $10,000 in damages.
We realized we should probably get going (laughs). So we packed up our stuff and got out. We only had one driver that was sober. He drove until he couldn’t drive anymore and we pulled over to an abandoned gas station just to rest for an hour. Four hours later, it’s like nine in the morning, and we get a knock on the window from a cop. He is like, “You guys have a good time last night?” We are like, two counties over now. They pull us out of the van and take all of our licenses. They basically knew our entire tour schedule. I can’t believe it, but they let us go onto our next show.
You mentioned a new song the other day called “Deadsert.” Could you give a description of it?
The first day on this tour, we got stranded in the desert for three hours because we blew a trailer tire. It was like, 105 degrees out, and our air conditioning isn’t working. We were calling every automotive and towing place that we could find to try and help. We were like, 35 miles from the nearest town. We decided that would be a fun song to write. It hasn’t been written yet, but it’s on the list of good topics to write about. It was more of a joke photo shoot. We set that up because we thought it would be a fun Photoshop opportunity. We took photos just so we remember the idea and everything.
We have done some backyard shows in the past but nothing in the desert. In order to pull off something like that, you would need some monster power. I don’t know if that would be in our budget right now. It would be a blast if we could put it together.
You have a new drummer as of last year, Hector Llentillin. Did Hector get to contribute to the writing of The Blackout Brigade that much?
No, not so much. It was pretty much all finished. He still throws his own flare in, which is always encouraged. He is a really good fit, so I am really excited to lay down some new stuff as a complete band again.
Will there be another Rattlehead album coming soon?
Once we get off tour, we are going to jump back into writing material. We hope we won’t take nearly as long on albums as we did on the last time. Hopefully we can get another out in about 18 months. We don’t have any complete songs right now but I know Nick and I have a small library of riffs that we put away for the time being that we decided weren’t quite right for this album. We definitely have some stuff in the works. Hopefully when we get off tour we are going to crunch down on writing and crank out some new tunes. We have talked about vinyl and I am all for it. It’s a question of how many are they going to print versus how many are we going to sell.
Rattlehead’s words of wisdom: Hide all your wives, daughters and sisters, because Rattlehead is coming to town!
Rattlehead will be playing Philly’s Finnigan’s Wake July 9, Trenton, New Jersey’s Championship Bar And Grill July 11, New York City’s Even Flow July 12 and NYC’s Tobacco Road July 18. For more information, go to rattleheadmusic.com.