An Interview with Riotgod: The Empire Driven

Jersey-based rockers Riotgod will play one show this year, and it’s Oct. 31 at the Stone Pony with Sekond Skyn, The Battery Electric, Harvey Djent and Flowers To Flames. That’s right—a Halloween extravaganza meant to act as a precursor to the release of the band’s third album, Driven•Rise, coming soon.

Below, Riotgod vocalist Sunshine updates on the band’s doings and talks about having to share guitarist Garrett Sweeny and drummer Bob Pantella with Monster Magnet, their split with Jim Baglino (now also out of Magnet) and bringing in Erik Boe to fill the vacant bassist slot. Keep an eye out for more from one of Jersey’s finest heavy rock acts in 2014.

The Stone Pony show is Riotgod’s only gig this year. What’s been going on with the band since Invisible Empire came out on Metalville?

The Stone Pony will be our only gig but dig this—it will be a good one. We are going to have the audience especially involved. We will invite them to video one of the new songs. I don’t care if one has a ratchety flip phone, an iPhone or a Samsung phone the size of an air-hockey table. If it can capture video we want it. We will then be editing the emailed submissions into a video for [a new] song.

Importantly, it has been a while since I’ve played—I have no other bands nor do I do the cover band thing. So when I get to play, especially this night (which looks to be quite the Halloween night experience) when we will be field-testing some of the newest songs? I am quite stoked.

To be thorough: Invisible Empire came out in 2012. Riotgod had some brief touring at the beginning of 2012, a brief U.S. run followed by a—shall we say—an “unforgettable” if not surreal Europe experience. I will respectfully leave it at that.

But we went back out again in the summer for a sweet second Europe run. We played Wacken Open Air, a great packed gig in Berlin the next night with Electric Wizard and that started off a colorful, exciting week. Across the middle of Europe we went, ending it off with the Saupfitz Festival in Austria, where we played outside at the foot of a mountain—another kind of unforgettable.

What happened with Jim and how did Erik wind up coming in on bass?

Jim had other obligations that demanded his attention. Erik came on just before the U.S. run in 2012. He is now another member who works in a few bands, notably Black Reign.

Obviously Bob and Garrett have had their hands full with Monster Magnet’s new album and now they’ll be touring. Is it possible for you and Erik to write while Bob and Garrett aren’t around?

It certainly is. Erik and I have gotten together a few times and surely will again in the future.

Is the third Riotgod album finished being recorded? Any idea when it will be out?

It has been in a state we consider “done.” We are working out some private decisions that will govern where this album will “be.” I would imagine these decisions and discussions will become actions once Bob and Garrett fulfill their Monster Magnet obligations, sometime in the beginning of 2014.

How does Driven•Rise build off what Riotgod did with Invisible Empire? Is there a specific meaning for you in using the title?

I don’t know that such a progression between the two musical efforts—a linked progression can be identified… as far as “build.” The title is the title of the first song, which is quite a driving song, with a lot of vocal layering. Certainly, Driven•Rise, it can be attributed as the attitude at the band’s core. Sticking to what we feel is our sound and rising above obvious obstacles and challenges that face this particular band.

Was there anything specific you wanted to bring to the new album coming off of Invisible Empire? Something you felt you wanted to expand on or change in the band’s sound?

We worked with different subject matters, longer form songs (for example a dual-part song based on Game Of Thrones characters) as well as continued the layered vocal production I consider integral to my own sound, which invariably adds to the great work performed by Bob, Garrett and Erik.

With such a classic sound, how do you feel Riotgod has grown since you started out?

Riotgod certainly has grown in tangible ways. Once a group has all toured that certainly solidifies relationships. This helps with creation of music too, ideally, where trust is a big issue and faith, knowing that when the chips are down, so to speak, in the studio or at a show, one can be counted on. Need lyrics in short time—a solo—a last-minute song (see “Positronic Cherry Dream” off the new CD) no problem.

I can wax fanciful about the ultimate growth scenario you read about, where a band rents a remote house, sets up a studio where they can record for a matter of time, at any time of the day, all together for a while. That would be ridiculously fruitive. You wanna talk growth? That is the growth I think about, gaining flexibility, freedom, independence. That would be like a damned mushroom farm, a lot of shit in and a lotta good coming out of it. But—I digress.

What does Riotgod have planned for 2014?

We will be deciding how to release this new work of ours, how to plan our schedule and eventually writing more new material. Myriad options, but first—the Stone Pony.


Riotgod will appear at the Stone Pony on Halloween night, Oct. 31 with The Battery Electric, Sekond Skyn, Harvey Djent and Flowers To Flames. More info at