The Riverboat Gamblers have been one of my favorites for quite some time now and that hasn't changed with the release of their new album "Underneath The Owl". Simply put, it kicks ass! Here's an email interview we did with guitarist Fadi El-Assad. (photo credit : Gary Copeland)
PRT: Suffered any fresh injuries lately?
Fadi: I tore a ligament in my knee last fall during a show in our hometown of Denton, TX. Other than that.....mostly emotional pain.
PRT: You once said about the way you guys work that you keep going forward by being beat up. does it still feel like that?
Fadi: I don't remember saying that, but if one of us did i would have to retract the statement. i think we move forward by writing and writing and writing. always coming up with new stuff has really been the impetus for propelling the band forward.
PRT: Riverboat casinos are typical for the South of the US which is where you guys are from. do you think you would sound any different if you were say, from New York?
Fadi: well i don't think that we sound like a riverboat casino or the bands that play riverboat casinos. rarely do they invite punk rock bands to play in riverboat casinos. everyone is a product of his/her environment and i think a band is no exception. i mean there's a lot of great inspiration to be drawn from Texas bands, past and present. but it's an awkward question to answer. i mean, we love the Big Boys (Austin), but we have more in common with the Ramones (speaking of new york) than we do with say....Pantera (arlington, tx).
PRT: What's up with the album title 'Underneath The Owl'?
Fadi: there are dark forces assembling. they gather in secret locations all around the world. one such place exists in Austin. the tallest building in the city is in the heart of downtown. a monolithic edifice created in the likeness of the Pagan Owl God known as Moloch. it is linked to a secret society of world leaders, bankers, multi-millionaires, and Industrialists. they convene in a place called Bohemian Grove in Northern California. the album title is meant to convey the severity of the situation in which we find ourselves. alone in darkness, moving as mice along the foliage as the owl fixes his gaze upon us. suddenly he swoops without warning and grabs us in his talons, carrying us to a branch high atop the forest floor to enjoy his meal. we have to remember to not be the mindless consumer or the obedient citizen.....and to remember that we can bring ourselves to be out of the darkness of the forest floor by thinking freely and educating ourselves.
PRT: The song title "Pilgrims In An Unholy Land" made me wonder... how big of an Indiana Jones fan are you?
Fadi: Huge. especially the first two. nothing beats short-round.
PRT: And how exactly do robots break your heart?
Fadi: well, it's a metaphor. so they don't "exactly" break your heart. sometimes having no emotions seems like a much better alternative to going through the turmoil that tends to just tear you up inside. maybe if we exorcise emotion we can avoid heartbreak, pain, and a lot of convoluted thoughts. you know....embrace logic so as to forget why life is a huge kick in the balls sometimes.
PRT: Can you give me three good reasons why people should spend money on the album, especially now that there's an economic crisis going on?
Fadi: 1. I
PRT: In your online store you have four different packages for the new album... does it work offering people an extra incentive to buy rather than just download the album by adding a poster, a 7", bonus songs and the likes?
Fadi: im not sure....i suppose we'd have to set up some sort of control group to find out. maybe you can help us with that!!! are you good at statistics? i'm terrible with them. it seems like people would be inclined to buy the package if it's what they're looking for. for instance, if you want a tshirt, 7" single, and CD....why bother buying them all separately? you can still download the record alone as well.
PRT: Suburban Home Records just released Mike Hale's new album that they are giving away for free. Is that something you would ever consider? Being the tour maniacs that you are, i could see it drawing more people to your shows.
Fadi: i don't think we're in a positon to do that right now. but you never know what the future holds. the digital age has brought a lot of new things to the table, including the ease and convinience of instant gratification with music. we've given away singles and EPs for free. so maybe one day we'll find the kindness in our dark, miserly hearts to offer a free full length. the future is unwritten.
PRT: You're going out on tour with Rancid and Rise Against... does playing with big bands like that make you go for it even harder when you're onstage?
Fadi: honestly not. i think we have to reevaluate our approach to the stage set up and set list, but we hit just as hard as any bar show we've ever done.
PRT: How hard is it to snap back to 'normal life' when you get back from tour?
Fadi: aaaahhhhh.....there's definitely a period of post tour depression. but for me its linked to feeling idle. if im busy with stuff i like to do when i get home, it certainly eases the blow. you just have to avoid the "grass is always greener" mentality. enjoy the moment. have fun touring and playing crazy shows. then when you come home....have fun with your friends, family, and wife/girlfriend.
PRT: You'll be playing Reading and Leeds in August... is it going to be coupled to a full European tour with maybe finally a stop in Belgium?
Fadi: yes we are definitely working on that!!!! nothing is confirmed yet but we are making sure that we tour Europe again. we've played belgium about 3 times and it's always a blast. can't wait to get back
PRT: Any last words for our readers?
Fadi: GFFG! keep coming to the shows and we'll keep playing!!! keep your eyes open and your hearts hungry. see ya soon.