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Crossing The Rubicon: An Exclusive Interview With CJ Snare Of RUBICON CROSS

By Larry Petro, News Monkey
Tuesday, April 22, 2014 @ 4:50 PM

"If you want FIREHOUSE, go see FIREHOUSE. If we're fortunate enough to have you like RUBICON CROSS well then you can come see us, too."

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Most people know him as the voice of 80's hair band FIREHOUSE. However, the charismatic vocalist has fronted many other projects as well, like MAXX WARRIOR and SCRAP METAL in addition to being a producer. Now he's back with another project called RUBICON CROSS one that he formed with PRIDE/FURYON guitarist Chris Green. their debut album is due out on May 19th via INgrooves. Find out what's going on with CJ, Chris and the rest of RUBICON CROSS right now!

KNAC.COM: So you've gotten together with Chris Green, guitarist of PRIDE and FURYON, for a new band called RUBICON CROSS. Is this a new long term band for you or just a side project?

SNARE: Well, I would say that this is a long term band. obviously, it's supply and demand. FIREHOUSE became a long term band because there was a demand for it, and there still is a demand for it, FIREHOUSE is still alive and well. I just want your readers to know that we are still a touring entity also. When Chris and I met we shared so many life experiences togther, standing beside each other as best man in each other's weddings, through divorces and separation, all kinds of things. And that's kind of what the sum of all the songs is about, the experiences we went through. So, since we're both creative individuals, it dictated or mandated the songs that came out. For example, he had a breakup one time in England and I said, 'Come on over to the US'. He now lives in the US, in Chicago. We were standing there and he was really, really bummed out and I remember him saying to me 'man, i feel like I've been a victim of hit and run serial monogamy'. You know, you meet that new someone, your new best friend, your confidant, your lover but then they can become your next worst enemy, and that's when the light bulb kinda went off above our heads and we wrote the song "Next Worst Enemy", which is the second track. I'm going through that right now because I just got divorced about 6 weeks ago, and life goes on and that's what this record is about. So yeah, will it be something that carries on, if the people like it and they want us to do more, we will. They just have to vote.

KNAC.COM: Based on the number of interviews you've been doing here lately, there seems to be a lot of buzz going on for the band right now.

SNARE: There is. There's a big ground swell and this week it just started at radio, too. So, with the press and the radio coming behind it and of course, May 19th, in the stores you'll be able to get the physical product at Best Buy. And that's all across the US, you can get it through Universal Music Group distribution. you can get our downloads through INgrooves, and that means iTunes, amazon.com and all the places where you can get digital downloads.

KNAC.COM: You mentioned that you and Chris had been friends for a while now, but how did you guys first hook up?

SNARE: When we got started we bumped into each other at a festival in Spain and I was standing next to a friend of mine from Ireland and he kinda bumped me in the ribs and said 'check this guy out'. I looked down and he was playing a PRIDE solo from a song called "Still Raining" and I just freaked out. Then I went down and talked to him and we became really fast friends. He's very easy to know and he's a talented musician as well so we began the writing process. As our friendship grew the chemistry for songwriting grew as well. I got him hooked up with some hair-bandy kinds of things to a lot of hard rock things when he was making the transition from England to the United States, which was before he met his wife, who is a U.S. citizen. Let's see, I think he played with NELSON, he filled in for FIREHOUSE one time when we played India. He did some SCRAP METAL gigs and I know he does some stuff with TYKETTO. We kind of morphed, we wanted to put a different stamp on this because it's modern, it's definitely a heavier influence. I don't think it sounds anything like your mother's FIREHOUSE, and thats because we wanted to, as I said, have a distinction, a differentiation. If you want FIREHOUSE, go see FIREHOUSE. If we're fortunate enough to have you like RUBICON CROSS well then you can come see us, too.

KNAC.COM: I've already listened to the tracks on the new cd and you're absolutely correct, I think this is gonna surprise some people who only remember you from FIREHOUSE.

SNARE: Well, and that was the point. That was really the point because my roots are in metal, they really are. I started off with a different kind of metal, you know, because I was doing the FIREHOUSE thing. When I started it was IRON MAIDEN, JUDAS PRIEST, the SCORPIONS, which is much heavier say than FIREHOUSE but still there's a melody that permeates that. And you'll find that in a lot of modern bands too like SHINEDOWN or ALTER BRIDGE, bands like that.

KNAC.COM: Where exactly did you come up with the name RUBICON CROSS for the band?

SNARE: Well, you know, 'Crossing the Rubicon' is actually an idiomatic English expression, kind of like 'needle in a haystack', but it does have a bit of history behind it. Chris' dad always used to say 'you've crossed the Rubicon now', and I had never heard that before and I was like 'what does that mean?'. It means you've passed the point of no return, you've committed an inexorable act. That comes from history actually, when Julius Caesar crossed a small river in Northern Italy and the name of the river was the Rubicon. When he did that he actually broke Roman law, which meant he was committing an act of war. He then went back into Rome, conquered Rome and became the emperor and so that's where it stems from. Well, we thought RUBICON CROSS, when we flipped it around, wasn't so obivous (a) and (b), it was a cooler sounding name for a rock band (laughs).

KNAC.COM: So you guys are coming to conquer the hard rock world again, right?

SNARE: Well yeah, and you know, because of that 'cross' stigma I've had a few people say 'is this a religious band?', and my answer is 'Fuck No!' (laughs)

KNAC.COM: You touched on it just a moment ago, but how would you describe that RUBICON CROSS sound to those that don't know anything about it, that might want to check out the band for the first time?

SNARE: I would think it's difficult for the artist to describe. I would probably want to ask each and every listener because everybody takes something a little bit different away from it. But, at it's core I do believe it's modern, okay? Some of the tracks can sit alongside some classic rock tracks but for the most part the underlying theme and at it's core, it has a stamp of 2014 on it, both in it's production value, it's songwriting, playing and performances, things like that. And the look of the band as well. It sits somewhere on the fence between hard rock and heavy metal. It's definitely leaning maybe more towards hard rock. And melody is something I bring, and hooks, and that permeates the entire set of tracks. You know, it's not FIREHOUSE but if FIREHOUSE were to like drink a whole case of Rockstar Energy Drink or Red Bull and do a load of steroids, then you might get a little something like this. And the sound of my voice, I have tried to concentrate on singing in lower registers, a little more gruff or I try to keep the harmonies lower instead of higher like we did in FIREHOUSE. The melodies have changed, some, the guitar tracks and the rhythm racks and things like that but also it's the members of the band. You've got Chris Green playing guitar, Simon Farmery, another Englishman, playing the bass and that helps to change the sound. Robert Behnke from SEVENTH OMEN, who were noimnated for 2 Grammys, is one hard hitting, meter keeping machine. And then we have Jeff Lerman on the other guitar and I tell you what, he holds his own with all the rhythms, and the double leads that you hear on the record he's doing along with Chris. He's very accomplished.

KNAC.COM: When it came to actually write the songs with Chris were you looking for a particular sound or was it just kind of like 'let the chips fall where they may' kind of attitude?

SNARE: Well, both. We didn't know exactly what the sound was so we did a lot of experimantation and a lot of chips fell where they might and they fell by the wayside and didn't make the cut. It was after a lot of trial and error that we finally found the right track, especially once he moved to the United States. When he got here there wasn't 4,000 miles of ocean separating us and so we really got down to work to hone the sound and the majority of what you hear is pretty current.

KNAC.COM: Besides being a singer and a musician, you're also a producer. Did you produce the RUBICON CROSS disc or did you hand that off to someone else?

SNARE: That's an interesting question. I mean, I did all the demos and also a lot of the tracks you hear on the record were recorded where I used to live in Milwaukee. I now live in Florida, but that was Snare Bear Studios up there. We then turned over the live drums and some of the guitars and I did like bass and vocals at my place, things like that, but when Chris and I demoed everything up, I think that the guy we turned it over to, who i'm gonna mention in a minute, pretty much used my demos as a pattern and Chris' demos too. Chris had programmed the drums and laid down a lot of the guitar sound so there was a pattern in place before we handed it to Rick Beato at Black Dog Studios where a lot of the other tracks were recorded. Rick Beato is well known for, well, he gave SHINEDOWN their first platinum album. He's done BULLET FOR MY VALENTINE and DARK NEW DAY and other bands too...NEEDTOBREATHE. Even in the country world he just did some writing and had a #1 hit on the country charts with a band called PARMALEE and a song called "Carolina". He's really an engineer's engineer, a mixer's mixer, a producer's producer and he's had a lot of success doing what he does so we were more than happy to hand it over to him to do the final mixing and mastering of the project.

KNAC.COM: And being the producer yourself, I would think that you would have had to trust this guy pretty implicitly in order to hand something like this off to him instead of doing it yourself.

SNARE: Well, it's funny that you mention that. Chris and I actually did fly down during the mixing sessions to Atlanta, Georgia and we sat in the studio with him song by song by song, so we had a hand in it, but we would alawys defer to his expertise I gotta tell ya. And he guided us in a lot of ways. I had last year 2 heavy metal ReverbNation albums that were at #1 and #14 respectively. I had XANDER DEMOS with Guitarcadia, who's a real shredder out of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, he's a ntive of florida as well. And then i had ALREADY GHOSTS, which are a real nice, tight metal outfit with some pretty cool vocals, too out of New England, so you know, I had some of those accolades as well and then I got the opportunity to mix for this sort of all-star project called LIBERTY N JUSTICE. They bring in all kinds of different singers, different guitar players and kind of mish-mash them together and redo cover tunes or they write their own songs, things like that. I was brought on board to handle the lion's share of a lot of that for many years.

KNAC.COM: And that's a great project right there, the LIBERTY N JUSTICE thing.

SNARE: I think so, too. I was fortunate enough to pair up with George Lynch and then Jeff Pilson hopped on and we did a cover version of "Pride (In The Name Of Love)" and I got to mix Kip Winger and, oh gosh, so many people...Phil Lewis, I paired him up with Chris Green, and the NELSON guys, it's just goes on and on, I can't think of all the guys right now.

KNAC.COM: It's hard to remember them all because it's a veritable who's who of 80's rock and metal that are apearing on these tracks.

SNARE: Right, and I get the sessions that come in to me and I just have to assemble them and then a lot of times....oh Tony Harnell, of TNT, he's was on there as well... and they (the tracks) would come to me and I'd call the artists and speak with them try and get an idea of their vision and then I would go to work.

KNAC.COM: One of the tracks on new RUBICON CROSS album, "Locked And Loaded", actually appears in a video game, Dirt Showdown. How did you guys get involved with that?

SNARE: I think they're an English company and they knew Chris and they had caught wind of the new project. Actually, it's a different version than what you would hear on the RUBICON CROSS CD, it's more like a demo version and they loved it, they fell in love with it when we sent it over. It's on XBOX 360 and Playstation 3, which both of those are now obsolete, but at the time it was really cool. That was like a year and a half, two years ago and, let's see, RISE AGAINST was on there also and a lot of other bands of the 'newer' generation, once again validating the fact that RUBICON CROSS is not from that melodic rock, hair band era. I'm the only oddball in the bunch, these guys are all a bunch of new up and comers and so this is really a baby band, it's like starting over again and I gotta tell ya, I have that same feeling of excitement that I had on that first FIREHOUSE record. Although the face of the music industry has really, really changed I still have that 'wow, I can't wait for everybody to hear this' and I hope that they go to the store and buy the CD or download it all and cast their vote and show us love, you know?

KNAC.COM: Well, that first video that you put out, the "Bleed With Me" video, is a perfect representation of RUBICON CROSS. You had mentioned about trying to change your voice a little bit and sing differently but in the end, your voice is your voice and I think it fits very well with the song and you can tell by watching the video that you seem to be energized and having a lot of fun with it.

SNARE: Yeah (laughs). It's funny, I just read on Facebook, someone just said 'you know, I love this new band. Your hairpiece still rocks in that one'... oh, no I don't have a hairpiece. maybe it looks like that next to all these other guys who have this natural, long, flowing hair. Well, I had this long, flowing hair too but as I got older it just kind of looked better shorter and I'm bangin my head and I'm old school man, I'm still that aquanet, hairspray kinda guy (laughs). But no hairpiece, you know this isn't a case of no wig, no gig. We did kind of strip down the treatment on "Bleed With Me" because we wanted it to be just a straight ahead video where people could get their first glimpse of the band, get that vibe, you know, who Chris was, see me in a new light and see what Simon was all about as a bass player and Robert, his style and Jeff and his style and how we interacted as a group and the song is about being a band of brothers.

KNAC.COM: The track is very heavy, it makes you want to pump your fist.

SNARE: We chose that track to lead off with because "Bleed With Me" is really...when I was doing the lyrics it was about going through adversity together and coming out on the other side better for it. And that's what we're all hoping for. Everything we've done to this point has certainly strengthened us as a unit but "Bleed With Me" I found out also was in the movie Braveheart when the guy is rallying his troops he said 'you've bled with Wallace, now bleed with me!'. Then, in further research I found out that the United States Marine Corp will tattoo it on themselves and use it as a slogan "bleed with me and you'll forever be my brother". So, it has a lot of meanings there, you know?

KNAC.COM: Now, I know it may be a little premature to ask this but is there any talk of planning to tour off of the release?

SNARE: Absolutely, I mean it is early and that's certainly our plan. This is a real band and FIREHOUSE has a very busy schedule coming up. We're gonna try and fill in some of the blanks, but there aren't that many though right now. We'll try and do that and then when FIREHOUSE season winds down in the fall and we can hit the road, more like a fulltime kind of deal. Probably the best thing for us would be to jump on with an existing tour if we could, if that's possible. Someone of that genre that's a little more established, as I said, we are a baby band, but I think we've got something to show. Everybody's very seasoned, we all play in different bands and when we bring it all tgether we're like a drag racer, just getting ready for that geen light to go. We're sitting there with our engines roaring and as soon as they give us the green light we're gonna just come out of the gate full force.

KNAC.COM: From the standpoint of being a baby band as opposed to a more established one, is that more exciting for you?

SNARE: Oh yeah, well it's a baby band and I'm Benjamin Button in the band (laughs), going backwards, but it's cool because it's that fresh start, it's the prospect of something new that I think is always exciting. It's a bit scary too, you know, because you want to be well received, it's your art, so as an artist you have to develop thick skin, you really have to develop thick skin, because you get some haters out there, but you know I've been reading a lot of the things that have come up from the early stuff on the internet and really, I'd say only a small, small percentage, maybe 5% are haters. They're not even haters, they might just say 'well I'm gonna stick with FIREHOUSE'. And I'm like, well good, it's a win-win for me but if there are any detractors, usually if one person says something negative I've got 20 people jumping on rippin the crap out of 'em so we just leave it up there because the more, the merrier, controversy is good. I don't know if you've read any of the things but the repsonse seems to be overwhelmingly positive.

KNAC.COM: Given your history with FIREHOUSE, I would be remisss if I didn't ask you at least one question about them. You mentioned that they have a pretty full schedule of shows coming up but are there any plans to record new material?

SNARE: You know, we've spoken about that and Bill Leverty (guitarist) does a lot of solo things, but he does them under his own name. Originally, this was going to be a CJ Snare solo project but there's no way it could've been. Once Chris came on board and we realy began our working relationship it was like, you know what, this is our baby. and when the other guys came on board it was even more evident that this is a band. You know Bill does his thing, and if you listen to any of it, it's more bluesy, soulful oriented like that and you can hear where I'm going, back to my metal roots, I wanna rock! This is metal, I'm gonna get down in your face, slap five and I'm gonna sweat on you and that kind of stuff. So, we've been talking about it and my vision for a new FIREHOUSE single would be something along the lines of the first and second record, but with modern production and a modern stamp on it. Something that's identifiable, it can't just be a throw away, it's gotta be something like "Overnight Sensation", you know, a riff that just grabs ya, or "All She Wrote", "Shake And Tumble", something like that. Like "Reach For The Sky", you know that's us. I think it needs to be that, fastforwarded to this year or next year. I think we're gonna start with a song at a time, which a lot of bands are doing right now.

KNAC.COM: A lot of bands are choosing instead of releasing a full album to releasing a few songs at a time as different EPs.

SNARE: That's right. And so I understand that because of what they call 'unbundling' music now, it's a singles-driven market. People can cherry-pick a song here, a song there, whereas before you bought the whole cd. Now, everytime that I write, this is realy difficult because as an artist you kind of fall in love with all your songs and your favorite is typically the last one you wrote. It's really hard because we're close to the music and I know that we consciously try to make a record that from start to finish is strong. It's like a journey, bang, bang, bang, song after song, that just pulls you along.

KNAC.COM: And it's a rarity to find a CD that is, at least in my opinion, completely good from start to finish. There's no hitting 'next' or skipping any tracks on it. If you can get a CD like that then you've just hit a home run.

SNARE: And that was our goal and I hope that people will find that in this record, just like a good book that you can't put down and you keep turning the page. I'm holping, we're all hoping that this is that for everyone, that they put it on and go 'woah, I love that' and the next one comes on they just keep being drawn along til the end.

KNAC.COM: Anything else that you'd like to say to your fans?

SNARE: I would like to say first and foremost that I am filled with gratitude and the guys in RUBICON CROSS and FIREHOUSE are all filled with gratitude for allowing us to do what we do and we're hoping that they'll come along for the ride with RUBICON CROSS and check it out and the best way to do that and to perpetuate the band is to get this in your ears, and not illegally from a torrent site or whatever. Download it or go to Best Buy, cuz it's exclusively there. There's a deluxe edition too that has a poster, lyrics in it and some extra tracks and things like that. We have many different options for you, but as long as you go and throw a few dollars down, cast your vote for RUBICON CROSS, it will perpetuate the project. Thank you (laughs). You can't just be a bystander if you like this and you want it to stay alive.

Check out the video for "Bleed With Me" right HERE and preorder the new CD in the KNAC.COM More Store right HERE.

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