10 Questions with Robert Ragosta (This Good Robot)

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(Robert Ragosta flips off the camera happily, right, with his bandmate Andrew Sclafani, left)

Theatrics, energy, progressive sound, and passion are the rules of the music game for This Good Robot, the band that guitarist/backup vocalist Robert Ragosta is a member of. Ragosta is only 26, but he’s spent a whopping 18 years playing instruments — needless to say, he knows his stuff. Quinnipiac has had This Good Robot perform before, and whenever they come around Connecticut, I’m sure to be at their shows because of how fucking good their music and stage performances are; I was lucky enough to be able to reach out to one of my favorite musicians from one of my favorite bands and ask him a few questions.

 


 

1. You play with both Patent Pending and This Good Robot, two bands that have a long history together. How did you end up with both bands, and how do you handle being in more than one project at a time?

Michael, the lead singer of This Good Robot, and Joe, the lead singer of Patent Pending, are both my older brothers so obviously there’s quite a bit of history between the three of us. When I was 8 I would learn little things on guitar and then show them how to play em too so we’ve been playing music together and helping each other write in some way or another for at least 18 years now. We all grew up on a mix of oldies, show tunes and punk rock thanks to our parents and older sisters but it was Joe who really got into pop punk when he got Patent Pending going. I was so young at the time that I couldn’t really join the band but I was always around to work on ideas and help load in and out of shows so over the years it’s evolved into me being a part of the crew. I’ve found myself selling merch, guitar teching, filling in on drums, bass, guitar and even one show as lead singer. I am not, and never have been an official member of Patent Pending but I take pride in all the work I’ve been able to do with them over the years. Michael was the original singer in Patent Pending but eventually left to start This Good Robot which is much more in tune with his musical tastes. At that time I was still playing with my old band and Patent Pending was booking a big show on Long Island. Both This Good Robot and my band at the time, Mania In Urbania were up for an opening slot on the bill so instead of one band getting the boot off the show, us and This Good Robot joined up and played a tag team set with 8 of us on stage. After that night we never played a show apart again. This Good Robot absorbed Mania In Urbania and we became an 8 piece shit storm that no local venue wanted to deal with. This Good Robot is my full time band but I stay involved as much as I can with Patent Pending. Recently I helped them write the script for a mockumentary they released called “Mario and The Brick Breakers” which is a behind the music for a fictional Mario and Luigi rock band. Definitely worth looking up on youtube.

2. Anyone who’s been to a This Good Robot show knows that you (as well as other members of the band) go absolutely crazy on stage. What artists/acts influence your stage performance, and if you can remember the first time you decided to move on stage, what was that like?

I’ve never really intentionally attempted to imitate anyone in particular on stage but if I had to pick an influence it’d be easy to say the first time I saw a live video of At The Drive-In I was absolutely blown away by their stage presence. Between Omar salsa dancing while whipping his guitar around his head and Cedric ripping stage lights off the ceiling and throwing them into the crowd while quite literally chewing on his microphone, I just couldn’t believe my eyes. That’s when I started viewing live musicians in a whole new light. Nothing bothers me more than a band that stands still while playing live. What’s the point?! Why not just tell people to listen to your record at home while looking up pictures of you standing still on the internet?!

3. I remember hearing in an interview that you’ve been playing instruments for most of your life (and those who are fans of Patent Pending/This Good Robot are well aware that you come from a musically inclined family). What instrument did you start with, and how do you feel you’ve evolved as a musician since then?

The first instrument I ever came in contact with was our family’s piano. I would sit at it and just make noise for extended periods of time. I can’t imagine that having been enjoyable for anyone else in the family but for me it was a blast. I never learned to properly play a piano though which I do regret.
I got a guitar for my 8th birthday and started taking basic lessons just to learn how to play some songs. After a few months I quit lessons and continued my learning by listening and fumbling around the fret board alone. Retrospectively I’m glad I didn’t let anyone tell me the rules of how to properly go about playing and writing on guitar. I always played sports so I had teams and coaches that I had to work with to accomplish a goal but with guitar I was in charge which was a nice change of pace. No one was there to tell me what to do which is a good feeling.

4. Have you ever played a prank on another band you’ve been on tour with? If so, what was the best prank you’ve done?

I was working for a band called Every Avenue around the time when “icing” people was popular. That’s when you hide smirnoff ices for friends to find and when they do they have to chug the whole thing. We were out with a band called Sing It Loud in Texas and I hid smirnoffs all over the stage so before they started playing each one had to chug one. That wasn’t the prank though. The real prank was during load out that night I hid an extra large smirnoff in their guitar tech’s equipment. It spent the night slowly warming in their trailer. The next day was around 100 degrees in Texas. By the time their guitar tech was setting up his station it was late in the afternoon and that smirnoff must have been as close to burning hot as it could be without evaporating. Needless to say, it wasn’t a great night for him.

5. Alright, now some specific This Good Robot questions. When the band formed, you guys were an 8 piece – now you have 6 members. How has the band’s sound changed since its start (or has it not)?

All of the predominant writers are still in the band so stylistically we haven’t really changed all that much. If anything we’ve only become better at playing these songs because of how much we’ve matured and practiced as players over the years. Specifically live we just have a little less in the way of auxiliary percussion and maybe a synth line is missing here or there but altogether not much has changed.

6. As a Long Island native, has the music scene been supportive of your projects, or did you find it hard to find an audience?

The Long Island music scene has been extremely supportive of my band and family over the years and we’ve made some of the best friends we’ll ever have here. That being said, some nights we feel excluded. Some nights shows can be extremely clique-y but that’s just the reality of being a musician. People show up to support their friend’s bands but stand outside smoking cigarettes instead of watching anyone else. How do you know you don’t like a band if you’ve never seen or heard them? It’s more about the people around you than it is about the scene as a whole. We’ve played shows with bands when we know we just don’t belong. It’s a shame but it’s the reality of social dynamics whether you’re in a band or not. Sometimes you just won’t belong but that shouldn’t be enough to make you stop because the next night you’ll be with the people you love playing the music you love so the Long Island scene will always be home to me because of the relationships we’ve built here and all that we’ve accomplished through it.

7. Can you explain This Good Robot’s creative process for writing new material, and what you contribute to it?

Sometimes it starts with a concept like “what if we did a story about a dude time traveling back in time to meet himself for a brief moment before disappearing?” so we’ll write bullet points for a story and then go back to try and build a melody and chord progression. Other times it starts with a melody in the shower being hummed into a cell phone and sent over to the rest of the band. There’s no real equation that we use time and time again. It’s more organic than that. We all come from different musical backgrounds so sometimes I’ll bring an idea to the table that I just can’t finish and one of the other dudes will point out that I’ve been thinking about the song all wrong and that we should try it a different way. We’re all around for each other to depend on when we need a little straightening out because finishing songs alone can be difficult if you are too close to the project. You become biased towards your own ideas even if they’re bad because you’ve only thought about the song in that one specific way. The rest of the band is there to kick your ass back to reality where shitty ideas are still just shitty.

8. The first time I saw This Good Robot perform, “Bohemian Rhapsody” was covered, and I was blown away. Does the band have any interest in covering more songs live/doing a cover album at any point?

Thanks! Glad you enjoyed it! We are constantly talking about ideas for cover songs. We’ve filmed some acoustic covers and posted em on youtube and we’ve done a few others for our podcast (This Good Podcast on iTunes and sound cloud) but I don’t think we’ll ever do a proper cover album. There’s also a few videos of us covering The Faint’s “Agenda Suicide” live so I can’t say we won’t be doing more covers in the future but I’d be shocked if we decided to do a proper cover release.

9. The entire band wears formal clothing while performing on stage. How did this choice come about, and how much does changing out of it after the show suck?

Changing out of it is the worst! It just sticks to me and makes me cold after twenty minutes. The choice to dress up for shows came about from the dramatic aspect of what we’re trying to do. All of our songs are stories or parts of stories that we’ve written and we try to convey that theatricality live which would be tougher to do if we all wore flannels and beanies like every other band in the scene. We needed to do something subtle that would draw a distinction between us and the sometimes 7 other bands on a bill. We wanted people at shows to remember us as the band that stood out instead of the band with the beards and cargo shorts.

10. Do you have any tips for aspiring musicians?

Play music that you want to listen to!! Don’t join some pop rock band that uses backing tracks for bass and guitars when they play live just because you think they’re going to make some money. If you ever join a touring band you are going to miss birthdays, holidays, weekends, weddings, funerals, births, friends, and family. There’s no easy way around that fact, but it is much easier to deal with when you are working towards something that you truly believe in. I have met too many musicians who play in bands that they would never listen to and, surprise surprise, those bands never end up lasting very long so do something you’re going to take pride in. Write songs that you are going to obsess over because you love them because otherwise you’re basically just playing karaoke. That, and buy a tuner! There’s nothing worse than watching an out of tune band stumble through their set.


This Good Robot has their first full length set to release in early 2015. You can find a teaser for the album’s first single, “Super Spy”, here:

The band’s YouTube channel here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCMUisMj9mToTVKhSvKomQTw

And their official website here: http://www.thisgoodrobot.com/

 

Immortal Technique Interview

On April 13, 2014 WQAQ hosted its Spring 2014 concert.  The opening acts included The Guru, This Good Robot, and Diabolic.  The show was most notably headlined by Immortal Technique.  Sal and Jeremy from YO! QU Raps were able to interview him before his performance.

10 Questions With John Michael Cordes (QUOR)

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(John Michael Cordes, QUOR’s Drummer — Left)

Pounding rhythms; precise blastbeats; ecstatic double bass; jumping grooves; graceful style; passion. These are all terms that work together to define a hard rock/metal drummer’s playing — they also all exemplify John Michael Cordes, a 23 year old drummer for the band QUOR, located in San Diego, California. Not only did I have the chance to perform in a band with Cordes for several years, but I also reached out to him for an interview about drumming and the band’s recent success.


1. Let’s get this out of the way, because I’m sure everyone reading is wondering: why the name QUOR? How did it come about?

There are two sides to this story *laughs*. One day Brian was driving down the coast highway 101 from a comedy show when he  drove by a “Liquor Store” sign, and the “L” along with the “I” didn’t work. It was kind of ominous, looking [at the sign] with the fog behind it and everything, so it was just that one thing he saw and it looked radical. The other side to it is the fact that we think the whole image thing in metal is just annoying and we are kind of over the superficial crap that goes with it; we love that stuff and think its cool but we want to display to listeners and artists that as long as you just make art and are passionate about making great songs for people…why the heck should anything else matter? After all, we are musicians; isn’t this suppose to be about the music? *Laughs*

2. You guys recently had your material featured in the movie Pizza and Bullets. How did that opportunity come about, and how did the crowd react to the show after the movie ended?

That actually was a very cool opportunity. Brian, who goes to Comic-Con every year, stumbled upon a film class there that was being featured and taught by the director Nick Murphy; Nick is on the film panel every year at San Diego Comic-Con. Brian took the class and loved it! After we came out with the video for “Let’s Rise” [the band's first single], he e-mailed it to Nick mentioning he had taken his film editing course while at Comic-Con and thought it was very fun and informative and wanted to show him the work…needless to say, Nick thought it was great and thanked Brian for the kind words and then asked to him make a song for his next movie Pizza and Bullets. When he got the final copy he thought the song was great and said he would use it as well as invite us up to the premier in Hollywood and play the after  path on the sunset strip. It was packed wall to wall; we played a great set as well as make a lot of new friends and have a great time..and it was on my birthday! What a way to have fun huh? hahaha!

3. Can you explain what the song writing process is like for QUOR and how you add to it?I wish I really could describe it to something comparable that makes sense… The closest way I could describe it is: It’s strange and beautiful as well as instinct. We go into the rehearsal room with no prerequisite to what we think a song “should sound like”. Someone will have an idea for a riff or vocal melody, or ill have a beat and Doug [who plays bass for the band] will have a bass line and we ride with it.  I do what I can to add to it in a way where I want to participate with the musical experience with the song, I really don’t want to be the guy that just “plays beats” — I do what I can to always try and come up with something that makes the drums a cool instrument to listen to.

4. You guys have been on tour a few times. What is your favorite tour experience, and why?

I would definitely have to say the tour we did last year and we played the Google/Netflix party. It was truly a humbling and honoring experience to be asked by two of the most powerful companies in the world to have us be their live entertainment for the evening in gorgeous San Francisco. It was my favorite experience not because of the “social status” or “bravado” — it was because when we were offered the opportunity and played it I was just thinking, “Wow, what we are doing is working and we are reaching people”.  So to me that was what was a very enriching experience.

5. The single, “Human Paradigm”, was just released. How do you feel this song represents future material, and what can we expect from the next release?

The song I believe very much reflects on the bands mentality of always trying different things, while also  just not being afraid to steer forward and race for the finish line for meeting our goals. The next release is going to be much different from the current one; it still is “QUOR” for the sound but that is all I will say. After all, all I can share is only what I think of the song; I don’t enjoy sharing my thoughts on our music much because I think one of the most beautiful things about art and music is how anyone can listen to it and have it become an enriching and beneficial experience in their own way, through their own personal interpretation.

6. How has the music scene in San Diego treated QUOR? When you started playing live shows, did you find it welcoming, or was finding the right audience difficult?

When we started to play shows it was hard in the beginning; however I think it is for any band anywhere. Over time though a lot of our friends starting bringing people who we may not have yet known. I think building any kind of a reputation in general though does take time anywhere.

7. How did the band form?

The band was sort of already together. the project I was previously in, “Fates Demise”, came to a wrap; the other members of QUOR actually found me because I put up an add up on Craigslist stating my resume which they were impressed with. We jammed together in an hour to hour rental practice, and the rest is history!

8. Do you have any pre-show rituals? If so, what are they?

Warming up usually about 15 minutes before our set, then I like to stretch out for about 5 minutes after that while listening to song Lamb of God usually, maybe do a shot if I get nervous! haha!
9. What drummer influenced you to play drums?I would have to say that the first drummer I ever really saw playing drums was Lars Ulrich playing Metallica’s “Battery”; hearing the double kick drum just blew my mind as a young teen. Then when I entered high school I began taking drumming much more seriously when I discovered Mike Portnoy, Danny Carey and Neil Peart.

10. Do you have any tips for aspiring musicians?

My one big tip: don’t ever give up and don’t ever stop. Love what you do and that alone has to be the most important part. That is not meant as a sweet line — it is meant in the most literal way I can think of. Don’t ever let anybody in your life, whether they be family, friends, your local music scene or people in the music business, tell you what you can or can not do. Take your idea and pursue it with almost monastic obsession; your time is limited and your life is in your hands and you can mold into whatever you want. As one of my very close friends put it to me a long time ago, “Make it happen every day, your dream should have happened yesterday a year ago,” which is something I live by regularly and I think anybody pursuing a dream in music should take that same mentality.

You can find more information about QUOR, as well as listen to their music, on their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/QUORMUSIC
QUOR is signed to Diesel Records.

Bobby Mahoney and the Seventh Son

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Bobby Mahoney and the Seventh Son were formed in December 2010 under the name “Seventh Son” in East Brunswick, NJ. Originally intended for a single show, the band quickly caught on locally and began to play the New Jersey rock circuit.

Jon Alba, the rhythm guitarist and back up vocalist talked to WQAQ about his band.


How has QU helped your music career?

I used to have a radio show on WQAQ, so I got exposed to some genres of rock I would have never heard before. I played a couple of the Battle of the Bands as well, and met some cool people through that who I have since played with.

What/who is your music inspiration?

We describe our band as AC/DC meets Gaslight Anthem meets Green Day meets Bruce Springsteen. There are so many different sounds going on with so many different song elements as well. We take a lot of pride in bringing those all to the table and forming them into one, cohesive sound.

How often do you guys play live and what do you love about performing?

We are currently in the middle of promoting our album “Friends in Low Places,” and have toured throughout the Northeast and even out of the country. This past summer we did a short Canadian leg, and we’ll be going back up there in November as part of “Light of Day Canada.”

We believe our live show is what sells people on us. Legitimately, every single show we have played, we have a new person who has never seen us say something along the lines of “Wow, your energy was on another level.” We take a lot of pride in our stage show, which is full of tight playing, antics and some cleverly-channeled dynamic changes. Plus, it’s all natural for us. Those bands mentioned prior are our biggest influences, and what do they all have in common? They’re some of the best live bands in the history of rock music.

How did your band meet/come together?

The band goes back four years to a lesser-developed more part-time kind of experience. Over the last year though, we have taken the steps to become very serious in our endeavors, adding new members. Bobby Mahoney, the lead singer/lead guitarist, has established a reputation in the Jersey rock scene, and has shared the stage with Springsteen himself. We currently have three guitarists, a bassist, and a drummer, and it’s one of the oddest, yet somehow cohesive units you’ll ever see. Bobby and myself are the only two original members, however.

Where do you see the band going in the future?

Wherever it takes us. It’s a hobby for me, but for the rest of the band, that’s their career-path they’re choosing. Would I do it for a living? Absolutely. But it’s grueling. We’re all very passionate about it still, and plan to take it as far as we can.

What’s your most memorable show you have played, can you describe it?

There are two shows, for me, that stick out in particular. The first would be our CD release party we had at the legendary Stone Pony in Asbury Park, NJ this past summer. We were headlining a club where so many musicians had their career made, and we packed the place for one of the most intimate and incredible nights of music we’ve ever had. We played for two hours.

Another would be a relatively recent stop at another legendary Jersey venue, the Court Tavern in New Brunswick. This is where the kings of the indie rock scene are born in the state, and it is as intense as it gets down there. We had a 4K camera shooting some of the show, yet people were moshing all around it. Awesome.

What makes your band different from other bands?

I think the blend of sounds you hear in the music. I believe in the mantra “simple ain’t easy,” and though it’s not all that simple, we aren’t trying to re-invent the wheel either. We take a ton of pride in our live show, where as a lot of bands focus just on bringing the music. That, I feel, sets us apart.

How would you describe your bands style?

It’s a combination of hard rock and punk, for sure.

How many albums do you have, if any?

We just released our first full-length studio album, “Friends in Low Places,” on June 22 of this past year. Previously, we had an EP entitled “Only Ashes Remain,” which was with one of the older incarnations of the band. We are also currently working on a new recording project, though are unsure of the route we are taking with it as of yet.


You can see the music video to “Another Deadbeat Summer” here: http://www.youtube.com/embed/gchQKL4kZic

And check out the band’s website here: www.bobbymahoneymusic.com.

Most Anticipated Records of the Fall

Fall is upon us and there are some pretty exciting albums that are coming out, or are rumored to be coming out before year’s end. Last autumn, we saw the release of some pretty incredible records like Balance and Composure’s “The Things We Think We’re Missing” and Touché Amoré’s “Is Survived By.”

This Fall is already shaping out to be a great one for music of all genres. Here are a few records I’m looking forward to:

Minus the Bear “Lost Loves” – 10.07 – Dangerbird Records
Minus the Bear have also satisfied fans with their releases despite their always-changing array of sounds. With the release of “Lost Loves”, Minus the Bear has put together a compilation of b-sides from from their last three releases – “Planet of Ice”, “Omni” and “Infinity Overhead.” They released the first single from the album “The Lucky Ones” in August.

Pianos Become the Teeth “Keep You” – 10.28 – Epitaph Records
Pianos have built up a pretty dedicated following with their throwback screamo style combined with pounding, emotional instrumentation. They put aside the screams and traded them in for fluttering vocals, that still manage to hit as hard as it did before. If the first single “Repine” is any indication, we’re in for a hell of a record from the boys from Maryland.

Gates “Bloom and Breathe” – 10.21 – Pure Noise Records
After signing to Pure Noise Records, Gates went out on countless tours and also re-released their EP “You Are All You Have Left to Fear” with two new tracks. Gates have come a long way from the first release of “Fear” and “Bloom and Breathe” is shaping up to be a monumental release for the quintet from New Jersey. Check out their music video for “Not My Blood” was released last week.

Logic “Under Pressure” – 10.21 – Def Jam Records
If you’ve had an ear in the underground hip-hop scene for the past few years, chances are you’ve heard of Logic. After being signed to Def Jam Records in April 2013, Logic’s debut album has been in the works for a little over a year, and has been teasing fans through social media on what to expect from the record. He released his first single “Under Pressure” last week to get even more buzz going around the debut.

Radiohead “TBA”
Thom Yorke has been messing with Radiohead fans in recent days by posting his usual cryptic pictures and messages through his Twitter account. While not much has been said about this album, other than Johnny Greenwood saying that Radiohead camp would be getting together in September, it can be speculated that new music is coming, hopefully by early next year.

Kendrick Lamar “TBA”
“King” Kendrick dropped “i” on Tuesday and sent shockwaves throughout the Internet. The track features a sample from the Isley Brothers, a group Kendrick has cited as a big influence in his music. The tone of the track is uplifting and contrasts the tone of “good kid, m.A.A.d city,” but the lyricism is still tops anyone else’s in the game. Kendrick has also mentioned he hopes to drop his new album before the end of the year.

Brand New “TBA”
Brand New released “Daisy” five years ago and has been taunting their fans ever since with the idea of a new record. A few weeks ago, it was said that they might have played a new song live, although no one could really confirm the news. However, Brand New has put up a picture on Instagram of Jesse Lacey in a large studio with a man who we could only hope to be their long time producer Mike Sapone. While nothing has been said by Brand New, they built a studio this summer and that has to mean something. Hopefully they release something before the new year.