Michelle LaRose talks with Mike Ruocco for Garage Radio Magazine
Photographs by Michelle LaRose
With the release of their first album, Superhuman, Baltimore’s Cinder Road is poised in a ‘take no prisoners’ fashion to leave their mark across the country.
Mike Ruocco, Chris Shucosky, Pat Patrick, Nat Doegen and Mac Calvvaresi are proving that good old fashioned all American rock and roll is alive and well.
Fresh off the road with Daughtry and currently on the road with Candlebox singer Mike Ruocco found a free moment to sit with us and acquaint us with this new band to watch out for.
Mike: I’d say that Cinder Road is just a good old fashioned rock and roll band. We grew up listening to a lot of the arena rock, 80’s bands and a lot of the classic rock too. Aerosmith, Led Zeppelin and stuff like that. Basically we’re a rock and roll band with an arena rock twist and also factoring in that it is 2007 so we’ve got a modern flavor to our music as well.
GR: How would you describe your stage show?
Mike: Our stage show is real energetic very over the top. We try to make it as interactive as humanly possible. It’s all about the energy and using every inch of the stage that we can. It’s a good time. We try to have a lot of fun when we play. It’s not about preaching about this, that and the other it’s about having a good time and getting the crowd up and going.
GR: You were discovered by the Union Entertainment Group. How did that come about?
Mike: When we were an unsigned band back in Baltimore… we’ve always had a lot to do with our own web site and myspace. We’ve always kept a good web presence and there’s an industry web site called Kings Of A&R and Kings Of A&R did a little write up on Plunge, what we used to be called. Union found us through there and sent me an email and we wound up talking and eventually they flew us out to L.A. to meet and the rest is all history.
GR: Your debut album is ‘Superhuman’, what can you tell us about the album?
Mike: The album came out June 19th. I wrote the album and recorded it with producer Marti Frederiksen who did Aerosmith, Ozzy Osbourne, Def Leppard Faith Hill and all these great artists. It was an awesome experience. We did it out in California at Marti’s house. So it was basically the two of us locked up in the studio for months and months on end and we really took our time making this record because I wanted to make just a great rock record start to finish. Something you could listen to all the way through, something that would just not have one single and ten other songs that sounded exactly the same.
GR: You co-wrote with Marti. What was it like to co-write with such a seasoned pro?
Mike: Previous to making this record I hadn’t really co-written before so I wanted to take the opportunity in making this new record to explore writing with other people just to see how it felt and how it worked. I wrote with a lot of other artists and Marti being one of the first and the one that I definitely hit it off with the most… I think it was intimidating before I even got to the studio but once I got there we just started talking and we cracked a couple beers and started writing. It was just like two buddies sitting down and writing songs. The great thing was we became friends very quickly and if I came up with an idea he could finish it how I would have wanted to. If he came up with an idea I would throw a suggestion out there and it would usually work. It was a great working relationship. I have to tell ya’ the first day that we ever wrote together… we were working on the fist song that we ever wrote and he got a call on his cell phone, it was Steven Tyler and I could hear it. I could hear Steven’s voice on the other end of the phone it’s just such a distinctive voice and Marti’s just like “Yeah, yeah, yeah I’m going to get those mixes to ya’ I’ll call ya’ back, I gotta’ call you back I’m in a session.” Very nonchalant for Marti. For me it was like Oh my God. I met him too.
Mike: Yeah. I hung out with him in the studio.
GR: Was he cool?
Mike: Very. It was everything I would have wanted it to be.
GR: Oh man. You’re so lucky! Where does the title ‘Superhuman’ come from?
Mike: When I was making the record, as a lot of people may or may not know, working in the music business is probably one of the toughest things you could do. So many things are out of your control, so many other factors can affect your career and your chances of success. I was talking to my dad when I was in L.A., he was home in Baltimore and I said, “You know what? You’d have to be superhuman to survive in this business.” And that’s where the song came from, it was like, “I’ve got to name the record that.”
GR: Superhuman is your debut album so what is this album we keep seeing called Hometown Hero?
Mike: Hometown Hero was the full length album that Plunge, our previous band put out. Plunge was a band that I started with… Chris and Mac were in the band eventually but back in 1995 that was basically the only band that I was in and I was eleven, twelve years old when I started that band. Chris and I grew up next door to each other and Mac grew up right down the street. Three of the five of us were in Plunge since 1995. We asked Pat to join a little over a year ago. Nat came at the beginning of the year and at the beginning of the year is when we changed from Plunge to Cinder Road. We tried to buy the name Plunge but there was another band that owned it so we had to change the name and took that opportunity to start fresh and start again. New album, some new members, new tour, new year, let’s just start over and try to make this thing happen.
GR: Your single from the album is “Get In Get Out”. You made the video and your fans are begging for it. There’s still no release date?
Mike: Last night I put it out. I released it yesterday and it’s actually been viewed 9,000 times.
GR: Where can we see that, myspace?
Mike: You can see it on myspace, YouTube or on our website.
GR: You guys have performed for our military overseas. Did you get a chance to talk to them and what are they saying?
Mike: We’ve done five military tours overseas. We’ve been to Japan, Okinawa, South Korea, Guam, Greenland, Hawaii, all to play for the troops. It was a great experience. We really enjoyed going over there. I think certain bands perhaps would take that opportunity to express some political opinions or views, that’s not the kind of band we are, it’s not what I like to promote. When we went over there, we went over there with the sole purpose of entertaining the troops and putting on a show for a couple of hours and taking them away from whatever their day to day job was and that’s what we accomplished. The bottom line is a lot of the people that are in the military right now don’t have a choice. They have to be in the military because it’s the only way they can get to school or move out of their little town in the mid west and a lot of them also want to be there. They want to be overseas. They want to be doing a job. But like I said, we went over there, we hung out with the guys, men and women, we stayed in the same barracks and we got drunk at the same bars and officer’s clubs and had a blast with it.
GR: You are currently having the “Cinder Road VIP Flyaway Getaway”. What are the rules for that and what is the deadline?
Mike: Ooo. I don’t know what the deadline is on that! I believe it’s the end of this month [July 2007]. What it is, through our street team they’ve come up with this whole contest that’s based on a point system where if you do certain promotional things for the band, turn on a friend to the music, somebody you know buys a CD or you go to a show and you flyer an up coming concert or just different promotional things you’re awarded points and the points are racked up and kept tally of and whoever get the most points gets two airline tickets flown to any Cinder Road show in the country and they get free tickets to the show and the whole VIP treatment for the show.
GR: We need to start flyering St. Pete!
GR: You’ve been on the road with (Chris) Daughtry who’s relatively new to the scene himself but now you’re on the road with Candlebox, guys that have been around the block once or twice; What have you learned from being on the road with veterans such as Candlebox?
Mike: This has been an amazing experience start to finish. These guys have been a band for so long, they’ve toured for so long and they’ve done everything we could ever dream of doing. They’ve headlined arenas and played little clubs, toured in a bus and toured in a van had platinum records and number one hit singles. I just take every opportunity I can to pick Kevin, the singer’s, brain about different things. We’ve actually all become very, very close on this tour. We all hang out every day and eat dinner and lunch together and cook out on days off. We watch each others show every night. It’s a real family style tour which has been great.
Mike: I have to give credit where credit is due… Chris Daughtry would do tour diaries. He only did a handful of them but at the beginning of the tour he was doing them once every few days and then kind of fell off doing it. I was like, “Man, that’s a really good idea.” I started doing it and since then thirty or forty of them. I do them every couple of days. The fans have really come to expect new ones all the time so I have to do a new one speaking of that but they love em’. And we have a good time doing them. It’s hard to keep them all funny but we do enjoy doing them.
GR: It’s a ground breaking idea and we love it! One of the stars of The Video Tour Diary was ‘Stupid’. We saw ‘Stupid’ died and you laid him to rest in Asheville N.C. We are all dying to know what happened to ‘Stupid’?
Mike: He was a Japanese fighting fish and we put him in a fight and certain people thought he died as a result of the fight. He did not. After the fight, a couple of days later in fact he was on the bus in his tank, we were all in the hotel and for whatever reason it got particularly cold that night and his water just got too cold and he didn’t make it through the night. We came out to find him upside down.
GR: Do you guys want another Beta or are your ‘Stupid’ days behind you?
Mike: we thought about it. [Nat is in the bunk area of the bus vehemently shaking his head “No”] Having a live animal on the bus is a bit of a risk. It was enjoyable having him on the bus because you could sit there and look and it was kind of peaceful. I don’t know if we’ll have another pet though. We’ll have to see.
GR: Stupid was great! Everybody loved him in the Tour Diary’s he was a star!
Mike: He was more popular than we are!
GR: You and Josh Paul did a number as the ‘Terrible Two’ on the Video Tour Diary. Your fans are salivating. Can we expect more from the ‘Terrible Two’?
Mike: I was text messaging with Josh Paul just two days ago. I have an idea for another song. We were going to do another one on the tour but I didn’t have time. Josh and I, we’re going to get back together. The first song came out too good for us not to do another one. We wrote it as a joke! Then we were like, “This is really good, we should do something with this!”
Mike: I use a quote from Spinal Tap, it’s more of a tokenistic piece. We could have used it a couple of times on the road. I don’t know why it wound up here or how it wound up on the bus, our merch guy brought it and of course after a number of drinks and Chris and I not being able to get into the Grammy party we were supposed to get into we decided to entertain ourselves by shocking everyone with a tazer.
GR: I have a tazer but I’m not willing to pop myself with it like you guys did. What was it like?
Mike: The tazer that we used on ourselves was more of a Fisher Price brand tazer it wasn’t like a police brand issue. I wouldn’t suggest that anyone taze themselves.
GR: So it won’t take a man down as it claims?
Mike: It hurts but the tazer we used would not take someone down. It’s scarier than it is painful. [Lauging]
GR: Well Mike I’d like to thank you very much for speaking with Garage Radio Magazine today.
Mike: My pleasure.