Rocket From The Crypt – Interview

They came. They saw. They conquered And then they left. And then they returned! Righteous! 

Like Caesar and the fantastically wardrobed Romans, Rocket From The Crypt’s impact was big as they galloped across the Rubicon and laid waste to the heathen tribes of denim wearing post Nirvana rock n roll lost in the wastelands…

Or something.

For a brief few months back in the mid nineties Rocket from The Crypt were touted as the natural follow up to Nirvana – a print hype they didn’t create but one they certainly justified with their potent mix of brass of rock n roll raw power.

They were seen as the final escape route from grunge that was fast becoming proto Nickleback earnest gruntaloons with their howls of constipated angst from gnome like talents that were asking for a good blowtorching from the righteous.

They had they shtick, the hair, the moves, the songs and the sly sense of humour and they were a perfect antidote to the ugly trench of later grunge grunt. They were also far better than all the usual next big thing kinda guff and their moment in the spotlight was well used and they left behind a trail of rock n roll DNA that was the catalyst for many sharp dressed young gangs of troubadours all over the world.

They had their hit with the monstrous On A Rope and a near miss with Born In 69 and a brace of other great stomping singles and fully realised albums. They also played incendiary live gigs full of avalanche guitars and flash brass that threatened to make a scene called punk and roll big before it flopped into a morass of lesser bands that watered down their potent brew before they splintered in 2005 to lick their wounds in their hometown of San Diego.

Post Rocket the scene had a flurry of copycat sharp dressed hoodlums and rock n roll got sharp.

Two years ago the wires were twitching with the great news that the band had revived the stomp and were planning to tread the boards again but not in the time honoured revival kinda way.

Coolly they did it in their own way- appearing on a kids TV show and playing the odd gig- a deliberate low key hint of their raw power that remained just out of reach for the too greedy and too all consuming new world of post internet rock ‘n’ roll.

They had reformed for all the right reasons as King Crypt himself and some time teller of tall tales that are taller than rock n roll itself that come armed with a dark sense of humour as dark as the hair dye that stained Elvis’s famous quiff, John Reis explains.

‘Various members of the band were short of money and had fallen on hard times and one of them was destitute and in a real state and living under a bridge and he was not very well so we played a couple of shows to pay his health bills and get him back on his feet again.’

From the off the band were fully charged.

‘It was odd really. Even during the first rehearsal we fell straight back into it. It was like muscle memory and were already feeling fully pumped up and revving to go.’

The band’s main problem was working out a set- there was a lot of recorded material out there.

‘We decided not to play any new songs, after all there was almost 700 songs recorded out there on various albums, singles, compilations and so many one off releases all over the place. There was so much to learn that we decided to play just old songs, therefore no new songs. We figured that there is going to be loads of young kids who will come to see these shows that never saw us in the first place and they would like to hear the songs that we are known for and played well…’

Perhaps this will change in the future and in the case of a band like Rocket from Crypt it hardly matters as the songs were vehicles for the band’s whole shtick anyway- that great stylised take on all that was genius about rock n roll. It’s hard to believe that before the band burned brightly rock n roll was priding itself on being dressed down. It was all lumberjack shirts and greasoid hair out there and no one had dared to look sharp since the Clash or maybe the lesser know known Nation Of Ulysses.

Worse still the hardcore scene that had torn up the blueprint in the USA and provided the platform for so much of the great new music for the new generation had caved in on itself and was a haven for frustrated jocks who preferred fighting to dancing.

“Hardcore had got so violent in San Diego that many of us had lost interest in the scene and we wanted to get away as far as possible from it. That was a big inspiration for Rocket From the Crypt- we had his idea to have fun again and get away from this scene where fighting had become the norm and had just got too serious which was shame as hardcore had been key to our formative years with several of the key bands like Minor Threat being a big influence on us. Punk rock and hardcore was key to what made us though- all those bands and people we knew on the circuit and internationally are who we work with like our agent in the UK CNL. It was about the labels we worked with, the bands we tended to play with. It was and is an international community that had its own connections beyond the mainstream and was an underground of people who were fanatical about what they did and the music and that we could trust but locally it was burning out and we went on our own journey.’

They had already begun to devour all the other great musics that were out there.

‘We had got into music like James Brown and funk and from that we were listening to all those great obscure soul and funk records from the underground and we discovered this whole new world of music. We began eating it up from garage rock, the sixties and more obscure punk rock and hardcore and groups like the Saints as well who we loved and all this came together into what the idea of Rocket From The Crypt was.’

When the band formed it was like if someone had designed the perfect rock roll group and the key to all great rock n roll is the whole shtick- more than couple of riffs nailed together great rock n roll is about the boots you wear, your hair, your attitude and your sense of style and humour and oh, its also about the work ethic.

‘We worked hard. We rehearsed for hours and putting the hours in is crucial to a great band. One of my regrets now and, this is something that cannot be helped, is that we simply cannot do that anymore. We just don’t have those hours left to us as many of the band have lives and jobs and responsibilities. We tour when we can now. We simply cannot tour for months on end like we did when the band started.’

As the band return for their first full British tour for years they still have that immaculate sense of detail that makes great rock n roll about them. As a special treat for their legion of UK fans, RFTC have produced six differentLimited Edition One-Sided 7” Vinyl Singles to commemorate each date of the tour.  Six singles, six cover versions of a band or singer from the city they’re playing in.

Each 7” is limited to 400 copies with only 100 available at each show.

  • Manchester: Buzzcocks
  • Newcastle: Venom
  • Glasgow: Gerry Rafferty
  • Leeds: Red Lorry Yellow Lorry
  • London: Status Quo
  • Dublin: Boomtown Rats

Each single will be a specially recorded track of a band from each of their gigs home towns- some of the bands are more obvious godfathers of punk rock like Buzzcocks in Manchester and some, like Gerry Rafferty in Glasgow are more eyebrow raising.

‘The limited edition singles thing we recorded in one day- we though it shouldn’t be too serious. We always liked doing things like that and it was interesting making the choice of groups. The Buzzcocks are not known enough in the states and don’t get enough credit and for me they are one of the greatest punk groups ever.

In Dublin it didn’t to have too many good bands that we knew of to choose from, of course we could have done Thin Lizzy but a rock n roll version of a rock n roll song seemed  a bit pointless, so we decided to do the Boomtown Rats instead because it was a bit more unexpected. For Leeds we picked  Red lorry Yellow Lorry who were not that big in the states where they remain more of a cult band but they had a big influence on all those Chicago bands like Big Black who we were really into- you can hear them in  that metallic sound of those bands in their guitar and bass. Big Black were a big influence on us- they were one of the first groups to show us an escape route from hardcore- a way to make the music with the same kind of power but in a totally different kind of way.’

And Rocket from the Crypt themselves- what can we expect in 2013?

‘The same as ever- a great rock n roll show that will make you feel hot and horny…’

No plans for the future … Australian dates.


Rocket From The Crypt are on Facebook.

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Award winning journalist and boss of Louder Than War. In a 30 year music writing career, John was the first to write about bands such as Stone Roses and Nirvana and has several best selling music books to his name. He constantly tours the world with Goldblade and the Membranes playing gigs or doing spoken word and speaking at music conferences.


  1. One of my favourite tall tales from the band was one that appeared in Kerrang! I think in the late 90s.

    They said they were at a barbecue and Dave Grohl was running around with a device that shot hot dogs out of a contraption that he was carrying like a backpack and he shot the band’s record company A&R guy in the back of the head, darted out of sight and he turned around to see RFTC all eating hot dogs and the next day they were dropped!


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