John Fattoruso Discusses Black Water Rising's Self-Titled Album
Brooklyn's Black Water Rising is keeping the flame of hard rock and heavy metal burning strong, taking the sounds of yesterday and translating them to the modern day. Guitarist John Fattoruso, previously of the now-defunct Stereomud, spoke with me about joining with Black Water Rising and the band's latest self-titled album.
Discussing the highs and lows of the music industry and his own place in it, Fattoruso stated "You’re playing in front of crowds every night and that was your job, and then all of a sudden you’re back in a day job. You’re like, Wow, what happened?" He also goes on to explain the appeal of Black Water Rising's sound, commenting "Any true metal head, and when I say metal head I don’t mean thrash metal or death metal, I mean just someone who appreciates good heavy music, would definitely like it. If they want to hear good vocals, we’ve got it. If you want to hear screaming, it’s on there too. We don’t shy away from anything." A transcription of our discussion can be found below, where John discusses how they managed to get a professional sound recording in an apartment and more.
xFiruath: Before getting into the interview, are there any words you’d like to share about losing musicians lately such as Peter Steele or Dio?
John: It’s just a big blow not just to the heavy music community, but to music in general. They were well known names and they put out awesome music over their time here. It just shows that no one is immortal. They left some great music behind and fortunately that will never die. They will be missed in person, but you can always visit them in the music they left for us.
xFiruath: What’s your history in music like? When did you get started?
John: I will have to blame Kiss. At the age of three is probably when I got the bug of music. A close friend of the family pulled out a Kiss record. I had no idea what it was and I liked it. I was more drawn to the makeup and all that. You’re a little kid and you’re like “wow, you guys look like super heroes!” So it was all about Kiss then. My dad dragged me and my brother to the record store. He wouldn’t tell us what he was buying. We wanted Kiss and he was like, yeah relax, we’re not getting that. We get home and he pulls out of the bag The Chipmunk’s Christmas. We’re like “Ah great, dad, thanks.” Then he pulls out “Dressed to Kill” and “Destroyer” at the same time. We flipped our lids. Mom wasn’t too happy about it, she didn’t like Kiss. She tried to push the Chipmunk’s on us. Back then there was one stereo for the whole household and we wanted to listen to Kiss. After that I was raised on some really cool shit like Lynyrd Skynyrd and Black Sabbath. Iron Maiden hit when I was about nine and it was all over from then. It was just heavy music after that. It was probably thirteen when I started really playing guitar.
xFiruath: Got any side projects going on besides Black Water Rising?
John: This is it right now. Before Black Water Rising I was in Stereomud. We did pretty well in the early 2000’s. We put out two albums through Columbia. Unfortunately back then the business was going through a major change with the downloading and everything. Some bands made it through and some bands didn’t. It was a good run and after that I took a year and a half away from this whole thing. I wasn’t really sure if I even wanted to be involved in music anymore.
I hit a low point and I got a taste of the industry and its best and its worst. Everything gets yanked out from under you at one time when you are flying high and you’ve got a bus and tours. You’re playing in front of crowds every night and that was your job, and then all of a sudden you’re back in a day job. You’re like “Wow, what happened?” Rob and Mike gave me a call out of nowhere because they were looking for a guitar player. They had a couple of songs written and recorded and called me down to check it out. I went down and it blew my mind. This was what I was looking for. Rob likes to say we aren’t reinventing the wheel, but it was something fresh and new. It wasn’t someone rapping over heavy music, it wasn’t the same old regurgitated thrash music. I love thrash music, but it wasn’t every band trying to sound like every other band. It was heavy and hard and good and I heard maybe a song and then the beginning of the second song and I was in. The bug hit me again and here I am almost three and a half years later with these guys.
xFiruath: You were mentioning a little about it how it sounds and I’m wondering if you can expand on that a bit. What kind of band is Black Water Rising?
John: I would say it’s a rock/metal band. We wear our influences on our sleeves, everything from the ‘70s to now. You’ll hear Pantera-ish style riffs in there, you’ll hear southern riffs, you’ll hear straight up rock stuff. It’s a good mix of everything but it has great vocals. It’s got groove, it’s got melody. Any true metal head, and when I say metal head I don’t mean thrash metal or death metal, I mean just someone who appreciates good heavy music, would definitely like it. If they want to hear good vocals, we’ve got it. If you want to hear screaming, it’s on there too. We don’t shy away from anything. We cover the whole spectrum of what we want to do. We don’t paint ourselves into a corner. We do what we feel. If it feels good, we play it.
xFiruath: You guys have one self-titled album out and then had an EP before that. What’s going on with this newer album and where did you guys record it?
John: Lyrically it’s pretty much a working man’s album. It’s a blue collar rock/metal album. Rob writes the lyrics and he doesn’t discriminate. He covers what’s bugging him. He sees something on the news that pisses him off. Anything from religion to politics to anything. He’s got great lyrics and people can relate. It’s about making your mark. If you are going to do something, do it. If you are going to shoot, shoot for the stars. Don’t half ass anything. If it’s about politics it’s not about being Republican or Democrat it’s about the whole system being crazy and screwed up. It’s about getting through life as best you can as yourself. We’re regular dudes and we all work forty hours a week. We do this too, and ultimately we’d like to do this for a living. The album was recorded in Brooklyn in a one bedroom apartment converted into a little recording studio.
Rob is a Pro Tools wiz, so he produced and engineered the whole thing. He had his back bedroom turned into a little recording room with a Pro Tools rig there, so some overdubs and leads were done there. The majority of it was done in our little spot in Brooklyn. We’re going to do it again. He just bought a house in Jersey and has a recording space. Album number two and anything else will be done on our own at his house. We’ll start writing for album number two soon. We’ve got a few songs in the works. The EP was one song that’s not on the album and the other three are on the album. A lot of people where wondering when the album was coming out and we had to get something out there when there was buzz. So we put the song that’s not on the album on the EP and put the video on the EP. We did like 1500 copies of that and put it out there. People burned them for their friends, well go ahead and get it out there. It helped keep the buzz going until the album got released. We had a few delays where it was going to come out and then something fell through. We finally had enough and said we’d put it out on iTunes on our own and then we did our little thing with our buddy’s label through Sony. Sony put it out in stores for us and its going pretty well at this point for a band doing everything by ourselves.
xFiruath: It’s interesting that it was done in an apartment, because it sounds like a professional release.
John: It’s no different than anybody else’s stuff. We didn’t have the big drum room, but if you have a Pro Tools rig you can do it anyway. If you know what you are doing and how to get a tone. We knew the sound we were looking for. Who knows better than the band? I’ve recorded in some of the biggest studios in the world and it didn’t come out the way you thought it was going to. You think you are in this big studio with this big dollar producer, but sometimes there are too many people getting involved and it ruins your sound. They don’t want to listen to the band, but it’s our sound. When there are four guys on the same page who know what they want it’s pretty easy. That’s why it sounds that good.
xFiruath: Who did the artwork and will you be working with them again in the future?
John: I’d say we’d work with him again. That’s Mister Sam over in England. He does some wild stuff. He sent us some samples and we were wowed. We wanted something with the muscle car and the ‘70s thing. He came back with this thing with the skull and the engine and the pistons. It was pretty different and pretty cool. It caught the feeling with the swampy background. He did right by us.
xFiruath: What’s in your musical rotation lately?
John: The new Deftones album. I can’t get it out of my CD player since the day I bought it. Everything they do, I’m all over it. I couldn’t wait for this album to come out and I’m very pleased with that. The new Sevendust blew me away. I lost interest for awhile and I wanted to hear them do something heavier again, and I heard this one and was like “Holy shit.” The new Exodus album blows me away. I’m flipping between that, Sevendust, and Deftones. Top three for me, and then the new Fear Factory as well.
xFiruath: Any parting words?
John: If there is anyone reading this, come check out Black Water Rising. Whoever has supported us and will support us, we thank you. It made getting back into music again worth it. Spread it around and buy the record and support heavy music. For the people who steal music, just stop stealing it. Because then bands can’t exist anymore and people can’t see shows anymore because we can’t afford to play for anybody. There’s got to be a way where we can all get along and play nice in the downloading age.
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