If you’ve read the review that I recently did on CALABRESE’s third full length album "They Call Us Death", checked out my current playlist (both featured somewhere else on this site) or even noticed the video and songs on my myspace profile you should already be aware of the fact that I totally worship this Phoenix, Arizona based three piece! And now you will have to deal with my madness in an even bigger way here once again… Ok, musically they’re not exactly what fits into our narrowminded concept, but on the other hand… I couldn’t care less, cause CALABRESE are definitely way cooler than the majority of bands that send in their mostly pretty uninspired releases day by day. This is good ol’ Punkrock, always very straight forward and catchy, in the tradition of classic MISFITS / SAMHAIN and highly recommended to the more open minded ones among our readers! The following interview was answered by bassplayer / vocalist Jimmy Calabrese and guitar player / vocalist Bobby Calabrese… Read on to find out all necessary background information about the past, present and future of "The World’s Greatest Horror Rock Band"!
How about introducing yourselves to the readers of VOICES FROM THE DARKSIDE at first?! How would you categorize yourselves in a few words?
Jimmy: "Bass player – weird, wicked, wonderful."
Bobby: "Guitar slinger – slick, smooth, sexy."
Is it unusual for you to get interviewed by a magazine that musically normally is pretty narrowmined and deeply rooted in oldschool Thrash, Black and Death Metal or have you made similar experiences in the past already?
Jimmy: "We seem to appeal to fans of different styles music other than our own. I blame the Horror themes in our music. Any fan of Horror movies, monsters and the macabre seem to like what we are doing, even if it means being labeled as an individual in their narrow minded music scene!"
What’s your opionion about Thrash, Black and Death Metal? Are there any bands you like or is that a musical genre that you don’t get into at all?
Jimmy: "Besides Punk, I grew up listening to ANTHRAX, METALLICA, D.R.I, SLAYER, MEGADETH. But the only Metal bands I like these days are ELECTRIC WIZARD and DETHKLOK."
Bobby: "We definitely dig the Stonerrock, BLACK SABBATH sludge! I have no idea how we can incorporate it in our next album, but I’m definitely giving it a shot."
Each one of you has CALABRESE as the last name, which I suppose aren’t your real names, are they? It immediately recalled the good old RAMONES days to me, so was it maybe inspired by bands like that?
Jimmy: "For those who do not know, CALABRESE is our last name. We are actually family. I think that’s part of the charm with our band. It’s not an act, we are actual brothers so people know for sure we truly hate each other!"
Please tell us a bit about the early days of your career… what have you all been up to prior to the origin of CALABRESE and when and how did you get together in this line-up then?
Jimmy: "Bobby and I decided we wanted to form a band and play the type of music we love. We needed a drummer so we taught Davey how to play drums (and by "taught," I mean "yelling at him"). The rest is history."
When it comes to your musical influences / roots, I would immediately associate you with the classic MISFITS / SAMHAIN stuff… Is that your main influence? Which other bands shaped the style of music that you play as CALABRESE nowadays?
Bobby: "I really got into Punkrock and Metal growing up, but I dig a lot of stuff. A lot of music inspires me. I’m super into Rock’n’Roll like THE DEAD BOYS and THE STOOGES. Anything by THE RAMONES. I’m huge into surf rock, like Man or Astroman? and DICK DALE or LINK WRAY. The Damned, Guitar Wolf, Cramps, the Cult and MOTÖRHEAD…I can go on forever, man."
Jimmy: "My main roots are Punk but it slides into Metal as well. I’ve been influenced by mostly anything dark. Black Flag, Ramones, old Metallica, Slayer, AFI, Ozzy, old Black Sabbath, Danzig, Dead Kennedys."
Up till now you have released three full length albums ("13 Halloweens", "The Traveling Vampire Show" and "They Call Us Death")… Were they all self-financed / released on your own label? If you should compare them all to each other, what would you say? Did you play the same style of music right from the start? What kind of improvements (from your own point of view) did you make over the years?
Jimmy: "We’ve self released our albums on our own label, Spookshow Records. We are 100% DIY. Our style has always been Punk but with each album our musicianship has improved. Now that we have 3 CDs we can map out our progress; "13 Halloweens" – 3 chord Punk, "The Traveling Vampire Show" – more melodic Punk, "They Call Us Death" – heavy Punk."
Bobby: "We definitely learned to play our shit better! I’m constantly trying to improve my guitar playing, or if anything, trying to really seal the deal on "the CALABRESE sound." I hate it when bands come out with the same record over and over, but I also hate it when they stray too far from the original sound I got into. So it’s a fine line, and I’m doing what we always do – being CALABRESE… but better!"
You also switch lead vocals from time to time… how do you decide which part / song fits whom the best?
Bobby: "We do the chorus together, and take turns on the two verses. We’ve yet to sing THREE choruses, nor have we sung in a bridge before. Whoa, I think I just stumbled upon a personal revelation!"
Jimmy: "Yeah, it usually just happens, but for the most part whoever writes the main song gets to sing the first verse."
What is this Itunes only "Midnight Spook Show" release all about? Does it feature any exclusive tracks or something?
Jimmy: "That’s our first ever EP we recorded. We re-recorded those songs for "13 Halloweens", but if you want to hear CALABRESE in the raw… then I suggest you check those out."
Image wise you seem pretty much attracted by vintage Horror movies, so do you have any special faves in that department? Bela Lugosi or Christopher Lee? Hammer Horror or black/white Horror movies? What about Gore stuff?
Jimmy: "I’m a fan of the 80s splatter Horror comedies like "Evil Dead" and "Dead Alive". I’ve actually come to the conclusion that the 80s was the golden age of Horror movies."
Bobby: "Jimmy knows what’s up. Anything like "Fright Night" or "Night Of The Demons". Anything that combines Horror and comedy…super ace!"
Are your lyrics also mainly inspired by Horror topics or is it just one part of the band?
Jimmy: "It’s mainly Horror inspired but we like to mix in other topics to to add depth to the music."
Bobby: "It’s all about the daily Horrors of life that makes the best songs!"
Your music also appeared in several Horror movies already, so how did you get the opportunities for that? Do you have any connections in that department or something?
Jimmy: "We’ve been lucky. I think it’s the combination of our independent spirit and our kick ass music that attracts indie film makers to CALABRESE."
Bobby: "You gotta send out the good vibes, man."
You also seem to be big comic book fans (just like myself), so how did you get together with Eric Powell (of Dark Horse Comics) for the extremely cool coverartwork of "They Call Us Death"?
Jimmy: "We first met Eric at a convention we were both attending. He then invited us to play the 10th Anniversery of his Goon comic. At the Anniversary show we got him liquored up and tricked him into painting the cover art for the new CD."
Any comic book favorites? Do you prefer the more modern stuff that currently gets released or are you more of a fan of the classic 60s / 70s comic books (which I personally prefer)?
Bobbby: "I’m into it all! Superhero stuff, indie and weird, Horror junk, bizarre crap. It varies from time to time, really. Hell, I recently got into some modern day Superman comics, which is weird, ’cause Superman is pretty damn boring. But if you hire some excellent writers and artists, anything’s possible." (so true… Alan Moore, Brian Michael Bendis and Ed Brubaker already wrote some impressive stuff, ! – Frank)
Jimmy: "My favorites are the EC Horror and crime comics. They had great stories and great art, timeless classics. I’m also a fan of Steve Niles, Alan Moore and of course Eric Powell."
Your drummer Davey also did some additional artwork for the new album, so is he also involved in the comic book business somehow?
Jimmy: "Ha! He wishes!"
Bobby: "If he does someday, I demand I get hired on, too. I don’t know how it’ll happen, but I wanna write a Batman arc featuring a drunk and lonely Batman revealing himself to not be Bruce Wayne, but to be… Bobby Calabrese!"
From what I’ve read there’s also a CALABRESE comic book in the making, so please tell us all necessary details about that (who’s drawing / writing it, what kind of story can we expect and who’s going to publish that)?
Jimmy: "Spookshow Records is branching out into comics by issuing the first issue of Calabrese Comics!"
Bobby: "Totally! It should be pretty amazing, since it’s starring us, featuring us and drawn by us! Okay, not really. We’ve got Modern Mythology Press on board, who helped write and draw it, DW Frydendall did the coloring and the next step is to sit back, print ’em up and have some fun! It’s about CALABRESE being blackmailed into helping the government slay monsters, with action packed sequences and killer dialogue. Yes, this will be the GREATEST COMIC BOOK EVER."
Tell us a bit about your live activities… it seems CALABRESE plays quite a lot of shows and you even played overhere in Germany already… Tell us more about that, how you got the opportunity, with which bands you shared the stage and what kind of experiences you made…
Bobby: "Yeah, we try to play as much as we can. We play overseas, we play basements, cafes and comic book shops. It’s all worth it. In Germany, we played and toured with our Italian buddies, The Wraiths Orchestra. They treated us to fine German foods and Italian booze! Everyone we met was super cool and all the venues, locations, cities and hotels were really amazing. It’s like playing in the US, but absolutely not. Like a total Bizarro-America. It was super fun, and hopefully we can do it again. If not, I’ve got my sights on Japan. Giant robots terrorizing the streets… here I come!"
What kind of crowds come to your shows? Is it mainly old Punk fans or is it more a mixed type of audience?
Bobby: "It really is a pretty diverse mixture of people. We see Punkrockers, Goth kids, Rock’n’Rollers, Heavy Metal dudes, moms and dads, Thrash kids! It’s really awesome. I think anyone can get into our music, which is rad."
Jimmy: "We attract all walks of life."
The band is located in Phoenix, Arizona… is there a good scene for your type of music or do you have to do a lot of traveling in order to play in front of people who really appreciate your stuff?
Jimmy: "The scene is still small which keeps it real. People are active and actually dig it – no posers!"
Bobby: "The scene is different everywhere, but I think you always do better outside of your own area. So you gotta travel, and Goddamn, we definitely travel. The grass is always greener on the other side!"
By the way: how big is CALABRESE in Germany from your personal point of view? Do you get a lot of feedback from here or is it still a territory that you need to promote yourselves in a lot more maybe?
Jimmy: "We can always get more fans, the more the merrier. But we are on a different music model than most bands, we’d rather have 10,000 die-hard supporters than 2 million people who like to follow trends."
Who came up with the idea to let your fans sent in suggestions for the titles of your albums? Did you get lots of cool ideas or was most of it not really worth a mention? What made you pick "They Call Us Death" in the end?
Jimmy: "From the start we’ve always wanted to have the fans interact with the band. We’ve always wanted to be THAT band we’d like to see growing up."
Bobby: "We hate douchey bands, and we hate rockstars! It’s all about the fans, and it’s all about staying normal and cool and grounded. Hopefully our contests, giveaways and fan interaction will help that image along."
You also did a very successful promotional video for the track ‘Voices Of The Dead’… tell us a bit more about its origin and how much it helped the band in terms of popularity and stuff…
Jimmy: "I wish we had a plan to tell you about. Fate just happened to bring us together with creator / writer / director Brian Pulido and he put together a music video that people enjoy."
If you check out youtube there’s also a bunch of other CALABRESE videos around… are they all official ones? Is it all songs from your regular albums or any exclusive stuff as well?
Jimmy: "Youtube has clips from fans, our official videos, our goofy video messages… hell, you can can find it all."
Bobby: "If we’re not constantly updating it with our own webisodes or messages directly from us, someone else is doing something CALABRESE related, and that’s pretty awesome. Type in "CALABRESE" and prepare to have your mind be melted!"
I suppose that a lot of Punks from the early days pretty much disgust internet platforms such as youtube or myspace, but in your case they seem to help you quite a lot… Did you already get any negative feedback because of that?
Bobby: "If we have… we haven’t noticed! The music business is like the Wild West these days. You gotta stay ahead of the curve and keep afloat, alive and relevant in everything you do. And if that means selling your soul to the internet world… hey, we’re down!"
Jimmy: "Yeah, we’ve definitely embraced the internet age fully and we’ve not seen backlash because of this. Knock on wood!"
Ok, folks… that’s all for now. Anything else or upcoming events that you’d like to mention before we end this feature here? Thanks a lot for taking the time and all the best!
Jimmy: "We have a ton of online propaganda, so if you feel brave enough check out www.CalabreseRock.com, www.facebook.com/calabrese666, www.myspace.com/calabrese, twitter, youtube, and our blogs!"
Bobby: "Tell all of your friends and enemies about us, tell your neighbors, your neighbor’s kids and your neighbor’s dog. We wanna infect them all with the strange sounds of CALABRESE!"