Scene Point Blank recently spoke with Jim Tramontana from the band Red Hot Rebellion, their mix of punk and classic rock and roll can be counted on to get a crowd moving. Hailing from the city of Dayton in the great state of Ohio, they are part of a strong local scene there and with the release of their new self titled album we should be hearing more from them in very near future. The new album is packaged with a comic book that follows the theme of the album, another ingenious way bands are opting to promote and package their music these days.
Scene Point Blank: What bands/musicians do you feel influenced your musical style, I hear a blend of classic rock and punk attitude? I love your description “soundtrack to a bar fight”?
Jim Tramontana: Yes, we definitely are heavily influenced by classic rock, punk, and metal. We all grew up listening to a lot of it (and still do). Our idea behind the band was to create something with classic rock sensibilities and punk rock intensity. Pick any guitar hero from the ‘50s through the ‘80s and Doug [Spencer, guitar] will probably count them as an influence. Andris [Devine, drums] is a huge fan of NOFX and I am a big Iron Maiden fan. A few bands we all love are: Rancid, Motorhead, Slayer, and Social Distortion. If you had all those guys rocking out at once, you’d definitely have the soundtrack to a bar fight.
Scene Point Blank: I read something the other day about you guys that surprised me. It said that you guys were brought together as the result of a Craigslist ad? What’s the back story to this?
Jim Tramontana: Yes, it is. Gotta love the interwebz. We’re actually all transplants to the Dayton area. Doug grew up in Dayton, but moved away for 10 years – so, by the time he moved back to the area, it was like he had just moved here for the first time. Andris is from Wisconsin and I am from Florida. In 2008 I was looking to start a new band or recording project and being new to the area, decided a post on the Dayton Craigslist for a guitarist. Doug answered the ad, and after a few phones calls and a meet-up at a local music store, they started working on music in my basement. That went on for about 8 months and, after two failed drummers later, we returned to Craigslist to look for a drummer. Andris had just moved to the Cincinnati-area and, being from Wisconsin, the drive from Cincy to Dayton seemed like nothing, so he answered the ad, tried out and immediately clicked. Since no one was a psycho (and just happened to be a great musician), we decided it must be fate and kept on jamming.
Scene Point Blank: Are your live shows as intense and energetic as comes across in your record?
Jim Tramontana: Oh yeah! There’s only three of us, but we like to think we rock harder than a band thrice our size. It’s an audio-visual ass-kicking for sure. We also like to engage the audience directly. We’ll play on table- or bar-tops, jump into the crowd and play, invite people to sing on stage. Sometimes our connection to the audience can backfire on us a little. We’ve been tackled while playing; dowsed with gallons of beer; our amps have been pushed around and pedals been trampled and soaked. [It] just comes with the territory, I guess.
Scene Point Blank: What is the local music scene like in fabulous Dayton, Ohio? I lived there back in the late 60s-early 70s and from what I remember the local music was pretty strong.
Jim Tramontana: There is a lot going on in the Dirty D! A lot of very talented people and a pretty vibrant community of musicians and artists. One testament of the history and richness of the Dayton scene is the Dayton Does Dayton Festival. Once a year Dayton bands come together to cover other Dayton bands of the past and present (and play their originals). Good times and always had great media coverage and attendance.
Scene Point Blank: So I see that your debut album was mixed by Stephen Egerton of Descendents fame, what was he like to work with?
Jim Tramontana: Totally insane. We recorded the album here in Dayton, but hooked up with Stephen through my work with Paper + Plastick Records. (I do TV/film licensing for P+P Records and Stephen’s solo work was released by the label). He took an already great sound and made it stellar. He was super easy to work with and a masterful mixing and mastering engineer. He’s got a lot of experience mixing and mastering for different formats – it’s actually getting hard to find dudes who know how to master for vinyl properly. We couldn’t be happier. Plus the association gives us miles of punk rock street cred. An added bonus.
Scene Point Blank: I love the marketing you are doing for the new release: the nice package deal for the LP, CD, comic, and T-shirt. I see more and more bands offering up package deals these days. How did it come about? Is it working out for you?
Jim Tramontana: We wanted something to grab people’s attention on our website. We’re competing with literally millions of other bands, so we wanted to do something somewhat unique. So we came up with the Ultimate Combo Pack. You get the vinyl, the CD, the comic book, and a t-shirt. It’s been our bestseller through our web-store. And the packaging is definitely an attention grabber for people at our concerts. When you can show them the album comes on clear, red vinyl and it comes with an awesome comic book and a CD version of the album, it gets people interested. At shows, we sell everything on a pay-what-you-want price. Vinyl, CDs, T-shirts, everything. Pay what you want. If all you have is 5 bucks and you want the vinyl: guess what, it’s yours (and it comes with the comic book and the CD). Almost always, however, people are willing to pay more than we would charge otherwise, so it works out for us.
Scene Point Blank: Tell us about the comic book connection. Peter Wonsowski does an excellent job with the artwork on this. How did the idea come about?
Jim Tramontana: Peter Wonsowski is a stone-cold badass. This is another crazy idea, turned internet post, turned reality. One day, after a recording session, I was thinking about the songs for the album and started noticing a common theme (and a hint of a story) running through it all. Later that day I wrote an outline for a story based on the songs we had recorded and a few that were still in the works. In true dork fashion, I posted something on Facebook about how the Red Hot Rebellion album is really a concept album that would work great as a comic book and asked if any artists were interested in working on it. Peter was a friend of a friend, saw the post, and hit us up.
We ran the story by him and he loved it. He literally took a few paragraphs, some lyrics, and a few dozen emails and turned it into a living work of art to accompany the Red Hot Rebellion album. Each page captures the essence of each song and tells a unified story – but it does it without being too literal. So the listener/reader has the opportunity to interpret it some for themselves. And here’s a little secret: we are currently working on animating this badboy. It won’t be a full-on cartoon, more like a video-comic book, with super awesome looping animation and music. We are working with another stone-cold badass on this project: Matt Frodsham. He lives in Berlin and is completely balls-out awesome.
Scene Point Blank: I noticed you have recently had some of your music featured on Rob Dyrdek’s Fantasy Factory, and MTV’s Nitro Circus. It looks like you’re on the MTV radar. How does the band like the recognition?
Jim Tramontana: It’s super cool. Getting music placed on their reality shows is pretty much the only music you see on MTV any more. And we are in some pretty rad company. Some of the best mainstream and underground music is used in those shows. We hope to keep on licensing music for TV, film and video games. It’s one of the only viable revenue streams for a completely independent band. We don’t have a label, so all of efforts and payouts start and end with us. And we’ll whore ourselves out to the highest bidder at the drop of a hat!
Scene Point Blank: Are there any plans for the band to do a East / West coast tour behind the new release?
Jim Tramontana: We have some things in the works but nothing completely solid yet. We just secured national distribution, so longer tours will start making more sense in the future. We are constantly mutilating eardrums throughout the greater Midwest region, though. Once more ducks are in a row, an East Coast tour will most likely be our next campaign. Or Europe. Europeans love them some dirty rock n roll. Since things happen to us in weird ass-backwards fashion, we’ll probably do Europe before the rest of the U.S.!
Words: Scott W