Fireball Ministry’s James Rota ‘Most Excited’ About ‘Remember the Story’ Disc, Talks Lemmy Kilmister’s Best Lyrics
Welcome back, Fireball Ministry! After a seven-year gap between albums, the band is firing up their blacklight poster-come-to-life brand of groove-heavy, aggressive rock on the stellar new album Remember the Story. The trio of singer/guitarist James A. Rota II, guitarist Emily J. Burton and drummer John Oreshnick are now rounded out by Kyuss and The Obsessed low-end god Scott Reeder, who has brought a rejuvenated enthusiasm to the group.
After a blistering set at the recent Cal Jam '17 in San Bernardino, Calif., we had a chance to speak with Fireball Ministry's James Rota about the band's return, Reeder's addition and the creation of their Remember the Story album. Rota also shared a story about Lemmy Kilmister and how they came to cover Motorhead's "I Don't Believe a Word," what he took away from the last few years of working with Dave Grohl on Sound City and Sonic Highways in terms of approaching music and he teases their upcoming shows with Red Fang. Check out our chat with the Fireball Ministry singer below.
Had a chance to catch your set today, and loving what I've seen not only from you, but everything so far at Cal Jam!
Having played festivals before, and you usually come back and feel like the European Festivals are run so much better, but this one feels like a European festival. I hope they do ten of them.
We got to see a bit of the new music today, but for people who will be seeing future shows, are there things you're excited to share with crowds or haven't had a chance to work in yet?
Because it's the first record we did with Scotty [Reeder], I'm honestly most excited about doing the new stuff and I think we all are. But I'm also excited because Scott likes to play everything from all the time, and it's fun because we get to learn songs that we haven't played in forever.
When you're in the band for 20 years, you have these moments where it's like we have to play this, we have to play that, and Scott's the one, with him being in the band and being new it's like, "Oh, have you ever played this song?" And it's like, no, so that's gonna pop up more and more.
First time we've had a chance to speak since Scott joined. Let's talk about what added dimension he's brought to the group.
I'll tell you the story of Scott coming into the band. Scott was in a movie that I produced for Dave [Grohl] called Sound City. We interviewed him for the movie and then he played on one of the songs for it. We wanted Scott cause Scott did a bunch of Kyuss records out at Sound City and Scott ended up coming out and doing the interview with us for the movie and then he and I just started talking. I asked him who he was playing with and he mentioned doing this and doing that, but we had been kicking around the idea that we should be playing more and busting out and doing some s--t. And it was like, "Hey man, if you ever wanted to play for our band, that would totally be a dream for us." I mean, we were shocked that people don't pick up the phone for him to play on more s--t. I mean, it was weird. But luckily we were the ones that asked, and it always pays to ask.
So we ended up doing it and obviously he is him. So the added dimension of having Scott in the band is complete and total amazingness. We've always had a great bass player in my opinion, but Scott is Scott. He's a great songwriter, he's a great singer, he's a great collaborator and he's just a hell of a nice human being. Gotta love him.
Speaking of the songwriting, it's been seven years since we've had a record and I think there might have been a few starts along the way. I was just curious with the new album, was it material that was compiled over the full time or was it start from scratch and do it in one fell swoop?
Only "Weaver's Dawn," which was a Scott song from before - a solo Scott song, a song that I always really liked and asked him if we could do a version of "Weaver's Dawn" for the record, but every other song is brand new. It's as old as the time we spent writing it for the record. We wanted to do this from the point where Scott was in the band, so there was nothing from before. And I think that helped and worked out in our favor for the music that we made.
And kind of a badass video the band premiered with us here at Loudwire. Let's talk a little bit about "The Answer," how that song came together and your thoughts on the video itself.
Well our buddy Brandon Trost, who is a director and a DP in his own right, he does a lot of the Judd Apatow related stuff and has worked with Seth Rogen and he just shot that movie The Disaster Artist that James Franco directed, but he's an old friend of our band and he's actually done two other videos for us. And I had hooked Dave [Grohl] up with him to do some stuff for the Foo Fighters cause Dave fell in love with him too because he's an amazingly awesome person. But at "The Sky Is a Neighborhood" video shoot for the Foo Fighters, Brandon was like, "Ok, I've done a bunch of stuff for the Foo Fighters now, but why aren't we doing your video?" So I was like, "Ok, if you want to do our video, we'll do a video." So that was all his idea. We just gave him the song and said, "Make it happen. Here it is. Here is the track." And it was totally his interpretation of the song. That was cool by me and I like it like that, when an artist can take art and make more art.
Speaking of art, you guys do such interesting artwork and this one for Remember the Story is particularly striking. If you want to give credit here, let's discuss where it came from and what if any direction you gave.
That artist, her name is Caitlin Mattison. [Guitarist] Emily [Burton] was massively into her and brought her up that hey, we should get this person to do it and at the time, before she could commit, she was doing this other job for this guy named Bruce Springsteen and we were bummed because we figured that would take precedence, and there was a moment where we were super bummed cause it didn't look like it was going to happen, but ka-bang, she was able to do both things and I was super pumped, we all were. Her idea was great and it fit just the whole vibe of the record perfect I think.
One of the first pieces we got off this record was "Back on Earth." Such a killer track. What can you tell me about how that came together and was there anything that stood out during the sessions?
That has to be the most un-us song that we had written. We were talking about it and going through the parts and figuring out what the parts were and all of a sudden Scott started playing the crazy bass line on the chorus part and we knew right then we were going to push this through to be something amazing. That's how that song came to be a classic rock, Foghat-type of vibe. That's what we were going for and it was kind of like, "Oh, that's weird." It was really fun to write a song like that and Scott just took it to the moon with all that Skynyrd-y kind of bass playing. That was amazing.
That's another one and I feel it through this record ... it's just the groove that really hooks me and has got me on your past records as well. Is that the kind of music you grew up on as well? What kind of influenced you toward this style and feel?
You know, I just kind of feel like this bare bones hard rock is always going to be in style for me. It's not like a fad or trendy music, but that way if you just keep doing it, and look at a band like Clutch who have been touring for so many years, but they're capable of maintaining this legacy and career because they stick with the basics, like AC/DC. And that's the kind of s--t that all of us are drawn to. So just do what you know and we're lucky that something that we know is something that people like. It's killer.
We all miss Lemmy and I loved the version of "I Don't Believe a Word" that you did for this album. I wanted to get your thoughts on his passing, his music and why in particular this was the Motorhead song you chose.
Well we met on tour and he and I would always text about old rockabilly stuff and every time he was in town we'd just try to get together at you know where. But honestly, he was one of those guys that the persona he put out in the world was not who he was. If you met him, you know he was just a nice man, smart and mondo knowledge about everything.
But I was at the Rainbow one night after seeing Metallica at this place called the Wiltern and they were doing a benefit for some school concert, and I was actually with Dave [Grohl] and he texted and was like, "Let's go drink with Lemmy at the Rainbow." So we go and sit down at the table and he's already like a little fun. And we were all like a little fun. So we sit down and we started talking about what the best Motorhead lyrics were that he ever wrote. And I was like, "You tell me first cause I wanna know if I'm even in the ballpark." And the song he said to me was not the best Motorhead lyrics he ever wrote. Then he starts to say the words to me, reciting them out loud and I'm still like, "No." So he asked me to tell him what the best words were he ever wrote, and I said, "I think the best song you ever wrote was 'Don't Believe a Word' off of Overnight Sensation." And he's like, "That song?! Why that song?" And I'm like, "I don't know, man. To me it's your best words. It's the most honest thing you've ever sang." And he's like, "It's just a bummer you picked that song because who the hell is gonna sing that one, especially the backups on that, live?" And that's what he thinks about. And, of course, "Orgasmatron" is the second best song. The song he picked was the title track off 1916. Kind of crazy, right? That was his one.
But when we were getting ready to do this record, I asked the guys, "Do you mind if we do this acoustic song, this Motorhead cover, that has meaning to me?" I said, "I think that we should do it, but all stripped down, so people can see what a great songwriter he was." And that's why it's that version of the song.
Off the new record, is there a song that has a more personal meaning to you?
I really like the song "Everything You Wanted." It's the second song and I think that really showcases what this band is capable of as a band. That, to me, is what we do best.
In the last few years, you've had a very fruitful partnership with Grohl, especially on the visual side with Sound City and Sonic Highways. Having branched out that way in recent years and getting back to music with Fireball Ministry, has that affected anything at all in the way that you approach your music and presentation?
Yeah, you make way less money with the music. (chuckle) Artistically I think we live in a time now where it's never been easier to make something great and do something great. Actually, if you have an idea and you wanna do something, even if nobody ever sees it, you should still do it. Just do something, because you really have no excuse at this point. There are so many tools made available to all of us. So for us, making a record was not as hard in 2017, and I mean we still play and do all the things and I'm not saying we phone it in, but you know what I'm saying ... you can do it a lot cheaper and a lot easier and have it sound a lot better than you could when I was say 22. So just get out there and just play and do it. Throw a camera up on something and don't just make a 10 second video for a Snapchat site. Just go out and tell a story. This is me preaching, but I think that's what makes it important.
But I just think that people should be doing stuff that they love and now that we have the opportunity to do it and do it so well and so easily, I think everyone should turn on a camera and film something that they care about and tell somebody about it cause that's cool. That's what makes the world awesome and great.
And I believe you have some dates coming up as well.
Yep, Red Fang at the end of October. We have like four shows with them and it's gonna be great. You like those guys, I'm sure. They're killer.
When you head out now for touring, are you looking at just a straight up rock show or thinking of adding more production to it?
We never have, but lately, because I have to put up or shut up, there are so many opportunities to do some cool s--t now in a small universe so we should really be working on that. Thank you for doing that. You just lit the fire under my ass.
Our thanks to James Rota for the interview. The band's excellent 'Remember the Story' is revved up and readily available via Amazon, iTunes, BandCamp and in bundle packages through Cleopatra Records. As stated, the band is finishing out the month of October playing West Coast dates with Red Fang. Get dates and ticketing info here.
Fireball Ministry, "The Answer"
Fireball Ministry, "Back on Earth"
Fireball Ministry, "I Don't Believe a Word" (Motorhead Cover)
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