Dave Grohl might be the hardest-working drummer in the business, but Riotgod founder Bob Pantella has got to be the hardest working one in New Jersey. Pantella is pulling triple duty in not just Riotgod, but also The Atomic Bitchwax and most famously, Monster Magnet. The band will be playing their seminal 1995 album Dopes to Infinity in its entirety for two special New York-area shows this tomorrow and Saturday at Music Hall of Williamsburg and Starland Ballroom. Pantella caught up with Metal Insider to talk about revisiting the album that brought the band their first mainstream success, as well as what it’s like playing in three bands.
So you’ll be playing Dopes To Infinity in its entirety this weekend for the first time in America. What made you decide to revisit that album?
It was because a lot of bands were doing it. And we didn’t even think about doing it until like we were playing with, I think Judas Priest doing British Steel. When bands started doing it, everybody thought it was a cool idea. And then finally we just got around to doing it. The management got some good offers if we did something like that and so we went for it. And it was really fun! And half of the songs on that album the band never played live. They were just done in the studio and never actually performed all together at once. So that was a challenge for everybody, not really that much, but you had to figure out how to do it live.
And you weren’t in the band when the album was recorded…
Right, that was Jon Kleiman on drums and Joe Calandra on bass. And the album was actually done at Electric Lady Studios.
So, you said it wasn’t really that challenging to learn it. I’m assuming you’re pretty familiar with the album. [Laughs]
Well yeah, it’s not like we play it note for note either – the show would be over in 20 minutes. I think like the album is like 45 minutes long, there’s not much to it [Laughs]. Back then, albums were short. So we kind of had to reinvent a couple things. We kind of psyched it out and made it more pliable for a show instead of just the album. The album itself is kind of top heavy with good songs, then it gets mellow… well not good, but heavier songs and like mellower stuff towards the end. So we had to kind of rearrange it to make it more of a flow for a live situation.
Pretty interesting. So you’ve done this overseas already right?
Yeah, we did like five weeks of it in Europe. Went over great, really good. Really fun doing it.
Are you talking to people who are like “hey this is my album,” telling you how much the record meant to them?
Oh totally. I mean it came out in 95, long time ago for a lot people, or most of us. [Laughs]
What are your favorite songs to play?
For me personally? I really like doing “King of Mars.” I really like that one and “All Friends and Kingdom Come.”
Of the shows you’ve played so far, are there any that stick out as being particularly memorable?
Yeah, London. We played at this place called Koko, which is like this beautiful place, like an old opera house. It was just, a perfect show, really good, was a great time and it sold out.
And this is going to be the first time you do all of Dopes in the States?
This is going to be the first, yup!
Are you just doing these two dates or are there more lined up?
That’s it for the moment. God only knows what the future is going to bring, but as of right now that’s it. Then were actually going to go into the studio and make another record in the late spring.
Or, we might go out again and do Spine of God, that whole thing, or Superjudge. There a lot of stuff [we could] do.
Yeah, you’ve made a couple of pretty iconic stoner rock records.
Oh yeah totally.
I guess you’ve been working a little bit on tunes for the next record.
We have not. [Laughs]
Nothing yet, huh?
When we came home from this tour, we worked on the Dopes To Infinity thing for a while. I mean, playing it was easy but just trying to get the flow of the show took some time to get it together, what would work, what wouldn’t. So that took up a lot of our time. Then we did the tour, then we came home and just took a breather. And now we’re working on this tribute record for this band called The Seeds. So yeah we’ve been working on that the last couple of days, or week and a half I guess.
So what song you doing?
“You Can’t Be Trusted.” And we did our own spin on it of course. And that’ll be done in probably another week or so. Then we’ll start working on stuff. Then me Garrett and Jim are going away on the first of February for the Riotgod tour. That’s going to be like a 5 week run. I think we’re doing like two weeks in the States, then three weeks in Europe.
Talk to me about playing with Riotgod versus Monster Magnet. Magnet’s obviously more of a heritage band that’s been around a lot longer.
Oh yeah, of course. Actually it’s a totally different animal, just completely different, mainly because of the singer. That changes the whole vibe of everything. And the same thing applies to Atomic Bitchwax, that’s a whole other animal. As far as the Riotgod stuff, I do most of the writing and stuff. So it’s a little closer to my heart, on a personal level, musically anyway. With the Magnet, I’m in the band but I feel like more of a fan. [Laughs] So it’s kind of cool cause I got the best seat in the house.
Right. So it’s basically Dave’s world and you’re living in it?
Yeah, pretty much. It’s cool.
As opposed to RiotGod which you write for, have you actually been able to bring stuff to Magnet?
No, I don’t even bother. It’s Dave’s thing and it’s great, and I like what he does and I learn a lot from it. Especially in those early stages of writing, I’m like “what the hell is this?,” and I know it’s going to be cool in the end, but when you just hear scraps of it. But after a couple weeks and it comes together and all starts to make sense. It’s interesting.
What’s it like touring in a van with Riotgod versus playing overseas festivals with Monster Magnet?
Well I mean it’s not as comfortable, I’ll tell you that! And the money’s not that great [Laughs]. But it’s fun, it’s really a lot of fun. We’re like four little kids. And this year is going to be a good year for Riotgod. In August were playing the Wacken Festival and a couple other festivals. So were finally starting to break some ground.
And what about Atomic Bitchwax? That last album was a monster by the way.
Oh, thanks man! Yeah that was a lot of fun. Playing that live was fucking hilarious. Just playing it live, it was like, “I can’t believe I remembered all these parts!” [Laughs]
You’re just playing the whole album in its entirety I guess?
No, we played half of it. Like if it was on vinyl, like it was, we played side A because it was just too fucking long for us. I think people would have been like “what the fuck.. alright..” Like it’s too much, you know? And plus, we had to play some old stuff too. We opted to play the first half as like the encore, oh wait, I think we end with “Stork Theme.” That was like the encore. It’s was just a lot and there’s no vocals so 40 minutes live, I mean I’m cool with that, but most people I don’t think would be. It’s a long time man and it’s just a bombardment of fucking riffs.
Do you get any say in Bitchwax as to music?
Yeah, totally. We work together. Every band is a little different. We work stuff out together in rehearsal.
Are there ideas in your head where you like “this sounds more like Bitchwax”, or “Im keeping this for Riotgod”?
Yeah, that stuff happens for sure, definitely. And Bitchwas is actually doing a new record, we’re going to Europe in April for like three weeks.
You’re a very busy person [Laughs].
Yeah dude it’s fucking crazy. Then the Magnet record after that, then I think we might do some Euro stuff with Magnet. Maybe, I don’t know. That’s still kind of just talking about it. Then we got August with Riotgod. Then I think we’re going back to Europe with Magnet at the end of the year. Maybe doing the Spine Of God thing, I don’t know. Who knows? But don’t quote me with that. It’s too far away to tell.