Riotgod drummer Bob Pantella is a busy man. In addition to the third Riotgod album, Driven Rise, which comes out next Tuesday (18), he also plays with Monster Magnet, The Atomic Bitchwax and Cycle of Pain. We caught up with him to talk about how Riotgod has evolved, how he multitasks between all of his projects, and the video for the album’s title track, which we’re premiering above.
This is your third album. How have you seen Riotgod grow, mature, change and mutate since the first album?
Well, the first album, we didn’t know what to expect, undiscovered territory still. The second album was a learning process and we were in a bit of a rush because of deadlines and all that. This time around, we planned everything out better and had plenty of time. We made time for recording and the artwork and the writing and all of that. Between the first album and now, we’ve toured a lot – we’ve found ourselves. It came a lot easier this time around. We had written a lot we had cut off a lot of the fat; also this album is the shortest album, because we wanted it to be able to fit on vinyl, so that left us no longer than like 45 minutes. Like the first album was really long and the second album as well – not as long as the first, but still really long. So, this time around, we had enough songs to do a longer album, but chose not to. Chopped off the weakest songs.
So are you just gonna throw the songs out? Do you think they’re gonna be reworked later down the road for the fourth album?
They are gone. They’re gone. Goodbye (laughs).
How many songs do you think you threw out?
Probably five. There was pieces of this and that that were okay, but I’m not one to hold on to that. It leaves room for writing more stuff.
So, you’re in three bands right now?
Four. The fourth one is Cycle of Pain with JD from Black Label Society.
How are you able to multitask?
I get that question a lot. It’s just a matter of scheduling, really. Well, in Riotgod, the guitar player is also in Monster Magnet and I play in Atomic Bitchwax and Chris, the bass player, also plays in Monster Magnet, so that helps a lot. It eases the pain of scheduling a little bit because at least some of us are on the same page.
It’s kind of like a family tree of music. Are there songs where you’re ‘like this would be better served for Bitchwax?’
No, because we all approach song writing and everything differently in each band. Like in Magnet it’s Dave. He’ll do his thing at home and bring us cassettes or whatever, files – used to be cassettes. It’s the same shit, just a file instead of a cassette – same process, though. With Riotgod, all the albums are recorded in my studio, so I’ll sit down just by myself and pick up the guitar and start writing like that, and then I’ll give it to Mark Sunshine, and if he can do something with it – if it’s good then we’ll develop it further, if not then we move on. And Bitchwwax, we all get together in the studio and just start jamming. Bitchwax is more of a risk oriented band, song oriented band. And Cycle of Pain, JD does all the writing and stuff like that. They’re all very different.
Do you find yourself playing different styles in any of the bands?
Definitely. Yeah. Like Riotgod and Monster Magnet are kind of more straight ahead playing, drum-wise. Bitchwax is like running a marathon as far as drums go, a lot of notes. Cycle of Pain is more of a metal thing. I get to break out the double kick pedal and a china boy. Yeah, definitely different.
Is it safe to say Monster Magnet takes priority over the other bands?
Well, I mean Monster magnet is the priority. Definitely. Yeah, that’s my main – the whole big thing.
You’re from New Jersey. Are there any other Jersey bands that you would say are up and coming or were influential to you?
I gotta tell ya, zero to none. I mean, in a lot of musicians, it’s a small little world, but I can’t think of one Jersey band I really like. I mean, not that there aren’t any, it’s just not that I know of, that I’m aware of. My new favorite band is a band from Germany called Cadaver. I like those guys.
They’re from closer to the old Jersey.
This interview we’re also premiering the video for “Driven Rise.” What can you tell us about the video?
Low budget. We shot it maybe six seven hours. Straight ahead, performance video, black and white.
Any memories of it or was it just kind of an in and out of it, one day, low budget?
Yeah, it was just ram, bam, thank ya m’am. Real quick. We started off with all these big ideas and all of a sudden the bill kept getting bigger and bigger and bigger. It was like “alright let’s scrap all that, just keep it stripped down, bare boned, just us playing.” Real simple.
Right so it’s no Las Vegas blingy Monster Magnet video?
No, no. We got low budget, man. I would like to do a million different things, but it’s just a matter of money. We’re going to do another video, maybe that one we’ll see. One day at a time. But it was really our first real video. We’ve made videos on our own before, but this time we hired a guy with real cameras, lighting and all that to do it properly. It was really as far as Riotgod our first shot at a real video.
As a musician that’s in many bands and has been in bands for a while, what’s you take on the decline in physical sales and the increase in streaming and all that?
My take on it is it is what it is. I mean, there’s no fighting it. I like the idea of doing vinyl. That kind of helps balance the scales a little bit. The new record is going to come out on vinyl.
Have the other two as well?
Not the other two. No plans for that at this point, anyway. But this one’s coming out on vinyl. Limited thing. I think we got 500 printed up, something like that. If that does well, we’ll make more obviously. I like that whole idea. It’s kind of weird. It’s not like it used to be obviously and never will be. It’s changed to the degree that we’re not in the record business anymore, we’re in the touring business. That’s where we make our money. If we don’t tour, we rarely make any money. Publishing money and all that, forget it. It’s not even a factor. If you’re not touring, you’re really kind of dead in the water. We’ll sell more records on the road than online on Amazon or whatever. It’s just different, but it is what it is. That and merch, really keeps you alive. It’s a shame, but nothing to get blue about it’s just the way it is and you just got to look at things a different way.
Yeah, you can’t really do anything. You can’t put that genie back in the bottle.
Nah, it’s never gonna happen. At this point, the album’s already out in Europe and the next day it was already available for free download and shit. Which everybody expects and you can’t really fight it. Yeah, the genie’s out of the bottle. So you gotta stay on the road basically. I don’t know how record companies are surviving. It’s a mystery to me, man.