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Red Rum

Red Rum was a cool thrash band from back in the day and I mailed guitar player Vonni Groccia the lead guitar player some questions and here is what he said to my questions:

MC: Give me a little history of the band and is the band still around?

VG: Well there are two versions of the story. Here’s mine and this is the truth, the way it happened I moved to Sacramento in 1984. In the summer right before the school year started. I met Don Adams shortly thereafter and we started jamming and we were trying to get something going. We called ourselves Legion. We jammed with a bunch of different people but nothing really stuck. Meanwhile, I had emerged myself pretty deep in the thrash scene, from Sacramento all the way down to the Bay Area and was meeting more and more people. I met Carlos while I was jamming with a friend’s band at some rented hall in Sacramento. It was one of those things where the singer rented out a hall, got a couple of other bands to play and a couple of kegs. That was pretty common back then. You make a bunch of flyers and go to where everyone hangs out on a Friday and Saturday night and try to get people to come out and see your show. Anyway, Carlos was there and the two of us started talking and clicked right off. He was real fun back then and the two of us used to go out all the time. He wasn't that into thrash but he had the drive and charisma that I was looking for. He was kind of known around the scene for a couple of bands that he had been in and he knew all the locals. This whole time Don and I were still jamming. He was more into just getting as good as he could back then. He really wanted a band but going out and doing all the dirty work really wasn't his thing so I did all that. No problem. By this time I was hanging out with Mike Spencer from Sentinel Beast a little. We had a mutual friend from Arizona, where I moved from, and he kind of got us together. Beast was in full swing and I used to go to all their shows. Spencer knew I was really trying to get something together and he suggested that I jam with a drummer he knew named Mike Parisi. Parisi hosted an hour long metal show from his high school radio station. I checked it out several times. He used to play a lot of Raven and Accept and Def Lepard and a lot of bands that I really wasn't into. He'd throw in some Metallica or some Slayer every now and again but for the most part it was your standard British and mainstream American stuff. Anyway, Spencer told me that he wasn't very good but I might wanna check him out anyway. So Carlos and I went over there to his house to hear him play and jam some stuff out. He sucked. He had this huge silver kit sitting on this home made riser with all these lights in it-right there in his mom's garage. That was kind of cool but he really couldn't play that well. Carlos kept telling me, " come on let's go!" I wanted to jam a little bit more so at least the trip out there was worth it. Anyway, we packed up our gear and we were just ready to leave and he started pleading with us to give him another chance.

Turns out that Carlos had been in this band that he really liked and Parisi really wanted to be in a project that involved him. Carlos and I decided to give him a shot for a while and see how things went. At least it would get us playing with a drummer. I called up Don and surprised him with the news that I had found a Vocalist and drummer and we all loaded our gear in Parisi's garage and started playing. Don and I had already been working on Fear No Evil, Blood Suckin' Freaks, and Dance Of Death. So the four of us had three initial songs right from the start. Carlos' friends would stop by to check us out from time to time. Two of them, Scott Capizzano, Mike Caboy, would stop by more than others. The two of them were in a Motley Crue type band that played a lot around town. I knew about them. They were called Panther. I really wasn't into that whole thing. Real poser shit to me. They wore makeup and they had the big hair and costumes and the whole bit! Anyway, turns out that Caboy and Capizzano had been in an band with Carlos called Redrum, before they were in Panther. This is the band that Parisi was really into. Greg Williams, then Sentinel Beast's guitarist, was the guitarist for that band. Turns out that Caboy and Capizzano were itching to leave Panther and play something heavier. Caboy took the initiative and quit and asked if he could join our band. I was hesitant at first but after he assured me that he was really into it and wouldn't bring the big hair thing with him, I agreed. He was really into skateboarding at the time so that ended up being our first bond. That was cool. At this time were were still going by the name Legion. We had made some shirts and everything with a logo that Don had designed a while before. Keep in mind this whole thing from the time Carlos, Don and myself had entered Parisi's garage was only about two weeks. Anyway, from the second Caboy was in the band Parisi started saying we should call ourselves Redrum.

I was like no way man! I just didn't like the name. He kept saying how cool it was and what it would do for us. I knew nothing about that band. They had broken up before I had moved to town and Beast was in full swing. To this day Parisi insists that I knew about it but I didn't and I still don't. They were long gone by the time I made it to Sac! So, Carlos and Caboy were starting to give into Parisi's idea. Don was even starting to think about it. Caboy offered up a song that he said he wrote for Redrum- Death In Disneyland. We started playing that. I tweaked it a little bit. Added a couple of riffs to make it heavier. It was cool. We had four songs now and we'd been jamming together for a month and I had found out that the name Legion was being used by another band from LA. That sucked. One night Mike Spencer from Sentinel Beast called me up and asked if we wanted to open up for them and Exodus in four days. Fuck yeah! Only problem was, we hadn't settled on a name and he need one right there and then so I sucked it up and told him we'd use Redrum. And that, as they say, was that! Since then I've heard all kinds of stories of how we were the reformed Redrum or how we were together since '82 or all kinds of stuff! A lot of it propagated by Mike Parisi. As far as I'm concerned' the band formed in '85 under the name Legion and we borrowed the name Redrum out of necessity. As far as the second part of your question. Carlos and I are working on another album and I've been tinkering with Redrum off and on for a long time.

MC: If the band has broken up, was it a bad break-up and any chance of a re-union show?

VG: There's no chance of a reunion show with the Redrum that our fans know. We tried to all jam together a few years ago but it just didn't work. I had such high hopes but the reality of the situation was the same. The two Mikes were still a problem. Drugs and alcohol. Caboy could at least still play. Parisi on the other hand had gotten worse! And his memory was all fucked up! He couldn't Remember shit! Carlos' attitude was unmanageable back then so he was replaced by Deb Gunn from Sentinel Beast but the whole thing just wasn't meant to be! Shame really. That incarnation fizzled out and I recruited all new guys and started from scratch. I've tried to track down Don over the years but he seems to have vanished. I started things up with a new line up some years ago and just tinker with it loosely.

MC: How many releases did the band put out and are they still available?

VG: We did a few demos and we had a track on Metal Massacre Nine. We did the full length but that was about it. All the songs were written for the second album but we never got the chance to record it. That's what Carlos and I are working on now. We think the time is right and the songs are good. It's kind of like unfinished business to us. It's more something we have to do than it is something we want to do. After this is done, that will be it for the Redrum saga once and for all. I don't even care if anyone buys it. I just want to hear it for real.

MC: How did you come up with the name and did any other bands try to steal your name?

VG: There's a Redrum in every town in the world. There always has been. Just Google it. I have no I idea if anyone even has the rights to the name. No clue! Ha-ha! I guess what difference does it make anyway, right?

MC: For somebody who has never heard the band, what would you say you sound like?

VG: I'd say we sound like your basic five piece California Thrash band. We weren't all that different from a lot of the bands that were floating around back then. I mean we really weren't working hard at being different! We just were trying to come up with stuff we thought sounded good. I did almost all the writing and I could knock out a song pretty quickly. The other guys pretty much just played what I told them to. But I guess if anyone asked what we sounded like, to make it easy, I'd just tell them we were a mix between, early Slayer and Exodus, with some Mercyful Fate and Anvil thrown in.

That sounds about right. I had a pretty big punk influence back then though. I used to go to a lot of punk shows before I moved to California. I knew the guys from JFA. And introduced their drummer to Thrash. He loved it.

MC: Was it ever hard for you to write music at all?

VG: No! I was born to do it. I started writing music when I was around 9 or 10. I just always have. I consider myself to be more of a song writer than a musician. While all my friends were out there soloing for ten hours a day, I was in my room working on riffs and song structure. I always said that you can solo all day long but over what? You need something to solo over. People want songs. That's what it's all about. That's what defines a band. If you don't have cool songs you don't have shit. Song writing is everything! So yeah, song writing has always come easy to me. Both the lyric writing and music composition is natural. Put it this way I wrote the lyrics to Blood Suckin' Freaks and Fear No Evil when I was thirteen. Can you tell?

MC: Do you feel you are a good live band and are there any old videos of the band floating around?

VG: We were never a strong live band in my opinion. We could have been. We had strong rehearsals and studio sessions. But by the time it came time for us to play live our drummer and bassist were usually too fucked up and drunk to function. I always hated that. Don was always right on. That's what he was meant to do. He was a showman and a performer. He'd never get too wasted to play. I just kind of tried to keep it all together and find a middle ground. There are a lot videos, out there floating around. I have no idea how you'd find them but there's a lot of live stuff. Ha-ha. I really have no wish to see that stuff. I kind of get upset every time I do. It's just a reminder to me that I took the band so seriously and sacrificed so much for it and the other guys just treated my band like a joke. They wanted to party and show up and get drunk and screw up. It's fucked. What a waste! Drugs and chicks will only take you so far. It's all about the music.

MC: I know you have a My Space page. How has the response to that been and have you hooked up with people/bands that you had not seen in a long time?

VG: People dig it. I mean we don't get a thousand hits a day but it's cool. I just put that up there to help promote the 2007 release of Power Corrupts. A lot of people stated coming out of the cracks. Names and faces I hadn't even thought about in a long time were sending messages and requests. To be honest, I'm just amazed and honored that anyone would still pay attention to us at all. It's kind of amazing when you think about it. Who ever thought I would do something that meant so much to so many people when I was a child? Think about it. For the most part when you listen to Redrum, you're listening to a bunch of children! I never made a penny from music but it is nice to know that at least somebody still enjoys what I did all these years later.

MC: In your eyes, what makes a good song to you?

VG: It's gotta be heavy and have some melody and that's about it. I mean as long as it's heavy, upbeat and is musical. That's about all you need. I listen to a lot of metal. I'm not so into some of the more extreme grindcore stuff and I hate things that get too technical. I like stuff that groves and a song has gotta go somewhere.

MC: Tell me something about yourself that might surprise me?

VG: I have no idea. I played guitar in a reggae band for a while! That was fun.

MC: If somebody was thinking about starting a band, what advice would you give them?

VG: Don't. Just joking. Pick your members very carefully. Make sure you all get along, like the same music, have the same goals and all that. Make song writing your number one priority and set small goals for yourself! Forget about being a rockstar and just enjoy playing music. The happier you are with what you're doing the better that will translate into positive energy that the audience will pick up on. Play, play, play and record as much as you can. It's always good to have a recorded record of what you've done.

MC: What do you think killed thrash metal in the early 90's?

VG: Grunge! That's what killed thrash. That and solos got too long and obnoxious. I got to be too much for people. By the time Nirvana hit, people were craving a more simplified version of heavy music. That's what I think. Thrash just wasn't cool anymore. I watched a lot of my friends gravitate to Sound Garden and Alice In Chains. That's stuff offered something that was still heavy. It was new and fresh. There were a million Thrash bands out back then. And to tell the truth, not many of them stood out. Crappy labels, crappy management and it was kind of destroying itself from within. A lot of the bands themselves were questioning what they were doing. They were changing who they had come to be as musicians. They had lost that spark that made thrash so special and influential. Some of them got a taste of money and caved into corporate pressures. Some of them were just never really in it 100%. They just jumped on the thrash wagon because it was cool and the thing to do back then. I saw a lot of that. I saw that with Sentinel Beast. they were a power metal band. They tried to forcibly add all these thrash elements into their music because it was the thing to do. It didn't really work. In fact, it didn't work at all. That's not who they were. But as you know, thrash never went away. It's just not as visible as it was back then. It's not an extreme form of metal by today's standards. But there are a lot of good thrash bands around.

MC: Do you think a few yrs down the line, CD's will be gone and everything will be on an MP3 player?

VG: Of course. The industry is already working on doing away with the CD. It will be all downloads and digital servers. I've been watching it happen for a long time now. Do you know anyone who doesn't have an iPod or something similar? When was the last time you saw a stereo in someone’s house. I've seen home theatre systems but hardly ever a dedicated musical playback device. Most people don't listen to music in their homes anymore. They listen to music in their cars and on the go. It makes more sense for them to use a format like mp3. No moving parts. Nothing to carry with the device. When they do listen to music at home, they're doing it on the computer. It's just the way it is. I'm an audiophile. Stereos are my hobby so I pay attention to the trend. It's sad because sound quality is getting worse. What's next?

MC: What are some of the bands you shared the stage with and what was the best show you think you ever played?

VG: Wow! So many. Exodus, Possessed, Forbidden, Heathen, King Diamond, Voi Vod, Trouble, Laaz Rockit, Vio-lence, too many to list. We played a hundred times with Heathen. They're always fun to play with. Fun guys. In my opinion that first show we played with Exodus was best. That was fun and everything was new and fresh and we all got along and Exodus was amazing back then! The best band on the planet in those days. There really hasn't been anything like them from that era since! I didn't like them with Zetro. Rob Duke is such a better fit.

MC: Do you think thrash metal can make a comeback?

VG: Of course I do. I Think it could even get almost as big as it was then. There are a lot of newer thrash bands that are doing well. Look at Warbringer for example. Those guys are doing just fine. Exodus is still putting along. Actually they're bigger now than they have been in at least fifteen years or so. I think that thrash is and will be more prominent. I think thrash vocalists will have to be stronger in the future. That's still the one thing that turns a lot of people off. I'm not say saying that it needs vocals as brutal as in death metal. I just don't think that there is room for another Joey Belladonna.

I didn't like him back in the day and I still don't. I was watching That Metal Show a while back and Scott Ian was on there. They were discussing who was the best Anthrax vocalist. The panel and audience as well as Scott Ian chose John Bush. They were completely right! Bush had the strongest and most gruff voice of the three. (I guess you’re not happy now that Joey is back in the band-chris). The thing with heavy music is that the vocals should sound like an extension of the music. Even Bruce Dickinson gets gruff then let's it soar. That's the way to do it. That's the way it should be done. Make it heavy! You don't want this wimpy thing floating on top. Metal is well established these days and it's lost most of the cheese factor. So if modern thrash bands want to be viable they are gonna have to pay more attention to better integrating the vocals with the music.

MC: Did you ever get any reviews you thought were unfair?

VG: Not so much a review but there was an article that came out in Snake Pit where I was interviewed, as well as our former drummer, Mike Parisi. I answered all the questions as honestly and as well as I could. I talked about the music and its place in time and reverence and how everything came together But Parisi chose to do nothing but attack me personally. I was shocked when I got a copy. I was reading in print, the words of a total dick! Since then I've seen one or two web postings by him about what a dick I am. I don't even care what he says anymore. I'm not gonna talk shit about him, and I could speak volumes if I wanted. Nobody cares. They wanna know about the band and about the music. Not so much about our flaws as people. I'll be the first to admit that I'm flawed. Who isn't? But to go airing somebody’s personal business on the web and in print? That just shows an utter lack of class. I've been accused of it myself! Once I sent a personal email to Barrry from Beast and he posted everything I said in a blog. It was private discussion between me and Barry and he chose to post it and make it public and everyone was pissed off at me! I had people like Greg Williams posting that what " I did " was reprehensible! All I did was tell my friend something in confidence, and he posted it in a blog and everyone was pissed at me. Anyway, I don't care about things like that anymore. They don't really concern me. Just wanted to set the record straight to those concerned.

MC: What are the 5 best metal releases in your eyes?

JA: I get asked this question a lot. I can answer it but I can't put them in any order. Exodus' Bonded By Blood would have to be at the top of the list though. That is the most unique and original thrash album ever recorded. Nothing else sounds like it. I'm not talking about production. I'm talking about the songs themselves. They each have their own flavor and they are all pretty heavy without being really fast. Just a great, fun record. I don't know how I feel about the recent rerecording of it with Rob Dukes though. Seems like they could have just remixed and remastered and that would have been cool. It's good to hear the precision and tightness of the project but the whole thing is lacking the original energy in my opinion. Lamb Of God's Sacrament. That's just a great album all the way around. The songs are brutal and melodic in just the right places. It's very well structured and the production is excellent. Possessed- Seven Churches has to be there. This is the one album that really, really blew me away when I first heard it. Just fuckin' brutal and it still holds its aggression to this day. The production is a perfect complement to the songs. They were never that great live. The drummer was a weak link. But here he pulls everything off. Jeff’s voice is still my favorite. I fuckin' love that voice! Let's see. I have to put Ozzy's Diary Of A Madman there. Not the most brutal record but it's that record, more than any other, that really made me want to play guitar. It's heavy in moments. But to me I just love it's dark nature. The song Diary Of A Madman alone! Is there anything out there that even comes close to sounding like that? it's so different. And let's see. What should I put last? Maybe Master Of Puppets. That or and Justice For All. Those are really important metal albums. They were the benchmarks for what could be done. I like the song writing on Justice more but the production sucks. It's a shame because the songs were so good and it really is Metallica's swan song. What a waste of a perfectly good band. They were never really that tight live. But their song writing and their contributions to metal should never be overlooked.

MC: Plug any websites you have.

VG: We don't have a website. I think about creating one sometimes but for now, I think the My Space is enough. There's only so much interest in the band. Who knows. Maybe after the new album is completed I'll get one going. Other than that everyone should check out rationalresponder.com. This whole religion thing needs to end! It's gotten way too out of hand. There is no such thing as God. There never was! Stop living a lie and join reality.

MC: I am out of questions, horns up for the interview. Any last words?

VG: Yeah I'd just like to say that I have a lot of fond memories of those early days of Redrum. For a while we were all close. I don't have a brother of my own so those guys will never know the way I felt about them back then. Or the way they hurt me. I just wished that we could have all worked together like brothers to achieve a common goal. Redrum will always be the greatest regret of my life. It could have been so much more but forces within doomed it. It makes me sick that those same forces are still poisoning it's air all these years later. Thanks to everyone that gave us a change and took notice of our band. I'm glad you liked what we did and I'm so fuckin' honored that my work hasn't faded away into oblivion. Thanks so much.