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All Systems Go

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"I think everything was pretty much kind of compartmentalized with our band up until Dracula and Hot Charity," says Reis. "Circa: Now! was like the cleaner material that we were doing at the time, so we recorded it in that fashion, and the stuff like the 'Boychucker' seven-inch and stuff like that we wanted to be a lot more tweaked, so we recorded it like that. That kind of thing. We tended to do all one kind of songs one way, then record the other kind of songs in another manner, put them out in a different way.

"I don't think it was until Hot Charity where we just didn't really care and just mixed all the stuff together on the same record."

Interview described Scream, Dracula, Scream as "a glorious Phil Spector wall of sound for the '90s." There was no question that this was a very different Rocket From the Crypt recording. Some fans were amazed at the shift in the band's sound. "We had taken some time off between Circa: Now! and Scream, Dracula, Scream when Drive Like Jehu [another San Diego band for which Reis plays guitar] was playing, and we seemed like we were a different band when we got back together," Reis says. "Seemed like we were just totally into different stuff, and we wanted to express that."

Which is exactly what the band did. Dracula was the most diverse Rocket recording yet, combining the signature Rocket songs with a bigger, more densely layered sound, as well as with some different instrumentation, including strings and church bells, glockenspiels and keyboards.

"Scream, Dracula, Scream was my ideal as far as all the layers of overdubs and the arrangements; that's something that I've always liked," Reis says. But it also took an agonizingly long time to put together.

"It just was a lot of hard work. That record took a long time to make, and you know, it wasn't the funnest record to make. It started off being really fun, but then we kind of obsessed on it a little bit too hard, and it took a lot of the spontaneity out of the music--it was just really stressful, to the point where everything we did we just sort of doubted. You know, doubt every move. We kind of recorded the confidence right out of what we were doing. Which was stupid, and that's what we wanted to totally change on this new record. We wanted to have a good time, just record it and have the songs be captured in kind of a similar fashion as they were when we were playing live."

The new release is the first Rocket album not produced by Reis. This time, the band decided to bring in someone from the outside to wear the producer's hat.

"As far as the label goes, they were kind of eager for us to go in and record another record on our own and not use anybody, because they really liked the way that Dracula sounded, and they thought that we should make a similar record," Reis explains. "But the band was like, 'We want to have some fun,' and we wanted to get someone to alleviate all of the intricacies of the technical aspects of the recording. Have someone do everything, and someone we can trust and someone who understood completely about what we were as a band.

"We really lucked out that we found someone, because when you start going looking for people, entering the realm of the rock 'n' roll producer, you're going to run into a lot of guys that are going to be really old school in their approach and really old-fashioned and really not have a grip on what a band like us might be about. We were lucky enough going into it that we knew we had found the perfect person."

That perfect person was Kevin Shirley, who had produced last year's Aerosmith Nine Lives album. Among other things, Shirley brought a renewed sense of fun to the hardworking band, as well as a fresh perspective. "He was like, 'Listen, you guys just gotta cut all the crap, and just kick it out like you do live, because that's what will make these songs work the best. You guys are a fun band. I don't think you've really made a fun record yet. You guys gotta have a fun time when you're making this record, or else it's gonna show in the music.' So we trusted him, and I couldn't have been happier with the results."

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Bob Hoag