CRUMB (1998)

Originally posted on (1998)

Note: I must have written an intro for this interview but I can’t find it. The only thing I found was just the Q&A. This is an interview with Robby Cronholm who, at the time, was the lead singer for Crumb. They had just released their sophomore album, seconds>>minutes>>hours. It was a great conversation and Robby and I kept in touch, probably via MySpace. We were supposed to meet in person at Lollapalooza in 2011 but Robby broke his leg and the meeting never happened. After Crumb broke up, Robby started a new band called Taxes were, in my opinion, just as good as Crumb. New material has been hinted at the last couple of years but, at the time of this post (Feb 2022), no word on when that material might see the light of day.

Here’s the Q&A portion of my conversation with Robby.

I started looking for the new CD, >seconds>minutes>hours, because I heard that Jim Adkins from Jimmy Eat World was going to be playing some guitar on it.

Robby Cronholm: You like Jimmy Eat World?

Oh yeah.

R: I love that band. They are one of my favorites.

Have you heard their new stuff yet?

R: Oh, it’s so good. It’s really, really amazing. They just played here with Promise Ring and Jets to Brazil. That new record is not going to be out until next year. It sounds really, really good. So, yeah, Jim is all over the record.

Is Jim a friend of yours? Is that how he ended up on the CD?

R: Yeah. Well, when we went out on Romance, the first touring we ever did outside of the towns we lived in, it was with Jimmy Eat World. We had never really heard of them. That was what, two and a half years ago? So we just went out with this band and they were rad and we became friends and kept in touch. We just talked to Jim about coming down and playing some guitar on the record and he was totally into it. We flew him down. He is such a good guitar player that it hardly took him any time to come up with some great parts.

Were you looking to fill a second guitar player to play on the album?

R: Well, sort of. Not so much as we had the excuse to call in people that we respected to help us out. Blair from Knapsack came down and sang. The girls from That Dog and Jani Lane are also on the album. It was more like, let’s sort of have fun with it and bring our friends down to play.

Blair being on the CD was the next reason that I was so anxious to hear your new stuff.

R: You were thinking, “Who is this crazy Crumb?”

Right. Was it the same thing with getting Blair to be on the CD as it was Jim?

R: Same thing pretty much. We’ve done some mini-tours with them and they all live around here now. Well, Blair lives in L.A. now. They were up here. We were just playing some shows. Once again, mutual respect. We asked him if he’d come down and scream some high parts for us and he said “sure.”

I thought the major coup, though, was getting Jani Lane to sing on the CD.

R: That was the icing on the cake, huh?

Actually, Warrant was my favorite band when I was in high school.

R: No!?! You’re rad. Me too. I just found a huge “Cherry Pie” poster.

I thought that was cool that you had him on there. I didn’t know if you had him on the CD to make fun of him or because you had been fans.

R: Our producer (Beau Hill) produced Ratt’s first three records and Warrant’s first two records. We’d be working with him and we’d be like, “Beau, can we please meet Jani Lane?” Because in early high school and late grade school I loved Warrant. It was like forget about it. He was like, “Yeah, you’ll meet him. You’ll meet him.” Then, one day, without our even knowing, we just walked into the studio and Mark (Weinberg, guitarist) and I heard this voice and we were like, “Who? What?” And we turned the corner and there was Jani Lane singing backup on our record. We were like, “No way!”

Hair a little thinner, gut a little bigger.

R: Exactly. Very nice. Very nice guy.

I think it’s cool that you worked with both Beau Hill and Jani Lane. You don’t see too many people owning up to the fact that they own all those glam metal albums.

R: It’s so true. I was just thinking the other day, I was reading something in Spin or Rolling Stone and it was like “Thank you Marilyn Manson for giving rock and roll some sort of excitement by showing up to the music video awards with your half-naked girlfriend.” I was just thinking…everybody loves Korn and all these people dressing up… I was like, “Hello? Where were you critics when Motley Crue and Poison were dominating the world and all you could do was talk bad about them?” It’s basically the same exact thing.

I don’t deny that I own all the Warrant CDs and have seen them about 15 times in concert. I saw them sell out an outdoor amphitheater in their hay day. Somebody was going to those concerts and buying those CDs.

R: Of course, so many people — everybody I went to school with. People don’t want to fess up. They wrote good songs. Some people didn’t buy that music, but they’ll be like “Oh, that Cherry Pie guy?” But, come on, that good could write a hook in his sleep. Last year we went to see Alice Cooper with Warrant, Slaughter, and Dokken opening up and that was at the Shoreline Amphitheater and that sold out within days. Whereas Lollapalooza came through there last year and did like 45% capacity. People still love big rock I love that stuff. It’s what we grew up on.

So what else did you listen to when you were growing up?

R: I started off really young with more synth-pop, early ‘80s stuff, like the Thompson Twins and Howard Jones and all that sort of thing. That is when I was really little though because I had a babysitter who corrupted me from an early age. Then grade school – fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth grade – was all about Crue, Poison, L.A. Guns, Faster Pussycat. You name it, we worshipped them. Then high school came and we started listening to some Chili Peppers and some Jane’s Addiction and then, of course, Nirvana broke. And that led to the discovery of indie rock bands like the Pixies and Dinosaur Jr and Sebadoh. It’s sort of an on-going, as it is still, I’m always finding new bands. It’s just sort of an evolution. I think this record does a pretty job of paying homage to the big rock of the late ‘80s without being big rock from the late ‘80s.

Were you able to hang out with Jani when he recorded his vocal tracks?

R: Yeah. It’s a funny thing, that day the girls from That Dog were there. They were like “Who is this guy?” The girls were very afraid of him. He had on a velvet shirt halfway unbuttoned and he looked a little bit destroyed. The girls from That Dog are totally adorable and they just like “Who is that guy?” We told them and they were like “No!?! Get out of here!” He was very, very nice and warm and friendly. For me it was like, “Jesus, Jani Lane is singing on my record.”

You’ve also worked with Josh Freese quite a bit.

R: Yeah. I love Josh. He is my personal hero. He’s part of Guns N’ … oh, whoops, I probably shouldn’t say anything.

Don’t worry about that. It’s all over the internet and magazines.

R: Is it? Yeah, he’s in Guns N’ Roses now. Before the Guns N’ Roses thing, the only band that Josh would tour with was the Vandals, just because he grew up with them. That is where he has the most fun I think. He plays on sooo much other stuff. We’ve known Josh forever and we all have a great time but he’s got so much going on.

How does Crumb fit into the San Francisco music scene?

R: It’s not really a sore spot, but it’s strange. I don’t know if there is a music scene here. I guess there is. The local music magazine wrote a big piece on us in which Mark said he didn’t like many of the local bands. Of course, we got a lot of flack for that. I’m definitely not 100% dedicated to going out when I’m home and seeing live music so I’m not the best person to ask. We lived in L.A. for a year and a half while Romance was going on. And before that we lived in Claremont when we were going to college and then we came back up here after Romance was done and we were here that year. I don’t think we’ve ever really been part of a scene here. It’s more like we have friends in other bands from all over the place and we like to consort with them. We don’t play the club circuit here that much.

I don’t know San Francisco that well but I was wondering where you live?

R: I live out in the Avenues. I live with my parents, that’s my mom that keeps picking up the phone, like the big loser that I am. I’ve lived in apartments here but I moved back home because I didn’t want to be paying rent while I’m on tour. I get along with my parents smashingly. So I live out by the Presidio with my parents.

Like I mentioned, I haven’t heard Romance is a Slowdance, but I was wondering what the differences between that and the new CD are.

R: Well, I’d probably say mainly in production style. The first CD Tim O’Heir did. He works with Sebadoh out of Fort Apache in Boston. With this record we cut to the chase a lot quicker and we tried not to have songs that were eight-minutes long and meandering. We were trying to write hooks and make the choruses bigger whereas the last record was sort of more indie-rock sounding. This record has sort of a sonic consistency whereas the last record one song would sound like it could have been from a completely different recording session than the other song. We were totally experimenting which was rad but different.

So you just sing in the band?

R: I just try to sing. I play guitar but never have in Crumb.

So you just got done with a bill that has three lead singers, right?

R: Jonah plays a lot of guitar in Far but mostly he’s a singer. And Stavesacre, yeah, Mark just sings. I’ve never really stopped to think about but a lot of times people will come up to me and say, “It’s cool that you are just a singer, usually I don’t like just singers. I didn’t know people just sang anymore.”

You don’t see anymore frontmen who just sing these days.

R: Right. Well, you know, I wanted to be Sebastian Bach when I grew up. Maybe on a ballad I’ll bust out an Ovation or something.

So things are going well with Far?

R: I love that band. It’s sort of sad that I have to sing before Jonah because his voice is operatic. They are all really great guys. Jonah actually went to the same college that Mark and I did. He graduated a year before we got there but he’d come back to play the music festivals and he was friends with some of the kids that we became friends with that were still there. We’ve known them for a long time so it’s cool to be finally get to go out with them.

I’ve seen Far a few times, once opening for Life of Agony, whose new lead singer is none other than Whitfield Crane formerly of Ugly Kid Joe.

R: Oh my god, that’s right. One of our first shows in high school was with Ugly Kid Joe. They were telling us backstage, “It’s so easy to get a record deal.” They were all stoked, their single was just starting to take off.

What happened with your record deal with Qwest?

R: They are mostly an R&B and hip-hop label so we were sort of their rock guinea pig. They just really didn’t know what to do with us. The week our record came out the president was fired. They did a lot of clearing house. Although we had the strength of Warner Brothers, we’d go over to Warner Brothers and they’d be like “We really like the record.” But, of course, Warner Brothers was working whatever huge act they were working. The guy that signed us at Qwest went to Red Ant and sort of took us with him. I didn’t even know what that label is doing now, it was in such turmoil.

Do you plan on touring a lot to support the new album?

R: We’re going to go out with Far through the beginning of December. Then we’re going to do a couple of weeks in December with this band called Death Cab for Cutie. They are from Seattle. I think they just put out their first record which is pretty cool. That should be fun. We’ll tour the west coast with them for two weeks and we’ll take off time for the holidays. I know our management is looking into who we’re going to be going out with in January.

I think I saw something on one of your websites about the possibility of a tour with either Knapsack or Jimmy Eat World.

R: Yeah. I think that is a very good possibility. I don’t know how prone to touring Knapsack is. I’m sure we’ll get to go out with someone. We were talking about doing some Archers of Loaf dates, but I don’t know where that stands. Jimmy Eat World would be rad, we’ll see what happens.

So you’ve heard the new Jimmy Eat World. I heard that Jim sings on most of it.

R: Tom only gets one song. It’s a great song. It’s called “United States.” It’s so good. The production is just beautiful. There are strings and loops. It’s very cool. It’s almost “Ok Computer”-ish at times. There are long, really surreal, sort of mood passages. It’s a really great record. It’s just weird. At this point, the rock market is just so strange. I mean, what rock is doing well? I think Marilyn Manson and Korn. What hope do little well-to-do boys like ourselves and Jimmy Eat World and Knapsack have unless we put on funny make-up and play like metal/hip-hop. It’s sort of an underground thing. We’re just going to keep working the tours. It’s all good.

What’s the deal with the rest of the band? You’ve got two new members?

R: We’ve got two new members. We’ve gone through four drummers and five bass players in four and a half years. Their names are Mike Dugan and Jim Bowser on drums and bass respectively. They are totally rad – hitting hard and whatnot. We’ll see though. One of our bass players left because he had to take care of his baby. Our drummer left to go play with his friends in L.A. Some people we’ve kicked out just because of musical differences, the same old line. It’s hard when you get spoiled when you always play with Josh Freese. But it’s all good.

Can you ever picture telling someone “If it’s not the four of us, then it will no longer be Crumb.”

R: (Laughs) “If Vince ever left this band, it would never be Motley Crue.” Right now I’m a little … I have no idea … I have no comment.

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