the Philadelphia Warped Tour stage after teeny-bop punksters
Blink 182, Royal Crown Revue keeps the T-shirt and tank top
crowd hopping before closing out the balmy July night. Girls
no older than 18 sing along with frontman Eddie Nichols on "Zip
Gun Bop," and one of the security guards in front of the stage,
whose purpose is to prevent rambunctious fans from stagediving,
visibly grooves. After their set, band members sign autographs,
take pictures and chat with the milling fans. Then, just as
RCR hornmen Bill Ungerman and Mando Dorame are about to relax
in the tour bus about 30 minutes after their short but high-energy
set, a roadie sticks his head in and says some fans are looking
for autographs. Again they head out and chat for a few minutes.
Again they head back inside to rest after work. But then they’re
still working, answering questions about their music and their
newest release on Side One/Dummy Records, Walk on Fire, which
premiered in stores just the day before.
by Elva Ramirez
Would you consider Walk on Fire to be a departure from your
previous work or a continuation?
I would say that it’s a continuation of things that we have
always liked. It’s a departure from our major label (Warner
Brothers, with whom they were previously signed).
So how is that different, going from a major label to a smaller
(deadpans) A lot nicer.
Ungerman: We got to play like we want to play, record
like we want to record.
In terms of creative freedom, what types of choices did you
make with the new album that a bigger label might have hindered?
BU: We worked with Micheal Napolitano [producer for
Squirrel Nut Zippers, among others], who was very open to
our suggestions. We recorded it live. We set up one mike for
the horns, two for the drums, one for the bass, so it was
like an old-style recording.
We used a lot of vintage equipment too. Mikes, pre-amps.
When you say "recorded live," does that mean you had just
That just means that we recorded everybody playing at one
No overdubs. It’s mostly us just playing [and sounding] like
when [we play live].
As opposed to overdubbing, and laying down a bit of the rhythm
section and bringing in the horns later and dubbing them in
over the track, you know what I mean…
It’s a fresher sound that way. But there are some imperfections
on this album, here and there. And that’s cool, actually.
Because I think it gives it more soul. It’s not all perfect.
Do you have a favorite song on the album?
I like the "Watts Local." I like it cause its sort of written
with my dad in mind. It’s the train he used to take in Watts,
you know and he used to tell me about. One time, man, he was
telling me this story, the Watts Local was like a train, you
know, a lot of poor folk, you know what I mean, took it to
ride around. And one time my dad told me that, uh, that he
and his friends actually hijacked it once. They got on it
and threw the conductor off it, and they were drinkin’ beer
in there and just partying, and they would go through, you
know, the pick-ups and just pick up all these people. And
then cops caught up to them, but they said that they got off
on the stop, like, right before the cops got them. And so
a lot of people got busted, but he said he didn't. So I just
kinda think about all that, you know, when writing ["Watts
Local"]. He told me that one day, so…it’s kind of fun to think
about it, in the song. I wrote the music, and me and Eddie
wrote the lyrics on that.
Does this album have a particular style that differentiates
it from your previous albums?
(dryly) This album has no style. Whatsoever. What do you mean
"Style" as in "genre."
Royal Crown Style.
What would Royal Crown Style be?
Now that's a good question.
player Veikko Lepisto boards the tour bus and muscles his
way into the interview.)
(Riffing like a ’50s radio D.J.) It’s the hard-boiled sound,
all around town going ’round with the Royal Crown.
In a nutshell.
steps outside and is replaced by guitarist James Achor, who
soon joins the discussion.)
How would you describe the cover of Walk on Fire?
It’s kind of like old circus posters…
So work with me here. The cover of Mugzy’s Move has a ’30s
gangster look to it. The Contender has Eddie looking like
a ’20s boxer. Now this cover has a vaudeville/traveling circus
feel to it, kind of 1910 or 1900s or so. Are you going further
back with each album cover?
(blinks, then teasingly) I think you’re reading a little too
much into it. It’s not a conscious decision.
Are there any musical styles that you think you haven’t fully
explored yet? (Mando, James and Bill all brighten up and talk
over each other.)
& JA: ’40s Latin, Afro-Cuban, Puerto Rican music…Rock-steady
Reggae, Soul music...
There’s so much out there, man, I don’t see us limiting ourselves.
Way back, we did ’50s stuff, Elvis songs…
We just used to survive shows. In the beginning, people would
shout out songs and we would just try to play it…We did a lot
of rockabilly just cause the chord progressions were easier
to figure out at the time.
I’ve always liked rhythm and blues, jump blues.
We used to do Louis Jordan.
I would like this band to do an instrumental record. I think
it would show a side of this band that people don’t know about.
And within the realm of that, it could be everything from
…soul music. You can’t run out of things to do. There’s so
much out there.
Stylistically, we can’t pretend not to be who we
are. We’re on the Warped Tour with Pennywise and
all these other names, that’s cool, but you know,
we have a horn section and we’re not going to push
it to the back and try pretend we’re a punk rock
band. We are going to be the Royal Crown Revue,
but if we do it right, it works like it did tonight,
because we are a hybrid of so many things that are