“Melt The Sky,” the title track from Red Hot Rebellion’s (RHR) new EP was conceived last summer when vocalist/bassist Jim Tramontana (aka Jimmy Thrillwell) became obsessed with nuclear bomb testing. Of particular interest to him was Operation Starfish Prime, in which a test detonated nuclear weapons in the upper stratosphere and lower outer space. Participants worried that the explosion might cause Earth’s ozone layer to completely evaporate, essentially melting the sky.
Unsurprisingly, an obsession with danger is right up RHR Tramontana’s alley. Sky-melting solos, space aliens, not-so-subtle metaphors comparing space travel to sex, volume, drinking songs and fun … they’re all paramount to the RHR listening experience.
Ghettoblaster recently caught up with Tramontana before the band’s Aug. 31 EP release show to uncover the catalysts that inspired his love of balls out rock n’ roll, and what he envisions for the trio’s future.
Did you find that music and how it fit into your life as a teen and early adult has had a lasting impact on the person you’ve become? What listening to music a cathartic experience for you, and if so, in what way?
Most definitely. The music I listened to as a teen and early adult shaped my musical tastes, artistic pursuits and total outlook on the world. Music has always been at the center of all my social activities and has been my security blanket, my wing-man, my soundtrack to the bar-fight of life.
When you were growing up, were there particular bands or artists who inspired you to pick up an instrument and begin playing music? How have those influences stayed in your wheelhouse of influences and what impact have they had on RHR?
I’m going to date myself with this one, but the first band that really, really turned me on as a kid, was Ratt. The first time I heard “Round And Round,” I was energized, excited, and intrigued by what I heard. It was like my absolute favorite song. And, man! Those guitars and drums sounded big and bad and AWESOME. I think that same week, I heard Van Halen for the first time and just happened to be friends with a kid who had an older sister who was way in Ozzy Osbourne. I was hooked to these aggressive guitars and the intense energy.
It didn’t take long to delve into older bands like Led Zepplin, Hendrix, Black Sabbath as well as contemporaries you didn’t hear on the radio like Iron Maiden, Anthrax, M.O.D. and Metallica (see, I am dating myself again by talking about a time when Metallica wasn’t on the radio). I started playing guitar and getting into punk rock. And Nirvana. And then I wanted to get into the bands that influenced Nirvana, so add in more punk like The Ramones, Fear, Iggy and The Stooges, The Descendents, Operation Ivy, Dead Kennedys, etc.
Then, it seemed only logical to start a band. (Incidentally, my first band was called The Hebrew Love Waffles and featured Buddy Schaub on vocals, who later went on to play trombone for Less Than Jake – and still does). Many bands later, I’ve finally been fortunate enough to find two guys who share very similar influences and tastes and we’re making music that is a direct result of the afore mentioned influences. I think one thing the all these bands and sounds have in common is INTENSITY. Red Hot Rebellion isn’t exactly a punk band or a metal band or a garage rock band– we’re somewhere in between. We draw on the intensity and energy of all those nebulous genres to make a fun, energetic noise. It ain’t rocket science, it’s rock n roll.
Do you believe that RHR has created its own niche within the Dayton scene, or do you find that there are similar artists in the area? If so, how do you set yourselves apart?
I think we are in a little niche to ourselves in the area. There are many fine rock, punk, metal, lo-fi, etc. bands around and we can hang with all of them. We’re just a little bit different. I think one thing that sets us apart is Doug Spencer. He is literally the best guitarist I’ve ever played with and might be the best guitarist in the Miami Valley. If not the entire state of Ohio. The dude is that good. He’s definitely our secret weapon.
We love playing with everyone. My absolute favorite Dayton band is Legbone. Some of my other favorites are The Jackalopes, Sub X, Frank Grimes, Rad Company, The Loveless, Night Beast, The Story Changes…
Was it particularly gratifying to have your music used in the television program of another Dayton native, Rob Dyrdek? Have you seen the show it was used on and did it provide a “That Thing You Do” type moment for the band?
DEFINITELY! It has been super cool to have our music on Rob’s shows. At this point, more than half of our first album has been used on one of his shows. I think we’ve had like 6 different placements. Probably the coolest moment was the episode of Rob Dyrdek’s Fantasy Factory where Rob “kick flips” a car. It was a stunt that was the main focus of the entire episode and a HUGE build up. Then, right as he guns the car and speeds down track, Red Hot Rebellion’s “For The Benefit Of Evil” is blaring in the background. Super cool.
How did the band settle on a Gang Green cover for the recent record? Have you ever heard another band cover RHR?
The way the Gang Green cover came about was that we got asked to play an ‘80s tribute show at Canal Street Tavern. We wanted to choose songs that were a little more obscure and more our style, but at the same time recognizable (and a surprise) to those in the know. We had so much fun playing it at the tribute show, we worked it into our set and pretty much play it every night. Since it’s such a fun song, we thought, “Why not put it on the EP!?” It came out super raw and really captures the energy of the live performance.
We’ve heard through the grapevine that Chris Doherty (of Gang Green) is aware of RHR and our version. Since he now lives in Cincinnati, I’m hoping one day he’ll see us murder his lovely song live.
As for another band covering RHR: not yet. But we do cover ourselves sometimes. We’ve been known to do blues or jazz versions of our own songs at practice. Just for fun. But I entirely encourage anyone out there to cover any RHR song they want. They are super easy. And make you look and feel sexy!
What lasting impact do you hope RHR has on the face of music both locally and nationally?
I hope that people just have a good time and don’t take it all too seriously. We sure don’t. Sure, we take the music seriously, but we don’t take ourselves too seriously. We think of ourselves as an animal Arena Rock band that plays small bars and clubs. Way too much power, way too much sound. But that’s part of the gag. People who get it, seem to like it. We just want people to have fun, be excited by the raw power and fury of 100,000 megawatts of rock n roll.
Will RHR be doing a lot of touring in support of the new record?
We are doing regional shows for the time being and starting to work on the next full length album. At the moment a full blown tour is not financially viable. The cost of gas and lodging alone makes it super cost-prohibitive. We will be doing short runs for the time being and keep on churning out super badass rock n roll gems. And doing more with video and streaming…so we’ll be touring the world through the Matrix, I suppose.
What are your loftiest goals for RHR? What haven’t you achieved yet that you’d like to?
Our loftiest goals would be playing a sold out show at Red Rocks or Castle Donington. Also, playing the first rock show on Mars would be pretty cool.
In the near-term, we just want 200 people to show up to Blind Bobs on August 31 for the CD release show. And for everyone there to get the new CD. All of our merchandise is pay-what-you-want. So if all you have is a measly dollar, you can get possibly the greatest rock n roll CD EP that has ever existed.
(Red Hot Rebellion will celebrate the release of Melt The Sky on Saturday, Aug. 31 at Blind Bob’s, Dayton, OH. Also on the bill are The Jackalopes and Loveless. Admission is $5 for 21 & up. Doors at 9 p.m. For more information, please visit redhotrebellion.com.)