INTERVIEW WITH PRÖWESS BAND MEMBERS SCOTT ROBY (GUITAR), KENNY MANGE (BASS) AND BRANDON CHINN (DRUMS)
Date: January 9, 2020
NORTH CAROLINA ROCKERS, PRÖWESS, CONSISTING OF LEAD VOCALIST DALTON BOWES, GUITARISTS SCOTT ROBY AND CURLY STAPLES, BASSIST KENNY MANGE AND DRUMMER BRANDON CHINN RELEASED THEIR DEBUT FULL-LENGTH ALBUM ‘BLACKTOP THERAPY‘ AT THE START OF 2020. ALTHOUGH IT’S STILL EARLY ON IN THE YEAR, THE ODDS ARE GOOD THAT IT WILL BE A CONTENDER FOR ONE OF THE BEST ALBUMS OF THE YEAR. SLEAZE ROXX CAUGHT UP WITH ROBY (WHO IS NO STRANGER TO SLEAZE ROXX HAVING BEEN INTERVIEWED TWICE BEFORE IN 2014 AND 2015), MANGE AND CHINN TO TALK ABOUT THE NEW RECORD AND LOTS MORE!
Sleaze Roxx: I noticed on your Facebook page that you have an announcement and it seems to suggest that there’s going to be some sort of member departure but I am not sure so I am going to let you tell me what is going on.
Scott Roby: Oh yeah. No problem. We are losing probably the third most popular member of our band. Well, not losing that member. We’re retiring that member. That would be our RV, the Tribe machine, the one that we got stolen in.
Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs] OK.
Scott Roby: We needed a new RV and I just felt like — we just wanted to tease our… You know, it’s been no secret that we’ve had a lot of member turnover to try to get to this point and our fans are pretty invested in that. So I thought that it was a pretty good opportunity to mess with them and the Tribe machine, it’s pretty revered ever since that moment when it got kidnapped. We just it as an opportunity to make them sweat a little bit. Later on, we’ll make an announcement about it and we’ll post a video saying good-bye to the old Tribe machine and say hello to the new vehicle.
Sleaze Roxx: Cool!
Scott Roby: Yesterday, when we were talking, I drove eight and half hours yesterday to New Jersey to get it and the timing just didn’t work out yesterday for us to do it [the interview]. Had to fill out some paperwork and things. And actually, we didn’t even make it home last night. We stayed at a rest stop and just came back this morning.
Sleaze Roxx: Just speaking to you a little bit, I see some of the sacrifices that you guys do to keep your band going and tour and stuff like that, and that’s really cool. So obviously, it’s good news that there’s no member departures. You must be really happy with the new album. It seems that you’ve received some very good reviews so far. What are your thoughts there?
Scott Roby: Absolutely, yeah. We worked really hard on it. It was a lot of time — we always spend a lot of time on recordings but this one was a lot more resources, financials and otherwise too. It was a big endeavour for us to get it done. The response that we are getting from it and you know, the product that we hear when we hear it, we’re just really proud of it. It’s only been out for a few days but we’re hoping that it gets us a little bit more known and gets us some new opportunities.
Sleaze Roxx: You’ve had a big line-up overhaul with the new album in that you have three new members on it. So how did Kenny and Brandon get into the band.
Scott Roby: Well, Brandon got into the band by virtue that we had to part ways with our former drummer Hunter [Floyd]. Just a difference in ideas, nothing crazy there. Brandon had time and an advertising on Facebook looking for a band right about the time that we were looking for somebody. He had a lot of the influences that we were looking for from a drummer in his post so I reached out to him and sent him the material. Of course, he loved it, he worked hard on it and he came over to the rehearsal spot. He was really the only drummer that we brought into the room. We vetted others of course. Once Hunter wasn’t in the band, we had a lot of people throw their name into the hat but he was actually the first and one guy that we brought in and he got the job that way. Kenny Mange has actually got the job ever since that he’s been in 21st Century Goliath. He was known as Kenny Keeler back then.
Sleaze Roxx: Oh, interesting. So Kenny and Brandon, tell me your version of how you got into the band.
Kenny Mange: I got into the band about six years ago when Scott asked me to join his previous band 21st Century Goliath. He called me out of the blue and I didn’t know their bass player. I was just on bass guitar. I just tried to stuck with it through all the member changes and even the branding change turning into Pröwess and stuff. This album that we just put out and the line-up that we have with this is the strongest I ever felt that this band has ever gone. It’s so hard and I love every single song. When we are writing, everything is so awesome.
Sleaze Roxx: So obviously you’ve been in the band the whole time then! Why did you change your name?
Kenny Mange: Yes. I have. I have been in the band. During the two month tour as Pröwess where I broke my finger, I ended up getting the moniker “Kenny Mange” ’cause I looked like a dirty dog every time I woke up. My hair was a mess. That name kind of sticked.
Sleaze Roxx: What about you Brandon?
Brandon Chinn: I was actually like a bedroom drummer and I was sick of just being in a room so I put a post on Facebook and Scott was the only person who replied to the post and who was like, “Call me.” So we talked on the phone and he sent me the tracks. And I worked for four days in a row on the songs. I actually called mouton my job and stuff, and I showed up with my drum set and stuff. We just hit it off straight from the beginning cracking jokes and it was like we kind of knew each other. I was fortunate enough to go out on a tour with them and it’s been just a hell of a ride since. This is actually the first band that I have ever been in at all so it’s been really eye opening and just amazing.
Sleaze Roxx: Did you find it intimidating because Pröwess has a bit of a following and you are going to an established band. What did you think of that Brandon?
Brandon Chinn: Well, Scott’s an asshole but… [laughs]. It was very intimidating with the fans because just meeting 500 people in one room. It was just very intimidating. Yeah. For sure.
Sleaze Roxx: Let’s talk about the new album. You got [former The Biters frontman] Tuk Smith to produce it. How did that come about?
Scott Roby: I actually been plugged into what Tuk had been doing for a while. I had an opportunity to meet Tuk as we had some mutual friends. By chance, one of them had invited me to go to The Biters’ album release show and I was at that album release show and they introduced me to Tuk. I knew Tuk had produced a song for a good friend of mine’s band called Gunpowder Gray He did a song for them called “Revolver” and it was far and away the best song that Gunpowder Gray ever did. I saw how Tuk took them and really polished their sound. It [was] kind of like Guns N’ Roses in the early days. They had a different singer and they made some changes. He produced a really tight polished song for them called “Revolver” and I was really digging that song. I talked to the member that I am familiar with in that band — Chris Heffernan — and he basically said that Tuk was tough and putting them through the paces.
So when I had the opportunity to meet him at that show, we talked about that song and talked about getting my band into the room, and he said he loves producing new band and was looking for some new bands. That kind of set the stage. As we got closer to the process of getting to record, knowing that we would need to get our debut record done — we hadn’t even started on it yet and we were three and a half years old — I just reached out to Tuk and pushed the issue. That would have set up our first sessions and so we went. We had a very short pre-production session. We had been playing “Bring Your Love.” It was a different version. The song was a wee bit different than the way we had been playing it up to that point and he kind of reworked that one and retweaked it to make it more commercially viable I guess. We also have “All Downhill” which is on the record but at the time, he said that it didn’t have enough of a hit potential and he wanted to try to write something that had a better chorus.
So he wanted to do a few songs right off the bat. So I had a riff. It was brand new and it had just come to me that was called “Lookin’ For A Bullet” and so I played him that riff and jumped on that idea. Dalton had already scratched out the vocals and the band had already [put] half together an idea around it. We just built a song out of it in a few hours. We recorded those two songs first — “Bring Your Love” and “Lookin” For A Bullet” — and that turned out really good. And that got us to come down to record more songs. Initially, we were just going to do an EP but they were turning out so good. It felt like we were tired of doing an EP. We needed a serious full-length album. My last band didn’t start to turn the corner and really start to blow up until we had a full album. Our friends in Europe were saying even before we try to go over there, we need a full one. We just knuckled down and put everything that we had do do a full-length and spent a year recording it and stuff. That was just the process.
Pröwess‘ “Lookin’ For A Bullet” video:
Official music video for “Lookin’ for a Bullet” performed by Pröwess. ©2019. Song is available now on all platforms. “Lookin’ for a Bullet” is the second sin…
Sleaze Roxx: Like you mentioned, The Biters was a more commercial band so how did Tuk’s influences in that regard help Pröwess?
Scott Roby: Well, he’s got a great ear for pop stuff and he’s really plugged in to what ladies like. I mean, he writes songs that ladies like, you know? We don’t think about it in those terms. We just write what makes us feel good and that’s the tougher stuff. We kind of found a formula where it was right in the middle where we still had grit, edge and teeth, and we were a tough and tumble rock n’ roll band but it had enough polish to attract some of the other sex. Because I think the goal is to write music that speaks to the most, to a lot of people, about what you do and even some that don’t to get them to like what you do. We didn’t venture out to be that way but what he added to our songs, he gave them more of an edge that for example, our girlfriends and wives were digging harder than our previous stuff.
Sleaze Roxx: Well, that’s cool. You mentioned touring Europe. Is that something that you guys are targeting? Go to Europe and play some shows?
Scott Roby: Yeah, absolutely and that’s been the plan going back to my old band. In those times, Europe was kind of like the place where our music was still doing well. But its just the timing and the way things work out. Now, there is a resurgence of rock and our style here in the US. You know, we weren’t expecting that five years ago. We would have never expected that, that there would be a serious uptick that we’re getting radio play and that we’re getting a major help from bands with a classic rock vibe. You’ve got Greta Van Fleet who a lot of people say emulate Led Zeppelin. You have that band Dirty Honey from Hollywood and they’re one band on the radio and they don’t even have a record label so there’s kind of a resurgence here for throwback rock n’ roll and we’re finding out that that’s creating some opportunities here. We’ve always kind of felt that a lot of the bands that we like, they did really well in Europe. Even the bands that are from here like Nashville Pussy, they do really well in Europe, Europeans from the early 2000s like The Hellacopters, bands that we really really dig.
That resurgence right there was kind of ahead of its time and we just wanted to get over there and get in front of some of those fans that like those bands. When we were just kids originally into that stuff, that stuff was ground breaking for us. I mean, the Hellacopters were an incredible band. They were happening at a time when American radio was giving you the likes of Creed, whatever flavour of the month band had the modern sound here. It didn’t do much for us but those bands were slick and polished and avant-garde. Ever since we heard those bands, it’s kind of like our L.A. you know? People who maybe went through the mid-’90s or late ’90s [in Seattle] or in ’80s bands who were into the Sunset Strip. To us, our L.A. was the European countries. So we still want to get out there and show them what we can do. We feel like they’ll really like what they hear.
Sleaze Roxx: How do you find that Pröwess’ new album compares to [the EP] ‘Headfirst‘ that first came out three years ago?
Scott Roby: Well obviously, I think that the songs are a little smarter. With ‘Headfirst’, we had just launched the new band. We had a brand new singer [Dalton Bowes]. He was very young and only 19 years old. We needed to put out music very quickly if we wanted the band to go so we did what we knew best. [We went with what] we were at with our songwriting and [what] we were at with our riffs that we had at our disposal as far as the song ideas that we were putting together. We kind of took them into the studio and tried to handle them into something that felt like it could introduce people to the band and I think as far as that goes, it did serve that purpose well. You know, it’s a new band’s first EP and it kind of took some of the things that we did previous in the band that we came from just naturally ’cause that’s the kind of songs that we were writing at the time.
I think that we always felt that it was going to evolve into more of our sound once we discovered what that sound was. Once we started writing songs with Dalton developing as a vocalist and we kind of developed our songwriting to write songs around what he did. We kind of knew that it was going to go in a certain direction. This album is kind of like the culmination of that, that’s coming to fruition. We sound like a distinct band and we have all the evidence that we want. We sound like something new for all of us. It’s more classic because that’s a lot of our influences.
[Interviewer’s note: On March 4, 2016, 21st Century Goliath were scheduled to play at Amos’ Southend in Charlotte, North Carolina, USA but during that gig, the band announced and unveiled that it was now going to be forging ahead as a “new” group called Pröwess.]
Sleaze Roxx: Speaking of — and Scott, we’ve e-mailed each other a little about this — but the transition from 21st Century Goliath that turned into Pröwess, I thought was very original when you did it. But looking back now, are you happy with the way things happened or would you change some stuff? And I guess that would go to Kenny as well.
Scott Roby: I think that there were good’s and bad’s obviously. There’s no way to predict the future on how things are going to work out. At the time, we knew that a lot of the 21st Century Goliath fans were going to be interested and this would be our first chance to get Pröwess in front of that audience so we kind of wanted to have a connection between the two. Obviously, we were sharing members and we didn’t intend to share songs. That was a big disappointment for people. It turned out that fans of 21st Century Goliath were not immediately fans of Pröwess. And now, Pröwess has ascended to that level. We got a lot of fans all over the place. This band tours all over the place and many are not familiar with who 21st Century Goliath is.
We’ve been able to separate the two identities more but yeah, there was time, and especially for me personally, where I was just trying to get my new band out of the shadow of my old band. There’s a lot of things from my old band that did not do it for me and that I was trying to move away from, and that people didn’t understand. I guess that it was my own fault for the way that personally and we handled the transition from one band to another, that people had such a hard time for so long around here separating the two bands. We’ve been fortunate enough that Pröwess has been working hard and getting in front of a lot of people that by now, any success that 21st Century Goliath had, Pröwess has had three times that and then some. You don’t have to take it from my word because Kenny has been there the whole time.
Sleaze Roxx: Yeah. What are your thoughts Kenny?
Kenny Mange: My thoughts on 21st Century Goliath and the transition and everything, I did not know how to take it. I wasn’t ready to give up. I am glad that we pushed through and a lot of good things have came. Everything that I experienced at the tail end of 21st Century Goliath, I have definitely seen and more [in Pröwess] with the fan support and it feels a lot deeper than whenever I joined 21st Century Goliath. I am so proud to be a part of that.
Sleaze Roxx: Now, what are your favorite songs off the new album?
Kenny Mange: My favorite songs are “Tombstone Blue”, “Every Right” and “Heart’s Desire.” [Those] are probably my top three.
Sleaze Roxx: And why is that?
Kenny Mange: “Tombstone Blue” for its Fleetwood Mac softer sound. “Every Right” for its definite aggressive hard rock. “Heart’s Desire” has a real bouncing groove to it. I didn’t think that I would ever play a song like that. I enjoy it wholeheartedly. Every song actually. There’s not one that I don’t like [laughs].
Scott Roby: Personally, definitely my favorite is “Every Right.” That song just checks out all the boxes for me for tough rock songs with a few good kind of angst lyrics, a big chorus and it’s got a good bit of musicality wrapped up in such a simple song. I think other songs that speak to me the most are “Welcome Home.” The lyrics are a little bit autobiographical for me and they kind of speak to me and Curly. They kind of speak to me and him in similar ways, similar in terms of how we came up. It kind of puts a spin on the life that I have lived to this point.
Sleaze Roxx: Cool! And what about you Brandon?
Brandon Chinn: My favorite songs on the album would be “Every Right.” I completely agree with Kenny on “Heart’s Desire” but I also really like “All Downhill.” It’s got a really, really punk driving sound to it and it’s just killer. The lyrics are just killer. “Every Right” — that’s one of the first songs that I recorded with these guys. That has a really special place for me because I mean, that’s my first time in a studio. You know, that really taught me a lot and then, I would say, “Heart’s Desire.” That’s the first song that I did in the studio that just felt easy. When I did it, it was awesome. But to speak on that too, those songs are great but the other songs are just as good. It’;s just a personal preference. You can listen to the whole album and be like, “Wow!” You know, every song is good, at least in my opinion.
Sleaze Roxx: I think so too. I forgot to ask. How did Curly [Staples] get into the band?
Scott Roby: Curly actually, his very first band that he did around when they were kids, was around the same time that my old band. Curly was the drummer for that band. A long time ago, we were thinking of replacing drummers in that band and the only drummer on my radar was that kid Curly because he played the hell out of the drums and he was maybe 18, 19 years old. He was a young kid. He was just a showman. He was a rock star behind the drum kit. And so I approached him. Obviously, when I was looking for a singer for that old band [21st Century Goliath] to replace the former singer [Tony Leone], there was no one else on my radar ’cause Curly looked like he could play just about anything. I saw some videos of him online playing acoustic guitar. But after looking at him over and talking with the boys in the band, we weren’t sure if he would be into it and so I took a look at the singer in his band, and that was of course Dalton [Bowes]. So we offered Dalton a tryout and the rest is history. Later on down the line, we lost the drummer in Pröwess and I was like, “Hey man, Curly’s not in a band anymore. Let me see if he’ll play drums for us.” He actually came to the room and learned a couple of our songs in Pröwess and filled in a little bit. He didn’t want the job full-time.
It just so happened that we got an opportunity on tour to play a major event called Full Terror Assault and our drummer at the time was going to have a hard time making that. He had other obligations and so I said, “Well, Curly knows the songs. Let me fly him in and see if he can fill in for that show.” And of course, I told him, “If I can get you out here to play this show, you know some of the songs. You played with us. How about filling in for that show?” And he was all about it. It worked out that the drummer didn’t like that so he worked it out where he could play the show. By the time that Curly got out here, our drummer was going to play the show.
Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs]
Scott Roby: I said, “Well Curly, you can play guitar. How about I coach you up on these songs? You can play guitar. You’re out here anyways.” He was nervous about that because he hand’t played guitar in any bands. He had only played guitar for himself and in the studio for recording purposes off and on so he was real nervous about that. So I sat down with him and said, “You can do it. You can play. You’ve got the chops.” And he did it. He played a set with us. The poor kid. He ended up with the end of his cord pulling his guitar head off the stage. Probably by the second song, his amp was down and his guitar was not even working. He was just standing up there for half the set because he didn’t have a working amp. I thought for sure after, “Man, he’s not going to want any part of this.” But you know, we had a good time at that show and I guess that he liked it enough that he stuck around for a few more shows. The ones that happened after that were a lot better for him and by the time that he played three or four shows with us, the response was good and he started showing some of the other stuff that he was writing. He felt like he could identify with it and it wasn’t anytime at all before he was part of the creative engine. He’s integral now. I would be crushed if I was on the other side of the stage with another guitar player now because he and I, we just work well together.
Sleaze Roxx: Now one thing Scott, you mentioned that a few of your bandmates are a lot younger. I don’t know how old Kenny is but how does it feel to have a younger crew within a band?
Scott Roby: It has its pros and cons you know. When I was a teenager, all the bands that I played in were with way older dudes — twice my age at least — because they were playing the kind of music that I wanted to play. I figured right around early 2000s, mid-2000s, Def Leppard were playing Wal-mart parking lots back then. It was not the flavour of the week. And really, Def Leppard played a Wal-Mart parking lot in Sanford, North Carolina [USA]. For the kind of music I played, I had to play with older guys. I learned a lot from those older guys ’cause that’s just the kind of music that I was playing. I found that the opposite is true. I’m playing with these guys that are younger than me. They’re more experimental. They push me more because they’re not thinking in such rigid terms. I’m kind of a kid at heart. I’m the oldest so I am the guy that they look to for guidance and that I’m the guy that they trust to handle a lot of the decision making process but when it comes to having a good time, I’m still up for that and I’m still pretty good at it. It kind of works great because if you have a bunch of kids, they tend to self-destruct. If you have someone a little older and wiser, that can help to keep the shit together.
Sleaze Roxx: Last question for you — what are your plans for the upcoming year? I know that you’re playing the M-Pre Party in Columbia, Maryland [USA on April 30, 2020]. What else do you have on tap?
Scott Roby: We’ve got some big shows coming up. We’ve got some shows that haven’t been announced yet but that we will be playing. Some festivals but they haven’t been announced yet so I can’t say much other than we’re going to keep touring because we got a brand new touring vehicle. We bought that vehicle so that we can get in it and ride around. We’ve been touring pretty extensively with Pröwess. We play all over the area around here. We’ll keep doing more of that. As far as recording plans, we have a whole new batch of songs that we are working on. We just want to give ‘Blacktop Therapy’ its due and go out and play that set, those songs, that album to people and win new fans, and especially towards the middle part, later part of the year, get back in the studio and start working on the follow up with hopefully some new tricks in the bag having refined the process a bit.
Pröwess performing “Blacktop Therapy” live at The Machine Shop in Flint, Michigan, USA on January 25, 2020:
Pröwess plays the title track of their debut album at The Machine Shop in Flint, MI in front of a packed house. Check out their FULL-LENGTH STUDIO DEBUT ALBU…