Rockets To Ruin Interview

December 11, 2007

This year marked the first ever Cruefest NY. The event was held at Don Hills in New York City and there were seven bands on the bill, but a few clearly rocked above the rest. One of those bands was Rockets To Ruin ( With their southern style and their kick-ass attitude they had the crowd in the palm of their hands. If you’re not familiar with them yet, you should check them out. Fronting the band is singer Cleveland Willis, with Mike Grimmett on lead guitar, Chris Taylor on bass and Rob Hammersmith on the drums. Kathy got a chance to talk to Chris and Rob backstage before the show and here is what they had to say:

Sleaze Roxx: So you guys are based in Georgia?

Chris Taylor: Yeah.

Sleaze Roxx: So you’re all southern boys?

Rob Hammersmith: Not originally, I am actually from New York.
Chris Taylor: And originally I am from North Carolina and I went back and forth from California a couple of times and kind of wound up in Atlanta a few years ago. And the other two guys actually are Georgia natives, not necessarily Atlanta, but from the Atlanta area.

Sleaze Roxx: How’s the scene there?

Chris Taylor: [laughs] Its okay, there’s a lot of metal. A lot of EMO and indie rock a couple of ok rock bands there.
Rob Hammersmith: It’s really the last few years, maybe two years, there’s more of a call for rock n roll in Atlanta. In my opinion that thinned it out a little bit, there are a lot of rock bands in Atlanta. I don’t necessarily think there are a ton of great bands coming out of Atlanta, hip hop, R&B, rap if that’s your thing. It’s probably best suited outside of L.A.
Chris Taylor: That is what Atlanta is known for, R&B.
Rob Hammersmith: Everything goes in cycles, we are just going through a spell, we lost a lot of clubs and cool places to play which is a shame but that’s kind of the phase we are in.

Sleaze Roxx: A lot became dance clubs?

Chris/Rob: [laugh and agree]

Sleaze Roxx: How long have you guys been together?

Chris Taylor: We’ve been a band for about three and a half years and Rob has been with us about 3 years I guess.

Sleaze Roxx: Who writes the songs?

Chris Taylor: It depends. Some songs I’ll bring in completely done myself and others me and Mike will work on the music together or me and Cleve will work the lyrics and the melodies out together. So it sort of depends.

Sleaze Roxx: And why do you play rock n roll?

Chris Taylor: Why? To me it’s like I got into rock music from like Motley Crue. They were my first concert and when I saw them and I said “That’s what I want to do.” Right there everything about it was just so cool. The vibe, the girls, the energy, the fire; just everything.
Rob Hammersmith: Yeah, for guys like us growing up, once you find, like Chris said, that you see a band like Motley Crue or another band you just kind of feel that is just you. You almost can’t describe it when you see it the first couple of shows. As a kid you see the reaction and just everything about it and for me I just love everything that went along with it. Aside the shows and the music, the whole look of it, the feel of it…
Chris Taylor: The attitude.
Rob Hammersmith: And when you start doing it, just one of those things that’s just in your blood, if your really love doing it it’s just part of who you are.
Chris Taylor: Yeah

Sleaze Roxx: What would you do if you didn’t?

Chris Taylor: [laughs hard]
Rob Hammersmith: I’d stand around complaining that I wasn’t playing.
Chris Taylor: I’d probably work some shitty job and miss playing.
Rob Hammersmith: [laughs] I’d like to be an astronaut. I think that would be pretty cool.

Sleaze Roxx: Let’s talk about your fans a little bit. How do they differ from state to state?

Chris Taylor: State to state?

Sleaze Roxx: Region?

Chris Taylor: Um, I don’t know if they really differ much from state to state.
Rob Hammersmith: I will say this…

Sleaze Roxx: How about different sections of the country? The east, L.A.?

Rob Hammersmith: It’s a great question, I don’t know individually. The fans differ, but the support for what we do and every band kind of finds its niche. In part of doing what we do is to know who you are playing to. Who you need to be reaching. Whether it’s on the internet or at shows you just need to know who you are going after and once you do that you find that certain parts of the country with certain cities or certain states there’s a lot more support than others. So I don’t know if they necessarily differ but I think the amount of them for the density of support is different from region to region.
Chris Taylor: There are certain cities we know. When we go to Birmingham we are going to do well. We know when go to Orlando we are going to do well and this is our first time up here and New Jersey last night was so much fun.

Sleaze Roxx: That was one of my questions, how was New Jersey last night?

Chris Taylor: It was great.

Sleaze Roxx: You played with JackViper?

Chris Taylor: Yeah, we played with JackViper and The Prima Donnas. And both were really cool bands, great guys and we had a great time up there.

Sleaze Roxx: How was the crowd?

Rob Hammersmith: Wonderful.
Chris Taylor: The crowd was really good. They were really into it and it was fun. You go into a new city and you don’t really know what to expect but it was really great.

Sleaze Roxx: You have a fan of the week.

Chris Taylor: Yeah.

Sleaze Roxx: Who picks that?

Chris Taylor: I do [laughs].

Sleaze Roxx: And why?
Chris Taylor: Why? Why did I start doing it? For one we do what we do because we love it. This is who we are but without the fans, buying the records and coming to the shows, it really doesn’t mean much and it is just kind of our way to saying thank you.
Rob Hammersmith: We like to connect with people. When you are out there doing something like this its fun. For me I find it interesting to meet people and I’m not the world’s most social person.
Chris Taylor: [laughs]
Rob Hammersmith: But I really kind of enjoy just establishing connections and you really meet a lot of neat people and it’s cool to hear. Everyone has a different story and a different way they came about hearing about us or whatever the case might be. It’s neat to go out there and connect with people.
Chris Taylor: Yeah.
Rob Hammersmith: I know a lot of bands say it but, I’m not saying most bands don’t, we really just appreciate the support. We could just stay in the rehearsal room and play if that’s all we wanted to do.
Chris Taylor: Yeah.

Sleaze Roxx: I was reading something funny, that you lost a lot of fans because you guys don’t put out. Three or four of you are married?

Rob Hammersmith: [laughs] That doesn’t mean we don’t put out.
Chris Taylor: No, three of us are married and Cleve the singer is the band slut.

Sleaze Roxx: I was going to say that puts a lot of pressure on him to keep the fan base happy.

Chris Taylor: He stepped up to the plate so we’re proud of him. [laughs]
Rob Hammersmith: And like any good manager I only take 10% so I don’t mind hooking him up here and there.

Sleaze Roxx: Ok, you played Cruefest, how was Hollywood, LA Cruefest?

Chris Taylor: Oh, we didn’t play the Cruefest out there. No, we just went out and did a little showcase out there a few weeks ago, three weeks ago. So no, we haven’t played Cruefest LA.

Sleaze Roxx: Ok, what was L.A. like?

Rob Hammersmith: It was fun.

Sleaze Roxx: Was it the first time you played there?

Chris Taylor: The first time we played there yes, and I love going to L.A. I’ve lived out there for a little while. It’s always fun to go back there.

Sleaze Roxx: You’ve been fortunate to play a lot of great shows. You’ve played with Kings X, Skid Row and Paul Stanley.

Chris Taylor: Yes.

Sleaze Roxx: What was your favorite?

Rob Hammersmith: Paul Stanley.
Chris Taylor: Paul Stanley.
Rob Hammersmith: Hands down.
Chris Taylor: Paul Stanley because you know all the bands that we’ve played with have been really cool to us and they’ve been fun. But getting to go out and play three shows with Paul Stanley to the size crowds that we got to play to was just amazing. He and Doc McGee and everybody on his crew were just so cool to us.
Rob Hammersmith: Everybody, every minute we were with them, everybody just kind of welcomed us into the routine and it was really interesting to see. We were kind of leery, we didn’t know what we were walking into and when people like that make you feel like you deserve to be there and they want you there, it’s just amazing.
Chris Taylor: Yeah, and I know, I mean we are all just huge KISS fans we know that KISS fans can be a little fickle so we didn’t know going out opening up for Paul on his solo tour how his fans were going to accept us. And every night was amazing, we sold a ton of CDs.

Sleaze Roxx: And people came out early? Sometimes when you are opening you don’t get as big of a crowd.

Chris Taylor: Yeah and we played, I think the biggest show was 2,500 people in Atlanta at Tabernacle, which for me that was my favorite show to do with him because it’s our hometown and we got to play the Tabernacle and the crowd loved it so it was a lot of fun.

Sleaze Roxx: Did you find the venue fairly full when you were playing?

Chris Taylor: Most, well we did three shows, it ranged anywhere from 1,000 to 2,500 or so. The smallest show was in Fort Lauderdale and I think it sold out.
Rob Hammersmith: Yeah it did, the capacity of the club was just under 1,000 even and the show was sold out so although it was the smallest of the three shows…
Chris Taylor: It was still sold out.
Rob Hammersmith: The vibe in the room when anyplace is sold out, the vibe in the room is just, that’s what you want. That’s the vibe that you want whether its 200 people or it’s 2,000. You want the place, you want the electricity of the place being so loud. We loved it and there’s nothing better than pulling up for a load-in at sound check and there’s people lined up down the sidewalk.
Chris Taylor: Yeah, around the building.
Rob Hammersmith: That feeling alone is just what you want and that’s what it’s all about. Doing shows like that, we wouldn’t trade something like that for anything
Chris Taylor: Oh, no.

Sleaze Roxx: Some of the bands I’ve talked to that are openers sometimes feel if there’s a lot of bands on the bill they don’t get as many people in the beginning. So when they’re on a smaller tour they actually, even though they’re playing to maybe the same size crowd, feel like it’s more intimate and that there’s a lot more people than a big arena.

Chris Taylor: Oh, yeah.

Sleaze Roxx: I was reading that you always wanted to play. Chris, you always wanted to play New York, L.A. and London. So far you’ve reached two of your goals.

Chris Taylor: Two out of three. I love London, my wife and I went over there about a year ago and it’s one of the most rock n roll cities I’ve ever been too. Just the whole vibe there of hanging out in the bars in Soho, just the people there are just so cool and that’s one of the places I want to play so I can’t wait to get to Europe.

Sleaze Roxx: So were New York and L.A. what you thought they would be?

Rob Hammersmith: Oh yeah.
Chris Taylor: Yeah.

Sleaze Roxx: And what was that? What did you think they would be?

Rob Hammersmith: We’ve all been to shows in each of those cities and we’re a band that understands our status and we understand our role in what we are doing and we try to book accordingly. So with that said, when we go to those cities for the first time, the responses have been great, its really been comfortable crowds and you’re not always playing to sell out crowds. They’ve been comfortable and the response has been great and that’s all we can expect for the first time in big markets like that, and we understand that there a ton of bands that come through each of those cities and you have to do what you can to stand out for the day, and I’ve been pleased with the response.

Sleaze Roxx: So what’s next for you guys?

Rob Hammersmith: Burlington, NC.
Chris Taylor: Burlington, North Carolina next weekend.
Chris Taylor: [laughs] We’ll see how that one goes.
Rob Hammersmith: [laughs] You want the bigger picture?
Chris Taylor: Right now we are talking to a couple management companies and the CD is being shopped and we are talking to people and we’ve got some interest and we’ll see where that goes. We’ve been writing songs and we may at some point next year get back into the studio and put another CD out. That’s it for now.

Sleaze Roxx: Sounds good. Well we’re looking forward to hearing you tonight. Thanks a lot for joining me I appreciate it. For more on Rockets to Ruin go to or

Thanks to Rockets To Ruin and Kathy F