INTERVIEW WITH SCOTT ROBY OF 21ST CENTURY GOLIATH
Date: November 9, 2015
LESS THAN FOUR DAYS AGO, 21ST CENTURY GOLIATH MADE THE SHOCKING ANNOUNCEMENT THAT THE BAND WAS PARTING WAYS WITH TONY LEONE, THE ONLY SINGER IN THE BAND’S EXISTENCE. 21ST CENTURY GOLIATH’S GUITARIST AND BAND LEADER, SCOTT ROBY, SPEAKS TO SLEAZE ROXX IN A VERY CANDID INTERVIEW ON WHAT LED TO LEONE’S DEPARTURE, THE SURPRISING ABRUPT END TO LEONE’S TENURE IN THE GROUP AND THE BAND’S FUTURE GOING FORWARD.
Sleaze Roxx: What led to Tony’s departure from the band?
Scott Roby: As you know, we had just set out on a tour that was supposed to keep us on the road until Christmas. It was apparent very early on that Tony was unhappy with the tour. He became increasingly negative on the road and it took a toll on the rest of the band. I think part of his discomfort was that some of the shows were tough, but he also had been losing steam for some time because of changes in his home life. When we started this band, Tony was a single dude without a care in the world. Things have changed drastically on that front for him since then, especially over the last year. He’s got a great career outside of the band as a professional speaker and also got married in June. Things at home for him were much different this year than they had ever been, and we could all see he was starting to withdraw. Let me say I can’t blame Tony for wanting to be at home. He’s got a beautiful wife, a nice house, a good job, he’s in a local car club and goes to outings with them, and all in all, he’s built a great life for himself. But he wasn’t able to balance the band into that, and so we had to move on. It is always tough losing a member, especially when the member is the only voice this band has ever had, and he and I have become great friends and built a partnership over the past five years, but at the end of the day, we had to move on or else we risked losing the band altogether.
Sleaze Roxx: You mention Tony getting married. How much of an impact do you think that had on him now not being part of 21st Century Goliath?
Scott Roby: It absolutely had an impact. Not because his wife was a wedge, because she wasn’t. She’s a sweet girl, and very supportive of Tony, but just having that presence at home really shifted his priorities. The short time on the road was an eye-opening experience in regards to how heavy an anchor his life outside of the band had become, and with everything we’ve got building and the opportunities being presented to us, it’s clear that we need someone else.
Sleaze Roxx: How long had the issues with Tony brewing?
Scott Roby: There were signs for a while now. Over the past year, it had become increasingly difficult to get Tony to rehearsals or to write. I had sent him over 50 song ideas going all the way back to January or February of this year and to date, we hadn’t gotten lyrics to a single song. We were playing a new song on this tour, but it was one I wrote in the bus a month or so ago. Most of the ideas I had sent him were well developed ideas that the whole band had jammed around on and recorded when he wasn’t there, which we had plenty of time to do as his absence was becoming more and more frequent.
To be fair, some of the delay was warranted because of the changes in his home life. For example, he was gone for the entire month of April of this year for a speaking engagement. He also got married in June, the month after we played Carolina Rebellion, and so the band took time off while he prepared for his wedding — which is understandable — but at the same time put us in a precarious position of not being able to capitalize on our momentum from that big show by touring. It felt like instead of recognizing that we were essentially waiting on him and thus using any down time to write or to develop the ideas, it seemed like his energy and commitment to the band was just steadily declining as this year progressed. Maybe the pressure of topping ‘Back With A Vengeance’ got to him, or maybe his life just got in the way. I can’t say, but I can say we weren’t getting what we needed from him and that was already causing strain before we went out.
Sleaze Roxx: The announcement was that much more surprising given that the break up occurred midway through one of 21st Century Goliath’s biggest tours in the US. How hard was it to decide to shut the tour down or at least cancel tour dates?
Scott Roby: It was very difficult, absolutely. Our management company had big things in the works that were within weeks of being announced. We had not been on the road in some time and there was a great buzz about this run, so pulling the plug was very difficult, but also unfortunately just couldn’t be avoided. Things just came to a head on the road. On the last night of the tour, we were a late addition to a show with another out of town band on a weeknight, and the crowd was sparse as is to be expected. Tony was disgruntled and hurried through the set. He sang the last song with his back to the crowd and cut our set short, mainly because he didn’t want to be there. He basically demanded to the band that we cut straight to our closer without any discussion. He sang it with about as little gusto as I had ever witnessed. I was utterly embarrassed by his actions, and expressed my displeasure after the show. That’s not how we operate. Our motto is “10 or 10,000” meaning we give it hell whether we’re in front of ten people or ten thousand, and our fans know that and respect that about us, but he had forgotten that. When I voiced my displeasure outside of the venue over his actions, he reacted with indifference and defiance to what had occurred, and that sent me over the edge. I lashed out and we had a scuffle, and at the end of it, he was fired. No punches were thrown, but it was clear that the relationship was broken. He may have a different opinion as to why it is that things went sour, but to me, our relationship was fractured because he gave up on us. Our band and our fans deserve better.
Sleaze Roxx: When you were incarcerated for over a year a few years back, it seemed that Tony took over the leadership of the band and even took the band on tour. Is it fair to say that if you are the leader of the band, Tony was the #2 in that regard?
Scott Roby: He was definitely my right hand man. The job of keeping the band on task fell to him by default in my absence, and I’m grateful that he didn’t give up. He tried his best to keep up the momentum, but I don’t think it is any secret that the band lost some steam during that time. Tony was the best leader he could be, and part of the decline had to do with me being the primary songwriter and decision maker, and I wasn’t there. He doesn’t deserve all of the blame for the decline by any stretch. This band would have fallen by the wayside in my absence without him, and I’m indebted to him for that, but he had a lot of stake in this thing as well which also served as motivation to keep it going. But lately, the script had flipped entirely in that Tony was no longer the reason we were still sailing, but rather that his actions were sinking the ship. Not intentionally or out of malice, but because his dedication to the band was in serious retrograde.
Sleaze Roxx: When the announcement was made, you mentioned that you had a plan in place or in motion. Do you already have a potential replacement for Tony?
Scott Roby: I’m not one to show my hand before I’m ready to play it, so I’ll just say this. Tony has had one foot out the door long enough for us to prepare for this day. We had discussed it as a band a few times, and I think we all were resolved to the idea that Tony might pack it in one day. Of course, we all hoped that if that day came, it would be much further down the line. My personal hope was that this tour would bring him back into the fold and reignite that fire, but in the end the opposite occurred. But we were prepared, and although I’m not quite ready to announce the plan to the world, we have let the promoter know that we will be playing with Kix in Raleigh, North Carolina [USA] on December 5th come hell or high water. Whether or not it is with a temporary guest or a new full-time vocalist depends on the next few weeks, but 21st Century Goliath will be on that stage.
Sleaze Roxx: How much contributing did Tony do for the songs on 21st Century Goliath’s two albums?
Scott Roby: The first album was about 80% Tony, lyrically. Of course, he brought about 95% of it into the studio, but I’ve always had a heavy hand in what gets recorded, and I believe in refinements, so much of that was reworked with my input. I’d say the second album was more like 50/50 him and me. He handled most of the verses, and I came up with the majority of the choruses and opening lines, and I was responsible for all of the background vocals and harmonies.
Sleaze Roxx: Let’s chat about something more positive. ‘Back With A Vengeance’ is a very good album. Were you happy with how the album was received and fared in the last year since its release?
Scott Roby: Absolutely! I mean, it landed at #22 on the Billboard Hard Rock charts, and #8 Heatseeker Albums! I still have people say it doesn’t leave their CD player. It was a strong album and it got us on stage at Carolina Rebellion this year, so I’d say it was highly successful.
Sleaze Roxx: How far along were you guys in the song writing process to follow up ‘Back With A Vengeance’ before Tony’s departure?
Scott Roby: As I said, to date we hadn’t had one song finished before the tour, despite there being numerous ideas ready to go and streaming in over the past several months, which honestly is unacceptable. The idea for the newest one came to me in the bus, and the band helped me shape it into something solid. I had the chorus already written along with the vocal melodies. The guys liked it enough that we just kept it intact and moved forward with it. Tony added a few bars to the verses, but with his departure they are going to change, just to ensure a clean slate.
Sleaze Roxx: What’s next for 21st Century Goliath?
Scott Roby: Well, the good news is that the rest of the band is absolutely resolved to forge on. We’ve laid all of our eggs in this basket, and we ain’t about to watch it break for nothing! We knew replacing Tony would be a difficult task ever since we first broached the subject. Tony was a masterful showman, and a great entertainer with a knack for pageantry. He was also a great hook man. But vocally, we’ve always kind of known that it wasn’t magical, but his attitude more than made up for it. In this band, we’ve always valued hard work over talent. We’re not looking for the best singer to replace him. We just want someone who is young and hungry, with nothing to lose. We don’t put a premium on flawless vocal performances. We’d much rather have heart and grit. Tony wasn’t a virtuoso singer. He’ll tell you that himself. He was a great rock and roll frontman with command of the stage and a penchant for showmanship. In a new vocalist, we’d prefer energy and fearlessness versus flawless delivery and incredible range. Now certainly, if someone came along with mind-numbing talent, we’d definitely give it a listen, but this ain’t American Idol! This is a rock and roll band, so even if they did have Freddie Mercury chops, they still might not get the job. We’d rather have a badass frontman who can hold a crowd by the throat with his demeanor and his bravado.
As for who we pick up, we’re not terribly interested in anyone’s past accolades, whether they’ve been in 15 bands or none at all, doesn’t matter as long as they got guts. Sound wise, we’re not looking for someone who sounds exactly like Tony. If they bring something different and the music goes somewhere else, so be it. It might not be a bad thing. All in all, we’re a killer band that is as tight as a fucking drum, with a list of accomplishments a mile long. We’ve done tours; played SXSW [South By Southwest] in Austin, Texas [USA] as well as Texas Rockfest; and played the Rockstar UpRoar Tour. Guitar Center flew 21st Century Goliath to Cincinnati to play a sold out show with Slash, and earlier this year we played Carolina Rebellion, which is part of the “World’s Loudest Month” Festivals. We’ve played in front of 15,000 people opening for Halestorm at the Coca-Cola 600 Festival in our hometown of Charlotte, North Carolina [USA]. We’ve played with a ton of national acts, and we’ve got a great management team in Meeting Street Productions that is behind us 100%. We’re a marketable, attractive band with top notch gear and numerous upcoming tour ops here and abroad, and with an album that landed on the Billboard charts. If I was a singer, I’d jump at the chance to front this thing. The dude who can front us and help us grab that brass ring is out there. Hell, he might already be rehearsing with us [laughs]! But just in case there’s anyone out there who thinks they would like the chance, you can email us a demo at [email protected]. Have your passport ready to roll!