Interview: Chris Rolling

Dan McAvinchey: Thinking back to when you started playing guitar, what were you listening to that influenced your playing and love for the instrument?

Chris Rolling: When I started the biggest two things were Van Halen and The Ramones. Eddie Van Halen had this amazing swing, crazy lead and rhythm playing and I was hoping to be able to play this way with a lot of work. With the Ramones it was different, I knew what a power chord was which was really helpful for their music. I'd spent a lot of hours jamming over their records. I was also fascinated by Jimi Hendrix, but even with a lot of work it seemed impossible to play like that. Also, I was in love with rock 'n' roll in general, my favorite bands were AC/DC, Motorhead, The Stray Cats, The Sex Pistols and so on, so mainly hard rock, heavy metal, punk rock, and rockabilly/psychobilly stuff.

Dan McAvinchey: Was your latest CD "The Chris Rolling Squad" self-released?

Chris Rolling: Yes it was self released, the main reason was to book some shows (some guys still want real CDs) and also to sell it after gigs. I'd been in touch with 2 or 3 labels but their conditions were not interesting in my eyes so I gave up the idea of a label release. But we recorded a five song EP mainly made to book shows. We're currently working on a full album so maybe it will be different for this one. It would be cool to work with a good label.

Dan McAvinchey: How would you describe your music to a brand-new potential fan or music journalist?

Chris Rolling: Hmmm... rock 'n' roll! It's a mix of several things, from blues rock to punk rock with rockabilly - and hard rock stuff also. We've got some new songs with a kind of pop feel, old '50s kind of swing and some thrash rhythm things. As you can see it's quite broad but you know at the end it's just rock 'n' roll!

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Dan McAvinchey: Which of the tracks from your most recent project do you enjoy playing the most?

Chris Rolling: "Janet Says Go Go Go", the only cover off the EP, it's originally from an amazing band from Sweden called Indian Red. This is a favorite because it's a mix of rockabilly and punk, it goes fast and I really love to play it live.

Dan McAvinchey: Tell us a little about the gear you use to get your sound.

Chris Rolling: It's pretty simple, the main guitar is a Strat, not a Fender but a Nash with Lollars Pickups, completely stock except the frets that I changed for 6100 Stainless steel. But I'm on a way to change, the next one will be a Gretsch or a Gibson, something with humbuckers for sure. The amp is an old JMP Marshall 2203, but with 2 EL34's removed so 50W, but even with that many bars owners complain it's still too much loud! The pedals are an MXR Distortion III as a boost (to my ears it's more of an overdrive, a tube screamer, like with this mid hump but with more bass and especially a bigger output level, great to sounds like a humbucker with single coils), a Mojo Vibe by Bob Sweet, a cool pedal for all the Hendrixy stuff but I use it less and less, a Colorsound wah wah, great pedal but I'll return soon to a Cry Baby and occasionally an MXR Carbon Copy delay, and that's all.

In the studio I also used a TS 808 on a solo and an old Silicon Fuzz Face on another solo. And to be complete, strings are 11/49 or 11/52 and picks are generally Dunlop 1.14.

Dan McAvinchey: What would you consider your greatest musical achievements to date?

Chris Rolling: Two things, the first one was becoming a guitar player; it was my biggest dream as a kid. I play live shows and have made several records so regarding my childhood dream I'm already successful. The second one is about getting the right people together - that has been the hardest part of the story. Brice, the bass player, has been there from the beginning of The Chris Rolling Squad, but we had several drummers and it hasn't worked out for many reasons. Just recently though, a young guy came out to see us after a show and he was a drummer, we met again few days later and I asked if he'd like to audition with us, he did, it worked perfectly, He's a super great drummer and a really nice and gentle person, so now it seems the serious things can really start. But really to me the greatest is always yet to come, next November we'll be opening for “Ten Years After” and we'll soon record a full album - it's going to be really cool!

Dan McAvinchey: From a publicity and promotion standpoint, what do you find is working best for you at the moment?

Chris Rolling: In my eyes, the best situation is to have a manager who specifically manages promotions and stuff. We don't have a manager yet but like everything, it will come at the right time. Anyway at this time we use the same sites as all the other bands like Facebook, Reverbnation, Bandcamp - and does it work? Well, it depends on your perspective - in some ways it works to attract new fans, for that it's really cool. But the best way to promote is to come to our shows, then tell those who weren't there how great it was!

Dan McAvinchey: What do you find to be the advantages and disadvantages of being an independent musician?

Chris Rolling: The advantage, well, nobody tells you what you have to do. The disadvantage is that you're broke most of time - but let's say it's temporary!

Dan McAvinchey: If you could do an album project with any guitarist in the world, who would it be?

Chris Rolling: Wow there are many guys I'd like to work with because they're geniuses, but let's say Chris Cheney from the Australian band The Living End, Nicke Andersson from The Hellacopters and now Imperial State Electric, and if some day Chuck Prophet asks me to do something with him I'll be crazy for sure, even if he will certainly hate my way of playing! So let's be realistic - there's not a lot of chances that anything like that will happen but I've already seen many crazy things in my life, so who knows?

Dan McAvinchey: What's up next for you, what are some of your plans for the future?

Chris Rolling: Next is to play as many live shows as we can and record the new album, and after that doing the same over and over again until death's coming. You know, just to be with these guys, with my guitar on the road and in studios, writing, playing and recording music - the rest doesn't matter.

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The Chris Rolling Squad (based in Talmont Saint Hilaire, France) has been described as "Rory Gallagher and Jimi Hendrix jamming with Free and Motorhead", and the power trio has recently released a self-titled EP of raw blues/rock. Guitarist Chris Rolling, who also handles vocals, is paired with bassist Brice Duval and drummer Romain Cauneau on the album.

Dan McAvinchey was able to get Rolling to follow up on a series of questions about his guitar playing, his early musical influences, and his future projects.