Commodore RedRum, a.k.a., Justin Greczyn, guitarist for pirate thrash metal group Swashbuckle, speaks with us about his early years as a guitar player, the formation of Swashbuckle, guitars, amps, videos and thrashing live on the cruise ship of terrors.Commodore RedRum Interview
Guitarhoo!: Hello Commodore and welcome to the site. To give ye matey’s some history, which part of the world do you hail from?
Commodore RedRum: Currently, two-thirds of Swashbuckle make berth in the Garden State of New Jersey, USA. Admiral Nobeard (bass) and I are from the Trenton area, and will stab you if you make any Jersey Shore jokes. Legendary Pirate King Eric “The” Brown (drums) dwells in the misty mountains of Denver, Colorado, USA. He probably won’t stab you if you make any Jersey Shore jokes, but you never know…
G!: When did you first pick up an axe?
CRR: Oddly enough, I’ve been using axes to chop wood ever since I was a toddler. Started growing facial hair in infancy. Blasted my way out of my mother’s womb with a tiny flintlock pistol I crafted from excess placental nutrients. I think I was around fifteen or sixteen years old when I first picked up a guitar, though. It was the summer between my freshman and sophomore years of high school.
G!: What was the first song you learned on guitar?
CRR: I have absolutely no idea. Probably some Metallica song. Or maybe it was Guns N’ Roses’ “Sweet Child o’ Mine”. Who knows. I was that kid who used to search for online tablature, print it out, and just nerd out to someone’s shitty Microsoft Notepad’d representation of whatever song I was into at the time.
G!: Who were some of your early influences as a musician?
CRR: This will sound THE MOST cliché, but definitely early Metallica. Ozzy and Megadeth are pretty high on the list. I was really big into Iced Earth for awhile in high school too. Right after that initial flux of metal, I got into a lot of Gothenburg stuff. In Flames, Dark Tranquillity, At The Gates, etc. Then the flood gates were opened to just about every other subgenre of metal.
G!: Before Swashbuckle, did you play in other bands, if so, which ones and what kind of music did you play?
CRR: My first band ever was called Pyroclasm (named after a Magic: The Gathering Card. (If you can’t tell by now I was the COOLEST (Can you have parentheses inside of parentheses?)))). All we did was cover songs. Our big hit was “Big Blue”, aka “Decide in the Eyes”, from the video game F-Zero X (Nintendo 64).
The only actual notable band I played in before Swashbuckle was called Ash & Elm. It was kind of a fusion of thrash metal and melodic death metal. You can find it on YouTube. It was actually pretty good for a high school aged band. Valiant as fuck.
G!: How did Swashbuckle form?
CRR: I met the Admiral through the local musician circle in our area. We asked him to join Ash & Elm as vocalist. After a show one night, we were at a diner at like 4 in the morning, and I was like “Hey, let’s start a pirate metal band as a joke.” He dug the idea, and we’ve been doing it ever since. We started recording really terrible demo songs in my basement and throwing them up on Myspace for the masses to hear. When people actually started taking a liking to it, we recruited another guitarist and a drummer, and were off to the races. It is and has always been just a bunch of dudes tryin’ to have some retarded fun.
Swashbuckle (from left to right):
Commodore Redrum, Captain Crashride and Admiral Nobeard.
G!: What inspired you guys to explore the dynamic of Pirate’ry and Metal?
CRR: There was a pirate hardcore (Yarcore) band from the Boston area at the time called Scurvy. They were more or less the inspiration. They had some great songs, and a great attitude, but they didn’t dress up in costumes or have any funny piratical banter. We knew we could improve on their foundation. We ran into some of the them once when we played around Boston and they approved of our shenanigans and officially passed the torch. Solid dudes.
G!: You’ve played quite a few live outdoor festivals. Do you prefer performing the larger events or smaller clubs?
CRR: To be honest it doesn’t really matter. We love to thrash just about every sized crowd imaginable. It could be 15,000 people, or 15 people; we just don’t fucking care. A few summers ago we played the largest open air festival in the world (Wacken) and then flew home THE NEXT DAY and played in a dude’s living room at a house party for like 30 kids. Life’s too short. Party anywhere.
G!: In 2011, you played at the “70,000 Tons Of METAL” Festival, which is a unique concert series held on a cruise ship boarding in Miami with over 40 other metal bands, and 3 different stages. You played in the same lineup as legends Uli Jon Roth, Voivod and many many others. How was the experience?
CRR: It was fucking unreal. It was a win-win for everyone. All the fans got to mingle with the bands in a very intimate setting. You can’t really hide from anyone on a cruise ship unless you’re held up in your stateroom. Everyone got to see each band twice, gorge on delicious buffets, and sip adult beverages in style upon sapphire seas. It was great for all the musicians too because it was like one huge reunion of all the bands you’ve toured with in the past. Basically, we got to party on a boat with a bunch of friends. Also, now I can say that I’ve opened for my favorite band, Blind Guardian, in the Caribbean, on a boat, twice. Life goals complete.
G!: What are some of the crowds favorites from your records?
CRR: I guess our big “hit” is Cruise Ship Terror. That’s always well received. Our drinking songs usually do pretty well: Rounds of Rum, Drink Up, The Grog Box. People fucking love booze. Walk the Plank we’ve played at every show ever, and it always gets people stoked. Lately we’ve been doing a bit called 5 Songs In Under 5 Minutes, where we play five rapid-fire grind songs (We Sunk Your Battleship, Attack!!!, Whirlpit, I Hate The Sea (And Everything In It), and Poop Deck Toilet Wreck). It’s a hoot.
G!: You’ve got such a heavy thrashing tone. Which guitars and amps are you using to achieve this?
CRR: The tones on the records are blends of a couple amplifiers. I think we’ve always used the same ESP Eclipse with an EMG 81 in the bridge to record all of the guitar tracks on all three of our records. As far as the amps go, there are blends of a Peavey 5150, a Framus Dragon, an Ampeg VH-140C, and maybe a few others. In a live setting in the States I usually use my VH-140C, but lately I’ve been using an Engl Powerball. Whenever we play outside of the US, I use whatever is provided. Most of the time it’s an Engl or a Mesa.
Commodore Redrum live with his custom Amfisound LP guitar.
G!: Besides the thrashing fast paced energy of most of Swashbuckle tracks, what’s also cool about Swashbuckle records is the short Spanish influenced instrumental medleys interspersed throughout your records. It paints a picture, adds dimension, shows the dynamic of Swashbuckle that is unique, and just makes Swashbuckle records fun to listen to. Do you do the writing for these instrumentals or do they come from band jams?
CRR: Thanks, duder. We take that shit seriously. People either love them or hate them, so thanks for not hating them. Admiral Nobeard and I split the writing duties for these songs. I think we’ve each written around half of them. He’s good at coming up with the chord progressions, and then I’ll lay a catchy melody over them. Sometimes I’ll have a melody and he’ll provide the chords based on that. Sometimes he’ll write a whole song himself, chords and melody and all. Sometimes I will. There’s no set recipe. We just crank ’em out. The only thing that always happens is that our drummer will come along after everything and add percussion after the song is written and structured.
G!: Did you have any classical guitar training in the past, or are you winging it on these cuts?
CRR: I’d say we’re winging the fuck out of everything, all the time, but ESPECIALLY the sea shanty tracks. I took a few years of guitar lessons when I was younger and did some VERY basic classical stuff. Like, that one Bach piece that every guitarist learns when taking lessons. Never made it much farther than that. I can read music because I played the saxophone from sixth grade all the way through high school, but if you put a piece of music in front of me for guitar and told me to play it, I could not do so.
G!: Who’s doing the narration on the track, “All seemed fine until…” and “Ship Wrecked” from the record, “Back to the Noose”?
CRR: All of the narration that you hear anywhere on any of our records is always Admiral Nobeard. He’s a master of voices. He’s actually been approached to do voice over work in the past.
G!: Swashbuckle has done a couple cool videos. “Drink Up” from the record “Crewed by the Damned” was cool animation. How did this come about and who directed and edited it?
CRR: This video, in which we appear as computer animated characters in a rusty sea tavern, is an unlockable bonus video from a computer game called Buccaneer: The Pursuit of Infamy. The designers of the game got in contact with us and our old record label, Bald Freak Music, and asked if our music could be used in the game. We obliged, and they ended up using quite a few of our acoustic instrumental tracks as background gameplay music. If you complete a certain side quest, you are able to see us perform in a salty pirate bar. Pretty fuckin’ sweet.
G!: “Cruise Ship Terror” video from the album, “Back to the Noose”. Where was this filmed, how was the experience?
CRR: This was filmed aboard the A. J. Meerwald, New Jersey’s official tall ship. They are an awesome team who use this old school vessel as an educational tool to teach children and adults alike about the rigors of nautical safety and life. The crew was amazing. They gave us a crash course about how to raise sails and do other nautical stuff. It ruled.
It was directed and edited by David Brodsky / MyGoodEye. The chemistry we had with David was incredible. We knew we wanted to do a story of the band taking over a boat, and he just let us run with it. He’s remarkably good at what he does. We had pushed back the shoot date due to rain several times, because we wanted to get a clear day to film. Finally, on the third rescheduled day, it was still raining, so we just said fuck it and went for it. It was probably just a few degrees above freezing outside and we were on that boat shooting in the rain for over 9 hours, but it was SO fucking worth it. I think the rain makes the whole video. You can’t replicate that kind of thing in a studio. Real mother fuckin’ life.
G!: The artwork for the 3 Swashbuckle records is wicked! Who’s the artist?
CRR: The art for all three records was done by the MIGHTY Adam Vehige. I stumbled across Adam’s work on his Deviant Art page years ago and hit him up to see if he was interested in working with us. We always bring him the most ridiculous ideas and he consistently turns it into something both totally brutal and totally beautiful. The dude rules.
Swashbuckles Discography: Crewed by the Damned, Back to the Noose and Crime Always Pays (Artwork by Adam Vehige)
G!: The Swashbuckle shows must be intense. What are some of your most memorable moments from touring so far?
CRR: Fuck dude, it’s all a blur. I met Ron Jeremy once while we were on tour in LA, on the strip. The Hedgehog has got the wettest wet fish handshake. Limp as hell. He was probably plastered though. As far as things that have happened DURING our shows, there’s always crazy shit happening. We have people come out dressed as parrots, or giant crabs, and just mosh about, stage dive, etc. We had a guy dressed up in our crab suit crowd surf for no less than 10 minutes straight when we played the Summer Breeze festival in 2011. He went so far back from the front of the crowd that I could barely see him. We always usually have people from other bands we’re touring with don the parrot costume. SO many important (and not-so-important) metal dudes have put that same costume on (Ensiferum, Dark Tranquillity, Korpiklaani, Vader, Death Angel, Decapitated, Augury, Blackguard, Heidevolk, Equilibrium, Alestorm, Deadlock, Moonsorrow, and Nick Fucking Barker…) Also, the 70,000 Tons Of Metal show we did on the top of the ship deck was a mind fuck. Being able to play your set, but also look out all around you and see nothing but ocean. That was intense.
G!: Your favorite Rum?
CRR: Ron del Barralito from Puerto Rico, or any of their home-distilled ron caña. (basically Puerto Rican moonshine). That shit is absolutely delicious.
G!: Favorite Brew?
CRR: Samuel Adams Cherry Wheat is my absolute favorite beer. But, I consider myself a fairly ardent beer snob, so all beer is to be revered and respected. I love it all.
G!: You’ve released a new song “Beer Goggles” recently. How is work going on the new Swashbuckle record and when is it slated for release?
CRR: We’ve got about half a record written at the moment. I think it’s around 7 or 8 songs. We’re taking our time with this one and letting the songs gestate for a longer period of time, like what we did for “Back To The Noose”. Nothing is slated yet for a release. Still have to write the remaining half, demo it, show it to the proper powers that be, and go from there. Then we have to ACTUALLY record it, mix, master, get the artwork, etc. Late 2013? Early 2014? We’ll see.
G!: Do you have any advice for aspiring young pirates looking to sail the seas, with their wire and wood?
CRR: Keep the powder dry, and don’t take any wooden nickels. Also, fuck bitches; get money.
G!: Commodore thanks for taking out the for this. We all look forward to your future works!
Interview © 2012 Guitarhoo!