Rhino is a drum virtuoso from the States, who is best known as being the former drummer of Manowar. With Manowar Rhino did one of their best records, The Triumph of Steel, which has had the recognition to be one of the most ambitious and technical album of the band. In this album musicianship and composition has been lifted to the next level with Rhino being important part of the outcome.
After Manowar Rhino has played in various productions and groups. The most known from these groups are HolyHell, Death Dealer and Jack Starr’s Burning Starr.
1. Good day Rhino! How is life there on your side of the planet? What projects keep you busy at the moment?
Life is really great on this side of the planet. I live in sunny Florida with a wonderful family. My son is 20 years old now and he plays guitar and drums and is a very talented musician. My wife is a nurse and I’m actually doing some recording projects..
I just finished recording drums for Jack Starr’s Burning Starr and I’m almost finished with the new music from Angels of Babylon.
2. Here in Scandinavia metal music is one of the strongest music genres as it is widely listened to and performed. How is metal music doing in America? Is it harder for a metal musician to get along now than in the 80’s?
It’s definitely very different at this point in America. They still love rap and hip-hop, which is extremely disappointing. Heavy metal has become the same sound and the same look, very boring and redundant. You can’t tell one musician from the other. In the old days you could tell that was Tommy Aldridge playing drums or Cozy Powell just by their sound. Nowadays everybody uses the same drum sounds and the same guitar sounds.. musicians have really lost their identity.
Not to mention all of the pretend recording and pretend music coming out with auto-tune and Pro Tools. Back in my day musicians really had to play and play well their instruments, especially in the recording studio and you would see them live and they would be even better. Nowadays these people are making up music in the studio and they can’t really play their instruments. You see them live and you can tell something is missing..
3. You are best remembered from your time with Manowar. Would you like to tell us how you joined the band and how it was to be part of Manowar. I remember seeing a video where you burned your old drums as a part of ritual joining the band.
Could you tell us about the making process of Triumph of Steel album? The album itself is very precisely played masterpiece and for many die hard Manowar fans it represents the last classic Manowar album.
How was it like to work with Joey DeMaio, David Shankle and Eric Adams?
Actually I met them in Nashville Tennessee, when I lived there. They were playing at a club that was a popular metal club at the time. My band Archangel warmed up for them and I talked to Scott Columbus earlier on before the show to tell him to watch my band and he did… it was actually Scott who ran into the bus and told the guys in Manowar that I was a perfect fit for the band, because I was incredible on double bass.
To tell you the truth it was a very life-changing time for me being around those guys and hanging out with them, because I was really very naive and they were pretty hardcore taking no BS if you know what I mean. It was very similar to being in the army. They weren’t the most sensitive guys, because I’m pretty sensitive, but they certainly were very serious about their craft.
I think Joey DeMaio is one of the smartest man I’ve ever met in my life. I think the guy speaks like five languages and he is extremely fun to be around. I still love that guy and Eric is really a sweet man too.. a little hard around the edges in the beginning but later on seemed to really warm up to me we had a good friendship.
Dave Shankle is on mach 10 at all times.. We actually hung together the most. We were very good friends. We had an apartment together in New York and had so much fun. I really counted on him to be there for me and I was there for him. We listened to the same kind of music and chased girls together. At that time the only thing in our lives that mattered were women and heavy metal…my life now is so much different.
The only thing that matters now in my life is my family and Jesus Christ…lol. You probably now won’t print this interview because I said that ..you wouldn’t believe how turned away I get now that I am a Christian from the heavy metal community. It’s pretty sad but no surprise..
Oh and going back to the Triumph of Steel: yes it was a lot of learning experience for me to record that record. A lot of times it was just me playing drums to Eric singing and a click track …nothing else..it was sort of difficult to get into, but I really enjoyed the process and learning from Joey and Eric..
Yes I did burn my drumset. So much for those drums! I got to play the massive drums of Doom. They were pure stainless steel drums and they crushed my old drum set to death!! I’ll never forget the first show. The curtains opened up and I saw this huge crowd and I was actually very shocked. I didn’t realize how important and popular Manowar was!!
4. Where did you learn to play the drums? How did you find your style of being a technical and very accurate drummer?
When I was a small boy my dad would play acoustic guitar and sing. I would bang on boxes with toothbrushes and beat holes into the boxes and going to a trance-like state. I remember it very well how good it felt..my dad got me a drum set when I was about six years old and I remember sitting down behind the drums and feeling very comfortable.
I could play easily simple beats and some fills and it felt right without having not one lesson.. I certainly attribute that gift from God. One thing is for sure, I would listen to people like Steve Smith with Journey and Deen Castronovo. I thought to myself: those guys are so precise and they hit so hard I have to be just like that… I would practice 6 hours a day for two years while my girlfriend worked! And I practiced with a metronome faithfully.
30 years ago drummers didn’t have internet or YouTube as a source of material while learning to play, so there weren’t so many technical drummers then than there is now. I think you represent one of the few old school drummers who have made the technicality their way of standing out of others in an excellent way.
My dad made it a point for me to listen to other drummers rather than metal guys. He liked for me to listen to jazz guys and fusion drummers. I took a lot from that and learning rudiments, so I was much more technically inclined in that respect. I don’t read drum music. I wish I could, but none the less I tried to imitate a lot of those guys while playing with a lot of energy, power and stamina.
5. You have also played with the legendary Manowar guitarist, Ross the Boss and his Death Dealer -group. In 2013 you published an album which was called War Master. How was it like to work with “The Real Boss” and what do you remember from that time period?
I love Ross so much. He is such a good friend and he was so good to me on the road. In those instances it just wasn’t meant for me to stay in those bands. One thing or another got in the way. I just couldn’t stand being out on the road anymore away from my family for one thing. And over-inflated egos and immature personalitys played a part for me not staying…but I tell you right now Ross is the real deal. He’s not playing around but he also has a great sensitive side.
6. What kind of drum gear do you prefer? How do you practise on a daily basis? Do you have any spesific practising methods?
I really still love my instrument very much I’ve always played a variety of drums from Tama to Pearl. I actually don’t practice anymore but I’m thinking about starting back up again. I use to play the rudiments like crazy on a pillow. And play double bass patterns along with the radio.
7. Your biggest influencers in the field of drumming and why?
My favorite drummers were Tommy Aldridge, Deen Castronovo, Steve Smith, Michael Derosier, John Bonham and Cozy Powell. When I saw Tommy Aldridge with Pat Travers back in 1982 it changed my life! It was the same with Michael Derosier. I saw him with Heart and I was just blown away by the incredible licks. Power just floored me!! All of those drummers had amazing precision and musicality they knew just where to play and where not to play.
8. Your list of Top5 all time best records.
Mob Rules by Black Sabbath
Go for What You Know by Pat Travers
Dr. Mastermind by Dr. Mastermind
Heaven and Hell by Black Sabbath
Night at the Opera by Queen
Long Live Rock and Roll by Rainbow
9. Let’s still have one Manowar related question: if you, Joey DeMaio, David Shankle and Eric Adams would get back together for one more album, what kind of album would it be?
Maybe it would be a little more progressive. I’m not sure because at first Joey wanted Triumph of Steel to be really progressive, but as time went on I think he had to stick to his guns and keep it that Manowar sound so to speak.. It would probably be pretty heavy and a lot of double bass LOL.
10. Free word.
Thank you for giving me this time to do this interview. I hope that your readers continue to check out my band Angels of Babylon. I have a new lineup and some new music coming out soon!
Interview: Pekka Montin
Edited: Aili Viitanen