Interview with Bob Riley -By: Liam Sweeny
Written by Staff on October 10, 2022
One of the enduring mysteries of music, all art really, is that the performer exists and the person exists, and if you didn’t know both of them, you might not guess one would inhabit the same flesh and bone of the other. Art gives people a chance to step out of the confines of who they are, who an orderly society needs them to be, and become who they need themselves to be, and in that transformation, a little magic escapes to the crowd.
Bob Riley is a singer extraordinaire, in more than one groundbreaking hardcore band, blazing a smoke strewn trail from Troycore to New York Hardcore. He’s fury and force, and a guy who sits down with his morning coffee and enjoys the peace of Motown with the waking dawn.
RRX: Murderer’s Row is the name of your band. It’s a historical term, coming from a bad section of the tombs in New York City, and also a fearsome section of the 1927 Yankees lineup with Ruth and Gehrig. Was there a tie or a nod back to the history of the phrase, or is the idea of a Murderer’s Row just universal?
BR: No, Murderers Row is definitely a nod at the Ruth, Gehrig Yankees lineup of 1927. The original lineup of Murderers Row would get together every Sunday to rehearse and watch the Yankees game. We would play during commercials. I suggested the name knowing it had been used here and there in the past but seeing as how we are Yankee fan New Yorkers and live three hours from the stadium that we would use it. Bring it home back to NY!
RRX: Murderer’s Row, by all accounts, would be considered Troycore. There’s a lot of sentiment surrounding all things Troy, and Troycore has a deep vein. But what does it mean? Is it a situation of everybody living in Troy, so a geography, or is it a unique sound, like Muscle Shoals or Chicago blues?
BR: There has always , long before me, an us vs them attitude with Troy people. South Troy against the World is an old saying long before my dad and his friends were using it. It most certainly stems from Troy having so many factories back in the day. The “Collar City”, as we are nicknamed, was and still is very working class. Also, the “Home of Uncle Sam” Working people are tough and proud and that’s Troy in a nutshell. It’s only natural that angry proud music is made by Troy people. We labeled ourselves “Troycore” to say, “Hey, we are the outcasts of the outcasts, and we are proud of it!” There’s some old school people who believe that the original five Troy bands Cranial Abuse, Dead End, Final Terror, Direct Attack and Rude Awakening was Troycore and that’s it period it’s over. I don’t agree at all. I love that these newer kids in bands are flying the Troycore banner keeping it alive!
RRX: You been down the long road with hardcore and punk. Cranial Abuse, Stigmata, Murderer’s Row and more that I don’t know, more that maybe no one except the people in the room knew about. You’re in a good band then you’re in a good band; you’re in three, then maybe it’s you who got something. What’s the secret to having something?
BR: I’ve been involved in music my whole life at this point. I love what I do and it shows. People can sense that, especially a live audience. You can’t fake it. I’m so happy and very lucky I have people who want to make music with me. I’m so happy I have people buying our music and coming to see us play. Music has given me so much it has gotten me around the world many times. And I’ve met so many great people. I love what I do so maybe it’s just as simple as that!
RRX: Hardcore gets a bum rap among the pleasant folks in the PTAs and the Homeowners’ Associations. Because those people listen to hardcore too. Violence and aggression, but people in the scene, people deep in the scene, including, have a pretty laid-back mindset. Is hardcore cathartic? If so, why do you think that is?
BR: It’s easy to see outsiders see hardcore metal or punk as negative because sometimes, well, it is. It’s many different things to many different people. Hardcore gives you that platform to complain about your bad day that jerk who cut you off or that crappy 9 to 5 job or worse. For me it was to get my anger and negativity out. Yell it, scream it, pound it out as loud and as angry as possible into people’s faces. So yes, aggressive music can be very cathartic.
RRX: You bring a ton of energy to the stage when you’re on it. And that; I can’t imagine its always easy. Do you have to prepare yourself, punch yourself in the face in front of the mirror backstage? Punch someone else in the face backstage? (kidding.) How do you go beyond just bringing a melody to the stage to bring a strong feeling?
BR: Thank you for the compliment but nowadays I do a lot of pointing. I was more energetic was I was younger. Jumping off the stage into the crowd. Fell off the Saratoga Winners stage so many times. And bashing my head off the beam above the drum riser so hard I saw stars. As I’ve gotten older, I put together Murderers Row because I wasn’t so angry anymore and I could use my humor in my lyrics. I also wrote a song for my daughter called “My Little Molly”. If there’s violence in an Murderer Row’s song, and there is, I compare it to Three Stooges violence. Nowadays, I’d rather laugh than fight.
RRX: Everybody thinks of match-ups. But let’s go a little weird. Instead of wishing you had such and such a person on drums, let’s say you could have a nameless drummer that is a master of one kind of fill. Can you give us that? Not people, but specific talents. What specific instrument talents would you want in a dream team?
BR: That’s a good question because I’ve made music with a lot of amazing musicians over the years people who played in big named bands. Machinehead, Possessed, Danzig, Biohazard, Cromags and even Glen Campbell. I’m going to mention some names and only those living. If I was to put together a heavy rock kinda band dream team for myself Phil Rudd: drums, Harley Flanagan: bass, Tom Warrior: rhythm guitar, Michael Schenker: lead guitar.
RRX: Here’s where you answer the question I didn’t ask. Comments or remarks? Hype and promo? Educate, enlighten, emote – the floor is yours.
BR: Keep making music, live hard, love hard, work smart, make mistakes but learn from them! Have fun always all ways! Thank you, Liam, and Xperience!