Robby Lochner has seen and done...well, a lot. No, he probably has not done it all, but he's been around the block a time or two. He's played alongside two of the better vocalists in hard rock/heavy metal history. He has won guitar "shred" contests, released a solo album, spent time on the radio...heck, he's even the descendant of a classical music bigwig that you've probably studied if you took any kind of music appreciation class in high school or college. And now, Robby can add Talkin' Trash to his list of accomplishments, as the current lead guitar player for Jack Russell's Great White took the time to chat with us about all of these things, and several others....
G2G: Robby, thanks for taking the time to be our first interview of 2016! I hope you had a Merry Christmas, and it looks like your New Year's was a busy one...
Robby: My pleasure! My Christmas was great, but it went too fast... Hope your Christmas was great as well.
G2G: It was, but as you said, it went by too quickly. So, 2015 is officially in the books, but looking at your schedule, it seems there's no immediate rest of the weary, is there?
Robby: And there are even more dates coming in! So, no...no rest at all!
G2G: Being busy is a good thing though, right?
G2G: Do you have any idea how many dates you played with Jack Russell's Great White last year? It seemed like I was always reading a show review or a concert listing for you guys.
Robby: I think it was between 60 to 70 shows.
G2G: So, if you're playing 2 or 3 times a week, you're out there the better part of a year, with travel and everything. Is it still exciting for you?
Robby: The playing part definitely is, but the travel, not so much. We are usually home every week and then out most weekends, so there is a lot of travel involved.
G2G: Speaking of "we", who's currently with you in Jack Russell's Great White...well, besides you and Jack, of course.
Robby: Tony Montana, Dicki Fliszar, and a to be determined bass player. We've been playing shows with different guys and have it pretty much figured out. Our other bassist moved to the east coast and it became an issue to keep him...
G2G: How long have you been with Jack, now?
Robby: It was 4 years in December, so I'm just starting my fifth year now.
G2G: How has the reunion been with Tony? Has the transition from him being a bass player on some of the band's most well-known classics to a second guitarist and keyboard player been a comfortable one? I personally thought it was great seeing him back in the band again.
Robby: It has been really good. I like him in the guitar position better, and it has come in handy when checking out bass players, for sure.
G2G: Do Tony and Jack have some crazy stories to tell sometimes?
Robby: They do, but mostly it's Jack. I think when they played together back in the day, Tony was a bit more reserved than Jack (laughs).
G2G: (Laughs) How has it been for you being the guy that is now at Jack's left side on stage, rather than Mark Kendall? Do you get people..."fans"...trying to tell you how Mark would play something, or how things used to be?
Robby: So far, not even once has that happened. I do play the parts correctly according to the studio recordings, but I take liberties in areas. I have written intros and endings to the majority of the songs in the set, which has helped with a more interesting and dynamic set for us.. Most of the people who are coming to the shows know what to expect, as they now have seen us. Usually, first-timers are happy to hear Jack sing and take to the rest of the guys pretty quickly.
G2G: That's awesome to hear, as I know sometimes...and it's usually more aimed at lead singers...fans are less than willing to accept perceived stand-ins. Now, I know you toured with Rob Halford in Fight at one time. Did you catch much flak there if you guys didn't play a bunch of Priest songs?
Robby: No flak there at all, as we DID play Priest songs! We did the entire War Of Words record, and then I think there were seven Priest songs, as well.
G2G: Did you have a favorite Judas Priest song to play?
Robby: That's a tough one. There's so many to choose from. I had played every Priest song Rob had in the set when I was in bands before I played in Fight, so it was surreal the first time playing the Priest songs with Rob. I'd look out and see Rob singing songs I grew up on and thin, "am I reallydoing this?" (laughs)
G2G: Jack and Rob are a couple of the bigger voices of the 80s hard rock and metal world. Different styles, sure, but both are well known and well regarded. Is there anything about the two that you could point to and say, "this is why these guys are so great"?
Robby: Well. other than the fact that they can both sing, I think it's more intangible. I'd say it's that "x-factor" thing...that "it" people talk about.
G2G: Alright, so I did some internet snooping...err...interview prep, and I read that you have a rather famous musical relative. A great, great, great grandfather, I believe?
Robby: Robert Schumann, yes. Not quite Bach, Beethoven, or Mozart, but people in the classical world...or in Germany...will probably know who he is. (laughs)
G2G: I remember him from Music Appreciation class in college, but I like a lot of classical music as well. Anyway, so would you say you came from what you might call a musical family, then?
Robby: Not really, no. Not a musical family, though I did learn to play from my brother, Charlie. But other than Charlie, I am a self-taught musician.
G2G: How old were you when you decided you wanted to play?
Robby: I think I was eleven or twelve, though I don't actually recall. I do remember my brother, Charlie, having a couple of my brothers and some friends from the neighborhood sitting down and learning, "Train Kept A Rollin'". The next morning I got up and played again and again. Some of the other kids ended up playing, too, but not as much.
G2G: Do you recall your first guitar?
Robby: I do! It was a guitar my brother gave me. An Ibanez Les Paul copy, sunburst. They became known as the "lawsuit model". I loved that guitar but being young and dumb, I thought I needed a real Les Paul, so I traded it in and threw in some extra cash for the real Paul. The real Paul, however, didn't play as good or sound as good. I ended up trading that in and I got a G&L. I still have the G&L and never relinquished another guitar again!
G2G: Well, since you're on the subject of guitars, I always get blasted if I don't ask what kind of guitar and set-up you play now.
Robby: I have an array of guitars for the studio, bur for live I use my Gelvin guitar and my Baker. I use them both in the studio as well, but it depends on what I'm tracking. I'll try several different guitars until I get the right sound.
G2G: Speaking of the studio, Jack Russell's Great White released it's first single since the split of the band/brand, with "Hard Habit". Did you contribute to the writing of that song?
Robby: I did, but a smaller contribution. The next track is Jack and I and a little bit of Jack's wife, Heather, on some lyrics. The following release after that will have a small contribution from me again, then the next three and just Jack and myself.
G2G: So the plan, as I understand it, is to release a few singles, then package them all together as a new CD, correct?
Robby: That is the plan...
G2G: Is that the state of the industry now? Has digital media made making records or CDs more of a luxury, or even a shot in the dark...to use a Great White pun...than it was in the past?
Robby: It has. It's all about singles and downloads. CDs will be great to sell at live shows, though.
G2G: Well, hold onto one for me! (Laughs) What do you think of that situation, then? MP3's weren't even a thought when you were in Fight, I don't imagine, so as an artist, how does it feel to see your work reduced to a 99 cent item? I think I'd be frustrated...
Robby: I think the downside is lots of people would rather download for free than pay even that 99 cents. So, our thought is to make it easy. Put it where they can get a good copy for free and if they're feeling generous, spend the 99 cents. The thing is, people have been fudging record sales for years. When SoundScan came in, bands' numbers were dropping because the 50 Billboard writers across the country were abolished. People still figure out ways of fudging the numbers, but it became more difficult. Now, with downloads, it kind of is what it is. Times always change and its a question of adapting or being a dinosaur. I hear lots of artists complaining "nobody buys CDs anymore", which is true, but people are still selling music. It's now kind of like the really big artists and the rest, and no middle class. Yes, I'd rather see it how it used to be, but since it's not, I don't get frustrated. I just think we need to be creative to get our new music out to the masses. Meanwhile, as long as we're having fun writing, performing, etc., than I really have no complaints.
G2G: That's a positive way to look at it. Now, with "Hard Habit", were you able to get much in the way of airplay, at least on progressive classic rock stations that include older artist's new music?
Robby: We did get airplay. I'm not sure how much, but there was definitely some plan and I expect it will build more for the new song, and each one after that.
G2G: Do you think the two Great White situation ends up hurting BOTH bands, whether it's because of individual loyalties of fans, or confusion...or whatever? I know there's not necessarily a massive market for "new" classic rock/80s hard rock, but I can't think it's helpful.
Robby: It probably hurts us a little, but we still do 60-80 shows a year, and we've gotten bigger
|(Outdated photo of Jack's version, but you get the idea.)|
G2G: Shifting gears, do you get the chance to get out and see other bands?
Robby: Some, but not a ton, since we are playing most weekends...
G2G: Did you get to see Motley Crue on their farewell tour?
Robby: I didn't.
G2G: Do you plan to try to see the reunited Guns N Roses?
Robby: (Laughs) No plans, per se, but you never know. I sure hope they have Steven Adler, though. He's such a genuine guy and I love his playing.
G2G: Who, if you could choose, should get together for one last tour or album? I know people always scream for Zeppelin, but I just don't see it.
Robby: Well, if we're dealing in fantasy, then the Beatles. But, if we're talking guys alive, I think I'd also have to go with Zeppelin.
G2G: Is it funny that I'm NOT a Zep guy, but that I LOVE the Great White Zep tribute album?
G2G: (Laughs) Okay, a couple more questions for you...SPEED ROUND STYLE! Are you ready?
Robby: (Laughs) Sure...as ready as I can be...
G2G: (Laughs). Okay, here we go. What song do you NEVER get tired of playing?
Robby: "Sonata In C" by Mozart.
G2G: What riff should all guitar players STOP playing?
Robby: I can't think of any, I guess...
G2G: Interesting. A lot of guitar players tell me things like "Smoke On The Water" should just be banned...(laughter)
Robby: I love "Smoke On The Water", and if it's played correctly, it's way cool. And, of course, it's a great riff to learn as a beginner.
G2G: Best guitar player you've ever seen or heard.
Robby: Wow...there are so many players I like for different things, so that's a tough one. One that comes to mind is Brad Paisley.
G2G: Brad Paisley is awesome...so is Keith Urban on the country side of things.
Robby: Yep...bad asses...
G2G: Will we see a solo record from you in the future? Or is the band your main focus now?
Robby: Probably. I have lots of material complete already, just sitting in my studio. It's pretty eclectic. I would probably group the like songs together and release them.
G2G: Well, I'd buy it for sure!
Robby: Good to know! There's one!
G2G: Robby, how do fans keep in touch with you, with the band, etc.? How can they find out where you will be playing next? Are you a big social media guy?
Robby: I pretty much only do Facebook, so for me, Robby Lochner on Facebook. For JRGW, Jack Russell's Great White Facebook page, and also www.jackrussellsgreatwhite.com
G2G: Excellent! Thanks for taking the time to chat with me, Robby, and I can't wait to hear the new single and the album. Hope to catch up with you again in person sometime this year. Thanks again, Robby.
Robby: Anytime. Thanks, Arttie.
So there you go, folks. Truly a great guy to talk to if you ever get the chance to meet him...exceedingly humble and down-to-earth, and very cool with his fans. Also, a truly under-appreciated talent on the guitar. Glad that we had the chance to get together to bring this interview to light.