Interview with Know Your Enemy
Roxy & Dukes Roadhouse, Dunellen, NJ
April 27th, 2019
By Andy Jansons
It’s always nice to see young bands ascending to new heights, more so, when they are from your own state. New Jersey’s local rockers Know Your Enemy have just released their first full length album called “Root Of All Evil”. Their material is fantastic, but to find out more about that you’ll have to read Stephen Moss’ live review.
I was fortunate enough to attend Know Your Enemy’s album release show and sit down with band members (except drummer Ralph Riccardi who was running late) and discuss their music, influences, new album and to introduce themselves to a new audience.
Andy Jansons: So this is your first full length album. Talk about the emotions, how it is to get your first album out?
Fonz Rodriguez (Vocalist): Well, I mean it’s super exciting, I’ve been like really excited, nervous, but in a good way, for a week or two, I’m just…the anticipation has been just crazy. You know, for me as a vocalist, to express how I see the world and how we see each other, from my own perspective. It’s really important for me personally because it’s difficult to get those emotions out verbally, you know? It’s not easy to just speak to people, so when you can you do your best, and the reaction and the feedback that we get, makes me feel like it’s worth it. This is a complete collection of how I truly feel like, really what embodies me as far as like me trying to be part of society. To me this album is like my feeling.
Jay Kent (Guitarist): Yeah. I’m very excited about the album. We put a lot of work into it. It’s a big collection of all of our thoughts on a lot of different subjects. And I think if you listen to it, you know enough, you’ll definitely feel what we’re trying to convey. I think we did a great job expressing our thoughts.
Steve Bishop (Bassist): Great lyrics, good music to it. I think it’s going to be something real exciting for people to listen to. It means so much to me.
Andy: Who wrote the lyrics for the songs?
Fonz: I would say on this album, probably about 80% of them I did. And the songs that I didn’t write fully, it was collaboration, let’s put it that way. You know, Jay wrote some of the lyrics. He wrote the lyrics for ‘Deep Inside’ and ‘Bound’, and there was a time period where I was not playing with the band and, for example, the song ‘Bound’ already existed. But it’s just the way he may have wrote it, the way he puts it, and then the way I deliver his lyrics, perfect and unique. Like he told me, they had a couple other guys try. He even tried himself. I’m not boasting myself or anything; this is just what he told me. So even though, I didn’t write the lyrics for it, I was able to tap in the emotions, the feeling of when he wrote those lyrics down.
Jay: He (Fonz) is a perfectionist, which really shows through, because he got so much of it just like spot on. Like what he’s trying to say. You can understand it fully; he did such a great job in writing the lyrics.
Andy: How would you guys characterize your music and the genre you play?
Steve: That’s a little iffy. Um, we’ve been compared to a bunch of other bands. Most of them were like back in the rap rock genre, like P.O.D. We’ve had that more than a few times and Killswitch and Sevendust. I guess hard rock with like some hip hop and a little bit of blues.
Fonz: I would say alt metal, not alternative itself, because we got something which seems like a mixture of genres. It got a metal base to it, and then we bring in just different genres. It’s really not intentional, it’s just like you hear it and you go, oh this is the part that it needs to be because this is how I feel it needs to go. I would say personally alternative metal, that’s how I feel it. As far as comparisons, recently someone said, Oh, you guys are like, if P.O.D. and Killswitch had a baby. It’s a compliment (laughs). And the other one I got that I liked that we sound like Anthrax and Faith No More. I mean I’m a huge fan of Anthrax. My favourite is the album with John Bush “The Sound of White Noise”. I always think, you know, we kind of like to admire someone and we try to like mimic in some way, something. So to me, and I know it’s hard, because I love hip hop and I love all genres, it’s hard to really like just one. So I think we bring a lot more stuff, which brings me back to the alternative part, so we bring a lot more, more different styles.
Jay: Uh, I am a huge Zack Wylde fan with Black Label Society, Sevendust, the old Metallica, you know the good Metallica? I love blues guys. I love Hendrix and Stevie Ray, all these guys and you can hear that in my playing, you know, from my solos and a little bit of the funky kind of melodies that we bring along to the music as well. So, yeah, that’s me.
Steve: Yeah, I think it’s a healthy mix. I don’t think you can pinpoint it in one way or another. I think we flow with a lot of different bands because of that. We play live shows all the time. And whether we’re playing with a metal band or a hard rock band, or occasionally with a sort of post hardcore, punk kind of band, I feel like we always fit because we don’t play one genre. What binds inspire me? I’ve been playing music since I was a teenager. I was really into Nirvana and Green Day and like all that stuff at the time. But since then I’ve listened to so much stuff. Uh, Gary Clark Jr and The Cure and I just love music. If it’s good, I’ll listen to it.
Fonz: One of my favorite bands is He is Legend; I love The E-Town Concrete, which is a New Jersey band. Honestly, my all time favorite band is Tool. Like, I just love them, I feel like they’re the band of our generation, like the Led Zeppelin of our generation. Their contribution to metal and hard rock is like, it’s unique, It’s different, It’s real rock. It’s like real rock star mentality; we didn’t give a shit about anybody. They don’t care. 10 years we’ve been waiting for their album now, we’ve been waiting forever. To me it’s like, every single member of that band is super important. You can’t replace any of them. So I would say Tool is number one for me. Yeah, definitely but we can’t forget about Rage Against the Machine. Yeah, that band changed my life!
Andy: Cue, the name of your band?
Fonz: That’s right! ‘Know your Enemy’, that song. They are an influential band, and I think for anybody that has this dissatisfaction with the way that things are, they deliver it right. They’re really super smart guys. You know, they were unique at the time and when it comes down to really going against the grain and being brash it’s RATM
Andy: Okay guys, let’s get back just to you. What are your plans now?
Fonz: Well, we definitely want to go touring, we’ve got a bunch of festivals planned for the summer, so that’s mainly what we’re going to do. I think we’re not going to be able to tour until after August, but we want to, definitely. I just want to take it on the road. I would love to go up to New England, you know, maybe down the east coast, and show what we do. That’s ideal. We talked about it a lot. It’s just difficult. You got to pay bills and it’s a little bit more of a balancing act if you’re going to go and hit the road. But that’s definitely going to happen.
Andy: Right now you are unsigned band, are there any movements towards finding a label?
Fonz: I would love to. I would love to, but I think we need to get the tour done first. We actually have already started writing the next album. So ideally if we can make the timeline correct, then we’ll tour, put new record out and then try to show to the label and see what happens. It’s so much work being independent, and trying to do everything. Even for example, the record release show, we did it independently and I feel like we’re lucky that we were able to find a venue and other bands and make it happen. It really takes away from rehearsing and writing and working on the other things to make more progress. And so a label is definite, you know, I mean it only makes sense to do that.
Andy: So obviously this is an important stepping stone with moving forward and how you see the road from here?
Jay: Uh-huh, I think, like Fonz said, we’re going to concentrate on continuing to write new material, get a new album going. The one that we’re just releasing today we will see where it takes us.
Steve: We planned to play a lot of gigs recently to support this album. We’re just going to keep writing, keep doing it. We put a lot of hard work into this particular album where I feel like we all learned what to do, what we do well and how to just keep doing that, and just to get our music out and see what happens from there.
Andy: Lastly, what have you got to say to your fans?
Fonz: If I could say anything, I just want to thank everybody who helped us and believed in us. And I mean there’s our friends, our family, and new friends and people that we’ve gotten to know as, you know, as we make our way through the scene. But I think that would be all the people out there who’ve listened to us. I feel like that is the number one most important thing is to be thankful and grateful for. I want to say that I’m super grateful for these guys (points to band mates). You know, because I’ve so many bands that we played with and we’ve met throughout the last few years. And I would say that a lot of ’em aren’t together anymore and there’s always problems! I could say that this is probably the smoothest relationship. These guys have made it, we just chill!
Jay: Likewise. Yes. We are very lucky to have a talent front this band, it’s been a long time for myself personally looking for somebody like him to come in and do this and he just blows us away every time he goes up there. So we’re just proud to be with him as well as, as any other.
Steve: That’s one of the better compliments we get. People think that we sound really tight. Our chemistry together, especially live is good. I hope it really comes through on this album. We tried to put it that up front and centre!
Andy: Thank you very much guys!
Huge thanks to Know Your Enemy and Andy for the interview!