An Inner View with Wil McKenna of RootsCollider

Roots Collider is the embodiment of a band that refuses to rest on it’s laurels. With the release of their recent EP, Supernova, the band is taking strides towards pushing their wares to the next level of the game! In a recent chat with Wil McKenna, I was able to delve deeper into all things Collider, and see what the band has in store for the immediate future.

Erik: Tell me about the recording process with your recent release, Supernova?

Wil: Well Erik, this time around was like greeting an old friend and picking up the conversation where you last left it. It literally felt like we were all coming back home to the Bunker Studios in Williamsburgh/Brooklyn, NY. We recorded everything again on reel to reel analogue tape and then transferred the recordings to the programs within the computer afterwards.

Erik: How did things differ with the recording of this album, when compared to the first time around?

Wil: This was our second recording experience at Bunker with John Davis (of Jojo Mayer’s Nerve) at the helm. The main difference from our first recording “EP” was that we knew each other by now, the four of us and John. This connection made for a quicker more efficient process within pre and post production. Basically it was like going to work. Our collaborative ideas mesh completely in regards to the aesthetics of song structure, and John has a wide sonic palette to choose from in regards to approaches on what effects should be on certain layers of melodic phrasing and passages. It should be noted that the wide range of analogue effects pedals at Bunker is nothing short of champion status.

Erik: How was the overall experience?

Wil: How was the overall experience? We love Nerve and John so much. Getting to record in your favorite international touring band’s studio is quite an honor for us. We’ll be headed back there in February 2012 to record our next record. We’re also very fortunate to have a relative of the band (Dexter’s cousin Desmond) with a house in Queens to stay at during our sessions down there, so everything is quite comfortable. Plus we also have multiple friends stopping by the studio while we’re recording offering there critiques of the music too which is insightful when your ears have been listening to the same songs over and over again for hours on end. Inside Bunker itself there’s a great “smokers” lounge, a shower, a kitchen, couches to crash on and the internet, so we really are coming home in a sense with all the creature comforts. We will also be debuting at Desmond’s Tavern in NYC after our first day/night of recording, as to capitalize on our new and old friends down there, and actualizing the experience to its fullest capacity.

Erik: I understand the band has been in contact with a couple of different management firms?

Wil: We have one very popular booking agency on the West Coast that is slightly interested in us right now, and another strong jam band booking agency from the South that may sign us in March of 2012. We just received word from a smaller less-known agency in Chicago, IL as well. All three have expressed slight to moderate interest. Only time will tell. As for now, RootsCollider remains completely In-House in all endeavors of Booking, Promotions, and Management. I realized a long time ago that no one would care about us more than us.

Erik: What do you have coming up with shows in new markets?

Wil: 2012 will see us branching out to Philadelphia, New York City, Boston, Chicago and Asheville primarily. We look forward to returning to all of our favorite cities and venues in NY state as well. And we are eager to entertain at new festivals and return to previous ones for the summer.

Erik: Tell me about the many successes within the year that have been of major significance?

Wil: In 2011 we were able to get a van and a trailer, which is super huge in regards to getting your product out to different markets in an economical fashion. We also received small acknowledgement from Relix Magazine which was exciting. One of our greatest achievements as a band though was getting on the same page artistically and musically. The music has to be paramount to everything else, for it’s the very thing that brings you everywhere in regards to it’s exposure. Although we are primarily instrumental, we continue to pack out venues in cities where we are popular. Our music is appearing to take on life of it’s own at certain shows via The Grateful Dead and Phish philosophy. Where we are popular, in cities like Rochester and Buffalo NY, a shakedown is starting to develop outside the venue. A community is starting to form. Our fans have become known as “Colliders.” We owe a great deal of our hometown success to our friends Chris Collins and Patrick Gaffney of RIPROC who have supported, nurtured, and helped us become what we are today in Rochester. We are forever indebted.

Erik: Things seem to be going well in the “gearing up” department. I was wondering if you could elaborate on the new direction in approach?

Wil: We spent so long making sure our songs were air tight in the hard rock fashion for performance that we negated some of our improvisational talent and roots. Now that we have a powerful launch pad and landing pad for these creative structures, we are starting to improvise again!!! Which is bringing the sound to a whole new level!!!

Erik: You have played some really good shows this year, with some highly recognized bands. Tell me about the experiences, and which ones were your favorites?

Wil: We’ve been blessed to share the stage with some of our personally favorite musicians and bands. In 2011, we supported internationally known bands such as: Dub Trio (Matisyahu’s band), Conspirator (members of the Disco Biscuits, Raq, New Deal, and Lotus), BioDiesel (Johnny Rabb’s band w/ Clay Parnell of Brother’s Past), Telepath (members of Archnemesis), Rubblebucket, and Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad to name a few. We’ve also supported internationally known DJ’s such as: Kill the Noise (featured on Korn’s new record with Skrillex), DieselBoy, and 12th Planet.

Erik: Tell me a little about this all star record you are going to be showing up on here?

Wil: My old friend and bandmate Jon Petronzio (Keyboardist) from John Brown’s Body is currently recording an ALL STAR super reggae/funk record in Ithaca, NY and Boston, MA. that will include some of your readers favorite musicians from: Soulive, Lettuce, John Brown’s Body, Sim Redmond Band, RootsCollider, Mosaic Foundation, the Big Mean Sound Machine, and etc…the list goes on. It’s an honor to be a part of this record. I only hope we can get one show together where we perform the record in its entirety. It would be great at the State Theater or something like that in Ithaca. Hopefully, we can get everyone on the record, on stage, to kill it for the crowd like a giant musical rotating cast of auditory devastation. A melodic octopus of friends if you will.

Erik: You have any more recording plans for the next year?

Wil: February 2012 is the new 4 track punisher entitled: “Phoenix”.

Erik: What are your other plans?

Wil: As a band we will continue writing, recording, and touring, in our pursuit to change the face of rock music for the better. Personally, I maintain the belief that original music is relevant to all social environments by the implementation of a new direction for an untapped source of vibration. I continue to work on sonic innovations with the guitar and bass, having customized my Fender Stratocaster into a lethal dub weapon. I currently teach at the Music Education Centers in Webster, NY and the Rochester Academy of Music in Brighton, NY and I am attending Nazareth College in Rochester, NY to finish my Bachelor’s Degree in Classical Guitar Performance.

Erik: Tell me about the band lineage of your past, and about the scene you have evolved from?

Wil: My first musical memories are of my Mother singing Elvis, the Beatles, and the Beach Boys to me. I can remember wanting a saxophone really really bad in the 3rd grade, but unfortunately my family couldn’t afford it. I did, however have my voice, which luckily for me was free. I sang in chorus all throughout elementary, junior, and high school. In junior high I started playing instruments when I was about 13 years old. I come from the age old tradition of having friends pass down the knowledge of music by playing together. I started on electric bass and gravitated to guitar shortly thereafter. After learning the fundamentals from my friends, I sought out guitar teachers in the Rochester, NY area. In 2004 I graduated from the Monroe Community College Music Program with an Associates Degree in Music Performance with Guitar as my Major. I was First Chair in the program’s Guitar Ensemble for three out of the four semesters that I was there. From 2000 until 2006, I founded and was part of a successful touring original act called; “Mountain Mojo Authority”. It is during this period of my life that I was introduced to reggae music. Throughout the 6 years I was in this band, I learned to move people in the here and now by combining the humble roots and analogue sounds of the past, with the intensity of contemporary drum and bass. After “Mountain Mojo Authority” disbanded some of the members involved joined John Browns Body: (Matt Goodwin, Alex Toth, Kal Traver) while others joined the Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad: (Aaron Lipp, James Searl, Buddy Honeycutt) RubbleBucket (Alex Toth, Kal Traver), ThunderBody (Jerimiah Pacheco) and J-san and the Analogue Sons (Wil McKenna). During the time span from 2006 until 2007, I took a musical sabbatical in which I learned how to play Piano and Drums as secondary instruments to my primaries being Guitar and Bass. In the late summer of 2007 I started venturing to Ithaca, NY and found more like minded musicians such as: David “Solid” Gould, Lee Hamilton, Jsan Spaker, and Kevin Kinsella, all former JBB alumni. At this point I joined the “Millionaires of Love,” which was a 10 piece reggae/ska orchestra masterminded by David “Solid” Gould. I also played guitar for a time in David Gould’s current re-vitalized original group: Adonai and I, now called DSG & the Temple Rockers. In the fall of 2007 I was invited to join the national reggae/soul act called J-san and the Analogue Sons. I remained with the group until 2009. Upon returning to Rochester, NY from my extensive Ithacan projects I formed RootsCollider with Jim Grillo. RootsCollider is a project that started on an Abelton program and was a culmination of ideas that I’ve played with for awhile, combining reggae, funk and jungle beats with soul music at first. But since September of 2010 the band has evolved into thee definitive 21st Century “Dry & Heavy Livetronica DubCore” act that continues to push the sonic envelope toward enlightenment. The future fab four of Wil McKenna, Bill Smith, Jimmy Grillo, and Dexter Redic are dedicated to bringing the listener only the freshest cuts of live original punishing Drum & Bass, crushing Dubstep, destructive Electro-Rock, and fresh Future-Funk, with the destructive elements of crucial Dub Reggae. The band’s sole purpose is to collide these roots genres into a single unstoppable aesthetic force, and we are known as one of the last definitive almost completely analogue defenses against the digital 21st Century. RootsCollider has been described as a powerful visceral artistic experience for the mind, body, and soul. The band has quickly become regional favorites for so many and has gained wide recognition by sweeping upstate NY off of its feet as one of the fastest growing live original acts from Rochester, NY.

Erik: What are your overall thoughts on the Rochester scene, and what makes it so great?

Wil: Rochester, NY is the next musical renaissance the world has been waiting for. We saw the first movement in the 1960’s in San Francisco. The next movement came in the 1990’s in Seattle. And now again we see it in Rochester, NY in the 2010’s. All three cities had amazing original bands touring outside of it’s own barriers, and all the bands were friends and collaborated on each others art. There is no other city in America that has this thing going on like what we do in ROC. We are ambassadors to the world of our city. We proudly display our hometown bands T-shirts while we rock on stages in other cities. All the stickers on my guitar case are that of all the other touring bands from Rochester. We owe this cross collaboration now to Chris “Hollywood” English from AudioInflux. He is the reason why Rochester, NY’s music scene is blossoming right now. He hosts the Pro Jam every other Monday at Abiline’s. Chris represents no ego, no bullshit, no “I’m too cool for you to jam with me vibe.” Believe me, there are some that still do exhibit this. Chris plays with all players, within all genres, and with all skill levels. It is this kind of integrity, compassion, and love for the art that humbles the rest of the flock and levels the playing field in a non-competitive way. Chris unknowingly made a city of original bands that only cared about what they were doing 4 years ago, into a community based on healing people with creating music together today. He made us into a real family.

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