Rock Sugar has done something new with something old and classic. They are taking hit pop music and blending it with riff driven metal anthems. Some call them mash-ups, others will call it a gimmick, and most will simply enjoy. Around the music industry other musicians are kicking themselves in the asses for not thinking of the idea first, and the guys in Rock Sugar will be the first to tell you the brilliance in their project is less about them than it is the timing and the concept. Pet rock or pop metal, it’s all about timing.
However, that humble acknowledgement does the band members themselves a disservice. The band, comprised of former, (well, on hiatus), Loud & Clear members, vocalist Jess Harnell (the man of a thousand voices), guitarist Chuck Duran, and drummer Alex Track, brought their full aresenal of talents to bear on this record.
The trio were doing their various projects, award winning voice-over work, running a successful studio, etc., when Jess floated the concept by Chuck of mixing epic pop songs from the 80’s with classic metal anthems of the period, and Rock Sugar was born. After the album was recorded, bassist Johnny Five was added to the mix.
The first offspring of this idea was “Don’t Stop the Sandman,” a mix of the Journey hit, “Don’t Stop Believin'” and Metallica’s trademark monster, “Enter Sandman.” Weird science meets Frankenstein, the musical. Like the old Reeses’ commercial; “You got AC/DC in my Madonna. You got Madonna in my AC/DC,” a new confection was brought to life. And damned if it’s not addictively tasty. One element that Rock Sugar displays both live and in the studio is a prowess for incredible vocal harmonies.
Their debut CD, Reimaginator, has been selling like mad based almost entirely on the fan swell through word of mouth. A couple of DJ’s in Memphis, Tennessee got the buzz started, and now the band’s first video for “Don’t Stop the Sandman,” has over a quarter million hits on YouTube alone.
The guys have kept the project humorous by creating a backstory for how they came to be, which you can read on their website, RockSugarBand.com. On the main page of the website you can see another video for the track “We Will Kickstart Your Rhapsody,” which manages to blend Motley Crue’s “Kickstart My heart with Queen’s “We Will Rock You,” and “Bohemian Rhapsody.” And yes, the mix works!
While they take the concept with a sense of humor, they could not be more serious about paying full tribute and respect to the creators of the songs they blend. While they see the glancing absurdity of Kiss being paired with Paula Abdul, they took great pains to make sure that all the songs worked well, and were not simply thrown together.
I sat down with Jess and Chuck at their studio and we spent a good hour talking about how the project came together, taking the music on tour, and the potential musical pallet for the next album. Along the way we had drop ins from Axl Rose, Paul Stanley and Cartman…sort of.
The band has created perhaps the best party album one could home for; 34 legendary hits, mixed together in 13 songs on one CD. As the guys say, “it’s music for people with A.D.D. — you get bored with one song, 45 seconds later you’re listening to something else.”