An Interview With RAUSCH Front-Man Doug Rausch On The Band’s Brand New Album ‘BOOK II’ And Much More!
Posted On 23 Feb 2018
After devoting the better part of his early years to the piano, namesake front-man Doug Rausch earned his Ithaca College music degree & plunged straight into self-imposed exile. Disillusioned by how mainstream music had all but completely plateaued by the early 2000’s – culminating in an eye-opening stint at Sony Music Studios – he found himself in a decade-long campaign chasing a long-held musical vision of his own. Aside from select live engagements – including an invitation from Dream Theater’s Jordan Rudess to perform at the ﬁrst KEYFEST – all else was sacrificed.
Early on, the first member to join was Philadelphia bassist Joe Fine. Meeting at his family’s sandwich shop, a particularly generous offering of hot peppers made quite the impression on Rausch; he’s been on board ever since. Then came a fortuitous encounter in NYC with virtuoso guitarist Gary Wehrkamp (Shadow Gallery, Outside the Wall). Even more unifying than the bond created over their mutual love for all things augmented-major-7, however, was a lifeblood running equally through the veins of all three: the musical inﬂuence of Queen. Rounding out the lineup is powerhouse drummer Chris Rufﬁni.
In late 2009, the adventurous-yet-song-driven debut album (RAUSCH) – mixed by engineer-extraordinaire Rich Mouser (Chris Cornell, Neal Morse/Spock’s Beard) – was ﬁnally released. Lead-off single “No Fair” hit the top 10 on New Music Weekly’s small-market radio charts, & the haunting “Ode to Pain” earned an honorable-mention nod from the 2010 International Songwriting Competition (ISC).
On February 2nd, RAUSCH released its second full-length album BOOK II. Heavy-hitting contributions come from the likes of Mark Zonder (Fates Warning), Ryo Okumoto (Spock’s Beard), and second Shadow Gallery mainstay, guitarist Brendt Allman. Picking up where the debut left off, it remains painfully vulnerable & autobiographical of the band’s trials & tribulations along the way. Things are “even more deep and dark” this time, observes the returning Rich Mouser who (along with Bumblefoot) applauds the “Queen-on-steroids” diversity running throughout. Lead-off single “Greener Grass” is adventurous and catchy; “Irked” at times flirts with jazz; “The End” is a nearly 10-minute atmospheric musical tapestry picking right up where Pink Floyd left off; the head-splitting “Speechless” shows the band clashing with Metallica-sized demons; and joining “Good Day” is 2nd Ivory-produced track “Swansong” which, by notable contrast, offers a glimpse of something completely unexplored up until now: optimism.
Doug Rausch – vocals, piano
Joe Fine – bass
Gary Wehrkamp – guitars
Chris Ruffini – drums
Learn more about RAUSCH in the following All Access interview:
Happy New Year! Thanks for your time today! Where does this interview find you?
Sleep-deprived with spinning head! So much to do in setting up this album release (RAUSCH: “BOOK II”), in the current era of DIY, doing it all one’s self is downright manic; months & months of doing endless administrative & promotional things that have nothing to do with actually making music, just to get it out there. And that’s after the years it took to make this record. But it’s all part of the game. A lot of interest buzzing this time, so I believe this is commonly referred to as a “good problem to have.”
Overall, how do you think 2017 was for you and your career? What are you most excited about for this year? Did you make any New Year’s Resolutions? Care to share them with us?
I think I’m done with New Year’s resolutions; all the way back in 2012 when we broke ground on this record [I’ll give you a moment…], I made the resolution to get out of my head and just put all my over-thinking & over-analyzing & over-worrying into my work. Don’t think, just do. And while another 8 million things proceeded to get in the way of finishing this in a more timely manner, to state the obvious, 2018 is already a win since “BOOK II” is finally coming out. Nobody – not even my own OCD self – can get in the way [laughs].
Growing up, did you always want to be a musician? Can you recall your earliest musical memory?
No, then yes; not until about age 12.5, when I realized I could play the very music I liked on the piano.
I always like to ask artists about where they came from and how that city or town has influenced them as an artist now. So how do you think your home has affected you and your music today?
Fair enough, I hail from Doylestown, PA, Philadelphia suburb and Oscar Hammerstein’s place of death. Artists Pink & [American Idol’s] Justin Guarini went to the same schools I did. I certainly can’t compare it to a fictional parallel reality of growing up somewhere else, but I can say that my own path found me at stark musical odds with the “wrong” generation in which I was born. I resonate extremely well with those both older & younger, but to be honest I kind of view my own age-group as the “lost” generation, with little new to offer, at least musically speaking. I was on my own path and took severe exception with the musical trends I had to endure at the time.
Let’s talk about your second full-length album called “Book II” that you will be releasing next month. What was the inspiration for this collection? Did anything surprise you about it all together?
How many hours do we have again [laughs]? I am terrible at nut-shelling, but if I had to associate inspiration with just one word, it would be “darkness.” If I had a 2nd, it would be “life.” A 3rd: the M7#5 chord (the augmented major 7th). I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the life path I’ve been on for the past several years (from which musical subject matter always comes) conveniently lined up with where I was on my musical discovery path as well. Music is at its strongest when the technical and the lyrical/emotional cores are firing together on all cylinders, and yes, to witness how everything began to unify so well, I’d say I was not only surprised but happily relieved. The chords represent the moods! This album deserved the very best, and that’s what it got. I’m just the conduit through which 5 years of darkness happened to flow, and I truly believe this is a work of art to which many may relate.
What was it like working with all of your collaborators, Mark Zonder, Ryo Okumoto and Brendt Allman? How do you go about choosing to work with all of them?
Well first & foremost that all began with my long-time collaborator, good friend & musical genius, Sir Gary Wehrkamp, otherwise best known to the progressive rock world from Shadow Gallery. He’s painted my musical canvas masterfully, as guitarist on these first 2 RAUSCH albums, and I can’t give him enough credit for helping bring these albums to life. Human nature is to always try & outdo yourself, so for this 2nd time around, with “BOOK II,” he helped facilitate the connections to guest appearances by Mark (drums on “Greener Grass”) & his fellow Shadow Gallery bandmate Brendt (guitars on “Irked”). Ryo (from Spock’s Beard) was my own good fortune, after stumbling into him on a music cruise we were both on; I asked him to supply some ‘aux’ keys – moogs, organs, other little vintage goodies – to supplement my piano playing, he said “sure” and that was that! You can really hear his sonic extravaganza in full force during the middle instrumental adventure of 1st single/video “Greener Grass.”
How did your single “Greener Grass” come together? Generally, how do you go about putting your songs together? Do you find that you follow the same process for all of your music lately?
Paraphrasing Tom Waits, music writes you more than you write it. Stubborn persistent little kernels of songs wake you up at 4am and march you over, like a zombie, to the nearest instrument/notepad/iphone/DAW so that you can let them out & affix them into a place they’ll never be forgotten. While most songs hit me like a ton of bricks & come to me all at once, “Greener Grass” actually came together over a period of years… it was to be the piece that “killed all birds with one stone.” I wanted the quintessential defining RAUSCH song, and we took the time to get it right. “Bohemian Rhapsody” or “Carry on Wayward Son” are archetypal examples of songs that do it all – gut-wrenching lyrics & emotion, musical exploration/instrumental improvisation, simple & complex, heart-and-brains, brains-AND-heart! So many people are all “either/or.” But I just love music, so why can’t every part of a song be special, not just the obligatory chorus? Have your cake and eat it too.
Where can people see you perform live next? Do you have any tour dates scheduled for 2018?
In the works!
Where do you find that you are at your happiest – on stage performing, in the studio recording music, writing songs or elsewhere?
All of the above, though “happy” & “fun” aren’t exactly in my go-to vocabulary [laughs]. Let’s just say that a 13-year period of studio hibernation wasn’t completely involuntary … it IS where my heart is. Of course nothing beats the indescribable energy from being on stage either, so as long as I’m doing my music one way or the other, I don’t have a gun to my head. Maybe that’s what’s most important.
We are living in a crazy and at times rough world right now so I am curious how you think being a musician gives you the most joy in life today? How do you think that your new music is going to reflect these difficult times?
Exactly; music is more vital than ever. It’s our outlet, our therapy, our venting mechanism, it’s what brings us together and yet enables us to escape… it’s our everything. Without music, there would be nothing. This new album “BOOK II” is a very real reflection of life today – and there’s darkness abound – but as my vocal coach Michelle always says, “the only way out is through.” This album avoids nothing and takes it all head-on; I think people are going to relate…and through that perhaps find strength.
Who are some of your favorite artists or rather, what musicians have continued to inspire you and your music? What musicians would you absolutely still love to work with in the future?
The same artists that inspire me are the ones I would also love to work with (except Freddie Mercury, sadly not an option)…I would kill to work with Steven Wilson or Muse… or, possibly more controversially, Axl Rose! I wonder what that collaboration might yield…
What do you hope your fans take away from your music? Do you find that a lot of your music has a greater meaning behind it?
Each and every musical listening experience is always such a personal one. That said, there is an endless supply of “deep and dark” here, as our engineer Rich Mouser has stated; above all, I hope people will find it cathartic. Our only hope is to confront our traumas head-on & exercise the demons. If your life has been a squeaky-clean lottery win, I can say this isn’t the album for you. Someone in Metallica once said “we can’t all write about flowers and sunshine.” So those who are ready to be honest with themselves will be the ones who stand to benefit the most from some real musical psycho-therapy! At the end of the day, I do want to help people. Even if it’s not possible to shrink the shrink.
Is there anything else that you would like to share about yourself or your music with our readers?
The minor-major 7 chord is going to save the world! Find “BOOK II” via iTunes or Rausch.bandcamp.com, and find RAUSCH on all social media @rauschofficial. DON’T LET IT DIE!