The Raskins: Brothers in arms (Part 1)

New York City retro-rock siblings do it their way
By Peter Lindblad

The Raskins - The Raskins 2014
When the major labels started sniffing around New York City retro rock ‘n’ roll animals The Raskins, they said, “Thanks, but no thanks. We’re good.”

At one time, long ago, they would have jumped at their offers, but like another Big Apple icon, the Chairman of the Board Frank Sinatra, twins Logan and Roger are set on doing things their way, and it’s gotten them pretty far. So, they turned them away.

“It’s funny, when my brother and I kind of finished all our videos, we finished doing the web site, we finished recording the record, everything was done, our fan base was growing leaps and bounds – all of a sudden, we started getting all these record deals,” Logan related. “I was in my attorney’s office, and he goes, ‘You know, you’ve got six major labels wanting to sign you guys right now – six!’ He put four contracts right in front of me, dropped them on the deck. He goes, ‘There you go. Four major labels want to sign you guys. What do you guys want to do?’”

Taken aback by all the sudden record label attention they were getting, The Raskins’ heads were swimming, and they needed some objective advice.

“And I said, ‘Well, if I’d have been younger, I’d have been freaking out,’” said Logan. “And I said, ‘As my attorney, what do you advise us to do?’ And he said, ‘Well, as your attorney, I advise you to do it all yourselves. You don’t need them. You don’t need those labels for anything. Why would you want to give away everything you’ve done and give away all that control, give all that power, everything you guys have worked for? You guys have done it all on your own to this point.’ He goes, ‘You’ve got it.’ He goes, ‘You have it all. Don’t give it away.’”

An honest-to-goodness DIY success story – of which there are precious few these days – The Raskins have been surrounded by music their whole lives. Their father, Tommy, was a Broadway singer who appeared in such shows as “West Side Story, “ “Oklahoma” and “South Pacific,” among others, and their mother, Judith, known in the entertainment community as Judith Lee, was a jazz singer of some renown.

Successful forays into the world of making music for TV and film helped The Raskins make a name for themselves, but in recent years, they've felt a tug to break out of that box and perform for the masses their own uniquely New York-style rock 'n' roll, an exciting, punched-up blend of singer-songwriter pop, the gritty, sleazy proto-punk of the New York Dolls and The Stooges and sophisticated classic rock clothed in tight black jeans, black leather and spiked hair and brimming with attitude.

Cover for The Raskins'
single "We Had It All"
Their self-titled debut album dropped in May, which includes the red-hot single "We Had It All," while the duo was on tour supporting ex-Stone Temple Pilots and Velvet Revolver front man Scott Weiland. Soon, they will embark on another jaunt with modern-rock heavyweights Saving Abel, and the day before this interview, they got even bigger news. We'll let Logan talk about it in Part 1 of our Q&A with these rising stars. 

How did you get on the Scott Weiland tour?
Logan Raskin: Well, you know, we have an album coming out May 13. So our management and our label over Sony/Red obviously they’re looking to get us on to the biggest tours possible that are going out this summer, and the Scott Weiland tour was one of the opportunities that came across their desk for us, and of course, they had asked my brother and I how we would feel about going out with Scott Weiland, and you know, Scott Weiland is a big influence on my brother and I. Our musical styles, I feel, are very similar, so for me it was a no-brainer. I said, “Absolutely. Let’s get out there with Scott. I think it would be a really good pairing.”

So they called Scott’s camp, and they told Scott about the band, and Scott, it was really his decision. So they’re management said, well, we’ll talk to Scott about it and it’s really up to him. So, yeah, Scott checked out our music and our videos online, and he really dug what we were doing and said, “Yeah, let’s get these guys out on the road with us.” So the first show we did last night. We’re doing an 11- to 12-show run with Scott, and then when we get back, we’ll go back to Hollywood for about 10 days and then we’ll go back out again and we have about 20-plus shows booked with Saving Abel. So, we’ll go out with Saving Abel and do all that, and actually, we just found out it looks like we might be doing some of the Motley Crue-Alice Cooper shows. So believe it or not, you’re the first person I’m telling that to. So we actually got offered 27 dates with them. I don’t know exactly … the label and our management right now are working on all the details and the scheduling of it all, because I mean, obviously, that’s the biggest tour of the year. And we already have contracts signed with the Saving Abel tour, so we have to work out all the logistics with that. Obviously, I’m like, “Let’s make it work (laughs).” So, let’s see: Madison Square Garden is on there, Hollywood Bowl is on there … I’m like, “Are you guys kidding me? Of course, let’s go. Let’s make it happen.” (See The Raskins' video for "We Had It All" below)

So it’s overwhelming, things are really taking off for the Raskins, and you know, we’re just trying to take it day by day. It’s a whirlwind, but my brother and I are just taking it day by day. We’re taking it in stride. The band is kicking ass and playing amazing. The show last night with Scott went great. Really, our focus right now is the Scott Weiland tour. We really want to try and make this a successful tour, and last night, the first night was great. A lot of kids bought our CDs, and we signed a ton of posters and stuff. I mean, the response was pretty much overwhelming. So I’m really excited about things to come and moving long with the Scott Weiland tour now.

Wow. That’s pretty amazing news.
LR: Yeah, you didn’t expect me to say all that, right?

No, that’s kind of mind-blowing.
LR: Yeah, let me tell you something. It’s like every day things change with us, and different opportunities come up. Our single right now is being played on 150 radio stations across the country, our single “We had it All,” and our album [wasn't] even out yet. So it’s like the single is starting to do really well. The video is blowing up online. We’ve got almost two million views online with YouTube, so the response has been really, really great. The anticipation of the album coming out [was] really high, so we’re excited about that; it just seems like everything is coming together at the right time. We’re firing on all cylinders right now. We just want to keep this train on the tracks and keep things moving forward for us.

I have to tell you after listening to the songs on the electronic press kit, this is the kind of music I miss.
LR: Cool, man. It’s cool to hear you say that, and you know what? Me, too (laughs). You know what’s funny, for the last several years, my brother and I were writing a lot of music for TV and film. And we got heavily into that for a while, and we were known as The Raskins. We were writing a lot of stuff for different film projects, and we were getting an overwhelming amount of e-mails from fans – pretty much not just in the U.S., but all over the world – that were seeing these movies or seeing these TV shows that we did the music for, and they were always asking, “Where can we get your guys’ music? When can we see you live?” So it was just a matter of time before my brother and I were like, “Look, I think it’s time. The writing is on the wall. I think it’s time we just put the band together and start playing out at The Raskins.”

So we decided to do that a couple of years ago, and then last year or about a year a half ago, we started recording the music for this album that’s coming out and we took our time writing it, and we just wanted to put together a solid group of songs that really represented my brother and myself, our writing styles and our influences.

Being from New York City, we really wanted to incorporate that rock ‘n’ roll style that my brother and I grew up with, but also incorporate the different style of our writing ability. Because, look, some of our biggest influences were The Stooges or the New York Dolls or the Ramones, but it was also acts such as Simon & Garfunkel and Steely Dan – those acts out of New York City. We kind of grew up with those influences and it really influenced our writing style, and we wanted to put together a record that encapsulated those styles. And I think we accomplished that with this record.

The lead single, “We Had It All,” dropped on Feb. 18 and I was going to ask about what kind of feedback you’re getting, but it seems like it’s been pretty good. What inspired that song?
LR: And it’s funny, Peter, because I was nervous about it because when you’re writing music for somebody, basically they’re telling you what they want. So it’s an easy process for me, because I kind of try to detach myself from the music because I’m basically just giving the client what it is that they want. And a lot of times, we’ll finish a composition for a client, and I’ll say, “Well, I know how I would have written that,” but they’re very specific about how they want things, and we try to just give them that when we’re writing for these different music supervisors for these movies and things like that, and we just read the client. But with the record and writing for us, we really took our time and wanted to really come forward with our influences and our styles we grew up with , and really try to capture that on this record.

I really love the songs “On the Radio” and “We Had it All.” Can you talk about what inspired those songs?
LR: Absolutely. Well, first of all, “On the Radio,” it’s pretty much exactly that. Every musician growing up, I don’t care if you’re young or old, the first thing you dream about as a musician is hearing your music on the radio. It’s the first thing. For my brother and I, the first time we ever heard our music on the radio that was a big moment for us. And I assume it would be a big moment for any musician coming up. So for us, I remember exactly where we were, the moment it happened, the first time I heard our song coming across the airwaves on the radio. It was a big memorable moment and one for me I’ll never forget. And I felt it was an important thing to write about, because that was an important moment in our music career. That’s exactly what that song is about, “On the Radio,” and it means a lot to us. It was important in our music career, and I wanted to write a song about that. And then the single, “We Had it All,” which by the way, it was difficult to figure out what was going to be the initial single for this record. (See the video for "On the Radio" below)

I was going to ask about that.
LR: Yeah, I mean, I’m so attached to all these songs. But this particular song ... I’ll explain what it’s about, and you’ll see why we decided to use it as a single. I mean, the song was basically written about how the music industry is today. My brother and I, being from New York City, spending our whole lives growing up and doing music in New York, and our parents being in the music industry, we were doing our thing musically and we were struggling, just kind of pushing along, playing all the clubs in New York, and trying our hand at being musicians. But my brother and I had gotten some opportunities to go out to Los Angeles to work with a couple of pretty big producers out there, and I thought it was a good opportunity maybe to go out to L.A. and try to expand on our career, and try to push our career forward, and as we were doing that, it was an interesting time in the music industry.

I mean the music industry was really changing, so like the way the online market is now, you don’t even see record stores anymore. I grew up with vinyl. I still have my vinyl collection. I remember going to the record stores and paging through my favorite vinyls and buying vinyl, and you can’t even go to a record store and buy a CD anymore. It’s all digital downloads now. Getting back to my point, from when we kind of got out to L.A. and we were working with those producers and stuff like that, my brother and I kind of realized that we never really had to leave New York, or we never really had to change what it was that we were doing to be successful. We had everything we needed to be successful, and I never really realized that until we made that trip out to Los Angeles. I mean, we packed our car, drove out, packed up everything we had and just drove out to Los Angeles, started working out there, trying to play the clubs out there, working the system and doing recording, working with the producers out there, but I realized the way the music industry is right now, if you have the knowledge and the wherewithal, you can do it all on your own. You don’t need anybody. If you’re not lazy, you can do it all on your own. The way the Internet is now, you can work your online market, the way Twitter is, the way Facebook is, you can get your music up online. You can build your fan base online. And that’s exactly what we started to do.

And I realized how to make all that work for us, and we also learned how to record our own music, to do it in our own home. We built a recording studio. We have a recording studio in our home in Los Angeles, and I have one in my home in New York, but when I learned how to do that, the way recording music has changed, they’re not using the big recording studios. A lot of those big recording studios are going out of business now. You can record killer quality tracks in the privacy of your own home. Everything’s digital now. So, basically, the song is “We Had It All.” I never had to leave. We never had to leave New York. We had it all. We had everything we needed to become successful. And I realized that. My brother and I had all the music. We had the knowledge and the wherewithal on how to record the music. We knew exactly how to market and promote our music online, sell our music online, and that’s exactly what we did. And that’s exactly how we built our fans. We built up our fan base online, we recorded all the videos ourselves and released them to YouTube and pushed and worked our fan base there, and that’s exactly what the song is about. It’s called “We Had it All.”
We always had it all. I never realized that. I was always talking to my friends and saying, “I wish we could do this. I wish we could do that. I wish I could work with this person. I wish I could work with that person.” And I try to tell it to a lot of younger kids coming up: “You’re not lazy. The way the music industry is set up now, you can do it all yourself.” You know, my dream growing up was to get signed by a major label. Now, it’s the worst thing, the worst thing. The only deals that these major labels are giving out now are 360 deals. They believe that with the digital market now, the online market, the only way these major labels can make any money is to take a percentage of everything you own, everything.

So my brother, Roger and myself and my older brother, Micah Raskin – who’s our business manager, and he lives in New York, owns a computer software company in New Jersey and he’s great with business, great with business, and he handles all our business and is our business manager – and the three of us put together our own record label. And we called the label MIRAL, which stands for Micah “Mi,” and I “Roger,” and “Logan” – MIRAL records. So we signed ourselves to our own record label, and then once we did that, Michael said, “Okay guys, we have everything we need. Everything is done. The only thing we need is distribution.” I said, “Micah, there’s only one place to go.” He said, “Where’s that?” I said, “Sony Red. Go to Sony.” And he said, “Okay, I’ll go.”

Called him up, set up a meeting, just my brother went down with the attorney, they signed us in 20 minutes. It took 20 minutes, that’s it and it was done. Now I have my own label that I’m signed to, three brothers own it all outright. I have total control over my musical career, creatively … everything. And I have distribution through Sony. It’s been amazing, amazing. And let me tell you it was hard work, but this is what I try to tell people, and I try to tell these young kids out there, I’m like, “You can do all this. You can do all this on your own.” And that’s what we’ve done, and it’s a great feeling, a great feeling. I go to sleep at night with a big smile on my face, just having the ability to play music every day and do it full-time is a major accomplishment for my brother and I.

It’s a major accomplishment, and we’re the kind of guys … I don’t need to make millions of dollars, I don’t need to make a lot of money, because I’m a music lover. And the reason why we got involved in music was to just play music. We loved it. And just the fact that we have the opportunity to do that now, to travel all around the country and travel all around the world, playing music and giving out our message to all the kids out there, it’s crazy. So I’m living the dream, man. And I think this is just the beginning, but I’m having the time of my life with it.

This is the kind of album – guitar-driven, melodic, with lots of hooks – that would appeal to a wide range of people, and music is so fragmented these days. Can an album like this break down some of those walls?
LR: I mean, look, I totally agree with you, but what was happening … like I would just take maybe five years ago. That’s before you really saw the radical changes in the music industry with the online market, the record labels really would get confused with a lot of these bands. And they had the mentality like, look, we need to know exactly what bin we’re putting this music in. Are you guys rock? Are you guys rap? Are you guys pop? Are you guys heavy metal? Are you guys country? And that’s how they would define it. So a lot of these bands would go along with that protocol, and they’d only put out rock or they’d only put out heavy metal, or only put out punk, and they were some great bands, but they would only be known and categorized as just that, but my brother and I, being in the situation that we’re in, I don’t have to answer to anybody. I can sign my own people.

I can put out all the music I want in the style that I want, and it’s very important for my brother and I to let our fan base and to let the public see our musical influences – the styles we grew up with, and the kind of music that we love. It’s not just aggressive rock. It’s also really good pop songs, and most of the music that I write is off of an acoustic guitar. So a lot of those Simon & Garfunkel or Steely Dan or Richie Havens influences come out in our writing styles. And we really want to try to have those hooky chords, those pop chords and there’s a lot of harmonies going on, whether it be in an aggressive rock song or whether it be in a slow ballad. It’s important to us. So I don’t really care. I wanted to make sure that Roger and I were happy with our finished product and happy with the music that we’re putting out there. That’s the most important thing.

We write for ourselves. And I know the beauty of the position we’re in is that I don’t have to answer to a president of an Atlantic or an Interscope or an Island, or whomever, and that’s all good, but I can put out the kind of music that I want and it took me to this point in my musical career to get it to this point and learn. Believe me, we went through the trials and tribulations of all of it, but now we’re at this point where we were able to take our time writing the record, and we had an amazing time doing it.

We recorded 50 songs … 50 songs! It took us almost a year and a half. I wasn’t under pressure. I wasn’t under a time restraint. We just had a great time recording music, and when we felt like it was done, it was done. We had 12 songs that we felt good about, that had a good flow and that really represented us and put it on the record and that’s what we wanted to represent us. That’s what we wanted to put out into the universe. So I hope that maybe it catches on, and I do think it will catch on, because the music industry is changing so radically and I think that these kids are going to be doing more and more on their own, and I think the music is going to change with that. There’s a lot of talent out there. There really is, and the way the industry is now, it’s freaking beautiful. It’s amazing. I love it. I love it. It’s giving the power back to the artist. And that’s the way it should be. That’s the way it should be. I think the music that the world is going to see now, it’s going to blow people’s minds. It’s going to blow people’s minds. So that’s what I would like to do. I can’t wait to get on to our second record.

Our management and Sony and everybody and Sony Red, it’s like you guys for the next year and a half we just want you to tour the shit out of this album. And I’m like, “Well, that’s cool. I love touring, too.” But creatively, I’m like, “Aaaahhhh …” I can’t wait to do this next record. There are so many songs I want to get out there. So, it’s exciting. It’s exciting, and I think it’s going to catch on, I really do. And I hope that we can influence a lot of these younger artists out there to follow what we’re doing. I think that it’ll be good for the public to hear, to change it up and hear that quality of music coming from these new artists, these up-and-coming artists.

No comments:

Post a Comment