The Raskins: Brothers in arms (Part 2)

NYC siblings poised for something big
By Peter Lindblad

The Raskins - S/T 2014
In light of recent news of a possible reunion of The Kinks, it's interesting that another brotherly combination, The Raskins, is just starting to make waves in the world of rock 'n' roll.

Their self-titled debut album is out now, and it's a stylish, high-energy fireball of East Coast retro-rock, outfitted with surefire hooks, attitude to spare and an electric New York City vibe that's impossible to deny. Tracks like the first single "We Had It All" are impossibly catchy, owing to their ability to pen well-crafted pop-rock that sets pulses racing.

Twin siblings Logan and Roger Raskin, the sons of well-known Broadway singer Tommy Raskin and a renowned jazz/blues singer in Judith Raskin, have already made a name for themselves writing and recording music for TV and movies. Having established their own record label, MIRAL Records, they're now ready to unleash their turbocharged, guitar-driven sound on the world, performing on the same stages as Scott Weiland and Saving Abel.

In Part 2 of our interview, Logan Raskins talks about his influences, what it's like working with his brother, the making of their first record and their experiences creating music for movie and TV.

How long as brothers have you been making music and with the history in music of sibling combos, you’ve probably been asked this a thousand times, but does that make it easier or harder for you guys?
Logan Raskin: Well, I mean, I grew up in a musical family. My dad was a big Broadway singer. He did all the shows on Broadway. “West Side Story,” “South Pacific,” “Oklahoma,” “Annie Get Your Gun,” “Damn Yankees” – my dad did all of those. I grew up going to see my dad in all those shows, and my mom was a big jazz singer in the city, and she traveled all over doing that. It was pretty much inevitable that we were going to fall into the music industry, so the three brothers growing up … my mom had three boys in one year. And the three of us just always grew up doing music together, singing together. One of the first rock concerts I ever saw my parents took the three of us to see Ray Charles at Eisenhower Park. That was the first show I’d ever seen. I saw Ray Charles playing at that piano, man, I was just like, “Damn … mom, you’ve got to get me a piano.” And she said, “Yeah? All right.” And she stuck a piano in my room. I had a piano in my bedroom for the next 14 years.

So I was composing music from when I was six, just fiddling around on the piano and writing these songs. So we grew up writing music together, my brothers and I, doing little talent shows and acoustic shows for the family. So we were raised on that, but getting the opportunity to do it on this level with my twin brother Roger is pretty amazing. I mean we do everything together. We live together. We write and record music together. We bounce ideas off each other. It’s pretty amazing. It’s not always sunflowers and sunshine and dandelions and roses. We go through our battles. We’re guys writing music. We fight, we have our ups and downs, but at the end of the day, it’s amazing. I always have someone I can rely on, and I always have someone I can trust and we bounce ideas off each other, creatively and emotionally, and it’s incredible. And he gives me his honest opinion.

That means a lot to me, especially as a songwriter. What’s funny with Roger and I, our personalities, even though we’re twins, are so different, and it shows in our writing styles and it makes for an interesting combination when we combine our music. Sometimes we write music together, sometimes we write music separately. Sometimes we have partially written songs and we give them to each other and we finish each other’s songs. So it’s been a very cool relationship in that regard, being able to do music with your brother like that, and we’re starting to really make it work for us. We’re starting to have a little bit of success, and who knows what the future is going to bring for us? We want to keep it going.

The Raskins - We
Had It All single
What was the easiest song on the new album to write and what was the hardest?
LR: That’s a good question. I think there’s a song on the album that we wrote, “Where Do We Go from Here?” I was always playing two really simple chords in the song, and before we wrote the song, I was always feeling around like a C or a D chord, and I was just kind of playing with these opening chords, and I came up with this cool melody with these two chords, and I was just, “It’s just so simple. I don’t know if I want to write a song that simple. There should be more chord structure to it.” So I just put it to the side, but I couldn’t get the melody that I was singing over and those chords out of my head, and I just said, “You know what? Let me bring it into the studio, and throw it up in a session and see what happens.” And literally, I probably wrote the song and it took me a matter of 10 minutes.

It trips you out a little bit to write a song that quickly, and you say to yourself, “It can’t be that good  to write a song that quick.” But I couldn’t get it out of my head, couldn’t get the melody out of my head, so we put it into a session and starting layering guitars over the thing, and I was just blown away at the melody we were doing layering it. And then when we started doing the vocals, the hair just started standing up on my neck, and it ended up being one of my favorite songs on the record. We haven’t played it out yet, but we’ve prepared it, we’ve prepared to play it out and we have it prepped for this tour. We haven’t played it yet. I sure hope we get to play it, because it’s just amazing. I mean, because we have a certain amount of time we have to keep in for our set list, it’s a longer song, but yeah, it’s just funny. It’s one of my favorite songs on the record. I love playing it acoustically, I love playing it electrically, I love singing it. It feels so good to me, and the song was written in an instant.

So there’s that, but I would also probably say that one of the last songs we wrote, “Scream Out Loud,” was probably the last song that came to the table, and it was actually a song that Roger and I got our bass player involved in, and he had this really aggressive riff that I was just like, “Wow! This is really different and really, really cool.” He was just like, “Yeah, but it’s not really in you guys’ style,” and his name is Johnny Martin, and I said, “Johnny, I tend to disagree with you on that.”  I mean, my whole concept behind this record is like, “Look, I don’t want to … it’s a rock song. Just because the riff is a little different doesn’t mean … Let me get my hands on it.” So I took the riff and we brought it into the studio, and it took a long time for us, because the style was a little bit different than what we were more used to, because it was a little more of a modern-rock kind of a riff – almost had kind of a drop beat kind of a feel to it. It’s just something we don’t do too much of, but I do like it. So, it took a while, man. I sat with that song for honestly about a month, and failing with different melodies, I wasn’t sure if I could go aggressive, but finally, it’s just one of the songs we banged out and we just chipped away at it and got to a point where it just felt so good to me (laughs). And I said, “Johnny, congratulations. You’re making the record.” He couldn’t believe it, you know? I love writing with other people, too. Roger and I, we’re open to that. We’re not those guys where we’re like, “Well, we’re going to write all the music.” I’m just a music lover, and on this second record, I tend to do a lot more of that by the way.

What’s different about writing a rock song for yourselves as The Raskins as opposed to what you were doing writing music for shows?
LR: Well, I mean, there’s a huge difference. And like I was saying earlier in our conversation, when you’re writing for like a film, basically they’re telling you what they want. You’re writing for someone else. They’re giving you a scene to a movie, or something like for a movie like “Middle of Nowhere” we did with Susan Sarandon, they basically … like the trailer we did, they wanted like a love song, but they wanted something like an up-tempo love song. And I was like, “Oh, that’s interesting,” because like normally, you think of love songs, the first thing that comes to my mind is a slower ballad kind of thing, which we have a lot of that. We get requested a lot times for this slower ballad, love song kind of thing. They wanted the up-tempo one, and I didn’t really have something like that, so we had to write a song and we wrote this song called “Kiss You One More Time,” and it was actually used as the trailer for that movie, “Middle of Nowhere,” which is actually on Showtime right now. It’s airing on cable right now, and we actually play it in our set. It’s a song that’s not off of our album, but it’s such a cool song, like I love this song. And I showed it to the guys, and we played it (laughs), and they’re like, “We’ve got to play that song.” We played it last night. I was telling all the fans, “Hey, this song’s not on the record, but it’s a song we wrote for this movie ‘Middle Of Nowhere,’ and we hope you dig it.'"

And it went over really well. I got to play this song on the Scott Weiland tour. It was cool. It was cool, but yeah, so when you’re writing for someone else that’s a client, you kind of disassociate from it and just basically, it’s writing for them. You’re trying to please the client. And it took me a while to adjust to that, but at the end of the day, I loved doing it. It’s kind of a trip, but look, if the client’s happy, I’m happy. That’s the whole point of it. And it’s still very cool, I mean, to see your stuff on TV on “CSI” or on commercials or sitcoms, or on some of these reality shows or whatever, on the big screen, it’s so gratifying on any level, so just accomplishing that is cool in and of itself, but yeah, obviously, when we’re writing our own music, there’s a lot more emotion attached to it and I’m writing exactly what I want.

You know, my brother and I, we mixed this whole record. Not only did we record it, we mixed it ourselves. I just didn’t want to entrust it into the hands of … look, there are some killer mix guys out there. There are guys that’ll blow me out of the water. I know that. I pull my hair out with that concept sometimes, because trying to get across what it is I want or how I want it to sound, sometimes it’s a painstaking process. So, being able to mix a record on your own, some songs I mixed in a day, some songs it’s taken me three weeks and just going back with headphones at three o’clock in the morning, just really tweaking out on it. I love doing that, where if I’m writing for someone, I still put in that kind of attention, but when they’re happy with it, I’m happy, where they look at it like it’s like a product. They’re like, “It’s great, it’s done.” I’m like, “Well, I think we should …” And they say, “No, no, no. It’s done. This is perfect. It’s exactly what we want.” And I’m like, “Oh, okay,” where I would have done this, I would done this, I would have done that, but that’s not the case. So, yeah, there’s definitely a big difference between the two.

You mentioned you still have your vinyl. What would you say are the five most influential albums on you?
LR: Ah, that’s the best question in the world. It’s an easy question to answer.

I would think it’d be tough.
LR: Let me put it to you like this. The first rock concert I went to was, as I told you, Ray Charles, but probably the one that made me want to be a rock ‘n’ roll musician, my parents took my brother and I to KISS and Judas Priest when I was 8 years old. And they took us to the Nassau Coliseum in New York to see KISS and Judas Priest opened up, and we sat in the last row, but it changed my life. And being in New York, it’s one of those bands coming out of New York at the time that made me want to be a rock musician. One of the first vinyl records I ever bought was KISS Alive, but actually, this is kind of random, but these are the first two albums I ever bought on vinyl – KISS Alive was the first, with the Bay City Rollers (laughs) … I don’t know why, but I loved those guys’ image, man. I loved the image, I loved their sound (laughs) … I thought, “Man, those guys are cool.” So, yeah, the Bay City Rollers. Queen, News of the World was it for me. Foreigner, Double Vision – huge for me. And then, of course, Meat Loaf, Bat Out of Hell. Those are my first, and I think there may have been a Styx Grand Illusion in there, as well.

I think that was the first album I ever bought with my own money was Grand Illusion.
LR: Right? Grand Illusion, man … I love that record. Then it got crazy. Then I started getting into all my punk stuff, like The Stooges, The Ramones, and then it just got crazy – the Velvet Underground, The Plasmatics. Yeah, I went nuts for all that stuff. But I think those are the biggest influences, yeah. I mean, like KISS, Styx, Queen, Foreigner, Meat Loaf – I mean those are my biggest influences coming up. And that includes everything from AC/DC to Van Halen to Zeppelin, although funny enough with me, I didn’t get heavily into Zeppelin, and I didn’t get heavily into for instance Zeppelin, the Rolling Stones and the Beatles, which, of course, everybody knows about. I don’t care. I mean if you’re a rock musician, you’re into those bands, and of course, I am. But at that age, I didn’t understand the music – couldn’t wrap my head around it. It didn’t mean anything to me. I didn’t connect with Zeppelin until later on. I didn’t connect with the Rolling Stones until … and I love the Rolling Stones, love those guys, love the music, but until I matured, I didn’t connect with it until a little bit later in life, but those are my first albums, and then, of course, The Beatles. And the Beatles … I was listening to them at a young age and I just didn’t get it. I used to say to my friends, I was upset … my older sister was listening to them – The Beatles, man! And I just didn’t connect with it at a young age. Of course, when I got older, the Beatles were everything. But yeah, those were some of the first bands for me.

And you two guys being songwriters, those are some of your favorite songwriters as well.
LR: No question about it. But I think like … Simon & Garfunkel were a big influence on me. I like the simplicity of those guys, but what really appeals to my brother and I were melodies, not so much bands that were ripping out. I can’t say I was heavily blues influenced, though I liked the blues. My mom was a real good blues singer and jazz singer, and I always heard it from her growing up. To me, it was just like eating breakfast in the morning. You eat your cereal in the morning? Yeah, I heard Mel Torme or Tom Jones. I’m eating my cereal and that’s what I heard. So it was just something I related to,  but it just kind of reminded me of when I was young and hearing those rock bands and those melodies … Roger and I were so into melodies and people who had great voices and great harmonies, which is probably why we love Simon & Garfunkel, hearing those harmonies that they did. I loved it, and we try to do that to this day. We rock out and we’re onstage, the pedal is to the metal, and we’re rocking out hard, but our choruses hit and we’re doing harmonies and we’re in sync with each other. 

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