by Alexandra Mrozowska
– Columnist —
Bob Dee and his band Petro should be kept on radar by all modern melodic rock fans – an all-in-one guide to their output, the retrospective album Burning Rain having finally seen the light of day. It was a good occasion for Hardrock Haven to catch up with Bob and ask him a few things about the album, his career, a songwriting collaboration with Desmond Child and a lot more.
Hardrock Haven: Welcome to Hardrock Haven! Can you introduce yourself and your band to these of our readers who haven’t heard about you yet?
Bob Dee: My name’s Bob Dee, I’m a singer/songwriter living in New York City. I have a band called Petro – TJ Jordan on guitar, Scott Campbell on drums and a new edition on bass for touring, Alison Jones (she can be seen in my “Lips That Heal” video). We have a sound reminiscent of Cheap Trick – only heavier, with a wall of sound.
Hardrock Haven: Many reviewers and rock writers point out to the supposed oddness of your moniker – wouldn’t it be easier if you performed as Bob Dee, not ‘Bob Dee with Petro’?
Bob Dee: I have been called Bobby Dee since high school and I shortened it to Bob Dee (my real name is Bob Del Buono, which means “of the good” in Italian). I couldn’t get the rights to Bob Dee, so I had to come up with a band name. I was traveling in Europe and all of the fuel was called Petrol, so I thought I would take the ‘l’ off and make it Petro. So now I own the rights to the full name, Bob Dee with Petro.
Hardrock Haven: How would you describe your sound? What are your inspirations and musical influences?
Bob Dee: I’ve been described as the new Cheap Trick, one reviewer called me ‘The Voice of Hope” and the other said I sound like the Goo Goo Dolls. I believe that what makes up our sound is that we tune down two whole steps to a “C” this makes us sound real heavy live and on top of that we add a pop chorus. Fans are blown away by our wall of sound when they see us live!
Hardrock Haven: Now to the topic of Burning Rain; what’s the actual reason behind releasing a greatest hits compilation? Was it a kind of summary of your artistic output so far?
Bob Dee: What a great question! The reason is that I’ve been putting out my CDs for a long time and fans kept on writing to me from around the world, asking “where can I find this song, or this single”. They wanted their favorite songs all on one CD – a greatest hits retrospective CD, a collection of my best songs. And yes, Burning Rain is a summary of my artistic output indeed.
Hardrock Haven: Burning Rain, the retrospective album we’ve just mentioned, is a compilation of 20 songs – the number that’s actually pretty astounding. Why so many songs? What were the reasons behind the choices of particular songs?
Bob Dee: Yes, there are too many songs as some reviewers have stated, but I went by what the fans wanted. I get so much fan mail from around the world – people from some parts of the world like more pop-oriented songs, the other – heavy songs. So I was trying to please everyone with one album. Plus there’s the film that comes with the CD, The Making of Burning Rain – this, directed by Peter Haas, sums up my career. And more, there’s also fan footage by Keef of my Japan tour in support of Burning Rain that comes with it.
Hardrock Haven: I believe there are some previously unreleased tracks on Burning Rain as well. Can you tell us more about them?
Bob Dee: Yes, I put the three new songs on the album. The new single “Obsession” seems to be a hit getting so much airplay around the world – it’s my favorite song so far. “In A World” rocks live and with “Breathe” we tried to make a bit of a huge ‘80s chorus. Andy Baldwin mixed and mastered it and made it sound huge (he does all of mastering of my music at his Rola Pola Studios in Brooklyn, NY).
Hardrock Haven: Which of the songs on the album you’d pick as the “best of the best,” the album’s highlights?
Bob Dee: The best of the best would be “Outta My Face” – that’s my first single ever that was on Top 10 in Asia. “We Are Stars” is also cool; it was featured in ‘Relix’ magazine and it’s getting airplay now with a cool DJ named Jim Mangiarella aka DJ Gringo in Mexico (he tells me the song is getting major airplay and wants to bring the band down to Mexico to play a tour). I also like “Lips That Heal”, awesome video and a song in which I played keyboards.
Hardrock Haven: Would you recommend people who just got to know your music to start from Burning Rain, or rather to dig deeper into your past for the regular studio albums?
Bob Dee: Critics always say it takes a lifetime to write your first album and I believe my first CD started all of my success. Bullets & Bandaids has so many cool songs on it, like “Outta My Face” or “Summertime” … It was the first time I ever wrote, sang and played all of the instruments, so I would recommend starting from this CD to see where my voice and true sound came from.
Hardrock Haven: Recently, you toured Japan. Is rock music still popular in the Country of Cherry Blossoms? What are your personal impressions of the country and the people?
Bob Dee: Yes, Japan totally rocks! I always thought it was a little more pop but we rocked hard and we got an encore on a Saturday night. The Japanese fans are awesome! I get the most fan mail from them, they write to me, draw the images of me and send me totally cool things. I had one fan make a full color manga comic with images of me and a model Victoria Lee (who can be seen in many of my videos and photos). I put the manga on my website and it sold out.
Hardrock Haven: Another important moment of your career was your performance at SXSW Music Festival in Austin, Texas. What are your memories of this experience?
Bob Dee: SXSW was amazing, I recommend it to every band; it’s just a total party, every club is packed and people are there to listen. I played with a really awesome guitar player from Austin, Texas named Bradley Kopp … wow. He really rocked the house! I worked with a great promoter down there, named Alexia and Lawrence with Music Gorilla. Great people and a great experience!
Hardrock Haven: If asked for the most important moment of your career, what would you pick?
Bob Dee: Hmm, the most important moment of my career would probably be signing my first major deal with RCA Records; we signed a huge deal for half a million dollars and it was an awesome moment in my life. But on a personal level, the coolest moment was when I recently played an outdoor festival in my home town of Utica in upstate N.Y. We set up a merchandise table and my mom and dad, and my brother John, and my nephew Nick came to the show. My mom and dad and my brother wore their laminates and all sat at the merchandise table so proud. It really made me happy.
Hardrock Haven: Prior to this, you had a chance to collaborate with Desmond Child (who helped Bon Jovi, KISS, Aerosmith, as well as Ricky Martin and Tina Turner). How did you hook up with Desmond?
Bob Dee: Desmond Child was involved in the RCA deal, we were working with songwriters from all over the world – even Diane Warren was sending songs to us! I co-wrote a cool song with the singer Lauralei Combs and we needed a bridge, so Desmond came in and wrote a cool bridge to make the song “A Simple Heart” a hit single.
Hardrock Haven: In the past you were the member of such bands as Tokyo and Beg, Borrow and Steel. Can you tell us more about these bands and your past musical endeavors?
Bob Dee: Tokyo was a band I played in when I was just starting out, the band was from Ithaca, NY. We toured the east coast and Canada through the ‘80s the days when we just toured for years and years. The band featured a cool singer who just passed away named Jerry Barber and we had a cool three guitar wall of sound with Shane French, Danny Stillwell and me, plus Dave Halton on bass and Jay Harmon on drums; we were like Def Leppard. Beg Borrow and Steel was the band signed to RCA records, we were like Aerosmith with a beautiful singer named Lauralei. The coolest thing was the bass player Jack Daley went on to be Lenny Kravitz bass player
Hardrock Haven: Back to the present – your style is often compared to Cheap Trick music-wise. Are you happy with such comparisons? Do you agree with them?
Bob Dee: I am happy to be compared to Cheap Trick. I love that band, I personally believe I have my own voice and sound, people dig it. I am just happy that they like to hear me sing
Hardrock Haven: What are your influences? How did the adventure with music start, whom you’d consider influential bands/artists of your early period?
Bob Dee: Well, it’s funny that I write pop songs but I listen to bands like HIM or Metallica – still, it helps me get rockin’ and to play my guitar loud! My main influence growing up were KISS … they influenced me like crazy. I also loved Deep Purple and Black Sabbath.
Hardrock Haven: Is there anyone you’d like to share the stage with in the future? Any names in particular?
Bob Dee: Sharing the stage with HIM in Europe would be awesome! And KISS would be a dream come true. I knew Eric Singer, the current drummer of KISS, when he was in Badlands; he was trying to get me a gig for awhile, he’s a real cool guy.
Hardrock Haven: What are you up to at the moment? What are your plans for the future?
Bob Dee: I just recorded a new single “Romeo” with some musicians living in my hometown – a drummer named Kelly Yacco and a bass player Scott Henderson. We recorded in this cool studio called Big Blue North based in Utica, NY (they have a Neve board!). The studio is operated by Tim Gillis, Pam and Jeff, the latter being the sound engineer. I am going to Greece in May and the UK tour is in the works as we speak. We also got asked to play in Japan again, plus now adding a China tour dates! I feel so blessed to be playing my music around the world!
Hardrock Haven: Thank you for the interview! Is there anything you’d like to add in the end, maybe a word or two for our readers?
Bob Dee: Thank you Alexandra for taking the time to interview me! I’m very honored to be a part of Hardrock Haven. Your questions are awesome and you’re the first interviewer to actually ask why so many songs so that you clear up the mystery behind Burning Rain. To my fans and new fans reading this, a “thank you” for supporting me for all these years. If it hadn’t been for the fans, I wouldn’t be here today. I’ll be playing around the world this year – Mexico, the UK, Japan, China … I hope to rock in a city near you!
Visit the band online: http://www.bobdeewithpetro.com/