June 26, 2013 Interview – Vinnie Dombroski of Sponge
During the 1990s grunge rock ruled the radio with bands such as Nirvana, Alice In Chains, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden and many more. Among this wave of Seattle bands was Detroit Michigan based alternative rock band Sponge. Breaking the trends at the time with their more classic approach to rock n roll and mega hit “Plowed.” Their debut Rotting Piñata was a major success and certified gold. Since that time Sponge have released 6 more albums including their latest offering Stop The Bleeding. Recently we sat down with lead singer and song writer Vinnie Dombroski for a in depth look at the history of Sponge, their legacy and key to success.
Crypticrock.com-You formed Sponge back in 1991 and your debut album Rotting Piñata was a major success and certified gold. The album is still popular 19 years later. How does it feel to have such a successful album after all this time?
Vinnie Dombroski- I guess I should start by saying who would have thought? We were one of thousands of bands making records. Certainly few of that that signed a major deal. Come all this time later there is very many of those bands left. When you look at it in that perspective it makes me know how fortunate we are, how lucky we are still to have songs on rock radio around the country, and still part of a rock staple. We would never have predicted a song like Plowed at that time, given what was on radio at that time, to be such an enduring song. I think I can speak for the whole band that we feel pretty fortunate.
Crypticrock.com- Yea that’s a very big accomplish and you should be really proud. Now the band has gone through various line-up changes over the years but you have kept Sponge alive. Was it difficult to change the chemistry of the band?
Vinnie Dombroski- I think the writing process has been a little bit different. In that years ago I had two different guitar players constantly bouncing ideas off me, and we would spend a considerable amount of time working things out in a rehearsal studio. These days the fellows toss ideas my way, but it’s not as much of the wood shed in the rehearsal studio as much as it’s demoing stuff out in the home studios and finishing them up in a more equipped type studio. I guess the wood shed type thing is probably different. I think more of the writing responsibilities certainly fall on my shoulders, so that’s a bit different as well.
Crypticrock.com- Now you have a new album out entitled “Stop The Bleeding” which came out in May. What was the writing process like for this album?
Vinnie Dombroski- We started an EP called Destroy The Boy which had 5 songs on it. Destroy The Boy, Come In From The Rain, Dare To Breath, Before The End. Those songs were pretty much done with Tim who produced our first two records. It was pretty much Tim and myself who built those tracks. We would bring in some of the other guys for a particular other job, but it was pretty much Tim and I working in the studio together. So we started with that and I was asking myself do I really want to make whole records anymore? You know people buy songs they don’t by records. Some of the other tracks that round out the Stop The Bleeding record were based on efforts of just making songs that we were considering putting in movies or people that would come to us and say we need a particular track for this movie scene and knock something together. We accumulated enough of these things to say well maybe we can put together one last Sponge record. I say last Sponge record because who knows. I don’t know if we will make another record in this song related world or this song buying world. I didn’t really consider making a record up until the time we kind of had all the material done and I said well lets try this once again.
Crypticrock.com- The new album is very good with a lot of great tracks. You bring that up how it’s kind of a single song driven world. To me that’s kind of depressing because there is nothing like a great album. With all that said how do you find fans are responding to it?
Vinnie Dombroski- Really good… really good. We are out playing song called “Fade From View” currently and man they react really positive to that. They react through their enthusiasm when they hear and they applaud. We are selling the record at our shows, you can’t get the record online yet. People respond by purchasing their advanced copy of the record.
Crypticrock.com- That is great that your selling physical copies. You’re currently on the Summerland 2013 tour with Everclear, Live, and Filter. How is the tour going for you guys?
Vinnie Dombroski- Really great. It’s great to be out there with a bunch of bands that have been doing it and they’ve done it for years. So what you have is pretty much the best of the best. The best people that have been out there touring for years, the best crew people that have been out there for years doing it. So there is just no bullshit you know what I mean, it’s not like people out there with a fragile ego that’s going to get hurt. Everybody has been out there doing it for a long time and I’m always of the humble opinion that if you’ve been doing it for a long time you must be doing something right and you have to be a pretty decent group of guys. The crowds have been good, the bands are great, it’s a really pleasuring being out there with everybody.
Cryptocrock.com- I was at the show last week and it was great. Will you be going on a headlining tour to support the new album as well so fans can see a long set?
Vinnie Dombroski- That’s what we’ve been talking about. That will probably occur sometime in September. So most likely September.
Crypticrock.com- Back in 1996 Sponge had a chance to open the Kiss reunion tour and play one of the last concerts at legendary Tiger Stadium. Now being from the Detroit Michigan area how surreal of a experience was that for you?
Vinnie Dombroski- It was kind of like a last minute dream come true. At the time we thought it was some of the last Kiss shows that were going to happen. Of course they went on many years to perform after that. Sadly enough it was maybe the last show Alice In Chains did with Layne. We had a chance to hang out with Layne, Jerry, Shawn, and Mike. In matter of fact we went to a BBQ with them after the show that night together. Layne wasn’t with everyone but we did get a chance to hang out with Layne before the show. He seemed in good health and in good spirits. Nobody would have predicted that it would be one of the last shows or the last show that they were going to play.
Crypticrock.com- Wow, that is some pretty crazy stuff. One of the things that stand out about Sponge is your stage presence. You are very much a classic front man providing energy to the crowd. With that said, tell me what some of your musical influences are?
Vinnie Dombroski- Well I think any of us guys in the band, past members included, we were always big fans of pretty stripped down rock. Guitar, bass, drum kind of thing, vocals. We were always into Cooper or Aerosmith, or Iggy or Bowie for that matter. Rick with Bowie back in the days of Ziggie Stardust was always a plus. That kind of chemistry, the guitar player singer type thing, and what those particular front people did for those bands was the focal point of the band energy going out. We never viewed ourselves any differently, especially in the time back in the day when the alternative format existed. There wasn’t a lot of that thing going on at the time. You certainly had guys fronting bands but not in the classic sense that we were all big fans of.
Crypticrock.com- You definitely displayed that over the years and that is what stood out about Sponge. Now being involved in the music industry for nearly 22 years and having released 7 full length albums with Sponge you are somewhat of a rock veteran. What are some key things you have learned over the years regarding the music industry and what would be some advice you would give to newer bands starting out?
Vinnie Dombroski- I think first and foremost at the end of the day you’re on your own. I think a lot of people get this idea that a major label comes along and does everything for you. Record your record, get you out on the road, do all these things for you when in essences these are all your ideas. We started making the Rotten Piñata record long before Sony Records got involved. We were recording the whole thing, a good majority of that record was recorded before they had gotten involved. They heard what we had done when they finally did get involved and they let us finish up the record. We had always been very proactive in the early days of Sponge. Even the previous band Loud House, we were always very proactive in recording video, booking our own gigs, all these kinds of things. What that does for you really is maintains a great amount of control of your career, artist control of your career, ownership of masters and what not. I can’t stress enough for younger bands there’s no magic wand. You have to get out there , you have to do it for yourself, you have to do it for your band and at the end of the day maintain so much control over what it is you do artistically and artistic visions. There’s no magic wand, there’s no magic man, it’s up to you and your band.
Crypticrock.com- I agree with you, it’s obvious that you’ve done that over the years because Sponge has been around a long time. My last question for you is regarding films. Crypticrock.com is a rock/metal and horror news site so we like to focus on all genres. Are you a fan of horror films and if so what are some of your favorite horror films?
Vinnie Dombroski- If I was a fan of any horror movies that I could think of right off the top of my head easy may have been some of the old Dr. Phibes movies with Vincent Price. Anything with Peter Cushing I always like. I’m going way back though man. I know there are obviously many movies from that point forward that are certainly worth mentioning. When I think back in the time when I was watching a lot of movies, I’ll never forget in Dr. Phibes what can be creepier than a guy grinding up somebody’s pet poodles and feeding them those dogs, it’s just creepy. Other devious ways Dr. Phibes would kill people, like pouring honey through a hole through somebody’s bedroom ceiling and pouring ants down to completely eat the skin off somebody, or sand blasting somebody in their vehicle, just great stuff.
Cryticrock.com- Vincent price is a legend, the voice, the presence he provided on screen. Speaking of that movie, they are talking about remaking that.
Vinnie Dombroski- (Laughs) Who’s going to do it?
Cryptirock.com- I think they are saying Tim Burton is going to do and Johnny Depp is going to play the role of Dr. Phibes.
Vinnie Dombroski- Oh no, you are kidding.
Cryticrock.com- I don’t know man, being a horror fan man I don’t particular like remakes. I like the originals and I personally like the original. I think that it’s overkill but that’s what they are doing with every movie now a days, they are remaking everything.
Vinnie Dombroski- You know what though, I think there are so many people that could appreciate this whole series of Dr. Phibes movies and I won’t be surprised that Johnny Depp would be involved. It could bring it to a whole new level and a whole new audience. I certainly did enjoy those movies, and a matter of fact I know Alice Cooper was a big Vincent Price fan.
Crypticrock.com- That definitely shows in his stage show. What about 70’s horror is there anything the 70’s you liked? The 70’s is when it really started to get more graphic.
Vinnie Dombroski- Stuff like Texas Chainsaw Massacre era, I still have a tough time watching that stuff today. That’s how much the movie freaked me out, that maybe being the pinnacle at the time.
Crypticrock.com- That movie still holds up today. I think something that makes it hold up is the grittiness of it, the raw film.
Vinnie Dombroski- Absolutely, there’s no question about it. I came from an era where less is more. Especially with some of those Dr. Phibes flicks. These days the special effects are so unbelievable, it’s like your there. I guess it’s even more disturbing.