Cryptkeeper Five

Trenton Makes ... The World Takes

In its early days, rock 'n' roll, no matter how straightforward, always broke exciting new ground. Radio singles brought life to a teenage generation searching for something new.

This continued for the next few generations, but eventually succumbed and became more corporate and profit-based. While the world has seen many great bands since rock's inception, the responsibility in finding them has been on the listener. The record companies the public "hires" to do this have become more focused on formulating its next cash cliché.

As rigor mortis sets in on the radio and rock receives less airplay, Cryptkeeper Five dares to dig right into its roots with an imagination-stimulating sound.

The band plays a new brand of rock, drawing from some of its rawest composers like Chuck Berry, Eddie Cochran and Joey Ramone. The Sun session, rockabilly guitar licks of Scotty Engle and Jimmy Ray Roswell flutter over the crafty beats of drummer D. T. Graves and punk/rockabilly ping-ponging bass of Gioacchino Arnone. Keyboardist Nick and saxophonist Blue Madigan provide the added color, while singer Johnny's passionate by-the-note vocals give an eerie earthiness to the group's sound.

C5 draws from the past still with a spontaneity that leaves the listener wondering what they'll do in the future. Cryptkeeper Five's infectious jukebox mosh and catchy hooks stand out rebelliously as rock did in the 50's. It captures much of the music's early flavor with a taste of the great punk of the 70's. Simple, yet meaningful, songs are the spirit and focus of this Trenton band.

Cryptkeeper Five's new CD, "Trenton Makes The Cryptkeeper Five" contains warp-speed rockers, like opener "Little Girl," and Happy Days prom promenades, like "Our Last Goodbye." "Get in the Mood" is so catchy it could even put a smile on Glen Danzig's face.

If Cryptkeeper Five continues writing and playing with the sincerity it has displayed so far, they will re-establish the spirit of rock 'n' roll at whatever bar, club or radio station that spreads its music.

Chorus and Verse conducted our exclusive interview with Johnny (vox), D.T. Graves (drums), Jimmy Ray Roswell (guitar) and Nick (piano).

How did The Cryptkeeper Five develop a more punk rock, rockabilly sound?

Johnny: I grew up listening to my pops jukebox in our basement. He has songs on it like "Angel Baby" by Rosie and the Originals, "Be My Baby" by the Ronettes, and "Around & Around" by Chuck Berry. Those are the earliest songs I can remember impacting my life. Then I got introduced to The Ramones, who are the number one reason I got into rock and roll, besides falling head-over-heels for Eddie and the Cruisers. After listening to them, I said 'This is what I want, I wanna be in a band that sounds like Chuck Berry meets the Ramones.'

Do you think that the old rock and roll element in your music helps broaden your audience range to an older crowd?

D.T.: I think the rock and roll element alone lends itself to all types of people, including the older crowd. All the great genres of rock: 50's rock, the girl groups of the 60's, the 70's punk, Jersey shore rock. They all tend to rely on the same qualities. They tap into something that makes your heart skip a beat or two, the magical quality. So, as long as people are open to music, they'll embrace it.

Does it surprise you that you can draw a younger crowd to this style of music?

D.T.: Yes and no. I'm sometimes surprised that younger kids dig us, but then I realize that if they don't like it right away, they probably haven't heard good rock and roll in a long while. They've been fed a long diet of pre-packaged, processed, bland music. It's akin to feeding someone budget gourmets for 17 years and then having them eat a fatty steak. They're probably gonna get a tummy ache.

Did you guys listen to a lot of music different from what your peers were listening to when you were younger?

Nick: I think we were all brought up to listen to what we liked and not just what everyone else liked. And, I think that shows in our music.

Johnny: I listened to a lot of different music growing up, not what all my pals listened to. Like I said, when I was young I really liked the 50's and 60's rock and roll. Then, when I got into my teens, I got into hard rock and metal, like Alice Cooper, Gwar and Danzig. Then, punk rock. For example, the Ramones, the Misfits and the Cramps. I never really cared what people thought. I find myself now at full circle, listening to CD versions of what's on my jukebox: Springsteen, a lot of 50's and 60's rock. I still love the Ramones.

God bless rock and roll.

What contemporary groups do you listen to?

Johnny: I dig Rocket From the Crypt, Mike Ness and Social Distortion, the Green Goblyn Project. I like the new Springsteen, the new Joey Ramone.

There are some random songs on the radio I dig, but other than that, not much.

Jimmy: I always loved the Ramones and U2, who, without them, I wouldn't be playing rock and roll.

I know what your thinking, two totally different bands. But, that's ok.

I'm also influenced by RFTC and the Green Goblyn Project.

What is the key to the creation of your music? Who does most of the writing as far as music is concerned? Who writes your lyrics?

Johnny: I pretty much write the songs. D.T. has written a few songs like, "Just Because", "For Love" and this really cool new one called, "Let Go." But, I've written the majority of the basic tracks.

I bring 'em to the band and let them do their thing, and most of the time it works out great.

Is there anything you consciously do sound-wise to create a more raw sound?

D.T.: We try not to do anything too consciously in this band. As lame as it might sound, we try as much as possible to rely on inspiration rather than perspiration. We let the music move us as it will. Along the same line, is the fact that we did evolve from a straight-ahead punk rock band. And, one of the biggest calling cards of punk is the stripped-down, raw quality - not to be confused with just sounding like shit.

What do your lyrics tend to be about?

Johnny: Mainly normal day life, girls, coping, sex, loss, ex-girls, hate, love, all that shit.

D.T.: Life in general. All lyrics revolve around that in some way. People look to each other to connect and find out how they deal with life's ups and downs.

Do you think raw, rock and roll has died out? If so, do you think it will come back?

Nick: It's been gone for quite a while, but I think the whole garage rock scene shows that people want that rawness back. The garage rock may just be a passing trend, but it's definitely a stepping-stone to something new. I think that something is us.

Jimmy: No way, Jose! Rock 'n' roll will never die. I agree, rock isn't that new big thing on MTV or radio, but it always comes back.

Like Jason Voorhees from "Friday the 13th." He keeps coming back!

How does your style of music fit into the current rock scene?

Jimmy: Hmmm, it really doesn't.

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Josh Davidson

Josh Davidson has written music feature articles for Jersey Style and served as the Jersey Shore rock columnist for Steppin' Out Magazine. Other music writing credits include Aquarian Weekly, Jersey Beat, Backstreets and He has written free-lance for the Asbury Park Press' Community Sports section and has written featured articles for its news section, as well as covering campus news and sports weekly for the Signal, the College of New Jersey's (formerly Trenton State College) student newspaper. He has worked as a staff writer for The Independent, and his work for Greater Media Newspapers has also been published in the News Transcript. He is a former beat reporter for the Ocean County Observer who presently is a news writer for Symbolic Systems Inc. supporting the US Army's Knowledge Center. His music writing covers a vast range of topics, from the current cover band craze, highs and lows of the original scene, to the early days of the Jersey Shore rock scene in Asbury Park. He is also a musician, having written hundreds of songs as a singer/songwriter, and playing them out as a solo/acoustic artist. He has also played with cover bands, including It Doesn't Matter, and several original bands, including as the guitarist for the solo project of singer/songwriter Dave Eric. He continues to work on solo material and is presently the guitar player for Jersey Breeze.