I recently had the unique pleasure of sitting down with the multi-talented vocalist Helena Cos of New Jersey’s well sought-after SPIDER ROCKETS, on a brisk yet gloriously sunny morning … a seemingly perfect day for such a rewarding venture. With the release of their most current (and 5th – January 2018) album ‘Along Came A Spider’ selling out as quickly as their online store can keep on the shelves at any one given time, I felt the timing could not have presented itself any more appropriately for GO VENUE MAGAZINE to gain some more insight to these four exemplary musicians/artists, prior to their setting out to the Midwest on a mini-tour the latter part of April 2018, in support of not only Puddle Of Mudd but Tantric as well. This hard rock Jersey band (founded by both Helena and Johnny Nap 20+ years ago) has also toured with such national acts as Pop Evil, Saliva and Trapt to name a few, as well as performed on the Van Warp’s Tour.
So, without further hesitation, I present our short but sweet but informative one-on-one chat with SPIDER ROCKET’S Helena Cos:
GO VENUE: With all the recent buzz circulating around your latest release of ‘Along Came A Spider’, how does this not only affect you, but Johnny Nap (guitar)/Jimmy Mui (Bass) and Dale Whitaker (drums & percussion) as well?
HELENA COS: You know, we’re excited that so many people are liking it and we simply couldn’t be more thrilled. Because you put everything you have into it and do the best you can and work very hard, not knowing exactly how the fans are going to receive it. We couldn’t be more grateful to be in the middle of the mix of this whole thing and having to hustle and do all the stuff that goes with promoting the album, because it means that there is a reason to promote it. There’s like a fire burning deep within our souls, you know? The bottom line is we’re glad we saw it through because we feel this is by far the best album we’ve done. It’s our own brand of rock that continues to move forward with twists and turns regardless of what the current trend is turning out.
GO VENUE: You worked alongside Dan Malsch on this latest project, unlike the previous four albums. How did this differ, and was working with Dan a learning experience as well as producing the album?
HELENA COS: We had some great ideas and he was enthusiastic to work with us. And so, it was a really good experience working from the onset of preproduction through the recording phase, and each step of the way Dan was very excited about what was coming to be. The basis of the whole thing is that we began with some strong and solid songs and that was the key thing. If you go into the studio with weak material, you can try to polish it up and such, it’s simply not going to work. Period. The demoing went back and forth for quite some time before we even got the chance to put our songs together, as certain parts were added, and some were deleted. Overall, it was an extremely creative environment with all the continual positive energy flowing around us. A lot of work goes into album before it gets to the recording stage, for us anyway. We write, demo, review, rewrite. And go through it all again plenty of times before we get to the stage where we record. Recording and releasing music is a big part of what we do, so if anything, all the drama, personal and otherwise that whirls around us, is great material for potential songs.
GO VENUE: Will Spider Rockets be in the studio any time soon, to begin their musical journey on album #6?
HELENA COS: You know, we’re still working on #5, so yeah..let’s get through this first and then tackle our next venture (*chuckles*).
GO VENUE: Being the “no holds barred” band for 20+ years now that sticks to the basic format of a true hard rock and roll band, how has the band adapted to the introduction of modern technology in the production phase?
HELENA COS: In a way, we’ve adapted quite well actually. Things change. So, you move forward and you adjust to whatever comes along, as is true of the new technologies that are constantly advancing, and you take the best out of all of it and you put it to work for yourself.
GO VENUE: Being a diehard fan and follower of Spider Rockets, there’s one definitive thread that remains constant and is extremely obvious. Unlike most potential up and coming national bands, each of your songs possesses a unique and much different approach – is this a continuing tradition of Spider Rockets?
HELENA COS: Our latest approach on ‘Along Came A Spider’ began with 30 different types to each different approach. We try to maintain a kind of theme to each album but sometimes it simply just comes naturally in a way, but at the same time each song need to be a distinctive. You know they must have their own identity and have their own feel, so therefore we are very conscious of that while writing. But once again, the bottom line is beginning with really good material and just go from there, you know?
GO VENUE: I’m curious as to how you got your “bones” in the musical industry. Many start at a very young age, was this the case with you?
HELENA COS: Yes, my interest in music came about when I was around 7 years old, and my journey was somewhat weird now that I think about it. My mom was an artist and she always stressed that becoming involved with the arts was extremely important. We didn’t have a lot of money during that time, but it really didn’t matter because my school district had instruments you could learn and it was free! So I began with a flute as my first instrument. I couldn’t figure out for the life of me how to make noise come out of that damned thing, and how the others were making it sound so pretty and pleasant, yet mine sounded terrible at best. I just couldn’t do it! So finally I put down the flute and traded it for a violin. That stuck. I would practice every morning at 6:30. And we didn’t live in a house either, but rather a small apartment. Our neighbors Craig, were the coolest people ever, letting this little girl who is just learning to play, this early in the morning. So kind and generous! So then in high school I was in an ensemble and got involved with anything .. everything pertaining to music. Once I graduated from high school, I moved out from California to the east coast, more of a rebellious thing than anything else. Before that, I was in a transitional period and was totally captivated by the likes of Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Big Momma Thorton and of course the one and only Janis Joplin. To me, it began to present itself as a career and then from there it opened to a different spin on rock and roll. Big Mamma Thorton .. I simply love that woman! I love the way she growled out every word effortlessly and was pulled in by her charisma. All these ladies are awesome in their own rights, and if I can touch upon that a little, I am happy.
GO VENUE: Chemistry. It can and will, either define a band or destroy it. I’ve seen several local bands/acts go on hiatus or simply end up dissolving over personality conflicts. This isn’t the case with Spider Rockets however, and whether onstage performing or just sitting back have conversation while mingling with fans/patrons, it’s immediately apparent that the four of you are so much more than just band mates, but rather a persona of family. Is this sheer coincidence or did the stars align just perfectly to create such a unique bond?
HELENA COS: I think it is so important to build such a bond within the band. It’s like you against the world, you know? A positive relationship within the group is essential in producing positive results, especially when we’re moving fast and staying focused on what the goal is. You know what’s somewhat funny Craig, and it may be a bit off record but what the heck, is that being in a band is hard and it takes work like any relationship. We work hard at it but like any relationship, we have our dirty laundry that we like to keep to ourselves.
GO VENUE: Whether in the studio or on the road, can you share with us an example of the foolery that surrounds either you or the other three members?
HELENA COS: Oh yes, I certainly can! So, we were doing a festival last year (you may remember this) in Upstate New York and it was getting late, and I was exhausted and retired back to our van/trailer. But not little Johnny and Dale .. they wanted to make their way up to the makeshift bar on the property, just to have a “few”. Well don’t you know, they ended up closing the bar and I was in complete amazement as to how they could have made it back to our van, as they certainly were not in any shape to walk. But they somehow were successful. So there I was, nearly asleep in the van, when I heard the strangest of noises. Then it dawned on me that we’re parked right next to a pond, and all I could envision was the two of them ending up walking into it. Well by the grace of the powers to be, they didn’t end up swimming, but this is where it gets interesting. So instead of coming inside van, where it was warm, dry, and contained sleeping bags and pillows, Johnny decided the best place to cuddle up to be was the front driver’s side wheel. Dale, not to be outdone, chose to crawl under the van to take a nap there. At some point during the night, it began to rain. Hard. And in an instant, Dale was up and on his feet yelling “Johnny .. Johnny .. where are you?” So he’s just looking around and being real loud, being that he was rather inebriated to say the least. He then stumbles upon Johnny yelling “Oh Johnny, there you are!” Johnny, not functional at this point is asking “what‘s going on?”. Dale in his infinite wisdom blurts out “Dude, it’s raining. We got to get out of this rain!!” Stumbling around while getting their bearings, they came to the assumption that they needed to get into a drier environment. They begin beating on the door, trying to get my attention and it was like 5 o’clock in the morning and all I could think of was “what the hell is going on here? Let me sleep guys!”. When you’re half asleep half awake, you’re really not into conscious thinking. Needless to say I was feeling refreshed that fine morning, but those two? Not so. There was just no helping them.
GO VENUE: Speaking of being on the road, we at Go Venue have heard that Spider Rockets have opened for such headliners as Pop Evil, Saliva and Trapt for starters. How have these experiences refined you four as artists?
HELENA COS: Night after night is always a privilege, and we totally view it in that fashion. So we try to take in as much as we possibly can while we’re out playing shows. You learn from the other groups, while some things like the routine day to day things, come naturally. It’s enlightening to watch these other bands onstage night after night and see how they react to different audiences. You know, we kind of take something away with us each time .. a little bit if even unconsciously.
GO VENUE: As with many local as well as national acts, there’s always too many hands in the artist’s pockets. How important is it to you and the other three members, to maintain the upper hand over your material you release?
HELENA COS: This is such a complex question, but I believe that while it is important to maintain a sense of control over material and such, it can be somewhat difficult when there’s other people injecting their input. The resources they bring to the table are invaluable, so there must be some form of give and take. And without that, the results aren’t what we’d be seeking out.
GO VENUE: Do you believe that you’ve found the balance between band control and the outside input that are ever so needed?
HELENA COS: Yes, at this point we have. Things constantly change, so as we’re moving on and upward it’s always a continual self-evaluation both business-wise and creatively also.
GO VENUE: With this recent album drop, are there any videos in the works either presently or in the distant future?
HELENA COS: But of course we do! We have one lyric video (‘Sick’) that we’ve done so far and it is actually a one-take video which of itself, is deceptive because it took plenty of mediocre takes until we got it right. Promotion is going full swing right now and we are trying to keep up with it all and share all the latest news and press on social media. Also, we’ve been doing a bunch of interviews and have a considerable more scheduled , and a few other things in the fire but not in the absolute near future, so you’ll just have to wait to see what we have in store.
GO VENUE: For most bands, the selling of merchandise can be their most important source of income. What can fans expect to purchase at both the Spider Rockets shows, as well as your online store?
HELENA COS: We have t-shirts, CDs, bumper stickers, buttons, wristbands, 8×10 photos, posters. We nixed some ideas for merchandise, like shower caps and underwear – but I think most people will find something that they like in our selection!
GO VENUE: Before we end this interview, I’d first like to extend Go Venue’s gratitude for allowing us to spend time with you today .. Always a pleasure Helena! It’s always a treat to spend time with you while you’re playing shows, gaining both professional knowledge as well as insight to the workings of the minds of the guys as well! Is there anything else that you’d like to add to our conversation?
HELENA COS: Thank you so much Craig! ‘Along Came a Spider’ is available digitally worldwide. And, for those who want a signed CD, please come out to one of our show or go to our online store (via Facebook or our website). We hope to see all of you real soon, whether we’re playing in a local pub near you or while on the road this spring!!
Along Came a Spider (2018)
Spider Rockets (2009)
Ever After (2007)
Flipped Off (2000)
Helena Cos – vocals
Johnny Nap – lead guitar
Dale Whitaker – drums
Jimmy Mui – bass
– Interview by Craig Stebbins for Go Venue Magazine