Posted on October o3th. 2017

Questionnaire by Stefan on behalf of METAL TO INFINITY WEBZINE BELGIUM

From L to R: Lennard James, Vinnie Salvatore, Keith Pickens, Steve Theado.

Besides my longtime passion for US Hard Rock and Metal music, I also have a strong connection with bands from the States delivering their stuff in a pure, swirling and facial throbbing Hard’n Roll manner. One of my favorite bands who honor this gem are American Dog, Rose Tattoo, Valient Thorr, Nashville Pussy, Alabama Thunderpussy, Five Horse Johnson and the relatives… Now I’m thrilled to have a conversation with a band from Ohio named Rat Bastard Syndicate, featuring three musicians who teamed up with my Rock ‘n Roll heroes American Dog ! Steve Theado and Keith Pickens will be employed to do their story so let’s get start to business right away.

Q: Howdee guys, welcome at Metal To Infinity webzine Belgium and it’s a great honor to have you on board in regards to spread the word of your new band called Rat Bastard Syndicate, and more. First on, by whom the band was formed?

Steve: Me and Keith had gotten back together to write songs in a side project while American Dog was still together, After A,D. Stopped playing we decided to make this our main gig.


Q: Ambition wise – Is it meant to officially get RBS on the map or is it the joy and passion to play Rock’n Roll that takes the upper-hand?

Steve: It’s the joy and passion that keeps me going but the intent is to definitely put RBS on the map!

Keith: RBS literally is a vehicle for Steve and I to get songs created out of the hundreds of song ideas and riffs he has recorded at home. Some of this stuff is left over from American Dog, some of it is stuff he’s had for years, some of it we come up with on the spot. We NEVER stop writing.


Q: Rat Bastard Syndicate, what’s the story behind a band name like this?

Steve: That is Keith’s baby. He was throwing out ideas and as soon as he said Rat Bastard Syndicate I lit up! It’s the perfect name for a gang of stubborn old rockers.

Keith: I liked the idea of a band called “Syndicate” or “Rebellion”, and one night was just throwing words together and he stopped me when I said Rat Bastard. We added Syndicate and it was done.


Q: Steve, you’re the co-founder of American Dog – as for Keith, you teamed up with AD later on. Now, I’d like to know if the band is still on the tracks, if not – what went wrong?

Steve: Actually Keith was in the band before me, it was called Hilljack. When I replaced the guitar player we changed the name to American Dog.  Me, Michael and Keith were the core band for a long time. Michael Hannon quit the music business but we get together and gig occasionally. We just recorded a couple new songs for a best of release that is coming out pretty soon!!!

Keith: I started with Hilljack in 1996 as a sub. It became American Dog in 1997 when Steve joined the band. I was with them until 2010.


Q: Back To Rat Bastard Syndicate, please give up a little background info on the rest of the group.

Steve: Keith had worked with Leonard James previously and we needed a full time bassist so we recruited him, didn’t realize at the time he was a kick-ass singer! We started gigging as a three piece but once we started recording it became obvious that another guitarist was needed to make things sound right, Enter Vinnie Salvatore, he played on the last AD record and tour. He was a no brainer because I knew exactly how he plays and we have been drinking buddies for a long time.  So here we are!


Q: Steve, at what age you started to play the guitar? Who were the ones you looked up to as a teenager and based on the tactical skills you built up through the years, who was your mentor… maybe you haven’t one at all and did it all by yourself?

Steve: I started playing at 15. I was really into Kiss, Aerosmith, Ted Nugent, Thin Lizzy and UFO. I think Schenker, Iommi and Blackmore were the earliest influences. Then Van Halen and Rhoads came along and I’m a big fan of Steve Morse, And I have to mention Billy Gibbons, David Gilmore, Tommy Bolin and Steve Vai. I could go on and on and you can learn something from watching just about anyone! I love all styles of guitar music!


Q: Which styles do you prefer to play? Rock, Metal, Blues,… tell me about Steve.

Steve: I just love loud guitar, but nothing is as satisfying on stage as some old school aggressive hard rock! Take no prisoners!!!


Q: Drummer Keith Pickens is being announced as a long-time Sonor Drum endorsee, what’s the story behind? Where does the passion come from buying a drum kit and start knocking the skins real hard? Who inspired you those days?

Keith: I have been with Sonor Drums since 2002. I also endorse Regal Tip/Calato drumsticks, Paiste Cymbals and May International microphones. My passion started on guitar at the age of 7, but quickly changed when I saw Rush at 10 years old. That was it for me, had to do it. My inspirations were John Bonham, Ian Paice, Nicko McBrain, Phil Rudd when I was younger, and still continue to be.


Q: Back in 2016, Rat Bastard Syndicate released its debut EP and a second one is well underway to unleash as soon as possible. What about that first EP, in what way you’d announce the style of music?

Steve: It’s just hard rock, we go from Led Zepp-ish riff rock to Maiden style metal and try to hit everything in between. The second EP is done and we are well on our way on the third one. We are trying to mix it up as much as we can and still sound like cohesive band.


Q: Name a few bands that you want to be compared too.

Steve: That’s a tough one, I just hope at the end of the day we have created something that you will remember as RBS.


Q: What about the lyrical content of the songs, who’s songwriter in RBS?

Steve: I write most of the material and Lenny does the rest. We try to shy away from political bullshit and write about interesting characters we’ve come across and all the wrong paths we follow with women and booze!!!


Photo was taken at Express Live! in Columbus, Ohio, on July 8th opening for Blue Oyster Cult

Q: The best way to promote your own music is to go Touring, as much as can be ! And so you did, right? The list of past gigs is quite big and more shows are on the way to let happen soon. How are you guys on stage, what can I imagine of a RBS performance?

Steve: We try to be as energetic as possible and send that vibe to the audience through the music! It’s really easy when you have a drummer like Keith bashing out a groove larger and louder the life. Me and Lenny split the vocal duties, we try to keep things moving (but that does cut into my drinking time!)  It can be a sweaty mess!!!

Keith: Loud, wet and dirty.


Q: Small, smoke filled bars or bigger stages…. you’ll do it all with the same passion I guess but still, I’d like to know more about those shows that were really unforgettable to yours?

Steve: We’ve had gigs in small clubs with poor attendance were the band is on fire and everyone there is really diggin’ it. Sometimes those are the best gigs because everybody is connected and having a blast, but playing in front of 20 thousand people doesn’t suck either.

Keith: We just played with Molly Hatchet, that was a nice large show. Also recently did a show with Blue Oyster Cult.  THAT was a huge hometown crowd. In a nutshell, we will play anywhere, for anyone.


Q: Have you already received a response from my home country, Belgium or Europe in general?

Steve: Not yet, we’re just trying to get the ball rolling.


Q: So the band is back in the studio working on a second EP, what to expect? Same style as the previous one?

Steve: Basically the same sound but the songs are different. The last thing I want to do is put the same record out twice. The third one is really getting out there.


Q: I was wondering, have you been approached by a proper label to release your stuff?

Steve: Not yet but we really haven’t tried. We’ve been working on establishing the RBS brand. I think the band is ready now, we’ve written a lot of songs and played a bunch of gigs so we’re firing on all cylinders now.


Q: IMO it’s a fact that in the US, this style of music is accepted with more honor than here in Europe and I god damn don’t know why…. It’s a shame actually !  Agree or not?

Steve: I’m not really sure, it’s getting harder and harder for live bands in general!!! I always felt AD was accepted better in Europe than in the States. Hard rock is definitely not the flavor of the month here in the States. You need a cowboy hat!!!


Q: How’s the current Ohio Rock and Metal scene?

Steve: There is still a lot of great loud bands here in Ohio. It’s just not as easy to find gigs these days but the bands are out there!

Keith: Our scene is really growing. Tons of great bands.


Q: Talking about live performances, If there is one band RBS absolutely want to share the stage with, who will it be and for what particular reason?

Steve: Holy shit I don’t know where to start!! I think the one band that is still at that I would love to tour with is ZZ Top so I could get schooled on guitar every night!!!

Keith: Nashville Pussy, because they simply kick ass!  ZZ TOP would be amazing as well.


Q: Any change for all Belgian Rock’n Rollers to see you walking the stage here one day?

Steve: I’m hoping to get over there real soon. You do have the best BEER in the world !!!


Q: Reaching the end of this conversation, a recurring question… what are the future plans for the near future and beyond?

Steve: To just keep plugging away! We are constantly writing new music and I can’t play enough on stage. We’ll just have to wait and see where the music takes us.


Q: Well, the pleasure was mine having the past conversation and like to raise up my bucket of beer for the nice collaboration complete the whole story. Any last comments for our readers, go for it folks…. To your health, Cheerz !

This was a blast and I hope to be on stage in Belgium real soon so we can raise our glasses together!!!! Long live rock-n-roll…….Cheers!