LOVE AND ... THE EFFECTS OF CHILI?:
An Interview with ORANGE SKY
Interview by Ray Van Horn, Jr. - December 2005
I recently had the pleasure to witness an astounding performance by Yngwie Malmsteen, a night that proved to rank amongst my top-10 metal moments of all-time. Adding to this spectacle were the openers, Orange Sky, a band from Trinidad whose vibes of positivity extol not only through their Caribbean-spiced hard rock, but also through their personal beings. Hosting their own meet-and-greet with fans after the show, you can see how excited Orange Sky is to be on their first tour across the United States and how excited they are to share themselves with their new audience. The interview I conducted with guitarist/vocalist Nigel Rojas, his brother Nicholas on bass, guitarist Adam Murray and keyboardist Richard Hall was an experience filled with peace, harmony, laughter and flatulence. All in a day’s work? Hardly. Mark my words; these guys are special.
Orange Sky is the first band I’ve received a lot of correspondence from other people about, and they’re all from Trinidad saying thanks for looking into you guys. I guess you guys have a real nice contingency in the Caribbean, is what I’m getting at.
Nigel Rojas: I’d say yes.
Nicholas Rojas: Yeah.
Nigel Rojas: In Trinidad and up the islands, yeah.
RoughEdge.com: Obviously the two of you (Nigel and Nicholas) have been conceiving this for quite a bit of time. Give us your impressions of growing up together leading up to this moment in putting Orange Sky together.
Nigel Rojas: A lot of Judas Priest jamming, Motley Crue jamming, and here we are, man. I love my brother…
Nicholas Rojas: We grew up together doing a lot of jamming, and here we are…I mean, we had Yngwie Malmsteen’s posters on the fucking wall growing up. I remember being six years old with those posters…
Nigel Rojas: We feel very lucky to be able to have each other and to be onstage every night together. This is a dream come true for both of us. We spoke about this when we were very young, and very privately we talk about it sometimes, like, ‘Wow, it came true!’ Rock and roll dreams do come true! We feel very happy to be a part of music.
RoughEdge.com: For sure. I’ve heard you guys had some pretty odd jobs along your path. Have any of these jobs played into your music at all?
Nigel Rojas: Not really. For me, I was a pot scrubber in the hills of Trinidad and it was a really hard job. I used to have to climb into a three foot deep pot of soup! It was two-days old and I’d have to scrape the edges off, you know what I mean? (laughs)
Nigel Rojas: So I don’t think it plays into the music, but it made me want more and more to get out of that shit!
RoughEdge.com: (laughs) True story?
Nigel Rojas: True story. It was fish soup, two days old, so you know what I mean?
Nigel Rojas: Don’t let me get into the grave digging thing!
RoughEdge.com: (laughs) I read that somewhere! Your album, "Upstairs," is one of those few entities that takes me personally to where it originated from, songs like “Beautiful Day” and “Cast Away” particularly. For those of us who haven’t really had the privilege of visiting Trinidad, take us there, if you would. What are we seeing?
Nigel Rojas: Blue skies…
Nicholas Rojas: Yeah.
Nigel Rojas: Coconut trees, beaches, it’s a Caribbean island, the most southerly isle of the tropical Caribbean, located seven miles off the coast of Venezuela. A lot of people meet us and say ‘Hey! Where are you from?’ We’ll say Trinidad, and they’ll say, ‘What part of Jamaica is Trinidad?’ (laughs)
Nigel Rojas: We have mangos too!
Nicholas Rojas: I’ve had a few comments that sound as if they think we swing through fucking trees! But the mood of the songs has an element of the Caribbean and of the people of Trinidad…
Nigel Rojas: That’s the way we write.
Nicholas Rojas: Yeah, yeah. It comes from all that.
RoughEdge.com: Let’s talk some more about the songwriting. On the one hand, you have the driving energy of “Escape…”
Nicholas Rojas: (farts) Sorry, man…
Nigel Rojas: No more chili for your ass! Don’t light no cigarettes! It’ll spontaneously combust! Fartmeister! We have to put him in the U-Haul separately where’s there’s ventilation!
Richard Hall: Don’t light a match!
Nigel Rojas: Don’t light a match right now!
RoughEdge.com: (laughs) Anyway, the energy of “Escape,” in fact, something else escaped too… (laughs) The laidback feel of “Beautiful Day,” as we discussed, and the heavy as hell “Dogs…” You throw in the reggae and calypso splashes…in other words, you guys really tap into a number of styles.
**At this point, we’re sabotaged by a fart machine snuck incognito by Orange Sky’s engineer**
Nicholas Rojas: Aww, man, it wasn’t me this time!
Richard Hall: That’s the engineer!
Nigel Rojas: First one was real!
Nicholas Rojas: That engineer’s always gotta be fucking with us…
Nicholas Rojas: Or is it funk?
RoughEdge.com: Now you have real funk in your music!
Richard Hall: You’ve been funked!
RoughEdge.com: So anyway, you have a wide variety of styles…
Nigel Rojas: We come from Trinidad and we come from a predominantly calypso and reggae society and we play rock and roll. We’ve been very lucky; we grew up listening to a lot of rock. We had some record stores that were able to accommodate us with Ozzy, Judas Priest, Motley Crue and everything else, apart from Bob Marley and Peter Tosh and David Rudder, so here we are, you know? Everything we do I guess is a culmination of the shit we grew up listening to, and we’re very, very happy to be part of a legacy of those influences.
RoughEdge.com: I kind of liken the coming of Orange Sky to Living Colour, Fishbone and 24-7 Spyz in the eighties.
Nigel Rojas: Yeah.
RoughEdge.com: Back in the day, the division lines were more of an issue. Today it’s not so much the case, which I’m pleased to say. Is that something you’d agree with, that it’s more of a loose environment now?
Nigel Rojas: I’ll tell you, we grew up listening to rock, and all the posters on our walls had characters with long blond hair, six-pack abs, tight pants.
Nicholas Rojas: Yngwie Malmsteen was on our walls.
Nigel Rojas: Yngwie Malmsteen was on our wall, and I’ll tell you what; being black and being in rock and roll is really unique, I guess we’ve realized, to a lot of people in America, but what we do is what we do. I just consider it to be somewhat different, you know? It’s a black rock band.
Adam Murray: Even in the land where we’re practicing…
Nigel Rojas: Living Colour was not a trend, nor was Hendrix, nor was Chuck Berry, nor was 24-7 Spyz, and here we are, Orange Sky. That’s what we are, that’s what we look like, but we don’t consider it like, ‘Hey! We’re black! Hear our black rock! Negro rock! (imitation of turntable scratching noise) Hey, mama!’ We just do it. That’s what we look like.
Adam Murray: It’s just our music and there’s no rules; everybody should play whatever they want to.
Nigel Rojas: Music has no boundaries, man.
Nicholas Rojas: It’s not about color, but we do get a lot of free cornbread…
Nigel Rojas: We get a lot of free watermelon and fried chicken too!
Richard Hall: Collard greens!
Nigel Rojas: And collard greens, all that shit!
Nicholas Rojas: We get a lot of that, so we’re like, all right, whatever…
Nigel Rojas: Someone threw an afro pick at me, man, I don’t know what the…
Richard Hall: Fried chicken!
Nigel Rojas: Do you have any watermelon, man? I’m hungry.
Nigel Rojas: That’s all we are, we can’t help it, man. We do thank Yngwie for giving us a break, because being from Trinidad it’s a disadvantage because you’re from the Caribbean objective society, being from an objective place, and nobody expects that you’d get a rock band from there, but here we are!
RoughEdge.com: Your cover of Cat Stevens’ “Peace Train…” That song was a big thing for me as a kid. My mom is kind of a hippie at heart, so she raised me up on that kind of stuff. I was glad to see you guys bring this song in for this generation.
Nigel Rojas: Sweet.
RoughEdge.com: I mean, we need it more than ever in this time and age, because I don’t think anybody’s learned any lessons. Any comments to that?
Nigel Rojas: Well, Cat Stevens is an incredible song craftsman, and we respected that about all of his songs, and you know, it’s exactly what you’re saying; times haven’t changed. He brought out “Peace Train” in a time of war, the late sixties in America, but it’s about man on man destruction, man on man injustice, and we just said you know what? Two things: One, that’s really relevant if we do that right now. Two, it would be a good way for us to show people that we’re not trying to be a “metal band.” We just want to be a musical band. We could play Cat Stevens and still rock, you know?
Nicholas Rojas: “Peace Train” has a beautiful message. A great message for the world, and the world needs to listen to that fucking song right now.
RoughEdge.com: I’m with you. Peace is what I dedicate myself to.
Nigel Rojas: We ask God every night before we go onstage to assist us to represent peace and love and music. That’s what we try to be ambassadors for, as heavy as we can be. We just hope to connect with that kineticism and with that loudness and rock and roll, but at the same time we’re not trying to be a ‘Gimme your lunch money!’ kind of band, you know? It’s all about peace and love. Let’s love one another, man.
RoughEdge.com: You can still be loud and aggressive and keep a contingency of peace about you. That’s a misconception some people have had over the years, that the louder you are, the harder you are, you’re automatically satanic or some shit like that. I like to see people deliver your kind of message with aggression.
Nigel Rojas: Thank you. Soulful aggression. Thank you, brother, it means everything to us.
RoughEdge.com: For sure. In your opinion, what is key to wiping out all of this hatred and warmongering we’ve got going on in our society right now?
Nicholas Rojas: What is key?
Nigel Rojas: You know, mankind has religion. Religion is a means of focusing on how to be as a person in this temporary life. All the common denominators of all the religions that reach out for Jesus, Buddha, Krishna, Rastafarai, there’s one common denominator and that’s to love one another. Love each other. John Lennon said that, man. Love each other, brother.
Nicholas Rojas: Just be yourself, treat other people and respect other people. Everybody’s sailing on the same ship.
Nigel Rojas: Every man has a voice inside his head that knows what’s right and what’s wrong. We have to love each other, that’s right.
RoughEdge.com: I’m totally with you.
Nigel Rojas: If you’re not on that, you’re evil. Very different side. As heavy as we can get, that’s just the music, that’s the amps, that’s the kinecticism, but we want to spread love.
Nicholas Rojas: We want to kick ass musically then give you a hug at the end!
Nigel Rojas: Yeah, we’ll kick your ass then give you a hug! That’s the truth.
RoughEdge.com: I guess you could say that music is also the great common denominator no matter what our walk of life is. That’s something else I kind of get from your music.
Nigel Rojas: Absolutely. Music is a universal thing, this may sound cliché to say it’s a universal language, but any place you go to, any country you go to, the same people have broken that barrier. One is Bob Marley, two is Ozzy…you should check it out! Ozzy is considered this satanic figure, or this prince of darkness figure, but check his words out. His words are love, togetherness, fight that evil, be yourself, don’t lose yourself in yourself, you know what I mean? We’re on the same road as that; we don’t sit down and literally try to write that. Next year we might be a hit band, I don’t know. That’s how music is, that’s how life is, but in the meantime, what we are and what we tend to be is exactly what we are right now, which is hey man, love each other. If we get to play music and we get to spread out to people, that music is probably about love. It’s not about anything else.
Richard Hall: Just make sure at the end of the show, you pick them up off the ground and make sure they get a taxi home and safe.
RoughEdge.com: It’s the same theory as in the mosh pit, pick his ass up, don’t step on him.
Richard Hall: Yeah! That’s so unnecessary.
Nigel Rojas: Our music has different vibes. The most hateful music, the most spiteful music, really heavy, as long as it inspires someone…
Adam Murray: You’re there to vent whatever you feel at the time, you know? There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s like exorcising your demons.
Nigel Rojas: Rock and roll is just meant to inspire you and regardless, everybody has a place in their heart for some kind of music. That’s what makes music special, and if someone is in a hateful time or a dreadful time in their life and they want to wake up and they want to hear that kind of music that’s great, because that’s life. We’ve been there, man.
Nicholas Rojas: Yeah.
Nigel Rojas: We’ve fucking been there. This music, what we do now is just us stepping up to what we think right now, where we reach that plateau and can just be ourselves, and not be ashamed of saying ‘Hey, man, I love you, dude! I don’t know you man, but I fucking love you. I’ll give you my money, I’ll give you a ride home.’ That’s what we’re about. That’s what Orange Sky represents.
Nicholas Rojas: He’s also gay, man…
Nigel Rojas: No, no (pulls out picture of his family), this is my wife, these are my babies…
Nicholas Rojas: You’re gay.
Nigel Rojas: All right, so maybe I am gay!
RoughEdge.com: I understand you guys are considered official ambassadors of Trinidad.
Nigel Rojas: That’s an honor that’s been given to us by the tourism development committee. Being a rock and roll band, we don’t expect our faces to be on a Corn Flakes box…
Nicholas Rojas: We are from Trinidad and we’re representing what Trinidad is about, whatever we do.
Nigel Rojas: I tell you what; first and foremost we represent peace, love and music and good times, and then we represent our country. We’re not trying to get people to go to Trinidad or anything like that. Ambassadorship means to represent. We are honored that they chose us to do that. We don’t have to change anything about ourselves.
RoughEdge.com: As we were discussing, this tour with Yngwie has to be a real surreal experience, kind of an interesting mix…
Nicholas Rojas: Un-fucking-believable, man. This man, my big brother here…
Nigel Rojas: Big brother?
Nicholas Rojas: Yeah, big brother. We grew up with Yngwie Malmsteen posters all over the walls in 1984…
Nigel Rojas: Richard’s had Yngwie Malmsteen posters forever…
Richard Hall: Right.
Nigel Rojas: Adam’s a guitar freak; he loves Yngwie.
Nicholas Rojas: I’m tell you, since October we have seen him live almost every single night and even after tonight I’ve still got fucking goosebumps!
Richard Hall: Never get tired of it.
Nigel Rojas: He is the perfect role model to us as that cool work ethic where you come out every night and just do your own thing, and it’s all about the fans! We also appreciate the fact that he’s sober. I mean, we have a hard time with that sometimes, and this tour has taught us not to be drinking every night, you know, doing all that stuff. I’ll tell you something; Yngwie Malmsteen was on our wall, and he’ll be on our wall twenty years from now, because he’s a force of nature.
Nicholas Rojas: Definitely. Superhuman.
Nigel Rojas: There’s no one who plays that style of guitar…you have Hendrix, you have Stevie Ray (Vaughan), you have Eddie (Van Halen), you have all those guys, but in the neoclassical virtuoso type of situation, Yngwie Malmsteen is the man, and we are very honored that he chose us to open for him. It’s extremely intimidating, but at the same time, extremely gratifying.
Nicholas Rojas: We’re the first band to be on tour with Yngwie. He’s never had a band on tour with him before, so we feel honored.
Nigel Rojas: Any chance to come to America and spread our roots and plant some seeds would’ve been perfect; doing it with him is beyond that. He’s not just a player; he can do what he’s doing sitting in a chair, but instead he gets up and does splits and tucks the guitar behind his head and he just has this passion for people, and that has inspired us….
Adam Murray: It sure has, it’s an honor…
Nigel Rojas: It’s inspired us to be better at what we do every night. We’re learning…every day is school for us. This is our first album, our first tour, and I’m really thankful that we’re doing it in front of a person who has a very progressive crowd.
Nicholas Rojas: It’s not like he walks into a soundcheck and he’s about the money. He likes to jam, he likes to fucking jam on soundchecks. He’s all about music. He comes on the tour bus and he’s jamming, but a lot of people complain about him like, ‘Oh, he’s been soundchecking for eight hours!’ Fuck it, man, he just wants to jam! And then he’s going to do that again at night! I’m serious, you know?
Adam Murray: He organizes everything, and then just jams with people. A little after that, he’ll find somebody else who can, you know? There’s really nothing wrong with that.
Nigel Rojas: If someone had looked into a crystal ball and told us ‘Hey, you’re going to be alive to see one Yngwie Malmsteen live show…’
Nicholas Rojas: I would’ve shit my pants!
Nigel Rojas: But if someone would’ve said ‘You’re going to have a band that’s been chosen, who’s good enough…that Yngwie is going to choose you to open for him for fifty shows across the States,’ I’d just disintegrate! I mean, Orange Sky, we want to be a Top-40 band, we want to be on the radio next year, and yeah, we have a couple of singles on this album, but it’s great to know our first tour was with Yngwie Malmsteen.
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