Interview: RivetSkull Talk World Touring, Trad Metal and Starting as a Dio Tribute Band

Before Seattle heavy metal torchbearers RivetSkull were the band they are today, three members—guitarist Mark Plog, singer Chad McMurray and dummer Michael Robson—were known as Rising. Formed in 2009, the trio were the core of a Ronnie James Dio tribute band, and a very successful one at that. After five years of national and international touring, Plog, McMurray and Robson wanted something more—they wanted to take that love for heavy metal further and thus RivetSkull was formed.

Joined by bassist Mark Hopkins, RivetSkull are a modern heavy metal and hard rock band that takes a classic sound and gives it a modern spin. After releasing their debut album, they quickly regrouped for their sophomore effort, Absence of Time, which is out independently on June 14. Their labor is bearing fruit, as RivetSkull will head out on tour with Danish thrash institution Artillery for a three-week tour starting later this week. Decibel caught up with Plog to discuss the band’s history and future.


RivetSkull originally formed out of a Dio tribute that you guys did called Rising. Were you a tribute act that decided to get serious and write original music?
Chad, Michael, and I met at different points in the progression of Rising but through the same method: we each responded to an ad that was a call to arms for a Ronnie James Dio tribute band called Rising. We came from different musical backgrounds, each having cut our teeth in original bands before. Rising wasn’t just a gig. It became a shared pilgrimage through the mighty anthems of Dio. On a flight back from a killer tour in Ireland and the UK, we started to realize that we all craved a creative outlet for our own voices. It was on that flight that RivetSkull was born.

There’s obviously a lot of RJD influence on your new album, Absence of Time, but I hear a lot of other heavy and some speed metal influence in there. What bands influence you guys? How do you stand out in the trad metal scene, which is currently pretty healthy?
We all grew up with everything Dio. But, we also all have very different backgrounds and influences.  Mark grew up on the East Coast and in Texas and was weaned on bands like Aerosmith, Emerson Lake & Palmer, Jethro Tull and Black Sabbath. In Houston, he was part of the ’80s metal scene and shared the stage with bands like Pantera, Helstar and King’s X. Chad leans more to the prog rock and metal side. The guy can play damn near any instrument and has an ear for detail. Michael grew up in Yakima, WA and Seattle and lived with and hung out with many of the iconic Seattle musicians. He has played everything from country to alternative and punk. Mark joined the band post-Rising and also grew up in the Seattle music scene but more of the “eastside” variety that was the birthplace of bands like Queensryche and others.  

As Rising, before you even released the first RivetSkull album Trail of Souls, you had already seen a fair bit of success, including international touring. When the band became RivetSkull, did you feel like you already had a higher-than-average standard to live up to?
Absolutely. We played 2½ hour sets of Sabbath, Rainbow and Dio music–that is not easy to do and do well. We knew what a good song “feels” like.  Dio never wrote “square” songs where everything is as you would expect it to be. There were always surprises. We strive to make our songs as interesting and unexpected in subtle ways.

Absence of Time sees RivetSkull incorporate more melodic and even poppy elements into your sound.
The band is beginning to show more of our influences.  I guess people would consider us “traditional heavy metal” but these days that seems to be defined more as thrash or even some of the ’80s hair metal. We’re probably more one step before—metal before Metallica, if you will.

Next month, you’re hitting the road with thrash legends Artillery. In the middle of that three-week tour, Absence of Time comes out. What are Rivetskull’s next steps after those two things?
We’re continuing to write new music and have some music videos in the works as well. We’re pretty excited to share our video for “Hellbound” which was inspired by Five Nights at Freddy’s. Like all bands,  we’re swimming upstream to try and get our music out there to as big an audience as we can. We love what we’re doing, and it appears it is being well received. We just want to carry on and hope to find more opportunities to make that happen and meet more folks in the metal community.

RivetSkull Live Dates with Artillery, War Curse, and Vapor:
6/6 – San Diego, CA @ The Holding Company
6/7 – Anaheim, CA @ The Doll Hut
6/8 – Bizbee, AZ @ The Quarry
6/9 – Gallup, NM @ Juggernaut
6/10 – El Paso, TX @ Rockhouse Bar and Grill
6/11 – San Antonio, TX @ Fitzgerald’s
6/12 – Haltom, TX @ The Haltom
6/13 – Oklahoma City, OK @ Beam Live
6/14 – Denver, Co @ HQ
6/15 – Salt Lake City, UT @ Aces High Saloon
6/16 – Boise, ID @ The Shredder
6/17 – Spokane, WA @ The Big Dipper
6/18 – Seattle, WA @ Funhouse
6/19 – Eugene, OR @ John Henry’s
6/20 – Portland, OR @ Dante’s
6/21 – Medford, OR @ Johnny B’s
6/22 – Eureka, CA @ The Veteran’s Memorial Building
6/23 – San Francisco, CA @ DNA Lounge
6/24 – Las Vegas, NV @ Sin Wave
6/25 – Mesa, AZ @ Nile Underground