Recently I got the chance to interview Within The Ruins co-founder and guitarist, Joe Cocchi. We talked a bit about the band’s excellent new album, Phenomena. I also got to ask him about his surprising new entrepreneurial endeavor; beer brewing. I myself love beer, especially craft brews and beer is something that has always gone together well with heavy metal so naturally this turned into a pretty cool and informative conversation. Joe founded the Tin Bridge Brewing Co. in his hometown of Westfield, Massachusetts earlier this year with his brother and a mutual friend. It’s a pretty interesting story. The guys have already created a few brews and they are currently working on more. The brewery is not currently open to the public but they hope to have a soft opening soon and have some product in the stores late next year. Once the brewery opens ,we hope to be able to give all of our readers a guided video tour with even more in depth information. Until then you can check out our very candid interview with Cocchi:
You guys released your fourth album, Phenomena, on July 22nd and it has since reached #72 on the Billboard charts. What do you think it was that has made this album so successful thus far?
Cocchi: A combination of a lot of things. We worked really hard, harder than we ever have on an album up until this one. We had the time we needed to get it done, and i think we ended up putting together a kick ass group of songs. Having a good team is the #1 reason that any album or band will succeed. Or any entity for that matter. From the band members, to the label, to our management, we had a very solid group of people behind this whole release and it ended up paying off.
How did the writing and recording process differ from your subsequent albums?
Cocchi: It differed in the sense that typically we write over about a years worth of time. Between the touring schedule and our personal lives, it’s tough sometimes to have or even make time to be able to write. This time though, we were able to take about 4-5 months off in a row to just concentrate on the writing, and another couple months in the studio. It just turned us into some serious work horses, the momentum never let up since day one of this project, and it was a very cool thing to have happen for us.
You recently finished up on the Summer Slaughter tour which had a pretty awesome lineup of extreme metal bands. Who were some of your favorite bands to hang out with on the tour? Can you tell our readers about any funny stories from the tour?
Cocchi: Man every band was awesome to hang with. Summer Slaughter was just one huge group of great musicians who all were out on the road doing the same thing. Some of my favorite dudes to drink and hang with though were Goatwhore, The Faceless, Thy Art Is Murder and Fallujah. So many stories I don’t know where to start, haha. There were lots of good hangs, great venues and awesome fans.
You are one of two founding members of Within The Ruins and at this point, you guys have become quite successful. Now, we hear that you are branching out into other arenas. Recently you founded the Tin Bridge Brewing Co. in Westfield, MA. Can you give us the back story on how this all came about?
Cocchi: Thank you. Sure, basically I think our band is finally somewhat established, and kind of on cruise control. Which is amazing, I couldn’t imagine being in a better place with all that. So I have some time to put into other hobbies and interests now too. We had been home brewing at my place for a while (my brother and a close friend). Once it started to take over my entire house, we decided we needed to find a place dedicated to just brewing. It was all in fun, but just kept progressing so quickly. We were actually all putting in good amounts of cash for bigger and better equipment we needed. Just because it was so interesting and enjoyable. One day we thought to name it, make some t-shirts. etc. Next thing we know, we’re applying for brewer’s licenses and turning to an LLC with aspirations of one day selling to local stores, and being in the local bars.
Beer and metal always seem to mix really well. Many metal artists are beginning to branch out into other ventures which they then cross promote with their bands. Do you have any plans to tie in the brewery with Within The Ruins (ie names of beers, promotion, marketing etc.)?
Cocchi: Exactly. Our other band members and I have worked this hard at music since we were teenagers. We’ve created an entity; Within The Ruins. We’ve created a tool that we can also take advantage of using in other aspects of our lives. That’s exactly what I want to do. Cross promotion is basically the way the music business works. I saw it as an opportunity. If I wasn’t in the band, would I have gone after this new project expecting to yield the same amount of success? Maybe, maybe not.
You seem to have some serious work ethic, as the band has turned out four solid albums in just over five years. Is this work ethic what drove you to open your own business? With the amount of time you spend writing, touring and recording, how do you find time to brew beer?
Cocchi: I can’t not be doing something. I drive myself crazy when I have nothing to do. I always have so much on my plate, but it’s my own fault. It’s what keeps me motivated though. I work better under pressure. Yeah, it’s basically all of the same ethic that I have and still do apply to our band. We started this band from nothing, from the ground up. Never imagining it would go this far. I remember one time saying “Hmm, I wonder where this band will be in 2,5,even 10 years.” Seeing where we’re at now alone gave me the confidence to start Tin Bridge. I’m now asking my self the same question “Where will this be in ten years?” It just excites the hell out of me and you never know what can happen.
What kinds of beers is Tin Bridge currently offering? What styles are you currently experimenting with? What one style of beer are you most interested in trying to create?
Cocchi: We now have four of our own recipes down that I am in love with. Smoked Porter, Oatmeal Stout, White IPA, and Pale Ale. We’re now working on an Amber, Wheat, etc. Some more of the basic beers. We are most interested in creating what has not yet been created. There’s a lot of great breweries out there coming up with this and that flavor of x beer style. Its inspirational and we’re striving to do the same thing. Just better.
Are any of the brews ready to hit the shelves? Do you have any agreements with bars or stores to sell your beer yet? If so, can you let our readers know some of the places that they will be able to purchase Tin Bridge beer? Can fans visit the brewery?
Cocchi: I’m doing this kind of private thing where for now its just touring bands that can come to the brewery. There’s tons of bands who I have become great friends with over the years, so when they roll through, I like to give back. There’s nothing cooler than being on the road and being welcomed into someone else’s place of business, or home, or where ever. And just being treated greatly, because it’s tough being on the road sometimes. We will not have anything on shelves until late 2015, mostly due to the fact that we are still jumping through hoops with the State and Federal Government in order to finally be legal to sell and transport to retail. It’s just a long process that we are still working on.
What mark do you hope to leave on the brewing industry? What are some of your goals for the business going forward?
Cocchi: I want people to know how passionate we are about this and about beer. We make damn good beer, and that is the point. We’ll never compromise quality for quantity. Quality and hard work is what got our band to where it is today, and I expect those two things to make this brewing company a success. I want people to know our story and hopefully be able to provide some inspiration to others.
What advice would you give to someone looking to live their dream and start their own business?
Cocchi: Take risks. No risk, no reward.
Lastly, we would like to ask you one more metal question. Massachusetts has a pretty vibrant metal scene as we are home to a slew of famous bands. Coming from an area like this can certainly help when you’re trying to make it in the industry. What advice would you give to up and coming metal bands that come from areas where metal is less popular and are trying to break into the business?
Cocchi: Doesn’t matter where you’re from. If you don’t some how get yourself out there, it will be a struggle. You need to make connections, meet people, help people, be everywhere. Networking and promo are your number one tools.