What is your full name?
Robert Jordon Marsh
Do you have any aliases?
I go by Robbie, which also is the name I publish under as a professor, so I guess that’s my “professional” name. Which is weird because usually Robbie is the bad kid that sits in the back of class carving metal bands into the desk, haha.
What bands are you actively involved with?
I currently play bass in Empty Black and that takes up enough time as I’m also a new Dad as well as the Empty Black band Dad. I’m 39 so being in multiple bands just seems exhausting at this point. Although, I still write songs that don’t fit Empty Black just in case.
What was the first instrument that you played?
I started with guitar and added cello to my repertoire of instruments in middle school (orchestra nerd). I switched over to bass because everyone played guitar and I couldn’t get into any bands. High school kids don’t understand the benefits of 3 guitar players, haha
Tell me about one of your first musical memories?
I remember taking guitar lessons from a blues guitarist when I was 10 and I hated it! He wanted me to learn to read music and build my foundations and I just wanted to play Nirvana songs and rage! This was way before YouTube and all the rad tutorials, but my second guitar teacher just asked me what songs I wanted to learn and he’d teach them to me. He made it fun, which is so important for any kid getting into music.
What was the name of the first band you were in?
It was called Immure and it was a grind band in Las Vegas. It was so much fun, just playing as fast as possible and all the songs were 45 second to a minute long. We couldn’t play many venue shows in Las Vegas, where I grew up, so we would get generators and just have shows out in the desert or play house shows. The drummer from that band is now the drummer for STRFKR and Curl Up and Die.
Tell me about the genesis of Empty Black.
Eric posted in an Atlanta metal and hardcore facebook group about wanting to start a riff focused metal band. I wrote to him and was like I’m down. I sent a list of bands I was inspired by and he was like I like those bands too, haha! We started jamming a few songs with a drummer, who turned out to be a crazy person so that didn’t last long. We started looking for another drummer and just wrote songs until we found Rob after a few months of looking. We all just hit it off and had a blast hanging out and jamming that this is what it’s turned into.
What inspired the name Empty Black?
Eric already had the name picked out before the band started. It was a toss up between Empty Black and Hemperor, which rules but that play on weed has been done a lot, so we opted for the sort of different name. The name refers to pretty much everything people are afraid of; deep space, the unknown, death, the empty black.
How long did it take you to write and record the new self-titled EP?
We wrote the EP along with a bunch of other songs that we didn’t record over the course of the pandemic. We started with 5 songs, scrapped a few, wrote some new ones and practiced a bunch since we couldn’t play shows. For the EP, we picked the 4 that were the most solid and that we thought would make a cool musical journey for the listener.
If you could insert yourself into any one band what band would it be and why?
My first choice would be either Isis or Neurosis. Those bands are just next level so I don’t see how I would fit because I’d just be in awe of what was happening around me.
My other choice would be Hot Water Music. Seeing them play throughout the 90s and early 2000s every show was just so amazing and the stage would be full of fans just singing along. I always wondered what that would feel like.
Have you ever heard a song and immediately wished you had written it? If so… What was the song and artist?
Dude that happens all the time! There are just so many amazing musicians and song writers here’s a short list:
Weight by Isis
A Shadow Memory by Neurosis
Echoes by Cult of Luna
Color Me Blood Red by Converge
To: Achlys by Cult Leader
Do you have any non-metal musical inspirations?
For sure, we are definitely inspired by Blues and Jazz and a lot of Rob’s drumming is influenced by hip hop. We all come from different music scenes from around the country and have a variety of musical tastes.
What’s a non-metal song that you'd like to do a cover of?
Interesting question, I’m not sure how the other dudes feel, but I’d love to cover The Cure. Anything off of Disintegration, but if I had to pick one it’d be Fascination Street because that bass line rips! We have talked about doing a split covers 7 inch with Drug Sauna doing AC/DC covers!
What band have you witnessed live that has really impressed you with their live show?
There are so many great live bands. I come from the hardcore scene so the obvious choices are Converge, Botch, Dillinger Escape Plan, Isis, Curl Up and Die, At the Drive In, and Hot Water Music.
Recently I saw Cult of Luna with Emma Ruth Rundle. Both were amazing! Chelsea Wolfe’s acoustic tour was next level too.
You guys are hoping to tour soon. What cities do you look forward to hitting?
Definitely! I was just talking to Shane from The Dregs Records about this. We’re shooting for late May early June and trying to go up the east coast from Atlanta. Hoping to hit some rad spots like Charlotte, D.C., Philly, New York, Boston, and Nashville. But we’ll play anywhere!
What band would you love to do a tour with?
Oh man, so many! We could go with a classic party tour package with cool bands like Mother Iron Horse, Leather Lung, Heavy Temple and have a blast. We could do a similar-style tour with Bongripper or Pelican. We could go super doom and gloom with Ilsa, Fister, and Primitive Man or we could go on a “we can’t believe we were allowed on this tour” with Neurosis or Cult of Luna.
The year is 2003. Where are you at and what are you listening to?
Damn, well definitely all the bands I listed above in the live shows. Also was/am a big emo, the real emo, fan so The Get Up Kids, American Football, Sharks Keep Moving, Owen, The Casket Lottery, and Explosions in the Sky with a healthy mix of Wu-Tang clan and all their spin-off/ solo albums.
What advice would you give young musicians that are just starting out in the music business?
Make music for you and no one else because at the end of the day it’s about challenging yourself to be creative. Also, just keep working at it and don’t break up. I’ve been in quite a few bands that could have done something but when a small barrier got in the way of plans someone would quit and it just killed it.
What is an absolute band killer?
Attitudes for sure. We work well together because we recognize that each person is important in the band being successful and no one is more important than the other. During the writing process we’re just honest with each other about how a song sounds, parts, anything and you have to communicate those things with your band mates cause you’re a family. As soon as egos get involved and factions are created the band is done. How do I know if a riff I wrote sucks if my band mates don’t tell me?!
If you were to start your own music festival what would be the name of that festival and who would be the three headlining bands?
Probably call it Moosh Fest. I’d have Botch and Coalesce re-unite and headline and to mix it up throw American Football on for day 3. It’d be a city fest for sure, I can’t live in a tent in the mud for three days.
What’s the longest time you’ve gone without bathing?
I’m a new Dad and sometimes there’s just no time. I think I’ve gone maybe three or four days recently.
What’s one thing that most people don’t know about you?
In the music scene most people don’t know I’m a professor of special education specializing in working with kids with emotional behavior disorders who are adjudicated (juvenile justice). Currently I’m working on some grant projects to improve reading outcomes for adjudicated youth while they’re detained and doing policy analysis to change some school-to-prison pipeline discipline laws.
Is the Fistful of DOOM show in the top 10 of your favorite music podcasts?
Do unicorns sleep standing up?
Sure, maybe they keep moving like sharks too!
You’re driving cross-country and you can only listen to one album the whole time. What album will it be?
Isis - Celestial, just slow head banging the whole time.
You are writing a book about your life thus far. What is the title of that book?
It’s Not What You Thought: It’s Even Better
What are two things that people absolutely need to know about Georgia?
Atlanta and Georgia are very different and Atlanta has such a tremendous and thriving diverse music scene. Also, the Georgia guidestones are a trip.
What is your favorite song by The B-52’s?
Probably Rock Lobster. If you slow it down, you’ve got yourself a solid doom song for sure!
The Allman Brothers or The Black Crowes (if you had to choose)?
I guess the Black Crowes. Not really a fan, but I’m a 90s kid and I remember their music videos playing a bunch while I was watching MTV waiting for Nine Inch Nails, The Offspring, and White Zombie videos to come on.
Doobies or Boobies (if you had to pick one)?
Boobies for sure. Maybe I’m biased because my wife has a great set of boobies. Also, despite the high prevalence of weed culture in doom metal, I don’t smoke weed.
Waffles or Pancakes (if you had to pick one)?
Waffles! Pancakes are complete garbage.
Star Wars or Star Trek (if you had to choose)?
Star Wars for sure. I just can’t get into Star Trek. I just don’t get the allure.
Favorite band t-shirt you own?
A gray Hot Water Music shirt probably from 1998. It’s still hanging on, haha.
Pizza or Pasta. I love making my own pizza and pasta dough from scratch. My grandfather and great grandfather were in the restaurant business so I guess it’s in the blood.
So many great books: Leaves of Grass, Salem’s Lot, Our Band Could Be Your Life, The Things They Carried. Kind of all over the place with this one.
Probably a tie between the Goonies and The Princess Bride. This is always such a hard question and when my wife and I talk about movies we usually break it up by genre because it’s so hard to answer.
Again such a hard question, but probably Converge-Petitioning the Empty Sky. That album just changed my whole outlook on music and it’s possibilities.
Mucho thanks to Robbie for taking the time to answer my questions. I appreciate it. On October 27th Empty Black’s self-titled EP is releasing courtesy of The Dregs Records. Please wrap your ears around this four tracker. You will not be disappointed.
~El Pedo Caliente (aka Uncle Jameson host of the Fistful of DOOM show)