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Rochester, New York, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2007 | SELF

Rochester, New York, United States | SELF
Established on Jan, 2007
Band Rock EDM




"The Fire Inside"


By Frank De Blase on January 5, 2011

RootsCollider performing Saturday, January 1, at Water Street Music Hall. The band creates digitally precise music by using actual instruments. PHOTO FRANK DE BLASE

RootsCollider is a menacing wall of sound, a collection of colossal textures and beats, a bombastic blast of epic resonance played with searing passion and arctic cool. Elements of reggae, jam music, and jazz get torqued in the extreme via RootsCollider's obvious love and adherence to drum and bass. The band calls it "livetronica."

This Rochester foursome - Wil McKenna on guitar, Bill Smith on keyboards, Jimmy Grillo on drums, and Dexter Redic on bass - does it beautifully backwards. Whereas the majority of today's pop music is a digital creation or a recreation of the analogue world, RootsCollider cranks out the digital in an organic setting with real instruments. Despite the digital precision, this is strictly an analogue outfit. Close your eyes and you can't tell the difference.

In keeping with its flipped technology philosophy, RootsCollider is releasing its first four-song EP, aptly titled "EP." It's a digital representation of the band's analogue representation of the digital. Still with me? The following interview should shed some light on the process.

CITY: What are RootsCollider's roots?

Wil McKenna: It just started as a bunch of ideas on ProTools in 2006. They were ideas I had always played around with but could never get people to take seriously, or execute correctly in the way that I wanted them to be played.

I can understand execution, but why couldn't they take them seriously?

Bill Smith: Everybody grooves a different way.

McKenna: The whole dichotomy of musicians and their egos and attitudes...that whole spiel.

What was it about this music that made you want to create it with a band?

McKenna: I was really looking for the intense rush, the intense crush that I felt when I was playing the music. When I played the music on the computer it made me want to rage, it made me feel like I had fire inside of me. It made me feel young.

Now, with others in the band, are you open to their interpretations?

McKenna: I'm open to it.

Is this true?

Smith: As long as it's logical. That's part of the quandary of RootsCollider. The collision is somewhat literal in the sense of the music that we're bashing together.

So the line-up as it stands came together in July of 2010.

McKenna: The quick succession is, I came up with the ideas, I found Jim, Jim was nasty, I reached out to Bill, Bill came and destroyed, and finally our search was over with Dexter.

Was the entire group focused on the sound it's now associated with?

Smith: When I first started playing in the group, it was all about ideas, but I didn't want to be nice. I wanted to smash down doors with music, even if we didn't go anywhere with it. We just wanted to bring the fire.

McKenna: I come from the reggae scene; reggae music reminds me of water and chilling out, but drum and bass reminds me of fire.

Do you think you came off antagonistic to that scene?

McKenna: No, because it's in there.

What is RootsCollider's mission?

McKenna: We are the last analogue defense against a digital 21st century.

And yet you sound alarmingly digital. Why is it better when done analogue?

McKenna: Because it's live. A lot of people, when they first walk in, are blown away; it's a shock. They're looking for a DJ. A lot of times when you go see a DJ they're not very animated. And when you see live musicians doing it and you see the sweat and you see us pouring our heart and soul into it... I feel like it really affects people, it's so upbeat it moves people in a visceral way.

How do you come up with song titles, since the band is entirely instrumental?

McKenna: We have thematic names for our tunes: "Supernova" or "Baktun" - the end of the Mayan calendar - or "Procreation" or "Soundwave" or "Infinity." Sometimes the name comes before the tune, or sometimes we'll come up with sick music and say, "What does this make you think of?"

Smith: A lot of times it's just like painting and someone's laying down that first layer.

A lot of the music has soundtrack potential. What kind of movies would your music fit?

McKenna: Any kind of outer-space fight scene.

Dexter Redic: With Angelina Jolie.

What's the band's biggest accomplishment to date?

Jimmy Grillo: Just getting us all together to play music and be on the same page.

With all your musical backgrounds, is there a lot of compromise?

Smith: It's not compromise. It's that whole fury thing and finding where it goes.

How hard is it to mimic digital precision in an analogue setting?

McKenna: I feel we have perfect moments when the balance is just right.

How do you approach improvisation?

Grillo: It's more of a James Brown take on improv; if we have a section of music we already know, we can take that section in a live show and, for instance, have the bass drop out.

McKenna: And that changes the whole dynamic. We do what a computer and a DJ can't do; we can improvise, we can change in the moment.

But RootsCollider isn't really a jam band. Right?

McKenna: I like to think we're the healthy hippy alternative. We play the circuit but I don't consider us a jam band, rather a destructive composed force.

What do you find challenging about that? The balance between the two?

Smith: The whole creation process. To be analogue, to be live, but emulate non-live.

Would you ever work with a DJ?

McKenna: It would have to be someone over the top, somebody nasty. Because RootsCollider, I'd like to think, is the loudest non-metal band in Rochester. We come with a force. It's musical kung-fu.

Redic: We're here to move you, baby. - City Magazine

"The latest edition to the local scene - RootsCollider"

You've felt the music of the Buddhahood and Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad.

Now welcome Roots Collider, the latest edition to the local scene, where some of the best and most popular bands create music driven by a vibe rather than a sound.

The trio isn't a talented jam band or a roots-reggae ensemble. It's a "diamond in the rough," says the group's bearded, laid-back bassist, Wil McKenna, 29, of Rochester.

McKenna and his bandmates - drummer Jimmy Grillo, 21, of Irondequoit and keyboardist Bill Smith, 30, of Penfield - play live drum and bass, a format typically associated with DJs and beat machines.

Though live drum and bass is extremely popular in Europe (especially England), it hasn't caught on the United States. In fact, Roots Collider's MySpace page claims that the band is the only one of its kind in this area, and MySpace, and PureVolume searches don't do anything to prove otherwise. Grillo links the genre's lack of mainstream success to a reluctance by trained musicians to embrace it.

"We've had a bunch of people come through [to play with us], and it just doesn't work," he says. "They don't recognize the genre or the concept of drum and bass and putting that in a live format."

Whereas drum and bass DJs "take a bunch of funk beats from the '70s and speed them up," he says, Roots Collider re-creates those accelerated beats on live instruments and combines them with roots music - jazz, rock, reggae and blues.

Not surprisingly, when McKenna first dreamed of starting a drum and bass band, he had trouble finding other musicians capable of fitting in - until he met Grillo through mutual friends.

"As soon as the guy played, I felt inspired," McKenna says.

Once Grillo was onboard, McKenna reached out to friend and keyboardist/sax player Smith.

Roots Collider has been an official trio since mid-January, playing in front of crowds that sometimes feel the vibe or are completely baffled by it.

"We're colliding roots music together," McKenna says. "Right now we're having fun being a raging power trio and just getting people familiar with the scene."
- Insider Magazine

"Growth Market - RootsCollider has taken Hold"

Wil McKenna, bassist for live drum-and-bass trio Roots Collider, was on the road in Ithaca when he found out his friend Tony Cavagnaro, frontman of The Buddhahood, had died.
"I was shocked," says McKenna, 31. "I was in a Burger King parking lot, crying my eyes out." Cavagnaro was killed in a single-car crash in September 2007 while on his way to Buffalo for a gig with The Buddhahood. Since then, Cavagnaro's bandmates have put on an annual fundraiser in his memory. Called January Thaw, it celebrates his music, life and birthday.
Proceeds from ticket and raffle sales at this year's show on Jan. 20 at Water Street Music Hall will go to Cavagnaro's family as well as to the Tony Cavagnaro Youth Musicians Scholarship to help young musicians in financial need.
The event will open with ska/reggae act Two Ton Ska, followed by The Buddhahood's long set, which will include several guest musicians sitting in on songs written by Cavagnaro, and Roots Collider closing out the night.
"To get to play the event is a blessing," McKenna says. "And then for (The Buddhahood) to give us the headlining spot at their own festival is overwhelmingly awesome. We're really kind of shocked and humbled by it. It's a really great honor."
Roots Collider, which also includes drummer Jim Grillo, 22, and keyboardist Bill Smith, 32, has been together for a year. McKenna says he's surprised by the attention the group has gotten, especially because live drum-and-bass is a relatively underground genre.
"For some reason Rochester has embraced Roots Collider, which I'm kind of shocked and honored about at the same time. It's pretty cool," he says. Though McKenna plays in four other bands — JATAS or J-San and the Analogue Sons, David "Solid" Gould and the Temple Rockers — and sits in with String Theory and Ithaca's Solstice, he says Roots Collider offers him a different kind of release.
"The reggae and roots bands that I play in, I look at that as like water and creation; but I look at Roots Collider as destruction and as fire ... it is my aggressive outlet," he says. "And in all the other bands that I sit in on, that's not my music — I'm the dude that shows up and plays the parts. But with Roots Collider, it's our music; it's all three of us."
The trio hopes to put out its first studio EP by May, in time for the Sterling Stage FolkFest, which McKenna says the group will play, whether it's accepted by the festival or not.
Even if it's rejected, "we're still going with a generator and a tent," he says. "We're gonna have to do that, we're gonna have to be aggressive. Sometimes you have to be aggressive to get your point across." - Insider Magazine

"Live Drum and Bass = RootsCollider"

For those of you who are slightly suspect of the digital medium, consider Roots Collider. This Rochester trio is the analogue answer to the overly electronic dominance of the style. The music is trance-like and transient, and seems just a little more real in the hands of musicians who also get those hands on, around, and in organic - that is, real - instruments. Roots Collider opens for Rubblebucket Orchestra.
Roots Collider plays Thursday, February 18 at 10 p.m. at Water Street Music Hall, 204 N Water St. $10-$12. 325-5600.
- City Magazine

"The Future is History Now"

Drum and Bass colored with funky keys, rhythm that rolls, rocks and dares you to keep up with it. Sweeping solos fueled with distorted syncopation exulting the audience then space inflected jamming to marionette their heads. Music you feel through your frame without a distracting vocal line, allowing you to sense the next direction, but ultimately you’ll be wrong. Only RootsCollider instinctively knows where they’re going next. Bill Smith’s keyboard colors are easily painted across timekeeper Jimmy Grillo’s driving beats all reinforced and bottom driven by WiL McKenna’s bass lines. It’s as if each is soloing in perfect arrangement, one moves forward, two move back, sliding from tempo to tempo in unison. Ubiquitous and oblique, driven by forces us mere humans may not understand besides the automatic kinship with the force of the groove. It’s easy to picture these guys whipping a late-night festival crowd into a frenzy. Add a well thought out video/ light show and this is a massive presentation live, directing the audience to follow because resistance is futile. RootsCollider’s uncanny knack of changing texture, tone and time precisely when you don’t expect it leaves their audiences in anticipation and satisfaction. Attempt to keep up with them through their myspace page at and see them live, it’s not for the faint of heart or soul. Album Review by Greg Jackson - UpStateLive Music Guide


The Future is History Now - 2009 - Live
Soundwave EP - 2010 - Studio
SuperNova EP  - 2011 - Studio
Phoenix EP - 2012 - Studio
Live at the Purple Pig Music Festival - 2013 - Live




RootsCollider is an underground Drum & Bass, Grime Time, Electro-Rock band that uses a studio producer's approach to writing original music. The group creates it's art primarily by layering melodies, rhythms, and samples made in Abelton with anthemic riff rock. Think of if Rage Against the Machine went to an illicit warehouse rave and collaborated with all of the DJ's from EDM's golden era of the 1990's.

Sharing the Stage - Bands

- Conspirator (Disco Biscuits, Lotus, RAQ, Pendulum)
- LouLou Ghelichkhani (Thievery Corporation) 
- Dub Trio (Matisyahu, Griz Live Band)
- DrFameus (Disco Biscuits)
- BioDiesel (Johnny Rabb)
- Brothers Past
- Muscle Tough
- The Werks
- Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad
- RubbleBucket
- Aqueous
- Sophistafunk
- Broccoli Samurai

Sharing the Stage - DJ's

- Kill the Noise
- Girl Talk
- Diesel Boy
- 12th Planet 
- DJ Logic

Sharing the Stage - Festivals

- Camp Bisco
- Disc Jam Music Festival
- Night Light's Music Festival

Magazine Features

- “Bands on the Rise” - Relix
- “Unsigned Bands” - High Times