Ex-Rufio Guitarist Clark Domae Talks New/Old EP with Scott Sellers As BigCity (The Witzard Interview)
Fontana, California-based artist Clark Domae was a driving force behind the success of early 2000's Pop-punk/Emo pioneers Rufio. Domae played lead guitar and sang back-up vocals across Rufio's four critically-acclaimed albums, as well as a handful of singles and EP's, released between 2001-10. Domae was part of Rufio's initial run between 2000-07 and reunion stints held in 2010-12 and 2015. During their heyday, Rufio toured alongside of bands like Alkaline Trio, Brand New, Less Than Jake, Relient K, Senses Fail, and Taking Back Sunday. Since Rufio's 2007 disbandment, Clark Domae has started a family, gone back to school, maintains a "normal" job, and still plays guitar from time to time after his kids go to bed. Clark played guitar on "Drugs" from his one-time bandmate Scott Sellers' 2018 solo EP The Judge and most recently, revitalized an old band with Sellers and Aaron Fernandez. BigCity's awesomely-titled The Quest for Power EP consists of songs largely written and demo'ed as far back as 2008. It was cleaned up, partly re-recorded during this Pandemic, and is now available on Scott Sellers' own imprint, The Judge.
I. What have you been up to since Rufio's one-off reunion show in June of 2015?
Clark Domae: Since, our last show in Montreal in 2015, I finished my Bachelor's Degree in Finance. I got married and had two children. My oldest is named Sloan and she is five [and] my youngest is named Vada and she is three. As far as my occupation, I manage a restaurant, which I got into after years of bartending. I know, I am so lame; I am such a sell-out.
II. What would you deem some of your fondest memories from your time spent with Rufio?
Domae: That is a tough question. There are so many, to be honest. I love playing live and, so, for me, it was always playing really cool shows. In particular, Warped Tour in Montreal; it was pouring rain and we had a 5,000 or so sized audience, which was abnormally large for us. Wimbley Stadium in London with The Offspring was, also, memorable. It was the biggest show we had ever played at the time. Another cool memory, touring with Taking Back Sunday (TBS) & Brand New in 2002. All of us were just getting started, so the shows were pretty small, but we watched those two bands blow up in front of our eyes. I mean, literally, the first part of the tour we headlined, but by the end, it was all about Taking Back Sunday. Shows were sold out, lines around the corner, everyone wanted to meet those guys. And on top of it, both of those bands were so extremely cool. I would run into Adam [Lazarra], Mark [O'Connell] & Eddie [Reyes] from TBS years later when they were huge and they were still the same humble dudes.
III. How did yourself and your former bandmate Scott Sellers decide to form BigCity?
Domae: It started after Rufio had broken up. We were still doing South American tours, but not writing any new Rufio songs. We have a buddy, Aaron [Fernandez], who is very into Rock just like we are. [He and] Scott wrote lyrics and, then, Scott turned it into a song. They needed a guitar solo, so they asked me to play on it. I ended up joining Scott for the song-writing process shortly thereafter and we did, I think, six more songs. We had seven total, if I can remember correctly. All three of us didn’t really have anything going on. A lot of those riffs we would write drunk. It sounds silly now because we are much different people today, but there was this cheap CVS brand whiskey called Gran Legacy. It was $7.00 for a liter; we would drink this stuff, then, write Rock riffs. It was almost as if we were trying to channel our inner Mötley Crüe. I heard that when Mick Mars recorded the guitar solo to "Girls, Girls, Girls," he fell out of his chair because he was so drunk. That was [what] we wanted to embody. We would record them in Scott’s garage and they were very, very rough. I mean, super-sloppy. So, the next day sober, we would listen to them and re-record. It was funny, too, because one riff might take two hours to do, but the next day sober, we would do it first try. What's cool for me is that those songs represent a time in our lives. Living in your twenties, trying to figure out life, trying to meet girls, or, maybe, getting over one. Even though the lyrics may sound intentionally over-the-top, they speak some truth to our lives at the time.
IV. What were some of your greatest sources of inspiration and influence while recording debut EP, The Quest for Power?
Domae: I started playing guitar because of Guns N' Roses (GN'R.) Before we listened to Punk, we loved Rock & Metal. Specifically, Hair Metal. Def Leppard, Mötley Crüe, GN'R, Warrant, Winger, Skid Row, etc. Those guys had amazing voices and every song had a guitar solo. That's the dream. I want every song to have a guitar solo and at least 10 to 15 solo-type leads throughout the song. I spent my youth idolizing those bands. I had long hair and "dirty" mustache because I was so Metal. Not that a mustache made you "Metal," it was more of a... "I do not care about my look or hygiene. I just want to Rock all the time." Scott has, also, always been into singer song-writers, like Peter Cetera & Peter Gabriel. They have an uplifting style to their songs, which somewhat connects to 80’s Rock, as well. This kind of "montage"-style song-writing that is very dynamic and has really big choruses. Songs that would be on training montages, like Rocky. If you're not familiar, Stan Bush, Robert Tepper, or Joe ["Bean"] Esposito. The latter wrote "You're The Best" from [The] Karate Kid. Seriously, one morning when you are getting ready, listen to "You're The Best" and I guarantee that that will be an amazing day. It will pump you up.
V. When and how was The Quest for Power created and prepared for release?
Domae: It was originally written circa 2008. The newest version was recorded in the [months] of March and April 2021. Scott sent me the tracks he had already done, which [included] vocals, rhythm guitars, bass, and drums. I bought a cheap interface and tracked all the guitar leads at my house after my girls went to sleep. I bought some headphones to not wake them up. It took about a few weeks for me to do all my parts. I sent them back to Scott and he mixed it and did all the behind-the-scenes stuff. It’s available on [Apple Music, Spotify,] and Bandcamp.
VI. What do you recall from the recording sessions for your contributions to "Drugs" from Scott Sellers' 2018 EP, The Judge?
Domae: Scott lives about 10 minutes from me on foot. He text me and said, "Hey. I need you to solo over this. I'll email you the song." I listened to it, jammed over it for about an hour, and, then, text Scott back that I [could] record it whenever he [was] ready. I went over a few days later, recorded it at his house late at night, maybe, midnight or so, and that was it. That is the [extent] of how [he] and I do music now, as infrequently as it is. Basically, "I need a solo here" and I would jam something out and record it. Rufio was a little different; there were four people that needed to be involved, but with just Scott & I, it's that simple. As far as The Judge, that entire album is all Scott with exception of my one solo and the solo for "Evolution" that his buddy did.
VII. Are you still in contact with your fellow Rufio bandmates... have you ever toyed with the idea of a full-fledged reunion?
Domae: Every year, Jon & I text each other on our birthdays, as well as, the occasional “Hey, have you heard this yet?” text. He lives in Nashville now, so I have not seen him in years. Mike lives nearby. We talk from time to time. Nothing serious. Just catch-up conversations. He has kid now, too, so, we both have very little time to hang out. I talk to Scott & Taylor regularly. Taylor played bass on Anybody Out There. I almost never go a day without some text from either of them. Terry, who played drums on that same album, I rarely see anymore. He is busy man. Plays in many bands, works a lot, and always has some project he’s working on. I do not think a Rufio reunion is in our future. Although, it is the 20-year anniversary for Perhaps, I Suppose... so, we wanted to do something to commemorate it, but we are not sure what that is yet.
VIII. Do you remember what drove you guys to record covers of "Like A Prayer" and "Don't You (Forget About Me)" for Punk Goes Pop and Punk Goes 80's, respectively?
Domae: We were asked to do a Pop song for the Fearless compilation Punk Goes Pop. I do not remember why we choose Madonna. I think, we thought it was just a cool song. FUN FACT: We recorded that song at some studio in Fullerton and Teppei [Teranishi] from Thrice was the engineer. That is a pretty cool memory. I love Thrice, so that was honor for me to sit in a room with him.
IX. Do you have any additional musical projects currently in-the-works or nearing completion you would like to talk about?
Domae: Honestly, no. I play guitar once a month now, my life is mundane, and the 13-year-old version of me would be very upset at myself. My days of rebellion and listening to Rage Against The Machine and wanting to turn the world upside have subsided. As a kid, I wanted to be a guitar hero, like Slash, and inspire my fellow Asian peeps OR take out the corporate banking system and start a revolution. Now, I have a mortgage and work a normal job. Like I said, I am a sell-out to consumerism like everyone else.
X. Who are your biggest influences as a guitar player?
Domae: As aforementioned, I started playing because of Slash. His melodic solos are matched by no one else. The list is huge, though: Paul Gilbert, Marty Friedman (Megadeth,) Kiko Loureiro (Angra, Megadeth,) Alexi Laiho (Children of Bodom,) Strung Out dudes Jake & Rob, all of the many Soilwork guitar players, Dimebag Darrell, Richie Kotzen... I can go on forever with this list, so I will stop there.
XI. For someone just now getting into Rufio's music, where would you personally recommend starting?
Domae: Probably, with our first album, Perhaps, I Suppose... It is what made us popular. So, start there and ignore the out of tune guitars and loose playing done by me. Ultimately, though, [The] Comfort of Home is my favorite. It is the most interesting, in my opinion. We tried to do different things [than] we normally would. A little more Rock with key changes and a lot more leads. It was fun making that record, minus the internal battles we were facing, which led to our break-up. Check out "Life Songs," "Bitter Season," "Simple Line," "Never Learn," and "Let Fate Decide." I really thought we did something great there and, maybe, the internal battles helped us do something different.
XII. Since we're already about halfway through 2021, would you mind sharing some of your favorite releases (so far) this year?
Domae: I would love to. In Flames put out a record recently entitled I, The Mask and it is amazing. Their best record since Clayman. That was 2019, does that count? There is this band called Lionville. Their singer is this Swedish guy, Lars Safund, who is in a band called Work of Art. Lionville's latest record, Magic Is Alive, has some brilliant hooks. I cannot stop listening to it. Every time I hear it, all I think is, "why are Swedish people so good at making music????" The Architects put an album this year called For Those That Wish to Exist. It is a little more "commercial" than their normal Metalcore stuff. You still get cool riffs and drumming, but with amazing vocals. I, also, listen to Hamilton all the time. I, actually, hate musicals and don't really care for theatre whatsoever, but I love politics and I love songs about politics. My daughters love it, too. My 3-year-old knows a lot of the lyrics. So, we listen to it a lot.