Boston's Randy Roos-A Local Legend Sustains Infinitely
RR: Well, the Avatar happened for me right away. As soon as I got it I used in on Mistral and I was really hooked. I'd heard that Tailspinnin' record by Weather Report, with Alyrio Lima by the way, which is the first one where Zawinul used the 2600 a lot. As soon as I heard that, I realized synthesis was it for me. I was fascinated. I loved the sounds. I loved the possibilities. I have sort of a techie head and it meshed with that nicely. This came with a pickup that was made by Arp and you put the pickup on your guitar.
AAJ: Was that the red guitar? The ES 335 type thing?
AAJ: Who made that?
RR: It was some company in Texas.
AAJ: Was that a thing you put into a guitar?
RR: Yes. They put it in an Ibanez guitar, a 335 copy- a very nice guitar. I was lucky. They put it in a bad instrument before, but I ordered it anyway. It turned out the instrument they put mine in was a great guitar. I had the Guitorgan in the old band - '77 or sometime in there. I added the Avatar later. Then I got a 2600 head I used with the Avatar. The Avatar would put control voltages out so I could use it with the 2600. The 2600 was the electronics and the keyboard controller was a separate thing. After Mistral was released I started doing keyboards instead of the two guitar thing. First Frank Wilkins on keys, then when Louis went away to Japan, Tommy Campbell replaced him on drums.
I had various bass players. I had Wayne Pedzwater first, then Tim Landers . Then Tim went to California and I grabbed Victor Bailey. Victor had just started Berklee. Mine was the first gig he did in Boston. He'd come to hear the band a few times at Pooh's Pub, and loved it. He was like a little kid fresh out of high school, just about. His first gig he was okay, right? His second gig he was really okay? They third gig he sounded good. The fourth gig he sounded great. Fifth gig..he was killing it! It was amazing. He was just beautiful, and what a great guy to work with.
AAJ: He's still a nice guy. I saw him a couple years ago and I mentioned your name. He lit right up!
RR: Total sweetheart. I have to get back in touch with him. Frank and Tommy and Victor. Great band.
AAJ: Didn't Hunt play in that band too?
RR: Well, what happened next was Tommy got the call to play with Dizzy, so Jun Saito replaced him. That was tough, because I was used to Tommy and Jun just wasn't doing it for me at first. I was on his case all the time. He was so dedicated and worked so hard on the music, y'know. We had our first good gig and after that point, it was fine. Then Steve Hunt replaced Frank.
AAJ: When did Jeff Berlin come? I saw a couple of those gigs.
RR: That was summer of 1980 and 1981. That was a good band, with Jun and Steve. It was an exciting band- we had some good gigs. Audiences liked that lot.
AAJ: Didn't you and Jeff also work with Bill Bruford around that time? Yes- 1980. Bill had finished his solo records with Holdsworth and Jeff and decided he would like to explore even more of a jazz direction. So Jeff recommended he play with us-me and Mick (Goodrick). We did some gigs at Michael's and Pooh's. [Note: an interview with Bruford and Randy during this time period is archived here ].
AAJ: What happened with the bass chair after Jeff?
AAJ: I saw you play with Kai Eckhardt, too.
RR: Yeah, just a couple of gigs, though.
AAJ: Well, I guess the point is that everyone who came through your band was an incredible player.
RR: In those days, all I wanted to do was gig. There was no recording unless it was to record what your gigging band did. I had no deal. What was I going to do? It was hip to have jazz then, and I had a good gig playing somewhat challenging music. So of course the good players who happened to be in town were going to play with me at some point. Quite a few good players were coming through Boston!
AAJ: Back to the fretless guitar.
RR: That was mostly the winter of '78. My friend Steve Holland, who originally studied with me, was a very good guitarist and became a very good friend- was going to MIT at the time and was a brilliant guy and brilliant at building things. He could work with any material and make anything out of it. He could look art any machine and immediately understand how it worked and how to make it better. He had this idea for a sustaining device that was the opposite of a pickup. It would put out instead of pick up. It would therefore set up a feedback loop through the string and make a note last forever.