Boston's Randy Roos-A Local Legend Sustains Infinitely

Phil DiPietro By

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RR: That was a bizarre night. It worked out really well and we got into some real textural stuff. Three guitars and nothing else leaves a lot of textural possibilities. Then we did the Mistral record. Now the whole point of that was to do a record and then do a band. I stopped going to Berklee and I stopped thinking about getting a sideman gig and I did my own band again. That was probably the worst decision of my life, at that point. If there's anything I regret it was that I didn't pursue my idea to get good, established sideman gigs at that point. That was the time to do it. I had the connections; I was starting to get the skills. I'd never be a good sideman really'I'm not that good at'

AAJ: Incorporating yourself into other people's'?

RR: Yeah, I don't know what it is'but that was the time to learn how to do it anyway, but someone offers you a record deal..and I had a great band that was finely tuned, you know. That's when I got the synth thing happening too. I bought the Arp Avatar. I would work all day on parts that I would add, and then I'd go into the studio and add those parts. I think I had a week and a half of overdub time. We did the basics in two days.

AAJ: I always thought that was your own indie record release.

RR: No, Spoonfed Records was Bruce Patch's label. Here's another bad decision I made. One day, before the record was released, Bruce called me from the offices of Motown records and said, 'Here, I want to put this guy, who is head of A and R, on the phone.' He said, 'I've listened to your forthcoming record and I really like it. I think there's a lot of potential here. I've got a keyboard player I'm working with. I'd like you to come out to Detroit and work with this guy and we'll see what happens.' I said, 'I don't want to do that. I have a band here.' Bruce got back on the line and said, 'Oh you don't want to do that?' I confirmed that these were the guys I was working with and that was it. Didn't even give that a second thought 'til years later. Why would you not explore an opportunity like that. I had this idea in my head. 'This is my band. These are my guys. I am loyal to my guys.' I don't even know who the Motown keyboard player was. The thing is I could have kept that band and done both. Why would I not want to do that?

AAJ: But it was different times then. There was a great scene here in Boston. More than there is now, that's for sure.

—> RR: You're right. I think the point was that I was still somewhat under that misconception of leading a charmed life. If I was going to do it this way it was going to work. Yeah, right.

AAJ: Sometimes if you are strongly enough under that misconception, it actually does happen.

RR: What I've learned is, if any interesting opportunity comes along, you at least check it out. Life is too short not to do that.

AAJ: So can you touch on the Avatar and the fretless guitar that came after?

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?

RR: The Guitorgan , yes. I had already gotten the Guitorgan before that. My real first foray into alternative sounds out of the guitar

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?

RR: Then we had Jimmy Earl and then Baron Browne , on bass. That's when we started playing at Ryles , after Pooh's closed.

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.


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