Tuesday, October 17

Ten Questions with Roxy Roller: Bass Ninja Warrior and Musician Extraordinaire

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Roxy Roller, is the high energy, bassist, singer, and songwriter of the bands LUCABRAZZI, Pleasure Parade, and Synikk. Roller is a man who has long been a musical institution in the San Francisco Bay Area rock scene helping to promote and create shows for countless local bands.

In addition to being a talented musician, Roller occasionally moonlights as the charismatic radio show host of the highly entertaining Roxy Roller Radio Show and Horror Hop Radio Show that has featured entertaining interviews with SF musical talent. He owns a production company called Chromespider Presents that puts on live shows and promotes local bands throughout the SF Bay Area.

When you meet Roller, he talks in rapid fire, staccato succession, and his words come at you at warp speed. Roller rarely stands still and is full of energy that seems to have a never-ending reserve. When watching him play live, it’s a sight to behold that is part spectacle and part fierce musical force. Whether he is in a dress playing bass or running around on stage chasing fans as a lead singer, he’s always larger than life.On stage, he elicits the feeling of a musician who exudes a dangerous and reckless rock aura that is like a caged panther.

It’s a sight to behold.

Roxy Roller

SF Sonic had the privilege of interviewing Roller about his background and the culmination of his work leading up to the release of his albums and touring plans for this year.

1.   Your name is Roxy Roller, which sounds like a combination of the words “rock and roll” and “high roller.” Is that the real name your mom named you?

I came up with the name Roxy Roller from a song by Sweeney Todd called Roxy Roller sung by Nick Gilder of “Hot Child in The City” fame. Suzi Quatro and Cherie Currie also covered the song too. So yes, it’s a reference to rock n’ roll.

2.   As a musician, you’re a triple threat, you play bass, sing, and write songs. How did you learn to play the bass and what inspired you to play music?

I fell in love with rock n’ roll radio at an early age. Growing up in in New York City, my two brothers and I always had the radio on at nights. We all lived in the same room in an apartment in the Bronx

The rock heroes of my youth were larger than life and it was such a magical time for rock ‘n’ roll. I was a little too young to be fully immersed in the first wave of rock, but it still influenced me. When I listened to music, I used to be just taken away by the power and charisma of my heroes – Judas Priest, T. Rex, Kiss, Rush, Queen, Black Sabbath, and The Rolling Stones. All those bands put on mega live concert experiences and I have carried on that tradition in my presence, sound, and vision for all of my music.

What got me into playing bass was I was a problem child so my mother wanted me to get into somethings constructive, like learning an instrument. I learned bass because when I grew up it was the era of the guitar hero and I never wanted be a shred meister. I like low frequencies and the overall bombastic sound of the bass.

So my mom got me a no name bass and I took about 5 out of 8 lessons my mother paid for and then I was just over it. This guitar teacher would make me play songs like “Money” by Pink Floyd or “Heart Breaker” by Led Zeppelin and then he would solo all over it.

He was a just a wanker. So I kept playing on my own. I took a few years and got really good at it.

3.   You sing and play bass in the industrial punk rock band LUCABRAZZI, perform lead vocals in the rock band Pleasure Parade, and play bass in the industrial band Synikk. Most people are in one band but you’re in three. How do you manage being in three different bands with different styles?

I came from New York City, the city that never sleeps, and the apple don’t fall from the tree with me. I’m Roxy Rollerdriven and I’m at my best when I’m busy. What I like about LUCABRAZZI is that I write the words, play bass, and sing lead. We are a fierce, lethal, pedal to metal, rock and roll band that can blister music like a rhino in the heat of the passion.

What I like about my other band Pleasure Parade is that I only sing lead, I don’t have to play bass too. Steve Ricablanca from VKTMS writes the music and the lyrics so it is a very different process. People have responded really positively to me as a lead singer and it is a totally different beast.

4.Your band’s name is LUCABRAZZI. Was that name inspired by the character Luca Brasi in the movie Godfather, who was the Mafia boss and personal enforcer for Vito Corleone?

Yes. LUCABRAZZI is a reference to the character in the Godfather. He was a killer, but he has honor and is very loyal, and he was an unstoppable juggernaut in the movie like a super hero. Just like me, as many view me, as one of the last true rock stars. I have certainly lived a charmed life.

5. In a movie trailer for your old band The Meathook and the Vital Organs, you are wearing a dress. What was the story of how you ended up wearing that? Is that how you regularly dress at shows?

Yeah, I like to dress up, which goes back to my glam influences. We had topless go-go dancers, but I was never excited by their nudity like the crowd was because I’ve seen a lot of women nude so I don’t lose my mind. But the boys back home were impressed that I still got it as far as my look and confidence. At first I thought the dancers were just a gimmick and I thought the music should be good enough without it, but let’s face it, everybody loves boobs.

I want to give the people the best, most exciting, and fun show that I can and the joining of forces of me and Lance Flynn was a beast larger than the sum of its parts We raised hell and were most definitely the most dangerous and controversial band in the SF Bay Area for the about 5 years..

We even played a porn shoot called Public Disgrace and it is online with millions of hits. We did it at the Stork Club, believe it or not

The Meathook and the Vital Organs shows were epic and some of the mayhem is up on YouTube for those that are interested. One time we played the Powerhouse, a gay bar downtown on Harrison or Folsom, for the owner’s 75th birthday. Lance got naked as he always did. This guy, a naked bear with this big belly, came up to him and Lance who had been cutting himself, cut the guy’s belly with the end of a broken bottle.

It was unbelievable!

We did a lot of shows and hung out almost every day in the beginning. Lance and I were like a two-headed monster who went everywhere together. He lived and slept at my place, fucked chicks on my couch, and it was a wild ride. I am proud of my body of work with that band and our shows are now legendary. That is something you can only hope to do as a kid. Just getting up in the game, being significant, and having an impact and influence on younger bands being original. We accomplished all three of those things and I am glad we did it. Sometimes I miss it, or certain elements of being in the band, but it would not be the same today, even if we continued because the SF Bay Area has changed so much.

6. You play bass in the Industrial band Synikk with Jeff Syn. Can you tell us what that project is like and what is in store for you with the new band?

Jeff Syn asked me to play a show with him and sent me six songs that would be backing tracks which almost all industrial bands use invariably. We rehearsed all night until 12 noon the next day. I played until I literally could not play anymore. We played a show two days later at the Caravan Lounge in San Jose where it all began for me in with LUCABRAZZI all those years ago way back in early 2007.

Synikk is ready to take over the anemic industrial scene in the SF Bay Area, the West Coast, go national, and international. We have gotten a warm reception and I am excited about the challenges that lay ahead. I have always played to live drums, except for acoustic shows, and even then, have had drums more often than not. I have never performed with a drum machine or backing tracks except once with my short-lived project called Dirty Halos.

But I keep it real and that’s just how we rockers do it. Jeff is singing and playing guitar, I am on bass and back-up vocals, and we have a guy playing keyboards and working the backing tracks We will be writing some new material and are gonna be bringing it to clubs in the next few months

Roxy Roller7. You are the singer for the band Pleasure Parade and have recently opened up for Stiff Little Fingers at Slim’s which is quite an accomplishment. Things seem to be really going great for you in that project. How did that band come about?

Pleasure Parade is an interesting and successful departure from my bass man persona. Steve Ricablanca, from the legendary OG bay area punk band VKTMS, came to one of my acoustic shows at the Brainwash Cafe and asked me to play bass on his solo album that he had named Pleasure Parade.

Steve is a great bass player, however he plays guitar in Pleasure Parade, so maybe he thought I might play in his band but I did not take it that seriously which goes to show ya never know. Weeks, months, and maybe even a year went by. We talked on the phone a few times but I was in the middle of that period when I had two radio shows every week, was hosting the Saturday weekly matinee show at the Stork, as well as a monthly death rock event called Phantasm and was still in other bands besides having to work out of town trimming buds. So, it wasn’t that I didn’t want to do it, I just didn’t have the time or energy to get in another project.

But I’m a man of my word, so Steve sent me some demos that he had been recording over a two-year period for an album he wanted to release with him on bass and guitar and programmed drums. I immediately thought I could do something with it and it went from there. We both liked the results I recorded so I sang on another song and that one came out even better. After several months of me doing vocals on his demos we were on our way. I was like, what are we waiting for? Let’s start playing these songs live!

So after bringing in LUCABRAZZI’s drummer LV Washington, we went through a couple of bass players and I just said fuck it, and brought in LUCABRAZZI’s guitarist Chris Albert. So basically Steve had Lucabazzi backing him up.

We ended up replacing LV with Lliam Hart, who was the drummer in American Music Club, and also played in Information Society, who were BIG in the 80’s. He is still in the band and after a hiatus we got back together with Donovan Plant from Girls with Guns on bass and are playing with him now

8. What is your inspiration for writing songs?
My inspiration comes from my muse who I love with everything I am.

My writing process is I either write on an analog drum machine on which I can program bass parts, or more often than not, I’ll just play on a Martin acoustic bass and the music starts flowing. I am not deliberate, it is all spontaneous and quite a lovely experience. Sometimes I am just walking across a room and a melody will just fill me, take over my body, and I’ll start singing acapella. That actually happened last night.

9. In the LUCABRAZZI song Zero, the music has an aggressive hardcore punk feel to it with industrial vocals. The lyrics are like a stream of consciousness of rock and roll. In the lyrics, you talk about having a revolution and getting stoned, but the song is called “Zero.” What do you mean by that? Are you being ironic to people who say they are going to create change society but really don’t?

I am creating change and have created it my whole life. I am a revolutionary artist because I push the boundaries of everything. We are in a rut as a race, on a downward to spiral towards extinction. I wrote the song “Zero” in 1999 in New York city. It was originally called “Pushing on a Needle.”

It was about how I was in so much pain from a severe thyroid condition. The pain was so sharp it felt like a needle pushing into my flesh and bones, but I also included a drug reference as a double entendre. Even though I wasn’t partying at the time, all of my writing not only predicted what my life was going to be like, but was absolutely bone chilling in some respects. Suffice it to say, that I knew what was going to happen. I manifested the entity and she came through from the other side and lives inside of me and takes over my body sometimes. There are many songs I’ve written about her including 321, Baby Strange, Mickey Rourke and almost all the songs are on Reverberation.

10.What are your future plans? Do you plan to tour?

Yes, we plan to tour in all 3 of my projects. They are successful and moving along at a good clip. I’m optimistic about the future.

As far as LUCABRAZZI goes, we have a new drummer Christian Polanco, and as soon as he gels up to speed with the band we can get to work on the long-awaited series of EPs that I have a vision for. I am going to do that with Chris Albert, my long-time guitarist.

Pleasure Parade is going to be recording a full-length album but I think we might start out with an EP. We would love to tour if we all can agree on a time frame.

Synnikk is a new band, so there are no plans as of yet to do anything except play the next show, develop the sound, create a stage show, and the chemistry between me and Jeff.

And I am also doing a solo album or a series of EPs which I am going to have played with by everybody that I am friends with and there are some big names there. I am all about unity and I think it will it bring this musical community together in one place.

Like the Roman empire, so too is the SF Bay Area music scene, it’s just a few degrees of separation, and all roads lead to Roxy (laughs)! I am also thinking of bringing the radio show back and Chromespider Presents as well. I go through a rebirth every year. In December and January, a part of me usually dies but then another part grows and evolves like a phoenix rising from the fire and ashes, to be reborn anew once again. Until that day when I am no more, until then, I am going to be making noise loud and proud.

It is my rebel spirit, the beast within.

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For more information about Lucabrazzi, click here.

Find out more about Pleasure Parade here.

Check out Synikk here.

To listen to the song Zero and more by Lucabrazzi:

All photos by Jeff Spirer.

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About Author

Dave Jurgens is a writer and musician who has been a regular contributor to the Philippine News, Faces of Rock, and the Greensheet magazine. He is currently at work on his first novel The Devil’s Orchard, a hard-boiled sci-fi story. Dave plays drums in the band 13 Widows and lives in San Rafael, California with his girlfriend Brandy and their puppy Honey Whiskey.

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