Boston's Randy Roos-A Local Legend Sustains Infinitely
RR: My original plan was to do a year or two, but then to nail a sideman gig. But the original manager of Orchestra Luna called and asked me if I wanted to do a record. This was in the spring. I said, 'Sure'. While I was at Berklee, I started to play with Louis DeAndrade, a drummer who was great and a lot more open. I had a gig every Tuesday with my band, which now included Mike Stern. I thought I wanted a percussionist and I wanted someone with a name. I got Alyrio Lima that way. For bass, Stern said, 'We gotta get Neil Stubenhaus !' He was just out of Berklee and ready to go to LA. and make it, which he obviously did. He was great, although he wasn't during rehearsals-he couldn't read at all then. Mike had done a lot of gigs with him. We were driving home after a rehearsal and I'd dropped Neil off and I asked Mike, 'Is this going to work?' He said, 'It's going to be really cool . As soon as the record button is hit he's going to be smokin'.' That's exactly what happened. He had the music totally down. He'd obviously worked on it and he just nailed it. Most of the stuff was one or two takes. DeAndrade also smokes on that record. Last I heard, he moved to Japan and is teaching English there.
AAJ: How'd you meet Stern?
RR: Well, I had gotten to know Bill Frisell quite well, and he was a friend of Mike's. Plus Stern had approached me for lessons also, when I was with Orchestra Luna, and I didn't have time. I had heard about Mike and Bill said, 'You guys should get together.' So we did. We practiced a lot, sometimes 'til dawn together. Turn a metronome on and play 'Giant Steps' with each other for, like four hours (Laughs). He was at Berklee and stayed awhile after. For a while, Bill would do that standing Tuesday gig when Mike couldn't make it. One time we did a gig with me, Mike and Bill only, a guitar trio.
AAJ: Oh my, really?
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?