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Columns > Randy Ray - Peaches En Randalia

Published: 2006/08/19
by Randy Ray

The Big Bang Way Back in the Duo Day Part I [or Bonus Russo]

Peaches En Randalia #6
Sometimes, a writer just needs to turn to the Master with the difficult questions in Life. The Duo number is a classic example of that bit of fortune cookie logic. I spoke with Joe Russo and Marco Benevento for nearly five hours for this months feature and, quite frankly, some of the material would have been too supplementary to an adequate article. After getting some sage counsel from my good doctor friend and wise editor, I decided to include these conversations in my column. This month, Peaches En Randalia features my extended talk with Russo; next month will feature a further conversation with Benevento. I hope you enjoy their comments as much as I did as they treated the interview process as a chance to talk amongst friends andas Bob Dylan once saidunload their heads. *RR: Your relationship with Marco dates back fairly farjunior high school, right? *
JR: Yeah, 1989. We met as friends and were definitely both in school bands. We played together. I know he came to my house once and we did a drum and keyboard thing. (laughs) Thats kind of funny. *RR: Really? What were you like 13, 14? Where was this? *
JR: Yeah, 13. This was in Franklin Lakes, New Jersey. He came over to my house and brought his KORG M-1whatever keyboard he had. (laughs) I had my big metal black rock kit. That was kind of like my first outside school playing situation. We werent super tight in middle school. We were friendly but we wouldnt hang out all of the time. Then after middle school, our town got split up into two different high schools. He went to one, I went to the other and more distance grew. He moved to Boston, went to Berklee and I went to college in Boulder and even more distance grew. We pretty much didnt see each other for about ten years after eighth grade and thengot back in. *RR: Lets back up before we go back in. Were there musicians in your family? *
JR: My dad was a bass player in a rock band in Jersey back in the day. He dropped out well before I was even born. He was always into music but, I guess as far as getting into itI dont know. I think I just wanted to be in Kiss. My brother had a snare drum and a cymbal. I remember begging my mom to go find them and she would say that she didnt know where it was: Please, go find it! And she finally found it for me and I would sit down in my basement banging on the snare drum and the cymbal. It was just terrible. *RR: Trying to be Peter Criss [original Kiss drummer]? *
JR: Yeah, totally. I love it loud. (laughter) This was around 1984. I started taking lessons in 85. I had the learning pad for a while, six months went by and I had this little shitty old beater drum kit that I would probably love now. (laughter) In the 80s, I wanted the Tamla big rocker kit, you know? I had this jazz kit that was just beat to hell. I played on that for about a year and then my parents got me a proper metalhead kit for Christmas and I just kept building on that thing. *RR: You never veered off from drums other than learning how to play guitar? *
JR: Yeah, pretty much. *RR: Did you learn how to read music? *
JR: Absolutely not. That is not my strong suit. (laughter) Its so funny. Sometimes Ill be at gigs and they will put sheet music in front of me. Sometimes Ill pretend if its one of those types of gigs and I dont want to get fired. Sometimes Ill just laugh and throw them on the ground. It doesnt do much for me. I wish I could. *RR: Were you in bands in high school? *
JR: I was always a band guy. I had a band in sixth grade but we werent really a band; we only played two songs. My first real band experience was in seventh grade and that was called Detour. (laughs) We played Zeppelin tunes and Rush covers and all classic rock and stuff. Its funny but one of the guys in that band is now the keyboardist in Citizen Cope—Steve. Hes the guy that hired me for Detour. In high school, I was in a band called Lady Lane which featured Constantine from American Idol fame. He was the lead singer and it had me and Steve from Detour. We had some originals, covered a couple of Phish tunes and then we got into this weird progressive rock thing and that band broke up. After that, I moved to Colorado and met the guys from Fat Mama. I guess that was the beginning of my professional music stage. *RR: You did your first touring with them. *
JR: Right. We did mostly east coast tours. We did oneI cant even call it a tourwest coast attempt. It was so bad that we had to cancel the rest. We had no money and our school bus was breaking down because we were idiots and had a school bus. We ripped out all of the seats and had bunk beds because it was a big van, you know, for six or seven people. We had tried that route and that was not the move, apparently so we had to cancel the rest of the tour because our alternator kept dying. We actually had batteries inside the bus hooked to jumper cables going to the battery in the bus engine. (laughter) It was so ghetto. *RR: Why did you move to Boulder? *
JR: I was eighteen years old, living in Jersey, working at a liquor store, my mom had just died and I was kind of in this weird spot. My friend, Steve from my other bands moved to Boulder and he said, Dude, just come out and visit. I had originally planned to go to school at Berklee like Marco did. I went out to visit Steve for a week; I flew home and I moved back ten days later, I said, Screw this. I had never been anywhere like that. I had never been away from the east coast so it was such an amazing thing. I needed a change. I needed to try something out. Also, I intended on going to school while I was out there. I was going to go to Boulder or Denver or one of the universities but, you know, the first week I was out there I met the Mama guys and I put off school forever. It was supposed to be a semester, but you know
In the middle of the Fat Mama era, we all relocated to the east coast from Colorado because we had picked up a new bass player who was going to school at the New England Conservatory. We moved into our guitarists fathers summer house in Rhode Island in the winter and stayed there for about five or six months. *RR: Where did you play when you were in Rhode Island? *
JR: We played the Living Room which was a dump; we played a cool little art space in Providence; we played the Ocean Mist which sucked. *RR: Did you keep in touch with Marco during this time? *
JR: No. He came to see Fat Mama play in Boston randomly one night in 97 or 98 and we kind of caught up for a second but we werent really in touch through those years. *RR: Wetlands Preserve was a critical venue for the band later on, right? *
JR: We eventually played at the Wetlands a bunch of timesthat was our first New York gig in 1997. It was great, amazing. We were so psyched. They all became our family and visa versa. I was kind of living here again half of that time when everyone was still living in Boulder. Me and my friends practically spent every night at that place. *RR: What happened to Fat Mama? *
JR: Fat Mama just finally exploded. (laughs) *RR: Like that scene in Monty Pythons Meaning of Life at the French restaurant where the behemoth dude [played by Terry Jones] blew up? *
JR: Totally. (laughs) Absolutely. [affects a French accent] Its wafer thin. No, I cant eat another thing. Ill have the lot. We were all really young, you know, and we were doing really intense touring and not making shit for money. It just got way too intense and there were way too many people in the band. We all started fighting. I think we stopped when we needed to because we all wanted to remain friends. If we kept going, we werent going to do that and it wasnt fun anymore so we decided to pack it in. I believe we played our last show in December 2000. *RR: What were your plans at that point? *
JR: At that point, I never wanted to tour again. We had so many bad and traumatic experiences in Fat Mama so when I got off the road, I wanted to move into New York. I met Topaz and he was looking for a roommate so I said Screw it. Im moving to New York. I thought I would figure it out and get some bands together. After I moved to New York, I had no intention of ever touring again. I ended up getting engaged and stopping music for a little bit which was stupid. But I got together with Marco forming the Duo pretty much about the same time as when I started playing in Robert Walters band, 20th Congress. *RR: But the Duo became popular through your residency at the Knitting Factory. *
JR: Right. *RR: And you put out a live release Darts in 2003 before you went into the studio to record the studio album Best Reason to Buy the Sun. Did you sign a one-record contract with Ropeadope to release that album? *
JR: Yeah, it was a one record deal with Andy at Ropeadope. He helped us out so much. He would come down to our shows at the Knitting Factory when we were first starting. We really didnt have a sound or anything but he was very helpful with suggestions and when it got to the point when we needed to make a record, he was right there and ready to do it. He definitely believed in us and the project and if we had been with anybody else, I dont think we could have done what we did with the first record. – Randy Ray stores his work at

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