INTERVIEW WITH ROXY BLUE / 714 SINGER TODD POOLE
Date: November 15, 2016
Interviewer: Tyson Briden
THE ’90s WAS A DIFFICULT TIME FOR A GUY LIKE ME. I WAS AND STILL AM A HUGE FAN OF ’80S HARD ROCK AND HEAVY METAL. 1991 WAS A YEAR THAT WILL FOREVER STAND OUT IN MY MIND. IN SEPTEMBER OF THAT YEAR, AN ALBUM THAT WOULD FOREVER CHANGE MY MUSICAL LIFE WAS RELEASED — NIRVANA’S ‘NEVERMIND.’ IT’S NOT THAT IT WAS A BAD ALBUM. IT WAS JUST DIFFERENT. LOOKING BACK ON IT RETROSPECTIVELY, IT WASN’T ‘NEVERMIND’ THAT CHANGED THINGS. I PLACE THE BLAME ON THE RECORD INDUSTRY ITSELF. THE BANDS THAT WERE BIG A YEAR PRIOR WERE NO LONGER VIABLE. HOW CAN BANDS THAT LINED THE POCKETS OF ALL THE EXECUTIVES IN THE INDUSTRY NO LONGER BE A VIABLE COMMODITY? THE BIG HAIR AND SHREDDING GUITAR SOLOS WOULD BE TRADED IN FOR FLANNEL AND SELF-LOATHING.
AT THE END OF THE “SO CALLED” HAIR ROCK ERA, THE RECORD LABELS STILL HAD A FEW OF THESE HAIR BANDS HANGING AROUND THAT MAY HAVE BEEN SIGNED PRIOR TO OR SHORTLY AFTER SEPTEMEBER 1991. NOT TAKING ANYTHING AWAY FROM THE ARTISTS’ TALENTS, MY TAKE ON THIS IS THIS. THE MONEY HAD BEEN INVESTED, SO TO TRY AND RECOUP ON THE INVESTMENT, THE ODD RELEASE FROM THESE “SO CALLED” HAIR BANDS WOULD STILL SEE THE LIGHT OF DAY. OR MAYBE THE BELIEF IN THE SONGS OR THE BAND ITSELF WAS SO HIGH THAT MAYBE IT COULD SLIP THROUGH THE CRACKS AND BE SUCCESSFUL. IT WAS AMAZING HOW QUICKLY THE SCENE CHANGED OVERNIGHT. IT STILL UPSETS ME TO THIS DAY. ONE OF THE BANDS THAT FITS INTO THIS SCENARIO IS ROXY BLUE. THEY WERE A “CAN’T MISS” TALENT. THEIR DEBUT ALBUM ‘WANT SOME?’ WOULD BE RELEASED MID 1992 ON GEFFEN RECORDS. I RECALL SEEING ROXY BLUE IN METAL EDGE MAGAZINE AND THE BUZZ ON THIS BAND WAS VERY HIGH. FOR THOSE WHO ARE FAMILIAR WITH ‘WANT SOME?’, I AM SURE IT CAN BE ATTESTED TO THE FACT THAT THE ALBUM WAS SOLID FROM START TO FINISH.
FOR THOSE WHO OWN A COPY OF ‘WANT SOME?, YOU MAY REMEMBER WHEN YOU OPENED THE CD BOOKLET THERE WAS A CENTER PULLOUT THAT SHOWED A PHOTO OF THE BAND, WITH LEAD VOCALIST TODD POOLE DOING THE FULL SPLITS. HOW COOL IS THAT? I WOULD GET THE OPPORTUNITY TO MEET TODD MANY YEARS LATER WHEN HE DID AN ACOUSTIC SET ON THE FIRST NIGHT OF 2014’S ROCK N’ SKULL FESTIVAL. WE ACTUALLY MET IN THE BATHROOM, WHICH WAS KIND OF FUNNY, BUT I IMMEDIATELY STRUCK UP A CONVERSATION WITH TODD. HE WAS GRACIOUS ENOUGH TO HANG OUT AND CHAT. WE TALKED A BIT, AMONGST OTHER THINGS ROXY BLUE. HE STILL HAD THAT SPARK IN HIS EYE WHEN THE SUBJECT OF THE BAND WOULD ARISE. SO REMEMBERING OUR MEETING BACK IN 2014, I REACHED OUT TO TODD AND ASKED IF HE’D LIKE TO SHARE HIS STORY WITH SLEAZE ROXX. HE WAS MORE THAN WILLING TO OBLIGE MY REQUEST WITH GREAT ENTHUSIASM.
SO HERE IT IS, A FIRST ACCOUNT HISTORY OF ONE OF HARD ROCK’S GREAT BANDS OF THE ERA. ALTHOUGH ROXY BLUE NEVER ACHIEVED THE STATURE THAT SOME OF THEIR HARD ROCK COUNTERPARTS HAD, THAT DOES NOT TAKE ANYTHING AWAY FROM THE SONGWRITING ABILITY AND MUSICIANSHIP THAT ROXY BLUE POSSESSED. I DON’T MEASURE MUSICAL SUCCESS BY ALBUM SALES OR POPULARITY. TO ME, IT IS WHAT’S IN THE MUSIC AND THE ABILITY TO WRITE CATCHY VIABLE MATERIAL THAT STANDS THE TEST OF TIME. ROXY BLUE WAS ALL THAT AND IT WAS AN HONOUR FOR ME TO DO THIS INTERVIEW. WHAT I GOT FROM TODD DURING THIS INTERVIEW WAS THAT HIS EXPERIENCE IN ROXY BLUE WAS SOMETHING HE HOLDS CLOSE TO HIS HEART AND HE IS PROUD OF EVERYTHING HE ACCOMPLISHED IN ROXY BLUE’S FEW SHORT YEARS. I HOPE YOU ENJOY READING THIS INTERVIEW AS MUCH AS I DID DOING IT.
Sleaze Roxx: I’d like to start right away with the early days of Roxy Blue. How did the band initially become Roxy Blue? Was it an amalgamation of other bands coming together?
Todd Poole: The story of Roxy Blue all started one day when I decided to go to a tanning bed establishment. While I was waiting to tan, I heard guitar coming from one of the back rooms. I asked the lady at the counter who was playing guitar and she replied that it was her son. I went back to the room and sitting in the corner was Sid Fletcher. I asked him if he was interested in starting a band. He said he had a bass player [Josh Weil] and I told him I had a drummer [Ronnie Knight], who is my cousin. He was our drummer in the beginning. Sid and I started writing songs immediately and rehearsing with the guys. Everything just seemed to click from the get go. We soon started opening for bands in the Memphis area quickly getting a name for ourselves. Soon after that, we became a headlining act packing venues all across the mid-south US. After catching the attention of lawyer Jim Zumwalt, it wasn’t long before the labels came calling. Our drummer was having some family issues so we picked up Scotty T to fill the drum spot.
Sleaze Roxx: Roxy Blue was from Memphis, Tennessee. Many other great bands had come from Memphis back in the late ’80s/early ’90s. Tora Tora and Every Mother’s Nightmare are two that come to mind. What was the Memphis scene like back then?
Todd Poole: Back in the early ’90s, the Memphis club scene was awesome. Rock n’ roll was alive and well.
Sleaze Roxx: What led to Roxy Blue getting signed to Geffen Records? I am sure Geffen wasn’t the only label vying for the bands talent. How did the whole signing process go down?
Todd Poole: After only about a year or so, we were playing showcases for a number of labels. The night it happened I’ll never forget. We were playing a local bar in Memphis called the Stage Stop. The place was packed wall to wall. Several labels were in the audience. We started our show not knowing that A&R man, Tom Zutant from Geffen [the man who signed Guns N’ Roses, Mötley Crüe and Tesla], had slipped in to check us out. After we finished our set, we went backstage. The crowd was yelling for an encore. As we set out to hit the stage, there stood our lawyer Jim Zumwalt with Tom Zutant. Tom asked if we wanted to be on Geffen and of course we said “yes.” We announced on stage that we were now signed to Geffen and the crowd exploded. After flying to L.A. and signing our deal, it was back to Memphis to start getting ready to make a record. Geffen rented us a warehouse with full sound system to start rehearsals. We rehearsed every single day and played some shows for the next few months. We were shopping management at this point. One night while playing a show, we caught the eye of Jani Lane [Warrant]. Jani wanted to help us out. We flew out to L.A. several times to meet with Warrant’s managers but after a few months we were approached by Doug Thaler [Mötley Crüe]. We really liked Doug and quickly had a great relationship with him and his staff. We soon signed with Top Rock Management.
Sleaze Roxx: Did Geffen believe in Roxy Blue enough to give the band creative freedom? Were there ever outside writers, which was big back in those days, or was it all Roxy Blue?
Todd Poole: Geffen was great with us. They gave us 100% freedom with our writing. No outside writers.
Sleaze Roxx: How did the songwriting process work for Roxy Blue? Did the band work the songs from the bottom up together or were the songs created outside of the band and brought forth at rehearsal?
Todd Poole: As far as the writing process went, I would usually come up with an idea and bring it to Sid. We would work on it before we took it to the band. Or Sid would have a guitar idea and would bring it to me. But in the end, our sound ultimately came from the four of us.
Sleaze Roxx: Your debut album ‘Want Some?’ was produced by legendary producer Mike Clink [Guns N’ Roses/Whitesnake]. How did the recording go? Was it an easy task? Was it a long process? I often wonder what a legendary producer is like to work with.
Todd Poole: Working with Mike Clink was an amazing experience. It was important to Mike that he bring out the live energy on record. Mike liked to work us but he also made all the recording sessions relaxed. He would always have a ping pong table brought to whatever studio we were in. Mike Clink was the master of getting cool sounds. Mike will always be close to our hearts. He was not only our producer. He was our friend. We learned a lot from Mike and we also met a lot of cool people.
Sleaze Roxx: Let’s discuss some of the actual content on ‘Want Some?’. Was the cover of The Who’s “Squeeze Box” a song that the band chose to include on the album or was there an outside influence that led to it being included?
Todd Poole: “Squeeze Box” was never my choice to be on the record. It was just a song we played live at the end of the night. Tom Zutant loved it and wanted it on the record. I thought it turned out good. While we were in L.A., I was at The Rainbow one night with the guys in Skid Row and oddly enough John Entwistle [The Who] was sitting behind us. I told him we were covering “Squeeze Box.” That was pretty cool.
Sleaze Roxx: “Rob The Cradle” is a song I have always loved. Was it purposely done as a take off on Van Halen or did it just naturally happen?
Todd Poole: “Rob The Cradle” was actually written by the guys in the band. I walked into rehearsal one day and they had this incredible song. All I did was write the lyrics. I don’t think we intended it to be like Van Halen. It just seemed to turn out that way.
Sleaze Roxx: A song like “Sister Sister” — I have often wondered what the inspiration was for that song.
Todd Poole: When I wrote “Sister Sister”, I think I was basically writing about a girl that was sheltered from the real world growing up and wanting to release her wild and crazy side. I really love that song.
Sleaze Roxx: “Bad To The Bullet” which appears on ‘Want Some More’ as a demo sounds as if it would have fit perfectly on ‘Want More?’. Why was it left off?
Todd Poole: “Bad To The Bullet” was always a crowd favourite. We pushed really hard for that song to make the record but I think Tom Zutant wanted to hold back for a second record. It would have been a great lead off song.
Sleaze Roxx: There are two album covers of ‘Want Some?’. What is the story behind that?
Todd Poole: The reason for the two different album covers is unfortunately during the time ‘Want Some?’ came out, there was a big sexism scandal, especially in Canada, so Geffen took the back and put it on the front [laughs]. We weren’t all about that. We were just a rock band trying to have some fun.
Sleaze Roxx: After the release of ‘Want Some?’, you did a tour with Babylon A.D. and Wildside. Do you have any fond recollections of that tour? Was there anything that disappointed you?
Todd Poole: The Babylon A.D./Wildside tour was absolutely incredible. Every day was a high. No disappointments at all. Both bands were great to work with.
Sleaze Roxx: Tell me about the demise of Roxy Blue. I have read that Roxy Blue had the option to record another album, but chose to disband instead. Why was that and how did you feel about the demise of the band?
Todd Poole: The demise of Roxy Blue was a weird time. We had an option to do another CD but with music changing so much and with the invasion of the Seattle scene, it just didn’t seem to be the right thing to do. We actually recorded an amazing demo for the second release. Doug Thaler actually thought it was strong but with the music changing the way it was, we knew it wouldn’t be pushed. I received a call from Jani Lane. He said he was going solo and that I should come to L.A. and sing with the guys in Warrant. I went out to L.A., stayed with Eric Turner and recorded some songs with the guys. The songs turned out really cool and I love jamming with my brothers in Warrant. But in the end, I ended up coming back to Memphis knowing Jani would eventually rejoin with the guys. The advice I got from Doug Thaler and Tommy Lee was that music was taking a drastic turn. Although playing with Warrant would be cool, I should go back home and reinvent myself. That’s when I created Saliva.
Sleaze Roxx: Warrant? Really? Where are these songs? Have they ever been released?
Todd Poole: The Warrant songs I recorded ended up on a Japanese release only.
Sleaze Roxx: As for Saliva, I had no idea.
Todd Poole: Yes I was a founding member and the drummer of Saliva. I was with Saliva from 1995 to 1999 until I had a near death motorcycle accident.
Sleaze Roxx: Let’s talk about the present. Can you tell me what the other members of Roxy Blue are currently up to?
Todd Poole: The guys in Roxy Blue are all doing good. Sid is a dentist. Josh is a nurse. Scotty T plays with Nelson. We all still play together in Roxy Blue except Sid. Wayne Swinny of Saliva was our guitarist after Sid. Although he still plays with Saliva, he still plays with Roxy Blue also.
Sleaze Roxx: It was originally announced that Roxy blue was going to play at 2016’s Rock N Skull Festival, but that fell through. I have heard rumours that you may play Rock N Skull in 2017. Is there truth to that rumour?
Todd Poole: We are hoping to play Rock N Skull 2017. That’s what we’ve been told. The band sounds better than ever. Put the word out that you want Roxy Blue for Rock N Skull in 2017.
Sleaze Roxx: Before we close out, is there anything we haven’t touched on that you’d like to share or something the readers may not know about you?
Todd Poole: I’d just like to mention for those reading to check out my band 714. I also manage and mentor a band made up of 13 year old’s called Under The Radar. Oh and I forgot to mention that my father-in-law was the late great Jimi Jamison, singer of Survivor. I did play drums with him for awhile.
Sleaze Roxx: That’s awesome… Well Todd thank you very much for the opportunity to hear this great story. It has been a pleasure.
Todd Poole: The pleasure is all mine my friend.
Video featuring Roxy Blue:
ROXY BLUE debuted in 1992. Their album was wonderful works that had sprinkled the element of BON JOVI, POISON, MOTLEY CRUE, and GUNS N ‘ROSES ,SKID ROW. However, most American deserted them. If they had debuted in 80’s, they’d have gotten a big success. HEAVY METAL ended at the same time as ROXY BLUE’s disappearing.