Time out with J. Rod By Lee Dellapina
Afew months ago, one of the guys at The Dame sent me a CD of a band from Bum F&%!, Tennessee called J. Roddy Walston and The Business. During the follow-up call, he told me I "absolutely had to see this band." You hear that all the time, and it’s easy to blow off, but something about the way he said it made me believe him. So I listened and was impressed. It had vocal and orchestral arrangements reminiscent me of Queen, lyrics like Dylan, and a rhythm section that mixed The Clash and Fat Albert’s Junkyard Band. "This is great" I thought, "but there’s no way they can pull it off live." I was wrong. J. Roddy and The Business played The Dame in September and stole the show. It was the first time I ever saw an encore demanded of an opening act. On stage, the band was jumping around, banging their heads, and seemingly expending enough energy to power Rhode Island. Arguably, the most manic member of the band was a multi-instrumentalist named Ryan Keith. He played no less than a half dozen instruments. But at the end of the show they announced that it was Keith’s last show as they were moving out of B.F. for greener pastures in Baltimore, without Keith. How were they going to continue? Well, the band is not called Ryan Keith and The Business, and there’s a reason for that. It’s J. Roddy and The Business because the true master of ceremonies (so to speak) is J. Roddy Walston. It’s been three months since they made their move, so without further ado, here’s an interview with the remaining members, David, Zach, Nick, and J. Roddy himself.
1. You moved from Tennessee to Baltimore, how has that gone? What are the differences between the two and how have you been received?
J-Roddy: The move for the most part has been a success. The biggest difference for me, besides all the obvious things like size and population, has been leaving behind my family. As far as gigs go, we have played at least one show a weekend for the most part, but not just in Baltimore. The crowds have been sort of open mouthed and biting their tongue at the same time.
Nick: With every new crowd, no one knows what to do with us…Lexington was the first city to partially get us the first time.
Zach: I got robbed the second week I was here.
David: Try comparing Hee Haw to a Jon Waters movie.
2. How did you arrive with such an strange amalgam of styles? Who are your influences? How long have you been playing music and where did you pick up the ragtime style of piano?
J. Roddy: I think rock music has become so incestuous. If you read interviews with The Beatles they talk about how they wanted to be crooners, or write big band jazz kind of stuff, and suddenly rock and roll hit. Everything makes for a good mix as long as you are a good filter. Influences—Elvis, Prince, Bob Dylan, my grandmother, Harry Nilsson, The Beatles, Queen…anything that is good.
David: He stole it from Scott Joplin.
3. Do you think being as "out there" as you are musically, has made it difficult for you to achieve mainstream success?
Nick: I think we have boatloads of mainstream potential. If people can get into The White Stripes, they can get into us.
J. Roddy: Anybody who is doing something that is "out there" probably thinks that they’re doing what mainstream should sound like. You can tell that listeners are tired of the cookie cutter industry crap.
4. Why did Ryan Keith leave? Is there a chance that he will perform with you at your show at The Dame Nov. 6th? How has his absence changed your live performances?
J. Roddy: The truth is the band left Ryan; we were going to Baltimore he wasn’t.
David: He left to date Nick’s sister. We had to rework some sections of songs where his parts were crucial. Our shows are more rock and roll now. Anyone who saw both versions of the band hasn’t complained.
Nick: There is not even a slight chance he will perform with us.
5. Sorry I asked. What does the J. stand for?
J. Roddy: J. stands for everyone and everything but most for J. Roddy Walston and The Business.
6. What music do you have available? Where can we purchase said music? What are you working on and when will it be done?
J. Roddy: We have an EP called Here Comes Trouble. You can get it at our shows or our web site, www.jroddy.com. We are working on a full length called Uh-Oh Rock-n-Roll.
Zach: We’re working on Magic. Pure magic. When will it be done? Ask David.
David: I wish I knew.
7. What’s the worst show you ever had?
Nick: In Richmond, at the Nanci Raygun. There was a typhoon blowing through that night. Then David locked the keys in the car. Then we played in blistering heat for less than 10 people and then had to pay the soundman more than we made…horrible.
8. What is your favorite song to perform live, and why?
J. Roddy: Right now I would say a song called “Rock-n-Roll the Second.”
David: "Grow Up Grown Up" It has the chorus, "C’mon c’mon c’mon and love me baby." It’s one of the better songs Rod has written, and the arrangement is practically flawless. When we first wrote it, Rod and I insisted on practicing it repeatedly because we loved it so much.
Nick: I enjoy playing “ERUPTION” (from Van Halen I).
9. What is your favorite breakfast cereal? (Mine is Booberry.)
David: Cinnamon Toast Crunch. Last March we drove overnight to Baltimore to hook up with our opening act on tour. His mom had laid out a box of Cinnamon Toast Crunch and milk for us. I don’t think cereal has ever tasted so good before or since.
J Roddy: Rice Crispy Treats Cereal (but Fruity Pebbles is a close second).
Zach: Honey Nut Cheerios.
10. Thank you for your time. Do you have any parting words for our readers?
Zach: Go to the show on the 6th.
David: Slow down.
J. Roddy: Be excellent to one another, be strong and courageous, and know that no matter what, JRWATB is going to rock it out for you. n
J. Roddy Walston and The Business will be performing at The Dame on Saturday, November 6 at 10pm. $3. Info, 859/226-9005 or www.dameky.com or www.jroddy.com.