Our 120 minutes of fame on ‘The Electric Ballroom’
By Mark Voger, author, “Monster Mash: The Creepy, Kooky Monster Craze in America 1957-1972″
On Aug. 9, 2015, my brother, Brian Voger, and I were heard on WRAT at 95.9 FM as guests on “The Electric Ballroom,” a long-running rock ’n’ chat show hosted by radio personality — and dyed-in-the-mane rocker — Keith Roth. We are in great company; “Ballroom” has welcomed a seemingly endless list of rock royals, including John Entwistle, Ian Hunter, John Paul Jones, Mick Taylor and Ritchie Blackmore, to name a smattering. (Yeah, it’s like a 1975 issue of
Creem come to life.)
(WRAT is heard in Monmouth, Ocean, Middlesex and surrounding New Jersey counties. I have a friend who picks it up in Short Hills when there’s a northwest wind. Of course, with the Interweb, The ‘RAT can be heard anywhere on the planet.)
Keith made us feel real at home at the studio in Lake Como. The three of us gabbed so much, Brian and I couldn’t remember whether we said certain things on the air or off. (We do remember something we didn’t say: the name of the drummer on “From the Heart,” JohnYoung. Sorry, Jazz!)
With the kind permission of the ‘RAT, my brother put the audio interview on his website. Listen to it HERE.
Also, the interview is presented below in its entirety. Thanks again for having us, Keith.
Keith: Hey, you’re in the Electric Ballroom, and that was “Barman” from the “From the Heart” record, and I’ve got the Voger brothers down here hangin’ out with me this evening.
Keith: That’s right. Mark and Brian Voger in the house here in the Ballroom. I mean, no stranger to Mark Voger. Brian, you’re getting’ your cherry popped this evening.
Brian: Thank you.
Mark: Nice image.
Keith: Mark, you’ve been a longtime friend of this show for so many years. A great writer, great musician. We have so much in common. And I got to meet Brian through you, throughout the years. And Brian — just like you, Mark — I mean, two great, great guys.
Mark: Oh, Keith, you’re so awesome yourself.
Keith: The love-in is underway. All right, let’s get into the music. You guys released this record, “From the Heart: Jersey Rockers Fight SMA.” Many guitar legends are part of it. Iconic, local heroes and so much more. How did the idea start?
Brian: I’ll start a little bit. So, initially, we were inspired by a kid — who was a kid six years ago, when we started it — named Steven Potter. He has SMA. He’s a fantastic kid. Very inspirational. His family did a series of events, one called Steven’s Walk which raises money and awareness for SMA. I wanted to put a benefit gig together. Keith, you know that musicians are the greatest. You call them for a benefit gig, they show up, they play for free and they raise money. I just love that about musicians. They do it for all kinds of causes. Our problem was, we know so many great people that we’re good friends with — some of them from South Jersey, some of them from this area — and logistically, it was impossible. It was impossible to put that gig together, because it was just all over the state, really. So Mark, my brother, said, “I’ve got a whole bunch of songs in my head. Do you think we could get our talented friends to contribute solos and performances to an album?” It just started from there, and six years later, here we are.
Keith: You strived for perfection. Even a mutual friend of ours — Bob Pantella from Monster Magnet, a local hero — said something to me regarding the record, how he enjoyed the process of putting this together as far as mastering. Because there were so many peaks and valleys, it kind of reminded him a little bit of (the Who album) “Quadropenia” …
Brian: Well, God bless him.
Keith: … a rock classic, and the proceeds going to a right place.
Mark: It was really a lot of fun, because we just love these guys. Billy Hector is the godfather of the blues in New Jersey. Matt O’Ree — I mean, the first time I even heard of Matt O’Ree, it probably ’99 or 2000, and he opened for Robin Trower at the Stone Pony. He just set the place on fire. It was like: “Who is this kid?” To have him, and Reggie Wu from Heaven’s Edge. These are just, like, all great people.
Brian: When we decided to do it, we literally made a wish list. Our wish list was based on — we’ve got too many very talented friends to include all of them, so we went with the people that we liked seeing, the people that we thought had a fan base. Because don’t forget: It’s art, but it’s art trying to raise money for a cause.
Keith: Ya gotta sell records.
Brian: Yeah. So we wanted the combination of who’s a draw, who’s a name, and who’s super-talented, and we made a wish list. And I’m really happy to say that our original wish list — every single person that the two of us had on our original wish list all said yes, and they’ve all participated in this project. It’s pretty cool.
Keith: Very cool.
Mark: We thought, when we had Billy, we’d be able to get everybody else. Billy’s the man. Billy’s the man.
Keith: So, Billy Hector, Matt O’Ree, Reggie Wu. You got Stringbean (Ken Sorensen) on here.
Brian: We’ve got Stringbean on here, who plays great harp. Sim Cain from the Rollins Band, who plays on four tracks.
Keith: He’s no stranger to the Voger brothers.
Brian: Yeah, we’ve worked with Sim before.
Mark: On our Main Man (Records) track, yeah.
Keith: In the old days of the tributes.
Brian: He’s my third-favorite drummer of all time.
Keith: Really? Okay, who’s one and two?
Brian: Well, John Bonham, number one. And of course, Ian Paice, number two. So he’s actually my third-favorite drummer.
Mark: So where’s Ringo (Starr) and Charlie Watts?
Brian: They’re right there.
Keith: In the Top 10?
Brian: Ringo, especially.
Keith: Is (Alice Cooper drummer) Neal Smith on that list?
Brian: Neal Smith is definitely on my list. But, I mean, Grand Funk, Keith Moon, there’s so many. Back to the selection of the people: Not only did we get our wish list, but I’d really like everyone to know that I had a big pitch. I thought I’d have to sell this thing. Because, you know, I’m asking people to give up their time and do this. Every single person — I never got through my pitch. As soon as I started explaining it — Ken was the first one I asked. Stringbean. I had this whole pitch ready. He just said, “I’d be honored.” Boom. Done. Georgie Rumbol …
Keith: Dead End Kids.
Brian: Dead End Kids. When I started asking Georgie Rumbol, he just said, “When?” When I first asked Reggie Wu, he said, “Thank you so much for asking me to be a part of this.” This is the kind of attitude we got from these guys.
Keith: Well, you know, musicians — look, if you don’t have to book the gig, if you don’t have to book the studio time, you don’t have to reach into your own pocket, and you can do something good, and just show up and play, and have fun, for a great project like this? For SMA. Who wouldn’t want to be part of something as cool as this? Now, the Voger brothers — how many records did you guys do?
Mark: I mean, mostly the only stuff that we would really consider, like, “pro” would be the stuff we did for Main Man. We did four or five for Main Man.
Brian: We did four.
Keith: You did the (David) Bowie tribute.
Brian: We did the Bowie tribute, we the Alice Cooper tribute with Sim Cain, we did the Queen tribute, and we did the Christmas record.
Mark: And we did the Donnie and Marie — “I’m a Little Bit Country, I’m a Little Bit Rock and Roll.”
Brian: I don’t remember that one.
Keith: Oh, that’d be good.
Mark: I wouldn’t mind. I was hoping. But to be on the same record with (Bowie guitarist) Earl Slick and (Alice Cooper bassist) Dennis Dunaway, to be on the same CD, that was crazy.
Brian: And then to play with them, that was great.
Keith: The Bowie night (at the Brighton Bar in 2008), right?
Brian: The Bowie night, we got to be Dennis’s band for his set.
Keith: Did you read his book (“Snakes! Guillotines! Electric Chairs! My Adventures in the Alice Cooper Group”)?
Brian: I read it in two days, and I’m a slow reader. It usually takes me a week to read a book. I read it in two days. Yeah, fantastic.
Keith: He worked on it for eight years. Eight years. I was just at his release party for the book. It was a three-part party. It was him coming out, announcing, and then him playing with Blue Coupe, and then the signing. Dennis, I realize, could be like a late-night TV host. When he gets into that head set …
Brian: Yeah, he’s a character.
Mark: And then his sister, who is married to Neal, Cindy (Dunaway) — she practically created the glitter rock look. She was the one who was really going into Hollywood into all the clothes stores and buying, like — “Oh, this is a bolero jacket that Bud Abbott wore in an Abbott and Costello movie.” And then they started just wearing this stuff. So she’s, like, one of the unheralded originators of the glam rock look.
Brian: Although, it’s the other way around, though. It’s Neal’s sister married to Dennis.
Mark: Oh, did I get that wrong? Oh, sorry. Dennis’s wife, right.
Keith: You can’t get nothin’ past anybody in this room.
Mark: All right!
Keith: It ain’t gonna happen. As I’m here with the Voger brothers — everybody, just pick up this record, “From the Heart: Jersey Rockers Fight SMA.” How can people get the album?
Brian: Well, the easiest way to get the album is to go to our website. The website is set up specifically for this album, for selling this album, which is www.vogerland.com. So it’s real easy. On there, you can order it. The album is 10 bucks. Order from the website, it’s $13.50, because there’s postage, there’s handling. I can assure you that nobody’s making nickel off of this. Ten dollars for every single one of these goes directly to Steven’s Walk.
Mark: A hundred percent of that 10 bucks goes to Steven’s Walk.
Brian: A hundred percent. And if you’re anywhere near me, ever, I have them on me at all times. No less than 50 of them on me at all times.
Mark: Go to a Billy Hector show, and my brother will be in the parking lot.
Brian: Well, I have an agreement. I did say to the artists that I will not promote them at their gigs, because they’re selling their own stuff. But, if somebody approaches me at one of their gigs, that’s a different story. Because that’s happened to me.
Keith: Absolutely. I’m sure nobody has an issue with that. You know, this one is really kind of taking off. I know it’s in the early stages. But as musicians, it just never ends. I mean, is there thoughts of a second one?
Brian: Some thoughts of maybe doing a gig for it. This is our first big promotion. I’ve only really promoted it on Facebook. That’s all we’ve done.
Keith: Is it moving pretty good?
Brian: Well, you know that our goal is $10,000, which is a lot of money. So far, we’ve raised $2,000.
Keith: It’s a (fifth) of the way there.
Brian: I look at it as: We’ve got to do that four more times.
Keith: After doing this show, you’ll be $2,000 and eight bucks.
Brian: That’s right, that’s right (laughs).
Mark: We’ll take it.
Brian: We’ll take it. Hey, I’m hoping that your listeners …
Brian: (Laughs) I’m hoping that both of your listeners will actually realize that — I always say to people that, even if you don’t like it — and so far, we’ve gotten really good feedback on it — but even if you don’t like it, you’ll love the performances by your favorite artists. I mean, Reggie Wu and Ron Tortu and Georgie Rumbol and Jack Kelly and Matt O’Ree. We have Ron Howden from Nektar on this thing, too. There’s an interesting story there. So, I met Ron Howden through Billy Hector, right? He plays drums with Billy Hector once in a while. My brother and I were kind of Nektar freaks back in high school. Like, when “Remember the Future” came out, we loved that album.
Keith: Great cover, too, I remember.
Brian: And “Astral Man” — every time I warm up with bass, I play some Dennis Dunaway stuff and I play “Astral Man.”
Keith: I have that on vinyl.
Mark: “Down to Earth” and “Remember the Future,” baby.
Brian: Yeah, “Down to Earth” and “Remember the Future.” So, anyway, I meet Ron Howden. Of course, Keith, you know me. I’m asking him for stories. The poor guy.
Keith: He loved it.
Brian: Well, you know, he’s not a bragger, but he absolutely is one of us. Like, he loves the fact that — he’s not, like, “Been there, done that.” He’s more like, “I can’t believe I was able to be there for that.” He’s got stories about (Jimi) Hendrix and stories about everybody. He played the last gig Syd Barrett ever played. Ever.
Keith: They were on the same bill?
Brian: Yeah. It was Syd Barrett’s last live performance ever. And, you know, I read every rock biography there is.
Keith: Was that “Madcaps”? Was he doing “Madcaps” …
Brian: I don’t remember. But when I was introduced to him (Howden), I said, “Do you know you played the last gig Syd Barrett ever played?” And he said, “Yeah. I know. I was there.” He’s just the greatest guy in the world, right? One of the songs my brother wrote, there’s a narrative part, a speech part, spoken word. And he wanted a male British voice. So I barely know this guy. I met him once, right? So we’re Facebooking and emailing back and forth. And I tell him about the project in an email, and I ask him if he’d do it. The reaction I got was immediate: He loved the idea that we were using art to do something for a cause, to help people. He thought that was the greatest thing in the world. And then he said, “I would be more than happy to help with this project in any capacity.” So of course, instead of just spoken word, I immediately write back with: “Okay. Wanna play some percussion on one of the tracks?”
Keith: Of course!
Brian: It’s one of my heroes, right? So he says, “Of course I would.” Now, this is pretty cool. I have to tell you that nobody was more responsive than him, but here’s the funny part of the story — to me, anyway. He does this in his studio and sends it to me, the spoken word part. There’s only two people on this whole album that did that, by the way. I recorded every single person myself, in person, except for Ron Howden and a guy named Ron Tagg, who’s an unbelievable guitar player. One of the best guitar solos I’ve ever heard is on here.
Keith: That’s good to know, because now when people listen to this record, they’ll realize: It’s a real record.
Brian: Yeah. It wasn’t dialed in. Every single person worked directly with me, either in my studio or in their location.
Keith: And I’ll just say, real quickly, that that has become the way again. I’ve noticed that lately. Because you’re so accustomed to: “Oh, yeah, yeah, just send me the track on MP3, and I’ll play over it and send it to you.” Now it’s like: “Okay, where’s the studio at?” Which is a good thing.
Mark: More intimate.
Keith: More intimate.
Brian: So with Ron Howden, he sends me the spoken word part. I listen to it, I send it to Mark, and I’m like, “Uh, dude, it doesn’t sound British at all.” Now, (Mark) had wanted a British voice. Not only do we have a real Brit, but we’ve got one that’s one of our idols.
Mark: A rock legend.
Brian: A rock legend. And he’s toured the world …
Keith: And he’s speaking like Jon Lovitz.
Brian: Yeah. He’s told me so many great stories with (Led) Zeppelin and with (Black) Sabbath and with Hendrix. Great stories. How do I call this guy, who is one of my idols, and say, “Dude, you gotta play up the Brit accent a little bit more.”
Keith: It’s a tough one.
Mark: British it up.
Brian: Yeah. So, you know what? I did. And he was like, “Sure. I’ll put on my London cap, and I’ll do it again.” He did, like, three, and I took the most British-sounding of three takes and put ’em together.
Mark: (In British accent) “Here I go again …”
Keith: Which track was he on again?
Brian: He’s on “Washed Away.” He plays congas on that track beautifully; he does the spoken word; and really one of the best guitar solos I’ve ever heard by a guy named Ron Tagg is on that track.
Mark: It’s crazy.
Brian: You’ve gotta listen to it.
Keith: Well, let’s do it. Here’s “Washed Away,” the Voger brothers, Keith Roth, here, in the Electric Ballroom.
(Keith plays “Washed Away,” then commercials, station I.D.s and more songs)
Keith: Keith Roth along with my co-hosts this evening, the Voger brothers, as we’re gonna play something from their great record, “From the Heart.” The proceeds are going to Jersey Rockers Fight SMA. You give us the intro on this one, Brian.
Brian: This next track we’re going to hear, “The Tower Dam,” is my personal favorite on the album. I mean, I love all of them, but I just love this song. And I think Matt O’Ree just gave us absolute gold. It’s called “The Tower Dam.”
(Keith plays “The Tower Dam”)
Keith: The Voger brothers with Matt O’Ree on guitar from the record “From the Heart.” Keith Roth along with my co-hosts this evening, Brian and Mark Voger. You know, being friends with Matt, I’ll be honest: That’s the first track I went to, because I see Matt a lot. I’m psyched for him. He’s opening for Deep Purple, right?
Brian: I’ve got seventh row for that.
Keith: Seventh row? And then a guy I just recently met, and I feel like I’ve known him and his whole band from the ’80s my whole life. They grew up in your neck of the woods: Reggie Wu and Heaven’s Edge. I mean, you talk about super guys. Super guys.
Brian: Reggie actually grew up on our street (Morris Drive in Cherry Hill).
Keith: Okay. So you’ve literally known him your whole life.
Brian: Since high school, anyway. I remember the first time I ever saw him play. My jaw dropped. I mean, we were teenagers, and all of a sudden, this kid with super-long, black hair …
Keith: You guys went to the same high school, same grade?
Brian: He was a little younger than us, but yeah, same high school.
Mark: Same high school: Cherry Hill High School East.
Brian: He was just fantastic. He was one of those kids that everyone talked about. And usually, that’s a disappointment, because it’s been built up so much. He was one of those kids that everyone talked about, and he was that good and better. You’ve seen him play. He really is unbelievable.
Mark: And one funny thing: When we were kids in bands growing up in South Jersey, our dream was to play the Philadelphia Spectrum. We didn’t have these dreams of, like: I wanna tour the world, I wanna bang a bunch of groupies, I wanna make millions of dollars, I wanna have my own plane …
Keith: Those were your second thoughts.
Mark: No! We were just, like (in “doofus” voice): “I wanna play the Spectrum.” Because we equated that …
Brian: That’s where we went.
Mark: We’d see these bands, and some of us would toke up, and we’d all light our cigarette lighters for the encore, and it’d be, like: “Yeah, man!” So our dream was: “We’re gonna play the Spectrum some day!” And then, Reggie did it. Reggie played the Spectrum, opening for Ronnie James Dio.
Brian: And Yngwie Malmsteen.
Mark: So he’s the one in our little gang that made it.
Keith: He tells not-such-a-fond Yngwie Malmsteen story. You know, because that was their dream, that was their show. And I heard there were some sound issues that they were pulling. And when Dio caught wind of what was going on with their sound, he freaked out on the sound guy in the middle of their set. He said, “These kids, this is their dream.” What you guys just said. “They’re playing the Spectrum.” He goes, “I know what that’s like. And you’re messin’ it up for them?” (Heaven’s Edge singer) Mark Evans was saying, “All of a sudden, we’re onstage, and we’re just goin’ for it. We’re here.” And all of a sudden, out of nowhere, he said (snaps finger) it was like a switch happened, and they sounded like them again. Like, halfway through their set, he said all of a sudden, something happened. And they’re like, what happened through the set? Apparently, the deal was that somebody was trying to sabotage the opening band’s sound, and when Dio found out what the issue was, he went and fixed it. That’s Ronnie for you. He’s always been a good man.
Brian: Mark and I were in a band that opened for them (Heaven’s Edge) at the old Galaxy Night Club …
Keith: That’s Cinderella territory, right?
Brian: Exactly right.
Keith: And Tangier?
Brian: And Tangier, that’s exactly right.
Mark: And Britny Fox.
Keith: “Dizzy Dean” (guitarist Dean Davidson).
Brian: Yeah, that’s right. Back then, that’s what they did. The headliner would kind of screw with you – only let you use half the lights, only let you use half the volume.
Keith: Well, they’re Eagles fans. Whaddaya want? No, I’m just kidding.
Brian: But not with Heaven’s Edge. I mean, all those guys: Steve Parry and Mark Evans and Reggie and Dave (Rath) and George (Guidotti) – they were just great guys. So we couldn’t have been happier for them.
Keith: And David is very successful. Like, I have “a” listener? He runs “the” record company. You know, there’s only one … (trails off). Well, anyway, they’re the super-nicest guys. I saw them just recently. We did that cruise with them. They were part of it – the Monsters of Rock Cruise. They went out and killed it. Killed it.
Brian: I don’t see how they couldn’t.
Keith: They woke a lot of people up. Like, if people didn’t know who they were? They sure as hell now do. Maybe just got in that bandwagon (the ’80s metal scene) just a little too late, with what was happening.
Mark: Yeah. Steve Vai introduced their video “Skin to Skin” on “Headbangers Ball,” so they got in just under the wire. But like you said, within a year, it was all “shoe-gazers” (the grunge scene).
Keith: (Laughs) Well, at least you got Reggie Wu on your record.
Brian: Reggie was great. And when you think about how great their show was, in our area, the Dead End Kids were the show. There wasn’t a band that didn’t want to be the Dead End Kids, or liked the Dead End Kids.
Keith: Didn’t they play a lot at (CBGB’s)? Didn’t they come to the city a lot?
Brian: I don’t know, because that’s a tiny bit before my time. I used to get a fake I.D. to go see them play in Wildwood, New Jersey …
Mark: The Playpen.
Keith: The Playpen!
Brian: … and places like that. They were the first people I ever saw spin their guitars around and catch them, and all that kind of stuff. They were the first ones that really brought a lot of choreography, but with talent. Bands that brought in choreography kind of stuff – the songs suffered for it. These guys, the songs never suffered. They had it all.
Mark: And Georgie’s one of those cats – you see him onstage or offstage, and he’s the same guy.
Brian: (To Keith) Like you.
Mark: Like you, Keith. Like, the kind of guy who lives rock ’n’ roll, 24 hours. On our song, when you hear him play, you just say, “That sounds like a dude who’s hungover and has smeared eye makeup from the night before.” It just sounds like it.
Keith: Sounds like Ritchie Scarlett a little.
Brian: Yeah, exactly. Great to work with him. He was very close with (keyboardist) Jack Kelly, who also played synthesizer on the same track. And just to give you an idea of how heartwarming everybody’s contributions were: Mark wanted a specific sound for that synthesizer. He wanted it to sound like “Bargain” by The Who.
Mark: “Bargain” from “Who’s Next” (imitates synthesizer sound).
Brian: So when Jack agreed to do it, which he agreed right away – him and Georgie, they came over together – I asked him, “Do you have that sound?” He has a Nord. Great. He said, “I’m sure it has it.” Then he’s like, “You know, I can’t find a sound like that on a Nord.” He calls me up and he says he went to three or four places and he rented an old Korg synth.
Keith: Did he really?
Brian: Just to have the sound that we wanted. His money, his time. This journey – literally, there’s 20 artists? I can tell you 20 cool stories.
Keith: That would be a good book to follow up with.
Mark: Brian offered to reimburse Jack for that expenditure. Jack said, “No, this is my contribution to the record, to the cause.”
Keith: That’s what musicians really are.
Brian: It’s unbelievable. Some of them, I honestly think thought, “Yeah, that sounds like a fun thing to do.” But most of them, when they heard about the cause, (they wanted to help). We have a pedal steel guy (James “Sparks” Sinclair). If you listen to the country track on here (“Moving Day”), he’s just unbelievable. He was about the cause. He was asking me, “What is SMA?” As soon as I told him about it, he said, “Yep, I’m in.” So whatever their motivations were, I would say 90 percent of the motivation was to help raise funds for SMA.
Keith: It’s great that you have all these guest artists on here. But the bottom line is, it’s a really great record.
Brian: We’re really happy with it.
Keith: It’s a trifecta of happiness.
Brian: Well, that’s great for you to say that.
Keith: Because it’s a great record, you got great artists, and the money’s going to a great place. And the journey, taking that journey, there’s all kinds of good vibes and good juju about it. You feel it. Those positive vibes are so much better.
Brian: The journey was unbelievable, because the first part of the journey was: Mark, my brother, coming to my house on weekends and literally spending Friday night, Saturday, Saturday night and Sunday afternoon on demos and rough tracks.
Keith: Every weekend?
Brian: No, because we live so far away. Whenever we could.
Keith: At least once a month?
Mark: Yeah, something like that.
Brian: So that process took about two years, because we’re not near each other. By the way, that’s why we did this whole thing in secret. For five of the six years, we never told anybody about it, because I had this fear that with all those logistics, it might not ever get completed. I think the worst thing you can do is promise something and not deliver. Especially if you’re going to raise money for a cause.
Keith: That’s really the only way to do it. Keep it under wraps.
Brian: When I knew it was gonna happen, that’s when I finally let it out. And also, with these musicians, they were all very giving. They were all awesome. But take somebody like Matt. Matt was by far the toughest one to record. Not because he was difficult. He’s an absolute sweetheart. But his availability – he was working on a DVD, working on a new album, he was on tour in and out of the country …
Keith: He was in the studio with Bruce Springsteen.
Brian: Yeah. And I’m trying to get him to play in the middle of all that, right? And he’s being very cool about it.
Keith: He plays every night.
Brian: Right. And Billy (Hector)!
Keith: The beautiful thing about Matt is that you can see him at the “Enormo-Dome” one week, and then you go see him at the corner bar the next week …
Brian: And then see him open for Purple.
Mark: Red Bank and Englewood.
Keith: Red Bank and Englewood. You know, if you blindfolded somebody and you put him in the theater in Englewood (Bergen Performing Arts Center) and you told him it was the Count Basie (Theater), he’d probably believe it. I mean, those are two of my favorites. We played there (in Englewood) a few times. We actually played there, I think, in the (David) Johansen group, and then we played there opening for Eric Burdon. Then we opened up for your hometown heroes there, Cinderella. On a Tuesday night. I’ll tell you, that place was more packed for Cinderella …
Mark: I saw them after the day, and they were great. I love those songs.
Keith: (Cinderella singer) Tom Keifer, you talk about …
Brian: We used to see him at the Galaxy all the time.
Keith: He could be in the Rolling Stones, that guy.
Mark: Brian used to say that at the Galaxy, people would say, “Who’s that chick over there?” He’s got the face. Everybody knew he was gonna be a rock star.
Keith: Just by his look.
Mark: He had the light on him. Those songs are ’70s songs. That Cinderella album (“Night Songs”), it’s not like ’80s hair metal. It’s like real ’70s.
Brian: I think it’s called “Long Cold Winter” (1988) – that stuff all sounds like Mott (the Hoople) to me.
Keith: There you go. I had (Cinderella guitarist Jeff) LeBar on the show. People were like, “Oh, what are you having him on for?” I’m like, “Wait ’til you hear.” Those guys are just your typical ’70s throwback. I said to Jeff, I said, “You know what messed you guys up? You guys would have went through that whole ’80s thing unscathed, (except for) the long trench coats, the big, poofy (hair). If you would have avoided that, and just looked like Aerosmith ’77, you would have went through that whole thing unscathed.” And he’s, like, “Stop reminding me.”
Mark: That’s probably how they got in. But those songs – “Shake Me,” “Don’t Know What You Got ’Til it’s Gone” – they’re beautiful. You could cry.
Keith: And then on the third album (“Heartbreak Station,” 1990), they kind of did the “Exile on Main St.” trip, right? But, seein’ a guy like (Tom) Keifer out there – he’s playin’ guitar, then he’s playin’ piano, then he’s blowin’ sax, right? And he’s doin’ it.
Mark: A double-neck, red SG (guitar) with a top hat.
Keith: Yeah! He’s so cool. Like you said, he’s like Ian Hunter and Steve Tyler in a blender. It’s great stuff. I’m here with the Voger brothers, a great record, “From the Heart,” the proceeds going to Jersey Rockers Fight SMA. Talking about some of the great artists who have been a part of it. Vogerland.com to order it. You’ve been hearing tracks tonight. And let’s play something from the record. Mark, why don’t you give us the intro on the next one?
Mark: This next one is called “Hope Train.” It’s kind of a corny title. But then I was thinking “Love Train” and “Peace Train.” It’s a song about hope. I put it together walking around Newark. I worked in Newark for six years. There’s a lot of hopelessness there, but then you see the pockets of hope. Writing the lyrics, it felt corny, but then I heard the Rascals song “People Got to Be Free.” Like, (sings) “All the world over, so easy to see …” And I just thought, “Ah, everybody can be corny once in a while.” We have Georgie Rumbol on it, Keith, who, like I said, you would just love this cat. When you hear the song, he just sounds like Paul Kossoff, but there’s something punky about it. My brother said that when he recorded Georgie, he never saw anybody, like, bending strings so much. And so much almost painful contact between his fingers and the frets. Just, like, pulling, pulling, pulling. Doing stuff that really can’t be done. You know? It’s cool. Cool guitar. And Jack Kelly on synthesizer.
Keith: “Hope Train,” here in the Electric Ballroom.
(Keith plays “Hope Train.”)
Keith: “Hope Train” featuring George Rumbol from the Dead End Kids. Keith Roth along with the Voger brothers, my co-hosts this evening here in the Electric Ballroom. We’ll be back after we pay some bills.
(Commercials and I.D.s are heard.)
Keith: Let’s get back to Sim Cain for a second. He’s a local boy for you guys, right?
Brian: Again, Sim’s another — my wife (Smara) and I go to see Billy Hector all the time. Probably the person I’ve seen most — even more than I’ve seen us play, I’ve seen Billy play over the years. And a very long time ago, this drummer was just fantastic. I went up to him to talk to him afterwards. I was telling him about stuff he did. I analyze everything. He ended up being Sim Cain from the Rollins Band. Here’s a cat who played Woodstock ’94, he played the Grammys, played with all these people …
Mark: He’s on a poster in the Hard Rock Café in New York.
Brian: Yeah. I like to say to him, “Well, Sim, you’ve worked with (producer) Glyn Johns, you’ve worked with all those cats, and finally, you got to be in Vogerland Studios in Medford, New Jersey (laughs). I’m only kidding.
Keith: And, you know, (singer Henry) Rollins has a strong connection to South Jersey. The City Gardens (in Trenton) was almost like a second home to Henry. I mean, he grew up in Washington, working at the ice cream store. He’s another guy that I absolutely love. People are like, “Oh, Rollins?” If you knew Henry Rollins, he’s basically a pencil-protecting, loving-rock geek. He once told my friend Derwood (Andrews) — Derwood from Generation X — that he would (unintelligible), so he could go in a room and listen to his band, Empire. There was outtakes. And Derwood got a little weirded out by it. “Who’s this Rollins guy?” I was like, “No, he just loves music.” More so than being a performer. And Sim Cain, he did some great stuff on those Rollins records.
Brian: I’ve seen Sim do an entire gig with just a snare drum. You know, you’ve gotta be able to play to do that. You’ve gotta really have heart. It was an outdoor gig on a big porch, and during a drum solo part, he started playing the porch railing. He’s just crazy good.
Mark: He could take a Bic pen and play on a desk, and sound like Jesus.
Keith: One of those guys, right?
Brian: One of those guys. And his instincts are unbelievable.
Keith: Did you write these songs in the sense of: for this project? Or were these songs you had written, and just said, “Hey, I got these great songs. I wanna record ’em. I wanna do it for a great cause. I’d like to get these guests on it.” Was it the mindset of, like, it’s going to be a charity record?
Mark: They just came. I had like three of four to start, so that was like the “seed money.” They just came one after another. As always happens, I had many more than — maybe double. So basically, my criteria was: “Would my brother like it?” So there’s a gospel song that didn’t make it on, because the song you just played, Keith, “Barman” — that one came really late. As soon I heard it, I was like, “I know my brother’s gonna love this one.” So that’s all it was. The genre-hopping thing — there’s, like a country and a prog and a couple of blues-rocks and a lullaby — that just happened. These are just the songs that came out. But it gave us variety.
Keith: Yeah. Once you’ve got two or three under your belt and the record is underway — have you ever noticed that when you write a record, it’s only that time frame? You know when you got off the exit, it’s like: “Okay, this timeline is now captured.” You’re seeing the end credits in your head.
Brian: He did throw a couple of curves at me. One of the songs is pop song, and he said, “I need trumpet for this.” I’m a rock guy. I know a million guitar players, I know a million keyboard players, all that kind of stuff, but I don’t know any trumpet players. But our niece is marrying a trumpet player (Peyden Shelton) that just won some national competitions.
Mark: He played on Pharrell Williams’ “Happy.”
Keith: Oh, really?
Keith: Did he really?
Mark: Yeah. (Imitating Southern accent) “You can’t hear me, but I’m on there.”
Keith: What was it like growing up in the Voger household? You guys are a combination of good friends that I’ve had, maybe older friends when I was growing up, of my brother, my middle brother’s friends. Was it, like, rock ’n’ roll 24/7 in the Voger household?
Brian: It was 75 percent rock ’n’ roll, and 25 percent classical and madrigal and all that kind of stuff. My sister (Barbara) was a music composition major. She was in, like, bells and chorus and ensembles and all that kind of stuff. So completely different from what we did. We’re in the basement playing Hendrix and Zeppelin and stuff like that, and my sister’s upstairs playing classical piano stuff. So for my parents, that had to be a weird thing. Because I was a bass player. Back then, there weren’t any bass players.
Keith: So you got all the work.
Brian: So I was in two or three bands at that same time. My brother was in bands as long as I can remember. I started at, like, 13, 14, and he was already doing it. So either he had a band or I had a band or we both had a band all the time.
Mark: One of the things Brian noticed was that we were always hard up for bass players. Because guitarists are a dime a dozen. The price has never gone up. And then there’s always some A-hole who thinks he can sing.
Mark: Always. No shortage. But like I said, we needed somebody to play bass. And Brian was overhearing this and wanting to get in the game. And so Brian specifically said, “Okay, man, I’m gonna be a bass player! I’m gonna be a bass player, mo fo!” So that’s what he did. And never, ever, to this day, hurtin’ for a band. And, thank goodness, I’ve never been hurtin’ for a bass player.
Keith: Let’s play another track right now. Give us the intro on this.
Brian: So, this is “The Sun is Blue,” another one of my favorites. This was the opportunity to work with the guys that we used to be in bands with. So our old pal, Tim Kaercher, plays great trade-off riffs with my brother Mark, and Ron Tortu completely changed the song. He played nothing like what we had in mind, and his keyboard playing is just brilliant on it, and his solo is fantastic.
Mark: Ron’s the kind of guy — he can play piano like Johnnie Johnson, he can play organ like Jon Lord. Talent drips from his fingers. He just knocked it out of the ball field.
(Keith plays “The Sun is Blue,” followed by commercials, station I.D.s and more songs. Then Keith plays “Moving Day”)
Keith: “Moving Day” from the Voger brothers. We played the Nazz with Todd Rundgren. And you guys grew up in Rundgren territory. Wasn’t there some kind of Rundgren connection with you guys?
Brian: Our father was Todd Rundgren’s Boy Scout leader.
Keith: Oh, so Todd Rundgren was in the Boy Scouts until what age?
Brian: I have no idea (laughs). We grew up in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. My dad raised his family (with his first wife) initially in Upper Darby (Pennsylvania).
Keith: And he (Rundgren) went to Wildwood (New Jersey) to try to do it with the Nazz, right, for a while?
Mark: “Hello It’s Me” (by the Nazz) — I love that tune.
Keith: I heard through (disc jockey) Carol Miller – we all know who the legendary Carol Miller is – she lived in Philadephia, on a station back in the early days. And she was going to college up there, and at that station – you know, I’ve gotta be politically correct.
Mark: Oh, okay, I gotcha. I know the one you mean (WMMR).
Keith: You know. Right. So you know that one. But she said at night, she would go to a bar, and (Cheap Trick guitarist) Rick Nielsen used to bar-tend there, and he’d have a big beard and he’d wear a dress. And I’m thinking, “Carol, are you crazy?” And then she said, “I used to go to this one store in Philadelphia that I absolutely loved, and (Cheap Trick bassist) Tom Petersson used to sell me scarves and shoes.” Now, Carol, she is Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, period. She’s the best. So of course, they verified it. And what happened was, they moved to Philly. After Fuse, they wanted to be part of that whole Philly scene. They went from Rockford, Illinois, and they spent a short time in Philadelphia, and the band was called Sick Man of Europe, which became a Cheap Trick song. But fast-forward to 1978. Cheap Trick’s exploding. “Budokan’s” going crazy. And Carol Miller’s at the show. After the show, she goes up to Tom and goes, “Oh, great show,” and he goes, “Size 8.” She goes, “What?” He says, “Size 8.” She says, “What are you talking about?” He says, “I used to see you all the time. You don’t remember me? You used to come into my store and buy the scarves.” So, very weird.
Mark: She couldn’t tell (Nielsen) without the dress and the beard.
Keith: Rick was just being goofy, always being an over-the-top personality.
Brian: I gotta sneak in one more thing about the process. So, he (Mark) asked for a trumpet player. We lucked into that. There’s a song that’s got a Celtic vibe on it. So he calls me up and says, “I’ve got this song, but I need a penny whistle player and a viola and violin player. Again, I’m a rock guy. I don’t know viola players, I don’t know penny whistle players. So our good friend — you might know him, Joe DeLuca, owner-operator of Why Me Recording studio.
Keith: It does ring a bell.
Brian: He knows a lot of people that you know. He’s recorded all your pals, recorded everybody in our area. So I’m kind of complaining to him, because we’re settling for sythesizer parts. So he says, “Well, I just recorded an Irish band.” Boom. He hooks me up with a (tin whistle) player (Phil Collins). “I just recorded a string quartet.” Hooks me up with a violin player (Amy Patton Weckesser). Never met either of these people before in my life. He called them for me. He set the whole thing up. They showed up at my house within two days and did the parts. So that’s part of the journey, too. Mark got what he wanted, and I got the sounds we needed and new friends out of it, too.
Keith: It’s just a beautiful experience.
Brian: God bless Joe DeLuca.
Keith: And, you know, all that magic and good vibes are captured in this record. You can order it at Vogerland.com. The album is “From the Heart.” The proceeds go to Jersey rockers fighting SMA, people like Billy Hector, Matt O’Ree, Reggie Wu. Stringbean’s on the album. We were just talking about Sim Cain. A record that’s just done out of pure passion. Anyway, thank you guys for coming down.
Mark: Hey, man, thanks for having us, Keith.
Keith: It’s always a lot of fun.
Mark: It’s great to be back in the Ballroom, baby.
Keith: You guys are always welcome here in the Ballroom, without a doubt.
Mark: See you next week.
Brian: That’s what I was going to say. I’ll be around.
Keith: So, why don’t we close the record out right now. We did a lot of talk about our good friend — a mutual friend of all three of us — Reggie Wu. Give us the outro on this.
Mark: This one’s called “What You Got.” It’s sort of our ’80s hair metal song. But really, it’s more like Cinderella or AC/DC from the ’70s. Reggie Wu, God bless him, from the Philadelphia Spectrum to “From the Heart.” He kills it.
Keith: Brian, Mark Voger, my co-hosts this evening here in the Electric Ballroom. Once again, pick up “From the Heart.” Proceeds going to (Steven’s Walk). You can order the record at Vogerland.com. Thanks, guys.
Brian: Thank you. Thanks for having us.
(Keith plays “What You Got.”)