JOE ROBINSON is one of those musicians in the AOR scene that really deserve to become more known, because Joe is a multi-instrumentalist who basically does everything by himself on his CDs. He has released two CDs so far and is musically comparable to PHIL VINCENT, 8084, 80s NIGHT RANGER... I had an interview with Joe, let's see what he has to say...
When did you start your
This is a loaded question! Does singing the "Pepsi song" as a 2 year old count? Actually I started with songwriting at about the age of 12. I was originally looking to be a vocalist, but in the next year the guitar caught my fancy so I started learning to help my writing. Eventually I became infatuated with the guitar and abandoned singing for awhile, but when I answer the next question you'll see the fates had something else in mind...
Tell us all about your first
recordings (and bands)?
I started playing with bands when I was 16, at the time I was only looking to be a rhythm guitarist since I really hadn't developed as a lead player yet. The first and last group I joined was a cover band playing primarily 70' hard
rock (Kiss, early Judast Priest, etc.). I became good friends with the bassist, so we decided to break away a start our own group called "Metal Hart"(not knowing at the time of Accept's album of the same name). We shared
the vocal duties and played a wide mix of hard and classic rock, from "Born to be wild" to WASP. Then we lost our lead guitarist and I had to take that role as well as shouldering most of the lead vocals as well, as I was the better singer. I wasn't really ready to play lead yet, but it was the only way to keep the group going. I guess around this time would be my first "recording" per say. We recorded a demo of covers and a few of my originals to play at local festival, the recording itself was from the rehearsal "boom-box". To make a long story short we didn't get in the festival, and things went downhill from there, leading to the eventual break up of this two year
I continued to write and sharpen my guitar skills, and tried to put another band together. After that experience and watching some of my peers, I decided to not join groups anymore but form my own groups. I never seemed to get enough people together to form a group, and ended up working with several musicians during this period. I finally decided on a solo effort, so with my cousin's help I recorded a 4 song demo to help promote myself. I hooked up with the Brendon Marshall label for awhile but they were lax in their efforts and it didn't work out, so I left them. Luck was with me because soon after they were being sued for misleading artists, and went bankrupt. I continued promoting the demo whil I looked to form another group.
It took about two years to form the band that would be called "PHOENIX", the 4 piece that became three and recorded "Trail of Tears". Again I lost the lead guitarist, but it wasn't as bad this time since I was more prepared to assume the role. PHOENIX was THE group for me, I was sure we'd get a record deal in time. I put alot of work into this band, we rehearsed for a little over a year before playing out. I basically taught the bassist how to play, arranged all the music (which was an even mix of covers and originals), booked and managed...along with handling the lead vocals and all the guitar work. We were a tight group, pulling off tunes like "Carry on my wayward son" and Queensryche as a three piece. After getting experienced from doing gigs, I booked time in a local recording studio to cut what would be "Trail of Tears". We recorded the entire 10 songs in 10 hours, I wished we could've taken more time but it was the most we could afford. Still at the time I thought it was
a good enough demo to get us where we wanted to go, so we started promoting it as best we could. We continued for another year as a group, but the others were growing impatient and less interested. Keeping everyone's best interest in mind I decided to end PHOENIX and continue alone. For the record, for the first time anywhere are the members of PHOENIX from the begining to it's end:
Joe Robinson - All guitars, lead
and backup vocals
Jody Keith - Bass, lead and back up vocals (on "Trail of Tears")
Brian Santos - Drums, back up vocals(on "Trail of Tears")
Jim Williams - Lead guitarist who left, but contributed to the overall sound.
Al Falso - Drums, who replaced Brian after "Trail of Tears"
Lonnie Park - who did the keyboards in "On the Line", (not an offical member of PHOENIX) and engineered "Trail of Tears" at Ultimate Music Studio in Cortland, NY
After PHOENIX, I took a break from playing and bands for about two years. I continued to write and make 4-track demos, sending them out now and then but with little results. As I grew as a songwriter, I began writing in other styles as well and began exploring the possibility of changing styles to something more contemporary. With that in mind I moved from New York to just outside of Nashville, TN, in Kentucky. Since I had some Country style songs I though I could either sell them off or make a go as a Country Artist.
For me New York City was just too crowded with talent to make a dent which was another reason for moving near a different USA music city. For the first 6 months I tried promoting myself in Country as a songwriter/artist, as well as releasing a demo of some songs from "Trail of Tears" as well as other Progressive Rock songs I had written. During this time I started using the internet as a vehicle for my talent, hoping to score a reording or publishing contract in any style I could. As I looked around the internet for ways to promote my music, I discovered MP3.com and their DAM CD program.
I put out "On the
Line" just to try it out and see if I had any luck. I
started recieving downloads and email encouraging me to take this
route a little further, so I did a little remastering and
released "Trail of Tears" as a DAM CD. All this time,
getting promising results gave me hope that Hard Rock wasn't so
dormant after all...I abandoned the Country route entirely and
went back to what I really wanted to do. After "Trail of
Tears" did so well, I took my trusty 4-track and recorded
another CD "No Boundary". I have ALOT of material and
continue to write, so this is only the begining!
I discovered your music through
mp3.com, some people (record companies) don't like this site
because it kills the music industry (as they say), which I
totally do not agree with, because the site gives a great
exposure to the indie music scene which is now as alive as ever.
What do you think of MP3 and how did you get on the site in the
Well as I explained in the last question, I really just stumbled upon it purely by accident. MP3.com looked like a great idea, so of course I wanted to get in on it. As for what I think of MP3.com...This site is definitely the leader in this "revolution" as of late in the music industry, which I think was long overdue. While MP3.com is in it's "infant stages" still and has some problems to solve, they provide a great service to the otherwise ignored
majority of great indie artists out there.
Where I'd like to comment if I may is at the opening statement of this question: "I discovered your music through mp3.com, some people (record companies)don't like this site because it kills the music industry (as they say)"
While I understand and for the most part agree with the piracy concerns of the record labels, but I think they have forgotten why record labels are there in the first place. Record labels should be first and foremost a service to the artists and the public, remembering that they are just a part of the industry as a whole and would be nowhere without the artists and the record buying public. Just like MTV, they've forgotten their true role, and for MTV: the letters stand for MUSIC TELEVISION, for ALL MUSIC FANS, not a showplace for the sorry programming I've seen the last 5-10 years. MTV played a major role in killing pop/rock, hard rock, and lessening the industry as a whole in the USA.
Back to what I was trying to say...what ever happened to ARTIST DEVELOPMENT, and long term investments in artists? A band is lucky to last 3 albums anymore in the USA, and the quality of talent that gets signed is
disappointing to say the least. All the while the money that lines their pockets come from talented artists that they took time to develop years ago, what sense does that make? I'm out in the trenches, and know what it's like
to be unsigned and I think they have forgotten. Record labels are only complaining because they have lost control of what's available to the public, allowing independents to show the talent that the labels have obviously
overlooked for too long. I think they should be GRATEFUL to sites like MP3.com, now they have the best talent in the world at their fingertips. Labels can listen to artists the same day, even without telling the artist of their interest in them! They should start utilizing this tool, because the best talent in the world is on the internet, most artists better then they have themselves. The labels that wake up will be the ONLY labels left when this "revolution" is all over. We artists still need the service labels provide, and I hope the labels in question begin the realize they're not the only game in town anymore.
Can you tell us about your
debut 'Trail of tears'?
Aside from what I have already mentioned, at the time I recorded it was to be the album that got PHOENIX signed to a record deal. I still believe it would have if the band stuck it out for another year, but that's ancient history. "Trail of Tears" was the introduction to what I think is still a great sound, and if I released it 10-12 years ago we would've been signed on the spot. Like I said before it was recorded in 10 hours at a local recording studio, some of the best songs I had to offer at the time. I think with label support this CD alone would be huge, and would make us both (label and artist) alot of money. I took it about as far as I could as a solo artist, and between you, me and your readers this won't be the last you hear of "Trail of Tears".
Can you tell me more about
the songs (possible stories behind the songs)?
Let's see...I'm going to try to break this down for you, from "Trail of Tears"... "Cold Hearted Woman" was something I wrote about a relationship I had some time ago. "Loner" the lyrics were a metaphor for venting my frustration about having to leave Brendon Marshall(see above), "Trail of Tears" itself sprung from an overactive imagination(a great asset to a songwriter!), "On the Line" was actually a combination of two songs I had previously written which worked better as one song, "Missing you" was about a short separation I went
though(greatly embelished), "I Believe" was a keep the faith song for me as well as anyone who listens to it,"Blue skies" was about the same subject as "Missing you" again greatly embelished, "Lies" was written watching one of those movies of the week about child abuse,"Situation" a victim of my overactive imagination, and "Out of Time" one of the first real songs I ever wrote dates back to high school and I don't remember the details!
Now for "No Boundary"...
singles bar experiences of my friends, "Gamble with your
heart" was kinda a lesson to pass along, "No
Boundary" is exactly what the title implies, "House of
Cards" is just a realization that we all don't have as much
control as we would like, "I'm not givin'up" hopefully
will inspire others to do the same in whatever they aspire to
do,"Undercover" yet another victim of my overactive
imagination, "Tomorrows Dreams" just another keep the
faith song,"Make no mistake" is a get up off your #$%*
tune about motivation,
"Sideshow queen" is the way us small towners feel sometimes, "Tell me why" influenced by the number of people who cheat at relatioships, "Lonely Street" is for those with relationship blues,"These days" is a songewriters look at the music industry as it is today, "Addicted to the thrill" just another song that shows my fascination with all forms of gambling,"2 worlds, 1 life" describes the pressure these days between home and work, and the need to get a break!
I could go into greater detail, and have in the "song lyrics and story" part of MP3.com...but I could tie up several pages if I did that! I have these sources for my songs: experiences, inspiration and imagination...and these are
the basis of all my songs. I write mostly about relationships, feelings, and keepin' the faith, which I think is missing from todays market. Everyone seem to be too busy talking about pain, death and how bad things are...I'd rather write about the things all of us go through at one time or another. Things really aren't that bad if you just open your eyes to the possibilities of life rather than it's limitations.
This is another question I could spend days answering, almost every notable artist(s) from 70's pop/rock and 80's hard rock. With this in mind I'm going to stick with just the important ones. I would say my biggest early influence
was Kiss, they still influence me when they stick to the music they're best at..."Revenge" was a big disappointment, but the reunion has certainly made up for it. Some of the "radio groups" from the 70's would be high on the list also, however I can't really name them...I see them on VH1 once in awhile and say HEY! I remember those guys! Following that I'd say Journey, the Little River Band, Foreigner, Led Zepplin, Judast Priest, Night Ranger, Motley Crue, Triumph, and a host of others that could take up 10 pages! I was an avid
listener, and got something from everyone I heard. The only other note of interest would be my greatest guitar influence, Randy Rhoads.
I heard you did everything
on your own which is totally amazing. Isn't it hard to do
everything on your own and do you consider to work with other
people in the future?
It's EXTREMELY difficult to do everything on my own, and I would love to work with others and plan on doing so in the future. Right now it's just not feasible to put a band together. There isn't many places to play without
packing up and driving all over the country, it's too hard to find people willing to do that and I really can't blame them. I do have a "band in reserve" if there becomes a need for one, but I would have to see more interest in music or label support before I'd consider it. This also leaves the door open to work with others, which I hope to do in the near future. I give 150% when it comes to making music, and I expect anyone I work with to do the same. This makes it hard to find people to work with, but I believe it takes nothing less than your very best to get somewhere in this business. It's not perfection I'm interested in as much as effort, I'll take effort over perfection anyday! Any musician interested in this style of music that feels the same way is welcome to contact me anytime. I'm not looking to form a band, but if the right people come along who knows?
You just released your new
solo-album 'No boundary', tell us all about this new CD?
I consider "No Boundary" to be the second chapter of "Trail of Tears" since some of the songs were written with that in mind. Some of the songs I wrote more recently for this project are: "Heartache", "No Boundary", "Make no mistake" and "Tell me why". The others are songs I wrote much earlier, for PHOENIX's follow-up to "Trail of Tears". Since that never happened I kept those songs around and when I began "No Boundary" they seemed to fit right in. Some of these were release previously in demos I sent out before I discovered MP3.com and began again.
I just want to make those aware who don't know that "No Boundary" was done on a analog 4-track recorder with computer generated drums. All of which I did on my own in my little home studio. At the time I had no way to achieve "CD-quality" but I think it's a good effort none the less. If you're interest in just good AOR, "No Boundary" is a steal at $5.99. I've also added sampler Cd that includes songs from both CDs that is also $5.99, for those who don't want to buy both CDs.
Besides mp3.com, do you have
any other promotion?
I have several other sites around the net, including Riffage, AMP3, Soundclicks, Artistforum and Kanoodle. I also have an "offical" homepage at http://joerobinson.homepage.com to keep people up on the latest, including a
virtual presskit, news, soundclips, photos, links, all my reviews and interviews, and some other cool stuff as well. My cd is available from Gravity Records mailorder in the UK and Wishingwell entertainment as well as
MP3.com. As a solo artist I'm pretty much internet based at the moment, but there are some things going that should change that in time for my next release.
Do you play live or anything
to promote your music?
Besides the internet promotion, I've managed to hook up with some local radio stations and soon to come I'll be on the radio elsewhere. I try to do open mike nights and sit in with other groups whenever I can, just to keep my chops up. I try to take advantage of anything that comes my way promotion-wise. There are some deals ongoing I can't discuss right now that should be a great help in this area.
I heard you're already
working on a new CD, tell me more about it (and possible new
Yes I have been working on a new CD, but right now I can't comment on the release date. There's some great things happening for me right now, and I'm putting the new CD on hold for the time being. I'm presently working with a new indie label, a film and music production company for a movie soundtrack, and a host of others as well. I will be releasing a CD next year, it looks like a totally redone "Trail of Tears" and "No Boundary" is also a
possibility. I guess the best answer is that I'm keeping my options open and continuing to move forward.
Finally, anything to add to our readers?
For the fans and friends that I currently have, I just want them (including you Gabor!) to know how much I appreciate your support so much I can't put it into words...only to say that all of you give meaning to my life and my music, and that I consider that a gift I can never repay. To those of you hearing about me for the first time I say welcome friend, I hope you like what you hear and if you do you'll tell your friends, cause I'm here for you not the other way around. For labels and promoters I hope you'll give my music a chance, and offer the kind of help only you can give me. I'm not going away, nor am I a flash in the pan, a good songwriter is the investment that keeps on giving.
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REVIEWS SECOND CD
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