Rokbox play awesome AOR and is a big recommendation to all of the AOR fans. I had an interview with the 2 members of the band, Marc Engeran and Randy Settoon. Let's see what they have to tell us…
Please, first tell us everything
about the history of your band ROKBOX
Marc: Everything started some years back when Randy and I played in various garage bands. We were in some pretty good bands, and one of them made a name for itself locally.
Randy: We were good and became popular because we were playing mainly songs that we wrote while other bands were playing copy tunes. Our band was a regular at several clubs near where we live and we played at dances and other things like that. We opened for some “bigger” bands from Louisiana when they came to town like Le Roux and Lillian Axe.
Marc: A good friend of ours now, Jim Odom of Le Roux, liked some of our originals and took us into the Studio in the Country in Bogalusa, Louisiana. This studio is in the middle of nowhere, and a lot of major bands have recorded there like Kansas and Cinderella. We were in awe of the history and all the big bands that recorded at that studio.
Randy: I think, and I know Marc would agree with this, that the experience of recording a few demos in that studio with Jim Odom was the beginning of ROKBOX. Before then, making records seemed to be something you dreamed of but realistically would never experience.
Marc: Not long after we went into the studio for the first time, we got together with some of the former members of Le Roux, Jim Odom and David Peters (drummer), Dave Campo (brother of Bobby Campo of Le Roux) on bass, and our singer, Chris Roberts of the band network. We even brought Fergie Fredriksen of Le Roux, Trillion, and Toto to sing some songs. Randy and I had written a number of songs and we recorded ten songs to be released as a CD. Right when we were finishing up, Chris Roberts moved away. We were basically left with no singer and the project never got released.
Randy: After that, Marc and I didn’t go into the studio for awhile. But during that time, Marc built a project studio and approached me about completing the project we had started with the other guys. We talked about it then decided to do some new tunes and with a new singer. We looked and looked and couldn’t find a singer. That’s when we decided that Marc should sing. We always knew he had a great voice, but I think Marc has always considered himself a guitar player first, and a singer second. We decided that Marc should be the singer, and the rest is history.
Marc: We put some songs together, put a band together, and started playing some gigs to test the crowd response. It was excellent. The positive response encouraged us to get in the studio and start recording.
Randy: Marc became inspired and in a couple of weeks he had come up with ideas for 18 songs. He often would call me in the morning around 3:00 am when I was asleep and play the new stuff over the phone so I could hear it. Of course the new tunes were great and I couldn’t wait to start working on them too.
Marc: We recorded the CD in my project studio over the course of about two months. We approached musicians that we had played with over the years, and asked if they would come in the studio and play the tracks. Randy and I did all of the engineering and producing, as well as writing the songs and playing on the CD, and in the end we got our long-time friend Jim Odom to help with the mix. Jim at that time was (and still is) busy running Presonus, which manufactures studio equipment.
Well, you already talked about your debut CD, but can you tell us a little bit more about how you came up with writing and recording the songs on the album?
Marc: Well, as I mentioned, it was something Randy and I felt we needed
to do. The first project didn’t get done, and that was frustrating.
But it was an excellent experience. I think the experience of that
first project really caused Randy and me to become a songwriting team.
We learned how to write songs that would sound great in the studio, but
could be reproduced live, and in fact, maybe even sound better live.
I think that is something that a lot of bands have trouble with.
We have often been told that we sound better live than we do on the CD.
I think that’s a compliment?
Randy: We also realized during that first project that didn’t get finished that we both have different roles in the writing of the songs, and we’ve accepted them. It’s amazing. Marc pretty much comes up with the idea for a song musically. He may also come up with a “hook” melody that he believes must be there. He then passes the song off to me. I work on the words and melodies, paying careful attention to the hook.
Marc: Right. I write the music and Randy writes the words.
Randy: In fact if I do have a suggestion for a song musically, it is usually one I come up with after Marc has shown me some new-fangled chord or progression on the guitar. But, I prefer that Marc writes the music. And basically, there is not one song he has ever brought to me that I feel I could have done a better job writing. I like them all and they are pretty much how I would have written it. There is basically no competition.
Marc: If there is any competition between us, it is not in writing better songs than each other like Lennon and McCartney used to talk about, but it is that we both try to out do previous songs we have written together. After each song, we want to honestly believe that it is the best song we have ever written.
Randy: The competition I feel is that when Marc brings me a song that has a certain emotion or mood to it, I feel pressure to write the words and melodies that expresses it perfectly. I don’t want that mood to be diminished in anyway. I don’t want the words or melodies to detract from it in anyway. I always feel like I am competing with Marc in that my words and melodies have to match the emotion expressed through the music.
Marc: As far as the debut CD goes, we try to put a hook in every song we write. We want people to listen to the CD and hear the songs in their heads when they are taking a shower, or when they are at work, or when they are trying to go to bed at night. If you have a hook, I think you have the potential for a great song. Also, we like to write songs that express an emotion, something that people can identify with, whether it’s the words or the music.
How would you like to describe
Randy: How would we describe our music? Most of our songs come from the heart. They are based on things that we have felt, experiences we have had. You can hear desperation, confusion, uncertainty, heartbreak, and feelings of isolation, pessimism, optimism, and hope in the songs on this CD. These are basic emotions that everyone shares and I think people can really relate to our songs because of this. The theme of the artwork on the cover of the CD is expressed in the songs Going Nowhere and What’s the Reason. These songs basically say “the world has gone crazy, there is no more good music, there is nothing for future generations to look forward to, and I want to know why!” These songs are judgmental, and that’s the symbolism of the chair (i.e., judgment throne) in front of the window on the cover of the CD.
Marc: And in between these two “deep” songs (Marc laughs), are songs about relationships, about missed opportunities, and about future possibilities.
Randy: I hate to say that I have a favorite song on the CD, but if there is one, it is How Many Roses. I really like how the lyrics turned out, and they match the mood of the song perfectly. The song is edgy, disheartening at times, and it ebbs and flows with quiet resolve in the verses building to outright despair in the chorus.
Marc: Too Young and Anytime have been the two songs that have gotten the most airplay over here in the US. The other songs don’t fit the “pop” format of most radio stations. But you will hear the other songs on college radio stations.
Randy: We really want people to experience the mood of the song. Take Too Young for example. This is a sad song. It is a song of regret. It is a song of having something special, and letting it get away. I think everyone understands what this song is about, because they have been there.
What are your musical influences?
Marc: Being a guitar player first and foremost, I have been influenced
by guitarists from Hendrix, to Jimmy Page, to Steve Lukather, to Eddie
Van Halen, and to Neil Schon, of course. I’ve been fortunate to have
gotten my hands on a half dozen of Neil’s rare Schon guitars. I even
have some prototypes that Neil doesn’t even have. I think if I had
to give you one name, it would be Neil Schon.
Randy: Bandwise, I think for both of us, the Beatles pervade our first memories of music and Rock ‘n Roll. My brother turned me on to them when I was young, even though they had already broken up by the time I started listening to their records. For me personally, I would say that I have always admired Tommy Shaw (of Styx). In particular, his early music and the way he sings his songs. Crystal Ball is my all-time favorite song.
Marc: For me, I think the bands that have had the greatest influence are the Beatles, Kiss, Ozzy, Zeppelin and Journey, just to mention a few. I have a collection of over 1000 CDS. What can I say? I like to listen to music.
How is the CD been distributed and do you have any success in the USA and Europe?
Marc: We have distribution in the USA and Europe and we are getting airplay in both. For us, the main goal for this first CD was to get one under our belt and start working on the next. We learned a lot, in terms of writing, engineering, and producing songs, and we’re ready to get going on the next CD. Presently, we are considering several offers for licensing the first CD worldwide.
On the internet, we see some pictures of live performances, so your band does also perform live. Can you tell us about any concerts?
Marc: We have played on the road in various bands off and on for years,
so this is nothing new to us. We have been very selective in choosing
the places to play. We’ve played at mid-sized clubs where you can
fit several hundred people. When we played, the clubs were packed
and the response was overwhelming.
Randy: The crowd really liked our tunes. As Marc said earlier, the reviews of the live shows say that we sound better live, more powerful. We also have a great stage presence. We get the crowd into it with our originals and a lot of high energy action on stage. Then in the middle of our set, we pull out the acoustic guitars and percussion instruments and play seven or eight songs unplugged.
Marc: Yeh. We got members in the live band who could play their instruments and sing. A trademark of ours has been that we have killer harmonies live. The harmonies are really powerful during the unplugged set. We usually play classic copy tunes and it is neat to hear the crowd singing along. We’ve got one more show this year and then we are going to devote all of our attention to recording the next Rokbox CD.
Your record label is Blue World Records. Can you tell us a bit more about that label?
Marc: Blue World Records is a new independent label that has a portfolio of artists who musically span a wide range of styles: country, rock ‘n roll, pop, and so on. The label is new and small and we were the first to sign. As a result, we have taken a big interest in the company and we are currently helping with managing and producing some of the other artists that have since signed. Blue World Records will have several CDS released in 1999 including our next CD. Several record companies have expressed an interest in licensing the new releases. We are expecting big things in the not too distant future.
I heard you’re working on a 2nd CD, please tell us everything about it?
Randy: As far as our next CD goes, we have recorded temporary tracks
on three or four of the new songs. I think Rokbox fans will be happy
with the second CD. Musically, we won’t depart much from the style
of the first CD. But, the next CD is already taking on a character
of its own.
Marc: Melodically, we are the same. The songs seem to be a bit more edgy. More guitars. Maybe a little heavier, more powerful. Beyond the songs, we will be recording in a new studio. We will have more to work with than we had when we recorded the first CD. I think the production value of the next CD will be greater. Same style of music, a little heavier, powerful choruses, better production. One of the songs, Bad Love, is a rocker. Screaming guitars, wailing vocals.
Randy: One of the other songs, Karianne, is the trademark Rokbox style, heavily melodic, big time harmonies during the chorus. It’s the kind of song you might hear during an emotional part of a movie. I think this is one of Marc’s favorites so far. And then there is the song Carousel, a real dark song about obsessions and fixations. I’m getting excited just thinking about how these songs are going to sound when we get finished with them.
On your debut CD there was a picture with only 2 band members. How is the line-up now?
Randy: Marc and I have been a team. We have been very happy with
what we’ve done so far. Actually, Marc could record every instrument
if he wanted to. He is an awesome bass player, an excellent pianist,
and a good drummer. In fact, all of the instruments for many of the
rough cuts from the first CD were recorded by Marc, including the drums.
He would sing the song in his head and record the drums. Then he
would layer the rest of the instruments on top, one at a time.
Marc: We will have two new members as part of the band on the next CD. Right now, my brother JJ, who played some on the first CD, is our drummer, and Dave Miller is coming on board as the keyboardist. Randy will continue to play keyboards and a little more electric and acoustic guitar.
Finally, what are the plans for the next coming months?
Marc: Well, right now we are producing an artist for Blue World Records. Her name is Jacquie. Her CD will be released in January. She is awesome. Believe me, she will make some noise in the music industry during the next several years. It is a kind of Rokbox style with a female singer. Of course, we will be working on the next Rokbox CD.
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Rokbox (Blueworld Records/1997)
Randy Settoon -Keyboards, vocals
Marc Engeran -Lead vocals, guitar
Blue World Records
P.O. Box 277
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