By Rosine Alleva, Journalist/Photographer-Rock At Night France and Switzerland Correspondent
Venue: Atlantis & 8Bar, Basel (Switzerland)–Roustabout Survivors-May 2017
The Roustabout Survivors is a great story…I personally met Dale and Lou in their solo projects when I moved to Switzerland in 2000. I heard about the Roustabouts, band who brought them to the other side of the world, Switzerland and Germany. Formed in New-York in 1980, the ROUSTABOUTS were one of the hottest lives acts, also opening for many famous bands! Imagine my excitement when they formed the band again after 30 years!!
I couldn’t miss the opportunity to see them on stage (twice in a week!!) and give you the chance to get to know them or rediscover them in this great interview below!
The Roustabout Survivors, an amazing band with a huge internet musical project!!! Check it out!!
RAN– Hi guys! How did you all meet in New York 30 years ago?
TOMMY – Well, that’s a huge story. When the band first started, we went through a reorganization and a frustration at finding musicians and song writers and Dale was one of the first ones in the new lineup. At this time, we were with EMI records and there was a lot of things going on. We were opening up shows with The Blasters, Robert Gordon, B52, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Dave Edmunds and others. The band wasn’t the major of the record Company but we were opening the major shows which was great. We just kept on going along with the band, the writing got stronger and stronger and we developed this following, where people were just into the sheer energy. And when we got here, in Switzerland, it was like a nuclear blast because this was everything that this environment wasn’t. That’s what was great about it, we were kicking around. There Was a young man named Marcus Harri who stayed with us on tour to make sure we behaved ourselves (laughs).
RAN- I heard you sang with Cindy Lauper when she began, when was that?
DALE- We had the same manager, his name was David Caroll, he managed Brian and Gary SETZER before the STRAY CATS, The Bloodless Pharohs was the name of the band. He managed Cyndi Lauper as well sometimes. Then Danny Fields was our manager and he managed THE RAMONES, IGGY POP, MC5. He brought us to the major record labels.
RAN- How did you decide to get back together after 30 years?
NEAL- I am the singer of the band, DALE organized this, he pulled all the strings. We had a great time here 29 years ago and we wanted to recreate the atmosphere again. So far, it’s happening, we’re doing a good job out of it. But it’s Dale who made the phone calls overseas, he began to rehearsal here with Lou, we rehearsed in New York. Dale organized 2 days rehearsal together here and we started gigging. And it’s our third show.
TOMMY- And it’s been truly amazing to watch the energy from generation to generation. You could see the «28ths» from back then and the new generation joining at the same time, people going crazy.
Last time, we were playing in Freiburg, Germany. And just to watch the reaction to the music was very interesting, people singing the words, and know the stuff.
NEAL- People came to see us and brought their kids with them at the Atlantis.
RAN- Why did you wait so long to decide to get back together?
DALE- Nothing happens before it’s time.
NEAL- It’s just like a bottle of wine, it ripens with age.
LOU- If you wait too late, it’s like vinegar (laughs)
TOMMY- Exact, that resumes everything (laughs)
RAN- How would you describe the Roustabouts style? What did influence your music?
NEAL, DALE- Rock and Roll and the Rockabilly revival in the States in the early 80’s kind of influenced what’s going on in this band. This rockabilly revival was, in part, brought on by the Roustabouts, Gary and his brother Brian of course. At the beginning of this revival, all these bands, the Tomcats, Robert Gordon, were doing this revival, the Roustabouts were also part of it.
TOMMY- This question is really interesting. We will call it the gumbo of the music sound of the Roustabout Survivors now, NEAL is trash, punk, crazy energy, I have like R’N’B background and Neal always had these flavors, that’s what will make this all thing happen, it’s this little gumbo we put together. And we hit hard, but it has those overtones. I think people like that, it’s really diverse, it’s beautiful…Well for me, it’s beautiful. But at the same time, you get smacked in the face (laughs). Yeah, it’s «a beautiful smack».
DALE- Well, we like to mention that we continue along this project now, but there’s been several other members of the Roustabouts, it’s kind of a family organization. Sometimes musicians left the band, came back, some founding members have done also. For example, Gary was the original singer. When Neal came in, Gary decided to take a break from the Roustabouts, we carried on this way. Neal was the lead singer of the band. There is a chance maybe Gary comes back again and joins us. Maybe he will sing or he’ll play drums and Neal sing, cause he’s also a professional drummer. We have several members who are no longer with us. The Roustabouts have always been like this. A family of musicians with a line-up always ebbing and flowing and changing you know. It’s like the flag that the family flies under. And together, we’re are now the Roustabouts Survivors, the ones that are still doing it!
RAN- You just mentioned members who are no longer with you, is it Lee TOBIA, the 2nd guitar player?
DALE- Yeah, I want to mention Lee TOBIA, he was one of the founding members together with Gary SETZER, a lot of the original songs, he was writer and co-writer with. A great writer! A lot of influences on the songs we play here. With this project, we decided to go along as the 4 of us instead of bringing somebody else in. Cause we have that chemistry, without bringing someone else to influence this old chemistry. We keep his spirit with us, we are channeling some of his riffs and solos to have him there with us. We have his tee-shirt hang on stage as well.
TOMMY- Emotionally this was amazing. When we got prepared to do the show, we had the chance to sat back and listen to the work that we did then, we were like wow!!! We’re all busy with other projects with musicians and when you have the chance to sit there and revisit the tunes…I mean, it’s incredible, very emotional we were sitting there, it really tugged on your heart, wow!!! saying « this is really special» and it really made us feel great. Before we left the States, we went to see Neal do a show with his band, Neal has another project he works on in the States. And the thing was, like Dale said, to be out like this, it’s an extended Family, it’s this whole organization.
NEAL- I have to say something about this guy right here (DALE). This guy is mega talented, if you think he’s playing guitar good, you have to see him playing piano…I mean, no shit, the guy knows his stuff. And he’s musically all there, he knows everything where it’s supposed to be. If it wasn’t for him, I mean, many times we’ve gotta ask him in what key it’s in, he knows, I don’t!! (Laughs)
He is the musical brains behind what’s happening.
RAN- What are your next projects with the Roustabout Survivors after this tour now?
DALE- We’ve done some recording while we ‘re playing here, we’re releasing the record. It’s coming out digitally with some bonus tracks on it. Wears planning on doing a full scale tour of Europe after the summer, maybe in the fall. We want to diversify the thing. Maybe Gary gets involved again and some other Survivors. Stu NEWMAN was the original guitar player, Lee Tobias was the bass player at the beginning of the band and switched to guitar. This album that we’re doing, we did the basic tracks now. The hope is actually, with the power of internet, to send the tracks over, so that some other Survivors, such as Rich LANDAR the original keyboard player can add tracks to it. My idea, as the Producer of the coming album is to have contributions from all of the Survivors sprinkled throughout the album. There are other Survivors out there in America. One in Florida, one in Seattle, we have other Survivors around the world (Laughs)! It’s gonna be incredible!!
RAN- Talking about Florida, a little word for Tampa? For Chyrisse, Rock at Night editor??
TOMMY- I’m not a coconut man (Laughs). We call it the «Jimmy Pop land». If we’re doing something with Palm trees, it’s wrong …and everything in Florida is built for speed, it’s another thing for me…
RAN– A last, «wise» question…. What is the meaning of music in your lives? What would it be without music?
ROUSTABOUT SURVIVORS– Man, that’s impossible!! We’re all professional musicians, we make our living playing .. so, I guess we would be lost. You know, music crosses many borders, I don’t care if you speak German, French, English, if you can play and make something happen, it’s great! It’s like a painting without paint. Music is like an audio painting, how would you make a painting if you take all color away?
RAN- 30 years ago, when you all started, did it happen just because you were famous?
NEAL- The drive behind the band back then, we were all in our twenties, we were ready to go, And Yeah, we had ambitions to getting signed and put a record out and we did, we did a live broadcast in Geneva, it was great! Ambitions were high but you roll the dice and hope …
DALE- more than anything, as professional musicians, it’s not a matter of success or not, because regardless of what the success level is, it’s what we do. I have seen, with my solo projects, really high points and really low points. But this is how I make my living, this is what I do, it’s my life. Whether it was great or bad, with or without money, the next step was always based around music, cause it’s the path!
TOMMY- I think things that happen on the stage, looking out, it’s in the audience! There is an exchange, and when you feel that exchange happening and you feel chemistry, you can’t put a price on it. When somebody gets to that level, you can see it in their eyes, their face. They’re like they left the earth, man, they give you something and you inspired that emotion… I don’t know, it doesn’t get better than that man, it really can’t get better than that!
Lead Vocals & White Trash Blues Harp- «Mister» NEAL HOOPER
Bass Guitar & Vocals- TOMMY «Boom Boom » DEE
Guitar & Vocals- «The Notorious» DALE POWERS
Drums & things- «Crazy» LOUIE MAIELLO
Guitar & Vocals (RIP)- «Loud» LEE TOBIA