Michael J Roy
It all started in a log cabin in Arlington MA.
Well maybe it wasn't a log cabin, but it was a wooden house.
There was a Baldwin spinet piano in the living room and that was my first musical instrument exposure. There was always music in that house. Classical, show tunes and the Great American Songbook, from Bernstein to Sinatra.
Seeing my sister and her friends going berserk over The Beatles peaked my interest in Pop Music.
At my request, my parents bought me the usual nearly impossible to play acoustic guitar.
After sticking with it, learning simple songs by Bob Dylan, Woody Guthrie and Hank Williams, they procured for me a Harmony Stratotone electric guitar.
I was on my way!
I used to drag around that acoustic guitar (make unknown) to parties and play those tunes as best I could.
At one of those parties, I was seen playing Neil Young's "Sugar Mountain" by someone who would soon become my musical partner for many years.
It was at Arlington High School that I was approached by a long haired individual with some sheets of paper in his hand. I had seen him around and we both had similar length hair and attire so I took one.
It was a sort of newspaper with jokes and whimsical observations.
I recognized an obscure reference to some song and band, so we struck up a conversation.
Jon Macey and I became fast friends and when I found out he played guitar as well, that cinched it.
We started meeting at various locations to work on songs that he had, eventually putting together an acoustic duo show we referred to as the "Randy Saccharine Show". The songs were generally sarcastic, cynical observations of Suburban Life as we understood it. Playing mostly parties, we were in it for fun.
After awhile we realized we were more seriously considering a musical career and so endeavored to form something with a little more thought behind it.
Continuing in our mutual love for sarcasm and play on words, we decided on calling ourselves "Fox Pass".
At this time there was a healthy music scene blossoming in Cambridge, with a focus on both impromptu and organized outdoor shows on the Cambridge Commons.
We began papering Harvard Square and the surrounding area with "Some day if you're lucky, FOX PASS!" posters.
We did many shows there and elsewhere, also seeing and getting to know many interesting solo performers such as Jonathan Richman and Willie "Loco" Alexander.
Influenced by such bands as The Mothers of Invention, The Velvet Underground and The Stooges, we decided that going electric was the next logical step. Recruiting my brother John on bass and a litany of drummers, we eventually arrived at Ricci LaCentra to complete the unit with which we set out to conquer the globe.
There were many highlights in the illustrious career of Fox Pass including opening for Roxy Music, a nice paragraph in Playboy Magazine and a self-released single in '76.
- After many ups and downs, twists and turns and personnel changes, we called it quits, and both Jon and I moved to Manhattan to work with Tom Dickie.
Managed by Tommy Mottola's Champion Entertainment, Tom had been in a band called Susan which was a Boston favorite. When Susan broke up, Tom remained with Tommy and was looking to put together a band. We created Tom Dickie & the Desires, releasing two LPs on Mercury Records in the early '80s. We did a lot of club dates and tours with bands such as Cheap Trick and Hall and Oates. Life being what it is, after meeting moderate success, we all parted ways. See www.foxpassmusic.com for more detail.
- After the collapse of that band, Jon returned to Boston and I stayed on in NYC.
It didn't take me long to hook up with a variety of musicians, filling in on lead guitar with Dina Regine, Prisoners of Beat, The Vacations, Dean Landew and others, and doing sessions around town.
A friend of Tom Dickie's that I knew asked me to join his band, Cody Lee and the Walk. Cody and I lived in the same building for a while, in the Lower Eastside. Next door to me on the ground floor was Lon Rozelle, Cody's friend and drummer in The Walk.
We had some great times in that building, I can tell you!
Band situations morph in time and while The Walk played CBGBs and other venues a lot, it eventually ended. There was a loft space in Midtown that was the scene of many jams and rehearsals. Bass player Tom Peterson had left Cheap Trick and Lon ended up drumming for him and Jenna Allen in a band called Sick Man of Europe. They rehearsed there. The Walk also rehearsed there and at one jam/party, I played the song "Pills" with Sylvain Sylvain, of The New York Dolls, Tom Peterson and Lee Crystal on drums.
Lee and Gary Ryan were the Rhythm Section in Joan Jett and The Blackhearts and having left the group, were looking for something to do.
Lee knew Michael Monroe of Hanoi Rocks and after the demise of that band, Michael was looking around as well. Lee suggested that he, Gary, Cody and I meet with Michael with a look toward forming a band. By this time I had moved to the East Village and Michael was right around the corner on East 3rd. We got together, hit it off and set about creating Secret Chiefs. We rehearsed at Irving Plaza, a great venue in Manhattan with a large stage and good sound.
Cody and I had some songs of our own and together starting writing songs with Michael in mind. We did a few dates in the Northeast and Canada before going on tour in Finland.
Him being a Superstar in Finland made for some amazing festival and club dates.
Upon return to The States, initial contact with the record companies made it obvious that they were more interested in Michael Monroe solo guy, than the band.
While Michael later asked me to tour with him in Japan, Lee, Gary, Cody and I had decided to stick together and we continued on as Crash Conference.
During all this, I had stayed close to Mitchel, one of the female lead singers in Prisoners of Beat. We wrote and recorded many songs together, hoping to procure her a deal. Mitchel had many friends and contacts in the music business and a very original and unique musical persona. A demo submitted to DJ/producer Mark Kamins (known for producing "Everybody" and helping get a deal with Sire Records for Madonna) got some interest. He arranged a deal with Wax Trax! Records out of Chicago and London.
Crash Conference toured and played with many great bands such as Jason And the Scorchers, The Georgia Satellites and The Ramones to name a few. We played many high profile gigs and made demos produced by the likes of Lance Quinn, known for producing Talking Heads: 77 (their debut album) and spoke with many Record Companies, but never nailed the deal. It was a great, hard rocking band, but with two lead singers, Cody and myself, I don't think that there was a strong enough identity.
- While Crash Conference collapsed, I segued right into Mitchel and my new project, Ajax.
Along with a friend of Mitchel's, Michael Hornburg (later author of the books Downers Grove and Bongwater) we wrote and recorded our first release on Wax Trax! called "Mind The Gap" which was produced by us and Mark Kamins. Mark was a very hot DJ in NYC and was known for producing Madonna‘s first hit “Everybody”. "Mind The Gap" was a noisy Electronica/House track that was a minor club and college radio hit.
We went on to release a 12" single Mind the Gap, an EP and full album called One World. Mind The Gap was a minor club/dance floor hit and both Gap and One World charted in college and dance charts. There were shows at The Limelight and The Ritz in NYC and Wax Trax! nights with a just beginning DJ Moby on stage with us, scratching.
Ajax was a blast to do and I garnered a lot of production skills in the process.
There is a video of Mind The Gap that was shot by Michael Hornburg in 8mm. See the link at the top of the home page.
- As it seems all things come to an end, so did that version of Ajax.
Mitchel did continue on with the name AJAX, issuing some very good music in the process. All the AJAX releases can be found on line.
I, in the mean time, momentarily having had my fill of The Music Business, stepped back to assess my direction. I studied acting at Herbert Berghof's HBO Studios on Bank Street in Manhattan for a year with William Hickey.
Took some piano lessons and basically killed time, questioning everything.
Still writing songs, I just had no idea what was next.
After returning to the apartment in the East Village after a stay on Cape Cod, I was accosted by some panhandlers immediately after stepping out of the cab and decided that I was done with New York City. Trust me when I tell you that it was a very different city then than it is now.
Moved briefly to Stony Point NY in Rockland County and enjoyed living the outdoor life, literally living within the boundaries of Harriman State Park.
Having gone to Cape Cod every chance I got since a child, I remembered that old adage "find the place to live that will make you happy and the rest will follow" or something like that. The decision was made to move to the Cape come hell or high water.
Jon Macey and I had lost touch over the years, but had recently been in contact. I made it known to him that I was returning to Massachusetts and we decided to get together. Just like old times, we began to write and play music that was fresh and exciting to us both. We performed briefly as Jon Macey and The Score, but soon realized that it was Fox Pass again. With drummer John Jules and the addition of Steve Gilligan of The Stompers (among many others) on bass, we new we needed to record the new songs along with some older ones, for the enjoyment of all.
Produced by Barry Marshal, the eponymous CD Fox Pass was created.
True to the shifting nature of Fox Pass, Mr. Jules decided to move on and the search was on for the next drummer.
Many years prior to this juncture, Fox Pass had jammed with a young cousin of Ron Doty, a friend of ours. The kid sat right down and played like he knew all our stuff.
It was fun, but already having a drummer at the time, it was just that, fun.
Fast forward and this guy, Tom Landers, reappears.
Same thing, we jam, he knows all our stuff and off we go!
After lots of shows and songwriting by Jon and myself, the second album takes shape.
We decided that, with the amount of songs we had, we could arrange the sequence of the tracks to work as if it was a four sided LP. Each grouping of four or five songs tied together thematically as in the double LPs of the vinyl days. Thus Entemporel, the second Fox Pass CD was issued forth. Well received and reviewed, we continued to play out.
OK, redundancy time; Tom moves on.
Steve had been playing with Lenny Shea Jr. as the rhythm section of The Stompers, and it was a natural progression to have Lenny come aboard. I am so pleased, as it is such a pleasure to play with these guys.
While a new Fox Pass CD is planned, I asked them to back me on my solo project in the meantime. I had about eighteen songs I was choosing between, settling on fifteen to record.
The basic tracks were recorded in two weekends at my Blue Room Studio, and I eventually worked on fourteen to release.
And this brings us to Eclectricity, my solo CD.
I had the honor of working with great musicians and technicians to complete this collection of songs.
Many thanks to Steve Gilligan on bass, Lenny Shea Jr. on drums, Nancy Francis on background vocals, David Minehan's input and expertise mixing the album (at Woolly Mammoth Sound) and mastering by David Locke (JP Mastering in Jamaica Plains).
It is a mix of some older tunes that never really got out there, and a bunch of new tracks. I have always had a very wide range of tastes in music and I believe the songs reflect the various influences in my life.
I played all the instruments other than bass and drums and and performed all vocals with the exception of the background vocals on Wherever You Are, by Nancy Francis.
All roads lead to now.
The next one is in the works, so stay tuned!