Artist Spotlight: Guitarist Joe Rodriguez, A Flock of Seagulls
LOS ANGELES - Veteran rock guitarist/music producer Joe Rodriguez is known for his dedication to producing young talent as much as for his strong riffs and solos. But these days he is most recognized as the lead guitarist to legendary new wave band A Flock of Seagulls.
Having joined the band in 1999, Rodriguez has been an integral part of the group led by original band member and lead singer Mike Score. The band took the music world by storm starting in 1982 with its megahit "I Ran," followed by "Space Age Love Song," "Wishing," and many others in the 1980s. The band broke up in the early 90s only to reform with a new lineup in 1999 with Score on the keyboards, Rodriguez on guitar, Pando on bass and Michael Brahm on the drums.
Now on tour with the iconic group, with a July 18 concert at the Starlight Bowl in Burbank, Calif., Joe spent a moment with us to share his thoughts on his career, the band and more.
Question: Where are you from originally and what led you to pick up the guitar? Answer: I was born and raised in the Hell's Kitchen area of NYC and my dad had an old classical guitar lying around that I used to mess with. I discovered that if I dropped the mic from my our old home stereo inside it and cranked up the volume, it would distort, feedback and make crunchy rock guitar sounds. When I was 13 years old, we relocated to central Florida to get away from the cold and it was quite the culture shock going from skateboarding around Radio City and 42nd Street to a small southern town where I couldn't find a paved sidewalk that wasn't covered with gravel. Being an outcast and getting bullied at school left me with plenty of time to move the needle on all my hard rock albums to figure out songs by ear. Q: What bands or musicians were your early influences? A: Like every teen with a guitar at the time, early influences included classic rock and metal like KISS, AC/DC, Judas Priest and Iron Maiden. But, I was also intrigued by the synth and orchestral sounds of bands like Styx and ELO. Later on I got into Suzanne Vega, Sarah McLachlan and other Lilith Fair-era singer / songwriters, then indie pop & folk like Ingrid Michaelson and Eisley. I'm starting to dip into prog-metal bands now, specifically Monuments and Tesseract at the moment. I still enjoy and draw heavily from music I loved in the past, but my tastes are always evolving... Q: What kind of training did you receive and did you also pick up other instruments? A: Two years of piano between the ages of 12-14, then when I got an electric guitar at 16, it was all over, although some solid keyboard skills would probably be more useful to me these days. I also play plenty of bass and pick up the ukulele, various percussion or whatever else my latest production may need. Q: What was your first experience in a band like? A: Banging out all that classic hard rock and metal with my friends in a sweaty (or freezing) storage space. The parking lot would always pack out with local fans, so we started selling tickets to our own shows at local community centers and festivals. My first "pro" band was the usual cover bar band and then I got into a 60's-80's variety band. A Flock of Seagulls has been my only high profile band, so far. Q: How did you get into the producing side of the music business? A: I'd been teaching guitar for a few years and had a lot of students asking me what kind of music I listened to and wrote and at the time it was instrumental guitar stuff like Joe Satriani and Tony MacAlpine. So, I got a drum machine, sampling keyboard and 4-track recorder and started doing my own demos which introduced me to MIDI sequencing/programming, sampling and sound design. When things got serious, I took it all into a real studio and released my CD "Antares: The GranDesign". http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/antares Eventually, I got tired of annoying recording and mixing engineers with my nit-picky, perfectionist demands and learned to do it all myself. Q: How did you join A Flock of Seagulls? Were you a fan of the band going in? A: Fellow music teacher/drummer friend of mine did a stint with them on a few tours and told me the guitar slot had just come open. I spoke to Mike Score [the band's leader and lead singer], set up an audition, learned all the songs and he asked me to join. It was very casual. I was well aware of the band, but more so an oblique fan via listening to Duran Duran, Gary Numan, etc. Q: How did the fans react then and what did you do to win them over? A: Fans are obviously there to enjoy the songs and see Mike, so things have always been good and at shows it's been just about all positive response to what I've brought to the band. Every once in a while, a very small vocal minority of Internet haters romance about the original members and the 80's heyday, but I don't really have time for closed-minded nostalgia. That was then and this is now. Q: You and the band travel a lot. What is the most interesting experience you've had on the road? A: Being able to play the Araneta Coliseum in Metro Manila in the Philippines and have a bunch of relatives there from my mother's side of the family was great. Also, the audiences in South America are some of the most passionate and whenever we're there it's like Beatlemania. The pre-show air crackles with the energy of an impending riot...in a GOOD way, that is! Q: How do you manage to be in the band and continue to produce other artists? A: I do it in between Seagulls shows, which is when I also give private lessons in guitar and music production. Busy, busy, all the time! Q: What's next for you? Will you and the band be touring this summer? A: Yes, some touring, festival gigs and an 80's cruise in the near future. Newest production happenings will include an EP from Alt-country newcomer Horace Holloway (HoraceHolloway.com), a single by indie pop singer/songwriter Arielle LaGuette (ArielleLaGuette.com) appearing in the soundtrack of animated feature "The Grid: Zombie Outlet Maul" (thegridzom.com), and a new project with Alaskan-born Inupiaq Eskimo singer / songwriter, Robin Ryan. (reverbnation.com/robinryan) Hear all my latest projects at soundcloud.com/MrJoeR.
Below is the video of A Flock of Seagulls' 1982 megahit "I Ran."