An Interview with Todd Poole of Roxy Blue

Header image credit: Ken Mall Photography

By Andrew Daly
andrew@vinylwriter.com

Image credit: Dreadheadkev’s Photography

The pantheon of rock and metal music has served as a litmus test for a great many rock soldiers who have come and gone. While many remain relegated, the recent groundswell of nostalgia and reverence for the bygone eras of rock music has given some credence to rise again.

Todd Poole of Roxy Blue is one of those soldiers.

Like many before him, Poole’s love for rock music began in his bedroom, blasting the likes of KISS and Survivor, while he faced forward toward his future, envisioning breaking through his bedroom mirror via dreams of stardom manifesting themselves into waking existence.

Through a chance meeting with ace guitarist Sid Fletcher, Poole, along with bassist Josh Weil, and drummer Scott Tramwell joined forces to form one of the most underexposed acts of the era in Roxy Blue.

With a bristling, unbridled machismo driven debut under its belt in Want Some?, Roxy Blue seemed destined for grand stages dripping with glitz galore, but as fate would have it, the boys from Memphis found themselves latecomers to a dying scene, and while Want Some? had everything which was required for success in the late 80s, the record fell on deaf ears amongst a 90s scene, which was tuned into more alternative stylings by that time.

Disturbingly relegated, and searingly blindsided by the uglier side of the music business, the members of Roxy Blue went their separate ways in 1993. After several nomadic years, Poole found short-lived success as a founding member of 90s alternative outfit, Saliva, before fate would twist its fickle, skeletal hand once again.

While Saliva proved to be a temporary gig for Poole, his determination was not fazed, and after years away from the scene, in 2017, Poole reformed Roxy Blue. In short order, the band released its self-titled affair, a record which proves that not only is Roxy Blue back but that they intend to inject the scene with every last un-dying inch of their renewed vigor.

I recently sat down with the amiable frontman to discuss his long journey with Roxy Blue, Saliva, and a whole lot more.

Andrew:
Todd, thank you for taking the time with me today. Let’s dive right in. What first gravitated toward rock music?

Todd:
Well, I mean, it’s pretty simple for me, my dad took me to a store, and bought me a copy of KISS’ Alive! After he bought me that record, I don’t think I left my room for three or four days. [Laughs]. This was back in the good old days when you get to look at the album, stare at that album, and listen to the record all at the same time. I think I knew then that something changed in me. I knew it was a calling. It was like, “Oh, man, I want to do this.” But I wasn’t sure really what it was, and then my neighbor gave me a record, and ironically enough, his uncle was in a band called Target. Well, he said, “Listen to this record,” and the lead singer was a man named Jimi Jamison, who ended up becoming my father-in-law years later, and was the singer for Survivor. That’s probably what got me kick-started into wanting to be a singer after hearing his voice. After that, it was standing in front of a mirror and air-guitaring until I could figure out how to play an instrument. [Laughs].

Andrew:
Paint a picture of the Tennessee hard rock scene leading up to the formation of Roxy Blue.

Todd:
Well, we got together really quick. I met Sid [Fletcher], who had just graduated from G.I.T. with Josh [Weil], and Scotty [Tramwell] was playing drums with me in a band at the time. Basically, within a week of all meeting each other, Roxy Blue was together. Everybody had a passion, and we just started playing around Memphis. As for the scene in Memphis, it was an all-time high, man. It was crazy. There were a ton of cool rock clubs, original music was booming – you had us, Tora Tora was doing their thing, and you had Every Mother’s Nightmare too. We were opening for everybody we could open for just to get a gig. I’ll never forget this, and I say this with all respect, as naive as we were, I remember looking at a friend of mine one time, and saying, “We can’t get a gig.” We had been playing around everywhere we could, and the crowds were great, we were opening for all these bands, and then all of a sudden, nobody wanted us to open for them anymore.

So, I talked to a buddy of mine and I was upset about it, and he’s like, “Dude, you don’t need to open anymore. You need to do your own show. They don’t want you to open because you’re bringing it.” So, we started doing our own shows. Back in the day, you needed to create a buzz, and we did that. We noticed our crowds were getting bigger and bigger, we were having a great time, and then we hooked up with a guy called Niko, who had a pre-production studio, and we had an apartment above there. We would rehearse up there, but there was a full-blown studio downstairs. We started trying to do a demo and playing around town, and the scene was nuts. Every time we played it was a party, we just took it for granted, it was just jam-packed. It really was sex drugs and rock ‘n’ roll, not to be cliche, but it was, and we lived for it.

Andrew:
Walk me through some of the band’s early days leading up to signing with Geffen Records.

Todd:
So, we hooked up with a lawyer named Jim Zumwalt out of Nashville, and he got the ball rolling and started shopping our demo around. We got a little bit of interest here and there, and the whole time we were just writing, and recording. We had that luxury because Niko had the studio, and he loved us. We would just write a song, go downstairs, and record it. We lived it 24/7. We were playing big clubs, little clubs, whatever it took. I’ll never forget, we played one night at this little bitty place called Rascals, and the owner came up to me and said, “Hey, man, Jani Lane from Warrant is out here, and he wants to talk to you. He digs the band,” and I’m like, “Okay.” So I went over and talked to him, and Jani kind of took us under his wing and created the buzz a little bit more. That’s what it was about back in the day, it was about creating a buzz, getting labels to come out and see you, packing it out, and bringing it every time.

It was no cell phones, there were no computers. I remember I would get on a payphone or a phone in a diner somewhere, and I would call and leave an idea on the answering machine for Sid. I would just call and start singing something. And later, I’d get to the house and he and I would work on a song and the guys would show up and we would jam. It was never, “Are we going to rehearse?” Every day was about jamming. We knew what it took. I think we all had that fire. We were all shooting for the same thing, and it was a good time. I mean, it did happen relatively fast for us, but we put the work in, man. We didn’t take anything for granted, as far as we knew, there was another band out there that is going to be better. Still, and I don’t mean this to sound conceited, but when we hit the stage, we went up to blow the other band away. That’s how we had to approach it.

Images courtesy of Roxy Blue Facebook (official)

Andrew:
Given the buzz surrounding Roxy Blue, when Geffen did get involved, what did the courtship look like?

Todd:
Tom Zutaut had seen us, but he didn’t sign us right away. He basically told us, “Hey, I like the band, but we need you to hone your craft before we can sign you.” They got us a nice rehearsal room, and we did just that. I still remember the night we got signed, we were playing a club, and it was packed out. I mean, it was crazy packed. The fire marshal was at the place and everything. So on that night, two labels were there to see us, it was Tom from Geffen, and another label who came in right before we started. It was either MCA or Columbia – I can’t remember. Well, we were great that night, and when we got off the stage and went backstage, the crowd was wanting an encore – they were screaming like animals for it. And here comes our lawyer, Jim, and Tom Zutaut. And Tom just was like, “Hey, great show. How would you guys like to be on Geffen?” I can’t explain that feeling, I was twenty-five or twenty-six years old, and I felt like pounding my chest like a caveman, there was just blood rushing through all our hearts, man. He said, “Go out there and tell everybody, your Geffen’s newest recording artist.” So, I hit the stage on fire and screamed that out from the top of my lungs ’til I was fucking hoarse-throated. The people in the audience were crying because we all had worked so hard for so long. To get signed was one thing, but to get signed by Tom Zutaut, who at the time was the hottest A&R guy in the world, was a whole other animal.

So we went to LA, and they had big expectations for us, and it was a dream come true. We had wanted to go with Warrant’s management, but Geffen wanted us to talk to Doug Thaler because he handled Mötley Crüe, and we ended up signing with Doug. We had a dream team. We had Doug Thaler who was Mötley Crüe’s management. We had Tom Zutaut, who signed Mötley Crüe to Elektra, who signed Guns ‘N Roses, Tesla, you name it. And then we got Mike Clink, who had produced everybody, and was still working on Use Your Illusion, who had done Appetite For Destruction, and we had a great relationship with him. We had the ultimate dream team, you could not have asked for anything more. At the time, I don’t think we realized what kind of pressure was on us.

In all honesty, we were just caught up in the moment. Who knew Seattle was going to hit? We never even got a chance to put the “Times Are Changin’” video out. It was a crazy time for everybody in rock ‘n’ roll, and unfortunately, we got caught up in that, and our dream was short-lived. But we had a great time there. They put us up in a mansion in Malibu. We went to all the big parties, and the team that was behind us had so much power, that we got the red carpet. We were spoiled. We would go to a lot of cool studios, and hang out with a lot of cool people. We thought we were on our way, but it just didn’t happen. It wasn’t in the cards. We can’t rewind and go backward, so it is what it is.

Andrew:
With Mike Clink on board, it seemed that with the set of songs you had, you were primed to take on the world. What do you remember about the recording of Want Some?

Todd:
Well, I love Mike Clink. We all had a great relationship with Mike, and we got along with him really well. He made it fun for us. He worked the crap out of us, but he also made it where we enjoyed ourselves. He’s a really funny guy. We trusted him. He listened to us, but we listened to him too. He would bring us to every studio, as Geffen liked to “change the atmosphere” a lot. We recorded the tracks live out of a mobile truck to get the basic takes. We did that in Malibu, which was a lot of fun because we were just living life, and then they put us in the same studio where Van Halen had cut their first two records, which was Sunset Sound, and we did a little recording there. We recorded at RedZone, we recorded at Conway, we recorded at all kinds of places. I remember we had the record done, but Mike wasn’t happy with it because he thought I could do “Time Are Changin'” better. So, everybody else went back to Memphis and I stayed in LA, and we re-recorded the vocals in the same studio that Guns N’ Roses recorded “Patience,” and that was it. We had a great experience with Mike. We had a great experience with everybody on our whole team. It was an awesome time. If we had come out just a year or two before, it would have been different for us. And a lot of people said that too. I mean, we were a day late and a dollar short.

Images courtesy of Roxy Blue Facebook (official)

Andrew:
As good as Want Some? is, it didn’t hit. In your estimation, what led to it remaining in obscurity?

Todd:
I actually talked to Mike recently, and he even said, “Man, I think we waited a little bit too long to release the record.” I remember talking to Geffen one time, and I don’t know if they knew something was getting ready to happen because they had just signed Nirvana, but I remember them being told, “You should release ‘Times Are Changin” while the guys are making the record, then they’ll be halfway gold by the time they get the record out.” And you know, it just didn’t happen. We didn’t do that. It comes down to should have, would have, could have. I know a lot of musicians are bitter about what happened because it was the end of a lot of people’s careers. I get it. But I mean, I can’t waste my time on being bitter. It’s funny, because one minute we were scheduled to go on tour with Mötley Crüe, and everything in our world was going up and up. And then, with a flick of a switch, man, it was like we weren’t cool anymore. What suddenly became cool was Seattle. I was out in LA when it happened, and it’s no joke. When people tell you that it happened overnight – it pretty much did happen overnight.

Andrew:
I once heard a story where Jani Lane walked into Columbia Records, and where a giant Warrant poster once hung, in its place was an Alice In Chains poster. To that end, what was the support like from Geffen around that time?

Todd:
Man, it was the ultimate decline of hard rock and metal music. I was at Jani’s house when he came home from that trip, and he was fuckin’ pissed. He could see it. He knew right then that things were changing. It’s weird because, obviously, we were on their radar for a long time, and they put a lot of money into us, and at first, the support was insane. At first, they were all about us. They thought they had the next Warrant on their hands, and they treated us like family. But when the Seattle scene broke open, it suddenly became all about money, and we weren’t family anymore. I don’t care what anybody says, it’s just about money, and these people were business people, and they treated us like it from that point on. So, the Seattle scene hit, the tables turned, and our support changed. We had a deal to do another record, and it wasn’t going to get pushed, and that’s why I left the group. We had it all demoed, and it was really good, but our management said, “Hey, they’re not gonna push it. They’re gonna write it off.” So, I left the band and I went and hung out with my boys in Warrant. Then Jani went solo, and I kind of hung out with him, wrote a few songs, came back in, and I reinvented myself. I remember being with Tommy Lee one night, and he was like, “Dude, Roxy did not make it to the point where you can’t reinvent yourself. You need to go back and reinvent yourself.” So I did, and ultimately, I ended up forming Saliva, but I was the drummer. It was a crazy time, man. I hated it. One minute, I had the best tasting ice cream that anybody’s ever tasted, and the next minute, my ice cream hit the concrete, you know?

Andrew:
That was a stark change. You went from fronting a hard rock band, to getting behind the drumkit in an alternative band, which was, ironically, the type of music that ran hard rock out of town. Walk me through that transition.

Todd:
Well, I had played drums my whole life, so that was my go-to instrument. I started singing and dabbling with a guitar back then because I was starting to write songs. Anyway, honestly, it was an accident that I met Wayne Swinny. At the time, I was writing songs, I was singing, and playing guitar. I met Wayne, and he told me the drummer that he had was going through a custody battle with his kid, and he had to leave. So, Wayne and I just started writing songs, and I got behind the kit, and just started playing. And he and I would stay up all night and just write songs, and we ended up calling Josey Scott, because somebody had said, “You should call Josey up. He’s not in BlackBone anymore.” So, we call him up, and he came over, and we all started writing more songs and doing our thing. And that’s how Saliva started. It was just kind of by accident, but it turned out to be a really good band. I’ve always enjoyed playing drums, and even after Saliva, I played drums for my father-in-law Jimi Jamison for a while. So, I always loved playing drums.

Image credit: Joe Schaeffer Photography

Andrew:
You played drums on Saliva’s first record, but before the band broke, you left. What was the sequence of events there?

Todd:
That was a weird deal. I enjoyed Saliva. It was cool, and we all were good buddies. It was a good band, man. It was cool music, and we wrote a lot of cool songs. But it just kind of happened. I was with them up until the Grammys, basically. There was a lot of stuff that went down with that band, but I can’t get into things too deeply because there was a ton of legal stuff involved. I can say that I’m still friends with the guys. It was crazy times back then. I guess I was living in both worlds at the same time between Roxy Blue, and Saliva. For me, it was good to step away from being out front for a little bit and see what else was out there. I had a really good time playing with Saliva, and I am proud of what I did there, and to be part of that band’s history.

Andrew:
Let’s fast forward now. How did things with Roxy Blue come into play again?

Todd:
Well, for starters, Rox Blue was never supposed to happen again. I had a band called 714. I was doing other things, but Rick Ruhl from Every Mother’s Nightmare kept saying, “Dude, you gotta get Roxy back together.” But you have to understand, I just wasn’t into it, man. After all that had happened, I didn’t feel it. Unless it was real, I didn’t wanna do it. But after a while, I warmed up to it, and I decided to give it another go. And of course, Sid never would come back. I tried to get Sid back, but it wasn’t happening. So the new Roxy Blue is completely different than the old Roxy, and for good reason. We are not the same people anymore.

Andrew:
Are you still in contact with Sid at all?

Todd:
Oh, yeah. We’re still friends. He’s a very successful dentist now. He was a freak of nature when it came to the guitar. Back in the old days, he lived it. When I tell you the guitar is what Sid loved to do – that’s what he loved to do. He’s still a good friend of mine. I guess he still plays. I don’t talk to him as much as I probably should, but Sid was probably one of, if not the best guitar player I’ve ever played with, and I’ve played with a lot of good guitar players, so he was missed. But I knew when I decided to do this, and put the new Roxy together, I knew I had to approach it differently. In the old days, me and Sid wrote a lot of songs together, but now, I pretty much do all the writing alone. I knew I’d have to approach it differently, plus, I’ve changed a lot from back in the day. My life changed, and my music changed. I had more to write about. We’re talking about twenty-seven years later, I had honed my craft as a writer more, and I wrote differently. I didn’t have to try to be different, I was just a different person. I’ve always wanted to try to write from the heart, but back in the day, dude, I wanted to be a rock star. That was my goal. And I found out that maybe that wasn’t all it’s cut out to be, maybe it was more about finding the essence of who you are. So now, I just write good songs and let everything else fall into place.

Image credit: Joe Schaeffer Photography


Andrew:
In regards to Roxy Blue’s latest album, you mentioned that you had a second record demoed in the 90s. Did any of those tracks make it onto the self-titled record?

Todd:
No, those were all brand new songs. Over the years, we released a few things demo-wise from that early stuff. It was on a compilation called Want Some More? We never really went forward with the second Roxy record back in the day, it was demoed, and we really dug it, and I think it was the next step into what we were going to be. I thought it was a really cool record, but it just went by the wayside. When we did the self-titled for Frontiers two years ago, I didn’t have anything written at all. When we got the call, we were actually doing a rehearsal to open up for Bret Michaels, and they called up and said, “Hey, man, do you want to record an album? We’ll send you some money and you make a record the way you want to make it.” Well, that’s all I needed to pump myself up and start writing. [Laughs]. I had a few ideas and then I just went to work and started blowing it out. And like I said, I just wrote from the heart, and I remember Scotty [Tramwell] said to me at the time, “Dude, this doesn’t sound anything like the old Roxy.” I was like, “It’s twenty-seven years later, man. I can’t write about the same shit I did then. That’s not who I am. I’m a different writer now.” In the end, he liked it, but he was like, “People might not like this.” I’m like, “Here’s the deal. I’m not living in the past. I want new fans. I want the old fans but I want to grow.” I mean, I’m not here for a one-off. I’m a musician. This is who I am. I’m just gonna keep writing, and I want to keep moving forward. The last thing I want is to tread water. I don’t want to go backward. I don’t want to try to make one album to please a handful of people. If I’m not proud of it, and we don’t like what we’re doing, then it ain’t real. People in rock ‘n’ roll ain’t stupid, they can see through that shit. So, you’ve just got to be honest, write the best song that you can, and hope to hope it sticks. I think we did that.

Andrew:
I think it’s a great record, Todd. The growth and maturity are readily apparent. You pushed boundaries, and are making the music that’s relevant to who you are now. I think that keeps you from becoming a “legacy act.” You’re still relevant, and that’s commendable.

Todd:
Well, I appreciate you saying that. And it’s weird because me and Josh [Weil], we’re now the only original Roxy Blue guys. Scott, he’s not with us anymore. We ended up getting Jimmy Fulp, who played with me in 714 and co-produced the self-titled Roxy Blue record with me. With Scotty, we just finally had to make the move. He is a great drummer and a great guy, and I love him to death, but he was somewhere else, you know? He was doing other things, and communication got hard. I don’t think he was wanting to put everything into this. I don’t think he knew that I wasn’t wanting to do just one show a year. I want to do shows. I want to play. What we’re trying to do now is get some more shows. We’ve done a couple here recently, with the last one being with Cheap Trick, which sold out. It was an unbelievable show. We did it at Graceland Soundstage here in Memphis, through Live Nation. Everybody was so great from Cheap Trick.

Image credit: Mark A. Herdon Photography

Andrew:
You mentioned that this is a different time and in many ways, a different band. Do you still feel a connection to Roxy Blue’s old music? Or do you prefer to focus more on the newer material when playing live?

Todd:
Well, that’s a good question. You know, we still throw a few of the classics in there. There are a few that we have to play like “Time Are Changin’,” and we do “Rob The Cradle” too. So, we still bring it with the old stuff, but we play a lot of the new stuff, man. We enjoy playing our new material, honestly, we do. And now, we’re going to have a new record out, so we’re going to be looking at playing the new songs from there too. I don’t even know how we’re gonna balance it all out just yet, but I guess we’re gonna throw in the old stuff because we know that people want to hear it. Of course, we want to please the old-school fans too that are out there. I mean that old stuff, that’s what we were built on, that’s where it all started. So, we try to try to throw those in a little bit too, and we will keep doing that for sure, along with the new songs, and songs from the self-titled record as well.

Andrew:
Last one, Todd. What’s next for Roxy Blue in all lanes?

Todd:
The band’s tight. We’ve got a new record we’re working on, and we’re almost done with it. I’m loving it and it sounds great. I’ll give you some news that no one knows, so it’s exclusive. The news is Roxy Blue has parted ways with Frontiers. There are no hard feelings. It’s just that they’re going in a different direction than we are. They’re more into supergroups and different types of music than we are. Frontiers were good to us. We did the first record back with them, and we actually ended up being able to recoup our expenses. We did well on the self-titled record, and we’re happy about that. But we’re moving on and still trying to find a new outlet now for Roxy Blue. One thing I can say is that we’ve got a super strong record, so get ready to come out and see us. I think people are going to enjoy it. It’s kinda like the last record, but it’s a different record. I never like trying to do the same record twice. It’s still got a lot of meat and potatoes behind it though. I think it’s all just good songs.

Image credit: Mark A. Herdon Photography

Interested in learning more about Roxy Blue? Hit the link below:

Be sure to check out the full catalog of VWMusic Interviews, by Andrew Daly, here: www.vinylwritermusic.com/interviews

About Post Author

Andrew Daly

With an immense passion for music, a disposition for writing, and an eagerness to teach and share both, Andrew decided to found VWMusic in 2019 as a freelance column under the column Idle Chatter. Over time, the column grew into a website that now features contributors who further the cause of sharing both a love of music and the art of journalism with the world through articles and interviews. While Andrew enjoys running the website, his real passion lies in teaching and facilitating others to do what they do best, and giving them the opportunity to explore their passions in the process. Some of Andrew’s favorite artists include KISS, Oasis, ACϟDC, Elvis Presley, Ace Frehley, The Rolling Stones, Rush, The Pretenders, Led Zeppelin, The Gaslight Anthem, Iron Maiden, John Lennon, The Melvins, Noel Gallagher, Regina Spektor, Rory Gallagher, The Stone Roses, The Strokes, Thin Lizzy, Elvis Costello, Van Halen, Neil Young, Blur, Billy Joel, Bruce Springsteen, and many more.
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