Our Band:  A Five Piece to Make Your “Horror” Sing

Making beautiful music from the upper deck for the last seven weeks, our band for The Rocky Horror Show has put down the beat and rolled out the rock that’s made our most successful show ever sing, dance, and groove.  Come on up to the lab and see what’s on the slab?  On our slab is a five piece rocking with Patrick Landis on saxophone, Timothy J. Lee on guitar, Russ Chapman on bass, Brett Batson on drums, and Janice Issa Wright on piano while providing all the musical direction they can handle!  We were fortunate enough to catch up with three members of this all-star ensemble and talk to them about Rocky Horror!

WHT:  Do each of you have music degrees?
Russ:  I do not have a music degree.  I have a business management degree from Tri County Technical College.
Patrick:  I have a degree in Jazz Saxophone Performance from the University of Cincinnati College Conservatory of Music.
Tim:  And I have a BA in Music with a concentration in Classical Guitar from Southern Wesleyan University in Central, SC.

WHT:  How did each of you learn to play music…or fall in love with music?
Patrick: My older sister and brothers all played instruments, but I really started to know I wanted to make it a permanent part of my life when I started taking lessons in high school on the sax. My teacher really opened me up to the enjoyment and creativity of jazz.
Russ: I fell in love with music as a child. My dad would always have music playing in the house so music has always been a major part of my life. I started playing drums in the local middle school band program and I’ve been playing music in some form or fashion ever since.
Tim: When I was little, my Dad had one of those console stereos and he’d put a stack of albums on at bedtime every night. We would go to sleep listening to Buck Owens, Hank Sr., Ernest Tubb, Merle Haggard and so on. My Dad played guitar and trumpet, my mom sang, and my sister played piano so music has always been a big part of my life.

WHT: Where is everybody from? Which one of you has the longest tenure in Greenville?
Russ: I have lived in the area all of my life. I was born in Easley, SC, and lived in Liberty as a child and my wife and I have lived in Easley since 2004.
Patrick: I’m from Columbus, Ohio and have only been here about 18 months.
Tim: Greenville born and raised. I’ve been here 53 years.

WHT:  Tim, you win!
Tim: Score!

WHT: How many shows have you sat in on at The Warehouse?
Tim:  This is my third. My last one was Evil Dead.
Patrick: This is my first show at The Warehouse and I am having a great time!
Russ: And this is my second time in a production at The Warehouse Theatre. My first experience was last year with Evil Dead.

WHT:  Is there a musician’s work that you greatly enjoy or admire?
Russ:  As far as bass players go my favorites would have to be Ted Russell Kamp, James Jamerson, Carol Kaye, Jerry Jemmott, Joe Schermie, and Paul McCartney just to name a few.
Tim: There are so many, but my favorite guitar player is Steve Morse.
Patrick: I really enjoy the work of saxophonist Chris Potter. His spectacular technique lets him play some of the most creative and expressive music I’ve ever heard and his musicianship lets him cross any style.

WHT:  Who is the artist that influenced your playing style the most?
Russ:  I would have to say Ted Russell Kamp and Paul McCartney. Both of those guys play with such feel and musicality and their note and rhythm choices always serve the song, which is the most important thing in my opinion.
Patrick: I try to keep things as original as possible, but I would have to say my first sax teacher Al Goelz.
Tim: Even though I don’t play like him, Don Rich of The Buckaroos was a big influence. I stole several of my licks from Ace Frehley of KISS and Gary Rossington of Lynyrd Skynyrd. I also use a lot of inverted triads like Steve Morse of The Dixie Dregs and Deep Purple fame.

WHT: Oh, Don Rich. I love him so much.
Tim: Yeah, he’s fantastic.

WHT: Routine that you go through before a performance or before you play a show?
Tim:  I do several scales and cadences along with the some of the more difficult chords in the score.
Patrick: I meditate for two hours before every show. No, just kidding. I get my reeds wet, warm up the neck of my saxophone and have fun.
Russ: Before a show I just always try to relax and get comfortable mentally. If that happens, then the music usually always flows. I also like to listen to several versions of the Rocky songs that are out there just to pull some different inspiration. I also always like to listen to one or two tunes that inspire me that aren’t related to the show. Three Dog Night and The Jackson 5 have been my pre-show listening choices as of late.

WHT:  Favorite part about being in the arts in Greenville?
Patrick: Pretty much everyone I have met is kind and really wants to enjoy what they are doing. Everyone wants to do a good job, but I really haven’t met anyone that wants to push others down so they can be on top.
Russ: My favorite part is the passion that Greenville has for the arts. It is very inspiring to be apart of a show that people continue to come out to on a nightly basis. That just proves to me that the arts are alive and well in Greenville.
Tim: I love the people that I get to work with. It’s always about the art and making the next performance the best.

WHT:  Favorite style of music?
Russ:  Motown.
Patrick: I really like jazz fusion.
Tim: Any as long as its performed well.

WHT:   Do you have other jobs outside of playing music?
Patrick: I work in mortgage servicing. That’s actually what brought me to Greenville.
Russ: Other than gigging on bass and drums, I also teach private music lessons at the Fine Arts Center of Easley.
Tim: I’m a warehouse manager Monday through Fridays from 8 till 5.

WHT: How does performing such an in-your-face show in an intimate setting like The Warehouse affect your work?
Russ: Playing in an intimate theatre like The Warehouse is great because the energy is usually pretty high on most nights.
Tim: I sometimes catch myself doing the call backs and not concentrating on my cues. Sorry, Janice!
Patrick: I was a little nervous at first because it’s been a while since I played theatre in such a small group. There’s no one to really cover any one of us. People don’t think about it much but being in the band, we’re on every song so we have way more chances to trip each other up. So focusing like crazy for the whole time like we do is a challenge. The band is really supportive of each other and Janice really help us keep things moving and on the right path. I have no idea how we’d do it without her.

WHT: How does the audience interaction that happens each night with this show affect your playing?
Patrick: I hate to say it, but an excited audience that participates is much more fun to play for than one that just sits back to watch. We work really hard either way, but when the crowd is interacting, we rock that much tighter.
Russ: Well it makes for a more fun night of music when the audience is involved. Every night when Janice starts the quarter note pulse for Sweet T the tension builds, and then Frank comes out and the audience goes wild! Things like that are very inspiring for a musician and that moment in the show gets me every night!

WHT: Tim?
Tim: Sorry. What were we talking about?

WHT: You were thinking about callbacks again weren’t you? How many times have you caught yourself humming Time Warp in the shower or tapping it out on your steering wheel since mid-August?
Tim: None really. I like Sweet T better because of the bluesy-funky nasty fatback in your face groove that Russ (bass) and Bret (drums) lay down.
Patrick: Same here! Not Time Warp, but Sweet Transvestite. Probably a million times. When the band plays that tune we really hit a groove and there’s no getting it out of your head for the next 24 hours at least.

WHT: You going to break the pattern here, Russ?
Russ: Yes! Time Warp usually hits me at about 3 o’clock on Sunday morning when I’m trying to go to sleep after a midnight show.

WHT:  How many times have you seen the movie?
Russ:  I have actually never seen the movie all the way through, but I have seen all of the music scenes. I still listen to the movie soundtrack a couple of times a week just to see if there is anything that I can add or see if I can make my parts better. I’ve actually never even seen any of the Star Wars movies either but don’t tell anyone.
WHT: Good thing there is no Star Wars The Musical.
Patrick: You are right about that. I’ve seen it probably about 15 times. This is my first time doing the actual live show though.
Tim: Twice. That’s it.

WHT: Musical number that has changed the most for you from the beginning of rehearsals till now?
Tim: Frankenstein Place. It actually changes each night because of the slide playing that I do.
Russ: Going Home has probably been the one song that has changed the most for me. One of the many things that I love about working with Janice is that she is ALWAYS pushing us to get better. She is never satisfied with “good enough.” She has brought out the best in me as a bass player. She has sent me a few different versions of Going Home that are absolutely killer so we try to bring some of the vibe of those versions in to the book version that we started with and I really like where it has ended up.
Patrick: Probably Eddie’s Teddy. When we first started working on it, I just heard it different than how we were actually playing it. I ended up transposing the music and switching from tenor sax to bari because it just felt like a better fit and it had more power that way.

WHT: Greenville’s shows…even the musicals…usually run from three to four weeks with appx. 12 performances. What have you done differently this time in order to be physically ready to perform a musical that runs for seven weeks and over 30 shows? Or does it even matter to a musician?
Russ: It definitely matters to a musician. There are a few things that I have done. One thing is I try to take care of my hands on days off and rest them. Multiple shows a week can really wear on your hands if you don’t take care of them. Before the show started, I would always pick up my bass and play a little if I walked by it, but now I resist the urge and save it for the show.
Patrick: It matters, especially because I have a day job. I have had to cut out some of my other normal activities to make sure I get enough sleep and also cut out some of my other playing so I don’t wear myself out. 10 years ago, this wouldn’t have made a dent because I used to play so much every day in and out of school, but now I just have to be more conscientious.

WHT: One thing you learned during the rehearsal process or something you rediscovered?
Patrick: How much fun the rest of the band is to play with. I don’t care if we’re rehearsing or doing shows, I love every minute of it.
Russ: Be flexible!
Tim: I’d say how good Janice is musically and personally. I LOVE working with her. One of my favorite things she does is say, “I don’t know how to tell you to do what I want, but when you do it I’ll know!” She’s awesome!

WHT: This show is good ole rock and roll. What’s your favorite song to play in the show and why?
Tim: Sweet Transvestite for all the reasons I stated earlier.
Russ: Yep! Tim’s right. Sweet Transvestite is my favorite song. There are just some great riffs in there and it’s a straight groove! And Janice’s piano part on the second and third verses knocks my socks off every night.
Patrick: Yes, indeed. Gotta go back to Sweet T. That song just rocks hard.

WHT:  If Matt Reece couldn’t tear himself away from his auction addiction on Halloween night…who do you pick to fill his shoes as The Narrator?
Russ:  I’d have to go with the standard Morgan Freeman.
Tim: William Shatner.
Patrick: Holy smokes, wow. Ummm. Obama? I guess I’d love to hear his line delivery and see him in a feather boa. That and it’d be great to see if Chris Berry (Brad) would give him the finger or not.

WHT: If the band had to add another instrument into the mix, which instrument would you want Janice to select and why?
Russ: As funny as it sounds, I’d love to have a full-time tambourine player. I just love a good tambourine player! I’d also love to get a sub for one night so I can see the show from the audience perspective.
Patrick: Cowbell. You can never have enough cowbell.
Tim: Yes cowbell! No, I’d like to have a rhythm guitar to fill in the holes when I solo.

WHT: Any question you haven’t been asked that you want to be asked? If so, what?
Tim: How do you like working with Janice? Like I said earlier shes amazing. She takes care of her band and she’s a consummate music director, band mate, and better than that I love her as a person and friend.
Russ: I’d just love to take the opportunity to say what a pleasure it has been to work with such a talented cast. It has been an absolute blast! And it has also been an honor to share the stage with what I consider to be some of the best musicians and even better people in Janice, Tim, Brett and Patrick.
Patrick: I’m going to go back and steal Tim’s question. What’s it like working with Janice? It’s been great. She has tons of great experience which gives her great direction to push us in and she’s been so supportive of all of us, musicians, cast, crew. This has been the longest show I’ve played, but also one of the most fun to be in.

If you are lucky enough to have tickets at this point in the game, you’ll hear the outer space grooves of Tim, Russ, Patrick and their comrades Janice and Brett in The Rocky Horror Show playing through Halloween midnight!