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Slamburgers

The care and feeding of reporters

We'd love for you to come to the Randy Rogers video shoot," coos the P.R. rep over the phone. "Come at lunchtime, he'll be able to sit and talk with you then."

Excellent, lunch with Randy Rogers, a Texas country singer with a new CD and a hot single. How cool is this going to be?

It's shoot day, my lunch date with Randy. I walk in to the Houston Studios (707 Walnut St., 713-223-0951), and sure enough, everyone -- crew, band, P.R. reps and various hanger-oners -- is munching out. Muffulettas, cookies, pasta, iced tea, salad, more cookies.

Randy Rogers films a video for his new CD Just a Matter of Time at Houston Studios.
Todd Purifoy
Randy Rogers films a video for his new CD Just a Matter of Time at Houston Studios.
Mardo is working on cheaper prices for music downloads.
Mardo is working on cheaper prices for music downloads.

"Are you Olivia?" a lovely woman says, coming at me all smiles and big hair.

"Yes," I tell her, hoping I remember to keep my elbows off the table in front of Randy. I smooth out the front of my black blouse -- my special "Just in case I spill something, it won't show on this" blouse, my eye already on an extra fat muffuletta.

"Please come this way," the lovely woman tells me as she ushers me past the buffet and lunch tables. "Right in here," she says. "Randy will be right with you -- as soon as he finishes his lunch."

"Wha ...?" My smile slips a little as I look around. It's the soundstage. The empty effing soundstage. There aren't any sandwiches in here. There's no iced tea, no cheesecake. There aren't even any (gag!) tofu imitation burgers or gross-ass trail mix. What the hell is this?

I'm still standing there, stunned, my mouth hanging open and empty, when Randy walks in.

He's a regular guy, looks just like the Baytown boy that he is. Almost short, on the chubby side, with a mess of reddish hair (don't all recording stars come in tall, thin and blond?).

He holds out his hand -- it's empty. I give him a mean look of disgust. Oh, I'm sorry, he wants to shake hands with me. I thought he was going to hand me a sandwich there for a second.

We settle in to start the interview. Well, actually Randy settles in -- I'm kind of fidgeting. Maybe he'll ask if I'm okay and offer me a doughnut or something if he thinks I'm nervous.

"Ah, um." I'm rummaging through my reporter's bag, tape recorder, digital camera, extra batteries, notepad, pencil, pen, not a single damn candy bar. More batteries, another notepad, not even one wretched boiled egg. "Ah, well, how would you describe your band's sound?" A pat question, something to keep him busy while I look around for fruit rollups. Peanuts. Anything.

"Well," he says, "we sound like Texas, I think. We're country, but with a little pop, a little rock and roll. Okay, actually, there's a lot of rock and roll." He smiles.

"Uh-huh." I think I can smell raisin somewhere. "And, uh, what's it like to, umm, .... Hey, is that a brownie over there?"

"What?" he says, looking over at the black datebook someone left on a table.

"I mean, ah, how is it doing your video right here in Houston? So near to the Spaghetti Warehouse? It's down the block, you know?"

"What?"

The interview goes downhill from there.

And it's too bad. Rogers is a really nice guy, with a good sound, and it looks like he has enough talent and ambition to really do something on the country music scene. He's giving me intelligent answers to my mumbled, jumbled questions. But I can't hear him talking for the sound of blood rushing though my ears. Hungry blood. A makeup woman comes over after a while, "Ready for me?" Randy says, hopefully. The woman nods, a can of hairspray in one hand, a skinny comb in the other.

"Okay, well I've got to get back to work," Randy tells me as he starts backing away from me. "It was nice meeting you," and he sticks out his hand again. Tuna fish? No, his hand is empty. Again. I get faked out by that handshake thing twice in one day." Yeah, yeah. Whatever," I say as he turns and walks away. He really is a nice guy. And it is a good CD. And the single is hot. But where was my damn muffuletta?

(To Randy's PR people: here's a hint, never invite a reporter to an interview at lunchtime if you aren't going to feed her. Hungry reporters can't spell. Worse yet, hungry reporters don't want to talk about anything but the fact that they're hungry. They won't care about your client's new CD at all -- no matter how good it is -- if their mind is on cheesecake and hungry blood is rushing through their ears.)

The Randy Rogers Band appears as part of the KILT Fall Fandango on Sunday, October 1, at the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, 2005 Lake Robbins Dr., The Woodlands. Dierks Bentley, Kevin Fowler, Jason Boland, The Lost Trailers, Wade Bowen, No Justice and Stoney La Rue also appear. Call 281-363-3300 for more info.

Egghead Rock
Robert Mardo isn't just another dumb headbanger

Robert Mardo, who, along with his brother Aron Mardo, founded the rock band Mardo, has strong opinions on the music business and his role in it -- most of it controversial and cutting edge. This, ladies and gentlemen, isn't your average headbanging rocker.

Houston Press: Tell us what music influenced you.

Robert Mardo: My parents had so many great albums around the house it was like a treasure chest. Sam and Dave, Jim Croce, Arlo Guthrie, all the classic Motown.

HP: That sounds like a great musical environment to grow up in.

Mardo: It was and it wasn't. You try going to high school when everyone is listening to Guns N' Roses and you're trying to explain to people that the people on some vinyl record are really, really cool. It didn't go over too well. Then eventually, some of the girls start to think you're a little cooler because you're into this other stuff, and so it works out in the end. And actually, our main influences weren't musical, most of them are visual artists.

HP: Who does Mardo sound like?

Mardo: I think the band sounds like Mardo. That's it.

HP: But you understand why people ask that, right, that they want something to compare it to so they can get a general idea of what they can expect when they listen to you?

Mardo: I think sometimes we get stuck into that, into comparisons. It doesn't allow you to really see where an individual artist is coming from, someone new who sounds just like themselves. We get stuck trying to compare them to someone familiar, and we really have to look past that.

HP: Most people in the business today come in thinking, "We want to be like XYZ band."

Mardo: I think that would be tempting for people who think they want to do it for just a quick year or two. But anyone who wants to do this long term can't think like that. Me and my brother have been doing this ever since we were little kids. I've been on the road literally the last 12 years of my life, so I can't say that we find the "flavor of the week" thing appealing. I never looked at myself as some indie darling, wanting to be the band of the week. We want to reach a lot of people out there, hoping that they see the things in music that we see.

When people come to our live show, I think that's where we really connect with them, that's where we get our audience, because our live show is so intense and there's so much energy there. We do have to try to transfer our live show to a CD eventually, but we know we can't ever really do that. Nothing substitutes for a live performance. HP: What's a song you wish you had written?

Mardo: Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah."

HP: What's the best thing about the road?

Mardo: Everything. The road is our home basically. This is the best job in the world, and being on the road is a big part of that. We count our blessings every day. We never take anything for granted.

HP: Explain what it's like to be on stage to someone who has never experienced that.

Mardo: Much like the act of sex, you have to experience it for yourself or you'd never understand.

HP: What's your main complaint about the music industry today?

Mardo: I don't have one. We don't further the grudge and gripes of the industry. I am only here to try to create better music, better opportunities for myself and other musicians. I'm not here to point fingers and put blame on anyone.

We're in the process now to develop a way to get music to people for next-to-free. I can't tell you how many times I've spent $15.95 for an album and then gone home and felt like I was cheated.

We don't want it to be such a singles-oriented market. We want people to discover albums by artists, to get a better idea of who that artist is, not just one single. People pay 95 cents for a single; we want them to pay 95 cents for an album. We call it "Discovering Artists" pricing, and we're talking to the major online music people now to see about getting our music into the hands of as many people as possible.

Mardo appears Saturday, September 30, at the Engine Room, 1515 Pease. Call 713-654-7846 for more info.

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