1. Hi Roger, how are you? Thanks a lot for taking your time. Would you like to tell us about your childhood and teen years? When did the music became a big part of your life?
Well, like almost anyone who was around then, it was February, 1964 when The Beatles hit the scene. I remember running over to my friend Pete's house that very same night in the freezing cold and saying something like "When are we going to start our band"? Within weeks, I had purchased a cheap guitar and began taking lessons. I also bought a Hi Fi system and the Beatle's first album. Since then, I have lived and breathed music!!
2. I know back in the 60’s you were in several bands, right? The Acid Inspiration and The Nightwatchmen are two of them. Does any material exist, perhaps? Where and with whom all did you play together?
The Acid Inspiration was the last high school band I was in, circa 1967-69. We played at a ton of Battle Of The Bands in and around Long Island during those days. We never officially recorded anything in a studio but did put down a few tracks on one of the guys parent's reel to reel tape machine. Whatever happened to those recordings, no one seems to know. The Nightwatchmen was my first band, around 1965, and last a couple of years. It morphed into AI but we changed out a few members. I played Rhythm guitar and sang most of the lead vocals. Pete Rockfeld played lead guitar, Tommy Masterson played drums and a guy (John) whose last name I can't remember played bass. Occasionally, I played an old Farfisa organ.
3. So tell me more, what was the scene in your town?
Well, like most small towns in and around the New York City area, we were heavily influenced by what was happening in both music, politics, and cultural pretty much as quickly as things came out. The 1960's were both a magical and beautiful period of time (e.g., Summer Of Love, Civil Rights and Anti-War Movement, Woodstock, etc.) but they were also very defining, dark, and deadly (e.g., excessive use of drugs, unwaranted acts of violence, etc.). Jeff Miller graduated one year ahead of me from Plainview High School. He would later be killed at Kent State in 1970. I had just started college in the fall of 1969. That hit our town pretty hard.
4. Did you back in the 60’s or 70’s also collect less known bands, or should I say albums with lower pressing? If so, what are some of them you found and were amazed?
Actually, I think the first Non mainstream album I ever purchased was by Billy Joel's first band, The Hassles, around 1968. They were from the town next to mine, Hicksville, and we had seen them play at the local clubs so we were familiar with them. We also saw The Mystic Tide and Thrashing Butterflies quite a lot during those days. I also remember buying the first 13th Floor Elevators and Tangerine Zoo lps then also. We were going to like one concert a week during those days: The Filmore East, Manhattan Academy Of Music, Central Park, Colleges, etc. I saw Jimi Hendrix both at Woodstock and New Years Eve 1968 at The Filmore, It was a great time to be young and into music!!
5. Gear Fab started in 1997? From the 70’s till 1997 you were collecting and collecting records, right? I also know you have your own music and I would like if you could tell us more about that…
Well, like I stated earlier, all through high school I played in bands and bought albums. I went to a local community college in the fall of 1969, still lived home and kind of got out of playing music. Concerts were big, so were parties, demonstrations, drugs, etc. I went away to college in the fall of 1971, upstate New York, near Rochester, to a small college called Brockport. Those were some great days. I still have alot of friends from those days that I am still close with. I started buying more obscure records then. I actually caught Micah at a concert in Rochester and bought their record for like a dollar at the concert. After I graduated in 1973, I returned to Long Island and eventually got a job in the Aerospace Industry. In 1979, I moved to Denver to work for Martin Marietta, working in Purchasing. I started a band there in 1984 known as "The Borrowed Times". We played 60's music until 1991, when I relocated to Orlando with my company. Gear Fab Records actually started around 1986, in Denver, when the band released a 45 "Walk Away Rene" b/w "Tobacco Road". That was GF101. GF102 was a single I recorded in 1987 "A Cold Day In December" b/w "Flower Child". A Cold Day were my initial thoughts the day after John Lennon was killed. He was my idol. GF103 was a full length lp by me soon thereafter. by 1997, I had collected hundreds of lps of the non mainstream genre,
6. You released so many amazing albums at Gear Fab! Take us back to 1997 and talk about how did it all began!
You know, it seems so long ago that I started doing this. I was just hanging around one Saturday afternoon, browsing through my collection and knowing that some of this mateial was now being released on CD. However, it came to me that alot of this stuff was being bootlegged outright and the stories of the band were not being told. The only thing known about these musicians at that time was contained in a small write up in Fuzz, Acid, and Flowers, the now-mammoth archive of Vernon Joynson. I knew, as a collector, that the real stories of these bands would be a bigger draw than a simple bootleg with no liner notes and the usual bad sound quality so I started to go through my collection and contacted a few legitimate labels out then (Sundazed, Collectables, Cicadelic, Arf Arf) and licensed most of the tracks on Psychedelic Crown Jewels Volume 1. I then started to seek out wholesale distributors to sell to because I knew that selling all of them retail was not feasible. The response to that first release was amazing. Most of the comments came back as "it's about time the artist were given their proper credit"! This still stands today as my business model. Do releases that are rare but good and always involve the artists when you can find them.
7. Now I will write down a couple of artists you re-released their albums and I would appreciate if you could share a story how did you find them etc.
Unfolding: This was a studio only effort, so no real band existed. There was active publishing for all the music, so the reissue was legitimate and the song writers were at least paid. it was an album that I have had through the years that was the epitomy of the 60's- Just how weird could you get?
Stack: I did Stack in conjunction with the Void Record lp release. Clark Faville turned me on to them and we worked the band guys on the release. It is one of the rarest lps of the 60's ( we think only about 70 were pressed!!). They, in my opinion, could have been a nationally known band had they had the proper management. Unfortunately, like most of the bands I have released, they were poorly managed and taken advantage of by many people.
Shadrack Chameleon: I located Steve Fox in Iowa in 1998 and he was just thrilled to do the release. Like most of the artists, they are tickled pink that their music is just now being discovered and enjoyed by so many people. One of the greatest feelings is getting these guys back in touch with each other after a 30-40 year hiatus. Randy Berka from the band is actually a Republican Congressman from California!!
Perry Leopold: Ah, as the guy from the NY Times stated during an interview with me in 2006, he is my "Honus Wagner" of the catalog. Hideously rare, his 1970 lp is one of the most highly regarded solo recordings of this period. And Perry is such a nice guy!! We did Experiment In Metaphysic back in '98 and we still keep it in print because it still sells. So does the second release from 1973 "Christian Lucifer". We just licensed a vinyl version of EIM to Guerrsen Records of Spain. It should be out early next year. Perry had another lp he recorded around the time of EIM (there are several bonus tracks from it on EIM) that I am trying to convince him to release soon. I hope I get my way!!
Salem Mass: Great bunch of guys from Idaho; Witch Burning is a very progressive effort from 1971 and is still a good seller. The first release I actually did all by myself (mastering, liner notes, graphics, etc.)
Owen-B: A great and largely unknown effort from 1970. They had alot of talent and should have gone further but, like I said earlier, poor management was their downfall. Tom Zinser, who wrote most of the songs, is just a super guy!!
Mountain Bus: Ah, the darlings of the Grateful Dead sound from Chicago. Also still a good seller, these guys were very talented musicians. Sundance is a fantastic album. I listen to it often. Bill Kees & the guys are just a great bunch of guys. What Windfall Music and the band Mountain did to those guys in that lawsuit was a travesty of justice!! They had the name three years before Mountain ever played. Just goes to show you the power of the almighty dollar!! Most people don't know they morphed into "Sky Farmer", another Gear Fab release that is also excellent!!
Gandalf The Grey: Chris Wilson is just a fantastic person. Gandalf The Grey was his claim to fame, but Tin Angel, another release of ours, also showcases his talent from 1966-68, three years before GTG. Chris still does musical scores for Disney and has done alot for underprivileged children through the years.
If you have any interesting stories to share about these releases, please do…
I enjoy virtually everyone of our releases. Yes, we make money but the most humbling aspect of it is the music and stories of the artists. Getting emails and phone calls from the band guys telling us how much they enjoyed the release and the compliments they receive from the fans is something I will cherish all my life.
8. You have some very interesting upcoming releases. Among them there are EVOL, which interview article was published here. Would you like to tell me how did you found the masters….
Well, like many of my releases, the detective skills of one Clark Faville come to light again. As much as I search the internet for known bands I want to reissue, Clark looks around for things that no one knows about. He found the EVOL acetate on eBay in late September, alerted me to it, and after some furious bidding, I won the auction. By the time of this writing, you should have a copy of the test pressing in your possession. I think you will be able to safely say this is a great discovery!!
What else can we expect from the future…among there are releases from Impala Syndrome, The Love Machine, The Cosmic Travelers, The Baroques and many more…
Those are some of the near term releases. Others we are looking at are Steve Elliot, Big Boy Pete, Cosmic Michael, The Skeptics, Orphan Egg, a multi-volume set of Los Impalas (the earlier incarnation of Impala Syndrome), More Louisville series music, etc. Now that I am retired from my "Day Job", I spend alot more time doing research than I used to do. It is my goal to continue putting out 8-10 new releases a year.
9. One of the biggest projects you are doing is called Psychedelic States series. Where do you get all the information and recordings? I know Max Waller is helping you with the liner notes, right?
Max helps out tremendously with the initial search for groups and the down select process to the final listing. Mike Marksich, the renowned 45 collector, is also a big contributor to this series. Barry Wickham, Ray Ehmen, Ashley Johnson and others also contribute when they can.
10. Thank you very much, Roger! Would you like to send a message to It’s Psychedelic Baby Magazine readers?
My message to the readers of this magazine and all others that embrace this music is to always keep the flame glowing, that is, appreciate this style of music because that is what it is all about....the love of playing, the satisfaction that people enjoy your music for what it is. The period of 1964-1973 will never again happen. The social and political events of those days are forever cemented in the annals of history and the music and lyrics of these great unknown artists. We were history!! Peace; it is still a great concept!!