Robby Roadsteamer
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Robby Roadsteamer

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"ROBBY ROAD STEAMER!"

Six feet, two inches of undulating muscles and rippling chest hair, a feral baritone booming from beneath a combed moustache, flared trousers stuffed you-know-where with a plump beanie pig, Robby Road Steamer is a metal monstrosity. He is id unchained and libido unleashed. Straight outta the suburban hinterlands, he is the North Shore’s great white hope. His friends’ hot-shit bands notwithstanding, it is he who is Massachusetts’s great gift to the metal world. And there’s nothing funny about it. He’s celebrating the release of his second album, Okay Computer (Yellow Trout), by dropping double bombs: a solo show this Saturday at the Comedy Studio in Harvard Square and a full-on rock spectacle upstairs at the Middle East next Friday.

Robby emerged in 2001 as lead singer for a band called the Sweatpant Boners. Their debut, an album of hellacious heavyosity called Cruisin’ with the Masters (Devils Head), featured songs with titles like "Pee with Your Father," "Her Respectable Holes," and "Number 2," and that led some to write them off as joke metal and cast Robby as just a buff Weird Al with a rabid wrestler’s voice and a fetish for the orthodontic devices of barely legal girls. But other listeners, slowly and quietly, became converts. In a parallel world, apart from the trendy Boston rock scene, beyond the pale in Salem and Danvers and Revere, his fans multiplied. Now, with Okay Computer, an orgy of noise softened in spots by a few heart-on-sleeve ballads and some sung-spoken Springsteenisms, his legend grows. And though a reconstituted Sweatpant Boners serve again as his band, Robby Road Steamer now stands as his own man.

"I wanted to separate myself from the sophomoric image that came with the Sweatpant Boners," he says over an empty table at the Cambridgeport Saloon. (He abstains from rock-star potables in favor of copious quantities of Gatorade.) "I wanted to move on from poop humor. Take it to the next level. I’m tired of going through the motions. It’s time to get that easy money."

Cruisin’ with the Masters boasted help from Robby’s pals Adam Dutkiewicz (drums) and Ken Susi (guitar). Dutkiewicz is now guitarist for metalcore mashers Killswitch Engage, who played Ozzfest last summer and could be seen co-hosting MTV2’s Headbangers Ball a few months back. And Susi’s band, Unearth, signed to legendary label Metal Blade, are currently slaying ’em on this summer’s Ozzfest. (It’s been reported that Kelly Osbourne herself is smitten with Ken.)

One might guess it was Dutkiewicz’s burgeoning fame that kept him from contributing more than a few backing vocals to the new CD. But Robby says otherwise. "He was fired. He wasn’t metal enough. You wanna do your fuckin’ folk music? Go start your own band! Go start Killswitch Engage! Go get on Ozzfest! And Ken from Unearth? Same thing! I taught him everything he does in that band. You buy that new album [Oncoming Storm]. You pull it apart, you listen to it. You can see my influences." Susi, who grew up in Danvers with Robby, at least was invited back to contribute some guitar and record Robby’s lung-busting vocals. "I said, listen, can you put away your fuckin’ folk project for a couple weeks? Put down the assorted backstage cheese platter and come back and play with a real fuckin’ metal band."

It was a motley crew that convened at Carlisle’s Blue Jay studios (co-owned by Backstreet Boy Kevin Richardson) to start recording this past spring. Peet Golan from the band Waltham played bass. Derek Kerswill from Seemless did the drumming. Berklee grad Nick D’Amico played keyboards. And lead guitar is credited to Aaron "King Wizard," a hyperactive African-American cabbie and comedian. (At least that’s what we’re told, though much of the guitar work bears an uncanny resemblance to the playing of former Waltham and Damone guitarist Dave Pino.) Robby ruled the musicians with an iron fist. "If you show up and you’re not wearing tight hip-hugging red leather pants, and you’re not licking your guitar and trying to get it pregnant before every song, you’re fired."

A few words about Okay Computer’s title. First, you can’t copyright album titles. So Radiohead can kiss Robby’s toned ass. And as you can see in a video clip on Robby’s Web site (www.roadsteamer.com), Vanilla Ice himself says that "it’s not the same." For one thing, Radiohead had the release party for OK Computer in Cambridge, England. Robby is fêting Okay Computer in Cambridge, Massachusetts. But more important, it’s meant as an homage of sorts. "We’re taking probably one of the greatest albums of the ’90s," Robby says, "and we’re making it that much fuckin’ better!"

Different, at least. "We’ll Drink in the Pit Tonite" is likely one declaration Thom Yorke has never made. But as Okay Computer’s first track, it’s Robby Road Steamer’s manifesto: a guttural pummeling, exploding with soaring Aquanet-metal guitars, nuclear detonations, and a chorus of chanting rowdies seething with Bud lust. The bestial dirge "I’m Sorry Your Cat Has Ass Cancer" is a gothic death song echoing with Exorcist-theme piano and chilling cymbal washes. ("Devil knocking at the door. Kitty’s pooper’s a little sore. Mommy? What’s the priest here for?") And "Crucial Dude," a hurtling fusillade about fighting in coin-op laundromats and beating up hipsters in trucker hats, rides the lightning on some stroboscopic speed-metal shredding.

But Robby Road Steamer is much more than macho metal bombast. He’s also a sensitive lover man. "Naked Except for Socks" is a bedroom ballad with pretty piano. "You’re the Only Girl I Wanna Plow" is his reassurance to a reticent groupie that she and only she is the apple of his eye — at least until her sister turns 18. "Give Me One Pump in the Tour Van" is a tender tearjerker about the rushed love of life on the road. And on the Springsteen-esque "Finger Blastin’," Robby remembers tender moments: "Your hair danced softly, just like it did in Latin class. We went to Friendly’s, got grilled-cheese sandwiches. Your dad was at work. Your mom was out shopping. We played Nintendo" — his voice drops to a sensual whisper — "and we started something."

Yet it’s the wistful "Salem Elks Lodge Serenade," more boss than the Boss, that’s his masterstroke. Littered with images of his North Shore life — an ’83 Atari, a bottle of Zima, a plastic hunting knife — it’s your invitation to join him there, to come where he lives. "I got muscles you haven’t seen, and I’m so stoned; we can make super ninja babies till my mom comes home. I got a cure for death if you want to give it up. Tonight."

Robby Road Steamer is no Johnny One Note. When not laying waste to the stage with his band, he moonlights as a kamikaze stand-up comedian, assaulting audiences with stinging, Mametesque head scratchers — "You’re a failure on three different levels!" or "I’ll kick your ass with a pencil sharpener!" — while D’Amico noodles on the keyboard. But his real pet project is his television series, The Robby Road Steamer Show, which airs weekly on public-access stations all over Greater Boston and in New York City. It’s a warts-and-all glimpse at the quotidian existence of a suburban rock titan. Watch Robby play video games with Susi in his cluttered room! Marvel at the apoplectic rants of Aaron "King Wizard"! See what really went on at Okay Computer recording sessions! In its way, the show humanizes this heavy-metal godhead. Robby watches the Red Sox lose Game Seven and suffers through sausage-hang parties in his shoebox Salem apartment. Sorta like you and me.

Doing the show was instinctual, he says. "Music’s been great to me. But what am I gonna do, stay with music until she gets old and ugly and I have nothing left to do with her? No, I’m gonna dominate another hot blonde: TV. And I’m gonna come up with the greatest TV show of all time. And I did. Next, I might go out and take up knitting. And I’ll knit the best fuckin’ sweater."

Robby finds comfort in the cozy confines of the North Shore suburbs where he was raised. Although he may soon move to New York City to further his quest for worldwide multimedia domination, his muse could come from nowhere else but the land of lawn ornaments and strip malls. "That’s where all great music comes from! When people look back at great music, it’s made by white kids. We are the music industry. Me lifting weights on Revere Beach — that’s how it’s fucking built! We make songs about hooking up with mediocre girls and drinking Colt 45. We’re the ones bringing up the real issues. Chevy Corsicas! Ataris!

"In the suburbs, if you make an album, you get laid. In Boston, everyone’s making a fuckin’ album. In the suburbs, all you need to do is make that fuckin’ album, bring it to your local sports bar, and flash it to a girl and you’re gonna get some. In the suburbs, the bar is lowered. If you appear in a article in the Salem Evening News? Shit! You’re gonna get so much trim."

But how does Robby Road Steamer respond to those who’d accuse him of being just a big joke, a mere caricature of heavy-metal machismo? "A . . . caricature?! How can you say I’m a caricature of a rock star when I sell out the Middle East?! On this album, I separate myself from the pack. I bring it up a notch. I fulfill the promise that I am heaven on earth. I am the gift of music."

- THE BOSTON PHOENIX!!!


Discography

OKAY COMPUTER-LP
The Heart Of A Rhino- LP

Photos

Feeling a bit camera shy

Bio

Robby Roadsteamer is the beginning and end of entertainment. Voted "Rock Personality Of The Year" by the Noise (out of Boston). He is a muscular tattoo'd giant with a handlebar mustashe little boys pray to their gods for. You will never forget where you were the first time you saw Robby. Coming off like Bruce Springsteen on steriods Robby sings of the hardships of being hard and calls out his audience on many number of topics. Whether it's with his five piece band (which was the WBCN local band of the month for three months in a row), or just doing comedy clubs with his keyboard player Robby commands the attention of his audience like none other. He has been featured on the covers of the Boston Phoenix, Weekly Dig, The Noise, and has had interviews in the Boston Globe, Improper Bostonian, The Metro, Stuff @ Night. He's been on numerous radio stations whether it be for interviews or radio play and his album which charted on the top 40 for CMJ....His legendary album "OKAY COMPUTER" has been hailed as the bible of Rock And Roll. His band will be playing dates on the Warped Tour in 2005 and releasing "THE HEART OF A RHINO" at the Paradise in Boston August 6th.... Come out to a show today or pick up the album on the website!