Gary James' Interview With Joe X. Dube Of

On December 30th, 1978, Starz opened the show for Ted Nugent at the Onondaga County War Memorial in Syracuse, N.Y. It was a cold night. I remember that. I was waiting outside the backstage door along with several other press members. Also waiting were five girls. Well, let's be honest. They were "groupies." The door opens and the groupies were let in. The press remained outside, in the cold, waiting. And you thought interviewing Rock groups was glamorous. Eventually I did get to talk to Starz drummer, Joe X. Dube. Starz was a really good group. I liked them. Why they didn't enjoy greater success remains a mystery to me.

What follows is my conversation with Joe X. Dube.

Q - Who at Aucoin Management "discovered" Starz?

A - Alan Miller. He was the manager of a band we were in called Fallen Angels. We did an album with two singles off of it for Atlantic Records, Clive Davis, that was shelved. We kicked out our keyboard player, got Richie Ranno to play guitar and became Starz.

Q - How much of a role has luck played in your story?

A - You have to be good and make your own breaks. It's a matter of fate more than anything else. It's the force upon you.

Q - Are you satisfied with the way Wally Meyrowitz is handling your bookings?

A - Very much so. Wally "The Dog" Meyrowitz. It's strange really because no one ever brings up his name in interviews we've given.

Q - What is the official reason for replacing guitarist Brandon Hawkin and bassist Peter Sweval?

A - It came to a point of musical divergency and to a somewhat lesser extent, musicianship. We were getting off course and we had to either make changes or break up.

Q - Did you feel that Hawkin and Sweval were holding the group back in some way?

A - If I didn't feel that way, we wouldn't have done what we did. Both of those guys are doing real well today. Brendon has put together a tribute to Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin. That road company might even play Broadway. Peter plays acoustic guitar and enjoys being a singer / songwriter.

Q - You had some famous musicians audition for the new vacancies, didn't you?

A - We had Tim Bogart of Beck, Bogart And Appiece as well as Pat Daugherty of Black Oak Arkansas.

Q - How many records can an opening act expect to sell in say a 9,000 seat auditorium like Syracuse?

A - I don't have the demographics on a 9,000 seat hall, but I do for a 15,000 seat hall. If the opening act is good, you can sell between 500 and 1,000 albums the next day. If you're really good, that figure could go to 1,500 albums.

Q - Why should someone go out and buy a Starz record?

A - Why?

Q - Yeah.

A - 'Cause you like music. From our first album to the fourth album, we've always had good material, some of the best Rock material around. We always came up with better tunes than anybody else.

Q - Marlon Brando recently stated he hates Rock 'n' Roll. It's ugly and he liked it when the Blacks had it 1927. What's your reaction to that?

A - He's older than I am. He's clinging to the past. Rock 'n' Roll is music that is very transient. It's not as permanent as Classical music. There will always be new bands to keep the flow going in Rock music.

Q - There was a story circulating in magazines that a forty year old "groupie" banged on Michael Lee Smith's (Starz lead singer) hotel room door all night, begging him to come out. Is that true?

A - Oh, yeah, that's true. I remember it. She banged on the door for two hours. It didn't bother me. I think Michael didn't answer the door 'cause he was busy that night.

Q - What would Starz like to achieve?

A - We want to reach as many people as possible. We want to get to headlining stature so we can do anything we want, so it's completely our own trip. We don't go for formula records, hit records. The music has to have good melodies, good hooks. There are so many new horizons to explore. This band smokes fire.

Q - As 1978 draws to a close, are you happy with the way the year treated Starz?

A - Oh yeah, because we got "Starz II" going. It's more intense than it was in 1975. Let me ask you a question. When Starz first came out with their debut album, did you think we were KISS Part II?

Q - No, I didn't. Some people said the sound was similar to KISS.

A - Well, that's ridiculous. We're a completely different band from KISS. We dress differently. Our music is different. We look different. For a year and a half we had to fight down that image.

Q - What does 1979 hold in store for Starz?

A - We're touring up 'til March or April with our "We Came To Play" tour. We're already looking into producers and recording schedules for next year. My life for the next year is pretty well booked up.

Q - Is being in a Rock 'n' Roll band all it's cracked up to be?

A - And more!

© Gary James. All rights reserved.

Starz was formed out of the ashes of the early 1970s band, Looking Glass, which had the #1 hit single "Brandy (You're A Fine Girl)" in the summer of 1972. After the breakup of Looking Glass, two of the remaining members, Peter Sweval and Joe. X. Dube (Jeff Grob) formed Starz as a Heavy Metal band. Their highest charting single was "Cherry Baby", which reached #33 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the spring of 1977, although they had several other songs reach the chart. Despite not being able to enjoy major commercial success, several 1980s Glam / Metal artists, including Poison and Nikki Sixx of Mötley Crüe, cite Starz as a primary influence.