Roohan gets serious about his music… kinda
Mikey Roohan likes Billy Joel. So much so that he’s stacked the jukebox at the Tap Room on Lawndale with cuts from the piano man’s 1977 breakthrough album The Stranger to help get him through the lunch rush and the midafternoon doldrums that set in almost immediately afterwards. He’s back at the grill cooking a late lunch for a couple businessmen at a tall table and an off-duty musician seated at the bar.
He comes out from the kitchen wearing a sheen of day-job sweat and clutching a copy of his new CD, Slippery Rock.
“It’s shrink-wrapped,” he says enthusiastically.
Joel’s “Vienna” pours through the unseen speakers as he takes a seat at the bar.
You know that when the truth is told that you can get what you want or you can just get old. You’re gonna kick off before you even get halfway through. When will you realize’… Vienna waits for you.
It’s his favorite Billy Joel song. And perhaps he’s just recently come to understand the refrain. This is a moment that has been waiting for Roohan for a long time.
He’s been dicking around the music scene for half his life, first with a glam-rock band called Side Effect and then a punk rock band back when he lived in Michigan. Since he’s been in Greensboro he’s fronted the city’s best-loved bad band, the Devilled Eggs; hosted Tuesday night open mic at the Flatiron with his confederate Matty Sheets; and formed a temporary band called the Dumbbells whose sole output was a CD called Fitness Rock that poked fun at the gym rat culture with songs like “This Pilates (is Making me a Hottie).”
And though he’s made inroads in Greensboro’s musical community he hasn’t really been taken seriously up to this point.
It’s something of a half-assed body of work from the barrel-shaped 31 year old who is given to rumpled trucker hats and muttered wisecracks. But he’s recently started looking at his music, and himself, in a whole new light. The new CD is something of a restart to a career that he admits has not exactly been taking off like a rocket.
The songs on Slippery Rock, he says, have all been performed over the years on the Flatiron’s smoky stage and some have even been recorded. But, he says, “I never got to do them right.”
The selections are an incongruous mix of genres that accurately represent Roohan’s musical lineage – the attitude of punk, the thoughtful and gentle strains of folk, the angst of alt-rock, the raunchiness of Adam Sandler’s novelty songs and the romanticism of the balladeer.
He has guest appearances by members of Scarlet Harlot and MIB and his longtime collaborator Sheets. There are horns and harmonicas. Some of it holds the ear with sonic dissonance and raw emotion. Some of it is quite beautiful. And some of it kind of sucks.
His favorite track, “This Love I Have,” he says is an unrequited love song about the woman who designed the CD cover.
“She’s my girlfriend,” he says. “She lives in Ohio’… I never met her but we talk on the phone.”
Another cut, “Hellbilly,” shows strains of rockabilly and punk. “My Coward” is an insightful lament. And “10 Foot Pole” is, simply put, extremely raunchy.
“I’m gonna send that one in to Howard Stern,” he says.
So Roohan hasn’t gone entirely serious on us, but he is putting more stock in himself and his talents.
“I quit doing hardcore drugs,” he says. “I started exercising. I drink beer once a week instead of six times a week. [The CD] helped me out. It distracted me, helped me move forward.”
Forget the irony of a man who dedicated a whole CD to making fun of the fitness craze hitting the elliptical exerciser four times a week – “This Pilates really is making me a hottie,” he jokes – and concentrate on the artist buckling down and finally putting in the time and care his craft demands.
“I wanna go up the East Coast and hit the open mics,” he says. “Just to get out there, just to play.”
So yeah, Roohan is maturing. But he still mutters wisecracks and lives his life with a smirk and a wink. Case in point: he’s growing a mullet just because he thinks they’re funny.
“Party in the back,” he says.
To comment on this story, e-mail Brian Clarey at firstname.lastname@example.org.