Interview by: Mike Farley
here for a review of Zebra's
When I found out that one of the bands I worshipped growing up on Long Island was not only still together, but had just released a new album, I kind of freaked out. I couldn’t get a copy fast enough. Growing up sure has its perks too, especially if you work in the music business and get to interview people like Randy Jackson of Zebra. No, not THAT Randy Jackson, you TV junkie! Read on, you’ll see what I mean…
Mike Farley: When my buddy from New York told me Zebra was playing a show on Long Island and had a new album out, I was thrilled because I hadn't heard the name in a long time. What have you guys been up to since parting ways with Atlantic Records in the late 1980s?
Randy Jackson: I did a solo CD for Atlantic in 1990 called China Rain and also completed a live Zebra CD during that time. I then got involved in the development of an interactive musical instrument called "The Key" from 1992 to 1996. The instrument allowed anyone to play a guitar-like instrument (The Key) along with videos or CDs. I oversaw the programming of the music. We encoded a lot of videos that came out during that time period (Page and Plant "Unleaded," Aerosmith's "Big Ones," The Who's "30 Years of Maximum R&B" among them). If you have any of the videos we worked on you will see our "KEY" logo on the back that identifies the tape as being "interactive." We recorded the drums for
Zebra IV in New Orleans in 1996. Guy got breast cancer that year which slowed the process down a bit (he is fully recovered now).
I took a break from the Zebra project in 1999 to record "The Sign," a CD I did for a European Label (Frontiers Records) that included Terry Brock (vocals), Mark Mangold (keys), Bobby Rondinelli (drums) and Billy Greer (bass).
MF: Unfortunately you guys never caught on as big in other markets as you did in New York and New Orleans. Looking back, can you attribute that to any one thing?
RJ: We had been playing both markets for eight years by the time the first record came out and we sold more than 75,000 copies in those markets in the first two weeks. Once MTV started playing "Who's Behind the Door," we started selling records all over the country and actually had our largest crowd as a headliner to date in St Louis (more than 12,000). By the time the third record came out we had been around the country twice. We never made it back to the west coast during that tour (1986) and have stayed close to home with all our performances since then for one reason or another. Most people thought we had broken up when in fact we have been playing live consistently since 1975.
MF: I saw on your Website that you and Felix play solo acoustic shows. Do you still enjoy performing at these types of venues after having played the Nassau Coliseum and other large arenas?
RJ: I just enjoy playing, period. The big venues are a lot of fun but I really get to do more improvising at my solo acoustic shows when there are no time constraints. There can be more direct audience interaction in a small venue than in a stadium. Don't get me wrong. I'd love to be playing arenas every night of the week but I'm very happy where I am. In the end it is all about the music. I'm just grateful for being able to make a living doing what I love to do!
MF: Amen to that. As a songwriter and musician myself, I came to the realization a few years ago that no matter what we do in life, we have to be doing music in some capacity. Would you agree?
RJ: You can't get away from it. All the musicians I knew growing up that chose a career outside of music still play and still love it.
MF: Is everyone in the band still able to do music as a full-time career?
RJ: I am full time music. Felix has been doing some acting recently. Guy owns his own company in New Orleans making flight cases (BAD Case and Rack Systems). He started that with his former drum tech, Gary Stute, about 10 years ago and they have become very successful.
MF: How is Zebra IV selling so far? Are you getting airplay anywhere?
RJ: I'm very happy with sales and the response from the fans. It was worth the effort! We are getting airplay in New York and scattered places around the country but we still haven't fully gone after radio yet. That part of the promo will come in the next couple of months!
MF: What do you think of the music business as it exists today?
RJ: Scary for the major labels and exciting for the small ones. I think live performance is the only sure thing in this business right now. With the decline in record sales, live performance is the only sure bet!
MF: What are some of today's current artists that you admire? What's in your CD player now?
RJ: As far as new groups I like Evanescence right now. I'm doing some shows around the U.S. with different symphony orchestras doing the music of Led Zeppelin so I am listening to the songs we will be performing at the shows! That is in my CD player.
MF: Do any of you guys follow sports, and if so what teams?
RJ: Felix's wife, Lisa, works for the New York Jets. Some of them come out to the Zebra shows when they are in town. Good guys!! I'm from New Orleans so I will always be a Saints fan at heart.
MF: If you have a chance, visit www.bullz-eye.com and let me know who your favorite Bullz-eye girl is.
RJ: How could you choose just one?
MF: How does it feel now when people confuse you with the fat judge on "American Idol?"
RJ: That's been going on for years, way before American Idol. There is also Randy Jackson from "The Jackson 5" and that has been confusing at times too. I've had people contact my attorney about business relating to him. We both wrote songs called "One More Chance"! I think it's kind of fun.
MF: What goals do you guys have for the immediate future? What about long-term?
RJ: I'd like to spend the next year "methodically" promoting Zebra IV and hopefully get the band over to Europe to perform. I will be doing another CD with "The Sign" and I want to have a solo acoustic CD out by early next
For more information on Zebra, please visit www.thedoor.com
Here’s a look at some of Randy Jackson’s upcoming performances:
FRIDAY, October 10th, 2003 - 8:00pm
"Palace Theatre "
"Music Of Led Zeppelin" with "The Albany Symphony Orchestra"
Albany, New York
Palace Theater Box Office,
all Ticketmaster locations
, or charge by phone at 518-476-1000
Tickets are $37.50 and $32.50
SATURDAY, October 11th, 2003 - 8:00pm
"The Tilles Center"
"Music Of Led Zeppelin" with "The Long Island Philharmonic"
Long Island, New York
Tilles Center Box Office,
or www.tillescenter.org and www.tickets.com
or charge by phone at 516-299-3100
Tickets are $47.50 and $ 39.50
SUNDAY, October 12th, 2003 - 7:00pm
"E.J. Thomas Hall"
"Music Of Led Zeppelin" with "The Akron Symphony Orchestra"
FRIDAY, October 17th, 2003
"Bourbon Street Night Club"
4331 U.S. HWY.19
New Port Richey, Florida
MORE INFO: www.clubbourbonstreet.com
SATURDAY, October 18th, 2003
"The Louisiana Oyster Fest"
Violet, Louisiana (Near Chalmette/New Orleans)
SATURDAY, November 1st, 2003
6355 Rolling Road
West Springfield, Virginia