By John Parks
Longtime Cheap Trick drummer Bun E. Carlos will be sharing the stage with original Cheap Trick singer Randall “Xeno” Hogan Monday night, April 14, at Mary’s Place in downtown Rockford.
Xeno, who himself was nicknamed by Rick Nielsen, played a part in the early history of Cheap Trick (including inspiring the name of the band itself) before eventually relocating to both Minnesota and, later, Milwaukee to front the popular band Bad Boy.
I recently talked with Xeno about the April 14 show, including the possibility of jamming with his old pal Bun E. Read on …
Q: Thanks for taking the time to do this, Xeno. How did this show you and Bun E. are playing in Rockford come about?
A: Well, I’ve been looking for a way to play my hometown for a while now, and Bun E. and I have been looking to do some things together, so it was just a matter of us talking about it, looking at some different options, and trying to figure out the best way to go about doing it. Bun E.’s Monday Night Band gets a pretty good crowd every Monday there, and this gives me a great opportunity to get in front of a nice crowd in my hometown and push my new CD, I Still Believe in Rock and Roll.
Q: This is something of a special occasion, as you don’t always get down this way (to Rockford). What goes through your mind when you think about playing in Rockford again?
A: I don’t get to Rockford too often, no — maybe once or twice a decade — so I’m kind of excited about it. I’m getting lots of messages from old schoolmates and old friends from the area who want to see my band but don’t always get up our way to Milwaukee very often, so I’m looking forward to seeing some familiar faces.
Q: I watched an old YouTube video of you from your time playing with Bun E. in Cheap Trick back in the day. How do you recall Bun E. back in those days, or your friendship with Bun over the years?
A: Well, we’ve remained friends and have been friends for a long, long time. In the early days, Bun E. and I hung out together a lot. In fact, we roomed together, and I can honestly say he really hasn’t changed much over the years. It’s a pretty cool thing that we’ve remained friends for the last 40 years or so.
Q: Your new album covers a lot of ground, classic rock wise. How long had you been working on the material that made it to the CD?
A: Some of it I had written and had wanted to record over time, and some of it I wrote specifically for the album. Most of it I wrote more recently. It was recorded here in Milwaukee. It’s a real rock and roll record in the purest sense. I think anyone who enjoys classic rock and roll music will enjoy this album.
Q: Besides playing some of the material from the CD when you are here at Mary’s Place, is there a chance that you and Bun E. might sit in on each other’s sets or jam for a song or two?
A: I don’t know. I haven’t asked him, but I think I might ask him to sit in. I will talk to him about it, because that might be fun. We haven’t played together in decades — several decades, actually. I did sit in with his Bun E. Carlos Experience, but that was many years ago.
Q: When you do visit Rockford, are there landmarks or areas that trip your memory trigger, or has so much changed that it’s impossible to see through those nostalgic glasses?
A: Things have changed quite a bit since I was last there, and I’ve been away a LONG time. And when I come back, it’s usually to see family, although I do see Bun E. on occasion. But really I don’t end up seeing too many people. Again, I’ve been away for such a long time that I truly lost touch with a lot of people. I’ve been back in touch a lot via Facebook, and that has been kinda fun, but it will really be nice to actually come up and play Monday night and see old friends.
Q: You’re a Midwestern guy still. Getting out and celebrating the end of this horrible winter needs to be a priority, doesn’t it?
A: You think? (laughs) It’s been so bad. I really don’t remember a winter this bad since the ’70s, to be honest. It’s been snow, followed by cold, followed by more snow and cold, so it really will be nice to get out and start enjoying the nights again. I know I’m looking forward to it!
Learn more about Xeno at http://www.xenorock.com.
From the April 9-15, 2014 issue