By Todd Houston
Following is an interview with Rockford-area native Mike Tafoya, guitarist for Epic recording artist The Boyzz.
Rockford Rocked Interviews (RRI): First off, tell us how you got your start playing music, and why the guitar and not the tuba?
Mike Tafoya (MT): Tuba? (laughs) I wanted to play the drums, but my grandfather said, “Drummers are the first one in and the last one out with the most gear!”
RRI: Do you remember the first album that you bought with your own money?
MT: Yep, It was Iron Butterfly’s In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida and then The Who’s Tommy. I had other albums, but these were the ones that I bought with my own cash!
RRI: Let’s get right into it, shall we? You were one of the lead guitar players for Epic recording artist The Boyzz. How did a band from St. Charles, Illinois, land a recording deal?
MT: We worked very hard! The Boyzz played six nights a week, four sets a night, for 300 days a year! We rehearsed constantly. Also, at that time, I was working for the Caterpillar Tractor Co. in Aurora working nights. I was crushed from lack of sleep! (laughs)
RRI: You guys played Rockford quite often.
MT: Yeah, we played The Stardust on Auburn and Main and some other places. We also played at the Sinnissippi Bandshell in Rockford with Cheap Trick a couple times.
RRI: I seem to recall you guys being pushed big time here in the Midwest on local rock radio. How much support did you have from Epic Records after the first Boyzz album Too Wild to Tame was released in 1978?
MT: That was so long ago. When we came out, the album was a bit hard, I guess. I thought we were a boogie rock band from the Midwest, you know?
RRI: You guys were billed with some big acts, such as Rush, REO Speedwagon and UFO. Who were the coolest, and who were the biggest jerks to tour with?
MT: Too long ago to try to hash up crap about that, Todd! No way! I don’t recall! (laughs)
RRI: The band always had a real full sound. Having a keyboard player like Anatoly Halinkovitch must have been cool.
MT: Yeah, it was a full sound! We simply used our noodles and played with chord voicings in order to make it sound orchestral and valid.
RRI: In 1979, The Boyzz recorded their second album, Midwest Kids. The album never saw the light of day, and you guys were dropped from Epic. In your mind, what went wrong?
MT: Yes, in 1979 we started an album that was never titled or released. The second album was a bust from the start, at least it was to me.
RRI: So, The Boyzz break up … you, Anatoly Halinkovitch, (now Tony Hall) and David Angel formed the band The B’zz. The B’zz were ultimately picked up by Epic Records. Not too many people in the music business get a second chance. What was your mindset during this time?
MT: I guess I wanted to start a band where the song led the sound and not just the image of the band. We wanted to let the music be portrayed as art as well as rock and roll, ya know? Epic had a real bad experience from The Boyzz. We were fortunate to be given that “second chance.”
RRI: Your new band had Tom Holland (later of the band Holland) on vocals and Steve Riley on drums (later of W.A.S.P. and L.A. Guns). These guys were seasoned L.A. rockers. How different was Orange County from Cook County?
MT: We were in L.A. County, so I don’t know! (laughs) I do know that Steve and Tommy were in Steppenwolf during the late Boyzz days. The B’zz rocked hard on stage!
RRI: The B’zz enjoyed some moderate success early on and even appeared on American Bandstand. What was that like?
MT: It felt good to have a plan finally work out!
RRI: You did a video for the track “Get Up Get Angry,” which MTV put in rotation for some reason. Did you think that you had the world by the ass by this point?
MT: Never! We just thought we needed to work harder!
RRI: Rumor has it you were actually asked to join the band KISS around this time. Did you decline thinking your songs were better and you had plenty of money, or did you just not get the memo?
MT: I was left off the memo list! I talked to my folks, and they thought I wouldn’t have left my own band anyway.
RRI: For the last 20 years, you’ve pretty much been doing your own thing and going by the name “Tafoya’s Lost Boyzz.” The track “Spread Your Love Around” has an Eddie Cochran vibe while “Get Up. Get Down” has a Zeppelin-type feel. Thoughts?
MT: “Spread Your Love Around” was actually “You’re so Square, Baby I Don’t Care” from Jailhouse Rock. I let the song direct me. I don’t sweat it if the riff has a feel from somewhere else.
RRI: What’s next for Mike Tafoya?
MT: Dave Angel from The Boyzz and The B’zz (bassist) records/co-produces our stuff. He’s my behind-the-scenes partner, and we’re working on a new CD. I’m a player and a creative cat, so I just flow and flow! Check out my latest project!
From the Oct. 29-Nov. 4, 2014, issue