By Todd Houston
Armed Vision (AV) was a Rockford-area band from 1979 through 1986. Founded in 1979 as The Numbers, by original band members Troy Lee, Lance Porter, Jay Samp, Rex Scott and Rick Zillhart (with Cesar Bruno, Bret Konietski, David Seaton, Brad Puckett and Ray Cook filling in at times). The Band changed its name to Armed Vision in 1981.
AV were a staple of the 1980’s Beloit Wisconsin bar scene and garnered a huge following playing packed houses both at home and on the road. The band is set to reunite at for a 35th Harlem High School class reunion party at the Tebala Event Center, 7910 Newburg Road, 9 p.m. Friday, July 28.
Rockford Rocked Interviews: You guys have been working your butts off getting ready for the July 28 show at Tebala. What made 2017 a good time for an AV reunion show?
AV: Ten years ago we played a short set at our 25th High School Reunion (Harlem, Class of 82), so when we got the news this year of the upcoming 35th Reunion, Lance threw out the idea of pulling everyone together to make it happen again, on a much larger, planned out scale. So we have been practicing and planning for a few months now. And here we are a little over a week away and can’t wait. for a great night of some of the best songs of late-70s and early-80s rock bands.
RRI: AV had a huge local fan base. Tell us about the people that helped the band out on the road and helped to make AV the rock and roll machine that they were. I understand this show is partly dedicated to these unsung heroes.
AV: We had an amazing group of family and close friends that got involved with us early on and have been a huge support for many years. We would really like to thank all of our families and the influence and support that have shown. Most specifically, Jay’s mom, Donna Samp; Rick’s dad, Steve Zillhart; Troy’s dad, Robert Lee; the Porter family; and Rex’s entire family that have always had our backs. Everyone who ever worked with us as band or crew including Chris Samp, Scott Kuntzelman, Vern Borah and Carlos Oldigs. Sadly, we also lost several guys who were very close to us and had extensive involvement and commitment with the band. We are doing this show them in mind: Greg Samp, Craig Spiess, Cesar Bruno, Tom May and Brett Konieczski.
RRI: Troy, you left the band early on and were ultimately replaced by Dave Seaton. What are your thoughts on the band during that time and what made you decide to leave?
Troy Lee: Well, I mainly left to pursue a full-time work opportunity with my Dad’s excavating company, which I now own, so that has worked out well for my family. I was glad to support the guys after Dave joined too. I would often go see them in Beloit and one highlight is when they opened for Cheap Trick in 1984. Admittedly, I wished I was up there with them for that show. (laughs)
RRI: Most of you guys have been busy with music in one way or another throughout the years. Rick has been involved in some cool projects lately and Lance has continued to play drums and record with faith based organizations. What keeps the rest of you motivated?
AV: As far as motivation, it really just comes down to the love of music and the expression and impact that music can have on others. So, we are glad to share that with anyone who is willing to hear it. Jay and Rick have been teaching guitar for years, passing the torch, so to speak.
Jay Samp: I’ve mostly been involved with various church worship leadership for the past 30 years, teaching guitar and helping my kids getting assimilated into the band world with their own band, Hope Despite.
Rex Scott: I’m always writing and recording original songs, Troy hasn’t been playing regularly but is having a blast getting back into the swing of things after about a 30-year absence.
RRI: Let’s get back up to how it felt getting into a room with each other again and banging out songs that you haven’t played in years. Was there much anxiety involved or were there just lots of smiles?
AV: A lot of good times for sure. Once we knocked out a few songs things started to click. The best part is just getting to hang out with each other again. It’s been such fun just reconnecting as friends and reigniting that camaraderie that we had all those years ago. A whole lot of laughter!
RRI: Rex, I was told that you still have some old AV stage wear that you plan on bringing out for the show. Is this just rumor and can we expect some leopard print and silk?
Rex Scott: Well funny you should ask. The Leopard shirt you see in both photos is actually about the only remnant I have of old band gear, other than some spandex, which will not be seen on me or any of us, in public, anytime soon. We will, however, be decked in some cool rockin’ vision-type gear to be consistent with who we are as entertainers.
RRI: Thinking back, what was the one song that got people up and dancing more than any other song you guys played? Mony Mony, perhaps?
Armed Vison: Way too many to count. It varied from different cities and clubs. In Beloit a lot of the obscure songs that weren’t really hits but became “vision-ized” as we like to say became popular with the regulars who came to see us.
When we began hitting the road, most of the top MTV rock songs became favorites, which had its beginning right about the same time we were playing. Of course, we never shied away from playing the great heavy rockers that influenced us to play in the first place.
RRI: Favorite club to play in Beloit?
AV: City Limits, no question. Great room for bands with multiple rooms for hanging out. After City Limits closed, the Pier was really the only place bringing in bands. Some great times there too.
RRI: Do you guys still have the famous ARMED VISION banner that used to hang over Lance’s drum kit (and sometimes on the ceiling)?
AV: The banner will be on display, in all its glory at the July 28 show. It’s a must see work of art. We had the benefit of Jay’s brother Chris Samp’s ‘Artistic Vision’ throughout our entire life as a band. In fact, the name Armed Vision was actually derived from one of his paintings titled ‘Armvistians’.
RRI: Are there any plans to record the show?
AV: We are certainly hoping to make that happen to document this moment in our history, given that this may not happen again, at least not on this grand of a scale.
RRI: Where can we find Armed Vision merchandise?
AV: AV shirts are currently being sold at stompetition.com for a limited time and hopefully at the upcoming show. Shout out to Lorrie Adams, a fellow Harlem Class of 82 alum, for approaching us with her online store opportunity. She has been amazing to work with on the project.
We are really looking forward to sharing with everyone in the Rockford area a great show that we have put a great amount of time and sacrifice to make happen. So come on out next Friday, July 28 for a great night 70s and 80s rock. See you there! R.