Out of nowhere (Cincinnati, actually) comes the mighty Roger Klug, brandishing a “crazed mishmash of power, pop, and rock,” “playing the yin and yangities of pop music like a sweet fiddle.” Given the guitarist/songwriter’s proclivity for packing wily, incisive lyrics and twisted, screaming guitar solos into melodic pop songs, he pleads “guilty as charged.”
Live, Klug and his power trio are as apt to go off on a Mountain Jam or improvise a Rock Opera as they are upholding and extolling the traditions of their pop heroes and contemporaries.
Roger has released 4 solo albums, most recently the critically-acclaimed More Help For Your Nerves; he is forever writing and producing out of his second home, music lab/recording studio Mental Giant.
Roger Klug is a singer/songwriter, guitarist and music producer based out of Cincinnati, Ohio. Growing up in suburban Detroit, his earliest memories include being completely besotted and intrigued by music, spinning LPs on turntables before he learned to write.
This obsession continued and never really went away. A false start on the trumpet led to guitar lessons with John Covach and a stint playing snare drum in the Livonia Community Band. Cut to a montage of endless summers jamming in basements and garages; cue primitive home recordings bouncing between two cassette decks; fast forward to earning a degree in music theory whilst playing in bars and shitholes with bands all looking to be the Next Big Thing… all part of a journey from insatiable music fiend to mad pop scientist.
Roger’s first foray into a “real” recording studio landed him and high school buddy Randy Armstrong on Cincinnati radio station WEBN’s Album Project No. 5. The Bagazoid Brothers, as the duo dubbed themselves, wound up in Heavy Rotation on the airwaves with “She Glows In The Dark”, a Midwestern New-Wave ditty referencing the Three Mile Island nuclear disaster. Roger played guitar and drums; Randy played bass, smoke alarm, and sang. This successful debut quickly poisoned Roger’s mind into thinking that the world was a warm, receptive place to one’s Art; this mindset was quickly dashed and never really returned.
Fairly monogamous and loyal with bands, Roger joined the Cheaters at age 17, leaving weeknight bar gigs early to wake up in time for school, sneaking drinks, and generally trying to hide the fact he was underage. Boasting two dominant lead singers, the Cheaters combined a heavy vocal sound with a ‘60s/’70s rock ethic that was always a hit at clubs and frat parties. Their legendary live renditions of Yes’s “The Fish” with 3 bass guitars onstage pre-dated Spinal Tap’s “Big Bottom” by at least 18 months.
Psyche/garage/ska band the Tritones came next, consisting of Roger on guitar and brothers John and Jeff Karch on bass and drums, respectively. With no competent lead vocalist in sight, an uneasy truce was made to forge ahead without one; whoever wrote the song got to sing it. The Tritones, in retrospect, was a brilliant study in what would happen if the Who immersed themselves in Rastafarian culture and embraced ‘80s guitar metal-mania. In this fertile musical climate the band crossed paths with Afghan Whigs and Royal Crescent Mob, played shows with Adrian Belew and the Bears (even sharing the same manager for a spell), and began preparing for certain major success.
After the Tritones quietly disbanded, Roger continued to write and demo songs; a reunion with drummer Jeff Karch a year later resulted in dynamic duo the Willies. Light years before the White Stripes and Black Keys, Roger and Jeff tried to convince the world of the merits of a 2-piece rock outfit. They released 2 DIY albums on cassette (now available on CD); both received regional airplay and the Willies were a fixture on the ‘90s halcyon Cincinnati club circuit which included Bogart’s, Top Cat’s, and rock-laundromat Sudsy Malone’s.
After the Willies quietly disbanded, Roger made the remarkable decision to pursue a degree in accounting, possibly influenced by a longing for job security and/or his accountant girlfriend. It was during this return to college that Roger wrote the majority of what became his first solo album, Mama, Mama, Ich bin in dem La La Land. “Songs just plopped out, as if the pressure had been taken off, and it made me realize the error of my ways.” Whittling 22 tracks down to a 17-song 74-minute disc, Roger embarked on a solo promotional tour playing an “ecoustic” guitar, sometimes accompanied by cellist Robin Sanfillipo (now Hasenpflug), and generally enjoying the freedom and mobility of a solo act, as well as the audience actually being able to hear most of the lyrics.
The following year’s sophomore effort, Toxic and 15 Other Love Songs, expanded his presence in power-pop circles significantly. A vague stab at some sort of “concept album,” with songs exploring “the viscosity and thermal breakdown of human relationships,” Roger wrote and recorded much of the album on piano, possibly influenced by his pianist girlfriend (now wife).
With the release of Toxic, Roger assembled a trio to replicate the songs live in a muscular, mancock way. “The power trio has always been my favorite format. Keyboard players just get in the way. No offense, Julie.” Recruiting Mike Tittel on drums (formerly of Good People, Beer, and touring drummer with The Loud Family) was a no-brainer; bassist Jamie Criswell rounded out the team and the trio wound up appearing at many of the major regional festivals in the area (Jammin’ On Main, Riverfest, Taste Of Cincinnati).
Roger thoroughly confounded fans with his next album, Where Has The Music Gone?: The Lost Recordings Of Clem Comstock. Why compile an album of lost pop recordings from the 1960s, all by obscure Cincinnati groups, all never before issued in stereo, and all produced by a mysterious, long-forgotten musical giant? Roger spent several months in radio and press interviews trumpeting the virtues of legendary visionary Clem Comstock who, “from a modest two-and-a-half room studio on Gilbert Ave., above Doc Fanning’s Knitting Factory and Chinchilla Ranch,” wrote and recorded dozens upon dozens of would-be classic pop singles, using his stable of artists as puppets, as soldiers, as guinea pigs, to express his inner muse. Some went so far as to wonder if the entire project was a fabrication in Roger’s mind; to date, “Pshaw!” has been his only official response.
The power trio came out of semi-retirement when one Jeffrey Miller had the extraordinary vision of having tunes such as “Toxic”, “All Hacked Off”, and “Walking On Eggshells,” performed live at his wedding reception. Bassist Jamie had left the country, creating a frantic search for a replacement. Greg Tudor (formerly of Good People and Beer, but not the touring drummer for Loud Family) saved the day and quickly became a permanent member of the Roger Klug Power Trio.
Roger’s most recent solo album, More Help For Your Nerves, was released in a flurry of gig activity, and made most of the Power Pop Top 10 Lists in 2009. Another 17-song affair (“seventeen just seems like a nice, round number to me”), More Help combined the guitar guts of Mama with pop scope of Toxic into what many critics feel is “Klug’s best album yet.”
When he is not writing songs, performing with Greg and Mike in the power trio or post-post-power-punk-pop band Rant To Save Yourself, Roger can be found producing other like-minded artists at his Mental Giant studio. He also teaches the popular Music Of The Beatles course at the University of Cincinnati, and enjoys passing on the love of one of the great groups that dragged him into this mess in the first place.
Roger is currently working on a musical.