Q : When did you first start performing with a band, cos' we heard that you had one called Roger & the Veils, & also Roger & the Hungry People.
ROGER TROUTMAN : Yeah, actually between the age of 10 to 15, these were the names of my high school bands : Roger & the Veils. In fact Little Roger & the Fabulous Veils. That's how I really got started. Even back then Lester performed with me. After that I tried to diversify & make more money & I changed the name of the group to Roger & the Human Body & of course that evolved into what we 're dealing with now which is the group Zapp.
Q : Were there any recordings made by those early groups?
ROGER TROUTMAN : No. Huh, in fact one little single but you know. I can't even remember the name of the label but it was a local thing. It was such a long time ago!
Q : In 1976 you recorded your first LP, Roger & the Human Body : Introducing Roger. Who were the players in the band?
ROGER TROUTMAN : There was Bobby Glover, Beverly, Lester, that's the best I can remember.
Q : Why was the name of the band & the name of the album changed when it was reissued on the Soulciety label? And how did you get connected with the label?
ROGER TROUTMAN : Well my brother Larry, who's my business manager, was approached by Soulciety Records & they made a deal. But that's such an amazing act of God! In 1976 when I recorded it, I had no idea that it would resurface some 17 years after that. Very very heavy!
Q : You recorded 'Love TKO'(the great Teddy Pendergrass song) with The Human Body for the same label. Are there any plans for more songs or an album, or was this just a one off?
ROGER TROUTMAN : That was just that. It came and went.
Q : You mentioned your brother Larry, what about your other brothers? Isn't there another one named Rufus? And do you have any sisters?
ROGER TROUTMAN : In the beginning in our minds it seemed like we all should try to be stars. Solo albums & stuff. After a while we started to realize that what we needed to do was concentrate on me. We all thought that I could be like an enterprise, & we could make money & do the records. We aimed our focus at one thing. And it worked out so much better. Lester now does all the booking, & takes care in making sure everything goes from one point to the other in terms of geography, Terry is in charge of road managing, Larry is making sure that everything stays intact legally & financially. Then Rufus, well, he takes care of our construction company back in Ohio. That's all his baby. And I have just one sister. Her name is Loretta. She works under Rufus. She's a licensed electrician She never cared about singing. She always wanted to be in electronics. Like a tom boy so to speak.
Q : You did a lot of outside productions. Whatever happened to New Horizons?
ROGER TROUTMAN : They did two records with CBS & then their contract dissolved. The band split-up but Bart just came along with me. He decided that he wanted to pursue his musical carrier. He's been working with my group ever since. Very dedicated soldier-type comrade musician.
Q : What about Shirley Murdock?
ROGER TROUTMAN : I did three records with Shirley for Elektra Records & then she became disanchanted. She felt that she wasn't receiving the kind of attention she wanted, because Elektra was so big. So we decided to take her from Elektra & signed her to Warner Bros. That's where she's at now. I'm presently working on her new record at the moment.
Q : Any release date foreseen?
ROGER TROUTMAN : Well, as soon as I can stop playing Germany, Japan & doing interviews... (laughs) No, I'm just working on it slowly, but Shirley is a dynamic singer.
Q : Now how about Bobby Glover?
ROGER TROUTMAN : Bobby actually is featured on 'Love TKO'. But basically Bobby got to the point where he was getting older & he got tired of all the travelling & he just decided, enough is enough, & he's just staying home raising his kids. He's a football coach. In fact he was a football star when I first met him. So he's gone back to his first love. But I'm planning on bringing Bobby back to work for me cos' he's a great friend & a great singer, very dedicated.
Q : Are you still in touch with Ray Davis?
ROGER TROUTMAN : Yeah. I spoke to Ray in November, & he told me that he had just been diagnosed with a throat cancer. Last I heard he was pretty sick. He was singing with the Temptations for a minute (He had taken Melvin Franklin's place after he passed away at the beginning of 1975). It's just a sad thing. I had to hang up the phone. I didn't want to deal with it. I don't want to think about that.
Q : And then the last ones are Dick Smith, Sugarfoot (from the Ohio Players), & Jesse Rae.
ROGER TROUTMAN : Jesse Rae, I'm just not sure. He kinda like vanished. he did a record with me, we had a lot of fun, it was very interesting. As far as Sugarfoot, I'm talking to Sugarfoot right now cos' I want him to do a cameo appearance on my next record. So Sugarfoot will resurface. As far as his solo carreer, I'm not sure. You can never tell what's gonna happen in this business. And Dick Smith is in Washington D.C . Basically his contract dissolved. But producing takes a lot out of you so after doing all these acts, I just sayed to myself « Stop, that's it, I'm through just for a minute, just let it be. » I just needed to regroup. But what's odd is that lately, in the past couple of years, specially right now, a lot of hip-hop artists have been sampling my music. But quite a few have come to the realization that what they would want me to do is for me to do some songs for them. For instance there's a group called E-40 in the Bay Area who approached me to start a record from scratch. They had me produce a song for them called 'Scandalous' which is a take off from ' Computer love'. And it seems to be doing pretty good in the US. And that's something I really expect to get back into. I just looked up & I was back into producing rap groups, instead of them sampling me. And the money comes directly to me (laughs). And Dr Dré & Tupac Shakur approached me a couple of months ago about doing a song with them. And it's exploding right now, doing phenomenal in the US, No 1 video on MTV, & I certainly didn't expect that.
Q : That was one of our questions. Your involvment with rap, from back in the days with EPMD. Any future plans?
ROGER TROUTMAN : Well this is news, you're really gonna be the first ones to print this, because this deal I'm gonna tell ya about, just closed a few days ago. Let me do some history first. I also did a song with Snoop Doggy Dog. Snoop has a group called LBC (Long Beach Crew). I did a couple of songs with them. Then I was approached by Martin Lawrence & these movie producers who were doing a movie called 'Thin line between love & hate', & they wanted me to do a song. So I did a song called 'Chocolate City'.
Q : Is this the Parliament song?
ROGER TROUTMAN : No, nothing to do with Parliament. It's the name of a club in the movie. Then they asked me to do the cover song with a group called H-Town. So I did a remake of 'Thin line between love & hate' with H-Town & Shirley Murdock. And that's just been released in the States, & I understand that it 's only been out a week & it's selling like mad, so it seems like it's gonna be a big hit. And once I did these two songs, the producers asked me to score the whole movie. You know the dramatic parts & stuff... (He starts singing) which is a great challenge. And we just finished that, & Martin Lawrence is very happy with that. So that was the history of what's happening now. What I just did is I put together a deal with Warner Bros. Where I'm gonna do another Greatest hits album, but, it will feature 4 new songs & then the H-Town song will be on this record, probably 'California love' from Tupac also, & the LBC song will be there too. Also there'll be a snippet of everything that I scored. So it'll be kind of a unique thing that you can only get when buying this record with four new songs. We have a lot of hopes. It'll probably have the long versions of 'Do it Roger', 'Grapevine...', some little extras thrown in as incentives. And think about it I may also put some of this stuff too. (He's talking about the CD-Single from the 1976 LP on Soulciety that Genius brought with him) I am also going to do two or three jazz selections on this album Greatest Hits No2. So it'll have a wide variety, which is a good idea, what do you think?!
Q : Great! Specially with the long versions. You have covered a lot of classic soul songs in the past like 'Grapevine...', 'In the midnight hour'. Which other favourite of yours would you like to do in the future? You once said in an interview, you wanted to do 'Knee deep'.
ROGER TROUTMAN : Yeah, I wanna do that. I've come to understand (I'm not a religious freak) that God is the Master, all glory comes to God; so what I'm thinking about right now is do a funky Roger-type version of 'Oh happy days' (He starts to sing a slow groove, imitating a computerized rythm!) (laughs) with the Mississippi Mass Choir on background vocals & a couple of guttural singers in the front like Dick Smith to do the lead part. And I'm also going to do a very funky Roger-type version of 'Livin for the city' (The great hit from Stevie Wonder) with a very hard street type of rapper. (He starts to rap) Both of those songs will be on this next Greatest Hits. But there maybe some more cover versions as well, cos' I've been contacted by another record company to do a whole album of songs, remakes, that would be called 'History of R'n B'. I would put together singers like Mary J. Blige & Shirley Murdock on one song, & Eddie Levert (O'Jays) with Johnny Gill (ex-New Edition) & do classic R'n B songs that everybody would like. You'd like Coolio & Kurtis Blow on a song like 'Beauty is only skin deep'. But I'm dreaming down the road...
Q : How would you explain to someone who sees you for the first time the use of the talkbox? And is it the same device called voice bag, that was used by some guitar players from the 70's?
ROGER TROUTMAN : Yes it is the same thing. It was made famous by Joe Walsh (From the Eagles), and by Peter Frampton, & by Joe Perry (from Aerosmith), & I would describe this thing as 'African robot'! 'A ghetto robot'! (Laughs)
Q : We don't see anymore of these talk boxes, So is there someone who's taking special care of yours, cos' it must be hard to keep it in playing condition?
ROGER TROUTMAN : Good question! Great question! Lester & I studied how the first company made one. We studied what the parts where, & we built our own. So there's nobody to maintain it but us & it is very very difficult to maintain. It's a constant headache! That's why I have two on stage so that I can switch if one breaks down. And there's two mechanisms within each one. So it's definitely a problem.
Q : What aout the 'Max Axxe' which you claimed getting from the Mothership in your song?
ROGER TROUTMAN : Actually it's a true story. This was back in 1978. Bootsy had bought this guitar synthesizer. The first one ever made. Very bulky, very cumbersome, very hard to work, very new! He had bought one, & he couldn't get much sound of it. So he gave it to me as a jpgt, so I took it, I worked it & I wrote this song about it & I called it the Max Axxe, the maximum guitar. And it came from the Mothership. Bootsy gave it to me.
Q : In connection to that, what's the state of your relationship with George Clinton now?
ROGER TROUTMAN : We're the best of friends. It's difficult to elaborate on such a strange situation. I have nothing but love for George. We came from the beginning, and then we had some legal turbulence, but we hashed it all out & got everything straight. It's just difficult in this business. Money money money...
Q : How did Bootsy get involved in producing the first Zapp LP?
ROGER TROUTMAN : Well it's kind of a two-sided story. The first part was we grew up as kids, rivalry in playing the battle of the bands or talent shows. But then the second part, I was playing in a club in Ohio, and Bootsy's brother, Catfish, came to one of my shows. He was so impressed that he went back & told Bootsy «Look, we got to sign this guy up ». So the next day, Bootsy called & asked me if I wanted to come to Detroit & do some recording. Of course I said 'Definitely! ' One thing after another, now you're looking at it. My life is a dream come true. A DREAM COME TRUE. So many blessings from God. To still be in the business after 20 years, & having the whole rap community embracing my sound & recycling it. When I did the stuff with Dr Dré & Tupac, there were a lot of young rappers around, & they were looking mean (He imitates their style of walking!) but they would come up to me 'Hi, Mr Troutman'. That's just a great feeling cos' they've got so much respect for the music, & for what I stand for, & the longevity. It's a rare thing in this business. The artists are like milk in the desert. It's difficult to last long, it's very tricky.
Q : Why was the band called Zapp, since it's your brother Terry's nickname?
ROGER TROUTMAN : One day, I had just finished 'More bounce', I was talking to George Clinton, he said « I've got Parliament, I've got Funkadelic, I've got two groups. Listen, I want to take you & use the name Roger & the Human Body & get you a contract with CBS records. But let's take this record 'More bounce ' & take it to Warner Bros. under another name. » I thought that it was a great idea. I was trying to think of a name. My brother was standing there & his nickname seemed to work with the sound of the music.
Interview by Wonder B & Funkateer Genius. Transcript by Wonder B