Rob Hoston Interview

He spent eight years on the road playing clubs in the Northeast U.S. and Canada. He performed in an original band in the L.A. area for five years. He was a member of several Central New York bands including Brighton Rock, The Eighties, and Forecast. And now he's a member of Windsong. Who is he? He is guitarist/vocalist Rob Hoston.

Q - Are you the guy who put Windsong together?
A - No I'm not. Actually our keyboard player Rhys and our first drummer Brian Meaghan were the guys that put it together.

Q - And when did you come along?
A - I came along back in the summer of 1989. I had just gotten back from California. Brian is a friend of mine from years and years ago. I've known Brian for about 25 years or so. When I got back into town I went to one of the Parties in the Plaza where Brian and Rhys were playing in the band Timepiece. So I ran into Brian and we talked. Brian himself had been back and forth to California. He's out there now. We got to talking about a lot of old times. He asked me what I was doing and I said nothing. I'd only been back in town for probably a couple of weeks. He said well, when we get something together; we might be thinking of doing something else, we'll give you a call. And, he gave me a call, probably a couple of months later. They pulled me in and we got things going.

Q - So, Windsong started probably late 1989?
A - Probably early 1990 I think because they had commitments with their other bands they had to play through. Rhys, Brian and I got together. Our bass player was a gentleman named Ray Kribs who was another old friend of mine. We'd all played around in different bands together. Ray stayed probably for about 3 or 4 months. And then we got the guy we have now who is Mark Tanner. He came in I believe in 1990. So, that's the best I can remember on how things got together. It was a while ago.

Q - What did you have in mind when Windsong started? Did you just want to play around locally on weekends?
A - Yeah. At the time I wasn't sure what was going on around the area 'cause I hadn't been here. There's quite a bit of difference between the music on the East Coast and the West Coast. There's just different things happening. When we got in the band we just kind of got it together. With Timepiece those guys were doing a lot of the oldies. They were doing a lot of early 60's, some 50's, some 70's things. When we first got together, we kind of stayed in that vein. Then as time went along we started to find kind of what we wanted to do.

Q - Did you think of the name "Windsong?"
A - No, actually that was Brian.

Q - Is there any significance attached to the name?
A - From what I can remember, he told me it was a record company that used to be out in California, a small independent record company. If I remember right they used to sign heavy metal bands. We were concerned at the time that the name would sound like a jazz band. With me, it was fine. We just wanted to get the name and get going.

Q - Windsong has quite a stage setup. You've got a con cert size PA, a fog machine, and lights galore. Where do you perform with all that equipment?
A - Not too many places, believe me. (Laughs). That's something we don't utilize too much anymore. In the early 90's we were playing places like Frankie's which was running 5-6 nights a week. So, we had the room to do that stuff. So, we were doing that club and a lot of other clubs around. We did some clubs out of town. We were doing the Holiday Inn in Auburn, and that had a good size stage. So, we used it a lot then. As time went on, we started toning down, and pulling things off the road. So, we kind of scaled down a bit. Actually, we will bring that show out if we know the place will be big enough.

Q - You have two keyboard players. One plays rhythm and one plays lead. Is that how it works?
A - Well, not necessarily. We have a piano player and we have an organ player. The way we utilize it with a lot of the old Motown, is very good to have because the piano player also uses a synthesizer where we can use horns. When we got Lou in the band about 4 years ago, it was a great move, because the instrumentation just lends itself to that type of music. When we got Lou in the band, we thought, what do we like to play? What do people like to do at parties? They like to get up and dance and have a good time. We love playing the old Motown, the old Soul music, we love it. That's how we got into it. When somebody sees the band they know exactly what they're gonna get.

Q - You would agree that it's pretty unusual to see 2 keyboard players onstage, wouldn't you?
A - Yeah. We get quite a bit of that when we play out," Oh, wow, you guys got piano and organ. It's a great sound. It frees me up sometime 'cause playing guitar sometimes I just like to grab the mike and sing. I don't have to worry about our organ player Louie maybe handling the rhythm or if he has to switch over to lead, Rhys, our piano player, can handle the rhythm and I can kind of just lay back, and sing or play a little bit. So, it's a pretty nice thing.

Q - "The Billionaires" is an offshoot of Windsong?
A - Actually that was my idea. We try to keep it a totally different entity from Windsong, because it's blues. Strictly blues. We don't do anything in "The Billionaires" that Windsong does. Blues is another thing we like to play. I grabbed the name Billionaires. That was my idea. With that band you're gonna get the Stevie Ray, Clapton, Buddy Guy, B.B. King, Jeff Healey, Robert Cray. You wouldn't even see that within a Windsong band. So, we really, really try to keep 'em separate. So far it's been okay. We did a Blues Fest up in Oswego. We do Legends from time to time. We have done the Dinosaur. We don't do it a lot because Windsong overshadows it. Windsong plays quite a bit. When we can fill a Billionaire date which is usually in the winter when things kind of slow down with our wedding and party season, then we'll grab some dates and you'll see The Billionaires.

Q - You're from Syracuse?
A - Yeah. Born and raised here.

Q - You spent 8 years on the road?
A - No. That was probably my brother. In '81 I was in a lounge band called The Keys. We got out on the road and started doing the Ramada, Holiday Inn circuit. We stayed together for about two and a half to three years. We used to go around the northeast. That's when there was an abundance of hotels and clubs you could play for a week. Right after that is when I went to California. I was there for 5 years.

Q - If your band was not working all that much when you were in California, how then did you make a living?
A - I worked security at Capitol Records for like three and a half years, at the Tower on Vine Street. That was an experience in itself. You can't imagine the people I met there. It was unbelievable. (Laughs).

Q - Give me some names. I think people would be interested in that.
A - Okay. Let's see: Bob Seger, John Fogarty. Prince came in one night. Larry Graham, Stanley Clarke, David Lee Roth.

Q – Capitol is not the record label for some of these people. What were they doing there.
A – Capitol has three studios there. Actually, one summer David Lee Roth spent the whole summer there, in Studio A which was the biggest studio. That was when he had Steve Vai playing guitar. He was there for like three months. That was really quite an experience. Let’s see, what else? Julio Iglesias came in. Al Jardine of The Beach Boys. He was the only one that came in while I was there, but, they were doing some stuff there. Richard Marx was there constantly, M.C. Hammer. That was the time Capitol signed him. He was really big, so he came in from time to time. McCartney was there one time but I didn’t get to see him. Tina Turner was there. Yoko One. Berry Gordy came in which was very strange, ‘cause Motown was just down the street. I don’t know what he was doing there. But, all those companies interact with each other. David Bowie.

Q – Now when they would come in, did you just say hello to them?
A – With Bowie and people like that it would just be Studio C, which was just used for mixing. I would see ‘em cause I worked the night shift and they would come in and say hi, ‘cause they’d have to get by me before they could get down to the studios. Sometimes they’d stand there and talk.

Q – You can’t hit on ‘em.
A – Right. ‘Cause they knew I was a musician. That was like it or you’ll be gone, the next day, which happened to a couple of people that came in there. You gotta work when you’re out there ‘cause you’re not making any money playing. (Laughs).

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