by Mika Rawson
Randall Rospond is one of Maui’s busiest musicians. In fact, we can barely keep up with him between all of his various sets, Mana’o Hana Hou Radio show and playing with his band Haiku Hillbillys. He’s a hard-working musician, but wasn’t someone who knew on Day One that he wanted to be on stage. I caught up with him at Monkeypod Kitchen in Wailea before one of his recent gigs.
MAUITIME: Why did you become a musician?
RANDALL ROSPOND: I just kind of naturally wandered into the entertainment business. In high school, I worked with a lot of music and sound. It was a natural progression from there. I did a lot of stage and sound managing, and worked with various bands and artists. I had an inspiration with spirit. I was first a lead singer in a rock a band.
MT: As a child growing up, did you know that you would become a musician?
RR: No, had no idea. I didn’t train for it or anything. Nature had it in mind and it just happened. It was a big surprise to me.
MT: Is your family musical?
RR: My father played harmonica and I play harmonica to this day. I still own his harmonicas that he had when he was alive. My mother was an enormous music fan so she molded my ear from country, to Elvis, to the Beatles. My aunt was big in the record business so she sent early releases of Beatles albums and as a group of young folk it was very inspiring to listen to.
MT: How did you get your start?
RR: It was a while ago. I formed a band right out of university with some buddies from high school. The drummer went to university with me. We got together in Canada in 1982 and just started rehearsing and playing.
MT: Do you work with other bands or are you on your own?
RR: I work with anybody who’s interested. People hire me to record if they want guitar parts. I just did some work with a female artist. I also have a trio that I do work with and another band called the Haiku Hillbillys, which I formed 17 years ago.
MT: How do you describe the music you play?
RR: I started out as a rocker because my first band was called Dead Flowers. We were a raunchy rock ‘n roll band. But the songs I wrote were more sensitive and singer/songwriter-style. I ended up playing the folk circuit in Canada for years, touring around playing just about everywhere.
MT: What are some of your favorite songs to perform?
RR: I love playing original music. I’ve been writing for over 30 years. It was very inspiring for me to play something close to my heart. In the industry it’s hard to make a living unless you’re famous already for your music. I’ve been blessed on Maui with great venues that have let me play original music. People can get upset when you don’t play to popular songs and want you to play specific things to please the audience.
MT: How did you find the time to release two CDs?
RR: Randall Rospond: The Legendary Unknown started as a solo troubadour album–very intimate–and grew into a full blown Haiku Hillbilly and friends production that took over three years to complete. It released in September 2012. The Randall Rospond Trio–Recorded Live at Manao Radio Studios July 18, 2012 was a live broadcast that was recorded and just sounded like an honest representation of my Trio’s live improvisation. I was moved to release it especially given that the previous CD was taking so long in production.
MT: Who or what inspires you to play and create music?
RR: I’m really inspired by a lot of the people who I listened to when I was young, like Beat Poets–they’re actual poets from the ’40s, ’50s and ’60s, not a band. All the great songwriters like Bob Dylan, Patti Smith, the Grateful Dread and Jim Morrison. I also get inspired by a lot of local musicians, bluegrass and folk music. The music festivals on Maui are also really inspiring, like the Slack Key festivals.
MT: Who are your favorite slack key artists? Do you play any Hawaiian or slack key?
RR: I have played slack key and open tuning music in the past but have recently focused on standard tuning songs. I actually have been looking forward to remembering and bringing out my original open tuning songs in my regular weekly performances. I’m a huge Gabby Pahinui fan, as well as Barry Flanagan/Hapa, George Kahumoku, John Cruz and pretty much ALL Hawaiian music. I tend to be more of a fan than attempt to perform as a pure “Hawaiian artist,” per se. I feel the sound, beauty, tone and vibe of Hawaiian music totally influences my original music.
MT: Aren’t you busy enough playing music all over the island? Why do a radio show?
RR: I’ve been an enormous music fan since childhood during which time I met and hung out with my hero: the legendary Wolfman Jack. It’s a natural extension of my passion for an extremely varied taste in music and it ties in nicely with my lifestyle as a working musician/singer/songwriter.
My radio show is on 91.7FM, Manaoradio.com. It airs from 10am to 2pm every Saturday except the second of each month. I play a vast range of music from Bob Dylan to Frank Zappa to Jazz Lounge to bluegrass to Billie Holliday to the Grateful Dead to the Clash to movie theme songs and dialogue excerpts. I have been in radio for approximately 20 years, beginning in Toronto, Canada with a show that featured local performers that I recorded live.
MT: Where do you play on the island?
RR: I play every Tuesdays at beach bums in Ma’alaea 5-8 pm, every Friday at the South Shore Tiki Lounge 4-6pm, every Saturday at Monkeypod Kitchen in Wailea 7-9pm, every first Thursday at Fleetwoods in Lahaina 6:30-9:30pm and every second Thursday at Flatbread in Paia 5:30-8:30pm. I add gigs all the time for the band or for myself. I will be playing with the Haiku Hillbillys at Charley’s Restaurant and Saloon at 9:30pm on Aug. 29.
Albums available at Randallrospond.com