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Lebocat - 2003 Interview with Joey Cimino

Interview with: Joey Cimino from Lebocat
Written By: Gdazegod
Date: 23 Feb 2003

The history of San Francisco's Bay Area is scattered with rock and roll dreams through the years, and through the region. Whether it be Vallejo in the north, Sausalito around the Harbor, or further south to San Jose or Santa Cruz, the locale has an impressive history of successful artists. The Bay Area club scene was also a massive launching pad during the sixties, seventies and into the eighties. Some traversed its pillars to the very top, while others beavered away further down the ladder, enjoying playing the music without achieving the trappings that some of other fortunate or lucky acts did. One of those bands plying their trade at the time were The Tops. A basic sounding name it might be, but these guys rocked the south end of the Bay Area all during the eighties. The man at the heart of it all was drummer Joey Cimino. A man who has played with countless artists and on countless gigs, and sessions - and who has the credibility to mix and affiliate with the big names on the melodic rock scene throughout San Francisco.


Well Joey has taken The Tops and metamorphosed the band into - LEBOCAT. Their latest album 'Flo's Barbershop' was released late last year in 2002 and we were fortunate enough to be one of the first sites to give the band a helping hand with their profile. Considering their indie status, Lebocat have done very well to achieve an extended profile in such a short space of time. Taking time out to talk to us, Joey Cimino joins us from Cupertino, CA. Welcome Joey, it's a pleasure to have you onboard! 'Thank you very much George for taking the time to ask about Lebocat.'

Firstly Joey, what on earth is a Lebocat, or mores the point, how did the band come up with the name? 'Here's a clue. Spell Lebocat backwards' he says. 'Jonathan came over the house one day and said jokingly how about we name the band Lebocat? George, by now I'm sure you've figured it out. Just for the record, I hate Taco Bell but the name just kind of grew on us.'

Venturing back in time a little, Joey elaborates a bit more about The Tops, and their history throughout the South Bay area. 'I formed The Tops back in 1981 and we were doing the local club scene through the late 80's opening for national acts like Pat Travers, The Tubes, Hurricane, Bullet Boys, Foghat, Mr Big, The View, Precious Metal and others. We became one of the biggest South Bay bands at that time. Then the music went into Grunge and it totally destroyed the rock scene everywhere. I would like to add that I think Grunge is the worst error of music we've ever had. A bunch of wannabe musicians. says Joey.

Just having interviewed Steve Rice of Eddie And The Tide, it was interesting to hear about his recollection from those glory-days of the overall Bay Area, even though they were based over the hill in Santa Cruz. I'm sure Joey has similar recollections from those days. 'The music scene in the SF Bay Area in those days was probably the greatest on the planet' recalls Joey. 'There were a lot of clubs, all kinds of music, both national and local, all nights of the week. I used to go to Winterland in San Francisco every weekend and saw just about every band you can think of. The Tops were one of the few South Bay bands to do very well over in Santa Cruz and Monterey Peninsula. Back in those days we had the time of our lives.'

As a drummer you gotta start somewhere, though in Joey's case ironically enough, he didn't start out doing damage to a set of chopsticks or Mom's knitting needles as most kids are prone to doing around the house. 'I actually started playing guitar at the age of 7 or 8 and then started playing drums when I was 12 years old and have continued on from there' says Joey. 'I started out playing single kick drums. Don Brewer of Grand Funk Railroad is my main influence. Then through the years, Prairie Prince of The Tubes got me started playing double kick drums. And singing and playing just came natural. I'm sure that playing the guitar helped. I write all the songs on the guitar' he adds.

And of course, Joey is a jack of all trades. Writer, drummer, singer, producer, and no doubt the coffee maker and biscuit provider too. I asked Joey which he preferred the most, coffee and biscuits excluded of course. 'Drumming and singing comes first, although I have fronted The Tops for a short time singing and playing rhythm guitar with Jonathan on lead guitar and vocals.'

Joey Cimino - drums, vocals

Well.. The Tops have now gravitated into Lebocat. Obviously Joey and the guys are quite comfortable with the concept of being a power-trio. 'Yes, no keyboards in this band! We come to rock.. like the old days' says Joey with fire in the belly.

Joey also manages to tell us about his 4 and 6 stringed band mates. A couple of fairly talented dudes who bring an abundance of talent and resources to the Lebocat dining table.

'Jonathan Reyes is one of the most talented guitar players I've ever worked with. The guys just shreds - and he's got great feel for the kind of music we're doing. Plus, he's a great lead singer. You will be hearing more of his songs coming up on the next album. John and myself have been playing together off and on for 18 years now. He's a master.

Jonathan Reyes - guitars, vocals

As for Martin 'Fat Cat' Morales - only one word describes Martin - groove. A lot of bass players can't find the groove, and it's hard to play in a trio because everything has to be right on the money. And Martin's got all the money. He knows how to kick ass and rock. One phenomenal bass player for sure.'

Martin 'Fat Cat' Morales - bass

Lebocat have their own CD 'Flo's Barbershop' released on All Class Records - and so far the reviews from some of the top sites have been very good. I'm sure the guys are very pleased with that considering its indie status. 'Yeah, we've been getting real good reviews so far. Since we're a self-release we have to rely on our music to sell us. We don't yet have a label to help push our name out there. We just won the AOR Dreamzones Unsigned Bands contest (out of Europe). We got more votes than in any of their previous contests so that was a good shot in the arm for us, since that was the fans voting.'

Lebocat - Flo's Barbershop

By the way, is there an actual Flo's Barbershop on the map somewhere in Cupertino or San Jose? 'Yes there is. It's in San Francisco on Potrero Hill. It belongs to Florindo Cimino, my Dad and it's been there for 50 years and he's still going strong. Appointment only. That is a picture of him on the back of the CD, standing in the door way. That's Mr All Class!'

I suppose the interesting thing from an outsiders perspective is the input of Robert Berry and Eric Martin - both well known names in melodic rock circles. Joey explains how that came about. 'Playing locally around the area here, all the musicians hung out together. Robert Berry and I have been friends for years. The CD 'Flo's Barbershop' was recorded at Soundtek Studios, which is owned by Robert. We've been recording there for years. Eric and I became friends back in the days of 415 (early band of Eric Martin, managed by Journey mentor Herbie Herbert), back around 1984. I've played numerous gigs with Eric in 415 filling in for their drummer. We became friends then and have stayed friends ever since. Before we went in to record I called Eric and asked if he wanted to come down and sing on some tracks. And he said 'I'd love to!' So he came down and spent the day in the studio with us. And Robert had already offered to do tracks. It's always nice having good friends. Two great guys.'

The next question looks at the band's gigging status. Does the band get out often to play live? 'Not too much right now because we're spending most of our time working up the next Lebocat record' says Joey. 'We'll keep you posted on that. Eric and Robert both want to be on the next one too.'

Joey says the state of the club scene in the general Bay Area is dismal. I asked whether he thought the Bay Area might return to its golden days of the past (Filmore live gigs, Bill Graham etc). 'No', according to Joey, because there is too much big money and bullshit in the industry.' As a musician, Joey's been around long enough to see the changes and trends in music. What is gonna be the next big thing to happen in popular music? 'I'm hoping straight-ahead rock is coming back' he says. 'We need to get back to the basics. With good singing and good playing.'

Lebocat currently has representation through and CDBaby, though they are planning on hooking in through other online distribution portals. 'Yes we certainly are, our CD is now available through AOR Heaven in Germany too' says Joey.

And the future will hold some targets for Joey and Lebocat, probably not the same sort of targets our friends in the current Bush Administration had in mind. 'We're gonna record the 2nd Lebocat CD and then hopefully get out and tour.'

Do you have any final words/thoughts you'd like to share with our readers Joey? 'Thank you everyone for all the love and support that we are getting from fans around the world. Hope to see you all soon. Keep on rockin! Let's rock, let's roll, moving all together leaving no one alone.'

Next time you're in the Bay Area, check out 'Flo's Barbershop' courtesy of Lebocat (or is that TacoBel?). Thanks to Joey Cimino. Also to Sue Cimino for the photos.


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