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Articles Home » 2000 Articles » Hit The Ground Runnin' - 2000 Interview
Hit The Ground Runnin' - 2000 Interview

INTERVIEW: Hit The Ground Runnin' (Jul 2000)
Phillie's best kept secret..
Written By: Gdazegod

This is the 'In The Spotlight' page. The spotlight this time falls on a band coming out of the tri-state area of the US, who have recently decided to get back into the action again. They are called Hit The Ground Runnin'. Now, a bit of background about these guys. They first came to the fore back in the mid 80's, playing and looking the part of a true AOR/melodic rock band. There were a few lineup changes, but by and large, the lineup settled on the following players:

Blair Rumsey - vocals; Paul Piccari - bass; Rob Knauss - keyboards; Alan Augunas - guitars; Craig 'Stick' Soma - drums

Hit The Ground Runnin' were also regular performers on the US TV show 'Dance Party USA' which screened weekly in the States for a good nine years. Their debut 'Sudden Impact' was released in 1988 on a Canadian record label, and the band secured endorsements from many quarters. However, the next two years saw their world disintegrate with a flurry of incidents which resulted in the band folding in 1990. However, the material for their second album which never came to light were lying around and some of the guys decided to put it up on the Internet as MP3's ten years later. As a result, 'Control Yourself' became a reality and has just been released on CD. Vocalist Blair Rumsey and bassist Paul Piccari share some of their history and plans for the future with GLORY-DAZE. (July 2000)

Well.. talk about coming out of the woodwork. Where have you guys been all this time?
Blair: After the split back in 1990, we kind of went our separate ways. Since the business had absorbed our lives for about five years, we had to chill out from the stress we were under at the time. I continued my career singing opera...that's right, Italian opera. Going from rock to opera I know is a drastic change, but it keeps me in shape physically and mentally. I've been through two divorces, but ended up with two beautiful kids that I spent most of my time with these days.

Paul: Yeah, we all tried to keep in touch with each other. Rob Knauss, HTGR's keyboard player, manages one of the biggest music stores (Accent Music) in the state of Delaware. He ended up getting married to his long-time sweetheart, Beth, and having a son. Rob and I worked on a regional television show together called Around Town. It featured interviews and skits with some of the legendary Philadelphia R&B artist such as The Delphonics, Billy Paul, The Trammps, The Tymes, The Intruders, hey I know I might be confusing some people out there with these names, but these guys were the shit back in the 70's. They ruled the Pop and R&B charts.

Dan McKeown our manager and co-producer had produced the show. Anytime he had the chance to pull us together on a project, he didn't hesitate to call. Before taping the live show, we would reminisce about the HTGR days, and I must admit....we cried quite a few times. We were still in shock on how fast our career had ended. Alan Augunas, HTGR's guitarist, got married to his girl Chris, and had a daughter. He continued playing in local cover bands, as well as doing a lot of session work. Alan's one of the best session guitar players around. Craig (Stick) Soma started his own electrical company. He also continued doing session work for me. I've been co-producing with Dan McKeown a project for a label called Philly Sounds. We just completed the new Billy Paul CD as well as The Intruder's (not to be confused with Intruder) new CD. I also front my own swing band 'The Jumpin Jive Review', and spend what little time I have left with my wife Donna and three kids.

Blair, Paul, Rob, Alan, Craig

You guys had a fairly active career during the mid to late 80's, a regular high profile gig, and a recording contract and an album (albeit released out of Canada). The world seemed to be your oyster?
Paul: We were very busy during the 80's. We signed an album deal with an independent label called Autograph Records/BMG in Canada. TV producer Mike Nise and Danny McKeown had gotten the deal for us at MIDEM, Cannes, France. We were appearing regularly on Mike's national dance show 'Dance Party USA', on the USA network. The show gave first time TV appearances to acts like Madonna, Duran Duran, Bon Jovi, The Hooters, and Hit The Ground Runnin'. Autograph/BMG had us do a complete radio promotion tour from one tip of Canada to the other. Our single from the 'Sudden Impact' album 'Over And Over' was getting heavy rotation. Our video was running on Much Music, and the endorsement deals were flying in, (Labatts, Studer, Vester Guitars, Mapex Drums. etc) yeah, things were going too good..

You all come out of the Tri-state area, Delaware, Philly, New Jersey; At the time that you were going strong, there were a truckload of other wonderful AOR bands reading like a who's who coming out of the same area. I mean, bands like Heavens Edge, Network, Prophet, Danger Danger, Tradia (whom I compared your material to in the review). Were there any that you guys worked with, or played on the same bill/show etc and what did you think of the scene back then?
Paul: Sure, we know the guys from Heavens Edge and Network. Great Bands! As a matter of fact, I recorded some of Network's preproduction tracks in my home studio Pyramid. We all played the same clubs and hung with the same people. We also hung out with Cinderella, Bon Jovi, Britny Fox and Bricklin, but when we landed the production deal with Nise Productions, we started doing more studio and television gigs, instead of the clubs, so we kind of lost touch with everyone.

Considering this album was made in 1989, how do you feel it's stood the test of time eleven years on?
Blair: We use to talk from time to time about all the songs that we wrote for the 'Control Yourself' album through the years. Although we still have the 24 track masters, we thought that the material was dated and wasn't worth releasing. When we split ten years ago, Nirvana had just broke into the music scene, thus was the birth of grunge, so in our minds, our dream of releasing 'Control Yourself' would never happen, so we didn't chance putting the budget into mixing our demo tapes. The master tracks that we recorded for The Music Group weren't worth pursuing. We didn't like the direction they were taking us. When Paul posted the tracks on MP3, it was supposed to be kind of a closure for us, as if it was actually released, a fantasy album, just to tap into MP3 every so often and play the tracks for our own personal enjoyment. We didn't imagine that in three months, we would be selling large number of units independently. The term 'AOR/Melodic Rock' is very new to us. If we had known that people from all over the world loved HTGR, we probably would have released the product earlier. But, it's all about timing. We have to credit Nicky & Gabor from Strutterzine for discovering our MP3 site. They did a great review on us, and from then on our whole lives have changed.

I notice on your site some of your earlier photos. An extreme 'hair' band. It's no wonder the chicks liked you guys! (ha ha). Do you have any opinions on the decline of melodic rock, and the supposed anti-thesis of all things melodic and anti 'hair metal' by some factions of the industry?
Paul: It's all coming back again. You know a lot of people really miss that era. It was all feel good music! There's a recent surge of radio stations in the USA that are popping up playing the 80's type format, and the bands from back then are now on the charts once more (Bon Jovi, Def Leppard, Aerosmith), and it's all because the people who bought the stuff back then, are a little older now and have the money to buy the new High Tech digital systems for their cars and homes. They don't want to hear Rage Against The Machine. They would rather hear 'Panama' by Van Halen cranking through, or Boston's 'Long Time' or how about some Kansas? As for the hair, yeah it got me laid (and Dan McKeown still has the video's to prove it). The groups today all have a natural look, and that's OK, it's easier to deal with. I spent more money back then on conditioners, extensions, colouring. Jeez, that's where all the profits went!!

It's funny that some scribes sympathetic to AOR and melodic rock continue to take a dig at the scene, using words like 'contrived', 'holding onto past glories' etc, and even digging at websites like us who try to support bands such as yourselves. I'm sure that from your perspective it's not like that at all?
Paul: People are entitled to their opinions, but Melodic Rock hasn't died at all. The only difference with today's music is the musical ability of today's groups. In the 80's, you had virtuoso players like Eddie Van Halen, Steve Vai that you had to keep up with. The rock of today is good stuff, but most of the guitar players know about three to four chord structures, and that's it. They write great songs, but they lack the big productions values we set out to accomplish. Yesterdays melodic rock was way ahead of it's time. Thanks to a great webzine like GLORY-DAZE, (by the way George, thank you for the great review) and the Internet, the major labels that dictate to the consumer what is hot today, are now waking up to the diversity of the music that people want to hear. That's why there's big money in the reissues and new product from the bands of the 70's and 80's.

Talking of 'coming out of the woodwork', when your pre-production demo's came out of the magic hat, and were posted onto MP3.COM, this must have surely raised some eyebrows from some interested spectators? Let me guess, first cab off the rank was Strutter'Zine?
Paul: I posted the unmastered, non-mixed, references tapes that sat in Danny's sock drawer. Then I created an email address for the MP3 site only. I basically forgot about it, until one night I just happened to check it out of curiosity and my mailbox was full, didn't know why, but it was full. People were trying to get a hold of me wanting CD copies of the album, and not the poor quality MP3 copies. Now I still don't know what the MP3 copies sound like, but there were distributors actually buying them and re-selling them, as well as our debut album 'Sudden Impact'!!! No shit, this blew my mind. I called Dan up to tell him what was happening. He made up a form letter basically telling people we don't have the real CD copies for sale, just go buy the MP3. We sent out over 150 responses. We got back another 200 responses the following night. No shit, the retailers wanted to send us money, even before the product was pressed up. Dan told me to go open a bank account and contact a lawyer to incorporate. We're resurrecting Hit The Ground Runnin' again! This all developed because of the review Nicky & Gabor from Strutterzine had done. We were still new to all of the Internet webzines and magazines, but all we knew was that there was a market out there for our product and people wanted it immediately. We had fans from Canada contacting us that had vinyl copies of our debut album, and were selling them for $50.00 a piece!! No shit, you have to imagine how good this made us feel. So don't ever think that these webzines don't create any impact to the industry. We are pure examples of what can happen. We owe it all to Strutterzine and the other webzines for making it happen once more!

That's very reassuring to all our sister webzines out there. Onto the current tense then. The band have gotten back together again. How does it feel musically to start cranking out those tunes now, compared to how it was many years ago?
Blair: Danny McKeown had contacted Mike Nise who owns the studio where we did our last two albums, and asked if we could cut the new product there. Mike's a great guy, like a father to us. There wasn't even a second thought. Mike has been one of our biggest fans. Even when we were on tour, he would take time out from his busy schedule just to be with us. When all of the members met in the studio last month to start recording, it was like we never left. It was all routine to us. It feels good, especially when you know there's people out there that appreciate it!

There is talk of a new third album some time in the future. Is the band going to be directly involved in the production or will you outsource it to someone else?
Blair: Paul Piccari and Danny McKeown are so creative, and have been producing product for a long time now. That's why they were asked to produce the Philly Sound Project by stars that have sold millions of units back in the 70's. Since the HTGR product is now in demand, I couldn't see anyone coming in and making a difference. The new CD that we're now recording has big expectations from a lot of people, and we're not going to let anybody down. I feel more comfortable working with my brothers!

The lyrics and content for 'Control Yourself' were pretty much inspired by events of the day, and in some cases, on the day itself! Is the band inspired to resurrect this approach, or perhaps apply a more mature direction considering we've all moved on in life some ten years?
Paul: We've been through a lot of changes through the years, good changes. The extensive partying stopped, and now we have the responsibilities of having our families to support, but we are still rockers at heart. When we started getting together last month for our writing sessions, the punch was still there, but new concepts for tunes were created. I don't want to hype it, but this CD will top anything we've ever done. We have some surprises in store!

Hit The Ground Runnin' is an archetypal 80's melodic rock band. Does that mean the formula ain't broke, and nothings gonna change third time around (third album that is)?
Paul: Blair's vocals are stronger than ever. Alan's guitar chops are so outstanding as well as Rob's writing and keyboard abilities. 'Stick' is still one of the strongest drummers I've ever worked with. You put it all together and you still get Hit The Ground Runnin'. Of course there was a certain sound used back in the 80's, but today we are using a real eight piece horn section, and backup vocals by our Philly friends. This together creates a stronger sound, but it will still be HGTR. Mike Nise once said to me, 'a hit song is a hit song, it doesn't matter who records it, as long as the hooks stick with you when the records over!' We've always kept this logic when we write. Anyone that listens to a HTGR CD finds themselves humming or singing one of our songs when you least expect it. They get to be addicting!

Onto a different note. Who in particular are the guys in the band listening to that they consider to be good at this present time?
Blair: We like all kinds of music. Everything from swing, jazz rock, r&b, and also bands like Yes ,Genesis, Kansas, and Saga.

You've had great press from everyone who's reviewed the album. That's a great sign. Very similar to the new Brian McDonald effort. The positive vibes make it all worthwhile then?
Paul: George, we appreciate how everyone has accepted us again. What's even more surprising is how our CD 'Control Yourself', which is made up of strictly demo's, is getting exceptional ratings. We have been listening to a lot of product by our comrades out there, referenced by your reviews, and are really impressed with what we hear. Melodic Rock has come a long way, and is on the uprise again. But whether it's yesterdays Melodic Rock or today's Rock, a hit song is still a hit song!

Well best of luck, and we're hoping that Hit The Ground Runnin' go that extra mile, and that some interested parties perk their nose up and offer you a deal. A big cheers and thanks for the time and effort in putting this together. GLORY-DAZE wishes you well!

The website to check out HTGR is at:

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