Monday, June 2, 2008

In the News: Roger Anthony aka 'Brains'

Electric Roger from Brains guy to Brutal Jammers front man
Published May 31, 2008
By Iana Seales (Stabroek News)

Roger HassellThe cool aura, electric vibes, raw energy and identifiable voice that defines Brutal Jammers front man Roger Hassell is dished out so often in the local entertainment circuit he has become the poster child of consistent, quality entertainment and is still slogging it out on local soil.

His laid-back attitude readily exposed by the casual clothing on and off stage; the unfussy tone in his voice and that particular facial expression that says, “What’s the big deal?” sort of completes the package of who Roger appears to be.

But without hesitating or attempting to put into words exactly who he is, Roger tells The Scene in an interview on Thursday that he is the same guy whether on stage, in the studio, on the street. There is simply no difference.

But is this the same guy who appeared in those Brains Watch World television advertisements playing the role of a dumb shopper? It is, and the difference a few years made was tremendous. Roger went from Brains employee creating and appearing in ads for the business, to lead vocalist in Brutal Jammers — the top band in the country by any measure, though bookings alone sets it apart.

“I love what I do and have come a far way since Brains. People actually call me Brains, sometimes people I have never seen before. My story is probably the same as everyone else’s, hard work and commitment,” the entertainer says.

He is in one of the studios at Swansea on Waterloo Street where his band and work is based sitting mere inches away from his equipment. Though focused on the interview his eyes wander every few minutes in the direction of the equipment as if his work was silently calling.

Roger admits that work consumes him pointing out that Brutal Jammers is always rehearsing in an effort to stay on top and to perfect its craft. Daily hours are scheduled for rehearsals and he is so serious about every session he rarely misses any.

“It is not play at all and Brutal Jammers can get way much better, we need only practice and keep things going without slacking up. There is always room for error but if we stay focused then the possibility reduces,” Roger said.

He mixes no words about how good Brutal Jammers is, something he credits to the band’s appeal to audiences of all age and its ability to do covers very well. Additionally, he says, the band carefully selects its repertoire for every show and practices within that particular limit. Sometimes Brutal Jammers is booked twice a month and other times, it ends up doing four shows. This, he says, requires that band members put in the hours.

TV to Front man
While still in school Roger and group of friends formed a singing group and performed under the name, ‘Heartbeat’. The group had about eight songs in its collection, the most popular being an R&B number titled, “I’m Sorry”. After three years, the group lost its heartbeat and broke up. Roger says he found employment with Brains Watch World during that time and remained with the store for about three years. He recalls that one day the owner approached him saying that he wanted to do an advertisement. Roger was asked to come up with an idea and after running into local comedian Habeeb Khan, he had an idea and moments later, an ad. The ad was a hit among local audiences and similar ads followed. Roger was officially the ‘Brains guy’.

But Roger teamed up with the Fireclan band while working at Brains and got experience performing at shows. Three years after working with Brains he left to join Brutal Jammers and had also made the decision to leave Fireclan.

When he joined Brutal Jammers Roger says the potential was there for him to grow and for the band to get stronger. It took a few months and soon enough things started falling into place. He says people started booking the band often and crowds started responding in unexpected ways.

Brutal Jammers now plays at almost every show in the country with Roger leading the group in his usual, electric way. The band has played at Crop Over in Barbados and also in Jamaica. Though he loves teaming up with other band members to perform, he points out that solos give him the opportunity to really dig deep and show that individuality that defines him.

Roger reveals that he has around nine songs of his own, one of which is now receiving airplay – “Like that”. He says the song has an R&B flavour to it but points out that he also does reggae, soca and dancehall.

He is also part of a recently formed group called “Cowboys” that also includes local singers, Island Man, Mystic and Bishop. The group already has two songs out, “She want me” and “She rob me” that are creating quite a buzz. Roger hastens to add that no particular female was in mind when the songs were written.

In terms of collaboration, he is eyeing possible projects with some of the best in local music - Timeka Marshall, X2 and Malo.

One thing is for sure, Roger will be carrying the Brutal Jammers band right into Carifesta and beyond. Though he would not put a timeframe on it, he says that eventually he will leave to start a solo career. For now, he is comfortable, satisfied and looking forward to rocking local shows in the way only he knows how.

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