30 Seconds with Roger

By Bob Bahr

Roger (Troutman) and Zapp's December 27 performance at the Palladium was an entertainment spectacle. Few acts out there try so hard (and succeed so well) in giving the people what they want, all done without undue sacrifice of integrity or musicianship.

This giving attitude comes from Roger, as a short post-concert interview revealed. Roger said he approaches his show with a strong sense of owing the audience a good time.

That's a responsibility, the handsome entertainer said. They're really trying to escape the whole humdrum of their lives -- all their problems . . . I want them to have a good time, Roger said.

Too many performers . . . they dominate and make the fans feel like they're not important.

Roger is modest about his talent, but the man has more grooves than Chet Baker's face. Some guys make psycho-rock, or whatever. I make chitlin funk, he said deadpan. It's geared to poor black people. It's geared to my people. I've always been very urban. The majority of my albums are sold to people who eat chitlins.

Which is not to say that the music is inaccessible for people of other backgrounds. Whites may be touched by Roger's writing skills in a more subtle way: Zapp grooves are often sampled by rappers who enjoy considerable crossover success. A few weeks after Roger's newest single, (Everybody) Get Up, hit the airwaves, a dj at WGZB in Louisville predicted that the groove from the song would be sampled on a rap album within a year. Roger has no trouble with that prospect

.One, I'm flattered, really, he said. Two, it recycles it and draws attention to older music..and three, the guys who make it are true artists.

He and his band raid other songs as well. That night at the Palladium, his band Zapp appropriated the current hit O.P.P. by Naughty By Nature and changed it to Z.A.P.P. The tongue-in-cheek theft was tremendous fun.

Roger has the ability to rejuvenate cover song. Made distinctive through his use of a vocal synthesizer (the kind Peter Frampton used on his live album in the '70s), Roger makes the song his own. He says he has no problem performing covers with the same zeal that he gives to originals.

If an entertainer has enough talent, he can touch a lot of people by taking a cover song that is very popular and doing something with it, Roger said. People can really relate to it, and it makes the fans more relaxed. Again, Roger's dedication to his fans comes out.

Louisville fans are notoriously tough, never hesitating to throw pennies or boo a mediocre performance. Roger has come through here at least five times, so he's familiar with the hard-nosed attitude of this town's concert-goers.

The Louisville crowd is more sophisticated, he nodded. More intelligent, more aware. They know what they are paying for, so they expect the best.