CA1st videoshootcure

Evolution

Combo Audio existed in five phases.

The first was the union of John and Rick in Champaign around 1980. Never intending to become a live band, their demos began to be played on local stations creating demand for the music to be played in front of an audience.

This led to phase two, where John and Rick enlisted the help of local jazz and world musicians to play the music they had arranged and recorded. It was during this period they crossed paths with Rocky Maffit - who became a member for a short time - and eventually to Tom Broeske, who would become the band's first full time bass player and official third member.

In "the Tom years", phase three, Combo Audio solidified its power trio identity, and began to play shows regularly with occasional live appearances by guests like Rocky Maffit.

Phase four began when Angus Thomas joined the band replacing Tom on bass. It was at this time the band had a top Billboard single and was being courted by major labels, eventually signing with EMI and touring and recording extensively.

Combo Audio's fifth phase was after their deal with EMI was over. Rick pursued painting and other artistic interests. Angus departed temporarily to tour with Miles Davis and Peter Wolf. John continued to write and record with producer / engineer Paul Klingberg and begin work in the surround sound business.

During this last phase, John and Angus reunited, enlisted Chicago drummer Dave Sycott and several back up musicians for a number of shows in Chicago and Champaign. Angus left again for another tour with Miles Davis. John played a few more shows under the moniker of Combo Audio with the other musicians and a replacement bass player.

Combo Audio played its last show under that name in mid 1987.

The band never actually broke up.

Formation

Combo Audio's roots lie in the midwest. Since the late 70's, John Kellogg had played in various hard rock cover bands all over Illinois, Iowa, Missouri and Wisconsin. Weary of the bar scene and playing the music of others, John moved to Champaign, Illinois to pursue writing and recording his own music. At that time, Champaign had a vital, healthy music scene which supported and nurtured original artists.

Rick Neuhaus had also played around the midwest, eventually landing as the drummer for Chicago's Off Broadway for a few years. Upon his departure from Off Broadway Rick also gravitated to Champaign. He and John knew each other but had never worked together. John approached Rick at Putt Putt miniature golf course, where Rick was employed at the time, and suggested a collaboration.

Soon John and Rick were writing and arranging John's songs after hours in a stereo store where John worked by day. From this came the name of the project and eventually the band - a combo formed in an audio store or Combo Audio.

John had recorded a few demos at a local studio which caught the interest of Dana Walden, a local writer and producer who suggested they go into the studio, work on the material together and see what happens. (Dana eventually went on to success as the writer of the hit "How 'bout us" and "Try Again" with CBS recording artists "Champaign.)

A four song demo was completed by John, Rick and Dana. They sent them to local radio programmers. Much to their surprise, local stations picked up the songs put them into rotation and began to get requests for them.

"We're not a band"

Early on, John and Rick did not want Combo Audio to be "a band"; they wanted to make records. It was a collaborative studio project based around John's writing with the goal of a major label deal. But, once their music began to be played on local radio stations, they were approached to perform live. Willa Iglitzen, who was managing of a new emerging hot music club called Mabel's, urged them to play. Mabel's was a former 70's style fern bar and restaurant in Champaign on Green Street that traditionally presented local live folk and jazz and had begun to book "new wave" bands. Problem was, Combo Audio had never performed any of the music in front of an audience; John and Rick had never played in a band together.

John comments:

"When Willa approached us, Rick and I were reluctant at first, but then decided to have a go at it. We had been spending all our time writing songs, rehearsing, arranging and recording them on my little cassette 4 track after hours in the hi-fi store I was working in. Word had gotten around about what we were doing. Dana Walden had heard my work. I had already been in Creative Audio studios with him and recorded one of my songs, "Television Girl". Once Rick and I had teamed up, we went back in and recorded four songs for a demo. We recorded demos of "The Look", "Shortwave", "Boys World" and another version of "Television Girl" and sent it to the local radio stations who began to play them in rotation.

Playing out meant we had to find a bass player and some other musicians. We had no idea what we wanted so we just started asking people we knew and liked to play with us. We met Rocky Maffit around that time. He liked the music and we loved what he did as a percussionist and artist so we invited him to play and he agreed.

We rehearsed for that first gig in the winter in this wood working shop outside of town and it was freezing. I just remember all of us shivering with our little amps and percussion and drums and a tiny PA system. We only had something like 6 songs and somehow we winged it through that first show. Rick and I were surprised at the turnout since the band had never played before - power of radio at the time I guess. People knew the songs, it was amazing. "

Tom years

After a couple of gigs and a few rehearsals, Combo Audio was a becoming a popular live attraction; but still did not have a full time bass player, so it was difficult to commit to any further shows.

John comments:

"I guess we had decided at that point that we would become a "real" band. The ego reinforcement from playing live was addictive - and we both liked the idea of playing gigs again for a living as opposed to working in a hi-fi store or minature golf course. It was different this time since it was our own music. Much more rewarding to play your own music. Most of the guys we had been playing with were jazz players and it did not seem to be working well to keep them involved. Rick and I decided we should try to find a "rock" guy. We heard about Tom and went to see him play."

Tom Broeske was playing with hard rock outfit the Slink Rand Group at the time. It took John and Rick about half a song to realize this was their bass player. They approached Tom, who was clearly ready for a direction change from hard rock. They convinced him to join the band, cut his hair and begin rehearsals - and Combo Audio the power trio with a band identity began to take shape.

Tom was a popular addition to the band and Combo Audio began playing gigs regularly in Champaign, Chicago, and around the midwest rock circuit. While most of the music was guitar based, they added occasional keyboards to the presentation. John's obsession with electronics, effects on his guitar gave the band a sound that some described as a cross between the Clash and Flock of Seagulls. The band now began to record more tracks with Dana Walden producing and form Secret Records. Signing a production deal with Secret, Combo Audio released an early version of "Romanticide" b/w "It's a Crime" as their first single. Within weeks, it was a top single pick on Billboard getting great reviews and was added to more playlists.

Combo Audio became a hot commodity. Soon major labels began to inquire about the band and show up at gigs.
The band grasped the importance of video early on and were interested in the creative opportunities video could bring. With Secret Records, the band shot its first music video of "Romanticide" in a commercial photo studio typically used for shooting automobile ads. This early video was picked up by a Rock America, a cable TV music channel that pre-dated MTV.

While Combo Audio's star was rising fast, there was a certain discontent within the creative side of the band.

John writes:

"The band could not have been experiencing faster success. We were tagged with this techno-pop label which was probably accurate. But I started writing and pushing more in an urban, hard edged funk rock vein. I was listening to a lot of heavy funk grooves and since we were a power trio and my guitar had to cover all the harmonic bases - I wanted to be more aggressive and have a hard rock funk groove take the place of some of the techno-pop sensibilities. I think playing live all the time contributed to this. The harder edge went over well with us and audiences. Tom was a brilliant bass player. He was incredibly melodic and solid and everything he played was exactly right with all the Combo Audio material we had created up until that point. But, it was not where we were headed."

Angus Assault

Angus Thomas was a renowned bass player from Chicago who had a "must see" reputation as a "Jimi Hendrix" on bass. He played in a number of Chicago based bands that played rock and funk. Angus was always the draw; a stand out who overshadowed the rest of whatever band members he was on stage with.

John writes:

"Rick and I knew of Angus and we had seen him play. You could never remember the band he was in or anyone in the band but him. But when they came to town you had to go see them just to see Angus play. He was an absolute monster onstage. He had all these effects on his bass rig, which of course appealed to me. I never heard anyone get sounds out of a bass guitar like that . It was like he was my bass counterpart. He would establish this hard, mean funk groove and then the next minute he was soloing like a lead guitar player."

Angus arrived in Champaign in 1982 to join his family who had moved there. Looking for a gig, he showed up at a Combo Audio show.

John writes:

"Angus showed up at one of our gigs at Mabel's. He had apparently asked around who was the hottest band in town and someone told him to come see us. I walked out of the dressing room during a break in our show and he was standing there. I knew who he was, said hello and told him how much I loved how he played. He looked straight at me and said "you need me in your band." I told Rick about it later. We just looked at each other and a light went on at the possibility. . . "hey, wait a minute . . "
After one rehearsal with Angus, Rick and John knew this was what they had been looking for and it would take Combo Audio to another level.

John writes:

"Letting Tom go was one of the hardest things we ever had to do personally and professionally. We loved him, loved his personality, his playing, his voice. We knew it would upset a lot of Combo Audio's audience. Some people thought we were crazy. Why would we change something that was so successful and going so well? But we had to do it. Rick and I just knew we had to go that direction with Angus."

Angus appeared as the new bass player for Combo Audio very abruptly. One week Tom played, the next week Angus played. While it did upset some of the band's fans, Angus soon won over the band's audience and expanded it. The combination of Rick and Angus' grooves and the harmonic colors John and Angus developed with their effects laden sound led to a trademark Combo Audio sound of "three guys who sound like five".

The band immediately went into the studio with Dana Walden and recorded more material with Angus to submit to labels who were now courting the band. Ken Adamany, who managed Cheap Trick, stepped in and began to manage the band. With Angus aboard, the band quickly evolved to its highest peak and began several years of nearly non-stop touring in concert clubs, university shows and opening or co-billing in large venues with peers like Talking Heads, U2, Billy Idol, Duran Duran, The Tubes, and INXS.

After a courtship from nearly every major label, Combo Audio was signed to EMI/America in late 1982. Their self titled EP "Combo Audio" was recorded at Pierce Arrow Recorders in Evanston, Illinois, just north of Chicago. Dana Walden produced with Ian Taylor (Psychedelic Furs) engineering and mixing, with Paul Klingberg as second engineer. Dana eventually had conflicts as he was also producing and recording with his own band, Champaign and dropped out of the Combo Audio project leaving Ian Taylor to finish producing, mixing and engineering the record with the band at Synchro Sound in Boston. a studio owned by The Cars.

"Combo Audio" with the single "Romanticide" was released in early 1983 after the band finished a trip to Los Angeles. "Romanticide" became a top single pick again in Billboard and received wide acclaim with regular support and airplay in New York, Boston, Chicago, St.Louis and Los Angeles.

With EMI, the band also made a second "Romanticide" video which immediately went into power rotation in a newly launched MTV.

Post EMI

By 1984 Combo Audio had a well received record with a hit single out and had toured extensively to support it; albeit mostly locally in the midwest. But, they hit some roadblocks that were insurmountable. Though their success continued, the infrastructure supporting the band began to fracture as conflicts began over who controlled the band and its assets. It began to get ugly.

The band had a production deal in place with the Secret Records entity, and had a record deal with EMI. Secret Records believed it had rights to the EMI deal as well as John's pending publishing contract that had been offered by Warner Chappell Music. The relationship between band's management and Secret Records became acrimonious, complaints were filed and litigation was threatened on all sides. Understandably, as the potential deep pockets, EMI and Warner Chappell ceased all further efforts on the band's behalf until it had received notice that the conflicts between all parties were resolved.

There was also stress between the band and EMI as the label attempted to pressure the band into recording what they perceived as more "commercial" material which the band absolutely hated.

John comments:

"EMI brought us this terrible techno-pop song called "Nasty Love" which was one of the most banal, stupid and insipid things we had ever heard. The label, however, was convinced it was a hit song and told us they were worried that Toni Basil wanted to record it. They wanted us to do it and and do it fast. It certainly did not remotely resemble Combo Audio material and we were nauseated trying to listen to it much less embarrassed to record it. Why should we record this piece of crap ? We had some 50 songs in our pocket, which we played to great success every week on the road among which were at least 5 proven singles. Why not record those? EMI put the pressure on, but we refused to do it. It was a turning point with EMI. After that they perceived us as being difficult, particularly me."

Tensions between the band, management, the production company, the labels and publishers grew. As the band continued to perform for income, the stand off between the band and EMI became polarized. Combo Audio insisted that EMI release more money to put the band in the studio for another record. EMI insisted the band record and send more material to be considered.

The resolution came in 1985, when the president and entire A&R staff at EMI had either left the label or were exited, leaving the band with no contacts or support within the label. As is often the case, the new regime at EMI trimmed its roster including Combo Audio.

All three members re-located to Chicago by this time and continued performing sporadically.

Weary of the grind and conflict, John left performing on the road again and continued writing and recording new material with close friend and engineer Paul Klingberg.

Angus took an opportunity to tour with Miles Davis as long time friend and bassist Darryl Jones, (now of the Rolling Stones) left to play with a Sting who had begun a solo career.

Rick pursued other interests such as painting and djembe drumming.

Angus and John revived Combo Audio with a live show one more time in late 1986 with a different drummer, David Sycott. They added keyboards, percussionist and back up singers to the line up for a few well received shows. When Angus went off on tour with Miles Davis and Peter Wolf, John hired a replacement for Angus and did a few more shows with the larger line-up under the name Combo Audio in 1987.

Beckoned by opportunities and warner climates; John re-located to Los Angeles in early 1988 to work with Paul Klingberg at Ignited Productions and studios based in Hollywood, and has remained in LA to date.

Where are they now ?

click on a band member's name below :

John Kellogg

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During that latter part of John's Combo Audio days, he had what he describes as a life changing experience when he heard his first surround sound demonstration. That experience sent him on a path to become one of the driving forces behind multichannel audio for the next two decades. His work developing surround audio in the professional and home theater consumer markets led to an association with Dolby Laboratories; first as Director of Marketing and later General Manager of Multichannel Audio & Music Production and Hollywood Content Relations; an association which continues to date as one of Dolby's technology strategists.

The original 5.1 surround music pioneer; John produced the first 5.1 music mixes for the introduction of Dolby Digital on Laserdisc. He has since produced a number of critically acclaimed and best selling surround music releases on DVD over the years for Warner Music Group and Arista Records. His producer credits include creating 5.1 titles for classic hit albums from Chicago, Deep Purple, Emerson, Lake & Palmer and Foreigner, whose 5.1 DVD Audio release of "4" is one of the best selling DVD Audio surround music releases of all time. He has also acted as a 5.1 surround consulting producer for HBO (Britney Spears Live in Las Vegas), Arista and BMG.

He continues creative life writing, recording, mixing and producing projects in his studio in Santa Monica.

In 2005 John founded Jhana Music Group as a new, artist friendly music label with a unique direct distribution concept as an outlet his work and work he continues to do with artists from the U.S. and Europe. Jhana Music Group, which is scheduled for launch in 2009.

John lives near Hollywood with his longtime significant other and his daughter who an aspiring photographer, anthopologist, musician and artist.

More information on Jhana Music Group can be found at: www.jhanamusic.com

Alison Kellogg's photography and artwork can be seen at: www.thepaperghost.com

Rick Neuhaus

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Rick (third from left) and Dahui

Beyond Combo Audio, Rick became a finishing painter and artist in Chicago. His work can be seen all over the city.

He also raised his son who, for a time, became a successful skateboarding competitor.

Rick reports that one day he heard a djembe at a West African drumming performance and it spoke to him. He took up the instrument began performing and later teaching African drumming. He has participated in or led drumming circles all over the globe. Rick is a member of the African drumming ensemble Dahui in Chicago who regular performs or leads workshops and drum circles.

Rick lives in Chicago with his significant other.

More information on Dahui and Rick's drumming workshops can be found at:
http://drummingcircle.com/dahui.htm

Angus Thomas

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Angus and John - 2007

In latter days and post Combo Audio, Angus toured Europe and the U.S. extensively with Miles Davis, Peter Wolf and other artists. Re-locating in Austria and Amsterdam for a time, Angus became a staple in the European jazz club circuit. He continued performing through the 90's and in Chicago with recording artist Nicholas Tremulis. In the late 1990's Angus recorded and released a CD called "The Overdog".

Angus moved to Los Angeles part time in the early 2000's to work and play on television soundtracks like "King of Queens" and other shows and commercials. He continues to perform and work in the studio in LA when not in Europe performing or recording.

He currently resides in Amsterdam when not living inLos Angeles.

Tom Broeske

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Tom Broeske - 2008

After his departure from Combo Audio, Tom went on to a number of successful ventures in including forming Nix86 in the early 80's which became immensely popular in the midwest circuits. Later, Tom joined "Last Gentlemen" and would record and tour extensively across the U.S., Europe and Canada.

Tom has played or currently plays with a number of artists and projects including GinAtomics, the Spanics and others.

Tom lives near Madison Wisconsin with his wife and daughter and regularly pays homage to his bass collection.

He has a great website where you can find out more what he is up to at:

http://tombroeske.squarespace.com/tb-bio/

Rocky Maffit

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Rocky Maffit - 2006

Rocky's brief but brilliant tenure performing and recording with Combo Audio was overwhelmed by his role as a member of 80's pop/R&B phenomenon Champaign. Champaign had two big hits, "How 'bout us" and "Try Again". Rocky toured and recorded with Champaign for several years as a writer, co-producer percussionist and vocalist.
As Champaign's career dissolved, Rocky went on to write with Champaign bandmate and partner, Michael Day. They created another vehicle for their writing called Race.

After the brief stint writing and performing as part Race, Rocky became a solo artist and returned to his roots, his love of percussion instruments and writing. He began to perform and lead percussion workshops and has performed with Rick from time to time.

Rocky also added "author" to his credits. In 2004, he wrote and published "Rhythm and Beauty", a beautiful book on percussion and percussion instruments from around the globe. Rhythm and Beauty was very successful and is in hardcover and paperback multiple printings. It is available on Amazon and in bookstore everywhere.

In 2005 Rocky also wrote, recorded and released his first solo album in years, "Everytown" with writing partner, collaborator and keyboardist Neil Robinson and percussionist Chad Dunn.

John and Rocky have reunited and are working on Rocky's new album which will be released via Jhana Music Group in 2008.

Rocky lives in Champaign, IL with his wife, choreographer Kate Kuper and their nearly adult sons, Jake and Walker.

You can find out more about Rocky and his work, where to buy "Everytown" and "Rhythm & Beauty at
www.rockymaffit.com

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John & Rocky in Malibu - 2006