Rob Fahey

Rob Fahey Puts the Pieces Together

By David Zeiler

(Written in April 1992 for the Evening Sun, never published)

This time he has a plan.

After some 15 often-trying years in the music business, local rock favorite Rob Fahey has concluded that the best way to play the rock 'n' roll game is on his own terms.

With his year-old band, the Pieces, Fahey has released a 10-song album, "Breaking and Entering," on compact disc and cassette.

Instead of hustling demos to record company representatives, as he had done for years, the "30-something" Fahey decided simply to record and release an album himself on a local label called Milehouse Records.

So now, finished product in hand, Fahey intends eventually to interest a major label in a distribution deal. That way, the label takes virtually no financial risk and Fahey retains full artistic control over his recordings. Experience has taught him that the traditional approach of trying to land a major label deal is fraught with hazards and rarely works.

And Fahey has had plenty of experience. The Baltimore native -- he grew up in Rosedale -- has been playing in bands since he was in Overlea Senior High School. [M1]His first significant band, called Wizard, mostly covered songs by other groups. [M0]But shortly after he started attending classes at Essex Community College, Fahey began to grow more interested in writing his own material.

"In college, I was taking engineering courses, sciences and stuff like analytical geometry," Fahey said. "I got sick of it. In my second semester I switched to music courses and was so much happier. Then I got into music theory and composition."

The guitarist was eager to apply what he was learning in the classroom, and concentrated more and more on writing songs.

"I started to get recognition for the songs I was writing and got into it deeper and deeper, until I couldn't get out," Fahey laughed.

In 1976 Fahey formed a band called Hollins Ferry to perform his proliferating catalog of material. Hollins Ferry became quite popular and nearly was signed by rock mogul Don Kirshner.

But the Kirshner deal never materialized. Hollins Ferry released an album locally before dissolving in 1978. Meanwhile, Fahey was earning his bachelor's degree in music theory and composition from Towson State University.

It was in Hollins Ferry that Fahey developed his songwriting style, which has remained basically the same: a progressive, Beatle-like pop sound with strong melodies and thoughtful, if romantically oriented, lyrics. With just guitar, drums and bass, however, the Pieces have the most guitar-oriented sound of any of Fahey's earlier bands, particularly his best-known band -- the Ravyns.

The Rise and Fall of The Ravyns

The Ravyns, formed in 1979, ranked with such bands as Bootcamp and Face Dancer as one of Baltimore's most popular original-playing groups of the early to mid-1980s.

The band was a sort of local supergroup, joining Fahey with several members of another popular Baltimore band of the late '70s, Climbadonkey. Pieces drummer John Tracey was one of the former Climbadonkey members.

After breaking up briefly in 1981 and losing Tracey and guitarist Bobby Hird to Crack the Sky, the Ravyns re-formed. The band had a single released nationally on Elektra/Asylum Records in 1982, "Raised on the Radio," which was included on the soundtrack to the film "Fast Times at Ridgemont High."

In 1984, the Ravyns released a self-titled album on MCA Records. By the time the album was released, most of the team that had signed the Ravyns left MCA, resulting in very little promotion for the record. It sold 30,000 copies nationwide, significantly short of the 50,000 most labels desire as a minimum for debut bands.

The Ravyns split in 1986, partially because of problems with MCA -- the first album's poor showing led the label to decline the option for a second album -- and partially because of management problems.

In 1987 Fahey formed a showcase band, Word of Mouth, that "fell into the club band trap" of playing out all the time and doing virtually nothing else before splitting in 1989.

In December 1990, Fahey assembled the Pieces by stripping down a second showcase band to its essentials: himself, Tracey and bassist Mark Easley.

Rob Fahey: Home Is Where the Heart Is

After all this time and all these bands, hasn't Fahey ever thought enough is enough?

"There have been times when I've had thoughts of quitting," he admitted. "But always in my heart I feel I have too much to offer to giFahey in the studiove it up.

"I know I have a lot of fans who have been following me for years," Fahey continued. "I'll have these thoughts and then somebody will come up to me and say, "You're my favorite.' That gives me the spark to keep going, and it happens a lot."

Fahey also has chosen to remain in Baltimore, despite the conventional wisdom that says rock musicians must move to New York or Los Angeles to "make it."

"That doesn't always work out," Fahey said. "I've seen a lot of people go to L.A. to make it in the music business and end up as full-time messengers or delivery people."

Fahey said he prefers staying in an area like Baltimore and building a base of fan support at the local and regional level. And then there's his family to consider.

Fahey and his wife of seven years, Anita, have three daughters: Jessica, 12, his stepdaughter; Caylynn, 6; and Elizabeth, 13 months. After having visited Los Angeles several times, Fahey concluded it was "not a real good place to raise your kids."

So here he has remained, preparing for yet another shot at rock 'n' roll success with the Pieces.

Going the Extra Mile(house)

In spring 1990, just a few months after they had formed, the Pieces began work on the "Breaking and Entering" album.

Fahey had plenty of original material; all the group needed was financial backing. Fahey and Tracey came up with the same idea: ask Tom Antonis, owner of the 15 Mile House in Reisterstown.

Antonis did not need much convincing. "I have a lot of confidence in Rob and I believe in the music," he said.

Antonis created Milehouse Records, which has cost him about $30,000 so far, for the sole purpose of releasing "Breaking and Entering."

Milehouse made not only the album possible, but also the do-it-yourself approach Fahey found far preferable to his experience with the Ravyns album.

"The kind of control I got doing this, I would never get that kind of control with a [major] label," Fahey said.

Not only did Fahey produce and master the album himself, but he decided the running order of the songs and even the cover design.

"MCA changed it all around on the Ravyns album," Fahey said. "I thought they botched it terribly."

It seems Fahey's new approach is working. Several of the songs on the album, particularly a track called "Beverly," are getting airplay on such Baltimore radio stations as WIYY and WGRX, and on Washington stations WWDC and WJFK.

Russ Mottla, program director at WIYY 98 Rock, said his station added Fahey's "Beverly" to its play list because Fahey "has one of the most distinctive voices in rock 'n' roll."

Mottla also credited Fahey's approach. "He did it the right way. The CDs and tapes are being sold through many outlets," Mottla said, noting that many bands fail to make their recordings widely available to the listening -- and buying -- public.

The album can be found at music stores throughout the area, including Record & Tape Traders, Sam Goody, Recordmasters, Record Theatre and Sound Waves.

Fahey said that since the band distributed 1,000 units to the stores in late October and early November, several already have restocked.

For now, he said he wants to "try to get a strong enough buzz going here" before going for that distribution deal with a major label.

In the meantime, Rob Fahey and the Pieces will continue playing their material at clubs in the area, patiently waiting for that "buzz" to get louder.