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TROY — The Split Squad is just as advertised; musicians, for a moment, split from their bands to form this garage rock supergroup.
The bands from which each member originates from share similar spheres of influence. They all converge at one point that, perhaps, grows most evident with the string of live music shows Radioradiox.com has organized. Three shows in October, bookended by last week’s performance by The Plimsouls, from which Eddie Munoz plays, and The Fleshtones, where Keith Streng is from. Together, they play along with Michael Giblin of the Parallax Project and Josh Kantor of The Baseball Project.
Kantor’s job as the organist for the Boston Red Sox’s Fenway Park may trump the other member’s career accolades, for the next week or so, anyway. That other guy, by the way, is Clem Burke of Blondie.
While each member’s sphere of influence converges at one point like the fire blossom symbol used to warn of biological waste, Burke’s sphere is a little more radiant, more evident. If you said it was because he played behind one of the hottest siren’s in rock and roll history, you’d be half right. He’s also drummed for Pete Townshend, Bob Dylan, the Eurythmics, Iggy Pop Joan Jett and more.
Munoz, a Hall of Fame member of Austin’s music scene, described Burke as “serious” about his music. Imagine a band of this caliber running loose and jamming out through a set. Perhaps a beer would be visible by the mic stand. “Keith and I like to goof off,” he said. “Do stupid [stuff].” But, while playing with Burke, he said, everyone is tight. The band is dedicated to producing good quality in each performance.
“Besides, we have Clem on drums,” said Munoz. “When we have Clem on drums, there’s no dogging it. He’s a stern m—– f—–. He keeps you in line. If he doesn’t like what you’re doing, he’ll just walk off stage.”
The Split Squad takes its name from baseball. When professional teams train before the season, they will “split” the team into two. For baseball, it helps coaches see players perform who would likely not get on the field. In this case, it’s the A-Team. What Munoz shares about the legendary drummer is out of respect. He estimates he’s played in five different bands with Burke. He likens him as the ringleader, or to keep in context with baseball terminology, the captain.
It’s a good team:
Eddie Munoz: Most famously known as the flash guitarist from Los Angeles’ legendary Plimsouls, Eddie has more recently been spotted in Magic Christian (alongside Flamin’ Groovies legend Cyril Jordan) and PA’s power pop stalwarts Parallax Project. Eddie’s “chaos theory” approach to rock and roll guitar is unique and immediately recognizable, yet squarely rooted in the timeless swagger of The Stones and The Yardbirds.
Clem Burke: Arguably one of the greatest living rock and roll drummers on the planet, Dr. Burke (Google that…it’s cool) boasts a resume that starts at CBGB’s in the 70s and ends at The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. As a founding member of Blondie and a highly sought-after session musician, Clem has experienced nearly every aspect of the music business but still has more passion to “climb in the van and take it to the fans” than most musicians half his age. To put it bluntly, there is no one on Earth like Clem…
Michael Giblin: Bassist/singer Giblin is the mad scientist behind The Split Squad, having assembled the project after his current band, Parallax Project, had crossed paths with all of the others on various tours and recording projects. Known in underground pop circles as a member of the much loved 90s power pop trio Cherry Twister, Giblin has spent many years toiling away in the bowels of the music biz as a session bassist, bandleader, producer, and generally good guy.
Keith Streng: Known far and wide as a founding member of one of rock and roll’s greatest (and longest running) institutions, The Fleshtones, guitarist Streng sets a standard for passion and dedication that few are able to follow. 30 years on and counting, The Fleshtones remain one of rock’s greatest “sure things”: never a bad show; never an off night. They are as dependable as they are exciting. His rock-solid musicianship, combined with his high-wire stage antics, combine to anchor one of rock’s most joyful live experiences. He’s had books written about him, and documentaries shot on him. In a word…an institution.
Josh Kantor: Keyboardist Josh Kantor brings the wildest diversity to the mix. As a member of Boston’s Jim’s Big Ego, and the critically acclaimed supergroup The Baseball Project (featuring members of The Dream Syndicate and R.E.M.), Josh has rubbed elbows with a number of rock luminaries, but he still manages to find time to excel at his day job, which just happens to be as the organist for The Boston Red Sox.
Michael Hallisey is managing editor of Spotlight Newspapers.