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Midwestern rock legend puts out new album
Xeno goes back to his roots with 'I Still Believe in Rock 'n' Roll'

By SHANNON VENEGAS - Special to TimeOut

October 10, 2013

 
WAUKESHA - Known for his legendary list of musical endeavours, including his time with Cheap Trick, Bad Boy and Minnesota’s Straight Up, Xeno, whose real name is Randall Hogan, released a new solo album just a few weeks ago.  

The new album, titled “I Still Believe in Rock ‘n’ Roll,” includes Xeno on guitar and vocals, with his new band Happy Jax, which includes Waukesha native and former BoDean Bobby Griffin on bass, Mark Pierret on drums and Tom Crowel on the guitar.  

Xeno started playing at the age of 12 and spent several years as the lead singer for Cheap Trick back when they were just a bar band.  

Xeno was quickly drawn to the music scene in Minneapolis and became the lead singer for Straight Up.  

“I was very young at the time and wanted to experience new things, wanted to get out of my own hometown,” he said.  

Xeno also made a name for himself when he joined popular Milwaukee band Bad Boy in 1982, for which he still performs. He has also performed at Riverfest, which was once held at Frame Park, as well as at Summerfest for 30 years.  

Throughout his musical career, big names such as Yanni have shared the stage with Xeno. He also plays regularly in a duo with violinist Joe Ketchum and another duo with Mitch Cooper.  

“I get to play with a lot of really great people,” Xeno said. “I’m lucky that way, I guess.”  

His work with Ketchum also led him to Joe 2.0, an electrified string quartet that doubles as a rock band and an orchestra.  

“It’s very unique,” Griffin said. “I had worked with violinists, and it’s something unique and different, and I’m always interested in that.  

This new album, Xeno said, is a return to his roots.  

“With this album, I went back to the beginning and play a lot of really bluesy rockin’ guitar and singing really bluesy,” Xeno said. “It’s just a rock ‘n’ roll album, and a good one, I think.”  

And Griffin agrees.  

“It’s a great CD, or I wouldn’t have played on it,” Griffin said.  

Griffin got his musical start in Waukesha on the front steps of Randall Elementary School. Eventually, he became a part of the popular BoDeans, a Waukesha-formed band. One of his most memorable band moments was opening for U2.  

After 32 years as a BoDean, Griffin took a break from music but couldn’t resist its pull for long. Griffin’s love for playing in a studio and recording brought him back to the musical scene. Griffin and Xeno hooked up through Sleighriders, a Milwaukee musical event that supports a number of charities.  

“His (Xeno’s) songs just had this good blues groove and there’s some pop,” Griffin said. “And I love pop and groovy pop. This had some really good blues kind of rock ‘n’ roll, and I just enjoyed playing it.”  

Happy Jax has been performing songs from its new CD, as well as covers from artists such as Led Zeppelin and the Animals at the Wisconsin Area Music Industry bar, the Potowatomi Fire Pit and other venues. Their next show is Nov. 15 at the Fire Pit.  

The music video for the title track on the new album, “I Still Believe in Rock n Roll,” can be found on YouTube. Xeno said the song is semi-autobiographical.  

“It’s something I wrote for a lot of people that have been doing what I’ve been doing for a long time,” he said.  

While Xeno loves performing, songwriting is another big part of his life.