Interview with Roughhouse (formerly Teeze) Drummer Michael Natalini

by Mick Michaels

Just recently I had the chance to see Roughhouse (formerly Teeze) perform in New Jersey. The band had been a staple juggernaut on the East Coast back in the 80's, which lead to their signing with CBS and the release of their debut in 1988. I had the pleasure to talk with the band's energetic drummer, Michael Natalini about Roughhouse's comeback, touring, meeting Judas Priest and possibly a new album. 

Cosmick View: Hello Michael and Welcome to the Cosmick View! Thank you for spending some time to chat with me, it is greatly appreciated.

CV:  What do you think the allure of the music of 80’s is, especially Metal, which keeps new generations connecting to it?
Michael Natalini: Rock music in the 80's was just fun party rock. MTV played just videos. High hair and make up (guys and girls), spandex, shorts skirts, high heel shoes, sex, drugs and rock and roll... People really had no worries. People were different too. It was just a fun time to grow up in. Although some of the groups started in the mid to late 70's, they just kept on growing.  I mean how can you go wrong with bands like Aerosmith, VH, AC/DC, Judas Priest, Ozzy, Motley Crue, Whitesnake, JBJ and Kiss just to name a few. Bands and their music weren’t boring like most are today. No one was lip syncing either. It was pure R&R. 

CV: How has the industry changed for you and the band over the years?
MN: The music industry has changed all together. It's nothing like it used to be. Once the 90's came around and the Seatle sound took over, that's when most of those 80's bands didn't have a chance. And the people changed too. Flannel shirts and work boots were the look. Some bands stood the test of time like Aerosmith, JBJ, Kiss and a few others that are heavier like Iron Maiden, Judas Priest and Metallica. But now you see a lot of those 80's bands making a comeback because the music of today doesn't compare to the good ole "Hair bands" music.

CV: I am sure there are many, but reflect for us on some of the highlights from back in the day. What experiences seem to stand out more than others?
MN: As far as was a great time in music and to be in a band in the 80's. We had MTV "Headbangers Ball". All the rock mags...Circus, Kerrang, Hit Parader… Concerts (t-shirts and programs) were worth it and you didn't have to miss paying bills to buy a ticket. Being on tour was an experience in itself.  

CV: What do you feel are the top three things it takes to make it in the music business as an artist?
MN: Top 3 things to make it in music today...Good tunes that are catchy and that people will remember, getting your stuff to the right people and a whole lot of Luck!

CV: How do you find inspiration?
MN: Inspiration is loving what I/we do and knowing people enjoy it. That's what inspires me. 

CV: Who do you feel has been your biggest influence in life?
MN: My biggest influence in life.....God. I'm just happy to wake up every day. I know that may be a boring answer but that's a pretty tough question. And I love my friends.   
CV: There has been a lot of comment in recent times that young bands don't stand a chance at making a career with music into today's industry... do you think that statement is accurate? MN: No, not really accurate. I mean, bands are "making it" because there's a lot of "new" bands out there so some bands are making it per say. Now for how long...who knows? A lot of one hit wonders out there. But it is very hard in today’s music industry to "make it" and stay there… and because there are so many bands. Although, kids today do have the internet to learn how to play an instrument and even promote their band, which is huge. So in a sense it's easier on the promotion side and learning your craft and getting your band out there but there's so many more bands out there that are doing the same thing. We didn't have that back in the day. You either took lessons, listened to records/tapes and tried to copy what was being played or it just came natural. And we had to make flyers and go out and hang them ourselves to promote. Make a flyer and pay for postage for our mailing list. We didn't have the internet or Facebook to promote our shows. So to say, the young bands don't stand a chance...Yeah, they do, but it's a long shot. Best of luck to them.

CV: Any thoughts about a new album release from the band?
MN: As far as a new album release...we've talked about it. We have so many songs that we recorded back in the day that we never put out. We probably have 2 albums worth of stuff. So we'll see.

CV: With shows already set with Steel Panther and Kix in the coming months, can we expect to see a lot more of Roughhouse out and about… maybe hitting the road for a mini tour this year?
MN: Hitting the road for a mini tour may be a little tough for us right now. Especially at this stage in our lives with families and jobs... It's not like it was back in the day. But would we consider doing some shows out and about and with some major acts... absolutely! None of us (except Rex) could just pack up and go on the road unless it was really worth it. And we don't want to wear out our welcome. 

CV: What do you feel is the biggest challenge both new and veteran artists face in today’s music industry?
MN: Again, like I said, the biggest challenge today for bands is there's so many bands out there and not a lot of places to play. And no one wants to pay the bands either. A lot of venues want bands to sell tickets. They want to see how many people the bands can draw. Back in the day, all the clubs/bars were packed and the club owners didn't have to worry about the crowd. Most of the time there was a crowd. The kids today don't go to clubs/bars to see live music. It's a dying out that's why it's so hard.   

CV: What’s the one album you feel every musician should have in their collection and why?
MN: album every musician should have...that depends on how far back in music you want to go and the type of music you wanted to play. I didn't listen to "Rock" growing up so there were other albums in R&B that I loved and made me want to play music. I mean, there's so many but I'd say KISS Alive just because it's raw, it's live, and because of who they were. But I'm sure there's a Zep album or AC/DC album everyone should have too. But again, it all depends on the type of music that you want to play.

CV: Why did the band’s name change from Teeze to Roughhouse?
MN: We had to change the name, per CBS Records because there was another band on CBS called Tease and they had been on the label longer then us so with us being the "New" Teeze, they told us we had to change it even though the spelling was different. It was our decision to choose Roughhouse but it was a long process to find a name and ALL agree on it and we were in the middle of recording the album so that was something else on our minds.

CV: What was it like working with famed producer Max Norman and what do you feel he brought to the record?
MN: Working with Max Norman was an experience. Especially who he was and what he's done. We had fun, learned a lot, had a lot of laughs but in the end, the final product was too polished for us. But we never complained because we were the "rookies" and just happy that this was happening to us...FINALLY. We just wanted to get our show on the road! 

CV: After 14 years, what was the catalyst that prompted the reunion show in 2016?
MN: For us getting back together was a phone call from a friend, Staci Black (tattoo artist) asking me if I thought I could get the band back together for a benefit call SAVFEST. I mean we had tried to get back together about 5-6 yrs ago but it just wasn't working out. So when Staci had called me, I told him right away yes, we'll do it. I hadn't spoken to the guys yet but I knew at least Luis, Dave, Rex and I would do it. Gregg at the time couldn't do it so we asked Rob Levy (who was in Roughhouse for a few years after Rex and Gregg left) and he said yes of course. So we rehearsed and it felt really good to be together again, even with Rob. After the SAVFEST benefit and a show at the Block at Harrah's Casino in Chester, Gregg was able to come back and Rob understood. So we were excited to have the original 5 of us back together.

CV: Best song you feel you have written?
MN: Best song...hmmm...I mean “Party Hardy” is such a R&R anthem for people that know us. I guess that depends on which one of us you ask. Each one of us has our favorite song or songs so it's really hard to say just one tune. “Tonite” was the video for MTV (per CBS). “Love or Lust” , “Teeze Me Pleeze Me”. But for shits and giggles I'd say "Ugly Bitch"… hahaha. Everyone knows that song and waits for us to play it… Great words.

CV: The photo of Roughhouse, Britny Fox and Judas Priest all together is one that I remember so well.  Can you tell us how that photo came to be?
MN: Britny Fox and us obviously were both signed to CBS and so was Judas Priest. So basically CBS got us together at a Priest show at the Spectrum (in Philadelphia) for that photo. I think the first mag to publish the picture was Kerrang. I love that picture. 

CV: Many bands from the 80’s era have comeback with what seems like a vengeance. Is Roughhouse on a mission as well and striking when the iron is hot?
MN: Coming back with a vengeance..."Screaming for Vengeance"...hahaha. Are we on a mission...well; it's great that our friends/fans want to see us again so I'd say that's our motivation. Plus, it's great to be back with the guys again and playing our songs. I can't answer for the other bands why they're back out, but all bands make comebacks, right? And we all agreed, if we're coming back out, we're coming back full force. We're not sure how long it's going to last but at least we're having a great time for now.

CV: Who’s the one band you would most like to tour with?
MN: Who would we like to tour with...obviously any of the big bands...KISS, Poison, JBJ to name a few.

CV: For those new to a Teeze/Roughhouse show, what can fans expect to see?
MN: Well if you've never been to a Roughhouse show, just be prepared and keep your heads low...LOL.  Expect the unexpected. Exciting, fun, entertaining, crazy, great songs, spinning guitars, choreographed moves…, but definitely not boring. You won't be able to keep your eyes on just one guy.        

Thank you again Michael for spending some time talking and sharing with our readers. I wish you all the best and continued success!

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