Examiner Interview:Poker Face rocks the Valley for 20 years

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Examiner Interview:Poker Face rocks the Valley for 20 years

Post#1 » Fri Nov 13, 2009 1:10 am

Poker Face rocks the Valley for 20 years
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Poker Face rocks the Valley for 20 years
November 12, 12:03 PMAllentown Local Music ExaminerTodd KunsmanPrevious Comment Print Email RSS Subscribe Subscribe

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Group shot, courtesy of Poker Face.Poker Face is one of those rare rock bands that have made a name for themselves with their raw attitude and excellent craftsmanship. The band has been rocking the Lehigh Valley and around the nation for 20 years, which is almost unheard for bands today. I was fortunate enough to be referred to the band by a family friend and was able to briefly talk to lead singer, Paul Topete on the phone. He could not be more generous and excited about my interest in writing an article about the band. Below is a Q & A session with Poker Face.

How did you guys first meet?

We were all playing in separate bands around the Lehigh Valley. Richy was living behind Paul's apartment in the early '90s. Brett and Dennis knew of each other from previous bands. Paul, Brett and Dennis had all been working with the same studio in various projects. One by one, they all came together to record the 3rd Poker Face album, Sex, Lies & Politiks.

When did you guys officially decide to form a band and who came up with the name?

The band was actually formed in 1989. In fact, Poker Face is being recognized at this year's Lehigh Valley Music Awards for our 20 year anniversary. Paul has been the centerpiece of Poker Face those 20 years and came up with the name. Dennis and Richy came on board around 1998. Brett followed up shortly after wards in 1999.

How would you classify your music style?

If we described it, we'd probably say melodic hard rock with an attitude. We've heard comparisons from Alice In Chains to Led Zeppelin to Uriah Heep. Others have called it "Revolutionary God Rock" or "Music for the 2nd American Revolution."

What artists do you guys look up to? Why?

Unfortunately, the big ones are dead. Frank Zappa, Bob Marley and John Lennon would head up that list. Mark Farner of Grand Funk Railroad would be up there. Producer, Toby Wright, would be another. Luckily, we're able to call the latter two peers. What they all have in common is that they have shaped or effected change in popular culture. We also look up to people like William Cooper, Eustace Mullins, Micahel Collins Piper etc…. These are people who aren't afraid to challenge the status quo and tell it like they see it.

What inspires your song lyrics?

First and foremost, all blessings come from Father. Beyond that, you could say it's the proverbial art imitating life. We take our experiences in this life, and what we see happening in this world, and express it through the music we make. We also like to educate.You'll find that in our CD inserts, interactive portions of our Cd's as well as our lyrics.

What is your most memorable moment performing?

That's a tough one. We could say performing at the Libertarian National Convention in Atlanta with Jimmy Vaughn, when Aaron Russo and Michael Bednarik were up for the Presidential nomination.We could say playing in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan when we led the celebrity motorcycle ride with Mark Farner of Grand Funk Railroad.We could say when we flew to Branson, MO to play the House of Rock and had the chance to play with a lion cub.We could say performing for thousands of patriotic Americans at any one of the major monuments in Washington, DC, or organizing 3000 to support 2nd Amendment rights in our hometown of Bethlehem, PA.

But, we truly think the most memorable show was when we played for an international camp out of hardcore survivalists in the backwoods of Alabama. This was a real test of guerilla performing. We were so deep in the woods; there was no way we could see to power our gear. That problem was easily solved by one of the campers who climbed a 30' pole and tapped into a main electric feed running through the woods. Our drummer barely made it and his car promptly quit as we were beginning to set up the stage. The scene quickly turned into a mixture of music equipment and car parts as he started wrenching on his Volvo. Brett ended up riding to the auto parts store with him, which was not exactly right around the corner. When he walked into the store wearing his Poker Face t-shirt, the kid behind the counter became very excited. Turns out he had been listening to our music when it was being used by a short wave radio talk show host, based out of TN.

When he realized that Brett was a member of the band, he quickly ripped off the end of a nail box to get an autograph. Meanwhile, back at the camp, the rest of the band got to witness a true Alabama survivalist wedding, complete with bare feet and high powered rifles. By the time night fell, we had a full blown light show up and running. Of course, it paled in comparison to when a UN flag was soaked in jet fuel and set ablaze in the middle of our show. When all was said and done, what we first thought would be absolutely impossible ended up being one of the most bizarre and memorable shows ever.

What are some of your favorite bands to play with?

All of them. Too broad an answer? Locally, Blue Sees Red and Driver were always two favorites. On the national level, Jackyl was a great band to play with. Warren Cuccurullo (Zappa, Missing Persons, Duran Duran) was more than entertaining, both on and off the stage, when we played with him at Truthstock in NYC.

What bands would you like to perform with?

Alice in Chains. They've been a big influence and we get the comparison all the time. Megadeath would be a recent addition to that wish list since their new song deals with a lot of the issues we raise. How about the Dixie Chicks? Do you think we'd match up with them? Shinedown would be cool. I'd also say Pearl Jam, mainly because of their DIY attitude.

What do you think of the current music scene, especially rock?

WE would like to see more interaction and support of the music scene between bands. If you want a scene, you have to participate in it or create it. Leaving up to the club owners ain't never gonna happen. Over the years we have pulled off several large concerts by the names of 5-Just Do Me bashes, 3-Roctoberfests, and 4-BeLeVe Festivals. Dennis also ran the Back Yard Bands show out of the Sterling Hotel and Beer Bellies for 2+ years. Imagine if every band in the valley did what we did. It would be SMOKING. Like no other across the country. Remember, history is made by those who show up.

Any advice for young, aspiring, musicians out there?

Play often and with as many people as possible. You never know where the inspiration will come from. Don't limit yourself to one style. If you play rock, don't be afraid to try some country. If you play punk, don't be afraid to experiment with reggae. You may just find a cool new blend that will separate you from the thousands of other bands doing the same thing.

Members: Paul Topete -Vocals/Guitar/Keyboard, Dennis Beidler- Bass/vocals, Brett Griffiths-Guitar/Drums/Vocals/Keys, Rich Valentin-Drums/Percussion/Guitar.

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For more information about the band and where to purchase/support their music, make sure to check out Poker Face at their Myspace and Website.

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