Danny Kroha is, of course, already well-known on the Detroit rock 'n' roll scene; you'll recall his work with Gories and, more recently, the Demolition Doll Rods. Following the dissolution of the latter group and a brief spell trying to go solo, the guitarist's back with a new band dubbed the Readies, which is now beginning to kick up some real racket about town. Armed with a sound overflowing with Motor City garage, rock 'n' roll, fuzz and raw power, Kroha and the Readies are, ahem, ready.
Before a recent rehearsal at Kroha's Detroit home — with bassist Zach Weedon (also of the Lee Marvin Computer Arm) and drummer Ben Luckett (formerly of Reptile Forcefield) — the guitar-playing frontman and his two cohorts took time to discuss their new project. Throughout the interview, Kroha's lively and affectionate bull terrier, Seaweed — so named by Kroha's girlfriend Tia after a character in John Waters' Hairspray — wasn't to be ignored, either, as he gently chewed this journalist's arm throughout the conversation.
Since the Detroit scene's a very, um, incestuous one, Kroha says it was a natural process to form a band with Weedon and Luckett. "I'd seen Zach play with Lee Marvin," he says, "and he'd been to see me play, so I got talking to him and discovered we had had similar views. And then I met Ben when he was still playing with Reptile Forcefield."
"Danny told me that he needed a bassist," Weedon continues the thought. "The Lee Marvin Computer Arm is still together [despite Internet rumors earlier this year], so I'm juggling two bands right now. But I make it work."
Kroha has now reverted back to his real surname, partly because "Danny Ready" sounds terrible. For a long time, though, he was known around town as Danny Doll Rod, so respected were the Demolition Doll Rods. It's inevitable that the old tag will take a while to shake off, but Kroha looks back fondly on his time with that band. "We were in the Doll Rods for 13 years," he says, "and it just got to a point where I wanted to do something else. [Co-lead singer] Christine had a baby and was getting married, so it just seemed like a good time to stop doing it. I was performing some solo stuff for a little while afterward, playing my diddly bow [a one-stringed instrument played like a slide guitar] and singing, doing some bluesy kinda stuff. But I still had it in the back of my mind that I wanted to have another rock 'n' roll band. So I was really happy when I met these guys."
As for the Readies' sound, Kroha is quick to list his many influences. "We're a rock 'n' roll band," he states emphatically. "I don't like to elaborate much further than that. I really love '60s and early '70s rock — British rock and all that stuff. We do a song, "City of Fun," by this band called England's Glory, which was actually just an early version of the Only Ones [of "Another Girl, Another Planet" fame]. So I guess you could say our covers represent what we sound like. I listen to a lot of '60s British stuff. And then of course, there's plenty of Lou Reed thrown in there as well because I love the Velvet Underground and Lou Reed. I'm sure there's a little New York Dolls in there too."
"We do a Mott The Hoople cover," Weedon adds. "Whenever somebody asks me, though, I always say that we're just 'rock 'n' roll'. Because that's exactly what we are."
"The Stooges and the MC5 are of course a big influence," continues Kroha. "But I'm also influenced by the same folks that those guys were influenced by, so I think my roots go a little deeper in that way. I've always made it a point to really dig deep and trace the music I like as far back as possible. I'm really just as much influenced by the Who, the Yardbirds, the Animals, the Small Faces and Them as I am by the Stooges or MC5. I was actually into all that stuff before I ever discovered the Detroit guys. I didn't have any big brothers to turn me on to the Detroit stuff and I never heard it on the radio.
"I'm also really into the 1970 through '74 period of rock too. From what I remember, the '60s didn't really seem to end until around the end of 1974 or so, and some super great stuff came out of that early '70s period, including the Flamin' Groovies and the Alice Cooper Group, who are also both much loved by me."
Kroha had mentioned at an art exhibition back in February that he'd formed a new band that still didn't have a name at that point — so why the Readies?
"Again, it's Anglophilic stuff," he says. "I was reading a Keith Moon biography and there was all this London slang in it. They were talking about the 'readies,' which means cash in that vernacular. 'You got the readies?' So that's exactly where it came from."
For his part, Weedon is delighted to have the opportunity to play with Kroha. "I can't picture Danny doing anything else but being a rock 'n' roll musician," the bassist says. "I've played in a lot of bands and I know a lot of people that consider themselves musicians, but I've never played with anyone like Danny. I think he's the personification of a musician. And he pushes me to be a better musician, just by being who he is. I'm really happy to be playing music with him."
"That's what we all like about this group," Luckett adds. "We all want to play really well and make each song as good as it can be."
Kroha's simply happy to finally be artistically free to play how he wants to play. "I feel like I'm now exercising musical muscles that kinda laid dormant when I was in the Doll Rods," he says. "Songwriting, lead singing, more extended guitar solos — all of the things that there wasn't a lot of room for me to do before. Even the Gories had two lead singers. So it's nice to be the only lead singer and have the room to stretch out a bit."
With Kroha's sister Muffy playing in the local band the Sirens, there are some strong musical genes being passed down from Ma and Pa Kroha, and Danny says he isn't at all averse to jamming with his sibling from time to time. "Yeah, I've sat in with the Sirens a couple of times already," he says. "That's really fun. But not only is Muffy a musician but she's also really into costuming. In fact, she recently made me an Indian breastplate. She just had this vision that one of those things would look real good on me."
"She gave it to him at the pool," Luckett laughs. "Danny was wearing his swim trunks and then she strapped this thing onto him."
Native American costumes aside, the Readies are currently working away in the studio in order to have some quality recordings that will back up their already blossoming live reputation. "Yeah, we're doing some recording right now," reveals Kroha. "I don't know exactly what we're going to use it for. We really need to put some stuff up on MySpace and get out and start doing shows. We're recording the stuff right now with Ed Gillis, Jack White's big brother. So right now, we're just really looking forward to getting that stuff done."
As are we, Danny boy. As are we.
Friday, June 6, at The Painted Lady, 2930 Jacob St., Hamtramck; 313-874-2991.Brett Callwood, a recent Brit transplant to Detroit, is a music journalist for Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected]