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The Radiators have survived — and thrived — longer than most bands. This New Orleans-based outfit, known for an eclectic blend of rock and blues, features all of its original members — guitarist Dave Malone, vocalist/keyboardist Ed Volker, guitarist/vocalist Camile Baudoin, bassist Reggie Scanlon, and drummer Frank Bua Jr. — and averages 150 dates per year, manages its own Radz Records label, and remains solid within the Crescent City music scene.
"We worked at it like a marriage," Malone insists. "We respect each other without letting small problems turn into huge problems. There are instances on stage when we're cooking along and floating on the music, where we realize this is the greatest band in the world."
Still, this summer, the final chapter in the band's lengthy trajectory comes to a close. Volker recently announced his plans to depart, leaving the rest of the band to ponder its future. The Radiators' upcoming dates at Revolution will mark two final appearances in our environs, at least in the original incarnation. New Times caught up with Volker and Malone as they shared some thoughts on the original lineup's imminent demise.
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New Times: For starters, what precipitated the breakup?
Ed Volker: I gave a six-month notice to my bandmates in early November '10 as the stresses and distresses of maintaining the kind of life and work routines necessary for keeping the Rads in survival mode had reached a stage of exhaustion for me. After Hurricane Katrina, as pressures of day-to-day Rads' travel obligations increasingly left me in a state of numbness from which I was not springing back in any timely manner, the necessity for me to take leave of this kind of life became apparent. It wasn't until I had a series of dreams from spring '10 to fall '10 that I felt I'd received the kind of sign my life just couldn't ignore.
What was the response from other band members?
Dave Malone: Surprise. But no one holds anything against anyone else deciding that they've had enough after 33 1/3 years. I figure that it beats the hell out of getting a 2 a.m. call saying that one of your bandmates had passed away.
EV: As there was no portion of animosity or anything suggestive of a vendetta against any of my mates, I felt that I should give them time for us to play out a half-year's worth of gigs. I wasn't sure they'd understand the necessity of my decision, but at the same time, I didn't want to leave them in the lurch.
What are the emotional consequences of breaking up after all these years? How will it affect the friendships and the lifestyle?
DM: I forgot my crystal ball on the equipment truck.
EV: This decision was one of necessity for me, but the loss to my life on some levels is inestimable... the five-way conversation that the Rads at their musical, inventive best and the greater gestalt of so many communities around the country that, over the course of time, has become a tribal family. These are great things that I was privileged to be a part of.
DM: The fan reaction has been way more emotional than I ever expected. The fans have stressed how the Rads' fan community became an integral part of their lives.
What's the plan now?
DM: To still play music, maybe the four of us with a new keyboardist/singer... not as full-time as the Rads have been, because we all want to allow time for other projects... for myself, maybe something with my brother Tommy. The easiest thing to do would probably be getting another keys player and singer, but with this situation affording the opportunity to think about other directions, I'm not sure yet.
EV: Life has become a much more frugal enterprise in the last ten years. With the music business as we once knew it, it's becoming a dead relic. It's not for me to say what tomorrow may bring, but I'll always feel I was so lucky to be part of a band of brothers that stood and stayed and played together for a lifetime.
How would you view the band's legacy in retrospect?
DM: It's amazing that we were able to play the music biz game with at least mid-high-level success up until now... and we always did so on our own terms with our own type originality.
EV: Under the guise of being a supposed "rock" band, we did a lot more and a lot more different stuff than being a "rock" band would otherwise allow or suggest.