Roger Clyne has lived in Tempe for decades and fronts one of Arizona’s best-known bands, Roger Clyne & the Peacemakers. Still, the 41-year-old musician is quick to disqualify himself from opining on the state of the Tempe music scene.
“I haven’t got the proper perspective to really say because I’m such a homebody now, being the father of three, and a traveling musician,” he says. “I’m rarely in the local circuit anymore, except when RCPM is invited to play the Marquee or Celebrity.”
Of course, anyone familiar with Clyne knows it’s often difficult for him not to express an opinion, especially on issues he cares about …
“That being said, it feels to me like it doesn’t have the same cohesion or the same vitality it did in the late ’80s or early ’90s,” he says. “I remember when you couldn’t throw a rock and not hit a stage in downtown Tempe. Now, they’re a lot harder to find, and I don’t know exactly what’s behind that.
“But I know a byproduct of it: There seems to be fewer gigging musicians and a lot less cross-pollination of musical ideas. There’s a dearth of exchange right now between artist and audience, it seems to me, and I’d like to see it come back.”
Clyne and his band are doing their part Friday as one of the opening-night bands at the seventh annual Tempe Music Festival. It’ll be the first time the full band has played the Tempe Beach Park event; Clyne and longtime drummer P.H. Naffah played a 20-minute, side- stage set in the fest’s third year.
Friday’s lineup also will feature Kid Rock, Cowboy Mouth and the Outlaws. Saturday’s roster includes 3 Doors Down, the All-American Rejects, The Nightwatchman (Tom Morello) and Mutemath.
If anyone knows Tempe and its musical history, it’s Clyne. He was born in Tucson but moved to Tempe when he was around 2. He earned his diploma from Arizona State — “after seven years of screwing around,” he says — and today lives only a mile from his original Tempe home.
In 1992, Clyne formed The Mortals, who regularly performed at Mill Avenue clubs before morphing into The Refreshments two years later. The Refreshments scored a couple of minor hits with “Banditos” and “Down Together,” as well as the theme song for Fox’s long-running “King of the Hill” TV show.
Clyne and Naffah launched RCPM in 1998. Propelled by Clyne’s songs of Mexico, outlaws and endless vacation, the self-supported band, which also includes guitarist Jim Dalton (Steve Larson recently left the group) and bassist Nick Scropos, has put out eight albums and built a large fan base thanks to high-energy live shows and relentless touring.
RCPM also was a pioneer in using a Web site to market itself. Its 14-song live album, “Glow in the Dark,” currently is being released with a different song and accompanying video available as digital downloads each week at www.azpeacemakers.com.
“I wouldn’t be able to be a viable artist without the Internet,” Clyne says. “I was not a believer in the Internet as a tool early on. I remember somebody saying, ‘There’s this thing called the Internet and we want to open a fan site.’ I remember thinking, ‘there’s no way it’s ever going to catch on.’
“What we found after the Refreshments broke up, the Peacemakers weren’t received by radio, by a lot of the local press or the national press. The Internet became our primary hub to disseminate information — who we are, where we’re going to be and what we do — and it remains that.”
RCPM, which hopes to record a new studio album this June, also has become famous for its two-day concerts, dubbed “Circus Mexicus,” in Rocky Point. The twice-a-year shows, which draw thousands of fans, have been reduced to a single show this year in June (instead of May and October) so not to conflict with the school year.
Despite the recent media spotlight on drug-related violence along the border, Clyne says many of his songs’ themes remain as relevant as ever.
“If you look way back to what Mexico was, it sort of remains,” he says. “It has a mystique. The stuff that’s going on there now is the same stuff that was going on there in, say, 1921 during the revolution, I just think now it gets a lot more press, especially in the last three months.”
As someone who’s spent time on both sides of the border his entire life, Clyne cautions there’s a fine line between caution and fear.
“I wouldn’t go down there and I wouldn’t advocate travel to that country if I thought it was actually dangerous,” he says. “Now, I will say that it’s probably foolish to go into Juarez or Tijuana and be a drunk gringo in the middle of the night there right now. That would carry a higher amount of risk.
“But when you’re talking about 99 percent of the Mexican landscape, you’re as safe as in suburbia.”