By Robbie Gennet
FOXY SHAZAM IS EVERYTHING THAT ROCK ’N’ ROLL SHOULD BE: BRASH,
raw, unapologetic, and coming for your children. Magnetic singer Eric Sean
Nally may be the eyeball glue for most fans [At his best, he’s like a young Freddie
Mercury—Ed.], but your plundered pupils will inevitably stray towards keyboardist
Sky White. Beneath the bearded visage and unhinged performance of this
stage animal beats the heart of a trained musician with the chops to re-energize
the role of keyboardist in a 21st-century rock band.
How do you describe Foxy Shazam to the
I’ve given up on a complicated explanation.
It’s what rock is supposed to be like: different
and artistic and powerful and meaning something.
It’s supposed to be scary and fun and
include every emotion in the music. I don’t think
rock ’n’ roll really does that right now, so we’re
trying our best.
There’s certainly nothing safe about your
live show. . . .
You have no idea how many injuries I’ve had!
I have scars all over, I’ve had carpal and dorsal
tunnel. I’ve had sports-like injuries from the way
I play piano. I had my head split open by a bass
tuning peg and cried blood for a set. I put every
single bit of everything into the show.
Did you come from a musical background?
I grew up at bluegrass festivals with my parents
playing. The first rock show I saw was Joe Satriani
and Steve Vai. All I remember is it smelled
What was the first show you went to that
made you say “I want to do that”?
I know exactly the show. It was the band that
eventually took us out on our first tour ever: Tub
Ring. When I was 13 or 14, I was a little classical
and jazz player, but I saw them play and their
keyboardist Rob Kleiner was amazing.
What did you learn from jazz and classical
that you bring to Foxy Shazam?
From classical, it would be knowledge of the
tonal things I want to accomplish onstage. From
improvising in jazz, it’s that I can get that across
while mixing in showmanship. For example, I can
spin around real fast, throw a foot in the air, and
still land on the right chord.
You play a Roland RD-700NX onstage. How
does it hold up to the abuse?
Amazingly, this keyboard hasn’t broken! I’ve
been doing everything I can to put on the craziest
show possible and this thing is not breaking.
I always want to be really grateful to Roland because
of the way I’ve treated their instrument.
How do you balance precision of execution
with the insane energy of the performance?
It’s a hard battle. For performing and entertaining,
you want to do everything you possibly
can. I want my body to be collapsed somewhere
after the set.
Are you using any custom sounds?
I use all stock piano sounds on the RD—no reverb,
just straight piano. I grew up a piano player. Though I
did recently buy an 88-key 1975 Rhodes. It’s sitting
in my basement and it’s beautiful.
What keyboards did you use on the new
album, The Church of Rock and Roll?
A third of it is piano from the RD, another third
is organ that we got from either the RD or soft
synths, and the rest was done on a real Wurly in
the studio by miking the little speakers.
Is the whole band involved in songwriting?
It keeps changing around. Between the six of us,
we all write all the time. Before this last record,
we had hundreds and hundreds of songs.
How did you pare that down for the record?
With all the writing before, there were certain
melodies and vocal ideas that we knew could be
better and we focused down to make them as
good as they possibly could be. Nothing that we
started off with ended up being on the record.
Nobody will probably ever hear those dozens of
songs, but we had to do that in order to get to
What are your favorite tracks and keyboard
moments on the record?
“Streets.” Every time I hear it, it sounds like
touring and being poor and struggling. That one
means a lot to me, but honestly, all of them are
great. With some tracks, we were wondering if
they were too weird, but they made it on. There’s
some weird pop stuff inside of us that needs to
come out artistically.
“I Wanna Be Yours” has a mean organ sound. It
was a random organ patch run via MIDI through
a [Tech 21] SansAmp. A stock ’70s organ, superdistorted
with a ton of tape saturation and the
mids and lows super-boosted. It just sounds like
a horrible monster. I’m a big fan of the sounds
on “The Temple.” It’s part super-heavy, part lovemaking
music. Everything on that one was from
the Roland RD-700NX.
How do you translate the intensity of the
stage performance to the studio?
The live stuff I’m a little afraid to do in the studio
is where I’m purposely smashing chords down
and letting up the painful notes just to get some
more impact. When recording you’re supposed
to do it “correctly.” On this record, I tried getting
a lot of stomps in there and weird dirty chords,
things that I want to happen that are not exactly
correct things but that get the feeling across.
Spending so much time touring, is it hard to
We tour 300 days out of the year, so when I’m
home, I try to write at least one song every day. I
have a few hundred sitting around from the last
couple years. At some point in life I want to compose
symphonic music. I have an eight-bit video
game project I’ve been goofing around with. I
have a gigantic string section thing with accordion,
clarinet, and harp that I’ve been working
on for a while. I call it Traveler Music. I’ve been
composing it all in MIDI so far.
We’re going on tour in the U.K. opening for Th e
Darkness. When we got signed to Warner Brothers a
few years ago, we spent all our tour support flying to
the U.K. four times. It’s been going a lot faster over
there. Over here it takes word of mouth. Most people
are afraid or confused the first time they see us.
Isn’t that the essence of Foxy Shazam?
Hell, yeah! We’re supposed to be frightening and
confusing and hard to digest. We’re trying to do
something that hits people hard.