Expen$e Bio
 

Expen$e Band Expen$e is a versatile trio whose music conjures up the greatest era of hard rock -- from the late 60s (e.g., Beatles, Hendrix), through the 70s (e.g., Led Zeppelin, Bowie, Neil Young, Bad Company, Yes), into the mid-80s (e.g., Motley Crue, Van Halen).

Underlying the band’s dynamic music is Expen$e’s founder, lead guitarist, lead vocalist and lead songwriter, Robert Michaels. Robert’s music and stage presence is a virtual seminar in “How to be a Rock Guitar God.” From his classic hard rock “look” and his onstage antics, Robert knows that a successful rock band is part talent, part showmanship, and part luck. Drummer Gordon Grottenthaler keeps things tight and rocking and bassist Christine Michaels adds style and class to the group.

Expen$e’s first album, Pocket Full of Change (1995, Recorded at Jeree’s Records, New Brighton, Pennsylvania), demonstrates the band’s talent and versatility. The Best of Me is a power chord extravaganza, a true ode to 70s arena rock. I’ve Had Enough features a “ballsy” guitar riff reminiscent of classic 80s Motley Crue. Not content to settle on just one style of hard rock, So They Say, is a Bowie-esqu ballad, and Some Women is a Hendrix-inspired, wa wa pedal-infused take on playful misogyny. Lyrically, Robert covers all of hard rock’s basic themes, including angst and despair, lost love, evil femme fatales, and redemptive lovers, but in his own personal style. Perhaps the most personal and strongest potential single is the bluesy When It All Comes Down, a reflective take on moving on with life after a rough patch.

Expen$e’s live shows are energetic -- just the way a good hard rock band should be. The audience knows that these guys are giving their best, whether the crowd is twenty, two hundred, or two thousand. Robert’s talent as a guitarist allows him to infuse his original material with a number of crowd-pleasing cover tunes. Moreover, Expen$e’s live shows generally include a third “blues” set during which Robert rips through his flawless covers of Stevie Ray, Hendrix and Clapton, among others.

Pocket Full of Change is available at all of Expen$e’s live performances or on Expen$e's internet store. The band members are currently working on material for their next CD. Thank you to our friend Andy John Scharf. Without his help, there may not have been a Pocket Full of Change CD.

   
 


Robert Michaels


Guitarist and Vocalist in EXPEN$E®Robert Michaels

At an early age, Robert was exposed to records his parents collected. The sounds of the great vocal groups The Platters, The Supremes and The Four Tops filled his young ears. Of course, the guitar groups such as The Ventures, Duane Eddy, Santo and Johnny, and others were great inspiration. When the Beatles came along, it was all over. Young Robert thought that any one with long hair was a musician; however, it turned out they were usually just hippies.

While in the third grade, his teacher Mrs. Leonardi (a singer and pianist) passed out pamphlets at choir practice to find out if anyone was interested in learning to play one of the following musical instruments: piano, accordion, flute and guitar. Robert chose the guitar.

After a few weeks of lessons, Rudolph Vidmar, the guitar instructor, informed Robert’s mother not to get her hopes up as Robert’s hands were quite small and he had trouble forming certain chords. To form the first F bar chord, Rudy would have to press down on his fingers to make contact with the string and fret board. It hurt really bad; he thought Rudy was trying to kill him! After weeks of practice and as his left hand became stronger, Robert was able to fret the F chord all by himself.

First performance experience was at the Allegheny Accordion and Guitar Festival held at Seven Springs during the summer of 1969. Robert played a solo named Ting a Ling and was awarded a second place trophy. After the festival, Rudy said “Bobby, you won a second place trophy, beautiful. Now if you practice a bit harder, you can win a first place trophy next time.” He practiced harder and won first place trophies in 1970, 1971 and 1972.

“Who Knows/Who Cares” was put together while in the 7th grade. Performed at private parties and weddings. Band played Hey Jude at a talent show. This band broke up because the other guys in the band were playing just for fun and not taking it as seriously as Robert.

“Soundtrack” was formed while in high school. Performed at weddings, dances and parties. Also played at concerts for City Parks & Recreation. The band played Free Bird at a talent show at North Catholic High School. One of the teachers thought that Robert wasn’t really playing the guitar; that there was a tape recorder behind the curtain. As it turns out, a comedian named Jim Krenn (morning D.J. on WDVE 102.5 FM) won the talent show. In an article in PM Magazine, Jim stated that this was his first performance and that he beat out “a really good rock band”. Soundtrack played at The Decade, a popular club in Oakland. The Decade was searching for a house band and Soundtrack auditioned. Robert never heard anything and assumed that they were not selected. Many years later while talking to the mother of one of the guys in the band, The Decade was mentioned. She said that The Decade did call her husband and wanted Soundtrack as their house band. The other guys in the band decided that their school work was more important and told The Decade that they could not be the house band. Imagine Robert’s shock when he found this out.

In 1980, the “Adams/Michaels Band” was formed. Seven songs were recorded at Jeree’s Records. A single entitled Are You Ready to Rock’N’Roll was released and appeared on the first WDVE Rocks Album. The song received air play the summer of 1980. Opened for the Greg Kihn Band at the Stanley Theater Show Case Club. Also released 1,000 45s of two cuts recorded at Jeree’s: Lonely Man backed with All Day and All of the Night.

Involved with numerous bands and performed at local clubs throughout Pennsylvania from 1980 and 1994.

Recorded at Atlantic Telemarketing with producer David Werner in March, 1990.

In 1995, EXPEN$E was formed. Recorded eleven songs at Jeree’s Records and released a CD entitled Pocket Full of Change. The band performs locally in Pittsburgh. A few songs from the CD received air play on 96.9 WRRK and on 102.5 WDVE’s Home Grown Show. The CD was in rotation for KDKA’s local channel 2 music lottery numbers. Also, two cuts from the CD, The Best of Me and So They Say, were used on compilation videotapes of local Pittsburgh bands produced by Zimcom.

On April 3, 1996, EXPEN$E performed at the 96.9 WRRK Acoustic Rock Challenge at Rosebud.

On June 13, 1997, Robert was interviewed by Larry Resik, a morning D.J. at WESA 98.3 FM out of Charleroi, Pennsylvania.

On August 10, 1997, EXPEN$E was interviewed by Dimitri, a talk show host at WTAE 1250 AM out of Pittsburgh.

EXPEN$E performed an original song entitled Misty Blue on 102.5 WDVE’s Coffee House.

In 1999, launched independent record company Flea Screaming Records and released Merry Christmas from Robert Michaels in November, 1999. Merry Christmas from Robert Michaels consists of eight Christmas songs, including an original song titled Merry Merry to You. CDs and cassettes sold locally.

Currently working on material for new EXPEN$E release.

Member of the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) and the Pittsburgh Musicians’ Union Local 60-471 A.F.M.

   
   
 


Christine Michaels


 

Bassist in EXPEN$E®Christine Michaels

Even though Christine became the bass player for EXPEN$E in 2008, she always wanted to be in a band. In the mid 1980s, she bought a guitar. At that time, she wanted to be the next Lita Ford.

In 2005, she was interested in learning to play bass guitar. Since Machine Head is one of her favorite albums and she liked the sound of Roger Glover’s bass on the album, she purchased a Maple Glo Rickenbacker.

Before becoming the bass player in EXPEN$E, she was a roadie and light lady for the band. Her current influence on the bass is Tal Wilkenfeld.

 


Gordon Grottenthaler


 

Drummer in EXPEN$E®Christine Michaels

Gordon Grottenthaler has been a professional drummer since 1985. After receiving his Bachelor of Music Degree from Berklee College of Music in 1986, he spent the rest of the 1980's and 90's playing stints in Boston with jazz greats Tal Farlow, James Williams, Geoff Keezer, Steve Nelson, Billy Pierce, and Herb Pomeroy, as well as a four-year stint with pianist Art Matthews. He spent four years touring the United States with Jay Geils and Magic Dick (formerly with the J. Geils Band) in their band Bluestime. In 2005, he did an extensive tour of Europe with blues icon Duke Robillard. Other blues credits include the legendary Robert Lockwood Jr., David Maxwell, TJ Wheeler, Detroit Jr., Paul Richelle & Annie Raines, and Brian Lee. While in Vancouver, Canada in 2006, he recorded a CD with rock/blues superstar Randy Bachman (formerly of Bachman-Turner Overdrive and The Guess Who) entitled Jazz Thing II, which is currently available on Ranbach Music.