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Interview with Robbie M (Producer of Midnight Express)

Midnight Express was a band from Illinois, founded by Robbie M. Originally released in 1983 as a 45 single, their 'Danger Zone' single was ultimately issued as a limited 12 inch remix by the original artist. Worth a place in the hall of fame gallery for its sonic groove quality. At the time of release in 1983 a video was shot for the song, which can be watched below. Read the interview with Robbie M too.

Today I interview Robert Muskeyvalley, co-founder of the band Midnight Express and writer of 'Danger Zone'. Welcome Robbie, how are you?

Robbie M:

Hi Ed, I am fine and very excited about talking to those that are interested in the Midnight Express Show Band story and the song "Danger Zone".

Frankly, I wasn't aware of the existence of your record until recently and I can say it's pretty much of a sensation. I think many will agree with me that 'Danger Zone' is a very good, catchy track. Congratulations for that.

Robbie M:

Thank you, and I know that I can speak for the members of the band by saying that we are happy to see that "Danger Zone" is getting the recognition it is currently receiving, throughout the world.

Robbie, where do you come from and where lay your musical roots?

Robbie M:

I am a native of the Midwest Quad Cities area from Rock Island, Illinois, a town of 46,000. My musical roots go back to when I was about 8 or 9 years old. My father held weekly card games at our house and he would have me sing for his card buddies some old tracks by Sam Cooke. He loved the song "Send me some lovin" and I sang this often for them. I would also sing a track by Gene Chandler titled "Nothing can stop me". I also remember sitting on our front porch and singing songs with my mother. I always felt that she had a very pretty voice and I liked singing with her. By the time I was 12 years old I was playing drums in my first band with my brother and cousins called "The Top Cats". We played a lot of James Brown and Beatles tracks. A couple of years later I began drumming in a group called "The Fabulous Deltones". I later started singing and won my first talent show at Central Junior High School singing a song by the temptations called "My Baby". I continued to play in several other bands through the years and by 1980 I was starting to form a group called the "The Midnight Express".

What led to the formation of the group and can you name the other members and their roles?

Robbie M:

I had been trying to rejuvenate the previous band that I was a member of called "All Together As One" (ATAO) but with little success. One day while jamming with several musician friends, one of them asked me if I wanted to meet a guy who played drums. His name was Melvin Martin. After our meeting he seemed interested in helping to start a new band. We both started trying to recruit members. We started with the rhythm section and later added several female vocalists. The band called itself "Midnight Express". The band began to gig and gain popularity. They soon added a horn section which made them a 10-piece band. As the band's popularity continued to increase they began to perfect their

showmanship and the name changed to "The Midnight Express Show Band".

The members and their roles were as follows:

Robert Muskeyvalley - Lead Singer
Larnette Winston - Vocalist
Vivian Freeman (Gardner) - Vocalist
Melvin Martin - Drums and Percussions
Terry Patton - Bass and Rhythm Guitar
Richard Farrar - Lead and Rhythm Guitar
Austin Mc Neal - Piano-Organ (Fender Rhodes)
Tony Banks - Lead Trumpet
Reggie Woods - 2nd Trumpet
Mark Hart - Alto Sax

This band was a family! And I loved them all.

Interesting to see Larnette Winston was part of your band. She was the lead vocalist for Caprice - Candy Man 12', another good tune. Was 'Danger Zone' the first release of Midnight Express and was Tri-Fire your own label?

Robbie M:

"Danger Zone" and "Dial Love" were the only public releases by the group. There was a lot of talk about recording several other original tracks, "Dance Can You Party" and "Loving You" but the group dispersed before the tracks could be recorded and released. "Danger Zone" and "Dial Love" were both released under the band's Tri-Fire Label in May of 1983. At the time the band felt that "Dial Love" was their strongest track and it was aired on KALA 88.5, a college radio station. "Danger Zone" was aired several months later on a popular local radio station KSTT 98.9 and entered into the stations music challenge program called the "Star Flight Super Sweep". When "Danger Zone" hit the air waves, the phones started ringing and it landed in the top 3 songs for several weeks finally taking over the number one spot in the 3rd week after it aired. The band's popularity began to grow to stardom and that was a great feeling. On stage we opened up for bands such as Roger Troutman and Zapp, The Temptations, The Chi-Lites, War, Dazz Band and other famous names.

Midnight Express stage performance

What was your inspiration for writing 'Danger Zone'?

Robbie M:

You know it is really funny, I write a lot about how I am feeling and "Danger Zone" was written and created from one of those feelings. I had been troubled with trying to balance my life between working, writing, performing, playing my music, and raising a family. I had a disagreement with my wife one night, (November 22nd 1982 at 1:00am to be exact) and I was thinking to myself that I just seem to be in the wrong place at the wrong times. I began to write my feelings down and the lyrics were as follows, "Well it seems I'm in the wrong place once again, strange things are starting to happen now and then, just when I try to figure out what's wrong, I'm right back in the danger zone." I began to sing these words on top of a melody and that was the birth of "Danger Zone".

What equipment did you use for 'Danger Zone'? The synthbass is a Moog right?

Robbie M:

The Moog Prodigy sometimes referred to as a Mini Moog was used to create the bass line and the typewriter slide that you hear in the song. Fender telecaster guitar was used for the rhythm guitar riffs and guitar lead lines. Electronic drums were used to make the snappy handclap sound. Ludwig drums were used for the bass drum kick. Fender Rhodes piano used for the piano parts. The Horn Section ol featured 2 Trumpets and 1 Alto Sax.

You did something quite unusual for a private release at that time: You shot a music video. How did that come about?

Robbie M:

In August of 1983, Danger Zone was aired on a popular local radio station. The song caused quite a buzz in the Quad City area and the band was soon approached by a local television cameraman, who said that he would be interested in shooting a musical video with the group featuring the song Danger Zone. The band discussed the plans for the video and in late October of 1983, a video shoot was taking place and with the help of the United Township
high school Orchesis group, the Danger Zone video was completed.

3 years after the release of 'Danger Zone' you were offered a contract for additional singles and two albums (see video). Which company promised you that and was that offer due to the success of 'Danger Zone'?

Robbie M:

The second video clip that you posted here was a news clip from one of the local television stations who continued to follow my musical career after The Midnight Express Show Band dispersed in late 1986.After the dispersement of the band I continued to write and started a solo career and called myself Robbie M. In 1989 I signed a record deal with Loadstone Records out of San Francisco to release a single and two albums. The single a 12 inch vinyl record titled "What is it Girl?" and "I need Good Lovin" was also aired on local radio stations. I am pretty sure that it was my writing talents that the record company was seeking and Danger Zone was used as a reference.

In the videoclip we can see you jamming on a keyboard. That track is freakin' great! What is it called?

Robbie M:

The track is called "Just keep your lovin' comin' at me". It was recorded on a 4 track yamaha MT 100. I still have that track.

Were the 2 albums actually released?

Robbie M:

The deal I signed was for 3 years. The single was released but the record company never followed through on their deal to release two more albums, so after the 3rd year I opted to leave Loadstone Records.

Robbie M with his original 45 single of 'Danger Zone'

Why did the Midnight Express Show Band break up?

Robbie M:

Midnight Express disbanded because of a difference in direction for the group. Me and many of the original members wanted to continue writing and recording original material while the new management team wanted to continue touring and playing cover tunes.

Over 20 years have gone by since then. What have you been up to until now, are you still working as a recording artist?

Robbie M:

I have been recording under the Ronea Records Label and releasing my own material. In 1998 I released my first CD project titled "Strictly Business". This CD also was able to receive local airplay but I have not been able to fund my label enough to receive national distribution.

Last year you decided to re-release 'Danger Zone' as a 12 inch. What was the reason for that?

Robbie M:

That is also an interesting story. In December of 2007 I received an email on my job from someone looking for R. Muskeyvalley the writer of the song "Danger Zone". I emailed that person back and he talked to me about the song and asked if I had any of the records left because he would be willing to purchase them. I only had a few and no way of reproducing them because of destroyed masters. We worked out a deal and collectors started purchasing them. In February of 2008 a Los Angeles DJ started playing one of the records he purchased and when it was spun it created the excitement that it caused back in 1983. As it began to generate more interest, more DJ's wanted to purchase the record but the 45 RPM's were just too expensive so I had to make a decision to sit on the original collectors records which are the 45 RPM originals or remix the song so that the DJ's of the world could also take advantage of this great track! So, In August 1st of 2008 with the help of T. Noble who arranged the instrumental version and Andrew Morgan who arranged the extended version, "Danger Zone" was re-issued as a 12-inch vinyl record. Again I could only purchase so many and by August 12th, 12 days later they were all gone. I just re-ordered and records are now on the way as I am doing this interview.

You told me you finished writing the story of the Midnight Express Show Band. Is that going to be a book?

Robbie M:

You know, I haven't really thought about that. I would have to integrate my autobiography with the story. It is a very interesting and exciting story with a lot of ups and downs but come to think about it, it would be great to pursue. Thanks for the idea.(smile).

Thanks for this interview Robbie. I wish you the best for the future. Stay funky.

Robbie M:

Thanks for the recognition of "Danger Zone" and for listening. Peace and Funk to you all!

Robbie M & The Midnight Express Show Band.

Visit Robbie's website at

September, 2008

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