NEW YORK -- In the wake of the great "REO" battle of '98, REO Speedealer bassist Hot Rod sounds remarkably calm, even as his speed-metal act prepares to cede the "REO" moniker to soft-pop group REO Speedwagon.
Standing outside the club Tramps after the Texas quartet's set as part of the Intel New York Music Festival, Hot Rod (a.k.a. Rod Skelton) outlined REO Speedealer's plan to comply with the terms of a cease-and-desist letter sent to the band by REO Speedwagon's management.
"After they issued the cease and desist, that blossomed into an agreement between our lawyers and their lawyers," Hot Rod said. "We're dropping the 'REO' from our name; we're gonna be just 'Speedealer.' After the first 5,000 copies are sold of the new CD, we'll reprint it [with the new band name]."
Wearing a baseball cap with the American flag printed on it and a black T-shirt with the logo of '80s hair-metal band Whitesnake emblazoned across the front, Hot Rod expounded on the situation.
"They're worried about our name being close enough to their name that it would be a conflict in stores. I think it's silly, but there have been a couple of people who supposedly thought they were buying their record and they bought ours," Hot Rod said. "They e-mail us and say, 'I think your band sucks shit.' I think that's hilarious. We consider that a compliment."
Formed in 1968, REO Speedwagon (who were named after a high-speed fire engine) have enjoyed platinum sales among their 15 albums, topping the charts twice in the early '80s with the soft-rock smashes "Can't Fight This Feeling" (RealAudio excerpt), from 1984's Wheels Are Turnin', and "Keep On Lovin' You," from 1980's Hi Infidelity.
REO Speedealer, on the other hand, were formed in Lubbock, Texas, in 1995. The four-piece, which has released two albums, immediately made it its business to rip through one-minute metallic blitzkriegs of radio-unfriendly thrashing rock, such as "Götterdämmerung" (RealAudio excerpt).
After the recent cease-and-desist order was issued, the wheels were set in motion to remove the "REO" from Speedealer to satisfy both camps. That could take several months to finalize, however. Meanwhile, the feuding bands offered their respective stances in recent interviews with SonicNet Music News.
"We spent 30 years developing the name REO Speedwagon and promoting their career," REO Speedwagon manager John Baruck said "To have another band come out and take three-quarters of the name didn't seem right."
Dave R., vice president for Royalty Records, Speedealer's label, dismissed any suggestion that the name REO Speedealer was a publicity stunt.
"If we were trying to offend someone or piss someone off, we would have aimed a lot higher than REO Speedwagon ... The Speedwagon camp's concern was that the name would cause confusion between the two bands. Anybody that's heard [REO Speedealer's] 'Double Clutchin' Finger Fuckin' ' is not likely to have that happen."
For his part, Hot Rod, who is in his late 20s, sounded plenty content to leave the negotiating and litigating to the attorneys.
"The thing is, we just had a record come out. So we don't really need the publicity," he said. "We're a blue-collar touring band; we don't really care about any of this stuff."