Vince Rangi walked into a Roaring Lion rehearsal in the second week I had been there and was easily the widest person I had ever met. He has muscles! But then he got on a mic and sang a superb falsetto above me.
In rehearsal, he’ll casually pull out his camera and take footage. Then he’ll make little promo video clips with exciting visuals and use supercool words that I couldn’t find to save my life.
He works a synth like a wizard, adding the ethereal to our ‘Natural Mystic’.
One night, we had a video chat, and I saw his massive double keyboard stand in the background. It was a beast!
“It’s a bit chunky to take around,” Vince said dismissively. “Definitely not for you, Jo.”
(Everyone in the band is always helping me carry my gear…)
Vince grew up with music all around him.
I started playing guitar first. My dad played guitar – all my uncles play guitar! They all sing and play. So when you’re a little kid, you think: that is awesome, and you do it too. Most kids pick up guitars when they’re young. This is in New Zealand. It’s a natural thing and that’s how it all starts.
That reminded me of Sabahan musicians on another island. Borneo.
Vince started with the blues.
Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton. I used to take my guitar to school every day, carrying it around on my back, when I was about 13 or 14. It’s kind of my number one instrument.
Here he is playing bass at one rehearsal. Now, I say Vince played bass, but really he danced bass, shuffling softly back and forth, grooving to the music. Gee, why can’t I do that?
I like bass guitar now, but I never used to play bass. I was like: Nah it’s only got four strings — it’s not flashy! You can’t break out in solos. Well, you can but it’s not the same as a guitar lead solo. Later, I picked up the interest. I listened to a lot of the old skool funk guys. That’s where I first heard slap bass guitar. I thought: Man, that’s awesome. I wanted to learn how to do that.
It’s a curiosity thing. When I hear something on any instrument, I want to know how to do that and I’ll go away and work it out.
I started learning keyboards when I was in a band and we had no keyboard player. So I thought: I’ll learn how to play keyboards. Just reggae music keyboards, all rhythm, you know?
But keyboards wasn’t my thing. You know, when you play lead guitar, you’re out in the front, and everybody is looking! After that, every other instrument is kind of meh – no one is looking at the keyboard player! (Laughs) You know what I’m talking about, eh Jo?
😭 😭 😭
Creativity finds its way out one way or another. As a child Vince drew and carved, and eventually he became a tattoo artist.
I realised I could draw when I was in primary school. I would draw pictures just for kids, for fifty cents a piece. Buy my lunch! You could get a lot for fifty cents back then! The drawings were like trucks, cars, skulls, dragons: Can you draw me a dragon? I’ll bring the money tomorrow. Cool.
When I left school, I didn’t get any certs except English and Art. My dad sent me back to our homeland Ruatoki, and put me on a woodcarving course that my uncle was running down there.
So I learned woodcarving. At the time I felt like I was being punished! I didn’t want to be in the middle of nowhere hacking wood, I wanted to be in the party scene! I made wood artwork, carvings. I didn’t know how much it was going to help me later on, to know how patterns work in designs, although in different mediums.
Later my cousin, who is a tattooist, came over to Australia when I was in Sydney. I watched him tattoo my brother. I was like: Wow. It was that curiosity thing and I got him to teach me.
For me it was learning to setup machinery, a lot of cleaning, all that kind of stuff. And how to do straight lines. He taught me all these little things.
I’d go to a party and friends are like: Hey! Did you bring your tattoo kit, bro? So I’ve done tattoos for a lot of friends. I moved from Sydney up to the Gold Coast and ended up working in a tattoo shop in Logan for four or five years.
Eventually you develop your own style, but it always evolves. You’re always tweaking, it refines every year. As long as you keep getting better, it’s okay. That’s what I tell myself. The day you start getting worse, that’s the day you put your gun away.Vince Rangi, tattoo artist
Vins does artwork for the band. He whips out his phone and takes video of the crowds while we perform. Like here!
Vince has a long connection with Roaring Lion.
I was with Roaring Lion before they were even Roaring Lion! They had a band called Dread Culture — this is going back a few years. Wayne was in the band. I hooked up with one of Wayne’s friends, and he told me to come to Dread Culture practice, and that’s when I first met Wayne. I didn’t gel too well with the band though.
I was in a band called The Bandits with (Roaring Lion lead guitarist) Maui. It was an original reggae band. We had some good material, all original music. Maui would write the music, and I would write the lyrics. That’s really good —writing and doing original music — because you get that freedom to float around and do whatever you want with it. Take it anywhere.
Covers are cool too, but you gotta stay true to the music and the songs — especially in a tribute band. That Bob Marley audience, if you don’t get it right they’re gonna let you know.
In early 2020 Glen messaged me. Can you come and do a little promo video for the band?
Okay cool. So I came around, I didn’t even bring any camera gear, I just wanted to see Roaring Lion practising and see how the whole layout thing would work.
Glen — as I knew he would — put me on the spot: Oh bro, there’s a spare mic here… There wasn’t even a spare mic! He was just like: Hey Maui, can Vince use this mic?
He chucked me on there and I was like: Oh not this again. Because I’d been in and out so many times. I reckon other band members will tell you this too — the way Roaring Lion used to practise was like a jam session. There was no structure to rehearsals.
So I jumped on the mic and did some backing vocals. I listened to the band and thought: sounds good! Think I’ll come to another practice. Then another. It was like: Hey, some people do homework around here! It’s awesome! Looks like everybody’s committed to the band and committed to the music. Now people practise before they get to rehearsal, not when they get there.
Vince’s daughter Aleisha sings in the band.
I have five children but only Aleisha is musical. It’s such a bonus — it’s not like making special time, like going on a holiday together. But we both enjoy doing this and you don’t even know that you are spending so much time together ‘cos you’re just working on the songs.
The guys were trying to get another backing vocalist into the band. They asked me: Do you know anybody? (Laughs) Yes I do know somebody! I’ll bring her to practice next week.
It went like this:
Me: Hey, wanna come for a ride?
Me: I’m just going to band practice. Just come for a watch.
Eventually she jumped in the car. We went to practice. She was standing up against a wall and didn’t even want to meet anybody. But Glen had already set up a mic for her!
I got my mic and just said to her: Here’s your mic, let’s go.
Aleisha was just like: Oh my god.
But now look where we are.
The band really encourages everyone to grow, and Aleisha is now lead vocals on a couple of songs, and taking solos on others.
She’s shy and might have just said ‘No’ if I had asked her. I know she can sing, but when you’re at home or around the family, that’s different to singing in front of hundreds of strangers.
Aleisha’s still learning the whole stage presence thing, but she’s changed so much already.
For me, I don’t get nervous anymore. I haven’t gotten nervous in so long. Don’t want to sound like I’m boasting or anything but when you’re on stage a lot, it becomes second nature.
I get more worried about the band way before we get on stage. When I get on stage it’s like: Yeah! We’re here now! Awesome! I’ve been in some huge crowds, opening for some awesome bands, and nothing beats being on stage with a huge crowd.
Was Vince surprised that Roaring Lion became a tribute band?
It was always in the works for Roaring Lion to become a Bob Marley tribute band. To be honest I was like: A Bob Marley tribute band? Hmm. I don’t know about that. I didn’t think people would want to come to watch a tribute band. I’m not even into tribute bands. But this band is popular.
But, just because people say you’re awesome, you don’t know how long it’s gonna last. So put all your energy into it. Put a hundred percent in every time, and ride it till the wheels fall off.Vince Rangi, Roaring Lion