KISS FM cover art

By Ryan Meehan

For the members of Milwaukee’s Rio Turbo, partying hard is serious business. Since 2009, frontman Joseph Peterson and company have employed a barrage of delightfully sleazy, impossibly catchy synth jams to turn countless clubs and basements into sweaty, keyed-up dance extravaganzas. (The band even has its own dancers, “The Turbettes.”) This year’s wonderfully named KISS FM album is full of 8-bit odes to the pleasures and pains (mostly pleasures) of the hard-living lifestyle, from “Party Trash” to “Cocaine Girl.”  Lead singer Joseph Peterson is our guest today in 5 Questions. 

RM:  Where did you originally get the idea for the band that would eventually become Rio Turbo?  How long after you heard the music in your head did you start to think really hard about what you wanted the live show to look like?

JP: In early 2009 I started having dreams and visions of this. I always knew I wanted to write party music, and felt like that was what I was born to do. The live show has had the same structure from the beginning with a few slight changes to the vibe, and a small rotation of members. I think I had the look down before the sound.

RM:  You guys look like you are all really close…What was the series of events that led up to Rio Turbo coming together?  Had you all been friends for a long time?

JP: We are very close. Nike Mane and I met 15 years ago on the shores of Miami Beach, which is a coastal resort town located in Miami Florida. We spent a lot of time together and decided to head north. It was in Milwaukee that we met the rest of the family. Hercules was always at the same parties we were at, so naturally I trusted him and I asked him if he would like to dance in my party pop group. We have had 4 different Turbettes since the birth of this project. The original lineup was Trilla, NaNaRa, and Paula. Trilla is still with the group today. NaNaRa went on to study. Paula and I were lovers for many years but ended up having our differences and parted ways. Our newest dancer’s name is Audi. She is wonderful.

RM:  How would you classify the genre of music that you make?  How do you think that genre received in Milwaukee as well as the rest of the Midwest?

JP: Party Disco Sex Pop.  The genre has been received very well in Milwaukee. Milwaukee is my favorite place in the world and the people here have shown a large amount of support. The rest of the Midwest seems to enjoy it. I think it takes people a little bit to figure out what’s really going on. Sometimes it takes me a little bit to figure out what’s going on.

RM:  My favorite song on KISS-FM is “The Fuck”…When you write a song like that which has a really fast and twitchy beat…Is that something that comes to you right when you get out of bed in the morning or does it take a while to really get into something of that speed?  Where do you usually put that song in your set and why?

JP:  It has a lot to do with how I’m feeling at the time. If I am hanging low and a little partied out, the songs that I write become a little more weighed down. Other times I am just freaking out and super stoked on life and that’s when the fast bangers come out.  I have also had the pleasure of working with two other producers while making my music. Tony from SOUNDRIPPERS and WILLY D. So sometimes when I’m out of ideas myself those two will step in and throw some things my way. I have no problem putting any of my songs anywhere in the set, as long as it makes sense to me that night.

RM:  Who are your biggest influences when it comes to writing music?  Are those influences the same with regard to your performances?

JP: My biggest influences when it comes to writing music would have to be ELO, Giorgio Moroder, AC/DC, Robyn, and Elvis Presley. Also there have been some Milwaukee bands really showing me a thing or two like Dogs In Ecstasy and The Delphines. As far as the performances go, that just comes from my own sexual visions.

RM:  What’s the most bizarre experience you guys have had on the road so far?

JP: We all woke up naked in a hotel room, and not one of us knew how we got there. I consider that bizarre. Who paid for it? Call me. 414-460-5047. I owe you.

RM:  What’s up next for Rio Turbo in the remainder of 2013 and heading into next year?  Any big plans in the works that we should know about?

JP: Just working on songs for a new album and hoping to get a little label support. Playing a lot of shows around the Milwaukee area to finish off the summer party season. We will see where this all goes. But most likely it’s going straight to the top!

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