By Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer Published Apr 13, 2005 at 5:18 AM Photography: OnMilwaukee Staff Writers

{image1}You may not have heard of Karoshi yet, but if you see the Milwaukee band on stage, you'll likely recognize a few faces.

Drummer Dan Niedziejko, for one, has been in a number of high-profile local bands, from True Heart Susie to Miss Trixie to Dorian Gray. And guitarist Jason Korb was in The Flares and Plywood. Meanwhile, bassist Mike Kendall was also in Miss Trixie and, later, Custom Grand.

They've been joined by Tom Groff, who performed solo back in his hometown, Philadelphia.

Karoshi has been woodshedding for a while now and recently began recording its poppy rock and roll songs -- which have a bit of an '80s new wave feel at times -- in Chicago for a projected EP.

But why listen to me when Karoshi can tell you about themselves:

OMC: First, you have to tell us what the name means and why you chose it.

Dan Niedziejko: Karoshi is the Japanese term for working yourself to death. This isn't to say we're the hardest working band in Milwaukee or anything, but we do have a pretty ambitious practice schedule. We've all been in some successful projects that peaked, gained some interest from labels and waned. This is not uncommon for a lot of Milwaukee bands. I guess we chose it because it's Japanese and it sounds cool. Plus, we work hard at our music and will all probably keep playing in one form or another until we can't anymore, i.e. dead.

Jason Korb: I actually worked myself to death once, but then I got better. So the name seemed appropriate.

Tom Groff: Well, the Japanese seem to enjoy mangling and misusing English on T-shirts, signs, electronics instructions and the like, so we thought it'd be appropriate to help return the favor. They're really into ceremonial politeness like that.

OMC: Can you tell us how the band got together?

DN: I met Jason somehow -- I'm not sure, maybe drinking a beer. Started talking about playing again after a two-year hiatus from music. We started auditioning singers, guitar players and bassists. Sometimes a combination of all the above. This started in 2003. We didn't find the right people until 2004. I knew Mike from Miss Trixie where he had played guitar. Tom was a great catch through a "musician wanted" ad. Most of the time those ads really don't work, so we were really lucky. It's nearly two years in the making to come to this lineup.

JK: This is actually a "classified ad" band. Dan and I hooked up through MilwaukeeRocks.com, Dan knew Mike, Mike knew a flesh peddler in Philadelphia that sold us Tom, and the rest is history.

TG: I'm not a tough sell, though. I'm really quite a bargain.

OMC: A number of you have been in many other local bands, right?

DN: I know Jason has been in The Flares, Plywood and some others as well. Mike and I were both in Miss Trixie for five years. Mike went on to work on Custom Grand with Dan Kubinski (formerly of Die Kreuzen and currently of Decapitado). I joined Dorian Gray at that time and played with them for about five years. I know Tom has been in a lot of Philadelphia bands and has an encyclopedic knowledge of rock song chords. I think he did some solo singer songwriter stuff as well while in Philadelphia.

OMC: The band has an interesting style. Although the music doesn't bring to mind REM, Tom's vocals and lyrics could certainly be described as Stipe-ish. What are the band's influences?

DN: I think a common love would be Guided by Voices and Interpol. But frankly, we all love a huge amount of different bands. Lately, I've been on a kick listening to the reissue of the Kinks' "Village Green Preservation Society," but I've also been playing the latest Queens of the Stone Age, "Lullabies to Paralyze," and an EP collection from a English band called Clinic. Of course, I'm just the drummer, but it's all got a good beat.

JK: I'd have to say any rock with great hooks is an influence. The Lawrence Arms, Alkaline Trio and Interpol come to mind. Also, Tom's natural vox sounds more like Ethel Merman. It's amazing what a bottle of gin and a Taser will do.

OMC: I hear you're recording. What's the progress on that?

DN: The recording is not coming along as quickly as we'd like. We're being very particular with who we work with, and it can cost a lot of dough. We completed two songs pretty quickly with Dave Reilly with GoDaveyGo Studios in Chicago. It's been a great thing working with him, as he has worked with several national acts, (like) Billy Corgan and Elvis Costello. We're likely to be involving him some more in the future.

In the interim, we continue to write songs and we are actually playing with our own recording gear while doing some tracking to get an idea of what we want on the songs. None of us are dripping with cash right now, so we shall see how this ends up. We're all pretty picky in different ways, but we know we have to have something soon. Look toward fall for a quality effort to be available.

JK: We are currently toying around with doing some DIY recording. At the same time we have some pretty good relationships with some of the great studios/ engineers here in Milwaukee, so we're exploring that as well.

While you wait for the EP, Karoshi plays at the BBC Saturday, April 16 at 9:30 p.m. Adam's Mom and 41 Twin are also on the bill.

Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.

He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.

With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.

He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.

In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.

He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.