How it all happened…
On Saturday 29th January 2011 it all started to take happen, there came together a meeting of minds. Roger Lee (vocals), Kevin Turner (bass), Sean Paige (guitar), Rob Muddyman (drums) all met up for the first time in a very small practice room somewhere in north Solihull. Two weeks later the drummer just failed to show up and we were met with a second guitarist Paul Miller. Ryan Cody came in as our new drummer. By March we’d lost Ryan and Sean and we were again on the lookout for replacements. The final outcome was to see Roger on rhythm guitar & vocals, Kevin Turner on Bass, Paul Miller on lead guitar and drummer Phil Sproston being the final addition, by the early summer of 2011 Milestone Road was finally born.
The band had their very first gig at “The Hop Pole” in Bilston, Wolverhampton on Friday 4th November. It wasn’t a huge turnout; after all it was the very first gig so nothing much was expected from it other than having a good time and pushing the music and the band further outwards. However, they did return there for a second gig the following month to a much bigger crowd than before making them realize that they were finally starting to get somewhere.
Many more changes had taken place in 2012, guitarist Paul Miller decided two days after rehearsal to up sticks and leave in February, just one day before they were booked to appear at their first Battle Of The Bands and an all-important and long awaited first gig at Eddies Rock Club in Birmingham the following night, with another Birmingham gig two weeks later. Unfortunately, those gigs had to be cancelled and the hunt for a replacement guitarist was on its way.
Roger had felt for a long time that the band hadn’t been going quite to plan with regards to the original concept of an 80’s style rock band, the band were not just looking for a great new guitarist, but also someone to play keyboards too. After many weeks of auditioning Marko replied to an ad to be their keyboard player, Roger knew at the first audition that Marko was the right person for the job. In between all of that the band were also holding auditions for a new guitarist to replace Paul Miller. There were some they wanted and some they didn’t but none of them seemed to fit in just as they expected. Then Paul Anderson got in touch through another ad and joined them for what was Marko’s second audition, they both played together for the first time and Roger, Kev and Phil knew in that instant that the new sound they had was just what they were looking for and the music was eventually starting to come alive.
As a band they went from strength to strength, their first gig together with the new line-up was at the Saracens Head in Dudley playing to just two people. It was a bit of a let-down but they didn’t really care though, they were out doing what they loved the most and that was all that mattered. On the 8th of June it was much like a return home for Roger when the band played at the Flapper & Firkin in Birmingham, Roger had been there before in 1994 when he used to book bands to perform there and so it felt good to be back there again.
In October 2012 Roger decided it was time to tell the news to the band about a decision he had come to terms with four months previous, that for most of his life he had battled with Gender Dysphoria. This is a condition where a person feels that their biological sex doesn’t match their gender identity. Roger had struggled with this before many years before and had previously tried to transition but his attempts failed and he decided to try and live the rest of his life in the male form, he had obviously failed in this attempt. Fearing total rejection, Roger sent a message to the rest of the band via Facebook, to his surprise they were full of acceptance, but he was still full of doubt about his future with the band.
The band got together at the next rehearsal and it was then that Roger decided to tell the band in person that he was ready to sacrifice his place as singer and guitarist in order for them to move forward. The band though rejected his offer to back down; telling him they were behind him 100% and that without him there would be no Milestone Road. Although pleased with the outcome, Roger, as he was still known at this time, was still very much unsure as to what the future was going to be like with him in the band. It was only after reading the story published in Rolling Stone magazine back in May 2012 about Laura Jane Grace of the band Against Me! that really gave Roger the determination to push forward and hope that one day, he would be fully accepted.
Moving forwards and onwards, on 14th November 2012 Milestone Road arrived at the Star & Garter in Burton On Trent on, it was a show that was hosted by XRP Radio who were running a three-night event with 14 bands appearing. As Milestone Road it was their best gig ever and a night where they were really able to shine, the crowd loved them and for Roger it was like a dream come true…
Sad news was soon to follow, with busy personal lives and other commitments the band had found it difficult in making arrangements for everyone to meet up for future rehearsals, this left a huge seven-month gap between the last gig and the next rehearsal. So on Thursday 13th June 2013, and after being with the band for exactly fifteen months, keyboard player Marko decided it was time to leave to follow his other musical projects. This was also followed by lead guitarist Paul Anderson who had somehow found it difficult in accepting the concept of Roger’s transition. After collecting their thoughts and much searching though, a replacement guitarist was soon found in the shape of Wayne Dorman. Wayne hooked up with the band just two weeks before the next gig that they had considered cancelling and the band were amazed at how quickly he got to know the songs. Sadly though, Wayne confessed he could only stay just long enough to help out until a full time permanent replacement was found.
The all-important next gig came on June the 30th at the Party In The Park 2013; it was Milestone Road’s biggest crowd to date with well over a thousand people at the largest unsigned music festival outside of Leeds, Reading & Glastonbury. Wayne had only been with the band a very short time but played as though he’d been with them for years, a real credit to him.
It was after the Party In The Park gig that the band were soon to be joined with keyboard player Debbie Powell. Deb was asked to come to rehearsals before the gig but due to other commitments she couldn’t make it, although she did attend the Party In The Park gig and loved the sound of the band enough to want to join as their full time keyboard player.
With Deb on board as our new keyboard player and Wayne as our stand in guitarist we went forward with new gigs whilst still looking for a new guitarist. A gig at The Hare & Hounds in Stourbridge for the West Midlands Air Ambulance & The Mitre in Stourbridge saw Debbie fitting in just nicely. Other gigs followed towards the end of 2013 with a music showcase hosted by our friend Jacqui D’Arcy at The Banbury Club in Chelmsley Wood, Birmingham, and then another at The Actress & Bishop in Birmingham. These last two gigs included the short lived guitarist Kevin Roeselle who the band had auditioned a short while before. As a band we were optimistic that he was going to be the one, but after the second gig it was clear that we’d gotten it all wrong. Wayne joined us again for the last gig of 2013 supporting Meat Loaf tribute band “Maet Loaf” at the Robin 2 in Bilston, Wolverhampton.
In June 2014 Reena decided it was time to move her transition forward to the next step and to start living full time as a woman and finally abandon her birth name, Roger Lee. During the weeks after, Reena felt that she was able to now move on with her life, more songs had been written for the band whilst they still searched for a new guitarist to replace Wayne who had since moved to Derby and could no longer help out with the band.
On July 9th 2014 the bands future had finally taken a turning point, after a successful second audition with a prospective new guitarist they were finally joined by John Loveridge as the 5th and final member of the band. It was at this point they were finally able to move forward yet again and start getting new gigs planned.
On the 24th August that year Reena was to see herself onstage for the very first time as her true self at Bradstock 2014. It was Johns first gig with them and he was more worried about everything than she and the rest of the band were. The crowd loved them as a band and they worked off that energy like vampires to blood.
In the meantime, a future booking handed to them for Derby Pride in September 2014 which would see Reena and the band appearing at their first ever Pride event. This was Johns second gig with the band but certainly not his best, cracks were again starting to show. Two more gigs followed and after what initially seemed like a successful gig at the Sportsman in Kidderminster, a short while later, due to many differences, John was asked to leave the band.
That same month we also lost Debbie and it seemed as a band we were going nowhere fast. Our last gig of 2014 was to play at The Dubliner (Barrel Organ) in Birmingham on 7th November. We were at a loss, with just the three of us remaining now we needed to rearrange our set, cut it down to its bare minimum and muddle through with things. At the last minute Reena came through with a friend she knew who played guitar in another band, her name was Dee. She didn’t know any of our songs but quickly picked up what she could, needless to say that through all of our fears the gig was quite a success.
A few open mic nights came our way over the next two months. Wayne Dorman stepped in once again to save the day for us when we reappeared for a gig at The Sportsman in Kidderminster in January 2015.
By March 2015 the band seemed to pick up a new lease of life. Reena had met with Heidi, another guitarist and she was happy to give everything a go as she was just returning to the scene herself. It took us a while to work through things but soon enough we were ready to take to the stage again.
Twelve more gigs followed before Heidi decided to pursue other things although the band went through some amazing times whilst she was with us. A few months after Heidi left we also lost our long term drummer Phil. Phil had been with us from the start of when Milestone Road became what it is and he’d been a valuable asset to the band. Many happy memories, trials and tribulations but every good thing must come to an end.
So that was it the end. Those Days, they were the best days of our lives…
Following on from all of this Reena was at the point of wondering where all of this was going now, there was just herself and Kevin, nothing left now that you could really call a band. It seemed Milestone Road was dead in the water and was finished.
As 2018 approached Reena felt that the band still had a lot more to give, there was yet more room to grow and different directions to follow. Returning to her roots and remember where it all started, her and Kevin got together for the first time in a very long time and once again started to rehearse. There was new material to go over, as well as revamping old songs and building on them to create an even heavier sound than ever before.
The first gig of 2018 was to see them return to Coventry Pride, the first time they’d played there in three years. But getting on that stage felt as though they’d never been away from it all and it was a great success. The next gig was at The Duke Of York (gay) in Derby for a charity event, raising funds for “No Hungry Child”. Just as before, the gig was even better, proving to them both that the sound they have, the new direction, was the right one to take.
From the depths of the murky abyss a new Phoenix shall arise…