Alumnus turns marketing degree into rock’n’roll



Mark Oprea

It was in the middle of a dinner rush, washing dishes at Rockne’s on Main Street when Christian Groblewski realized that he wanted to pursue a career in rock’n’roll. From that moment, it only took him a little more than a decade to turn it into a reality.

Groblewski, better known today by his stage name SuperMonkey, now leads a six-piece hard rock band that’s rising up steadily in Pittsburgh’s bar-blues scene. A part of his Midwestern tour, SuperMonkey will be performing at the Musica in Akron on Friday, Oct. 10. He’s also recently released his first LP, “The Pennsylvania Blues Revolution,” which is, Groblewski said, an amenable phrase to what he plans to spearhead.

“I would like to represent our region musically,” he said. The lack of a strictly-defined Pittsburgh brand of music, Groblewski said, gives him “a little bit of a niche.”

But SuperMonkey isn’t a Pittsburgh native. He said he owes his rock’n’roll debt to the university town of Kent, where his musical shtick came to be.

Like others before him, Groblewski shuffled through a range of majors, starting with architecture, something he said he liked on account of his penchant for design, but disliked for the neverending studio hours. After dropping out of accounting because he “didn’t want to crunch numbers all day,” he found he enjoyed classes in marketing and graduated with a B.B.A. in 1995. Yet Groblewski still didn’t see himself walking into work with a briefcase everyday.

“I figured I more so like making rock’n’roll records and playing guitar,” Grobleski said. “That’s what I did the most when I was in school.”

Groblewski said he was still able to put his marketing knowledge to use. After he officially moved to Pittsburgh in 1998, he knew he needed a brand and a business for his work to be taken seriously. After reading Donald Passman’s All You Need to Know About the Music Business, and following the advice from legendary concert promoter Pat DiCesare, Groblewski decided he wanted to go by a stage name. At band practice one day, he told a friend that he wanted his epithet to start with super, followed with an animal.

“And he gave me ‘monkey’, and that was it,” he said. “I just picked up the football and ran with it.”

And he sure did. In 2002, Groblewski started SuperMonkey Enterprises and the SuperMonkey Record Company. He started calling radio stations, putting out flyers around Carson Street and building relationships with musicians. He also started his own marketing firm which, he said, he uses to promote everything SuperMonkey-related.

Yet business is only secondary for a group such as SuperMonkey.

“It really all goes back to the music,” Groblewski said. “If music isn’t any good then all that other stuff really doesn’t matter.”

He said SuperMonkey’s latest album is in line with the Pittsburgh predilection for hard rock and blues, heavily-distorted guitars and stacked amplifiers. Songs like “Nashville” and “Last Rock God” are laced with overdriven leads and Southern rock vocals, with a honky-tonk piano riffing somewhere in the mix. “Last Rock God,” about the state of traditional hard rock in today’s society, is a common radio play on Pittsburgh’s KEV, even making it to Cleveland stations.

Along with playing at bars and theaters on Carson Street and in venues around Ohio, as leader of his record label Groblewski also plays the role of manager. He recently picked up “the best metal band in Pittsburgh,” Solarburn, who will be hosting their own gig in Cleveland this month. Along with promoting a Pittsburgh music scene with his own group, Groblewski said that he’s eager to enlist other solid musicians to help SuperMonkey along the way. If that means signing a reggae band, he said, that means a reggae band — as long as it’s good music.

As far as making ties with local bands, getting gigs or selling records, Growbrekski said that having an established record label in an era of self-promotion is essential to building contacts and followers. There would be no SuperMonkey, he said, without the business of hard work.

“It comes down to strength in numbers and teamwork,” he said. “You’re only as good as the people you surround yourself with — and also, a lot of the business of music is the business of life: It’s who you know.”

Contact Mark Oprea at [email protected].