After a couple of gigs and a few rehearsals, Combo Audio was a becoming a popular live attraction; but still did not have a full time bass player, so it was difficult to commit to any further shows.

John comments:

"I guess we had decided at that point that we would become a "real" band. The ego reinforcement from playing live was addictive - and we both liked the idea of playing gigs again for a living as opposed to working in a hi-fi store or minature golf course. It was different this time since it was our own music. Much more rewarding to play your own music. Most of the guys we had been playing with were jazz players and it did not seem to be working well to keep them involved. Rick and I decided we should try to find a "rock" guy. We heard about Tom and went to see him play."

Tom Broeske was playing with hard rock outfit the Slink Rand Group at the time. It took John and Rick about half a song to realize this was their bass player. They approached Tom, who was clearly ready for a direction change from hard rock. They convinced him to join the band, cut his hair and begin rehearsals - and Combo Audio the power trio with a band identity began to take shape.

Tom was a popular addition to the band and Combo Audio began playing gigs regularly in Champaign, Chicago, and around the midwest rock circuit. While most of the music was guitar based, they added occasional keyboards to the presentation. John's obsession with electronics, effects on his guitar gave the band a sound that some described as a cross between the Clash and Flock of Seagulls. The band now began to record more tracks with Dana Walden producing and form Secret Records. Signing a production deal with Secret, Combo Audio released an early version of "Romanticide" b/w "It's a Crime" as their first single. Within weeks, it was a top single pick on Billboard getting great reviews and was added to more playlists.

Combo Audio became a hot commodity. Soon major labels began to inquire about the band and show up at gigs.
The band grasped the importance of video early on and were interested in the creative opportunities video could bring. With Secret Records, the band shot its first music video of "Romanticide" in a commercial photo studio typically used for shooting automobile ads. This early video was picked up by a Rock America, a cable TV music channel that pre-dated MTV.

While Combo Audio's star was rising fast, there was a certain discontent within the creative side of the band.

John writes:

"The band could not have been experiencing faster success. We were tagged with this techno-pop label which was probably accurate. But I started writing and pushing more in an urban, hard edged funk rock vein. I was listening to a lot of heavy funk grooves and since we were a power trio and my guitar had to cover all the harmonic bases - I wanted to be more aggressive and have a hard rock funk groove take the place of some of the techno-pop sensibilities. I think playing live all the time contributed to this. The harder edge went over well with us and audiences. Tom was a brilliant bass player. He was incredibly melodic and solid and everything he played was exactly right with all the Combo Audio material we had created up until that point. But, it was not where we were headed."