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He prefers to hit the road

Boston guitarist Tom Scholz is the last person you'd expect to hate life in the recording studio.

This is, after all, the man who practically invented the home studio setup; a guy who spends years between albums, fiddling with sound quality to the point of obsession. With a master's degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a former career as a Polaroid engineer, Scholz is as close as you can get to a rock

'n' roll egghead.

But for 48-year-old Scholz, the brains behind this archetypal

'70s arena rock band, the road is where all the real fun is. Besides the chance to show off his band's esoteric, high-tech hardware, he loves to be in front of a crowd.

"Doing tours isn't a problem," he said by telephone recently. "It's what you have to do between tours that's the problem."

In Scholz' case, eliminating studio problems is the problem, if that makes sense. Because he doesn't like being in the studio, he works hard to make sure things run smoothly while he's there. Paradoxically, that leads to more time spent in the studio, not to mention those inhuman long waits between albums: Last year's Walk On was Boston's first album since 1987's Third Stage. And it was nine years between that one and 1978's Don't Look Back.

"I work so that I will be able to go into the studio and just pick up a guitar and start playing," he said. "I don't want to have to worry about things like miking or tape speeds. I literally want to be able go in there and push a few buttons and start recording. I use the technical side of things to eliminate the limitations on musical creativity."

Right now, Scholz enjoys being on the road, even though he is working without the benefit of a label deal. After all, a band like Boston belongs on stage. Its 1976 smash hit More Than A Feeling ushered in the arena rock age, influencing even those who didn't have arena aspirations. Some have noticed, for example, the similarities between More than a Feeling and Nirvana's Smells Like Teen Spirit.

"I have had at least two people tell me that (Nirvana's song) was a direct steal," said Scholz. "But I've never heard the song, so I can't say."

Boston's glossy brand of FM rock fell out of favor in the

'80s. Scholz cited a lack of support from the group's former record label, MCA. Still, the 1994 album Walk On went platinum; hardly an embarrassing figure. But there's too much bad history between Scholz and MCA, and he is shopping for another label.

You'd think Scholz would be hustling, trying to capitalize on a nostalgic window of opportunity. But he's not in a hurry.

"We have an audience," he said. "I don't have any idea whether this is a good time, or a bad time, late or early, or anything like that. I'm just doing what I like to do right now."

Boston will play the USF Sun Dome at 8 p.m. Saturday. Tickets are $27.50 and $35.

WORLD'S LARGEST BARBECUE _ What can be more All-American than loud music and red meat? This is the fifth year that WXTB-FM 97.9 (98 Rock) has put on its rock-and-rib fest. Among the headliners are sludge-metalists Monster Magnet and smart popsters the Goo Goo Dolls; also, the Toadies, the Nixons, Brother Cane, Sugar Ray and Southern Culture on the Skids.

The World's Largest Barbecue will run from 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesday at the Pinellas County Fairgrounds (7801 Park Blvd. in Pinellas Park) Admission is free, and parking is $3.